17 December, 2009

Merry Christmas 1309, I Mean 2009

This is my last blog post for three weeks or so, as I'm off on a lovely long Christmas holiday (yay!) and will be offline for ages.

Here's a nice Edward II Christmas fact I found in one of his chamber accounts lately: on 26 December 1322, the king paid two women a shilling each for singing for him in the garden of the Franciscan friary in York. Unfortunately, what the women sang was not recorded. In the same journal, I found another entry which I thought was sweet - on 4 February 1323, Edward's chamber staff had to pay four pence for a key to open "coffers of money" to replace one "which the king himself lost" (qe le roi mesmes perdist). Just as well they hadn't invented cars back then, or Edward would have forever been losing his car keys. It was the king's habit to play dice every Christmas night, and he usually spent five pounds, though one year - I can't find the ref at the moment, but it was early in his reign - he spent eighty pounds, a staggeringly large sum. Probably Piers Gaveston being a bad influence. :)

Edward spent Christmas and New Year 1325/26, his last as a free man - though of course he couldn't have known it - in Suffolk, and sent a New Year gift of a palfrey with saddle and other equipment to his niece Eleanor (de Clare) Despenser, then at Sheen. He also gave a pound to Eleanor's messenger, who had brought him letters from her. On 30 December 1325, Edward gave four pounds to one Percival Symeon, who brought him the news that Charles de Valois, brother of Philip IV and thus Queen Isabella's uncle, was dead. His chamber clerk who wrote the entry spelt 'Bury St Edmunds' as Burgh de Seint Esmon. The knight Richard Lovel received a whopping forty marks on 26 December that year for "what he did in the king's bedchamber when the king went to bed," and on 14 January 1326, Edward gave two pounds to the Carmelite friar Richard Bliton, Hugh Despenser the Younger's confessor (confessour mons' Hugh le Despens' le fuitz) "for what he did in the park of South Elmham when the king went to eat in the said park." Honestly, would it have killed Edward's clerks to record exactly what it was that these men (and the many others who appear in the chamber accounts for the same reason) did? And why was Edward sitting and eating in a park in January, and sitting in a garden in December 1322? Did he not feel the cold? Then again, this is the man who spent a month in the autumn of 1315, when by all accounts it rained pretty well non-stop, swimming and rowing on various rivers in the Fens. A very hardy outdoor type, evidently.

20 December marks the 682nd anniversary of Edward II's funeral in Gloucester in 1327 - or rather, the lavish funeral of a body being passed off as the former king's...

And, very early because I won't be around on 1 January, here are Edward II's New Year resolutions, courtesy of the New Year Resolution Generator.

In 1310, I will:

Stop petting the earl of Lancaster
Avoid shouting "by God's soul!" at flamboyant Dominicans
Remember to say "Piers Gaveston is wicked cool" whenever I lick
Call my Scarborough Castle at least ten thousand times in ten years
Ask Isabella to glisten with me
Learn to burnish lasciviously
Try to joust an adorable hedgehog every three minutes
Quit hiccuping with magnates
Travel to Westminster Abbey in order to kiss a horse
Be sparklier to my stud-farm
Tell the archbishop of Canterbury to paint a hedge

Have a great Christmas and New Year, and see you in 2010!

09 December, 2009

Edward II's Campaign Of 1321/1322

In the last post, I talked about the start of Edward II's campaign against the Contrariants in late 1321. This post takes up the story.

Edward arrived in Cirencester on 20 December 1321, and spent Christmas there. While his army was mustering at Cirencester, the Contrariant John, Lord Giffard - whose wife Aveline Courtenay was the niece of Hugh Despenser the Elder - raided some of the king's supply trains, and in revenge, or possibly just because he was feeling vindictive, Edward sent the sheriff of Gloucestershire and other men on 26 December to destroy Giffard's castle of Brimpsfield near Gloucester. [1] John, Lord Hastings, one of Edward's least recalcitrant enemies and husband of the great heiress Juliana Leyburne, submitted to the king at Cirencester. Hastings' role in the events of 1321 is somewhat obscure, as he was not one of the hundreds of men pardoned that August for attacking the Despensers' lands, and Edward later gave him temporary custody of Hugh Despenser the Younger's lands in Glamorgan, a sign of his trust. [2] Hastings' father had been one of the few men who remained loyal to Edward II and Piers Gaveston in 1308.

