25 July, 2007

Regicide And Other Ignoble Events: The Participants (part one)

I have about a zillion things to say about the events of 1327 to 1330, Edward II's murder, possible survival, the Earl of Kent's plotting and execution in 1330 - it's going to take me quite a few blog posts. ;) Firstly, the men involved in the dramatic events of 1327 to 1333, some information on them, and what happened to them.

The background: Edward II was (allegedly?) murdered in Berkeley Castle on or around 21 September 1327. His half-brother Edmund of Woodstock, Earl of Kent, was beheaded in Winchester in March 1330 for attempting to free his supposedly dead brother and 'make him King again'.

In the Parliament of November/December 1330, five men were accused of the murder of Edward II: Roger Mortimer, Simon Bereford (kind of), Thomas Berkeley, Thomas Gurney and William Ockley. John Maltravers was not accused of Edward II's murder, although most books on the subject claim that he was. He was, however, condemned to death for his part in the entrapment and execution of the Earl of Kent, as were two other men, Bogo de Bayouse and John Deveril.

Two of these eight men were executed after Parliament convicted them. Five others fled. One of them was hunted down, three were apparently ignored, and the other acted as Edward III's agent on the Continent and eventually returned to England. The last man lied to Parliament with Edward III's knowledge and got away with it. Edward III's treatment of the men accused of his father's murder is puzzling and inconsistent, as I hope these posts will demonstrate!

To keep all the information manageable, I've divided it into two, or possibly three, or possibly more, posts, depending how it goes. :) This post focuses on Roger Mortimer, Simon Bereford, Thomas Berkeley and John Maltravers. I'll write about Thomas Gurney and William Ockley, condemned regicides, in the next one, along with a few other men who played various roles in the drama of 1327 to 1333, including William Beaukaire, William Shalford and some of the men who freed Edward II from Berkeley Castle in the summer of 1327.

And anyone else who occurs to me over the next few days. ;)

Sir Roger Mortimer, Earl of March

Mortimer's career is well-known, so I won't go into it here. Edward III arrested him at Nottingham Castle on 19 October 1330, along with his sons Edmund and Geoffrey, Sir Simon Bereford, and Sir Oliver Ingham. Edward III wanted to kill Mortimer on the spot, but his great-uncle Henry of Lancaster persuaded him to try Mortimer before Parliament. Mortimer, after a few weeks walled up in a cell in the Tower of London, duly appeared before Parliament at Westminster on 26 November, bound and gagged and forbidden from speaking.

Mortimer was indicted on fourteen charges, including: illegally removing Edward II from Kenilworth Castle and having him murdered, procuring the death of the Earl of Kent, and threatening to kill Queen Isabella if she returned to her husband. No less than eight of the charges mention 'using his royal power to...', which was probably the biggest grievance that Edward III held against him - Mortimer's assuming power that rightfully belonged to Edward III, not to him.

To nobody's surprise, least of all his own, I'm sure, Mortimer was found guilty on all points and sentenced to death. His sons were released without charge. On 29 November, forced to wear the black tunic he'd worn to Edward II's funeral just under three years earlier, Roger Mortimer was dragged on a hurdle to Tyburn and hanged, naked. He admitted that the Earl of Kent had been the victim of a cruel plot, but made no reference to Edward II, or Queen Isabella. His body was left hanging for two days and nights.

Almost a quarter of a century later, in the Parliament which opened at Westminster on 30 April 1354, Mortimer's grandson and heir Jason Mortimer (just kidding - he was called Roger as well, obviously) petitioned Edward III for the reversal of the charges against Roger. Edward III complied. All charges against Mortimer were reversed, including that of murdering Edward II. The young Roger Mortimer, who was already a Knight of the Garter as member number seven, was restored to his grandfather's controversial earldom of March, and his son Edmund married Edward III's eldest granddaughter, Philippa of Clarence, in 1368. Edmund and Philippa's son Billy-Bob, I mean Roger, was heir to the English throne in the late 1390s, about as stunning a turnaround for the Mortimer family as you can get.

