22 December, 2013

Edward II's Christmases

I've written plenty of Christmas posts in previous years: see here, herehere, herehere and here.  Unbelievably, this is the ninth Christmas since I started the blog on 3 December 2005!  It's scary how fast time passes.  Don't worry; even after more than eight years and 500 posts, I'm not going anywhere, and the Edward II blog will continue for many more years yet.  Oh yes!

Here's a guest post by me on Ivan Fowler's excellent blog, about what Edward II ate and drank and the ceremony around dining at his court.  Do check out Ivan's blog; he's doing a lot of terrific work on Edward's afterlife in Italy, and has a novel about it too, Towards Auramala.  And if you're in the mood for a great Robin Hood novel set in Edward II's reign, I definitely recommend Steven McKay's Wolf's Head, which has lots of very positive reviews.

In this post I'm going to look at where Edward II spent each Christmas of his reign, and where possible add a little information too.

- Christmas 1307: Twenty-three-year-old Edward, not yet crowned king, was at Westminster, which is apparent from a few entries in the chancery rolls and in Exchequer documents.  Although the Annales Paulini claims that he spent Christmas at Wye in Kent with Piers Gaveston, Edward did not in fact arrive at Wye until 3 January 1308, on his way to Dover from where he sailed to France on 22 January to marry Isabella in Boulogne.  On 26 December 1307 (at Westminster), Edward took the extraordinary step of appointing Piers custos regni, keeper of the realm, while he travelled to France to marry Isabella (Calendar of Patent Rolls 1307-13, p. 31).  The author of the Vita Edwardi Secundi surely 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."

- Christmas 1308: At Windsor, with the queen.  Piers Gaveston was then in exile.

- Christmas 1309: At his favourite residence of (King's) Langley in Hertfordshire, with the queen and Piers Gaveston.  According to the Vita, "the lord king and Piers with the whole household directed their steps to a place of which the king was fond.  The place is called Langley, near the town of St Albans.  There they passed the festive season, fully making up for former absence by their long wished-for sessions of daily and intimate conversation."

- Christmas 1310: At the port of Berwick-upon-Tweed, with the queen.  Eight days before Christmas, Edward sent Sir Robert Clifford and Sir Robert FitzPain to Selkirk to "speak with Robert de Brus," and sometime before 19 February 1311 sent his nephew the earl of Gloucester and Piers Gaveston to Melrose for the same purpose, "but it was said he [Robert Bruce] had been warned by some he would be taken, and therefore departed, so they have had no parley." (Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland 1307-57, p. 39.)

- Christmas 1311: At Westminster, with Isabella.  The fortunate survival of Isabella's household book at this time makes interesting reading: the queen despatched "various precious goods" to the very pregnant Margaret Gaveston at Wallingford Castle as a New Year gift, and sent letters to Edward II's sister Mary the nun, Lady Mortimer, either the mother or wife of her future favourite Roger Mortimer, and Hugh Despenser the Elder, whom she would have executed in 1326.  Although even the usually very well-informed Vita Edwardi Secundi claims that Edward spent Christmas with Piers Gaveston, as do Annales Londonienses and the Bridlington chronicler, this is not the case: Edward gave Piers' messenger a pound on 23 December for bringing him Piers' letters (as pointed out by J.S. Hamilton in his biography of Piers).

- Christmas 1312: At Windsor with the queen and their six-week-old son Edward of Windsor, earl of Chester.  The king spent almost £1250 on cloth for himself, his wife and son and their retainers in order for the royal family to look as splendid as possible during the festive season at Windsor.  On 19 December, he sent a palfrey horse worth six pounds and a saddle "with a lion of pearls, and covered with purple cloth" worth five pounds to Nichola, wife of Piers Lubaud, the Gascon sheriff of Edinburgh and constable of Linlithgow.  Why Nichola was singled out for this honour is not clear, although it is probable that Lubaud was a cousin of Piers Gaveston.

- Christmas 1313: At Westminster, presumably with the queen.  The situation in England was calmer as Edward had on 16 October issued pardons to all the men responsible for "all causes of anger, indignation, suits, accusations, &c., arisen in any manner on account of Peter de Gavaston, from the time of the king's marriage with his dear companion Isabella, whether on account of the capture, detention, or death of Peter de Gavaston, or on account of any forcible entries into any towns or castles, or any sieges of the same; or on account of having borne arms, or of having taken any prisoners, or of having entered into any confederacies whatever, or in any other manner touching or concerning Peter de Gavaston, or that which befell him." (Patent Rolls 1313-17, p. 21.)

