14 June, 2018

The Dates of Birth of Joan and Elizabeth Comyn

In a post a few months ago about the marriage of the Scottish noblewoman Elizabeth Comyn and the English knight Sir Richard Talbot, I stated that I did not know where Elizabeth's exact date of birth was recorded. I've now found it, and her elder sister Joan's as well.

CIPM 1317-27, no. 697, is an inquisition dated 8 June 1326 into two manors in Northumberland formerly held by Sir John Comyn (d. 1314), son and heir of John 'the Red Comyn', lord of Badenoch (killed by his rival Robert Bruce in 1306) and now rightfully belonging to the younger John's two sisters and heirs, the other two children of John the Red Comyn. It states that Joan de Strathbogie née Comyn, countess of Atholl, was 'aged 30 on 10 May last,' and that Elizabeth Comyn was 'aged 26 at the feast of All Saints, 19 Edward II.' That means that Elizabeth was twenty-six on 1 November 1325 and thus was born on (or around) 1 November 1299, and her sister Joan was three and a half years older, born on 10 May 1296. The date of birth of Joan and Elizabeth's brother Sir John Comyn is nowhere recorded, to my knowledge. Perhaps he came between Joan and Elizabeth in the birth order, and was therefore born in 1297 or 1298, or he might have been older than Joan and thus was born in 1295 or earlier. He and his wife Margaret Wake had a son Aymer Comyn who died in 1316, but Aymer's date of birth isn't known either; he might have been several years old when his father fell at Bannockburn in June 1314, or just weeks or months old, or he might have been posthumous. Elizabeth Comyn's husband Richard Talbot is yet another man for whom we have no date of birth, though he is usually assumed to have been born in the early 1300s, perhaps 1302 or 1305. It seems almost certain that he was some years younger than his wife.

Another inquisition held a few weeks later on 24 July 1326 repeats that Joan de Strathbogie was eighteen when her brother John Comyn was killed at Bannockburn on 24 June 1314 and that she had outlived him by more than eleven years and was now dead, and that Elizabeth was fourteen when her brother died and was now twenty-six. The inquisition of 8 June 1326 states that Joan and Elizabeth 'are' John Comyn's heirs, in the present tense, so this seems to indicate that Joan died after 8 June and before 24 July 1326. Joan's inheritance passed to her son David de Strathbogie, said to be eighteen and a half years old on 24 July 1326. This would place his birth around the beginning of 1308, which would mean that Joan was not even twelve when her son was born. This seems vanishingly unlikely. The IPM of Joan's husband David de Strathbogie the elder, earl of Atholl, was ordered on 25 January 1327 - he died on 28 December 1326 - and records that the younger David was 'aged 20 on the feast of St Hilary last.' [CIPM 1317-27, no. 759] That would put his date of birth as 13 January 1307, i.e. when his mother (b. May 1296) was not even eleven, so that cannot possibly be correct. Other jurors on the elder David's IPM in March 1327 said that the younger David had turned eighteen at the last feast of the Purification, i.e. 2 February 1327, which would mean that David was born around 2 February 1309. His own proof of age, taken 4 April 1330 (CIPM 1327-36, no. 302), also seems to indicate that he was born in Newcastle-on-Tyne on 1 February 1309, though it is somewhat defaced. This still means that Joan de Strathbogie née Comyn was a terribly, painfully young mother, assuming that her age as confidently stated in the inquisitions of June and July 1326 is correct. Maybe it isn't and she was actually somewhat older. I certainly hope so.

09 June, 2018

Elizabeth de Burgh's Protest, May 1326

On 22 May 1326, Elizabeth de Burgh née de Clare dictated a document protesting against her appalling treatment at the hands of her uncle Edward II and her brother-in-law Hugh Despenser the Younger. The document fortuitously survives in a late fourteenth-century transcript of the Liber Niger de Wigmore, the cartulary of the Mortimer estates.* Here's a post about it.

Context: Elizabeth's third husband Sir Roger Damory, formerly the king's great favourite but edged out of Edward's affections by Hugh Despenser the Younger in and after late 1318, joined the Contrariant rebellion of 1321/22 against Hugh and Edward II, and died of wounds sustained while fighting against the royal army on 12 or 13 March 1322. Even before Roger's death, Edward II sent men to seize Elizabeth and her two young daughters (Isabella de Verdon and Elizabeth Damory) at Usk, and Elizabeth was sent to Barking Abbey in Essex for the next few months. She was released and officially restored to all her lands in November 1322, but in the summer of 1324 lost her great lordship of Usk thanks to the machinations of her brother-in-law Hugh Despenser the Younger. Elizabeth seems to have spent much of the period from late 1322 to late 1326 living quietly at her castle of Clare in Suffolk with her daughters, while her sister Margaret - whose husband Hugh Audley also joined the Contrariant rebellion - was incarcerated at Sempringham Priory and their eldest sister Eleanor enjoyed great influence as Edward II's beloved niece and Hugh the Younger's cosseted wife.

In May 1326, Edward II and Hugh Despenser the Younger - Elizabeth's sister Eleanor Despenser was also with them - were in Gloucestershire/Wiltshire, on the other side of the country from Suffolk. Perhaps feeling somewhat safer because they were so far away, Elizabeth decided to dictate a text to her close advisers and clerks Thomas Chedworth and John Diccus and a notary called John Radenhale, detailing what the two men had done to her. The text is in Anglo-Norman. Elizabeth wrote of Hugh as "Sir Hugh Despenser the son" and Edward II as "our lord, Lord Edward, king of England, son of King Edward" with more courtesy than they perhaps deserved, and without acknowledging her close familial relationships to both men. She described herself as "formerly the consort of Sir Roger Damory," and went on to describe in detail how the king had threatened her in York at Christmas 1322, just a few weeks after he released her and restored her to her lands.

