31 March, 2010

So You Want To Write A Novel About Edward II And Isabella...?

...then I am here to help, with much snarkiness. (I'm just in the mood for it at the moment, possibly because I've been ill and unable to speak in anything but a hideous croaky hoarse whisper for a week now which is severely curtailing my ability to express sarcasm, so it's all coming out here instead.) Based on numerous works of fiction about them I've read over the years, here, in one handy reference guide, are the elements you need to write a novel about Edward II and Isabella of France. Novels about the pair tend to stick to a predictable and frankly tedious formula, with several honourable exceptions (Susan Higginbotham's The Traitor's Wife, of course, which manages to be both a fresh take on the story and far more historically accurate than any other Edward II novel, and Brenda Honeyman's The King's Minions and The Queen And Mortimer, both of which I adore), and generally fall into two camps: novels which focus on Edward and his lovers and turn the queen into an implausibly peripheral and minor character, and - far more numerous - novels written from Isabella's perspective which vilify Edward as much as possible and repeat all the usual old myths about him, because lots of authors think that the only way to make Isabella a sympathetic character is to make her husband really, really horrible.

Generally, the rule in Edward II/Isabella fiction over the last forty years or so has been to portray Isabella as a long-suffering tragic neglected victim of her nasty cruel heartless gay husband who is later miraculously transformed into a strong empowered feminist kick-ass heroine; apart from a few websites about the mad ghost of Castle Rising, that whole 'She-Wolf' thing went out of the window long ago. The modern Edward and Isabella author a) assumes that any and every negative story about Edward, Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despenser s/he has ever read in a book or in some crappy online article somewhere or has even just plucked out of the air is 100% true and accurate even when no primary source so much as mentions the story or it can actually be proved to be an invention or at the very least a gross exaggeration, and b) decides that anything remotely negative Isabella's contemporaries wrote about her has absolutely no place in a modern book about her. (So what if the Brut chronicle says that in the late 1320s "bigan the communite of Engeland forto hate Isabel the Quene" and that she and Roger Mortimer "almost destroiede" the country? That doesn't fit very nicely into the trendy notion that Beloved Isabella Set Her Husband's Kingdom To Rights, does it, so there's no reason why your readers should have to know about it.)

To help out any aspiring authors hoping to set a novel in this era, here's a list of scenes and ideas which other fans of Isabella The Tragic Long-Suffering Neglected Victim/Kick-Ass Heroine have deemed compulsory in novels. You might also want to refer to an old post of mine, Rules for Fiction about Edward and Isabella, and the post I co-wrote with Rachel, The Support Group For Tragic Queens.

- The novel must always start at Edward and Isabella's wedding in January 1308 or, at the very earliest, a day or two before, with twelve-year-old Isabella waiting in Boulogne for Edward to arrive. (No-one ever, ever writes about Isabella's childhood in fiction; you'd think it was taboo or forbidden or something.) Isabella is bowled over and thrilled to bits by the sight of the gorgeous young man who is about to become her husband, but - le GASP! the HORROR!!! - he shows little or even no interest in her. This should be written as though it is completely unaccountable and weird and unheard of for a man of nearly twenty-four not to fall instantly and deeply in love with a (pre-)pubescent, and as though we're supposed to believe that all other men in arranged royal marriages immediately fell in love with their brides and fawned over them in spectacularly fawny fashion.

- You must constantly, constantly, tell the reader how incredibly beautiful and desirable and speshul* Isabella is, even when she is only twelve. This rule applies even if you choose a narrator who wouldn't normally be expected to care very much about a woman's beauty and desirability, such as a woman whom you depict elsewhere as having no sexual or romantic interest in women whatsoever, yet for some reason feels the need to tell the reader over and over about Isabella's desirable beautiful lips and gorgeous beautiful hair and perfect beautiful features and amazing beautiful body and incredibly beautiful beauty while failing ever to notice Edward II and Piers Gaveston's good looks, strong bodies etc in the way you might expect a supposedly heterosexual woman to do. Don't worry about overdoing descriptions of Isabella's beauty, because that's impossible; aim to have your reader screaming "OK, OK, she's beautiful. I GET IT!!" at least every couple of pages.

* Deliberate mis-spelling, in case you're wondering.

- The author should hint at how odd and inexplicable it is that marrying The Most Beautiful And Desirable Twelve-Year-Old In All France has not miraculously 'cured' Edward II of loving Piers Gaveston. If you can, hint also that the main reason Edward loves Piers is from a spiteful desire to anger and humiliate his wife, and that he could stop being attracted to him immediately and become wildly attracted to Isabella if he wanted to or actually tried, because all other men on the planet are attracted to her, apparently. (Yes, even when she's twelve.) The author should under no circumstances display a single iota of empathy or compassion for non-heterosexual people forced by a hetero-normative society to marry a member of the opposite sex, display no understanding that marriage does not actually stop a person being bi or gay, no awareness that bi and gay people do not 'choose' who to be attracted to and cannot stop being attracted to someone any more than straight people do and can, and no awareness that the presence of a twelve-year-old, however attractive, bright and well-connected, does not generally cause adults to fall out of love with their partner, whatever their sexuality.

(Of course, having the characters in a novel set in the early fourteenth century being enlightened, tolerant and accepting of men having sexual and romantic relationships with men would be anachronistic and bizarre, but there are ways that authors can write intolerant attitudes of the past without making it seem that the modern reader is supposed to share those attitudes. If you want to do this, then it would be a good idea not to keep referring to Edward II as 'perverted' and 'unnatural' in your narrative. And yes, there are novels that do.)

- Isabella watches her new husband run down the gangplank of their ship on arrival in Dover, hug and kiss Piers Gaveston, and rudely ignore her: this is a Compulsory Scene in the Poor Isabella Of France Had The Most Horrible Abusive Neglectful Husband Evah!-themed novel which you are painstakingly crafting and you should make a great effort to squeeze as much pathos into the scene as possible. Never mind that an entry on the Fine Roll makes it apparent that Edward and Isabella arrived on shore from their ship in separate barges, at least a few minutes apart, and that Isabella most probably never even saw her husband kiss and hug Piers anyway. (After all, no-one except some weirdo Edward II obsessive with a blog, website and Facebook page about him is going to have seen that Fine Roll entry anyway.)

- You must constantly, constantly, tell the reader how incredibly beautiful and desirable and speshul Isabella is, and that every normal man who sees her falls in love with her immediately.

- Another Compulsory Scene: Edward gives all his and Isabella's wedding presents, and even the poor little queen's jewels, to Piers Gaveston. Our Beautiful Pre-Pubescent Heroine is horrified and angry when she sees her husband's lover flaunting himself in front of her wearing her own jewels. This is one of those myths about Edward II elevated to the status of 'fact' by being breathlessly repeated in numerous novels, when it's virtually certain that Edward actually sent the presents and jewels to Piers - regent of England in his absence and the person he trusted above all others - to store safely for him; there is no reason to think that Piers kept the items, or was ever intended to. This one is a myth I don't think will ever die.

- Another Compulsory Scene: Edward talks more to Piers Gaveston at his and Isabella's coronation banquet than he does to her, and allows the gorgeously-dressed Piers to outshine the queen. If you do your job correctly and throw in sufficient pathos and melodrama, the reader should by now be thinking that no husband in the entire long history of horrendous abusive marriages has ever done so much hurt to his wife as Edward II did to Isabella in the first few weeks of their marriage. Men who imprisoned their wives within days of marrying them then had them murdered or beat them to death or cheated on them with countless women be damned; Edward didn't talk to his wife enough at their coronation banquet, which, combined with his shocking thoughtlessness in not falling in love with her at first sight and not having the courtesy to fall out of love with Piers and conform to heterosexual norms, means that he is officially the most abusive and cruel husband in all recorded history.

- You will probably want to write a scene showing Edward II's lack of desire to have sex with his new wife, which you must not for one moment allow your reader to think might be a perfectly reasonable and humane gesture based on Isabella's extreme youth and physical immaturity and Edward's unwillingness to risk putting her through the traumas of pregnancy and childbirth at such a young age. Instead, it must be portrayed as a calculated insult on Edward's part towards Isabella, her royal lineage and her femininity, deeply weird and perverse and something no Real Man worth his salt would ever have done, and yet another example of Edward's cruel heartless neglect of his poor little wife. (Though if Edward had enthusiastically consummated his marriage, you just know fans of Victim!Isabella would be screaming "How dare you put her health at risk and force her to do something she can't possibly have been emotionally or physically ready for, you freaky little pervert??!" at him.)

-The basic rule for fans of the Victim!Isabella school of history is that everything, literally every single little thing, that Edward II ever did was wrong in every way. Even when it's something that no other human being in history has been criticised for and is generally considered a good thing, such as not having sex with a twelve-year-old, it's still completely and utterly wrong when Edward does it.

- It is a vital part of pretty well any novel featuring Edward II that the king has to be womanish, effeminate, effete, foppish, camp, girly, mincing, swishy, feeble, soft, unmanly, unmasculine and unvirile. Yes, you are going to have to turn a man who stood over six feet tall, was as strong as an entire team of oxen and spent a lot of his time outdoors in all weathers digging ditches, thatching roofs and swimming into someone 'womanish' and feeble. (The same frequently applies to Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despenser, whom history may have recorded as a jousting champion and a pirate respectively but who are known by discerning historical novelists to have really been girly little fops.) Incredibly silly as this may seem, it is compulsory in order to distinguish Edward and his male lovers as sharply as possible from the Real Man, Our Manly Virile Hetero Hero Roger Mortimer (see below). Dated stereotypes and lame stupid caricatures are your friends here, and feel free to throw in as many of them as often as you can, but if you are still having problems characterising a man like Edward II as effeminate, imagine a thirteen-year-old girl with pictures of pop and film stars all over the walls of her pink and silver bedroom who is currently being even more shrill, stroppy, shrieky, tantrumy, foot-stampy, flouncy, drama-queeny and irritating than usual. Write this girl as the king of England, add in plenty of fluttering wrists, et voilà!

- You must constantly, constantly, tell the reader how incredibly beautiful and desirable and speshul Isabella is, and that every normal man who sees her falls in love with her immediately.

- The next Compulsory Scene is absolutely essential: in May 1312, the pregnant queen begs her husband in tears not to leave her at Tynemouth, but off Edward goes with Piers Gaveston anyway and cruelly abandons Isabella and their unborn child to the mercy of a) the earl of Lancaster (who was Isabella's uncle, but for heaven's sake don't mention that so as to make it seem that she was genuinely in danger from him) and/or b) Robert Bruce (who was nowhere near Tynemouth, but for heaven's sake don't mention that so as to make it seem that she was genuinely in danger from him). Never mind that this story of the weeping abandoned queen is mentioned in one chronicle written twenty years later and 270 miles away and that it is disproved by the evidence of Isabella's own household accounts of 1312; it's far too central to the myth of Victim!Isabella to be treated as anything but gospel truth.

- Mess up the chronology of Edward II's reign by having him fall in love with Hugh Despenser around the time of Bannockburn, a good four or five years too early. Make Isabella begin to despise her husband because he 'runs away' from the battlefield. Completely ignore Roger Damory, William Montacute and Hugh Audley, by far the most important influences at court in the middle years of Edward's reign. Don't bother characterising Hugh Despenser (the younger) except as a one-dimensional epitome of evil. Make out that Despenser is merely a humble knight and a nobody and not in fact the grandson of the earl of Warwick and the countess of Norfolk. Have Edward II arranging Despenser's marriage to Eleanor de Clare after Despenser becomes his favourite because of course it's far too much effort to pick up a proper book or even (shock horror!) a primary source and find out that the couple married on 26 May 1306 and that Eleanor's grandfather Edward I arranged it, and so much easier to copy other novelists who didn't bother to do the research either. Make it seem that Edward 'steals' Isabella's three younger children away from her when he sets up their own households as though she never saw them again and as though no other medieval king did the same thing, pretend that familial norms 700 years ago were exactly the same as ours and that medieval queens were the full-time primary carers of their children, and appeal to modern notions of motherhood in a blatant attempt to drum up cheap sentimental sympathy for Isabella.
- You must constantly, constantly, tell the reader how incredibly beautiful and desirable and speshul Isabella is, and that every normal man who sees her falls in love with her immediately.

