25 April, 2009

Brief Biographies: John Norton and John Redmere

Happy 725th birthday to Edward II today! I read a blog recently which noted Edward's date of birth, then asked 'I wonder what he's doing now'. Well, not a lot, I shouldn't imagine.

John Norton and John Redmere were Dominican friars who were involved in the Dunheveds' plot to free the former Edward II from Berkeley Castle in the summer of 1327. Edward's guardian Thomas, Lord Berkeley wrote a letter on 27 July 1327 naming the men who had attacked his castle and seized Edward from his custody, and also wrote that "two great leaders of this company have been arrested [literally 'taken'] by the community of Dunstable and are held there in prison, that is: Brother John Redmere, keeper of our lord the king's stud-farm, and John Norton." [Et sunt pris deux grant menors de cele compaignie par la comunalte de Dunestaple e illeosques sont tenuz en prison, c’est assavoir: frere Johan de Redemere, gardein del haras nostre seignor le roy, et Johan Nortone.] [1]

So I did a bit of digging into these two men, and discovered that John Redmere was indeed keeper of the king's stud-farm, a position he had held since at least 1317/18, the eleventh year of Edward II's reign. [2] John Norton was, I assume, the man of this name who was a clerk of Edward II's, and who for many years was "surveyor of the works of the king's palace at Westminster and of the Tower of London." He was responsible for purchasing provisions for Edward's coronation in February 1308, including lime and sea coal, and proved remarkably tardy in paying for the items: the unfortunate merchants were still pleading for their money as late as 1320. He was also responsible for buying planks and timber for Edward III's coronation in February 1327. In September 1312, Edward II appointed Norton as his attorney before the justices of King's Bench, and in December 1316, ordered him to provide ships at Bristol and Haverford for Roger Mortimer's journey to Ireland. [3] Norton's unwillingness to pay his debts got him into trouble with Edward: he was in prison in the Tower of London in December 1325, when Edward asked the treasurer and barons of the Exchequer for their advice in finding "means whereby the king may best and most quickly recover the debt" Norton and his associate Nicholas of Tickhill owed him. [4] Given his willingness to fight for the former king's release in 1327, I presume that Norton forgave Edward for imprisoning him.

(Assuming that all these entries relate to the same man; 'John Norton', after all, is not an uncommon name.)

The Dominicans were staunch supporters of Edward II, and many of them, according to the Brut, willingly helped Brother Thomas Dunheved's plot and "cast and ordained, both night and day" how they might release Edward from captivity. So it is hardly surprising to find that Norton and Redmere were among them; a Dominican from the Warwick convent, John of Stoke, was an important enough member of the conspiracy for his arrest to be ordered at the same time as Stephen Dunheved's in May 1327, and he was to be taken before the king. [5] On 3 March 1327, John Norton was accused with several other men of "carrying away the goods" of William Trussell, who had pronounced the death sentence on Hugh Despenser the Younger the previous November, although this crime may date to years before, after Trussell had fled the country following the Contrariants' defeat at the battle of Boroughbridge. [6] On 28 May 1327, Norton was sent to Cheshire and the marches of Wales "on business concerning Queen Isabella." [7] What's interesting is that the Dunheved brothers and some of their adherents were in Chester in June 1327 - did Norton join them then, or was he already a sympathiser to their cause, unbeknownst to Isabella? The attack on Berkeley Castle to free Edward had almost certainly taken place by 28 June - or, at the very least, was just about to take place - when Norton was given letters of protection, presumably to travel to Cheshire on Isabella's behalf. [8] He was an important member of the gang, at least according to Lord Berkeley, though evidently his participation was still unknown on 28 June when he received his letters of protection, and was discovered some time later by Lord Berkeley and 'the community of Dunstable'.

An entry of 11 August 1327 on the Close Roll confirms Berkeley's statement that Norton and Redmere were being held in prison at Dunstable - the prior of Dunstable's prison, in fact - when the bailiffs were ordered to send them to Wallingford Castle. [9] Another order was issued on 21 October, to send them and the men held with them, Robert of Ely and Nigel Mereman of Cornbiry, to the notorious Newgate prison in London. [10] Robert of Ely was Norton's servant, but I haven't been able to trace Nigel Mereman. Presumably they heard the news in late September 1327, while in captivity at Dunstable, that Edward II had died at Berkeley - allegedly.

I very much doubt if it is a coincidence that the writ to send the men to Newgate was issued three days after an order to the sheriff of Bedfordshire, on 18 October, to "take and keep in prison" four named men and unnamed, uncounted others, "who are riding about, as the king learns, armed in diverse parts of that county [Bedfordshire] with other malefactors, lying in wait by day and night for the prior of Donestaple and his men and other subjects of the king, committing many evils there." [11] This sounds to me as though these men were trying to free Norton, Redmere and their associates from prison, hence their removal to Newgate. The four named 'malefactors' were Philip de Wibbesnade (Whipsnade), John Salbot, Thomas atte Halle and Robert Duraunt. That these men were hostile to the regime of Isabella and Roger Mortimer and probably, therefore, sympathetic to Edward II is demonstrated by the fact that Wibbesnade, Duraunt, atte Halle and his brother William joined the earl of Lancaster's rebellion against Isabella and Mortimer in late 1328. They were among the men, many of them former allies of the queen and her favourite who had been imprisoned or exiled by Edward II or played an important role in his and the Despensers' downfall, such as William Trussell, Hugh Audley, Thomas Wake, Henry Leyburne, Thomas Roscelyn and Henry Beaumont, who rode to Bedford "against the king with armed power." [12] Of course they weren't riding 'against the king' at all, but against the pair ruling England in his name.

Thomas Berkeley's letter of 27 July 1327 also declared that "I have heard from certain people of my household, who have seen and heard of it, that a great number of people have made assemblies in Buckinghamshire and other adjoining counties, for the same cause"; that is, attempting to free Edward. [j’ai entendu par certeines gentz des meons, que le sevent de vue e de oie, que assembleez se fount a grant noumbre des gentz en counte de Bokyngham e es autres counteez joignauntz, por mesme la cause.] The existence of this plot is known only from Berkeley's letter, and nothing came of it, but Dunstable is in Bedfordshire, which borders Buckinghamshire.

