14 April, 2016

14 April 1322: Execution of Bartholomew, Lord Badlesmere

Today marks the 694th anniversary of Edward II's execution of his former household steward, Bartholomew, Lord Badlesmere, who had joined the Contrariant rebellion against the king and the Despensers.

Badlesmere was appointed as the steward of Edward II's household in October 1318, and in December that year was one of the four men (one of the others was Edward's chamberlain Hugh Despenser the Younger, whose wife Eleanor de Clare was the first cousin of Badlesmere's wife Margaret de Clare) who devised a Household Ordinance for the king. In late June 1321, the Marcher lords who had recently destroyed the lands of the two Hugh Despensers throughout Wales and England met Edward II's cousin and enemy Thomas, earl of Lancaster at Sherburn in Yorkshire. Edward sent Badlesmere to the meeting, presumably as a spy; Badlesmere switched sides and joined the Marchers. His motives are uncertain, but most probably he was angry at the rise of Hugh Despenser, his former ally who had deprived him of influence with the king, and he had a family connection to two Marchers: his daughter Elizabeth was married to Roger Mortimer's son and heir Edmund, and his wife Margaret was the aunt of Roger, Lord Clifford (son of Maud Clifford née de Clare). This proved to be as astonishingly unwise move on Badlesmere's part. Edward thereafter detested him for his treachery, and the earl of Lancaster loathed him already (I have no idea why; Lancaster loathed a lot of people): a letter of 27 February 1321 had informed Edward that "great ambushes are set for Bartholomew de Badlesmere in the south and in the north against his coming," and these ambushes were most likely Lancaster’s.  [J. Goronwy Edwards, Calendar of Ancient Correspondence Concerning Wales, pp. 180-81; J. R. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster, p. 264.] Edward and Hugh Despenser the Younger's plan in the autumn of 1321 to bring the Despensers back to England and defeat the Marchers, or Contrariants, centred around Badlesmere in Kent.

Edward II ordered Bartholomew Badlesmere's arrest on 7 December 1321. [Patent Rolls 1321-24, p. 40] During the king's winter campaign of 1321/22 against the Contrariants, he sometimes offered some of them safe-conducts to come and meet him but always pointedly excluded Badlesmere by name. [Patent Rolls, pp. 47-8, 51, 70, 71] The battle of Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322 marked a decisive turning point; Edward II's ally Sir Andrew Harclay, sheriff of Cumberland and soon to become earl of Carlisle, defeated the Contrariant army. Thomas, earl of Lancaster was executed on 22 March, with Lords Clifford and Mowbray following on 23 March. Twenty or twenty-two noblemen and knights were executed in March/April 1322 (don't believe the inaccurate figures and hysterically over-emotive accounts you often read in modern literature: here is a reliable count of the executions).

The legal judgement on Bartholomew Badlesmere was issued on 30 March 1322: "Forasmuch as you, Bartholomew de Badelesmere, liege of our lord the king, contrary to your fealty, homage and allegiance, falsely and treacherously took his town and castle of Gloucestre, and burned his town of Bruggenorth, and then killed his men, robbed his lieges, and took the peace in the land where you went to make war until you came to his castle of Tikhull, and then you besieged the castle with banner displayed as an enemy of the king and realm, and wrecked and killed the king's lieges, and thence went in the company of the attainted traitors, Thomas, late earl of Lancaster, and Humphrey, late earl of Hereford, to Burton-upon-Trent, and took the peace where you went, with banner displayed contrary to your fealty, homage and allegiance, as a traitor, felon and enemy of the realm, as is known to great and small of the realm, and the king hath recorded, this court awards that you be for the treason drawn, for the robberies and homicides hanged, and for the flight beheaded, and forasmuch as you were the king's steward, it is his will that your head be put over the gate of the town of Canterbury for an example to others.'" [Patent Rolls 1338-40, p. 209]

The Brut chronicle says that Badlesmere was captured at Stowe Park, a manor of his nephew Henry Burghersh, bishop of Lincoln. [Brut, ed. Brie, p. 221] The Livere de Reis of Sempringham, Lincolnshire, has a different story: it says that Edward II's close friend  Donald of Mar, a nephew of Robert Bruce, captured Badlesmere in "a small wood near Brickden" and took him to Canterbury. [Livere de Reis, ed. Glover, pp. 341-3] There the poor man suffered the terrible fate ordained for him by Edward: he was dragged three miles to the crossroads at Blean, hanged and then beheaded, and his head set on a spike over the gate into Canterbury at Edward's own command as an example to those who would betray the king. Bartholomew Badlesmere is one of only four men I know of who certainly suffered the traitor's death during Edward II's reign, the others being Andrew Harclay, earl of Carlisle (linked above), Sir Gilbert Middleton, who attacked and robbed two cardinals visiting England in 1317, and Hugh Despenser the Younger (and the latter was not done at Edward's order, of course). Poor Bartholomew; no-one deserves to die like that. Edward II could be remarkably vindictive towards people he felt had betrayed him, and Bartholomew Badlesmere is a prime example.


Kathryn Warner said...

