25 January, 2011

Wedding Preparations

Happy 703rd wedding anniversary today to Edward II and Isabella of France!  I've already written a post about their wedding, and here's one about some of the preparations made for the day.  Incidentally, an academic paper (PDF, pp. 10-11) by Dr Lisa Benz of the University of York recently concluded that Edward and Isabella's relationship "was conducted in a cooperative and mutually dependent manner despite its dysfunctional ending."  That whole 'poor little Isabella, long-suffering victim of her nasty husband' thing is becoming old hat.

Paul Doherty cites a chronicle which claims that Edward ended his campaign against Robert Bruce in the summer of 1307 prematurely because of, in Doherty's words, "his desire to marry the beautiful Princess as soon as possible."  [1]  To which I can only say, there is nothing in Edward II's life which would lead me to conclude that he would have been desperate to meet and marry an eleven (twelve?)-year-old girl, "beautiful Princess [sic]" or not, and it is far more likely that he broke off the campaign because he needed to return south to take over his government, attend parliament, arrange his wedding and his father's funeral, and so on.  Parliament met in October 1307, and granted Edward expenses for the wedding and the funeral.

Edward spent the first Christmas of his reign at Westminster, controversially appointed Piers Gaveston keeper of the realm in his absence on 26 December, and set off for Kent shortly afterwards, to prepare for his journey to France (where the wedding would take place, as Edward also had to swear homage to Philippe IV, his overlord, for his French lands).  He wrote to his soon-to-be father-in-law Philippe from Canterbury (Cantebir') on 30 December:

"To the very high, very excellent and very noble prince, our very dear lord and father, Ph' by the grace of GOD, king of France, Edward, by the same grace, king of England etc, greetings and all honours.
Sire, we have received your letters of credence which you sent us by Sir Mahy de Trie the younger, and Sir Maingot de Merk, your knights, bearers of these [letters]; and we have well understood what the said knights told us by their authority, and your requests, that is to say, that you;
Sire, have decided, for certain reasons, that your arrival and mine at Boulogne shall be postponed until Sunday the eve of Saint Vincent [21 January], so that you, Sire, and we shall arrive that same Sunday; and this accomplished, that the ceremony and wedding [esposailles] shall take place on the Wednesday next following [le Merkedi prechein suivant]:
And we make known to your lordship that, for the reasons touched on above, we well consent to this postponement, and we will be, with the help of GOD, at Boulogne on the said Sunday, in certain understanding that, this done, the ceremony and the wedding shall take place on the Wednesday next following, without further delay.
Very dear Sire, may our Lord have you in his keeping [Treschier sire, nostre Seignur vous eit en sa gard].  Given at Canterbury the 30th day of December." [2]

Edward reached Dover on 13 January 1308, having already:

- ordered the mayor and sheriffs of London to provide and deliver "a ship for the king’s tents" in which his retinue would sleep once they reached France.
- sent Geoffrey le Taillur to Sandwich to purchase "cords in the said town for the king's tents."
- sent his baker William Hathewy ahead to Boulogne "to make preparations for the reception of the king."
- ordered William le Portour to find "300 boards of the longest to be found for making tables."
- told the constable of Dover Castle to hire ten "good leaden cauldrons" in Faversham, ten in Dover and twenty in Sandwich, and have them sent to William le Portour with a "small ship" to transport them to France and eight men "to journey over sea with the above cauldrons."  The constable was to "inform the owners of the said cauldrons that the king will satisfy them for any damages sustained as soon as the cauldrons are brought back from the king's service."
-  sent his clerk Robert de Doncaster to Surrey and Sussex "to purvey a ship-load of hay and five thousand horse-shoes and nails, and also a ship to transport the same to Boulogne," and also sent Robert to Kent "to purchase hay, oats, etc. for the passage of the king and his company beyond sea."
- sent three men to the same three counties to buy corn, and " oxen, swine, sheep and other live beasts."
- ordered vast amounts of timber and charcoal to be sent to Boulogne.
- told the sheriff of Kent to provide four sawyers, twelve carpenters and six charcoal-burners, with all necessary tools and equipment.
- sent Reginald Berardi of the Italian banking firm the Frescobaldi to Boulogne with 500 marks in silver "to make provision against the king's arrival there."  [3]

