01 April, 2013

Edward II's Precious Goods at Newcastle, May 1312

On 4 May 1312, Edward II, a pregnant Queen Isabella and Piers Gaveston fled ninety miles by sea from Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Tynemouth down the coast to Scarborough, in order to escape Edward's cousin, Thomas, earl of Lancaster, who was slowly making his way north in order to capture Piers after his return to England from his third exile.  The Vita Edwardi Secundi has this to say, poetically, about Lancaster's journey: "Thus Thomas flies by night and hides by day/And to check rumour slowly wends his way."  (In the original Latin: Sic Thomas de nocte uolat, sub luce moratur/ Ut lateat, modicum cursum ne fama loquatur).  [1]

The king, taken entirely by surprise, was forced to leave behind his baggage train in Newcastle, and Thomas of Lancaster seized possession of it when he arrived in the town.  Edward fumed over the loss of his many valuable belongings, and pointed out a few months later (according to the Vita Edwardi Secundi) that "if any lesser man had done it, he could be found guilty of theft and rightly condemned by a verdict of robbery with violence."  Lancaster made an inventory of the possessions and claimed that he fully intended to return them to the king, though Edward had to wait a few months before he received them.  They were finally returned to him on 23 February 1313 with the inventory, which is printed in the original French in Foedera 1307-1327 and in Pierre Chaplais's 1994 book about Piers Gaveston, and in an often inaccurate English translation in Jeffrey Hamilton's 1988 biography of Piers (see the end of this post for the bibliography).  Edward granted on 16 December 1312 a "[s]afe-conduct, until the feast of St. Hilary, for Thomas, earl of Lancaster, into whose hands certain horses, jewels and other goods of the king fell at Newcastle-upon-Tyne and elsewhere, which he is bound to surrender to the king in the next ensuing feast of St. Hilary at St. Albans, or for his men, the king, on account of the difficulties and dangers of the road, having granted him a licence to provide an escort of 40 men-at arms to guard the same to the town of St. Albans, where such horses, jewels and goods are to be delivered to the person, or persons, whom the king shall depute to receive the same, and to give to the earl sufficient letters of acquittance."  [2]

It is often assumed that most of the goods were Piers Gaveston's, but there is little evidence that they were with the exception of several items adorned with his arms, and probably most of the goods were Edward II's.  The famous 'three silver forks for eating pears' (trois furchesces dargent pur mangier poires) are also often said to have been Piers', and maybe they were, but there's no real reason to believe they weren't Edward's.

So anyway, here are just a few of the many wonderful things owned by Edward II in 1312 and inventoried by the earl of Lancaster, and however angry Edward may have been about the temporary loss of his precious items, I for one am decidedly grateful for it, as otherwise we'd never know about them.  There are just so many jewels, it's quite head-spinning; page after page of them.

- "A gold ring with a sapphire, which St Dunstan forged with his hands."  This means Dunstan, archbishop of Canterbury, who died in 988.

- "A cameo in gold, from Israel."

- "On another staff, two rubies, two sapphires, a garnet, a crystal, of which five were delivered [to Edward II] by bishops' executors, and the sixth by the daughter of Llywelyn, prince of Wales."  This presumably means Gwenllian, daughter of Llywelyn and his wife Eleanor de Montfort, who was sent to a nunnery as a baby by Edward I in 1282.  Gwenllian was Edward II's second cousin, like him a great-grandchild of King John.

- "Another brooch, given to the king by my lady Isabella [madame Isabelle], the sister."  This must mean Edward II's sister the countess of Holland and Hereford, whose name is otherwise almost always given as Elizabeth.

"Another brooch, a gift of Edmund, earl of Cornwall to my lady Isabella, the sister."  Edmund, earl of Cornwall was the first cousin of Edward I: their fathers Henry III and Richard of Cornwall were brothers, and their mothers Eleanor and Sanchia of Provence were sisters.  As Edmund died in 1300 without children, nieces or nephews - his marriage to Margaret de Clare was annulled in 1294 - his heir was Edward I, then Edward II after his father's death.

- A gold cup, enamelled with precious stones, which Queen Eleanor [la reigne Alianore] left to the present king with her blessing."  It is unclear whether this means Edward II's mother Eleanor of Castile (d. 1290) or his grandmother Eleanor of Provence (d. 1291), but either way, the cup is likely to have had great sentimental value for him.

- "In a chest bound with iron, a silver enamelled mirror, a comb, a pricket [a spike for holding a candle], which was given to the king by the countess of Bar at Ghent."  This means Edward II's sister Eleanor, who died in 1298.  The king in this entry seems almost certainly to be a reference to Edward I rather than his son.

- "A clasp of gold with two emeralds, two rubies, two sapphires and eleven pearls, with a cameo in the middle...which was left [to Edward II, presumably] by the queen of Germany [la reigne Dalemaigne]."  This might mean Elisabeth of Carinthia, wife of Albert I, or Margaret of Brabant, wife of Henry VII; Margaret was the sister of Duke John II of Brabant, who married Edward II's sister Margaret.

- (Talking of whom): "Three gold clasps...given by the duchess of Brabant" and "A stone with enamelled sides, given to the king by the duchess of Brabant."

- Three brooches, two said to be gifts to Edward from the queen, presumably Isabella, and one said to be a gift from "my lady the queen, the mother" (madame la roine, la miere).  That probably means Eleanor of Castile, but might also be a reference to Edward II's stepmother Marguerite of France, who was almost always courteously referred to as his mother.

