28 January, 2007

Fourteenth-Century Noblewomen: Some Case Studies

I thought it might be really interesting to take a look at the lives of some fourteenth-century noblewomen - kind of 'snapshots' of their lives, how old they were when they married, gave birth, etc. The only condition is, they must have lived part of their lives in Edward II's reign, or be related to him in some way.
Today I'm looking at Joan and Isabella de Verdon, and Elizabeth Damory....plenty more to come! :)

Joan de Verdon, the niece of Roger Mortimer, was born on 9 August 1303, almost exactly a year after her parents' wedding on 29 July 1302. Her father, Theobald de Verdon, later Justiciar of Ireland, was born on 8 September 1278, and was therefore almost twenty-five when Joan, the eldest of his four daughters, was born.

Joan's mother was Maud Mortimer, daughter of Edmund Mortimer and Margaret de Fiennes - and sister of Roger. Her date of birth is unknown, but her parents married in September 1285, and her brother Roger was born on 25 April 1287. It's just possible that Maud was older than Roger, but the chronology is very tight, and it's much more likely that she was younger, born probably 1288 or 1289. This would make her thirteen or fourteen at marriage and about ten years younger than her husband. Maud died on 18 September 1312, aged about twenty-three or twenty-four.

Theobald married Edward II's niece, the widowed Elizabeth de Clare, in Bristol on 4 February 1316. This was an illicit marriage, without a royal licence, which was necessary for the marriage of wealthy widows. Theobald was thirty-seven, Elizabeth twenty. He died just under six months after the marriage, on 27 July 1316, not yet thirty-eight.

Joan de Verdon was nine years old when she lost her mother, and not quite thirteen when her father died. Theobald had been one of the king's tenants-in-chief, so the wardship and marriage rights of his under-age children passed to the king. Even if Maud Mortimer had still been alive, she would have had no say whatsoever in her daughter's marriage - a perfectly normal situation at the time. Shortly after Theobald's funeral, Edward II gave Joan's wardship and marriage rights to William Montacute, one of his great court favourites at the time. At this time, she probably went to live with the Montacutes, or possibly, she went to a convent for a few months.

On 28 April 1317, still aged thirteen, she was married to his son, John Montacute, at Windsor Castle, in the presence of King Edward II (her stepmother's sister Margaret de Clare married Hugh Audley at the same time, as I mentioned in my Margaret post). I can't find John's accurate date of birth; his brother, William Montacute the younger - the future close friend of Edward III and earl of Salisbury - was born in 1301. It's not clear if John was older or younger than William. Some websites gave his date of birth as 1299, but I'm not sure how accurate they are. Anyway, John was somewhere between thirteen and eighteen when he married Joan.

John died suddenly in the summer of 1317, only a few weeks after the wedding. Again, I can't find the exact date, only that he was 'dead by 14 August'. As Joan was born on 9 August 1303, she was widowed either just before or just after her fourteenth birthday. The poor kid.

On 28 February 1318, aged fourteen and a half, Joan de Verdon married for the second time. Her new husband was Thomas Furnivall, the son of Thomas Furnivall Sr and Joan Despenser, sister of Hugh Despenser the Elder. He was apparently born in 1296, which means his mother must have been over thirty when she gave birth to him, as her father Hugh Despenser the Even Elder died in 1265. Thomas Jr, who had three sisters, was in his early twenties at the time of his marriage to Joan de Verdon.

I don't know when Joan Despenser died, but on 8 June 1322, the widowed Thomas Furnivall Sr was pardoned for marrying without royal licence. His second wife Elizabeth de Montfort was the widow of Edward II's friend William Montacute Sr, who had died in Gascony in 1319...and the mother of John Montacute. Joan de Verdon's former mother-in-law was now her husband's stepmother. You couldn't make medieval family trees up, could you?!

Thomas Furnivall Jr was, apparently, not involved in the nefarious activities of his Despenser uncle and cousin, and survived Edward II's reign. He and Joan produced two children: their son and heir, also Thomas, inevitably, was born on 22 June 1322, when Joan was almost nineteen. Another son, William, was born on 23 August 1326; he eventually succeeded his childless elder brother as Lord Furnivall. A month after William's birth, Joan's uncle Roger Mortimer and his lover Queen Isabella invaded England.

Joan de Verdon died on 2 October 1334, at the age of thirty-one. Her husband outlived her by five years. Their sons died in 1365 and 1383. Joan's younger sisters, Elizabeth (born circa 1306) and Margery (born 10 August 1310) lived until 1360 and 1363, respectively.

EDIT: I've just seen an entry about Thomas Furnivall in the Patent Rolls, 3 March 1322:
Writ of aid directed to the men of the counties of York and Nottingham, for Thomas de Fournival, the younger, appointed to levy all the forces of Hallumshire to go against the king's rebels.

So apparently he stayed loyal to Edward II in 1322. I don't know if he took sides in 1326, though - having to choose between his cousin and his wife's uncle...

Isabella de Verdon, born in Amesbury Priory, Wiltshire, on or just before 21 March 1317, was the half-sister of Joan, Elizabeth and Margery de Verdon. Her mother, Elizabeth de Clare, was aged twenty-one at the time (born 16 September 1295). Her father Theobald died eight months before she was born.

An entry in Edward II's Wardrobe Accounts records her birth:

To Michael de Anne, valet of the Lady Maria, the King's sister, bringing to the King the news of the birth of a daughter of the Lady Elizabeth de Burgh [the name of Elizabeth's first husband], kinswoman of our Lord the King, of the King's gift, being the price of a cup silver-gilt, with stand and cover. Clarendon, 21st of March. 1 pound 10 shillings.

Theobald de Verdon's four daughters shared his inheritance equally; the law of primogeniture, 'the eldest son inherits everything', did not apply to women. Isabella's wardship and marriage rights belonged to her stepfather Roger Damory, as did her half-sister Margery's. After his rebellion in 1322, they were forfeit to the Crown, and eventually passed to Queen Isabella, after whom Isabella de Verdon was almost certainly named.

Isabella was married to Henry Ferrers, Lord of Groby in Leicestershire, in about 1328. Henry was much older, born sometime before 1304 - perhaps as early as the 1290s. (His father William was born in 1271.) Confusingly, Henry's paternal grandmother was Anne Despenser, sister of Hugh the Elder and Joan, mother of Thomas Furnivall, above. The Ferrers family had been earls of Derby from 1139 to 1266; Henry's great-grandfather Robert rebelled against Henry III, who awarded his lands and earldom to his second son Edmund. Henry's much younger sister, Anne, married Isabella de Verdon's cousin Edward Despenser in 1335; he was the son of Hugh the Younger, and the second cousin of Henry and Anne Ferrers.

