22 January, 2023

Elizabeth de Montfort, Lady Montacute and Furnivall (d. 1354), and Her Children

Elizabeth de Montfort, Lady Montacute and Furnivall (d. 1354), was the mother of William Montacute, earl of Salisbury (1301-44). Here's a post about her, her marriages and her children.

Elizabeth was the daughter of Peter or Piers de Montfort of Beaudesert in Warwickshire, who died not long before 4 March 1287, and Matilda or Maud de la Mare, and had a brother called John de Montfort, their father's heir. [1] This branch of the de Montforts was only distantly related to the famous Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, who was French by birth and ancestry, though Elizabeth's grandfather Peter de Montfort the elder was a staunch supporter of Simon and was killed alongside him at the battle of Evesham in August 1265. Peter de Montfort the elder was the first ever holder of a parliamentary office later known as the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Elizabeth's date of birth isn't known, but her marriage to her first husband Sir William Montacute or Montagu(e) of Somerset (d. 1319) was arranged in June 1292. The grant of the marriage was made to Elizabeth's brother John as their father was dead by then, and the record of it on the Patent Roll confusingly refers to Elizabeth as John's daughter by mistake. [2] William was the son and heir of Simon Montacute (d. 1316 or 1317), and his date of birth isn't known either and has been estimated as anywhere between 1265 and 1285. He was one of the many men knighted with Edward of Caernarfon on 22 May 1306. Elizabeth and William's second son William Montacute (d. 1344), earl of Salisbury and a close friend of Edward III, was probably born in 1301 (see below). This means that their eldest son John was born in or before 1300, and several of their daughters might also have been born before 1300. It seems unlikely therefore that either Elizabeth or William was born later than the early 1280s, and they might both have been born in the 1270s (1265 seems much too early to me).

Elizabeth de Montfort and William Montacute had a large family, four sons and six daughters; four of their ten offspring entered the Church. In 1348, Elizabeth founded a chantry to pray for the souls of her parents, her two husbands, and her ten Montacute children. She named her four sons in birth order, then her six daughters also in birth order. They were:

- John, first son, born in 1300 at the latest and perhaps in the mid or late 1290s, who married Joan de Verdon (b. 1303) in Edward II's presence at Windsor Castle on 28 April 1317. The young man died in July or August that year, and Edward II paid for his funeral in Lincoln Cathedral. [3] There is no doubt that John was the eldest son, as his mother named him as the first of her four sons in 1348 even though he had not been knighted by the time of his death and his brother William (d. 1344) was an earl and thus massively outranked him. The fact that his father William the elder (d. 1319) arranged his, rather than his brother the younger William's, marriage to the heiress Joan de Verdon in April 1317 also indicates that he was the eldest son. John's death in July/August 1317, given that he had been married mere months before, surely came as a shock to everyone, and Edward II seems to have been deeply affected by it.

- William, second son, earl of Salisbury. He was certainly born after 3 May 1300, as on 3 May 1321 Edward II called him 'a minor in the king's ward' when he allowed him seisin of part of his inheritance, and before 21 February 1302, as on 21 February 1323 he was granted full possession of his late father's lands as he had proved his age and done homage to the king. Sadly the proof of age, which would give William's exact date of birth, no longer exists, though the royal order to hold it does, and is dated 29 June 1322. It states that William 'says he is of full age' - which would place his date of birth before 29 June 1301, probably not too long before - and that he was born in Cassington ('Carsyngton'), a village in Oxfordshire not far from Oxford. At his father's inquisition post mortem in April/May 1320, William was said rather vaguely to be seventeen or eighteen years old. 

Somewhat peculiarly, Edward II's chamber account of 22 April 1326 states that William had permission from the king to travel to London because he was going to be dubbed a knight, and the entry calls him 'a child in the keeping of the king's chamber'. William was certainly no longer a child in April 1326 and must have been twenty-five or almost by then, so I suspect this might be an error for his younger brother Edward. William married Katherine Grandisson (d. 1349) around 1327 and died on 30 January 1344. He was the father of another William Montacute, earl of Salisbury (b. in Donyatt, Somerset on 19 June 1328, d. 1397), Philippa, countess of March (d. 1382), and several others. [4] 

- Simon, third son, bishop of Worcester and Ely, born in 1303 or 1304. He was a student at Oxford by 29 November 1318 when a petition from Edward II to Pope John XXII stated that he had not yet completed his fifteenth year. He appears, as 'Simon de Mountagu', on 26 March 1317, when Edward II called him 'the king's cousin and clerk'. [5] Simon was appointed bishop of Worcester in late 1333 when he was probably not yet thirty, and bishop of Ely in 1337. He died in June 1345.

- Edward, fourth and youngest son, most probably the godson of Edward II or at least named in his honour (or was perhaps the godson of Edward I, if he was born before July 1307). Edward Montacute accompanied his father in 1318/19 when William the elder was made steward of Gascony, and he had a boat there called La Peronelle which appears in Edward II's accounts. If I'm correct in thinking that the reference in Edward II's chamber account of April 1326 refers to Edward Montacute rather than his brother William, he was knighted in London not long after 22 April 1326, or at least his knighting was planned then. On the other hand, an entry on the Patent Roll in March 1337 implies that he had recently been knighted by Edward III. [6] He married Edward I's granddaughter Alice of Norfolk in or before August 1338 and, horribly, beat her to death in the early 1350s. Their two young daughters were subsequently sent to live with their paternal grandmother Elizabeth de Montfort.

- Alice Daubeney, the eldest Montacute daughter, who married Sir Ralph Daubeney or Daubeny or Daubenay of Somerset (b. 3 March 1305), the son and heir of Sir Eli(a)s Daubeney, who died when his son was mere weeks old. Alice was the mother of Sir Giles Daubeney (d. 1386), who was born outside England, though I don't know where. [7] The family name often appears in medieval records in its Latin form, 'de Albiniaco'.

- Mary Cogan, second daughter; the identity of her husband is not known, and I know absolutely nothing about her.

- Elizabeth Montacute, third daughter, prioress of Haliwell or Holywell in Shoreditch, London from 1340 to 1357. A letter from the abbot of Westminster dated 5 November 1334 states that 'Elizabeth de Monte Acuto, a girl of noble birth, had entered the priory of Halywell by London as a nun...she had nothing of her own to provide for her food and clothing...and they [the abbot and convent of Westminster] out of pity for her poverty' granted her an income of 100 shillings a year. [8]

- Hawise Bavent, fourth daughter; she married Roger Bavent, whose father Roger Bavent Sr was born in Sussex in March 1279 and was one of the men knighted with Edward of Caernarfon and Hawise's father on 22 May 1306. Roger Jr died on 23 April 1355, and his widow Hawise Montacute was still alive on 13 October 1361. They had a son John, twenty years old in June 1357, who died childless, and a daughter Joan, who married Sir John Dauntsey. [9]

- Maud/Matilda Montacute, fifth daughter, abbess of Barking Abbey from 1341 to 1352. The abbess of Barking outranked all the other English abbesses, and was always of noble birth. According to the Annales Paulini, Maud's brother Simon, bishop of Ely, and sister Elizabeth, prioress of Haliwell, attended her consecration on 29 April 1341. [10]

- Isabel Montacute, sixth daughter, who succeeded her sister Maud as abbess of Barking in 1352, and held the position until her death in 1358. Isabel was succeeded by Katherine Sutton and then by her niece Maud Montacute the younger, one of Edward Montacute and Alice of Norfolk's daughters.

The Genealogics website and Wikipedia give William Montacute and Elizabeth de Montfort a seventh daughter, Katherine, who married Sir William Carrington. I don't know which primary source(s) confirm(s) that, but it would be deeply odd if she alone was not mentioned in her mother's list of children in 1348, so without seeing primary source evidence I remain to be convinced that she existed. Genealogics also omits John Montacute, who lived into his teens and appears quite a few times on record. The birth order of the four sons of Elizabeth de Montfort and William Montacute (d. 1319) is clear, as is the birth order of the six daughters, but putting them together is basically impossible. John Montacute was the eldest son and Alice Montacute, later Daubeney, was the eldest daughter, but which of them was the eldest sibling, or whether William the second son was older or younger than Alice or older or younger than the second daughter Mary, is anyone's guess. Edward Montacute the youngest son might have been born in c. 1305 or a decade or so later than that.

