16 December, 2011

Merry Christmas, For The Seventh Time On The Edward II Blog

Apologies for not updating the blog more regularly! What with visits, work, illness and preparing for Christmas, I just haven't had time, unfortunately. This will also be the last post for a while, as I'm off home tomorrow to the Lake District for my Christmas holidays. Amazingly, this is the seventh Christmas since I started writing the blog in early December 2005.

Six years later, there are still a few misunderstandings about Edward II online - though, I hope, rather fewer than there used to be before I got started! Here are some recent ones I've found on forums, blogs and websites:

"In 1327, Welsh conspirators needed to murder King Edward II without clear evidence of their involvement. One of them sent this note to the perpetrators: “Kill Edward not to fear is good”. Purposely ambiguous, punctuation was left out in case the plot backfired. So poor little Edward did die at the mercy of a scalding iron shimmied up his anus where, quite frankly, the one thing that could’ve saved his colon was a colon."

This story about deliberately ambiguous punctuation, which appears in Christopher Marlowe's c. 1592 play about Edward, is an old, thoroughly discredited myth. And I can't help but laugh at the notion that it was 'Welsh conspirators' who murdered him. It was Welsh conspirators who were trying to save him.

"Wasn't Edward II the one who died so ignominiously at Pontrefact Castle?   I'm really having to scrape the sides of the memory bowl for this! But I believe some of his ministers grabbed him and stuck a hot fire poker up his ass cuz his latest lover had too much power."

It's amazing how many people confuse Edward with his great-grandson Richard II in many ways.

"We have a family tradition that Edward II asked my ancestor Thomas the Swine Worrier for a maid to tend his needs ( so it is said). As that "maid " was my N th degree great grandmama--it gives credence to our family motto " Regis Futare" or, loosely translated "Bad Luck". In which case, your loyal fealty is most welcome."

Although obviously someone was the mother of Edward II's illegitimate son Adam, it's hard to imagine that story being true or Edward being the kind of man who would demand a woman like that. :)

"I am aware there are parentage questions of at least two kings: Edward III: was his father Edward II or William Wallace? (source: movie Braveheart)"

"[Roger] Mortimer and Queen Isabella are the biological parents of Edward III because Edward II wasn't up to the job (he preferred Piers Gaveston). This is conjecture (but not without some evidence) but what is true is that Mortimer was the ancestor of Edward IV, Edward V, Richard III, and all monarchs from Henry VIII onwards.  Somebody should make a movie about Mortimer and Isabella although it might upset the current Royal family to have it made public that they are all descended from the bastard Edward III. Big skeleton in a very big cupboard."

Yes, that's the Roger Mortimer who was in a different country to Isabella at the time that Edward III, and her and Edward II's younger children, were conceived. (So I would love to see the 'evidence' mentioned.)  To add insult to injury, the person who wrote this idiocy linked to a blog post of mine as 'proof' that Edward II was murdered by red-hot poker.  Huh!

"Edward II was purportedly homosexual, and he spent most of his time with Piers Gaveston and then the Despensers, so Queen Isabella grew resentful. She did bear her husband a son, the future Edward III, but one has to wonder if Edward II's nobles and subjects believed that the child was his."

Why would they not?

"The French princess was about 12 years old when she was brought over to marry the Prince Of Wales (Edward II). She and Wallace never met. She was it appears indeed impregnated by someone other than Eddie II, but it was not Wm. Wallace."

This is still a common misconception, despite my best efforts. Still, a Google.com search for "Edward II children" brings up three of my blog posts in the top five results, so the message will spread, I hope!

Some links to previous Christmas posts of mine, with info about the festive season in Edward II's time, are here, here and here. Looking further afield, Ian Mortimer's essay about Edward's daughter-in-law Philippa of Hainault is well worth a read, as is his What's New page, with lots of great links to interesting articles and talks of his.  And finally, a reminder that if you haven't read my article in the English Historical Review yet, please do so soon. :-) Have a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and see you in 2012 for lots more Edward II information and myth-busting!

03 December, 2011

Poems Of Edward II's Era

Edited to add: I've just remembered that this is the sixth anniversary of my blog!  Yippee!  Six years of Edward II - and here's to many more.  :-)

A post about some of the poems written in or around the time of Edward II's reign.

The Sayings of the Four Philosophers

Written partly in English and partly in French - to me, a fascinating sight - this poem seems originally to have been written as a complaint about Edward I breaking the terms of the Provisions of Oxford of 1258, and to have been re-written as a condemnation of Edward II breaking the Ordinances of 1311 and his dependence on Piers Gaveston.  It begins:

L’en peut fere et defere,
Ceo fait-il trop sovent;
It nis nouther wel ne faire
Therfor Engelond is shent.

Nostre prince de Engletere,
Par le consail de sa gent,
At Westminster after the feire
Made a gret parlement.
La chartre fet de cyre,
Jeo l’enteink et bien le crey,
It was holde to neih the fire,
And is molten al awey.
Ore ne say mes que dire,
Tout i va a Tripolay,
Hundred, chapitle, court, and shire,
Al hit goth a devel way.
Des plusages de le tere
Ore escoutez un sarmoun,
Of iiij wise-men that ther were,
Whi Engelond is brouht adoun.


A person can make and unmake,
This he does too often;
It is neither well nor fair,
Therefore England is ruined.

Our prince of England,
On the advice of his people,
At Westminster after the fair
Made a great parliament.
The charter made of wax,
So I have heard, and well believe it,
Was held too near the fire,
And is melted all away.
Now I don't know what more to say,
Everything goes to Tripoli,
Hundred, chapter, court and shire,
It all goes the devil's way.
The wisest men of the land
Are now listening to a sermon
Of four wise men that there were
Why England is brought down.

The four wise men go on to explain why England is lawless, without strength, mercy, love, kindness, alms and much else, and full of wrong, sin and revenge.  The solution is for us all to love God, and to remember that he loves us, to live 'in love and good manner', and to see him that bought us dearly, in joy everlasting (Sen him that bouhte us dere, In joye withoute ende).

Adam Davy's Dreams of Edward II

Five prophetic poems in English dated most probably to 1307/08, the years of Edward II’s accession to the throne (7 July 1307) and his coronation (25 February 1308) and written by one Adam Davy, who identifies himself as the marshal of Stratford-at-Bow in London.  (A name I can never see without thinking of Geoffrey Chaucer’s commentary on the Prioress in the Canterbury Tales: "And Frensch she spak ful faire and fetysly, After the scole of Stratford atte Bowe, For Frensch of Parys was to hire unknowe").  Davy's five dreams about Edward II, the new king and prince of Wales, as Davy calls him ("His name is ihote sir Edward the kyng, Prince of Wales, Engelonde the faire thing") liken Edward to Christ, under the special protection of God and invulnerable to attackers (if only!), the head of his realm and sacrosanct thanks to his birth and status, a mediator between God and his people, and a pilgrim to Rome, where he is crowned emperor of Christendom.  The dream poems are so flattering to Edward II it seems highly likely that they date to the start of his reign, before it all started going so wrong.

Elegy on the Death of Edward I

A song written shortly after and lamenting - you'll never guess - the death of Edward I in July 1307, apparently written originally in French, with an English version preserved in another manuscript.  Here's part of the English song, relating to Edward II:

Nou is Edward of Carnarvan
King of Engelond al aplyht,
God lete him ner be worse man
Then is fader, ne lasse of myht
To holden his pore-men to to ryht,
Ant understonde good consail,
Al Engelonde for to wisse ant diht;
Of gode knyhtes darh him nout fail.

Now is Edward of Caernarfon entirely king of England,
God never let him be a worse man
Than his father, nor less of might,
To hold his commons to right,
And understand good counsel,
All England to direct and manage,
Of good knights there need not fail him.

And in the French version:

Le jeofne Edward d'Engletere
Rey est enointe e couroné
Dieu le doint teil conseil trere, 
Ki le pais seit governé;
E la coroune si garder
Qe la tere seit entere,
E lui crestre en bounté
Car prodhome i fust son pere.

The young Edward of England
Is anointed and crowned king
May God grant that he follow such counsel
That the country may be governed
And so to keep the crown
That the land may be entire,
And himself to increase in goodness
Because his father was a worthy man.

On The Evil Times of Edward II

Also known as the Simonie or Symonie and Couetise, written in English sometime in the 1320s, this work of almost 500 lines is a poem of social protest, with many references to the Great Famine and the corruption and vices of the nobility and clergy.  The poem begins:

Whii werre and wrake in londe and manslauht is i-come, 
Whii hungger and derthe on eorthe the pore hath undernome...
(Why war and vengeance and manslaughter have come to the land,
Why famine and dearth on earth have seized the poor...)

These themes also appear in a much better-known social protest poem of the later fourteenth century,
Piers Plowman, whose author William Langland was the grandson of Peter de la Rokele, one of the men who joined the Dunheved brothers in their attempt to free the former Edward II from captivity at Berkeley Castle.

Finally, the poem known as the Lament of Edward II, once thought to have been written by Edward himself, deserves a blog post entirely to itself sometime.  :-)

29 November, 2011


27 November 1358: Isabella of France, dowager queen of England, was buried at the Greyfriars Church in London, with all due ceremony and in the presence of her son Edward III and daughter-in-law Queen Philippa (and I presume of her other surviving child Joan, queen of Scotland).  With Isabella was buried the cloak she had worn at her wedding to Edward II half a century previously, and a silver casket with her husband's heart inside.  (NOTA BENE: being buried with your spouse or child's heart was perfectly normal in royal burials of the era; Isabella was not buried next to Roger Mortimer or even in the same city; she was buried with Edward II's heart, not Mortimer's, a point I make especially because this is often erroneously stated online.)

