30 June, 2007

De Leyburne and de Sandwich

I've already written a post about Juliana de Leyburne (or Leyburn/Leybourne/Layborne etc) and her mother Alice de Toeni, but I've been reading up on Juliana and found more interesting information, and this time, I'd like to write about her grandmother Juliane de Sandwich and other members of the family, too.

The three women, Juliana de Leyburne, her mother Alice de Toeni, and her paternal grandmother Juliane de Sandwich, are mostly ignored by historians. I find this really odd, given their pre-eminence. Juliane de Sandwich was the heiress of her father, uncle and grandfather, and probably lived to be more than eighty; Alice de Toeni was the heiress of her father, was married three times, and was Countess of Warwick; and Juliana de Leyburne was the heiress of her father and grandparents, married three times, was Countess of Huntingdon, and lived to her mid-sixties. Why are they not better known? There are no references to any of the women in Jennifer Ward's English Noblewomen in the Later Middle Ages, Linda E. Mitchell's Portraits of Medieval Women 1225-1350, ffiona Swabey's Medieval Gentlewoman, Peter Coss' The Lady in Medieval England...

Juliana de Leyburne, born in 1303 or 1304 - she was three years old when her father died shortly before 30 May 1307 - was Countess of Huntingdon, mother of the Earl of Pembroke and half-sister of the Earl of Warwick, and is sometimes known as the 'Infanta of Kent' because of her vast landholdings in that county: at least forty manors, plus more in Sussex. Her own vast inheritance, coupled with her dower lands from her three husbands - medieval widows were granted a third of their husbands' lands for the rest of their lives - enabled her to live in luxury, as an inventory taken of her possessions after her death in late 1367 shows. Just at one manor, her favourite residence of Preston, near Wingham in Kent, she held:

- £1241, six shillings and eight pence in cash
- £442 worth of jewels and vessels in gold and silver
- four cloths of gold, a cloth of silver and five cloths of silk
- wall hangings [dorsers] for her hall, with the arms of the Leyburne family, and a hanging of Bevis of Hampton and side hangings or curtains [costers] worth more than sixteen pounds
- 'divers beds' with their furniture, worth nearly fifty pounds
- thirty carcases of oxen, 200 hogs, two boars, 280 muttons and other sheep, sixteen salted fat bucks, thirty-two pounds worth of fish...

...and numerous other items, to a total value of over £2000. Her other manors held yet more cash and possessions, to the value of just under £850. Juliana lived mostly at Preston during her widowhood; it had come to her from her grandmother Juliane, and was also the favourite residence of her grandparents.

For the history of Juliana's wealth in Kent, we have to go back a century, to the marriage of her grandparents, William, later first Lord Leyburne, and Juliane de Sandwich. William, born in about 1242, was the elder son of a Kentish noble called Roger de Leyburne (c. 1215-1271), who acted as Steward of the future Edward I's household in the 1250s, and whose important career in the Barons' Wars of the 1260s is well documented, especially his rescue of King Henry III from the battlefield of Evesham in August 1265. The identity of Roger's first wife, William's mother, is unknown, but his second wife was Eleanor de Ferrers, the widowed Countess of Winchester and daughter of the Earl of Derby. Roger de Leyburne founded the Gascon town of Libourne, which is named after him. The Leyburne family came originally from Leybourne, near Maidstone.

Leybourne lies about forty-five miles from Sandwich, the ancestral home of Juliane de Sandwich. She was born in about 1245 - she and her husband were a little younger than Edward I, who was born in 1239 - and married William de Leyburne sometime before 10 October 1265. This marriage of rich and powerful near-neighbours in Kent was designed to consolidate the Leyburnes' influence in the area.

Juliane was the only child of Sir Henry de Sandwich, who was probably born around 1216/20, was Lord of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle, and died before 20 June 1255. He was the elder son of Sir Simon de Sandwich and the brother of Sir Ralph de Sandwich, who is far better known than his elder brother. Henry is pretty obscure, but Ralph was very active politically; he was captured at the Battle of Evesham in August 1265, fighting on Simon de Montfort's side - on the opposite side to the Leyburnes - but was pardoned on 28 November 1266. Evidently Edward I forgave him completely, as he was later Steward of Edward's household, and also Keeper of the city of London [i.e., Mayor] from 1289 to 1292.

Sir Ralph de Sandwich was still alive on 25 February 1308, when he attended the coronation of Edward II and Queen Isabella at Westminster Abbey; he must have positively ancient, as his father was born in about 1190 and his brother around 1216/20 (though he may have been a much younger half-brother). His niece Juliane de Sandwich and her husband William de Leyburne also attended Edward and Isabella's coronation (in the interests of historical accuracy, I should point out that they were summoned to attend, on 8 February, and I presume they actually did.) Sir Ralph died childless, and Juliane was his heir.

Juliane de Sandwich's mother was Joan d'Auberville (c. 1226/30 to 6 November 1280). In common with all the women of the post, Joan was the only child and heiress of her father, Sir William d'Auberville, who died in 1273; the d'Auberville family came from Eynsford, Stockbury and Westenhanger, all also in Kent. On 20 June 1255, Joan d'Auberville de Sandwich married her second husband Nicholas Kiriel (which is also written as Kyriel or Crioll or Criol or a myriad of other ways) and bore a son to him, also Nicholas. This Nicholas, the younger half-brother of Juliane de Sandwich, inherited the d'Auberville lands of their mother, but Juliane was the sole heiress of her father, uncle and grandfather, Henry, Ralph and Simon de Sandwich.

She had this in common with her granddaughter, Juliana de Leyburne - Juliana's mother Alice de Toeni was the sole heiress of her father Ralph de Toeni, but the lands passed to Juliana's younger half-brother Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. However, Juliana was the sole heiress of her father, grandfather, and grandmother.

Juliane de Sandwich's half-brother Nicholas, who died on 19 September 1303, had a son, born probably in 1283, who was also called Nicholas Kiriel, inevitably. This Nicholas was knighted on 22 May 1306, along with the future Edward II, Roger Mortimer, Hugh Despenser and all the rest, and remained loyal to Edward II until almost the end of his reign. On 24 March 1322, just after the execution of the Earl of Lancaster, Nicholas was commissioned to render judgment on a rebel named 'Thomas Colpeper' (ancestor of Katherine Howard's lover?). He was later appointed Admiral of the Fleet and given responsibility for repulsing the invasion of Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer, which challenge he met with a conspicuous lack of success - though, given Edward II's huge unpopularity by 1326, this was hardly his fault.

Returning to William, Lord Leyburne: he was a household knight of Edward I and remained loyal to Edward I and Edward II all his life. His father Roger had been granted Leeds Castle in Kent, which William gave to Queen Eleanor (of Castile) in 1278, in exchange for her taking over his debts to Jewish moneylenders. William accompanied Edward II's sister Eleanor abroad in 1294, after her marriage to the Count of Bar, and as late as 8 January 1308, when he was well into his sixties, he was sent overseas 'on the king's business'. In October 1304, William had been granted protection for going abroad on 'the king's affairs' with twenty-year-old Edward of Caernarfon, 'Prince of Wales, earl of Chester, the king's son', accompanied by his son-in-law Geoffrey de Say and three others, 'by testimony of the said prince'. William was described in the Caerlaverock Roll of 1300 as 'a valiant man, without ifs or buts' [Gullemes de Leybourne aussi/Vaillans homs sanz més et saus si].

William lost his elder son and heir, Thomas, in May 1307. He was granted the marriage of his grandaughter Juliana on 9 May 1308; as the only child of his deceased elder son, Juliana was now the heir to his Leyburne lands and his wife's Sandwich lands, and couldn't be displaced.

William himself died not long afterwards; he was dead by 18 March 1310, when his castle of Montgomery was granted to Hugh Audley senior, father of Edward II's future favourite of the same name. William was probably in his late sixties when he died, his widow Juliane de Sandwich in her mid sixties. They had been married for at least forty-five years. That their marriage was a successful one is perhaps shown by William's settling lands on himself and Juliane together, rather than on himself alone, but as practically always with medieval marriages, there's little real evidence of the success or otherwise of personal relationships, and it all dissolves into interpretation. Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, became Juliana de Leyburne's legal guardian.

William, Lord Leyburne, and Juliane de Sandwich had five children. I don't know their dates of birth or what order they were born in, except that Thomas was older than Henry:

- Thomas, died before 30 May 1307, married Alice de Toeni circa 1300 and fathered Juliana. As with most heirs who died during their fathers' lifetimes, he's totally obscure.

- Desiderata (or Desiderée), certainly the oldest daughter, and probably older than her brother Thomas. She married Geoffrey de Lucy, who was born on 1 August 1267, and it's likely that Desiderata was about the same age (her parents married in or before 1265). Geoffrey's marriage was granted to William de Leyburne in December 1284. Desiderata's son, also Geoffrey de Lucy, was born on 21 January 1287 - the eldest grandchild of William and Juliane by a considerable distance, born when they were in their early to mid forties. Desiderata died sometime after 1329.

- Katherine, who's very obscure, and I don't know if she ever married. She appears in the Patent Rolls of 27 August 1311 as the daughter of William de Leyburne: "Inspeximus and confirmation of a grant in fee, dated at London Wednesday on the morrow of St. Bartholomew 1311, by Katherine daughter of William de Leyburne, deceased..."
The witnesses included Geoffrey de Say, her brother-in-law [below], Nicholas de Kiriel, her cousin, and Thomas de Sandwyco [Sandwich], who must have been a relative of her mother's.

- Idonea (or Idoine), who was probably named after her aunt by marriage, Idonea de Vipont, the wife of William de Leyburne's younger brother. On 28 December 1295, William was granted "the marriage of the son and heir of William de Say, tenant in chief, to marry him to his daughter Idonia and to no one else." This son was Geoffrey de Say (or de Saye), first Lord Say, who proved his age around 15 February 1302, which means he was born around February 1281. Geoffrey was yet another of the young men knighted with Edward et al on 22 May 1306, and died on 3 March 1322. [This was in the middle of Edward II's Marcher campaign, but I can't find out if Geoffrey died during the campaign, or of natural causes.] Idonea and Geoffrey had three sons, Geoffrey, Roger and Ralph, and a daughter Katherine. Idonea was assigned dower on 15 April 1322, and was still alive on 14 November 1337.

- Henry, who led a fascinating career - I'd love to research him in more detail. He was closely associated with Edward II and Piers Gaveston, before Edward became king and afterwards. He was one of Piers' armed retainers after Piers was created Earl of Cornwall in 1307, and the previous year had been one of the twenty-two young knights whose lands were temporarily confiscated when they deserted from Scotland. Piers was another, and so were Roger Mortimer and Robert de Toeni, whose sister Alice was married to Thomas de Leyburne. (The men deserted to go jousting abroad.) Henry married Elizabeth Sharstede in 1297, without a licence, but doesn't seem to have had children.

