19 August, 2018

An Interview And An Article

I'm quoted in an article in the Washington Post! See here. As - apparently, I know nothing about it - a Mountbatten cousin of the royal family is marrying his husband this year, the journalist Kayla Epstein decided to write an article about gay British royals in history, and we talked on the phone some weeks ago about Edward II and his relationships with Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despenser.

My talk in the village of East Leake on 9 August, on the 700th anniversary of Edward II meeting his cousin Thomas of Lancaster in the village, went great. Around 125 people attended. After the talk, the lovely Paul Bradshaw interviewed me for his excellent Youtube channel Viral History (see also the Viral History website, here). The next morning, Paul was able to arrange for me to join a tour of Nottingham Castle grounds, currently closed for excavation, and I got to see Mortimer's Hole.

And here is Paul's interview with me on Youtube! It's just under ten minutes, and please do watch!  For any of you who are on Facebook, here is the Viral History page, and the interview with me is also here.

14 August, 2018

Hugh Despenser the Younger's Mares: A Journey, July 1325

In July 1325, Edward II gave his beloved chamberlain Hugh Despenser the Younger a hugely generous gift: eighty-four mares. The horses were perhaps intended to replace the even larger number of horses which Hugh claimed the Marcher lords had stolen from him during the Despenser War in May 1321. Edward charged five men with the task of leading the seven dozen horses from 'La Neyte' (somewhere in London, I'm never sure where) to Hugh's castle of Chepstow in South Wales (which Hugh had 'persuaded' the king's own half-brother Thomas, earl of Norfolk and earl marshal, to give to him in 1323 in return for a rather measly payment). Presumably Hugh kept a stud-farm there. London to Chepstow is a distance of 125 miles or so. The journey of the five men and eighty-four horses took ten days, and each stop was carefully recorded by Edward II's clerks in his chamber account (SAL MS 122).

The men charged with leading Hugh's horses the 125 miles to Chepstow were: Richard 'Hick' Mereworth, a valet of the king's chamber who came from Henley-on-Thames, and whose wife Johane became pregnant some weeks after his return; Litel Wille Fisher, a page of the king's chamber and one of his huntsmen, and the son of his valet Edmund 'Monde' Fisher; Henry of Morton; Watte Coleman; and Robyn atte Mulne. I'm unfamiliar with these last three men; perhaps they served in Hugh's own household. Leading the royal favourite's horses, a gift to him from the king himself, was one heck of a responsibility, especially as Hugh Despenser the Younger has never struck me as the kind of man who'd cheerily wave it off if the men made any kind of error or fault whatsoever when it came to his horses.

The journey began on 6 July 1325, which Edward's clerk recorded as "the eve of the Translation of St Thomas [Becket], the sixth day of July." On this night, the men and horses travelled to Brentford and spent the night there, and accommodation for all cost two shillings and eight pence. The 7th of July was spent at Maidenhead ('Maydenhuthe'), and accommodation cost three shillings and two pence. Monday 8 July was spent at Henley-on-Thames, where Hick Mereworth came from, and the lodgings there cost two shillings and eleven pence. The 9th of July was spent at Wallingford and the night there cost two shillings and seven pence, and 10 July at Abingdon, which cost two shillings and ten pence. The 11th of July was spent at Faringdon and the night's lodgings cost three shillings and four pence, and the 12th at somewhere called Borewardcotes - no idea where that is - which cost two shillings and seven pence. The 13th of July was spent at Cirencester and the night cost three shillings and three pence, and 14 July was spent at Gloucester, where it cost exactly the same. The 15th of July was spent at 'Wyttele', and the night cost two shillings and seven pence, and at some point on 16 July, the last day, the men availed themselves of "a meadow which belongs to Sir Gilbert Talbot by the road between Wyttele and Strigoil," i.e. Chepstow.

Coming back without the horses must have taken the five men only four days, as two of them were paid for fourteen days in total, and were back at court on 19 July 1325 (Edward II was at the Tower of London that day). Hick, leader of the five, received four pence a day for the full fourteen days; Watte Coleman was paid two pence a day for fourteen days and Henry of Morton two pence a day for ten days; and Litel Wille Fisher and Robyn atte Mulne received one and a half pence each for ten days. Litel Wille and Robyn were almost certainly just boys or very young men, which explains the discrepancy in pay. Interesting to note that Hick Mereworth and Watte Coleman were paid for the return journey but the others weren't; presumably, then, Henry, Litel Wille and Robyn didn't go back to court afterwards, at least not right away. In total, the journey of eighty-four mares and five men cost the king forty shillings and two pence, and all the costs were recorded in Edward's accounts a few weeks later on 27 August. Either Hick Mereworth and his associates had made notes of how much everything cost and where, implying that at least one of them was literate, or they had extremely good memories.

06 August, 2018

Treaty of Leake Talk; Hugh Despenser the Younger Bio

This coming Thursday, 9 August, I'm giving a talk about Edward II in the village of East Leake between Nottingham and Loughborough to mark the 700th anniversary of Edward signing the treaty of Leake with his cousin and enemy Thomas of Lancaster in the village on 9 August 1318. The talk begins at 7.30pm in the library, and I'm sharing it with local historian Keith Hodgkinson. Entrance is free, and if you're anywhere in the vicinity, do come along!

