30 July, 2009


A somewhat random post today till I get round to writing the next proper one, featuring blog searches and, umm, pink palaces...! Apologies in advance for the weird formatting which seems almost inevitable when I include photos in my posts.

Recent searches which have hit the blog:

- amatory sex film

- caernarvon castle german head injury

- edwards 2 other name

- edvard homo Suggested alternative Google search for that one (it came from Lithuania): edvardas homo. First result on Lithuanian Google for edvard homo: my review of Maurice Druon's novel The She-Wolf of France. Weird.

- baron killed in battlein 1265 name please

- how would our lives be different if king edward was not married to eleanor of castile

- posters, eleanore of castile submitting to edward i

- woman suckyng small sex
- red hot maltese anus

- man died 700 years ago
- the year 1308 a. d. and what happened that year

- edward stuff Well, if you're interested in Edward stuff, you're certainly in the right place.

- poker king hot edward Given that Edward II was tall, strong and handsome, he probably was pretty hot, actually. I'm sure Piers Gaveston thought so.

- queen eleanor greedy land grabbing

- men falling off horses dressed in armour Let's point at them and laugh.

- photos of king edwards 2 in his cannons

- how much are juliana clocks worth

- scottish people cheering after edward ii lost the war

- castilian male photos
- Queen Isabella took over the reigns

And for no reason except that I visited it the other day, here are some pics of the castle of Kaiserswerth in Düsseldorf (on the Rhine in western Germany). You should be able to click on the pics to get a large version, if Blogger feels like it.

Edward II connection: his great-uncle Richard of Cornwall, brother of Henry III, spent Christmas 1257 here shortly after being elected king of Germany.

There are two pink palaces in Düsseldorf, believe it or not, in the suburbs of Kalkum and Benrath. (There should be lots more pink palaces in the world, in my opinion.) Here they are.

Benrath, the Rococo one, was built between 1755 and 1770 for Karl-Theodor von Pfalz-Sulzbach, elector of Bavaria, count palatine of the Rhine and duke of Jülich. He was Edward II's twelve greats grandson, via John of Gaunt and his daughter Catherine, queen of Castile.

26 July, 2009

Attacking Cardinals And A Bishop

On 1 September 1317, a shocking event took place on the road between Darlington and Durham*: the new bishop of Durham, Louis Beaumont, his brother Henry, and two cardinals were attacked and robbed of "a very great sum of money" while on their way to attend Louis's consecration as bishop. The four men were imprisoned, and although the cardinals were soon freed, the Beaumont brothers remained in captivity until mid-October, at Mitford Castle.

* the attack took place, according to various reports, either at Rushyford, Ferryhill or somewhere called 'Ache' (Aycliffe?).

The perpetrator of this spectacularly appalling piece of lawlessness - attacking cardinals, for pity's sake! - was one Gilbert Middleton, a household knight of Edward II's, who suffered dire punishment for his act: the furious cardinals excommunicated him, or, as the Vita Edwardi Secundi puts it, "solemnly and in public separated Gilbert de Middletone and his accomplices from the communion of the faithful." Edward II himself, furious and embarrassed that two high-ranking churchmen should be attacked in his kingdom, delared that he would "punish the sons of iniquity" who had perpetrated the outrage. He was as good as his word: Middleton was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered on 24 January 1318.

The two cardinals were Luca Fieschi, an Italian nobleman by birth and a distant relative of Edward II, and Gaucelin D'Eauze or Duese, a relative of the then pope, John XXII (born Jacques Duese). They had arrived in England in June 1317 to negotiate between Edward and Robert Bruce, king of Scots, who had supposedly declared that he would not meet them unless they acknowledged him as king, a forlorn hope; far from being neutral, the sympathies of the pope and his cardinals were entirely in Edward II's favour. No doubt it had also occurred to many people that Cardinals Luca and Gaucelin could also usefully negotiate between Edward and his over-mighty cousin, the earl of Lancaster, relations between the two men having deteriorated to the extent that England was teetering on the brink of civil war in 1317. (Not an uncommon situation in Edward II's turbulent reign, it has to be said.)

