13 September, 2020

Master Richard of Gloucester and Katherine of St Albans

Master Richard of Gloucester was parson of the church of Stevenage ('Styvenache') in Hertfordshire in the 1320s, and was said to be "learned in the law". [1] In 1323/24, Edward II appointed Richard as one of the three proctors he sent to France to proffer his excuses to his brother-in-law Charles IV for his failure to travel to Amiens to pay homage to Charles as his overlord for his French territories; the other two were Master Richard de Erium, canon of York and "professor of both laws" (i.e. canon and civil), and John de Shordich, "professor of civil law" or "doctor of laws". [2] Richard of Gloucester was perhaps the man of this name presented to the church of Hynton in the diocese of Salisbury in October 1280, and in June 1328 was appointed dean of Tamworth in Staffordshire. [3] According to his inquisition post mortem, Richard did indeed, as per his name, come from Gloucester or close by ("he was born in the parts of Gloucester, as the jurors understand"), though he spent most of his life in the south-east of England, and specifically in London. [4He was one of the twenty-two "priests and clerks" of London and Canterbury who took an oath on 13 January 1327 to "safeguard Isabella, queen of England, and Edward [of Windsor], eldest son of the king of England and heir-apparent" before Edward II's forced abdication. [5Master Richard of Gloucester died shortly before 16 January 1329 when his will was proved, and on 7 February 1329 the writ for his inquisition post mortem was issued. He had held the manor of Woolwich in Kent, also sometimes called Southall(e) Marreys, from the king in chief. Richard's will was dated 24 November 1328 in London. [6] 

Although he was a churchman, Master Richard of Gloucester had a long-term relationship with a resident of London called Katherine, the daughter of Geoffrey and Isabella of St Albans. This relationship produced at least two sons: John, born in the summer of 1317, and Nicholas, born in the autumn of 1319. In October 1329 a few months after Richard's death, the mayor and aldermen of London granted Katherine custody of her and Richard's two sons, then aged twelve and ten. [7In his will, Richard left Katherine his house on Friday Street in London for the rest of her life, and he also mentioned their two sons, though he only called them Katherine's sons and not his. That they in fact were his children is, however, apparent, and this was obviously widely known at the time. In 1342, Nicholas, the younger son, called himself "Nicholas of Gloucester, son of Katherine of St Albans", using his father's last name, and in 1338 John was referred to as "son of the late Master Richard of Gloucester". In his will, Richard bequeathed "to John her [Katherine's] son a certain hall erected on a stage over the street [Friday Street], together with a shop", and "to Nicholas, son of the said Katherine, a tenement in the parish of S. Brigid for life, except a portion sufficient for the maintenance of a chaplain to celebrate for the good of his [Richard's] soul and the souls of others." Richard also left a "certain tenement" to John of Gloucester, whom he called his "kinsman" and who would appear to have been his brother or nephew. 

Richard's inquisition post mortem of 1329 states that he held the manor of Woolwich "with remainder to John, parson of the church of Erdyngton, Adam son of Katherine de Sancto Albano [i.e. of St Albans], and Nicholas brother of the said Adam." The 1332 will of John of Gloucester, 'rector of Herdyngton', also survives, and talks of "the soul of Master Richard of Gloucester", though does not clarify the family relationship. [8] The 'Adam' mentioned here is a bit confusing, as no Adam, son of Katherine of St Albans, is mentioned in Richard's will; possibly this is a clerical error and meant Richard and Katherine's son John (who is not otherwise mentioned in the IPM), or possibly they had a third son together, or possibly Adam was Katherine's son from another relationship. By June 1342, Richard and Katherine's son Nicholas of Gloucester, born c. September/October 1319 and then twenty-two years old, was "lord of the manor of Southall Marreys", i.e. Woolwich. [9] His elder brother John was a bad lot, evidently: in August 1338 at a congregation of the mayor, aldermen and commonalty of London, it was decided that John, openly named as Master Richard's son, "and other incorrigibles should be committed to Newgate to prevent their doing mischief." [10]

I haven't been able to find much about Katherine of St Albans, though there's a reference in the Feet of Fines for London and Middlesex in the eighteenth year of Edward II's reign (July 1324 to July 1325) to "Master Richard de Gloucestr', John de Gloucestr', parson of the church of Herdington, and Katherine, daughter of Isabella de Sancto Albano." [11] Katherine appears on the Close Roll on 24 March 1337: "William de Pilardyngton, lord of Yeddyngg, lately granted by charter to Master Richard de Gloucestr', clerk, Sir John de Gloucestr', parson of Herdyngton church, and Katherine, daughter of Isabella de Sancto Albano, and to Richard her son and the legitimate heirs of his body" properties and fields in the town of Yeddyngg, i.e. Yeading, Middlesex. Although Katherine was still alive then, her son Richard was already dead without heirs of his body. [12]

Katherine of St Albans, therefore, had sons John and Nicholas, who were certainly also the sons of Master Richard of Gloucester, possibly a son Adam (unless he was a clerical error) who was named in Richard's IPM but not in his will, and another son, Richard, whom she presumably named after his father, Master Richard, or in his honour if Master Richard was not the father. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find any other references to Katherine or to her sons except the ones cited in this post. Her relationship with Master Richard evidently was a long and serious one, albeit illicit given his position, and he made sure that she and their sons were well provided for after his death. To my mind, whatever you might think about a parson's affair with a woman, this does him credit. I haven't found any references to Richard being taken to task over having a sexual relationship, perhaps surprisingly given that a good number of people in London seem to have known about it.


1) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1321-24, p. 352; CPR 1324-27, p. 1.
2) CPR 1321-24, p. 426; CPR 1324-27, p. 1; Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, pp. 548-9; Pierre Chaplais, ed., The War of Saint-Sardos (1323-1325): Gascon Correspondence and Diplomatic Documents, pp. 5-6, 12, 177-8, 189, 191.
3) CPR 1272-81, p. 398; CPR 1327-30, p. 301.
4) Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1327-36, no. 223.
5) Calendar of the Select Plea and Memoranda Rolls of the City of London, vol. 1, 1323–64, p. 14.
6) CIPM 1327-36, no. 223; Calendar of Fine Rolls 1327-37, p. 119; Calendar of Wills Proved and Enrolled in the Court of Husting, London, part 1, 1258–1358, p. 342.
7) Calendar of Letter-Books of the City of London, Letter-Book E, p. 239.
8) Calendar of Wills Proved and Enrolled, p. 382.
9) Calendar of Letter-Books of the City of LondonLetter-Book F, p. 75.
10) Select Plea and Memoranda Rolls, vol. 1, p. 168.
11) Calendar to the Feet of Fines for London and Middlesex, vol. 1, no. 333.
12) Calendar of Close Rolls 1337-39, p. 115.

06 September, 2020

Isabelle Holland, Mistress of the Earl of Surrey, Aunt of Richard II's Half-Brothers

I've previously written posts about the last de Warenne earl of Surrey, John de Warenne (30 June 1286-29 June 1347)his disastrous marriage to Edward II's French niece Jeanne de Bar (c. 1295/96-1361), and his nine known illegitimate children. Here's a post about the earl's last mistress, Isabelle Holland.

The key piece of evidence identifying Isabelle as Earl John's mistress is his will, dated at his Yorkshire castle of Conisbrough on Sunday, 24 June 1347 five days before he died, wherein John refers to her as Isabelle de Holand, ma compaigne. This literally means 'my consort' or 'my wife'. In point of fact, Isabelle was not and could not have been John's wife, as he had married Jeanne de Bar on 25 May 1306 in the presence of her grandfather, Edward I. He was then nineteen going on twenty and Jeanne was about ten or eleven. King Edward had offered John his granddaughter's marriage on 15 May 1305, and John gladly accepted, though their marriage appears to have failed as early as August 1309, and by August 1310 John already had at least one illegitimate child. [1] In February 1316, having fathered several more illegitimate children in a long-term relationship with his mistress Maud Nerford, John de Warenne began to make strenuous though unsuccessful attempts to annul his marriage to Jeanne de Bar, so that he could marry Maud instead. He and Maud claimed that they had already been pre-contracted to marry when John wed Jeanne in 1306, which of course was nonsense, and failed. By c. 1320, John's relationship with Maud Nerford had ended, and he "removed her from his heart and ousted her from his company". [2] Given the nine illegitimate children named in his will and in other sources, at least one of whom was born in Conisbrough Castle, he must have embarked on another relationship or several.

Earl John's relationship with Isabelle Holland began sometime before early 1344: on 26 February 1344, Pope Clement VI ordered him to "receive and treat with marital affection" his wife Jeanne de Bar, and in April/June that year there are more papal letters indicating that John was attempting, again, to have his marriage annulled. This time, he claimed that a) the 1306 papal dispensation issued to him and Jeanne for consanguinity was invalid, and that b) he had had an affair with his wife's aunt Mary, nun of Amesbury Priory (1279-1332, Edward I's fourth daughter), before he married Jeanne[3] Again, John's attempts failed - the queens-consort of England and France, Philippa of Hainault and Jeanne of Burgundy, lobbied the pope on the countess of Surrey's behalf - and when he died, he was still married to Jeanne de Bar and had been for forty-one years. Given the wording in his will of June 1347, however, John was convinced that Isabelle Holland was his rightful wife, whatever anyone else said. 

