15 May, 2006

Edward II's brothers and sisters (2)

Second and final part of my post on Edward II's numerous siblings! :) The first part is here.

Margaret (March 1275 - c. 1333)

Nine years older than her brother, Margaret was married to John II, Duke of Brabant, at Westminster Abbey in the summer of 1290. She was fifteen, and John a few months younger, born in September 1275. John lived in the same household as Margaret's cousins Thomas and Henry of Lancaster - sons of Edward I's brother Edmund - at least in the years 1292-93. A roll of John's expenses still exists for this year, full of items about horses, falcons, minstrels and games.
Margaret and John lived in England until 1297, when they were 22. Only one child was born of the marriage: Duke John III, born 1300, who married Marie of Evreux, niece of Philip IV of France. John II died in 1312. Margaret lived until about 1333, in her late fifties (it used to be said that she died in 1318, but this seems to be incorrect). Although she attended her brother Edward II's wedding to Isabella in Boulogne in January 1308, she doesn't seem to have ever visited England again. She's the most obscure of Edward's sisters, and I'm afraid I don't know anything else about her!

Mary (March 1279 - May 1332)

Five years older than Edward II. Mary was veiled as a nun at Amesbury at the very young age of six in 1285. Amesbury was extremely fashionable for royal women at this time, thanks to Mary's grandmother Eleanor of Provence, widow of Henry III, who took the veil there and apparently wished Mary to accompany her. Unfortunately for Mary, she had no vocation whatsoever, and seems to have spent almost as much time travelling and at her brother's court as she did at the priory.

Edward II's Wardrobe accounts are full of presents that he had sent to Mary, indicating perhaps that they had a close relationship. For example, "To the Lady Maria the king's sister, and nun at Amesbury, of the king's gift, being the price of fifteen pieces of tapestry, with divers coats of arms.....given to the Lady Mary on her departure from the court home, 26l 13s 4d."

Edward also paid Mary's many gambling debts. At Amesbury, she had her own pantry and many servants, slept in an enormous bed with satin hangings, and often went hunting with her own hunting dogs and horses! In the spring of 1317, Edward II paid the enormous expenses of Mary's pilgrimage to Canterbury in the company of her niece Elizabeth de Clare, newly married to Edward's favourite Roger Damory, and Isabel, daughter of Henry of Lancaster and niece of the earl of Lancaster and the younger Despenser. Isabel would later be Prioress of Amesbury, though her vocation was as about as strong as Mary's, and she also enjoyed hunting.

Mary was the only one of Edward's sisters still alive and in England at the time of his deposition in 1327. Her opinions are, sadly, urecorded. She died in 1332 at the age of fifty-three.

Elizabeth (August 1282 - May 1316)

Only twenty months older than her brother, and therefore no doubt the closest to him in their childhood. Elizabeth was married in February 1297, at the age of fourteen and a half, to John, Count of Holland, who was born in 1284 and who grew up at Edward I's court. I've seen a letter (online) from him to Edward I in 1298 or 1299, begging him to allow Elizabeth to leave England and live in Holland as her people were keen to see her, but I've been unable to find it again. I don't know if Elizabeth ever left England, as John died in 1299 at the age of fifteen.

Elizabeth - childless from her first marriage, understandably - was married again in November 1302 to Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford, born 1276. They had six children who survived into adulthood:
1) Eleanor, countess of Ormond, born 1304
2) John, earl of Hereford, born 1306
3) Humphrey, earl of Hereford, born about 1309
4) Margaret, countess of Devon, born 1311
5) William, earl of Northampton, born about 1312
6) Edward, born about 1312 and died 1334 (William's twin)

They also had a son with the very unusual name of Eneas, who died unmarried sometime after 1322, and several other children. Elizabeth died in 1316 at the age of thirty-three, giving birth to her 10th or 11th child Isabel, who did not survive.

Earl Humphrey was one of the men who had Edward's beloved Piers Gaveston killed in 1312, and although he was reconciled to the king in 1313, this must have been a tense period in Elizabeth's life.
The most famous fact about her concerns her father, who must once have ripped her coronet off her head during an argument and thrown it into the fire - an entry in his Wardrobe account states that he had to pay to replace the stones!

As for the relationship between Edward II and his five older sisters, they seem mostly to have been very good. Joan, Elizabeth and Mary were all very supportive of him when his father cut off his income after a huge row between them in 1305. (Eleanor was dead by then and Margaret was in Brabant). Joan lent him her seal to order goods, and all three invited their brother to stay with them. Elizabeth pleaded with their stepmother Marguerite to intercede with her husband on Edward's behalf.

Then there were Edward I's three children by his second wife Marguerite of France, half-sister of Philip IV. I've covered Thomas of Brotherton (born 1300) and Edmund of Woodstock (born 1301) in my post on the earls, but it's a little-known fact that there was also a daughter of this marriage: Eleanor, born in May 1306, a month before Edward I's 67th birthday. The little girl died in Amesbury Priory in 1311.

These children of Edward I's old age led to some interesting relationships:
his eldest grandchild Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester (born 1291) was fifteen years older than his aunt, little Eleanor.
His eldest great-grandchild Hugh le Despenser 'the Even Younger' (son of Eleanor de Clare and guess who) was born in 1308 or 1309. Only two or three years between the births of a child and a great-grandchild! :)


Anonymous said...

Thanks Alianore, interesting post! It's good to know Edward had a good relationship with his sisters - he needed the affection! BTW, because England seemed very bilingual at the time, were the girls ever known by different names - Marie, Marguerite, Jeanne etc?

Kathryn Warner said...

That's a very interesting question, Prince Lieven, your highness, your highness (Blackadder III....:)

Here are some names as I've seen them in documents of Edward II's time (modern spelling on left):

Edward - Edward
Margaret - Margarete
Isabella - Isabel, Isabelle
Joan - Johane
Eleanor - Alianore, Alianora, Alienora
Alice - Aleise
Hugh - usually Hugh, sometimes Hughe or Hue
John - Johan
William - William
Henry - Henri
Richard - Richard
Robert - Robert
Thomas - Thomas
Walter - Wauter, Wautier
Ralph - Rauf
Edmund - Edmon, Esmon
Piers - Pieres, Pierres
Humphrey - Hunfrai, Humfrei, Humfray

Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff, especially the many variations of Eleanor - none of them really close to the modern!

Gabriele Campbell said...

The modern German version is Leonore, thogh the name is quite rare.

I spell Henry's II wife 'Alienor' in Kings and Rebels, it sounds better than Eleanor to me. I kept the more familiar spelling of Henry to distinguish him from Henri Sinclair Baron Roslyn (the historically existant relation to the fictive Girart and Roderic de Sinclaire), and Duke Heinrich of Saxony.