21 January, 2021

The Children of the Damory Brothers, Richard and Roger

Edward II's 'favourite' of c. 1315 to 1319 and nephew-in-law Sir Roger Damory, or d'Amory or Dammori or Daumary etc, of Buckinghamshire, was the younger brother of Sir Richard Damory (d. 21 August 1330). Richard Damory was, at various points, the steward of Edward II's household, the guardian of Edward's son the future Edward III ("keeper of the body of my lord Sir Edward, earl of Chester"), justice of North Wales, keeper of the peace in Oxfordshire, sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire, and constable of various royal castles. In July 1300, he was in the household of Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford, who married Edward I's daughter Elizabeth in 1302. [1] Richard, as the elder brother, was heir to the Damory family's lands in Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Somerset, which passed to his son Richard the younger (d. 1375) after his death. Richard Damory the younger was said to be sixteen in his father's inquisition post mortem of September/October 1330, and thirty-five in his mother's of December 1354. He proved his age, swore fealty to Edward III and was allowed to enter his lands on 16 January 1337, so had recently turned twenty-one and was probably born in late 1315 or thereabouts, though his proof of age itself is missing. [2] 

Richard Damory the elder, who was active as a knight, soldier and keeper of the peace before 1300 and was probably born c. the mid-1270s, married a woman called Margaret (d. 1354). As well as their first son and heir Richard, they had a younger son called John and a daughter called Joan, both alive in 1347. [3] John Damory seems to have had no children, though there is a reference in 1347 to the "heirs male of the body of Joan". Margaret Damory's identity is uncertain - as is the identity of the Damory brothers' mother, who appears to have been called Juliana - though I believe she was a relative of Sir Giles de Lisle or Insula (the Latin form of the name) of Oxfordshire, most probably his sister. On 9 June 1314, Giles de Lisle granted Richard and Margaret a moiety of two of his manors and pasture land and meadow in four others, to pass eventually to the "heirs begotten by Richard on the body of Margaret" with remainders to Richard's brother Roger Damory and Giles' daughter Christina de Lisle. Also on 9 June 1314, Richard Damory granted his manor of Thornborough in Buckinghamshire to Giles de Lisle and his wife Aline for their lives, and Giles still held it at the time of Richard's death in 1330. [4] The date of these grants, and the birth of Richard and Margaret's son Richard Damory the younger in c. late 1315, suggests that Richard and Margaret had recently married in June 1314.

Roger Damory was Edward II's influential 'favourite' between c. early 1315, as far as I can work out, and c. 1319, when he was gradually replaced in the king's affections by Edward's ruthless and manipulative new chamberlain, Hugh Despenser the Younger. At the height of his relationship with the king, Roger was rewarded with a brilliant marriage to the king's wealthy and twice-widowed niece Elizabeth de Burgh née de Clare around 30 April/3 May 1317. Edward II was hectoring Elizabeth to marry Roger as early as September 1316, before her second husband Theobald de Verdon had even been buried yet, though their wedding was delayed by Elizabeth's pregnancy: she gave birth to Theobald's posthumous daughter Isabella on 21 March 1317. Roger later rebelled against Edward and joined the Contrariant rebellion of 1321/22, and died at Tutbury Priory on c. 12/14 March 1322 (chroniclers give 13 or 14 March as the date of his death, though his widow kept his anniversary as 12 March, the feast of St Gregory). 

Sir Richard and Sir Roger Damory's father Sir Robert was still alive on 12 July 1285 but died not long after (according to the Complete Peerage), so even if Roger was posthumous, he can't have been born any later than the spring or summer of 1286, and most probably was born well before that. His brother Richard was old enough to be knighted by 1297 and to be appointed keeper of the peace in Oxfordshire in 1300, and Roger himself was knighted sometime before September 1306, the first time I can find him on record. [5] He wasn't one of the 265 men knighted with Edward of Caernarfon, prince of Wales, on 22 May 1306. If I'm correct that Sir Richard Damory married Margaret (de Lisle?) shortly before 9 June 1314, he must have been in his late thirties or thereabouts at the time of his wedding, and when Sir Roger married Elizabeth de Burgh in the spring of 1317, he must also have been well past thirty. She was twenty-one.

Roger Damory and Elizabeth de Burgh had one surviving child, Elizabeth Damory, later Lady Bardolf, the wife of John, Lord Bardolf of Wormegay in Norfolk (1312-63). There are several references in the chancery rolls and various inquisitions, beginning in August 1337, which refer to Elizabeth Bardolf née Damory as Roger Damory's daughter and heir, and English inheritance law of the fourteenth century makes it absolutely certain, therefore, that she was his only surviving legitimate child. If Roger had had a legitimate son or sons, the eldest son would have been his sole heir; if he had had other surviving legitimate daughters, she or they would have shared the few manors Roger had held in his own right with Elizabeth Bardolf.

In October 2018, genealogist Douglas Richardson made the exciting discovery that in 1329, Roger Damory had two surviving legitimate daughters and heirs: Margaret and Elizabeth. See his post in soc.genealogy.medieval, and here is an image of the original document that names the two Damory daughters. Margaret Damory is named before Elizabeth, and therefore was probably the elder. It would seem, therefore, that Margaret Damory was still alive in 1329 but died sometime between then and 1337, when Elizabeth Bardolf was first described as Roger Damory's sole heir. It might not be a coincidence that Elizabeth is called Roger's sole heir for the first time, as far as I can tell, in the charter rolls and the patent rolls on 8 and 13 August 1337. Perhaps Margaret had recently died. [6] Elizabeth Damory married John Bardolf before 25 December 1327, and their son William Bardolf was born in Wormegay, Norfolk on 21 October 1349. [7] They had daughters Agnes and Isabel as well, who are mentioned in their grandmother Elizabeth de Burgh's will of 1355 but appear to have died young or joined a convent. 

I've written before that Edward II rewarded Roger Damory's messenger John Pyrro with the large sum of £20 on 23 May 1318 for bringing him news of the birth of Roger and Elizabeth de Burgh's child, just over a year after their wedding. Unfortunately, the royal accounts fail to specify the child's name or even sex. I've previously assumed that this infant must have been Elizabeth Damory Bardolf, as she was later Roger's only surviving child, but it seems that I was wrong. There are two references to Elizabeth de Burgh employing wet-nurses at Usk Castle in 1322/23, one of them in her household accounts and the other in a letter sent by her brother-in-law Hugh Despenser the Younger in September or October 1322. With his usual hauteur, Hugh wrote "regarding the lady's wet-nurses, we have been requested that they be moved from Usk to Gower or elsewhere, and we have permitted this and wish it to be so." [8] 

Clearly, a child born in May 1318 wouldn't still require wet-nurses almost four and a half years later, and therefore, it seems that Roger Damory and Elizabeth de Burgh had another child born sometime in c. 1321/22. Perhaps this was Elizabeth Bardolf, and perhaps Margaret was the child born in May 1318. (Douglas Richardson's post linked above states that Elizabeth Bardolf must have been born by 1320 as she was married to John Bardolf by late 1327 and had to be at least seven years old then, but he is mistaken on this point. There are plenty of examples in the fourteenth century of children marrying before they were seven, such as four-year-old David Bruce of Scotland in July 1328, three-year-old Lionel of Antwerp in August 1342, the wedding of four-year-old Maud of Lancaster and five- or six-year-old Ralph Stafford in November 1344, and the wedding of six-year-old Thomas Despenser and the even younger Constance of York in November 1379.)

I've been unable to find any other references to Margaret Damory, and it's interesting that it was her younger sister Elizabeth who was married to John Bardolf in or before December 1327 and not Margaret, given that John was probably born in January 1312 and Margaret would have been closer to his age than Elizabeth was. Roger Damory and Elizabeth de Burgh's children, though not in any way great heiresses, were the half-siblings of William de Burgh, earl of Ulster (1312-33) and Isabella de Verdon, Lady Ferrers of Groby (1317-49), and were great-grandchildren of Edward I and first cousins once removed of King Edward III. They were, therefore, of high birth, so it's also interesting that Margaret Damory is so obscure.

On 14 April 1318, 6 December 1319 and sometime in 1321, there are references to three students at the King's Hall at the University of Cambridge, founded by Edward II in July 1317 to mark the tenth anniversary of his accession to the throne. The students' names were Nicholas, Richard and William Damory, and their name also appears in the university records as Nicholas, Richard and William Pour(e). This means 'poor', though it may not be a coincidence that Roger and Richard Damory's sister Katherine married Sir Walter Poure of Oxfordshire. [9] In addition, Sir Roger Damory's widow Elizabeth de Burgh bought books of civil law for Nicholas Damory in March 1326, so although he was no longer named on record as a student of the University of Cambridge after 1321, evidently he was still studying. [10] Nicholas Damory, who was knighted and died in 1381, was associated with Elizabeth for decades and was one of her most trusted - perhaps the most trusted - advisers, officials, attorneys and adherents. In Elizabeth's long will of 1355, Nicholas was named first among her fifteen executors, and in fact was the very first person named in the will. Nicholas had a very long and remarkably successful career that I hope to look at in more detail at some point.

The question is, who were Nicholas, Richard and William Damory/Pour(e), the Cambridge students? This Richard is most unlikely to have been the Sir Richard Damory of Oxfordshire born c. the 1270s; he was far too busy acting as the guardian of the future king of England in the late 1310s to be a student at Cambridge. Richard's son the younger Richard was only born c. 1315, so obviously it can't be him either. As well as his decades-long association with Roger Damory's widow Elizabeth de Burgh, Nicholas Damory was associated with Elizabeth Damory Bardolf: she and her husband John Bardolf granted him the Oxfordshire manor of Holton, which she had inherited from her father Roger, for life in 1340, and John appointed Nicholas as his attorney when he went overseas in 1363. [11] The Complete Peerage speculates that Nicholas was probably a first cousin of Richard Damory the younger (c. 1315-1375). [12] If this is the case, he was the son of either Roger Damory, or of another Damory brother whose existence has never been discovered. Might he have been an illegitimate son of Sir Roger Damory, and thus Elizabeth Damory Bardolf's half-brother? He can't have been Roger's legitimate son from a putative first marriage before he wed Elizabeth de Burgh in 1317, as otherwise Nicholas would have been his heir.

