29 November, 2008

Brief Biographies (2): Robert Lewer

Today, a post on one of the baddest of all fourteenth-century bad boys, Robert Lewer (or le Ewer), who murdered his mistress's husband, threatened to kill and dismember Edward II's sergeants-at-arms in front of the king, and was condemned to be crushed to death with a great weight of iron.

The Vita Edwardi Secundi has quite a lot of info on Robert. According to the author, he grew up at court and was was the king's 'water-bearer', responsible for drying the king's clothes and preparing his bath (hence the name 'le Ewer'). [1] To say the author strongly disapproved of Robert would be a major understatement, and he says "relying on his influence at court, and accustomed to lax morals from youth, he was always ready for plunder and killing." As Robert was already an adult by the time of Edward II's accession in 1307, it was at Edward I's court that he acquired his 'lax morals', not Edward II's.

Robert was also, however, "shrewd and active in military matters," though he wasn't a knight. Edward II showed him great favour, and in 1311, Robert was one of the men whom the Ordainers ordered away from Edward, at the same time that they sent Piers Gaveston into exile: "Item, Robert Lewer, archers and such manner of ribaldry shall be removed from the king’s wages, and not stay in his service, except in war." [2] Edward had appointed him constable of Odiham Castle in Hampshire, which belonged to Queen Marguerite, a few weeks earlier. [3] At some unknown date, says the Vita, he "killed a certain good man, and made off with his wife, with whom he had previously committed adultery." Edward II's reaction to this murder is not recorded. In the summer of 1313, Robert accompanied Edward on his trip to France, with Queen Isabella, to see her three brothers knighted. [4]

In April 1309, Edward granted Robert the reversion of the manor of Warblington, nowadays a suburb of Havant near Portsmouth, and in December 1318, gave him a water-mill and adjacent meadow in Basingstoke, also in Hampshire. [5] Robert made efforts to deprive Isabella, widow of Hugh Bardolf, of her free tenements in Emsworth, and disseize her of Warblington. [6] He failed to appear before King's Bench to answer Isabella's plea, and on 6 July 1312, Edward sent three separate writs to the justices of the King's Bench, ordering them to acquit Robert of his forfeiture because of his non-appearance, "as the said Robert was with the king in his service at that time and is still with him." [7]

In February 1320, Edward II replaced Robert as constable of Odiham with his friend Hugh Despenser the younger. [8]. Some months later, the king ordered Robert's arrest on the grounds of his "trespasses, contempts and disobediences." Precisely what these were is not clear, but most likely, Robert was angry about his replacement as constable by Despenser and went on some kind of rampage. His later actions demonstrate that he detested the Despensers and their influence. Robert resisted "by armed force" the attempts of Edward's sergeants-at-arms to arrest him, "threatening some of the king’s subjects with loss of life and limb, asserting he would slay them and cut them up limb by limb wherever he should find them, either in the presence or absence of the king." Edward, who had previously shown Robert such favour, was by now severely out of patience with him, calling him "so vile a person," and ordered all the sheriffs of England to arrest and imprison him and his adherents with their "receivers, abettors and maintainers." Robert evaded capture, and was still being sought in January 1321. [9]

In May 1321, the Marcher lords went on a trail of destruction through the Welsh lands of Hugh Despenser the younger, and it evidently occurred to Edward that Robert, an excellent soldier, would be more useful to him out of prison than inside. On 20 May, Edward granted a safe-conduct for Robert "and others with him coming to the king and departing," and on 9 June, pardoned Robert for threatening to 'slay and dismember' his sergeants, released Robert’s wife Margery and his 'friends' from prison, restored his lands and goods, and re-appointed him constable of Odiham Castle. [10]

On 19 October 1321, Edward commissioned Robert "in conjunction with the keepers of the peace and the sheriffs of the counties of Surrey, Sussex, Southampton, Wilts, Oxford, Berks, Somerset and Dorset, to enquire touching malefactors making confederacies there, and to arrest and attach the guilty and to send them to the nearest gaols until further order." [11] On 6 and 7 December that year, the king sent Robert, with Oliver Ingham, to arrest his former favourites Roger Damory and Hugh Audley, his former steward Bartholomew Badlesmere, and several others - unsuccessfully, as it turned out, as they weren't captured until the following March. [12]

Robert was one of the men, with the earl of Surrey and unnamed others, who took Roger Mortimer and his uncle Roger Mortimer of Chirk, after they "deserted their allies and threw themselves on the king's mercy" at Shrewsbury, to imprisonment in the Tower of London - just after dinner on 14 February 1322, according to the Croniques de London. The Vita says Robert commanded Edward's household infantry at the battle of Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322. [13] Later that year, however, things once more turned sour between the king and his thuggish, murderous commander. Robert accompanied Edward on the Scottish campaign of autumn 1322, but arrived late, and left early, to Edward's annoyance. On 16 September, Edward commanded Robert to come to him to explain his "withdrawal from the king's presence," and four days later, when Robert hadn't appeared, ordered the sheriff of Hampshire to arrest him and "cause him to be guarded safely until further orders, as he withdrew himself secretly from the king's presence...and as he has not come to the king or sent lawful excuse." [14]

On the same day Edward ordered the sheriff of Hampshire to arrest Robert for leaving him, he ordered all the sheriffs of England "to pursue with hue and cry until they be taken dead or alive" Robert Lewer, John Wyard, John du Chastel, and Richard and Robert de Harle, "the king being given to understand that the said Robert and the others have risen against him." [15] Wyard was an associate of Roger Mortimer. Robert had gone to some of the manors belonging to Hugh Despenser the elder, now earl of Winchester, and "carried off victuals and other necessaries."

He then went to manors which had formerly belonged to Warin Lisle and his brother-in-law Henry Tyes, whom Edward had had executed that spring, which now belonged to Winchester. "And there Sir [sic] Robert made a great distribution to the poor in the name of alms for the souls of the said barons. From this he profited little, because God has regard to the intention rather than the deed. That cannot be called alms which comes from theft or rapine. For, as is said elsewhere, it is a kind of theft to distribute largesse from the goods of another without consent of the lord." [16]

Throughout late 1322, Edward made strenuous attempts to arrest Robert. On 1 November, he sent out writs to sheriffs and keepers of the peace in places as far apart as Bristol, Cheshire, Lancashire, Wales and the Marches and Oxfordshire. Eleven days later he sent his half-brother the earl of Kent to "the parts of Wales" with men-at-arms and footmen to pursue Robert. By 28 November, Edward had heard that Robert had tried to seize Odiham Castle and had entered the king's manor of 'Ichehull', where he stole "the king's goods and beasts," and by 3 December, believed him to be in the forest of Malvern, in Worcestershire. [17] All this suggests that Robert had, or at least was believed to have, supporters and adherents all over the country. Possibly, though, this was just Edward's paranoia, and the Vita says that "Robert's plan failed, and his men deserted day by day." His plan, such as it was, was to capture the earl of Winchester, who "took refuge in Windsor Castle and set a watch night and day" - meaning that Robert rebelled against the Despensers, rather than Edward II.

Robert had been captured by 19 December 1322, on which date Edward rewarded Janekyn, the messenger who brought him the news, with forty shillings (£2) - a pretty small amount by his standards, which perhaps suggests that by then he had lost interest in Robert or no longer considered him a threat. [18] The Vita says that Robert went to Southampton with his wife - who had presumably forgiven him for taking a mistress and killing her husband - to try to cross over to France, but was recognised there and imprisoned. If that is true, it was pretty foolish of Robert, who was very well-known in Hampshire, to go to the one English port where he was bound to be recognised. The Vita's account is in fact likely to be correct, as it was Robert Kendale, appointed to search for Robert in Hampshire, who sent his messenger Janekyn to inform Edward II of his capture. (This implies that Edward had sent his brother Kent off on a wild goose chase to Wales.)

Robert refused to speak in court and to answer the charges against him, and was sentenced to the usual punishment for people who refused "to submit to the law of the realm": peine forte et dure, 'strong and hard punishment'. The prisoner sat on the bare floor wearing thin clothes, and a huge weight of iron - several hundred pounds - was placed on top of him (or her). Death normally took several days. Prisoners were allowed a small amount of mouldy bread and cloudy water; on the days they received bread, they were allowed no water, and vice versa. [19] This grotesque punishment wasn't abolished in Britain until 1772.

Robert Lewer survived several days of this horror, and was dead by 8 January 1323. [20] The author of the Vita, at least, approved of the manner of his death: "Robert at length died, receiving at last a punishment fitting for his crimes and healthy for his soul, provided he bore it with resignation." Robert's widow Margery was released from prison on 30 July 1324, and pardoned on 9 September "for having been lately in rebellion against the king." [21] Probably that same year, she petitioned Edward II, denying any complicity in the murder of one Peter Luscombe. [22] Presumably, Luscombe was the husband of Margery's husband's mistress, unless Robert also murdered another man - which, given his brutal character, is hardly improbable.

RIP Robert Lewer, one of the thugs of the fourteenth century!