- Isabella, the queen of England and thus a person who stood a pretty good chance of being recognised by a very large number of people, manages in some novels to visit Roger Mortimer in his cell at the Tower of London in 1322/23 and even to have hot sex with him there without anyone ever noticing, despite the fact that she had a household of almost 200 people and that the Tower had hundreds of people coming and going all the time and that you might as well arrange a private and top secret assignation in the middle of Grand Central. Anyway, if you really must do this in your novel, some authors have Isabella 'escaping' from court to visit Our Great Hetero Hero by the simple expedient of putting on a hood, which presumably renders her invisible.
- As everyone knows, Roger Mortimer is the antithesis of Horrid Gay Effeminate Edward II and must, by international law, be written as a Manly Virile Stud-Muffin Hetero Hero Who Is Made Of Stud-Muffinly Hetero Manliness. (As with Isabella's beauty and speshulness, an author cannot possibly exaggerate or over-emphasise Mortimer's sheer hetero manliness.) Near the end of your novel, however, when everything is going pear-shaped for our oh-so-sighingly-in-love couple, Mortimer abruptly transforms from Great Hetero Hero to Useful Scapegoat who can be blamed for all Perfect Beautiful Isabella's mistakes and flaws and to everyone's surprise, not least his own, suddenly becomes a Baddie.

- It is compulsory in any Edward II/Isabella novel to bang on for chapter after tedious chapter about Edward's appalling neglect of poor little Isabella and to portray their marriage as a 'grotesque travesty', but do your best to ignore the fact that Roger Mortimer himself is married, as he is the Great Hetero Hero who enters Isabella's bleak life like a happy thunderbolt and turns his Virile Manly Stud-Muffinly Lurrrve onto her and thereby saves her from The Most Horrid Cruel Abusive Husband In All Recorded History and therefore, cannot be seen to be saddled with such inconveniences as a wife and a dozen children or to do such unpleasant things as force his wife to receive his mistress in her own castle. If you really have to mention his wife Joan, and it's not recommended as you don't want your great hero to be morally ambiguous, do you, make her an overweight, incredibly unattractive and deeply pathetic woman who conveniently saves Mortimer and Isabella from having to feel any guilt by wittering on about how very very happy she is about her husband's affair with the queen, however psychologically implausible that may be.
- Likewise, Roger Mortimer must be written as a whiter-than-white freedom fighter against royal tyranny and you must ignore the numerous crimes he committed in Wales and the Marches in 1321/22 - vandalism, plunder, burning towns and the countryside, assault, false imprisonment, extortion, stealing from the poor, impoverishing the poor, destroying the homes and livelihoods of the poor - and pretend that his only real 'crime' and the only reason for his imprisonment in the Tower is his brave opposition to Nasty Evil Bisexual Hugh Despenser. We can't have a morally ambiguous hero!

- You must constantly, constantly, tell the reader how incredibly beautiful and desirable and speshul Isabella is, and that every normal man who sees her falls in love with her immediately.

- You must write Isabella as being utterly horrified at her husband's imprisonment of the wives and children of Contrariants in 1322, and also have her begging Edward in 1324 to allow the bodies of executed Contrariants to be buried (actually it wasn't the queen but some of the bishops who asked Edward to do that, and there's no evidence at all that Isabella gave a toss about the Contrariants' bodies, but hey, whatever). This does mean you will have to ignore the fact that Isabella herself imprisoned eighteen children ("boy-hostages") at Chester Castle in 1327 because the town had been "disobedient and ill-behaved" and forced the townspeople to pay all the costs*, and that she and Mortimer imprisoned his first cousin the nine-months-pregnant countess of Kent and her small children in 1330 with only two attendants, six fewer than Edward II allowed Mortimer's wife Joan - no, wait, Mortimer wasn't married, was he? - during her imprisonment. Current theory states that Isabella and Mortimer Set The Country To Rights in 1326/27 and you can't let the inconvenient truth that they, ummm, completely and totally didn't, to put it mildly, stand in the way of this Official (Albeit Completely Wrong) Fact.
[* Source: Calendar of Close Rolls 1327-1330, pp. 169, 187-8.]
- Roger Mortimer and Isabella's relationship is officially Twu Wuv 4Ever and not in any way perhaps just a tad convenient for Mortimer as cynical readers might think, given that the relationship enables him to a) invade England, kill his enemies the Despensers and get various kinds of revenge on Edward II, and b) get all his lands back plus about nine trillion more, make himself the richest man in the country, award himself a grandiose earldom and act as king of England and Wales in all but name for the best part of four years until executed by Edward III. But! None of this has anything at all to do with his motives for starting and continuing a relationship with the queen whom he Really Really Truly Lurrrves and it's all just a happy coincidence and fate smiling on Our Manly Virile Stud-Muffin Hetero Hero for being, gosh darn it, so damn manly and heterosexual and brave and wonderful and the complete antithesis of Horrid Gay Effeminate Edward II. Who cruelly neglects his poor little incredibly beautiful and desirable queen and doesn't love her nearly as much as such a beautiful royal lady deserves to be loved or recognise her speshulness or give her the wonderful sex life that is the God-given birthright of every royal and noble woman in an arranged marriage in the Middle Ages or miraculously turn heterosexual at first sight of her, and pays the price for this horrid cruel neglect by being deposed and imprisoned, losing everyone he loves and getting a red-hot poker up where the sun don't shine*, so that'll teach him not to be straight.
* Well, not really. Only in novels.

- On the other hand, Hugh Despenser's relationship with Edward II is most emphatically not Twu Wuv 4Ever, and you should write any love scenes between Edward and Despenser so that it's immediately obvious to the reader that you were holding your nose and going "But ewww, ewwww, they're both men! Icky!!" Remember the golden rule: Hugh 'The Evil Bisexual' Despenser seducing the king is a cynical grab for power and wealth, immoral and revolting; Roger 'The Happy Hetero Thunderbolt' Mortimer seducing the queen is romantic, sweet and adorable, and any power and wealth which happen to come his way thereby a mere coincidence. Men who seduce men and become powerful = Bad. Men who seduce women and become powerful = Good. Don't worry about the blatant hypocrisy and double standards; just hope that your readers will fall so much in love with Virile Hetero Stud-Muffin Mort they'll never notice.

When you have all these elements ready, stick in a few more old myths that refuse to die, such as Isabella and Roger Mortimer being buried next to each other at the Greyfriars church in London (they weren't), remind the reader a few more times that Isabella is really really beautiful and speshul, and there you go! Publication of your masterpiece awaits. But please, please don't expect me to read it...

26 March, 2010

The Happy Thunderbolt Roger Mortimer Enjoys Meeting Men, In An Unequivocally Heterosexual And Virile Way

Warning: this post contains much snark, so do not read on if you're likely to be offended. (Though if you're the person who wrote the homophobic rubbish about Edward II on Facebook I quote below, I sincerely hope you are offended.)

I'll begin with a couple of misapprehensions spotted online this week:

From a forum about Braveheart: "Just leave out that whole love story between Wallace and Edward II’s little wife! Yuch! Never happened! No such thing! In real life, it was Edward I (Longshanks) who fathered the child, and probably by raping the poor girl."

Yes, Edward I, who died on 7 July 1307 and who never even met his daughter-in-law Isabella, fathered Edward III, born on 13 November 1312. But of course.

A friend of mine on Facebook told me the other day that her sister's teacher once explained to the class that William Wallace's fathering Edward III (as invented in Braveheart) was the source of the Stuart claim to the English throne. Entirely understandably, my friend remarked "my brain melted from the sheer stupidity."

Spotted on a blog: "Nottingham Castle nearby is said to be the residence of Nottinghams [sic] most famous ghost, Queen Isabella. Isabella cheated on husband King Edward II with her lover Mortimer in 1330 and is said to still wander the underground passages of the castle where they were caught."

Heehee, the way some people mangle the story can be so funny. And my, Isabella's a busy ghost, isn't she? I read this on a website about Castle Rising: "As a former resident, Isabel played an important role in the horrific murder of her husband, Edward II, which took place in 1327. After the incident, it is believed that she was struck with dementia and spent the rest of her life wandering about the upper floors of Castle Rising...The rumors of her ghost began when people started to claim they could hear the sounds of a mad woman coming from the castle in the middle of the night. Many believe it is the ghost of Isabel causing such terrible noises."

Or possibly it's me, shrieking in disbelief at the historical inaccuracies. This page is even better, so utterly wrong in so many ways in its earnest wrongness it's an absolute scream. Poor Isabella! And talking about the 'She-Wolf' sobriquet, I giggled a lot recently at the claim on Facebook that it "was Edward her husband's boyfriend Hugh Despenser's idea. She was not known as such in the period after his presumed death." The sobriquet 'She-Wolf' in fact comes from Shakespeare's Henry VI Part III where it referred to Margaret of Anjou, and was appropriated for Isabella by Thomas Gray in his 1757 poem 'Pindaric Ode'. But hey, Hugh Despenser, William Shakespeare, a poem written 430 years after Hugh's death, what's the difference? I assume 'presumed death' is meant to refer to Edward II, not Hugh Despenser as it seems to. Not a whole lot of doubt that Hugh died in Hereford on 24 November 1326.

And, saving the worst crap till last, check out this utterly dreadful and offensive rubbish about Edward II posted on Facebook recently by the same person who thinks that Hugh Despenser called Isabella 'the She-Wolf'. We are informed that Edward was

"a fastidiously gay guy who begat children on her [Isabella] - note not with her - as a painful duty. Roger Mortimer came as a happy thunderbolt into a bleak life...Edward was the very reverse of uxorious at a time when it was important to demonstrate respect for women. His own parents were very well-married so he didn't lack example...even though men shared beds and were much freer about showing affection than present day men, there were a lot of people who picked up an extra sexual vibe. Ed's lack of resolution may well have led to his assumption of a subordinate role with his puppetmasters. Regarding respect for women: one thing publicly noticed was the contrast between that which he had for his relatives and Eleanor [Despenser], and incidentally his other niece Margaret who was married to Gaveston, and the frosty and dismissive tone he used to his wife. I used the word uxorious, indulgent and attentive to a wife, which Edward I for all his sins was to BOTH of his. As was Edward III when he acquired one, for thirty years anyway."

It's bad enough that anyone, especially a person who elsewhere claims to support gay rights and gay marriage, can come up with such painfully stupid, ignorant, bigoted, offensive and entirely invented ("frosty and dismissive tone"?? "painful duty"??) nonsense in the first place, but to state it as though it's fact...! Does this person truly believe that a gay man should be able to have a successful sexual and romantic relationship with a woman and be 'uxorious' simply because his parents were happily married and therefore he had an 'example'? Seriously? How absolutely extraordinary. My friend Rachel hit the mark with a brilliant response: ""Fastidiously gay" - as opposed to what, sloppily gay or untidily heterosexual?"

Anyway, onto to the day's main business! I have the pleasure of announcing a guest post by Rachel, who, as those of you lucky enough to know her will already be aware, is completely awesome and made of awesomeness. In case you're wondering what it's all about, it's inspired by the claim made in a book published a while back that Roger Mortimer was "everything that Edward II was not: strong, manly, unequivocally heterosexual, virile, courageous, audacious and decisive." Rachel and I just find it impossible not to endlessly take the p*ss out of such a bizarre statement, especially given that Edward II was described by fourteenth-century chroniclers as "one of the strongest men of his realm," "of outstanding strength," "tall and strong," etc etc. We're not so much mocking Roger Mortimer himself, who probably was "unequivocally heterosexual" and "virile," whatever that's supposed to mean, as stereotypical attitudes towards sexuality which, unfortunately, still persist.

