04 March, 2006

Edward II and Roger Damory

This post is about a man few people have heard of, yet was a major influence at the English court between about 1315 and 1320: Sir Roger Damory. (Thanks to Prince Lieven for providing the inspiration for this post!)

Roger Damory began his career as a rather obscure knight of Oxfordshire. He was about the same age as Edward II, who was born in 1284: Damory's father Sir Robert died in 1285. The identity of Damory's mother is unknown. His elder brother Sir Richard was Sheriff of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, and later (1322-1325) the Steward of Edward II's household. It's possible that Roger Damory was knighted at the great ceremony of May 1306, when almost 300 young men were awarded the honour alongside the future Edward II (other men knighted at this ceremony were Hugh Despenser the Younger and Roger Mortimer, as well as numerous others destined to play a large role in Edward's reign.)

Roger Damory was in the retinue of Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, a nephew of Edward II who was killed at Bannockburn in June 1314. His bravery in the battle brought him to Edward's attention, and he was soon transferred to the royal retinue.
He was Edward's great 'favourite' between 1315 and 1318, until he was ousted from Edward's favour by Hugh Despenser the Younger. It's interesting to see Damory's rise to favour from the beginning of 1315, around the time Edward finally had Piers Gaveston's embalmed body buried, two and a half years after his death! Perhaps Piers' funeral had finally enabled Edward to draw a line under his past, though to be fair to Edward, it's obvious that he remembered Piers with great love and affection for the rest of his life. You can criticise Edward II for many things, but fickleness to those he loved was emphatically not one of his faults.

Edward's growing infatuation with Damory can be tracked from the extensive list of gifts, grants, wardships, lands etc, until by 1317 Damory was the most important man at court. He was married to Edward's niece Elizabeth de Clare in 1317 as a mark of Edward's great favour - Elizabeth, probably the richest woman in England after the queen, was one of the heirs of her brother the Earl of Gloucester's vast inheritance, and she also held many dower lands from her first two husbands John de Burgh and Theobald de Verdon. As her husband, Damory controlled all these lands.

There were two other men, Hugh Audley and William Montacute, who jostled for favour in this period (Audley was married to Piers' widow and Elizabeth de Clare's sister Margaret, probably the next richest woman in England), but Damory was dominant and had a powerful influence on Edward, even persuading Edward to attack the Earl of Lancaster at his stronghold of Pontefract in 1317 (fortunately, the Earl of Pembroke managed to talk Edward out of such a foolish, dangerous action). The great historian JRS Phillips has described Damory as malignant and dangerous, and in late 1317 the Earl of Pembroke and Lord Badlesmere forced him to sign an indenture with them, to curb his reckless and irresponsible influence on the king.

What's really fascinating about all this is that the so-called Middle Party of barons (Pembroke and Badlesmere and a few others) put Hugh Despenser the Younger next to the king (as chamberlain) in 1318, deliberately, to minimise the dangerous influence of Damory. Ironically of course, Hugh turned out to be far more dangerous than Damory or Piers, made himself the de facto ruler of England and became a hugely rich extortionist. From 1318 to 1320, Hugh worked himself into Edward's favour and then infatuation, and the gifts/grants etc to Damory decreased rapidly, until in 1321 he joined the rebellion against Edward and Hugh and was killed in 1322.
Hugh was about 30 in 1318, the barons must have known him all his life and thought they could trust him, and yet they obviously had no inkling what he was going to do - or they'd never have put him so near the king. This says to me that Hugh was incredibly clever, had hidden his true nature and aims for many years, and had schemed like holy hell. And the way he made Edward infatuated with him - although they'd known each other since boyhood and Edward had apparently either disliked him or been indifferent to him - is intriguing! It's such a shame that there's no proper biography of Hugh. Please, please somebody write one!

