22 July, 2016

Article And New Books

An article of mine about Isabella of France has just been published on the BBC History Magazine website. Enjoy! :-)

My book Isabella of France: The Rebel Queen got a great review in the weekly Catholic magazine The Tablet recently. You have to register on the site to read the full review, but it's free and very easy. I particularly enjoyed the part "she is very cross indeed with soi-disant [so-called] historians who bend known facts to fit their theories." That's very true; I am. :-)

Nick Gribit, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds recently, has written a book about Henry of Grosmont, then earl of Derby and later first duke of Lancaster, and his expedition to Aquitaine in 1345/6. Yay! As you probably know, I madly love Henry.

The latest edition of the fab series Fourteenth Century England, number nine, is out now, with an essay by Paul Dryburgh about Edward II's younger son John of Eltham (yippee!) and one by Andy King about Edward II's death (double yippee!). I have it on order; hope it comes soon as I'm dying (pun intended) to read both.

Martin White has written a novel, To Catch the Conscience of the King, about Edward II's downfall and his escape from Berkeley Castle. It came out as an e-book on 18 June this year, and the author tells me it will also be available in paperback soon. He's kindly sending me a copy. I'm looking forward to reading it; more here about it soon.

Finally, my good friend Ivan Fowler's novel about Edward II's survival in Italy has been entirely reworked and has been published in Italian, Edward; Il mistero del Re di Auramalawith a fab cover which I love. Can't wait to read the forthcoming English version!

14 July, 2016

St Andrew's Church, Heckington, Lincs, and my Edward II talk there

At Andrew's Church, Heckington.
One of Edward II's chaplains was Richard de Potesgrave, who was parson of Byfleet, Surrey when the king was there in November 1308, and whom Edward shortly afterwards made parson of Heckington, Lincolnshire as well. Richard was close enough to Edward for the rest of his reign to be able to present petitions to him on behalf of other people on occasion. Richard founded the church of Saint Andrew in Heckington sometime after March 1309, when Edward made him parson of the village, and his tomb can be seen there to this day (pic below). Edward II himself never visited Heckington, to my knowledge, but his son Edward III was here in August 1330, just a few weeks before he overthrew his mother Isabella and Roger Mortimer. The church of St Andrew, Heckington, still stands there magnificently, and is most unusual in that almost all of it dates to Richard de Potesgrave's time; as many of you will know, this is not often the case with medieval English churches, when you tend to move six feet to your left and thereby move out of a bit built in, for example, 1120 to a bit built in 1240 with fourteenth-century additions, then you move over there and stand in a fifteenth-century bit with a Victorian reconstruction.

On Friday 8 July 2016, I was kindly invited to give a talk about Edward II by the vicar, Chris Harrington, and some of his lovely parishioners, who all made me and my family feel incredibly welcome. Thank you especially to Mary, Lesley and Pete! We had the opportunity to look around the gorgeous fourteenth-century church, then I talked for an hour about Edward and his reign and the controversy surrounding his death and/or survival, in front of around a hundred people, some of whom had come from Leicester and Doncaster. (And sold quite a lot of books as well. :)

That moment when you walk round a place you've never been to before and see your own name...heh.

Outside the church.

The tomb and effigy of Richard de Potesgrave (died c. 1345), with missing head

Inside the church

Inside the church
St Andrew's is well known for its many fourteenth-century gargoyles and grotesques. Here are a few.

Wonderful fourteenth-century tracery

Is this an image of Edward II? With the crown, bushy beard and long flowing locks, it certainly looks like other contemporary depictions of him.

Me sitting in the sedilia (canopied stone seats on the south side of the altar)
If you're ever in the vicinity of Heckington (near Sleaford in the North Kesteven district of Lincolnshire, just off the A17, about twenty-five miles south-east of Lincoln), I definitely recommend visiting St Andrew's church. I hope to go back myself sometime soon!

The Reverend Chris Harrington introducing me

During my talk

Selling and signing my books about Edward II and Queen Isabella

With one of the posters - will treasure it always!

