Edward I: man of principle or grasping opportunist?

Was the 'Hammer of the Scots' driven by a deep commitment to the wellbeing of his people, or a fierce determination to enhance his own power? Historians have argued over this question for centuries, but the king's biographer, Caroline Burt, thinks she may have found the answer...

Edward I in parliament with the Archbishop of Canterbury; King Alexander III of Scotland; the Welsh Prince Llywelyn ab Gruffydd and the Archbishop of York. From the Wriothesley MS, 1523, published in ‘The Island Race’, a 20th-century book written by Sir Winston Churchill covering the history of the British Isles from the pre-Roman times to the Victorian era. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

This article was first published in the December 2012 issue of BBC History Magazine

Ever since he breathed his last in Cumbria in 1307 – on his way to confronting a Scottish rebellion – King Edward I has occupied a unique place in England’s popular consciousness. He is the ‘Hammer of the Scots’, the conqueror of Wales, the ferocious warrior-king who left behind him a string of castles so mighty that they still stand today, among them Caernarfon, Harlech and Beaumaris.

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