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.


Gabriele Campbell said...

Edward had a talent to employ the wrong people (like this Turberville guy), or if he picked the right ones, he treated them badly (like the unfortunate Andrew de Harclay who only tried to make the best out of a mucked up situation). And then he picked Hugh, probably his worst mis-employee. :)

He'd have ruined any company if he had been the boss, sorry to say.

Anerje said...

Us Welsh are a troublesome lot:> Very interesting reading, thanks Alianore!

Anerje said...

Llewelyn could have hidden out in the Brecon Beacons for months - it's unlikely he would have been found. Very brave of him to give himself up. Llewelyn Bren yn bendegedig!

Susan Higginbotham said...

It would be interesting to know why Edward didn't send Hugh to Glamorgan, wouldn't it?

Kathryn Warner said...

Gabriele: very true, unfortunately. Poor old inept Edward! :-)

Anerje: thanks! Glad you liked the post.

Susan: I wish we had some record of Edward's motives there!

Carla said...

I wonder why Edward didn't send Hugh Despenser to Glamorgan to claim the inheritance he'd been demanding? That would seem to be two birds with one stone. Curious.

I second Gabriele's comment - Edward II seems to have had something of a talent for making a bad situation worse. Pity there was no mechanism for letting someone else have a go at the job, at least not without violence.

Satima Flavell said...

The second of two very interesting and informative posts, Alianore - many thanks!

Kathryn Warner said...

Carla: Ed II's reign is an excellent illustration of the perils of hereditary monarchy, isn't it? I feel so sorry for his long-suffering subjects, but also very sorry for Ed himself, forced into a role he had no aptitude for and, apparently, little desire to perform.

Satima: thank you for your kind comments! I'm really glad you liked the posts.

Brad Verity said...

I'm enjoying catching up on all of these well-researched posts.

Hugh the Younger must have been near apoplectic over Edward's mishandling of the lordship of Glamorgan. Caerphilly Castle was corporate headquarters for the Clare family in Wales. It would be interesting to learn if Turberville's replacement John Giffard was tied to the Despensers or to Thomas of Lancaster.

It seems that Edward pre-Hugh was more reasonable and restrained.

Despenser's execution of Bren at Cardiff in 1318 is brutal. What a horrific demonstration for his new Glamorgan retainers and tenants. The days of Clare lordship (and royal absentee lordship thru lackeys) was over . There was a new master now, and he would brook no military attacks on his authority.

I wonder what Hugh's wife Eleanor thought of this brutal end to Bren, one of her brother's loyal officials.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Brad! Unfortunately I'm not sure where Giffard stood politically in 1316 - his wife was Despenser's first cousin (Aveline de Courtenay), but he was one of the Contrariants executed in 1322.

Edward II certainly does seem to have been far more moderate before Despenser's ascendancy - I'm planning a post soon on a rebellion in Bristol in 1316 which had been brewing for years, and it's interesting to see that Edward showed remarkable clemency to the rebels in the aftermath.

I'd also love to know what Eleanor de Clare's attitude was to her husband's execution/murder of Bren - and a lot of other things he did besides!

Brad Verity said...

So many more things to comment on in this detailed post!

1316 was soon enough after the final conquest of Wales by the Plantagenets (for want of a better surname), representing England, over Prince Llewellyn and his native chieftains, in the Welsh War of 1282-84, that it was still in living memory.

Edward I did two family-related things during that war which were designed to hold great symbolism for the Welsh, and for his own English court:

1) He started the proceedings to give the most powerful of the Anglo-Norman Marcher Lords of Wales - Gilbert de Clare, the redheaded Earl of Gloucester, his own eldest available daughter in marriage. This was a tremendous reward for Gloucester. He was given public validation of his king's confidence in his abilities - he was worthy to merge with the royal blood in a much more direct way than he had with his estranged previous wife, who had been a niece of the half-blood. (It also, on a personal note, erased whatever rivalry had stemmed between the king and the earl over the relationship of Edward I with Gloucester's said first wife.) For the native Welsh retainers and tenants of Glamorgan and the other lordships of the Clares in Wales, it was demonstration that their own Clare lord and master favored the cause of the Plantagenets over the native chieftains. Gloucester was being given a second chance to keep the Clare inheritance - the achievement of generations of his family - intact, rather than be divided between his two daughters with his estranged wife. He could father a son who would be half-Plantagenet, and have that dynasty's protection during the inevitable minority, given Gloucester's age. The brotherhood between the Plantagenet and Clare bloodlines that this marriage created would have been well understood by the members of both.