Rachel's main area of historical interest is the Tudors, especially Queen Anne Boleyn and the five men executed with her in May 1536, so decided to write about Roger Mortimer trying to befriend men he thinks were a queen's lovers...


Roger Mortimer: You're men after my own heart! In of course an unequivocally hetero and not at all gay way. I've rogered a queen or two in my time myself, you know. Get it? Rogered, he he he.

Mark Smeaton: Erm ... who are you and why would you think we needed to know that?

Roger Mortimer: I'm Roger Mortimer. Renowned throughout history as being manly, virile, unequivocally heterosexual and not at all like that tosser Edward II. Just call me ... The Rog. Hey, I like that. It has a nice ring to it. The ROG. Now I have to invent a cool handshake or high five to go with it. Anyway, I see you handsome chaps have had a go at your own queen, so just stopped in to tell you good show and all that. *I* had Isabella - a French princess and Queen of England, how's that for a score? - wrapped around my little finger in my day!

Francis Weston: *is speechless*

Henry Norris: Two things: a) we DIDN'T, you pillock! And b) inappropriate oversharing much?

The Rog: Oh, you fine figures of men - and I mean that in a totally virile, manly, heterosexual way, and not in an I'd-like-to-get-into-your-hose-pronto way, even though I'd totally understand if non-virile or hetero manly men wanted to do that, because as we all know, we manly hetero types who are made of manliness are just irresistible to anything with a pulse - don't need to be so modest! There's no shame in liking to do it with girls, especially queens! It just proves you are all unequivocally heterosexual like me.

Mark Smeaton: *facepalm*

William Brereton: So not only do we get condemned after a show trial, we have to put up with this self-involved git from the 14th century and his sexual identity crisis. Great. Just great.

The Rog: Sir, it's no crisis, I assure you. Wait, that came out wrong. Look at me. I am the original Straight Poster Boy - virile, masculine, hetero and full of manly goodness.

William Brereton: "Full of manly goodness." Is that what your squires said?

The Rog: What have you heard? It's all lies! I DID NOT HAVE SEXUAL RELATIONS WITH THAT SQUIRE.

Francis Weston: Oops.

Mark Smeaton: I know. Now I'm getting embarrassed on the poor bloke's behalf.

The Rog: Hey! "Poor bloke"? I don't think so. As for what your friend is insinuating, not even Henry VIII is as hetero as me. Just ask Sir Thomas More.

Henry VIII: ??????????

Anne Boleyn: *sporfle* Roger, I'd quit while you're behind. This CANNOT end well. But thanks for the entertainment during a rotten few weeks.

George Boleyn: Yeah, good old Mort. 200 years and he's STILL bitter that Edward II didn't fancy him.

The Rog > Thomas Seymour: Hey, now YOU seem to be a man a manly man like me can relate to - virile, hetero and made of manliness! Thought we could grab a few pints down the pub. What do you think?

Thomas Seymour: Um, yeah, maybe. Hey, I met a guy from your era you probably know - Piers Gaveston! Yeah, we went for a few drinks last Friday, and had a great time. Cool bloke, that Piers, isn't he? We're off jousting together next week, actually.

The Rog: Gaveston? You went male bonding with GAVESTON? What's he got that I haven't?

Thomas Seymour: Um, well ... self-awareness, for starters.

The Rog: No, no, no, don't go out with Gaveston! Come out for a few pints with me, we'll do a bit of wenching and talk about boobs! Hey, we'll even go jousting if you like. I totally beat Gaveston the last time we went a few rounds. Well, actually, I didn't, but hey, I nearly did. Kind of. In a way. Come on, a manly hetero dude like yourself can't be hanging out with the likes of Gaveston. You'll have way, waaaay more fun with me.

Thomas Seymour: Good Lord, I think you just hit on me.

The Rog: AAARGH! *runs away* *talks quietly to self* Okay, Rog, forget the first half of the 16th century, they obviously made men more girly then. Hey! HERE are some likely prospects! You there! Now here's what I like to see! The flower of English manhood - some fine, virile specimens indeed. Woof woof!

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester: *blinks* Sorry?

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex: Oh, it's just some used-horse salesman, by the looks.

The Rog: Not at all, my lords, far from it! You just struck me as manly, virile, unequivocally heterosexual men I could relate to. After all, any self-respecting modern historian will tell you that the ROG is the living definition of manly ...

Essex: Virile, unequivocally heterosexual. Right, we get it.

James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell: "The Rog"? Anyway, this is something to do with us because ...?

The Rog: I'm a big fan of fine, virile, handsome noblemen - especially fine, unequivocally heterosexual, virile, handsome noblemen who punch above their weight! Snagging Queens Regnant? You boys are legends. LEEEE-gends! Women with power, being overpowered by manly virile hetero heroes - rowr! Now I'm getting a trifle hot and bothered just thinking about it.

Leicester: Too much information!

Essex: Er. First, you've got the wrong end of the stick where Queen Elizabeth is concerned. Secondly, you're not my type. Sorry.

Bothwell: Mortimer, you are seriously creeping me out.

The Rog: You misunderstand me! I just thought we Manly Hetero Heroes could bond over our shared queen-scoring exploits ... there were exploits, right? Come on, that's what we unequivocally heterosexual men do, talk about how much we like doing it with girls and appreciate each other in an unequivocally heterosexual way.

Essex: *cough* protestingtoomuch *cough*

Leicester: Oh dear. You're not still trying to make Edward II jealous, are you? Because I think you have to face the fact that it's not going to happen. Rog, he's just not that into you.

The Rog: AAAAAARGHHH AGAIN!! *to himself* Okay, maybe try the 19th century. This Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg fellow... surely he must be manly and hetero enough for some male bonding ...

19 March, 2010

Edward II Owns A Gold Dragon And Dragon's Blood

Because I'm feeling too lazy at the moment to write a post with a proper narrative, here's another hotch-potchy listy one, with some details of Edward II's possessions, gifts and other things. Oh, and a bit of a rant in the middle. And RIP Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent, beheaded on this day in 1330 at the age of only twenty-eight for attempting to free his half-brother Edward II from Corfe Castle. A courageous man who absolutely does not deserve the accusations of stupidity, gullibility and instability thrown at him by various historians who can't make sense of his plot to free a supposedly dead man otherwise.

- Edward borrowed forty pounds from the rich Genoese merchant Antonio di Pessagno - who often lent the king money and enjoyed a lot of influence at court - sometime before 6 June 1312 (when it was recorded on the Close Roll), to buy pearls for Queen Isabella. On his twenty-eighth birthday, 25 April 1312, Edward paid his minstrel King Robert two pounds for "taking large, white pearls to the king," whether the same ones he gave Isabella or not I don't know. Given the timing, the gift to the queen may well have been Edward's reaction to hearing the news of her first pregnancy.

- The King's Bling, Part 1. Edward II owned: a gold cross with two balas rubies, three sapphires and four pearls; an amethyst in gold, a sapphire in gold and a gold bar with relics; seven mounted stones, "of which we don't know the names except jasper and amethyst" (dount nous ne savoms les nons forque jaspre & amatistre); a gold clasp with two emeralds, two rubies, four pearls and a sapphire in the middle; fifteen gold spoons and another twelve gold spoons of a different kind, kept in two silver boxes; a silver chaplet decorated with "diverse jewels"; a gold salt-cellar with a silver pot inside (un saler d'or od un forel d'argent dedentz); a silver ship for incense; and that fabulously tacky-sounding "gold dragon with enamelled wings" I think I've mentioned here before. WANT ONE.

- Edward owned a crystal, said to be "from the daughter of Llywelyn, prince of Wales" (par la fille Leulyn prince de Gales). Presumably this means Gwenllian (June 1282-June 1337), sent to the priory of Sempringham in Lincolnshire as a baby by Edward I, after the death of her father in December 1282.

- On 14 June 1315, Edward gave twenty shillings to the sailors Thomas Springet, Edmund of Greenwich and William Kempe "for their labour in taking a whale," caught near London Bridge. Possibly this was the same whale, supposedly eighty feet long, mentioned with great excitement by the London and Pauline annalists as having been caught in the Thames in mid-February 1309.

- On 1 July 1308, Edward wrote to the chancellor John Langton "As next Sunday, 7 July, will be the anniversary of the king's father*, and the king wishes that the service for his soul on that day shall be done so well and solemnly in all points that nothing shall fail and it shall be to the king's honour; the king prays the chancellor dearly to be at the said service at Westminster both on the Saturday before at placebo and dirige and on the Sunday at mass, and to take pains with the other bishops and the treasurer, who will be there, that the service be well ordered." For Edward I's funeral in Westminster Abbey in October 1307, Edward II paid two pounds to William Attefenne, sumpter-man, "for the great labour he sustained in providing torches and leather for the body of the deceased king."

* The first anniversary of Edward I's death.

- Edward paid thirty-five shillings to seventy Dominicans on 28 November 1315 "for performing divine service at the anniversary of the lady the queen, mother of the present lord the king." That was the twenty-fifth anniversary of Eleanor of Castile's death.

- Part of a letter from Edward I to Pope Clement V regarding Pedro, cardinal-bishop of Santa Sabina, on 3 January 1307: "We thank your holiness for sending such messengers, and especially the cardinal, who should love our son Edward who is of the blood of Spain, his own country."

- On 5 February 1308, Edward II returned £272, ten shillings and four pence to his clerk Richard de Lutheburgh, "for so much money as the same Richard lent to the lord the king at Boulogne, against the festivity of the nuptials of the same lord the king there."

- In Kent in mid-January 1308, before setting off for said wedding, Edward ordered the mayor and sheriffs of London to provide and deliver "a ship for the king's tents" for his retinue to sleep in once they reached France, sent his baker William Hathewy ahead to Boulogne "to make preparations for the reception of the king," and ordered William le Portour to find "300 boards of the longest to be found for making tables."

- Edward told "the very high, very excellent and very noble prince, our very dear lord and father" Philippe IV of France in a letter of 30 December 1307 that with God's help (alaide de DIEU), he would meet Philippe at Boulogne on Sunday 21 January 1308 to pay homage to him for Gascony and Ponthieu and, of course, to marry Philippe's daughter Isabella. The wedding, des esposailles, was scheduled for Wednesday 24 January. In the end, Edward left Dover on 22 January, sailed to Wissant, arrived at Boulogne three days late on the 24th and married Isabella on the 25th. I've seen it suggested, in the usual 'Let's interpret every single little thing that Edward II ever did in the most negative light possible!' way that lots of commentators have, that Edward deliberately arrived late in order to insult Philippe and/or Isabella. This is incredibly unlikely, and it's far more probable that inclement weather conditions and the roughness of the Channel were to blame. It was January, for pete's sake! Journeys by sea back then could take an inordinately long time, even at a warmer time of year: Piers Gaveston's cousin Bertrand Caillau told Hugh Despenser the Younger at the end of May 1325 that it had taken him eleven days to sail from Portsmouth to Bordeaux. I don't see how Isabella could possibly have been offended by the fact that her wedding took place a day later than she'd been expecting; what the heck difference did one day make in the fourteenth century?

- Edward and Isabella arrived back at Dover on 7 February 1308; Piers Gaveston, regent of England in Edward II's absence, had ordered various noblemen and women to be waiting for them there on 4 February (the Sunday after the Purification, as the writs had it), three days before the king and queen actually arrived. It has also been suggested that "Gaveston must have taken great pleasure in issuing the summons himself, deliberately bringing them to Dover at least four days [sic] before the new bride arrived, an uncomfortable sojourn in a bleak channel port..." Yeah, because in those days of instantaneous communication via phone and internet and super-fast reliable transport, obviously Piers knew exactly to the minute when Edward and Isabella would arrive in England but just thought it would be fun to force people to hang around in the depths of winter waiting for them. I suppose Edward just forgot to text his sister and cousin and the others to tell them his real arrival time and all the internet cafes in Boulogne and Wissant were closed because of the wedding festivities. And from the description, I take it we're supposed to assume that the noblemen and women had to huddle together on the docks, even at night, because it's not as though the "bleak channel port" of Dover had an enormous and luxurious royal castle where they could have stayed, is it? Sheesh, some writers really go out of their way to find fault with Edward II and Piers Gaveston.

