15 February, 2010

A Rebellion In Bristol (2)

The second and final part of my post about the rebellion in Bristol between 1312 and 1316 (the first part is directly below, or here). In the year 1314, very little happened in Bristol, other than Bartholomew Badlesmere's adherents complaining - as had now become a matter of course - of the mayor John le Taverner's faction ill-treating them. Edward II, his nephew the earl of Gloucester and Badlesmere had little time to devote to the Bristol situation, being too busy preparing to fight in Scotland, and Gloucester of course was killed at Bannockburn that June. Edward's cousin Earl Thomas of Lancaster, after the king's defeat in Scotland, came to dominate the English government, and made his own attempts to solve the long-running dissent in Bristol. He and his ally the earl of Warwick summoned eight representatives of the town to Warwick in the summer of 1315 "to treat of the settlement of such disputes...the king desiring that such dissensions should be allayed." [1] As Edward II could no doubt have predicted, this failed to solve anything.

In June 1316, Edward, or possibly the earl of Lancaster, sent the sheriff of Gloucestershire - Sir Richard de la Ryvere, a retainer of Badlesmere's ally the earl of Pembroke - to arrest John le Taverner and five of his allies, including Robert Martyn, for the death of one Alexander Vilers, killed during the riots in Bristol. Ryvere found the men in the guild hall, where "Robert de Wyldemersh, who called himself bailiff of that town, and the community of the town would not permit that attachment [arrest] to be made, but hindered it wholly." Ryvere returned with the posse of the county to arrest Taverner and the others, and now Wyldemersh too, but found that the gates of Bristol were closed against him "and the whole community raised in war against the king, having associated with them a multitude of malefactors from Bayonne and Wales." They had drained the castle ditch, destroyed the castle mill, made a ditch "before the castle gate of the breadth and depth of 24 feet" and strengthened it with a pele tower, and set up siege-engines throughout Bristol to attack the castle.

Despite the intense provocation of the mayor's faction "retaining the town against the king and preparing other things in express rebellion against him with banners raised" - and despite the fact that Theobald de Verdon's abduction of the king's niece Elizabeth de Burgh from Bristol Castle in early 1316 can only have increased Edward II's exasperation with the whole situation - Edward was still determined to "recall the community to obedience by gentle means." On 20 June 1316, he appointed his kinsman the earl of Pembroke, William Inge, John Mutford and John del Isle to go to Bristol, investigate the disturbances and recall the commonalty to their obedience to the king - and, if they refused, to punish them. [2] The author of the Vita Edwardi Secundi, who probably came from the south-west of England and knew the situation well, points out Edward's forbearance: "For the king thought it better to exact a moderate penalty from the lawbreakers if they should be willing to comply, then by taking full vengeance to destroy a good town."

According to the Vita, the earl of Pembroke told the mayor's faction to hand over Taverner and his allies, saying "I promise that if you do this, the lord king will be easy with you and you will find mercy." He received the reply "We were not authors of this wrong; we have not failed the lord king in anything. Certain men strove to take away our rights and we, as proper, strove to defend them. Therefore if the lord king will remit his penalties, if he will grant us life and limb and rents and property, we will obey him as lord and do whatever he wishes; otherwise we shall continue as we have begun, and defend our liberties and privileges to the death." (The Vita's account of the Bristol rebellion, rather simplistically, focuses on the mayor's clique trying to stop other burgesses enjoying the same rights they did; Badlesmere is barely mentioned.)

Pembroke wrote to Edward, who, "hearing of their stubbornness and thinking that this was a bad example, ordered the town to be besieged, and not left until the besieged had been taken." Pembroke did not participate in the siege himself but returned to the king at Westminster, leaving Badlesmere, with the aid of Roger Mortimer of Wigmore, Lord Berkeley's son and heir Maurice, Edward II's then chamberlain John Charlton, John Wilington and others including the ever-useful William Montacute - who had rescued Badlesmere's sister-in-law Maud Clifford from the clutches of John the Irishman some months before - to attack Bristol. The siege began on about 19 July, Maurice Berkeley guarding the sea approaches, the others attacking by land and some of Badlesmere's men helping from within Bristol castle, with Badlesmere in overall charge (in theory if not in practice; he wasn't much of a soldier). [3]

The Vita (p. 73) describes subsequent events: "Siege was laid to the town forthwith, fortifications and siegeworks made...There were also in the castle which lies over against the town, men assaulting it with mangonels and other engines...a mangonel of the castle, vigorously handled, beat down the walls and buildings." The siege lasted about a week, and the Bristolians surrendered on 26 July 1316. They sent Edward II a letter of submission, which began "To their most excellent and revered lord, Lord Edward, by the grace of God illustrious king of England, and to his most honourable and wise council, the community of the town of Bristol, all the faithful service, due submission, reverence and honour of which they are capable." [4]

Edward duly pardoned all but three of the townsmen of Bristol (one of whom was called Clement Turtle) on payment of a fine of 2000 marks, of which Badlesmere received 1000 marks for his expenses, and restored the liberty of the town. The three men not pardoned were the former mayor John le Taverner, his son Thomas, and Robert Martyn, who sought sanctuary in a Bristol church then abjured the realm. [5] So in the end, everything turned out all right - and how often can you say that in Edward II's reign? - even for the three men not pardoned. The Taverners and Martyn petitioned Edward for restitution in October 1321, with impeccable timing: Edward was just about to besiege Batholomew Badlesmere's castle of Leeds in Kent, as Badlesmere had joined the Contrariants and become the king's latest worst enemy. Wherever they had fled, the three men obviously knew this, and told Edward they had only abjured the realm out of fear "of being put in the keeping of Sir Bartholomew, in which they would have been dead and maimed" and that they "were forced to abjure because Sir Bartholomew wrongfully sued them for trespass and felony of which they were not culpable." Edward pardoned the three for all wrong-doing, allowed them to return to England and restored them to their goods, etc. [6] Around this time, the king also pardoned a group of men imprisoned for abducting Badlesmere's wife Margaret at Cheshunt in 1319 and holding her to ransom. [7]

