25 May, 2016

Thomas of Lancaster Seizes Some Yorkshire Castles, 1317

Edward II's relations with his wealthy and powerful cousin Thomas, earl of Lancaster, reached the lowest of all low points in 1317. That year, Thomas accused the king, whether correctly or not, of colluding in the abduction or rather escape of his wife Alice de Lacy. The Westminster chronicle Flores Historiarum says that in 1316/17, Edward armed himself against his cousin, and certainly Thomas blocked Edward's route through Yorkshire and jeered at him from his castle at Pontefract. Thomas may also have been behind Sir Gilbert Middleton's attack on the cardinals in September 1317.

And that was far from being the end of it. On 5 October 1317, Thomas sent some of his men to seize two castles: Knaresborough in Yorkshire and Alton in Staffordshire. Edward II heard about it on 3 November 1317, when he declared that "certain malefactors lately entered the castle by night, and detain it from the king...". Actually Edward had surely heard of the attacks well before then, but on 3 November learned that "they assert that they have done these things in the earl's name," and wrote to Thomas directly ordering him to have Knaresborough handed over to the sheriff of Yorkshire. [Calendar of Close Rolls 1313-8, p. 575; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1317-21, p. 46] Knaresborough had once been Piers Gaveston's, and Alton was in the king's hands following the death of Theobald de Verdon, who had abducted and married Edward's niece Elizabeth de Clare in early 1316 and died less than six months later. Sir Roger Damory, Edward II's great 'favourite' at the time and his nephew-in-law since his marriage to Elizabeth de Clare earlier in 1317, was custodian of both Knaresborough and Alton. This was the reason behind Thomas of Lancaster's attack: he loathed and feared Damory, and claimed that Damory was trying to kill him. Whether this was merely paranoia or Thomas did have good reason to believe that this was the case, I don't know.

Not only did Thomas of Lancaster entirely ignore the king's orders, he "with a multitude of armed men, besieged and captured diverse castles" in Yorkshire which belonged to the earl of Surrey: Sandal, Conisborough and Wakefield. [CCR 1313-8, p. 575] The earl of Surrey, John de Warenne, had aided Alice de Lacy escape from her husband Thomas, and therefore was Thomas's second deadliest enemy in 1317. Thomas also ejected Maud Nerford, Surrey's mistress, from her property in Wakefield, and by the beginning of 1318 had taken firm control over Surrey's Yorkshire lands. Edward II's chief priority, as ever, was the safety and well-being of his friends, and he took Roger Damory's lands in Yorkshire, Herefordshire and Lincolnshire into his own hands on 18 October 1317 in an attempt to protect Damory from his cousin's aggression, also ordering a clerk to remove Damory's stud-farm from Knaresborough to the royal manor of Burstwick. He restored Damory's lands to him on 2 December, assuming the danger from Lancaster was past. [CPR 1317-21, pp. 34, 46, 58] An inquisition taken on 3 October 1318 [Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous 1308-48, pp. 98-99] says that Knaresborough Castle was seized for Thomas of Lancaster by one John Lilburn or Lilleburn, and that it wasn't surrendered to Edward II until 29 January 1318.

Thomas of Lancaster's seizure of various castles in 1317/18 isn't perhaps particularly important, but it does reveal something of the intensely personal politics of the decade. Thomas seems genuinely to have feared Roger Damory's influence over the king (as did others; on 24 November 1317, while all this was going on, the earl of Pembroke and Bartholomew Badlesmere signed an indenture with Damory in an attempt to limit his malign influence over Edward), and he was wealthy and powerful enough to be able to make a gesture like this to signal his displeasure with his cousin the king. He suffered no penalties as a result of it. Edward II's orders to Thomas to "desist entirely from these proceedings" were completely ineffectual, and it seems that Thomas only gave up the castles when he felt like it some months later. It's all just rather interesting and revealing of the chaos in England in the mid to late 1310s, when the country had a king who played favourites but had no strong leader at the helm.

22 May, 2016

The Vercelli Book

This post has nothing to do with Edward II, but with a manuscript I was allowed to see lately: The Vercelli Book, which is a manuscript of Old English literature held in the town of Vercelli, Piedmont, northern Italy. I would like to thank Timoty Leonardi, curator of rare books and manuscripts at the capitulary library of Vercelli, for so kindly allowing me to see the Book on a Saturday morning recently.

The Vercelli Book contains the wonderful Old English poem 'The Dream of the Rood', 'rood' being an archaic word for 'cross' or 'crucifix'. I studied this poem in my second year at university and wrote an essay on it, which unfortunately I longer possess, so it was great to be able to see the original manuscript. How on earth did an Old English manuscript, thought to date to the late tenth century, end up in Vercelli of all places? The town is on the pilgrims' route to Rome, so one theory is that an English pilgrim on his way there or back to England died in the town and left the manuscript there. By some miracle, and goodness only knows how, it survived for many centuries until its discovery by the German scholar Friedrich Blume in 1822. The manuscript is a low quality one, and was not made for a rich person, as will be apparent from the photos. The Digital Vercelli Book is online, and see also here and here for more info about it. Here is a Modern English translation of The Dream of the Rood, here is the text in Old English, and here is someone reciting it in Old English on Youtube.










16 May, 2016

Hanged, Drawn and Quartered

There is some dispute over the origins of the atrocious method of execution by hanging, drawing and quartering, and who the first man in England to suffer this fate was. It may well have been a man who tried to assassinate Henry III in 1238. Edward I inflicted the punishment on Dafydd ap Gruffudd in October 1283, and also on various Scottish noblemen and knights in 1305/07, including William Wallace in August 1305 and several of Robert Bruce's brothers.

