13 February, 2011

Edward II And His Children, And Why Neither William Wallace Nor Roger Mortimer Was Their Father

This (long!) article was inspired by my huge irritation a) that so many people still think the Braveheart story of William Wallace fathering Isabella of France's child is somehow factual - people hit this blog pretty well every day searching for it - and b) that the notion of Edward II not being the father of his own eldest child has so well and truly taken hold in the popular imagination.  For examples, if you can stomach them, see here, herehere, here and here, and the novels cited below.  Read them and weep.  I cannot adequately express my annoyance that a man with an Oxford doctorate on Isabella (Paul Doherty) wrote a novel (Death of a King) in which Edward III's biological father is Roger Mortimer, which Doherty must know is absolute BS but chose to sex up his novel by including it anyway and thereby giving the notion spurious plausibility. Agh.

EDIT: Thanks to Susan Higginbotham for telling me about a very recent post claiming that Edward II may have been 'cuckolded' and not the father of his children, in the Yahoo group of the Richard III Society, no less.  Check out Susan's excellent and elegant rebuttal.

Braveheart features the future King Edward II as a fairly major character, with Edward – in real life, an enormously strong, athletic and handsome man – caricatured as a useless feeble court fop whose lover is thrown out of a window and whose wife cuckolds him with William Wallace.  There are countless historical inaccuracies in Braveheart, which have been well detailed elsewhere, and I won’t go into them here.  I just want to focus on one: the statement at the end of the film that Wallace is the real father of the baby Edward’s wife Isabella is carrying, who is, presumably, intended to be Isabella’s first-born child King Edward III.

Let’s check some basic dates and facts here:

- Sir William Wallace was executed on 23 August 1305.

- Isabella of France arrived in England on 7 February 1308, having married King Edward II at Boulogne on 25 January.  [1]  She had recently turned twelve at the time of her marriage and arrival in her new husband’s kingdom; her biographer* places her date of birth sometime during the winter of 1295/96.  [2]  (Edward II was born on 25 April 1284, so was about eleven and a half years his wife’s senior.)  Isabella never met her husband’s father Edward I (‘Longshanks’), who had died on 7 July 1307 – not, incidentally, on the same day as Wallace, as depicted in Braveheart.  She was never princess of Wales, as she married Edward II after his accession to the throne and became queen of England on marriage.
* Paul Doherty, but this is a properly-researched academic article, not a sensationalist, hopelessly inaccurate novel.

- Isabella’s first child, the future Edward III, was born at Windsor on 13 November 1312, more than seven years after William Wallace’s death.  As noted above, Isabella’s date of birth means that she was nine at the time of Wallace’s execution, and was still in France at the court of her father Philippe IV.  She was seventeen or shortly to turn seventeen at the time of her eldest child’s birth.

- Edward II and Isabella of France had four children together, not one, the others being: John of Eltham, earl of Cornwall (15 August 1316-13 September 1336); Eleanor of Woodstock, duchess of Gelderland (18 June 1318-22 April 1355); Joan of the Tower, queen of Scotland (5 July 1321-7 September 1362).  In addition, Isabella may have suffered a miscarriage in or shortly before November 1313, when pennyroyal was purchased for her (though this is disputed).  [3] 

- Edward and Isabella had been married exactly nineteen years when the king was forced to abdicate in favour of their son, following Isabella and Roger Mortimer’s invasion of his kingdom; the fourteen-year-old’s reign as Edward III began on 25 January 1327.  I make this point because there is a widespread misapprehension that Isabella overthrew her husband and ruled with Mortimer while her son – presumed to be her only child – was still only a toddler. 

A few writers, both in novels and online, have realised the impossibility of William Wallace’s fathering Edward III, but have unfortunately taken on board the notion that Isabella of France took a lover and have looked around for another possible father for her son.  This desperation to re-assign Edward III’s paternity appears to be based on the assumptions that a) Edward II was gay and therefore incapable of intercourse with women, and b) Isabella began a relationship with Sir Roger Mortimer, lord of Wigmore in late 1325, and therefore may well have committed adultery with him or another man a few years earlier.  The first ever suggestion that Edward III was not Edward II’s biological son is found in Paul Doherty’s novel Death Of A King, published in 1982 – 670 years after Edward III’s birth.  Doherty changes Edward III’s date of birth by eight months, from November 1312 to March that year, in order to put forward the theory that Roger Mortimer was the boy’s real father.  In fact, it is physically impossible for Mortimer to have fathered Edward III, as he was in Ireland, a country Isabella never visited, at the time of the boy’s conception in February/March 1312.  Mortimer was also in Ireland in the summer of 1311 nine months before March 1312, which puts paid to Doherty’s fictional theory, in Ireland in late 1315 and autumn 1317 when Edward and Isabella conceived their next two children, and on his way from Ireland to Herefordshire when their youngest was conceived in autumn 1320 (Isabella was at Westminster).  [4]  The notion that Roger Mortimer was Edward III’s biological father is also advanced in Charles Randolph Bruce and Carolyn Hale Bruce’s 2006 novel Bannok Burn, although Isabella manages to convince Edward that his own lover Piers Gaveston is the father.  There is nothing at all to indicate that Isabella and Roger Mortimer had any kind of relationship – beyond the normal courtly association of a baron and his queen – before late 1325.  Edith Felber’s 2006 novel Queen of Shadows has Edward III being fathered by a Scotsman who is never identified, with whom Isabella has an affair when she is ‘abandoned behind enemy lines’ in Scotland by her husband.  In reality, Isabella never set foot in Scotland, unless you count the port of Berwick-on-Tweed, which was in English hands anyway when she was there in 1311 and 1314.

Let me just repeat the salient point here for absolute clarity: Roger Mortimer was in Ireland and thus several hundred miles away from Isabella at the time of Edward III's conception.