09 July, 2016

International Medieval Congress 2016, Session 828: The Troublesome Twenties

On Tuesday 5 July 2016, from 4.30 to 6pm, I took part in the above session about the 1320s with Professor Mark Ormrod of the university of York, the moderator, and Dr Paul Dryburgh of the National Archives, who wrote his doctoral thesis on Roger Mortimer, first earl of March. Paul talked for thirty-five minutes, a general overview of the 1320s, about the 1322 Statute of York, and much else which I'm afraid I rather missed as I was thinking about my own impending talk! I then spoke for half an hour about Edward II's last chamber account of 1325/26, now held in the library of the Society of Antiquaries in London. I talked about Edward's relationships with his niece Eleanor Despenser and her husband Hugh, the king's powerful chamberlain and favourite: there is much in the account to imply a considerable amount of affection and familiarity between Edward and Eleanor, such as frequent letters, gifts and visits, private dining, and Edward's offering of thirty shillings to give thanks to God for granting Eleanor a prompt and safe delivery of her child in December 1325. (Not named or even given a gender, but probably the Despensers' youngest, Elizabeth.) Hugh Despenser was away from Edward far more than we might expect in 1325/26, given that he had persuaded Edward to send his son to France in September 1325 rather than go himself on the grounds that his life would be in danger if the king left him alone in England. He spent much time in Wales that year, and in November 1325 Edward II heard news that Despenser had been killed. He hastily sent three men there to ascertain what was happening, and gave the large sum of ten marks each to the men for telling him that Despenser was, 'by God's mercy', perfectly well. Despenser received a manuscript of the story of Tristan and Isolde from the king in 1326.

One thing I love about the last account of Edward II's chamber is the way it confirms that the stories the chroniclers tell about him, that he enjoyed the company of his common subjects and that he took part in 'rustic pursuits', are accurate. At Leeds, I gave a good few examples of this: the king giving out money to Thames fishermen and carpenters for spending time with him (one of them was called Colle Herron, Colle being a pet name for Nicholas), inviting shipwrights to come and visit him at Kenilworth Castle, joining in when a group of workmen dug ditches and made fences at the royal manor of Clarendon in Wiltshire. I throughly enjoyed the talk and would happily have stood there for hours, talking all about Edward II and his character and hobbies!

07 July, 2016

7 July 1307/1317

King Edward I died on 7 July 1307 at Burgh-by-Sands near Carlisle at the age of sixty-eight, 709 years ago today. Exactly ten years to the day later, on 7 July 1317 (whether by accident or design), Edward II founded the King's Hall at the University of Cambridge. When his descendant Henry VIII founded Trinity College in 1546, King's Hall was subsumed into it, as was Michaelhouse, founded in 1324 by Edward's ally Hervey Staunton of the King's Bench.

More posts coming soon - I visited Lincoln today so have lots of pics of the cathedral and especially the chapter-house, where Edward held parliament in early 1316, to post!

03 July, 2016

My Talks: IMC and Heckington

On Tuesday 5 July, from 4.30 to 6pm, I'll be taking part in a session at the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds with Professor Mark Ormrod of the University of York (Edward III's biographer) and Dr Paul Dryburgh of the National Archives. Our session is called The Troublesome Twenties, i.e. the 1320s, and my talk is about Edward II's last chamber account of 1325/26 and what it reveals about him.

And on Friday 8 July at 7.30pm, I'll be giving an hour-long talk about Edward II in the village of Heckington, near Sleaford in Lincolnshire. I've been invited by the good people at St Andrew's church, which was founded by Edward's chaplain Richard Potesgrave; Richard was also one of the men who guarded Edward's body (or was it Edward's body...?) in Gloucester during the two months it lay in state there before his funeral on 20 December 1327. If you're anywhere in the vicinity, please do come along!

24 June, 2016

24 June

So apparently something important happened in Scotland involving Edward II on this day 702 years ago, on 24 June 1314, but I'm afraid I don't have the faintest idea what it was. ;-)

24 June is the feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, one of Edward II's favourite saints. On this day in 1317, 699 years ago, Edward paid a man named Peter de Foresta two pounds for making him "a crown of wax of various colours and of various devices" to celebrate the feast. In 1326, Edward celebrated the day by playing dice with his chamber knight Giles Beauchamp in the Tower of London. At some point, not sure when, the king bought a painting of John the Baptist from John the Painter of Lincoln, which he kept in his chamber, and he also owned relics of the saint (among numerous others). 24 June 1312 was one of Edward's last happy days before he heard of the murder of Piers Gaveston two days later, and in 1313 he and Isabella were staying at Pontoise around the Nativity; it was at about this time that Edward saved Isabella's life from a fire.

Yesterday marked the anniversary of the death of Edward's kinsman Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, who died on his way to Paris on 23 June 1324. Aymer was the son of Henry III's half-brother William de Valence, hence was Edward's half first cousin once removed. Aymer was, according to his mother's Inquisition Post Mortem of 1307, born sometime between 1270 and 1283. So that's helpful.

25 June is the anniversary of the battle of Vega de Granada in 1319, when two of Edward's many Castilian cousins were killed.

Finally, here's one nice fact about something that happened at Dunbar, where Edward had fled after the completely unknown and obscure Scottish thing which happened on 24 June 1314: Edward later granted one William Fraunceys or Franceis an income of fifty marks annually in gratitude for the unspecified "kind service he lately performed for the king in his presence at Dunbar," also called his "great service in the king's presence at Dunbar." William's name means 'Frenchman'. [CPR 1313-7, 273; CPR 1317-21, 111; CCR 1313-8, 298, 497.]

