21 October, 2017

Thomas, Lord Wake (1298-1349)

Thomas Wake was an influential and extremely well-connected English nobleman in the first half of the fourteenth century: he was the son-in-law of Henry, earl of Lancaster (d. 1345) and brother-in-law of Henry of Grosmont, later first duke of Lancaster; a first cousin of Roger Mortimer, first earl of March; the brother-in-law of Edward II's half-brother Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent; and the uncle of Richard II's mother Joan of Kent, princess of Wales, who was his heir. He played an important role in the downfall and deposition of Edward II in 1326/27, but fled from England in early 1330 after getting caught up in his brother-in-law Kent's plot to free the supposedly dead Edward from captivity. Here's a (long!) post about him.

Thomas was, according to his father's Inquisition Post Mortem, born in March 1298: he was 'aged 2 years at mid-Lent last' in June 1300. [1] Easter Sunday fell on 6 April in 1298 and on 10 April in 1300. His father was John Wake (c. 1268-1300), lord of Liddell in Cumberland and an important landowner in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, with manors in other counties as well. John's mother Hawise de Quincy was a granddaughter of Saer de Quincy, earl of Winchester, and her mother was Elen ferch Llywelyn, which makes Thomas Wake a great-great-grandson of Llywelyn ab Iorwerth, prince of Gwynedd (d. 1240) and his wife Joan (d. 1237), illegitimate daughter of King John. Thomas's mother Joan Fiennes was a sister of Margaret Fiennes, mother of Roger Mortimer of Wigmore, first earl of March, and a great-granddaughter of John Brienne (d. 1237), king of Jerusalem and Latin emperor of Constantinople. Thomas Wake was only two years old when his father John Wake died in 1300, which made him a ward of Edward I and then of Edward II in and after 1307. He lost his mother Joan Fiennes in 1309 as well, whereupon Edward II gave custody of her dower lands to - who else? - Piers Gaveston, until Thomas came of age. [2]

Thomas Wake had a sister Margaret, wife respectively of Sir John Comyn (killed at Bannockburn in 1314) and of Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent. He also had a younger brother John Wake, who was still alive in March 1322 but who must have died childless as their sister Margaret, followed by her son John and then her daughter Joan of Kent, were Thomas's heirs. [3] The dates of birth of Thomas's siblings are not known. John the second brother might have been born in 1300, the year their father died, and in my opinion Margaret Comyn née Wake was older than Thomas. She had a son, Aymer Comyn, with her husband Sir John Comyn who fell at Bannockburn in June 1314, a month when her future second husband Edmund of Woodstock was not even thirteen (he was born in August 1301), so she must have been some years older than he and probably older than her brother Thomas, born in March 1298. Little Aymer died in 1316; for more info, see my post about his aunt Elizabeth Comyn, Margaret's sister-in-law. Thomas, Margaret and John's parents John Wake and Joan Fiennes were married by 24 September 1291. [4]

Sometime not long before 9 October 1316 when he was eighteen years old, Thomas Wake married Blanche of Lancaster, eldest child of Edward II's first cousin Henry of Lancaster and the niece of Thomas, earl of Lancaster. Blanche was born around 1302 or 1305, so was some years Thomas's junior, and they wed without a royal licence. Edward II was irate when he heard about it; he had previously offered Thomas the marriage of his great-niece Joan Gaveston, daughter and heir of the late Piers Gaveston and Margaret de Clare. Thomas's decision to turn down Joan and marry Blanche is perhaps a little puzzling. Joan Gaveston, though only four years old in 1316, was sole heir to her mother Margaret Clare and her third of the earldom of Gloucester, whereas Blanche of Lancaster had a brother and thus was not an heiress, and her father Henry of Lancaster was only the heir of his wealthy brother for as long as Thomas failed to produce legitimate children anyway. Perhaps Thomas gambled that Margaret Clare would marry again and have a son, which would instantly disinherit Joan, and ultimately his decision was vindicated when his father-in-law became earl of Lancaster in 1327 and hugely influential. (The unfortunate Joan Gaveston died in January 1325 just past her thirteenth birthday.) Edward II, annoyed with Thomas for "refusing a suitable marriage which the king offered to him," fined him a massive £1,000, but by 6 June 1317 had clearly forgiven him as he allowed him to take possession of his inheritance although he was still two years under age, at Henry of Lancaster's request. Thomas was also officially pardoned for refusing the marriage to Joan Gaveston on 9 December 1318. [5]

Thomas Wake and Blanche of Lancaster would be married for thirty-three years, but they had no children, so Thomas's heir was, successively: his younger brother John (who died sometime after March 1322 and had no children); his sister Margaret, who became countess of Kent on her second marriage in late 1325; Margaret's second but only surviving son John, earl of Kent, who died childless in late 1352; and Margaret's daughter Joan, who became princess of Wales when she married the heir to the throne Edward of Woodstock in 1361. It's basically impossible to ascertain what kind of relationship the Wake siblings had, though in February 1325 Thomas Wake and Margaret Comyn jointly acknowledged a debt of £200. [6]

