Edmund Fitzalan's career provides a fascinating perspective on Edward II's troubled reign. Here's a mini-bio of him.
Edmund was born on 1 May 1285 in Marlborough Castle, Wiltshire, which makes him almost exactly a year younger than Edward II. His father Richard was only eighteen at the time of his birth - born 3 February 1267 - and became earl of Arundel in 1289. Edmund's paternal grandmother was Isabel Mortimer (c. 1248-1292), sister of Edmund (c. 1251-1304), the father of Roger Mortimer. Roger and Edmund Fitzalan were therefore first cousins, once removed. Roger would have Edmund executed in 1326.
Edmund's mother was Italian: Alesia, or Alasia, di Saluzzo, eldest daughter of Tomasso, marchese (margrave) of Saluzzo and Luisa di Ceva; Tomasso had eighteen children altogether, some of them illegitimate. Alesia's date of birth is unknown, but she was probably younger than her husband, so maybe only fifteen or sixteen when Edmund was born; she and Richard also had three daughters, and a younger son, John, who went into holy orders. Alesia died very young, on 25 September 1292, when Edmund was seven. Through Alesia, Edmund was closely related to European royalty and nobility. His uncle Manfredo IV, marchese di Saluzzo, married Beatrix von Hohenstaufen, daughter of King Manfred of Sicily; his great-grandmother Beatrice of Savoy was King Manfred's first wife; another uncle, Filippo, was Governor of Sardinia. His grandfather Tomasso's sister married Edmund de Lacy, earl of Lincoln, and was the grandmother of Alice de Lacy. Edmund was, however, one of the very few English earls of Edward II's reign not closely related to the king by blood or marriage. He and Edward were only third cousins once removed.
Richard, earl of Arundel, died in early 1302, aged not quite thirty-five; his son was not yet seventeen. Edmund's wardship and marriage rights were granted to John de Warenne, earl of Surrey (died 1304); Edmund would later marry John's granddaughter Alice. Custody of the Arundel lands was given to Amadeus, count of Savoy, until Edmund came of age.
Edmund was knighted in the great ceremony of 22 May 1306, and was summoned to Parliament on 9 November of that year as the earl of Arundel. He was given livery of his lands in the same year, shortly before his twenty-first birthday. In documents of Edward II's reign, he is called 'Monsire Edmond conte de Arundel' (or 'Arundell').
In 1305, Edmund married Alice de Warenne, whose brother John succeeded their grandfather as earl of Surrey in 1304. Alice must have been her father William de Warenne's posthumous child, born in 1287, as he married her mother Joan de Vere in June 1285, and her brother Surrey was born in June 1286; William was killed at a jousting tournament in December 1286. Edmund and Alice had several children, though, as so often, ascertaining exactly how many is difficult. Their son Richard was presumably born in 1313 or the beginning of 1314 (he was said to be seven years old at the time of his wedding in February 1321). Their eldest daughter Alice married Edward II's nephew John de Bohun, later earl of Hereford, in 1325. Genealogics gives Edmund and Alice four daughters, though other sites state that they had three. Edmund's nephew John de Segrave, son of his sister Alice, married Edward II's niece Margaret, later duchess of Norfolk (she was the daughter of Edward's half-brother Thomas of Brotherton).
[EDIT: I've just found this document in the Patent Rolls, dated 30 December 1304, which says that Edmund refused to marry Alice! I suppose someone must have persuaded him!]
Although Edmund was a contemporary of Edward II and Piers Gaveston, he spent the first few years of Edward's reign in opposition to them. Edmund was, along with his brother-in-law Surrey, one of the earls defeated by Piers in the great jousting tournament at Wallingford in December 1307, which helped to crystallise opposition to Piers. Despite this, Edmund played a prominent role in Edward's coronation on 25 February 1308, carrying Edward's robes, along with his cousin Roger Mortimer, Hugh Despenser the Elder, and the earl of Oxford's son Thomas de Vere (whose mother was Margaret Mortimer, making him a cousin of Edmund and Roger).
In 1310, Edmund became one of the Ordainers, or Lords Ordainer, a kind of reform committee. All the English earls were members, except: Surrey (for some unknown reason); Oxford, who was totally insignificant, and Cornwall, who was Piers Gaveston. In June 1312, Edmund was one of the men who had Gaveston killed. He joined the earls of Warwick, Lancaster and Hereford at Warwick Castle, and condemned Piers to death; unlike the earl of Warwick, who skulked in his castle, Edmund attended Piers' 'execution'.