- Christmas 1314: At Windsor, with the queen.  On 6 December, the feast day of St Nicholas, the couple had been at Langley, where the king gave two pounds to Robert Tyeis, who officiated as boy-bishop in his chapel.  Edward played the board game of 'tables' on Christmas Eve with members of his entourage.  On 27 December, he gave the chancellor and scholars of Oxford University twenty pounds to pray for Piers Gaveston's soul, and on 2 or 3 January 1315 finally buried him, two and a half years after his death, at the Dominican priory at Langley which he had founded in 1308.

- Christmas 1315: At the royal hunting lodge of Clipstone, with the queen.  Although they probably didn't yet know it, Isabella was recently pregnant with their second son John of Eltham, who was born on 15 August 1316.

- Christmas 1316: At Nottingham, having been eighteen miles away at Clipstone again on Christmas Eve.  As was Edward's habit, he played at dice on Christmas Eve, spending a massive five pounds on this occasion (more than most of his subjects lived on in a year).  He gave six shillings and eight pence to John, son of Alan of Scrooby, who ‘officiated’ as boy-bishop in his chapel on St Nicholas's Day and ten shillings to the unnamed child who acted as boy-bishop in his presence at St Mary's Church in Nottingham on 28 December, the Feast of the Holy Innocents.

- Christmas 1317: At Westminster with the queen, who was about three months pregnant with their third child Eleanor of Woodstock.  Edward spent one pound, thirteen shillings and six pence on a "great wooden table" to be placed in the palace hall, and also paid thirty pounds to Thomas de Hebenhith, mercer of London, for "a great hanging of wool, woven with figures of the king and earls on it, for the king’s service in his hall, on solemn festivals."  By New Year, someone had realised that constantly taking the hanging up and down was damaging it, so Edward paid Thomas de Verlay six shillings and three pence to make and sew a border of green cloth around it.

- Christmas 1318: At Beverley in Yorkshire.

- Christmas 1319: At York, where, as I pointed out in the last post, Edward invited the thirty-two scholars of his 1317 foundation at the University of Cambridge to join him.  Only seven of them arrived on time.

- Christmas 1320: At Marlborough in Wiltshire, probably with Isabella, who was once again pregnant, with their youngest child Joan.  Edward spent nearly sixty pounds on the festivities for Christmas and Epiphany.

- Christmas 1321: At Cirencester in Gloucestershire, where he had ordered his army against the Contrariants to muster.  He spent eighty-seven pounds on the festivities, and 115 pounds for "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."

- Christmas 1322: At York after the failure of his latest and last campaign in Scotland; I'm not sure if Isabella was with him or not. Edward paid two women for singing for him in the garden of the Franciscans on 26 December, presumably a mild day. The much later chronicler Thomas Walsingham says that Edward "showed a joyful expression" over the Christmas season "though his heart was savagely tormented," and that he was hated in the north of England for his failures in Scotland and his "witless behaviour."

Christmas 1323At Kenilworth with the queen, where Edward gave a pound each to two 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."

- Christmas 1324: At Nottingham, and again, I'm not sure whether Isabella was with him or not.   Edward gave an Epiphany gift of fifty shillings to his minstrels and two shillings to his piper Little Alein for his performance.

- Christmas 1325: At Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, Edward's last as a free man.  Isabella was in France and refusing to return to him.

- Christmas 1326: At Kenilworth in captivity, while a council at Wallingford debated his fate.  Edward's state of mind, given that he was imprisoned and his friends executed, can hardly be guessed at.

This will be the last post for a little while as I'm on holiday, so I'll take this opportunity to wish you all a very merry Christmas and happy New Year, from me and Edward II! :-)

15 December, 2013

Edward II and Oxbridge (2)

This is a continuation of my earlier post detailing Edward II's foundation of two Oxbridge colleges: King's Hall at Cambridge University in 1317 and Oriel College at Oxford University in 1326.

