21 January, 2014

Women of Edward II's Reign: Aline Burnell

Part one of a two-part post about two of Hugh Despenser the Younger's sisters, Aline (or Alina), Lady Burnell and Isabel(la), Lady Hastings.  Hugh, Aline and Isabel were the oldest of the six Despenser siblings; the younger three were Philip, who died in 1313 leaving a baby son of the same name, Margaret, who married John, Lord St Amand, and Elizabeth, who married Ralph, Lord Camoys.

Hugh, Aline and Isabel's parents were Hugh Despenser the Elder, born on 1 March 1261, created earl of Winchester in 1322 by Edward II and executed by Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer in 1326, and Isabel(la) Beauchamp (died 1306), daughter of William Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (c. 1237-1298) and sister of Guy Beauchamp, the earl of Warwick who kidnapped and imprisoned Piers Gaveston in 1312.  Isabel Beauchamp's first husband Patrick Chaworth, with whom she had a daughter Maud, died in July 1283; Maud married Edward I's nephew Henry of Lancaster in or before 1297.  Isabel was the first cousin of, among others, Richard de Burgh, earl of Ulster and Robert, Lord Clifford, killed at Bannockburn in June 1314.  I'd also like to reiterate that the Despensers were a very well-connected noble family, absolutely not the jumped-up nobodies of modern myth.  Hugh Despenser the Elder's mother Aline Basset (died 1281), heiress of her father Philip Basset, was countess of Norfolk by her second marriage to Roger Bigod, and Hugh married the earl of Warwick's daughter.  Edward I himself arranged the marriage of Hugh Despenser the Younger to his eldest granddaughter Eleanor de Clare in 1306.

Hugh Despenser the Elder and the widowed Isabel Beauchamp married probably in 1286; on 8 November 1287 Edward I acquitted Hugh of a debt of 2000 marks (£1333) for marrying Isabel without royal licence, though by then Hugh had paid almost £1000 of it.  [1]  Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing the Despenser children's dates of birth.  That of their older half-sister Maud Chaworth is known, 2 February 1282, as she was her father's heir and it was recorded in his Inquisition Post Mortem.  Likewise, we know Hugh Despenser the Elder's date of birth as it was recorded on the Fine Roll (1272-1307, p. 152), because he was his mother's heir and was allowed possession of his lands shortly before he turned twenty-one.  There was no reason, however, for anyone to note his children's dates of birth, and so they weren't recorded.

Aline, Lady Burnell

Aline, named after her paternal grandmother Aline Basset, countess of Norfolk, was the eldest of the Despenser daughters.  I'd also speculate that she was the eldest Despenser child and older than her brother Hugh the Younger, as she married in 1302 and he in 1306, and I'd estimate her date of birth as about 1287.  On 1 January 1296, Aline's father acquired a grant of "the marriage of the heirs of Philip Burnel, tenant in chief."  [2]  Philip Burnel or Burnell's son and heir was Edward Burnell, born around 22 July 1286 and thus nine years old at the time, who was also heir to his great-uncle Robert Burnell, chancellor of England and bishop of Bath and Wells (d. 1292), a close ally of Edward I.  Edward Burnell, almost certainly, was named in honour of Edward I.  His mother Maud Fitzalan was the sister of Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel (d. 1302), which makes Edward the first cousin of Edmund Fitzalan, earl of Arundel executed in 1326, like Edward's father-in-law Hugh Despenser the Elder, by Roger Mortimer and Isabella of France.  I've previously written a post about Edward Burnell's mother and sister and their matrimonial adventures.

Letters patent of 3 May 1302 record a grant of 1000 marks from Hugh Despenser the Elder to Anthony Bek, bishop of Durham (and patriarch of Jerusalem!), "of the marriage of Edward, son and heir of Sir Philip Burnel, for the purpose of marrying him to Alina, Sir Hugh's eldest daughter."  [3]  (I'm not sure why Hugh paid the money to Anthony Bek when in 1296 he himself had been granted the Burnell marriage; haven't investigated that part.)  Edward and Aline probably got married soon afterwards, so when Edward was sixteen or almost, and Aline perhaps a year or so younger.  On 6 December 1307, the escheator was ordered to deliver Edward's lands to him, as he was now twenty-one and had done homage to the king for them.  [4]

Edward and Aline had no children in their thirteen years or so of marriage, and rarely appear on record, apart from some acknowledgements of debts recorded on the Close Roll.  Edward died on 23 August (the eve of St Bartholomew) 1315 at the age of only twenty-nine.  [5]  His heir was his younger sister Maud, aged twenty-four or twenty-five, then the widow of Sir John Lovel (killed at Bannockburn in June 1314), who shortly afterwards married the Despenser adherent Sir John Haudlo.  Aline was assigned a fairly sizeable dower on 3 February 1316 during the Lincoln parliament, though in July 1317 "Alina late the wife of Edward Burnel, puts in her place Henry de Laverdon to sue for her dower in chancery of her husband's knights' fees and adowsons."  Only three days later, these were granted.  [6]

