26 August, 2009

A Manor House, And Some Presents

I'm afraid this is kind of a random post today - I meant to post the second part of my biography of Henry of Grosmont, duke of Lancaster, but just as I was putting the finishing touches to that one, I pressed some random key and the whole wretched thing disappeared. And Blogger, cackling in evil fashion and rubbing its hands together, chose that precise second to auto-save and thus saved an acre of nothingness rather than my meanderings about Henry. Agh. So until I can summon up the will to write it again, here are some bits about a) a fourteenth-century royal manor and b) some presents Edward II gave to his friend Sir Roger Damory.

As I'm being pretty random today, here's a fun fact that doesn't fit anywhere else: although normally the vagueness of medieval records frustrates me (when, for instance, Robert Lewer was arrested in 1320 for unstated "trespasses, contempts and disobediences," what the heck had he done?), sometimes it's amusing. Such as the entry on the 'Household Roll of Lord Edward the King's Son' from 1293, where we learn that on Wednesday 2 September that year, the nine-year-old Edward of Caernarfon dined at Salisbury with "a monk and some other monks." The next day, he dined at Winchester with "some monks and a whole convent of monks."

I was browsing through the Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous 1308-1348 the other day, as you do, when I saw an interesting piece about the manor of Burgh in Suffolk. Edward II stayed at Burgh, a village north-east of Ipswich, from 26 to 31 January 1326, dining there on the 30th with his sister-in-law Alice, countess of Norfolk. He gave a very generous gift of a pound each to the two minstrels - Henry Newsom, harper, and Richardyn, citoler - who performed for them.

Anyway, an inquisition taken by Walter de Norwich and the sheriff of Norfolk in August 1313 found that the manor of Burgh needed £200 of repairs, which is fortunate as it gives the extent of the buildings at Burgh and thereby a fascinating insight into a royal manor and the kind of living space the king could expect. (Though bear in mind that 1326, when he stayed at Burgh, was the year that Edward II spent a considerable amount of time living in a hut at Westminster and watching a group of men clean the ditches. Voluntarily.)

In 1313, the manor-house of Burgh contained:

- a great hall, covered with shingles
- a chamber for the king, adjoining the hall
- a chamber for the queen, with its own chapel
- a chamber for the royal knights
- a kitchen adjoining the hall
- a larder
- a watchtower outside the moat
- a watchtower inside the moat
- a granary
- a great chapel
- a "little stable"
- a bakehouse with a brewhouse
- a "great chamber without the moat with two garderobes"
- a dairy
- a stable with a beasthouse adjoining, in length 61 feet and in breadth 20 feet
- a grange
- a watermill
- a "little stable for the servants." (??)

There was a bridge from the queen's chamber leading to a park - doesn't that sound lovely? - and another bridge to the park, which "is enclosed with a paling," near the bakehouse. The inquisition found that "the doors without are fairly good" but that "the walls made of earth round the manor are in bad condition." Finally, a great table worth six shillings and eight pence stood in the hall.

An entry on the Patent Roll of 21 August 1329 details an "acquittance to Edmund de Remmesbury, king's chaplain, for the following things, which by the late king's [Edward II] command he delivered to Roger Dammori, knight..." Damory was Edward's great court favourite from about 1315 to 1319, lost his position to Hugh Despenser, and died in rebellion against the king in March 1322. While he was in the king's favour, though, Edward gave him some rather splendid gifts for his chapel:

- "A chasuble of red cloth of Tarsus sprinkled with diverse flowers of Indian colour, together with alb and amesse, stole and maniple, and two frontals of the same sort, the gift of the queen." Interesting that Isabella was giving presents to Damory. According to this page, cloth of Tarsus was a "type of felt cloth from the wool of shaggy black goats," and the Turkish city where it comes from is the birthplace of St Paul.

- "one chalice silver-gilt, with the cross engraved in the foot and six enamelled knots in the centre, and in the paten, one cross engraved with extended hand."

- "a superaltar of black stone ornamented in the circumference with silver and gilded."

