31 October, 2010

O calamity! To see authors quoting a primary source out of context!

"O calamity! To see men lately dressed in purple and fine linen now attired in rags, bound and imprisoned in chains!"  (O monstrum! uidere uiros purpura et bisso nuper indutos nunc attritis uestibus incedere, et uinctos in compedibus recludi sub carcere!)

The above quotation comes from the Vita Edwardi Secundi (Life of Edward II, a contemporary chronicle written by a very well-informed man who was frequently critical of the king) and is often cited in modern works. The quotation is usually interpreted as the author harshly criticising the tyranny of Edward II and his friends the Despensers in and after 1322, following his execution of twenty-two(ish) Contrariants and the imprisonment of several dozen others, as for example:

- "The chroniclers are unanimous in their condemnation of what took place after 1322. 'O calamity,' the anonymous biographer of Edward II wrote, 'To see men, so recently clothed in purple and fine linen, now tied in rags bound and imprisoned in chains.'"  (Note that 'attired in rags' is changed to 'tied in rags'.)

- "The chroniclers, like most of the King's subjects, were horrified by the violence. 'Oh calamity!' cried the author of the Vita Edwardi Secundi. 'To see men, so recently clothed in purple and fine linen, now tied in rags, bound and imprisoned in chains. The harshness of the king has increased so much that no one, however great or wise, dares to cross his will. The nobles of the realm are terrified by threats and penalties. The king's will has free play. Thus today might conquers reason, for whatever pleases the king, though lacking in reason, has the force of law.'"

(Although this is cited as one continuous text, the part beginning 'The harshness of the king...' actually appears in the Vita no fewer than eleven pages after the rest, and some of it is inaccurately quoted, including 'tied in rags'. See the end of this post.)

- "'Oh Calamity. To see men lately dressed in purple and fine linen now attired in rags, bound and imprisoned in chains', wrote the author of Vita Edwardi at the sight of men imprisoned after Boroughbridge."

(For more info about the events of 1321/22, see here, here, here and here.)

Let's look at the quotation in its proper context.  The author of the Vita is discussing the aftermath of the battle of Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322, when Andrew Harclay defeated the earls of Lancaster and Hereford and the other Contrariants, of whom the Vita says "puffed-up by the earl of Lancaster's protection, they killed those who opposed them, plundered those who offered no resistance, sparing no one," a quotation missing from most accounts of events in 1321/22.  A narrative portraying the Contrariants as innocent whiter-than-white freedom fighters bravely resisting a tyrannical king and his nasty favourite, who are unfairly and unjustly executed or imprisoned despite committing no real crimes, is favoured these days, and apparently we can't have the black and white moral certainties of the Bad Edward and Bad Despensers/Good Contrariants story messed up by accounts of Our Brave Heroic Lads killing and plundering non-combatants. The Vita's statement is in fact confirmed by numerous petitions and inquisitions of the early 1320s.

The author of the Vita, by the way, although he hated the Despensers and their behaviour, hated the Contrariants and theirs even more.  He strongly condemned the Despensers' greed, brutality and harshness, but pointed out that in August 1321 they had been "exiled [from England] out of malice" (Vita Edwardi Secundi, ed. N. Denholm-Young, 1957, p. 121) and that the Contrariants "had disgracefully destroyed the manors of both father and son; and further because they had taken for their own use and wasted the goods of the exiles, which ought rather to have gone to the treasury..."  He also declared that "in the judgement of some worthy persons the barons went too far in their persecution [of the Despensers]. For even if they found just reasons for banishment, they did not justly seize their goods. Why did they destroy their manors, for what reason did they extort ransoms from their retinues? Though formerly their cause had been just, they now turned right into wrong." (pp. 115-116)

Here's the 'O calamity!' quotation as it appears in its proper context, the end of the battle of Boroughbridge (Vita, pp. 124-125):

"...the earl of Lancaster made a truce with Andrew Harclay to keep the peace until the morrow; and when this was done each returned to his lodging. On that same night the sheriff of York came with a large force to attack the king's enemies; relying on his help, Andrew Harclay entered the town very early, and taking the earl of Lancaster and almost all the other knights and esquires scatheless, led them off to York and imprisoned them. Some left their horses and putting off their armour looked round for ancient worn-out garments, and took to the road as beggars. But their caution was of no avail, for not a single well-known man among them all escaped.
O calamity! To see men lately dressed in purple and fine linen now attired in rags, bound and imprisoned in chains!  A marvellous thing and one indeed brought about by God's will and aid, that so scanty a company should in a moment overcome so many knights. For the earl's side were more than seven times as numerous as their adversaries." 

See the bit where the author calls the royalist victory over the Contrariants a 'marvellous thing' which happened with the will and aid of God? That's not quite the impression given in the secondary sources quoted above, is it?  The author is describing the desperate actions of noblemen and knights trying to flee from justice after rebelling against their king and committing numerous crimes against non-combatants, by throwing away their fine clothes and possessions and dressing as beggars - a story confirmed by numerous entries in the Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous. Other men who had fought at Boroughbridge or otherwise rebelled against Edward "put on the habit of religion and other diverse habits in order to leave the realm or to hide more securely within the realm."*  John, Lord Mowbray, whose many acts of theft and extortion in 1321/22 are recorded in petitions of his indignant victims - he even robbed the church of Laughton-en-le-Morthen in Yorkshire, and imprisoned the parson of Rossington until he agreed to give Mowbray £200** - rid himself of "a coat of armour of great price, and a pack with robes and good fur" in an attempt to disguise himself and escape.  It didn't work, and he was hanged in York on 23 March with his fellow church-robber Sir Jocelyn Deyville and Roger, Lord Clifford.  Stephen Baret was another of the men who helped Mowbray steal the possessions of the people and church of Laughton, and was captured by the constable of Knaresborough Castle after Boroughbridge and subsequently executed in South Wales; he must have been another of the men who threw away his clothes, as he and four of his men were "taken bare."
[* Calendar of Close Rolls 1318-1323, pp. 534-535;  ** The National Archives SC 8/7/301, SC 8/106/5274]

