29 August, 2008

Edward II's Chamber Journal, 1322-1323

The first surviving journal of Edward II's Chamber dates from the year 1322/23. J. C. Davies, in his article 'The First Chamber Journal of Edward II', English Historical Review, volume 30, 1915, gives a few of the Chamber entries, but only in the original French - so here's my translation of some of them. I've kept people's names in the original spelling.

Item, the 8th day of November at Tutbury, paid to Adam Dauid for 16 ells of cloth, price of each ell 17p, to this same for 12 ells of medlar cloth in black and vermilion, price of each ell, 16p, bought to make short jackets for the squires of the king's chamber, 38 shillings and 4p.

Paid to Jak Despaigne, valet of the king's chamber, for his expenses towards the household, 10 shillings.

Item, paid to Thomas Bower, valet of the king's chamber, of the king's gift, for his expenses towards the household, 20 shillings.

The 15th day of November, paid to Johan, nakerer of the king, on the information of Johan Harsik, 20 shillings.

Paid to Roger de Wodeham, valet of the king's chamber, who carries the king's bow, of the king's gift by his command, 5 shillings.

Paid to Wille de Donestaple and Wille Fissher, pages of the king's chamber, to buy themselves shoes, of the king's gift by his command, 9p.

The 20th day of November, paid to 10 fishermen of the said Thorn [near Doncaster] who fished in the king's presence and took great pike, great eels, and a large number of other fish, by the hands of Sir Johan Lesturmy, 20 shillings.

Paid there to Robyn Chaundeller, valet of the king's chamber, for 40 pounds of wax purchased by the said Robyn and the said Sir Johan [Sturmy] at Doncaster, by the king's command, to make torches and candles to serve the household of Sir Hugh le Despenser the son, price of each pound 6p.

The 8th day of October in the present 16th year [1322] at Barnard Castle, paid to Johan fiz Alein, Johan de la More, William de Castre, Richard Borrey, Johan Michel, Hugh de Mordeun, William de Brid, Wautier Phelip, Robert Bernard, Johan Hudde, Wautier Knyght, Phelip Boldyngg, Richard Warde, Henri Bouer and Robert de Kenle, taking each of these 15 men as reapers of wheat in the park of the said castle, each taking 4p per day for their hired labour between the 4th day of October of the present year and this day for 4 weekdays, paid by the hands of John Hert, parker of the said castle, 20 shillings. Item, paid to 10 'diverse women' of Barnard Castle, that is for making and collecting hay together in the park, taking 5 shillings.

Item, the 12th day of October, paid there to [the same 15 men], taking each of these 15 men as mowers of the meadows, working in the park by command of the king in the said park as before, each taking per weekday 4p between the 9th day of October and this day of the same month, for 2 weekdays, 10 shillings.

Item, paid to Johane Bate, Emme Brid, Alys Hayward, Mold Vaderwyf, Mold Pecok, Johane de Stronde, Emme Bernard de Polles, each of the 7 taking 1 and a half pence per weekday for their hired labour, working in the said park, making and collecting hay together, for the said 2 days 21p.

Item, paid by command of the king this day to Richard de Mereworth, valet of the king's chamber, for buying various things at Newcastle-upon-Tyne [Noef Chastel sur Tyne] in the month of September, that is, paid to Adam Stowes for 4 pieces of iron for pans, 4p; paid to William Wyncenselby for 4 pieces of iron for pans, 6p; paid to this same for 4 locks and 12 keys for closing doors of various houses at the said castle that various provisions are placed within, which will come to Neeth in the parts of Scotland [?], 19p.

Paid to the said Richard de Mereworth for 6 [wattled frames?] for the vehicles which were sent to the said Neeth in Scotland for provisions for the king's household and are now lodged at the said Newcastle, 12p.

Item, the 7th day of November at Sandal, paid to William Shirlyngg, king's sailor, for his expenses towards the household, 10 shillings; paid to Sibille, wife of Monde Fissher, for her expenses towards the household, 5 shillings.

The 24th day of November, paid there to Huchoun le Despenser the youngest son [i.e., son of Hugh Despenser the younger, Edward's eldest great-nephew], of the king's gift, to buy himself various necessities, on the information of Johan Harsik, 100s.

Item, paid to Johan de Dalton who aided Master Robert de Baudok at Rievaulx when the Scots pursued [the king] in the month of October of the present year, of the king's gift in his presence, 10 marks.

Paid to Master Piers le Plomer, sergeant of the king's chamber, of the king's gift, for his expenses towards the household, 20s.

The 5th day of December at Cowick, paid to Johan Burnet for a small boat bought from him in the king's presence when he passed from York to Cowick, for the keel of which Hugh Poit is captain, 10s.

The 7th day of December at Hatheleseye, paid to William Brayn, parker of Pontefract [Pounfruit], of the king's gift, 6s and 8p.

Paid to Brother Wautier de Mordon, Carmelite brother, whose mass the king often heard in the chapel of Templehurst, of the king's gift, by the hands of Syme Lawe delivering the money to him, 40s.

Paid to Reynald, cordwainer of Snaith, who made boots for the king, of the king's gift, 3s.