I don't know what happened to Henry de Leyburne after Piers' murder in 1312, but on 7 May 1317, he was pardoned for outlawry, after he had been "impleaded by Roger de Mortuo Mari of Wygemor [Roger Mortimer of Wigmore] to answer for breaking his park at Stretfeld Mortymer and carrying away deer".

Henry later switched sides away from Edward II and fought for the Earl of Lancaster at Boroughbridge in March 1322. He was captured and imprisoned at Scarborough, and was later sent to Devizes Castle, where he evidently escaped - he was pardoned for this in March 1327. I don't know when that happened, but he joined Roger Mortimer and Queen Isabella, either in France or after they landed in England. [Presumably, Roger had forgiven him for the deer incident.] In November 1326, Henry was one of two men - Robert Stangrave was the other - charged with bringing Hugh Despenser the younger from South Wales to Hereford, where he was to be executed. Henry and Stangrave made sure Despenser was treated as humuliatingly as possible, dressed in a tabard with his coat of arms reversed, a crown of nettles on his head, and pelted with filth.

From serving in the retinue of Edward II's first great favourite to leading the last great favourite to his hideous execution: now there's a fascinating career trajectory, improved still further by Henry's continued outlawry, well into the 1330s. In 1335, he failed to stand trial "on an indictment before William la Zousche and his fellows..." William la Zouche was the stepfather of Henry's niece Juliana.

And returning to Juliana de Leyburne: she was very closely associated with men at the centre of power and influence in the reigns of Edward II and Edward III. Her son Pembroke married one of Roger Mortimer's daughters, as did her half-brother Warwick; her third husband, the future Earl of Huntingdon, was one of the men who arrested Mortimer. Her stepfather the Earl of Warwick abducted Piers Gaveston from the custody of her guardian, the Earl of Pembroke; her uncle Henry had been one of Piers' armed retainers. Her second stepfather William la Zouche, a cousin of Roger Mortimer, was one of the men who arrested the younger Despenser in South Wales in 1326, and later abducted and married Despenser's widow. Despenser was the guardian of Juliana's son after the death of her first husband in early 1325, and was also the nephew of her stepfather Warwick. Juliana's second husband Thomas le Blount was the Steward of Edward II's household, who ceremonially broke his staff to mark the end of Edward's reign in January 1327. And Juliana herself was in high favour with Edward II, as we'll see.

In the third week of June 1320, Edward II sailed from Dover to France, where he had to pay homage to his brother-in-law Philip V for Gascony, of which Philip was feudal overlord. Most of the English nobility went with him, including Queen Isabella, her first trip to her homeland for six years. Also accompanying them was sixteen-year-old Juliana de Leyburne, who had given birth to her son not long before, on 20 March, and her husband John Lord Hastings, in the Queen's retinue. On 18 June at Dover, Edward sent a letter to the Earl of Pembroke, in London - Pembroke had been appointed Keeper of the Realm in the King's absence. Edward enclosed two letters for Pembroke, from Juliana, the Earl's ward and niece by marriage. This is a nice indication that Edward liked Juliana and was willing to indulge her by enclosing her personal letters inside his state correspondence.

Juliana was widowed from John Hastings in early 1325, and further evidence of Edward II's high regard for her comes on 13 July of that year: Licence, out of affection towards Thomas le Blont, steward of the household, for Juliana late the wife of John de Hastinges, tenant in chief, to marry the said Thomas if she will, but if she will not then that which pertains to the king of her marriage shall be reserved to the king.

It wasn't often that women were allowed to choose whether they married or not! Juliana did marry le Blount, but the marriage was perhaps not very successful; he died on 17 August 1328, and by 17 October 1328, she had already married her third husband - William Clinton is described as "her present husband" on that date.

Juliana claimed on 4 March 1327 that a part of her dower from her marriage to John Hastings had been withheld. However, the beginning of Edward III's reign saw a flood of petitions to correct the wrongdoings of Edward II and Hugh Despenser, and while most of them were genuine, it's likely that some were not [the words 'bandwagon' and 'jumping' come to my mind.]

It's notable that Juliana was not one of the wealthy widows persecuted by the younger Despenser, although she was an easy target. Despenser didn't hesitate to take lands from his own sister-in-law Elizabeth de Clare, or Alice de Lacy, the widow of Earl Thomas of Lancaster, or Marie de St Pol, dowager Countess of Pembroke (Juliana's aunt by marriage, though the two women were the same age). For whatever reason, Despenser left Juliana alone, and it's not likely that it was their family ties that stopped him, given his treatment of his own sister-in-law.

Juliana's husband John Hastings had originally opposed Edward II and Hugh Despenser in the Despenser War, but submitted to Edward at Cirencester at Christmas 1321, and was trusted enough to be given temporary custody of Despenser's lands in Glamorgan. His father John Hastings senior had been one of the few men who remained loyal to Edward II and Piers Gaveston in 1308.

Juliana's second husband Thomas le Blount abandoned Edward II in November 1326, as did most of his household, and her third husband William Clinton also stood high in favour with Queen Isabella in 1326/27. On 4 September 1327, Clinton was rewarded for "service to Queen Isabella" with a grant of "the sums payable by Martha, late the wife of Henry Dyne...as the value of the possessions of her husband...". He was rewarded again on 18 September, "for service to Queen Isabella abroad, of the castle, manor and hundred of Halton."

However, a few months earlier on 25 April 1327, there's this intriguing entry: "Pardon, at the request of William de Clynton, to William Aylmer, clerk, for adhering to Hugh Despenser the younger, and other enemies of the king."

That's very interesting, especially the timing of the pardon. There were two men called William Aylmer, parsons of Doddington and Breadwell; both men were closely associated with the Dunheved brothers and their efforts to free the former Edward II, one attempt at Kenilworth in March 1327, the second, successful, one from Berkeley in July 1327. [See my posts here and here for more information.]

I wonder why a man so high in Queen Isabella's favour arranged a pardon for one of the conspirators in the plots to free Edward II?

Anyway, at this time, Juliane de Sandwich, Lady Leyburne, was, incredibly, still alive. She was involved in a lawsuit, dated 26 October 1327, involving a transfer of lands to her eldest daughter Desiderata de Lucy. The writ for her Inquisition Post Mortem was issued on 16 January 1328, meaning that she'd died shortly before. She was in her late seventies at the very least, and was probably over eighty.

She was born roughly halfway through the fifty-six-year reign of Henry III, lived right through his son Edward I's thirty-five-year reign, his grandson Edward II's reign of nearly twenty years, and into his great-grandson Edward III's reign. Or to put it another way, a person alive in Edward III's reign had been an adult at the time of the Barons' Wars of the 1260s. Her death must have felt like the end of an era.

Her lifetime, and her granddaughter Juliana de Leyburne's lifetime, span the years 1245 to 1367. They were both great heiresses, as was Juliana's mother Alice de Toeni and Juliane de Sandwich's mother Joan d'Auberville. Their lives provide examples of how the civil wars that raged in England in the reigns of Henry III and his grandson Edward II could cut through families. Juliane's uncle Ralph de Sandwich was captured by the royalists at the Battle of Evesham, while her father-in-law Roger de Leyburne fought on the royal side; her son Henry de Leyburne fought against Edward II at the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322, her nephew Nicholas Kiriel stayed loyal to Edward II until 1326, and her granddaughter Juliana de Leyburne also remained high in royal favour, both of Edward II and Edward III.

Why are these women not much better-known?

25 June, 2007

Ancestry of Queen Isabella

After my post on Edward II's ancestry, here's one on his wife's illustrious and somewhat inbred forebears.

Queen Isabella was the sixth of seven children, possibly born at Vincennes, in late 1295 or the beginning of 1296 (25 January 1296 is the latest date she can have been born, as she married Edward II on 25 January 1308, aged twelve). Both her parents were sovereigns in their own right, and like her husband, she was of partly Spanish origin.

And I just had to post this screamingly inaccurate account of Isabella's life, that I found while researching Isabel MacDuff (and commenter Elflady also sent me the link - thanks, Elflady!) It gives Isabella's lifetime as c. 1285 to c. 1313 - it should be 1295/96 to 1358 - and goes on...

"She took up arms against her husband and his supporters. When Edward III came to the throne, he forced Isabelle to flee to Scotland, where, during the ensuing war, she travelled with a defending troop of like-spirited women including two sisters of Nigel and Robert Bruce (Christian, Lady Bruce and Isobel, Countess of Buchan). Against this troop of noblewomen, Edward issued a formal proscription. He did capture several and imprison them. Isabelle he forced to retire to a convent life lest she try further conquests."

Where on earth did the writer of that get his information?! Brilliant.

Father

Queen Isabella's father was Philip IV, King of France, known as Philippe le Bel - this is usually translated into English as Philip the Fair (meaning handsome, not fair-haired). He was born in Fontainebleau sometime in 1268 as the second but eldest surviving son of Philip III, and succeeded his father as King of France on 5 October 1285, aged seventeen. His elder brother Louis, born in 1265 or 1266, had died in May 1276.

Philip married Jeanne de Navarre at Notre Dame in Paris, on 16 August 1284; they had seven children, of whom four lived into adulthood. These four were all crowned monarchs: Louis X, Philip V and Charles IV of France, and Queen Isabella of England.

Philip's enemy the Bishop of Pamiers memorably said of him "he is neither a man nor a beast, but a statue." He is most famous for his destruction of the Knights Templar; what is not widely known is that the Templar Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, was Queen Isabella's godfather. De Molay was burned alive on 18 March 1314, on an island in the Seine, in Paris. Supposedly, he cursed Philip IV and Pope Clement V, who had aided Philip in the Templars' destruction, and summoned them to appear before God within a year. Clement V died a month and two days later. Philip IV himself was dead before the year was out.

He died while hunting on 29 November 1314, aged only forty-six, after a reign of twenty-nine years. He left three sons, aged between about twenty and twenty-five, but none of them lived long or produced any living sons, and within fourteen years of Philip's death, the Capet dynasty was extinct. The son of Philip's brother Charles de Valois succeeded as the first Valois King of France. Philip IV was buried at the Basilica Saint-Denis in Paris, in common with practically all French monarchs.

Mother

Queen Isabella's mother was Jeanne de Navarre/Juana de Navarra, who was born either on 17 April 1271, or on 14 January 1273, or sometime in 1272 - reports differ - at Bar-sur-Seine. She was the only surviving child of her father, and succeeded as Queen Jeanne/Juana I of Navarre as a baby or a toddler in July 1274. She was also Countess of Champagne, Brie and Bigorre.

As the greatest heiress of the age, she was much in demand as a marriage partner. On 30 November 1273, Edward I of England arranged with her father King Enrique that she would marry his second son Henry, then five, with his brother Alfonso, just a few days old at the time of the arrangement, as the 'substitute' in the case of Henry's demise. However, the sudden death of Jeanne's father in July 1274 put paid to the alliance between Navarre and England, and Jeanne was subsequently betrothed to 'one of the sons' of Philip III of France. She grew up with them at Vincennes, and married the future Philip IV on 16 August 1284, aged between eleven and thirteen.
[Edward II had three older brothers, John, Henry and Alfonso, who all died young, in 1271, 1274 and 1284 respectively.]

