07 March, 2008

Piers Gaveston's First Exile

Piers Gaveston was exiled from England no fewer than three times. I wonder if that's a record? Here's some info on the first one.

On 26 February 1307, the ageing Edward I ordered Piers out of the country and told him to return to Gascony, his homeland. The odd thing is that this exile was evidently not intended to punish Piers. Edward ordered him to leave England "after three weeks from the next tournament", which was 30 April - so he set the date more than two months ahead, and allowed Piers to go jousting. He also granted Piers a generous income of 100 marks (66 pounds) a year, and the exile was not intended to be permanent - the king told Piers to stay in Gascony "until he shall be recalled by the king." This is from Foedera, and the Close Rolls confirm this: "...he shall remain in parts beyond sea during the king's pleasure and awaiting recall." If Edward I had been angry with Piers personally, it would be very apparent, and he clearly wasn't.

According to the chronicle of Walter of Guisborough, Edward I exiled Piers because his son Edward of Caernarfon had asked him for permission to grant his county of Ponthieu to his friend. It's also likely that Edward I was concerned about the nature of the relationship between his son and Piers, and that Piers had far too much influence over the young Prince of Wales (and he was entirely right to be concerned, as Edward demonstrated over the next few years).

Piers and Edward were forced to swear on the Host and sundry other relics that they would obey this order, and although Piers did indeed leave the country, he went to Ponthieu, Edward of Caernarfon's inheritance from his mother, not Gascony as ordered.

Edward accompanied Piers to Dover, where he seems to have departed a few days later than he should have, and gave him numerous presents - no fewer than sixteen tapestries, four green, four yellow, four with coats of arms decorated on them, and four green with red rosettes. (I wonder why Edward thought it was necessary to give Piers quite so many tapestries.) He also gave him two quilted tunics and sent after him two splendiferous jousting outfits, one of green velvet embroidered with pearls, gold and silver piping and gold aigulettes, the other somewhat plainer, of green sindon. As if this wasn't enough, he sent him five horses and the whopping sum of £260, something like 100 times most people's annual income.

Before Piers' exile, Edward of Caernarfon had been intending to visit Ponthieu, but Edward I countermanded the order in early June, presumably to keep the two men apart. Piers benefited from the stores of food collected there for Edward's visit, and was given thirteen swans and twenty-two herons.

Piers' first exile lasted only a few weeks. Edward I died on 7 July 1307, and as soon as Edward II heard the news on the 11th, he recalled his friend, almost certainly the first act he took as king. Supposedly, his father ordered him on his deathbed not to recall Piers, but there wasn't a snowflake's chance in hell that Edward would obey him. After all, he was king now and could do anything he wanted...so he thought.

Edward and Piers were reunited at Dumfries sometime in early to mid August. For the next few months, Edward proceeded to demonstrate that he cared little about anyone or anything that wasn't Piers. On 6 August, he made his friend earl of Cornwall, possibly without Piers' prior knowledge, as Edward would claim in a letter to the Pope the following year (though Edward can't really be trusted here, and also said that he made Piers earl of Cornwall on the advice of his barons, which certainly isn't true - he was trying to get the Pope on his side, shortly before Piers' second exile began). Edward also arranged his friend's marriage to Margaret de Clare on 1 November 1307, which evidently had been planned for a few months, as the charter granting the earldom of Cornwall to Piers on 6 August was decorated with the de Clare arms as well as Piers' own.

Edward's overriding obsession with Piers over the next few months led inexorably to Piers' second exile in June 1308, subject of a future post!


Carole said...

I wonder whether Ed I just thought Piers had too much influence over young Ed or whether he knew about what they were getting up to behind closed doors?

I don't know much about the elder Ed (although I am getting a book about him for my birthday), so I don't know enough about him to predict his reactions to things, but my feeling is although he knew young Ed and Piers were too close for young Ed's future security, he probably was in denial about the true nature of the relationship - he probably suspected, but didn't want to admit it to himself, and I doubt anyone would have made him confront it...

But, as I say, I know very little about Ed I and I may be way off the mark. It's just that he seems to have been very strait-laced and I feel that had he known for sure that Ed and Piers were sharing a bed he might have been far more severe in the terms of Piers' exile...

Anonymous said...

Wasn't it on this occasion that Edward got smacked by his dad? Duh, what a fiery temper the old man had!

Kathryn Warner said...

Elflady: yes, that's the time - he pulled out handfuls of Ed's hair and kicked him repeatedly. He also supposedly called him 'a baseborn son of a whore' which, if true, would be an incredible thing to say about the child of his beloved late wife!

Carole: unfortunately there's no way of knowing what Ed and Piers were doing behind closed doors - if anything - or whether Ed I knew about it, or how he would have reacted if he did. It's highly likely that Ed and Piers were lovers, but it's not certain and it can't be proved conclusively.

As so often with this period of history, with no diaries and very few personal letters, people's feelings remain forever hidden. We can only speculate about why Ed I was so alarmed about his son's relationship with Piers, and your guess is as good as mine!

Jules Frusher said...

It is certainly obvious though that Edward was obsessed by Piers - whether they were lovers or not. All those farewell gifts (and, I wonder, what good would pearls be on a jousting suit?lol) - only to have Piers return a few weeks later!

No wonder his dad was a wee bit worried - probably thought Edward might give his friend the whole kingdom at the rate he was going!

Gabriele Campbell said...

Well, sleeping in one bed was quite common, it could even be considered an honour if one was offered to share a bed with a higher ranking man (or woman). I suppose beds were expensive furniture and so the castles only had a few, or not so many were brought along when traveling - the latter being more common in the earlier Middle Ages, I think.

But I won't be surprised if the German saying, Gelegenheit macht Diebe (opportunity makes thieves) didn't work sometimes and the guys - or girls - had some fun they'd not have actively sought out without that bed sharing. :)

There's even some rumour that Richard Lionheart and Philippe of France had shared not only a bed but that sort of fun during the short time the did get along.

Carla said...

Sharing a bed was also a way of keeping warm in the days before central heating and draught excluders. I suspect that Edward I would have been most worried about Edward Jnr making a fool of himself and the crown, and perhaps triggering another revolt. Edward I had after all seen his father Henry III make a complete dog's dinner of being king and get tipped off his throne (temporarily) by the Barons' Revolt under Simon de Montfort. Edward I (as prince) retrieved the mess by defeating Montfort at Evesham, rescuing the rather pathetic figure of Henry III, and effectively becoming ruler in all but name himself. I imagine an experience like that might well make him hypersensitive to signs of similar incompetence in his son. For what it's worth, my guess would be that Edward I wouldn't have given two hoots what Edward II did in bed with anybody, as long as he was a capable ruler - which, sadly, Edward II wasn't. But, as usual, we can never really know.

Hannah Kilpatrick said...

You know, I do love that I can just go 'hm, I wonder what the main primary sources are for this particular event' and hop over to your blog, run a search, and go 'oh, okay, Foedera and CClR for these dates, excellent, much obliged'. Thank you! :)

(That said, I have now got around to ordering your book, so I shall double-check against that when it arrives too. :))

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks for ordering the book! Glad to be of help :-)