Paid to Master Johan Cole, king's blacksmith, for iron and steel bought by the said Johan at the king's command, for various things, and who this day showed the items to the king himself, paid at the king's command and in his presence in the forge of Templehurst, 7s and 1p.

Item, the 24th day of December, Christmas Eve, paid to Johan de Yhokeshale [Yoxall, Staffordshire], squire of Sir Hugh le Despenser the son, who was taken by the enemies of Scotland [i.e., Edward's Scottish enemies], of the king's gift, to buy himself horses and equipment, 100s.

Item, the 5th day of January at Cowick, paid to Johan Cole, king's blacksmith, of the king's gift, 40s.

The 6th day of January, paid in the presence of the king and Sir Hugh [Despenser] in the king's chapel at the manor of Cowick to Robert de Horsele, son of Sir Robert de Horsele, king's constable of Bamburgh Castle, in part payment of 100 marks which the king owes the said Sir Robert for keeping the said castle in the 15th year just past, and because the said Sir Roger should be paid because he took pains to ensure that Sir Andreu de Hertcla [Andrew Harclay], enemy of the king, was quickly taken, 50 marks.

Item, the 13th day of January at Thorn, paid to Andreu Rosekyn for his expenses towards the household, of the king's gift, 20s.

Paid to Johan de Waltham for 2 salmon which the king took from him at Thorn, by Sir James Daudele paying the money to him, of the king's gift. [amount of money missing]

Paid to Sir William de la Mote, knight of the earl of Kent, who came to the king with a private message from the said earl, of the king's gift, by the hands of Johan Harsik delivering the money to him, 10s.

Item, the 19th day of December, paid to Jack Stillego, valet of my lady the queen, who carried letters to the king from my said lady, of the king's gift, 10s.

Paid to Janekyn, valet of Sir Robert de Kendale, who carried letters to the king from the said Sir Robert that Robert Lewer was taken, of the king's gift, 40s.

Item, the 20th day of January, paid to Brother Johan Ambriz and his fellow friar preachers of France, of the king's gift, by the hands of Richard de Ayremynne, keeper of the privy seal, receiving the money, 40s.

The 13th day of February, paid to Laurentin, piper minstrel of the king, of the king's gift, 20s.

Paid to Monde Smyth, who was at one time blacksmith of the king and is now porter of Windsor, of the king's gift, for his expenses towards the household, 20s.

Paid to Alis, daughter of Alice de Brunne, who came from York to Pontefract with ale as a present for the king from her mother, of the king's gift, 5s.

Item, the 2nd day of March, paid to Esmond de Ramesbury, chaplain of the king, of the king's gift, on the information of Thomas de Useflete, 40s.

Paid to Brother Wautier, formerly associate of Brother Richard de Bliton, king's almoner, of the king's gift, to buy himself a habit, 20s.

Paid to Johan de Dalton who brought news to the king that Sir Andreu de Ercla [Andrew Harclay] was taken, of the king's gift, 20s.

The 7th day of January, paid to 4 clerks of Snaith, playing interludes in the hall at Cowick before the king and Sir Hugh [Despenser], of the king's gift, by the hands of Harsik delivering the money to them, 40s.

Paid to Piers Bernard, usher of the king's chamber, of the king's gift, 20s.

Paid to the king himself for playing at dice, 3s.

Item, paid to Sir Johan Lesturmy, steward of the king's chamber, and other squires of the chamber sent on private business of the king, for their expenses without making other mention, by the king's command, 72s.

Here's the original of the last 4 entries, to give you an idea of what the journal looks like:

Le vij iour de Janyuer paie a iiij clers de Sneyth iuantz entreludies en la sale de Couwyk deuant le Roi et monsire Hugh de doun le Roi par les mayns Harsik liuerant a eux les deniers xL s. paie a Piers Bernard hussher de la chambre le Roi de doun le Roi xx s. paie au Roi mesme pur iewer a dees iij s. Item paie a monsire Johan Lesturmy seneschal de la chambre le Roi et autres esquiers de la chambre mandez priuement es busoignes le Roi pur lor despenses sauntz autre mencion faire par comandement le Roi Lxxij s.

The Household Ordinance of 1318 stated that Edward should have 8 valets of the chamber, but in 1322/23, he had 9: Monde Fissher, Roger de Wodeham, Thomas Bower, Jak Despaigne, Richard de Mereworth, Jack de Cressing, Robyn Chaundeller, Syme Lawe, and Monde Quarrell. ('Monde' was the short form of 'Esmond', or Edmund.) Monde Fissher was married to a woman called Sibille, and on 7 November 1322, Edward gave her 5 shillings for her expenses coming to the household to visit her husband (above). 2 pages of the chamber are also mentioned that year, Wille de Donestaple and Wille Fissher - maybe Monde's brother. Then there were the squires of the chamber - Oliver de Bordeaux and Rhys ap Gruffydd - the steward of the chamber, Sir John Sturmy, the usher of the chamber, Peter Bernard, clerks of the chamber, sergeants of the chamber, and of course the chamberlain himself, Hugh Despenser. Phew!

John Harsik and Peter (or Piers) Bernard were two of the men ordered to be arrested in March 1330, for joining the earl of Kent's conspiracy to free Edward II.