In other news, my biography of Hugh Despenser the Younger, out on 30 October, is now available for pre-order: Amazon; Waterstones; W H Smith; Book Depository (US). Blood Roses is also out in October.

01 August, 2018

The Dates of Birth of Edward Burnell, Giles Badlesmere, John Mowbray and Laurence Hastings

Edward Burnell, son and heir of Philip Burnell (d. 1294), great-nephew and heir of Robert Burnell, bishop of Bath and Wells and chancellor of England (d. 1292), nephew of Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel (1267-1302), was born on 22 July 1287, not 1286 as some writers including myself have stated. His father Philip's Inquisition Post Mortem states that Edward was "aged seven on the feast of St Mary Magdalene last" in early August 1294; aged "seven years entering the eighth year" on 10 August 1294; and "six at the feast of St Mary Magdalene last" on the eve of St Mary Magdalene in 1294. [CIPM 1291-1300, no. 194] Edward Burnell married Alina Despenser, eldest child of Hugh Despenser the Elder, in or soon after early May 1302 when he was fourteen going on fifteen and she about the same age. They had no children and Edward died on 23 August 1315 at the age of twenty-eight, leaving his younger sister Maud Lovel as his heir.

Giles Badlesmere, son and heir of Bartholomew Badlesmere, was born on 8 October 1314 in Hambleton, Rutland. [CIPM 1327-36, no. 691] This was a manor belonging to Giles' mother Margaret née de Clare from her first marriage to Gilbert Umfraville. One of Giles' godfathers was Sir Robert Wateville, and he had four sisters: Margery, Lady Ros, Elizabeth, countess of Northampton (and the mother of the earls of March and Hereford), Maud, countess of Oxford, and Margaret, Lady Tiptoft. Margery was certainly older than Giles and Margaret was certainly younger, while Elizabeth and Maud were most probably older. Giles' mother Margaret was pregnant with him at the time of the battle of Bannockburn on 23 and 24 June 1314. His father Bartholomew was later accused, in a rather spiteful Latin poem, of abandoning his lord the earl of Gloucester to die on the battlefield.

Giles was in prison at the Tower of London when Roger Mortimer of Wigmore escaped from there on 1 August 1323. He must have been there since late 1321/early 1322 or thereabouts: his father Bartholomew joined the Contrariants in June 1321, and his mother Margaret was sent to the Tower after Edward II besieged Leeds Castle in October 1321 because she had refused to allow Queen Isabella inside. John Mowbray, son of John Mowbray, born November 1310 (below) was also a prisoner there. Edward II imprisoned young children. Awesomeness! [/sarcasm] I don't know when Giles was released from the Tower; his mother Margaret was freed in November 1322 but he wasn't. John Mowbray, below, was also a prisoner in the Tower in August 1323, but had certainly been released by late February or early March 1326 when he and some allies attacked Tickhill Castle in Yorkshire. Giles married Elizabeth, eldest daughter of William Montacute, earl of Salisbury (1301-44) and Katherine Grandisson, and died childless in 1338; Elizabeth was almost certainly too young for the marriage ever to have been consummated. The Badlesmere inheritance therefore passed to Giles' four sisters.

John Mowbray, son and heir of John Mowbray (1286-1322) and Aline Braose, was born at Hovingham, Yorkshire on 29 November 1310. [CIPM 1327-36, no. 250] Thomas, earl of Lancaster gave twenty shillings to the messenger who brought him news of Mowbray's birth, and John Mowbray's father John was ill at the time; because of the worry over her husband's condition, Aline née Braose went into labour a few days early. The younger John Mowbray married Joan of Lancaster, fourth daughter of Thomas of Lancaster's brother and heir Henry, in 1328, and they had a son John born in 1340 and two daughters, Blanche and Eleanor.

I've often said myself here on the blog and elsewhere that Laurence Hastings, earl of Pembroke, son and heir of John, Lord Hastings (1286-1325) and Juliana Leyburne (1303/4-1367), was born in March 1320. In fact, now that I've finally got round to checking his proof of age, I see that he was actually born on 20 March 1321, "the feast of St Cuthbert, 14 Edward II." Edward II's fourteenth regnal year ran from 8 July 1320 to 7 July 1321, so the correct date of birth is March 1321, not March 1320. [CIPM 1336-46, no. 337] Laurence was born in Allesley, Warwickshire, and his mother Juliana née Leyburne was sixteen or seventeen at the time. Betrothed to Hugh Despenser the Younger's third daughter Eleanor in 1325 when he was four - she was the same age or a little older - Laurence ultimately married Roger Mortimer's daughter Agnes after his fiancée Eleanor was forced into a convent by Queen Isabella a few weeks after her father Hugh the Younger's execution. Laurence and Agnes' only son John was not born until 29 August 1347, and one year and one day later, at the age of twenty-seven, Laurence Hastings, earl of Pembroke, died. His mother outlived him by almost twenty years.

