28 July, 2007

Regicide And Other Ignoble Events: The Participants (part two)

Part one is directly below this post, or here. Part two covers William Ockley, Thomas Gurney and William Shalford.

William Ockley (Okleye, Oakley, Ockle, Ocle, Ogle)

One of the men convicted in 1330 for the murder of Edward II...

Ockley is an obscure figure, not of knightly rank; he was a man-at-arms, later promoted to squire. He is presumably to be identified with the 'William de Okleye' who accompanied Roger Mortimer's wife Joan de Geneville in her imprisonment on 4 March 1322: "to go with Joan, the wife of Roger de Mortuo Mari of Wygemor, to the parts of Suthamton, to stay with her." Ockley had associations with Ireland, as some lands he held there were restored in 1327, and in March 1326 he ('William Ocle') acted as attorney there for 'Stephen Ocle', presumably a brother or cousin. This may also indicate his connection with Roger Mortimer, who spent much of his career in Ireland, as Lord Lieutenant and Justiciar. That he had lands restored to him in 1327 suggests that he'd been a rebel against Edward II, although the fact that he was free to travel to Ireland in March 1326 shows that he wasn't imprisoned.

Roger Mortimer, according to a court case of 1331, was at Abergavenny, South Wales, on 14 September, where he received a letter from his Deputy Justice William Shalford, describing the danger the former Edward II posed, and urging him to find a remedy. Mortimer supposedly sent Ockley to Berkeley with the letter, and oral instructions to Edward's keepers "to quickly remedy the situation in order to avoid great peril". Ockley can therefore only have arrived at Berkeley at most a day or two before Edward was allegedly murdered - so can't have been guilty of the long-term torture and torment he's meant to have inflicted on the former King. (Abergavenny is only about fifty-five miles from Berkeley, but there's some pretty rough terrain on the way, and Gurney would have had to cross the Bristol Channel, or go out of his way to cross the Severn further up.)

After September 1327, William Ockley was placed in the household of the young Edward III, which would be pretty distasteful if he was responsible for the murder of Edward's father, and was granted tenure of the manor of Ellesmere, but otherwise didn't benefit.

After Roger Mortimer's arrest in October 1330, nothing more is known of William Ockley. Presumably he fled abroad, though where or when is unknown. Maybe he fled when he heard of Mortimer's arrest, or maybe he waited until he was condemned to death.

Ockley's ultimate fate is also unknown. Certainly Edward III never pursued him, as he did Thomas Gurney. Paul Doherty speculates that he was the William le Galeys ('William the Welshman') taken to Edward III in Cologne in 1338, claiming to be his father. However, another theory is that this man was Edward II himself. [More on this in a future post.] It's also possible, I suppose, that Ockley was assassinated abroad, though no hint of this survives in any record. In the absence of any firm evidence, however, we can only say with certainty that William Ockley disappeared after October 1330 and was Never Heard Of Again.

Thomas Berkeley, before Parliament in late November 1330, originally claimed that Thomas Gurney and John Maltravers were guilty of Edward II's murder. He later changed Maltravers to Ockley, possibly because someone had reminded him that Maltravers wasn't even present at Berkeley Castle around 21 September 1327.

The judgement on Gurney and Ockley only states: "...Thomas de Gourney et William de Ocle, pur la Mort le Roi Edward Pier n're Seign. le Roi q'ore est q'fauxement et traiterousement lui murdrerunt..." (for the death of King Edward father of our lord the King who now is, that they falsely and treacherously murdered him...)

And that's it - except for the prices put on their heads: 100 pounds for Gurney alive, 100 marks (66 pounds) for his head; 100 marks for Ockley alive, 40 pounds for his head. How Gurney and Ockley were meant to have murdered Edward was not stated, and it's incorrect to claim, as some people have, that the 'red-hot poker' story was given as the official cause of death. No evidence was offered for the charge, which seems to have been entered merely by the testimony of Thomas Berkeley, who blamed Gurney and Ockley for the murder - having originally put the blame on Gurney and John Maltravers.

The writs for the arrest of Ockley and Gurney were only issued on 3 December, four days after they were condemned to death. Edward III's delay in ordering them to be arrested is strange - it hardly seems that he was desperate to catch them. Was he giving them a chance to flee, for whatever reason? And the much longer delay (over six weeks) between Mortimer's arrest on 19 October and the orders to arrest Ockley and Gurney is even stranger - it's almost as though Edward III was waiting for Thomas Berkeley to turn up to Parliament and tell him who the murderers were. Although Edward had spent the three years since September 1327 (and for a while before) under the tutelage of his mother and Mortimer, and probably the flow of information to him was restricted, surely someone must have told him who his father's keepers were. He had obviously decided before Parliament that his father's death was murder, or at least would be presented as such, so presumably he knew beforehand who the murderers were supposed to be, too.

