28 January, 2010

The Rise and Fall of a Royal Favourite: Roger Damory (2)

Here's the second part of my post about Roger Damory, Edward II's greatest court favourite between 1315 and 1319 or thereabouts (the first part is here). The first part ended with the earl of Lancaster attacking Roger, who had attained the position of Lancaster's Chief Enemy, by seizing two castles of which he was custodian. Lancaster must have been deeply dismayed in November 1317 when the lands of the late earl of Gloucester were finally partitioned among his three sisters and their husbands, and Roger Damory became one of the richest men in the realm. He was also summoned to parliament for the first time that month. Roger was now the king's nephew-in-law, rich in his own (or rather, his reluctant new wife's) right and not merely dependent on Edward II's favour, with vast influence over the king, and had therefore become a much more powerful enemy. Lancaster's fear and hatred of him knew no bounds: in July 1318, he accused Roger of trying to murder him, and also claimed that he had intercepted letters at Pontefract, written by Edward II and sent to Scotland, inviting the Scots to help kill him (Lancaster). [1] To what extent this is true or merely the earl's paranoia is hard to say.

Roger Damory's excessive, self-serving and frequently malevolent influence over the king clearly could not be allowed to continue, and on 24 November 1317 the earl of Pembroke and Bartholomew Badlesmere forced Roger - I don't know how - to sign an indenture, wherein he promised to do his best to prevent Edward II from taking action prejudicial to himself or his kingdom (which demonstrates, incidentally, what little faith Pembroke and Badlesmere had in Edward) and if he were unable to dissuade him, would inform Pembroke and Badlesmere as soon as possible so that the three of them together could talk Edward out of whatever foolishness he might be planning. Pembroke and Badlesmere knew from long experience that no-one was more likely to persuade Edward to do something imprudent than Roger himself, and made him swear on the Host to obey the covenant and pledge the massive sum of £10,000 as a penalty for breaking it. For their part, the two men swore to defend and maintain Damory against all persons except the king, as long as he kept and observed the covenant. [2]

Edward II kept Christmas 1317 at Westminster and gave silver-gilt cups worth seven pounds each to twenty-five knights, one of whom was Roger Damory's elder brother Richard. Whatever gifts the king and royal favourite gave each other is unfortunately not recorded, although in March 1318, Edward bought himself six pieces of Lucca cloth when he attended his stepmother Queen Marguerite's funeral at the Greyfriars church in London, and gave Roger two pieces of the same. [3] After Marguerite's funeral, Edward travelled to Clare Castle in Suffolk, where he spent 23 to 27 March with Roger and his wife, Edward's niece Elizabeth, who was about seven months pregnant (their daughter Elizabeth was born shortly before 23 May; Edward and Queen Isabella's daughter Eleanor was born on 8 June). In July 1318, Edward summoned a meeting of his great council at Northampton. The earl of Lancaster did not attend, and the Vita Edwardi Secundi says that the earl of Surrey, Roger Damory, Hugh Audley, William Montacute and both Hugh Despensers arrived at Northampton "in great strength, so that you would have thought they had not come to parliament, but to battle." The author gives this as the reason for Lancaster’s non-attendance, as "he counted all the aforenamed as his deadly enemies." [4] It was at this time that Lancaster accused Roger and William Montacute of trying to kill him. Edward II finally came to terms with his turbulent cousin - for a while, anyway - in early August, when the two men exchanged the kiss of peace in a field in Leicestershire and signed the Treaty of Leake. Lancaster demanded that Roger Damory, Hugh Audley and William Montacute be sent away from court and that they acknowledge large debts to him - Roger's was 906 marks [5] - to which, surprisingly, Edward agreed. He would never have consented to Piers Gaveston's removal until forced to (and dug his heels in for months on end when his barons demanded it) and in the future, refused to send Hugh Despenser away from him even during the biggest crisis of his reign. Although Roger Damory's friendship with Edward was certainly not over, without constant access to the king, his influence over him would henceforth be limited. The earl of Pembroke and Edward's long-suffering subjects must have rejoiced.

Roger took part in the siege of Berwick-on-Tweed in September 1319, bringing eighty-two men with him. Perhaps he took a crumb of comfort from the fact that, although Edward had allowed him to be banished from court, he promised to make Roger constable of the town once it fell (which of course it didn't). On the other hand, Roger's brother-in-law Hugh Despenser the Younger, the king's chamberlain since the summer or early autumn of 1318, had grown close to the king, and Edward promised to make him keeper of Berwick Castle. It's a real shame that the intense jockeying between these men for Edward's favour that must have been going on at this time, and the nature of it, is invisible on the surface (it would make fantastic material for a novel). Roger accompanied the king to France in the summer of 1320, when Edward II paid homage to his brother-in-law Philip V for Gascony and Ponthieu, but by the time they returned to England, Roger had been edged out of the king's favour by Hugh Despenser. Edward gave Roger a grant of free warren in his Hertfordshire manor of Standon on 9 September, and granted him a respite of 1000 marks on a debt of 2300 marks on 14 November, [6] but this meant little compared to the king's taking the South Wales peninsula of Gower into his own hands that October prior to granting it to Hugh Despenser. Roger had seen Despenser take over the Welsh lands of their brother-in-law Hugh Audley, and Despenser also coveted Roger's lordship of Usk: "by other false compassings he compassed to have the lands of Sir Roger Damary..." [7]

The Marcher lords, threatened by the rising power of Hugh Despenser at court and in the Marches, gradually left court over Christmas 1320. Roger Damory, now moving into the position of king's enemy, was one of the last to leave, and was still close enough to Edward to be granted permission to hunt in the royal forests of Clarendon and Hampton in early January 1321. Still, Damory obviously realised that his influence with Edward was over, and he "could have no affection for his deadly rival," Despenser. [8] He joined the coalition of the earl of Hereford, Roger Mortimer and the rest - even the earl of Lancaster, who managed to overcome his hatred for the former royal favourite in his eagerness to join the growing opposition to his cousin the king.