Two years later, he refused to fight for Edward II at Bannockburn - the only earls who accompanied the king to Scotland were Hereford, Pembroke and Gloucester. (Sometimes, the changes of allegiance in Edward II's reign are dizzying.)
Surprisingly, sometime after 1314, Edmund changed sides completely. The reasons for this are unknown, but he is later found as one of Edward II's greatest supporters. Clearly, Edward forgave him for Piers' death, which is equally surprising. It may be that Edmund - in common with most other people - grew tired of his former ally the earl of Lancaster, who was the de facto ruler of England after Edward's defeat at Bannockburn, and who proved to be equally as incompetent as his cousin the king.
Edmund was not the kind of man to act as an effective political leader, and he isn't noted for any great abilities or strong opinions. Maybe, after 1318, he simply saw that English political life was coming to be dominated by Edward's new favourite the younger Despenser, and decided to ally himself with him. On 9 February 1321, Edmund's seven-year-old son Richard was married to the younger Despenser's eldest daughter, eight-year-old Isabel, one of the king's great-nieces. The wedding took place at Havering-atte-Bower, in Edward II's presence. The king's Wardrobe account:
"Ninth day of February, in money thrown by the King's order at the door of the King's chapel, within the manor of Havering-atte-Boure, during the solemnisation of the marriage between Richard son of Edmund Earl of Arundell and Isabella, daughter of Sir Hugh le Despenser, junior, 2 pounds....Delivered, for a veil to be spread over the heads of Richard de Arundell and Isabella, daughter of Sir Hugh le Despenser, junior, at their nuptial mass in the King's chapel, at Haveryng, 9th of February, one piece of Lucca cloth."
Later that year came the Despenser War and the exile of both Despensers, father and son. Edmund presented the younger Hugh's petition (to return to England) to Parliament, claiming that he'd been forced to agree to the Despensers' exile, probably truthfully. He fought for the king in his campaign against the Marcher lords, and on 5 January 1322, he replaced his grandmother's brother Roger Mortimer of Chirk - uncle of the younger Roger Mortimer - as Justice of North Wales, and gained custody of many lands of the Mortimers, John Mowbray and Bartholomew Badlesmere, other rebels. [I'll look at the Despenser War and Marcher Campaign in future posts.]
In March 1322, he was one of the men who condemned Thomas, earl of Lancaster to death, along with his brother-in-law the earl of Surrey, Edward II, the earls of Kent, Pembroke and Richmond, the Scottish earls of Atholl and Angus, and both Despensers.
The period 1322 to 1326, when his ally the younger Despenser was all-powerful, was also the period that saw Edmund reach the height of his power and influence. In 1323, he was made Justice of South Wales as well as the North, and in 1325 was Warden of the Welsh Marches. He also made use of Despenser's method of 'recognisances' - binding men to him by forcing them to acknowledge huge debts (Roger Mortimer also used the method in his own years of power).
In June 1326, Edward II gave Edmund and the younger Despenser some valuable velvet cloth - the king was apparently more interested in distributing gifts than in the impending invasion of his wife and her lover!
In the autumn of 1326, following Isabella and Mortimer's invasion, Edmund remained loyal and fled towards Wales with Edward II and the Despensers. The earl of Surrey also remained loyal - though apparently not entirely, as Isabella and Mortimer spared his life (he lived until 1347).
In November 1326, Edmund was captured by John Charlton, who had been Edward II's chamberlain until 1318. Charlton joined the Marcher rebellion of 1321/22, was later pardoned by the king, but repaid him by promptly joining Isabella and Mortimer in 1326. His son John had married Roger Mortimer's daughter Maud in 1319.
Edmund was beheaded, almost certainly without a trial, on 17 November 1326, probably at Hereford, though one chronicle says Shrewsbury. Exactly a week later, the younger Despenser, his ally and close relative by marriage, would be excuted in a far more public manner, also at Hereford. Two of Edmund's friends, John Daniel and Thomas de Micheldever, were executed with him. What they are meant to have done is unclear. According to the well-informed chronicler Adam Murimuth, Roger Mortimer hated his cousin with a 'perfect hatred', which is perhaps understandable, but doesn't excuse Edmund's illegal execution. His crimes seem mainly to have been his loyalty to the king, his familial relationship with Despenser, and his rivalry with Mortimer in Wales. Even Alison Weir is forced to admit that the executions of the three men were 'acts of tyranny'.
