This post is a continuation of the one directly beneath, or you can read it here. On 1 August 1327, Thomas, Lord Berkeley was appointed to arrest, "for coming to Berkele[y] Castle with an armed force to plunder it, and refusing to join the king in his expedition against the Scots", the following men:
- Brother John de Neumester, Stephen Dunhevid, brother Thomas Dunhevid, William son of William Aylmer, John Boteler of Staffordshire, Thomas de la Haye, Peter de Rokele, William Aylemer, the elder, Richard de Birchesden of Warwickshire, John de Rihale, Henry de Rihale, friar preacher, Richard le Flesshewere, Robert de Shulton, monk of Hayles, William nephew of Michael atte Hull, canon of Lantony, Gloucester, Walter de Saunford, William de Roscele, parson of the church of Huntele, Edmund Gascelyn, John de Hill, Roger atte Watre, William le Parker of Alecestre.
These men were the gang leaders, not the entire gang. Thomas Berkeley stated in his letter of 27 July to the Chancellor that "I will make great efforts to take them" ( jeo mettrai peine a les prendre). The desertion from the Scots expedition is thrown in as an extra reason for arresting the men - as though clerics would have joined it! The fact that the men did plunder the castle, and release Edward II, at least for a while, is carefully not mentioned.
In addition to these men, there were two others, named in Berkeley's letter to the Chancellor: John de Redemere (possibly Redmire in North Yorkshire), the "keeper of our lord the king's stud-farm" (gardein del haras nostre seignor le roy) and John Norton. These men, who Berkeley describes as "great leaders of this company", were taken by the 'community of Dunstable', Bedfordshire, and held there in prison. They were taken to Newgate, the notorious prison in London, and disppear from history.
This John Norton may have been the man of the same name who was a clerk of Edward II, and who was appointed the King's attorney before the justices of the King's Bench on 5 September 1312. And finally, Brother John Stoke, a Dominican friar of the convent in Warwick, was in some way involved in the plot to free Edward from Kenilworth in March 1327. On 1 May, he was ordered to be arrested and taken to Edward III, who was still only fourteen. Three days later, Stephen Dunheved was ordered to be taken to Queen Isabella [see below].
There are some mentions of John Norton in the early months of Edward III's reign. On 3 March 1327, he and twenty-two others are said to have "carried away the goods" of William Trussell - who was the man who had pronounced the death sentence on both Hugh Despensers a few months earlier, and had acted as "proctor of the prelates, earls and barons and of other persons named in my proxy", renouncing their fealty and allegiance to Edward II at Kenilworth on 20 January 1327.
So here's the information I've found on the men, including Rhys ap Gruffydd - involved in a plot to free Edward II in August/September 1327, and possibly a supporter of the Dunheved gang - in order of their mention in the indictment of 1 August.
Sir Rhys ap Gruffydd [His name was usually anglicised in contemporary documents as 'Rees ap Griffith']
The son of Gruffydd ap Hywel ap Gruffydd ab Ednyfed Fychan and Nest ferch Gwrwared ap Gwilym, Rhys was a yeoman and 'privy squire' of the chamber of Edward II, and married Joan Somerville around 12 February 1325. Joan brought him lands in six English counties, in addition to the lands he inherited in Cantref Mawr. Rhys fought for Edward II during the Marcher campaign of 1321/22 - i.e., against Roger Mortimer, John Maltravers et al - and served in the retinue of the Younger Despenser from 1322 to 1326. In November 1326, he was one of the men Edward II sent to (unsuccessfully) negotiate with Queen Isabella, along with the Abbot of Neath, Edward's young nephew Edward de Bohun, and John Harsik and Oliver de Bordeaux, two of Edward's squires.
In August and early September 1327, Rhys, with Donald of Mar, was plotting to free Edward II from Berkeley Castle. They were betrayed to William Shalford, but Rhys evaded capture and fled to Scotland, most likely with Donald, the nephew of Robert Bruce. Rhys was offered a pardon several times in 1328, but evidently wasn't interested.