Aline spent many years living quietly as a well-off widow.  As is almost always the case with people who lived in the early fourteenth century, it's impossible to know what she felt or thought about anything; whether she and Edward Burnell had a happy marriage or not, what she thought of her brother Hugh the Younger's rise to power and in Edward II's affection from 1318 onwards.  It is notable, however, that despite outliving her husband by almost half a century, she never re-married.  The notorious gang leader Malcolm Musard, formerly an adherent of Aline's father, attacked a manor of hers sometime before 7 August 1326, when Edward II pardoned him "for the outlawry in the county of Worcester published against him while he was in prison on that account, for non-appearance before the king to answer touching a plea of trespass of Alina Burnel, on condition that he surrender forthwith to gaol, and stand his trial if the said Alina will proceed against him...".  [7]

The most important and interesting fact about Aline Burnell is that on 30 January 1326, when he was at Burgh in Suffolk - a day when I know he was having dinner with his sister-in-law Alice Hales, countess of Norfolk, and paying two musicians to perform for them - Edward II appointed her as custodian of the great North Wales castle of Conwy, where he had taken the homage of his Welsh lords as the new prince of Wales in the spring of 1301: "Appointment during pleasure of Aline Burnel to the custody of the castle of Coneweye, so that she answer for the safe custody thereof at her peril."  [8]  Aline's appointment was perhaps thanks to the influence of her powerful brother Hugh the Younger, royal chamberlain and 'favourite'.  It was a most unusual honour for a woman to be appointed to such a position, especially of an important castle such as Conwy.  The only other contemporary example I know of (though it had happened in earlier times) is Isabella Vescy, Edward II's second cousin, being appointed constable of Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland by Edward I in 1304 and confirmed in the role by Edward II on 23 November 1307, both grants made to her for life (the earlier one made on condition 'that she marry not').  [9]  Aline Burnell was replaced as constable of Conwy on 20 October 1326 by Sir William Erkalewe or Arcalowe, sheriff of Shropshire and Staffordshire.  [10]  Given the timing, when Edward II had fled to South Wales after the invasion, I'm sure the change came about only because he wanted an experienced military man in charge of such a strategically important castle, and that this replacement doesn't say anything at all about Aline's loyalty to the king or her abilities.  Erkalewe was closely associated with the Despenser family; in later years he was the steward of Aline's nephew Sir Hugh Despenser (d. 1349), and on 26 April 1338 Aline was granted "alienation in mortmain...to two chaplains to celebrate divine service daily in the chapel of St Giles, Lolleseye [Lulsley, Worcestershire] for the souls of the said Edward [Burnell] and Alina, Hugh le Despenser, her brother, and Hugh le Despenser, her cousin [recte nephew], William de Ercalewe and Walter de Lench."  [11]  Definitely no hard feelings, then.  Aline's inclusion of her notorious brother Hugh the Younger perhaps indicates that she remembered him with affection.

After the downfall and hideous executions of her father and brother in the late autumn of 1326, and the imprisonment of her sister-in-law Eleanor de Clare, Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer, to their credit, left Aline alone.  She did of course still have influential relatives, being for example the sister-in-law of Queen Isabella's uncle Henry, earl of Lancaster (her half-sister Maud Chaworth had died in about 1321).  On 8 October 1327, the reversion of Aline's Worcestershire manor of Martley - granted to her for life many years previously by her father Hugh the Elder - was awarded to Roger Mortimer's adherent John Wyard, at the request of Edward III's uncle Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent.  [12]  This of course was just a couple of weeks after the public announcement of the former King Edward II's death at Berkeley Castle.  I wonder how Aline felt about that.

Another interesting entry relating to Aline appears on the Patent Roll on 4 March 1327, only a few weeks into Edward III's reign, when she, William Erkalewe, ten other named men and unnamed others were accused by Richard de la Ryvere, former sheriff of Gloucestershire, of attacking his manor of 'Wyk Fokeram', Somerset, assaulting his servants and cutting down his trees.  [13]  When this took place, or what on earth was going on, I really don't know, but the entry is part of a flurry of similar complaints against former Despenser adherents and others around this time, many of them involving the Dunheved brothers and their followers, who later in 1327 temporarily freed the former Edward II from Berkeley Castle.  On 3 November 1329, and again on 24 April 1330 and 3 February and 4 June 1331, Aline was given letters of protection to travel to Santiago de Compostela on pilgrimage, and appointed two attorneys to act for her during her absence.  [14]

