20 December, 2008

Merry Christmas!

This will be the last post until 10 January or thereabouts, as I'm off on holiday tomorrow.

Firstly, I'd like to thank author Michael Jecks for giving me such a great mention in his latest newsletter (I'm a wonderful lady! *Blushes*) Michael writes a very popular series of murder mysteries set in Edward II's reign, and if you haven't read them yet, you should. (He does a marvellous Hugh Despenser, for one thing.) And thanks to Ian Mortimer for recommending my site to Michael.

Here's some fairly random Edward II-related Christmas stuff...

The festive custom of electing a boy-bishop was widespread in the Middle Ages, especially in England. In 1316, Edward II gave six shillings and eight pence to John, son of Alan of Scrooby (a town in Nottinghamshire) for officiating as 'boy-bishop' in his chapel at Clipstone on 6 December, St Nicholas's Day, and ten shillings to the unnamed boy who played the role of boy-bishop in his chapel at Nottingham on 28 December, the Feast of the Holy Innocents. These were very generous amounts for young boys of low rank.

Another pleasant medieval custom was the 'King of the Bean', when the person lucky enough to find the bean the cooks had added to the food had the right to preside over the festivities. At Edward's court over the festive period of 1316/1317, a knight called William de la Beche became King of the Bean, and Edward gave him "a silver-gilt chased basin, with ewer to match," worth seven pounds, thirteen shillings and ten pence, on the Feast of the Circumcision, 1 January 1317. (Websites usually say the King of the Bean ceremony took place on 6 January, Twelfth Night, but Edward's Wardrobe account clearly states that it was 1 January, this year at least.) The following year, a squire of Edward's household named Thomas de Weston was the lucky man, and received "a silver-gilt basin with stand and cover, and a silver-gilt pitcher to match," price not given, from Edward.

Edward's court spent Christmas 1317 at Wesminster, and New Year at Windsor. Queen Isabella's gift from her husband was an enamelled silver-gilt bowl, with foot and cover, worth seventeen pounds. That might not sound like much, but it was several times most people's annual income. Edward also gave a gold ring with six emeralds, worth twenty marks, to his sister Mary the nun, rings of unstated value to his nieces Margaret Audley and Elizabeth Damory - their sister Eleanor Despenser isn't mentioned - and a gold ring with two emeralds and three pearls worth thirty-two shillings to his great-niece Joan Gaveston, Piers' five-year-old daughter. He also gave rings to his sons Edward and John, aged five years and sixteen months respectively. I find the idea of giving a ring to a sixteen-month-old rather amusing.

Twenty-five knights, including Robert Umfraville, earl of Angus, Richard Damory, brother of Edward's favourite Roger Damory, and Ingelram Berenger, John Haudlo and Walter Beauchamp, the latter three associated with Edward's friend Hugh Despenser the Elder, received silver-gilt goblets worth seven pounds from the king that year.

In December 1317, Edward paid one pound, thirteen shillings and six pence for a "great wooden table" to be placed in the great hall of Westminster Palace during the seasonal festivities, and also paid thirty pounds to Thomas de Hebenhith, mercer of London, for "a great hanging of wool, woven with figures of the king and earls on it, for the king’s service in his hall, on solemn festivals." It was Edward's custom to gamble on Christmas night, usually spending five pounds. (Whether his household let him win, and how he reacted if they didn't, is not clear.)

Annoyingly, the gifts Edward II and Queen Isabella gave each other at New Year were often not specified - in 1312, for example, Isabella gave Edward "certain precious objects," and in 1320, he gave her "many precious gifts." Honestly, it's like the men who kept records of such things didn't care at all about the needs of a certain Edward-obsessed historian many centuries later, who really wants to know these things. Soooo inconsiderate.

