06 December, 2007

The Conspiracy of the Earl of Kent, 1330 (3)

More on the earl of Kent's 1330 conspiracy, and the people who helped him.

Kent's confession was read out to Parliament on 16 March 1330, three days before his execution; he himself wasn't present. The confession appears in Adam Murimuth's contemporary chronicle (thanks to Susan for sending it to me). He names the following people as his co-conspirators:

Sir John Pecche; Sir Fulk Fitz Warin; Sir Ingelram Berenger; William Melton, archbishop of York; Stephen Gravesend, bishop of London; Donald, earl of Mar; Sir William la Zouche; Hugh Despenser the even younger; Isabella, Lady Vescy; her brother Henry, Lord Beaumont; Sir John Gymmynges; Sir Thomas Roscelyn; George Percy; a monk of Quar, on the Isle of Wight; William de Cliff; William de Derham; Brother Thomas de Bromfield; Robert de Taunton, clerk of the archbishop of York; Richard de Pontefract, confessor of Lady Vescy; E. de Monchiver; Malcolm Musard.

Also, Pope John XXII, who, according to Kent, had "charged him, on his benison, that he should use his pains and his diligence to deliver Edward, his brother, sometime king of England, and that thereto he [the Pope] would find his [Kent's] costs."

Most of the men ordered to be arrested on 31 March 1330 - who I wrote about in my last post - are not named in the confession. How their involvement in the plot became known is not clear. Finally, others known to have been involved were: Sir Edward de Monthermer, nephew of Edward II - son of his sister Joan of Acre - who was imprisoned in Winchester Castle; William, abbot of Langdon, an old friend of Edward II; and Richard Bliton, a Carmelite friar and confessor of the younger Despenser in 1326. And some others who were certainly involved were never implicated: Simon de Swanland, for example, to whom the archbishop of York sent the letter regarding Edward II's survival in January 1330. I also strongly suspect that other prominent Londoners were involved, especially the former mayor Hamo de Chigwell. Hamo was one of the men who condemned Roger Mortimer to death in 1322, and was arrested in early 1329 for taking part in the earl of Lancaster's rebellion against Mortimer and Isabella. He was released into the custody of the bishop of London, one of Kent's co-conspirators.

Many dozens of men (and one woman, Lady Vescy) took part in Kent's plot to free the supposedly dead Edward II. Were they really all stupid, credulous and deluded?? Historians have all too often focused on Kent himself, calling him a gullible, instable fool, and ignoring his many adherents. Roy Martin Haines even states, inexplicably, in his King Edward II, that "there is no evidence of support by notable laymen". However, he contradicts himself in his Death of a King, where he talks of "the many people in high places who became entangled in the plot" and the "numerous important laymen" who took part.

It certainly seems to me that many of the men involved truly believed Edward II to still be alive. Sir Fulk Fitz Warin - who remained loyal to Edward II during the Marcher rebellion of 1321/22, but was no great friend of his - said that freeing Edward "would be the greatest honour that ever befell him, and told him [Kent] that he would aid him with body and heart and whatsoever he had." Fulk also "prayed him [Kent] and stirred him to begin this thing, and encouraged him to do these things".

Sir John Pecche said that "he was of that mind, and thereto would bestow body and heart and whatsoever he had." Pecche's role is especially fascinating, as he was Constable of Corfe Castle until September 1329.

The bishop of London said that he "would aid him in the deliverance of his brother with whatsoever he had."

The archbishop of York, in addition to pledging the vast sum of £5000 - millions in modern values - said "he would aid him in the deliverance of his brother with five thousand pounds and moreover with as much as he had and as much as he could give." Melton, of course, was making his own efforts to help Edward by providing clothes, with the aid of his kinsman Simon de Swanland.

Sir William la Zouche, a cousin of Roger Mortimer, said that he "would give as much as he could for the deliverance of his [Kent's] brother."

Henry, Lord Beaumont and Sir Thomas Roscelyn, in exile in Paris, said that "they were ready to come to England in aid of these things aforesaid; and that they stirred him to do these things".

Donald, earl of Mar, "would aid them to uphold these things, and with all his strength."

The plan was apparently to take Edward II by ship, boat or barge, provided by Sir John Gymmynges, to Kent's castle of Arundel, in Sussex, and "from thence whithersoever should have been appointed." Corfe to Arundel is ninety miles by road, but both castles are near the coast, so travelling by sea would be the most efficient method. Then, probably, Edward II was to go abroad; the archbishop of York's reference to giving him gold suggests this. There seems to be no suggestion of restoring Edward to the throne.

I still have loads more to say about all this, coming in the next few posts!


Gabriele Campbell said...

This looks like a pretty major conspiracy, not like a hedge knight adventure of a deluded Kent.

What I find even stranger is that they didn't seem to want to put Ed back on the throne. One could imagine that they had enough of Izzy and Mort by then, but to get Ed to Italy and into the arms of Giuseppe or Giacomo would not gain them anything. Did they act purely because they liked Ed and wanted to see him happy? I don't think all of them did (Donald of Mar perhaps, and William of Langdon) - most people only take risks if they have a chance to gain something. Like getting rid of Mortimer, and some rewards, preferably in form of land and priviledges. ;)

Kathryn Warner said...