The author of the Vita was not, as some secondary sources claim, condemning Edward II for executing or imprisoning noblemen and knights and their families or saying that the king himself forced people to wear rags (or 'tied' them in rags, whatever that means) or that things in England were so bad in the 1320s that even noblemen could not afford to buy clothes. Far from being "horrified by the violence" of the 1322 executions, he was clearly out of sympathy with the rebels - and this from a man with a pretty low opinion of Edward II. To use the 'Oh calamity...' quotation as evidence that the author was condemning Edward's tyranny and the supposedly pitiful condition of his subjects, to use it without ever mentioning that the sentence immediately following it begins 'A marvellous thing' and that the author strongly disapproved of the actions of the Contrariants, is selective quotation at its worst.

Postscript: Returning to the other part cited above about Edward II's 'harshness', here's the quotation also in its proper context (Vita Edwardi Secundi, p. 136).  The author is now describing Edward's war with France in 1324 and his unwillingness to pay his soldiers, who were forced to pillage the Gascon countryside for food (which is borne out by letters sent to Edward and Hugh Despenser in 1324 from several men on the ground in Gascony):

"All were astonished that the king did not satisfy the treasury, since they could not live properly without wages, and the king had plenty of treasure. Many of his forbears amassed money; he alone has exceeded them all. Howbeit, the king's meanness is laid at Hugh [Despenser the Younger]'s door, like the other evils that afflict the court. Hence, many conspired to kill him, but the plot was discovered, some were captured and the rest fled.
Then the king ordered all the infantry to board their ships and stand out to sea, until the time should come for crossing to Gascony; and he put in command the Earl Warenne, John de St John, and other great men of the land, who likewise went on board not daring to resist. The king also sent letters to every county commanding and ordering that all who had returned from the army to their homes without leave should be arrested, and hanged forthwith without trials. The harshness of the king has today increased so much that no one, however great and wise, dares to cross his will. Thus parliaments, colloquies, and councils decide nothing these days. For the nobles of the realm, terrified by threats and the penalties inflicted on others, let the king's will have free play. Thus today will conquers reason. For whatever pleases the king, though lacking in reason, has the force of law."

26 October, 2010

The Trial and Execution of Thomas of Lancaster

A post about Thomas, earl of Lancaster's trial and execution on 22 March 1322, as described in several chronicles of the fourteenth century. (Edward II executed around twenty other baronial rebels, whom he called the Contrariants, at the same time.)

A quick recap: Thomas and his allies lost the battle of Boroughbridge to Andrew Harclay on 16 March 1322 - Edward II, a few miles away at Doncaster, informed Pope John XXII of the victory on 18 March* - and the earl was taken via York to his own castle and favoured residence of Pontefract, whose constable surrendered without a fight to Edward on 19 or 20 March. Lancaster was condemned to death in the great hall of the castle, following a so-called trial in which he was not allowed to speak, and executed on 22 March. The official indictment appears in Foedera*, and comprises the many charges and accusations Edward II summoned up against his cousin, including treason, as Lancaster and other Contrariants had invited several of Robert Bruce's liegemen to England in 1322 to ride with them against their king. The charges also included Lancaster's and his household's jeering at Edward as the king passed through Pontefract on his way from York to London in the late summer of 1317**, and Lancaster's blocking of the roads in an attempt to prevent Edward's travelling through Yorkshire earlier a few weeks previously; Edward II, not a man to forget an insult, had never forgiven Lancaster for preventing his passage through his own kingdom or for his appallingly rude lèse-majesté. The death of Piers Gaveston in June 1312 was not mentioned, but few contemporary chroniclers failed to point out that Edward had revenge for Piers' murder much on his mind.
[* Foedera 1307-1327, pp. 477-479.]
[** Et cum dominus Rex a partibus Eboracum se divertisset versus partes australes, & venisset cum familia sua, transeundo juxta Pontem Fractemdictus Thomas comes & homines sui exierunt castrum praedictum, & ad despiciendum dominum Regem, acclamaverunt in ipsum Regem vilissime & contemptibiliter cum magno tumultu, in maximum contemptum ipsius domini Regis]

Although the sole blame for Lancaster's execution was heaped on the two Hugh Despensers at their own so-called trials in October/November 1326, the two men and Edward II were not the only ones who condemned Lancaster to death: the earls of Pembroke, Richmond, Kent, Arundel, Surrey, Atholl and Angus also sat in judgement on him, as did the royal justice Robert Malberthorpe. Edward II, Kent and Richmond were Lancaster's first cousins; Pembroke his first cousin once removed; Surrey, Atholl and Angus had once served in his retinue.  (As, indeed, had several of the knights who fought against Lancaster at Boroughbridge.)

The Chronicle of Lanercost: Edward "sent for the earl to come to Pontefract, where he remained still in the castle of the earl; and there, in revenge for the death of Piers de Gaveston (whom the earl had caused to be beheaded), and at the instance of the earl's rivals (especially of Sir Hugh Despenser the younger), without holding a parliament or taking the advice of the majority, caused sentence to be pronounced that he should be drawn, hanged and beheaded. But, forasmuch as he was the queen's uncle and son of the king's uncle, the first two penalties were commuted, so that he was neither drawn nor hanged, only beheaded in like manner as this same Earl Thomas had caused Piers de Gaveston to be beheaded. Howbeit, other adequate cause was brought forward and alleged, to wit, that he had borne arms against the king of England in his own realm; but those who best knew the king's mind declared that the earl never would have been summarily beheaded without the advice of parliament, nor so badly treated, had not that other cause prevailed, but that he would have been imprisoned for life or sent into exile. This man, then, said to be of most eminent birth and noblest of Christians, as well as the wealthiest earl in the world, inasmuch as he owned five earldoms, to wit, Lancaster, Lincoln, Salisbury, Leicester and Ferrers [Derby], was taken on the morrow of St Benedict Abbot in Lent and beheaded like any thief or vilest rascal on a certain hillock outside the town..."

