A post on Edward II's great favourite and later enemy, Hugh Audley.
Hugh was born around 1291 as the second son of Hugh Audley and Isolde (or Iseult) Mortimer, widow of Walter Balun. Hugh Audley Senior was born around 1267, the fifth but second surviving son of James Audley, justiciar of Ireland, who died after breaking his neck in 1272. Isolde's parentage is uncertain, but she might have been the older half-sister of Roger Mortimer, daughter of Edmund Mortimer by an unknown first wife, which would make Hugh Audley Roger's nephew - though he was only about four years Roger's junior. Alternatively, Isolde might have been Roger's cousin, the daughter of Hugh Mortimer and Agatha de Ferrers. Through his father, Hugh was descended from King Henry II, via Henry's illegitimate son William Longespee, earl of Salisbury, and was Edward II's third cousin once removed - a relationship Edward acknowledged by occasionally referring to Hugh as "the king's kinsman."
Hugh's elder brother James fathered an illegitimate son, also James, in about 1316, by his mistress Eve Clavering; James the younger became a famous soldier during the Hundred Years War. Hugh had a younger sister, Alice (c. 1300/1304-1373), who married Ralph Neville of Raby and was the mother of about a dozen children, including Alexander Neville, archbishop of York. Alice was also the grandmother of Henry 'Hotspur' Percy and the great-grandmother of Cecily Neville, duchess of York, mother of Edward IV and Richard III.
Hugh first appears in November 1311 when he joined Edward II's household as a newly created knight, around the time that Piers Gaveston was sent into his third exile. In 1315, he grew close to Edward, and was one of the three men, the other two being Roger Damory and William Montacute, who came to dominate the king's court, though the precise nature of his relationship with Edward II is a matter for speculation. Hugh was arguably the least prominent of the three courtiers, but still wielded enough influence over the king to be included in the Flores Historiarum's statement that they were "worse than Piers."  In June 1315, Edward II, evidently missing his friend, ordered the chancellor to complete some of Hugh’s business as soon as possible, so that he "can return to us as quickly as we have instructed him to do." 
Sometime in 1317, Hugh contracted to serve Edward, and "bound himself to the king by deed, confirmed by his corporal oath, to aid him in all things throughout his whole life, and in no wise to depart from him come what might, on pain of forfeiture of all his possessions."  Edward rewarded Hugh's friendship with one of the two greatest prizes at his disposal: marriage to his niece Margaret de Clare, dowager countess of Cornwall, widow of Piers Gaveston and joint heiress of her late brother the earl of Gloucester. Hugh and Margaret married in Edward's presence at Windsor Castle on 28 April 1317. Margaret was probably twenty-three, Hugh probably in his mid-twenties. The wedding was a lavish affair, and Edward gave three pounds in coins to be thrown over the heads of the bride and groom – generous though this was, it was less than half the amount he had provided for the same purpose at Margaret’s wedding to Piers Gaveston. He also gave thirteen shillings and four pence in oblations, distributed in his presence in the chapel in Windsor park.  Roger Damory married Margaret's sister Elizabeth around the same time, and in May, Hugh and Damory, and Hugh Despenser, already married to the eldest sister, did homage to Edward for the lands they held in right of their wives. The lands were finally partitioned in November. 
Hugh Audley now owned lands in England, Wales and Ireland worth £1292 per annum, and when the earl of Gloucester's widow Maud died in 1320 and her dower lands were shared out among the heirs, received another £900 per year. However, he had to deal with Hugh Despenser, his ruthless and greedy brother-in-law, who was determined to gain control of more of South Wales. As early as November 1317, shortly after the partition of the lands, Despenser took the homage and fealty of Hugh's tenants in Gwynllwg (see Lady D's post for more info). In March 1318, Edward II, not yet as enamoured of Despenser as he would become a few months later, refused to accept Despenser’s actions, took Gwynllwg into his own hands, and ordered the inhabitants to pay homage to Hugh instead. 
