18 September, 2022

Sir Geoffrey Luttrell and an Attack on Sempringham Priory, 1312

The Luttrell Psalter, now held in the British Library, is a gorgeous, lavishly illustrated manuscript dating to sometime between about 1320 and 1330, i.e. it was made either late in Edward II's reign or early in Edward III's, for Sir Geoffrey Luttrell. As well as commissioning one of the most stunning pieces of art to survive from medieval England, Geoffrey took part in a raid on Sempringham Priory in Lincolnshire in 1312. Here's a post about it, with some information about Geoffrey and his family.
Sir Geoffrey Luttrell was born on 23 or 24 May 1276 early in Edward I's reign and died on 23 May 1345, his sixty-ninth birthday or the day before. He was granted the lands of his late father Robert Luttrell, who died shortly before 18 June 1297, on 3 November 1297 after he proved he was twenty-one. [1] The name was also spelt Loterel, Loterell, Louterel, Louterell, Lutterel or Lutterell, and the family held the manors of Irnham in Lincolnshire, Hooton Pagnell in Yorkshire, Saltby in Leicestershire, and Gamston and Bridgford in Nottinghamshire. Irnham was their chief manor. Geoffrey married Agnes Sutton, who died in 1340, and their son and heir was Andrew, Lord Luttrell, who was born around Easter (15 April) in 1313: he was 'aged 32 years and more at the feast of Easter last' in June 1345. Somewhat peculiarly, Pope John XXII granted Geoffrey Luttrell and Agnes Sutton a 'dispensation...to remain in the marriage which they contracted in ignorance that they were related in the third and fourth degrees' as late as October 1331, decades after they wed. [2] Like his father, Andrew Luttrell lived a long life and died on 6 September 1390 at the age of seventy-seven, having married firstly Beatrice Scrope, who appears in the Luttrell Psalter and was one of the daughters of Sir Geoffrey Scrope (c. 1285-1340), chief justice of the King's Bench, and secondly Hawise Despenser (b. 1344/45, d. 10 April 1414), mother of his son and heir Andrew the younger, born c. 1364. Hawise was a great-granddaughter of Hugh Despenser the Elder (1261-1326), earl of Winchester, via his younger son Philip Despenser (d. 1313). The Luttrell/Despenser wedding took place in 1363 in the castle of Bourne in Lincolnshire, held by the Despensers' cousin Blanche of Lancaster (d. 1380), dowager Lady Wake. [3] Andrew Luttrell was fifty when he married his second wife and not even seven when he married his first: he and Beatrice Scrope were wed by 22 February 1320, when they appear on record as 'Andrew son of the said Geoffrey [Luttrell] and Beatrice his wife'. [4] Beatrice Scrope Luttrell died childless sometime after 3 April 1345, when she was left ten marks (£6.66) in her father-in-law Geoffrey's will. It's a pity the will doesn't mention the gorgeous Psalter Geoffrey commissioned. EDITED TO ADD: 'Beatrice Luterelle' appears on the Close Roll on 18 October 1350, granted permission to travel to Rome on pilgrimage with four attendants. [5]

Below, the brass of Andrew, Lord Luttrell (1313-90) in St Andrew's Church, Irnham, Lincolnshire.

Below, Sir Geoffrey Luttrell on horseback in one of the Luttrell Psalter's gorgeous illustrations, with his wife Agnes Sutton and their daughter-in-law Beatrice Scrope, Andrew's first wife.

The Luttrells' Lincolnshire manor of Irnham lies about ten miles from Sempringham Priory, which was founded by St Gilbert of Sempringham (d. 1189) and was the first house of his Gilbertine Order. One of Sempringham's residents in 1312 was Gwenllian ferch Llywelyn (d. 1337), then aged thirty, daughter of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, prince of Wales and Eleanor de Montfort, and a second cousin of Edward II (they were both great-grandchildren of King John). Edward granted Gwenllian, whose name usually appears in English records as 'Wenthlian(e)', an allowance of twenty pounds a year for life. [6] Another nun of Sempringham was Geoffrey Luttrell's daughter Isabella, Andrew's sister, and in 1322 Edward II sent his niece Margaret de Clare to live there for a while, with a number of attendants, after her second husband Sir Hugh Audley took part in the Contrariant rebellion.

Below, the church of Sempringham Priory; pics taken by me during a visit in 2019. The priory was closed down in 1538 during the Dissolution.

The memorial to Gwenllian at Sempringham, in Welsh and English.

The first evidence that a raid had taken place on Sempringham Priory appears in an entry on the Patent Roll dated 27 July 1312, a time when Edward II was dealing with the aftermath of Piers Gaveston's death on 19 June, and while Queen Isabella was pregnant with Edward III. The king gave a commission of oyer et terminer to three men 'on the information of H. de Bello Monte', i.e. Sir Henry de Beaumont, a French-born kinsman of Edward II who was an important landowner in Lincolnshire; he owned Folkingham Castle and the manor of Heckington, among others. According to the commission, the prior of Sempringham had complained that 'Geoffrey Luterel of Irnham', Edmund Coleville, John son of John Gobaud, Roger Birthorpe and his brothers John and Thomas, John Graveneye, Willaim Pleseleie and John Hunte, and unnamed others, 'broke his doors and walls at Semplyngham, co. Lincoln, and carried away his goods, and assaulted Thomas Hougate and John Irnham, his fellow canons, and also certain of his men and servants'. Another entry on the Patent Roll dated 7 September 1312 relates to a retaliatory attack: John, prior of Sempringham, Thomas Hougate and John Irnham, and ten named other men, attacked Roger Birthorpe's home at Birthorpe. They broke into his park and stole some of his animals, 'carried away his goods' and assaulted three of his servants. [7] 

The village of Birthorpe is just two miles from Sempringham Priory and also two miles from Folkingham, chief manor of Edward II's kinsman Sir Henry de Beaumont who reported the attack on the priory, and the other men named as taking part in the raid on Sempringham were also local. Sir Edmund Coleville (25 January 1288 - shortly before 16 March 1316) was the lord of Castle Bytham sixteen miles from Sempringham Priory. I'm unfamiliar with the Gobaud family, though Guy Gubaud, who was most probably the older brother of 'John son of John Gobaud', died not long before 8 May 1314 and left property in Lincolnshire to his thirteen-year-old son. Guy's father John died in 1310. [8]

As well as the information on the Patent Roll, a petition still exists in the National Archives which appears to date to shortly after Edward II's downfall in 1327. [9] It was presented by Roger Birthorpe. The prior of Sempringham in 1312, called simply 'John' on the Patent Roll, is now named as John Camelton, and Roger Birthorpe claimed that he had lawfully taken some of the prior's cattle to settle a dispute between them. Roger went on to say that he had gathered 'other great lords and good men' of the locality, including Geoffrey Luttrell, Edmund Coleville, and Guy Gubaud, apparently an error for Guy's younger brother John. The lords, supposedly, went to Sempringham to have a reasonable conversation with the prior, but he maliciously broke down his own doors to make it look like the lords had done it, and raised the hue and cry against them. 

