18 April, 2014

Edward II Pics!

Happy Easter, everyone!  As I'm fairly busy at the moment with family visits, writing, work, Easter etc, here's a quick post with some Edward II-related photos till I get round to writing a proper post sometime next week.  ;-)

Inside Caernarfon Castle, looking towards the Eagle Tower (with flags), traditionally Edward's birthplace.
Rievaulx Abbey, North Yorkshire (1132-1538), where Edward was almost captured by a Scottish force in October 1322.

Ludlow Castle, Shropshire, which belonged to Roger Mortimer.

Part of the ruins of Knaresborough Castle, Yorkshire, which Edward granted to Piers Gaveston.
Edward's tomb and effigy in Gloucester Cathedral.
Tomb of Edward's powerful favourite Hugh Despenser the Younger at Tewkesbury Abbey.

Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire, where Edward was held in captivity in 1327.

10 April, 2014

Edward II's Brothers and Sisters

Edward II was the youngest of at least fourteen and perhaps even fifteen or more children, and also had three much younger half-siblings from his father's second marriage to Marguerite of France.  Only eight of his father's seventeen or more children survived into adulthood, six from his first marriage and two from his second; I've bolded their names in the post.  Edward II was the youngest child of Eleanor of Castile, and although some modern books continue to claim that he had younger sisters Beatrice and Blanche, born in 1286 and 1290, who died young, they didn't exist, and are simply an invention of later genealogists.  For centuries, writers have hopelessly, utterly confused the children of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile, given them children they didn't have (such as Juliana and Alice, who is based solely on a misreading on the name of their son Alfonso as mangled by thirteenth-century English scribes), missed children they did have, messed up their dates of birth and death (the eldest surviving daughter Eleanor was born in 1269, not 1264, as numerous modern books and websites still claim; their daughter Margaret was born in March 1275, not September 1275, and died sometime after March 1333, not in 1318, and so on).  Eleanor of Castile's biographer John Carmi Parsons has done great work sorting out Eleanor's children; if you're interested in the topic, you really need to get hold of his article 'The Year of Eleanor of Castile's Birth and her Children by Edward I', Mediaeval Studies, 46 (1984), on which this post is based.

- (Daughter, born and died in May 1255?).  Not entirely clear, but evidence indicates that Eleanor of Castile bore a daughter, name unknown, who died on 29 May in an unknown year and was buried in Bordeaux.  1255 is the year which makes most sense, according to Parsons, less than seven months after Eleanor married and when she was still only about thirteen and a half.

- Katherine, born c. 1261/63, died September 1264.

- Joan, born January 1265, died September 1265.

- John, born July 1266, died August 1271.  Edward I's eldest son, never heir to the throne as he died in the lifetime of his grandfather Henry III, left in the care of his great-uncle Richard of Cornwall (Henry's brother) when his father went on crusade to the Holy Land in 1270, and died at Richard's castle of Wallingford.  Named after his great-grandfather King John, presumably.

- Henry, born May 1268, died October 1274.  Named after his grandfather Henry III.  Heir to the English throne from the accession of his father in November 1272 until his death at Guildford aged six two years later.

- Eleanor, born June 1269, died August 1298; two children, Edouard I, count of Bar, c. 1294/95-1336, and Joan, countess of Surrey, c. 1295/96-1361.

The fifth or sixth child of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile and the eldest to survive.  Born shortly before 18 June 1269, as an entry on the Patent Roll makes clear.  Often wrongly stated to have been born in 1264, which is an error based on a misunderstanding of the word primogenita to describe her.  Although this literally means 'first born daughter', it was used in the sense of 'eldest surviving daughter': Edward II's queen Isabella was called the primogenita of Philip IV of France despite having two older sisters who died young, and Edward's brother Alfonso of Bayonne was also often called Edward I's primogenitus during the ten years (1274-1284) he was heir to the English throne, though he certainly had two older brothers, John and Henry.  Eleanor is thus frequently confused with her sister Katherine, who died in 1264, and this is often wrongly given as Eleanor's birth year.  Eleanor was betrothed in June 1282 to Alfonso III of Aragon, who was born in 1265 and died suddenly in June 1291.  In September 1293 when she was twenty-four, she married Henri III, count of Bar in eastern France, and died when she was twenty-nine.

- Daughter, name unknown, born in Acre in the Holy Land in 1271 and died there.

- Joan of Acre, born sometime in 1272 in Acre; died April 1307.  She married the much older Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester and had four children, and secondly the squire Ralph de Monthermer, and had four more children with him.  Joan died a few weeks before her father.  Her children included Gilbert, earl of Gloucester, Margaret, countess of Cornwall and Gloucester, and Mary, countess of Fife.

- Alfonso, born in Bayonne in November 1273, died August 1284.  Named after his uncle and godfather Alfonso X of Castile, and heir to the English throne from the death of his brother Henry when he was eleven months old until his own death just under ten years later.  Died while negotiations were going ahead for his marriage to Count Floris V of Holland's daughter Margaret.

- Margaret, born March 1275, died after March 1333.  Margaret married the future Duke John II of Brabant in July 1290, and they had one child born in 1300, Duke John III.  It is still often stated even today that Margaret died in 1318, which baffles me, as she was in occasional contact with her brother Edward II in the 1320s and with her nephew Edward III in 1333.  The date of her death is unrecorded.

- Berengaria, born May 1276, died June 1278.  Named presumably after Eleanor of Castile's paternal grandmother Berenguela or Berengaria (1180-1246), queen of Castile in her own right.

- Daughter, name unknown, born and died January 1278.

- Mary, born March 1279, died May 1332.  A reluctant nun at Amesbury Priory.

- Elizabeth of Rhuddlan, born August 1282, died May 1316.  Married firstly John I, count of Holland, who died childless aged fifteen in 1299, and secondly Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex.  She had ten children, six of whom lived into adulthood: Eleanor, countess of Ormond; John, earl of Hereford; Humphrey, earl of Hereford; Margaret, countess of Devon; Edward; William, earl of Northampton.

- Edward of Caernarfon, born 25 April 1284, King Edward II of England 8 July 1307 to 24 January 1327.  My boy.  :-)  Eleanor of Castile's youngest child; she was about forty-two and a half at the time of his birth.  Edward became heir to the throne at just under four months old, on the death of his brother Alfonso of Bayonne on 19 August 1284.

- Thomas of Brotherton, earl of Norfolk, born June 1300, died August 1338.  Eldest child of Edward I and his second queen Marguerite of France, made earl of Norfolk in 1312.  He and his wife Alice Hales had three children, and his heir was his eldest child, Margaret.

- Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent, born August 1301, executed March 1330.  Second son of Edward I and Marguerite.  He married Margaret Wake in 1325 and had four children, and his ultimate heir was his second daughter Joan, mother of Richard II.

- Eleanor, born May, 1306, died August 1311.  Youngest child of Edward I and born when he was nearly sixty-seven.  She died aged five and was buried at Beaulieu Abbey by her half-brother Edward II.

So there we have it.  Edward II had at least ten, maybe eleven older sisters, of whom five (Eleanor, Joan, Margaret, Mary and Elizabeth) lived into adulthood, and a half-sister young enough to be his daughter (twenty-two years' age difference), who died when she was five.  He had three older brothers who died when they were five, six and ten, and two much younger half-brothers, who survived childhood.  When Edward succeeded to the throne at the age of twenty-three on 7 July 1307, only three of his older sisters and his little half-sister were still alive, and only Margaret and Mary were still alive at the time of his deposition in January 1327.  Of his younger half-brothers, Edmund was executed at twenty-eight, and Thomas died of natural causes at thirty-eight.  Apart from Margaret and Mary (and possibly Edward II, if we assume that he wasn't murdered in 1327), who lived into their fifties, the children of Edward I were not a long-lived lot.  Assuming that there really was a daughter born in 1255 a few months after his wedding, this means that Edward I fathered children for a period of over fifty years, 1255-1306.

