31 January, 2016

Telling the Time and Writing Dates in Edward II's Reign

In the nineteenth century, Agnes Strickland in her Lives of the Queens of England made up a story that Edward II and Isabella of France's eldest child the future Edward III was born at exactly 5.40am on Monday 13 November 1312. For this curiously precise time, she cites a memorandum in Foedera 1307-1327. I have this document, and the memo, in Latin, says nothing whatsoever about the time of Edward III's birth, never mind that he was born at exactly 5.40am. This is hardly surprising, as no-one in England in November 1312 would have known (or cared) that it was 5.40am, for all that this fabricated 'fact' has made its way into numerous books since. Goodness knows what Strickland thought she had read.

The memorandum of Edward III's birth from Foedera.
(Translation: "Memorandum that Isabella, queen of England, consort of King Edward son of King Edward, bore the king his first-born son in the king's castle of Windsor, on the Monday next after the feast of St Martin in winter, in the year of grace one thousand three hundred and twelve, and in the sixth year of the king's reign." It then goes on to say that the boy was baptised by the cardinal-priest of Santa Prisca in the chapel of St Edward in the castle the following Thursday, and names his seven godfathers. Nothing at all about the time of birth.)

People in England in 1312, and, specifically in the context of this post, Edward II's household, told the time using the canonical hours: Prime or about 6am; Terce or the third hour or about 9am; Sext or the sixth hour or about midday; None or the ninth hour or mid-afternoon; or Vespers, i.e. sunset. The other canonical hours are Matins (roughly midnight), Lauds (roughly 3am) and Compline (about 9pm, which in summer in England would be earlier than Vespers/sunset), though I've never seen these used in Edward II's accounts, because the king and most of his household were asleep or relaxing at those times. His clerks did use the word 'midnight' on occasion, for example in Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, p. 569 and SAL MS 122, p. 50, and the Sempringham annalist talked of a violent thunderstorm which took place on 17 April 1320 at 'around midnight' (entour la mye noet). Evidently, to them this meant 'an indeterminate time in the middle of the night when most people are in bed, but probably not as late as the early hours of the morning', or 'gosh, the king is still up and awake and issuing orders long after dark' rather than a precise clock time - and of course the fourteenth-century French word la my(e) noet (modern French minuit) and the English word midnight originally just meant 'in the middle of the night'. If Edward III's time of birth had been recorded, it would have been 'around Prime'. People told the time in three-hour chunks, the sixth hour, the ninth hour and so on, not in ten-minute slots.

An entry in Edward II's chamber account of February 1326, SAL MS 122, talking about la my noet, 'midnight'

On Wednesday 7 February 1308, Edward II and his new queen Isabella of France arrived in England after marrying in Boulogne, and an entry on the Fine Roll states that they landed at Dover 'on Wednesday after the Purification...about the ninth hour', or roughly in the middle of the afternoon. [Calendar of Fine Rolls 1307-19, p. 14] Edward and Isabella returned to England from their long visit to France in the summer of 1313 on 'Monday before St Margaret the Virgin, at vespers, in the seventh year of his reign,' which means around sunset or simply just 'late evening' on Monday 16 July 1313 (a time of year when the hours of daylight in northern Europe are very long). [Calendar of Close Rolls 1313-18, p. 66] This was as detailed as telling the time got in England in the early fourteenth century. Edward I was said by a chronicler to have died on 7 July 1307 'at the ninth hour', or around 3pm, or simply just in the middle of the afternoon. In this context, to talk of someone being born at precisely '5.40am' is nonsense.

In Edward II's household accounts, the date was normally written as e.g. 'the thirtieth day of January', in French or Latin, with Roman numerals used (le xxx iour de janv').  More usually, in letters and in the chancery rolls and in e.g. the memorandum recording Edward III's birth, saints' feast days were used: 'the Tuesday before the Translation of St Thomas Becket' or 'the morrow of St Hilary' or, as we see above, 'the Wednesday after the Purification' and 'the Monday before St Margaret the Virgin'. Edward III was born on the feast day of St Brice, 13 November, but Brice is an obscure saint and many chroniclers in 1312 didn't know that it was his feast day, so instead wrote that the future king was born on 'the Monday after St Martin' (St Martin is 11 November). Edward II himself was born on the feast day of St Mark the Evangelist (25 April), which is how he would have thought of the date. Sometimes religious days were also used in Edward's accounts, such as his hiring a boy-bishop in 1316 from 'the feast of St Nicholas until the Feast of the Holy Innocents', that is, 6 to 28 December. His clerks often recorded 1 January as the Feast of the Circumcision. 25 December was le iour de noel, Christmas Day.

