Born on 13th November (St Brice’s Day) 1312 at Windsor, Edward was the eldest child of King Edward II of England, and Queen Isabella (the so-called She-wolf).
He came into the world on the cusp of a great famine and when the King was at best, heartbroken over the murder of the Gascon knight and earl of Cornwall; Piers Gaveston (executed in June 1312).
The birth of a son must’ve raised the King’s spirits, as young Edward was made earl of Chester at just sixteen days old.
It must’ve also restored the faith of the nobility, as up until now, the King had somewhat ostracised himself from the great landowners of England, and had, despite the Ordinances of 1311 and various banishments of the earl of Cornwall, retained his affection for Gaveston.
After the murder of Gaveston (on earl Thomas of Lancaster’s lands, and on said earl instructions), the second Edward of England was left fuming, and it cannot be doubted that he yearned revenge on Lancaster.
The backdrop of young Prince Edward’s childhood (he was never entitled `Prince of Wales`), was abysmal. By 1314 vast amounts of rainfall clogged England, therefore poor harvests were the end result. A lack of food saw the majority of the poor starving and dying in their hundreds, and this became known as The Great Famine. It ravaged the kingdom for the best part of two years and wiped whole families out.
Young Edward, as a member of the royal family, would’ve been immune to the horrors battering the common folk, and most likely, at this time, would’ve been far more interested in when his next bout of milk would come from.
In July 1314 specifically, young Edward was in residence at Wallingford Castle whilst his father had suffered a heavy defeat against the Scots at Stirling (known as the Battle of Bannockburn – June 1314). Young Edward was most likely at Wallingford, for his own safety, as King Robert the Bruce of Scotland, and the Scots, were infamous for harrying and pillaging the land that stretched from the Northern March.
At not even two years old, young Edward would’ve been unable to understand what the loss at Stirling meant to the King (and to England), and was far more likely to have been encased with his nurse; Margaret Chandler, and be playing with a wooden rattle. A younger brother or sister was what he needed, and by August 1316, he had a brother; John (of Eltham) and in 1318, the princes had a sister to play with; Eleanor (of Woodstock). The three children lived in the same household at Chester for two years and were apart by June 1320.
By this time, young Edward had been summoned to the autumn Parliament (parlement), and at eight years old, this must’ve been an overwhelming occasion. The prince’s guardian; Sir Richard Damory, had been imprisoned due to supporting the rebel party - led by the cumbersome Lancaster against the Despenser clan (http://edwardthesecond.blogspot.co.uk/2007/03/despenser-war-of-1321-part-one.html), and it is likely that the prince had been called forward so as to witness the seriousness of the situation.
In late 1321, the Despensers had been banished, the rebel lords had been pardoned, yet by the winter, the King had mustered troops and was pursuing the rebels.
Roger Mortimer; one of the rebels, surrendered at Shrewsbury in January 1322, and by March 1322 (after the battle at Boroughbridge), the King had ordered the beheading of the earl of Lancaster (finally getting his revenge)!
Many other noblemen were hanged in various pockets of the realm and at this moment in time, these actions were unprecedented. Never before had a King of England beheaded his own cousin for treason, and these actions must’ve been difficult to stomach for young Edward. As a prince however, his true thoughts and feelings were most likely kept hidden, or shown to only close friends. He had a duty to respect the King, not only as the Sovereign, but as a father, and it is not in doubt that he loved the difficult and unworldly man that was Edward II.
Part two coming soon; 1323-1330!