Something of a hotch-potch of a post today: a rant about the crapness of many things on the internet, names and spellings.
Spotted on the web recently: a forum where someone was asking whether William Wallace was the real father of Edward III. Now there's a thoroughly-discredited piece of nonsense that still rears its ugly head fourteen years or whatever it is after Braveheart. Another forum member pointed out confidently (and correctly, of course) that this was completely impossible, but asserted that the likeliest father of Edward III was...Edward I. Yes, that's Edward I who died in July 1307 and Edward III who was born in November 1312. Evidently this belief arose on the grounds that Edward III resembled his grandfather far more than his father. I suppose on that basis, Edward the Black Prince and Henry V can't possibly have fathered Richard II and Henry VI respectively - to give two examples of great warriors who had sons with no military ability whatsoever.
The misinformation that finds its way onto the net is astonishing. I posted a while ago about an article that has Edward II's wife Isabella as a rebel on the lam in Scotland pursued by Edward III, brilliantly managing to confuse the queen of England with Isabel MacDuff, countess of Buchan. And I saw a blog post a while ago which talked about Queen Isabella's family and background in France, her marriage to Edward II and their children - then suddenly started saying that "Isabella's policies within Castile set the pattern of Spanish policy at home." It's not often you see Isabella of France confused with her great-great-great-granddaughter Isabella the Catholic.
There was also a recent blog post about the red-hot poker murder - presented as certain fact, naturally - which calls Edward "the little fella." Yes, that's Edward II, the man described by fourteenth-century chroniclers as "one of the strongest men of his realm," "tall and strong, a fine figure of a handsome man" and "a handsome man, of outstanding strength." Whatever else he was, I think we can state with some confidence that he wasn't 'little'.
The utter uselessness of some online genealogy sites never fails to amaze me. Recently, I saw "Hugh Audley was born in 1290. Hugh Audley is dead." No kidding? And "William Wallace died in Executed."
I was also thinking about a thread on Plantagenesta a while back, where Mississippienne destroyed the myth that, after King John's disastrous reign, the name John was considered unlucky for kings, and it was 'decreed' that none of them would bear this name again.
She's correct, of course. Edward I called his eldest son, who was born in 1266, John. The boy died at the age of five, but of course Edward couldn't have known that, and had every reason to think that he would be succeeded by King John II. Edward II's second son was John of Eltham; he was heir to the throne between January 1327 and June 1330, when his nephew Edward the Black Prince was born. Had anything happened to Edward III before he and Queen Philippa conceived their son, England would have had its John II.
And if anything had happened to Edward II before he became king or before he and Isabella conceived Edward III, England would have had its first King Thomas - the heir to the throne between July 1307 and November 1312 was his half-brother Thomas of Brotherton, later earl of Norfolk. Edward II's elder brother Alfonso - named after their uncle, the king of Castile - was heir to the throne for just under ten years, from the death of their brother Henry (Edward I's second son) in October 1274 to his own death in August 1284. People in England must have grown used to the idea that one day they would have a King Alfonso. If the boy had lived to succeed his father in July 1307, Alfonso, or Alphonse, would be a common English name. There's a weird thought.
And on the subject of the name Edward itself - the reason this name has been so popular for centuries is because Henry III revered King/St Edward the Confessor. After 1066, Edward, like other Anglo-Saxon names, fell out of use. Henry III, because St Edward the Confessor was his favourite saint, chose the name for his eldest son in 1239. By then, the name probably seemed as outlandish as as if Henry had called his son Ethelred or Wulfstan. From 1272 to 1377, all the kings of England were called Edward, thus ensuring its perennial popularity. Just imagine if Henry III had favoured Saints Sigeberht, Wigbert or Eorpwald instead.
French scribes of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries struggled with the name Edward, and usually wrote it as Edouwart, Edduvart, Eduart or Ewart. Occasionally they spared their blushes by addressing Edward I and Edward II as "the most splendid prince, Ed’, by the grace of God king of England."
Talking about spelling, I've recently been reading Pierre Chaplais' collection of letters written during the 1324/25 war of St-Sardos, between England and France over Gascony. It's fascinating to see the difference between the French used in England at that time and the French used in Gascony, which looks really Spanish or even Portuguese. Edward II was addressed in letters as 'my lord Edward, by the grace of God, king of England, lord of Ireland and duke of Aquitaine'. English scribes wrote this as 'monsire Edward, par la grace de Dieu roi Dengleterre, seigneur Dirlaunde et duc Dacquitaine'. Gascons spelt it 'mi sire Ewart, par la gracia de Diu, rey Danglatora, senhor Dirlanda et duc de Gasconha'. Dublin, written in England as 'Dyvelin', came out as 'Dovelina', the name of Sir (monsire) Robert Wateville as 'mossen Robbert de Watavila', and Sir Ralph Basset's as 'mosen Raou Basset'.
I love this, because it gives me an idea as to what Piers Gaveston must have sounded like. ;) And finally: shortly after Edward II sent Isabella to France to negotiate with her brother Charles IV in March 1325, she sent him a letter informing him of her progress. She called him "my very sweet heart" (mon tresdoutz coer) five times during the letter.