Jeanne and Philip evidently enjoyed a close relationship, and in 1294, Philip named her Regent of France in case he died before their sons came of age. Although Philip ruled Navarre in right of his wife, Jeanne herself governed her county of Champagne. In 1304, she founded the Collège de Navarre in Paris, one of the colleges of the university of Paris. It was suppressed at the time of the French Revolution.

I've seen several references to the fact that Queen Jeanne raised an army and led her troops against Henri III, Count of Bar (husband of Edward II's eldest sister Eleanor) when he invaded her lands, but I can't find any details. Allegedly, she also kept him prisoner. When this is meant to have happened, I don't know, but doesn't it seem highly unlikely that a woman would lead troops into battle - a high-born woman at that?

Jeanne/Juana, Queen of France, Queen of Navarre in her own right, Countess of Champagne, Brie and Bigorre, died on 2 or 4 April 1305, still in her early thirties, and was buried at the Couvent des Cordeliers in Paris. She was succeeded in Navarre by her eldest son, King Luis I, later Louis X of France, who was fifteen and a half - he and his brothers united the thrones of France and Navarre for a time.

Philip IV was said by a French chronicle to have poisoned Queen Jeanne, which seems highly unlikely. He was a widower for nearly ten years, and never re-married. Queen Isabella was probably only nine when she lost her mother, a little older than Edward II when he lost his - one thing at least that the mismatched couple had in common.

Paternal grandfather

Queen Isabella's paternal grandfather was Philip III, King of France. He was born on 30 April or 1 May 1245, the second son of Louis IX and Marguerite of Provence (whose sister Eleanor married Henry III of England). He became his father's heir in January 1260, when his elder brother Louis died at not quite sixteen; he and his son Philip IV both had elder brothers called Louis, who died young. In addition, Philip III had two older sisters, four younger brothers and three younger sisters.

He succeeded his father as King of France on 25 August 1270, at the age of twenty-five. Philip is known as le Hardi, the Bold, apparently because of his abilities in battle and on horseback, not because of his character - he was a timid, indecisive and rather incompetent man. He was twice married, to Isabella of Aragón [below], who died in 1271, and to Marie of Brabant. Isabella gave him four sons, of whom two survived childhood. He married Marie on 21 August 1274, and had a further three children by her: Louis d'Évreux, friend of Edward II, Marguerite, stepmother of Edward II, and Blanche, betrothed to Edward II from 1291 to 1294.

Philip III died at Perpignan on 5 October 1285, still only forty, while fighting against his former brother-in-law Pedro III of Aragón - a complex affair which led to Philip's son Charles de Valois being declared King of Aragón by Pope Martin IV, despite being only fourteen. Queen Marie outlived her husband by decades, surviving until January 1321. She also outlived all three of her children.

Paternal grandmother

Isabella of Aragón, after whom Queen Isabella was presumably named. Isabella was born, probably in 1247, as one of the younger daughters of King Jaime I el Conquistador of Aragón. She was the sister of, among others, King Pedro III; Violante, who married Edward II's uncle Alfonso X of Castile; Constanza, who married don Juan Manuel, brother of Alfonso X of Castile; and King Jaime II of Majorca. Isabella was also the aunt of King Alfonso III of Aragón, betrothed to Edward II's sister Eleanor, and King Jaime II of Aragón.

She married the future Philip III of France at Clermont-Ferrand on 28 May 1262. Philip was seventeen, Isabella fourteen or fifteen. Her first son Louis was born in 1265 or 1266, and died in 1276; she bore Philip three more sons, Philip IV (1268-1314); Robert (1269-1271); and Charles de Valois, ancestor of the Valois dynasty (March 1270-1325).

Queen Isabella accompanied her husband on the Eighth Crusade to Tunis. On the way back to France, they stopped at Cosenza, Calabria, where their third son Robert was taken ill and died, not yet two. Shortly afterwards, on 11 January 1271, Isabella, heavily pregnant with her fifth child, fell from her horse and suffered a stillbirth - it was yet another son. She died on 28 January 1271, and her body was taken back to France and buried in Saint-Denis. She was probably only twenty-three.

Maternal grandfather

Isabella's maternal grandfather was King Enrique I of Navarre, known in Spanish as Enrique el Gordo, in French as Henri le Gros, and in English as Henry the Fat. He was born around 1244 as the second son of King Thibaut/Teobaldo I of Navarre, who died in 1253. Enrique's elder brother, born abut 1238, reigned from 1253 to 1270 as Teobaldo II, and was married to Louis IX's daughter Isabelle. King Teobaldo II died childless on 4 December 1270 at Trapani, on his return from the ill-fated Eighth Crusade to Tunis, and was succeeded by Enrique.

Enrique, King of Navarre, Count of Champagne, Brie and Bigorre, married Louis IX's niece Blanche of Artois around 1269. They had a son, Thibaut, also known as infante don Teobaldo de Navarra, who died as a baby after he was dropped from the battlements of the castle of Estella by his nurse in 1273. Enrique also had an illegitimate son, don Juan Enríquez de Lacarra, who lived until 1323; however, his heir was his only surviving legitimate child, Queen Jeanne.

King Enrique's reign was unfortunately brief, and he died at Pamplona on 22 or 23 July 1274, still only about thirty, supposedly suffocated by his own fat. He was buried at Pamplona.

Maternal grandmother

Blanche of Artois was born about 1245/48 as the elder child of Robert, Count of Artois, and Matilda of Brabant. Count Robert was the brother of Louis IX of France, the closest brother in age to the king, born in September 1216 (Louis was born in April 1215). Matilda was a daughter of Duke Hendrik II of Brabant and a granddaughter of Philipp of Swabia, King of Germany, and Irene Angelina.

Blanche's brother Count Robert II of Artois was born posthumously in September 1250, about seven months after their father was killed during the Seventh Crusade. His daughter Mahaut is one of the main characters of Maurice Druon's Les Rois Maudits novels, and she was the mother of Jeanne and Blanche of Burgundy, who married two of Queen Isabella's brothers.

After Blanche was widowed from King Enrique, she married Edward I's brother Edmund of Lancaster, either in late 1275 or early 1276. Edmund was known as 'Crouchback' for reasons that are still discussed: whether he had a hunchback, or the name really means 'Cross back' because he was a Crusader, is still unclear.

Blanche bore Edmund four children: Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, that perpetual thorn in his cousin Edward II's side, executed in 1322; Henry, Earl of Lancaster, who died in 1345; John, a very obscure son who inherited some French lands from his parents and died there, childless, in 1317; and Mary, who died young. [Note: Thomas of Lancaster was thus, in addition to being Edward II's first cousin, the uncle of Queen Isabella, the younger half-brother of her mother, a fact frequently missed by historians.]

Blanche, Queen of Navarre, Countess of Lancaster, Champagne, Brie and Bigorre, lived in England while her little daughter Jeanne grew up in France; lives were hard for medieval royal mothers. She was widowed for the second time when Earl Edmund died in Bayonne on 5 June 1296. Blanche lived until 2 May 1302.

Queen Isabella's great-grandparents:

- Louis IX of France, 1215-1270, canonised 1297
- Marguerite of Provence, Queen of France. She was the eldest of the four daughters of Count Ramon-Berenger of Provence, who all became queens. She was born probably in 1221, married Louis IX in May 1234, was widowed in 1270, and lived until December 1295, when she was well into her seventies and a great-grandmother many times over. She enjoyed a very close relationship with her sister Queen Eleanor, Edward II's grandmother
- Louis IX's brother Count Robert of Artois, 1216-1250
- Matilda of Brabant, Countess of Artois and also Countess of St Pol by her second marriage, daughter of Duke Hendrik II of Brabant and granddaughter of Philipp of Swabia, King of Germany, and Irene Angelina, 1224-1288
- Jaime I el Conquistador, King of Aragon, 1208-1276
- Yolanda, Queen of Aragon, circa 1216-1252, daughter of King András II of Hungary
- Thibaut/Teobaldo I, King of Navarre (1201-1253), the Chansonnier or Troubadour. Wrote poetic homages to Blanche (Blanca) of Castile, mother of Louis IX and great-great-grandmother of Queen Isabella
- Marguerite de Bourbon, died 1256, Queen of Navarre, cousin of Guy de Dampierre, count of Flanders. Daughter of Archambaut VIII de Dampierre, lord of Bourbon


Queen Isabella died on 22 August 1358, probably aged sixty-two or sixty-three. Her eldest child Edward III was already in his mid-forties, her eldest grandchild Edward of Woodstock twenty-eight. She was one of the last of the Capets, the dynasty that ruled France from 987 to 1328, outlived only by her nieces Marguerite (daughter of Philip V) and Blanche (daughter of Charles IV), who both died in 1282.

22 June, 2007

More Betrothals

This is more or less an update of this post on Edward II's betrothals and the women he might have married. New information has come to light (which is just a pompous way of saying that I've done more research. ;)

Warning! :) This post is full of men called Alfonso (or Afonso in Portuguese, without the l). I've written a post on the Iberian kings of the age, below this one, to help with identification.

Edward's first fiancée was Margaret, the Maid of Norway - they were officially betrothed in July 1290 when he was six and she was seven. However, it's likely that an alliance between the two youngsters had been planned for most of their lives. Margaret's grandfather Alexander III of Scotland, in a letter to his brother-in-law Edward I in April 1284, made it clear that a marriage alliance between his granddaughter and Edward's son would be acceptable to him. [April 1284 was the month the future Edward II was born, although the news can't have reached Alexander when he wrote the letter, and Edward's brother Alfonso was still alive anyway.]

King Alexander wrote "...in the providence of God, much good may yet come to pass through your kinswoman, the daughter of your niece, the daughter too of our beloved, the late Queen of Norway of happy memory [all that just means the Maid of Norway], who is now our heir apparent, who [two or three illegible words] indissoluble bond created between you and us..."

Alexander died in an accident less than two years later, having failed to father a son by his second marriage, so that the Maid was his only heir. Alexander was well aware that his little granddaughter, were she to become Queen, would need English support, and an English marriage was the best way to achieve that. He and Edward I presumably had Edward's son Alfonso in mind, but Alfonso's sudden death in August 1284 meant that little Edward of Caernarfon took his place as the Maid's future husband. Sadly, the young Queen died in the Orkneys at the age of seven, on 26 September 1290.

And now some new information. I've recently learned that, on 31 July 1291 when he was seven, Edward of Caernarfon was betrothed to Blanche of France. Blanche was the daughter of the late King Philip III by his second wife Marie of Brabant, and thus the half-sister of Philip IV, full sister of Marguerite (second wife of Edward I and stepmother of Edward II) and aunt of Edward II's Queen Isabella.

Blanche's date of birth is unknown, but she was several years older than little Edward. Her parents married on 21 August 1274, and her brother Louis, Count of Évreux, was born on 3 May 1276. Louis was on very close terms with Edward II, and it was to him that Edward sent his famous 1305 letter about trotting palfreys and wild Welshmen. Louis travelled to England in 1312 to mediate between Edward and the barons after Gaveston's murder, and was one of Edward III's godfathers.