I wrote on the blog last year that Edward spent Christmas 1307, the first of his reign and his last as a single man, at Wye in Kent with Piers Gaveston - according to a statement in Annales Paulini. I've since discovered that the annalist was wrong, and Edward was actually at Westminster, presumably with Piers, as he (scandalously!) appointed him keeper of the realm on 26 December for the period in January when Edward went to France to marry Isabella. Edward didn't arrive at Wye until 3 January 1308. He spent Christmas 1325, his last one as a free man, at Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. In December 1326 he was in captivity at Kenilworth Castle, and by December 1327 he was supposedly dead - hmmmm - and his funeral took place on 20 December, 681 years ago today.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

15 December, 2008

More Cool Names

Because it's nearly Christmas and I can't be bothered to write a post that requires me to actually do some thinking, here are some more cheap laughs at the expense of fourteenth-century people. :-)

Adam Halfnaked: keeper of the lands of the bishop of Hereford, 1324. (Sometimes spelt as the notably less interesting 'Halnaked' or 'Helnak').

Thomas Sexi: accused of 'diverse trespasses against the king's peace' in Berkshire in March 1308.

William le Glot: pardoned for outlawry in Hampshire in April 1325.

Godemender de Hexe, Corges Episcopi, Ywer de Waddesbussh, Huspaker de Logbussh and Iwer de Skerfhungre: Norwegian merchants in England, October 1312. (Accused of stealing the goods of one Tydemann de Lippa, said to be a 'merchant of this realm', i.e. England.)

Walter le Clophoffether: accused of stealing the deer of William Latimer in Surrey in March 1324.

Ralph Suckyng and John Cok: accused of 'breaking the gates of several woods' in Northamptonshire in October 1318. Imagine the clerk of the court reading their names out - 'All right, Suckyng, Cok, you're up next...'

Icok de Oldyngton: a malefactor in Cheshire in the summer of 1327.

Galfridus le Butor: released from prison in Devon in March 1308, having been indicted for 'diverse trespasses against the king's peace'. Others with him: John, William and Ralph Inthepitte, Richard le Reve uppehill (with a small 'u'), Elyas Bysuthbeare, Esger de Putesmere and Johel Thenykersman.

Hugh 'le Haliwaterclerk of Seint Petrekyrk atte Skynmarket': accused of assaulting John Cawod in Lincoln in August 1316. Hope the clerk wrote extra small to fit that mouthful in the space available.

Guy atte Shippewasshe: held land in Hampshire in May 1325.

Laderana de Byker, Amflesia de Willeford, Desiderata de Toryngtone, Wymarca Meel, Amflusa de Donestaple, Orangia de Chercheyerd: what extraordinary first names some of the women of Edward II's era had!

Isarn de Lanneplaa: alternative spelling of 'Isard de Lana Plana' from my last post.

William la Tart: receiver of Ponthieu in 1313.

Lovekin de London: master of a ship called le Leonard in October 1312.

Fynny Soutere or Fynnus le Suur: Scottish prisoner released from Bamburgh Castle by Edward II in November 1307.

John Go inthe Wynd and Pentecoste Russel: soldiers sent by the city of London to Edward II's Scottish campaign of 1308 (which was cancelled). I've seen a few refs to men called 'Pentecost' - seems to have been a surprisingly popular name.

Lambekyn Sotekyn de Heis: described as a 'malefactor of Flanders' in May 1310 after stealing a ship of the dowager countess of Norfolk.

Elizabeth Olyfart: A Scottish woman whose brother William was captured by Edward I at Stirling. In June 1309, Edward II ordered the abbess of Barking "to deliver Elizabeth...to Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln, the king having granted her to the said Henry." Was she a person or an object??

Jakemes de Messmes: accused of stealing gold florins from merchants of Beverley in January 1310.

Breto Grymewart: a 'malefactor of Genoa' in August 1310, who 'took by armed force' a ship bound from Flanders to Bayonne, one of Edward II's cities. It's not really an Italian-sounding name, is it?

Gilemin de Lyghtebirkes: mentioned as the father of Ranulph, January 1309.

Baldwin de Arsebrek: knight of the count of Flanders, March 1312.

Boukin Brounlysk: fishmonger of London, who in 1329 stole 'certain writs of the king [Edward III] and letters of Queen Isabel' and threw them into the mud.

Benedict le Bastard: murdered Henry Behetlan in Cornwall sometime before February 1310.

Trippetus de Abyndon: associated with Piers Gaveston's half-brother Guillaume-Arnaud de Gaveston in March 1312. Abingdon is in Oxfordshire. Trippetus is not, however, your typical Oxfordshire name.