19 June, 2016

19 June 1312: Murder of Piers Gaveston

Today marks the 704th anniversary of the murder of Edward II's beloved Piers Gaveston, earl of Cornwall. Here's a list of my previous posts about it:

Piers' death


Edward's negotiations afterwards

Piers' third exile, 1311/12

What led to his death


Chronicles and fiction

On a much lighter note, today is also the 703rd anniversary of Edward, clearly enjoying himself during his and Isabella's extended visit to her homeland and not in the mood for moping around. paying a group of performers to dance for him naked in Pontoise on the first anniversary of Piers' death. Now that's the way to do it.

18 June, 2016

18 June 1294: Birth of Charles IV of France, the Last Capetian King

Today is the 722nd anniversary of the birth of Edward II's brother-in-law Charles IV, king of France and Navarre (and also the 698th anniversary of Charles' niece, Edward and Isabella's elder daughter Eleanor of Woodstock, on 18 June 1318). Charles was the third son of Philip IV, king of France, and Joan I, queen of Navarre: the first son Louis X was born on 4 October 1289, and the second son Philip V in c. 1291. Charles was about eighteen months older than his sister Isabella, queen of England, who was probably born in late 1295. He was ten years younger than his brother-in-law Edward II, with whom he was not on good terms.

Charles married firstly, in January 1308 just before Isabella married Edward II, Blanche of Burgundy. She was the younger daughter of Othon IV, count palatine of Burgundy, and Mahaut, countess of Artois; her elder sister Jeanne or Joan was married to Charles' brother Philip. Charles and Blanche had two children who both died young, and Blanche was imprisoned in 1314 after the adultery scandal which her sister-in-law Queen Isabella may have exposed to her father. Charles remained shackled to Blanche until 1322, a few months after he succeeded his brother Philip V as king of France and Navarre, at which point it was suddenly and perhaps rather miraculously discovered that Blanche's mother Mahaut of Artois was in fact Charles' godmother, which made their marriage invalid as there had been a pre-existing impediment. Hmmm, you might think someone would have known that before, no? Anyway, within days of the annulment Charles married his second wife Marie of Luxembourg, daughter of Henry of Luxembourg, Holy Roman Emperor, niece of Edward II's brother-in-law Duke John II of Brabant, sister of John 'the Blind', king of Bohemia, and sister-in-law of Karoly, king of Hungary. Queen Marie died in March 1324 after miscarrying a baby boy. Desperate for a son and heir, on 5 July 1324 Charles IV married his first cousin Jeanne of Evreux, whose father Louis, count of Evreux was his father Philip IV's half-brother. Charles and Jeanne had three daughters, of whom two died young; Charles' posthumous daughter Blanche, born on 1 April 1328 exactly two months after his death, married Philip, duke of Orleans. Charles' successor was his first cousin Philip de Valois, King Philip VI.

12 June, 2016

690 Years Ago....

...in the first half of June 1326, according to his chamber journal, Edward II:

- played an unspecified ball game in the park of Saltwood Castle in Kent with his household steward Sir Thomas le Blount, Sir Robert Wateville, and unnamed others. In August 1325, Edward paid twenty-two men for playing a ball game for his benefit, presumably two teams of eleven

- after he left Saltwood, sent pomegranates to two members of his household who'd been forced to remain behind there, ill; pomegranates were extremely expensive

- paid twelve pounds for the expenses of his second son John of Eltham, then aged almost ten (Sire Johan Deltham fuitz le Roi), and his niece Eleanor Despenser née de Clare (Dame Alianore la Despensere niece le Roi), travelling together from the royal palace of Sheen west of London to Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire, where just a few months later, Edward II was forced to abdicate

- gave a gift of ten marks to his chamber squire Garsy Pomit "for what he did in the king's chamber when he [Edward] ate," and because Garsy had brought him some news from Gascony

- paid five pounds to his chamber knight Sir Giles Beauchamp "for what he did when the king went to sleep" (sang him lullabies?). This was also intended for Giles' expenses going home on leave for a little while

- paid five pounds to a squire of his sister-in-law Alice Hales, countess of Norfolk and countess marshal, wife of his half-brother Thomas of Brotherton, for bringing him Alice's letters

- hired a man called Ambrose, son of Will de la Wyk, as one of his chamber valets when he met him on the Thames between Bisham and Sheen

- paid forty shillings for the expenses of Anneis, wife of Roger, one of his trumpeters, travelling from Nottingham to court to visit her husband

- gave a pound to a fiddler called Richard who made music "for the king's pleasure"

- gave money to his valet Edmund 'Monde' Fisher, who was ill, and to Monde's son Litel Wille for bringing him the news a couple of days later that Monde had died (see here)

- gave thirty shillings to eight of his archers to buy themselves cloth, hose and shoes

- borrowed three shillings from his usher Peter Bernard to give to a poor man he met while riding away from Leeds Castle in Kent.

