A post on the lesser-known members of the notorious family...
Hugh Despenser 'the Elder' was born on 1 March 1261, the son of Hugh Despenser the Even Elder, Justiciar of England, who was killed at the side of Simon de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham in 1265, when his son was four years old. In 1271, Hugh's mother Aline Basset married Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk. She had no more children, though Hugh had three sisters, or possibly a sister and two half-sisters by his father's (unknown) first wife.
Aline, only child and heiress of Philip Basset, died before 11 April 1281, and although he wasn't yet twenty-one, Hugh received livery of his Despenser and Basset lands that year. Despite - or because of - his father's rebellion against Henry III, Hugh would be intensely loyal to both Edward I and Edward II all his life.
Hugh's wife was Isabel Beauchamp, widowed from Patrick de Chaworth in July 1283, and the mother of Maud de Chaworth, who was born on 2 February 1282. Isabel was the daughter of William Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick (c. 1237-1298) and Maud FitzJohn (also called Fitzgeoffrey, died 1301), who was one of the four sisters and co-heiresses of John and Richard FitzJohn, who both died childless. Through her mother, Isabel Beauchamp was the first cousin of Richard de Burgh, Earl of Ulster (1259-1326) and of Robert, Lord Clifford (born 1274, killed at Bannockburn 1314). Isabel's date of birth is not known, but was sometime in the 1260s. Her younger brother Guy, Earl of Warwick, was probably born in 1272. He kidnapped Piers Gaveston in 1312, and was one of Edward II's most implacable enemies.
The date of Hugh and Isabel's wedding is not known either, but in the Highworth Hundred Rolls of 10 September 1285, Isabel was still referred to by her married name, which places their marriage after this date. In 1286, they were fined 2000 marks for marrying without royal licence. Isabel died shortly before 30 May 1306, which was appalling timing as far as her elder son Hugh the Younger was concerned: he was knighted on 22 May, and married Eleanor de Clare on the 26th.
Hugh the Elder never married again. At the beginning of Edward III's reign, on 15 February 1327, the Calendar of Miscellaneous Inquisitions records the complaint of William de Odyham, keeper of Odiham park, that he "was removed therefrom [from his keepership] by Hugh le Despenser the younger because he levied hue and cry upon Isabel the said Hugh's mother, who was taking 5 bucks in the park without warrant."
Which tells us that: Isabel was a keen huntswoman, not too bothered about breaking the law, and that her son felt enough affection for her that he remembered the incident many years later, and used his influence to remove the man from his position.
Isabel and Hugh the Elder had two sons and four daughters. Their dates of birth are not recorded, and what follows is just my best guess.
Aline (or Alina) was named after her paternal grandmother Aline Basset; her elder half-sister Maud de Chaworth was named after their maternal grandmother Maud FitzJohn. I assume Aline was the eldest of the Despenser children, as her marriage was arranged in 1302, and her brother Hugh's in 1306. Her parents married in late 1285 or 1286, so I'd tentatively place Aline's birth in 1287, and therefore fifteen or close to it when she married.
Aline married Edward Burnell, who became Lord Burnell on 19 December 1311. Edward was probably born on 22 July 1286, the son of Philip, Lord Burnell and the great-nephew of the famous Robert Burnell, Bishop of Bath and Wells and Chancellor of England. Edward's mother Maud was the sister of Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel (died 1302), which makes Edward a first cousin of Edmund, Earl of Arundel, beheaded in 1326. As the great-grandson of Roger Mortimer Senior and Maud de Braose, he was also the first cousin once removed of Roger Mortimer. Edward was the ward of Joan de Munchesni (or Munchesney, Munchensey, etc), Countess of Pembroke, and grew up in her household.
Edward and Aline married shortly after 3 May 1302. Edward paid homage to Edward II for his lands on 6 December 1307, was summoned to Parliament in 1311 and 1315, and fought in Scotland, probably also at Bannockburn. The couple had no children, and Edward died on 23 August 1315, only twenty-nine. Although only in her late twenties herself, Aline never re-married. This probably means that she took a vow of chastity, generally the only way noble widows could remain single and not have to enter a convent.