27 July, 2018

My Forthcoming Books

I've updated my publications page, and here are all my forthcoming books:

My next, and fifth, book is Blood Roses: The Houses of Lancaster and York Before the Wars of the Roses. This is due to be published in early October 2018 and is available for pre-order on Amazon. It opens in 1245 with the birth of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence's second son Edmund, first earl of Lancaster, and tells the story of the houses of Lancaster and York until 1415.

Edward II and Hugh Despenser the Younger: Downfall of a King's Favourite. This is due out on 30 October 2018. It's the first-ever biography of Hugh; oddly enough, there's never even been an academic thesis devoted to him, let alone an entire book, even though he was the most powerful man in Wales and England for much of the 1320s. I enjoyed researching and writing this one so much, I can't even tell you! Hugh was a bad boy. Not nearly as bad as he's painted - he wasn't a torturer or a rapist - but bad enough.

Following in the Footsteps of Edward II, a travel guide to locations in Britain associated with Edward, to be published c. spring/summer 2019. Very different from my other books, and intended to encourage people to visit historical sites in Wales, England and Scotland.

The Lives of the Clare Sisters, Nieces of Edward IIc. summer/autumn 2019. This is a joint bio of Edward II's nieces Eleanor, Margaret and Elizabeth de Clare from the 1290s to 1360; the final title is yet to be determined. The drama of the three sisters' lives can hardly be overstated. All married at age thirteen, all imprisoned during the reign of their uncle and its aftermath, all deprived of their lands and income at some point, all married to men who might have been their uncle's lovers.

Philippa of Hainault, Mother of the English Nationc. late 2019/early 2020. A bio of Edward III's beloved queen and companion, who was born in c. 1314 and died in 1369; the title is not yet fixed.

1326: A Year in the Life of England, c. spring 2020. I'm really excited about this one. It's a chronological narrative of the year 1326, very much focused on the ordinary, common people. It was the year when Queen Isabella invaded her husband's kingdom with an army, but it was also the year of the great drought, the year when Henry of Cambridge was appointed chief blacksmith at the Tower of London, the year Robert Clavering of Newcastle-upon-Tyne was born, the year Edward the parker of Kennington rebuilt his house, the year John Toly fell out of the window of his London house and died, the year Johane Mereworth of Henley-on-Thames gave birth to a child...

John of Gaunt: Time-Honour'd Lancasterc. late 2020. A bio of Edward III and Queen Philippa's third son, Richard II's uncle and Henry IV's father. John was born in 1340 and died in 1399.

The Despensers: The Rise and Fall of a Medieval Family 1261-1439, c. late 2020/early 2021. An account of the fascinating family whose fortunes rose and fell, from Hugh the justiciar (d. 1439) to Isabelle, countess of Worcester and Warwick (d. 1439).

The Daughters of Edward Ic. summer 2021. Title not yet fixed; a joint bio of Edward II's five sisters Eleanor, Joan of Acre, Margaret, Mary and Elizabeth.

19 July, 2018

An Attack on Tickhill Castle in Early 1326

On 23 March 1322, two 'Contrariants' were hanged in York: John, Lord Mowbray (b. 1286) and Roger, Lord Clifford (b. 1299/1300). The heirs of both men, understandably furious at Edward II, launched an attack on the royal castle of Tickhill a little under four years later. Here's a post about it.

John Mowbray's heir was his son John, born in Hovingham, Yorkshire on 29 November 1310 [CIPM 1327-36, no. 250] and hence only eleven years old when his father was executed in March 1322. Despite his youth, John was imprisoned in the Tower of London with his mother Alina née Braose and was still there in August 1323. I don't know when Edward II released him, but it was sometime before early March 1326. Roger Clifford was only in his early twenties when he was executed and had not married, so his heir was his younger brother Robert, born on 7 November 1305 and aged twenty in early 1326. [CIPM 1327-26, nos. 52, 77] The younger John Mowbray was still only fifteen then.

Despite the two men's youth, they managed to raise an armed force sometime around late February or early March 1326, and went to the town of Tickhill in Yorkshire. On the way they passed through Burton-on-Trent in Staffordshire "with banners unfurled," a declaration of war on the king. Once at Tickhill, they besieged the royal castle there, and managed to capture it. They may have chosen this particular castle because its constable was Sir William Aune, a friend and ally of Edward II (and somewhat later a close associate of the criminal Coterel gang, and thus hardly an angel himself), or perhaps because it was convenient for them, or because it was lightly defended and reasonably easy to capture. Several men, how many is unclear, were killed during the assault on Tickhill.

News of young Mowbray and Clifford's capture of his castle at Tickhill came to Edward II's ears on 12 March 1326 at Merevale in North Warwickshire. He issued a "[c]ommission of oyer and terminer to Thomas le Blount, Philip de Somervill and Roger Hillary touching the persons who with John de Moubray and Roger [sic] de Clyfford, rebels and traitors, and others, came with banners unfurled to Burton on Trent, co. Stafford, and prevented the king's men and servants from passing through that town, killed some of them and committed other crimes in that town." The same commission was issued to "Henry le Scrop, Simon Ward, Roger de Somervill and Adam de Hoperton touching the persons who with the said John and Roger [sic] besieged the castle of Tykehill, co. York, killed the king's servants there, plundered the men of the town and committed other crimes." On 30 April, Edward II was still demanding that the commissioners found the "malefactors and other disturbers of the peace," but ordered them "not to molest or aggrieve" one Roger Curzon, who had been indicted before the commissioners but whom Edward pardoned on acknowledgement of a fine. Another of the men in Mowbray and Clifford's company was Thomas de Saundeby.