A comparison of Edward II and Isabella of France’s itineraries proves conclusively that they were together approximately nine months before the births of all their offspring.  This will come as no surprise to anyone who does the inhabitants of early fourteenth-century England the credit of assuming that they weren’t so stupid and ignorant they wouldn’t have noticed anything amiss if the queen had become pregnant while she and the king were apart for months on end.  (Which, incidentally, Edward and Isabella very seldom were.)  Let’s take a look at the date of conception of their eldest child, Edward III.  Edward II arrived in York in mid-January 1312 to meet up with Piers Gaveston, who had recently returned from his third exile, presumably to see his new-born child (Piers’ wife, Edward II’s niece Margaret de Clare, gave birth to his daughter Joan on or around 12 January 1312).  In York on 20 February, after Margaret’s churching, Edward and the proud parents celebrated Joan’s birth with music and feasting.  [5]  Meanwhile, Queen Isabella was making her way north from Westminster to join her husband, remaining in frequent contact with him via her messenger John Moigne and sending him a basket of lampreys.  [6]  (The queen was certainly not "fraternising with the rebel barons on her way north to meet her husband" with the result that "Some doubt could be raised as to whether King Edward II was the genetic father of Prince Edward" as this silly page claims.)  Edward III was born on Monday 13 November 1312.  Counting back thirty-eight weeks from 13 November, roughly the length of a full-term pregnancy from the time of conception, brings us to 21 February (1312 was a leap year).  On this date, Isabella’s Household Book shows her to have been at Bishopthorpe, just south of York, and she probably arrived in the city very soon afterwards.  [7] The king and queen remained together in the city until early April.  Easter Sunday fell on 26 March in 1312, so Edward and Isabella must have conceived their son during Lent, when intercourse was forbidden.  This hardly lends credence to the notion that Edward slept with his wife unwillingly; Lent gave him the perfect excuse not to have sex with Isabella, if he didn’t want to.

The same applies to the conception of the couple’s younger three children: in November 1315, they were together at the royal hunting lodge at Clipstone in Nottinghamshire to conceive their second son John, born August 1316.  In September 1317, they were together in York to conceive their daughter Eleanor, born June 1318. In October 1320, they were together at Westminster to conceive their daughter Joan, born July 1321.  No record of the fourteenth century – not a single one – gives even the slightest hint that anyone believed Isabella had taken a lover and that Edward was not the real father of the future Edward III or of any of their other children.  Privacy is a modern invention, and Isabella probably had less of it than anyone else in the country; she spent every minute of every day surrounded by ladies-in-waiting, damsels, chamber and wardrobe staff, and many other servants, and it is basically impossible that she could have conducted an affair and kept it secret (two of her sisters-in-law in France had affairs, but were discovered and imprisoned and their lovers executed).  The purity of royal and noble women and the sacred royal line were considered of vital importance, and it is unlikely that Isabella ever had much, if any, chance to be alone with a man who wasn’t a close relative.  People who believe that she took a lover in early 1312 who fathered her son – and bear in mind that the queen was only sixteen years old then – must explain how she managed this seemingly impossible feat without anyone ever noticing.  Her relationship with Roger Mortimer, whatever the true nature of it was, began in late 1325 and occurred when she was in France and beyond Edward’s influence, after their marriage had broken down and long after she had borne her husband’s children.  This cannot be taken to mean that Mortimer, or anyone else, had been her lover years before.

It was only in the late twentieth century that speculations about Edward III’s paternity arose, presumably on the basis that Edward II was gay and therefore incapable of intercourse with women.  Although it is beyond doubt that Edward II loved men, he had an illegitimate son called Adam, so evidently wasn’t repelled by sex with women and might have enjoyed it enormously for all we know.  Adam, sadly, is very obscure.  The identity of his mother is unknown, his date of birth likewise, though a date of sometime between about 1305 and 1308 (when Edward II was twenty-one to twenty-four) seems likely.  The boy or young man, called ‘Adam, bastard son of the lord king’ (Ade filio domini Regis bastardo) and ‘Adam, son of the king’ (Ade filio Regis) accompanied his father on the disastrous Scottish campaign of September/October 1322 with his tutor Hugh Chastilloun, and was given money totalling thirteen pounds and twenty-two pence to buy himself ‘equipment and other necessaries’.  He is probably, rather than his younger half-brother the future Edward III, the boy called ‘the king’s son’ in a letter sent to Edward II in the summer of 1322, wherein the unidentified writer comments that “all good qualities and honour are increasing in him” (tutes bountes e honours sount en lui cressaunt).  Adam died shortly before 30 September 1322, probably in his mid-teens or thereabouts, and was buried at Tynemouth Priory; his father bought a silk cloth with gold thread to lie over his body.  [8]  For the record, Piers Gaveston fathered an illegitimate daughter called Amie, as well as his legitimate daughter and heiress, Joan.  [9]

Although writers who push the ‘Isabella took a lover who fathered her child’ narrative probably think otherwise, they’re actually doing her a gross insult, not to mention pushing a ludicrously anachronistic notion of sexual freedom for royal women in the Middle Ages.  (Fictional depictions of the queen of England managing to have hot sex with Roger Mortimer without anyone ever noticing by escaping from court wearing a Harry Potter-style invisibility cloak, I mean a hood: I point at you and mock.)  Isabella, daughter of the king of France and the queen of Navarre, sister of three kings of France and herself crowned queen of England at the age of twelve, was a woman with (understandably) a powerful and sacred sense of her own royalty and exalted status.  In 1314, two of her brothers’ wives were found to have committed adultery and imprisoned; according to several chronicles, it was Isabella herself, visiting Paris, who informed her father Philippe IV of the women’s actions.  If true, this was almost certainly not intended vindictively or maliciously, but demonstrates Isabella’s concern that her sisters-in-law might become pregnant by their lovers and thereby endanger the French royal line.  In 1329, when her son Edward III had to pay homage for his lands in France to her cousin Philippe VI (son of Philippe IV’s brother the count of Valois and first of the Valois kings of France), Isabella declared furiously “The son of a king would never do homage to the son of a mere count.”  [10]  In 1318, when the impostor John of Powderham claimed to be the rightful son of Edward I and to have been switched in infancy for a peasant boy, the rumours spreading through the kingdom "annoyed the queen unspeakably."  [11]  (Not that she believed the story, I'm sure, but it must have been deeply humiliating for Isabella to have half the country speculating that her husband was not the descendant of kings but a peasant.)  Does any of this sound even remotely like a woman who would have taken a non-royal lover and foisted his child onto the English throne? 