In addition to Sir Nicholas Damory, and the other two Damorys at the University of Cambridge in the late 1310s and early 1320s who appear to have been Nicholas's brothers, another Roger Damory appears on record in Elizabeth de Burgh's household accounts between 1331 and 1336, when he was underage. Elizabeth purchased cloth, shoes, candlesticks and other necessities for Roger and two other boys or young men living in her household. [13] This Roger was still underage or was about to come of age in 1336, so was born in or after 1315. He might also have been an illegitimate son of Sir Roger Damory (d. 1322) or perhaps of his older brother Sir Richard (d. 1330). As for Elizabeth Damory Bardolf, she was still alive when her mother Elizabeth de Burgh's inquisition post mortem was held in Lincolnshire on 10 December 1360 and in Dorset on 4 January 1361, but was dead when her husband John Bardolf's inquisition post mortem was held in November/December 1363; he held several manors in Lincolnshire by the 'courtesy of England' after her death. John died in Assisi, Italy on c. 29 July/3 August 1363, aged about fifty-one. [14] Their son and heir William Bardolf was left an orphan before he was fourteen, proved his age on 2 October 1371, married Agnes Poynings, had a son Thomas and daughters Cecily and Elizabeth and grandchildren from all of them, and died on 29 January 1386. [15]


1) Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, p. 111.
2) Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1327-36, no. 275 CIPM 1352-60, no. 170; CIPM 1374-77, no. 116; Calendar of Fine Rolls 1327-37, pp. 192, 203; Calendar of Close Rolls 1333-37, p. 640.
3) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1345-48, p. 329.
4) Feet of Fines, Oxfordshire, CP 25/1/189/14, nos. 129, 130; Feet of Fines, Buckinghamshire, CP 25/1/18/65, nos. 15, 16, 19; CIPM 1327-36, no. 275; CFR 1307-19, p. 317. Richard and Giles jointly witnessed a grant of land in Oxfordshire at an uncertain date: Catalogue of Ancient Deeds, vol. 4, no. A.6864.
5) Calendar of Documents Relating to Ireland 1302-07, nos. 566, 599.
6) Calendar of Charter Rolls 1327-41, p. 426, 8 August 1337: 'John Bardolf and Elizabeth his wife, daughter and heir of the said Roger [Damory] and Elizabeth [de Burgh]'; CPR 1334-38, pp. 490-91, 13 August 1337: 'John Bardolf and Elizabeth his wife, daughter and heir of the said Roger [Damory]'. Also CIPM 1352-1360, no. 637, pp. 507, 509: 'Elizabeth daughter of the said Roger and Elizabeth [de Burgh], wife of John Bardolf, knight, aged 30 years and more, is the said Roger's heir to the manor' (Caythorpe, Lincolnshire).
7) CPR 1327-30, p. 198; CIPM 1361-5, no. 573; CIPM 1370-3, no. 136.
8) Cartae et Alia Munimenta quae ad Dominium Glamorgancia Pertinent, vol. 3, p. 1103; Jennifer Ward, Elizabeth de Burgh, Lady of Clare (1295-1360) (2014), xvii note 14, citing TNA SC 6/927/31.
9) Admissions to Trinity College, Cambridge, ed. W.W.R. Ball and J.A. Venn, vol. 1, pp. 83-5.
10) Jennifer Ward, English Noblewomen in the Late Middle Ages, p. 140.
11) CPR 1338-40, p. 477; CPR 1361-4, p. 377.
12) Complete Peerage, vol. 4, p. 48 note c.
13) Ward, Lady of Clare, p. 129; Frances Underhill, For Her Good Estate: The Life of Elizabeth de Burgh, p. 100.
14) CIPM 1352-1360, no. 637, pp. 507, 509; CIPM 1361-5, no. 573.
15) CIPM 1370-3, no. 136; CIPM 1384-92, nos. 218-32, 949.

10 January, 2021

My Edward II Story

My blog celebrated its fifteenth anniversary on 3 December 2020, and has now had just under three million visitors. A new reader emailed me recently suggesting that I explain how I came to be so interested in, and devoted to, Edward II, so here's a post explaining how it came about.

As a teenager, I was blinking well obsessed with the Middle Ages, and made the decision to study medieval history and literature at Manchester University in the second half of the 1990s. Funnily enough, during my studies I always felt that Edward II was the medieval king of England I knew the least about. My so-called 'knowledge' of him and his reign was limited to: Piers Gaveston; execution of Thomas of Lancaster in 1322; deposition; red-hot poker (!!). After university I became an English teacher, and didn't do anything much with my medieval history degrees. For half a decade, my interest in the Middle Ages faded almost entirely, with the exception of watching and thoroughly enjoying the film A Knight's Tale in 2001 or 2002, and reading one or two of Margaret Frazer's Dame Frevisse novels.

In September 2004, I read a novel called Days Without Number by Robert Goddard. It's set in modern times, but the first-person narrator, Nick Paleologus, is a supposed descendant of the Paleologus emperors of Byzantium, and much of the plot revolves around Tintagel Castle in Cornwall and its builder, Richard of Cornwall (1209-72), younger son of King John and brother of Henry III. At university, I'd been interested in Richard, and Goddard's novel awakened that interest. I did lots of reading about him on the internet and ordered two biographies of him from Amazon, and for a few weeks was pretty obsessed with Richard and his life. I printed out lots of family trees from the internet and pored over them, and kept seeing Richard's great-nephew, Edward II. Huh, I thought, now there's someone I know virtually nothing about. Maybe I should read up on him, and fill the massive gap in my knowledge of medieval English kings.

The rest, as they say, is history. Pretty soon my interest in Richard of Cornwall receded into the background - though I'm certainly still keen enough that I'd buy a new biography of him if someone wrote one - and Edward II came to occupy more and more space in my head. Within weeks, I had the very strong feeling that I'd finally found the thing I was meant to be doing with my life: researching Edward and his life and reign. My obsession with Edward is the part that I find hard to explain. I suppose I just find it endlessly fascinating that someone born as the son of a king and the grandson of two more kings proved to be such a disaster as a leader; that a man born into a hereditary monarchy was so unsuited to his position, leading to tragedy both for himself and his subjects; plus Edward's sheer unconventionality, the endless contradictions of his character, and the incredible drama of his comparatively short reign.

One of the first books I bought in October or November 2004, when it became apparent to me that this was developing into way more than a fleeting interest, was Ian Mortimer's Greatest Traitor, and I also got a copy of Caroline Bingham's dated but gorgeously illustrated and sympathetic Life and Times of Edward II. Early in 2005, I bought a copy of James Conway Davies' Baronial Opposition to Edward II from a seller in New Zealand, got hold of Roy Martin Haines' scholarly bio of Edward published in 2003 and J.R.S. Phillips' brilliant Baronial Politics in the Reign of Edward II, and soon afterwards started delving into primary sources as well. You probably won't be surprised to hear that the first chronicle of Edward's reign which I read was the Vita Edwardi Secundi. At the beginning of December 2005, my partner suggested that I share my knowledge and interest by starting a blog, so I did, and here we are still, a decade and a half later.

I still have my copy of Robert Goddard's Days Without Number, and treasure it. Without it, I might not have discovered my love of Edward II and the fourteenth century, so I owe a great deal to that novel. Over sixteen years after I began reading about Edward's life and reign, my fascination with him has not faded one iota, and in fact grows stronger and stronger. I still learn new things about him, often from his wonderful chamber accounts which survive from 1324-26, and no matter how often I look at them, I still find fascinating snippets I hadn't noticed before!

29 December, 2020

Thomas of Lancaster's Date of Birth: 29 December 1277?

Thomas of Lancaster, earl of Lancaster and Leicester, was the grandson of Henry III of England, the nephew of Edward I, the great-nephew of Louis IX of France, the brother-in-law of Philip IV of France, and the younger half-brother of Joan I, queen-regnant of Navarre. Given his high birth and illustrious connections, it's perhaps odd that no chronicler recorded Thomas's birth, and as his uncle Edward I allowed him to come into his inheritance early, he didn't have to prove his age when he turned twenty-one and we therefore do not know his exact date of birth. In this post, I offer the evidence that we do have for the birthdate of one of the richest and most powerful Englishmen of the fourteenth century.

Thomas's father Edmund of Lancaster, second son of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence, and the only brother of Edward I, was born in January 1245. Edmund's first wife, the great heiress Aveline de Forz, died on 10 November 1274 at the age of only fifteen, and sometime in late 1275 or early 1276, Edmund married Blanche of Artois, whose father Robert (d. 1250) was the brother closest in age to Louis IX of France, and who was the widow of Enrique I, king of Navarre (d. July 1274). Here is the evidence for the birth and age of Thomas of Lancaster, their eldest son:

- The townspeople of Leicester, one of Earl Edmund's towns, gave a gift of five marks (800d) to the "messenger of the Lady Queen of Navarre after her delivery" of Thomas. This gift can only be dated to sometime during Edward I's sixth regnal year, i.e. between 20 November 1277 and 19 November 1278. [Records of the Borough of Leicester, ed. Mary Bateson, vol. 1, p. 178]

-  On 9 September 1298, Thomas's uncle Edward I allowed Thomas to have possession of the vast lands that had belonged to his late father Edmund (d. June 1296), and stated "the king has taken the homage of Thomas, whom he considers as of full age". [Calendar of Close Rolls 1296-1302, p. 174] This proves that Thomas was not yet twenty-one years old on 9 September 1298, and hence was born after 9 September 1277. Edward had ordered on 9 July 1297 that the tenants of his late brother Edmund were to do homage to Thomas, "notwithstanding that Thomas de Lancastre, son and heir of the said Edmund, is a minor in the king's custody." [Calendar of Patent Rolls 1292-1301, p. 291] 

- The inquisition post mortem of Thomas's father-in-law Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln, taken between 22 February and 1 March 1311, states that Thomas was then "thirty-two and more" or thirty-three years old. [Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1307-27, no. 279] This implies a date of birth around late 1277 or early 1278. Unfortunately, the inquisition post mortem of Edmund, earl of Lancaster, does not mention the age of his eldest son and heir.

'Thomas' was a highly unusual, even unprecedented, name in the English and French royal families of the thirteenth century, and I wonder if Edmund and Blanche chose their first son's name in honour of St Thomas Becket, murdered in his own cathedral on 29 December 1170, and much revered by the English royal family of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries (Edward II visited Becket's shrine sixteen times in the nineteen and a half years of his reign). I also wonder, therefore, if Thomas of Lancaster was born on or around Becket's feast day, and if we might tentatively place his date of birth on or around 29 December 1277. If so, he was six years and four months older than his cousin and enemy Edward II, four years older than his wife Alice de Lacy, who was probably born on or around Christmas Day 1281, and forty-four years old when he was executed on 22 March 1322. Thomas's brother and heir Henry is usually assumed to have been born in 1280 or 1281, and their obscure youngest brother John of Lancaster was born before May 1286 when the three brothers are mentioned together on record for the first time. [CPR 1281-92, p. 243]

27 December, 2020

The Fourteenth-Century Staffords

The Staffords were a fairly minor noble family of the Midlands who rose to great prominence after Sir Ralph Stafford abducted the great heiress Margaret Audley in early 1336.  