To figure out any given date in a fourteenth-century English document, as well as having to know saints' days, you have to know the date on which the present king became king and the year he succeeded to the throne, because almost invariably English clerks recorded dates using kings' regnal years. Edward I died on 7 July 1307, Edward II's reign began on 8 July 1307, and thus his regnal year ran from 8 July to 7 July every year. His father Edward I's regnal year ran from 20 November to 19 November (because Henry III died on 19 November 1272), and his son Edward III's from 25 January to 24 January. 8 July 1307 to 7 July 1308 was Edward II's first regnal year, 8 July 1323 to 7 July 1324 his seventeenth, and so on. Edward III was born on 13 November 1312 in his father's sixth regnal year (which ran from 8 July 1312 to 7 July 1313), and died on 21 June 1377 in his own fifty-first regnal year, which had begun on 25 January 1377. Edward II was born on the feast day of St Mark the Evangelist in the twelfth year of his father's reign, 25 April 1284, Edward I died on 7 July 1307 in his thirty-fifth regnal year, and Edward II was forced to abdicate his throne to his son in his twentieth regnal year, January 1327. Occasionally, but only very occasionally, English clerks would write 'the year of grace one thousand three hundred and twelve' (as in the memorandum above recording Edward III's birth), but also invariably added the king's regnal year.

To give a couple of examples: Edward II lost the battle of Bannockburn on the feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist near the end of his seventh regnal year, 24 June 1314, a fact of which Edward must have been painfully aware, as John the Baptist was one of his favourite saints. 27 August 1321 would be written as 'the Friday before the Beheading of St John the Baptist in the fifteenth year of the reign of our lord King Edward.' Often, in order to clarify which king was meant, clerks would write 'King Edward son of King Edward'. The whole formula doesn't exactly have the virtue of conciseness. Edward II was almost never called 'Edward II' in documents of his era, only 'King Edward son of King Edward', sometimes 'King Edward son of King Edward son of King Henry'. On occasion, however, you see a document referring to 'King Edward the second of this name after the [Norman] Conquest'. Somewhere, I can't remember now where I've seen it, there's a document in which the new king Edward III in 1327 is called 'King Edward son of King Edward son of King Edward son of King Henry.' His clerks evidently realising that this would be a most inefficient way to refer to their fourteen-year-old king on every occasion for the rest of his life, he began to be called Edward III, often with the cautious addition of 'after the Conquest' (there were three kings of England before 1066 with this name: Edward the Elder, Edward the Martyr and Edward the Confessor, so really Edward II should be Edward V).

28 January, 2016

28 January 1271: Death of Isabel of Aragon, Queen of France

Isabel of Aragon was the paternal grandmother of Edward II's queen Isabella of France, who was presumably named after her. Today is the 745th anniversary of her death.

The years 1270/71 took a heavy toll on the French royal family. While taking part in an unsuccessful crusade in Tunis, King Louis IX died on 25 August 1270, at the age of fifty-six. His twenty-year-old fourth (but second surviving) son Jean Tristan had died three weeks earlier, also in Tunis; it is likely that both men died of dysentery. (Jean Tristan had been born in Damietta, Egypt in 1250 during Louis's first crusade.) Louis's eldest daughter Isabelle, queen of Navarre, died on 27 April 1271, not quite thirty. His third daughter Marguerite, duchess of Brabant, died shortly after childbirth sometime in July 1271, aged only sixteen. His brother Alphonse of Poitiers died on 21 August 1271, and Alphonse's wife Jeanne of Toulouse four days after her husband, on the first anniversary of Louis's death.

Yet another casualty of these tragic years for the French royal family was Louis IX's daughter-in-law Isabel of Aragon, who had married his second (but eldest surviving) son Philip, the future Philip III, in 1262 when she was about fifteen and he seventeen. Isabel was one of the daughters of King Jaime I el Conquistador of Aragon and his second wife Violante or Yolande of Hungary, daughter of Andrew II, king of Hungary and Croatia. Isabel's eldest sister Violante of Aragon married Edward II's uncle Alfonso X of Castile and was the mother of Sancho IV. Her eldest brother Pedro III succeeded their father as king of Aragon and was the father of Alfonso III (betrothed for many years to Edward II's sister Eleanor) and Jaime II, and her second brother Jaime became king of Majorca.

