09 December, 2009

Edward II's Campaign Of 1321/1322

In the last post, I talked about the start of Edward II's campaign against the Contrariants in late 1321. This post takes up the story.

Edward arrived in Cirencester on 20 December 1321, and spent Christmas there. While his army was mustering at Cirencester, the Contrariant John, Lord Giffard - whose wife Aveline Courtenay was the niece of Hugh Despenser the Elder - raided some of the king's supply trains, and in revenge, or possibly just because he was feeling vindictive, Edward sent the sheriff of Gloucestershire and other men on 26 December to destroy Giffard's castle of Brimpsfield near Gloucester. [1] John, Lord Hastings, one of Edward's least recalcitrant enemies and husband of the great heiress Juliana Leyburne, submitted to the king at Cirencester. Hastings' role in the events of 1321 is somewhat obscure, as he was not one of the hundreds of men pardoned that August for attacking the Despensers' lands, and Edward later gave him temporary custody of Hugh Despenser the Younger's lands in Glamorgan, a sign of his trust. [2] Hastings' father had been one of the few men who remained loyal to Edward II and Piers Gaveston in 1308.

The king also ordered the arrest of his former steward Bartholomew Badlesmere on 26 December, and sent the sheriff of Gloucestershire to seize the castles, lands, goods and chattels of John Giffard, his (Edward II's) former favourite and nephew-in-law Roger Damory, his other former favourite and nephew-in-law Hugh Audley and his father, Lord Berkeley and his son Thomas, and dozens of others including John Maltravers; the latter two men were Edward of Caernarfon's custodians in 1327. [3] Before Edward’s arrival in the west, the Marchers seized Gloucester, twenty miles from Cirencester, and thus controlled the bridge over the Severn. When they heard that the king was approaching Gloucestershire, they fled from him rather than engage him in battle, although their army was - allegedly - almost four times bigger than his, burning and devastating the countryside as they went. Too afraid to confront the king directly, they once more vented their anger and frustration on innocents, and a furious Edward said later that they "ravaged the king's people during their retreat from Gloucester to the north." [4]

Edward and his army left Cirencester on 26 December and marched north to Worcester, where he arrived on New Year’s Eve, but was unable to cross the bridge because the Contrariant army was on the other side holding it against him. They still made no effort to engage the king in battle. On 7 January, Edward was forced to leave Worcester and head farther north, and as soon as he had left, Roger Damory swooped in with an armed force and took the town for the Contrariants. At this time, it seems that the Contrariants split up: Damory remained at Worcester, others headed north, while the earl of Hereford, evidently deciding that the Despensers' lands just hadn’t been attacked enough, sacked the younger Despenser's Worcestershire castles of Hanley and Elmley. (Edward II later paid for the repairs.) [5] The Contrariants were desperately hoping for the earl of Lancaster’s support, but, lethargic and unreliable as ever, he failed to come to their aid – although he had begun besieging the royal castle of Tickhill in Yorkshire by 10 January. [6]

The Contrariants retreated up the western side of the Severn, burning the bridges as they went to prevent Edward and his army crossing, but still not daring to confront him directly. Edward next tried to force a crossing at Bridgnorth, sending John Pecche, Fulk Fitzwarin and Oliver Ingham as the advance force - an interesting group of men, of whom two (Pecche and Fitzwarin) would join the earl of Kent's plot to restore Edward in 1330, and one (Ingham) who would be arrested at Nottingham Castle with Roger Mortimer later that same year. The people of Bridgnorth claimed in 1331 that Edward had ordered Robert Lewer to destroy the bridge, though why the king would have done so when he needed to cross the bridge to attack the Contrariants is unclear, and it is apparent that it was in fact the Contrariants themselves who attacked the town and bridge. [7] Roger Mortimer, his uncle Roger Mortimer of Chirk and the earl of Hereford, fresh from sacking the younger Despenser's castles, "made a serious attack upon the king. They burned a great part of the town [Bridgnorth] and killed very many of the king’s servants," says the Vita Edwardi Secundi. [8] Edward II - apparently unaware of who had carried out the attack - ordered the constable of Bristol Castle on 15 January to arrest the Mortimers, the earl of Hereford, Roger Damory, Hugh Audley and his father, Bartholomew Badlesmere, John Giffard and ten named others, who had beaten, wounded and killed inhabitants of Bridgnorth, stolen "garments, jewels, beasts and other goods," and imprisoned people "until they made grievous ransoms." [9] The Vita says bitterly that in 1322 the Contrariants "killed those who opposed them, [and] plundered those who offered no resistance, sparing no one." [10] (So hardly the brave and guiltless freedom fighters against royal tyranny of popular legend, then.)

Edward II arrived at Shrewsbury on 14 January and finally managed to cross the Severn. At the request of the earls of Norfolk, Kent, Richmond, Pembroke, Arundel and Surrey, he offered safe-conducts to the Contrariants who were in the vicinity, the earl of Hereford and both Roger Mortimers, to come to him and to negotiate with the earls. (The earl of Arundel had replaced Mortimer of Chirk, his grandmother's brother, as justiciar of Wales on 5 January.) [11] Edward pointedly excluded Bartholomew Badlesmere by name from the safe-conducts*, which demonstrates his fury at Badlesmere's switching sides; Edward II was most emphatically not a man to forgive and forget a betrayal, and could (and frequently did) bear a grudge forever. Damory, Audley, John Giffard, Roger Clifford, John Mowbray and the other Contrariants remained farther south and were not offered safe-conducts.

* "Safe conduct, until Thursday, from morning until vespers and the night following for Roger de Mortimer of Wygemor [Wigmore], and all those he brings with him or who will come to the king's will, Bartholomew de Badelesmere excepted."

