28 May, 2008

Sisters of Edward II (2): Joan of Acre

Totally off-topic here, but I loved this search string from yesterday: what made edward II a god king. *Giggles*

Anyway, onto the real subject of the day: the second of Edward II's five elder sisters.
Joan of Acre was the seventh or eighth child of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile, and the second to survive childhood. She was born in Akko in Syria sometime in the spring of 1272, while her parents were on crusade, and was known as 'Joan of Acre' to distinguish her from another daughter of Edward and Eleanor named Joan, who was born and died in 1265. Another daughter, name unknown, was born about a year before Joan, also in the Holy Land, and died as a baby. A few weeks after Joan's birth, on 17 June 1272, a would-be assassin stabbed her father with a poisoned dagger; the story that Eleanor of Castile sucked the poison out of the wound is, sadly, only a legend.

In September 1272, Edward and Eleanor left the Holy Land, with Joan, and travelled via Sicily and Rome to France and then Gascony; Joan's brother Alfonso was born in Bayonne in November 1273. Her grandfather Henry III had died in November 1272, when she was a few months old, and her father succeeded as king of England. In August 1274, Edward and Eleanor finally returned to England, after an absence of four years, and their coronation took place that month. A few weeks later, Joan's six-year-old brother Henry, whom she never met, died suddenly at Guildford, and Alfonso became heir to the throne.

Joan did not travel to England with her parents, but remained in France with her maternal grandmother, Jeanne de Dammartin, countess of Ponthieu and dowager queen of Castile. After Jeanne's death in 1279, she set foot in England for the first time, at the age of seven. There, she finally met her siblings: Eleanor, ten, Alfonso, five and a half, Margaret, four, and the baby Mary. Two sisters had died the year before: two-year-old Berengaria and a baby girl, name unknown. (Edward I and Eleanor of Castile had a lot of daughters.)

In 1277/78, Edward I arranged his daughter's betrothal to Hartmann von Hapsburg, the seventh child and second son of King Rudolf of Germany and Gertrud von Hohenberg. Hartmann was born in 1263, so was nine years older than Joan, and had previously been betrothed to Kunigunde of Bohemia. According to the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy site, their wedding was to take place on 8 September 1278 at Westminster Abbey, but was postponed - because Joan was still in Ponthieu, or because she was still only six years old! Unfortunately for the plans of King Edward and King Rudolf, Hartmann drowned in the Rhine, after his ship sank, on 21 December 1281, supposedly on his way to England to marry Joan. He was only eighteen.

Little is known about Joan's life in the 1280s. Her youngest (full) siblings Elizabeth and Edward of Caernarfon were born in 1282 and 1284, and Alfonso - the sibling closest to Joan in age - died in August 1284. In May 1286, when she was fourteen, her parents left for Gascony and didn't return for over three years. Joan is known to have quarrelled with a wardrobe clerk during this time, and refused to accept money from him to pay her expenses. On his return from Gascony, Edward set about organising his children's marriages - and paying Joan's debts.

On 30 April 1290, around the time of her eighteenth birthday, Joan married the rich, powerful and turbulent Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford, who was nearly three decades older than she was, born in September 1243. Isabel, the elder of his daughters by his first wife Alice de Lusignan, was ten years Joan's senior. For her wedding, Joan wore a girdle and head-dress of gold, decorated with rubies and emeralds, bought for her in Paris at a cost of fifty pounds. She and Gilbert left court soon after the wedding to honeymoon at Tonbridge Castle in Kent, without her father's permission - to the king's great annoyance. Very expensive girdles and head-dresses notwithstanding, the ceremony was a quiet, family affair, unlike the wedding of her younger sister Margaret a few weeks later (see next post).

There's no way of knowing what kind of relationship Joan and Gilbert had, though they produced four children in five and a half years of marriage. Their eldest, Gilbert, was born a little over a year after the wedding, at Winchcombe in Gloucestershire. He was Edward I's eldest grandchild (Edward I was fifty-one at the time). Eleanor of Castile had died a few months previously, so never saw her grandson, though perhaps she knew before she died that Joan was pregnant.

