25 November, 2014

25 November: Feast Day of Saint Katherine

Today is my name-day, the feast of Saint Katherine/Catherine/Kathryn of Alexandria, martyred by being broken on a wheel in c. 305.  In 1325, Edward II ordered his almoner John Denton to give five pounds' worth of food to the poor to mark the saint's day.  He also gave ten shillings to a woman called Anneis for 'what she did at the gate of the Tower of London' on this day to honour St Katherine, though what Anneis did is not specified.  The following year, 1326, the feast of St Katherine must have been a terrible day for Edward II: he was in captivity and his beloved Hugh Despenser the Younger had been grotesquely executed the day before.

Katherine was the name of one of Edward II's numerous short-lived older sisters, born in c. 1261/63 and died in 1264, and the name of his aunt, Henry III and Eleanor of Provence's youngest child, who was born on the feast day of Saint Katherine in 1253 and died at the age of three and a half (Edward I and Eleanor of Castile presumably named their daughter after this sister of Edward).  Katherine doesn't seem to have been a terribly common name in England during Edward II's reign.  Hugh Despenser the Younger had a chamberlain named Clement Holditch, whose wife was called Katherine; on 31 October 1325, Katherine Holditch went to ask for Edward II's help regarding 'some great business she had to do'.  Hugh the Younger and Eleanor de Clare's youngest daughter Elizabeth and her husband Maurice, Lord Berkeley named their first daughter Katherine, probably in honour of Maurice's stepmother Katherine Cliveden.  There was a 'hospital of St Katherine by the Tower of London', founded in c. 1148 by King Stephen's wife Queen Matilda, and in June 1318, Edward appointed his clerk Richard de Lusteshull custodian of it for life.  More info here.

The Anneis mentioned above celebrating the feast day of St Katherine in 1325 was married to Roger de May, one of Edward II's chamber valets or grooms.  Most unusually - all great households of the Middle Ages consisted almost exclusively of men - Edward hired Anneis herself as one of his (more than thirty) chamber valets on 5 December 1325 at wages of three pence a day, the same as her husband and the other valets received.  Joan Traghs, wife of the chamber valet Robin Traghs, was herself also hired as a valet on 8 March 1326, and received her wages of three pence a day for forty-four days while she was away from court, ill.  Both Anneis de May and Joan Traghs, and their husbands, were among the chamber staff who remained loyal to Edward II until the very end, and were named in the last entries of his chamber account of 31 October 1326, when it ceased to be kept.

12 comments:

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

Happy Name-day, my dear namesake :-)

Kathryn Warner said...

Happy name-day to you too, dear friend and namesake :)

Anonymous said...

Happy Name Day to the both of you!

Esther

Kathryn Warner said...

Thank you, Esther!

Mimi said...

Many Years to all who call as their heavenly patron Catherine.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thank you, Mimi!

Carla said...

Happy name-day, Kathryn!

Well, Edward II as a pioneer of equal pay - I didn't know that :-)

Sami Parkkonen said...

If I am not wholly wrong Edward was exceptional also in the sense that he actually took women as valets as well when at that time it was norm that valets were mainly men.

And happy name day.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Carla!

He was so ahead of his time in many ways :-)

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Sami! Yes, it's unusual, and the chamber valets provided Edward's personal service and looked after his bedchamber, so it's interesting that he allowed two women to do it!

Anerje said...

I saw many statues/paintings of St. Katherine on my recent visit to Madrid. What a contrast in a year for poor Edward.

Sami Parkkonen said...

Maybe Eddie knew that women take better care of the bedchamber, use clean sheets etc. where as men just throw some linen on the bed, wipe the floor here and there, and go to drink some beer as fast as they are done.