17 February, 2007

Eleanor and Margaret de Bohun

Continuing my 'case-studies' of fourteenth-century noblewomen, here's the lowdown on two of Edward II's nieces and their families.

Eleanor de Bohun, the second but oldest surviving child of Edward II's sister Elizabeth and Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, was born at Knaresborough Castle on 17 October 1304, two years after her parents' marriage at Westminster Abbey. Elizabeth, the widow of Jan, Count of Holland, was twenty-two at the time of Eleanor's birth, Humphrey twenty-eight. Eleanor was presumably named after her grandmother, Eleanor of Castile. It's likely that her birth caused her father some disappointment, as she was his second child and second daughter, and he returned to London shortly after the birth. Both King Edward I and the twenty-year-old Lord Edward gave Elizabeth's valet forty marks for bringing them news of Eleanor's birth.

Elizabeth and Humphrey's eldest child, Margaret, had been born in late September 1303 but died young, probably in 1305. This child was perhaps named after Elizabeth's stepmother, Queen Marguerite, to whom she was close. Countess Elizabeth gave birth extremely regularly: her third child Humphrey was born in October 1305 (he also died young), and her fourth child John was born on 23 November 1306. He would succeed his father as Earl of Hereford in 1326 (a few years after Humphrey's death in battle).

Between 1306 and 1309, Elizabeth had a well-deserved break from childbearing. But she had plenty more children to come: another Humphrey, born on 6 December 1309, who succeeded his brother John as Earl of Hereford; another Margaret (see below), born on 3 April 1311, twins Edward and William, born in 1312 or 1313, the oddly-named Eneas, born in 1314 or 1315, who was still alive at the time of Hereford's death in 1322 but died unmarried before 1343, and Isabel, born 5 May 1316.

This was the day that Countess Elizabeth died, aged thirty-three, in childbirth. Little Isabel died soon afterwards. Given Elizabeth's frequent childbearing, her death in childbirth is hardly surprising. Eleanor de Bohun was eleven when she lost her mother. On 16 March 1322, when Eleanor was seventeen, her father was horribly killed at the Battle of Boroughbridge when an iron pike pushed up between planks of the bridge where he was fighting skewered him through the anus.

Eleanor grew up at Amesbury Priory, in the care of her aunt Mary, Edward II's sister. The king gave the priory a very generous allowance of 100 marks annually for the upkeep of Eleanor and her younger cousin, Joan Gaveston. Some of Eleanor's other cousins were there, such as Isabel of Lancaster and Joan de Monthermer - they were later professed as nuns.

The 1320s were a difficult time for the de Bohun siblings; although they were nieces and nephews of the king, their father had died in rebellion against him. If Elizabeth, arguably Edward II's favourite sister, had still been alive, their situation would surely have been a lot easier, but as it was, the de Bohun boys - at least, the older ones, John and Humphrey - were imprisoned at Windsor Castle. In late 1326, Eleanor's brother Edward was with their uncle Edward II during his flight to South Wales - Edward sent his nephew, aged about fourteen, to negotiate with Queen Isabella. The young Edward was one of the men who took part in Edward III's coup against Isabella and Roger Mortimer in 1330.

Rather oddly, Eleanor didn't marry until some time in 1327, when she was in her early twenties - a pretty advanced age for a noblewoman at this time. However, given her family's status in the 1320s and Edward II and Hugh Despenser's tyranny, disruptions in familial affairs were quite normal. There seems to have been quite a rush on noble weddings in 1327! Eleanor's brother John had married in 1325, but his bride was Alice, daughter of the Earl of Arundel, who was loyal to Edward II and whose son was married to the Younger Despenser's daughter, so this was a 'safe' marriage. Likewise, Eleanor's sister Margaret also married in 1325, to Hugh de Courtenay - whose paternal grandmother was the Elder Despenser's sister.

I'm not quite sure why the much younger Margaret de Bohun was chosen for Courtenay, who was born in 1303 and was therefore much closer in age to Eleanor. Several websites claim that Eleanor was married to Roger, Lord Clifford (born 1300), who was badly wounded at Boroughbridge in March 1322 and finally died of his wounds in 1327. It's possible that they were married, or at least betrothed, but I'm not totally sure. It would be one explanation for her late marriage.