Isabella gave birth to her first child in about February 1331; her mother sent gifts for her churching in March of this year. In February 1331, Isabella was not even fourteen years old. Unsurprisingly, the child did not survive, and I can't even find out if it was a boy or a girl. It's possible that the pregnancy didn't go full term.

Her second child, a son named William, was born on 28 February 1333 (he died in 1371, and married Margaret, the daughter of Robert Ufford, first earl of Suffolk). Isabella was almost sixteen.
She and Henry would have three more children who survived into adulthood:
- Ralph, who married Joan, the daughter of Richard de Grey, Lord of Codnor
- Philippa, who married Guy, the eldest son of Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, and grandson of Roger Mortimer. Guy would have succeeded as earl of Warwick, but he died in 1360, a few years before his father
- Elizabeth, who married David de Strathbogie, earl of Atholl.

Henry died on 15 September 1343; Isabella was widowed at the age of twenty-six. She died on 25 July 1349, almost certainly of the Black Death, which was raging through England at the time. She was thirty-two.

Elizabeth Damory was also the half-sister of Isabella de Verdon, only fourteen months younger, born shortly before 23 May 1318. Her parents Roger Damory and Elizabeth de Clare had married on or around 1 May 1317, only a few weeks after her mother gave birth to Isabella de Verdon. Edward II put huge pressure on his niece to marry Roger, currently his great favourite; he sent her a letter to this effect even before Theobald de Verdon's funeral. (No doubt he was furious with her for marrying Theobald without his permission.) Elizabeth's pregnancy (with Isabella de Verdon) merely delayed the inevitable.

Again, an entry in Edward II's Wardrobe Accounts records Elizabeth's birth:

To John de Pyrro, valet of Sir Roger Dammori, of the King's gift, for the news which he brought to our said lord the King, of the delivery of the Lady de Burgo, wife of him the said Roger. Westminster, 23rd of May. 20 pounds.

Notice the huge discrepancy between what Edward paid for news of the births of Isabella de Verdon (1 pound 10 shillings) and Elizabeth Damory, although they were both his great-nieces. This is a good indication of his feelings for Roger Damory, who would, however, soon lose his position as favourite, and ultimately rebel against the king.

Roger Damory and Elizabeth de Clare had no more children, although Elizabeth was only twenty-two. This might indicate an unhappy relationship, or that Elizabeth Damory's birth was a difficult one. Roger's date of birth is uncertain, but his father Sir Robert died in 1285, so Roger was well into his thirties by the time his daughter was born, probably born in the early 1280s and a little older than Edward II.

Elizabeth Damory was not yet four years old when her father died in rebellion against the king on 12 March 1322. Elizabeth de Clare was widowed for the third time, still only twenty-six. (She lived as a widow for almost forty years.)

Elizabeth Damory was very well-connected by birth: she was the first cousin once removed of Edward III, the half-sister of the earl of Ulster, and her niece Elizabeth de Burgh married Edward III's son Lionel. However, her potential to make a great marriage was severely limited by the fact that she wasn't an heiress. Roger had been a younger son, and the Damory lands - which weren't extensive, anyway - passed to Elizabeth's cousin Richard Damory. Besides, any lands Roger owned were forfeit to the Crown.

She was married to Sir John Bardolf, of the brilliantly-named Wormegay in Norfolk, in about 1327. John was born about 13 January 1313, so he wasn't too much older than Elizabeth. It wasn't a brilliant match, considering Elizabeth's family connections, but it kept her in the peerage at least.

The date of Elizabeth's marriage means that she was about nine at the time, but she remained with her mother for a few years. She and John had three children: Agnes, Isabel and William. The birthdates of her daughters are uncertain, sometime between 1337 and 1342. Her son William was born on 21 October 1349, when Elizabeth was the advanced age of thirty-one; her half-sister Isabella de Verdon died when Elizabeth was six months pregnant.

Elizabeth de Clare's 1355 will leaves some items to her Bardolf granddaughters: plate, beds and coverlets "in aid of their marriage". Isabel is called "ma joefne fille", 'my young daughter' and Elizabeth Damory is called "my daughter Bardolf". (Confusingly, Elizabeth de Clare's will doesn't distinguish between daughters and granddaughters.) Unfortunately, I've been unable to discover who Isabel and Agnes Bardolf married, or when they died. William Bardolf married Agnes Poynings and became a father in December 1369, at the age of twenty.

Elizabeth de Clare died on 4 November 1360 at the age of sixty-five. Elizabeth Damory Bardolf was the only one of her three children to outlive her, although the date of her death is uncertain. The Complete Peerage states that she died on 5 February 1361, but I haven't found any confirmation of that date so far. Every other source states only that she died 'before July 1363'. Sir John Bardolf went to Italy after his wife's death, where he died on 29 July 1363, and was buried in Assisi. Their son William died in 1386.

One of the modern-day descendants of Elizabeth and John was Walt Disney! :)

25 January, 2007

Happy 699th Wedding Anniversary!

...to Edward II and Queen Isabella, who married on Thursday 25 January 1308, at the church of Notre Dame in Boulogne.

The royal wedding was, naturally, a magnificent occasion. Edward, who had controversially made Piers Gaveston Keeper of the Realm, left England on Monday 22 January, from Dover. He arrived in Boulogne on the 24th, three days late; the Channel crossing in January was probably horrendous.

Edward's huge retinue was housed in canvas tents in and around the town. The king himself had lodgings near the church, which he shared with Isabella after the wedding - though it's extremely unlikely that the marriage was consummated, given Isabella's youth. She was almost certainly only twelve; Edward was twenty-three and nine months.

Excluding Edward himself, the nuptials were attended by seven kings and queens, and other notables -

Isabella's mother Jeanne, Queen of France and Navarre, had already died, almost three years earlier, but Isabella's father was present: Philippe le Bel, or Philip the Fair, forty this year and king of France since October 1285. He was currently engaged in the destruction of the Knights Templar; his enemy Bernard Saisset, Bishop of Pamiers, said of him "he is neither a man nor a beast, but a statue." His eldest son Louis was there, the future Louis X of France, at this time eighteen years old and King of Navarre, which he had inherited from his mother. Also present were Isabella's other brothers, Philip and Charles, also destined to be kings of France, and her younger brother Robert, who was ten or eleven, and died a few months later.

