10 December, 2007

The Conspiracy of the Earl of Kent, 1330 (4)

More on the men who helped the earl of Kent in his conspiracy to free Edward II in 1329/30.

Sir John Pecche

Only Ian Mortimer has drawn attention to the vital role played by Pecche, who was appointed constable of Corfe Castle on 16 December 1325, by Edward II. Although Sir John Deveril - who accepted a letter Kent wrote to Edward II, and sent it to Roger Mortimer, as mentioned in a previous post - is often said to have been the constable of Corfe at the time of Kent's plot and earlier, there's no record in any of the Patent, Close or Fine Rolls of his appointment. From these records, it's clear that John Pecche served as constable from December 1325 to September 1329, when he was replaced by Sir John Maltravers, who was sentenced to death in November 1330 for his part in entrapping Kent.

Therefore, it's extremely interesting that Pecche took part in Kent's plot to rescue Edward II. After all, who was in better position to know whether Edward II really was at Corfe, if not its constable?

John Pecche was given permission to leave England for two years on 10 February 1327, for unknown reasons ("Simple protection for two years for John Pecche, going beyond seas"). However, he was back in England by 13 February 1328, and on 18 February he and several other men were accused of stealing eight horses worth 100 marks (£66) and £28 in money at Warwick. On 13 February, he and his second wife Eleanor - who incidentally was the widow of Sir Ralph de Gorges, died 1323, a close adherent of the Despensers and enemy of Roger Mortimer, but also the first cousin of Sir John Maltravers - were again "going beyond seas", and appointed attorneys to look after their interests.

It's also interesting to note that Pecche knew John Dunheved, brother of Stephen and Thomas Dunheved who freed Edward II from Berkeley in the summer of 1327 (Stephen was another co-conspirator of Kent in 1330). After Stephen had to abjure the realm for a serious felony in 1321, John Dunheved mortgaged their manor of Dunchurch to Pecche, and granted it to him outright in 1330. In 1321, a John Pecche - perhaps this one, though he's identified as 'John Pecche, senior' - bailed John Dunheved and three other men for the rape of Edith de Grasbrok. John Dunheved murdered Pecche's rent-collector in 1325, and Pecche tried to kill him in revenge, but the two men were evidently reconciled by May 1329, when Dunheved acknowledged a debt of £100 to Pecche.

I found a very odd entry in Rotuli Parliamentorum, from the records of the November 1330 Parliament, where John Dunheved's wife Margery made a complaint against John Pecche. She claimed that he'd gone to her house at midnight, with his wife Eleanor and twenty armed men, had her dragged out of bed, seized her arms, and shouted "This woman is not pregnant!" (Ceste feme n'est point enceynt). What that was about, I can't imagine, although Pecche evidently had some kind of ongoing feud with Margery, in which matter he had earlier invoked the help of Hugh Despenser the Younger.

So, Pecche returned to England unexpectedly a year before he was meant to. How he discovered that Edward II was being held at Corfe is uncertain, but as he was in charge of the castle, it can't have been too difficult.

Pecche told Sir Ingelram Berenger that Edward II was still alive. Berenger, born about 1271, was a knight of Somerset and Wiltshire, and a close friend of Hugh Despenser the Elder (he had joined his retinue as early as 1299, and was pardoned for adherence to Despenser on 24 February 1327). I don't know what, if any connection Berenger had to Pecche, but as a former Despenser adherent, Berenger was an obvious person to inform about Edward II's survival. Kent's confession: "Sir Ingelram Berenger came unto him from Sir John Pecche, that he was of that mind [to free Edward II], and thereto would bestow body and mind and whatsoever he had."

Berenger also met Kent another time, in the chamber above the chapel at Kent's castle of Arundel, to tell him that the bishop of London had pledged his support "in the deliverance of his brother".

Assuming that Edward II's death was faked, and he was being held at Corfe in the custody of Sir John Maltravers, why was this castle chosen? Perhaps because: it's in Dorset, where Maltravers is powerful; it's far from where any of Edward II's friends were; it's a very strong castle and easy to defend, on a hill; it's remote; and it's near the sea, in case they need to get Edward away quickly. And also, because the constable is set to be out of the country until early 1329.

Another oddity: the Berkeley Castle muniments roll which ends on 29 September 1327 (eight days after Edward II's presumed murder) records a payment to one Henry Pecche, for looking after the former king 'at Berkeley and elsewhere'. How, or if, Henry was related to John Pecche is not known. The reference to keeping Edward II 'elsewhere' is interesting too, given that, according to the official record, Edward was only ever at Kenilworth Castle and Berkeley in 1327, except for the journey between them which lasted two or three days, and Pecche is not recorded as his keeper at Kenilworth. Henry Pecche is hard to find; a man of this name is mentioned as a tenant-in-chief in Ireland in 1291, but he only had a daughter. There were a few other Pecches at this time, knights, but Henry's origins are uncertain. The Fieschi Letter records that, after Kent's execution in March 1330, Edward II left Corfe and went to Ireland; he "took a ship with his said keeper". This mysterious keeper is not named, but was he Henry Pecche? Where does he fit into Kent's plot, and John Pecche's role in it? Was John Pecche also connected to Thomas, Lord Berkeley, who paid Henry for looking after Edward II?