At any rate, Eleanor was married in 1327 to James Butler, who was created first Earl of Ormond in 1328. James was born in about 1305, so was probably a little younger than his wife. He and Eleanor had several children:

- John, born 6 November 1330, died young
- James, born 4 October 1331. He succeeded his father as second Earl of Ormond, married Elizabeth Darey in 1346, and died in 1382.
- Petronilla, or Pernel, date of birth unknown, married before 8 September 1352 to Gilbert, Lord Talbot. She married several years later than her brother, so was presumably younger.

James Butler died on 6 January 1337, and Eleanor was a widow at the age of thirty-two. Around 1340 - or 1343, according to some authorities - she was remarried to Thomas Dagworth. Thomas was one of the lieutenants of Eleanor's brother William, who was created Earl of Northampton in 1337. William was one of the great commanders of the Hundred Years War, and Thomas Dagworth was his deputy in Brittany, where he won a famous victory at La Roche-Derrien in 1347. Although she was in her mid to late thirties at the time of her marriage, Eleanor bore Thomas two children:

- Thomasine, died 20 July 1409, who married William, Lord Furnival (born 1326) - son of Joan de Verdon from my previous post!
- Nicholas, died January 1401. He owned and rebuilt Blickling Hall in Norfolk, which later belonged to the Boleyns. A full-length brass of him can still be seen in the church of St Andrew, Blickling.

Thomas Dagworth was killed in an ambush in Brittany, in 1352. Eleanor de Bohun outlived him by eleven years, dying on 7 October 1363 - ten days before her fifty-ninth birthday. She outlived all but one of her siblings. Eleanor's descendants include: dukes of Beaufort, Newcastle, Norfolk, earls of Ormond, Desmond, Shrewsbury, Dorset, Rochester, Sandwich, Arundel, Stafford, etc etc...:)


Margaret de Bohun, the sixth child and second surviving daughter of Humphrey and Elizabeth, was born on 3 April 1311. She was five when her mother died, and almost eleven when her father was killed. On 11 August 1325, at the age of fourteen, she was married to Hugh de Courtenay; he was twenty-two, born on 12 July 1303. Part of her dowry was the manor of Powderham, near Exeter, which she left to her son Philip. Hugh's father, also Hugh, became Earl of Devon in 1335, when he was past sixty; he died on 23 December 1340, so Margaret was twenty-nine when she became Countess of Devon.

Margaret de Bohun and Hugh de Courtenay had - lots of children. Ascertaining exactly how many is difficult! Leo van de Pas' Genealogics, a site I trust, gives them eight sons and nine daughters, a whopping seventeen children altogether. Their eldest son, named Hugh, inevitably, was born on 22 March 1327 - so Margaret became a mother shortly before her sixteenth birthday. (Hugh is sometimes said to have been born on 22 March 1326, but as that is only about thirty-two weeks after his parents' wedding, it seems highly unlikely.) Young Hugh died in September 1349, perhaps of the plague.

Other children of Margaret and Hugh included:
- William, Archbishop of Canterbury 1381-96. His predecessor Simon Sudbury was beheaded in the Tower of London, during the Peasants' Revolt. He married Richard II and Anne of Bohemia in 1382, and crowned Anne as Queen of England. William was an avowed enemy of John Wycliffe and the Lollards.
- Philip, died 1406, said to be the the sixth son of Hugh and Margaret, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. His son Richard was Bishop of Norwich.
- Elizabeth, died 1395, Lady of the Garter in 1386.

Hugh de Courtenay, Earl of Devon, died on 2 May 1377, a few weeks before the death of his wife's cousin, Edward III. He was almost seventy-four; he and Margaret had been married an incredible fifty-two years, which must make them strong contenders for the longest marriage of the Middle Ages. Their eldest son Hugh was long dead, and his son, (yet another) Hugh, had died several years previously, so Hugh was succeeded as Earl of Devon by his twenty-year-old grandson Edward, son of his second son Edward. Earl Edward lived until 1419 and was known as the 'Blind Earl'.

Margaret de Bohun de Courtenay, sixty-six when she was widowed, died on 16 December 1391, at the age of eighty. She had outlived all her siblings by decades, and also outlived all but one of her cousins, Edward I's grandchildren (Margaret Marshal, daughter of Edward II's half-brother Thomas of Brotherton, lived until 1399). She was buried in Exeter Cathedral.

