21 March, 2019

21 March 1317: Birth of Isabella de Verdon, Lady Ferrers

On 21 March 1317, Edward II's niece Elizabeth de Burgh née de Clare gave birth to her first daughter, Isabella de Verdon, eight months after the death of her second husband Theobald de Verdon. Elizabeth, born in September 1295, was twenty-one at the time, and had given birth to her first child William de Burgh, the day after her seventeenth birthday in September 1312. Isabella de Verdon was a great-niece of Edward II, great-granddaughter of Edward I, half-sister of the earl of Ulster, and aunt of Elizabeth de Burgh the younger (1332-63), duchess of Clarence and countess of Ulster, who married Edward III's son Lionel of Antwerp.

Theobald de Verdon had three daughters, Joan, Elizabeth and Margery, from his first marriage to Roger Mortimer of Wigmore's sister Maud (d. 1312). Had Elizabeth de Burgh borne a son in March 1317, the boy would have become his father's sole heir from the moment of his birth, but little Isabella de Verdon became heir to one-quarter of her father's inheritance, and her three older half-sisters also each inherited a quarter of the lands. Theobald and Elizabeth had been married for less than six months when he died on 27 July 1316, not yet thirty-eight years old.

Elizabeth retreated to Amesbury Priory in Wiltshire sometime before the end of her pregnancy, and spent time there with her aunt Mary (b. 1279), one of Edward II's older sisters, a nun of Amesbury. She gave birth to Isabella there. The little girl was named after one of her godmothers, Queen Isabella, who was staying at the palace of Clarendon a few miles away with her husband. John Harnham, under-sheriff of Wiltshire, escorted the queen from Clarendon to Amesbury to attend little Isabella de Verdon's baptism there on the day of her birth. Edward II himself remained at Clarendon, but sent a silver cup as a baptism gift. His sister Mary the nun was the infant's other godmother, and the baptism was conducted by Roger Martival, bishop of Salisbury. [CIPM 1327-36, no. 395]

Sometime at the end of the 1320s or in 1330, Isabella de Verdon married Henry, Lord Ferrers of Groby in Leicestershire, who claimed his marital rights very early: Elizabeth de Burgh's biographer Frances Underhill found evidence (cited in her book For Her Good Estate: The Life of Elizabeth de Burgh) that Elizabeth bought a gift for her daughter's purification in March 1331. That was the month Isabella turned fourteen, and as the ceremony of purification was usually held forty days after childbirth, that means she had borne her first child when she was still only thirteen. Agh. 

Fortunately Isabella Ferrers née de Verdon was not damaged by this too-early experience of pregnancy and childbirth, and gave birth to her second child, William Ferrers, at Newbold in Leicestershire on 28 February 1333. [CIPM 1352-60, no. 195] She was still not quite sixteen years old. William was heir to his father Henry and the Ferrers inheritance, and to Isabella and her quarter of the Verdon inheritance. William had two sisters, dates of birth unknown: Philippa and Elizabeth Ferrers. Elizabeth Ferrers married David Strathbogie, titular earl of Atholl (1332-69) and had two daughters, inevitably called Elizabeth and Philippa Strathbogie. Philippa Ferrers, Isabella de Verdon's other daughter, married Guy Beauchamp (b. c. 1335), who was the eldest son and heir of Thomas Beauchamp (1314-69), earl of Warwick, but Guy died in 1360 in his father's lifetime, and his younger brother Thomas succeeded their father and was the earl of Warwick exiled to the Isle of Man by Richard II in 1397. Philippa Ferrers and Guy Beauchamp's two young daughters were forced into a nunnery so that their uncle Thomas could inherit their grandfather's earldom and lands. Their uncle Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (1338/9-1401) married their cousin Margaret Ferrers (1350s-1407), daughter of Isabella de Verdon's son William Ferrers (1333-71), and they were the parents of Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (1382-1439).

Isabella Ferrers née de Verdon was widowed in 1343 and died on 25 July 1349, perhaps of the Black Death, aged only thirty-two. Her mother Elizabeth de Burgh outlived her by more than eleven years.

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