In Edward II's reign, I can think of only five men who suffered this atrocious punishment, and only three of them - Middleton, Harclay and Badlesmere - were at Edward's own command (if you think I've missed any, please do let me know!).

- Sir Gilbert Middleton, 24 January 1318

Sir Gilbert Middleton famously attacked and robbed two cardinals visiting England in September 1317, Luca Fieschi, an Italian nobleman by birth who was a kinsman of Edward II, and Gaucelin D’Eauze, a kinsman of Pope John XXII, who had sent the cardinals to England. The cardinals were in the party of Louis Beaumont, the new bishop of Durham, and his brother Henry, Lord Beaumont, the real targets of Middleton's attack. Furious, the cardinals excommunicated Middleton and his adherents – or as the Vita Edwardi Secundi has it, "solemnly and in public separated Gilbert de Middleton and his accomplices from the communion of the faithful." [ed. Denholm-Young, p. 83] On 20 September 1317, Edward II declared that he would "punish the sons of iniquity" who had perpetrated the outrage. [Foedera 1307-27, p. 342]

He was as good as his word: his squires William Felton, Thomas Heton and Robert Horncliffe captured Middleton and his brother John at Mitford Castle in January 1318 and sent them to Edward, and the king ordered Simon Driby and thirteen other squires to deliver them to the Tower of London. [Scalacronica, p. 60; Thomas Stapelton, 'A brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the tenth, eleventh, and fourteenth years of King Edward the Second', p. 330] On 24 January 1318, royal justices sentenced Gilbert Middleton to execution, and he suffered a terrible death by hanging, drawing and quartering. Although some chronicles say that his brother shared this awful fate, John was still alive in November 1319. [Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous 1308-48, p. 96]

- Llywelyn Bren, lord of Senghenydd and Meisgyn, 1318

Llywelyn Bren was a nobleman of South Wales, who in early 1316 attacked Caerphilly Castle. His uprising was soon put down, and Edward II imprisoned him, his sons and several others in the Tower of London. Most of them had been released by June 1317. Sometime in 1318 - I can't find an exact date - Hugh Despenser the Younger, now lord of Glamorgan and owner of Caerphilly Castle (which had been built by his father-in-law Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare in the 1270s) removed Bren from the Tower and took him to Cardiff. Without any authority to do so whatsoever, and without giving him a trial, Despenser inflicted the terrible death of hanging, drawing and quartering on Bren in Cardiff. Edward II was not responsible for Llywelyn Bren's execution, but neither did he punish or apparently even reprove Hugh Despenser for it.

- Bartholomew, Lord Badlesmere, 14 April 1322

I wrote a detailed account of Badlesmere's execution recently: he was the steward of Edward II's household, a baron of Kent who married Margaret de Clare, Gilbert the Red's niece, who switched sides and joined the Contrariant rebellion against Edward II in 1321/22 and whom the enraged king decided to make an example of. Badlesmere was hanged, drawn and quartered in Canterbury, and his head placed on a spike on the city gate as a warning to those who would betray the king.

- Andrew Harclay, earl of Carlisle, 3 March 1323

As sheriff of Cumberland, Sir Andrew Harclay was loyal to Edward II for many years, and was one of the few men who enjoyed military success in Edward's reign; he stoutly defended Carlisle against Robert Bruce, and defeated Edward's cousin the earl of Lancaster and brother-in-law the earl of Hereford at the battle of Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322. Edward rewarded him with the earldom of Carlisle soon afterwards, but Andrew did not live long to enjoy it. At the beginning of 1323, he negotiated a peace settlement with Robert Bruce without Edward II's authority or even knowledge, and on 3 March 1323 suffered the traitor's death in Carlisle. When he heard the sentence, he announced "You have divided my carcass according to your pleasure, and I commend myself to God," and gazed towards the heavens, hands clasped and held aloft, as horses dragged him through the streets of the town he had defended so staunchly for many years.

- Hugh Despenser the Younger, lord of Glamorgan, 24 November 1326

Hugh was captured with Edward II in South Wales on 16 November 1326, and taken to Hereford. According to the Brut, he refused any food or water, and was thus in a highly weakened state when he arrived. Edward II, of course, had nothing to do with Hugh's death. The charges read out against him are here, and an account of his execution is here.

05 May, 2016

The Date of Birth of Blanche, Duchess of Lancaster (d. 1368)

Blanche of Lancaster married John of Gaunt, the third (surviving) son of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault, in Reading on 19 May 1359 in the presence of three kings: Edward III and the captive kings of France and Scotland, John II and David II. Of Blanche and John's children, three survived into adulthood: Philippa, queen of Portugal, born ten months after her parents' wedding on 31 March 1360; Elizabeth, duchess of Exeter, born probably in early 1363; and Henry IV, king of England, born on 15 April (Maundy Thursday) 1367, twelve days after his father, uncle Edward of Woodstock, prince of Wales and Aquitaine, and King Pedro of Castile defeated Pedro's half-brother Enrique of Trastamara at the battle of Najera in northern Spain. Duchess Blanche died young, on 12 September 1368. But how young?

Blanche was the younger of the two daughters of Henry of Grosmont, first duke of Lancaster (b. c. 1310, d. 23 March 1361) and Isabella Beaumont, one of the daughters of Henry, Lord Beaumont, titular earl of Buchan. Blanche's older sister Maud married Queen Philippa's nephew William, duke of Lower Bavaria and count of Hainault and Holland, who went insane in 1357, and although she outlived her father, it was only by a year: Maud of Lancaster died on 10 April 1362, childless and in her early twenties. The vast Lancastrian inheritance thus passed entirely to Blanche and John of Gaunt. Maud was presumably named after Henry of Grosmont's mother Maud Chaworth, and Blanche after his paternal grandmother Blanche of Artois, queen of Navarre and countess of Lancaster. 