Also present:
- Charles II, King of Naples and Sicily, titular King of Jerusalem, known as 'the Lame'
- Albert of Hapsburg, King of the Romans, with his Queen Elisabeth of Tyrol. Albert died on 1 May of this year.
- Arch-Duke Leopold I of Austria, who was only seventeen; he was one of the seven sons of Albert and Elisabeth (they also had five daughters.)
- Marie of Brabant, Dowager Queen of France, widow of Philip III and stepmother of Philip IV
- her daughter Marguerite, Dowager Queen of England and stepmother of Edward II.
- Presumably, Marguerite brought her two sons, Thomas (aged seven) and Edmund (aged six), half-brothers of Edward II and cousins of Isabella.
- Queen Marie's son, Louis, Count of Evreux - half-brother of Philip IV
- Charles, Count of Valois. Philip IV's brother (they were the sons of Philip III by his first queen Isabella of Aragon).
- Queen Marie's nephew Duke Jan II of Brabant and his wife Margaret, who was one of Edward II's three surviving sisters.
- and finally, 'a whole host of European nobility'.

The royal couple must have looked absolutely superb. Isabella wore a gown and overtunic in blue and gold, and a red mantle lined with yellow sindon; fifty years later, she would be buried with this mantle. Edward wore a satin surcoat and cloak embroidered with jewels. Both wore crowns glittering with precious stones. Isabella's trousseau was equally impressive; she took to England with her seventy-two headdresses, 419 yards of linen, many furs, two gold crowns, tapestries, and numerous dishes, spoons and plates of gold and silver.

King Philip's wedding presents to Edward and Isabella included rings and other jewellery, a couch 'more beautiful than any other' and expensive warhorses. He also handed over Isabella's dowry of 18,000 pounds, which he had appropriated from the Templars.

Eight days of celebration and feasting followed the wedding ceremony, with the most magnificent feast of all taking place on the 28th. On the 30th, Edward hosted yet another great feast. All in all, it was a superbly lavish occasion, as befitted the wedding of the King of England and the King of France's daughter, but there were tensions and conflicts beneath the surface. Philip IV took the opportunity to present Edward with a list of his grievances concerning Gascony, which Edward ignored; apparently, he retaliated by sending all his and Isabella's wedding gifts to Piers Gaveston. While in France, a group of English nobles, including the earls of Pembroke, Lincoln, Surrey and Hereford - the latter two Edward's nephew by marriage and brother-in-law - put their seals to the Boulogne Agreement, which attempted to separate the two sides of kingship - the king as a person, and the Crown, and stated that the barons' loyalty was due to the Crown. This demonstrates the enormous concern over Edward's reliance on Piers Gaveston.

And Edward soon proved yet again that this concern was completely understandable. On 7 February, when the royal party arrived back in Dover, the king caused a huge scandal by ignoring Isabella and hugging and kissing Piers Gaveston in front of everybody. If Isabella had been unaware of Gaveston's existence and her new husband's relationship with him, she certainly wasn't any longer...

20 January, 2007

In which I'm too lazy to write a proper post on Edward II's deposition

I was intending to write a full-length and academic post about Edward II's deposition/abduction, which happened 680 years ago today, but I'm afraid I'm just not in the mood for sorting through articles and chronicles for events that are very confused and uncertain. ;) It's not even totally clear if Edward abdicated or was deposed.

Anyway, on 20 January 1327, a deputation visited Edward II at Kenilworth Castle and the forty-two-year-old soon-to-be-ex-king, allegedly weeping and fainting, agreed to renounce the throne in favour of his fourteen-year-old son. The parliament that decided to depose Edward and proclaim Edward III met a week earlier at Westminster, on 13 January.

And here's my favourite fact about it: the wonderfully-named Hamo Hethe, Bishop of Rochester 1319-1353 and a supporter of Edward II and the younger Despenser - though by no means an uncritical one - was beaten up for showing insufficient enthusiasm for Edward III. ;)

On 24 January it was announced that "Sir Edward, late king of England, has of his good will and common counsel and assent of the prelates, earls barons and other nobles, and commonalty of the realm, resigned the government of the realm, and granted and wills the government shall come to Edward his eldest son, and that he shall govern, reign and be crowned king."

Edward III's reign is duly held to have begun on 25 January 1327 - nineteen years to the day since his parents' wedding.

Anyone interested in these events should read the excellent accounts in Ian Mortimer's The Greatest Traitor, Alison Weir's Isabella: She-Wolf of France, Queen of England, Natalie Fryde's The Tyranny and Fall of Edward II and Roy Martin Haines' King Edward II.

However... I'm always in the mood for writing about the people who lived during Edward II's reign, so check out my post on his niece Margaret de Clare, below.

[WARNING: it ended up really long!]

19 January, 2007

Women of Edward II's reign, 3: The 'tragic' Margaret de Clare?

Part one of my series, on Margaret's sister Eleanor, is here, part two on Alice de Lacy is here.

Margaret de Clare was the second daughter and third child of Gilbert the Red, earl of Gloucester (1243-1295) and Joan of Acre (1272-1307). Her date of birth is not known, but her siblings were born in May 1291, October/November 1292 and September 1295. After the second child Eleanor was born, Joan would have been sexually 'off-limits' to Gilbert for forty days, until after the purification ceremony known as 'churching', so Margaret couldn't have been conceived until mid-November 1292 to mid-January 1293 at the earliest. Her earliest possible date of birth is thus around August 1293, and the latest around November 1294.
In my opinion, her likeliest date of birth is April or May 1294, which assumes a regular spacing between the Clare siblings. [Gilbert to Eleanor: 17 or 18 months. Eleanor to Margaret: 17 to 19 months. Margaret to Elizabeth: 16 or 17 months.]

Little is known about the childhood of the Clare sisters, until 1306/07. 1307 was an eventful year for Margaret; her mother Joan died on 23 April, and her grandfather Edward I on 7 July. On 1 November of the same year, Margaret's uncle Edward II married her to his great favourite, Piers Gaveston, the new earl of Cornwall, at Berkhamsted Castle. It's possible that she was fourteen, but I believe it's far more likely that she was only thirteen. Her sisters were thirteen at marriage, in May 1306 and September 1308 respectively.