27 comments:

Kate Plantagenet said...

Thanks for yet another wonderful post. I love the story of Margaret de Bohun and Hugh de Courtney. They sound amazing. What was in their drinking water?! To survive that many pregnacies at that time is amazing; to live such a long life even after all that child bearing, astonishing. Great stuff.

Alianore said...

Thanks, Kate! Hugh and Margaret are a great couple, aren't they? I should do some research to see if anyone in the Middle Ages was married longer, or had more children!

Carla said...

Maybe they were going for a rugby team and a cricket team? She must have been one tough lady. Why was the grandson known as the Blind Earl - did he have poor sight, or was it some sort of metaphor (or am I being dim)?

Alianore said...

Carla: the nickname is simply because he lost his eyesight later in life - shame really, as a metaphorical meaning would be more interesting!

CBrunner said...

Alianore, Thanks for your wonderful site! I am a Plantagenet descendant(from 4 of Edward III's sons) & Hugh & Margaret de Courtenay are ancestors of mine, through their son Philip of Powderham. Thank you for helping to flesh out my ancestors.

Alianore said...

Hi C - thank you for your kind comment! Really glad you're enjoying the site and finding it useful. It's awesome that you're descended from FOUR of Ed III's sons!

CBrunner said...

I found out a few years back through Burke's Peerage-- it was an awesome experience! My mother comes from Edward IV & Richard III's eldest sister Anne of Exeter(hence the descent from Lionel,John & Edmund) on several lines, & from Thomas of Woodstock through the Bourchiers, also in several lines. My last trip to Westminster Abbey was very emotional, to say the least!

Alianore said...

Yes, I can imagine it must have been - it's practically your family mausoleum! :) How great to know that you're descended form all these people. Unfortunately I don't know if I'm descended from Ed II or not, but visiting his tomb at Gloucester Cathedral last year was also an emotional experience for me - because he means a lot to me, soppy cow that I am! :)

CBrunner said...

I too have a soft spot for Edward II(even before I knew he is my ancestor),& I really appreciate what you are doing here. I've not seen his tomb, but it is on the agenda for my next time over. I've always felt he was much maligned, & Isabel(even though she & Mortimer are also my ancestors) actually was more the villain in the story.

Dylan J.D.S.Courteany said...

AS a desecendent of Hugh and Margaret I ahve always considered their story to be one of the more inspiring out of my ancestors...thank you for many for pieces of information on them

Alianore said...

Thanks, Dylan! Glad you enjoyed the post, and it's always great to meet descendants of the people I write about. ;)

Anonymous said...

A very well researched paper by Dr. Robert Bone details a marriage prior to the actual marriage to Hugh, of whom she was betrothed early in life. She married a third cousin from Scotland "Sir Richard le Bon de Bohun" as he visited them often and must have fallen in love or lust. They had one child before the marriage was annulled and most records were destroyed of this union. There are records in the Oxford library that do identify that Hugh was her second husband. So you must add one more child to that long list of children. That child was John and he was born in 1324 when Margaret was but 18 or 19. The child was raised by Sir Richard after the annulment. Her first child with Hugh was 2 years later.

Anonymous said...

Re: My previous post about the second marriage of Margaret:

Dr Robert Gehlmann Bone's research on the family has Margaret's birth in the year of 1305 and her death in 1391. So she didn't marry Hugh when only 14 as you stated, she would have been 20 years old. Could you give me your reference as to the date of her birth?
Thanks,

Dennis B.

Anonymous said...

I have found several sources that state that William and Edward the twin brothers of Margaret were born in 1311 so I think that some of the poorly researched sites have Margaret born in 1311. Most of the more accurate sites have her b-b 1311 or Born Before 1311. I believe Dr. Bone is correct as he did extensive research on this branch of the family.

Regards,

Dennis

Alianore said...

Hi Dennis!

I'm no expert in the de Bohuns, but I know it's impossible for Margaret to have been born in 1305. Her mother Elizabeth gave birth to a daughter Margaret, born Sept 1303 and died young, Eleanor, countess of Ormond, born in early Oct 1304, and a son Humphrey, born about 20 Oct 1305 and died 28 Oct 1305. Then a son, John, earl of Hereford, born 23 Nov 1306. Then a gap to Humphrey, earl of Hereford, born 6 Dec 1309. Sources for all these dates of birth from royal Wardrobe accounts and other contemporary documents. Elizabeth and Hereford married November 1302. There's simply no 'room' for Margaret to have been born anywhere between 1302 and 1306.

