12 February, 2010

A Rebellion In Bristol (1)

Here's the first part of two posts about a long-running rebellion in Bristol which began in 1312 and came to a head in July 1316, when Edward II ordered the town to be besieged. The story really starts at the beginning of Edward II's reign on 21 August 1307, with his appointment of Bartholomew, Lord Badlesmere, then probably in his early thirties, brother-in-law of Lord Clifford and retainer of Edward II's nephew the earl of Gloucester, as constable of the royal castle of Bristol. [1] Edward replaced Badlesmere as constable of Bristol with his steward Sir Edmund Mauley on 20 January 1312, shortly after Piers Gaveston's return from his third exile; the king changed the custody of several royal castles at this time to men whose loyalty he was certain of, and Badlesmere, associated with the earl of Gloucester - generally a supporter of his uncle Edward, but involved in the Ordainers' plans to capture Piers Gaveston - was not one of them. "To the king's great amazement," however, Badlesmere refused to relinquish control of the castle, despite Edward threatening him with forfeiture in February and April 1312 unless he did so. In July that year - with Piers Gaveston dead - Edward gave up and formally restored custody of Bristol Castle to Badlesmere, and also appointed him keeper of the town of Bristol. [2]

What led to unrest in Bristol in the first place is very difficult to ascertain, but by 1312 the important men of the town, the mayor, bailiffs, burgesses and wealthy merchants, had divided themselves into two factions, pro- and anti-Badlesmere, the latter group much bigger than the former. An early sign of trouble comes on 8 March 1312, when Edward II forbade the mayor, bailiffs and men of Bristol from going to London to appear before Badlesmere's lord the earl of Gloucester to "answer for certain contempts wherewith they are charged, as they have given security to the said earl to do, as the king considers this may prejudice him and his royal dignity." [3] (At this time, Edward had moved the government to York to avoid the Ordainers, then gathering in London to plot their next moves against Piers Gaveston.) On 21 July 1312, nine days before he formally restored Bristol Castle to Badlesmere's custody, Edward II took twenty-one men of the anti-Badlesmere faction under his protection. [4]

Events of the rest of 1312 are somewhat confusing: Edward removed the custody of the town of Bristol from Badlesmere on 12 August to the 'mayor, bailiffs and commonalty' of the town and ordered Badlesmere not to "meddle with the custody thereof" or to "permit any injury to be inflicted on the burgesses," or give them reason to "complain of his harshness." A little later, however, the king changed his mind and restored custody of the town to Badlesmere, and all these writs mention the 'dissensions' which had arisen between Badlesmere and the men of Bristol. [5] Around this time, the burgesses appointed John le Taverner of the anti-Badlesmere faction as mayor of the town, and told Edward that they were unable to present Taverner to Badlesmere as they were meant to do because Badlesmere was not resident in the castle. At the beginning of November 1312, Edward II was forced to intercede again and order the mayor and bailiffs to obey Badlesmere or his attorney, as the mayor's faction were pretending that a mandate sent to them on 30 September re-appointing Badlesmere as keeper of castle and town did not apply to them because it did not mention the 'commonalty' of the town, whereas the mandate of 12 August ordering Badlesmere not to meddle with the custody of the town did. [6] Basically, Badlesmere was having huge problems imposing his authority on the burgesses, who were coming up with all kinds of excuses not to have to obey him or take his position seriously.

