21 March, 2019

21 March 1317: Birth of Isabella de Verdon, Lady Ferrers

On 21 March 1317, Edward II's niece Elizabeth de Burgh née de Clare gave birth to her first daughter, Isabella de Verdon, eight months after the death of her second husband Theobald de Verdon. Elizabeth, born in September 1295, was twenty-one at the time, and had given birth to her first child William de Burgh, the day after her seventeenth birthday in September 1312. Isabella de Verdon was a great-niece of Edward II, great-granddaughter of Edward I, half-sister of the earl of Ulster, and aunt of Elizabeth de Burgh the younger (1332-63), duchess of Clarence and countess of Ulster, who married Edward III's son Lionel of Antwerp.

Theobald de Verdon had three daughters, Joan, Elizabeth and Margery, from his first marriage to Roger Mortimer of Wigmore's sister Maud (d. 1312). Had Elizabeth de Burgh borne a son in March 1317, the boy would have become his father's sole heir from the moment of his birth, but little Isabella de Verdon became heir to one-quarter of her father's inheritance, and her three older half-sisters also each inherited a quarter of the lands. Theobald and Elizabeth had been married for less than six months when he died on 27 July 1316, not yet thirty-eight years old.

Elizabeth retreated to Amesbury Priory in Wiltshire sometime before the end of her pregnancy, and spent time there with her aunt Mary (b. 1279), one of Edward II's older sisters, a nun of Amesbury. She gave birth to Isabella there. The little girl was named after one of her godmothers, Queen Isabella, who was staying at the palace of Clarendon a few miles away with her husband. John Harnham, under-sheriff of Wiltshire, escorted the queen from Clarendon to Amesbury to attend little Isabella de Verdon's baptism there on the day of her birth. Edward II himself remained at Clarendon, but sent a silver cup as a baptism gift. His sister Mary the nun was the infant's other godmother, and the baptism was conducted by Roger Martival, bishop of Salisbury. [CIPM 1327-36, no. 395]

Sometime at the end of the 1320s or in 1330, Isabella de Verdon married Henry, Lord Ferrers of Groby in Leicestershire, who claimed his marital rights very early: Elizabeth de Burgh's biographer Frances Underhill found evidence (cited in her book For Her Good Estate: The Life of Elizabeth de Burgh) that Elizabeth bought a gift for her daughter's purification in March 1331. That was the month Isabella turned fourteen, and as the ceremony of purification was usually held forty days after childbirth, that means she had borne her first child when she was still only thirteen. Agh. 

Fortunately Isabella Ferrers née de Verdon was not damaged by this too-early experience of pregnancy and childbirth, and gave birth to her second child, William Ferrers, at Newbold in Leicestershire on 28 February 1333. [CIPM 1352-60, no. 195] She was still not quite sixteen years old. William was heir to his father Henry and the Ferrers inheritance, and to Isabella and her quarter of the Verdon inheritance. William had two sisters, dates of birth unknown: Philippa and Elizabeth Ferrers. Elizabeth Ferrers married David Strathbogie, titular earl of Atholl (1332-69) and had two daughters, inevitably called Elizabeth and Philippa Strathbogie. Philippa Ferrers, Isabella de Verdon's other daughter, married Guy Beauchamp (b. c. 1335), who was the eldest son and heir of Thomas Beauchamp (1314-69), earl of Warwick, but Guy died in 1360 in his father's lifetime, and his younger brother Thomas succeeded their father and was the earl of Warwick exiled to the Isle of Man by Richard II in 1397. Philippa Ferrers and Guy Beauchamp's two young daughters were forced into a nunnery so that their uncle Thomas could inherit their grandfather's earldom and lands. Their uncle Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (1338/9-1401) married their cousin Margaret Ferrers (1350s-1407), daughter of Isabella de Verdon's son William Ferrers (1333-71), and they were the parents of Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (1382-1439).

Isabella Ferrers née de Verdon was widowed in 1343 and died on 25 July 1349, perhaps of the Black Death, aged only thirty-two. Her mother Elizabeth de Burgh outlived her by more than eleven years.

10 March, 2019

Hugh Despenser the Younger Goes Jousting Without Permission, 1310

On 31 December 1309, Edward II issued a proclamation stating that he had heard how some Englishmen intended to travel overseas to take part in jousting tournaments, and forbade them to  do so. The warden of the Cinque Ports and the bailiffs of twenty-three ports all along the English coast were ordered not to permit any man "to pass the seas to tourney or do other feats of arms, without the king's special order." Despite this prohibition, the king's nephew-in-law Hugh Despenser the Younger, then about twenty or twenty-one, did leave the kingdom to joust, having managed to evade all the men ordered to watch out for knights going overseas with horses (I don't know what port he sailed from). The annoyed king had heard of Hugh's departure by 9 January 1310, just nine days after his proclamation, when he told "the escheator this side [of the river] Trent to take into the king's hand the lands and goods of Hugh Despenser the son if he find that Hugh has crossed beyond seas contrary to the king's frequent prohibitions." Hugh the Younger seems to have spent more than six months travelling around the continent to joust, as one tournament he definitely participated in, in the town of Mons, took place in July 1310. Hugh and Sir Robert d'Enghien were the only Englishmen present at the Mons tournament, which if nothing else reveals that the vast majority of English knights obeyed Edward II's command not to tourney overseas.

Two months after realising that Hugh the Younger had gone overseas without his permission, Edward II realised that six manors his escheator had seized in the belief that they were Hugh's in fact belonged to his father Hugh Despenser the Elder, who had assigned the revenues from them to his son and daughter-in-law Eleanor de Clare in line with a promise he had made to Eleanor's grandfather Edward I in 1306 to provide the young couple with an income of £200 a year. The half-dozen manors were North Weald Bassett, Wix and Lamarsh in Essex, Oxcroft in Cambridgeshire, and Kersey and Layham in Suffolk, and they had all belonged to Hugh the Elder's maternal grandfather Philip, Lord Basset (d. 1271). This whole situation, Hugh the Younger's defiance of the king's order, is fortunate, as otherwise we wouldn't have much idea which manors Hugh the Elder gave to his son, or rather, which manors' revenues, he gave to his son, in 1306. It's perhaps quite telling that Hugh the Elder only granted the revenues from the manors to his son and didn't give him the manors outright. The total revenues of the six Essex, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire manors might just about have provided Hugh the Younger and Eleanor with £200 a year, a low income in comparison with the people around them (though high by the standards of the majority of the English population in the early fourteenth century), and a far cry from the kind of income Hugh enjoyed in later years as Edward II's beloved; probably more than £7,000 a year. It's also fascinating to note that before Hugh became royal chamberlain in 1318 and worked his way into the king's favour, Edward II couldn't possibly have been less interested in him, and even if he didn't necessarily hate Hugh, he was indifferent towards him and did not trust him in the slightest. 


Calendar of Close Rolls 1307-13
, pp. 198, 237; Calendar of Fine Rolls 1307-19, p. 54; Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, p. 308; Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous 1308-48, no. 69; A. de Behault de Dornon, Le Tournoi de Mons de 1310.

06 March, 2019

The Children of Hugh Despenser the Younger and Eleanor de Clare

Hugh Despenser the Younger and Eleanor de Clare married at the palace of Westminster on 26 May 1306, in the presence of Eleanor's grandfather Edward I, who had arranged their union and who paid Hugh Despenser the Elder £2,000 for his elder son and heir's marriage. Eleanor de Clare, the king's eldest granddaughter, was born on or around 14 October 1292, so was thirteen years, seven months and twelve days old, or thereabouts, on the day of her wedding. Hugh the Younger's date of birth is not known, but he was several years older than his wife and was born in the late 1280s, and was aged somewhere between sixteen and eighteen in May 1306. He, along with his new wife's twenty-two-year-old uncle Edward of Caernarfon and more than 250 other men, had been knighted four days before his wedding.

There is no way of knowing if Hugh and Eleanor began living together as husband and wife immediately after their wedding or if consummation and cohabitation were delayed until Eleanor was somewhat older; their first child was born in 1308 or the first half of 1309 when Eleanor was fifteen or sixteen and Hugh about nineteen or twenty. Both her mother Joan of Acre, countess of Gloucester, and Joan's father Edward I were still alive until the year after Eleanor's wedding, and perhaps it was Joan who decided whether her eldest daughter was ready for a full marriage or whether the young couple would have to live apart for a year or two.

Hugh and Eleanor had been married for twenty years and six months when Hugh was executed on 24 November 1326, when he was about thirty-seven or thirty-eight. They had at least ten children together; four sons and five daughters who survived infancy plus at least one other son who was either stillborn or died very soon after birth. In addition, Eleanor had another child from her second marriage to William la Zouche, lord of Ashby in Leicestershire, who was also called William la Zouche and was born around 1330 when Eleanor was about thirty-seven or thirty-eight and her husband was at least fifty. The younger William became a monk at Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset and was still alive in 1390, and Eleanor's grandson and heir Edward Despenser (1336-75) acknowledged him as his uncle when granting him an annuity.