Sir Simon Bereford (Beresford, Barford)

A henchman of Roger Mortimer, and the only other man executed by Edward III after Mortimer's downfall. Bereford was hanged shortly before Christmas 1330.

Bereford is a strangely obscure figure, and it's difficult to find any information about him before the end of Edward II's reign, except that in 1320 he was summoned to Parliament as a Knight of the Shire for Lincolnshire. In 1324 his property was confiscated, and in 1327 he was pardoned for various offences, including murder. (I don't know of whom.) On 12 June 1327, he was granted the younger Despenser's Buckinghamshire manor of 'Iselhampstede' for life, "for service to Queen Isabella", and in early 1328 was appointed escheator for "this side [of the river] Trent".

Bereford was probably related to Agnes Bereford, John Maltravers' second wife, who was the daughter of Sir William Bereford, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas from 1309 to his death in 1326. On 19 January 1327, Simon Bereford was granted custody of the lands of John Argentein (died 1318) who was the first of Agnes' three husbands, which doesn't prove a relationship, but may indicate one. On 19 January 1327, Edward II was still officially King, deposed several days later, and the grant to Bereford is dated at Kenilworth, where Edward was incarcerated. He had nothing to do with it, of course.

At Parliament in November 1330, Bereford was accused of eidant et conseillant au dit Roger de Mortimer en totes les Tresons, Felonies, et Malveistes, that is, "aiding and counselling the said Roger Mortimer in all his treasons, felonies and wicked deeds". Specifically, these were named as Purpris de Roial Poer, Murdre de Seign. Lige, et Destruction du Sank Real, "seizure of royal power, murder of the sovereign liege and destruction of the royal blood" - the latter presumably a reference to the execution of the Earl of Kent.

He wasn't directly charged with the murder of Edward II, but with 'aiding' Roger Mortimer in the murder. The Fieschi letter (of which much more in a future post) claims that a 'Lord Simon Desberfort', apparently Bereford, was at Berkeley Castle in September 1327 and planned to murder Edward II, but no other source I know of places him there. He may have been with Mortimer at Abergavenny on 14 September 1327, when Mortimer received a letter from William Shalford, his deputy Justice of Wales, informing him of the plots to free the former Edward II, and urging him to find a solution.

Presumably Edward III had very good reasons for executing Bereford, and his notoriety was well-known in 1330, but there's not much trace of it in any surviving records. To merit execution at the hands of the demonstrably non-vindictive Edward III, Bereford must have done something the young king found unforgivable, but what his connection with the death of Edward II might have been is, like the man himself, rather mysterious.

Thomas, Lord Berkeley

Roger Mortimer's son-in-law. Berkeley shared responsibility for the custody of the former Edward II with his brother-in-law Sir John Maltravers, from 3 April 1327, when Edward was removed from Kenilworth in Warwickshire and taken to Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire. They were jointly and equally liable for his welfare. For Edward's upkeep, and the 'expenses of his household', Berkeley and Maltravers were given the staggeringly large sum of five pounds a day, which would have sustained most men for a year. After 21 September 1327, they continued to be paid five pounds a day for looking after the body of the late King.

Thomas 'the Rich' Berkeley was born about 1293/97, and was a second cousin of Roger Mortimer, through their common descent from Eva Marshal and William de Braose, hanged by Llywelyn the Great in 1230. His family had been Lords of Berkeley since 1153, and the Berkeley family still owns and resides in the castle. The family also owned many other estates in Gloucestershire. Thomas and his father Maurice, Lord Berkeley, were retainers of the Earl of Pembroke, but joined Roger Mortimer's retinue by 1318. The alliance was strengthened by Thomas Berkeley's 1319 marriage to Margaret, the eldest of Mortimer's eight daughters. Margaret was probably born in 1307 or 1308, and they didn't begin living together until March 1328.