In mid-January 1313, Edward II was forced once again to order the mayor and bailiffs of Bristol to obey Badlesmere, and told them he would also send commissioners to investigate the situation and enquire into the 'dissensions'. This latest crisis was prompted by John le Taverner, the new mayor, and his faction, which included the former mayor William de Axe, William Clif, Thomas de la Grave, Robert Martyn, Thomas Uppedich, Philip le Spicer and dozens of others. They had expelled from the liberty of Bristol, and stolen the goods of, thirteen burgesses of the town, "asserting that [they] were adherents to Bartholomew de Badlesmere, and seeking to oppress them for that reason": William Randolf, John Snow, John du Celer, Peter le Fraunceys ('the Frenchman'), Laurence Cary or Gary, John de London, Raymond Frombaud, Robert de Otery, Thomas le Spicer, William de Kerdyf (Cardiff), Richard de Welles, Martin Horncastle and Adam Wylishote or Welyshote. The earl of Gloucester wrote to his uncle the king on 28 February 1313 on Badlesmere's behalf, asking Edward to command the commonalty of Bristol to restore these men's rights and privileges in the town, restore their goods to them, and "to be obedient to Sir Bartholomew de Badlesmere...and to let his people go and dwell in the town without damage." Edward duly ordered the anti-Badlesmere faction, on pain of forfeiture, to do so and sent the sheriff of Gloucestershire to Bristol to make sure they obeyed, telling them that if they refused, "the king will grievously proceed against them." He also ordered them to to present themselves before himself and his council on "Sunday in Mid-Lent...to certify the king and council of their action in this matter." [7]

These measures also failed to work, and on 29 April 1313 Edward II took the town of Bristol into his own hands, though Bartholomew Badlesmere remained keeper of castle and town. The following day, Edward complained that Badlesmere's adherents had not been restored to the liberty of the town nor had their goods and chattels returned, "in manifest contempt of the king," and ordered the sheriff of Gloucestershire to arrest and bring before the king and his council John le Taverner, William de Axe, Robert Martyn and thirty-two named others. [8] By 9 July 1313, these men were imprisoned in the Tower of London, though Edward relented and ordered the constable of the Tower to release them "fifteen days after the end of three weeks from Midsummer." The king also ordered the sheriffs of Gloucestershire, Dorset and Somerset "to compel the mayor and commonalty of the town of Bristol to obey Bartholomew de Badlesmere...[and] to commit to prison all persons who obstruct him and also all rebels," and once again ordered the restitution of the pro-Badlesmere burgesses. Even this was ineffective, and on 18 August 1313 Edward ordered a frustrated and angry earl of Gloucester and Badlesmere not to besiege Bristol or to do "aught else to the injury of the king's peace, as the king understands that he [Gloucester] intends doing on account of the dissensions in that town." [9]

While John le Taverner was mayor, from autumn 1312 to May 1313, the anti-Badlesmere faction stepped up their opposition to him (Badlesmere). In a street opposite the castle called Wynchestrete, they built a fortified wall "of stone and lime" and from behind it shot arrows, crossbow bolts "and other harmful things" into the castle and refused to allow the garrison to leave the castle at any time even to get food and other necessary provisions. They claimed later, however, that they had built the wall not to attack the castle but "for the safer keeping of the town, and not to inflict any harm on the lord king's said castle." They also stepped up their harassment of Badlesmere's adherents in the town: several of the latter, including William Randolf, John Snow, William de Kerdyf and John de London, complained that their houses had been broken into, their goods stolen, their servants assaulted, and themselves, their wives, children and servants expelled from Bristol altogether. Not surprisingly, the anti-Badlesmere faction indignantly refuted this, saying that "certain men of the aforesaid community, their [Badlesmere's adherents] well-wishers, having understood that certain stupid people living in the said town wished to harm the said William [Randolf] and his aforesaid colleagues, they warned them of this in friendly fashion. And the same William Randolf and his aforesaid colleagues, for that reason, and not from fear of that community, or through any compulsion, left the said town of their own will." Badlesmere's supporters also accused John le Taverner's faction of keeping the profits which should have gone to Badlesmere as keeper of the castle and town, stealing wine and victuals purchased for him, and assaulting his servants. [10]

