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.