The only real source we have for the ages of Henry of Grosmont's daughters is his Inquisition Post Mortem, which was ordered on 25 March 1361 two days after his death and can now be found in Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1361-1365, pp. 92-116. There are one or two other sources, but they're unreliable: the chronicler Jean Froissart says that Blanche was about twenty-two when she died in 1368, but frankly I wouldn't trust Froissart on such matters, and if Blanche was only twenty-two in 1368, that would mean she gave birth to her first child when she was barely even fourteen. Blanche's date of birth is currently given on Wikipedia as 25 March 1345, and her older sister Maud's as 4 April 1339. This would make Blanche fourteen at the time of her wedding in May 1359 and just turned fifteen six days before she gave birth to her first child on 31 March 1360, which is certainly possible - Edward II's elder daughter Eleanor of Woodstock gave birth to her first son in May 1333 the month before her fifteenth birthday - but is it true?

Jurors in different counties in Duke Henry's IPM give different ages for Maud and Blanche of Lancaster. Going through Henry's IPM, the Leicestershire and Warwickshire jurors said that in May 1361 the two women were respectively '22 years and more and 19 years and more', which would put their dates of birth as about 1339 and 1342. The Dorset jurors said that Maud was 23 and Blanche was '18 and more', so born in 1338 and c. 1343. Oxfordshire said that they were 26 and 21 in 1361, so born in 1335 and 1340, and the Hampshire, Wiltshire and Berkshire jurors agreed. Derbyshire, the first jurors to give specific dates rather than just ages, said on 4 May 1361 that Maud was 'aged 21 on the feast of St Ambrose last', and Blanche was 'aged 19 years at the feast of the Annunciation last'. This would put Maud's date of birth on or around 4 April 1340, and Blanche's on 25 March 1342 or thereabouts. Giving the saints' days doesn't necessarily mean that the women were born exactly on those days, though it might, but that it was the nearest feast day to their actual birthday. Yorkshire and Northumberland said that Blanche was 18 (so born in about 1343) and was certainly Henry's heir, but that as Maud had married abroad and had not returned to England, they didn't know whether she was still alive or had a child or not, and also failed to give her age. Lancashire said that Maud and Blanche were 22 and 18, so born in about 1339 and 1343. The jurors of Huntingdonshire copped out and just said that the two women were 'of full age', as did Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and the Welsh March. Rutland said they were 20 and 17, so born in about 1341 and 1344, the youngest ages given so far, though the Northamptonshire jurors immediately topped that and said the two women were 18 and '16 years and more' (born 1343 and 1345). Surrey seemed to agree with this. Lincolnshire said that they were 20 and more and 18 and more, so born in 1341 and 1343, and added that they didn't know if Maud was still alive or had children or not. The Staffordshire jurors on 6 May 1361 were the second after Derbyshire to give specific dates of birth: Maud was 21 on the feast of St Ambrose last, and Blanche was 19 on the feast of the Annunciation last, which gives us 4 April 1340 and 25 March 1342. Finally, Devon said that they were 26 and 21, so born in about 1335 and 1340.

Phew! And so, we see an all too typical spread of possible ages given in a fourteenth-century Inquisition Post Mortem, and the difficulty of determining people's correct date of birth. My absolute favourite example is Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke (d. 1324), who according to his mother's IPM of 1307 was born anywhere between 1270 and 1283. Mmmmmm. Helpful. Maud of Lancaster, according to the above, might have been born any time between 1335 and 1343, and Blanche, duchess of Lancaster, between 1340 and 1345. As stated above, the Wikipedia page for Maud of Lancaster gives her date of birth as 4 April 1339, which must be based on someone reading her father's IPM and seeing that two sets of jurors gave her age as '21 at the feast of St Ambrose last', but failing to spot that the jurors met and recorded their findings in early May 1361, not in late March after Henry died, and that another feast of St Ambrose had passed between Henry's death and the jurors' session. The last feast of St Ambrose therefore was 4 April 1361, not 4 April 1360, and Maud's birth year would seem to be 1340, not 1339. Blanche's Wikipedia page says that she was born on 25 March 1345, though admits there is some dispute about this and also gives the remarkably late 1347 as a possibility, which means that Blanche would have borne her first child when she was barely even thirteen. In fact, none of the jurors specifically say that she was born on 25 March 1345, though two say that she was born on 25 March 1342, and note that the jurors of only one or maybe two counties out of the almost twenty appointed to determine her age thought that Blanche was as young as sixteen in 1361, and four thought she might be twenty-one, hence born in 1340. None claimed that she was as young as fourteen, so we can put the notion that she was born in 1347 to rest. Thank goodness for that. It does sometimes happen that researchers look at the evidence of IPMs, but misinterpret it: for example, seeing that the IPM of John, earl of Kent in late December 1352 says that his sister and heir Joan of Kent (Edward II's niece and  Richard II's mother) was born either on 29 September 1326 or 29 September 1327, but miscalculating it and stating that she was born on 29 September 1328, an error repeated so often that the latter date is now almost universally, though wrongly, stated to be Joan's date of birth.

In my opinion, Blanche, duchess of Lancaster, was born on or about 25 March 1342, and her sister Maud on or about 4 April 1340. These are the only two specific dates given in their father's IPM, by the jurors of Derbyshire and Staffordshire, and they both agree exactly with each other. Jurors in other counties obviously did not have access to this information, and just made their best guesses. This would make Duchess Blanche seventeen at marriage and just turned eighteen when she bore her first child Philippa, which I think is more plausible than her just turning fifteen. Maud of Lancaster died, sadly, just past her twenty-second birthday, and Blanche at twenty-six, when her youngest child, the future Henry IV, was not even eighteen months old.