Blanche and her sister Marguerite, Queen of England, were born sometime between 1278 and 1282. It's unclear which sister was the elder. Thomas Costain in his The Three Edwards relates a story that Edward I wished to marry Blanche, who was far more beautiful than her sister, even showing a willingness to give up Gascony (also known as Aquitaine) in exchange, but was tricked into marrying Marguerite instead. This story, repeated on Marguerite's Wikipedia page, seems incredibly unlikely, especially given that Blanche had been betrothed to Edward I's son, and besides, the notion that Edward I would have given up Gascony to marry Blanche is laughable.

In May 1294, Blanche's half-brother Philip IV confiscated Gascony, and her betrothal to Edward was broken off. Edward was ten when his second betrothal fell through, Blanche somewhere between twelve and sixteen. She was offered instead to John of Hainault, Count of Ostrevant (killed at the battle of Courtrai in 1302), who was the elder brother of Count William of Hainault, father of Edward III's wife Queen Philippa. This alliance also faltered, and she finally married, in Paris on 29 May 1300, Rudolf III, Duke of Austria, later King of Bohemia and titular King of Poland. Her sister Marguerite, now Queen of England, gave birth to her first child Thomas of Brotherton three days after Blanche's wedding.

Queen/Duchess Blanche died on 19 March 1306, and was buried in the Minoritenkirche in Vienna. She had given birth to a daughter, who died in infancy. Duke Rudolf married secondly Ryksa Elźbieta of Poland, but died childless on 4 July 1307 (three days before Edward I).

On 31 August 1294, a betrothal between the future Edward II and Philippa, daughter of Guy de Dampierre, Count of Flanders, was first put forward; Count Guy was an ally of Edward I against Philip IV. In early 1297, King Edward and Guy swore to uphold the marriage of their children, now with Philippa's sister Isabella mentioned as a substitute, because poor Philippa was being held as a hostage in Paris by Philip IV.

Philippa of Flanders' date of birth is not known, but she was also older than Edward, perhaps considerably older. Her parents married in March 1265, one of her brothers was born in 1267, and the eldest of her four sisters (not half-sisters) married as early as November 1282, before Edward II was even born.

Unfortunately for the Flanders sisters, they lost the chance for one of them to become Queen of England when Edward I and Philip IV made peace, sealed with a marriage alliance. On 8 September 1299, the sixty-year-old Edward married Philip's half-sister Marguerite, who was aged somewhere between seventeen and twenty-one, and sister of the woman formerly betrothed to Edward's son. Edward of Caernarfon himself was betrothed to three-year-old Isabella, Philip IV's only surviving daughter. As I pointed out in my previous post, Isabella had two older sisters, Marguerite and Blanche (those names again!), who had died young in or around 1294. The younger Marguerite, born in 1288 or 1290, was suggested as a bride for the future Fernando IV of Castile in 1294, but evidently died soon afterwards. Fernando IV married Constança of Portugal instead.

And that, I always thought, was that. However, I've just discovered that yet another woman was suggested as a wife for Edward II! In 1302, don Enrique, Regent of Castile, put forward his great-niece doña Isabel de Castilla y León, and opened negotiations with Edward I.

Don Enrique was the uncle of Edward II, one of the half-brothers of Eleanor of Castile who I've written about before. He may have been the lover of his stepmother Jeanne de Dammartin, Edward II's grandmother, fought as a mercenary in Africa, and spent three decades in an Italian prison, but by 1302 had finally achieved respectability as Regent for his young great-nephew King Fernando IV.

Doña Isabel de Castilla y León, Señora de Guadalajara, was Fernando IV's sister. She was born in Toro in 1283 as the eldest of the seven children of King Sancho IV and María de Molina, was the granddaughter of Alfonso X and the great-granddaughter of Fernando III, and was thus Edward II's first cousin once removed [as was Margaret, the Maid of Norway]. Isabel had four brothers in addition to Fernando IV; her only sister and the youngest sibling, doña Beatriz, born in 1293, married King Afonso IV of Portugal. Isabel's mother doña María de Molina, Queen of Castile (c. 1265-1321), was herself a close relative of both her husband Sancho IV and Edward II, being the niece of Fernando III, Edward's grandfather. (Her father don Alfonso, younger brother of Fernando III, was over sixty when she was born.) Doña María was a politically astute and extremely intelligent and courageous woman, who served as Regent both for her son Fernando IV and her grandson Alfonso XI.

On 1 December 1291, at the age of eight, doña Isabel of Castile married the twenty-four-year-old King Jaime II of Aragón in Soria. However, her father Sancho IV died suddenly on 25 April 1295, aged not quite thirty-seven, and Jaime switched alliances, dissolving his marriage to Isabel in order to marry Blanche of Anjou. Isabel was still only eleven or twelve, and the marriage was never consummated.

She didn't remarry until the age of twenty-seven, in 1310, when she took Duke John III of Brittany as her second husband. He was three years her junior, widowed from Isabelle de Valois, and was yet another first cousin once removed of Edward II, as the great-grandson of Henry III of England. Isabel was created Vicomtesse de Limoges by her husband, and died childless on 24 July 1328, in her mid-forties; Duke John lived until 30 April 1341. He had no children by any of his three wives, but may have had an illegitimate son. Doña Isabel was buried at the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Prière in Morbihan, Brittany.

King Edward I may have been keen to make a Spanish marriage alliance for his son. Castile was a growing power, rich and influential, and a very useful ally on the borders of Gascony. The king was definitely very keen to wriggle out of his treaty with Philip IV, but it proved impossible because of the Gascon situation. So, on 20 May 1303, nineteen-year-old Edward of Caernarfon and little Isabella, probably only seven, solemnly pledged in front of witnesses that they would marry each other (Edward in England, Isabella in Paris; they didn't meet until their wedding day in January 1308). The potential English alliance was a brave move on the part of Castile, however, as a marriage between doña Isabel and Edward of Caernarfon would have resulted in enormous hostility on the part of France.

I'm certain that Edward II would have vastly preferred a Spanish wife to a French one. He was well aware of his own Spanish heritage, was on friendly terms with the Iberian kings, and certainly he was very keen to arrange Spanish alliances for his own children. He spent much of 1325 and 1326 in negotiations with Castile, for the young king Alfonso XI (born 1311), his first cousin twice removed, to marry his daughter Eleanor of Woodstock, and for Alfonso's sister doña Leonor to marry the future Edward III. These marriages never took place, of course, because of Edward's deposition.

The letters and treaties related to these negotiations refer to Alfonso XI, somewhat confusingly, as the 'king of Spain' [le roi Despaigne]. In April 1326, King Afonso IV of Portugal wrote to Edward II, offering his daughter Maria as a possible bride for the young Edward. Edward II wrote back, informing Alfonso that while he would be happy to make an alliance with Portugal, the Castilian marriages were still under negotiation and took priority. [Afonso's IV's wife Beatriz of Castile was the sister of Isabel, who might have married Edward II. Maria, Afonso and Beatriz's daughter suggested as a bride for Edward III, was born in 1313 and was married in 1328...to Alfonso XI of Castile. Leonor of Castile, also put forward as a wife for the future Edward III, eventually married Alfonso IV of Aragón, son of Jaime II and Blanche of Anjou.]

I'm also sure that Edward II did not want to marry Isabella of France. He didn't want a French alliance. He detested her father. He had no interest in Isabella; in his letters to her uncle Louis, he never even mentioned her, and he never sent her presents or letters. The only reason he went through with the marriage was because he had no way of getting out of it without forfeiting Gascony, and probably going to war with Philip IV and France. And in the long run, his instincts were right!

I find it very interesting that Queen Isabella was more than a decade younger than Edward II, while all the other women he might have married were older than he was. Obviously Isabella's extreme youth was in no way her fault, but I feel that Edward would have been much happier with an older wife, or at least one of roughly the same age, as doña Isabel of Castile and the Maid of Norway were. And an older wife may have been more helpful to Edward early on in his reign than Isabella was able to be.

How might English history be different if Edward II's wife had been Isabel of Castile instead of Isabella of France? Or Philippa of Flanders or even Blanche of France? Of course there's no way of knowing if Edward's marriage would have been more successful on a personal level, but it could hardly have been worse. On a political level, Edward II's marriage to Isabella of France wasn't stunningly successful either - it was intended to promote peace between England and France, but in fact the two countries went to war in 1234/25. [This was pretty much entirely Edward II's own fault, but still.] And of course, the main long-term consequence of their marriage was the Hundred Years War.

I wonder who Queen Isabella might have married, if not Edward II? Perhaps Philip IV would have arranged an Iberian marriage for her too, to counteract the Anglo-Castilian alliance of Edward and doña Isabel. Afonso IV of Portugal maybe, who was born in 1291, or Alfonso IV of Aragón, born in 1299. Perhaps even doña Isabel's brother Fernando IV of Castile, who was born in 1285 and had once been betrothed to Isabella's sister Marguerite.

Alternate history is so endlessly fascinating....;)

Iberian Kings of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries...

...or, Lots Of Men Called Alfonso, with Afonso as an exciting variation. ;)

To help with the post above this one, on Edward II's betrothals, here's a list of the Iberian kings of his era, with their relations to each other and to Edward II.

The dates are the kings' reigns, not their lifetimes. There's a map of the Iberian peninsula circa 1360 at the end of the post.


Kings of Castile and León

- Fernando III, 1230-1252 [grandfather of Edward II]. Married to Elisabeth of Swabia and Jeanne de Dammartin.

- Fernando's son Alfonso X, 1252-1284 [uncle of Edward II]. Married to Violante of Aragón, daughter of Jaime I.

- Alfonso's son Sancho IV, 1284-1295 [first cousin of Edward II]. Married to María de Molina, first cousin once removed of Edward II.

- Sancho's son Fernando IV, 1295-1312. Married to Constança of Portugal, daughter of King Diniz.

- Fernando's son Alfonso XI, 1312-1350. Betrothed to Edward II's daughter Eleanor of Woodstock; married his first cousin Maria of Portugal, daughter of Afonso IV.

- Alfonso's son Pedro the Cruel, 1350-1369. Betrothed to Edward II's granddaughter Joan of the Tower, who died of plague at Bayonne in September 1348, on her way to marry Pedro. Married Blanca of Bourbon, then his mistress María de Padilla.

Pedro and María de Padilla's daughters Constanza and Isabella married Edward II's grandsons John of Gaunt and Edmund of Langley in 1371 and 1372. Gaunt unsuccessfully claimed the throne of Castile; his daughter Catalina married his rival Enrique III in 1393.


Kings of Aragón

- Jaime I, 1213-1276. Married to Yolanda of Hungary.

- Jaime's son Pedro III, 1276-1285. Married to Constanza of Sicily.

- Pedro's son Alfonso III, 1285-1291. Betrothed to Edward II's sister Eleanor, died unmarried.