28 November 1290: Edward II's mother Eleanor of Castile, queen of England, lady of Ireland, duchess of Aquitaine and countess of Ponthieu in her own right, died at the house of one Richard de Weston in Harby, Nottinghamshire.  She was probably forty-nine.  Her tomb and effigy in Westminster Abbey still survive, as do three of the Eleanor Crosses her widower erected in her memory.  Only six of the fourteen or sixteen children she bore outlived her, one of them - Joan of Acre - then pregnant with the king and queen's eldest grandchild, Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester.

Edward of Caernarfon, then aged six and Eleanor's youngest child and sole surviving son, can barely have known his mother: she and Edward I left England for Gascony in May 1286, shortly after his second birthday, and only returned in August 1289.  On the twenty-fifth anniversary of Queen Eleanor's death, 28 November 1315, her son paid thirty-five shillings to seventy Dominicans (the favourite order of both Edward and Eleanor) for "performing divine service at the anniversary of the lady the queen, mother of the present lord the king."

29 November 1314: Philip IV, king of France, Edward II's father-in-law and second cousin (their paternal grandmothers Marguerite and Eleanor of Provence were sisters) was killed in a hunting accident near Fontainebleau, aged forty-six.  Philip survived his accident long enough to make a codicil to his will the day before he died, in which he left two rings to his daughter Ysabella Regina Anglie, one of them set with a large ruby, which she had once given him.

29 November 1330: Roger Mortimer, earl of March and lord of Wigmore, was hanged naked at Tyburn - an execution site for common criminals but not, previously, a nobleman.  He had been dragged to Tyburn wearing the black tunic he had worn at Edward II's funeral in December 1330.

22 November, 2011

Brief Biographies: Simon of Reading

Today, a post about Simon of Reading, or Symond or Syme de Reding or Redyngg or Redynges as the name was spelt at the time, who was executed with Hugh Despenser the Younger in Hereford on 24 November 1326.  When the two men were brought into Hereford before Hugh's trial, Simon was forced to parade in front of Hugh bearing the Despenser arms reversed, and some time later was hanged next to him but on a much lower gallows (Hugh's was a massive fifty feet high).  Unlike Hugh, it appears that Simon was hanged until dead, rather than cut down and disembowelled and all the rest of the horrors inflicted on the royal favourite.  I wonder whether many, or indeed any, people watching the execution had any idea of Simon's identity.

Before I look at who Simon was, let's look at who he wasn't.  Natalie Fryde says in her 1979 work The Tyranny and Fall of Edward II 1321-1326 that he was "one of Despenser's closest friends" - well, possibly, but she doesn't cite a source for this and I've never seen one that confirms her statement - and also calls him "the loyal knight of Despenser."  Simon wasn't a knight.  Neither was he the marshall of Edward II's household, the younger Despenser's standard-bearer or marshall, or pretty well anything else claimed about him in modern times.  He was in fact a sergeant-at-arms of Edward II's household (see below for the evidence for this).

What I find most puzzling about Simon is why Isabella and Roger Mortimer wanted to execute someone so obscure; as far as I can tell he was just one of Edward's sergeants-at-arms, among many others, so why did they deem it necessary to execute him so publicly with Hugh Despenser?  Simon was not even given a trial, though according to the Brut chronicle he was drawn and hanged "for encheson [reason] that he despisede the Quene Isabel," and the Anonimalle, a French version of the chronicle, talks of "une Symond de Redyngges, qavoit despise la roigne..." (a Simon of Reading, who had despised the queen...).  'Despise' in this context means insult, humiliate, scorn, disregard.  A 1327 entry on the Fine Roll relating to Simon says that he was "hanged for a felony."  Hmmmmm.  Was insulting the queen a felony, and when did it become a capital offence and such a serious one that no trial to prove the truth of the allegation was required?  Natalie Fryde in Tyranny and Fall says that Simon was "included in the punishment meted out to his master [i.e. Despenser] because he had in some way insulted Isabella," as though these were reasonable grounds to execute someone without trial, and assuming that what the Brut says is certainly true (she doesn't say he was 'alleged to have insulted Isabella' or similar).

Unfortunately I don't know who Simon's parents were, or if he was married, or almost anything else about him.  The Fine Roll entry of February 1327 which refers to his hanging is an "order to the bailiffs of the manor of Bray to take into the king's hand the lands, goods and chattels, which Simon de Redyng, who was hanged for a felony, held in chief of Edward II in their bailiwick."  [1]  The Berkshire village of Bray is fifteen miles from Reading, itself about forty miles west of London.  Judging by his name and this entry, Simon must have grown up and lived in or close to Reading.  The earliest mention I can find of him is in November 1318, when a commission of oyer et terminer was ordered "on complaint by Simon de Redynge touching the persons who assaulted him at Gedenoye [Gedney], co. Lincoln."  [2]  On 20 September 1324, Simon was one of six men granted a 'general pardon' by Edward II, and on 16 April the year before had been granted the Worcestershire manors of Kyre Wyard and Woodhall forfeited by John Wyard, an adherent of Roger Mortimer, in which manors and two others in Worcestershire, 'Salynes' and 'Smytheslond', Simon was granted rights of free warren.  [3]  His being granted the manors of one of Roger Mortimer's followers was presumably a reason why Mortimer hated him.  Simon must have become pretty well-off: in July 1325, William Nicol of Selsey acknowledged that he owed twenty pounds to him, a large amount of money for a man of his rank and position (Edward II's sergeants-at-arms earned twelve pence a day).  [4]

Simon appears three times in Edward II's chamber account of 1325/26 that I've found.  In August 1325, Edward sent him to pay money to someone (not sure who; that entry is hard to read).  In May 1326, there are two references to 'Syme de Redyng', whose horse needed shoeing while the king and his household were travelling along the Thames, near Henley.  As far as I can make out, Simon lost his mace (I assume that's what 'mase' is) in the river shortly afterwards, and it was later returned to him by John Feryman of Sonning, who received three shillings from Edward II for his efforts.

Simon is next mentioned on 28 September 1326, the day after Edward II, in the Tower of London, learned that his queen and Mortimer's invasion force had landed in East Anglia on the 24th.  An entry on the Patent Roll says "The like* of Simon de Redyng, king's serjeant, to select 100 footmen out of the men arrayed in the counties of Oxford and Berks and lead them to the king to repel the invaders."  [5]  (* The previous entry says: "Appointment of Daniel de Burgham in the county of Kent to select and lead all the horse and foot who will go with him against Roger de Mortuo Mari" (Mortimer).)  Two c. 1327 petitions by a William de Whithurst say that Edward II gave Whithurst a hundred pounds at Gloucester to pay the wages of the men-at-arms coming to his aid, and that Whithurst gave some of this to Simon at Edward's command and that the rest was taken by Isabella when she arrived in Gloucester shortly afterwards.  [6]  Simon is named in the Annales Paulini and Adam Murimuth's chronicle as one of the men still with Edward II and Hugh Despenser the Younger when they were captured in South Wales on 16 November.  He was to pay the ultimate price for this loyalty eight days later.  The manors granted to him in Worcestershire, as well as "two messuages and land in Boclington, co. Worcester, and the messuage in Wyndesore, co. Berks, which belonged to Simon de Redyng", were granted back to John Wyard in 1327 and 1328.  [7]

Martyn Lawrence in his D. Phil. thesis on the Despensers points out that there are no specific references to Simon of Reading as a Despenser adherent.  Nigel Saul says "The chroniclers are surely doing no more than reflecting popular opinion when they associate his name with that of the younger Despenser...Yet the actual position he held was that of a serviens ad arma [sergeant-at-arms] in the royal household.  Whatever his nominal position, his familiarity with the Despensers meant that he was denied any chance of making his peace with the regime that succeeded theirs."  Earlier in his article, Saul says "We know also that they [the Despensers] had some very unpopular officials like Simon de Reading, who was to share a traitor's death with his lord...".  [8]  There is no evidence I know of to suggest that Simon was a Despenser official, or particularly close to them, or involved in any way in their tyranny, land-grabbing and other crimes.  It is Simon's execution alongside Hugh Despenser that leads writers to draw the obvious conclusion that he must have been a henchman of theirs and grossly unpopular throughout England for aiding and abetting their schemes, even though no known contemporary source suggests this.  The Brut, Annales Paulini and the chronicle of Adam Murimuth do not say that Simon was executed for complicity in any of the Despensers' crimes; indeed, the Brut claims that he died because he insulted the queen.  You'd think that if a man was so notorious and guilty of such horrendous crimes that it was necessary to execute him publicly alongside Hugh Despenser without a trial, there would be more mentions of him somewhere and more obvious associations with the Despensers.  Even if Simon were famous in his time as a Despenser adherent and yet no evidence of this has survived, it's peculiar that other far more influential and better-known supporters of theirs, such as Sir Ingelram Berenger (a former sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire), and Sir John Haudlo, were pardoned for their adherence within weeks of the new regime taking control.  Perhaps Simon just had the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, as John Daniel and Robert de Micheldever appear to have been a week earlier when they were executed with the earl of Arundel, to have irritated Roger Mortimer by being given two manors which formerly belonged to his adherent John Wyard, and to have irritated Isabella by saying something about her which perhaps hit a little too close to home.  Whatever Simon's misdeeds, public humiliation and execution without trial hardly seem a fair and just punishment, and don't lend much credence to the notion that the revolution of 1326/27 was intended to improve, and in fact did improve, the situation in England; Isabella and Mortimer's decision to execute Simon appears just as petty, capricious and vindictive as the decisions of Edward II himself often were.


