31 July, 2007

Regicide and Other Ignoble Events: The Participants (3)

Part one is here, and part two is here. We come now, not surprisingly, to the third and final part, which is about: William Beaukaire, the most puzzling man in the whole puzzling weirdness of September 1327; his colleague Giles of Spain; three obscure men, Richard de Well, John le Spicer and William Kingsclere; and Oliver Ingham (arrested with Mortimer in 1330).

William Beaukaire

William Beaukaire is probably the most intriguing man who took part in the events of September 1327, although his role has often been missed by historians. He was at Berkeley Castle on 21 September 1327, and guarded Edward II's dead body for a month - alone. However, six months earlier he had been a firm adherent of Edward II and Hugh Despenser.

Beaukaire was a royal sergeant-at-arms, which was a rank higher than squire but lower than knight, although sergeants-at-arms had comparable training to knights. They were personal attendants to the King, trusted by him and often sent on important missions at his behest, and had special responsibility for arresting traitors and generally acting as the King's bodyguard. Edward II had thirty armed sergeants-at-arms who rode before him when he was travelling, and four of them slept by the door of his bedchamber. The royal chamberlain had authority over the sergeants, which in the last few years of Edward II's reign meant Hugh Despenser the Younger - who was therefore Beaukaire's 'boss', as it were.

I presume that Beaukaire was a Frenchman: Beaucaire is an old Roman town in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France, situated on the River Rhône in the so-called Golden Triangle formed by Nîmes, Arles and Avignon - and very nice it looks, too. This is interesting - not necessarily odd, just interesting. There were plenty of Gascons in England at the time, as Gascony, part of the southwest of France, was ruled by the English crown, but Frenchmen were thinner on the ground. And considering that England and France had just fought a little war over Gascony, the War of Saint-Sardos, it's worth commenting on.

Not entirely coincidentally, I'm sure, Beaukaire arrived at Berkeley Castle either on the day of Edward's murder, or shortly before, almost certainly sent by Roger Mortimer, who had authority over the King's sergeants-at-arms. It's possible that Beaukaire travelled with William Ockley, from Abergavenny to Berkeley.

Apart from this notorious period of his career, Beaukaire is only known from two documents that anyone knows of: he was still a royal sergeant-at-arms in 1328, after which he disappears from view. But the other mention of him is the fascinating one: in the Patent Rolls of 20 March 1327, six months before his arrival at Berkeley, he appears seventh on a list of 122 men who were pardoned "for holding Kaerfilly Castle against Queen Isabella". His name is given as "Gills Beaucair, serjeant-at-arms", Gills presumably being a short form or a nickname for Gulielmus or Guillaume.

Caerphilly Castle, in Glamorgan, South Wales, was the great stronghold of Hugh Despenser the Younger and his wife Eleanor de Clare (it was built by Eleanor's father Gilbert the Red in the 1270s). Edward II and Despenser had taken shelter there in October 1326 while being pursued by the invasion forces, and had left most of their treasure there, including £14,000 in cash, a vast sum, equivalent to many millions today.

For some odd reason, Edward and Despenser left the safety of the castle and were captured near Neath a few weeks later, but Caerphilly held out against Isabella and Mortimer's forces, with Despenser's eldest son, eighteen-year-old Hugh, inside. Terms were offered on 4 January and 15, 16 and 20 February, which offered pardons to all the garrison "except Hugh, son of Hugh le Despenser the younger." However, the Constable, Sir John Felton, a household knight of Edward II and of the younger Despenser, held out for a pardon which would preserve the young man's life, and this was finally granted on 20 March. Susan Higginbotham points out that the Caerphilly garrison were "the last holdouts against the regime of Isabella and Mortimer".

The Berkeley Castle records show Beaukaire, his name now spelt 'William Beuquere', being paid twenty shillings for his efforts at Berkeley: he watched over the former King's body. Alone. For a month. On 21 October, the body of Sir Edward of Caernarfon, formerly King Edward II, was taken to Gloucester Abbey, where he would be buried on 20 December. Beaukaire stayed with the body for the entire three months (videlicet xxj Septembris quo die Rex obijt usque xx diem Decembris proximum sequentem). From 21 October, he was joined by eight other watchers [much more on all this in a future post], but while at Berkeley, he was the only one who stayed 'near the body of the king' (iuxta corpus regis).

The burning question is, why did a man who had been pardoned six months earlier for adherence to Edward II and Despenser arrive at Berkeley around the time Edward was supposedly murdered? Why did Roger Mortimer send him? And why was he the only man watching the body for an entire month? Had he completely renounced his former allegiance, and was he demonstrating his fervent loyalty to the new regime by participating in Edward's murder? Or was something more mysterious going on?

It strikes me as really odd that, of all the men who could have been sent to guard Edward of Caernarfon's body, one of his former adherents should have been chosen. If the aim of guarding the body, alone, was to stop anyone examining the body too closely for signs of violence, or evidence that Edward had been murdered, why was Beaukaire of all people given the task? Roger Mortimer had other henchmen and allies, men he could have trusted - men who'd been imprisoned, disinherited and/or exiled by Edward II, seen their families imprisoned, their friends executed and their bodies left hanging in public for years, men who had plenty of reason to hate Edward II and who would have been willing to cover up his murder. Had Beaukaire changed so much in six months that he was willing to participate in the murder of Edward II, cover up the evidence, and protect Mortimer and the others - when he'd been holding Caerphilly Castle against Mortimer that same year? Or was he guarding something else?

And one last thing on the subject of Beau[k/c]aire. I'm entering the realm of speculation here, but this whole affair is so odd, there's little else to do! The Fieschi letter, addressed to Edward III sometime in the 1330s by Manuele Fieschi, papal notary, distant cousin of Edward II and future Bishop of Vercelli, claimed that Edward II had not died in 1327. According to the letter, the former King spent time at Corfe Castle and in Ireland, and after Roger Mortimer's execution, took a ship to northern France. There, he travelled by foot through France, down through Languedoc, and spent two weeks with Pope John XXII at Avignon. The town of Beaucaire is only about fifteen miles from Avignon.
Coincidence? Yes, almost certainly. But still...;)

Giles of Spain (Giles de Spaygne, Despaigne, de Ispan(n)ia, Egidius de Ispania)

Giles is interesting for three reasons:

- His name (Giles de Spaygne) appears directly above William Beaukaire's on the list of men pardoned at Caerphilly in March 1327.

- He was ordered to be arrested as an adherent of Edward II's half-brother the Earl of Kent in March 1330, shortly after Kent was executed after attempting to rescue his brother and 'help him to become king again'.

- And he was the man sent by Edward III in 1331 to track down Thomas Gurney, as described in my last post.

Paul Doherty describes Giles as a "professional bounty hunter" and Alison Weir as a "secret agent". In fact, more prosaically, he was a king's yeoman, for Edward II and Edward III, and came from Castile, homeland of Edward II's mother. The earliest mention I can find of him is on 6 November 1313, when he and nine other men stood as sureties for a group of merchants from Santander visiting England to trade. (The other men are called things like Merlin de Sene, Reymund Guillelmi, Poncius de Tholosa and Valentine Sancii, presumably all Spanish. Merlin de Sene was also a yeoman of Edward II.)

In the 1310s and 1320s, Giles was granted a messuage in Oldeford, "the houses of La Forde outside London", and other lands, houses and tenements for himself and "Laurencia his wife" by Edward II. He fought for Edward in Scotland in 1314, for which Edward paid him the large sum of £108 14s and 6d, although some of that was compensation for his lost horses.