The birth order of the Despenser boys is as follows: Hugh, Edward, Gilbert, John. There was also an unnamed boy who died before or soon after birth, who may, though I don't know for sure, have been John's twin. The birth order of the Despenser girls as is follows: Isabella, Joan, Eleanor, Margaret, Elizabeth. Putting the boys and girls together and trying to figure out the overall birth order of Hugh Despenser the Younger and Eleanor de Clare's children is a bit tricky, and what follows is my best guess and might not be 100% accurate.

1) Hugh, lord of Glamorgan, always called Huchon or Huchoun in Edward II's accounts, evidently his family nickname; called Hughelyn or 'little Hugh' by the author of the Anonimalle chronicle; born in 1308 or in the first half of 1309, died 8 February 1349

The first Despenser child, Edward I's eldest great-grandchild and Edward II's eldest great-nephew. Huchon was his mother Eleanor's heir, and in her inquisition post mortem of July 1337 was said to be 28 or 29 years old, hence was born before July 1309 and perhaps in 1308, when Eleanor was fifteen or sixteen. He often appears in his great-uncle Edward II's accounts in the 1320s when he was a teenager, and the king bought him cloth for aketons (padded defensive jerkins) and paid to have his weapons repaired in December 1325. Huchon was besieged at Caerphilly Castle between November 1326 and March 1327, when he was eighteen, and spent the rest of Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer's regime in prison. His mother's first cousin Edward III finally released him in July 1331, and he was knighted sometime before January 1334. All the Despenser lands Huchon would have inherited from his grandfather Hugh Despenser the Elder passed to other people after Hugh the Elder and Younger were executed in 1326, but he did inherit Eleanor de Clare's third of her late brother Gilbert's earldom of Gloucester on her death in 1337, and some years later married the earl of Salisbury's eldest daughter Elizabeth Montacute. She was born c. 1330 and was more than twenty years his junior, but despite her youth was already the widow of Huchon's second cousin Giles Badlesmere (1314-38). Huchon made an excellent career as a soldier, fighting for his cousin Edward III in Scotland and France. It can't have been easy being called 'Hugh Despenser' after 1326, but Huchon did his utmost to restore his family's good name.

Hugh 'Huchon' Despenser had no children - his widow Elizabeth did have children with her third husband Sir Guy Bryan, so Huchon may have been infertile - and his heir was his nephew Edward Despenser the younger, born in 1336. Huchon's effigy, lying next to his wife Elizabeth Montacute, can still be seen in Tewkesbury Abbey in Gloucestershire, and shows him as a handsome man with a short nose and a full mouth. See my post here for more info about Huchon.

2) Edward, possibly born shortly before 21 October 1310 and certainly before 3 October 1313, though not mentioned on record until 23 November 1315; killed in battle 30 September 1342.

Certainly the second Despenser son and probably the second child overall. Edward II paid a messenger on 21 October 1310 for bringing him news of his niece Eleanor, which probably relates to the birth of a child, and in my opinion it is likely that she had recently given birth to Edward Despenser. Eleanor turned eighteen around 14 October 1310, and it seems that she and Hugh the Younger had two sons already. Edward Despenser was certainly born before 3 October 1313 as he inherited lands (from his grandmother Isabella Beauchamp's first cousin Idonea Leyburne) on 3 October 1334 and had to be at least twenty-one then. Edward Despenser was at least thirteen when his father and grandfather were executed in 1326 and may have been sixteen, and therefore was fortunate to avoid imprisonment by the new regime.

Edward Despenser married Anne Ferrers, daughter of William, Lord Ferrers of Groby (1271-1325), on 20 April 1335 at her brother Henry's manor of Groby. Edward and Anne had four sons (and no daughters): Edward the younger, his uncle Huchon's successor as lord of Glamorgan, born on 24 March 1336 eleven months after his parents' wedding, died 11, 12 or 13 November 1375; Hugh, c. 1337/8-1374; Thomas, c. 1339/40-1381; and Henry, appointed bishop of Norwich in 1370, b. 1341 or the beginning of 1342, died 1406. Edward Despenser the elder was killed at the battle of Morlaix in Brittany on 30 September 1342 when his eldest son was six and his youngest just a baby. If, as I suspect, he was born in October 1310, he was not quite thirty-two when he died. His grandson and the Despenser heir, Thomas Despenser (1373-1400), the younger Edward's only surviving son, married Edward III's granddaughter Constance of York and was briefly earl of Gloucester in the late 1390s. Edward Despenser had and has numerous descendants via Thomas and Constance's daughter Isabelle and via Thomas's older sisters Anne Hastings, Elizabeth Arundel and Margaret Ferrers.

3) Isabella, countess of Arundel, born in 1312 or at the beginning of 1313; died at an unknown date after 1356 and probably before 1369.

The eldest daughter and probably the third child overall, named after her grandmother Isabella Beauchamp (d. May 1306), wife of Hugh the Elder and mother of Hugh the Younger. Isabella married Richard, son and heir of Edmund, earl of Arundel and nephew and heir of John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, at the royal manor of Havering-atte-Bower in Essex on 9 February 1321. Richard stated many years later that he was then seven and Isabella Despenser eight. Isabella may have given birth to her only child, Edmund Arundel, as early as 1326, when she was fourteen and her husband Richard perhaps only thirteen (!!), if he was telling the truth about his age at marriage: according to the pope, Edmund Arundel was eighteen in December 1344 and twenty in early 1347. I've written before about the earl of Arundel's annulment of his and Isabella's marriage and his callous treatment of his son Edmund, and see also my book Blood Roses, where I go into it in more detail.

Edmund Arundel, eldest grandchild of Hugh Despenser the Younger and Eleanor de Clare, married the earl of Salisbury's daughter Sybil (whose sister Elizabeth married his uncle Huchon Despenser), and they had three daughters, Philippa, Elizabeth and Katherine, all of whom had children of their own. Isabella Despenser is oddly obscure after the annulment of her marriage; she was still alive in 1356 when she was involved in a legal case (this information was posted on the soc.genealogy.medieval website a few years ago), and apparently was dead by 1369, when the manors her ex-husband gave her for her sustenance in 1344/45 seem to have been back in his hands. As far as I know, she never remarried. Via her son Edmund Arundel and Edmund's daughter Philippa Sergeaux, Isabella Despenser was the great-grandmother of Alice de Vere (1384-1452), countess of Oxford and the great-great-grandmother of John de Vere, earl of Oxford (1408-61), and she has numerous other descendants from her other two Arundel granddaughters as well.

4) Joan, born c. 1314/15?, died 15 November 1384

The second daughter and possibly the fourth child overall, Joan was named after her maternal grandmother Joan of Acre. Pope John XXII issued a dispensation for Joan Despenser to marry John FitzGerald, eldest son and heir of the earl of Kildare, on 1 June 1323. John was born in 1314, but died later in 1323, leaving his younger brother as their father's heir. Joan Despenser ended up as a nun at Shaftesbury Abbey in Dorset. Queen Isabella forcibly veiled Joan's younger sisters Eleanor and Margaret at the beginning of 1327 a few weeks after their father's execution, but the order for Joan's veiling is missing, and it may be that it was her parents who had placed her at Shaftesbury sometime before Hugh the Younger's death. The abbey was founded c. 888 by King Alfred the Great, who made his daughter Aethelgifu the first abbess, and it was a very rich and prestigious house. This also tends to indicate that Hugh and Eleanor chose it for their daughter, rather than it being Queen Isabella who placed her there against her will. Joan's cousin Edward III gave her and her sister Eleanor £20 a year for their maintenance in 1337, and Joan continued to receive this money for the rest of her long life. Her eldest brother Huchon also gave her a generous annual income from two of his manors. Joan Despenser died on 15 November 1384 when she must have been seventy years old or close to it.

5) Gilbert, born c. 1316/18?, first appears on record on 9 July 1322, died 22 April 1382

Certainly the third son and possibly the fifth child overall, though it is not impossible that he was older than his sister Joan. He first appears on record in July 1322 when his great-uncle Edward II gave five manors to his mother Eleanor de Clare, to pass ultimately to Gilbert. Gilbert was knighted sometime between October 1338 and December 1344, and carved out a long and successful career as a household knight of his kinsman Edward III and Edward's grandson and successor Richard II. He fought in Edward III's 1346 Crécy campaign with his eldest brother Huchon and younger brother John, and was one of the knights of the royal household for whom mourning robes were purchased for Queen Philippa's funeral in early 1370. Sir Gilbert Despenser married Ela Calveley of Norfolk and had a son called John Despenser, who was born in 1361 and died in 1375.