23 August, 2008

Blogs, Descendants, Accuracy and Abbeys

My blog buddy Anerje (Piers Gaveston's greatest fan, other than me...;) has started a new blog on Piers. Yay! Her first posts detail her search for the nineteenth-century monument commemorating Piers' death at Blacklow Hill, Warwickshire, on 19 June 1312 - a hideously moralistic, Victorian affair which calls Piers the "minion of a hateful king." *Rolls eyes*. The monument is hidden in a wood and is somewhat defaced by graffitti, not to mention very difficult to find. Here's Anerje's pic of the inscription - more photos on her blog. (The date of Piers' death given on the monument is wrong.)

A warm, albeit rather belated (oops!) welcome to cyberspace for Fuzzy History, an excellent, very readable site for all fans of historical fiction.

Fans of Richard III (who was Edward II's great-great-great-grandson, via two of Edward III's sons, John of Gaunt and Edmund of Langley), will be delighted to hear that Vulpes Libris is dedicating a week of posts to him. Yesterday marked the 523rd anniversary of Richard's death on the battlefield of Bosworth. It's fascinating to see that he attracts so much interest, and so many passionate defenders and detractors, more than half a millennium after his death.

And here's an interesting if somewhat random fact, inspired by the fact that, for some odd reason, I'm on a bit of a Tudor kick at the moment (for which I blame Jonathan Rhys Meyers): all six of Henry VIII's wives were descended from Edward I, and three of them (Catherine of Aragon, Jane Seymour and Katherine Parr) were descended from Edward II, Catherine and Katherine through John of Gaunt and Jane through Lionel of Antwerp. Catherine of Aragon was Edward's four greats granddaughter, Katherine Parr his six greats granddaughter, and Jane Seymour his seven greats granddaughter. Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were descended both from Edward II's sister Elizabeth, countess of Hereford, and his half-brother Thomas of Brotherton, earl of Norfolk, while Anne of Cleves was the seven greats granddaughter of his sister Margaret, duchess of Brabant.

A great article about historical (in)accuracy in Braveheart appeared in The Guardian recently (thanks to Carla Nayland for sending me the link). And for some more entertaining analyses of historical films, click on the 'Reel History' link on the right of the Braveheart article.

At the end of next month I'm off to North Yorkshire to explore historical sites, including the amazing Rievaulx Abbey and Fountains Abbey, two Cistercian houses founded in 1132. Can't wait!

Pics of Rievaulx here, here, here and also here.

Pics of Fountains here, here, here and, surprise surprise, here.

And finally, for no particular reason, except that it's about a mile from where I was born and I have lots of happy memories of visiting it as a child, here are some pics of Furness Abbey, also Cistercian, founded in 1124 by Stephen of Blois (king of England 1135 to 1154): here, here, and here.

16 August, 2008

Highlights of the 1318 Household Ordinance

In a previous post, I wrote about Edward II's household, and mentioned the Household Ordinance, also known as the York Ordinance, of 6 December 1318. The text of the Ordinance is printed in full, in the original French, in T. F. Tout's Place of the Reign of Edward II in English History (2nd edn., 1936). The full text runs to 37 pages, and only small parts of it have ever been translated into English - which can be read on Kevin's blog. I've been reading the Ordinance recently - yes, reading nearly 40 pages of fourteenth-century French is the kind of thing I do for fun - and I've translated a few of the interesting bits. I've kept as close to the original word choice and word order as possible, to give a good flavour of how it reads.


- robes: members of the household were entitled to a new set of clothes, either once or twice a year depending on rank.
- messe de gros/gross: literally, 'a large portion' or 'a large dish', a serving of whatever meat was offered that day. Only extremely important people (like Edward II himself) were entitled to eat alone; everyone else had to share a messe with 2, 3 or 4 others. Anyone interested in this subject (which is far too complex to go into here) should take a look at Peter Hammond's Food and Feast in Medieval England, or C. M. Woolgar's The Great Household in Late Medieval England.
- messe of roast: only household members above the rank of valet were entitled to eat roast meat, while the rest had to make do with the boiled kind. Higher-ranking members received a messe of roast in addition to the messe de gros; in other words, they got more food than the lower ranks.
- pantry or pantlery: the office responsible for bread and 'dry' things.
- butler: officer responsible for drinks, i.e. wine and ale (not used in the modern sense).
- usher: a doorkeeper, responsible for admitting people to rooms and escorting them in.
- verge: the area subject to the jurisdiction of the steward of the royal household.


12p = 1 shilling
20 shillings or 240p = £1
1 mark = two-thirds of a pound, or 160p

Item, the king will have 30 sergeants-at-arms, sufficiently armed and mounted, that is, a horse for each one, a hackney and a pack-horse; they will daily ride armed before the king's body when travelling around the country, if they have no other order from the king or the steward. And they will take for their wages every day, 12p per day. Of these 30 sergeants, 4, whom it will please the king to nominate, will daily be attending to the usher of the chamber, in aid of the usher; they will sleep outside the door, and as close to it as they can. And they will have for their bed 1 pitcher of wine, 2 candles, 1 torch. And the 26 sergeants will lie in the hall beside, to be nearby when the king needs them. And they will have for their bed 3 pitchers of wine, 6 candles, 1 torch. And all of the 30 sergeants will have 2 robes per year, or 46 shillings in money, 1 messe de gros from the kitchen, and 1 messe of roast.