Berkeley took his father-in-law's side in the Despenser War of 1321/22, and was imprisoned by Edward II from early 1322. His father Maurice died in captivity in May 1326, and his young wife Margaret Mortimer was also incarcerated, in Shouldham Priory, from April 1324. Berkeley and his family were released after Mortimer and Isabella invaded England in the autumn of 1326.

An indenture was drawn up on 21 March 1327 giving Berkeley and John Maltravers joint and equal liability [I keep emphasising this point, because it's important] for keeping the former King, and on 3 April 1327, custody of Edward passed from Henry of Lancaster to the two men. On 3 July, Berkeley was exempted from serving in the Scottish campaign because he was "charged with special business of the king [Edward III]." In June, July and August, Berkeley received commissions to hunt down and arrest the men who were trying to free, and did free, the former Edward II from Berkeley Castle.

On the night of 23/24 September 1327, Thomas Gurney arrived at Lincoln (where Parliament was in session) with letters for Edward III and Isabella informing them that the former King was dead. The letters came from Thomas Berkeley.

In October 1330, Thomas Berkeley's younger brother Sir Maurice, and his household knight Sir Thomas Bradeston, were two of the men who helped Edward III arrest Mortimer at Nottingham Castle. Bradeston [i.e., Breadstone, a village just three miles from Berkeley] had been a supporter of the Earl of Lancaster, adroitly switched allegiance to the Despensers, served in the younger Despenser's retinue, adroitly joined Mortimer and Isabella after their successful invasion, and adroitly switched to Edward III at just the right time. Clearly, a man of much adroitness. And I like him, because he didn't play any active role in Edward II's downfall. So there.

Thomas Berkeley, who must have known that he'd have to face charges over the fate of Edward II, made no attempt to flee the country, and was summoned to Parliament at Westminster, where he appeared on 26 November, accused of the murder of the former King Edward II.

Berkeley - refused permission to put his case to a jury - stated that he had never consented to, nor helped with, nor procured the death, and then made the astonishing claim that "he never even knew about that [Edward II's] death until the present Parliament" (nec unquam scivit de morta sua usque in presenti parliamento ipso). This, understandably, has been the subject of much debate. What on earth was Berkeley trying to say?

The most literal meaning would be that, despite the letters he sent to Edward III and Isabella in September 1327 announcing the death of Edward II, he didn't in fact know that Edward was dead, and he had only just found out in November 1330. This would mean that the letters he sent in 1327 were untrue - that he reported the death although he didn't know about the death. Which isn't as odd as it sounds, given the theory that Edward II wasn't murdered at all. Was he hinting that Edward wasn't in fact dead? I don't have space to discuss this here, but will soon.

Another possible meaning is that he believed Edward had died of natural causes, but didn't know that he had been murdered. It's true that Edward's death was originally announced (thanks to Berkeley's own letters) as having occurred 'of natural causes' in September 1327, and only described as murder in November 1330 - that is, in 'the present Parliament'. This would imply that Thomas Gurney and William Ockley murdered Edward without Berkeley's knowledge, told him that Edward had died naturally, and he passed on the news to Edward III and Isabella without questioning it - and that he only learned it was murder in November 1330. This would imply that he'd never inquired into Edward's death, despite the passage of more than three years since the event, and despite his legal liability, and despite anyone's natural curiosity regarding the sudden death of a healthy forty-three-year-old former King. (The words 'head', 'sand' and 'burying' spring to mind when considering this interpretation.)

And finally, Berkeley could have meant that, although he knew Edward had been murdered, he didn't know anything about the circumstances of the murder until the 'present Parliament'. This would imply that he'd lied in his letters of September 1327, presenting the death as natural while knowing that it was murder. Therefore, it's interesting to note that the method of Edward II's murder was never publicly stated, and that Berkeley, though pretending ignorance of the circumstances, was quick enough to point the finger at Thomas Gurney and William Ockley as the men responsible for the murder. [More on all this in my Gurney post.] As above, this would imply that Berkeley had spent three years failing to inquire into Edward's sudden death. And it would also imply that he was publicly admitting that he'd lied to the King.

