One thing to say first: My long post from last year about Edward II's children, explaining why neither William Wallace nor Roger Mortimer could possibly have been their father, was linked on The Guardian website on Thursday, yay! It was in an article about Derek Jarman's 1991 film adaptation of Christopher Marlowe's c. 1592 play about Edward II (a film I liked a lot more than I was expecting to). I've been getting loads of hits from that - am very pleased and proud! ;-)
I'm still very grateful to the anonymous commenter on my blog a few weeks ago who kindly and generously shared information about Piers Gaveston's family with me, which has really got me thinking about Piers' age and his relationship with Edward II. His parents were Arnaud de Gabaston, baron of Béarn, and Claramonde de Marsan, daughter of Arnaud-Guilhem de Marsan (d. 1272), another of the barons of Béarn. Claramonde had previously been married to another Béarnais lord, Arnaud de Lescun, and had a son by him, Fortaner, Piers' half-brother. (Wrongly identified as Claramonde's brother by Piers' biographer J.S. Hamilton, but petitions SC 8/278/13863 and SC 8/278/13858 in the National Archives name Fortaner de Lescun as the brother of Claramonde's son Arnaud-Guilhem de Marsan.) Claramonde died on or shortly before 4 Febuary 1287; the story favoured by sensationalist novelists that she was burned as a witch first appeared in the seventeenth century.
After the death of Arnaud de Lescun, Claramonde was quickly married off to Arnaud de Gabaston, so quickly, in fact, that some Gascon experts on this period believe that her eldest child by her second marriage might in fact have been fathered by her first husband. This was Arnaud-Guilhem de Marsan, who took his mother's name and was heir to the lands and castles she inherited from her father (after whom he was named). Piers Gaveston was the second child of Claramonde and Arnaud de Gabaston, or perhaps Gabaston's eldest child, half-brother of Fortaner de Lescun and, perhaps, also the half-brother of Arnaud-Guilhem de Marsan. My anonymous commenter points out that Piers was chosen by his father to inherit the lordship and title of Gabaston, maybe proof that Arnaud thought Piers was his eldest son. Fortaner and Arnaud-Guilhem were old enough to file a suit in 1292 (J.S. Hamilton, p. 27), and Fortaner was one of the hostages Edward I gave to Alfonso III of Aragon in 1288, as was his stepfather Arnaud de Gabaston (Foedera 1272-1307, pp. 689-90). Fortaner was called lord of Lescun, Fortanerius dominus de Lescu; Arnaud was called Dominus Arnaldus de Gauaston.
ETA: Anerje saw Arnaud de Gabaston's tomb in Winchester Cathedral recently and took pics, here!
As I've remarked here before, Piers was most probably named after his uncle Pierre Caillau, mayor of Bordeaux, who married Claramonde's sister Miramonde. On his father's side he seems to have had uncles named Bernard and Raimond de Gabaston, the latter an archdeacon, and his paternal grandfather was probably Garsie de Gabaston. The family can be traced back in Béarn to 1040, so Piers was most certainly not a "night-grown mushrump" as Christopher Marlowe calls him and whatever contemporary English chronicles might have thought. Incidentally, there is a theory, based on one fourteenth-century chronicle called the Polistorie, that Piers Gaveston's father was also called Piers. A petition to Edward I in c. 1305 disproves this, however: it was presented by 'Arnaud-Guilhem de Marsan and Perrot de Gauastun, sons of Sir Arnaud de Gauaston, late knight of Gascony' (fuiz de mons' Arnaud de Gauaston iadis chevaler de Gascoigne: The National Archives, SC 8/291/14546).
We know (Hamilton, pp. 21, 133 note 21) that Arnaud de Gabaston and Claramonde de Marsan were married by 30 June 1272, on which date they acknowledged a debt to the future Edward I. Given the confusion over the paternity of their son Arnaud-Guilhem de Marsan and his birth not long after the death of Claramonde's first husband Arnaud de Lescun, this would place Arnaud-Guilhem's birth in the early 1270s at the latest, perhaps before 1270. Thanks to the commenter, I now know that in 1285 Claramonde made a donation to have masses said in the diocese of Lescar for the birth of her daughter Amie or Amye, the fifth child of Arnaud de Gabaston (presumably this includes Arnaud-Guilhem). Piers was the second child, and was followed by brothers Gérard and Raimond-Arnaud, then Amie. (Sources: Pierre de Marca's Histoire du Béarn (1640) and the modern works of Pierre Tucoo-Chala, via the commenter.)
So Piers' elder brother or half-brother was born near the beginning of the 1270s or earlier (and, as noted above, was old enough to file a suit in 1292), and his younger sister Amie was born in 1285, with two brothers born sometime before her. Unless no children were born to Claramonde and Arnaud for many years from the early 1270s and then their youngest four were all born close together in the 1280s, this means that Piers Gaveston was a few years older than I've always thought, perhaps even born as early as 1275 or thereabouts. This changes the mental picture I have of his relationship with Edward II. The St Albans chronicler chronicler calls Piers and Edward 'contemporaries', coetani, and I'd always assumed that he was a little older than Edward, born perhaps in 1281 or 1282 (he had to have been born by 29 July 1283 at the latest, as on 29 July 1304 he was granted the wardship of Roger Mortimer by Edward I, and had to be at least twenty-one then). As J.S. Hamilton points out, Piers seems to have been chosen as a companion for his son by Edward I on the grounds that he was somewhat older and a suitable role model as he came from the region of bele manere (fine manners) and was courteous, and also a brave and excellent soldier and jouster. Seemingly, though, Piers was more than a couple of years older than Edward, perhaps five or seven or even eight or nine years older?