[The names of some of Edward's sergeants-at-arms throughout his reign: Oto le Alemaund ('Otto the German'), Gaillard and Arnaud de Sancto Martino, John le Botiller, Roger atte Watre, Rodrigo de Medyne, William Beaukaire (a town in southern France), Bertrand de la Mare, Henry de Clare, Ivo de Welles, John de Enefeld, Raymond and Edmund Provost, Owen Gogh (also called Owen le Waleys, 'the Welshman'), John de Carleford, Guy Amany, Simon de Friskenade, Ralph Convers, William Fraunceys ('Frenchman'), Hugh de Cos, Giles de Miripoys, Poncius de Fossato (probably either Fossato di Vico in Perugia, or Fossato Serralta in Calabria).]

Item, 24 archers on foot, the king's bodyguard (garde corps le roi) who will go before the king when travelling about the country, of whom each one will take for wages 3p per day, 1 robe of 1 set (or suit: dune seute) or 1 mark in money, and for shoes 4 shillings and 8p.

Item, that the king will have 1 squire server and keeper of the foods for his mouth, and [who will be] food-taster at his table; and 1 squire carving before the king, and 1 squire to serve him from his cup; these 3 squires will each take for his chamber at night half a pitcher of wine, 2 candles, 1 torch, and bedding for the whole year, and wood for the season from the usher of the chamber. And he will take livery as a sergeant, that is, 1 penny worth of bread, half a pitcher of wine, half a gallon of ale, 1 messe de gros from the kitchen, 1 messe of roast; and each one will have for wages 7 and a half pence a day, 2 robes per year, or 40 shillings in money.

Item, 1 sergeant under usher (vn sergeant soutz vsshere) of the wardrobe, who will sleep inside the door of the wardrobe, to safely protect all the things which are within. And he will be held responsible, if peril occurs by his default. [Oh no, the peril!! :-)] He will take for his livery 1 penny worth of bread, half a pitcher of wine, half a gallon of ale, 1 messe de gros from the kitchen, and 1 messe of roast. And 4 and a half pence a day for wages per day, 2 robes per year or 40 shillings, and his bed will be carried on the cart of the wardrobe.

Item, a porter of the wardrobe, who will carry chests and other baggage of the wardrobe to the carts, and will load and unload them. And he will be on the cart during journeys. And he will keep watch at night when the cart is outside when travelling around the country [literally, 'out of house when itinerant through country']. And he will take from the rolls of the spicery every day for wages, 2p, and for his pains (or efforts or exertion) 2p from these same rolls of the spicery in addition to his wages, by reason of staying awake and his pains; and 1 robe of a serving-man per year, or 1 mark in money, and for shoes 4 shillings and 8p, at 2 seasons of the year, as due to a serving-man, at Christmas (Nowelle) and Pentecost, in equal amounts.

Item, there will be 2 trumpeters and 2 minstrels, at times more, at times less, who will make their minstrelsy before the king at all the times that it will please him. And they will eat in chamber or in the hall, as they are commanded. And they will take for their wages and their robes according to their estate, at the discretion of the steward and the treasurer.

Item, 1 sergeant porter, who will guard the door of there where the king sleeps, so that no-one will enter except those who have the right to do so; he will not allow anyone to take away from the household bread, wine, ale, food, bedding or wood, nor any other things, except those who are allowed to do so. And if anyone does it, he will have them arrested [or detained]. Item, 2 valets of office under him, who will aid him day and night, in doing all things pertaining to the office.

[Note: usually the word 'porter' meant someone who kept a gate, not a door - that was an usher]

Item, it is ordained and expressly commanded that the chief butler of our lord the king will make purveyance and purchases of wine from now on well and fittingly, for the sustenance of his [Edward's] household, that he and the good men who are close to him can be served honourably by this office, and that his household will be fittingly served by this same office, to maintain the honour of the lord king; so that no-one of the household will have reason to slander the said household to the dishonour of the lord king by the default of the said butler.

Item, 1 sergeant butler before the king, who will receive all the wine, and the ale, which he will dispense in the king's chamber, from the sergeant butler of the household; and he will be responsible daily for the records to the clerk of the buttery. And he will have in his keeping all the silver hanaps for service of the said chamber, and he will be answerable for them to the wardrobe.

Item, 1 serving-man of the 'cuphouse' [this word is in English in the original: cuphous] who will serve the chamber according to the orders of his master sergeant aforementioned; and he will take 1 robe per year, or 1 mark in money; and for shoes 4 shillings and 8p. And he will take 1 penny worth of bread, 1 gallon of ale, 1 messe de gros from the kitchen, and a bed for him and the valet of the pantry before the king, carried on the cart of the pantry.

Item, 2 serving-men of the bakehouse (pistrine), of whom one will be attending to the oven, and the other to the mill, for milling the wheat. And each of them will take for his wages 2p per day from the pantry roll; 1 robe per year, or 1 mark in money; and for shoes 4 shillings and 8p, and 1 bed for them both carried on the cart of the bakehouse.

