29 September, 2018

Edward of Windsor's Birth in November 1312: Celebrations

Queen Isabella gave birth to her and Edward II's first child Edward III at Windsor Castle on Monday 13 November 1312, and the child became heir to his father's throne from the moment he was born. I've written previously about Edward of Windsor's birth, and here's a post about the celebrations in London which followed it.

Isabella sent a letter to the mayor and aldermen of London, via her tailor John de Falaise, informing them that she had borne a son and that she and he were both well. In fact, news of the birth had already been brought to London by a man called Robert Oliver, who thus rather stole John's thunder. I don't know who Robert was; perhaps he was just a merchant who had the fortune to be passing through Windsor at the right time and who immediately rushed to London to carry the good news. John of Falaise didn't arrive in London until the following day, Tuesday 14 November, whereas Robert Oliver brought the news of Edward of Windsor's birth to the city sometime before sunset on the same day, 13 November. Crowds of people gathered outside the Guildhall at sunset, dancing, singing, cheering and blowing trumpets, and the mayor and aldermen processed through the city that evening with a "great glare of torches."

Very early on the Tuesday morning, it was proclaimed throughout London that the day was a public holiday and that no work would be done. Instead, everyone was to dress in their best clothes and go to the Guildhall at Prime or six a.m. - a reminder that the day started remarkably early in the fourteenth century - and from there to St Paul's Cathedral. Here, they would "make praise and offering" to God who had favoured them so greatly by giving them a royal child who one day would be their king, and would thereby also show respect to the little boy himself. The bishop of London, Ralph Baldock, chanted Mass, and afterwards people sang and trumpets were played, in the cathedral itself. The mayor sent a gift of ten pounds and a cup of silver to John of Falaise, who had brought the queen's letter; rather arrogantly, John sent it back because he thought it was too small. Perhaps his nose had been put out of joint by his failure to be the first man to bring the news of the future king's birth to the city.

The following Monday, 20 November, a week after the birth, the mayor and aldermen and the societies of drapers, vintners and mercers, dressed in their finest, rode to Westminster Abbey and made an offering there to give thanks again for Edward of Windsor's birth. After dining at the Guildhall, they led an all-singing all-dancing procession through the city, and basically the party went on for most of the night. The conduit on Cheapside - the man-made underground channel which brought drinking water to the city centre from the River Tyburn - flowed with wine all that Monday, and next to the church of St Michael a pavilion was set up with yet more wine for anyone to help themselves. Edward II himself was beyond delighted that he had a son and heir, and it's hard to overestimate the joy his subjects felt as well.

On the Sunday after Candlemas, i.e. on 4 February 1313, the fishmongers of London put on a great event for the king and queen, who were then in the city: they "caused a boat to be fitted out in the guise of a great ship...and it sailed through Chepe [Cheapside] as far as Westminster." The ship was presented to Isabella, and then the fishmongers accompanied her through London on the start of her pilgrimage to Canterbury, where she also gave thanks and made offerings to God for giving her a fine, healthy son. And so began the charmed life of King Edward III.

Source: Memorials of London and London Life, ed. H. T. Riley, pp. 105-7.

1 comment:

sami parkkonen said...

I agree. I think John was more than annoyed he had been the second bearer of good news. Maybe the gift was an attempt to make him feel better? Anyways, he behaved like a hurt kid.

The party must have been awesome. The whole city celebrating. And free wine for all? There must have been some merry folks around for sure.