The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 9 (February 25, 1927)
Edward I. — 1272–1307
Edward was absent in the Holy Land with the Seventh Crusade when his father Henry III. died. He was popular in England and despite his absence no attempt was made to usurp the throne. According to tradition, while in the Holy Land Edward was stabbed with a poisoned arrow, and his recovery from what appeared a mortal injury was due to his wife (Eleanor of Castile) sucking the poison from the wound.
Edward was ambitious. He aimed to become the overlord of the whole of the island of which England was a part. To achieve this he must subdue Wales and Scotland. The reigning chief in Wales had assisted in the rebellions of the reign of Henry III. and refused to swear allegiance to Edward. On account of the mountainous nature of their country the Welsh were, for a considerable period, able to withstand the English attacks. Eventually, however, Edward forced them to terms, and by the Statute of Wales, enacted at Rhuddlan in 1284, Wales was annexed to England. Edward presented his infant son and heir to the Welsh under the title of Prince of Wales. Another two hundred years elapsed before Wales sent representatives to the English Parliament.
But the annexation of Scotland was a task which Edward failed to complete. It had been arranged that Prince Edward of Wales should marry Margaret, the “Maid of Norway” who was heir to the Scottish Crown. Before this scheme was effected Margaret died, thus confusing the succession. Several claimants came forward making the situation difficult. It was agreed that Edward of England should be appealed to. Edward gave his decision in favour of John Balliol, who accepted the Kingdom as Edward's vassal and did homage to the English King.
This arrangement did not last, for while Edward was engaged with France, Balliol took the opportunity of attempting to win independence for Scotland. The English won the battle of Dunbar, Balliol was deprived of his throne, and Scotland was made a dependency of England. Sir William Wallace an outlawed Scottish Knight rebelled. The position was not satisfactorily settled during Edward's reign. While on his way to Scotland with an immense army Edward died, and Scotland regained her full independence when Bruce defeated Edward II. at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
First Complete Parliament.—Edward justly believed “that it was right that what concerned all should be approved by all.” This caused him to summon in 1295 his famous Parliament representing the three estates of the realm—Lords, Clergy and Commons. This is often referred to as “The Model Parliament” and is generally considered to be the true origin of our present Legislature.
The English Justinian.—Edward's summarising of English laws won for him the title of the “English Justinian.” Many constitutional changes were effected during his reign. Enactments regarding the titles and entailment of land were made, the law courts were re-organised and officers afterwards known as Justices of the Peace were appointed.
From the deeds of Edward we conclude that he was a brave and skilled soldier, and a sagacious and successful statesman.