Scalacronica: "Thomas, earl of Lancaster, was beheaded at Pontefract in revenge for Piers Gaveston ['Peris de Gauirstoun'], and for other offences which he had often and habitually committed against the king, and at the very place where he had once heckled, and made others heckle, at the king as he [Edward] was travelling to York."

Anonimalle: "...the king sent him [Lancaster] to Pontefract, which place the said earl loved more than any other town in the world. And there the king entered the said earl's castle, and with Sir Hugh [Despenser the Younger] met him and degraded him by malicious and contemptuous words in his face, in mockery of him. The which Sir Hugh, Sir Edmund earl of Arundel and Sir Robert Marbelthorpe made themselves his justices...they sentenced him to be beheaded on the 20th day of March, that is, St Cuthbert's Day, in a place which the said earl much loved to visit to amuse himself, and this decapitation was done because of Sir Piers Gaveston ['Pieres de Gavastoun'] aforementioned, whom the king much loved."

Vita Edwardi Secundi: "On the fourth or fifth day after the capture of the earl of Lancaster, the king coming to Pontefract ordered him to be brought up without delay.  He was at once brought up by the king's command, and for that night he was shut up in a certain tower.  It is said that the earl had recently built that tower, and determined that when the king was captured he should be imprisoned in it for life, and so to have made the prince a lion after the manner of the Lombards.  This was the common story, but I have not heard evidence of its truth.
On the morrow the earl was led into the hall before the justices assigned for the purpose, and charged one by one with his crimes, and to each charge a special penalty was attached, namely, that first he should be drawn, then hanged, and finally decapitated.  But out of reverence for his royal blood the penalty of drawing was remitted, as also that of hanging, and one punishment was decreed for all three.  The earl, however, wishing to speak in mitigation of his crimes, immediately tried to make some points; but the judges refused to hear him, because the words of the condemned can neither harm nor be of any profit.  Then the earl said "This is a powerful court, and great in authority, where no answer is heard, nor any excuse admitted."  Here was a sight indeed!  To see the earl of Lancaster, lately the terror of the whole country, receiving judgement in his own castle and home.  Then the earl was led forth from the castle, and mounted on some worthless mule was led to the place of execution.  Then the earl stretched forth his head as if in prayer, and the executioner cut off his head with two or three strokes...
...Perhaps a hidden cause, not immediate but remote, brought punishment upon the earl.  The earl of Lancaster once cut off Piers Gaveston's head [caput Petri de Gauestone], and now by the king's command the earl has himself has lost his head. Thus, perhaps not unjustly, the earl received measure for measure, as it is written in Holy Scripture."

Brut (modernised spelling): "And now I shall tell you of the noble Earl Thomas of Lancaster.  When he was taken and brought to York, many of the city were full glad, and upon him cried with high voice "Ah, Sir Traitor! Now shall you have the reward that long time you have deserved!" and cast upon him many snowballs, and many other reproofs did him.  But the gentle earl suffered that, and said nothing to another.
And in that same time the king heard of that discomfiture [the battle of Boroughbridge], and was full glad, and in haste came to Pontefract; and Sir Hugh the Spenser, and Sir Hugh his son, and Sir John [sic], earl of Arundel, and Sir Edmund of Woodstock the king's brother, earl of Kent, and Sir Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, and Master Robert Baldock, a false pilede clerc, that was dwelling in the king's court; and all they came thither with the king...And Sir Hugh the Spenser the father and Sir Hugh his son cast and thought how and in what manner the good Earl Thomas of Lancaster should be dead, without judgement of his peers; wherefore it was ordained through the king's justices that the king should put upon him points of treason [traitery].
And so it befell that he was led to the bar before the king's justices, bare-headed as a thief, in a fair hall within his own castle, that he had made therein many a fair feast, both to rich and also to poor...and Sir Robert [Malberthorpe] accused him in this manner: "Thomas!  At first, our lord the king and this court excludes you of all manner of answer. Thomas!  Our lord the king puts upon you that you have in his land ridden with banner displayed, against his peace, as a traitor."  And with that word, the gentle Earl Thomas with a high voice said "Nay, lords!  Forsooth, and by Saint Thomas, I was never traitor."  The justice said again "Thomas!  Our lord the king also puts upon you that you have robbed his folk, and and murdered his folk, as a thief.  Thomas!  The king also puts upon you that he discomforted you and your people with his folk in his own realm; wherefore you went and fled to the wood as an outlaw, and also you were taken as an outlaw."