Elizabeth de Montfort was widowed in the autumn of 1319 when Sir William Montacute died in Gascony, where Edward II had appointed him steward the year before. News of his death reached Chancery in England on 13 November 1319; the writ to hold his inquisition post mortem was issued belatedly on 9 April 1320; and Elizabeth was granted her dower on 23 May 1320. [11] She married her second husband Sir Thomas Furnivall of Sheffield, the widower of Hugh Despenser the Elder's sister Joan and a landowner in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, sometime before 8 June 1322, when Edward II fined them £200 for marrying without a royal licence. [12] In 1318, Thomas Furnivall and Joan Despenser's son Thomas Furnivall the younger had married Joan de Verdon, widow of Elizabeth de Montfort and William Montacute's eldest son John (i.e. Elizabeth's former daughter-in-law married her future stepson). On 11 September 1321, Thomas Furnivall the elder had acknowledged that he owed debts to several of Elizabeth's children, his future stepchildren: £300 to Edward Montacute the fourth son, another £300 to Hawise Montacute the fourth daughter, and £40 to Elizabeth Montacute the third daughter. [13] Thomas died in 1332, and Elizabeth received her dower on 6 June 1332; she did not marry again. [14] Her third son Simon became a bishop in 1333, her second son William was made earl of Salisbury in 1337, her third daughter Elizabeth became a prioress in 1340, and her fifth daughter Maud became an abbess in 1341.

Elizabeth de Montfort Montacute Furnivall lived long enough to witness the annulment of her grandson William Montacute's (b. 1328) marriage to Joan of Kent, later princess of Wales, in 1349, and the horrible death of her daughter-in-law Alice of Norfolk in the early 1350s following a terrible beating by Elizabeth's youngest son Edward and some of his retainers, after which Elizabeth looked after her toddler granddaughters for a while. She died in August 1354, either on the 6th, the 10th, the 19th, the 26th, the 27th or the 29th; the jurors at her inquisition post mortem gave different dates, though she was certainly dead by 30 August when the writ to hold the IPM was issued. She must have been in her mid-seventies or thereabouts, and her grandson William Montacute, earl of Salisbury, then aged twenty-six, was the heir to her extensive Montacute dower lands. One of her manors was Cassington, where her second son Earl William was born in 1301. [15] Elizabeth had outlived three of her four sons, John, William and Simon, and several of her six daughters. She was buried in St Frideswide's Priory in Oxford, later Christ Church Cathedral.


1) Calendar of Fine Rolls 1272-1307, p. 235.

2) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1281-92, p. 496.

3) Thomas Stapleton, 'A Brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the tenth, eleventh, and fourteenth years of King Edward the Second', Archaeologia, 26 (1836), p. 339.

4) Calendar of Close Rolls 1318-23, pp. 287, 629; CFR 1319-27, p. 56; Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1307-27, no. 238; CIPM 1336-46, no. 700; CIPM 1347-52, nos. 64, 244, 310; SAL MS 122, p. 61.

5) Foedera 1272-1307, pp. 379-80; Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, p. 465.

6) CPR 1334-38, p. 401.

7) CIPM 1300-07, no. 324; CPR 1350-54, p. 63.

8) CPR 1334-38, pp. 92-3.

9) CIPM 1300-07, no. 55; CIPM 1352-60, no. 387; CCR 1360-64, p. 38; Complete Peerage, vol. 2, p. 34.

10) Annales Paulini 1307-1340, in Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II, ed. W. Stubbs, vol. 1, p. 370.

11) CFR 1319-27, pp. 8-9, 13; CIPM 1317-27, no. 238; CCR 1318-23, p. 192.

12) CFR 1319-27, p. 133.

13) CCR 1318-23, p. 496.

14) CIPM 1327-36, no. 470; CCR 1330-33, pp. 471-2.

15) CIPM 1352-60, no. 173.

15 November, 2022

The Faces of Edward II, Isabella of France, and Others

I recently did a podcast for History Hack about London and Londoners in the first half of the fourteenth century. It's now online; give it a listen here! It's just under 45 minutes long.

Also recently, I had the good fortune to stumble on the Youtube channel of Panagiotis Constantinou, a supremely talented visual artist who recreates the faces of historical figures, including many of the medieval kings of England and their queens, from effigies, sculptures and manuscript images. I won't post screenshots of the faces here because I don't want to deprive Mr Constantinou of any clicks, and I urge you to take a look at his work (all the links below are to his Youtube videos). His recreated faces smile, blink, move their heads, and look very much alive. They're all stunning to behold, and the effect of watching stone or a manuscript image morph into (what appears to be) flesh is incredible. The videos are also very informative about the lives of the people being recreated, and the music is awesome. I have lost an entire day watching and re-watching these so far, and no doubt will lose far more. :-D

Edward II and Isabella of France, based on the effigy on Edward's tomb in Gloucester Cathedral and a sculpture of Isabella's face in Beverley Minster. I have no words for how much I adore both of them.

Henry III and Eleanor of Provence Edward II's grandparents. 

Edward I and Eleanor of Castile Edward II's parents.

Edward III and Philippa of Hainault Edward II's son and daughter-in-law. I particularly love the young Edward, aged downwards from the effigy on his tomb in Westminster Abbey. I think he looks rather beautiful rather than merely handsome, which perhaps isn't surprising, given that both of his parents seem to have been very good-looking. Queen Philippa is also 'youthified' from her effigy.

Berengaria of Navarre, queen of Richard Lionheart

Richard II, from the famous portrait of him in Westminster Abbey.

Richard II, John of Gaunt, Henry IV, Henry's queen Joan of Navarre. Mr Constantinou's recreation of Richard II in this one is from the king's effigy, also in Westminster Abbey, with that funny little tufty beard. I'd have loved to see Richard's first queen Anne of Bohemia as well!

Richard Neville, earl of Warwick (1428-71), his daughters Isabel, duchess of Clarence and Anne, queen of England, and Isabel's husband George, brother of Edward IV and Richard III

08 November, 2022

Uterine Suffocation...?

The latest edition of Mortimer Matters, the journal of the Mortimer History Society, featuring an article by me called 'The Joys of Medieval Sex', is online! I talk about the dangers of 'uterine suffocation' caused by women failing to expel their own sperm by intercourse or menstruation, busybody London officials creeping around the city streets and arresting adulterers in the middle of the night, women describing their husbands' privates as a 'sorry pin' and 'the length of a snail', and much else. :-D My book Sex and Sexuality in Medieval England is available on Amazon UK and Amazon US, or via the Pen&Sword website.

I've done an interview with Kasia on her fantastic blog about Henry the Young King (1155-83), to celebrate its tenth anniversary! Many congrats to Kasia for her hard work! The interview is about fourteenth-century London, based on my book London: A Fourteenth-Century City and Its People (available on Amazon UK and Amazon US).

And I recently did a podcast for History Hack on the topic of fourteenth-century London, also based on my book. It'll be online on 18 November.

If you're in the UK and have a Kindle, my book Daughters of Edward I is currently only £2.99! If you're in the US, it's $3.40.

And last but definitely not least, did you know that William Ockham or Occam, of Occam's Razor fame, was a Franciscan friar from Surrey who was almost exactly the same age as Edward II? William is believed to have been born in or around 1287, and died in 1347. Michael Harmon has written a novel called Invincibilis about him, with Edward II, Hugh Despenser the Younger and Eleanor de Clare as important characters. It's available on Amazon UK and Amazon US. Many thanks to Michael for sending me a copy and for kindly mentioning me in the Acknowledgements! If you're interested in Edward II's fate in 1327, it's well worth a read (and is well worth a read even if you're not particularly!).

16 October, 2022

Hugh Despenser the Younger Takes Against John Inge, 1322/23

Hugh Despenser the Younger took possession of the lordship of Glamorgan in South Wales, part of his wife Eleanor de Clare's inheritance from her late brother the earl of Gloucester, in November 1317. A number of letters from Hugh as lord of Glamorgan to Sir John Inge, the sheriff of Glamorgan, still survive, the earliest of them written during Edward II's disastrous siege of the port of Berwick-on-Tweed in September 1319 and the last three years later. Three of the letters are printed in the original Anglo-Norman in volume 3 of Cartae et Alia Munimenta quae ad Dominium Glamorgancia Pertinent, others are calendared in English translation in Calendar of Ancient Correspondence Concerning Wales, and one was printed in an 1897 English Historical Review article by W.H. Stevenson, also in the Anglo-Norman original. The originals are mostly held in the National Archives. Most of the letters are very long and very detailed, and reveal several things: that Hugh Despenser the Younger micromanaged the affairs of Glamorgan even when he was far away from his lordship; that he endlessly hectored the unfortunate John Inge and demanded that the sheriff bend over backwards to do everything he wanted; that he was a hard man to please and serving him was a thankless task; and that he felt a certain degree of contempt for the Welsh people.

