24 October, 2014

The Earl of Norfolk Tries to Steal his Stepson's Lands

A post about an incident which I first discovered in Marc Morris's excellent and scholarly book The Bigod Earls of Norfolk in the Thirteenth Century (Boydell and Brewer, 2005), pp. 124-5.

Roger Bigod, who was born in about 1245 and died in 1306, was the last in the line of Bigod earls of Norfolk dating back to about a century before his birth.  He succeeded his childless uncle, also Roger, as earl in 1270, and around the same time, married a woman called Aline Basset.  She was the only child and heiress of Sir Philip Basset, a landowner in the the Midlands and south of England, and had previously been married to Hugh Despenser, justiciar of England.  Hugh was a staunch supporter of Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, against Henry III and his son the future Edward I, and was killed with Simon at the battle of Evesham in 1265.  Aline's son Hugh Despenser would become earl of Winchester in 1322 and is the man known to history as Hugh Despenser the Elder, father of Edward II's notorious favourite Hugh Despenser the Younger.  (I tend to refer to Justiciar Hugh as Hugh Despenser the Even Elder.)  Hugh 'the Elder' was only four years old when his father was killed at Evesham.  It's interesting to note that his mother continued to use her first husband's name and was always known as 'Aline la Despensere' throughout her second marriage, even though Roger Bigod was of higher rank than Hugh.

Although Aline Basset Despenser had a son and at least one daughter with her first husband, she and Roger had no children.  Aline died shortly before 11 April 1281, when her seventeen manors were taken into the king's hand (Fine Rolls 1272-1307, p. 146).  Her heir was her only son Hugh, then aged twenty (born 1 March 1261).  Roger Bigod had enjoyed the income from his wife's lands during their marriage, and the loss of them was a big blow, especially as he had large debts.  Dishonestly, he decided to try to make use of a custom called 'the courtesy of England', whereby the widower of a woman who had held lands in her own right could make use of them for the rest of his life, as long as the couple had had at least one child together.  In short, this meant that Aline's lands would not pass to her son Hugh but would remain under Roger's control as long as he lived, and he ended up outliving Aline by a quarter of a century.  Under the 'courtesy of England', the child didn't have to be living, just had to have been born.  Roger therefore claimed that Aline had borne him a child at Woking, who died shortly afterwards.

Knowing this to be untrue, Hugh Despenser took his stepfather to court.  A jury was appointed to decide if the child had been male or female, where it had been born, whether it had been baptised, if it had given voice before death, and so on.  Faced with the prospect of having to lie through his teeth and invent numerous details, and without a shred of evidence to show that a child had ever existed, Roger was soon forced to drop his claim.  Edward I granted the marriage of Hugh Despenser 'the Elder' to William Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, on 28 May 1281, and on the same day Hugh was allowed to take control of his inheritance despite still being a few months under age (Patent Rolls 1272-81, p. 439; Close Rolls 1279-88, p. 88; Fine Rolls 1272-1307, p. 149).  Probably in 1286, Hugh married the earl of Warwick's daughter Isabel, widow of Patrick Chaworth, and they had six children: Aline, Hugh the Younger, Isabel, Philip, Margaret and Elizabeth.

Roger Bigod, presumably, was infertile; he had no children with either Aline Basset or his second wife Alicia, sister of Count William III of Hainault and Holland and aunt of Edward III's queen Philippa.  He died in 1306, having made arrangements with Edward I about his earldom, which passed to the king's son Thomas of Brotherton: Edward II bestowed the earldom of Norfolk on his half-brother in December 1312 when Thomas was twelve, shortly after the birth of the future Edward III had displaced him as heir to the throne.  The earldom, later dukedom, of Norfolk passed to Thomas's daughter Margaret and thence to her descendants the Mowbrays (her elder daughter and co-heiress Elizabeth Segrave married John, Lord Mowbray).

19 October, 2014

Proofs of Age, Or, I Know How Old You Are Because I Saw Queen Isabella Lift You From The Font

I love fourteenth-century proofs of age (see here and here for my previous posts on them).  They're so revealing of people's lives and how they remembered things.  Here are some more, from Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1327-1336.  Each proof of age required the testimony of twelve jurors, all male, though I've only included the more interesting entries.  The first three are of particular interest to me, given the people involved: two of the de Verdon sisters and John, Lord Mowbray.

1) Stafford, 1 March 1327: Proof of age of Margery de Verdon, who was: third of the four daughters and co-heiresses of the justiciar of Ireland Theobald de Verdon (1278-1316); stepdaughter of Edward II's niece Elizabeth de Burgh née de Clare; and niece of Roger Mortimer, first earl of March (Margery's mother was Roger's sister Maud).  Edward II's 'favourite' Sir Roger Damory, who married Margery's stepmother Elizabeth de Burgh in 1317, bought the rights to Margery and her half-sister Isabella's (Elizabeth de Burgh's daughter and thus Damory's stepdaughter) marriages in March 1318 for £200, and sold them to Thomas, earl of Lancaster's adherent Sir Robert Holland that November (Patent Rolls 1317-21, pp. 125, 237).  By 1327 when her proof of age was taken, Margery was married to William le Blount, a Lancastrian knight and one of Henry, earl of Lancaster's attorneys.  Her elder sisters were Joan, born 1303, who married firstly John Montacute and secondly Thomas Furnival, and Elizabeth, born c. 1306, who married Bartholomew Burghersh, maternal nephew of Bartholomew Badlesmere who suffered the traitor's death on the orders of Edward II in 1322.

John de Hodinet, aged 54 years, says that the said Margery was 16 years of age at the feast of St Laurence past, for she was born at Alveton [Alton, Staffordshire] on that day, 4 Edward II [10 August 1310] and baptised in the church there on the same day; and this he knows because he was there with the said Theobald [de Verdon, Margery's father] and announced the birth to him.

Henry de Athelaxton, aged 44 years, says the like, and knows it because he was at Croxdene by Alveton and heard how John de Hodinet announced the birth.

Richard de Farlegh, aged 50 years, says the like, and knows it because he buried William his first-born son on the same feast of St Laurence.

Richard de Dolverne, aged 47 years, says the like, and knows it because he hunted with the said Theobald at Wotton by Alveton and shot a buck on the same feast of St Laurence.

Peter de Daddesleye, aged 57 years, says the like, and knows it because he was with the said Theobald in Ireland at the feast of the Decollation of St John the Baptist [29 August] next following the said feast of St Laurence.

2) Wiltshire, 20 February 1332 [it states 5 Edward III which would be February 1331, but this seems to be an error]: Proof of age of Margery de Verdon's half-sister Isabella, posthumous daughter of Theobald and his second wife Elizabeth de Burgh.  In 1332 Isabella was already married to Henry, Lord Ferrers of Groby, and despite her youth had borne a child in about February 1331, who unsurprisingly died young.  Unlike her three older Verdon half-sisters, Isabella was the great-niece of Edward II, who sent a gift of a silver cup on hearing of her birth.  She was also the goddaughter of Queen Isabella and named after her.  When the inquisition was taken, Isabella de Verdon was a ward of the (then dowager) queen, and the writ to the escheator ordered him to inform the queen so that her bailiff could be present.

John de Duyn, knight, aged 60 years, says that the said Isabel was 14 years of age at the feast of St Benet last past, for she was born at Aunbresbury [Amesbury, Wiltshire] on that day, 10 Edward II [21 March 1317], and baptised in the church there; at that time he was staying in his manor of Tudeworth, four leagues from Aunbresbury, and saw Queen Isabella come from the manor of Clarendon to lift the said Isabel from the font, and he was present.

Henry Borry, aged 50 years and more, says the like, and he saw Roger [Martival], then bishop of Salisbury, come from his manor of Wodeford to baptise the same Isabel, and he came in the company of the said bishop, whose servant he was.

John de Harnham, aged 46 years, says the like, and knows it because at the time of her birth he was sub-sheriff of Wilts and was assigned to conduct Queen Isabella from Clarendon to Aunbresbury, as aforesaid.

Richard de Wycombe, aged 47 years, says the like, and knows it because when Elizabeth de Burgh, mother of the said Isabel, lay in childbed, King Edward the king's father [i.e. Edward II] came from his manor of Clarendon to the said Elizabeth [words missing] between the same Elizabeth and Roger Damory.*

* This is Edward II putting pressure on his niece, in the middle of giving birth to her late husband's child, to marry his current favourite.  He'd written to try to persuade her to marry Roger Damory even before Theobald de Verdon's funeral, and in the letter called her his favourite niece in a transparent attempt to get her to do he wanted, which was a bare-faced lie.  Nice work, Edward!  Lie to your niece and harass her in writing and in person when she was most vulnerable.  Spectacular.  Elizabeth gave in, and married Roger a few weeks later; she really had no other choice.  She had retired to Amesbury Priory during her pregnancy, presumably to try to find a bit of peace and to spend time with her aunt Mary, Edward II's sister, who was a nun there and with whom Elizabeth seems to have had a close and affectionate relationship.

3) York, 31 July 1329: Proof of age of John, son of John, Lord Mowbray, executed by Edward II in York on 23 March 1322 after he took part in the Contrariant rebellion.  I like the younger John (who married Henry of Lancaster's daughter Joan in 1327).  On 30 April 1326, an entry on the Close Roll declares that John, who was only fifteen at the time, had besieged and captured Tickhill Castle in Staffordshire "and perpetrated other felonies and misdeeds" in the company of the brother of Roger, Lord Clifford, also executed as a Contrariant in 1322.  This was probably because the constable of Tickhill was William Aune, a friend and ally of Edward II, and John Mowbray and Robert Clifford were trying to make trouble for the king in any way they could.