Below, part of Roger Birthorpe's petition of 1327, with Geoffrey Luttrell's name.

Roger Birthorpe also stated that the prior of Sempringham had the support of 'Sir Hugh Despenser and his sisters, ladies in the said priory' (Mons' Hughe le Despenser et ses seors dames en la dite priorie) in this matter. He didn't specify whether he meant Hugh the Elder (born in 1261 and in his early fifties in 1312) or his son Hugh the Younger, who was twenty-four or so, though at this stage in Edward II's reign, the name Hugh Despenser used on its own inevitably meant Hugh the Elder. Hugh the Younger had four sisters, but the eldest two, Alina and Isabella, were married in 1312 and were definitely not nuns of Sempringham, and the youngest two, Margaret and Elizabeth, seem too young to be involved, as they were almost certainly born in the second half of the 1290s or at the beginning of the 1300s. Hugh the Elder also had several sisters or half-sisters, daughters of his father Hugh Despenser, justiciar of England, killed at the battle of Evesham in 1265 fighting with Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester. One (half?-)sister, Eleanor (d. 1328), was the mother of Sir Hugh de Courtenay of Okehampton (1276-1340) and grandmother of Hugh de Courtenay, earl of Devon (1303-77), and another, Joan, married Sir Thomas Furnival (d. 1332). It's certainly possible that Hugh Despenser the justiciar (d. 1265) had other daughters who became nuns at Sempringham. Hugh Despenser the Younger's third daughter Eleanor did end up as a nun of Sempringham, but that was much later, and 1312 was a few years before she was even born.

Mons' Hughe le Despenser in Roger Birthorpe's petition.

It's impossible to tell whether the alleged involvement of one of the Hugh Despensers and his sisters in the whole affair is true, or whether the name was added to the petition after the Despensers' downfall and executions in 1326 to give it more weight. In 1327, at the start of Edward III's reign and during the regency of his mother Isabella, numerous petitions were issued against the two Despensers. Most of them were true; some were probably not. The Despensers were, however, connected to the Luttrell family and to the county of Lincolnshire in some ways. On 5 August 1309, a clerk named John Elleker who had abducted Geoffrey Luttrell's young daughter Elizabeth, Andrew's older sister - Andrew wasn't even born in 1309 - was pardoned at the behest of Hugh Despenser, almost certainly the Elder. [10] Hugh Despenser the Elder's second son Philip (b. c. 1292/94, d. 1313) married the Lincolnshire heiress Margaret Goushill or Gousell (1294-1349) before 29 June 1308, probably not too long before. [11] Philip and Margaret's granddaughter Hawise Despenser (1344/45-1414) was the decades-younger second wife of Andrew Luttrell, as noted above, and this cadet branch of the Despenser family were firmly Lincolnshire-based for generations. On 17 May 1313, Edward II granted the fines due from John Graveneye, one of the men who attacked Sempringham Priory who was 'convicted...of diverse trespasses committed by him and others against the prior of Sempyngham' to Sir John Haudlo, a long-term adherent of Hugh Despenser the Elder, 'on the information of H. le Despenser'. [12]

Roger Birthorpe also stated in his petition that because of the 'great malice' of John Camelton, prior of Sempringham, he had to leave England altogether and move to Ireland, and was declared an outlaw. Furthermore, his manor of Birthorpe, worth £40 a year, was granted to Sir Henry de Beaumont. There is evidence that Birthorpe did indeed pass to Henry (d. 1340) and his son and heir John de Beaumont (d. 1342), though isn't listed in their inquisitions post mortem. [13]

It's often difficult to get to grips with these local feuds and to figure out what was really going on, or to determine who, if anyone, was more at fault or was the more injured party. Another feud that I've always found amusing took place in Essex a few decades later, between Maud de Vere née Ufford (1345/46-1413), dowager countess of Oxford, and the prior of Earls Colne. Yes, another prior. The prior claimed that the countess had him assaulted and imprisoned, and dragged him around Essex 'shamefully clad'. Maud countered that the prior and his men besieged her in her home in the village of Earls Colne, and 'threatened her with arson and other evils'. [14] The raid on Sempringham Priory in the summer of 1312, and the prior's revenge attack on one of the perpetrators - the one who lived closest to the priory, coincidentally or not - is all too typical of the era, and the real interest of this one lies in the involvement of the man who commissioned the Luttrell Psalter. And to finish, just one last thing about this attack on Sempringham Priory. It presumably took place not long before 27 July 1312, when it's first mentioned in the chancery rolls. Andrew Luttrell was said in 1345 to have been born around Easter 1313, and as Easter Sunday fell on 15 April in 1313, Geoffrey Luttrell and Agnes Sutton must have conceived him around the time of the raid.


1) CCR 1296-1302, p. 70; CFR 1272-1307, p. 387; CIPM 1291-1300, no. 406; CIPM 1336-46, no. 589.
2) Calendar of Papal Letters 1305-41, p. 368.
3)  Early Lincoln Wills, ed. Alfred Gibbon, pp. 18-19, 56-7, 99; CIPM 1384-92, nos. 1008-9; CIPM 1392-99, nos. 1062-63; CIPM 1413-18, nos. 154-56; CIPM 1418-22, nos. 30-32.
4) CPR 1317-21, p. 424.
5)  Early Lincoln Wills, pp. 18-19; CCR 1349-54, pp. 271-2; TNA, SC 8/246/12265.
6) Calendar of Memoranda Rolls Michaelmas 1326-Michaelmas 1327, no. 2160.
7) CPR 1307-13, pp. 530, 533, 584, 598.
8) CIPM 1307-17, nos. 157, 473, 592; CFR 1307-19, pp. 72, 74, 199.
9) TNA, SC 8/34/1671, and see Joyce Coleman, 'New Evidence about Sir Geoffrey Luttrell's Raid on Sempringham Priory, 1312', British Library Journal, 25 (1999), pp. 103-28.
10) CPR 1307-13, p. 181.
11) Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, p. 275.
12) CPR 1307-13, p. 584.
13) CCR 1343-46, pp. 201, 321; CIM 1308-48, no. 1835; CIPM 1336-46, nos. 271, 381.
14) CPR 1399-1401, pp. 414-15, 519.

11 September, 2022

Book Giveaway: Sex and Sexuality in Medieval England

My new book Sex and Sexuality in Medieval England is out now! It's part of a series on sex and sexuality from Pen&Sword that includes Tudor England, Stuart Britain, and Victorian Britain.

I have TWO free copies to give away to readers! You can live anywhere in the world, as long as you have a postal address I can send the book to. Please contact me with your email address or some other means of getting in touch with you, so I can notify the winners. To enter the draw, do one of the following: leave a comment here on the blog; comment or message me on my Edward II Facebook page or comment on my Twitter page; email me at edwardofcaernarfon(at)yahoo(dot)com; or if we're friends on Facebook or follow each other on Twitter, you can message me there. Best of luck! Deadline is midnight BST on Sunday 25 September. And please remember, if you leave a comment on the blog, give me an email address or some other way of contacting you. If I can't contact you, I have no way of telling you that you've won!