Isabel bore four children, of whom two survived: Philip IV, king of France, father of three kings of France and the queen of England, born sometime in 1268, and Charles, count of Valois, born on 12 March 1270 and father of Philip VI of France. In January 1271, barely even in her mid-twenties, Isabel of Aragon was thrown from her horse in the town of Cosenza in southern Italy, on the royal family's way back from Tunis to France. She was pregnant with her fifth child. Sadly, she died a few days after her accident, on 28 January, and her unborn child with her. She had been queen of France for a mere five months.

Isabel of Aragon was the grandmother of four kings of France (Louis X, Philip V, Charles IV and Philip VI) and the great-grandmother of Edward III, king of England and of Joan II, queen of Navarre. Via her son Charles of Valois, she was the ancestor of the Valois dynasty of French kings, and via Edward III, of all the kings and queens of England since 1327. Queen Isabel was also a descendant of Harold Godwinson, the king of England killed at the battle of Hastings in 1066, and Harold's daughter Gytha of Wessex and her husband Vladimir Monomakh, grand prince of Kiev. (Harold Godwinson - Gytha of Wessex - Mstislav the Great, grand prince of Kiev - Euphrosyne of Kiev - Bela III, king of Hungary - Andrew III, king of Hungary - Violante of Hungary - Isabel of Aragon). The blood of Harold Godwinson thus returned to the English royal family when Isabel of Aragon's great-grandson Edward III came to the throne in 1327.

21 January, 2016

The Two Joans of Burgundy, Queens of France

So there's Philip V, king of France, and his wife Joan of Burgundy, and his first cousin Philip VI, king of France, and his wife Joan of Burgundy. Another Joan of Burgundy. So no, that's not confusing at all. There was a county of Burgundy, also known as the Franche-Comté, and a duchy of Burgundy, which shared a border but were not the same place. Also not at all confusing.

Joan of Burgundy, queen of Philip V (the second of the three brothers of Edward II's queen Isabella) was the elder of the two daughters of Othon IV, count of Burgundy, and Mahaut, countess of Artois in her own right. Joan was born in about 1287 or 1288, according to historian Elizabeth A. R. Brown, an expert on the French royal family of this period (Joan's Wiki page gives her date of birth as 15 January 1292, but I have no idea where that comes from). Mahaut, a major character in Maurice Druon's series of novels The Accursed Kings, was born in 1268 or 1269, and inherited her father Robert's county of Artois in preference to her brother Philip's son Robert of Artois (born 1287). Mahaut was the niece of Blanche of Artois, queen of Navarre and countess of Lancaster, the maternal grandmother of Philip V, which makes Philip and Joan of Burgundy second cousins. The couple married in 1307. Joan had a younger sister Blanche, born in 1295 or 1296, who married Philip V's younger brother Charles in January 1308, the week before their sister Isabella married Edward II. Joan and Blanche also had a brother, Robert of Burgundy, who died unmarried and childless in 1317 (his future marriage to Edward I's youngest child Eleanor had been proposed shortly after her birth in May 1306). As the elder sister, Joan inherited Burgundy from Robert and ultimately from their father Othon (died 1302), and inherited Artois as well when Mahaut died in 1329. Blanche of Burgundy was imprisoned for adultery in 1314, her marriage was annulled in 1322, and she died in late 1325 or early 1326, still only thirty.

Philip V's elder brother Louis X was born on 4 October 1289 and his younger brother Charles IV on 18 June 1294, but his own date of birth is not known. He was said to be thirty when he died at the beginning of 1322, which would place it sometime in 1291. Philip was thus some years younger than his wife Joan. Their eldest child, another Joan, was born in 1308 when Philip was still only a teenager. Joan of France later inherited the counties of Burgundy and Artois from her mother, and was also duchess of Burgundy by marriage to Odo IV (see also below). Philip V and Joan of Burgundy's other daughters were Marguerite, countess of Flanders, Isabella, dauphine of Vienne, and Blanche, a nun; their two sons Philip and Louis died young. Philip V was thus succeeded by his brother Charles IV when he died at the age of only thirty, having been king of France for only five years. His widow Joan of Burgundy also died at a fairly young age, in January 1330, only a few weeks after her mother Mahaut.

