03 May, 2006

Edward II's brothers and sisters (1)

It's difficult to state with any certainty exactly how many children Edward I (born 1239, died 1307) and Eleanor of Castile (born c. 1241, died 1290) had. They had about ten or twelve daughters, of whom only five survived into adulthood, and I'll look at two of them today. The daughters who didn't survive childhood are Katherine, Joan, Berengaria, and two or three daughters whose names are unknown . The ones who did survive are Eleanor, Joan of Acre, Margaret, Mary and Elizabeth.

Not many people realise that Edward II was the fourth son of his parents. His three elder brothers were:

John (July 1266 - August 1271). Very little is known about this boy who died at the age of five, in the lifetime of his grandfather Henry III, and was thus never heir to the throne. He died at the castle of Wallingford in the care of Richard of Cornwall, brother of Henry III.

Henry (May 1268 - October 1274). Henry is a bit less obscure, as some of the records of his household are still extant. He lived together with his sister Eleanor, born 1269 (see below) and their cousin John of Brittany, later earl of Richmond, born 1266. (John's mother Beatrice was the sister of Edward I). Always a sickly boy, it was probably no great surprise when Henry died in Guildford at the age of six.
The household accounts are quite fascinating for the details they reveal about him and medieval life in general. On Pentecost Eve, a gallon of wine was added to his bath, to strengthen him; he and Eleanor were given two partridges for their dinner, for a special treat; and he was bought a dozen gilded buttons for the saddle of his horse.

Alphonso (November 1273 - August 1284). Alphonso (named after his mother's brother, Alfonso X of Castile) was born in Bayonne and became heir to the throne of the death of his brother Henry, when he was eleven months old. Apparently it was a great shock when he died, at Windsor, at the age of ten. I think it's tragic that this death deprived England of its King Alphonso I.

Edward II was born in April 1284, so he was four months old when Alphonso died and he became heir to the throne. In contrast with his brothers, Edward was a healthy, sturdy child, who only once suffered a childhood illness, when he was nine (at least, as far as we know from the records). Edward was six years old when his mother Queen Eleanor died in 1290 (his sisters were twenty-one, eighteen, fifteen, eleven and eight) and he inherited her county of Ponthieu, as her only surviving son. I've often wondered how the knowledge of his three elder brothers affected him.

Today I'll look at the two eldest sisters of Edward II, and write a follow-up post about the other three shortly.

Eleanor (June 1269 - August 1298) was the eldest surviving daughter, a full fifteen years older than her brother Edward. She didn't marry until she was twenty-four, more than three years after the next two sisters in line were married and about ten years later than you'd expect of a noble woman in this period. (Edward I's granddaughters were married at about thirteen).

Eleanor was long betrothed to Alfonso III of Aragon, but for political reasons the marriage didn't take place, and he died in June 1291 in his mid-twenties. Finally, in September 1293, Eleanor married Henri III, count of Bar. They had two children: Edouard, count of Bar, born 1294/5, and Jeanne de Bar (or Joan of Bar), countess of Surrey, born 1295/6.
Eleanor died in August 1298. I don't know what she died of, but childbirth seems fairly likely, given that she was only twenty-nine. Count Henri died in 1302 and was succeeded by Edouard. Edward I brought his orphaned granddaughter Jeanne to live in England, and in May 1306 she was married to John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, although she was only ten or eleven at the time. (The marriage was disastrous.)

Joan of Acre (spring 1272 - April 1307). Twelve years older than her brother. Joan was born while her parents were on Crusade in the Holy Land, and was known as 'Joan of Acre' after her birthplace of Akko (Acre) to distinguish her from an earlier daughter of Edward I and Eleanor, also called Joan. She spent the first few years of her life in France with her maternal grandmother Jeanne de Dammartin, dowager queen of Castile and countess of Ponthieu in her own right. Joan went to England when Jeanne died in 1279.

Joan was betrothed to Hartman, the second son of Rudolph, king of Germany. Unfortunately, he drowned in 1281. She was married in April 1290, around her eighteenth birthday - also quite old for the time - to Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester (1243-1295) an important Marcher lord almost three decades her senior. They had four children in quick succession - I've covered their son Gilbert (1291-1314) in a previous post on the English earls, and I'll write about their three daughters in a future post. Joan's son Gilbert was the eldest grandchild of Edward I.

Gilbert died in December 1295. Some time after this, Joan secretly married Ralph de Monthermer, a knight in her household. Her father, who had hoped to marry her to the count of Savoy, was furious. Ralph was imprisoned for a while, but Edward I had to accept the inevitable and released him, even allowing him to hold the title of earl of Gloucester as long as Joan lived. Joan bore another four children to Ralph, and died in April 1307, I think giving birth to her ninth child. She was Edward II's favourite sister, and given the age difference, might have played a maternal role in his life.

There is a novel about Joan and Ralph, by Vanessa Alexander - a pseudonym of Paul Doherty.


Anonymous said...

Great post Alianore! I love to learn more about the more obscure princes and princesses of England! Imagine Alphonso had survived - there's an interesting what if!

I think you're right about Eleanor probably marrying so late because her father was devoted to her. Many kings like Edward I who appear harsh and distant had a special place in their hearts for their daughters, especially the eldest one - Henry VIII and George V for example.

pablo morgan said...

wonderful font of knowledge,glad I stumbled into here.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thank you, Pablo! I'm really glad you found the blog.

Anonymous said...

Did Edward also had sisters Juliana and Alice? Their names appear on the Wikipedia list of Edward I’s children.

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi Valentino! No, he didn't. Unfortunately, a lot of people in the 19th and 20th centuries got hopelessly confused with Edward I and Eleanor of Castile's children, confusion which is still being repeated today. 'Alice' was based on a 19th-century misunderstanding of the name of their son Alfonso. 'Juliana' was seemingly just plucked out of thin air. If you Google John Carmi Parsons, Eleanor's biographer, he's done a lot of work on Eleanor's children and their correct dates of birth, and some of it is online. Her eldest surviving daughter Eleanor, for example, was born in 1269, not 1264 as a lot of books and websites state, and Margaret was born in March 1275, not September 1275 as often stated (which is impossible as her sister Berengaria was born in May 1276).

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Kathryn, on such a warm welcome! I became interested in Edward after I became puzzled by Philip le Bel. I found what John Carmi Parsons said about Alice: “It is beyond question that the name "Alice" arose from a misreading of the name «Alphonso,» whether in a chronicle or some other source. The English always had a difficult time with this foreign name, and it underwent many spelling twists and turns.” (http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/GEN-MEDIEVAL/2003-05/1053900989) Also, on Foundation for Medieval Genealogy page: “A manuscript,maybe of Welsh origin and which names Henry VI at the end so can presumably be dated to his reign, names «...Alicia quæ moritur ætate XII an. et jacet apud Westmonasterium...» among the children of King Edward I.No other primary source record has been found of a daughter of the king named Alice.The age at death suggests that the entry may be an error for Alfonso (who is otherwise omitted from the list).” (http://fmg.ac/Projects/MedLands/ENGLAND,%20Kings%201066-1603.htm#EdwardIdied1307B) Poor Alfonso had such a lovely name, but maybe he would be forced to change it after coronation. I remember Edward VII had the first name Albert, but maybe because King of the UK needed more British name, he had dropped it.