2) Edward I had (what would turn out to be) his final two children, Elizabeth of Rhuddlan and Edward of Caernarvon, born in Wales. Their symbolic baptisms took place on Welsh soil. Most historians have dismissed the story of Edward I presenting his infant son to the Welsh chieftains as their new Prince of Wales as a fable. Apparently only because a clerk didn't write about it in 1284, and Edward of Caernarvon wasn't officially given the title and control until years later. But that was just waiting for him to achieve manhood - he was the Welsh's Prince from birth (indeed at his birth, he was a younger son, and it must have been hoped he would rule Wales as a subdivision of The Plantagenet Co.). Edward II thus had a sacred relationship and responsibility to Wales and its people, one that would not have been taken lightly on either side.

Brad Verity said...

The power vacuum caused by the failure of the Clare male line in 1314 cannot be stressed enough. Back in 1306, the Despensers had secured the hand of the eldest Clare daughter, a tremendous reward for Hugh the Elder from Edward I. The king was entrusting the Despensers to protect the interests of the Clare inheritance by making them second in line should the one Clare male heir not grow to manhood.

Edward II had a double duty the following year when it came to the Clares, for his father had not lived to bestow the hands of the remaining two Clare daughters: 1) He needed to preserve the sacred alliance of the Plantagenet and Clare dynasties that had been created by his father in the Welsh War; 2) As the symbolic Prince of Wales he had to choose men who had the potential to control strategically important Welsh lordships, and who would be loyal to the young Clare Earl of Gloucester. It is no surprise then that the two initial acts of Edward II regarding these close kin was to marry Margaret de Clare to Gaveston, the person he trusted the most in the world, and to give young Gilbert de Clare control of the inheritance and the power to make his own marriage (no doubt with helpful advice from Edward and Gaveston) - a mark of favor that would have been well understood by the teenaged Gilbert.

The activities of Hugh the Younger in the years 1307 to 1314 need to be examined closely. Did he have a high place in the councils of the young Earl of Gloucester, a position to which his marriage to Eleanor would have entitled him? Was he high in the confidence of Edward II or of Gaveston, for his marriage would have entitled him to such as well, especially when the interests coincided with those of the Earl of Gloucester?

Gloucester's death in 1314 was no doubt viewed as symbolically as an act of God by those it affected, than the English defeat of Bannockburn was seen as an act of God and reflection on Edward II. First and foremost would be the Despensers: God had chosen that they should have the lion's share (which was Glamorgan and Caerphilly Castle, and the earldom of Gloucester and the Clare family's primary avenue to the divine: Tewkesbury Abbey). Edward II's exclusion of Hugh the Younger on an expedition regarding a rebellion in Glamorgan had huge symbolic meaning, not lost on anyone at court. The expedition also had tremendous symbolic meaning for Audley and Damory: they were being given the opportunity to demonstrate that they were worthy knights for the hands of Margaret and Elizabeth de Clare by showing they could protect the interests of their inheritance (and, more practically, develop relationships with the retainers, officials and tenants on the lordships that made up that inheritance).

Edward could have made no stronger a symbolic gesture against Hugh the Younger short of having him attainted. The friction between the two had to have been intense.

Kathryn Warner said...

Brad, many thanks again for all your thoughtful and fascinating comments. I'm not at all sure if Hugh the younger was close to his brother-in-law Gloucester from 1307 to 1314; in 1307 (Ed I's last Scots campaign) and 1309 (the tournament of Dunstable) he was in his father's retinue rather than Gloucester's. There's nothing to suggest he was at court much - he didn't witness a single charter of Edward's till 1315 or 1316, for instance. His father was close to Edward, often witnessed charters, and in the early years of Ed's reign, was rarely called 'the Elder' because there was no need then to distinguish him from his (seemingly very obscure) son.