In 1329 and early 1330, Rhys and Donald were involved in the Earl of Kent's plot to free his (dead?) half-brother. Donald returned to Scotland, but Rhys fled to Brabant, where he joined some of the enemies of Mortimer and Isabella who were gathered there, such as Henry Beaumont, Thomas Roscelyn and Thomas Wake, Mortimer's own first cousin, who had played a big role in the deposition of Edward II. It's interesting to see that Mortimer and Isabella had alienated many of their supporters in much the same way as Edward II and Hugh Despenser had, and Edward II's enemies had also gathered abroad and plotted against him. In 1330, Edward II's sister Margaret was dowager Duchess of Brabant, and Duke Jan III was his nephew, so Brabant was a safe haven for enemies of Mortimer and Isabella.
On 9 July 1330, Edward III's father-in-law Count William of Hainault warned Edward that the Brabant exiles were planning an invasion of England, and that at the same time, their friends would attack Mortimer's Welsh lands. A general muster of troops was ordered and jousting tournaments were cancelled - a usual reaction, as tournaments provided a convenient excuse for armed men to gather together. However, nothing came of it. On 25 November 1330, after the overthrow of Mortimer and Isabella but four days before Mortimer's execution, Edward III invited Rhys and all the others back from exile, and restored their lands. Rhys fought at Crecy in 1346, and died on 10 May 1356. He was buried at Carmarthen.
Brother John de Neumester/Neumoster
'Neumester' is Newminster, a Cistercian abbey near Morpeth, Northumberland, which is over 300 miles north of London and about forty-five miles south of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Edward II sometimes stayed at the abbey, the last time in August 1322.
Presumably Brother John joined the Dunheved gang out of sympathy for the former King he'd met or seen at Newminster, though it's hard to say, as he doesn't appear in any records besides the order for his arrest and Thomas Berkeley's letter (not that you'd really expect him to). Although a monk, he took part in the attack on Berkeley Castle.
Brother Thomas Dunheved (Donheved, Dunhevid, Dunneheved, Donhesd, Dunhead, etc)
(Called frere Thomas Dunhevid in Thomas Berkeley's letter of July 1327. More information on the Dunheved family follows below, in the Stephen part)
Brother Thomas Dunheved was a Dominican friar (the Friars Preacher, or Blackfriars) and Edward II's confessor - the Dominicans were Edward's favourite order. In return, they supported him, which made them very unpopular, and supposedly they had to flee from London after Isabella and Mortimer's invasion in the autumn of 1326.
Thomas became a papal chaplain on 16 September 1325, and sometime in 1324 or 1325, Edward II sent him to Avignon on 'secret business'. The Annales Paulini and Lanercost (in the far north of England) chronicles report a contemporary rumour that Edward was seeking a divorce from Isabella. I think this is very unlikely, for various reasons. Not a shred of evidence has ever been found, and when Thomas wrote to Edward on 7 October 1325, he made no mention of it. However, some historians have reported Edward's attempts to procure a divorce (or annulment) as an established fact, probably because it fits so nicely into the 'Isabella the Victim' theme. Obviously the authors of the chroniclers had no idea what the King's 'secret business' might be and could only speculate, but historian F. D. Blackley states that some of it at least was connected with Alexander Bicknor, the Archbishop of Dublin - which isn't a fraction as 'sexy' as Edward II trying to divorce Isabella.
Thomas stayed with Edward II in South Wales until the King's capture on 16 November 1326, and was paid for taking letters to the Younger Despenser. But he evaded arrest, and went to ground, plotting how to free Edward. He was joined by his brother and the others.
At some point after the gang freed Edward in the summer of 1327, however, Thomas was captured, apparently at 'Bidebrok' (Budbrooke), about eighteen miles from Dunchurch, where his family held land. He was taken to Queen Isabella. Thereafter, there are different accounts of what happened to him. One is that he was sent to the notorious Newgate prison in London, where he either died of prison fever or was murdered. Another states that he was sent to Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire, where, after a failed escape attempt, he was thrown into a horrible cell, then tortured and murdered, and his body thrown down a disused well. (The Annales Paulini chronicler claims he was captured and imprisoned at Pontefract as early as 11 June 1327, which can't be right, as that was before the attack on Berkeley.)