In early 1321, Edward II took ineffective steps to prevent the outbreak of civil war by ordering Roger Damory, Roger Mortimer and others - including Hugh Despenser, in a transparent and fruitless attempt not to be seen to be taking sides – "not to permit any assemblies to be made whereby the king’s peace or the tranquillity of the king’s people of those parts may be disturbed." Edward added that he had heard that Roger and the others were making "assemblies and musters in warlike manner, whereat the king is astonished, as it is unknown why such assemblies are made." Three weeks later on 13 April, the king ordered Roger, Roger Mortimer, the earl of Hereford and others, again including Despenser, not to make armed assemblies in their lands and "not to presume to go with armed power against other persons who are in the king’s peace and faith." Roger Damory was replaced as constable of the castles of Corfe and St Briavels in April/May 1321, by John Ryther and William Beauchamp respectively. [9]

The Despenser War began on 4 May 1321 when the Marchers and their allies attacked the Welsh castles and lands of Hugh Despenser, and Roger Damory took part in the destruction. (Edward II must have heard of his involvement by 8 May, as it was on this day that he removed Roger from his position as constable of Corfe.) Edward was forced, in the August 1321 parliament held at Westminster, to grant pardons to the men who had taken part in the attacks on the Despensers, who included Roger Damory and no fewer than 103 other men pardoned on his testimony. They included Lord Berkeley and his second son Maurice (his eldest son Thomas was pardoned on the testimony of his father-in-law Roger Mortimer), John Maltravers and his brother Edward, Henry Tyes who was executed in 1322, and three men whose names I really like: Guilmin Gloont, Oillard de Welles and Druet Dane. [10] Roger Damory was accused around this time of assaulting John de Bermingham, earl of Louth and the new justiciar of Ireland (replacing Roger Mortimer), when he visited England. Louth, formerly an ally of Mortimer but now close to Edward II and the Despensers, claimed that Roger's attack forced him to flee to Normandy, and that he had suffered great losses and damages. [11] Meanwhile, however, Robert Batail, baron of the Cinque Ports, and other men of Winchelsea, staunch allies of Edward II, attacked two ships and stole the merchandise – cloth and canvas – they found on board, claiming that the merchants were adherents of Roger. A William Edward of Dartmouth was appointed to seize a ship belonging to Roger at Weymouth. [12]

The Marchers granted Roger custody of Hugh Despenser's lordship of Glamorgan, and on 16 August, 25 September and 28 November, Edward II ordered him to deliver the lordship into his own hands. Roger, reluctant to let it go, wrote to Edward with the lame excuse that if he handed over Glamorgan to the king this would cause the inhabitants to believe that Despenser had remained in the country and that therefore they would rise in war, "which answer the king deems altogether insufficient and derisory." On 22 November, Edward had seized Roger's lands and goods in Essex, Suffolk and Hertfordshire, and ordered his arrest and the seizure of all his lands and goods on 6 December. This order was repeated on 27 December. [13]

Edward II arrived in Gloucestershire on 20 December 1321 to begin a campaign against the Contrariants. Attempting to cross the Severn, he arrived in Worcester on New Year's Eve, but was unable to use the bridge because it was being held against him, and left on 7 January to attempt a crossing further north. As soon as he had left, Roger swooped in with an armed force and took the town for the Marchers. Roger was named in a writ to the constable of Bristol Castle on 15 January, to be arrested for the attacks on the townspeople of Bridgnorth, and after the surrender of the Mortimers, Lord Berkeley and Sir Hugh Audley Sr he was one of the Contrariants to flee into Yorkshire to the earl of Lancaster, their sole remaining hope of defeating the king. [14] Roger had come a long way: from Edward II's great favourite and Lancaster's enemy, accused of trying to kill him, to Edward's enemy, forced to seek refuge with Lancaster. Edward ordered the arrest of Richard Damory, Roger's elder brother and formerly the guardian of Edward's eldest son, and seized his lands and goods. He released Richard a month later, however, and Richard served him as steward of the household from July 1322 to May 1325 and later as justice of Chester. [15] (Evidently a canny politician, Richard also survived the invasion of Isabella and Mortimer unscathed, and retained his position as justice of Chester. He died peacefully in August 1330, leaving as his heir his son Richard, aged about fourteen.)

On 11 March 1322, Edward II, on the advice of the earls of Kent, Pembroke, Arundel, Surrey, Richmond and Atholl, pronounced Roger Damory and the other leading Contrariants as traitors, and ordered all the sheriffs of England to arrest them, saying that they "inflicted evil against the king's servants, conducting war against the king with banners displayed," and that when they saw that Edward was on his way to Burton-on-Trent, "they turned their backs, set fire to the town, and fled." When the Contrariants fled from Burton, they left Roger, apparently badly wounded, behind. He was captured and tried, and condemned to the traitor's death by the royal justice Geoffrey le Scrope and the marshal of England (Edward’s half-brother Thomas of Brotherton, earl of Norfolk), but the court informed him that because Edward had loved him well in the past and because he had given Roger his niece in marriage, the king would respite the punishment – although the charge of treason stood, which meant that Roger's heir, his daughter Elizabeth, and her descendants were perpetually disinherited.

Roger Damory died at Tutbury Priory (four miles from Burton-on-Trent) on 12 March 1322, presumably of wounds sustained fighting against the royal army, though the Lanercost chronicle and the Croniques de London say he died of 'grief', and his widow Elizabeth claimed in 1326, rather disingenuously, that he was "pursued and oppressed so that he died." He was certainly not executed, as some published works continue to state. The author of the Vita Edwardi Secundi, less sympathetic than other chroniclers, points out that Roger was a "poor and needy knight" who rose to prominence through the king's favour, so that when he turned against Edward "many marked him down as ungrateful." [16] Edward was not present at Roger's death-bed - he had left Tutbury and moved on to Derby the day before - and how he felt about a man he had once loved dying in rebellion against him must remain a matter for speculation. Even before Roger's death, his wife Elizabeth was captured at Usk and sent to the abbey of Barking with her young children, where she learned of her husband's demise. Edward informed the abbess on 16 March that Elizabeth was not to "go out of the abbey gates in any wise." (This may seem cruel, and maybe it was, but Elizabeth's vast lands reverted to her on Roger's death and made her an enormously attractive prospective wife, and the last thing Edward wanted was for her to marry one of his enemies.) He released his niece a few months later and restored her Welsh lands to her on 25 July and the English and Irish ones on 2 November 1322, having paid seventy-four pounds for her expenses at Barking. [17] Roger was apparently buried with honour at St Mary's Church in Ware, Hertfordshire.

