25 July, 2010

Marguerite Of France (2)

The second and final part (part one) of my post about Marguerite of France, second queen of Edward I and stepmother of Edward II. There is evidence to suggest that Marguerite was on close terms with Edward of Caernarfon - who was only about five years younger than she was - at least before his accession in 1307. In 1299, a few weeks after Marguerite's marriage to Edward I, her household was merged for a time with that of her fifteen-year-old stepson. Edward (of Caernarfon) sent her a gold ring set with a ruby as a New Year gift in January 1303, and in the regnal year of November 1302 to November 1303 gave her, and members of her household, jewels, rings, cups and belts to the value of a little over fifty pounds. Oh, and here are some nice details I forgot to mention in the first part: as her wedding gift in September 1299, Edward I gave his new wife jewels which had once belonged to her great-grandmother Blanche of Castile, queen of Louis VIII: a gold crown, a gold coronet and a gold belt, all adorned with precious stones. For New Year 1304, Edward I gave Marguerite a gold cup with foot and cover, and a gold pitcher; three years previously, she had given him a gold goblet with cover and "two silver platters called 'Lechefrithe'." [1]

Several hundred of Edward of Caernarfon's letters happen to survive for a few months in 1304/05, eight of them to Marguerite. [2] He usually addressed her as "my very dear lady and mother" (ma treschere dame e mere); references to Marguerite after Edward's accession to the throne almost invariably call her "the king's mother," though Edward also addressed his former wetnurse Alice Leygrave in the same terms and in 1305, rather poignantly given that he can barely have remembered Eleanor of Castile, called his much older kinswoman Agnes de Valence "our good mother" (nostre bone mere) and called himself her son. (Bless him.) It was in the summer of 1305 that Queen Marguerite really came into her own, acting as a liaison between Edward and his father the irascible sixty-six-year-old king: the two men fell out for a few weeks, supposedly after Edward of Caernarfon insulted Walter Langton, the treasurer, with "gross and harsh words" and went hunting, with Piers Gaveston, in Langton's parks without permission. [3] Edward wrote several letters to Marguerite during this period asking her to intercede with his father on his behalf, especially in the matter of Piers Gaveston and Gilbert de Clare, whom the king had, with many others, removed from his household: "if we should add those two to the others, we would feel much comfort and alleviation of the anguish which we have endured, and continue to suffer, by the ordinance of our aforementioned lord and father. My lady, will you please take this matter to heart, and pursue it in the most gracious manner that you may, so dearly as you love us." Marguerite evidently did so, the quarrel was soon resolved, and on 1 September 1305 Edward sent her a courteous letter of gratitude: "We thank you as dearly as we may for the distress which you have endured for us, and for the goodwill with which you have carried out the business touching us" (Nous vous mercioms si cherement come nous pooms des travals que vous avez endure pur nous, e du bien que vous avez mis en les busoignes que nous touchent; my translation).

Edward II's closeness to his stepmother, as well as to numerous other women such as his sisters (who, to judge from the surviving letters of 1304/05, thought the world of him), various nieces and other kinswomen, and the women who populate the pages of his chamber journals dining, drinking and otherwise spending quality time with him, goes a long way to disproving the notion that he was "hostile to women" (to cite a fairly recent review on Amazon which refers to him), a theory evidently based on some bizarre idea that men who love men must automatically hate women. To return to Marguerite, there are various entries which make it apparent that she followed her husband to Scotland on his campaigns of the early 1300s, which would seem to point to a close relationship. (Isabella of France also accompanied Edward II on his unsuccessful Scottish campaign of 1310/11 and spent a few months with him at Berwick-on-Tweed, a fact often missed or ignored; she also travelled as far north as Berwick with her husband in June 1314 when he went to fight at Bannockburn.) Marguerite must have been disappointed in the summer of 1305 when the planned trip to England of her mother Marie of Brabant and her brother Louis of Evreux was cancelled. Edward of Caernarfon, keen to present himself well during the visit of his royal relatives, had ordered "two palfreys which are beautiful and suitable for our proper mounting."