Berkeley would have been sentenced to death if he'd been found guilty of complicity in the murder of Edward II, which he certainly knew. Given that his life was on the line, it's odd that he couldn't come up with a better story than 'I didn't know about the death' (however you interpret that statement), especially as he'd had over three years to think of a plausible excuse.

On the surface, Berkeley's supposed ignorance of either the circumstances of Edward's death, or the fact that it was murder and not 'natural', seem the likeliest interpretations. However...when his peculiar statement was - understandably - rejected, he then claimed that he was absent from Berkeley Castle on 21 September 1327, as he had retired to his manor of Bradley, where he was so ill he lost his memory. (Yeah, riiiight.) Some historians have believed his claim to be absent from the castle - most recently, Alison Weir in her biography of Queen Isabella - but Berkeley's own household records prove that he was lying, and was indeed present at Berkeley on 21 September. He remained there until 28 September, when he did leave for a short trip to Bradley - which is at Wotton-under-Edge, eight miles from Berkeley.

The key point here is that Edward III must have known that Berkeley was lying, as the letter informing him of his father's death was sent by Berkeley himself. And besides, this trial was so important that Edward could or should have easily checked Berkeley's whereabouts for himself. But he allowed the lie to stand. It seems incredible that Edward III would have allowed Berkeley to lie if he'd held him responsible for his father's murder. Even admitting that he didn't know anything about the circumstances of Edward II's death should have been enough to indict Berkeley, as he was legally liable for Edward's safety.

At any rate, Berkeley was acquitted of murder, of any complicity in murder, and of negligence. Considering that Simon Bereford was convicted of aiding the murder, with little evidence that he was even at Berkeley Castle, it seems incredible that the owner of the castle and the legal guardian of the former King was not.

The only charge on which Berkeley was convicted was for appointing Thomas Gurney and William Ockley to look after Edward. These two men were condemned as regicides. Technically, he wasn't cleared of this - rather small - charge until 16 March 1337, when Parliament finally acquitted him. ("Judgement given by the king in his Parliament held at Westminster on Monday after the feast of St. Matthias the Apostle that Thomas de Berkeleye is guiltless of any part in the death of Edward II.")

However, he was not punished in any way, and his lands and revenues were not confiscated. In 1331, Edward III even ordered that an old debt owed him by Edward II be repaid. If Edward III believed Berkeley to be implicated in the death of his father in any way, it isn't apparent.

Thomas, Lord Berkeley, kept his position as Sheriff of Gloucestershire; fought on twenty-two campaigns for Edward III in Scotland and France; in 1336, was Chief Warden of Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire; in 1340, was Marshal of the English army; in 1342, Captain of the Scottish Marches; and on, and on. He continued to be summoned regularly to Parliament until 20 November 1360, and the following year, was sent on an embassy to Pope Innocent VI, when he was in his mid to late sixties.

Berkeley died on 27 October 1361 - a long lifespan for an alleged regicide - and was buried in the church near Berkeley Castle, where his tomb can still be seen. Margaret Mortimer had died in 1337, and Berkeley married Katherine Clivedon in 1347; she was buried next to him in 1385. Of his eight sons and one daughter, only the daughter and two sons, the eldest and the youngest, survived infancy. The eldest son and heir Maurice - Roger Mortimer's grandson - married Hugh Despenser the younger's daughter Elizabeth in 1338. Through them, Thomas Berkeley became the ancestor of earls of Essex, Northampton, Shrewsbury, Worcester, Exeter, Huntingdon, Essex, dukes of Somerset, Beaufort, Buckingham, Devonshire, and many more. He is the seventeen greats-grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II.

None of Edward III's behaviour towards him suggests that he held him responsible for the murder of Edward II. Although Berkeley served Edward faithfully for many years, he was hardly so indispensable that Edward would have been willing to overlook Berkeley's involvement in the murder of his father in order to retain Berkeley's services. ("I know you killed my dad, but there's simply no other man in the country who could possibly act as Sheriff of Gloucestershire!") Edward III was a forgiving man, keen to heal the wounds of Edward II's reign and rehabilitate men whose fathers had committed grave crimes (e.g., the Mortimers and Despensers, and even Thomas Gurney's son), but taking no action against a man he believed to be complicit in the murder of his royal father seems far too lenient, even for him. It's all very odd.