Gilbert de Clare died in December 1295, aged fifty-two, a few weeks after the birth of their youngest child Elizabeth, leaving Joan a widow at the age of twenty-three. Edward I set plans in motion for Joan to marry Count Amadeus V of Savoy, who was also decades her senior, born in about 1249. However, she calmly informed him that she was already married, to Ralph de Monthermer, a squire of her late husband. Edward I was furious, seized Joan's lands, and imprisoned Ralph. However, there was little he could do. He could not unmarry the couple - only the Pope could do that - and released Ralph.

The date of Joan and Ralph's marriage is not known, but probably took place in about January 1297, and their first child, Mary, was born in October that year. Ralph de Monthermer's parentage is obscure, though apparently he was illegitimate - in 1304, the Annals of London called him 'the bastard Ralph de Monthermer'. He was born in about 1262, so was about ten years older than Joan. (His Inquisition Post Mortem of 1325 gives his age as sixty-three, which surprises me - I'd always pictured him as about Joan's age, or a little younger).

It took a very long time for Edward I's anger towards Ralph to cool, and for him to accept the marriage, but by 1304, Ralph had become earl of Gloucester by right of his wife. (He lost the title on her death.) A letter sent by Edward of Caernarfon to Ralph on 30 May 1304 says "it pleases us very much, and gives us great joy, that our dear sister has the consent of our dear lord the king, our father and yours." Finally! After more than seven years and four children! Edward called Ralph, in the eleven letters he sent him in 1304 and 1305, "our very dear brother", and it seems that he considered Ralph to be a member of his inner circle, and a trustworthy and reliable confidant.

Edward was also close to Joan of Acre, twelve years his senior. In 1305, during the period he had quarrelled violently with their father and had his income cut drastically, Joan lent him her seal, so that he could buy goods. As her secret marriage to Ralph amply demonstrates, Joan was not afraid of her harsh father, or the fact that he would likely be furious at her helping Edward (their sister Mary made sure she had the permission of the king before writing to Edward, whereas Joan didn't bother).

Joan bore Ralph four children, two daughters and two sons. All of her children were older than her youngest (half-) sibling Eleanor, born in May 1306, when Joan was thirty-four. Edward I's eldest grandchild was fifteen years older than his youngest child.

Joan of Acre, countess of Gloucester and Hertford, died on 23 April 1307, around the time of her thirty-fifth birthday, and was buried at the Augustinian friary at Clare, in Suffolk. Her death may have been pregnancy or childbirth-related, though it's not certain. A few weeks later, her father died, and her brother succeeded as Edward II.

Ralph de Monthermer remained a widower for eleven years, then married Isabel Hastings, one of the sisters of Hugh Despenser the younger - also without the king's permission. As I've said before, Ralph must really have had something, to persuade two ladies to marry him without royal consent.

Children of Joan of Acre:

Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester, 1291-1314, married Maud de Burgh, no surviving children (Gilbert had a son John, born April 1312, who died young).

Eleanor de Clare, 1292-1337, married Hugh Despenser the younger and William la Zouche, about eleven children.

Margaret de Clare, 1294-1342, married Piers Gaveston and Hugh Audley the younger, two daughters.

Elizabeth de Clare, 1295-1360, married John de Burgh, Theobald de Verdon and Roger Damory, a son and two daughters.

Mary de Monthermer, 1297-after 1371, married Duncan MacDuff, earl of Fife, one daughter.

Joan de Monthermer, 1299-?, nun at Amesbury.

Thomas de Monthermer, 1301-1340, married Margaret, widow of Henry Tyes, one daughter. (Thomas's grandson John Montacute, earl of Salisbury, was beheaded in 1400 after taking part in the unsuccessful plot to restore Richard II to the throne.)

Edward de Monthermer, 1304-1340, never married.

21 May, 2008

Sisters of Edward II (1): Eleanor

A series of posts on the five of Edward II's eleven or twelve sisters who survived into adulthood, beginning with Eleanor, countess of Bar.

