25 January, 2007

Happy 699th Wedding Anniversary!

...to Edward II and Queen Isabella, who married on Thursday 25 January 1308, at the church of Notre Dame in Boulogne.

The royal wedding was, naturally, a magnificent occasion. Edward, who had controversially made Piers Gaveston Keeper of the Realm, left England on Monday 22 January, from Dover. He arrived in Boulogne on the 24th, three days late; the Channel crossing in January was probably horrendous.

Edward's huge retinue was housed in canvas tents in and around the town. The king himself had lodgings near the church, which he shared with Isabella after the wedding - though it's extremely unlikely that the marriage was consummated, given Isabella's youth. She was almost certainly only twelve; Edward was twenty-three and nine months.

Excluding Edward himself, the nuptials were attended by seven kings and queens, and other notables -

Isabella's mother Jeanne, Queen of France and Navarre, had already died, almost three years earlier, but Isabella's father was present: Philippe le Bel, or Philip the Fair, forty this year and king of France since October 1285. He was currently engaged in the destruction of the Knights Templar; his enemy Bernard Saisset, Bishop of Pamiers, said of him "he is neither a man nor a beast, but a statue." His eldest son Louis was there, the future Louis X of France, at this time eighteen years old and King of Navarre, which he had inherited from his mother. Also present were Isabella's other brothers, Philip and Charles, also destined to be kings of France, and her younger brother Robert, who was ten or eleven, and died a few months later.

Also present:
- Charles II, King of Naples and Sicily, titular King of Jerusalem, known as 'the Lame'
- Albert of Hapsburg, King of the Romans, with his Queen Elisabeth of Tyrol. Albert died on 1 May of this year.
- Arch-Duke Leopold I of Austria, who was only seventeen; he was one of the seven sons of Albert and Elisabeth (they also had five daughters.)
- Marie of Brabant, Dowager Queen of France, widow of Philip III and stepmother of Philip IV
- her daughter Marguerite, Dowager Queen of England and stepmother of Edward II.
- Presumably, Marguerite brought her two sons, Thomas (aged seven) and Edmund (aged six), half-brothers of Edward II and cousins of Isabella.
- Queen Marie's son, Louis, Count of Evreux - half-brother of Philip IV
- Charles, Count of Valois. Philip IV's brother (they were the sons of Philip III by his first queen Isabella of Aragon).
- Queen Marie's nephew Duke Jan II of Brabant and his wife Margaret, who was one of Edward II's three surviving sisters.
- and finally, 'a whole host of European nobility'.

The royal couple must have looked absolutely superb. Isabella wore a gown and overtunic in blue and gold, and a red mantle lined with yellow sindon; fifty years later, she would be buried with this mantle. Edward wore a satin surcoat and cloak embroidered with jewels. Both wore crowns glittering with precious stones. Isabella's trousseau was equally impressive; she took to England with her seventy-two headdresses, 419 yards of linen, many furs, two gold crowns, tapestries, and numerous dishes, spoons and plates of gold and silver.

King Philip's wedding presents to Edward and Isabella included rings and other jewellery, a couch 'more beautiful than any other' and expensive warhorses. He also handed over Isabella's dowry of 18,000 pounds, which he had appropriated from the Templars.

Eight days of celebration and feasting followed the wedding ceremony, with the most magnificent feast of all taking place on the 28th. On the 30th, Edward hosted yet another great feast. All in all, it was a superbly lavish occasion, as befitted the wedding of the King of England and the King of France's daughter, but there were tensions and conflicts beneath the surface. Philip IV took the opportunity to present Edward with a list of his grievances concerning Gascony, which Edward ignored; apparently, he retaliated by sending all his and Isabella's wedding gifts to Piers Gaveston. While in France, a group of English nobles, including the earls of Pembroke, Lincoln, Surrey and Hereford - the latter two Edward's nephew by marriage and brother-in-law - put their seals to the Boulogne Agreement, which attempted to separate the two sides of kingship - the king as a person, and the Crown, and stated that the barons' loyalty was due to the Crown. This demonstrates the enormous concern over Edward's reliance on Piers Gaveston.

And Edward soon proved yet again that this concern was completely understandable. On 7 February, when the royal party arrived back in Dover, the king caused a huge scandal by ignoring Isabella and hugging and kissing Piers Gaveston in front of everybody. If Isabella had been unaware of Gaveston's existence and her new husband's relationship with him, she certainly wasn't any longer...

9 comments:

Gabriele C. said...

Though in this case the gesture may have been free of sexual undertones. In the Middle Ages, official gestures were of high significance and importance, and a public display of affection was a demonstration that Edward held Gaveston in high esteem and anyone who would harm him would harm the king.

Argh, Public Gestures in the Middle Ages looks like another blog post I'll have to make sure I get my notes sorted out first. And I'll have to completely rewrite the retelling of the Song of Roland, I didn't remember it sucked so badly.

Alianore said...

Thanks for the perspective, Gabriele. I'll look forward to the post! Also, intrigued by the sucking of the Song of Roland re-telling...!? ;)

Susan Higginbotham said...

Interesting that Edward III and Philippa were married at the same time of year 20 years later (every book I have gives a different date, but they seem to have been married on January 24, 1328, or thereabouts).

Alianore said...

Susan, it's funny, that had never occurred to me. And exactly twenty years apart, too!

Gabriele C. said...

Alianore,
several people said they wanted to read my retelling/summary of the Song of Roland (since I keep writing posts about French epics) but when I un-buried the old file, I realised I have learned too much about writing since 1998 to still like that version. ;)

Carla said...

Interesting reference to the Boulogne Agreement and the idea of separating the institution of monarchy from the person of the monarch. Was it just barons throwing their weight around, or was there a genuine philosophy behind it, do you think?

Alianore said...

Gabriele - I know what you mean - when I look at stuff I wrote a few years ago, it makes me cringe, especially my essays on Edward II at university! :)

Carla: there's another contemporary document called the Homage et Serment declaration, which makes a clear distinction between the king's person, and the Crown - the 'doctrine of capacities' - and states that loyalty is due more to the Crown than the king's person. Edward's biographer R M Haines describes it as "an extraordinarily well reasoned statement of political philosophy". Interestingly, some of the barons who rebelled against Edward in 1321 tried to ascribe its authorship to the younger Despenser, to strengthen their case that he was a traitor. There's a funny story about it, that Despenser is supposed to have planted a copy of it in the wallet of a baron called Richard Grey - or something equally unlikely! That's probably worth a post of its own sometime!

There's a book called The King's Two Bodies by Ernst Kantorowicz, which I imagine covers the medieval theories on this in enormous detail.

Liam said...

The idea of separating the King as a person from his duties as a head of state (and at that time of government) seems so modern for the 1300s!

I'd also (for whatever reason) always thought the practice of many foreign royals attending a royal wedding something of a modern phenomenon. Obviously I was wrong! It's interesting the wedding was so lavish, since by Tudor times (I think) royal weddings were low-key, family affairs.

Alianore said...

Liam: ah, you see, Edward II's reign was sophisticated and forward-looking. ;) I'm not sure how common it was back then that many foreign royals attended royal weddings - AFAIK, Edward and Isabella's wedding was unusual in that respect.