16 January, 2009

Edward II's Trip To France, 1313

In 1313, Edward II and Queen Isabella spent nearly two months in France, between May and July, to attend the simultaneous knighting of her three brothers and for Edward to meet his father-in-law Philippe IV to discuss Gascony. Edward was now twenty-nine, Isabella seventeen or eighteen. This was her first visit to her homeland for nearly five and a half years.

Edward and Isabella left Dover with their large retinues at sunrise on 23 May 1313 and arrived at Wissant the same day, the king casually disregarding the Ordinance of 1311 which stated that he needed the consent of the baronage in parliament to leave the country. Edward has often been criticised, in his own time and ever since, for leaving his kingdom at such a turbulent time; the negotiations between himself and Piers Gaveston’s killers were still dragging on. Shortly before they left, in a fruitless attempt to forestall criticism, Edward issued a proclamation that he was travelling to France at the personal invitation of both the king of France and the pope, and intended to return "with the utmost despatch." (Nearly two months would hardly count as 'utmost despatch'.) He left his nephew the earl of Gloucester in England as regent. Keen to present himself well, Edward paid the astonishing sum of £1000 for his clothes and jewels, and during the trip, he spent money with wild abandon: he gave gifts to the French court worth more than £3000 and paid almost £4500 merely on wine, truly staggering amounts.

The king and queen entered Paris on 2 June, where "the whole city rose up and went forth to meet them." The knighting of Isabella’s three brothers took place the following day, and Edward belted his eldest brother-in-law Louis, king of Navarre and the future Louis X of France, with the belt of knighthood. The two men and Philippe IV then knighted about 200 others, including Isabella’s two other brothers Philippe and Charles and their cousin Philippe de Valois - all of them future kings of France. Another new knight was Robert of Artois, Edward's cousin (great-grandson of Edward's grandfather Henry III).

Over the next few days, Edward II and Isabella attended banquets given by Philippe of France and Louis of Navarre, and Philippe's brothers the counts of Valois and Evreux. Philippe also hosted a feast for his daughter Isabella and daughter-in-law Marguerite, queen of Navarre. At midday on Tuesday 5 June, Edward himself gave a splendid banquet at St-Germain-des-Prés near Paris, which was held in tents open to public view and hung with rich cloths. Torches, candles and other lights burned even in the middle of the day, and attendants on horseback served the guests. The amount of food eaten during Edward's stay in France is astonishing: Philippe IV gave Edward and Isabella 189 pigs, 94 oxen, 380 rams, 160 pike, 200 carp, 80 barrels of wine, and much else.

Two days after giving his banquet, Edward suffered the embarrassment of missing a meeting with Philippe IV, as he and Isabella had overslept. The amused chronicler Geoffrey of Paris gives their night-time 'dalliance' as the reason, and says that it was hardly a wonder if Edward desired his wife, as Isabella was "the fairest of the fair" (c'est des belles la plus belle). Wouldn't you think though that someone might have woken them up? And how did Geoffrey of Paris know the reason for the oversleeping - did Edward hang a 'Do Not Disturb: Post-Coital Fatigue' notice on the door? I hope the weather that day was better than it had been the day before, when Paris was lashed by wind and rain. Later in the day he and Isabella overslept, Edward stirred himself sufficiently to watch a parade of Parisians from the Ile-Notre-Dame to the Louvre, from the windows of Philippe's apartments. He and Isabella, surrounded by a throng of ladies and damsels, saw the procession again later from a tower in their lodgings at St-Germain.

On the first anniversary of Piers Gaveston's death, 19 June 1313, Edward watched Bernard the Fool and fifty-four naked dancers perform for him at Pontoise, and gave them forty shillings. I wonder if all that nude flesh went some way to consoling him. Also at Pontoise on an unknown date, Edward and Isabella suffered a disaster when a fire broke out in Edward's wardrobe one night, and they were forced to run out into the street in their night-clothes. They lost many of their possessions, and poor Isabella's arm was badly burnt.

Just before their departure from England, Edward had sent letters to the emperors of China, Trebizond and the Tartars, and the king of Georgia, asking them to help a friar named Guillerinus de Villanova who was travelling east to convert the infidel (as Edward called them). At Poissy in early July, Edward had the pleasure of meeting Villanova, and gave him "many handsome presents." The king gave an offering of twenty shillings at the shrine of the Crown of Thorns in Sainte-Chapelle, twenty shillings to his minstrel William Craddock - probably for performing during Edward's banquet on 5 June - forty shillings to Philippe IV's minstrel Hurel, twenty-four gold florins to various friars of Paris, and ten marks to the English friar John Dunkhull setting out for the Holy Land. He also gave thirty shillings to the church of St-Pierre in Pontoise in compensation for the damage done to its meadows by his oxen while they were pastured there.

Philippe IV gave Edward four horses and armour as a leaving present. The king and queen arrived back at Dover on 15 July, quite probably a few pounds heavier than they had been a few weeks earlier!


