31 July, 2007

Regicide and Other Ignoble Events: The Participants (3)

Part one is here, and part two is here. We come now, not surprisingly, to the third and final part, which is about: William Beaukaire, the most puzzling man in the whole puzzling weirdness of September 1327; his colleague Giles of Spain; three obscure men, Richard de Well, John le Spicer and William Kingsclere; and Oliver Ingham (arrested with Mortimer in 1330).

William Beaukaire

William Beaukaire is probably the most intriguing man who took part in the events of September 1327, although his role has often been missed by historians. He was at Berkeley Castle on 21 September 1327, and guarded Edward II's dead body for a month - alone. However, six months earlier he had been a firm adherent of Edward II and Hugh Despenser.

Beaukaire was a royal sergeant-at-arms, which was a rank higher than squire but lower than knight, although sergeants-at-arms had comparable training to knights. They were personal attendants to the King, trusted by him and often sent on important missions at his behest, and had special responsibility for arresting traitors and generally acting as the King's bodyguard. Edward II had thirty armed sergeants-at-arms who rode before him when he was travelling, and four of them slept by the door of his bedchamber. The royal chamberlain had authority over the sergeants, which in the last few years of Edward II's reign meant Hugh Despenser the Younger - who was therefore Beaukaire's 'boss', as it were.

I presume that Beaukaire was a Frenchman: Beaucaire is an old Roman town in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France, situated on the River Rhône in the so-called Golden Triangle formed by Nîmes, Arles and Avignon - and very nice it looks, too. This is interesting - not necessarily odd, just interesting. There were plenty of Gascons in England at the time, as Gascony, part of the southwest of France, was ruled by the English crown, but Frenchmen were thinner on the ground. And considering that England and France had just fought a little war over Gascony, the War of Saint-Sardos, it's worth commenting on.

Not entirely coincidentally, I'm sure, Beaukaire arrived at Berkeley Castle either on the day of Edward's murder, or shortly before, almost certainly sent by Roger Mortimer, who had authority over the King's sergeants-at-arms. It's possible that Beaukaire travelled with William Ockley, from Abergavenny to Berkeley.

Apart from this notorious period of his career, Beaukaire is only known from two documents that anyone knows of: he was still a royal sergeant-at-arms in 1328, after which he disappears from view. But the other mention of him is the fascinating one: in the Patent Rolls of 20 March 1327, six months before his arrival at Berkeley, he appears seventh on a list of 122 men who were pardoned "for holding Kaerfilly Castle against Queen Isabella". His name is given as "Gills Beaucair, serjeant-at-arms", Gills presumably being a short form or a nickname for Gulielmus or Guillaume.

Caerphilly Castle, in Glamorgan, South Wales, was the great stronghold of Hugh Despenser the Younger and his wife Eleanor de Clare (it was built by Eleanor's father Gilbert the Red in the 1270s). Edward II and Despenser had taken shelter there in October 1326 while being pursued by the invasion forces, and had left most of their treasure there, including £14,000 in cash, a vast sum, equivalent to many millions today.

For some odd reason, Edward and Despenser left the safety of the castle and were captured near Neath a few weeks later, but Caerphilly held out against Isabella and Mortimer's forces, with Despenser's eldest son, eighteen-year-old Hugh, inside. Terms were offered on 4 January and 15, 16 and 20 February, which offered pardons to all the garrison "except Hugh, son of Hugh le Despenser the younger." However, the Constable, Sir John Felton, a household knight of Edward II and of the younger Despenser, held out for a pardon which would preserve the young man's life, and this was finally granted on 20 March. Susan Higginbotham points out that the Caerphilly garrison were "the last holdouts against the regime of Isabella and Mortimer".

The Berkeley Castle records show Beaukaire, his name now spelt 'William Beuquere', being paid twenty shillings for his efforts at Berkeley: he watched over the former King's body. Alone. For a month. On 21 October, the body of Sir Edward of Caernarfon, formerly King Edward II, was taken to Gloucester Abbey, where he would be buried on 20 December. Beaukaire stayed with the body for the entire three months (videlicet xxj Septembris quo die Rex obijt usque xx diem Decembris proximum sequentem). From 21 October, he was joined by eight other watchers [much more on all this in a future post], but while at Berkeley, he was the only one who stayed 'near the body of the king' (iuxta corpus regis).

The burning question is, why did a man who had been pardoned six months earlier for adherence to Edward II and Despenser arrive at Berkeley around the time Edward was supposedly murdered? Why did Roger Mortimer send him? And why was he the only man watching the body for an entire month? Had he completely renounced his former allegiance, and was he demonstrating his fervent loyalty to the new regime by participating in Edward's murder? Or was something more mysterious going on?

