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].  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.  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."  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.  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.  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.  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. 
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.  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."  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." 
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.  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.  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."  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."  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."  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." 
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."  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.)  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.  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. 
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.
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.