1: Vita Edwardi Secundi, ed. N. Denholm-Young (1957), pp. 117-118, 127-129.
2: Annales Londonienses 1195-1330, in W. Stubbs, ed., Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II, volume 1, Rolls Series, 76 (1882), p. 199.
3: Calendar of Fine Rolls 1307-1319, p. 103; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1307-1313, pp. 400, 405, 481; Calendar of Close Rolls 1307-1313, pp. 375, 378.
4: CPR 1307-1313, pp. 580, 584.
5: CPR 1307-1313, pp. 160, 304-305, 319 and CCR 1307-1313, p. 387, for Warblington; CPR 1317-1321, p. 253 and The National Archives SC 8/92/4562B, for the mill and meadow.
6: TNA SC 8/4/190; CPR 1313-1317, pp. 139-40; CCR 1323-1327, p. 436.
7: CCR 1307-1313, pp. 399, 429, 430.
8: CFR 1319-1327, pp. 15, 18.
9: CCR 1318-1323, pp. 260, 285-286, 326.
10: CPR 1317-1321, pp. 586, 596, and CCR 1318-1323, pp. 312, 394, for the safe-conduct, pardon of Robert, his wife and friends, and restoration to his lands and goods; CFR 1319-1327, p. 64, and CPR 1317-1321, p. 595, for Odiham.
11: CPR 1321-1324, p. 28.
12: CPR 1321-1324, p. 40.
13: Croniques de London depuis l'an 44 Hen III jusqu'à l'an 17 Edw III, ed. G.J. Aungier (1844), p. 43; Vita, p. 118 (infantry and Mortimer quote).
14: CCR 1318-1323, p. 597; CPR 1321-1324, p. 206.
15: CCR 1318-1323, p. 685.
16: Vita, p. 127.
17: J. C. Davies, ‘The First Journal of Edward II’s Chamber’, English Historical Review, 30 (1915), p. 680; CPR 1321-1324, pp. 215, 221, 222, 254.
18: Davies, 'First Journal', p. 678.
19: CPR 1324-1327, p. 142, for the quote; Vita, 128.
20: CPR 1321-1324, p. 232.
21: CCR 1323-1327, p. 203; CPR 1324-1327, p. 21.
22: TNA SC 8/122/6098.

25 November, 2008

My Favourite Edward II Quotes

A collection of quotes about or by or otherwise related to Edward II and his era, from fourteenth-century letters and chronicles, or in secondary sources, that I like!

1) "Edward II sat down to the game of kingship with a remarkably poor hand, and he played it very badly." [Noel Denholm-Young, from the introduction to his translation of the Vita Edwardi Secundi, 1957, p. ix]

2) "He set off with all speed, he and his silly company of swimmers, to the parliament which he had ridiculously caused to be summoned to Lincoln." [Flores Historiarum, vol. iii, ed. H. R. Luard, 1890, p. 173]

The contemporary Westminster chronicler gets in a dig at Edward for his autumn 1315 swimming and rowing holiday in the Fens - and is so busy sneering at the king that he gets the dates wrong: the Lincoln parliament began in late January 1316, but Edward had left the Fens in mid-October 1315, and spent most of the intervening period at Clipstone in Nottinghamshire with Isabella.

And a king summoning parliament? Yeah, that's ridiculous.

3) "...which answer the king deems altogether insufficient and derisory." [CCR 1318-1323, p. 408, dated 28 November 1321]

Edward II responds to his former favourite Roger Damory, who was busy making excuses as to why he couldn't hand over Glamorgan into the king's hands after the August 1321 exile of Hugh Despenser, lord of Glamorgan. I'm longing to use this phrase in conversation.

Waiter: Are you enjoying your meal, madam?
Me: No. I deem it altogether insufficient and derisory.

4) 20 November 1313: "Notification for the security of Mariota de Karliolo, and to relieve her from sinister suspicion touching the loss of her ear, that she whilst in the army of king Edward I in Scotland, passing between the carts of that army, stumbled and fell, and that a carter accidentally cut off her right ear with his cart which he was leading. By testimony of Hugh le Despenser." [CPR 1313-1317, p. 40]

5) 30 March 1324: "Notification, lest sinister suspicion should arise hereafter, that the defect which William Sampson suffers in his right ear arose from the stroke of a tun of wine as he was walking amongst the tuns on board a ship to see that no harm came to them, as the king is informed on sufficient evidence." [CPR 1321-1324, p. 403]

What was it with people getting their ears attacked by inanimate objects?

6) "The earl of Hereford is even more dejected and thoughtful than usual." Hugh Despenser the younger describes Edward II's brother-in-law in a letter to the sheriff of Glamorgan, 21 March 1321. [English Historical Review, 1897, p. 761]

7) "Meanwhile it was publicly rumoured in England that the queen of England was coming to England."

The Lanercost chronicler, describing the events of 1326, attempts the world record for how many times he can write 'England' in a short sentence. [ The Chronicle of Lanercost 1272-1346, ed. Herbert Maxwell, facsimile edition, 2001, p. 250]

8) "...threatening some of the king's subjects with loss of life and limb, asserting that he would slay and dismember them wherever he should find them, either in the presence or absence of the king." [CCR 1318-1323, pp. 285-6; CPR 1317-1321, p. 596]

The thuggish Robert Lewer, constable of Odiham Castle and a member of Edward II's household, threatens the men Edward has sent to arrest him, late 1320.

9) "Seldom did a son contrast so strangely with his father as did Edward of Carnarvon with Edward the Hammer of the Scots. The mighty warrior and statesman begot a shiftless, thriftless craven." [Charles William Chadwick Oman, A History of England, 1895, p. 171]

I'm thinking of changing the name of the blog from 'Edward II' (dull!) to 'Edward II, the shiftless, thriftless craven'. Try saying that fast.

10) Victorian writer Emily Sarah Holt moralises Victorianly about Alice de Lacy (died 1348), countess of Lincoln and wife of Thomas, earl of Lancaster: "I doubt there can be found, through the whole of the fourteenth century, another woman so literally steeped in vice and crime as this young and beautiful heiress." We learn that not only did poor Alice poison her second husband Eubolo Lestrange, she attempted to poison her first husband Lancaster and left him for the "lame and hump-backed" Richard St Martin, whereupon Lancaster remonstrated with his "wicked Countess." "With her reply I will not disgrace these pages; suffice it to say, that she boldly defended her shameless proceedings, in such a style as to proclaim her utterly lost to all sense of womanly honour." [Emily Sarah Holt, Memoirs of Royal Ladies, vol. 1, 1861, pp. 45-62]

I wonder how you can be 'literally' steeped in vice and crime?

11) "Oh! The insane stupidity of the king of the English, condemned by God and men, who should not love his infamy and illicit bed, full of sin, and should never have removed from his side his noble consort and her gentle wifely embraces, in contempt of her noble birth." [Flores, p. 224]

The Westminster chronicler, who by no stretch of the imagination could be considered Edward II's greatest fan, puts the boot in again.

12) "In his insane fury he hated all the magnates with such wicked hatred that he plotted to overthrow, once and for all and without distinction, the great men of the realm together with the whole English aristocracy." [Yup, Flores again, p. 200]

Edward II was planning a cull of the entire English nobility and knightly class in 1322. Who knew?

13) "The king rejoices greatly that providence has illuminated abundantly the boldness of Alfonsus's youth by gifts of virtues and natural and gracious good things, as widely diffused fame has made known and is as now spread to the ends of the world." [CCR 1323-1327, p. 344]

Edward II waxes lyrical about the wonderfulness of his thirteen-year-old cousin Alfonso XI of Castile, early 1325.

14) "We have nothing but good news in front of us." Letter of Edward II to William Aune, 4 May 1321, the very day thousands of men began attacking the Welsh lands of his favourite Hugh Despenser. Oops. [J. R. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster 1307-1322: A Study in the Reign of Edward II, 1970, p. 266, my translation]

15) "From his youth he devoted himself in private to the art of rowing and driving carts, of digging ditches and thatching houses, as was commonly said, and also with his companions at night to various works of ingenuity and skill, and to other pointless trivial occupations unsuitable for the son of a king." [Lanercost, p. 222]

Wonder what the night-time occupations of ingenuity and skill were?

16) "May help come from you, our lord, if it please you, for in you, Sire, is all our hope and trust." [G. W. S. Barrow, Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland, second edition, 1976, p.249]

The earl of Ross, whose lands were being invaded and attacked by Robert Bruce, appeals to Edward II in the spring of 1308. Oh dear, placing all your hope and trust in Edward regarding military matters was a really bad idea. (Ross submitted to Bruce shortly afterwards.)

17) "It was decided that the said Piers [Gaveston] should leave the realm [in 1308], and he left it, and that he did not return by common consent, but only by the consent of some, who consented to this on condition that after his return he should be of good behaviour, and now it is found of a certainty that he has behaved badly." [Vita, p. 20, quoting the twentieth Ordinance]

The lamest part of the Ordainers' justification for exiling Piers again, autumn 1311.

