Piers Gaveston, the 1st earl of Cornwall was born around 1284. It is said by some that he was the lover of Edward II.
At a young age, Gaveston made a good impression on King Edward I and was assigned to the household of his son, Prince Edward of Caernarfon.
Gaveston soon became the princeís favorite and was showered with lavish gifts. The princeís extravagant patronage towards Gaveston exasperated the king. It is said that when the prince appeared before the King to request that his own county of Ponthieu be given to Gaveston, he was so enraged that he tore out handfuls of his son's hair.
The Kingís exasperation with the Prince led to Gaveston being exiled. However, Gaveson's exile didn't last very long, and he returned to England when the young prince became King Edward II. Edward made Gaveston the Earl of Cornwall and arranged for him to marry his niece Margaret de Clare, sister of the powerful Earl of Gloucester.
Gaveston's influence over the King was resented by several members of the nobility, and in 1308, parliament effectively forced Edward to send Gaveston into exile once again to serve as the King's Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
Edward managed to negotiate a deal with the opposition and Gaveston returned the next year. On his return, Gaveston continued to offend and provoke the nobility and the king was coerced into exiling him for a third time.
Gaveston once again returned to England in 1312 and was hunted down by a group of noblemen led by Thomas of Lancaster and Guy de Beauchamp, the Earl of Warwick. He was taken to Warwick Castle and condemned to death by an assembly of barons at trial of dubious authority
On 19 June, Gaveston was taken out on the road towards Kenilworth as far as Blacklow Hill. Here, two Welshmen ran him through with a sword and beheaded him. He would have been about 28 years old. Gavestonís decapitated corpse was left to rot where it lay on Blacklow Hill, but it was later retrieved, embalmed and buried at a Dominican friary in Kingís Langley, Hertfordshire. In 1823 a monument was erected on Blacklow Hill by the local squire where Gaveston was thought to have been executed.
Today, Blacklow Hill is on private land. The monument to Piers Gaveston is still there, and is a grade II listed building under the protection of English Heritage (building ID: 308063). There is no public access to the place of Piers Gavestonís execution, or the monument. It is effectively lost to the nation.
For a while now, I have been planning a brief expedition to see if I can spot the monument from a distance and photograph it. This Sunday I did just that, and I found a spot where I could photograph the south side of the hill on which the monument stands. I was hoping that in the depths of winter, the absence of leaves on the trees might make a sighting possible. Unfortunately, the hill is covered in dense woodland and the monument is well hidden. As yet, I havenít been able to make out anything which looks remotely like the monument in my pictures, but it may be there. Click the picture on the right for a full resolution file and have a go at spotting it for yourself. Get in touch if you see anything!
You can use Google Earth to see how the land lies. The exact location of the monument is at latitude (52.3052), longitude (-1.5774) and my pictures were taken from latitude (52.3007) Longitude (-1.5864). If you take a look, you will see that the monument should be just to the right of the outcrop of trees behind the pylon (the location of the red circle in the left hand picture).
After a deal of searching on the internet, I found some relatively recent pictures of the monument, taken by a more adventurous soul than myself, who has had the temerity to access the private land on which the monument lies. Click here for a look.