06 April, 2014

What if Edward I had died in August 1283?

For a change, an alternative history post. :-)

I read (or rather re-read) an interesting story in John Carmi Parsons' Eleanor of Castile (1995, p. 33) the other day.  When Edward I and Eleanor of Castile were staying at Caergwrle Castle, also sometimes called Hope Castle, in August 1283, a fire broke out in their bedchamber one night, and they barely escaped with their lives.  The fire gutted the castle, and it was never rebuilt.

I checked Edward I's itinerary, and he and Eleanor were at Caergwrle Castle on 26 and 27 August 1283.  My first thought was, that was eight months before the birth of Edward of Caernarfon on 25 April 1284, so Queen Eleanor must have been some weeks pregnant with him at the time.  It was fascinating to me to contemplate that Edward II might never have come into existence, if his parents had succumbed to the fire!

This led me further in my thinking: what would have happened if Edward I and Eleanor had indeed died in that fire?  The king's heir in August 1283 was his and Eleanor's only surviving son Alfonso, who was born in November 1273, so was nine years and nine months old at the time.  Alfonso would have succeeded to the throne at that point, and yes, that means that England would have had a child king called Alfonso.  Heh.  But, Alfonso died suddenly on 19 August 1284, still only ten years old, so would only have reigned for just under a year (I'm presuming here that whatever killed him would still kill him in this alternative scenario).  If we assume for a moment that Queen Eleanor survived the fire which in this scenario killed her husband, and assume she wasn't too physically hurt or traumatised and didn't miscarry, she would have given birth to Edward of Caernarfon eight months later (though not necessarily in Caernarfon).  The boy would have succeeded to the English throne on the death of his brother Alfonso, before he was four months old, meaning a very long reign and a long minority.

Assuming now that Queen Eleanor did also die in the fire, on the death of our King Alfonso in August 1284 the male line of Edward I would have expired, as Edward of Caernarfon would have been wiped from existence.  Edward I's two younger sons Thomas of Brotherton and Edmund of Woodstock, born in 1300 and 1301 from his second marriage to Marguerite of France, would never have been born either.  Edward I had five surviving daughters, however, who in August 1284 were fifteen, twelve, nine, five and two.

In real life, shortly before his second daughter Joan of Acre married the earl of Gloucester, on 17 April 1290, Edward I faced the possibility of the extinction of his male line, and declared that in the event of the death of himself, his son Edward of Caernarfon, and any other male heirs of his body or heirs of his son's body, his eldest daughter Eleanor should be queen in her own right.  If Eleanor died without heirs, Edward I's next daughter Joan would be queen, and so on.  Edward I evidently preferred the idea of his throne passing to his female children than to his male Lancaster relatives.

Eleanor was born in June 1269, so was fifteen in August 1284, when I'm imagining that 'King Alfonso' died a year after their father.  Would her rights have been considered as heir to her younger brother Alfonso?  I think it's more likely that Edward I's younger brother Edmund of Lancaster (born in January 1245) would have been preferred, a man in his late thirties, to a girl in her teens.  The usual concerns about a female ruler would have arisen, that she wouldn't be able to defend her country militarily, that England would be ruled by her husband, a foreign king or prince (Eleanor was betrothed for many years to Alfonso III of Aragon).  So England would, most probably, have had a King Edmund, succeeded on his death in June 1296 by his eldest son King Thomas (b. c. 1278), and the Lancastrian dynasty would have been on the throne over a century before they really were (Henry IV in 1399).  Thomas of Lancaster, in real history, married Alice de Lacy, daughter and heir of the earl of Lincoln, in 1294.  As the son of the king, however, he might well have made another match, with the daughter of a European king or duke or count, and had legitimate children, which in real life with Alice, he didn't.  If not, he would have been succeeded as king by his brother Henry (born c. 1281).

In real life, Edward I's daughter Eleanor married Count Henri III of Bar in September 1293 (her long-term fiancé Alfonso III of Aragon having died suddenly in 1291), and had two children born in about 1294/96, Edouard I, count of Bar, and Joan, countess of Surrey.  Eleanor died in August 1298, and her son Edouard, then aged about three, became next heir to the English throne behind Edward of Caernarfon until the birth of Edward I's son Thomas of Brotherton in June 1300 (who was heir to the throne from the death of his father on 7 July 1307 until the birth of his nephew Edward III on 13 November 1312).  If Eleanor had been the eldest surviving child of her father in 1284, and rightful queen of England, presumably she would have made a different marriage.  Who would this have been, and would he have been willing to fight for Eleanor's rights against her uncle Edmund of Lancaster?  Might there have been a civil war in England between the daughters of Edward I, their husbands and their descendants, and the Lancasters?

A world without Edward II and Edward III, and their many descendants.  No Hundred Years War, no Wars of the Roses.  Our history would be unimaginably different.  Thank goodness Edward I and Queen Eleanor escaped the fire in August 1283!

30 March, 2014

The Eventful Parliament of November 1330

Edward III led a coup d'état against his mother Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer, earl of March, at Nottingham Castle on 19 October 1330.  Roger, his son Geoffrey and his supporters Sir Oliver Ingham and Sir Simon Bereford were arrested.  Four days later at Leicester, the young king issued summons to nine earls, both archbishops, nineteen bishops, twenty-six abbots, two knights of every shire and so on to attend a parliament to be held at Westminster on the Monday after the feast day of Saint Katherine, that is, 26 November (Close Rolls 1330-33, p. 160).  Parliament duly sat there from that day, thirteen days after Edward III's eighteenth birthday, until Sunday 9 December.

Records of this parliament fortuitously still exist (they often don't), and can be read in Rotuli Parliamentorum in the original French and Latin, and in The Parliament Rolls Of Medieval England (PROME), in the original and English translation.  It was, needless to say, an extremely eventful parliament.  Proceedings began with the judgement on Roger Mortimer, who was bound and gagged and thus forcibly prevented from speaking in his own defence.  Fourteen charges against him were read out.  The first reveals Edward III's anger that Roger "usurped by himself royal power and the government of the realm concerning the estate of the king" when he had never been elected to the king's regency council, and states that Roger had filled the king's household and other positions of influence with his followers, and told men like John Wyard to spy on Edward, with the result that "our said lord the king was surrounded by his enemies so that he was unable to do as he wished, so that he was like a man living in custody."  The second charge concerned Edward II, that "whereas the father of our lord the king was at Kenilworth by the ordinance and assent of the peers of the realm, to remain there at their pleasure in order to be looked after as was appropriate for such a lord, the said Roger by the royal power usurped by him, was not satisfied until he had him at his will, and ordained that he be sent to Berkeley Castle where he was traitorously, feloniously and falsely murdered and killed by him and his followers."

There was no other possible outcome, once these and the other dozen charges had been read out: Roger's guilt was deemed to be 'notorious' and he was condemned to be drawn and hanged, which sentence was carried out at Tyburn on 29 November.  Then came his ally Sir Simon Bereford, a rather mysterious character accused and convicted of being a "helper and supporter of the said Roger de Mortimer in all his treasons, felonies and evil acts...which things are an encroachment on royal power, the murder of a liege lord, and the destruction of the royal blood line; and that he was also guilty of various other felonies and robberies, and the chief maintainer of robbers and felons."  Bereford was also sentenced to death for these crimes, and executed on 24 December.  Presumably Edward III had strong evidence of Bereford's guilt, though his involvement in the regime of 1327 to 1330 and his role in the presumed death of Edward II remain obscure.