Item, 2 valets of the 'pitcher house' [also in English: picherous], who will serve the hall with wine and ale according to the advice of their superiors. And they will have the tankards, hanapers and all manner of vessels which they have in their keeping, under the the butler of the household.

Item, 2 purchasers, who will make the purchases of meat and fish for household provisions. And they will daily bring the price and the goods to the clerk of the kitchen, so that the knight usher of the hall and the assessor of the king's table, and the said clerk, can see immediately whether the said goods are sufficient to dispense, and of good value in accordance with the price, for the king. And they will make their purchases in proper manner, to the great profit of the king and at minimal grievance to the people, and will make payment or tallies [i.e., notched tally-sticks for recording debts] to every man from whom they have purchased goods, to the king's advantage.

Item, 5 serving-men of the king's kitchen, under the 2 sergeant cooks aforementioned, of whom 1 will be usher and will fetch, by the orders of his masters, from the great larder, everything, the meat and fish which will be dispensed in the king's chamber, bread, wine and ale from the pantry and butlery, and spices from the spicery by the commands and ordinances of his masters. And another valet will be ewerer, who will receive the vessels of the said kitchen by (indenture?) with the official in charge of the scullery, and will guard them both when travelling and resting [i.e., when the household stayed in 1 place]. And he will cook 'the great meat' (la grosse chare) and prepare the first course, fish as well as meat. And another valet will be potager, who will make the potages for the king's chamber, and all the suets which will be for his table. And 2 other valets will make the roasts and the other courses for the said chamber according to the orders of their masters. The which 5 valets will have a boy to carry their bed and to help in the kitchen.

Item, it is ordained that the king will be served with 4 good courses and no more for himself and the other lords eating in the hall, and madame [Isabella] also; and that others of his household all good men shall be served with 3 courses, and the boys with 2.

Item, it is ordained by our lord the king and his council, for the easement of his people, that the retinue (or followers, mesne) of his household who cannot be lodged within the household in the town with the king, will be lodged by the 'lodgers' (herberiours) within the verge, according to his estate, that is, knight with 4 horses, clerk, sergeant, squire, each one according to the wages he takes from the king, that is, at 4 and a half pence and 1 horse, at 7 and a half pence with 2 horses, at 12p with 3 horses, and at 15p with 3 horses, at rest or at work, so that the country around the king will not be made more expensive by excessive numbers of people [i.e., the huge numbers of the household demanding food and goods pushed up prices in the area where they stayed]. And that the officers of the household will be lodged closest to the court so that they can be ready to undertake the business of their office; and all the others in the said retinue as close as the country can well endure...And because our lord the king must be served wherever he will go, as is fitting for his lordship*, it is ordained and commanded that no-one will be so insolent as to impede his officers making his purveyance and his purchases.

[* Meaning 'the state of being a lord', not referring to Edward as 'His Lordship'.]

And finally (for now - more on the Ordinance to come soon) the question of punishment! There were various things for which household members could be punished, for example:

- taking bread, wine or food out of the household without permission.
- valets having pages to serve them, except the valets in the kitchen, who were permitted 2.
- a household officer allowing someone to enter his office (for example, saucery, chandlery, napery, scullery, ewery) when they had no right to be there.
- someone of the rank of serving-man (vallet de mestier) or below riding a horse.
- ushers and marshals of the hall permitting someone to eat there who was not allowed to.
- members of the household eating outside the hall, unless they were ill or had the permission of the steward or treasurer.

And the punishment was:

The offender "will be the first time warned in courteous manner by the steward and treasurer, that he amends himself; and if another time is found in the same error, and takes wages, will lose the wages for a month; and the third time will lose his wages; and will be immediately warned [again] in courteous manner; and the second time will lose his shoe allowance, and the third time will lose his robe allowance, and the fourth time will lose [i.e., leave] the king's household, without return."

13 August, 2008

The Birth of John of Eltham

This weeks marks the the 692nd anniversary of the birth of John of Eltham, Edward II's younger son, on 15 August 1316.

John was conceived at Clipstone in Nottinghamshire, sometime in November 1315 (presumably - or early December, if he was premature). Edward II and Queen Isabella were together at the royal hunting lodge there from 30 October to 11 December 1315, and from 22 December to 25 January 1316, when they left to attend parliament at Lincoln.

The first indication that Edward knew Isabella was expecting a child comes on 22 February 1316, when he asked the dean and chapter of the church of St Mary in Lincoln to "celebrate divine service daily for the good estate of the king and queen Isabella and Edward of Windsor their first-born son." (1) The reference to Edward of Windsor (King Edward III) as 'first-born son' of course indicates that Edward knew there would be a second-born child; previous references to young Edward call him "the king's son." (2) Sometime in 1316 - the Wardrobe entry is undated - Edward paid Vannus Ballardi, of the Lucca banking firm the Ballardi, nearly four pounds for pieces of silk and gold tissue, and flame-coloured silk, to make cushions for Isabella's carriage so that she could travel in greater comfort - probably during her pregnancy. (3)