John Maddicott has said of Roger Damory (in the ODNB) that "his rapid rise and precipitate fall typified the fate of others who had had the misfortune to enjoy Edward's patronage," while Elizabeth de Burgh's biographer Frances Underhill brilliantly calls him "a grasping, reckless mediocrity with a petty crook's mentality." Roger left a single legitimate child, Elizabeth (1318-1361/62), who married John, Lord Bardolf of Wormegay in Norfolk (1312/14-1363, died in Assisi) sometime before 25 December 1327 when she was only nine and he about fourteen, and had a son and two daughters. There are various entries on the calendared rolls which confirm that Elizabeth was Roger's sole legitimate child and heir (or at least, his sole surviving legitimate child). [18] Elizabeth Damory and John Bardolf's grandson Thomas, Lord Bardolf (born 1369), in an echo of his great-grandfather's fate, died of his wounds after the battle of Bramham Moor in 1408, having joined the earl of Northumberland's rebellion against Henry IV.

Roger may (emphasis on the may; I'm only speculating) have had illegitimate sons. A boy or young man also named Roger Damory lived in the household of Roger's widow Elizabeth de Burgh from 1331 to 1336, although Elizabeth's accounts unfortunately do not record his parentage or any other useful details, and a Roger Damory, apparently a sailor, was to be arrested with two other men and "all their vessels, goods and letters in whosesoever hands found" in Weymouth, Dartmouth or Plymouth in August 1376. [19] The Complete Peerage says that Sir Nicholas Damory, a fairly prominent figure of the mid-fourteenth century, was probably the first cousin of Roger's nephew Sir Richard Damory (died 1375, son of his elder brother Richard), which would make Nicholas either Roger's illegitimate son or the son of another Damory brother whose existence has never been discovered. Sir Nicholas Damory was one of Elizabeth de Burgh's most trusted retainers for many years - he was an executor of her will in 1360 - an ambassador of Edward III to the pope in 1357, appointed steward of the household of Edward III's eldest daughter Isabella in 1359, a keeper of the peace in Oxfordshire in 1361 and knight of the shire for that county four times, accompanied Edward III's son the duke of Clarence overseas in 1364 and married the widow of Alan la Zouche, half-brother of the earl of Warwick and stepson of Elizabeth de Burgh's sister Eleanor Despenser. John Bardolf and his wife Elizabeth Damory granted Nicholas the Oxfordshire manor of Holton in April 1340, and John appointed Nicholas his attorney in June 1363 when he went to Assisi, so there was certainly a connection there. [20] Nicholas was a scholar at Cambridge in 1318 and still there in 1326, and died in 1381 at Depden in Suffolk - part of the inheritance of his second (third?) wife Joan Wauncy - so lived to a ripe old age. A commenter on my old Roger post mentioned a Henry Damory or Damery of Tortworth in Gloucestershire, who died in 1365 and is believed by some also to have been connected to Roger.

1) J. R. S. Phillips, Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke 1307-1324: Baronial Politics in the Reign of Edward II, p. 131; J. R. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster 1307-1322: A Study in the Reign of Edward II, p. 224.
2) Phillips, Valence, pp. 139-147, 317-319; James Conway Davies, The Baronial Opposition to Edward II, pp. 433-434, 563-564.
3) Stapleton, 'Brief Summary', pp. 337, 344.
4) Vita, p. 87.
5) Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323, p. 109.
6) Calendar of Charter Rolls 1300-1326, p. 428; Cal Pat Rolls 1317-1321, p. 519.
7) Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323, pp. 493-494.
8) Underhill, For Her Good Estate, p. 27; Vita, p. 109.
9) Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323, pp. 363, 366; Cal Fine Rolls 1319-1327, pp. 51, 55, 81.
10) Cal Pat Rolls 1321-1324, pp. 15-16.
11) TNA SC 8/59/2917.
12) TNA SC 8/7/327, SC 8/40/1970; Cal Fine Rolls 1319-1327, p. 100.
13) Cal Fine Rolls 1319-1327, pp. 70, 80, 84; Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323, pp. 402, 408; Cal Pat Rolls 1321-1324, pp. 37, 40.
14) Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323, pp. 511-514, 525-526.
15) Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323, pp. 421, 425, 428; Cal Fine Rolls 1319-1327, p. 99; Cal Close Rolls 1323-1327, p. 51.
16) George Sayles, 'The Formal Judgements on the Traitors of 1322', Speculum, 16 (1941), p. 58; The Chronicle of Lanercost 1272-1346, ed. H. Maxwell, p. 235; Croniques de London depuis l’an 44 Hen III jusqu'à l'an 17 Edw III, ed. G. J. Aungier, p. 44; G. A. Holmes, 'A Protest Against the Despensers, 1326', Speculum, 30 (1955), p. 210; Vita, p. 123.
17) Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323, pp. 428, 578, 651; Cal Close Rolls 1323-1327, p. 65.
18) Cal Pat Rolls 1334-1338, pp. 490-491; Cal Close Rolls 1360-1364, pp. 160-161; Cal Close Rolls 1369-1374, p. 377; Cal Fine Rolls 1356-1368, p. 151; for Elizabeth and John's marriage, Cal Pat Rolls 1327-1330, p. 198.
19) Underhill, For Her Good Estate, p. 100; Cal Pat Rolls 1374-1377, p. 333.
20) Cal Pat Rolls 1338-1340, p. 477; Cal Pat Rolls 1361-1364, p. 377.