Sir John Maltravers of Dorset, who with his brother-in-law Thomas, Lord Berkeley had been custodian of the former Edward II at Berkeley Castle in 1327, was sentenced to death in absentia because he had "principally, traitorously and falsely plotted the death" of Edward II's half-brother Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent, executed on 19 March 1330.  "...[S]ince he knew of the death of King Edward, nevertheless the said John by ingenious means and by his false and evil subtleties led the said earl to understand the king was alive, which false plotting was the cause of the death of the said earl and of all the evil which followed."  It is important to note here that although some contemporary chroniclers - even Adam Murimuth, who's normally pretty well-informed - thought that Maltravers was accused and convicted of the murder of Edward II, he was not, neither in 1330 nor at any other point in his very long life ( he was eventually allowed to return to England and lived until 1364).  1000 marks was offered as a reward if Maltravers was taken alive, and £50 for his head.

The fabulously-named Sir Bogo de Bayouse, a Yorkshire knight, and John Deveril were also sentenced to death in absentia for their role in entrapping the earl of Kent, and a price put on their heads.  Both men had been at Corfe Castle in Dorset, where the earl of Kent and others thought Edward of Caernarfon was being held, in 1330; Kent admitted at his trial that he had given a letter intended for Edward to Deveril, who betrayed him and took it instead to Roger Mortimer.  Deveril was thought to be hiding in the Dorset/Somerset/Wiltshire area in August 1331 (Patent Rolls 1330-34, p. 201), though he was never found and his fate is unknown.  Somewhat ironically, one of the men ordered to search for and arrest him was 'John Mautravers the elder', father of the John Maltravers above.  Sir Bogo de Bayouse fled to France and ultimately, with his wife Alice, to Italy, and died in Rome on 26 July 1334 (Seymour Phillips, Edward II, 2010, p. 576).

Two men, a knight of Somerset named Sir Thomas Gurney and a man-at-arms called William Ockley or Ogle, were also sentenced to death in absentia, "for the death of King Edward, the father of our present lord the king, that they falsely and traitorously murdered him."  I've sometimes seen it stated that the supposed red-hot poker method of Edward II's murder was officially given out at this parliament as the cause of death.  This is absolutely untrue.  All that was stated about Gurney and Ockley's supposed murder of Edward is what I have quoted here.  The cause of Edward II's death was never given in any official government source, and all we have is speculation and gossip by chroniclers.  William Ockley disappeared and was never heard of again.  Sir Thomas Gurney's subsequent fate is, by contrast, well-known, and I've written a long post about him and Ockley here.

Edward II's first cousin Henry, earl of Lancaster, and his adherents were pardoned for taking part in a failed rebellion against Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer in late 1328/early 1329, and the many adherents of the earl of Kent who had supported and aided him in his plot to free the former Edward II a few months previously ("in bringing about the deliverance of our lord the king who is dead, whom God absolve") were also pardoned.  On 7 December 1330, Kent's widow Margaret Wake and their young son Edmund, aged three or four, presented petitions asking for the record of treason against Kent to be expunged, partly on the grounds that "Sir Roger de Mortimer, late earl of March acknowledged at his death before the people that the said earl was wrongfully killed...".  I'm going to cite a large part of the response to their petition because it states so often that Edward II was dead, really truly dead, and it was thus really, truly, completely, totally, entirely impossible for anyone to have freed him, to the point where the repetition becomes very amusing:

Mortimer, Bereford, Bayouse, Maltravers, Deveril "and other evil men of their faction plotting the death of the said earl of Kent in a deceitful manner by an agreement made between them, gave and caused the same earl to understand that the Lord Edward, late king of England, the father of our present lord the king, and brother of the said earl, was alive, when he had been dead for a long time. And they did this to encourage him to purchase the release of his said brother, as if it had been possible to do this, so that, by such a thing, they would have promoted the downfall of the said earl of Kent. And when they discovered that he, being thus deceived and misled by their false plotting, believed their words, and appearing to them to be willing to purchase the easement and the release of his same brother, which release was impossible to secure all that time seeing as he was already dead, as is said above, they then allowed most secret negotiations thereupon between them until they again saw they were able to entrap the same earl of Kent, and then they put to him that he had knowingly wished the said release to the prejudice of the king our present lord, which was completely impossible as is said above, finally reported it to the king and to others of his council in the parliament last summoned at Winchester...".

So have we got that yet?  No, wait, there's an abbot sitting at the back there who's slightly deaf and is still somewhat confused on this point.  Let's go again: Mortimer, Maltravers, Bereford, Bayouse and Deveril "caused the said earl of Kent, who is dead, to understand that our lord the king the father of our present lord the king was alive when he was dead, and for that reason it had been impossible to have secured or purchased his release; from which incitement and evil intent all the aforesaid evil ensued, which thing is well-known and notorious...".

Richard Fitzalan, young son of the earl of Arundel executed by Roger Mortimer and Isabella in 1326, was restored to his inheritance - he had fled from England a few months previously because he had either joined the earl of Kent's conspiracy or was plotting independently to overthrow Roger and Isabella - and four men (William Montacute, Edward de Bohun, Robert Ufford and John Neville) who had helped the king to arrest Roger at Nottingham were rewarded.  Next came Thomas, Lord Berkeley, to acquit himself of any complicity in the death of Edward of Caernarfon at his castle in September 1327.  Not long ago, I wrote a post about this, about Berkeley's peculiar statement "he wishes to acquit himself of the death of the same king, and says that he was never an accomplice, a helper or a procurer in his death, nor did he ever know of his death until this present parliament" (nec unquam scivit de morte sua usque in presenti Parliamento isto).  The comments on that post are great too, and especially check out the one which accuses me of 'dancing on the head of a pin' and of taking a translation as 'gospel' because I asked a Latin expert with no vested interest in changing Lord Berkeley's words to fit an agenda of what he thinks the words are 'supposed' to mean.  It's so funny when people pop up to prove my point about preferring over-elaborate translations so that Berkeley's words mean whatever the commenter wants them to mean.  :-D

23 March, 2014

May 1313: Saracens and Edward II's Gascon 'Brother'

Edward II and Queen Isabella departed for France on 23 May 1313 and stayed there for almost two months (see my post about it).  It was an evenful trip: the king and queen's pavilion caught fire one night and Edward saved his wife's life, Edward and his father-in-law Philip IV knighted his three brothers-in-law, Edward spent the first anniversary of Piers Gaveston's death watching fifty-four naked dancers perform for him, and so on.  A couple of interesting things happened just before he and Isabella left England.  Here they are...

On 23 May 1313, the day of the king and queen's departure, Edward II ordered Sir Robert Kendale, constable of Dover Castle and warden of the Cinque Ports, "to pay to six Saracens, whom the king is sending to him to stay in Dover Castle until the king's return from parts beyond sea, 6d each daily for their expenses."  (Close Rolls 1307-13, p. 537.)  Saracens here presumably meant Muslims, or Arabs.  I don't know who these six people were, whether they were all men or some women too, or how they came to be in England.  Unfortunately, I haven't found any other references to them, so I don't know what became of them when Edward returned to England in July 1313.  He himself was in Dover, from where he and Isabella sailed to Wissant, when he issued the order to the constable of Dover Castle, which might imply that the six 'Saracens' had travelled with him there and were left behind at the castle, with a rather generous allowance of sixpence a day each.  (By way of comparison, Edward's pages earned twopence a day, his valets threepence, and his squires seven and a half pence.)  Dover Castle was a comfortable royal residence, and clearly the six people were not being sent there to be imprisoned, but rather to live at the king's expense on a decent allowance until he returned from his visit to France.  I'm rather intrigued by them and wish I could find out who they were, and what happened to them!

