20 May, 2009

Edward II And The Never-Ending Story Of Thomas De Banbury

This will be my last post until 3 June or thereabouts, as I'm off on my holidays - home to the Lake District, where it's currently about 12 degrees C, the low 50s F. Yippee for 'summer' weather in the north of England.

It was extremely common for Edward I, Edward II and Edward III to send former members of their household to a religious house 'to receive sustenance for life' when the men had reached the end of their working life, and there are literally hundreds of entries relating to this on the Close Roll of Edward II's reign. Normally this presented few problems, but in 1310/11, Edward had some difficulties placing Sir Thomas de Banbury, a household knight who had long served himself and his father.

It began on 9 June 1310, when Edward asked the Benedictine house of Holy Trinity, Canterbury, to take in Banbury so that he might "receive maintenance for his lifetime according to the requirements of his estate, and a chamber, etc." Either Edward forgot that he'd already requested a place for Banbury at Holy Trinity or they refused to admit him, as two months later he wrote to the Benedictine abbey of Burton-on-Trent to request (or demand!) that Banbury might "receive the necessaries of life in food, drink, robes, etc, according to his estate." The abbot wrote to Edward claiming that although he would willingly fulfil the king's request, his house could not afford to admit Banbury as "theirs is the poorest and smallest abbey of their order in England." Edward, unimpressed, sent someone to investigate their accounts, and responded in early October 1310: "which excuse the king learns from trustworthy evidence deviates in many ways from the truth, and he learns that they have means to fulfil his request, wherefore he regards their excuse as wholly insufficient."

The abbot continued to plead poverty and refused to admit Thomas de Banbury. Edward continued to press for his admittance, and ordered the abbot on 3 March 1311 to take in Banbury "without delay, and to administer to him the necessaries of life, according to the king's former orders." By now Edward was furious, and added "the king considers their excuses for not obeying his former orders are frivolous, untruthful, and unacceptable." Not cowed by the king's rage, the abbot still refused, and on 9 June 1311, Edward seized his temporalities to "punish the abbot for his disobediences and contempts." He wrote "they have despised and disobeyed the king's commands and done nothing, to the great contempt of the king and prejudice to the right of his crown and damage of Thomas [de Banbury], and the king will not and should not let this disobedience go unpunished for the prejudice to his royal right in the future if he cannot assign maintenance to people who have long served him."

This was still to no avail, however, and by 20 August 1311, Edward had given up. He sent Thomas de Banbury to the bailiff of the abbot of Fécamp (a Benedictine house in Normandy) in England, to "receive the necessaries of life in food and clothing for himself and a yeoman, two grooms, and two horses within some manor of that house." Even this proved unsucessful: "the bailiff has replied that he cannot do so as he is simply a bailiff." By now gnashing his teeth, most probably, Edward wrote directly to the abbot of Fécamp on 5 October, asking him to admit Banbury into one of his English manors with food and clothing for himself, three servants, two horses and his own chamber. A full sixteen months after Edward's first efforts to find a home for Thomas de Banbury, he finally succeeded, and nothing more is heard of the knight. I hope Banbury spent a peaceful retirement after all that palaver.

Edward also had problems placing his former servant Robert le Usher: in June 1315, he sent him to the abbey of Glastonbury "to receive the same allowance in food and clothing, etc, as Kentus le Charetter*, deceased, had in their house by the king's request." (* Great name!) He informed the chancellor on 20 September 1315 that he had asked the abbot and convent "many times" to admit Usher, but they "have done nothing and have not excused themselves sufficiently." Edward ordered the abbot to appear in person before him "wherever he may be" to explain himself. The abbot failed to arrive at the appointed time, though I assume he eventually cleared it all with Edward and admitted Usher, as I can't find any more references to the situation. As for the abbey of Burton-on-Trent, they later admitted other people at Edward's request - including Alice, mother of Robert Duffield, prior of Edward's foundation of Langley Priory and his confessor - without any complaint that I've found. Probably not surprising.

I find this interesting as an illustration of the kind of living standards a retired knight could expect, and I love that bit "deviates in many ways from the truth." Such a stylish way of telling someone that he was lying. Edward was considerably more understanding in May 1317, when he tried to send his servant Robert de Crouland to Tupholme Abbey and the abbot informed him that the house's small income was "already heavily burdened with the charge of finding a chaplain to say mass for the soul of Sir Piers de Gaveston, formerly earl of Cornwall." Edward, without comment, sent Crouland to Reading Abbey instead. But then, invoking Piers Gaveston's name never did anyone any harm when trying to get a favour from Edward II.

See you in June!

Sources: Calendar of Close Rolls 1307-1313 and 1313-1318; Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326; The National Archives.


Susan Higginbotham said...

Poor Banbury! Maybe he had a reputation as a bad houseguest? Two horses and three servants, plus food and clothing, certainly sounds like a cushy retirement to me.

Enjoy your holidays!

Gabriele Campbell said...

Have fun - and better weather. :)

Jules Frusher said...

I loved this post! I could just see Ed gnashing his teeth and holding his head over trying to get Banbury housed. Of course, all this was pre-Hugh, who I'm sure would have got the abbot to agree to the request, although maybe with a little 'persuasion' involved ;-)

PAG said...

I hope you are having a wonderful trip. Even though the weather here has been wonderful the last few days (I'm not sure what to do about all this sunshine!), I still wish I was in England!