William de Sproxton, aged 50 years, says that the said John was born at Hovyngham [Hovingham, North Yorkshire] on the eve of St Andrew, 4 Edward II [29 November 1310], and baptised in the church of All Saints there [here!], and was 18 years of age on the eve of St Andrew last past, which he knows because on the same day as the said John was born, he dined in the hall with the servants of the house of Hovyngham.

Ralph de Kirketon, aged 53 years, says the like, and knows it because he was at Hovyngham with Sir John de Moubray, deceased, father of the said John; which John the father had an illness at Hovyngham when the said John was born, on account of which Alina [de Braose] his mother was delivered of the said John five days ahead of her time.

John Dounyour, aged 38 years, says the like, and knows it because at the same time as the said John was born he was in the schools of Hovyngham.

Thomas de Colton, aged 40 years, says the like, and knows it because in the same week as the said John was born he had a brother named William drowned by accident.

William Stibbyng, aged 43 years, says the like, and knows it because in the same month as the said John was born, as he rode towards Maltone next Hovyngham, his horse fell and he broke his left shin bone.

Robert Scot, aged 54 years, says the like, and knows it because immediately after the said John's birth he hastened to [Thomas] the earl of Lancaster, deceased, and brought him the news of the said John's birth, for which the said earl gave him 20 shillings.

4) Dorset, 18 April 1327: Proof of age of Roger son of John de Husey, kinsman and heir of John de Berewyk, deceased.

The said Roger was 21 years of age on the feast of the Translation of St Thomas [Becket] the Martyr, for he was born at Mortone on the said feast, 33 Edward I [7 July 1305], and on the same day was baptised in the church of St Martin there by Robert, rector of the church, his godfather, who still survives and bears witness to his age.

John Peverel, aged fifty years, knows it because he married Isabel his wife about the feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist [24 June] in the same year that the said Roger was born, and they were at the feast made for the purification of Maud mother of the said Roger rising from childbed of the same.

Henry Touere, aged 70 years, knows it because John his son was born on the feast of St Peter ad Vincula [1 August] in the same year, and will be 22 years of age on the same day this year.

John le Moygne, aged 60 years, knows it because John le Moygne his father died on the same feast of the Translation of St Thomas.

William Whyteclyve, aged 70 years, knows it because he was steward of the house of the said John Husey at the time the said Roger was born, and by the date of the rolls of expenses made on the day of the purification of Maud mother of the said Roger, and by other evidences he well remembers the date.

5) Devon, 8 September 1328: Proof of age of William, son and heir of Nicholas de Cheigny.

Philip de Cranlysworthy, aged 48 years and more, says that the said William was 22 years of age on the feast of the Assumption last [15 August], and this he knows because the said William was born at Upotery [Upottery], and baptised in the church there on the morrow by Robert, vicar of the said church, 1 Edward II [1307].  Asked how he remembers, he says that he was at that time beyond the sea at Montpellier, and on the morrow of the said Assumption he returned home to Upotery.

Robert de Greneweie, aged 60 years, agrees, and recollects it because he had a son named John, who was ordained chaplain at Exeter on Sunday next before the said feast, 1 Edward II.

Robert de Okebeare, aged 60 years, William de Batteshorne, aged 50 years and more, John Fisshacre, aged 60 years, William Beffyn, aged 60 years, Roger Caperoun, aged 50 years, and John Mone, aged 60 years, say the like, and recollect it because at Michaelmas [29 September] next after the feast of the Assumption, 1 Edward II, there came by night divers robbers to the priory of Otritoune [Otterton], and there spoiled and slew the prior, whose anniversary is written in the missal of the church of Upotery.

6) Essex, 12 April 1328: Proof of age of Margaret de Bovill or Bovile, daughter and heir of John de Bovill.

John de Lysyton, knight, aged 60 years, says that the said Margaret was 16 years of age on Monday the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Mary last, for she was born on the said feast, 5 Edward II [8 September 1311] at Lyes [?], and was baptised in the church there.  Asked how he knows this, he says that he was steward at that time of the household of the said John de Bovile, who then held the aforesaid manor of Lyes, and by the dates of the rolls of the aforesaid household he can verify the same.

Thomas Baynard, knight, aged 60 years, agrees, adding that he was then of the household of Sir Hugh de Nevile, who at that time was making a pilgrimage to St Thomas [Cantilupe] of Hereford, and was in his suite.

John de Polhey, aged 50 years, agrees, adding that, on the Monday when the said Margaret was born, he was in the hall of Lyes, and when Petronilla, mother of the said Margaret, was delivered, her midwives came into the hall, and announced the birth to him and others.

Ralph Doreward, aged 60 years, agrees, adding that on Monday next after the birth of the said Margaret, in the year aforesaid, he married Decima, his wife, and so the birth of the said Margaret often recurs to his memory.

Henry de Naylinghurst, aged 50 years, says that the said Margaret was 16 years of age on Monday, the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Mary last, for she was born at Lyes, in the large chamber in the upper part of the hall; and this he knows because he was staying for a long time in the realm of France, and at Michaelmas before the birth of the said Margaret, he returned into England, and came to Leys on the Saturday before her birth.

7) York, 15 June 1328: Proof of age of William son and heir of William de Stoppeham.

Richard le Saucer, aged 40 years, says that the said William was born in York, in Conyngestrete, on the eve of the Invention of the Holy Cross, 35 Edward I [2 May 1307], and was baptised in the church of St Martin in Conyngestrete in the said city [here!]; and this he knows because the same King Edward died on the feast of St Thomas of Canterbury [7 July] next after the birth of the said William.

Roger le Mareschal, aged 60 years, says the like, and knows it because he was then in the retinue of Walter de Langeton, bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, and had a certain palfrey in his charge in the same week in which the said William was born.

John le Lumynour, aged 64 years, says the like, and knows it because within fifteen days of the birth of the said William he went on pilgrimage to Canterbury.

John son of Denis, aged 40 years, says the like, and knows it because, in the year in which the said William was born, the said John was apprenticed to shear cloth in the city of York.

*

I'm sure I'll post more of these sometime soon as they're so fab!

17 October, 2014

Signed Copies

So, Edward II: The Unconventional King is out now!  In the UK and Germany at least, people who pre-ordered it have received their copies, and in the US it's due out any day now and is already available on Kindle.  I really hope you all enjoy it.

Rather a lot of people have asked me about the possibility of me signing their copies.  I'm only too happy to!  Logistically it's going to be slightly tricky though, as of course you'll have to send me your book and I'll have to send it back, and it's going to cost rather a bit in postage!  Anyway, if you're interested in this, please do get in touch with me at edwardofcaernarfon@yahoo.com, or if you're on Facebook, send me a PM, either on my own page or on the Edward II page.  Looking forward to hearing from you!


12 October, 2014

Piers Gaveston's Illegitimate Daughter Amie

I've recently been re-reading some of the bizarre theories and wild speculations posted a few years ago on soc.genealogy.medieval about Piers Gaveston's illegitimate daughter Amie, and was inspired to write a post.  Not much is known about Amie; she cannot have been the daughter of Piers' wife and Edward II's niece Margaret de Clare as she was not, like her half-sister Joan Gaveston (born January 1312) an heiress to Margaret's third of the vast de Clare inheritance, and there is no record of Piers having been previously married before he wed Margaret in November 1307, so Amie must have been his illegitimate child.  The identity of her mother is unknown.  She was a damsel in the household of Edward III's queen Philippa of Hainault in the 1330s and married John Driby, with whom she had a daughter Alice Driby, who had (and has) descendants.  In one document of 1334, Amie is named as 'daughter (filie) of Petrus de Gaveston'.  The dates of her birth and death are unknown; Piers died in June 1312 so she cannot have been born later than nine months after that and may of course have been born much earlier, and the last known reference to her is in June 1340.  This is not necessarily when she died, though, and she may well have lived well beyond that.  Her daughter Alice Driby outlived three husbands, all of them knights, and died in 1412; Alice's eldest known child Elizabeth, was born in 1372, and she also had a son born in 1380/81 and several more children after that.

Some of the members of soc.genealogy.medieval came out with the weirdest stuff about Amie, that she was actually an illegitimate child of Piers' wife Margaret de Clare, which is massively, wildly, hilariously improbable; that she was the daughter of his father, claimed (wrongly) also to have been called Piers, and thus our Piers' half-sister.  It was even stated that a document calling Amie Piers' daughter doesn't prove a blood relation between them (??), by the same people who cheerfully indulged in flights of fantasy about Amie actually being Margaret de Clare's illegitimate daughter, though not a shred of evidence connects the two.  Fortunately there were also a few sensible members who made some eminently reasonable and knowledgeable posts about her.  See here.  And also see here for a reference to Amie on the Patent Roll of 1332, granted one of the late Roger Mortimer's manors in gratitude for her service to Queen Philippa.  When Amie joined Philippa's household, and how she came to be there, is unknown.  She is not named among the queen's five damsels in a list of the members of the king and queen's households of 24 June 1328, a few months after Philippa married Edward III (Calendar of Memoranda Rolls Michaelmas 1326-Michaelmas 1327, p. 373; the damsels were, in the original spelling, Johanna de Carru, Emmota Priour, Idonia de Clynton, Margareta de Peckebruge and Elena de Seckeville).

