20 May, 2009

Edward II And The Never-Ending Story Of Thomas De Banbury

This will be my last post until 3 June or thereabouts, as I'm off on my holidays - home to the Lake District, where it's currently about 12 degrees C, the low 50s F. Yippee for 'summer' weather in the north of England.

It was extremely common for Edward I, Edward II and Edward III to send former members of their household to a religious house 'to receive sustenance for life' when the men had reached the end of their working life, and there are literally hundreds of entries relating to this on the Close Roll of Edward II's reign. Normally this presented few problems, but in 1310/11, Edward had some difficulties placing Sir Thomas de Banbury, a household knight who had long served himself and his father.

It began on 9 June 1310, when Edward asked the Benedictine house of Holy Trinity, Canterbury, to take in Banbury so that he might "receive maintenance for his lifetime according to the requirements of his estate, and a chamber, etc." Either Edward forgot that he'd already requested a place for Banbury at Holy Trinity or they refused to admit him, as two months later he wrote to the Benedictine abbey of Burton-on-Trent to request (or demand!) that Banbury might "receive the necessaries of life in food, drink, robes, etc, according to his estate." The abbot wrote to Edward claiming that although he would willingly fulfil the king's request, his house could not afford to admit Banbury as "theirs is the poorest and smallest abbey of their order in England." Edward, unimpressed, sent someone to investigate their accounts, and responded in early October 1310: "which excuse the king learns from trustworthy evidence deviates in many ways from the truth, and he learns that they have means to fulfil his request, wherefore he regards their excuse as wholly insufficient."

The abbot continued to plead poverty and refused to admit Thomas de Banbury. Edward continued to press for his admittance, and ordered the abbot on 3 March 1311 to take in Banbury "without delay, and to administer to him the necessaries of life, according to the king's former orders." By now Edward was furious, and added "the king considers their excuses for not obeying his former orders are frivolous, untruthful, and unacceptable." Not cowed by the king's rage, the abbot still refused, and on 9 June 1311, Edward seized his temporalities to "punish the abbot for his disobediences and contempts." He wrote "they have despised and disobeyed the king's commands and done nothing, to the great contempt of the king and prejudice to the right of his crown and damage of Thomas [de Banbury], and the king will not and should not let this disobedience go unpunished for the prejudice to his royal right in the future if he cannot assign maintenance to people who have long served him."

This was still to no avail, however, and by 20 August 1311, Edward had given up. He sent Thomas de Banbury to the bailiff of the abbot of Fécamp (a Benedictine house in Normandy) in England, to "receive the necessaries of life in food and clothing for himself and a yeoman, two grooms, and two horses within some manor of that house." Even this proved unsucessful: "the bailiff has replied that he cannot do so as he is simply a bailiff." By now gnashing his teeth, most probably, Edward wrote directly to the abbot of Fécamp on 5 October, asking him to admit Banbury into one of his English manors with food and clothing for himself, three servants, two horses and his own chamber. A full sixteen months after Edward's first efforts to find a home for Thomas de Banbury, he finally succeeded, and nothing more is heard of the knight. I hope Banbury spent a peaceful retirement after all that palaver.

Edward also had problems placing his former servant Robert le Usher: in June 1315, he sent him to the abbey of Glastonbury "to receive the same allowance in food and clothing, etc, as Kentus le Charetter*, deceased, had in their house by the king's request." (* Great name!) He informed the chancellor on 20 September 1315 that he had asked the abbot and convent "many times" to admit Usher, but they "have done nothing and have not excused themselves sufficiently." Edward ordered the abbot to appear in person before him "wherever he may be" to explain himself. The abbot failed to arrive at the appointed time, though I assume he eventually cleared it all with Edward and admitted Usher, as I can't find any more references to the situation. As for the abbey of Burton-on-Trent, they later admitted other people at Edward's request - including Alice, mother of Robert Duffield, prior of Edward's foundation of Langley Priory and his confessor - without any complaint that I've found. Probably not surprising.

I find this interesting as an illustration of the kind of living standards a retired knight could expect, and I love that bit "deviates in many ways from the truth." Such a stylish way of telling someone that he was lying. Edward was considerably more understanding in May 1317, when he tried to send his servant Robert de Crouland to Tupholme Abbey and the abbot informed him that the house's small income was "already heavily burdened with the charge of finding a chaplain to say mass for the soul of Sir Piers de Gaveston, formerly earl of Cornwall." Edward, without comment, sent Crouland to Reading Abbey instead. But then, invoking Piers Gaveston's name never did anyone any harm when trying to get a favour from Edward II.

See you in June!

Sources: Calendar of Close Rolls 1307-1313 and 1313-1318; Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326; The National Archives.

18 May, 2009

The Siege of Berwick and the Chapter of Myton

Berwick-upon-Tweed is a port in the north-east of England which changed hands between England and Scotland over a dozen times in the Middle Ages. (It's been on the English side of the border since 1482, when the future Richard III captured it.) Edward I took the town in 1296, sacked it and massacred the inhabitants, the Scots re-took it after Edward's defeat at Stirling Bridge, then lost it to the king again in 1298.

In Edward II's reign, Robert Bruce attempted to take the town from the English three times, in March/April 1312, January 1316 and August 1317. He finally succeeded on 2 April 1318 thanks to, according to the Scalacronica and Lanercost chronicles, the treachery of an English inhabitant of the town called Peter Spalding, who was responsible for a section of the town wall and whom the Scots "bribed by a great sum of money…and the promise of land." The castle held out until around 20 July. Edward II, unwilling as always to accept his own culpability in failing to keep the north of England safe from Scottish incursions, declared himself "much enraged" and "justly incensed" at the "carelessness" of the burgesses of Berwick and seized their goods and chattels. In late May 1319, Edward relented somewhat and pardoned one Walter de Gosewyk "of the anger and rancour of mind which the king had conceived against him" because Berwick had fallen to the Scots, freed his son from prison and restored Gosewyk to his favour at the request of Hugh Despenser the Younger, though he added ominously that this pardon was conditional: "unless he can be lawfully charged with sedition or assent to the betrayal of the town."

It was vital for Edward's future military campaigns in Scotland to retake Berwick, and on 10 June 1318, he summoned his cousin the earl of Lancaster and many others to muster against the Scots. As so often happened with Edward II's Scottish campaigns, however, it failed to take place, Edward being far too busy feuding with Lancaster and allowing his kingdom to teeter on the brink of civil war. The campaign was postponed until 1319, giving Bruce ample time to strengthen the town fortifications and make it much harder for Edward to retake. Having come to terms with Lancaster, in November 1318 Edward once again summoned men to muster on 10 June 1319, but on 22 May, inevitably, he postponed it until 22 July. Such enthusiasm.