- Calendar of Patent Rolls 1307-1313, p. 588.
- The National Archives E 101/375/8, fo. 32.
- Chronique métrique de Godefroy de Paris, ed. J.-A. Buchon (1827), p. 194.
- Elizabeth A. R. Brown and Nancy Freeman Degalado, ‘Le grant feste: Philip the Fair’s Celebration of the Knighting of His Sons in Paris at Pentecost of 1313’, in Barbara Hanawalt and Kathryn Reyerson, eds., City and Spectacle in Medieval Europe (1994), pp. 57-86.
- Elizabeth Hallam, The Itinerary of Edward II and His Household, 1307-1328 (1984), pp. 98-102.
- Alison Weir, Isabella, She-Wolf of France, Queen of England (2005), pp. 91-92.


Susan Higginbotham said...

Fascinating! Never heard the bit about the oversleeping before.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Hehe, it should give those detractors who think he only overslept with Piers and Hugh something to think about.

I'm pretty sure Ed enjoyed both sides of the game. ;)

Clement Glen said...

Such incredible detail.

I would love to know more about Edward's minstrel William Craddock and the kind of ballads he sang for the king. Is that kind of information available?

Hannah Kilpatrick said...

Well, why not if she was des belles la plus belle? :) Though I have difficulty imagining her indulging in morning lie-in snuggles.

But of course, her beauty (or his) is hardly proof as to what they were doing on that particular morning. Surely a hangover from all the partying is just as likely.

It had never occurred to me that the nude-flesh party was on the anniversary of Gaveston's death. Something about it strikes me as a memorial they both would have considered rather appropriate. :)

Oh, and I found Murimuth's wonderfully dry comment on Piers' behaviour at the coronation yesterday. I must make a post on that - I hadn't read his account before.

Satima Flavell said...

I'm fascinated by Bernard the Fool and the 54 naked dancers. Were the dancers of both sexes? Were they completely naked? Were they COLD? How do you divvy up 40s among a comic and 54 dancers? I'd like to read a piece on that written from the POV of one of the dancers:-)

Anonymous said...

It is a VERY good question as to why someone would not have woken the King and Queen. I love the image of the "do not disturb" sign...what would it be in Norman French? *winks*

Kathryn Warner said...

Susan: I'd read it somewhere ages ago (can't remember where, unfortunately), and found the original source just recently.

Gabriele: LOL! :-)

Clement: it only says that William C was a 'crowder and singer', nothing about his songs, I'm afraid. What kind of songs were performed before Ed is rarely stated, except that in 1323, he listened to women singing about Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester.

If you're interested in minstrels and music of the era, I can dig out some details for you.

Ceirseach: maybe Geoffrey of Paris heard some gossip from their entourage - he seems pretty sure what they were up to!

I agree Piers would have found the dancers a very appropriate and amusing memorial! Looking forward to your post on him.

Satima: unfortunately I don't know whether the dancers were men or women or both. :( As it was June, I imagine they weren't too cold, hehe. It seems to have been normal for performers back then to give their show in the nude, interestingly - at Xmas 1296, Ed (aged 12) watched a female acrobatic dancer, who was almost certainly naked. (I feel a blog post coming on!) And yes, I'd love to read the dancers' story, too. ;)

Kate (Anon): *grin* I don't think my Anglo-Norman is quite up to translating that. ;)

Clement Glen said...

Thank you Alianore, I would be very interested in any information you could give on Edward's minstrels and entertainers.

What was, or is a 'crowder?'

Kathryn Warner said...

Damn, I was hoping you'd know that. :-) *Hangs head in shame at ignorance*

Blog post on Ed's minstrels etc coming asap (in a week or two) - maybe I'll know what a crowder was by then! ;)

Anerje said...

Some fascinating info Alianore - thanks. I was immediately struck by Ed spending so much on clothes etc - with no Piers to spend his money, guess he had to spend it on himself:)

I didn't realise the naked dancers incident took place on the anniversary of Piers' death either. What a way to take Ed's mind of it! and yes, I've wondered whether they were of both sexes, and whether they were totally starkers - and just what kind of dance they were doing!

As for Ed and Isabella over-sleping - surely it must have been the sleeping potion they took to ensure a good night's sleep;)

And I wonder if Isabella was scarred after her arm got burnt - do you know how badly it was burnt? Lots of fascinatin detail in this post!

Jules Frusher said...

What an interesting post! That must have been one eventful trip - oh to be a fly on the wall!

I was thinking though that all that knighting must have been quite exhausting - but somehow I can imagine Ed enjoying giving the title of knight to so many.

As for the oversleeping - I can't imagine that Philippe would have been too annoyed: after all, the very fact that Edward was sharing his daughter's bed must have been great news to him after all that fuss with Gaveston!

And I heartily concur that Piers would have loved the naked dancers - so, yes, it was a good tribute to him. I wonder how Ed was feeling on that day though...