In January 1325, Edward II sent Giles to his (Edward's) cousin the King of Portugal, with letters of credence regarding the Admiral of the Portuguese fleet at Genoa and his brother, a long-term resident of England. On 20 October of the same year, Giles was sent to Spain "on the king's service", apparently in connection with the proposed marriages of two of Edward's children with the King of Castile and his sister.

Giles stayed loyal to Edward II till the end, as demonstrated by his presence at Caerphilly in 1326/27. It's interesting to see the Frenchman William Beaukaire and a Spaniard holding the castle against the invaders together - and the name below Beaukaire's is Rodrigo de Medyne, also a sergeant-at-arms. Rodrigo, or 'Rodrigus de Medina', was still acting as sergeant-at-arms for Edward III in 1336.

I don't know what happened to Giles of Spain between March 1327 and early 1330, but on 31 March 1330 - twelve days after the Earl of Kent's execution - he appears thirtieth on a list of forty-two men "who stood charged with being adherents of Edmund de Wodestoke, late Earl of Kent, confessedly a rebel, and to bring them before the King a month after Easter."

However, Giles soon returned to Edward III's favour, as in 1331, he was issued a writ of aid and a safe conduct "to bring to the king Sir Thomas de Gurney, knight, arrested beyond seas for sedition against the late king and conspiring his death." It's likely that Edward III sent Giles to search for Gurney because of his former loyalty to Edward II, not because he was a 'bounty hunter' or a secret agent. He made two unsuccessful trips to find Gurney, and arrested three other men [below] accused of complicity in the death of Edward II on his return to England. Giles spent more time in 1333 wandering around Spain, where he arrested John Tilly and Robert Lynel, "enemies of the king". Tilly was Thomas Gurney's squire, but Lynel is obscure.

I don't know what happened to Giles after 1333. Maybe he and Laurencia retired to their houses of "La Forde outside London", wherever that is, or returned to Castile.

Some other men pardoned at Caerphilly Castle, March 1327

- William Hurley, carpenter (died 1354). He built the ceiling of the Great Hall at Caerphilly for the Younger Despenser in the 1320s, which still exists. Later, he became Edward III's master carpenter, and worked on Ely Cathedral, Windsor Castle and the Tower of London, among other buildings.

- Simon Simeon, known as Simkyn. He was (after March 1327, I presume) a yeoman of Edward II's cousin Henry of Lancaster, and became the chamberlain and trusted confidant of Lancaster's son Henry of Grosmont, Duke of Lancaster (who was the nephew of the Younger Despenser, and father-in-law of John of Gaunt).

- Roger atte Watre, one of the Dunheved gang who freed Edward II from Berkeley in 1327 [see my next post].

- Walter Couhierd (Cowherd). Walter spent two weeks with Edward II in 1322, "in his company", with a few other men - Alison Weir in her biography of Queen Isabella speculates that Edward "was being promiscuous with low-born men". Which sounds like fun. Another man on the Caerphilly list is Simon Hede, who may have been another of the men who spent time with Edward in 1322.

There are some great names on the list, like Senchet Garcie, which looks Gascon, Ferandus le Trompur, Robert Bolefynche, Henry de Hustrette...I'm currently researching the men who were pardoned, but there are over a hundred of them, so it's going to take me a while. ;) If I find anything interesting, I'll update the post.

Sir Richard de Well, John le Spicer, William Kingsclere

After Giles of Spain's unsuccessful attempts to bring Thomas Gurney to Edward III, he returned to England and arrested these three men, in 1332 and early 1333, for some unstated complicity in the death of Edward II. Evidently they were released without charge, and their identities remain unclear, though Paul Doherty postulates that they were members of the Berkeley Castle garrison in September 1327, which makes sense. However, Thomas Berkeley had a household of around 300 people, and none of the others were arrested that anyone knows of - which suggests that these three had access to Edward, incarcerated in the keep of Berkeley Castle.

It's difficult to trace these men. On 20 May 1329, when Edward III travelled to France to pay homage to Philip VI for Gascony, a John le Spicer accompanied the party - his name appears on the list two places below John Maltravers', which seems to indicate a connection. The man two places above Maltravers is Hugh Turpynton (or Turplington), who replaced Maltravers as Steward of Edward III's household on 29 July 1330, and was killed on 19 October 1330 trying to defend Roger Mortimer against Edward III and his friends.

It's odd that Sir Richard de Well isn't known - as a knight, he should crop up somewhere. I'll keep looking. A 'Richard de Welles' appears in January 1313 - though this man was a burgess of Bristol, and the man I'm looking for was a knight. However, the records associate this Welles with a Thomas le Spicer, so there may be a connection to John le Spicer, and Bristol is the right part of the country (it's about twenty miles from Berkeley).

I haven't been able to discover anything at all about William Kingsclere, which annoys me more than you can imagine. Kingsclere is a village in Hampshire, near the hill Watership Down.

Sir Oliver Ingham

Ingham doesn't really fit here, but I'd like to talk about him, as his career followed a fascinating trajectory. He was present at Nottingham Castle on 19 October 1330, and was arrested with Roger Mortimer, Mortimer's sons, and Simon Bereford. However, he had previously shown great loyalty to Edward II, which saved his neck.

Oliver Ingham was born in about 1286 or 1287 - he was twenty-three or twenty-four when his father Sir John died in April 1310 - and inherited lands in Hampshire, Wiltshire, Suffolk and Norfolk (the family came from Ingham in Norfolk). His wife Elizabeth la Zouche was (probably) the sister of Eve la Zouche, mother of Thomas, Lord Berkeley, who wasn't too much younger than Ingham.

Considering his later allegiance to Roger Mortimer, it's interesting to see the role he played in the Despenser War of 1321/22, when he remained completely loyal to Edward II. He was a member of the royal army that tried to hold Bridgnorth against Roger Mortimer and other 'Contrariants' in early 1322. In early December 1321, he was ordered to seize the lands and goods of several of Edward II's enemies, and arrest them, including Edward's former favourites Hugh Audley and Roger Damory - and John Maltravers. On 12 March 1322, four days before the Battle of Boroughbridge, he raised forces against the 'insurgents'. And most interestingly in this context, on 14 November 1323 he was ordered to pursue adherents of Roger Mortimer, who had escaped from the Tower of London in August.

The historian Natalie Fryde has described Ingham as a "favourite Despenser retainer", but I can't find any evidence that he ever served the Despensers in this capacity, though he was a household knight of Edward II. However, he was obviously trusted by the Younger Despenser, as he was sent to Gascony as marshal of the English army during the War of Saint-Sardos, which Despenser was directing. Ingham became Seneschal of Gascony on 7 October 1325 and was said to be "staying in Gascony on the king's service" as late as 15 October 1326, when Edward II and Hugh Despenser were on the run from Isabella and Roger Mortimer.

Alison Weir claims that Ingham left Gascony in September 1326 to join Isabella and Mortimer for their invasion, though neither his ODNB entry nor Knights of Edward I make any mention of this. Other sources say that he was temporarily banished from Gascony in 1327. He must have been back in England by 4 February 1327, however, as he was chosen as a member of the Regency Council for the fourteen-year-old Edward III. From this time, he switched allegiance completely and thereafter showed unswerving loyalty to Roger Mortimer. He was called to Parliament from June 1328, and became Justice of Chester. On 21 March 1330, Ingham was appointed with John Maltravers and four others to make inqusition in the county of Southampton "to discover the adherents of Edmund of Wodestok, late earl of Kent, who has been condemned to death by his peers in the present Parliament for high treason."

