03 November, 2007

A Happy (Slightly Belated) 700th Wedding Anniversary

...to Piers Gaveston and Margaret de Clare, who married on 1 November 1307, All Saints Day, at Berkhamsted Castle. Edward II was present, of course, as was Margaret's brother Gilbert, earl of Gloucester, and probably her sisters Eleanor and Margaret. The earl of Pembroke attended, and also 'several magnates', sadly not named.

The wedding took place only a few days after Edward I's funeral, which attracted a great deal of criticism, as did the 'disparagement' of Edward's granddaughter, married to a man far beneath her by birth. Still, Margaret became countess of Cornwall at marriage, Piers was one of the richest men in the country, and was high in the king's favour, so she might not have considered herself disparaged at all.

By all accounts, it was a lavish affair. Edward II provided the extremely generous sum of seven pounds, ten shillings and six pence - more than most people in England earned in a year then - in pennies, to be thrown over the happy couple at the door of the church. (His almoners later collected the money to distribute to the poor.) Edward gave Margaret a palfrey worth twenty pounds, jewels worth thirty pounds to both Piers and Margaret - I can't escape the conclusion that most of them were for Piers - gifts to a value of over thirty-six pounds for Margaret's ladies-in-waiting, and spent twenty pounds on minstrels to entertain the guests.

Whether Piers and Margaret began living together as husband and wife is uncertain, but I would suspect not, as she was almost certainly only thirteen at the time, possibly just turned fourteen. Their only child, Joan, was born in January 1312. In November 1307 Piers was somewhere between twenty-four and twenty-six. This age difference attracted no criticism at the time, and was of course entirely normal by the standards of the age.

Piers and Margaret would be married for less than five years; he was beheaded on 19 June 1312. Nothing at all is known about their marriage, whether they were content together, adored or detested each other, were indifferent, but given Piers' close relationship with Margaret's uncle, it would make a fascinating fictional study.


Susan Higginbotham said...

Can't prove it, of course, but I'd be inclined to think that Margaret rather liked a marriage to a handsome young man that made her a countess (outranking her sisters). It's irritating how many nonfiction writers (who should know better) assume that she was miserable about the prospect.

Kathryn Warner said...

Good point, Susan. She outranked her elder sister Eleanor quite considerably, which I can imagine she was pretty pleased about (and which might have rankled with Eleanor). Of all the men she might have married, at least Piers was handsome and charming, and not decades older, and she could stay in England. No reason at all to assume she hated him or was unhappy.