The death of sixty-eight-year-old Edward I on 7 July 1307 left Marguerite a widow in her late twenties with three children, Thomas, Edmund and Eleanor, aged seven, almost six and fourteen months. The now dowager queen was well dowered with lands, Edward II had bound himself to provide for her children, his half-siblings, and perhaps Marguerite looked forward to a continuation of the close relationship they had long enjoyed. Within months, however, Edward's obsessive favouritism towards Piers Gaveston began to fray this relationship, and it is possible that the dowager queen's opposition to the new earl of Cornwall was at least partly rooted in concern for her niece Isabella, daughter of Marguerite's half-brother Philippe IV of France and the queen of England from February 1308. Marguerite seems, however, not to have offered the twelve-year-old girl advice on how to deal with the complicated situation, but to have retired from court. According to a newsletter of May 1308, Marguerite and Philippe IV offered the English barons opposed to Piers Gaveston the enormous sum of £40,000, which sounds like one of those wild exaggerations so beloved of medieval chroniclers (to put the sum into perspective, Marguerite's dower gave her an income of £4500 a year). Another point of conflict between Marguerite and Piers arose over the castle of Berkhamstead, which was part of the dowager queen's dower but had previously belonged to Edmund (died 1300), Edward I's cousin and the previous earl of Cornwall; Edward II seems to have granted possession of the castle to Piers, and the royal favourite certainly married Margaret de Clare there in November 1307. Although it was sometimes stated in Edward II's lifetime, and still is nowadays, that Edward I had intended the earldom of Cornwall for one of his sons by Marguerite, a document which the king drew up in August 1306 states that Thomas should receive the earldom of Norfolk and Edmund unspecified lands worth 7000 marks a year, with no title mentioned. (See here: no mention of the earldom of Cornwall going to either son.)

Marguerite attended the wedding of Edward II to her niece Isabella in Boulogne on 25 January 1308; her mother Queen Marie and half-brother the king of France were also among the guests. Her opposition to Piers Gaveston later that year, however, appears to have cooled her relationship with her stepson, and for the remaining ten years of her life it is hard to say anything much about Marguerite of France - anything much that's interesting, at least - and she certainly played little if any role in politics. Edward briefly confiscated her castles of Gloucester, Berkhamstead (certainly hers after Piers Gaveston's death in 1312), Leeds and Odiham in October 1317, but soon restored them to her, and most of the references to Marguerite in the chancery rolls after 1308 concern her lands and are therefore pretty dull. [4] It's hard to say anything much about what kind of person she was; her successful relationship with a man four decades her senior and willingness to intercede with him on her stepson's behalf suggest a pleasant, accommodating personality. Various historians of the nineteenth century, foremost among them Agnes Strickland, record that Marguerite was "good withouten lack," though I don't know what the primary source for that quotation is. (I'm sure I could find out easily enough, but to be honest my interest in it only goes so far.)

Queen Marguerite died on 14 February 1318, probably not yet forty years old, at her castle of Marlborough in Wiltshire. On 8 March, Edward II sent two pieces of Lucca cloth to lie over her body, and sent six more pieces after it was moved to London shortly afterwards. The king visited his stepmother's remains at St Mary's Church in Southwark on 14 March, and attended her funeral at the Greyfriars Church the following day, purchasing six pieces of Lucca cloth for himself and two pieces each for two other people, his sister Mary the nun and Sir Roger Damory, his current court favourite, to wear. Edward appointed his half-brothers Thomas and Edmund, aged seventeen and sixteen, as executors of their mother's will. Isabella of France, then about six months pregnant with her and Edward's elder daughter Eleanor of Woodstock, also attended her aunt's funeral, apparently without the benefit of new Lucca cloth; forty years later she would be buried in the same church. [5]

