17 April, 2019

Edward II's Negotiations for his Half-Brothers' Marriages

I can't remember now where I read it, but I vaguely recall a writer making a claim that Edward II failed to do his duty by his two much younger half-brothers, Thomas of Brotherton, earl of Norfolk (b. 1 June 1300) and Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent (b. 5 August 1301), by not arranging suitable marriages for them. This is not true; Edward did attempt to arrange marriages for both Thomas and Edmund. Here's a post.

In August 1320, Edward II discussed a possible marriage for Thomas of Brotherton, then aged nineteen, with King Jaime II of Aragon in Spain (b. 1267, r. 1291-1327): they agreed that Thomas would marry Jaime's daughter Maria (b. 1299). Maria was Jaime's daughter from his second marriage to Blanche of Anjou-Naples - his first marriage to Isabel of Castile, later duchess of Brittany, was annulled before consummation - and was the widow of Don Pedro of Castile, a younger son of King Sancho IV, killed at the battle of Vega de Granada in June 1319. Edward II told his kinsman Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, on 16 August 1320 that Thomas of Brotherton would come to him at Langley to discuss his marriage, but ultimately the planned match with Aragon did not work out as Jaime II reported to Edward in August 1321 that Maria had decided to become a nun and he did not think he would be able to change her mind. [1

Marriage to Maria of Aragon would have been an excellent match for Thomas of Brotherton. On her father's side, she came from a long line of kings of Aragon and counts of Barcelona, and via her mother Blanche of Anjou-Naples (d. 1310) was the granddaughter of Charles 'the Lame', king of Naples and Albania, and the niece of the queens of Sicily and Majorca, the titular king of Hungary, and the despot of Romania and titular emperor of Constantinople. Maria was a great-great-granddaughter of Louis VIII of France and of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, a great-granddaughter of King Istvan V of Hungary, and a great-granddaughter of King Manfred of Sicily. Her brother Alfonso succeeded their father as king of Aragon, her sister Isabella was queen of Germany, her niece Eleanor was queen of Cyprus, and her first cousin Clemence of Hungary was the queen of Louis X of France. Another first cousin, the son of Queen Blanche's eldest sister Marguerite, became King Philip VI of France in 1328. It was probably soon after the news of Maria's decision to take the veil reached England in August 1321 that Thomas of Brotherton, deprived of his royal and extraordinarily well-connected Spanish bride, decided to marry Alice Hales, daughter of the late coroner of Norfolk. Whatever her personal qualities may have been, Alice was a decidedly odd choice of wife for a man who was son and brother of kings of England, nephew and grandson of kings of France. English negotiations with the kingdom of Aragon continued, as Edward II was keen to secure Violante, another of Jaime II's daughters, as a bride for his son and heir Edward of Windsor, though in the end, this failed as well.

On c. 23 January 1324, Ralph, Lord Basset of Drayton, sensechal of Gascony, sent a long letter to Edward II. Edward had ordered Basset to negotiate a possible marriage for Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent, then twenty-two, but Basset informed him that progress on the matter had stalled. Edmund's prospective bride was Régine de Got or Goth, born sometime in the early 1300s as the daughter and heir of Bertrand de Got, viscount of Lomagne and Auvillar, and a great-niece of Pope Clement V (d. 1314, real name also Bertrand de Got). Basset wrote "I had begun discussions and negotiations with the viscount of Lomagne to have had the marriage of his daughter and my lord your brother the earl of Kent". Unfortunately, Basset's negotiations proved unsuccessful, and he told Edward II that he had heard Régine was shortly to marry the count of Armagnac instead (a ceo qe jeo ay entendu ele serra mariee au counte de Armeniak en moult bref temps). John Travers, constable of Bordeaux, told Edward II on 1 September 1325 that "the countess of Armagnac, who was the daughter of the viscount of Lomagne, is dead without an heir of her body", and on the 23rd Edward wrote to inform his half-brother the earl of Kent, the spurned bridegroom and the king's lieutenant in Gascony. [2] 

Régine de Got did not have the high royal birth and illustrious connections of Maria of Aragon, but was a considerable heiress who would have brought Edmund of Woodstock lands in Gascony: territory in the Bordelais, Agenais and Gers, the vicomtés of Lomagne and Auvillars, the lordships of Veyrines, Blanquefort, Dunes and Donzac, and the castellanries of Duras, Puyguilhem, Alemans and Montségur. She also inherited the Italian marquisate of Ancona, which her father acquired in 1313. [3] As Edmund was Edward II's lieutenant of Gascony in 1324/25 and spent his career there until he returned to England with the queen's invasion force in 1326, finding him a bride who would bring him territory and influence in Gascony made good sense. Malcolm Vale points out that Régine de Got held '[l]ordships in the heart of Plantagenet Aquitaine'. 

As it was, Edmund of Woodstock married Thomas, Lord Wake's widowed sister Margaret Comyn in late 1325. She was not an heiress, though ultimately it turned out that her brother (b. 1298) had no children from his marriage to Blanche of Lancaster, and his heir was Edmund and Margaret's son John, earl of Kent, and later their daughter Joan after John's death in December 1352. Margaret (Wake) Comyn was of higher birth and rank than Alice Hales, though still of much lower rank than one might expect for the wife of a royal earl. Presumably, both Thomas of Brotherton and Edmund of Woodstock married for love. They both wed women who by rank were far beneath them and did not bring them lands, wealth or powerful in-laws, but that was their own doing, and Edward II had tried to arrange excellent matches for both of them.


1) Pierre Chaplais, English Medieval Diplomatic Practice (1982), part 1, vol. 1, pp. 64-66; SC 1/49/49.
2) Pierre Chaplais, ed., The War of Saint-Sardos (1323-1325): Gascon Correspondence and Diplomatic Documents (1954), pp. 15-17, 240; Foedera 1307-1327, p. 609.
3) Malcolm Vale, The Origins of the Hundred Years War: The Angevin Legacy 1250-1340 (1990), p. 94.


Anonymous said...

Let's see ... Henry VIII's sister Mary marries a man much lower on the social scale than she was -- and it is a great romantic love story. Edward II's half brothers both marry women much below them on the social scale ... and it is all the king's fault. What do you think? Times changed between Ed II and H VIII? Sexism? Lack of romantic fiction?


Kathryn Warner said...

I just think that a lot of writers get into the habit of blaming Edward II for absolutely everything, and perhaps think that because he was generally an incompetent leader who was deposed, everything he ever did was necessarily incompetent. There are double standards as well. Edward's presumed sexual or romantic relationships are criticised because they made Isabella suffer, but when Isabella has a relationship of some kind with Roger Mortimer, this is a great love affair even though Mortimer was married.