On 20 July 1319 at York, Edward asked both the archbishops and all the bishops of England to pray for him on his way to Scotland. Then he spent the rest of July and the whole of August in and around Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and didn't arrive at Berwick until 7 September - perhaps because it took longer than Edward had expected for his army to assemble. Despite the summons to muster the previous November, the Vita Edwardi Secundi implies that Edward only decided to attack Berwick on the spur of moment: on his way to Scotland, he "first came to Berwick with his whole army, and decided on advice that this should be the first place to be besieged, because it had renounced his authority." Edward II's utter brilliance as a military commander [/sarcasm] is apparent from his failure to bring along siege-engines and diggers, which had to be called up after the siege had begun. (Though to be fair, it doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone else either that siege-engines and diggers might prove useful in a siege.) Edward wrote to Chancery on 9 September to say that he had arrived at Berwick "and is lodged here until he has conquered it by the aid of God, and he has great need of diggers," and asked for "100 of the best" to be summoned and for "all the king's engines in the castle of York" to be loaded onto ships and brought to him as quickly as possible.

The importance of retaking Berwick was such that even the earl of Lancaster co-operated with Edward for once, and wrote to the king: "On that day we shall be there, with God's help, if we are alive and you are there. And, sire, if going there requires greater haste, then move there, sire, when you please and we will follow you in honour of you and for the salvation of your land and your person and of your people. And, for God's sake, sire, make haste to do it." The earls of Pembroke, Surrey, Hereford, Atholl and Angus also accompanied Edward to Berwick, as did the king's nineteen-year-old half-brother the earl of Norfolk, whom Edward had knighted on 15 July. The earls of Arundel and Richmond did not attend in person, but sent 260 men and 35 men respectively. Edward's court favourites Roger Damory and Hugh Audley, and his chamberlain and rising favourite Hugh Despenser the Younger, took along 82, 74 and 98 men respectively. Edward's force totalled around 14,000, including 2400 footmen from Wales, and the king paid just under £3050 in wages from 1 August to 24 September.

Predictably, given Edward's slap-dash approach and obvious lack of enthusiasm, the siege was unsuccessful. On 8 or 9 September, and again on the 13th, he ordered a simultaneous attack by land and sea, and although his force "almost scaled the wall in the first assault delivered with great fury…the inhabitants regained their courage and defended themselves with spirit," says Lanercost. The attack on 13 September took place at dawn, and the 'sow' which the English were using as cover for the miners trying to breach the town walls was smashed and burnt. Berwick's defenders stoned Edward's ships, and his troops were repulsed and forced to withdraw. Edward kept himself amused during the siege, and paid his minstrel Robert Withstaff and two musicians sent to him by his brother-in-law Philippe V of France for playing before him, ordered hunting dogs sent from Wales, and had two of his falcons brought from London. The falcons were named Damory after his friend Roger Damory, and Beaumont after his French cousin Henry Beaumont.

As a decoying tactic, Robert Bruce's allies James Douglas and Thomas Randolph, earl of Moray, led an army into England and reached as far south as Boroughbridge, near York; Edward had heard by 3 September, four days before he even arrived at Berwick, that the Scots had entered Yorkshire "and are lying in wait for the city and castle" of York. Douglas came close to capturing Queen Isabella, who was staying at a small manor belonging to the archbishop of York, either Brotherton or Bishopthorpe. Fortunately, one of the Scottish scouts was captured and revealed the plans, and Isabella hastened to York, from where she escaped by water to the safety of Nottingham. A horrified and mortified Edward later gave her jewels and other gifts in consolation. The Vita points out that "if the queen had at that time been captured, I believe that Scotland would have bought peace for herself," and repeats a rumour, almost certainly a false one, that the earl of Lancaster had plotted with the Scots to capture his niece in exchange for £40,000. Perhaps to divert attention from himself, Lancaster in turn accused Hugh Despenser the Younger.

Despenser, an enthusiastic letter-writer, told the sheriff of Glamorgan "before he [Edward] had been there [Berwick] eight days news came to him that the Scots had entered his land of England with the prompting and assistance of the earl of Lancaster. The earl acted in such a way that the king took himself off with all his army, to the great shame and damage of us all. Wherefore we very much doubt if matters will end so happily for our side as is necessary." According to the Vita, Lancaster "blamed Hugh [Despenser] for the disgrace which had attached to his name at Berwick, and this he wished to avenge as occasion offered." An anonymous chronicle says that Despenser blamed Lancaster to divert attention from his own intriguing with the Scots to capture the queen. None of this proves anything much except that rumours and accusations were swirling around, though the fact remained that someone must have revealed the queen's whereabouts to the Scots. The real culprit, according to Annales Paulini and Flores Historiarum, was a knight called Edmund Darel.

On 12 September 1319, Douglas and Moray's force defeated an English army hastily cobbled together by William Melton, archbishop of York, near the village of Myton-on-Swale. So many clerics died – Lanercost says 4000, with another 1000 who drowned in the Swale – that the battle became known as the Chapter of Myton. The abbot of St Mary’s in York later founded a chapel in the village, "in honour of the Transubstantiation and the flesh and blood of Our Lord," to pray for the souls of the men who died. News of this latest military disaster reached Berwick on 14 September, and the earl of Lancaster left the port two days later, though whether to protect his lands, to cut off the Scots’ retreat or out of disgust with Edward is not clear.

Although relations between the two most powerful men in the country, the king and the earl of Lancaster, had been, prior to the siege, outwardly amicable, Edward proved what was really on his mind by ominously announcing "When this wretched business is over, we will turn our hands to other matters. For I have not forgotten the wrong that was done to my brother Piers." This threat to avenge Piers Gaveston's death was clearly aimed at Lancaster, and may have been a reason for his departure from Berwick - although Lancaster's biographer J. R. Maddicott says that the threat was made about a week before the earl's departure. The Bridlington chronicler claims that some people (unnamed) deliberately fostered dissent and conflict between Edward and Lancaster, falsely reporting Edward’s words to the earl and vice versa.

According to Lanercost, Edward summoned his council and told them that "he wished to send part of his forces to attack the Scots still remaining in England, and to maintain the siege with the rest of his people; but by advice of his nobles, who objected either to divide their forces or to fight the Scots, he raised the siege and marched his army into England, expecting to encounter the Scots." Edward himself told Chancery that "the king cannot depart from the siege without great dishonour," but he had little choice. The St Albans chronicler says that the king lay in wait for the Scottish force at Newminster, a Cistercian abbey near Morpeth in Northumberland, and Edward’s itinerary does indeed place him at Newminster on 19 September - he told the archbishop of York and the chancellor on the 18th that "the king is coming with his host against his enemies who have entered the land" - but they eluded him by returning to their homeland by the western route.