It strikes me as really odd that, of all the men who could have been sent to guard Edward of Caernarfon's body, one of his former adherents should have been chosen. If the aim of guarding the body, alone, was to stop anyone examining the body too closely for signs of violence, or evidence that Edward had been murdered, why was Beaukaire of all people given the task? Roger Mortimer had other henchmen and allies, men he could have trusted - men who'd been imprisoned, disinherited and/or exiled by Edward II, seen their families imprisoned, their friends executed and their bodies left hanging in public for years, men who had plenty of reason to hate Edward II and who would have been willing to cover up his murder. Had Beaukaire changed so much in six months that he was willing to participate in the murder of Edward II, cover up the evidence, and protect Mortimer and the others - when he'd been holding Caerphilly Castle against Mortimer that same year? Or was he guarding something else?

And one last thing on the subject of Beau[k/c]aire. I'm entering the realm of speculation here, but this whole affair is so odd, there's little else to do! The Fieschi letter, addressed to Edward III sometime in the 1330s by Manuele Fieschi, papal notary, distant cousin of Edward II and future Bishop of Vercelli, claimed that Edward II had not died in 1327. According to the letter, the former King spent time at Corfe Castle and in Ireland, and after Roger Mortimer's execution, took a ship to northern France. There, he travelled by foot through France, down through Languedoc, and spent two weeks with Pope John XXII at Avignon. The town of Beaucaire is only about fifteen miles from Avignon.
Coincidence? Yes, almost certainly. But still...;)

Giles of Spain (Giles de Spaygne, Despaigne, de Ispan(n)ia, Egidius de Ispania)

Giles is interesting for three reasons:

- His name (Giles de Spaygne) appears directly above William Beaukaire's on the list of men pardoned at Caerphilly in March 1327.

- He was ordered to be arrested as an adherent of Edward II's half-brother the Earl of Kent in March 1330, shortly after Kent was executed after attempting to rescue his brother and 'help him to become king again'.

- And he was the man sent by Edward III in 1331 to track down Thomas Gurney, as described in my last post.

Paul Doherty describes Giles as a "professional bounty hunter" and Alison Weir as a "secret agent". In fact, more prosaically, he was a king's yeoman, for Edward II and Edward III, and came from Castile, homeland of Edward II's mother. The earliest mention I can find of him is on 6 November 1313, when he and nine other men stood as sureties for a group of merchants from Santander visiting England to trade. (The other men are called things like Merlin de Sene, Reymund Guillelmi, Poncius de Tholosa and Valentine Sancii, presumably all Spanish. Merlin de Sene was also a yeoman of Edward II.)

In the 1310s and 1320s, Giles was granted a messuage in Oldeford, "the houses of La Forde outside London", and other lands, houses and tenements for himself and "Laurencia his wife" by Edward II. He fought for Edward in Scotland in 1314, for which Edward paid him the large sum of £108 14s and 6d, although some of that was compensation for his lost horses.

In January 1325, Edward II sent Giles to his (Edward's) cousin the King of Portugal, with letters of credence regarding the Admiral of the Portuguese fleet at Genoa and his brother, a long-term resident of England. On 20 October of the same year, Giles was sent to Spain "on the king's service", apparently in connection with the proposed marriages of two of Edward's children with the King of Castile and his sister.

Giles stayed loyal to Edward II till the end, as demonstrated by his presence at Caerphilly in 1326/27. It's interesting to see the Frenchman William Beaukaire and a Spaniard holding the castle against the invaders together - and the name below Beaukaire's is Rodrigo de Medyne, also a sergeant-at-arms. Rodrigo, or 'Rodrigus de Medina', was still acting as sergeant-at-arms for Edward III in 1336.

I don't know what happened to Giles of Spain between March 1327 and early 1330, but on 31 March 1330 - twelve days after the Earl of Kent's execution - he appears thirtieth on a list of forty-two men "who stood charged with being adherents of Edmund de Wodestoke, late Earl of Kent, confessedly a rebel, and to bring them before the King a month after Easter."

However, Giles soon returned to Edward III's favour, as in 1331, he was issued a writ of aid and a safe conduct "to bring to the king Sir Thomas de Gurney, knight, arrested beyond seas for sedition against the late king and conspiring his death." It's likely that Edward III sent Giles to search for Gurney because of his former loyalty to Edward II, not because he was a 'bounty hunter' or a secret agent. He made two unsuccessful trips to find Gurney, and arrested three other men [below] accused of complicity in the death of Edward II on his return to England. Giles spent more time in 1333 wandering around Spain, where he arrested John Tilly and Robert Lynel, "enemies of the king". Tilly was Thomas Gurney's squire, but Lynel is obscure.