Piers' date of birth isn't known either, but is assumed to be about 1281/83, which would make him 24 to 26 (Edward II was 23 in 1307). From a modern point of view, the marriage of an adolescent girl to a man more than a decade her senior, who was involved in an intense relationship with her uncle, seems callous, but of course nobody at the time complained about it on those grounds; only that the marriage disparaged Margaret, who was after all a king's granddaughter and whose marriage could have been more constructively used to make an alliance. Still, the marriage fulfilled Edward II's wish to bring his favourite into the royal family.

The marriage might have been part of an agreement between Edward II and his nephew, Margaret's brother Gilbert. Shortly after the wedding, Gilbert was given seisin of his earldom; as he was only sixteen, this was five years earlier than he could normally have expected. The reason is surely that King Edward - who was close to his nephew - needed allies, and Earl Gilbert was a far more powerful one than Gilbert the king's ward. Gilbert now had an income of 6000 pounds a year, second only to the earl of Lancaster, and Piers' income was also vast, thanks to Edward's great favour.

The wedding was a lavish affair. Edward gave the generous sum of 7 pounds, 10 shillings and sixpence in coins to be thrown over their heads at the church door. He also gave Margaret a palfrey worth £20, over £36 in gifts for her ladies-in-waiting, and £30 in jewels for the bride and groom.

Natalie Fryde's Tyranny and Fall of Edward II describes Margaret, without saying why, as "tragically married to Gaveston". Frances Underhill's (generally excellent) biography of Margaret's sister Elizabeth states that "Piers has been portrayed so unfavourably that it is easy to assume that his widow felt only relief [at his death], though perhaps she felt chagrin and shame at his execution."

Making assumptions about how people of 700 years ago 'must' have felt is always dangerous. I don't really see why we should assume that Margaret and Piers' marriage was unhappy, still less "tragic". Margaret, as a noblewoman, would have grown up with the knowledge that her marriage would be arranged and she would have no say in this. Given this, her attitude is likely to have been pragmatic. It's certainly possible that she detested Piers and resented her marriage to him. Possibly she felt disparaged that she, granddaughter of a king of England, should have to marry a member of the minor nobility of Gascony. Then again, maybe she adored him. Piers was certainly handsome, witty, charming when he chose to be, athletic and a great jouster. He had the kind of vivid personality that tended to either compellingly attract or repel people. I see him as a good-looking, cocky, swaggering young man - who might have been deeply attractive to a thirteen-year-old girl.

For all Piers' flaws, he wasn't a vicious or malevolent man, and there's no reason to assume that he treated Margaret badly. As for his relationship with her uncle, which was almost certainly sexual; who knows how she felt about it? Maybe she was revolted by it, maybe indifferent, maybe angry, maybe she closed her eyes to it. There's no evidence at all. Again, we shouldn't automatically assume the worst. Margaret was countess of Cornwall, one of the great ladies of the realm, and her husband was high in the king's favour; she may have thought that any extra-marital pleasures he enjoyed were his own business and a small price to pay for her exalted status. Medieval noblewomen probably expected their husbands to have affairs, and Margaret might have seen a homosexual affair as less of a threat than Piers' taking a mistress [although he may have done that too; he had an illegitimate daughter called Amie, date of birth unknown, perhaps conceived before his marriage.]

For reasons which I'll go into when I write a post on him, Piers was exiled to Ireland in June 1308. Apparently, Margaret accompanied him, which she didn't have to do. As she was the sister of the earl of Gloucester, nobody would have wanted to insult or demean her, and she wasn't included in Piers' exile. She evidently only went with him because she wanted to. In 1308, the exile was presumed to be permanent, which suggests that Margaret was happy enough to leave her home and family to be with her husband.

They returned in the summer of 1309, where Piers continued his best efforts to make the entire English nobility despise him and plot his downfall. In 1310/11, he and Edward were on campaign in Scotland; I mention this because it's at this time that Piers and Margaret conceived their only child, Joan.
The fact that they only have one child is usually taken as evidence that they didn't sleep together very often, because Piers was too taken up with Edward II. However, there are possible reasons why they only had one child. Margaret was almost certainly only thirteen at her marriage, so they might have waited a year or two before consummating it. She might have had miscarriages. And, as she also had only one child by her second husband, it's possible that she was sub-fertile.

There was a lot of sound and fury on Google Groups several years ago, stating that Piers couldn't have been the biological father of Margaret's child, because it was too dangerous to take her on campaign. However, it's been proved from Calendar Roll entries that Margaret did indeed accompany Piers to Berwick, where Edward II kept court; another niece, the countess of Surrey, was also there with her husband. From the dates, it appears that Margaret gave birth two or three weeks prematurely - understandable, given the stress she was under at the time of the birth - but there's no reason to doubt that Piers fathered her child.

In November 1311 Piers was exiled from England for the third time. Where he went is unclear, and possibly he never even left England - there were rumours he was in Cornwall. He returned in secret, sometime after Christmas 1311. Edward II collected Margaret from her castle at Wallingford - where Queen Isabella had sent her New Year presents - and took her north to York, where Piers joined them soon after. (This is my interpretation of events - the chronicles are very confused and contradictory). The reason for taking Margaret was presumably to stop her being taken as hostage by Piers' enemies, and because Piers wanted to see his wife and child. I assume that at least part of his reason for illegally returning to England was for the imminent birth of his heir.

Joan Gaveston was born in York around the 12 January, 1312. On 20 February, after Margaret's churching, Edward II threw a lavish celebration for the child, who was his great-niece, which ended up costing a knight's minimum annual income (£40) and lasting an entire week. Queen Isabella joined them a day or two after the party started. She and Edward II conceived Edward III around this time.

On 19 June 1312, disaster struck. Piers was run through with a sword and beheaded on the orders of several of the earls. How Margaret reacted to the news is unknown. I don't even know where she was at the time. Certainly, Edward II was enormously generous to her in widowhood. He awarded her an income of 2000 marks a year (1333 pounds), one of the largest incomes in England at the time, took her into his household, and paid all her expenses. Little Joan Gaveston grew up at Amesbury Priory, in accordance with Piers' wishes, apparently. (Amesbury was incredibly popular with royal women at the time, and was full of Joan's relatives.)

Margaret certainly spent much of her widowhood, maybe even all of it, in Edward II's household. Two years after Piers' execution (or murder, depending on how you look at it) her brother Earl Gilbert was killed at Bannockburn, and she and her two sisters became great heiresses. Edward needed to marry her to a man he trusted - allowing a great heiress to remain unmarried was unthinkable - and the man he chose was Hugh Audley, or d'Audley.