On 19 October 1330, Oliver Ingham was present with Roger Mortimer and Queen Isabella when Edward III, William Montacute, Thomas Bradeston, and all the rest, burst into the room to seize Mortimer. Ingham was bound and gagged and taken out of the castle, and three days later, his lands and goods were seized.

However, Ingham was never charged with any crime, and Edward III pardoned him on 8 December, owing to his former loyalty to Edward II. On 30 May 1331, a request was granted "by the testimony of Robert de Ufford and Oliver de Ingham" - Ufford was one of the men who'd arrested Mortimer, and Ingham himself. Ingham was re-appointed as Seneschal of Gascony that June. He spent most of the rest of his life there, and did his best to prevent a French invasion in the early years of the Hundred Years War. He died on 29 January 1344.

28 July, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William Shalford

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

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

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

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

25 July, 2007

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

I have about a zillion things to say about the events of 1327 to 1330, Edward II's murder, possible survival, the Earl of Kent's plotting and execution in 1330 - it's going to take me quite a few blog posts. ;) Firstly, the men involved in the dramatic events of 1327 to 1333, some information on them, and what happened to them.

The background: Edward II was (allegedly?) murdered in Berkeley Castle on or around 21 September 1327. His half-brother Edmund of Woodstock, Earl of Kent, was beheaded in Winchester in March 1330 for attempting to free his supposedly dead brother and 'make him King again'.

In the Parliament of November/December 1330, five men were accused of the murder of Edward II: Roger Mortimer, Simon Bereford (kind of), Thomas Berkeley, Thomas Gurney and William Ockley. John Maltravers was not accused of Edward II's murder, although most books on the subject claim that he was. He was, however, condemned to death for his part in the entrapment and execution of the Earl of Kent, as were two other men, Bogo de Bayouse and John Deveril.

Two of these eight men were executed after Parliament convicted them. Five others fled. One of them was hunted down, three were apparently ignored, and the other acted as Edward III's agent on the Continent and eventually returned to England. The last man lied to Parliament with Edward III's knowledge and got away with it. Edward III's treatment of the men accused of his father's murder is puzzling and inconsistent, as I hope these posts will demonstrate!

To keep all the information manageable, I've divided it into two, or possibly three, or possibly more, posts, depending how it goes. :) This post focuses on Roger Mortimer, Simon Bereford, Thomas Berkeley and John Maltravers. I'll write about Thomas Gurney and William Ockley, condemned regicides, in the next one, along with a few other men who played various roles in the drama of 1327 to 1333, including William Beaukaire, William Shalford and some of the men who freed Edward II from Berkeley Castle in the summer of 1327.

And anyone else who occurs to me over the next few days. ;)

Sir Roger Mortimer, Earl of March

Mortimer's career is well-known, so I won't go into it here. Edward III arrested him at Nottingham Castle on 19 October 1330, along with his sons Edmund and Geoffrey, Sir Simon Bereford, and Sir Oliver Ingham. Edward III wanted to kill Mortimer on the spot, but his great-uncle Henry of Lancaster persuaded him to try Mortimer before Parliament. Mortimer, after a few weeks walled up in a cell in the Tower of London, duly appeared before Parliament at Westminster on 26 November, bound and gagged and forbidden from speaking.

Mortimer was indicted on fourteen charges, including: illegally removing Edward II from Kenilworth Castle and having him murdered, procuring the death of the Earl of Kent, and threatening to kill Queen Isabella if she returned to her husband. No less than eight of the charges mention 'using his royal power to...', which was probably the biggest grievance that Edward III held against him - Mortimer's assuming power that rightfully belonged to Edward III, not to him.

To nobody's surprise, least of all his own, I'm sure, Mortimer was found guilty on all points and sentenced to death. His sons were released without charge. On 29 November, forced to wear the black tunic he'd worn to Edward II's funeral just under three years earlier, Roger Mortimer was dragged on a hurdle to Tyburn and hanged, naked. He admitted that the Earl of Kent had been the victim of a cruel plot, but made no reference to Edward II, or Queen Isabella. His body was left hanging for two days and nights.

Almost a quarter of a century later, in the Parliament which opened at Westminster on 30 April 1354, Mortimer's grandson and heir Jason Mortimer (just kidding - he was called Roger as well, obviously) petitioned Edward III for the reversal of the charges against Roger. Edward III complied. All charges against Mortimer were reversed, including that of murdering Edward II. The young Roger Mortimer, who was already a Knight of the Garter as member number seven, was restored to his grandfather's controversial earldom of March, and his son Edmund married Edward III's eldest granddaughter, Philippa of Clarence, in 1368. Edmund and Philippa's son Billy-Bob, I mean Roger, was heir to the English throne in the late 1390s, about as stunning a turnaround for the Mortimer family as you can get.

Sir Simon Bereford (Beresford, Barford)

A henchman of Roger Mortimer, and the only other man executed by Edward III after Mortimer's downfall. Bereford was hanged shortly before Christmas 1330.

Bereford is a strangely obscure figure, and it's difficult to find any information about him before the end of Edward II's reign, except that in 1320 he was summoned to Parliament as a Knight of the Shire for Lincolnshire. In 1324 his property was confiscated, and in 1327 he was pardoned for various offences, including murder. (I don't know of whom.) On 12 June 1327, he was granted the younger Despenser's Buckinghamshire manor of 'Iselhampstede' for life, "for service to Queen Isabella", and in early 1328 was appointed escheator for "this side [of the river] Trent".

Bereford was probably related to Agnes Bereford, John Maltravers' second wife, who was the daughter of Sir William Bereford, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas from 1309 to his death in 1326. On 19 January 1327, Simon Bereford was granted custody of the lands of John Argentein (died 1318) who was the first of Agnes' three husbands, which doesn't prove a relationship, but may indicate one. On 19 January 1327, Edward II was still officially King, deposed several days later, and the grant to Bereford is dated at Kenilworth, where Edward was incarcerated. He had nothing to do with it, of course.

At Parliament in November 1330, Bereford was accused of eidant et conseillant au dit Roger de Mortimer en totes les Tresons, Felonies, et Malveistes, that is, "aiding and counselling the said Roger Mortimer in all his treasons, felonies and wicked deeds". Specifically, these were named as Purpris de Roial Poer, Murdre de Seign. Lige, et Destruction du Sank Real, "seizure of royal power, murder of the sovereign liege and destruction of the royal blood" - the latter presumably a reference to the execution of the Earl of Kent.

He wasn't directly charged with the murder of Edward II, but with 'aiding' Roger Mortimer in the murder. The Fieschi letter (of which much more in a future post) claims that a 'Lord Simon Desberfort', apparently Bereford, was at Berkeley Castle in September 1327 and planned to murder Edward II, but no other source I know of places him there. He may have been with Mortimer at Abergavenny on 14 September 1327, when Mortimer received a letter from William Shalford, his deputy Justice of Wales, informing him of the plots to free the former Edward II, and urging him to find a solution.

Presumably Edward III had very good reasons for executing Bereford, and his notoriety was well-known in 1330, but there's not much trace of it in any surviving records. To merit execution at the hands of the demonstrably non-vindictive Edward III, Bereford must have done something the young king found unforgivable, but what his connection with the death of Edward II might have been is, like the man himself, rather mysterious.