No evidence was presented regarding the method of the murder, or how Berkeley knew for certain that Gurney and Ockley had done it, given that he was apparently feigning ignorance of the circumstances of the death. How did he know that they were both responsible? It's possible that only Gurney and Ockley had access to Edward II at Berkeley Castle, so Thomas Berkeley assumed they were jointly and equally responsible, but I should point out that three men were arrested in 1332 and 1333 for alleged complicity in Edward's murder, which suggests that Gurney and Ockley weren't the only men with access to the former King. [More on these men in the next post.] Berkeley changing his story suggests that he wasn't entirely sure who had killed Edward, or was trying to pass the buck onto whoever he could think of. Or, was just lying through his teeth again.

It's also difficult to explain why Edward III was prepared to take Berkeley's word for it that the two men had committed the murder, given that he blatantly lied elsewhere, about his whereabouts. And why at first Berkeley blamed Gurney and Maltravers, which he later changed to Ockley. It's almost as though Berkeley was searching for men he could blame for the murder. "Hmm, who was at the castle that night? I can't say Beaukaire [next post] as he was a supporter of Edward....Gurney? Yes, him - I can give him money to get out of the country, he'll be all right. Who else? Wait! Ockley had just arrived with that letter from Roger. I'll blame him! He's vanished, so he can't contradict my story!"

Sir Thomas Gurney (Gourney, Gournay, Gurnay, Gournaye)

Gurney was a knight of Somerset, where his family gave its name to the villages of Gurney Slade, Barrow Gurney, and Farrington Gurney. He held, among others, the manors of Englishcombe and Downhead in Somerset; Downhead was known then as 'Donheved', oddly similar to the name Dunheved, as in Thomas and Stephen Dunheved, rescuers of Edward II in July 1327. But this is probably just a coincidence! He became a royal knight (of Edward II) in or before April 1318; however, he had long-standing connections with the Berkeleys, and was distantly related to them, as a descendant of Robert FitzHarding, the first Lord of Berkeley.

I'd just like to emphasise here that Gurney was a knight, and a fairly rich one - although most of the Gurney wealth passed to his cousin Elizabeth Gurney and her husband John ap Adam, as Thomas Gurney's father was a younger son. The Gournay family came to England with William the Conqueror and can be traced back to the ninth century, and Thomas Gurney's great-grandfather Robert Gurney (died 1269) was the co-founder of Gaunt's Hospital, Billeswick. Gurney was definitely not the anonymous lowborn killer he's often depicted as, especially in novels.

The Patent Rolls of 11 May 1286 show that 'Thomas de Gurney' was pardoned for the murder of one Thomas Sweyn, and the Harleian Society's Knights of Edward I claims that this is the same man, but I think it must have been his father. The same man acted as an attorney for Thomas FitzMaurice in April 1286, meaning that he must have been born in the early to mid 1260s at the latest - which seems far too old to be this Thomas Gurney. A Thomas Gurney served in the retinue of the Earl of Pembroke from 1297 to 1299, and again in the 1310s - I would imagine that the knight of the 1290s was the father, and the later one, the son. Thomas and Anselm Gurney were accused of stealing horses, oxen, sheep and pigs from Langridge near Bath on 3 November 1314 - Anselm was either one of Thomas Gurney's two brothers or his cousin (Anselm was their grandfather's name).

In 1317 or 1318, Gurney married Joan Furneaux, daughter of Sir Matthew Furneaux and widow of Thomas Trivet, who died on 11 June 1316, leaving Joan pregnant. Her son John Trivet was born on 2 December 1316. Joan and Gurney's eldest son Thomas (inevitably) was born on 9 February 1319, and was followed by three brothers and a sister.

I'm not sure how long Gurney served as a household knight of Edward II, but he held on to his connections with the Berkeley family, and therefore with John Maltravers and Roger Mortimer too. On 7 March 1320, Thomas was pardoned, with Maltravers, Thomas and Maurice Berkeley (Moriz de Berkele), for arresting "the king's coroners in the county of Gloucester, and therein hindering them in the discharge of the duties of their office."