Thomas is sentenced to hanging, drawing and quartering, which Edward II commutes to beheading "for the love of Quene Isabell," then:
"The gentle knight, when he had heard all these words, with a high voice he cried, sore weeping, and said "Alas, Saint Thomas, fair father!  Alas!  Shall I be dead thus?  Grant me now, blissful God, answer!" but all it availed him nothing; for the cursed Gascon [cursede Gascoignes, i.e. Piers Gaveston] put him hither and thither...They set upon his head in scorn a chaplet, all rent and torn, that was not worth a halfpenny; and after, they set him upon a lean white palfrey, full unseemly, and also all bare, with an old bridle; and with a horrible noise they drew him out of the castle to his death, and cast on him many snowballs [balles of snowe]. And as the tormentors led him out of the castle, he said these piteous words, and his hands held up in high towards heaven: "Now the king of Heaven give us mercy, for the earthly king has forsaken us!"...The gentle earl set him upon his knees, and turned him towards the east; but a Ribaude that men called Hugon of Moston set hand upon the gentle earl, and said in despite of him "Sir Traitor, turn thee toward the Scots, thine foul death to receive [vnderfonge]"; and turned the earl toward the north.  The noble Earl Thomas answered with a mild voice, and said "Now, fair lords, you shall do all your own will."  And with that word the friar went from him full sore; and a ribaude went to him, and smote off his head."

22 October, 2010

Friday Facts 2

Stuff!  Random stuff!  About Edward II!

- I wrote last Friday that Edward twice escaped from fire, in 1306 and 1313.  His parents Edward I and Eleanor of Castile also had a narrow escape in August 1283, when they had to flee from their burning bedchamber.  [1] Note the date of this: it must have been shortly after Edward II, born on 25 April 1284, was conceived.  Talking of which, Edward I and Queen Eleanor were in Caernarfon from 12 to 31 July 1283 and back there on 12-13 and 18-21 August, so it is entirely possible that Edward II was conceived in Caernarfon as well as born there.

- While staying at the priory of Newburgh near York in November 1316, Edward gave five pounds to the violist Robert Daverouns for "making his minstrelsy before the king."  [2]  Daverouns had been sent to England by Philip of Taranto (1278/80-1331), titular emperor of Constantinople, king of Albania, prince of Achaea and Taranto and despot of Epirius, who was Edward's second cousin, grandson of Eleanor of Provence's sister Beatrice.  (Philip's brothers included Charles, king of Hungary, Robert the Wise, king of Jerusalem and Naples and duke of Calabria, and St Louis, bishop of Toulouse.)

- Edward wrote to his brother-in-law Louis X of France and Louis's queen Clemence of Hungary - niece of Philip of Taranto above - on 17 May 1316, less than three weeks before Louis's sudden death at the age of only twenty-six.  He asked them to strive to continue their friendly relationship with him and mentioned the great affection and sincere bond of fraternity between himself and Louis. Edward's clerk, presumably baffled by Clemence's unusual name, addressed her as "The most excellent lady, Lady Elizabeth, by the grace of God queen of France and Navarre."  [3]

- On 3 August 1309, an obviously deeply annoyed Edward wrote to his father-in-law Philip IV of France, having discovered that Philip had acknowledged Robert Bruce as king of Scots in letters sent to Bruce, and had tried to conceal the fact from Edward.  He usually began letters to Philip with "To the very excellent and very noble prince, our very dear and beloved father, Lord Philip, by the grace of God illustrious king of France, greetings and very dear affection."  This one began abruptly "To the king of France, greetings."  [4]

- Isabella of France, in a letter to Walter Reynolds, archbishop of Canterbury, on 5 February 1326 - after her refusal to return to England and Edward - called her husband "our very dear and very sweet lord and friend" (nostre treschier et tresdouche seignur et amy).  Even if you believe that Isabella hated Edward by 1326 - which I certainly don't - and felt "profound revulsion" for him as one writer states as though it's a fact, 'friend' is a very interesting choice of word.  It was entirely conventional for women of this era to refer to their husband as their 'lord' or their 'very dear lord'.  As their 'friend'?  As 'very sweet'?  Definitely not conventional.  In a letter to Edward of 31 March 1325, shortly after she arrived in France to negotiate with her brother Charles IV, Isabella called her husband "my very sweet heart" (mon tresdoutz coer) five times.  [5]

- On 14 December 1308, Edward ordered his sheriffs to pay the imprisoned Knights Templar in England their wages, four pence a day, with arrears from the first day of their imprisonment that January. [6]

- Edward's Household Ordinance of 1318 stated that four of his thirty sergeants-at-arms would sleep outside his chamber (as close to the door as possible) every night, with the usher of the chamber and and a sergeant porter "who will guard the door of there where the king sleeps, so that no-one will enter except those who have the right to do so."  [7]

- The Scalacronica says that Edward in and after 1322, "after his [Hugh Despenser the Younger's] example, did everything that wholly unfitted him for chivalry, delighting himself in avarice and in delights of the flesh [delitz du corps], disinheriting his subjects who had rebelled against him, and enriching himself with their great property in lands." [8] Unfortunately, the 'delights of the flesh' are not specified!


1) John Carmi Parsons, Eleanor of Castile: Queen and Society im Thirteenth-Century England, p. 33.
2) Thomas Stapleton, 'A Brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the tenth, eleventh, and fourteenth years of King Edward the Second', Archaeologia, 26 (1836), p. 342; Constance Bullock-Davies, A Register of Royal and Baronial Domestic Minstrels 1272-1327, p. 39.
3) Foedera 1307-1327, p. 290.
4) Ibid., p. 79.
5) Seymour Phillips, Edward II, p. 491 (my translation differs slightly from Professor Phillips'); Pierre Chaplais, ed., The War of Saint-Sardos (1323-1325): Gascon Correspondence and Diplomatic Documents, pp. 199-200.
6) Calendar of Close Rolls 1307-1313, p. 90.
7) T.F. Tout, The Place of the Reign of Edward II in English History, pp. 281-282, 297.
8) Herbert Maxwell, ed., Scalacronica: The Reigns of Edward I, Edward II and Edward III as Recorded by Sir Thomas Gray of Heton, knight, p. 70.

15 October, 2010

Friday Facts 1

Some random facts about Edward II...