20 November, 2008

Brief Biographies (1): Giles Argentein

Starting a feature where I turn the spotlight on some of the more obscure men and women of Edward II's era. Today, Sir Giles Argentein, who is not well-known today, but in his day was considered one of the greatest knights in Europe.

John Barbour, a Scottish poet of the later fourteenth century, called Giles Argentein the third greatest knight and crusader of his era, behind the Holy Roman Emperor Henry of Luxembourg and Robert Bruce. [1] Giles' parentage is rather obscure; he might have been the younger brother of Sir John Argentein (died 1318), who married Agnes, daughter of William Bereford, chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas. If not his brother, then Giles was presumably John's cousin. Giles' date of birth is unknown, but I'd guess around 1280 (John Argentein was born about 1278). I also have no idea if he was married or not, but he left no children. If he was John's younger brother, this would make him a son of Reynald Argentein, himself the son and heir of Giles Argentein, who died shortly before 24 November 1282. Reynald Argentein was born in about 1242 and died shortly before 3 March 1308, when his lands passed to his eldest son. [2]

In July 1302, Giles was accused with twenty named men and "a multitude of armed men" of breaking into the houses of Master Peter de Dene at 'Lilleseye' (Lawshall?) in Suffolk, where they "consumed and appropriated his goods, and beat his servants." [3] In November 1302, he and several other young men deserted from the Scottish campaign, to fight at a jousting tournament at Byfleet in Surrey. [4] Edward I issued an order on 8 March 1303 for Giles' lands in Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk to be seized, and sent the sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire "to arrest the body of Giles de Argenteim for certain trespasses and contempts, and have him before the king fifteen days from Easter next to answer touching the same." [5] He was released from prison to fight at the siege of Stirling Castle in April 1304, and earned himself a pardon on 28 June that year "in consideration of the service in Scotland of Giles de Argenteym, and especially of the harm he sustained" at Stirling. [6]

In October 1306, Giles again deserted from a Scots campaign, this time to go jousting on the continent, with twenty-one other young knights including Piers Gaveston, Roger Mortimer and the Gilbert de Clare, lord of Thomond mentioned in my last post. A furious Edward I seized their lands for "deserting the king and his son in those parts in contempt of the king and to the retarding of the king's business" and ordered various sheriffs to "take the body of [Giles, etc] and keep him safely, until further order." [7] Sixteen of the men were pardoned on 23 January 1307 thanks to the intercession of the Lord Edward, prince of Wales, and Queen Marguerite; Giles Argentein, perhaps not surprisingly, was not one of them. [8]

Possibly, Giles was rather relieved when Edward I died in July 1307 and Edward II succeeded to the throne! On 12 March 1308, Edward II appointed Giles constable of Cambridge Castle, which belonged to the dowager queen Marguerite, and sometime before 12 March 1310 granted him the wardship of William, son and heir of William Criketot, tenant-in-chief. [9] Giles took part in the great jousting tournament at Dunstable in or about March 1309 with John Argentein, his brother or cousin. On 28 May 1309, he held the field against all comers at the tournament of Stepney, and was crowned 'King of the Greenwood' (given as the half-Latin, half-French rex de Vertbois by the London annalist, and as rex de viridi bosco by the Pauline annalist). [10] Four weeks later, rather less chivalrously, Giles was accused with three named men and unnamed others of assaulting a Richard Aylward in Colchester, Essex. [11]

Giles Argentein accompanied Piers Gaveston, earl of Cornwall, on the Scottish campaign in the autumn of 1310. [12] Piers was also a champion jouster, and I wonder if the two men ever rode against each other? (Piers was in Ireland in the spring of 1309, so couldn't attend the tournaments at Dunstable and Stepney.) Now that would have been worth watching. On 15 February 1311, Giles was making plans to go to the Holy Land, and appointed Alan Houel as his attorney for a year. [13] A Stephen Houel, probably a relative, was one of the men co-accused with Giles in 1302 of breaking into Peter de Dene's houses.

Unfortunately for Giles, he was captured on the way to Rhodes by people whom Edward II later described as "the men of that island, who are commonly called 'maleveisine'" ('bad neighbours'), and was held in prison at Thessalonika. By the summer of 1313, Edward II knew that he would have to take an army to Stirling the following summer and probably have to face Robert Bruce in battle. His thoughts turned to the greatest of all English knights, and on 7 August 1313, he sent a "request to aid in procuring the release of Giles de Argenteyn, knight" to the master and preceptor of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, saying "the king is informed that the master of the hospital can aid the delivery of the said knight more than any one else." Edward sent a letter in the same vein to the podestà and community of Genoa, "as the king learns that the merchants of that city are conversant with the abovesaid men [the 'bad neighbours'], and are more able to aid and procure his release than any others." [14]

On 12 October 1313, Edward also wrote to ten highly influential people to ask their aid in releasing Giles Argentein, or 'Egidius de Argenteym' as it appeared in the Latin original: "his dearest friend" the Byzantine emperor Andronikos Palaeologus; "the most serene lady, and his dearest lady in Christ" the Empress Eirene; Andronikos's son and co-emperor Michael; his other son the marquess of Montferrat; the king of Sicily; Francesco Fieschi, count of Lavagna; Carlo Fieschi; Opicino Spinola; Conrad and Bernabo Doria. [15] (In 1315 and 1317, Edward appointed Francesco and Carlo Fieschi, nephews of Cardinal Luca Fieschi and his distant cousins, "to be of the king's household forever and to wear his livery.") [16]

This major, and extremely well-informed, diplomatic effort on Edward's part soon produced the desired results, and Giles Argentein was back in England by 12 March 1314. [17] At the battle of Bannockburn on 23 and 24 June that year, he was appointed with the earl of Pembroke to hold the king's reins, or in other words, to be Edward's bodyguard. When the battle was lost, the earl of Pembroke dragged Edward off the field, with hundreds of his knights, to prevent his capture. As soon as Giles knew that Edward would be safe, according to Sir Thomas Gray in the Scalacronica, he declared "Sire, your rein was entrusted to me; there is your castle [Stirling] where your body will be safe. I am not accustomed to flee, and I have no intention of doing so now. I commend you to God." (Sire, vostre reyne me fust baillez, ore estez a sauuete, veiz cy vostre chastel ou vostre corps purra estre saue. Jeo nay pas este acoustome a fuyre, ne plus auaunt ne voil ieo faire, a Dieux vous commaunde.)

Gray continues "Then, setting spurs to his horse, he returned to the melee, where he was killed." [18] Giles galloped towards the schiltrom of Robert Bruce's brother Edward and was cut down either by their pikes or battle-axes, or as Aryeh Nusbacher puts it in his book Bannockburn 1314, "It was just as his horse was preparing to jump the men twelve feet away that Giles de Argentine realised that death wasn't something that only happened to other people." [19] The Vita, on the other hand, which describes Giles as "very expert in the art of war," says that he watched the young earl of Gloucester hit one of the Scottish schiltroms full on and die, and "hurried up in eager anxiety to help him, but could not. Yet he did what he could, and fell together with the earl, thinking it more honourable to perish with so great a man than to escape death by flight; for those who fall in battle for their country are known to live in everlasting glory." [20]

Giles left no children, and his heir was his nephew Sir William Argentein; Edward II gave William the 288 pounds on 18 July 1314 which he had owed to Giles, for William to "defray his uncle's debts and discharge his soul." [21]

Although I'm sure that Giles' contemporaries greatly admired and yearned to emulate his suicidally reckless courage - the authors of the Vita and the Scalacronica certainly admired him enormously - from my 21st-century, armchair perspective I can't help wishing that he hadn't been quite as foolhardy, and had lived to serve Edward II longer and more usefully, not thrown away his life in a battle that was already lost.


1) Cited in G. W. S. Barrow, Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland (2nd edn., 1976), p. 296.
2) Calendar of Fine Rolls 1272-1307, pp. 174, 176, Fine Rolls 1307-1319, p. 16.
3) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1301-1307, p. 86.
4) Calendar of Close Rolls 1302-1307, p. 66.
5) Calendar of Fine Rolls 1272-1307, p. 471; CPR 1301-1307, p. 121.
6) CPR 1301-1307, p. 242.
7) CFR 1272-1307, pp. 543-544.
8) CCR 1302-1307, pp. 481-482.
9) CPR 1307-1313, p. 52, for Cambridge; CCR 1307-1313, p. 251, and CFR 1307-1319, p. 181, for the wardship.
10) Annales Londoniensis, p. 157, and Annales Paulini, p. 267, in Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II, ed. W. Stubbs, vol. 1 (1882).
11) CPR 1307-1313, p. 174.
12) J. S. Hamilton, Piers Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall 1307-1312: Politics and Patronage in the Reign of Edward II (1988), p. 82.
13) CPR 1307-1313, p. 324.
14) CCR 1313-1318, p. 71.
15) CCR 1313-1318, p. 76; Foedera, p. 229.
16) CPR 1313-1317, p. 340; CPR 1317-1321, p. 10.
17) CCR 1313-1318, p. 42.
18) Scalacronica: by Sir Thomas Gray of Heton, knight, ed. Joseph Stevenson (1836), pp. 142-143.
19) Aryeh Nusbacher, Bannockburn 1314 (Tempus Publishing, 2005), p. 209.
20) Vita Edwardi Secundi, ed. N. Denholm-Young (1957), pp. 53-54.
21) Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland 1307-1357, p. 71.