It's quite baffling to me that anyone would feel the need to go to such lengths to 'prove' that Amie Gaveston was not in fact Piers' daughter when a perfectly good fourteenth-century document says clearly that she was, and claim instead that she was the daughter of his wife, of his father, or of some other man called Piers Gaveston, though there is absolutely no record of anyone such.  It reminds me of the way some people are desperate to reassign Edward III's paternity to Roger Mortimer by inventing silly stories of Roger sneaking into England from Ireland in February 1312 and Isabella sneaking off to meet him on her way to York to be with her husband.  Or that Simon de Montfort was Edward I's real father.  Nonsense on stilts.  If people want to write fictional stories, great, but let's not pretend it has anything to do with history.  It would be like someone 700 years in the future seeing my birth certificate which identifies me as the daughter of Philip Warner, and solemnly declaring that there is no reason why this should mean that I was in fact Philip's daughter and the document doesn't prove that there was a family connection between us, and creating elaborate fantasies which they say are equally plausible about my true parentage, including that I was the illegitimate child of my stepmother.  Madness.

A fourteenth-century chronicle called the Polistoire wrongly says that Piers Gaveston's father was also called Piers, when we know from other sources that he was in fact called Arnaud.  It was therefore postulated on soc.genealogy.medieval that 'Amie daughter of Petrus Gaveston' was Piers' half-sister, daughter of his father of the same name.  The petition below of c. 1305 presented to Edward I by Piers and his older brother Arnaud-Guilhem de Marsan, now in the National Archives, leaves us in no doubt, however, that Piers' father (who actually died in 1302) was named Arnaud.  It begins "To our lord the king and his counsel plead Arnaud Guilhem de Marsan and Perrot de Gavastun, sons [fuiz] of Sir Arnaud de Gavaston, late knight of Gascony...".



Presumably Edward II knew of Amie's existence, though there is no documentary evidence to prove that he did.  Given the obscurity of most illegitimate children at this time period, even the king's own son Adam (died 1322) and the two sons of his wealthy and powerful cousin the earl of Lancaster, it is not in the least bit surprising that we find Amie in no record until 1332, when she was an adult.  There is no reason at all to think, as some members of soc.genealogy.medieval seem to do, that Amie's existence was deliberately hushed up or that there was some great conspiracy of silence around her or that her non-appearance on record means anything at all.  Presumably, as a document of 1334 names her as Piers Gaveston's daughter, Piers must have openly acknowledged her as such.

Contrary to what a lot of people believe, the word 'damsel' in the fourteenth century did not necessarily mean that a woman was young; it meant a woman who was not married or whose husband was not a knight.  One of Isabella of France's damsels in 1311/12 was Alice de Leygrave, who had once been Edward II's wet-nurse (in 1312 on the Close Roll she is called "the king's mother, who suckled him in his youth") and therefore was old enough to have been given responsibility for feeding the future king of England in 1284 and evidently was already a mother then herself - so clearly was some decades older than Isabella, who was born in about 1295, and by no stretch of the imagination a young woman in 1312.  Alice's daughter Cecily was also one of Isabella's damsels at this time.  Amie Gaveston being a damsel of Queen Philippa in 1332 therefore does not tell us anything about her age, it only tells us that she wasn't married to a knight.

At some point in or around 1334, Amie married John Driby.  One theory that Amie can't have been Piers' daughter goes: she was 'too old' for marriage if she was Piers' daughter and born in or before 1312, because we know that women married in their early teens or even before.  Amie's daughter Alice Driby was still giving birth in the early to mid-1380s, which implies that she can't have been born earlier than about 1340 and probably later.  Let's say that Alice was born around 1345; this would mean that Amie, child of a man who died in 1312, was in her thirties when she gave birth to her, and that Alice continued to bear children until she was forty or more.  Not impossible, of course; Eleanor of Castile and Philippa of Hainault are two famous contemporary examples of women who bore children when they were over forty.  Alice, incidentally, is the only child of Amie we know about, though Amie may of course have had others, who either died young or who didn't make it to the written record.  Let's say for example that Amie was born in about 1310, gave birth to her daughter in the 1340s, and Alice gave birth between 1372 or earlier and about 1385.  The chronology certainly works, though some people have claimed that Amie was too young to have been Piers' daughter, given the childbearing in the 1380s of her own daughter.  Amie, however, was granted a manor by Queen Philippa for the first time in January 1332, for service to the queen.  She clearly wasn't a child then.

We know that royal and noble women generally got married in their early teens or before.  We have no way of knowing at what age women down the social scale - and Amie certainly was that, being illegitimate - got married.  For all we know, getting married in their twenties was entirely normal.  It's a myth that everyone in the past always got married really young.  What was the hurry for non-noble or royal people, after all?  No vital political alliances between countries or families to seal, no inheritances to secure.  Even thinking about noblewomen, I can think of some who got married later than the norm: Edward I's daughter Eleanor (married at twenty-four) and Edward III's daughter Isabella (married at thirty-three) are classic examples, and there's also Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare's daughter Isabel, who married the widowed Maurice Berkeley in 1316 when she was fifty-four, her first and only marriage.  The dates of birth of the general population, everyone except tenants-in-chief and their heirs, are not recorded in this era.  We can't state with certainty that 'women always got married in early puberty' as a general rule that applies to everyone in England at this time, and it's certainly not reason enough to assume that Amie can't have been Piers Gaveston's daughter because we have some vague idea that she was 'too old' to get married in her twenties and have a child in her thirties.

Another theory: the 1334 fine which identifies Amie as 'daughter of Petrus Gaveston' does not mean the famous Piers Gaveston, earl of Cornwall, but some other Piers Gaveston.  Even though there is no documentary evidence of another Piers Gaveston, apparently we should assume that he, rather than the famous Piers, earl of Cornwall, fathered Amie.  The small Béarnais village of Gabaston where the family came from has a population of barely 600 even today.  It is surely stretching credulity too far to think that there was another 'Piers of Gabaston' in England in the early fourteenth century.  In the absence of any evidence that such a person existed, I'm going to stick with the most plausible explanation, that the Piers Gaveston named as Amie's father was the Piers Gaveston.

There's one amazingly creative theory about Amie, that she was in fact the illegitimate daughter of Piers' widow Margaret de Clare.  Goodness only knows why or how that one came about - seemingly from the inability of many people nowadays to believe that Piers Gaveston, beloved of Edward II, would have had extra-marital sex with a woman.  I have no idea why that's implausible.  Edward himself had pre- or extra-marital sex with a woman that resulted in his son Adam, after all.  Let's just speculate here and say that Margaret de Clare became pregnant by another man while she was married to Piers, and this resulted in Amie.  By English law, Amie would still have been Piers' daughter and legitimate, unless he took formal measures to renounce her.  If Amie had been legitimate, she would have been one of Margaret de Clare's co-heirs to the vast Clare inheritance, with Joan Gaveston and, later, Margaret's younger daughter Margaret Audley (who ultimately received the entire inheritance as Margaret's only surviving child).  It is incredibly unlikely that Margaret gave birth to an illegitimate child after Piers' death.  Margaret's brother the earl of Gloucester was killed at Bannockburn on 24 June 1314, almost exactly two years after Piers' execution, and she and her two sisters Eleanor and Elizabeth became heirs to his fortune and lands in England, Wales and Ireland.  Eleanor was already married, and Elizabeth still in Ireland (her husband the earl of Ulster's heir died in 1313).  Edward II took Margaret into his own household, where she would - certainly - have been watched closely.  She was a great heiress and a great prize, and it is basically impossible to imagine that she had enough freedom of movement to sleep with a man and become pregnant without it being noticed.  Even before the death of her brother, it is hard to imagine that she had the freedom of movement to sleep with a man and become pregnant without it being noticed.  The lives of royal and noble women were, of course, considerably more curtailed than those of royal and noble men.

Amie Gaveston was Piers' daughter, illegitimate and born to a mother whose identity we unfortunately do not know, and almost certainly never will unless new evidence comes to light.  I see no reason to think she was the daughter of anyone else.  I wish we knew more about her life and what, if any, arrangements Piers made for her upbringing.  I also wish we knew more about Edward II's son Adam.  Maybe one day...

07 October, 2014

Three Weeks Until Publication!

Just three weeks to go until Edward II: The Unconventional King is released!  Hope you're excited :-)

Some important news first: the winner of a copy of Sara Cockerill's fab Eleanor of Castile: The Shadow Queen is Bev.  Congrats, Bev!

My aim in the book is to tell the story of Edward II and his reign, and the people around him, in the most accurate, non-biased, non-judgemental way I possibly can.  I deal with all the silly myths that have been invented about him and thus defend him when I think it's necessary, but don't hold back from discussing his many flaws and mistakes.  I have no interest in presenting a whitewashed, romanticised version of Edward II, constantly jumping in to defend and minimise all his faults, and writing him as a hard-done-by victim who just couldn't help it, diddums.  Equally, I think a lot of writers have judged him unfairly harshly ("A more complete ninny than Edward II has seldom occupied a throne"; "Worthy never to have been born," for example) and have forgotten that he wasn't a bad man who set out to do evil to his subjects; he was born into a hereditary monarchy and was forced by birth to try to fill a position he was unsuited to.  He battled to reconcile his position with his unconventional nature, and to subsume Edward the man into Edward the king, and failed.  The Unconventional King is the most personal portrait of Edward II yet seen, and I really hope you enjoy it.



You can pre-order The Unconventional King from Amberley, the publisherAmazon UK; Amazon US; Book Depository; Barnes and Noble; Booktopia in Australia.  It will also be available as an e-book.

02 October, 2014

Edward of Caernarfon Created an Event: Party to Celebrate Me Founding Oriel College, Oxford

Finally, years after the first two, here's the third (and last) part of my Edward II Joins Facebook series!
Part one
Part two

Viewing most recent stories · Back to top stories

Edward of Caernarfon is in a complicated relationship with Hugh the Younger.  Comment Like Share

Hugh the Elder likes this.

Eleanor Despenser left a comment: Wut???

Edward left a comment: Never mind, El, just a crazy joke, hahaha.  Here, have some goldfinches.