Ralph was the son and heir of Edmund Stafford (b. 1273), and was born in 'Amynton', i.e. Amington, near Tamworth in Staffordshire, on 24 September 1301. The writ to hold his proof of age was issued on 10 May 1322, though it didn't take place until 6 April 1323, and the record of it is defaced and not terribly informative. Ralph, now twenty-two, was granted his lands on 6 December 1323, Edward II having taken his homage. [1] Ralph's mother was Margaret Basset, sister of Ralph, Lord Basset of Drayton (d. 1343), and presumably Ralph Stafford was named after his maternal uncle. A few decades later, the Staffords would become the heirs of the Bassets of Drayton because of this marriage; see below.

Edmund Stafford died before 12 July 1308 when his eldest son was not yet seven years old. On that date, there's a reference on the Fine Roll to "Margaret, late the wife of Edmund, baron of Stafford", and Edward II granted the rights to her second marriage to her brother Ralph Basset of Drayton for 100 marks (£66). [2] By 26 August 1308, Margaret Stafford née Basset had married her second husband Thomas Pype without permission from the king or her brother, and Edward II confiscated their lands. [3] Thomas Pype, Margaret, her sons Ralph Stafford and his younger brother Richard, and several others named Pype and Stafford were "indicted for unlawful assemblies, alliances and confederations" before April 1326. [4] Margaret died on 17 March 1337. Her dower lands from her marriage to the long-dead Edmund Stafford passed to her eldest son Ralph, said in April 1337, incorrectly, to be either "40 years on 17 March last" or "30 years and more at the feast of St Denis last" (the feast of St Denis is 9 October). [5]

Ralph Stafford married Katherine Hastang or Hastings before 9 February 1327. [6] I'm afraid I know nothing at all about her. They had two daughters, Joan and Margaret Stafford, both of whom had children with their respective husbands Nicholas Beke and John Stafford of Bramshill. Katherine Stafford née Hastang died sometime before early 1336 when Ralph Stafford abducted the great heiress Margaret Audley from her home in Thaxted, Essex, and married her. In May 1332, Ralph had been in the retinue of his future parents-in-law Hugh Audley, later earl of Gloucester, and his wife Margaret de Clare, when they accompanied Edward III's teenage sister Eleanor of Woodstock, Margaret de Clare's much younger first cousin, to her wedding in Nijmegen. [7]

Ralph and Margaret Audley's first son, Ralph Stafford junior, was born sometime before 16 March 1339, probably not too long before. [8] Their younger son and ultimate heir, Hugh Stafford, must have been named in honour of his paternal grandfather Hugh Audley, earl of Gloucester, and was born between about 1342 and 1346; he was somewhere between twenty-six and thirty years old in the autumn of 1372. [9] They also had four daughters, of whom three married and had children: Elizabeth married Fulk Lestrange of Blackmere, John, Lord Ferrers of Chartley, and Sir Reynold Cobham; Joan married John, Lord Charlton of Powys; and Beatrice married Maurice FitzGerald, earl of Desmond, and Thomas, Lord Ros. Ralph Stafford also fathered an illegitimate son named Thomas Stafford during his marriage to Margaret Audley. In 1364, Thomas's legitimate half-brother Hugh Stafford petitioned the pope on Thomas's behalf; he was joining the Church, and was granted a dispensation to be ordained and hold a benefice. Hugh called him 'his brother Thomas de Stafford, illegitimate son of a married man'. [10] Margaret Audley died in 1349, aged about twenty-seven; her widower and abductor outlived her by nearly a quarter of a century.

Little Ralph Stafford, born before 16 March 1339, was married on 30 November 1344 to Maud of Lancaster, born on 4 April 1340 as the elder daughter of Henry of Grosmont, earl of Derby, and the granddaughter of Henry of Lancaster, earl of Lancaster and Leicester. [11] Maud was four years old at the time of her wedding and Ralph was about five or six. In 1344, Henry of Grosmont and his wife Isabella Beaumont had two daughters, Maud and Blanche, aged four and two, and Henry surely anticipated having a son who would be his heir. A couple of years later, he arranged a marriage for his younger daughter Blanche with John Segrave, heir to his father Lord Segrave and his mother Margaret of Norfolk. In later years when he realised that his daughters would be the Lancastrian heirs, Henry arranged greater marriages for them: Maud married secondly Wilhelm, duke of Bavaria, son of the Holy Roman Emperor Ludwig of Bavaria, and Blanche married Edward III's son John of Gaunt. Young Ralph Stafford was dead by November 1347 when the inquisition post mortem of his maternal grandfather Hugh Audley was held (and as it happened, young John Segrave, who would have married young Ralph's sister-in-law Blanche of Lancaster, also died as a child, in or before 1353). [12] If little Ralph had lived, and assuming that he and Maud of Lancaster had children together, the Stafford family would have come into half of the vast Lancastrian inheritance on Henry of Grosmont's death in 1361. 

Ralph Stafford was made the first earl of Stafford in 1351, and died on 31 August 1372 at the age of almost seventy-one. His heir was his only surviving legitimate son Hugh Stafford, aged somewhere between twenty-six and thirty when Ralph's inquisition post mortem was held. Hugh, second earl of Stafford, married Philippa Beauchamp, daughter of Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (d. 1369) and granddaughter of Roger Mortimer, first earl of March (d. 1330) around 1 March 1351 when he was somewhere between five and nine years old. [13] I assume Philippa was around the same age; she was one of sixteen children, and her brother Thomas Beauchamp, their parents' second son and heir, was born about 1338/39. Hugh and Philippa had five sons and three daughters. Their daughter Joan (d. 1442) married Richard II's half-nephew Thomas Holland, earl of Kent and duke of Surrey (d. 1400); their daughter Margaret (d. 1396) married Ralph Neville, later earl of Westmorland (d. 1425); and their daughter Katherine (d. 1419) married Michael de la Pole, earl of Suffolk (d. 1415). 

Hugh and Philippa's eldest son was named Ralph after his paternal grandfather, and was murdered by Richard II's half-brother Sir John Holland in the summer of 1385 when he was in his late teens or thereabouts. The shock of their eldest son's murder perhaps hastened Earl Hugh's death: he died on the island of Rhodes sometime between late September and mid-October 1386 (his wife Philippa had died sometime before April 1385). On the other hand, Hugh made his will on 6 April 1385, which suggests that he had been ill for some time, and in it he raised the possibility of his dying outside England, so had perhaps already planned a pilgrimage even before Ralph's murder. He added a codicil to the will on 25 September 1385, on Rhodes. [14] His daughters Margaret and Katherine were already married in 1385, and he called them Margaret de Nevill and Katherine de la Pole. Joan Stafford was not yet married and must have been his youngest daughter - she outlived all her siblings by decades and did not die until 1442 - and Hugh added his wish that she "be well and fitly married". He also left bequests to his four younger sons, Thomas, William, Edmund and Hugh; when the earl made his will, his eldest son Ralph was still alive and was his heir to the large Stafford inheritance, so was not left any money or goods by his father.

The Stafford heir in 1386/87 was Hugh and Philippa's second son Thomas, born around 25 March 1369; he was "18 years on the feast of the Annunciation, 10 Richard II". Thomas Stafford was also heir in 1390 to Sir Ralph Basset of Drayton: "Thomas earl of Stafford, aged 21 years and more, son of Hugh son of Ralph likewise earl son of Margaret sister of Ralph father of Ralph his father is his next heir". [15] Thomas married Edward III's granddaughter Anne of Gloucester in c. 1390. Born a little before 6 May 1383, she was a young child at the time, and was the eldest daughter of Edward III's youngest son Thomas of Woodstock, made duke of Gloucester in 1385, and the great heiress Eleanor de Bohun, countess of Essex. Anne had an older brother Humphrey and younger sisters Joan and Isabel, but Humphrey and Joan died as teenagers and Isabel became a nun at the house of the Minoresses in London, and Anne became her parents' sole heir and carried her half of the de Bohun inheritance to the Staffords.

Thomas Stafford died on 4 July 1392, at the age of twenty-three; he of course left no legitimate children, as Anne of Gloucester was still far too young for the marriage to have been consummated. His heir was his next eldest brother, Hugh Stafford and Philippa Beauchamp's third son William Stafford, born on 22 September 1377. William himself died on 6 April 1395, aged seventeen, leaving the fourth brother, Edmund, as the Stafford heir. Edmund was said to be seventeen in November 1395, so was apparently not much younger than William. He was granted his full inheritance on 23 March 1399 even though "Edmund is found not of full age". [16] Not long before 28 June 1398, Edmund Stafford married his former sister-in-law Anne of Gloucester without royal licence, and their son and heir Humphrey, presumably named in honour of his maternal uncle Humphrey of Gloucester (1382-99) and Anne's maternal grandfather Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford, Essex and Northampton (1342-73), was born on 15 August 1402. [17] Less than a year later Edmund was killed at the battle of Shrewsbury, fighting for Henry IV against the Percys. Humphrey Stafford, heir of the Staffords and to his mother Anne's share of the de Bohun lands, became the first duke of Buckingham, and was the grandfather of Henry Stafford, executed by Richard III in 1483, and the great-grandfather of Edward Stafford, executed by Henry VIII in 1521. The fifth and youngest son of Hugh Stafford and Philippa Beauchamp was Hugh, who died childless on 25 October 1420; his nephew Humphrey was his heir, the five Stafford brothers having fathered only son beween them. [18] Edmund Stafford and Anne of Gloucester (d. 1438) were also the parents of Anne Stafford (d. 1432), countess of March and Ulster by her first marriage and countess of Huntingdon by her second.


1) Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1317-27, no. 354; Calendar of Close Rolls 1323-27, pp. 60-61, 291.

2) Calendar of Fine Rolls 1307-19, p. 26; CIPM 1307-17, no. 131.

3) CCR 1307-13, p. 76.

4) CCR 1323-27, p. 467.

5) CIPM 1336-46, no. 126.

6) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1327-30, p. 7.

7) CPR 1330-34, p. 276.

8) CPR 1338-40, p. 213.

9) CIPM 1370-73, no. 210.

10) Petitions to the Pope 1342-1419, p. 491.

11) Knighton's Chronicle, ed. G. H. Martin, vol. 2, p. 30; The National Archives DL 27/36.

12) CIPM 1347-52, no. 56.

13) CPR 1350-54, p. 50.

14) Testamenta Vetusta, vol. 1, pp. 118-20.

15) CIPM 1384-92, nos. 432-54, 963-75.

16) CIPM 1392-99, nos. 196-239, 556-7; CPR 1396-99, p. 456; CCR 1396-99, p. 467.

17) CPR 1396-99, pp. 376, 384; TNA SC 8/221/11020; CIPM 1422-27, no. 369.

18) CIPM 1422-27, nos. 98-101.