04 September, 2022

The Abduction of John Chaucer, 1324

The poet Geoffrey Chaucer was born in London around 1342/44 as the son of John Chaucer and Agnes Copton, and the Chaucers were a family of vintners and taverners in London and Ipswich. In 1324 during Edward II's reign, Geoffrey's then underage father John was abducted by his aunt, who tried to force him to marry her daughter, John's own cousin; here's a post about it. We know quite a bit about this event thanks in large part to Chaucer scholars, who over the decades have done brilliant work digging out every last reference to Geoffrey and his family in medieval documents. The King's Bench record of John Chaucer's abduction is printed in English translation in Life-Records of Chaucer, Parts I to IV (1900), pp. ix-x, 141-4, with more information in Calendar of Close Rolls 1330-33, pp. 90-91, 93-4, Letter-Books of London, vol. E, pp. 218-19, 226, 237, 239-40, and The National Archives SC 8/169/8432. This is a petition from Geoffrey Stace, one of John Chaucer's abductors (and in fact his uncle by marriage), which is also printed in the second volume of Rotuli Parliamentorum, p. 14, in the original Anglo-Norman.

This post might get really confusing, especially as some of the people involved had the same names, so here's a list of the important people:

Geoffrey Chaucer, the poet, b. c. 1342/44.
John Chaucer, b. c. 1309/12, Geoffrey's father.
Mary Chaucer, died before 1349, John's mother, Geoffrey's grandmother.
Robert Chaucer aka Robert Malyn or Robert of Ipswich or Robert of Dynyngton, d. c. 1315, Mary's second husband, John's father, Geoffrey's grandfather.
Richard Chaucer, d. 1349, Mary's third husband, John's stepfather, Geoffrey's step-grandfather.
Thomas Heyron, d. 1349, Mary's son from her first marriage, John Chaucer's older half-brother, Geoffrey Chaucer's uncle, Richard Chaucer's other stepson.
Agnes Westhale, formerly Malyn, Robert Chaucer/Malyn's sister and John Chaucer's aunt, resident in Ipswich.
Joan Westhale, Agnes's daughter from her first marriage to Walter Westhale, cousin and putative wife of John Chaucer.
Geoffrey Stace, Agnes Westhale's second husband, Joan Westhale's stepfather, John Chaucer's uncle.
Thomas Stace, a relative of Geoffrey Stace, either his father, brother or a son from a previous marriage.
Sir Geoffrey Scrope, 1285-1340, chief justice of the King's Bench.

Geoffrey Chaucer's paternal grandparents were Robert Chaucer, a vintner or taverner who moved from Ipswich to London and died before 29 October 1315, and Mary, who as a widow married Richard Chaucer. [1] Richard Chaucer was either a relative of Robert Chaucer or perhaps merely someone who confusingly shared his name, and to make it even more confusing, last names were often still very fluid in this era, and Geoffrey's grandfather Robert Chaucer was also sometimes called Robert Malyn, Robert of Ipswich, or Robert of Dynyngton. Richard Chaucer was the third husband of Robert's widow Mary; she had been married to another man named John Heyron (d. early 1300s) before she wed Robert Chaucer, the poet's grandfather, and had a son called Thomas Heyron or Heroun or Hayron or Heyroun, older half-brother of Geoffrey's father John Chaucer. Thomas's will of 7 April 1349 mentions 'John le Chaucer, my brother', and his and John's stepfather Richard Chaucer made his own will just five days later on 12 April 1349, which was Easter Sunday. [2] It seems highly likely that both men were victims of the Black Death, then raging in London, and Thomas had died in the five days between making his own will and being mentioned in his stepfather's: Richard left money for prayers to be said for the souls of his late wife Mary and her late son 'Thomas Heyroun'. John Chaucer, his wife Agnes Copton and their son Geoffrey Chaucer all survived the plague, and imagine how much poorer English literature would be if the child Geoffrey had been, like his uncle and step-grandfather, one of the untold tens of thousands of Londoners who succumbed (see the last chapter of my book London: A Fourteenth-Century City and Its People for more information on some of the many victims).

The date of birth of John Chaucer, son and heir of Robert Chaucer aka Robert Malyn, is uncertain. The King's Bench record of John's abduction says that he had reached the age of twelve by December 1324 when it took place, and furthermore that 'he is underage, to wit, under fourteen years' in the Hilary term of the King's Bench in Edward II's nineteenth regnal year, i.e. January to March 1326. A letter from Edward III dated 16 December 1330 (see below), however, states that John Chaucer is 'now of full age', and 'of full age' when applied to a male usually meant twenty-one, which would indicate that John was born before 16 December 1309. On the other hand, John's aunt and uncle who abducted him gave as their justification the fact that in Ipswich, the custom was that an heir was deemed 'of full age' at the end of his twelfth year. At any rate, John was still a young child when his father died in or before October 1315 and in his thirties when his son Geoffrey the poet was born sometime in the early 1340s. His mother's first husband John Heyron was still alive in 1302, and Mary married Robert Chaucer/Malyn in or before January 1305. [3] John Chaucer was old enough to take part as a mounted man-at-arms with his half-brother Thomas Heyron in the disastrous Scottish campaign of the summer of 1327, when the young Edward III came close to being captured by Scottish forces, and was one of the men named as taking part in an attack and robbery on the abbot of Bury St Edmunds at the abbot's manor of Chevington, 30 miles from Ipswich, on 17 October 1328. [4] This might imply that John was in his late teens rather than about fifteen or sixteen in 1327/28, but who knows.

After his father Robert's death, John Chaucer was in the custody of his mother Mary and her third husband Richard Chaucer, not simply because she was his mother but in accordance with the medieval custom that, if possible, an underage heir should be given into the care of his nearest blood relative to whom his inheritance could not descend after his death. John had an aunt called Agnes, or Anneis(e) as contemporary records spell her name, the sister of Robert Chaucer/Malyn. Unlike her brother, who moved to London, Agnes remained in their native Ipswich ('Gippewiz' in fourteenth-century spelling), and married firstly Walter ('Wautier') Westhale or Westhall and secondly Geoffrey ('Geffrei') Stace. Agnes and Walter had a daughter called Joan ('Johane') Westhale, first cousin of John ('Johan') Chaucer. Basically, the abduction was to do with a tavern and property in and around Ipswich which was John Chaucer's inheritance, and his aunt's wish to keep it in the family.