Edmund was forty-one at the time of his death. Although his estates and titles were forfeit to the crown, his widow Alice was given some manors for the sustenance of herself and her children - and presumably her fourteen-year-old daughter-in-law Isabel Despenser, whose father and grandfather were dead, and whose mother and eldest brother were in prison. Edmund's body was later removed to Haughmond Abbey, where many of the Fitzalans were buried. According to the historian Linda E. Mitchell, his captor John Charlton and his son (Roger Mortimer's son-in-law) later paid for three chaplains at Haughmond to pray for Edmund's soul. Towards the end of the fourteenth century, Edmund's great-granddaughter Alice Fitzalan married John, fourth Lord Charlton, great-grandson of both John Charlton and Roger Mortimer (and also of Margaret de Clare).
Edmund's son Richard, known by the nickname 'Copped Hat', was arrested in the summer of 1330 after plotting to overthrow Mortimer, but a few months later was restored to his father's earldom and estates by Edward III. In 1344 he divorced Isabel Despenser; he was succeeded as earl of Arundel by his eldest son from his second marriage, who shared his grandfather's fate and was beheaded by Richard II in 1397. Richard 'Copped Hat' was one of the richest men in England in the entire fourteenth century, and lived until 1376. He succeeded to the title of earl of Surrey, as his uncle John de Warenne had no (legitimate) children. Susan Higginbotham has written an excellent post on the Fitzalans.
The present duke of Norfolk, Edward Fitzalan-Howard (born 1956), is Edmund Fitzalan's eighteen greats-grandson; he is also earl of Arundel and Surrey. Edmund is also the ancestor of earls of Shrewsbury, Southampton, Northampton, Scarborough, Peterborough, Devon, Warwick, Exeter, Salisbury; dukes of Rutland, Suffolk, Northumberland, St Albans, Newcastle; and countless others.
Edmund Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, born Marlborough 1 May 1285, executed Hereford 17 November 1326.
That's an impressive list of descendants! I didn't know about the Howard connection.
The nicknames are fascinating me. Why was Richard called "Copped Hat"? What was a copped hat, and what was its significance?
Carla, there are a couple of theories about the name 'Copped Hat'. One: it could mean a high-crowned, brimless hat popular at the time (that Richard presumably wore). Two: Edward III's biographer says 'copped' means 'topped' or 'beheaded' and is a joking reference to the fate of Richard's father.
Great post! I am Edmund's 23 x great grand daughter and no title for me! I am wondering if copped hat meant dear Richard had red hair! Copped as in copper? Anyway, it is fun to guess, and thank you for all the great information. Poor Isabel Despenser! Someone better took Richard's eye. I really loved the link to Susan's article. The last sentence in her Fitzalan article was terrific!
Thanks, Kate! You certainly do have some illustrious ancestors! Haha, yes, maybe Richard was a redhead...
I like to think of Isabel Despenser as being happy that she and Richard got divorced. It seems that she and Richard were totally incompatible, so maybe it was the best option for her. He gave her a few manors to live on (which he could easily afford, of course) so at least she wasn't lacking in a material sense. Whether she married again is unknown, but I really hope she was happier later in life!
Interesting post! Edmund's volte-face is very interesting, but even more so is the fact that Edward II seemed to forgive Edmund's involvement in Piers' death! Considering the depth of his feeling for Piers, that's quite odd, isn't it??
Great post as ever, Alianore! Never knew about Edmund's Italian mother. Kate, thanks!
Thanks, Susan and Liam! It does seem odd that Edward II forgave Edmund for Piers' murder, but the way I see it, he put all the blame on Lancaster. Ed probably assumed that the others wouldn't have dared kill Piers without Lancaster's consent. He waited just under 10 years to get revenge on his cousin!
Thanks for the explanation - I'd prefer to think the nickname referred to his headgear or the colour of his hair, rather than a macabre joke about his father's fate! I know people were a lot less sentimental about death than we are now, but still....
Edmund's great-great-granddaughter Joan married Thomas Stanley, and their son, also Thomas, was married to Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor. He was a key figure at the battle of Bosworth, together with his brother William. The third brother John, my 14G grandfather, stayed at home.
From Bonnie JR
Hi, I just found out about this particular ancestor -- haven't counted the gr gr's to know which grandfather. But coming newly to the question, I wonder whether my grandfather, Edward II, pardoned my grandfather Edmund Fitzalan so readily because Grandfather Edmund came across with sexual favors? Could that also account for the vicious hatred held against Edmund? Just a thought.