By this time, it is clear that Hugh Despenser had become close to Edward; the king promised to make his chamberlain keeper of the castle once Berwick fell, and also promised to make Roger Damory constable of the town – thus presumptuously handing out favours he hadn’t yet won. The author of the Flores, who loathed Edward, calls his friends – presumably referring to Roger Damory and Despenser – "despicable parasites." Edward and said despicable parasites were back in Newcastle on 20 September, then stayed in and around York until late January 1320.

And thus Edward II failed to retake Berwick-upon-Tweed and never again bothered to try to re-capture it, and signed a two-year peace treaty with Robert Bruce on 21 December 1319. The town remained in Scottish hands until July 1333, when Edward's twenty-year-old son Edward III - who had more military ability in his little fingernail than Edward had in his whole body - annihilated the Scottish nobility at the battle of Halidon Hill and captured Berwick. As for the earl of Lancaster, Edward II did avenge Piers Gaveston's death on him two and a half years after the unsuccessful siege. Edward's next, and last, Scottish campaign in September 1322 proved to be a disaster. But then, you'd probably already guessed that.

EDIT: This post hadn't even been up two hours when someone ran it through an online translator and re-posted it, with such gems as "brought to him as lickety-split as empathy," "In up to date charter brainy May 1319," "but they eluded him at close-fisted returning to their homeland at close-fisted the western itinerary," "By this age, it is clearly that Hugh Despenser had develop bashful to Edward; the ruler promised to frame his chamberlain attendant of the awesome in two shakes of a lamb’s tailpiece b together Berwick cut, and also promised to frame Roger Damory flatfoot of the municipality," and Edward III "had more military joking in his uncomfortable fingernail than Edward had in his unharmed association." Edward pardoned Gosewyk "of the paddywack and hatred of undecided which..." Brilliant.


Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland 1307-1357; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1317-1321; Calendar of Close Rolls 1318-1323; Foedera, II, i; Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326.

Vita Edwardi Secundi, ed. N. Denholm-Young; The Chronicle of Lanercost 1272-1346, ed. Herbert Maxwell; Scalacronica: The Reigns of Edward I, Edward II and Edward III as Recorded by Sir Thomas Gray of Heton, knight, ed. Herbert Maxwell; Flores Historiarum, vol iii, ed. H. R. Luard; Johannis de Trokelowe et Henrici de Blaneforde Chronica et Annales, ed. H. T. Riley; Gesta Edwardi de Carnarvon Auctore Canonico Bridlingtoniensi, ed. W. Stubbs; Annales Paulini 1307-1340, ed. W. Stubbs; The Brut or the Chronicles of England, ed. F. W. D. Brie; Le Livere de Reis de Britanie e le Livere de Reis de Engletere, ed. John Glover; Thomas Walsingham, Historia Anglicana, vol. i, ed. H. T. Riley; G. L. Haskins, 'A Chronicle of the Civil Wars of Edward II', Speculum, 1939.

George Osborne Sayles, The Functions of the Medieval Parliament of England; J. R. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster 1307-1322: A Study in the Reign of Edward II; J. R. S. Phillips, Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke 1307-1324: Baronial Politics in the Reign of Edward II; G. W. S. Barrow, Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland; Ian Mortimer, The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III; Mary Saaler, Edward II 1307-1327; Paul Doherty, Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II.

14 May, 2009

Misconceptions about Hugh Despenser the Younger

I've seen plenty of books published recently which still perpetuate myths about Hugh Despenser the Younger: that Edward II arranged his marriage to his (Edward's!) niece Eleanor de Clare after Despenser became his favourite; that he was nothing more than a humble knight; that he became Edward's favourite shortly after the battle of Bannockburn in 1314, or even before. I've even seen books which follow the same line as R. Perry's Edward the Second: Suddenly, at Berkeley (1988, p. 35) which makes the astonishing claim that Despenser and his father were "not members of a baronial family." Hugh Despenser the Younger was in fact the grandson of the earl and countess of Warwick and of the countess of Norfolk. Bizarre.

Hugh Despenser married Eleanor de Clare on 26 May 1306, eight years before her brother died at Bannockburn and over a year before Edward II acceded to the throne. The marriage was arranged not by Edward II but Edward I, who attended the wedding in his chapel at Westminster and paid thirty-seven pounds for minstrels to perform there, including harpers called Richard de Whiteacre and Richard de Leyland. The king gave his granddaughter almost twenty-nine pounds to buy jewels for her wedding, plus ten pounds to buy robes for her household. (Thanks to Susan Higginbotham for sending me this ref.) [1]

Chronicler Piers or Pierre Langtoft (died c. 1307) writes of the knighting of Edward of Caernarfon and his companions on 22 May 1306:

Three hundred knights of account in truth
Were dubbed at the cost of king Edward.
Several of the most noble were married on that occasion.
The earl of Warenne, with his newly received title,
Espoused the daughter of the count de Barre.
The earl of Arundel, in possession of his fees,
Took there the damsel whose father was named
William de Warenne, who had departed to God.
Sir Hugh son of Hugh, called Despenser,
Took there the maiden of noble kindred,
Whom Gilbert de Clare had begotten
On Joan the countess surnamed of Acres. [2]

Notice how Langtoft calls Despenser "of the most noble" of the nearly 300 new knights. Edward I agreed to pay Despenser the Elder a whopping £2000 for the younger Hugh's marriage, and an entry on the Patent Roll of June 1306 describes the financial arrangements made for Hugh and Eleanor: Despenser the Elder was to give them land worth £200 a year for the rest of his life. (Which in fact he didn't.) [3]

Edward II wrote to his Exchequer clerks regarding the dower of Eleanor's damsel Joan in March 1309, "at the request of the king's niece Eleanor le Despenser." [4] He gave twenty marks on 21 October 1310 to a messenger called John Chaucomb for the news he had brought to the king "respecting the Lady Eleanor le Despenser." [5] Queen Isabella's household book for 1311/12 still survives and has been published, with English translation, and contains at least ten references to "Lady Eleanor le Despenser." [6] An entry on the Close Roll of 20 April 1311 mentions "John de Berkhamstede, who has long served Eleanor le Despensere, the king's niece..." [7] There are numerous other entries which call Eleanor 'le Despenser' long before her husband became the king's favourite. How difficult can it possibly be for writers to check the correct date of Despenser and Eleanor's wedding, or at least notice the many instances when she is called by Despenser's name, instead of assuming that Edward II arranged their marriage in or after 1314? Even Wikipedia gets the date right on both Despenser's and Eleanor's pages, for pity's sake. It doesn't say much for authors' research when published works are sub-Wikipedia standard.