Thomas, Lord Berkeley

Roger Mortimer's son-in-law. Berkeley shared responsibility for the custody of the former Edward II with his brother-in-law Sir John Maltravers, from 3 April 1327, when Edward was removed from Kenilworth in Warwickshire and taken to Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire. They were jointly and equally liable for his welfare. For Edward's upkeep, and the 'expenses of his household', Berkeley and Maltravers were given the staggeringly large sum of five pounds a day, which would have sustained most men for a year. After 21 September 1327, they continued to be paid five pounds a day for looking after the body of the late King.

Thomas 'the Rich' Berkeley was born about 1293/97, and was a second cousin of Roger Mortimer, through their common descent from Eva Marshal and William de Braose, hanged by Llywelyn the Great in 1230. His family had been Lords of Berkeley since 1153, and the Berkeley family still owns and resides in the castle. The family also owned many other estates in Gloucestershire. Thomas and his father Maurice, Lord Berkeley, were retainers of the Earl of Pembroke, but joined Roger Mortimer's retinue by 1318. The alliance was strengthened by Thomas Berkeley's 1319 marriage to Margaret, the eldest of Mortimer's eight daughters. Margaret was probably born in 1307 or 1308, and they didn't begin living together until March 1328.

Berkeley took his father-in-law's side in the Despenser War of 1321/22, and was imprisoned by Edward II from early 1322. His father Maurice died in captivity in May 1326, and his young wife Margaret Mortimer was also incarcerated, in Shouldham Priory, from April 1324. Berkeley and his family were released after Mortimer and Isabella invaded England in the autumn of 1326.

An indenture was drawn up on 21 March 1327 giving Berkeley and John Maltravers joint and equal liability [I keep emphasising this point, because it's important] for keeping the former King, and on 3 April 1327, custody of Edward passed from Henry of Lancaster to the two men. On 3 July, Berkeley was exempted from serving in the Scottish campaign because he was "charged with special business of the king [Edward III]." In June, July and August, Berkeley received commissions to hunt down and arrest the men who were trying to free, and did free, the former Edward II from Berkeley Castle.

On the night of 23/24 September 1327, Thomas Gurney arrived at Lincoln (where Parliament was in session) with letters for Edward III and Isabella informing them that the former King was dead. The letters came from Thomas Berkeley.

In October 1330, Thomas Berkeley's younger brother Sir Maurice, and his household knight Sir Thomas Bradeston, were two of the men who helped Edward III arrest Mortimer at Nottingham Castle. Bradeston [i.e., Breadstone, a village just three miles from Berkeley] had been a supporter of the Earl of Lancaster, adroitly switched allegiance to the Despensers, served in the younger Despenser's retinue, adroitly joined Mortimer and Isabella after their successful invasion, and adroitly switched to Edward III at just the right time. Clearly, a man of much adroitness. And I like him, because he didn't play any active role in Edward II's downfall. So there.

Thomas Berkeley, who must have known that he'd have to face charges over the fate of Edward II, made no attempt to flee the country, and was summoned to Parliament at Westminster, where he appeared on 26 November, accused of the murder of the former King Edward II.

Berkeley - refused permission to put his case to a jury - stated that he had never consented to, nor helped with, nor procured the death, and then made the astonishing claim that "he never even knew about that [Edward II's] death until the present Parliament" (nec unquam scivit de morta sua usque in presenti parliamento ipso). This, understandably, has been the subject of much debate. What on earth was Berkeley trying to say?

The most literal meaning would be that, despite the letters he sent to Edward III and Isabella in September 1327 announcing the death of Edward II, he didn't in fact know that Edward was dead, and he had only just found out in November 1330. This would mean that the letters he sent in 1327 were untrue - that he reported the death although he didn't know about the death. Which isn't as odd as it sounds, given the theory that Edward II wasn't murdered at all. Was he hinting that Edward wasn't in fact dead? I don't have space to discuss this here, but will soon.

Another possible meaning is that he believed Edward had died of natural causes, but didn't know that he had been murdered. It's true that Edward's death was originally announced (thanks to Berkeley's own letters) as having occurred 'of natural causes' in September 1327, and only described as murder in November 1330 - that is, in 'the present Parliament'. This would imply that Thomas Gurney and William Ockley murdered Edward without Berkeley's knowledge, told him that Edward had died naturally, and he passed on the news to Edward III and Isabella without questioning it - and that he only learned it was murder in November 1330. This would imply that he'd never inquired into Edward's death, despite the passage of more than three years since the event, and despite his legal liability, and despite anyone's natural curiosity regarding the sudden death of a healthy forty-three-year-old former King. (The words 'head', 'sand' and 'burying' spring to mind when considering this interpretation.)

And finally, Berkeley could have meant that, although he knew Edward had been murdered, he didn't know anything about the circumstances of the murder until the 'present Parliament'. This would imply that he'd lied in his letters of September 1327, presenting the death as natural while knowing that it was murder. Therefore, it's interesting to note that the method of Edward II's murder was never publicly stated, and that Berkeley, though pretending ignorance of the circumstances, was quick enough to point the finger at Thomas Gurney and William Ockley as the men responsible for the murder. [More on all this in my Gurney post.] As above, this would imply that Berkeley had spent three years failing to inquire into Edward's sudden death. And it would also imply that he was publicly admitting that he'd lied to the King.

Berkeley would have been sentenced to death if he'd been found guilty of complicity in the murder of Edward II, which he certainly knew. Given that his life was on the line, it's odd that he couldn't come up with a better story than 'I didn't know about the death' (however you interpret that statement), especially as he'd had over three years to think of a plausible excuse.

On the surface, Berkeley's supposed ignorance of either the circumstances of Edward's death, or the fact that it was murder and not 'natural', seem the likeliest interpretations. However...when his peculiar statement was - understandably - rejected, he then claimed that he was absent from Berkeley Castle on 21 September 1327, as he had retired to his manor of Bradley, where he was so ill he lost his memory. (Yeah, riiiight.) Some historians have believed his claim to be absent from the castle - most recently, Alison Weir in her biography of Queen Isabella - but Berkeley's own household records prove that he was lying, and was indeed present at Berkeley on 21 September. He remained there until 28 September, when he did leave for a short trip to Bradley - which is at Wotton-under-Edge, eight miles from Berkeley.

The key point here is that Edward III must have known that Berkeley was lying, as the letter informing him of his father's death was sent by Berkeley himself. And besides, this trial was so important that Edward could or should have easily checked Berkeley's whereabouts for himself. But he allowed the lie to stand. It seems incredible that Edward III would have allowed Berkeley to lie if he'd held him responsible for his father's murder. Even admitting that he didn't know anything about the circumstances of Edward II's death should have been enough to indict Berkeley, as he was legally liable for Edward's safety.

At any rate, Berkeley was acquitted of murder, of any complicity in murder, and of negligence. Considering that Simon Bereford was convicted of aiding the murder, with little evidence that he was even at Berkeley Castle, it seems incredible that the owner of the castle and the legal guardian of the former King was not.

The only charge on which Berkeley was convicted was for appointing Thomas Gurney and William Ockley to look after Edward. These two men were condemned as regicides. Technically, he wasn't cleared of this - rather small - charge until 16 March 1337, when Parliament finally acquitted him. ("Judgement given by the king in his Parliament held at Westminster on Monday after the feast of St. Matthias the Apostle that Thomas de Berkeleye is guiltless of any part in the death of Edward II.")

However, he was not punished in any way, and his lands and revenues were not confiscated. In 1331, Edward III even ordered that an old debt owed him by Edward II be repaid. If Edward III believed Berkeley to be implicated in the death of his father in any way, it isn't apparent.

