16 February, 2009

Brief Biographies (4): Malcolm Musard

A post about yet another of those fourteenth-century bad boys! Malcolm Musard, aka Malculin, Maculun, Maculmus or Masculm, as his name was often spelt in his own lifetime - 'Malcolm' being a highly unusual name then - was a notorious gang leader who frequently switched sides during Edward II's turbulent reign.

Malcolm came from and owned lands in Worcestershire, was the son of Nicholas (died 1300) and Christina Musard, was married to a woman called Isabella, and was also lord of Saintbury in Gloucestershire. I don't know even his approximate date of birth, but his father was born in about 1240 and his grandfather Ralph Musard in about 1207, and I'd guess Malcolm was born about 1270 or 1275. He had a daughter old enough to be married and to have a manor settled on her in 1315. One of the earliest mentions I've found of him is in 1296, when he was imprisoned for committing trespass in Sherwood Forest - which would prove to be only the first of many incarcerations. [1]

In 1304, Malcolm and his men attacked the rectory of Weston Subedge in Worcestershire, with bows and arrows, having been paid to do so by an aggrieved former rector who had been evicted. [2] A petition of the early 1300s, either from the end of Edward I's reign or sometime during Edward II's, said that Malcolm and his followers "are indicted of many felonies, robberies and homicides" in Worcestershire, but had left the county so that they could not be brought be to justice. [3] In February 1316, Edward II ordered three men to investigate "diverse oppressions and other offences alleged to have been committed in the counties of Worcester and Warwick by Malcolm Musard." [4] He was famous or infamous as a poacher, robber, raider and assaulter, if that's a word, and got on the wrong side of Hugh Despenser the Younger after he attacked two manors belonging to Aline Burnell, Despenser's sister.

Malcolm in fact was a long-term associate of the Despensers - he gave his Gloucestershire manor of La Musardere or Greenhamstead to "his lord" Hugh Despenser the Elder in 1296, and the manors of Martley and 'Sheldeslegh' to him in 1305. [5] He went overseas with Despenser the Elder in 1305, with such well-known Despenser adherents as Ingelram Berenger, John Haudlo, Ralph Gorges and Ralph Camoys. [6] There are plenty of references on the calendared rolls and in the National Archives which indicate that Malcolm was closely associated with Despenser in the late 1290s and early 1300s.

In 1318, however, Malcolm was pardoned as an adherent of Edward II's cousin and enemy Earl Thomas of Lancaster, who loathed Despenser the Elder - although in the same year, he was accused of theft in Wiltshire with, among others, Ingelram Berenger's son John. [7] On 21 May 1321, Malcolm was appointed keeper of Hugh Despenser the Younger's Worcestershire castle of Hanley; the Marchers had just attacked Despenser's castles and manors, and he surrendered all his lands into the king's hands in an attempt to save them from further destruction (it didn't work). [8] In January 1322, Edward II ordered Malcolm to arrest some of the leading Marchers, including the earl of Hereford, Roger Damory and Hugh Audley, and a few weeks later ordered him to raise 500 footmen in Worcestershire during his campaign against them. [9]

For some unknown reason, though, Edward II came to believe that Malcolm had aided or adhered to the Marchers, and sent Richard de Retlyng to arrest him on 12 December 1323. [10] (Unknown to me, that is. I'm sure Edward knew why.) Malcolm was imprisoned in the Tower of London by 19 June 1324, on which date he and seven other men were ordered to appear before the justices of the King's Bench "concerning the causes, indictments, right suspicions and accusations against them." [11] Hugh Despenser the Younger asked for Malcolm's appointment as keeper of the peace in Worcestershire - yes, a notorious criminal was appointed keeper of the peace - to be revoked on the grounds of his 'unsuitability', probably because he had attacked Aline Burnell's manors. [12]

On 6 August 1326, Malcolm, 'to save his life and have his lands again', acknowledged that he owed 100 pounds to Queen Isabella - not Edward - and was pardoned the following day for adherence to the Contrariants, as Edward called the Marchers of 1321/22. He was also pardoned for "outlawry in the county of Worcester...touching a plea of trespass of Aline Burnel." [13]

Given that Edward II had imprisoned Malcolm for well over two years, it would hardly be surprising to find that he threw in his lot with Isabella's invasion force a few weeks later. He didn't. Edward ordered Malcolm on 12 October 1326 to lead 3000 archers and all the men-at-arms in Worcestershire to him, and evidently Malcolm obeyed or at least tried to, as on 20 May 1327 Isabella seized his lands, goods and chattels on the grounds that he had supported Hugh Despenser the Elder against herself and her son. [14]