Agnes argued that as her nephew John had reached (or passed) the age of twelve, was able to 'reckon and measure' and was therefore sui juris, i.e. was of legal capacity to act on his own behalf, he ought not to be in anyone's wardship. She and her associates - her second husband Geoffrey Stace, a man named Thomas Stace, and a servant called Lawrence Geffreyesman Stace - abducted John during the night of Monday 3 December 1324 ('the Monday next before St Nicholas, 18 Edward II'), from Mary and Richard Chaucer's home. This was located in the London ward of Cordwainer Street, probably on Watling Street. John Chaucer's abduction is described in contemporary records as a 'ravishment', ravis(s)ement in medieval French; the verb ravir meant to seize or take by force, and was used by Lord Berkeley in the summer of 1327 when the former king Edward II was temporarily removed from his custody by the Dunheved gang. Originally it was believed that Agnes and Geoffrey Stace had forcibly married John Chaucer to Agnes's daughter Joan Westhale, John's cousin, though later it was shown that they had not (qils avoient ravi le dit heire mes ne mie mariee). Thomas Stace must have been a relative of Geoffrey Stace, perhaps his father, brother or son, and I found several references to a Thomas Stace from Ipswich who appears on record between 1296 and 1317. Geoffrey Stace was named as the son of Thomas Stace in 1317, so possibly the Thomas Stace who aided the abduction of John Chaucer in 1324 was Geoffrey's father, though Geoffrey might have had a brother or son with the same name. [5]

At some point, John Chaucer was restored to his mother and stepfather, though I don't know when, or whether he was taken to Ipswich in December 1324 by his aunt and uncle, or what became of his cousin and putative wife Joan Westhale. As is so often the case, the records that we have raise more questions than they answer, and the whole intriguing situation remains rather murky. If John Chaucer had married his cousin Joan Westhale, he wouldn't have been able to marry Agnes Copton a few years later unless Joan died in the meantime, and Geoffrey Chaucer would never have been born.  I haven't been able to discover a single thing about Joan Westhale except for this case. Marriage between first cousins was most unusual in the fourteenth century, and would certainly have required a papal dispensation for consanguinity.

One thing we do know is that Mary and Richard Chaucer asked for damages of £300 and were awarded £250, a massive sum in an age when £5 was a normal yearly income. Geoffrey Stace sent a petition to the king in the late 1320s or 1330, complaining that the lands of John Chaucer's inheritance were only worth £1 per year and that therefore £250 was an ureasonably excessive amount. Incidentally, the Second Statute of Westminster in 1285 set the punishment for abducting a child (whether male or female) whose marriage belonged to someone else at two years' imprisonment, as long as the person restored the child still unmarried, or paid what the marriage was worth. Otherwise, the punishment was either life imprisonment or abjuration of the realm, i.e. permanent exile from England. [6] It was taken very seriously. John's stepfather and guardian Richard Chaucer, and John's older half-brother Thomas Heyron, apparently exacted revenge on Geoffrey Stace and Agnes after the abduction. They travelled from London to Ipswich, a distance of about 70 miles, and stole goods worth £40 from Agnes Westhale/Stace's house, or so the indignant Agnes claimed in 1325. [7] John Chaucer was around twelve or fifteen in 1324/25, and his Heyron half-brother, given that his father died sometime around 1303/04, must have been in his early twenties or older. There is much evidence that the two half-brothers were very close and often acted together.

On 16 December 1330, eighteen-year-old Edward III - who had recently taken control of his own kingdom from his mother Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer - sent a letter to Sir Geoffrey Scrope, one of the chief justices of the King's Bench and ancestor of the Scropes of Masham (Henry, Lord Scrope of Masham, executed by Henry V in 1415 after the Southampton Plot and mentioned by Shakespeare in his play about Henry, was Sir Geoffrey Scrope's great-grandson). The letter, stating that John Chaucer was now 'of full age', is printed in the Calendar of Close Rolls 1330-33, pp. 90-91, and was almost certainly a response to Geoffrey Stace's petition. Geoffrey Stace had been detained in the Marshalsea prison in London because of his 'trespass against the king's peace', as well as being held liable for the massive sum of £250, and Edward ordered his release. The Letter-Books of London (vol. E, pp. 218-19, 226, 237, 239-40) show that several inquisitions were held in the city in 1328, one of which was to determine whether Geoffrey Stace, his relative Thomas Stace and his servant Lawrence had committed perjury, and the whole thing dragged on for several years, as often happened in medieval court cases (and the delay in this one was worsened by the dramatic events of 1326/27 when Edward II was forced to abdicate in favour of his son). The 16th of December 1330 was six years and thirteen days after John Chaucer's abduction had taken place.

A few years after his abduction by his aunt and uncle, John Chaucer married Agnes Copton, and they became the parents of Geoffrey Chaucer. I wonder if it's a coincidence that Geoffrey bore the same name as his father's uncle Geoffrey Stace, or if the latter was his great-nephew's godfather and John Chaucer was doing his best to bury the hatchet. Geoffrey Stace was still alive in February 1344, and Geoffrey Chaucer had probably been born by then. [8]

Below, part of a petition sent by Geoffrey Stace, to which Edward III responded in December 1330, and in the second pic, part of the petition printed in Rotuli Parliamentorum.


1) Calendar of Close Rolls 1313-18, p. 318.
2) Calendar of Wills Proved and Enrolled in the Court of Husting, London, vol. 1, pp. 544, 590. Thomas Heyron's will of 1349 does not mention any children, so he appears to have been the last of the line.
3) Vincent B. Redstone and Lilian J. Redstone, 'The Heyrons of London: A Study in the Social Origins of Geoffrey Chaucer', Speculum, 12 (1937), p. 185.
4)  'The Heyrons of London', pp. 186-9; Calendar of Select Plea and Memoranda Rolls of the City of London, vol. 1, 1323-1364, p. 73 note 14. At this stage of his life, John was often identified as 'John Chaucer, brother of Thomas Heyron'.
5) CCR 1313-18, pp. 271, 289, 483; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1317-21, p. 689; Catalogue of Ancient Deeds, vol. 2, nos. A3586, A3638
6) Statutes of the Realm, vol. 1, pp. 88-9.
7) 'Heyrons of London', pp. 185-6.
8) CCR 1343-46, pp. 107, 347.

15 August, 2022

15 August 1342: Wedding of Lionel of Antwerp and Elizabeth de Burgh

Edward III and Philippa of Hainault's third, but second eldest surviving, son Lionel of Antwerp married the heiress Elizabeth de Burgh in the Tower of London on 15 August 1342, the feast of the Assumption. The date is given in the Calendar of Select Plea and Memoranda Rolls of the City of London (vol. 1, 1323-64, p. 153), and confirmed in the Continuatio Chronicarum of the royal clerk Adam Murimuth (ed. E.M. Thompson, p. 125).

Born in Antwerp on 29 November 1338, Lionel was still only three years old when he married, and it therefore seems highly unlikely that he would have had any memories of his own wedding. On 5 May 1341, Edward III had issued a 'grant that Elizabeth, daughter and heir of William de Burgo, late earl of Ulster, deceased, who held of us in chief, shall marry our dearest son Lionel [Leonello filio nostro carissimo] ... when he is old enough', and evidently being three years and eight and a half months old was deemed 'old enough'. [CPR 1340-43, p. 187; Foedera 1327-44, p. 1159] Incidentally, Lionel's name was spelt Leonell or Lyonell in his own lifetime, revealing its contemporary pronunciation: as in Lionel Messi, not Lionel Ritchie.

