18 December, 2012

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The Edward II blog is taking a break until around the 6th of January, so let me wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year, and may you have a wonderful festive season!

I've written posts about Edward II and Christmas before: see here, here, here, here and here.  And as it's the festive season and I feel like being light-hearted, here are some links to amusing posts you might have missed:

Edward II joins Facebook

Edward II joins Facebook, part 2

Isabella of France and the Support Group for Tragic Queens

Edward II and the Support Group for People Unfairly Maligned in Historical Fiction

My super-snarky post detailing clichés about Edward II in fiction.

And on a more serious note:

My ten commandments for writing historical fiction and about history, one of my most popular posts ever.

The possible death of Edward II in 1327, which actually is my most popular post ever, and over six years old now, wow.

Why we can be sure that Edward II was the father of Isabella's children, another much-viewed page (thank goodness).

A post inspired by my irritation at the trend in histfict to depict various kings as not really the sons of their fathers, with particular reference to Henry III and Edward I.  Be sure to read Sarah's excellent post on the subject too.

Merry Christmas!  See you in 2013 for more Edward II defending! :-)

15 December, 2012

December Anniversaries

1 December 1249: The wedding of Edward II's uncle the future King Alfonso X of Castile and Leon and Violante, daughter of King Jaime I 'el Conquistador' of Aragon, took place in Valladolid.  Alfonso was then twenty-eight, Violante in her early teens.  Alfonso's father Fernando III was unable to attend the wedding, but his stepmother Queen Jeanne, Edward II's grandmother, did.  Violante's youngest sister Isabel married Philippe III of France and was the grandmother of Edward II's queen Isabella; their brother Pedro III was the father of Alfonso III, who was betrothed for many years to Edward II's eldest sister Eleanor.

1 December 1319: According to the Sempringham annalist, "there was a general earthquake in England, with great sound and much noise."  On the same day, Edward granted powers to his chamberlain Hugh Despenser the Younger, the royal steward Bartholomew Badlesmere, John Hothum, bishop of Ely and chancellor of England, and the earl of Pembroke, to make a truce with Robert Bruce.  Robert confirmed it on the 22nd.

1 December 1321: Edward ordered Walter Reynolds, archbishop of Canterbury, to summon the prelates to a provincial meeting at St Paul's on this day, and the day before, sent the earls of Pembroke and Richmond and Robert Baldock, lawyer, archdeacon of Middlesex and Despenser adherent, to present the Despensers' petition protesting their banishment.  Owing to the difficulty of winter travel and the short notice of the meeting, only four bishops attended the convocation: London, Rochester, Ely and Salisbury.  The Despensers claimed that the sentence against them contained nine errors, including that they had not been allowed to speak in their defence and that none of their crimes involved treason or felony and therefore did not merit exile.  Reynolds and the four bishops dutifully agreed to petition for the annulment of the judgement on the Despensers, while the earls of Arundel, Pembroke and Richmond claimed they had only consented to the exile "through fear of the undue power that the said magnates suddenly caused to be brought without their knowledge."

1 December 1325: Edward wrote to Isabella, then in Paris refusing to return to him until Hugh Despenser was removed from his side.  In the last (known) letter he ever sent to his wife, Edward unsurprisingly ordered her to return and bring their thirteen-year-old son Edward of Windsor with her, as "the king has a great desire to see and talk with him."  I find that deeply sad.

2 December 1307: Piers Gaveston held a famous jousting tournament at his castle of Wallingford, which Edward II evidently didn’t attend, as his itinerary places him at Langley, forty-five miles away.  Piers and his team of knights defeated the earls of Surrey, Arundel and Hereford, and destroyed their dignity by knocking them off their horses into the mud, to their great humiliation and anger.  Indignant chroniclers claimed that Piers "most vilely trod under foot" the opposition, and accused him of fielding 200 knights instead of the agreed sixty.

2 December 1325: An interesting entry in Edward's chamber journal indicates that he, then staying at Westminster, paid a visit to his eldest and favourite niece Eleanor (de Clare) Despenser at Sheen and gave her a remarkably generous gift of 100 marks (66 pounds), and returned to Westminster the same night.  It appears that Edward rowed himself along the Thames, with eight attendants following behind in another boat.

4 December 1307: Edward II wrote to the kings of Sicily, Castile, Portugal and Aragon, telling them that he believed the charges of his soon-to-be father-in-law Philippe IV of France and Pope Clement V against the Knights Templar were nothing more than "the slanders of ill-natured men, who are animated…with a spirit of cupidity and envy," asking them to remember the Templars' devotion, honesty and long service to the Christian faith, and saying that belief in the accusations was "hardly to be entertained."

5 December 1314: Edward ordered his escheators to assign dower to Maud de Burgh, widow of his nephew Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester, killed at Bannockburn the previous June.  Gilbert was so wealthy that the customary third of his lands granted to Maud go on for page after page after page.

5 December 1320: Edward paid three shillings and four pence to William, bookbinder of London, "for binding and newly repairing the book of Domesday, in which is contained the counties of Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk."  This manuscript still exists in the National Archives in London and is known as 'Little Domesday'.

6 December 1315: Death of William Greenfield, archbishop of York.  He would be succeeded, with some delay, by Edward II's close friend and ally William Melton, a man who managed to be loyal to the king without being a yes-man and to gain the respect of pretty well everyone who knew him or of him.  Melton was closely involved in plots to free the supposedly dead Edward in 1330, and spoke out against his deposition in January 1327.  Melton sent a letter to his kinsman the mayor of London in January 1330 saying that Edward of Caernarfon was "alive and in good health of body," which news made him joyous.

6 December 1316: on the feast day of Saint Nicholas, Edward gave six shillings and eight pence to John, son of one Alan of Scrooby, who officiated as boy-bishop in his chapel.

6 December 1318: the leading members of Edward II's household - Bartholomew Badlesmere, steward; Hugh Despenser the Younger, chamberlain; Roger Northburgh, treasurer; Gilbert Wigton, controller of the Wardrobe - created a Household Ordinance, mainly with the aim of eliminating waste and saving money in the royal household, always a political hot potato.  The earliest surviving English Household Ordinance dates from 1279, in Edward I's reign, and the 1318 Ordinance is the second oldest still extant.  See here, here and here.

8 December 1321: Edward issued a safe-conduct for Hugh Despenser the Younger to return to England, "in pursuance of his petition that the judgement of exile and disherison lately passed upon him by certain magnates contains errors and should be annulled."  The same was granted to the elder Despenser on Christmas Day.

10 December 1307: Edward wrote to Clement V with reference to the Templars, saying that he had heard "a rumour of infamy, a rumour indeed full of bitterness, terrible to think of, horrible to hear, and detestable in wickedness" and declaring that "we are unable to believe in suspicious stories of this kind until we know with greater certainty about these things."

10 December 1321: Edward sent a letter to his treasurer, Walter de Norwich, asking him to "provide sixteen pieces of cloth for the apparelling of ourselves and our dear companion [Isabella], also furs, against the next feast of Christmas," also ordering more cloth and linen for Isabella and her damsels and "other things of which we stand in need, against the great feast."  He paid £115 for these items.

14 December 1307: Edward received the papal bull Pastoralis praeeminentiae, which ordered all Christian rulers of Europe to arrest the Templars and seize their lands, in the name of the papacy.  As a papal bull was basically impossible to ignore, he was forced to issue an order on the 20th for the Templars in England, Wales, Ireland and the parts of Scotland he had jurisdiction over to be arrested on Wednesday 10 January 1308, three weeks later; in France, they had been given no such warning and thus had no chance to flee.  Edward ordered that the Templars should be kept "in a fitting place" with good sustenance and "not in a hard and vile prison," and a few months later granted all the Templars in custody their normal wages of fourpence a day, backdated to the day of their imprisonment.

15 December 1314: Edward ordered the archbishops of Canterbury and York, all the bishops and twenty-eight abbots to "celebrate exequies" for his father-in-law and second cousin Philippe IV of France, who had died after a hunting accident on 29 November.

16 December 1325: Death of Philippe IV's brother Charles, count of Valois and ancestor of the dynasty which ruled France until 1589, at the age of fifty-five.  Edward II gave four pounds on 30 December to the messenger who brought him news of the death of 'Sir Charles de Valeis, uncle of my lady the queen'.

18 December 1316: Edward pardoned most of the Bristol rebels and restored the liberty of the town.

19 December 1322: Edward paid a messenger named Jack Stillego for bringing him letters from his wife.  Otherwise, there is scarcely any evidence of contact between the king and queen for quite a few months around this time.  On the same day, Edward gave two pounds to Janekyn, the messenger who brought him news of Robert Lewer's capture (the Flores Historiarum says that Lewer died on 26 December 1322) and three shillings to a cordwainer named Reynald, who had made boots for him.

19 December 1325: Edward paid thirty shillings as an offering to the Virgin Mary in gratitude that his niece Eleanor Despenser had been safely delivered of her latest child.  Annoyingly, his scribe didn't record the name or even the sex of the child.  Hmph.  It may have been Hugh and Eleanor's youngest daughter Elizabeth, future Lady Berkeley.

20 December 1308: Edward founded and generously endowed the Dominican priory at (King's) Langley where he would bury Piers Gaveston some years later, "in fulfilment of a vow made by the king in peril," whenever that might have been – probably on campaign in Scotland or one of his sea crossings.  Edward's grandson Edmund of Langley, duke of York was also buried here in 1402, as was Edward's great-grandson Richard II, at least for a few years.  The Dominicans were Edward's, and his mother Eleanor of Castile's, favourite order.

20 December 1321: Edward arrived at Cirencester to begin his campaign against the Contrariants.

23 December 1311: Edward paid Piers Gaveston's messenger a pound for bringing him messages from Piers somewhere in exile, which tends to indicate that the claims in some chronicles including the Vita Edwardi Secundi that the pair spent Christmas together are wrong.  They don't seem to have been reunited till about mid-January 1312.