The great, much missed academic Professor Pierre Chaplais (1920-2006) made a fascinating discovery in his book Piers Gaveston: Edward II's Adoptive Brother, 1994, pp. 111-12.  In a document now held at The National Archives in Kew, E 101/375/8 (accounts of Edward II's Wardrobe in the sixth year of his reign, July 1312 to July 1313), Chaplais found a tantalising reference to a royal pretender who had previously gone unnoticed.

In E 101/375/8, there's a large payment of thirteen pounds made by Edward II at Eltham on 22 May 1313, the day before he left for France, to a man named Richard de Neueby, a vallettus (valet, groom) said to be from Gascony, though as Professor Chaplais points out this is a very curious name for a Gascon.  Even more curiously, Neueby claimed to be Edward II's brother: dicenti se esse fratrem regis, "who says he is the king's brother".  In 1318, famously, John of Powderham claimed to be the real son of Edward I and was executed for it (though Edward II's initial reaction was to laugh, greet Powderham with the words "Welcome, my brother" and express a wish to make Powderham his court jester).  Not only was Richard de Neueby not executed or punished in any way, he was given the very large sum of thirteen pounds as the king's gift, de dono regis.  There is no more information about Neueby's claim.  Did he say he was a legitimate son of Edward I, or an illegitimate one?  Or was he claiming in some other way to be a brother of Edward II, not by blood but in some adoptive fashion?  What was the purpose behind his claim - did he seek official recognition from Edward II, or was the claim only made privately?  Was his claim ignored and unpunished because Edward saw that he was mad and not a threat to him in any way?  Was Edward amused by the claim, as he initially was with John of Powderham's three years later?  Did Edward decide to deal with Richard at a later date when he returned from France?  Was the large sum of money a bribe to go away and keep quiet, or a genuine heartfelt gift?  I have no answers, and no other references to the Gascon valet Richard de Neueby, "who says he is the king's brother," have yet been discovered.  The thirteen pounds given to Richard is hard to explain, as it was so generous - 260 days' wages for a valet, as Professor Chaplais calculated.

My own research into Edward II's chamber journal of 1325/26 shows that in 1326, the king acknowledged a man called Edward Pymmok or Pymock as his confrere, which translates as 'brother' or 'colleague' or 'companion'.  This man, who is also affectionately referred to in the journal as le petit Pymock, 'the little Pymock', was the son of John Pymock, one of Edward II's household squires.  I don't know how it came about that the king acknowledged the son of one of his household servants as his 'brother', but evidently he did so quite openly, at least among his staff.  Edward II's wet-nurse as an infant was Alice de Leygrave, whom he acknowledged as "the king's mother, who suckled him in his youth" and who many years later served in the household of Queen Isabella with her daughter Cecily.  Perhaps there was a similar connection with Edward Pymock, that the latter's mother also looked after the future Edward II in some way in childhood, so that the king thought of le petit Pymock as his 'brother'.  The same dynamic was cearly not operating with Richard de Neueby, however, as the latter came to the king at Eltham in Kent and somehow, it is really not clear how, claimed to be Edward II's brother.  Recognition was not forthcoming, but neither was punishment.  Richard de Neueby fades from history after May 1313, as do the six Muslims staying at Dover Castle.  What became of them all?  I'd love to know.


For reference, here's the full Neueby entry from TNA E 101/375/8, folio 29d, as found and cited by Professor Pierre Chaplais, in the Latin original and translation:

Ricardo de Neueby, valletto de Vasconia, dicenti se esse fratrem regis, de dono ipsius regis per manis dicti domini Rogeri liberantis ei denarios apud Eltham xxij die Maii, xiij li.

To Richard de Neueby, valet of Gascony, who says he is the king's brother, of the gift of the king himself, by the hands of the said Sir Roger [unidentified] delivering the money to him, at Eltham the 22nd day of May, thirteen pounds.

19 March, 2014

19 March 1330: Execution of the Earl of Kent

684 years ago today on 19 March 1330, Edward of Caernarfon's twenty-eight-year-old half-brother Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent, was beheaded for treason against his young nephew Edward III in Winchester.  The executioner was unwilling to take part in the judicial murder of a king's son and fled, and so the unfortunate Kent had to wait around in his shirt for many hours until a common felon under sentence of death was offered his freedom if he agreed to wield the axe.  Kent's heavily pregnant wife Margaret Wake and their three small children (including Joan of Kent, mother of Richard II) were ordered to be imprisoned with two attendants in Salisbury Castle on 14 March, with a mark, i.e. thirteen shillings and four pence, per day granted for their sustenance (Close Rolls 1330-33, p. 14; Patent Rolls 1327-30, p. 499).

The earl of Kent's 'crime' was attempting to free Edward of Caernarfon from captivity at Corfe Castle.  Edward's death at Berkeley Castle on 21 September 1327 had been publicly announced at parliament in Lincoln a few days afterwards, and Kent himself attended the former king's funeral in Gloucester on 21 December (Close Rolls 1330-33, p. 132).  Yet somehow in the two and a half years between Edward of Caernarfon's supposed death and Kent's own execution, Kent became convinced that Edward was in fact still alive.

As I point out in my article about his plot in the 2011 English Historical Review, Kent certainly did not act alone in 1329/30: he had at least seventy supporters whom I have been able to find, including the archbishop of York, the bishop of London, the mayor of London, the earls of Mar and Buchan, two of Edward II's and Kent's nephews, former and future sheriffs of Kent, numerous lords and knights in England and Wales, many former members of Edward II's household, and former adherents of the Despensers.  This is important because the tendency in modern times has long been to claim that Kent was acting more or less alone, or at the very least in conjunction only with a small handful of disaffected clerics, and then condemn him as stupid, naive and gullible for his belief that his half-brother could possibly still be alive.  This is the only way the vast majority of modern historians have been able to explain Kent's belief that Edward II was still alive well over two years after his supposed death, and fit his plot into their utter conviction that Edward died at Berkeley in September 1327.  This is unfair.  The earl of Kent was emphatically not 'stupid', and in fact was a brave man trying his best to do the right thing, who suffered the ultimate penalty for it.  It annoys me greatly that rather than trying to look at his plot without bias and without the preconceived notion that Edward was certainly dead, most modern writers have taken the easy route of assuming that Kent was wrong and that the only reason he believed his brother was alive was his own 'stupidity' and 'gullibility'.  It's a comfortable pretence, but it isn't true, and there is no evidence that Kent was indeed stupid or that any of his contemporaries thought he was.

There is a massive contradiction in most modern writers' take on the issue: on the one hand, they say that Kent only believed in Edward II's survival because he was stupid, and also condemn him as credulous, weak, feeble and a political nonentity, but on the other hand declare that he was such a threat to Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer's continued political survival (as rulers of the underage Edward III's kingdom) that the pair were forced to manufacture a reason to execute him and thereby protect themselves from him, and managed to force him into treason by pretending that the former king was still alive.  See for example May McKisack's The Fourteenth Century 1307-1399, in the classic Oxford History of England series, p. 100, where it is claimed within the space of a few lines that Kent was both 'foolish' and guilty of 'weakness', yet was also 'dangerous' to Isabella and Mortimer.  In this take on history, Kent is at one and the same time a gullible naive fool who can easily be duped into believing that a dead man still lives, yet is somehow also the leader of the burgeoning opposition to the ruling pair and such a huge risk to them that he has to be executed, or rather judicially murdered.  Isabella and Mortimer are so desperate to rid themselves of this dangerous person that they forge letters and convince half the country as well as Kent that Isabella's husband is still alive.  Hmmmmm, convincing.  This theory is so full of holes you could use it as a colander.