Eleanor was the fifth or sixth child of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile, and the eldest to survive childhood. (Her elder siblings were Katherine, Joan, John and Henry, and possibly a baby girl born very prematurely in 1255.) She was born shortly before 18 June 1269, when her grandfather Henry III granted John de Beaumes, yeoman of Eleanor of Castile, ten pounds worth of lands for bringing him news of the birth. Eleanor of Castile's daughter mentioned in the Patent Rolls in June 1264 was Katherine, not Eleanor, as often assumed. The confusion arises because, in 1302, Eleanor was called Edward I's primogenita. This literally means 'first born daughter', so it has often been assumed that the daughter of Eleanor of Castile and Edward I mentioned in 1264 - the first reference to a daughter of theirs - must be Eleanor. However, in practice primogenita meant 'eldest surviving daughter', and in 1302 Eleanor was meant, not Katherine. Other examples: Eleanor's brother Alfonso (1273-1284) was called Edward I's primogenitus after the deaths of his two elder brothers, and Edward II's queen Isabella was described as Philippe IV's primogenita in the early 1300s, although she had had two elder sisters who died young. Eleanor's date of birth in 1269 is not in doubt.

Eleanor barely saw her parents in early childhood. Edward I and Eleanor of Castile left England to go on crusade in August 1270, when she was a year old, and didn't return until August 1274. For the first fifteen years of Eleanor's life, Eleanor of Castile's almost yearly pregnancies meant that there were frequent additions to the royal nursery, most of whom did not survive (only six of Eleanor of Castile's sixteen children outlived her).

In childhood, Eleanor shared a household with her brother Henry, born in May 1268 and only thirteen months her senior, and their cousin John of Brittany, future earl of Richmond, born in 1266. John was the son of Edward I's sister Beatrice and the duke of Brittany, and was known by the nickname Brito. The fortunate survival of some of their household records gives us some nice information: on one occasion, partridges were bought for Eleanor and Henry, at a cost of four and a half pence each. Eleanor wa given almond and violet oil, "for her own special use" (wonder what she did with it). Young Henry died in October 1274 at the age of six, and their eleven-month-old brother Alfonso became heir to the throne.

Eleanor's next surviving sister, Joan of Acre, who was a little less than three years her junior, didn't arrive in England until 1279, having spent a few years living with their grandmother Jeanne de Dammartin, dowager queen of Castile, in Ponthieu. Eleanor's other surviving siblings were six, ten, thirteen and fifteen years younger than she was - respectively, Margaret, Mary, Elizabeth and Edward II.

Eleanor was a young child when her father Edward I betrothed her to Alfonso, grandson of King Jaime I of Aragon and eldest son of Pedro III, in 1273. Alfonso was a little older, born in November 1265. Although Eleanor must have grown used to thinking of herself as future queen of Aragon, sadly for her, this marriage was destined never to take place.

In June 1282, around the time of Eleanor's thirteenth birthday, Pedro III pressed Edward I to send his daughter to Aragon for the marriage to his son to go ahead. Edward refused, for a very interesting reason: he claimed that his mother Eleanor of Provence and his wife Eleanor of Castile had begged him not to send Eleanor (there are too many Eleanors!) as they thought she was too young. Both Queen Eleanors had been the same age, if not a little younger, when they themselves married - which implies that they thought they had been too young. Having said that, Alfonso was only sixteen himself, and as terribly young as thirteen is, it was a normal age for royal girls/women to marry, and at least Alfonso wasn't forty or fifty.

The Foundation for Medieval Genealogy site says that Eleanor and Alfonso III married by proxy at Westminster Abbey on 15 August 1290, but I'm not sure if this is correct, as I've never seen it anywhere else, and I don't know of any evidence that calls Eleanor queen of Aragon. This was, however, the summer when several of her siblings married - Joan and Margaret, and Edward of Caernarfon was betrothed to Margaret, the Maid of Norway - so it may be correct.

In April that year, Edward I, with three of his four sons dead, faced up to the possibility that his eldest daughter Eleanor might succeed him. This never happened, as Edward II survived and Edward I fathered two more sons many years later, but it's a fascinating 'what if'.

Alfonso III succeeded his father as king of Aragon in November 1285, and was promptly caught up in the endless struggles with the papacy, and with his own nobles. It wasn't until the summer of 1291 that he was in a position to start making plans for his wedding, which he duly did. It was to take place in Barcelona. Sadly, Alfonso died suddenly in June 1291, at the age of only twenty-five, and was succeeded by his brother Jaime II. Eleanor, at twenty-two, had to face the fact that she would never be queen of Aragon.

