22 August, 2007

Children of Edward II: Childhood and Betrothals

A post on the four children of Edward II and Isabella, some details of their childhoods, and their betrothals and marriages.

Edward III

Edward was born at Windsor on Monday 13 November 1312. Edward II spent most of the last two months of Isabella's pregnancy with her at Windsor; he left for Sheen, about twenty miles away, on 9 November, and hurried back on the 12th, probably because he'd received a message that Isabella had gone into labour. Young Edward was created Earl of Chester when he was only a few days old (Edward II had become Earl of Chester in February 1301, aged sixteen). By January, still only a few weeks old, young Edward already had his own household, and was looked after by his nurse, Margaret.

Edward II and Isabella occasionally visited their son, who lived at Bisham in Berkshire from 27 January 1313, and the little boy was also taken to court - for example, spending twenty-seven days there in the early summer of 1313. He also lived at Ludgershall in Wiltshire for a time, then at Windsor Castle. In early 1318, Edward II appointed Sir Richard Damory as his son's guardian: 'keeper of the body of my lord Sir Edward, Earl of Chester'. Damory was the elder brother of Edward II's great favourite at the time, Roger Damory. Late that same year, Edward's brother John and sister Eleanor came to live with him.

The marriage of his eldest son and heir was a matter of great importance to Edward II, and in late 1318 - when his son had just turned six - he began the process of finding his son a royal bride. Margaret, the eldest daughter of Count William of Hainault, was put forward in 1319; she was born in 1311, and ultimately married Louis IV von Wittelsbach, future Holy Roman Emperor, in 1324 (he was a widower, born in 1282). In March 1321, Edward II informed Count William that he was keen to arrange the match, but that the King of Aragon and others had also shown interest in a marriage alliance with young Edward, and the plans fizzled out.

In the summer of 1323, Queen Isabella's uncle Charles, Count of Valois, proposed a match between Edward and one of his ten daughters. Edward II, however, being half-Spanish himself, favoured Spanish marriages for his children, and decided to continue with the Aragon match. The King of Aragon at the time (until November 1327) was Jaime II, whose elder brother Alfonso III had once been betrothed to Edward II's sister Eleanor. Jaime had five daughters, though one was a nun and one a prioress. The others were: Constança (born 1300), Isabel (born 1305) and Violante (born 1310) - all older than Edward III.

For some reason, the Aragon alliance did not work out, and in January 1325, Castile opened negotiations for young Edward to marry Leonor, daughter of Fernando IV (died 1312) and sister of Alfonso XI (born 1311). The young King of Castile would marry Edward's sister, Eleanor of Woodstock (born 1318). In October, negotiations were finalised, and Edward II informed Afonso IV of Portugal, who had proposed a match between young Edward and his daughter Maria, who was almost exactly the same age as the boy, that the proposed arrangement couldn't go ahead.

In September 1325, Edward II created his son Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Ponthieu, and sent him to France to pay homage to Charles IV for the lands. Edward was almost thirteen, and was soon caught up in his mother's plans to invade England. In August 1326, Isabella arranged a marriage alliance between Edward and an (unnamed) daughter of Count William of Hainault; there were three unmarried daughters. The girl's dowry was spent on ships and soldiers to invade England.

On 30 January 1328, fifteen-year-old Edward III married Philippa of Hainault, second daughter of Count William, at York Minster. Her mother was Jeanne, one of the ten daughters of Charles de Valois, and she was thus Edward's second cousin. Edward and Philippa were married for over forty years, and had twelve children.

John of Eltham

John was born on 15 August 1316, at Eltham Palace near London. Edward II was at Lincoln at the time, attending Parliament, but sent money for his son's christening, gave Isabella gifts of lands and jewellery, and had the Dominicans in York say prayers for his wife and child. In early September, conflict with Earl Thomas of Lancaster (who was meant to be John of Eltham's godfather, but didn't show up for the christening) came to a head, and fearing an armed confrontation with his powerful cousin, Edward ordered Isabella to come to him at York as quickly as possible. He generously rewarded a messenger who informed him that Isabella was on her way, and was clearly very anxious about her safety. As always when the royal couple were apart, they kept in frequent contact via messengers.

This episode, however, gets considerably less attention from historians and novelists than his alleged 'abandonment' of a tearful Isabella at Tynemouth on 10 May 1312, when she was pregnant with Edward III, which is often portrayed as callousness on Edward's part and proof that he cared far more about Piers Gaveston's safety than his wife's. However, he and Piers subsequently spent five days bobbing about in a small boat on the North Sea - hardly an ideal situation for a woman who was three months pregnant with the (possible) heir to England. Edward left Piers at Scarborough and travelled to York, where he and Isabella were reunited a mere week after he'd 'abandoned' her; she made her way there by land, a far safer mode of travel in her condition. But it's another stick to beat Edward with, and fits so nicely into the usual 'Isabella the Victim' theme.