The fact that Kent's ally William Melton, archbishop of York, told his kinsman the mayor of London in January 1330 that "our liege lord Edward of Caernarfon is alive and in good health of body" is also mostly ignored, as Melton, an astute man then probably in his fifties and generally considered to be one of the greatest archbishops in English history, cannot lightly be dismissed as a credulous fool the way Kent so often has been.  Edward of Caernarfon's great friend Donald, earl of Mar, nephew of Robert Bruce, told William Melton in 1329 that he would come to England with an army of 40,000 men in order to effect Edward's release from captivity, and Melton himself - as well as committing the dangerous statement that Edward was alive to parchment - pledged 5000 pounds to the plot to release the former king.  The more you read about the plot of 1330, and see how many influential people were involved who risked their lives and livelihoods in its cause, the more you realise that the pretence of Kent's stupidity as the only explanation for it cannot be sustained.  It is evident that large numbers of people in 1330 firmly believed that Edward II was still alive.  It is not, however, the case that the people arrested or ordered to be arrested for taking part in the plot were simply enemies of Isabella and Mortimer, whom the latter were keen to get out of the way on trumped-up charges.  Very few of Kent's adherents in 1329/30 had previously shown any hostility whatsoever to the ruling pair.

Within days of the earl of Kent's execution, inquisitions were ordered in a number of counties "to discover the adherents of Edmund, late earl of Kent" (Patent Rolls 1327-30, pp. 556-7, 571).  His supporters were believed to be particularly numerous in Norfolk and Suffolk, and many men in Wales were said to have joined his adherent Rhys ap Gruffydd (who had fled to Scotland in 1327 after plotting to free Edward of Caernarfon from Berkeley Castle).  It was publicly proclaimed on 13 April 1330 that "all persons who...say that the king's father is yet alive" would be arrested and imprisoned (Patent Rolls, p. 557).

For more info about Kent's plot, here are my posts about it and the supporters who joined him, though I wrote them way back in 2007: part 1part 2part 3part 4.  Ian Mortimer's 2010 book Medieval Intrigue: Decoding Royal Conspiracies contains much information about Kent's plot and throws a lot of fascinating light on the timing of events, and is highly recommended.  And if you'd like to read my article in the English Historical Review but are unable to access it, please do feel free to email me for a copy (address at the top of the page under 'Contact').  The plot was advanced enough in March 1330 that arrangements had been made for Edward's removal from Corfe Castle in Dorset to the earl of Kent's castle at Arundel in Sussex with a ship provided by one John Gymmynges, a former valet of Edward II's household.  To judge from William Melton's letter of January 1330 to his kinsman Simon Swanland, mayor of London - whose involvement in the plot was never discovered - the plan was then to take Edward abroad, as the letter mentions that Swanland should procure £200 gold for the former king, which he could have used on the continent.

To my mind, the 1329/30 plot of the earl of Kent and his many followers demonstrates that Edward II was indeed still alive.  It makes no sense to me otherwise.

16 March, 2014

Quotes About Edward II

Some statements about Edward II by some fourteenth-century chroniclers which I find interesting or telling.

"He was taken from Kenilworth to Berkeley, where he died, in what manner what was not known, but God knows it.  He was buried at Gloucester, and reigned nineteen years.  He was wise, gentle, and amiable in conversation [sagis, douce, e amyable en parole], but indolent in action.  He was very skilful in what he delighted to employ his hands upon.  He was too familiar with his intimates, shy with strangers, and loved too exclusively a single individual."

"In his time the commons of his realm were wealthy and protected by strong laws, but the great men had ill will against him for his cruelty and the debauched life which he led, and on account of Sir Hugh [Despenser the Younger], whom at that time he loved and entirely trusted."

Both of the above come from the Scalacronica of Sir Thomas Gray, whose father of the same name was captured fighting for Edward II at Bannockburn and who later served in the retinue of the Despensers.  It's interesting to note that more than three decades after Edward's presumed death in 1327, Gray had evidently not heard the red-hot poker story.  I find the 'but God knows it' part very moving.

"A handsome man, of outstanding strength...He was prodigal in giving, bountiful and splendid in living, quick and unpredictable in speech...savage with members of his household, and passionately attached to one particular person, whom he cherished above all..."

From the Polychronicon, written around 1350 by Ranulph or Ralph Higden, a monk of Chester.

"...from his youth he devoted himself in private to the art of rowing and driving carts, of digging ditches and thatching houses, as was commonly said, and also with his companions at night to various works of ingenuity and skill, and to other pointless trivial occupations unsuitable for the son of a king."

From the Chronicle of Lanercost, written in the 1340s at Lanercost Priory, near the Scottish border.

"For our King Edward has now reigned six full years and has till now achieved nothing praiseworthy or memorable...If our King Edward had borne himself as well [as Richard Lionheart] at the outset of his reign, and not accepted the counsels of wicked men, not one of his predecessors would have been as notable as he.  For God had endowed him with every gift, and had made him equal to or indeed more excellent than other kings.  If anyone cared to describe those qualities which ennoble our king, he would not find his like in the land."

"...Piers [Gaveston] now Earl of Cornwall did not wish to remember that he had once been Piers the humble esquire.  For Piers accounted no-one his fellow, no-one his peer, save the king alone.  Indeed his countenance exacted greater deference than that of the king.  His arrogance was intolerable to the barons and a prime source of hatred and rancour...Piers alone received a gracious welcome from the king and enjoyed his favour to such an extent that if an earl or baron entered the king's chamber to speak with the king, in Piers' presence the king addressed no-one, and to none showed a friendly countenance save to Piers only...Indeed I do not remember to have heard that one man so loved another.  Jonathan cherished David, Achilles loved Patroclus.  But we do not read that they were immoderate.  Our king, however, was incapable of moderate favour, and on account on Piers was said to forget himself, and so Piers was accounted a sorcerer."

From the Vita Edwardi Secundi, Life of Edward II, a chronicle written by a clerk in Edward's service.  Also from the Vita, not about Edward directly, but here are three rather cynical and sarcastic quotations which I really like.

In connection with John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, becoming Piers Gaveston's friend and ally after Piers' return to England in 1309, having formerly been opposed to him:

"See how often and abruptly great men change their sides.  Those whom we regard as faithless in the North we find just the opposite in the South.  The love of magnates is as a game of dice, and the desires of the rich like feathers."

After Pope Clement V elected Walter Reynolds, whom the author describes as "a mere clerk and scarcely literate", to the see of Canterbury in 1313:

"But My Lady Money transacts all business in the Curia.  If perchance you are ignorant of the habit and customs of the Roman Curia, pay heed to this...This astonishing vanity, this detestable greed of the Curia, has been a scandal to the whole world."

On Edward's allies in 1312/1313 urging him to make war on the barons who had killed Piers:

"Few people are magnanimous and the suggestions of evil men are always with us...It would be well for the magnates if they could distinguish truth from falsehood, if they could separate deceit from sound judgement.  But by some depravity of nature the delicate ears of the rich more readily receive the blandishments of the lying tongue more than the candid testimony of truth."

'The delicate ears of the rich'.  I love it!

09 March, 2014

Edward II's Brothers-In-Law

In this post I'm taking a look at Edward II's brothers-in-law.  On Isabella's side he had three, all kings of France, and via his elder sisters he had six.  Edward and his father-in-law Philip IV knighted all three of Edward's French brothers-in-law in a glittering ceremony in Paris in June 1313.