The other Joan of Burgundy married Philip of Valois, the future Philip VI of France (who succeeded his first cousin Charles IV in 1328 when Charles also died without sons) in July 1313. Joan and Philip were first cousins once removed: she was the granddaughter of Saint Louis IX of France and Marguerite of Provence, Philip their great-grandson. Joan was the third daughter of Louis IX's youngest child Agnes of France (c. 1260-1327) and Duke Robert II of Burgundy, and was born in about 1293, the same year as her husband; her siblings included Duke Hugh V, Duke Odo IV (who married Philip V and the other Joan of Burgundy's eldest daughter, as above), and Marguerite, who married Louis X of France as his first wife and was imprisoned for adultery in 1314. Marguerite was the mother of Queen Joan II of Navarre.

This Joan of Burgundy was apparently lame, and grossly unpopular: she was known as la male royne boiteuse, 'the evil lame queen'. She was the mother of King John II of France, born in 1319, and Philip, duke of Orleans, who married Charles IV's posthumous daughter Blanche of France, his only child who lived into adulthood. Joan died in 1348, and her widower Philip VI married the forty years younger Blanche of Navarre, also sometimes known as Blanche of Evreux, who was the daughter of Queen Joan II of Navarre and who, like Joan of Burgundy, was Philip's first cousin once removed. Blanche of Navarre/Evreux's parents Joan II of Navarre and Philip of Evreux were first cousins once removed. The parents of Blanche of France, duchess of Orleans - Charles IV and Joan of Evreux - were first cousins. Joan of Evreux was the sister of Philip of Evreux, who married Joan II of Navarre and was the father-in-law of Philip VI. Charles IV's daughter Blanche of France and her husband Philip, duke of Orleans were second cousins. Louis X of France and his wife Marguerite of Burgundy were first cousins once removed, and Philip VI and his wife Joan of Burgundy, Marguerite's sister, were also first cousins once removed. Philip IV of France and his wife Joan I of Navarre, parents of Louis X, Philip V, Charles IV and Edward II's queen Isabella, were second cousins. Charles II 'the Bad', king of Navarre, son of Joan II of Navarre and Philip of Evreux, married Joan of France, daughter of King John II and granddaughter of Philip VI and Joan of Burgundy: they were second cousins. These people were so interrelated, it makes my brain explode.

All three sons of Philip IV of France, and his nephew Philip VI, married women of Burgundy. Saint Louis IX of France's youngest son, Robert, count of Clermont, Agnes of France's brother and thus the uncle of Philip VI's wife Joan of Burgundy (and the great-uncle of Louis X and his brothers and Philip VI), also married a woman of Burgundy. She was Beatrice of Burgundy, the heiress of Bourbon, a first cousin of Joan of Burgundy who married Philip VI and of Marguerite of Burgundy who married Louis X: all of them were grandchildren of Duke Hugh IV of Burgundy. My brain actually exploded at that point.

12 January, 2016

Naked Edward II Saves Isabella: 'Love Made Him Do It'

This is a post about a dramatic incident which took place in the summer of 1313, during Edward II and Queen Isabella's long visit to her homeland of France, which isn't well-known at all and thoroughly deserves to be.

Between 10 and 30 June 1313, Edward and Isabella stayed at Pontoise, twenty miles from Paris where they had been staying since the beginning of June, before travelling on to Poissy where Isabella's great-grandfather Saint Louis IX had been born, exactly seventy years to the day before Edward II as it happens, on 25 April 1214. They then returned to England, having spent a couple of days at Hesdin with Mahaut, countess of Artois and Burgundy, mother-in-law of Isabella's brothers Philip and Charles, on the way. The royal couple landed at Dover on (says a memorandum on the Close Roll) "Monday before St Margaret the Virgin, at vespers, in the seventh year of his [Edward II's] reign," which sounds like sunset on 16 July 1313 to me. It was during the stay at Pontoise that Edward famously paid Bernard the Fool and fifty-four naked dancers for performing for him on the first anniversary of Piers Gaveston's murder on 19 June 1312. (And I can never mention that delightful fact often enough.) The English royal couple, new parents - their first child the future Edward III had been born the previous November - seem to have had a whale of a time during their visit, eating, drinking and generally making merry.

It was also during the stay at Pontoise that the dramatic incident took place. Edward and Isabella appear to have been sleeping in a silken pavilion - it may have been pretty warm in mid or late June, I can imagine, and this was probably more comfortable than sleeping inside a building. The chronicler Geoffrey or Godefroy of Paris, who was an eyewitness to the couple's French visit, describes what happened. A fire somehow broke out in their sleeping quarters the middle of the night, and Edward and Isabella had to leave behind their rich possessions, which were lost to the fire. Fortunately they woke up in time, and Isabella tried to rescue some of her things from the fire. In doing so, she suffered bad burns to her arms for which she was still being treated months later. Edward had the presence of mind to scoop Isabella up in his arms and rush outside with her, and managed to get them both to safety and mostly unharmed. He may well have saved her life. Geoffrey of Paris comments that even though the king of England was 'completely naked' (toute nue) at the time, he saved members of his entourage from the fire as well, which presumably means that as soon as he had taken Isabella outside and ensured his wife's safety, he ran back inside the burning pavilion (or wherever their retinues were sleeping), and rescued other people too. Apparently while still naked.