Marguerite was survived by her brother Louis, count of Evreux, her mother Marie of Brabant, dowager queen of France, and two of her three children. Her younger son Edmund, earl of Kent, was beheaded in March 1330 at the age of twenty-eight after plotting to rescue the supposedly dead Edward II from Corfe Castle; her elder son Thomas, earl of Norfolk, died aged thirty-eight in August 1338 after a career which, to be frank, failed by some distance even to achieve mediocrity. Marguerite's granddaughters Joan of Kent (Edmund's daughter) and Margaret Marshal (Thomas's daughter) produced offspring from whom Marguerite has numerous illustrious descendants: Richard II, her great-grandson; all the kings and queens of England from Edward IV onwards; all the kings and queens of Scotland from James II (1430-1460) onwards; three of Henry VIII's wives, Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard and Katherine Parr; and my friend at the Nevill Feast blog might be interested to learn that Isobel Ingoldisthorpe was Marguerite's five greats-granddaughter and Richard Nevill, earl of Warwick, her four greats-grandson.


1) Roy Martin Haines, King Edward II, p. 4; Alison Marshall, 'The Childhood and Household of Edward II's Half-Brothers, Thomas of Brotherton and Edmund of Woodstock', in The Reign of Edward II: New Perspectives, ed. Gwilym Dodd and Anthony Musson, p. 197, note 43; Pierre Chaplais, Piers Gaveston: Edward II's Adopted Brother, p. 99; Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland 1272-1307, pp. 325, 370, 376.
2) Hilda Johnstone, ed., Letters of Edward, Prince of Wales 1304-5, pp. 44-45, 73-74, 88-90, 111, 127; J.S. Hamilton, 'The Character of Edward II', in Reign of Edward II: New Perspectives, pp. 16-17.
3) See Hilda Johnstone, Edward of Carnarvon 1284-1307, pp. 96-102, for a detailed account of the quarrel.
4) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1317-1321, pp. 38, 46, for the confiscation of the queen's castles.
5) Foedera 1307-1327, p. 360; Thomas Stapleton, 'A Brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the tenth, eleventh, and fourteenth years of King Edward the Second', Archaeologia, 26 (1836) p. 337.


Ragged Staff said...

Changing family relationships are intriguing, Kathryn. It's a shame that what seems to have been a fond and friendly relationship between Edward and his stepmother cooled. She sounds like a very decent person.

Kathryn said...

She does, doesn't she? (Shame her niece Isabella wasn't more like her, really.) I dare say a large part of the blame for their cooling relationship can be laid at Edward's door; he could be a very difficult person to get on with.

Anerje said...

Enjoyable post Kathryn, thanks. I would think the cooling of the relationship with Edward over Piers had more to do with her own sons possibly missing out than concern for her niece Isabella. Although there's no evidence the title of Cornwall was meant for either of her sons, she must surely have hoped that they would find favour, titles and riches from their half-brother. And of course, until Isabella bore a son, they were the heirs to the crown. With Edward as besotted as he was with Piers, maybe Marguerite felt her sons were missing out? Knowing Edward as she did, I'm sure she knew he would treat Isabella well, even if he wasn't in love with her. She herself had married for duty, and would expect Isabella to do the same. She must have understood that a 12 year old girl would hold little interest for Edward, whatever his sexuality, and that when the time came for them to live as 'man and wife', Edward would do his duty.

Kathryn said...

Anerje, thanks for your very perceptive and interesting points. I'm sure you're right about Marguerite being concerned for her sons, given Edward's infatuation with Piers; I just wanted to get in the earldom of Cornwall situation because poor Edward is so often slated for ignoring his father's wishes and his brothers' interests in the matter, and it's not fair, and rather a sore point with me! :-)

Anerje said...

yes Kathryn, Cornwall is reckoned to be a 'royal title', and hence the comment has been made it should have gone to a member of the royal family. I take your point. I do think Earl of Cornwall suited Piers though;> Do you think Marguerite might have been annoyed with Edward referring to Piers as his 'brother'? After all, she had given him 2 half-brothers. Or maybe she knew Edward meant something completely different using the phrase to Piers;>

Gabriele C. said...

