01 July, 2017

Edward II Goes Fishing

I've posted before that Edward II enjoyed the company of fishermen along the Thames and often chatted to them and spent time with them (including one Colle Herron), and in November 1322 stood by a river near Doncaster watching men fishing. Lately I've been looking at one of Edward's few extant chamber accounts, which shows that the king himself went fishing while staying at Beaulieu Abbey in Hampshire in April 1325. The account says Liu'e au Roi mesmes q'nt il ala pescher en lewe a Beaulieu...iijs, "Delivered to the king himself when he went fishing in the water at Beaulieu...3 shillings." He went with nine companions, one of whom was called Jak Bere; the others are not named, but they were all local fishermen. Sadly, the account does not specify if the king caught anything, and whether he enjoyed it for his dinner. Edward II in fact was a great fan of seafood, and had oysters brought to him at Beaulieu from Westminster, nearly ninety miles away. A former page of his kitchen also brought him shrimps around this time, and the word is written in English, shrympes, in the middle of the Anglo-Norman text.

One of the entries on the same folio of the account as this fab fishing one is also amusing and revealing. Will Gentilcorps, keeper of Edward's carthorses, was looking to purchase ten more carthorses from a man called John atte Pulle, and did so "in the presence of the king" underneath the vine outside the royal bedchamber. Whatever the feelings of Will Gentilcorps on the matter, Edward II made his opinion perfectly clear: eight of the horses were purchased, but the other two were not, because "the king did not agree at all that the said carthorses should be bought." One of the two was a bay, the other grey. Nor was this the only time that the king of England took an interest in the purchase of carthorses: his chamber accounts show that Will Gentilcorps and others often bought them "in the king's presence."

Can you imagine Jak Bere the fisherman talking to his men that morning? "Right, lads, we've got a busy day ahead, and oh, we've got a special guest coming with us."
"Who's that then, Jak?"
"Well, actually, it's the king."
"The KING? As in, God's anointed? As in, God's representative on earth, born to rule over us? As in, the most important man in the country? The KING? Yeah right, Jak. Pull the other one."

1 comment:

sami parkkonen said...

This is brilliant stuff!

It is too bad Edward was king in the 1300's and hated by the snobbish upper crust of society for his ability to mingle with the commoners so easily. Time and time again. And even worse than that; have hilarious time with them, actually laughing at their jokes.

Would Edward be a king today, he would be no doubt hugely popular monarch because of these qualities, which made him so hated in his own time. That is one his tragedies. Born some 700 years too early.