Louis X, king of France and Navarre (4 October 1289 - 5 June 1316)

Louis was the eldest son of Philip IV and Joan, queen of Navarre, and the only one of their children whose date of birth is known.  He was born in 1289 four years after his father succeeded to the French throne, and when his mother Queen Joan was about sixteen or seventeen.  Louis inherited the kingdom of Navarre on his mother's death in April 1305 when he was fifteen, and married his first wife Marguerite of Burgundy, his first cousin once removed - via her mother she was the granddaughter of Louis IX, Louis's great-grandfather - the same year.  Louis's nickname was le Hutin, meaning the Quarreler or the Headstrong, an interesting insight into his personality.  He and Marguerite had one child, Queen Joan II of Navarre, in January 1312.  In 1314, it was discovered that Marguerite had been committing adultery, and she was imprisoned in Château Gaillard, where she died in 1315.  A mere five days after her death - by murder or natural causes - Louis married his second wife Clemence of Hungary, daughter of Charles Martel, king of Hungary and Klementia von Hapsburg.  He died at the age of only twenty-six on 5 June 1316, supposedly after drinking cold water following a vigorous game of real tennis.  Queen Clemence gave birth on 15 November to his posthumous son, King John I of France, who only lived for five days.

Philip V, king of France and Navarre (1291/93 - 3 January 1322)

Second son of Philip IV and Queen Joan of Navarre, and succeeded to the French throne on the death of his nephew John I in November 1316.  He was crowned at Rheims in January 1317.  Philip married Jeanne or Joan of Burgundy, elder daughter and heiress of Othon IV, count palatine of Burgundy, and of Mahaut, countess of Artois in her own right.  Philip and Joan's two sons died in childhood, and they had four daughters who survived to adulthood.  Philip was known as le Long, the Tall.  He met his brother-in-law Edward II, who paid homage to him for the lands he owned in France, at Amiens in late June 1320, and on a personal level at least, if not as kings, the two men seem to have been on reasonably good terms: Philip sent Edward gifts of grapes and rose sugar in 1316 and 1317, and in August 1316 Edward paid the messenger who brought him news of Philip's son Louis in twenty marks.  Philip died at the beginning of 1322, aged only about thirty or so.

Charles IV, king of France and Navarre (1293/94 - 1 February 1328)

Third son of Philip IV and Joan of Navarre, succeeded his brother Philip V in January 1322, and last of the Capetian kings of France. Charles' nickname was le Bel, the Fair or the Handsome, as was his father's.  His first wife Blanche of Burgundy was the sister of Joan of Burgundy who married his brother Philip, above, and was also convicted of adultery in 1314 with their cousin Marguerite.  Blanche was imprisoned, but the pope refused to annul her marriage to Charles, so he had to wait until her death in 1322 to marry again.  Charles died on 1 February 1328 leaving his third wife (and first cousin) Jeanne d'Evreux pregnant; she gave birth exactly two months later to a daughter Blanche, so the throne of France passed to his cousin Philip VI, first of the Valois kings of France.

Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford (2 September 1243 - 7 December 1295)

Eldest son of Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Maud de Lacy, and the most influential nobleman in England in the late thirteenth century.  Gilbert was first married to Henry III's half-niece Alice de Lusignan, with whom he had two daughters, Isabel, Lady Berkeley and Joan, countess of Fife.  This marriage was annulled in 1285, and he married Edward I's daughter Joan of Acre on 30 April 1290, when he was forty-six and Joan seventeen or eighteen.  Gilbert and Joan had four children, Gilbert, his successor as earl of Gloucester, Eleanor, Margaret and Elizabeth.  It's interesting to note that Gilbert had five daughters and none of them was named after his mother Maud, which is highly unconventional.  Gilbert died at the age of fifty-two in December 1295, a few weeks after the birth of his youngest child.

Ralph de Monthermer, earl of Gloucester and Hertford (c. 1262 - 5 April 1325)

A squire of humble and possibly illegitimate birth who married Edward I's widowed daughter Joan of Acre in early 1297, to the utter fury of the king, who was negotiating her marriage to the count of Savoy at the time.  Ralph was imprisoned for a while, but Edward I eventually had to accept the marriage, and released him.  Ralph was earl of Gloucester and Hertford by right of his wife until her death on 30 April 1307.  With Joan Ralph had four children: Mary, countess of Fife, Joan, a nun, Thomas and Edward.  He married his second wife Isabel Hastings, one of the sisters of Hugh Despenser the Younger, in 1318, without Edward II's permission.  Edward soon forgave the couple, however, and respited their fine.  He and Ralph seem to have been on good terms: of Edward's letters of 1304/05 which fortuitously survive, eleven of them were sent to his brother-in-law, and one was addressed to noble home son trescher frere, 'the noble man his very dear brother'.

Henri III, count of Bar (late 1250s/1260s - September 1302)

Son of Theobald II (died 1291) and Jeanne de Toucy, and married Edward I's eldest daughter, twenty-four-year-old Eleanor, at Bristol in September 1293, a wedding attended by her nine-year-old brother Edward of Caernarfon.  Eleanor had long been betrothed to Alfonso III of Aragon, but he died suddenly in June 1291 while preparing their wedding. The county, later duchy, of Bar, incidentally, lies in modern-day Lorraine in eastern France.  Henri and Eleanor had two children: Edouard I, count of Bar, who drowned in 1336, and Joan or Jeanne, countess of Surrey.

John I, count of Holland (1284 - 10 November 1299)

John married Edward of Caernarfon's sister Elizabeth in Ipswich in January 1297, when he was twelve and she fourteen.  Edward gave them a gold cup as a wedding gift.  John was the only (surviving) son of Floris V, count of Holland, and Beatrice, one of the many daughters of Guy de Dampierre, count of Flanders.  His sister Margaret was betrothed to Edward I's son Alfonso, who died suddenly in August 1284.  John succeeded his father as count of Holland in June 1296 when he was eleven or twelve, and returned to England, where he had spent much of his childhood, a few months later to marry Elizabeth.  He died suddenly at the age of only fifteen, childless, and was succeeded by his father's cousin John II, who was the paternal grandfather of Edward III's queen Philippa of Hainault.

John II, duke of Brabant, Lothier and Limburg (27 September 1275 - 27 October 1312)

John was the son of Duke John I of Brabant and Margaret, another daughter of Guy de Dampierre, count of Flanders, and so was John I of Holland's first cousin.  He was the nephew of Marie of Brabant, second queen of Philip III of France, and so was also the first cousin of Edward II's stepmother Queen Marguerite.  John married Edward's sister Margaret in Westminster Abbey in July 1290, when he was fourteen and ten months and she fifteen and four months; they had been betrothed since 1278.  Their marriage seems not to have been a successful one: John left Margaret behind in England when his father died in May 1294 (he was killed jousting), and they apparently didn't begin cohabiting until 1297.  Their only child Duke John III was born sometime in 1300, when they were both twenty-four or twenty-five, a decade after their wedding.  John did, however, also have four illegitimate sons, who were all, confusingly, also called John.  He died in Brussels at the age of thirty-seven.

Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex, constable of England (c. 1276 - 16 March 1322)

Son of Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex (died 1298), and Maud Fiennes, who was the sister of Roger Mortimer's maternal grandfather William Fiennes.  Humphrey married Edward of Caernarfon's widowed sister Elizabeth, countess of Holland, in November 1302, and they had numerous children, including two earls of Hereford, William, earl of Northampton, Eleanor, countess of Ormond, and Margaret, countess of Devon.  Humphrey's relations with his brother-in-law Edward II were rather turbulent; sometimes they were allies and sometimes not.  Humphrey was present with the earl of Lancaster at Piers Gaveston's murder in June 1312, which it is hard to imagine Edward ever forgave him for, but was one of only three English earls to fight for the king at Bannockburn two years later, the others being Gloucester and Pembroke.  As a Marcher lord, Humphrey joined the Contrariant rebellion of 1321/22, and Hugh Despenser the Younger gives us an insight into Humphrey's character at this time by telling the sheriff of Glamorgan that Humphrey was "even more gloomy and thoughtful than usual."  Humphrey was killed fighting against the royal army at the battle of Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322, apparently - the poor, poor man - by having a pike skewered inside his anus as he fought on the bridge.  Horrible.