This incident is almost entirely unknown to modern readers, though it appears (briefly) in my biography of Edward and (at greater length) in my forthcoming Isabella book, so I'm doing my best to make an event which shows Edward II in a much better light than usual as well-known as it deserves to be. Geoffrey of Paris was extremely impressed with the English king's actions, and in his rhyming chronicle wrote that Edward "was brave against the fire" and "well proved himself bold by his actions." He also commented that Edward "saved her [Isabella] with his bravery, and many more people" (la sauva por proesce, et plusors), and that he was keen to rescue her above all else car cele amoit-il d'amor fine, "because he loved her with amor fine," i.e. 'fine love' or 'courtly love'. Finally, Geoffrey comments Mes amor le fesoit ouvrer, "But love made him do it."

But of course, certain modern writers just know that Edward hated Isabella really. Totally loathed every fibre of her being, neglected her and didn't give a damn about her. She suffered terribly from his lack of care and concern. Yeah.

Incidentally, the bit about Edward sleeping naked presumably in the same bed as Isabella, coupled with the fact that on 5 June he'd missed a meeting with her father Philip IV because he and Isabella had overslept - which an amused Geoffrey of Paris put down to their night-time dalliances and Edward being unable to keep his hands off his beautiful desirable wife - gives a very pleasant insight into Edward and Isabella's marriage and sex life. There's also the fact that on the same day they overslept, they watched a parade together in Paris from a tower in their quarters in Saint-Germain surrounded by a large group of ladies and damsels, which also sounds pleasantly intimate and jolly. I get the strong impression that they were really enjoying each other's company in France, and there's no reason to think that this was the only time they did. These comments by a French writer who observed them at close quarters give us some fascinating glimpses into the marriage of Edward II and Isabella of France, and it sure as heck wasn't the hateful, unhappy disaster other writers would have you believe.

Source: Chronique métrique de Godefroy de Paris, ed. J.-A. Buchon (Paris: Verdière, 1827), pp. 196-7 (in fourteenth-century Parisian French, my translations).

07 January, 2016

The Parliament of January 1327

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a wonderful festive season.

Today, 7 January, marks the anniversary of the start of the parliament held in London in 1327 which deposed Edward II. I've never written a proper post about this parliament or about Edward's deposition/forced abdication, because to be honest the subject bores me. (There, I said it.) Edward himself was in comfortable captivity at Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire at this time, in the care of his first cousin Henry of Lancaster. Edward was deposed in, or by, the January 1327 parliament, though publicly it was presented as the king carefully considering his options, then deciding to abdicate his throne to his fourteen-year-old son Edward III, which decision was subsequently accepted by his subjects. There was nothing in English law which provided any procedure for the subjects of an unsatisfactory king to rid themselves of him, but 1327 set a precedent which would followed again, most notably by the deposition of Edward II's great-grandson Richard II in 1399. Some sources claim that a delegation was sent to Kenilworth to ask Edward to attend, but he refused, which refusal was reported to parliament when the delegates returned to London on 12 January. I'm not sure whether this is true; appearing at parliament might have allowed the king to arouse sympathy and to remind his subjects of the oath of loyalty they had sworn to him. It was probably only when Edward's refusal to attend parliament – whether real or pretended – was reported to the participants that the possibility of replacing him with his son began to be seriously considered. 

All the contemporary chroniclers who wrote about the deposition record Edward II's reaction to it in much the same way: he was contrite, humble, pious and acquiescent, dressed all in black and half swooning, begging his subjects' forgiveness for his many trespasses against them. This is, of course, only the official story which was allowed to come out; Edward's real reaction cannot be known. The Westminster chronicle Flores Historiarum has the former king saying "I greatly lament that I have so utterly failed my people, but I could not be other than I am," which. whether Edward really said it or not, I can't help but find moving. The reign of his son Edward III officially began on 25 January 1327 (coincidentally, the nineteenth wedding anniversary of Edward II and Isabella of France).