- Alfonso's brother Jaime II, 1291-1327. Married to Isabel of Castile (daughter of Sancho IV) and Blanche of Anjou.

- Jaime's son Alfonso IV, 1327-1336. Married firstly to Teresa d'Entença, then to Leonor of Castile, daughter of Fernando IV. His heir Pedro IV was the son of Teresa. In 1325/26, Leonor had been betrothed to Edward II's son, the future Edward III.



Kings of Portugal

- Diniz, 1279-1325. His mother Beatriz was an illegitimate daughter of Alfonso X of Castile, so Diniz was a first cousin once removed of Edward II. Married Isabel of Aragón, daughter of Pedro III.

- Diniz's son Afonso IV, 1325-1357. Married Beatriz of Castile, daughter of Sancho IV. In 1326, Afonso wrote to Edward II, putting forward his daughter Maria as a bride for the future Edward III. [She married Alfonso XI of Castile.]

- Afonso's son Pedro I, 1357-67. Married firstly Blanca of Castile, granddaughter of Sancho IV of Castile and of Jaime II of Aragón. His children were all by his second and third wives, and mistresses.

- João I, 1385-1433. Pedro's son by his Galician mistress Teresa Gille Lourenço. On 11 February 1387, João married Edward II's great-granddaughter Philippa of Lancaster (John of Gaunt's daughter).





15 June, 2007

Titles, Forms of Address, Names, Letters...

This hotch-potch of a post is the blog's 100th!! Yay!

It was inspired by my irritation with much of the historical fiction set in the Middle Ages, which anachronistically refers to kings as 'your majesty' and their children as 'prince' and 'princess'.
And a big thank you to Liam Kearns, my lovely, knowledgeable friend in Dublin, for providing me with some of the information in the post!

For the record, kings of England were not known as 'your majesty' until Henry VIII - who else?? - copied the king of France, who had copied the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Before that, they were addressed as 'your grace', and even after Henry VIII, this form of address was still often used, with 'your majesty' finally becoming the standard form in the reign of James I (1609-1625). Henry VIII's daughters were occasionally called 'princess' but also 'lady' or 'madame', and the future Queen Anne was known as 'the Princess of Denmark' after her marriage to Prince George of Denmark. However, the children of kings were not consistently called 'prince' and 'princess' until as late as the eighteenth century.

I can't remember where, but I know I've seen a reference to Edward II's elder daughter as the 'Princess Royal', just a few centuries too early - the first Princess Royal was Charles I's daughter Mary, born in 1631, and the second was George II's daughter Anne, born in 1709. Princess Mary's French mother Queen Henrietta Maria wished to emulate the French title of Madame Royale. Princess Anne, the current Princess Royal, is only the seventh woman to hold the title.

In the Middle Ages, kings' children were simply called 'lord' and 'lady': in Latin dominus and domina, in French sire or monsire ('my lord') and dame or madame ('my lady'). They were the only people granted this right from birth; Edward II's daughter Eleanor of Woodstock was referred to as 'Lady Alienora' in Edward's Wardrobe accounts shortly after she was born, in 1318, and Edward himself was always called dominus Edwardus or sire Edward as a child.

This courtesy was not extended to a king's grandchildren, who were not called 'lord' or 'lady' until they were knighted or married a knight. For example, Edward I's eldest granddaughter Eleanor de Clare was called 'domina Alianore [le Despenser]' only after her 1306 marriage, and another granddaughter, Joan of Bar, was called simply 'Joan [Johane], daughter of H., sometime Count of Bar' before her marriage, not 'Lady Joan'.

The future Edward II was made Prince of Wales on 7 February 1301, when he was sixteen. Interestingly, he's never called 'Prince Edward' in contemporary documents, but rather 'Lord Edward, Prince of Wales' [sire Edward, prince de Galles]. He was also often called 'Lord Edward, son of our noble lord the king', 'son of the illustrious king of England', or similar.

The title of 'duke' didn't exist in England until 1337, except that the king was also duke of Aquitaine, in France. The first English duke was Edward II's grandson Edward of Woodstock, the Black Prince, created duke of Cornwall in 1337. The second was Henry of Grosmont, created duke of Lancaster in 1351.

Titles were of course very important - on 18 June 1312, the day before before the Earl of Lancaster had Piers Gaveston killed, he was still careful to refer to him in letters patent as Sire Pierres de Gavastone. In October 1324, over a year after Roger Mortimer had escaped from the Tower of London and was causing problems on the Continent, Hugh Despenser still referred to him - his mortal enemy - in a letter as sire Rogier de Mortymer. Edward II, however, took to calling him 'the Mortimer' around this time, and a letter sent to Despenser in November 1324 talks about 'the son of the Mortimer' [le fuiz du Mortimer].

In letters, writs, indentures and so on of the period, Edward is always called 'Edward by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland and Duke of Aquitaine' [in French: Edward par la grace de Dieu Roy Dengleterre, Seignur Dirlaunde et Ducs Daquitayne, with a few variations in spelling, or in Latin Edwardus, dei gracia Rex Anglie Dominus Hibernie et Dux Aquitannie.]

Understandably, this was often shortened to Edward par la grace de Dieu et cetera. :)

Sometimes, his title of Count of Ponthieu and Montreuil was added [comte de Pontiff et de Monstroill]. In letters sent jointly by Edward and Isabella, her titles were also added as '...and Isabella his consort, by the same grace Queen, Lady, Duchess and Countess of the places above named'.

Edward always called Isabella nostre treschere compaigne ['our very dear companion/consort'] in letters, but this was a convention of the time and doesn't say anything about their relationship. She called him 'my very dear and dread lord' [mon trescher et redoute seigneur], again, a purely conventional form. Sadly, private letters betweeen the couple were sent under the secret seal (as opposed to the great seal or the privy seal) so rarely survive.

Monsire was often abbreviated as mons'. Place names were also often abbreviated: London (Londres or Loundres) was usually Londr', Westminster was Westm' and Canterbury was Cant' or Canterb' [Canterbire]. Some placenames were different from the modern name: York was Everwyk, Lincoln was Nicole, Dublin was Dyvelin, Newcastle-upon-Tyne was the brilliant Noef Chastel sur Tyne. Otherwise, placenames were recognisably the same as today, albeit occasionally with French-looking spellings (Gloucester was Gloucestre, Lancaster Lancastre, Portchester Porcestre, etc.). Edward II's favourite residence Langley came out as Langele and Windsor was Wyndesore.

The vast majority of documents in Edward II's reign were in French, with the remainder in Latin. They were never in English. French - or rather, the variant of it spoken in fourteenth-century England - was Edward's native language, though I imagine he also spoke fluent English, given his friendliness and familiarity with 'peasants' who wouldn't have spoken French, the language of the elite.

People's names were usually spelt in a variety of interesting and inventive ways. Isabella's name appears as Isabel, Isabelle, Ysabel, Ysabell and others, including the very odd 'Isabiaus' in 1326; this last one is from France and presumably represents Isabeau, not Isabella. 'Hugh' most often appears as it is in modern English, but is sometimes seen as Hughe, Hue, Hwe, Hew, even Hugg and Huge. The name of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Walter Reynolds, sometimes appears as the very French-looking Wautier Reignaud, but mostly, names were in the English form, not the French one - for example, it's always William, not Guillaume. Ralph is usually Rauf, John Johan, Joan Johane, Eleanor Alianore or Alianor, Edmund Edmon or Esmon.

One exception to the multiplicity of spellings is the name Edward, which was always spelt the same way as in modern English in Edward II's reign, and as far as I know in the reigns of his father and son, too. Letters sent from France or other countries, though, change the spelling to something like Edduvart or Edouwart, which probably give a good indication of how they pronounced it.

Any documents referring to Edward in the third person simply call him 'our lord the king' [nostre seignour le roy], which is a far cry from the flowery formulations of later centuries. Letters addressed to him directly usually say 'my very dear and dread lord' [mon trescher et redoute seignour]. Isabella was called 'Lady Isabella, queen of England' or just 'madame the queen' [madame la royne].

Edward called Isabella's brothers, and his sisters' husbands, 'our very dear brother' [nostre trescher frere] and his half-brother the Earl of Norfolk's wife Alice Hailes 'our very dear sister'. In the last few years of his reign, he always called the younger Despenser 'our very dear and faithful nephew'. Edward's other half-brother the Earl of Kent also called Despenser his trescher neveu, which is amusing, considering he was at least a dozen years younger than Despenser. In 1325/6, Edward sent letters to his son in France, calling him Beaufuitz ('fair son').

On the subjects of dates, of letters and writs, etc: they never say '1311', for example, but use Edward's regnal year, which ran from 8 July to 7 July. His reign began on 8 July 1307, so that 30 June 1320 was in the regnal year 13 Edward II. Usually the date appears as in modern usage, but sometimes also 'the Wednesday before the feast of St Mark' or similar.

Two examples: Donne souz nostre priue seal a Shene le xviij iour ffeuerer lan de nostre regne unzime ['Given under our privy seal at Sheen the eighteenth day [of] February the year of our reign eleventh', or 1318]. The Earl of Lancaster's 1312 letters patent about Piers Gaveston, mentioned above, end Escrit a Warrewik le xviij iour de Juyn Lan du regne nostre seigneur le Roi Edward fuiz au tresnoble Roi Edward quint ['Written at Warwick the eighteenth day of June the year of reign [of] our lord the King Edward son of the very noble King Edward fifth', or 1312]

Some typical endings of fourteenth-century letters:
- The Holy Spirit have you in his keeping [le Seint Esperit vous eit en sa garde]
- The Holy Spirit save and keep you [le Seint Esperit vous sauve et garde]
- God grant you a good and long life [Dieu vous doint une bonne vie et longe]
- Our Lord God have you in his keeping [Nostre Seignur Dieux vous ayt en sa garde]
- Our Lord keep you [Nostre Seigneur vous gard]
- May God keep you [A Dieu, qe vous gard']

In the 1320s, the English government was dominated by Hugh Despenser the Younger, who received the vast majority of letters sent on government business in this period. Amusingly, letters to him are very often much more obsequious than letters to Edward II - one written in November 1324 calls him 'my very noble, very puissant and very honourable lord' while another one begins to 'the very noble man, my very honourable lord, mons' Hugh' le Despenser...honours and all manner of reverences."

By contrast, letters written by Despenser - who was clearly very conscious of his power and position - usually begin very abruptly. Even to the Earl of Kent, son of Edward I, Despenser only begins with Mon trescher seignur [my very dear lord], though he does call Kent 'sire' frequently throughout the letters. A frequent phrase in his letters is 'It seems to our lord the king and to us...' [semble a nostre seignur le roi et a nous...].

There's a lot of evidence of written forms of address, but very little of spoken forms. How Edward's family and close circle addressed him is uncertain - probably as Sire, but it's impossible to say for sure. How earls expected to be addressed is also uncertain: 'my lord' or 'my lord earl', perhaps? Although ritual and etiquette were clearly very important, there was none of the endless bowing and scraping and kowtowing of later courts, for example, the Tudors.