Marriage to the king of England's eldest granddaughter was a brilliant match for Despenser considering he was not set to inherit an earldom, and rather less brilliant for Eleanor, but evidently Edward I thought he was a good enough husband for her. He would hardly have paid £2000 for the marriage of a nobody who was the son of a nobody. Confusion arises, at least among people who don't do enough research, because Edward II did marry his other favourites off to Eleanor's sisters: Piers Gaveston and Hugh Audley to Margaret, Roger Damory to Elizabeth. But there is no doubt whatsoever that he had nothing to do with Despenser's marriage to Eleanor. By the time Despenser became Edward's favourite in or shortly after 1318, he'd been married to Eleanor for a dozen years, and had perhaps half a dozen children, the eldest of whom was born in 1308 or 1309. Their known children were: Hugh, Edward, Gilbert, John, Isabel, Joan, Eleanor, Margaret, Elizabeth and an unnamed boy who died young in 1321, perhaps stilborn.

Although Despenser was not of the highest rank of the nobility, he was a heck of a long way from being merely a humble knight. His mother Isabel Beauchamp was the daughter of the earl of Warwick who died in 1298, and sister of the earl of Warwick who abducted Piers Gaveston in 1312. That Despenser was the nephew of the man who abducted Edward II's first favourite is not nearly as well-known as it should be. The earl of Ulster, Richard de Burgh (c. 1259-1326) was the first cousin of Despenser's mother - their mothers Maud and Aveline FitzJohn or FitzGeoffrey were sisters. Despenser's elder half-sister Maud Chaworth, daughter of Isabel Beauchamp's first marriage to Patrick Chaworth, married Edward I's nephew Henry of Lancaster in 1296 or 1297. Hugh Despenser the Elder's mother Aline Basset (died 1281) was countess of Norfolk by her second marriage, the first wife of Roger Bigod (died 1306) who married secondly Alicia, daughter of the count of Holland and Hainault. Despenser the Elder was thus the son-in-law of the earl of Warwick and the stepson of the earl of Norfolk, not to mention an able and experienced diplomat high in favour with Edward I, and was a very long way from being the nobody some writers insist he was. (See Marc Morris's The Bigod Earls of Norfolk in the Thirteenth Century for the fascinating story of Norfolk trying to dispossess his stepson of Aline Basset's inheritance by pretending that Aline had borne him a child.) Despenser the Elder's step-grandmother Ela - the second wife of Aline Basset's father Philip - was the daughter of Henry II's illegitimate son the earl of Salisbury and countess of Warwick by her first marriage. Despenser the Younger was, through his mother, the great-great-great-grandson of the famous William Marshal, earl of Pembroke, and the great-great-grandson of Geoffrey FitzPeter, earl of Essex and of Hugh Bigod, earl of Norfolk. Yes, these are the men who were "not members of a baronial family."

Hugh Despenser the Younger was first summoned to parliament on 29 July 1314, "whereby he is held to have become Lord le Despenser." [8] He was appointed Edward II's chamberlain in the summer of 1318 "at the request and counsel of the magnates," and thus was not chosen by Edward himself, and continued in the position until his execution in November 1326, except for his few months in exile in 1321/22. [9] The later chronicler Geoffrey le Baker says that Edward was indignant at Despenser's appointment as chamberlain, as he disliked him. Whether that's true or not is hard to say, but it is certainly true is that Edward did precious little for Despenser before 1317/18.

Edward refused to hand over Despenser and his wife's share of her brother the earl of Gloucester's inheritance until November 1317, nearly three and a half years after Gloucester's death, even though Despenser went before parliament and Edward's council about half a dozen times in 1316 and 1317 to point out that Gloucester's widow could not possibly be pregnant by him and could he and his wife please, please have their rightful inheritance? From 1320, Edward II fell over himself to give Hugh Despenser anything he wanted, and his actions here demonstrate conclusively that Despenser was not yet in his favour. As late as March 1318, Edward took the county of Gwynllwg into his own hands after Despenser had persuaded its tenants to pay homage and fealty to himself instead of to Hugh Audley, the rightful owner, and ordered Despenser to withdraw from the county and the tenants to pay homage to Audley instead. [10] Hardly the actions of a man in the grip of an infatuation with Hugh Despenser.

Although Despenser's wife was Edward's favourite niece and Despenser's father one of the king's most loyal supporters and friends, Despenser himself wielded minimal influence at court and over the king until he took possession of his wife's share of the de Clare inheritance, and the favours he was granted were pretty trivial ones. For example, in 1313 and 1315 Despenser asked for favours on behalf of a chapel near Winchester and for permission for his brother-in-law John St Amand to re-grant two of his manors. [11] Grateful though the chapel and St Amand most probably were, this is a very far cry from Despenser's later supremacy at court. Edward granted Despenser the forfeited lands of two Scotsmen in June 1314 (which he never received thanks to Edward's failures in Scotland) and two wardships in October 1313 and April 1317, and gave him permission in September 1312 to hunt foxes, hares, cats and badgers but not the king's deer. [12] And that's about it. Before 1316 Despenser did not witness a single charter of Edward's. This stands in stark contrast to his father, who witnessed more than half of all Edward's charters between 1307 and 1314, including 98.5% of them in 1312/13 and 88.5% in 1313/14. Despenser the Younger witnessed just 5.7% of Edward's charters in 1317/18, 35.5% in 1318/19, 68.6% in 1319/20, and just under 80% in 1320/21. There's his rise to Edward's favour, right there. His position as chamberlain evidently had little to do with this, as the king's previous chamberlain John Charlton witnessed only a little over 3% of Edward's charters between 1314 and 1316, and none at all in other years. [13] Despenser's first big grant from Edward came in November 1317, when he received lands in South Wales "in satisfaction of 600 marks due to him for staying with the king." [14]

After Piers Gaveston's death in June 1312, Edward II had no male favourite for quite some time, three and a half years in fact, until numerous grants of land, money and favours from late 1315 onwards demonstrate the rise of the Oxfordshire knight Roger Damory in his affections. Damory really was little more than a humble knight, a younger son with few prospects. Hugh Audley and William Montacute were also prominent at court from 1316 to 1318. Writers who think that Despenser became Edward's favourite in about 1314 thus miss Damory, Audley and Montacute completely. The first real indication that Hugh Despenser, who as royal chamberlain spent a considerable amount of time in Edward's company, was growing close to the king comes during the siege of Berwick-on-Tweed in September 1319: the king promised to make Despenser keeper of the castle once Berwick fell. On the other hand, he also promised to make Roger Damory constable of the town, so Damory was evidently still high in Edward's favour. It was as late as 26 October 1320 when Edward finally demonstrated that he was prepared to do anything for Despenser, no matter how politically suicidal and unpopular, when he took the peninsula of Gower into his own hands, almost certainly with the intention of granting it to his favourite. [15] The king thus kicked off the Despenser War and the (temporary) exile of both Hugh Despensers.