Margaret was betrothed to Hugh de Courtenay as early as 27 Sept 1314, when she was 3. This is stated in a charter of the Duchy of Lancaster:

"Indenture and articles of agreement of marriage made between Margaret, Queen of England, and Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford and Essex, and Dame Elizabeth his wife, of the one party, and Sir Hugh de Courtenay of the other part, for the marriage of Hugh, son of the said Hugh, with Margaret, daughter of the said Earl and Countess.
Westminster, 27th September, 8 Edw. II [1314]."

Given that, I find it hard to believe that Margaret was married to someone else. There's a thread about the book you mention on Google groups here: http://groups.google.com/group/soc.genealogy.medieval/browse_frm/thread/a50ced04dd51df08/7b1652c9174b4ec1?hl=en&lnk=st&q=%22margaret+de+bohun%22#7b1652c9174b4ec1

Cheers, Alianore.

Catherine Oates said...

Hi Alianore,

This is an amazing site. I love the way you take the facts and weave them into storylike prose. It's what I do in my head intuitively when I try to understand history, but you do it so well, and you actually DO it, (unlike me, who just thinks it).

I'm descended from Edward I through his daughter Elizabeth, which is why I was reading about her. It struck me recently as very unlikely that both her brother and her father were killed in the same horrifying way, and I remembered that I'd read that there were other people killed at that time in this way. Do you wonder whether this horrible and very unlikely way of dying may have been made up as a kind of dramatic embellishment at the time? I read in a biography of Edward II that it was unlikely he was killed in this way.

Bohun's death in this way seems even more unlikely. I doubt a person could even get a pike through the boards of a bridge, but who knows?

What think ye?

:)
Catherine

Alianore said...

Hi Catherine! Thank you for your very kind comments, and I'm really glad you like my site.

I'm completely convinced - to the extent that I'd stake everything I own on it - that Edward II was not murdered by red-hot poker. For various reasons that I won't go into here, or I'll end up writing an essay ;), but it makes no sense to me at all, and I'm absolutely certain that it was a vicious rumour which over time became elevated to a 'fact'. I imagine it was inspired by contemporary depictions of sodomites being punished and tortured in hell in the same or very similar ways - i.e., Edward II getting his 'just desserts' for his presumed sexual practices.

In the late 13th century, there were many manuscripts in circulation which claimed that Edmund Ironside (died 1016) was killed in more or less the same way - via a piece of iron shoved inside him while he was on the privy. And in the 15th century, Henry V's brother the duke of Gloucester was also said to have been murdered this way.

I'm not sure either about Bohun's death in 1322 - it's given as such in various contemp chronicles, but as you say, could you really get a pike through the boards of a bridge and into someone's back passage?? I'm not at all sure. I hope, for Bohun's sake, that a great deal of embellishment was going on there.

Thanks again for commenting, and I'd love to hear from you again soon!

Michael Blakemore said...

I am a decendent of Eleanor and Ormond. (My great Grand Mother was Anne Spottswood. (Lastof the british branch the rest in Usa Virginia)decendant of Govener Alexander Spottswood..) Have found it very interesting We had got mixed up and thought Elizabeth married Butler... Thanks for clearing the mystery

Irony Alexander Spottswood was a decendent of Robert the Bruce
Spottswoods wife uncle was the Duke of Ormond. So a decendent of Edward 1
The Spottswood used to be called Spottiswoode before he Civil war..
Good work you have done

小小彬Bing said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Thank you for this wonderful post on the Bohun sisters. I am a huge medieval history groupie(with particular interest in the reigns of Edward II and II)and was thrilled to discover that I am descended from Edward III. However I also descend from both Margaret and Eleanor and their brother William and was thrilled to see them covered here. I don't know why, but for some reason my Bohun ancestors 'speak' more loudly to me than any others and it is so difficult to find much information on them through media that I have access to, so thanks again!

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks so much for the kind comment! I'm so glad you came across my post and found it helpful. All the best!

Don Sherratt said...