Sir Fulk Fitz Warin

Fulk originally served in the retinue of Thomas, earl of Lancaster, Edward II's cousin and nemesis. He was there as late as 1319, but switched sides, and commanded the royal cavalry at the battle of Boroughbridge in March 1322, where Lancaster was defeated and captured. Fulk was one of the men who held Bridgnorth against Roger Mortimer in January 1322, during Edward II's campaign against the Marcher lords; another man was Sir John Pecche, and another was Sir Oliver Ingham - who was one of the men arrested with Mortimer in October 1330.

I find Fulk's involvement in Kent's plot rather puzzling, as, as far as I know, he was neither a great friend or ally of Edward II or Kent, and no great enemy of Roger Mortimer. Still, he evidently believed that freeing Edward would be "the greatest honour that ever befell him." On 10 March 1330, nine days before Kent's execution, the sheriff of Shropshire and Staffordshire was ordered to arrest him. Fulk fled the country. However, on 25 November that year - four days before Mortimer's execution - Edward III granted him (and others) protection and safe conduct to return to England.

Sir Thomas Roscelyn

A Lancastrian knight, also a long-term adherent of Roger Mortimer; however, he grew so disillusioned and angry with his former ally that he rebelled against him in late 1328, and came to see the return of Edward II as preferable to Mortimer's misrule of England! In 1316, he attended the wedding of Mortimer's son Edmund, and on 12 August 1323 and 31 May 1325, was described as "a rebel" by Edward II, for taking part in the Marcher rebellion of 1321/22, led by Roger Mortimer.

In early 1329, Thomas and Henry, Lord Beaumont, fled abroad after taking part in the earl of Lancaster's rebellion against Mortimer and Isabella. These two men, and two others (Thomas Wyther and William Trussell) were specifically excluded from a pardon issued in the name of the king, but actually written by Mortimer, to all the men who had taken part in the rebellion. Mortimer's exclusion of Roscelyn points to his anger with him.

Thomas and Henry Beaumont fled to Paris, where they met Kent at some unknown date, probably in the autumn of 1329 (Kent was granted protection to leave England in February 1328 and March 1329, and met the Pope in Avignon, where, according to his own account, the pontiff encouraged him to free his brother from Corfe). They promised him that they would return to England to help him, but land near Scotland, to meet up with Donald, earl of Mar, another co-conspirator.

Thomas and Henry met Kent in the chamber of the duke of Brabant in Paris. The duke, Jan III, was the nephew of Edward II, his sister Margaret's son, and also the nephew of Kent (or half-nephew, to be precise). Later, the two exiles travelled to Brabant, as did Edward II's friend Rhys ap Gruffydd, and together plotted an invasion of England to remove Mortimer and Isabella from power in the summer of 1330. This all suggests that Duke Jan was involved in, or at least encouraged, Kent's plot to restore Edward II, and the actions against the couple who had deposed his uncle.

Sir William la Zouche of Mortimer

Son of Robert Mortimer and Joyce la Zouche, Lord of Ashby in Leicestershire and a distant cousin of Roger Mortimer, William used his mother's name. He was one of the men who arrested the younger Despenser in November 1326, and led the siege of Caerphilly Castle with Hugh the even younger in it until March 1327, but his early 1329 marriage to the younger Despenser's widow Eleanor de Clare apparently led to a change of allegiance (see Susan's post on him).

Ingelram Berenger acted as a messenger between William and Kent: "Sir Ingelram Berenger told him [Kent] in London, from Sir William de la Zouche, that he would give as much as he could for the deliverance of his brother." William de Cliff, named in Melton's letter, also sent a message of support from la Zouche to Kent, and later, la Zouche met Kent himself: "they rode together between Woking and Guildford...[la Zouche] said this would be the greatest honour that ever befell him, and that he would aid him as much as he could to do this thing."

La Zouche was arrested by Stephen le Bitterle, royal sergeant-at-arms, but was released on mainprise (i.e., bailed) fairly quickly - because of his previous actions against the Despensers?

Hugh Despenser the Even Younger

Eldest son of Hugh Despenser the Younger, stepson of William la Zouche, about 21 in 1330. Hugh was in prison in 1330, where he had been since March 1327 when the garrison of Caerphilly Castle agreed to surrender on condition that his life be spared. (Some members of the Caerphilly garrison: Roger atte Watre of the Dunheved gang; Giles of Spain, another Kent conspirator; William Beaukaire, who watched Edward II's alone for a month). Hugh's jailer was Sir Thomas Gurney, one of the alleged murderers of Edward II.