06 December, 2020

Fourteenth-Century Festive Traditions: Boy Bishops and Kings of the Bean

 Today is the feast day of St Nicholas, and here's a post I wrote for historian and author Michèle Schindler's Facebook page about the medieval tradition of boy bishops, which took place between 6 and 28 December every year, and about the tradition of the 'King of the Bean'.

In the fourteenth century (and before and after), there was a widespread custom to elect a boy from a cathedral or church choir to act as a ‘boy bishop’. He was chosen on 6 December, the feast day of the patron saint of children, St Nicholas, and remained in the role until 28 December, the feast of the Holy Innocents, which commemorated Herod’s massacre of all male children under two years old in the vicinity of Bethlehem. The boy bishop was not allowed to celebrate the Eucharist, but blessed people, gave at least one sermon, led processions, handed out alms to the poor, and wore an episcopal mitre. The real bishop symbolically stepped down on 6 December and allowed the young chorister to take his place.

Edward II enthusiastically supported the tradition of boy bishops. Edward was staying at his favourite residence of Langley (later Kings Langley), Hertfordshire, on 6 December 1314, and gave two pounds to Robert Tyeis, son of Geoffrey Tyeis of Edwinstowe, who officiated as boy bishop in his chapel on that day. On 6 December 1316, the king was in the Nottinghamshire village of Scrooby, and gave six shillings and eight pence to John, son of Alan of Scrooby, who was elected as boy bishop in his chapel. On 28 December 1316, Edward was in Nottingham, and gave ten shillings to the unnamed child who officiated on the last day of the boy bishop’s ‘reign’ in his presence at St Mary’s Church. Edward II's two young half-brothers, Thomas of Brotherton (b. June 1300) and Edmund of Woodstock (b. August 1301), witnessed the election of a boy bishop in the chapel of Windsor Castle on 6 December 1303, as toddlers. The unnamed ‘boy performing the office of bishop’ (puero … ministranti officium episcopi), accompanied by the constable of the castle, subsequently walked to the royal boys’ chamber, ‘with his companions, singing a canticle’. Thomas and Edmund gave him five shillings in alms to be distributed outside the castle. Two years later, Thomas and Edmund were again at Windsor Castle on 6 December, when William de Clere was elected boy bishop in their presence, and again they gave him five shillings in alms.

The medieval tradition of boy bishops should be viewed in a wider context of festive role reversal and indulging in mildly transgressive behaviour which dated back to Roman times, and another fourteenth-century custom in the same context was that of the King of the Bean. On the ‘day of the Circumcision of Our Lord’, 1 January 1317, Edward II was staying at the royal hunting-lodge of Clipstone in Nottinghamshire. Sir William de la Beche, a knight of the royal household, was the person lucky enough to find the bean that the cooks had added to the food, and therefore became Rex Fabae, King of the Bean, with the right to preside over the festivities. The length of his ‘reign’ is not clarified, but probably lasted until Twelfth Night. William also received a generous gift from Edward II: a ‘silver-gilt basin, with ewer to match’, which cost the king £7 and 13 shillings, or more than most English people alive at the time earned in a year. A year later on 1 January 1318, the royal squire Thomas de Weston found the bean and became Rex Fabae, and also received a costly silver-gilt basin with stand and cover, and a matching pitcher, from Edward II. In later centuries, the King of the Bean would be known as the Lord of Misrule.

29 November, 2020

The Despenser Family of Lincolnshire

To celebrate the publication this week of my book Rise and Fall of a Medieval Family: The Despensers, which tells the dramatic story of the Despenser family from 1261 to 1439, here's a post about a little-known cadet branch of the Despensers in Lincolnshire, about the secret marriage of the heir to this branch of the family, Margery Despenser, to the squire Roger Wentworth, and about the marriage of another Despenser lady to the son of the man who commissioned the Luttrell Psalter.

Hugh Despenser the Elder (b. 1 March 1261) and Isabella Beauchamp (b. c. 1263/65), eldest daughter of the earl of Warwick, had four daughters, Alina, Isabella, Margaret and Elizabeth, and two sons. Their elder son was, of course, the notorious Hugh Despenser the Younger, who was born sometime in the late 1280s, and their younger son was Philip Despenser. Philip was, presumably, named in honour of his father's maternal grandfather Philip, Lord Basset (d. 1271), and was born sometime before 24 June 1294 when Hugh the Elder gave his manors of Alkborough ('Hauctebarg') in northern Lincolnshire and Parlington in Yorkshire, and everything in them, to his second son. Philip was then probably no more than about two years old and perhaps had recently been born, and these two manors belonged to his descendants for generations. [1]

Before 29 June 1308, Philip Despenser married Margaret Goushill of Lincolnshire, who inherited a few manors in that county from her father Ralph (born c. 6 November 1274). [2Margaret's family took their name from the Lincolnshire village of Goxhill, and it was sometimes spelt Gousell, Goushull, Gousle etc. As Philip had been given a manor in Lincolnshire by his father, his marriage to a Lincolnshire heiress made good sense, though there was a stark difference between Philip's marriage and that of his older brother Hugh, their wealthy and influential father's heir, to Edward I's eldest granddaughter. Margaret Goushill was born on 11 or 12 May 1294, and her nineteen-year-old father, whose only child and heir she was, died in August 1294 when she was just three months old. [3] Her mother was Hawise, daughter of Fulk FitzWarin (1251-1315) of Whittington, Shropshire; Hawise outlived her husband Ralph Goushill by half a century, and lived long enough to see at least one and perhaps two of her Despenser great-grandchildren. 

Edward I granted Margaret Goushill's marriage rights to Fulk FitzWarin, her maternal grandfather, in June 1299, and a royal order to hold Margaret's proof of age states that she was born in Whittington, which was Fulk's chief manor. This order was issued on 18 May 1308, shortly after Margaret turned fourteen on 11 or 12 May 1308, but sadly the proof of age itself no longer exists. [4] As she was said to be "of full age" on 18 May 1308, and women came of age at fourteen if married or sixteen or not, Margaret had evidently already married Philip Despenser, and her FitzWarin grandfather, who held the rights to her marriage, must have consented to the match and must have dealt with Hugh Despenser the Elder when arranging it. Edward II ordered the Goushill family's manors in Lincolnshire to be given to the young Despenser/Goushill couple on 29 June 1308 (see note 2 at the foot of this post).

When he married fourteen-year-old Margaret Goushill in c. May 1308, Philip Despenser was himself about fourteen, fifteen or sixteen. I do wish we had more evidence of things like weddings in the early fourteenth century, and where and when exactly the Despenser/Goushill wedding took place. Did Philip's brother Hugh and sister-in-law Eleanor née de Clare attend? And his sisters - Alina, and her husband Edward Burnell; Isabella, who married her second husband Lord Hastings in 1308 or 1309 after she was widowed from Gilbert de Clare of Thomond in November 1307; and the youngest Despenser siblings Margaret and Elizabeth? It's so frustrating when we don't know anything. Almost nothing is known about Philip Despenser as a person either, as he died long before his elder brother's period of power in the 1320s. He was dead by 24 September 1313, aged about nineteen or twenty, when the writ to hold his inquisition post mortem was issued. Philip left an infant son: Philip Despenser II was born on 6 April 1313. [5] Like his wife's father Ralph Goushill in 1294, Philip Despenser I died when his only child was mere months old.

Philip Despenser I's grandfather-in-law Fulk FitzWarin outlived him and didn't die until November 1315, a great-grandfather to the infant Philip Despenser II. The widowed Margaret Despenser née Goushill married her second husband Sir John Ros, a younger son of William, Lord Ros of Helmsley in Yorkshire (d. 1316), before 22 April 1314. [6] They had no children, and John's heir when he died in or shortly before November 1338 was his older brother William, Lord Ros, "aged fifty years and more". [7] John Ros is most famous for being beaten up by Hugh Despenser the Younger, his wife's brother-in-law, at the Lincoln parliament of early 1316. 

Philip Despenser II was thirteen years old when his grandfather Hugh the Elder and uncle Hugh the Younger fell from power in 1326 and were executed. I assume he knew them, but unfortunately we don't have the kind of evidence that would tell us what kind of relationship he had with them and whether he spent much time with his grandfather, who had been made earl of Winchester in 1322. Obviously he was far too young to have played any role in his uncle's despotic regime, and I find it interesting to speculate whether his father Philip Despenser I would have been involved in his elder brother's tyranny, extortions and piracy if he hadn't died so young. 

Philip II married Joan Cobham, daughter of Sir John Cobham, around June 1339. [8] Joan and Philip's first child, Philip Despenser III, was born in Gedney, Lincolnshire on 18 October 1342 ("St Luke's day, 16 Edward III"), and was baptised "at the hour of Vespers". When Philip III proved his age twenty-one years later, four jurors remembered his date of birth because in early August 1342, "there was a great inundation of the sea, which broke the banks of the sea-wall at Gedenay [Gedney]". Philip II, now twenty-nine years old, was at the abbey of Newsham on the day of his son's birth, and received a letter informing him from one William Hode. [9]

In or before June 1344, Margaret Ros née Goushill founded a chantry to celebrate divine service for herself, her mother Hawise, her son Philip Despenser II and her daughter-in-law Joan Cobham when dead, and for the souls of her long-dead father Ralph Goushill and her two late husbands, "Philip son of Hugh le Despenser [the Elder] and John son of William de Roos of Hamelak [Helmsley]". [10] Hawise Goushill née FitzWarin died later that year, and perhaps lived just long enough to see the birth of her namesake great-granddaughter Hawise, second child of Philip Despenser II and Joan Cobham. Hawise Despenser was said to be fourteen years old in mid-February 1359, so was born between February 1344 and February 1345. The third and youngest child of Philip II and Joan was Hugh Despenser, said to be twelve years old in mid-February 1359, so born in or before February 1347. [11] This Hugh may be the "Hugh le Spenser, donsel, of the diocese of Lincoln" who appears on record in April 1357, but otherwise he's obscure and might have died before he reached adulthood. [12]

Philip Despenser II fought in Edward III's Crécy campaign of 1346 with his first cousins Hugh, Gilbert and John Despenser, the three living sons of Hugh Despenser the Younger (Hugh's second son Edward was killed fighting in Brittany in 1342). [13] Philip died on 22 or 23 August 1349 at the age of thirty-six, a few weeks after his mother Margaret Ros née Goushill died on 22 or 29 July 1349 in her mid-fifties. Philip's cousin Hugh 'Huchon' Despenser (b. 1308/09), lord of Glamorgan, also died that year, aged forty, and it may be that all of them were victims of the Black Death. In 1349, the demesne lands of Philip II's manor of Parlington in Yorkshire, which he had inherited from his father and grandfather Hugh the Elder, were "uncultivated for want of tenants and on account of the mortality of men in those parts this year". [14] Joan Despenser née Cobham, widow of Philip II and mother of Philip III, Hawise and Hugh, died before 15 May 1357, and guardians were found for her two younger children in February 1359 (which usefully reveals their ages). [15] Queen Philippa sold Joan the marriage rights of her own seven-year-old son Philip Despenser III in July 1350, and sometime before c. 1364 Philip married a woman named Elizabeth, though sadly her identity and family background are unknown. [16]