25 December 1323: Edward, with Isabella as far as I can tell, spent the festive season at Kenilworth, where Edward gave a pound each to Thomas le Barber and Robert Polidod, minstrels of the bishop of Ely, who performed for them.  He also gave half a mark each to three of his vigiles or watchmen to buy themselves "winter tunics for their night vigils."  (I hope they were nice warm tunics.)

25 December 1325: Edward spent his last Christmas as a free man at Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk.

26 December 1307: Edward took the extraordinary step of appointing Piers Gaveston custos regni, 'keeper of the realm' or regent, while he travelled to France in January to marry Isabella.  The author of the Vita Edwardi Secundi spoke for many when he exclaimed "An astonishing thing, that he who had lately been an exile and outcast from England should now be made ruler and guardian of the realm."  Piers in fact seems to have performed his duties as regent admirably, as he did his duties as lord lieutenant of Ireland in 1308/09, and I believe he was far more competent and intelligent than he is usually given credit for.  He was certainly a very long way from being some foppish, useless parasite.

26 December 1321: Edward and his army left Cirencester for Worcester during his campaign against the Contrariants, who, although their army was apparently four times bigger than his, made no attempt to engage him in battle but fled, burning and devastating the countryside as they went.  A furious Edward said later that they "ravaged the king’s people during their retreat from Gloucester to the north."  Too afraid to confront the king directly, they once more vented their anger and frustration on innocents, as they had been doing for much of the year.

26 December 1322: Edward paid two women a shilling each for singing for him in the garden of the Franciscan friary in York. (I assume it was an unusually mild and dry 26th of December.)

27 December 1314: Edward gave the chancellor and scholars of Oxford University twenty pounds to pray for Piers Gaveston's soul, and a week later finally buried him at Langley Priory, two and a half years after his death.  Since June 1312, Edward had paid two custodians to watch over the body, and they lived very well at his expense; for a mere twenty-eight days in December 1314, he paid them the huge sum of fifteen pounds.

28 December 1319: Edward II spent the festive season at York, having invited the warden and thirty-two scholars of King's Hall, his foundation at Cambridge, to join him.  Twenty-six of them arrived late, on 28 December, and one joined in an assault by the prior of the Dominicans of Pontefract on a William Hardy and was left behind in disgrace when the scholars returned to Cambridge.   

29 December 1312: Edward's Genoese friend and money-lender Antonio di Pessagno lent him £5000 for the "private expenses of his chamber."

29 December 1317: Pope John XXII excommunicated "all those who invade the realm of England or disturb its peace," which basically meant Robert Bruce.

09 December, 2012

A Guest Post By Author David Pilling

Today I'm very pleased to welcome talented historical fiction writer David Pilling to my blog with a guest post!

(Just before he begins, I'd like to apologise to all the people I owe emails to, who have contacted me via the blog with questions and are still waiting for a reply: I haven't forgotten you, I promise, but am just very, very busy at the moment and rarely online.  Will get in touch as soon as I can. :)

Kathryn has very kindly given me a guest spot to talk about my new historical novel, “The Half-Hanged Man”. This is a tale of high adventure and romance set during the Hundred Years War between England and France. Relevant to this blog, it is set during the reign of Edward III, son of Edward II – that’s Edward II, not William Wallace, Roger Mortimer, Robert de Holland, or any other absurd ‘alternative’ candidates. I've wanted to write about the latter half of the 14th century for a long time. Even by medieval standards, this was a savage and bloody era. Edward III’s decision to be a warrior-king in conscious emulation of his grandfather Longshanks, and as a way of uniting England after his father’s troubled reign, resulted in Europe being plunged into a series of dynastic wars.

England was at war with France and Scotland, and Spain and Italy were divided by internal conflicts. The constant fighting and general chaos offered rich pickings to savvy mercenary captains such as Sir John Hawkwood, Bertrand du Guesclin, Hugh Calveley and Robert Knolles, all of whom succeeded in making a fat profit while Christendom burned. The Half-Hanged Man is the story of one such captain, though a fictional one. Like many of his peers, Thomas Page is a commoner, destined to rise to brief greatness by virtue of wielding a nifty sword. The book also follows the story of the Spanish courtesan known as the Raven of Toledo, and of Hugh Calveley, a particularly ruthless soldier and black-armoured giant with flaming red hair and incisors he had specially sharpened to terrify the French! Thrown into the mix are any number of battles and sieges, including the Battle of Auray in 1364, where the Franco-Bretons and Anglo-Breton armies hammered the life out of each other for possession of the Duchy of Brittany. Below is an excerpt of Hugh Calveley’s memories of the epic Battle of Najéra…

Excerpt: “I led my portion of the rearguard across the open ground to the right of the prince’s battalion, and surged into the first company of Castilian reinforcements as they tried to arrange into a defensive line. They were well-equipped foot with steel helms and leather jacks, glaives and axes, but demoralised and unwilling to stand against a charge of heavy horse. I skewered a serjeant in the front rank with my lance and rode over him as the men behind him scattered, yelling in fear and hurling their banners away as they ran. If all the Castilians had behaved in such a manner, we would have had an easy time of it, but now Enrique flung his household knights into the fray. It had started to rain heavily, sheets of water blown by strong winds across the battlefield, and a phalanx of Castilian lancers on destriers came plunging out of the murk, smashing into the front rank of my division. A lance shattered against my cuisse, almost knocking me from the saddle, but I kept my seat and slashed at the knight with my broadsword as he hurtled past, chopping an iron leaf from the chaplet encircling his basinet, but doing no other damage.

My men held together under the Castilian charge, and soon there was a fine swirling mêlée in progress. I was surrounded by visored helms and glittering blades, men yelling and horses screaming, and glimpsed my standard bearer ahead of me, shouting and fending off two Castilians with the butt of his lance. Another Englishman rode in to help him, throwing his arms around one of the Castilians and heaving him out of the saddle with sheer brute strength, and then a fresh wave of steel and horseflesh, thrown up by the violent, shifting eddies of battle, closed over them and shut off my view. I couldn’t bear to lose my banner again, and charged into the mass of fighting men, clearing a path with the sword’s edge. A mace or similar hammered against my back-plate, sending bolts of agony shooting up my spine, and my foot slipped out of the stirrup as I leaned drunkenly in the saddle, black spots reeling before my eyes.”

Intrigued? See the links to the Kindle and paperback below:


And links to my blog and joint website:

Many thanks to David for giving us this glimpse of his new novel, and I'd like to wish him all the best and much success in his future writing career!

03 December, 2012

Happy Anniversary To Me And Edward!

Today marks the seventh anniversary of the Edward II blog!  Yes, I started it on 3 December 2005, wow.  Seven years, 445 posts (at least three or four a month every month since December 2005) and almost half a million page views later, I'm still here and still have lots and lots and lots on the subject of Edward II that I want to say, and am really looking forward to the next seven years of the blog, and the seven after that.  :-)

Thank you so much for reading and for your support over the years!

30 November, 2012

Demolishing Myths About Edward II, Part 2: Tynemouth, 1312

This is the second part (part one) of my series demolishing myths about Edward II, otherwise known as the Why Almost Everything You Think You Know About Edward II Is Wrong series.

2) Myth: Edward II abandoned Queen Isabella at Tynemouth in May 1312 when she was pregnant, in order to save Piers Gaveston.

I've dealt with this rather unpleasant myth on the blog before, but want to examine it again as it is still often repeated as fact.  The St Albans chronicler 'Trokelowe', writing several decades later and 270 miles away, says that Edward II abandoned a weeping, pregnant Isabella at Tynemouth in May 1312 in order to take Piers Gaveston to safety away from their rapidly-approaching enemy Thomas of Lancaster, and left her there to her fate, even though she begged him not to.  Fans of the Victim!Isabella school of thought simply adore this story, and it's a central plank in the 'Edward II was the nastiest, cruellest husband ever' notion that's become so popular these days, but in fact, it's pure nonsense and based on the St Albans chronicler confusing events of 1322, when Isabella was once again at Tynemouth, with events that happened a decade earlier.

Isabella's household accounts fortuitously survive for 1311/12 and, with an account of the king's movements in a memorandum on the Close Roll, demonstrate the total inaccuracy of the abandonment story: in fact, Edward and Isabella (and Piers) left Tynemouth together on the same day, 5 May.  Edward and Piers went to Scarborough, where they arrived on the 10th; Piers was left in the castle there while Edward went to Knaresborough, which castle belonged to Piers, and then to York, where he arrived on 14 May.  Isabella may have travelled to York by land while Edward and Piers went by sea to Scarborough - spending five days in a small boat on the bitterly cold North Sea was perhaps not the most sensible course of action, given that Isabella was in the first trimester of pregnancy - and from her accounts it appears that she travelled via Darlington and Ripon to York to be reunited with her husband on or before 16 May (she was in Darlington on the 11th and in Ripon, only 25 miles from York, on the 12th), on which date the controller of her household received expenses for the journey.  On the other hand, it may be that it was only some of her household who made this overland journey, and that Isabella herself accompanied Edward with a few attendants and that the royal couple spent the entire time in each other's company - meaning that Isabella did sail in a small boat from Tynemouth to Scarborough for five days with her husband and Piers Gaveston.  Edward himself evidently also took only a few attendants with him, and other members of his household seem to have travelled via land with the queen's.  Frustratingly, Isabella's accounts don't make it clear where she herself was at this time, only (most of) her household.  At any rate, it is clear that Edward and Isabella left Tynemouth on the same day and either spent the next few days travelling together or were reunited in York eleven days later at most.  It is absolutely clear that Isabella was not left behind weeping in Tynemouth in danger from anyone, to shift for herself as best she might, and her accounts state that some of her possessions had to be left behind at 'Les Sheles' (South Shields) near Tynemouth, which indicates that she left there in a hurry.  Edward also left many of his own possessions behind, which were seized by Thomas of Lancaster shortly afterwards.