24 January, 2010

The Rise and Fall of a Royal Favourite: Roger Damory (1)

Part one of a post about Roger Damory, the most prominent of Edward II's court favourites between about 1315 and 1319, who wielded influence completely out of proportion to his rank and position and became one of the richest men in England - yet died in rebellion against Edward. I wrote a post about Roger several years ago, but given that far more people hit this blog searching for him than I would ever have imagined (maybe because lots of people are descended from him?) and that readers are still leaving comments on the old post, I thought I'd write another one with some more info about him. Roger was, by the way, the ancestor of Walt Disney, Richard III's friend Francis Lovell, and Henry Norris, executed in 1536 supposedly for committing adultery with Queen Anne Boleyn.

Roger Damory was the son of Sir Robert Damory of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, who was the son of another Roger Damory and a fairly obscure knight who went on crusade in 1270, travelled overseas with Edmund, earl of Cornwall (Edward I's first cousin) in 1280 and sometimes witnessed Edmund's charters, and died shortly after 12 July 1285. The identity of Roger's mother is unfortunately uncertain, though apparently she was called [redacted]. [1]  Roger had an older brother named Richard, who was summoned for military service in 1297 and appointed keeper of the peace in Oxfordshire in 1300. [2] Even the approximate date of Roger Damory's birth is unknown, but given that his brother was old enough to be summoned for military service in 1297 and that their father died in 1285, it seems likely that he was some years older than Edward II (born April 1284). Their name - which technically should be 'd'Amory' - was spelt in a variety of ways: Dammory, Daumari, de Aumary, Damori, Damery, Dammary, Daumary, de Almary and so on. (Just to make it difficult for people like me 700 years later trying to find information about them.) The family can be traced back at least to 1138 and possibly to 1086.

The author of the Vita Edwardi Secundi described Roger as a "poor and needy knight." [3] A younger son and thus not his father's heir, Roger joined the retinue of Edward II's nephew Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester, who granted him the manor of Easton for life, and first appears on record in 1306, when he was named as a knight of Buckinghamshire. [4] Roger can surely hardly have imagined that one day he would rise high enough to marry Gloucester's sister. In the early years of Edward II's reign, Roger's brother Richard was far more prominent than Roger was, being appointed sheriff of Berkshire and Oxfordshire and constable of Oxford Castle. One of the few references to Roger I've found dates to July 1309, when he and about twenty other men were said to have besieged Thomas de la Hyde, sheriff of Cornwall, in the house of the parson of St Columb Major, assaulted him, tried to kill him and 'forcibly rescued' some cattle de la Hyde had seized from 'certain stannery-men' who owed the king a hundred pounds. Finally, one of the keepers of the peace for the county, with the posse comitatus, rescued the sheriff. [5] In October 1308, Roger witnessed a grant of lands in Northamptonshire to Bartholomew Badlesmere, also a retainer of the earl of Gloucester, who would later become a very important figure in Edward II's household. [6] Richard Damory granted his younger brother the Oxfordshire manor of Bletchingdon for life in August 1313, excepting its park, "a certain house near the court" and four acres of meadow, which he kept for himself. [7]

Roger would probably have remained an obscure knight for the rest of his life with few other concerns beyond 'forcibly rescuing' the cattle of stannery-men, but the battle of Bannockburn in June 1314, when his lord the earl of Gloucester was killed, changed his fortunes forever. Unlike Bartholomew Badlesmere, accused of cowardice during the battle and of abandoning the young earl to his fate - a contemporary poem says venomously that "this traitor deserves to be put to the rack" for his actions - Roger fought bravely in the battle, which brought him to Edward II's attention. The king transferred him into his own service. Probably the first sign that Roger was rising in Edward's favour comes in late December 1314/early January 1315, when the king appointed him constable of Knaresborough Castle in Yorkshire, formerly Piers Gaveston's, but also ordered him to stay at court with him - both of which happened around the time of Piers' funeral, coincidentally or not. [8] It was at the end of 1315, however, when Roger's rise in the king's affections really becomes apparent. A large number of grants of manors, money and appointments, and gifts to others which Edward granted at Roger's request, began then and continued regularly throughout 1316 and 1317: Roger was appointed keeper of the castles of Corfe, Gloucester and St Briavels as well as Knaresborough, of the Forests of Dean and Purbeck and the lands of the late Theobald de Verdon, and also "keeper of the king's venison" in various chases and parks. He was rich enough by late 1318/early 1319 to be able to lend £500 to the sheriff of Yorkshire; seven men acknowledged in July 1319 that they owed him £2420. By the time of his death in 1322, he owned "a vessel of gold and silver" valued at £141, fourteen shillings and fourpence, and Edward II supposedly owed him over £8000.

Roger went on the campaign against Llywelyn Bren in early 1316, for which he received a payment of £100, and Edward granted him 200 marks a year in January 1317 to "maintain himself more fittingly in the king's service." A March 1317 grant to him of the lands late of one Roger Willoughby mentions Roger's "good service against the Scots at Strivelyn" (Stirling, i.e. Bannockburn), and Edward shortly afterwards gave him "the king's houses at Brokenwharf in the city of London." [9] In addition to all the lands and positions he granted Roger, an infatuated Edward gave him many splendid presents, including a silver-gilt chalice "with the cross engraved in the foot and six enamelled knots in the centre," an altar "of black stone ornamented in the circumference with silver and gilded," an ivory image of the Virgin and Child, and a magnificent cross of ivory and cedar "painted with four images standing on each side…and round the base six images of ivory, painted, standing in tabernacles." Queen Isabella gave her husband's favourite further splendid gifts for his chapel: a chasuble of red 'Tarse' cloth "sprinkled with diverse flowers of Indian colour, together with alb and amesse, stole and maniple, and two frontals of the same sort." [10]

The nature of Roger Damory's relationship with Edward II is unknown and unknowable, and I won't speculate about it here but leave it to the reader to form their own opinion. At any rate, the king rewarded Roger in late April or early May 1317 with one of the greatest prizes at his disposal: marriage to his widowed niece Elizabeth (de Clare) de Burgh - an astonishingly good match for an obscure country knight and younger son. (Wonder if Roger's brother Richard - whom Edward appointed "keeper of the body of my lord Sir Edward, earl of Chester," the future Edward III - was pleased for him or envious?) The marriage produced a single child, Elizabeth Damory, born shortly before 23 May 1318 when Edward gave Roger's messenger John de Pyrro a whopping twenty pounds for bringing him news of his little great-niece's birth. [11] This match to Elizabeth de Burgh instantly made Roger one of the richest men in the realm with lands in England, Wales (including the lordship of Usk) and Ireland - Elizabeth's third of her brother the earl of Gloucester's inheritance, and her dower and jointure lands. With his control of his wife's vast wealth and the king's favour, Roger's influence knew no bounds.