Hawise Despenser, only daughter of Philip II and Joan Cobham, and the younger sister of Philip III, married Sir Andrew Luttrell, a Lincolnshire landowner like the Despensers, in September 1363, aged eighteen or nineteen; born in c. 1313, Andrew was about fifty and was the same age as Hawise's father. The wedding took place in a chapel inside Bourne Castle, Lincolnshire, which belonged to the Despensers' cousin Blanche of Lancaster, Lady Wake. [17] Andrew was the son and heir of Sir Geoffrey Luttrell (d. 1345), who commissioned the famous and gorgeous Luttrell Psalter, and Andrew's first wife Beatrice Scrope, with whom he had no children, appears in the Psalter with her father-in-law Geoffrey and mother-in-law Agnes Sutton. Hawise Despenser and Andrew had a son, Andrew Luttrell the younger, probably born in 1364 the year after their wedding. Andrew the elder died in 1390 at the grand old age of about seventy-seven, having appointed "my brother Philip Despenser [III]" as the supervisor of his will. Hawise Despenser, one of the three executors of her husband's will, died in 1414 aged about seventy. She had outlived her son Andrew the younger and her heir was her grandson Geoffrey Luttrell, born on 27 October 1383. [18]

Philip Despenser III, not yet seven years old when his father died in August 1349, proved his age in Spalding, Lincolnshire on 16 November 1363, a few weeks after he presumably attended his sister's wedding to Andrew Luttrell, and received his lands on 1 December. [19] His eldest son and heir Philip Despenser IV was born c. 1365 (he was aged about thirty-six in 1401). Philip III and his wife Elizabeth also had two younger sons, John and Robert Despenser - wonders will never cease! Despenser men who weren't called Hugh or Philip! - and a daughter whom they named Joan after Philip III's mother Joan Cobham, who married Sir James Ros. Philip IV had been knighted by 12 May 1385 when he and Philip III appear as "Philip le Despenser the elder and Philip le Despenser his son, knights". Philip III was also called "Philip le Despenser the elder" in August 1384. [20In April 1383, there are various entries on the Close Roll which show that Philip Despenser III was closely associated with Aline, daughter of the earl of Arundel executed in 1326 and widow of Sir Roger Lestrange of Knockyn (c. 1326-82), regarding the marriage of Aline's daughter Lucy Lestrange and William, eldest son of Robert, Lord Willoughby of Eresby. [21]

Philip Despenser IV married a woman with the same first name as his mother, Elizabeth, though in this case her identity is well-known: she was Elizabeth Tibetot, youngest of the three daughters and co-heirs of Sir Robert Tibetot (d. 1372). Her older sisters Margaret and Millicent married Roger Scrope and Stephen Scrope, and they all received their share of their late father's extensive lands in twelve counties and London in November 1385, having proved their ages. Elizabeth Tibetot, later Despenser, was about two years old when her father's inquisition post mortem was held in May 1372, therefore was born c. 1370; her sister Millicent was born c. 12 April 1368, and Margaret in c. 1366. [22] 

Philip Despenser IV and Elizabeth Tibetot had daughters Margery and Elizabeth, a son inevitably called Philip and apparently a younger son called George, but only Margery survived into adulthood, and was thus the heir of this branch of the Despensers. She was born around 1398 or 1400. [23Her grandfather Philip Despenser III died on 4 August 1401 in his late fifties, and his eldest son and heir, Margery's father Philip IV, was about thirty-six. Philip III mentioned his wife Elizabeth in his will, his three sons Philip, Robert and John, his son-in-law James Ros, and his sister Hawise, Lady Luttrell, who outlived him by thirteen years. [24

Margery Despenser married John, Lord Ros of Helmsley, who was the son and heir of William, Lord Ros (b. c. 1370, d. 1 September 1414), the grandson of the earl of Arundel who died in 1376, and the great-grandson of the first earl of Stafford (d. 1372). John Ros was born c. 1 or 2 October 1396, so was close to Margery's own age. Their marriage was planned as early as 1404 when they were both children, and they received a papal dispensation for consanguinity in September that year (they were "related in the fourth degree of kindred"). [25] John, Lord Ros was killed at the battle of Baugé in France, with Henry V's brother the duke of Clarence, on 22 March 1421. John and Margery had no children, and John's heir was his brother Thomas Ros, who was almost exactly a decade his junior, born at Belvoir Castle on 26 September 1406 and baptised in the church of St Mary, "adorned with cloths of silk and gold, and the font hung with a cloth of gold decorated in red." [26]

Margery Ros née Despenser was pardoned on 25 June 1423, in exchange for an obligation to pay £1,000, for marrying her second husband without royla licence. He was a squire named Roger Wentworth from Yorkshire. [27] As Margery was an heiress of noble birth and Roger was not a knight nor his father's eldest son, it must have been a love-match. Many years later in May 1436, Pope Eugene IV declared that the marriage of "Roger Wentworth, donsel, lord of Parlington in the diocese of York, and Margery, lady of Ros, his wife" was valid and their children legitimate. He stated that the couple had "contracted marriage lawfully per verba de presenti, consummated it and had offspring, but could not have the marriage solemnized before the church after the custom of the country because, being unequal in nobility, they feared that scandals might arise among their kinsmen and friends... they are moved by a scruple of conscience to doubt whether anyone may hesitate as to the validity of the marriage thus contracted." [28] (Parlington, incidentally, was one of the two manors given by Hugh Despenser the Elder to his infant son Philip I, Margery's great-great-grandfather, in 1294.)

Margery and Roger Wentworth's first son, named Philip after his Despenser grandfather, was born c. 1424. Philip Despenser IV died on 20 June 1424, in his late fifties. His wife Elizabeth Tibetot was already dead, and their only surviving child Margery, aged twenty-four or twenty-six, and Roger Wentworth received all their lands. [29] Margery and Roger's elder son Philip Wentworth was beheaded after the battle of Hexham in 1464, where he had fought alongside Thomas, Lord Ros (b. 1427), nephew of his mother's first husband. Philip's son Henry Wentworth, heir to the Lincolnshire Despensers, was born c. 1448, and had a daughter he named Margery after his grandmother, who was born c. 1478. Margery Wentworth, aged about sixteen, married Sir John Seymour of Wolf Hall in 1494; via this marriage, Margery Wentworth née Despenser (b. c. 1398/1400) was the great-great-grandmother of Henry VIII's third queen Jane Seymour. Margery might have lived long enough to see the birth of her namesake great-granddaughter in c. 1478, as she died that year, aged eighty or almost, the last of the Despensers (unless her uncles John and Robert Despenser had descendants). Her younger son and three daughters all had children too.


1) The National Archives E 40/3185.

2) Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1436, p. 275.

3) Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1272-91, no. 607; CIPM 1291-1300, no. 209.

4) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1292-1301, p. 422; CIPM 1336-46, no. 692.

5) CIPM 1307-17, no. 472; Calendar of Fine Rolls 1307-19, p. 179.

6) Calendar of Close Rolls 1313-18, p. 50, "John de Ros and Margaret, late the wife of Philip le Despenser, whom John has now married".

7) CIPM 1336-46, no. 182.

8) CCR 1339-41, p. 223.

9) CIPM 1361-5, no. 544.

10) CPR 1343-5, p. 188.

11) Early Lincoln Wills, ed. Gibbons, p. 23.

12) Calendar of Papal Letters 1342-62, p. 588.

13) CPR 1345-8, pp. 495-513.

14) CIPM 1347-52, nos. 216-17.

15) CFR 1356-68, p. 38; CPR 1354-8, p. 568.

16) CPR 1348-50, p. 551; Early Lincoln Wills, 99.

17) Early Lincoln Wills, 56-7. Blanche's mother Maud Chaworth (1282-1322) was the older half-sister of Hugh Despenser the Younger and Philip Despenser I.

18) CIPM 1384-92, nos. 1008-9; CIPM 1392-9, nos. 1062-3; CIPM 1399-1405, no. 68; CIPM 1405-13, no. 158; CIPM 1413-18, nos. 154-6; CIPM 1418-22, nos. 30-2.

19) CIPM 1361-5, no. 544; CCR 1360-4, p. 491.

20) Early Lincoln Wills, 99; CPR 1381-5, pp. 450, 562.

21) CCR 1381-5, pp. 297-8, 300-01.

22) CIPM 1370-3, no. 212; CFR 1369-77, pp. 179-80; CCR 1385-9, pp. 27-8, 107.

23) J. Weever, Antient Funeral Monuments (1631), p. 487; CIPM 1422-27, nos. 307-12.

24) Early Lincoln Wills, 99.

25) CIPM 1413-18, nos. 237-47, 371-89; Calendar of Papal Letters 1398-1404, p. 609.

26) CIPM 1418-22, nos. 836-54; CIPM 1422-7, nos. 232, 307-12; CIPM 1427-32, nos. 139, 530-48.

27) CPR 1422-9, pp. 136, 183.

28) Calendar of Papal Letters 1427-47, p. 601.

29) CIPM 1422-27, nos. 307-12.

11 November, 2020

Thomas of Lancaster's Illegitimate Children, and the Walkington Family

As I pointed out recently, Alice de Lacy, countess of Lincoln, and her husband Thomas of Lancaster, earl of Lancaster and Leicester, were expecting a child in 1307 or 1308, but ultimately had no surviving children. Thomas did, however, have at least two illegitimate sons, John and Thomas of Lancaster.

John of Lancaster was said in 1349, rather fascinatingly, to be "the son of a married man and a spinster related in the third degree of kindred." There is no doubt about his identity: he was addressed as "John de Lancastria, son of the late Thomas, earl of Lancaster, scholar of theology." [1] I've never managed to figure out who his mother, Earl Thomas's second cousin or second cousin once removed, might have been. John gained an M.A. in theology, and by 1355 had joined the household of his cousin, Thomas's nephew Henry of Grosmont (d. 1361), first duke of Lancaster, earl of Leicester, Lincoln and Derby, father-in-law of John of Gaunt from 1359, and the maternal grandfather of King Henry IV. Earl Thomas's brother Henry, earl of Lancaster and Leicester (d. 1345), Duke Henry's father, asked the pope for a dispensation for his kinsman John of Lancaster in 1343 on account of his illegitimacy, and Edward III also acknowledged "John de Lancastria, son of Thomas, earl of Lancaster" as his kinsman in 1350. John, a canon of Uttoxeter, Lincoln and Salisbury, died in or before 1361. [2]

Earl Thomas's other known illegitimate son was Thomas, who originally was a knight and later became a friar, and in 1354 was called "Thomas de Lancastria, knight, son of Thomas, earl of Lancaster". He was knighted by Edward III during the king's French campaign of 1346. [3] It was said in 1354 that Thomas of Lancaster "passed his youth at a university and other places, and afterwards in a war", and took part in an attack on the French town of Sens. Because he had killed and wounded men there, he "wishes to change his life" and to join the Franciscan order. Thomas was "illegitimate, being the son of a married man and a mother of whom it is doubted whether at the time he was begotten she was married or a spinster." [4] I don't know what happened to him after 1354, or whether he had the same mother as his brother John of Lancaster, or when they were born, or which of them was the elder.