So that's why the bishops were in England, and here's a quick summary of the background to Louis Beaumont's election as bishop of Durham, which is probably relevant to the attack. The death of Bishop Richard Kellaw in October 1316 saw intense politicking on the part of Edward II, Queen Isabella, the earls of Lancaster and Hereford, and the monks of Durham themselves. Isabella favoured the election of Louis Beaumont; Edward himself promoted the controller of his wardrobe, Thomas Charlton; Lancaster put forward his clerk John Kinnersley; the earl of Hereford a clerk named John Walwayn, and the Durham monks, Henry Stamford. Edward abandoned his support of Charlton and wrote to the pope on behalf of Isabella’s candidate Louis Beaumont – his second cousin – after Louis’s brother Henry promised him that Louis would be "a defence like a stone wall" against the Scots, though the Rochester chronicler claims that the king changed his mind after Isabella implored him on her knees to support her candidate. The pope duly provided Beaumont to the bishopric on 9 February 1317.

It is likely, though not certain, that the earl of Lancaster was involved in the September 1317 attack. Furious at the failure of his candidate to attain the bishopric of Durham and already an enemy of the Beaumonts – he had demanded Henry Beaumont’s removal from court in 1311 and 1314, and their sister Lady Vescy’s in 1311 – Lancaster probably asked Gilbert Middleton to attack them on his behalf. This cannot, however, be proved. Pope John XXII, rightly or wrongly, thought that Robert Bruce was at least partly to blame for the attack, and told Edward II that Bruce had perpetrated outrages on the cardinals and seized and carried off the bishop of Durham. He also informed the cardinals that Bruce had torn up letters the pope had sent him and "laid violent hands" on the bishop of Carlisle.

Who supported Gilbert Middleton, the earl of Lancaster or Robert Bruce or neither of them or someone else entirely, remains uncertain. If Lancaster was involved - and some of the men co-accused with Middleton, among them Sir John Eure, were certainly Lancaster's retainers - he escaped punishment over the episode. Middleton himself had been on apparently amicable terms with Edward II until at least January 1317, when the two men exchanged letters via a messenger called Adam Shirlok. So what persuaded him to commit such an appalling act of violence against the king's friends? Perhaps Middleton was one of the knights of Edward’s household annoyed at his promotion of favourites - Roger Damory and Hugh Audley were extremely prominent and influential at court in 1317, and some of Edward's knights had staged a theatrical protest against his favouritism at Westminster that June - and equally annoyed that Edward failed to protect his subjects in the north from Scottish invasions. Scalacronica claims that Middleton was angry with Edward for arresting his cousin Adam Swinburn, who had "spoken too frankly" to the king about the state of the north. We can probably also see the attack in light of the general rise in lawlessness which followed the Great Famine of 1315-17. Presumably, Middleton (and Lancaster?) had no idea that the Beaumont brothers were accompanied by the two cardinals; he is hardly likely to have dared attack the party otherwise.

Lancaster met the cardinals and escorted them to Boroughbridge, where the earls of Pembroke and Hereford met them and took them to Edward II in York. Edward had heard of the attack by 12 September, on which day he ordered Hamo de Felton, parson of 'Luchham' church (I'm not sure where 'Luchham' is), to keep Gilbert Middleton's son, who was already in Felton's custody, safely, "under pain of forfeiture." On 20 September Edward told all his sheriffs to proclaim the news that he would punish the "sons of iniquity" who had "lately committed robberies and outrages." The king's squires William Felton, Thomas Heton and Robert Horncliffe captured Middleton and his brother John at Mitford Castle in January 1318 - "through treachery of his own people," says Scalacronica - and sent them to Edward, who ordered Simon Driby and thirteen other squires to deliver them to the Tower of London. Edward rewarded Middleton's captors with a generous income, up to fifty marks a year each, from the issues of Middleton's lands.

On 24 January 1318, royal justices sentenced Gilbert Middleton to execution, and he suffered a terrible death by hanging, drawing and quartering. Although some chronicles say that Middleton's brother John shared this awful fate, an inquisition taken in November 1319 proves that John was still alive then. For their part, Cardinals Luca and Gaucelin remained in England until late August 1318, and Edward II informed them in November 1320, not entirely helpfully, that he was unable to restore their stolen goods as he did not know where they were to be found.
Middleton was the only man who suffered the ultimate penalty for the attack, though dozens of others took themselves off to the pope to get his absolution for their role in it: Edward granted a safe-conduct on 12 September 1318 to sixty-two men "who are going to the Court of Rome on account of acts perpetrated in the Marches of Scotland, whereby they feel their consciences wounded." He renewed the safe-conduct in August and October 1319 for one Marmaduke Basset - known by the nickname Duket - who "returned without bringing with him sufficient evidence of his absolution," and thus had to travel to Avignon a second time. The attack on the cardinals combined with the fact that Gilbert Middleton was a household knight of Edward II's is sometimes seen as 'evidence' that Edward 'favoured lawless personalities', a discussion I'll save for another post.