John of Eltham joined his brother Edward's household in late 1318; his nurse was named Matilda Pyrie. In September 1324, he was granted his own household, under the command of Edward II's niece Eleanor de Clare. In October 1326, after Edward II and his few remaining supporters had fled to Wales, John was living in the Tower, where his first cousin and guardian Eleanor de Clare had been left in charge. Eleanor surrendered the Tower to the mob, who promptly made ten-year-old John the nominal Keeper of London.

John of Eltham became Earl of Cornwall (a title previously held by Piers Gaveston) on 31 October 1328, aged twelve. In 1334, a marriage alliance was proposed between John and Maria of Castile, another sister of Alfonso XI, and a papal dispensation was granted, but Maria died shortly afterwards. Other possible brides put forward for John were: a daughter of Philip VI of France; a daughter of the Count of Blois; a daughter of the Lord of Coucy; and a daughter of Guy, brother of the Duke of Brittany.

John died at Perth on 13 September 1336, wounded in a skirmish with Scots troops. He was only twenty, and still unmarried. It's on record that Edward III suffered nightmares over his brother's death.

Eleanor of Woodstock

Eleanor was born at Woodstock on Sunday 18 June 1318. Edward II arrived at Woodstock on the day of her birth and stayed for ten days, when he and Isabella left for Northampton, for the opening of Parliament.

In late 1318, just a few months old, Eleanor joined the household of her elder brothers. In September 1324, Eleanor and her younger sister Joan were granted their own household, and lived with Isabella Hastings, sister of the Younger Despenser, and her husband Ralph de Monthermer. Monthermer was the girls' uncle, kind of - he had previously been married to Edward II's sister Joan of Acre.

In 1325, Eleanor was betrothed to Alfonso XI of Castile, who was seven years her senior. He ultimately married Maria, daughter of Afonso IV of Portugal, once proposed as a bride for Edward III. By Maria, Alfonso was the father of King Pedro the Cruel, but he ignored his wife in favour of his mistress doña Leonor Núñez de Guzmán, by whom he had ten children - so Eleanor probably had a lucky escape. Doña Leonor was later murdered on the orders of Pedro the Cruel.

In May 1332, not quite fourteen, Eleanor married Count Reinald II of Gelderland at Nijmegen, and gave birth to the first of her two children before she turned fifteen. She died on 22 April 1355, aged thirty-six, and was buried in Deventer Abbey.

Joan of the Tower

Born in the Tower of London on 5 July 1321. The royal apartments were rather dilapidated, and rain came in onto Isabella's bed while she was in labour. Later, a furious Edward II relieved John Cromwell, Constable of the Tower, of his post. Joan was born in the middle of the Despenser War, and shortly after her birth, her mother went down on her knees before Edward II and begged him to exile the Despensers.

In 1325, Edward II received a papal dispensation for one of his daughters to marry Pedro, eldest son and heir of Alfonso IV of Aragon and grandson of Jaime II. He must have had Joan in mind, as his other daughter Eleanor was betrothed to Alfonso XI of Castile. Pedro was born in September 1319 and succeeded his father as Pedro IV of Aragon on 24 January 1336. After the alliance with England fell through, he married, in 1338, Marie of Navarre, granddaughter of Louis X of France (brother of Edward II's Queen Isabella) and lived until 5 January 1387.

On 17 July 1328, Joan married David, son and heir of King Robert (Bruce) of Scotland, as part of the Treaty of Northampton. She had just turned seven, and David was four, born on 5 March 1324. Her sixteen-year-old brother Edward III refused to attend the wedding, and Robert didn't either. On 7 June 1329, King Robert died, and his five-year-old son succeeded him as David II. Joan and David's marriage was an unhappy one, and they had no children. David was captured at the Battle of Neville's Cross on 17 October 1346 and spent eleven years as a prisoner in England. The couple never lived together again, and Joan spent the rest of her life in England, often in the company of her mother Queen Isabella, who died in August 1358. Joan died on 7 September 1362, at the age of forty-one. David II died on 22 February 1371, and was succeeded by Robert II - his nephew, although eight years older.


Susan Higginbotham said...

Poor Ed just can't win with Isabella and Tynemouth. Imagine what would be said if he'd dragged her aboard ship and she had had a miscarriage!

Kathryn Warner said...

Exactly! Just like he's often criticised for ignoring her in the early years of their marriage, but would be condemned as perverted and totally indifferent to her health and safety if he'd made her pregnant!

Poor Edward - damned if he did, damned if he didn't.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Some people should really read the sources. :) To, me Edward comes across as caring a lot for Isabella. He might not have been madly in love with her, but he was always concerned for her welfare. If Isabella had accepted Edward as he was, their marriage could have been one of the better working in times of arranged ones.