The St Albans chronicle is the only source (except for a later St Albans chronicler who copied it) for the story that Edward callously 'abandoned' his pregnant queen to save Piers Gaveston; no other chronicler so much as hints at it, not the well-informed royal clerks Adam Murimuth or the author of the Vita Edwardi Secundi who knew Edward II well, not the northern chroniclers who were in a much better position to know what was happening than a chronicler far away in distance and time.  Edward's biographer Seymour Phillips (Edward II, 2010, pp. 187, 203) points out that "Contrary to the report in Trokelowe's chronicle, written at St Albans, the pregnant Isabella was not abandoned at Tynemouth; instead she left there with her husband on 5 May and accompanied him to Scarborough before returning to York on 17 May."  Some imaginative modern novelists and so-called non-fiction writers even have it, however, that Isabella was not only cruelly deserted by her husband and left in danger from Thomas of Lancaster (conveniently forgetting to point out that Thomas was her own uncle), but also from Robert Bruce.  'Trokelowe' evidently confused events of May 1312 with those of October 1322, when Isabella was indeed caught behind Robert's army at Tynemouth, but Robert was nowhere near the town in May 1312, even if the queen had been left there alone: he was busy that year besieging and capturing English-held castles in Scotland. 

Alison Weir, unsurprisingly, chooses to perpetuate the myth of Edward II callously abandoning his pregnant wife in her biography of the queen, as it does fit so nicely into the Victim!Isabella theme she's pushing so hard.  She repeats the St Albans story as though it's gospel truth and states "She had begged her husband in tears not to leave her, but he insisted that she remain behind in Tynemouth...Isabella could not have felt very kindly disposed towards her husband, who had twice* fled and left her behind, all in order to keep his favourite safe, and with little thought for her own safety, even though she was carrying his child."  (Weir, 2005, pp. 63-4.)  This is slanted, overwrought commentary with a blatant agenda and extremely unfair to Edward, and Weir must surely have known it was untrue when she wrote it as she cites Isabella's accounts and other chronicles of this period frequently and therefore must have realised that they do not corroborate the St Albans chronicle on any point.  The extremely important fact that the St Albans account is a decades-later tale written at the other end of the country which confuses events of spring 1312 with those of autumn 1322 is not mentioned anywhere; the story is repeated as though it is certain truth and as though there is no other possible account of what happened in Tynemouth in May 1312.  If you have to withhold vital information from your readers like this to make a point, you don't have a point.  Even Paul Doherty, who in his Isabella and the Strange and Biased Book About Edward II (as its title should be) goes out of his way to criticise Edward for absolutely everything he ever did or didn't do, doesn't repeat this myth, pointing out instead that in May 1312 Isabella "was forced to flee with her husband...[and] adhered to her husband."  Annoyingly, however, Doherty does repeat the myth in his 2009 novel The Darkening Glass - Doherty has a habit of including myths about Edward II and Isabella in his novels which he doesn't include in his non-fiction as he knows perfectly well they're not true, such as stating in every one of his novels featuring Isabella that she was buried next to Roger Mortimer - and claims in his author's note that "Isabella was trapped at Tynemouth and had to fight her way out.  Some chroniclers place this in 1312, other [typo in book] 1323 [sic, should be 1322], and a few claim that such an escape happened twice."  Errrrm, no, they really don't.  'Trokelowe', the only chronicler who wrongly claims that Isabella was 'trapped' at Tynemouth in May 1312 (unless, and I don't, you count Thomas Walsingham, a later chronicler also of St Albans who died in 1422 and copied the story), does not say that Isabella had to 'fight her way out', but says that her uncle the earl of Lancaster, entering the town, assured her that he would not rest until he had separated Piers from the king.  For events at Tynemouth in October 1322, see my post here.

[* By this, Weir means that Edward left Isabella at Windsor just after New Year 1312 and travelled north, with his heavily pregnant niece Margaretto meet a newly-returned Piers Gaveston in Yorkshire.  Claiming that Edward 'abandoned' Isabella at this time, or that he 'fled' (from whom?), or that Isabella was not safe because of his journey north, is putting an excessively, ludicrously negative spin on the way Edward acted at this time.  (Colour me wholly unsurprised.)  Isabella joined her husband in the north a few weeks later, keeping in frequent contact with him via messengers before and during the journey.  They must have conceived Edward III shortly after her arrival, during Lent, tsk.]

It's perfectly legitimate and reasonable to criticise Edward II for his behaviour in the first few months of 1312, skulking in the north and risking civil war again with his barons because of Piers Gaveston, but there is no reason to suppose that Isabella suffered as a result of it or that she was angry with her husband for treating her badly in any way, or that Edward was so callously neglectful of his queen that he was willing to abandon her, pregnant and weeping, to possible danger.  It is a frequent assumption with no contemporary evidence whatsoever that Isabella hated and despised her husband from the very beginning of their marriage, and hated Piers Gaveston as her rival for Edward's affections and wished him ill.  Once the main planks of the popular 'Edward and Isabella's marriage was an utter disaster from the start and he neglected the poor girl shamefully' notion - that Isabella was acting as leader of the opposition to Piers in 1308, that he and Edward deliberately humiliated her by taking and wearing her jewels, that Edward abandoned her when she was pregnant - are exposed as the myths that they are, any easy assumptions that Isabella hated her husband (her 'husband' in inverted commas, as I've seen some people online call him) and thought he'd done her wrong melt away, and a far more complex, interesting and realistic picture of their relationship appears.  Here's a radical notion: maybe Isabella was happy to be with Edward, and maybe they were fond of each other and enjoyed each other's company, and it is virtually certain that they were both thrilled about Isabella's pregnancy.  Entries from Edward's surviving accounts in 1316 during Isabella's pregnancy with their second son John - buying cushions for her carriage and so on - indicate that he took an interest and concern in her comfort and well-being while she was pregnant, and there is no reason to suppose that he felt any differently in 1312.  An entry on the Close Roll of 6 June 1312 demonstrates that Edward had borrowed and was now repaying forty pounds from the Genoese merchant Antonio di Pessagno to buy "pearls for the queen," which were probably the "large white pearls" Edward paid his minstrel 'King' Robert two pounds to bring to him on 25 April that year.  Given the timing, around two months after the future Edward III must have been conceived, the pearls are very likely to have been Edward's gift to Isabella on hearing the news of her pregnancy.  He must have been delighted.  It seems very improbable that he would have deliberately and thoughtlessly abandoned her to danger only ten days later.

And maybe, just maybe, Edward II's strong desire to protect Piers Gaveston at almost any cost (he even offered to recognise Robert Bruce as king of Scotland and leave him to rule in peace if Robert would protect Piers at this time) does not necessarily mean that he didn't care about Isabella and their child, and there is no reason to suppose that he was capable of feeling affection and concern for one person alone or felt that he had to 'choose' between the two.  Edward and Isabella's relationship is something I'll be returning to in future posts, and for now let's just say that it was complex and developed and changed over time, of course, as any intimate relationship that lasted nearly two decades is bound to do, and that modern assumptions that all they ever felt for each other was loathing, contempt or indifference are frankly one-dimensional and silly, and based on hindsight.

Calendar of Close Rolls 1307-1313, pp. 426, 459-60; F.D. Blackley and G. Hermansen, eds., The Household Book of Queen Isabella of England for the Fifth Regnal Year of Edward II, pp. xxv-xxvi, 15, 55, 131; Elizabeth Hallam, The Itinerary of Edward II and His Household, 1307-1327, p. 85; H.T. Riley, ed., Johannis de Trokelowe et Henrici de Blaneforde Chronica et Annales, pp. 75-76.

27 November, 2012

Demolishing Myths About Edward II, Part 1: Isabella's Jewels And Piers

This was inspired by Hannah's excellent recent blog post Balderdash and Piffle: A Mythical History of England, a top ten list of myths about history that are still often repeated today.  There are so many myths about Edward II that I'm selecting the ones I think are most worthwhile demolishing, and will be examining them, in no particular order, in a series of posts.  (Strap yourselves in; it's going to be a long ride.)  In the first part, I discuss the popular story that Edward gave Isabella's jewels to Piers Gaveston.

1) Myth: Edward II gave Queen Isabella's jewels to Piers Gaveston

A favourite tale in the popular modern narrative which depicts Edward II as a callous, heartless husband who favoured Piers Gaveston over his poor long-suffering little queen to the extent that he humiliated her by giving all their wedding gifts and even her own jewels to his lover, who, being the vain and insolent peacock he supposedly was, deliberately flaunted himself in front of the queen wearing the jewels.  This story is parroted as certain truth everywhere nowadays, in novels, non-fiction and on TV programmes.  It isn't.

Although for sure it goes back over 150 years at least, I'm not sure where the story that Edward gave Isabella's jewels to Piers originally comes from; sometime, when I have time, I must try to track the origin and development of this peculiar and weirdly popular story.  An inventory of the jewels, clothes and other goods which formed the trousseau of madame Yzabel Royne d'Angleterre in 1308 still exists, and was printed in the English Historical Review back in 1897.  The author, Walter E. Rhodes, states "It is the jewels mentioned that Edward is said to have handed over to Gaveston, thereby causing the first quarrel between himself and Isabella."  Rhodes, however, does not state a source for Edward handing over these jewels to Piers - he seems to assume that it's a well-known story and thus needs no corroboration - nor for Edward and Isabella having a 'quarrel' shortly after their marriage, about her jewels or anything else.  The story also appears in Agnes Strickland's 1848 Lives of the Queens of England (vol. 2, p. 125), and I wouldn't be at all surprised, actually, if she's the one who invented it, as she did other myths which are still repeated as fact today.  Strickland says that Edward gave the gifts to Piers because "his passion for finery was insatiable," and that Isabella "naturally resented this improper transfer of her father's munificent gifts, which she regarded as part of her dower, and as heir-looms to her descendants."  No source is cited in support of this statement.