It's the last of Hugh the Younger's letters to John Inge that I want to look at today, which is printed on pp. 1101-04 of Cartae et Alia Munimenta, vol. 3. Unlike most of his letters to Inge, it's not dated, but from references within the letter it's apparent that it must have been written in the autumn of 1322. Firstly, the Robert Lewer situation was still ongoing, and Edward II ordered Lewer's arrest on 16 September 1322; and secondly, Hugh wrote that he was following up the matter of the forfeited manor of Iscennen, and Edward granted Iscennen to him on 6 November 1322. Part of the letter refers to Hugh's dealings with Edward's niece Elizabeth de Burgh, whom Hugh politely but rather coldly called la dame de Burgh, 'Lady de Burgh', without acknowledging his relationship to her as his wife Eleanor's sister, as would have been usual and conventional.

In the middle of the very long missive, Hugh wrote, seemingly casually before moving on to talk about Robert Lewer, the following hair-raising sentence:

"And know that we trust you more the more you advise us, but we are very worried about having some reason for which we might be prepared to harm you in some way, or for which we might lose the good will which we have for you."

Ouchie. At some point not too long afterwards, though I don't know exactly when - probably in 1323 or 1324 - Hugh Despenser the Younger imprisoned Sir John Inge and all his council in Southwark because of his 'rancour towards him'. He made Inge and six guarantors promise to pay him £300 for Inge's release, and they had handed over £200 of it by the time of Hugh's downfall in November 1326. In February 1333, Edward III respited the remaining £100 on the entirely true and accurate grounds that the debt was "obtained by force and duress". One of Inge's councillors, Thomas Langdon, died while imprisoned by Hugh, and a petition about him presented probably in 1327 when it was safe to talk about the Despensers' many misdeeds also talks of Hugh the Younger's anger towards Sir John Inge (por corouz qil avoit vers mons' Johan Inge). [1]

John Inge was pardoned in early 1327 at the start of Edward III's reign for having adhered to Hugh Despenser the Younger, though one could hardly blame him if he heaved a sigh of relief when Hugh fell from power and was executed in November 1326. [2] For years, John received endless letters from Hugh that basically say "Do this, do that, go over there right now. No, not like that, you fool, like this. I'm keeping a copy of this letter and you'll regret it if you don't do exactly what I say. Don't make me hurt you." After years of falling over himself to do everything that Hugh wanted in exactly the way he wanted it done, this was John Inge's reward: to be threatened with being harmed, then imprisoned with his councillors, because he had angered Hugh in some way. Chroniclers tell us that even the great English magnates were frightened of Hugh Despenser the Younger, and Queen Isabella certainly was. It's not hard to see why.

Below, part of Sir John Inge's petition to Edward III requesting that he and his guarantors might be pardoned the remainder of their debt to the late Hugh the Younger.


1) Calendar of Close Rolls 1318-23, pp. 723-4; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1330-34, p. 404; The National Archives SC 8/176/8753 and SC 8/59/2947.

2) CPR 1327-30, p. 32.

12 October, 2022

The Abduction and Ordeal of Elizabeth Luttrell, 1309

I recently wrote a post about Sir Geoffrey Luttrell (1276-1345), who commissioned the Luttrell Psalter around 1325/30, and his involvement in an attack on Sempringham Priory, Lincolnshire in 1312. Geoffrey's son and heir Andrew, from his marriage to Agnes Sutton, was most probably born around Easter 1313, and they had other children too: younger sons named Geoffrey (b. before 1320), Guy and Robert, and daughter Isabella, who in 1345 was a nun of Sempringham Priory. [1] Geoffrey and Agnes also had a daughter called Elizabeth, who suffered a very distressing experience when she was abducted and raped. It is virtually certain that this was a case of child rape.

Elizabeth Luttrell must have been a good bit older than her four brothers. She first appears on record on 1 June 1309, when she was already betrothed to a young man named Walter, son of Walter Gloucester. [2] On this date, Elizabeth and Walter the younger were granted the reversion of the Lincolnshire manors of Ingoldsby and Skinnand - which is a Deserted Medieval Village - plus lands and meadows in Welbourn and Navenby also in Lincolnshire. Ingoldsby is less than three miles from the Luttrells' chief manor of Irnham and about ten miles from Sempringham Priory, and the Gloucester family also owned manors in Lincolnshire.

Sir Walter Gloucester Senior, Elizabeth Luttrell's father-in-law, died not long before 26 August 1311, and his inquisition post mortem of September that year says that his son and heir Walter was 'seventeen on 15 January last' or 'eighteen on Christmas Day next'. This gives Walter a date of birth around Christmas 1293 or mid-January 1294, though I can't find his proof of age or any mention of it in the chancery rolls. Walter Junior's mother or stepmother was named Hawise, and she outlived her husband by more than twenty years and was still alive in the early 1330s. [3] Walter Jr and his younger brother John attacked Hawise's Lincolnshire manor of Heydour not long before 8 October 1321, and stole twenty oxen, eighteen horses and sixty-six pigs, plus 'jewels and silver vessels'. Wonder what was going on there; apparently a family dispute. [4] 

Elizabeth Luttrell gave birth to her son, inevitably also named Walter Gloucester, around Easter 1316, according to her husband's inquisition post mortem. Walter, however, proved his age, ie. twenty-one, sometime before 19 July 1336, which strongly implies that he was born before July 1315. On 10 July 1336, he was said to be 'aged twenty-one years and more'. [5] Walter was only a couple of years younger than his uncle Andrew Luttrell, the eldest of his mother's four younger brothers, and given that Elizabeth gave birth in or around 1315, she must have been born in c. 1300 at the latest. Sometime before 23 July 1315, possibly while Elizabeth was pregnant or had recently given birth, her husband and his brother John were accused of attacking the manor of one William Mortimer in Ingoldsby: 'with a multitude of horse and foot[men]', the brothers besieged William's house, threw stones and shot arrows at the doors and windows, finally gained entrance to the property by setting fires outside the doors, and stole the unfortunate William's goods after tying him up. [6] Hmmmm, I see a pattern emerging here. Walter Gloucester died not long before 20 February 1323 at not yet thirty years old, and on 12 May that year, Hawise founded a chantry for her late husband Walter (d. 1311) and for her son or stepson, having evidently forgiven him for his theft of her livestock in 1321. Elizabeth received her widow's dower on 20 October 1323, and on 7 March 1324, she and her father Geoffrey Luttrell jointly acknowledged a debt of £100. [7]

In the summer of 1309, before she married Walter, something horrible happened to Elizabeth Luttrell. Already living with her future husband's family, she was abducted from somewhere called 'Laund' - I'm not sure where that is, maybe Lound in Nottinghamshire - by John Ellerker, and raped. I don't know how old the unfortunate Elizabeth was when she suffered this ordeal, but she was certainly a child or at the very most in her early teens. Her father Geoffrey was only thirty-three years old in 1309, and her four brothers were still years away from being born.

John Ellerker was a clerk, and Ellerker, presumably where he came from, is a village in Yorkshire, about ten miles from Beverley and thirty from York. There's a huge number of entries in the chancery rolls and elsewhere during the reigns of Edward II and III relating to 'John Ellerker the elder' and 'John Ellerker the younger', who were, oddly enough, brothers. The majority of the entries deal with people acknowledging debts to the two men, and one of them was chamberlain of North Wales at one point. I have no idea if one of them was the man in question or if they were unrelated. It appears that the John Ellerker who abducted and assaulted Elizabeth Luttrell was later the rector of Willingham by Stow in Lincolnshire, became a canon both of Beverley and York in the 1320s, and was a royal clerk. [8] From this entry in the archbishop of York's register, dating to early 1315, Ellerker was illegitimate.