Having made their point - basically "yah boo sucks to you, we can take your sucky castles whenever we want, serve you right for executing our father and brother" - John Mowbray and Robert Clifford fled and were never captured. They either hid themselves somewhere in England, or went to the continent to join Roger Mortimer and the other enemies of Edward II and the Despensers and returned to England with them in September 1326. The two men were restored to royal favour and to their rightful inheritances in the new reign of Edward III early in 1327. John Mowbray's marriage was granted to Henry of Lancaster, earl of Lancaster and Leicester, on 28 February 1327, and probably the following year John married the earl's fourth daughter Joan. Their son John was born in 1340; their grandson Thomas Mowbray, born in 1367, was the first duke of Norfolk and the man whose duel with his second cousin Henry of Lancaster, duke of Hereford, was stopped at the last moment by Richard II in 1398. Robert Clifford married Isabel(la), sister of Thomas, Lord Berkeley, in 1328, and their second son Roger, born 1333, continued the Clifford line.

Sources: CPR 1324-7, p. 287; CCR 1323-7, p. 569; CCR 1330-3, p. 99 (attack on Burton and Tickhill); CPR 1327-30, p. 26 (Mowbray's marriage).

13 July, 2018

The Great Drought of 1326

Most of northern Europe has been going through an unusually long dry warm spell for the last few weeks and months, and everywhere I go at the moment I see brown, scorched grass and withering or dead vegetation. I've never seen the local stream run so low; sometimes it's a torrent, currently it's a trickle. The same weather conditions occurred in 1326, the last summer of Edward II's reign. Here's a post about it.

The earliest reference I know of to the heat of 1326 is in Edward II's chamber account: on 12 June, while he was at the archbishop of Canterbury's manor of Sturry in Kent, he gave a gift of linen cloth to the eight archers who formed his bodyguard because they had "run fast and well" alongside him in the hot weather. This implies that the hot dry weather had begun well before 12 June. The French Chronicle of London confirms this, saying that shortly before the Nativity of St John the Baptist, that is, 24 June, the weather was so hot and dry that fires burst out spontaneously in various places (as has happened this year, on Saddleworth Moor near Manchester). It talks of the "great dryness" throughout all the country. There was a severe shortage of water in many or most areas, and the River Thames ran so low that it was flooded by seawater and the ale made from the water tasted vile. In late July 1326, Edward II ordered a man near Walton-on-Thames to bring him fresh water from a well, surely another indication of the heat and dryness.

The annalist of St Paul's Cathedral also comments on the "great drought" throughout all England in 1326, and confirms the French Chronicle of London's statement that the Thames was flooded by seawater. People who owned animals had to lead them three or four leagues (i.e. three or four hours' walk) to find water for them. Fountains, rivers, streams, ponds and wells completely dried up, including Newport Pond in Essex, which was a league in circumference, and all the fish in the pond died. Edward II would have been lucky, therefore, if anyone had been able to find fresh water for him out of a well in late July. The dryness, the annalist says, continued well into the autumn of 1326.

I don't know when the weather broke, but the queen's invasion force arrived in England on 24 September 1326, and given that the St Paul's annalist states that the dry weather continued well into autumn, it seems highly likely that the country was still suffering from a severe lack of water at the time. Two chroniclers (the St Paul's annalist and the Anonimalle) say that when Edward II and Hugh Despenser the Younger were captured in South Wales on Sunday 16 November 1326, there was a great thunderstorm that lasted nearly all day. This seems like the pathetic fallacy or dramatic licence, except that two very different writers give the same tale. At least by mid-November 1326, then, the long period of dry weather had finally broken.

Society of Antiquaries of London Manuscript 122, pp. 66, 78

Annales Paulini 1307-1340, in W. Stubbs, ed., Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II, vol. 1 (1882), pp. 312-13

Croniques de London, ed. G. J. Aungier (1844), p. 50

07 July, 2018

The Ordeals of Elizabeth Hertrigg in 1312 and 1318

I seem to have written a lot about abductions of noblewomen on the blog: Elizabeth de Burgh in 1316, her sister Eleanor Despenser in 1329, their niece Margaret Audley in 1336, and Margaret Multon in c. 1316. Another famous one was Alice de Lacy, countess of Lincoln, by Hugh Frene in late 1335 or early 1336; I'll write about this one sometime too. Sadly the abduction of heiresses was all too common in the fourteenth century, and here's yet another that I don't believe I've seen mentioned anywhere before: the abduction of Elizabeth Hertrigg by Hugh Despenser the Elder in 1312, though this one did not result in forced marriage. The unfortunate Elizabeth was put through another horrible experience as well in 1318.