Maybe she felt that she had no real position at court and therefore retired. Edward had long since established his own court and didn't consider finding a place for a dowager queen. It's one of the disadvantages of being married to a much older man with already grown up childre. She couldn't become regent or something. And surely Piers didn't help in that Ed focussed so much on him.

BTW, I tried my hands at some geneaology in my blog as well. :)

Kathryn said...

Anerje, that's interesting about Cornwall supposedly being a 'royal' earldom, isn't it. Before Piers, it had been granted to Henry III's brother Richard and nephew Edmund, and before that - you have to go right back to one of Henry I's illegitimate sons in the early 1100s. This hardly seems to me to be sufficient to say that Cornwall had 'always' been a royal earldom. It was later, after Edward III granted it to his eldest son. I think it suited Piers, too - and yes, maybe Marguerite knew or suspected that Ed didn't mean anything fraternal... ;-)

Gabriele, very true, and this was the first time for centuries in England that the dowager queen wasn't the reigning king's mother, so Marguerite had no precedent for how to behave. Marrying a 60-year-old who already had an heir was hardly a great match for a king's daughter, was it?

MRats said...

I'm skipping ahead again, this time to ask a question prompted by the "Braveheart" story notes on AMC last week. The "pop up" on the television screen had already dispelled the "Gibsonian Myth" that Isabella ever even met Wallace, explaining that she was still a child in France at the time. :-) But a later note stated that even though Edward I did not send his daughter-in-law to treat with Wallace, he did send his Queen. I'm not too familiar with the facts of the reign, but I've read about the events that took place from the time of Edward II's birth until the end. I don't remember finding that anywhere. Is it true?

Also, is there a possibility that Edward II never granted Berkhamsted Castle to Piers in the first place, even though it traditionally belonged to the earldom of Cornwall? (I noticed you used the words "seems to have".)

Until Gilbert de Clare inherited Gloucester, he may have remained the ward of Queen Marguerite. Though I'm not certain if the higher nobility followed the traditions of the barons, I read about the rituals that proceeded a wedding in "Life on a Mediaeval Barony" by William Stearns Davis. If the bride's father was no longer living, Davis wrote that the honor of giving the bride away fell to the eldest son. As the author of the book describes it, Margaret would have ridden a splendidly caparisoned mount which would be lead by her brother to the steps of the church where Gilbert would then have presented her to Piers. Edward's gift of a palfrey worth £20 to Margaret suggests the bridal procession took place. (I know that even the Kings and Queens observed the formality of a public ceremony before the private one at the alter.) It's difficult to find any resources to cross-reference the information in the book. But, if Gilbert was called upon to perform this office in his father's place, and he was still in Marguerite's household, isn't it feasable that the vows were exchanged in one of the former Queen's castles?

It appears to me that Marguerite wanted to retire from life. I've read that after his father's death Edward asked her if she would like for him to find her another husband. However, she replied, "When Edward died all men died for me." If that's true, there may have been no enmity between her and her stepson at all. I think the fact that she was in mourning explains her absence from court. (Though she's listed as one of those present for the birth of the future Edward III, Who Was Definitely, Beyond A Doubt, The Son Of Edward II.) And while it appears that she failed her niece by not being present to offer advice, I agree with Anerje's remark that Marguerite might not have felt there was a need to give any. From what I've gathered from your posts on the subject, Edward treated Isabella with kindness and all the respect due her station.

Kathryn Warner said...

I'm almost certain that Edward I didn't send Marguerite to treat with Wallace. It seems a really odd thing to do, to send the queen of all people to talk to a knight. I'm pretty sure it's an invention of later centuries, maybe Blind Harry.

Hmmm, am confused about Berkhamsted now ;-) Not sure whose hands it was in in 1307. Must check.

It does seem that Marguerite was opposed to Piers in 1308, taking her brother Philip IV's side against him, and supposedly even funding the opposition to him. That's one thing I imagine Edward would have found it hard to forgive her for. But yes, her absence from court for the ten years until her death in Feb 1308 might just indicate a quiet, retiring personality.

MRats said...