Almost certainly, Thomas was dead by 1329, although several chronicles claim that he was involved in the Earl of Kent's conspiracy of 1330, and raised a devil who told Kent that Edward II was still alive. As a cleric, he should have been allowed benefit of clergy, but evidently his fanatical devotion to Edward II and his determination to release the former King meant that he was considered very dangerous, and Isabella and Roger Mortimer merrily ignored the legalities.
Stephen Dunheved (Estephne de Dunhevid in Berkeley's letter)
Stephen was not a friar, as is often stated. He was the eldest son of John Dunheved, who probably died in February 1308, and a woman named Eustachia - though she may have been the Dunheveds' stepmother. Stephen's younger brothers were John, Thomas (the murdered friar) and Oliver, and there was also a sister, Roese. The Dunheveds owned the manor of Dunchurch, which is just outside Rugby on Dunsmore Heath in Warwickshire, and is fifteen miles from Kenilworth, where Edward II was imprisoned from November 1326 to April 1327.
Thomas and Stephen's paternal grandparents were John Dunheved and Christiane Butler, who inherited Dunchurch from her father Jordan. In 1300, Christiane's son John and his wife Eustachia, keeping two parts of the manor for themselves for their lives, settled the remainder on their children (or stepchildren).
In 1321 Stephen was forced to 'abjure the realm' for an unspecified, but obviously very serious, felony. Abjuring the realm was a legal procedure whereby outlaws could avoid trial and probable execution by solemnly swearing to leave England forever. There was a set routine for leaving the country, determined by the Coroner of a county - in some places, it meant wading into the sea every day to signify your willingness to leave, then getting on the first ship that agreed to carry you.
He managed to avoid forfeiting Dunchurch by leasing it to Sir John Somery, for life. Somery died in August 1322, and Stephen's brother John seems then to have mortgaged it to Sir John Pecche, granting it to him and his heirs completely in 1330. In this context, it's interesting to note that Pecche was Constable of Corfe Castle from 16 December 1325 to 24 September 1329, where Edward II may have been sometime after his rescue. In March 1330, Pecche was ordered to be arrested as an adherent of the Earl of Kent, along with Stephen Dunheved and Giles of Spain. Much more on all this in a future post.
I don't know when Stephen Dunheved returned to England, but certainly by March 1327. On 4 May, two men were appointed "to arrest Stephen Dunheved and bring him to the castle of Walynford, to be there imprisoned." Wallingford Castle, near Oxford, had formerly belonged to Piers Gaveston, and Edward II granted it to Isabella on 22 April 1317. Dunheved was therefore to be taken to Isabella herself, a strong indication of how dangerous Stephen was believed to be. Other writs for his arrest were issued on 2 March, for stealing "five horses, six oxen, two cows, a hundred sheep and fifty-two swine" from the parson of Duntisbourne church, near Cirencester, on 8 June at Chester, and on 1 July.
The other Dunheved brothers, John and Oliver, evidently didn't take any part in the plot to free Edward II, and John was pardoned for an unspecified crime (either the murder of his cousin Oliver Dunheved in 1325, or the rape of Edith de Grasbrok in 1319/20, or both) on 5 May 1327 - the day after his brother Stephen was ordered to be taken before Queen Isabella.
The Close Rolls, in fact, state that he was taken to Newgate prison on 1 July 1327 - but exactly a month later, Thomas, Lord Berkeley was ordered to arrest him, and other gang members. The records are terribly confused, as the government (i.e., Isabella and Mortimer) were desperately trying to arrest the Dunheveds without the reasons for their arrest becoming known.