Hugh had been a household knight of Edward since November 1311, so it's possible that Margaret knew him reasonably well. His father Hugh Audley senior was Lord of Stratton Audley, and his mother was Isolde, or Iseult, Mortimer, who was either the much older half-sister of Roger, or his aunt. Hugh was therefore either Roger's nephew or his cousin. He wasn't much younger than Roger (born 1287), probably born between 1289 and 1293, and therefore close to Margaret's own age.

By 1315 or 1316, Hugh had worked his way into Edward's affections and was a court favourite. The exact nature of his relationship with Edward - whether it was sexual or not - is unknown, though it's certainly possible that both of Margaret's husbands were her uncle's lovers.

Margaret and Hugh were married at Windsor Castle on 28 April 1317, in the presence of the king. A few days later, her sister Elizabeth married another court favourite, Roger Damory. On the same day as Hugh and Margaret, Elizabeth's stepdaughter, thirteen-year-old Joan de Verdon, married John, son of yet another court favourite of the time, William Montacute.

"In oblations distributed in presence of our lord the King in his chapel in the park of Windsor for the nuptials of Sir Hugh de Audley, junior, and the countess of Cornwall, and those of John de Montacute and the daughter of Sir Theobald de Verdon, 13s 6d; and in oblations thrown over the heads of the said Sir Hugh and the said countess during the said nuptials, 3l" [from Edward II's Wardrobe Accounts. I love the repetition of 'said'!]

More is known about the details of their lives than about Margaret's life with Piers, thanks to the survival of one of their household accounts, from 1320. Therefore, we know that this year they had a household of 96 people, and 42 horses, including five sumpter-horses, eight cart-horses and two destriers named Ferant de Roma and Grisel le Kyng. Margaret had a coach pulled by five destriers. They bought 150 bowls in time for Easter, on 27 January 1320 they spent 15 pence on a fresh pig, their household consumed between ten and twenty gallons of cider every day from May onwards, and they bought three leather bags for the storage of flour. Margaret resided at Tonbridge Castle in Surrey for the entire 183 days of the account, though Hugh made some short journeys away with a small group of attendants.

Margaret and Hugh's daughter Margaret Audley was born sometime between early 1318 and late 1322. I would assume later in that time period than earlier, as she was abucted and forcibly married in March 1336. As she was the sole heir of her mother's vast inheritance by then, it would be odd if she was seventeen or eighteen and still unmarried. Fourteen or fifteen seems more likely. Her abductor, Ralph Stafford, was a widower in his mid-thirties.

Unfortunately for Margaret and Hugh, they were soon caught up again in the volatile politics of Edward II's reign. Margaret's brother-in-law the younger Despenser forced them to exchange some of their Welsh lands for English manors of less value. He was able to do this because he had displaced Hugh Audley and Roger Damory in Edward's affections, and was as firmly ensconced there as Piers Gaveston had ever been.

The years 1321/22 saw a civil war in England. Audley and Damory turned against the king. Damory was killed fighting against the royal army at Tutbury in March 1322, and shortly afterwards, Audley was captured at the Battle of Boroughbridge. Edward II wanted to execute him, as he did dozens of the other rebels, but Margaret successfully pleaded for his life. This suggests that she still had some influence with Edward, and also that her marriage to Hugh can't have been a total disaster!

However, Edward was furious with his niece, with whom he had always enjoyed a close relationship. Apparently, he placed her under armed guard at this time. While Hugh and his father were imprisoned at Wallingford Castle, Margaret spent the rest of Edward's reign at Sempringham Priory, with her daughter Margaret Audley. One sister, Elizabeth, also suffered during this time, while the other sister Eleanor enjoyed wealth, power and position as the wife of the younger Despenser. I wish I knew what the relationship of the Clare sisters was like after the upheaval of the early 1320s.

Sadly for Margaret, her elder daughter Joan Gaveston died in Amesbury Priory on 13 January 1325, around the time of her thirteenth birthday. Edward II had arranged her betrothal to John de Multon (born 1308), eldest grandson of the earl of Ulster, but the marriage was destined never to take place.

Jennifer Ward in her English Noblewomen in the Later Middle Ages states that Audley escaped from Wallingford in 1325. I'm not sure about that, but certainly he was freed in late 1326, when his uncle or cousin Roger Mortimer and Queen Isabella led their successful invasion. Hugh and Margaret, presumably, resumed their married life, but English political life was still in a state of upheaval, and Hugh joined the earl of Lancaster's rebellion against Mortimer and Isabella in 1328/9. (The couple were no more successful at keeping the loyalty of their family than Edward II had been.) The rebellion failed, and Hugh was fined the impossibly huge sum of 10,000 pounds - which he never paid. There's some dispute about whether he was forced to flee the country, though I tend to think he wasn't.

Hugh Audley was the only one of Edward II's favourites to survive the reign, and also survived Mortimer and Isabella's regime. Like most people in the country, he and Margaret no doubt breathed a sigh of relief when Edward III took over control of the country in late 1330. English politics, finally, returned to something like normality. Hugh was an envoy to France in 1331, and fought with Edward III in Scotland, and later in France. As mentioned above, Hugh and Margaret's daughter was abducted in 1336. Perhaps to mollify the couple, Edward III made Hugh earl of Gloucester in 1337. Margaret was a countess for the second time.

Margaret died on 9 April 1342, probably 48, or close to it. Apparently she was in France at the time, which presumably means that she was accompanying Hugh. This tends to suggest that, 25 years after their marriage, they enjoyed a close relationship. Her sister Elizabeth paid for prayers to be said for her soul at Tonbridge Priory. Hugh Audley died on 10 November 1347, in his mid to late fifties.

Margaret de Clare Gaveston Audley had few choices in her life. But to see her simply as a victim and 'tragic' is unfair to her. She was one of the richest women in England, and from the scraps of evidence available, seems to have been fond of both husbands, her uncle's lovers or not. Her life illustrates the problems medieval noblewomen faced, especially in a reign as volatile as Edward II's, but also the ways in which women could make the best of difficult situations, and survive them.

18 January, 2007

Some letters of 1321, and their consequences

Exactly 686 years ago today, on 18 January 1321, Hugh Despenser the Younger wrote another of the frequent letters he sent to the Sheriff of Glamorgan, Sir John Inge. Despenser was Lord of Glamorgan - his share of his wife's de Clare inheritance - and Inge was one of his supporters. Despenser's letters to him are fascinating to read, as they reveal something of Despenser's arrogance, avarice and self-confidence.

