In early May 1312, Edward II and Piers Gaveston fled from Tynemouth to Scarborough - a distance of about ninety miles - in order to escape Edward's cousin, Thomas, earl of Lancaster, who was slowly making his way north in order to capture Piers after his return to England from his third exile. The Vita Edwardi Secundi says, poetically, about Lancaster's journey, "Thus Thomas flies by night and hides by day/And to check rumour slowly wends his way." (In the original Latin: Sic Thomas de nocte uolat, sub luce moratur/ Ut lateat, modicum cursum ne fama loquatur).
Lancaster's arrival took Edward and Piers completely by surprise, and they escaped him by only a few hours. In doing so, they were forced to leave behind their enormous baggage train, which Lancaster duly took possession of. Edward fumed over the loss of his many valuable belongings, and pointed out a few months later that "if any lesser man had done it, he could be found guilty of theft and rightly condemned by a verdict of robbery with violence." Lancaster made an inventory of the possessions and claimed that he fully intended to return them to the king, though Edward had to wait until the end of February 1313 before he received them.
The full list of Edward and Piers' possessions - most of them were Edward's - is given in Foedera, and is also printed (in the French original) in Pierre Chaplais' Piers Gaveston: Edward II's Adoptive Brother, and in English in J. S. Hamilton's Piers Gaveston, earl of Cornwall 1307-1312. Edward's possessions were finally returned to him on 23 February 1313, and four days later, he also received an inventory of everything Lancaster had taken.
The inventory includes many hundreds of splendid and costly items, including:
- sixty-three horses: forty-one destriers and coursers, one palfrey, nine pack horses and twelve cart horses.
- a gold cup, enamelled with jewels, bequeathed to Edward "with her blessing" by Eleanor of Castile, the mother he had barely known, which must have held great sentimental value for him.
- several items that Edward's sisters had given him: two "stones with enamelled sides" and a gold clasp from Margaret, duchess of Brabant; another gold clasp from Elizabeth, countess of Hereford; an enamelled silver mirror and relic from Eleanor, countess of Bar, who died in 1298 when Edward was fourteen.
- a buckle of gold with two emeralds, two rubies, two sapphires and eleven pearls, with a cameo in the middle, a present to Edward from the queen of Germany (I presume this means either Elisabeth of Görz-Tirol, wife of Albrecht I, or Margaret of Brabant, wife of Heinrich VII; Elisabeth attended Edward's wedding, and Margaret was the sister of Edward's brother-in-law Duke Jan II of Brabant).
- a gold ring containing a great ruby called 'the Cherry' (la cerise), belonging to Edward. The name gives a good indication of how big it must have been.
- another great ruby set in gold, worth a staggering £1000, which was found on Piers' body after his execution, I mean murder, and was probably a gift to him from Edward. Also found on Piers' body were "three large rubies in rings, an emerald, a diamond of great value, in a silver box," and "two vessels, a large and a small, and in the small a hanging key, a sterling cord and a chalcedony." (Whatever a 'sterling cord' is.)
- a belt "decorated with ivory, notched with a purse hanging down from it, with a Saracen face," a belt made of lion skin, decorated in gold with a cameo, one of silver with enamelled silver escutcheons, one with bands of silver and gold, and two of silk, covered with pearls.
- a gold crown encrusted with jewels, worth 100 marks.
- a gold ring with a sapphire, which St Dunstan (archbishop of Canterbury, died 988) supposedly "forged with his own hands."
- a gold eagle with rubies, emeralds, sapphires and pearls, containing relics of St Richard of Chichester (died 1253), and a gold dragon with enamelled wings.
- numerous silver salt cellars, spoons, cups, goblets, saucers and pots, numerous gold-plated silver pots and cups, and a pair of gold-plated silver basins, belonging to Piers, with his coat of arms on them.
-a silver ship with four gold oars, enamelled on the sides.
- three silver forks, for eating pears (trois furchestes dargent pur mangier poires; these belonged to Piers, and he was famous for them, a good 300 years before forks caught on in England!)
- 100 silver shields, marked with an eagle, a suit of armour belonging to Piers, and two pairs of iron leg-armour (jambers).
- various garments embroidered with Piers' arms, the shoulders decorated and embroidered with pearls, and twenty-five pieces of cloth from diverse garments, of diverse colours.
- a fur-backed altar frontal of green cloth, powdered (poudre) with gold birds and fishes.
And many hundreds of other luxurious and expensive items. The sheer number of rings and jewels is truly astonishing. Edward II must have walked around positively dripping with wildly expensive jewellery. However, the inventory also lists a handful of rather less desirable objects:
- a helmet, brown with neglect (un bacenet burny od surcils).
- a remnant of green silk.
- an old banner embroidered with Piers' arms (six eaglets).
- a plate of scrap silver.
- an old enamelled vessel, and three chaplets "of little value."
For all Edward II's annoyance with his cousin Lancaster for seizing his belongings, I can only say, thank goodness he did, or otherwise we wouldn't have this fascinating insight into the kinds of things very rich people of the fourteenth century owned and prized.