On 24 April 1320, Edward II gave Thomas permission to go on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, and he set off with two attendants, leaving his young wife Blanche in England. While he was gone, one of his manors in Lincolnshire was attacked and robbed, and some of his and Blanche's servants killed. [7] Thomas, having married into the Lancaster family, was a staunch Lancastrian adherent for the rest of his life, so the period of the Contrariant rebellion in 1321/22 headed by Thomas, earl of Lancaster, must have been somewhat awkward for him. His uncle-in-law Earl Thomas was executed in March 1322, but his father-in-law Henry of Lancaster was abroad for most of 1320 to April 1322 so avoided having to make the awful decision either to follow his brother into rebellion and treason, or to abandon him. I've found it difficult to determine exactly what Thomas Wake was up to in the early 1320s; he rarely appears on record, so was probably keeping his head down. On 23 March 1322 the day after his uncle-in-law Thomas of Lancaster's execution, Thomas acknowledged a debt of 100 marks or £66 to Sir Ralph Camoys (Hugh Despenser the Younger's brother-in-law), and the following day his younger brother John Wake acknowledged a debt to Sir Andrew Harclay, sheriff of Cumberland and soon to become earl of Carlisle, who had defeated Thomas of Lancaster's army at Boroughbridge a few days before. [8] Thomas Wake accompanied the king on his ill-fated final campaign to Scotland in August 1322, as did his father-in-law Henry of Lancaster. [9] His relations with the regime of the 1320s seem not to have been too bad, and he received commissions of array in 1323 and in other years. On 16 June 1324, Edward II gave Thomas "the houses of the king's manor of Sandal for his lodging there." [10] Thomas's sister Margaret Comyn née Wake, a widow for eleven and a half years, married her second husband Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent, around 16 December 1325 (according to the annalist of St Paul's).

Thomas Wake was sometimes at court with Edward II and Hugh Despenser the Younger: he witnessed royal charters at Kenilworth in April 1326. [11] Kenilworth was part of the late Thomas of Lancaster's inheritance which the king had kept for himself, and Thomas surely believed that it rightfully belonged to his father-in-law Henry. Sir Roger Belers, chief baron of the Exchequer, was murdered in January 1326, and Thomas's father-in-law Henry of Lancaster was one of the men appointed to investigate it. Thomas Wake had given Belers his Bedfordshire manor of 'Styvington' for life in July 1323. [12] In March 1325, Thomas was said to be going to Gascony in the company of John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, during the War of St-Sardos between England and France, though in August, October and December that year he was in England. [13] There are no references to him in the letters and documents of the War of St-Sardos collected and edited by Pierre Chaplais, so presumably he never went.

Thomas followed the lead of his father-in-law Henry of Lancaster in the early autumn of 1326, when Queen Isabella invaded England. The two men were at Bristol with the queen on 26 October, when her and Edward II's son Edward of Windsor was appointed keeper of the realm and Henry of Lancaster was called 'earl of Lancaster' for the first time. [14] Both men witnessed the executions of the two Hugh Despensers on 27 October and 24 November 1326. Thomas, firmly on the side of his first cousin Roger Mortimer, was placed in the crowd with several of his men during the London parliament of January 1327, to yell their support for Edward II's deposition at appropriate moments. Isabella rewarded Thomas's support of her and her son by making him keeper of the Tower of London and justice of the forest this side Trent. [15] Yet it was soon to become apparent to Thomas, Henry of Lancaster and many others that the regime change of 1326/27 had merely replaced one greedy and despotic pair, Edward II and Hugh Despenser, with another, Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer. In 1328 Thomas's father-in-law Henry emerged as the leader of the opposition to his niece Isabella, and in late 1328 Thomas was one of the many influential men who took part in Henry's brief and unsuccessful rebellion. The lands of Henry of Lancaster and his adherents were seized on 16 January 1329 (though restored a few weeks later), and soon afterwards the leading rebels were forced to acknowledge liability for huge and unpayable debts. Thomas Wake's was 15,000 marks. [16] These debts were cancelled by Edward III when he took over the control of his own kingdom in and after October 1330. Before that, however, Thomas Wake had been forced to flee from England after becoming embroiled in his brother-in-law the earl of Kent's plot to free the supposedly dead Edward II. His lands were seized again in early 1330, and he made his way to Paris to join some of the other enemies of the regime. [17] His wife Blanche of Lancaster remained in England with her family, and his sister Margaret was widowed for the second time when her husband Kent was beheaded on 19 March 1330.