16 November, 2008

Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester and Hertford

A post on Edward II's eldest nephew Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford.

Gilbert was born on or about 10 May 1291 at Winchcombe in Gloucestershire, eldest child of Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, who was forty-seven going on forty-eight, and Joan of Acre, who was nineteen and the second surviving daughter of Edward I. The couple had married a little over a year earlier. Gilbert was christened by Robert Burnell, bishop of Bath and Wells and chancellor of England, and Edward I gave the whopping sum of £100 to the messenger who brought him news of the birth (by way of comparison, he gave the messenger who brought him news of the birth of Gilbert's half-sister Mary de Monthermer five marks, or three and a third pounds).

Gilbert was the eldest grandchild of Edward I, who was fifty-one in early May 1291. His grandmother Eleanor of Castile had died on 28 November 1290 the previous year, so didn't live long enough to see her grandson - though she may have known that Joan was pregnant. He had two much older half-sisters from his father's first marriage, Isabel and Joan, born 1262 and c. 1264, three full sisters Eleanor, Margaret and Elizabeth, and four half-siblings from his mother's second marriage. His father died when Gilbert was four, in December 1295.

Gilbert is often said to have been a member of his uncle Edward II's household before he became king. This is incorrect: the Gilbert de Clare who lived in Edward's household was Gilbert's first cousin of the same name, the eldest son of Gilbert the Red's brother Thomas de Clare (died 1287). [1] This Gilbert was lord of Thomond, born in 1281 and died in 1307. Probably in 1306, he married Hugh Despenser the Elder's daughter Isabel, in a joint de Clare-Despenser alliance; Eleanor de Clare, eldest daughter of Gilbert the Red and Joan of Acre, married Hugh Despenser the Younger in May 1306. Joan of Acre had been granted the marriage of Gilbert de Clare, lord of Thomond, in July 1294. [2] Gilbert (the one this post is about, not his cousin of Thomond; why were they so unimaginative with names?) was seven years younger than Edward II, not much of an age gap between uncle and nephew, but too big for him to have been much of a companion to Edward in adolescence and early adulthood.

In fact, Gilbert, from the age of ten, grew up in the household of his step-grandmother Queen Marguerite, who was only about ten or twelve years his senior: on 27 September 1301, his grandfather Edward I issued a "mandate to Joan, countess of Gloucester and Hertford, the king's daughter, to deliver to Margaret, queen consort, on her demand Gilbert, son and heir of Gilbert de Clare, sometime earl of Gloucester and Hertford, tenant in chief, and of the said Joan, as it is the king's will that he shall stay in the queen consort's custody until further order." [3] Although some writers have chosen to see this order as Edward I's punishing Joan for marrying Ralph de Monthermer without his permission, or proof that Joan was an unfit mother, it was of course an entirely normal thing to do.

Joan of Acre died on 23 April 1307, shortly before Gilbert's sixteenth birthday. Two and a half months later, his grandfather Edward I died, and his twenty-three-year-old uncle acceded as Edward II. On 18 August, Edward II granted Gilbert "all lands of his inheritance in Wales, which by reason of his minority are in the king's hands, together with all the appurtenances of that inheritance in England, Ireland and Wales, subject to a yearly payment to the Exchequer of 1000 marks for the lands in Wales," and on 26 November, permitted Gilbert "to hold all his father's lands, which are in the king's hands by reason of his minority, the king, out of his affection for him, having restored them to him in order that he may receive knighthood and serve the king." [4] This was five years before Gilbert could normally have expected to inherit; he would have come of age on 10 May 1312. Presumably Edward knighted Gilbert soon afterwards.

Edward's motives for granting Gilbert his inheritance so early are uncertain - desire for an ally, affection for his nephew, a sop so that Gilbert would accept his sister Margaret's marrriage to Piers Gaveston - but of course Gilbert-the-wealthy-earl was far more politically useful to Edward than Gilbert-the-underage-ward. At the age of sixteen, Gilbert now had an annual income of £6000, and was the richest man in the country after his uncle the king and his cousin the earl of Lancaster. On 12 March 1308, Edward also granted Gilbert the right "to marry whomsoever he will," and he chose Matilda (or Maud), one of the daughters of Richard de Burgh, earl of Ulster. They married at Waltham Abbey on 30 September 1308, in Edward II's presence. Gilbert was seventeen. [5] Many of the magnates had planned to hold a Round Table jousting tournament at the wedding, "but some of them were afraid of being beset, and dreaded treachery, so that the plans came to nought." [6]

The behaviour of Edward II and Piers Gaveston in 1308 put Gilbert in a rather awkward position, as he was Edward's nephew and Piers' brother-in-law. His actions are rather obscure, but he seems not to have actively supported the pair, nor to have actively opposed them. After Piers' exile in June 1308, however, Gilbert soon came back to his uncle's side, and witnessed Piers' restoration to the earldom of Cornwall on 5 August 1309. [7] A few weeks later, Edward issued a "notification that the hospitality shown, at the king's request, by the archbishop of York, at his dwelling house at Thorpe near York, to Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford, is not to be a precedent for imposing a like charge upon him and the church of St. Peter, York, on any future occasion." [8]

After his return from exile, Piers Gaveston is said to have nicknamed Gilbert filz a puteyne, 'whoreson', supposedly a malicious reference to his mother Joan of Acre’s secret marriage to the squire Ralph de Monthermer in 1297. However, it’s possible that this referred to Ralph himself, Edward II’s brother-in-law, as he was apparently illegitimate. It seems unlikely that Piers would insult Edward II’s sister in such a public fashion. Also, Gilbert seems to have been on perfectly amicable terms with his brother-in-law in 1309 and 1310, which surely argues against the notion that Piers had called Gilbert's mother a whore. Still, Gilbert's support of his uncle and brother-in-law wavered on occasion: he refused to attend the parliament Edward summoned to York in October 1309 and again in February 1310, though he did attend the Westminster parliament in March 1310. He was one of the four earls, the others being Lincoln, Richmond and Surrey, whom Edward appointed to ensure that no-one came to parliament armed, with power "to settle all quarrels and punish offenders." [9] In fact, the earls of Pembroke, Arundel, Lancaster, Warwick and Hereford did come armed.

It was at the Westminster parliament that Edward was forced to consent to the formation of the Lords Ordainer, who appointed themselves to "ordain and establish the state of our household and our realm, according to right and reason…for the good of ourselves and of our realm." [10] Gilbert was elected as one of the Ordainers; of the eleven earls, only three were not: Cornwall (Piers Gaveston), Oxford (the totally insignificant Robert de Vere, who played no role in Edward II's reign) and Edward's nephew-in-law Surrey, John de Warenne.

Despite his role as an Ordainer, however, Gilbert chose to accompany his uncle on his what-not-at-all-surprisingly-turned-out-to-be-unsuccessful-and-pointless year-long Scottish campaign that autumn, with only two other earls - Cornwall and Surrey - and they set off for the north in August 1310. Gilbert spent the next few months at Norham Castle, presumably accompanied by his wife Matilda - Queen Isabella and the countesses of Cornwall and Surrey were certainly in the north with their husbands. Although nothing is known about Gilbert and Matilda's relationship, they are thought to have had a son named John born in April 1312, who presumably died soon afterwards as Gilbert was childless at the time of his death in 1314. [Can't remember the source for John, I'm afraid, and I'm too lazy to go and look.]

In early February 1311, the earl of Lincoln, whom Edward had left as regent of England in his absence, died in his late fifties. On 4 March, Edward appointed Gilbert as keeper of the realm instead, a great responsibility for the young man, not yet twenty. [11] Gilbert returned south to take up his duties and to help the Ordainers with their reforms of Edward's household. Unfortunately, Gilbert became embroiled in a feud with his cantankerous cousin the earl of Lancaster; relations between the two men were so bad that an anonymous letter-writer said that he feared a riot when the two men arrived in London. [12]

Parliament opened at Westminster in August 1311, and Gilbert was one of the Ordainers who tried to persuade Edward to send Piers into exile again. After they finally got him to agree - it took nearly two months - Edward ordered letters testifying to Piers' good character and loyalty to be written, and at his uncle's request, Gilbert added his seal. He then changed his mind and tore it off, "excusing himself on the grounds of his minority." [13]

Piers Gaveston returned to England yet again in early 1312. Gilbert met the other Ordainers at St Pauls early that February, and five of them bound themselves by oath to capture Piers. Gilbert was not one of them, but did promise to ratify whatever the others did. [14] After the earl of Warwick captured Piers in June 1312, the earl of Pembroke begged Gilbert to help him rescue the Gascon. Gilbert evidently was by then sick of his brother-in-law and refused to help, telling Pembroke that Warwick had acted with his aid and counsel. Pembroke had pledged all his lands to ensure Piers' safety, and Gilbert added "It only remains to advise you to learn another time to negotiate more cautiously." [15] The reaction of the fortyish Pembroke to this condescending pronouncement by a twenty-one-year-old is sadly not recorded. After Piers' death, however, Gilbert worked tirelessly to reconcile Edward and the earls of Lancaster, Warwick and Hereford.