As well as Earl Thomas of Lancaster's illegitimate sons, his nephew and nieces acknowledged a family called the Walkingtons as their relatives. Henry of Grosmont made his will in March 1361, and appointed ten executors. [5] One was Blanche, Lady Wake (d. 1380), the eldest of Duke Henry's six sisters, and eight were men, including the bishop of Lincoln and the abbot of Leicester. The other was nostre tres chiere cosyne de Walkynton, "our dearest cousin of Walkington". Several academic historians who should really know better have identified this person as the long-term Lancastrian retainer Sir William Walkington, but there are two big problems with this. 1) William died before 7 February 1357 [6], and 2) it only requires a fairly basic knowledge of French to spot that chiere cosyne is the female form and cannot refer to a man. William Walkington's wife was named Eleanor, and she presumably was the person who was Henry's executor. An indenture of 1361 between Duke Henry's son-in-law John of Gaunt and four of the late duke's ten executors talks of the 'lady de Walkington'. [7] Eleanor Walkington held the Wiltshire manor of West Grimstead in 1339 and 1361 as the widow of John de Grymstede, and she and William were said in 1350 to be both "of the diocese of Lincoln" and "of the diocese of Salisbury". They married without royal licence before 2 July 1338. [8]

In petitions to the pope in 1343 and 1344, two of Duke Henry's sisters, Blanche, Lady Wake, and Maud, dowager countess of Ulster (d. 1377), acknowledged the clerk Master Robert Walkington M.A., a canon of Lincoln, York and Uttoxeter, as their kinsman. Robert had a sister named Agnes, also acknowledged as her relative by Lady Wake, who married Sir John Mauduyt of the diocese of Salisbury. In the early 1330s, Henry, Blanche and Maud's sister Isabella of Lancaster, nun and later prioress of Amesbury (d. 1348/9), sent gifts of a girdle and a silken purse to Sir William Walkington, and Robert Walkington and Agnes Mauduyt were presumably his siblings. Agnes married Sir John Mauduyt before 7 May 1328, probably around 23 February 1328, and her brother Robert Walkington was the feoffee when John granted an Oxfordshire manor to himself and Agnes jointly. [9Robert Walkington was named as a clerk of Henry, earl of Lancaster, father of Duke Henry, Blanche, Isabella and Maud, in 1325 and 1342, and another likely relative was John Walkington, granted forty marks of rent annually in Staffordshire and a manor in Wiltshire by the younger Henry of Lancaster (d. 1361) in 1349. The elder Henry of Lancaster (d. 1345) gave the Gloucestershire manor of Minsterworth to Sir William Walkington for life in March 1328, and the following year William was one of the knights given a safe-conduct to accompany Henry overseas. In 1332, Henry gave Walkington another three manors in Derbyshire. [10] 

The Lancasters held the earldom of Lincoln after Thomas of Lancaster's widow Alice de Lacy died in 1348, and they held the town of Uttoxeter in Staffordshire, as part of the territories that had once belonged to the Ferrers family, earls of Derby, and were given to Edmund of Lancaster in 1269. Earl Thomas of Lancaster's illegitimate son John of Lancaster M.A. (d. c. 1361) was a canon of Lincoln and Uttoxeter, and so was Robert Walkington M.A. Sir Thomas Mauduit (b. October 1287) was executed as an adherent of Thomas of Lancaster in Pontefract in March 1322, and Thomas's son and heir John proved his age in May 1332: he was born in Warminster ('Weremynstre') Wiltshire on 2 February 1310 ("the feast of the Purification, 3 Edward II"). [11] This would seem to be the man who married Agnes Walkington (d. 1369), as Agnes's husband was said to be of the diocese of Salisbury and Warminster is certainly in that diocese. Walkington, incidentally, is a village in Yorkshire, near Beverley.

There are, therefore, numerous points of connection between the Walkington family and the Lancaster family, and several of Earl Henry of Lancaster's children acknowledged the Walkingtons as their kinsfolk. The big question is, though, how were the Walkingtons, people of comparatively humble birth and rank, cousins of the partly royal, hugely wealthy, well-connected and influential Lancasters? One possibility is that the Walkingtons were related to Earl Henry's children via Henry's wife, Maud Chaworth (1282-1322). Maud was the daughter and heir of Patrick Chaworth (d. 1283), himself the younger brother and heir of Payn Chaworth (d. 1279), and the Chaworth brothers were the sons of Hawise of London, who died in or before September 1274. [12] The genealogy of the Chaworths/Londons is rather obscure, and it is certainly possible that Maud Chaworth's children were related to the Walkingtons on her side of the family, even if the precise connection is doomed to remain elusive. Although Maud was an heiress and brought Henry of Lancaster the Welsh lordships of Kidwelly and Carmarthen and lands in five English counties, when their marriage was arranged in 1291 Henry was only his father Edmund's second son, and his older brother Thomas, Edmund's heir, was married to a much greater heiress from a much more prestigious family, Alice de Lacy. Alice's family tree is much better known than Maud's.

Another possibility is perhaps that the Walkingtons were somehow descended from the Lancasters illegitimately. As, however, I've never seen evidence that Earl Thomas or his brother Earl Henry called the Walkingtons their kinsfolk, though Earl Henry certainly showed the family great favour over the years, it seems more likely that they were related to Earl Henry's children on their mother Maud Chaworth's side. According to the family tree in one article [13], Payn and Patrick Chaworth had two sisters: Eva, who married Sir Robert Tybetot, and Anne, about whom no further information seems to be available, and various genealogy websites give them another sister, Emma Chaworth. Or perhaps the Walkingtons were descended from a sibling of Hawise of London.


1) Calendar of Papal Letters 1342-62, pp. 346, 357.

2) Petitions to the Pope 1342-1419, pp. 65, 193, 271, 346, 383; CPL 1342-62, pp. 346, 545, 547.

3) Petitions to the Pope, p. 262; William Arthur Shaw, The Knights of England: A Complete Record from the Earliest Time, vol. 1 (1906), p. 6 of the section called 'Knights Bachelors'; George Wrottesley, Crécy and Calais, from the Original Records in the Public Record Office, pp. 35, 209, 249, 259.

4) Petitions to the Pope, p. 262. Thomas is also mentioned in Calendar of Close Rolls 1346-9, p. 545, and Calendar of Patent Rolls 1345-8, p. 408, 487.

5) Testamenta Vetusta, vol. 1, pp. 64-6; A Collection of All the Wills Now Known to be Extant of the Kings and Queens of England, Princes and Princesses of Wales, and Every Branch of the Blood Royal, pp. 83-7.

6) CPR 1354-58, p. 506.

7) The National Archives DL 27/242.

8) CPR 1338-40, pp. 102, 356; CPR 1361-4, p. 84; Feet of Fines CP 25/1/288/46, no. 592; TNA C 143/248/13; CPL 1342-62, pp. 382, 406; CCR 1377-81, pp. 454-5.

9) Petitions to the Pope, pp. 29, 69, 74, 271; CPL 1342-62, pp. 99, 105, 145, 218, 406, 573; R.B. Pugh, 'Fragment of an Account of Isabel of Lancaster, Nun of Amesbury, 1333-4', in Leo Santifaller, ed., Festschrift zur Feier des zweihundertjährigen Bestandes des Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchivs, Band 1 (1949), p. 492; CPR 1327-30, p. 263; CCR 1327-30, p. 365.

10) TNA DL 25/334/279; CPR 1324-7, p. 167; CPR 1327-30, pp. 258, 442; CPR 1330-34, pp. 321, 367; CPR 1348-50, pp. 282, 366, 469.

11) Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1307-17, no. 159; CIPM 1327-36, no. 479; CIPM 1365-69, no. 395; CIPM 1377-84, no. 1018.

12) CIPM 1272-91, nos. 51, 310, 477.

13) M.T.W. Payne and J.E. Payne, 'The Wall Inscriptions of Gloucester Cathedral House and the de Chaworths of Kempsford', Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, 112 (1994), pp. 87-104.

01 November, 2020

Hugh Despenser the Younger's Informants

The surviving correspondence of Hugh Despenser the Younger in the 1320s, when he was at the height of his power, makes clear that he had spies and informants everywhere, and encouraged people to snitch on their neighbours to him. 

A man named Thomas of Bishopstone ('Bysschopeston') lived in the village of Bishopstone on the Sussex coast in the 1320s. One Roger Lumbard, who apparently came from Lombardy in northern Italy, or at least his ancestors did, knew Thomas and was perhaps a neighbour, and told Hugh Despenser the Younger that Thomas had made a passage along a cliff by the sea to enable Edward II's enemies to flee abroad. Furthermore, Lumbard claimed, Thomas was an enemy of the king himself and an adherent of Adam Orleton, bishop of Hereford, with whom Edward and Hugh were feuding at the time, and was smuggling Bishop Adam's letters overseas. A royal order to arrest Thomas of Bishopstone was issued on 1 June 1324, and the unfortunate man was forced to acknowledge a debt of £100 to Hugh Despenser to clear his name and to be able to return to his home. Edward II and Hugh Despenser were in the village of Bishopstone on 31 August 1324, which is hardly likely to be a coincidence, especially as Edward never set foot there at any other time in his reign. Thomas of Bishopstone stated that one Simon Croiser was the man sent to arrest him, which is true; the order of 1 June 1324, recorded on the Patent Roll, was indeed given to Croiser. [1]

Roger Lumbard is the only informant of Hugh Despenser whose name I've been able to discover. This is thanks to his victim Thomas of Bishopstone, who sent a detailed petition to Chancery setting out what had been done to him. The petition was written in Anglo-Norman by clerks though Thomas surely described his ordeal in English, and the angry Thomas called Roger Lumbard a lapin, which from the context appears to mean 'scoundrel' or 'rogue' (in modern French it means 'rabbit'). It's not clear whether Lumbard already worked for Hugh Despenser, or just knew that Hugh encouraged snitching and hoped to receive a reward from him for telling tales about Thomas, whether his allegations were true or not.  