1) Calendar of Fine Rolls 1327-1337, pp. 19, 21.
2)  Calendar of Patent Rolls 1317-1321, p 289.
3) Cal Pat Rolls 1321-1324, p. 275; Cal Pat Rolls 1324-1327, p. 23; Calendar of Charter Rolls 1300-1326, p. 462.
4) Calendar of Close Rolls 1323-1327, p. 494.
5) Cal Pat Rolls 1324-1327, p. 325.
6) The National Archives SC 8/239/11922, SC 8/169/8413.
7) Cal Pat Rolls 1327-1330, pp. 338, 343, 419.
8) Martyn Lawrence, 'Power, Ambition and Political Rehabilitation: the Despensers, c.1281-1400' (Univ. of York D. Phil. thesis, 2005), p. 102 note 49; Nigel Saul, 'The Despensers and the Downfall of Edward II', English Historical Review, 99 (1984), pp. 4, 11-12.

17 November, 2011

17 November 1326: The Execution Of The Earl Of Arundel

Today marks the 685th anniversary of the execution of Edmund Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, who was beheaded in Hereford with two other men, John Daniel and Robert de Micheldever, on the orders of his cousin Roger Mortimer and Isabella of France.  The pair's invasion force had arrived in England on 24 September, Hugh Despenser the Elder was executed in Bristol on 27 October, and although Mortimer, Isabella and their allies didn't yet know it, Hugh Despenser the Younger and Edward II himself had been captured in South Wales the day before Arundel's death.  Arundel and the other two men were captured in Shrewsbury by John Charlton, formerly Edward II's chamberlain who switched sides after his son and heir married one of Roger Mortimer's many daughters, and taken to the queen and her allies in Hereford.

Arundel was forty-one at the time of his death, born on 1 May 1285, and left a son and heir, Richard 'Copped Hat', who was about thirteen in 1326 and was destined to become one of the richest men in England in the entire fourteenth century, as well as several daughters and at least one younger son.  His widow Alice was granted £130 a year in March 1327 for the sustenance of herself and her children, perhaps at the request of her brother John de Warenne, earl of Surrey (Patent Rolls), who survived Edward II's downfall.

There had long been bad blood between the earl of Arundel and Roger Mortimer, who was his first cousin once removed (Arundel's paternal grandmother Isabella Mortimer was the sister of Roger's father Edmund).  Mortimer attacked and captured Arundel's castle at Clun during the Despenser War of 1321, and Arundel sent an indignant letter to to the "good and wise men and his dear and beloved bailiffs and the other burgesses and good men of the town of Shrewsbury" on 4 June 1321, regarding a sum of money which they were keeping for him and which he evidently suspected his cousin of wanting to steal: "...we do not under any circumstances intend that our cousin of Mortimer, who is so close to us in blood [nostre cousin de mortemer qe nous est si pres de saunk], should do us such a great injury, which we have in no way merited."

Arundel and his two companions, John Daniel and Robert (not Thomas) de Micheldever, were not granted a trial but merely "beheaded at Hereford without judgement and without being arraigned," as a later petition of Micheldever's wife to parliament points out.  Arundel's main 'crimes' were being an ally of Edward II, marrying his son Richard to Hugh Despenser the Younger's daughter Isabel - which at least spared her the fate of three of her sisters, dumped into convents at Queen Isabella's behest weeks after their father's death - and being Roger Mortimer's rival for land and influence in the Marches.  Arundel's lands in North Wales and Shropshire were later granted to Mortimer; his castle and honour of Arundel in Sussex were given to Edward II's half-brother the earl of Kent; most of the treasure Arundel had stored in Chichester and London ended up in Queen Isabella's coffers.  The chronicler Adam Murimuth says that Arundel, Daniel and Micheldever were executed because Roger Mortimer hated them with a "perfect hatred" (perfecto odio).  As I wrote in my post about Daniel and Micheldever, I don't know what they had done to deserve Mortimer's loathing or to merit summary execution without trial.

The Lancastrian chronicler Henry Knighton, writing a few decades later, claims that the earl of Arundel did harm to Queen Isabella in some way, but that sounds like a much later justification for what amounted to the murder of a peer of the realm; there is nothing in any contemporary source that I've seen to confirm this.  Several chroniclers say that a similar accusation, that of 'insulting the queen', was thrown at Simon of Reading, who likewise was not given a trial, when he was executed with Hugh Despenser the Younger a week later - when exactly did 'insulting the queen' become a capital offence?  Another of Arundel's supposed crimes was condemning Thomas of Lancaster to death in March 1322, but the earl of Kent, one of Mortimer and Isabella's supporters and with them at Hereford, had also sat at Lancaster's trial and condemned him to death.  Apparently the hypocrisy of that didn't bother anyone.

According to the Chronicle of Lanercost, Arundel was "condemned to death in secret, as it were, and afterwards beheaded" (et quasi in occulto adjudicatus est morti, et postea decollatus), and the Llandaff chronicle, cited in Arundel's ODNB entry, says that the axe was wielded by a "worthless wretch" (villissimi ribaldi) and that it required twenty-two strokes to sever the poor man's head.  The Brut chronicle, who wrongly calls the earl 'Sir John of Arundel', says that he was beheaded for the simple reason that he was one of the Despensers' counsellors.  In the brave new world of 1326/27, during a revolution frequently said to have put an end to Edward II's tyranny, that was apparently all it took.

13 November, 2011

A Letter To Edward II, 1325

Just a quick post today, in which I'd like to say 'Happy 699th Birthday, Sire' to Edward III, born at Windsor Castle on 13 November 1312.  I'm also pleased to report that Edward II now has 700 fans on his Facebook page.  :-)

Here's a great letter sent to Edward II on 6 June 1325, during the War of Saint-Sardos between Edward and his brother-in-law Charles IV of France over Gascony, by a young Gascon nobleman called Bérard d'Albret (died 1346), one of Edward's greatest supporters.  He was the son of Amanieu, lord of Albret (died 1326), a powerful and wealthy nobleman related by blood and marriage to the lords of Bergerac and counts of Armagnac, and was himself lord of Vayres and Vertheuil.  Jonathan Sumption describes Bérard as "perhaps the ablest of his ruthless and warlike clan" and cites a contemporary letter which calls him "more enthusiastic than anyone else in these parts about the service of the king our lord [Edward II]."

Somewhat bizarrely, I found Bérard on a website called Who's Dated Who.  Hmmm; in fact he married, in 1319, a woman with the excellent name of Guiraude de Gironde.  Bérard was in England in 1326, and there are several mentions of him there in the chancery rolls, including one which demonstrates that he had some troubles unloading his possessions on arrival in Southampton: Edward II sent a man there "to bring to the king the horses, harness and goods of the said Berard, lately arrested by the mayor, bailiffs and keepers of the port of that town."  One hopes that this unfortunate introduction to the country didn't put Bérard off England too much.

Here's my translation of Bérard's short letter, which I love both for its attitude towards Edward II and for the lovely Gascon French in which it's written (by a clerk rather than Bérard himself, presumably): le vostre umyl sosgis siniffia a la vostra treshauta senhoria que je ay reseu vo letras...E a Diu que set garda de larma e du cuer de vos...

"To his very dear, dread lord, your humble subject recommends himself to your very high lordship.  Very dear, dread lord, your humble subject signifies to your very high lordship that I have received your letters stipulating that I should come to you, which thing, very dear, dread lord, is the greatest joy that I have ever had in my life, that is, to see you.  And, very dear, dread lord, as promptly as I can I will set off to come to you.  The reason, very dear, dread lord, that I have remained behind the bearer*, if it please you, he will be able to tell you more fully.  And may God, very dear, dread lord, safely keep your soul and your heart.  Given on the island of Glénan on the day of the festival of Corpus Christi."

* i.e. stayed longer in Gascony and not travelled to England with the man carrying his letter to Edward.

I also recently read a letter sent to Hugh Despenser the Younger on 31 March 1325 by Bertrand Assailit, formerly an adherent of Piers Gaveston: a few weeks before his death in June 1312, Piers sent Bertrand and another man named Berduk de Marsan to Cornwall on his behalf to collect £583 from his steward there.  Bertrand and Berduk were captured by William Martin carrying 1000 marks and 129 pieces of tin and imprisoned, to Edward II's fury.  Assailit's French is also deliciously Gascon-flavoured: A la vostra senheuria faz assavoir que le prumier dimenge de Mars mestre Bernart de la Cassenhea fu pris a demia lua Dagens e est en prison dins le chastel de Penne e en bona garda...Cher senheur, umblament vos pri que moi vullez aver recomande a vostra graca...(To your lordship we make known that on the first day of March, Master Bernard de Cassanea was taken [arrested or captured] halfway to Agen and is imprisoned in the castle of Penne and well-guarded...Dear lord, I pray you humbly that you might show me your good will...)


The letters are printed in Pierre Chaplais, ed., The War of Saint-Sardos (1323-1325): Gascon Correspondence and Diplomatic Documents.

- Jonathan Sumption, The Hundred Years War: Trial By Battle
- Malcolm Vale, The Origins of the Hundred Years War 1: The Angevin Legacy 1250-1340 

06 November, 2011

Vagrant Pigs, The Price Of Ale And Re-dyed Caps

Some details from ordinary people's lives in London during Edward II's reign, from the Letter Books of London 1314-1337.

- 13 October 1313: "...came Laurence de Hanyngtone, skinner, and found security for the goods left by the above William de Hanyngtone [who had recently died] to John his son, whose guardian he had been appointed.  And forasmuch as complaint had been made to the Mayor and Aldermen that the said John had not been decently maintained, the said Laurence was ordered to provide him yearly whilst at school with a furred gown, a coat of 'Alemayne' [Germany] with tunic to match, four pairs of linen cloths, sufficient shoes and a decent bed, and every week give him tenpence for his commons."