Isabelle is not specifically identified in her lover's will, but the names of other people who also appear in the will make it apparent who she was, and an entry on the Patent Roll of December 1346 also identifies her. She was one of the daughters of Sir Robert Holland or Holand (born 1270s), a knight of Lancashire who became the steward and close associate of Edward II's cousin Thomas, earl of Lancaster and Leicester. Edward II imprisoned Robert after the Contrariant rebellion of 1321/22, though he escaped from prison in Northampton at an unknown date after 23 July 1326; Queen Isabella pardoned him in 1327; and in October 1328, he was waylaid in a wood in Essex and beheaded by a group of Lancastrians disgruntled at what they saw as Robert's betrayal of Earl Thomas in 1322. They sent his head to Thomas's brother and heir, Henry of Lancaster. Sir Robert Holland's career is fascinating; I'll try to write a post on him at some point. [4] 

Sometime before 13 May 1306, Earl Thomas of Lancaster had arranged Sir Robert Holland's highly advantageous marriage to Maud la Zouche. [5] Maud was the co-heir, with her elder sister Ellen or Elena, of their father Alan la Zouche, who owned lands in a few counties in the Midlands and south of England. Alan was born in 1267 and died in 1314, and his second daughter Maud was born in about 1288 or 1290; in April/May 1314, she was either twenty-four or twenty-six. [6] She was a good few years younger than her husband Robert, and somewhat younger than the man who would become her daughter's lover: John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, was born on 30 June 1286. Maud la Zouche Holland outlived her husband Robert by twenty years and died in May 1349. She was called Dame Maude de Hollande in the earl of Surrey's will of June 1347, and the earl left her four mares (iiij jumentz) from his stud-farm in Sussex and appointed her as one of his executors. [7]

Robert Holland and Maud la Zouche's eldest son and heir was also named Robert, and was said to be sixteen on 1 December 1328 and seventeen or "seventeen and more" in early January 1329, placing his date of birth around 1311/12 (though in July 1349, he was supposedly "aged thirty years and more at Easter last"). [8] Their second son was named Thomas, which might mean that the earl of Lancaster was his godfather, and Thomas Holland (d. late 1360) made a brilliant marriage to Edward II's niece Joan of Kent, later countess of Kent in her own right and princess of Wales; Thomas's children, born in the 1350s, were the older half-siblings of King Richard II. Both Thomas and his younger brother, Sir Otto or Otho Holland, were among the founder members of the Order of the Garter in 1348 (Thomas was number thirteen and Otto was the twenty-second). Robert (d. 1373), the eldest of the Holland brothers and their parents' heir, is more obscure than his younger brothers Thomas and Otto Holland, who both played important roles in Edward III's wars in France and were known as valiant and brilliant knights. Another Holland brother, Alan, appears on the Patent Roll on 15 November 1321 with his older brothers Robert and Thomas. [9] Otto Holland is not mentioned in that entry, and surely would have been, had he been born by then (as it talks of the "heirs male" of Robert Holland Sr and Maud la Zouche), so it would seem that he was born after November 1321 and was the fourth Holland brother. [10] John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, appointed Sir Thomas Holland as one of his executors in 1347, and left items - various pieces of equipment for destriers - to Sir Robert Holland Jr and Sir Otto Holland (Monsire Otes de Holande). Thomas Holland and his brother-in-law Sir John Darcy witnessed a quit-claim of Earl John's on 1 April 1346. [11]

The Genealogics website mentions four daughters of Robert Holland Sr (d. 1328) and Maud la Zouche (d. 1349): Eleanor or Alianore, who married Sir John Darcy and died in or before 1341; Maud, who married firstly John, Lord Mowbray (1310-61) in or before 1319, which was annulled, and secondly Sir Thomas Swynnerton (1313-61); Margaret, who gave birth to her son Roger, Lord la Warre (or Ware or Warr) in November 1326; and Elizabeth, who married Sir Henry FitzRoger (born 1318) before 1340 and had a son John, and died in 1387. The website does not mention Isabelle Holland as one of Robert and Maud's daughters, but an entry on the Patent Roll of 12 December 1346, relating to John de Warenne's attempts to pass on some of his lands to her after his death, calls her "Isabel de Holande, daughter of Robert de Holande, begotten on the body of Maud, late his wife". It could hardly be clearer that she was indeed one of their daughters. [12] An unnamed "daughter of Robert de Holand" is mentioned on 26 February 1322, when she was sent to the Tower of London as a hostage, with the children of other Contrariants. [13] 

I don't know how Isabelle Holland fits into the birth order of the nine Holland/la Zouche children. I did wonder if she might be the same person as her sister Elizabeth FitzRoger, as the names Isabel(le) and Elizabeth were often interchangeable, but Elizabeth married Henry FitzRoger before 1340, so she can't be. Margaret Holland gave birth to her son Roger la Warre as early as 1326, so she must have been one of the eldest Holland children, older than her brother Robert and surely born in or before 1310 (the Holland parents married in or before 1306). Elizabeth's son John FitzRoger was born after 1345 and perhaps as late as the early 1350s, and Elizabeth herself lived until 1387, so she would certainly seem to be one of the youngest Holland children, as was her brother Sir Otto. As Isabelle was not yet married when she began a relationship with the earl of Surrey in c. 1343, she would also appear to have been one of the younger Holland children. Sir Robert Holland was imprisoned in the spring of 1322 and remained in captivity for well over four years, and one assumes he was not allowed conjugal visits, with the result that Maud la Zouche is unlikely to have borne any children for some years after 1322. She may, however, have become pregnant again in c. 1327/28 in the period between her husband's escape from prison in Northampton sometime after 23 July 1326 and his murder. Born c. 1288/90, Maud was in her late thirties or forty years old when Robert was beheaded in October 1328, and although she was already a grandmother to Roger la Warre she was still of an age to bear another child in 1327/28.

Although it is impossible to establish Isabelle Holland's date of birth, she was several decades younger than John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, who was about two or four years older than her mother. Isabelle was also younger than John's oldest illegitimate children, one of whom was born sometime before August 1310, and another two of whom were born before 1316. John's much earlier mistress Maud Nerford was the daughter of Sir William Nerford of Norfolk and the niece of William, Lord Ros of Helmsley in Yorkshire, and Isabelle also had a noble background. She was a great-granddaughter of Nicholas, Lord Segrave (d. 1295) and a great-niece of Gilbert Segrave, bishop of London (d. 1316), and a great-great-great-granddaughter of Roger de Quincy, earl of Winchester (d. 1264). It's impossible to know how many women Earl John had relationships with, and how many mothers his children had, though the two women for whom he attempted to annul his marriage to Jeanne de Bar both came from noble families, and he deemed both Maud and Isabelle of suitably illustrious birth and rank for him to marry.

John and Isabelle's relationship would appear to have been well established by early 1344, when the earl began to entertain serious thoughts of marrying his lover. In 1347 John appointed Isabelle's mother and her brother Thomas as his executors, and left items to her other brothers Robert and Otto, and was evidently on very good and very close terms with the Holland family. He left Isabelle numerous items including all his beds, all the vestments for his chapel, his "gold ring with the good ruby", another five gold rings in a gold eagle, all his vessels of plain silver, and half of his livestock (la moyte de mon estor). Furthermore, she was to receive all of John's goods and chattels except those which went to pay his debts or which he had bequeathed elsewhere. Earl John died on 29 June 1347, five days after making his will and the day before his sixty-first birthday. At his inquisition post mortem held in Sussex on 10 July 1347, the jurors stated that Countess Jeanne "a year and more ago, crossed the sea with the king's licence...whether she is surviving or not the jurors know not." The Wiltshire and Dorset jurors also admitted that they had no idea whether she was still alive, though in fact Jeanne outlived John by fourteen years. She had surely travelled to her native county of Bar in eastern France; her nephew Count Henri IV (b. 1321) died in 1344 and was succeeded by her young great-nephew Edouard II, and subsequently by Henri's second son Robert, the first duke of Bar. [14]

It seems unlikely that Isabelle Holland was the mother of any of Earl John's children, except perhaps Katherine, who appears in his will simply as "Katherine my daughter" (Katerine ma fille). His six known sons were far too old to be Isabelle's children, as was his daughter Isabel, already a nun at Sempringham Priory in Lincolnshire in 1347. John's other daughter was named in his will as Johanne de Basyngg, so either she had married a man called Basing or her mother's name was Basing. In the fourteenth century, people born out of wedlock often used their mother's last name, though having said that, at least five of John de Warenne's sons (Sir William, Prior William, John, Thomas and Sir Edward) used the name de Warenne. 