Kathryn Warner said...

Gabriele: yes, their marriage was far more successful for far longer than many people imagine. I have to admit though that Ed, under Hugh Despenser's influence, was pretty unkind to Isa after 1322 - but even so, there were plenty of royal and noble women who were treated much worse by their husbands than she was!

One chronicle (written after 1330) claims that Isa begged Ed in tears not to leave her at Tynemouth, but it's not mentioned anywhere else. And she left Tynemouth in a great hurry herself, leaving most of her baggage behind. If she was really ticked off with Ed, she could have stayed there and joined the Earl of Lancaster (who they were all fleeing from). And she made her way directly to York, to meet up with Ed again. It was obviously a prior arrangement.

There were lots of times when Ed showed that he was dedicated to Isa's interests - such as making sure that her income from Ponthieu and Cornwall was paid on time, for instance.

Carla said...

It's notable that Edward seems to have made an effort to be present at the birth of at least three of the children (Joan being the exception? but there was a war on at the time). He could easily have made excuses to be elsewhere.

Why did he need a papal dispensation for Joan to marry Pedro? I guess they were cousins, but I've lost track of the family relationships and can't remember how close.

Interesting that a Hainault alliance had been considered for Edward III very early on. I'd had a vague idea that his marriage to Philippa was a hasty arrangement to secure support for Isabella and Mortimer's invasion, but obviously the idea had been around for a while.

Kathryn Warner said...

Carla: yes, Edward only missed John of Eltham's birth, as he was attending Parliament in Lincoln. He was in London for Joan's birth, during the Despenser War, and gave Isabella custody of the Tower about 3 weeks before Joan was born - proof of how much he trusted her.

Joan of the Tower was the great-granddaughter of Isabella of Aragon (mother of Philip IV of France). Pedro was the great-grandson of Pedro III, brother of Isabella of Aragon. Which makes Joan and Pedro third cousins, I think. ;)

Yes, Edward III's marriage to Philippa was arranged in order to provide support and money for Isabella and Mortimer's invasion of England. Edward II and Count William of Hainault had formerly had pretty good relations, and Hainault was an up-an-coming power, hence the planned marriage alliance between England and Hainault around 1320. But something went wrong, as William was prepared to send troops against Ed II in 1326 - perhaps because he'd married Jeanne de Valois and therefore looked to France as his main ally, not England.

Unknown said...

I love posts like this! Full of stuff I never knew before!

"Her mother was Jeanne, one of the ten daughters of Charles de Valois, and she was thus Edward's second cousin."

So Edward III's mother-in-law Jeanne was the sister of some of the princesses who'd been put forward as potential wives for him? Crazy! I'm guessing the princesses they had in mind were much younger than Jeanne!

"Edward and Philippa were married for over forty years, and had twelve children."

It was quite successful for an arranged marriage, wasn't it? Especially in comparison to Edward's parents' marriage! I know there was his affair with Alice Perrers, but that didn't come till quite late in the marriage, if I remember right?

Was the 'daughter of the Lord of Coucy' proposed as a bride for John of Eltham any relation to the Lord of Coucy that married Edward III's daughter Isabel?

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Liam - I'm fascinated by stuff like this, too! :)

Charles de Valois was married three times, so there was a pretty big age gap between his eldest and youngest children. His eldest child Isabelle was born in 1292, the future Philip VI in 1293, and Philippa of Hainault's mother Jeanne in 1294. His youngest child, Louis, was born in 1318, and his youngest daughter Blanche in 1317.

IIRC, Ed III's relationship with Alice Perrers began in the early to mid 1360s, when Philippa was still alive (she died 1369), but she (Philippa) was apparently incapacitated and very ill for many years before she died. But generally, Ed and Philippa's marriage was a very close and successful one!

I'm afraid I don't know the relationship between the lords of Coucy, but I would imagine the lord of Coucy who would have been John of E's father-in-law was the father or uncle (or grandfather?) of Enguerrand.

*Makes mental note to check genealogy of Lords of Coucy* :-)

Unknown said...

I had a little look myself - the Lord of Coucy who married Edward III's daughter had a sister called Marie Anne, but I couldn't find her dates of birth and death, but given that her brother was born in 1339, she was probably too young to be John's potential wife. In fact, I can't find anyone it could be - none of the dates seem to fit! The only possible one I can see is Jeanne de Guines Coucy, granddaughter of Arnoul de Guines, who's great-great-grandson married Isabella Plantagenet. I don't know her dates of birth and death, but she married in 1323, so she might have been reasonably close to John in age. Sorry, I'm miles off topic!

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks for investigating, Liam! Unfortunately, the sources where I read about John's potential bride didn't give any details, but Jeanne certainly seems possible!