There's no way of knowing if Roger Damory was Edward II's lover or not, but it seems to me that Edward's infatuation with Roger was weaker than his feelings for Piers and Hugh Despenser - perhaps that's why most people have never heard of him. Roger, Hugh Audley and William Montacute were banished from court in 1318, and the key point is, Edward let them go. He fought hard to keep Piers with him, years later he refused to banish Hugh Despenser from court even to stop his wife and her lover invading, but he let Roger go. Roger and Hugh Audley repaid Edward's favour by rebelling against him and Hugh Despenser in 1321-22. Roger was killed fighting against Edward, and Hugh Audley was imprisoned until Isabella and Mortimer released him in 1326, saved from execution only by the pleas of his wife, Edward's niece. Although their actions appear at least partly understandable, Edward must have found their betrayal hard to bear.

I think Edward's list of favourites - Piers Gaveston, Roger Damory and Hugh Audley, then Hugh Despenser the Younger - proves that emotional reliance on, and infatuation with, men was an important part of his make-up. The only period when he was 'alone' from the age of about fourteen (when Piers entered his household) was June 1312 to circa January 1315, when he was mourning the loss of his beloved Piers. Presumably he was bisexual, but his intensely emotional relationships seem to have all been with men.


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for writing this Alianore! It's so interesting that Damory is pretty much ignored in favour of Piers and Hugh. Perhaps Edward's infatuation with him was entirely sexual - more a 'fling' than his other two major relationships with men. Also, since he had just buried Piers, is it possible it was something of a 'rebound' if that makes sense? Could Damory have reminded him of Piers in some way? By the way, did Damory and Elizabeth de Clare have any children?

Susan Higginbotham said...

It'd be interesting to know how Damory and Elizabeth got along--Edward II had to use very great persuasion to get Elizabeth to marry him.

Kathryn Warner said...

Interesting comments, Prince. What you say is really plausible. Elizabeth and Damory had 1 child, a daughter called Elizabeth who was born in May 1318, about a year after their wedding. (She married John, Lord Bardolf and had 2 children, I think.) I'd also love to be a fly on the wall at Damory and Elizabeth's castle! I've always assumed that she detested him, so I wonder what their married life was like?

Anonymous said...

I am fascinated by your extensive comments on Roger Damory. For some time I have been trying to make the connection between Roger Damory and the village of Damery in Gloucestershire, which once boasted a wooden castle.
There is some evidence to suggest that Damory had issue by someone other than than Elizabeth and the names Damory, Demery and Dimery are evident in the nearby village of Tortworth and the towns of Yate and Berkeley. As a Dimery myself, with West Country connections, it would be interesting to trace my line back to Sir Roger. I'm not sure, if your thoeries are correct, that he is an ancestor for whom I can feel any great sense of pride. Further details on the Baron Damory most welcome.

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi Martin - delighted you found my blog, and enjoyed the post on Roger! I'm fascinated by him myself, for some reason. I'd love to know more about him - who his mother was, for instance.

Do you know Frances Underhill's For Her Good Estate - a bio of Elizabeth? There's a fair bit of info about Roger there. (She rather harshly describes him as 'a grasping, reckless mediocrity with a petty crook's mentality'). Ian Mortimer's recent bio of Edward III, The Perfect King, contains quite a bit on Sir Richard Damory, Roger's elder brother, and most books on Edward II have some information on Roger (not too much, though)

That's really interesting that Roger may have had issue by someone other than Elizabeth. Can you tell me more about that?
I've often wondered if he was married before, given that he was well into his thirties at the time of his 1317 wedding to Elizabeth. The Underhill book mentions a boy/young man, also named Roger Damory, who was a ward in Elizabeth's household between 1331 and 1336. His identity is unclear, but it occurred to me that he could be a son of Roger by another woman.

As for Roger not being an ancestor to be proud of....I suppose he wasn't the nicest man you could meet! On the plus side, though, he was a brave and excellent soldier, and probably felt he had no choice but to rebel against Edward II!