- 15 August 1314: "Precept to the Sheriffs to deliver to Alice, late wife of John de Harwe, her free-bench* in a tenement which belonged to her late husband, viz., the hall, principal chamber and cellar beneath, and also common easement in the kitchen, stable, common privy, and courtyard."

* The note says "The estate in copyhold lands which the wife had for dower on the death of her husband according to the custom of the manor."

- 27 June 1314, three days after Edward II's privy seal was captured at the battle of Bannockburn and the day he reached safety at Berwick-on-Tweed (he used Isabella's seal instead): "Writ to the Sheriffs notifying the loss of the King's Privy Seal, and ordering that proclamation be made that no attention be paid to any command that may appear under that Seal without further orders from the King, unless the command be to the King's benefit and honour."

- Uncertain date in late 1314: "William de Mortone attached [i.e. arrested] to answer a charge of having forcibly extracted various articles of jewellery, silver plate, linen and woollen cloths, also certain bonds and deeds of acquittance, from two chests lying near the church of St Magnus in the Ward of Bridge."

- Monday before Christmas, 1314: "The same day came good men of the Ward of Bradestrete and prayed that a certain elm tree growing near London Wall by Bisshopesgate, which by reason of its age and dryness was dangerous to the shops of Roger Poyntel, might be cut down and sold, and the proceeds of the sale devoted to the purchase of a cord for le Wardehoke."  (Whatever that is.)

- 21 September 1316: "Proclamation that no brewer nor brewster [female brewer] nor any one else sell a gallon of ale for more than three farthings, and the best at three halfpence.  Any one convicted of doing the contrary shall at first lose his brew, at the second offence abjure the trade, and at the third abjure the City forever."

- 30 May 1315: "Writ to the Mayor and Sheriffs for proclamation to be made that all vintners and taverners selling wine by retail in the City and suburb shall take no more than threepence a gallon, under heavy penalty...Proclamation made accordingly on Sunday before the feast of St Barnabas [11 June]."

- "Henry de St. Antonine, taverner, to answer a charge of having sold a gallon of wine at Christmas, 10 Edward II [1316], for sixpence, contrary to the ordinance which declared that no taverner of the City should sell wine by retail for more than fivepence per gallon.  The said Henry came, confessed his guilt, and put himself on the mercy of the Mayor and the Aldermen.  Judgement given that, inasmuch as the said Henry had sold a gallon of wine out of a cask at a penny more than was lawful, he should sell the remainder of the cask at fourpence a gallon and bring the money into court to be dealt with as the court should decide."

There's a discrepancy of twopence there between the price of a gallon of wine stated in the proclamation and the price stated in the judgement against Henry.

- Letter from Edward II to the mayor and sheriffs, 15 March 1318: "We have understood that certain cappers of the city fraudulently make from day to day, and expose for sale in the City, diverse caps of flocks, and and wool and flocks mixed, and of other wool not suitable for caps, and that they redye old and used caps and sell them as new, and many merchant strangers bring caps deceitfully made elsewhere into the City...".  He ordered the men to search for such caps and burn them.  :-)

- 4 March 1316: "Writ to the Mayor and Sheriffs, enjoining them to see that the pavement of the City is repaired, the streets cleaned and freed of vagrant pigs."

- 23 February 1320: "Writ to the Mayor and Sheriffs for the punishment of bakers, taverners, millers and diverse others guilty of committing assaults with swords, bucklers, and other arms by night."

- 12 March 1320: "Seventeen pieces of hide belonging to John de Portesmuth were seized in the house of Robert de Gloucestre by Richard Lussher and his fellows, sworn to survey hides in the City, who say that the aforesaid hides are not tanned nor fit for making shoes, and that the aforesaid John brought them to the City for the purpose of making shoes...The jurors say that the aforesaid hides are false and badly tanned to the deception of the people."

- Undated, c. Easter 1320: at the end of a long schedule about taxation: "Be it known that in this taxation of goods in the City and suburbs there shall be exempted one gown for the man and one for his wife, and a bed for both; a ring and a bracelet of gold or silver, and a girdle of silk for daily use, and also a hanap of silver from which they drink."

- 17 June 1320: "a certain John le Chaundeller was summoned at the Guildhall to answer for that he, being the tenant of a certain small house outside Alegate, adjoining the churchyard of St Botolph, for which tenancy he ought to clean the gate of Alegate within and without and under the same, had not cleaned the gate."

- July/August/September 1320: at the Hustings for Common Pleas, men named William le Clerk of Higham Ferrers, Nicholas Schyngel and Warin de Waldene were found guilty of selling putrid meat unfit for human consumption and condemned "to stand in the pillory and the meat to be burnt under him."

- 3 June 1321: "Letters patent granting the City a royal pardon for neglecting to keep watch on those taking sanctuary in churches, provided that in future such fugitives be safeguarded in the City according to law and custom, in the same manner as in other parts of the realm.  Witness the king at Westminster."

02 November, 2011

Book Review: The Lion Of Mortimer by Juliet Dymoke

Published in 1979, this short novel about Edward II - it's less than 200 pages long - is out of print, but easily available in online bookshops at a very low price.  It's the third volume in Dymoke's The Plantagenets series, after A Pride of Kings and The Royal Griffin (about Edward II's great-aunt Eleanor, who married Simon de Montfort) and before Lady of the Garter (about his niece Joan of Kent).  I adore this tacky cover of Lion of Mortimer, and this one of Lady of the Garter, which is the copy I have of the book.

The novel's title is confusing and puzzles me somewhat, as it has little to do with the Mortimers, and features instead Edward II's friend Sir William Montacute (died 1319), his son of the same name who is the future earl of Salisbury, and his wife Elizabeth de Montfort as viewpoint characters.  Lion opens in May 1306, just before the mass knighting of nearly 300 men including Edward of Caernarfon and the elder William Montacute, and closes just after Edward III's arrest of Roger Mortimer at Nottingham Castle in October 1330 (as novels about Edward II almost always do).

The Lion of Mortimer is a reasonably good place for a reader keen to learn more about the reign of Edward II to start: it's a fairly basic - hardly surprising, given its lack of length - overview of the era with little in-depth characterisation, and a decent and easy to follow (though dated) narrative of the main events.  My favourite scene of the novel is the first one: William Montacute, decked out in all his court finery, walks down to the river Gade near Langley, and spots "a solitary man rowing a small boat strongly against the current, muscled arms pulling well at the oars, broad shoulders moving smoothly under peasant fustian, the May sunshine glinting on a head of thick curling russet hair."  This turns out to be the prince of Wales himself, Edward of Caernarfon, who is further described in the scene as a "tall, healthy-looking young man" and "passionately addicted to physical exercise"; a lovely introduction to his eccentricity and unusual rustic hobbies, and the enormous strength remarked on by chroniclers. 

Edward and William proceed to a vividly-described feast at his manor of Langley, where many of the important players are introduced to the reader: Roger Mortimer, the young lord of Wigmore, who has "an air of suppressed intensity" and is "not a man to cross"; Hugh Despenser, very young and insignificant as yet, though already heartily disliked by Mortimer; and of course Piers Gaveston, who "came from Gascony and knew how to dress, how to carry himself; he had a natural grace but there was an insolent turn to his head, an arrogance in his smile."  Edward's face glows whenever he looks at Piers.  Over the next few pages we also meet, among others, Piers' nemesis the earl of Warwick - whom he mocked as the Black Hound of Arden - who has "a habitual and uncontrollable dribble of saliva trickling down his chin," Edward's cousin and enemy Thomas of Lancaster, loathed by his wife Alice de Lacy, and Edward's queen Isabella, a beautiful but haughty young woman with a habit of writing to her father every time anything annoys her, which is pretty often.

Unfortunately, the rest of the novel doesn't entirely live up to the promise of its excellent beginning.  It moves at a breakneck speed; the first fifty pages cover the period from May 1306 to Edward's coronation in February 1308, which leaves only 140 pages for Dymoke to write about the period up to October 1330.  Piers Gaveston goes into exile and returns with dizzying rapidity, the queen is pregnant and Edward - yawn - abandons her at Tynemouth to save Piers, Piers dies and Edward grieves for half a page, then suddenly it's Bannockburn, then suddenly it's 1318 and the king and queen have three children.  And so on.  Many of the most interesting and important events are not dramatised: for instance, we see Edward's son the young duke of Aquitaine through the eyes of his friend William Montacute the younger in Hainault in September 1326 just before the invasion of England, and the next scene is Edward II in captivity at Kenilworth Castle months later, grieving for the Despensers, whose executions we never saw.  Some pages later at Berkeley, Edward is foully mistreated and then murdered by red-hot poker, scenes I find very hard to read.  (I console myself with the thought that this mistreatment almost certainly never happened.)

There's little original in Juliet Dymoke's re-telling of Edward II's story, but it does cover the period well, and of course it's not her fault that scholarship has moved on considerably since she wrote it.  The portrayal of Edward as a man totally unsuited to his position, unable to change and unable to see what is wrong with the way he behaves, is well-written and plausible, and fits in with what we know of him.  I found Isabella irritating more than anything else, but then, I'm not generally given to finding Isabella sympathetic or likeable, so the portrayal of her may well affect other readers entirely differently.  There are some lovely vivid scenes in the novel, with Piers Gaveston's jousting tournament at Wallingford in December 1307 and Edward meeting visiting dignitaries while digging a pond at Langley stripped to the waist and muddy being particular favourites of mine.  I also enjoyed seeing the story through the eyes of people who rarely appear in fiction about this era.  In short, The Lion of Mortimer is a quick easy journey through Edward II's turbulent reign and is well worth a read, especially as you can pick it up for a mere penny on Amazon.