On 8 November 1313, Edward II took twenty-five of Badlesmere's adherents and some of his own serjeants, trying to restore order in Bristol, into his protection against the mayor and his clique, "under pain of forfeiture of life and limb, and of all else that can be forfeited to the king." Two days later took the town into his own hands again and re-granted custody of it to Badlesmere. [11] The situation in Bristol was nowhere near resolved, however, and in fact it gravely deteriorated when Edward sent commissioners to the town to assess the tallage (the king and council in December 1312 had ordered a tallage of a fifteenth on goods and a tenth on rents to be levied on demesne lands and boroughs). It didn't help matters that one of the commissioners was the elderly Lord Berkeley, as the lords of Berkeley had an ongoing feud with the burgesses of Bristol over jurisdiction of the Redcliff district. The Vita Edwardi Secundi gives a detailed account of the riots which followed the commissioners' arrival in Bristol: "the senseless crowd turned to rioting, and the whole populace trembled from fear of the disorder. Returning once more they entered the hall with a large following and there turned their right to wrong. For with fists and sticks they began to attack the crowd opposed to them, and in that day nearly twenty men lost their lives for nothing.* A very natural fear seized noble and commoner alike, so that many leapt out of the top-storey windows into the street, and seriously injured their legs or thighs as they fell to the ground." The mayor had to rescue the commissioners from the mob.

* This observation is spot-on: the names of nineteen men killed during the riots in Bristol are recorded on the Patent Roll. [12]

Coming soon, what happened next in Bristol: the earls of Lancaster and Warwick intervene to no effect and Edward II attempts to solve the problem with "gentle means" and diplomacy, but eventually gives in and orders the town to be besieged.

Further Reading

E. A. Fuller, 'The Tallage of 6 Edward II., and the Bristol Rebellion', Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, 19 (1894/95), pp. 171-278.


1) Calendar of Fine Rolls 1307-1319, p. 2.
2) Cal Fine Rolls 1307-1319, pp. 122, 147; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1307-1313, pp. 430, 452, 453, 483.
3) Calendar of Close Rolls 1307-1313, p. 450.
4) Cal Pat Rolls 1307-1313, p. 481.
5) Cal Pat Rolls 1307-1313, pp. 485, 491, 498; Cal Fine Rolls 1307-1319, p. 147.
6) Cal Pat Rolls 1307-1313, pp. 500, 506, 507.
7) Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, pp. 387-388; Cal Pat Rolls 1307-1313, pp. 524-525, 556, 561; Cal Close Rolls 1307-1313, p. 524.
8) Cal Fine Rolls 1307-1319, p. 169; Cal Pat Rolls 1307-1313, p. 567; Cal Close Rolls 1307-1313, pp. 532, 578-579.
9) Cal Close Rolls 1307-1313, p. 532; Cal Close Rolls 1313-1318, pp. 2, 14, 69; Cal Pat Rolls 1307-1313, p. 587.
10) The Parliament Rolls Of Medieval England, ed. C. Given-Wilson et al., January 1316 parliament; Cal Pat Rolls 1313-1317, pp. 70, 73-74, 133-34, 143-144.
11) Cal Pat Rolls 1313-1317, pp. 35, 68-70, 289, 574; Foedera, II, i, p. 210.
12) Vita Edwardi Secundi, ed. N. Denholm-Young, p. 71; Cal Pat Rolls 1313-1317, pp. 68-69, 444-445.


Anerje said...

Always nice to have a mention of Piers:> Another fascinating well-researched post. Had a chuckle at this -

'Edward II attempts to solve the problem with "gentle means" and diplomacy, but eventually gives in and orders the town to be besieged.'

Story of Ed's reign, eh?:>

Kate Plantagenet said...

You are right about it being confusing! Was Badlesmere a hopeless leader, and why did Edward II keep changing his mind about who was in charge of Bristol. No wonder factions formed if there were difficulties deciding who would be best to lead the town! Was the new mayor weak or mean do you think? Questions ....questions.....sorry. Hard for you to answer them all 100s of years later...but still you have me interested now - actually I have been interested in whatever you have cared to write for years....bring on part 2!

Gabriele Campbell said...

Edward, you don't sent a hated man in a town to restore order. And if you manage to capture some men you have a grievance with, you keep them in prison until you get what you want. Take a lesson from the Scottish clan feuds. :D

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Anerje! I do my best to get our lovely Piers into blog posts whenever I can (no kidding, I really do! ;)

Kate: great questions, thanks! I think Badlesmere was a pretty hopeless leader - Ed did change his mind about the leadership of Bristol sometimes, but it was the same for other castles/towns, and they didn't rebel. It's hard to say about the mayor - probably, he was just an unpleasant character and without a strong hand at the helm (I mean both Badlesmere and Ed here) he took the opportunity to indulge in illegal, violent behaviour.