On 21 November 1327, a commission of oyer et terminer was issued against Malcolm and other men for committing theft at various places in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire; one of the men co-accused with Malcolm was Richard de Burcheston, a member of the Dunheved gang who had temporarily freed Edward II from Berkeley Castle that summer. [15] Given Malcolm's long criminal career, it's quite possible that the thefts were genuine, but also possible that this was an attempt to find and arrest men suspected of freeing Edward from Berkeley. Malcolm was in prison yet again at Winchester by 8 November 1327, when the sheriff of Hampshire was ordered to take him to Worcester "immediately upon sight hereof, at the king's cost." The sheriff of Worcestershire was ordered "to cause him to be kept safely in Worcester castle until further orders." [16]

I don't know when Malcolm was released, but in 1329/30, he became embroiled in the earl of Kent's plot to free his - supposedly dead - half-brother Edward from Corfe Castle. According to the chronicler Adam Murimuth, Malcolm ('Maucelym Musarde') "did travail and take pains" to aid Kent. [17] I haven't found any references to his being imprisoned for the umpteenth time, so presumably he either fled abroad, as a few of Kent's other adherents did, or went into hiding. On 8 December 1330, a few days after Roger Mortimer's execution, Edward III pardoned Malcolm and restored his lands to him. [18]

Malcolm is a fairly important character in Sandra Wilson's romance novel Alice - which features Piers Gaveston, yay, as the hero - though in fact he's really Stephen Dunheved and uses the name Malcolm Musard to disguise his true identity. (Or something - it's a while since I read it.) That's kind of odd, as Stephen and Malcolm were definitely two different people, though for sure they knew each other - Stephen was another of the men who freed Edward in 1327, and also joined Kent in 1330.

Malcolm Musard was dead by 29 March 1332, leaving a son, John, and a daughter Alice, wife of Ralph Dapetot or d'Abitot. [19] John Musard's career ran along much the same lines as his father's. Edward III granted the manor of La Musardere - formely Malcolm's and forfeit to the Crown after the execution of the Despensers - to the dowager countess of Kent, and John was determined to get it back. In July 1338, Edward said that "John, son of Malcolm Musard, and others, reflecting that the king is going beyond the seas, have formed confederacies to work evil while he shall be staying there and have entered the manor with armed power, assaulted her [the countess of Kent's] men and servants, have carried away her goods and now detain the manor from her." [20] The abbot of Evesham in 1344 accused John, with Simon and Walter Musard - presumably his brothers or cousins - of gathering malefactors to harass the abbot and his servants, killing three of them, lying in wait for them, mutilating and 'atrociously wounding' some, stealing his animals and entering his woods with armed men and preventing the abbot and his men carrying wood out of them. [21]

And that's about all I have on the subject of Malcolm Musard, except that if you run a Google search for his name, it brings up, not entirely helpfully, lots of hits for mustard.


1) Calendar of Close Rolls 1288-1296, pp. 473-474.
2) Ian Mortimer, The Time-Traveller's Guide to Medieval England, p. 240; Colin Platt, Medieval England, p. 104.
3) The National Archives SC 8/342/16149.
4) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1313-1317, p. 429.
5) Cal Pat Rolls 1292-1301, p. 536; TNA E 40/927, E 40/928, E 40/4685, E 40/934. E 326/1653 names Malcolm's wife as Isabella; E 40/927 and 8 name Malcolm as the son of Nicholas Musard.
6) Cal Pat Rolls 1301-1307, p. 382.
7) Cal Pat Rolls 1317-1321, pp. 233, 278.
8) Cal Pat Rolls 1317-1321, p. 585.
9) Cal Pat Rolls 1321-1324, pp. 62-63, 78, 97.
10) Cal Pat Rolls 1321-1324, pp. 358, 396.
11) Cal Close Rolls 1323-1327, p. 125.
12) Nigel Saul, 'The Despensers and the Downfall of Edward II', English Historical Review, 99 (1984), p. 16; Cal Pat Rolls 1324-1327, p. 304.
13) Cal Close Rolls 1323-1327, p. 638; Cal Pat Rolls 1324-1327, p. 304.
14) Cal Pat Rolls 1324-1327, p. 326; Calendar of Fine Rolls 1327-1337, p. 43.
15) Cal Pat Rolls 1327-1330, pp. 216-217.
16) Cal Close Rolls 1327-1330, p. 182.
17) Adae Murimuth Continuatio Chronicarum, ed. E. M. Thompson, p. 257.
18) Cal Close Rolls 1330-1333, pp. 76-77.
19) TNA E 156/28/88, E 210/7590; Cal Fine Rolls 1327-1337, p. 308.
20) Cal Pat Rolls 1338-1340, p. 133.
21) TNA SC 8/46/2252; Cal Pat Rolls 1343-1345, pp. 288, 295, 409-411.