The first piece of evidence for Ellerker's abduction of Elizabeth Luttrell dates to 1 July 1309 ('the Tuesday next after the feast of St Peter and St Paul, 2 Edward II'), when the Close Roll records an '[e]nrolment of agreement between Sir Walter de Gloucester, knight, and John de Ellerker, clerk, concerning the abduction by the said John of Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Geoffrey Luterel, at Laund, she being in the company of Amice de Gloucestre'. [9] The 'Sir Walter Gloucester' named here means Elizabeth's soon-to-be father-in-law, and I assume Amice was the daughter of the older Walter and sister of the younger Walter, and Elizabeth's future sister-in-law. The ill feeling of his victim's father and future father-in-law towards Ellerker was, understandably, so bad that John Langton, bishop of Chichester and chancellor of England, felt compelled to intervene. He persuaded Geoffrey Luttrell and Walter Gloucester the elder to remit not only their ill feeling, but 'all actions, challenges etc' they might wish to undertake against John Ellerker. It appears that Ellerker had become infatuated with Elizabeth, as he had to declare, on pain of paying £1000, that he 'will not claim the said Elizabeth as his wife in court Christian, or ravish or abduct her, or cause her to be ravished or abducted...he has sworn upon the gospels that he will not procure the abduction nor rape of the said Elizabeth, nor induce her to leave the company of the said Walter [Gloucester the elder].' 

How Ellerker might claim to be married to Elizabeth when he was in holy orders is not clear to me, and numerous other details of the story are not explained, such as, how exactly Ellerker abducted Elizabeth (on his own or with accomplices?), how a clerk became so dangerously infatuated with a young girl of noble birth, where he took her after the abduction, and how she was freed and restored to her natal family or the Gloucesters. It certainly seems that Elizabeth's father and father-in-law believed that she remained at risk from John Ellerker even after her release. Elizabeth's mother Agnes Sutton and future mother-in-law Hawise Gloucester - I don't know Hawise's maiden name - must also have been deeply concerned and distressed by what had happened to her, but are not mentioned in the record of the agreement. Thanks, fourteenth-century England.

The agreement between John Ellerker and Sir Walter Gloucester the elder does not directly state that Ellerker raped Elizabeth after he kidnapped her, but on 5 August 1309, Edward II pardoned Ellerker 'for the rape and abduction of Elizabeth, daughter of Geoffrey Luterel'. This was done 'at the instance of Hugh le Despenser' and was recorded on the Patent Roll. [10] Which Hugh Despenser was not specified, but at this stage of Edward II's reign, the name 'Hugh Despenser' used alone basically always meant Hugh the Elder (b. 1261), later earl of Winchester, not his son Hugh the Younger, later lord of Glamorgan. I don't know whether Hugh Despenser the Elder had any real connection to John Ellerker, or whether the latter had merely persuaded a well-known courtier and ally of Edward II to use his influence with the king. I did find a connection between Hugh the Elder and Walter Gloucester, the one who died in 1311 and was Elizabeth Luttrell's father-in-law: on 5 February 1309, just months before this tragic situation occurred, Walter was one of the men who witnessed Sir Thomas Gredley granting his manor of Pirton to Hugh the Elder. [11]

As Elizabeth was still named as 'daughter of Geoffrey Luttrell' in July and August 1309, she evidently hadn't married the younger Walter Gloucester yet. I'm not sure what became of her after March 1324, when she and her father acknowledged a joint debt the year after she was widowed, though I have wondered if the Isabella, nun of Sempringham Priory named as Geoffrey's daughter in his will of 1345 might in fact be Elizabeth; the names Isabella and Elizabeth were often used interchangeably. It would hardly seem surprising if Elizabeth sought a religious life in widowhood after experiencing such a horrible attack in her youth. Whatever happened to her, I sincerely hope she found some measure of happiness after surviving such an awful ordeal, though her husband robbed the manors of at least two people and seems to have been pretty wild (to be fair, there's no evidence that Walter Gloucester harmed the people he stole from or was violent). As noted above, John Ellerker, sadly, thrived after his abduction and rape of Elizabeth, becoming a rector and a canon. It strikes me that he might also have been very young in 1309, albeit not as young as Elizabeth: a 'John Ellerker, archdeacon of Cleveland' appears on record several times in 1351. [12] If this is the same man, he was still active forty-two years after 1309, and the situation reminds me somewhat of John Berenger's rape and abduction of Elizabeth Hertrigg in 1318, when they were both about fourteen.

Elizabeth's son Walter Gloucester the third, probably born in 1315, married a woman named Pernell, and they had two sons, John, born around 1 August 1349, and Peter, born c. 1354/55. Walter died on 10 July 1360 and Pernell at the beginning of 1362. Their first son John died sometime in the eighteen months between his father's death and his mother's, probably aged twelve, and Peter Gloucester died on 24 September 1369. Although Peter had married a young woman called Alice who received dower after his death, he was only about fourteen or fifteen when he passed away, and left no children. [13] Unless Elizabeth Luttrell had other children I haven't discovered, her line ended with her two grandsons in the 1360s. Of her younger brothers, Andrew lived to be seventy-seven; Geoffrey seems to have died young; Guy died before their father, but left four sons and a daughter; and Robert became a Knight Hospitaller and was still alive in 1345.


1) Early Lincoln Wills, ed. Alfred Gibbon, pp. 18-19; Feet of Fines, CP 25/1/124/52, no. 193.
2) Feet of Fines, CP 25/1/135/76, no. 47.
3) Calendar of Fine Rolls 1307-19, pp. 100, 140; Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1307-17, no. 350; Calendar of Close Rolls 1307-13, pp. 380, 439; CCR 1330-33, pp. 338-9, 544-5, 566, 576.
4) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1321-24, p. 58.
5) CIPM 1317-27, no. 420; CCR 1333-37, p. 603; CIPM 1336-46, no. 37.
6) CPR 1313-17, p. 410.
7) CFR 1307-19, p. 197; CIPM 1317-27, no. 420; CPR 1321-24, p. 285; CCR 1323-27, pp. 25, 162.
8) Calendar of Papal Letters 1305-41, pp. 243, 253; CCR 1323-27, pp. 19, 44, 53.
9) CCR 1307-13, pp. 160-61.
10) CPR 1307-13, p. 181.
11) Catalogue of Ancient Deeds, vol. 2, no. A.3189; The National Archives E 40/3189.
12) Calendar of Papal Letters 1342-62, p. 431; Petitions to the Pope 1342-1419, pp. 209, 217.
13) CIPM 1352-60, no. 597; CIPM 1361-65, no. 333; CIPM 1365-69, no. 356; CFR 1356-68, pp. 133, 245-6; CFR 1369-77, pp. 56, 68; CCR 1360-64, p. 88; CCR 1369-74, p. 131.

07 October, 2022

A Petition from Blanche of Lancaster, Lady Wake, 1320

Blanche of Lancaster was born sometime in the early 1300s as the eldest child of Edward I's nephew Henry of Lancaster (b. c. 1280/81), later earl of Lancaster and Leicester, and Maud Chaworth (b. 1282). She was born in the reign of her great-uncle Edward I and died between 3 and 11 July 1380 in the reign of Richard II, when she must have been in her mid to late seventies, having outlived her six younger siblings. She was the aunt, and perhaps godmother, of the more famous Blanche of Lancaster (1342-68) who married John of Gaunt and was the mother of Henry IV.

Blanche married Thomas Wake, future Lord Wake of Liddell (b. March 1298), before 9 October 1316, probably not too long before. Edward II fined his ward Thomas £1000 when he found out, as the marriage had taken place without his licence; he had offered Thomas the marriage of Piers Gaveston's daughter and heir Joan, only to find that Thomas preferred to wed Blanche. Edward pardoned Thomas on 9 December 1318, and allowed him seisin of his late father John Wake's lands a couple of years early at the request of his cousin, Thomas's father-in-law Henry of Lancaster. [1] As to why Thomas preferred to marry Blanche of Lancaster, who had a younger brother and five younger sisters (though not all of them had been born by 1316) and was not an heiress, over Joan Gaveston, who was an only child until her half-sister Margaret Audley was born c. the early 1320s and was a sizeable heiress, we can only speculate. Blanche and Thomas Wake were married for over thirty years until Thomas died in 1349, though they had no children (Thomas's heir was his nephew John, earl of Kent, d. 1352).