- The King's Bling, Part 2. Edward II owned: a "small belt of pearls"; a belt of white-silver thread; a belt with bands of silver and gold; two belts of silk covered with pearls, worth ten pounds each; a silver belt with enamelled silver escutcheons; a belt made of lion skin, decorated in gold with a cameo; a belt "decorated with ivory, engraved with a purse hanging from it, with a Saracen face" (une ceynture hernisse d'ivoir entaille od un aloer pendaunt od visage de Saracyn).

- Talking of Saracens, just before he and Isabella left England to visit France on 23 May 1313, Edward II ordered Robert Kendale, constable of Dover Castle, "to pay to six Saracens, whom the king is sending to him to stay in Dover castle, 6d each daily for their expenses." Unfortunately, I haven't (yet) found any more references to them.

- Edward gave his niece Margaret de Clare a roan-coloured palfrey as a present - among others - when she married Piers Gaveston on 1 November 1307. The horse cost twenty pounds. At the same time, Edward bought himself two destriers, "the one a bay and the other white spotted," at fifty-two pounds for both.

- The horses which the earl of Lancaster seized from the king when Edward and Piers Gaveston hurriedly left (OK, 'fled from') Tynemouth in May 1312 included a bay and a black rouncy with stars on their foreheads, an iron-grey destrier, twelve cart-horses and nine pack-horses.

- On 19 March 1320, Edward gave two pounds to John de Brabancia (Brabant, I suppose), "minstrel of the count of Esshe and Doring, coming to the king with news of his son." I haven't been able to figure out who the count of 'Esshe and Doring' was.

- Edward II tried for several years, ultimately unsuccessfully, to found a house of Dominican nuns at Langley in Hertfordshire, where he had founded a priory in 1308 and buried Piers Gaveston in January 1315. On 9 March 1323, Edward wrote to Hervey, master of the Dominican order, asking him to find four devout women from the monasteries of Montargis, Poissy or Rouen who were "prepared to come to this realm at the king’s pleasure." Presumably Hervey was unable to find any, as nothing came of it.

- On 29 July 1326 Edward gave a gift of a pound, by his own hands, to Wille, one of his household purveyors, who had brought crabs and prawns to him. Edward "said that for a long time, nothing had been so much to his liking" (qil dit q' long temps ne vient chose tant au gre).

- The King's Bling, Part 3. Edward II owned: a jewelled gold buckle with a white cameo; a gold buckle with four emeralds, five rubies and four pearls; a piece of gold jewellery with nine emeralds and nine garnets, with a white cameo in the middle, enamelled on the other part; an ivory box decorated with silver, with four feet; a pair of gilded silver basins, another pair of silver basins enamelled inside with escutcheons, six silver basins with escutcheons of the arms of Piers Gaveston on the base (sis bacins d'argent od eschocons des armes le dit Pieres en le fonce), and two silver hand-basins; other silver pots, saucers and dishes far too numerous to count; gold cups far too numerous to count; "a box of gilded silver, for carrying within it a ring around the neck of a man" (une boiste d'argent en d'orre pur porter eynz un anel entour le col de un homme); a large silver pot with three feet for heating water; a silver ship with four gold oars, enamelled on the sides.

- In about February 1311, Edward ordered lots of fish for himself and his household to consume during Lent. Payments made to merchants included four shillings and sixpence to Elye Botoun for cod, two shillings and sixpence to Elye Belle also for cod, seventy-six shillings to Fermin of Pounfreyt (Pontefract) for unspecified piscine provisions, and eleven shillings to Clement the butcher for "lard and grease."

- The King's Bling, Part 4. Among the items which passed from Earl Edmund of Cornwall (died 1300) to his first cousin and heir Edward I, and thereafter presumably to Edward II, were: a thorn from the Crown of Thorns; "the Red Book called 'Textus' on which magnates are wont to swear," and the intriguing-sounding "dragon's blood in dust with a cluttellus," whatever that is. One of the presents Queen Marguerite gave Edward I as his New Year 1302 gift was "two silver platters called 'Lechefrithe'."


Society of Antiquaries MS 122; Calendar of Close Rolls 1307-1313; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1307-1313; Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326; Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland 1272-1307; Ibid., 1308-1348; Foedera, II, i; J. S. Hamilton, Piers Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall 1307-1312: Politics and Patronage in the Reign of Edward II; 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; Richard Rastall, 'Secular Musicians in Late Medieval England' (PhD thesis).

15 March, 2010

Correspondence Of Hugh Despenser The Younger, 1324/25

I mentioned in a recent post a sycophantic letter sent by John, Lord Segrave to Hugh Despenser the Younger in late 1324, and decided to write a post about Despenser's copious correspondence around that time. To cut a very long story short, Edward II went to war with his brother-in-law Charles IV of France in 1324/25 over Gascony, the little-known War of Saint-Sardos, and it was the royal chamberlain and favourite Despenser who directed the English war effort rather than the king, as Despenser's correspondence indicates. He sent and received numerous letters from men on the ground in Gascony, including Edward II's half-brother the earl of Kent, nephew-in-law the earl of Surrey and ambassador Alexander Bicknor, archbishop of Dublin, who loathed Despenser and boasted that only his clerical office prevented him challenging him to a duel. One of Despenser's correspondents was the Gascon nobleman Arnaud Caillau, whom Despenser addressed as "very dear friend" and who was a relative of Piers Gaveston, either by blood or marriage (Piers' aunt Miramonde de Marsan married Pierre Caillau of Bordeaux, and various Caillaus served Edward II faithfully throughout his reign; I'm not sure unfortunately how Arnaud fits into the family tree). Arnaud Caillau, like his relatives, was a staunch supporter of Edward: after the king's capture in South Wales in November 1326, Roger Mortimer and Isabella of France paid 158 men in three ships over thirty-five pounds for pursuing Caillau along the coast of Devon and Cornwall, which probably suggests that he had remained with Edward until shortly before his capture. [1] Presumably Caillau was escaping back to Gascony. Sir John Travers, constable of Bordeaux, told Hugh Despenser in February 1325 that Caillau "is wise, and loves the said lord the king [Edward II] and his honour and profit."

The letters relating to the war are printed in the original French in Pierre Chaplais's The War of Saint-Sardos (1323-1325): Gascon Correspondence and Diplomatic Documents; all translations here are mine. I love the written French of the Gascons, which to me looks kind of Portuguese: for example, they wrote senhor instead of seigneur (lord) and often wrote names with a final 'a', for example, Segrave was Segrava, Wateville was Watavila, Bayonne was Bayona, Portsmouth was Portemua, Dublin ('Dyvelin' in English records of the time) was Dovelina, and Edward II was addressed as rey Danglatora (king of England). I love this, as it gives me some insight into what Piers Gaveston might have sounded like. :-) One letter sent to Despenser came from Piers Bernard, captain of Edward II's ship La Seint Edward, whose French almost looks more like Spanish or Portuguese: nostre seinhor lo rey ho lo podetz destorbar e Diu vos don grassi de qe bon cosseil lo detz; at mon semlant combin qe cosseilhedz; ab le graci de Diu avem sopesson si ed fei lo mariadge sobredist de guadeinhar brevmens lo reisme de Navarre; a sire Hues lo Despeicer le geuen sien dadas.

An interesting light is thrown onto standards of literacy among the fourteenth-century nobility by Hugh Despenser's statement in letters to Arnaud Caillau and Despenser's kinsman Sir Ralph Basset that he had read their previous letters out loud to the king, "point by point." (This does not mean that Edward II himself could not read, only that he didn't have to when he had men to do it for him.) Despenser's surviving letters are all drafts, which were seized from the Tower of London following his execution in November 1326. These are fascinating, as the crossings out and additions give an insight into what Despenser was thinking as he dictated the letters. In one, Despenser informed Ralph Basset that Edward II would go to Gascony with "a great and noble array" and, interestingly, with Robert Bruce, if the "business" between them - Edward opened negotiations with Bruce in the summer of 1324, presumably to avoid Bruce allying with France against him - went well. The draft of this letter reveals that Despenser at first named Bruce as 'king of Scotland' (sire R. de Bruys le roi Descoce), but then must have remembered that, oops, no, we don't acknowledge Bruce as king, and ordered his scribe to cross the last three words out.

Other letters show Despenser's supreme confidence in his position as king's favourite, his certainty of his hold over Edward and his boundless arrogance, which I don't mean as an insult but as a simple statement of fact. On too many occasions to count, Despenser wrote "It seems to the king and to us that..." or "The king and we think that..." or some similar phrasing. (Letters of the era often used 'we' rather than 'I'; that's not Despenser using the royal plural.) A letter sent from Sir John Felton to Despenser in November 1324 ends "And, sire, please send me the wishes of my lord [Edward II] and your own." Sir John Sturmy, formerly steward of Edward II's chamber and admiral of the eastern fleet during the War of Saint-Sardos, ended a letter to Despenser in September 1324 with "My very dear lord, may it please your high lordship to certify me regularly of that which it pleases my lord the king and you that I should do, and I will do it with all my power." Even Despenser himself seems belatedly to have realised that he might have been overdoing it: an April 1325 letter to Sir Robert Wateville, who married Despenser's niece Margaret Hastings a year later, originally stated "We have well understood that which you have sent us by your letters, which we have shown to our lord the king and to his council as you requested us. And it seems to our said lord and to us that you have acted wisely and advisedly..." but Despenser subsequently crossed out the words 'and to us' (et a nous). Referring to an 'excuse' which Wateville had been forced to make for some misdemeanour - Edward II ordered Wateville's arrest on 15 April 1325 - Despenser crossed out the sentence "which excuse our said lord and we hold as truthful" (quele excusacion nostre dit seigneur et nous tenoms pur verroie), and wrote instead that Edward "is much softened towards you and put out of his great melancholy."

Hugh Despenser's letters also reveal surprising flashes of humour. He wrote to Edward II's half-brother the earl of Kent, Edward's commander in Gascony and in desperate need of cash for the campaign, to explain why the ships carrying money to him had arrived late: "And truly, Sire, there is no other reason that the ships did not arrive on time with you except that a strong wind was against them, which we cannot turn by our own command." This is the origin of the belief that Despenser said "Even I cannot control the wind" which, to be fair, isn't really what he wrote, and clearly he meant it humorously - although it does also demonstrate his arrogance, with its implication that Despenser controlled everything except the weather. In the same letter, Despenser told Kent that he and Edward II were "as anguished and worried as we possibly could be" at the late departure of the ships, which sounds a tad sarcastic.

Arnaud Caillau told Despenser that Alexander Bicknor, archbishop of Dublin, was deeply unpopular in Gascony and that the people wished he had stayed in Ireland (which in Caillau's Gascon-flavoured French came out as vostra gent de Guasconha ne vousissent ja qe larchevesque de Dovelina fust venu au pais anceis voudreint qe fust oras en Irlanda). Edward II sent the Dominican friar Thomas Dunheved to Pope John XXII in 1325 to complain about Bicknor and his conduct in Gascony; two chroniclers got the wrong end of the stick - actually, they weren't even in the right wood - and thought that Edward was trying to procure a divorce from his queen. Some of the Englishmen in Gascony for the first time were not too impressed with what they saw there: one told Hugh Despenser in December 1324 that "in this country, one will find nothing much except wine" (en cest pays homme ne trovera gueres fors que vyn). Sir Thomas Gray, author of the later chronicle the Scalacronica, made the interesting statement that Gascony was the "country and nation which he [Edward II] loved most" (terre et nacioun qil plus amoit). Edward in fact never set foot in his duchy, but as it was the homeland of Piers Gaveston, maybe Gray was correct. One of Despenser's Gascon correspondents was the sergeant-at-arms Isard or Isarn de Lana Plana, he of the cool name who was custodian of the castle of Sempuy, who endorsed a letter to Despenser in November 1324 with "To his very noble and powerful lord, to my lord Hugh le Despenser the son [a moseinhor Hues le Despensser le fuiz], by his humble sergeant and servant Isarn de Lana Plana." (Lanneplaà in modern spelling, about thirty miles from Gabaston, where Piers Gaveston's family originally came from.)