Sometime before December 1346, John attempted to settle some of his lands on Isabelle, to pass to her after his death: the Yorkshire castles of Conisbrough and Sandal, and eight manors also in Yorkshire, including Wakefield, Halifax and Dewsbury. John's nephew and heir Richard, earl of Arundel, born c. 1313 as the son of John's sister Alice (1287-1338), however, refused to accept these arrangements. He petitioned Edward III complaining that he would be disinherited. Edward III agreed and revoked John's grant, though in fact Conisbrough Castle and John's other Yorkshire lands ended up passing to the king's fourth son Edmund of Langley, later earl of Cambridge and first duke of York (1341-1402). Edmund was almost certainly Earl John's godson; in his will John left valuable items to King Edward, Queen Philippa, their eldest son Edward of Woodstock, prince of Wales, and Edmund of Langley. None of the many other royal children were mentioned in it. [15] 

Countess Jeanne, John de Warenne's legal widow despite all his efforts over the decades, was granted her large dower in Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire and Surrey on 24 August 1347. [16] It probably goes without saying, as John was pretending that he was married to Isabelle, that poor Jeanne de Bar was not mentioned in her husband's will. She was the only daughter of Edward I's eldest surviving daughter Eleanor (1269-98), so was a pretty important person, not that you'd know it from Earl John's treatment of her. They just seem to have been totally incompatible, and given that there was a rift between them as early as August 1309 when Jeanne can't have been more than thirteen or fourteen, I wonder if they ever had an intimate marital relationship at all. They certainly had no children.

Unfortunately, this post peters out lamely at this point, as I have no idea what happened to Isabelle Holland after John de Warenne's death in 1347. She was probably not yet thirty and perhaps a few years younger than that, and if she was conceived and born after Robert Holland's escape from prison after July 1326, she might not even have been twenty years old (!!). She was left many valuable posessions by the earl, and had a noble background and excellent connections: her sister-in-law Joan of Kent became countess of Kent in her own right on her brother's death in late 1352, and in 1361 married Edward III's eldest son Edward of Woodstock. She might therefore have made a good marriage, even if she did not become countess of Surrey, or at least chatelaine of Conisbrough and Sandal, as John de Warenne had wished. Possibly Isabelle does appear on record somewhere after 1347, and if I ever find the time I'll try to research the matter more. I hope she had a long and happy life.


1) Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, p. 296; Calendar of Close Rolls 1302-7, p. 321; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1307-13, pp. 330, 594; CPR 1313-17, pp. 528-9.

2) CPR 1313-17, pp. 12, 401, 434, 528-9; The National Archives SC 8/87/4348.

3) Calendar of Papal Letters 1342-62, pp. 116, 169, 173.

4) CPR 1345-48, p. 221, identifies Isabelle; CCR 1323-27, p. 592, is Edward II's order of 23 July 1326 to move Robert Holland from imprisonment at Warwick Castle to Northampton; CPR 1327-30, p. 17, is Robert's pardon for breaking prison at Northampton.

5) Feet of Fines, Berkshire, CP 25/1/9/38, no. 10, dated 13 May 1306, talks of "Robert de Holond and Maud his wife" when the manor of Denford was given to them with remainder to Maud's father Alan la Zouche.

6) Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1307-17, no. 458. Her younger sister Elizabeth la Zouche, about twenty in 1314, was a nun.

7) John's will is printed in Testamenta Eboracensia, vol. 1, pp. 41-5.

8) CCR 1327-30, pp. 348, 491; CIPM 1327-36, no. 156; CIPM 1347-52, no. 199.

9) CPR 1321-24, p. 40.

10) Sir Otto Holland died in September 1359, and his eldest brother Robert was his heir: CIPM 1352-60, no. 557.

11) East Sussex Record Office, AMS4952/3.

12) CPR 1345-48, p. 221.

13) CPR 1321-24, p. 75.

14) CIPM 1347-52, nos. 54-5, John's IPM; also CPR 1345-48, p. 226.

15) CPR 1345-48, p. 221; CPR 1348-50, pp. 161, 164; Calendar of Charter Rolls 1341-1417, p. 63.

16) CCR 1346-49, pp. 314-17; CIPM 1361-65, no. 215.

17 August, 2020

Edward II's Tastes Did Not 'Run To Boys'

A claim I've sometimes seen in books - I'm not stating which ones, as I refuse to give them the publicity - is that Edward II's 'tastes ran to boys' or that he 'liked boys'. Um, no. This is an unpleasant smear and emphatically untrue. Edward II had relationships with men, not with boys. His 'male favourites', as the saying goes, were: Piers Gaveston, Roger Damory, Hugh Audley, William Montacute and Hugh Despenser the Younger, and three of them were older than he was.

- Piers Gaveston's date of birth is absolutely impossible to determine, though he was the second child of a couple who were already married by 30 June 1272. That in itself is not necessarily very helpful in determining his approximate date of birth - Edward II's own parents married on or about 1 November 1254, but he wasn't born until 25 April 1284 - though according to one Gascon commenter on my blog a few years ago, Piers's sister Amie was the Gavestons' fifth child and was born in 1285. Piers was likely born around the late 1270s or early 1280s, and in July 1283 at the latest (he was made the guardian of Roger Mortimer of Wigmore in July 1304 and must have been at least twenty-one then). He was older than Edward II by at least nine months and probably more. 

- Sir Roger Damory's father Robert died in c. July 1285, so even if Roger was posthumous he can't have been born later than c. March/April 1286, and he was probably a few years older than that. His elder brother Richard Damory was already active as a soldier and keeper of the peace by the late 1290s, therefore can't have been born later than the late 1270s or thereabouts. Roger Damory was either Edward II's own age or older, and was emphatically an adult and at least thirty when their relationship began in 1315.

- Sir Hugh Audley was the second child of a couple who married c. 1288/89 (his mother's first husband died in 1287), and was born sometime in the early 1290s. He was therefore a few years younger than Edward II, but was around twenty-three or twenty-five when their relationship began c. 1315/16, and was well into adulthood. He was already a knight when he joined Edward's household in late 1311.

- Sir William Montacute or Montague was older than Edward II: the eldest of his four sons was born in 1299, and one or several of his seven daughters might have been older than that. Given that Montacute became a father in or before the late 1290s, he isn't likely to have been born much after 1280 and was probably born in the 1270s. When his relationship with Edward began c. 1315/16, he was not only an adult, he was the father of many children and a husband of many years' standing (he married Elizabeth Montfort in or not long after 1292, though that doesn't say anything very much about his age).

- Sir Hugh Despenser the Younger was the second child of parents who married in c. December 1285, was born in the late 1280s, and became a father in 1308 or early 1309. His relationship with Edward II, about four or five years his senior, began in late 1318 or sometime in the first half of 1319, by which time Hugh was around thirty years old, a husband for thirteen years, and the father of at least half a dozen children.

Look, if you want to criticise Edward II, there are a million and one things you can reasonably criticise him for. Have at it, but don't slyly imply that he was a paedophile who was attracted to boys. That's a nasty, offensive little smear, it's entirely untrue, and in my opinion it comes across as pretty homophobic to boot.

07 August, 2020

William Thorneye of Lincolnshire, Sheriff and Alderman of London (d. 1349)

 I've been doing a lot of work on the social history of London from 1300 to 1350 for a forthcoming book, and have been endlessly fascinated by all the details I've found of Londoners' lives and families, etc. One man I've found a lot of information about was William Thorneye or Thorney, a pepperer from Lincolnshire who served as sheriff of London in 1339/40, was elected alderman of Coleman Street ward in 1342, and died sometime between 20 June and 27 July 1349, possibly of the Black Death. Everyone knows the story of Richard 'Dick' Whittington, four-times mayor of London; here's a post about a far lesser-known man, who a few decades earlier, also found that the streets of London were paved with gold.

William Thorneye was born sometime in the early 1300s, perhaps after 1310, in the tiny village of Whaplode Drove in the South Holland district of southern Lincolnshire, near the Cambridgeshire border. His parents were named Ivo and Christiana or Christine; he had brothers whose names I haven't been able to learn for certain, though possibly one was Thomas; and he had a sister, Leticia or Lettice, who married a man named Stephen Bageneye and had three daughters. William Thorneye's three Bageneye nieces were: Alice, who married Richard Saleman and had a daughter named Margery before June 1349; Joan, who married Nicholas Rolle and had a daughter also named Margery before June 1349; and Maud, who married Stephen Bageys and was widowed by June 1349, and apparently had no children. William also had relatives in Crowland, six miles from Whaplode Drove, and owned a plot of land twelve miles away in or just outside Leverington, a village close to the town of Wisbech and over the border in Cambridgeshire. The plot was named Brodedrove in William's will of 1349, and amazingly there are still various roads called Broad Drove, Broad Drove East, etc around Wisbech. Another village just a few miles from Whaplode Drove is Thorney, and presumably is where William's family took its name. 

William Thorneye moved to London sometime before 1323, and became the apprentice of the pepperer John Grantham, who was mayor of London in 1328/29 and sheriff in 1322/23 (and died between 23 July 1344 and 31 January 1345). Pepperers were people, or rather men, who imported spices from abroad and sold them, and many of them became wealthy and influential and served as mayors, sheriffs and aldermen of London. It's also interesting to note that Grantham is a town in Lincolnshire and was presumably where John Grantham originally came from, or at least his ancestors did. Perhaps he favoured apprentices who came from his own native county. William Thorneye's will mentions that he had 'poor kinsfolk' in Crowland and Whaplode Drove and he left them bequests, though he himself became exceedingly well-off thanks to a successful career as a pepperer in London, and in the mid-1340s he was able to lend £250 to the abbot of Crowland, a few hundred thousand pounds in today's values. William held onto his Lincolnshire/Cambridgeshire connections for his entire life, despite his decades of residence in London and the success he found there.