The earl of Hereford did not go to the king, but on 22 January the two Roger Mortimers "deserted their allies, and threw themselves on the king’s mercy," according to the Vita, although some chroniclers claim that trickery on the part of Edward II or his ally the earl of Pembroke was involved in their submission and that the two men had been promised clemency by the king. The Vita goes on to say that the other Contrariants were astonished and tearful at their desertion, but in fact, whatever tales were told of the king's treachery and the shock of the other Contrariants, the Mortimers really had little choice but to submit to Edward. Sir Gruffudd Llwyd and the violent and unstable Robert Lewer had been giving them a taste of their own medicine by attacking their lands and seizing Welshpool, Chirk and the castle of Clun, which they had taken the previous year from their kinsman, the earl of Arundel. The Mortimers' men were deserting them, they were running out of money and being squeezed between two forces, Edward’s on the east side of the Severn and his allies on the west side, and their lands were being occupied and burnt. The royalists also seized the castles of Holt and Bromfield, which belonged to the earl of Lancaster, which meant that he was now in no position to come and help the Marchers – if he had ever had any intention of doing so – and which was probably also a factor in the Mortimers' submission. On 13 February, the earl of Surrey (John de Warenne, Edward II's nephew-in-law), Robert Lewer and others took them to be imprisoned in the Tower of London, "lest repenting of what they had done they should return to their baronial allies." [12] Given the numerous crimes the two men had committed and encouraged in the previous nine months – homicide, assault, theft, plunder, vandalism, false imprisonment, extortion – this fate was hardly undeserved, and if they had truly expected clemency from Edward, this seems naive in the extreme. The 'community of Wales' presented a petition to Edward sometime in 1322, saying that they had heard the Mortimers' lands would be restored to them, and because of the threats the two men had made against them, the Welshmen would be ruined and no longer able to live on their lands if this were true. They asked Edward not to give the Mortimers their lands and lordships back, or the Welshmen would defend themselves against them if necessary. Edward assured them that the Mortimers would remain in his keeping and that he would "ordain what is to the benefit of his subjects." [13] Roger Mortimer of Chirk's downfall brought a flurry of petitions complaining about his behaviour as justiciar of Wales, which included imprisoning one John Caperich "without cause or process" until Caperich made a ransom of twenty pounds. [14] Chirk died in the Tower in August 1326, a few weeks before his nephew (who had escaped from the Tower three years earlier) invaded England, though as he was about seventy by then, well beyond average life expectancy for the era, there is little reason to suppose that his death was suspicious.

Edward II continued, in the weeks following the Mortimers' surrender, to issue writs of arrest for their allies, and around this time took to calling his baronial enemies the 'Contrariants'. Abandoned by two of their key allies, the Contrariants turned back south towards Gloucester, and Edward followed them, leaving Shrewsbury on 24 January. Claiming that Adam Orleton, bishop of Hereford, was supporting the Contrariants, Edward publicly upbraided him when he reached Hereford, and went hunting in Orleton's parks with his half-brother the earl of Kent, without Orleton’s permission. [15] On 6 February, Lord Berkeley and Hugh Audley the Elder, father of Edward's former favourite, gave up the fight and surrendered to Edward at Hereford; he sent them to prison at Wallingford Castle. Both men died, still imprisoned, in 1326. The following day the king took Berkeley Castle into his own hands, unaware of the tragic role it would play in his life in 1327. Meanwhile, the remaining Contrariants fled towards Yorkshire to seek refuge with the earl of Lancaster, their last hope of defeating Edward.


1) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1321-1324, p. 42; Annales Paulini 1307-1340, in W. Stubbs, ed., Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II, volume 1, p. 301; Johannis de Trokelowe et Henrici de Blaneforde Chronica et Annales, ed. H. T. Riley, p. 111.
2) Calendar of Fine Rolls 1319-1327, p. 115.
3) Cal Fine Rolls 1319-1327, p. 84.
4) Calendar of Close Rolls 1318-1323, p. 516; Scott L. Waugh, 'The Profits of Violence: the Minor Gentry in the Rebellion of 1321-22 in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire', Speculum, 52 (1977), p. 850; Roy Martin Haines, King Edward II: His Life, His Reign, and Its Aftermath, 1284-1330, p. 135.
5) Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323, pp. 511-512.
6) Cal Pat Rolls 1321-1324, p. 47.
7) The National Archives SC 8/36/1794.
8) Vita Edwardi Secundi Monachi Cuiusdam Malmesberiensis, ed. N. Denholm-Young, p. 118.
9) Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323, pp. 511-514.
10) Vita, p. 121.
11) Cal Pat Rolls 1321-1324, pp. 47-48, p. 51; Cal Fine Rolls 1319-1327, pp. 86-87.
12) Vita, p. 119; Croniques de London depuis l’an 44 Hen III jusqu'à l'an 17 Edw III, ed. G. J. Aungier, p. 43.
13) TNA SC 8/6/255.
14) TNA SC 8/38/1854.
15) Roy Martin Haines, The Church and Politics in Fourteenth-Century England: the Career of Adam Orleton, c. 1275-1345, p. 142.


Susan Higginbotham said...

Great post! Surprising (well, not surprising) how often one sees Roger Mortimer of Chirk characterized as a poor innocent old man maltreated by the dreadful Edward II & co.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Susan!

Gabriele Campbell said...

Edward may have been a rather inept king, but the Contrariants were a nasty bunch who did a lot more damage to the land than Hugh Depenser.

Kathryn Warner said...

Yes, they were far from being the innocents of legend!