Probably in September or October 1327, John Norton and John Redmere petitioned Edward III, who was not yet fifteen, saying that "when they were at Dunstable, to hear mass in the house of their [Dominican] order there, they were arrested by the Bailiffs and community and thrown into prison," accused of trying to rescue the lord king's father from Berkeley Castle.* Because this was such a sensitive matter, the bailiffs declared that "John and John can only be delivered before the king." Redmere and Norton asked "that they might be able to come before our lord the king to stand to right according to the law of the land, as they have been in prison first at Dunstable and now at Aylesbury, and are at point of death as a result." When they were in prison at Aylesbury, I don't know. [13]

* This is one of the very few direct references to the Dunheveds' plot to free Edward of Caernarfon, the others being: Lord Berkeley's letter; a writ to the sheriff of Oxfordshire in August 1327 concerning William Aylmer, another conspirator; brief accounts in various chronicles, the Brut (and several continuations of it), Annales Paulini and Lanercost.

John Redmere is one of the many men trying to free Edward II who vanishes from the pages of history after the summer/autumn of 1327. I have no idea what became of him. John Norton's petition, on the other hand, was successful, and he was still alive in the 1330s; in October 1333, he - again, assuming it's the same John Norton - was said to be "constantly attendant on the king's [Edward III's] business." [14] He was thus one of only a handful of the men who had tried to free the former king who certainly lived after 1327.


1) F. J. Tanqueray, ‘The Conspiracy of Thomas Dunheved, 1327’, English Historical Review, 31 (1916), pp. 119-124.
2) The National Archives E 101/100/12 and E 101/99/27; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1321-1324, p. 334, Cal Pat Rolls 1324-1327, p. 297.
3) TNA SC 8/6/286, SC 8/6/287, SC 8/114/5675, SC 8/3/150, SC 8/4/153; Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, pp. 274, 306; Cal Pat Rolls 1307-1313, p. 490; Cal Pat Rolls 1313-1317, pp. 574-575. There are numerous other mentions of Norton in contemporary records.
4) Calendar of Close Rolls 1323-1327, p. 437.
5) Cal Pat Rolls 1327-1330, p. 99.
6) Cal Pat Rolls 1327-1330, p. 75.
7) Cal Pat Rolls 1327-1330, p. 107.
8) Cal Pat Rolls 1327-1330, p.133.
9) Cal Close Rolls 1327-1330, pp. 156, 179.
10) Cal Close Rolls 1327-1330, p. 179.
11) Cal Close Rolls 1323-1327, pp. 232-233.
12) Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous 1308-1348, pp. 274-275.
13) TNA SC 8/69/3444.
14) Cal Pat Rolls 1330-1334, p. 470.

19 April, 2009

The Charges Against Hugh Despenser The Younger, November 1326

This is my translation of the charges against Hugh Despenser the Younger at his trial in Hereford on 24 November 1326, which are printed in the original Anglo-Norman in G. A. Holmes' 'Judgement on the Younger Despenser, 1326' (English Historical Review, 70, 1955). Investigating the accuracy of the charges would be a major undertaking, and although some of them are certainly true, some are utterly ludicrous. May McKisack (The Fourteenth Century 1307-1399) calls the charges "an ingenious tissue of fact and fiction," while Roy Martin Haines (in his biography King Edward II) points out that "it is an ingenious document, another piece of propaganda that puts the blame for all the ills of the reign on one man and his father," ignoring - for the time being, at least - Edward II's own manifold failings and that the earl of Lancaster and his followers were in armed rebellion against their king in 1322, and in treasonous correspondence with Robert Bruce to boot. The original text begins Hughe le despenser en parlement nostre seignur le Roi Edward qui ore est tenu a Westmonstre Lan de son regne xvme...

Hugh le Despenser, in the parliament of our lord King Edward who now is, held at Westminster in the fifteenth year of his reign [August 1321], by investigation of the prelates, earls and barons and all the community of the realm, it was found to be well-known that your father and you, Hugh [votre piere et vous hughe], were traitors and enemies of the realm, for which cause, by the assent and the command of our lord the king and all the baronage, your father and you, Hugh, were exiled from the realm never to return, which was done by the assent and permission of our lord the king and all the baronage and all those who were duly summoned to full parliament.

Against which judgement and exile, your father and you, Hugh, returned to the realm and were found at court without authorisation. And you, Hugh, in returning to the realm, feloniously robbed two dromonds of their goods to the value of £60,000 sterling, to the great dishonour of the king and the realm, and to the great peril of the merchants who often visit foreign countries. After this felony done by you, Hugh, you approached our lord the king and made him ride in arms against the peers of the realm and others of his faithful liegemen, to destroy and disinherit them contrary to Magna Carta [la grant chartre] and the Ordinances, and so riding in force and in arms, seizing royal power, you, Hugh, and your father and your adherents feloniously robbed the good men of the realm. With Andrew Harclay and other traitors, your adherents, you had the good earl of Hereford and Sir William Sully [Monsieur William suyllee] and Sir Roger Burghfield feloniously and maliciously murdered. [1]

You took the good earl of Lancaster [le bone Counte de Lancastre], who was the cousin-german of our lord the king and his brothers and uncle of the very noble king of France and his sister my lady the queen of England, and had him falsely imprisoned and robbed, and in his own hall in his castle, by your royal power which you had seized from our lord the king, had him judged by a false record contrary to law and reason and Magna Carta and also without response, and you had him martyred and murdered by hard and piteous death. And this wickedness and tyranny done to such an exalted person could not sate you of spilling the blood of Christians, and also on this same day, to further torment my said lord, before his vanquished eyes*, you had his barons and knights condemned to death by drawing and hanging. By this false record contrary to law and reason, you shamefully had them hanged without mercy: Sir Warin Lisle [Warin del yle], Sir William Tuchet, Sir Thomas Mauduit, Sir Henry Bradbourne, Sir William Cheney, Sir William Fitzwilliam the younger. At York, my lord Clifford, my lord Mowbray, Sir Jocelyn Deyville. At Canterbury, the lord Badlesmere and Sir Bartholomew Ashburnham. At London, Sir Henry Tyes. At Windsor, Sir Francis Aldenham [A Wyndesore monsieur franceys de Aldenham]. At Gloucester, the lord Giffard and Sir Roger Elmbridge. At Bristol, Sir Henry Wilington and Sir Henry Montfort. At Winchelsea, Sir Thomas Culpepper. [2]

[* sez oilz veintz - I'm not quite sure about that bit.]