- Calendar of Patent Rolls 1313-17, 1317-21; Calendar of Close Rolls 1313-18, 1318-23; Calendar of Papal Letters 1305-42; Foedera, vol. II, i; Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326; Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous 1308-48.

- Vita Edwardi Secundi Monachi Cuiusdam Malmesberiensis, ed. N. Denholm-Young; Scalacronica: The Reigns of Edward I, Edward II and Edward III as Recorded by Sir Thomas Gray of Heton, knight, ed. Herbert Maxwell; The Chronicle of Lanercost 1272-1346, ed. Herbert Maxwell.

- Thomas Stapleton, ‘A Brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the tenth, eleventh, and fourteenth years of King Edward the Second’, Archaeologia, 26 (1836); Michael Prestwich, ‘Gilbert de Middleton and the Attack on the Cardinals, 1317’, in Warriors and Churchmen in the High Middle Ages: Essays Presented to Karl Leyser, ed. T. Reuter (1992)

21 July, 2009

In Which I Fail To Discover Any New Information About Edward II's Illegitimate Son

The existence of Edward II's illegitimate son Adam has been known to historians since 1964, when Professor F. D. Blackley discovered references to the boy in Edward's wardrobe account of 1322: Adam accompanied his father on Edward's disastrous Scottish campaign that year. The lad was openly acknowledged as 'Adam, bastard son of the lord king' (Ade filio domini Regis bastardo) or simply as 'Adam, son of the king' (Ade filio Regis). The account records five payments to Adam, presumably in his mid-teens or thereabouts, old enough to go on military campaign but young enough to have his tutor with him. The payments totalled thirteen pounds and twenty-two pence, and were intended for Adam to purchase 'equipment and other necessaries' (armatura et alia necessaria). The money was paid out to him in five instalments between 6 June and 18 September 1322 by John Sturmy, steward of Edward's chamber, either to Adam himself or to his tutor (magister), Hugh Chastilloun. Adam is usually assumed to have died on the Scottish campaign, perhaps of the dysentery which ravaged the English army, as he never appears again in any known source.

[All this information comes from F. D. Blackley's article ‘Adam, the Bastard Son of Edward II’, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, 37 (1964), pp. 76-77.]

The identity of Adam's mother is unknown, though presumably Edward had a reasonably serious relationship with her, as I can't imagine that he would have acknowledged her child as his own unless he was certain that he was the father - which of course implies that he knew her well enough and for long enough to be sure that she wasn't having sex with anyone else. Given that 'Adam' is not a name from Edward's family, presumably the unknown mistress was the daughter or sister of a man called Adam, or a man called Adam was the boy's godfather. I haven't a clue as to who this man might be - Edward had several servants with this name, including Adam of Lichfield, his lion-tamer. (?!) As Adam was about in his mid-teens in 1322 and thus born around 1305 to 1308, he must have been conceived when Edward was in his early to mid-twenties.

As Adam The Mysterious Illegitimate Son Of Edward II annoyingly seems destined to remain completely obscure - I can't find any references to him anywhere else at all - I've been trying to trace his magister Hugh Chastilloun, in the hope that his whereabouts before 1322 might give me a clue as to where Adam was, or that I might indirectly learn something about Adam. Equally annoyingly, though, Chastilloun proved a hard man to trace. Such as they are, here are the results of my investigation.