Her father Hugh the Elder granted her the manor of Martley in Worcestershire, which he had inherited from his uncle John Despenser. Aline held dower lands in Warwickshire, Somerset, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Shropshire, and was later granted further lands in Shropshire by her nephew, Hugh the Even Younger.
On 30 January 1326, presumably through the influence of her all-powerful brother, Aline was made Constable of the great Conwy Castle: "Appointment during pleasure of Aline Burnel to the custody of the castle of Coneweye, so that she answer for the safe custody thereof at her peril; she taking for the custody the same as other keepers."
This was an extremely rare honour for a woman. I only know of one other contemporary example: Edward I made Isabella de Vescy Constable of Bamburgh in 1304, and Edward II confirmed the appointment as one of his first acts as King (Isabella was his mother's cousin). However, Aline was replaced by Sir William Ercalowe (or Erkalowe or Erkalewe) on 20 October that year. At this time, Edward and Hugh Despenser were in South Wales, fleeing from Isabella and Roger Mortimer, and probably decided that they needed a man with military experience to hold such a strategic stronghold.
After the downfall of Edward II and Hugh Despenser, Isabella and Mortimer, to their credit, left Aline in peace -something she might not have expected, given her relationship to Hugh, and his own treatment of the female relatives of his enemies. On 15 November 1329, 24 April 1330 and 3 February 1331, she was granted protection for a pilgrimage to Santiago. In the records, she's always called 'Aline (or Alina) late the wife of Edward Burnel'.
On 26 April 1338, Aline was granted "alienation in mortmain...to two chaplains to celebrate divine service daily in the chapel of St Giles, Lolleseye [Lulsley, Worcestershire] for the souls of the said Edward [Burnell] and Alina, Hugh le Despenser, her brother, and Hugh le Despenser, her cousin [nephew], William de Ercalewe and Walter de Lench."
Ercalewe was the man who had replaced her as Constable of Conwy Castle in 1326, and her nephew Hugh the Even Younger's steward. Born in 1284 or 1285, and a former Sheriff of Staffordshire and Shropshire, Ercalewe and his father were closely connected with the Burnells as well as the Despensers.
Walter de Lench was a landowner in Worcestershire, where Aline also held lands, so was probably a neighbour and associate. Aline's inclusion of her brother Hugh might signify that she thought his soul needed all the intercession it could get, or might point to a genuine sisterly affection. None of her other siblings, or other nieces and nephews, are included.
Aline died shortly before 24 May 1353, well into her sixties, having lived as a widow for nearly four decades. Her Inquisition Post Mortem gives the year of her death as '37 Edward III' which is 1363, but this seems to be a mistake for '27 Edward III', as a Patent Roll entry of 28 November 1353 refers to her death. Her heir was her great-nephew, Hugh the Younger's grandson Edward Lord Despenser (born 1336), and she also left lands to Edward Burnell's nephew Nicholas Burnell.
Hugh the Younger: I'd estimate Hugh's birth year as 1288 or 1289, making him four or five years younger than Edward II and seventeen or eighteen at the time of his wedding on 26 May 1306 (Eleanor de Clare was thirteen and a half).
Given Edward II's later infatuation with him, it's interesting to note that, for the first half of his reign or thereabouts, he barely seems to have noticed Hugh's existence. Hugh received the manor of Sutton in Norfolk on 14 May 1309, was granted licence to hunt "with his dogs by himself, or any person whom by his letters he shall depute to do so...foxes, hares, cats and badgers" on 8 September 1312, and received the wardship and marriage of Roger Huntingfield on 9 October 1313. And that's about it, apart from a handful of requests and pardons, and an exemption made at his request in April 1313 "to the provost and chaplains of St Elizabeth by Winchester of the service of rendering every year a sore sparrow-hawk for the manor of St Valery..." ('Sore' means the reddish-brown plumage of a sparrow-hawk in the first year of its life, untrained and therefore less valuable.)