Many other magnates you had sent to hard prison, to murder them without cause for covetousness of their lands, such as the lord Mortimer and Mortimer the uncle [le seignour le Mortimere et le Mortimere luncle], and the lord Berkeley and Sir Hugh Audley the father and son, and the children of Hereford who were the nephews of our lord the king, and great ladies, wives of these lords, and their children, you kept in prison and orphaned. And after the deaths of their barons, you pursued widowed ladies such as my lady Baret, and as a tyrant you had her beaten by your mercenaries [or rascals, or menials: ribaldes]** and shamefully had her arms and legs broken against the order of chivalry and contrary to law and reason, by which the good lady is forever more driven mad and lost [la bone dame est touz iours afole et perdue]. [3] And many other such people who should have been ladies of great honour, you made follow the court on foot in great poverty, without pity and without mercy, and every day they were held in such great ignominy that God by his mercy sent our good and gracious lady and her son [Isabella and Edward III] and the good men who have come in their company to the land, by which the realm is delivered.

[** that part is often mistranslated as 'making her the butt of his ribaldry']

Hugh, after this destruction of our noble liege lord [Lancaster] and of other men of the realm done falsely, shamefully and treacherously, you, Hugh, and your father and Robert Baldock [4], who between you treacherously embraced royal power, had our lord the king and his people led to Scotland to the enemies, where you, by your treacherous conduct, lost more than 20,000 of his [Edward II's] people who died piteously by your default, to the great dishonour and damage of our lord the king and of all his people, without gaining advantage. After returning, you, Hugh, your father, and Robert Baldock, falsely and treacherously counselled our lord the king to leave my lady the queen in peril of her person in the priory of Tynemouth in Northumberland. You had our lord the king led in flight to Blackhow Moor [la More de Blachou], where his enemies of Scotland [ses enemys descoce] by your treacherous conduct surprised him, to the great dishonour and damage of the king and his people. [5] And in such great misfortune and peril of her person, my lady who was your liege lady, by your treacherous deed might have been lost, to the perpetual dishonour and damage of the king and his realm, if God had not sent her deliverance by sea, thereby rescuing her from danger to her life and saving her honour, in such great grief of heart and body that no good lady of her estate and nobility should have at any time.

Hugh, neither this treason nor cruelty could suffice for you, but by the royal power which you had seized from our lord the king, you destroyed the privileges of Holy Church. The prelates Hereford, Lincoln, Ely, Norwich, you feloniously robbed of their goods inside Holy Church [seinte Eglise], and outside, you carried off their horses and their plate and their baggage, and made them go on foot [les faistes aler a pee]. And their lands and their possessions you seized by force, against law and reason. It did not only suffice for you to make war on the ministers of Holy Church, but also you plundered it, as a false Christian, renegade and traitor against God himself. And because you knew that God made miracles by my good lord [Lancaster] whom you murdered so cruelly against the law without cause, you, Hugh, as a false Christian [come faux cristiene], sent armed men into Holy Church and had the doors of monasteries shut down and closed so that no-one was bold enough to enter the Church and worship God or his saints, for which merit and in defiance of you, God made divine gifts and miracles. [6]

After this wickedness, you falsely and treacherously counselled our lord the king, to the disinheritance of his crown and his heirs, to give to your father, who was false and a traitor, the earldom of Winchester, and the earldom of Carlisle [Cardoile] to Andrew Harclay, who was a notorious traitor and criminal, and to you, Hugh, the land of Canteruaure [?], and other lands which belong to the crown. And also, Hugh, you, your father and Robert Baldock had my lady the queen ousted from her lands, which were given and assigned to her by our lord the king, and set her on her journey [to France in March 1325] meanly, against the dignity of her highness and of her estate. As a false and disloyal traitor, you daily abetted and procured discord between our lord the king and herself, by your complete royal power. And, Hugh, when my lady the queen and her son, by the command and assent of our lord the king, crossed the sea to save the land of Gascony, which was at point of being lost [pur la terre de Gascoigne sauuer que fuist en poynt destre perdue], by your treacherous counsel you sent over the sea a large sum of money to certain evil men, your adherents, to destroy my lady and her son, who was the rightful heir of the kingdom, and to prevent their return to this country, which would have been to their damage and their destruction, if you had succeeded in doing this [i.e., bribing people to murder Isabella and her son].

Hugh, your father and Robert Baldock and the other false traitors, your adherents, travelled around the kingdom by land and by sea, assuming royal power, making great and small people [les grantz et les petitz], by constraint, promise and assure you that they would maintain you in your false quarrels against all people, regardless of the fact that such confederations were false and treacherous and against the bond and estate of the king and his crown. By your royal power you had them put in arduous prison, such as Sir Henry Beaumont [7], who did not want to swear that they would assent to your wickedness. And when you, Hugh, and the other false traitors, your adherents [vous Hughe et les autres fauxes traitours vos aerdantz] knew that my lady and her son were returning to this land, you made our lord the king, by your treacherous counsel, remove himself from them, and led him out of the kingdom in great peril of his person. [8] And to the great dishonour of himself and of his people, you feloniously took the treasure of the realm and the great seal with you.