Edward II ordered Elizabeth to spend Christmas 1322 with him in York, and after her arrival imprisoned her officials and councillors, thus leaving her alone and vulnerable. The king tried to force her to sign documents – documents "contrary to the law of the land" according to Elizabeth – renouncing all her claims to Usk and the rest of her inheritance in Wales. This was because Hugh Despenser wanted Usk, and a year and a half after this nasty little episode, he managed to take it from his sister-in-law (to cut a very long story short, he forced her to exchange Usk for his lordship of Gower, then deprived her of Gower as well). Elizabeth argued her corner, bravely stood up to her uncle and refused to sign, and eventually fled from court "in great displeasure." She had been on the long road back to Clare in Suffolk for five days when Edward sent men after her ordering her to return, or he would confiscate all her lands and never again allow her to hold even a foot of land from him (ne iammes plein pie de lui ne tendroie). An entry in the chancery rolls confirms her narrative: on 7 January 1323, Edward seized all her English lands into his own hands again. Here we see Edward II at his absolute worst: bullying his widowed niece, yelling threats at her, deliberately separating her from her advisers, even being willing to ride roughshod over the laws of his own kingdom and to deprive his own niece of a large part of her rightful inheritance. Truly appalling, inexcusable behaviour which shows the king in the worst light possible.

Elizabeth also claimed that Hugh Despenser the Younger was now in May 1326 "seeing the great calumny of the wrongs" he had done to her, and to deceive and damage her and to mislead the people was offering her lands of much lower value in compensation for Gower; but it was far too little and far too late. There is no record of this offer in any extant document, so perhaps Hugh went to see Elizabeth in person sometime before May 1326, or at least sent men to discuss it with her. Hugh and the king were in East Anglia from late December 1325 until early February 1326, and were certainly just a few miles from Elizabeth at her castle of Clare on a number of occasions. The 22nd of May 1326 when Elizabeth dictated her protest was, coincidentally, the twentieth anniversary of the mass knighting of Edward of Caernarfon, Hugh Despenser the Younger and more than 250 others, and four days away marked Eleanor de Clare and Hugh the Younger's twentieth wedding anniversary.

It was brave of Elizabeth to set down the wrongs committed against her by her uncle and her brother-in-law, and for sure she knew that Hugh Despenser had spies and informants everywhere. If he and Edward II had found out about it, she would have been in serious trouble. Just four months after Elizabeth dictated her protest document, on 24 September, her aunt-in-law Queen Isabella returned to England at the head of an invasion force, and landed in Suffolk just forty miles from where Elizabeth lived. It's hard to imagine that she wasn't delighted someone was at last taking action against her despised brother-in-law Hugh Despenser the Younger, and by mid-November 1326, even before Hugh's execution, Elizabeth was back at her castle of Usk.

* Cited in G. A. Holmes, 'A Protest Against the Despensers, 1326', Speculum, 30 (1955), pp. 207-12, which prints Elizabeth's text in the original French.

01 June, 2018

1 June 1326: Edward II Plays a Ball Game

From 31 May to 6 June 1326, Edward II and his chamberlain and 'favourite' Hugh Despenser the Younger stayed at Saltwood Castle in Kent. They stayed here for a serious purpose: Pope John XXII in Avignon had sent two men, the archbishop of Vienne and the bishop of Orange, to try to reconcile Edward and Queen Isabella. They asked Edward and Hugh questions in French, and later translated the answers into Latin for the pope.

While at Saltwood on Sunday 1 June, shortly before he met the archbishop and the bishop, Edward II decided to relax by going out into the park of Saltwood Castle with his household steward Sir Thomas Blount, the recently-married Sir Robert Wateville, and unspecified others, and playing some kind of ball game. His chamber account (written in Anglo-Norman) calls it iewer a pelot, literally 'playing at ball.' Unfortunately the type of ball game is not described. At Langdon Abbey in Kent a few months previously, on 25 August 1325, Edward II had given a shilling each to twenty-two men who had played some kind of ball game for his entertainment. The entry in his account states: "Paid to Wille of Langdon, Adam of Wy', and twenty others of their company, players of Kent at ball [iewours de Kent a pelot] in front of the king next to Langdon Abbey." Again, the type of ball game is not described, but twenty-two men sounds like two teams of eleven men, as in modern football or cricket.

The summer of 1326 was a spectacularly hot and dry one in England and Wales, and the first real evidence of this I know of comes on 12 June, when Edward II gave the eight archers who formed his bodyguard linen cloth to make themselves hose as their reward for 'running fast and well' alongside him in the hot weather. The ball game of 1 June also implies that it was a warm pleasant day and that the king felt like being outside in the nice weather. I hope they all had a good time.

29 May, 2018

The Marriage of Juliana Hastings and Thomas Blount

I've written a couple of posts before about the Kent heiress Juliana Hastings, née Leyburne, born 1303 or 1304: see here and here. I've also written one about the Hastings family of the early fourteenth century and the endless confusion about them in a lot of modern books and articles; some modern writers wrongly state that Juliana's son Laurence Hastings was the son of Isabella Despenser, who in fact was the stepmother of Juliana's husband John Hastings (but was several years younger than he was, and John's mother was also called Isabella, hence the confusion). Here's a shortish post about Juliana's second marriage.

Juliana née Leyburne's much older first husband John, Lord Hastings (b. September 1286), died on 6 January 1325, leaving his and Juliana's son Laurence, not yet five years old, as his heir. [CIPM 1317-27, no. 612] Sometime before 27 July 1325, Laurence was betrothed to Eleanor Despenser, third daughter of Hugh Despenser the Younger and Edward II's eldest niece Eleanor née de Clare. [CPR 1324-7, p. 153] She was about the same age as he, perhaps slightly older. At the beginning of 1327, Queen Isabella forced the young Eleanor Despenser and two of her sisters into convents and had them veiled as nuns, so this planned marriage never went ahead, and Laurence married Roger Mortimer of Wigmore's daughter Agnes instead.

I hardly know anything at all about Juliana's second husband Sir Thomas Blount and his family, but I assume he was a cousin of Sir William Blount, who married Margery de Verdon, third daughter and co-heir of Theobald de Verdon (d. 1316) and who was a close adherent of Edward II's first cousin Henry of Lancaster, earl of Lancaster and Leicester. William Blount died shortly before 3 October 1337, and his heir was his thirty-year-old brother John Blount. [CIPM 1336-46, no. 115] The Complete Peerage identifies Thomas as the second son and heir of Sir Ralph Blount of Belton, Rutland and his wife Cecily or Alice, daughter and co-heir of Sir John Lovett of Worcestershire. Thomas Blount was given letters of protection to accompany Henry of Lancaster overseas in May 1318, indicating that he shared William Blount's - his cousin? - Lancastrian adherence. [CPR 1317-21, p. 146] Like many other Lancastrians in and after 1322, Thomas Blount switched allegiance, and was appointed steward of Edward II's household in May 1325, replacing Sir Richard Damory. He held the position until the end of Edward's reign. Famously, he broke his staff of office at Kenilworth Castle in January 1327 to signify that the reign was over, and had not been one of the men captured with Edward on 16 November 1326, so evidently had abandoned him.