As for Elizabeth de Burgh, she was almost six and a half years older than her bridegroom. According to the inquisition post mortem of her father William 'Donn' de Burgh, earl of Ulster, Elizabeth was born on or close to 6 July 1332: in early August 1333, she was said to be 'aged one year on the eve of St Thomas the Martyr last'. [CIPM 1327-36, no. 537] Her father, himself born on 17 September 1312, was not yet twenty when his daughter was born and not yet twenty-one when he died on 6 June 1333, and was a minor in the wardship of the king, his first cousin once removed Edward III, who in fact was two months younger than he was. Elizabeth was surely named in honour of her paternal grandmother Elizabeth de Clare (1295-1360), Lady de Burgh, Edward II's niece. The older Elizabeth mentioned her granddaughter, who was her principal heir, in her will of September 1355, but only thus: 'Item, I bequeath to Lady Elizabeth my [grand]daughter, countess of Ulster, all the debts which my son, her father, owed me on the day he died' (It'm je devise a dame Elizabeth ma fille countesse Dulvestier tote la dette qe mon filz son piere me devoit le jour qil morust). Ouchie.

Elizabeth was her father's sole heir and was his only child, or at least his only child who survived infancy. She alone was named as his heir in his inquisition post mortem. There is some evidence, however, that William de Burgh's widow Maud of Lancaster (c. 1310/12-1377) might have given to birth to posthumous twins. On 16 July 1338, there's a reference on the Patent Roll to 'Isabella, daughter and heir of William, late earl of Ulster'. [CPR 1338-40, p. 115] It is quite possible that this means Elizabeth, as Isabel(la) was a variant of the name and they were sometimes considered interchangeable, though it does seem that by this stage of the fourteenth century they were thought to be separate names, and every other reference to Elizabeth de Burgh that I've found calls her Elizabeth, not Isabella. And on 6 April 1340, Edward III granted the marriage of 'Margaret, daughter and heir of William de Burgh, earl of Ulster' to his sister and brother-in-law Eleanor of Woodstock and Reynald II of Guelders, to use for their second son Eduard (b. 1336). [CPR 1338-40, p. 445] This might, however, be a scribal error; it wasn't unusual for clerks to get names wrong sometimes. Assuming that these two girls ever did exist, they must have died young, and if Maud of Lancaster was pregnant when her husband died in 1333, the jurors at his IPM hadn't heard about it. Assuming that 'Margaret' was an error for Elizabeth, at some point between 6 April 1340 and 5 May 1341 Edward III changed his mind and decided that Elizabeth should marry his son rather than his nephew.

Elizabeth de Burgh was ten when she wed three-year-old Lionel. She was related to him via both her parents: via her father she was a great-great-granddaughter of Edward I, who was Lionel's great-grandfather, and via her mother Maud of Lancaster, she was a great-great-granddaughter of Henry III, also Lionel's great-great-grandfather. Via Maud of Lancaster, Elizabeth was related to pretty well everyone: Henry of Grosmont, first duke of Lancaster, was her uncle, and her first cousins included Henry IV's mother Blanche of Lancaster (b. 1342), Henry Percy (b. 1341) and Thomas Percy (b. c. 1343), earls of Northumberland and Worcester, John, Lord Mowbray (b. 1340), Henry, Lord Beaumont (b. 1339), and Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel (b. c. 1347) and his sisters Joan, countess of Hereford and Alice, countess of Kent. Elizabeth was the eldest grandchild of Henry of Lancaster, earl of Lancaster and Leicester, who died in 1345 when she was thirteen, and her much younger half-sister was Maud Ufford (b. late 1345 or early 1346), who married Thomas de Vere, earl of Oxford (d. 1371) and was the mother of Richard II's 'favourite' Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford (1362-92). Elizabeth's namesake great-aunt Elizabeth de Burgh, one of the many sisters of her grandfather John de Burgh (d. 1313), was queen consort of Scotland as the wife of Robert Bruce, and was the mother of David II, king of Scotland (1324-71). Isabella of France was, I assume, the person responsible for granting William de Burgh's marriage rights to her uncle Henry of Lancaster, earl of Lancaster and Leicester, at the start of her son Edward III's reign on 3 February 1327. [CPR 1327-30, p. 8] Sometime that year William married Maud, third of Henry's six daughters, who was close to his own age, so this was a wedding of two people both aged about fourteen or fifteen at the time. Their daughter Elizabeth was born five years after their wedding.

According to the Medieval Lands project on the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy site, Lionel and Elizabeth had another wedding ceremony at Reading Abbey on 9 September 1342 three weeks after they married in the Tower, but no primary source is cited, so I can't confirm this. Edward III was nowhere near Reading in September 1342, spending all that month in Sandwich and Eastry in Kent. By contrast, he was certainly at the Tower of London on 15 August 1342. 

Elizabeth de Burgh, countess of Ulster and later duchess of Clarence, gave birth to her only child, Philippa of Clarence, countess of March and Ulster, on 16 August 1355. Rather astonishingly, that was the day after her and Lionel's thirteenth wedding anniversary, and Lionel was still only sixteen when his daughter was born (Elizabeth was twenty-three). I doubt it's a coincidence that Philippa was born thirty-seven weeks after her father's sixteenth birthday on 29 November 1354. The Medieval Lands site states that the marriage was consummated in 1352, which to be honest I find a bit of a bizarre thing to claim, as I'm not sure where something like that would be recorded. Lionel turned fourteen on 29 November 1352, and for sure some noble and royal boys were allowed to consummate their marriages at fourteen, but the only way we know that is because a pregnancy resulted. To give an example, Lionel of Antwerp and Elizabeth de Burgh's grandson Roger Mortimer, fourth earl of March, was born on 11 April 1374, and his and Alianore Holland's daughter Anne Mortimer, countess of Cambridge, was born on 27 December 1388.

Neither of the child-couple who married in August 1342 lived long lives. Elizabeth de Burgh died on 10 December 1363 at the age of thirty-one, and Lionel of Antwerp died in Italy on 17 October 1368 a few weeks short of his thirtieth birthday, having been briefly married a second wife, the Italian noblewoman Violante Visconti. Elizabeth was outlived by her mother Maud of Lancaster, dowager countess of Ulster, who became a canoness after the death of her second husband Sir Ralph Ufford and died on 5 May 1377, a few weeks before her kinsman, Lionel's father Edward III. The couple's daughter and heir Philippa of Clarence gave birth to her eldest child Elizabeth Mortimer in February 1371 when she was fifteen and a half, and if Lionel had still been alive then, he would have become a grandfather at just thirty-two years old. If he'd still been alive at the end of 1388, when Anne Mortimer was born, he would have become a great-grandfather a month after he turned fifty.

07 July, 2022

Book Giveaway: Fourteenth-Century London

My new book, London: A Fourteenth-Century City and Its People, is out now! It's a social history of the city and its inhabitants from 1300 to 1350, with dozens of short chapters on numerous aspects of life, such as Health, Houses, Food, Misadventure, Gardens. Privies, Belongings, Assault, Murder, and many others.

