02 June, 2017

A Letter From Piers Gaveston

I've just found a short letter by Piers Gaveston cited in a book published in Paris in 1916, sent to John Langton, bishop of Chichester and chancellor of England. The letter is dated 6 November, almost certainly in 1309 though the year is not given. I found it most interesting, because there are so few extant letters from Piers. It was written (of course) in French; the translation is mine.


To the honourable father in God, Sir John, by the grace of God bishop of Chichester, chancellor of our lord the king, Pieres de Gavastoun, earl of Cornwall, greetings, honours and very dear affection. Sire, we beg you urgently that, if it please you, you may please let us have two letters, by the bearers of these [letters], according to what you will see in the petition we have enclosed within these letters, if it may properly be done. Sire, may our Lord keep you. Written at Knaresborough the sixth day of November.


The letter cannot date to 6 November 1307 as on that date Piers had just married Margaret de Clare at Berkhamsted, or 1308 as he was then in Ireland,  or 1310 as he was then in the far north with Edward who was trying to subdue Robert Bruce, or 1311 as he was then yet again in exile, or 1312 as he was then dead. It must therefore date to 1309, several months after Piers had returned to England and been restored to his earldom of Cornwall. John Langton was only chancellor until 1310 so it cannot be dated any later than that. On 6 November 1309 Edward II was at Great Ribston, just six miles from Knaresborough, which was Piers' own castle. I don't know what was in the petition Piers sent, but I think this is a lovely polite letter. He was certainly capable of courtesy when required, even if he did have a sharp tongue.


Anerje said...

Lovely post! Of course Piers was well known for his politeness and manners - it's why Edward 1st thought him a suitable companion for his son:). No doubt he kept his sharp tongue at bay then.

Do you know if it was actually written by Piers or a scribe?

Anerje said...

And excellent detective work in dating it, I should add.

Joyfull said...

Dear Letter finder,
Greetings to you and yours and may God bless you this day.

Always in our writing of letters (before the day of the social media correspondences), we are polite. Many continue even these days to write with courtesy and respect. One simply does not desire to put words on paper that will last forever, whereas words spoken vanish into thin air never to be heard again.....oops.....not in today's iPhone camera recording world...

You would think we would be ever more polite than ever.

Kathryn Warner said...

Most probably a scribe wrote the letter; that's usually the case.

sami parkkonen said...

He was a knight so he was absolutely capable for good manners. Maybe the barons whom he ridiculed and mocked got so mad with him because they knew he could have behaved well even if unfriendly towards them, instead of cracking jokes about them. Which makes me wonder, why he did so? Pride? Just his way or what?

Joyfull said...

Why Piers acted in obnoxious ways toward others in person? I would guess he had low self-esteem. That is often the case. And if this letter was written by a scribe, could it be that those were not his own words but the scribe's words?

Just thinking out loud here. I have not facts at my disposal.