16 May, 2016

Hanged, Drawn and Quartered

There is some dispute over the origins of the atrocious method of execution by hanging, drawing and quartering, and who the first man in England to suffer this fate was. It may well have been a man who tried to assassinate Henry III in 1238. Edward I inflicted the punishment on Dafydd ap Gruffudd in October 1283, and also on various Scottish noblemen and knights in 1305/07, including William Wallace in August 1305 and several of Robert Bruce's brothers.

In Edward II's reign, I can think of only five men who suffered this atrocious punishment, and only three of them - Middleton, Harclay and Badlesmere - were at Edward's own command (if you think I've missed any, please do let me know!).

- Sir Gilbert Middleton, 24 January 1318

Sir Gilbert Middleton famously attacked and robbed two cardinals visiting England in September 1317, Luca Fieschi, an Italian nobleman by birth who was a kinsman of Edward II, and Gaucelin D’Eauze, a kinsman of Pope John XXII, who had sent the cardinals to England. The cardinals were in the party of Louis Beaumont, the new bishop of Durham, and his brother Henry, Lord Beaumont, the real targets of Middleton's attack. Furious, the cardinals excommunicated Middleton and his adherents – or as the Vita Edwardi Secundi has it, "solemnly and in public separated Gilbert de Middleton and his accomplices from the communion of the faithful." [ed. Denholm-Young, p. 83] On 20 September 1317, Edward II declared that he would "punish the sons of iniquity" who had perpetrated the outrage. [Foedera 1307-27, p. 342]

He was as good as his word: his squires William Felton, Thomas Heton and Robert Horncliffe captured Middleton and his brother John at Mitford Castle in January 1318 and sent them to Edward, and the king ordered Simon Driby and thirteen other squires to deliver them to the Tower of London. [Scalacronica, p. 60; Thomas Stapelton, 'A brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the tenth, eleventh, and fourteenth years of King Edward the Second', p. 330] On 24 January 1318, royal justices sentenced Gilbert Middleton to execution, and he suffered a terrible death by hanging, drawing and quartering. Although some chronicles say that his brother shared this awful fate, John was still alive in November 1319. [Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous 1308-48, p. 96]

- Llywelyn Bren, lord of Senghenydd and Meisgyn, 1318

Llywelyn Bren was a nobleman of South Wales, who in early 1316 attacked Caerphilly Castle. His uprising was soon put down, and Edward II imprisoned him, his sons and several others in the Tower of London. Most of them had been released by June 1317. Sometime in 1318 - I can't find an exact date - Hugh Despenser the Younger, now lord of Glamorgan and owner of Caerphilly Castle (which had been built by his father-in-law Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare in the 1270s) removed Bren from the Tower and took him to Cardiff. Without any authority to do so whatsoever, and without giving him a trial, Despenser inflicted the terrible death of hanging, drawing and quartering on Bren in Cardiff. Edward II was not responsible for Llywelyn Bren's execution, but neither did he punish or apparently even reprove Hugh Despenser for it.

- Bartholomew, Lord Badlesmere, 14 April 1322

I wrote a detailed account of Badlesmere's execution recently: he was the steward of Edward II's household, a baron of Kent who married Margaret de Clare, Gilbert the Red's niece, who switched sides and joined the Contrariant rebellion against Edward II in 1321/22 and whom the enraged king decided to make an example of. Badlesmere was hanged, drawn and quartered in Canterbury, and his head placed on a spike on the city gate as a warning to those who would betray the king.

- Andrew Harclay, earl of Carlisle, 3 March 1323

As sheriff of Cumberland, Sir Andrew Harclay was loyal to Edward II for many years, and was one of the few men who enjoyed military success in Edward's reign; he stoutly defended Carlisle against Robert Bruce, and defeated Edward's cousin the earl of Lancaster and brother-in-law the earl of Hereford at the battle of Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322. Edward rewarded him with the earldom of Carlisle soon afterwards, but Andrew did not live long to enjoy it. At the beginning of 1323, he negotiated a peace settlement with Robert Bruce without Edward II's authority or even knowledge, and on 3 March 1323 suffered the traitor's death in Carlisle. When he heard the sentence, he announced "You have divided my carcass according to your pleasure, and I commend myself to God," and gazed towards the heavens, hands clasped and held aloft, as horses dragged him through the streets of the town he had defended so staunchly for many years.

- Hugh Despenser the Younger, lord of Glamorgan, 24 November 1326

Hugh was captured with Edward II in South Wales on 16 November 1326, and taken to Hereford. According to the Brut, he refused any food or water, and was thus in a highly weakened state when he arrived. Edward II, of course, had nothing to do with Hugh's death. The charges read out against him are here, and an account of his execution is here.


Gabriele Campbell said...

In case of Badlesmere and Harclay, our dear Ed had a bit of a vindictive streak. It would surley have been sufficient to execute them without the whole hanging, drawing and quartering thing.

Anerje said...

A big black mark against Hugh Despencer and Edward for their cruelty towards my countryman Bren!

Jerry Bennett said...

As a fellow Cumbrian, I would like to put in a good word for Andrew Harclay.

1322 was a disastrous year for England. It had started well enough with the defeat of Lancaster, but in June, Bruce led the so-called "Great Raid" through modern-day Cumbria and into Lancashire. The invasion of Scotland that followed was a shambolic failure. When Bruce followed Edward back into England, he almost captured him at Rievaulx Abbey and chased him round the east Riding of Yorkshire. There was a good guest account of that episode on this blog a few years ago.

In the six months after Boroughbridge, England fell apart disastrously, and as a North Country man, Andrew Harclay would have seen that clearly. Something else which must have preyed on his mind was the question of what Lancaster might have offered Robert Bruce for his assistance. The Lanercost chronicler has an interesting comment about how Andrew believed each king should hold his own kingdom in peace. Bruce could have annexed Northumberland without even breaking sweat, so was Harclay's opening gambit the maintenance of the border established in the treaty of York, which would have kept Northumberland in England?

The treaty of Lochmaben was an unbelievably generous offer from Robert Bruce. One local historian makes a very good case that some of the articles in the Lochmaben treaty gave Harclay too much say over border matters, and compared them to the ordinances that Edward hated so much. That might explain Edward's vindictiveness, but is complicated by the fact that two different versions of the Lochmaben treaty exist today. Did Harclay believe he still had Edward's permission to treat with Robert Bruce, as he had at the end of 1321. He was a border soldier, not a courtier, and may have misunderstood his remit.

Was he a traitor? Not in my opinion. In their eighteenth century history of Westmorland, Messrs Nicholson and Burn state that "it remains an article of faith in Westmorland today that Sir Andrew died an innocent man". Not much has changed since.

sami parkkonen said...

It would be nice to know how much Despensers had effect on some of this.

Anonymous said...

How awful - what a punishment - thankfully we have moved away from that barbarism. Your posts are enlightening, thank you. I am avidly reading every book that I can about Edward II and haunt the local library. My conclusion so far is that he did escape and lived in Italy until his death. Please keep posting, so interesting. Amanda