Isabel(la), the third Despenser child, was probably born around 1290/91, and like her brother, married a de Clare. Hugh's marriage to Eleanor is recorded as it took place in the presence of the King; the date of Isabel's wedding is not known, but probably took place around the same time, in a double de Clare-Despenser marriage alliance. As girls usually married a little earlier than boys, it's highly likely that she was younger than Hugh and about fifteen when she married.
Her husband was Gilbert de Clare, Lord of Thomond, son of Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare's brother Thomas and a first cousin of Eleanor de Clare and the Earl of Gloucester. He was a former ward of Joan of Acre, who may have been instrumental in arranging the two de Clare-Despenser marriages. Gilbert was born on 3 February 1281 and was one of the young men selected to grow up in the household of the future Edward II, who was three years his junior. Gilbert is often confused with his cousin of the same name, the Earl of Gloucester. He died before 16 November 1307, childless; his marriage to Isabel is often overlooked by authorities.
In 1308 or 1309, Isabel married John, Lord Hastings, a former claimant to the throne of Scotland. Born on 6 May 1262, John was only a year younger than Isabel's father, and had been widowed from the Earl of Pembroke's sister Isabel de Valence since October 1305. John Hastings junior, son of John and Isabel de Valence, was born in 1286, and was several years older than his stepmother - which has confused some historians, most notably Natalie Fryde, who assume it was the younger John who married Isabel Despenser (in fact, he married Juliana de Leyburne). The elder John was a close associate of the Elder Despenser from the mid-1290s onwards, if not earlier, and served on Despenser's council. In 1308, he and Despenser were two of the few barons who stayed at Edward II's side during the Gaveston crisis.
Despite the huge gap, Isabel bore John Hastings three children. Their elder son Thomas died childless on 11 January 1333, and their daughter Margaret married William, Lord Martin, only to be widowed in 1326 when she can't have been more than about sixteen. She married Sir Robert Wateville soon afterwards, and died in 1359. (There were two men in England at the time called Sir Robert de Wateville, confusingly, and separating their careers is difficult. One, presumably this one, served in the younger Despenser's retinue). John and Isabel's second son Hugh Hastings married Margery Foliot, and was very active in the Hundred Years War with his half-nephew Laurence Hastings, Earl of Pembroke. He also served as Queen Philippa's steward in the mid-1340s and was appointed Seneschal of Gascony in May 1347, a position he never took up, as he died a few weeks later. His tomb in Elsing, Norfolk, was opened in 1978, revealing that he had been five feet ten inches tall, had osteoarthritis in his shoulders and elbows, and had at some point suffered a severe blow to the mouth.
John, Lord Hastings, died in February 1313. Sometime in 1318, Isabel Despenser married for the third time, to Ralph de Monthermer, who had made a secret marriage to Joan of Acre in 1297. He had been widowed since April 1307, and was also much older than Isabel, probably born in 1262. Letters of Edward II written before he became King reveal that he was on very good terms with Ralph; however, Ralph didn't play a big role in Edward's reign, though he fought for the King at Bannockburn, where he was captured (and released without ransom). Isabel and Ralph married without the necessary royal licence, for which they received a pardon on 12 August 1319.
Isabel continued to use the name Hastings throughout her third marriage and widowhood. In September 1324, she was put in charge of the household of Edward II and Queen Isabella's daughters Eleanor and Joan, aged six and three - an act inevitably described as 'stealing' Isabella's children from her, though it was usual for royal children to have their own households from a very young age, and royal/noble women in the Middle Age rarely brought up their own children. Eleanor de Clare took charge of the household of John of Eltham, Edward II's younger son.
Ralph de Monthermer died on 5 April 1325, leaving two sons and two daughters by his marriage to Joan of Acre. Isabel continued to take care of Edward II's daughters. In October 1326, she was (presumably) with them in Bristol Castle when Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer and their followers took the town. She was probably inside the castle when her father was hanged in his armour outside; the chronicler Jean Froissart wrote later that little Eleanor and Joan saw the execution out of the window.
Like her sister Aline, Isabel was mostly left in peace by Roger Mortimer and Isabella, though in June 1328, she acknowledged a debt of just under £300 to Isabella - whether a real debt or not, I don't know. (Her brother Hugh had forced people to bind themselves to him by acknowledging fake debts).