There are quite a few more things I know about Roger, so if you're interested, please keep in touch.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for your comments. Is "For Her Good Estate" available in paperback? I can only find very expensive hardback copies listed.
According to the "dameryworld" website which looks into the name for ancestry purposes, Roger Damory had a son called Henry Damory of Tortworth. Tortworth is the village close by the Hamlet of Damery. Henry had a son called Walter and Damerys were established in Yate.
I don't really know the sources, but much of the above seems verifiable.
I am amazed that a Roger Damory turns up in the household of Elizabeth. He must surely be Roger's son by an earlier marriage. It would be too great a coincidence for Elizabeth to be responsible for a totally unrelated Roger Damory!
Mortimer's book on his namesake "The Greatest Traitor" mentions Roger Damory quite a lot. I will certainly try to get hold of a copy of "The Perfect King".
If you have any other details, particularly relating to any Gloucestershire connections/ homes etc. I'd be pleased to hear from you.

Kathryn Warner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I do know a little about Richard Damory, who seems to be an altogether more sensible, level headed, and more moderately ambitious older brother. Of course, this makes the impetuous and slightly sinister Roger, all the more interesting.
Roger, as you may know, openly turned against the king in an act known as "bannering" in a tournament in Dunstable. "Bannering" is an act of public defiance when a knight turns his banner away from his liege. It sounds like a risky business.
Roger was Lord of Usk and Sherriff of St. Briavels Castle in the Forest of Dean in the volatile borders of Wales. I have assumed that he would certainly want a retreat or bolt hole on the safe side of the Severn and Damery Castle near Tortworth might have been a good stopping off point. This, though, is pure conjecture, but in St. Briavels he did have a Gloucestershire home. I don't know if it is significant that both sites are within easy distance of Berkeley Castle. Perhaps you have a theory?
A Nicholas Damory was also Lord of the Manor of Westonbirt in South Gloucestershire in the early seventeenth century. After his death the Manor was sold on. His name is listed under Dimery/ Dymery in another document. I wonder if he was the last in line of the wealthy Damorys/ Dimerys? My own branch can be traced back to around 1700 in the Trowbridge area of Wiltshire, 20 miles south of the Damorys established in Yate etc. They were farm labourers and certainly not landed gentry. My Great Grandfather, spent much of his early life in the workhouse at Semington along with his family. I'd be very interested to know if Wiltshire features in any of your notes.

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi Martin.
Ooops. I knew Roger was Constable of St Briavels castle (from 1318 to 23 January 1322, when some of Edward's knights were commissioned to seize the castle, arrest any of Ed's enemies found there and detain their goods for the king's use) but somehow I thought St Briavels was on the south coast. *Blushes* In my defence, I'm from the Lake District, and unfamiliar with this part of England!

Yes, I knew about Roger's 'bannering' - it's mentioned here briefly, under 'Banner Displayed'. Interesting, and very risky, as you say. Around the same time, the younger Despenser begged the king not to unfurl his own banners against the baronial rebels.

I'm not sure that Damory's Gloucs possessions being near Berkeley Castle is significant - as Roger died in 1322 and Ed was imprisoned there in 1327. Ed took Berkeley castle in 1322, though, as part of his successful campaign against the Marchers.

As for a Wiltshire connection - thanks to his marriage to Elizabeth, Roger controlled the Wilts lands of Elizabeth's second husband Theobald de Verdon, which were part of her dower. I'm not aware of a stronger connection, except that Richard Damory was closely associated with the elder Despenser, who was a great landowner in Wilts.

Yup, Roger certainly is more sinister than his brother - and now that it seems likely he had another wife before Eliz, I'm even more interested in him!

Anonymous said...

St. Briavels is a fairly obscure castle. I certainly hadn't heard of it before researching the Damory connection, even though I live comparatively near the monument. The other facts you mention I didn't know, so thanks.
My point about Berkeley is that I was wondering whether there was a connection between Damory and the Berkeley dynasty (Is it the Fitzherbert's?). Were they in league together? This would certainly support my contention that Damory built the now defunct "Damery Castle" only three miles from Berkeley.
I look forward to reading further insights on your excellent site. Thanks again.