Ralph Basset came up with an amusingly impractical solution for defeating France: he advised Hugh Despenser to "have the treasury of our lord the king searched, to see if you might not find an old remembrance touching Castile, because I have heard from some old people [ascunes auncienes gentz] that the king of Castile often claimed homage as far as the River Dordogne, and several people remember that he should have the right." Presumably Basset was hoping that, seventy years after Alfonso X of Castile incited a rebellion in Gascony with a view to taking over the duchy but subsequently agreed to the marriage of his sister Leonor to the future Edward I and renounced his claims, the regents of Castile might decide to enter the war on the English side and fight France for a share of Gascony. Despenser didn't even bother to respond to this suggestion in his next letter to Basset. Castile did, however, consent to send men to aid Edward II against France: Edward's cousin Juan el Tuerto ('the one-eyed'), lord of Biscay, told him in early 1325 that he was willing to raise 1000 knights and 10,000 footmen and squires for a year, or longer if Edward required. Edward declared that he "recognised the abundance of Sir John’s grace." [2] Hugh Despenser, desperate for Edward not to leave England to lead an army into Gascony in the belief that his life would be in danger in the king's absence, was hoping that Castilian and Aragonese soldiers would fight against France on England's behalf. In 1324/25, Edward II betrothed his elder daughter Eleanor to Alfonso XI of Castile, his elder son Edward to Alfonso's sister Leonor, and his younger daughter Joan to the future Pedro IV of Aragon (none of the betrothals came to anything).

Even when the men in Gascony wrote to Edward II directly, they often wrote to Hugh Despenser as well and repeated to him what they had written to the king: Arnaud Caillau began letters to Despenser in March and in April 1325 with the words "Very dear lord. I make known to you that I have written to our lord the king in this manner: 'Very dear and very dread lord...'" and re-wrote his entire letter to Edward. Raymond Durand, seneschal of Les Landes and another correspondent whom Despenser addressed as "our dear friend," did the same thing in January 1325: "My lord. I have written to our lord the king in this form: 'Very dear lord, I have written to you three times...'"

One of the most amusing aspects of the Saint-Sardos letters is the sycophantic way in which Hugh Despenser's correspondents addressed the powerful royal favourite. Even Despenser's social superiors the earls of Kent and Surrey were not immune from the urge to flatter him. Surrey only ever sent Despenser one letter, in May 1325 (and sent none to Edward II), but in it, he carefully addressed him as 'very dear cousin', trescher cousin, five times in five sentences. (Surrey and Despenser were second cousins once removed by common descent from Maud Marshal, countess of Norfolk and Surrey, and married to first cousins Eleanor de Clare and Jeanne de Bar besides.) Edward II's half-brother the earl of Kent addressed Despenser as 'very dear nephew' (trescher nevou) or 'beloved nephew' (tresame nevou) more often than would seem strictly necessary - seven times in four sentences in one letter of May 1325, in which he also declared that he had heard news of Despenser's "good estate, for which we devoutly thank God." (Kent was the youngest son of Edward I and Despenser's wife Eleanor de Clare Edward's eldest granddaughter, so Despenser was indeed Kent's nephew by marriage, although about a dozen years older than he was. Kent was one of the men who condemned Despenser to a gruesome execution eighteen months after writing that letter.) Despenser, for his part, began letters to Kent with "my very dear lord" and addressed him throughout as ''Sire', but never called him 'uncle'.

The Gascon lord Simon de Montbreton - who had arrived in England by May 1326, when Edward II granted him permission to marry the widow of the recently-deceased William de Braose, formerly lord of the Gower peninsula, and Hugh Despenser paid him twenty pounds for acting as his deputy custodian of Bristol Castle [3] - ended a letter to "the very noble and puissant lord, my lord Hugh le Despenser" in May 1325 with the line "Make known to me always your commands, which I am ready to fulfil with all my power." Montbreton wrote to "the very noble, very honourable and very puissant lord" Edward II in almost exactly the same way: "Make known to me, if it please you, your good commands, which I am ready to fulfil with all my loyal power." Arnaud Caillau had arrived in England by early 1326, and Edward gave him the Essex manor of Thaxted; Caillau's closeness to the king and Hugh Despenser is demonstrated by a message sent to Edward by King Jaime II of Aragon in 1326, which Jaime's messenger was instructed to share with four men only: Edward, Hugh Despenser, Ralph Basset and Caillau. Caillau's letter to Edward II informing him of this names Despenser only as 'Sir Hugh' (mossire Hues); as in Edward's chamber journal, there was no need to specify which Hugh was meant. Arnaud Caillau, for all his loyalty to Edward II, was definitely a Bad Lad: his rule as seneschal of Saintonge resulted in a very long list of complaints against him in 1317, he forced a French official of Philippe IV to jump out of a window into the street, so that he broke his limbs, in 1312, and in 1303 organised a revolt in Bordeaux and installed himself as mayor. [4]

Here are some examples of the opening sentences in letters sent to Hugh Despenser:

- To the very noble and wise man, his very dear and very honourable lord

- To the very puissant, very noble, very honourable and wise lord, if it please him

- My very dear and very dread lord

- To the high and noble man, his very dear and very honourable lord, Sir Hugh le Despenser, lord of Glamorgan, his bachelor, if it please him, Robert de Leyburn, with all the honours and reverences he can give. My very honourable lord, I beg your noble lordship, if it please you, to give credence to...

- To the honourable and wise man and his very dear lord and cousin, if it please him, his John, lord of Segrave, greetings, honours and as much very dear affection as he can give

- To the noble, wise, and discreet and powerful baron, Sir Hugh le Despenser

- To his very honourable lord, honours and reverences. Very dear lord, I thank you as much as I can for the amiable letters which you sent me and also, sire, for saying that you are glad when you have good news of me. And know, sire, that I am putting all my efforts and my work into serving my lord [Edward II] and you as well and as loyally as I may

- To his very dear lord, with all that he can of honours, reverences and very dear affection

Edward II lost the support of several of his Gascon vassals who took Charles IV's side, including the counts of Foix and Armagnac and Amanieu, lord of Albret - though Albret, who loathed his fellow Gascons Piers Gaveston and Piers' brother Arnaud-Guillaume de Marsan and resented the favouritism shown them by Edward, had been disaffected since at least 1309. Amanieu was finally reconciled to Edward in June 1326. On the other hand, Albret's son Bérard (died 1346) was one of Edward II's staunchest supporters during the War of Saint-Sardos, and it was said of him in 1325 that he was "more enthusiastic than anyone else in these parts about the service of the king [Edward] our master" and that "he has drawn more French allies to our side than any other man." His father disinherited Bérard in July 1324 when he refused to serve against Edward. Edward knighted him as a banneret in July 1326. [5]

I'll end this post with a very nice letter sent by Bérard d'Albret to Edward II in June 1325: "To his very dear, dread lord, your humble subject recommends himself to your very high lordship [la vostra treshauta senhoria]. Very dear dread sire, your humble subject signifies to your very high lordship that I have received your letters stating that I should come to you, which thing, very dear dread lord, is the greatest joy that I will ever have in my life, that is, to see you. And, very dear dread lord, as quickly as I can, I will set off to come to you. Very dear dread lord, may God keep your soul and your heart."


1) Calendar of Close Rolls 1327-1330, p. 9.
2) Close Rolls 1323-1327, pp. 344-345, 350-351.
3) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1324-1327, p. 267; E. B. Fryde, 'The Deposits of Hugh Despenser the Younger with Italian Bankers', Economic History Review, 2nd series, 3 (1951), p. 362.
4) Foedera, II, i, pp. 351-352; Malcolm Vale, The Origins of the Hundred Years War: The Angevin Legacy 1250-1340, pp. 168, 221; Pierre Chaplais, English Diplomatic Practice in the Middle Ages, pp. 210, 226.

5) Jonathan Sumption, The Hundred Years War: Trial By Battle, p. 201; Vale, Origins of the Hundred Years War, p. 240.

08 March, 2010

The Prince Of Wales Goes Swimming And Buys A Collar For His Lion

A post about some interesting entries in Edward of Caernarfon's household accounts as prince of Wales in the early 1300s, before he succeeded as King Edward II.

- One of my absolute favourite Edward snippets ever is this one: on 25 February 1303, when Edward was eighteen years and ten months old, he had to pay four shillings compensation to his fool Robert Bussard. The reason? The two men went swimming together that day* at Windsor and Robert was injured in some way by "the trick the Prince played on him in the water." I love this for its demonstration of a) Edward's love of the water, b) his playfulness, and c) possibly, his underestimating his own great strength.

* In February! Makes me feel cold just thinking about it. Of course, this was Edward II, who went swimming and rowing for a month in the autumn of 1315 when it poured down every day, sat in a garden listening to people singing for him in York on 26 December 1322 and ate in the park of South Elmham on 14 January 1326, and who therefore seems to have been pretty immune to cold.

- Adam of Lichfield, "keeper of the Prince's lion," received two pence a day in wages, while the lion got four pence worth of food a day, in late 1302 and early 1303. During Edward's reign, Peter Fabre of Montpellier, "keeper of the king's lion and leopard" at the Tower of London, received one and a half pence a day for his wages while the lion and leopard were allowed six pence a day each for food. (Both animals got a quarter of mutton daily.) Adam of Lichfield spent two shillings and nine pence on a chain and collar for the lion in 1303. In 1312, one of Edward II's possessions seized at Tynemouth by Thomas of Lancaster was "a belt made of lion skin, decorated in gold with a cameo"; as Susan Higginbotham pointed out recently on Edward's Facebook page, let's hope it wasn't the same lion!

- Edward had a fowler with the unusual name of Papeiday (also spelt 'Papeiay' in another entry), who on 9 October 1303 paid four shillings and eight pence in London for a "net to catch partridges" on Edward's orders.

- William the bookbinder (le bokbyndere) of London made an illustrated Life of St Edward the Confessor in French for Edward in November 1302, which cost fifty-eight shillings.

- In early 1303, two leather coffers were purchased for two shillings each, to carry Edward's two urinals in Scotland. (In 1326, the possessions which Edward left behind at Caerphilly Castle included a "chest of hide" for two urinals.) Edward also spent thirty-two shillings, four and a half pence on "a pair of long coffers for his linen" and eight shillings on "a new pair of great trunks for his iron armour."

- On Sunday 6 November 1300, sixteen-year-old Edward dined at Carlisle with his stepmother Queen Marguerite, who had given birth to his half-brother Thomas of Brotherton five months before and must have fallen pregnant again at this time, as Edward's other half-brother Edmund of Woodstock was born on 5 August 1301. (No, I'm certainly not trying to suggest that Edmund was Edward's son, not his brother. That would be way too icky and weird. Talking of weirdness, a novel published recently claims that Simon de Montfort, married to Henry III's sister Eleanor, was the real father of Henry III's son Edward I. My first, instinctive reaction: WTF??!! My later, more considered reaction: WTF??!! Poor Eleanor of Provence, and poor Henry III. I have to say that I'm well and truly sick of the trend in historical fiction to sex up novels by claiming that real historical people were not the biological children of their fathers. Maybe you can't libel the dead, but it's so disrespectful.)