26 October, 2011

Edward II In October 1325

A detailed look at Edward II's movements and activities this month 686 years ago, a year before the beginning of the revolution which was to sweep him from his throne.

Edward had said farewell to his elder son Edward of Windsor at Dover on 12 September 1325, when the boy sailed to France to pay homage to his uncle Charles IV for Aquitaine and Ponthieu.  Queen Isabella was also in France, and Edward would never see his wife or son again; fortunately for him, he had no way of knowing that.  From Dover, the king travelled slowly through Surrey to Westminster, staying at Banstead, a manor he had given to Isabella in 1318, and Bletchingley, forfeited in 1321 by his former favourite Hugh Audley, where the living quarters and the chapel were hastily cleaned and refurbished before his arrival.  Edward arrived at Banstead late in the evening of 5 October, and at midnight sent out messengers ordering the array of his army on land and sea to be renewed because of "some news which he had heard" - I don't know what that was - and summoned the treasurer, Archbishop William Melton, and other members of his council to come to him at Banstead on the 7th, "at the king’s rising."  On the same day, Edward wrote a letter to the chancellor Robert Baldock, which said "The king has found many faults in William de Gosefeld, clerk, as the chancellor knows well, for which he cannot be kept in the king's service, and has heard that he has been appointed justice in many places, which seems to be a great scandal."  The king called parliament on 10 October, to meet at Westminster on 18 November (it would mostly be devoted to the queen's refusal to return from France).

On the day he returned to Westminster, 9 October, Edward gave ten shillings to Jack the Trumpeter of Dover, who had bought forty-seven caged goldfinches for Edward to give to his niece Eleanor Despenser, and also paid his clerk Will of Dunstable to look after the birds until Eleanor took possession of them.   Edward stayed at his palace of Sheen from 12 to 18 October, with Eleanor, paying her expenses and ordering forty bundles of firewood for her chamber.  Eleanor's husband Hugh Despenser the Younger, for his part, set off for Wales: he was at Caerphilly on 9 October, and still away from court on 19 November, when Edward wrote to him.  Edward asked the pope on 16 October to grant dispensations for his children Eleanor of Woodstock and Edward of Windsor to marry King Alfonso XI of Castile and his sister Leonor, a dispensation being necessary as the children were second cousins once removed.  He also sent letters to Jaime II of Aragon's son and heir Alfonso and the regents of Castile, who included the bishops of Burgos and Avila and several of the king's royal kinsmen, thanking them for their affection for him and "the gracious and benevolent way" they had handled his affairs.   He left Sheen for Cippenham that day, and his chamber journal records that he bought fish from five fishermen of the Thames along the way; his clerk carefully noted that it was Edward himself, not one of his servants, who purchased the fish.  While at Cippenham, the king gave a pound to a woman who had brought him a gift of ale, bread and more fish, and twenty-five shillings to his porter Will Shene and his new wife Isode as a wedding present.  Edward exerted himself to help Thomas ate Churche, a valet of his kitchen, on 20 October: Thomas claimed to have been wrongfully imprisoned by a group of Londoners and an inquisition was being held regarding the matter, and Edward, having heard that "some people are trying to put on the inquisition suspicious and ignorant people by which damage may happen" to Thomas, ordered the mayor and sheriffs of London to ensure that "loyal and sufficient people who know the business" were put on the inquisition instead.  On the following day, Edward granted permission for the abbot of St Mary's in York to found a chapel in the Yorkshire village of Myton, "in honour of the Transubstantiation and the flesh and blood of Our Lord," to pray for the souls of the men killed at the Chapter of Myton in September 1319.

More evidence that Edward II had himself been planning to travel to France to pay homage to his brother-in-law Charles IV, and thus did not fall into some mythical trap prepared for him by Isabella and Roger Mortimer by sending his son (see here for much more about that), is found in an entry in his chamber journal of 23 October 1325, when the king gave a hundred shillings to "John Haddyng, sailor, captain of the ship called la Jonete of Winchelsea, in which ship the king should have passed overseas from Dover...".  On 31 October, Edward gave forty shillings to Katherine, wife of Hugh Despenser the Younger's chamberlain Clement Holditch, "who came to the king with some important business she had to do with his help," and the following day sent his valet John de Toucestre, who was retiring, to live at Reading Abbey (as was very common with retired servants of the royal household).  That's interesting, as Toucestre must have left the abbey a year later to fight for Edward after Isabella and Mortimer's invasion, and also joined the earl of Kent's conspiracy to free Edward from captivity in 1330.


Society of Antiquities of London MS 122
Calendar of Close Rolls 1323-1327
Calendar of Patent Rolls 1324-1327
Foedera 1307-1327
Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326
Elizabeth Hallam, The Itinerary of Edward II and His Household, 1307-1328 

16 October, 2011

My Edward II Badge

Courtesy of the History Police group on Facebook, one of whose members came up with the idea, a fancy official badge for Edward II's greatest fan, i.e. me.  :-)  Click here to make your own...:)

07 October, 2011

Friday Facts

More interesting stuff about Edward II, his reign and his family.  :-)

- Edward's grandfather King Fernando III of Castile and Leon captured Seville from the Moors in December 1248, and supposedly mocked his Muslim enemies by riding his horse up the Giralda tower, the minuet of Seville's Great Mosque - perhaps one of the factors which prompted a Muslim writer to describe him as "the tyrant, the cursed one."

- After Edward's ally Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln, died in early 1311, his daughter Alice's husband Thomas of Lancaster, Edward's first cousin, inherited Lincoln's lands by right of his wife.  Lancaster had to pay homage to Edward for his new lands, but refused to cross the Tweed into Scotland, where Edward was taking part in one of his unsuccessful campaigns, to do so.  Edward refused to return to England to accept the homage.  Lancaster threatened to take a hundred knights to forcibly enter his lands.  Eventually Edward caved in and agreed to meet his cousin at Haggerston, on the English side of the river, perhaps to save any future legal difficulties because Lancaster hadn't paid homage to him in England.

- Before his accession, Edward was usually named in documents as 'Lord Edward, prince of Wales' (in French, monsire Edward prince de Gales, and in Latin, Dominus Edwardus princeps Wallie).

- After he fled from the field of Bannockburn to safety at Dunbar Castle, Edward granted one William Franceis an income of fifty marks annually in gratitude for the unspecified "kind service he lately performed for the king in his presence at Dunbar."

- On 1 January 1317, Pope John XXII wrote to both Edward and Robert Bruce to confirm a two-year truce between them, addressing Edward as "our dearest son in Christ, Edward, illustrious king of England," and Robert as "our beloved son, the noble man, Robert de Bruce, holding himself king of Scotland."

- Edward's father-in-law Philippe IV of France died in a hunting accident on 29 November 1314; on 15 December, Edward ordered the archbishops of Canterbury and York, all the bishops and twenty-eight abbots to "celebrate exequies" for him.  

- Nine days before this order, on St Nicholas's Day, the king had given two pounds to Robert Tyeis, who officiated as boy-bishop in the chapel of his favourite manor of Langley.  In 1316, Edward gave six shillings and eight pence to John, son of Alan of Scrooby, who officiated as boy-bishop in his chapel on St Nicholas's Day, and ten shillings to the unnamed child who acted as boy-bishop in his presence at St Mary's Church in Nottingham on 28 December, the Feast of the Holy Innocents.

- One of Edward's clerks, Master James de Ispannia ('of Spain'), a canon of St Pauls in London whom the king appointed as one of the Chamberlains of the Exchequer of the Receipt in 1317, appears to have been his first cousin, presumably an illegitimate son of one of Eleanor of Castile's many brothers, though which one is uncertain.

- In August 1320, Edward wrote to the king of Cyprus, asking him to protect three Dominican friars going there to preach to the 'Saracens'.  The king is not named in the letter, which opens "To the magnificent lord prince..., by the grace of God illustrious king of Cyprus," as though no-one was sure what he was called.  In fact, he was Henry II de Lusignan, Edward II's third cousin twice removed via common descent from Eleanor of Aquitaine.

23 September, 2011

Blog Break And Pics

Wigmore Castle, Herefordshire, which belonged to Roger Mortimer.
 I'm off on my holidays again, so won't be able to update the blog for a while - in the meantime, there are hundreds of old posts to read, linked in the sidebar.  :-)  See you soon!
Wigmore Castle.
Inner bailey of Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire.

19 September, 2011


Some of my favourite extracts from letters of Edward II's era...

- Hugh Despenser the Younger to Sir John Inge, sheriff of Glamorgan, on 21 March 1321:

"Regarding that which you have heard, that the earl of Hereford is even more gloomy and thoughtful than usual, it is no wonder if he is, as he has turned his countenance against his liege lord, who has given him so many goods and honours, that he might well have much to think about" (avoir grant pensee, literally 'have great thinking').

The earl of Hereford was Humphrey de Bohun, widower of Edward II's sister Elizabeth (died May 1316).

- Hugh to Inge again, fifteen days previously; you can practically hear him sighing with exasperation:

"We have already so often sent letters on this subject in the past that we are quite tired of it, and we inform you that we will send no further instructions about it until we have need to write in answer to your letters, and therefore the instructions we have given before this must suffice."