Thomas, Lord Berkeley, kept his position as Sheriff of Gloucestershire; fought on twenty-two campaigns for Edward III in Scotland and France; in 1336, was Chief Warden of Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire; in 1340, was Marshal of the English army; in 1342, Captain of the Scottish Marches; and on, and on. He continued to be summoned regularly to Parliament until 20 November 1360, and the following year, was sent on an embassy to Pope Innocent VI, when he was in his mid to late sixties.

Berkeley died on 27 October 1361 - a long lifespan for an alleged regicide - and was buried in the church near Berkeley Castle, where his tomb can still be seen. Margaret Mortimer had died in 1337, and Berkeley married Katherine Clivedon in 1347; she was buried next to him in 1385. Of his eight sons and one daughter, only the daughter and two sons, the eldest and the youngest, survived infancy. The eldest son and heir Maurice - Roger Mortimer's grandson - married Hugh Despenser the younger's daughter Elizabeth in 1338. Through them, Thomas Berkeley became the ancestor of earls of Essex, Northampton, Shrewsbury, Worcester, Exeter, Huntingdon, Essex, dukes of Somerset, Beaufort, Buckingham, Devonshire, and many more. He is the seventeen greats-grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II.

None of Edward III's behaviour towards him suggests that he held him responsible for the murder of Edward II. Although Berkeley served Edward faithfully for many years, he was hardly so indispensable that Edward would have been willing to overlook Berkeley's involvement in the murder of his father in order to retain Berkeley's services. ("I know you killed my dad, but there's simply no other man in the country who could possibly act as Sheriff of Gloucestershire!") Edward III was a forgiving man, keen to heal the wounds of Edward II's reign and rehabilitate men whose fathers had committed grave crimes (e.g., the Mortimers and Despensers, and even Thomas Gurney's son), but taking no action against a man he believed to be complicit in the murder of his royal father seems far too lenient, even for him. It's all very odd.

Sir John Maltravers (or Mautravers)

He was born around 1290, the seventh of eight successive generations of men named John Maltravers. (And you thought all those Hugh Despensers were bad.) He was one of the many young men knighted with the future Edward II and Roger Mortimer in May 1306, and fought at Bannockburn in 1314, where he was taken prisoner. He came from the village of Lytchett in Dorset, afterwards named Lytchett Matravers after his family - which also gave its name to the Dorset villages of Worth Matravers and Langton Matravers, which sounds like the hero of a Regency romance.

A long-term associate of Roger Mortimer, with whom he served in Ireland, and of the Berkeleys, Maltravers married Ela (or Millicent) Berkeley, sister of Thomas [above], probably around 1312. Their only known child, John, was born in about 1314. In 1320, Maltravers accompanied his father-in-law Maurice, Lord Berkeley, to Gascony, where Berkeley was Seneschal, with his brothers-in-law Thomas and Maurice Berkeley, and Thomas Bradeston, he of the great adroitness.

Maltravers took the side of Mortimer and the Marcher Lords in the Despenser War of 1321 - an order to arrest him was issued on 7 December of that year - and fought for the Earl of Lancaster at the battle of Boroughbridge in March 1322. After Lancaster's defeat and execution, Maltravers apparently fled abroad, though must have returned to England on at least one occasion, as he and a few others attacked the royal manor of 'Kyngesbury by Shirburn' in Somerset in July 1325.

His father, sixth of the many generations of John Maltraverses, stayed in England to carry on the good work, and spent the rest of Edward II's reign wreaking havoc on properties belonging to the Despensers and their allies. He and twenty-five other named men, 'and others', also attacked a fair in Dorset in October 1325, where they attacked the three men "deputed by the said John and Isabel [owners of the fair] to collect the customs and other profits of the fair, prevented them from collecting the same, and assaulted the men deputed by the said John and Isabel to keep the peace in the said fair, whereby they lost their service for a great time." (You couldn't make this up.)

Maltravers (the son) returned to England with Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer in September 1326. He was given joint custody of the former Edward II on 3 April 1327, and served as Steward of Edward III's household for just over a week in March 1328. He was re-appointed to the position on 22 February 1329 and remained as Steward until 9 July 1330. He probably married his second wife Agnes Bereford in 1329 or 1330; her second husband John Nerford died on 5 February 1329.

According to R. Perry's Edward the Second: Suddenly, at Berkeley, which isn't terribly reliable, Maltravers was present at Nottingham Castle on 19 October 1330, but managed to get away, to ride to Gloucestershire and inform Thomas Berkeley of events. Whether that's true or not, it's certain that he didn't flee the country, but remained in the southwest while Berkeley travelled to Parliament at Westminster. (Maltravers was summoned to Parliament on 23 October, but didn't attend.)

In 1327, Maltravers shared joint legal liability for the custody of the former Edward II with Thomas Berkeley. This is certain, and it's also certain that King Edward III knew it. However, he was not charged with Edward II's murder in the Parliament of late 1330, as Berkeley was. He was not charged with any kind of complicity in the murder, with failing to prevent the murder, or even with negligence. If he had been present at Berkeley Castle on 21 September 1327, this would be extraordinary.

He was, however, found guilty of causing the death of the Earl of Kent, Edward II's half-brother, who was executed in March 1330, having attempted to free his (officially dead) brother from Corfe Castle. [I have lots to say about this in a future post.] Maltravers was sentenced to death, without a hearing, on 29 November, the day of Mortimer's execution. The parliamentary judgement against him does not mention Edward II's murder, and neither does any other contemporary record:

Judgement against Maltravers, from Rotuli Parliamentorum, 4 Edward III:
"...q' Johan Mautravers si est cupable de la Mort Esmon Counte de Kent, le Uncle n're Seign. le Roi q'ore est, come celui q' principaument, traiterousement, et faussement, la Morte le dit Counte compassa, issint q' la ou le dit Johan savoit la Mort le Roi Edward; ne purquant le dit Johan, par enginouse Manere et par ses fausses et mauveise Sotinetes, fist le dit Counte entendre la Vie le Roi, lequel faus Compassement fust Cause de la Mort le dit Counte"

"...that John Maltravers is guilty of the death of Edmund, Earl of Kent, the uncle of our lord the King who now is, in that he especially, treacherously, and falsely plotted the death of the said Earl, although the said John knew of the death of King Edward [II]; nevertheless, the said John, by ingenious manner and by his false and evil claims, made the Earl hear that the King [Edward II] was alive, by which he falsely plotted and caused the death of the said Earl" [My translation.]

Some fourteenth-century chronicles and most modern historians, with the notable exception of Ian Mortimer, held/hold Maltravers responsible for Edward II's murder (or at least say that he was at Berkeley in September 1327), but Edward III's treatment of him suggests that the young King did not, and as shown, he wasn't even accused of it.

In fact, it seems extremely likely that Maltravers was not even present at Berkeley Castle on 21 September 1327. Undated letters from Thomas Berkeley were sent to Maltravers 'in Dorset' and 'at Corfe' (Castle, in Dorset). The payments for messengers carrying the letters appear in a receiver's roll that ends on 29 September 1327, and the letter sent to Corfe is the last payment mentioned. Maltravers was also paid the vast sum of 258 pounds, 8 shillings and 2 pence for "service on behalf of the king's father [Edward II] in Dorset" - whatever that means. This payment comes after a payment sent to Roger Mortimer in Wales, which must date to September 1327. Mortimer left court on or shortly after 4 September, and headed for Wales to deal with men 'breaking the peace', i.e., the men who'd freed Edward II from Berkeley in July. This news would have taken a while to reach Berkeley Castle, so the letter sent to him in Wales can't be dated earlier than the second week of September - and the payment to Maltravers was made after that.