Firstly I found a Hugh Chastillon who was lord of the manor of Leckhampstead in Buckinghamshire, who died sometime between 1316 and 1323 - though obviously he can't have been Adam's tutor if he died before 1322. Hugh was the son of Richard Chastillon, who died in 1279 when Hugh was already of full age, which means he can't have been born any later than 1258. The family is mentioned a couple of times on the Fine Roll of Edward I's reign, with the name spelt Castilun and Chastillun. (There are approximately 342 different ways of spelling the name Chastilloun, which didn't make my quest any easier.) The Hugh Chastillon in question was summoned to a meeting of the king's council in September 1297, served against the Scots in 1298, and was summoned to parliament as a knight of the shire for Buckinghamshire in 1300 and 1301. He had at least two sons: William, rector of Leckhampstead, and Richard, who succeeded his father as lord of the manor. Richard, name spelt Chasteloun and Chastiloun, went overseas with Hugh Despenser the Elder in March 1319, and accompanied Despenser on the Scottish campaign in 1322. Richard and his brother William the rector were accused in May 1327 of stealing the goods of Sir Richard Talbot in Oxfordshire - the man who married Elizabeth Comyn in secret in 1326. If this man was the correct Hugh Chastilloun, I can't find him in any context which might provide a link to Adam, and possibly he was too old anyway - and he's very hard to trace after the beginning of the 1300s.

Secondly, a man called Hugh Castellon was appointed keeper of the manor of Kirkby Malzeard near Ripon in Yorkshire in the autumn of 1323, which had been forfeited to Edward II by John Mowbray (executed March 1322). Edward stayed at Kirkby Malzeard from 18 to 20 September 1323, and appointed Castellon keeper on his last day there. Castellon was still alive in the early 1330s, when he was accused by Mowbray's son and heir of stealing his goods in Kirkby and elsewhere. He may be the same man who was one of the mainpernors of the Contrariant John Mauduit in 1322 as recorded on the Fine Roll, where the name is spelt 'Hugh Castellion'. If he was the man who was Adam's tutor, I can't find any references to him before the early 1320s, and I have no idea who he was or what happened to him after the early 1330s.

And here are a few other possibilities that might provide a clue to Hugh Chastilloun's real identity:

- there' s a French town near Bordeaux, nowadays called Castillon-la-Bataille (Castillon-sur-Dordogne until recently), which in the fourteenth century was within the territory controlled by the kings of England. Maybe the mysterious Hugh Chastilloun came from there; the lord of Castillon was high in Edward II's favour, and accompanied him on his return to England in February 1308 after marrying Isabella: Edward came ashore from his ship in a barge, "Hugh le Despenser [the Elder] and the lord of Castellione of Gascony being in his company."

- the family name of the counts of St Pol in this era was Chatillon, also spelt Castellion or Chastilloun. The count of St Pol who died in 1307 was called Hugh de Chatillon, and his brother and successor Guy, who died in 1317, was married to Edward II's first cousin Marie of Brittany (daughter of Edward I's sister Beatrice).

- there are other French towns called Chatillon - Chatillon-sur-Indre, Chatillon-sur-Marne, Chatillon-sur-Loire, etc.

- and finally, Holt Castle in Denbighshire, Wales was sometimes called Castel Lleon in the fourteenth century, with Chastellyon or Chastellion as alternative spellings. Hugh Chastilloun might have come from one of these places, or none of them, might be one of the men I've named here, or someone else entirely.

So to sum up: have I certainly identified Hugh Chastilloun? Nope, not even close. Have I discovered any new information about Edward II's out-of-wedlock son? Nope, absolutely sod-all. Research is really frustrating sometimes.

16 July, 2009

A Spanish Warrior-Saint

A post about Edward II's grandfather King Fernando III of Castile and Leon, who recaptured most of Andalusia from the Moors during the Reconquista and was canonised as San Fernando or Saint Ferdinand in 1671. Yep, Edward II's grandad was a Spanish saint who has a valley and city in California, a cathedral in Texas and a city in Trinidad and Tobago named after him. Edward's uncle King Alfonso X, incidentally, has a crater on the moon named after him. (Edward himself has a folk band called Edward the Second and the Red-Hot Polkas named after him. Not quite the same, is it?)