That's much later than a lot of writers seem to think. I've also seen it written that Edward heaped Despenser with titles, which he didn't: Despenser was lord of Glamorgan by right of his wife, and never received any other titles. It was only after Edward's 1322 defeat of the magnates who had exiled Despenser that he bestowed numerous forfeited lands on his favourite, again much later than lots of people seem to think. It's fascinating to contemplate precisely when, why and how Edward became so infatuated with a man he'd known for most of his life and had evidently never much liked or trusted before, to what extent Despenser's machinations were responsible for this, and what the nature of their relationship was. But whatever else Hugh Despenser the Younger was - pirate, extortionist, tyrant, one of the most hated men of the Middle Ages - he certainly wasn't a humble knight who only married into the royal family because of Edward II's infatuation with him.


1) Minstrels and jewels: National Archives E 101/369/11.
2) Chronicle of Pierre de Langtoft, ed. Thomas Wright, vol. 2, pp. 368-369.
[Sir Huge le fiz Hug, Despenser appellez,
I prist la pucelle de gentil parentz,
Quele Gilbert de Clare avoit engendrez
Sur Jone la countesse de Acres surnomez
3) Calendar of Close Rolls 1307-1313, p. 5; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1301-1307, p. 443.
4) Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, p. 283.
5) Frederick Devon, Issues of the Exchequer, p. 124.
6) The Household book of Queen Isabella of England, for the fifth regnal year of Edward II, 8th July 1311 to 7th July 1312, ed. F. D. Blackley and Gustav Hermansen.
7) Close Rolls 1307-1313, p. 351.
8) Complete Peerage.
9) Parliament Rolls of Medieval England.
10) Close Rolls 1313-1318, pp. 531-532.
11) Patent Rolls 1307-1313, pp. 528, 561, 571; Ibid. 1313-1317, p. 265.
12) Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland 1307-1357, p. 69; Patent Rolls 1307-1313, p. 492; Patent Rolls 1313-1317, pp. 20, 640; Fine Rolls 1307-1319, pp. 181, 203, 223, 242, 278.
13) J. S. Hamilton, 'Charter Witness Lists for the Reign of Edward II', Fourteenth-Century England 1, ed. Nigel Saul, pp. 5, 11, 14.
14) Patent Rolls 1317-1321, p. 56.
15) Close Rolls 1318-1323, p. 268.

09 May, 2009


First news: I've decided to set up another website about Edward II, because I'm sick to death of all the inaccurate, uninformed and downright invented crap spewed out about him in books and online, such as the recent book which says that Isabella was besieged in the Tower of London by the earl of Pembroke in 1321, and the recent blog post which confidently asserts that Edward confined Isabella to the Tower in 1324/25 - I mean, where do people get this stuff? I want to flood the internet with correct information about Edward II, and I am a Woman On A Mission. (And possibly deranged, given how much time I spend obsessing about people who lived 700 years ago, but hey, at least I'm passionate.)

Second, great news: a Bristol film company is making a film about Edward II escaping from Berkeley Castle! It's called Uncertain Proof and features Manuele Fieschi, an Italian priest who wrote to Edward III in about 1336/37 to tell him that his father had escaped from Berkeley, went to Corfe Castle and then Ireland, visited the Pope in Avignon and ended up in Italy. (The letter is historical, not the scriptwriter's invention - you can see it here.)

The film tells the story of Fieschi, who finds clues which suggest Edward was not murdered at Berkeley, and becomes obsessed with tracking down the former king in the mountains of Italy. Events of Edward's life, his love for his favourites, Hugh Despenser's execution and so on, appear in flashback. Wonderful news! There's a short article about the film here, and lots more information here (PDF file; scroll down to page 18).

Recent blog searches:

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EDWARD THE GREAT BLOGSPOT Let it be known that anyone who wants to call Edward II 'Edward the Great' is OK by me.

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Edward II Hampshire contact details If anyone knows how to contact Edward II in Hampshire, or indeed anywhere else, let me know immediately.

05 May, 2009

John Daniel and Robert de Micheldever

John Daniel and Robert de Micheldever were executed with the earl of Arundel in Hereford on 17 November 1326, without a trial, a few weeks after Roger Mortimer and Queen Isabella's invasion force landed in England. The chronicler Adam Murimuth says Arundel, Daniel and Micheldever were beheaded "at the direction of Lord Roger Mortimer, who hated them with a perfect hatred, and whose counsel the queen followed in all things." [1] Murimuth gives Micheldever's first name as Thomas, which baffled me, because I couldn't find a single piece of evidence to prove that a Thomas de Micheldever even existed in the 1320s, though I did find plenty of references to a Robert de Micheldever and wondered if Murimuth had made a mistake. When I checked the printed edition of Murimuth, I found that different manuscripts of the chronicle give Micheldever's name either as Thomas or Robert. Chronicler Geoffrey le Baker used Murimuth as a source in the 1350s, and evidently saw a manuscript which calls Micheldever 'Thomas' and used this name. [2] Murimuth's modern editor also calls Micheldever 'Thomas'.

Micheldever's name was in fact Robert, as proved by a petition presented to parliament in about 1327 by "Alice, who was the wife of Roberd de Mucheldevere...who was beheaded at Hereford without judgement and without being arraigned." I'm sure Alice knew her husband's correct name. The fact that a 'Thomas de Micheldever' did not even exist in 1326 hasn't prevented everyone who's ever written about the executions, including myself here on the blog, calling Micheldever 'Thomas' without checking his identity. Oops.

The earl of Arundel himself, aka Edmund Fitzalan, was a supporter of Edward II and remained loyal to the king after Mortimer and Isabella's invasion. He was captured in Shropshire by John Charlton, Edward's chamberlain until 1318, whose son was married to one of Mortimer's daughters, and taken to the queen and Mortimer at Hereford. Charlton and Arundel were on opposite sides of a long-running and bitter feud over an inheritance in Powys, and Arundel and his kinsman Roger Mortimer - they were first cousins once removed - also loathed each other for reasons I don't have space to go into here. Geoffrey le Baker in the 1350s called Daniel and Micheldever Arundel's clerks, which they weren't, and Alison Weir in her biography of Isabella calls them the earl's "henchmen," which they weren't either. As these two men never, ever, ever get more than a passing mention anywhere, and Micheldever has to suffer the indignity of being called by the wrong first name, I thought it was high time someone researched them to try to discover why Mortimer hated them enough to have them beheaded without trial. Here's what I've been able to find out about them.