Although the contemporary Adam Murimuth incorrectly calls Maltravers responsible for the ex-king's death, he's usually a reliable source for these events, and has the great advantage of being the only chronicler present in the southwest of England in the autumn of 1327. (He was at Exeter.) Murimuth states that Berkeley and Maltravers switched custody of Edward II from one month to the next, and while this isn't corroborated by any other source, it would explain why Edward III didn't accuse Maltravers of murder, knowing that in September 1327, Berkeley held responsibility, and that Maltravers was elsewhere, in or near Corfe, on some unspecified business related to Edward II.

On 3 December, a week after Berkeley's surprising defence of himself and four days after Maltravers was sentenced to death, Edward III finally issued arrest warrants for him and Thomas Gurney, also sentenced to death. The two men, having learnt that they were to die, not unnaturally decided to flee from England. On 15 July 1331, a commission of oyer and terminer was ordered against Benedict Noght, John le Taverner and others of Mousehole, Cornwall, because they "aided John Mautravers and Thomas Gurneye, rebels, to pass beyond seas...that they afterwards supplied them with corn, armour and victuals, and that they still render them continual assistance."

However, that was far from being the end of Maltravers' story, and it just gets stranger, such as the following Patent Roll entry of 23 May 1334: "the king on learning lately that John Mautravers the younger, lately banished because he withdrew from the realm for certain causes, was desirous to reveal to him many things concerning his honour and the estate and well-being of the realm, has charged William de Monte Acuto to speak with the said John on his behalf and to report what he learns to him." Unfortunately, what information Maltravers shared with William Montacute, Edward III's closest friend, is unknown.

Still officially under sentence of death, Maltravers returned to England early in 1335 and met, among others, his brother-in-law Edmund Bereford, the Abbot of Malmesbury, Thomas Berkeley, Berkeley's brother Maurice, William Montacute, and John Moleyns; the latter three men were among those who had arrested Roger Mortimer in 1330, and were close friends of Edward III. Maltravers is called "the king's enemy" and stated to have been "lately banished from the realm for certain causes".

John Maltravers' wife Agnes Bereford was granted 200 marks' worth of land as early as 26 February 1331, at the request of Queen Philippa, and on 15 February 1342, was granted a licence to "stay with her husband in Flanders for such time as she shall please, notwithstanding that he is banished from the realm of England." (She had already travelled abroad in 1332, ostensibly on pilgrimage, but more likely to visit her husband.) Clearly, Edward III knew exactly where Maltravers was, but made no move to have him brought back to England. In fact, Maltravers was working for Edward in Flanders, undertaking negotiations to gain its support for the King in the early years of the Hundred Years War. He was granted £100 a year on 1 February 1339, presumably for these efforts.

On 5 August 1345, John Maltravers submitted himself to Edward III in Flanders, and petitioned him to be allowed to return to England on the grounds that "no one of the realm of England according to law and custom...ought to be condemned unheard, and he, although not at any time indicted, appealed or convicted of any misdeeds in the realm in his absence has, nevertheless, been condemned and banished unheard, and is not in any way guilty of the trespasses and felonies laid to his charge, for which trespasses and felonies he is ready to stand his trial in Parliament...
...the king, who is bound to show justice to all his subjects, taking into consideration the good place John has held for him in Flanders and elsewhere and that by his service to him he has lost all his goods in Flanders and is depressed in many ways...received the said John in form aforesaid and assented to his petition..."

Neither then nor at any time later was any complicity on Maltravers' part in the death of Edward II mentioned. He was given a full pardon (for his part in Kent's death) on 20 June 1351, and his lands were fully restored on 8 February 1352, the year he finally returned to England, and took up his place in Parliament. On 26 May 1349, he had been appointed to have "the keeping of Gernereye, Jereseye, Seerk and Aurneye [that is, the Channel Islands]...with full power to judge and chastise evildoers, and exercise full jurisdiction there in the king's name..."

John Maltravers died on 16 February 1364, in his mid seventies, as his father had been at the time of his death in 1341, and was buried at Lytchett Matravers. His widow Agnes Bereford was also long-lived, dying on 18 July 1375, when she was probably close to eighty (her three husbands were all called John, incidentally). Maltravers' only son John and grandson Henry had pre-deceased him, and his heirs were his two granddaughters Joan and Eleanor. Eleanor Maltravers married firstly John Fitzalan, grandson of the Earl of Arundel executed by Roger Mortimer in 1326, and secondly Reginald Cobham, grandson of Thomas Berkeley. Her son John Fitzalan Junior married Hugh Despenser the younger's great-granddaughter Elizabeth Despenser.

Through his granddaughter Eleanor, John Maltravers was the ancestor of earls of Arundel, Sunderland, Northumberland, dukes of Norfolk, Somerset, Richmond, Beaufort and Lennox, and more. He is the nineteen greats-grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II.

John Maltravers has been maligned for centuries as the man primarily responsible for Edward II's murder, and the alleged torments before his death. However, it appears that he has been unfairly accused, and wasn't even present at Berkeley on the night in question. Otherwise, it's hard to understand why Edward III never charged him with the murder of his father.

The next post will follow in a couple of days!

17 July, 2007


While I'm preparing the next post, here's a rather silly one, from the Mechanical Contrivium (link from Getting Medieval)

Ten Top Trivia Tips about King Edward II!

  1. Antarctica is the only continent without King Edward II.
  2. Worldwide, King Edward II is the most important natural enemy of night-flying insects.
  3. You should always open King Edward II at least an hour before drinking him.
  4. During severe windstorms, King Edward II may sway several feet to either side.
  5. Some hotels in Las Vegas have King Edward II floating in their swimming pools!
  6. In the 1600s, tobacco was frequently prescribed to treat headaches, bad breath and King Edward II!
  7. The moon is 400 times closer to the Earth than King Edward II, and 400 times smaller!
  8. King Edward II will often glow under UV light.
  9. Four-fifths of the surface of King Edward II is covered in water!
  10. If you lie on your back with your legs stretched it is impossible to sink in King Edward II.
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Ten Top Trivia Tips about Queen Isabella!

  1. Cats use their Queen Isabella to test whether a space is large enough for them to fit through!
  2. In Japan, Queen Isabella can only be prepared by chefs specially trained and certified by the government!
  3. Queen Isabella is actually a fruit, not a vegetable.
  4. The moon is 400 times closer to the Earth than Queen Isabella, and 400 times smaller.
  5. Queen Isabella can sleep with one eye open!
  6. The difference between Queen Isabella and a village is that Queen Isabella does not have a church.
  7. Bananas don't grow on trees - they grow on Queen Isabella!
  8. Contrary to popular belief, Queen Isabella is not successful at sobering up a drunk person, and in many cases she may actually increase the adverse effects of alcohol.
  9. Queen Isabellaicide is the killing of Queen Isabella.
  10. Humans have 46 chromosomes, peas have 14, and Queen Isabella has 7.
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Ten Top Trivia Tips about Piers Gaveston!