Edward III invited Thomas Wake and the other rebels back to England in November 1330, and Thomas had returned by 21 December 1330, when Edward III asked him, his (the king's) cousin William de Bohun and Alice de Lacy's second husband Eubulo Lestrange to escort his mother Queen Isabella to him for Christmas. A month later, Thomas was one of the men appointed as a mainpernor (guarantor) for Roger Mortimer's son Geoffrey, arrested with his father at Nottingham on 19 October 1330, but released. [18] Thomas was high in Edward III's favour, and was appointed keeper of the Channel Islands in 1332. [19] I won't say much about the remainder of Thomas's career in the 1330s and 1340s as this post is quite long enough as it is, but some of the highlights are that he founded the priory of Haltemprice in Yorkshire and had been intending to do so since as early as 1320 when he was only twenty-two, and that he went to fight at the siege of Algeciras in Spain 1343 with his brother-in-law Henry of Grosmont. In May 1337, Grosmont gave one of his manors in Norfolk to Thomas and his (Grosmont's) sister Blanche for life, to pass after their deaths to Haltemprice Priory. [20] Thomas remained on excellent terms with his father-in-law Henry, earl of Lancaster and Leicester, and in July 1339 visited him in Leicester and gave him a manor in Yorkshire to hold for the rest of his life (another six years, as it turned out). [21]

Thomas, Lord Wake died on 30 May 1349 at the age of fifty-one and was buried at his own foundation of Haltemprice. He left his widow Blanche of Lancaster, who did not die until 1380 when she was at least seventy-five and perhaps older, and his sister Margaret, dowager countess of Kent, who was his heir. She only outlived him by four months. [22] Margaret's daughter and Thomas's ultimate heir Joan of Kent called herself 'Lady Wake' in addition to her other titles (princess of Wales and Aquitaine, duchess of Cornwall, countess of Kent and Chester), and Joan's eldest son and heir Sir Thomas Holland (b. 1350/51) called himself 'earl of Kent and Lord Wake' in his will of 1397. [23] Sir Thomas Holland's two sons Thomas (d. 1400) and Edmund (d. 1408), both earls of Kent, had no children, so on Edmund Holland's death in 1408 the Kent and Wake inheritance was divided among Edmund's nephew Edmund Mortimer, earl of March and Ulster (b. 1391) and his four surviving sisters. They were Joan, dowager duchess of York, Margaret, countess of Somerset, Eleanor, countess of Salisbury, and and Elizabeth, daughter-in-law of the earl of Westmorland.

1) CIPM 1291-1300, no. 597.
2) CPR 1307-13, p. 196.
3) CCR 1318-23, p. 528.
4) CPR 1281-92, p. 445.
5) CPR 1317-21, pp. 43, 251-2; CCR 1313-8, 413.
6) CCR 1323-7, p. 356.
7) CPR 1317-21, p. 440; SC 8/87/4346.
8) CCR 1318-23, p. 528.
9) CPR 1321-4, p. 186.
10) CPR 1321-4, p. 431.
11) C 53/112, nos. 3, 5, 6.
12) CPR 1321-4, p. 305.
13) CPR 1324-7, pp. 112, 228, 233, 235.
14) CCR 1323-7, p. 650.
15) CCR 1327-30, p. 16; CPR 1327-30, p. 36.
16) CFR 1327-37, p. 116-7; CCR 1327-30, p. 425.
17) CFR 1327-37, p. 175; CCR 1330-3, p. 288.
18) CPR 1330-4, p. 36; CCR 1330-3, p. 178.
19) CCR 1330-3, p. 448.
20) DL 25/330.
21) DL 25/964/749.
22) CIPM 1347-52, nos. 219, 234.
23) Testamenta Vetusta, vol. 1, pp. 13, 139.


sami parkkonen said...

Now there was a very lucky and obviously very clever and skillful knight indeed. Not only he managed to survive despite the family connections and some miscalculated steps along the way, but he also thrived and collected houses and holdings all over the place.

I wonder if he was a likable fellow or excellent speaker or both, or what on earth kept him alive in those days when others were dropping down all around him. What ever it was, he was one of the lucky ones, or skillful ones indeed. Edward II was one man you did not want to annoy too much, nor were Mortimer or Isabella either, and Edward III was one king who was also tough if need be. And Thomas managed to survive trough truly stormy times.

Caroline Newark said...

Oh thank you Kathryn. You have just saved me from making a fundamental error in my book I'm just editing as I thought Thomas Wake was in Gascony in 1324-5. Now I have to tweak the early pages of my plot!! Any more surprises up your sleeve about the Wake siblings?

Kathryn Warner said...

Samie, true, like his father-in-law (one of my favourite people) he managed to weather the storms!

Caroline, you're welcome! :) Glad to hear you're writing about him. Not that I can think of offhand, no - hope I can find out sometime when their brother John died!

Anonymous said...

Kathryn, I'm still reading and re-reading this post; so much information. I had a lovely surprise today - your 'Richard II: A True King's Fall' book arrived. Everyone now knows to leave me in peace while I read it. Amanda