Gurney, naturally enough, took the side of the Mortimers and the Berkeleys during the Despenser War, as did John Maltravers. On 7 December 1321, an order was issued to imprison Gurney in Devon and confiscate his lands and goods, and on 8 February 1322, Gurney and John Maltravers appear first and seventh respectively in a list of twenty-two men to be arrested by 'John de Lortye and John de Say'.

He was imprisoned in the Tower of London at an unknown date, and was still there on 3 February 1323 [Roger Mortimer was imprisoned there at the same time], but was released on 1 July 1324 and pardoned on 23 July: "Pardon to Thomas de Gournaye, knight, for a fine of 100l. for having been lately a rebel and an adherent of the rebels; with restitution of his lands." He was summoned to Gascony on 7 January 1325, during the War of Saint-Sardos, and on 25 March 1326 was given permission to pay off his £100 fine at £10 per year. Six months later, I assume he joined the invasion forces of Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer. At some unknown date in 1327, he was appointed by Thomas Berkeley as custodian of the former king he'd once served.

Gurney had once served in Edward II's household, which doesn't necessarily mean very much - Edward had dozens of knights at any one time, many of them not resident in his household, and Roger Mortimer himself had once been a friend of Edward and Piers Gaveston - but Gurney did at least have a personal connection to the King that the others lacked. His rebellion in 1321/22 suggests that his ties to the Berkeleys were much stronger than his ties to Edward, and almost certainly his switch to allegiance back to Edward II in 1324 was a matter of political expediency, rather than because he'd really switched sides again.

But he didn't have as much reason to hate the ex-King as the others. He was imprisoned for a time, but his wife and children weren't. I'm not sure what I'm trying to say here, if anything, but Gurney's hatred and anger towards Edward II is often over-stated, and the fact that he was pardoned and actually served Edward in the last years of his reign is often missed. I've often seen it said that he spent all of 1322 to 1326 in prison or in exile abroad, which simply isn't true.

Thomas Gurney was the man sent by Thomas Berkeley to inform King Edward III of his father's death, arriving at Lincoln, where Parliament was in session, on the night of 23/24 September. He received thirty-one shillings for his expenses. He didn't benefit much from Isabella and Mortimer's regime, only being made Constable of Bristol Castle, in which capacity he served from December 1328 as the jailer of the Younger Despenser's son Hugh, imprisoned for a few years after the downfall of his father and grandfather, and great-uncle King Edward II. [More on Hugh the Even Younger and Gurney's son later.]

On 29 November 1330, Gurney and William Ockley were convicted of the murder of Edward II and sentenced to death. Writs for their arrest were issued on 3 December, as were orders to prevent their passage from the ports. Gurney fled abroad with Maltravers (details in the Maltravers section). Thomas Berkeley protected Gurney, and gave him money to escape.

A few months after Gurney's escape, in the summer of 1331, Edward III heard reports that Gurney was in Spain, and sent Giles of Spain to pursue him: "Writ of aid and safe conduct for Giles de Ispannia, king's yeoman, sent to bring to the king Thomas de Gurney, knight, arrested beyond seas for compassing the death of the late king" and "Safe conduct for Giles de Ispannia, king's yeoman, sent to bring to the king Thomas de Gurney, knight, arrested beyond seas for sedition against the late king and conspiring his death."

After a very long and complicated story, involving the Kings of Castile and Navarre, a Ferandus Ivayns de Greynoun who brought news of Gurney's apprehension to England, and possibly an English woman named Isolda Belhouse, going on pilgrimage to Santiago, who spotted Gurney in the street, he was arrested at Burgos, but escaped. (Anyone interested in this should check out Roy Martin Haines' Death of a King, which covers it in great detail.)

By early 1333, however, Gurney was captured again, at Naples this time, by William of Cornwall. Edward III sent Sir William Thweng (or Tweng), a knight of Yorkshire, to fetch him. Thweng duly arrived in Naples, where his expense account shows that he bought clothes, shoes, linen and a prison bed for Gurney.

That he had to be given such basics as shoes and clothes suggests that Gurney was in a bad way. And this proved to be true. Again cutting a very long story short - it involves the Kings of Aragon and Sicily this time, for variety - Thweng and his prisoner, on the way back to England, had to make a long detour through Catalonia, where Gurney fell ill, near Tarragona. Physicians were called in to help him, for which they received the large sum of thirty-nine florins. When the party reached Bayonne, Gurney fell ill again, and again physicians were called in. This time, they couldn't help him, and Thomas Gurney, condemned regicide and traitor, died.

His body was embalmed and taken back to England anyway; Thweng docked at Sandwich, continued his journey by boat to Tynemouth, then travelled to Berwick, which Edward III was besieging - presumably to tell the King the unfortunate news. What happened to Gurney's body is unknown - perhaps his family was allowed to claim it, and bury him.