In December 1327, Edward II's niece Elizabeth de Clare left her young children in Isabel's care while she attended her uncle's funeral - a nice gesture on Elizabeth's part, given all that she had suffered at the hands of Isabel's brother.
Isabel Despenser Hastings died on 4 or 5 December 1334, leaving lands in Huntingdonshire, Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Suffolk and Hampshire to her son Hugh Hastings and her step-grandson Laurence Hastings. She had outlived three husbands, and lived as a widow for just under a decade, but was probably still only about forty-four years old.
Philip, the fourth child, was probably born about 1292/93. He was certainly born by 1294, when a letter patent of his father apointed the rector of 'Louctheburg' as his guardian. On 12 April 1306, in Edward I's reign, Philip's uncle Guy Beauchamp received a "licence for Guy de Bello Campo, earl of Warwick, to enfeoff Philip son of Hugh le Despenser of all his lands in England which are held of the king". Guy was unmarried and childless at this time (he would later have two sons and five daughters) and decided to make Philip his heir.
Philip's wife Margaret Goushill was born on 12 May 1294, the only child and heiress of Ralph Goushill. She inherited lands in Shropshire, Yorkshire, Essex and Lincolnshire. The date of their wedding is not known, but was probably around 1310. Their only child, also Philip, was born on 6 April 1313, and Philip died on 24 September of the same year, aged probably about twenty, and long before his brother became the real ruler of England.
Margaret Goushill married her second husband John Ros sometime before 22 April 1314, less than seven months after Philip's death. He was the second son of William, Lord Ros; his elder brother William was one of the delegates sent to depose Edward II in January 1327. His mother Maud de Vaux was the sister of Petronilla, the mother of Maud de Nerford, the Earl of Surrey's mistress.
On Sunday 22 February 1316, in the cathedral church of Lincoln, Hugh Despenser the Younger attacked Ros in the middle of Parliament, in the presence of the King. He strode up to him and punched him in the face until he drew blood, "and inflicted other outrages on him...to the terror of the people present at the said parliament."
The reason for the attack - according to Hugh himself - was that Ros had tried to arrest Sir Ingelram Berenger, a knight long in the service of the Elder Despenser, whom Hugh had probably known most of his life. However, I can't help wondering if Ros's marriage to Philip's widow had something to do with it, too. Ros and Margaret married less than seven months after Philip's death, which was very fast, and perhaps Hugh was angry at the implied insult to his brother, and the attempted arrest of Berenger was the final straw.
Hugh, amusingly, defended himself by claiming that Ros had attacked him first, "heaping outrageous insults on the same Hugh [and] taunted him with insolent words, and putting his hand to his knife he menaced the same Hugh, and made a rush towards the said Hugh as if he wanted to strike him with his knife..." Hugh claimed that he had merely stretched out his hand to prevent Ros from striking him, and accidentally hit him in the face. You'd think he could have come up with a better story, especially as just about everyone in Parliament had witnessed the attack, not least Edward II himself. Hugh was fined the staggeringly huge sum of £10,000, many millions in modern values, which needless to say he never paid. Four years later, after he had become Edward's favourite, the King "of his special grace pardoned the aforesaid Hugh the aforesaid trespass".
Margaret Goushill died on 29 July 1349, aged fifty-five. She had outlived her son Sir Philip Despenser by three months; he died on 23 April 1349, just past his thirty-sixth birthday, leaving a six-year-old son, also Philip. (This Philip grew up to have a son, and the son grew up to have a son. Bet you can't guess what they were called.)
Margaret was the fifth Despenser child. Her father arranged her marriage to John de St Amand in 1313, paying St Amand a dowry of 1000 marks (£666), a standard amount for the nobility at the time. The date of her marriage places Margaret's birth around 1296/98.