Gilbert died on 22 April 1382, probably in his mid-sixties or thereabouts; he was perhaps just about old enough to remember the Despenser War aimed at his father Hugh the Younger in May 1321, and lived long enough to experience the Great Uprising or 'Peasants' Revolt' six decades later. As his only child John died before him, his heir to the lands he held in Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Surrey was his great-nephew Thomas Despenser (1373-1400), his elder brother Edward's grandson.

6) Eleanor, born c. late 1310s or early 1320s, died shortly before 15 February 1351?

Eleanor was the third Despenser daughter and possibly the sixth child overall, though she may in fact have been younger than her brother John, below; the birth order of the middle Despenser children is very difficult to determine. Eleanor was raised with her mother's much younger first cousins, Edward II's daughters Eleanor of Woodstock (b. June 1318) and Joan of the Tower (b July 1321). This may indicate that Eleanor Despenser was rather younger than Eleanor of Woodstock and rather older than Joan of the Tower. Sometime before July 1325, she was betrothed to Laurence Hastings, future earl of Pembroke, who was born in March 1321; she is unlikely to have been much older than he. Queen Isabella vindictively forced Eleanor Despenser to become a nun at Sempringham Priory in Lincolnshire at the beginning of 1327, when she was no more than about eight or nine and might only have been five or so. Eleanor and her older sister Joan received £20 a year from their kinsman Edward III, and on 15 February 1351 an entry on the Close Roll states that Joan Despenser was now dead. Joan in fact lived until November 1384, as stated in her brother Gilbert's inquisition post mortem, and I believe that the sisters' names were confused and that it was Eleanor who had recently died in February 1351.

7) John, born c. late 1310s or early 1320s; died shortly before 10 June 1366

John first appears on record when his great-uncle Edward II bought a saddle for him on 22 November 1324. As he was old enough to ride then, he cannot have been a baby, and was probably born in the late 1310s or beginning of the 1320s. He was the fourth and youngest surviving son of Hugh the Younger, and was certainly younger than his brother Gilbert.

John Despenser is oddly obscure. He was given an income of £20 a year by Edward III and his eldest brother Huchon gave him lands and rents in Lincolnshire, but there is no inquisition post mortem for him, so either his IPM no longer exists for some reason or, more likely, John did not hold lands from the king in chief. I have never been able to find any evidence whether John married and had children or not. He was knighted sometime before the summer of 1346, when he participated in the Crécy campaign with his older brothers Huchon and Gilbert (Edward Despenser, his other older brother, was dead by then) and several of their first cousins - Philip Despenser, Amaury St Amand and the Camoys brothers. According to the chronicle of John of Reading - thank you to Brad Verity for this reference - John Despenser was murdered in London around 11 June 1366. This statement is unconfirmed, but there is an order on the Fine Roll dated 10 June 1366 to take John's goods in Hampshire into the king's hands because he was dead.

8) Unnamed son, born and died at the end of 1320 or beginning of 1321

Edward II bought cloth to lie over the tomb or coffin of an unnamed son of Hugh the Younger and Eleanor de Clare on about 13 January 1321. The boy is not named in the king's accounts, which probably indicates that he was stillborn or did not live long enough to be baptised. Possibly he was a twin of his brother John, or perhaps of his sister Eleanor. Or possibly John and Eleanor were twins and were older or younger than the little boy born at the end of 1320 or beginning of 1321. Or possibly there were no multiple births and Eleanor de Clare just gave birth really often in the late 1310s and early 1320s. The boy who was stillborn or died very soon after birth might not have been a full-term pregnancy.

9) Margaret, born on or just before 2 August 1323; died 1337

The fourth daughter and ninth (at least) child, Margaret Despenser was born at the royal manor of Cowick on or just before 2 August 1323. She was raised with a large retinue in the home of Sir Thomas Houk or Hook eight miles from Cowick, and when she was just three years old at the start of 1327, Queen Isabella forced her to be veiled as a nun at Watton Priory also in Yorkshire. She died sometime in 1337, barely even in her teens, when her aunt Elizabeth de Burgh, Eleanor's sister, sent wax images and a painting of the four evangelists for her sepulchre. A very sad, short life; little Margaret might never have known her family.

10) Elizabeth, Lady Berkeley, probably born on or soon before 14 December 1325, died 13 July 1389

The fifth daughter and youngest Despenser child. Eleanor de Clare gave birth to a child at the royal manor-house of Sheen who is mentioned in Edward II's accounts on 14 December 1325. Unfortunately, this entry does not give the name or even the sex of the infant. Grrrrrrr! Most probably, it was Elizabeth, though there is a possibility that the child born in December 1325 died young and that Eleanor gave birth to Hugh's posthumous child sometime after his execution on 24 November 1326. Elizabeth Despenser escaped the forced veiling of her older sisters as she was only a year old at the beginning of 1327 (or possibly was still in utero), and spent some time as a child at Wix Priory in Essex and also lived for a while with her namesake aunt Elizabeth de Burgh. Her eldest brother Huchon paid 1,000 marks in 1338 for her to marry Maurice Berkeley, son and heir of Thomas, Lord Berkeley and a grandson of Roger Mortimer of Wigmore. Their eldest son, the younger Thomas, Lord Berkeley, was born on 4 or 5 January 1353. Elizabeth was widowed in June 1368, married a second husband, Sir Maurice Wyth of Somerset, and outlived him too. She died on 13 July 1389, probably aged sixty-three. Her son Lord Berkeley died on the same date in 1417.


In addition to Hugh Despenser the Younger and Eleanor de Clare's ten (or more?) children, Hugh the Younger may have been the father of Nicholas Litlington, abbot of Westminster (c. 1312/15-1386), with a mistress called Joan. Three of Hugh and Eleanor's children - Joan, Gilbert and Elizabeth - lived into the 1380s, and so did Nicholas Litlington. See Lady D's blog for more info about him.

27 February, 2019

The Belongings of Madame Yzabel of France, 1308

Philip IV of France provided his daughter Isabella with a magnificent trousseau when she married Edward II in early 1308 and moved to England to be its queen. The inventory of Isabella's belongings - hurrah! - still exists in the Archives Nationales in France, and was published by Walter E. Rhodes at the end of the nineteenth century, in the original French. Here's a post about it. These are only a few highlights of all the many lovely things Isabella owned, but I hope the post gives a good idea of the kind of items she was surrounded by.

The inventory refers to Isabella as 'Madame Yzabel of France, queen of England', and begins with a list of 'jewels for the queen's body'. These included three crowns, presumably of gold though this is not stated, two gold circlets, a chaplet and two gold fastenings for a cloak, one in the shape of a fleur-de-lis and one shaped like two lions and studded with precious stones. Further down the list, another four crowns are specified and these certainly were of gold, some with precious stones, and Isabella had a 'belt of gold' as well and three hats or head-coverings (chapeauxwith rubies and emeralds. She had a gold chalice, more gold and silver cups than I can count, two gold spoons plus four dozen other spoons, six large plates and thirty-six others, a 'very beautiful' gold cross, and two enamelled silver basins. Four more basins 'for washing' are mentioned, plus another two 'for washing her head' and 'four other basins for washing'. Isabella had an alms-dish and a nef, i.e. 'ship', also intended for alms, fifty escueles, meaning bowls or dishes. There was a large number of items for her chapel, such as cloth to cover her altar, surplices for her chaplains, hangings for her oratory, a cushion and carpets to set before the altar, a leather chest for storing currently unused items for the chapel, a box for storing candles, a jug or pitcher for holy water, an ivory box with silver bands to contain the Host, a missal and a gradual, etc etc.

Some of the clothes Isabella took with her were: a gown of red samite (a kind of silk); a gown 'of cloth of gold of turquie in which she was married' (not sure what that word means, maybe Turkey; the word for 'turquoise' usually has an S in it); a gown of crimson veluel (velvet?) with a mulberry-coloured jacket; a 'very good' marbled red cloth for six sets of clothes; green cloth to make another six sets of clothes; and fur linings for her cloaks, both ermine and other varieties. Isabella was also provided with linen for her bedchamber and other private rooms, including fifteen pairs of curtains for her bed and 419 ells of linen for her bath, and a cloth of gold with lozenges of the arms of France and England to hang in a chamber and another with the arms of France only. She had a canopy for her bed with matching curtains (in addition to the fifteen pairs of curtains just mentioned), cushions, pillows, blankets, yet more bed curtains of sendal, ten chairs, a table, rugs, etc etc.

Finally, the queen had six horses to pull her coach plus ten more horses for her attendants' coaches, five palfreys for Isabella to ride and another four for her attendants, all with the necessary equipment such as saddles, saddle-cloths and harnesses. There were also housings for the queen's palfreys, i.e. ornamental cloths to drape over the horses.

22 February, 2019

Eleanor of Lancaster, Lady Beaumont and Countess of Arundel

Eleanor of Lancaster was the fifth of the six daughters of Edward II's first cousin Henry of Lancaster, earl of Lancaster and Leicester. Here's a post about her.

