Alianore recently mentioned Edward II’s abdication or deposition, commenting that the accounts are confused and it’s not clear whether Edward abdicated or was deposed.
It might be very hard to tell the difference between abdication under duress and deposition, even with full records. How much pressure turns one into the other? I mentioned Mary Queen of Scots as an example, and promised to look up the account of her abdication.
Mary surrendered to the Scottish lords after the non-battle of Carberry Hill in June 1567, and they promptly imprisoned her in a castle on an island in the middle of Lochleven. The English ambassador Throckmorton was not allowed to visit her and feared for her life, believing that his arrival in Scotland in mid-July was the only thing that had prevented the Scots lords from murdering her. His letters to London survive and form the only record of Mary’s imprisonment on Lochleven except the account dictated by Mary to her secretary Nau many years later when she was a prisoner in England. Because Throckmorton was not allowed to see her he cannot have known what was happening on the island, but the fact that he, an outsider, believed her life to be in danger gives credence to her claim that she was threatened with violence. She was at least two and more likely three months pregnant, and some time between 18 and 24 July she miscarried twins.
Here’s the account of her abdication as related in Antonia Fraser’s biography*:
“It was while the queen was lying in bed after her miscarriage, by her own account ‘in a state of great weakness’ having lost a great deal of blood, and scarcely able to move, that Lindsay came to her and told her that he had been instructed to make her sign certain letters for the resignation of her crown [.......] Despite her fears the queen was outraged at the monstrousness of the request [....] but Lindsay’s rough words on the subject, that she had better sign, for if she did not, she would simply compel them to cut her throat, however unwilling they might be to do so, only convinced her further of her own personal danger.On the strength of the signed letters of resignation, Mary’s thirteen-month-old son was crowned James VI on 29 July.
from the actual signing of the letters of resignation there was no escape. Mary told Nau later that Throckmorton had managed to smuggle her a note in the scabbard of a sword, telling her to sign to save her own life, as something so clearly signed under duress could never afterward be held against her.”
Mary rescinded her abdication as soon as she escaped from Lochleven in May 1568, and it was still being used as a bargaining counter in 1580/1581. This suggests to me that Mary did not think she had abdicated but saw herself as having been (temporarily) deposed by force or the threat of force. The diplomatic bargaining with her son James VI through a French emissary in 1581 suggests that at least some of the political power-brokers in Europe saw it the same way. Certainly there seems little doubt that Mary signed the abdication either against her will or while she was too ill to make the decision, and felt herself free to rescind it as soon as she escaped. Something similar may have happened in the case of Edward II – except that his escape was quickly followed by recapture and death.
Antonia Fraser's biography of Mary is well worth reading, incidentally. It covers Mary's life from birth to death in exhaustive detail, provides footnotes and citations so that anyone so inclined can check the author's sources and conclusions, and although the author clearly has considerable admiration and affection for her subject (indeed, it might be hard to write a biography without these) she is by no means blind to Mary's weaknesses. There's the odd passage of mildly purple (mauve?) prose, but for the most part the tone is clear and highly readable. Mary comes over as glamorous, charming, attractive, emotional, dramatic and maddening, very much a real person.
*Mary, Queen of Scots, by Antonia Fraser. Mandarin, 1989, ISBN 0-7493-0108-2