Edward I arranged another alliance for his eldest daughter, and Eleanor finally married, at the very late age of twenty-four, on 20 September 1293. The wedding took place at Bristol, and the groom was Count Henri III of Bar. Her little brother, nine-year-old Edward of Caernarfon, attended, and Eleanor and Henri subsequently stayed with him for a month at Mortlake, Surrey. Bar lay in northeastern France and was part of the duchy of Upper Lorraine, with Bar-le-Duc as its capital. In May 1294, Count Henri arranged a jousting tournament in honour of his royal bride.

Eleanor bore two children: Édouard, count of Bar, born circa 1294/95, who married Marie of Burgundy. Marie's eldest sister Marguerite was the wife of Louis X and one of the women involved in the notorious adultery scandal of 1314, and another sister, Jeanne la Boiteuse (the Lame) married Philippe VI of France. Count Édouard drowned off the coast of Cyprus in 1336.
Eleanor's other child was Jeanne, circa 1295/96 to 1361, who was unsuccessfully married to John de Warenne, earl of Surrey.

Eleanor's Wiki page gives her a third child, yet another Eleanor, who married Llywelyn ap Owain, lord of Iscoed. I'm very dubious about that. (At least it gets the year of her birth correct. That's pretty unusual.)

At Christmas 1297, Eleanor sent her father a portable dressing-box with a comb, a silver-gilt enamelled mirror, and a silver bodkin, wrapped in a leather case. This was to be her last Christmas, and she died the following August, at the age of only twenty-nine. Her brother Edward of Caernarfon was fourteen. In the spring of 1306, Edward I brought his granddaughter Jeanne de Bar, aged nine or ten, to England and arranged her marriage to the earl of Surrey - which turned out to be a disaster. Count Édouard married in 1310, and had three children.

15 May, 2008

Catalogue Card

Courtesy of the Catalogue Card Generator...

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10 May, 2008

Eleanor of Castile

Here's a post on the mother Edward II barely knew. Much of the information comes from John Carmi Parsons, who knows more about Eleanor than anyone else on the planet - see especially his biography of her, Eleanor of Castile, and his posts in the archives of soc.genealogy.medieval.

Eleanor was born as doña Leonor de Castilla, twelfth of the fifteen children of King Fernando III of Castile and León, by his second wife Jeanne de Dammartin, countess of Ponthieu. Her date of birth is often given as 1244, following Agnes Strickland, in her Lives of the Queens of England (volume 2, 1841), who states that Eleanor was "about ten" at the time of her marriage in the autumn of 1254. But Strickland cites no primary source for this statement, and in fact, Eleanor was older than that.

In his work De Rebus Hispaniae Libri IX, finished on 31 March 1243, don Juan Ximenez de Rada, Fernando III's chancellor and archbishop of Toledo, gives the names of Fernando and Jeanne's three children: Fernando, Eleanor (Leonor) and Luis, in that order of birth. If Eleanor had a younger brother born before 31 March 1243, she can't have been born any later than early 1242, and in fact, the likeliest date of her birth is late 1241. Fernando III and Jeanne were apart from the beginning of 1240 to February 1241 (Fernando was on military campaign).

Eleanor died on 28 November 1290. Edward I paid for forty-nine candle-bearers during her funeral. Why forty-nine, and not fifty? This implies that she was forty-nine at the time of her death, or close to it, and thirteen or almost when she married the future Edward I on or around 1 November 1254 - certainly not ten.

Eleanor's elder brother Fernando (1238/39 to circa 1264) and younger brother Luis (1242/43 to circa 1276) lived to marry and have children. Her youngest brothers Ximen and Juan, born about 1244 and 1246, died in infancy. Eleanor was the only one of Jeanne de Dammartin's five children to outlive her, and duly inherited the county of Ponthieu on her mother's death in 1279. In 1290, it passed to her six-year-old son, the future Edward II.