Hugh, as a traitor you are found, and as such are judged by all the good people of the realm, great and small, rich and poor [graindres et mayndres, riches et poures]. By common assent you are found as a thief and a criminal, and for this you will be hanged. And because you are found a traitor, you will be drawn and quartered, and [the pieces of your body] sent throughout the realm. And because you were exiled by our lord the king and by common assent and returned to the court without authorisation, you will be beheaded. And because you were always disloyal and procured discord between our lord the king and our very honourable lady the queen, and between other people of the realm, you will be disembowelled, and then they will be burnt.

Withdraw, you traitor, tyrant, renegade; go to take your own justice, traitor, evil man, criminal!

[Retrees vous traitour, tyrant, Reneye, si ales vostre iuys prendre, traitour, malueys, et atteynt; malueys or malveis can also be translated as 'coward' or 'weakling' as well as 'evil man' or 'wicked man']

And with that, Despenser was dragged off to his grotesque execution. According to several chroniclers, he was also castrated (or emasculated), though that wasn't officially part of his sentence. Surprisingly enough, his tomb still exists in Tewkesbury Abbey; his remains were finally interred there in December 1330 after Edward III overthrew his mother and Mortimer and gave "the friends of Hugh" permission to bury him.

One of the men watching the proceedings, no doubt with enormous satisfaction, was Roger Mortimer, the next royal favourite, who, having decried Despenser's behaviour, then proceeded to act in much the same way himself over the next four years. The man who read out the above charges against Despenser was Sir William Trussell, who had fled the country after the battle of Boroughbridge and returned with Mortimer and Isabella. A mere two years after Despenser's execution, he and Thomas Wake, who had read out the charges against Hugh Despenser the Elder, joined the earl of Lancaster's rebellion against Isabella and Mortimer. Many of the pair's erstwhile allies fled abroad with Wake and Henry Beaumont, "fearing the cruelty and tyranny of the said earl of March," i.e. Mortimer, who had awarded himself a grandiose earldom - even Despenser never went that far - and "who at that time was more than king in the kingdom." They plotted an invasion of England in the summer of 1330. [9] Mortimer faced many of the same charges as Despenser at his own trial four years almost to the day later. Sometimes, I can't help thinking that none of these people had the sense God gave a sheep.


1) Hereford, Sully and Burghfield were killed at the battle of Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322.
2) This is a mostly complete list of the men executed in March/April 1322, though it omits Stephen Baret and William Fleming. I'll be looking at the executions of 1322 in a future post.
3) Presumably a reference to Joan de Gynes or de Mandeville, wife of Stephen Baret, who was probably executed in 1322. No chronicle, petition or inquisition, or other source, confirms that Despenser had Joan tortured. Her three manors were in Edward II's hands in July 1324: Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous 1308-1348, pp. 200-201.
4) Archdeacon of Middlesex and chancellor of England, a close ally of Despenser.
5) A reference to the battle of Byland on 14 October 1322 and Edward's near-capture by the Scots at Rievaulx Abbey.
6) Miracles were being reported at the site of Lancaster's execution and at his tomb within weeks of his death.
7) Henry Beaumont was imprisoned in the castles of Kenilworth, Warwick and Wallingford in 1326, supposedly because "he would not swear to the king and Sir Hugh Despenser the son to be of their part to live and die." [Le Livere de Reis de Britannie e Le Livere de Reis de Engletere, ed. J. Glover, pp. 354-355; Calendar of Close Rolls 1323-1327, p. 593; Calendar of Fine Rolls 1319-1327, pp. 417-418]
8) A reference to Edward II and Despenser sailing from Chepstow in mid-October 1326, probably in an attempt to reach Ireland.
9) Chronicle of Lanercost 1272-1346, ed. H. Maxwell, pp. 265-266, for the quotations. Isabella and Mortimer's atttempts to raise troops and defend towns in order to repel the invasion are in Calendar of Patent Rolls 1327-1330, pp. 544, 563, 570-572; Cal Close Rolls 1330-1333, pp. 51, 147, 151.

14 April, 2009

Edward II Did Not Stupidly Fall Into A Trap, September 1325

In September 1325, Edward II sent his twelve-year-old son Edward of Windsor, earl of Chester and now duke of Aquitaine and count of Ponthieu, to France to perform homage to Charles IV for Edward's French lands. Queen Isabella seized control of their son and refused to allow him to return to England, arranged the boy's marriage to the count of Hainault's daughter and used the dowry to pay for ships and mercenaries, and invaded England in September 1326. This, of course, led to Edward II's forced abdication in favour of his son in January 1327.

Many writers on this subject have assumed that Edward's sending his son to France is proof that that he was stupid, that he sent his son blindly unaware of the dangers, and that he fell into the cunning trap his wife and her ally/lover Roger Mortimer had planned for him. Edward's behaviour in August and September 1325 in fact demonstrates that he was completely aware of the risks, as I will prove.

Edward was meant to perform homage for Gascony and Ponthieu at Beauvais on 29 August 1325 to his brother-in-law Charles IV, his overlord for these lands. If he failed to do so, the lands would be forfeit to the French king. Edward's great-great-grandmother Eleanor of Aquitaine had brought the duchy of Aquitaine to the English Crown on her marriage to (the future) Henry II in 1152, while Ponthieu was Edward's inheritance from his mother Eleanor of Castile, countess of Ponthieu in her own right. He could not possibly allow these lands to pass under the king of France's control. On the other hand, there were several reasons why Edward was most reluctant to travel to France at this time. He was worried that he would be indicted in the French court for the 1322 death of his cousin Thomas of Lancaster, Charles IV's uncle. [1] His enemies, Roger Mortimer and other English exiles, were living on the continent, and Edward was afraid of assassination or capture. Edward was at war with France - the War of Saint-Sardos - from August 1324 to June 1325, so his relations with his brother-in-law Charles IV were a long way from cordial. Not to mention, Edward's ineptitude and tyranny meant that there was seething discontent in England, and he might have been worried that the country would erupt into rebellion during his absence.