The king also ordered the arrest of his former steward Bartholomew Badlesmere on 26 December, and sent the sheriff of Gloucestershire to seize the castles, lands, goods and chattels of John Giffard, his (Edward II's) former favourite and nephew-in-law Roger Damory, his other former favourite and nephew-in-law Hugh Audley and his father, Lord Berkeley and his son Thomas, and dozens of others including John Maltravers; the latter two men were Edward of Caernarfon's custodians in 1327. [3] Before Edward’s arrival in the west, the Marchers seized Gloucester, twenty miles from Cirencester, and thus controlled the bridge over the Severn. When they heard that the king was approaching Gloucestershire, they fled from him rather than engage him in battle, although their army was - allegedly - almost four times bigger than his, burning and devastating the countryside as they went. Too afraid to confront the king directly, they once more vented their anger and frustration on innocents, and a furious Edward said later that they "ravaged the king's people during their retreat from Gloucester to the north." [4]

Edward and his army left Cirencester on 26 December and marched north to Worcester, where he arrived on New Year’s Eve, but was unable to cross the bridge because the Contrariant army was on the other side holding it against him. They still made no effort to engage the king in battle. On 7 January, Edward was forced to leave Worcester and head farther north, and as soon as he had left, Roger Damory swooped in with an armed force and took the town for the Contrariants. At this time, it seems that the Contrariants split up: Damory remained at Worcester, others headed north, while the earl of Hereford, evidently deciding that the Despensers' lands just hadn’t been attacked enough, sacked the younger Despenser's Worcestershire castles of Hanley and Elmley. (Edward II later paid for the repairs.) [5] The Contrariants were desperately hoping for the earl of Lancaster’s support, but, lethargic and unreliable as ever, he failed to come to their aid – although he had begun besieging the royal castle of Tickhill in Yorkshire by 10 January. [6]

The Contrariants retreated up the western side of the Severn, burning the bridges as they went to prevent Edward and his army crossing, but still not daring to confront him directly. Edward next tried to force a crossing at Bridgnorth, sending John Pecche, Fulk Fitzwarin and Oliver Ingham as the advance force - an interesting group of men, of whom two (Pecche and Fitzwarin) would join the earl of Kent's plot to restore Edward in 1330, and one (Ingham) who would be arrested at Nottingham Castle with Roger Mortimer later that same year. The people of Bridgnorth claimed in 1331 that Edward had ordered Robert Lewer to destroy the bridge, though why the king would have done so when he needed to cross the bridge to attack the Contrariants is unclear, and it is apparent that it was in fact the Contrariants themselves who attacked the town and bridge. [7] Roger Mortimer, his uncle Roger Mortimer of Chirk and the earl of Hereford, fresh from sacking the younger Despenser's castles, "made a serious attack upon the king. They burned a great part of the town [Bridgnorth] and killed very many of the king’s servants," says the Vita Edwardi Secundi. [8] Edward II - apparently unaware of who had carried out the attack - ordered the constable of Bristol Castle on 15 January to arrest the Mortimers, the earl of Hereford, Roger Damory, Hugh Audley and his father, Bartholomew Badlesmere, John Giffard and ten named others, who had beaten, wounded and killed inhabitants of Bridgnorth, stolen "garments, jewels, beasts and other goods," and imprisoned people "until they made grievous ransoms." [9] The Vita says bitterly that in 1322 the Contrariants "killed those who opposed them, [and] plundered those who offered no resistance, sparing no one." [10] (So hardly the brave and guiltless freedom fighters against royal tyranny of popular legend, then.)

Edward II arrived at Shrewsbury on 14 January and finally managed to cross the Severn. At the request of the earls of Norfolk, Kent, Richmond, Pembroke, Arundel and Surrey, he offered safe-conducts to the Contrariants who were in the vicinity, the earl of Hereford and both Roger Mortimers, to come to him and to negotiate with the earls. (The earl of Arundel had replaced Mortimer of Chirk, his grandmother's brother, as justiciar of Wales on 5 January.) [11] Edward pointedly excluded Bartholomew Badlesmere by name from the safe-conducts*, which demonstrates his fury at Badlesmere's switching sides; Edward II was most emphatically not a man to forgive and forget a betrayal, and could (and frequently did) bear a grudge forever. Damory, Audley, John Giffard, Roger Clifford, John Mowbray and the other Contrariants remained farther south and were not offered safe-conducts.