01 May, 2016

Radio Interview And Italy

On Friday 29 April, Giles Brown at Talk Radio Europe kindly invited me onto his show to interview me about Isabella of France and my book about her. You can hear the interview here until Friday 6 May via Talk Radio's seven-day catch-up service: this is the 4pm to 5pm slot, and my segment starts at about 18 minutes and 50 seconds in. Bear in mind this was live, and I had no idea beforehand what Giles would ask me (well, obviously it would be about Isabella and Edward II...). Giles had done his homework and asked some great questions, and I really enjoyed it.

On Thursday this week, 5 May, I'm off to Italy again, yay. On Saturday 7 May I'll be giving a talk about Isabella of France and Edward II at the seminary in Vercelli, at the kind invitation of Gianna Baucero of the Chesterton Association and His Excellency the archbishop of Vercelli, Father Marco Arnolfo. On Wednesday 11 May, in the gorgeous Salone Teresiano (pics below) at the university of Pavia, a group of us will be discussing Edward II's survival in Italy,  an event arranged and moderated by Ivan Fowler (who'll be simultaneously translating between Italian and English) and my other good good friends at the Auramala Project. Please do read their blog posts if you're interested in Edward's post-1327 survival!

You can see a short video of my last trip to Italy here - this was a gala dinner held in my honour at the magical Ca' San Sebastiano in the hills of Montferrat (and see pic below). On Friday 6 May there's another gala dinner in my honour, this time held at Agriturismo Greppi, where I stayed for three nights last September. There are more pics of my last stay in Italy here and here. The debates and research into Edward II's fate are ongoing, you'll be glad to see!

Salone Teresiano

Salone Teresiano

Salone Teresiano
The seminary in Vercelli
Ca' San Sebastiano
My friend Gianna and I, holding each other's books (Gianna's is about Guala Bicchieri)
Signing autographs after my talk in Vercelli, haha

29 April, 2016

Maud of Lancaster, Countess of Ulster

I've written briefly before about Maud of Lancaster, countess of Ulster, and see also here: she was one of the six daughters of Henry, earl of Lancaster, Leicester and Derby (c. 1281-1345), grandson of Henry III, first cousin of Edward II and uncle of Edward's queen Isabella, and Maud Chaworth (1282-1321), older half-sister of Hugh Despenser the Younger. Maud of Lancaster's sisters were Blanche, Lady Wake; Isabella, prioress of Amesbury; Joan, Lady Mowbray; Eleanor, Lady Beaumont and countess of Arundel; and Mary, Lady Percy, mother of the first earl of Northumberland and the earl of Worcester. The only Lancaster brother was the magnificent Henry of Grosmont, first duke of Lancaster, grandfather of Henry IV, king of England and Philippa of Lancaster, queen of Portugal. None of the dates of birth of the seven Lancaster siblings are recorded, but Blanche (born c. 1302/05) was certainly the eldest and Eleanor and Mary the second youngest and youngest respectively. In my opinion, Isabella the prioress of Amesbury was the second eldest, born c. 1305/07 or thereabouts and named after her maternal grandmother Isabella Beauchamp, mother of Maud Chaworth and Hugh Despenser the Younger; she was old enough to go on a pilgrimage to Canterbury with Edward II's sister the nun Mary and niece Elizabeth de Clare in the spring of 1317. This leaves Maud, Joan and Henry, the middle three children, who might have been born any time between about 1308 and 1316 (I estimate Eleanor's birth as about 1318 and Mary's as about 1320), and their order of birth is also unclear. Maud's first husband was born in September 1312, and Joan's husband in November 1310, so possibly Joan was older than Maud, but it's impossible to know for sure. Both Maud and Joan married in 1327. Maybe there was even a set of twins among the seven siblings; I just don't know. Interestingly enough, Blanche, the eldest sibling, was the last to die: she lived until July 1380, when she must have been at least in her mid-seventies. She had married Thomas, Lord Wake, all the way back in 1316, though the couple had no children. Thomas was a first cousin of Roger Mortimer, first earl of March, the brother of Margaret Wake, countess of Kent, and the great-uncle of Richard II.

Maud of Lancaster, the third or fourth daughter of Henry of Lancaster and Maud Chaworth (who died in 1321 when some of her children were still very young) married William Donn de Burgh, only son of Edward II's niece Elizabeth de Clare and her first husband John de Burgh, sometime in 1327. William was fourteen or fifteen at the time, born on 17 September 1312, and Maud probably about the same age. Their only child Elizabeth de Burgh was born on 6 July 1332 and named after her paternal grandmother, and less than a year later William was dead, murdered near Carrickfergus in Ireland. Maud and her baby daughter fled back to England. Elizabeth de Burgh was a great heiress: she inherited the earldom of Ulster from her father and great-grandfather Richard de Burgh, and was also the heiress of her grandmother Elizabeth de Clare and her third of the vast de Clare inheritance. Edward III snapped her up for his second son Lionel of Antwerp, who was born in November 1338 and was six and a half years Elizabeth's junior. Lionel and Elizabeth's only child, Maud of Lancaster's granddaughter, was Philippa of Clarence, born in 1355 and Edward III's eldest grandchild (or legitimate grandchild, anyway; Edward of Woodstock had probably produced one or two of the illegitimate variety by then).