On 13 July 1325, Edward II issued the following: "Licence, out of affection towards Thomas le Blont, steward of the household, for Juliana late the wife of John de Hastinges, tenant in chief, to marry the said Thomas if she will, but if she will not then that which pertains to the king of her marriage shall be reserved to the king." [CPR 1324-7, p. 153] At some point shortly after that, Juliana did marry Thomas Blount, and it was at this time that her son Laurence was betrothed to Hugh Despenser the Younger's daughter. In January 1326, Thomas wrote to Edward II explaining that he would be somewhat delayed in returning to court as Juliana was ill, which implies a degree of marital affection between the couple and that Thomas cared enough about his wife's well-being to stay with her when she was ill rather than hasten back to court. Thomas's position as the king's household steward, however, did not prevent Hugh Despenser the Younger taking a manor in Norfolk which by right was part of Juliana's Hastings dower lands.

Juliana and Thomas had no children, and it may be that Juliana's experience of childbirth damaged her, as she had no more children after Laurence in 1320, either by John Hastings, Thomas Blount, or her third husband William Clinton, later earl of Huntingdon. She and Thomas were married for just three years. I've often seen 17 August 1328 given on genealogy websites as the date of Thomas Blount's death, but I have no idea what the source is; there's no Inquisition Post Mortem extant for him. The date must be more or less correct, however, as his lands were taken into the king's hands on 23 August 1328 because he was dead. [CFR 1327-37, p. 102]

Juliana was married to her third husband Sir William Clinton, younger brother of John, Lord Clinton, by 17 October 1328, when an entry on the Patent Roll referring to the bishop of London states "...with other advowsons, assigned to Thomas le Blount, now deceased, and Juliana his wife, formerly the wife of the said John de Hastyng, as her dower; that the said bishop may discharge his duty herein at the presentation of William de Clynton, her present husband." [CPR 1327-30, p. 404] This was only two months after Thomas Blount's death, which is a remarkably hasty re-marriage by the standards of the time. It might indicate that Juliana had not found her second marriage a happy one; it might indicate that she and William Clinton had fallen in love, or lust. Her third marriage lasted much longer than her second: until 1354, when William died.

25 May, 2018

John, Lord Multon of Egremont

On 25 May 1317, Edward II arranged the future marriage of his great-niece Joan Gaveston, then aged five and the only legitimate child and heir of the late Piers Gaveston, to John Multon, son and heir of Lord Multon of Egremont. See here for my previous post about the betrothal, and here's a short post about John Multon.

John's parents Thomas Multon and Eleanor de Burgh married in Ipswich at the beginning of January 1297, days before Edward I's youngest daughter Elizabeth of Rhuddlan married Count John I of Holland also in Ipswich. Thomas Multon was born on 21 February 1276 to an Irish mother called Edmunda la Botilere and her husband, inevitably also called Thomas Multon, so was not quite twenty-one when he married. [CCR 1288-96, p. 480; Complete Peerage, vol. 9, p. 403] As I pointed out recently, there were two branches of the Multon family of Cumberland in the north-west of England, and Thomas was Lord Multon of Egremont; the other Thomas Multon was lord of Gilsland. Thomas Multon of Egremont made an excellent marriage, as his wife Eleanor de Burgh was one of the many daughters of the Anglo-Irish magnate Richard de Burgh, earl of Ulster. His other daughters included Elizabeth, wife of Robert Bruce and queen of Scotland; Maud, who married Edward II's nephew the earl of Gloucester in 1308; and the countesses of Kildare, Desmond and Louth. Eleanor's eldest brother John de Burgh, their father's heir, married Edward II's niece Elizabeth de Clare in 1308. Eleanor's date of birth is not known, but her parents married in the early 1280s and she was one of their eldest children.

John Multon was the only son of Thomas Multon and Eleanor de Burgh, and had three sisters, at least one of whom was older than he. He was born either on 18 October 1307 ("aged 14 on the feast of St Luke last" in March 1322) or on 21 October 1308 ("aged 13 on the day of the 11,000 Virgins last" in March 1322). [CIPM 1317-27, no. 331] He was thus some years older than his fiancée Joan Gaveston, who was almost certainly the child born to Margaret de Clare and Piers Gaveston in York in January 1312. When they were betrothed in May 1317, Joan was five and John was eight or nine. As the grandson of the earl of Ulster - the eldest grandson, in fact - John Multon was born into a powerful family network which made him nephew of the king of Scotland, three Irish earls and the late earl of Gloucester (who was also Joan Gaveston's uncle, her mother Margaret's brother), and he was a first cousin of Edward II's great-nephew William de Burgh (b. 1312), heir to the earldom of Ulster. Another of his first cousins, John FitzGerald, heir to the earldom of Kildare, was betrothed to Hugh Despenser the Younger and Eleanor de Clare's second daughter Joan Despenser in 1323, but died soon afterwards at the age of nine.

Joan Gaveston died on 13 January 1325 probably just after her thirteenth birthday, before she and the teenaged John Multon could marry. John had already lost his father Thomas in February 1322 and most probably his mother Eleanor de Burgh in 1324, and his paternal grandfather the earl of Ulster died in July 1326. John was one of the men Edward II planned to take to France with him in September 1325, before the king changed his mind and sent his son Edward of Windsor instead. [CPR 1324-7, p. 169] Otherwise, John doesn't appear very often on record and it's difficult to say much about his life.