Oh, please forgive me, but I'm confused again!

I thought the legend of Philip IV's opposition to Piers on Isabella's behalf had been dispelled in subsequent posts. And even the offense allegedly taken by her uncles at the coronation was only invented by chroniclers who imagined it should have been that way. At least the staggering amount of £40,000 that Philip and Marguerite supposedly offered to Piers' enemies must surely be an exaggeration.

As I wrote today in a comment on your "January Anniversaries" post, I guess I'm just not interpreting the facts correctly. But I'm trying, believe me!

If you should find a moment to straighten me out regarding your views on the Edward/Isabella/Philip IV interrelationship, please help. I thought I understood and agreed with your stance on it.

However, if your muse speaks to you, take that time to write instead. I'm curious! What (wheedled MRats relentlessly) do you plan to call the novel? Or have you decided yet?

Kathryn said...

Wretched Blogger has not let me sign into my account all day, so I'm having to post anonymously. Kathryn here. ;-)

Pierre Chaplais's book about Piers discusses the opposition issue. There's a newsletter of 14 May 1308 which states Philip IV's opposition to Piers directly (it's cited in the original Latin in John Maddicott's bio of Thomas of Lancaster). I'm sure the £40,000 and the uncles story are at least grossly exaggerated, if not an outright invention, but Philip's hostility to Piers does seem to be apparent from the newsletter. Pierre Chaplais argues however, and I agree, that it had little if anything to do with Isabella, but was rooted in Philip's anxiety that Edward was still intending to grant his county of Ponthieu to Piers. Chaplais further points out that Piers' father had escaped from Philip's custody when he was being held as a hostage for Edward I, and that Piers had served against the French in Flanders in 1297. Philip therefore did have legitimate reasons for disliking Piers and his family which had nothing to do with Isabella.

Edward and Philip's relationship was complex. Possibly they disliked each other personally. As for Marguerite, I'm not sure. A lot of modern writers have assumed that she and Edward were very close, but honestly I don't see anything in their relationship that goes beyond the conventional and purely formal. Of course he asked her to intervene with his father on Piers' behalf in 1305; she was the obvious person. And of course they gave each other gifts at New Year, also purely conventional. After Edward's accession, they don't seem to have bothered with each other much, as far as I can see. There's a rather poignant letter from (I think) 1304/05 where Edward asked his kinswoman Agnes de Valence to be his 'good mother' and declared that he would be an obedient loving son to her. This indicates to me that he wasn't getting that kind of affection from Marguerite (understandable of course, given the small age difference between them), and that Edward needed maternal love.

MRats said...

Thank you, Kathryn, for the wonderful, informative response! It never occurred to me that Philip might have felt hostility toward Piers that was unrelated to Isabella. However, since I'd read that Arnaud was held in custody by Charles of Valois while a hostage, I've wondered if there wasn't tension between Charles and Piers at the coronation.

Unfortunately, I don't have the Chaplais book. I wanted to order it two years ago along with another relatively recent biography of Piers. But they were both so expensive! All I have is Dodge, which I love for its visual details--clothes, jewels, tapestries, food and military requisitions--but not for its unkind treatment of Edward and Piers.

I agree that Marguerite and Edward don't appear to have been very close. (Another myth blasted, but not one in which I held an emotional investment.) I hope Edward found a "good mother" in Agnes de Valence, just as Piers found a father in John of Richmond.

Of course, Brandy Purdy provided a different explanation of Piers' relationship with John, which reminds me of a line from the MTV cartoon version of "Aeon Flux". In it she is told, I believe by her nemesis/lover, Trevor Goodchild, "Your mind has a gutter all its own."

Also, I must correct a statement I made in the e-mail I sent you yesterday. I was wrong. "Killer Queens" and "She Wolves" are two different shows! You doubtlessly know that, but I found the latter documentary during a search last night and also forced myself to watch the rest of the former production. Again, ". . . DAMN."

Thank you once more for taking the time to write me an "anonymous" reply. I've learned so much from your marvelous posts and your responses to my endless questions!