And so on, and so forth; this really brings home what a huge logistical operation it was to transport the king and his large retinue overseas. Edward spent his last few days as a single man at the priory of St Martin with some of the men who were to accompany him to France, including his cousin the earl of Pembroke, brother-in-law the earl of Hereford, nephew-in-law the earl of Surrey, and friend and ally Anthony Bek, bishop of Durham and patriarch of Jerusalem.  Meanwhile, Philippe IV was ensuring that his only surviving daughter (Isabella's elder sisters Marguerite and Blanche died in infancy) was kitted out luxuriously for her new life in England: an inventory of the clothes, jewels, crowns, furniture, linen and so on which 'Madame Isabella of France, queen of England' (madame yzabel de France Royne d'Angleterre) would take with her has fortuitously survived.  The goods were worth more than 20,000 pounds of Paris in total (I think there were four pounds of Paris to one pound sterling) and included a crown worth 750 pounds, a circlet of gold and precious stones worth 400 pounds, and three chaplets with rubies and emeralds worth a total of 255 pounds. [4]

Edward's letter to Philippe IV of 30 December cited above says that he intended to arrive in Boulogne on Sunday 21 January, and marry Isabella on the 24th.  In fact, he sailed from Dover to Wissant on 22 January, travelled to Boulogne on the 23rd, and married Isabella on the 25th.  Paul Doherty suggests that Edward, "engrossed with Gaveston," may have arrived late deliberately (and also accuses Piers, bizarrely, of taking "great pleasure" in deliberately summoning the noblemen and women who were to welcome Edward and Isabella on their return to England a few days too early and making them wait around in the cold). [5]  This was, however, the Channel, in the depths of winter, in the fourteenth century, and it is far more likely that bad weather and rough seas had delayed Edward.  There is no reason at all, except a wish to interpret every single thing Edward II ever did in the most negative and critical light possible (and ohhh, don't a lot of commentators love doing that?), to think that Edward arrived a couple of days late on purpose and intended any insult to his future queen, her father or France in general.  Nor is there any reason to think that anyone at the time did assume he'd arrived late intentionally and take it as an insult.


1) Paul Doherty, Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II, p. 44.
2) Foedera 1307-1327, p. 25 (my translation).
3)  Calendar of Close Rolls 1307-1313, pp. 7-9, 16-17; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1307-1313, pp. 13-16.
4) W.E. Rhodes, 'The Inventory of the Jewels and Wardrobe of Queen Isabella (1307-8)', English Historical Review, 12 (1897), pp. 517-521.
5) Doherty, Strange Death, pp. 43-45.


Susan Morgan said...

Fantastic post… and a welcome window into that world. Thanks so much for sharing.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thank you for the kind words, Sue - so glad you liked the post!

Undine said...

That was a fun post--it gave a suprisingly "intimate" feel to the pre-wedding period.

I like Doherty's Roger Shallot books, but unfortunately he's one of those historians-turned-novelists who frequently gets confused about when he's writing fact and when he's writing fiction. Argh.

Anonymous said...

I just saw an ad for a DVD called "Killer Queens" that has a segment on Isabella! I imagine this series was previously shown at least on British TV.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Undine! I love little details like that, about cauldrons and charcoal-burners and the like.

Sadly, I had many, many WTF? moments when reading Doherty's Strange Death. :-( Strange, because his doctoral thesis on Isabella is excellent.

Anon: Killer Queens, seriously??! Oh dear... ;)

Anonymous said...

I agree with Undine....this post really felt like you got into the intimate details....I felt like I was there....and I didn't even have to frock up! Brill as usual x x
Kate Plantagenet

Kathryn Warner said...

Thank you, Kate! xx

Anerje said...

LOL at Doherty's take on the wedding! I've just been reading about Mary Tudor being 'courted' as a 6 year old by Charles V - doesn't Doherty realise that royal marriages have a 'chivalric' element to them? Great post!

and, erm, I don't think 'Killer Queens' has been shown in the UK.

Anerje said...

oh, and I hardly think Piers would think of an 11 year old girl as a rival, and why on earth would he have made the nobles 'suffer' by summoning them too early and making them wait? I know he was powerful, but that's ridiculous:>

Kathryn, any reason why Edward and Isabella didn't marry in England?

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Anerje! That whole 'making them wait around in the cold on purpose' thing is so silly - it's not as though Ed could have texted Piers with his exact arrival time. ;)

Ed, as the new king, owed homage to Phil for Gascony and Ponthieu, so evidently they decided to kill two birds with one stone and arrange that at the same time as his wedding.