The contemporary writer of the Annales Paulini, the annals of St Paul's, states (ed. Stubbs, p. 258) that in January 1308 Edward II's father-in-law Philippe IV of France gave him splendid wedding gifts: a 'ring of his realm', the most beautiful bed (or couch) ever seen, war-horses and many other, unspecified gifts.  Although the passage in the Annales about the gifts is often cited as evidence that Edward gave his queen's jewels to Piers, neither she nor the jewels she took with her to England in her trousseau are mentioned at all.  The passage says that Philippe dedit, 'gave', the wedding gifts to Edward - just to Edward, regi Angliae (the king of England), not to him and Isabella jointly.  The next sentence says that Edward misit, 'sent', all the gifts to Piers.  The word 'sent' does not necessarily imply that Piers was intended to keep the gifts permanently, but might simply mean that the king sent the precious items he had received to the man who was, after all, his regent in England during his absence and his closest friend and confidant, the man he trusted and loved above all others, to store safely for him.

And even if Edward did intend Piers to keep the gifts?  Well, they were gifts given to him, Edward and Edward alone, after all, and tactless and likely to cause hostility though it certainly was to hand them all over to Piers, Edward had the right to do what he wanted with them; they were his property now, not Philippe's, and not in fact Isabella's either.  The Annales Paulini does not say anywhere that the gifts given to Edward by Philippe were intended for Isabella as well, or formed part of her dowry, or were meant to be passed on to Edward and Isabella's children, or otherwise belonged to her in any way, so I really don't know where this popular notion of Edward giving 'Isabella's' jewels to Piers comes from.  The key point is that the wedding gifts given to Edward by his father-in-law and sent (not necessarily 'given') by Edward to Piers, cannot in any way be described as 'Isabella's jewels'.  The gifts included war-horses, destriers, which were of no possible use to Isabella.  Where does the notion that Edward's wedding gifts were solely jewels and 'Isabella's jewels' at that even come from?  Her father gave her a large number of her own jewels, plate, clothes and furnishings to take to England with her, as mentioned above.  There is absolutely no indication that any of these jewels were taken by Edward to give or send to Piers, as Walter E. Rhodes claimed in 1897, and several novelists have written since.  That is not what the Annales Paulini says.*  It says that Edward II sent the gifts given to him at his wedding by the king of France to Piers Gaveston.  No more, no less.  To claim that the writer meant Isabella's trousseau is stretching the evidence beyond what it actually says.

There is apparently one other source: both Paul Doherty in his thesis and book about Isabella and Elizabeth A.R. Brown in a 1989 article cite a manuscript in the British Library - Cotton Nero D x, folio 108v - as a source for the jewels/gifts story without indicating what it says or even what the manuscript is.  It appears to be a chronicle of England from 1287 to 1346, based on the works of chroniclers Nicholas Trevet and Adam Murimuth.  I haven't seen what this chronicle says about Edward sending his wedding gifts to Piers Gaveston, but when all's said and done, it's another chronicle, not compelling evidence such as (for instance) a letter from Edward declaring that he is giving Piers his gifts to keep or from Isabella complaining about the taking of her jewels would be.  Basically, it's hearsay, telling a story which was most probably based on people's general horror at this time that the king of England was treating a Gascon knight as an equal and a brother, and made him regent of his kingdom and sent him precious gifts from no less a person than the king of France.  I really don't know where the story about Piers wearing Isabella's jewels in front of her first came from, but it sounds very much like a fictional invention which over time has taken on the status of 'historical fact' and has grown in the telling, so that Philippe IV's wedding gifts to his son-in-law Edward which included horses, a ring and a bed have somehow become jewels and only jewels which rightfully belonged to Isabella alone, and with the additional and entirely unsupported detail that Edward and Piers deliberately set out to humiliate Isabella as much as possible, both by removing her possessions and by forcing her to watch her husband's lover wearing them.  Again, it's perfectly reasonable to criticise Edward for much of his behaviour in 1308; his putting up tapestries of Piers' arms at his coronation banquet in place of the royal French arms was astonishingly rude, tactless and insulting to the French royal family; sending the king of France's gifts to Piers, whether the latter was meant to keep them or not, was also tactless; and by far the worst, Edward's excessive favouritism towards Piers risked civil war with many of his magnates, and the desolation of his kingdom.  There is really no genuine reason to suppose, however, that Edward gave away Isabella's own possessions, or that Piers Gaveston intended any deliberate provocative insult to the queen, at this time or ever.

* The passage reads Rex Franciae dedit regi Angliae genero suo annulum regni sui, cubile suum quam pulcrum oculis non vidit aliud, destrarios electos et alia donaria multa nimis.  Quae omnia rex Angliae concito Petro misit.

22 November, 2012

Deaths Of English Earls 1307-1330

Before 1312 or perhaps 1322 (depending on whether you count Piers Gaveston as earl of Cornwall at the time of his death; otherwise, the earl of Lancaster was the first), no English earl had been executed since Waltheof in 1076, although Edward I executed the Scottish earl of Atholl, John de Strathbogie, in November 1306.  Edward II's turbulent reign and its aftermath - the period from 1327 to 1330 before Edward III took over the governance of his realm really belongs politically to Edward II's reign rather than his son's - saw the executions of no fewer than seven earls (Cornwall, Lancaster, Carlisle, Arundel, Winchester, Kent and March), with two more (Gloucester and Hereford) killed in battle.  In no particular order, here are some notes on the English earls of the early fourteenth century and their deaths.

Thomas, earl of Lancaster, Leicester and Derby (and also of Lincoln and Salisbury in 1311 on the death of his father-in-law), c. 1278 - 22 March 1322

Thomas succeeded his father, Edward I's brother Edmund (d. 5 June 1296), in 1298, even though he was still under twenty-one.  He was beheaded at Pontefract on 22 March 1322, having committed treason by inviting Robert Bruce's army to England to help him and his allies fight against Edward II, though contemporary chroniclers were in little doubt that his real crime in Edward's eyes was his killing of Piers Gaveston just under ten years earlier.

Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln and Salisbury (c. 1250 - shortly before 15 February 1311)

Henry died a natural death, aged about sixty.  His only surviving legitimate child was his daughter Alice, and his lands and titles passed to his son-in-law Thomas of Lancaster, above.

Piers Gaveston, earl of Cornwall (c. 1270s/early 1280s - 19 June 1312)

Created earl of Cornwall on 6 August 1307 by an infatuated Edward II.  Probably the only man exiled from England no fewer than three times, and beheaded at Blacklow Hill, Warwickshire in the presence of the earls of Lancaster, Hereford and Arundel, having been taken prisoner by the earl of Warwick.

Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford (c. 10 May 1291 - 24 June 1314)

Edward I's eldest grandchild, Gilbert was killed at the battle of Bannockburn, aged twenty-three.  Gilbert's early death was profoundly significant: firstly it removed a moderate influence who was close to Edward II, his uncle, and who was also trusted and respected by the other magnates; secondly, his vast fortune passed to his three sisters and their husbands, and made the men powerful and influential.  Without Gilbert's death, Hugh Despenser the Younger could never have become the force he was in the 1320s.

Guy Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (c. 1272 - 12 August 1315)

One of the few English earls of the era not closely related to Edward II by blood or marriage.  Guy died of natural causes in his early or mid-forties.  Much later rumours had it that he had been poisoned by Edward II or friends of the king in revenge for his role in Piers Gaveston's death, which is vanishingly unlikely.

Thomas of Brotherton, earl of Norfolk (1 June 1300 - 4 August 1338)

Edward II's half-brother.  Created earl of Norfolk at the age of twelve in December 1312, a few weeks after the birth of his nephew Edward of Windsor displaced him as heir to the throne.  Thomas died of natural causes.

Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent (5 August 1301 - 19 March 1330)

Edward II's half-brother.  Created earl of Kent in July 1321, aged not quite twenty.  Edmund was beheaded in March 1330, still only twenty-eight, on the orders of Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer, for attempting to free Edward of Caernarfon from Corfe Castle.

Andrew Harclay, earl of Carlisle (c. 1270 - 3 March 1323)

Sheriff of Cumberland from 1311 and completely loyal for many years to Edward II, who rewarded him for his victory over the earls of Lancaster and Hereford at Boroughbridge in March 1322 with the earldom of Carlisle.  Andrew held the title for less than a year, being hanged, drawn and quartered in Carlisle for treason (he had negotiated a peace treaty with Robert Bruce without Edward's permission or knowledge).

John de Warenne, earl of Surrey and Sussex (30 June 1286 - 29/30 June 1347)

Edward II's nephew by marriage.  John succeeded his grandfather John de Warenne (d. 1304) when he turned twenty-one in 1307.  He died of natural causes in his early sixties.

Edmund Fitzalan, earl of Arundel (1 May 1285 - 17 November 1326)

Brother-in-law of the earl of Surrey, but not closely related to the king (he and Edward II were only third cousins or thereabouts).  Edmund's career followed an interesting trajectory: present at the death of Piers Gaveston in June 1312, he later became a loyal ally of Edward II, and was beheaded without trial by Roger Mortimer and Isabella of France in Hereford a few weeks after their invasion.

Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex (c. 1276 - 16 March 1322)

Married Edward I's daughter Elizabeth in 1302, and was killed horribly at the battle of Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322, during the Contrariant rebellion against his brother-in-law Edward II.

Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke (c. 1275 -23 June 1324)

Son of Henry III's half-brother William de Valence, and earl of Pembroke on the death of his mother in 1307.  Aymer died of natural causes in France on his way to Paris to meet Charles IV; the Brut chronicler, who disliked him for his role in the execution of the earl of Lancaster, claimed maliciously that he died on the privy.  In fact he was taken ill at dinner, collapsed and died suddenly in a servant's arms before he could be shriven.

Hugh Despenser the Elder, earl of Winchester (1 March 1261 - 27 October 1326)

Father of Edward II's notorious 'favourite', and created earl of Winchester in 1322.  Hugh was hanged in his armour by Roger Mortimer and Isabella of France, and his body fed to dogs.  He was sixty-five.

Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford (24 June 1257 - 19 April 1331)

A remarkably obscure and insignificant earl who played no role at all in Edward II's reign, except that he seems to have supported the king during the crisis of 1308 and was present at the publication of the Ordinances in September 1311.  Staying out of politics served Robert well: he died of natural causes in his seventies, and was succeeded by his nephew John, his son Thomas having died in 1329.