Elizabeth was the daughter and heir of John Hertrigg (the modern spelling is Hartridge), a tenant in chief who held lands in Berkshire, Sussex and Dorset, and her mother was called Nichola. Elizabeth Hertrigg was born either on 2 February 1303 or 1304: her father's Inquisition Post Mortem stated that she had either turned five or six years old "on the feast of the Purification last" in November 1309. John Hertrigg died before 24 October 1309 when the writ for his IPM was issued, and on 19 December, Edward II granted the rights to Elizabeth's marriage to one George Percy, called "king's yeoman." Elizabeth's mother Nichola was given a "mandate for the delivery of the body of the heiress" to Percy (this rather dehumanising language is typical of the era), but in fact it seems as though little Elizabeth remained with her mother rather than going to live in the Percy household. In February 1312, Elizabeth was living in Wambrook, Dorset, a manor which had belonged to her late father. [CIPM 1307-17, no. 212; CFR 1307-19, p. 50; CPR 1307-13, p. 203] Her mother Nichola was still in possession of Wambrook in 1330. [See here] Sometime before 29 January 1310, Edward II granted custody of the late John Hertrigg's lands, until Elizabeth came of age, to Hugh Despenser the Elder. [CCR 1307-13, pp. 190, 323]

On 22 February 1312 Elizabeth Hertrigg had recently turned either eight or nine years old, and was living at her late father's manor of Wambrook, Dorset (the village of Wambrook is now in Somerset) presumably with her mother Nichola. Officially she was in the custody of George Percy, who planned to marry her to his son John when she was old enough. Percy stated that Elizabeth was at Wambrook "under guard" (almost certainly for her own safety rather than because she wasn't allowed to leave!), but this made no difference to what was about to happen to her. Hugh Despenser the Elder sent 100 or more men "with force and arms" to abduct Elizabeth Hertrigg from Wambrook, and succeeded. The reasons for the abduction are not clear, but presumably had something to do with Despenser's custody of the lands of Elizabeth's inheritance. The 100 or more men who abducted Elizabeth on 22 February 1312 on Despenser's orders included Thomas le Artellet, Reginald Seint Cler, Thomas Wynslade, John Jorge, Robert Pyron, Adam Fraunceis, and John Pecche and his brother Nicholas. [George Percy's petition is TNA SC 8/259/12929] What's interesting about all this is that Edward II was at this time skulking in the north of England with Piers Gaveston, returned from his third exile, and Despenser the Elder was usually his close adherent and ally and was at court more often than not - yet was busily abducting a young girl at the other end of the country. As far as I can tell from the evidence of charter witness lists, Despenser did not return to court until July 1312, several weeks after Piers Gaveston's murder, when he met the king in London.  Given Despenser's loyal and devoted support of Edward II for the whole of his reign, it's hardly surprising to note that he does not seem to have suffered as much as a slap on the wrist for his illegal behaviour. That's the fourteenth century for you.

I don't know what happened to Elizabeth Hertrigg after her abduction by Hugh Despenser the Elder, but she married her guardian George Percy's son John sometime before July 1318, so evidently Despenser restored her to her guardian or to her mother at some point. That month or a little before, John Percy issued a complaint "touching the persons who had seized (rapuerunt) Elizabeth his wife at Shaldefeld Parva [nowadays Great Chalfield], co. Wilts, abducted her, and carried away her goods." [CPR 1317-21, p. 278] The translators of the Patent Roll used the word 'seized' for rapuerunt, and indeed it can mean that, or 'ravished.' The real meaning in this case, however, is made clear in an entry on the Close Roll in July 1319. Edward II ordered the sheriff of Wiltshire to "supersede until further orders the putting in exigent to be outlawed of John son of Ingelram Berenger, who was put in exigent because he was lately indicted in the sheriff's county court of the rape and abduction of Elizabeth wife of John Percy...John has surrendered himself to the king's peace and prison to stand to right concerning the above, and the king has meanwhile committed him to a certain keeper for safe-keeping." [CCR 1318-23, pp. 150-51; bold mine]

Sir Ingelram Berenger was said to be seven years old when his father John died in 1272, hence born c. 1265. His mother Christina, daughter and heir of Sir Matthew Wake, was born c. 1232. [CIPM 1216-72, nos. 128, 177, 794] Ingelram was a long-term adherent of Hugh Despenser the Elder (b. 1 March 1261) and served in his retinue for decades. And now his son had raped Elizabeth Percy née Hertrigg, six years after Despenser the Elder had sent 100 men to abduct her. Apparently the unfortunate Elizabeth was abducted from her home both in 1312 and in 1318, firstly in Dorset and secondly in Wiltshire. George Percy, Elizabeth's father-in-law and former guardian, complained also in July 1318 that ten men had stolen his goods at Great Chalfield, and evidently Elizabeth and her husband were living with his father in 1318. [CPR 1317-21, p. 278] I don't recognise most of the names of the ten men he accused of theft, but one was John son of Ingelram Berenger, and another was our old friend Malcolm Musard, certainly a Despenser adherent. It would seem that the feud, or quarrel, or whatever it was, that Hugh Despenser the Elder had begun against George Percy and his son and daughter-in-law in 1312 was continuing six years later, on the part of Despenser's adherents at least. It would also seem that some of the ten men who stole George Percy's goods in his Wiltshire home had decided to abduct and rape his daughter-in-law while they were at it. How unspeakably vile. Elizabeth was born in 1303 or 1304, so was still only fourteen or fifteen in 1318. She had been a young child when Despenser the Elder's men took her from her home, and was still only a teenager when this second hideous ordeal happened to her. John Berenger the perpetrator might have been the same age: at his father Ingelram's IPM in June 1336, John was said to be either 24 (clearly impossible as this would make him six years old in 1318) or 32 years old. [CIPM 1336-46, no. 27] If this is correct, he was also born about 1304 and was about fourteen in 1318. Edward II's statement that he had committed John to a keeper in 1319 probably also indicates that John was then underage.