If Stephen was incarcerated at Newgate at some point, he must have escaped. It's also on record that he was arrested again in June 1329 - if this is true, he must have escaped again. He was definitely free by late 1329 or early 1330, when he joined Edward II's half-brother the Earl of Kent in his attempts to free Edward.
I don't know why Stephen was such a fanatical supporter of the former Edward II. There's no evidence of any closeness between the two men, though surely they must have had some connections, as it hardly seems likely that Stephen would have put himself in so much danger for Edward, for years on end, merely because his brother was Edward's confessor.
He appears on the list (as "Stephen Donhesd") of Kent adherents ordered to be arrested in March 1330, with John Pecche, Giles of Spain and almost fifty others. Unfortunately, I have no idea what happened to him after that. If he was still alive in October that year, after the downfall of Mortimer and Isabella, he would have been safe. I hope he was. I hope he thrived.
William Aylmer, parson of Dadynton, and William Aylmer, parson of Bradewell (also called William son of William Aylmer and William Aylmer the elder)
A profusion of William Aylmers. 'Dadynton' is probably Deddington in Oxfordshire, which was owned by Hugh Despenser the Elder (incidentally, Deddington is where Piers Gaveston was abducted and taken to his death in June 1312), and 'Bradewell' is probably one of several places in England called Bradwell. Alternatively, it could be one of several places called Broadwell; one of these is less than five miles from the Dunheveds' home of Dunchurch in Warwickshire.
A William Aylmer was Steward of Hugh Despenser the Elder's manor of Soham, Cambridgeshire, in 1315 - he was probably the father of the William Aylmer identified as "the son of William Aylmer", most likely the Deddington one. William Aylmer the steward of Soham was assaulted by a group of men in 1315. One of his attackers was called 'William Aylmer of Soham'. *Groans*
One of the William Aylmers, almost certainly the parson of Deddington and the son of William Aylmer the assaulted steward, was a clerk of Hugh Despenser the Younger, and so closely associated with him that in April 1327 he was linked with Despenser as one of "the enemies of the king [Edward III] before he assumed the governance of the realm". Aylmer was the only 'enemy' named apart from Despenser, a clear sign of his close association with him (and if I'm right about his father, the family were long-term servants of the Despensers).
On 27 February 1327, a king's yeoman named Robert de Prestbury was granted "all cattle, wool and hay, late of the Despensers, and William Ayllemere, their adherent" in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. On 23 April 1327, gang member Peter de la Rokele was pardoned for adhering to Despenser and Aylmer; however, two days later, Aylmer himself was pardoned for his former allegiance to Despenser. The pardon was granted at the request of William Clinton, who in October 1330 would be one of the men who took part in Edward III's coup d'etat against Mortimer and Isabella, but who at this time was high in favour with them.
On 4 March 1327, both William Aylmers were accused of carrying away the goods of Sir Richard de la Rivere in 'Heghworth, Hampton and Westthorp' in Wiltshire, with Peter de la Rokele, Richard Aylmer, presumably a relative of one of them, and five other named men.
Parsons or not, both Aylmers took part in the attack on Berkeley Castle. One of them, probably the Bradwell/Broadwell one, was captured in Oxford by 20 August 1327; we know this because of a mandate to the Sheriff of Oxfordshire ordering him to indict Aylmer on charges of plundering Berkeley Castle, abducting Edward of Caernarfon, and raising the populace in a war against Edward III. This is in fact the most explicit reference to the freeing of Edward II that exists.
Amazingly, Aylmer was released on condition that he found adequate sureties for his appearance in court. He did appear, all charges against him were quashed, and he was set free. Paul Doherty speculates that he had betrayed his colleagues in return for his own freedom, which makes sense. I would imagine that it was the Bradwell/Broadwell parson, who had never been described as an enemy of Edward III, but I'm not sure. The other William Aylmer was probably dead.
