05 March, 2006

Piers Gaveston and his daughters Joan and Amie

NOTE: there's a much longer essay on Piers Gaveston here, and a much shorter one here.

Edward's great favourite Piers Gaveston fathered a daughter, Joan, by his wife Margaret de Clare (Edward II's niece). She was born in York in the second week of January 1312, after Piers had returned illegally from his third exile, presumably anxious about his wife and keen to see his child. Edward spent forty pounds (in modern money, hundreds of thousands of pounds) on the week-long celebration of Joan's birth in February, after Margaret's churching. Joan was only 5 months old when her father was killed.

(By the way, if Queen Isabella's first pregnancy was full-term, the future Edward III was conceived at the time of this celebration, which is one of my Favourite Facts Ever.)

The nature of Piers' and Margaret's relationship can only be a matter of speculation. They married on 1 November 1307, in the presence of the king, a few months after Piers had been created earl of Cornwall. Margaret's date of birth is unfortunately unknown, but her elder sister Eleanor was born in October 1292 and her younger sister Elizabeth in September 1295, placing Margaret's birth in late 1293 or sometime in 1294. Therefore, she was either just 14 or (more likely) 13 when she married Piers. His birthdate is also unknown, but is presumed to be about 1283, so he was about 24 at the time of his wedding.

Many people assume that Margaret 'must' have hated Piers because of his relationship with her uncle, but on the other hand, she might equally have adored him, whatever she thought was happening between her husband and uncle. As a granddaughter and niece of kings, she would have grown up in the knowledge that her marriage would be used to make or cement a political alliance, and wouldn't be a love match. Piers was fairly young, and by all accounts handsome, witty, charming and athletic (he was a star jouster), so she might easily have been dazzled by him, and at least by marrying him, she could stay in England.
She might have been angry that she was being disparaged by marrying a humble Gascon knight, but then again he was earl of Cornwall, and Edward made him one of the richest men in England. It's notable that she accompanied him to Ireland during his exile, 1308-1309, although she didn't have to - nobody would have dreamed of exiling her, the sister of the earl of Gloucester.

They only had one child that we know of, but that doesn't prove anything about how often they did or didn't sleep together. As Margaret was so young when they married, Piers may have waited a year or two to consummate the marriage. Maybe she had miscarriages. It's also important to note that Margaret only had one child by her second husband Hugh Audley too, so probably she was sub-fertile.

Joan grew up, according to her late father's wishes, at the priory of Amesbury in Wiltshire. This is often portrayed these days as shunting the daughter of a dead embarrassment into an obscure convent, out of sight out of mind, in a Victorian kind of way. Nothing could be further from the truth - Amesbury was extremely fashionable at this time, after Eleanor of Provence (widow of Henry III and Edward II's grandmother) took the veil there in 1284. Edward's sister Mary (born 1279) was a nun there, as was his niece Joan de Monthermer, and the future prioress was Isabella of Lancaster, niece of the earl of Lancaster and Hugh Despenser the Younger. Other royal women were educated there, including Eleanor de Bohun, another niece of Edward II who later married the earl of Ormonde, and possibly others too. It was a privilege to grow up at Amesbury, not a punishment or an embarrassment.

Joan died in January 1325, around the time of her 13th birthday, still unmarried, although Edward II had arranged a very prestigious marriage for her with John de Multon (born 1308), son of Lord Egremont and eldest grandson of the Earl of Ulster. Thomas's aunt Elizabeth was queen of Scotland and another aunt, Matilda, was the widow of the Earl of Gloucester (Margaret de Clare's brother). Thomas was therefore first cousin to the future Earl of Ulster William de Burgh, and also first cousin to the future Earls of Louth, Kildare, and Desmond, as well as first cousin to the children of Robert, King of Scotland, by his second wife.

Edward II paid Joan an extremely generous allowance of a hundred marks or 66 pounds a year, at a time when 40 pounds was the minimum qualification for knighthood. Even if he didn't have time to see her very often, he didn't forget about his favourite's child. (Edward was very generous after Piers' death, giving Margaret a huge allowance and taking her into his own household, as he also did many of Piers' servants.)

Piers also fathered an illegitimate daughter called Amie, mentioned in a document of the 1330s when she married John de Driby. She is described as the daughter of Piers Gaveston, and was apparently a damsel in the household of Queen Philippa, wife of Edward III. As with Edward II's illegitimate son, the mother of Amie is unknown, as is Amie's (even approximate) birth date. Amie has descendants alive today.