John Daniel

John Daniel was a younger son of John Daniel the Elder, lord of the manor of Tideswell in the wapentake of High Peak, Derbyshire, and Cecily le Seculer of Herefordshire, who was born in about 1252 and was the heir of her brother Nicholas. John Daniel the Elder died shortly before 14 April 1286, leaving as his heir his eldest son Richard, who was born in Wexford, Ireland, on 25 April 1274 - so was ten years to the day older than Edward II - and who died shortly before 15 December 1321. John Daniel was probably born in the mid to late 1270s. He had another brother, called Nicholas; John and Nicholas lent Richard £200 in May 1307, a very large sum. Richard Daniel was one of the men knighted with the future Edward II, Roger Mortimer, Piers Gaveston, Hugh Despenser and the rest in May 1306, though I don't know if John Daniel himself was ever knighted. [3] The name was often spelt Danyel or Daynel.

Richard Daniel granted his brother John lands in Herefordshire, to wit, "a moiety of a virgate of land and a plot of meadow in Wynstanton, [held] of the king by service of 9d for all service, and 35s of yearly rent in Hamfraieston by service of 5s rendered to the king yearly at the hundred of Wormeslowe," and he also held "diverse other lands of other lords by various services." [4] In August 1310, Daniel acknowledged a debt of £7 12s to Richard and Cecilia de Bere, and the following month was pardoned for the death of one Margery le Wolfhunte of Wormhill, Derbyshire, at the request of John de Warenne, earl of Surrey. Daniel's brother Richard, Richard's wife Joan de Knyveton, and Joan's sister Katherine had previously been indicted of the death. [5] In about 1316, Daniel presented a petition to Edward II's council, stating "that he brought the King's protection before William de Berford and his companions at the octaves of Trinity in the King's eighth year, and the suit between him and John de Hothum and Agnes his wife remained without a day until lately, at Pentecost in the King's ninth year, when John and Agnes made a false claim in Chancery that he was not in the King's service." [6]

By April 1319, John Daniel had been appointed keeper of 200 acres of wasteland in the forest of High Peak. [7] He was twice appointed as a commissioner of array, in Herefordshire in August 1316 and Worcestershire in March 1322, to raise footmen to go against the Scots. [8] On 15 February 1322, Edward II appointed Daniel to make inquisition in Herefordshire into the goods, chattels, jewels, armour, vessels of silver and other goods belonging to four of the king's baronial enemies, including Roger Mortimer's uncle Roger Mortimer of Chirk. One of the men appointed on the inquisition with Daniel was none other than Stephen Dunheved. [9]

John Daniel did have other connections to Roger Mortimer. On 6 March 1326, Edward ordered him, with the Despenser adherent John Inge, to inquire in Herefordshire "touching adherents of Roger de Mortuo Mari [Mortimer] and of other rebels who are in parts beyond the seas." [10] Daniel was also appointed the keeper of Mortimer's Herefordshire manor of Pembridge, and in late 1325/early 1326 Edward II wrote to Mortimer's mother Margaret ordering her to go to the convent of Elstow in Bedfordshire, and appointed Daniel steward of the castle and lands of her manor of Radnor. Edward obviously changed his mind about sending Margaret to a convent, however, as in March 1326 he told her to repair the houses within Radnor Castle, and in April wrote that Margaret would keep the income from her lands and that she should pay Daniel his fee out of the issues. [11] Daniel was ordered on 12 October 1326, with a few others including Thomas de la Haye of the Dunheved gang, John Inge, Robert de Micheldever and Malcolm Musard, to select men-at-arms and archers and lead them to the king - one of Edward II's last, desperate and unsuccessful attempts to repel the invasion. [12] Daniel was apparently still with the king on 14 October, at Chepstow, when he acknowledged a debt of eighteen shillings and four pence to Robert Baldock, captured with the king and Hugh Despenser a month later. [13]

That's the last mention I can find of John Daniel before his execution, or rather, his murder seeing as he had no trial, in Hereford on 17 November. [14] The escheator in Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and the Welsh Marches was ordered on Christmas Day 1326 to "take into the king's hand the lands late of John Daynel, deceased, tenant in chief." [15] I can't find anything to suggest that Daniel was associated with the earl of Arundel, and how he came to be with Arundel in Shropshire to be captured by John Charlton, I don't know. He was pardoned for murder in 1310 at the request of the earl of Surrey, who was Arundel's brother-in-law, though this seems a pretty tenuous connection. Daniel was keeper of two Mortimer manors and on two inquisitions involving Mortimer and his uncle, and presumably he acted in some way, or Mortimer thought he had acted in some way, to arouse Mortimer's hostility.

Robert de Micheldever

Micheldever is a village in Hampshire between Winchester and Basingstoke, and stood on the main London-Winchester road in the Middle Ages. I'm sure it will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the vagaries of fourteenth-century spelling to learn that 'Micheldever' was written in a variety of exciting ways, from Mychedevre to Muchuldovere. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to discover who Robert de Micheldever's parents were, or anything about his natal family; a Ralph de Mucheldever lent money to Walter le Butler and Walter Russell of Winchester in 1297, and he may be Micheldever's father or brother or uncle, but that's just speculation. [16] The first reference I've found to him is in 1304, when one Jordan de Larkestok granted him a messuage, land and rent in Laverstock, just outside Salisbury. [17] In May 1321, Henry and Edith Burre of Salisbury enfoeffed Micheldever of a messuage, sixty acres of land, four and a half acres of meadow and sixteen shillings of rent in Laverstock and Winterbourneford, and the bailiwick of the forestership of Clarendon Forest in Wiltshire. [18]

Micheldever was accused in April 1311 of breaking into Edward II's manor of Clarendon and stealing timber, stones, iron, lead and other goods. [19] Ironically, Edward appointed him keeper of the manor, park and forest of Clarendon in July 1325, replacing Walter Gascelyn, who was probably the brother of Edmund Gascelyn, one of the men who joined the Dunheveds and temporarily freed Edward from Berkeley in 1327. [20]

Robert de Micheldever was described as Edward's valettus in April 1322, when he and a clerk were sent to Yorkshire "to search and view all the charters, writings and muniments in the castle of Skipton in Cravene affecting Roger de Clifford and others, and to certify the king of the tenor thereof." [21] Clifford had been executed in York the month before. In early March 1324, Micheldever was the keeper of "certain forfeited lands" in Gloucestershire, and was ordered to hand over Berkeley Castle and all the lands of the imprisoned Lord Berkeley to John Frelond. [22] Micheldever and Robert Holden, controller of Edward II's wardrobe and one of the few men who remained with Edward at his capture, were appointed on 5 August 1322 as keepers of the lands of the recently-deceased Sir John Somery, a royal knight accused of being 'more than a king' in Staffordshire in 1311. Micheldever received a shilling a day in wages; Holden, two shillings. One of the manors was Dunchurch in Warwickshire, which Stephen Dunheved had demised to Somery before abjuring the realm for a felony. [23]

Edward ordered Micheldever on 12 October 1326 to "levy all fencible men, horse and foot" in Wiltshire, and that's the last reference I can find to him before his beheading on 17 November. I don't know how he came to be with the earl of Arundel in Shropshire. I haven't found any connection between Micheldever and Arundel, or between Micheldever and Roger Mortimer. And I have absolutely no idea what Micheldever was meant to have done to have caused Mortimer to hate him "with a perfect hatred." Possibly he was just unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and his only 'crimes' were to be loyal to the king and in the company of a man Mortimer detested. For Simon de Reading, executed with Despenser the Younger at Hereford a week after Micheldever and the others, a vague charge of 'insulting the queen' was trumped up - though he was also given no trial - but Micheldever and Daniel were never accused of anything, at least, nothing that survives in any source. Mortimer's "perfect hatred" sufficed to condemn them.