Eleanor Despenser left a comment: okk.

Edward invited Hugh the Younger to try the Rule My Kingdom For Me application.

Edward sent Hugh the Younger an inappropriately huge number of other people's lands using Extravagant Royal Gifts.  Send some to your friends today!

Edward of Caernarfon sent Scotland an Invasion.

Scotland is laughing its head off.

Robert Bruce sent England an Invasion.

Edward of Caernarfon added Bridlington to the Places Where I've Fled From A Scottish Army application.

Dunbar and Berwick-on-Tweed like this.

Robert Bruce created an event at Rievaulx Abbey: Come and grab as many of the English king's abandoned possessions as you like.  Attend this event Yes No Maybe

The Westminster Chronicler asked a question: Is Edward of Caernarfon a) chicken-hearted, b) lily-livered, or c) both?

Hugh the Younger joined the group Dude, Where's My Earldom?  Join this Group

Stephen Segrave updated his Work Info to Constable of the Tower of London.

Hugh the Younger thinks the queen has waaaaaay too many lands and doesn't need them.

Isabella of France created the page I AM QUEEN, GODDAMMIT.  Like this Page

Isabella of France thinks that barons and chamberlains really should know their place.  Like Comment

Hugh the Younger edited his Interests to include Becoming ever more stinkingly rich and Sidelining the queen as much as poss.

Stephen Segrave is drunk!  And having lots of fun!  Wodge, I love you, man!  Hey, Wodge, where you going?  No no, go back to your cell, not over that wall.  Oh crap, what the hell is in this wine?  Wooooooodge!!!!!  Like Comment

Roger Mortimer created the group People Who've Escaped from the Tower of London.  Join this Group

Lady Segrave sent a Hope You Recover From Your Poisoned Wine Soon card to her husband.

Roger Mortimer sent a Yah Boo Sucks To You greeting to Edward of Caernarfon.

Edward of Caernarfon thinks he really mustn't panic over Mortimer escaping from the Tower.  It's totally fine and cool, no problem.  Not panicking at all here.  Nope.  Like  Comment 

Roger Mortimer can't get over how incredibly cool and clever he is for escaping.  Like  Comment

Roger Mortimer hopes Isabella of France has noticed how incredibly cool and clever he is.  Like  Comment

Roger Mortimer added Flanders, Picardy, Hainault, Bohemia, France and Germany to the Places He's Searched For Allies Against Edward Of Caernarfon application.

Roger Mortimer invited Charles IV King of France, Charles de Valois and 231 other friends to become fans of Roger Mortimer.  Become a fan of Roger

Roger Mortimer joined the group Unequivocally heterosexual men who love doing it with French girls.  Join this Group

Edward of Caernarfon really, really, really wants to know where Roger Mortimer is.  Still not panicking, though.  Nooooo, not at all.

Hugh the Younger recommends an article on Economist.com, How to take over your sister-in-law's Welsh lands for fun and profit.

Charles IV King of France created the page Gascony should be part of my realm, not my silly brother-in-law's.

French soldiers posted a new album: Building a new fortification at Saint-Sardos in the middle of the English king's lands in Gascony.

Charles IV King of France sent Edward of Caernarfon a declaration of war.

Edward of Caernarfon has realised he can't even find Saint-Sardos on a map.  So how the heck can I be at war over the wretched place?

Edmund of Kent updated his Work Info to Lieutenant of Gascony.

Charles de Valois added Agenais to the Places I've Conquered application.

Edmund of Kent added Agenais to the Places Where I've Been Humiliatingly Forced To Submit To My Uncle application.

Hugh the Younger left a comment: So much fail, Edmundo-baby.  Wanna come back to England and tell me why you screwed up so much?

Charles IV King of France updated his relationship status to Married to Jeanne d'Evreux.

Charles IV is hoping this one gives me a son.  Third time lucky, eh?

Philip de Valois left no comment.

Edward of Caernarfon added Cornwall and Oxfordshire to the Places I've Confiscated From The Queen For No Reason Whatsoever application.

Hugh the Younger likes this.

Charles IV invited Edward of Caernarfon to attend the event The king of England kneeling to me and paying homage the way a proper vassal should.  Attend this event Yes No Maybe

Edward of Caernarfon answered maybe.

Pope John XXII added an Answer: Perhaps the queen could travel to France to to negotiate a peace settlement before the king travels there himself?

Edward of Caernarfon likes this.

Isabella of France is now...in France!  Yippee!  So great to be back and treated like a proper royal again.  I could get used to this.  Ohhhh yes.

Isabella of France posted a new album: Having a girly night out in Pontoise with my sis-in-law Clemence.

Charles IV ordered Edward of Caernarfon to attend the event The king of England kneeling to me and paying homage the way a proper vassal should.  Attend this event Yes 

Edward of Caernarfon added Dover to the Places I've Hovered And Prevaricated In While Having Absolutely No Clue What To Do Next application.

Hugh the Younger begs leave to remind Edward that he will probably be killed if Edward leaves for France.

Edward of Windsor updated his Work Info to Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Ponthieu.

Edward of Windsor added Vincennes to the Places I've Paid Homage In application.

Edward of Caernarfon is worried that sending his son to France was totally the wrong thing to do.  But what else could I have done, under the circumstances?  Crap, crap, crap.

Edward of Windsor posted a new album: Me paying homage to Uncle Chas for my French lands.  Which are totally mine now and not my dad's, which is waaaay cool.

William Montacute likes this.

Edward of Windsor left a comment: Doesn't Uncle Chas look like a total div in that red cotehardie, though?

Isabella of France is now friends with Roger Mortimer.  Add Friend

Isabella of France became a fan of Roger Mortimer.  Become a fan of Roger

Roger Mortimer sent Isabella of France the Healing Power of a Damn Good Shag by Someone who's Amazingly Unequivocally Heterosexual and Totally Manly and Virile and Stuff.

Isabella of France created the event Finding Empowerment and Fulfilment by Shagging a Married Man.  Attend this event Yes No Maybe

Katherine Swynford and Mary Boleyn are attending this event.

Joan Mortimer thinks men are bastards.  Like Comment

Joan Mortimer joined the group My husband is a cheating toerag.  Join this Group

Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer created the page Straight Adultery Good, Gay Adultery Bad. Like this Page

Edward of Caernarfon sent Edward of Windsor a reminder that he is the king's son and heir and belongs at the king's side.

Isabella of France sent Edward of Windsor a reminder that he is the queen's son and heir and belongs at the queen's side.

Edward of Windsor: Mum...or Dad?  Dad...or Mum?  I should go back to Dad...but Mum needs me too.  This is like just soooo totally unfair.  I'm thirteen, how can I choose between my parents?  Why are they pulling this crap on me?  Not cool, guys, NOT COOL.

Isabella of France asked a question: Should I return to my husband or not?  Yes No Maybe Add an Answer

Roger Mortimer voted no.

Isabella of France joined the group Does my bum look big in my spiffy widow's garments?

Jeanne d'Evreux is holding a coronation, and Edward of Windsor needs someone to carry his train!

Roger Mortimer likes this.

Roger Belers is looking forward to a yummy meal with Henry of Lancaster.  Who are all these people waiting for me in the road?  Oh, it's the Folvilles!  'Sup, dudes?  Hey, is that a knife?

Roger Belers' account has been closed.

The Folvilles think they need to get out of England right now.

Edward of Caernarfon is in a complicated relationship with Eleanor Despenser.

Hugh the Younger left a comment: Wut???

Edward of Caernarfon left a comment: Just a little joke, beloved, hahahaha!  Nothing at all really.  Here, have some horses.

Edward of Caernarfon created an event: Party to Help Me Celebrate Founding Oriel College, Oxford, Go Me!!!!  Attend this event Yes No Maybe

700 years of scholars and students are attending.

Edward of Caernarfon posted a new photo album: My summer sailing up and down the Thames chatting to fishermen.  Some of them sing for me!  It's awesome!

Henry of Lancaster left a comment: Shouldn't you be, like, ruling the country or something, cuz?

Henry of Lancaster created the group, Dude, Where Are All My Earldoms?

Edward of Caernarfon left a comment: Look, Henners, Kenilworth and Pontefract are mine now, OK?  Just let it go.

Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer sent Edward of Caernarfon an Armed Invasion.

Edward left a comment: hahaha, I'm not at all scared cos all my faithful allies will rally to my aid...ohhh, bollocks.

Edward is trying to evade an Armed Invasion and needs some friends to lend a hand!  Edward needs help in a good ol' fashioned military campaign to help him save his kingdom!  He still needs the help of 10 more friend(s)! - via KingdomVille · Comment  Like  Click here to help

Eleanor Despenser added the Tower of London to the Places I've Been Left In Charge Of application.

Edward wrote a post in the groups Let's see how many people on FB are from WALES! and Welsh Men do it Better: Hey all, I'll be fleeing to South Wales next week.  Anyone got any, like, weapons or men-at-arms or that kind of stuff going spare?  Been asking everyone on my friends list but it seems they've all suddenly gone on holiday and forgotten to take their iPhones with them.

Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer have made dogmeat of Hugh the Elder.  Literally.

Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer created the page We're going to prove how much fairer and less tyrannical we are than Edward and the Despensers by cutting off men's heads without a trial, forcibly veiling little girls just because we hate their father and stealing the money of the chief justice of the King's Bench.  Like this page

Edward of Caernarfon and Hugh the Younger added Caerphilly to the Castles We've Sought Refuge In Then Inexplicably Left application.

The accounts of Hugh the Younger, the Earl of Arundel, Simon of Reading, Robert de Micheldever and John Daniel have been closed.