Whatever the nature of Edward II’s sexuality and whatever his contemporaries thought of it, no-one doubted that he fathered Isabella’s children – let me repeat that there is not the slightest hint in any medieval source or anything written prior to the 1980s to suggest that anyone thought he didn’t – and therefore there is no reason for us to doubt it.  Edward himself certainly never doubted that his children were his; there are numerous indications that he loved them deeply, rejoiced at their births and took great pride in them.  No historian worth his or her salt would ever write that Edward did not father Isabella’s children, so if you see this claim anywhere, be aware that the writer hasn't a clue what s/he is going on about.


1) Elizabeth Hallam, The Itinerary of Edward II and His Household, 1307-1328 (List and Index Society Publications, 211, 1984), pp. 27-28; Calendar of Fine Rolls 1307-1319, p. 14.
2) Paul Doherty, ‘The Date of Birth of Isabella, Queen of England’, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, 48 (1975), pp. 246-248.
3) G.E. Trease, ‘The Spicers and Apothecaries of the Royal Household in the reigns of Edward I and Edward II’, Nottingham Medieval Studies, 3 (1959), p. 46.
4) Ian Mortimer, The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer (2003), pp. 49-50, 69-70, 87, 100-01, 305-310.
5) Gesta Edwardi de Carnarvon Auctore Canonico Bridlingtoniensi, in W. Stubbs, ed., Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II, volume 2 (1883), p. 42; Pierre Chaplais, Piers Gaveston: Edward II’s Adoptive Brother (1994), pp. 78-79; J.S. Hamilton, Piers Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall 1307-1312: Politics and Patronage in the Reign of Edward II (1988), pp. 93-94; Constance Bullock-Davies, A Register of Royal and Baronial Domestic Minstrels 1272-1327, p. 143.
6) F.D. Blackley and G. Hermansen, eds., The Household Book of Queen Isabella of England 1311-1312 (1971), pp. 25, 27, 137, 143.
7) Ibid., p. 13.
8) F.D. Blackley, ‘Adam, the Bastard Son of Edward II’, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, 37 (1964), pp. 76-77; Seymour Phillips, Edward II (2010), pp. 428-429.
9) The archives of soc.genealogy.medieval are chock-full of threads about Amie.
10) Cited in Ian Mortimer, The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III (2006), pp. 73-74.
11) Vita Edwardi Secundi, ed. N. Denholm-Young, p. 86.


Susan Higginbotham said...

Keep fighting the good fight!

Elysium said...

I always find it funny when Wallace is thought to be Edward's father. I mean it's not that hard to check someone's death/birth date... Isn't that why wikipedia is for? :D

Thank you for this post!

Anerje said...

I find it incredible that the curse of Braveheart is still influencing people! I notice it tends to be listed as sportsmens fav film, along with Gladiator. It's just too ridiculous for words! As you rightly point out, it would be physically impossible for Wallace to be the father of Edward III! It Was Edward II himself who was the subject of a 'baby swap' - there's never been any doubt that he was the father of his children. Whatever his sexuality, many gay or bisexual men father children.

Besides, everyone knows that it was really Piers:> Joking! Actually, has he ever been put forward as a candidate????

Anonymous said...

It's incredible what some of these people believe! They're "certain" that Edward could not have been the father of his children! And the historical impossibilities that they continue to disregard! Discussion and speculation should at least be based on known facts, not crazy theories and prejudice.

Clement of the Glen said...

I have a feeling this wont be the end of it though!!!!

People just want to believe some things!!

Clement of the Glen said...

People just want to believe certain things Kathryn!

I feel this wont be the end of it! LOL

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone! I'll keep fighting on this one, though I agree the silly story will continue to be perpetuated - still, I think it's important to get decent, accurate info online, and for sure some people will find it.

Anerje, the novel called Bannok Burn I mention in the post has Isabella convincing Edward that Piers is the father, which he believes, even though it's actually Le Manly Rog. Piers would be a far more plausible candidate, actually; at least he was in the same place as Isabella when she got pregnant!

Tudor Daughter said...

Excellent post, well said!! Cheering you on!

Anerje said...

Thanks Kathryn. Just don't tell me Ed slaps Piers on the back and says 'well done' :> You raise a serious point in the paternity issue being an insult to Isabella. It would have been impossible for her to take a lover without her husband knowing. She would certainly have abhorred any taint of illegitimacy cast over any of her children. Both Ed and Isa knew their duty.

Gabriele C. said...

Just well there's less literature (fictional and non fictional) about Varus, because else I'd be in for an uphill fight against his portrayal as lazy, money greedy, a lousy general and incapable of dealing with the Germans. Thanks to that biased Velleius Paterculus, this image is still alive - as if Augustus would ever have given Varus the command in Germania and the right to counterstamp coins (which was rarely granted even to members of the Imperial family) if he had indeed been a greedy and inept lazybone, and not at the peak of a succesful career.

Anonymous said...


Prejudiced as he was, Velleius was a contemporary and in position to know. There's some diffrence from the late legends that now pester Edward's memory.

I suspect that Augustus deemed - wrongly - to have pacified Germany, so he send a bureaucrat instead of a general. And Varus was a greedy bureaucrat to boot.
I also suspect that Arminius wouldn't have been able to trick Tiberius as he managed to do to with Varus.

Kathryn Warner said...