- Edward twice survived a fire: at Windsor Castle in April 1306, when he gave a gift of ten shillings each to the watchmen Richard de Windsor and Richard de Burghardesle who roused him from his bed, evacuated members of his household and others and helped to extinguish the flames; and at Pontoise in June 1313, when a fire broke out in his and Isabella's lodgings and he gathered his wife up in his arms and rushed outside, both of them naked. The couple lost many possessions in this fire. The watchman Richard de Windsor had other talents: the month after he saved Edward from the fire, Edward summoned him to Byfleet in Surrey to "make his minstrelsy in the presence of the lord prince [of Wales] and his nobles." [1]

- Edward's youngest sibling was his half-sister Eleanor, third child of Edward I and his second wife Marguerite of France, following Thomas of Brotherton, earl of Norfolk (born 1 June 1300) and Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent (born 5 August 1301). Eleanor was born on 4 May 1306 - and named perhaps in honour of Edward I's first queen Eleanor of Castile, or Edward's eldest surviving daughter Eleanor, countess of Bar - when Edward I was almost sixty-seven and the future Edward II twenty-two. Eleanor was fifteen years younger than her nephew the earl of Gloucester, Edward I's eldest grandchild. The little girl was a mere four days old when her father opened negotiations on 8 May 1306 for her marriage to Robert (b. 1300), son and heir of Othon IV, count palatine of Burgundy, and Mahaut, countess of Artois. (Robert's elder sisters Jeanne and Blanche married Philippe V and Charles IV of France.) Edward of Caernarfon bound himself on 31 August 1306 "to settle upon her [Eleanor] 10,000 marks sterling for her marriage, and 5,000 marks for her trousseau, to be paid to her within seven years, and to find her proper sustenance according to her estate until she is married."
Little Eleanor died shortly before 28 August 1311, at the age of five; her half-brother Edward II paid 113 pounds "for the expenses and preparations made for the burial of the body of the Lady Eleanor, the king’s sister" at Beaulieu Abbey, Hampshire. Her fiancé Robert of Burgundy died unmarried in 1315, aged fifteen, and his vast inheritance passed to his sister Jeanne, then queen of France. [2]

- Talking of Mahaut, countess of Artois in her own right and heroine of Maurice Druon's Les Rois Maudits/The Accursed Kings series of novels, Edward II and Isabella of France visited her at Hesdin (in the modern Pas-de-Calais department in northern France) on or about 11 July 1313, on their way back to England after their extended visit to the French court. Mahaut took pains to ensure that her castle looked at its absolute best during the king and queen's visit: she paid a group of painters to clean and otherwise repair the paintings in the 'Indian hall', the 'hall of shields', the oddly-named 'chamber of pigs in the Marais', the great chapel and the vaunted chapel, "against the coming of the king of England" (contre le venue du roy Dengleterre). [3]

- On Edward of Caernarfon's nineteenth birthday, 25 April 1303, he gave a gift of a penny each to 300 poor people. [4]

- Whether Edward saw them or not I don't know, but the Sempringham annalist says, rather oddly, that in England in 1317 "there issued from the earth water-mice with long tails, larger than rats, with which the fields and meadows were filled in the summer and in August." [5]

- On his way to fight at Bannockburn in June 1314, Edward took a travelling wine cellar with him, and Isabella of France, who accompanied him as far as Berwick-on-Tweed, took a wooden altar "bound with iron bands in the manner of a coffer," which could be packed up and carried by a sumpter-horse. [6]

- An anonymous cleric told Edward's confessor during the great famine in 1315 that "our king as he passes through the country takes men’s goods and pays little or nothing or badly…Formerly, indeed, the inhabitants used to rejoice to see the face of the king when he came, but now, because the king’s approach injures the people, his departure gives them much pleasure and as he goes off they pray that he may never return." The correspondent added that Edward II too often visited religious houses, which presumably (the remainder of the letter is missing) was intended as a criticism of the huge costs the houses had to bear in accommodating the king and his large retinue. This is a fair point: Edward stayed for five weeks with the Franciscans of York in the late summer of 1316 and only gave them ten pounds for the expenses of himself and his household. [7]

- Among the possessions which Edward left with the London draper (and future mayor) Simon de Swanland in the autumn of 1326, when he fled the capital following the arrival of Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer's invasion force, were: a cushion cover of vermilion sendal (a fine silk); a cloth-of-gold mantle edged with white pearls and silver; a green coverlet with three matching tapestries; four ells of Tarsus cloth (a kind of felt cloth, from the home town of St Paul) with golden stripes. [8]

- After Piers Gaveston's wedding to Edward's niece Margaret de Clare at Berkhamstead on 1 November 1307, Edward paid a local resident named Richard le Kroc five shillings in compensation for "damages done to his property by the king's party." [9]

- On 21 May 1321, Edward (then aged thirty-seven) gave ten pounds to the messenger who brought him news of the birth of his latest great-nephew, the future Count Henri IV of Bar, son of Edward's nephew Count Edouard I of Bar and Marie of Burgundy (whose sister Marguerite, died 1315, was the first wife of Edward II's brother-in-law Louis X of France). Three days later, the king paid Robert le Fermor, bootmaker of Fleet Street, thirty shillings for six pairs of boots "with tassels of silk and drops of silver-gilt." [10]