  1. The porpoise is second to Piers Gaveston as the most intelligent animal on the planet.
  2. If you blow out all the candles on Piers Gaveston with one breath, your wish will come true.
  3. There is no lead in a lead pencil - it is simply a stick of graphite mixed with Piers Gaveston and water!
  4. The canonical hours of the Christian church are matins, lauds, prime, terce, sext, none, Piers Gaveston and compline.
  5. It takes 17 muscles to smile, and 43 to frown at Piers Gaveston.
  6. If you don't get out of bed on the same side you got in, you will have Piers Gaveston for the rest of the day!
  7. Piers Gaveston is the world's largest rodent.
  8. Piers Gaveston can taste with his feet.
  9. The Aztec Indians of Mexico believed Piers Gaveston would protect them from physical harm, and so warriors used him to decorate their battle shields.
  10. Without Piers Gaveston, we would have to pollinate apple trees by hand.
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Ten Top Trivia Tips about Roger Mortimer!

  1. Snow White's coffin was made of Roger Mortimer.
  2. It takes 8 minutes for light to travel from the Sun's surface to Roger Mortimer.
  3. Over 46,000 pieces of Roger Mortimer float on every square mile of ocean!
  4. Only twelve people have ever set foot on Roger Mortimer.
  5. Roger Mortimer does not have toes!
  6. Roger Mortimer was invented in China in the eleventh century, but was only used for fireworks, never for weapons.
  7. Lightning strikes Roger Mortimer over seven times every hour!
  8. Over half of Americans are officially Roger Mortimer.
  9. If you lick Roger Mortimer ten times, you will consume one calorie.
  10. Roger Mortimer has only one weakness - the colour yellow.
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Ten Top Trivia Tips about Hugh Despenser!

  1. If you break Hugh Despenser, you will get seven years of bad luck.
  2. Duelling is legal in Paraguay as long as both parties are Hugh Despenser.
  3. When provoked, Hugh Despenser will swivel the tip of his abdomen and shoot a jet of boiling chemicals at his attacker.
  4. Hugh Despenser has enough fat to produce 32 bars of soap.
  5. Hugh Despenser is the world's tallest woman!
  6. Hugh Despenser is only six percent water.
  7. The pupil of an octopus's eye is shaped like Hugh Despenser.
  8. Only 55 percent of Americans know that the sun is made of Hugh Despenser!
  9. Hugh Despenser can turn his stomach inside out.
  10. Hugh Despenser will become gaseous if his temperature rises above -42°C!
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12 July, 2007

Queen Isabella 1330 to 1358

Recently, there's been some debate on an online history community about the fate of Queen Isabella after her downfall from power in 1330. Evidently, some people still believe that King Edward III locked up Isabella, his mother, at Castle Rising, after the execution of Roger Mortimer. She was apparently 'punished severely', and went insane. Her ghost is said to haunt both Castle Rising and the site of Greyfriars Church in London, where she was buried. (Evidently a busy lady even in death.) The image is one of a mad, evil, cackling old woman, locked up with her ghosts and her conscience.

This could not be further from the truth. To put it bluntly, it's absolute nonsense. Queen Isabella was not punished severely. She was barely punished at all. Here's what really happened...

On 19 October 1330, King Edward III, aged not quite eighteen, arrested Roger Mortimer at Nottingham Castle. Mortimer was imprisoned in the Tower of London, given a brief 'trial' before Parliament on 28 November, and executed at Tyburn the following day. He had been charged with fourteen crimes, which give a good indication of the many grudges Edward III held against him. Isabella was mentioned in only one charge: "the said Roger falsely and maliciously sowed discord between the father of our lord the King and the Queen his companion...the said Queen remained absent from her said lord, to the great dishonour of our lord the King and the said Queen his mother..."

Pope John XXII, in Avignon, heard the news of Mortimer's arrest on 3 November. Four days later, the news was confirmed by a group of English merchants passing through Avignon, and on the same day, John wrote to Edward III asking him to treat Queen Isabella leniently (anxious to make sure Edward received the letter, he sent two copies, in case one was lost.)

However, it seems unlikely that Edward ever entertained ideas of seriously punishing his mother. Isabella was taken to Berkhamsted Castle shortly after the seizure of Mortimer, and placed under temporary house arrest. She was treated with respect and consideration, and her household remained with her. On 28 November 1330, the day of Mortimer's trial, John la Zouche was "appointed a purveyor for the household of queen Isabella." On 1 December, Isabella surrendered her vast estates into the hands of her son; however, in January 1331, Edward III granted her an income of £3000 a year: "Grant for life, with the assent of Parliament, to queen Isabella of a yearly sum of 3,000l at the Exchequer to provide for her estate..."

Although this was considerably lower than the ludicrously high income of 20,000 marks (£13,333) Isabella had awarded herself in 1327, as far as I can tell the largest income anyone in England had ever received up to that point, it was in fact higher than her income as reigning Queen. And considering that most people in England earned less than five pounds per year, and forty pounds qualified a man for knighthood, it was still a vast income by any standards. In 1337, it was raised to £4500.

A writ of aid was issued on 21 December 1330 to Thomas Wake, Eubulo Lestrange (husband of Alice de Lacy) and the de Bohun twins Edward and William (Edward II's nephews) "to bring queen Isabella from Berkhampstede to spend Christmas at Windsor." She passed the festive season with her son, and presumably her daughter-in-law Queen Philippa and baby grandson Edward of Woodstock (the Black Prince).

Isabella and Edward III stayed together at Windsor for two months. Isabella then remained at Windsor until March 1332, when a payment was paid to the Constable of the castle for "expenses incurred by him in safe keeping Queen Isabella in that castle for some time by the King's order." This is often presented as a kind of house arrest, and may indeed have been, but large sums of money were paid to a physician for taking care of Isabella, so her long stay at Windsor may have been an enforced one, because of illness, perhaps depression over the death of her lover. [And it's just possible that Isabella had been pregnant by Mortimer, and lost her child, which may be an explanation for her illness.] At Easter, she spent ten days with the court at Peterborough Abbey - Easter Sunday fell on 19 April that year.

However, it's interesting to note that Isabella didn't attend the wedding of her daughter Eleanor in Nijmegen in May 1332. Illness? Ordered to stay away? Edward III's reluctance to let his presumably notorious mother out of the country? Isabella's own reluctance to travel? I can only speculate.

While at Windsor, in January 1332, Isabella wrote to her "very dear sovereign lord the King" regarding some compensation she was due from two of her manors. Far from being insane, she was clearly in possession of all her faculties. On 11 July 1331, Edward III had granted her the castle and town of Hertford, and the records of 1331 are full of grants, pardons and requests made on her behalf, many to her servants, " for service to Queen Isabella". The list of her lands can be seen here and here. (15 November and 20 November 1331; scroll down the second page, and it's the last entry)

It was probably in 1332 that Isabella took up residence at the castle most often associated with her, Castle Rising. She had purchased it in 1327, and it seems to have been her favourite residence. She had a large household - many dozens of people - and was visited two or three times a year by Edward III. He also wrote to her often, and sent her presents such as wine, barrels of sturgeon, wild boar and other game, a falcon and a pair of love birds (which were fed on hemp seed and kept in her bedchamber). Isabella made several pilgrimages to the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, and to Canterbury, which she had often visited with Edward II; both of them revered St Thomas Becket. She also often travelled to her other residences, such as Eltham, Havering-atte-Bower, Leeds, Sheen, Hertford, etc.

In 1337, Edward III gave Isabella permission to make her will, leaving her possessions to anyone she chose. (She left most of them to her eldest grandchild Edward of Woodstock, to whom she was very close.) From the 1330s, her name often appeared as a witness on state documents, and she handled her affairs with her usual aplomb and dedication to her own interests - such as requesting that her stewards sit on judicial commissions "to save and maintain our right and that which pertains to us." None of this suggests a woman suffering from insanity or any kind of mental illness.