- Some nice details about fourteenth-century life: Edward of Caernarfon paid John le Haltrere of Doncaster thirty-six shillings on 16 May 1303 for, among other things, "new leather hoods for the cart and sumpter horses" and at the same time bought forty-two sickles "to cut forage for the horses"; Edward's clerk Hugh of Leominster bought a canvas tent for Edward's cart-horses; William Conrad, bowyer of the Tower of London, was paid for providing four pounds of "sinews of sea-dogs" to make bows and ballistas.

- On 18 April 1303 at York, Edward paid six shillings and three pence for three and a half ells of russet cloth and four ells of canvas "to make two housings for a ferrand charger given by the Prince to a Spanish archdeacon that day."

- On 12 June, the keeper of Edward's horses bought four and a half ells of bluet cloth at twenty-two pence an ell and eight and a half ells of russet at eighteen pence an ell to make housings for four of Edward's chargers. The keeper was Laurence of Chertsey; he and his page received six pence a day in wages (together, not each), and he spent more than eighty-five pounds looking after thirty-two of Edward's chargers and palfreys from November 1302 to May 1303.

- Edward purchased various pieces of armour from 'Manekin the armourer of London' and 'Bernard of Devon armourer of London' in 1302/03, including three bascinets, an iron headpiece with crest, a helmet with visor and a pair of plate gloves. 4300 pieces of gold thread at eight shillings and four pence per 1000 were bought for two of his gambesons (padded jackets), and twenty-six shillings were spent to make four "pennoncels of beaten gold with the Prince's arms for his trumpeters."

- Clothes bought for Edward in London in early 1303 included eighteen pairs of gloves at three shillings, three pairs of boots which cost three shillings and eight pence each, and six pairs of leather breeches and four of samite at nineteen shillings. Cloth was bought for him and his household in June at the 'fair of St Ivo'.

- Other material bought for Edward and his household in 1302/03 included: sixteen 'mixed cloths of Ghent' for Edward and the earls and bannerets attending him, which cost ten marks each; twenty-four striped cloths for his squires which cost five and a half marks each, and six for 'the Welshmen of the household' which cost four marks each; three and a half cloths of 'Persian bluet' for Edward and his earls and bannerets for Easter, total cost nearly twenty pounds; sixteen 'cloths of clear green' for the prince, earls and bannerets which cost seven marks each; three cloths of the same colour for some new knights of his household which cost five and a half marks each, for Pentecost; four 'russet cloths of Douai' for Michaelmas; a cloth of striped scarlet, cost fifteen marks, for Edward and his cousin John of Brittany for the feasts of the Assumption and All Saints.

- During the thirty-first year of his father's reign, November 1302 to November 1303, Edward spent almost £570 on chargers, palfreys, hackneys and other horses for himself and his household. The most expensive horse, which cost 110 marks, was a "morel with white hind foot and white muzzle." In September 1303, Edward received a gift of a palfrey from "the wife of Sir Alexander Comyn," which I assume means Joan Latimer, wife of Alexander Comyn, sheriff of Aberdeen and brother of John Comyn, earl of Buchan. (Alexander and Joan's daughter Alice married Edward's kinsman Henry Beaumont.)

- Edward spent seven pounds, nineteen shillings and two pence on 'falcons gentil' in May 1303, bought for him in Flanders by his falconer, Gilet. That same month, Edward received a gift of two falcons from John, marquis of Namur, one of the sons of Guy de Dampierre, count of Flanders (the young Edward was betrothed to John's sister Philippa in the 1290s; another sister married his first cousin Alexander of Scotland, who died in 1284 and was the elder son of King Alexander III).

- In the summer of 1303 in Scotland, Edward had "a bodyguard of Spaniards, 7 crossbowmen and 2 with lances." His chamberlain in November 1301 was Roderick of Castile (Rotherik Despaigne), who had been a member of Edward's household since at least February 1290 (when the future king wasn't yet six), was knighted with him in May 1306 and was still serving him in October 1308. In April 1312, Edward asked his cousin King Fernando IV of Castile to show favour to Roderick's widow Mary and their children.

- Edward spent sixty pounds in March 1303 on a "choir cope embroidered with various work and white pearls" for Pedro, the Spanish cardinal-bishop of Santa Sabina. Pedro met Edward when he visited England in late 1306 (and supposedly offered Edward the throne of Castile if Fernando IV died without a son).

- Edward's personal physician was Master Robert de Cisterne, who was paid over nine pounds for taking along medicines, syrups, ointments, powders, herbs and apples to Scotland in 1303. Master Robert's last name in October 1301 was spelt 'Oydisterne', and Edward sent him to London that month for "certain matters required for his [Edward's] body."

- On 21 November 1301, Edward I ordered provisions for his son's household to last until the following Candlemas (2 February), which included 20,000 herrings, 4000 "great fish," 2000 quarters of wheat and 2000 quarters of oats.

Eighteen-year-old Edward spent Christmas 1302 at Odiham in Hampshire, and as was his wont all his life from early adolescence onwards, spent five pounds playing dice on Christmas Eve; the money was delivered to him by the hands of a certain squire of his called 'Perott de Gavastone'. Hmmm, wonder what became of this mysterious Perott? I don't recognise the name, so he can't have been very important to Edward. (Joke.) Edward spent another five pounds gambling on 10 January 1303, the money again delivered to him by Perott. After spending a few days at Windsor in February, where he injured Robert Bussard while swimming, Edward made his way north to join his father and arrived at Tickhill in Yorkshire on 28 March, where he gave two shillings and sixpence each to "John of Horpol and his fellow clerks, wrestling before the prince." He was in Kelso in May 1303, shortly after his nineteenth birthday, where an unfortunate accident occurred: his hounds killed a horse belonging to one Richard Grandyn of Roxburgh, and Edward had to pay Grandyn a mark in compensation. The prince spent a day with the Dominicans of Roxburgh, who received three shillings and four pence for the costs involved, and the following day gave four shillings and eight pence in oblations at the Mass celebrated in his chapel at Kelso. On Trinity Sunday, he gave a very generous gift of twelve shillings each to his minstrels Thomasin le Vilour, John Garsie, John of Cateloyne (Catalonia) and Janin le Nakarer, for their performance.

Edward spent Christmas 1303 at Perth in Scotland, and on Christmas Day dined with Thomas, earl of Lancaster and John of Brittany, earl of Richmond, two of his first cousins (and later, enemies); the earls of Warwick (Guy Beauchamp), Ulster (Richard de Burgh), Atholl (John de Strathbogie, hanged by Edward I three years later) and Strathearn (Malise); Hugh Despenser the Elder, Richard Siward, Alexander Abernethy and other English, Scottish and Irish magnates, not named. Among much else, they consumed forty lambs, twelve swans and two cranes. The future king's accounts reveal his enthusiasm for playing dice, on which he spent over thirty-two pounds in the regnal year November 1302 to November 1303. This included two pounds playing with "diverse knights" on the feast of John the Baptist, 24 June, six shillings on an unknown date playing with 'Lord Louis of France' (Philippe IV's half-brother Louis d'Evreux) and two pounds with his brother-in-law Ralph de Monthermer on the feast of St Laurence, 10 August. Edward lost a pound to another of his brothers-in-law (and yet another future enemy) the earl of Hereford on 16 November 1303. His chamber journal reveals that he was still enthusiastically playing dice (and cross and pile) in the summer of 1326.


Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland 1272-1307; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1281-1292, 1307-1313; Calendar of Close Rolls 1307-1313, 1313-1318; Constance Bullock-Davies, Menestrellorum Multitudo: Minstrels at a Royal Feast.

04 March, 2010

Edward of Caernarfon changed his Work Info to Puppet King

Here's the second part of the Edward II Joins Facebook series, here's the first part, and for sure you'll also enjoy Susan Higginbotham's brilliant post The Wars of the Roses on Facebook. Thank you to Rachel, Brad and Hannah for their contributions to this one!

As you'll see in the sidebar on the left, Edward II is now on Facebook for real, and is having fun discovering modern technology, making new friends and setting the record straight.

Edward of Caernarfon is off to Scotland with a large army to defeat Robert Bruce calling himself king of Scotland. WOOT! Wish me luck, not that I need it!

Edward has arrived somewhere called Bannockburn, which I can't help thinking has a nice 'defeating Bruce once and for all' ring to it. Am looking forward to taking up my rightful position as overlord of Scotland.

The entire English nobility likes this.

Edward got the error message Oops! Something went wrong. We're working on getting this fixed as soon as we can. You may be able to try conquering Scotland again.

Gilbert de Clare, Giles Argentein, Edmund Mauley and 17 other friends are no longer online.

Edward has suddenly decided to gallop 60 miles to Dunbar really really fast and then take a fishing boat to Berwick, for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Nothing at all to do with 'fleeing' or with the Scottish cavalry following close behind, absolutely nothing at all. What Scottish cavalry?

Elizabeth of Hereford wrote on Edward's Wall: so what happened in Scotland, bro??? Don't keep us all in suspenders!!!! Bet you kicked arse!

Edward replied: Liz, I don't think we should get so caught up in things like 'who beat who'. That, like, doesn't matter at all. It's not the winning that's important, it's the taking part.

Thomas of Lancaster changed his Work Info to Real Ruler of England.

Edward of Caernarfon changed his Work Info to Mere Puppet King.

Isabella of France created the group Loyal wives doing their best to support their husbands despite being really, really, really humiliated.

Elizabeth Bruce, Mary Bruce, Christina Bruce and Marjorie Bruce created the group We're going back to Scotland after all these years in horrid English imprisonment, YAY!!!

Edward of Caernafon wrote on Donald of Mar's Wall: I suppose you'll be heading back to Scotland and your uncle Bruce with the rest of your family and abandoning me, then.

Donald of Mar replied: Er, well, no, actually.

Donald of Mar created the group Scots noblemen prepared to give up their earldom, their lands, their income and their place in the Scottish succession to stay with Edward of Caernarfon, cos even though most people think Edward is the suckiest king this side of the Urals and let's face it, they do have a point, we can't help but love the big lummock. Comment · Like · Join this Group

David of Atholl and Robert of Angus joined this group.

Marguerite and Blanche of Burgundy created the groups We Heart The d'Aulnay Brothers and The Tour de Nesle is the best chilled-out vibey love-nest in Paris! Comment ·Like · Join these Groups

Isabella of France thinks her father ought to know about this.

Marguerite and Blanche of Burgundy added the dungeons of Château Gaillard to the Places We've Been application.

Philippe King of France is still laughing himself sick at Jacques de Molay's prediction that I, the mighty Philippe, would join him before God's tribunal within the year. LOL, those overwrought Templars and their doomy predictions just crack me up.

Philippe King of France has come back from hunting and is just about to...oh, crap.

Louis King of Navarre updated his Work Info to King of France.

Louis King of France updated his Relationship Status to Married to Clemence of Hungary, not that adulterous cow Marguerite. Who is now mysteriously dead at Château Gaillard. Ah, quel dommage. I shall spend whole seconds mourning.

Edward of Caernarfon needs time off from horrid stuff like famine and Thomas of Lancaster to chill out, so is heading to the Fens to go swimming and rowing with a bunch of serfs who are a right laugh. See you all in a month!

Isabella of France thought about hiding her husband's bathing suit, then realised he'll only go swimming in the buff and embarrass her even more.

Isabella of France created the group My husband has no royal dignity whatsoever. Like, seriously, none.

Roger Mortimer created the group Girls! Girls! Girls!

Edward is back! Had loads of fun. Except for nearly drowning that one day, of course. And the endless bloody rain got well annoying.

Edward posted a new photo album, Me Having Fun With Lots Of Peasants And Doing Lots Of Peasant Things.

Isabella of France is gritting her teeth. Oh well, another pregnancy to keep me occupied. At least Edward does his royal duty in one way. (And, despite the humiliation of that swimming trip, he did look good in his bathing suit. Oh man, he looked really good.)