Bartholomew Badlesmere had been replaced as constable of Bristol Castle by Hugh Despenser the Younger on 1 October 1320, though Despenser - who needed to remain at court, being the king's chamberlain and favourite - usually appointed deputies. The entry mentions that the castle porter got wages of two pence a day, that the two watchmen received one and a half pence a day each with an extra quarter of a pence each for doing the night shift, that the forester of Kingswood received seven and a half pence a day, and that the 'keeper of the king's seaboard of Bristol' was entitled to twenty-six shillings and eight pence a year for his clothing allowance. [8]


1) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1313-1317, pp. 289, 294, 296-297.
2) Calendar of Close Rolls 1313-1318, pp. 423-424; Cal Pat Rolls 1313-1317, pp. 489-490; Calendar of Fine Rolls 1307-1319, p. 386.
3) Vita Edwardi Secundi, ed. N. Denholm-Young, pp. 72-73; J.R.S. Phillips, Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke: Baronial Politics in the Reign of Edward II, pp. 102-103.
4) The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, ed. Chris Given-Wilson et al., under the January 1316 parliament.
5) Cal Pat Rolls 1313-1317, pp. 525, 527, 574, 604-605; Cal Fine Rolls 1307-1319, pp. 308-309; Cal Close Rolls 1313-1318, pp. 399, 416; Cal Pat Rolls 1317-1321, pp. 71, 121.
6) Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, pp. 524-525; Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323, p. 423; Cal Pat Rolls 1321-1324, pp. 30, 38; The National Archives SC 8/319/E407, SC 8/18/872.
7) Cal Pat Rolls 1317-1321, p. 473; Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323, p. 267; Cal Pat Rolls 1321-1324, p. 37.
8) Cal Fine Rolls 1319-1327, p. 33.


Gabriele Campbell said...

Heh, the case of those three men could have the title How To Survive During Edward's Reign. Wait until you enemy falls onto the wrong side of the king. ;)

Clement Glen said...

I wonder how much Clement Turtle had to 'shell-out' for his fine?

Sorry! Great post!

Kate Plantagenet said...

Great stuff. Weird how people are your friends one minute and your enemy the next. How did Edward know whom to trust?! The Bristol situation could have been much worse, but what I want to know is how the heck the town drained the ditch? Bucket line?

Louis X said...

Huh. Methinks that Lord Badlesmere fellow ought to have been given a swift kick when he first refused to quit the castle. Though I am sure that would have only created a different and equally annoying problem for our dear brother.

Ha! Dear Lady Kate, kings have no friends; only temporary allies of political convenience. ;)

One drains a moat the same way one fills it: dig the ditch, brace it or line it with stone, and let nature take its course to drag the water into it. The pull of the earth does the work in drawing underground water from the soil and into the new moat. It works the same way for draining. Dig ditches around the moat, deeper than the moat, and the water will be sucked right out, by its nature of always seeking the lowest ground. Of course, if the moat is fed by a live stream, you shall have to cut that off, too, or divert it, lest it will simply fill the void your ditches make as quickly as it arises.

Kathryn Warner said...

Gabriele: yes, the best way to overcome Ed's annoyance with you was to wait until your enemy fell out of his favour (which was bound to happen eventually) then wait till he welcomed you back with open arms! :-)

Clement: *grin* Thanks, glad you liked the post!

Kate: this whole situation is a good example of the frequent side-switching of Ed's reign, isn't it?

Monsire le roi, yes indeed, punishing Badlesmere may have made things worse, as his influential brother-in-law Lord Clifford was already opposed to the king and Piers Gaveston in 1312.

Carla said...

Badlesmere sounds like am example of Parkinson's Law about promotion to the level of incompetence :-)

Nice to know that it all turned out more or less all right in the end.

Kathryn Warner said...

Hehe, good point, Carla. :-)

Brad Verity said...

Part 2 was just as good as the first.

It's interesting how well things went when Edward II and the Marcher lords (Hereford, Mortimer, Charlton, et al) worked together. Then the Despensers came along and ruined everything. I really wonder why Edward let them get so out of hand. Maybe he always resented the power that the Marcher lords held.

Badlesmere's only son and heir would marry William Montacute's granddaughter, though that was a good fifteen years later.

Sounds like the Bristol city officials had some legitimate grievances, but of course were at the mercy of the factional politics that polarized Edward's reign.

Badlesmere was nothing without a strong ally: Clifford, Gloucester, Pembroke, Edward. He seems more and more Polonius-like the more facts emerge about him.

Kathryn Warner said...

Brad, I also wonder if Edward resented the Marcher lords' power. After all, the privileges they held became anachronistic and basically unjustifiable once Edward I conquered Wales in 1282/83 and they no longer had to defend the border, and therefore had no more responsibilities than English lords. (Historian T.F. Tout a few decades ago called their privileges "a dangerous anachronism.") Although Edward II went about it in a really cack-handed fashion, I wonder if he had in mind some plan to limit the powers of the Marcher lords.

Anonymous said...

Nice exploration of the rebellion! Have you read Samuel Cohn Jr's book on Popular Protest in English towns? He discusses this rebellion in some detail and concludes that it was a fairly important event.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thank you! No, I haven't seen that one - thanks for the tip! I'll heck it out.