The Vita Edwardi Secundi mentions an edict of Edward II that nobody should call Piers Gaveston by his name, but by his title of Earl of Cornwall. However, in my view, this doesn't say anything about typical forms of address at Edward's court or how earls expected to be addressed, but rather points to Edward's sensitivity over raising a Gascon 'foreigner' ("a night-grown mushrump", as Marlowe memorably called him) to the English nobility, and his determination that nobody should disparage his beloved. Gaveston, in a letter of (I think) 1307 calls himself Pieres de Gauastoun Conte de Cornewaille.

I'm going to end the post by quoting the start of a letter written by Edward* to his sister Elizabeth on 30 March 1305, when he was not quite twenty-one, just because I like it so much:

"To the noble lady, his dearest sister, Elizabeth, daughter of the King of England, Countess of Holland, Hereford and Essex, from Edward, her brother, greeting and all honour. As we understand and know that you would willingly hear good news of us, we give you to know that we were in good estate and in good health, thank God, when these letters were made, which we desire to hear and know of you, and so we pray that you will send us word as often and as well as you can, of your estate, which God make always good; for we are glad at heart every time that we hear good news of you." [Yes, that is one sentence.]

* Written by his clerk, not Edward himself, obviously.

09 June, 2007

Some Anglo-Scots Connections

Continuing my posts on women of Edward II's reign, here's some info on

- Isabel de Clare, Lady Berkeley
- Isabel's sister Joan de Clare, Countess of Fife
- Joan's daughter Isabel MacDuff, Countess of Buchan
- Joan's daughter-in-law Mary de Monthermer, Countess of Fife (niece of Edward II)
- Mary's daughter Isabella MacDuff, Countess of Fife

[Isabel and Isabella are the same name; I use the different spellings in a probably futile attempt to avoid confusion. :-)]

First, some background, going way back into the thirteenth century. After the death of King John (Edward II's great-grandfather) in 1216, his widow Isabelle d'Angoulême returned to France and married her second husband, Hugh X de Lusignan, Count of La Marche. After Dowager Queen Isabelle's death in 1246, some of her nine children by Hugh made their way to England, where their half-brother Henry III welcomed them with open arms - much to the disgust of many of his nobles, as Henry had already shown enormous favour to the numerous Provençal and Savoyard relatives of his wife Eleanor of Provence.

The anger increased after many highly eligible English noblemen were married off to the Lusignans - John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey (1231-1304) married Henry III's half-sister Alice de Lusignan; Robert de Ferrers, Earl of Derby, married Henry's niece Marie (she was the daughter of Isabelle d'Angoulême's eldest Lusignan child, Hugh XI, Count of La Marche); and Marie's sister Alice married the greatest prize of all, Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, future Earl of Gloucester and Hertford, in the spring of 1253. Gilbert was only about nine and a half years old at the time of his wedding; he was born on 2 September 1243. Alice was probably about the same age.

Having married very early, Gilbert the Red also embarked early on fatherhood: Isabel(la) de Clare, his and Alice's first child, was born on 10 March 1262, when Gilbert was eighteen and a half. Their second daughter, Joan, was born sometime between about 1264 and 1267.

Unfortunately, Earl Gilbert and Countess Alice detested each other, and their marriage was desperately unhappy. Alice openly supported the Lord Edward (later Edward I) against her husband in 1267, when Gilbert spectacularly fell out with Henry III and Edward over the King's failure to remove 'aliens' from the government; he even occupied London. When the crisis was over, he offered the huge sum of 10,000 marks as surety for his future conduct; the Pope, involving himself in the situation, required Gilbert to give up custody either of Tonbridge Castle, or his young daughter Isabel. Fortunately for the little girl, Henry III waived this requirement shortly afterwards.

Gilbert and Alice de Lusignan lived apart from about 1267, and were formally separated in July 1271. Their marriage was finally dissolved in May 1285. Even before this, in 1283, Gilbert's marriage to Edward I's second daughter Joan of Acre was suggested. However, the required papal dispensation wasn't granted until November 1289, and the wedding took place in London on 30 April 1290. It was around the time of Joan's eighteenth birthday - she was born in Acre, Syria in the spring of 1272. Gilbert was forty-six, going on forty-seven.

Countess Alice never re-married, and coincidentally died shortly after Gilbert's marriage to Joan, in May 1290. There was a contemporary rumour that King Edward I had an affair with Alice, his first cousin, but it's not certain.

Just before Gilbert and Joan's wedding, on 17 April 1290, Gilbert surrendered all his lands to the King, and was granted them back on 27 May, with a provision that they would pass to Gilbert's heirs by Joan, or, in the absence of any children of the marriage, to Joan's children by a later marriage. This arrangement obviously worked in the favour of the King's daughter Joan and her offspring, but excluded Isabel and Joan de Clare, Gilbert's daughters. If Gilbert and Alice de Lusignan had had a son, no doubt things would have been very different, but few people seemed to care about the disinheritance of two women. (It's also possible that it was the 1285 annulment of Gilbert and Alice's marriage that disinherited them.)

Meanwhile, Gilbert began a family with his second wife. His and Joan's first child, also Gilbert, was born in May 1291; he was followed by Eleanor (October/November 1292), Margaret (probably born in the first half of 1294), and Elizabeth (September 1295). His children by Joan were three decades younger than their half-sisters!

Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare died on 7 December 1295, at the age of fifty-two, a few weeks after the birth of his youngest child Elizabeth. All his children, one son and five daughters, survived him. Joan of Acre, only twenty-three when she was widowed, created a huge scandal in early 1297 by marrying her late husband's squire, Ralph de Monthermer. Their eldest child Mary was born in October 1297, and they also had Joan (born 1299, a nun at Amesbury), Thomas (born October 1301) and Edward (born 1304). Countess Joan was pregnant with Mary when she faced her father with the news. The King was furious, as he was in the middle of arranging her marriage to the Count of Savoy. [Joan and Ralph de Monthermer's four children were also excluded from the de Clare inheritance.]

Before his marriage to Alice was annulled, Gilbert the Red had arranged the marriage of his second daughter Joan - but not his elder daughter Isabel, oddly. Around 1284, when she was between about seventeen and twenty, Joan married Duncan [Donnchadh in Gaelic] MacDuff, the Earl [Mormaer] of Fife, who was born in about 1262/63. Whether the marriage was satisfactory is impossible to say, but the Chronicle of Lanercost said of Duncan that "as a young man he was cruel and greedy beyond all that we commonly have seen". Duncan was one of the Guardians of Scotland after the death of Alexander III in March 1286, and was murdered on 25 September 1288 [1289 according to some reports], by Sir Patrick Abernethy and Sir Walter Percy, still only in his mid-twenties. The reasons for his murder are unknown, but may have something to do with the growing unrest in Scotland; in 1288/89, little Queen Margaret, the Maid of Norway, was still in her native country, and the Bruces and Baliols, claimants to the throne, were becoming restless.

Joan de Clare was now a widow with two children: her daughter Isabel [see below] was born in about 1285/86, and her son, also Duncan, in 1288/89. The younger Duncan was probably posthumous, and succeeded his father as Earl of Fife. Duncan and Isabel MacDuff were older than Gilbert, Eleanor, Margaret and Elizabeth de Clare, their half-aunts and uncle.

The failure of Gilbert de Clare to arrange a marriage for his eldest child Isabel is decidedly odd. Even after 1285 or 1290 when she was no longer his heiress, Gilbert was the richest and most powerful man in England after the King, and Isabel was still his daughter. Arranging a good marriage for her should have been easy. However, poor Isabel didn't marry until 1297, after her father's death, when she was thirty-five, and I'm not even sure if she really was married, or only betrothed. Her husband or fiancé was Guy Beauchamp, who succeeded his father as Earl of Warwick the following year, 1298. Guy was a decade Isabel's junior, probably born in 1272. If they did marry, it ended in divorce around 1302.

Isabel definitely married, around 1316 when she was well into her fifties, Maurice de Berkeley, who became Lord Berkeley in 1321. He was also much her junior, born in 1271, and had several children; his eldest son Thomas, son-in-law of Roger Mortimer, would later become notorious as Edward II's jailer at Berkeley Castle. Maurice and Thomas joined the Marcher rebellion of 1321/22 against Edward II, and were imprisoned. Maurice died on 31 May 1326, at Wallingford Castle.

The reason for Maurice's marriage to Isabel was presumably because of the division of the de Clare estates; he was no doubt hoping to force himself a share in them. Gilbert the Red's son Gilbert was killed at the battle of Bannockburn at the age of twenty-three in June 1314, childless; his heirs were his three full sisters Eleanor (married to the Younger Despenser), Margaret (the widow of Piers Gaveston, married to Hugh Audley in 1317), and Elizabeth (widow of John de Burgh and Theobald de Verdon, married to Roger Damory in 1317).

The division of the vast de Clare lands took years, partly because Gilbert's widow Matilda de Burgh claimed pregnancy, and then because some of the IPMs (Inquisitions Post Mortem) mistakenly named Gilbert's half-sister Isabel de Clare as one of his heirs, instead of his full sister Elizabeth. Eventually, the division was completed. Eleanor, Margaret and Elizabeth de Clare and their husbands all received lands in England, Wales and Ireland; their half-sisters Isabel and Joan received nothing. What kind of relationship, if any, the older de Clare women had with their much younger half-siblings, I don't know.

Back in Scotland, Joan de Clare's adventures continued. She complained to Edward I in 1299 that, on her way back to England to save her possessions from the Scots, she was abducted by Sir Herbert de Morham between Stirling and Edinburgh. She refused to marry him, so he imprisoned her and stole horses, clothes and jewels from her, to the enormous value of £2000. [Morham was executed at the Tower of London on 7 September 1306, for allegiance to Robert Bruce.]

Joan married, sometime before 1302, Sir Gervase Avenel, a Scots nobleman. They declared fealty to Robert Bruce, so Edward I declared her lands forfeit. Later, Edward II confirmed the forfeiture of Joan's estates in England - which she had been granted by her father as a marriage portion when she married the Earl of Fife - and gave them to her brother-in-law, Hugh le Despenser theYounger.

Sir Gervase Avenel died in 1322. The date of Joan's death is unknown, but she outlived him. In 1322, she was in her mid to late fifties.
Her sister Isabel de Clare, Lady Berkeley, died either in 1333 or 1338, when she was in her seventies. She had spent only about ten years of her life as a married woman, and her husband was imprisoned for five of those.

Meanwhile, Joan de Clare's son Duncan MacDuff, the young Earl of Fife, was growing up at the English court, and may have been a companion of the future Edward II. In 1306, King Edward I arranged Duncan's betrothal - to Mary de Monthermer, daughter of Joan of Acre, and Edward's granddaughter. For Gilbert's children by Joan of Acre, this meant that their half-sister married their half-nephew! [Got to love those medieval family trees.] The papal dispensation for the marriage was granted on 4 November 1307, and presumably the wedding took place soon afterwards. Duncan would have been about eighteen, Mary only ten.