Sir John Maltravers (or Mautravers)

He was born around 1290, the seventh of eight successive generations of men named John Maltravers. (And you thought all those Hugh Despensers were bad.) He was one of the many young men knighted with the future Edward II and Roger Mortimer in May 1306, and fought at Bannockburn in 1314, where he was taken prisoner. He came from the village of Lytchett in Dorset, afterwards named Lytchett Matravers after his family - which also gave its name to the Dorset villages of Worth Matravers and Langton Matravers, which sounds like the hero of a Regency romance.

A long-term associate of Roger Mortimer, with whom he served in Ireland, and of the Berkeleys, Maltravers married Ela (or Millicent) Berkeley, sister of Thomas [above], probably around 1312. Their only known child, John, was born in about 1314. In 1320, Maltravers accompanied his father-in-law Maurice, Lord Berkeley, to Gascony, where Berkeley was Seneschal, with his brothers-in-law Thomas and Maurice Berkeley, and Thomas Bradeston, he of the great adroitness.

Maltravers took the side of Mortimer and the Marcher Lords in the Despenser War of 1321 - an order to arrest him was issued on 7 December of that year - and fought for the Earl of Lancaster at the battle of Boroughbridge in March 1322. After Lancaster's defeat and execution, Maltravers apparently fled abroad, though must have returned to England on at least one occasion, as he and a few others attacked the royal manor of 'Kyngesbury by Shirburn' in Somerset in July 1325.

His father, sixth of the many generations of John Maltraverses, stayed in England to carry on the good work, and spent the rest of Edward II's reign wreaking havoc on properties belonging to the Despensers and their allies. He and twenty-five other named men, 'and others', also attacked a fair in Dorset in October 1325, where they attacked the three men "deputed by the said John and Isabel [owners of the fair] to collect the customs and other profits of the fair, prevented them from collecting the same, and assaulted the men deputed by the said John and Isabel to keep the peace in the said fair, whereby they lost their service for a great time." (You couldn't make this up.)

Maltravers (the son) returned to England with Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer in September 1326. He was given joint custody of the former Edward II on 3 April 1327, and served as Steward of Edward III's household for just over a week in March 1328. He was re-appointed to the position on 22 February 1329 and remained as Steward until 9 July 1330. He probably married his second wife Agnes Bereford in 1329 or 1330; her second husband John Nerford died on 5 February 1329.

According to R. Perry's Edward the Second: Suddenly, at Berkeley, which isn't terribly reliable, Maltravers was present at Nottingham Castle on 19 October 1330, but managed to get away, to ride to Gloucestershire and inform Thomas Berkeley of events. Whether that's true or not, it's certain that he didn't flee the country, but remained in the southwest while Berkeley travelled to Parliament at Westminster. (Maltravers was summoned to Parliament on 23 October, but didn't attend.)

In 1327, Maltravers shared joint legal liability for the custody of the former Edward II with Thomas Berkeley. This is certain, and it's also certain that King Edward III knew it. However, he was not charged with Edward II's murder in the Parliament of late 1330, as Berkeley was. He was not charged with any kind of complicity in the murder, with failing to prevent the murder, or even with negligence. If he had been present at Berkeley Castle on 21 September 1327, this would be extraordinary.