There was a huge amount of debate on Amie online, several years ago. Anyone interested in Piers' daughter should try googling 'Amie Gaveston' or 'Amie de Gaveston'' (with Amy and Gavaston as occasional alternative spellings). Bizarrely, it was postulated that Amie was the illegitimate daughter of Margaret de Clare, not Piers! There was also a theory that the 'Piers Gaveston' mentioned was not THE Gaveston, but another one. It's possible, but as there's no evidence at all of another Piers Gaveston, it seems a bit of a strange argument to me. Another very silly theory was that Joan was not Piers' daughter either, but fathered by Some Other Man (a similar argument to the 'paternity of Edward III' nonsense). Edward's expensive celebration of Joan's birth was explained away as Edward's wish to protect Piers from the public humiliation of being cuckolded. Honestly, I don't know where people get these ideas from.
There seems to be no reason at all why Piers couldn't have fathered children, so searching for ways in which Amie and Joan might not have been his children strikes me as silly and pointless.

The most recent biography (2003) of Edward II, by Roy Martin Haines, states that Piers Gaveston had a sister called Amie, who was with him during the siege of Scarborough in 1312. Given medieval naming methods, this makes it 99% certain that Amie was indeed Piers' daughter. Likewise, if we could find a woman connected to Edward II with a father or brother called Adam, we'd almost certainly discover the identity of Adam's mother.


Susan Higginbotham said...

It's irritating how many historians assume that Margaret must have been miserable in her marriage with Gaveston or even maltreated by him; Fryde, for instance, refers to her as "tragically" married to Gaveston.

And Alison Weir in her biography of Isabella follows the strange notion that Amie was Margaret's eldest child!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Alianore. There's some interesting comments there about Margaret and Piers' marriage. I mean, something obviously attracted Edward to Piers, so is it so unreasonable to believe that he was a nice enough character for his wife to like him to? How silly that people refuse to believe it.

Gabriele Campbell said...

What a fascinating period. And a very educational blog.

Besides the Romans in Britain, I deal with the 12th century mostly, thus I don't know all those details about Edward II. I've read up on your archives by now as well.

Gabriele Campbell said...

12th and 13th century

*makes note to self to first read posts and then hit Publish*

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi Gabriele - glad that you're interested in the blog! I know quite a bit about the 13th century, but not so much about the 12th.

I think Piers Gaveston was a very vivid personality, whom people tended to either love or hate, and I don't see why Margaret couldn't have adored him. I really do think that the fact she followed him into exile in 1308, having no idea at the time when they'd be allowed back to England, is a strong argument that her feelings towards him were very positive. She could easily have stayed in England if she'd wanted to.

ilya said...

still here... and still nothing clever to add up to this LOL... but it is very interesting... i quite agree with you that every normal homosexual man can have children (we are in post brokeback mountain era already LOL) and, why not, even a somewhat healthy relationship with his wife (especially in a time when any other relationship was either considered unnatural or considered natural but demanded to be very discrete...). so why not children?

Gabriele Campbell said...

Yep, there's more than sex to make a good relationship: liking, mutual respect, the same interests - and that's something Piers and Margaret could have shared even in case their sex wasn't the best as long as it wasn't rape going on in the marriage bed. And I don't think it was. Who knows, if Piers was bi, not gay, they could even have had a lot of fun.

Kathryn Warner said...

I think one problem is the prevalent modern view of sexuality, where everybody - except for a few bisexuals - is seen as either totally gay or totally straight. People assume that Piers must have been totally gay, so they think he couldn't have managed intercourse with women and been able to father children. (I've seen a few comments like this online, in connection with the 'Amie Gaveston was the daughter of Margaret, not Piers' silliness.)

I find it much more helpful to think of sexuality as a spectrum, with Edward and Piers perhaps much closer to the homosexual end but still capable of enjoying sexual relations with women. It's also worth remembering that the modern view of sexuality is just that, modern. Edward and Piers, or anybody else, couldn't have thought of themselves as 'homosexual' because such a definition didn't exist back then.

Kathryn Warner said...

Oooh, cross-post! Hi Gabriele - love that last comment! :)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gabriele Campbell said...

Hm, seems you have to turn the word verification on. You just caught a little spam troll bot. :-)

Anonymous said...

Well said guys. Now, a much more irrelevant question (sorry!): was Amy/Amie an unusual medieval name? The only other famous 'Amy' I can think of in terms of royal history is Amy Dudley, wife of Elizabeth I's favourite Leicester.

Kathryn Warner said...

Ooh, good question! I can't think of any other women called Amie/Amy in the Middle Ages. I wonder if Amicia was the same name, but the Latinised version? Anyway, because it seems such an unusual name, it seems to stretch credibility to the limits to suggest that Piers Gaveston's sister, and the woman later identified as his daughter, only had the same name by coincidence.

Carla said...

If this is any help, my Oxford Dictionary of English Christian names says that Amice/Amicia/Amisia was an independent name that was often confused with Amy/Amia/Amata but was not the same name. It says that Amice was very popular in the 12th-15th centuries, and that Amy became popular from the 1270s onwards because of a 13th-century St Amata of Bologna. Apparently Amy derives from French aimee (loved) and the origin of Amice is unknown.
On-topic for once (I feel suitably chastised :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks guys! Maybe it wasn't that uncommon then - Anne Boleyn had an aunt called Amata, I think.