John, Lord de St Amand, was probably born around 1280, so was a few years older than his wife. He was the third son of Amaury de St Amand, who supported Henry III in the Barons' Wars and died in 1285. John's elder brothers Guy (1267-1287) and Amaury (1268-July 1310), the Governor of Bordeaux, died childless, so John had become his father's heir by the time of his marriage. He was a doctor of canon law and acted as his father-in-law's attorney, and held lands in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, Sussex, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. He was first summoned to Parliament in 1313. [There's an excellent article on the St Amand family here.]
John and Margaret's son Amaury (or Amauri, or Almaric or Almeric) de St Amand was probably born in early 1314; he proved his age on 16 March 1335, and did homage for his lands. He served as Justiciar of Ireland, fought in Scotland and France, and married, before 3 November 1329, Maud Burnell, niece of Edward Burnell [above]. John and Margaret also had a daughter Isabel, who married Richard de Haudlo; Richard was the son of John de Haudlo, an adherent of the Despensers since 1299, and was either the half-brother or stepbrother of Maud Burnell. Amaury de St Amand lived until 11 September 1381.
The date of Margaret Despenser de St Amand's death is not known, but as she didn't play any role in the regime of her father and brother as her elder sisters did, it's possible that she died young. John de St Amand died on or shortly before 25 January 1330, having been Commissioner of the Peace in Bedfordshire in 1329. He doesn't seem to have played any role in supporting his father-in-law and brother-in-law in 1326.
Elizabeth was the sixth and youngest Despenser child. Sometime before 20 May 1316, she married the widowed Ralph, Lord Camoys, which would place her birth around 1299/1301. I should point out that Ralph's second wife is usually said to have been an Elizabeth Rogate, not Elizabeth Despenser. However, this Google thread sets out the case that Elizabeth was in fact a daughter of Hugh Despenser the Elder.
Ralph was another long-term follower of the Despensers, probably born around 1280. He was a member of the Elder Despenser's retinue as early as 1299, though he wasn't knighted until the great Feast of the Swan of 22 May 1306. In 1303, he married Margaret de Braose, and had a son Thomas. He was apparently taken prisoner at Bannockburn, and made two pilgrimages to Santiago.
Elizabeth and Ralph had five children: John, Hugh, Ralph, Isabel and Elizabeth. The names Hugh and Isabel, almost certainly named after Hugh the Elder and Isabel Beauchamp, are a strong indicator that Elizabeth was a Despenser, not a Rogate. Likewise, Ralph Camoys was the first cousin of Margaret Goushill's mother Ela Camoys; Margaret Goushill married Elizabeth's brother Philip, yet another inter-marriage among the Despenser affinity.
Ralph Camoys was closely associated with the Despensers, his father-in-law and brother-in-law; in the charges against them in Parliament in 1321, he is named as one of their 'evil and corrupt counsellors'. However, he survived their downfall; on 19 February 1327, there's a record of a "[p]ardon to Ralph de Camoys, knight, for adherence to Hugh le Despenser the younger, lately a rebel." Ralph crops up occasionally in the records of Edward III's reign - for example, on 12 March 1334, he and other men were accused of carrying away four tuns of wine, worth £20, and other goods, from a shipwreck in Sussex, and also of carrying away the deer and assaulting the servants of John, Lord Mowbray.
Ralph died before 24 June 1336. The date of Elizabeth Despenser Camoys' death is not known; an 'Elizabeth, widow of Ralph Camoys' mentioned in 1370 and sometimes assumed to be her was in fact her granddaughter-in-law. William, Lord Hastings, executed by Richard III in 1483, was their great-great-grandson (his mother was Alice Camoys). Ralph and Elizabeth's daughter Isabel Camoys was Abbess of Romsey from 1352-1396. In 1344, their son Hugh Camoys and his first cousin Hugh Despenser the Even Younger went abroad with Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel who got a divorce from Hugh the Even Younger's sister Isabel that year. There's a great site on the Camoys family here.
Hugh Despenser the Elder and Isabel Beauchamp had more than twenty grandchildren, and Isabel had seven others, through her daughter Maud de Chaworth. The Despensers are an interesting example of how marriage was used by the nobility at this time to bind their adherents and supporters to them, and to strengthen their affinity - though the Despensers' connections couldn't save them from the consequences of their greed and tyranny.