On 24 April 1320, Edward II gave Thomas Wake permission to go overseas on pilgrimage with two attendants, William Wasteneys and Richard Normanby. Thomas was, however, still at his Lincolnshire manor of Bourne on 6 June 1320, when he made a grant to Sir Roger Belers that was witnessed by, among others, his younger brother John Wake and Wasteneys and Normanby, the men who would accompany him on pilgrimage. [2] Thomas did eventually leave England that year, and as chance would have it, his Lancastrian father-in-law Henry also spent much of the period from 1318 to 1322 overseas. Henry's obscure younger brother John of Lancaster, whose heir he was, died in France before 13 June 1317, and Henry went there in May 1318. On 28 September 1318, he was 'staying in France to claim his inheritance', and on 21 August 1320 was 'staying beyond the seas' until the following June, though he returned to England for a while in November 1320. [3] His wife Maud Chaworth accompanied him (see below for source).

Sometime in 1320, after 6 June and before 24 November, Blanche of Lancaster presented a petition in Anglo-Norman to Edward II and his council, calling herself 'Blaunche Wake, cousin of our lord the king and consort of Lord Wake' and stating that her husband had gone on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (seint Jake) with royal permission. [4] She added rather plaintively that 'her father Sir Henry of Lancaster and her mother are overseas, and therefore she remains alone'. Blanche went on to say that one of her husband's manors had been attacked by 'numerous robbers and murderers' from the town of Spalding in Lincolnshire, who had killed some of Thomas Wake's servants and her own, and badly wounded others to the point of death. She did not specify which manor, but Thomas held several in Lincolnshire, including Bourne and Market Deeping, which are both about twelve miles from Spalding. The people from Spalding had also stolen goods and chattels from the manor, and had taken away the dead bodies (les corps de eux q' sont mortz aloignez), an unusual detail which I don't recall seeing in a fourteenth-century petition before. Blanche finished by stating that she and her 'ladies', i.e. her attendants, were so frightened and distressed that they did not dare to stay at the manor, and she begged Edward II and the royal council to help her as soon as possible. Unfortunately, they did not, but only responded that she had no right to an action resulting from the petition. I haven't been able to find any other reference to this attack on a nearby manor by the people of Spalding.

Below, part of Blanche's petition.

In 1320, Blanche was only a teenager, who might have been eighteen but perhaps was as young as fifteen, and obviously felt isolated and afraid with her husband and her parents overseas. Her closest relatives in England were, apart from her younger siblings (assuming they weren't abroad with their parents), her father's cousin the king and her paternal uncle Thomas of Lancaster, earl of Lancaster and Leicester. Thomas of Lancaster isn't mentioned in the petition, and I have no idea if he tried to help her or not. Another close relative was Hugh Despenser the Younger, half-brother of Maud Chaworth, and thus also Blanche's uncle. Hugh was then Edward II's chamberlain and had already become a pretty powerful royal favourite, though I have no idea either if he did anything to help her. I find the petition poignant. Many years later, as a widow in the 1350s, Blanche, Lady Wake had an awful feud with Thomas Lisle, bishop of Ely, and gave as good as she got, but in 1320 she was young and vulnerable.

Thomas, Lord Wake was back in England by 24 November 1320 when he settled two of his own manors in Cumberland and Yorkshire on himself and Blanche jointly, and Henry of Lancaster had also returned by 16 November 1320. [5] I wonder if this isn't a coincidence, especially as Henry had originally intended to remain overseas until June 1321, and perhaps Blanche sent messengers to her husband and her father and they both hurried home. It kind of amazes me that Blanche lived for another sixty years after the events she described in her petition.


1) CPR 1313-17, p. 553; CPR 1317-21, pp. 43, 251-2; CCR 1313-18, p. 413; CIPM 1291-1300, no. 597 (John Wake's IPM; CIPM 1352-60, no. 219 (Thomas Wake's); CIPM 1377-84, nos. 438-45 (Blanche's).

2) CPR 1317-21, pp. 440, 494-5.

3) Foedera 1307-27, p. 334; CPR 1317-21, pp. 145-6, 153, 217, 503, 524, 548; CPR 1321-24, p. 69.

4) The National Archives SC 8/87/4346.

5) CPR 1317-21, pp. 524, 531.

24 September, 2022

Marriage Rights

When a tenant in chief, the people who held land directly from the king, died with his/her heir underage - under 21 if male, 14 if female and married, or 16 if female and unmarried - the king owned the rights to the heir's marriage. He either arranged the heir's marriage himself, or sold the rights to someone else. Men owned their own marriage rights when they came of age at 21

 When Theobald de Verdon died on [] July 1316, he left his three daughters from his first marriage to the late Maud Mortimer (d. 1312), and his second wife Elizabeth (de Clare) de Burgh was a month pregnant with his fourth daughter. On [], Edward II granted the marriage of Theobald's eldest daughter Joan (b. August 1303) to Sir William Montacute, who waited until Elizabeth de Burgh had given birth to her daughter Isabella de Verdon on 21 March 1317. If Isabella had been a boy, she would have become Theobald's sole heir from the moment of birth and would have disinherited Theobald's three living daughters, but as it was, the birth of a girl meant that Theobald's estate would be divided into four equal portions for his four daughters. In the knowledge that Joan de Verdon would inherit a quarter of the sizeable inheritance, William Montacute married her off to his eldest son John (b. c. late 1290s) on 28 April 1317, a few weeks after the birth of Joan's half-sister. If Joan had been disinherited by the birth of a half-brother, William would most probablyn not have 'wasted' her on his eldest son but would have married her off to another of his relatives, probably one of his younger sons or a nephew.

In March 1352, Thomas Staple of Southwark offered his 20-year-old ward John Amory of Leicestershire (b. November 1331) a choice between two brides: Alice Cleet of Berkshire or Isabel St Albans of Surrey. John 'utterly refused both, and of his own accord' married Alianor Baryngton instead. An inquiry found that Thomas Staple had lost £200 from John's marriage, and John acknowledged that he owed Thomas this amount. William Cantilupe or Cauntelo or Cantelewe was born in 1293. Sometime before 15 January 1314 when he was 20, his stepmother Eva, who owned the rights to his marriage, also offered him a choice between two brides: Joan, daughter of John de Grey, or Margaret, daughter of Robert de Strenle. William 'expressly answered and said that he would not have any woman to wife'. He was told to pay Eva the value of his marriage, and died at an unknown date after November 1320, having apparently never married.

18 September, 2022

Sir Geoffrey Luttrell and an Attack on Sempringham Priory, 1312

The Luttrell Psalter, now held in the British Library, is a gorgeous, lavishly illustrated manuscript dating to sometime between about 1320 and 1330, i.e. it was made either late in Edward II's reign or early in Edward III's, for Sir Geoffrey Luttrell. As well as commissioning one of the most stunning pieces of art to survive from medieval England, Geoffrey took part in a raid on Sempringham Priory in Lincolnshire in 1312. Here's a post about it, with some information about Geoffrey and his family.
Sir Geoffrey Luttrell was born on 23 or 24 May 1276 early in Edward I's reign and died on 23 May 1345, his sixty-ninth birthday or the day before. He was granted the lands of his late father Robert Luttrell, who died shortly before 18 June 1297, on 3 November 1297 after he proved he was twenty-one. [1] The name was also spelt Loterel, Loterell, Louterel, Louterell, Lutterel or Lutterell, and the family held the manors of Irnham in Lincolnshire, Hooton Pagnell in Yorkshire, Saltby in Leicestershire, and Gamston and Bridgford in Nottinghamshire. Irnham was their chief manor. Geoffrey married Agnes Sutton, who died in 1340, and their son and heir was Andrew, Lord Luttrell, who was born around Easter (15 April) in 1313: he was 'aged 32 years and more at the feast of Easter last' in June 1345. Somewhat peculiarly, Pope John XXII granted Geoffrey Luttrell and Agnes Sutton a 'dispensation...to remain in the marriage which they contracted in ignorance that they were related in the third and fourth degrees' as late as October 1331, decades after they wed. [2] Like his father, Andrew Luttrell lived a long life and died on 6 September 1390 at the age of seventy-seven, having married firstly Beatrice Scrope, who appears in the Luttrell Psalter and was one of the daughters of Sir Geoffrey Scrope (c. 1285-1340), chief justice of the King's Bench, and secondly Hawise Despenser (b. 1344/45, d. 10 April 1414), mother of his son and heir Andrew the younger, born c. 1364. Hawise was a great-granddaughter of Hugh Despenser the Elder (1261-1326), earl of Winchester, via his younger son Philip Despenser (d. 1313). The Luttrell/Despenser wedding took place in 1363 in the castle of Bourne in Lincolnshire, held by the Despensers' cousin Blanche of Lancaster (d. 1380), dowager Lady Wake. [3] Andrew Luttrell was fifty when he married his second wife and not even seven when he married his first: he and Beatrice Scrope were wed by 22 February 1320, when they appear on record as 'Andrew son of the said Geoffrey [Luttrell] and Beatrice his wife'. [4] Beatrice Scrope Luttrell died childless sometime after 3 April 1345, when she was left ten marks (£6.66) in her father-in-law Geoffrey's will. It's a pity the will doesn't mention the gorgeous Psalter Geoffrey commissioned. EDITED TO ADD: 'Beatrice Luterelle' appears on the Close Roll on 18 October 1350, granted permission to travel to Rome on pilgrimage with four attendants. [5]