In 1333, William was living in the parish of St Mary Aldermary* in London with a woman called Joan Armenters, much younger second wife and widow of John Armenters (d. 1306), sheriff of London in 1299/1300. I can't tell the nature of the relationship between William and Joan; she might have been his landlady, or they might have been lovers. William did later marry a woman called Joan, and possibly it was Joan Armenters, but 'Joan' was such an extraordinarily common name that I can't identify her. Whoever she was, William's wife Joan gave birth to their son around June or early July 1347 and died before 20 June 1349; details below. In 1333, William Thorneye and Joan Armenters shared a privy with neighbours Thomas Heyron - almost certainly the man of this name who was a vintner and the half-brother of John Chaucer, father of the great poet Geoffrey Chaucer (born c. 1342) - and Andrew and Joan Aubrey. Andrew Aubrey (d. 1358) was mayor of London in 1339/41. William Thorneye and Joan Armenters had, for some reason, removed the partitions in the five neighbours' common privy, and the Aubreys grumbled that 'the extremities of those sitting on the seats can be seen, a thing which is abonimable and altogether intolerable'. William was still living in the parish of St Mary Aldermary* in October 1336 when he was one of the neighbours questioned about the murder of Simon Chaucer, brother of Richard Chaucer, presumably the Richard Chaucer who died in 1349 and who was Geoffrey Chaucer's step-grandfather.

[* This church still exists and stands on the corner of Watling Street and Bow Lane, not far from Mansion House underground station.]

It's apparent that William Thorneye knew the Chaucer/Heyron family pretty well: as well as living next door to Geoffrey's uncle in 1333 and perhaps witnessing the murder of Simon Chaucer in 1336, in his 1349 will William mentioned a shop which he had purchased from John Chaucer, Geoffrey's father. Barney Sloane's (excellent) 2011 book The Black Death in London states that William Thorneye was John Chaucer's half-brother, but he wasn't; this appears to be a misreading of the part of William's will where he refers to John Chaucer and John's half-brother Thomas Heyron (John and Thomas had the same mother, Mary, Geoffrey Chaucer's grandmother, whose third husband was Richard Chaucer). We know from William Thorneye's will that he was born in Lincolnshire and that his parents were named Ivo and Christine, and he wasn't related to the Chaucers, a London family.

William was elected as one of the two sheriffs of London in September 1339, serving with Roger Forsham. There were always two sheriffs of London, and they only ever served one term (unlike the mayors, who were often re-elected) of one year. In February 1342, William was elected as alderman of Coleman Street, one of the twenty-four, later twenty-five, London wards. Aldermen usually held the position until they died, though were occasionally moved to another ward, and William did indeed serve as alderman until his death in 1349. He often appears in city letter-books and in the records of the London assize of nuisance as the alderman of Coleman Street, and also appears in the coroners' rolls during his period as sheriff in 1339/40.

In his will, William mentioned his 'children', plural, but only one is named in it: John Thorneye, William's only legitimate son and his heir. I haven't found any records of any other children William had, and that part of his will is slightly unclear and it might be referring to his brothers' children. John Thorneye proved on 8 July 1368 that he had come of age, i.e. twenty-one, so was born on or not long before 8 July 1347. John's mother was William's wife Joan, about whom I can discover nothing except that she was buried in the priory of St Helen, Bishopsgate, London sometime before 20 June 1349. William requested to be buried there with her, and I suppose he was. Possibly William became a father rather later in life, as his sister Lettice already had three daughters and two grandchildren in 1349, when William's son was only two years old. William might have been very roughly forty-ish in 1347 when John was born.

William made two long wills on 20 June 1349 in which he disposed of his many possessions and his property in London and in the area where he grew up in Lincolnshire/Cambridgeshire. He also left many generous bequests to numerous religious houses, including to the abbey of Thorney, a Benedictine house founded in 972 near his native village (see also here). William founded a chantry in the chapel dedicated to St John the Baptist in Whaplode Drove, and the parish church of Whaplode Drove is still dedicated to St John the Baptist. He left money for his 'poor kinsfolk' in his village and in Crowland and gave Brodedrove, his plot of land near Leverington, to five women and girls: his three nieces and two great-nieces, his sister Lettice's daughters and granddaughters. William owned a book called the Proverbs of Solomon which he bequeathed to his son John, and John also received his father's silver spoons, cups of mazer (maple-wood), pewter salt-cellars, mortars, pestles, weights and balances, and other utensils William had used in his profession as a spice merchant. He left a breviary to the chapel of St John the Baptist in Whaplode Drove, and another breviary, a psalter, a silver-gilt vessel for the Host and a silver-gilt chalice to the priory of St Helen in London, his wife Joan's burial-place and presumably his own. Finally, generous bequests of money went to William's apprentices and servants and to the houses in and around London that looked after lepers, and he showed a particular concern for the 'poor and maimed' living in religious houses in London and Lincs/Cambs, some of whom were his own kinsfolk, and left money for their care. Having made a lot of money and having become a man of some influence in London, William took a kindly and generous interest in those who were less fortunate, which I find moving and impressive. I also admire the way he remained loyal to the area where he grew up for the rest of his life.

William Thorneye died sometime before 27 July 1349 when one of his two wills was proved, and it's quite probable that he was one of the countless victims of the Black Death, then raging in London and elsewhere. John Thorneye was barely two years old when he was orphaned and cannot have remembered either of his parents, which makes me very sad, and it does bring home the tragic, appalling losses suffered by so many people during the terrible pandemic of bubonic plague in 1348/49. There are a lot of fourteenth-century London records detailing the guardianship of orphaned children and custody of them being granted to relatives, but unfortunately a record of John's case no longer seems to exist. He was, however, still alive in September 1401, aged fifty-four, and was then married to a woman called Isabel, so clearly someone looked after him, and he knew exactly who he was: 'John, son and heir of William de Thorneye, late pepperer'. The tenements and rents which belonged to John as his inheritance from William were faithfully held in trust for him for many years, and as soon as he proved in early July 1368 that he was now twenty-one, they were given to him.


Calendar of Wills Proved and Enrolled in the Court of Husting, London, ed. R. R. Sharpe, part 1, 1258-1358.

Calendar of Letter-Books of the City of London, ed. R. R. Sharpe, Letter-Books E, F, G.

Calendar of the Plea and Memoranda Rolls of the City of London, ed. A. H. Thomas, vol. 1, 1323-1364.

Calendar of Coroners Rolls of the City of London 1300-1378, ed. R. R. Sharpe.

London Assize of Nuisance, 1301-1431: A Calendar, ed. H. M. Chew and W Kellaway.

16 July, 2020

The Support Group for People Maligned in Historical Fiction Meets Again!

Another meeting, years after the first one! This one was written partly by me and partly by Michèle Schindler, author of a great biography of Francis, Lord Lovell, who also writes a blog dedicated to Francis. Thanks for your great contributions, Michèle!


Edward II: Welcome to the latest meeting of the Support Group for People Maligned in Historical Fiction, everybody! I'm delighted to see so many of you here! Well, actually, I'm not, because it means that your posthumous reputations have been suffering because of the rubbish certain writers have been saying about you. A lot has happened since our last meeting, and regarding depictions of myself, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that most writers and documentary makers are now backing off the claim that I was murdered by red-hot poker, because they realise that the vile, sadistic little tale is no longer tenable. The bad news is, they don't really want to let go of it, so we get YouTube documentaries where the presenter goes 'right, let's see an enactment of what it might have looked like if Edward really had been tortured to death like that!' and the camera lingers lovingly on the agonised and screaming face of the actor playing me. And if that wasn't bad enough, the presenter chortles and says something like 'why don't we watch that again, in slow motion?' I worry about these folks, I really do. Anyway, anyone else need to vent about what's been written or said about them?

Margaret Beaufort: Lots and lots and lots of people have decided that I murdered the Princes in the Tower in 1483, despite having no access to the Tower and, let's face it, no motive either, unless you count wanting to put Richard III's young son, or one of his nephews, on the throne.

Edward II: Weird, that one, isn't it? As though you could have predicted in advance that Richard's son would die the following year. Did you have the gift of foresight, Margaret? I'm guessing not.

Margaret Beaufort: Well, I'm the most ambitious and evil person who ever lived, you know, who spent every second of my life cackling evilly and calculating how I was going to put my son on the throne one day, even when there were about 67 people in the succession ahead of him. Apparently I was planning to murder them all.

Anne Lovell: Margaret dear, that's because they imagine you were unnaturally and weirdly obsessed with your son. And with Joan of Arc as well, hahaha, as if. You didn't have a normal maternal relationship with Henry, because somehow, only my cousin Anne Neville is allowed to love her son. Or her husband, apparently. I'm not sure what else I should have done to make it clear that I loved my husband Francis. Commit treason for him? Refuse to remarry after he vanished? Oh wait, I did. Not that you'd ever know it from novels.

George of Clarence: I feel your pain, dear cousin. I also suffer from the need in novels to make my sister-in-law Anne Neville the absolute centre of everything. Several novelists have me mistreat my wife Isabel when our first baby died, so Anne could watch horror-struck. This was my and Isabel's baby who died, but somehow novels think it was all about Anne. Those novels also insist I wanted to murder her to keep her from marrying my brother. And you know what this is based on? A later source saying I sent her somewhere to hide her. I didn't even do that, but it'd still be a million miles from trying to murder her!