He was, however, found guilty of causing the death of the Earl of Kent, Edward II's half-brother, who was executed in March 1330, having attempted to free his (officially dead) brother from Corfe Castle. [I have lots to say about this in a future post.] Maltravers was sentenced to death, without a hearing, on 29 November, the day of Mortimer's execution. The parliamentary judgement against him does not mention Edward II's murder, and neither does any other contemporary record:

Judgement against Maltravers, from Rotuli Parliamentorum, 4 Edward III:
"...q' Johan Mautravers si est cupable de la Mort Esmon Counte de Kent, le Uncle n're Seign. le Roi q'ore est, come celui q' principaument, traiterousement, et faussement, la Morte le dit Counte compassa, issint q' la ou le dit Johan savoit la Mort le Roi Edward; ne purquant le dit Johan, par enginouse Manere et par ses fausses et mauveise Sotinetes, fist le dit Counte entendre la Vie le Roi, lequel faus Compassement fust Cause de la Mort le dit Counte"

"...that John Maltravers is guilty of the death of Edmund, Earl of Kent, the uncle of our lord the King who now is, in that he especially, treacherously, and falsely plotted the death of the said Earl, although the said John knew of the death of King Edward [II]; nevertheless, the said John, by ingenious manner and by his false and evil claims, made the Earl hear that the King [Edward II] was alive, by which he falsely plotted and caused the death of the said Earl" [My translation.]

Some fourteenth-century chronicles and most modern historians, with the notable exception of Ian Mortimer, held/hold Maltravers responsible for Edward II's murder (or at least say that he was at Berkeley in September 1327), but Edward III's treatment of him suggests that the young King did not, and as shown, he wasn't even accused of it.

In fact, it seems extremely likely that Maltravers was not even present at Berkeley Castle on 21 September 1327. Undated letters from Thomas Berkeley were sent to Maltravers 'in Dorset' and 'at Corfe' (Castle, in Dorset). The payments for messengers carrying the letters appear in a receiver's roll that ends on 29 September 1327, and the letter sent to Corfe is the last payment mentioned. Maltravers was also paid the vast sum of 258 pounds, 8 shillings and 2 pence for "service on behalf of the king's father [Edward II] in Dorset" - whatever that means. This payment comes after a payment sent to Roger Mortimer in Wales, which must date to September 1327. Mortimer left court on or shortly after 4 September, and headed for Wales to deal with men 'breaking the peace', i.e., the men who'd freed Edward II from Berkeley in July. This news would have taken a while to reach Berkeley Castle, so the letter sent to him in Wales can't be dated earlier than the second week of September - and the payment to Maltravers was made after that.

Although the contemporary Adam Murimuth incorrectly calls Maltravers responsible for the ex-king's death, he's usually a reliable source for these events, and has the great advantage of being the only chronicler present in the southwest of England in the autumn of 1327. (He was at Exeter.) Murimuth states that Berkeley and Maltravers switched custody of Edward II from one month to the next, and while this isn't corroborated by any other source, it would explain why Edward III didn't accuse Maltravers of murder, knowing that in September 1327, Berkeley held responsibility, and that Maltravers was elsewhere, in or near Corfe, on some unspecified business related to Edward II.

On 3 December, a week after Berkeley's surprising defence of himself and four days after Maltravers was sentenced to death, Edward III finally issued arrest warrants for him and Thomas Gurney, also sentenced to death. The two men, having learnt that they were to die, not unnaturally decided to flee from England. On 15 July 1331, a commission of oyer and terminer was ordered against Benedict Noght, John le Taverner and others of Mousehole, Cornwall, because they "aided John Mautravers and Thomas Gurneye, rebels, to pass beyond seas...that they afterwards supplied them with corn, armour and victuals, and that they still render them continual assistance."

However, that was far from being the end of Maltravers' story, and it just gets stranger, such as the following Patent Roll entry of 23 May 1334: "the king on learning lately that John Mautravers the younger, lately banished because he withdrew from the realm for certain causes, was desirous to reveal to him many things concerning his honour and the estate and well-being of the realm, has charged William de Monte Acuto to speak with the said John on his behalf and to report what he learns to him." Unfortunately, what information Maltravers shared with William Montacute, Edward III's closest friend, is unknown.