Below, the brass of Andrew, Lord Luttrell (1313-90) in St Andrew's Church, Irnham, Lincolnshire.

Below, Sir Geoffrey Luttrell on horseback in one of the Luttrell Psalter's gorgeous illustrations, with his wife Agnes Sutton and their daughter-in-law Beatrice Scrope, Andrew's first wife.

The Luttrells' Lincolnshire manor of Irnham lies about ten miles from Sempringham Priory, which was founded by St Gilbert of Sempringham (d. 1189) and was the first house of his Gilbertine Order. One of Sempringham's residents in 1312 was Gwenllian ferch Llywelyn (d. 1337), then aged thirty, daughter of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, prince of Wales and Eleanor de Montfort, and a second cousin of Edward II (they were both great-grandchildren of King John). Edward granted Gwenllian, whose name usually appears in English records as 'Wenthlian(e)', an allowance of twenty pounds a year for life. [6] Another nun of Sempringham was Geoffrey Luttrell's daughter Isabella, Andrew's sister, and in 1322 Edward II sent his niece Margaret de Clare to live there for a while, with a number of attendants, after her second husband Sir Hugh Audley took part in the Contrariant rebellion.

Below, the church of Sempringham Priory; pics taken by me during a visit in 2019. The priory was closed down in 1538 during the Dissolution.

The memorial to Gwenllian at Sempringham, in Welsh and English.

The first evidence that a raid had taken place on Sempringham Priory appears in an entry on the Patent Roll dated 27 July 1312, a time when Edward II was dealing with the aftermath of Piers Gaveston's death on 19 June, and while Queen Isabella was pregnant with Edward III. The king gave a commission of oyer et terminer to three men 'on the information of H. de Bello Monte', i.e. Sir Henry de Beaumont, a French-born kinsman of Edward II who was an important landowner in Lincolnshire; he owned Folkingham Castle and the manor of Heckington, among others. According to the commission, the prior of Sempringham had complained that 'Geoffrey Luterel of Irnham', Edmund Coleville, John son of John Gobaud, Roger Birthorpe and his brothers John and Thomas, John Graveneye, Willaim Pleseleie and John Hunte, and unnamed others, 'broke his doors and walls at Semplyngham, co. Lincoln, and carried away his goods, and assaulted Thomas Hougate and John Irnham, his fellow canons, and also certain of his men and servants'. Another entry on the Patent Roll dated 7 September 1312 relates to a retaliatory attack: John, prior of Sempringham, Thomas Hougate and John Irnham, and ten named other men, attacked Roger Birthorpe's home at Birthorpe. They broke into his park and stole some of his animals, 'carried away his goods' and assaulted three of his servants. [7] 

The village of Birthorpe is just two miles from Sempringham Priory and also two miles from Folkingham, chief manor of Edward II's kinsman Sir Henry de Beaumont who reported the attack on the priory, and the other men named as taking part in the raid on Sempringham were also local. Sir Edmund Coleville (25 January 1288 - shortly before 16 March 1316) was the lord of Castle Bytham sixteen miles from Sempringham Priory. I'm unfamiliar with the Gobaud family, though Guy Gubaud, who was most probably the older brother of 'John son of John Gobaud', died not long before 8 May 1314 and left property in Lincolnshire to his thirteen-year-old son. Guy's father John died in 1310. [8]

As well as the information on the Patent Roll, a petition still exists in the National Archives which appears to date to shortly after Edward II's downfall in 1327. [9] It was presented by Roger Birthorpe. The prior of Sempringham in 1312, called simply 'John' on the Patent Roll, is now named as John Camelton, and Roger Birthorpe claimed that he had lawfully taken some of the prior's cattle to settle a dispute between them. Roger went on to say that he had gathered 'other great lords and good men' of the locality, including Geoffrey Luttrell, Edmund Coleville, and Guy Gubaud, apparently an error for Guy's younger brother John. The lords, supposedly, went to Sempringham to have a reasonable conversation with the prior, but he maliciously broke down his own doors to make it look like the lords had done it, and raised the hue and cry against them. 

Below, part of Roger Birthorpe's petition of 1327, with Geoffrey Luttrell's name.

Roger Birthorpe also stated that the prior of Sempringham had the support of 'Sir Hugh Despenser and his sisters, ladies in the said priory' (Mons' Hughe le Despenser et ses seors dames en la dite priorie) in this matter. He didn't specify whether he meant Hugh the Elder (born in 1261 and in his early fifties in 1312) or his son Hugh the Younger, who was twenty-four or so, though at this stage in Edward II's reign, the name Hugh Despenser used on its own inevitably meant Hugh the Elder. Hugh the Younger had four sisters, but the eldest two, Alina and Isabella, were married in 1312 and were definitely not nuns of Sempringham, and the youngest two, Margaret and Elizabeth, seem too young to be involved, as they were almost certainly born in the second half of the 1290s or at the beginning of the 1300s. Hugh the Elder also had several sisters or half-sisters, daughters of his father Hugh Despenser, justiciar of England, killed at the battle of Evesham in 1265 fighting with Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester. One (half?-)sister, Eleanor (d. 1328), was the mother of Sir Hugh de Courtenay of Okehampton (1276-1340) and grandmother of Hugh de Courtenay, earl of Devon (1303-77), and another, Joan, married Sir Thomas Furnival (d. 1332). It's certainly possible that Hugh Despenser the justiciar (d. 1265) had other daughters who became nuns at Sempringham. Hugh Despenser the Younger's third daughter Eleanor did end up as a nun of Sempringham, but that was much later, and 1312 was a few years before she was even born.

Mons' Hughe le Despenser in Roger Birthorpe's petition.

It's impossible to tell whether the alleged involvement of one of the Hugh Despensers and his sisters in the whole affair is true, or whether the name was added to the petition after the Despensers' downfall and executions in 1326 to give it more weight. In 1327, at the start of Edward III's reign and during the regency of his mother Isabella, numerous petitions were issued against the two Despensers. Most of them were true; some were probably not. The Despensers were, however, connected to the Luttrell family and to the county of Lincolnshire in some ways. On 5 August 1309, a clerk named John Elleker who had abducted Geoffrey Luttrell's young daughter Elizabeth, Andrew's older sister - Andrew wasn't even born in 1309 - was pardoned at the behest of Hugh Despenser, almost certainly the Elder. [10] Hugh Despenser the Elder's second son Philip (b. c. 1292/94, d. 1313) married the Lincolnshire heiress Margaret Goushill or Gousell (1294-1349) before 29 June 1308, probably not too long before. [11] Philip and Margaret's granddaughter Hawise Despenser (1344/45-1414) was the decades-younger second wife of Andrew Luttrell, as noted above, and this cadet branch of the Despenser family were firmly Lincolnshire-based for generations. On 17 May 1313, Edward II granted the fines due from John Graveneye, one of the men who attacked Sempringham Priory who was 'convicted...of diverse trespasses committed by him and others against the prior of Sempyngham' to Sir John Haudlo, a long-term adherent of Hugh Despenser the Elder, 'on the information of H. le Despenser'. [12]