Meanwhile, Maud of Lancaster had married her second husband Ralph Ufford, justiciar of Ireland and brother of Robert Ufford, earl of Suffolk, a close friend and ally of Edward III. Their only child Maud Ufford was born in 1345 or 1346, so was about a dozen years younger than her half-sister Elizabeth de Burgh. Ralph Ufford died on 9 April 1346, leaving his widow Maud of Lancaster either pregnant or with a newborn baby. Once again, she went back to England. and never married again. In 1364, she took the veil as a Minoress or Poor Clare. Her younger daughter Maud Ufford married Thomas de Vere, earl of Oxford, and was the mother of Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford (1362-1392), Richard II's notorious favourite. Maud de Vere née Ufford outlived her son by more than twenty years, and died in 1413; her maternal grandparents Henry of Lancaster and Maud Chaworth had been born all the way back in the early 1280s.

Maud of Lancaster died on 5 May 1377, in her mid-sixties or thereabouts, just two months before her second cousin Edward III. She was already a great-grandmother at the time of her death: Elizabeth, Roger and Philippa Mortimer, children of Maud's granddaughter Philippa of Clarence and her husband Edmund Motimer, earl of March, were born in the early to mid-1370s. Maud had outlived her elder daughter Elizabeth de Burgh and her son-in-law Lionel of Antwerp, who died in 1363 and 1368 respectively, and also outlived all her six siblings with the exception of her eldest sister Blanche, Lady Wake, who lived three years into the reign of her husband's great-nephew Richard II. Maud of Lancaster, countess of Ulster, was buried at Campsey Priory in Suffolk, where she had taken the veil and where her second husband Ralph Ufford was also buried.

19 April, 2016

Edward II and the Necromancer: Death by Magical and Secret Dealings

Something most curious happened in England in 1323/24: a group of people in Coventry plotted to kill Edward II and his 'favourites' Hugh Despenser father and son by necromancy. Here's a post about it.

A man named Robert le Mareschal of Leicester gave evidence before Simon Croyser, coroner of Edward II's household, on Wednesday 31 October 1324, or 'Wednesday the eve of All Saints in the eighteenth year of our lord King Edward's reign' as it appeared on record, and the case was referred to King's Bench a few days later. Mareschal stated that he was lodging in Coventry with a John of Nottingham, a necromancer (nigromauncer in the Anglo-Norman records of King's Bench), when on 30 November 1323 ('Wednesday before Saint Nicholas in the seventeenth year') twenty-seven men came to visit the necromancer. Mareschal named all of them; they included Richard le Latoner, John de Siflet, Richard le Taillour, Robert le Mercer, Philip le Hosier, Robert de Stone, Piers Baroun, Richard de la Grene, Reynauld de Alesleye who was a girdler, and John le Redclerk who was a hosier. Judging by the men's names, they were mostly craftsmen, merchants and traders: a hosier sold hosiery, a girdler made and sold girdles, a latoner worked with a kind of metal called latten, a mercer sold textiles, and the name taillour means tailor.

The men complained to the necromancer John of Nottingham that they could no longer live because of the harshness (duresce) the prior of Coventry was imposing on them every day with the support of the king, Hugh Despenser the Elder and Hugh Despenser the Younger (I have no idea what this 'harshness' involved, or who the prior of Coventry was and how Edward II was supposedly helping him). They therefore asked John of Nottingham if he might undertake to kill Edward II, the earl of Winchester, i.e. Hugh Despenser the Elder, Sir Hugh Despenser the Younger, the prior of Coventry "and others whom they named" by necromancy "and his arts." John of Nottingham, having first promised to keep whatever they told him secret - as did his lodger and assistant Robert le Mareschal, a promise he broke - agreed to do so. The men made a covenant with him promising to pay him the extremely large sum of twenty pounds (the equivalent of a few years' wages for most people in England at the time) and another fifteen pounds to Robert le Mareschal for helping. They also promised the necromancer board and lodging at any religious house he chose in England, presumably because he would have to escape and live in hiding after murdering the king. The twenty-seven men paid eleven marks (a mark was two-thirds of a pound) of the twenty pounds they owed to the necromancer, and four pounds of the fifteen they owed to his assistant Robert le Mareschal, in the house of Richard le Latoner on 7 December 1323, 'the Wednesday after the feast of Saint Nicholas in the seventeenth year'.

John of Nottingham and Robert le Marechal acquired seven pounds of wax (cire) and two ells of canvas (canevace), and formed seven images of seven men: Edward II, for whom they fashioned a crown of wax; Hugh Despenser the Elder, earl of Winchester; Hugh Despenser the Younger; the prior of Coventry; the prior's cellarer and his steward Nichol Crumpe; and 'a Richard de Sowe'. The latter's identity is not explained, but he seems to have been a local inhabitant who would act as a test case for the efficacy of John of Nottingham's powers of necromancy. Robert le Mareschal stated that on Monday 12 December 1323, he and John of Nottingham began performing their tricks over the image representing Richard de Sowe, in an "old house" half a league from the town of Coventry (a une demie luwe de la ville de Coventre) beneath the park of 'Shorteleye' (looking at the map, there's still a Shortley Road in Coventry, a mile or so south of the cathedral). They continued working on the wax and canvas image of the unfortunate Richard de Sowe for many months, until the Saturday after the feast of the Ascension in the following year, 1324; I don't know the exact date of Ascension in 1324, but it falls in May or early June, so approximately six months later. Finally, in the old house on the Friday before the feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross, around midnight (entour la my nuyt), John of Nottingham and Robert le Mareschal made a pointed spike out of a sharpened feather and drove it two thumbs deep into the forehead of Richard de Sowe's wax/canvas image, to see what might be expected to happen when they did the same thing to the others.