Edward had other concerns. He could not take his favourite Hugh Despenser with him, as Despenser was loathed in France for his piracy of 1321; it was said that if he set foot there, he would be arrested and tortured. [2] But leaving Despenser behind was risky, too: he and his father Despenser the Elder, earl of Winchester, were also widely loathed in England, and feared that they would be put to death as soon as they lost the king's protection. As the Vita Edwardi Secundi says, they "realised that in the absence of the king they would not know where to live safely." [3]

So Edward could not go to France with Despenser, he could not go to France without Despenser, and he could not avoid performing homage. His only other choice, other than losing his French inheritance, leaving his friend behind to be murdered or taking him along and risking him being tortured, was to make his son Edward of Windsor duke of Aquitaine and count of Ponthieu in his place, and send him to perform homage instead. This had been suggested by the French at the end of 1324 or beginning of 1325, but Edward's counsellors rejected the proposal "with one voice." They did consent to send Queen Isabella to negotiate with her brother on Edward's behalf, but were understandably unwilling to send the twelve-year-old heir to the throne to an enemy country until peace had been established. (quant al point del aler nostre dame la royne et de mons' son filz, touz de une voice desconseillerent laler mons' le fitz quant a ore et si la qe la pees feust meux tretee et accordee: Regarding the journey of our lady the queen and Monsieur her son, they [Edward's advisers] with one voice counselled against the journey of Monsieur the son at present and until peace should be better negotiated and agreed; dated c. 13 January 1325.) [4]

Henry III had in 1253 been equally reluctant to send his fourteen-year-old son, the future Edward I, to Castile, as suggested by Alfonso X, then inciting a rebellion in Gascony with a view to invading and taking over the duchy, in case Alfonso took Edward as a hostage. And Edward II knew in September 1325 that sending his son to France also had serious drawbacks: he would lose control of his French lands and their income, and far more dangerously, the king was well aware that that his enemies could seize his son and use him as a hostage, not to mention the more general risks of sending the future king of England to a hostile country with whom he had only recently established a shaky peace (Edward signed a truce with Charles IV on 13 June 1325).

So in September 1325, Edward II was in an impossible position; every course of action open to him had serious risks and drawbacks. For this, of course, he only had himself to blame. If he had performed homage when Charles IV first invited him to do so, between Candlemas (2 February) and Easter (15 April) 1324, if he hadn't made himself so wildly unpopular, if he hadn't allowed the Despensers to make themselves so loathed, if he hadn't behaved so vindictively in 1322 and ensured that he and the Despensers had numerous enemies both at home and abroad, if he hadn't alienated Queen Isabella, and so on, he wouldn't have been in such a mess in the first place.

Edward's indecisiveness as to the correct course of action is painfully apparent. He spent the second half of August and early September 1325 hovering uncertainly in Kent prior to departure to perform homage, staying at Sturry, Langdon and Dover. Although some writers would have you believe that he was utterly and stupidly oblivious to the dangers of sending his son to France, this is in fact very far from being the case. Edward at first decided to go himself, then changed his mind, then decided to go himself, then changed his mind:

- Pope John XXII had heard by late June 1325 that Edward himself was going to France. [5]

- On 20 July, Edward appointed keepers of the truce between himself and Robert Bruce and ordered men to guard the coast of Northumberland during his absence overseas. [6]

- On 29 July, Edward told Robert Kendale, constable of Dover Castle, that he was going to France around the Assumption (15 August) "upon great and arduous affairs touching him and his realm," and ordered Kendale to provide as many ships as necessary for himself and the magnates accompanying him. [7]

- On 21 August, eight days before he was due to pay homage, Edward began issuing letters of protection for the retinue accompanying him to France. On the same day, he asked the Dominicans of Lincoln to pray for him, Isabella, Edward of Windsor, and their other children. [8]

- his Italian bankers the Bardi gave him over £3515 for his expenses, and silver plate worth £1768 to hand out as gifts at the French court. [9]

- on 24 August, Edward changed his mind about going, and told Charles IV that he had suddenly been taken ill and would not be able to come to France. This was almost certainly feigned; Edward was a healthy, strong and fit man who rarely suffered from illness. [10]

- on 30 August, the day after he should have performed homage at Beauvais, Edward changed his mind again and appointed his son regent of England while he went to France. [11]

-on 1 September, Edward told Louis Beaumont, bishop of Durham, that he was "shortly going to France" and had appointed his son as regent, and ordered Beaumont to keep the bishopric safe during his absence. [12]

- also on 1 September, Edward appointed Anthony Lucy and the earl of Arundel as wardens of Cumberland and Westmorland, and of the Welsh marches, during his absence overseas. [13]

- on 2 September, Edward changed his mind again and made his son count of Ponthieu. [14]

- evidently still unsure whether he was doing the right thing, Edward continued issuing letters of protection for the men accompanying him to France - him, not his son - on 3 and 4 September. [15]

- Edward began issuing letters of protection for the men accompanying his son on 5 September, but waited until 10 September before making young Edward duke of Aquitaine prior to sending him to the king of France. [16] The delay is a further indication of his uncertainty as to whether he was doing the right thing. But this remained his final decision, and the boy sailed from Dover on 12 September and performed homage to his uncle Charles IV at Vincennes on 24 September. [17]

- according to the chronicle of Adam Murimuth, who should know, because he was there, Edward and his advisers continued to discuss while he was staying at Langdon whether he should travel overseas. Edward was at Langdon from 24 August to 3 September. [18]

If Edward had been as oblivious to the consequences of his actions as many commentators have assumed and stated as fact, he would have blithely sent his son to France without a second thought, but as is apparent from his frequent changes of mind, he was most emphatically not oblivious; he was torn between the dangers of sending his son to France and going himself. He was also perfectly well aware of the dangers of sending his son unmarried, as proved by his injunctions to the boy both prior to his departure and in subsequent letters not to marry "without the king's consent and command." [19] Edward did not fall into Isabella and Roger Mortimer's cunningly-laid trap, and whether Isabella had ever even been in contact with Mortimer and his allies on the continent, men who had fled England after the battle of Boroughbridge in March 1322, is a matter for speculation. It is a possibility, but there is nothing to prove it.