John Berenger was released from prison at some point, I don't know when, and succeeded to his father's lands in 1336. His first wife Alice Stonor, daughter of Sir John Stonor (chief justice of the court of common pleas), died childless sometime after May 1332, and John married secondly a woman called Emma before January 1334. With her he had a son named Ingelram after his father, who was born around 19 June 1341 ("aged two years on Thursday next before the Nativity of St John the Baptist, 17 Edward III"). John died on 26 September 1343. Little Ingelram Berenger died soon after his father, and his IPM was held on 8 October 1344. This left the boy's sister Christina Berenger, John and Emma's daughter, as the Berenger heir, but she also died underage on 12 September 1349. [Hampshire Feet of Fines, CP/25/1/205/22, nos. 14, 50; CIPM 1336-46, nos. 467, 468; CIPM 1347-52, no. 297. Christina's heir was her cousin Nicholas Berenger, son of Nicholas, younger son of Ingelram the elder and brother of John.] John Berenger's widow Emma married secondly Sir Edmund Hakelut, had a son Leonard Hakelut around 1352, and lived until January 1380. [CIPM 1377-84, no. 241]

As for John Berenger's victim Elizabeth Percy née Hertrigg, she had a son from her marriage to John Percy called William Percy, who was probably born in 1337 (he was said to be two years old in late 1339). That's quite a late birth for a couple who married in or before 1318; perhaps they had fertility issues. John Percy died before 6 May 1339 when the writ for his IPM was issued, and in early March 1340 Elizabeth née Hertrigg was given permission to marry a second husband of the king's allegiance. By August 1343, she was married to William Burton. [CIPM 1336-46, no. 225; CPR 1338-40, p. 434; CCR 1343-6, p. 170; CFR 1337-47, p. 128] I haven't been able to find the date of her death, though she was still alive in October 1351. [CPR 1350-4, p. 173] According to this, Elizabeth and John Percy had two other children called John and Margaret, and an entry on the Patent Roll confirms that she had a daughter Margaret. Her second husband William Burton had a son called Thomas, and by June 1346 Thomas had married Elizabeth's daughter Margaret, i.e. his stepsister. [CPR 1345-8, p. 128]

Both George and John Percy had joined the household of Edward II's half-brother Edmund of Woodstock, future earl of Kent, by February 1320. [CPR 1317-21, pp. 419, 435] One very interesting postscript to this whole situation is that George and John Percy, and Ingelram Berenger, were all deeply involved in the earl of Kent's plot to free the supposedly dead Edward II from captivity in 1329/30. Another man involved was Sir John Pecche, presumably the same man who had helped the elder Despenser abduct Elizabeth Hertrigg from Wambrook in February 1312. George Percy, Ingelram Berenger, John Pecche and a fourth man, Fulk FitzWarin, lord of Whittington in Shropshire, were linked together in the chancery rolls as some of the earl of Kent's most important adherents. [CPR 1327-30, pp. 557, 565, CCR 1330-3, p. 95, and see my English Historical Review article from 2011 on Kent's adherents] Rebellion sometimes made strange bedfellows. I wonder what Elizabeth made of it all.

27 June, 2018

Poisoning Edward I and Edward of Caernarfon in 1298

I found this entry on the Patent Roll ages ago while searching for something else, and have finally got round to making a post about it. It's intriguing and puzzling!

Calendar of Patent Rolls 1292-1301, p. 459, dated 26 December 1298 (bold mine):

"Commission of oyer and terminer ['to hear and determine'] to Ralph de Sandwyco ['of Sandwich'] and Henry le Galeys ['the Welshman'], on the supplication of the appellees, touching an appeal which Landus Bonacursi of Lucca brings in London against Aldebrandus Malagaile and Berinus Mayamund, merchants of Lucca, for counterfeiting the king's great and privy seal and the seal of Edward the king's son, and for proposing to poison the king and his said son; and they are to hear and determine the appeal in the presence of Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln."

So why exactly were merchants of Lucca in Italy attempting to poison King Edward I and his son Edward of Caernarfon, who was only fourteen at the time, in 1298? Unfortunately I've been unable to find any more information about this curious and rather astonishing plot, or the men involved. Aldebrand(us) Malagal(e) appears on the Patent Roll in 1274 (CPR 1272-81, pp. 52, 54) as one of the merchants given permission by Edward I to trade wool in England, but why he decided nearly a quarter of a century later to poison the king and his son, I cannot imagine.