- "one cross of ivory painted with four images standing on each side, the base whereof was of ivory and cedar, and round the base six images of ivory, painted, standing in tabernacles."

- "one solemn cope with embroidered images of Christ and his mother in the shoulders of the crucifix, of John and Mary, and the flagellations of Jesus Christ, and the image of the Virgin Mary sitting in a chair with tiers, with diverse embroidered images of the apostles, martyrs, confessors and virgins."

- "one image of the Virgin Mary of ivory, standing and holding the Child in her arms."


Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous 1308-1348, p. 34.
Calendar of Patent Rolls 1327-1330, pp. 439-40.

21 August, 2009

A Verray Parfit Gentil Knyght: Henry of Grosmont, Duke of Lancaster (1)

This is the first of several posts about one of the most fascinating and likeable people of the entire fourteenth century: the wonderful and marvellous Henry of Grosmont, first duke of Lancaster, who was a renowned warrior, famous jouster, brilliant diplomat, writer, lover, the epitome of chivalry; who was brave, devout, intelligent, courteous, sensual, kind, generous, cultured, wise, gracious, flamboyant, humble and charismatic; who went on fifteen military campaigns and eighteen diplomatic missions and was a wildly successful commander during the Hundred Years War, yet found the time to write a remarkable devotional treatise, to challenge the duke of Brunswick to a duel in Paris, to go on crusade to Algeciras and Prussia, to be a founder member of the Knights of the Garter, to joust without bothering to wear protective clothing, to get drunk, to kiss lots of lowborn women, and to appreciate flowers, good food, dancing and birdsong, among much else. And was just completely and utterly fascinating and wonderful. Yes, I'm gushing, but I fell a bit in love with Henry, or more than a bit if I'm honest, while writing these posts. His contemporaries also gushed about him: the Scalacronica described him as "sage, illustrious and valiant...enterprising in honour and arms," Jean Froissart called him "a great and famous soldier," and Edward III praised his "many magnificent services." The pope thought highly of him, too; Benedict XII wrote in February 1345, before Henry's career had reached the dizzying heights of later years, that Henry's "coming speedily to the pope will console him not a little." [1]

Henry was born around 1310, probably at Grosmont Castle, as the only son of Henry, future earl of Lancaster (c. 1281-1345), himself the younger son of Edward I's brother Edmund and the brother of Thomas, earl of Lancaster, executed by their cousin Edward II in March 1322. Henry of Grosmont had six sisters: Blanche, Lady Wake; Isabel, prioress of Amesbury; Maud, countess of Ulster; Joan, Lady Mowbray; Eleanor, Lady Beaumont and countess of Arundel; and Mary, Lady Percy. Blanche and Isabel were certainly older than Henry, Eleanor and Mary certainly younger, though the birth order of the three middle children Henry, Maud and Joan is unclear. Henry was the first cousin once removed of Edward II and the first cousin of Isabella of France, his father being the younger half-brother of Isabella's mother Queen Jeanne of Navarre, and was also the nephew of Hugh Despenser the Younger through his mother Maud Chaworth (1282-c. 1321), Hugh's half-sister - not a connection Henry boasted about after 1326, I'm sure. Maud was heir to her father Patrick Chaworth (died 1283) and passed on to her son lands in South Wales, Wiltshire and Hampshire, but far more importantly, as Thomas of Lancaster had no legitimate children, his brother Henry and nephew Henry of Grosmont were heirs to his vast inheritance, which included the earldoms of Lancaster, Leicester and Derby. The two Henrys also inherited from Edmund of Lancaster other lands in South Wales, the Marches and Gloucestershire, and held the French lordships of Nogent-sur-Marne near Paris and Beaufort in Champagne (Beaufort passed to Henry's son-in-law John of Gaunt, who used the name for his illegitimate children).