If you lived in London in the fourteenth century and a physician diagnosed you with tisik or a posteme, what were you suffering from? What were penitourtes, evecheping and deodand? What jobs did women called cambesteres. callesteres and frutesteres do? If you were accused of being a rorere or a pikere, was this a good thing or not? What was the murder rate like in fourteenth-century London and what happened to criminals? What happened to the drunk and disorderly? How much would you have to pay to rent a house in London, and what would your accommodation be like? What did people do in their spare time? What did they eat and drink, and where? The answers to all these questions and hundreds more are in the book!

I have TWO free copies to give away to readers! You can live anywhere in the world, as long as you have a postal address I can send the book to. Please contact me with your email address or some other means of getting in touch with you, so I can notify the winners. You can either leave a comment here on the blog, on my Edward II Facebook page or on my Twitter page, or you can email me at edwardofcaernarfon(at)yahoo(dot)com, or if we're friends on Facebook or follow each other on Twitter, you can message me there. Best of luck! Deadline is midnight BST on 20 July.

08 May, 2022

Hugh Chastilon, Tutor of Edward II's Illegitimate Son Adam (d. 1322)

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about my frustration at being unable to find any information about Hugh Chastilon or Chastilloun, tutor of Edward II's illegitimate son Adam in 1322. On a recent visit to the National Archives, I looked at a bundle of documents (E 101/379/5) that relate to the 1322 hunting expedition of the teenaged Hugh 'Huchon' Despenser. As I wrote in that post, Huchon's own tutor was called Hugh Lulleford, and Lulleford accompanied his charge on the months-long hunting trip. At Barnard Castle on 14 September 1323, Lulleford acknowledged that he owed Edward II eleven pounds, five shillings and eleven pence; Edward II was himself at Barnard Castle at the time. Fifth on the list of Lulleford's six mainpernors is 'Hugh de Chastilon'. First on the list is Thomas Borhunt(e), one of the men who accompanied Huchon Despenser on his hunting adventure, and the third name is 'Simon de Redinge', a sergeant-at-arms of the royal household who would be executed alongside Huchon's father Hugh Despenser the Younger in Hereford on 24 November 1326. The names of the other three men, whose identities I don't know, are Robert de Dumbelton, Thomas de Aldone, and William Bacoun. Another hand has added the information that Hugh Lulleford paid the king the money he owed him on 14 November 1323, only slightly late; he was due to pay it around the feast of All Saints (1 November) or the feast of St Martin (11 November).

I think it's quite likely that Adam's tutor was the same man as the 'Hugh Castellon' who was appointed keeper of the executed Contrariant John, Lord Mowbray's manor of Kirkby Malzeard in Yorkshire on 20 September 1323, just days after the indenture of 14 September 1323 in which a Hugh Chastilon mainperned Hugh Lulleford's debt to the king. He may also be the 'Hugh Castellion' who was one of the eight mainpernors of John Mauduit, another Contrariant, sometime in 1322. [Calendar of Fine Rolls 1319-27, pp. 156, 240] It also seems very likely to me that Adam's tutor was the same man as the Hugh Chastilon who was one of Hugh Lulleford's mainpernors, almost exactly a year after Adam himself died, still only a teenager, during his father's disastrous last Scottish campaign of the late summer and autumn of 1322.

That's all there is about Hugh Chastilo(u)n, and it's precious little, but at last I've found out something else about him, haha. I'm not sure if his connection to the Despensers means anything very much, as by 1322/23 it was probably pretty difficult for anyone at court not to be associated with them in some way. I'd never heard of Hugh Lulleford before, Huchon Despenser's tutor, and don't know what happened to him after 1326 or anything else about him, though the bundle of documents I looked at in the National Archives shows that he had a wife and a daughter, who are unnamed, and a nephew called Richard de Popleham. There's a list of items given to Lulleford and his family by Edward II, which included a belt of green cloth given to his daughter, and blue cloth, six ells of striped cloth and a jerkin worth three shillings and six pence given to his nephew. The total cost of all the items came to eleven pounds, five shillings and eleven pence, the amount that Lulleford gave back to the king.

18 April, 2022

Huchon Despenser's Great Hunting Adventure, 1322 (part 2)

This is a continuation of my post yesterday, which is directly below this one, or can be found here. I've just noticed that E 101/379/5, a bundle of documents I looked at in the National Archives recently, also relates to Huchon's hunting trip of 1322. Firstly, there's the Latin original of the letter I cited in the post, sent by Edward II to twenty-three sheriffs on 21 July 1322, telling them that Huchon would be travelling through their areas, hunting. Secondly, there's a bundle of letters and memoranda from some of the sheriffs informing the king of the numbers of deer Huchon and his crew had successfully hunted, which they had been ordered to salt and store in barrels until further orders. There's also a letter from Thomas Rous, sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire, stating that while Huchon and his companions were staying in his jurisdiction he had paid out £11 and 4 shillings for their expenses and wages, and one from 'Amory la Souche' (or Aymer la Zouche), sheriff of Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire, who paid £14, 17s and 8d during their stay in his counties. The sheriff of Suffolk - and also of Norfolk, though Huchon didn't go there - was Sir John Howard ('Johan Houward'), who paid out £13 5s for Huchon's expenses, and who interests me because a) he was married to Edward II's second cousin Joan Cornwall, and b) he was an ancestor of the Howard dukes of Norfolk. The sheriff of London and Middlesex, or rather, one of them - there were always two sheriffs of London - was Richard Costantyn, though his letter is missing the total sum of expenses. There are other letters and memoranda from sheriffs of other counties too, and the letter from the sheriff of Essex, Sir Nicholas Engayne, says that he and Huchon had met at Waltham Abbey.

Below, the letters, indentures and memoranda.

Then there are several memoranda which give the number of deymes or deer Huchon and his crew killed, and where:

- In the park of Kenilworth in Warwickshire, thirty.

- In the forest of Leicester, in the jurisdiction of Robert Squyer, ten.

- In the parks of Essex, Hertfordshire and Suffolk, whose keeper was William Marny, a total of sixty-seven. 

Presumably, there must have been more meat than that, but that's all that exists now. And finally, there's also a letter written by Huchon himself - well, written by a clerk in his name, one assumes - which begins "To all those who see or hear these present letters, Hugh the son of Sir Hugh Despenser the younger [Hugh le fuiz mons' Hugh le Despenser le puisnez], greetings in God."

Below, Huchon's letter.

Huchon states in the letter that he had received £9 from Simon Chamberleyn, sheriff of Lincolnshire, "for my expenses and the expenses of my retinue" from 17 to 25 October 1322, which is exactly the same date range given by Edward II in a letter of 10 November 1322 (see last post) for Huchon's sojourn in the county. It gives the same names of his nine companions as the king's letter of 21 July on the Close Roll, just with the usual variations in spelling, and repeats the same wages as the royal letter, e.g. 7½d per day for the huntsman, 4½d for the berners, and so on. The letter also makes clear that Huchon, despite his youth, already had his own seal, and he dated the letter from Nettleham, a village in Lincolnshire which was a manor of the bishops of Lincoln, on 25 October (his father Hugh the Younger and great-uncle Edward II were seventy miles away in York at the time).