- Edmund, earl of Arundel, to the "good and wise men and his dear and beloved bailiffs and the other burgesses and good men of the town of Shrewsbury" (bones gents et sages et ses chiers et bien amiez les bailiffs et lez autres burgoys et bone gent de la vile de Salopesbir) during the Despenser War on 4 June 1321, regarding a sum of money which they were keeping for him and which he evidently suspected his cousin Roger Mortimer of Wigmore of wanting to steal:

"And we beg you as friends, and charge you on pain of all that you are able to forfeit to the king, as well as our friendship, that you should keep safely for our use the money which you have received in our lord's [Edward II's] town, for we do not under any circumstances intend that our cousin of Mortimer, who is so close to us in blood [nostre cousin de mortemer qe nous est si pres de saunk], should do us such a great injury, which we have in no way merited."

Arundel and Mortimer, who were almost the same age (born on 1 May 1285 and 25 April 1287 respectively) were first cousins once removed: Arundel was the son of Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel (1267-1302), himself the son of Isabella Mortimer, elder sister of Roger Mortimer's father Edmund.

- Arnaud Caillau of Gascony to Edward II in March 1325, during the War of Saint-Sardos, perturbed because he had only had one letter from the king since leaving England the previous summer:

Mon cuer est en grant penssement, literally, 'My heart is in great thinking'.

This letter ended:

"May our Lord increase your honour and and grant you a good and long life, and give you vengeance over all your enemies, wherever they may be."

A similar ending, from Arnaud to Hugh Despenser the Younger in November 1324:

"I pray to God, who is all-powerful, that he increase your honour daily, and guard you from all evils, and multiply your goods, and give you vengeance over all your enemies."

- Hugh Despenser the Younger to Edward II's half-brother the earl of Kent in September 1324:

"And truly, sire, there is no other reason that the ships arrived late with you, except that a strong wind was against them, which we cannot divert by our own command."

- Eighteen-year-old Duke John III of Brabant to Edward II, his uncle, in May 1319.  In late March and early April 1319, Edward had asked Pope John XXII to "proceed with severity against the Scots," and also sent letters to his nephew, to Robert of Bethune, count of Flanders, and to the towns of Bruges, Dunkirk, Mechlin, Ypres and others, asking them not to allow any Scots into their territory or to trade with them.

"Very dear uncle, we have well understood your letters which you sent us regarding Robert Bruce, and about his adherents and companions, and about the wrongs they have done to you and to my lord the king [Edward I] your father and my grandfather, on whom GOD have mercy, in Scotland, and also in your kingdom of England; which wrongs, damage, defiance and outrages that they have done to you and still do strike us dumb and weigh heavily upon our heart."  (Foedera 1307-1327)

- Isabella of France to Walter Reynolds, archbishop of Canterbury, on 5 February 1326, about her husband Edward II:

"My very dear and very sweet lord and friend" (Mon treschier et tresdouche seignut et amy): how Isabella referred to Edward
"And certainly we desire above all else, save God and the salvation of our soul, to be in the company of our said lord [Edward] and to live and die there."


- Pierre Chaplais, ed., The War of Saint-Sardos (1323-1325): Gascon Correspondence and Diplomatic Documents
- Seymour Phillips, Edward II
- Foedera 1307-1327
- W.H. Stevenson, 'A Letter of the Younger Despenser on the Eve of the Barons' Rebellion, 21 March 1321', English Historical Review, 12 (1897)
J. Goronwy Edwards, Calendar of Ancient Correspondence Concerning Wales
- The National Archives, Arundell Deeds, 215/1

11 September, 2011

Was Edward II Trying To Annul His Marriage In 1325?

Almost certainly not, and here's why.

The Lanercost chronicler, a monk living in a convent near the Scottish border, claims that in 1325 Hugh Despenser the Younger "was exerting himself at the pope's court to procure divorce between the king of England and the queen, and in furtherance of this business there sent to the court a certain man of religion, acting irreligiously, by name Thomas Dunheved, with an appointed colleague, and a certain secular priest named Master Robert de Baldock."  (Yes, the same Thomas Dunheved, Dominican friar, who temporarily freed the former king from Berkeley Castle in the summer of 1327.)  The St Paul's annalist repeats the rumour that Edward was trying to annul his marriage to Isabella and that Dunheved was involved in this. [1]

This statement in two chronicles is often repeated as fact in modeern books, as yet another grievance Isabella had against her husband Edward II, along with supposedly 'removing' her children from her (rather than just setting up households for them in normal fashion), confiscating her lands and giving her a much smaller income to live on (he did do that), and so on.  Let's look at this logically.  Why exactly would Edward II have wanted to annul his marriage to Isabella?  What benefits could he have gained from it?  Precisely none.  He would, however, have suffered a whole pile of negative consequences.  Edward was at war with Isabella's brother Charles IV of France from the autumn of 1323 (although military action did not begin until the summer of 1324) until a peace treaty was signed in June 1325.  As Edward's biographer Seymour Phillips points out, "An attempted divorce in the conditions of 1325 would have been political madness, since it would have meant the repudiation of all agreements between England and France, which Edward and Isabella's marriage had been intended to strengthen, and would have plunged England into an immediate war with France" (shortly after peace had finally been established between the two countries).  [2]  Even during Edward's war with Isabella's brother, over Gascony, there is no reason to suppose that he considered annulment, or that it would have gained him anything.  The only possible grounds Edward could have had for an annulment of his marriage in 1325 was consanguinity, as he and Isabella were second cousins once removed.  They had been granted a papal dispensation for this, however.  An annulment would have meant that their marriage had never been valid in the first place (as a marriage then could not simply be ended, in the way we understand divorce), which would have made Edward and Isabella's children illegitimate.  Edward II spent much of 1325 negotiating marriages for three of their children with the royal houses of Spain.  Why on earth would he have risked making them illegitimate?

No proof of the two chroniclers' statement that Edward was trying to annul his marriage in 1325 has ever been discovered in the Vatican archives, nor is there any evidence that he ever wrote to the pope regarding this matter.  He did send Thomas Dunheved to Pope John XXII in Avignon in 1325, it's true - but to complain about Alexander Bicknor, the archbishop of Dublin, whom Edward held responsible for his half-brother the earl of Kent's surrender at La Réole in September 1324, and who was not afraid to make his intense dislike of Hugh Despenser the Younger obvious and public.  (Bicknor boasted that were he not a cleric, he would challenge Despenser to a duel.)  John XXII, who made Dunheved a papal chaplain while he was visiting the papal court, wrote to Edward II in October 1325: "To the king, whose letters sent by Thomas Dunhevede, a Friar Preacher, the pope has received.  The matter touching Alexander, archbishop of Dublin, cannot be heard in camera, but must be laid before the consistory...".  [3]  The Lanercost chronicler says that Edward also sent Robert Baldock to the pope regarding an annulment of his marriage. Baldock was chancellor of England from August 1323 until October 1326, after Isabella and Mortimer's invasion [4], and did not leave the country, to my knowledge.

As for other chroniclers, the very well-informed author of the Vita Edwardi Secundi does not mention an intended annulment.  Neither does the royal clerk and chronicler Adam Murimuth, who knew the royal couple well and who visited the papal court in 1324.  Neither does the author of the Flores Historiarum, who loathed Edward and who would have jumped on a chance to condemn him for humiliating his wife in this fashion. Neither does any other chronicler, even Jean Froissart, who a few decades later invented a tale of Isabella secretly fleeing to France from Winchelsea with her son in 1325, to escape from Edward's mistreatment of her (in fact she departed from Dover with a large retinue and, of course, Edward's full knowledge and consent).  When Thomas Dunheved wrote to Edward II on 7 October 1325, he did not mention an annulment.  [5]  Edward was debating with his counsellors, by the end of 1324, the possibility of sending Queen Isabella to France to negotiate with her brother, and she departed for her homeland the following March.  Why then would he suddenly decide to annul his marriage to her?  It wasn't until late 1325 that it became apparent that the queen did not intend to return to England.  Isabella herself wrote to her husband from France on 5 February 1326, addressing him as "our very dear and very sweet lord and friend" (nostre treschier et tresdouche seignur et amy) and informing him that although she wished nothing more than to return to his company and live and die with him, she did not dare, because of her fear of Hugh Despenser.  Isabella did not mention that Edward was trying to annul their marriage; neither did any letters her brother Charles IV sent to Edward around this time or earlier (and Charles would have been utterly furious at this horrendous insult to his sister).  [6]  At Hugh Despenser's trial in November 1326, he was not accused of attempting to procure an annulment of Edward and Isabella's marriage.  Why would Isabella not charge him with this, if he had done it?  It was the gravest and most humiliating crime Despenser could have committed against her.

The Lanercost chronicler in his convent in the far north and writing a decade or more later, although an invaluable source for events in Scotland and Scottish raids in the north of England, knew little of what was going on at court in the 1320s, while the Pauline annalist was merely reporting a rumour he had heard (ut vulgariter dicebatur), not stating it as definitive truth.  Plenty of rumours were flying around England in 1325/26, including one reported in the Brut that Edward II intended to strangle his wife and his son Edward of Windsor to death.  Edward was, apparently, informed of this after his deposition, and was - as any normal human being would be when accused of something as monstrous as wishing to murder his own child - deeply upset and horrified ("God knows, I thought it never, and now I would that I were dead!  So would God that I were!  For then were all my sorrow passed.")  [7]  Just because rumours existed does not automatically make them true, and it's a shame that writers continue to declare as fact that Edward was trying to divorce his wife without considering the ample evidence that he was doing no such thing, and without considering the logical implications and consequences of this act.  It does fit so nicely into the popular Victim!Isabella school of thought, though, doesn't it?  Precisely why Edward would have wanted to annul his marriage to the queen in 1325 and what he would have gained from it in exchange for taking such a huge risk is never actually explained; his supposed nastiness and neglect of the queen and the nastiness of Hugh Despenser appears to be enough reason.  Alison Weir claims in her biography of Isabella that "Lanercost's statement is to some extent corroborated by the fact that Dunheved was sent to the papal Curia on secret business at this time," but fails to notice the papal letter which demonstrates that Dunheved delivered Edward's letters regarding the archbishop of Dublin to the pope, and somehow confuses Thomas with his secular brother Stephen (as Lanercost clearly and correctly refers to the Dunheved brother in question as Thomas, I can't help but wonder how carefully she looked at the sources).  Of course, it's entirely possible that Thomas Dunheved discussed other matters with the pope on the king's behalf, but we have no evidence, besides a rumour repeated in two chronicles, that an annulment of the king and queen's marriage was one of them.