The following day, John of Nottingham sent Robert le Mareschal to Richard de Sowe's house to see what kind of condition he was in. Robert found the poor man howling and crying out Harrou!, an expression of distress in Middle English. He had lost his memory and was unable to recognise anyone. He remained alive and in this distressed state until John of Nottingham removed the sharpened feather from the forehead of his image some days later and plunged it instead into the heart (of the image), whereupon Richard de Sowe died soon afterwards. Before they could try out the wax figures of Edward II and the Despensers, however, Robert le Mareschal was seized with an attack of conscience and gave the game away to the authorities.

Hugh Despenser the Younger wrote to Pope John XXII to complain about the "magical and secret dealings" threatening him, and received the notably unsympathetic response on 1 September 1324 that he should "turn to God with his whole heart and make a good confession" and that no other remedy was necessary. [1] The royal clerk who wrote the Vita Edwardi Secundi came to hear of the story, and says of Edward that his "meanness is laid at Hugh's door, like the other evils that afflict the court. Hence, many conspired to kill him [Despenser], but the plot was discovered, some were captured and the others fled." [2] John of Nottingham died in prison; the others either fled and could not be found, or were acquitted (at least as far as I can tell; I admit that my ability to read several paragraphs of Latin legalese is not the greatest).

Sources
The case is cited in full in the Latin and Anglo-Norman original (no translation) in Thomas Wright, Contemporary Narrative of the Proceedings against Dame Alice Kyteler (1843), pp. xxiii-xxix. A summary of the case appears in Natalie Fryde, The Tyranny And Fall of Edward II 1321-1326, pp. 162-4 (which I only read after I'd translated it myself).

1) Calendar of Papal Letters 1305-1341, p. 461.

2) Vita Edwardi Secundi, ed. N. Denholm-Young, p. 136.

14 April, 2016

14 April 1322: Execution of Bartholomew, Lord Badlesmere

Today marks the 694th anniversary of Edward II's execution of his former household steward, Bartholomew, Lord Badlesmere, who had joined the Contrariant rebellion against the king and the Despensers.

Badlesmere was appointed as the steward of Edward II's household in October 1318, and in December that year was one of the four men (one of the others was Edward's chamberlain Hugh Despenser the Younger, whose wife Eleanor de Clare was the first cousin of Badlesmere's wife Margaret de Clare) who devised a Household Ordinance for the king. In late June 1321, the Marcher lords who had recently destroyed the lands of the two Hugh Despensers throughout Wales and England met Edward II's cousin and enemy Thomas, earl of Lancaster at Sherburn in Yorkshire. Edward sent Badlesmere to the meeting, presumably as a spy; Badlesmere switched sides and joined the Marchers. His motives are uncertain, but most probably he was angry at the rise of Hugh Despenser, his former ally who had deprived him of influence with the king, and he had a family connection to two Marchers: his daughter Elizabeth was married to Roger Mortimer's son and heir Edmund, and his wife Margaret was the aunt of Roger, Lord Clifford (son of Maud Clifford née de Clare). This proved to be as astonishingly unwise move on Badlesmere's part. Edward thereafter detested him for his treachery, and the earl of Lancaster loathed him already (I have no idea why; Lancaster loathed a lot of people): a letter of 27 February 1321 had informed Edward that "great ambushes are set for Bartholomew de Badlesmere in the south and in the north against his coming," and these ambushes were most likely Lancaster’s.  [J. Goronwy Edwards, Calendar of Ancient Correspondence Concerning Wales, pp. 180-81; J. R. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster, p. 264.] Edward and Hugh Despenser the Younger's plan in the autumn of 1321 to bring the Despensers back to England and defeat the Marchers, or Contrariants, centred around Badlesmere in Kent.

Edward II ordered Bartholomew Badlesmere's arrest on 7 December 1321. [Patent Rolls 1321-24, p. 40] During the king's winter campaign of 1321/22 against the Contrariants, he sometimes offered some of them safe-conducts to come and meet him but always pointedly excluded Badlesmere by name. [Patent Rolls, pp. 47-8, 51, 70, 71] The battle of Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322 marked a decisive turning point; Edward II's ally Sir Andrew Harclay, sheriff of Cumberland and soon to become earl of Carlisle, defeated the Contrariant army. Thomas, earl of Lancaster was executed on 22 March, with Lords Clifford and Mowbray following on 23 March. Twenty or twenty-two noblemen and knights were executed in March/April 1322 (don't believe the inaccurate figures and hysterically over-emotive accounts you often read in modern literature: here is a reliable count of the executions).

The legal judgement on Bartholomew Badlesmere was issued on 30 March 1322: "Forasmuch as you, Bartholomew de Badelesmere, liege of our lord the king, contrary to your fealty, homage and allegiance, falsely and treacherously took his town and castle of Gloucestre, and burned his town of Bruggenorth, and then killed his men, robbed his lieges, and took the peace in the land where you went to make war until you came to his castle of Tikhull, and then you besieged the castle with banner displayed as an enemy of the king and realm, and wrecked and killed the king's lieges, and thence went in the company of the attainted traitors, Thomas, late earl of Lancaster, and Humphrey, late earl of Hereford, to Burton-upon-Trent, and took the peace where you went, with banner displayed contrary to your fealty, homage and allegiance, as a traitor, felon and enemy of the realm, as is known to great and small of the realm, and the king hath recorded, this court awards that you be for the treason drawn, for the robberies and homicides hanged, and for the flight beheaded, and forasmuch as you were the king's steward, it is his will that your head be put over the gate of the town of Canterbury for an example to others.'" [Patent Rolls 1338-40, p. 209]