 John of Brittany, earl of Richmond (1266 - 17 January 1334)

Son of Edward I's sister Beatrice and thus Edward II's first cousin, and brother of Duke Arthur II of Brittany, though he spent most of his life in England.  John was loyal to Edward until at least late 1325, then joined Mortimer and Isabella.  Oddly, he never married, and died of natural causes in his late sixties.

Edward (III) of Windsor, earl of Chester (13 November 1312 - 21 June 1377)

Created earl of Chester by his doting father the king when he was only eleven days old, Edward acceded to the throne in January 1327 and died of natural causes in his sixties.

John of Eltham, earl of Cornwall (15 August 1316 - 13 September 1336)

Second son of Edward II and Isabella of France, and created earl of Cornwall in 1328, near the start of his brother's reign - not by his father, interestingly enough, though the earldom of Cornwall lay vacant for many years after Piers Gaveston's death - it's as though Edward II didn't want anyone else to hold the title, even his own son.  John died a natural death at the age of only twenty; the story told by a Scottish chronicler that John was killed by his brother the king can safely be dismissed.

Roger Mortimer, earl of March (25 April 1287 - 29 November 1330)

The queen's favourite who created himself earl of March in 1328; executed by Edward III on fourteen charges of treason and usurping royal power a few weeks after the young king took over the governance of his realm.

16 November, 2012

16 November 1326: Capture of Edward II

The disastrous reign of Edward II came to an unofficial and humiliating end on 16 November 1326, when he was captured near Llantrisant in South Wales by agents of his estranged wife Isabella of France, who had invaded England with her favourite Roger Mortimer, other exiles from Edward's regime and an army of Hainaulter mercenaries seven weeks earlier.  Only a small group of men remained with the king at the time of his capture: Hugh Despenser the Younger, his chamberlain and favourite; Robert Holden, controller of his wardrobe; Robert Baldock, chancellor of England; two knights, one sergeant-at-arms, one valet and one clerk.  Despenser's father Hugh Despenser the Elder, earl of Winchester, had been hanged at Bristol on 27 October at the command of Isabella and Roger Mortimer, and another of the king's few remaining high-ranking allies, Edmund Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, was beheaded at Mortimer's instigation and without trial in Hereford on 17 November with John Daniel and Robert de Micheldever

It is frequently stated that Edward II had been almost entirely abandoned in the autumn of 1326, and although it is beyond question that almost everyone who counted did indeed desert him, he was not quite as friendless as is often assumed.  The sergeant-at-arms William Badyn and 157 men in three ships were paid £35 6s 6d for pursuing Arnaud Caillau along the coast of Devon and Cornwall between 8 and 20 December 1326. [1]  Caillau was probably a kinsman of Piers Gaveston (whose aunt Miramonde de Marsan married Pierre Caillau of Bordeaux), became a household knight of the king in March 1313 and served him faithfully during the Anglo-French war of Saint-Sardos in 1324/25, acting as the lieutenant of Ralph Basset, seneschal of Gascony.   Edward had previously appointed Caillau keeper of the island of Oléron, seneschal of Saintonge and constable of the castle and town of Blaye. Caillau was in England in 1326 and preparing to sail from Southampton on 10 September "for the expedition of certain of the king’s affairs"; presumably the arrival of Isabella's invasion force two weeks later delayed his departure.  [2]  The timing of his pursuit suggests that he remained with Edward until shortly before the king's capture, and the fact that Roger Mortimer and Isabella considered Caillau important enough to send 158 men after him suggests they were extremely keen to catch him.  Donald, earl of Mar, a long-term friend and adherent of Edward II, remained with the king until late October, then returned to his homeland of Scotland and proved his devotion to the king by ordering his supporters to aid a plot to free Edward from Berkeley Castle in the summer of 1327, possibly taking part in person in another plot that autumn and joining the earl of Kent's conspiracy to restore Edward in 1330.  Mar told the archbishop of York, another plotter of 1330, that he would send an army of 40,000 men to England to aid Edward.  The Dominican friar Thomas Dunheved and his brother Stephen were fanatical enough adherents of Edward of Caernarfon to travel about the country after his downfall openly seeking support for his restoration to the throne, and to launch an attack on Berkeley Castle which temporarily freed the former king.  Thomas died in prison in Pontefract for his efforts; Stephen escaped from Newgate prison in London in 1329 and also joined the earl of Kent's plot to free Edward in 1330.  Sir Rhys ap Gruffydd of South Wales and Sir Gruffydd Llwyd of North Wales also remained loyal to the king to the end, and both took part in another plot to free Edward from Berkeley Castle in 1327.  Edward's teenaged nephew Edward de Bohun, son of the late earl of Hereford and Edward's late sister Elizabeth, was with the king at Neath on 10 November, with Rhys ap Gruffydd, and they were sent as a delegation to Isabella with two of Edward's chamber staff, Oliver de Bordeaux and John Harsik (the latter also joined the earl of Kent in 1330).  The abbot of Glastonbury, Adam of Sodbury, was indicted soon afterwards for concealing treasure belonging to Hugh Despenser the Younger and Robert Baldock in his abbey, and was said to have sheltered Baldock and "afterwards caused him to be conducted outside of the abbey through some places."  [3]  Abbot Adam was accused in 1327 of committing crimes in the company of men known to be plotting to free Edward from captivity.

Roger de Wodeham, a valet of Edward II's chamber and constable of Hadleigh Castle, with more than fifty armed men, attacked the Essex manor of one John Giffard and stole Giffard's horses to ride against Queen Isabella and her invasion force.  Wodeham and his men remained with Edward until the king sailed from Chepstow on 20 October – the day he abandoned what was left of his household, perhaps attempting to reach Ireland – and after the king's capture returned to Giffard's manor and, according to Giffard, tried to kill him for his support of the queen.  [4]  John de Toucestre was a former member of Edward's household whom the king sent to Reading Abbey in November 1325 to receive "sustenance for life" on his retirement.  Evidently, however, he left his abbey to fight for Edward after the invasion, as he was ordered on 10 October 1326 "to select all men at arms wherever he goes and to lead them to the king"; most of Edward’s household went in the other direction and deserted him when they realised that his cause was lost.  [5]  Toucestre and one Richard Brown of Halliford were accused of taking men from the manor of Shepperton against their will to fight against the invasion force at Bristol.   [6]  On 13 October 1326, Edward II ordered Malcolm Musard, a notorious robber and malefactor, to lead 3000 archers and all the men-at-arms of Worcestershire to him; evidently Musard obeyed, or at least tried to, as Queen Isabella seized his lands, goods and chattels on 20 May 1327 on the grounds that he had supported Despenser the Elder against herself and her son.  Musard - whom Edward II had imprisoned in 1323/24 for his support of the Contrariants a couple of years earlier - joined the earl of Kent’s conspiracy to restore Edward to the throne in 1330.  [7]

It is possible that Edward II deliberately sent men away from him once he knew that his capture was inevitable, either to protect them from the wrath of Isabella and Roger Mortimer or to order them to fight another day for him (as some of them did).  Other than the chancellor Robert Baldock and perhaps the sergeant-at-arms Simon of Reading, who were close allies of Despenser the Younger, the men with Edward at his capture were Thomas Wyther, John Bek, John le Blount, Robert Holden and John le Smale.  [8]  The first three men were Lancastrian adherents; Wyther and Bek had been household knights of Edward's cousin and enemy Thomas of Lancaster, whom he had had executed in March 1322, while Blount had joined the household of Thomas's brother Henry by September 1329 and probably earlier.  [9]  Only nine days before Edward's capture, the king pardoned Thomas Wyther 100 marks of a fine he had made in July 1322 "to save his life and have his lands again" for his adherence to Thomas of Lancaster.  John Bek had in 1321 read out in public the list of grievances Thomas of Lancaster had against Edward and the Despensers.  [10]  As the stated aims of Queen Isabella's invasion of England were to overthrow the hated Despensers and to avenge the executed Lancaster, these men might have been presumed to be safe from the queen's vengeance. John le Smale was the prebendary of Studley church near Ripon and dean of the chapel of St Martin-le-Grand in London, while Robert Holden was the prebendary of Peasmarsh and controller of Edward’s wardrobe; as clerics, they could not be executed.  [11]  This may indicate that Edward intentionally kept with him those men he knew would not suffer death for remaining with him. The exception was Simon de Reading, whose main fault in Isabella's eyes seems to have been his loyalty to and perhaps his personal friendship with Despenser the Younger; Reading was never accused of complicity in any of Despenser's crimes and misdeeds, and a vague charge of 'insulting the queen' - hardly a capital offence - sufficed to condemn him to death, with no pretence made at granting him a trial.  

Despenser and Reading were executed at Hereford on 24 November, the death sentence on Despenser pronounced by William Trussell, who had fled England in 1322 after the royalist victory over the earl of Lancaster at the battle of Boroughbridge.  [12]  Robert Baldock, whom Queen Isabella detested – she had ransacked the Hertfordshire manor of Thomas Catel several weeks earlier for no other reason than he was Baldock's brother – was also a cleric, and was placed under the negligent care of Adam Orleton, bishop of Hereford and one of Isabella's greatest supporters in 1326/27.  A London mob removed Baldock from Orleton's London home and dragged him off to Newgate prison, where he died a few months later.  [13]  Holden, Smale and the Lancastrians were released; Holden was pardoned for adherence to Despenser the Younger on 22 April 1327 at the request of Henry of Lancaster, who had succeeded his brother as earl of Lancaster.  [14]

That Edward II had more support in 1326 than is often supposed did not, of course, alter the fact that he had alienated a large part of his realm, and few men indeed were willing to fight for him, not even the household knights who had staunchly supported him during his campaign against his baronial enemies in the early 1320s.  Edward's cause collapsed with astonishing rapidity, and he was taken to Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire in honourable captivity, but captivity nonetheless.  A few weeks after his capture he was forced to abdicate in favour of his fourteen-year-old son Edward III, whose reign duly began on 25 January 1327.