The lands "late of Robert de Mucheldevre, deceased, tenant in chief of Edward II" were taken into the king's hand on 12 February 1327. [24] Micheldever's widow Alice petitioned parliament in about 1327, saying that Micheldever was "beheaded at Hereford without judgement, and without being arraigned" (fust decole a Herford saunz jugement et saunz estre areigne), and that his lands were in the king's hands and in the keeping of John Maltravers (son en la main n're seign'r le Roy et en la garde Mons'r Johan Mautravers). Alice asked for her rightful dower, and that their son, who was only eight, might not be disinherited. The response was: "It will be declared by the great men of the land whether he was put to death as an enemy etc." (Soit declare p' les Grantz de la t're s'il fust mi a la mort come enemi &c.) [25]

Robert de Micheldever's son was called John, named "son and heir of Robert de Mucheldevere" in 1343, when three men acknowledged that they owed money to him. [26] John de Micheldever was to be imprisoned in Winchester Castle with William Taillefer in August 1339 for "making unlawful assemblies and confederacies to disturb the peace," was pardoned for outlawry in November 1341, and was convicted in 1343 of receiving goods stolen at sea and of being an accessory to piracy. [27] Hugh Despenser the Younger would have been proud of him.


1) Adae Murimuth Continuatio Chronicarum, ed. E. M. Thompson.
2) Galfridi le Baker de Swinbroke, Chronicon Angliae Temporibus Edwardi II et Edwardi III, ed. J. A. Giles.
3) Calendar of Fine Rolls 1272-1307; Calendar of Close Rolls 1272-1279; Close Rolls 1279-1288; Fine Rolls 1319-1327; Close Rolls 1318-1323; Close Rolls 1323-1327; The National Archives; C. Moor, Knights of Edward I; Alfred John Horwood, Year books of the reign of King Edward the First.
4) Close Rolls 1330-1333.
5) National Archives; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1292-1301; Pat Rolls 1301-1307; Pat Rolls 1307-1313.
6) National Archives.
7) Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous 1308-1348; National Archives.
8) Fine Rolls 1307-1319; Pat Rolls 1321-1324.
9) Fine Rolls 1319-1327.
10) Pat Rolls 1324-1327.
11) Pat Rolls 1324-1327; Close Rolls 1323-1327.
12) Close Rolls 1323-1327; Pat Rolls 1324-1327; Fine Rolls 1319-1327.
13) Close Rolls 1323-1327.
14) Daniel's inquisition post mortem is held at the National Archives.
15) Fine Rolls 1319-1327; Fine Rolls 1327-1337.
16) National Archives.
17) National Archives.
18) Pat Rolls 1317-1321; National Archives.
19) Pat Rolls 1307-1313.
20) Fine Rolls 1319-1327; Close Rolls 1323-1327; Pat Rolls 1327-1330.
21) Pat Rolls 1321-1324.
22) Fine Rolls 1319-1327.
23) Fine Rolls 1319-1327; Close Rolls 1318-1323; Close Rolls 1323-1327; Pat Rolls 1321-1324; Inquisitions Miscellaneous 1308-1348.
24) Fine Rolls 1327-1337.
25) Rotuli Parliamentorum ut et Petitiones, et Placita in Parliamento Tempore Edwardi R. III; National Archives.
26) Close Rolls 1343-1346.
27) Pat Rolls 1338-1340; Pat Rolls 1340-1343; Reginald G. Marsden, Select Pleas of the Court of Admiralty.

01 May, 2009

With Irreverent Mind: The Adventurous Career Of Henry Beaumont

Henry, Lord Beaumont was a French nobleman who played an important role in Edward II's reign and in the early years of Edward III's.

Henry was born around 1280 as the elder son of Louis de Brienne, sometimes called Louis of Acre (c. 1225-c. 1297) and Agnes de Beaumont, vicountess of Beaumont-au-Maine (died 1301). He and some of his siblings took their mother's name. Henry was the nephew of, among others, Yolande, queen of Jerusalem in her own right, John de Brienne, stepfather of Alexander III of Scotland, and Marie de Brienne, married to the titular emperor of Constantinople. Through his paternal grandmother Berenguela of Leon, Henry was, like Edward II, a great-grandson of Queen Berenguela of Castile and King Alfonso IX 'the Slobberer' of Leon, which makes him Edward's second cousin. Henry and his siblings are often described as cousins of Isabella of France, though in fact they were more closely related to Edward II than to his queen.

Henry's sister Isabella, who must have been many years his senior - their parents had married as early as 1253 - arrived in England probably in the late 1270s, and married John, Lord Vescy (1244-1289) in 1280. Henry and his younger brother Louis, a cleric, followed their sister to England in the 1290s, and would spend the rest of their lives there, high in favour with Edward I and Edward II. Henry was a knight of Edward I's household in 1297, and the king granted him 200 marks a year in 1301, though it was after the accession of Edward II in 1307 that he reached the heights of royal favour. Edward arranged his marriage to Alice Comyn, one of the two nieces and co-heirs of John Comyn, earl of Buchan (d. 1308), in or shortly before 1310, which gave Henry a strong claim to the earldom.

Edward appointed Henry joint warden of Scotland in 1308, and he was first summoned to parliament in 1309. His closeness to the king made him a target of the Lords Ordainer, who ordered in late 1311 that he and his sister Isabella Vescy be removed from court. Edward had in 1308 granted Henry the Isle of Man, and the Ordainers demanded instead that it be given to "a good Englishman." Henry ignored their demands to stay away from the king, and was with Edward in Yorkshire in early 1312 when Piers Gaveston returned from his third exile. For many years, he was a staunch supporter of the king, fighting for Edward at Bannockburn and attending Piers Gaveston's funeral in January 1315. In early September 1314, Edward empowered Henry, with the earl of Pembroke and the bishop of Exeter, to open the York parliament on his behalf, claiming that he had urgent business elsewhere. (In fact, he merely took himself off to the small village of Oulston for a few days, almost certainly a doomed attempt to avoid his enemies in parliament after his humiliating defeat in Scotland.)