Piers' brothers Gérard and Raimond-Arnaud are totally obscure to me, and I haven't seen any references to them in England in Edward II's reign, unless the 'Bourd de Gavaston' named on the Close Roll as living at Piers' castle of Wallingford in 1312 was a nickname for one of them. A biography of Piers by Walter Phelps Dodge published in 1899 includes an appendix from the Journal of the British Archaelogical Association of 1856, which states that two of Piers' brothers were, like him, buried at Langley Priory. J.S. Hamilton talks of a Guilhem-Arnaud de Gabaston, illegitimate son of Arnaud de Gabaston and thus another half-brother of Piers, who died in 1312 when prayers were said at Langley for him. My commenter, however, cites the Gascon historian Pierre Tucoo-Chala, who found that the 'Guilhem-Arnaud de Gabaston' was in fact Arnaud-Guilhem de Marsan, who was still alive in Gascony in 1325 (see below), so I have no idea who masses were said at Langley for in 1312. The Vita Edwardi Secundi says that Piers' sister, presumably Amie - although the chronicler doesn't name her - was with him during the siege of Scarborough Castle in May 1312. The existence of Piers' sister Amie is pretty well definitive proof that the Amie Gaveston who was a damsel of Queen Philippa's chamber in the 1330s and who is said in one document to have been Piers' daughter really, truly, genuinely was his (illegitimate) daughter, by an unknown mother, and named after his sister. Other relatives of Piers, the Caillaus and Marsans, appear often on record in England in Edward II's reign, as does Bourgeois de Tilh, an ally of Piers; Tilh is only 45 miles from Gabaston. One of Edward's sergeants-at-arms was Isarn de Lanneplaà, which is even closer to Gabaston.
Arnaud-Guilhem de Marsan married a woman named Mary or Marie (Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, p. 315) and had four children, Arnaud, Jean, Piers and Bernard (Hamilton). He was still alive in April 1325, when he was paid wages by Edward II as the captain of Roquefort-de-Marsan, part of Claramonde's inheritance (Pierre Chaplais, ed., The War of Saint-Sardos (1323-1325): Gascon Correspondence and Diplomatic Documents, p. 274). Edward II had knighted him in May 1308 and granted him lands in Gascony to support his new status, and the following year appointed him seneschal of the Agenais (Patent Rolls 1307-1313, pp. 74, 78; Chancery Warrants, p. 299). 'Fortanerius de Lescu' visited England in June 1311 as the steward of Constance de Béarn, who had once been married to Edward I's first cousin Henry of Almain (Close Rolls 1307-1313, p. 362; Chancery Warrants, p. 367). Edward II acknowledged in October 1309 that he and his father owed 'Fortener, lord of Lescu' £1200, but that only £320 had been paid (Chancery Warrants, p. 300). Finally, Piers' first cousin Pierre Caillau, the son of Claramonde’s sister Miramonde de Marsan, followed in his father's footsteps and served as mayor of Bordeaux from 1308 to 1310, and died in 1335. Pierre (Peyre) had a brother called Bertrand; there was a complaint against them in 1308 (Malcolm Vale, The Origins of the Hundred Years War: The Angevin Legacy 1250-1340, p. 280, and Gascon Register A, ed. G.P. Cuttino, p. 374). A few historians including J.S. Hamilton call Bertrand Caillau Piers' 'nephew', presumably translating the Latin nepos too literally.
This is Gabaston, ancestral home of Piers Gaveston. Looks fabulous with the Pyrenees in the background. This is Lescun, where his mother's first husband ruled - even more stunning and dramatic. And some of the castles held by Arnaud de Gabaston and Claramonde de Marsan: Roquefort-de-Marsan; Hagetmau; St Loubouer. See also the excellent Discover Gascony blog.
Vita Edwardi Secundi: "...he alone found favour in the king's eyes and lorded it over them [the barons] like a second king...Nor could the king's affection be alienated from Piers, for the more he was told, in attempts to dampen his ardour, the greater grew his love and tenderness towards Piers...if an earl or baron entered the king's chamber to speak with the king, in Piers' presence the king addressed no-one, and to none showed a friendly countenance save to Piers only...I do not remember to have heard that one man so loved another. Jonathan cherished David, Achilles loved Patroclus. But we do not read that they were immoderate. Our king, however, was incapable of moderate favour, and on account of Piers was said to forget himself, and so Piers was accounted a sorcerer...Piers remained a man of big ideas, haughty and puffed-up. I fear that his pride will bring about his ruin and headlong fall; for it is written, the heart is exalted before destruction."