Eleanor was born around 1316 or 1318 to Maud Chaworth (1282-1322), heir of her father Patrick (d. 1283), and the older half-sister of Hugh Despenser the Younger via their mother Isabella Beauchamp. Eleanor's father was Henry of Lancaster (b. 1280/81), who at the time of her birth was the heir of his older brother Thomas and who became earl of Leicester in 1324 and earl of Lancaster in 1327, after the death of his wife Maud Chaworth. Eleanor's older sisters were: Blanche, who married Lord Wake in 1316; Isabella, who entered Amesbury Priory in 1327 and later became its prioress; Maud, who married the earl of Ulster in 1327; and Joan, who married Lord Mowbray in 1328. Her younger sister was Mary, who married Henry, future Lord Percy in 1334, and she also had an older brother, Henry of Grosmont, who was their father Henry, mother Maud and uncle Thomas's heir. Eleanor may have been born in the year when her uncle Thomas, earl of Lancaster, made a peace settlement with his cousin Edward II in the village of East Leake near Loughborough on 9 August 1318. The seven Lancaster children were widely spaced: Blanche the eldest was born around 1302/5 and married in 1316 - so was almost certainly already married by the time her sister Eleanor was born - and Mary the youngest was born around 1320. Henry of Grosmont, the only boy, was born around 1310 or 1312, in the middle of six sisters. Whether or to what extent Eleanor knew her uncle Thomas is unknown, but she must have been aware that he was the wealthiest nobleman in the country, and she might just have been old enough to remember his execution in March 1322.

Sometime in September or October 1330 - that is, mere weeks before the downfall of Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer - Eleanor of Lancaster married. Her new husband was John Beaumont, born on or around Christmas Day 1317 and thus about the same age as Eleanor herself, and twelve going on thirteen years old when they wed. He was the eldest son and heir of Henry, Lord Beaumont, a French nobleman who spent most of his life in England, and Alice Comyn, niece and heir of the earl of Buchan (d. 1308). John Beaumont's father was not in England at the time of his son's wedding; he had been forced to flee abroad after taking part in Henry of Lancaster's brief rebellion against Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer in late 1328/early 1329. He returned in late 1330 after Edward III overthrew his mother and Mortimer and pardoned all the English exiles on the continent. Also in 1330, in June or a little earlier, Eleanor of Lancaster's brother Henry of Grosmont married Isabella Beaumont, sister of Eleanor's husband.

Eleanor of Lancaster and John Beaumont's only child was Henry, born probably in late 1339 nine years after their wedding, when they were in their early twenties. He was named after both their fathers. Little Henry Beaumont was born in the duchy of Brabant, where his parents spent much time with Edward III and his queen, Philippa of Hainault, between 1338 and 1340. Heirs to lands in England, Wales and Ireland had to be born 'within the allegiance of the king of England', but because Edward and Philippa were thoroughly enjoying the company of the young Lancaster/Beaumont couple, when it became apparent in 1339 that Eleanor was pregnant, the royal couple persuaded her to stay on the continent with them rather than returning to England for the birth. This was to cause young Henry Beaumont legal problems in 1349 when his grandmother Alice Comyn died and he should have been returned as her heir (as the only son of her eldest son), but was not because his late father John had no heir of his body born within the allegiance of the king of England, i.e. England itself, Wales, Ireland or Gascony. In 1351, Edward III changed the law and Henry duly came into his inheritance when he was of age.

I wrote a post a few months ago about the death in 1342 of John, Lord Beaumont, who outlived his father by only two years and died at the age of twenty-four when his son was two and a half. Edward III was hugely fond of his cousin Eleanor of Lancaster, and allowed her to hold all the lands her husband had owned (the Beaumont inheritance minus the dower of John's mother Alice, who outlived him) rather than the third of it that was customary for widows. There is much evidence in the chancery rolls of Edward III's high regard and great affection for his kinswoman Eleanor; she interceded with him on many occasions and he granted her appointments and favours. Not only were Edward III and Eleanor closely related - she was the granddaughter of Blanche of Artois (d. 1302) from Blanche's second marriage and Edward was Blanche's great-grandson from her first - but their families intermarried. Eleanor's niece Elizabeth de Burgh, her sister Maud's daughter, married Edward and Queen Philippa's second son Lionel of Antwerp; another of her nieces, her brother Henry of Grosmont's daughter and ultimate heir Blanche of Lancaster, married the royal couple's third son John of Gaunt.

Eleanor married her second husband Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel (b. c. 1313) on 5 February 1345 at Ditton in Buckinghamshire in the presence of Edward III and Queen Philippa. Arundel's first marriage to Eleanor's first cousin Isabella Despenser had been annulled a few weeks previously, which made Arundel and Isabella's son Edmund illegitimate. (I wrote a lot more about all this in my book Blood Roses, and there's lots more about Eleanor and her family in there too.) Eleanor was almost certainly already having a relationship with Arundel before his marriage to Isabella Despenser was annulled, but there is no reason to suppose that it began while John Beaumont was alive, as claimed by the Foundations for Medieval Genealogy website (see here and here). In widowhood Eleanor sometimes referred to herself by her first husband's family name, which implies that she remembered him with great affection. Other people, including her second husband, tended to refer to her as 'Alianore de Lancastre'.

Eleanor may already have been pregnant with her eldest child by Arundel in July 1345 when she asked the pope to legitimise their issue, present and future. In apparent birth order, as stated by an entry on the Fine Roll in the early 1400s, her Arundel children were: Joan, countess of Hereford, born late 1345 or early 1346; Richard, earl of Arundel, born before 1 March 1347; Alice, countess of Kent; John, marshal of England; and Thomas, bishop of Ely, then archbishop of York and later of Canterbury, who was twenty years old in August 1373 and was Eleanor's youngest child. Her elder daughter Joan married Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford, Essex and Northampton, a great-grandson of Edward I, and Joan and Humphrey were the maternal grandparents of Henry V. Eleanor's younger daughter Alice married Thomas Holland, earl of Kent, half-brother of Richard II, and they were the ancestors of, well, basically everyone, including Edward IV and Richard III. Eleanor of Lancaster's younger son John had seven children, and although most of them did not have children of their own, his eldest son John (b. 30 November 1364 when his father must have been painfully young) married Elizabeth Despenser, a great-granddaughter of Hugh Despenser the Younger, and their descendants became earls of Arundel. Eleanor's elder son Richard's male line ran out when his only surviving son, Earl Thomas, died without legitimate offspring in 1415, but Richard's daughters Eleanor Mowbray and Joan Beauchamp had plenty of descendants, including the Mowbray and Howard dukes of Norfolk and the earls of Ormond. Eleanor of Lancaster's eldest child Henry Beaumont died before she did, in September 1369, leaving his eight-year-old son John as the Beaumont heir, and the Beaumont line continued for many more generations. Eleanor's daughter Joan de Bohun was the last survivor of her children, living until 1419 when she was over seventy, six years into the reign of her grandson Henry V.

Eleanor of Lancaster, countess of Arundel, died on 11 January 1372, at the age of 54 or thereabouts, and was outlived by two of her older sisters - Blanche, Lady Wake (d. 1380), and Maud, dowager countess of Ulster (d. 1377). The effigies in Chichester Cathedral which can still be seen today and which inspired Philip Larkin's brilliant poem 'An Arundel Tomb' are usually assumed to be Eleanor and her second husband the earl of Arundel.

14 February, 2019

Edward II and Isabella of France, 1322-1326

After the Tynemouth incident in the autumn of 1322, when Isabella of France rather unfairly accused Hugh Despenser the Younger of deliberately leaving her at the priory there in danger from a Scottish army - Isabella conveniently forgot that Hugh's wife Eleanor was at Tynemouth with her and he was hardly likely to arrange for his own wife to be captured by the Scots or to abandon her to her fate - it seems that there might have been a temporary rift in the royal marriage. On 23 December 1322, Edward II announced that the queen was going on a pilgrimage to various sites around the country, something she seems not actually to have done, so this might have been a politic excuse to explain her absence from court. The king also declared on 26 December that Isabella's clerk William Boudon was to travel to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain "to fufil a vow made by Queen Isabella", and to my mind this vow to leave her husband's realm seems likely to have been something Isabella shouted in the middle of a quarrel with Edward. [CPR 1321-4, pp. 227, 229] It might not have been, of course, but the timing of Isabella's declaration that she wanted to go on pilgrimage to Santiago seems a little suspicious to me. ("So you're taking Hugh's side over mine, huh? I'm going to leave England and go to Santiago and THEN you'll be sorry!")