Fernando III was born in August 1201 in the forest between Salamanca and Zamora as the third child and eldest son of King Alfonso IX of Leon - the north-west corner of the Iberian peninsula - and his second wife Berenguela of Castile. Berenguela was born in 1180 as the eldest child of Alfonso VIII of Castile and his queen Eleanor of England, the second daughter of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, while Alfonso IX, known as el Baboso or the Slobberer because he foamed at the mouth during his frequent rages, was born in 1171 and succeeded his father as king of Leon in 1188. Fernando had two older half-sisters and a half-brother from his father's first marriage, four full siblings and at least a dozen, maybe as many as fifteen, half-siblings, his father's illegitimate children - one of whom, Maria, supposedly had an affair with her half-nephew, Fernando's son Alfonso X. Fernando himself had fifteen children, eleven sons and four daughters, all of them legitimate; most unusually for a Spanish king of the era, he is not known to have had any out-of-wedlock children. (Well, he was a saint, after all.)

Berenguela of Castile and Alfonso IX of Leon were first cousins once removed but didn't bother to apply for a dispensation on the grounds of consanguinity, and Pope Innocent III annulled their marriage in 1204 - although he did allow their children to remain legitimate. Alfonso, somewhat bizarrely, returned to his first wife Teresa of Portugal, who was his first cousin; the pope had previously annulled this marriage for consanguinity, too. Fernando III's elder half-brother, confusingly also called Fernando and the son of Alfonso IX and Teresa, died in August 1214 in his early twenties, leaving Fernando as the heir to his father's kingdom of Leon. A few weeks later, Fernando's maternal grandfather Alfonso VIII of Castile died, to be succeeded by his youngest child but only surviving son, ten-year-old Enrique I. (Fernando was three years older than his uncle.) Enrique reigned as king of Castile for less than three years, and was killed at Palencia by a tile falling off a roof in June 1217. To make this complicated family tree even more complicated, Enrique was married to Mafalda, sister of Teresa of Portugal.

Fernando's mother Berenguela, eldest child of Alfonso VIII and regent for her young brother from 1214 to 1217, succeeded as queen of Castile in her own right, but immediately abdicated in favour of her son. At not quite sixteen, Fernando was now king of Castile, and also succeeded his father as king of Leon on the latter's death in 1230. Alfonso IX tried to leave his kingdom to his daughters by Teresa of Portugal, Fernando's half-sisters Sancha and Dulce, but the two women were no match for Fernando and his determined, capable mother and chief adviser Berenguela (sister of the famous and equally capable queen-regent of France, Blanche of Castile).

Fernando married his first wife Elisabeth or Beatriz of Swabia in 1219, when he was eighteen and she fourteen. Remarkably, Beatriz was the granddaughter of two emperors: Frederick Barbarossa, Holy Roman Emperor, and Isaac Angelos, Byzantine Emperor. She bore Fernando three daughters and seven sons, including: his successor Alfonso X; Fadrique, executed for rebellion against Alfonso; Sancho, archbishop of Toledo at eighteen; and Felipe, archbishop of Seville also at eighteen, who gave up his ecclestiastical career to marry the Norwegian woman betrothed to one of his brothers. Fernando's most colourful child, however, was Enrique (1230-1304) who was at various times a mercenary in North Africa, a senator of Rome and the regent of Castile, spent thirty years in a Naples prison and four years in England cheerfully sponging off Henry III after his expulsion from Castile following an unsuccessful rebellion against his brother Alfonso X, and who was said - probably apocryphally - to be the lover of his stepmother, Edward II's grandmother Jeanne de Dammartin. Queen Beatriz died in 1235, aged only thirty - probably worn out from all that childbearing - and in 1237 Fernando married Jeanne de Dammartin, countess of Ponthieu, Montreuil and Aumale in her own right, in a match arranged by his aunt Blanche, queen of France. Fernando and Jeanne had four sons and a daughter, Edward II's mother Leonor or Eleanor, the only one of Queen Jeanne's children to outlive her.

Fernando is chiefly remembered for his great military successes, and he recaptured Cordoba, Jaen and Murcia from the Moors between 1236 and 1246. The emir of Granada paid tribute to Fernando as his vassal from 1246, though the king's greatest triumph was his conquest of the great city of Seville, which had been in the hands of the Moors for 536 years: after a sixteen-month siege, the king entered the city on 22 December 1248. I don't know for sure if she was, but I'd like to think that Edward II's mother Leonor, then probably aged seven, was present to witness the greatest moment in her father's life. Fernando more or less completed the Reconquista, with only Granada remaining in Muslim hands - and so the situation remained until 1492, when Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile defeated the emirate and annexed it to Castile.