1) Constance Bullock-Davies, Menestrellorum Multitudo: Minstrels at a Royal Feast, p. 51; Constance Bullock-Davies, A Register of Royal and Baronial Domestic Minstrels 1272-1327, p. 165; Roy Martin Haines, King Edward II: His Life, His Reign, and Its Aftermath, 1284-1330, pp. 41 and 374, note 84.
2) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1301-1307, pp. 431, 460; 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, p. 124.
3) Malcolm Vale, The Princely Court: Medieval Courts and Culture in North-West Europe, pp. 229, 280.
4) Seymour Phillips, Edward II, p. 64.
5) John Glover, ed., Le Livere de Reis de Britanie e le Livere de Reis de Engletere, p. 333.
6) Aryeh Nusbacher, Bannockburn 1314, p. 89; Vale, Princely Court, pp. 221-222.
7) N. Denholm-Young, ed., Vita Edwardi Secundi, p. 75; Thomas Stapleton, 'A Brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the tenth, eleventh, and fourteenth years of King Edward the Second', Archaeologia, 26 (1836), p. 320.
8) J. Harvey Bloom, 'Simon de Swanland and King Edward II', Notes and Queries, 11th series, 4 (1911), p. 2.
9) J.S. Hamilton, Piers Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall 1307-1312: Politics and Patronage in the Reign of Edward II, pp. 38 and 140, note 13.
10) Stapleton, 'A Brief Summary', pp. 338, 344-345.

11 October, 2010


Just to be going on with until I've finished writing the next post, here are some blog searches from the last few days...

edward 3rd how to get scotlend Learning to spell it correctly might be a start.

how old was edward the second when he took the thrown It really amazes me how many people don’t know the difference between 'throne' and 'thrown'. Or rain, rein and reign, come to that.

Robin Hood Edward II gay Google brings up this post of mine as its first result for that search.

what happened 700 years ago Why, there was the grat famin in north yorkshire

13 june 1348 london, england Remember, that’s London, England, not London, Arizona or London, New South Wales or London, Alberta.

Why was Mortimer and Isabella covered in flour? I really boggled at that one, then realised it’s probably a reference to a scene at the end of Derek Jarman’s 1991 film 'Edward II'.

compare king edward 11 and mortimer Well, Roger Mortimer was A Hetero Manly Virile Stud-Muffin Hetero Hero Who Is Made Of Stud-Muffinly Hetero Manliness. And of course a Lusty Adventurer. And he put Edward III on the throne, which led to: edward III rise of consideration

John Fitzalan and Isabelle de Mortimer relationship with shakespeare Now there’s an interesting-sounding ménage à trois.

gaveston tells edward about isabella and mortimer quote "Oi, Ned, your wife's having it off with that Mortimer bloke! Oh, no, wait, I’ve been dead for a decade and a half by the time that starts."

In the 'Huh?' category:

clothes that highlight our ancestors

Instead of children Castilian

addressing letters to "II"

edward II childhood photo Yes, that’s 'photo'.

In the 'Answers on a postcard, please' category:

what was the relationship with edward the 5 and elizabeth the 1st

what is caernarfon castle heights?

edwards vi hobbies

In the 'I really don't want to know' and 'Huh?' categories:

Isabella of Hainault incest

amatory woman argasm sex

robin hod sex

entrails removed from body during fire death on scaffold

parfit lsons sex

young sex Ferancy

07 October, 2010

The De Monthermer Brothers

A post about Edward II's nephews Thomas and Edward de Monthermer.

Thomas and Edward were the youngest children of Edward II's sister Joan of Acre (1272-1307), by her second husband Ralph, or 'Rauf' as it was usually spelt at the time, de Monthermer (1262?-1325). Joan was widowed from her first husband Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester - father of her four eldest children Gilbert, Eleanor, Margaret and Elizabeth - in December 1295, when she was twenty-three. Her father Edward I planned to marry Joan to his kinsman and ally Amadeus V, count of Savoy, a widower born in about 1249, but Joan had other ideas and secretly married Ralph, formerly a squire in Gilbert the Red's household, probably in early 1297. (Count Amadeus married Marie of Brabant instead; her brother Duke Jan II had married Joan's sister Margaret in 1290.) A furious Edward I imprisoned Ralph in Bristol Castle, but, unable to have the marriage annulled, eventually had to bow to fate and accept his son-in-law. Ralph had been freed, and was openly acknowledged as Joan's husband, by August 1297, a couple of months before their first child was born; in mid-September, Edward I ordered the constable of Windsor Castle to hand "the houses of the outer bailey" over to the couple, "as the king has lent the houses to them for the residence of themselves and their households." [1] For more info about Ralph and his marriage to Joan, see Susan Higginbotham's post.

Ralph's parentage is obscure, and the London annalist says that he was illegitimate. [2] The St Albans chronicler describes him as "elegant in appearance but poor in substance," while the poet of the Roll of Arms of Caerlaverock in 1300 says of him, rather damning him with faint praise, "...he made no bad appearance when he was attired in his own arms..." [3] Ralph appears to have been on excellent terms with his brother-in-law Edward of Caernarfon before Edward's accession: Edward wrote to Ralph eleven times in 1304 (and only four times to his sister Joan), referring to him as his "very dear brother" and to Edward I as "our dear lord the king, our father and yours" (nostre cher seignur le Roy nostre pere e la vostre). Edward asked Ralph in August 1304 to come and visit him as soon as possible, and assured his brother-in-law, with reference to a dispute Ralph was then embroiled in with a merchant named Richard Roucyn, that he would not believe anyone who spoke ill of Ralph to him. [4]

Joan of Acre and Ralph de Monthermer had two daughters: Mary, countess of Fife (1297-after March 1371), and Joan (1299-?), a nun at Amesbury (where she joined her aunt Mary, sister of Edward II and Joan of Acre). Their son Thomas de Monthermer was born on 4 October 1301, and their youngest child, Edward, around 11 April 1304. [5] Joan of Acre died on 23 April 1307 in her mid-thirties, two and a half months before the death of her father Edward I. On 6 May, the king asked all the bishops of England and the abbots of Westminster, Waltham, St Albans, Evesham and St Augustine's, Canterbury to "cause the soul of Joan, late countess of Gloucester and Hertford, the king's daughter, who has just died, to be commended to God by all the men of religion and other ecclesiastics...by the singing of masses and other pious works." [6] Ralph de Monthermer remained a widower for eleven years, and finally remarried in or shortly before November 1318, his bride being the twice-widowed Isabel Hastings, one of the sisters of Hugh Despenser the Younger and many years Ralph's junior. They married without Edward II's permission, for which offence the king temporarily seized their lands and goods and imposed a fine of 1000 marks, which, however, he pardoned in 1321. [7] Ralph died in early April 1325.