Louis King of France is looking forward to an energetic game of jeu de paume followed by a pitcher of nicely chilled wine.

Louis King of France is no longer online.

Clemence of Hungary invited Edward of Caernarfon, Isabella of France and 37 other friends to become fans of Jean the Posthumous, King of France.

Philippe de Poitiers thinks it's a damn shame that only his baby nephew and his niece who's probably half-d'Aulnay anyway stand between himself and the French throne.

Philippe de Poitiers is now King Philippe V of France.

Edward of Caernarfon has two sons!!!! I ROCK!!! And baby John is so cuuuuuute! I adore him!!!

Adam Fitzroy left a comment: ummmm, helllloooo?? I'm right here!

Edward left a comment: oops, sorry, Ad. I meant three sons, obviously. Was trying not to offend the queen by mentioning my son who isn't also hers.

Isabella of France left a comment: oh, *now* you're trying not to offend me???

Edward has a mystery gift to share with friends! Edward found a Vacancy as Royal Favourite during a treasure hunt! Comment ·Like · Claim the Vacancy

Edward of Caernarfon is now friends with Roger Damory, Hugh Audley Jr and William Montacute.

Edward became a fan of Roger Damory. Comment ·Like · Become a Fan.

Roger Damory wrote on Hugh Audley Jr and William Montacute's Walls: Nyeh nyeh nyeh nyeh nyeh! The king likes me best, so sucks to you.

Hugh Audley Jr and William Montacute defriended Roger Damory.

Roger Damory updated his Work Info to Constable of Knaresborough, Constable of St Briavels and the Forest of Dean, and loads of other well cool and totally responsible positions.

Roger Damory updated his Work Info to King of England's Favourite.

Roger just won big on the Daily Bonus Wheel in SuperPoke! Royal Favourites!
Roger won 500 coins by spinning the Daily Bonus Wheel! Every royal knight gets a chance to spin the wheel by visiting SuperPoke! Royal Favourites!

Edward of Caernarfon suggests that Elizabeth de Burgh friend Roger Damory.

Elizabeth de Burgh says that she is pregnant and recently widowed and cannot possibly friend Roger Damory.

Edward is really going to have to insist.

Elizabeth de Burgh is now friends with Roger Damory.

Edward likes this.

Margaret Gaveston is now friends with Hugh Audley Jr.

Hugh the Younger joined the campaign to put a dislike button on Facebook.

Roger Damory is feeling enormously, immensely, staggeringly RICH.

Roger Damory created the group Oh man, life is GOOOOOOD when you're the king of England's favourite.

Thomas of Lancaster really, really, really hates Roger Damory.

Alice de Lacy left a comment: Tom, hon, you really hate everybody. Even me.

Thomas of Lancaster left a comment: who the hell are you? Oh yeah, my wife. Thanks for the earldoms and all that, and now kindly sod off while I go seduce more wenches.

Roger Mortimer left a comment: LOL, good plan, Tom! You rock! I'm off to do that now myself, seeing as I'm so unequivocally heterosexual and strong and manly and virile and just love doing it with girls.

Thomas of Lancaster left a comment: and you're telling me this because?

Roger Mortimer invited another 1435 friends to become fans of Roger Mortimer. Become a fan

Roger Mortimer created the group Manly manly macho men who are incredibly heterosexual and manly. Join this group

Edward of Caernarfon left a comment: Rog, you don't half bang on all the time about only fancying girls. Sure you're not protesting too much?

Roger Mortimer replied: WTF??? That's complete rubbish. I'm 100% certified heterosexual by modern writers. You just can't get more hetero than me. Everyone who meets me tells that I'm the most heterosexual man they've ever met.

Edward replied: yeah, OK, Rog, whatever. But if you ever need a quiet chat about things, you know where to find me.

Alice de Lacy and Jeanne de Bar joined the group My husband is a cheating toerag. Join this Group

Isabella of France left a comment: it doesn't count if they're straight, ladies. Only women whose husbands prefer men are entitled to bitch and whine about it, like moi. If Uncle Tom and Nephew John like shagging other women, you'll just have to lump it cos hetero adultery is officially romantic and people hundreds of years in the future will write books and articles about how fabulous the opposite-sex adulterous couples of our century are, usually the same people who drone on and on about my marriage being 'a grotesque travesty' and 'unendurable'.

Maud Nerford replied: LOL, so true, Izzy! And any woman who shags a married man is just sooooo empowered, and, like, a total feminist icon.

Isabella of France sent Jeanne de Bar and Alice de Lacy a quiz 'Are you a long-suffering neglected victim of your cheating husband and entitled to sympathy? If he cheats on you with women: no. If he cheats on you with men: yes.'

Alice de Lacy replied: I have to lump it, do I? Wanna bet?

John of Surrey sent an Escape From Horrid Disrespectful Womanising Husband to Alice de Lacy.

Alice de Lacy likes this.

Thomas of Lancaster sent Armed Attacks On His Yorkshire Castles to John of Surrey.

Edward of Caernarfon sent ineffectual Stop That Right Now Or I'll Be Really Quite Cross orders to Thomas of Lancaster.

Edmund of Woodstock created the group Dude, Where's My Earldom? Comment ·Like · Join this Group

Roger Damory, Bartholomew Badlesmere, Hugh the Elder, Hugh the Younger and 6 other friends joined the group Dude, Where's My Earldom?

Edward of Caernarfon left a comment: Why don't you boys ask Cousin Lancaster for one of his?

Edmund of Woodstock left a comment: yeah, but Cornwall's vacant since Gaveston died, innit? Why can't I have that one?

Edward left a comment: because it was Piers' and it's never, ever, ever going to be anyone else's as long as I live, and I'll give you an earldom when I'm good and ready, all right? Stop nagging me.

Edmund of Woodstock is sulking.

Hugh the Younger updated his Work Info to Royal Chamberlain.

Hugh the Elder, Hugh the Even Younger and Eleanor Despenser like this.

Edward of Caernarfon is not happy about his new chamberlain. Hugh Despenser the sodding Younger? Nephew of that murderer the earl of Warwick? Is parliament kidding me??? They know I can't stand him.

Hugh the Younger has a Cunning Plan, to make the king of England fall in love with me and give me loads of lands and make me incredibly rich and let me rule his kingdom, MWHAHAHAHAHA!

Eleanor Despenser left a comment: when you say 'fall in love', you do just mean in a metaphorical sense, don't you?

Hugh the Younger replied: yep, of course, absolutely. Obviously I'd never ever seduce my wife's uncle for power, and I'm not at all crossing my fingers behind my back.

Aymer de Valence, Bartholomew Badlesmere and 29 other friends joined the group 100,000 Strong Against Thomas of Lancaster.

Edward needs more helping hands! Edward found a useless earl of Lancaster struggling to rule England in the king's place. If Edward gets 10 more helping hands in 3 days then everyone who helps gets a place on the king's council. via KingdomWorld · Comment ·Like · Help the useless earl of Lancaster

Berwick-on-Tweed is now Scottish.

Edward of Caernarfon is marching to Berwick-on-Tweed and is TOTALLY going to smash Robert Bruce once and for all and get the town back for England!

Berwick-on-Tweed is still Scottish. Probably even more so than before.

Edward updated his Relationship Status to Ohhhh boy, this is getting insanely complicated.

Mary of Amesbury left a comment: wassup, bro?

Edward replied: well, there's Isabella of course, who I totally love and respect, and there's Roger Damory who I am still in love with, oh yes indeedy, but... I've been looking at Hugh the Younger differently lately. You know how you've known someone most of your life, then one day you realise how gorgeous and sexy they are and wonder why you never saw it before?

Mary of Amesbury replied: well, errrr, no, not really. I'm a nun, remember?

Edward replied: yeah, but didn't you have that thing with Surrey? Our niece's husband?? You know what, let's not go there. I don't even want to know. That's sick.

Mary of Amesbury: ???!!! Remind me, Ned, who Piers Gaveston, Roger Damory and Hugh Despenser are/were married to?

Edward replied: but, but...well, that's completely different, obviously. Absolutely not the same thing at all. And I'm the king, so shut up.

Next part coming soon! :-)

01 March, 2010

Two Mauds And Their Marital Misadventures

A post about the marital (mis)adventures of Maud Fitzalan and her daughter Maud Burnell, the younger Maud's frankly rather unpleasant legal manoeuvres which largely disinherited her eldest son in favour of her children by her second husband, and a loyal Despenser adherent who held onto his connections to the family long after 1326.

Maud Fitzalan was the only daughter of John Fitzalan and Isabella Mortimer and the sister of Richard, earl of Arundel, who was born in February 1267 - whether Maud was older or younger than Richard, I don't know, and she might have been born any time between 1264 and 1266 or 1268 and 1272. In 1283 her brother paid 2000 marks for her to marry Philip Burnell, who was born on 1 August 1264. [1] Philip was the son and heir of Sir Hugh Burnell and a woman of unknown parentage called Sybil, but it was his uncle who was the most important member of the family: Robert Burnell, bishop of Bath and Wells and chancellor of England, a close ally and friend of Edward I who dominated the English political scene from Edward's accession in 1272 until his death twenty years later. Edward I tried to persuade the pope to translate Robert from Bath and Wells to Canterbury, but he refused on learning that Robert kept a mistress or mistresses; it is believed that he fathered as many as five illegitimate (well, obviously) children. Not surprisingly, the pope decided that such scandalous behaviour argued against Robert having the moral authority to become primate of all England.

Philip Burnell inherited the lands his enormously wealthy uncle had acquired, a whopping eighty-two manors in nineteen counties, but brilliantly managed to die in debt less than two years after his uncle's death, on 26 June 1294 at the age of only twenty-nine. [2] He and Maud Fitzalan had two surviving children: Maud, born sometime between 1290 and 1294, of whom much more below; and Edward, Lord Burnell, who was born in 1286, married Hugh Despenser the Elder's eldest daughter Aline in 1302 - Despenser paid 1000 marks for the privilege - and died childless on 23 August 1315, also at the age of twenty-nine. [3] Aline never re-married and outlived her husband by a remarkable forty-eight years, dying on 16 May 1363 when she must have been in her mid-seventies. [4] (Edward II appointed Aline constable of the great castle of Conwy in January 1326, presumably at the request of her brother the younger Despenser.)

Genealogist Douglas Richardson discovered several years ago that the widowed Maud Fitzalan - I'm referring to her and her daughter by their maiden names throughout this post, in a possibly futile attempt to avoid confusion - was granted a licence on 19 September 1295 to marry Robert Bruce, which presumably means the one who died in 1304 and whose son of the same name became King Robert I of Scotland in 1306: "Licence for Matilda, late the wife of Philip Burnel, tenant in chief, to marry Robert de Brus, lord of Annandale." A writ of 13 October 1296 confirms that Maud did indeed marry Bruce: "Order to give power to someone to receive the attorneys of Robert de Brus, earl of Carrik and lord of Annandale, and Maud his wife, in a plea of dower..." [5] What's odd about this is that when Bruce died in 1304 he left a widow named Eleanor, but Maud certainly outlived him so he wasn't her widower; yet no references to an annulment have been found that I've read of.

