King Edward I of England (June 17, 1239 - July 7, 1307), popularly known as "Longshanks" and the "Hammer of the Scots", achieved fame as the monarch who conquered Wales and who kept Scotland under English domination. He reigned from 1272 to 1307, ascending the throne of England on November 21, 1272 after the death of his father, King Henry III of England.
Edward was born at the Palace of Westminster on June 17 or 18, 1239. He married twice. His first marriage — to Eleanor of Castile — produced sixteen children, and her death in 1290 affected Edward deeply. He displayed his grief by erecting the Eleanor crosses, one at each place where her funeral cortege stopped for the night. His second marriage — to Marguerite of France, the daughter of King Philippe III of France — produced a further three children.
Edward's character greatly contrasted that of his father, who reigned in England throughout Edward's childhood and consistently tended to favour compromise with his opponents. As an adult, Edward showed himself as an ambitious and impatient man, displaying considerable military prowess in defeating Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester at the Battle of Evesham in 1265. He gained a reputation for treating rebels and other foes with great savagery. He relentlessly pursued the surviving members of the de Montfort family, his cousins. In 1270 he travelled to Tunis, intending to fight in the Eighth Crusade alongside Louis IX of France, who died before Edward arrived; Edward instead travelled to Acre, in the Ninth Crusade. While in the Holy Land his father died; Edward arrived back in England in 1274.
In 1275, pirates in Edward's pay intercepted a ship carrying Eleanor de Montfort, Simon de Montfort's only daughter, from France (where her family had lived in exile) to Wales, where she expected to marry Llywelyn the Last, then ruler of the principality. The parties' families had arranged the marriage previously, when an alliance with Simon de Montfort still counted politically. However, Llywelyn wanted the marriage largely to antagonise his long-standing enemy, Edward. With the hijacking of the ship, Edward gained possession of Eleanor and imprisoned her at Windsor until Llywelyn agreed to his terms for peace in 1278. Unexpectedly, Llywelyn's younger brother, Dafydd (who had briefly been an ally of the English) started another rebellion in 1282. Llywelyn died shortly afterwards in a skirmish. Subsequently, Edward destroyed the remnants of resistance, capturing and executing Dafydd in the following year. To consolidate his conquest, he built a network of stone castles throughout the principality, of which Caernarfon Castle provides a notable surviving example. Wales became incorporated into England under the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284.
To finance his war to conquer Wales, Edward I taxed the Jewish moneylenders. However, the cost of Edward's ambitions soon drained the money-lenders dry. Anti-Semitism, a long-existing attitude, increased substantially, and when the Jews could no longer pay, the state accused them of disloyalty. Already restricted to a limited number of occupations, the Jews saw Edward abolish their right to lend money. After the manner of racism, anti-semitic feeling grew, until the King decreed the Jews a threat to the country and restricted their movements and activities. Edward decreed that all Jews must wear a yellow patch in the shape of a star attached to their outer clothing to identify them in public, an idea Adolf Hitler would echo 650 years later (compare Star of David, Yellow badge).
In the course of King Edward's persecution of the Jews, he arrested all the heads of Jewish households. The authorities took over 300 of them to the Tower of London and executed them, while killing others in their homes. Finally, in 1290, the King banished all Jews from the country.
Edward then turned his attentions to Scotland and on May 10, 1291 Scottish nobles recognised the authority of Edward I. He had planned to marry off his son to the child queen, Margaret I of Scotland but when Margaret died the Scottish nobles agreed to have Edward select her successor from the various claimants to the throne, and he chose John Balliol over Robert Bruce, 5th Lord of Annandale (grandfather of Robert I of Scotland), and others. Opposition sprang up (see Wars of Scottish Independence), and Edward mercilessly executed the focus of discontent, William Wallace, in 1305, having earlier defeated him at the Battle of Falkirk (1298). His plan to unite the two countries never came to fruition in his era, and he died in 1307 at Burgh-on-Sands, Northumberland on the Scottish border, while on his way to wage another campaign against the Scots, energized by Wallace's martyrdom and under the leadership of Robert the Bruce. Edward was buried in Westminster Abbey. His son, King Edward II of England, succeeded him.