Gabriele: aha, that's where Ed went wrong - should have listened to his Scottish advisers. ;)

Louis X said...

"Should diplomacy fail, throw them in jail." ;)

The only problem with imprisoning rebellious people is that sometimes they hold a long-term grudge over it instead of learning the lesson of "you must obey your king," and once you release them, they will cause further problems in trying to secure some kind of vengeance.

What an unpleasant thing it is to attempt to mediate for and control such a group of adult infants! They need to be returned to their nursies for good switchings, before they cause their sovereign to turn to tyranny and behead them all as examples of what becomes of those who hold the king's authority in such blatant contempt. Huh!

Would it not be so much easier if we could be authoritarian despots, instead of trying to be somewhat fair?

(Oh dear...pardonnez-moi, s'il vous plaît! This seems to have stabbed directly into a very raw nerve. I shall be quiet, now, and wait to see how the thing turns out.)

Kathryn Warner said...

Mille mercis for your kind support of Edward, mon cher roi, and he greatly appreciates your amusing aphorism. :)

Edward hanged 20-odd men who rebelled against him in 1321/22 and imprisoned dozens of others, and got/gets endless criticism from contemporary chroniclers and from modern historians for his 'cruelty'. (Despite the fact that the men he hanged were the most unpleasant bunch of criminals imaginable who'd done enough to merit execution ten times over, but were of noble birth, so their deaths made 14c chroniclers wail in anguish while modern writers often depict them as snowy-white innocent victims of royal tyranny.) So I'm not sure what Edward was supposed to do, really - seems that he somehow managed to be both too merciful and too harsh. As far as many writers on the subject were/are concerned, Edward II could never do anything right!

Ahem. Yes, Monsire, you did inadvertently stab into a very raw nerve there, but luckily, the Bristol situation turned out well (second part coming in a day or two)!

Louis X said...

Hmm... I must wonder if the criticism stems not so much from the execution of the rebels, but from the manner of it. Nobles who are condemned to die are supposed to be spared the indignity of hanging; that is meant for criminals of low birth. Perhaps the outcry would have been weaker had the fellows died by the sword instead of the rope. Hanging is a dishonorable way to die.

In any event, I am soothed to know the Bristol incident turned out well. I dislike unhappy endings!

Kathryn Warner said...

Actually, some of them were beheaded, but it doesn't seem to make much difference to Edward's critics. :( Hanging the knights wasn't exactly unprecedented, as Edward's father had his cousin the earl of Atholl hanged on a high gallows in 1306, and gave other Scottish and Welsh noblemen the traitor's death. (But they weren't English, which seems to be the point!)

Louis X said...

I see. So it's clearly nothing but an unfair bias. What else can a king do with such rebels? Pardon them? Send them home with a kiss and a "no-hard-feelings" gift? Huh! Imprison them for life or execute them and be done with it. Treason is unpardonable.

I might not always support our brother king's actions, but I will always support an action to preserve the royal authority. If you lose that, you have lost all.

Kathryn Warner said...

Yes, I don't know what else Edward was meant to do in 1322 with men who had committed murder, assault, theft, plunder, abduction, false imprisonment, and vandalism on a truly epic scale. (These being the men who according to some accounts were merely innocent little victims of the nasty king and whom the Brut chronicle calls 'the flower of chivalry'. Riiiiight.)

Kate Plantagenet said...

Louis X (Sire) - you are a welcome addition here, with wise and amusing words.

Can't wait for the next instalment!

Kathryn Warner said...

Yes, I agree - it's great to have Louis here in blogland!

Louis X said...

Welcome, wise and amusing! And I thought I should have been thrown out, long ago, for too much ranty babbling. ;)

It is nice to be welcome. You ladies are spoiling me, terribly. Please continue. <3

Brad Verity said...

Kathryn, so sorry for not jumping on this post right away - I've been busy with Olympics.

Anyways, incredible research! I stand in awe of your ability to plow through the Chancery Rolls. So much detail comes to the surface by going directly to those sources, which are not the easiest reading.