Edward and Isabella left Lincoln on 24 February 1316 and spent most of the next few months at Clipstone, Kings Langley and Westminster. On 23 or 24 July, they arrived at Eltham Palace in Kent, and Edward stayed there with his eight-months-pregnant wife for three days before departing for the north of England, leaving Isabella behind. His reason for going north was to take part in yet another campaign against the Scots, which in fact was postponed from August till October, then till the following year, and ended up never taking place at all as Pope John XXII arranged a peace treaty between the two sides on 1 January 1317. (4) Edward arrived in York on 16 August 1316, and stayed at the convent of the Franciscans near the river Ouse. He was accompanied by his niece Margaret, Piers Gaveston's widow, and paid her chamber valet Walter Dymmok eight shillings and ten pence for "certain work done in the chamber of the said countess [of Cornwall]." (5) On his way from Kent to York, Edward touched and blessed 135 sick people. (6)

Meanwhile, Queen Isabella gave birth on 15 August to their second son John, called 'of Eltham' after his birthplace. (Edward was at Tadcaster, ten miles from York, that day.) Isabella sent her steward Eubolo de Montibus the 230 miles to York to inform Edward, and the delighted king rewarded him with a gift of £100. (7) The St Albans chronicler writes of Edward's joy at the birth of his son. (8) If nothing else, John's existence secured the succession to the throne in case anything happened to Edward of Windsor, in an age when the rate of child mortality was horrific. I would imagine that John was named in honour of the new pope, John XXII, who was elected by the cardinals at Avignon on 5 August. News of his election reached England about the time of little John's birth - Edward II gave a pound to Lawrence de Hibernia, the messenger who brought him the news, on 17 August 1316. (9)

Eubolo de Montibus had reached Edward with the news of his son's birth by 24 August, on which date Edward asked the Dominicans of York to pray for himself, "Queen Isabella our very dear consort, Edward of Windsor our eldest son, and John of Eltham our youngest son, especially on account of John." (10) Edward was thirty-two at the time of his son's birth, Isabella twenty or twenty-one.

Edward had a piece of Turkey cloth and a piece of cloth-of-gold delivered to Eltham, to cover the font in the chapel during John’s baptism, and ordered Isabella’s tailor Stephen de Falaise to make her a robe from five pieces of white velvet for her churching ceremony. (11) On 31 July, Isabella had sent her messenger Godyn Hautayn with letters to the bishop of Norwich and her uncle the earl of Lancaster, asking them to stand sponsor (godfathers) to her soon-to-be-born child. (12) However, there is no record of the earl of Lancaster attending the ceremony - a gross insult.

Lancaster's failure to attend can probably be explained by the increasing conflict between himself and his cousin the king. The two men met at York sometime in the second half of August and had a furious row, probably on account of Edward's on-going reluctance to accept the Ordinances of 1311, to which Lancaster was dedicated. The Flores Historiarum claims that Edward armed himself against his cousin, and that his fear of Lancaster was the reason for his postponement of the campaign in Scotland. (13) Whether that is true or not, Edward was concerned enough about Lancaster’s hostility to summon Queen Isabella to him with all speed, fearing for her safety. On 27 September, he paid Isabella’s messenger William Galayn a pound for informing him of Isabella’s imminent arrival in York. (14) Isabella travelled very fast: she was at Buntingford in Hertfordshire on 22 September, 175 miles from York, and was presumably reunited with Edward there shortly after the 27th. (15)

The king and queen spent most of October and November in and near York, spending two and a half weeks (22 October to 8 November) at Newburgh, an Augustinian priory a few miles north of the city, now a stately home. They spent a few days at Scrooby, east of Sheffield, were at Clipstone for most of December, and spent Christmas at Nottingham. (16) Meanwhile, little John of Eltham was looked after by his nurse Matilda Pyrie, in the household of his elder brother Edward of Windsor, at Wallingford Castle near Oxford. (17) It's significant that Edward sent his sons to live at a castle that had formerly belonged to Piers Gaveston. Presumably Edward and Isabella visited their sons there occasionally: Edward was at Wallingford on 29 January 1317, from 22 to 26 April 1318, and on 1 May 1318. It's very likely that the boys also visited court occasionally, though given the paucity of records mentioning children - even the king's children - we can't be totally sure. It's also hard to say for sure when Edward first saw his son John.

(1) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1313-1317, p. 398.
(2) For example: Patent Rolls 1313-1317, pp. 373, 387; Calendar of Close Rolls 1313-1318, pp. 3, 11, 30, 45.
(3) Thomas Stapleton, 'A Brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the tenth, eleventh and fourteenth years of Edward II', Archaeologia 1836, pp. 342-343.
(4) Foedera, Conventiones, Litterae et Cujuscunque Acta Publica, ed. Thomas Rymer, volume II, i, p. 308.
(5) Stapleton, p. 320.
(6) Ibid.
(7) Ibid.
(8) Chronica Monasterii S. Albani Johannis de Trokelowe et Henrici de Blaneforde, Monachorum S. Albani, ed. Henry Thomas Riley, p. 95.
(9) Stapleton, p. 321.
(10) Close Rolls 1313-1318, p. 430; Foedera, p. 296.
(11) Stapleton, p. 336.
(12) Ibid.
(13) Flores Historiarum, ed. H. R. Luard, volume iii, pp. 176-177.
(14) Stapleton, p. 320.
(15) Patent Rolls 1313-1317, p. 621.
(16) Details of Edward's whereabouts are taken mostly from The Itinerary of Edward II and his Household 1307-1328, by Elizabeth Hallam; also from Foedera and the Close and Patent Rolls.
(17) http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/14842

10 August, 2008


I've been tagged by Lady D for a post on A Writerly Life, but I've changed it slightly, to keep it on-topic (as everything I write on this blog has to be related to Edward II!)