Duncan stayed in England until November 1314 - presumably he didn't fight at Bannockburn that year. Returning to Scotland, he entered Robert Bruce's fealty and was restored to his lands; his wife Mary remained in England at the court of her uncle Edward II until January 1320. Duncan fought at the Battle of Dupplin Moor in August 1332, on the side of Bruce's nephew and Edward II's close friend, Donald, Earl of Mar. He was sentenced to death by Edward III in 1346, after his capture at the battle of Neville's Cross, but was reprieved.

Earl Duncan died in 1353, in his mid-sixties. He and Mary de Monthermer had only one child, Isabella, who was born around 1320, and presumably conceived after Mary's arrival in Scotland in January 1320. Countess Mary and her young daughter were captured at Perth in 1332 by supporters of the King, David II. They were sent to Northumberland, where Isabella MacDuff ended up marrying her guardian, Sir William Felton, sometime between 7 October 1332 and about 1340, when their eldest child John was born.

Although Duncan had fought on the side of David II at Dupplin Moor, he was captured after the battle, and made peace with Edward Baliol, as the price of his liberty. On 24 September 1332, he finally performed his hereditary duty of crowning the King of Scots. David II, after his resumption of power, declared Duncan's earldom of Fife forfeit, and after Duncan's death, tried to grant it to his friend William Ramsay. However, he had to back down, and in 1363, finally granted it to Isabella MacDuff.

Mary de Monthermer, Countess of Fife and niece of Edward II, turned out to be one of those long-lived medieval women, dying sometime after 30 March 1371, well into her seventies. Her daughter Isabella MacDuff, Countess of Fife in her own right, married four times, and died around 1389/90, having resigned the earldom of Fife in 1371 to Robert Stewart, the first Duke of Albany, one of the many sons of King Robert II.

Countess Isabella's second husband Walter Stewart was another son of Robert II - who was the son of Marjorie, Robert Bruce's daughter, sentenced to be imprisoned in a cage at the Tower of London in 1306 [see below] - and was many years her junior; his father was born in 1316, his parents didn't marry until 1336, and he wasn't even the eldest child. However, Isabella outlived him, and her two subsequent husbands.
Having run through four husbands, Countess Isabella lived as a widow for around twenty years.

And now, perhaps the most interesting part of the post, about one of the most famous Scottish women of the Middle Ages: Joan de Clare's daughter Isabel MacDuff, Countess of Buchan. [I should point out that some authorities believe Isabel to be the sister of the Duncan murdered in 1288, and not his daughter, but I think this is a mistake.]

Isabel MacDuff - known as Iseabail Dhuibh or Iseabail inghean Dhonnchaidh ('Isabel daughter of Duncan') in medieval Gaelic - is the heroine of Barbara Erskine's popular time-slip novel Kingdom of Shadows. Born in 1285 or 1286, Isabel was married in the late 1200s or early 1300s to John Comyn, Earl of Buchan, who was decades her senior, born sometime in the 1250s. He was a cousin and close ally of John Baliol, crowned King of Scots in 1292.

As a supporter of John Baliol, the Earl of Buchan was implacably opposed to Robert Bruce, who was Baliol's greatest rival. Buchan worked in close association with his cousin of the same name, John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, who was known as 'the Red Comyn' and was the nephew of King John Baliol. The Comyns were an immensely powerful family who had dominated Scottish politics in the thirteenth century, and were the hereditary enemies of the Bruce family.

John 'the Red Comyn' and his uncle Robert were stabbed to death by Robert Bruce before the high altar of the Greyfriars Church in Dumfries, on 10 February 1306. It's impossible now to discover what really happened in that church; Scottish chronicles claim that Comyn was planning to betray Bruce to Edward I, while an English chronicle claims that Bruce made up the charge of treachery to provoke Comyn into a fight. Whether the murders were pre-meditated is also unknown.

In the middle of these unhappy events, Isabel MacDuff, Countess of Buchan, came to the forefront. She held vastly different political views to her husband, and, only a few weeks after the murder of her husband's cousin, she crowned Robert Bruce as King of Scots, on 25 March 1306. Isabel and Bruce were second cousins once removed; Bruce's paternal grandmother was Isabel de Clare, aunt of Gilbert the Red. Isabel was said to be Bruce's mistress, but under the circumstances this claim was practically inevitable. Whather there was any truth in the accusation is unknown.

The MacDuff clan had the hereditary right of crowning the Scottish Kings, but Isabel's brother Duncan had been too young to crown John Baliol in 1292, and was unable to be present at Bruce's coronation, as he was at the English court. So Isabel performed the sacred duty, at Scone near Perth. Edward I had recently removed the Stone of Scone, traditionally used in the coronations of the Kings of Scotland (it remained in Westminster Abbey until returned to Scone in 1996, exactly seven hundred years after its removal) so they had to do without.

One chronicle asserts that Isabel stole her husband's horses to reach Scone and abandoned her husband 'with deception'; however, Buchan was in England at the time, so such 'deception' wasn't necessary. Isabel never saw her husband again. Given Bruce's recent murder of his cousin and friend, he had no wish to be reconciled with Isabel.

Of course Isabel's feelings regarding her husband are unknown. Did she regret her actions in going over to Bruce? Did she hate Buchan? Barbara Erskine's Kingdom of Shadows makes Buchan a brutal wife-beater, who even hits Isabel when she's pregnant, so that she loses their baby. This conveniently absolves Isabel from having to feel guilt over betraying him - and makes for very bad fiction, in my opinion. It would make the story far more compelling if she loved and respected her husband, but supported Bruce politically, giving her a difficult choice to make. And depicting Buchan as a one-dimensional wife-batterer seems a cheap and manipulative way of creating sympathy for Isabel.

But to return to the historical story: Isabel's actions brought her a far more dangerous enemy than her husband: King Edward I. He harboured a terrible hatred for Robert Bruce, who had long been his ally, and his subsequent behaviour proved his desire to take brutal revenge on anyone who had been present at Bruce's coronation.

In July 1306, King Robert sent his womenfolk to Kildrummy Castle for safety, in the care of Nigel (or Neil), one of his four brothers. However, the castle was taken in September by Aymer de Valence, future Earl of Pembroke and brother-in-law of the murdered Red Comyn. Nigel Bruce was grotesquely executed in Berwick in September 1306, John de Strathbogie, Earl of Atholl, in London on 7 November. (Atholl was married to Marjorie of Mar, the sister of Bruce's first wife.)

Before the castle was taken, the women were taken north, perhaps trying to reach Norway, where Bruce's sister Isabel had been Queen. However, they were captured by William, (Uilleam) Earl of Ross, who was a first cousin of the Earl of Buchan and the Red Comyn through his mother. [King Robert Bruce proved himself surprisingly capable of forgiveness, however; William's son Hugh (Aodh) later became a favourite of the King, and married his sister Matilda.]

Bruce's second wife Elizabeth de Burgh was held under honourable house arrest in Burstwick; fortunately for her, she was the daughter of Edward I's ally the Earl of Ulster. Bruce's sister Christina was taken to Sixhills nunnery, his little nephew Donald of Mar to Bristol Castle, and his daughter Marjorie, by his first wife, to Watton priory. (The original plan to incarcerate Marjorie in a cage at the Tower of London was abandoned, Edward I apparently deciding that inflicting such cruelty on a girl of about ten was too mad, even for him.)

Isabel MacDuff and Bruce's sister Mary suffered the most. They were ordered to be shut up in cages suspended from an outer wall of a castle, Isabel at Berwick, Mary at Roxburgh. The order to imprison Isabel in a cage, and the fate of the other Scottish prisoners, can be read here (in French), where she's called "la contesse de Baghaun" (Buchan). Her cage was of latticed wood, with iron hinges, and completely open; she had a private privy, but otherwise was exposed to the elements and the ridicule of the general populace. Edward I allowed four pence a day for her upkeep, and she had two women to provide her with food and drink.

There was nobody who could or would stand up to Edward I over Isabel's imprisonment. Her grandfather Gilbert the Red surely would have, but he was long dead, as was her father. Her brother Duncan was little more than a hostage at the English court and powerless to help, and at any rate, was only about seventeen. Isabel's half-uncle Gilbert de Clare was only fifteen. The Earl of Gloucester in 1306 was Ralph de Monthermer, who was the future father-in-law of her brother, but if he tried to help her, it had no effect. As it happened, her husband Buchan was the only person who could help her; and he emphatically would not.

Edward II finally released Isabel from the cage, but not nearly as soon as I'd like - probably not until June 1310. Presumably, she was then held in the castle itself, or perhaps a nearby convent. (Mary Bruce was apparently released from her cage at Roxburgh much earlier.) Even this didn't mark the end of Isabel's captivity - she was handed over to the custody of Henry Beaumont in April 1313. Beaumont was the husband of Alice Comyn, niece of Isabel's husband, and later Earl of Buchan in her right.

The Earl of Buchan himself, John Comyn, was heavily defeated by Bruce in May 1308. He fled to England, and died sometime between August and December 1308. He and Isabel had no children. His cousin John the Red Comyn had married Joan de Valence, sister of Aymer, Earl of Pembroke; their teenage son John Comyn was killed at Bannockburn in 1314, fighting on Edward II's side - understandably - leaving an infant son Aymer, who died in 1316. [This John Comyn was married to Margaret Wake, who was a widow for more than eleven years before marrying Edward II's half-brother the Earl of Kent in late 1325. She was the mother of Joan, the 'Fair Maid of Kent', and the grandmother of Richard II.] Little Aymer's death marked the end of the Comyns, the family who had dominated Scottish politics in the thirteenth century.

However, the Red Comyn also had two daughters: Joan, who married David, Earl of Atholl, son of the man executed by Edward I in November 1306 - David remained loyal to Edward II, surprisingly enough - and Elizabeth, who was one of the women harrassed for her lands by the Younger Despenser in the 1320s. [The Red Comyn is the nineteen-greats grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II, through Elizabeth Comyn.]

Isabel MacDuff's ultimate fate is, sadly, not known. When Robert Bruce's relatives were finally released from English custody in 1314, after the battle of Bannockburn, Isabel was not one of them. This nice website endeavours to keep her memory alive, and there's another site about her here (though it gets some small details wrong - for example, Isabel was older than her brother). It would be comforting to think of her living out her life somewhere in obscurity, free; but the sad reality is that she almost certainly died in captivity, a harsh, brutal and vindictive captivity.

01 June, 2007

Household of Edward II

In common with all royal and noble households of the Middle Ages (and indeed later), Edward II's household was absolutely enormous. It contained many hundreds of people - in the summer of 1317, 477 servants received Edward's livery (a kind of uniform), and there were also forty-six squires who weren't present. This number may not even include the lowest ranks of servant.

The marshalsea (stables) was the biggest household department, thanks to the itinerant nature of Edward's court - he moved location well over a hundred times a year and rarely spent more than a few days in any one place. Unlike in Tudor times, there was no 'London season', and Edward's favourite residence seems to have been Langley in Hertfordshire, which he had been granted in 1302 at the age of eighteen. The logistics of moving and feeding so many hundreds of people must have been taxing, and in 1317 Edward employed twenty-seven sumptermen, thirty-two palfreymen, and sixteen carters. There was one groom per horse.