On 10 January 1327, when Edward II was still officially king of England but was in custody at Kenilworth Castle, John Multon's marriage was granted (by Queen Isabella, one assumes) to William la Zouche, presumably the man of this name who was lord of Ashby in Leicestershire and who at that time was leading the siege of the teenaged Hugh 'Huchon' Despenser inside Caerphilly Castle. [CPR 1324-7, p. 347] John Multon married a woman called Alice; I'm not sure of her identity. He died in November 1334, aged either twenty-six or twenty-seven. His widow Alice was pregnant when John's IPM was taken in January 1335, but she must have miscarried, or the child was stillborn or died young. [CIPM 1327-36, no. 628] As well as extensive lands in Cumberland, John owned lands in Lincolnshire and Suffolk, and as he left no surviving children, his heirs were his three sisters Joan, Elizabeth and Margaret. In December 1335, Joan was thirty, and was the widow of Robert FitzWalter; Elizabeth was twenty-seven and the widow of Robert Harrington; and Margaret was twenty-four and the wife of Thomas Lucy. By 1338 Elizabeth had married her second husband Walter de Bermingham. [CIPM 1327-36, no. 628; CCR 1337-9, pp. 468-96] 

19 May, 2018

19 May 1326: The Wedding of Sir Robert Wateville and Margaret Martin

Today, 19 May 2018, is the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. On 19 May 1326, 692 years ago, Edward II attended the wedding of Sir Robert Wateville and Margaret Martin née Hastings, niece of Hugh Despenser the Younger, at Marlborough in Wiltshire.

Sir Robert Wateville of Orton, Huntingdonshire was a Contrariant of 1321/22 who took part in the Marcher lords' rebellion against the king and the younger Despenser and was captured fighting against the royal army at the battle of Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322. Edward II pardoned him on 31 October 1322 for adherence to Roger, Lord Clifford, who had been hanged in York on 23 March 1322, at the request of Hugh Despenser the Younger. The king had in fact already given permission on 8 August 1322 for Robert to go overseas with his retinue and horses "for certain of his affairs," so unofficially at least he had already been forgiven by then. [CPR 1321-4, p. 210; CCR 1318-23, p. 675] Robert had also been close to the executed Contrariant Bartholomew, Lord Badlesmere, who until he switched sides in June 1321 had been Edward II's household steward and a close ally of Hugh Despenser the Younger (and was Roger, Lord Clifford's uncle-in-law): Robert was one of the godfathers of Bartholomew's son and heir Giles, born in October 1314. [CIPM 1327-36, no. 691] Robert Wateville went to Gascony on Edward II's service in 1324 during the War of St-Sardos, when the king went to war against his brother-in-law Charles IV of France, and exchanged many letters with Hugh Despenser the Younger over the next few months while he was there. He was accused of cowardice over his conduct in Gascony and Edward II ordered his arrest. Hugh spoke out on his behalf and Edward forgave him, and Hugh's pleas worked so well that the king showed Robert conspicuous favour throughout 1326: attending his wedding, giving him numerous large gifts of cash, playing cross and pile with him, playing an unspecified ball game with him at Saltwood Castle, and visiting him at his London house when he was ill and giving him yet more money for medicine, and so on. This generosity availed the king nothing when Robert Wateville joined the invasion force of the queen and the remnant of the Contrariant faction, his old allegiance, after they arrived in England in late September 1326.

Margaret Martin née Hastings was the only daughter of Hugh Despenser the Younger's second sister Isabella (c. 1290-1334) and her second husband John, Lord Hastings (1262-1313). Margaret was a much younger half-sister of John, Lord Hastings (1286-1325) and the aunt of John's son Laurence Hastings, later earl of Pembroke (1320-1348). Her date of birth is unknown, but her parents married in 1308 or 1309 (Isabella Despenser's first husband Gilbert de Clare, lord of Thomond died in November 1307), and she had brothers Thomas and Hugh Hastings who were probably older than she. Margaret lost her father in early 1313 when she was probably only a baby; her twice-widowed mother Isabella née Despenser married her third husband Ralph Monthermer, widower of Edward II's sister Joan of Acre, in 1318; and her maternal grandfather Hugh Despenser the Elder was made earl of Winchester in 1322. At an uncertain date, Margaret married her first husband, William, Lord Martin. He was much her senior, born around 1294, and was the heir of his father William, Lord Martin the elder when the latter died in 1324. [CIPM 1317-27, no. 563]

William Martin the younger died shortly before 4 April 1326, when the writ for his Inquisition Post Mortem was issued. He and Margaret née Hastings had no children from their probably rather brief marriage - it is likely that Margaret was too young for the marriage ever to have been consummated - so his heirs were his sister Eleanor Columbiers, aged either thirty and more or forty and more in 1326 (thanks, vague IPMs!) and his nephew James Audley, born in 1313 and the son of his deceased other sister Joan, dowager countess of Lincoln (d. 1322). [CIPM 1317-27, no. 710] Eleanor Columbiers née Martin had previously been married to William Hastings (1282-1311), eldest son of John, Lord Hastings (1262-1313) and the decades older half-brother of Margaret Martin née Hastings (William Hastings had no children and died before his father, so the Hastings heir was his younger brother John, b. 1286).

As William, Lord Martin died shortly before 4 April 1326, Margaret Martin née Hastings had only been a widow for a few weeks when she married her second husband Sir Robert Wateville on 19 May 1326. The haste implies that there was no possibility of Margaret bearing William Martin's posthumous child, further implying that her first marriage had never been consummated. She is unlikely to have been more than about sixteen in 1326 and was probably some years younger than that; her second brother and their mother's ultimate heir Hugh Hastings was born in 1310 or 1311, Thomas Hastings was older than Hugh (but died before their mother), and Margaret was probably the youngest of the three siblings, born around 1312 or so, not long before her father died in early 1313 or perhaps even afterwards. Robert Wateville must, like William Martin, have been a few years older than Margaret. One big problem with trying to illuminate the life and career of Sir Robert Wateville of Orton is that there were two men with the same name active in England in the 1320s, and it's very difficult to differentiate them. 'Robertus de Watervill' was knighted with Edward of Caernarfon on 22 May 1306, so if this means the man who married Margaret Martin in May 1326, he can't have have been born after 1290. A Robert Wateville was on Edward I's service in Scotland in June 1303 [Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, p. 179], so if this is our man, it pushes his date of birth back into the 1280s.

Margaret's mother Isabella, dowager Lady Hastings, who had been widowed for the third time in April 1325 when Ralph Monthermer died, organised her daughter's wedding with the aid of some of her household staff. Edward II gave cash gifts to four of her servants who had worked hard to ensure that the day was a success: forty shillings each to Walter the butler, Master Walter the cook and Walter Baret the marshal, and twenty shillings to Robert le Porter, vadlet des mestres (a difficult job title to translate, but basically an official in a noble household). In addition, Edward gave twenty shillings to Lady Hastings' servant Will Muleward, "who was for some time with the king and made him laugh greatly."