The more I think about the relationship between Ed and Hugh the younger before about 1318 - Ed's public insults of him by pretending that the dowager countess of Gloucester was pregnant in 1316 and the failure to send Hugh to Glamorgan, the king's lack of trust or liking for him - the more amazing it seems that they developed the close relationship that they did!

Brad Verity said...

Hugh the Younger was probably not yet of age in 1307 and 1309, so its fitting that he was in his father's retinue, developing relationships with the retainers and officials whom he would one day lead. I imagine he and Gloucester were about the same age.

Most view Gaveston's marriage to Margaret as Edward's way of getting him into the royal family. I agree that this was an added benefit, but I don't think it was what motivated Edward with that marriage. In his eyes, Gaveston was already his brother.

The previous attempt to cement an alliance with the Clare and Cornwall dynasties had failed miserably, with Earl Edmund physically abandoning the bed of his wife, Margaret de Clare the Elder, an act whose symbolism would not have been lost on any of the Clare and Cornwall retainers. The Clare siblings would be well aware of this insult to their still-living aunt, and their lineage.

So Gaveston's marriage to Margaret de Clare the younger was not simply to get him into the royal family, but to re-cement the alliance of the Clare and Cornwall retainers. Edward was strategically creating a powerful coalition united by marriage. Gloucester (Clare) and Cornwall. I think Edward II's skills at strategy and politcking (as it was understood in his time) are often overlooked, primarily because he's viewed as such a military failure.

Edward I arranged two marriages for granddaughters in 1306. Why was the one younger in age (Joan of Bar) given to the bridegroom older in age (John de Warenne)? If the king's goal was simply to settle his granddaughters appropriately, cement Warenne into the royal family, and payback the enormous sum the king owed the trusted Hugh the Elder with a granddaughter's marriage portion, surely the girls were interchangeable, and so should have been reversed to better match the bridegroom's ages? The 3-4 year age difference between Eleanor de Clare and Joan of Bar was a key factor in 1306 in when these marriages could be consummated and the alliances sealed by issue. Warenne was nearly of age and should have been given the older bride to seal the alliance quicker.

But the older girl was given to the Despensers, which indicates the King very specifically wanted them sacredly tied to the Clare dynasty. He knew he was getting older and might well die before his grandson Gloucester came of age. The Despenser line was a line of stewards, and symbolically represented that ideal. They would help steward the Clare inheritance while the heir was a minor, support and advise him in his court after he attained his majority, and if God and Fate proved cruel, succeed to the most important part of that inheritance should the Clare line fail.

That would be the Despensers' expectations of the symbolism and significance behind Hugh the Younger's marriage when Edward II succeeded to the throne the following year. So whether or not Edward, Gloucester (and Gaveston, once he was in the family picture) were living up to these expectations may help explain Hugh the Younger's attitude before 1317.

Kathryn Warner said...

I'd guess that Hugh was slightly older than Gloucester, even if only a year or two, as Hugh was knighted at the great ceremony of May 1306 and Gloucester had to wait till the end of 1307.

It's a real shame, isn't it, that Edward II's skill at politicking is so often ignored - the way he got a large majority of his earls and barons back on his side in 1308/09 after Gaveston's first exile being just one example.

Your comments about the marriages of Edward I's granddaughters in 1306 are most interesting, and I wish more people realised it was Edward I, not II, who arranged the Eleanor de Clare-Hugh the younger match. I get so sick of the endless 'Ed II married his favourite Hugh off to his niece' nonsense that appears so often.

Anonymous said...

Chieftains? I think Brad Verity is confusing the Welsh with Red Indians (or Scots).

Two of Edward's children were born in Wales because he was in the middle of his bus top victory parade in north Wales.

Chris said...

What an interesting idea for a blog! I'm reading about the Great Famine and the Black Death currently, and he's been blamed for both. If only royalty could control the weather!

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Chris! Glad you're enjoying the blog!

BAJones said...

I have been reading your blogs for some time, and find them extremely interesting; Another interesting characyer in Welsh history, is Ivor Bach, said to be the great grandfather of Llewelyn Bren ?