01 June, 2018

1 June 1326: Edward II Plays a Ball Game

From 31 May to 6 June 1326, Edward II and his chamberlain and 'favourite' Hugh Despenser the Younger stayed at Saltwood Castle in Kent. They stayed here for a serious purpose: Pope John XXII in Avignon had sent two men, the archbishop of Vienne and the bishop of Orange, to try to reconcile Edward and Queen Isabella. They asked Edward and Hugh questions in French, and later translated the answers into Latin for the pope.

While at Saltwood on Sunday 1 June, shortly before he met the archbishop and the bishop, Edward II decided to relax by going out into the park of Saltwood Castle with his household steward Sir Thomas Blount, the recently-married Sir Robert Wateville, and unspecified others, and playing some kind of ball game. His chamber account (written in Anglo-Norman) calls it iewer a pelot, literally 'playing at ball.' Unfortunately the type of ball game is not described. At Langdon Abbey in Kent a few months previously, on 25 August 1325, Edward II had given a shilling each to twenty-two men who had played some kind of ball game for his entertainment. The entry in his account states: "Paid to Wille of Langdon, Adam of Wy', and twenty others of their company, players of Kent at ball [iewours de Kent a pelot] in front of the king next to Langdon Abbey." Again, the type of ball game is not described, but twenty-two men sounds like two teams of eleven men, as in modern football or cricket.

The summer of 1326 was a spectacularly hot and dry one in England and Wales, and the first real evidence of this I know of comes on 12 June, when Edward II gave the eight archers who formed his bodyguard linen cloth to make themselves hose as their reward for 'running fast and well' alongside him in the hot weather. The ball game of 1 June also implies that it was a warm pleasant day and that the king felt like being outside in the nice weather. I hope they all had a good time.


sami parkkonen said...

If the game was medieval football, then it was really something else. Medieval football was like rugby without too many rules and very very physical and dangerous indeed. It was forbidden many times as so many participants got injured. But then again, it would be right on Eddies plate: he swam among the ice in Thames etc.

It is also note worthy to notice that Edward was physically in good shape at this time when things were not going his way otherwise. So we can forget the myths and fairy tales of whining weak princeling who could not have survive his capture or could not have managed his possible escape from captivity.

sami parkkonen said...

I wonder did my previous comment dissappear?

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks for letting me know, Sami - I got no notifs about comments and have just published a bunch I hadn't seen :(