09 July, 2016

International Medieval Congress 2016, Session 828: The Troublesome Twenties

On Tuesday 5 July 2016, from 4.30 to 6pm, I took part in the above session about the 1320s with Professor Mark Ormrod of the university of York, the moderator, and Dr Paul Dryburgh of the National Archives, who wrote his doctoral thesis on Roger Mortimer, first earl of March. Paul talked for thirty-five minutes, a general overview of the 1320s, about the 1322 Statute of York, and much else which I'm afraid I rather missed as I was thinking about my own impending talk! I then spoke for half an hour about Edward II's last chamber account of 1325/26, now held in the library of the Society of Antiquaries in London. I talked about Edward's relationships with his niece Eleanor Despenser and her husband Hugh, the king's powerful chamberlain and favourite: there is much in the account to imply a considerable amount of affection and familiarity between Edward and Eleanor, such as frequent letters, gifts and visits, private dining, and Edward's offering of thirty shillings to give thanks to God for granting Eleanor a prompt and safe delivery of her child in December 1325. (Not named or even given a gender, but probably the Despensers' youngest, Elizabeth.) Hugh Despenser was away from Edward far more than we might expect in 1325/26, given that he had persuaded Edward to send his son to France in September 1325 rather than go himself on the grounds that his life would be in danger if the king left him alone in England. He spent much time in Wales that year, and in November 1325 Edward II heard news that Despenser had been killed. He hastily sent three men there to ascertain what was happening, and gave the large sum of ten marks each to the men for telling him that Despenser was, 'by God's mercy', perfectly well. Despenser received a manuscript of the story of Tristan and Isolde from the king in 1326.

One thing I love about the last account of Edward II's chamber is the way it confirms that the stories the chroniclers tell about him, that he enjoyed the company of his common subjects and that he took part in 'rustic pursuits', are accurate. At Leeds, I gave a good few examples of this: the king giving out money to Thames fishermen and carpenters for spending time with him (one of them was called Colle Herron, Colle being a pet name for Nicholas), inviting shipwrights to come and visit him at Kenilworth Castle, joining in when a group of workmen dug ditches and made fences at the royal manor of Clarendon in Wiltshire. I throughly enjoyed the talk and would happily have stood there for hours, talking all about Edward II and his character and hobbies!

5 comments:

Anerje said...

I would love to have been there. Hope there are more talks in the pipeline.

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

Wonderful to hear you have so thoroughly enjoyed the talk, Kathryn! I too wished I could listen to you...

Anonymous said...

I also wish that I could have attended ... it sounds fascinating. What did the other speakers discuss?

Esther

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, all! Esther, the only other person who gave a talk in my session was Paul Dryburgh. Andrew Spencer was meant to talk about Henry of Lancaster, but had to withdraw.

sami parkkonen said...

Yes, we need to se a tv-documentary series about Edward II hosted by none other than Kathryn. Unfortunately I did not yet again win in our national lottery so the financing of that project is still up in the air but rest assured, if that (lottery win) would happen the next weekend, Kathryn could begin to work on that project at once.