The letter begins the same way Despenser always wrote to Inge: Hugh' le Despenser, le fuiz, a nostre cher and bien amé bach[elier], Monser Johan Inge, nostre visc[onte] de Glamorg', saluz. ("Hugh le Despenser, the son, to our dear and well-loved bachelor Sir John Inge, our sheriff of Glamorgan, greeting.")
'Bachelor' was a kind of knight, a low-ranking one. The use of 'we' and 'our' was a convention of letter-writing at this time, and isn't Despenser using the royal plural (or maybe he was... ;)

Despenser writes:
"The times change from one day to another. Envy is growing, and especially among the magnates against us, because the king treats us better than any other; wherefore it is necessary for us, while times are good, that our affairs go well, and that they be wisely guided for our honour and good, especially by you, whom we regard as chief over our other ministers in these parts. Wherefore we command you to watch our affairs that we may be rich and may attain our ends, of which you have good cognisance; and this cannot be attained without pain and diligence on your part...

...We command you to certify us clearly about all our affairs by letters by our messenger, and about the bearing of the men of Gower according as you are able to inquire.

A Loundr’ le xviii iour de Janever"

Despenser is quite open here about his aims; he wants to be rich. His enormous greed was in fact pushing many magnates towards rebellion. Not content with the vast lands he and his wife Eleanor had inherited, he had forced his sister-in-law Margaret de Clare and her husband Hugh Audley to exchange some of their South Wales lands, including Gwynllwg, for some English manors of lesser value. In late 1320, he persuaded Edward II to take the rich Gower peninsula into royal hands, against the customs of the Marches - this last act was the final straw for men who were terrified of the consequences of Despenser's complete control over the king. By this stage, Despenser was abusing his position as Edward's chamberlain by refusing to allow anyone to see the king unless either he or his father was present.

Edward II's foolishness in taking another favourite, and acting on Despenser's behalf against the wishes of anyone else in the kingdom, was a potent threat. The Marcher Lords, traditionally staunchly royalist, saw no other option but to take arms against Despenser, and thus against the king.

Despenser's letter of 6 March 1321 reveals the growing tensions:

"We have often reported to you the marvellous tales that are now current, advising you to put good guard in our castles and towns, so we are not surprised by our enemies, to our shame and damage. We now send to you copies of two letters which came to the king and to us at Windsor on March 6 from Master Robert Baldock, from which you can understand how tales and menaces grow from day to day in the north and in the south, especially against us.

We are informed by several of our friends that all this plotting on the part of certain magnates is planned to begin and to do damage to us in our said lordship, in order to cover themselves that this is not done against the king, and with the intent that he shall interfere in the matter, and thereby take sides.

We therefore rely on you to take all the necessary steps to safeguard us, for we have sufficient power, if we are well arrayed and carefully served, to guard against our enemies, and it cannot be, when tales are growing daily, that there is nothing in them. We reprove you sharply for not sending more frequent reports of news, and we order you not to spare expense in sending us frequently information which concerns us.

We order you to put good spies on the borders of Breghenok, for it is commonly reported that the earl of Hereford has gone thither with a strong force of men-at-arms, in order to begin some attack upon our land. You are also bidden to warn all the constables of Glamorgan and Cantrefmawr to remain at their posts, so that danger may not ensue, and you yourself are ordered to remain at peace within our lands, without going outside them, although we had recently given you orders to the contrary...

...And if it happen that it be necessary to put more therein in order to save our honour, if you will certify us as soon as possible by your letters, we will make order by your counsel. And as there are strong rumours that our Welshmen are allied with the men of Breghenok, it seems to us that it would be a very good thing if you would in the most subtle manner possible obtain from each commote of our lordship certain hostages to assure us of the good will which they say they have towards us, and to give the lie to those who tell so many tales about them; and if you can get these hostages you are to dispose of them among our castles and at Bristol, as you shall think wise. And if you think it necessary that we send men-at-arms for the garrisons of our castles, if you will inform us speedily, we will send some of the king’s men and our own, as many as shall be necessary. For many reasons we do not wish again to extend any March-day to the men of Breghenok, as we will more fully certify you later...

...We have already so often sent letters on this subject in the past that we are quite tired of it, and we inform you that we will send no further instructions about it until we have need to write in answer to your letters, and therefore the instructions we have given before this must suffice. You are to act so that we are without damage and you without blame, for mitte sapientem et nihil et dicas. We have kept a copy of our letter word for word, to bring it up against you at another time if there is any default."

This letter ends: A Dieu, qe vous gard! - literally, 'to God, who keeps you!'

In one of the letters, Despenser refers to Edward II's brother-in-law the earl of Hereford as "mornes et pensifs plus qu'il ne soleit" ["even more gloomy and thoughtful than usual"], which is a lovely, and sadly rare in the fourteenth century, comment on someone's character.

The tensions evident in Despenser's letters - tension that he himself was solely responsible for - would shortly lead to the outbreak of the 'Despenser War', which I'll write about soon.

14 January, 2007

Five Funny Facts About Edward II

Gabriele did this meme recently, and I thought it would be fun to write about Edward II! So, here's five funny things you (probably) didn't know about the poor maligned sweetie....

[By the way, Edward II is currently in joint lead in my 'favourite medieval king of England' poll, on the left - eight people have voted for him, excluding me. Yay for you all!!]

- Edward kept a pet lion, which accompanied him on his travels around the country in a cart, tied to a silver chain. Edward's lion-keeper was Adam of Lichfield. He also kept a camel in the stables of his manor of Langley.

- On Easter Monday every year, the ladies and damsels of Queen Isabella 'caught' him in bed in the morning, and dragged him out. One assumes he didn't sleep naked that night... :) He then had to pay them a 'ransom' to be released. (He inherited this sweet tradition from his parents)

- He had a great sense of humour, not something you often associate with medieval kings! His 1305 letter to the count of Evreux, half-brother of Philip IV, shows his dry, ironic humour and wit: [some historians write of this as a 'curious' letter, missing the point that it's obviously intended to be humorous]

"We send you a big trotting palfrey which can hardly carry its own weight, and some of our bandy-legged harriers from Wales, who can well catch a hare if they find it asleep, and some of our running dogs which go at a gentle pace - for well we know that you take delight in lazy dogs. And, dear cousin, if you want anything else from our land of Wales, we can send you plenty of wild lads, if you wish, who will well know how to teach breeding to the young heirs and heiresses of great lords."