I believe that it is virtually certain that Edward II was not intending to annul his marriage in 1325; he had no reason to do so, and the consequences would have been disastrous for him, his children and his kingdom.  Having said that, it is just possible that he was considering this course of action in the summer of 1326, by which time he knew that Isabella was going to betroth their son to the count of Hainault's daughter without his consent and invade his kingdom with an army.  It's perhaps hardly surprising if he then decided that an annulment would solve his problems, and that even making his children illegitimate would be worth it.  I hasten to add there is no real evidence that he was planning to ask the pope for an annulment: again, there are no documents in either the Vatican or England to confirm it.  Edward met the bishop of Rochester, his ally Hamo Hethe, at Boxley Down in Kent in June 1326, and he and Hugh Despenser the Younger rode with the bishop back to Rochester.  Edward asked Hethe if it were true that there had once been a queen who had disobeyed her husband and had therefore been deposed from her royal dignity.  Hethe was having none of it, and retorted that whoever had told the king this had given him very bad advice.  [8]  This does sound as if perhaps Edward was then considering the possibility of annulment.  This may be confirmed by two letters Edward sent to his son in 1326, then in France with Isabella (whether willingly or not).  The first, written on 18 March, orders the thirteen-year-old not to marry without his father's consent, and to obey Edward "under pain of forfeiting all that he may to the king...".  The second, written on 19 June, ends with the words "if the king find him contrary or disobedient hereafter to his will, by what counsel soever it may be, he will ordain in such wise that Edward [of Windsor] shall feel it all the days of his life, and that all other sons shall take example thereby of disobeying their lords and fathers."  [9]

Do these letters, and Edward's remark to the bishop of Rochester, imply that Edward was now indeed considering an annulment of his marriage?  I don't know, and if Edward did think along these lines, he took no action, and it's highly doubtful that the pope would have consented to annul his marriage anyway.  If they do imply this, it must be noted that this was months after Isabella had defied Edward and refused to return to him, and was planning an invasion of his kingdom.  However justified her actions may have been, seen from Edward's perspective it's hardly surprising that he was furious with her and (perhaps unfairly, given how young the boy was) with his son, even to the extent that he was willing to infuriate Isabella's brother Charles IV by annulling the marriage and willing to disinherit his son and thereby avert the threat to himself by making the boy illegitimate.  If an annulment of Edward II and Isabella of France's marriage was ever on the cards, it was a consequence of Isabella's actions against her husband, not a cause of them.


1) The Chronicle of Lanercost 1272-1346, ed. Herbert Maxwell, p. 249; Annales Paulini 1307-1340, in  W. Stubbs, ed., Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II, volume 1, p. 337.
2) Seymour Phillips, Edward II, p. 483 note. 169.
3) Calendar of Papal Letters 1305-1341, pp. 474, 479.
4) T.F. Tout, The Place of the Reign of Edward II in English History, p. 327.
5) F.D. Blackley, 'Isabella and the Bishop of Exeter', in T. A. Sandqvist and M. R. Powicke, eds., Essays in Medieval History Presented to Bertie Wilkinson, p. 226.
6) Isabella's letter is cited in Phillips, Edward II, p. 491.  For Charles IV's correspondence with Edward II in the 1320s, see Pierre Chaplais, ed., The War of Saint-Sardos (1323-1325): Gascon Correspondence and Diplomatic Documents.
7) The Brut or the Chronicles of England, ed. F. W. D. Brie, volume 1, pp. 252-253.
8) Roy Martin Haines, 'Bishops and politics in the reign of Edward II: Hamo de Hethe, Henry Wharton, and the 'Historia Roffensis'', Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 44 (1993), pp. 605-606.
9) Calendar of Close Rolls 1323-1327, pp. 576-578.

04 September, 2011

The Despensers In Chronicles

What some fourteenth-century chroniclers wrote about Hugh Despenser the Younger (c. 1287/90 - 24 November 1326) and his father Hugh the Elder (1 March 1261 - 27 October 1326).


"...the great men had ill will against him [Edward II] for his cruelty and the debauched life which he led, and on account of the said Hugh [the Younger], whom at that time he loved and entirely trusted."

It's interesting to note that Sir Thomas Gray or Grey, author of the Scalacronica, fails to point out anywhere that his father of the same name served in the retinue of Hugh Despenser the Younger for years.  As late as March 1326, there's an entry in Edward II's chamber journal saying that the royal favourite had given Grey 200 marks because "Sir Hugh Despenser the son desired above all else that the said Sir Thomas remained with him all his life" (mons' Hughe le Despenser le fitz qe desirast sur toute rien qe le dit mons' Thomas demoerast ouesqe lui a toute sa vie).

Vita Edwardi Secundi

On Hugh the Elder in the mid-1310s, following a discussion of Edward II's reconciliation with the barons who had killed Piers Gaveston: "...and as for the other friends of the king matters were arranged as the king willed; but Hugh Despenser [the Elder] could find no favour.  Let him beware of the earl of Lancaster and leave the country if he wishes to escape.  The whole land has turned to hatred of him.  Few would mourn his downfall.  As an unjust official he did harm to many; he disinherited many magnates and rich men.  Would that he might lose what he has thus acquired, that he might be punished in his crime."

On Hugh the Elder again in 1325: "...he was hated by everyone and even by the king's son."

On both men in 1321: "Hugh [the Younger] was accused of being too greedy and thus unsuitable to be with the king; he was accused of evil counsel; of conspiracy and falsehood; of being a destroyer of the people, a disinheritor of the crown, an enemy of king and kingdom.  All these things the barons alleged against Hugh, and persistently accused father and son alike of these enormities...the brutal and greedy father had in the past wronged many, and promoted the excommunication of many...it was right that the son should share in the paternal guilt.  According to some the malice of the son outweighed the father's harshness."

On Hugh the Younger in general after he became Edward's favourite: "confident of the royal favour, he did everything at his own discretion, snatched at everything, did not bow to the authority of anyone whomsoever."


On Hugh the Younger: "...Sir Hugh Despenser the younger, who was, as it were, the king of England's right eye, and, after the death of Piers de Gavestoun, his chief counsellor against the earls and barons...a most avaricious man..."

Geoffrey le Baker

Hugh the Younger was "another king, or more accurately ruler of the king…in the manner of Gaveston, so presumptuous that he frequently kept certain nobles from speaking to the king.  Moreover, when the king, out of his magnanimity, was preoccupied with many people addressing him about their affairs, Despenser threw back answers, not those asked for but to the contrary, pretending them to be to the king’s advantage."


Hugh the Younger "kept so the king’s chamber [as Edward's chamberlain], that no man might speak with the king…all men had of him scorn and despite; and the king himself would not be governed by no manner of man, but only by his father and by him."


On Hugh the Younger: "no man could approach the king without the consent of the said Sir Hugh"; it also calls him haughty, arrogant, greedy, evil and "more inclined to wrongdoing than any other man."

Robert of Avesbury, Vita et Mors Edwardi Secundi, Flores Historiarum

The first two say that Hugh the Younger was another king in England, and the Vita et Mors, referring to Hugh the Elder, comments that there were three kings of England.  The Flores comments that Hugh led Edward around like a cat with a straw.

Jean Froissart 

On Hugh the Younger: "Without him nothing was done and through him everything was done, and the king trusted him more than everyone...he was a heretic and a sodomite, even, it was said, with the king."

26 August, 2011

Poems On Piers Gaveston's Death

According to the Vita Edwardi Secundi, the death of Piers Gaveston on 19 June 1312 was an enormously popular act throughout England: "When Piers had met his end, and the voice of the people had dinned his death into the ears of all, the country rejoiced, and all its inhabitants were glad…The land rejoices, its inhabitants rejoice that they have found peace in Piers' death."

It is surely an exaggeration to say that all the country rejoiced at Piers' death, though for sure some did, as demonstrated by two contemporary poems, which are in Latin in the original:

"Celebrate, my tongue, the death of Piers who disturbed England, whom the king in love for him placed over all Cornwall; hence in his pride he will be called Earl, not Piers.
This is the work of our salvation, that Piers is dead; all the artfulness of the multifarious traitor has perished;
Henceforth let the good omen rejoice our hearts, for sorrow is past; when the fullness of time which was fit for the thing came, his head is cut off from the juncture of his body; he who raised trouble within is now troubled from without.
He who was unwilling to have an equal, clothed in the extreme of pride, against his will bends his neck to the executioner; of whose merited death this hymn is set forth.
He who placed himself as a head above his equals, loses his own head; justly his body is pierced, whose heart was so puffed up; both land, sea, stars and world, rejoice in his fall.
Ferocious and cruel among all men, he ceases now from his pomp,
Now he no longer behaves himself as an earl, or a king;
The unworthy man, worthy of death, undergoes the death he merits…
May the house of Piers, in which he is held, not be supported in strength;
May the other place [the Dominican friary of Oxford, where Piers' body was taken] be profane, and may it be in disgrace, which the filthy gore spilled from Piers’ body has defiled!
Glory be to the Creator!  Glory be to the earls
Who have made Piers die with his charms!
Henceforth may there be peace and rejoicing throughout England!"