Kathryn Warner said...

Hehe, no chastisement intended, Carla. That's really interesting about the names.

Anonymous said...

re: Amie's parentage, the evidence one way or the other is rather questionable. What is certain is she was NOT the daughter of Piers AND Margaret, or she would've been legitimate and thus their heir after Joan's death. She is named in a fine of 1334 as "filie de Petrus de Gavesto". But studying the chronology, Amie would seem to be too YOUNG to be a daughter of Piers at all. The cutoff date for the birth of any child of his would be nine months past his death in June 1312. Amie first appears as a married woman in 1338. She disappears from the records after 1340. She and John Driby's daughter Alice went on to bear children well into the 1380s. Even assuming Amie was born in 1313, and that Alice was born in the 1340s, that's some long chronology there to make it work. This chronology makes it almost certain she was not Piers' daughter by an earlier marriage, either (also, it would be odd if he hadn't enfeoffed some lands on a legitimate daughter), and if she was his biological daughter at all, she must've been a baby in 1312 or posthumous.

Amusingly enough, in 1332, the king granted Amie the manor of Woghfeld, which had been forfeited by Roger Mortimer!

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi Mip - thanks a lot for taking the time to post such an informative comment! I wrote this post ages ago, and I might edit it, as I've thought about it a lot more and have more info now.

Agree the chronology is a bit odd - though of course some women in the 14C did give birth well into their forties, it does give me pause for thought. I wonder if perhaps one of Piers' brothers had a son, named Piers after his uncle, and this Piers was the father of Amie? Maybe that works better chronogically.

I suppose I'm a little wary of saying that *another* Piers Gaveston was Amie's father, when there's (as yet) no documented evidence of another Piers. But who knows what might turn up in the records one day?!

One argument I found very implausible (from Google groups/Gen-Medieval some years back) was the notion that Amie was Margaret de Clare's illegit daughter - that seems to be stretching the evidence much too far.

Yes, I've heard about Amie being granted Roger's manor - funny!

Have you seen my longer post on Piers and his family? It's here: http://edwardthesecond.blogspot.com/2007/02/notorious-royal-favourite-piers.html

Anonymous said...

Yes, Amie has descendants as I am one of them. The issue of her parentage has been frustrating in my genealogical search. I hope that at some point we can determine once and for all who Amie's parents are.

Kathryn Warner said...

That would be great, wouldn't it? I don't really see though that there's any reason to doubt that Amie was Piers' daughter; even if she gave birth in the 1340s and her daughter gave birth in the 1380s, as Mip says, she was granted a manor for long service to Queen Philippa in 1332, so obviously can't have been a child then. No reason I can see why she can't have been born c. 1310 or 1312 and been Piers' daughter. If anyone provides evidence that there was another Piers Gaveston in England at the time, fair enough, but so far there isn't any.

Kevin said...

The fact still holds: there is no evidence of another Piers Gaveston.

Likewise, there is no evidence of the identity of the mother of Amie. This remains true today, despite some rather wild suppositions from researchers who should know better.

Amie de Gaveston is, quite simply, Piers' illegitimate child. I've not seen any evidence that points to her year of birth, but it must have been not far from 1310.

Medieval history and genealogy remains eternally interesting: just when you think there are no big discoveries left, you get a surprise. Mine was the recent discovery of Amie de Gaveston as an ancestress.

Some years ago, I documented a descent from Amie's legitimate half-sister, Margaret Audley.

Curiously enough, then, I have a descent from both Piers *and* his wife Margaret de Clare: but not from any children of their marriage.

Anonymous said...

Kevin, Margaret Audley was not the half-sister of Amie Gaveston. Margaret Audley was the half-sister of Amie's legitimate half-sister Joan; that is, both Joan de Gaveston and Margaret de Audley were the daughters of Margaret de Clare, by two different husbands--making them half-sisters. Amie, with the shared father of one and no maternal connection, was half-sister only to Joan.

Not too pedantic, I hope, but with so many misapprehensions or downright fibs about who is related to who and how, I felt the need to clarify that--and not even so much for Kevin's sake (I assume he mis-spoke), but for the sake of others who may come here seeking clarification on this subject.

Anonymous said...

Question here! You said in your post: "John de Multon (born 1308), son of Lord Egremont and eldest grandson of the Earl of Ulster. Thomas's aunt Elizabeth..." So you first mention "John" and then switch to "Thomas." So is Thomas the first name of Lord Egremont, i.e. John de Multon's father? Thanks!

Kathryn Warner said...

Ooops, that was an error :) I meant John's aunt, and yes, Thomas was his father.