One of the squires of Edward II's chamber was Oliver of Bordeaux. On 7 February 1326 at Harpley in Norfolk, a wonderful entry in the chamber account (my discovery, my transcription and my translation!) records an extremely large payment of twenty marks to Oliver "when the king sat beside his bed a little before midnight" (q'nt le Roi sist enp's son lit vn poi deuant la mynoet). What on earth was going on there? Was Edward, sleepless, spilling out his thoughts and worries to the attentive Oliver? It's interesting to see - and I didn't notice this when I wrote this lovely anecdote about Oliver in my book Edward II: The Unconventional King - that the very next day, 8 February 1326, Edward II issued a proclamation that his queen Isabella of France was 'adopting the counsel' of Roger Mortimer, his deadliest enemy, at her brother Charles IV's court in Paris. Had the king just heard this news on the night of 7 February, and that's why he sat beside Oliver's bed, late at night, perhaps anguished? And why was he sitting by Oliver's bed, and not Oliver by his? Curious, most curious.
|The payment to Oliver, 7 February 1326, in SAL MS 122.|
Another of Edward II's chamber squires was John Pymock, whose son's name was also Edward; this Edward was called le petit Pymock, 'the little Pymock', and the king's confrere, brother or companion, in Edward II's chamber account. A curious nickname for one of the king's chamber staff, which one I've been unable to identify, was le petit Cotel le Roi, 'the king's little Knife'. That this was the nickname of a person is apparent from an entry in the chamber account of 24 August 1325, when a payment was made to Jack Pyk, a valet of the chamber, "on the information of the king's little Knife." This formulation, 'on the information of', is used over and over in the royal accounts, and always referred to a person. Other chamber squires of Edward II included Eustace Boson, Robert de Micheldever (executed with the earl of Arundel on 17 November 1326), John Harsik, who joined the earl of Kent's plot to free Edward in 1330, and Garsy de Pomit.
In the year 1325/26, Edward II had between twenty-eight and thirty-three valets attending him in his chamber at any given time (sometimes they were sent out of court to buy fish or fishing nets, for example). What's interesting is that two of the valets were women; royal and noble households of the Middle Ages usually consisted almost exclusively of men, and Edward's Household Ordinance of 6 December 1318 mentions only a handful of washerwomen, the rest of his staff of several hundred being men. (Queen Isabella of course had female attendants, but had her own household.) The female valets' names were Joan Traghs, who was the wife of another chamber valet Robert 'Robin' Traghs, and Anneis de May, wife of the chamber valet Roger 'Hogge' de May. The women were hired in early May 1326 and at the end of 1325 respectively, and received the same wages, three pence a day, as the men. (Edward II, fourteenth-century champion of equal pay for women! Wooo!) On 15 June 1325, Edward paid for cloth to make tunics for Joan Traghs and three other wives of his chamber valets, and two months later gave her husband Robin a gift of five shillings on hearing that Joan had given birth to their daughter. He even paid Joan's usual wages when she was away from court, ill, for forty-four days, and recuperating somewhere in Norfolk. Joan Traghs and Anneis de May and their husbands Robin and Roger were among the twenty-four chamber valets still with the king in South Wales on 31 October 1326, over a month after the queen's invasion and the last day the account was kept. As well as the two married couples, there was a father-son pair and two brothers among the chamber valets: Richard 'Hick' Hustret and his son Henry Hustret, and Simon 'Syme' Lawe and his brother Henry Lawe. Another Lawe brother, the excellently-named Willecok, is also mentioned in the chamber account, sailing in Edward's boat along the Thames with the king in late May 1326, and their sister Alis Coleman was paid on several occasions for brewing ale for Edward. A Thames fisherman named Jak Coleman, mentioned a couple of times sending gifts of fish to the king, may have been Alis's husband. Then there was the fab father-son pair Edmund 'Monde' Fisher, a valet of the chamber, and William 'Little Will' Fisher, a page of the chamber. I love Little Will Fisher.
Edward's Household Ordinance of 6 December 1318 stated that he should nominate six of his thirty sergeants-at-arms to sleep outside his bedchamber every night, with the remainder to stay close by in the hall should he need them. He also had an usher to guard the door, and judging by an entry in SAL MS 122, six of his chamber valets also slept inside the room with him, one of whom was Roger de May. In early July 1326, the six men received a gift of twenty shillings to be shared out among them in recognition of their hard work in waking up and attending the king whenever he himself awoke during the night (more anxiety and insomnia, perhaps?).
In the third week of 1326, Edward II was sailing along the Thames from 'Bustleham', i.e. Bisham, to his palace of Sheen, when he hired one 'Ambrose son of Will de la Wyk' as another chamber valet. (Because apparently nearly three dozen just wasn't enough.) On 7 June, Ambrose received his first wages of four shillings and nine pence, at three pence a day. Unfortunately, the chamber account doesn't specify how Ambrose came to join the royal household. I also sometimes wonder how it happened that the many of Edward's sergeants-at-arms who came from abroad joined his household. You can tell from the names that some of them were German, French, Italian, Spanish: Oto le Alemaund ('Otto the German'), Giles de Tholosa (Toulouse), Rodrigo de Medyne, Nicholas le Lombard, Poncius de Fossato, Pouncettus de Monte Martini, William Beaukaire (the town of Beaucaire not far from Avignon). Were these men hired abroad, or were they already living in England? I'd love to know.