The royal couple seem not to have spent Christmas 1322 together in York, though they did keep in touch via letter: Edward paid the queen's messenger Jack Stillego ten shillings for bringing her letters to him on 19 December. It is entirely possible that there was a temporary rift in Edward and Isabella's marriage, probably caused, at least in part, by the queen's blaming Hugh Despenser for abandoning her at Tynemouth and the king's refusal to accept that Hugh had done anything wrong. It was at Christmas 1322 that Edward shouted threats at his own niece Elizabeth de Burgh and tried to force her to give up some of her lands to Hugh Despenser, something which is hardly likely to have endeared Isabella to her husband. As for Eleanor Despenser, however, she and Hugh conceived a child shortly after Eleanor and the queen had supposedly been 'abandoned' at Tynemouth by their respective husbands, and the couple seem to have been getting on perfectly well - even, apparently, after Eleanor must have witnessed her husband and uncle bullying her sister Elizabeth.

For the first few weeks of 1323, until early March or thereabouts, Isabella was in London, and Eleanor Despenser (pregnant for at least the ninth time) was there with her. There's really no reason to think that Eleanor was the queen's jailer or a spy, as two fourteenth-century chronicles claim and has been repeated as though it's certain fact ever since. Isabella was not a helpless passive victim who could be forced to spend time - over many years - with an attendant she loathed, and it does her a disservice to paint her as such. One of the chronicles who makes this claim, Lanercost, was written decades later, and although it's an excellent source for events in the north of England and in Scotland, there's no particular reason why a monk cloistered at Lanercost Priory in the far north of England would have been privy to what was happening at Edward II's court in the 1320s. The other chronicle is the Flores Historiarum of Westminster, far closer both in time and place to Edward II's court, but written after his deposition perhaps with the aim of justifying it and of blackwashing Edward as much as possible, and therefore not entirely to be trusted. Eleanor Despenser is first recorded as attending Isabella in the autumn of 1310, and had probably done so since the young queen arrived in England in February 1308. In 1311/12, a year when Isabella's accounts fortuitously survive, Eleanor spent many weeks in her company and they travelled around the north of England together. The two women had been on excellent terms for many years, and to me it does not seem that the queen held Eleanor responsible for her husband's misdeeds or held a grudge against Eleanor because of Hugh's behaviour. On the contrary, it seems that she enjoyed Eleanor's company.

Isabella of France and Eleanor Despenser wrote virtually identical letters in support of Joan Mortimer on 17 February 1323, when they asked the chancellor to ensure that the money promised to Joan and her attendants during her husband Roger Mortimer of Wigmore's incarceration was paid promptly. [SC 1/37/4 and 1/37/45] On 5 March 1323, Edward II, in Knaresborough in Yorkshire, sent Eleanor's horses down to London, so apparently she was still with the queen then. Isabella's letter on behalf of Joan Mortimer is sometimes used as evidence that she was in cahoots with Roger Mortimer, imprisoned in the Tower of London, but Eleanor Despenser sent the exact same letter on the exact same date from the exact same place, so it hardly seems reasonable to use the queen's letter as evidence of her collusion with Roger while ignoring Eleanor's. The two women were staying at the Tower of London when they dictated their letters in support of Joan, which does not automatically imply that Roger had any contact with Isabella, or with Eleanor, for that matter. The prison cells of the Tower were far away from the royal apartments, and besides, Joan Mortimer was perfectly capable of petitioning the queen and the queen's niece-in-law herself, and Eleanor and Isabella were both perfectly capable of deciding to help an imprisoned noblewoman off their own bat without requiring any male involvement. Roger Mortimer escaped from the Tower on 1 August 1323, and Eleanor Despenser, at Cowick in Yorkshire with her husband, her uncle the king and perhaps with the queen, gave birth to a child on almost the same day. Isabella's itinerary is difficult to establish for most of the rest of 1323 and for a large part of 1324, but that in itself doesn't mean a great deal, or necessarily prove anything; her itinerary is also almost entirely unknown for a few other years of her husband's reign and even during her own period of power early in her son's reign. Same with Edward III's queen Philippa for much of her forty-year marriage.

On 1 January 1324, Queen Isabella was with King Edward at Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire, and they exchanged gifts on that date, as they always had (each gave the other a cup - don't you hate it when that happens?). Eleanor Despenser was also at Kenilworth and exchanged gifts with her uncle. (For the record, also cups.) If Edward and Eleanor's husband Hugh the Younger also gave each other presents, it's not recorded in Edward's surviving accounts that I've ever seen - but then, I suppose Edward's gift to Hugh of "Here you go, rule my kingdom and dictate my foreign policy and do whatever the heck you like to anyone" was a bit tricky for the royal clerks to record. Around this time, the queen sent letters to the royal justice John Stonor on behalf of Eleanor Despenser's chaplain John Sadington. Eleanor herself wrote to Stonor about her chaplain on 6 February 1324, and mentioned the letters sent to him on the subject by 'our very dear lady the queen'. [SC 1/46/4] This is one example of Isabella and Eleanor's closeness, and another is that Eleanor 'talked great good' of one of the queen's household squires to the king in 1325 and Edward gave him a cash bonus. Isabella sent another letter from Westminster on 27 February 1324, and Edward II was at Westminster on that day as well. [SC 1/36/38]

At Christmas 1324, Edward and Isabella were together at Nottingham, and again exchanged gifts on 1 January 1325, though this year the royal clerks didn't record what the gifts were. Edward gave a total of 100 shillings to three of his wife's female attendants on Christmas Day. The king and Hugh Despenser went to Derbyshire just before the New Year, while Isabella and Eleanor Despenser went to Kenilworth together, and the two women sent Edward his New Year gifts via two servants called Adam and Robynet (q' mena au Roi son nouel don de ma dame la Roigne, 'who brought the king his new gift from my lady the queen'). Isabella sent Edward at least three letters, on 6, 11 and 18 January 1325, during the period they were apart. Whether he reciprocated, I don't know, as the queen's own accounts don't survive and therefore there are no records of payments she might have made to the king's messengers. I'm not sure when the two were reunited, but they were together at the Tower of London in late February and early March 1325, before Isabella set off for France on 9 March. Unfortunately her letters to her husband don't survive either, only records of the payments Edward made to her messengers for bringing them to him, though a long extent letter from Isabella to Edward dated 31 March 1325 when she was in France reveals that she addressed him five times as "my very sweet heart" (mon tresdouz cuer).

Of course it's impossible to know from the extant records how Edward and Isabella were getting on, though they do seem to have spent a lot of time together after their apparent spat in late 1322; where Isabella's location is known between 1323 and 1325, she was in the same place as her husband, except for the first few weeks of 1323 and for part of January 1325. Being in the same place doesn't automatically mean that all was well between the two, of course, though the exchanging of gifts at New Year 1324 and again in 1325 might at least imply that they were trying. Edward, unkindly and unjustly, confiscated his wife's lands in September 1324 during his war against her brother Charles IV of France, which Isabella was clearly (and understandably) incandescent about, and, unlike earlier in his reign, she doesn't appear in the chancery rolls between 1322 and 1325 interceding with him on behalf of others, as she had often done before. It does seem that something had gone badly wrong between them, even though Edward didn't 'steal' their children from her custody in 1324 (that's one of those wretched myths that refuses to die). Judging by Isabella's speech to the French court in late 1325 as recorded in the Vita Edwardi Secundi, the queen believed a third party to have come between her husband and herself, and spoke on several occasions of her fear of Hugh Despenser the Younger to the point where she believed her life to be in danger from him. She threatened to destroy him, and when Edward II ignored her ultimatum to send Hugh away from him, she allied with Despenser's baronial enemies on the continent to bring him down. 

The 9th of March 1325 when the queen sailed to France - or rather, several days before this, as Edward did not travel to Dover with his wife but remained in London - may well have been the last time Edward and Isabella ever saw each other in person. Edward heard of Isabella's refusal to return to him from France by mid-November 1325 when he cut off her funding, and had it proclaimed throughout his kingdom on 8 February 1326 that she had made an alliance with the English rebels who had fled to the continent, led by Roger Mortimer of Wigmore. Throughout 1326, Edward's fury with Isabella is apparent from the way he called her simply 'the king's wife' or 'his [Charles IV of France's] sister, our wife'. In his last known letter to her, dated at the beginning of December 1325, he addressed her abruptly as Dame or 'Lady', as in "And you know for truth, Lady, that..."). The royal couple were furious with each other in 1325/6, Isabella because Edward confiscated her lands and treated her like an enemy alien despite all her years of loyal support, and because of his excessive favouritism to a man she loathed; and Edward because Isabella actually decided to do something about the whole unpleasant situation and didn't just accept it, and because she allied with men he deemed his enemies.