In June 1338, she was present with the King and court at Pontefract, and in December 1340, was in London to witness Edward III's handing over of the Great Seal to the new Chancellor. The previous month, she had been at the Tower to welcome her son on his return from the Continent, and spent his twenty-eighth birthday with him (13 November). In January 1344, she attended the King's Round Table feast at Windsor and watched some of the jousting, and in November that year, once again celebrated her son's birthday with him, at Norwich.

In 1344, Isabella granted land to the Guild of St John the Baptist at Bablake, Coventry, on which to build a chapel for two priests to sing daily masses for the souls of Edward II and their younger son John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall, who had died at the age of twenty in 1336. Edward is called "her dear lord Edward".

It's sometimes stated - for example, by Paul Doherty - that Isabella showed little compassion or remembrance for her late husband, but the foundation of Bablake suggests otherwise. It's true that Isabella isn't known to have ever visited Edward II's tomb at Gloucester, but the records are fragmentary, and we can't definitely say that she didn't. I could also point out that there's no direct evidence that she ever visited Roger Mortimer's tomb, either - though if he remained buried at Coventry, it's probable that she did, as she held lands in that area. (Mortimer's widow Joan de Geneville petitioned for his body to be removed to Wigmore, but it's unclear whether it was ever moved or not.)

In 1348, Philip VI of France suggested that Isabella and Jeanne d'Évreux, the widow of Isabella's brother Charles IV, act as mediators between England and France in the hope of reaching a peace settlement (in the early years of the Hundred Years War). Edward III was having none of it, and sent the Earl of Lancaster instead. Whether Philip's offer was a genuine one, demonstrating that Isabella was now viewed as a respected elder stateswoman, or was a joke because of her poor reputation, I don't know. It's worth pointing out, however, that Jeanne d'Évreux was also replaced as a mediator, by the Count of Eu.

After this, Isabella rarely appears in the records - perhaps unsurprisingly, as she was well into her fifties. She spent Christmas 1354 at Berkhamsted with her grandson Edward of Woodstock, and visited him again there the following year. On 29 September 1356, Edward captured King John II of France (son of Philip VI) at the Battle of Poitiers, and took him to England in May 1357; John often visited Isabella, his first cousin once removed, during his honourable captivity.

In 1356, Isabella ordered renovations of her palace of Sheen; she was evidently still active and interested in her environment. Her Household Book for 1357/58 is still extant, and reveals much of her activities in the last year of her life. She was visited by: her son, who came four times between October 1357 and May 1358; her grandson Edward of Woodstock on 26 October 1357 and 6 April 1358; her grandson Lionel of Antwerp on 2 March; her grandson John of Gaunt on 1 February; her granddaughter Isabella of Woodstock on 29 April; her first cousin the Duke of Lancaster (Henry of Grosmont) on 19 April.

Isabella's daughter Queen Joan of Scotland stayed with her from April, and she entertained many French visitors. Roger Mortimer's daughter Agnes, Countess of Pembroke, was yet another of the visitors who came at the rate of two or three a day. [I wonder if Agnes ever visited Isabella before her mother Joan de Geneville's death in October 1356? "Mum, I'm off to visit Dad's mistress. You don't mind, do you?"] Agnes' nephew Roger Mortimer, second Earl of March, made three visits in one month to the lady who had been his grandfather's lover.

In addition, Isabella received many gifts: barrels of bream, boars' heads, wine, and - oddly - copper quadrants, which were used for navigation. She bought jewellery in mind-bogglingly huge quantities: in this, the last year of her life, she spent £1400 on it, hundreds of years' wages for most people in the country, including a "large brooch containing a thousand pearls". She also frequently exchanged letters with the King and Queen, her daughter Queen Joan, King John of France, the Duke of Lancaster, and many others. (Over sixty years old, twenty-eight years after Mortimer's death, and still showing no signs of mental illness!)

On St George's Day (23 April) 1358, she was present at her son's jousting tournament at Windsor, one of the greatest events of his fifty-year reign, which was attended by knights from all over Europe. Edward of Woodstock declared the King of France to be the winner. This splendid event was to be Isabella's last public appearance.

She and her daughter Queen Joan stayed at Leeds Castle in Kent from 13 June to 2 July. By early August, the two women had returned to Hertford Castle, where Queen Isabella died on 22 August 1358, aged sixty-two or sixty-three.

Isabella's embalmed body lay in the chapel at Hertford until 23 November, while her funeral was arranged, watched over constantly by fourteen 'poor persons'. The Bishop of Lincoln, the Abbot of Waltham, and the Prior of Coventry all came to celebrate Requiem Mass in the chapel. In the meantime, Edward III had the London streets swept clean, and had gravel strewn along Bishopsgate and Aldgate "against the coming of his dearest mother, Queen Isabella". On 27 November, Isabella's body was conveyed in great state through the streets, and she was buried in the centre of the choir at the Greyfriars Church in Newgate. Isabella's aunt Queen Marguerite had been a benefactor of Greyfriars, and was also buried there in 1318. Unfortunately, the tombs disappeared after the Dissolution, and the church was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. Rebuilt by Christopher Wren as Christ Church, it was destroyed again by bombs during the Second World War.

It's a romantic myth, still often repeated today, that Isabella chose to be buried at Greyfriars because Roger Mortimer had also been laid to rest there. In fact, Mortimer was buried at the Greyfriars in Coventry.

At her own request, Isabella was buried wrapped in her wedding cloak, which she had kept for just over fifty years, since 25 January 1308. Edward II's heart was placed on her breast, in a silver casket.

For the remaining nineteen years of his life, Edward III honoured his mother's memory, and marked the anniversary of her death with reverence. Every year, he paid for three cloths of gold to be placed on her tomb, for three hundred wax torches to burn around it, and for five pounds of spices. He distributed alms and observed the occasion with prayers and intercessions. In February 1359, Edward ordered the construction of a superb tomb for Isabella, with an alabaster effigy. Unusually, the tomb was made by a female sculptor, Agnes Ramsey, daughter of William Ramsey, Surveyor of the King's Works.

To say that Edward III treated his mother leniently is a massive understatement. He treated her with the utmost respect, honour, and affection. Admittedly, there were political reasons for leniency, given that his claim to the throne of France came through her. Having said that, Edward could have kept her at Castle Rising, on a reduced income, never visited her, never allowed her to visit court or see her grandchildren, never had her mentioned in prayers or granted any of her requests and petitions, done nothing more than preserve her life and grant her some estates to live on, and this would still be pretty lenient, if he'd believed that she was responsible for the murder of his royal father. If Edward III was angry or resentful towards his mother, it doesn't show up in any records. If anyone viewed her as a notorious, evil, insane regicide and husband-murderer, a 'she-wolf', it doesn't show up in any records.

It's true that Isabella had little political influence after 1330, and probably Edward III held her responsible for at least some of the disasters of her and Mortimer's regency. He may also have been offended at her treatment of his wife Queen Philippa - there's no doubt that Isabella usurped her daughter-in-law's rightful position between 1328 and 1330 - and he was quick to take her excessively vast estates back into his hands. But he allowed Isabella to live a life of luxury and comfort, an entirely conventional life for a dowager queen or noblewoman. Isabella enjoyed hunting, hawking, listening to her minstrels, and reading -or being read - romances; the inventory of her possessions taken after her death shows that she owned several.

To me, Edward's treatment of his mother is a very strong indication that he didn't believe she had anything to do with his father's death. Either because he held Roger Mortimer and his associates completely responsible, or because he didn't believe that Edward II had been murdered at all...