Fiction about Edward II I like:

Brenda Honeyman's The King's Minions and The Queen and Mortimer: absolutely my two favourite Edward II novels. Beautifully written, touching and sympathetic to both Edward II and Isabella - something you rarely see - with great characterisations and lovely touches of humour.

Susan Higginbotham's The Traitor's Wife: a big, beautiful novel covering the period 1306 to 1337, seen through the eyes of Eleanor de Clare. Historically accurate, and a great perspective on Edward II by one of the people who knew him best.

Chris Hunt's Gaveston: Hunt has a great talent for description, and the love affair between Edward II and Piers Gaveston is vivid and fantastically well written. Moving, one of the most historically accurate novels I've ever read, and with lots of hot sex scenes. :-)

Juliet Dymoke's The Lion of Mortimer. Although the title is very misleading - the main characters are three generations of the Montacute family, not the Mortimers - a very nice, if short, dramatisation of Edward's reign, also with some lovely characterisations.

Paul Doherty's Cup of Ghosts, a murder mystery set in 1307 and 1308. A great, and very unusual, portrayal of Edward and Isabella's relationship - I don't want to describe it here, in case I ruin the plot for people who haven't read the novel - and a lovely Piers Gaveston too.

The She-Wolf by Pamela Bennetts: unusually, this one begins in 1325, and while this choice necessitates a lot of flashbacks and exposition to get the reader up to speed with the situation, it's a powerfully-written novel of hatred, jealousy, revenge, lust and madness.

Edward II Fiction I don't like (much):

Edith Felber's Queen of Shadows: Isabella, the proto-feminist, constantly moans about women being subject to men, and tells everyone "I am queen!" and refers to her husband as "Edward, the king" approximately every five pages, which gives the unfortunate impression that the other characters are suffering from amnesia and can't remember who Edward and Isabella are for more than about ten minutes. Also very inaccurate in places, though I do really like the depiction of Edward (except for the completely untrue statements that he committed atrocities in Wales and murdered Jewish people).

Notorious and Infamous by Virginia Henley, two romances set in Edward II's era. The most risible 'As you know, Bob' dialogue I've ever read, and deeply offensive portrayals of gay men. Bleugh. Just thinking about it makes me feel ill.

Harlot Queen by Hilda Lewis. I have mixed feelings about this one. It most unfairly accuses Edward II of cowardice at Bannockburn - that'd be the man who "fought like a lion" (Trokelowe) and who "struck out so vigorously behind him with his mace there was none whom he touched that he did not fell to the ground" (Scalacronica), then? Some weird characterisations too, for example the younger Despenser, who is all swishy and camp with girlish hips, yet also a brutal wife-beater. Still, the ending is terrific. Unlike most Edward II novels, he survives after 1327, and the last scene has Edward and Isabella finally achieving, umm, closure (to use a horrible modern word) on their relationship many years after his deposition - which is deeply moving.

Alice Walworth Graham's The Vows of the Peacock: narrated by the earl of Warwick's daughter Elisabeth (with an 's' for some reason) Beauchamp, one of Isabella's attendants, who manages to be the same age as the queen (i.e., born about 1295) even though her parents, historically, didn't marry until 1309. The novel gets bogged down in waaaaay too much description, and the odd choice of narrator means that we only read about most of the exciting events of the era second-hand.

Maurice Druon's The She-Wolf of France. Almost all the characters - at least the English ones -are ugly and contemptible, and also really boring. Poor Edward is shrieky, tantrumy and apparently deformed physically, while poor Isabella has 'little carnivore's teeth' (???). Too much telling and not nearly enough showing, relationships very weirdly portrayed by a man who seems to have no understanding of how human emotions work, and the dialogue is laughably bad. Yes, it's translated from the French, but I can't imagine that Edward's dying words "Oh you brutes, you brutes, you shan't kill me!" sound any better in the original. Crap dialogue is crap dialogue, whatever the language. I dislike this novel so much it's the only Edward II book I've ever given away.

Edward II non-fiction I like:

Caroline Bingham's The Life and Times of Edward II. Published in 1973 and a little dated now, and not always totally accurate, but a great overview of Edward's reign and sympathetic to him, while not glossing over his many faults and mistakes. It's also lavishly illustrated. A great book for the non-expert to learn about Edward II.

Harold F. Hutchison's Edward II: The Pliant King. For a book published in 1971, surprisingly advanced in its discussion of Edward's (presumed) sexuality. You get the feeling that Hutchison really likes Edward and is very sympathetic towards him, although he doesn't whitewash him.

J. R. S. Phillips' Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke 1307-1324: Baronial Politics in the Reign of Edward II. Very academic - it's based on the author's doctoral thesis - but extremely readable, with lots of great information. I come back to this one again and again. Ditto J. R. Maddicott's Thomas of Lancaster 1307-1322: A Study in the Reign of Edward II.