The next important event in Gilbert's life was in May 1313, when Edward II once more left his nephew as keeper of the realm when he travelled to France with Isabella (it was during this trip that Edward watched 54 naked dancers). And thirteen months later, Gilbert was one of only three English earls, the others being Hereford and Pembroke, who fought for Edward II at Bannockburn. The first day of the battle, Saturday 23 June, saw a series of skirmishes which went the way of the Scots. Gilbert, rather humiliatingly, was unhorsed. He and his uncle by marriage the earl of Hereford had a row about who should lead the vanguard of the English army, Gilbert being constable of the army, Hereford being constable of England.

That night, Gilbert tentatively suggested to Edward that they should take a day's rest and allow the army to recuperate, not least because the following day was not only a Sunday but a holy day, the feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist. This was a perfectly reasonable suggestion, but Edward, unjustly, accused his nephew of cowardice and deceit. Gilbert's reaction is not recorded, but I can't help seeing him as going purple in the face then dashing outside to kick the nearest object while muttering heartfelt oaths at the supremely annoying uncle who had just maligned him in public.

The following day, Gilbert, desperate both to lead the vanguard and to prove Edward's accusations false, cried out "Today, it will be clear that I am neither a traitor nor a liar" and set off at a gallop towards the Scottish schiltroms, his men following closely behind. In his haste, he made the horrible mistake of forgetting to put on the surcoat which identified him as the earl of Gloucester, came off his horse and "was pierced by many wounds and shamefully killed." [16] Had the Scots known who he was, they would have taken him alive in order to claim an enormous ransom. Gilbert was then twenty-three.

Robert Bruce treated Gilbert's body with great honour and respect. He personally kept an overnight vigil over the body, and sent it back to England with full military honours, at his own expense. Although the two men had almost certainly never met, they were second cousins - Bruce's paternal grandmother Isabel de Clare was the sister of Gilbert's grandfather Richard de Clare - and married to sisters, Matilda and Elizabeth de Burgh.

Gilbert was buried at Tewkesbury Abbey with his father, grandfather, great-grandfather and other members of the de Clare family, and presumably his remains are still there. Edward II's Wardrobe account for 8 August 1317 says that five shillings and sixpence were given "in oblations distributed at diverse masses celebrated in the presence of our lord the king, in the conventual church of Sheleford for the soul of the Lord Gilbert de Clare, late earl of Gloucester, deceased, whose heart lies there inhumed." [17]. Edward II's itinerary shows that he was indeed at Shelford, just outside Nottingham, on that day, though this is the only reference I know of to Gilbert's separate heart burial.

The death of Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford, had a profound effect on Edward II's reign. Not only was the king deprived of his nephew, loyal to him and generally a moderate and calming influence but also respected by the barons as the scion of an ancient noble family and grandson of the old king, but Gilbert's childless death meant that his vast lands and wealth would ultimately pass to the ambitious and unscrupulous men who were his brothers-in-law; precisely what Edward II’s England needed least. There's a great 'what if?' of Edward's reign: what if the earl of Gloucester had remembered to wear his surcoat at Bannockburn?


1) Hilda Johnstone, Edward of Carnarvon 1284-1307 (1946), p. 75.
2) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1292-1301, p. 81.
3) CPR 1292-1301, p. 606.
4) Calendar of Close Rolls 1307-1313, p. 10; CPR 1307-1313, p. 1.
5) CPR 1307-1313, p. 50.
6) Vita Edwardi Secundi, ed. N. Denholm-Young (1957), p. 6.
7) CCR 1307-1313, pp. 225-226.
8) CPR 1307-1313, p. 195.
9) CPR 1307-1313, pp. 206-207; Foedera, p. 103.
10) Foedera, p. 105.
11) CPR 1307-1313, p. 333; Foedera, p. 129.
12) J. R. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster 1307-1322: A Study in the Reign of Edward II (1970), p. 115.
13) Vita, pp. 20-21.
14) Vita, pp. 22-23.
15) Vita, p. 26.
16) Vita, pp. 52-53.
17) Thomas Stapleton, ‘A Brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the tenth, eleventh, and fourteenth years of King Edward the Second’, Archaeologia 26 (1836), p. 341.

09 November, 2008

Edward II's Daughters Eleanor and Joan

Edward II and Queen Isabella's elder daughter was born at Woodstock near Oxford on 18 June 1318, having been conceived the previous autumn when Edward and Isabella were together at York, and named after her paternal grandmother Eleanor of Castile. Edward had been on pilgrimage in Canterbury, but managed to arrive at Woodstock on the day of his daughter's birth, and paid 500 marks to "the Lady Isabella, queen of England, of the king’s gift, for the feast of her purification after the birth of the Lady Alienora her daughter." [1] Notice that Eleanor was called 'Lady', not 'Princess'.

Shortly after her birth, little Eleanor of Woodstock went to live at Wallingford Castle with her elder brothers Edward of Windsor (five years seven months her senior) and John of Eltham (one year ten months her senior), under the care of a nurse named Joan du Bois. John and Eleanor remained "in the company" of their brother Edward of Windsor, "at his expenses." [2] On 31 October 1318, Edward granted the castle and honour of High Peak in Derbyshire, the manors of Macclesfield and Overton in Cheshire, the manors of 'Rosfeyr, Dolpenmayn and Pennaghan' in Wales, and others to "John his son and Eleanor, sister of the said John...to hold for their sustenance at the king's will." [3] On 1 June 1320, Edward granted High Peak to Queen Isabella, "to hold in aid of the expenses of John, the king’s son, and Eleanor his sister, the king’s daughter," which may suggest that the household of the younger royal children was attached to the queen's. [4] This 1320 grant of High Peak to Isabella is the sole evidence that her younger children were living with her in the autumn of 1324, when Edward established separate households for them and thus - oh, the cruelty!!! - 'removed' Isabella's children from her. As though a medieval queen or noblewoman was expected to raise her own children anyway. Edward II was the legal guardian of his children, not Isabella, and harsh though it may seem from a modern perspective, medieval royal and noble women had few if any rights over their children. Some writers, in their rush to present Isabella as a victim, conveniently ignore the essential differences between medieval and modern motherhood.

Edward and Isabella's second daughter Joan was born at the Tower of London on 5 July 1321, when Edward was thirty-seven and Isabella twenty-five or twenty-six, and named after her maternal grandmother Joan (Jeanne) of Navarre. A man named Robert de Staunton was granted a respite of £80 on a debt of £180 he owed the Exchequer for the simple expedient of travelling a couple of miles across London to inform Edward II. [5] Edward arrived at the Tower three days later, and stayed there with his wife and baby daughter for the next six days. The Tower was in a somewhat dilapidated state, and rain came in on Isabella's bed when she was in labour. A furious Edward dismissed the constable of the Tower, John Cromwell, from his post.

Joan of the Tower had a nurse named Matilda Pyrie or Perie, formerly the nurse of her brother John of Eltham, and presumably lived in the same household as her elder siblings, or some of them. [3] Presumably, again, Edward visited his children occasionally, and sent them gifts, and presumably yet again, they visited court sometimes too, but I haven't been able to find any details. The lives of medieval children are really obscure, even the king's children. It's almost impossible to find any personal details about Edward's daughters.

In September 1324, Edward II established separate households for his three younger children, and Eleanor (de Clare) Despenser became the guardian of John of Eltham, aged eight. Eleanor was Edward's niece and thus John's first cousin, and as the eldest granddaughter of Edward I was an entirely appropriate person to take responsibility for the king of England's son. Ralph de Monthermer and Isabel Hastings became the guardians of Eleanor of Woodstock and Joan of the Tower, now six and three, who lived with the couple at Marlborough. [6] Ralph was Edward's former brother-in-law, having married Edward's sister Joan of Acre in early 1297, which means that Edward had known Ralph, who joined the king's family circle when Edward was only twelve, for nearly thirty years. Ralph's wife Isabel Hastings was the sister of Edward's favourite Hugh Despenser, which might have been a factor in Edward's decision, but evidently she was a trustworthy, maternal type: when Edward's niece Elizabeth (de Clare) de Burgh attended his funeral in December 1327, she left her two young daughters in Isabel's care, despite her hatred of Isabel's late brother. [7] After Ralph's death in early 1325, Isabel remained in charge of the royal sisters' household. [8]

In January 1325, Edward II turned his attention to the important question of his daughters' marriages, and opened negotiations with Castile for Eleanor of Woodstock to marry Alfonso XI. [9] Alfonso was born on 13 August 1311, seven years Eleanor's senior, and succeeded his father Fernando IV on 7 September 1312, at less than a year old. At the same time, Edward arranged the future marriage of his eldest son and heir Edward of Windsor to Alfonso XI's sister Leonor, "to make a treaty of friendship with the said king and his guardians and the rest of the magnates of Spain [i.e. Castile] and other realms, commonalties and universities."