"The bad tree is cut down, when Piers is struck on the neck;
Blessed be the weapon which thus approached Piers!
Blessed be the hand which executed him!
Blessed the man who ordered the execution!
Blessed the steel which struck him whom the world would not bear any longer!
O Cross, which allowed to be suffered this wretched misery, do thou take from us all the material of misery.
Thee, highest God in Trinity, we pray earnestly, destroy and crush forever the maintainers of Piers."

(Both poems cited in T. Wright, The Political Songs of England (1839)pp. 258-261.)

According to the Vita, Edward II issued an edict ordering everyone to refer to Piers by his title, earl of Cornwall, rather than by his name (as mentioned in the first poem above), and talks of Piers "scornfully rolling his upraised eyes in pride and in abuse, he looked down upon all with pompous and supercilious countenance…indeed the superciliousness which he affected would have been unbearable enough in a king’s son."  The somewhat later Scalacronica agrees that the "great affection" which Edward bestowed on Gaveston made him "haughty and supercilious" – although the author also calls him "very magnificent, liberal and well-bred" – and Lanercost says that Gaveston "had now grown so insolent as to despise all the nobles of the land."  His behaviour evidently alienated many...

12 August, 2011

Friday Facts

Another post with some fairly random facts about Edward II and his reign. :-)

- The Gascon sheriff of Edinburgh and constable of Linlithgow, Piers Lubaud, was a cousin of Piers Gaveston, according to the Vita Edwardi Secundi. Shortly before Christmas 1312, Edward II sent Lubaud's wife Nichola a palfrey horse worth six pounds and a saddle "with a lion of pearls, and covered with purple cloth" worth five pounds. (Whatever a 'lion of pearls' is.)

- Thomas Cobham, bishop of Worcester, told Pope John XXII that at the Westminster parliament of October 1320 "Holy Father, your devoted son, our lord the king, in the parliament summoned to London bore himself splendidly, with prudence and discretion, contrary to his former habit rising early and presenting a nobler and pleasant countenance to prelates and lords. Present almost every day in person, he arranged what business was to be dealt with, discussed and determined. Where amendment was necessary he ingeniously supplied what was lacking, thus giving joy to his people, ensuring their security, and providing reliable hope of an improvement in behaviour."

- Edward's efforts were rewarded in April 1320 when Thomas Cantilupe, bishop of Hereford, who had died in August 1282, was canonised: he had written to Popes Clement V and John XXII half a dozen times between December 1307 and January 1319, asking them to canonise Cantilupe. The two archbishops and all the bishops of England asked Edward to be present at the "translation of the holy body" in Hereford Cathedral on 14 June 1321, as this "would be greatly to the honour of God and Holy Church" and to Edward himself. He responded "it pleases the king to be there." As it turned out, Edward was unable to be present; thanks to the Despenser War, he had far more pressing matters to deal with.

- In England on the day of Cantilupe’s canonisation, according to the Sempringham annalist, "about midnight, there were frightful thunders heard, with lightning, and immoderately high wind."

- Edward wrote to his first cousin and greatest enemy Thomas of Lancaster's adherent and friend Sir Robert Holland (who was destined to be beheaded in a wood in Essex in 1328) on 20 November 1311: "we are very joyous and pleased about the good news we have heard concerning the improvement in our dear cousin and faithful subject Thomas, earl of Lancaster, and that he will soon be able to ride in comfort. And we send you word and dearly pray that, as soon as he is comfortable and able to ride without hurt to his body, you should ask him to be so good as to hasten to us at our parliament." I wonder if he gritted his teeth as he dictated that one.

- At Bannockburn, according to the Scalacronica of Sir Thomas Gray (whose father of the same name fought for Edward there), Edward "struck out so vigorously behind him with his mace there was none whom he touched that he did not fell to the ground." And according to the St Albans chronicler, he fought "like a lioness deprived of her cubs." Not exactly the coward he's been depicted as in some novels, then.

- Edward's nephew Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester, killed at Bannockburn, was buried at Tewkesbury Abbey in Gloucestershire. His heart, however, was buried at Shelford near Nottingham: on 8 August 1317, Edward passed through the village on his way to York with Isabella, and attended masses and distributed five shillings and sixpence in oblations at the conventual church of Shelford in memory of the young earl, "whose heart lies there inhumed."

- Edward's name, in contemporary English documents, was always spelt the way it is today. In letters sent to him from France, however, it appeared as Edouwart, Eduart or Edduvart. Isabella's name was spelt in a variety of ways: Isabell, Isabele, Ysabel, Ysabell, Ysabelle, Yzabel. The name Hugh was often spelt Hughe, Hue, Hew, Hugg or Huge, while the foreign name of Edward II's elder brother Alfonso (November 1273-August 1284) baffled English scribes, who wrote it Anfuls, Aufos or Auffoms.

05 August, 2011

Friday Facts

A post with some fairly random facts about Edward II and his reign.  :-)

- Sometime before October 1311, Edward's first cousin once removed Fernando IV of Castile asked him "for a loan of money in aid of his war against the enemies of Christ."  Edward politely declined that month, on the grounds that he "had been so engaged since his accession with the war in Scotland and other matters that he is unable to accede to this request."  The 'other matters' presumably meant Piers Gaveston, in large part; Edward was at that time batting against the Lords Ordainer, who were determined to send Piers into exile for the third time.  I'm a very long way from being knowledgeable about Spanish history, but I imagine Fernando's war had something to do with his and Jaime II of Aragon's crusade against the king of Granada.
(Close Rolls)

- Edward sent letters on 2 and 12 June 1319 to Haakon V of Norway regarding debts which the Norwegian king owed to eight English merchants - evidently unaware that Haakon had died on 6 May.  Edward had as a child been betrothed to Haakon's niece Margaret the 'Maid of Norway', queen of Scotland.  (Close Rolls).

- On 16 October 1325, Edward asked Pope John XXII to grant dispensations for his children Eleanor of Woodstock and Edward of Windsor (the future Edward III) to marry Alfonso XI and his sister Leonor of Castile, they being second cousins once removed, and sent letters to Jaime II of Aragon's son Alfonso and the regents of Castile two days later, thanking them for their affection for him and "the gracious and benevolent way” they had handled his affairs.  (Close Rolls).

- On the same day, at Cippenham in Berkshire, Edward gave twenty-five shillings to his porter Will Shene and his new wife Isode as a wedding present.  (SAL MS 122).

- Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke and also Edward's first cousin once removed, died on his way to Paris (the precise location is uncertain, but his biographer Seymour Phillips thinks probably Saint-Riquier near Amiens) on 23 June 1324; the news took only three days to reach the king at Tonbridge in Kent. (Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke 1307-1324: Baronial Politics in the Reign of Edward II by J.R.S. Phillips)

- During the war of Saint-Sardos (with Charles IV of France, over Gascony) in 1324, an atmosphere of fevered suspicion pervaded England: two letters were sent to Hugh Despenser the Younger, telling him that a fleet of foreign vessels with a hundred armed men aboard each ship had been seen in Falmouth and mysteriously disappeared in the middle of the night.  This turned out to be a group of Genoese merchants making their annual trip to the Netherlands, with armed men to guard their valuable cargo.  (Pierre Chaplais, The War of Saint-Sardos (1323-1325): Gascon Correspondence and Diplomatic DocumentsNatalie Fryde, The Tyranny and Fall of Edward II 1321-1326).

- Edward's brother-in-law Philip V of France sent him a gift of a box of rose-coloured sugar in September 1317.  Edward gave Philip's messenger William de Opere two and a half pounds for bringing it.  (Thomas Stapleton, 'A Brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the 10th, 11th, and 14th years of Edward II',Archaeologia, 1836)

- Edward's huntsman William Twyt or Twici wrote a French treatise called Le Art de Venerie around 1320; the earliest text on hunting written in England, it opens "Here begins the art of hunting, which Master William Twici, huntsman of the king of England, made in his time to instruct others."  

- "...we command you to watch our affairs that we may be rich and may attain our ends, of which you have good cognisance; and this cannot be attained without pain and diligence on your part."  Hugh Despenser the Younger to Sir John Inge, sheriff of Glamorgan, on 18 January 1321; entirely open about his aims and ambitions.  (J. Goronwy Edwards, Calendar of Ancient Correspondence Concerning Wales)

- From 8 July 1315 to 7 July 1316, Edward spent £627 on clothes for his household.  He received in April 1316 two tunics for himself, comprising six ells of scarlet – expensive woollen cloth, not the colour – two ells of yellow cloth for sewing leopards, his heraldic arms, on them, and more scarlet for making bags or purses.   He also received sixteen ells of green medley (dyed in the wool cloth) to make two sleeved tunics and two tabards, while three household knights had twelve ells of the same for their tunics.  Green cloth lined with miniver was also given to Isabella, their son Edward of Windsor, the king's sister the countess of Hereford, his nieces Margaret Gaveston and Eleanor Despenser, and the dowager countess of Warwick.  (Malcolm Vale, The Princely Court: Medieval Courts and Culture in North-West Europe).

- In November 1319, Edward wrote to William, count of Hainault, to raise the possibility of a marriage between his son Edward and William's eldest daughter Margaret (who later married the Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV; her sister Philippa ultimately married Edward III).  His careless scribe addressed the letter to 'Robert, count of Hainault'.  Names could prove a problem for inattentive scribes: Louis X's queen Clemence was called Elizabeth in a letter sent to her by Edward II in May 1316, and Edward's niece Jeanne de Bar, countess of Surrey, was called Isabella in a writ of 1313.  (Foedera)