I don't know what happened to Giles after 1333. Maybe he and Laurencia retired to their houses of "La Forde outside London", wherever that is, or returned to Castile.

Some other men pardoned at Caerphilly Castle, March 1327

- William Hurley, carpenter (died 1354). He built the ceiling of the Great Hall at Caerphilly for the Younger Despenser in the 1320s, which still exists. Later, he became Edward III's master carpenter, and worked on Ely Cathedral, Windsor Castle and the Tower of London, among other buildings.

- Simon Simeon, known as Simkyn. He was (after March 1327, I presume) a yeoman of Edward II's cousin Henry of Lancaster, and became the chamberlain and trusted confidant of Lancaster's son Henry of Grosmont, Duke of Lancaster (who was the nephew of the Younger Despenser, and father-in-law of John of Gaunt).

- Roger atte Watre, one of the Dunheved gang who freed Edward II from Berkeley in 1327 [see my next post].

- Walter Couhierd (Cowherd). Walter spent two weeks with Edward II in 1322, "in his company", with a few other men - Alison Weir in her biography of Queen Isabella speculates that Edward "was being promiscuous with low-born men". Which sounds like fun. Another man on the Caerphilly list is Simon Hede, who may have been another of the men who spent time with Edward in 1322.

There are some great names on the list, like Senchet Garcie, which looks Gascon, Ferandus le Trompur, Robert Bolefynche, Henry de Hustrette...I'm currently researching the men who were pardoned, but there are over a hundred of them, so it's going to take me a while. ;) If I find anything interesting, I'll update the post.

Sir Richard de Well, John le Spicer, William Kingsclere

After Giles of Spain's unsuccessful attempts to bring Thomas Gurney to Edward III, he returned to England and arrested these three men, in 1332 and early 1333, for some unstated complicity in the death of Edward II. Evidently they were released without charge, and their identities remain unclear, though Paul Doherty postulates that they were members of the Berkeley Castle garrison in September 1327, which makes sense. However, Thomas Berkeley had a household of around 300 people, and none of the others were arrested that anyone knows of - which suggests that these three had access to Edward, incarcerated in the keep of Berkeley Castle.

It's difficult to trace these men. On 20 May 1329, when Edward III travelled to France to pay homage to Philip VI for Gascony, a John le Spicer accompanied the party - his name appears on the list two places below John Maltravers', which seems to indicate a connection. The man two places above Maltravers is Hugh Turpynton (or Turplington), who replaced Maltravers as Steward of Edward III's household on 29 July 1330, and was killed on 19 October 1330 trying to defend Roger Mortimer against Edward III and his friends.

It's odd that Sir Richard de Well isn't known - as a knight, he should crop up somewhere. I'll keep looking. A 'Richard de Welles' appears in January 1313 - though this man was a burgess of Bristol, and the man I'm looking for was a knight. However, the records associate this Welles with a Thomas le Spicer, so there may be a connection to John le Spicer, and Bristol is the right part of the country (it's about twenty miles from Berkeley).

I haven't been able to discover anything at all about William Kingsclere, which annoys me more than you can imagine. Kingsclere is a village in Hampshire, near the hill Watership Down.

Sir Oliver Ingham

Ingham doesn't really fit here, but I'd like to talk about him, as his career followed a fascinating trajectory. He was present at Nottingham Castle on 19 October 1330, and was arrested with Roger Mortimer, Mortimer's sons, and Simon Bereford. However, he had previously shown great loyalty to Edward II, which saved his neck.

Oliver Ingham was born in about 1286 or 1287 - he was twenty-three or twenty-four when his father Sir John died in April 1310 - and inherited lands in Hampshire, Wiltshire, Suffolk and Norfolk (the family came from Ingham in Norfolk). His wife Elizabeth la Zouche was (probably) the sister of Eve la Zouche, mother of Thomas, Lord Berkeley, who wasn't too much younger than Ingham.

Considering his later allegiance to Roger Mortimer, it's interesting to see the role he played in the Despenser War of 1321/22, when he remained completely loyal to Edward II. He was a member of the royal army that tried to hold Bridgnorth against Roger Mortimer and other 'Contrariants' in early 1322. In early December 1321, he was ordered to seize the lands and goods of several of Edward II's enemies, and arrest them, including Edward's former favourites Hugh Audley and Roger Damory - and John Maltravers. On 12 March 1322, four days before the Battle of Boroughbridge, he raised forces against the 'insurgents'. And most interestingly in this context, on 14 November 1323 he was ordered to pursue adherents of Roger Mortimer, who had escaped from the Tower of London in August.