The marriage of the fairly obscure knight Robert Wateville to such an exalted person as the young Margaret Martin, granddaughter of the earl of Winchester, niece of the king's nephew-in-law Hugh Despenser the Younger, and daughter and sister of Lords Hastings, reveals how high Robert had risen in Hugh the Younger's favour. Hugh called Robert his "very dear friend and companion" and had told him in a letter of 1325 that he wished him to be married, and must have arranged Robert's match with his niece, with the consent of his sister Isabella Hastings. Hugh's wife Eleanor Despenser, Edward II's eldest niece, was almost certainly also present at the wedding. At Caversham on 22 May, three days after the wedding, Edward II lost eight shillings playing cross and pile (i.e. heads and tails) with Robert Wateville, and on 1 June went out into the park at Saltwood Castle with him, the steward of the royal household Sir Thomas Blount, and others to play a ball game. Presumably young Margaret accompanied her new husband, her uncle Hugh Despenser the Younger, and the king for at least part of this period. Margaret and Robert were given the dower from her marriage to William Martin on 8 June 1326, the same day as her uncle Hugh lent Robert 100 marks.

Sir Robert Wateville was in Bristol with Queen Isabella on 26 October 1326 a month after her invasion force arrived in England, when a list of her most important adherents appears on the Close Roll witnessing the appointment of Isabella and Edward II's son Edward of Windsor as custos regni. Robert must have witnessed the execution of his wife Margaret's grandfather Hugh Despenser the Elder, earl of Winchester, in the city the next day. I wonder how Margaret felt about that. Whether Robert Wateville saw the execution of his uncle-in-law Hugh Despenser the Younger in Hereford on 24 November 1326, I don't know, but given how much Hugh had done for him in the previous few years, it would be pretty startling if he did.

Sir Robert Wateville and Margaret née Hastings had no children, and he died shortly before 6 May 1330. [CFR 1327-37, p. 175] His will of 6 February 1330 still exists: he mentions his chere compaigne or 'dear consort' Margaret, his brother Roger Wateville and his nephew William Orketote, and left his 'houses without Alegate' (i.e. Aldgate) in London to John Pulteney, mayor of London. [Calendar of Wills Proved and Enrolled in the Court of Husting, London, 1258-1358] There's a reference in Edward II's chamber account of 1325/26 to Robert's house without Aldgate on 21 July 1326 when he was ill there, and the king visited him and gave him a gift of forty marks. [SAL MS 122] Margaret outlived him by nearly thirty years and died on 7 July 1359. Her heir was John Hastings, born 1347, grandson of her much older half-brother John, Lord Hastings (1286-1325) and son and heir of her half-nephew Laurence Hastings, earl of Pembroke (1320-48), and the dower lands she had held from her first husband William Martin passed to William's nephew James Audley. [CIPM 1352-60, no. 494]

09 May, 2018

This Week in Edward II News

Tomorrow, on Thursday 10 May, I'm flying to Cologne to be interviewed for a documentary about Edward II being made for the German-French TV channel Arte (see here). A couple of other British historians and several German historians are also taking part. More news here as and when!

My Hugh Despenser the Younger biography - the first ever of him, amazingly enough - will be published on 30 October in the UK. It's on Goodreads, though isn't available for pre-order yet - link here when it is! This is the cover:


And my sixth book Blood Roses will probably also be out this October - here's the cover! It's also on Goodreads now.


04 May, 2018

1315: An Eventful Year for Sir John Haudlo

The year 1315 for Sir John Haudlo involved 1) the illegal seizure of a castle, 2) marriage to a wealthy widow without Edward II's licence, 3) temporary confiscation of both his and her lands as punishment for marrying without royal permission, and 4) imprisonment by the earl of Arundel. Here's a post about it.

John Haudlo (or Hadlow in modern spelling) was probably born in the early to mid-1280s or thereabouts*, was one of the many men knighted with Edward of Caernarfon in May 1306, and was a long-term adherent of the Despensers: he went overseas with Hugh the Elder in October 1305, for example, and served him for many years. [CPR 1301-7, p. 382] By 3 August 1299, John Haudlo was married to his first wife Joan, daughter and heir of John FitzNigel. [CPR 1292-1301, p. 430] John had three sons, Richard, Nicholas and Thomas; Joan FitzNigel was the mother of Richard, and John's second wife Maud Lovel née Burnell, for whom see below, was the mother of Nicholas and Thomas. John's eldest son Richard died in December 1342 before his father and left a son Edmund Haudlo, born around 1339 and John's heir to many of his manors when he died in August 1346. [CIPM 1336-46, nos. 441, 667] John also had a daughter called Joan, almost certainly from his first marriage, and he and Maud Burnell had daughters called Elizabeth and Margaret.

* That's just my best guess. He's unlikely to have been born much before 1280, as he lived until 1346.

On or a little before 20 May 1315, utterly disgruntled at Edward II's pretence that the dowager countess of Gloucester was pregnant by her husband eleven months after his death at Bannockburn and his refusal to order the partition of the de Clare inheritance among Gloucester's three sisters and heirs, Hugh Despenser the Younger seized Tonbridge Castle in Kent. See here for more info. Sir John Haudlo was one of the men who took the castle with Hugh. Neither he nor Hugh himself was ever punished for this illegal seizure, though a Robert Haudle, presumably a relative of John Haudlo, and a John Clerk had their goods confiscated "for the seizing of the castle of Tonbrugge and other enormities" ('enormities' not specified). Hugh Despenser, John Haudlo and the other adventurers gave up the castle on 23 May 1315, and Hugh, presumably accompanied by John, rode to see Edward II at Hadleigh in Essex and to explain himself in person. I bet that was an interesting conversation. Assuming Hugh's motive was to shame Edward II into admitting that Maud de Clare née de Burgh was not pregnant and to begin the partition of the Clare lands, his escapade failed.