Roger Birthorpe also stated in his petition that because of the 'great malice' of John Camelton, prior of Sempringham, he had to leave England altogether and move to Ireland, and was declared an outlaw. Furthermore, his manor of Birthorpe, worth £40 a year, was granted to Sir Henry de Beaumont. There is evidence that Birthorpe did indeed pass to Henry (d. 1340) and his son and heir John de Beaumont (d. 1342), though isn't listed in their inquisitions post mortem. [13]

It's often difficult to get to grips with these local feuds and to figure out what was really going on, or to determine who, if anyone, was more at fault or was the more injured party. Another feud that I've always found amusing took place in Essex a few decades later, between Maud de Vere née Ufford (1345/46-1413), dowager countess of Oxford, and the prior of Earls Colne. Yes, another prior. The prior claimed that the countess had him assaulted and imprisoned, and dragged him around Essex 'shamefully clad'. Maud countered that the prior and his men besieged her in her home in the village of Earls Colne, and 'threatened her with arson and other evils'. [14] The raid on Sempringham Priory in the summer of 1312, and the prior's revenge attack on one of the perpetrators - the one who lived closest to the priory, coincidentally or not - is all too typical of the era, and the real interest of this one lies in the involvement of the man who commissioned the Luttrell Psalter. And to finish, just one last thing about this attack on Sempringham Priory. It presumably took place not long before 27 July 1312, when it's first mentioned in the chancery rolls. Andrew Luttrell was said in 1345 to have been born around Easter 1313, and as Easter Sunday fell on 15 April in 1313, Geoffrey Luttrell and Agnes Sutton must have conceived him around the time of the raid.


1) CCR 1296-1302, p. 70; CFR 1272-1307, p. 387; CIPM 1291-1300, no. 406; CIPM 1336-46, no. 589.
2) Calendar of Papal Letters 1305-41, p. 368.
3)  Early Lincoln Wills, ed. Alfred Gibbon, pp. 18-19, 56-7, 99; CIPM 1384-92, nos. 1008-9; CIPM 1392-99, nos. 1062-63; CIPM 1413-18, nos. 154-56; CIPM 1418-22, nos. 30-32.
4) CPR 1317-21, p. 424.
5)  Early Lincoln Wills, pp. 18-19; CCR 1349-54, pp. 271-2; TNA, SC 8/246/12265.
6) Calendar of Memoranda Rolls Michaelmas 1326-Michaelmas 1327, no. 2160.
7) CPR 1307-13, pp. 530, 533, 584, 598.
8) CIPM 1307-17, nos. 157, 473, 592; CFR 1307-19, pp. 72, 74, 199.
9) TNA, SC 8/34/1671, and see Joyce Coleman, 'New Evidence about Sir Geoffrey Luttrell's Raid on Sempringham Priory, 1312', British Library Journal, 25 (1999), pp. 103-28.
10) CPR 1307-13, p. 181.
11) Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, p. 275.
12) CPR 1307-13, p. 584.
13) CCR 1343-46, pp. 201, 321; CIM 1308-48, no. 1835; CIPM 1336-46, nos. 271, 381.
14) CPR 1399-1401, pp. 414-15, 519.

11 September, 2022

Book Giveaway: Sex and Sexuality in Medieval England

My new book Sex and Sexuality in Medieval England is out now! It's part of a series on sex and sexuality from Pen&Sword that includes Tudor England, Stuart Britain, and Victorian Britain.

I have TWO free copies to give away to readers! You can live anywhere in the world, as long as you have a postal address I can send the book to. Please contact me with your email address or some other means of getting in touch with you, so I can notify the winners. To enter the draw, do one of the following: leave a comment here on the blog; comment or message me on my Edward II Facebook page or comment on my Twitter page; email me at edwardofcaernarfon(at)yahoo(dot)com; or if we're friends on Facebook or follow each other on Twitter, you can message me there. Best of luck! Deadline is midnight BST on Sunday 25 September. And please remember, if you leave a comment on the blog, give me an email address or some other way of contacting you. If I can't contact you, I have no way of telling you that you've won!

04 September, 2022

The Abduction of John Chaucer, 1324

The poet Geoffrey Chaucer was born in London around 1342/44 as the son of John Chaucer and Agnes Copton, and the Chaucers were a family of vintners and taverners in London and Ipswich. In 1324 during Edward II's reign, Geoffrey's then underage father John was abducted by his aunt, who tried to force him to marry her daughter, John's own cousin; here's a post about it. We know quite a bit about this event thanks in large part to Chaucer scholars, who over the decades have done brilliant work digging out every last reference to Geoffrey and his family in medieval documents. The King's Bench record of John Chaucer's abduction is printed in English translation in Life-Records of Chaucer, Parts I to IV (1900), pp. ix-x, 141-4, with more information in Calendar of Close Rolls 1330-33, pp. 90-91, 93-4, Letter-Books of London, vol. E, pp. 218-19, 226, 237, 239-40, and The National Archives SC 8/169/8432. This is a petition from Geoffrey Stace, one of John Chaucer's abductors (and in fact his uncle by marriage), which is also printed in the second volume of Rotuli Parliamentorum, p. 14, in the original Anglo-Norman.

This post might get really confusing, especially as some of the people involved had the same names, so here's a list of the important people:

Geoffrey Chaucer, the poet, b. c. 1342/44.
John Chaucer, b. c. 1309/12, Geoffrey's father.
Mary Chaucer, died before 1349, John's mother, Geoffrey's grandmother.
Robert Chaucer aka Robert Malyn or Robert of Ipswich or Robert of Dynyngton, d. c. 1315, Mary's second husband, John's father, Geoffrey's grandfather.
Richard Chaucer, d. 1349, Mary's third husband, John's stepfather, Geoffrey's step-grandfather.
Thomas Heyron, d. 1349, Mary's son from her first marriage, John Chaucer's older half-brother, Geoffrey Chaucer's uncle, Richard Chaucer's other stepson.
Agnes Westhale, formerly Malyn, Robert Chaucer/Malyn's sister and John Chaucer's aunt, resident in Ipswich.
Joan Westhale, Agnes's daughter from her first marriage to Walter Westhale, cousin and putative wife of John Chaucer.
Geoffrey Stace, Agnes Westhale's second husband, Joan Westhale's stepfather, John Chaucer's uncle.
Thomas Stace, a relative of Geoffrey Stace, either his father, brother or a son from a previous marriage.
Sir Geoffrey Scrope, 1285-1340, chief justice of the King's Bench.

Geoffrey Chaucer's paternal grandparents were Robert Chaucer, a vintner or taverner who moved from Ipswich to London and died before 29 October 1315, and Mary, who as a widow married Richard Chaucer. [1] Richard Chaucer was either a relative of Robert Chaucer or perhaps merely someone who confusingly shared his name, and to make it even more confusing, last names were often still very fluid in this era, and Geoffrey's grandfather Robert Chaucer was also sometimes called Robert Malyn, Robert of Ipswich, or Robert of Dynyngton. Richard Chaucer was the third husband of Robert's widow Mary; she had been married to another man named John Heyron (d. early 1300s) before she wed Robert Chaucer, the poet's grandfather, and had a son called Thomas Heyron or Heroun or Hayron or Heyroun, older half-brother of Geoffrey's father John Chaucer. Thomas's will of 7 April 1349 mentions 'John le Chaucer, my brother', and his and John's stepfather Richard Chaucer made his own will just five days later on 12 April 1349, which was Easter Sunday. [2] It seems highly likely that both men were victims of the Black Death, then raging in London, and Thomas had died in the five days between making his own will and being mentioned in his stepfather's: Richard left money for prayers to be said for the souls of his late wife Mary and her late son 'Thomas Heyroun'. John Chaucer, his wife Agnes Copton and their son Geoffrey Chaucer all survived the plague, and imagine how much poorer English literature would be if the child Geoffrey had been, like his uncle and step-grandfather, one of the untold tens of thousands of Londoners who succumbed (see the last chapter of my book London: A Fourteenth-Century City and Its People for more information on some of the many victims).