Roger Mortimer, Adam Orleton and John Stratford created the event: Sending a delegation to Kenilworth to force the king to give up his throne.  Attend this event Yes No Maybe

Edward of Caernarfon got the error message: Oops! Something went wrong. We're working on getting this fixed as soon as we can. You may be able to try being king of England again later.

Edward of Windsor updated his Work Info to King Edward III of England.

Roger Mortimer and Isabella of France updated their Work Info to Real Rulers of England.

Isabella of France created the page Does the fabulously large dower I've just awarded myself make me look fat?  Like this Page

Edward of Windsor invited Roger Mortimer, Henry of Lancaster and 847 others to attend his Coronation at Westminster Abbey.  Attend this event Yes No Maybe

Edward of Caernarfon added Berkeley Castle to the Places I've Been Imprisoned In application.

Stephen and Thomas Dunheved sent Armed Attacks to Berkeley Castle.

Rhys ap Gruffydd and Donald of Mar like this.

Edward of Caernarfon: I'm freeeeeeee again, oh joy!  Oh no, wait, I'm not.  Sigh.

Rhys ap Gruffydd added Scotland to the Places I've Fled To application.

Roger Mortimer added Thomas Berkeley, John Maltravers, William Ockley and Thomas Gurney to the secret group Let's Solve the Problem of Edward of Caernarfon.

Roger Mortimer wrote a post: Now remember what we talked about via PM, guys.  It's important that we do this right.  And keep schtum, for heaven's sake.

Edward III, Isabella of France, Roger Mortimer and the entire English nobility and episcopate added St Peter's Abbey, Gloucester to the Places We've Attended A King's Funeral application.

Edmund of Kent posted a new album: My half-bro's funeral.  So sad, man.  So sad.  Hang on a sec though, did anyone actually see the body?  Anyone?  Anyone??

Roger Mortimer left a comment: Hmmm yes, very sad.  My new black tunic looked spiffy though, don't you think?  And I definitely saw the dead body, and he was completely dead, oh yes, as dead as you can get.  But he was totally not murdered in any way.

Edward III is now friends with Philippa of Hainault.

Philippa of Hainault updated her Work Info to Queen of England.

Count William III of Hainault likes this.

Isabella of France updated her Work Info to Dowager But Real Queen of England, the one with all the lands and income and power, and don't you forget it, my girl.

Roger Mortimer likes this.

Philip de Valois updated his Work Info to King of France.

Edward III left a comment: Are you freaking kidding me?  How come YOU get it and not me?

Philip VI King of France left a comment: Bwhahahaha, bad luck, cuz!

Jeanne of Navarre left a comment: Are you both freaking kidding me?  France should be mine!

Philip VI left a comment: here, girl, here's Navarre to keep you quiet.

Edward III created the group 1,000,000 Strong Against Roger Mortimer.

Henry of Lancaster and William Montacute joined this group.

Isabella of France left a comment: Young man, you are SO grounded.

Edward III left a comment: Um, helloooo?  Who's king here?  I can do what I like.

Isabella: Oh really?  I am queen, you ungrateful little sod.  After all Uncle Rog and I have done for you!

Isabella of France thinks that this 20,000 pounds from Robert Bruce is going to buy an awful lot of shoes, gowns and jewels.  Yay, shopping!

Edward III left a comment: Errr, Mum, you do know that money's for my treasury, don't you?  Bruce didn't give it to you personally.  And the 80,000 pounds my dad left - you haven't let Mortimer spend it on re-building Ludlow Castle and holding jousting tournaments, have you?  Muuuuuuum!

Isabella of France sent Roger Mortimer an earldom of March using Extravagant Royal Favourite Gifts.  Send one to your royal favourite today!

Henry of Lancaster and the rest of the English nobility left a comment: Are you freaking KIDDING us?

Henry of Lancaster sent an Armed Rebellion to Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer.

Roger Mortimer sent Total Devastation to Leicestershire.

Isabella of France posted a new album: Uncle Henry kneeling in the mud and pretending he actually enjoys submitting to me and Le Manly Wodge.  Hehehehe.

Roger Mortimer created the group How to get lots of girls to fancy you by being amazingly unbelievably rich and powerful and heterosexual.

Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer have accepted an invitation to a double wedding in Ludlow.

Isabella of France left a comment: Which of your daughters is it this time, Rog?

Roger Mortimer replied:  Not sure, tbh.  Possibly Catherine and Agnes?  Or Beatrice and, ummmm, what's the second youngest one called again?

Philippa of Hainault created a new event: My coronation as queen of England.  Finally!  I am nearly six months pregnant with the heir to the kingdom, ya know.  Late, much?  Bloody Isabella.

Henry of Lancaster joined the campaign Make Facebook Available in Braille.

Edmund of Kent created the group We believe Edward of Caernarfon is still alive and we're going to do something about it.

Archbishop of York, Donald of Mar, Bishop of London, Mayor of London, Lord Beaumont, Rhys ap Gruffydd and 187 others joined the group We believe Edward of Caernarfon is still alive and we're going to do something about it.

Roger Mortimer left a comment: Hahahahaha, as if! You're stoooopid, Edmund, and just to prove that Edward is actually dead I'm going to have you beheaded, using a law no-one's ever heard of that makes you guilty of treason for trying to free a dead man from non-existent captivity.

Edmund left a comment: He's at Corfe Castle, I know it, you know it, the whole bloody country knows it.  Your rubbish regime is so over, Mortimer.

Edmund of Kent added Temporary Scaffold in Winchester to the Places He's Hung Around All Day application.

The executioner in Winchester thinks he'd better leg it, sharpish.

A latrine-cleaner of Winchester updated his Work Info under duress to Executioner of Royal Earls.

Edmund of Kent updated his Work Info to Victim of Judicial Murder.

Roger Mortimer thinks that having people beheaded and taking their lands is awesome.

Geoffrey Mortimer left a comment: You're the king of fools, Dad.  Like, seriously.

Edward III: We have a baby boy!!!!!  He rocks!  Hmmm, what do you think me and Philippa should call him?  I'm thinking Edward has a nice ring to it.  Edward of Woodstock, ohhhh yes.

The people of Limoges left a comment: WHERE'S THE DISLIKE BUTTON???!!!

Philippa of Hainault added 91 photos to the album Edward of Woodstock is the cuuuuuutest baby ever.

Edward III likes this.

William Montacute, William Clinton, Robert Ufford and nineteen other friends joined the secret group Roger Mortimer Is Soooo Finished.

William Montacute wrote a post: This tunnel under Nottingham Castle could be damned useful.  Meet you there in a couple of hours, lads!

Roger Mortimer wrote a post on Isabella's Wall: We're lucky our chambers at Nottingham Castle are so secure, while we plot how to continue to rule the country and sideline your son.  Wait, did you hear something?

Henry Bishop of Lincoln added A Latrine Shaft to the Places He's Hurriedly Thrown Himself Down application.

Sir Hugh Turplington's account has been closed.

Henry of Lancaster is throwing his hat in the air with joy.

Roger Mortimer added A Dark Cell At The Tower and Tyburn Gallows to the Places He's Been application.

Roger Mortimer's account has been closed.

Isabella of France is hysterical.

Edward III has discovered he's bankrupt.  Dammit, I KNEW my mum was spending all that dosh!

Edward III sent William Montacute a PM: Will, we have GOT to find out where my dad is. Can't have him wandering around Europe.  Anyone could find him and threaten me with his restoration.  Damn it, FIND him.  Don't harm him but find him!!!!

Edward of Caernarfon is sitting in an Italian monastery on a hill, sipping wine and admiring the view. Ah, this is the life.  Should have retired here years ago.

Edward of Caernaforn thinks he's had the last laugh.

28 September, 2014

Guest Post: Eleanor of Castile and her Relationship with her Children, by Sara Cockerill

I'm delighted to welcome Sara Cockerill, who's written a great guest post for us today about Edward II's mother Eleanor of Castile and her relationship with Edward and her other children.  Sara's excellent biography of Eleanor, The Shadow Queen, was published with Amberley Publishing recently, and I have a free copy to give away to a reader!  If you'd like to enter the competition, drop me an email at edwardofcaernarfon@yahoo.com, or send me a message on Facebook, either on my own page (if we're friends there; if not, your message will probably be diverted to my 'other' inbox and I might miss it) or on my Edward II page.  The winner will be notified both here and via email, so make sure to let me know your email address.



Eleanor of Castile, and her relationship with her children

There are two traditions relevant to a consideration of Eleanor of Castile as a mother here, on the Edward II blog.  The first is the tradition that Eleanor was an uncaring mother.  The second is that her absence from his life had a very substantial negative impact on her son, the future Edward II.

The first of these traditions is buoyed up by the undoubted fact that Eleanor did leave her children behind her twice  - once to go on crusade with Edward I in 1270-1272 (with a lengthy return 1272-4) and again in the period 1286-1289, when they spent three years in Gascony, trying to rescue the King of Aragon from papal wroth.  But these trips should not be taken out of context.  The reality of the situation is that Eleanor was far from the only royal wife to go on crusade – most of the principal crusaders, including the heir to the King of France and the heir to the Duke of Brittany, took their wives with them.  The fashion in this regard had been set by Eleanor of Aquitaine the previous century, and reinforced by Louis IX’s wife Marguerite of Provence in 1248.  This approach reflected that fact that for these young women their primary role was that of childbearer, and in a world where children died so very often, they might well be seen as falling short in their duty if they allowed their husbands to go off for a number of prime childbearing years.  And indeed, Eleanor added three children to her complement during the crusade years, although one of them did not survive.  Likewise Isabelle of Aragon, the wife of Louis’ heir Philip III, was pregnant at the time when he abandoned the crusade.