The historian Natalie Fryde has described Ingham as a "favourite Despenser retainer", but I can't find any evidence that he ever served the Despensers in this capacity, though he was a household knight of Edward II. However, he was obviously trusted by the Younger Despenser, as he was sent to Gascony as marshal of the English army during the War of Saint-Sardos, which Despenser was directing. Ingham became Seneschal of Gascony on 7 October 1325 and was said to be "staying in Gascony on the king's service" as late as 15 October 1326, when Edward II and Hugh Despenser were on the run from Isabella and Roger Mortimer.

Alison Weir claims that Ingham left Gascony in September 1326 to join Isabella and Mortimer for their invasion, though neither his ODNB entry nor Knights of Edward I make any mention of this. Other sources say that he was temporarily banished from Gascony in 1327. He must have been back in England by 4 February 1327, however, as he was chosen as a member of the Regency Council for the fourteen-year-old Edward III. From this time, he switched allegiance completely and thereafter showed unswerving loyalty to Roger Mortimer. He was called to Parliament from June 1328, and became Justice of Chester. On 21 March 1330, Ingham was appointed with John Maltravers and four others to make inqusition in the county of Southampton "to discover the adherents of Edmund of Wodestok, late earl of Kent, who has been condemned to death by his peers in the present Parliament for high treason."

On 19 October 1330, Oliver Ingham was present with Roger Mortimer and Queen Isabella when Edward III, William Montacute, Thomas Bradeston, and all the rest, burst into the room to seize Mortimer. Ingham was bound and gagged and taken out of the castle, and three days later, his lands and goods were seized.

However, Ingham was never charged with any crime, and Edward III pardoned him on 8 December, owing to his former loyalty to Edward II. On 30 May 1331, a request was granted "by the testimony of Robert de Ufford and Oliver de Ingham" - Ufford was one of the men who'd arrested Mortimer, and Ingham himself. Ingham was re-appointed as Seneschal of Gascony that June. He spent most of the rest of his life there, and did his best to prevent a French invasion in the early years of the Hundred Years War. He died on 29 January 1344.


Susan Higginbotham said...

Great post, to which I can actually add something today! Oliver Ingham returned to England in the summer of 1342 to get troops for Edward III's campaign in Brittany. The man who worked with him on this was none other than Hugh le Despenser the Even Younger, who sailed with Ingham from Dartmouth in July 1342. Despenser and his men ended up in Brest, where the Countess of Montfort needed reinforcements, and Ingham went on to Gascony.

There's more about Ingham's later career in the first book in Jonathan Sumption's account of the Hundred Years War.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Ok, that's not one shoal of stinky, fishy fish, that's two shoals of very fishy fish. :)

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Susan! Interesting to hear about Ingham and Hugh the Even Younger. I'll take a look at the Sumption.

Gabriele: it's as fishy as half an Atlantic full of stinky fish, IMO! :-)

Carla said...

So is the idea that Beaucaire was covering up Edward's escape and the substitution of a different body?

Great conspiracy theory. It must have been done in fiction many times over?

Kathryn Warner said...

Carla: certainly, that's one theory. And I can't think of another one. ;) I wouldn't say that I definitely believe Ed wasn't murdered in 1327, but I think there are enough oddities to suggest that, just maybe, something else was going on.

Oddly enough, there are very few Ed II novels which depict Ed surviving 1327 - Harlot Queen by Hilda Lewis, Death of a King by Paul Doherty, and possibly King's Wake by Eve Trevaskis, which I haven't read completely. The others have the red-hot poker story.

So, lots of scope for exploring this in fiction. ;)

Carla said...

Well, there you go - one for you to write :-) A HEA for your lovely Edward, settled in sunny Italy with a Giovanni who likes swimming.

Angela said...

Kathryn, Did you ever find out more about John le Spicer? Was he possibly John Spicer who was an MP for Bristol in 1340 and mayor of Bristol in 1351 (as well as holding several other officers)? He is probably the one you mention being the son of Thomas le Spicer I have collected quite a bit in information about him.

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi Angela! Unfortunately no, I've never done any more research on John Spicer, but fascinating to hear of your information on the family! It does sound like he was most probably the son of Thomas Spicer. Another piece of the puzzle fits together! Thank you for letting me know! I'd love to learn more about the family. All the best!