Hugh Despenser also attempted to take over some of Roger Damory's lands in South Wales, but Damory successfully resisted him.  Despenser "withdrew wholly from such occupation" of Hugh's Welsh lands, but had not given up; in May 1320, by now high in the king’s favour, he forced Hugh and his wife Margaret to exchange Gwynllwg for some of Despenser’s English manors of lesser value.  The Lanercost chronicle says that "being a most avaricious man, he [Despenser] had contrived by different means and tricks that he alone should possess the lands and revenues, and for that reason had devised grave charges against those who had married the other two sisters." 
Edward II's powerful cousin and enemy the earl of Lancaster detested Hugh Audley, Roger Damory and William Montacute, and feared their influence over the king; in 1318, he accused Damory and Montacute - not Hugh, however - of trying to kill him.  In February 1317, the three men had publicly accused Lancaster of treason at a council meeting at Clarendon, and Lancaster suspected them of arranging the abduction of his wife Alice that spring (whether this suspicion was correct is uncertain). Lancaster, claiming that "he fears the deadly stratagems of certain persons who thrive under the protection of the royal court," demanded that the three men be removed from Edward's household, to which Edward responded "I will avenge the despite done to the earl when I can; I refuse to expel my household; for the abduction of his wife let him seek a remedy in law only."  Hugh, Damory and Montacute also had reason to detest and fear Lancaster, who constantly demanded their removal from court, and did their level best to prevent Edward and Lancaster's reconciliation - which contributed in no small part to the political instability of the years 1315 to 1318.
As part of the negotiations between Edward II and the earl of Lancaster in 1318, which led to the Treaty of Leake, Edward finally agreed to send Hugh Audley, Roger Damory and William Montacute away from court. Montacute was appointed steward of Gascony in November 1318 - he had previously been steward of Edward's household - and died a year later. Roger Damory, although no longer allowed near Edward, still retained the king's affection. Hugh Audley, however, left court, and this marks the end of his influence over and friendship with the king.
At the 1319 parliament, Hugh and Margaret audaciously claimed the earldom of Cornwall, as Margaret's inheritance from Piers Gaveston. Parliament turned them down, on the grounds that all grants from Edward II to Piers had been revoked.  Hugh fought at the siege of Berwick-on-Tweed in September 1319, with 74 men, but evidently was no longer high in Edward's favour: the king promised to make Hugh Despenser constable of the castle and Roger Damory keeper of the town once he had retaken the port (predictably, he didn't), but Hugh is not mentioned. In June 1320, Edward had to travel to France to pay homage to his brother-in-law Philip V for Gascony and Ponthieu. Roger Damory and Hugh Despenser accompanied the king; Hugh Audley stayed in England.
Hugh's household accounts fortuitously survive for 183 days of 1320, and show that apart from brief trips away, he spent most of the period at Tonbridge in Kent with Margaret and their household, which consisted of just under 100 people. He bought 150 bowls for Easter, visited the archbishop of Canterbury at Sturry on 10 June, spent fifteen pence on half a fresh pig, and owned two destriers (war-horses) called Grisel le Kyng and Ferant de Roma.  Grisel’s oddly part-French, part-English name implies that the horse had been a gift to Hugh from Edward. Hugh's marriage to Margaret produced only one child, a daughter named, inevitably, Margaret, who was born sometime between early 1318 and late 1322. On the death of Margaret Audley's half-sister Joan Gaveston in January 1325, the little girl became sole heir to her mother's vast fortune - making her a very attractive and tempting proposition on the marriage market.
In 1321, the king's favourite became the king's enemy. Hugh joined the Marcher lords furious at Edward II's behaviour in taking the Gower peninsula into his own hands, prior to granting it to Hugh Despenser, and that he was allowing yet another favourite to dominate his favour. Hugh took part in the attack on the Despensers' lands in Wales and England in May 1321, and in August that year was one of the men who forced Edward to agree to the Despensers' exile. Hugh Despenser, suffering from one of his usual bouts of over-confidence, wrote to the sheriff of Glamorgan on 21 March 1321, with reference to Hugh (whose name his scribe wrote as Ser Hughe d'Audele): "Do not doubt that neither he nor any of his allies have the power to hurt any of us."  As he surveyed the ruins of his castles and manors, he can hardly have failed to notice that he had been utterly wrong.