Because of the wars with Scotland, Edward spent a great deal of time in the north of England, especially Yorkshire - otherwise, his peregrinations were mostly confined to the southeast of England and the Midlands, with a few trips to the west and southwest.

His household was divided into two main sections: the Chamber and the Hall. The Hall was responsible for household management, and was subdivided into numerous departments such as the napery (table linen), pantry, buttery (drinks), spicery, laundry, larder (meat and fish), chandlery (wax and candles), saucery, scullery, and ewery (water and vessels for washing, not laundry).

The head of the Hall was the Steward, always a man of knightly or noble rank. Eleven men served as Edward's Steward in the nineteen and a half years of his reign, including Richard Damory, elder brother of Edward's favourite Roger Damory, and William Montacute, whose son of the same name would become Earl of Salisbury in 1337.

By contrast, only two men are known to have served as Chamberlain in Edward's reign: John Charlton and Hugh Despenser the Younger, both of whom were also of noble rank. Despenser's appointment was confirmed in the York Parliament of October 1318; unusually, it was made "by counsel and at the request of the magnates" (Item le Roi sest accorde par consail et a la requeste de grantz qe Monsire Hugh le Despenser le fuiz demoerge son Chamberleyn).

Evidently Despenser was a popular choice, and nobody had any idea how dangerous he would become. The Chamberlain controlled access to the King - in person and written - helped with petitions, adminstered patronage, and often communicated the wishes of the King to Parliament and Council. Despenser - unlike John Charlton, who was completely anonymous in the role - used his proximity to the king as a springboard to enormous power and influence. He didn't let anyone see Edward unless he or his father was present, and after 1322, even managed to keep Queen Isabella from her husband's presence.

The Chamberlain was in charge of the knights and squires, ushers and porters, serjeants-at-arms, grooms and valets of the chamber, etc; the chamber was responsible for Edward's personal service and private apartments, and for public events and ceremonies. Unlike the Hall, there was no division and sub-division of departments within the Chamber - all decisions were made by Despenser himself.

A great source for the study of royal households are Household Ordinances - famous ones include the 1478 Black Book of the Household of Edward IV and Henry VIII's Eltham Ordinances of 1526. The earliest surviving English Household Ordinance dates from 1279, in Edward I's reign. Edward II's York Ordinance of 1318 is the second oldest (there were others which are no longer extant). The Ordinance was written - with the aim of eliminating waste and saving money in the royal household, always a political hot potato - on 6 December 1318 by the four leading officials of Edward's household:

- The Steward: Bartholomew, Lord Badlesmere (monsieur Berthelmeu de Badelesmere, seneschall)
- The Chamberlain: Hugh le Despenser the Younger (monsieur Hugh le Despenser, chamberleyn)
- The Treasurer: Roger de Northburgh, who became Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield in 1321 (sire Roger de Northborough, tresorer)
- The Controller of the Wardrobe: Gilbert de Wigton (sire Gilbert de Wyggetone, contreroullour de la garderobe).

It was signed in the presence of William Melton, the Archbishop of York (larceuesque Deuerwik), the Bishops of Ely, Norwich and Salisbury, and the Justices Henry Scrope and Henry Spigurnel. There's a much-abridged English translation of the 1318 Ordinance here; the original French text is printed in T.F. Tout's Place of the Reign of Edward II, and runs to over thirty pages.

The Ordinance details at least 363 jobs within Edward's household, including forty-seven for the Chamber, thirty-nine for the Hall and forty-two for the larder and kitchen. Some of the jobs sound amusing, such as the squire fruiterer, to provide "figs and grapes for the king's mouth" (pour la bouche le roy), the squire under-usher of the wardrobe, "who shall live in the wardrobe", a serjeant overseer of the sideboard for the hall, and a serjeant poulterer.

The sheer number of jobs, hierarchy and specialisation can be mind-boggling: Edward had, among many others, a knight chief usher of the hall, two serjeant ushers of the hall, two knights marshal of the hall, two serjeants marshal of the hall. What on earth did they all do?

There was evidently a high degree of ceremonial; one of Edward's chamber valets, Jack le Coppehouse, was paid the large sum of twenty shillings for "what he did when the king went to bed" and Sir Giles Beauchamp received five pounds "for that done at the king's chamber when he went to bed" and for his journey home. Sir Thomas Ughtred received twenty marks (thirteen pounds) for some service performed while Edward was dining. Unfortunately, the nature of these men's tasks is not revealed.

Edward had a personal bodyguard (garde corps le roi) of twenty-four archers. He also had thirty mounted serjeants-at-arms "who shall daily ride armed before the king's person while he is journeying through the country". Edward nominated four of these serjeants-at-arms to sleep just outside the door of his bedchamber, as close to the door as possible, along with the usher of the chamber.

The religious needs of the King and Queen were taken good care of. Edward II had a confessor, nine chaplains, and an almoner, while Queen Isabella had a confessor, a chaplain and her own almoner. In royal residences, Edward and Isabella had their own private chapels (one each); often, the chapels were two-storied, with their households worshipping on the lower level.

To serve the king and queen was considered to be a great honour. The higher posts were always filled by men of knightly or noble rank, or by men who later became bishops and archbishops. Isabella, in addition to her eight or more damsels, was also attended by six noble ladies-in-waiting, who came to court on a kind of rota system. Her chief lady was her husband's niece Eleanor de Clare, who had her own retinue, headed by her chamberlain John de Berkhamsted. Eleanor's husband the Younger Despenser, royal Chamberlain, also had his own chamberlain, Clement Holditch.

Thanks to Edward's generosity, Isabella had a household twice the size of previous queens' households. Close to 200 people served her, including almost a hundred men to look after her horses, twenty-six squires to protect her, her own physican and two apothecaries. The 1318 Ordinance refers to Isabella as madame la royne [the modern French word for 'queen' is reine.]

In addition to her noble ladies-in-waiting - who also included Alice Comyn, Countess of Buchan in her own right, and Ida Odingsells, whose son William Clinton became Earl of Huntingdon in 1337 - the queen had eight or more 'damsels' to attend her. Two of them were Edward II's former nurse Alice de Leygrave and her daughter Cecily. The word 'damsel' does not mean 'young woman', as many people assume; it means that the woman was unmarried, or married to a man who wasn't a knight. Obviously, Alice de Leygrave was decades older than the Queen. Isabella's damsels were usually married to men who also served in her household - for example, Joan de Falaise was married to John de Falaise, the Queen's tailor, Margaret de Villiers to Odin Bureward, a household squire (Margaret's mother Joan was another damsel, and her brother Guy was also in Isabella's service) and Joan Launge was the wife of another squire, John Launge (they were the ones granted a large income by Edward II for bringing him news of his son's birth).

Edward II's household consisted almost entirely of men. This was completely normal for a great household of the age, and doesn't imply anything about Edward not wanting women around him. Only five women are named in the 1318 Ordinance: Amice Maure, dame Gonnore, Christiane Scot, la femme Simon le Gawer and Annote la Walisshe. In 1319, Amice Maure married John Spayn, a page of Edward II's chamber; the King gave them a generous wedding gift of twenty shillings. The women were laundresses and 'bribours' - I have to admit I'm not sure what that means.

The Ordinance was keen to keep 'undesirables' away from the court, which included women who had no business being there - one part sternly orders that no household member, whatever his station, was allowed to keep his wife/woman at court, or following behind (qi null de la mesnee le roy, de quele condicioun qil soit, tenust sa femme a la court, ne nulle part dehors suyant la court).

Prostitutes following the court (dez femmez de folie vie suyantz la court) are mentioned on several occasions. The first time they were caught there, they would be removed, but if caught for a third time, they would be imprisoned for forty days (la tierce foitz soient mytz en prisone par xl iours). The Ordinance also orders Et qi null de la court ne menast ouesque luy nulle femme de fole vie ("And that no-one of the court takes with him a prosititute"). Apparently, this was a big problem with hundreds of men around.

It wasn't only prostitutes who were to be ejected, however; Edward's marshals were ordered to search the court weekly to find any people who were not meant to be there, and who hadn't sworn an oath of loyalty to the King (qi soit hors de auowerie). Such men were to be "taken and punished" (priz et puniz).

What I find especially fascinating is the emphasis on rank and status, which dominated everything, including what kind of material people wore and what they ate. Nobody below the rank of squire was entitled to eat roast meat, but had to make to do with the boiled kind. The King, Queen and any lords dining with them were entitled to "four good courses and no more", but the rest of the household to three, and 'boys' to only two. (Item ordeignez est qi le roy soit serui de iiij bouns cours saunz pluis pur lui et pur lez autrez seignours qi mangent a la sale, et a madame auxint; et qi eillours en soun hostell toutz bouns gentz soient seruiz de iij cours, et lez garsons de deux).

Different grades of cloth were used for different ranks of servant, with the higher ranks getting the more expensive materials. This also applied to the fur added to clothes in winter - ermine, miniver etc were expensive furs for the higher ranks, while lower servants wore deerskin, rabit or budge (sheepskin).

The servants received clothing, or livery, given out twice a year, as part of their wages. This was usually colour co-ordinated - for example, one summer the valets might be in striped green, the knights in blue, the yeomen in red, and so on. The effect must have been colourful and vibrant, which was heightened by the decor of Edward and Isabella's castles and palaces. In contrast to the bare stone walls and minimal furnishings usually depicted in TV programmes featuring medieval residences, the early fourteenth century royal palaces must have been incredibly vibrant, even gaudy. Edward's favourite residence of Langley had a giant mural in the Great Hall highlighted in gold and vermilion; the walls in Isabella's chamber at Windsor were painted green with gold stars, and the stonework round the windows was painted vermilion and red ochre; all the King and Queen's private chambers were decorated with murals and tapestries; and their chambers at Westminster were painted blue, red, gold, green and yellow.

Wages for Edward's servants also varied widely: the chief officers received up to twenty pounds a year; the serjeants got seven and a half pence a day; yeomen got four and a half pence a day, and valets and grooms got two pence a day.

Edward II's household was a world of men, of politicians, of backstabbers, of people on the make, and has been described by Alison Weir as "a disorderly hotbed of jealousies, intrigues and tensions." She's right, but then, how many royal courts were not like that? It's also rather unfair of Weir to claim that Edward "employed many persons of questionable probity", then only name three men who were felons - without mentioning that one of them (Gilbert Middleton) had left Edward's household and joined the Earl of Lancaster's by the time he gained notoriety in 1317 by attacking two cardinals, anyway. Edward employed five, six, seven hundred men in his household at any one time, probably several thousand over the course of his reign. In fact, it's quite remarkable that only three of them are known to have committed crimes: Middleton, Robert Lewer, who murdered his mistress's husband, and Roger Swynnerton, who was indicted for murder.

Edward II's huge and varied household...a fascinating subject! :)