Almost nothing is known of Henry's early life. His mother Maud died in about 1321 when he was young, probably ten or eleven, and he must have been horrified and dismayed when his uncle Thomas of Lancaster was beheaded for treason in March 1322. He spent his adolescence during the tyranny and chaos inflicted on England by his other uncle Hugh Despenser and cousin Edward II, and was about sixteen when Hugh was executed and Edward incarcerated in his (Henry's) father's castle at Kenilworth, no longer the king. Henry is not known to have played any role in the equally chaotic events of his cousin Isabella and Roger Mortimer's regency, nor in their downfall in October 1330, though he was knighted and married that year and began to represent his father Earl Henry, who had gone blind, at parliament and in public life. The Lancasters seem to have been a close-knit family: Henry and several of his sisters spent most of their time living with their father even after marriage and received large amounts of money from him for their expenses, and Henry often travelled around England and abroad with his brothers-in-law, especially the earls of Ulster and (after 1345) Arundel.

Henry married Isabella Beaumont, second daughter of Henry, Lord Beaumont, shortly before 24 June 1330, and his younger sister Eleanor married Beaumont's son and heir John later that year. Henry Beaumont was in voluntary exile on the continent in 1330, plotting an invasion of England against the regime of Isabella and Roger Mortimer, and Henry of Lancaster was in disgrace following the failure of his rebellion against the pair eighteen months earlier. The double marriage alliance between Beaumont and Lancaster's children was therefore a powerful political statement by two of Isabella and Mortimer's most influential, active and vocal opponents, and Beaumont had already married his eldest daughter Katherine to the earl of Atholl, another prominent rebel. Henry of Grosmont, heir to the enormous Lancastrian inheritance and the most eligible bachelor in England at the time, might perhaps have been expected to make a better match than the second daughter of a baron, who was not an heiress. Isabella Beaumont's date of birth is not known, but she was certainly a few years younger than Henry and probably born sometime between 1316 and 1320, so may have been as young as ten when she married.

Henry and Isabella had only two children in thirty years of marriage: Maud, born between 1339 and 1341 and named after Henry's mother, and Blanche, born between 1342 and 1345 (there is much debate over the women's dates of birth, which I won't get into here) and probably named after Henry's paternal grandmother Blanche of Artois, queen of Navarre and countess of Lancaster. Their daughters were born a very long time after Henry and Isabella's wedding and perhaps also with a long gap between them, which may indicate that Isabella was too young to consummate her marriage until a few years after it took place, that one or either of the couple was not particularly fertile, that they didn't spend much time together, or that they had other children who died young.

There is little to suggest that Henry found much contentment or fulfilment in his marriage. Although Isabella was the first English duchess (except for the queens of England, who were also duchesses of Aquitaine) and the grandmother of a king of England and a queen of Portugal (Henry IV and Philippa of Lancaster), and Henry was one of the most famous and talked-about men of his day, she is remarkably obscure, and even the year of her death is uncertain. Nothing indicates that Henry was particularly close to or had strong feelings for his wife, and Isabella played little if any role in his public life. No chronicler of the age even mentioned her, and Henry's own 244-page devotional treatise of 1354, Le Livre de Seyntz Medicines (see my next post), which includes many personal insights into his life, loves and passions, doesn't mention her either. Although there is nothing to suggest conflict between them, here is an example of an arranged marriage where the couple proved rather less than compatible.

Henry, however, had other consolations. In his Livre, he admitted that he had made love with many women and sung love songs to them, and although he thought that noblewomen smelled nicer, he preferred common women as they were more responsive when he kissed them (or had sex with them; he used the word beiser, which can mean both). He wrote that he stretched out his legs in his stirrups when competing in jousting tournaments so that women would admire his calves, admitted that when he was young he took "very great delight in lust," and had a "great desire to be praised, then loved, then lost" by women (grant desir d'estree preisez, puis amez, et puis perduz). It's hard to imagine that Henry had any difficulties finding willing partners; not only was he enormously wealthy, powerful and royal, he described himself in the Livre as tall, fair, slim, strong and good-looking - and yes, he also admitted that he was guilty of vanity by taking pleasure in his own beauty! Henry's self-description was probably accurate, though: a chronicler described his uncle Thomas of Lancaster as greles et de bel entaile, "slim and of fair size," i.e. tall, both Geoffrey Chaucer and Jean Froissart wrote that Henry's daughter Blanche was tall, blonde and lovely, and the Lancasters were close kin to Edward II, whose uncommon height and good looks were remarked on by many chroniclers.