That's a really interesting question, Gabriele, and I wish I had an answer. Wonder how they thought Ed would reward them for taking such a huge risk when he wasn't going to be king again? (Unless some of them assumed he would be?) Seems like an emormous risk to take just for Ed II to merrily toddle off abroad.

Really, really wish I knew more about all this. What were all the men's roles in the plot, what were their aims in helping Ed, how were they implicated? Feel like I'm flailing around in the dark.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Well, there's one way out - invent the stuff the chronicles and letters leave out, and make it a story. :)

Verification word: pussymrov

Meow. :)

Carla said...

Maybe the idea was that Edward II would go abroad temporarily for safety, and then a settlement could be reached with Mortimer/Isabella/Edward III with the threat of putting Edward II back on the throne if they wouldn't play ball? It's a much stronger negotiating position if you have an alternative king than if you haven't. One could imagine a deal in which Edward II voluntarily abdicated in favour of Edward III in exchange for a substantial financial settlement (from which he could reward his supporters) and a regency council to replace Isabella and Mortimer (on which some of the supporters might have expected to serve or have influence). Something like that might have looked like a prospect worth taking some risks for, maybe?

Anonymous said...

Good point Carla. I would've thought that whatever they were planning to do the first item on the agenda was getting out of prison and away from the people in power who had put him there.

I'm sure most, if not all of those who helped him would've done so thinking they would be helping the rightful (and more importantly future) king.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Carla (and Paul), that's a great idea. *Starts furiously thinking about the whole situation*.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks to Paul for letting me quote from a message he sent me - from the exciting new discovery of the diary of Sir John Pecche, constable of Corfe Castle:

"October 1st, new prisoner arrived late last night (without the proper paperwork damn it). a little bedraggled but bigger than your normal bloke, very regal bearing. will talk to him tomorrow."

Anonymous said...

I'm sure leaving the country would be his plan. But where would he go? He didn't have the option of going to Daddy in the strongest, most powerful country next door to build support. France and Scotland are out but the Pope had offered his aid so maybe Italy was the logical place for him to end up.

Without the benefit of being in a neighbouring country maybe once he got there it wasn't so easy to get back.

Carla said...

"Without the benefit of being in a neighbouring country maybe once he got there it wasn't so easy to get back"
Good point. Maybe the first stage of the plot, whatever it was, happened and then it ran out of steam and whatever was supposed to happen next never did. This happens in business and politics all the time :-)

Net effect may have been to leave Edward II in safe obscurity in Italy as long as he stayed anonymous. Perhaps he quite liked this state of affairs and wasn't overly inclined to try and start up another plot to get his kingdom back. Or perhaps he simply didn't have any levers to pull, even if he did want to be king again. Or perhaps the rest of the plot was going to happen "manana" and Edward II hung around waiting - and waiting - and waiting -

Kathryn Warner said...

The Fieschi letter, written in the late 1330s, says that after Ed II left Corfe, after Kent's execution, he travelled to Ireland, with a 'keeper' (more on him in next post). After Roger Mortimer's downfall, he left there and travelled through France, where he spent 15 days with the Pope in Avignon. He then travelled via Brabant (where his sister was alive till 1333 or later) and Cologne to Italy.

Wonder if the conspirators of 1330 considered Castile as a possible safe place for Ed II to be given refuge? It was his mother's homeland, and the king was his cousin. Or maybe even Portugal, where the king was another cousin of his, or Aragon...

Thanks for all the ideas, both of you!

Anonymous said...

I thought about Spain as a possible destination too, nothing would have competed with France at that time though. You'd be a brave monarch taking Ed II under your wing, especially with his past military record.

I can see a real light at the end of the tunnel in getting back your crown and imprisoning/executing Isabella and Mortimer. However, after 1330 the person in charge that he would've been ousting was his son. Maybe that's another reason to leave well enough alone? I can't imagine people were very keen to fight in a Civil War for Ed II against the new King.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Hehe, maybe Ed III knew about the whole thing and his threat to Izzy was, "if you don't behave and start plotting to sneak those fiefs from their owners again, I'll bring daddy back from Italy. Together with Giuseppe.' :)

Kathryn Warner said...

Gabriele: LOL! Ed III to his mother: "If you don't behave, I'll bring dad back from Italy with his beefy Italian boyfriend." *Giggles*

Paul: good point. The two next kings of England who were deposed, Richard II and Henry VI, were deposed by cousins and not succeeded by their sons, so the Ed II/Ed III situation is very different. I can't imagine that anyone would have wanted a civil war between father and son, least of all the two men themselves.

Susan Higginbotham said...

I love the idea of Edward II and his beefy Italian boyfriend.

Anonymous said...

The diary of John Pecche? OMG, when and how was it discovered? What else does he say?

Kathryn Warner said...

No, it was just a joke! People didn't keep diaries in the early 14th century (how inconsiderate!)

Anonymous said...