Tudor Daughter: thank you for the kind words! Really glad you liked the post!

Anerje: I can't remember the scene (or even if there is one! :) where Ed confronts Piers about Isa's pregnancy - it's such an awful, dreadful novel, frankly (not just because of the Mortimer thing), that I can't bring myself to pick it up again. :D

Gabriele, Courtaud: interesting points about Varus, thanks. If there were contemporary rumours about the paternity of Ed II's children, it would be well worth discussing it and I could understand all the modern speculation - but there isn't.

Christy K Robinson said...

Brilliant research, of course, written in a style that should be easy enough to understand, even to the flat-earth people who believe Braveheart is Truth. One more weapon in your arsenal might be a graphic timeline of events. At the last place I was employed as the communications and editorial director, the president and CEO both told me that they preferred to look at pictures rather than go to the work of reading text. (Idiots!) However, this world is run by idiots. So the addition of a graphic illustration could go a long way toward repairing the damage.

Gabriele C. said...

yes, Velleius is the only contemporary source we have and he personally knew both Varus and Arminius. But at the time he wrote his remarks about Varus, he was utterly the man of Tiberius and Sejanus (the latter attachment would later cut short his career), and Sejanus was after Varus' family, already had the son executed, so the father was fair game for malignant rumours.

Augustus had changed the tax system so no governor could get rich off a province the way Caesar and others did; and Varus wdidn't start out a poor man because in that case he would not have qualified for the senate in the first place.

I agree that Varus was more an administration man than a general, and it's also true that Augustus misjudged the situation in Germany. But Varus was not an inept general, he just went by the routine and that routine didn't work in Germania the way it had worked in Syria. Not brilliant (definitely no match for Arminius) but not a blundering idiot, either. And the accusation that Varus mistakenly trusted Arminius is unjust. Why should he not have trusted a man who was Roman educated, a talented officer, member of Tiberius' staff in Pannonia, and member of a Cherusican family that had been pro-Roman so far? Would Tiberius have been able to see through Arminius' double game? Maybe; Tiberius was more cautious - one can say paranoid in later years though not AD 9. But then, maybe Tiberius would have been able to continue a Roman politics in Germania that had worked before and not pressed the provicialisation the way Varus had been ordered to do. The whole mess could have been avoided and we'd speak French today, not German. *grin*

Kathryn Warner said...

Christy, thank you, for the kind words and the excellent suggestion! I must see about that...hmm...

Gabriele, wow, am learning so much (and I love how these comment threads go off in a direction of their own...;)

Queen Echo said...

I'm now reading Doherty's "The Prince of Darkness". At the end of the book he has an "Author's Note" which supposedly discusses the real history behind the novel. He states "Gaveston was a Gascon upstart whose mother was burned as a witch..." "Gaveston was recalled and made Duke of Cornwall..." "the young king did marry Isabella but handed all of Philip IV's wedding gifts, including the bridal bed, over to Gaveston" Gaveston said to Warwick "My Lord, surely you will not spoil my looks by striking off my head?" All this from a man who is a medieval historian??!!!

Gabriele C. said...

Kathryn, it's high time I get to those Romans in Germania blogposts I've been talking about, but since even the weekly ones I think I can do in one afternoon turn out to require several days of research, that project gets pushed into the future all the time. And being off to Norway for three weeks (going by the end of March) will not help matters. ;)

Kate S said...

Hi Kathryn!
Speaking of Doherty - I've missed something, or you didn't write any review on his fiction or non-fiction? From what I read, there's much to argue with!

Anonymous said...

@ Gabriele
I think Kathrin is hinting that we are a little off topic here :) So until we can meet again elsewere I just say: Velleius fangirled Tiberius from the start - and so do I - but he didn't smear poor Varus' character. He claimed that Varus was "a serious man and of healthy moral principles, who ruined himself and a magnificent army for the lack of assuredness, ability and cunning required from a general". Which is hard to dispute.
As for Arminius, Varus was warned, openly, by Arminius' own father in law and several others.
Tiberius was always rather paranoid, and that's why he never lost a battle and fought very few, yet managed to win wars. What happened in his last years is a terrible, sad story, whatever part Sejanus played in it. But yes, he would have been better fit for governing Germany. He worked in Gallia with Augustus for years and with excellent results.

Kathryn Warner said...

Queen Echo: a huge resounding AGH!!! from over here at Doherty's novels. As you say, even his author's notes are full of historical errors! How can he not know that Piers was earl, not duke, of Cornwall?? In one of his more recent novels, he says that Eleanor of Castile died in 1296 and that Ed II's brother-in-law the earl of Hereford was called Henry de Bohun. I found 'Prince' decidedly odd; Ed is 17 (set in 1301), yet discarded a mistress 2 years previously? How precocious of him.

Hi Kate! I wrote a long post on Facebook about Doherty's Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II, pointing out a few of the countless errors (I think you can read it even if you're not a member of Facebook): http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=143166202366731&v=app_2373072738&ref=ts#!/topic.php?uid=143166202366731&topic=257

Some of his novels are enjoyable, but as I said above, they're also full of historical errors, which I find quite bizarre in someone with his qualifications.

Gabriele, Courtaud: sorry if it came across that I was telling you off for going off-topic - I didn't mean to! :-) I've really been enjoying your posts and learning loads! Gabriele, wow, Norway..am so envious!

Kate S said...

Kathryn, thanks for the link. I'm currently finishing his Mathilde of Westminster series, and I'm starting on every second page finding something that is either a mistake, or simply couldn't be. I don't mean that I mind rewriting history or inventing new characters - perhaps, If I was to write a novel about the era, I would invent and rewrite most provocatively! But I would most certainly declare it in the beginning, and make a note to list how and where I changed anything. Besides, his mistakes look rather unaccountable - not that his characters, or plot, or atmosphere gains anything from them.
And non-fiction book is a wholly different matter, of course - people pick it looking for facts, not entertainment!