* "Safe conduct, until Thursday, from morning until vespers and the night following for Roger de Mortimer of Wygemor [Wigmore], and all those he brings with him or who will come to the king's will, Bartholomew de Badelesmere excepted."

The earl of Hereford did not go to the king, but on 22 January the two Roger Mortimers "deserted their allies, and threw themselves on the king’s mercy," according to the Vita, although some chroniclers claim that trickery on the part of Edward II or his ally the earl of Pembroke was involved in their submission and that the two men had been promised clemency by the king. The Vita goes on to say that the other Contrariants were astonished and tearful at their desertion, but in fact, whatever tales were told of the king's treachery and the shock of the other Contrariants, the Mortimers really had little choice but to submit to Edward. Sir Gruffudd Llwyd and the violent and unstable Robert Lewer had been giving them a taste of their own medicine by attacking their lands and seizing Welshpool, Chirk and the castle of Clun, which they had taken the previous year from their kinsman, the earl of Arundel. The Mortimers' men were deserting them, they were running out of money and being squeezed between two forces, Edward’s on the east side of the Severn and his allies on the west side, and their lands were being occupied and burnt. The royalists also seized the castles of Holt and Bromfield, which belonged to the earl of Lancaster, which meant that he was now in no position to come and help the Marchers – if he had ever had any intention of doing so – and which was probably also a factor in the Mortimers' submission. On 13 February, the earl of Surrey (John de Warenne, Edward II's nephew-in-law), Robert Lewer and others took them to be imprisoned in the Tower of London, "lest repenting of what they had done they should return to their baronial allies." [12] Given the numerous crimes the two men had committed and encouraged in the previous nine months – homicide, assault, theft, plunder, vandalism, false imprisonment, extortion – this fate was hardly undeserved, and if they had truly expected clemency from Edward, this seems naive in the extreme. The 'community of Wales' presented a petition to Edward sometime in 1322, saying that they had heard the Mortimers' lands would be restored to them, and because of the threats the two men had made against them, the Welshmen would be ruined and no longer able to live on their lands if this were true. They asked Edward not to give the Mortimers their lands and lordships back, or the Welshmen would defend themselves against them if necessary. Edward assured them that the Mortimers would remain in his keeping and that he would "ordain what is to the benefit of his subjects." [13] Roger Mortimer of Chirk's downfall brought a flurry of petitions complaining about his behaviour as justiciar of Wales, which included imprisoning one John Caperich "without cause or process" until Caperich made a ransom of twenty pounds. [14] Chirk died in the Tower in August 1326, a few weeks before his nephew (who had escaped from the Tower three years earlier) invaded England, though as he was about seventy by then, well beyond average life expectancy for the era, there is little reason to suppose that his death was suspicious.

Edward II continued, in the weeks following the Mortimers' surrender, to issue writs of arrest for their allies, and around this time took to calling his baronial enemies the 'Contrariants'. Abandoned by two of their key allies, the Contrariants turned back south towards Gloucester, and Edward followed them, leaving Shrewsbury on 24 January. Claiming that Adam Orleton, bishop of Hereford, was supporting the Contrariants, Edward publicly upbraided him when he reached Hereford, and went hunting in Orleton's parks with his half-brother the earl of Kent, without Orleton’s permission. [15] On 6 February, Lord Berkeley and Hugh Audley the Elder, father of Edward's former favourite, gave up the fight and surrendered to Edward at Hereford; he sent them to prison at Wallingford Castle. Both men died, still imprisoned, in 1326. The following day the king took Berkeley Castle into his own hands, unaware of the tragic role it would play in his life in 1327. Meanwhile, the remaining Contrariants fled towards Yorkshire to seek refuge with the earl of Lancaster, their last hope of defeating Edward.


1) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1321-1324, p. 42; Annales Paulini 1307-1340, in W. Stubbs, ed., Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II, volume 1, p. 301; Johannis de Trokelowe et Henrici de Blaneforde Chronica et Annales, ed. H. T. Riley, p. 111.
2) Calendar of Fine Rolls 1319-1327, p. 115.
3) Cal Fine Rolls 1319-1327, p. 84.
4) Calendar of Close Rolls 1318-1323, p. 516; Scott L. Waugh, 'The Profits of Violence: the Minor Gentry in the Rebellion of 1321-22 in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire', Speculum, 52 (1977), p. 850; Roy Martin Haines, King Edward II: His Life, His Reign, and Its Aftermath, 1284-1330, p. 135.
5) Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323, pp. 511-512.
6) Cal Pat Rolls 1321-1324, p. 47.
7) The National Archives SC 8/36/1794.
8) Vita Edwardi Secundi Monachi Cuiusdam Malmesberiensis, ed. N. Denholm-Young, p. 118.
9) Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323, pp. 511-514.
10) Vita, p. 121.
11) Cal Pat Rolls 1321-1324, pp. 47-48, p. 51; Cal Fine Rolls 1319-1327, pp. 86-87.
12) Vita, p. 119; Croniques de London depuis l’an 44 Hen III jusqu'à l'an 17 Edw III, ed. G. J. Aungier, p. 43.
13) TNA SC 8/6/255.
14) TNA SC 8/38/1854.
15) Roy Martin Haines, The Church and Politics in Fourteenth-Century England: the Career of Adam Orleton, c. 1275-1345, p. 142.

03 December, 2009

Anniversary And Advertising

I woke up this morning thinking that there seemed to be something special about today's date, but was unable to remember what it was; some anniversary to do with Edward II, maybe, or had I missed someone's birthday? Then finally it dawned on me: today marks the anniversary of my Edward II blog. It's been going for four years now! Yay! It's had over 100,000 visitors since I set up a blog counter in 2007, which is, ooooh, about 99,995 more than I ever expected, given that all most people seem to 'know' or want to know about Edward II can be summed up by 'gay king killed with red-hot poker'. When I started the blog on 3 December 2005, I would certainly never have guessed the astonishing fact that Edward has fans in the most unlikely places, such as Costa Rica, Italy and Russia, and I didn't know that I'd be lucky enough to meet some fantastic people via the blog and to make lasting friendships.

I'd like to say a huge 'thank you' here: firstly, to those of you who have so generously shared your own research, writing, materials and ideas on the era with me (much appreciated!), and secondly, to the many people who have left kind and thoughtful comments on the blog and sent me feedback via email. And I'd especially like to thank all my readers, both regular and occasional, for actually being interested in my witterings about the life and times of one of England's most disastrous kings.

(Just have to put in a link here to a new review of Alison Weir's biography of Isabella of France, by Michele at A Reader's Respite.)

I should really have planned something big for the blog's fourth anniversary, but as I forgot all about it, this post is pretty well off-the-cuff and thus seriously lame. Here goes, with some advertising slogans about Edward II courtesy of the Advertising Slogan Generator:

- Nobody better lay a finger on my Edward II. (Damn right!!!)

- We're with the Edward II.

- Let the Edward II begin.

- Edward II born and bred.

- Sometimes you feel like an Edward II, sometimes you don't. (Needless to say, I always feel like an Edward II.)

- Watch out, there's an Edward II about.

- Edward II saves your soul.

- I feel like Edward II tonight.

- Get the Edward II habit.

- Not just nearly Edward II, but really Edward II.

And given that it's coming up to the festive season, here are some excerpts from Christmas carols and songs featuring le roi, from the Christmas Song Generator (yes, I'm really scraping the barrel here):

- A child, a child, Shivers in the cold, Let us bring him silver and Edward II.

- Christmas is coming, The Edward II is getting fat, Please to put a penny, In the old man's hat.

- Come and behold him, Born the king of Edward II.

- O come all ye faithful, Joyful and triumphant; O come ye, o come ye, To Edward II.

- Rudolph, with your Edward II so bright, Won't you guide my sleigh tonight.

- Brightly shone the moon that night, Though the frost was cruel, When an Edward II came in sight, Gathering winter fuel.

- Do not falter, little donkey, There's a star ahead. It will guide you, little donkey, To an Edward II.

- I'm dreaming of a white Edward II, Just like the ones we used to know.

- Of all the trees That are in the wood, The Edward II bears the crown.

- Last Christmas I gave you my Edward II, But the very next day you gave it away.

- Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and Edward II reconciled.

- There won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time, The greatest gift they'll get this year is Edward II.

Here's to the next four years, and yes, I still have absolutely tons about the era, the people, the events and, above all, my beloved Edward, that I want to write about!