Comment by Anerje (I rejected it by mistake instead of publishing it!):

Maybe the acute feeling of betrayal by someone so close to him influenced Edward's decision to order such a horrifying execution?

Anonymous said...

It is to your credit that you can write an article which shows a darker side to Edward's character instead of solely concentrating on the positive. I'm on the fence about Richard III but some Ricardians can't understand why I don't come out on the side of he was a lovely man. And that's not even mentioning the lady who seemed to take it as a personal insult when I said I was not too keen on the works of a (to me) rather bodice-rippery female novelist. I'm not mentioning any names but said novelist seemed to think she was the first person who discovered that Ann Boleyn had a sister.

Anerje said...

Lol Anonymous- I know who you mean and am often told her fiction is the REAL truth! Scarily, once by a castle guide!

Jerry Bennett said...

One reason given for the hatred between Badlesmere and Lancaster was that Lancaster considered himself as hereditary steward of the kingdom. I cannot recall where that information was printed, so it could be an error. It sounds as if Badlesmere's appointment as steward was around the time of the so-called "treaty of Leake", and I wonder if Lancaster bore a grudge against him because part of that agreement involved Lancaster agreeing to Badlesmere's appointment. As the Leake agreement failed to survive the Berwick debacle one year later, Lancaster's hatred could have been directed at anyone in the king's household. Ian Mortimer suggests that Lancaster specifically ordered the Marcher rebels not to try to relieve Badlesmere's castles in Kent. I also wonder if Badlesmere allied himself with the earl of Hereford rather than Lancaster. One of his castles was at Lyonshall, not far from Hereford, so he would have been a near neighbour of both Hereford and Roger Mortimer of Wigmore.

He seems to have achieved some kind of a record in being hated by both Lancaster and Edward - did anyone else manage that? From what little I know of him, he was not that bad an individual. I believe he was involved, with the earl of Pembroke, in establishing the Christmas truce with Robert Bruce in 1319, so he must have had some diplomatic skills.

I think you are correct in identifying Edward's vindictiveness against those he felt had personally betrayed him. Gilbert Middleton's traitor's death was probably inevitable given the embarrassment Edward must have felt over his actions with the two cardinals. Presumably he felt very personally betrayed by both Baldlesmere and Andrew Harclay to have ordered that manner for their deaths. I believe Llewellyn Bren also suffered the traitor's death, although that was supposedly on Hugh Despenser's orders (source - Ian Mortimer in "The Greatest Traitor").

Kathryn Warner said...

Yes, that's true, Llywelyn Bren was another, though at the younger Despenser's order, so there are still just three men I can think of who suffered the traitor's death on Edward II's orders.

I don't think Badlesmere was a bad man by any stretch of the imagination, but I do think he tended to be incompetent and was promoted well above his abilities. I've written a couple of posts here about a rebellion in Bristol in the 1310s which he provoked. And there's a really vicious Latin poem about him written not long after his death (or possibly it was before, can't remember) accusing him of betraying his lord the earl of Gloucester to his death at Bannockburn and saying 'this traitor deserves to be put to the rack'. I cite it here on the blog somewhere.

Yes, Lancaster did order the Marchers/Contrariants not to aid Badlesmere when Edward besieged Leeds in October 1321 - that's in my book too.

That's interesting about Lyonshall - I didn't know it was his, so thanks for the info. Around the time of his execution, Edward II appointed Stephen Dunheved as its custodian - the man who with his brother Thomas temporarily freed Edward from Berkeley Castle in the summer of 1327.

Anonymous said...

I find it amazing how much detailed history is known here. There is plenty of material for another special Netflix series. It is another story of my ancestors conspiring and killing one another. In building my family tree in which I have now found about 40000 direct ancestors, I find a larger number of stories like this one where I descended from people who fought and even killed each other as enemies and whose descendants then fell in love, married and had children! In this story I am descended from (at least): Bartholemew, Edward II, Hugh Despenser, Margaret De Clare, Roger Mortimer. I'm surprised their genes still carry on today. My links to all the English Royals and Minors mainly come from royal descendants who came to America in the 17th Century (obviously ones who did not inherit the throne or a county! I read one of them had an inheritance of 20 Shillings). It seems because of four or five 17th century American ancestors, I am descended from most of Europe's medieval royalty including from Edward III back to William the Conqueror, several of his buddies, the Kings of Wessex before him, including the horrible King John and at least 8 barons who forced hime to sign the Magna Carta. They must have all intermarried for power sharing and then their children did too? But zoom forward 500 years from then and we are back to rubbing pennies together for heat (not really but maybe relatively)! I have a feeling those ancestors saw America as a possible way to regain some of their lost fortunes! I was always told there was some royalty in the history of the family on both sides but no one knew any details or names until I began to explore all the information available on the internet. I found both of my parents descended from the French King Louis VI 'The Fat' (by different wives - whew!). It is amazing how much genealogy info exists. 'Royalty in the days of yore' has a romantc ring to it but after reading all these stories I would never be inclined to trade places with any of them! Jon

Anonymous said...

I meant 4000 not 40000!