Did the De Bohuns have any connection with Coberley, Gloucestershire?
I unearthed a metal
Heraldic Shield there believed to be of Humphrey De Bohun
4th Earl of Hereford
1276 - 1322

Kathryn Warner said...

I don't know, Don, sorry - the Bohuns are not really one of my areas of expertise.

mrats.marajenner said...

Marvelous post, Kathryn!

I, too, am a "soppy cow" when it comes to Edward. Though I've never been to Gloucester Cathedral, I had a remotely similar experience at Westminster Abbey when I saw the wooden throne with the Stone of Scone underneath. All I knew about Edward II at the time was that he was the first king to be crowned on it. That alone fascinated me, and of all the sights there are to see at the Abbey, it captured my interest the most. I couldn't take my eyes off of it! (If I'd known how much I would come to adore Edward, I would probably be standing there staring at it to this day!) It just made history seem so real--not merely words in a book. Hundreds of years ago, Edward actually sat on that throne!

And now for the de Bohun family: you mentioned that Elizabeth was "arguably Edward II's favorite sister". Harold Hutchison, in his biography, "Edward II", agrees. But I've also read, though I can't recall the source, that Edward was closer to Joanna. Is that a legend that arose because two of her daughters were married to his most notorious favorites? Do letters and other evidence suggest that he was even more fond of Elizabeth, or do we believe that now because they were nearest in age? As ever, I long to know more and who better to ask than you? :-)

Also, since I didn't see it on your list of fiction about Edward, I thought I should mention a book you might not have found yet called, "The King's Daughters" by Mollie Haycraft. It's mostly about Elizabeth, though Margaret of Brabant enters into it quite a lot. I must warn you that it's not very kind to Edward, which is no more than we can expect from the author. She's the daughter of Thomas Costain, who wrote "The Three Edwards".

As for genealogy, I'm not sure how your research has progressed since you wrote this post, but fear not! You ARE Edward's descendent! Edward III lost a daughter to the Black Death, but the rest of his prolific progeny survived. Considering that at least one third of the populace died of the plague (in America it's often estimated at closer to half), and that most of the vast royal family lived on, it would be astounding if you WEREN'T Edward's direct descendent. (Though I'm mathematically challenged, those are numbers even I can understand.)

There's no doubt in my mind that Edward is also my ancestor, even though I'm the lowest form of English-speaking life: a "yank" (albeit of approximately 95% British descent). The odds are with us both! I feel confident that you will trace your ancestry back to him in time. The only question is who passed the legacy down to you.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thank you! :-) Glad you enjoyed the post, and a lovely comment as always - such a pleasure to read :)

It's mostly Edward's letters to his sisters from 1304/05 (when a few hundred of his letters fortuitously survive) that make me think probably Elizabeth was closest to him, from the way he addressed her. Also, they were close in age, only 20 months apart. Joan I think was extremely fond of Edward, and the 12-year age gap perhaps made it more maternal than was with the case with Elizabeth. Joan certainly leapt to her brother's aid when he quarrelled with his father in 1305, and lent him her seal so he could order goods. Such a shame that Joan died young - I do wonder if she might have been a strong influence on him if she'd lived a few years longer. Elizabeth apparently wasn't, for all their closeness, but I feel Joan was a stronger personality, and that age gap might have meant Edward listened to and took heed of her advice.

Yes, I've since come to the conclusion that of more or less exclusively English origin for at least several centuries back, that I've found, I must be descended from Edward - which is the most amazing thought :)

katiesmith said...

I recently was going though my family pedigree for the first time and started to google names. I appreciate the information that you have provided of my ancestor. Very interesting.

Jeremy Steventon-Barnes said...

Thanks for the useful insight on Eleanor, you've provided some details I'd not picked up previously.

Just a note on her children with Thomas de Dagworth: Thomasine (d.1409) was actually the widow of Thomas' nephew John(III) de Dagworth (d.1360), not Thomas' daughter. I encountered this error myself (in CP(4)?), which presumably originated from the tempting similarity in names.

Ref: National Archives C 143/309/11:
John de Daggeworth, knight, to settle the manor of Dagworth, with the advowson of the church there, on himself, Thomasia his wife, and the heirs of their bodies, with remainder to himself and his heirs, retaining the manor of Thrandeston. Suffolk. (27 EDWARD III, ie 1354)

Best wishes, Jeremy