Elizabeth Woodville: Not only do lots of people dismiss me as not the rightful queen of England at all, and blather on and on and on and on waaaaay beyond tedium about freaking Melusine and my and my mother's amazing witchy powers, I've now been called - wait for it - an 'Essex Girl'. And have been accused of murdering half my husband's court, including his supposed first wife Eleanor Talbot, her brother-in-law the duke of Norfolk, and who the heck knows who else.

Joan Geneville: That's awful, Elizabeth. I've never been accused of murder, but most writers carry on as though I didn't even exist. I'd been married to Roger Mortimer for just under thirty years when he was executed in November 1330, and we had a dozen kids together. He's now been written up everywhere as the greatest romantic hero of all time because he formed an alliance with Isabella of France. Amazing how Edward II cheating on Queen Isabella is the most unforgivably appalling thing ever, and makes her the most tragic neglected victim who ever lived, but when she supposedly has an affair with my husband, no-one seems to bother about me or even notice the double standards.

Constanza of Castile: Ohhhh, I know exactly what you mean, Joan. To be honest, I wasn't all that bothered about my husband John of Gaunt having a long-term affair with Katherine Swynford, and actually, just between you and me, I kind of liked Katherine. She was good fun. And after all, my father had affairs and fathered children with just about every woman he ever laid eyes on, including his cousin and at least one of my mother's cousins, and my mother was his chief mistress and not his wife. Come to think of it, his real wife was kept in prison. But you know what, I do seriously object to being depicted as a smelly religious zealot, who offends my husband's nostrils with my unpleasant body odour because I don't wash enough. I mean, come onnnnn. And worshipping my dead dad? I loved my father, but obviously I do not worship him. That is so offensive to my religious sensibilities.

Eleanor de Bohun: I don't think any of us ladies come out very well in that novel, Constanza, except Katherine, oh, and Blanche of Lancaster as well, who exists in a kind of cloud of perfect gorgeous saintliness. It describes me as having a fish mouth, and then later, a mouth like a haddock. I can't even visualise what kind of mouth a haddock actually has, to be perfectly honest - can anyone? - but I'm pretty sure I'm not being complimented. And Joan of Kent is nothing but a 'mound of flesh' at her son's coronation, apparently.

Anne Lovell: I feel you, ladies! One novel describes me as having "skin the colour and consistency of porridge". I'm trying to imagine human skin that's the same consistency of porridge, and not getting very far. What the hell, people? I can also offer some absolute horror at seeing the fact that Francis and I had no children used against me in horrifying ways. The nicest of that was still one book that had me worrying that I was lesser than my cousin Anne Neville, who had a child despite "everyone thinking she was too frail to carry a child to term". Just why everyone would be so worried about my cousin's childbearing ability is a mystery, but at least that particular novel didn't blame my childlessness on the fact that I am too ugly or too repulsive for my husband to touch. 

Blanche de Bourbon: Coming back to Constanza's point, the real wife of King Pedro would be me. Obviously not blaming you for this, Constanza, sweetheart, because you weren't even born yet, but your dad Pedro put me in solitary confinement while he went off with your mum. And he had affairs with plenty of other women, as you point out. But me, I just get completely ignored. Imprisoned by my husband two days after my wedding and kept there for eight years until he finally had me bumped off, and does anyone care? Nope! All they do is weep and wail about Edward II supposedly ignoring Isabella at their coronation banquet, like that's the worst thing that's ever happened to anyone. Quite honestly, I'd settle for being maligned in historical fiction if writers ever even remembered that I existed!

Joan Geneville: I'm with you there, Constanza. When I'm not being ignored as though I never even existed, despite decades of loyalty to my husband, I'm written as grossly overweight and hopelessly unattractive, or so cold and frigid in bed that Roger is forced to look elsewhere for affection and intimacy, the poor lamb. Did I mention that Roger and I had twelve children?

Anne Beauchamp, countess of Warwick: Good evening, fellow maligned people! Not only did I suffer the indignity of being declared legally dead so that my sons-in-law could take my lands, I see that one novel condemns me as a bad mother as well, so besotted with my dear Richard that I ignored our daughters and only cared about saving my own skin after my daughter Anne Neville was widowed and in potential danger. So that's nice.

William Stanley: I feel your pain. Just because I kind of, eh, suddenly betrayed my Yorkist leanings at the Battle at Bosworth field does not mean I spent my entire life victimising everyone around me. Do you know that at least three novels insist I abused my dear first wife Joan? The horror of that being printed! And based on what, me switching sides in the civil war nearly twenty years after her death? Joan and me were very happy! And since we're on the subject, I never sat on the fence. You're looking for my brother Thomas. And I never molested anyone. That I even have to say this!

Edward II: Astonishing how so many writers confuse you and your brother Thomas, William, as though you were clones of each other, or even one person shared between two bodies. So weird. And sorry to hear you've been accused of abusing your wife. Poor William Hastings joined us once, to tell us about being painted as a child rapist and murderer in one series of novels, the poor man. And there's this one novel that has my father-in-law and all three of my brothers-in-law sexually abusing my wife when she was a child. I mean honestly. I can't stand any of those French gits - well, Louis is bearable, I suppose, and the younger Philip and I get on pretty well as long as we keep the Channel between us - but what a thing to invent about them! Far worse even than the voyeuristic dwarf spying on me and Isabella consummating our marriage in one novel. I shudder at the memory.

William Stanley: Is that the novel with 'passion' in the title that has you being 'noisily buggered' by Piers, Edward? That description is about as erotic as cholera.

Edward: *shudders again* Do. Not. Remind. Me.

Thomas Becket: Good evening, my fellow maligned men and women. Can someone explain to me why writers of the 20th and 21st century, always seem to want to explain everything with sex? My friend Henry was no prude, but even he would think it ridiculous. I took a vow of chastity in my youth and kept it, and no one in my own time doubted it. This has not stopped novelists from insisting I sexually desired Henry, and only stood up for the rights of the church as ploy for revenge because he rejected me. Because somehow, that's not far-fetched or ridiculous at all, while the idea that I stood up for ideals that were widely shared during my lifetime because I actually believed in them is considered unlikely. I don't expect I will ever understand this.

Francis Lovell: Hello, everyone, Anne Lovell's husband here. I'm King Richard III's annoying stupid friend whom he lets tag along, so it appears, and I'm always sleeping with every available woman, up to and including Margaret of York, only not with my wife. I'm not very intelligent but I exude misplaced confidence. Or I could introduce myself as simply Francis, Viscount Lovell, but I doubt if anyone would even recognise me without these novel tropes. All of which are naturally untrue, but that's what novels have drummed into people's heads I was.

Edward II: I don't understand it either, Thomas, and Francis, sorry to hear you've also been a victim of everything being reduced to sex. What gets me as well is the novelist who moaned on social media and blogs about how horribly over-sexualised modern historical fiction is, while writing a series of novels where my dad tries to seduce the young girl who is, in this bizarre fictional universe, his own half-sister. Because my great-aunt's husband Simon de Montfort had an affair with my grandmother, supposedly, and was the real father of my father. Simon was hundreds of miles from my grandmother when she and King Henry conceived my father, but hey, let's not let that minor detail spoil the story. When films can make William Wallace the real father of my son even though he'd been dead for seven years, and when novels and social media can make Roger Mortimer the real father of my son even though he was in Ireland at the time, anything is possible. Right, that's all we've got time for today, folks! Hope you've found this venting session cathartic and helpful. Until the next time!

06 July, 2020

6 July 1332: Birth of Elizabeth de Burgh, Duchess of Clarence

Elizabeth de Burgh, duchess of Clarence and countess of Ulster, a daughter-in-law of Edward III and Queen Philippa, was born on 6 July 1332. Her mother was Maud of Lancaster (c. 1310/12-1377), third of the six daughters of Henry, earl of Lancaster and Leicester and one of the sisters of Henry of Grosmont, first duke of Lancaster. Via her mother, Elizabeth de Burgh was a great-granddaughter of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence, and thus was a second cousin of Edward III. Elizabeth's father was William de Burgh, earl of Ulster (b. September 1312), whose mother Elizabeth de Clare (b. September 1295) was a granddaughter of Edward I and one of Edward II's nieces. Elizabeth de Burgh's grandmother was, therefore, a much older first cousin of Edward III, making Elizabeth the king's first cousin twice removed as well as his second cousin. As the daughter of Maud of Lancaster, Elizabeth had a large number of relatives among the higher English nobility: her first cousins included the great heiress Blanche, duchess of Lancaster, the Percy earls of Northumberland and Worcester, the earl of Arundel, the countesses of Kent and Hereford, and Lords Mowbray and Beaumont, and her younger half-sister was the countess of Oxford.

William's father, Elizabeth's grandfather John de Burgh, died in 1313 when William was a baby, and he succeeded his grandfather Richard de Burgh as earl of Ulster after Richard's death in July 1326. William de Burgh and Maud of Lancaster married sometime between 1 May and 16 November 1327 when William was fourteen or fifteen and Maud about the same age, perhaps a little older. William's marriage had been granted to Maud's father on 3 February 1327. [1] It's interesting to me that six of Henry, earl of Lancaster's seven children married (the exception was his second daughter Isabella, who became prioress of Amesbury Priory), and five of them became parents (his eldest daughter Blanche, Lady Wake had no children), and in all cases, there was a delay of a few years before they had children. Henry of Grosmont married Isabella Beaumont in 1330, and their first surviving child was born in April 1340, though another daughter is mentioned in 1338/39 who must have died young; Maud and William de Burgh's daughter was born five years after their wedding; Joan, the fourth daughter, married John Mowbray in 1328 and gave birth to her only son in 1340, though her two daughters were probably older; Eleanor the fifth daughter married John Beaumont in 1330 when they were both about twelve or thirteen, and had her only Beaumont son in late 1339; and Mary the youngest Lancaster child married Henry Percy in 1334 when they were also both about twelve or thirteen, and gave birth to her first child in 1341.