However, things were not all plain sailing at court. If Edward II had been a decent judge of character, Roger's prominent position and influence might not have been such a big problem - but as we all know, Edward was no judge of character, and was unable besides to distinguish between good and bad, i.e. self-interested, advice. Roger and his fellow court favourites - or rather, rivals - Hugh Audley and William Montacute hated and feared Thomas, earl of Lancaster, Edward II's cousin and great enemy, and went out of their way to anger him: at a meeting of the king's council at the palace of Clarendon in the spring of 1317, the three of them publicly condemned Lancaster as a traitor. [12] Lancaster suspected them, correctly or not, of arranging the earl of Surrey's abduction of his wife Alice in May 1317, and demanded that Edward expel them from court; he wrote to the king to complain that his companions were "not suitable to stay beside you or in your service…but you have held them dearer than they ever were before….every day you give them of your substance, so that little or nothing remains to you." [13] Pope John XXII often wrote to Edward in 1317 and 1318 about his extravangance and much else which concerned the pontiff, and advised the king to "remove those friends whose youth and imprudence injure the affairs of the realm." [14] Edward ignored him, and responded abruptly to his cousin Lancaster "I will avenge the despite done to the earl when I can; I refuse to expel my household; for the abduction of his wife let him seek a remedy in law only." [15] Lancaster continued to demand that Damory, Audley and Montacute be expelled from court, and the lands Edward had granted them taken away. Of course, the three men had no intention of allowing Lancaster to diminish their vast influence over Edward, and they selfishly counselled the king to remain hostile to his cousin; the Vita says they "intrigued against the earl as best they could," while the Flores Historiarum calls them "men who stir up discord and many problems for the kingdom daily attending the lord king, continually supporting his arrogance and lawless designs." [16]

Edward II spent the early autumn of 1317 in York, and left for London at the beginning of October. Instead of doing the sensible thing and ignoring the earl of Lancaster as he passed through Pontefract, where Lancaster mostly resided, Edward stupidly took it into his head - although he had promised a few days earlier not to take any hostile action against his cousin - to command his men to take up arms and attack him. The king told the earl of Pembroke "I have been told that the earl of Lancaster is lying in ambush, and is diligently preparing to catch us all by surprise." [17] It was probably Roger Damory who had done this, persuading Edward, in his own selfish interests, that the earl posed a threat to Edward and that he should attack him first. (Professor Seymour Phillips has speculated that Roger and the king's other court favourites hoped that Lancaster would commit treason and thus forfeit his vast lands to the Crown, which, as the king's close friends, would almost certainly profit them immensely.) [18] Fortunately for the stability of the kingdom, the earl of Pembroke managed to convince Edward - who tended to believe and act on whatever the last person had told him - that Lancaster did not intend to attack him.

It was almost exactly at this same time that Lancaster's retainer Sir John Lilburn seized Knaresborough Castle on the earl's behalf, and by early November 1317 Lancaster had also forcibly gained possession of Alton Castle in Staffordshire. Not at all coincidentally, Roger Damory was the custodian of both. Clearly, Lancaster saw Damory as his chief enemy at court, and determined to attack him -and the king's near-attack on Pontefract can only have emphasised the danger Roger posed to him. Edward II ineffectually sent out orders to various sheriffs to retake the castles and commanded Lancaster to "desist completely from these proceedings," while Roger spent over £55 at Knaresborough "in making new engines and hoardings and repairing old ones for besieging the said John [Lilburn] and his accomplices, and for carriage thereof from divers places to the siege..." In the end, Lilburn didn't surrender Knaresborough to the king until late January 1318. [19] Edward's chief priority, as ever, was the safety and well-being of his friends, and he took Roger's lands in Yorkshire, Herefordshire and Lincolnshire into his own hands on 18 October 1317 in an attempt to protect Damory from his cousin's aggression, also ordering a clerk to remove Roger's stud-farm, and his own, from Knaresborough to Burstwick. He restored the lands to him on 2 December, assuming the danger from Lancaster was past. [20]

The second part of this post about the eventful life of Roger Damory, where he's accused by the earl of Lancaster of trying to kill him, then goes from being Edward II's great favourite to his enemy and Lancaster's ally, and much else besides, will follow soon!


1) Inquisitions and Assessments relating to Feudal Aids 1284-1431.
2) C. Moor, Knights of Edward I; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1292-1301.
3) N. Denholm-Young, ed., Vita Edwardi Secundi.
4) Frances Underhill, For Her Good Estate: The Life of Elizabeth de Burgh, p. 20; G. A. Holmes, The Estates of the Higher Nobility in Fourteenth-Century England, p. 74; Juliet Barker, The Tournament in England 1100-1400, pp. 194-195.
5) Cal Pat Rolls 1307-1313.
6) Calendar of Close Rolls 1307-1313.
7) Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323; Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous 1308-1348; The National Archives.
8) Calendar of Fine Rolls 1307-1319; TNA.
9) Cal Pat Rolls 1313-1317; Cal Pat Rolls 1317-1321; Cal Pat Rolls 1338-1340; Cal Fine Rolls 1307-1319; Cal Fine Rolls 1327-1337; Cal Close Rolls 1313-1318; Cal Close Rolls 1318-1313; Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326; Calendar of Charter Rolls 1300-1326.
10) Cal Pat Rolls 1327-1330.
11) Thomas Stapleton, ‘A Brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the tenth, eleventh, and fourteenth years of King Edward the Second’, Archaeologia, 26 (1836).
12) Vita; H. R. Luard, ed., Flores Historiarum.
13) G. O. Sayles, The functions of the medieval Parliament of England.
14) Calendar of Papal Letters 1305-1341.
15) Vita, Flores.
17) Vita.
18) J. R. S. Phillips, 'The "Middle Party" and the Negotiating of the Treaty of Leake, August 1318: A Reinterpretation', Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, 46 (1973).
19) Cal Pat Rolls 1317-1321; Cal Close Rolls 1313-1318; Stapleton, 'Brief Summary'; Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous 1308-1348; Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323; Cal Fine Rolls 1307-1319.
20) Cal Pat Rolls 1317-1321.

