A post today which illustrates how vindictive Edward II could be. A man called John le Boteler or le Botiller was one of the many minstrels who performed at the great Feast of the Swan after the mass knighting of Edward of Caernarfon, Hugh Despenser the Younger, Piers Gaveston, Roger Mortimer, John Maltravers and the more than 250 others at Westminster at Pentecost, Sunday 22 May 1306. Boteler's professional name was Roi Bruaunt, which also appears as Roi Brunaund or Rey Bruant, and appears to mean 'Burning King' or 'Fiery King', or perhaps 'Booming King'. (Possibly indicating that he performed some kind of act with fire, as two of Edward II's squires did for him at his Westminster cottage of Burgundy in February 1325 with disastrous results - they both burned their arms and one of them his thighs as well - or that he had a deep booming voice.) Occasionally John's real name and his professional name were mixed up, and he appears on record as 'John Bruaunt'. He was paid forty shillings for his performance entertaining the new knights on 22 May 1306, and appears on the payroll simply as 'Bruant', indicating that he was already well known then, though in a Latin record of 6 April 1306 was called by his real name, Johannes Butiler (i.e. Butler, as the name became in later centuries). Little else is known of John and he is not found on record between 1306 and 1322, but he owned property in the Yorkshire town of Pontefract, the favourite residence of Edward II's first cousin and most hated enemy Thomas, earl of Lancaster, and may have been Lancaster's chief of heralds.
John le Botiller/Roi Bruaunt fought against the royal army and on the side of the earl of Lancaster at the battle of Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322, and was captured (the earl of Lancaster himself was beheaded at Pontefract six days later). When Edward II sent members of his household to round up the fleeing Contrariants and to seize their possessions, seven horses were found at 'Merston' - presumably Long Marston a few miles west of York and about seventeen miles from Boroughbridge - belonging to Rey Bruant and four other named men plus "others unknown," and "diverse armour" including aketons, bacinets, two pairs of plate gloves, four swords and, rather randomly, a pair of shoes. On 28 October 1322, an entry on the Patent Roll records Edward II giving "the houses late of John le Botiller called 'Roi Bruaunt', late a rebel, in the town of Pontefract" to another minstrel. He was William Morley, known professionally as Roi du North, 'King of the North', a harper who first appears on record in about 1300 and is mentioned frequently in Edward II's accounts, often called Guillot le Harpour, Master Gillot or Gillot de Morle. He also entertained the new knights in May 1326. In 1304, a man named John de Hoy broke into William/Gillot's house in London, stole his goods and abducted his wife Agnes; I hope she was able to return safely. On 22 May 1326, exactly twenty years to the day after the mass knighting and the Feast of the Swan, William Morley was called Edward II's king of heralds, roi des heraux, in Edward's chamber account.
Meanwhile, in March 1322 the unfortunate John le Boteler was taken from York to imprisonment at Berkhamsted Castle in Hertfordshire. The king, perhaps because he considered that Boteler had betrayed him, pursued him with remarkable viciousness. As late as November 1325, Edward ordered Boteler to be moved from prison at Berkhamsted to Berkeley Castle, telling the sheriff of Berkshire to "lay aside all other matters" and conduct Boteler to Berkeley "at the king’s own cost." More than three and a half years after the battle of Boroughbridge, Edward thought it important enough for a sheriff to 'lay aside all other matters' to take 'Roi Bruaunt' from captivity at one castle to another. Edward II, kind and generous to people he liked, could be nastily spiteful to anyone he thought had crossed him, though he did pardon several other minstrels for adhering to Thomas of Lancaster in 1322, such as Robert le Trompor, Hugo le Harpour and John de Elend, another harper. This is sadly the last known reference to John le Botiler/Roi Bruaunt and I don't know if he survived his imprisonment, though it would be amusing if he was still alive in 1327 and knew that Edward II himself was now in captivity at Berkeley Castle. Ah, irony.
- Constance Bullock-Davies, Menestrellorum Multitudo: Minstrels at a Royal Feast (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1978), pp. 74-77
- Constance Bullock-Davies, A Register of Royal and Baronial Domestic Minstrels 1272-1327 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1986), pp. 51, 62, 70, 72, 125-128, 169, 220
Calendar of Patent Rolls 1321-1324, p. 210
Calendar of Close Rolls 1323-1327, p. 424
Foedera 1307-1327, p. 498
Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous 1308-1348, p. 134
SAL MS 122, p. 64.