Elizabeth de Burgh was just eleven months old when her twenty-year-old father was murdered near Belfast on 6 June 1333, and she was his sole heir and, ultimately, also the sole heir of her grandmother Elizabeth de Clare, who lived until November 1360. As well the earldom of Ulster, she inherited the third of the earldom of Gloucester which passed to her grandmother Elizabeth after her brother Gilbert fell at Bannockburn in 1314. As for her mother, Maud of Lancaster remained a widow for ten years and married her second husband, the earl of Suffolk's younger brother Sir Ralph Ufford, in or before August 1343. Maud's only child from her second marriage, Maud Ufford, married Thomas de Vere, earl of Oxford and was the mother of Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford (1362-92), Richard II's favourite. After she was widowed from Ralph Ufford in 1346, Maud of Lancaster became a canoness in Suffolk for the remaining thirty years of her life.

Elizabeth was named as William de Burgh's sole heir in his inquisition post mortem of August/September 1332. The Buckinghamshire jurors gave her exact date of birth, whereas all the other jurors, in England and Ireland, merely estimated that she was a year old, or a year and a half, or even (wrongly) two years old. This might, emphasis on the might, mean that she was born in Buckinghamshire or at least spent time there in infancy. [2] Several years ago, I found possible references to one and perhaps even two further daughters of William de Burgh and Maud of Lancaster. On 16 July 1338, there is a reference on the Patent Roll to 'Isabella, daughter and heir of William, late earl of Ulster'. It's entirely possible that this means Elizabeth, as Isabella was a variant form of the name Elizabeth and they were sometimes used interchangably, though by this stage they seem to have been considered separate names, and Elizabeth de Burgh was otherwise always called 'Elizabeth'. And on 6 April 1340, Edward III granted the marriage of 'Margaret, daughter and heir of William de Burgo, earl of Ulster' to his sister Eleanor of Woodstock and her husband Reynald for the use of their second son Eduard of Guelders (b. 1336). [3]

Assuming William and Maud did have other daughters, they must have died young, as Elizabeth was certainly William's sole heir. This means that if Maud did give birth to two more daughters, she must have been pregnant with twins when William was killed and the IPM jurors did not know of her pregnancy. Possibly, though, 'Isabella' simply meant Elizabeth, and 'Margaret' was a clerical error and also referred to Elizabeth - and for some reason she did not marry into the county of Guelders.

Elizabeth de Burgh was related to Edward III and his children via both her parents, but they were not *that* closely related, and Edward snapped up the great heiress for one of his and Queen Philippa's sons. Lionel of Antwerp was the royal couple's third son after Edward of Woodstock (b. June 1330) and William of Hatfield (b. January 1337), but was their second eldest surviving son, as William died shortly after his birth. Born on 29 November 1338, Lionel was nearly six and a half years Elizabeth's junior.

Elizabeth and Lionel of Antwerp married on 15 August 1342 in the Tower of London; the date is recorded in the Plea and Memoranda Rolls of the city. [4] Lionel was still only three years old to her ten on their wedding day. Their only child, named Philippa after her paternal grandmother and godmother Philippa of Hainault, queen of England, was born on 16 August 1355 thirty-seven weeks after Lionel's sixteenth birthday, and thirteen years almost exactly to the day after Elizabeth and Lionel's wedding. [5] Elizabeth was twenty-three when her daughter was born, but was to have no more children. She came into her grandmother's large inheritance when Elizabeth de Clare died at the age of sixty-five in late 1360, but only outlived her by three years, and died in Ireland in December 1363 when she was only thirty-one years old, just over a year after Edward III celebrated his fiftieth birthday by making his second son duke of Clarence (and his third son John of Gaunt duke of Lancaster). Lionel held all her lands for the rest of his life - he himself died in October 1368 a few weeks before his thirtieth birthday - by the custom called the 'courtesy of England', and they then passed to Elizabeth and Lionel's only child Philippa of Clarence, countess of March and Ulster, and then to her son Roger Mortimer, earl of March (1374-98).


1) Kenneth Fowler, The King's Lieutenant: Henry of Grosmont, First Duke of Lancaster 1310-1361 (1969), p. 256 note 16; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1327-30, p. 8.
2) Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1327-36, no. 537.
3) CPR 1338-40, pp. 115, 445.
4) Calendar of Plea and Memoranda Rolls of the City of London, vol. 1, p. 153.
5) CIPM 1365-69, no. 385.

14 June, 2020

Pride: The LGBTQ+ History Series

I'm delighted and honoured to have been invited to take part in the second season of 'Pride: The LGBTQ+ History Series', a documentary series by Canadian filmmakers Mark Kenneth Woods and Michael Yerxa. You can see the trailer of the second season on Youtube here (and the first season here). Information about each episode is here; you can see me in the fourth episode, 'Manchester', talking about Edward II for a few minutes.

In Canada, the series is available on Out TV (and see also here for more info; if you have Amazon Prime and are in the right geographical area, you might be able to access it). In New Zealand, it will be shown on TVNZ, beginning tomorrow, 15 June. For the rest of us, we'll just have to hope that it's broadcast somewhere where we can see it, soon! I think what Mark and Michael are doing is really important and I was thrilled to be a small part of it.

Couple of stills of me from the 'Manchester' episode:

30 May, 2020

"Living in Medieval England: The Turbulent Year of 1326"

My new book is out now in the UK! It's a detailed account of the year 1326, with a chapter devoted to each calendar month. I chose 1326 as it's such a dramatic year, when the queen of England invaded her husband's kingdom with an army, so there's quite a bit about what led up to the invasion, but it's far more focused on social history than my previous books are. I wanted to shine a light on the common people of England and how they lived and worked and died, how they dressed, what they earned, what their nicknames were, who they married, how much they paid for things. My main source for the book was Edward II's extant last chamber account, which covers the period from 24 May 1325 to 31 October 1326 and is full of the most delicious details about contemporary life (as well about Edward himself), and I also used chronicles, wills, the chancery rolls, petitions and other documents now in the National Archives, inquisitions post mortem, the London coroners' rolls and city letter-books, the London Assize of Nuisance, etc.

The Kindle version is available as of today in the UK, and is only £4.79! Bargain! Here's the link. Here is the hardback edition of Living in Medieval England on Amazon; it's also available via Book Depository and from the publisher's website. And if you haven't read my biography of Edward II's powerful chamberlain and 'favourite' Hugh Despenser the Younger yet, it's currently only £1.99 on Kindle. My Following in the Footsteps of Edward II, a guide to locations in Britain associated with Edward, is £4.99 on Kindle.

I'd really like to do a contest for one of you to win a free signed hardback copy of Living in Medieval England, but the lockdown in the UK is still on though has been eased quite a bit, and I'm not sure that I should be going to the post office and posting books just yet, unfortunately.

One of the 93 pages of Edward II's last chamber account, my main source for the book.

24 May, 2020

Philippa Arundel (d. 1399) And Her Children

In my last post, I looked at the three daughters of Sir Edmund Arundel (d. 1381/2), son of the earl of Arundel, and Sybil Montacute, daughter of the earl of Salisbury. Here's a post dedicated to Philippa Arundel, the best-known of their daughters.

Philippa was perhaps the second daughter of Edmund and Sybil, younger than Katherine and older than Elizabeth, though I'm not sure about that; she might have been the youngest. Given that she might have given birth as early as c. 1366/67, and almost certainly by 1370, she can hardly have been born later than the early 1350s. Her father Edmund was apparently born in 1326, and her mother Sybil perhaps in the early 1330s or thereabouts. Over the last few years and decades, there's been a lot of confusion about Philippa and her sisters, and a good few writers have followed the Complete Peerage in stating, erroneously, that the sisters (or at least one or two of them) were the daughters of Richard, earl of Arundel (d. 1376) and his first wife Isabella Despenser, rather than Richard and Isabella's granddaughters, as they in fact were. Philippa's parentage is, however, made perfectly clear by this entry on the Close Roll (CCR 1396-99, p. 72):

Philippa Arundel married Sir Richard Sergeaux or Cergeaux or Serjeaux, an important landowner, politician, keeper of the peace, justice, knight of the shire, and commissioner in Cornwall; his page on the History of Parliament site states that he held at least twenty-two manors in the county. I've seen Richard's date of birth estimated as c. 1340, which seems about right; he appeared on the Patent Roll from the early 1360s onwards with his father of the same name, and was called 'Richard Sergeaux the younger'. His father was called leisne, 'the elder', in 1361, so Richard the younger was of age and active by then. [1] Richard Sergeaux the younger was previously married to Elizabeth Bodrugan, granddaughter and co-heir of Sir Otto Bodrugan (1290-1331), the only child of Otto's second son William (b. 1311). He and Elizabeth had no children together, or at least, no surviving children. The dates of Elizabeth's death and Richard Sergeaux's subsequent second marriage to Philippa Arundel are uncertain. [2]

Philippa Arundel and Richard Sergeaux had one son and four daughters: Richard, Elizabeth, Philippa, Alice, and Joan. The birth order of their daughters is clear, though where their son fits into the order is not quite as clear, and the estimated ages and dates of birth for the eldest three of the five Sergeaux children are confusingly all over the place. They were widely spaced, with the eldest children born in the late 1360s or early 1370s, the fourth certainly born in 1384, and the fifth almost certainly born in or around 1392.