One Flemish chronicle says that Edward II and Isabella of France met in person several weeks after the queen's invasion of her husband's kingdom on 24 September 1326. Supposedly Isabella fell to her knees in front of Edward and begged for his forgiveness, but he refused to talk to her or even to look at her. We don't know for sure that the two ever met after the queen's invasion and no other chronicle states that they did, though it certainly isn't impossible. Edward's chamber account was only kept until 31 October, and he definitely hadn't met the queen in person before that, though did pay spies on a few occasions for keeping him informed of her movements. In this reading, the unwillingness to reconcile and to try to rebuild their broken relationship came from Edward's side, not Isabella's. In the conventional interpretation of the dramatic events of 1325/26, Isabella is now no longer the helpless victim of her cruel neglectful husband and his nasty lover. It's Edward II who is now presented as a passive victim of his wife, who refuses to see him and who despises him and his sexuality and is deeply in love and lust with Roger Mortimer. It's always assumed that it was Isabella who was calling the shots and who made the decision not to return to Edward, Isabella who was in charge and who decided that their marriage was dead and that she'd prefer to live with her manly virile heterosexual lover Mortimer, thankyouverymuch. The Flemish chronicle cited above puts an entirely different spin on the matter. Whether you believe the evidence of this chronicle or not, it's a reminder that we don't really, truly know even things that we think we know; a reminder that a lot of Edward II and Isabella of France's story is a narrative that's been constructed with a considerable amount of hindsight and that has had a particular spin put on it. It's so easy and so tempting to repeat a story whereby a woman is the long-suffering victim of a cruel husband and his male lovers and comes to hate him and who falls in love with a manly heterosexual lover who heals her pain by giving her lots of awesome sex and helps her get revenge on her husband and his minion, but that doesn't necessarily make it true. Isabella of France was surely absolutely furious and exasperated with her husband in and after the autumn of 1322 and especially after he confiscated her lands in September 1324, and she had very good reasons to be, but it's a pretty big step from being angry with your husband and the father of your children to actually ordering his murder.

10 February, 2019

The Date of Birth of Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester (1291-1314)

Gilbert was the eldest grandchild of Edward I and only seven years younger than his uncle Edward II, and was the only son and heir of arguably the greatest English nobleman of the late thirteenth century, Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester (1243-1295). Gilbert 'the Red' married Edward I's second daughter Joan of Acre on 30 April 1290, and their first child, Gilbert, was born a year later. Exactly when the younger Gilbert was born is not entirely certain, though his date of birth fell somewhere between 23 April and 13 May 1291; here's a post about it.

The inquisition post mortem of Gilbert 'the Red' was taken in late 1295 and early 1296, soon after Gilbert's death at age 52 in early December 1295. He had held lands in every county of the south of England, Wales, and Ireland. The jurors in each English county had a pretty good general idea of his son and heir's age and approximate date of birth, and realised that the young Gilbert was either four or five years old (he was actually four), but their stated dates of birth for him vary somewhat. The Sussex jurors thought that Gilbert turned five at the feast of the Annunciation, 23 Edward I, which is 25 March 1295. This would place Gilbert’s birth around 25 March 1290, over a month before his parents even married. Buckinghamshire said he was 'aged five at the feast of St Mark last', which gives a date of birth of 25 April 1290, five days before his parents' wedding and also impossible. Somerset said 'aged four at the feast of St George last', or 23 April 1291. Wiltshire and Hampshire just said 'aged four and more', Worcestershire, Berkshire and Gloucestershire 'aged four and nine months' and Devon 'aged four at the Invention of Holy Cross last', which gives a date of birth of 3 May 1291. Surrey, Kent, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire all said that Gilbert was five or 'five and more' and Hertfordshire that he was 'aged five at Whitsunday next', which would give a date of birth of 13 May 1291. Suffolk said he was four and a half years old at the beginning of January 1296, and Norfolk, impossibly, that Gilbert was 'six and more'.

The inquisition post mortem of Gilbert's mother Joan of Acre was taken in June 1307 a few weeks after her death (and shortly before her father Edward I died). Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire both said that Gilbert was 'aged 17 on 11 May last', which again is a year too old, though jurors on two other Buckinghamshire inquisitions both said 'aged 16 on 11 May last'. Half a dozen inquisitions in Gloucestershire also said either '16 on 11 May last' or '17 on 11 May last'. Berkshire and Sussex said 17 and more, Cambridgeshire, Somerset, Essex and Kent said 16 and more, and Wiltshire and Norfolk thought he was, impossibly, 18. Northamptonshire and Dorset said 'age unknown' and Devon didn't mention Gilbert's age. Hertfordshire said 'aged 16 on 1 May last' and Glamorgan said 'aged 16 on the first Friday in May last', i.e. they thought Gilbert was born on 5 May 1291.

All of this gives us a date of birth for the young earl of Gloucester sometime between 23 April and 13 May 1291. We see that all the jurors on both his parents' IPMs, except Northamptonshire, Dorset and Devon who failed to come up with an age in 1307, had a not too inaccurate idea of how old Gilbert was. Perhaps they thought he was five in 1295 when he was actually only four, or thought he was seventeen in June 1307 when he was actually sixteen, but none of them thought he might be eight or thirteen or seventeen in 1295, or conversely, that he was only eight or eleven or fourteen in 1307. Quite a lot of them also had a pretty good idea of the time of year he was born, late April or early May. So, although we don't know the exact date of Gilbert de Clare's birth, we can narrow it down to a three-week period a year after his parents' wedding.

The date of Gilbert's death at the battle of Bannockburn is certain: 24 June 1314, when he was twenty-three years old. He was buried at his family's mausoleum of Tewkesbury Abbey in Gloucestershire. As he and his wife Maud de Burgh had no children, the heirs to his vast inheritance were his three younger sisters: Eleanor Despenser, born c. 14 October 1292; Margaret Gaveston, probably born sometime in the first half of 1294; and Elizabeth de Burgh, born 16 September 1295. At Gilbert's own IPM in July/August 1314, the jurors gamely had a stab at guessing his sisters' ages. Eleanor was actually twenty-one going on twenty-two at the time, and the estimates of her age varied between twenty and twenty-five; Margaret was probably twenty, and the estimates varied between eighteen and twenty-two; and Elizabeth was eighteen going on nineteen, and the estimates varied between sixteen and twenty. Some of the jurors copped out and just said that all three women were 'of full age' or 'aged sixteen and more', and a few counties weren't sure if they really were Gloucester's heirs, as his widow was thought to be pregnant. Again, although the estimated ages of the de Clare sisters vary, they weren't massively inaccurate, and all the jurors knew their correct birth order.

Sources: CIPM 1291-1300, no. 371; CIPM 1300-07, no. 435; CIPM 1307-17, no. 538.

06 February, 2019

Edward II and Sailors and Fishermen in 1325

Two of Edward II's chamber accounts from 1324 to 1326 still exist*, and reveal that on several occasions in 1325, the king spent time with groups of sailors, carpenters, and fishermen. On 2 March 1325, when Edward was at the Tower of London, he gave twenty-four shillings to six sailors for 'remaining in the king's company at his command' (demorantz en la compaignie le Roi p' son comandement) for the previous sixteen days. The sailors were named as Adam Cogger, Adam Furnival, John Osebern, John of Shordyche (i.e. Shoreditch), Hugh 'Huchon' Shene and John Baudekyn, and they are described as 'sailors of Sandwich' in Kent. Adam Cogger, captain of a ship called the Godyer, i.e. 'Goodyear' in modern English, is often mentioned in Edward II's accounts, and in June 1325 dined with Edward on four separate occasions.

[* The National Archives, E 101/380/4; Society of Antiquaries of London, MS 122]

Shortly after the six sailors spent sixteen days with him, Edward II gave all of them and two of their other crew-mates a set of clothes each at Burgundy, the cottage within the precincts of Westminster Abbey which he'd acquired c. 1320 and where he spent quite a lot of time in 1325. Some weeks earlier, the king had to pay a year's wages each to his squires Giles of Spain and Burgeys Tilh, as compensation because the two men burned themselves quite badly while performing some kind of act with fire for his entertainment at Burgundy. A 'valet' of the king's chamber called Litel Colle or 'Little Colin' was also said to be 'playing before the king' at Burgundy in February 1325 and received ten shillings for his performance, and it seems that at least some of the king's household staff were expected to be entertainers for the king. Litel Colle, in addition to working in the king's chamber and being a performer in his spare time, was the captain of a barge which had once belonged to Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke (d. June 1324) and passed to Edward II. Colle's mum was called Anneis, and she came to visit him at court in June 1325.

A fisherman of the Thames was called Nichol 'Colle' Herron. On 20 August 1325, he and three other fishermen called Will, John and Richard were said to be 'remaining in the king's company' for a week, and on 21 August, Colle Herron received twenty shillings from Edward to replace his goods which were burned by accident 'the last time he was with the king'. There are various entries in Edward's accounts of 1324/25 which reveal that sailors were present in the king's bedchamber on various occasions when he went to sleep. One of them was Richard Councedieu, who, like Adam Cogger, came from Sandwich in Kent but lived in the Tower ward of London as of 1319 or earlier, and another was William 'Willecok' Lucas, who came from Andover in Hampshire and lived in Portchester in the same county.