Still officially under sentence of death, Maltravers returned to England early in 1335 and met, among others, his brother-in-law Edmund Bereford, the Abbot of Malmesbury, Thomas Berkeley, Berkeley's brother Maurice, William Montacute, and John Moleyns; the latter three men were among those who had arrested Roger Mortimer in 1330, and were close friends of Edward III. Maltravers is called "the king's enemy" and stated to have been "lately banished from the realm for certain causes".

John Maltravers' wife Agnes Bereford was granted 200 marks' worth of land as early as 26 February 1331, at the request of Queen Philippa, and on 15 February 1342, was granted a licence to "stay with her husband in Flanders for such time as she shall please, notwithstanding that he is banished from the realm of England." (She had already travelled abroad in 1332, ostensibly on pilgrimage, but more likely to visit her husband.) Clearly, Edward III knew exactly where Maltravers was, but made no move to have him brought back to England. In fact, Maltravers was working for Edward in Flanders, undertaking negotiations to gain its support for the King in the early years of the Hundred Years War. He was granted £100 a year on 1 February 1339, presumably for these efforts.

On 5 August 1345, John Maltravers submitted himself to Edward III in Flanders, and petitioned him to be allowed to return to England on the grounds that "no one of the realm of England according to law and custom...ought to be condemned unheard, and he, although not at any time indicted, appealed or convicted of any misdeeds in the realm in his absence has, nevertheless, been condemned and banished unheard, and is not in any way guilty of the trespasses and felonies laid to his charge, for which trespasses and felonies he is ready to stand his trial in Parliament...
...the king, who is bound to show justice to all his subjects, taking into consideration the good place John has held for him in Flanders and elsewhere and that by his service to him he has lost all his goods in Flanders and is depressed in many ways...received the said John in form aforesaid and assented to his petition..."

Neither then nor at any time later was any complicity on Maltravers' part in the death of Edward II mentioned. He was given a full pardon (for his part in Kent's death) on 20 June 1351, and his lands were fully restored on 8 February 1352, the year he finally returned to England, and took up his place in Parliament. On 26 May 1349, he had been appointed to have "the keeping of Gernereye, Jereseye, Seerk and Aurneye [that is, the Channel Islands]...with full power to judge and chastise evildoers, and exercise full jurisdiction there in the king's name..."

John Maltravers died on 16 February 1364, in his mid seventies, as his father had been at the time of his death in 1341, and was buried at Lytchett Matravers. His widow Agnes Bereford was also long-lived, dying on 18 July 1375, when she was probably close to eighty (her three husbands were all called John, incidentally). Maltravers' only son John and grandson Henry had pre-deceased him, and his heirs were his two granddaughters Joan and Eleanor. Eleanor Maltravers married firstly John Fitzalan, grandson of the Earl of Arundel executed by Roger Mortimer in 1326, and secondly Reginald Cobham, grandson of Thomas Berkeley. Her son John Fitzalan Junior married Hugh Despenser the younger's great-granddaughter Elizabeth Despenser.

Through his granddaughter Eleanor, John Maltravers was the ancestor of earls of Arundel, Sunderland, Northumberland, dukes of Norfolk, Somerset, Richmond, Beaufort and Lennox, and more. He is the nineteen greats-grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II.

John Maltravers has been maligned for centuries as the man primarily responsible for Edward II's murder, and the alleged torments before his death. However, it appears that he has been unfairly accused, and wasn't even present at Berkeley on the night in question. Otherwise, it's hard to understand why Edward III never charged him with the murder of his father.

The next post will follow in a couple of days!


Carla said...

"This would imply that he'd never inquired into Edward's death, despite the passage of more than three years since the event, and despite his legal liability, and despite anyone's natural curiosity regarding the sudden death of a healthy forty-three-year-old former King. (The words 'head', 'sand' and 'burying' spring to mind when considering this interpretation.)"