- Richard Sergeaux, the only son. His father's inquisition post mortem of November 1393 states that he was born around 21 December 1374, and also that he was 'nineteen and more'. According to another inquisition taken in 1398, however, Richard was twenty-six when his father died in September 1393 and would therefore have been born c. 1367, and this inquisition makes him, whether correctly or not, the oldest of the five Sergeaux siblings, with his sister Elizabeth two years younger and his sister Philippa four years younger. Other evidence, though, makes him younger than Elizabeth and perhaps younger than Philippa as well. Richard was named as his father's sole heir in 1393, but he outlived Sir Richard by less than three years and died on 23 or 24 June 1396. At yet another inquisition in July 1400, he was said to have died in his twentieth year, i.e. was still nineteen in June 1396, and to have died underage, i.e. under twenty-one. I haven't found any entries in the chancery rolls where Richard II took Richard Sergeaux's homage and allowed him livery of his lands, which would tend to confirm that he died before he reached his twenty-first birthday and was therefore born after 23/24 June 1375. [3] He doesn't seem to have been married, as I haven't seen any record of dower being assigned to his widow. Richard certainly left no children, and his four sisters became joint and equal heirs to the Sergeaux inheritance.

- Elizabeth Marny, the eldest daughter. According to various jurors at her mother Philippa Arundel's inquisition post mortem in January and July 1400, Elizabeth might have been as old as thirty-three then, which would place her date of birth in 1366/67, though other jurors estimated her age at thirty, or twenty-one, or twenty, in early 1400. She was also said to be twenty-four when her brother died in June 1396, placing her date of birth in 1372. Elizabeth cannot have been as young as twenty in January 1400, as she gave birth to her son Thomas Marny (or Marney) on 6 or 7 February 1393, and had a younger son John and a daughter Anne as well. [4] Thomas was the eldest grandchild of Philippa Arundel, great-grandson of Edmund Arundel and Sybil Montacute, great-great-grandson of Richard, earl of Arundel (d. 1376) and great-great-great-grandson of Hugh Despenser the Younger and Eleanor de Clare (d. 1337). Thomas's father was Elizabeth's husband Sir William Marny, landowner in Buckinghamshire and Essex, who died on 21 or 24 August 1414. 

The date of Elizabeth Sergeaux Marny's death is not recorded, to my knowledge, but in William Marny's inquisition post mortem taken in Cornwall and Oxfordshire in September/October 1414, he was said to have held a third of the Oxfordshire manor of Chipping Norton and a third of various Cornish manors "by the courtesy of England after the death of Elizabeth his wife", so she died sometime before August 1414. There's a great account of William's career here. His and Elizabeth's elder son Thomas Marny died on 22 March 1421 aged twenty-eight, and his daughter Margaret Marny was his heir; she was born posthumously on 14 August 1421. Some jurors at Thomas's inquisition post mortem did not realise that his widow (named Margaret, like their daughter) was pregnant, and hence named his brother John Marny as his heir. Little Margaret, however, died on 4 or 15 November 1421, so the Marny heir was her uncle John, after all. John Marny, second son of Elizabeth Sergeaux and grandson of Philippa Arundel, was born in Layer Marney, Essex on 14 August 1402, and his godmother was his aunt Philippa Sergeaux Passele. At John's proof of age in 1424, one of the jurors remembered his birth because he played football in Layer Marney that day and broke his shin when he fell, another remembered because a resident of the village hanged himself that day and he went to look at the hanging body (!), and another remembered because he and his wife attended Elizabeth's churching on 14 September 1402. [5]

- Philippa Passele (or Pasele or Passhelee or Pashley), later Swynbourne, second daughter. She was said to be twenty-two when her brother died in June 1396, eighteen in January 1400, twenty-eight in March 1400, and nineteen in July/September 1400, so might have been born any time between 1371/72 and 1381. Fabulous. Most inquisitions stated that she was somewhere between a year and three years younger than her sister Elizabeth, except for the Oxfordshire jurors of July 1400, who said that she was fourteen years younger than Elizabeth and that they were thirty-three and nineteen respectively. Philippa died on 13 July 1420, leaving her son John Passele as her heir; he was said to be twenty-two in her IPM of November 1420, so, if this estimate is accurate (which of course it might not be), he was born sometime between November 1397 and November 1398. Philippa married firstly Robert Passele and secondly William Swynbourne or Swinborne, and as well as her son John Passele, she had a daughter, Anne Passele. I haven't been able to find the date of Robert Passele's death, but Philippa was already married to her second husband William Swynbourne by 12 February 1407. William died on 22 May 1409, and as he had no children, his heir was his brother John, then aged about thirty. Philippa outlived her second husband by eleven years. [6]

- Alice Saint Aubyn, later de Vere, then Thorley, countess of Oxford, third daughter and fourth child, born in her father's manor of Colquite, Cornwall on 1 September 1384. We know her exact date and place of birth, because she proved her age in June 1400! Yay! Alice was said to be nine when her brother died in June 1396, though in fact she was eleven going on twelve, fourteen in January and March 1400 (actually fifteen), and fifteen in July/August 1400 (correctly). Alice Sergeaux married her first husband Guy Saint Aubyn between 20 September 1398 and 24 January 1400, when she was fourteen or fifteen. [7] He died childless sometime around 1405, and she subsequently married Richard de Vere, earl of Oxford, who was a year her junior, born on 15 August 1385. [8] Their eldest son John de Vere, earl of Oxford, was born at Hedingham Castle in Essex on 23 April 1408, and they had younger sons Robert and Richard as well. Alice was widowed on 15 February 1417, when Earl Richard died at the age of only thirty-one, and she married her third husband Sir Nicholas Thorley in or before October 1421. They wed without royal licence and Nicholas was imprisoned in the Tower of London, and were finally pardoned in December 1424. This would be the longest of her three marriages: Nicholas died on 5 May 1442, and Alice Sergeaux Saint Aubyn de Vere Thorley, dowager countess of Oxford, on 28 May 1452, in her mid-sixties. Her eldest son the earl of Oxford was beheaded ten years later. [9] 

- Joan Sergeaux, fourth daughter, fifth and youngest child, was probably born in 1392. She was therefore much younger than her siblings, young enough to be the child of her eldest sister Elizabeth (who gave birth in February 1393) and perhaps of Philippa as well. Joan was said to be four when her brother died in June 1396, seven in January 1400, and eight in March 1400. She died on 31 July 1400, and although Richard II had granted her marriage rights to her stepfather Sir John Cornwall in September 1398, John had not yet arranged her marriage. [10] After her death, the Sergeaux inheritance was shared out among Joan's three surviving older sisters. Had she lived into her teens, she, Elizabeth, Philippa and Alice would each have inherited a quarter of their late father's lands.

Philippa Arundel Sergeaux's first husband Sir Richard Sergeaux died on 30 September 1393, probably in London; he was certainly in London on 27 September, three days before his death. [11] She remained a widow for a few years, and sometime before 13 April 1398, probably not long before, married her second husband, Sir John Cornwall. [12] He was many years her junior, and might have been younger than her eldest children. Philippa's eldest grandchild Thomas Marny was already five years old when she married John, and given that she had borne her eldest child probably in the late 1360s or beginning of the 1370s (though her youngest child was only six in 1398), she might have passed beyond childbearing age when she married her second husband. Certainly she and John Cornwall had no children together. John Cornwall was himself of Cornish birth and was descended from Sir Richard Cornwall (d. 1296/97), illegitimate son of Richard, earl of Cornwall (d. 1272), younger son of King John and brother of Henry III.

John Cornwall became a household knight of Richard II in late 1396 or not long before, and accompanied Richard to Ireland in the summer of 1399, but switched his allegiance to Henry of Lancaster when Henry returned to England that year to claim his confiscated inheritance. [13John was also said to be 'sailing beyond seas' in July 1398 and February 1399, so it hardly seems likely that he and Philippa had much chance to spend time together during their brief marriage. [14]

Philippa Arundel Sergeaux Cornwall died on 13 September 1399, probably in her late forties or so. [15] Her inqusition post mortem was held in January and July 1400, and her heirs were her four daughters, her only son having already died in 1396, though her youngest child Joan Sergeaux only outlived her by a few months. Philippa's widower Sir John Cornwall made a brilliant second marriage in 1400 when he wed Elizabeth of Lancaster, dowager countess of Huntingdon, sister of King Henry IV and of Philippa, queen of Portugal, half-sister of Catalina, queen of Castile and Leon. Elizabeth (1363-1425) was the mother of John's two legitimate children, John and Constance Cornwall. Sir John Cornwall, made Baron Fanhope by Elizabeth's great-nephew Henry VI, finally died in late 1443, having fathered two illegitimate sons as well. He was one of the greatest and most renowned English warriors of the fifteenth century.