William Whirlepipyn: his son Gilbert was imprisoned in Lincoln in July 1312 for murdering Robert Bobelyn.

Bourd de Gavaston: staying at Wallingford Castle in July 1312. Presumably a relative of Piers Gaveston, killed the month before and the owner of Wallingford, but I don't know how.

Nicholas Watkyn neve Got de Lincoln: owed 40 shillings to Richard de Boryngham in June 1319.

Reynus or Reyner Piggeflesshe, Robert Freshfish and Peter Piebakere: merchants of London, around 1320.


On 12 May 1321, Edward II wrote to a dozen or so of his officials in Gascony, authorising the sale of a house there called the Earl's Hall (aula comitis), which, Edward said, had become a "brothel of worthless women." The brothel was in the town of Condom.

12 December, 2008

Brief Biographies (3)

Brother John of Newminster and John of Towcester

First off, let me admit that I know next to nothing about the first subject of today's post, Brother John of Newminster. I don't know where he came from or when he was born or when he died or anything else, except that he was one of the men who in 1327 joined the Dunheved brothers, Stephen and Thomas, in their attempts to break Edward of Caernarfon, the former King Edward II, out of prison at Berkeley Castle.

Brother John was a monk of Newminster Abbey, a Cistercian house near Morpeth in Northumberland, which was founded in 1138 and dissolved 399 years later. Edward II occasionally stayed at Newminster during his reign, the last time in August 1322. [1] After Edward's deposition in January 1327, a group of men who were fanatically devoted to him started making plans to free him. They made an unsuccessful attempt on Kenilworth Castle in March 1327, and carried on plotting after his removal to Berkeley on 3 April.

Somehow Brother John, tucked away in his abbey up in Northumberland, heard that the Dunheveds and their allies were plotting to free Edward. He left his abbey and travelled down to Gloucestershire. That's a full 300 miles away. Did he leave with the permission of his abbot, or not? How did he make contact with the Dunheveds? There are far more questions than answers, and I really doubt I'll ever know. All I can say is, Edward II must have made a powerful impression on John for him to leave his convent and travel 300 miles to fight for Edward, nearly five years after the last time he had - presumably - seen him.

Thomas, Lord Berkeley, Edward of Caernarfon's joint custodian, sent a letter on 27 July 1327 to the chancellor of England, informing him that some men had attacked Berkeley Castle and seized Edward out of his custody. The letter names seventeen men, with four other men named previously in letters patent, which cannot be the entire gang - surely they couldn't have successfully attacked and plundered the castle with only twenty-one men - and probably only means the leaders. [2] The letter begins "Sire, please it you to remember that I recently certified you by my letter of the names of some people indicted before me in the county of Gloucestershire, for coming towards the castle of Berkeley with an armed force, for having seized the father of our lord the king out of our keeping and feloniously robbing the said castle against the peace."

Berkeley asked for special authority to arrest the Dunheveds, saying that the commission granted to him twelve days earlier did not give him authority to 'take' them (he wrote that lawyers, or literally 'people of law', had advised him of this). The previous commission had been granted by letters patent on 15 July 1327 and named men said to have ‘withdrawn themselves’ after being indicted before Berkeley for various felonies. [3] By 27 July, Berkeley had evidently learned the names of other men who took part in the attack, including Brother John. Another commission was granted to him on 1 August 1327, naming the four men mentioned on 15 July and the seventeen men in Berkeley's letter, and granting him full powers to arrest them. References to their abduction of Edward were, of course, judiciously omitted. To mention the event in a private letter to the chancellor was one thing; to do so in a public commission was quite another.

The leader of the gang who - temporarily, at least - seized Edward was Thomas Dunheved, Dominican friar, whose attempts to free Edward did not go unnoticed by some contemporary chroniclers (including Annales Paulini, Anonimalle, Brut and Lanercost). He is the only member of the gang mentioned by name in any of these chronicles. Berkeley's letter, however, puts Brother John of Newminster's (frere Johan de Neumoster) name first on the list of plotters, even before Thomas and his brother Stephen Dunheved. Although I don't suppose that Berkeley wrote (or recited to his clerk) the list of names in order of their importance, I wonder if this is significant. I also wonder what skills Brother John brought to the attack on Berkeley Castle. He was a monk, but had he once been a soldier? What was his role in all this that made him important enough to order sheriffs and keepers of the peace over a large tract of England to pursue and arrest him?