The Brut chronicle says that Badlesmere was captured at Stowe Park, a manor of his nephew Henry Burghersh, bishop of Lincoln. [Brut, ed. Brie, p. 221] The Livere de Reis of Sempringham, Lincolnshire, has a different story: it says that Edward II's close friend  Donald of Mar, a nephew of Robert Bruce, captured Badlesmere in "a small wood near Brickden" and took him to Canterbury. [Livere de Reis, ed. Glover, pp. 341-3] There the poor man suffered the terrible fate ordained for him by Edward: he was dragged three miles to the crossroads at Blean, hanged and then beheaded, and his head set on a spike over the gate into Canterbury at Edward's own command as an example to those who would betray the king. Bartholomew Badlesmere is one of only four men I know of who certainly suffered the traitor's death during Edward II's reign, the others being Andrew Harclay, earl of Carlisle (linked above), Sir Gilbert Middleton, who attacked and robbed two cardinals visiting England in 1317, and Hugh Despenser the Younger (and the latter was not done at Edward's order, of course). Poor Bartholomew; no-one deserves to die like that. Edward II could be remarkably vindictive towards people he felt had betrayed him, and Bartholomew Badlesmere is a prime example.

08 April, 2016

History Essay Prize; Book Reviews

I'd like to draw an exciting new history prize to your attention: The Mortimer History Society Essay Prize. To quote from the website: "Essays will be accepted on: any aspect of the medieval Mortimer family of Wigmore (and its cadet branches, eg Chirk, Chelmarsh) and its impact on the history and culture of the British Isles, and / or any aspect relating to the history, economy, society and culture of the medieval Marches of Wales, between 1066 and 1500." For more info, see here and here. If you read this and know anyone who might be interested, please do pass on the information to them! Entries must be submitted by 16 December 2016, and the competition is open to amateur historians, not just PhD candidates or more established academics.


It's great to see your own work reviewed by experts in the field in academic history journals, so I'm delighted to see that a few weeks ago my Edward II biography, along with Sara Cockerill's The Shadow Queen about Edward's mother Eleanor of Castile, was reviewed by Andrew Spencer in the English Historical Review. And even more excitingly, this month it's reviewed in Speculum by none other than Professor Seymour Phillips, who knows more about Edward and his reign than anyone on the planet. Fantastic! A few months ago, it was also reviewed by Professor J. S. Hamilton, Piers Gaveston's biographer, in The Medieval Review

01 April, 2016

Sir Richard Damory

I wrote a post a while ago about a plot to free some Contrariants from prison in 1323, and mentioned Edward II's then household steward, Sir Richard Damory. Rather curiously, there's no page on the English Wikipedia about Richard, but there is on the German one. Here's a post about him.

Richard was the elder brother of Edward II's favourite Sir Roger Damory, who came to prominence in the middle years of Edward's reign. The men were the sons - apparently the only two - of Sir Robert Damory of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, himself the son of Roger Damory the elder, who was still alive on 27 May 1281 when Edward I gave him a gift of four bucks from the forest of Whittlewood. (CCR 1279-88, p. 86) The Damory family was associated with Henry III's brother Richard, earl of Cornwall (died 1272) and his son Edmund (d. 1300): Roger the elder and his son and heir Robert witnessed the men's charters, and Robert travelled overseas with Edmund in 1280. Robert died shortly after 12 July 1285, leaving his elder son Richard as his heir, his younger son Roger, a widow Juliana, who held a third of the Buckinghamshire manor of Thornborough as part of her dower, and a daughter Katherine, who married Sir Walter le Poer or Poure of Oxfordshire. The dates of birth of the Damory brothers are not known; if I had to guess, I'd say Richard was born around the mid to late 1270s (he was summoned for military service for the first time in 1297), and Roger perhaps in the early to mid 1280s, not too long before their father Robert died in 1285. The Damorys came from a long line of Damorys, knights of Oxfordshire. As far as I can tell, the line goes like this (going backwards in time from son to father): Richard and Roger - Robert, d. 1285 - Roger, d. c. 1281 - Robert, sheriff of Oxfordshire and constable of Oxford Castle, d. c. 1236 - Robert, d. c. 1205 (he had brothers called Richard and Roger) - Ralph, d. c. 1187 - Roger, active in the 1130s and 1140s - Robert, d. c. 1139. We can see from this that the Damory men were extremely fond of names beginning with R. They were a solid knightly family who held the manors of Bucknell and Bletchingdon (both in Oxfordshire) for many generations, were not of the highest nobility or particularly rich, but had a good name stretching back centuries: the Robert who died in or around 1139 may have been the son or grandson of Gilbert, who held the manor of Bucknell in 1086, according to the Domesday Book. (But as Gilbert wasn't called Roger, Richard, Robert or Ralph, he probably wasn't allowed to be a Damory, haha.)

In the last years of Edward I's reign and at the beginning of Edward II's, the elder brother Richard Damory was far more prominent than his brother Roger, being appointed keeper of the peace in Oxfordshire in 1300 and forester for life of the forest of Whittlewood in 1310, and most significantly, constable of the castle of Oxford in April 1308 at a time when Edward II was transferring the custody of key royal castles to men he trusted; the threat of civil war was then imminent thanks to the king's excessive favour towards Piers Gaveston. Edward also re-appointed Richard as keeper of the peace in Oxfordshire at this time, and Richard witnessed Piers' grant of two of his Oxfordshire manors to the king. In the aftermath of Piers Gaveston's death in the summer of 1312, Edward appointed Richard as commissioner of array in Oxfordshire when the possibility of civil war once more loomed. He was also sheriff of Berkshire. (For Oxford Castle, see CFR 1307-1319, p. 21; keeper of the peace, CPR 1292-1301, p. 516, CPR 1307-1313, p. 54, CCR 1307-1313, p. 205, Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, p. 111; forester of Whittlewood, CPR 1307-1313, pp. 223, 449, 571, Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, p. 312; Piers Gaveston's grant, CCR 1307-1313, p. 65; commissioner of array, CPR 1307-1313, p. 486; Berkshire, Chancery Warrants 1244- 1326, p. 366.)