1) CPR 1361-4, pp. 65, 528.
2) See CFR 1391-9, pp. 105-6.
3) CIPM 1392-9, nos. 421-2, 1093; CIPM 1399-1405, nos. 35-6.
4) CIPM 1392-9, no. 1093; CIPM 1399-1405, nos. 31-8; CIPM 1413-18, nos. 190-94.
5) CIPM 1418-22, nos. 764-8; CIPM 1422-27, nos. 13, 257-8, 364.
6) CIPM 1392-9, no. 1093; CIPM 1399-1405, nos. 31-8; CIPM 1418-22, nos. 443-6; CIPM 1422-27, no. 416.
7) CFR 1391-9, p. 291; TNA SC 8/213/10650; CIPM 1399-1405, nos. 31-8, 312.
8) CIPM 1399-1405, nos. 190-204.
9) CIPM 1413-18, nos. 633-54; CIPM 1422-27, no. 416; CIPM 1427-32, no. 310; CIPM 1437-42, nos. 536-7; CPR 1422-29, p. 422; Complete Peerage, vol. 10, p. 236.
10) CIPM 1392-9, no. 1093; CIPM 1399-1405, nos. 31-8; CFR 1391-9, p. 291.
11) CCR 1392-6, p. 231.
12) CFR 1391-9, p. 254.
13) CPR 1396-9, pp. 64, 91, 187, 516, 550, 559; CCR 1396-9, p. 268.
14) CCR 1396-9, pp. 321, 371.
15) CIPM 1399-1405, nos. 31-8.

16 May, 2020

The Three Daughters of Edmund Arundel and Sybil Montacute

I've written before about Sir Edmund Arundel, grandson of Hugh Despenser the Younger, only child of Richard, earl of Arundel (c. 1313-76) and his first wife, Edward I's great-granddaughter Isabella Despenser (c. 1312-after 1356). Edmund was made illegitimate on the annulment of his parents' marriage in late 1344. His date of birth isn't recorded, but according to the pope he was eighteen in late 1344 and twenty in early 1347, and would therefore seem to have been born before the end of 1326 when his parents were only at the start of their teens. [1] It's possible that he had already been born when both of his grandfathers, Hugh Despenser and Edmund, earl of Arundel, were executed a week apart in November 1326. Edmund Arundel was the much older half-brother of Joan, countess of Hereford, Essex and Northampton (d. 1419), Richard, earl of Arundel (executed 1397), Alice, countess of Kent (d. 1416), John, marshal of England (drowned 1379), and Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury (d. 1414).

At an unknown date, Edmund married Sybil Montacute, daughter of William Montacute, earl of Salisbury (1301-44) and Katherine Grandisson. Sybil's brother William, earl of Salisbury was born in June 1328, her sister Elizabeth married firstly Giles, Lord Badlesmere (1314-38), secondly Hugh, Lord Despenser (1308/9-49) and thirdly Sir Guy Bryan (d. 1390), and another sister, Philippa, married Roger Mortimer, second earl of March (1328-60). It seems highly likely that Edmund Arundel and Sybil Montacute married before he was made illegitimate in late 1344, because after the annulment he was no longer his father's heir and would not inherit the earldom of Arundel and his father's lands. The earl of Salisbury hardly seems likely to agree to one of his daughters marrying an illegitimate knight who would not inherit anything - though of course Salisbury was killed jousting in early 1344, and perhaps Sybil's marriage to Edmund was arranged after his death when he was no longer around to take care of her welfare. I haven't been able to find the date of Sybil Montacute's death, even though she was the sister of the earl of Salisbury and the countess of March and hence was pretty well-connected. Edmund Arundel was still active in February 1381, in his fifties, and appointed attorneys to act for him when he went to Gascony on a military expedition. He was dead by February 1382, when his two surviving daughters and his grandson from his other daughter were involved in a legal case (see here and here).

Whenever they married, Edmund and Sybil had three daughters, Katherine, Philippa, and Elizabeth Arundel. I assume that Katherine was named in honour of her maternal grandmother, Katherine Grandisson Montacute, countess of Salisbury; I assume Elizabeth was named in honour of her aunt, Lady Badlesmere and Despenser; and I assume Philippa was named either after her aunt the countess of March or after the queen, Philippa of Hainault. The three Arundel sisters were granddaughters of the earls of Salisbury and Arundel; their uncle was the long-lived earl of Salisbury who died in 1397 when he was close to seventy, and their other (half-)uncles included the earl of Arundel executed by Richard II in 1397 and the famous archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Arundel. They were also first cousins of Edmund Mortimer, third earl of March (1352-81), and had numerous other important first cousins via their father's younger half-siblings. Although the three Arundel sisters married further down the social scale than their relatives because of their father's illegitimacy, one of Edmund and Sybil's granddaughters, Alice Sergeaux (1384-1452), became countess of Oxford by her second marriage and was the mother of John de Vere, earl of Oxford (1408-62).

It's difficult to ascertain the Arundel sisters' dates of birth or their birth order, but it seems that all three became mothers in the 1360s. Elizabeth married firstly Sir Leonard Carew, who was born in Stoke Fleming, Devon on 23 April 1342 and died on 9 October 1369, and their son and heir Thomas Carew was either one or two years old in April 1370, therefore was born sometime at the end of the 1360s not long before his father's death. She married secondly Sir John Meriet of Somerset, who was born on 24 March 1346. [2] The eldest of Philippa Arundel's five Sergeaux children was perhaps born c. 1367, and by 1370 at the latest. [3] Katherine Arundel's son Robert Deincourt or Deyncourt or Dancourt or Daynecourt, named after his father, was seemingly born around 1362/64; he was said to be either twenty-six or twenty-eight years old in early 1391. The rights to Robert's marriage passed to John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, who gave them to his mistress Katherine Swynford to use for her daughter Blanche Swynford at the start of 1375 (though for some reason Robert and Blanche never married). [4]

Given that Philippa and Elizabeth became mothers around 1367/69, and that Philippa's eldest grandchild was born in February 1393, they can hardly have been born later than the early 1350s, and if her son's date of birth of c. 1362/64 as stated in 1391 is correct, Katherine was surely the eldest Arundel daughter and must have been born in the mid or late 1340s. Philippa Arundel is the best known of the three daughters, and I'll discuss her and her children, and her two marriages, in the next post.
Elizabeth Arundel was widowed when Leonard Carew or Carru or Carreu or Carrewe (eldest son and heir of John Carew, d. 1362) died on 9 October 1369 at the age of only twenty-seven, leaving their infant son Thomas as his heir. Thomas Carew lived until 1431 and left a son and heir, Nicholas, and the line continued; the Carews became earls of Totnes in the seventeenth century[5] Probably in 1373, Elizabeth married her second husband, Sir John Meriet of Somerset, born on 24 March 1346 as the son of John Meriet Senior and Eleanor Beauchamp, daughter of John Beauchamp of Hatch. John Meriet Junior died on 26 July 1391, and it was found that his heir was his daughter Elizabeth, who had turned four around 13 December 1390 and hence was born in December 1386, and despite her youth was already married to the oddly-named Urry Seymour. John had married secondly a woman named Maud, the widow of Ralph Seymour, who apparently was his daughter Elizabeth's mother, even though the little girl shared a name with her father's first wife. Elizabeth Arundel Carew Meriet was still alive in Michaelmas term 1385, and must have died before March 1386 when her widower John Meriet - with what seems like undue haste - conceived a daughter with his second wife Maud. [6

As for Katherine Arundel, I'm confused about the family she married into, the Deincourts, and how members of the family were related to whom. Sir John Deincourt, uncle of Katherine's son Robert Deincourt, worked in John of Gaunt's household for many years, and his son and heir Roger Deincourt was born in May 1377 in Gaunt's castle of Kenilworth. [7] The records of Richard II's reign are full of stuff like the following, and my brain just waves a white flag and gives up. I'm not even sure whom Robert Deincourt ended up marrying after he failed to marry Blanche Swynford as planned, and when he died.

Katherine Arundel Deincourt was already dead by February 1382 when her son Robert Deincourt and her sisters Philippa and Elizabeth were involved in a legal case (see above for links). Philippa Arundel Sergeaux Cornwall was the last living of the three daughters of Edmund Arundel and Sybil Montacute, and died on 13 September 1399; I'll write about her in the next post.


1) Calendar of Papal Letters 1342-62, p. 254.
2) B.W. Greenfield, 'Meriet of Meriet and of Hestercombe', part 2, Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society Proceedings, vol. 28 (1882), pp. 99-215 (at pp. 154, 160-3); CIPM 1361-5, no. 613; CIPM 1365-9, nos. 269, 436.
3) CIPM 1392-9, nos. 421-3, 1093; CIPM 1399-1405, nos. 31-8.
4) CIPM 1384-92, nos. 847-50; John of Gaunt's Register 1371-75, nos. 181, 1607.
5) CIPM 1361-5, nos. 300, 613; CIPM 1365-9, no. 436; CIPM 1427-32, nos. 526-8.
6) CIPM 1365-9, no. 269; CIPM 1392-9, no. 98; Greenfield, 'Meriet of Meriet', pp. 154, 158, 160; Feet of Fines for Devon, CP 25/1/44/62, no. 17 and CP 25/1/44/64, no. 62.
7) CIPM 1399-1405, no. 313.