Although Henry's father Earl Henry lived until September 1345, dying in his mid-sixties, his blindness meant that he was unable to take an especially active role in politics or warfare after the late 1320s, and to all extents and purposes, Henry became the head of the family. He accompanied Edward III to France in April 1331 and took part in the famous jousting tournament at Cheapside in September that year, and in March 1332 Edward III granted him 500 marks a year "for the special affection which the king bears him, and because his father Henry earl of Lancaster has not yet made such provision for him as becomes his estate." [2] 'Affection' is usually a pretty formulaic phrase, yet it is apparent that Edward III genuinely had a great fondness for Henry, who was near his own age and a close relative, a second cousin through Edward II and a first cousin once removed through Isabella of France. Henry took part in Edward III's Scottish campaigns of the 1330s, and was appointed king's lieutenant in that country in 1336. In March 1337, aged about twenty-seven, he was created earl of Derby, one of his father's lesser titles, with an income of 1000 marks (666 pounds) a year. Henry's magnificent style of living, even before he succeeded to all his father's lands and titles, is demonstrated in 1339: when he pawned some of his jewels and plate to raise money for Edward III, included among them were no fewer than seven coronets and eleven gold circlets. He admitted in his Livre that he loved the rings on his fingers, his fine clothes and his armour, and as will be seen in my next posts about him, he was a sensual, tactile man.

That's all for this post, but coming soon: Henry of Grosmont wins crushing victories against the French, dances elegantly, eats salmon with rich sauces, loves the smell of scarlet cloth, violets and women, challenges a German duke to a duel, builds a great palace, goes on crusade, and piously refuses all rich gifts offered to him except for a thorn from the Crown of Thorns.


1) Scalacronica: the reigns of Edward I, Edward II and Edward III, ed. Herbert Maxwell (1907), p. 168; Geoffrey Brereton, Jean Froissart: Chronicles (1978), p. 41; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1350-1354, p. 191; Calendar of Papal Letters 1342-1362, p. 15.

2) Patent Rolls 1330-1334, p. 265.

- Le Livre de Seyntz Medicines
- Kenneth Fowler, The King's Lieutenant: Henry of Grosmont, First Duke of Lancaster 1310-1361 (1969)
- Patrick Ball, ''Mercy Gramercy': A Study of Henry of Grosmont' (BA thesis, University of Tasmania, 2007) (available online as PDF file)
- Brad Verity, 'The First English Duchess: Isabel de Beaumont, c. 1318- c. 1359', Foundation for Medieval Genealogy

16 August, 2009

Maurice Berkeley and Elizabeth Despenser

Here's a post about a couple who fascinate me: Maurice, Lord Berkeley (pronounced 'Barkley'), son of the man who was Edward II's custodian in 1327 and grandson of Roger Mortimer; and Elizabeth Despenser, daughter of Hugh Despenser the Younger and great-niece of Edward II. I started writing this post a few days ago, and was amazed to see that Susan Higginbotham had had the same idea and also wrote a post about the couple - great minds and all that! Oh well, on the grounds that you can't have enough information about people who lived in the fourteenth century, here's more about them.

Maurice and Elizabeth married when they were still children in August 1338, their marriage intended at least in part to heal the wounds of their families' pasts, and it's not hard to see why. In 1322/24, Elizabeth's father and great-uncle imprisoned (either in castles or convents, depending on gender) Maurice's parents and all three of his grandparents who were still alive; Maurice's grandfather had Elizabeth's father and grandfather grotesquely executed in 1326; and, if you believe the traditional story, which I don't, plotted with Maurice's father to have Elizabeth's great-uncle the former king murdered, at the very castle where she later lived with Maurice.