05 March, 2014


Absolutely nothing to do with Edward II, I'm afraid, but I've just spent a wonderful four days in Rome, and thought you might be interested in seeing some pics. :-) In Edward's reign, the popes lived in Avignon, not Rome, so he really had no connection to the city at all that I know of, and there were only two popes during his reign: Clement V (born Bertrand de Got, formerly archbishop of Bordeaux), 1305-1314, and John XXII (born Jacques Duèse, formerly cardinal-bishop of Porto), 1316-1334. There was an interregnum of over two years between these popes, which obviously perturbed Edward II greatly: he sent numerous letters to the cardinals pleading with them to elect a new pope as soon as possible, which they finally did when Edward's brother-in-law Philip of Poitiers, soon to be Philip V of France, had them locked in a room until they decided.

Here are some of my many - 1500 or so, haha - photos of the amazing Eternal City. Click on them to enlarge.

Basilica of Saint Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore) on the Esquiline hill, originally built between 432 and 440. It's one of the four ancient papal basilicas of Rome, the others being St Peter's, St John Lateran and St Paul outside the Walls (pics of all of them here).

St Peter's Basilica and Square. It's free to get in (as are all the churches in Rome that I know of), but you have to pass through a security check. If you intend to visit, I recommend that you arrive as early as possible (it opens at 7am) to beat the crowds. Even in low season at the end of February, when I was there, there were hundreds of people waiting to go in when I came out at about 11am.

Facade of St Peter's Basilica. The present building was constructed between 1506 and 1626.

Michelangelo's Pietà (1499), just on the right of the door as you enter St Peter's.

Inside St Peter's Basilica, the largest church in the world, built on the burial site of St Peter the Apostle, executed by Nero in Rome in about 64/67 AD. Peter asked to be crucified upside down as he didn't think he was worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord Jesus Christ.

View of the Eternal City from the dome of St Peter's. The dome was designed by none other than Michelangelo.

The Spanish Steps in the rain, with the church of Trinità dei Monti at the top.
Inside the basilica of St John Lateran (San Giovanni in Laterano), founded by Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman emperor, in about 314, consecrated in 324. Seat of the Pope as Bishop of Rome.
On the right, the great painting The Conversion of St Paul by Caravaggio (1571/73-1610), in the basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo. I adore it. You're not supposed to take photos of it, so I did it sneakily (shhh!) and therefore it's not a very good pic. You can see the painting properly here. Saul of Tarsus, persecutor of Christians, hears the voice of Jesus Christ on his way to Damascus, tumbles from his horse, and lies on the ground in rapture. (See Acts of the Apostles, verse 9, as well as some of Paul's own epistles.) 
The Trevi Fountain.
Trajan's Markets, basically a shopping mall built at the beginning of the second century AD.
The Scala Sancta, Holy Stairs (or Steps), supposedly from the palace of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem, upon which Jesus Christ stood before His crucifixion. They're marble, covered with wood to protect them, and housed in a building opposite St John Lateran. You're only allowed to ascend them on your knees.

Basilica of St Paul outside the Walls (San Paolo fuori le Mura), according to legend the burial site of St Paul, thought to have been executed in Rome by Nero in the 60s AD. Founded in the early 4th century by Constantine the Great.

The cloister of St Paul outside the Walls. You can see some people in the bottom right of the pic; gives you an idea of just how massive the four papal basilicas actually are.
The Arch of Titus on the Via Sacra near the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. Son of Vespasian and elder brother of Domitian, Titus was emperor from 79 to 81 AD.  He is best known for his brutal suppression of the Jewish Revolt in Jerusalem in 70, and for building the Colosseum (with his father). He was emperor during the massive eruption of Vesuvius in 79.

The Circus Maximus, for 1000 years the main venue for chariot races in Rome, between the Aventine and Palatine hills (you can see some of the ancient buildings on the Palatine in the pic). First built in the 6th century BC, races were held here until 549 AD. Although now only a muddy field, the shape of the stadium can still be clearly be seen, and it's an astonishing 2500 years old.
The arch of Constantine (the Great), dedicated in 315 AD, with the Colosseum to the right.

View of Rome and the River Tiber from the Savello park on the Aventine. Lovely little park full of orange trees, with ancient walls, practically a lake when I was there after a lot of rain!
The Pantheon, a temple dedicated to all the gods worshipped in ancient Rome (the name Pantheon means 'all gods' in Greek), rebuilt by the Emperor Hadrian around 125 AD, at about the same time that he was building Hadrian's Wall. Reconsecrated as a Christian church in 609.
Inside the Vatican Museums. You have to go into the Museums to see the Sistine Chapel, and entrance is 16 euros. Again, get there as early as you can. They open at 9am; I arrived at 8.15 and there were only a few dozen people ahead of me, but a good few hundred behind me by 9am, with thousands more pouring in in the four or so hours I was there.
In the basilica of St Peter in Chains (San Pietro in Vincoli) on the Esquiline, which was rebuilt on earlier foundations in the 430s, are the chains used to shackle St Peter the Apostle in Herod's prison. See Acts of the Apostles, verse 12, which describes how Peter's chains fell off when he was liberated by an angel.

The basilica of Santa Sabina, on the Aventine, founded by Peter of Illyria in about 422 AD. It's next to the Savello park, above.
Holy relics, including a nail with which Christ was crucified, two thorns from the Crown of Thorns, and three small pieces of the True Cross, inside the church of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem (Santa Croce in Gerusalemme), founded by St Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, around 320. See here.
Basilica of St Mary of the Angels and Martyrs (Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri), which only dates to the 16th century, but incorporates the remains of the Baths of Diocletian, Roman Emperor from 284 to 305 AD.  Somewhat ironically, Diocletian was a great persecutor of Christians. He was succeeded by Constantine, who converted to Christianity.
My favourite church in Rome, the small basilica of Santa Prassede, built in the 8th century on top of much earlier remains.
Santa Prassede.
Some of the wonderful mosaics in Santa Prassede, which date to 817-824.
Inside the Vatican Museums.
The Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Ampitheatre, built by the emperor Vespasian and his son Titus between 72 and 80 AD.
A 13th-century fresco of Christ on the Cross, from the basilica of Santa Prassede.
It's forbidden to take photos inside the Sistine Chapel, so here's a postcard I bought, showing Michelangelo's astonishing ceiling (1506-1512) and his massive fresco (1536-1541) of The Last Judgement on one wall. It's worth visiting Rome just to see the Sistine Chapel, in my opinion. It's so miraculously wonderful I have no words to describe it, and I just sat there for an hour, admiring it. The figures are so vivid and three-dimensional they come right of the ceiling. Here's a virtual tour.

Exterior of the papal basilica of St John Lateran, seat of the Pope as Bishop of Rome (see also above for an interior pic).

23 February, 2014

Sigh. Roger Mortimer was **NOT** the father of Edward III! Please, people!

Recently I came across a blog post which names me and refers to my post demonstrating that it is as sure as sure can be that Edward II was the father of Isabella of France's children.

