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.


Kasia Ogrodnik said...

Kathryn, after what I have just read, Edward was not abandoned at all :-) He had enough supporters to fill in yet another fascinating text by his most steadfast supporter and ally, Kathryn Warner :-)

Kathryn Warner said...

Awww, what a lovely way of putting it - thank you, Kasia! :-) :-)

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

Kathryn, no need to say "thank you". It was just the most natural conclusion to draw after reading your text.

BTW, I'm trying to visualize the very moment of capture and am coming up with a rather silly question: of the two man who do you think was more scared, Edward or Hugh? I think both, but for diffrenet reasons: Hugh was scared stiff for himself, Edward was scared stiff for Hugh :-) I'm very curious about your scenario.

Thank you for paying a visit to Henry's blog :-)

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

Oh dear, after second thoughts, it is silly. I didn't mean to sound flippant, but I'm really curious about the capture. Does any detailed account exist? I just think, after what I have read so far about Edward and Hugh on your blog, that Edward was more emotionally involved, and on the occasion like that it might have shown.
Anyway, I was wrong thinking that they were scared for different reasons. After all they were both scared for Hugh. And they were right. Do you think they suspected what gruesome death he was going to die ( for that he was going to die they must have been sure of).

Kathryn Warner said...

Sadly no, there isn't a detailed account of the capture, and I'm not even sure who it was who captured them. :/ I haven't looked into it in much detail though, as I find it really emotionally upsetting. :( I think Hugh knew what was going to happen to him, the poor man. Whatever he did, no-one deserves to die in such a hideous way. And it must have been so awful for Edward too, and for Hugh's family, and yes, I'm sure Edward was really scared for Hugh.

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

Well, Hugh must have known he was doomed after what had befallen his father some time before, but Hugh the Elder had been shown some mercy and spared "the worst".
I'm truly sorry if I did sound flippant. It's just this damn writer in me (never unleashed:-)), who always sees events as the ready scenes of a novel. I was trying to imagine how they reacted, what they said, did or tried to do at the very moment. Did not mean to sound as if looking for sensation.

Wish you a beautiful Saturday evening, I hope a little bit warmer (warner???;-)) than the one we're enjoying here, in Poland.

Kathryn Warner said...

No, not flippant at all, Kasia! I'm very emotionally involved in all this, probably too much, haha. ;)

It was nice and sunny and cold here earlier, but now is cloudy and warmer. :) Have a lovely evening! :)

Anerje said...

Just think what might have happened if Edward had given up Despencer. Of course where could he have sent him for safety? Edward knew what had happened to Piers - both he and Hugh must have known Hugh was a dead man.

Katarzyna Ogrodnik-Fujcik said...

Emotional involvement. Well, I know something about it :-)

Anerje, I do agree about Hugh, but what about Edward? At this very "stage" of his downfall did he suspect what was going to befall him? Perhaps he did not believe that someone would dare to kill the God anointed king. If to believe the Fieschi letter, Edward changed his mind later, while at Corfe.

Jerry Bennett said...

Hi Kathryn. I have never commented on your blog before, but I have read many of your posts and find them fascinating.

Edward and Hugh were at Neath for about two weeks, trying to negotiate with their enemies. (Am I right on that?) Then when negotiations broke down, why did they not try to escape to the west? They had supporters in both South and North Wales, so why did they not try to reach a port like Cardigan, from where they could have escaped to Ireland? Riding back east towards Llantrisant seems a bit perverse.

If Edward had sent some of his supporters away for their own protection, why did he not do the same for Hugh Despenser and Robert Baldock? Did he think he could intercede for them in some way? But after what had happened to the elder Hugh Despenser at Bristol, that must have been a pretty remote chance.

Kind regards


Kathryn Warner said...

Hehe, Kasia, yes, you understand really well how I feel...:)

Hi Jerry, and thank you for commenting! So glad you like the blog! Yes, Edward was at Neath for at least five or six days (5 to 10 or 11 November) and perhaps several days after that, though it's not certain. His movements at this time are obscure and hard to interpret. Presumably he and Hugh were making their way from Neath back to Caerphilly, where they had been before setting off for Neath, though why they left Caerphilly in the first place in unclear (the castle held out until the following March, with Hugh's son inside). They had attempted to depart by sea from Chepstow somewhat earlier (20 to 24 October), perhaps attempting to reach Ireland, but were driven back to shore. I dare say Hugh Despenser and Robert Baldock, and Edward, knew there would be no forgiveness for them from Isabella and her allies. Sorry I can't give you much hep or insight into all this, but I've never researched it in any detail because, silly as it may sound, it just upsets me too much. :(

Anerje said...

Piers fate was sealed when he and Edward separated - maybe that's why Edward didn't send him away. And actually, where could he send him? maybe they just accepted their fate? Or were thwarted in an attempted escape somewhere else? I had heard they were attempting to reach Swansea castle - they could have made for Ireland from there.

Hi Kasia - I don't think Edward fully envisaged what would happen to him - whether that be murder or escape. Perhaps he may have survived if he gave up Hugh, or ensured he escaped. Maybe he thought something like the Ordinances would be forced upon him again? With a sort of shared monarchy with his son? or perhaps imprisonment until he could raise an army? Or perhaps he did fear the very worst.

Jerry Bennett said...

Hi Kathryn. Many thanks for your response, and I sympathise with your feelings of being upset. As a Cumbrian, I feel much the same about the death of Andrew Harclay. I think any researcher develops a great deal of empathy with the individuals they investigate. It would be almost inhuman not to.

Kathryn Warner said...

You're most welcome, Jerry! Wow, I'm a Cumbrian too, and a huge fan of Andrew. His horrible execution is very distressing.

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

Thank you both, Kathryn and Jerry! You have just pushed me to learn more about Andrew. He must have been an extraordinary man. I've already begun my own little research:-)

Rhobert Lewis said...

I see that that there is some speculation elsewhere on the precise location of Edward II's arrest. 4 miles away from Llantrisant is the village of Tonyrefail and within that, a place called Pant-y-brad, meaning the hollow of treason. It is often supposed that this was where Edward was captured and a decaying plaque dedicated to the capture is close by. Is anything further known about this?

gary dobbs said...

Re Rhys Hywel (Rhys of Caernavon) let the capture party and the king was captured in the small hamlet of Pant Y Brad (Hollow of Treason) just outside Tonyrefail and some three miles from Llantrisant. Smoke signals were sent from the monastery high on Penrhys that told the hunting party of the route the king was taking which is why pant-y-brad is called such - hollow of treason. The King had been hiding out with the monks in Penrhys.