Kathryn Warner said...

Robert Fitzharding(e) was the first lord of Berkeley, in the reign of William the Conqueror. His descendants, however, always styled themselves 'de Berkeley'. Lord Berkeley around the year 1322 was Maurice, born c. 1271, who was imprisoned by Ed II in 1322 and died (in prison) in 1326. He was succeeded by his son Thomas, born c.1293, who married Roger Mortimer's eldest daughter Margaret.

Presumably, one reason for Ed II's incarceration at Berkeley in 1327 was because Mortimer knew he could trust his son-in-law. (Thomas Berkeley was eventually cleared by Parliament of complicity in Ed's death, and lived till 1361) The Mortimers and Berkeleys were closely connected.

According to The Greatest Traitor, Roger Damory attended the wedding of Mortimer's son Edmund in 1316. This seems much too early for Roger to be conspiring with the Berkeleys, given that he was high in royal favour at the time, but I've always been quite puzzled by Roger's presence at the wedding. I suppose Mortimer was still the king's ally at the time, and there was no reason for Roger not to be there, but it just seems odd. Later, Roger and the Berkeleys turned against Ed II, and were certainly close allies then.

Is it known when Damery Castle was built? Because if it was built much before 1321, that would be really interesting! Could be that Roger was 'hedging his bets' and planning a bolthole near his allies (friends?) at Berkeley!

You ask really good questions that make me think a lot! It's great. Thanks a lot for the compliment - glad you're enjoying the site.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the Gloucester records office couldn't help me on the derivation of the Damery village name. The castle is only evident, I believe, by markings in the ground, and seems to be near an earthwork. It was in a good position, on a hill, and with the Little Avon River in the valley below. I haven't found a date relating to the castle construction. The site is now close to the M5 and visible from the Michael Wood services.

Kathryn Warner said...

Good to know - I'll look out for it in a couple of months, when I go on my 'Edward II Pilgrimage' in Gloucestershire!

Anonymous said...

A recent discovery: Nicholas, Roger and William Damory were admitted as King's Scholars to Cambridge University in 1318. The document available from Ancestry.com suggests Roger might be the nephew of Baron Roger but makes no comment on the others. One was listed as "pour". Perhaps this was an excuse for funding them. If related to Roger Damory, they weren't poor. Possibly Roger's sons, sent away due to his commitments to his career and new wife?

Kathryn Warner said...

Many thanks for the new info, Martin! That's fascinating. Interesting especially that one was called 'pour', as Roger in 1318 was one of the richest men in England! I suppose Henry must have been his eldest son.

BTW, do you have a link for the ancestry.com document? I can't find it, but maybe I need to be registered.

Anonymous said...

I can't link Ancestry .com- you need to sign up. I think they are doing a free trial at the moment, which I have bbeen taking advantage of.

Anonymous said...

Roger Damory had daughters by his first marriage as well as Elizabeth by Elizabeth de Burgh( Clare). Medieval law of inheritance shows he had no son. He died of wounds not in battle or execution. He was captured at Burton on Trent.

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi Anonymous, thanks for the comment! You're right that Damory died of his wounds, although it's often, and incorrectly, reported that he was executed. He was found guilty of treason, but Edward II pardoned him, and he died several days later anyway.

Do you have any more information about his daughters from his first marriage, or even about his wife? That's fascinating!

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi Martin. I don't think For Her Good Estate is available in paperback. The cheapest copy I've seen lately is a used one on amazon.com, for $47.50 - about £25, which is around what I paid for my copy last year.

I enjoyed Ian Mortimer's The Greatest Traitor very much - extremely informative.

Thanks for the info on Henry! That's entirely new to me. I'll check out the website you mention. I'd love to know who the mother of Henry, and presumably the Roger Damory of the 1330s, was.