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi again Kate, and thanks for the great comment! I might have to write a review of the latest Mathilde novel sometime. Doherty makes Stephen Dunheved a Dominican friar, which he certainly wasn't (that was his brother Thomas; Stephen was lord of Dunchurch near Rugby and definitely not a man of religion), so that's a pretty huge error for a start, and I remember there being loads more (will have to re-read it). I got sooooo sick of being told all the time how beautiful and desirable Isabella is. :D

I agree that his mistakes or alterations don't add anything of value, and he doesn't list any changes he's made to recorded history in his author's notes. Infuriating, especially the one about changing Ed III's date of birth, which I think is unforgivable. And he mentions in every Mathilde novel that Isabella was buried next to Roger Mortimer at the Greyfriars in London when she died in 1358, which is a myth; Mort was buried in Coventry. If Doherty doesn't know that he bloody well should, and if he knows it's wrong but writes it anyway to increase the 'romance' of their relationship and doesn't acknowledge it - well, he's just spreading untruths.

Anonymous said...

There are some strange theories on soc.genealogy.medieval but I did find some interesting information. Someone was able to date Edward's ordering of masses for Piers' brother Guillaume Arnaud to September 1312. I think it is very likely that Edward would have paid all his funeral expenses, and evidence would turn up if someone was able to check the Exchequer records for September and October. (Hamilton indicates that Edward spent alot of money on Langley in October)Also, someone found evidence (from a Chancery document from 1310) that Arnaud Guillaume de Marsan's wife was named "Mary/ Marie" (or whatever the Gascon equivalent is!) I had wondered whether his wife was still alive when he went to England in 1300 - he seems to have spent very considerable periods of time away from Gascony and that must have been a hardship for him. I wonder if Guillaume Arnaud ever married. If he had, we could expect to find evidence for it, such as wedding gifts from Edward, etc.

Kathryn Warner said...

There are some very, very weird theories on soc.genealogy.medieval. I still giggle at the post a few years ago speculating that Hugh Despenser the younger's daughters Isabel (born c. 1312) and Elizabeth (born 1325/26) were the same person, and that Maurice Berkeley (born c. 1330) married Isabel after her marriage to Richard of Arundel was annulled. LOL, that's classic.

Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, pp. 314-315, dated 28 April 1315, mentions 'Sir Arnaud Guilliam de Marsan and Mary his wife' - obviously 'Mary' is how the translators rendered it - I do wish they'd leave names in the original spelling. It's so frustrating.

I'll have a dig around as soon as I can to see if I can find more about Guillaume Arnaud, but am no too optimistic...:-(

Anonymous said...

Are the Chancery Warrants available to view online (and hopefully for free)? Also, soc.genealogy mentioned some other Gavestons - Raymond who was in England during the 1330s, and a Piers or Peter who is described as a cleric - have you seen anything about them? It would seem rather unlikely that Piers' two brothers who lived in England would have had no children.

Kathryn Warner said...

Not sure if the Warrants are available for free - I downloaded them here: http://www.tannerritchie.com/books/136/

Don't know anything about Raymond or another Piers, I'm afraid - would love to know the sources if you've seen them - had no idea there was another Piers Gaveston in England. Hamilton (I think) mentions an Alexander Gaveston in Ireland, but I can't remember when. I'm also interested in Piers' kinsmen the Caillaus, several of whom served Ed II in England. I'm not sure what Hamilton's source is for Piers' two younger brothers - how does he know they were Piers' brothers? Then there's all the confusion over Fortaner de Lescun, who Hamilton says was Claramonde's brother but is called her son in a petition.

Anonymous said...

I saw Raymond and Piers the cleric mentioned on soc.genealogy so who knows what their sources were! (They seem to be able to spend alot of time discussing persons who don't really exist, such as Piers Gaveston the elder, who was "really" Piers' father rather than Arnaud) As for Piers' brothers in England - we know that Guillaume Arnaud lived in England from 1300 until his death in 1312 and Bourd (presumably also a brother) lived in England, and may be the second brother who was supposedly buried at Langley with Piers - so it would be somewhat unusual if neither of these men had any children, even illegitimate children. (The children may not have ended up in official records, of course) I don't know of any evidence of Piers' younger brothers (Gerard, Raymond)ever being in England - unless the Raymond soc.genealogy mentions is Piers' brother. Hamilton I think says that Alexander was in Ireland in 1313 and he presumes that Alexander had gone there with Piers in 1308, but there does not seem to be any proof of that. As for Fortaner, I suppose if Fortaner Senior did not have any children he could have designated one of his sister's sons to be his heir - but unless he was near death, why was he so certain he would not have children of his own? I just wish someone would write a new biography of Piers and clear these things up!

Kathryn Warner said...

Will write more tomorrow (no time at the moment! ;) but this petition says that Fortaner de Lescun was the brother of Arnaud-Guilhem de Marsan and that the lady de Marsan was their mother (the first line of the petition says "Arnaud Guilhem de Marssans and Fortaner de Lescun, brothers"): http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/details-result.asp?queryType=1&resultcount=1&Edoc_Id=7718506

I don't know Hamilton's source for saying that Fortaner was Claramonde's brother, and even if there was a Fortaner Sr and Jr.

Anonymous said...

I found the reference to Raymond on soc.genealogy : This is from a post by Brad Verity on Oct 6, 2002 under"Piers' Paternity & Gaveston Family" The source is a published portion of Edward III's household accounts "The Wardrobe Book of William de Norwell : 12 July 1338 to 27 May 1340" (Bruxelles: Palais des Academies 1983.) The text is in Latin so I won't print it here.

Anonymous said...

At the bottom of several petitions in the National Archives involving Arnaud Guillaume (SC 8/174/8655 , SC 8/291/14546) it says "for another petition from the same petitioner and his half-brother see SC 8/278/13863." This "half- brother" is Fortaner. I don't know why someone at the National Archives thinks Fortaner is a half-brother. (I did see a genealogy site that listed him as a son of Claramonde by a previous marriage)Piers is referred to as "another brother" This is all so muddled !