One lady related to the Despensers by marriage was Maud Burnell. Maud was born around 1290/91; she was said to be twenty-four or twenty-five, or "twenty-five and more," in September 1315. [CIPM 1307-17, no. 611] She was the daughter of Philip Burnell (d. 1294), the niece of Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel (d. 1302), and the great-niece of Robert Burnell, bishop of Bath and Wells and chancellor of England (d. 1292). Maud's elder brother Edward Burnell, born on 22 July 1287 - not 1286 as often stated, not least by me on previous occasions - married Hugh Despenser the Elder's eldest daughter Alina Despenser in or soon after May 1302. Edward died in August 1315 aged twenty-eight, and as he was childless, his sister Maud was his heir. Maud married her first husband Sir John Lovel(l) of Titchmarsh (b. 1288/89) sometime before 1312; their daughter Joan Lovel was born that year. Sir John Lovel was killed at the battle of Bannockburn on 24 June 1314, and his and Maud's two-year-old daughter Joan was named as his heir in his Inquisition Post Mortem of October 1314. [CIPM 1307-17, no. 520] Unbeknownst to the jurors, however, Maud née Burnell was pregnant, and gave birth to John's posthumous son John Lovel around December 1314. Maud Burnell and John Lovel (1288/89-1314) were, via their son John the younger, ancestors of Richard III's friend Francis, Lord Lovel(l): his great-great-great-great-grandparents, if I've worked it out correctly.

On 15 January 1315, Maud Lovel née Burnell vowed not to marry again without the king's licence (standard procedure for the widows of tenants in chief). [CCR 1313-8, p. 208] She broke this vow mere months later when she married her second husband Sir John Haudlo without Edward II's permission. (John's first wife Joan FitzNigel was obviously dead by then, but I haven't been able to find the date of her death.) News of their marriage had reached Edward II's ears by 4 December 1315 when he ordered all their lands to be taken into his hands as punishment (also standard procedure). The lands were restored to the couple on 16 February 1316. [CFR 1307-19, pp. 268, 271] As Maud's late brother Edward had married into the Despenser family, and as John Haudlo was a long-term Despenser retainer, the couple must have known each other for a long time. They had two sons together called Nicholas and Thomas, who used their mother's maiden name and were called Burnell, and two daughters Elizabeth and Margaret, plus they each had two children from their first marriages. Nicholas Burnell, younger half-brother of John Lovel (b. 1314) and Richard Haudlo, was said to be twenty-three when his father died in 1346, which would put his date of birth around 1323 (though I suspect he was somewhat older than that). When Edward Burnell's widow Alina née Despenser finally died in 1363, Nicholas Burnell was vaguely and most unhelpfully said to be "thirty years and more." [CIPM 1361-5, no. 489] His brother Thomas Burnell, and their mother Maud, were dead by 17 May 1341 when their father John Haudlo arranged "divine service daily" for Maud's and Thomas's souls, and the souls of Edward II and Hugh Despenser the Elder. [CPR 1340-3, p. 194] Maud Burnell died on 18 July in an uncertain year. [Complete Peerage, vol. 6, p. 400 note h]

Most probably, John Haudlo and Maud Lovel née Burnell married after the death of her brother Edward on 23 August 1315. Edward Burnell's death left Maud a substantial landowner in eleven counties, and she was therefore a very attractive proposition as a wife. John himself was also a fairly important landowner, especially in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, and they were something of a power couple. Doubtless both parties were attracted to the other's lands and income, and it's hardly likely to have been a marriage based solely or even mostly on romance and fine feelings, but I don't know, something about them makes me think that there was physical attraction and lust, perhaps love, as well. See here for a previous post of mine about Maud, and about her frankly rather unpleasant legal manoeuvres to settle the bulk of her estates on her children with John Haudlo and her shunting her Lovel son behind them. Her mother Maud née Fitzalan, incidentally, also married without royal licence around the same time, when she wed her third husband Simon Criketot sometime before June 1316. Maud née Fitzalan was the sister of the earl of Arundel (d. 1302), whereas Criketot wasn't even a knight, so it must have been a love or lust match.

So, Sir John Haudlo and Maud Lovel née Burnell almost certainly married after 23 August 1315, and they must have married before 9 October 1315, as on that date John was captured by Edmund Fitzalan, earl of Arundel and three of his men - Roger de Cheygne, Thomas de Wynesbury and Thomas le Jay - in the village of Clun, Shropshire (which belonged to Arundel himself).* "With force and arms," so John stated later, they captured him, took him from Clun to Winsbury, from there to Arundel's castle at Oswestry, from there to Arundel's castle at Shrawardine, from there back to Clun, and from there to Bridgnorth. He was imprisoned until 26 December 1315, and forced to acknowledge a staggeringly massive fine of £4,000 to Arundel (in modern terms, a good few million) in order to secure his release.

[* Source for what follows: Year Books of Edward II, vol. xxv, Part of Easter, and Trinity, 1319, ed. for the Selden Society by John P. Collas (London, 1964), pp. 130-132.]

What on earth that was all about, I have no idea, but it's surely significant that Edmund Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, was Maud Burnell's first cousin: her mother Maud and his father Richard were brother and sister, and they were both grandchildren of John Fitzalan and Isabella Mortimer. As far as I can work out, after Maud's brother Edward died in August 1315, Arundel was her nearest adult male blood relative. John Haudlo was captured in Clun, which was one of Arundel's possessions, so perhaps John and Maud had gone there to visit the earl shortly after their wedding. Clearly Arundel did not react to the news ("Surpriiiiiiiise, we got married! We can haz pressie?") anything like as well as they'd hoped. To put it mildly. In the Trinity term of 1319, Edmund, earl of Arundel was attached to answer John Haudlo concerning John's capture and imprisonment, but the matter was complicated by the fact that Clun lay in the March, where the king had no jurisdiction and where "the earl has the keeping of the law." Arundel did not deny what he had done, but stated via his attorney that he had no case to answer because the king's writ did not run in the March. And "John [Haudlo] says that his writ ought not to be quashed for the aforesaid reason, because he says that he is the lord king's man, and not the man or tenant of the aforesaid earl; whereupon, seeing that the aforesaid town of Clun is within the crown of England and the lord king's domain, he asks judgement." The two men were given a date to appear in court again and to get John's complaint settled. Unfortunately I don't have Edward II's year books for 1320 and I can't find the matter in the chancery rolls, so I don't know how, or if, it was resolved, or why the earl of Arundel thought it was a good idea to seize and imprison his cousin's new husband for about ten weeks, and drag him halfway round Shropshire.