At the moment, I can't think of any connections Roger had with Gloucestershire, but I'll check through my books and notes and see if anything comes up. The only thing that occurs offhand is the de Clare inheritance - maybe Roger and Elizabeth inherited some properties there (though I think Eleanor and Hugh Despenser got most of the Gloucs manors). I can think of a few manors Roger held in the West Country and some castles where he was Constable, though not Gloucs specifically.

Do you know much about Roger's elder brother Richard? He had a son, also Richard, and a daughter Eleanor. Richard (Roger's brother) was one of the keepers of the peace in Oxfordshire as early as 1300, and Sheriff from 1308. He stayed loyal to Edward in 1320/21 when Roger rebelled, and was rewarded with the Stewardship of Edward's household. You can find some genealogical info on Richard's family online.

Finally, For Her Good Estate mentions a Nicholas Damory, relationship to Roger and Richard unknown, who was a major household official of Elizabeth's in the 1330s and beyond, and one of her confidants.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous;USA/New England/I was raised with a Damory family,and grew up and served in The US Marine Corps with a Willian & James Damory,who's father's name was William,I would assume that they are of the same Scottish Family as Roger or his older brother,Richards family,unless there is another Damory,but from what I read,if Ed II was that close,to have pardon him at the end of his life,than anything is possible,and most probably he did have other Children and or they where hidden away,as might have been the three which where mentioned who attended,Cambridge University,for some way,somehow they made their way to America,and they do love Tree work,building and defender's in a royal sense of the word,maybe a little daft,but aren't we all us Human Being's?We had been attracted to one another,
during Little League baseball,but who knows how the Spirit of God works,we both served Our Country during the V-Nam War,I happen to be,Irish-O'Brien & Roman Italian on my Father's side and 100%-Parisian French on my Mother's side-Samson!I did end up marrying his X wife and trying to raise his son,(something He had set-me-up-with)cunning yes,I did try my best to raise this man's son,but it seem's The Damory Boy had a mind all of his own,poor choice's at any age can change the direction of any life,seeing there are no actual photo's,I can also mention that on the Boy,(James' mother side of the family,he is directly related to Gov. William Bradford,of
New Plymoth Plantation/1620/Ma./USA
So you see in only a 300 year period these Families,as well as my own had all moved on to The New Land,America.
Just another perspective,that should also be taken into consider-
ation,ya see these people of Great Wealth and Majestry do not merley die at the road-side and that is the end of thier blood-line,I believe that they do all they can to save & protect what for generations have remained in the family of Human Life,call them the Strong if you will,but I'm quite sure that they work hard to carry on way after their demise!Mr. B. in Bristol,NH.(13 Generations have passed since 1620,so I would estimate another 13 from 1320,so your talking Approx. 26 Generation's of the very same seed,the very same program,if you will,I find that so incredible,not the fact that we America's are only 232 old this year,excluding the time prior to 177/74 & Our Very Earlier Settlement's,Such as Plymouth,Rock,Ma.,we must look North along the Canadian Coast of Nova Scotia,where my relatives and many Scotch,Irish,English/& other Europeans settled,we are still all one people on Planet Earth!You'd think after as long as we have existed by now we would have learned how to all get along! Black,White or Other! Amen! ~ + ~

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Norman - good to know that there are still a few Damorys around!

Unknown said...


Ian Davis said...

I am yet another who has traced myself back to Henry Damery (Damory) d1365, Father of Walter Damerie? d1409, Grandfather of Robert Damory b1390.
I cannot get back further and have read just about everything I can find on Edward II, Roger Damory, Richard Damory, and looked in ancestry.co.uk.
Is there any proof that Roger had any chidren before he was given his 'trophy' wife Elizabeth De Clare.
Thanks Ian

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi Ian! Unfortunately I don't know of any proof that Roger had children before he married Eliz de Clare and had a daughter Elizabeth by her in May 1318. Elizabeth Damory was Roger's heir, so he certainly didn't have any legitimate sons. He may have had illegitimate children, of course.