On 20 February 1328, William Aylmer was accused of stealing mares, oxen and "fish, trees and corn", in Gloucestershire, along with about thirty other men. One of them, oddly, was Sir Richard de la Rivere, whose goods he had been accused of stealing a year earlier. Three others were men ordered to be arrested with members of the Dunheved gang in March 1327: Robert and Henry Aston, and Richard Foxcote. Foxcote succeeded Thomas, Lord Berkeley as Sheriff of Gloucestershire in 1332. Another was Sir Walter Gascelyn, the brother or cousin of Edmund Gascelyn, another Dunheved gang member. A strange mix of men.
In 1329/30, William Aylmer was named as an associate of one Gregory Foriz, who was being prosecuted for murder. Henry, Earl of Lancaster stood as Foriz's guarantor - a link between a member of the Dunheved gang and the influential Lancaster, and perhaps an indication that Lancaster had indeed supported the gang, as I speculated in my last post.
Finally, on 4 March 1339, one 'John le Cok of Spellisbury' was pardoned "for the death of William Aylmer". Whether this was the Dunheved one, or the William Aylmer who had once been the steward of Hugh Despenser the Elder, or the one who assaulted the steward, or yet another one, I don't know. 'Spellisbury' or 'Spelesbury' in Oxfordshire belonged to the Elder Despenser.
John Boteler of Staffordshire
A difficult man to trace, as there were lots of John Botelers in Edward II's reign (the name also appears as Botiler, or Botiller). However, this one was probably the sergeant-at-arms of Edward II mentioned on 7 February 1322: "John le Botiller, king's sergeant, captured on the king's service in Wales and detained a long time, for two years."
Assuming this is the right man, John was a colleague of Roger atte Watre, Thomas de la Haye and William Beaukaire - two other gang members, and the man who watched over Edward II's dead body for a month.
A Stephen Boteler, presumably a relative, appears twice in March 1327, accused of the usual theft of horses, oxen and so on - once with William Roscele, a Dunheved gang member. John himself wasn't accused of any crimes at this time, so either he joined the gang later, or wasn't known to the authorities. John took part in the attack on Berkeley Castle, and not surprisingly, is not to be found after the summer of 1327. However, Stephen Boteler, perhaps his brother, was still alive on 21 September 1327.
Thomas de la Haye
Thomas was a sergeant-at-arms of Edward II. I'm pretty sure he was a relative, perhaps a younger brother or a nephew, of Sir John de la Haye, Sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire, and of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire. John was summoned to Parliament as a Knight of the Shire for Buckinghamshire in 1319. His son was also named Thomas.
In 1321, Thomas de la Haye was accused of stealing 300 sheep and taking them to the King's manor of Thorne. (Whether Edward ever returned them, I don't know.) On 30 November 1321, during Edward II's campaign against the Marcher lords, Thomas was ordered to raise 500 footmen in Essex and Hertfordshire, with two other men: Thomas Lovayn and William Marenny. This is interesting, as Marenny was one of the men ordered to be arrested in March 1330 as an adherent of the Earl of Kent, plotting to put his brother back on the throne. In July 1322, Thomas and gang member Edmund Gascelyn were two of the men who accompanied Edward on yet another unsuccessful expedition against the Scots.
On 9 March 1323, Thomas de la Haye was ordered to levy 300 archers in Essex and Hertfordshire, this time with Sir John Pabenham, who had served in the Earl of Pembroke's retinue with Edmund Gascelyn [next post], the Berkeleys and Thomas Gurney. On 3 July 1326, he and Badin de Fourne, "king's sergeants", were appointed "keepers of the mouth of the Thames to pursue and arrest malefactors infesting the same with ships and boats and plundering merchants coming by that water to London, and to keep scrutiny of persons landing or leaving the shore." This was in connection with the expected invasion of Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer.