Eleanor bore at least fourteen, and perhaps sixteen, children. Historians and genealogists have made a right mess of them, adding children who never existed - Alice, confused with Alfonso, a name contemporary English scribes struggled with and often spelt in very odd ways; Juliana, never mentioned before about 1600; Blanche and Beatrice, supposedly the younger siblings of Edward II, who never existed (Edward was certainly Eleanor's youngest child); and getting the dates of birth and death of some of the others wrong. For example, Eleanor's eldest surviving daughter Eleanor, countess of Bar, was born in 1269, not 1264 as often stated, as this entry in the Patent Rolls proves. Eleanor's third surviving daughter Margaret, duchess of Brabant, is often said to have died in 1318, but she was certainly still alive in 1333, when she sent a letter to her nephew Edward III.

Later historians portrayed Eleanor as a noble, virtuous, and just queen beloved of her subjects. For example, Thomas Costain in his The Three Edwards 1272-1377 says: "Edward's queen was greatly loved in the country...[there was] a warmth and sweetness about her which won all hearts...She was generous and thoughtful in the extreme..." However, the mother of all idealised depictions of Eleanor is to be found in Strickland's Lives of the Queens of England: "What heart, however, does not warm at the name of Eleanora of Castile?...Foreigner as she was, Eleanora of Castile entirely won the love and goodwill of her subjects..."

Strickland's work is a masterpiece of Victorian moralising, which divides the queens of England into the 'good ones', such as Eleanor of Castile and Philippa of Hainault, and the 'bad ones', such as Eleanor of Provence and Isabella of France. Poor Isabella is condemned thusly: "Since the days of the fair and false Elfrida, of Saxon celebrity, no Queen of England has left so dark a stain on the annals of female royalty, as the consort of Edward II, Isabella of France...Now [1326] the evil nature of Isabella of France blazed out in full view." Isabella was many things, but she sure as heck wasn't evil!

Unfortunately, this rosy picture of Eleanor of Castile is very wide of the mark. In fact, she was widely disliked in her own lifetime, viewed as greedy and grasping and willing to use quasi-legal methods to get hold of any lands she fancied. As this contemporary rhyme put it, Le Roy cuvayte nos deneres/Et la Rayne nos beaus maners ('the king covets our money/and the queen our lovely manors'). John Carmi Parsons' biography of Eleanor has a great chapter on opinions and depictions of her from her own lifetime until today, if anyone's interested in reading more on the subject.

Edward I and Eleanor left England for Gascony in May 1286 and didn't return until August 1289, that is, from when Edward of Caernarfon was two years and one month old to when he was five and four months. Fifteen months later, Eleanor was dead, and in the meantime, little Edward had barely seen her anyway. Devoted to each other Edward I and Eleanor undoubtedly were, but they were no great shakes as parents; on learning that their eldest son John, and his father Henry III, were dead, Edward is said to have lamented that he could have more sons, but he'd never have another father. (You could argue that this remark came back to bite him on the behind when three of his four sons died in childhood, and the only survivor, Edward II, proved to be manifestly unsuited to his position.) When their second son Henry was dying in the autumn of 1274, Edward and Eleanor didn't bother to ride thirty miles to see him - although Eleanor's Wikipedia page - scroll down to near the end - tries to justify this and their all-round performance as parents. (Unconvincingly, in my opinion, though you may disagree.)

Losing his mother very young was something Edward II had in common with Piers Gaveston, whose mother Claramonde de Marsan died in 1286 or 1287, when Piers was about four or five. Incidentally, there's no truth to the often-repeated story that Claramonde was burned alive as a witch; it was invented in the sixteenth century.

It's doubtful that Edward had many, if any, happy memories of his mother. I sometimes wonder what he thought of her, how much he knew of his Spanish origins, if he could speak any Castilian, if he took pride in his Spanish ancestry...

07 May, 2008


Just come back from a very relaxing holiday, and, amazingly, the weather was much better than expected. After an Edward II-free few days - a very odd state of affairs, because believe me, it's extremely seldom that Edward is not taking up lots of space rent-free in my head - I'm not exactly in the right frame of mind to be writing a proper post, and one will follow at the weekend, I hope. In the meantime, some more search strings that have hit the blog in the last few hours....

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Normal blog service to be resumed asap!