Part of Thomas of Bishopstone's petition.

At Easter 1324, Hugh Despenser sent a letter (which fortuitously still exists in the National Archives) to Sir John Botetourt, a man in his sixties who held the Oxfordshire manor of Iselhampstead with his wife Maud, who had inherited it. Hugh demanded that the manor be handed over to him, and told Botetourt that as he had "received" his son John the younger, a Contrariant of 1321/22 and an adherent of the executed Contrariant Bartholomew, Lord Badlesmere, the king "can hang and draw you" (il vous peut pendre e trayner). John Botetourt, unsurprisingly, did hand over Iselhampstead to Hugh Despenser a few days after receiving this threat, and the manor was in Hugh's possession at the time of his downfall in October/November 1326. This whole affair reveals firstly that Hugh was willing to threaten people with execution unless they gave him their manor(s), and secondly, that someone must have told him that John Botetourt's son had visited him. [2] As with the case of Thomas of Bishopstone just a few weeks later, it seems that Hugh seized on information his spies sent to him as a pretext to seize a manor or two or to demand a large fine; he used people's adherence, real or imagined, to Edward II's enemies to enrich himself at their expense. Another common tactic used by Hugh and his father Hugh the Elder between 1322 and 1326 was to accuse men of having supported Thomas, earl of Lancaster in 1321/22, and to demand a heavy fine or to take one or several of their manors as punishment.

Hugh sent a letter on 5 October 1324 to the French nobleman Henri, Lord Sully, butler of France, who had been in England with Edward II in 1322 and who was briefly captured by Robert Bruce, king of Scotland, at the battle of Byland in October that year. The letter began with Hugh expressing his astonishment that Henri had sent a messenger to England bearing his letters, but had not sent any to Edward II or to Hugh himself (nous nous merveilloms molt qe vous envoiastes un garceon en Engleterre ove auscunes lettres ... et ne envoiastes nulles a mon seignur le roi Dengleterre ne a nous; Hugh often kept the drafts of his own letters and the crossing-out is his scribe's). [3] And how did Hugh know that Lord Sully had sent letters to England even though neither he nor the king received any of them? Obviously, someone informed him. Hugh addressed Sully as his "very faithful friend" (tresfiable ami), which he possibly intended sarcastically, and seemed keen to ensure that Sully was aware that little in England escaped him. Unfortunately, Hugh didn't clarify who did receive Henri Sully's letters, but might have had informants at various ports telling him who sent messengers into England, and perhaps employed spies in the households of other nobles.

Hugh had informants not only in England, but in Scotland too. In a letter to his cousin, ally and perhaps friend Sir Ralph Basset of Drayton (d. 1343) in early October 1324, Hugh stated that he had several "confidants in those parts who have talked to us" regarding a potential meeting between Edward II and representatives of Robert Bruce, king of Scotland, around the octave of St Martin, i.e. c. 18 November. [4] Hugh trusted Ralph Basset, and frequently addressed him as "dearest cousin", "fair cousin" and "beloved cousin". He often told Basset things which he ordered him to keep secret, including this planned meeting between Edward and Scottish envoys, and his letters to him are very illuminating. 

Another man Hugh Despenser confided in was Sir John Sturmy, admiral of Edward II's eastern fleet and someone who often appears in Edward's chamber accounts. Hugh told Sturmy in October 1324 that he had an informant on the Continent with Roger Mortimer of Wigmore and his allies, the other Contrariants who had escaped from England in 1322/23, who was sending him information about the men and their movements. Hugh added that he could not put these things into writing, and understandably but unfortunately for posterity did not identify his informant, whom he called "of their faction" (de leur covigne). This same letter indicates that he knew, two years in advance, that the English exiles intended to land in Norfolk or Suffolk with a large armed force, with the aid of the king of Bohemia and the count of Hainault. [5] Ralph Basset of Drayton, on the Continent, also kept Hugh and Edward II informed of the exiles' movements, and on 6 December 1323 stated that his own spy had told him they were on their way to Germany. Basset stated openly to Edward II that he had instructions - presumably from Hugh Despenser -  to spy on them. [6]

The year 1324, when Hugh Despenser the Younger was directing Edward II's rather brief war against France, the War of Saint-Sardos, and when much of his correspondence survives, would appear to be the year when he reached the zenith of his power and his willingness to commit blackmail and extortion. It was also the year, for example, when he and his father imprisoned Elizabeth Comyn, great-niece of both King Henry III of England and King John Balliol of Scotland, in Surrey until she handed over her most valuable manors. Either in 1323 or 1324, Hugh the Younger imprisoned Sir John Inge, formerly sheriff of Glamorgan and a man who had given him years of faithful service, after he took against Inge for some reason. Hugh's last known letter to Inge, dated c. October 1322, cheerily told him "we are very worried about having some reason for which we might be prepared to harm you in some way", and he did find a reason: he imprisoned John Inge and members of his council in Southwark because of his "rancour towards him" and his "anger towards him". Hugh made Inge and six guarantors promise to pay him a ransom of £300 for Inge's release, and Inge's councillor Thomas Langdon died in Hugh's prison. [7] Various contemporary chroniclers stated that even the great English magnates were frightened of Hugh Despenser the Younger, and it's really not hard to see why.


1) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1321-24, p. 423; The National Archives SC 8/17/841; Calendar of Close Rolls 1323-27, p. 217.

2) TNA SC 1/37/5; Calendar of Fine Rolls 1319-27, p. 423; CFR 1327-27, p. 53; Feet of Fines, CP 25/1/19/74, no. 5.

3) The War of Saint-Sardos (1323-1325): Gascon Correspondence and Diplomatic Documents, ed. Pierre Chaplais, pp. 79-80.

4) War of Saint-Sardos, pp. 75-7.

5) War of Saint-Sardos, pp. 72-3.

6) War of Saint-Sardos, pp. 2, 5.

7) Cartae et Alia Munimenta quae ad Domimium Glamorgancia Pertinent, vol. 3, pp. 1101-4; TNA SC 8/176/8753, SC 8/59/2947; CPR 1330-34, p. 404.

Further Reading

My book about Hugh, Hugh Despenser the Younger and Edward II: Downfall of a King's Favourite, and my article ''We Might be Prepared to Harm You': An Investigation into Some of the Extortions of Hugh Despenser the Younger', Journal of the Mortimer History Society, 2 (2018), pp. 55-69.

21 October, 2020

Alice de Lacy, Countess of Lincoln, and Her Marriages

Alice de Lacy was born on or around Christmas Day 1281, and was the heir of her parents, Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln (c. 1250-1311), and Margaret Longespee, countess of Salisbury (d. c. 1308/09). My previous posts about Alice are here and hereEdward I's brother Edmund, earl of Lancaster and Leicester, arranged Alice's marriage to his eldest son and heir Thomas (b. c. late 1277) in or before late 1292, after a marriage planned for Thomas by the king in 1290, to Beatrice of Avallon, granddaughter of the duke of Burgundy, fell through when Beatrice died as a child. Alice and Thomas's marriage was a long but unhappy one, and ultimately Alice left Thomas in 1317 - a highly unusual action for a medieval noblewoman to take, and a number of contemporary chroniclers viciously maligned her for it. 

Alice had a stepmother who was much younger than she was, Joan MartinJoan married Alice's widowed father Henry de Lacy, who was a good four decades her senior, in or before June 1310, and he died in February 1311. It must have been rather a relief to Alice that the couple had no children; a daughter would have shared the large de Lacy inheritance with her, and a son, her putative decades-younger half-brother, would have been heir to all of it and would have disinherited her entirely. Joan Martin did have children with her second husband, Sir Nicholas Audley.

And talking of children, when researching my book Blood Roses several years ago, I discovered that Alice de Lacy was pregnant in 1307/08. Sometime between Michaelmas (29 September) 1307 and Michaelmas 1308, Alice sent a messenger to her husband's town of Leicester to inform them of her pregnancy, and the mayor and townspeople rewarded the messenger with a shilling. [1] Either Alice miscarried, or the infant was stillborn or died young, as she certainly had no surviving children; although Earl Thomas had two known illegitimate sons called John and Thomas, his heir was his brother Henry (c. 1280/81-1345), father of Henry of Grosmont (c. 1310/12-61), first duke of Lancaster, and grandfather of Blanche of Lancaster (1342-68). Henry of Grosmont was Alice's heir when she died in 1348, his grandfather Edmund having negotiated an excellent deal with her father that the Lancasters would keep the de Lacy inheritance even if Alice and Thomas had no children. I wonder if the couple's childlessness, and the loss of the infant Alice was expecting in 1307/08, contributed to their marital difficulties.

Alice, though separated from Thomas for five years, was still married to him when he was executed in March 1322, and married her second husband, Sir Eble or Ebulo Lestrange of Knockyn, before 10 November 1324 when an entry on the Close Roll talks of "Ebulo Lestraunge and Alice, daughter and heiress of Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln, now his wife". An entry on the Patent Roll of 21 December 1324 mentions "Ebulo Lestraunge and Alesia his wife". [2] A younger son and not his family's heir, Eble was much below Alice in rank, and it's well worth noting that he never called himself 'earl of Lincoln' as he had a right to do as Alice's husband. The marriage was almost certainly a love-match and seemingly a very happy one, and after Eble's death Alice called herself 'widow of Eble Lestrange' rather than 'widow of Thomas of Lancaster', despite Thomas's wealth, power and royal birth. [3] 

Eble's mother Alianore or Eleanor de Montz died in 1282, and his father John Lestrange in August 1309. Eble's older brother and their father's heir, John II, was said to be aged "twenty-seven and more" in  John I's inquisition post mortem in the autumn of 1309, but was certainly some years older than that, as he oulived his father by only six months and his son and heir John Lestrange III was said to be fourteen in his father's IPM of 1310. This John died childless in his twenties in 1323, leaving his younger brother Roger, born either c. 15 August 1301 or c24 June 1305, Eble's nephew, as heir to the Lestrange family. Roger was the ancestor of the later Lestranges of Knockyn, and his son and heir Roger the younger was born c. 1326. [4] Given that Eble's mother died in 1282, he was either the same age as Alice de Lacy or older, and like her was in his forties when they married in c. 1324; he might perhaps have been married before, but I haven't found any record of it, and if so, he had no surviving children. Eble apparently received his highly unusual given name from a close relative, as 'Eble de Montz' or 'de Montibus' appears a few times on fourteenth-century record, and I assume was Eble Lestrange's uncle, given that his mother's name was Montz. The IPM of one Ralph Greenham in 1322 talks of "John Lestrange [c. 1296-1323, Eble Lestrange's nephew], kinsman and heir of Ebulo de Montibus" and "John Lestrange, heir of Eble de Montz". [5] Eble/Ebulo Montibus/Montz worked as Isabella of France's steward for a while, and was the man she sent to Edward II in Yorkshire in 1316 to inform him of the birth of their second son John of Eltham. "Elizabeth, late the wife of Ebulo de Montibus" went to France with Isabella and Edward in 1320. [6]

Not only did Eble Lestrange have a curious and extremely unusual first name with several possible spellings, his family name is also rather difficult, and you sometimes see it in medieval documents as 'Extraneus'. Ebulo Extraneus. Weird. Alice de Lacy must have been devastated when Eble died in Scotland on Friday, 8 September 1335, after about eleven years of marriage. His nephew Sir Roger Lestrange, then about thirty or thirty-four, was his heir. [7] Alice was aged fifty-three, going on fifty-four, when she was widowed for the second time, and soon after Eble's death took a vow of chastity, as widows sometimes did. [8] Soon afterwards, however, in late 1335 or early, 1336, a young knight named Sir Hugh Frene or Freyn(e) abducted Alice from her own home, Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire, took her the thirty miles to Somerton Castle, and married her against her will. 