Another question that strikes me is, how did Lord Berkeley or anyone else at Berkeley Castle know who John was? Berkeley's first letter about the attack, which does not survive but resulted in the commission of 15 July, names only four men. By 27 July, however, Berkeley had learned the names of seventeen others who had taken part in the attack or who were its leaders. Who told him? How would anyone in Gloucestershire have known the identity of a monk from 300 miles away in Northumberland? Does this perhaps imply that some of the gang had already been captured and were forced to reveal the names of their co-conspirators?

Can I ask any more unanswerable questions in this post? :-)

I have no idea what happened to Brother John of Newminster after 27 July 1327. Either he was captured, and killed or thrown into prison, or he went into hiding somewhere in England, or he fled abroad - there is evidence that some of the Dunheved gang, or *Team Dunheved!!* as Lady D and I call them, did escape overseas. I'd like to think that John lived to a ripe old age, but somehow I doubt it.


John of Towcester in Northamptonshire, or Johan de Toucestre as his name was spelt in the fourteenth century, was a middle-ranking member of Edward II's household for most of the king's reign, and was appointed keeper of several manors, Queenhithe in London and the gate of Norwich Castle. [4] In November 1325 he retired, and Edward II sent him to Reading Abbey to 'receive sustenance for life'. [5]

Evidently, however, John came out of retirement to fight for Edward after Isabella and Mortimer's invasion, as on 10 October 1326, Edward ordered him to bring men-at-arms to him. One of his fellow appointees was Thomas de la Haye, who joined John of Newminster and the Dunheved brothers and was one of the men who attacked Berkeley Castle. [6] At a time when most of Edward's household began leaving him - in the manner of rats deserting a sinking ship - John left the safety of his abbey to go and fight for him.

Thomas Berkeley's letter of 27 July 1327 stated that 'a great number of people' in Buckinghamshire and neighbouring counties were also plotting to free Edward, and though I can't prove it, I strongly suspect that John of Towcester was one of them. As a suspiciously large number of commissions of oyer and terminer were issued against members of the Dunheved gang in 1327, so John was accused of several crimes in Buckinghamshire at the same time, in the company of a few other former members of Edward II's household. One of them was John le Keu, appointed with John of Towcester and Thomas de la Haye to bring men-at-arms to Edward II on 10 October 1326. [7]

After 1327, John of Towcester disappears from the records for a while, presumably because he'd gone back to Reading Abbey and because the announcement of Edward II's death in late September 1327 rendered further plotting to free him somewhat pointless. John crops up again on 31 March 1330 when an order for his arrest was issued, with dozens of other men, for adhering to Edward's half-brother the earl of Kent, who believed that Edward was alive and in prison at Corfe Castle and was plotting to restore him to the throne. [8] John must have been pretty elderly by then; I've seen a reference to him being appointed the attorney of one Thomas de Croylaunde all the way back in 1293. Even in 1330, his loyalty to Edward inspired him to fight and plot again for his former king, two and a half years after Edward's supposed death.

Of course it's beyond question that most of Edward's kingdom rejected him in the autumn of 1326, and even *I* have to admit with very good reason. But he was capable of inspiring such devotion in some people that even in 1327, after his disastrous downfall, there were plenty of men willing to fight and to die for him. One of them was a monk who left the safety of his convent and travelled the length of England for him, nearly five years after the last time he'd seen Edward - and who, most probably, died for him. Another was a man willing to leave retirement to fight for Edward, not once but twice.

And that's not a bad epitaph for anyone.


1) Elizabeth M. Hallam, The Itinerary of Edward II and his Household 1307-1328 (List and Index Society, 1984), p. 229.
2) F. J. Tanqueray, ‘The Conspiracy of Thomas Dunheved, 1327’, English Historical Review, xxxi (1916), pp. 119-24.
3) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1327-1330, pp. 154, 156-157.
4) CPR 1307-1313, p. 513; CPR 1313-1317, pp. 77, 214; Calendar of Fine Rolls 1307-1319, p. 195; CFR 1319-1327, pp. 95, 269, 314.
5) Calendar of Close Rolls 1323-1327, p. 517.
6) CPR 1324-1327, p. 326.
7) CPR 1327-1330, p. 81.
8) CFR 1327-1337, p. 169.