18 January, 2010

An Uprising In South Wales, 1316

I wrote in the last post about the eventful parliament of January/February 1316, and more problems beset Edward II when he heard news of an uprising which had recently begun in South Wales. The earl of Gloucester killed at Bannockburn had been lord of Glamorgan, which was destined to pass to his brother-in-law Hugh Despenser the Younger, but while Gloucester's widow was claiming (for many, many months!) to be pregnant with the earl's heir, the lordship remained in the king's hands and Edward II appointed royal administrators to rule it on his behalf. One of them was Sir Payn Turberville or Turville, appointed custodian of Glamorgan in July 1315 and hated there for his arrogance and tyranny. The unfortunate inhabitants, starving during the Great Famine, beaten and extorted of money by Turberville, suffered terribly. Llywelyn Bren, lord of Senghenydd and Meisgyn, decided he had had enough. The earl of Gloucester had thought highly of Llywelyn and granted him high office, but Payn Turberville removed his authority and treated him with contempt, which led a furious Llywelyn to tell a room full of his supporters that "The day will come when I will put an end to the insolence of Payn and give him as good as he gives me." [1]

Turberville promptly denounced him to Edward II for sedition, and the king summoned Llywelyn to court to explain himself. Llywelyn went cautiously, not sure of the reception he would get from the unpredictable Edward, intending to gloss over his insults to Turberville if he possibly could and, more importantly, to inform the king of his Welsh subjects' suffering. Unfortunately, Llywelyn's worst fears came true. Mishandling the situation as completely as only he could have, Edward II refused to meet Llywelyn and promised him that if he had truly uttered such things against a royal official, he would be hanged. He ordered Llywelyn to appear at the Lincoln parliament to defend his actions.

Llywelyn had no intention of going to Lincoln when it would probably result in his swinging at the end of a rope, and instead prepared for war. On 26 January 1316 - the day before Edward II arrived in Lincoln to open parliament - Llywelyn attacked the great stronghold of Caerphilly, built by the earl of Gloucester's father Gilbert 'the Red' in the 1270s. Although he could not penetrate the inner ward of the impregnable castle, he burnt the outer ward, taking the custodian captive, killing some servants and wounding others. The revolt spread throughout Glamorgan. Llywelyn and his many supporters – said to number 10,000 – carried off Payn Turberville's goods into the mountains where they were hiding, and Llywelyn threatened to kill the hated official. The news took a few days to travel the more than 200 miles from Caerphilly to Lincoln, and when Edward II finally heard on 7 February, he immediately sent men to capture Llywelyn and nip his rebellion in the bud, exclaiming "Go quickly, and pursue this traitor, lest from delay worse befall us and all Wales rise against us."

Among the men the king chose to campaign against Llywelyn and arrest him for his "diverse homicides, depredations, arsons and other offences" were:

- Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford, Edward's brother-in-law, killed at the battle of Boroughbridge in 1322
- Roger Mortimer, yes, that Roger Mortimer, then in his late twenties and loyal to the king
- Roger Mortimer of Chirk, his uncle
- Bartholomew Badlesmere, steward of Edward II's household from 1318 to 1321 and executed in 1322
- Oliver Ingham, future seneschal of Gascony, arrested with Roger Mortimer in October 1330 by Edward III
- John Giffard of Brimpsfield, executed in York in 1322
- the earl of Lancaster's brother Henry, Edward II's first cousin
- Rhys ap Gruffydd of South Wales, one of Edward's staunchest supporters, even after his deposition (see below)
- Edward II's current court favourites Roger Damory, Hugh Audley and William Montacute, the latter the father of Edward III's close friend William Montacute, earl of Salisbury. [2] Montacute wrote to inform Edward on 11 March 1316 that "the bailiff of Gloucester has served you falsely" and that instead of sending a hundred good footmen to the campaign against Llywelyn had sent only forty-eight "worthless rascals" (raskaille de nyent), and that Montacute had therefore handed the bailiff over to the sheriff of Gloucestershire "till your will be known." [3] I don't know what happened to him.

It's interesting to note that Edward II didn't send his nephew-in-law Hugh Despenser the Younger to join the attack on Llywelyn, although Despenser was set to become lord of Glamorgan by right of his wife Eleanor - either because Edward didn't trust him then, because he didn't think Despenser was up to the task militarily, because he was angry with him for demanding his wife's inheritance numerous times before parliament and the king's council, attacking John Ros during the Lincoln parliament and seizing Tonbridge Castle a few months before - whether for all or none of these reasons, I don't know.

Llywelyn Bren was quickly overcome by this overwhelming demonstration of royal power and fled to Ystradfellte in the Brecon Beacons. He told his men that he would hand himself over to the English, because "it is better that one man should die than the whole race should be exiled or perish by the sword," and submitted to the earl of Hereford, who sent him to Edward. Hereford and the Mortimers were impressed with Llywelyn's bearing and courage and asked the king to show him leniency, though one suspects they would have been less impressed and considerably less inclined towards leniency if it had been their lands he'd attacked. Edward, perhaps regretting his earlier outburst, sent Llywelyn, his wife Lleucu, his six sons and five others "under safe custody at the king’s expense" to the Tower. They were granted either three pence a day for their maintenance (Llywelyn and Lleucu, which names English scribes often spelt as Thloellin and Leuken or similar) or two pence (the others). Edward also removed Payn Turberville from office and replaced him with the more moderate John Giffard. By June 1317, only Llywelyn and two of his sons - their names spelt Lewelin Pren, Griffin and Yevan - are mentioned as prisoners in the Tower, the others presumably having been released. [4] Llywelyn Bren ultimately suffered a terrible fate, removed from the Tower by Hugh Despenser sometime in 1318 and grotesquely executed in Cardiff - murdered in fact, as Despenser had no authority to commit such an act.