According to one report, Fernando mocked the Muslim inhabitants of Seville in 1248 by riding his horse up the Giralda tower, the minuet of Seville’s Great Mosque (which he later converted into a cathedral), perhaps one of the factors which prompted a Muslim writer to describe him as "the tyrant, the cursed one." In fairness, however, Fernando is remembered for his role in the Convivencia, the peaceful co-existence of Christians, Jews and Muslims in Spain, and he asked the pope to end the practice of Jewish people being forced to wear distinguishing marks on their clothes. Fernando founded the cathedral of Burgos as a very young man in 1221 and turned the mosque (mezquita) of Cordoba into another cathedral, founded bishoprics, hospitals and monasteries, and became famous for his great piety - he often fasted, spent entire nights praying, and always wore a hairshirt. Ever the soldier, however, he had a famous sword named Lobera.

Fernando III of Castile and Leon died in Seville on 30 May 1252, at the beginning of his fifties, to be succeeded by his thirty-year-old son Alfonso X; his much younger widow Queen Jeanne returned to her native Ponthieu and outlived him by twenty-seven years. His daughter Eleanor/Leonor, then aged ten and the twelfth of his fifteen children, was present at his death-bed. He was canonised 419 years after his death with his feast day as 30 May, and is the patron saint of engineers, soldiers, prisoners, paupers, people in authority in general, and large families. His first cousin Louis IX of France - their mothers were sisters - was also canonised as St Louis, and his elder half-sister and her mother Teresa of Portugal were beatified: a very saintly family, evidently. Here's a picture of the statue of Fernando on Plaza Nueva in Seville, and here's an account of a tourist celebrating the feast of San Fernando in 2006, with a photo of Fernando's body - his tomb in Seville Cathedral is opened every year, and his body is said to be incorruptible. Fernando III was a superb military leader, a tolerant man of great integrity and a renowned upholder of justice; qualities which, sadly, were not inherited by his English grandson Edward II.

11 July, 2009

John Trevisa And That Famous Red-Hot Poker

A post about a misconception I've been dying to clear up! John Trevisa was an English writer of the later fourteenth century, and one of his most famous works is his 1387 translation, from Latin into English, of Ranulph Higden's Polychronicon, written in c. 1350. Higden was one of the chroniclers who believed in the red-hot poker murder of Edward II, which Trevisa translated into English as "a hoote broche putte thro the secret place posteriale." I've often seen it argued that because Trevisa was the chaplain and confessor of Thomas, Lord Berkeley, Edward II's custodian of 1327, he was therefore in a position to know the truth about Edward's murder, and because he translated Higden's words without comment, the story must be correct. It's also sometimes stated that Trevisa came from the village of Berkeley and was a small boy there in 1327. This article ("John Trevisa, who was born in Berkeley and, though a child at the time, later served as chaplain to one of Edward II's keepers and so knew the truth") is a good example, as is this page quoting a published book: "some years later one John Trevisa, who had been a boy at the time, revealed what had actually happened. Trevisa had grown up to take holy orders and become chaplain and confessor to the King’s jailer, Thomas, Lord Berkeley, so he was well placed to solve the mystery." The myth that 'John Trevisa was Berkeley's chaplain and so must have known the truth about Edward II's murder' is mindlessly repeated in a number of books, some of them very recent, by writers who should know better. Naming no names, but glaring in their general direction. I mean, do some research, people.

All of this theory is based on fundamental misconceptions. (No pun intended with 'fundament', honest.) Firstly, according to his biographer Professor David C. Fowler, John Trevisa was born in about 1342, fifteen years after Edward II's alleged murder. Secondly, he didn't come from the village of Berkeley but from Cornwall, probably Trevessa in the parish of St Enoder between Newquay and St Austell, hence his name. Thirdly and most importantly, the Thomas, Lord Berkeley he served as chaplain was not Edward II's custodian of 1327, but his grandson of the same name.

Thomas Berkeley, the custodian of 1327, died in October 1361, when Trevisa was about nineteen. According to Professor Fowler, the earliest documented evidence of a connection between Trevisa and the lords of Berkeley is Trevisa's dedication in his translation of the Polychronicon, which he completed on 18 April 1387, to Thomas, Lord Berkeley the grandson. Trevisa was still at Oxford when he finished his translation, and the first certain evidence that he was living at Berkeley comes in 1388 - in other words, twenty-seven years after the death of Edward II's custodian Lord Berkeley, and a whopping sixty-one years after Edward's supposed murder.