To quote from the blog post (which I'm not linking to): "It is possible that Edward III was in fact the son of Roger Mortimer, not Edward II.  In even saying this I am in direct conflict with Kathryn Warner who carries out a non stop campaign to defend Edward II’s reputation. Simplistic histories have Mortimer in Ireland from 1308 until 1318. However it is recorded elsewhere that Mortimer travelled continuously alternating between his estates in Ireland, his estates in the Welsh marches and attendances at court."

Ian Mortimer's The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, Ruler of England 1327 to 1330 (Pimlico, 2003) gives Roger's itinerary as fully as it can be determined, and frankly I'll take Ian Mortimer and his research any day over a stranger on the internet who wants to think that Roger could possibly have fathered Edward III and Isabella's other children.  Edward III, born on 13 November 1312, must have been conceived around late February 1312.  Queen Isabella had joined her husband Edward II in York on about 20/21 February, and the king and queen remained in the city together until early April.  There is no doubt whatsoever that the royal couple were together for a few weeks at the time when Edward III must have been conceived, and as I've pointed out before, Edward and Isabella conceived their son during Lent, when intercourse was forbidden.  (Tsk!)  As for Roger Mortimer, we know that he was in Dublin 270 miles from York in April and May 1312 (Greatest Traitor, pp. 49-50, 305).  No, we can't conclusively 100% prove that he wasn't in or near York in late February that year having sex with Isabella.  But why on earth would he have been?  How could he possibly have slept with the sixteen-year-old queen while she was with her husband without either Edward or Isabella's household of 180 people noticing?  The queen had less privacy than anyone else in the country, yet we're supposed to imagine that she could have had sex with one of her husband's leading barons without anyone noticing?  Let me reiterate here the absolutely key point that no-one at all until the 1980s ever suggested that anyone but Edward II was the father of Edward III and Isabella's other children.  So why are people making up these weird fantasies?

The blog post again: "Kathryn is not simplistic she has the records which place Isabelle and Edward together in York from the 22nd February 1312 exactly full term before Edward III’s birth on 13 November."  Wow, thanks!

"These dates apparently make it impossible for Mortimer to be the father of Edward III. However the relationship between Roger and Isabelle was known in France at the time of the Tour Nestlé affair in 1313."

Firstly, it's the Tour de Nesle, not 'Nestlé', which is the name of a modern multinational food and drink company.  Secondly, the Tour de Nesle affair was the revelation in 1314 (not 1313) that two of Isabella's sisters-in-law, Marguerite and Blanche of Burgundy, were committing adultery with the d'Aulnay brothers in Paris, for which the men were executed and the women imprisoned.  Although it may have been Isabella who discovered these adulterous relationships (though this is not certain), the whole business has nothing whatsoever to do with Isabella's much later relationship with Roger Mortimer, which began in late 1325 or early 1326.  The blog writer here appears to be confusing and conflating three different things: 1) the long visit of Edward II and Isabella to France in 1313 (and see also here); 2) the revelation of the Tour de Nesle affair in 1314, while Isabella was again visiting Paris, without her husband this time; and 3) the relationship of Isabella and Roger Mortimer which began in Paris in late 1325/early 1326.

"There is also the question of what was happening in the period leading up to the 22nd of february. Isabella took the whole of this month to travel north from london and then the last four days to travel the last four days from Doncaster to York, a distance of less than thirty miles. She could have conceived on any of these days. The person who gave her safe conduct in Tynemouth was Thomas of Lancaster. His major stronghold was Pontefract Castle near Wakefield. The deviation from doncaster would have taken an extra eighteen miles. Just suppose that Isabelle made the deviation to negotiate her own safety. Just suppose that Mortimer already unhappy with aspects of Edward II’s rule attended the meeting seeking her support against Gavescon [sic]."

Just suppose that we focus on things that we actually know, rather than piling fantasy on fantasy and speculation on speculation.  We have no evidence that Roger Mortimer was in England in February 1312.  We have no evidence that he was already unhappy with Edward II's rule, or acting against the king and Piers Gaveston, and in fact his biographer Ian Mortimer makes it quite clear that Roger supported Edward and Piers, whom he knew well (his wardship had been granted to Piers by Edward I in 1304).  We have no evidence that Roger had any kind of relationship with Isabella, beyond the usual courtly one between the queen and a magnate, before the mid-1320s.  We have no evidence that Isabella met or went anywhere near her uncle Thomas of Lancaster at this time.  We have no evidence that Isabella 'deviated' anywhere on her journey north in February 1312.  Yes, it was a very slow journey.  Travel in the thirteenth/fourteenth centuries often was, especially in winter.  In August 1289, at the height of summer, it took Edward I's children, including the five-year-old Edward of Caernarfon, two weeks to travel the 100 miles from Langley to Dover to greet the king and queen on their return to England.  Travelling could be painfully slow.  Perhaps Isabella was ill and couldn't travel far each day, or a lot of her household were ill, or perhaps there was really bad weather and they were unable to go very far each day in the driving rain or howling snowstorm, or the roads were horribly muddy or icy and nearly impassable.  There are lots of possible reasons for the slowness; we don't have to invent stories about the queen secretly meeting and having sex with Roger Mortimer.

I genuinely don't understand why people do this, why they insult Edward II and Isabella by painting them as a cuckold and an adulteress willing to foist a non-royal child onto the English throne.  Do they think it's romantic and sweet?  I suppose if you really wanted to, you could construct similar elaborate and implausible fantasies about the paternity of any other king.  Edward II himself was conceived in Wales in July or August 1283, and if you tried hard enough you could probably come up with some scenario that has Eleanor of Castile travelling somewhere and secretly sleeping with, I dunno, Othon de Grandisson, who is then really the father of her youngest child.  But why would you?  It's daft.  So is this silly scenario about Isabella and Roger Mortimer.  Yes, she did have a relationship with him, many years later, long after all her children were born.  This does not in any way prove that she was already sleeping with him, or willing to do so, as early as 1312.  By late 1325, Edward II and Isabella's relationship had broken down and Isabella needed an ally to act with her against the Despensers and restore herself to her rightful position and her lands.  This cannot in any way be taken to mean that in 1312, she would have been willing to sleep with Roger Mortimer or anyone else.

"This is all supposition and then again there is the fact that in the period leading up to 1322 she had not one but four children. Could Mortimer have fathered all four children?"

No.  He couldn't.  Edward II and Isabella of France's younger three children were conceived in or around late November 1315, September 1317 and October 1320.  Roger was then in Kells (6 December 1315), Drogheda and Dublin (September 1317) and Dublin/on his way to court back in England in October 1320 (Greatest Traitor, pp. 69-70, 87, 100-01, 305-09).  I have a great deal of respect and admiration for Roger Mortimer, but I'm pretty sure that even he wasn't capable of impregnating a woman who was in another country at the time, 'unequivocally heterosexual' though he may well have been.  And again, we have the fact that Isabella was with her husband when all her children were conceived.

"after edwardii’s death isabelle plans to marry mortimer and to have a legitimate child whho could well force through a claim to the french throne and thereby limiting edward III’s own prospects"

I'd love to know how Isabella could have planned to marry a man who was already married.  Good one.

"if edward III is the son of mortimer then he is noble but undeniably illegitimate and therefore entitled to nothing"

Edward III was the son of Edward II.  I'm as certain of this as I am of anything.  If there'd been even the slightest iota of doubt in anyone's mind, why would they have been willing to make him king in 1327?  Why did the French never accuse him of illegitimacy?  It would have been an obvious thing to do, to damage his reputation and harm his chances of claiming the French throne, if he didn't even have a right to the English one.  I am so bored with people claiming that English kings were not really the sons of their fathers and only they, centuries later, have been clever enough to discover The Real Truth!!!  Bollocks.  Edward I was the son of Henry III, Edward III was the son of Edward II.  Stop fantasising and stop insulting their memory.