"Another brooch neither valued nor weighed, and a ring given to sire Anfour by Sir William de Salines."  This almost certainly means Edward II's elder brother Alfonso (November 1273 - August 1284); English scribes always struggled with the spelling of his Spanish name.

- "A jewel of gold with nine emeralds and nine garnets, and a white cameo in the middle, enamelled on the other part."

- "An amethyst in gold and a sapphire and a gold bar with relics."

- "Seven set stones, of which we don't know the names except jasper and amethyst."

- Sixty-three horses: forty-one destriers and coursers, one palfrey, nine pack horses and twelve cart horses.

- A gold ring containing a great ruby 'called the cherry' (apele la cerise), which is clearly stated to have belonged to Edward. The name gives a good indication of how big the jewel must have been.

- Another great ruby set in gold, worth a staggering £1000, which was found on Piers' body after his death, and was probably a gift to him from Edward. Also found on Piers' body were "three large rubies in rings, an emerald, a diamond of great value, in a silver box," and "two vessels, a large and a small, and in the small a hanging key, a sterling cord and a chalcedony." (Whatever a 'sterling cord' is.)

- A belt "decorated with ivory, notched with a purse hanging down from it, with a Saracen face," a belt made of lion skin, decorated in gold with a cameo, one of silver with enamelled silver escutcheons, one with bands of silver and gold, and two of silk, covered with pearls.

- A gilded eagle with rubies, emeralds, sapphires and pearls, containing relics of St Richard of Chichester (died 1253).

- A gold dragon with enamelled wings (un dragon dorre od les eles enamaile), with a leather container.

- Numerous silver salt cellars, spoons, cups, goblets, saucers and pots, numerous gold-plated silver pots and cups, and a pair of gold-plated silver basins, belonging to Piers, with his coat of arms on them.

- A silver ship with four gold oars, enamelled on the sides.

- A fur-backed altar frontal of green cloth, powdered (poudre) with gold birds and fishes.

- A belt "decorated with ivory, notched with a purse hanging down from it, with a Saracen face" (od un visage de Saracyn).

- A belt made of lion skin, decorated in gold with a cameo.

- Two silver plates for fruit, with the arms of the king of England.

- A sendal curtain; two pieces of velvet to cover plates (deux cotes de velvet pur plates coverir); a cloak of velvet cloth furred with miniver; a buckle for a palfrey with the king's arms.

- Two silver washbasins with two leather boxes; a silver pot for water; two silver pots for water, one gilded and the other white; a silver plate with feet, for spices.

- A silver ship for incense (une neef dargent pur encens).

- A gold crown with various (unspecified) jewels, worth 100 marks or 66 pounds.

- A  silver chaplet decorated with various jewels, worth twelve shillings.

- A cross with a silver chain.

- In a chest, a large silver bowl for alms with an eagle on the bottom.

- An ivory box decorated with silver, with four feet.

- A crystal goblet with a silver base; a gold-plated silver cup; countless other silver cups.

- Page after page of other precious items.


1) Vita Edwardi Secundi Monachi Cuiusdam Malmesneriensis, ed. Noel Denholm-Young (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1957), p. 23.
2) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1307-1313, p. 517.

Further reading

- J.R. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster 1307-1322: A Study in the Reign of Edward II (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), p. 125
- R.A. Roberts, Edward II, The Lords Ordainers and Piers Gaveston's Jewels and Horses (1312-1313) (Camden Miscellany, xv, 1929)
- Pierre Chaplais, Piers Gaveston: Edward II's Adoptive Brother (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), pp. 90-95, 125-134
- Foedera, Conventiones, Litterae et Acta Publica, ed. T. Rymer, Record Commission edition, vol. 2.1 (London, 1816), pp. 203-205
- J.S. Hamilton, Piers Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall 1307-1312: Politics and Patronage in the Reign of Edward II (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1988), pp. 119-127


Anerje said...

It's always assumed that these items belonged to Piers, but of course they must surely have belonged to the crown. However, I do love the idea of Piers eating pears with his fabled forks - it's just so Piers;>

Kathryn Warner said...

Anerje, I think yes, most of them did belong to the crown, with the exception of some things that are stated to have borne Piers' arms (and one thing belonging to Edward's household steward Edmund Mauley, which must have got mixed in with the king's things too). I have to admit I can more easily see Piers using the pear forks than Edward too, heh :)

Katarzyna Ogrodnik-Fujcik said...

Kathryn, I would never guess that "Anfour" means "Alfonso" :-)
What a meticulous study and a fascinating read, as always.

Anonymous said...

Royalty lived well, IMO. I am curious ... did this happen in the same place as did the mess in 1322, or are there two places called "Tynemouth"? Also, what is it about that place that seemed to be jinxed at this time?

Great article.


Kathryn Warner said...

Kasia, it's so funny to see how scribes mangled the name ALfonso - genealogists used to believe that Edward I and Eleanor of Castile had a daughter called Alice ;-) Thank you!

Esther, so true! :) Yes, it's the same place as Isabella's escape from the Scots in 1322 - not a happy place for her and Edward! :/

Sami Parkkonen said...

I think I am falling in love with your knowledge and expertise.

Kathryn Warner said...

Haha, thank you, Sami! :) :) I so appreciate your support.

STAG said...

I can see why he wanted them back!

Gabriele Campbell said...

So Ed took all those shinies with him when he traveled? That makes the luggage of Madonna and her ilk look modest. ;-) And what a lot of horses.

And how did Lancaster know whose gift so many of those items were?

Kathryn Warner said...

Gabriele, that's what I was wondering too! I wonder if the royal treasure was labelled in some way?