13 November, 2011

A Letter To Edward II, 1325

Just a quick post today, in which I'd like to say 'Happy 699th Birthday, Sire' to Edward III, born at Windsor Castle on 13 November 1312.  I'm also pleased to report that Edward II now has 700 fans on his Facebook page.  :-)

Here's a great letter sent to Edward II on 6 June 1325, during the War of Saint-Sardos between Edward and his brother-in-law Charles IV of France over Gascony, by a young Gascon nobleman called Bérard d'Albret (died 1346), one of Edward's greatest supporters.  He was the son of Amanieu, lord of Albret (died 1326), a powerful and wealthy nobleman related by blood and marriage to the lords of Bergerac and counts of Armagnac, and was himself lord of Vayres and Vertheuil.  Jonathan Sumption describes Bérard as "perhaps the ablest of his ruthless and warlike clan" and cites a contemporary letter which calls him "more enthusiastic than anyone else in these parts about the service of the king our lord [Edward II]."

Somewhat bizarrely, I found Bérard on a website called Who's Dated Who.  Hmmm; in fact he married, in 1319, a woman with the excellent name of Guiraude de Gironde.  Bérard was in England in 1326, and there are several mentions of him there in the chancery rolls, including one which demonstrates that he had some troubles unloading his possessions on arrival in Southampton: Edward II sent a man there "to bring to the king the horses, harness and goods of the said Berard, lately arrested by the mayor, bailiffs and keepers of the port of that town."  One hopes that this unfortunate introduction to the country didn't put Bérard off England too much.

Here's my translation of Bérard's short letter, which I love both for its attitude towards Edward II and for the lovely Gascon French in which it's written (by a clerk rather than Bérard himself, presumably): le vostre umyl sosgis siniffia a la vostra treshauta senhoria que je ay reseu vo letras...E a Diu que set garda de larma e du cuer de vos...

"To his very dear, dread lord, your humble subject recommends himself to your very high lordship.  Very dear, dread lord, your humble subject signifies to your very high lordship that I have received your letters stipulating that I should come to you, which thing, very dear, dread lord, is the greatest joy that I have ever had in my life, that is, to see you.  And, very dear, dread lord, as promptly as I can I will set off to come to you.  The reason, very dear, dread lord, that I have remained behind the bearer*, if it please you, he will be able to tell you more fully.  And may God, very dear, dread lord, safely keep your soul and your heart.  Given on the island of Glénan on the day of the festival of Corpus Christi."

* i.e. stayed longer in Gascony and not travelled to England with the man carrying his letter to Edward.

I also recently read a letter sent to Hugh Despenser the Younger on 31 March 1325 by Bertrand Assailit, formerly an adherent of Piers Gaveston: a few weeks before his death in June 1312, Piers sent Bertrand and another man named Berduk de Marsan to Cornwall on his behalf to collect £583 from his steward there.  Bertrand and Berduk were captured by William Martin carrying 1000 marks and 129 pieces of tin and imprisoned, to Edward II's fury.  Assailit's French is also deliciously Gascon-flavoured: A la vostra senheuria faz assavoir que le prumier dimenge de Mars mestre Bernart de la Cassenhea fu pris a demia lua Dagens e est en prison dins le chastel de Penne e en bona garda...Cher senheur, umblament vos pri que moi vullez aver recomande a vostra graca...(To your lordship we make known that on the first day of March, Master Bernard de Cassanea was taken [arrested or captured] halfway to Agen and is imprisoned in the castle of Penne and well-guarded...Dear lord, I pray you humbly that you might show me your good will...)


The letters are printed in Pierre Chaplais, ed., The War of Saint-Sardos (1323-1325): Gascon Correspondence and Diplomatic Documents.

- Jonathan Sumption, The Hundred Years War: Trial By Battle
- Malcolm Vale, The Origins of the Hundred Years War 1: The Angevin Legacy 1250-1340 


Anerje said...

Just got to love those Gascons! Congrats on getting 700 Facebook friends for Edward!

Kathryn Warner said...

I so love the Gascons and their way of speaking/writing French!

Thanks, Anerje!

Rowan Lewgalon said...

Yay for Gascon French! (And Occitan. And Anglo-Norman. And and and.)

Kathryn Warner said...

Yes! Yay for them all! :)