Alfonso - or rather his advisors, given that he was only thirteen - declared that he "desires that his royal house shall be joined to the king's by a treaty of love by way of relationship." [10] Edward II, carried away with enthusiasm for his first cousin twice removed (Alfonso was the great-great-grandson of Edward's grandfather Fernando III), responded "The king rejoices greatly that providence has illuminated abundantly the boldness of Alfonsus's youth by gifts of virtues and natural and gracious good things, as widely diffused fame has made known and is as now spread to the ends of the world." [11] (Bear in mind that this renowned paragon of virtue was a thirteen-year-old boy.)

A few weeks later, Edward wrote to his cousin the lady of Biscay about the marriages, including the great quote I've already cited here a while back about his "rejoicing at the clinging together of such progeny sprung from his and her common stock, whilst they applaud each other with mutual honours and cherish each other with mutual counsel and aid." Edward also wrote to another cousin, don Juan, that "The king has received his letters with joy...[Juan] not only shows himself ready and prepared for the king's [Edward's] will and pleasure, but also asserts that nothing more pleasing or desirable could be offered to him than to perfect and execute those things that are to the king's advantage and honour, according to the king's desire." [12] On another occasion, he wrote to another of his Castilian cousins named Juan, declaring that he "recognised the abundance of Sir John's grace" and thanking him for his promise to raise 1000 knights and 10,000 footmen and squires to aid Edward in his war against France. [13]

At the same time, Edward went ahead with plans to marry Joan of the Tower to the grandson of the reigning king of Aragon, Jaime II, and sent envoys to discuss the "espousals...of the king's daughter Joan with the first-born of Alfonso the eldest son of James king of Aragon, and the future heir of Aragon." [14] The said grandson was born in September 1319, so was less than two years older than Joan, and succeeded his father as King Pedro IV of Aragon in 1336. Pedro lived until 1387 and is known as El del Punyalet, 'he of the little dagger'. He was also king of Sardinia, Corsica and Valencia and count of Barcelona, and, many years later, duke of Athens. Pedro and Joan were third cousins, both great-great-grandchildren of King Jaime I of Aragon, via Queen Isabella (and also third cousins once removed via Edward II).

"And because it was said that James is old and decrepit and it is not certain that he is not dead" - in fact, Jaime lived until November 1327 - Edward instructed his proctors to treat with Alfonso, Jaime's eldest son and Alfonso IV of Aragon from 1327 to 1336. No doubt Edward was pleased at the thought of an Aragonese marriage for his younger daughter, but, apart from his statement that "the king is eager that a confederation or alliance of love shall be made in some suitable way between himself and James," there's absolutely none of the 'rejoicing' and enthusiasm in the letters between himself and Castile. [15] Given that Edward II was half-Castilian himself, this is hardly suprising. Of course the Spanish alliances were political first and foremost - England and France were at war over Gascony in 1324/25, and both Aragon and Castile would be useful allies. But the tone of Edward II's long, well-informed and highly enthusiastic letters to Castile strongly suggest that he was genuinely delighted, on a personal level, at the thought of two of his children marrying into Castile.

Because of Edward's deposition less than two years later, none of these Spanish alliances came to pass. Alfonso XI of Castile married Maria of Portugal, had three or four children, and died of plague in 1350. Pedro IV of Aragon married four times: Marie of Navarre (granddaughter of Queen Isabella's brother Louis X), Leonor of Portugal (sister of Maria who married Alfonso XI), Eleanor of Sicily and Sibila of Fortià. His two successors, Juan I and Martí I, were the sons of his third wife Eleanor.

Eleanor of Woodstock made a not terribly brilliant marriage to Reynald II, count and later duke of Gelderland, in May 1332, the month before her fourteenth birthday, had two sons, and died aged thirty-seven in 1355. Joan of the Tower married Robert Bruce's son the future David II of Scotland in 1329, as part of her mother and Mortimer's detested peace treaty with Bruce. She died childless in 1362. Neither woman's marriage could be said to be particularly successful, and it's interesting to speculate what might have happened if the planned Spanish marriages had gone ahead instead.


1: Thomas Stapleton, ‘A Brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the tenth, eleventh, and fourteenth years of King Edward the Second’, Archaeologia, 26 (1836), p. 337.
2: Calendar of Fine Rolls 1307-1319, p. 389 and CFR 1319-1327, p. 6, that John and Eleanor lived with Edward; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1327-1330, p. 163, for Joan du Bois and Matilda Perie.
3: CPR 1317-1321, pp. 222-223.
4: CPR 1317-1321, p. 453.
5: CPR 1321-1324, p. 23.
6: CPR 1324-1327, p. 88.
7: Frances A. Underhill, For Her Good Estate: The Life of Elizabeth de Burgh (1999), pp. 40-41.
8: CPR 1324-1327, pp. 157, 243.
9: Calendar of Close Rolls 1323-1327, pp. 344, 350-351; CPR 1324-1327, pp. 103-4; The National Archives C 47/27/13/15 and C 47/27/13/16.
10: CCR 1323-1327, p. 344.
11: Ibid.
12: CCR 1323-1327, p. 350.
13: CCR 1323-1327, p. 344.
14: CPR 1324-1327, pp. 103-104.
15: CCR 1323-1327, p. 359.

04 November, 2008

From Favourite To Rebel: The Career of Hugh Audley

A post on Edward II's great favourite and later enemy, Hugh Audley.

Hugh was born around 1291 as the second son of Hugh Audley and Isolde (or Iseult) Mortimer, widow of Walter Balun. Hugh Audley Senior was born around 1267, the fifth but second surviving son of James Audley, justiciar of Ireland, who died after breaking his neck in 1272. Isolde's parentage is uncertain, but she might have been the older half-sister of Roger Mortimer, daughter of Edmund Mortimer by an unknown first wife, which would make Hugh Audley Roger's nephew - though he was only about four years Roger's junior. Alternatively, Isolde might have been Roger's cousin, the daughter of Hugh Mortimer and Agatha de Ferrers. Through his father, Hugh was descended from King Henry II, via Henry's illegitimate son William Longespee, earl of Salisbury, and was Edward II's third cousin once removed - a relationship Edward acknowledged by occasionally referring to Hugh as "the king's kinsman."

Hugh's elder brother James fathered an illegitimate son, also James, in about 1316, by his mistress Eve Clavering; James the younger became a famous soldier during the Hundred Years War. Hugh had a younger sister, Alice (c. 1300/1304-1373), who married Ralph Neville of Raby and was the mother of about a dozen children, including Alexander Neville, archbishop of York. Alice was also the grandmother of Henry 'Hotspur' Percy and the great-grandmother of Cecily Neville, duchess of York, mother of Edward IV and Richard III.

Hugh first appears in November 1311 when he joined Edward II's household as a newly created knight, around the time that Piers Gaveston was sent into his third exile. In 1315, he grew close to Edward, and was one of the three men, the other two being Roger Damory and William Montacute, who came to dominate the king's court, though the precise nature of his relationship with Edward II is a matter for speculation. Hugh was arguably the least prominent of the three courtiers, but still wielded enough influence over the king to be included in the Flores Historiarum's statement that they were "worse than Piers." [1] In June 1315, Edward II, evidently missing his friend, ordered the chancellor to complete some of Hugh’s business as soon as possible, so that he "can return to us as quickly as we have instructed him to do." [2]

Sometime in 1317, Hugh contracted to serve Edward, and "bound himself to the king by deed, confirmed by his corporal oath, to aid him in all things throughout his whole life, and in no wise to depart from him come what might, on pain of forfeiture of all his possessions." [3] Edward rewarded Hugh's friendship with one of the two greatest prizes at his disposal: marriage to his niece Margaret de Clare, dowager countess of Cornwall, widow of Piers Gaveston and joint heiress of her late brother the earl of Gloucester. Hugh and Margaret married in Edward's presence at Windsor Castle on 28 April 1317. Margaret was probably twenty-three, Hugh probably in his mid-twenties. The wedding was a lavish affair, and Edward gave three pounds in coins to be thrown over the heads of the bride and groom – generous though this was, it was less than half the amount he had provided for the same purpose at Margaret’s wedding to Piers Gaveston. He also gave thirteen shillings and four pence in oblations, distributed in his presence in the chapel in Windsor park. [4] Roger Damory married Margaret's sister Elizabeth around the same time, and in May, Hugh and Damory, and Hugh Despenser, already married to the eldest sister, did homage to Edward for the lands they held in right of their wives. The lands were finally partitioned in November. [5]

Hugh Audley now owned lands in England, Wales and Ireland worth £1292 per annum, and when the earl of Gloucester's widow Maud died in 1320 and her dower lands were shared out among the heirs, received another £900 per year. However, he had to deal with Hugh Despenser, his ruthless and greedy brother-in-law, who was determined to gain control of more of South Wales. As early as November 1317, shortly after the partition of the lands, Despenser took the homage and fealty of Hugh's tenants in Gwynllwg (see Lady D's post for more info). In March 1318, Edward II, not yet as enamoured of Despenser as he would become a few months later, refused to accept Despenser’s actions, took Gwynllwg into his own hands, and ordered the inhabitants to pay homage to Hugh instead. [6]

