Another post spotlighting the women of Edward II's reign. This one features the sisters Joan and Elizabeth Comyn, born circa 1295 and 1299, relatives of Edward II and close to the throne of Scotland.
Joan and Elizabeth were the daughters of John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, known as the 'Red Comyn' to distinguish him from his father, the Black Comyn. The Comyns dominated Scottish politics in the fourteenth century, holding several earldoms. John the Red Comyn was the nephew of John Baliol, king of Scotland from 1292; his family were the hereditary enemies of the Bruces. He was also the cousin of the earl of Buchan, another John Comyn, who features as a cruel and unpleasant wife-beater in Barbara Erskine's Lady of Hay. By the rule of primogeniture, the Red Comyn had a better claim to the throne of Scotland than Robert Bruce, which he passed on to his children. (The Comyns/Baliols were descended from the eldest daughter of David of Scotland, earl of Huntingdon, while the Bruces descended from the second daughter.)
On 10 February 1306, Robert Bruce stabbed the Red Comyn to death in the Greyfriars church in Dumfries. The truth of exactly what happened is unclear, whether the deed was premeditated murder, or an argument that got out of hand. What is certain is that Robert Bruce could never have become king of Scotland while Comyn was alive, and he was crowned king within weeks of the murder, on 25 March 1306. The woman who crowned him was Isabel MacDuff, wife of John Comyn, earl of Buchan. Pope Clement V excommunicated Bruce for the murder.
Joan and Elizabeth Comyn's mother was Joan de Valence, daughter of Henry III's half-brother William de Valence, and sister of Aymer, Earl of Pembroke in Edward II's reign. They were therefore the second cousins of Edward II. They had a brother, also John. Only Elizabeth's date of birth is known, 1 November 1299; Joan and John were older.
After their father's murder, little John, Joan and Elizabeth were sent to England for safety. John the younger was killed at Bannockburn in 1314, fighting on Edward II's side, naturally, against the man who had murdered his father. The younger John's little son Aymer, who died in 1316, was the last of the Comyns in the male line. John's widow Margaret Wake married Edward II's half-brother the earl of Kent eleven and a half years later, and became the mother of the Fair Maid of Kent and the grandmother of Richard II.
Joan Comyn, probably born around 1295, was married to David Strathbogie (or Strabolgi), the Scottish earl of Atholl. His father John had participated in Robert Bruce's coronation, and was hideously executed by Edward I in London on 7 November 1306. He was hanged on a high gallows, and his head stuck on London Bridge.
Despite this, his son David remained loyal to Edward II ("Your dad horribly killed mine! Can I be your friend?"). Through his mother Marjory or Margaret, David was the first cousin of Donald of Mar, another Scottish earl utterly loyal to Edward II. David was the one of the men who condemned Thomas, earl of Lancaster, to death in March 1322.
Joan and David's eldest son David was born on 1 February 1309, and married Katherine Beaumont, daughter of Edward II's cousin Henry, Lord Beaumont. Joan's grandson David, 1332-1369, married Elizabeth Ferrers, granddaughter of Edward II's niece Elizabeth de Clare. Joan Comyn and David Strathbogie both died young in 1326, David on 28 December, shortly after the downfall of his friend and ally Edward II.
Elizabeth, the youngest of the Comyns, is far more famous than her siblings, as a victim of the land-grabbing schemes of Hugh Despenser the Younger. In 1324, the Comyns' uncle Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, died childless. Elizabeth and Joan, and their cousin John Hastings, son of another of Pembroke's sisters, were his heirs. (Primogeniture did not apply to women, so as these cousins were children of Pembroke's sisters, they inherited equally with no precedence given to the male heirs. If Pembroke had had a brother, the situation would have been different).
Historian Natalie Fryde in The Tyranny and Fall of Edward II comments on Elizabeth's 1325 imprisonment by the younger Despenser, but makes a few errors: she confuses Elizabeth's Hastings cousins, and calls Elizabeth a teenager, which she wasn't, being in her mid-twenties. It's rather odd that she was still unmarried at such an advanced age. Fryde speculates that Elizabeth was betrothed to the younger Despenser's youngest son, but as that young man was born in 1308 or 1309 and thus a decade younger than Elizabeth, that seems rather unlikely. I've been discussing the Elizabeth situation lately with Jules of Lady Despenser's Scribery, and she's preparing a post about it all, so I won't discuss it here.
Between July 1326 and February 1327, Elizabeth finally got married, to Sir Richard Talbot, who was several years her junior, probably born around 1302. He fought against Edward II during the Marcher campaign of 1321/22 and was captured at the battle of Boroughbridge in March 1322, but was released and made his peace with the king and the Despensers, serving in the younger Despenser's retinue. Richard was in fact a second cousin of Despenser, both of them great-grandsons of Sir William Beauchamp of Elmley.
Elizabeth and Richard's son, Gilbert, was born in 1332 (and was thus the same age as David Strathbogie, grandson of Elizabeth's sister Joan). He married Pernel, or Petronilla, Butler, daughter of Edward II's niece Eleanor de Bohun. Sir Richard Talbot thrived in the reign of Edward III, played a large part in Edward's Scottish and French wars, and served as Steward of the royal household in the 1340s.
Richard Talbot died on 23 October 1356, and Elizabeth Comyn married again, sometime around 1357 or 1360, to Sir John Bromwich. She died on 20 November 1372, at the age of seventy-three. Her great-grandson John Talbot, known as 'the Great Talbot', became the first earl of Shrewsbury, and her great-great-granddaughter Eleanor Butler, née Talbot, was supposedly pre-contracted to Edward IV, according to Richard III in 1483.