On 30 March 1321, Edward II ordered Hugh to come to him at Gloucester on 6 April: "the king has frequently ordered the said Hugh to come to him at certain dates and places to obey the king's orders and pleasure, and Hugh has refused to obey such orders."  Edward commissioned his half-brother Thomas, earl of Norfolk, and the royal justice Henry Spigurnel, to "act as the king himself might do, if present, when Hugh Daudele, the younger, shall appear at Gloucester to show cause why his lands should not be seized into the king's hands for non-attendance on the king; the commission contains a recital of the said Hugh's bond and oath to attend the king; and of the mandate to the sheriff of Gloucester to warn him to be at Gloucester on Friday before the feast of St Ambrose next [6 April]."  Once again, Hugh failed to meet Edward, and Norfolk and Spigurnel pronounced his lands, manors, castles and tenements to be forfeit to the king.  One of the entries in the Patent Rolls says that Hugh kept his wardrobe at 'Ismanghere Lane' (i.e., Ironmonger Lane, near Cheapside) in London, where Piers Gaveston had formerly kept his.
After the Despensers were exiled from England, Hugh was given custody of Gwynllwg, formerly his wife's inheritance, which he had been forced to grant to Despenser in 1320. He refused to hand it over to Edward, as parliament had agreed he should do, obviously still fuming over its loss: "the said Sir Hugh Daudele having written...that he has no lands of Hugh le Despenser, the younger, in his custody, but that he holds the castle and lands above as the inheritance and purparty of Margaret his wife, which fell to her in Wales of the lands of Gilbert de Clare, late earl of Gloucester, her brother, for which reason nothing was delivered to Adam [de Brom, clerk]: which answer the king reputes as naught." 
In December 1321, Edward II began his campaign against the Marchers, and early the following year, recalled the Despensers. On 22 January 1322, Hugh's kinsmen Roger Mortimer and his uncle Roger Mortimer of Chirk surrendered to Edward at Shrewsbury, and on 6 February, Lord Berkeley and Hugh's father Hugh Audley Sr followed suit. The remaining Marchers, including Hugh and Roger Damory, fled towards Yorkshire to join the earl of Lancaster, their only remaining hope against a resurgent, temporarily energetic Edward II. Damory, the former great favourite of the king, died at Tutbury on 12 March 1322, from wounds sustained in fighting against the royal army. On 16 March, Hugh fought at the battle of Boroughbridge, where Edward II's brother-in-law the earl of Hereford was killed and his cousin Lancaster captured, and executed at Pontefract six days later.
Hugh was also captured at Boroughbridge, but was spared execution thanks to the pleas of his wife Margaret, who apparently still retained a modicum of influence over her uncle the king. However, she was taken to Sempringham Priory in Lincolnshire on 16 May 1322: "the wife of Sir Hugh Audley, the king's niece, was ordered to remain under guard at Sempringham among the nuns, in which place she arrived on 16 May, and remained there."  Presumably, her little daughter Margaret Audley was there with her, while her other daughter Joan Gaveston remained at Amesbury Priory in Wiltshire, and died in January 1325. Hugh Audley was imprisoned at Berkhamsted Castle. On 28 October 1325, Edward II ordered him to be moved from there to Nottingham Castle (Edward occasionally ordered the so-called Contrariants to be moved from castle to castle).  His father Hugh Audley Sr died during his imprisonment, between November 1325 and March 1326, in his late fifties.
Hugh escaped from Nottingham Castle, sometime between late 1325 and the autumn of 1326; on 2 March 1327, he was pardoned (by Edward III, or rather, Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer) for "breaking prison at Nottingham Castle," and on 20 April, Richard Grey of Codnor was pardoned "for the escape of Hugh de Audele the younger, imprisoned by the late king in Nottingham Castle, in his custody."  In October 1331, a Patent Roll entry says that he "came to the aid of the king [Edward III] and his mother [Isabella] to pursue the Despensers."  It's easy to imagine that Hugh was burning with the need to avenge himself on Hugh Despenser, who had taken over his lands and imprisoned him.