The summoning of the phyisicians to help Gurney is a strong indication that his captors were trying to keep him alive, and their giving him clothes, shoes and a bed also suggests that they took an interest in his welfare. This impression is heightened by the fact that, after Gurney's death, Thweng brought in notaries to testify to the circumstances of his death - that he'd died naturally, not at his captors' hands. Clearly Thweng was anxious to cover himself with Edward III - and knew that the King wanted Gurney alive.

Thweng's efforts to save Gurney suggest that Edward III was very keen to talk to him, for whatever reason, as if the King only wanted to see a regicide punished, they could have just lopped Gurney's head off and sent it to him. Or Edward III could have merely hired an assassin to kill him. But what could Gurney have told Edward, that Thomas Berkeley - or even Queen Isabella, for that matter - couldn't? Did Edward hold Gurney solely or mostly responsible for the murder of Edward II, and was he keen to know how his father had died?

Edward III's pursuit of Gurney, while Ockley was apparently ignored, is a little strange, as both men were convicted of Edward II's murder. Was there something else that Edward believed Gurney knew?

Several contemporary chroniclers, including the usually reliable Adam Murimuth, claim that Gurney was beheaded at sea, to stop him implicating...who? Thomas Berkeley, or even Queen Isabella? There's also a story that the Sensechal of Gascony, Oliver Ingham [next post] listened to Gurney's confession, then had him beheaded and sent his body back to England. But, sadly for conspiracy theorists, none of this is true. It's possible that Gurney's corpse was beheaded, as he was a traitor, which gave rise to the wild stories that he was murdered to stop him talking.

At any rate, Edward III evidently didn't blame Thweng for Gurney's death, as on 1 December 1333 he paid him the sum of 392 marks "for his expenses over the taking of Thomas de Gourneye, the traitor, and bringing him [dead] to the king in England."

Sir Thomas Gurney and Joan Furneaux had a daughter, Joan, and four sons: Thomas, John, Matthew and Edmund, none of whom apparently had any children. Their daughter Joan Gurney married a man named Sir Andrew Braunche (Branch), who was born in about 1312, and had a son called Thomas. Sir Matthew, the third or fourth son, fought in France with Edward III and the Black Prince, was a great warrior much admired by the chronicler Jean Froissart, and lived until 1406. He married firstly Roger Mortimer's granddaughter Alice Beauchamp, daughter and sister of Earls of Warwick, and secondly Philippa Talbot, who was decades his junior, born about 1367.

Gurney's wife Joan was re-granted the dower lands she held from Thomas Trivet as early as 20 March 1331, and was also granted Gurney's manor of West Harpetre: "Grant to Joan, late the wife of Thomas de Gournaye and sometime the wife of Thomas Tryvet, for the support of herself and her children...[lands and manors named] which were forfeited to the king by the rebellion of Thomas de Gournaye."

It's interesting to see the formulation "late the wife of..." which was normally only applied to widows, and Gurney was still alive in March 1331. A man under sentence of death being treated as a dead man?

Gurney and Joan's eldest son Thomas appears in the records on 4 May 1339, when he was given a commission to survey the gaol of Somerton. The two men commissioned with him were Henry Power and Sir Thomas de Marlebergh (Marlborough), possibly the same man as a former retainer of the Despensers who had "gone against the insurgents" on 7 February 1322, and was pardoned and restored to the king's favour on 27 July 1327 "for adhering to Hugh le Despenser, the younger, and other rebels."

Thomas de Marlebergh, Henry Power and Sir John Inge, another long-term adherent of the Despensers (and Sheriff of Glamorgan, to whom Despenser sent his letters of 1321) were commissioned on 4 November 1339 to make an inquisition in Somerset into the Gurney lands, after a petition by Thomas Gurney Jr for them to be restored to him: "...at his [Thomas Gurney senior's] death the same ought to have descended to the petitioner, they have lately been taken into the king's hands by the forfeiture of his said father, and praying that the king's hands may be removed therefrom..."

It's interesting to see what happened to Thomas Gurney Jr (the one born in 1319). Here's an entry of 23 April 1344: "Pardon, at the request of Hugh le Despenser, to Thomas de Gourneye of 22L wherein he is amerced for non-appearance before William de Thorpe and John de Geynesford, justices of oyer and terminer touching oppressions in the county of Somerset..."