In the end, it was Hugh Despenser who persuaded Edward not to go, and the Anonimalle says that the favourite "made a great sorrow, and lamented piteously to the king that if he passed beyond sea, he [Despenser] would be put to death in his absence," a story confirmed by Adam Murimuth and the Vita. [20] Edward must surely have remembered what had happened when he left Piers Gaveston at Scarborough Castle on 10 May 1312: his beloved was killed six weeks later.

And therefore, Edward made the decision for which he has unfairly been condemned as a stupid, blind fool ever since, and sent Edward of Windsor to France. He never saw his son again. (At least, not officially; unless the William the Welshman who met Edward III in 1338 was Edward II himself, but that's another story.)

In sending his son to France, Edward made a very bad decision, but that does not mean he made it blindly and unwittingly, and if he had gone to France himself and been assassinated or kidnapped, historians would no doubt ask how he could have been so stupid as to travel abroad himself when he could have sent his son instead. If neither he nor his son had paid homage and let Gascony and Ponthieu fall forfeit to the French Crown, he would of course be castigated for losing such an important part of his inheritance. If he had left Despenser behind, he would be sneered at for not caring if his friend was murdered. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and it seems to me that whatever decision Edward II made in September 1325 would, in retrospect, have been the wrong one.


1) Mark Buck, Politics, Finance and the Church in the Reign of Edward II: Walter Stapeldon, Treasurer of England, p. 156, note 199.
2) Vita Edwardi Secundi, ed. N. Denholm-Young, p. 142.
3) Vita, p. 140.
4) Pierre Chaplais, ed., The War of Saint-Sardos (1323-1325): Gascon Correspondence and Diplomatic Documents, pp. 195-196.
5) Calendar of Papal Letters 1305-1342, p. 466.
6) Foedera, II, i, p. 603.
7) Calendar of Close Rolls 1323-1327, p. 496.
8) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1324-1327, pp. 161-2, 166-8; Cal Close Rolls 1323-1327, p. 503.
9) Natalie Fryde, The Tyranny and Fall of Edward II 1321-1326, p. 96.
10) Foedera, p. 606.
11) Cal Pat Rolls 1324-1327, p. 171.
12) Cal Close Rolls 1323-1327, p. 399.
13) Cal Pat Rolls 1324-1327, p. 171.
14) Cal Pat Rolls 1324-1327, pp. 173-175.
15) Cal Pat Rolls 1324-1327, pp. 167, 169-170.
16) Cal Pat Rolls 1324-1327, pp. 168, 173-175.
17) Chaplais, War of Saint-Sardos, p. 243; Cal Pat Rolls 1324-1327, p. 175; Cal Close Rolls 1323-1327, p. 507.
18) Adae Murimuth Continuatio Chronicarum, ed. E. Maunde Thompson, p. 44.
19) Cal Close Rolls 1323-1327, pp. 577-578.
20) The Anonimalle Chronicle 1307-41, from Brotherton Collection MS 29, ed. W. R. Childs and J. Taylor, p. 120; Murimuth, p. 44; Vita, p. 138.

09 April, 2009

Books, etc

Congratulations to Susan Higginbotham, whose excellent novel The Traitor's Wife, about Edward II's niece Eleanor (de Clare) Despenser, was published recently and has been garnering terrific reviews online. I'm delighted on Susan's behalf, as she's become a good friend since we met via the blog some years ago, and also because - yes, I admit it - it means people are reading a far more positive portrayal of Edward II than is usually seen, though Susan certainly doesn't skate over his many faults.

Paul Doherty's third Mathilde of Westminster murder mystery, The Darkening Glass, came out on 2 April, though I haven't bought it yet. It's set in March 1312, and features Edward and Piers Gaveston forced to flee to Tynemouth Priory to escape the earl of Lancaster - and one of their party being murdered.

The twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh instalments of Michael Jecks' popular Templar series are coming out on 11 June: The King of Thieves in paperback, and No Law in the Land in hardback and trade paperback. They're set near the end of Edward II's reign, as everything starts to go pear-shaped for the king when Queen Isabella refuses to return to England and keeps their son in France with her.

Ian Mortimer has two books coming out this year, in May and September: The Dying and the Doctors: the Medical Revolution in Seventeenth-Century England, and 1415: Henry V's Year of Glory.

The sheer number of books about the battle of Bannockburn coming out these days is astonishing. Chris Brown's excellent Bannockburn, 1314: A New History is due out in paperback this December - though it's definitely worth splashing out on the hardback - Michael Brown's Bannockburn: The Scottish War and the British Isles, 1307-1323 came out last July, and David Cornell's Bannockburn: The Triumph of Robert the Bruce was published in hardback on 30 March this year. I haven't read the latter two yet, but am hoping to very soon. In case that isn't enough Bannockburn for you, there's also Michael Sadler's Bannockburn: Battle for Liberty and David Simpkin's The English Aristocracy at War: From the Welsh Wars of Edward I to the Battle of Bannockburn, both published last year.

Melissa Mayhue's A Highlander of Her Own came out in late January: a romance novel set in present-day Texas and Scotland in 1304. I'm happy to say that I get a mention in the acknowledgements for helping Melissa with her research.