1) Calendar of Close Rolls 1327-1330, p. 9.
2) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1313-1317, p. 464; Cal Pat Rolls 1317-1321, pp. 587-598; Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323, p. 466; Pierre Chaplais, The War of Saint-Sardos (1323-1325): Gascon Correspondence and Diplomatic Documents (Camden third series, 87, 1954), pp. 94, 143, 272; Cal Close Rolls 1323-1327, p. 615; Calendar of Fine Rolls 1319-1327, p. 415.
3) Cal Pat Rolls 1324-1327, p. 336; Cal Close Rolls 1323-1327, p. 622.
4) The National Archives SC 8/307/15309.  The petition is addressed to 'my lady the queen and my lord the duke [of Aquitaine]', so must date to before Edward III’s accession on 25 January 1327.  For Wodeham as a valet of Edward's chamber, see Cal Fine Rolls 1319-1327, p. 238, and J. C. Davies, 'The First Journal of Edward II's Chamber', English Historical Review, xxx (1915), 676.  He was still constable of Hadleigh on 22 February 1327: Cal Close Rolls 1327-1430, pp. 49-50.
5) Cal Close Rolls 1323-1327, p. 517; Cal Pat Rolls 1327-1330, p. 326.
6) TNA SC 8/32/1572.
7) Cal Pat Rolls 1324-1327, p. 326; Cal Fine Rolls 1327-1337, p. 43; Cal Close Rolls 1330-1333, p. 77.
8) Annales Paulini 1307-1340, in W. Stubbs, ed., Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II, vol. 1, Rolls Series, 76 (London, 1882), 319.
9) J.R. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster 1307-1322: A Study in the Reign of Edward II (1970), pp. 53-54, 61, 270-271, 274; Cal Close Rolls 1327-1330, p. 516; Cal Pat Rolls 1327-1330, p. 442.
10) Cal Pat Rolls 1324-1327, p. 335; Cal Fine Rolls 1319-1327, pp. 155, 183; Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster, pp. 276-277, 282, 292, 300.
11) Cal Close Rolls 1323-1327, pp. 471, 542, 550; Cal Pat Rolls 1324-1327, pp. 153, 163, 199, 213, 314.
12) G.L. Haskins, 'A Chronicle of the Civil Wars of Edward II', Speculum, xiv (1939), p. 80; Croniques de London depuis l’an 44 Hen III jusqu'à l'an 17 Edw III, ed. G.J. Aungier (1844), p. 44.  Trussell must have fled the country after August 1322, as he was, or was believed to be, in prison at Scarborough that July (Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323, p. 580), and in August he and four others were said to be 'committing intolerable damage' in England: Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323, p. 586.
13) R.M. Haines, King Edward II: Edward of Caernarvon, his Life, his Reign and its Aftermath, 1284-1330 (2003), pp. 178, 185.
14) Cal Pat Rolls 1327-1330, p. 97.

13 November, 2012

Happy 700th Birthday!

Today is an important anniversary: exactly 700 years since the birth of King Edward III on 13 November 1312!  Happy Birthday, Sire!  Here's a post I wrote about the great event two years ago.

Also, a post about Edward II's relationship with his children, including Edward III; and, because I can never say it often enough and because misinformed fools on the internet insist on claiming otherwise, here and here are posts detailing why we can be sure that Edward II was Edward III's real father.

07 November, 2012

November Anniversaries

1 November 1254: Probable date of the wedding of the future Edward I and Eleanor of Castile, Edward II's parents, a whopping thirty years before Edward was born.

1 November 1307: Wedding of Piers Gaveston, new earl of Cornwall, and Edward II's thirteen-year-old niece Margaret de Clare at Berkhamsted Castle, with the king, Margaret's brother Gilbert, earl of Gloucester and the teenagers' step-grandmother the dowager queen Marguerite present.  Edward gave jewels worth thirty pounds to the bride and groom, and a roan palfrey which cost twenty pounds to Margaret.  He provided the generous amount of seven pounds, ten shillings and sixpence to be thrown over the heads of the bridal pair and to be distributed afterwards to the poor, and spent an enormous twenty pounds on minstrels.  It must have been quite a celebration, and Edward later had to pay five shillings to a local resident as compensation for "damage done by the king's party" to his property.

1 November 1311: The deadline for Piers Gaveston, now stripped of his earldom of Cornwall and all his lands, to leave England and all Edward II's other territories, i.e. Ireland, Wales, Ponthieu and Piers' native Gascony.

1 November 1316: Edward II gave five pounds to a violist named Robert Daverouns, sent to him by his second cousin Philip, titular emperor of Constantinople, king of Albania, prince of Achaea, prince of Taranto, despot of Epirus and lord of Durazzo.

3 (or possibly 4) November 1311: The date on which Piers Gaveston actually left England, and from London, rather than Dover as ordered by the Lords Ordainer.  His around seven months pregnant wife Margaret de Clare remained in England, understandably.  Piers probably went to Flanders, though this is uncertain, and rumours that he had stayed in England were evidently so convincing that the Ordainers sent men to Devon and Cornwall to look for him.  Piers had certainly returned to England by mid-January 1312.

3 November 1317: Edward appointed his friend Antonio di Pessagno, a wealthy merchant of Genoa, as steward of Gascony; a grateful Antonio sent the king a gift of two camels in return.  Antonio enjoyed great influence over Edward: in 1313, Biagio Aldobrandini of the banking firm the Frescobaldi told his colleagues that "He [Antonio] is now in such a condition that he fears nobody, and what he wants is made in the court...and the court is led according to his judgement."

4 November 1311: Edward II spent fifty-two pounds on two war-horses for himself, one a bay and the other "white spotted."

6 November 1307: Edward appointed eight men, including his late father's good friend Othon Grandison, Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln, Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke and the bishops of Norwich and Durham, as envoys to France to conclude the negotiations and sort out any remaining details regarding his marriage to Isabella.  The wedding took place on 25 January 1308, ten years after it had first been proposed by Pope Boniface VIII.  As Edward's biographer Seymour Phillips points out, "[t]here is nothing to suggest that Edward II was for any reason unwilling to proceed with the marriage, whether through personal antipathy, the influence of Gaveston or the opinion of any of his advisers."  This is in response to Paul Doherty's odd theory, put forward in his sensationalist and supposedly non-fiction work Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II, that Edward "was in no hurry to honour treaty obligations or enter into connubial bliss...What profit, he argued, could be had from his marriage to Isabella?  Edward II even ignored members of his own council...Gaveston and Edward II were thoroughly enjoying the game they were playing..." i.e., pretending that Edward's marriage to Isabella would not go ahead.  Bizarre.

8 November 1246: Death at the age of sixty-six of Edward II's powerful and able great-grandmother Berenguela, queen of Castile in her own right, queen of Leon by marriage, eldest child of Alfonso VIII of Castile and his queen Eleanor of England, daughter of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.  Berenguela was the niece of Richard Lionheart, King John and Henry the Young King, and the elder sister of the more famous Blanche of Castile, queen of France.  She voluntarily abdicated the Castilian throne in favour of her son Fernando III in 1217, but remained as his chief counsellor for many years.

13 November 1312: Birth of Edward II and Isabella of France's eldest child the future Edward III at Windsor Castle, to the intense joy of Edward's subjects; in London, the inhabitants celebrated for an entire week by dancing in the streets and drinking the free wine provided.  (The previous heir to the throne had been Edward's half-brother Thomas of Brotherton, who was twelve in 1312.)  The author of the Vita Edwardi Secundi expressed a wish that the new royal baby would grow up to "follow the industry of King Henry II, the well-known valour of King Richard [Lionheart], may he reach the age of King Henry [III], revive the wisdom of King Edward [I], and remind us of the physical strength and comeliness of his father."  Note how Edward II's great-grandfather King John was tactfully not mentioned although his brother Richard was, and that Edward II's good looks and strength were the only positive attributes the writer could think of.

14 November 1307: Edward II gave seventy-three acres of land in his birthplace of Caernarfon rent-free for life to Mariota or Mary Maunsel, the woman who had been his wetnurse for the first few months of his life in 1284, until ill health forced her to leave his household.  Some years later he granted Mariota an income of five pounds a year, a very generous amount for a woman of her birth and status.

16 November 1272: Death of Edward II's grandfather Henry III; accession of his father, then in Sicily on his return from crusade in the Holy Land.  Edward I is meant to have expressed more sorrow for the death of his father than for that of his five-year-old son John the previous year, explaining that he could always have more sons but would never have another father - a comment that came back to bite him on the behind in later years when he had lost three sons and had to deal with the possibility that only his daughters would outlive him.

16 November 1321: Edward sent eight men to Scotland to extend his truce with Robert Bruce, which was due to expire at Christmas, for another two years.

16 November 1326: Capture of Edward II and Hugh Despenser the Younger at the 'Vale of Treachery' in South Wales.  Edward was taken to Llantrisant and then given into the custody of his first cousin Henry of Lancaster, while the unfortunate Hugh, refusing to take food and water, was taken to his hideous execution in Hereford.  (See Lady D's post for more info on his journey.)  The St Paul's annalist dramatically claims that the men were captured during a terrific storm, while the author of the Anonimalle chronicle reveals his ignorance of Welsh geography by stating that they were caught "near Snowdon."

17 November 1326: The beheading without trial in Hereford of Edward's ally Edmund Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, and of John Daniel and Robert de Micheldever, on the orders of Roger Mortimer, who "hated them with a perfect hatred," and Isabella of France.  Arundel was supposedly beheaded by a "worthless wretch" (villissimi ribaldi), who required twenty-two strokes of the axe to sever the unfortunate earl's head.

20 November 1311: Edward sent a polite letter to Sir Robert Holland, adherent and friend of the king's first cousin and enemy Thomas, earl of Lancaster: "...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."

20 November 1316: Accession of Edward's brother-in-law Philippe V as king of France, on the death of Philippe's nephew the five-day-old King Jean I 'the Posthumous', son of Louis X and Clemence of Hungary.

