04 September, 2011

The Despensers In Chronicles

What some fourteenth-century chroniclers wrote about Hugh Despenser the Younger (c. 1287/90 - 24 November 1326) and his father Hugh the Elder (1 March 1261 - 27 October 1326).


"...the great men had ill will against him [Edward II] for his cruelty and the debauched life which he led, and on account of the said Hugh [the Younger], whom at that time he loved and entirely trusted."

It's interesting to note that Sir Thomas Gray or Grey, author of the Scalacronica, fails to point out anywhere that his father of the same name served in the retinue of Hugh Despenser the Younger for years.  As late as March 1326, there's an entry in Edward II's chamber journal saying that the royal favourite had given Grey 200 marks because "Sir Hugh Despenser the son desired above all else that the said Sir Thomas remained with him all his life" (mons' Hughe le Despenser le fitz qe desirast sur toute rien qe le dit mons' Thomas demoerast ouesqe lui a toute sa vie).

Vita Edwardi Secundi

On Hugh the Elder in the mid-1310s, following a discussion of Edward II's reconciliation with the barons who had killed Piers Gaveston: "...and as for the other friends of the king matters were arranged as the king willed; but Hugh Despenser [the Elder] could find no favour.  Let him beware of the earl of Lancaster and leave the country if he wishes to escape.  The whole land has turned to hatred of him.  Few would mourn his downfall.  As an unjust official he did harm to many; he disinherited many magnates and rich men.  Would that he might lose what he has thus acquired, that he might be punished in his crime."

On Hugh the Elder again in 1325: "...he was hated by everyone and even by the king's son."

On both men in 1321: "Hugh [the Younger] was accused of being too greedy and thus unsuitable to be with the king; he was accused of evil counsel; of conspiracy and falsehood; of being a destroyer of the people, a disinheritor of the crown, an enemy of king and kingdom.  All these things the barons alleged against Hugh, and persistently accused father and son alike of these enormities...the brutal and greedy father had in the past wronged many, and promoted the excommunication of many...it was right that the son should share in the paternal guilt.  According to some the malice of the son outweighed the father's harshness."

On Hugh the Younger in general after he became Edward's favourite: "confident of the royal favour, he did everything at his own discretion, snatched at everything, did not bow to the authority of anyone whomsoever."


On Hugh the Younger: "...Sir Hugh Despenser the younger, who was, as it were, the king of England's right eye, and, after the death of Piers de Gavestoun, his chief counsellor against the earls and barons...a most avaricious man..."

Geoffrey le Baker

Hugh the Younger was "another king, or more accurately ruler of the king…in the manner of Gaveston, so presumptuous that he frequently kept certain nobles from speaking to the king.  Moreover, when the king, out of his magnanimity, was preoccupied with many people addressing him about their affairs, Despenser threw back answers, not those asked for but to the contrary, pretending them to be to the king’s advantage."


Hugh the Younger "kept so the king’s chamber [as Edward's chamberlain], that no man might speak with the king…all men had of him scorn and despite; and the king himself would not be governed by no manner of man, but only by his father and by him."


On Hugh the Younger: "no man could approach the king without the consent of the said Sir Hugh"; it also calls him haughty, arrogant, greedy, evil and "more inclined to wrongdoing than any other man."

Robert of Avesbury, Vita et Mors Edwardi Secundi, Flores Historiarum

The first two say that Hugh the Younger was another king in England, and the Vita et Mors, referring to Hugh the Elder, comments that there were three kings of England.  The Flores comments that Hugh led Edward around like a cat with a straw.

Jean Froissart 

On Hugh the Younger: "Without him nothing was done and through him everything was done, and the king trusted him more than everyone...he was a heretic and a sodomite, even, it was said, with the king."


Rowan Lewgalon said...

Heretic and sodomite...how "shocking".
=( This makes me almost as sad as the poems on Piers.

Kathryn Warner said...

I don't know why I'm posting these sad posts at the moment. Must be the kind of mood I'm in...:-)

Gabriele Campbell said...

Heh, now we just need some Victim Isabella quotes from here time - or is that portrayal a later invention with no support from Ed's own time?

Kathryn Warner said...

Good idea, Gabriele - I'll do some Isabella quotes in a post soon. Not so much victim stuff, at least not in contemporary English chronicles - a bit more in the French, though mostly it's a much more recent invention. :)

Anerje said...

The Despencers - undoubtedly he nobles were sorry for killing Piers, eh? Read in a recent novel (ys, I know untrustworthy), that Isa had Hugh the Younger castrated first at his execution as proof of his sexual relationship with the king. Interesting - but of course, it was all part of the hung/drawn/quartered method of execution. Talk about vengeance.....

Kathryn Warner said...

I've often wondered about that, Anerje - whether Hugh was castrated or not - as it wasn't part of his sentence, but may well have bee done. Aha, inspiration for another post looking at the chronicle evidence for his execution - thank you! :-)

Susan Higginbotham said...

I do love the "cat with a straw" phrase.

Kathryn Warner said...

Me too - it's great!

Kate S said...

I wonder if there's a total list somewhere of those, whose lands and property Despensers had taken illegally. I'd love to look at it.