Thomas Berkeley the grandson was born on 5 January 1353, was eight years old when his grandfather of the same name died in 1361, succeeded as Lord Berkeley when he was twenty-one in January 1374, and lived until July 1417. His ancestry is fascinating: grandson of Edward II's custodian, grandson also of Hugh Despenser the Younger, great-grandson of Roger Mortimer. Thomas was the eldest son of Maurice Berkeley, himself the eldest son of Thomas Berkeley the Elder and born sometime in 1330, about two and a half or three years after Edward II's alleged murder in his father's castle. Maurice married Hugh Despenser the Younger's daughter Elizabeth in August 1338 when he was eight, and died in June 1368, supposedly of old wounds received at the battle of Poitiers in 1356. Whether the Thomas Berkeley of 1327 ever told his son Maurice anything about Edward II's fate, and whether Maurice passed this information on to his own son - or to his wife Elizabeth Despenser, Edward's great-niece - is a matter for conjecture. Given that John Trevisa copied the story of the red-hot poker, which is an utterly ludicrous fabrication, if his patron Lord Berkeley did know the truth of what happened to Edward II, evidently he didn't tell Trevisa.

If people would just think a little before repeating the myth 'Trevisa was Lord Berkeley's chaplain and must have heard the truth about Edward's murder' they'd realise that as Trevisa translated the Polychronicon into English, the Lord Berkeley of the dedication cannot be Thomas Berkeley the grandfather. He lived in an England where the French language still dominated among the nobility, and the odds that he would have wanted to read a text translated into English are remote. For his grandson, however, who grew up in a world where English was becoming more and more significant as a literary and courtly language, it does make sense. If people would just think a little, they'd realise that a man with the last name 'Trevisa' is not likely to have come from Berkeley. If people would just do a little basic research - I found Trevisa's correct date of birth in about five seconds on Google Books - they'd discover that he was not alive in 1327, did not serve as confessor to Lord Berkeley the grandfather and arrived at Berkeley Castle six decades after Edward II's supposed murder. But then, why bother to do such basic research when it's so easy to mindlessly repeat the unfounded assumptions of earlier writers? And it always amuses me when I see writers solemnly declare that Trevisa was a child in Berkeley village when Edward was imprisoned at the castle there, as though this means that Trevisa therefore had inside knowledge of the king's fate. Are we supposed to think that Lord Berkeley was in the habit of sharing state secrets with local village boys?

By the time John Trevisa arrived at Berkeley in the late 1380s, there couldn't have been anyone alive there who knew the truth about Edward II's fate, and he had no more insight into the affair than anyone else. As for Ranulph Higden of the Polychronicon, he was a monk of Chester and knew no more about Edward's death than anyone else did either, and just because both men repeated the red-hot poker story is not proof that it's true.

07 July, 2009

Edward II Should Have Been Born...

...a fisherman on the Thames. He really, truly should. There are countless references to fishermen - and women - in his chamber journal of 1326, and Edward spent much of that summer pootling up and down the Thames and other waterways west of London chatting to fishermen and women and giving them presents. There are also more references than I could ever count regarding the purchase of fishing-nets for the king's household.

This is my fourth and last post on the chamber journal of Edward II, the king who declared at his abdication in January 1327 "I greatly lament that I have so utterly failed my people, but I could not be other than I am." And what he was was utterly unconventional - as I hope these blog posts about his activities in 1325/26 go some way to demonstrating.

- Edward gave two shillings to John de Walton on 25 July 1326, who "sang before the king [chaunta deuant le Roi] every time he passed by water through these parts," and also gave Edward a present of loach. John The Singing Fisherman!

- Edward gave his valet/fisherman Edmund 'Monde' Fisher a gift of ten shillings on 12 June 1326 towards the costs of his illness, maybe the same illness that was then cutting a swathe through the king's household, but Monde sadly died the following day. Edward gave a pound to his widow Isabelle and ten shillings to his daughter Joan - the women received the money "in the king's presence" - and granted permission for Monde's son, his page Little Will Fisher, to go home with two shillings for his expenses. On 25 July, Edward encountered Monde's widow Isabelle (or Sibille) again, near Sheen - the same day he saw John The Singing Fisherman - and she gave him and his niece Eleanor Despenser a present of loach. He gave her a present of five shillings.