Blog searches from the last few days:

marriage under eighteen:poeple under the age of eighteen should not be allowed to mary?

was edward ii a selfish ruler

edward ii murder of twin nephews

where can i find the books on Edward II

Renaissance time--a noblewaoman with a reputation for poisoning enemies

the thing why king edward the 2nd is famous for kids

Queen Isabella's age of taking over the thrown

gaveston's affect on edward 2

hugh despenser the younger pic

Edward II murder lurid

edward the 2 death description

Hugh Despenser the Younger, genitals

hugh despenser penis The obsession with Despenser's private parts continues.

emasculated penis

visite roi edward in savoy

despenser patent made in sweden

cool sorcerer names

insulting nicknames for the french

Remember you are mortal Coronation

symbols of queen isabella of her favorite things

queen isabella and her spare time

queen Isabella gets married to Roger

why do you think when a guest makes a request the housemaid has to confirm and note it down

towcester brothel

blogspot nude tall men

When was Quenn Isabele first child born?

05 April, 2009

Andrew Harclay, Earl Of Carlisle

A post about a man who held the earldom of Carlisle for less than a year and suffered a terrible death by hanging, drawing and quartering. Andrew Harclay or Hartley was born in about 1270, son of Michael Harclay, sheriff of Cumberland from 1285 to 1298, and Joan Fitzjohn of Yorkshire. Andrew's name in his own lifetime was usually written as Andreu de Ercla, Harcla, Hercla, Hercelay, Hartcla, Hertcla, Harkla, Harccla, Harklay, Harteclath or Artcla. He had a sister called Sarah and brothers named John and Henry, the latter (died 1317) chancellor of Oxford University. 

 Andrew was appointed sheriff of Cumberland in 1311, a position he held on and off for the next dozen years, and warden of Carlisle Castle in 1313. In the summer of 1315, he led the staunch defence of Carlisle against a Scottish attack, led by Robert Bruce in person, for which Edward II rewarded him with 1000 marks. Edward granted Carlisle a royal charter in 1316; the charter has an initial letter which depicts Andrew throwing a spear at a Scottish soldier. (See Gabriele's post for more information about the defence of Carlisle Castle.) Unfortunately, Andrew was captured by the Scots in late 1315 or early 1316, and begged Edward II to grant him two Scottish prisoners "in aid of his ransom, as he does not see how to deliver himself otherwise." He also asked Edward to hasten his deliverance, "that he may appear to answer the malicious charges made by some persons against him at court" - whatever that was about. Edward eventually paid 2000 marks towards his ransom. [1] 

 Andrew is probably best known for his defeat of the earls of Lancaster and Hereford at Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322: somewhat ironically, he won the battle by using the same tactics Robert Bruce had used to such great effect against Edward II at Bannockburn in 1314. In November 1318, Andrew and his brother John had been pardoned as adherents of Lancaster. [2] Edward II rewarded Andrew by making him earl of Carlisle on 25 March 1322 and girded him with the comital belt himself, promising him 1000 marks of land annually. [3] Andrew took part in Edward's doomed Scottish campaign of autumn 1322, though he was unable to come to Edward's aid when the king was almost captured at Rievaulx Abbey on 14 October. The Brut chronicle calls Andrew a traitor and says that he deliberately abandoned Edward at Rievaulx in exchange for "a great sum of gold and silver" from the Scots, for which reason "the king was towards him full wroth," while the Anonimalle claims that Andrew intended to allow the Scots to destroy the north of England. [4] These accounts are most unlikely to be true; the authors of the Brut and the Anonimalle were extremely pro-Lancastrian and therefore loathed Andrew for defeating their hero Thomas of Lancaster at Boroughbridge. The equally pro-Lancastrian author of the Flores Historiarum also called Andrew a traitor. It might have been this disastrous campaign which finally forced Andrew to conclude that Edward II would never be able to make himself overlord of Scotland, defeat Robert Bruce, or protect the inhabitants of northern England from endless Scottish raids.
Therefore, he took desperate measures and met Bruce at Lochmaben on 3 January 1323, and concluded a treaty with him: that Edward would recognise Bruce as king of Scots and would be granted the marriage of Bruce’s son and heir, that Bruce would pay England 40,000 marks of silver over ten years, and that Scotland would be entirely independent of England. [5] By 6 January, Andrew had already been arrested by Sir Roger Horsele, and Edward rewarded him with the massive sun of fifty marks. Two days later on 8 January, Edward declared that truces with the Scots must not be made without his consent, "as that would be to his dishonour," and ordered Andrew to inform him of the terms of the treaty he had made and to come to him immediately. [6] I think it's highly likely that Andrew's rival Sir Anthony Lucy had prior knowledge of the meeting and informed the king, as Edward gave Lucy’s messenger a pound on 2 January for bringing Lucy's letters to him. [7] For only three days to pass between the Lochmaben meeting and Edward’s response to it, 3 to 6 January, is impossibly fast otherwise. Precisely how Andrew ever thought he could have been reconciled to Edward after making a treaty with Bruce against Edward's wishes is uncertain. 

 Andrew failed to obey Edward’s summons, and the king, "exceedingly put out (and no wonder!)" as the Lanercost chronicle puts it, ordered his arrest on 1 February 1323. [8] Lanercost gives a colourful account of Edward’s sending Anthony Lucy to "take him by craft," whereupon Lucy and a small group of knights and men-at-arms hid their weapons under their clothes to disguise their hostile intent, and arrested Andrew while he was dictating letters in the great hall of Carlisle Castle. The Brut says that Edward sent Lucy to arrest Andrew "and put him to death." [9] Edward sent several men on 27 February to "degrade" Andrew, "a traitor to the king and the realm": his half-brother the earl of Kent; Geoffrey le Scrope, chief justice of the King's Bench; John, Lord Hastings; and three knights, John Pecche, Ralph Basset and John Wisham. This involved tearing the spurs of knighthood from Andrew's boots and removing his belt of earldom, and, according to the Brut, breaking his sword over his head. [10] Edward had already on 12 February ordered the earls of Kent and Atholl and two others "to receive into the king's grace all persons misled or constrained by Andrew de Harcla," and the day after he sent Kent, Scrope and the others to "degrade" Andrew, offered a general pardon for all offences committed in the king's forest to one Ughtred de Geveleston, "in consideration of the good news which he brought to the king of the capture of Andrew de Harcla, a rebel." [11] 