According to John Smyth, historian of the Berkeley family (he wrote Lives of the Berkeleys in the early seventeenth century), Maurice was born near the end of the fourth year of Edward III's reign, or late 1330 - that is, around the time that his grandfather Roger Mortimer was executed and his father Thomas, Lord Berkeley was mysteriously telling parliament that he hadn't heard of Edward II's death in his own castle three years earlier. Thomas was somewhere in his thirties in 1330, born between 1292 and 1296 as the eldest son of Maurice, Lord Berkeley - the family alternated the names Thomas and Maurice for their eldest sons - and Eve la Zouche. Maurice (the younger)'s mother Margaret was the eldest of the eight daughters of Roger Mortimer, earl of March, and Joan de Geneville, born either on 2 May 1304 according to the Wigmore Chronicle, or sometime after 5 May 1307 - according to another source, she was under thirty when she died on 5 May 1337.

Elizabeth Despenser was one of the many children of Hugh Despenser the Younger and Eleanor de Clare, probably their youngest, and was a great-grandchild of Edward I, great-niece of Edward II, and granddaughter of two earls - Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester, and Hugh Despenser the Elder, earl of Winchester. She may have been the child born to Hugh and Eleanor shortly before 14 December 1325 when Edward II made an offering to the Virgin to give thanks for Eleanor's safe delivery, or she may have been Hugh's posthumous child, born after November 1326; at any rate, it is almost certain that she was too young to have any memories of her father. Her extreme youth at the time of Hugh's downfall proved a blessing, however, as it enabled her to escape Isabella of France's spiteful forced veiling of three of her older sisters on 1 January 1327 (see Susan Higginbotham's article for more details). Elizabeth's mother Eleanor died on 30 June 1337, when Elizabeth was probably ten or eleven, and she lived for a while at the priory of Wix in Essex and for about eighteen months in the household of her aunt and namesake, Elizabeth de Clare. She was at least three and possibly five years older than her husband.

Maurice Berkeley lost his mother when he was probably only six: Margaret Mortimer, Lady Berkeley, died on 5 March 1337, about eighteen months before her son's marriage (unfortunately - it would be great to think of Roger Mortimer's daughter and Hugh Despenser's daughter getting to know each other). Eleven days after Margaret's death, parliament finally acquitted her husband Thomas of any complicity in the death of Edward II, for which he had never been punished anyway. Maurice seems to have accompanied his father on the Scottish campaign that year and was knighted at a very young age, and supposedly spent two years as an adolescent in Granada, Spain, between 1342 and 1344 - according to the historian John Smyth, this was to prevent cohabitation with his wife Elizabeth, who was some years his senior and therefore, one supposes, much more physically and emotionally mature (and tempting?) It's also possible that Maurice accompanied the earls of Salisbury and Derby, sent to Castile to negotiate a marriage between one of Edward III's daughters and Alfonso XI's son in 1343, who took the opportunity to head off to Algeciras to fight the Moors while there. Maurice was back in England by 11 April 1344, when he and his father witnessed the grant of a messuage from his uncle, also called Maurice Berkeley, to William de Syde, Maurice's tutor.

Perhaps it isn't surprising that Maurice went on campaign to Scotland at such a young age, as Berkeley men tended to start their military careers early and finish them late - Maurice's great-grandfather Thomas, Lord Berkeley fought at Bannockburn in 1314 when he was close to seventy - and Maurice himself evidently was born to the military life: chronicler Geoffrey le Baker calls him "that hero worthy of his illustrious line" and says that he was always in the forefront of any battle. Maurice served with Edward III's eldest son Edward of Woodstock, prince of Wales, who once gave him a gift of a destrier, and took part in the prince's Gascon campaign of 1355. He had the misfortune to be taken prisoner at the battle of Poitiers on 19 September 1356, when, according to the chronicler Jean Froissart, he galloped off in pursuit of a Picard squire named John de Helennes, who skewered him through both thighs with his sword. Geoffrey le Baker, however, has a very different story: Maurice "did deeds worthy of eternal praise against the French. He plunged into the Dauphin’s battalion and laid about him with his sword, not thinking of flight so long as a Frenchman remained standing in his sight…Having broken his lance, sword and other weapons on them by the strength of his blows, he was over-powered by force of numbers, and taken for ransom, horribly wounded and unconscious." Baker is probably more reliable here; Froissart names Maurice as Thomas, Lord Berkeley, confusing him with his father, and Maurice's captor was in fact named John de Bouch, not John de Helennes.