08 June, 2016

Marriage Negotiations For Edward II's Two Unmarried Children, 1329/30

I've written before about Edward II's negotiations for the future marriages of three of his four children, none of which worked out because he was deposed before they came to fruition. (Eleanor of Woodstock would have married Alfonso XI of Castile, Edward of Windsor would have married Alfonso's sister Leonor, and Joan of the Tower would have married the future Pedro IV of Aragon.) Edward's eldest child Edward III in fact married Philippa of Hainault on 25 January 1328, a marriage Edward had been strongly opposed to, and his youngest child Joan of the Tower married the future David II of Scotland on 17 July 1328 just after her seventh birthday (David himself was only four). Edward would have been strongly opposed to that marriage too. Edward's elder daughter Eleanor of Woodstock married Count, late Duke, Reynald II of Guelders in May 1332, the month before her fourteenth birthday, and his younger son John of Eltham died unmarried aged twenty in September 1336. Here's some information about marriage negotiations carried out by Edward III's government for the marriages of the young king's siblings Eleanor and John in 1329/30.

On 16 June 1329, a double marriage was suggested: Eleanor of Woodstock would marry the eldest son of King Philip VI of France, and John of Eltham would marry one of Philip's daughters. This was two days before Eleanor's eleventh birthday; John of Eltham was twelve going on thirteen. Philip VI's eldest son was the future King John II of France, born on 26 April 1319 and ten months Eleanor's junior. This plan for the betrothal of Eleanor of Woodstock and the future John II was repeated on 27 January and on 10 April 1330. [Foedera 1327-44, pp. 766, 777, 785] Philip VI, the first Valois king of France, had succeeded to the throne on 1 April 1328 after his cousin Charles IV's widow Joan of Evreux gave birth to Charles' posthumous daughter Blanche, who was born exactly two months after Charles' death. Had Blanche been a boy, he would have immediately become king of France, and the whole of French history ever since would be entirely different.

On 27 January 1330, as above, arrangements were again made to negotiate for a marriage between John of Eltham and Philip VI's daughter, this time named as Marie; as far as I can tell, Marie was born in about 1326 and died as a child in 1333, having been briefly married to Duke John III of Brabant's son. In the meantime, however, on 24 September 1329, another future betrothal was suggested for John of Eltham: Maria Diaz de Haro II, who was born in about 1318 or 1320 so was slightly younger than John. [Foedera, p. 773] Maria was the daughter and heir of Juan el Tuerto, 'the One-Eyed', lord of Biscay and a kinsman of Edward II: he was the grandson of Edward's uncle Alfonso X of Castile. Maria Diaz de Haro ultimately married her cousin Juan de la Cerda, son of Alfonso X's eldest son Fernando de la Cerda (who died before his father and thus never became king).

In July 1313, the future Philip VI married Jeanne la Boiteuse de Bourgogne, Joan 'the Lame' of Burgundy. Via her mother Agnes, Joan was the granddaughter of Louis IX of France (and was thus a first cousin once removed of her husband, Louis IX's great-grandson), and was a younger sister of Marguerite of Burgundy, adulterous first wife of Louis X of France, who died in prison in 1315. Of Philip VI and Joan of Burgundy's numerous children - something like twelve or fourteen,though it's hard to tell for sure - only two, John II and Philip, duke of Orleans, lived into adulthood. Philip of Orleans was born in 1336 and was seventeen years younger than his brother the king. He married his second cousin Blanche of France, the posthumous daughter of Charles IV and the only one of Charles' children who lived into adulthood, who was eight years his senior; they were childless.

Edward III had still not given up hoping for a marriage alliance with France: in July 1331, he opened negotiations for the future marriage of his son Edward of Woodstock, then just over a year old, with another daughter of Philip VI, this time named as Joan or Jeanne. [Foedera 1327-44, p. 838; CPR 1330-4, pp. 157, 224, 273] I can find references to two daughters of Philip VI with that name, but one was born in 1317 and died shortly after so it can't be her, and the other was born and died in 1337 so it can't be her either. Either Philip VI had three daughters called Joan who died young, or this is an error by English scribes.

The marriage negotiations with England having failed, the future John II of France married Jutta of Bohemia, whose name was changed to Bonne after her marriage, in 1332. She was the daughter of John the Blind, king of Bohemia, and sister of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. Jutta/Bonne's niece Anne of Bohemia, who wasn't born till 1366, married Edward III's grandson Richard II. Jutta was the mother of John II's many children, including Charles V of France, but died before John succeeded to the throne in 1350, and thus was never queen of France.