20 November 1322: Edward gave two shillings each to ten fishermen of Thorne, near Doncaster, "who fished in the king's presence and took great pike, great eels, and a large number of other fish...".  I find it hard to think of any other medieval king of England who would willingly have stood by a river in winter watching men fish.

23 November 1221: Birth of Edward II's uncle Alfonso X, eldest child of King Fernando III of Castile and Leon and his first queen Elisabeth or Beatriz of Swabia.  I'm intending to write a blog post sometime about this fascinating man.

24 November 1317: Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, and Bartholomew, Lord Badlesmere, signed an indenture with Sir Roger Damory, then the supreme favourite at Edward II's court, in an attempt to lessen his malign influence over the king.

24 November 1326: Execution of Hugh Despenser the Younger, lord of Glamorgan, chamberlain and beloved of Edward II.  Also the execution, without trial, of the sergeant-at-arms Simon of Reading, for obscure reasons.

28 November 1290: Death of Edward II's mother Eleanor of Castile, queen of England, at the age of forty-nine.  Her body was taken in solemn procession to Westminster Abbey, where she was buried with her son Alfonso's heart; the queen's own heart was given to the Dominicans of London, and her viscera were buried at Lincoln Cathedral.  Six-year-old Edward of Caernarfon can barely have known his mother: she had spent more than three years of his childhood outside England, and in the fifteen months since her return had spent little time with her son.

29 November 1314: Death at Fontainebleau of Edward II's father-in-law and second cousin Philippe IV of France, at the age of forty-six, following a hunting accident.  Edward heard the news on or before 15 December, when he ordered both archbishops, all the bishops of England and twenty-eight abbots to "celebrate exequies" for the late king.  Philippe left Isabella, "our dearest daughter, the queen of England," two rings, one of which she had previously given to him, and gave to the nuns of Poissy a valuable cup which Isabella had also once given to him.  His original will of May 1311 did not mention Isabella; he added a codicil to it the day before his death.

29 November 1321: Edward II and the Despensers' enemies, led by the earl of Lancaster, met at (probably) Pontefract in Yorkshire, despite the king's orders of 12 November forbidding them to do so.  A petition, the Doncaster Petition (this was where Lancaster had originally called for the meeting to be held), was drawn up, which among other things accused Edward of maintaining the younger Despenser in his piracy in the English Channel and in his (Despenser's) attempts to persuade the king to attack the peers of the realm, and asked the king to respond by 20 December.  Edward's response to the petition was surprisingly mild; he told Lancaster that giving him a deadline to reform the affairs of his realm gave the impression that he was the earl's subject, rather than vice versa.

29 November 1330: Execution of Roger Mortimer, earl of March and lord of Wigmore, at Tyburn in London.

30 November 1321: Edward began preparations for his campaign against the Contrariants, and sent out writs to all his sheriffs to order knights and squires of their county to muster at Cirencester on 13 December.

01 November, 2012

The Wedding Of Edward II's Parents

 On (or perhaps shortly before) 1 November 1254*, a group of English, Castilian and Gascon nobles gathered in the church of the Cistercian monastery of Las Huelgas in Burgos, northern Spain, to witness the wedding of Lord Edward, son and heir of King Henry III of England, and Infanta doña Leonor, or Eleanor as she is known nowadays, half-sister of King Alfonso X of Castile.

Edward was fifteen at the time, and had been heir to the English throne since the moment of his birth in June 1239.  Eleanor, almost certainly, had just turned thirteen or was soon to do so, and was definitely not nine or ten, as some writers continue to state (that's an invention of the nineteenth century).  It is easier to say who was not present at the wedding than who was: neither Henry III nor his queen Eleanor of Provence attended, although the queen had set sail from England with her son in late May and been with him in Gascony until October.  The bride's mother Jeanne, dowager queen of Castile, also did not attend, having departed for her native county of Ponthieu in northern France some weeks previously following a dispute with her stepson Alfonso X over her dower lands.  Jeanne had been betrothed to Henry III in 1235, but the dowager queen and regent of France Blanche of Castile stepped in and put a stop to it, as Jeanne's inheritance of Ponthieu, although only a small county, bordered Normandy and thus would give England a strong position from which to attempt to regain the duchy, lost to the French in 1204.  Blanche, determined that France and her son Louis IX should keep Normandy, arranged Jeanne's marriage to her widowed nephew Fernando III of Castile instead, with the aid of her sister Queen Berenguela, in 1237.  Now, nearly twenty years later, Jeanne's daughter married Henry's son.  Somewhat ironically, England did end up gaining control of Ponthieu, as Eleanor (the only one of Jeanne's children to outlive her) inherited it from her mother on the latter's death in 1279 and it passed to the future Edward II on Eleanor's own death in 1290, but by then it didn't really matter as any possibility of England regaining control of Normandy was many decades past.

Perhaps present at Edward and Eleanor's wedding in addition to Alfonso X, though here I'm only speculating, were Alfonso's queen Violante, daughter of King Jaime I of Aragon; Alfonso and Eleanor's uncle, Fernando III's brother don Alfonso, lord of Molina; and Alfonso X and Eleanor's surviving siblings, such as the wonderfully scandalous don Enrique, who would shortly be forced to flee from Castile after rebelling against his brother the king and who would spend several years in England cheerfully sponging off Henry III, don Fadrique, who in 1277 would be secretly executed by Alfonso, also for rebellion, and don Sancho and don Felipe, respectively archbishops of Toledo and Seville.  I don't know the identities of Edward's companions, though his retinue seems to have been smaller and less magnificent than one might expect, given that the future king of England was marrying into the royal family of Castile.  On the same day as the wedding, Alfonso knighted Edward, an honour he had insisted on performing throughout the negotiations for the marriage; some of Edward's companions were also knighted by the king.  The monastery of Las Huelgas where the wedding took place had been founded in 1187 by Alfonso VIII of Castile and his queen Eleanor of England (see also below for more about them).

In a charter issued at Las Huelgas, Alfonso wrote: "I, don Alfonso...the first time I came to Burgos after I acceded to the throne, also came here don Eduardo, the first son and heir of King Henry of England, and was knighted by me in the monastery of Santa Maria la Real of Burgos, and married my sister, the princess doña Leonor, and received the blessing there with her."  [Cited in Alfonso X, the Learned: A Biography, by H. Salvador Martinez, translated by Odile Cisneros, 2010, pp. 132-3.]

King Alfonso X (23 November 1221 - 4 April 1284) was the eldest of the fifteen children of Fernando III of Castile and Leon, Eleanor the twelfth, and twenty years younger than her half-brother (Alfonso had an illegitimate daughter, Beatriz, later queen of Portugal, who was only a few months Eleanor's junior).  Alfonso was a fascinating character, known as 'the Wise' or 'the Learned', el Sabio, and 'the Astrologer' because of his interest in the subject; the Alphonsus crater on the moon is named after him.  He was also a talented poet and musician who wrote the Cantigas de Santa Maria, a CD of which I was listening to as I wrote this, and an enthusiastic law-maker who began the compilation of a comprehensive law code known as the Siete Partidas.  Following his accession to the throne in May 1252 on the death of Fernando III, he had been self-confidently pushing for greater influence on the European stage for himself and Castile; in 1257 he put himself forward as a candidate for election as king of Germany, though lost out to Henry III's brother Richard of Cornwall.  And in 1252/53, he claimed that Gascony, the southern part of Aquitaine and then ruled by England, rightfully belonged to him.  Alfonso's great-grandmother Eleanor of England, daughter of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, married Alfonso VIII of Castile, who was to claim that he had been promised Gascony as his wife's dowry, and even launched a rather desultory invasion of the duchy soon after Eleanor of Aquitaine's death.  For a long time nothing came of this - Alfonso VIII's grandson Fernando III was far more focused on Andalusia in the south than on his northern neighbours - but fifty years later with most of Andalusia re-conquered, Alfonso X revived his great-grandfather's claim, presenting himself as the heir of Arthur (1187-1203), nephew of Richard Lionheart and King John, whom the king of France Philip Augustus had recognised as duke of Aquitaine on Richard's death in 1199.

In order to forestall a war, Henry III offered the marriage of his son and heir to Alfonso's sister in exchange for Alfonso's giving up Castilian claims to Gascony, which he duly agreed to.**  Henry moved swiftly into action on hearing of Alfonso's interest in the duchy, and several entries on the Patent Roll of May 1253 (Patent Rolls 1247-58, p. 230) mention negotiations with Alfonso for the "marriage of Edward, the king's son, with A. sister of the king of Castile."  'A.' presumably is short for Alianore, the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century English form of the name Eleanor.  Whether she brought any dowry to her marriage is unclear.  Little is known of Eleanor of Castile's childhood before she married Edward; her biographer John Carmi Parsons states that she was born in the north of Castile almost certainly in late 1241 and named after her great-grandmother Eleanor/Leonor of England, and soon moved south with the rest of the family as her father campaigned against the Moors in Andalusia, which culminated in his glorious re-conquest of Seville in 1248.  Growing up at the courts of two such remarkable and able men as her father and half-brother must surely have provided a stimulating environment for the young girl.  Within a few days of the wedding, Eleanor left her homeland forever and spent the next year in Gascony with Edward, finally arriving in England in October 1255.  She met her brother the king again in Bayonne in November 1273, when Alfonso X travelled there to attend the christening of Edward and Eleanor's third son Alfonso, whose godfather he was.  Edward, at that point, had been king of England for a year.

On 1 November 1254, Alfonso X, in the knowledge that his sister would now be queen of England and duchess of Aquitaine, formally renounced his claims to Gascony.  The Castilian claim did not entirely die, however, at least in some people's minds: 70 years later in 1324, Edward II's then steward of Gascony, Ralph Basset, wrote in a letter to Hugh Despenser the Younger that he had heard from "some old people" (ascunes auncienes gentz) that the kings of Castile had once claimed homage as far as the River Dordogne and "several people remember that [they] should have the right," and advised Despenser to "have the treasury of our lord the king searched, to see if you might not find an old remembrance touching Castile...".  England and France were then at war over Gascony, and presumably Basset was hoping that the regents of Castile - ruling for the under-age Alfonso XI, great-grandson of Alfonso X - might decide to enter the war on the English side and fight France for a share of Gascony.  Hugh Despenser didn't even bother to respond to this entirely impractical and unrealistic suggestion in his next letter to Basset.