Hugh Despenser also attempted to take over some of Roger Damory's lands in South Wales, but Damory successfully resisted him. [7] Despenser "withdrew wholly from such occupation" of Hugh's Welsh lands, but had not given up; in May 1320, by now high in the king’s favour, he forced Hugh and his wife Margaret to exchange Gwynllwg for some of Despenser’s English manors of lesser value. [8] The Lanercost chronicle says that "being a most avaricious man, he [Despenser] had contrived by different means and tricks that he alone should possess the lands and revenues, and for that reason had devised grave charges against those who had married the other two sisters." [9]

Edward II's powerful cousin and enemy the earl of Lancaster detested Hugh Audley, Roger Damory and William Montacute, and feared their influence over the king; in 1318, he accused Damory and Montacute - not Hugh, however - of trying to kill him. [10] In February 1317, the three men had publicly accused Lancaster of treason at a council meeting at Clarendon, and Lancaster suspected them of arranging the abduction of his wife Alice that spring (whether this suspicion was correct is uncertain). Lancaster, claiming that "he fears the deadly stratagems of certain persons who thrive under the protection of the royal court," demanded that the three men be removed from Edward's household, to which Edward responded "I will avenge the despite done to the earl when I can; I refuse to expel my household; for the abduction of his wife let him seek a remedy in law only." [11] Hugh, Damory and Montacute also had reason to detest and fear Lancaster, who constantly demanded their removal from court, and did their level best to prevent Edward and Lancaster's reconciliation - which contributed in no small part to the political instability of the years 1315 to 1318.

As part of the negotiations between Edward II and the earl of Lancaster in 1318, which led to the Treaty of Leake, Edward finally agreed to send Hugh Audley, Roger Damory and William Montacute away from court. Montacute was appointed steward of Gascony in November 1318 - he had previously been steward of Edward's household - and died a year later. Roger Damory, although no longer allowed near Edward, still retained the king's affection. Hugh Audley, however, left court, and this marks the end of his influence over and friendship with the king.

At the 1319 parliament, Hugh and Margaret audaciously claimed the earldom of Cornwall, as Margaret's inheritance from Piers Gaveston. Parliament turned them down, on the grounds that all grants from Edward II to Piers had been revoked. [12] Hugh fought at the siege of Berwick-on-Tweed in September 1319, with 74 men, but evidently was no longer high in Edward's favour: the king promised to make Hugh Despenser constable of the castle and Roger Damory keeper of the town once he had retaken the port (predictably, he didn't), but Hugh is not mentioned. In June 1320, Edward had to travel to France to pay homage to his brother-in-law Philip V for Gascony and Ponthieu. Roger Damory and Hugh Despenser accompanied the king; Hugh Audley stayed in England.

Hugh's household accounts fortuitously survive for 183 days of 1320, and show that apart from brief trips away, he spent most of the period at Tonbridge in Kent with Margaret and their household, which consisted of just under 100 people. He bought 150 bowls for Easter, visited the archbishop of Canterbury at Sturry on 10 June, spent fifteen pence on half a fresh pig, and owned two destriers (war-horses) called Grisel le Kyng and Ferant de Roma. [13] Grisel’s oddly part-French, part-English name implies that the horse had been a gift to Hugh from Edward. Hugh's marriage to Margaret produced only one child, a daughter named, inevitably, Margaret, who was born sometime between early 1318 and late 1322. On the death of Margaret Audley's half-sister Joan Gaveston in January 1325, the little girl became sole heir to her mother's vast fortune - making her a very attractive and tempting proposition on the marriage market.

In 1321, the king's favourite became the king's enemy. Hugh joined the Marcher lords furious at Edward II's behaviour in taking the Gower peninsula into his own hands, prior to granting it to Hugh Despenser, and that he was allowing yet another favourite to dominate his favour. Hugh took part in the attack on the Despensers' lands in Wales and England in May 1321, and in August that year was one of the men who forced Edward to agree to the Despensers' exile. Hugh Despenser, suffering from one of his usual bouts of over-confidence, wrote to the sheriff of Glamorgan on 21 March 1321, with reference to Hugh (whose name his scribe wrote as Ser Hughe d'Audele): "Do not doubt that neither he nor any of his allies have the power to hurt any of us." [14] As he surveyed the ruins of his castles and manors, he can hardly have failed to notice that he had been utterly wrong.

On 30 March 1321, Edward II ordered Hugh to come to him at Gloucester on 6 April: "the king has frequently ordered the said Hugh to come to him at certain dates and places to obey the king's orders and pleasure, and Hugh has refused to obey such orders." [15] Edward commissioned his half-brother Thomas, earl of Norfolk, and the royal justice Henry Spigurnel, to "act as the king himself might do, if present, when Hugh Daudele, the younger, shall appear at Gloucester to show cause why his lands should not be seized into the king's hands for non-attendance on the king; the commission contains a recital of the said Hugh's bond and oath to attend the king; and of the mandate to the sheriff of Gloucester to warn him to be at Gloucester on Friday before the feast of St Ambrose next [6 April]." [16] Once again, Hugh failed to meet Edward, and Norfolk and Spigurnel pronounced his lands, manors, castles and tenements to be forfeit to the king. [17] One of the entries in the Patent Rolls says that Hugh kept his wardrobe at 'Ismanghere Lane' (i.e., Ironmonger Lane, near Cheapside) in London, where Piers Gaveston had formerly kept his.

After the Despensers were exiled from England, Hugh was given custody of Gwynllwg, formerly his wife's inheritance, which he had been forced to grant to Despenser in 1320. He refused to hand it over to Edward, as parliament had agreed he should do, obviously still fuming over its loss: "the said Sir Hugh Daudele having written...that he has no lands of Hugh le Despenser, the younger, in his custody, but that he holds the castle and lands above as the inheritance and purparty of Margaret his wife, which fell to her in Wales of the lands of Gilbert de Clare, late earl of Gloucester, her brother, for which reason nothing was delivered to Adam [de Brom, clerk]: which answer the king reputes as naught." [18]

In December 1321, Edward II began his campaign against the Marchers, and early the following year, recalled the Despensers. On 22 January 1322, Hugh's kinsmen Roger Mortimer and his uncle Roger Mortimer of Chirk surrendered to Edward at Shrewsbury, and on 6 February, Lord Berkeley and Hugh's father Hugh Audley Sr followed suit. The remaining Marchers, including Hugh and Roger Damory, fled towards Yorkshire to join the earl of Lancaster, their only remaining hope against a resurgent, temporarily energetic Edward II. Damory, the former great favourite of the king, died at Tutbury on 12 March 1322, from wounds sustained in fighting against the royal army. On 16 March, Hugh fought at the battle of Boroughbridge, where Edward II's brother-in-law the earl of Hereford was killed and his cousin Lancaster captured, and executed at Pontefract six days later.

Hugh was also captured at Boroughbridge, but was spared execution thanks to the pleas of his wife Margaret, who apparently still retained a modicum of influence over her uncle the king. However, she was taken to Sempringham Priory in Lincolnshire on 16 May 1322: "the wife of Sir Hugh Audley, the king's niece, was ordered to remain under guard at Sempringham among the nuns, in which place she arrived on 16 May, and remained there." [19] Presumably, her little daughter Margaret Audley was there with her, while her other daughter Joan Gaveston remained at Amesbury Priory in Wiltshire, and died in January 1325. Hugh Audley was imprisoned at Berkhamsted Castle. On 28 October 1325, Edward II ordered him to be moved from there to Nottingham Castle (Edward occasionally ordered the so-called Contrariants to be moved from castle to castle). [20] His father Hugh Audley Sr died during his imprisonment, between November 1325 and March 1326, in his late fifties.

Hugh escaped from Nottingham Castle, sometime between late 1325 and the autumn of 1326; on 2 March 1327, he was pardoned (by Edward III, or rather, Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer) for "breaking prison at Nottingham Castle," and on 20 April, Richard Grey of Codnor was pardoned "for the escape of Hugh de Audele the younger, imprisoned by the late king in Nottingham Castle, in his custody." [21] In October 1331, a Patent Roll entry says that he "came to the aid of the king [Edward III] and his mother [Isabella] to pursue the Despensers." [22] It's easy to imagine that Hugh was burning with the need to avenge himself on Hugh Despenser, who had taken over his lands and imprisoned him.