Similarly the Gascon adventure needs to be viewed in the light of the fact that, although the couple’s children were indeed left behind, ranging from eighteen year old Eleanora, the King of Aragon’s notional wife, to young Edward at two years old, it was actually envisaged that the trip would be over in a year, not the three it eventually swallowed.  These absences must therefore be viewed as a competition of priorities, in which Eleanor’s decision to place her main job as Queen above her children can hardly be said to be wrong.

And the role of Queen was indeed Eleanor’s main job.  It was highly unusual for royal wives to have a considerable close involvement with the raising of their children, at least at an early stage.  Part of this may be down to convention, but we may realistically imagine that with such levels of child mortality, convention reflected a self-protective instinct.  If Eleanor had been as close to all her children as a modern mother, it is hard to imagine how she could have emerged from the years of childbirth with the totals: children borne: 16+, children alive: 6, and kept her sanity.   It was mothers such as Eleanor of Provence, who stayed with her children for great portions of the year, and insisted on being at Edward’s side in illness, who were anomalous.  

Nor should it be imagined that Eleanor had no relationship with her children before they reached the age (about seven to ten) when they would reside more with her at court.  She ran a considerable children’s establishment, and gave careful attention to the details of their regime and routine.  Precise rules governed how much ale was available, and how many dishes at supper, and how many nightlights.  In the household of young Henry, the second son who died in 1274, we can see records of toys, buttons, shirts – and tragically in the weeks before his death a beautiful white pony, which he was never well enough to ride.  In the later household of Edward of Caernarfon there are salmon pies sent to him, as well as provision made for a (very hungry) camel for the children to ride, and (probably less popularly) Dominican tutors to assist young Edward in his reading. 

And Eleanor certainly cared to see her children – they were sent for to greet their parents on return from crusade, and for the coronation.  In the peaceful years which followed, regular stops were made at places where the adult and child establishments could merge for weeks at a time. And in the Welsh years, the children were hauled north to Robert Burnell’s house at Acton Burnell and to Bristol so that such closeness could be maintained. What is more, as death approached, Eleanor had them brought to her in Nottinghamshire – against her mother in law’s urgent warnings of bad air.

But of course it was, at best, a simulacrum of the situation where children are sent to boarding school from a very young age.  Eleanor did not see her children’s first steps, or hear their first words. And there were inevitably effects on the relationship between mother and child.  This is perhaps best documented in relation to the eldest surviving girl, Eleanora, who effectively saw nothing of her mother, but a good deal of her grandmother, before her fifth birthday owing to Eleanor’s departure on crusade.  Eleanora came to court aged about seven, but continued to spend considerable portions of her time with her grandmother, and when her marriage appeared imminent in her early teens, it was to her grandmother that she turned for what then seemed likely to be a final family visit.

Having said that, clearly a close relationship was built between Eleanor and her elder daughters.  Joan (of Acre), who was brought up by her maternal grandmother until she was seven, rushed north to see Eleanor in her final illness, even though she was herself pregnant, and had had a violent row with her parents over weddings just months before.  And Eleanor, though unable to establish a sufficiently consistent regime to see her children as thoroughly indoctrinated with her love of books as she would like, did nonetheless produce in her elder children literate people: Margaret took books with her on her marriage, Elizabeth was to raise a famous patron of learning and Eleanora could actually write – a rather unusual accomplishment for a prince, still more so for a princess. Mary, too could write – which suggests that Eleanor’s influence may have directed her education even in the convent which she entered at a young age.

And there will have been differences in the closeness she established with different children: Eleanora missed the whole first five years, but Margaret and Alphonso had their parents close for the whole first decade of their lives.  For Margaret the evidence is slight, but for Alphonso, the child to whom Eleanor was probably most close, she commissioned a beautiful psalter, now in the British Library, with illustrations that bear the hallmark of her own input and their shared interests.  So a lady – very possibly Eleanor - is seen hunting with dogs (as Eleanor loved to do) alongside a happy small boy; and the margins boast over twenty different varieties of birds.  Both Edward and Eleanor loved birds – and it is fair to assume Alphonso did likewise.

But what of poor Edward, the baby of the family?  While Eleanor’s concern for his well-being is clear in the evidences I have cited, the reality is that from just after his second birthday to well after his fifth birthday his mother was absent from his life.  What is more, there is reason to suppose that when she returned she was already terminally ill and she died only a little over a year later when Edward had not yet turned seven years old.  To add to this, her final year was a maelstrom of activity – picking up the threads of a business left running in neutral for three years, and making her preparations for death, on top of several marriage celebrations and plenty of travel.  Only in the spring, substantially spent around London and Langley where Edward was usually based, will the little boy have had a chance to get to know his mother. 

That in some way his mother made a powerful impression on Edward is perhaps testified to by his adoption of her Castilian arms as his badge in later life, and his determined fondness for all things Castilian – Kathryn’s book (which I have been lucky enough to read in proof form) shows again and again how Edward emphasised his tie to Castile – and indeed wished to strengthen it in the form of marriage.  There is in this a strong feeling that Edward felt Eleanor’s absence – and some of the accounts of his later household, with the little boy receiving her old friends, as well as a succession of bishops and ambassadors, is very poignant. 

But one cannot help but wonder too whether the absence of Eleanor was not most felt in the training Edward II plainly did not get in the duties of kingship.  Because in Edward II as a man I see a person at odds with the job of kingship – and this may not be surprising given that to Edward it surely must have seemed that it was kingship and queenship which kept him at the margins of his parents’ lives.  As Kathryn notes, his tragedy – and England’s – was that he didn’t have the option to do something else – he was born to do a job which was not at all to his taste.

Had Eleanor lived, it is she who would have superintended his upbringing – and with more consistent discipline and focus than Edward I (himself the product of loving indulgence) would be likely to bestow.  Her family had written at length on the theory of training a King, and she had herself enjoyed that kind of education.  It is a mark of this likely approach that already, when he was aged five, she was ensuring Edward had Dominican tutors.  Had she lived, therefore, it is likely that there would be no debate over Edward II’s literacy and that his education would have been much better designed to engage him with the job he could not escape. 

However, the perfect education can only do so much.  Eleanor’s own brother received the best education in the world, but failed as a king and died alone, abandoned by his family and deposed by his son in a coup in part orchestrated by Alfonso’s queen.  An odd resonance, don’t you think?

*

Sara, thank you for this great post and the insights you've given us!  I've often wondered myself how much Edward knew about Eleanor and her life in Castile, and how much her death when he was only six affected him.  In 1305 he called his much older cousin Agnes de Valence his 'good mother', and in 1312 addressed his wetnurse Cecily de Leygrave as 'the king's mother', so it does seem as though he needed and missed that maternal connection.  Best of luck with The Shadow Queen, and I hope it sells many, many copies!

21 September, 2014

Was There A Far-Reaching Plot To Deprive Edward II Of His Throne In The 1320s?

There is a great conspiracy theory sometimes advanced in modern times about Edward II's downfall, that it was planned as much as four years in advance by a large group of people across several countries, comprising Queen Isabella, several English bishops and magnates, Roger Mortimer and other English enemies of Edward and the Despensers in exile on the continent, Isabella's brother King Charles IV of France, Count William III of Hainault, and even Pope John XXII.

An important first step in this plot against the king, so the tale goes, was the escape of Roger Mortimer from the Tower of London on 1 August 1323, which was, supposedly, aided by Queen Isabella and (according to the Meaux chronicle of the 1390s) her uncle Charles de Valois in France.  In this reading of events, this was far more than an intelligent and resourceful man engineering his own escape with the help of a small group of sympathisers, but was devised and organised by royalty in two countries with the ultimate aim of using Roger to bring down the king of England.  A second vital step in the plot was persuading Edward II to send Isabella to France in March 1325: the idea goes that the queen was desperate to leave England and her husband's influence so that she could work against him in cahoots with her brother the king of France and Edward's enemies there and in the Low Countries, and to this end, manipulated him so that he let her go, under the illusion that it was his own idea.  Next, Edward also had to be persuaded to send his son the future Edward III to France six months later to pay homage to Charles IV for the lands held there by the English crown, so that Isabella, Roger Mortimer and their other allies could gain control of the boy and use him as a weapon to bring down his father with the knowledge and connivance of Charles IV, much of the French nobility, William III of Hainault and goodness knows who else.  It is assumed that Edward II (as well as everybody not involved in it) was totally oblivious to this conspiracy against him across much of Northern Europe, and that Queen Isabella was betraying her husband and secretly working against him as early as 1322/23 but that he was too blind or stupid to notice.  It also requires a belief that at every point - sending Isabella to France, sending his son there later, refusing to concede to Isabella's demand in late 1325 that he send Hugh Despenser the Younger away from him because if he did, she'd have no excuse to remain in France and work against him - Edward fell into the cunning traps set for him by his wife and her secret allies and unknowingly did exactly what they wanted him to do.  This notion of a vast plot against him makes Edward II a puppet, dancing to the tune of his wife and the others; it makes his enemies look terribly clever and cunning, as absolutely everything fell the way they had wanted and planned for years.  Gosh, how fortunate.