The campaign against Llywelyn Bren was of short duration, but expensive; William Montacute alone took 150 men-at-arms and 2000 footmen, at Edward II's expense, and the royal treasury, as usual, was in a parlous state. Trouble also broke out elsewhere in Wales, thanks to the long-running feud between Edward's chamberlain John Charlton and his wife Hawise Gadarn and her uncle Gruffydd de la Pole, over the lordship of Powys. In March 1316, Edward told Chancery "If this riot be not hastily quenched much greater evil may come in other parts of Wales," and sent his steward John Cromwell to "bridle the evildoers and staunch the riots," granting him ten pounds for his expenses. [5] Fortunately, these riots didn't develop into anything more serious.

I'd like to point out that neither of these rebellions (or riots or uprisings) was aimed at Edward II personally, and in fact he was rather popular in Wales, the land of his birth. In September 1327, a Welsh plot to free him from Berkeley Castle was discovered by William Shalford, Roger Mortimer's deputy justice of Wales; the plotters, who included Rhys ap Gruffydd named above and Gruffydd Llwyd, who rode to Rhuddlan to inform Edward I of Edward II's birth in 1284, either fled to Scotland or were imprisoned at Caernarfon Castle for eighteen months. The (English) chronicler Thomas Walsingham wrote with reference to Edward II at the end of the fourteenth century: "the Welsh in a wonderful manner cherished and esteemed him, and, as far as they were able, stood by him grieving over his adversities both in life and in his death, and composing mournful songs about him in the language of their country, the memory of which lingers to the present time, and which neither the dread of punishment nor the passage of time has destroyed." [6.]


1) Vita Edwardi Secundi, ed. N. Denholm-Young, p. 66. Anything not otherwise cited in this post comes from the Vita, pp. 66-68.
2) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1313-1317, pp. 384, 433; Foedera, II, i, p. 283.
3) Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, p. 437.
4) Calendar of Close Rolls 1313-1318, pp. 263, 274-5, 283, 419; Calendar of Fine Rolls 1307-1319, p. 276.
5) Chancery Warrants, 436-437; Frederick Devon, Issues of the Exchequer: being a collection of payments..., p. 131.
6) Historia Anglicana, ed. H. T. Riley, volume 1, p. 83.

12 January, 2010

Your Parliamentary Report Today: Punches In The Face, An Illegal Marriage, A Twenty-Month Pregnancy And The Price Of Fat Shorn Sheep

Whoever said political history was dull, eh? It's almost the 694th anniversary of Edward II's eventful parliament at Lincoln, which took place between 27 January and 20 February 1316. The author of the Westminster chronicle Flores Historiarum, who loathed Edward II ("Oh, the insane stupidity of the king of the English!" being fairly typical of how he wrote about him) writes amusingly of Edward's trip to Lincoln in early 1316: he "set off with all speed, he and his silly company of swimmers, for the parliament which he had ridiculously caused to be summoned to Lincoln," misdating Edward's swimming and rowing holiday in the Fens of September/October 1315 to December/January. [1] Edward and Queen Isabella, who had in fact spent Christmas and most of January together at Clipstone in Nottinghamshire, arrived in Lincoln on 27 January; Isabella, though she may not yet have known it, was a few weeks pregnant with their son John. Parliament sat variously in the chapter house of the cathedral, the house of the Carmelites and the hall of the dean of Lincoln, and the king stayed in the dean's lodgings. In January 1316, England was in the grip of the Great Famine, and Edward announced via his spokesman William Inge (a royal justice who according to one chronicle pronounced the death sentence on Piers Gaveston in June 1312, though given the favour subsequently shown to him by Edward II this is extremely unlikely) on 28 January that he wished proceedings to pass as speedily as possible, to ease the burden placed on the city by the presence of so many people demanding food. Unfortunately, his cousin the earl of Lancaster thwarted the king's wish, arriving in Lincoln on 10 February and finally deigning to attend parliament - which could not begin properly without him - on the 12th, more than two weeks late. To Edward’s great annoyance, parliament appointed Lancaster as his chief counsellor, and the earl thus finally gained an official position in the government he had unofficially dominated since the parliament of September 1314. Parliament requested of the king’s "dear cousin" that "he might be pleased to be chief of his [Edward's] council, in all the great or weighty matters concerning him and his realm," and Lancaster, "for the great love which he bears towards his said lord the king," (ha!) graciously agreed. [2]

Hugh Despenser the Younger, then in his mid to late twenties, who had been Edward II's nephew-in-law for a decade but had not yet reached the lofty heights of The King's Great Favourite, attacked a baron named John Ros in Lincoln Cathedral - oops - in front of the king - ooops - on a Sunday - oooops. Angry that Ros had tried to arrest Ingelram Berenger, one of his father’s knights - and possibly also already angry with Ros for marrying Margaret Goushill, widow of his brother Philip Despenser, within half a year of Philip's death - Despenser repeatedly punched him in the face until he drew blood, and "inflicted other outrages on him in contempt of the lord king," forcing Ros to draw his sword in self-defence. Despenser claimed after his arrest, with amusing implausibility, that he had merely stretched out his hand to defend himself and accidentally hit Ros in the face with his fist, after Ros "heap[ed] outrageous insults on the same Hugh [and] taunted him with insolent words," and rushed at him with a knife. Despenser was fined a whopping £10,000, which he never paid, and Edward II cancelled the fine a few years later after Despenser had become The King's Great Favourite.