However, Thomas must have accompanied Edward II on his flight into Wales in the autumn of 1326 (trying to hold back the invasion forces having become a hopeless task almost as soon as they landed) as on 10 October 1326, he and John de Toucestre and John le Keu were appointed "to select all men at arms wherever he goes and to lead them to the king as he is instructed; with power to arrest the disobedient." John le Keu was a sergeant-at-arms of the Younger Despenser; John de Toucestre (Towcester in Northamptonshire) was another of the men ordered to be arrested as an adherent of the Earl of Kent in 1330. Four days later, Thomas was appointed to "dwell in the castle of Wilton and those parts, and to arrest and destroy to the utmost of his power the king's enemies if they come to those parts..." There are several towns called Wilton, and I'm not sure which one is meant. Isabella and Mortimer were at Wallingford on 14 October, where they freed Thomas, Lord Berkeley.
I don't know what happened to Thomas de la Haye after Edward II's capture, but evidently he remained loyal, as he took part in the attack on Berkeley, and may have been involved in the earlier attempt to free Edward from Kenilworth. On 24 March 1327, he and twenty-eight other named men were accused of attacking the manor of 'Modeslee, Somerset' (probably Mudgley), burning timber and "broom, rushes, heath and grass growing there", and several other felonies. One of the men accused with him was Adam, Abbot of Glastonbury. ;)
On 13 July 1327, Sir John de la Haye, probably a close relative of Thomas, was accused of assaulting William de Storteford. This may have been genuine, but the timing - two days before four Dunheved gang members were ordered to be arrested, and probably after the attack on Berkeley had taken place - seems a little suspicious. As I wrote in my last post, there was a conspiracy to free Edward II in Buckinghamshire and neighbouring counties, and John de la Haye was the former Sheriff of Buckinghamshire, so may have been involved - though that's only speculation. Unlike most Dunheved gang members, however, John was still alive after the summer of 1327, so either he wasn't involved, or it couldn't be proved.
Predictably, Thomas de la Haye disappears after his indictment on 1 August 1327. There was a Thomas de la Haye of Edward III's reign, but this was John de la Haye's son, who was also summoned to Parliament as a Knight of the Shire for Buckinghamshire, in 1338.
Peter de la Rokele
Astonishingly, Peter de la Rokele was the grandfather of the great poet William Langland! Langland was born around 1330, died around 1390, and wrote the marvellous alliterative poem The Vision of Piers Plowman. Peter de la Rokele held lands in Buckinghamshire, and was in the service of Hugh Despenser the Younger; in fact, William Langland's ODNB entry says that Peter was "violently and unlawfully active in his [Despenser's] interest" and the Literary Encyclopedia calls him a "hired thug". He was probably a relative of Richard and William de la Rokele, knights of Edward II's reign.
On 30 May 1316, Peter and Geoffrey de la Rokele - perhaps his brother - were said with a few other men to have assaulted Elias Ashburn, who was one of Edward II's yeomen. However, in June 1322, he was given a commission of oyer and terminer to investigate a theft at Hugh Despenser the Younger's manor of Frampton ('Frauncton') in Lincolnshire. Perhaps this was one occasion where he was "violently and unlawfully active" in Despenser's interest. The affair dragged on for well over a year.
Peter joined the Dunheved gang early: he was one of the men accused on 4 March 1327 of carrying away the goods of Richard de la Rivere at 'Heghworth, Hampton and Westthorp' in Wiltshire. And on 22 March 1327 came a complaint by the abbot of Bruern that "Peter de la Rokele and James his son, with others, carried away two horses, two cows and three hundred and seventeen sheep, worth 41 pounds 3s, and other goods" in Oxfordshire.
I haven't found any references to Peter de la Rokele or his son James after 1327. However, his son Eustace, or Stacy, survived, and was a tenant of Hugh Despenser the Even Younger in Oxfordshire, where he was a well-respected man. He was the father of William Langland - why William's name was different from his father's is unclear, but he may have been illegitimate. One manuscript of Piers Plowman says: "It should be noted that Stacy de Rokayle was the father of William de Langlond; this Stacy was of noble birth and dwelt in Shipton-under-Wychwood, a tenant of the Lord Spenser in the county of Oxfordshire."
The next post, on the remaining gang members, will follow soon.