I'm basically washing my hands of Badlesmere. This man was in over his head. I don't know how he managed to land his Clare wife. Now that we know she was the elder sister and only a two or three (instead of twelve) year age difference between the two, I have to question her judgment as well. Maybe he had incredible blue eyes, or something likely as shallow, because he sure isn't coming across as brave, or even competent.

The man was given control of the third largest city in England - and blew it!! Big time.

I want to thank you for delving so deeply into this topic. God is in the details as they say. Well, the research you've done on Badlesmere alone in the past few weeks completely outshines his bio by Professor Maddicott in the ODNB.

And it helps your cause of rehabilitating Edward II's reputation as well. He seems to have treated Badlesmere (a man whom both he and Gloucester inherited rather than promoted themselves) more than fairly. Meanwhile, Gaveston had to go? I just don't get it.

Looking forward to Part 2, which I see is already posted.

Brad Verity said...

Kathryn: "The king also ordered the sheriffs of Gloucestershire, Dorset and Somerset 'to compel the mayor and commonalty of the town of Bristol to obey Bartholomew de Badlesmere.'"

I meant to thank you for this tidbit as well. It helps to explain why Badlesmere was keen on a marriage alliance with the new Lord FitzPayn in 1315-16. The FitzPayns were a baronial family seated in Dorset and Somerset. They would help stabilize him in the Bristol situation.

I've never been to Bristol. It was such an important area in the 14th-century. I'm making my way through Michael Prestwich's massive bio of Edward I at the moment. Bristol Castle was one of the territories Edward I was granted in 1254 to cut his teeth on. It had been the chief city of the honour of Gloucester (the Clare family) until King John kept it in 1214 for his own in the settlement by which he got rid of his first wife, Isabelle of Gloucester. Edward II giving control of it to Badlesmere soon after becoming king was a very nice gift to his nephew Gloucester.

Is Bristol still one of the chief cities of the U.K.?

Kathryn Warner said...

Brad, thank you for the kind comments! I hope you had a great time at the Olympics - I like your photos on Facebook.

I don't really get why Badlesmere was so prominent, as he seems to have been promoted way above his abilities! Why did Clifford, Pembroke etc think so much of him - was he an appalling sycophant? A smooth talker? I'm really not sure why Professor Maddicott in the ODNB calls him an 'able man' and praises his 'diplomatic and military skills'. Going through the chancery rolls, with the endless orders from the king to the burgesses of Bristol to obey Badlesmere, hardly gives an impression of his competence and authority! And yet Piers Gaveston, an excellent soldier who performed extremely well as lord lieutenant of Ireland in 1308/09, is sneered at as 'worthless' by the historian K.B. McFarlane, among many other similar judgements? There's a lot of bias going on here.

Aha, that's interesting about the Fitzpayns and Badlesmere's alliance with them. His landed power was mostly in Kent, so interesting from a geo-political perspective to see him forming alliances with the Fitzpayns and the Mortimers, a great Marcher family.

I spent a day in Bristol about 10 years ago and really liked the atmosphere (I love port cities, and it's a university city too), and hope to go back one day to see the Berkeley tombs in the cathedral. Bristol has slipped down the list of British cities since the rise of Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield etc in the Industrial Revolution - places that were little more than villages in the Middle Ages. It's still in the top ten though, I think.

I thought about mentioning in the post, but didn't in the end, that Owain, son of Dafydd ap Gruffydd executed in 1283, was still imprisoned at Bristol Castle in Ed II's reign, and in 1306 the young earl of Mar was imprisoned there by Ed I - he'd joined Ed II's household by 1309, though. It's such a shame that so little remains of a great stronghold.

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trooplover said...

Why don't you go into WHY my ancestor hated the King and what that homo did to him? I am DAMN proud of Bartholomew and his wife Margaret. Since at least that time our family doesn't take any crap from anyone, King/Queen or not!

Kathryn Warner said...

Well, you know I'd love to respond to your incredibly intelligent and thoughtful comment, but today's Saturday, and I'm afraid that's not my day for talking to bigoted idiots.