Little is known of Hugh Frene; he was knighted in 1327, which implies that he was born after 1300 and thus was many years Alice's junior. He's very difficult to find on record before 1330, except that on 25 August 1327 Edward III granted a favour to an abbey "at the request of Hugh de Frene". [9] The Complete Peerage speculates that he was a son or younger brother of John de Frene, lord of Moccas in Herefordshire, whose father Hugh died in 1303. [10] Hugh Frene the younger, the one who abducted Alice, took part in the famous Dunstable tournament of 1334, and was appointed custodian of Cardigan Castle in 1330 and its custodian for life in 1332. [11] He seems to have had connections to Ireland: Elias Ashburn included him in a list of men to be prayed for daily in a Dublin chapel in 1332, and Fulk Freyn(e), perhaps a relative, was 'lord of the castle of Faytheli' in Ireland in 1334. [12]

Part of Alice's petition, where she talks about son chastel de Bolyngbrok, 'her castle of Bolingbroke'. After her death, Bolingbroke passed to her nephew-in-law Henry of Grosmont, and then to Henry's daughter and heir Blanche, who gave birth to her son Henry IV there in 1367.

Alice sent a petition to Edward III, begging for his help. It's undated, but was perhaps sent in c. early 1336. [13] Near the start of it, Alice talks about the "treachery" (traisoun) of "her brother Sir John de Lacy", who seemingly connived, for reasons she did not explain, at her abduction. Alice was her parents' sole heir, which could have only been the case if she was their sole surviving legitimate child, so the only possible way she could have had a brother called John de Lacy was that he was her father Earl Henry's illegitimate son. I don't know anything else about John except the reference to him here. 

...par traisoun de son frere sire John de Lacy...

The story told by Michael Prestwich in his book The Three Edwards, quoted on Alice's Wiki page, that Alice deliberately fell from her horse during her abduction, is not sourced, and I've never been able to find this detail in any fourteenth-century documentation (Linda E. Mitchell, in her essay about Alice referenced in this post, also notes that she was unable to find the source). The petition Alice sent to Edward III does not mention a fall from her horse, and neither do the various entries about this matter in the chancery rolls. Prestwich adds "it is likely that Hugh was attracted more by her vast estates than by her physical charms" - hmmmmmmm - and also claims that "it is possible that she was not a wholly unwilling victim." 

Alice's petition makes it all too painfully apparent that she was indeed entirely unwilling, and furthermore that she was distressed, frightened and angry. She mentioned her vow of chastity to the king, so the vow was clearly important to her, and she also stated that being forced to break it was contrary to the "law of Holy Church" (ley de seinte eglise). She told the king that Hugh Frene was holding her in such close confinement that neither her friends nor well-wishers (ses amys ne bien voillauntzcould approach her or talk to her, only members of Frene's affinity and retinue, and stated twice that Frene's and her brother John's treatment of her was contre son gree, "against her station (in life)". Alice ended her petition by begging Edward III to find a remedy and to allow her to be free and among her friends once again. These are emphatically not the words of a happily and voluntarily married woman, and the idea that Alice was willing to marry Hugh Frene is completely untenable.

Somewhat astonishingly, Edward III ordered both Alice de Lacy and Hugh Frene's arrest on 20 February 1336: he appointed three men to "arrest wherever found Hugh de Freyne and Alice, countess of Lincoln" on the grounds that Hugh, with a number of armed men, went to Bolingbroke Castle and "took" Alice from there to Somerton, and "entered the castle against his [the king's] will." Anthony Bek, bishop of Durham, had granted Somerton to Edward II in 1309, and it passed to Edward III as Edward II's son and heir, so in 1335/36 was in the king's personal possession. Edward seized Alice's lands as a punishment on the same day that he ordered her arrest, but on 23 March 1336, ordered officials to give Alice and Hugh the lands back. When, and where, Alice and Hugh married, I don't know, but the wedding took place before 23 March 1336. On 27 September that year, there's a reference on the Patent Roll to "Hugh de Freen and Alice his wife". [14]

The royal order to seize Alice's lands on 20 February 1336 states that she and Frene had both "escaped from the castle of Somerton where the king ordered them to be kept separately, because Hugh took her there from the castle of Bolyngbrok and entered the castle of Somerton by force." I very much doubt that Alice minded being "kept separately" from the man who was, assuming Frene consummated the forced marriage, her rapist. Let's face it, rape is exactly what it was. After Alice and Hugh 'escaped' from Somerton, according to Alice's petition Hugh subsequently took her to the Tower of London, and that's where she was being held in close confinement at the time she dictated her petition. That's very odd actually, as, looking at Edward III's intinerary, Edward himself stayed in the Tower and at Westminster for much of March 1336. It seems highly unlikely that Hugh Frene could have kept a noblewoman in confinement in the Tower if the king of England was anywhere near London, and it may be significant that Edward was in Scotland and the far north of England for the last few months of 1335 and until mid-February 1336. The timing of all this, when Frene abducted Alice, when they married, when they were imprisoned in Somerton Castle and escaped, when Edward III first heard about it, and when and for how long Frene imprisoned Alice in the Tower of London - and how did a fairly obscure knight manage to imprison a countess in a royal fortress anyway? - is difficult to work out. Although Alice stated that only Frene's retinue had access to her in the Tower, she must have found a friendly clerk to take down her petition and, one hopes, deliver it to the king. The constable of the Tower at the time was Sir Nicholas de la Beche, appointed for life on 15 October 1335. [15] Did he turn a blind eye to Frene incarcerating Alice in the fortress, or was he away from London at the time? I honestly don't know.

...a la toure de Loundres, 'to the Tower of London'

Sir Hugh Frene died in Scotland in late 1336 or early 1337, only a few months later, so never benefited from his abduction of a wealthy noblewoman. The exact date of his death is not clear, but on 25 November 1336 he was said to be "staying in Scotland" on the king's service, and he was certainly dead by 28 January 1337 when "Hugh de Freyne, deceased" was replaced as constable of Cardigan Castle. On or just after 28 November 1336, a rather confusing entry on the Close Roll begins "The abbot of Revesby and Henry de Halton, executors of the will of Ebulo Lestraunge and Hugh de Frene and Alesia his wife...". It's not clear from that whether Hugh was already dead or not. The Anonimalle chronicle comments on the death of Edward III's brother John of Eltham, earl of Cornwall, in Scotland in September 1336, and in the next sentence states that "Sir Hugh de Frene, earl of Lincoln, also died there" (Aussint illoeqs devya mounsire Hugh de Frenes count de Nichole). [16] 

Hugh's death was not, unfortunately, the end of Alice's woes. In July 1338, Pope Benedict XII ordered the bishop of Lincoln to "warn and compel, by spiritual penalties, Alesya de Lascy, countess of Lincoln", to keep her vow of chastity. The pope claimed that Alice was "aged above sixty" - actually she only turned sixty in December 1341 - and that she had "consented to live with [Frene] in matrimony until his death". As he had abducted and married her against her will, however, her so-called consent was meaningless. [17] And sometime before 4 May 1337, Alice was attacked again at Bolingbroke Castle by her husband's nephew and heir Sir Roger Lestrange, her own half-brother John de Lacy, and more than thirty other men. Poor Alice. They stole twenty of her horses, worth £200, and other goods, imprisoned Alice within the castle temporarily, and assaulted her servants. [18]

Alice herself died on 2 October 1348 at the age of sixty-six, going on sixty-seven. The bulk of her inheritance passed to her nephew-in-law Henry of Grosmont, though a few manors she had held jointly with Eble passed to his nephew Roger Lestrange, who had attacked Alice at Bolingbroke a few years earlier. [19] I can't imagine Alice was delighted about that, but inheritance law was strict, and there was sadly little she could have done about it.


1) Records of the Borough of Leicester, vol. 1, 1103-1326, ed. Mary Bateson (1899), p. 260.

2) Calendar of Close Rolls 1323-27, pp. 245-6; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1324-27, p. 63.

3) Linda E. Mitchell, 'Martyr to the Cause: The Tragic Career of Alice de Lacy' in her Portraits of Medieval Women: Family, Marriage and Politics in England 1225-1350 (2003), pp. 116, 121.

4) Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1307-17, nos. 211, 264; CIPM 1317-27, no. 453; CIPM 1347-52, nos. 290-91.

5) CIPM 1317-27, no. 388.

6) CPR 1317-21, pp. 447, 449.

7) CIPM 1327-36, nos. 681, 716.

8) Calendar of Papal Letters 1305-41p. 544.

9) Complete Peerage, vol. 5, p. 572; CPR 1327-30, p. 147.

10) CIPM 1336-46, no. 679; CPR 1292-1301, p. 23.

11) Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica, vol. 4, p. 395; CPR 1330-34, pp. 31, 365; CCR 1330-33, p. 104.

12) CPR 1330-34, p. 303; CPR 1334-38, p. 424; CCR 1337-39, p. 243; CPL 1305-41, p. 404.

13) The National Archives SC 8/64/3163. For anyone who can read Anglo-Norman and can decipher fourteenth-century handwriting, Alice's petition is available for free on the National Archives website, here.

14) CPR 1334-38, pp. 282, 319; Calendar of Fine Rolls 1327-37, p. 473; CCR 1333-37, pp. 554, 561-2, 564.

15) CPR 1334-38, p. 171.

16) CPR 1334-38, pp. 379-80, 398; CCR 1333-37, pp. 722, 726, 736; CCR 1337-39, pp. 18-20, 25; The Anonimalle Chronicle 1333 to 1381, ed. V. H. Galbraith, p. 8.

17) CPL 1305-41, p. 544.

18) CPR 1334-38, p. 450.

19) CIPM 1347-52, no. 107.