Edward also had a strongly developed taste for the slapstick; he paid his court painter Jack of St Albans fifty shillings for dancing on the table, which "made him laugh beyond measure", and another time paid a servant twenty shillings for frequently falling off his horse in an amusing manner! [I was pleased to see that these episodes are mentioned on comedian Richard Herring's website: How wonderful that such a moment gets recorded in history. And also that a man arsing around gets paid a huge amount of cash for his troubles. I imagine there was a lot of blokes changing their arm (or leg) and jumping up on tables and doing funny dances after that.... Good on him and his crazy dance. I wonder how it went.
Another bloke was given twenty shillings by the king for often falling off his horse and again causing the slapstick loving king merriment. He may have had a rubbish sense of humour, but he was happy to pay top dollar, long before "You've Been Framed" was even in the planning stages

- Edward and Isabella's 1313 trip to visit her father Philip IV in France was pretty eventful. Edward actually saved Isabella's life at one point, when the silken pavilion where they were sleeping caught fire. Edward scooped Isabella up and rushed outside, despite the fact that they were both naked. Another day, they were late for their audience with King Philip because they'd overslept. And on 19 June 1313 - the first anniversary of Piers Gaveston's death - the twenty-nine-year-old king paid Bernard the Fool and fifty-four others to dance naked for him....

- When Edward fled to Wales in October 1326, he took lots of his possessions with him, loaded onto carts (which must have slowed down the fleeing considerably, surely?) These included a "red retiring robe rayed with threads of saffron, decorated with bears" and a "black cap lined with red velvet, decorated with butterflies and white pearls". I think that's so sweet...Edward wearing a robe covered with bears! I can't help picturing them as teddy bears.

10 January, 2007

Abandonment and Abduction: The Eventful Life of Alice de Lacy

[This is part two of my series 'Women of Edward II's Reign'. Part one, on Eleanor de Clare, can be read here.]

Alice de Lacy, countess of Lincoln, Salisbury, Lancaster, Leicester and Derby, was born on Christmas Day 1281 and died 2 October 1348, at the age of nearly sixty-seven. Her father, Henry de Lacy, was earl of Lincoln; her mother, Margaret Longespée, was countess of Salisbury in her own right. Margaret was the great-granddaughter and ultimate heiress of William Longespée, or Longsword, one of the illegitimate sons of Henry II (died 1189). His nickname became his descendants' family name.

Alice's two brothers died in childhood, in bizarre accidents: Edmund drowned in a well at Denbigh Castle and John fell to his death from a parapet at Pontefract Castle. Alice thus became the heiress to two earldoms, and a great prize on the marriage market. King Edward I snapped her up for his nephew Thomas of Lancaster, and they married on 28 October 1294. Alice was twelve years and ten months old, Thomas probably fifteen or sixteen. Her father Earl Henry came to an agreement with the king for the earldom of Lincoln to pass into the royal family, should Alice die childless (as in fact she did). In 1296, Thomas inherited the earldoms of Lancaster, Leicester and Derby from his father Edmund.

Unfortunately, the marriage of Alice and Thomas - which seemed such a splendid match for both - proved completely disastrous. Alice mostly lived alone in her castle of Pickering, Yorkshire, while Thomas took a host of mistresses ("He defouled a great multitude of women and noble wenches"). He fathered at least two illegitimate children, Thomas and John, but Alice remained childless. The two seemed to have detested each other.

Alice's father Earl Henry died on 5 February 1311, at the age of about sixty. Although he was a staunch enemy of Piers Gaveston - who had disrespectfully nicknamed him Monsieur Boele-Crevée or 'Mister Burst-Belly' - he was generally a moderate and a royalist, by far the oldest and most experienced of the English earls, and his death deprived England and Edward II of a respected mediator. Henry's son-in-law Thomas of Lancaster inherited all his lands, and paid homage to Edward for them shortly after Henry's death. He angered Edward by refusing to acknowledge Piers Gaveston, who - naturally - accompanied the king. Thomas of Lancaster now possessed five earldoms, and was by the richest and most powerful man in England. His annual income was a huge eleven thousand pounds.

Lancaster's inheritance of his father-in-law's lands and titles really marks the time when his relations with his cousin the king worsened considerably. From 1311 until his execution eleven years later, Lancaster remained in permanent opposition to Edward. The two men loathed and despised each other.
As is usual in the Middle Ages, married women mostly disappear from the records. With a total absence of personal letters or anything else, Alice's attitude to her husband's relentless, and ultimately fruitless, opposition to his cousin Edward II is not known. Little, in fact, is known about Alice's life, until she was involved in one of the most bizarre events of Edward II's reign....

In early May 1317, Alice was abducted from her manor of Canford, Dorset, by John de Warenne, earl of Surrey - or rather, by some of his household knights, including one named Sir Richard de St Martin - and taken to the Warenne stronghold of Castle Reigate. John de Warenne was Edward II's nephew by marriage, though only two years the king's junior; he was unhappily married to Joan of Bar, daughter of Edward II's eldest sister Eleanor, and had been trying to divorce her since 1311 in order to marry his mistress Maud de Nerford, by whom he had several children. For some reason, he held a grudge against Thomas of Lancaster and blamed him for his inability to secure a divorce. This may be because Lancaster had persuaded the Bishop of Chichester to prosecute Warenne for his adultery (Warenne was actually excommunicated in 1316).

Alice's own feelings about her abduction are uncertain. Most modern historians believe that she was not unwilling, given the unsatisfactory nature of her marriage to Lancaster; Roy Martin Haines says that "her acquiescence is highly likely". Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to cut through all the gossip, conjecture and innuendo in contemporary chronicles to get to the truth.

Alice's whereabouts from 1317 to 1322 are uncertain. I'm not certain if she and Lancaster divorced, though it seems likely. She is often assumed to have left Lancaster for another man, Eubolo Lestrange, who is inevitably described in Edward II novels as a "lame squire". However, their marriage took place more than seven years after her abduction.

Lancaster became obsessed with getting revenge on Warenne - he attacked his Yorkshire estates, including Sandal and Conisbrough castles, and a private war broke out between the two earls, which was never really settled. After his defeat at the battle of Boroughbridge in March 1322, Edward II sent Warenne to accompany Lancaster to Pontefract Castle, for his trial.