Kathryn Warner said...

Anerje: according to Paul Doherty in Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II, physicians were still tending her arm months later with olive oil, rose water and lead (!!) plasters, so it sounds like it was pretty badly burnt and might well have scarred.

Lady D: yes, maybe it brought back memories to Ed of May 1306, when his father knighted him and he then knighted almost 300 others!

Carla said...

Quite an eventful trip :-) Lead compounds ought to be antiseptic, so I wonder if they might have been moderately useful in stopping a serious burn from becoming infected, or possibly treating it if it had.

Louis X said...

We cannot be certain of the intricacies of our dear sister's mind on this (indeed, what man can ever begin to know the mysteries of the female mind?!), but it is our suspicion that 'Belle "overslept" on purpose, so that she could arrange her own conditions for assuming the Cross, separate from the other ladies. She would have known our father would forgive her almost anything, and would not even ask much of Edward for his missed appointment, as he likely believed they overslept due to fatigue from their efforts to provide grandchildren for him. She might have even spread that idea amongst the servants before she retired, so as to start a rumour to support what she knew would be everyone's natural assumption. She is, after all, one-hundred-percent her father's daughter!

We should like to write our own account of the Pentecost events, at some point. We were not so bored then as we were at the wedding, owing mostly to the facts that we were older and also more often the center of attention. Plus, there was all the slapping to be done on the new knights who followed us in the ceremony. The ritual kissing is not so much to speak of, but some of us relish the opportunity to slap other men. ;)

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi Louis! I left the taking of the Cross this Pentecost out of the blog post, mainly because it doesn't interest me, to be honest, especially when I can write about naked dancers instead...;) but you could well be right about Isa's deviousness and motivations. She did get pregnant sometime this summer though, as she miscarried in Nov. And she was already the mother of the future king of England, which must have raised her status enormously.

Slapping other men, eh?? Sounds like fun. :)

Look forward to reading your own account of the proceedings sometime!

Antoine said...

Hi Kathryn! Another brilliant post. Do we have any information regarding the young Edward III about this trip? Did he come with his parents in France and meet his grandfather Philip the Fair? Or was he left under the protection of the Earl of Gloucester or someone else that could be trusted, such as Edward II's stepmother Margaret of France? I know his presence wouldn't have changed much to the atmosphere, but it might have pleased Philip the Fair to see his then-only grandson.

Besides, I re-read The Iron King (the first novel of the Accursed Kings) and I was quite puzzled to discover that Isabella brought the young Edward III with her in France in April 1314, because she "wouldn't leave him alone in London" (presumably to the Despensers). The sources don't seem to precise this, although a scene where the future Edward III is brought in his grandfather's arms is very pleasant, Philip realising movingly that this child is "his only grandson".

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi Antoine, thank you so much, and welcome to the blog! I like the idea of Philippe le Bel meeting his grandson, though there's no evidence at all, unfortunately, that Edward and Isabella took their son with them to France either in 1313 or when Isabella went by herself in 1314, and I'm almost certain he was left in England. Crossing the Channel was always something of a hazard even in summer, and I doubt they'd have wanted to subject their baby son, the future king, to the risk. He might have remained with Queen Marguerite, or with Edward's nephew the earl of Gloucester, or Gloucester's sister Eleanor. Druon is totally off with his timing, by the way, if he thinks the two Hugh Despensers were anywhere near power as early as 1313/14 - the first evidence I can find of Hugh the Younger being in Edward II's favour dates to April 1319. It's also baffling that Isabella would have thought she couldn't leave her son in England with her husband in 1314. Their marriage then, and for eight years afterwards, was entirely functional, perhaps even happy.

Antoine said...

Indeed! I loved reading the Accursed Kings (especially the first four novels), but I find the parts of the series that take place in England simplistic and caricatural (though I'm French!). However, I think Druon was right about one thing: the pride Isabella has in her son (when he says his first word, or when he defends her against Eleanor de Clare - though it wouldn't never have occurred for real -).

The thought that Edward III might have been left to Eleanor de Clare when he was a mere toddler is quite possible. But didn't Eleanor have accompany Isabella to France in 1313, or in 1314, or even both times? Whatever, even if she had traveled with Isabella, surely Edward II would have given the custody of his heir to someone he was very close... and certainly not implicated in the death of Gaveston! In my opinion, Queen Marguerite is the most likely person to have looked after Edward III, especially because she attended his birth. But I'm just guessing!

Kathryn Warner said...

I agree! As I recall from the novel, Edward III's first word is 'want' (or 'veux'). Sounds about right :D I'm not sure about Eleanor actually; it's entirely possible that she did go to France with Isabella on both occasions, but I don't remember letters of protection being granted to her to do so, and it's quite likely that she was pregnant or recovering from childbirth in either 1313 or 1314, or possibly even both (she gave birth to at least Despenser children). I think you may be right about Queen Marguerite though!