Kathryn Warner said...

Agh!!!! Someone really, really needs to research Piers' family! :-)

GeorgeD said...

Dear Kathryn,

please forgive me for jumping in here so late; but, your -- excellent! -- article touches a point that bothers me, and has bothered me for a long time.

If queen Isabella was so concerned with royal honour, why did she finally take a lover herself? And, if her family had such strict views on adultery as they demonstrated in the Tour de Nesle affair, why would her brother Charles tolerate Isabella's affair, while it went on under his eye and jurisdiction, and then even support her in it?

Well, looking up the story once again, I stumbled on another question. Wikipedia's Tour de Nesle article contains the following statement: "Isabella looked frequently to her father for help addressing the problems in her English marriage". It's Alison Weir's She-Wolf book that is given as reference. Now, in my humble estimation, Alison Weir is much more of a gossip-monger than a serious historian, and I wouldn't spend a cent on another book of hers, if someone held a pistol to my head. So I hope you'll forgive me for passing the question on to you -- do you know anything about Isabella's complaints to her father?

(Still very much enjoying your blog, though I'm such a lazy commenter!)

Kathryn Warner said...

Dear George,

How lovely to see you again! I do hope all is well with you, and thanks for taking the time to leave such a great comment. I've just come in from work and it's already 9.15pm, and I'm only checking emails very quickly, but promise to answer your questions properly tomorrow!

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi again George!
OK, it's the morning now, I've had my coffee, so time to answer your questions. ;-)

Myself, I've never been convinced that Isabella and Mortimer were lovers, although modern writers almost invariably describe them as such (with the exception of Seymour Phillips, in his 2010 biog of Edward). For a relationship said to be 'flaunted' and 'notorious' there's precious little evidence that it was sexual. A couple of chroniclers say they had a 'familiarity' but say the same thing about Ed and Piers. The Scalacronica calls Mortimer Isa's 'chief counsellor' with no hint of a sexual affair, and another chronicle (can't remember which offhand) merely describes him as 'of her faction'. The Lanercost chronicler speaks of a 'report' that they had a 'liaison', but is clearly just recording gossip. Ed II himself wrote a letter in 1326 saying that Isa and Mort kept company 'in and out of house', perhaps a euphemism, but this occurs in the middle of his complaint that Mort, his enemy, had become Isa's adviser in France. As for Isa being pregnant in 1330, the only writer who says this is Froissart, who wasn't even born till about 1337 and first visited England in the 1360s. No English writer even hints at a pregnancy, and there was no living child, although some recent novelists have invented one.

I agree with you that Charles IV isn't likely to have tolerated and encouraged his sister's flagrant adultery, given his own experience. I give some credence to the notion that Isa, who had a sacred sense of her own royalty and exalted position, wouldn't have let a non-royal man touch her.

"Now, in my humble estimation, Alison Weir is much more of a gossip-monger than a serious historian, and I wouldn't spend a cent on another book of hers, if someone held a pistol to my head."

*Applauds* :-) I think this statement on Wiki and in Weir is nonsense. None of Isa's letters to her father survive, that I know of, so again it's just what a chronicler says she wrote - and the chronicler in question is Walsingham, who died in 1422 (not 1322). How could he possibly have known what Isa wrote to her father a century earlier??? And what 'problems' in her 'English marriage'? Possibly at the very beginning in 1308, before Ed granted her an income, but even then, I'm not sure. Weir peddles the common myth that Ed and Isa's marriage was an unhappy disaster from the start and ignores the wealth of evidence of mutual affection and of Ed's concern for his queen's well-being for many years - and of Isa's affection for her husband as late as 1325/26 and even after his deposition.

I'd better stop there, or I'll end up writing an essay. :-) Hope to hear from you again soon, George!

GeorgeD said...

Hello Kathryn,

Thank you ever so much for your detailed and satisfying answer! Well, the idea that Isabella and Mortimer were *not* lovers, never crossed my mind. And how could it, after their oh so fulfilling relationship has been hammered into my brains by nearly everything I've ever read on Edward II -- outside of your blog (but I don't recall ever having seen that myth explicitly challenged here, either, and I rarely miss one of your articles). In any case, your explanation does make a lot of sense!

"None of Isa's letters to her father survive, that I know of, so again it's just what a chronicler says she wrote"

Please forgive me for taking up your time with such an idle question. I was expecting this answer, since similar things can be said about the bulk of Weir's assertions that I know of (chroniclers seem to be pure gospel to her, at least as long as they fall in with her point of view). However, I wanted it to be more than a mere suspicion. Thank you for clarifying!

Well, may I just add that reading your blog has made Edward II quite lovable in my eyes -- I was especially charmed by that bit about him going to enjoy a picnic with his niece, in the face of impending doom (and since I'm not so easily shocked by an uncle-niece "incest" as American readers seem to be, I found the idea of them being lovers rather appalling).

Thanks again, and have a nice evening!

Kathryn Warner said...

You're very welcome, George! You're right - I don't think I've ever written about Mort and Isa's relationship. It is hammered in a lot these days what a great romantic/sexual affair it was, isn't it? Based on very little evidence; personally, I find the relationship of Ed and Piers far more romantic and appealing - and even Ed and Eleanor, as you said.

Have a lovely weekend!

GeorgeD said...

OMG. Ugh. Argh. And many thanks for catching my meaning. I did indeed mean


(and make that "very appealing", please)

not apalling

I must have been rather done in that evening, sorry!

And have another great weekend!

paulalofting said...

lets hope that be the end of it, however as Clement said, it most likely never will be! And dont forget there are a couple of books waiting to be finished, edited and published and read by your many friends and followers! C'mon everyone, support me in persuading KAthryn to get on with the biog and novel!

Summer said...