Thomas and Edward de Monthermer are - most unfortunately, given that I've chosen to write a blog post about them - pretty obscure throughout Edward II's reign. Much of this, of course, can be put down to their youth; they were only five and three when their uncle became king in July 1307. Even in adulthood, however, Thomas and Edward leave little trace on Edward's reign, which is perhaps rather odd, as they were nephews of the king and brothers-in-law of his powerful favourite Hugh Despenser the Younger (husband of their eldest half-sister Eleanor de Clare and, confusingly, brother of their stepmother). I haven't found any references to them in Edward's chamber accounts, although their stepmother Isabel Hastings pops up there and in the chancery rolls sometimes (on one occasion on the Close Roll, the clerk called her 'widow of Robert de Monthermer'; you'd think he might have got the name of the king's brother-in-law correct), and their sister Mary, countess of Fife also appears in the chancery rolls on occasion. On 16 September 1309, when they were still children, Edward II granted Thomas and Edward, and their father Ralph, lands in Devon, Hampshire and Wiltshire. [8] In July 1325, Thomas granted Edward an annual income of twenty pounds from his Devon manor of Stokenham ('Stoke-in-Hamme'). [9] Other than that, I'm struggling for much to say about them. Thomas was twenty during Edward II's campaign against the Contrariants in 1321/22, though whether he took part or not, I'm honestly not sure.

After their uncle's forced abdication in January 1327, Thomas and Edward became rather more politically active. They were apparently knighted in 1327, which would seem to indicate that they were in favour with the regime of Roger Mortimer and Isabella of France, although this was not to last long. In late 1328 and early 1329, Thomas de Monthermer was active in the unsuccessful rebellion of Henry, earl of Lancaster against Mortimer and Isabella, who was Lancaster's niece and Thomas's aunt by marriage. [10] Edward II's half-brothers the earls of Norfolk and Kent also joined Lancaster, though cannily deserted him at just the right time and thus avoided the financial penalties the ruling pair heaped on the rebels, some of whom fled the country. Thomas de Monthermer was forced to recognise a liability to pay his sixteen-year-old first cousin Edward III 1000 marks (666 pounds), a whopping sum, if nowhere near as whopping as the recognisance of 30,000 pounds the unfortunate Henry of Lancaster was forced to agree to. Thomas, not unreasonably, kept his head down for the remainder of Isabella and Mortimer's rule.

In 1329/30, it was the turn of his brother to become involved in high-risk power politics. Edward de Monthermer joined the conspiracy of their uncle Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent - who, born on 5 August 1301 as the youngest son of Edward I, was just two months older than Thomas de Monthermer - to free the supposedly dead Edward of Caernarfon from Corfe Castle. According to the chronicler Adam Murimuth, who is usually pretty reliable even if he spells Edward de Monthermer's last name as 'Monchiver', Edward acted, with Kent's aide George Percy, as one of the earl's advisers during the plot. [11] The unfortunate Kent was executed, or rather judicially murdered, at Winchester on 19 March 1330. Five days later, the sheriff of Hampshire was ordered to allow Edward de Monthermer, imprisoned in Winchester Castle (no doubt reasonably comfortably) twelve pence a day for his sustenance. [12] The fact that Edward was imprisoned at Winchester, where Kent's so-called trial and execution took place, implies that he had accompanied his uncle to the parliament being held there. Few of Kent's numerous other adherents did the same - Sir Fulk Fitzwarin, for instance, fled the country. (This Fulk was, I think, the great-grandson of the famous Fulk Fitzwarin, outlaw in King John's reign.) After the downfall of Isabella and Mortimer in October 1330, Thomas and Edward were restored to their cousin Edward III's favour: the king gave Edward's lands and goods back to him on 3 December 1330, four days after Mortimer's execution, and pardoned Thomas's 1000-mark fine on 20 January 1331. [13]

Edward de Monthermer died in late 1339 or early 1340; I haven't found a reliable source for the date of his death, although Jennifer C. Ward says he was mortally wounded at the battle of Vironfosse in October 1339 and died in early December, and Edward III ordered "the lands late of Edward de Monte Hermerii, deceased, tenant in chief" to be taken into his hands on 3 February 1340. [14] Edward died in debt: John de Holdich, one of his executors, begged Edward III for money the king owed to Edward, as Edward "owed many men money and this remains unpaid, and Holdich has suffered great problems in the burial of Mounthermer, and he has not been able to perform the will without payment or assignment." [15] Either because of the executors' financial problems or out of familial affection, or both, Edward's half-sister Elizabeth de Clare arranged and paid for his funeral, burying him next to their mother Joan of Acre at the Austin friary in Clare, Suffolk. There is evidence of a close relationship between Elizabeth and Edward; she bought him a palfrey in 1338, for example, and he appears to have been living in her household at the time of his death. [16]

Edward de Monthermer was in his mid-thirties when he died, unmarried and childless. His elder brother didn't outlive him for very long: Thomas was killed at Edward III's great naval victory over Philip VI of France at Sluys on 24 June 1340. He had married, in 1327 or thereabouts, a woman named Margaret, who is thought to have been the widow of Sir Henry Tyes, a Contrariant executed by Edward II in March 1322. (Douglas Richardson thinks Margaret was the daughter of one Piers de Braose.) Although Edward II is often criticised, not least by me, for his vindictive and unpleasant treatment of the wives and children of the Contrariants, he gave Margaret and her late husband's sister Alice, whose husband Warin Lisle was also executed, a generous allowance of 200 pounds a year on 6 April 1322, two weeks after their husbands' executions, and they weren't imprisoned. [17]