27 April, 2018

The Abduction of Margaret Multon by Ranulph Dacre, c. 1316

The following entry appears on the Patent Roll on 28 October 1317 (CPR 1317-21, p. 39):

"Pardon to Ranulph de Dacre for abducting by night Margaret, the daughter and heiress of Thomas de Multon of Gillesland [Gilsland], tenant in chief, a minor in the king's custody, from the castle of Warrewyk [Warwick]."

There were two branches of the Multon family: the Multons of Gilsland in Cumberland and the Multons of Egremont, also in Cumberland. Piers Gaveston's daughter and heir Joan (1312-25) was betrothed in 1317 to John Multon (b. 1308), son and heir of Thomas, Lord Multon of Egremont and a grandson of the earl of Ulster. Thomas, Lord Multon of Gilsland was born on or around 19 September 1281. [CIPM 1291-1300, no. 285; CCR 1296-1302, p. 560] He was one of the 266 men knighted with Edward of Caernarfon, prince of Wales, duke of Aquitaine, earl of Chester and count of Ponthieu, on 22 May 1306, and married a daughter of Piers, Lord Mauley, who was granted his marriage on 21 August 1297. [CPR 1292-1301, p. 304] Sadly, his wife's name is not recorded. Thomas Multon died shortly before 14 January 1313 when the writ for his Inquisition Post Mortem was issued. [CIPM 1307-17, no. 452] According to the Complete Peerage, citing a record of the King's Bench, Thomas's daughter and heir Margaret Multon of Gilsland was born at Mulgrave Castle on 20 July 1300 when her father was still only eighteen, and was baptised four days later. Margaret was given livery of her lands on 30 October 1317 "as she has proved her age before the king," which was just two days after Ranulph Dacre was pardoned for abducting her. [CCR 1313-8, p. 504] Margaret Multon's birthplace, Mulgrave Castle, lay in Lythe near Whitby, Yorkshire, and belonged to her maternal grandfather Piers Mauley.

So there was Margaret, minding her own business in Warwick Castle, when along came Sir Ranulph or Randolf or Ralph Dacre. He was a few years Margaret Multon's senior, born around 1290 or 1294: he was said to be twenty-eight when his father William died in August 1318 and thirty when his mother Joan died in December 1324. [CIPM 1317-27, nos. 155, 574] (Yes, according to that evidence he only aged two years in six years! That's a useful trick!). According to the chronicle of Lanercost Priory, which is an extremely useful source for events in the north of England in the reigns of Edward I and Edward II, when Thomas de Multon of Gilsland died his daughter and heir Margaret was already married to Robert son of Robert de Clifford, and they married near Appleby when Margaret was in her seventh year. [Chronicle of Lanercost, ed. Maxwell, p. 205] This is somewhat puzzling. I assume this means the Robert Clifford who was born in 1305 and later succeeded his elder brother Roger (b. 1299/1300, executed as a Contrariant in March 1322). Their father Robert, Lord Clifford was killed at Bannockburn on 24 June 1314, and the Cliffords certainly were an influential family in Cumberland, Westmorland and Yorkshire so it's not unlikely that they would have married into another influential northern family. The Lanercost chronicle goes on: "and in the life of the said Robert [de Clifford], Ralph de Dacre, son of William de Dacre, married the same Margaret, having a right to her through a contract concluded between Thomas de Multon, father of the said Margaret, and William de Dacre, before her former marriage." [Ibid.] The bit I really don't get is how Magaret Multon can have married Ranulph Dacre if she was already married to young Robert Clifford.

According to the Complete Peerage citing a King's Bench record, Ranulph Dacre and Margaret Multon were already married at Easter in Edward II's ninth regnal year, which was 11 April 1316. Warwick Castle, from where Dacre abducted Margaret, belonged to Guy Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, who died on 12 August 1315. As his son and heir Thomas was then only eighteen months old, all Guy's lands and castles passed into the king's hands, which presumably was why Edward II accommodated Margaret Multon at Warwick Castle (as she was the heir of a deceased tenant in chief, by the rules of the era he was her legal guardian). When Dacre took Margaret from Warwick Castle, it was in the custody of the late earl of Warwick's executors. [CPR 1313-7, p. 664]

Evidently, Ranulph Dacre went to Warwick Castle at night and abducted Margaret, and presumably married her shortly afterwards; yet another abduction and forced marriage of a fourteenth-century noble heiress, along with Elizabeth de Burgh, her sister Eleanor Despenser, their niece Margaret Audley, and Alice de Lacy, countess of Lincoln. As with all the others, Margaret Dacre née Multon basically had no choice but to live with her abductor, now her husband, and to make the best of the situation. She gave birth to her first son William Dacre, named after his paternal grandfather, around 1319 (William was said to be twenty years old at Ranulph's IPM in June 1339), and had younger sons Ranulph (born in or before 1322), who was a parson, Hugh, who was the ultimate Dacre heir, Peter, and Thomas. William the eldest Dacre son inherited his parents' lands but died childless, whereupon they passed to the second son Ranulph and then to Hugh. As far as I can tell, Hugh was the youngest Dacre son but his older brothers Peter and Thomas died before he did, and it was Hugh who carried on the Dacre line; he died in 1383 when his son and heir William was twenty-six. [CIPM 1336-46, no. 229; CIPM 1361-5, nos. 60, 317; CIPM 1374-7, no. 119; CIPM 1377-84, nos. 971-3] Horribly, Hugh Dacre was suspected of murdering his elder brother Randolph the parson, whose heir he was, and sometime before 2 July 1376 was imprisoned in the Tower of London. [CCR 1374-7, p. 433] Margaret Dacre née Multon died on 10 December 1361 at the age of sixty-one, having outlived her abductor and husband by twenty-two years, her eldest son William Dacre by some months, and her younger sons Peter and Thomas as well.