You do such a good job indicating all the reasons why all four children of Edward II and Isabella should be considered theirs (we could go further afield into the morés of the time, and the fact that Isabella was in no way brought up to be...sluttish).

I personally would bet a great sum of money that all five children listed here have Edward II's DNA, but until the DNA work is done, there are going to be those who find a way to consider that a highly-supervised 12-13 year old girl could get away with a scheme like this.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks so much, Summer! Yes, totally agree - Isabella was raised strictly and had attendants around her all the time, and also I think a lot of people nowadays tend to forget that she had a very strong and even sacred sense of royalty, and the chance that she would have tried to foist a non-royal child on the English throne is absolutely minimal.

Louise Williams said...

Well finally someone that shares my belief! However I have only one correction. The birthplace of Edward II was indeed in Caernarfon, but not in the castle itself. This fact is indeed FALSE. The castle only started constructed in 1283 and it wasn't finished until 1330. By the time that Edward was born in the July 1307, the castle was mainly constructed up to a foot high. He was born outside the town walls.

I have lived in Caernarfon for all my life (22 years) with a BA in Medieval and Early History at Bangor University. I have also worked as an assistant curator at Caernarfon Castle. Also my main field is 13th-15th century Medieval British kingship.

Louise Williams said...

Well finally someone that shares my belief! However I have only one correction. The birthplace of Edward II was indeed in Caernarfon, but not in the castle itself. This fact is indeed FALSE. The castle only started constructed in 1283 and it wasn't finished until 1330. By the time that Edward was born in the July 1307, the castle was mainly constructed up to a foot high. He was born outside the town walls.

I have lived in Caernarfon for all my life (22 years) with a BA in Medieval and Early History at Bangor University. I have also worked as an assistant curator at Caernarfon Castle. Also my main field is 13th-15th century Medieval British kingship.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Louise! Yes, I'm aware that Edward II was almost certainly born outside the castle as it was a new building site in April 1284 (that's when Edward was born - July 1307 was when he became king).

Hugh said...

Hello Kathryn. I must say I both agree and sympathise with your efforts in exploding the myths created from the howling inaccuracies of the film Braveheart. As you correctly point out, Wallace had been executed three years before Isabella had even arrived in England.
The portrayal of Robert the Bruce is even worse. One of the most renowned warriors in Scottish history is portrayed as a total wimp. It's nearly as bad as Shakespeare's totally false depiction of MacBeth in the so called Scottish play. MacBeth actually slew Duncan (the destroyer) in open battle.
Wallace did not rebel because the English killed his wife. Wallace rebelled against the occupation. His wife was executed in cruel retaliation for his exploits which intensified his hatred of the oppressors.
Braveheart has Bruce on the English side at the battle of Falkirk when he was not even there. In fact Bruce was appointed a joint Guardian of Scotland with John Comyn when Wallace stepped down as Guardian after Falkirk. So much for that nonsense.
The next iniquity is having Bruce involved in the betrayal of Wallace to Edward 1 when he had nothing to do with it, unless being a relative through marriage
to Sir John Stewart Earl of Menteith serves as historical proof. Menteith was the man who handed Wallace over, which may or may not account for him getting a couple of arrows in his back at a much later engagement, when he was nowhere near the actual fighting?
Last but not least we have Bruce finally deciding to fight at Bannockburn in 1314. Dear God!!! Bruce had been fighting non stop since he took the crown in 1306, but that's Hollywood for you. never let the facts get in the way of the screenplay.
Most Scots love Braveheart. As both a Scot and a history graduate I hate the bloody thing. Entertaining yes, but pure Hollywood hokum sadly taken as factual all too often. The treatment of Bruce in particular should have Scots who really know their history raging but.......

Kathryn Warner said...

Hugh, many thanks for the great comment! Isn't it infuriating to see Hollywood distort history like this? :/

Hugh said...

You're most welcome Kathryn. I may not always agree on all that is said, but you and Sami have put together a wonderfully incisive and informative range of information here.
Yes Hollywood's inventive treatment of history can be infuriating and occasionally hilarious. I seem to remember an old Betty Davis and Errol Flynn film, Elizabeth and Essex. Betty (Elizabeth) pronounces "Arise Earl of Sutherland," to one of her favourites. Really??? I'd have loved to see his attempt at moving in, over a century before the union of the crowns.
More recent but equally hilarious we have Robin Prince of Thieves. Kevin Costner utters the immortal phrase "Here we are but a few leagues from Nottingham" to Morgan Freeman. I distinctly remember about a dozen people in the cinema having a good titter at the unmistakeable sight of Hadrian's wall in the background. A bit more than a few leagues there Kev. They probably think we wont notice?
Back to your favourite subject Edward 11. Historical figures often suffer unfairly by comparison to others. Bruce is rarely seen as a patriot due to comparison with Wallace, who had no family head to obey and no lands to lose. I suspect Edward 11 was and is unfairly seen as weak due to comparison with his father then and now. Edward 11 was brave enough, but had to pursue a war created by Longshanks, or be seen as weak. What Edward 11 lacked was his father's ruthlessness and love of power and conquest. By comparison Edward 11 was and is seen as weak, when to my thinking he should have been applauded for being a better human being than his barbarous father.
Sometimes fate and history can be very unkind indeed.

Anonymous said...

I've never seen "Braveheart" - didn't it win some Oscars in the relevant year? If it's as bad as you say I wonder why.... I don't like the playing fast and loose with historical facts though I can pardon a little artistic licence in a historical work IF THE WRITERS/FILM-MAKERS EXPLAIN WHERE THEY HAVE "CHANGED" HISTORY and I don't like a whole ton of artistic licence!! I must admit that I have enjoyed some of Dr Paul Doherty's historical mystery books, though I have never taken them as gospel word for word though I have thought of them as true to the spirit of the time they recreate. I think he has written a book more recently postulating that Edward II may not have been killed in the way popularly believed. I have not read that book though. I personally think the "but it's only a story" excuse for sloppy historical fiction a bit of a "cop-out" but some friends and acquaintances disagree with me.