Henry was instrumental in the 1317 election of his brother Louis as bishop of Durham, after telling Edward II that if Louis "or another person of noble origin had the rule of the church of Durham a defence like a stone wall [against the Scots] would be provided for those parts," and persuading Edward to promote Louis's candidacy with the pope. Louis was supposedly illiterate, and had two club feet: the Lanercost chronicler calls him "a Frenchman of noble birth, but lame on both feet, nevertheless liberal and agreeable." Henry and Louis were involved in a somewhat mysterious affair in September 1317, when they were attacked, robbed and taken prisoner by Sir Gilbert Middleton, while travelling to Durham in the company of two cardinals for Louis's consecration. This attack may have been the work of the earl of Lancaster, annoyed at the failure of his own candidate to gain the bishopric, though an indignant Pope John XXII blamed the Scots.

Henry remained staunchly loyal to Edward during his 1321/22 campaign against the Marcher lords, and fought against the earl of Lancaster at the battle of Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322. He also accompanied the king on the Scottish campaign later that year, and it was Edward's thirteen-year truce with Scotland in May 1323 which finally pushed Henry into opposition to him. Henry had a strong claim to the earldom of Buchan via his wife, and if Edward made peace with Scotland, Henry would never be able to claim his title and lands. At a meeting of Edward's counsellors at Bishopthorpe on 30 May 1323, Edward asked their advice about the truce. Henry, "with an excessive motion and irreverent mind," refused to advise the king, and continued to refuse. Edward lost his temper and ordered him out of the room, whereupon Henry retorted that "it would please him more to be absent than to be present." Five days later, Edward ordered his arrest for this "contempt and disobedience." [1]

Henry was probably also angry at a bitterly sarcastic letter Edward II had sent to his brother Louis Beaumont, bishop of Durham, on 10 February 1323: "The king remembers that Richard, the bishop's predecessor, was frequently reproached by Henry de Bello Monte [Beaumont], the present bishop's brother, and other friends and relations for causing by his negligence the wasting of the bishopric by Scotch rebels...but the king knows actually that greater damage is done in the bishopric by the bishop's default, negligence and laziness than in the time of his predecessor, neither the bishop, nor his friends or relations giving counsel or aid according to their promises." [2] Given that Edward II himself had few equals when it came to negligence and laziness, especially when it came to defending his subjects against Scottish raids, there is much of the pot calling the kettle black about this letter.

Henry did not remain long in custody, however, and Edward trusted him enough in 1324 to send him as an envoy to France. He was still sufficiently in favour with the king in September 1325 to travel abroad with Edward's son, and witnessed the young duke of Aquitaine performing homage to Charles IV on 24 September. Unlike other opponents of the king, however, Henry did not remain in France with Queen Isabella, but returned to England, a bad mistake: the Sempringham annalist says he was imprisoned at Kenilworth Castle in February 1326 "because he would not swear to the king and to Sir Hugh Despenser the son, to be of their part to live and die," a story confirmed by the Croniques de London and the judgement on Hugh Despenser the Younger. [3] Henry was certainly in prison at Warwick Castle in early August 1326. [4]

Henry must have been released soon after Isabella and Roger Mortimer's invasion force arrived in the autumn of 1326, and joined the queen at Gloucester in mid-October. The much later chronicler Jean Froissart, who is hopelessly unreliable for Edward II's reign, has a hilariously inaccurate story of Edward and Hugh Despenser the Younger being stuck in their boat within a mile of Bristol Castle for a full eleven days, unable to move because their sins weighed so heavily on them, until finally Henry Beaumont sallied forth in a barge to capture them. As Froissart also says that Edward and his favourite witnessed the execution of Despenser the Elder and the earl of Arundel at Bristol, which they certainly didn't (Arundel was executed in Hereford anyway), that Despenser was ninety at the time of his death - he was actually sixty-five - and that Henry was the "son of the viscount of Beaumont in England," obviously his testimony is not worth very much. [5]

Henry was much in favour with the new regime after late 1326, and can hardly be blamed for his abandonment of Edward II, who had imprisoned him. But Isabella and Roger Mortimer were unable to hold his loyalty for more than two years. Henry was infuriated by their treaty with Robert Bruce in 1328, which acknowledged Bruce as king of Scots and meant that he would never be able to claim his earldom or his lands. He joined the earl of Lancaster's unsuccessful rebellion against the queen and her favourite in late 1328, and was one of the four men specifically excluded from a pardon in early 1329. (Another was William Trussell, who had read out the charges against Despenser the Younger.) With a death sentence hanging over his head, Henry fled abroad.

Henry became embroiled in the earl of Kent's 1330 plot to restore Edward II to the throne, and met Kent in the duke of Brabant's chamber in Paris. Even after Kent's execution in March 1330, Henry continued plotting against Isabella and Mortimer, and travelled to Brabant, a safe haven - the duke was Edward II's nephew, and Edward's sister Margaret, the dowager duchess, was still alive - and with his allies planned an invasion of England. Isabella and Mortimer were forced to raise soldiers up and down the country to repel the invasion, though in the end it never took place, perhaps because the exiles couldn't afford to pay for it, or because they couldn't stomach the notion of fighting against Edward III. [6] They had no quarrel with the young king, only with the pair ruling England in his name.

After Edward III overthrew his mother and her favourite in October 1330, he recalled Henry and the other exiles to England, and restored their lands. Henry was subsequently to play a vital role in the king's Scottish wars of the 1330s, but as I know next to nothing about Edward III's Scottish wars, I won't embarrass myself by trying to write about them.

Henry Beaumont died shortly before 10 March 1340, aged about sixty, leaving his widow Alice, who lived until 1349. They had three children: John, Lord Beaumont, killed in a jousting tournament in Northampton in 1342, who married Henry of Lancaster's daughter Eleanor (she married secondly the earl of Arundel); Isabella, who married Henry of Lancaster's son Henry, duke of Lancaster; and Katherine, who married David de Strathbogie, earl of Atholl. All his children have numerous modern-day descendants, and through his daughter Isabella, Henry Beaumont was the great-grandfather of Henry IV.


1) Cal Close Rolls 1318-23, p. 717.
2) Cal Close Rolls 1318-23, p. 697.
3) Le Livere de Reis de Britanie e le Livere de Reis de Engletere, ed. John Glover, pp. 354-5; Croniques de London depuis l’an 44 Hen III jusqu'à l'an 17 Edw III, ed. J. G. Aungier, p. 49; G. A. Holmes, ‘The Judgement on the Younger Despenser, 1326’, English Historical Review, 70 (1955) p. 266.
4) Cal Close Rolls 1323-27, p. 593; Cal Fine Rolls 1319-27, p. 418.
5) Froissart: Chronicles, ed. Geoffrey Brereton, pp. 41-3.
6) Cal Pat Rolls 1327-30, pp. 544, 563, 570-572; Cal Close Rolls 1330-33, pp. 51, 147, 151.