It's interesting to speculate about the succession to the English throne at the end of the 1200s. Let's say Edward I and his son Edward of Caernarfon had been successfully poisoned in 1298, and they both died. Edward I had not yet married his second wife Marguerite of France - their wedding took place on 8 September 1299 - and the births of their two sons Thomas of Brotherton and Edmund of Woodstock lay in the future, in June 1300 and August 1301. If Edward I died in 1298, his second marriage would never have taken place and Thomas and Edmund would never have existed, and neither would Edmund's daughter and ultimate heir Joan of Kent, her youngest son Richard II and her Holland children (and her eldest son Thomas Holland, died 1397, was the ancestor of basically everyone). Thomas of Brotherton was, via his daughter and heir Margaret (d. 1399), the ancestor of the Mowbrays and the Howards, so two of Henry VIII's wives would never have existed either. Neither would Henry VIII himself, a descendant of Joan of Kent and her son Thomas Holland as well as of Joan's uncle Edward II.

Edward of Caernarfon was Edward I's only living son between August 1284 and June 1300, and he himself, born April 1284, was of course too young to have produced any children by 1298. Edward I's only brother Edmund of Lancaster had died in June 1296, leaving his sons Thomas and Henry of Lancaster, who were about twenty and eighteen in 1298. According to a document Edward I produced in April 1290, however, if his son Edward of Caernarfon died without heirs of his body, the king wished the throne to pass to his eldest surviving daughter Eleanor, later countess of Bar, born in June 1269, rather to his Lancaster brother and nephews. Eleanor herself died in August 1298 four months before this entry about the plot to poison her father and brother appeared on the Patent Roll. She was only twenty-nine when she died, perhaps of complications relating to pregnancy or childbirth (though I'm only speculating). Her heir was her son Edouard, born in 1294 or 1295 and also heir to his father Henri's county of Bar in eastern France, and her only other child was Jeanne, later countess of Surrey, born in 1295 or 1296.

Had Edward I and Edward of Caernarfon died in late 1298, the rightful heir to the English throne was almost certainly a three or four-year-old French boy, Edouard of Bar. A curious and arresting thought. I wonder what would have happened if the would-be poisoners had killed the king and his only son? Would the English magnates have accepted little Edouard of Bar as their king and had him brought to England, or would Thomas of Lancaster, who had the benefit of being an adult and of being an Englishman, have made a bid for the throne? Edward I's only other grandson born by 1298 was Gilbert de Clare, heir to the earldoms of Gloucester and Hertford, born in 1291 as the son of Edward I's second daughter Joan of Acre, and the eldest grandchild of Edward I. Would his mother Joan have promoted the claims of her own child, who also had the advantage of being English, over those of her nephew Edouard of Bar? Joan of Acre was alive and in England, whereas her elder sister Eleanor was not, and Eleanor's widower Henri, count of Bar (d. 1302) had no political influence whatsoever in England. Would Joan have been able to push the claims of her son as King Gilbert over those of her Lancaster cousin as a potential King Thomas, and over those of her young nephew as an alternative King Edouard II?

On the other hand, Thomas of Lancaster had the mighty Lancastrian inheritance behind him, and his influential father-in-law Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln (who lived until 1311), might well have promoted his claims to the throne in the interests of seeing his daughter Alice crowned queen of England. Thomas was indisputably a grandson of Henry III (d. 1272) in the male line and equally royal on his mother Blanche of Artois's side, whereas Edward I's grandsons in 1298 were descended from him in the female line (Edward III and his younger brother John of Eltham, not born until 1312 and 1316, were Edward I's only grandsons in the male line). Self-interest might have been a much greater motivator for many powerful Englishmen than seeing a boy little more than a toddler and living in distant Bar-le-Duc crowned as their king, even if he was lawfully the next in line. Perhaps England would have seen civil war between the supporters of the would-be King Thomas versus the supporters of the would-be King Gilbert? And what might Philip IV of France have done? He invaded the county of Bar in 1297 as punishment for Henri III aiding his father-in-law Edward I against him, and in 1301 forced Henri to recognise him as his overlord for a large part of his territories. In 1298/99, might Philip have thought it worth his while to put his differences with Henri aside, and perhaps attempt to have the little Edouard of Bar installed as a client king of England? And if Edward of Caernarfon died in 1298, Philip's daughter Isabella, only about three years old then, would have lost her future husband, and would have had to marry someone else. King Fernando IV of Castile? Duke John III of Brittany? Hugh V or his younger brother Odo IV, dukes of Burgundy?