This Hugh was the son of Hugh Despenser the Younger, Edward II's favourite. What's particularly interesting about this entry is that Hugh the Even Younger was imprisoned after March 1327, when Caerphilly Castle [next post] fell; for much of this time, he was held at Bristol Castle, in the custody of the alleged regicide Thomas Gurney! Thomas Gurney the son even served in Hugh the Even Younger's retinue between about 1340 and 1345, after which he seems to disappear from the records. Probably, this can be seen in the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation which is so apparent in Edward III's reign, and so conspicuously lacking in his father's.

William Shalford

Shalford was Roger Mortimer's Deputy Justice of Wales in 1327. According to a court case of 1331, he sent a letter from Rhosneigr, Anglesey to Roger Mortimer, then at Abergavenny, on 14 September 1327. The letter said "if the Lord Edward [II] was freed, that Lord Roger Mortimer and all his people would die a terrible death by force and be utterly destroyed, on account of which Shalford counselled the said Roger that he ordain a remedy in such a way that no one in England or Wales would think of effecting such deliverance". In response to this, Mortimer allegedly sent William Ockley and possibly William Beaukaire [next post] to Berkeley Castle.

Shalford was never arrested, or accused of any kind of complicity in the murder of Edward II. On 18 March 1337, two days after Thomas Berkeley was acquitted of the charge against him, Shalford was rewarded with the town of 'Nauntmaur, Angleseye' by order of Parliament - at the request of William Montacute, Earl of Salisbury, and Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel. By 1339, Shalford was Deputy Justice of Wales under Arundel himself. Montacute was one of the men who'd arrested Roger Mortimer, and Arundel was the son of the Earl of Arundel executed by Mortimer in 1326, so clearly neither of them bore Shalford a grudge.

More importantly, neither did Edward III. Shalford's grant mentions "his labours and charges in the service of Edward I, Edward II, and of the king, in keeping the peace and punishing rebels, in the parts of Wales".

In the next post: the man who was an adherent of Edward II, then watched over his dead body for a month, the Spanish 'bounty hunter', and some of the men who freed Edward II in 1327...

8 comments:

Gabriele C. said...

The whole affair is so fishy it stinks three miles upwind. :)

Gurney would make for a novel character. His life sure wasn't boring. :)

Alianore said...

Gabriele: yes, the whole thing is as fishy as an enormous shoal of fish that's extremely fishy and stinky. ;)

Gurney's life would make a great novel, wouldn't it?! All those great chase scenes - and think of the film! :)

Gabriele C. said...

But in a movie he needed to have an affair with Isabella. :)

Kate Plantaganet said...

The truth IS stranger than fiction. Great writing. I can hardly wait for the next installment!

What convenient memories these fellows had. Able to change at will. Although if my life were on the line, I am sure a white lie or 300 could slip from my lips quite easily....

Alianore said...

LOL, Gabriele! Hmmm, the plotline is occurring to me as we speak - a love triangle involving Isabella, Mortimer and Gurney, and somehow Berkeley too, who blames Gurney for murder out of jealousy...;)

Thanks, Kate!

Gabriele C. said...

What convenient memories these fellows had. Able to change at will.

Kate, that's no difference to todays politicians. :)

Rick said...

My first comment here, I believe - not on this post (sorry!), but on the sometimes amusing results of your polls. I see that a majority give their nod to the famously lurid version of Eddie II's death.

On the favorite/least favorite kings, Richard III wins for favorite - testimony to the whole Ricardian thing. Edward II comes in second (no surprise on this particular blog), followed by a 3-way tie between three traditionally popular and well-regarded kings: Henry II (who got my vote), Edward II, and Henry V, with Edward III just a shade behind.

The rest fall way behind, including Richard I - the popular culture still hearts the Lionheart, but history buffs seem to follow the professionals in dissing him.


Turning to least fave (I didn't vote), your guy comes in second, alas, even on your own blog, after poor Bad King John, who it seems can't catch a break from anyone, even though the professional historians have tended to rehabilitate him. Then comes Stephen, and after him least-faves are fairly well mixed.

A nice snapshot of history buffs' sentiments!

Alianore said...

Welcome, Rick!

Yes, the horridly lurid red-hot poker story is still leading the poll - but it's currently down to 58%, having been up to about 65%. So I'm quite pleased about that! ;)

Certainly interesting to see the major sea change in attitudes to Rich III over the last few years, isn't it?

I voted for Henry V as my least favourite king, because he gets right up my nose, for some reason. And yeah, what a cheek people have, voting for my lovely Edward on his own blog!! But OTOH, at least people have strong feelings about him, which is something, I suppose! ;)