Bryan Dunleavy said...

For what it's worth, Paul Doherty in his book "Isabella and the Strange Imaginings of Certain Historians" draws his reference to Edward rushing off to his "beautiful princess" from the writings of Agnes Strickland. He doesn't say who the chronicler was or where Strickland found her source.
I haven't read Strickland's work so don't know her source. Does Doherty? Does anybody?

Bryan Dunleavy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kathryn Warner said...

Offhand, I seem to remember Alison Weir mentioning the Eager To Meet The Beautiful Pre-Pubescent idea in her biography of Isabella too, but I haven't picked up that book for ages, so don't know what she cites as a source. Goodness only knows what Strickland's sources were for half of what she wrote. (Her imagination, I should think.)

"Isabella and the Strange Imaginings of Certain Historians" :-))

Kathryn Warner said...

Bryan, just noticed that your comment posted twice, so deleted the second one. ;)

Anerje said...

LOL Bryan! Love the title "Isabella and the Strange Imaginings of Certain Historians"!

Agnes Strickland wrote her 'Lives of the Queens of England' in the early 1800s - yes, really! Not sure where she gets her sources from, or if in fact, she, erm, made them up! They've certainly been used by romantic novelists many times. Her 8 volumes were re-released last year. I confess I used to read them in the reference section in the library when I was 12:>

Anerje said...

Thanks for the explanation Kathryn - I gues it was 'killing 2 birds with 1 stone'.

Bryan Dunleavy said...

Thanks Anerje. Pretty much confirms my hunch that Strickland didn't cite her source. I won't hold her up to censure for that because 19th century historians, however conscientious, didn't always feel compelled to annotate every detail. Fair enough!
Paul Doherty, who probably should know better, presents this little snippet from Agnes Strickland without commentary, thus reinforcing the original assertion.
What Paul Doherty wrote was:
"Edward was seemingly captivated when he eventually met his young bride. One chronicler even claims he neglected the war in Scotland because of his desire to marry the beautiful Princess as soon as possible."
Now this may not be inaccurate, but I think we need to know who the chronicler was and when it was written so that we can evaluate the statement. If it was written many years after the event, for example, we might not wish to give the statement much weight.
it might have been better for the reader if he had written something like - "According to Agnes Strickland, one chronicler even claims he neglected the war in Scotland because of his desire to marry the beautiful Princess as soon as possible. I haven't been able to find her source but it does show that there were varying opinions about the impact of Isabella on Edward."
The reason I'm making such a meal of this is that too often statements or opinions are repeated, then repeated again, and soon become accepted facts until someone decides to dig deep enough and try to set the record straight. Kathryn has exposed a number of these canards about Edward II to underscore the point.
Now if you are all still awake, I have done, and will retire to my pedant's corner.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Anerje - didn't know the Strickland books had been re-issued!

Thank you for that great comment, Bryan, and please don't retire to the pedants' corner - I love your comments here! :-)

I checked the Weir biog, and she says (p. 15) "some chroniclers accuse Edward of being so eager to marry her that he abandoned his chances of conquering Scotland in his haste." Her footnote says, in its entirety, "Annales Monastici; Walsingham; Rapin-Thoyras." Walsingham is known as a chronicler of Richard II's reign and died in about 1422, and 'Rapin-Thoyras' turns out in her bibliography to be 'L'Histoire d'Angleterre', which when I check was published in 1724. I've checked the Annales Monastici, but as Weir, as ever, doesn't provide a page number (AGH!!!) it's pretty tough to wade through all the pages of Latin to find the relevant part. It does call Piers Gaveston 'amasium suum', 'his [Edward's] lover', and although my Latin isn't great and possibly I've missed it, I can't see where it says that Edward was desperate to marry Isabella.

Bryan Dunleavy said...

I suspected it might have been Walsingham, which, given that he was writing in the time of Edward's great grandson, gives us a context with which to evaluate his comment. My gripe about Doherty's comment was that he left it so that the reader might infer that this was a contemporary chronicler with access to first hand information.
Incidentally, Susanna Moodie, who is much-acclaimed as a Canadian writer and much-championed by Margaret Atwood, was Agnes Strickland's younger sister.

Carol McGrath said...

I am beginning to look into this period, the marriage and so on and am very excited about it all. I shall be consulting in due course for books to read.