Born probably in Edward I's fourteenth or fifteenth regnal year, Aline Despenser Burnell lived into the thirty-seventh regnal year of his grandson Edward III.  She died on 16 May 1363, in her mid-seventies.  The dower lands she held from her marriage to the long-dead Edward Burnell reverted to Edward's heir, his nephew Nicholas Burnell, eldest surviving son of Edward's sister Maud and her second husband Sir John Haudlo, who took his mother's name (see my post attempting to untangle the complicated Burnell/Lovel/Haudlo situation).  An order to the escheator to take the lands of 'Alina late the wife of Edward Burnel, knight' into the king's hands was issued on 24 May 1363; she held lands in Norfolk, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Shropshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire.  Aline's heir was her brother Hugh the Younger's grandson Edward, Lord Despenser, born in 1336, who inherited from her the manors of Compton Dando in Somerset, Bushley and Suckley in Worcestershire, and Little Rissington and Sodbury in Gloucestershire.  [15]  On 16 November 1338, a commission of oyer and terminer had been granted to Aline's nephew Sir Hugh Despenser (uncle of her heir Edward Despenser), William Erkalewe, John Inge (also a long-term Despenser adherent and former sheriff of Glamorgan) and Alan de Asshe on the grounds that half a dozen men and women had attacked her manor of Compton Dando, stolen her goods and assaulted her servants.  [16]  Aline outlived her husband by forty-eight years, survived the grotesque deaths of her father and brother intact, and lived through Edward II's turbulent reign, the first decades of the Hundred Years War and the first two awful outbreaks of the Black Death in 1348/49 and 1361.  I wish we could know more, or indeed anything at all, about her inner life, and those of her contemporaries!


1) Calendar of Close Rolls 1279-1288, p. 462; Martyn Lawrence, 'Rise of a Royal Favourite: the Early Career of Hugh Despenser the Elder' in The Reign of Edward II: New Perspectives (2006), ed. Gwilym Dodd and Anthony Musson, p. 208. See also Close Rolls 1279-1288, p. 184: c. April 1282, Hugh acknowledges that he owes William Beauchamp, earl of Warwick 1600 marks.  A memo added later says he gave the earl the money for his marriage, which the earl claimed belonged to him of the king's gift.  Calendar of Patent Rolls 1272-1281, p. 439, 28 May 1281, is the grant to Warwick "of the marriage of Hugh le Depenser, tenant in chief."
2) Patent Rolls 1292-1301, p. 179.
3) A Descriptive Catalogue of Ancient Deeds, ed. H.C. Maxwell Lyte, vol. 4, no. A. 6278.
4) Close Rolls 1307-1313, p. 13.
5) Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1307-1327, pp. 390-394; Calendar of Fine Rolls 1307-1319, p. 254; C. Moor, Knights of Edward I, vol. 1, p. 166.
6) Close Rolls 1313-1318, pp. 263-264, 487-488, 557.
7) Patent Rolls 1324-1327, p. 304.
8) Patent Rolls 1324-1327, p. 215.
9) Fine Rolls 1272-1307, p. 528; Patent Rolls 1307-1313, p. 36.
10) Fine Rolls 1319-1327, p. 421.
11) Patent Rolls 1338-1240, p. 50.
12) Patent Rolls 1327-1330, pp. 180-181.
13) Patent Rolls 1327-1330, p. 85.
14) Patent Rolls 1327-1330,  pp. 454-455, 514; Ibid. 1330-1334, pp. 69, 84, 123.
15) Fine Rolls 1356-1368, pp. 277, 284; Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1361-1365, pp. 371-373.
16) Patent Rolls 1338-1340, p. 183.


Sami Parkkonen said...


I will openly admire your capability and stamina to go trough so much of the original texts and produce these mind staggering texts.

I really do hope that a scolar and specialist of your calibre would one day have the time and finances to produce the ultimate book of Edward II and his times, because...

Well, words fail me here. A text after text you provide us a deep historically based caleidoscope of the time, place and the people which I simply admire in awe.

Thank you.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thank you so much for that lovely comment, Sami x

Elizabeth said...

These men and women that only occasionally peak out at us, I find, make history all the more interesting. We sometimes forget about the many others who were a part of the court and like Aline stayed relevant through three reigns. Even though that remain somewhat shadowy, their recorded event also help flesh out this Medieval time period. I look forward to reading about her sister!

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Elizabeth! Very good point!

Anerje said...

This is a welcome treat for a Tuesday! Will print it off and read it as I unwind with a cup of tea - thanks!

sarah c said...

Glad to learn more about Aline. Thanks!

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Anerje and Sarah! Hope you enjoyed the post!

MRats said...