Turning now to Maud's daughter Maud Burnell, she married her first husband sometime before 1312: John, Lord Lovel of Titchmarsh in Northamptonshire, who was born in 1288 or 1289 and was the son of another John, Lord Lovel and Joan, daughter of Robert, Lord Ros of Helmsley. Both John Lovels, father and son, served in the retinue of Edward II's kinsman Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke. [6] Maud Burnell and John Lovel had a daughter in 1312, named Joan after John's mother. John was killed at Bannockburn in June 1314, leaving Maud pregnant, and she gave birth in September to a son, inevitably named John after his father. When the little boy was mere weeks old, on 2 October 1314, he was given into the wardship of the earl of Pembroke. Pembroke died in 1324, and in May 1326 Edward II granted young John's wardship to Joan Jermy, sister of his sister-in-law Alice Hales, countess of Norfolk; Joan was appointed mestresse, governess, of the king's daughters Eleanor and Joan around the same time. [7]

The death of Maud's childless brother Edward Burnell the year after she was widowed made her sole heir to his lands and thus an extremely attractive marital prospect. She was still young: Edward Burnell's inquisition post mortem, taken in various counties, says that Maud was between twenty-one and twenty-five in 1315. In 1315/1316, both she and her mother Maud Fitzalan married without Edward II's licence: Maud Burnell had married Sir John Haudlo (or Handlo) by 4 December 1315, and Maud Fitzalan had married her third husband Simon Criketot by 20 June 1316. Both couples were fined £100 for the impertinence of marrying without Edward II's licence, Maud Fitzalan and Criketot at the request of Hugh Despenser the Elder, father of Maud Burnell's sister-in-law Aline Despenser. (There's an entry on the Close Roll of January 1315 recording Maud Burnell's oath not to marry without the king's licence, and it's rather odd that she did in fact do so with the elder Despenser's knowledge, given Despenser's loyalty to the king.) An interesting agreement which survives in the Catalogue of Ancient Deeds, dated the Saturday before Midsummer, 9 Edward II (1316), indicates somewhat mysteriously that Maud Fitzalan had made "certain covenants" with John Haudlo and Hugh Despenser the Elder in exchange for 4000 marks regarding her daughter's marriage to Haudlo, which covenants "in many points have not been carried out," and that Simon Criketot had agreed to bring his new wife to Tenbury by 25 July, the feast of St James, to "perform the said covenants." [8]

Simon Criketot is a hard man to trace - he served in Scotland in 1296 and pops up a couple of times during Edward II's reign appointing attorneys, and that's about all I can find - but fortunately John Haudlo isn't. He was the son of Richard Haudlo of Buckinghamshire and had married the daughter and heir of John FitzNigel of Boarstall, Buckinghamshire by 3 August 1299, and joined Hugh Despenser the Elder's retinue as early as 1294, when he went with Despenser on campaign to Wales. He was knighted with the future Edward II, Hugh Despenser the Younger, Roger Mortimer etc in May 1306, and later that year was one of the knights (with Mortimer, Piers Gaveston and Giles Argentein) who deserted from Edward I's army in Scotland to go jousting on the Continent. [9] His first wife, the heiress Joan FitzNigel, was dead by 1314, leaving him a son, Richard; by a custom called the courtesy of England, Haudlo held all Joan's lands until his death, and received permission from Edward II in September 1312 to crenellate the manor-house of Boarstall, at Despenser the Elder's request. Haudlo proved to be among the most faithful of all Despenser adherents: he went overseas with Despenser the Elder in November 1299, October 1305 (with, among others, Malcolm Musard), June 1313, February 1320 and August 1322, and was even willing to accompany him abroad when the Despensers were permanently exiled in August 1321. His brother Robert was Despenser's attorney in 1320 and 1322 when Haudlo went overseas with him; another brother, a cleric named William, was also in Despenser's service. Haudlo was granted various manors by Despenser the Elder, and as a staunch Despenser adherent saw his lands attacked by the Contrariants in 1321. Roger Damory "by armed force by members of his household" attacked his Buckinghamshire manor of Steeple Claydon, and Roger's sister Katherine and her husband Sir Walter le Poure were among the people who attacked seven of Haudlo's manors in Oxfordshire and five in Buckinghamshire; they broke his gates, doors and windows, stole horses, oxen, cows, sheep, pigs and swans, cut down his trees, hunted in his parks and fished in his stews, and "carried away fish, trees and goods*, deer, hares, coneys and partridges, charters and writings." Haudlo was one of the few men who remained loyal to Edward II in March 1308, when Edward's excessive favouritism towards Piers Gaveston led to the first major crisis of his reign, and was appointed keeper of the strategically important castle of St Briavels on the same day that Despenser the Elder was appointed keeper of Chepstow. [10] He must have been a good bit older than Maud Burnell, as he was old enough to be militarily active in 1294 and she may only have been born that year.

* I love that juxtaposition of 'fish, trees and goods'. I can just imagine a scribe, his quill poised above the parchment, asking "so what did they steal, my lord?" and John Haudlo going "Oh...you know...fish...a few trees, I suppose...some other stuff, lemme think...ermmm...oh yeah, deer and hares, and some of my partridges..."

John Haudlo survived the downfall of Edward II and the Despensers unscathed, which, given that he had served the elder Despenser for at least thirty-two years, probably redounds to the credit of Roger Mortimer and Isabella of France. Haudlo and Maud Burnell went on pilgrimage in 1327 with their household and expected to be away from England for two years - which was probably an attempt, at least in part, to avoid the flurry of lawsuits which followed the Despensers' fall, some of which named Haudlo. [11] It's interesting to note that Haudlo held onto his connections to the Despenser family even after the executions of Hughs the Elder and Younger. In August 1329, he married his eldest son and heir Richard Haudlo to Isabel St Amand and his daughter (or stepdaughter) Joan to Isabel's brother Amaury; Haudlo and John St Amand, their father, acknowledged that they owed each other 1000 marks for the marriages. Through their mother Margaret, Isabel and Amaury were grandchildren of Hugh Despenser the Elder. Despenser the Younger's son Hugh (the Even Younger), lord of Glamorgan, granted Haudlo various manors in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire in November 1337, and acknowledged in May 1340 that he owed 640 marks to Haudlo and Maud Burnell's daughter Elizabeth. On 17 May 1341, shortly after Maud Burnell's death, John Haudlo asked the dean and chapter of Salisbury to pray daily for his good estate in life and his soul after death, and for the souls of Maud, their late son Thomas and two other people: Edward II and Hugh Despenser the Elder. [12]

Unfortunately the date of Maud Fitzalan's (Burnell Bruce Criketot) death is unknown, but was certainly before the execution/murder of her nephew Edmund, earl of Arundel, on 17 November 1326. Her daughter Maud Burnell, as early as July 1316 - only a few months after her second marriage - began legal proceedings to entail many (or even most) of the manors she had inherited from her brother Edward on herself and her new husband John Haudlo jointly, with reversion to their male heirs and only then to John Lovel, her son by her first husband. A few years later, Haudlo and Maud entailed some of her manors on themselves with remainder to their male heirs, their daughters Joan, Elizabeth and Margaret and then to John Lovel, so that Lovel would only inherit these properties if his five or six half-siblings all died before he did and without issue. The unfortunate John Lovel was thus kept out of a large part of his mother's inheritance in favour of his half-siblings, and although he was sole heir to his father Lord Lovel, this was a considerably smaller inheritance, and it's easy to imagine that Lovel was somewhat embittered by these proceedings. [13] His descendant William, Lord Lovel finally claimed the bulk of the Burnell inheritance in 1420, when the male line of Maud and John Haudlo ran out. [14]

Maud Burnell (Lovel Haudlo) died in or shortly before May 1341, in her late forties or early fifties, and her widower John Haudlo on 5 August 1346 when he must have been well into his sixties or older. By the 'courtesy of England', Haudlo held all of Maud's inheritance (as well as the lands of his first wife) until his death, and so kept Maud's son John, Lord Lovel out of those manors she hadn't entailed to his half-brothers as well. John Lovel himself died only a few months after his stepfather, shortly before 10 November 1347 at the age of thirty-three. [15] He left two sons by his wife Isabel la Zouche, both of whom, confusingly, were named John. Sir John Haudlo's eldest son Richard, by Joan FitzNigel, died before his father in December 1342, leaving his widow Isabel St Amand, a three-year-old son Edmund and daughters Margaret and Elizabeth, who ultimately shared the Haudlo/FitzNigel inheritance when Edmund died childless in 1355. Of John Haudlo's children by Maud Burnell, the eldest surviving son, Nicholas, took his mother's name, married a woman named Mary, inherited his mother's entailed lands and lived until January 1382; his brass in the church of Acton Burnell, Shropshire, can be seen here. Nicholas Burnell received more property on the death in 1363 of his uncle's widow, Aline Despenser, who had held it in dower for the last half a century. Thomas, the first-born son of Maud Burnell and John Haudlo, also took their mother's name, and before 26 July 1337 married Joan, daughter of Thomas, Lord Berkeley (her brother Maurice married Hugh Despenser the Younger's daughter Elizabeth), Haudlo and Berkeley having arranged the marriage "in order to put an end to the strife caused by Sir Thomas having sided with Roger de Mortuo Mari [Mortimer], and John de Hantlo with Hugh Despenser." Thomas was dead by 12 July 1339, and his little widow Joan, who can't have been more than ten at the time, married Sir Reginald Cobham in 1343 (he was born in 1295 and was the same age as her father - the lucky, lucky girl!) [16] Reginald's tomb in Lingfield, Surrey can be seen here. John Haudlo's daughter-in-law Isabel St Amand married secondly Sir Richard Hildesley, sheriff of Gloucestershire; according to a book called A Guide to the Architectural Antiquities in the Neighbourhood of Oxford (p. 285), John Haudlo left all his possessions to her.

1) Calendar of Close Rolls 1279-1288, pp. 235, 237.
2) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
3) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1292-1301, p. 179; Calendar of Fine Rolls 1307-1319, p. 254; A Descriptive Catalogue of Ancient Deeds, ed. H.C. Maxwell Lyte, vol. 4, no. A. 6278.
4) Cal Fine Rolls 1356-1368, p. 277; Chan. Inq. p.m. 37 Edw. III (1st nos.), 14.
5) Cal Pat Rolls 1292-1301, p. 147; Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, p. 74.
6) Cal Pat Rolls 1307-1313, pp. 101, 103; Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous 1308-1348, p. 205.
7) Cal Fine Rolls 1307-1319, p. 211; Cal Pat Rolls 1324-1327, p. 267; Society of Antiquaries MS 122, p. 81.
8) Cal Fine Rolls 1307-1319, pp. 268, 271, 283; Cal Close Rolls 1313-1318, p. 208; Catalogue of Ancient Deeds, vol. 4, no. A. 6814.
9) David Simpkin, The English Aristocracy at War: from the Welsh Wars of Edward I to the Battle of Bannockburn, p. 128; Constance Bullock-Davies, Menestrellorum Multitudo: Minstrels at a Royal Feast, p. 186; Cal Pat Rolls 1292-1301, p. 430; Cal Fine Rolls 1272-1307, pp. 543-544; Cal Close Rolls 1302-1307, pp. 481-482.
10) Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, p. 104; Cal Pat Rolls 1301-1307, pp. 382, 493; Ibid., 1307-1313, p. 582; Ibid., 1317-1321, pp. 422, 426; Ibid., 1321-1324, pp. 162-163, 168-169, 187, 189, 319-320; Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323, p. 464; Cal Fine Rolls 1307-1319, pp. 17-18; Calendar of Papal Letters 1305-1341, p. 115; The National Archives SC 8/15/722, SC 8/59/2919, E 40/3202, E 40/3204 etc.
11) Cal Close Rolls 1327-1330, pp. 185-186, 219, 228; Cal Pat Rolls 1327-1330, pp, 171, 175, 188; TNA SC 8/15/722;
12) Cal Close Rolls 1327-1330, p. 572; Cal Close Rolls 1337-1339, pp. 271-273; Cal Close Rolls 1339-1341, p. 477; Cal Pat Rolls 1340-1343, p. 194.
13) Cal Pat Rolls 1313-1317, pp. 509, 554-555; Ibid., 1313–1317, p. 612; Ibid., 1330–1334, p. 75; Ibid., 1338–1340, p. 302.
14) K.B. McFarlane, The Nobility of Later Medieval England, p. 67.
15) Cal Fine Rolls 1337-1347, p. 477-478; Cal Fine Rolls 1347-1356, p. 51.
16) Cal Pat Rolls 1334-1338, p. 491; Cal Pat Rolls 1338-1340, p. 302; Papal Letters 1305-1341, p. 541.