The date of birth of John Chaucer, son and heir of Robert Chaucer aka Robert Malyn, is uncertain. The King's Bench record of John's abduction says that he had reached the age of twelve by December 1324 when it took place, and furthermore that 'he is underage, to wit, under fourteen years' in the Hilary term of the King's Bench in Edward II's nineteenth regnal year, i.e. January to March 1326. A letter from Edward III dated 16 December 1330 (see below), however, states that John Chaucer is 'now of full age', and 'of full age' when applied to a male usually meant twenty-one, which would indicate that John was born before 16 December 1309. On the other hand, John's aunt and uncle who abducted him gave as their justification the fact that in Ipswich, the custom was that an heir was deemed 'of full age' at the end of his twelfth year. At any rate, John was still a young child when his father died in or before October 1315 and in his thirties when his son Geoffrey the poet was born sometime in the early 1340s. His mother's first husband John Heyron was still alive in 1302, and Mary married Robert Chaucer/Malyn in or before January 1305. [3] John Chaucer was old enough to take part as a mounted man-at-arms with his half-brother Thomas Heyron in the disastrous Scottish campaign of the summer of 1327, when the young Edward III came close to being captured by Scottish forces, and was one of the men named as taking part in an attack and robbery on the abbot of Bury St Edmunds at the abbot's manor of Chevington, 30 miles from Ipswich, on 17 October 1328. [4] This might imply that John was in his late teens rather than about fifteen or sixteen in 1327/28, but who knows.

After his father Robert's death, John Chaucer was in the custody of his mother Mary and her third husband Richard Chaucer, not simply because she was his mother but in accordance with the medieval custom that, if possible, an underage heir should be given into the care of his nearest blood relative to whom his inheritance could not descend after his death. John had an aunt called Agnes, or Anneis(e) as contemporary records spell her name, the sister of Robert Chaucer/Malyn. Unlike her brother, who moved to London, Agnes remained in their native Ipswich ('Gippewiz' in fourteenth-century spelling), and married firstly Walter ('Wautier') Westhale or Westhall and secondly Geoffrey ('Geffrei') Stace. Agnes and Walter had a daughter called Joan ('Johane') Westhale, first cousin of John ('Johan') Chaucer. Basically, the abduction was to do with a tavern and property in and around Ipswich which was John Chaucer's inheritance, and his aunt's wish to keep it in the family.

Agnes argued that as her nephew John had reached (or passed) the age of twelve, was able to 'reckon and measure' and was therefore sui juris, i.e. was of legal capacity to act on his own behalf, he ought not to be in anyone's wardship. She and her associates - her second husband Geoffrey Stace, a man named Thomas Stace, and a servant called Lawrence Geffreyesman Stace - abducted John during the night of Monday 3 December 1324 ('the Monday next before St Nicholas, 18 Edward II'), from Mary and Richard Chaucer's home. This was located in the London ward of Cordwainer Street, probably on Watling Street. John Chaucer's abduction is described in contemporary records as a 'ravishment', ravis(s)ement in medieval French; the verb ravir meant to seize or take by force, and was used by Lord Berkeley in the summer of 1327 when the former king Edward II was temporarily removed from his custody by the Dunheved gang. Originally it was believed that Agnes and Geoffrey Stace had forcibly married John Chaucer to Agnes's daughter Joan Westhale, John's cousin, though later it was shown that they had not (qils avoient ravi le dit heire mes ne mie mariee). Thomas Stace must have been a relative of Geoffrey Stace, perhaps his father, brother or son, and I found several references to a Thomas Stace from Ipswich who appears on record between 1296 and 1317. Geoffrey Stace was named as the son of Thomas Stace in 1317, so possibly the Thomas Stace who aided the abduction of John Chaucer in 1324 was Geoffrey's father, though Geoffrey might have had a brother or son with the same name. [5]

At some point, John Chaucer was restored to his mother and stepfather, though I don't know when, or whether he was taken to Ipswich in December 1324 by his aunt and uncle, or what became of his cousin and putative wife Joan Westhale. As is so often the case, the records that we have raise more questions than they answer, and the whole intriguing situation remains rather murky. If John Chaucer had married his cousin Joan Westhale, he wouldn't have been able to marry Agnes Copton a few years later unless Joan died in the meantime, and Geoffrey Chaucer would never have been born.  I haven't been able to discover a single thing about Joan Westhale except for this case. Marriage between first cousins was most unusual in the fourteenth century, and would certainly have required a papal dispensation for consanguinity.

One thing we do know is that Mary and Richard Chaucer asked for damages of £300 and were awarded £250, a massive sum in an age when £5 was a normal yearly income. Geoffrey Stace sent a petition to the king in the late 1320s or 1330, complaining that the lands of John Chaucer's inheritance were only worth £1 per year and that therefore £250 was an ureasonably excessive amount. Incidentally, the Second Statute of Westminster in 1285 set the punishment for abducting a child (whether male or female) whose marriage belonged to someone else at two years' imprisonment, as long as the person restored the child still unmarried, or paid what the marriage was worth. Otherwise, the punishment was either life imprisonment or abjuration of the realm, i.e. permanent exile from England. [6] It was taken very seriously. John's stepfather and guardian Richard Chaucer, and John's older half-brother Thomas Heyron, apparently exacted revenge on Geoffrey Stace and Agnes after the abduction. They travelled from London to Ipswich, a distance of about 70 miles, and stole goods worth £40 from Agnes Westhale/Stace's house, or so the indignant Agnes claimed in 1325. [7] John Chaucer was around twelve or fifteen in 1324/25, and his Heyron half-brother, given that his father died sometime around 1303/04, must have been in his early twenties or older. There is much evidence that the two half-brothers were very close and often acted together.

On 16 December 1330, eighteen-year-old Edward III - who had recently taken control of his own kingdom from his mother Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer - sent a letter to Sir Geoffrey Scrope, one of the chief justices of the King's Bench and ancestor of the Scropes of Masham (Henry, Lord Scrope of Masham, executed by Henry V in 1415 after the Southampton Plot and mentioned by Shakespeare in his play about Henry, was Sir Geoffrey Scrope's great-grandson). The letter, stating that John Chaucer was now 'of full age', is printed in the Calendar of Close Rolls 1330-33, pp. 90-91, and was almost certainly a response to Geoffrey Stace's petition. Geoffrey Stace had been detained in the Marshalsea prison in London because of his 'trespass against the king's peace', as well as being held liable for the massive sum of £250, and Edward ordered his release. The Letter-Books of London (vol. E, pp. 218-19, 226, 237, 239-40) show that several inquisitions were held in the city in 1328, one of which was to determine whether Geoffrey Stace, his relative Thomas Stace and his servant Lawrence had committed perjury, and the whole thing dragged on for several years, as often happened in medieval court cases (and the delay in this one was worsened by the dramatic events of 1326/27 when Edward II was forced to abdicate in favour of his son). The 16th of December 1330 was six years and thirteen days after John Chaucer's abduction had taken place.

A few years after his abduction by his aunt and uncle, John Chaucer married Agnes Copton, and they became the parents of Geoffrey Chaucer. I wonder if it's a coincidence that Geoffrey bore the same name as his father's uncle Geoffrey Stace, or if the latter was his great-nephew's godfather and John Chaucer was doing his best to bury the hatchet. Geoffrey Stace was still alive in February 1344, and Geoffrey Chaucer had probably been born by then. [8]

Below, part of a petition sent by Geoffrey Stace, to which Edward III responded in December 1330, and in the second pic, part of the petition printed in Rotuli Parliamentorum.


1) Calendar of Close Rolls 1313-18, p. 318.
2) Calendar of Wills Proved and Enrolled in the Court of Husting, London, vol. 1, pp. 544, 590. Thomas Heyron's will of 1349 does not mention any children, so he appears to have been the last of the line.
3) Vincent B. Redstone and Lilian J. Redstone, 'The Heyrons of London: A Study in the Social Origins of Geoffrey Chaucer', Speculum, 12 (1937), p. 185.
4)  'The Heyrons of London', pp. 186-9; Calendar of Select Plea and Memoranda Rolls of the City of London, vol. 1, 1323-1364, p. 73 note 14. At this stage of his life, John was often identified as 'John Chaucer, brother of Thomas Heyron'.
5) CCR 1313-18, pp. 271, 289, 483; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1317-21, p. 689; Catalogue of Ancient Deeds, vol. 2, nos. A3586, A3638
6) Statutes of the Realm, vol. 1, pp. 88-9.
7) 'Heyrons of London', pp. 185-6.
8) CCR 1343-46, pp. 107, 347.