Whichever is the true story, Maurice had to pay £2000 as his ransom, and spent four years as a hostage in France, finally returning to England in the autumn of 1360 with £1080 still owing to his captor, de Bouch. He signed a notification to this effect in the Calais house of Henry of Grosmont, duke of Lancaster (formerly earl of Derby), on 28 October 1360: "Notification by John count of Sairebruche [Saarbrücken], on behalf of John de Bouch, knight, of the release of Sir Morizes de Berquelee, John de Bouch's prisoner, for a ransom of £1,080, for which Henry duke of Lancastre and Sir Francis de Hale are pledges."

Maurice's long-lived father Thomas finally died in October 1361 and Maurice succeeded as Lord Berkeley, though had evidently been left an invalid by his wounds at Poitiers and played a minimal role in politics, both local and national. His tenure as Lord Berkeley was thus brief, less than seven years, and he died at Berkeley Castle on 8 June 1368 at the age of only thirty-seven or thirty-eight, apparently of his old wounds. He had been too ill or infirm to attend the wedding of his fourteen-year-old son and heir Thomas to Margaret Lisle in Buckinghamshire the previous November, though he did buy himself a suit of cloth-of-gold to celebrate the day, and sent Thomas off in great splendour wearing "scarlet and satin and a silver girdle" and accompanied by numerous household knights and squires splendidly dressed in "fine cloth of ray furred with miniver." Maurice, Lord Berkeley was buried at St Augustine's Abbey in Bristol - now Bristol Cathedral - next to his mother Margaret Mortimer, and their tomb and effigies still exist and can be seen in this pic (scroll down to 'Elder Lady Chapel'). His widow Elizabeth Despenser was one of the four co-executors of his will, which, if it still exists, I've never seen.

Elizabeth Despenser Berkeley married her second husband Sir Maurice Wyth, knight of Somerset, sometime before May 1372. Wyth left no children, and died shortly after writing his will on 11 July 1383; he left Elizabeth "all my husbandry from the present date until the feast of St Michael to come...with all necessaries pertaining to my chamber, wardrobe, hall and also to buttery and kitchen," and "all my silver vessels of the better sort to the value of £40." Wyth's will ended "it is my last wish that my said wife hold herself contented with all bequeathed to her," as though he was anticipating that she wouldn't be. (Well, she was the daughter of Hugh Despenser the Younger, motto 'what's yours is mine', after all.) Elizabeth lived into the thirteenth year of her second cousin Richard II's reign and died on 13 July 1389, probably aged sixty-two or sixty-three, and was buried with Maurice Wyth at the church of St Botolph without Aldersgate in London. Although this church still exists, the present building dates only from the late eighteenth century.

John Smyth called Maurice Berkeley 'Maurice the Valiant', though judging by his actions at Poitiers 'the Reckless' might be more appropriate, and called his heir Thomas 'the Magnificent'. Maurice Berkeley and Elizabeth Despenser had seven children: Katherine, Elizabeth, Agnes, Thomas, James, Maurice and John, and through their sons Thomas and James are the ancestors of, ooooh, just about everyone. The eldest son Thomas, future Lord Berkeley and patron of John Trevisa, was born on 5 January 1353, married Margaret, Lady Lisle in November 1367 - she was the great-granddaughter and heir of Warin Lisle, executed by Edward II in 1322 - and died at the age of sixty-four on 13 July 1417, the same day as his mother had died twenty-eight years earlier.