Also included in this bundle of documents is one relating to Huchon Despenser's magister Hugh de Lulleford or Lullesford, about whom I know nothing and had never even heard of before, though he was married with a daughter, and also had a nephew called Richard Popleham. Edward II bought five and a half ells of green cloth for Lulleford's unnamed daughter and blue cloth for Richard, six ells of striped cloth for him on another occasion, a jerkin (corset) for 3s 10d, and several pairs of shoes.

17 April, 2022

Huchon Despenser's Great Hunting Adventure, 1322

Hugh 'Huchon' Despenser, born in 1308 or 1309, went hunting between July and October 1322, and a large roll of his expenses survives in the National Archives (E 101/379/4). The roll refers to Huchon throughout as le seignour, 'the lord'; although he was only an adolescent, just thirteen or fourteen, he was the eldest great-grandchild of Edward I, grandson of the earls of Gloucester (Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, d. 1295) and Winchester, and the eldest son and heir of the lord of Glamorgan. Huchon is also called Hughe le Despenser le juvene, 'the young', in the roll. Confusingly, he bore the same name as his grandfather Hugh Despenser the Elder (b. 1261), who had been made earl of Winchester earlier in 1322, and his father Hugh Despenser the Younger (b. late 1280s). The National Archives identifies the person in the roll as Hugh the Younger, but that it was in fact Hugh's eldest son is apparent from an entry on the Close Roll dated 21 July 1322, where Edward II sent letters to the sheriffs of no fewer than twenty-three counties, informing them that he was sending "Hugh son of Hugh le Despenser the Younger...to take fat venison of this season in the king's forests, chases and parks". [Calendar of Close Rolls 1318-23, p. 577; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1321-24, p. 184] Furthermore, it's highly doubtful that Hugh the Younger, royal chamberlain and favourite, and the man really in charge of the kingdom in and after 1322, would have taken three months away from court to go hunting. 

The start of the expense roll states that Huchon would be going, in the original spelling, to "the counties of Cantebrigg [Cambridge], Huntingdon, Suff[olk], Essex, Hertford, Middelsex, Oxenford, Bokingham, Warwyk, Leycestre, Nottingham and Nicol [Lincoln]". Another royal letter sent on 10 November 1322 states that Huchon and companions hunted in Lincolnshire from 17 to 25 October, and from the roll it is clear that the expedition began in the Huntingdon/Kimbolton area on Monday 26 July 1322. [Calendar of Close Rolls 1318-23, p. 609] On 9 and 10 August, Huchon was near Barnwell, a manor which belonged to his grandfather the earl of Winchester, though the clerk who made up the account often forgot to add his location.

Huchon was accompanied by nine men and a number of dogs: twelve greyhounds, five bercelets, thirty-four buckhounds, and eight harriers. His nine companions' names were Thomas Borhunt (a huntsman), Richard Wygemore (a larderer, i.e. in charge of storing the meat), John Abbot, Peter Bul (these two were both berners, i.e. in charge of the hounds), John Suthwyk, Stephen Woxbrigg (these two were both ventrers, which I think means in charge of the carthorses carrying the meat, but I might be wrong on that), Hugh Preest, John Bacun (these two were both berceleters, in charge of the bercelets), and Richard Herlyngton (in charge of the harriers). There are also several references to garsones, literally 'boys', apparently some other young men who were temporarily helping out in some way. One 'boy' was given 3d for coming to see Huchon on behalf of the sheriff of Middlesex. There's one reference on 3 August 1322 to a man who was paid three shillings because he 'took care of the lord', but I can't make out his job title. I assume it's either sergeant or surgeon, though the spelling is weird. The roll mentions some of the same men and their job titles as Edward II's letter of 21 July recorded on the Close Roll, which I somehow find very pleasing, and two other men are named as accompanying Huchon as well: his magister or tutor Hugh de Lulleford, and his valet, i.e. attendant, Gilbert le Noreys. These two men appear on the expense roll but not in Edward II's letter.

Edward told all the sheriffs to receive any venison taken by Huchon and his crew, "and to cause it to be put in barrels and salted, and kept until further orders". Eight horses appear in the roll of expenses, though they aren't, unlike the dogs, specifically mentioned in Edward's letters. It cost between 10d and 12d a day to provide hay for them, plus another 20d to 24d daily for four bushels of oats, and 4d to 8d for straw for their bedding. I presume at least some of these eight horses were packhorses to carry the meat, though Huchon was certainly on horseback. His courser is mentioned once and Huchon received a mark (thirteen shillings and four pence) for a new saddle for the animal from his great-uncle the king, and on another occasion 'the lord's palfrey' is mentioned as well. At least six of his companions appear to have been on foot, as six pairs of shoes and six pairs of boots were bought for them.

Most of the account details the food and drink consumed during the trip, which in itself is rather fascinating - to see how the men's diet varied day by day, and how much things cost - though it is entirely unilluminating as regards the game they hunted and how much venison they took. Every day, without fail, the company got through two and a half or three gallons (9.5 to 11.4 litres) of wine - three gallons cost 12d - twelve or fourteen gallons (45.6 to 53.2 litres) of ale, and between two and a half and three shillings' (30d to 36d) worth of bread. You could buy a loaf of the cheapest bread for a quarter of a penny, though one assumes that Huchon Despenser, as a partly royal nobleman, was eating bread of a far higher quality than that. The twelve gallons of ale consumed daily cost 24d, i.e. 2d per gallon, and you could always buy a gallon of ale for 1d in the 1320s, so obviously this was also very high-quality stuff and in fact is described as 'good ale' on at least one occasion in the roll. To me this seems like a staggeringly large amount of alcohol for a small group of people to consume every single day, even if we assume that it was weak and watered down and with a pretty low alcoholic content.

The food consumed, at least by Huchon if perhaps not by his more lowly companions, was flavoured with saffron (safferan), which cost a pricy 4d per ounce and was purchased at least twice during the expedition. Every day, wax candles (chandeyl de cyer) were bought for 2½d or 3d and were preferred over the much cheaper but much less nice tallow candles, so again we see that Huchon Despenser wasn't being forced to slum it but was living in the luxury to which he must have been accustomed, given his high rank. To put 3d a day into perspective, that was more than most people in England earned at the time, so it was heck of a lot of money to spend on candles, especially considering that the hours of daylight in late July and August are long. On 7 August, 2½d was spent on 'the lord's cresset', i.e. a lighted torch or other light of some kind set in a container and mounted on a pole.

Below, a typical membrane of the document.