Be that as it may, Hugh joined the rebellion of Henry, earl of Lancaster, against his (Lancaster's) niece Isabella and Roger Mortimer only two years later - despite having been imprisoned by Edward II for four and a half years, and despite being Mortimer's nephew or first cousin. Hugh was fined £10,000 "by reason of the riding with horses and arms at Bedford," which he never paid, and his lands were once more taken into the king's hands - as were those of 34 other men, including Thomas Wake, Mortimer's first cousin, and Thomas Roscelyn and William Trussell, who had shared Mortimer's exile abroad, "on account of the trespasses and excesses committed by the said [names]...and their disobediences."  Trussell was the man who had pronounced the death sentence on both Hugh Despensers. Isabella and Mortimer, being utterly useless at pretty much everything in government except enriching themselves, proved even worse than Edward II at retaining the loyalty of their close relatives and allies. After Edward III overthrew them in October 1330, he pardoned the debts of Hugh and the others, "because they were lately at Bedford with horses and arms with the intention of doing certain things against the estate of us and our realm, as was surmised by Roger de Mortimer, our late enemy: we therefore order the chancellor to cause them to have letters of pardon and release of their ransom." 
The parliament of early 1327, after Edward II's deposition, had restored Hugh to the lands he had forfeited in 1321 for breaking his oath to remain with Edward: "...in the present Parliament, the aforesaid Hugh has procured the annulling of the process awarded against him on account of divers errors contained therein."  Presumably, he and Margaret resumed their married life after their release. Although Margaret was still only in her early thirties, the couple had no more children. After 1330, Hugh served Edward III loyally, fighting in person in Scotland and France and distinguishing himself at Sluys in 1340.
In early 1336, Hugh's daughter and heir Margaret Audley was abducted from his home at Thaxted in Essex by Ralph Stafford, a widower about twenty years her senior (born 24 September 1301). On 28 February 1336, Edward III commissioned two men "to find by inquisition in the county of Essex what persons broke the close of Hugh de Audele at Thaxstede, carried away his goods and abducted Margaret his daughter; and to certify the king fully of the whole matter."  This suggests that at this point, neither Hugh nor Edward III knew what had actually happened, but by 6 July, it had become clear: Hugh complained that Ralph Stafford, with eighteen named men and unnamed others, "broke his close at Thaxtede, carried away his goods, abducted Margaret his daughter and heir, then in his custody, and married her against his will." 
However, Edward III supported Stafford, and Hugh had perforce to accept the marriage. Of course, he might have been somewhat consoled by the fact that Edward made him earl of Gloucester in March 1337, and in October that year pardoned him for "all homicides, robberies, larcenies and trespasses against the peace of Edward II or of the present king, and any consequent outlawries."  His son-in-law Stafford, like Hugh's nephew James Audley a founder member of the Knights of the Garter, was created first earl of Stafford in 1350.
Margaret (de Clare Gaveston) Audley, countess of Cornwall and Gloucester, died on 13 April 1342, in her late forties, fifteen days short of twenty-five years after her wedding to Hugh. Hugh Audley, earl of Gloucester, outlived her by five and a half years, and died on 10 November 1347, probably in his mid fifties. He was buried next to Margaret at Tonbridge Priory (which sadly has more or less completely vanished). Their daughter Margaret Audley Stafford died on 7 September 1349, probably not yet thirty, and her husband Ralph Stafford died shortly before his seventy-first birthday on 31 August 1372. Both of them were also buried at Tonbridge.
For a man who only fathered one child, Hugh Audley has a remarkably large number of impressive descendants. His grandson Hugh Stafford, second earl of Stafford (c. 1342-1386), married Philippa Beauchamp, daughter of the earl of Warwick and granddaughter of Roger Mortimer, and had eight children. Hugh's four Stafford granddaughters, Joan, Beatrice, Elizabeth and Katherine, all made good marriages, and all had children. Hugh's great-grandson Ralph Stafford was murdered in 1385 by Richard II's violent half-brother John Holland, earl of Huntingdon, while another great-grandson, Edmund, was killed at the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403, fighting for Henry IV.