Michael Prestwich's Plantagenet England 1225-1360. A big, gorgeous book, extremely readable, covering political, social and economic history. The kind of book you can read cover to cover - all 600 pages of it - or dip in and out of.

Non-fiction I'm not so mad about:

Paul Doherty's Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II, a gripping account of Edward and Isabella's marriage and Edward's survival, but with numerous sloppy errors and an unconvincing depiction of Isabella as an evil bitch-queen who wanted Edward dead and never gave him a second thought after his deposition (which is demonstrably not true).

Natalie Fryde's Tyranny and Fall of Edward II 1321-1326. Very useful in many ways, but the author never passes up a chance to sneer at Edward - why anyone would write an entire book about someone they obviously don't like baffles me - and full of silly errors. Much of it is so dry and scholarly that even I, more obsessed with every aspect of Edward's reign than most people on the planet and with two degrees in medieval history to boot, can't read it without my eyes glazing over.

06 August, 2008

The King's Generosity

The fourteenth-century chronicler Ranulph Higden called Edward II "prodigal in giving," and here are a few random examples of his generosity. Bear in mind that most people in England at the time earned between about 1 and 3p a day, 12p made 1 shilling, and 20 shillings made 1 pound (so there were 240p in a pound).

- £500 to Theophania de Saint Pierre, Queen Isabella's former nurse, in 1316 (a staggering amount!)

- £50 to Peter the Surgeon for curing a boy bitten by one of Edward's great horses

- 2 and a half pounds to Edward's painter Jack of St Albans for dancing on the table, which "made him laugh very greatly" (lui fist tres grantement rire)

- A year's salary to his servant Morris for amusingly falling off his horse, twice (though as Ian Mortimer points out in The Time-Traveller's Guide To Medieval England, Morris was ill, not trying to be funny, which makes Edward's laughing at him pretty cruel!)

- £50 to Piers Gaveston's messenger for bringing him "good news" of Piers in March 1312

- £1 to a woman "he drank with" on the way to Newcastle in 1310

- gifts worth a staggering £1600, plus more gifts worth £300 paid for by Edward but sent in Isabella's name, to Pope John XXII after his election in 1316. They included a cope "embroidered and studded with large white pearls," thirteen golden salt-cellars, numerous golden dishes and bowls, a golden basin and a golden chalice. The gifts sent on Isabella's behalf included a "gold buckle set with diverse pearls and other precious stones."

- 2 and a half pounds each to Edward's squires John Haclut and Thomas de la Haye (later of the Dunheved gang) for going to Newport on his behalf in 1321

- 2 rings, worth 30 shillings each, to his squire Oliver de Bordeaux and Oliver's wife when they married in 1317

- A pound (20 shillings) to John Spayn, page of Edward's chamber, when he married Amice Maure in 1319 (Amice was a bribour of Edward's household, mentioned in the same list as his washerwomen - I'm not sure what the word means)

- 30 shillings to William Wytherwood, purveyor of the royal household, for bringing him delicious crabs and prawns (Edward said "he had not had anything so much to his taste for a long time").

- £100 to his niece Eleanor de Clare (Despenser) when she was ill after childbirth in 1323

- A pound to 10 fishermen (i.e., 2 shillings or 24p each) of Thorne near Doncaster in November 1322, who caught "big pikes, big eels and a great number of other fish," and "who fished in the king's presence" (qe pescherent en la presence le Roi)

- £2 to William Lalblaster, messenger of the count of Poitiers (Queen Isabella's brother, soon to become King Philip V) for bringing Edward bunches of new grapes in October 1316

- 2 and a half pounds to Philip V's messenger William de Opere in September 1317, for bringing Edward a box of rose-coloured sugar

- £5 to Robert Daverouns, violist of the prince of Tarentum, for "performing his minstrelsy in the king's presence" in November 1316. (Tarentum is modern-day Taranto in Puglia, southern Italy; its prince in 1316 was Philip I, who was Edward's second cousin)

- 1 mark (13 shillings and 4p) to Tanin, messenger of Antonio di Pessagno (an Italian banker) for bringing Edward 2 camels, in November 1317

- 10 shillings to Dulcia Withstaff, mother of Edward's fool Rob Withstaff, when she visited the king sometime in 1317.

- Calendar of Close Rolls/Foedera (Theophania)
- Ian Mortimer, The Time-Traveller's Guide to Medieval England (Morris)
- Michael Prestwich, 'The Court of Edward II' in The Reign of Edward II: New Perspectives, ed. Gwilym Dodd and Anthony Musson (Jack of St Albans, John Spayn, Peter the Surgeon, prawns)
- James Conway Davies, 'The First Journal of Edward II's Chamber', English Historical Review, 1915 (fishermen)
- Thomas Stapleton, 'A Brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the 10th, 11th, and 14th years of Edward II', Archaeologia, 1836 (rose sugar, camels, grapes, Tarentum, gifts to pope, Newport, Dulcia)
- J. S. Hamilton, Piers Gaveston, earl of Cornwall 1307-1312 (Piers' messenger)
- Michael Prestwich, The Three Edwards (woman in Newcastle)
- James Conway Davies, The Baronial Opposition to Edward II (Eleanor Despenser)
- T. F. Tout, The Place of the Reign of Edward II in English History (Amice Maure)