Wow, that's a terrific idea! That had never even occurred to me, but you've really got me thinking now. I've always been puzzled by the way Ed so readily forgave Edmund. Even as early as Dec 1312, Edmund is not mentioned in a settlement between Ed and the men who killed Piers 6 months earlier, whereas men who were present at Warwick castle, but not at Piers' death, are mentioned. And in Oct 1313, Ed II pardoned over 350 men for all actions regarding Piers' capture, detention and death - and again, Edmund is not one of them. Given the fact that he was certainly present when Piers was murdered, I find that deeply odd.
I'd always assumed Edmund was hated in the 1320s because he'd become an ally of the Despensers by then, and married his son to the younger Despenser's daughter. But maybe you're right - there was something else going on! Thanks for the suggestion!! ;)
Once again, another good read on my great-grandfather. You have all your information correct and make it interesting at the same time...well done! Lady Shirley
A few people seem to be interested in my great-grandfather's "copped hat" so I will reveal the story behind it. Not much of a story really, but one day my grandfather was gambling with a few other men. One of them lost a toss and paid off his debt with his hat. My great-grandfather becoming the new owner of said hat. The hat has lost it brownish-copper color, but it stood several inches high and was very plain. For some reason he would never reveal, Grandpapa always wore the hat at a crooked angle and he became known as "Copped Hat." My grandfather kept that hat, which I have inherited and it now remains in the family library.
I have only started my family history in the last 12 months and I found your blog a few days ago. thank you so much. I am a descended from the evil Despencers, Fitzalans and Henry III. If I am looking for information on any of my ancestors about these times I just go straight to your blog. No more is needed than what you have written. Keep up the great work.
I can not believe how interesting English history is.
Thank you for letting me know, Amalia! I'm really glad you find my blog helpful and interesting!
A fabulous, informative post, Kathryn!
So, Edmund of Arundel was half Italian! That means he may have been dark. For years I've followed Sandra Wilson's blonde image of him from her book, "Alice"--which, after I saw "Legends of the Fall", morphed into a bearded Brad Pitt. (Yeah, Baby!!) Since so much time has passed, it might be difficult for me to rethink it.
I've always believed that Edmund felt remorse over his involvement in Piers' murder and begged Edward's forgiveness right away. The mystery is why Edward absolved him. One reason might have been to divide and conquer--if Edward allowed Edmund back into favor it would weaken the opposition. I've also wondered if Edmund regretted his decision to take part in the proceedings from the start. Though he couldn't save Piers, he might have done Piers some kindness at the last.
1) Edmund might have delivered a final message from Piers to Edward that Edward knew could only have come from Piers. 2) Though Piers was captured in his undershirt and hose, I'm sure Guy of Warwick confiscated any belongings Piers still had with him. Edmund may have given Piers his clothes back--and perhaps arranged a bath for him after days of captivity--allowing Piers the chance to die with dignity. 3) Edmund might have eased Piers's suffering in other ways, such as ensuring that Piers was fed properly and the guards didn't physically abuse him.
And that brings to mind disturbing memories. In the two novels I've read about Piers--one with a few redeeming scenes and the other one odious--Piers either is, or allows himself to be, raped. I don't believe that happened. If it had, his captors would have discovered the large uncut ruby "on his person" before, rather than after, his death. My theory is that he had it hidden in the pocket of his braies--where men are said to have stored valuables--which would explain why no one found it sooner. (Yes, my research of medieval clothing even included knickers.) Of course, I don't think Brandy Purdy is aware of how her characters dressed. It seemed she was constantly having someone yank Piers' hose down as though they went up to his waist. As I'm sure you know, stockings were tied to the underpants just above knees. Does the woman think he wore pantyhose?!
But I digress. As long as Guy knew he had successfully brought about Piers' demise, he may have been willing to tolerate his co-conspirator displaying a little charity toward the condemned. While Edmund chose to witness the murder, he might have been there--though only Piers would have known
it--as a sympathetic observer, to give support to a man dying alone. Edmund would also have needed to hide his intention to defect.
From that time forward, Edmund seems to have been loyal to Edward, other than failing to answer the call to arms at Bannockburn. And he might have thought he had a good reason for staying away! I've read that he and the other earls responsible for Piers's death were afraid that if Edward won the day against Robert the Bruce, he would turn his army on them. (The one exception being Humphrey of Hereford, who knew he would be spared for his wife's sake.) Perhaps Edmund wasn't sure that he had been entirely forgiven. But at the last Edmund gave up his life to remain loyal to Edward, paying his debt in full.
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