It is astonishing, really, to think that Edward I and Eleanor of Castile's heir Edward II would not be born until 25 April 1284, a few months short of thirty years, a massive thirty years, after their wedding.  Edward and Eleanor had been married for thirty-six years and produced at least fourteen children by the time of Eleanor's death on 28 November 1290, when she was forty-nine.  In January 1291, Edward I sent a sad letter to the abbot of Cluny, referring to Eleanor "whom in life we dearly cherished, and whom in death we cannot cease to love."  He remained a widower for nine years, until war with France necessitated his marriage to Marguerite in September 1299.  The 1254 wedding of two teenagers, intended to forestall a war between England and a Spanish kingdom over territory over France, was the start of what would prove to be a highly successful and happy royal marriage.

* The date of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile's wedding is not completely certain, and may perhaps have taken place slightly earlier; Edward arrived in Burgos on 18 October 1254.
** Obviously the situation was far more complex than I've made it appear, and I haven't mentioned the Gascon rebellion of Gaston de Béarn, who fled to Alfonso X when it failed, or the negotiations between Henry and Alfonso.  I decided the post was quite long enough without delving into the complexities of mid-thirteenth-century politics in southern Europe.  :-)


- John Carmi Parsons, Eleanor of Castile: Queen and Society in Thirteenth-Century England (1995)
- Michael Prestwich, Edward I (1988)
- Margaret Howell, Eleanor of Provence: Queenship in Thirteenth-Century England (1998)
- Marc Morris, A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain (2008)
- Anthony Goodman, 'England and Iberia in the Middle Ages', in Michael Jones and Malcolm Vale, eds., England and her Neighbours 1066-1453: Essays in Honour of Pierre Chaplais (1989)

28 October, 2012

Edward And Isabella's Families

Edward II was at least the fourteenth and perhaps the sixteenth child of Edward I, who was almost forty-five at the time of his son's birth on 25 April 1284, and his first queen Eleanor of Castile, who was about forty-two and a half at the time.  Edward was their youngest child; his supposed younger sisters Beatrice and Blanche, who are even today sometimes still added to the long list of Edward and Eleanor's children, are inventions of much later writers.  Only six of Eleanor of Castile's children outlived her: Edward II; Eleanor, countess of Bar; Joan of Acre, countess of Gloucester; Margaret, duchess of Brabant; Mary, a nun; Elizabeth, countess of Holland and Hereford.  Edward II's three elder brothers all died young; they were John (July 1266 - August 1271), Henry (May 1268 - October 1274) and Alfonso (November 1273 - August 1284).  Edward I also had two sons by his second wife Marguerite of France who survived into adulthood, Thomas, earl of Norfolk (1300-1338) and Edmund, earl of Kent (1301-1330).  Edward II's grandparents were: Henry III, king of England (d. 1272); Eleanor of Provence, queen of England (d. 1291); Fernando III, king of Castile and Leon (d. 1252); Jeanne de Dammartin, queen of Castile and countess of Ponthieu in her own right (d. 1279).  For more about his ancestors, see here and here.

Isabella's parents were Philippe IV, king of France (1268 - 29 November 1314) and Jeanne, queen of Navarre and countess of Brie and Champagne in her own right (January 1273 - late March/early April 1305).  Isabella's grandparents were: Philippe III, king of France (d. 1285); Isabel of Aragon, queen of France (d. 1271); Enrique or Henri I, king of Navarre (d. 1274); Blanche of Artois, queen of Navarre and countess of Lancaster (d. 1302).  Isabella and Edward II both lost their mothers at a young age, Edward six, Isabella about nine.  Marguerite of France, in addition to being Edward II's stepmother, was Isabella's aunt, Philippe IV's younger half-sister, while Isabella's grandmother Blanche of Artois was also Edward II's aunt by marriage.  By blood, however, Edward and Isabella were not particularly closely related, at least not by the inbred standards of later European royal families, being second cousins once removed: Edward's grandmother Eleanor of Provence was the younger sister of Isabella's great-grandmother Marguerite, queen of Louis IX.  (Louis, incidentally, was seventy years to the day older than Edward II, being born on 25 April 1214.)  Their son Edward III and his queen Philippa of Hainault were second cousins, both great-grandchildren of Philippe III of France and Isabel of Aragon (Philippe III - Philippe IV - Isabella - Edward III; Philippe III - Charles, count of Valois - Jeanne de Valois - Philippa).

Isabella - who was presumably named after her paternal grandmother Isabel of Aragon - was the sixth of seven siblings, who were all born very close together in time.  Only the date of the eldest brother, Louis X, is known: 4 October 1289, when their father was twenty-one and their mother sixteen.  The next two sons were also kings of France: Philippe V, born probably between 1291 and 1293, and Charles IV, apparently born in 1294.  The youngest child, Robert, was born in 1297, and died in August 1308 at the age of about eleven.  Isabella was born most probably in the second half of 1295 or at the beginning of 1296, so was around eleven and a half years younger than her husband.  She also had two older sisters, Marguerite and Blanche, who died in or shortly after 1294 and are very obscure, only really known from a betrothal to Fernando IV of Castile arranged by their father in 1294.  If either sister had lived, it's possible that she would have married Edward II instead of Isabella.  One of the two sisters may have been older than Louis X and born in 1288, though the date can't really be pushed back any further than that because of Queen Jeanne's youth (born in 1273), or perhaps both girls were born sometime between 1290 and 1293, between Philippe V and Charles IV.  Were any of the siblings multiple births?  I have no idea, but seven children were born between 1288/89 and 1297, and if they were all single births, Queen Jeanne must have been almost perpetually pregnant.

Isabella was the only one of Philippe IV's seven offspring who had sons who lived past childhood, Edward III (1312-1377) and John of Eltham, earl of Cornwall (1316-1336).  Louis X, Philippe V and Charles IV fathered five sons between them who died young.  They were: King Jean I 'the Posthumous' of France, son of Louis and Clemence of Hungary, 15 November - 20 November 1316; Philippe (January 1313 - March 1321) and Louis (June 1316 to January 1317), sons of Philippe V and Jeanne of Burgundy; Philippe (January 1314 - March 1322), son of Charles IV and his first wife Blanche of Burgundy; and Louis, born and died March 1324, son of Charles IV and his second wife Marie of Luxembourg.  The three brothers also had nine daughters between them, but as women could not inherit the throne of France, it passed, on the death of Charles IV in 1328, to his first cousin Philippe VI, the first Valois king of France, son of Philippe IV's brother Charles, count of Valois (1270-1325).  Louis X's daughter, however, inherited the kingdom of Navarre, to which the Valois had no claim, and became Queen Jeanne II.  The last of the Capets, the dynasty which had ruled France since 987, were Philippe V's daughter Marguerite, countess of Burgundy, Artois, Flanders, Nevers and Rethel (d. 9 May 1382), and Charles IV's daughter Blanche, duchess of Orléans (d. 8 February 1382).  In 1314, Philippe IV must have assumed that the future of his dynasty was assured; he had three sons aged between twenty and twenty-five, all of them married, all of them already fathers.  He could hardly have guessed that a mere fourteen years later they would all be dead without surviving male issue and that his brother's descendants would rule in France in their place - or that his daughter's son Edward III of England some years later would claim the throne and begin the Hundred Years War.

I looked once at some distant ancestors of Edward II (see link above), and here are some of Isabella's:

- Isabella was the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Harold Godwinson, the king of England killed at Hastings in 1066.  Harold's daughter Gytha married, probably in the early 1070s or thereabouts, Vladimir Monomakh, grand prince of Kiev, and I can't be the only person fascinated as to how and why that marriage came about - that there was a connection between England and distant Kiev in the eleventh century.  Gytha and Vladimir had five sons together, the eldest, Mstislav, being Isabella's ancestor via his daughter Euphrosyne, who married King Geza II of Hungary.  Isabella's paternal grandmother Isabel of Aragon was the daughter of Yolande or Violante of Hungary, daughter of King Andras II.  And so, with Edward III, the blood of Harold Godwinson returned to the English royal family.

- Via her maternal grandmother Blanche of Artois, queen of Navarre and countess of Lancaster, Isabella was the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Isaac Angelos, emperor of Byzantium (d. 1204) and of the Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa (d. 1190).

- Via both her parents, Isabella was the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, both lines descended from Henry and Eleanor's second daughter Eleanor, queen of Castile and her daughter Blanche of Castile, queen of France.

- Isabella was, via their daughter Agnes, the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Raynald de Châtillon, prince of Antioch (a character in the film Kingdom of Heaven and quite a few novels) and his wife Constance, who had previously been married to Eleanor of Aquitaine's uncle Raymond of Poitiers.  Raynald and Constance's daughter married Bela III of Hungary (son of Geza II and Euphrosyne of Kiev, mentioned above) and was the mother of Andras II.  Bela III married secondly, without issue, Marguerite, daughter of Louis VII of France and Constance of Castile, and widow of Henry the Young King.

To end the post, here are some of Edward II's first cousins:

Sancho IV, king of Castile
Beatriz, queen of Portugal
Margaret, queen of Norway
Arthur, duke of Brittany
Eleanor, abbess of Fontevrault
Marie, countess of St Pol
Beatriz, marchioness of Montferrat
Violante, lady of Biscay
Martin, abbot of Valladolid
Juan Manuel, duke of Peñafiel, one of the greatest medieval Spanish writers
Jean, count of Aumale

And some of Isabella of France's first cousins:

Catherine, titular empress of Constantinople, queen of Albania and princess of Achaea
Philippe VI, king of France
Isabelle, duchess of Brittany
Edward II's half-brothers Thomas of Brotherton, earl of Norfolk and Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent
Henry of Grosmont, first duke of Lancaster
Jeanne, countess of Hainault and Holland
Jeanne, countess of Artois
Isabelle, abbess of Fontevrault