There is no evidence for any of this, and although it's a marvellous story, highly imaginative, to my mind that's all it is.  It's looking at what happened to Edward II in 1327 with centuries of hindsight and assuming that his deposition must have been carefully planned by many people conspiring together for a long time, despite the lack of proof for this assertion.  It's assuming that Isabella hated her husband and had been in love with Roger Mortimer, or at the very least sympathetic to him, for many years, despite the lack of proof.  This whole Grand Conspiracy Against Edward II notion reminds me of the popular recent idea that Henry VII's mother Margaret Beaufort schemed for many years to make her son king, which in my opinion is also based on nothing more than hindsight and looking at events backwards.  It takes the fact that Henry became king in 1485 - which seems, and must have seemed at the time, so unlikely when so many people had been ahead of him in the succession and he was merely an impoverished exile abroad - and assuming that this had always been intended, that because an improbable event happened, it must have been planned for a long time, rather than being something which developed organically and hadn't necessarily been plotted and schemed for.  The postulated grand conspiracy against Edward II requires us to believe that numerous people plotted together in at least three different countries for years, were treasonably scheming against the king of England but managed to keep it all entirely secret from him and everyone else, and that no evidence of any of it has survived except the fact that Edward actually was deposed and did have enemies.  Hmmmm.  I don't think most people are that Machiavellian.  Grand conspiracy theories are usually invented long after the events in question, with bucket-loads of hindsight.  It's so attractive to think that Isabella, Roger Mortimer and their allies in 1325/27 weren't just bumbling along and reacting to events, taking spontaneous advantage of situations which arose, making decisions which seemed correct to them at the time, sometimes changing their minds, and so on, but were being terribly clever, showing amazing foresight, amazing skill at manipulating people, and cunningly moving chess pieces across a board which Edward II didn't even know existed.  It's a human trait to want to impose order on chaos, to discern patterns where really there are none, and I think that's the case here.  Edward II's deposition was the first in English history and an incredibly important event, and I do understand the temptation to see it and the events leading up to it as something planned and inevitable, not random and even haphazard, decided late in the game and something which could have happened in many other ways.  I understand it, but I don't think it's true.

Isabella and her alleged allies gaining control of her and Edward II's twelve/thirteen-year-old son Edward of Windsor (the future Edward III) in 1325 was absolutely essential to this presumed long-standing plot against Edward II.  Without the future king of England in their grasp, they could never hope to bring down his father.  I've written before at length about Edward II's decision to send his son to France in September 1325, and how he had backed himself into a corner where every option available to him was fraught with terrible risk and how he took the option which clearly seemed the least worst to him at the time, after much soul-searching and changing his mind.  Edward II came very close to sailing to France himself in September 1325; he granted safe-conducts to the retinue going with him, selected the ship in which he would travel (La Jonete of Winchelsea), had arrangements made for his arrival in Le Crotoy, appointed his son regent of England in his absence, informed Pope John XXII and the English magnates and bishops of his impending departure, and so on.  As late as 4 September 1325, eight days before Edward of Windsor sailed from Dover and two days after the king had made his son count of Ponthieu, Edward II was still issuing letters of safe-conduct for his own retinue accompanying him to France, and evidently was still anguishing over the correct and least dangerous course of action.  Without Edward of Windsor under the control of the queen and her supposed allies, the whole plan would have collapsed.  All of it, all this clever and highly secret conspiring and plotting against Edward II for years, hinged on them being able to separate the king and his heir and take the latter hostage while he was in France.  There is no possible way, however, that either Isabella or the king's enemies on the continent could have known whether Edward II or Edward of Windsor would travel to France when the king didn't even know this himself until almost the last moment.  Edward II's travelling to France rather than sending his son would have thwarted their plans, and of course the king's deposition and the accession of Edward III would have played out very differently in that scenario, though I suppose in that case we'd hear nowadays that Edward II's going to France himself was exactly what the conspirators had always wanted and that he was cleverly manipulated into this decision, because they had always planned to seize control of his son in England while Edward was abroad and/or take Edward II himself prisoner at the French court or while travelling to or from it.  Whatever happened in 1325/26 would surely be made to fit into some conspiracy theory.

Sometime in the late autumn or early winter of 1325, Isabella, at the French court, declared "I feel that marriage is a joining together of man and woman, maintaining the undivided habit of life, and that someone has come between my husband and myself trying to break this bond; I protest that I will not return until this intruder is removed, but discarding my marriage garment, shall assume the robes of widowhood and mourning until I am avenged of this Pharisee."  (Vita Edwardi Secundi).  This has generally been interpreted as Isabella defying and rebelling against her husband, hoping that he actually won't send Hugh away from him so that she has a continued excuse for rebellion.  But we could also take Isabella's words at face value and assume she meant what she said: that she was genuinely mourning the breakdown of her marriage, that she wanted her husband back and Hugh Despenser out of their lives, and that she would return to Edward if this happened.  Edward refused to send Hugh away from him and demonstrated, by defending Hugh before parliament and by sending long letters to the king of France and others, that Hugh, rather than Isabella, was his first priority.  This left the queen with no choice but to stay in France feeling like a widow and to act on her threat, as she duly did.  I'm not quite sure really why Isabella's speech is usually taken to mean the opposite of what it actually says (Isabella: "I won't go back to my husband until he gets rid of the third person in our marriage"; modern writers: "Obviously this means that Isabella hated Edward and was rebelling against him, and hoping that he wouldn't send Hugh away").  It's probably because of the popular but unsupported assumptions that really she loathed her husband (and perhaps always had) and had secretly been in love with Roger Mortimer for years and conspired with him against Edward, ensuring that Roger escaped from the Tower and was safely received at her brother's court, and that she wanted nothing more than the downfall of her husband so that she and Roger could triumphantly rule England in her son's name instead.  And that ever since at least 1322 or 1323 and perhaps even earlier, she had connived and schemed for this, and with the help of others tricked Edward into sending both her and their son to France beyond his reach.

My own feeling is that when Isabella left England for France in March 1325 she may well have intended to impose a condition on her husband for her return, as she stated a few months later: that he must send Hugh Despenser, who she felt had insulted her and her position and was a physical threat to her, away from him.  I simply cannot imagine, however, that Isabella knew or suspected as early as March 1325 that she would ultimately return from her journey at the head of an invasion force with her husband's deposition in mind.  Her own speech in late 1325 indicates her distress at the breakdown of her marriage and that she wished things to go back to the way they had been before Hugh Despenser's intrusion.  It may even be that in the summer and autumn of 1325 she was hoping that her husband rather than her son would come to France to pay homage to her brother for Gascony and Ponthieu, so that she could meet him without the constant irritation of Hugh Despenser's presence, and talk him round to her point of view and thus try to save her marriage.  We don't know that she'd been conspiring against Edward for years, which is pure speculation based on hindsight.  Perhaps Isabella, and even some of her allies - and here I mean the people who joined her in France in 1325/26 and in England after the invasion, not the Super Sekrit allies who managed to conduct a vast conspiracy of treason without leaving a trace of evidence in the records - did not wish for or intend Edward II to lose his throne until very late in the game.  No-one, not even the invaders themselves, could have predicted that Edward's downfall would be so swift and overwhelming, and that hardly anyone would be willing to fight for him against a party comprising his elder son and heir and his wife.  What happened in 1326/27 seems inevitable to us, as though it couldn't possibly have happened in any other way, but of course no-one living through it could have known for sure what was going to happen.  They didn't know that the king's support would collapse almost entirely and that parliament would demand that he give up his throne to his elder son.  No king had ever been deposed before in England and there is no way that his enemies could have been sure beforehand that it would work, or how exactly it would work.

There is nothing whatsoever to confirm that Isabella, before her speech to the French court announcing that she would not return to England unless Edward removed Hugh Despenser from his side, had ever been in touch with Roger Mortimer, other English exiles on the continent, or disaffected bishops and magnates in England.  There is nothing whatsoever to confirm that Isabella and Roger Mortimer had had any kind of relationship - beyond the usual one of a magnate and his queen - before their alliance began at the French court in late 1325 or early 1326.  There is nothing to confirm that Isabella hated her husband or wished him physical harm, though for sure she must have been exasperated beyond endurance by his ineptitude and deeply concerned for her son's inheritance (though she did plenty herself to harm it during the regency of 1327/30, but that's another story), as well as deeply hurt at her husband's favouring Hugh Despenser over her and allowing him to treat her with disrespect.  It can't be proved conclusively, of course, that Isabella had nothing to do with Roger Mortimer's escape in 1323, but there's no real reason to think that she did except hindsight knowledge that they later had a relationship.  The first people to suggest that Isabella was involved in the escape, or even had prior knowledge of it, were the dramatists Christopher Marlowe and Michael Drayton in the 1590s.

It has been stated that Charles IV would not have received Roger Mortimer at his court after his escape from the Tower without Isabella's asking him to, which supposedly demonstrates that she knew about the escape beforehand and approved of it or even actively took part.  However, noblemen and experienced soldiers and administrators like Roger were welcome anywhere, and besides, Roger was not the only English exile at the French court - other 'Contrariants' such as John Maltravers and William Trussell also fled there after the battle of Boroughbridge in March 1322.  So if Isabella asked her brother to welcome Roger, presumably she also asked him to receive her husband's other enemies as well.  This doesn't seem terribly likely.

The idea that two English bishops - Adam Orleton of Hereford and Henry Burghersh of Lincoln, who were both persecuted by Edward II in the 1320s and who entirely understandably formed an important part of the opposition to him in 1326/27 - worked on Queen Isabella and persuaded her in and before 1325 to bring down her husband was invented by the chronicler Geoffrey le Baker around 1350.  It was also he who invented the false notion that Edward of Caernarfon was tortured and tormented at Berkeley Castle, and helped promulgate the false notion of the red-hot poker murder.  Geoffrey, though a vivid and fluent writer, is really not a reliable source for Edward II's reign, and was writing hagiography, not history.  The rest of the conspiracy theory is a modern invention.