02 February, 2019

Queen Isabella and Edward II's Male 'Favourites'

One thing I noticed - yet again - while watching Danny Dyer's BBC1 programme Right Royal Family recently, and reading the responses to it on Twitter, is the way Roger Mortimer is always, always, always called Isabella of France's 'lover', while Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despenser are virtually never called Edward II's 'lovers' but his 'favourites' or 'companions' or 'friends'. There's really no more evidence that Roger and Isabella had a sexual relationship than there is for Edward, Piers and Hugh. Even Right Royal Family, where Dyer rather touchingly displayed his sympathy for Edward's sexuality and called Hugh Despenser the Younger the love of Edward's life, shied away from using the word 'lover' to describe Despenser and Gaveston, while happily using the word for Roger Mortimer. In the year 2019, are people still really so squeamish about the idea that some men have sex with other men?

Anyway, this is a post about Queen Isabella's possible attitude to her husband Edward II's male 'favourites', or lovers - as they most likely were, even though we can't conclusively prove it - Piers Gaveston, Roger Damory and Hugh Audley. (I'll come to Hugh Despenser the Younger later in the post.) It's often assumed that Isabella of France must necessarily have been hostile to these men, that she must have considered them, or at least Piers, to be her rivals for Edward's affections, that she must have been delighted when Piers was killed in 1312, and that if Edward II loved Piers Gaveston, as he so obviously did, that there must have been less room in his heart for Isabella and that she came a distant second.

Human relationships are complex, and tend not to lend themselves to simplistic assumptions. People's hearts are not cakes, whereby if Piers Gaveston had a large 'slice' of Edward's, that automatically means that Edward had less love left for Isabella. Some, or many, people are polyamorous and are perfectly capable of deeply loving more than one person at the same time, and I'm convinced that Edward loved Isabella, not in the same way that he loved Piers, to be sure, but nonetheless. I'm a member of various history groups on Facebook, including several about Edward II and Isabella's grandson John of Gaunt (1340-99) and Katherine Swynford, John's long-term lover and later his third wife. I find it rather astonishing to see how many people see John's relationships through a kind of lens of competitiveness, and feel the need to 'prove' somehow that John loved Katherine best of all. It's as though John's undoubted love for his first wife Blanche of Lancaster and his wish to be buried with her somehow detracts from his love for Katherine and makes it less 'special'. I wonder if Isabella of France's 'fans' feel the same way, that Edward II's love for various men means that he didn't love her alone and uniquely as she deserved to be loved, or something.

As I've pointed out before, there's really no reason to suppose that Isabella was particularly hostile to Piers Gaveston. A letter often quoted by modern writers that she supposedly sent to her father Philip IV complaining that Edward was 'an entire stranger to her bed' and that Gaveston was alienating her husband from her was invented many decades later by chronicler Thomas Walsingham. After Piers was exiled from England for the third time in late 1311, Isabella wrote to her receiver in the French county of Ponthieu (which Edward II gave to her in 1308) "concerning the affairs of the earl of Cornwall." Her naming Piers as earl of Cornwall, when the title had been stripped from him, demonstrates respect, and she may well have agreed to aid him financially during the exile. I can't imagine that Isabella was overwhelmingly thrilled after Gaveston's return to England in early 1312 that her husband the king skulked in the north with him while his furious barons plotted Gaveston's capture, but she was certainly there with them, and the story that Edward abandoned her weeping at Tynemouth in early May 1312 is certainly not true. Neither is the very silly tale that Edward gave all of Isabella's wedding gifts and jewels to Piers Gaveston, an invention of the nineteenth century. Isabella may have found Gaveston as irritating as a lot of other people did; she may have been hugely fond of him, and mourned for him and missed him when he was gone. We just don't know, and we can't automatically assume that she saw Piers as her rival in love.

Sir Roger Damory was high in Edward's favour between 1315 and 1319 or thereabouts, and Edward arranged Damory's wedding to his twice-widowed niece Elizabeth de Burgh in 1317. Was he Edward's lover? Who knows; quite possibly. Isabella certainly tolerated Damory, and at an uncertain date gave him splendid gifts for his chapel: a chasuble of red cloth of Tarsus "sprinkled with diverse flowers of Indian colour, together with alb and amesse, stole and maniple, and two frontals of the same sort." [CPR 1327-30, pp. 439-40] The queen's itinerary, where it is known, reveals that in the 1310s Isabella was in the same location as the king far, far more often than not, and on the rare occasions when the couple were apart, they exchanged letters (Isabella sent Edward no fewer than three letters when they were apart for four days in early March 1312, for example). Edward and Isabella conceived their second son John of Eltham and first daughter Eleanor of Woodstock in 1315 and 1317, while Edward was in some way involved with Roger Damory. Sir Hugh Audley was also high in Edward's favour at the same time as Damory, and was the only one of Edward's male lovers (assuming he was) who survived the reign. In 1327 during her period of power early in her son Edward III's reign, Isabella appointed Audley as an envoy to her brother Charles IV of France, and granted requests that he made of her, such as approving the second marriage of his widowed sister Alice Greystoke to Lord Neville. This all implies that if the queen knew or believed that Hugh Audley had been her husband's lover a decade previously, she didn't bear him a grudge for it, and she appears to have liked and trusted him.

On the other hand, there is no doubt whatsoever that Isabella absolutely loathed Hugh Despenser the Younger, her husband's chamberlain and last and most powerful lover (?). Given that she accepted Gaveston, Damory and Audley and did them favours on occasion, clearly she did not hate them or refuse to tolerate their presence anywhere near her, simply because all three men had very close and probably sexual relations with her husband. It is obvious, however, that Isabella feared and despised Despenser and claimed on several occasions that her life was in danger from him, and in c. late October 1325 she threatened to destroy him. The Vita Edwardi Secundi records an ultimatum she made to Edward while at her brother's court in Paris: either Edward must send Despenser away, or she would not return to him. Edward refused the ultimatum, and left Isabella with no choice but to stay in France and ally with the remnant of the Contrariant faction, who also wished nothing more than to destroy Hugh Despenser. On 24 November 1326, they did.

Edward II's relations with various men from the time of his marriage to Isabella in early 1308 until the beginning of the 1320s did not impede Isabella's access to her husband. She was in Edward's company almost all of the time for the first fourteen years or so of their marriage, and until 1322 often interceded with him on behalf of others, mediated for him with his barons, and even had the confidence to promote her own candidates to bishoprics in preference to Edward's choices. This all ended abruptly after Hugh Despenser's return to England in March 1322, whereupon Isabella disappears almost entirely from the chancery rolls. (She does appear in Edward's chamber and wardrobe accounts of the 1320s, and the couple did continue to spend much time together and to send each other letters when apart, and to exchange gifts on 1 January as they always had.) It was not Hugh Despenser's existence as her husband's lover that bothered Isabella, but that Hugh seems to have gone out of his way to limit her political influence and her role as an intercessor and even did his best to destroy her and Edward's marriage, something his previous male companions had not done.

It seems to me that, far from hating Edward II, Isabella accepted him the way he was for many years, and did her utmost to support him. I don't see any particular reason to believe that Isabella jumped into bed with Roger Mortimer in late 1325 or fell in love with him - it's certainly not impossible that they had an intimate relationship later, but I think in 1325/26 they simply needed each other to bring down Hugh Despenser - or that she ever hated Edward or wished him ill. I think Isabella loathed the hold Hugh Despenser had over her husband. I think Edward II was deeply in thrall to Despenser and that Edward's queen tried her utmost to break that hold. In doing so, and in destroying Hugh Despenser and his father, she brought her husband down as well, whether she had ever intended to do so or not.

25 January, 2019

Hugh Despenser the Elder (2)

Second part of a two-part post about Hugh Despenser the Elder; the first part is here.

As we saw in the first part, for twenty-one years from 1286 until the king's death in 1307, Edward I sent Hugh Despenser the Elder on more or less annual diplomatic visits to important people such as the pope, the king of France, the archbishop of Cologne, and so on, and evidently thought very highly of Hugh's abilities. As well as his loyal support of Edward I for many years, Hugh the Elder managed the difficult task of remaining a supporter and friend of Edward's son and heir Edward of Caernarfon as well in the last years of the old king's life. Edward of Caernarfon's extant correspondence of 1304/5 reveals that he called Hugh one of his friends and treated the older man with respect and affection. One letter states that Hugh had sent Edward a gift or raisins and wine, which, Edward declared, could not have arrived at a better time. Hugh was twenty-three years Edward of Caernarfon's senior, and possibly a kind of father figure to him.