True, but better a head in the sand than on London Bridge :-) If Berkeley knew about the murder and hadn't dared, or been able, to prevent it, he'd naturally keep his head down while Mortimer was in power. Afterwards it would have been easier to say "I didn't know nuffink, y'r honour" than to admit, "I knew my king was being murdered in my castle but I was too much of a coward to do anything about it at the time or since". Executing Mortimer and Mortimer's underling as a token, turning a blind eye to everyone else, and drawing a line under the whole sorry affair might have been a sensible way out for all concerned as well as an easy one. Edward III might not have had an entirely clear conscience about his own behaviour - after all, he let Isabella & co set him up in his father's place - and have beeen applying a certain amount of "judge not lest ye be judged" or "people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones".

Bereford seems to have got a short straw, doesn't he, unless there was something dastardly going on behind the scenes? Potential for a conspiracy theory and a spy thriller there, especially as there's no inconvenient evidence to get in the way.

Anonymous said...


Mind boggling, and wonderful research! You are most persuasive in your arguments. Are you sure you are not a lawyer in your spare time? What spare time I hear you scream back at me! Well done, I can't wait to read the next bit. I have to re-read the post as I have had to draw myself a timeline and other visual clues in order to make sense of the HUGE mountain of information you have imparted. Can't wait for the next installments. Brilliant. Sorry I don't have anything sensible to add to the discussion!! Just awe....

Gabriele Campbell said...

What a mess. I'll never again complain about the contradictory, biased and incomplete sources dealing with the Varus battle and Mons Graupius. Those make sense compared to yours.

Isn't it fun to sort such things out? And yes, there IS a detective novel in there somewhere. :)

Kathryn Warner said...

Carla: yes, I'm a bit puzzled about Bereford. You'd think a man of his alleged notoriety would have left more traces of it.

The funny thing about Berkeley's statement is that it literally means he didn't know Edward was dead - the other interpretations are an attempt to rationalise that decidedly odd statement. ;) I'll say a bit more about all this in the next post.

Kate: thanks very much! There is rather an excess of information, isn't there?! :) Hope it wasn't too confusing - I probably should have drawn a timeline myself, but I'm useless at things like that. ;)

Gabriele: Yes, I've had loads of fun researching and writing this the last few days! And trying to make sense of it all, too.
*Plans detective novel...* :-)

Gabriele Campbell said...

Yes, some sleuth at the court of Ed III shall find out who did Ed's daddy in only to discover daddy has fled to Scotland where he lives with some Duncan or Alistair happily ever after. :)

And someone at court knows ...

Anonymous said...

Whenever I read anything about Edward III's retribution against the men who killed his father I always thinks it seems like a token effort. I could imagine most people as a 14th century King whose father had just been murdered unleashing a grand clean up of anyone remotely linked to the events. "Aah you were the fellow who would light the candles down Berkeley High St were you? Off to the block with you."

To me it smacks of the fact that he wasn't exactly proud of his Dad and his efforts as King, they were clearly chalk and cheese in that respect. Secondly, he was probably glad he was now king albeit, as Carla said, possibly a bit ashamed of how he went along with events that took him to the throne (and got Edward II killed).

I see him punishing Mortimer because he was clearly the one in charge (unless he were to have his Mum hanged too!) at the time and too dangerous to keep around. Also he would've resented the way he and his queen had been disrepected in the 3 years he'd been King.

Looking forward to the next article.

Kathryn Warner said...

Gabriele: now there's a happy ending! I prefer to think of Ed fleeing to Italy, though, and settling down with a Paolo or a Giovanni. :-)

Thank you, Paul! (And welcome to the blog, by the way - should have said that in the last comment thread). Yes, the 14 charges against Mortimer in the 1330 Parliament are a good indication of Edward III's many grudges against him.

Would love to respond more to your comments, but I'm totally knackered and can't think straight, so I'll leave it till tomorrow. :)

Unknown said...

Doesn't this show how little we really know about things we were thought as facts....

Isabelle T said...

Indeed, you'd wish they had named at least **some** of their offspring Jason, Billy or Bob... Woulnd't that make it easier for us, poor 21st century audience?... :) I just love your tone, Kathryn! You'd make anyone love history.

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Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Melissa, so glad you're enjoying it!