Jules Frusher said...

Fascinating post. It's really hard to keep up with the man - I'll bet he couldn't be trusted any farther than you could throw a rich bishop! It's surprising therefore that he seems to be in with the two (maybe) plots to free Ed - I would have thought tht he would have wanted to stay on the winning (and therefore more profitable) side.

Anerje said...

so many bad boys:) Intersting post Alianore - as I've recently read 'Alice' - with a very hetrosexual Piers:)

Susan Higginbotham said...

Great post! What a busy man!

Christy K Robinson said...

Musard seems to be a career criminal who could be hired to do the occasional dirty work. I wonder if, in his "quiet" periods between mayhem episodes, he ever took to the seas for piracy.

Kathryn Warner said...

Lady D: I wonder if Malcolm just loved the thought of fighting and mayhem and didn't much care who he fought for? It does strike me as odd though that he supported Ed in 1326 and 1330, given his imprisonment.

Anerje: yup, the early 14c was full of them. ;) I flicked through 'Alice' again the other day, with the thoroughly hetero Piers. ;)

Susan: yes, all that switching sides must have kept him very busy!

Christy: it wouldn't surprise me at all, given his association with the Despensers and that the younger Despenser became a pirate in 1321.

Carla said...

14th century England sounds more like the Wild West with every post :-)

Curious that Malcolm had such an unusal name. Is it possible that he had Scottish connections?

Kathryn Warner said...

Funny you should say that, Carla - the exact same thought occurred to me the other day. ;)

I'm pretty sure Malcolm had no Scots connections on his father's side, but maybe he did through his mother - I haven't been able to find out anything much about her. It's such an unusual name for 14c England that I'd imagine he did have some connection to Scotland.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Those guys would have needed Robin Hood's PR team. :P

Kathryn Warner said...

*Grins*. Yeah, Malcolm wasn't a ruthless gangster/mercenary, he only stole from the obscenely rich rector to give money to the poor! ;)

Rondi said...

Hi, Alianore, I've just discovered your blog and I love it. I am passionately fond of Medieval history and genealogy, and am so happy to find an intelligent and well-written study.
Malcolm Musard seems to be well-documented as the son of Nicholas Musard, Baron of Staveley. Sanders says Nicholas dsp, but Malcolm definitely is mentioned as his son, by Christina. Given his Scottish sounding name, and Christina being the name of many Scottish noblewomen, could he have been an illegitimate son of Nicholas and a Scottish woman, and therefore unable to inherit the barony? His father would have been able to leave him lands not included in the barony.
What do you think?

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi Rondi! Many thanks for your kind comments about the blog - I'm really glad you like it. (I'm 'Alianore', btw - have started using my real name now. ;)

You may well be onto something about Malcolm being Nicholas's illegitimate son! I've found a couple of refs which definitely name him as his son, but don't say 'first-born son' or 'heir' or similar. Hmmm, interesting... Christina and Malcolm are such obviously Scottish names and so rare in England in this period. I haven't seen Nicholas's IPM, so don't know if the lands Malcolm owned belonged to the Staveley barony or not - that would be a promising line of inquiry. YAY for early fourteenth-century detective work! :-) I *LOVE* doing this! :)

Unknown said...

You have my attention, do you do this research for a living? If so, what is required for this?

I am related to these interesting people, and am looking at the level of their interactions from a psychological perspective. Let us consider also the larger scope of the family. Hugh Despensor obtained the Musard lands in exchange for the debts of Malcolm's cousin. I find earlier mentions of this family also switching sides with King John during Magna Carta. If the genealogies are correct, there may be a deep tie to the William Rollos, through Enisan Musard (de Pleveno) whom is said to have married one of Alan the Reds half sisters.

This is my daughters email however I would love to talk with you.

Hugs from the USA