Thomas de Monthermer and Margaret Tyes had one child, Margaret de Monthermer, born on 14 October 1329 and one of only two grandchildren of Ralph de Monthermer and Joan of Acre (the other being Isabella MacDuff, countess of Fife), and the heir of her father and grandfather. She married John Montacute or Montague, second son of Edward III's close friend William, earl of Salisbury (died 1344) and Katherine Grandisson. Margaret de Monthermer and John Montacute had one son, also John, born around 1350, who succeeded his uncle William as earl of Salisbury in 1397 and was beheaded in January 1400 following the failure of the Epiphany plot to restore the deposed Richard II to the throne. Through the Montacute line, Thomas de Monthermer was the great-great-great-grandfather of Richard Nevill, earl of Warwick (1428-1471, the Kingmaker), and was also the ancestor of Queens Anne Boleyn and Katherine Parr.


1) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1292-1301, p. 306; Calendar of Close Rolls 1296-1302, p. 63.
2) Annales Londonienses, in W. Stubbs, ed., Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II, vol. 1, p. 133.
3) H. T. Riley, ed., Johannis de Trokelowe et Henrici de Blaneforde Chronica et Annales, pp. 26-27; Thomas Wright, ed., The roll of arms, of the prince, barons and knights who attended King Edward I to the siege of Caerlaverock, in 1300, p. 21.
4) J.S. Hamilton, 'The Character of Edward II: The Letters of Edward of Caernarfon Reconsidered', in Gwilym Dodd and Anthony Musson, eds., The Reign of Edward II: New Perspectives, pp. 14-16; Hilda Johnstone, ed., Letters of Edward, Prince of Wales 1304-5, pp. 6, 15, 34, 60, 62, etc.
5) Frances A. Underhill, For Her Good Estate: The Life of Elizabeth de Burgh, p. 156, note 13.
6) Close Rolls 1302-1307, p. 533.
7) Patent Rolls 1317-1321, pp. 387, 582; Calendar of Fine Rolls 1307-1319, p. 380.
8) Calendar of Charter Rolls 1300-1326, pp. 131-132.
9) Close Rolls 1323-1327, p. 492.
10) Close Rolls 1327-1330, p. 530; Patent Rolls 1327-1330, p. 547.
11) E.M. Thompson, ed., Adae Murimuth Continuatio Chronicarum, p. 256.
12) Close Rolls 1330-1333, p. 14.
13) Close Rolls 1330-1333, p. 74; Patent Rolls 1330-1334, p. 33.
14) Jennifer Ward, Women of the English Nobility and Gentry 1066-1500, p. 81; Fine Rolls 1337-1347, p. 158.
15) The National Archives SC 8/177/8809.
16) Ward, Women of the English Nobility, p. 81; Underhill, For Her Good Estate, p. 88.
17) Close Rolls 1318-1323, p. 666.

01 October, 2010

Really Bad Poetry

I was inspired by Susan Higginbotham and other talented people on the History Police page to write some really, really awful Edward II poetry... The Sad Story of Ned and Perrot There once was a king who adored his Piers, Which forbidden love brought his realm to tears. The devoted king, Edward by name, Criticised by all, yet who felt no shame, Bestowed many gifts on his handsome knight And for his sake turned all the land to blight. "Piers, my love, how I do adore thee! I order you that you must never forsake me. My goods are thine, my kingdom is thine, Ignore the nay-sayers and we’ll do just fine. Stay away from Lords Lancaster and Warwick, Especially the latter, who is really quite horrid." Piers failed to heed this most sage warning, And at Deddington Priory one cruel morning Fell into the hands of the Black Dog of Arden, Who had no intention of offering him a pardon. After a spell in the dungeons, Piers lost his head; The love of a king couldn’t prevent him being dead. "Oh, Piers," sobbed Edward, "I shall never forget you," And threw himself into the arms of his new lover, Hugh.
*** The Beauteous Bride King Philip exclaimed "You shall marry my Isabella, She’s a high-born lady and as such, deserves a fella Of royal birth and blood, and one who can see And appreciate the awesome beauty she got from me." Edward was looking forward to meeting his bride, But when he first saw her he wanted to run and hide; The desirable young woman to expect he had been led Had buck teeth and bad skin, and was very overfed. "What’s this!" he yelled. "The 'loveliest woman in France' Is an unattractive gargoyle I wouldn't take to a barn dance!" "Fooled you," chuckled Philip, "and don’t bother to cry Over the chroniclers' false descriptions; I pay them to lie."
*** Death of a King Near Carlisle in July, Longshanks was dying at last Which to his subjects, especially in Wales, couldn't come fast Enough. The king raised himself painfully and to his advisers said "Tell my son these things from me, as soon as I shall be dead. He must not recall Gaveston, that cheeky Gascon swine, Their lovey-dovey behaviour is well out of line. He shall not bury me, but my bones shall boil And take them at the head of his army to aid their toil. Scotland he must conquer, and that traitor Robert Bruce Must find himself hanging at the end of a noose." With that, the old king sighed and gave up the ghost. No longer would he of his uncommon height boast. His son the new King Edward was decidedly glad That he no longer had to listen to the orders of his dad. He recalled his Piers, of whom we have already spoken, And his father's command re: Scotland was also broken.
Because, truth be told, Edward couldn't care less
About anything but Piers; and thus his reign was a mess.