20 April, 2018

The Abduction of Eleanor Despenser, 1329

Recently I wrote a post about the abduction of Edward II's niece Elizabeth de Burgh née de Clare from Bristol Castle in February 1316, and a while ago, one about the abduction of Elizabeth's niece Margaret Audley from Thaxted, Essex, c. February 1336. Margaret Audley was the sole heir of her mother, Margaret de Clare, Elizabeth's sister. Their rich inheritance from their brother Gilbert, earl of Gloucester, proved a poisoned chalice for the three de Clare sisters. Elizabeth was abducted, Margaret's daughter and heir was abducted, and Eleanor Despenser née de Clare was abducted, and like the others, forcibly married. Here's a post about it.

Eleanor de Clare married Hugh Despenser the Younger on 26 May 1306, and they had been married for twenty and a half years and had had at least ten children together when Hugh was executed on 24 November 1326. Eleanor was still only thirty-four when she was widowed, and was imprisoned at the Tower of London until February 1328. She was restored to her own lands that year, including the rich lordship of Glamorgan. Little is known about Eleanor's life for the next few months, but shortly before 26 January 1329 she was living at Hanley Castle in Worcestershire (her own castle) when she was abducted by the Leicestershire baron William la Zouche, lord of Ashby. The abduction reached the ears of the chancery clerks by 26 January 1329, when they recorded it on the Patent Roll. Eleanor and William married, though whether Eleanor consented to the marriage is, as with her sister Elizabeth thirteen years later, unknown.

William la Zouche used the name of his mother, Joyce la Zouche; his father was called Robert Mortimer and his elder brother (d. 1304) was Hugh Mortimer of Richard's Castle, Herefordshire. William's date of birth is not known but was probably in the 1270s, so he was quite a bit older than Eleanor Despenser, born October 1292. His first wife was Alice Beauchamp née Toeni, dowager countess of Warwick (d. 1324), widow of Sir Thomas Leyburne (d. 1307) and Guy Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (d. 1315). Guy Beauchamp was the maternal uncle of Eleanor's first husband Hugh Despenser the Younger. By her first marriage Alice Toeni was the mother of the great Kent heiress Juliana Hastings née Leyburne, countess of Huntingdon (1303/4-67), and by her second the mother of the earl of Warwick, Thomas Beauchamp (1314-69) and of several other children. She had two children with William la Zouche, Alan and Joyce, as well. Eleanor Despenser and William la Zouche had one child together, William the younger, born around 1330 and a monk of Glastonbury Abbey, and still alive in 1381. (Three of Eleanor's Despenser children, Joan, Gilbert and Elizabeth, also lived into the 1380s.) Eleanor was in her late thirties when her youngest child William was born, and the elder William was in his fifties.

The really strange thing about William la Zouche's abduction of Eleanor Despenser in early 1329 is that a baron called John Grey of Rotherfield began claiming her as his wife as well, and persisted in this claim for more than four years. In fact, Eleanor Despenser's abduction from Hanley Castle was recorded twice on the Patent Roll, once as Hugh Despenser's widow and once as Grey of Rotherfield's wife, the chancery clerks evidently not realising that what seemed to be two women abducted from the same place at the same time was in fact just one person. John Grey was born in October 1300 and was eight years Eleanor's junior, and already a widower with one son. He took his claim to be married to Eleanor to the papal court in Avignon but lost and finally gave up, but not before his quarrel with William la Zouche over Eleanor became so acrimonious that he came close to drawing a dagger on la Zouche in Edward III's presence and was arrested. He later became a Knight of the Garter and steward of Edward III's household, and married his second wife and had two more sons, so in the end didn't do too badly despite missing out on marriage to the wealthy and partly royal Eleanor Despenser. I don't know why he claimed to be Eleanor's husband: perhaps she'd had an affair with him, or they'd made an informal arrangement to wed which was foiled by William la Zouche.

I doubt there was much if any romance involved in la Zouche's abduction of Eleanor. (Or in John Grey of Rotherfield's determination to be married to her, for that matter.) While Eleanor's lands were in the king's hands during her imprisonment in the Tower, la Zouche had been appointed as keeper of Glamorgan, and by marrying her he would become Glamorgan's outright owner. He was firmly on Queen Isabella's side in 1326/27 and was one of the men who captured Eleanor's husband Hugh and her uncle Edward II in South Wales on 16 November 1326, and was appointed as the leader of the siege of Caerphilly Castle in 1326/27 with Eleanor's son Huchon Despenser inside. I'm not sure that "hi honey, it's la Zouche of Ashby, the man who besieged your teenage son for months with a view to handing him over to the woman who had your husband disembowelled and three of your little daughters forcibly veiled, so that she could have him executed. Will you marry me?" was likely to go down particularly well with Eleanor. Numerous large debts acknowledged by William la Zouche recorded on the Close Roll in the early 1330s indicate that, despite having forced himself into a share of the vast de Clare wealth, he was living well beyond his means, and despite being appointed keeper of the peace in Wales and the Marches that decade, Edward III had to warn la Zouche to cease his bitter quarrel there with Hugh Audley (husband of Eleanor's sister Margaret and father of Margaret Audley, abducted and forcibly married to Ralph Stafford in 1336). Eleanor's first husband Hugh Despenser the Younger had a supreme talent for quarrelling with people, and it seems that her second shared the same quality.

Whatever the private nature of Eleanor Despenser and William la Zouche's relationship after he abducted her, she had no way to stop being married to him, so had to find some way of living with him and accepting what he had done. By the time they both died in 1337, it seems that Eleanor had at least come to terms with her second marriage, whether she had consented to it or not. Zouche appointed her as one of the executors of his will before he died in February 1337, though as it was the norm for men to do so, I'm not sure this necessarily tells us anything about his feelings for his wife. Eleanor buried la Zouche at Tewkesbury Abbey, where her first husband, brother, father, grandfather and numerous other de Clare ancestors were interred and which stood on her own lands, and this probably does give more insight into her feelings and might indicate that she and William la Zouche had made a decent stab at things over the previous eight years. But the abductions and forced marriages of two of the three de Clare sisters and the daughter and heir of the third had nothing to do with romance and everything to do with an opportunistic grab for wealth and influence by three men with few scruples. The abducted women basically had no comeback; even if their abductors were temporarily imprisoned, they were now their husbands and the women had no way to stop them being their husbands, so ultimately had little choice but to accept the situation. Being a woman of means in the Middle Ages was, in many ways, an unenviable position, and Eleanor Despenser, Elizabeth de Burgh and Margaret Stafford née Audley were far from being the only women abducted for their wealth in the fourteenth century.