07 December, 2008

Cool Names Of The Early Fourteenth Century

Here are some names I really like, spotted while trawling through the Patent and Close Rolls of the early fourteenth century...

Isard de Lana Plana: one of Edward II's sergeants-at-arms in 1323. Where the heck is Lana Plana?

Sewal atte Ponde: accused of 'trampling crops with carts and horses' and other crimes in Essex in August 1327.

Richard But and Simon 'Richardesprestbut': Richard's priest's butt? Co-accused with Mr atte Ponde.

John 'Thelavediescartere Engayne': Ditto.

Meliora de Glenkarny: late the wife of Gilbert de Glenkarny, October 1327. 'Meliora' always sounds to me like the kind of silly pseudo-medieval name that sometimes appears in historical romances, but there you go, apparently it was a real name. I still object to 'Brianna', though.

Adam le Fuckere and Jordan le Cok: Oh dear. Accused of assault in Somerset in August 1315.

Cokkus atte Wose: Accused in July 1323 of stealing goods from a ship belonging to merchants of Flanders at Newcastle.

Thomas Roberdesknave Elisisone: Accused of carrying away fish and cattle in Oxfordshire in February 1309.

Walran Wolf: Accused nine men of breaking into his house and assaulting his pregnant wife (oy!) in Lincolnshire in August 1319.

Pentecost de Kershalton: Accused with five other men, including the mayor of Northampton, of assaulting and imprisoning the servants of John Cromwell, and killing others, in November 1308.

Godeskak Pentecost of Almain: German merchant trading in England, February 1320.

Ralph Bonebote, Walter le Lunge and Benedict le Segrestaynesman: Accused of assault in Northamptonshire in February 1310.

Chivellus de Pistor: Another of Edward II's sergeants, April 1312.

Thomas 'Of the Bedde': Accused several men of assaulting him in Lincolnshire in April 1312.

Scolastica de Melsa: Late the wife of Godfrey, November 1316.

La Weliwonne: Name of one of Edward II's ships in 1312.

Augustine Bastard: Held lands worth forty shillings annually in Devon, August 1326.

Drua de la Putte: Late the wife of Miles, December 1326.

Grimbald Pauncefot: Either the constable of St Briavels Castle early in Edward II's reign, or a character in one of J. K. Rowling's novels. His brother was Emericus or Emery Pauncefot.

Elnardus de Salso Marisco: Owed £10 to Peter Deyvill in September 1314.

Walter Crapinel: Granted part of the manor of Wratting Taleworth, wherever that is, in May 1316.

Talifer de Tilliolo: Joint keeper of the town of Scarborough in 1315.

Robert de Buttustorne, Ralph Dieuxboneye and Richard Pilerche of Dogmaresfeld: three of the forty-odd men accused of stealing Roger Mortimer's deer from his park at Stratfield Mortimer in May 1316.

Femisia atte Mershe: Granted land to the abbot of Stratford in December 1315.

Hamo atte Hole: Accused of assault in Kent in March 1318.

German Canterbury: Accused of burning one of the dwelling-places of the abbot of Canterbury in January 1317.

Nicholas Wynceconte: Co-accused with Mr Canterbury, as was Michael Canterbury, presumably his brother.

Gippus atte Soler: Accused of stealing deer and assaulting the king's parker in Surrey in April 1324.

Lovekyn Bruyn: Accused of breaking and entering in Oxfordshire in May 1322, and 'carrying away doves' (seriously).

Ranulph Prat and Joceus del Dike: Accused of breaking and entering and assault in Lincolnshire in December 1312.

Jordan Fatbon, Thomas le Gay, Hamelin Pappe and Gellinus Bynortheweye: Accused of assault in Devon in May 1316.

OK, that's enough laughing at people's names for one day. :-)

EDIT: Thanks to Satima Flavell for linking to this post on her blog.