09 August, 2009

Edward II's Tomb

Some pics of Edward II's tomb and effigy at Gloucester Cathedral! His funeral took place here on 20 December 1327.

Completely random Edward II fact: it's well-known that he was born in Caernarfon, North Wales, on 25 April 1284, but I only realised the other day that Edward I and Queen Eleanor spent the entire period from June to August 1283 in North Wales. So Edward wasn't just born there, he was conceived there too.

Some info about the tomb can be found here. The pic on the right was taken from the other side of the tomb, and the one below shows the lion Edward's feet (or rather, foot - the left one is missing) are resting on.

Just ten miles down the road from Gloucester, the tomb of Hugh Despenser the Younger (with the fire extinguisher next to it!) still exists at Tewkesbury Abbey. Edward and his last great favourite still lie close together in death after nearly 700 years.

Below: Hugh's eldest son Hugh, Lord Despenser (c. 1308-1349), and grandson Edward, Lord Despenser (1336-1375), the famous Kneeling Knight of Tewkesbury. Hugh the Even Younger lies next to his wife Elizabeth Montacute, daughter of the earl of Salisbury.

03 August, 2009

What Happened After The Barons Killed Piers Gaveston

A post about what happened in the days after Piers Gaveston's death, which I'd originally intended to coincide with the anniversary of said death, i.e. 19 June. Oh well, only six weeks late.

Piers was killed at Blacklow Hill in Warwickshire on Monday 19 June 1312 - see this post, and Anerje's great blog about Piers, for more details. On that day, Edward II was staying 150 miles away at Burstwick-in-Holderness near Hull, with Queen Isabella, who was about four months pregnant with Edward III. Let me emphasise the fact that Isabella was already pregnant when Piers died; too many websites give the impression that Edward only began a proper relationship with his wife after the death of his favourite, as though the killing of Piers Gaveston was a necessary step to ensure the continuation of the royal English line.

Over the next few days, the royal couple travelled via Beverley and Pocklington to York, where they arrived on 24 June. We can probably assume that Edward was concerned about his friend's well-being - the earl of Pembroke had been taking Piers south to attend parliament following his surrender at Scarborough Castle, when he was abducted by the earl of Warwick at Deddington - but it never seemed to occur to him that Piers' life might be in danger from their enemies, and royal business went on much as usual: Edward borrowed forty pounds from the Genoese merchant Antonio di Pessagno to buy pearls for Isabella (yes, that's jewels for Isabella, a payment recorded in plain view on the Close Roll but conveniently ignored by the kind of writers who like to drone on about how Edward ignored and, of course, frequently 'abandoned' his queen), sent his servant John de la Marche to retirement at the priory of Bridlington, and pardoned two men for outlawry. Etc, etc.

It was on 26 June, a week after the event, that Edward learned of Piers' death - or, at least, responded to it. There was a sudden flurry of activity on that day: Edward gave custody of Piers' castles at Wallingford, Knaresborough and Tickhill to three men, one of whom (William de Vallibus) had previously acted as Piers' attorney, and another (Edmund Bacun) who had been granted custody of some of Piers' lands after his third exile in late 1311. In February 1312, the Ordainer William Martin had captured and imprisoned two of Piers' retainers, Bertrand Assailit and Berduk or Bernard de Marsan - the latter presumably a relative of Piers, as Marsan was his mother's name - with 1000 marks Piers had asked them to bring to him from Cornwall. Edward ordered Martin to send this money to the earl of Pembroke, also on 26 June - evidence that he knew Piers was dead, and evidence also that he didn't blame Pembroke, who had sworn to protect Piers, for his friend's death.

Four more things happened on 26 June: Edward wrote to the mayor of London, ordering him "to take the city of London into the king's hands without delay, and to guard it for the king's use," and wrote also to the treasurer and the constable of the Tower of London, ordering them to fortify the castle with men, armour and victuals. Rather mysteriously, the king told the keeper of the manor of Burstwick to deliver from the stud-farm there one bay horse each for his cousin Henry Beaumont, his steward Edmund Mauley, and his squire Oliver de Bordeaux. And he gave custody of the castle of Scarborough, where Piers had been captured a few weeks before, to the excellently-named Tallifer de Tilliolo. (I don't know who Tallifer was, but rest assured I will do my utmost to find out.)