The men ate a lot of fish, especially salmon, herring, roach, pike and eels, and also a lot of stockfish, i.e. dried unsalted fish. Stokfissh(e), incidentally, is a word that always appears in English in Edward II's accounts, which were kept in Anglo-Norman or Latin; this particular roll is in Anglo-Norman. The quantity of herring is usually given as 'half a hundred' (demy C de haring). They ate pottage, i.e. thick soup or broth, pretty well every day, but also meat sometimes: suckling pig is mentioned several times, as is grosse char, literally 'big meat' and meaning meat from animals other than poultry or game. Other food items and condiments mentioned include young pigeons (columbeux), chickens and young chickens, geese, a pheasant on two occasions (which cost 8d both times), a rabbit on two occasions (which cost 4d and 5½d), eggs, onions (only mentioned once), half a gallon of vinegar, 'white grease', fennel, galingale powder, sauce (which kind(s) was/were not specified), endless references to freshwater fish, butter (bure), milk (leet), almonds, and rice (rys). The almonds and rice are always mentioned together, and it was always two pounds of almonds and one of rice or a pound of almonds and half a pound of rice. Sugar (sugre) is mentioned once and cost 3½d per quarter.

There is absolutely no information in the roll about accommodation, so I have no idea where they slept every night, or who cooked all the food mentioned in the roll, or where all the food and drink came from; most of it was fresh, so presumably arrangements were in place to transport it regularly to wherever Huchon might be at the time. When Huchon was near Barnwell, I assume he stayed at his grandfather Hugh Despenser the Elder's manor-house there, and there was a castle at Kimbolton where his great-uncle Edward II sometimes stayed. There are a couple of payments of 3d to a lavender, i.e. a launderer/laundress. As this was almost certainly a woman, she did not accompany the men on their travels, but would have been a local woman hired to wash their clothes. Anyway, that's about all the information I've been able to extract from the document, and will finish this post by saying that I bet it was all massive fun for an adolescent boy at the start of his teens.

EDITED TO ADD, 18 April: there's now a continuation of this post, here.

12 March, 2022

Edward II Podcast, and Boroughbridge Talk

I'm grateful to the Tudors Dynasty podcast for inviting me on to talk about Edward II recently! Steph Stohrer did a great interview with me and was absolutely delightful to talk to.

So if you're interested in listening to me talking about Edward for an hour, it's on the Tudors Dynasty Podcast page, here, and on YouTube, here.

And if you're anywhere near the village of Kirk Hammerton in Yorkshire this coming Monday, 14 March 2022, I'm giving a talk about the battle of Boroughbridge, which took place on 16 March 1322. Tickets cost £3.

02 March, 2022

Richard Councedieu (fl. 1310-39), Sailor and Edward II's Friend

Richard Councedieu was a sailor active between 1310 and 1339 who knew Edward II personally. His unusual last name is French: dieu means God, and counce means 'begin' in Anglo-Norman, i.e. commence in modern French, so Councedieu means something like 'may God begin (it)'. Fourteenth-century clerks spelt the name in a variety of different ways, including Komsedeu, Comsedieu, Cumsedeu, and Concedeu.

Richard originally came from Sandwich in Kent, though by 1319, and surely well before, had settled in London. A subsidy roll of that year shows that he lived in Tower ward, where his name is recorded in Latin as Ricardo Counsedieu. [1] It is apparent from Richard's appearances in the extant Coroners' Rolls of London that he lived in the parish of St Dunstan by the Tower (later called St Dunstan in the East), near one wharf called 'St Laurence's wharf' and another which belonged to a William Box, on or close to the street now called Lower Thames Street. [2] In March 1310, 'Richard Consedeu of Sandwich' was the captain of a ship called the Marie of Westminster, and as he had risen to be a ship's captain must have been at least in his twenties then, perhaps older. In March 1311, as captain of the Marie, Richard was paid to "ferry the earl of Cornwall [Piers Gaveston] across the Forth at Queensferry." [3] Adam Councedieu, who must surely have been Richard's son (or perhaps his brother?) and was known by the diminutive Adecok, was also a sailor, and in 1325/26 was a crew member of a ship called the Rodecok. The Rodecok's captain was Jack Black, and other crew members were Cock atte Wose and Hick atte Wose. [4]

At an unknown date, Richard Councedieu married a woman called Rohese - possibly Adam's mother? - and on 29 October 1324, he received a very generous gift of ten marks (£6.66) from Edward II "because he was loyally devoted to Rohese his wife". [5] This is one of my absolute favourite things that I've ever found in Edward's chamber accounts, especially as the entry makes clear that Richard was actually in the king's bedchamber (couche chambre) in the Tower of London when he received this money. This was just days after Edward II left the Tower and hired a man to sail him across the Thames to his new house, La Rosere, where he "secretly took his pleasure" with an unknown woman. I wonder if Edward was feeling really horny at the time and hit on Richard, who managed to wriggle out of going to bed with the king on the grounds that he was married and didn't want to cheat on his wife. Whatever the reason, Edward II was obviously deeply amused, or was extremely pleased with Richard Councedieu, because ten marks, to a man who earned six pence a day - ships' captains earned six pence and crew-members three pence - was a good few months' wages. A few months later, Richard was present on another occasion when Edward went to bed. [6]

In early July 1326, Richard sailed Edward II from Burgundy, the king's cottage near Westminster Abbey, to Byfleet in Surrey (paie a Richard Councedieu marin[er] le Roi q' ala oue le Roi de Burgoyne a Byfleet). Edward went swimming in the river at Byfleet on that day, or, as his chamber account puts it, voleit iewer par ewe, literally "wanted to play by water". [7] A few weeks later, now captain of the royal ship the Valence - which must have been named after Edward II's kinsman Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke (d. 1324) or his father William (d. 1296) - Richard 'Komsedeu' took part in Edward's curious assault on Normandy and the French fleet. [8] A few months earlier, Richard had been one of the sailors granted protection to go with Edward II to France when Edward had to pay homage for his French lands to Charles IV (ultimately Edward sent his son instead), along with Richard 'Hick' atte Wose, crew-mate of Adam 'Adecok' Councedieu, Richard's son or brother. [9]

Below, Richard Councedieu in Edward II's accounts; the top one is his gift of ten marks for being loyal to his wife, and the second one is his sailing Edward to Byfleet.

On 3 May 1336, there's a reference on the Patent Roll which states that Edward III had ordered the monks of Westminster Abbey to provide Richard with "sustenance for his life", as very often happened with retired royal servants. [10] He was still living in the parish of St Dunstan by the Tower in December 1339, however, when he was questioned about the drowning of Peter Skomakere in the Thames near Richard's home (Peter was drunk one Sunday evening and fell into the river). [11] That's the last reference I can find to Richard Councedieu, sailor from Sandwich and resident of London who was close enough to Edward II to be allowed into his bedchamber.


1) Two Early London Subsidy Rolls, available on British History Online: https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/early-london-subsidy-rolls.
2) Calendar of Coroners Rolls of the City of London 1300-1378, ed. R.R. Sharpe, pp. 177, 199-200, 217, 245.
3) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1307-13, p. 210; Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland, vol. 5 (Supplementary), no. 562.
4) Society of Antiquaries of London Manuscript 122, pp. 18, 61; various entries in The National Archives E 101/380/4.
5) E 101/280/4, fo. 10r.
6) E 101/380/4, fo. 30r.
7) SAL MS 122, p. 69.
8) CPR 1324-27, p. 300.
9) CPR 1324-27, p. 168.
10) CPR 1334-38, p. 261.
11) Coroners Rolls of London, p. 245.