How did Edward II celebrate the tenth anniversary of his succession to the throne, on 7 July 1317?  By founding a college at Cambridge University, of course!  To quote from W.W. Rouse Ball's The King's Scholars and King's Hall (1917), on that date "Edward II issued a writ to the sheriff of Cambridgeshire directing him to pay out of royal moneys in his hands the sums necessary for the maintenance in the University of Cambridge of certain scholars whom the king proposed to send there...Two days later the first ten [or perhaps twelve; see below] scholars, with John de Baggeshot their warden, arrived in Cambridge, and took up their residence in a house hired for them at the expense of the crown."  By Christmas 1319, when the scholars of King's Hall (as it became known) spent the festive season with the king in York, there were thirty-two of them, maintained clothes and all at Edward II's expense.

W.W. Rouse Ball's excellent work on King's Hall and its early history details the lives of the scholars.  They received around nine yards of cloth annually at Christmas to make their robes and were also given shoes, while the warden received two sets of robes a year, the winter set fur-lined.  The warden Simon de Bury was given a tunic and a long tabard with hood, lined with budge (sheep's wool) in 1325.  The scholars also received pocket money: half a mark (six shillings and eight pence) twice a year.  They had to be at least fourteen years old and with a good knowledge of Latin to be accepted, and of course of good knowledge and ability in general.  The journeys of the thirty-two scholars from Cambridge to York to spend Christmas 1319 with Edward II is documented by Rouse Ball: six of them plus the warden left Cambridge on 20 December and arrived 150+ miles away in York on horseback a mere four days later on Christmas Eve, which was making excellent time given the vagaries of travelling in the dead of winter, while the remaining twenty-six left on the same day but didn't arrive until 28 December.  (Edward II's reaction to their tardiness is sadly unrecorded.)  While in York, one scholar was involved in an assault on a man named William Hardy, presumably a local resident, and was left behind in disgrace when the others returned to Cambridge.

Alan B. Cobban's The King's Hall Within the University of Cambridge in the Later Middle Ages also contains a wealth of information about Edward II's foundation.  It was properly designated at the time as Aula scolarium Regis Canterbrigiae, or Aula Regis for short.  Cobban cites the beginning of Edward's writ of 7 July 1317: Come nous eioms envoiez noz chers clercs Johan de Baggeshote et douze autres einfaunz de notre chapelle a luniversite de Cantebr' a demorer y et demody a nos coustages..., "As we have sent our dear clerk John Bagshot and twelve other children of our chapel to the university of Cambridge to remain there and to be at our expense...".  In 1546, the King's Hall was incorporated into the new foundation of Trinity College, along with Michaelhouse College, founded in 1324 by Edward's ally Hervey Stanton or Staunton, chief justice of the King's Bench.

Edward II also co-founded Oriel College at Oxford with his clerk Adam Brome on 21 January 1326, and the foundation charter says that love of the Blessed Virgin Mary and a desire to increase her "divine cult" motivated him to establish the college.  The king declared his zeal for sound learning and religious knowledge, granted Brome, the first college provost, and the scholars permission to acquire sixty pounds worth of lands and property, and specifically requested that five or six of the first ten scholars be students of canon law. The foundation was originally named the Hall of the Blessed Mary; the name 'Oriel' comes from a house called La Oriole granted to the college after Edward's deposition, and the college's full name is still "The House of the Blessed Mary the Virgin in Oxford, commonly called Oriel College, of the Foundation of Edward the Second of famous memory, sometime King of England."

Part of the entry on the Charter Roll relating to the foundation of Oriel states:

"Ordinance for a college of scholars studying in theology and dialectic in the university of Oxford, to be governed by a provost, to which office Adam de Brom, king's clerk, is appointed; and for the habitation and support of the said provost and scholars, gift to them of a messuage, five shops, five solars and one cellar in Oxford in the parish of St Mary, late of Roger le Mareschal, parson of the church of Tackeley, and of a messuage in the suburbs of Oxford called ' La Perilloshalle'..." (Calendar of Charter Rolls 1300-1326, pp. 481-2, 485-6).

Whatever Edward II's numerous faults, flaws, mistakes and ineptitude, his establishment of colleges at Oxford and Cambridge universities is something that should be remembered and acknowledged.  Edward is sometimes, for reasons which escape me, deemed to be 'stupid'.  To this I can only respond that 'stupid' people generally don't care about learning to the extent that they found and endow colleges at the only two universities which existed in his kingdom then, which Edward, incidentally, described as "the twin jewels of our crown."  Hardly anyone else in the entire long history of Oxford (founded before 1096) and Cambridge (founded in or before 1209) has founded colleges at both universities, Edward's descendant Henry VI, who founded King's College at Cambridge and All Souls at Oxford, being the only other person I can think of.  So the next time you see someone sneering at Edward II for being an utter disaster, you might like to remind them of that particular achievement.