There are of course no answers to these questions as it's all hypothetical, but I do find it fascinating to speculate, and it's certainly true that for the sixteen years between August 1284, when his elder brother Alfonso of Bayonne died, and June 1300, when his half-brother Thomas of Brotherton was born, Edward of Caernarfon was the sole uncontested male heir to the English throne. His three elder brothers John, Henry and Alfonso all died in childhood, as did at least five of his older sisters, so certainly his father and others must have considered the possibility that he might die as well. Edward I was almost sixty years old at the end of 1298, and surely he and others must have contemplated the possibility that he would die before he fathered any more sons or before Edward of Caernarfon himself fathered any. (And as there were nine years between the death of Eleanor of Castile in 1290 and Edward I's marriage to Marguerite in 1299, he was hardly in a tearing hurry to marry again and father more children, and wed Marguerite as a means to end his war against Philip IV.)  I've previously written a post about Edward I and Queen Eleanor escaping from a fire in August 1283, at the start of Queen Eleanor's pregnancy with Edward II (born April 1284), and speculated what might have happened had they both died and their unborn son with them. This is another great what-if, fifteen years later.

21 June, 2018

The Marriage of Philip Despenser (d. 1313) and Margaret Goushill (d. 1349)

Philip Despenser was the younger of the two sons of Hugh Despenser the Elder, made earl of Winchester in May 1322 and executed on 27 October 1326, and Isabella Beauchamp (d. shortly before 30 May 1306), and was the younger brother of Hugh Despenser the Younger. Philip died in 1313 long before his brother's period of power as Edward II's chamberlain and 'favourite', and it's interesting to contemplate what kind of role he might have played in Hugh's regime if he'd still been alive.

None of the dates of birth of Hugh Despenser the Elder and Isabella née Beauchamp's six children are known, but Alina the eldest was probably born about 1287, and Hugh the Younger about 1288 or 1289. Philip Despenser the second son and almost certainly the fourth Despenser child overall (behind Alina, Lady Burnell, Hugh the Younger, and Isabella, Lady Hastings), first appears on record on 24 June 1294, when Hugh the Elder granted him two manors in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire and all his goods in them, and he may well have been born not too long before that. [E 40/3185; E 42/63; Close Rolls 1346–9, pp. 40, 223-4] Hugh the Younger, heir to all the sizeable Despenser/Basset inheritance, made a splendid marriage in May 1306 when he wed Edward I's eldest granddaughter Eleanor de Clare in the presence of the king. As Philip Despenser would not himself inherit anything*, his father arranged a marriage for him with Margaret Goushill, an heiress of Lincolnshire. Her father Ralph Goushill was a first cousin of Ralph, Lord Camoys, a long-term Despenser adherent who married Hugh the Elder's youngest daughter Elizabeth as his second wife a few years later.

* Though Philip's maternal uncle Guy Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, made him heir to some of his lands on 12 April and on 6 and 25 June 1306. This never came about as Warwick, then childless, married Alice Toeni some years later and had a son, Thomas, born in February 1314. [Patent Rolls 1301-7, pp. 427, 441, 447]

Philip Despenser and Margaret Goushill married sometime before 29 June 1308, probably not too long before, on which date Edward II (then in Bristol waving Piers Gaveston off to Ireland during his second exile) ordered her late father's lands to be given to them. [Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244–1326, p. 275: "Mandate, as Philip le Despenser, who married Margaret daughter and heiress of Ralph de Goushull..."] Possibly Philip had recently turned fourteen when he wed, and Margaret was almost exactly the same age: she was born on 11 or 12 May 1294 (she was aged "half a year at the feast of St Martin next" in October 1294 and "aged one year on Ascension Day 23 Edward I"). She was born in a place called Whitington or Whittington, though there are several towns of this name in England and which Whittington was meant is uncertain; presumably the one nearest the county of Lincolnshire, where her family held their lands. Philip Despenser's Inq. Post Mortem says that Margaret was "17 on the day of St James last" in September 1313, which would give her a date of birth of 25 July 1296, but as her father Ralph died shortly before 30 August 1294 that is clearly impossible. [CIPM 1291-1300, no. 209; CIPM 1307-17, no. 472; CIPM 1336-46, no. 692] Ralph Goushill himself was born around 6 November 1274, so was not even twenty years old when he died. [CIPM 1272-91, no. 607] His widow Hawise née FitzWarin, Philip Despenser's mother-in-law, outlived him by half a century, and did not die until 1344.

Philip and Margaret's only child Philip was born on 6 April 1313 somewhere in Lincolnshire, and shortly before 24 September in the same year, Philip Despenser died, also in Lincolnshire. [CIPM 1307-17, no. 472] Most probably he had, like his father-in-law Ralph Goushill, barely even reached twenty years old, and, also like his father-in-law, died mere months after the birth of his only child. The younger Philip, born in 1313, married a woman named Joan, and they had a son Philip born in Gedney, Lincolnshire on 18 October 1342. Philip born in 1313, grandson of Hugh Despenser the Elder and nephew of Hugh the Younger, who were both executed when he was thirteen, died in August 1349 at the age of thirty-six, a few weeks before his son turned seven. His mother Margaret née Goushill died just a few weeks before he did. She had married her second husband John Ros, younger brother of William, Lord Ros of Helmsley in Yorkshire, before 22 April 1314; they had no children, and when John died in 1337 his heir was his elder brother William. [CIPM 1336-46, no. 182] The Philip Despenser born in 1342 had a son born around 1365. Bet you'll never guess what his name was.