 The outcome of Andrew's 'trial', at which he was not allowed to speak, was never in doubt. Anthony Lucy told him that he was "a traitor unto the lord the king," and said "our lord the king's will is that ye...be brought to nought, and thy state undone, that other knights of lower degree might after beware." Andrew's spurs were removed and his sword broken over his head, then Lucy "let him unclothe of his furred mantle and of his hood, and of his furred coats and his girdle," and told him "Now art thou no knight, but a knave." [12] Andrew was condemned to the full horrors of the traitor’s death by hanging, drawing and quartering, his head to be set on London Bridge and the four quarters of his body publicly displayed in Carlisle, Newcastle, Shrewsbury and York. On 3 March 1323, Andrew died well and bravely at Carlisle: when he heard the sentence, he announced "You have divided my carcass according to your pleasure, and I commend myself to God," and gazed towards the heavens, hands clasped and held aloft, as horses dragged him through the streets of the town he had defended so staunchly for many years. [13] 

Edward gave a mark to Ranulphus, the trumpeter of Anthony Lucy, who brought him a message on 15 March and returned to Lucy with Edward's letters; perhaps Ranulphus brought the news that Andrew was dead, though Edward must surely have already heard about it by then. [14] One account says that Andrew's head was sent to Knaresborough for Edward's inspection. [15] Edward was at Knaresborough Castle from 26 February to 16 March 1323, so the timing fits. Lanercost points out that Andrew was "a single individual, none of whose business it was to transact such affairs," and certainly he had considerably overstepped his authority, but it is easy to sympathise with his growing frustration at Edward II's incompetence. The St Albans chronicler says that Andrew hated Edward's favourite Hugh Despenser, which would hardly be surprising – most people did – and his anger with Despenser may have contributed in some way to his decision to treat with Bruce, while his promotion to an earldom angered his rival Anthony Lucy, who grabbed his chance to bring about Andrew’s downfall and who was granted some of the late earl’s lands. [16] 

Andrew, to some extent, only had himself to blame for Lucy's hostility: he had in 1322, high-handedly and almost certainly spuriously, accused Lucy of adherence to Thomas of Lancaster, and seized his lands. [17] Edward II, with his usual vindictiveness towards family members of people who angered him, ordered the treasurer and barons of the exchequer to remove Andrew’s cousin Patrick Corewen or Culwenne from his position as sheriff of Westmorland in September 1323, and appoint instead "a successor of undoubted loyalty." [18] On the other hand, he didn't punish anyone except Andrew for the Scots treaty, and readily pardoned Andrew's supporters and adherents. Andrew had certainly committed treason, though he did not do so for his own benefit but to spare the inhabitants of northern England the endless suffering inflicted on them by Scottish raids. Although Edward had no choice but to punish Andrew, he thus destroyed a man who had always been loyal to him and who was one of the very few men of his reign to enjoy military success. Less than three months after Andrew's death, Edward signed a thirteen-year peace treaty with Scotland, though still refused to acknowledge Robert Bruce as king. Andrew's sister Sarah Leyburn finally received permission in August 1328 to "gather the bones of Andrew and commit them to ecclestiastical sepulchre where she may wish." [19] 

Andrew left no children, and his nephew and heir Henry Harclay petitioned, probably around the same time, to be restored to the Harclay inheritance on the grounds that Andrew "was never regularly convicted of treason." Henry said that Edward III should annul the proceedings "in deliverance of his royal father's soul from peril," but his petition was unsuccessful. [20] It is sometimes said, for example on Andrew's Wikipedia page, that his brother John - father of Henry - was executed with him in March 1323, but John had in fact died in November 1322, of natural causes. [21] (Wikipedia also says, incorrectly, that Andrew left a son, John.)* The earldom of Carlisle was dormant for almost exactly 300 years, until James VI and I revived it in 1622 for James Hay. * Actually, it doesn't, as I've just corrected the page. 

Sources 1
) Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland 1307-1357, pp. 98, 132. 
2) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1317-1321, pp. 228-229. 
3) Cal Pat Rolls 1321-1324, p. 93. 
4) The Brut, ed. F. W. D. Brie, p. 227; The Anonimalle Chronicle 1307-41, from Brotherton Collection MS 29, ed. W. R. Childs and J. Taylor, p. 112. 
5) Foedera, II i, p. 502; Cal Docs Scotland, p. 148. 
6) J. C. Davies, 'The First Journal of Edward II's Chamber', English Historical Review, 30 (1915), p. 678; Calendar of Close Rolls 1318-1323, p. 692; Cal Pat Rolls 1321-1324, p. 234. 
7) J. C. Davies, 'The First Journal of Edward II's Chamber', English Historical Review, 30 (1915), p. 678. 
8) The Chronicle of Lanercost 1272-1346, ed. H. Maxwell, p. 242; Foedera, p. 504. 
9) Lanercost, pp. 243-244; Brut, p. 227. 
10) Cal Pat Rolls 1321-1324, p. 260; Foedera, p. 509; Brut, pp. 227-228; Lanercost, p. 245. 
11) Cal Pat Rolls 1321-1324, pp. 240-241, 265. 
12) Brut, pp. 227-228. 
13) Lanercost, p. 245. Accounts of Andrew's execution also appear in Bridlington, Flores Historiarum, Annales Paulini, Trokelowe etc. 
14) Richard Rastall, ‘Secular Musicians in Late Medieval England’ (PhD thesis, University of Manchester, 1968) vol 2, p. 70. 
15) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 'Andrew Harclay'. 
16) Lanercost, p. 242; Johannis de Trokelowe et Henrici de Blaneforde Chronica et Annales, ed. H. T. Riley, p. 127; Foedera, p. 527. 
17) ODNB. 
18) Cal Docs Scotland, p. 152. 
19) Cal Close Rolls 1327-1330, p. 404. 
20) Cal Docs Scotland, p. 170. 
21) Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous 1308-1348, p. 265; Calendar of Fine Rolls 1319-1327, p. 187.