Be that as it may, Hugh joined the rebellion of Henry, earl of Lancaster, against his (Lancaster's) niece Isabella and Roger Mortimer only two years later - despite having been imprisoned by Edward II for four and a half years, and despite being Mortimer's nephew or first cousin. Hugh was fined £10,000 "by reason of the riding with horses and arms at Bedford," which he never paid, and his lands were once more taken into the king's hands - as were those of 34 other men, including Thomas Wake, Mortimer's first cousin, and Thomas Roscelyn and William Trussell, who had shared Mortimer's exile abroad, "on account of the trespasses and excesses committed by the said [names]...and their disobediences." [23] Trussell was the man who had pronounced the death sentence on both Hugh Despensers. Isabella and Mortimer, being utterly useless at pretty much everything in government except enriching themselves, proved even worse than Edward II at retaining the loyalty of their close relatives and allies. After Edward III overthrew them in October 1330, he pardoned the debts of Hugh and the others, "because they were lately at Bedford with horses and arms with the intention of doing certain things against the estate of us and our realm, as was surmised by Roger de Mortimer, our late enemy: we therefore order the chancellor to cause them to have letters of pardon and release of their ransom." [24]

The parliament of early 1327, after Edward II's deposition, had restored Hugh to the lands he had forfeited in 1321 for breaking his oath to remain with Edward: "...in the present Parliament, the aforesaid Hugh has procured the annulling of the process awarded against him on account of divers errors contained therein." [25] Presumably, he and Margaret resumed their married life after their release. Although Margaret was still only in her early thirties, the couple had no more children. After 1330, Hugh served Edward III loyally, fighting in person in Scotland and France and distinguishing himself at Sluys in 1340.

In early 1336, Hugh's daughter and heir Margaret Audley was abducted from his home at Thaxted in Essex by Ralph Stafford, a widower about twenty years her senior (born 24 September 1301). On 28 February 1336, Edward III commissioned two men "to find by inquisition in the county of Essex what persons broke the close of Hugh de Audele at Thaxstede, carried away his goods and abducted Margaret his daughter; and to certify the king fully of the whole matter." [26] This suggests that at this point, neither Hugh nor Edward III knew what had actually happened, but by 6 July, it had become clear: Hugh complained that Ralph Stafford, with eighteen named men and unnamed others, "broke his close at Thaxtede, carried away his goods, abducted Margaret his daughter and heir, then in his custody, and married her against his will." [27]

However, Edward III supported Stafford, and Hugh had perforce to accept the marriage. Of course, he might have been somewhat consoled by the fact that Edward made him earl of Gloucester in March 1337, and in October that year pardoned him for "all homicides, robberies, larcenies and trespasses against the peace of Edward II or of the present king, and any consequent outlawries." [28] His son-in-law Stafford, like Hugh's nephew James Audley a founder member of the Knights of the Garter, was created first earl of Stafford in 1350.

Margaret (de Clare Gaveston) Audley, countess of Cornwall and Gloucester, died on 13 April 1342, in her late forties, fifteen days short of twenty-five years after her wedding to Hugh. Hugh Audley, earl of Gloucester, outlived her by five and a half years, and died on 10 November 1347, probably in his mid fifties. He was buried next to Margaret at Tonbridge Priory (which sadly has more or less completely vanished). Their daughter Margaret Audley Stafford died on 7 September 1349, probably not yet thirty, and her husband Ralph Stafford died shortly before his seventy-first birthday on 31 August 1372. Both of them were also buried at Tonbridge.

For a man who only fathered one child, Hugh Audley has a remarkably large number of impressive descendants. His grandson Hugh Stafford, second earl of Stafford (c. 1342-1386), married Philippa Beauchamp, daughter of the earl of Warwick and granddaughter of Roger Mortimer, and had eight children. Hugh's four Stafford granddaughters, Joan, Beatrice, Elizabeth and Katherine, all made good marriages, and all had children. Hugh's great-grandson Ralph Stafford was murdered in 1385 by Richard II's violent half-brother John Holland, earl of Huntingdon, while another great-grandson, Edmund, was killed at the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403, fighting for Henry IV.

Hugh's Stafford descendants became dukes of Buckingham in the fifteenth century; the Henry Stafford, duke of Buckingham executed by Richard III in 1483 was his great-great-great-great-grandson. Queen Elizabeth II is Hugh's nineteen greats granddaughter, and he is also the ancestor of dukes of Norfolk, Suffolk, Exeter, Northumberland, Montagu, earls of Kent, Salisbury, Devonshire, Sunderland, Cumberland, and countless others. And for Tudor fans: he was the seven greats grandfather of Edward VI (via Jane Seymour), the eight greats grandfather of Jane Grey, queen of England in 1553, the seven greats grandfather of her husband Guildford Dudley, and the seven greats grandfather of Elizabeth I's favourite Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester. Hugh also had many aristocratic descendants in other countries, including all the kings of France from Louis XIII onwards, kings of Spain and Poland, archdukes of Austria, Anna Jagiellonka, queen of Hungary, and Marie Antoinette.

And just think: these people would never have existed if Edward II hadn't become infatuated with one of his household knights and arranged a fabulous marriage for him, or if a man in his thirties hadn't abducted a teenage girl!

Hugh Audley was the only favourite of Edward II to survive the reign - being Edward's favourite was a dangerous occupation - and also enjoyed the trust of Edward III, who raised him to comital rank. J. R. Maddicott points out, in his ODNB entry on Hugh, that "he had followed a course unusual enough to suggest both his high abilities and his political dexterity." [29]

1: Flores Historiarum, volume iii, ed. H. R. Luard (1890). p. 178.
2: Cited in James Conway Davies, The Baronial Opposition to Edward II: Its Character and Policy (1918), p. 433 (my translation).
3: Calendar of Patent Rolls 1327-1330, p. 30; Calendar of Close Rolls 1327-1330, p. 27.
4: Thomas Stapleton, ‘A Brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the tenth, eleventh, and fourteenth years of King Edward the Second’, Archaeologia, 26 (1836), pp. 337-338.
5: Calendar of Fine Rolls 1319-1327, p. 350.
6: CPR 1317-1321, p. 60; CCR 1313-1318, pp. 531-532.
7: Flores, p. 342.
8: CPR 1317-1321, p. 456.
9: The Chronicle of Lanercost 1272-1346, ed. Herbert Maxwell (facsimile edition, 2001), p. 230.
10: J. R. S. Phillips, Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke 1307-1324: Baronial Politics in the Reign of Edward II (1972), p. 131.
11: Vita Edwardi Secundi, ed. N. Denholm-Young (1957), p. 80.
12: CCR 1318-1323, p. 143.
13: C. M. Woolgar, The Great Household in Late Medieval England (1999), pp. 12, 21, 140, 151, 190.
14: W. H. Stevenson, ‘A Letter of the Younger Despenser on the Eve of the Barons’ Rebellion, 21 March 1321’, English Historical Review, 12 (1897), p. 761 (my translation).
15: CCR 1318-1323, p. 365.
16: CPR 1317-1321, pp. 572-573.
17: CPR 1317-1321, pp. 578, 583, 587.
18: CCR 1318-1323, p. 408.
19: Le livere de reis de Brittanie e Le livere de reis de Engletere, ed. John Glover (1865), p. 344.
20: CCR 1323-1327, pp. 418, 423.
21: The National Archives, SC 8/165/8222; CPR 1327-1330, pp. 31, 69.
22: CPR 1330-1334, p. 172.
23: CFR 1327-1337, pp. 116-117; CCR 1327-1330, pp. 528-531.
24: CPR 1327-1330, p. 484 for the fine; CPR 1330-1334, pp. 35, 410, and CCR 1327-1330, pp. 530-531, for the pardon (CCR p. 531 for the quote).
25: CCR 1327-1330, p. 27; CPR 1327-1330, p. 30.
26: CPR 1334-1338, p. 283.
27: CPR 1334-1338, p. 298.
28: CPR 1334-1338, p. 528.
29: http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/37134?docPos=1

01 November, 2008

Pictures of Yorkshire (7)

Fountains Abbey

Fountains, near Ripon, was founded in 1132 by thirteen monks who had left the Benedictine abbey of St Mary's in York, disgusted by the lack of discipline and adherence to the Rule of St Benedict. (I managed to delete my pics of the ruins of St Mary's, but you can see it on Gabriele's blog.) Shortly after its foundation, the monks successfully applied to join the Cistercian order, and Fountains subsequently became the richest Cistercian abbey in England.

(Right, above: I love this pic (apologies for the boasting, as I'm the one who took it). It looks more like a painting than a photo, I think, with that perfectly manicured, incredibly green grass.)

The second-last abbot, William Thirsk, joined the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536 with his friend Adam Sedbergh, abbot of Jervaulx (see my last post) and suffered the same fate, execution by hanging, drawing and quartering. Abbot Marmaduke Bradley and the thirty remaining monks surrendered the abbey to Henry VIII's commissioners on 26 November 1539, 407 years after its foundation.

From 1718, John Aislabie, local Member of Parliament, began to landscape the area around the abbey ruins, and create a water garden. This is generally considered to be the finest eighteenth-century water garden in England. Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal are managed by the National Trust, and are a World Heritage site. The Cistercians in Yorkshire website says that "the ruins are amongst the most significant monastic remains in Europe."

The guest house (two pics)

The monks' dormitory.

The Green Man.

Me, mum and Tara (I'm on the left, in the light pink jacket)

The tower, with my mum and Tara helpfully standing in front to give a sense of the scale.

The great east window of the abbey church.

And others....