Twenty months had passed since the earl of Gloucester fell at Bannockburn, Despenser was desperate to get his hands on his wife Eleanor's third of her brother's vast inheritance, and once more raised the subject of the dowager countess's supposed pregnancy. He had been claiming for a few months – correctly, of course – that it was impossible for Maud de Burgh to be pregnant by her late husband. Two royal justices, Gilbert Touthby and Geoffrey le Scrope, told Despenser that the Countess Maud "at the due time according to the course of nature, felt a living boy, and that this was well-known in the parts where she lived, and that although the time for the birth of that child, which nature allows to be delayed and obstructed for various reasons, is still delayed, this ought not to prejudice the aforesaid pregnancy." The justices reprimanded Despenser and Eleanor for failing to apply to Chancery for a writ "to have the belly of the aforesaid countess inspected by knights and discreet matrons," and as they had not observed due process, their negligence would redound to their own shame and prejudice. Ah, the legal system at its finest. You couldn't make it up.

Also at the Lincoln parliament, Edward received the unwelcome news that Gloucester’s youngest sister, his niece Elizabeth, had taken a second husband without his permission: Theobald de Verdon, former justiciar of Ireland, seventeen years her senior and the widower of Roger Mortimer’s sister Maud. It is unclear whether Elizabeth consented to the marriage or not; Verdon told Edward that the couple had arranged a betrothal while still in Ireland, and that on 4 February 1316, Elizabeth "came at the command of the said Theobald one league outside the said [Bristol] castle," and they married, though there was a suspicion that he had abducted her. No doubt the mouth-watering prospect of Elizabeth's third of the de Clare inheritance – as soon as Edward and the royal justices stopped pretending that her brother’s widow was pregnant – and her jointure and dower lands in Ireland overrode any considerations of possible imprisonment and the £1000 fine Verdon had to pay Edward for marrying without royal consent. Hugh Despenser must have been furious; the marriage gave Edward II an excuse to keep on delaying the partition of the earl of Gloucester's inheritance (which revenues in the meantime were pouring richly into his own coffers), and it took until late 1317, nearly three and a half years after Gloucester's death, until the lands were finally partitioned among Gloucester's three sisters and their husbands.

In March and April 1315, Edward and his council had attempted to fix the price of various basic foodstuffs, in an attempt to alleviate the misery of his starving subjects. These regulations failed completely and were revoked at the Lincoln parliament, which met the approval of the Bridlington chronicler: "How contrary to reason is an ordinance on prices, when the fruitfulness or sterility of all living things are in the power of God alone, from which it follows that the fertility of the soil and not the will of man must determine the price." [3] Here are some of the fixed prices of 1315: a "fat sheep" should cost no more than twenty pence if unshorn and fourteen pence if shorn; an ox not fed with corn a maximum of sixteen shillings, or twenty-four shillings if fed with corn and fattened; a live fat cow, twelve shillings; a fat chicken, one and a half pence; twenty-four eggs, one pence. [4]

Also at the Lincoln parliament, Edward II heard the grim news of Roger Mortimer's defeat at the hands of Robert Bruce's brother Edward in Ireland the previous December and that a rebellion had begun in South Wales - which I'll write a post about soon. One bright spot, at least, appeared on Edward's gloomy horizon: the knowledge that Queen Isabella was expecting another child. On 22 February, the king asked the dean and chapter of the church of St Mary in Lincoln to "celebrate divine service daily for the good estate of the king and Queen Isabella and Edward their first-born son." The reference to ‘their first-born son’ indicates that Edward knew of Isabella’s pregnancy by then. A month later, he gave twenty pounds to John Fleg, horse dealer of London, for a bay horse "to carry the litter of the lady the queen" during her pregnancy, and paid Vannus Ballardi of the Lucca banking firm the Ballardi almost four pounds for pieces of silk and gold tissue, and flame-coloured silk, to make cushions for Isabella's greater comfort while travelling. [5] (Oh, the poor neglected woman and the grotesque travesty of her marriage!)


1) Flores Historiarum, ed. H. R. Luard, vol. iii, p. 173.
2) The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, ed. Chris Given-Wilson et al. Anything not otherwise cited in this post comes from PROME.
3) Gesta Edwardi de Carnarvon Auctore Canonico Bridlingtoniensi, in W. Stubbs, Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II, volume 2 (1883), pp. 47-48.
4) Foedera, Conventiones, Litterae et Cujuscunque Acta Publica, vol. II, part i, pp. 263, 266.
5) Cal Pat Rolls 1313-1317, p. 398; Frederick Devon, Issues of the Exchequer: Being A Collection of Payments Made Out of His Majesty’s Revenue from King Henry III to King Henry VI Inclusive, p. 131; Thomas Stapleton, 'A Brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the tenth, eleventh, and fourteenth years of King Edward the Second', Archaeologia, 26 (1836), pp. 342-343.

07 January, 2010

Happy (Belated) New Year

Happy belated 2010, and hope you all had a great Christmas! This is a quick post till I get round to writing the next proper one - after a long holiday and a very disrupted and, agh, very delayed journey back thanks to heavy snow, I need a bit of time to get back into blogging again.

Northern Europe has had very cold, snowy, icy, frosty weather since a few days before Christmas, a cold snap which seems set in for the foreseeable future. This got me thinking about the weather in Edward II's era, when many winters saw "such cold and such masses and piles of ice on the Thames and everywhere else that the poor were overcome by excessive cold" and the extreme cold "oppressed mankind much." How on earth did people manage before central heating and double glazing were invented? It doesn't bear thinking about.

Anyway, here are some pics of a snowy South Cumbria over the festive season...

The snow-covered southern ranges of the Cumbrian mountains, with Ulverston in the foreground. I took these pics just after New Year, when most of the snow had melted on lower ground, before it began snowing again on 4 January.

Below, the views from the hill behind our house on Christmas Day.

Snow evaporating, or whatever the correct term is, on Boxing Day (26 December).

Walking on non-gritted roads with all that compacted ice and snow feels a bit like you're taking your life into your hands.

Interesting cloud formations.

Lots more posts on Edward II, his life, reign and era coming up in 2010! It's good to be back...