Now you have muses in stereo--Sami in one ear and I in the other. I hope you will be inspired to write!

Also, I have a question. I'll give you a moment to recover from your surprise.

Ready? Did Roger Bigod remarry after the death of Aline Basset? I've read (though not in the most reliable of sources) that Piers summoned Bigod's wife to attend Isabella on her arrival at Dover in 1308. Or is that yet another instance of Roger begot Roger begot Roger, and not the Bigod in question at all?

Also, Isabella de Vescy was certainly fascinating. I didn't see a post about her on the sidebar and I haven't run across one searching through the archives. Have you considered writing one?

\ /
. .

Fantastic, informative post, Kathryn!

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, MRats! :) Roger Bigod, the same one, married secondly Alicia d'Avesnes, whose brother Count William III of Hainault was the father of Edward III's queen Philippa of Hainault. Roger had no children with her either, and died in 1306. Alicia lived till 1317. And yes, Alicia was one of the people summoned to Dover to greet Edward and Isabella: edwardthesecond.blogspot.com/2009/02/edward-iis-return-to-england-february.html

I've written a post about Isabella Vescy and various other women, including Alicia d'Avesnes, here: edwardthesecond.blogspot.com/2007/11/obscure-noblewomen-of-edward-iis-era.html

Katarzyna Ogrodnik-Fujcik said...

Kathryn, I absolutely agree with Sami. To collect all these facts and names together in a single text and make it all comrehensible for the reader is quite a feat! It REALLY means you should write a book on Edward and his times :-)

Gabriele Campbell said...

So women held castles for the king? Geez, and I thought they existed only to produce alliances and heirs and keep the kitchen clean. /irony off

Kathryn Warner said...

Thank you, Kasia! ;-) PS Thanks for the email too, sorry for not replying yet :)

Hehe, Gabriele :)

Katarzyna Ogrodnik-Fujcik said...

Don't worry about the e-mail, Kathryn! I'm too very busy, so I do understand :-) (working on three texts at the same time is not the best idea, I'm afraid :-))

Alan Hedley said...

This is all great reading. I've been researching the Hedley/Ercalewe family for some time now. Always wondered how William de Ercal/Ercalewe V became so successful. William de Hedley married into the Peverel family C1100. He became lord of High ercal/Ercalewe, Shropshire. His father may have been Gosfrid who held Hadley Shropshire under Ranulf de Balliol. I could waffle for hours but jump forward to William V, your man in the blog. I always thought it was when the family married into the Burnell line that gave them another step up. It probably did. My big question is was it possible that William may have married Alina giving him the Castle commission.Williams first wife was an unknown Alina.On reading your blog's they crop up quite often together in various adventures. He was given quite a few castles in this timeline. The same William was at Boroughbridge as Arcalou 21st knight I think, in the battle roll. It is probably his effigy in high ercal church. I've also never been able to connect the Newport's to the family who held High Ercal later on, they included the Hedley arms with theirs so it is possible through the Despenser takeover of Newport??.

Unfortunately I could not work out how to add a tag, so I appear as anonymous just like quite a few characters in history. I would like to introduce myself as Alan de Hedley of Northumberland. Keep up the great work.

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi Alan, nice to meet you! I've found quite a few refs to William Ercalewe, with approx 173 variant spellings, especially in connection with, as you say, Aline Despenser Burnell. He also appears on record quite often as the steward of Hugh Despenser the Younger's eldest son Sir Hugh Despenser (d. 1349), Aline's nephew, and is mentioned in my book about the Despensers, albeit rather briefly. I do sometimes wonder about William's closeness to Aline, and what might have gone on between them. She was a widow for 48 years (1315-63), so it certainly seems plausible that she and William were lovers, or even a married couple perhaps.

Alan Hedley said...

I've never known a name in history that was spelt in so many ways. It seems to originate from Herculaneum Italy, after the Pompeii and Herculaneum disaster. I think the Romans named High ercal Herculaneum due to its volcanic situation in Shropshire.The name seems to have given many of the scripters quite the spelling problems. I have started picking through the minefield of names in Shropshire and Northumberland over the years. Ranulf de Herklewe seems to be the Northumberland connection during the early Norman push into Northumberland. It is when the Hedley/ercal family came North with Balliol. We know how that ended up a few centuries later with that Wallace bloke😁. Have you read the Wombridge priory of st leanards chartulary. I wonder if Alina is mentioned in it. The priory was founded by William de ercalewe the first, wife Sybila peveral daughter of Hamo and Alan de Hedley their son. If I find anything I will let you know.

Kathryn Warner said...

Actually no, I haven't read the chartulary, so please do let me know if you find anything in it! :-) Somehow, although I don't know that much about him, I like William a lot, not sure why.