The overall picture of Sir Richard Damory is of a dependable and highly competent knight, soldier and administrator, loyal to the king, a man whom Edward II trusted. And the rise of Sir Roger Damory in Edward II's affections in and after 1315, and particularly his marriage to the king's widowed niece Elizabeth de Clare in 1317 - the greatest gift Edward had in his possession - also led to an increase of royal favours towards his elder brother Sir Richard Damory. At New Year 1318, Richard was one of twenty-five knights who received a silver goblet, valued at seven pounds, from the king. (Stapleton, 'Brief Summary', p. 344) Sometime before 11 April 1318, Richard was appointed 'keeper of the body of my lord Sir Edward, earl of Chester'; that is, he became the guardian of Edward II and Isabella of France's elder son the future Edward III. (Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, p. 485) On the same day as this appointment is mentioned, Richard and three other men were appointed to enquire into negligence and extortions committed by officials in Cheshire and North Wales. (CPR 1317-21, p. 134) In 1300, Richard had been a member of the household of Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford, who became Edward of Caernarfon's brother-in-law in 1302 when he married Edward's sister Elizabeth. (Ibid., p. 111) After the death of Guy Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, in August 1315, Edward appointed Richard keeper of his castles of Warwick and Elmley. (Ibid., pp. 425, 432) Richard also owned the manor of Ubley in Somerset, which in 1313 was attacked and robbed by a group of men, and some of Richard's goods and his trees stolen. (Patent Rolls 1307-13, p. 601; Ibid. 1313-17, pp. 64, 67, 246) The legal process relating to this attack dragged on and on, and in December 1314 some of the thieves were said to be Ralph Gorges (a knight of the Despensers) and a parson.

Richard Damory's years of favour seemed to come to an end when his brother Roger, edged out of the king's affections by Hugh Despenser the Younger, joined the Contrariant rebellion against Edward in 1321/22. Roger died on 12 March 1322 of wounds sustained while fighting against Edward's army, leaving his widow, the king's niece Elizabeth de Clare, and his only legitimate child and heir Elizabeth Damory. Edward II, who could be remarkably vindictive and spiteful, and despite Richard Damory's many years of service and loyalty to him and his son, ordered the sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire and the sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire on 16 February 1322 to arrest him. This was done apparently for no other reason than Edward suspected Richard of joining his brother's rebellion, which he had not. The sheriff of Oxfordshire soon found Richard and arrested him; on 26 February 1322, only ten days after the order, Richard was sent to Banbury Castle to be imprisoned, and granted 'reasonable maintenance' for as long as he should remain there. (CCR 1318-23, pp. 421, 425) On 19 February 1322, the sheriffs of Oxfordshire and Berkshire, Somerset and Dorset and Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, and the mayor and bailiffs of Bristol, were ordered to seize all his lands, goods and chattels. (CFR 1319-27, p. 99) Richard was, however, soon released and his lands and goods restored to him, on 16 March 1322 (the day of the battle of Boroughbridge). (CCR 1323-27, p. 51) Presumably he had successfully protested his innocence and lack of involvement in his brother's treason. In July 1322, Edward II even appointed Richard as steward of his household, a position he held until May 1325; there were no hard feelings on Edward's side, at least, though I'm not sure about Richard's. He was appointed justice of Chester and North Wales by Edward II sometime before 2 March 1326, and confirmed in the position on 12 December 1326, which was after Queen Isabella's invasion and when Edward II was in captivity; this suggests that Richard Damory had supported Isabella, or at least had nothing done anything to hinder her. (CCR 1323-7, pp. 450, 626; CPR 1324-7, p. 338) Richard still held this position in the summer of 1327, when he was ordered to arrest the Dunheved brothers Thomas and Stephen and their allies, who were causing mayhem in Chester and who shortly afterwards temporarily freed Edward from Berkeley Castle.

Sir Richard Damory was married to a woman called Margaret or Margery, whose identity I don't know (if anyone does, please do tell me!). He died shortly before 1 September 1330, probably in his early fifties or so, leaving his son Richard (of course) as his heir. Richard the elder didn't live quite long enough to see Edward III, whose guardian he had once been, overthrow his mother and Roger Mortimer on 19 October 1330. The younger Richard was said in his father's IPM of 1330 to be 'aged sixteen years and more', so was born in about 1314. (CIPM 1327-36, pp. 202-3; see also CFR 1327-37. pp. 192, 203) Richard the younger was granted possession of his lands after coming of age (twenty-one) and swearing homage to the king in January 1337; his mother Margaret was still alive then, and Richard himself lived until 1375. (CCR 1333-7, p. 640)

A knight of later in the fourteenth century, who was very high in Edward III's favour, was Sir Nicholas Damory. He also served for many years in the household of Roger Damory's widow Elizabeth de Clare, Edward III's first cousin. Elizabeth's biographer France Underhill (For Her Good Estate, p. 186 note 67) suggests that Nicholas was a first cousin of Richard Damory (d. 1330)'s son Richard (d. 1375), which would make him either the son of another Damory brother who does not appear on record at all, which seems unlikely, or Roger Damory's illegitimate son (he can't have been legitimate if he was Roger's son, as Roger's heir was his daughter Elizabeth, Lady Bardolf, his only surviving legitimate child). Another member of Elizabeth de Clare's household in the 1330s was a young Roger Damory, perhaps Nicholas's brother, perhaps another illegitimate son of Roger (d. 1322), perhaps even an illegitimate son of Roger's brother Richard. It would be great if I could work out the correct family tree of the Damorys; they're a family who interest me a lot.