Patricia O

Anonymous said...

If anyone bothered to do some hard research and not just stupid Internet stuff they would be able to discover that infact William Wallace had impregnated Isabella of France. It is only the bias English that believe he did not. Though having been to England I have spoken to some old timers who know what is truth. Anyway always going to have people claiming lies like this post. Get off the Internet and go read somd books and visit all the towns and talk to folk.

Kathryn Warner said...

Ohhhh my goodness! There are people still old enough to remember 1305? Wow, why on earth did you find them?

Kathryn Warner said...

I'm really, really fascinated to know. How do the 'old timers' in Scotland, the ones who are apparently 700+ years old, explain the fact that Wallace was executed in August 1305 and Isabella's eldest child was born in November 1312? And that she was only nine or ten years old and in France in August 1305?

Lowland Lass said...

I'm a Scot, and we do love our legends, whether based in fact or not. I never took the nonsense about William Wallace being Edward III's father seriously, and I'm surprised that there are those out there naive enough to take the movie literally (although it would have been poetic justice if Wallace WAS EIII's father!) What surprises me is the level of vitriol here...some of this is just for fun, as far as I'm concerned; I've even read one novel that makes Stephen the father of Henry II. But kudos to you for trying to clear the name of a man maligned by history - as an ardent Ricardian, I know all too well how easy it is to slander those who cannot defend themselves. Perhaps, with Richard finally interred with some dignity next year, we can turn our attention to clearing the name of some other unjustly maligned royalty, such as your Edward....or even John???

Kathryn McMullen said...

Never did like Paul Doherty's style of writing and was glad when I found other medieval mystery authors who stick to proven and logical facts.

Kathryn McMullen said...

I never have liked Paul Doherty's style of writing and have always looked for medieval novelists who you proven and logical evidence in their books.

Kathryn McMullen said...

I have never liked Paul Doherty's style of writing and am always on the look for authors of medieval novels that use proven and logical information.

Shannon Webb said...

Thank you for this site. Because i never believed William Wallace had a child with the future queen. But the rest of the movie is my favorite of all time. I have read multiple books where they call Wallace a pilager, thief,barbarian and many more. But if he really did battle as it shows in the movie Braveheart William Wallace was a true countryman which we all ahould be...

Adam said...

Weirdly enough after King Richard III's recently discovered remains were examined by geneticists then compared with present day officially documented relatives descended from Edward III/ II/ John of Gaunt (Richard III never had children), there was mitochondrial DNA missing that should have been present if they were related.


Also interesting is that current US presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are BOTH descended from John of Gaunt. Could their claim on royal ancestors then be illegitimate?


Also John of Gaunt is apparently in the top 20 people to ever have lived.

List of inflation adjusted richest 26 people to ever have lived available at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/world-history/meet-mansa-musa-i-of-mali-the-richest-human-being-in-all-history-8213453.html

It's all rather interesting food for thought.

Anna said...

Good to see efforts to rehabilitate a malinged King- although I think its high time that this was done for other figures too. Margaret of Anjou and Henry VI have been subject to a lot of undeserved and unproven accusations and vitroil- some by so called 'historians'.

How about some books on them or I may have to write one myself...

Anna said...

Adam, your comment about the 'gap' in Richard III's DNA is interesting. I wonder if it may lend any credibility to the rumour that his paternal Grandfather, Richard Earl of Cambridge was actually a produce of an affair between Constance, wife of Edmund of Langley Duke of York, and Thomas Holland, Duke of Exeter- rather than Edmund's son.

Holland was the son of Joan of Kent by her first marriage, and thus was a grandson of Thomas of Woodstock, the younger brother of Edward II. Which could mean Richard Earl of Cambridge was not a descendant of Edward III. Perhaps a possible solution? Althoug its unproven of course......

Justin L. Smith said...

Just found your blog whilst searching for information on the Fieschi Letter. Thanks for doing what you can to dispel the myths that take root in the mind of the masses. As a direct descendant of Edward II I a also very annoyed at all the rubbish that is out there, mucking up the waters of real research. I look forward to purchasing your book on Edward II next week.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden said...

Newspaper stories claiming that "genealogists" say that such-and-such politician or celebrity has thus-and-such royal descent should be given the same credence as National Enquirer reports on the activities of Bat Boy. These stories are almost invariably ginned up by commercial genealogy sites such as Geni.com and are generally based on source materials ranging from thin to nonexistent.

It is not at all impossible that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are in fact 19th cousins, or even closer, for the simple reason that most people have literally millions of 19th cousins. However, as far as I'm aware, the earliest provable ancestors for Mr. Trump are in eighteenth-century Scotland, and the earliest known for Ms. Clinton are seventeenth-century settlers of Quebec. The Rodham/Roddam line shown in the (easily-googled) Daily Mail version of this story, supposedly leading back to the Gray/Grey descendants of Joan Beaufort, appears to be without basis.

Provable royal ancestry is actually not uncommon among modern Americans. Several hundred 17th- and 18th-century immigrants to North America have been documented as distant descendants of various European crowned heads, generally of the 13th century or earlier. Those early immigrants have been estimated to have well over sixty million modern descendants. (One of them is Barack Obama, a descendant of Edward I.) But descent from figures as recent as John of Gaunt is rarer.

Samuel Fields said...

...as Edward 1st once said: "...a man does good business when he rids himself of a turd"...Wallace, Mortirmer, Galveston, ect.....

Samuel Fields said...

...As Edward 1st once said...."a man does good business when he rids himself of a turd".

Kathy said...

I truly believe that your article IS sought out daily. Thank god for your facts. I too was caught up in romanticism if Braveheart. Thank you for the facts, it is appreciated.

Unknown said...

All men die, but not every man really lives.

Unknown said...

Thank You