05 December, 2013

Anniversary and Wrongness

Have just realised that I missed the eighth anniversary of the blog two days ago!  Yes, I began the Edward II blog on 3 December 2005, and this is the 505th post.

Anniversaries in Edward II Land this week:

- 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 four men to make a truce with Robert Bruce.  Robert confirmed it on the 22nd.

- 1 December 1325: Edward wrote to Isabella, then in Paris refusing to return to him until Hugh Despenser was removed from his side. This is the last (known) letter he ever sent to his wife.

- 2 December 1307: Piers Gaveston held a famous jousting tournament at his castle of Wallingford.

- 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 Philip 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."

- 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, the second oldest extant in England.

- 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."

- 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."
Now I'm going to respond to some hideously wrong things I've seen posted about Edward II and Isabella online in the last few weeks:

We are told that Isabella "was a slender, pale-skinned blonde with sparkling blue eyes and a full mouth."  No source records Isabella’s appearance, other than that she was very beautiful.  This account, presented as fact, is pure fiction.  We have no idea whether her hair was blonde or black or chestnut brown or auburn, whether she was slender or plump, short or tall, pale-skinned or darker, whether she had blue or green or hazel or brown eyes.

"Like the female progeny of all the Royal Households of Europe, Isabella was a pawn in the Affairs of State and whilst still an infant she was betrothed to the future King Edward II of England. The sexual proclivities of the older Edward were already being questioned and it was early suggested that the marriage would be neither happy nor fruitful."

I am so, soooooo bored with this endless, stupid 'pawn' business to describe royal and noble women in the Middle Ages.  Edward II had no choice about marrying Isabella either, and was first betrothed in the interests of his father's foreign policy when he was only five, but no-one calls him a 'pawn', do they?  No-one calls their son Edward III a 'pawn' because Isabella used him to make an alliance with Hainault in the summer of 1326.  No-one suggested beforehand that Edward and Isabella’s marriage would not be happy or fruitful, and although her uncles who attended her and Edward's coronation were supposedly angry at the king's preferential treatment of Piers Gaveston there, any comments that Edward and Isabella's marriage was therefore doomed (doomed, I tell you, dooooooomed!) were written with hindsight many years later.  They had four children together.  How was their marriage not fruitful? As I've suggested before (and here), their relationship was for many years far more successful than is commonly supposed.  And finally, I wonder who exactly was already 'questioning' Edward of Caernarfon's 'sexual proclivities' as early as 1299 when he was only fifteen, and where were they doing this?

"Isabella arrived in England in 1307, aged 15 and it was rumoured that the elderly Edward I himself deprived Isabella of her virginity because he doubted his homosexual son’s ability to do so."  

AAAAAAGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!  Isabella and Edward I never met.  She arrived in England after her marriage on 7 February 1308 when she was twelve, seven months after the death of Edward I.  I repeat: Isabella of France and Edward I never met.  Where the hell does this nonsense about a lecherous Edward I in his late sixties sleeping with his daughter-in-law come from?  I've seen it before and it baffles me.  I presume it's based on his character as invented in Braveheart.

"...Edward adored the gowns just not on her. Her jewellery he gave away to his favourite Piers Gaveston who proceeded to wear as much of it as possible whenever he was in her presence. She was humbled and humiliated time and time again particularly as her husband took a string of low-born male lovers. She hated the way he openly flaunted his homosexuality, the hugging and kissing in public displays of affection, the dancing with young men or balancing them on his knee at banquets."

 The tedious old 'Edward gave Isabella's jewels to Piers’ story AGAIN.  He didn't.  Piers deliberately wore the jewels in front of the queen?  Fiction.  Edward dancing with young men and balancing them on his knee?  Fiction.  He 'adored the gowns'?  Oh really?  Stereotype of gay men, and fiction.  A 'string of low-born male lovers'?  Fiction.  If that means Piers Gaveston, Roger Damory, Hugh Audley and Hugh Despenser, none of them were 'low-born'.  Piers' father was one of the leading barons of Béarn; Hugh Audley was closely related to the Mortimers; Roger Damory came from a long line of Oxfordshire knights; Hugh Despenser was nephew and grandson of earls of Warwick.  

"Throughout this period of instability [around Piers Gaveston's death], Isabella, who had herself taken the ambitious Sir Roger Mortimer as a lover, conspired with her husband’s enemies."

