29 October, 2017

c. 28 October 1294: Wedding of Alice de Lacy and Thomas of Lancaster

I missed the date yesterday, oopsie! Then again, the date of the wedding of the great heiress Alice de Lacy and Edward I's nephew Thomas of Lancaster is not 100% certain, but may have taken place on 28 October 1294. Alice was not yet thirteen, born on Christmas Day 1281; Thomas was probably sixteen, going on seventeen. His date of birth is not known for sure, but my research indicates that the end of 1277 or beginning of 1278 is the likeliest date. He was thus four years older than his wife. Alice was set to inherit the earldoms of Lincoln and Salisbury, and Thomas was set to inherit the earldoms of Lancaster and Leicester, and their fathers Henry de Lacy and Edmund of Lancaster arranged their marriage in 1292. (Thomas had previously been betrothed to Beatrice, granddaughter of Duke Hugh IV of Burgundy, but she died young in 1291.)

Alice de Lacy and Thomas of Lancaster were married for twenty-seven and a half years, but it proved to be an unhappy disaster, and Alice left her husband in the spring of 1317. The couple had no surviving children, and Thomas's younger brother Henry (born c. 1280/81) was therefore his heir. Thomas did have two illegitimate sons, John and Thomas, who joined the Church, and I have recently discovered that Alice de Lacy was pregnant in 1307 or 1308. She sent a messenger to Leicester, one of Thomas's towns, to inform the mayor and townspeople of her pregnancy sometime between Michaelmas (29 September) 1307 and Michaelmas 1308. The messenger was rewarded with a shilling for bringing the good news. Sadly, Alice must have lost this child - perhaps a miscarriage or stillbirth, or s/he died in early infancy. I feel terribly sorry for Alice, but from my point of view as a historian I have to admit that I was also thrilled to have found the reference to her pregnancy, as I'd long assumed that she must have been infertile (Thomas, as he had at least two illegitimate children, obviously wasn't). Perhaps the loss of this child of 1307/08 contributed to the couple's unhappiness. I can't help feeling sad for them and wishing they had been happier. Anyway, happy (almost) wedding anniversary, Thomas and Alice.

1 comment:

sami parkkonen said...

How did she managed after the break up? Were they just living apart or how the life was arranged after the divorce? I know that church could and did admit divorces when the union was childless or what ever term they used to have but still, I could imagine it would have been pretty hard going for a woman for a while at least.