Hugh's Stafford descendants became dukes of Buckingham in the fifteenth century; the Henry Stafford, duke of Buckingham executed by Richard III in 1483 was his great-great-great-great-grandson. Queen Elizabeth II is Hugh's nineteen greats granddaughter, and he is also the ancestor of dukes of Norfolk, Suffolk, Exeter, Northumberland, Montagu, earls of Kent, Salisbury, Devonshire, Sunderland, Cumberland, and countless others. And for Tudor fans: he was the seven greats grandfather of Edward VI (via Jane Seymour), the eight greats grandfather of Jane Grey, queen of England in 1553, the seven greats grandfather of her husband Guildford Dudley, and the seven greats grandfather of Elizabeth I's favourite Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester. Hugh also had many aristocratic descendants in other countries, including all the kings of France from Louis XIII onwards, kings of Spain and Poland, archdukes of Austria, Anna Jagiellonka, queen of Hungary, and Marie Antoinette.
And just think: these people would never have existed if Edward II hadn't become infatuated with one of his household knights and arranged a fabulous marriage for him, or if a man in his thirties hadn't abducted a teenage girl!
Hugh Audley was the only favourite of Edward II to survive the reign - being Edward's favourite was a dangerous occupation - and also enjoyed the trust of Edward III, who raised him to comital rank. J. R. Maddicott points out, in his ODNB entry on Hugh, that "he had followed a course unusual enough to suggest both his high abilities and his political dexterity." 
1: Flores Historiarum, volume iii, ed. H. R. Luard (1890). p. 178.
2: Cited in James Conway Davies, The Baronial Opposition to Edward II: Its Character and Policy (1918), p. 433 (my translation).
3: Calendar of Patent Rolls 1327-1330, p. 30; Calendar of Close Rolls 1327-1330, p. 27.
4: Thomas Stapleton, ‘A Brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the tenth, eleventh, and fourteenth years of King Edward the Second’, Archaeologia, 26 (1836), pp. 337-338.
5: Calendar of Fine Rolls 1319-1327, p. 350.
6: CPR 1317-1321, p. 60; CCR 1313-1318, pp. 531-532.
7: Flores, p. 342.
8: CPR 1317-1321, p. 456.
9: The Chronicle of Lanercost 1272-1346, ed. Herbert Maxwell (facsimile edition, 2001), p. 230.
10: J. R. S. Phillips, Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke 1307-1324: Baronial Politics in the Reign of Edward II (1972), p. 131.
11: Vita Edwardi Secundi, ed. N. Denholm-Young (1957), p. 80.
12: CCR 1318-1323, p. 143.
13: C. M. Woolgar, The Great Household in Late Medieval England (1999), pp. 12, 21, 140, 151, 190.
14: W. H. Stevenson, ‘A Letter of the Younger Despenser on the Eve of the Barons’ Rebellion, 21 March 1321’, English Historical Review, 12 (1897), p. 761 (my translation).
15: CCR 1318-1323, p. 365.
16: CPR 1317-1321, pp. 572-573.
17: CPR 1317-1321, pp. 578, 583, 587.
18: CCR 1318-1323, p. 408.
19: Le livere de reis de Brittanie e Le livere de reis de Engletere, ed. John Glover (1865), p. 344.
20: CCR 1323-1327, pp. 418, 423.
21: The National Archives, SC 8/165/8222; CPR 1327-1330, pp. 31, 69.
22: CPR 1330-1334, p. 172.
23: CFR 1327-1337, pp. 116-117; CCR 1327-1330, pp. 528-531.
24: CPR 1327-1330, p. 484 for the fine; CPR 1330-1334, pp. 35, 410, and CCR 1327-1330, pp. 530-531, for the pardon (CCR p. 531 for the quote).
25: CCR 1327-1330, p. 27; CPR 1327-1330, p. 30.
26: CPR 1334-1338, p. 283.
27: CPR 1334-1338, p. 298.
28: CPR 1334-1338, p. 528.