Lancaster suspected that Alice's abduction took place with Edward II's knowledge and consent, and had in fact been planned at the Council meeting which had taken place in Clarendon in 1317.
Lancaster's biographer, J. R. Maddicott, believes that Warenne was the "instrument of court policy", but it's also possible that it was the men who were dominant at Edward's court in 1317 - Roger Damory, Hugh Audley, William Montacute and the Despensers - who planned the abduction, not Edward himself. The aim was surely to prevent Lancaster's becoming reconciled with Edward, which the courtiers feared as this would mean the end of their influence over the pliable king.

Thomas of Lancaster apparently made little effort to have Alice returned to him. He probably missed her earldoms more than he missed her! After his execution, Alice - unfortunately - suffered harsh and vindictive treatment at the hands of Edward II and the two Hugh Despensers. Although the earldom of Lincoln was restored to her in December 1322, she was, according to Paul Doherty, imprisoned and threatened with execution by the Despensers; "they claimed she was the real cause of her husband's execution and should suffer the fate specially reserved for the murderers of husbands - being burnt alive."

Alice, with no protector, had no choice but to hand over many of her lands, including the extremely rich lordship of Denbigh in North Wales, which was given to the Elder Despenser. The king forced her to pay a huge indemnity of twenty thousand pounds, countless millions or hundreds of millions in modern money.

Unfortunately for Alice, the 'regime change' of 1327 brought little or no improvement to her situation. Given Queen Isabella's very public criticism of her husband and Despenser's treatment of the wives and widows of their enemies, and given also that Isabella was Alice's niece by marriage, Alice probably expected her lands to be returned to her. In fact, Isabella's lover Roger Mortimer took possession of Denbigh, and Isabella herself appropriated much of Alice's rightful inheritance.

Alice was re-married, sometime before 10 November 1324, to Sir Ebolo Lestrange, in what may have been a love-match; Ebolo described her in documents as his 'dear and loving companion' and never claimed the title of earl as he was entitled to do, in right of his wife. He was involved in Edward III's 1330 plot to bring down Isabella and Mortimer, and he and Alice were rewarded by the return of many of her estates. The early 1330s were probably the most secure and happy of Alice's adulthood; she and her second husband were the recipients of many honours, grants of land and money, and responsibility.

Ebolo died in September 1335 and was buried in Barlings Abbey, Lincolnshire. A short time later, in or before March 1336, Alice was abducted by Sir Hugh de Frene(s); historian Michael Prestwich describes the incident thus, in his The Three Edwards:

"...[I]n a dramatic scene in Bolingbroke Castle in 1336 she was again abducted, this time by Hugh de Frenes. He entered the castle with the complicity of some of her servants, and seized her in the hall. She was permitted to go up to her chamber to collect her things together, and when she came down was placed firmly on horseback. Only then did she realize the gravity of her situation, and she promptly fell off in an attempt to escape. She was put back, with a groom mounted behind her to hold her on, and led off to Somerton Castle. There, according to the record, Hugh raped her in breach of the king's peace. Since she was by then in her mid-fifties, it is likely Hugh was attracted more by her vast estates than by her physical charms. As frequently happened in medieval cases of rape, the couple soon married; it is possible that she was not a wholly unwilling victim."

It's also possible that Alice had no choice whatsoever in the matter! The abduction is a further demonstration of the dangers of being a great heiress in fourteenth-century England. A few weeks after Alice's ordeal, the teenage Margaret Audley was herself abducted by Ralph Stafford; Margaret was the sole heiress to her mother's third of the vast de Clare inheritance. Her aunts Elizabeth and Eleanor de Clare were also abducted and forcibly married, by Theobald de Verdon in 1316 and William la Zouche in 1329 respectively.

Unfortunately for Hugh de Frene (or de Freyne or de Frenes), but fortunately for poor Alice, he didn't live very long to enjoy his abducted wife's vast inheritance; he died in December 1336 or January/February 1337. Alice lived until October 1348 and was buried next to Ebolo at Barlings Abbey.

Alice is referred to in documents of Edward II's reign as "Dame Aleyse comtesse de Nicole" (Lady Alice, countess of Lincoln) or "Aleise de Lacy, countess de Nichole". In later life, she called herself 'countess of Lincoln' and 'widow of Ebolo Lestrange' but never 'countess of Lancaster' or 'widow of the earl of Lancaster/Hugh de Frene'. Her life is fascinating, and she really deserves to be better known! Anyone interested in her should read the excellent article by Linda E. Mitchell, in her Portraits of Medieval Women.

EDIT: After reading some more about Alice's later life in Edward III's reign, I've realised that I painted rather too rosy a picture of her position. In fact, Edward III assumed control of most of Alice's inheritance and gave it to William Montacute, his great friend who had helped him overthrow Mortimer. Montacute also received Alice's earldom of Salisbury. She never recovered her great lordship of Denbigh, which was also given to Montacute. A few years later, Montacute's son and Mortimer's grandson clashed over it, in a legal battle, and Edward III awarded it to Mortimer.

Poor Alice - abducted and raped, then deprived of much of her inheritance. She really illustrates the precarious position of women in the fourteenth century - even wealthy well-connected ones....

07 January, 2007

Happy New Year

So here we are in 2007! Unbelievable, isn't it? Sounds strangely futuristic to me, somehow. Hope you all had better weather over the festive period than I did in the Lake District - I spent 2 weeks and 2 days there, and saw the sun for a grand total of about 3 hours. Most of that was on the last day. The rest of the time, it was grey, murky, foggy and pouring down. Ugh....

2007 will be a big year on 'Edward II', as it's the 700th anniversary of his becoming king. I'm delighted to see that over 200 people have voted on my poll (see left) about Edward's fate in 1327. That's great - please keep the votes coming in! And don't forget to vote for 'your favourite medieval king', too. I'm also pleased to see that Edward II has 4 votes - I voted for him, obviously, and I'm sure Susan did too, so that's another 2 people who like him more than all the other medieval kings! Yay! :)

Until I get round to writing another post, here's a link to Susan's recent post on the fate of three of Hugh le Despenser the younger's five (or possibly six) daughters: Joan, Eleanor and Margaret, sent to convents in January 1327, a few weeks after the execution of their father. They were forcibly veiled by Queen Isabella, a fact rather conveniently ignored by Isabella's recent biographers, such as Alison Weir and Paul Doherty. Weir writes only that the little girls "became nuns" and entirely ignores the role Isabella played - a puzzling omission. Or perhaps not - maybe I'm just being cynical, but it seems odd to me that a biography as historically accurate as Weir's is should suddenly get the facts wrong when it comes to her beloved Isabella doing something that could be seen in a negative light by modern readers....