- on 13 and 14 July at Chertsey and Isleworth, Edward gave cash gifts of between two and five shillings each to six men and one woman who had brought him flounder, roach, unspecified other fish and chickens. As he so often did, he handed over the cash with his own hands.

- he gave five shillings on 26 July to Edward of Kennington, who had brought him two pike, "to repair his house."

- as well as fish, Edward liked seafood. He gave a pound to his purveyor William Wythe on 29 July for bringing him crabs and prawns, and "said that for a long time nothing had been so much to his satisfaction." I have a reference somewhere, which I can't find at the moment, to Edward giving an equally generous gift to an oystermonger for bringing him oysters that he really enjoyed.

- he gave six pence on 24 July to Jack le Frenche of Walton, who "brought to the king by his command water from a well" - it was a hot summer - six pence to Robyn atte Hethe, "who suffers from a great illness," and three pence to Will de Pykingham, who retrieved a knife one of Edward's squires had dropped in the river.

- Edward sent one pomegranate each to two members of Hugh Despenser the Younger's household on 9 June, who had been left behind ill at Saltwood in Kent: his chamberlain Clement Holditch and his clerk Richard Navely.

- Edward celebrated the Nativity of St John the Baptist, 24 June 1326, by playing dice with Sir Giles Beauchamp at the Tower of London. He spent three shillings.

- the eccentric king spent quite a bit of time in 1325 and 1326 at 'Burgundy', his hut or cottage at Westminster. On 15 July, he paid twenty-eight men for cleaning the ditches there "in the king's presence."

- 26 July 1326: "Item, paid to Will the gardener of Kenilworth who came to talk to the king on some business touching him, of the king's gift for his expenses in returning to the said Kenilworth, three shillings."

- the king's chamberlain and favourite Hugh Despenser was away from Edward yet again in late July 1326, having gone to Wales, where Edward sent him letters. Those two were apart far more often than I'd ever imagined.

- on the other hand, Edward's niece Eleanor Despenser was with the king, yet again. He spent two days at Sheen with her in July, then they travelled together by water to Byfleet, Edward spending eighteen pence on roach and dace for her. She appears so often in the chamber journal that Edward's clerks sometimes referred to her merely as 'my lady', with no name necessary.

- the king went from the Tower of London on 20 July to visit Hugh Despenser's newly-married nephew-in-law Robert Wateville at his house without Aldgate. Robert was ill, and received forty marks from Edward.

- Edward went stag-hunting at Walmer on 30 July. His cook Morris (spelt Moryz) was riding in front of him and kept falling off his horse, though why is not clear - intentionally, to amuse the king, or unintentionally because he was ill? Anyway, Morris received a pound because "the king laughed greatly." Either this reflects well on Edward for still having a sense of humour and being generous, or badly if he was laughing at someone too ill to stay on his horse (how cruel!)

- Edward bought some cloth for himself on 3 August - I still need to do some work on that entry, as it's hard to read and there are a few words I don't know, but it included 'vermilion silk decorated with silver'.

- on the same day, he bought a habergeon or sleeveless coat of chain-mail for a pound, also spending three shillings and sixpence having his sword repaired and 'improved' and getting a chape, a cap or cover for the point of the sword, made. None of this did him any good when the invasion came, of course.

- in May 1326 at Down Ampney in Wiltshire, various lovely things were delivered to Edward: a gold crown with fourteen rubies and emeralds; a silver crown decorated with artificial jewels; a gold chaplet; a hat of vermilion velvet with a "vine of gold" and bells; a white velvet hat lined with pure miniver; and another hat of vermilion velvet "powdered with diverse animals." And lots of other gorgeous items. Edward may not have acted like a king, but he certainly looked like one. I wonder if he wore all this finery when handing over money to fishermen or watching a group of men clean ditches.

All these details bring Edward II and the realities of his life close to me. Whatever anyone else might think of him, and there does seem to be an awful lot of negativity about him online - lots of it, I have to say, not really justified - to me he was utterly wonderful, and I adore him. So there.