Hugh the Elder's many years of excellent service to Edward I reaped great rewards for his elder son and heir Hugh the Younger, when King Edward I arranged the latter's marriage to his eldest granddaughter Eleanor de Clare in May 1306 and promised Hugh the Elder £2,000 for his son's marriage. Just days after this great triumph, however, Hugh the Elder suffered a great loss when his wife of twenty years, the earl of Warwick's sister Isabella née Beauchamp, died. She was only in her early forties or thereabouts, and Hugh forty-five, but although he outlived her by twenty years, he never re-married. His eldest grandchild, inevitably named Hugh Despenser but known by the nickname 'Huchon', was born in 1308 or early 1309, and became lord of Glamorgan on his mother Eleanor de Clare's death in 1337. Another grandson named after Hugh the Elder was his second daughter Isabella's son and heir Sir Hugh Hastings, probably born in 1310, and another was his youngest daughter Elizabeth's third and youngest son Sir Hugh Camoys, born around 1322/24. Hugh the Elder arranged good marriages for all his children. Alina, the eldest, wed Edward Burnell, a landowner in numerous counties and the great-nephew and heir of Robert Burnell, bishop of Bath and Wells, in 1302; Isabella wed Gilbert de Clare, lord of Thomond, in c. 1306 and secondly John, Lord Hastings, in c. 1308/9; Philip wed the Lincolnshire heiress Margaret Goushill in 1308; Margaret wed the Bedfordshire nobleman and law graduate John St Amand in 1313; and Elizabeth married the widowed Ralph Camoys, a long-term Despenser adherent, probably in 1316 or a little earlier. Via his five children who had children of their own - Hugh the Younger, Isabella, Philip, Margaret and Elizabeth - Hugh the Elder had at least twenty grandchildren, and has numerous modern-day descendants.

Edward I died in July 1307, and Hugh the Elder was one of the new king's closest allies in the difficult first year of his reign. He attended Edward II's wedding to Isabella of France in early 1308 and was one of two men invited to accompany the king in his barge when Edward came ashore at Dover on his return to England, a sign of the highest favour. The Vita Edwardi Secundi names Hugh the Elder as the king's only noble supporter in 1308 when many of the English barons demanded Piers Gaveston's exile, and although this is not strictly true, it does demonstrate how close Hugh was known to be to the king. Edward II made Hugh justice of the forest south of the River Trent for life, and Hugh held that position for much of the period from 1297, when Edward I first appointed him, until 1326. He was accused of brutality and corruption in his role as justice, and a man called Saer le Barber was imprisoned in Newgate in London in 1298 for stating that Hugh the Elder kept more robbers with him than any other man in England and was 'unworthy of praise'.

Hugh remained one of the king's closest allies throughout the difficult period in 1311/12 when the Lords Ordainer imposed forty-one reforms on Edward II's household and government, and when Piers Gaveston was abducted by Hugh's brother-in-law the earl of Warwick and killed. Hugh was one of the advisers who met Edward in London in the aftermath of Piers' murder (or execution), and in December 1312 accompanied the king to the continent when Edward met his father-in-law Philip IV of France. Edward II bestowed great honour on Hugh the Elder in November 1312 by making him one of the seven godfathers of his and Isabella's newborn son Edward of Windsor, the future Edward III.

Hugh the Elder, as I pointed out in a recent post, indulged himself in some pretty lawless behaviour in February 1312, when he abducted a girl called Elizabeth Hertrigg from the custody of her guardian George Percy in Dorset. The author of the Vita Edwardi Secundi criticised Hugh harshly for his brutal, corrupt behaviour, especially in his position as justice of the forest. In c. 1313, the Vita wrote that the whole of England had 'turned to hatred' of Hugh the Elder. He and his son Hugh the Younger fought for Edward II at the battle of Bannockburn in June 1314, and were among the 500 or so knights who accompanied Edward during his long and desperate gallop to Dunbar Castle after the battle. Edward II's cousin Thomas, earl of Lancaster, seems to have detested Hugh, and when Edward fell under his cousin's power after his defeat at Bannockburn, Thomas demanded that Hugh the Elder leave court. The evidence of charter witness lists reveals that he did: from August 1314 until May 1316, he was hardly ever at court, except for attending Piers Gaveston's funeral at the beginning of 1315 and making a brief visit to the king at Westminster a few months later.

Hugh the Elder's second son Philip had died in September 1313, aged barely twenty, leaving his five-month-old son Philip. The two manors in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire which Hugh had given to his second son, which he himself had inherited from his father Hugh the justiciar (d. 1265), reverted to him. Hugh the Elder already held a sizeable inheritance from his parents, grandfather and his father's cousin, and by 1321 had close to seventy manors in fifteen counties across England, though held some of them as wardships. Hugh's elder and only surviving son Hugh the Younger became probably even wealthier than his father in late 1317 when his wife Eleanor inherited many lands, including the lordship of Glamorgan, from her late brother the earl of Gloucester. The younger Hugh's appointment as the king's chamberlain a few months later - supposedly against the wishes of Edward II himself, who was hugely fond of Hugh the Elder but had never shown the slightest interest in his son, Edward's nephew-in-law - enabled him to exert a huge amount of influence. Hugh the Younger, according to the Despensers' enemies in 1321, supposedly also allowed his father to wield influence over the king to which he had no right, and by 1321 a few of the English barons - the Marcher lords, though few others at this point - were fed up with both Hugh Despensers.

The Marcher lords, the 'Contrariants' as Edward II soon took to calling them, attacked the lands of Hugh Despenser the Younger in South Wales and England in May 1321, and in June invaded and sacked the lands of Hugh the Elder as well, right across England. The scale of the violence, theft, murder and mayhem is hard to take in. At the parliament held in London in August 1321, the Marchers threateningly placed their armies by the gates into the city and demanded that Edward II exile both Despensers. With little other choice, Edward had to agree. Hugh the Younger became a pirate in the English Channel; Hugh the Elder went overseas somewhere, though where is not known. Natalie Fryde claimed in 1979 that he went to Bordeaux - one of Edward II's cities - which is certainly possible, though there is no evidence of it. The king had no intention of allowing his Contrariant enemies to dictate to him, conducted a successful campaign against them in the winter of 1321/22, and brought them both back.

Edward II made Hugh the Elder earl of Winchester in May 1322, when Hugh was sixty-one. This may well point to a connection between the Despensers and the de Quincys, the family who formerly held the earldom of Winchester; the identity of Hugh the Elder's grandmother, the mother of Hugh Despenser the justiciar (d. 1265) and wife of the Hugh Despenser who died in 1238, is uncertain, and it may be that she was a de Quincy. Alternatively, it may simply be that Winchester was a conveniently dormant earldom for Edward II to bestow on Hugh in 1322, and there was no connection between the two families.

Hugh's son Hugh the Younger was all-powerful in England between 1322 and 1326, and it seems from numerous petitions presented after the downfall of the two Despensers that Hugh the Elder was just about as enthusiastic about misusing power and grabbing whatever lands he could as his son was. The elder Hugh was accused of abducting the Scottish noblewoman and heiress Elizabeth Comyn (1299-1372) and imprisoning her for about eighteen months at his manor of Pirbright in Surrey until she handed three of her manors over to himself, his son and Edward II. It is possible that one favourite tactic of both Despensers was to accuse men of adherence to the executed Thomas, earl of Lancaster (d. 1322) as an excuse to take lands and money from them, and perhaps they did, or perhaps this proved to be a convenient fiction after both men's downfall when Thomas was being rehabilitated. I don't have space to go into all the claims against Hugh the Elder here, and it may be that on occasion his name was used in and after late 1326 as a way of getting a favourable response from the ruling regime to a petition. On the other hand, Hugh the Elder did have a history of unscrupulous means of adding to his already large inheritance, going back to the 1290s, so I'd be astonished if at least a few of the petitions complaining about him weren't true. See this one, for example, which I've more or less chosen at random from several dozen others, where Hugh the Elder is stated to have accused a parson of adherence to Roger Mortimer of Wigmore as a way of forcing him to exchange his benefice for a less valuable one. There was a pattern to the Despensers' behaviour in the 1320s, and even if some of the petitions were perhaps exaggerated or outright fabricated, not all of them can have been.

The evidence of charter witness lists, Edward II's accounts and the chancery rolls reveals that Hugh was at court pretty often between 1322 and 1326. Numerous letters dictated by his son survive and reveal that Hugh the Younger was basically in charge of the English government and of foreign policy, though it's a lot harder to say what Hugh the Elder was up to during the years of his son's dominance. The Vita Edwardi Secundi states in 1325 that everyone in England hated Hugh the Elder (as well as the author's comment a few years earlier that he had made himself widely hated), even Edward II's elder son and heir Edward of Windsor, so it seems that public opinion held him jointly responsible for Hugh the Younger's misdeeds. At any rate, Hugh the Elder was so close to his son and to the king that when Queen Isabella came to England to bring down Hugh the Younger, it destroyed Hugh the Elder as well. He was captured in Bristol on 27 October 1326, given a show trial at which he was not allowed to speak, and immediately hanged in his armour on the public gallows. His head was taken on a spear for public display in Winchester, where he was earl. He was sixty-five years old - not ninety, as invented by Jean le Bel and Jean Froissart - and his son survived him by less than a month. Hugh the Elder was certainly an intelligent and very able man, but his greed and his corruption got the better of him, and four decades of loyal service to Edward I and Edward II ended on the public gallows.