It's hardly surprising to see Despenser's son involved in a plot to free Edward II. But precisely what Hugh was supposed to do to aid the plot is uncertain; not only was he in prison, he was in disgrace, penniless, and the bearer of the most notorious and detested name in England. But Kent mentions him: "this same Sir William [la Zouche] came unto him from Hugh le Despenser, which told him that he would be well pleased to be with him; for he said that he would be sure of the deliverance in short time." Perhaps he offered moral support, if nothing else; and young Hugh was, after all, the great-nephew of both Edward II and the earl of Kent.

Richard of Arundel (?)

There's a rather garbled bit in Kent's confession, where he and William la Zouche discuss the alliance between la Zouche's 'daughter' - which means stepdaughter - and the son of 'Richard, earl of Arundel'. This actually means Edmund, earl of Arundel, beheaded by Roger Mortimer in November 1326; Richard was the name of his son, married to Isabel Despenser.

Richard of Arundel was never named as an adherent of Kent, but he did hatch a plot in early June 1330, not long after the events described here, to raise a group of men in Shropshire and Staffordshire to end Roger Mortimer's rule. It failed, he fled abroad, and was called back by Edward III on 25 November 1330; soon afterwards, he was restored to his father's earldom.

Richard, who was probably only sixteen or seventeen in 1330 - he was said to be seven at the time of his wedding in February 1321 - had every reason to hate Roger Mortimer, who had executed his father without a trial (which actually makes it murder rather than execution). William la Zouche's mention of him to Kent suggests that he thought Richard would be a valuable ally in their plot.

So in 1330, there were several attempts to free Edward II, or remove Roger Mortimer and Queen Isabella from power: Kent's; the Brabant exiles'; and Richard of Arundel's. This is clear evidence of how detested their regime was, only three/four years after they had removed Edward II - and when you learn how many people saw the return of Edward, one of the most disastrous kings England has ever had and officially dead for two and a half years to boot, as a preferable alternative to them, you start to realise the depth of hatred and discontent towards Mortimer and Isabella's rule by 1330. However, all the plots failed, and it fell to Edward III himself to overthrow Mortimer, which he duly did on 19 October 1330.


Susan Higginbotham said...

It's a shame Kent's rebellion hasn't attracted more academic study, as has the Buckingham rebellion of 1483 (where my head has been lately). Maybe it's crying out for you to do it!

Anonymous said...

Even though Pecche was given permission to go overseas for two years in Feb 1327, did it necessarily mean that he went at that time? Could he have been the 'keeper' that helped remove him from England some time in late 1327?

Kathryn Warner said...

Susan: that would be great!

Kate: it's not certain that John Pecche was out of England from early 1327 to early 1328, though I presume he was. Ed II is meant to have been removed from Corfe (to Ireland) after Kent's execution in March 1330 - by Henry Pecche? Maybe with the help of John P?? I don't know...

Carla said...

If John Pecche was constable of Corfe 1325-1329, but had permission to be abroad from 1327, would there have been an acting or deputy constable in his place?

It gets more complicated by the minute, doesn't it?

Kathryn Warner said...

Carla: curiouser and curiouser, isn't it?

Not sure about a deputy - a lot of men were constables of multiple castles, therefore, being a non-resident keeper was pretty common - and lots of men spent many months out of the country, on military campaign or pilgrimage, for example. Would be great to find out if Pecche did have a deputy, though, and who it was!

Gabriele Campbell said...

Ok, and why did Ed have to be removed from Corfe to Ireland if he was dead? :)

Anonymous said...

The archivist at Berkeley Castle, Mr David Arnott, tells me that for the last century. all the evidence said to cast doubt on Edward II's murder at the castle on September 21, 1327 has been in the public domain, and in all that time 'reputable historians have not found it necessary to revise the traditional view. He adds that 'uncorroborated blogs are no substitute for authenticated research'.

Mr Berkeley, the owner of the castle, had previously written to me saying that he had instructed the guides to mention the theory that Edward II wasn't murdered there, but he may have been overruled.

Although one might think at first that the proprietors had an interest in preserving the standard version, red hot poker and all, the mystery surrounding Edward's fate gives them an even more fascinating narrative Perhaps they could hold a meeting of scholars, at Berkeley Castle, to evaluate the evidence.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Eric - Ian Mortimer mentioned to me that you'd been in touch with him about this. Had to laugh at the 'uncorroborated blog' comment - everything I write about here is based on info 'in the public domain', as he puts it!

At least Mr Berkeley has an open mind about this, which is great. But I think you're right - the 'red-hot poker' story must be a real draw for tourists, though I think myself that the 'conspiracy theory' of Ed's survival is even more fascinating!