The Vita Edwardi Secundi records Edward's reaction to Piers Gaveston's death as follows:

"By God’s soul, he acted as a fool. If he had taken my advice he would never have fallen into the hands of the earls. This is what I always told him not to do. For I guessed that what has now happened would occur. What was he doing with the earl of Warwick, who was known never to have liked him? I knew for certain that if the earl caught him, Piers would never escape from his hands."

Paul Doherty, in the author's note to his recent novel The Darkening Glass, suggests that Edward's reaction to Piers' death was "strangely muted," and a theme of the novel is that Edward had grown tired of his friend. Well, not really. Edward's words do sound rather odd, but as I've pointed out before, this is probably nothing more than evidence that profound shock, grief and rage do not lend themselves to eloquence. The Vita and several other chronicles, such as Lanercost, Scalacronica and Anonimalle, point out that Edward swore revenge for Piers' death, and if we look at Edward's subsequent actions rather than his speech, we get a far more reliable indicator of his feelings about Piers and his death. As late as June 1326, fourteen years later, Edward was still paying numerous religious houses to pray for Piers' soul, hardly the actions of a man who had tired of him. The king spent large sums of money on taking care of Piers' mortal remains - spending, for example, £144 between 8 July 1312 and 7 July 1313 on wax for candles to burn around Piers' body, eighty pence a day to the Dominicans of Oxford to pray over the body, £300 on cloth of gold to dress Piers for the funeral, and fifteen pounds to two men to watch over the body - for only twenty-eight days in December 1314! These are huge, huge amounts of money - the kind of money you spend on a person you adore, not a person you'd grown tired of or no longer cared about.

Edward left York on 28 June 1312, two days after he heard about or at least responded to Piers' death (I have no idea who told him, by the way; I assume the earl of Pembroke sent a messenger) and headed south to London. He left the pregnant queen behind, presumably to keep her out of the way of any danger, given that there was a strong risk that the country would slide into civil war - though I'm sure proponents of the currently oh-so-trendy Isabella Was A Tragic Neglected Victim Of Her Callous Husband theory can find some way of twisting this into more evidence that he was 'abandoning' her. Apparently, however, Isabella herself didn't think so: she sent a letter to Edward on 29 June, the day after his departure. This cannot have been her reaction to hearing about Piers' death as postulated by various writers, who miss the fact that she was with Edward when he heard about it.

Edward II's extant accounts provide a fascinating insight into his journey from York to London through Lincolnshire. On 30 June, he paid Graciosus the Taborer (drummer) for playing for him at Howden. He stayed at Swineshead Priory on 6 and 7 July, and paid another pound to Janin the Conjuror for his performance in the king's private chamber. (Isn't that a wonderful image - the twenty-eight-year-old king of England watching conjuring tricks in his room at a priory on a summer evening?) On 8 July, Edward had reached Surfleet, and gave three shillings to William the Acrobat and his fellows for "making their vaults" before him.

The king arrived in Westminster on 14 July and stayed there for the rest of the month, and made an impassioned public speech at the house of the Dominicans asking the Londoners to defend the city against Piers Gaveston's killers; evidence that Edward could be eloquent when the mood took him and when he cared deeply about something. For once, London supported him and closed the gates of the city against the earls of Lancaster, Warwick and Hereford, who brought their armies to Hertfordshire. On the other hand, the king summoned the three earls to appear before him at Westminster or London, playing a double game, as he often did; Edward had an aptitude for political intrigue, if little else. Rumours swirled: that Edward intended to seize Lancaster as soon as he entered London; that Lancaster would, with the help of a group of Londoners, capture Edward in the city. The killing of the king's favourite ensured that England teetered on the brink of civil war...