Charles IV of France was at war with Edward II in 1324/25 and again at the end of Edward's reign in 1326, but there is no reason to suppose that he was particularly interested in depriving Edward of his throne; Charles was a king too, and for one king to conspire at the fall of another set a dangerous precedent.  No doubt Charles was willing to benefit in any way he could from events in England, in his own and his kingdom's self-interest, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he desired to play an active role in his brother-in-law's downfall.  Exactly how his and Isabella's uncle Charles, count of Valois (father of the first Valois king of France, Philip VI) was meant to have aided Roger Mortimer in his escape from the Tower in August 1323 as claimed by the Meaux chronicle, or why Valois would have wanted to when he was seeking marriage alliances between his children and Edward II's, is unclear, and this is probably a misunderstanding in light of the alliance between Roger and Valois's son-in-law the count of Hainault.  As for Edward being manipulated into sending Isabella to France, it had been suggested as early as April 1324 that she might intercede with her brother on Edward's behalf.  Charles IV's counsellors also suggested at the beginning of 1325 that Isabella and her elder son Edward of Windsor should travel to France, the queen to negotiate for peace and the boy to pay homage for Gascony and Ponthieu on his father's behalf.  Although happy enough for Isabella to travel to her homeland, Edward II's own counsellors "with one voice" refused to allow young Edward to go, understandably unwilling to send the twelve-year-old heir to the throne to an enemy country until peace had been established.  The suggestion to send the young Edward of Windsor to France has sometimes been seen as evidence that Charles IV was planning a trap for Edward at the instigation of Isabella and Roger Mortimer, who were hoping to get her son out of the country to use him as a hostage.  Again, this is an imaginative reading unsupported by any evidence.  Pope John XXII, who called Isabella an "angel of peace," wrote to her several times between April 1324 and January 1325 begging her to use her influence with her husband and her brother to bring about their reconciliation and declared that the hope of peace would be "greatly promoted" if she went to France, is in fact by far the most likely person to have suggested her journey.  Edward II wrote in May 1325 that he had sent Isabella to France at the pope's urging, and as this was six months before she refused to return to him, he was almost certainly telling the truth.  There is simply no reason to think that John XXII was favouring Isabella over Edward (as one modern writer has claimed) or that he promoted or desired her rebellion, and in letters to Isabella in 1326/27 he urged her to reconcile with her husband and also wrote to Charles IV asking him to use his influence to bring the couple back together.  Isabella had visited her father Philip IV a few months before his death in 1314 to present petitions to him on Edward II's behalf, so her travelling to France alone and mediating between her husband and her natal family was not without precedent.  By the early or mid-1320s, she had gained a reputation as a peacemaker in the endless quarrels between Edward and his magnates, and was an obvious person to send to negotiate a peace settlement between her native country and her adopted one.

It will be clear that I don't believe the theory that there was some over-arching plot against Edward II stretching across northern Europe for a few years before his enforced abdication.  I don't believe, despite the difficulties in their marriage in and after 1322, that Isabella was her husband's enemy until he forced her to be by choosing his 'favourite' Hugh Despenser over her in late 1325.  I don't believe that Roger Mortimer could have known as early as 1323 that one day he would play a vital role in the downfall of the king.  I don't believe that he just happened to fall genuinely in love with Isabella, any more than I believe that Hugh Despenser just happened to fall genuinely in love with Edward II.  I believe that Roger was a very intelligent and capable man who made the best of the opportunities which fell his way, but not that he conspired with the queen of England, the king of France and others to create those opportunities.  I think Edward II's turbulent reign is fascinating and dramatic enough without inventing stories that half of Europe was trying to bring him down.

12 September, 2014

'Being promiscuous with low-born men': erm no

I've mentioned this in a previous post, but have decided to write an entire post about it.

Alison Weir's Isabella, She-Wolf of France, Queen of England (2005), p. 150, contains the following passage:

"Was Isabella also angry because she had learned that her husband was being promiscuous with low-born men?  In one of Edward's chamber books of 1322, there is a record of substantial payments made by the King to Robin and Simon Hod, Wat Cowherd, Robin Dyer and others for spending fourteen days in his company.  Of course, they may have joined him in innocent pastimes such as digging ditches, but this is not mentioned, and the words 'in his company' sound euphemistic, while the substantial sums paid to these men was perhaps hush money.  And as they stayed for two weeks, the Queen would surely have got to hear of it."

Oh dear.  The men she names were in fact members of Edward II's household throughout the 1320s and perhaps before (none of the king's chamber accounts before 1322 survive, then exist only in fragments until the last one of July 1325 to October 1326) and are named as such dozens of times.  They were portours, also called valletz, of Edward's chamber, words perhaps best translated as 'grooms', and there were around thirty of them at any given time, hired to make beds, carry torches and generally look after the king in his chamber.  (See T. F. Tout, The Place of the Reign of Edward II in English History (2nd ed., 1936), p. 253, which cites the entirety of Edward II's Household Ordinance of December 1318 in the original French, including the chamber staff's duties.)

Weir claims twice in the above passage that the money paid to the men by the king was 'substantial' without saying how much it was.  Edward II's thirty or so chamber grooms - who in 1326 included two women named Joan Traghs and Anneis May, wives of other chamber grooms - were paid three pence a day, and received backdated wages two or three times monthly.  On 16 August 1325, for example, thirty-one men received a total of 108 shillings and six pence in wages for the last ten days, and on 21 June 1326 thirty-three portours received a total of 115 shillings and six pence in wages for the previous thirteen days.  Here's a typical entry from Edward's chamber account, from September 1325, transcribed and translated by myself:

Item illoeqes paie a [...] p' lour gages de ses xxx vadletz auantzditz p' chescun iijd le iour del viijme iour de sept' tantq' samadi le xxj iour de mesme le mois p' xiiij iours Cvs

"Item, paid there [the location mentioned in a previous entry] to [list of names], for the wages of his thirty grooms named above, three pence a day to each, from the 8th day of September until Saturday the 21st day of the same month, for fourteen days, 105 shillings."

That's all it meant in 1322, this 'being paid lots of money for spending fourteen days in the king's company' stuff.  Wages given to some of Edward II's chamber staff.  Not 'hush money'.  Would three pence a day per person really suffice as 'hush money', one wonders?  It was a decent salary at the time for men of their rank, especially as all food, drink, clothes and shoes were provided for free in the royal household on top of that, but wouldn't seem enough to bribe a large group of men not to tell anyone that they'd had sex with the king, and three pence a day hardly counts as 'substantial payments' either, surely.  The phrase "remaining in the the king's company," demoerant en la compaignie le Roi, is used over and over in Edward's chamber accounts and merely refers to people who - gosh, you'll never guess! - accompanied him as he travelled around the country.  It most certainly is not 'euphemistic', unless we assume that Edward was having sex with dozens of people daily and bribing them to keep quiet.  Maybe it sounds 'euphemistic', though, if you're determined to make the most salacious and critical interpretation of Edward II's actions possible.  It illustrates the perils of doing some research but not enough, so that you find one piece of evidence but don't realise that it occurs frequently in Edward's chamber accounts, think you've found something out of the ordinary, put two and two together to make 6427, and thus take something entirely everyday and normal absurdly out of context.  It also illustrates the perils of writing history with an agenda, looking for something, anything, you can use to blacken Edward II's name and to turn Isabella into even more of a victim than you've already made her.  Who wouldn't feel sympathy for a woman in such a situation, being humiliated by the knowledge that her royal husband is having sex with a large crowd of low-born men and paying them off?

Many of Edward II's staff remained loyal to him until the end: the last entry in his last chamber account, on 31 October 1326 when he was in South Wales desperately trying and failing to raise an army and to save his kingship, is a payment to twenty-four grooms of the chamber as their wages for the twenty days since 12 October.  One of them is Walter 'Wat' Cowherd.  Another is Simon Hod.  Another is Robin Dyer.  Three of the men whom Edward II had supposedly brought to court for two weeks in 1322 and paid hush money to because he'd been 'promiscuous' with them to the great distress of his wife.  Wat Cowherd was one of the men named at Caerphilly Castle in March 1327, granted a pardon for holding the castle against the queen for the last few months.  (Calendar of Patent Rolls 1327-30, pp. 37-8.)  Among the Caerphilly garrison was Hugh Despenser the Younger's eldest son, seventeen- or eighteen-year-old Hugh or Huchon, and also among them were men who joined the Dunheved brothers in their attempt to free Edward of Caernarfon from Berkeley Castle in 1327 and men who joined the earl of Kent's attempt to free him from Corfe Castle in 1330.  The men at Caerphilly Castle, including Wat Cowherd, were some of the most devoted and loyal supporters of Edward II there ever was.  Wat certainly wasn't some random nobody the king brought to court to have sex with.

Here's 'Symond Hod' and 'Waut Couh[ier]de', i.e. Wat Cowherd, receiving their wages with the other chamber grooms on 4 August 1325 (Society of Antiquaries of London MS 122, p. 18):


And here's Wat Cowherd, 'Watte Couh'de', accompanying Edward II on a boat trip along the Thames on 2 December 1325, with other chamber grooms named Syme Laweman, Will Shene, the brothers Richard and Henry Hustret, Robin Curre, Jack Edriche and Richard Gobet (Ibid., p. 40, and see the names of some of these men pardoned at Caerphilly, linked above):


And finally, Wat Cowherd, Simon Hod and Robin Dyer receiving their wages with nineteen other men and two women on 31 October 1326, the last-ever payment made out of Edward II's chamber (Ibid., p. 90):


 We know pretty well nothing about Edward II's sex life, except that he must have had intercourse with Isabella four times which resulted in their children, and intercourse with an unknown woman which resulted in his illegitimate son Adam.  Obviously I can't prove that he didn't have sex with some of his chamber staff on occasion, or with the carpenters, fishermen, carters and so on with whom he sometimes spent time, but there's no reason at all to think that he did.  Whatever went wrong between Edward and Isabella in 1322, and it certainly seems that something did, Edward's 'being promiscuous with low-born men' was sure as heck not the cause.