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.


Susan Higginbotham said...

Two of my favorite people, for turning against Mortimer and Isabella! Nice post!

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Susan! I agree; anyone who rebelled against that precious pair is fine by me. :-)

Gabriele Campbell said...

Lol, marrying without royal permission seems to have been quite a habit with some people. ;)

Though I think it took guts to stand up to Ed Longshanks in that respect. Joan must have been quite a handful. Or very much in love. Or both.

Kathryn Warner said...

Gabriele: yes, it amazes me how many people did! I really like Joan - she strikes me as a strong and independent character, and I wish she'd still been alive during her brother's reign. Defying Longshanks, as you say, took a lot of courage.

Anerje said...

I'm amazed at Joan's actions as well - defying her father. It is odd that Edward's nephews were very quiet during his reign, but they must have held affection for him by joining in rebellions. Maybe they were content with their lives and didn't seek titles, land etc from Uncle Edward?