Much, much, much too early for Isabella to take Roger Mortimer 'as a lover', which didn't happen until late 1325 or early 1326, certainly not 1312 when Roger wasn't in England anyway.  And there is precisely no evidence that Isabella was opposed to Piers Gaveston or welcomed his death or had anything to do with it or that she 'conspired' with Edward's enemies.  Fiction, fiction, fiction.  People confuse Isabella's actions against the Despensers in the 1320s and project them back to fifteen years earlier, and assume that because she hated Hugh Despenser, she must also have hated Piers Gaveston and wanted rid of him.  But Piers and Hugh were very different men and to hate one was not automatically to hate the other.

"Safe in the Royal Court of her brother and with her son the heir to the throne in her possession she now openly declared her liaison with Sir Roger Mortimer, condemned her husband’s homosexuality, and declared her intention to invade England with an army raised in France."

So how did she do that then?  State in public 'I condemn my husband's homosexuality'?  I don't think so.  Interesting how very much a lot of people in modern times care so darn much about Edward II's sexuality, or what they think his sexuality was.  And notice how Isabella's teenage son the future Edward III is said to have been 'in her possession', as though he wasn't a human being at all but an object.  Odd, to moan about Isabella being a 'pawn' in affairs of state yet applaud her for arranging her thirteen-year-old son's marriage and keeping him little more than a prisoner to further her own ambitions.  This is something Isabella's fans do over and over again.

"On 3 April, 1327, Edward was removed in secret from Kenilworth to the more remote Berkeley Castle near Gloucester. A few months later Isabella was heard to remark “Edwardum occidere nolite timere bonum est” (Do not be afraid to kill Edward, it is good). According to Sir Thomas More what happened next was unequivocal in its brutality:

“On the night of 11 October while lying on his bed (the King) was suddenly seized and while a great mattress held him down and suffocated him, a plumbers iron, heated intensely hot, was introduced through a tube into his private parts so it burned the inner parts of his intestines.”

A hot rod pushed up his rectum was a truly horrible and painful way for Edward to die, but the insertion of a tube ensuring there would be no marks guaranteed that for Isabella and Mortimer it was a clean death. It was a death that had been designed specifically for him by a vengeful Queen, a punishment she felt befitted his crime."

Because when you're talking about something that happened in 1327, you really want to take Thomas More of all people as a source, especially when he gets the date so wrong (11 October instead of 21 September).  The Latin letter with the misplaced punctuation supposedly ordering Edward's death was discredited many decades ago.  The idea that Edward's murder by red-hot poker was ordered by the queen in 'revenge' for his 'crime' (of fancying men more than he fancied her, presumably - the horror!) is of course pure invention.  I often see stuff like this about Isabella and Edward posted online as though it's factual, when it's almost entirely taken directly from the pages of historical fiction.  I'm getting pretty sick of people thinking about how they might have felt in Isabella's situation and assuming she must have felt the same way, and presenting such speculation as 'fact'.

And of course it just wouldn't be the internet if we didn't see the 2329546th variation of the feeble old joke about gay kings really being 'queens': "A gay royal would give a great deal of humor to "God save the queen.""  Ba-doom-tish!  Give that person an originality prize!

29 November, 2013

The de Clare Lands

When Edward II's twenty-three-year-old nephew Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford, was killed at the battle of Bannockburn on 23 June 1314, he left behind lands in England, Wales and Ireland valued at over £7000 a year.  This figure had made Gilbert the second richest nobleman in England behind his kinsman Thomas, earl of Lancaster, Leicester, Derby, Lincoln and Salisbury (with whom Gilbert, incidentally, had some kind of feud in 1311: a letter written by an anonymous author on 14 April that year said that he feared a great riot when the two men and their followers were in London at the same time, because of the grossour, quarrel or anger, between them).  [1]

Gilbert came from a long line of de Clares: Richard fitz (i.e. son of) Gilbert de Clare came to England in 1066 with William the Conqueror, and his great-grandson Gilbert de Clare was created first earl of Hertford by King Stephen in about 1138.  This Gilbert's great-grandson, also Gilbert, born in 1180, married his third cousin Isabella Marshal, one of the five daughters of William Marshal, earl of Pembroke and his wife Isabella de Clare (from another branch of the de Clare family, who had become earls of Pembroke also by creation of King Stephen in 1138).  Gilbert de Clare and Isabella Marshal were the parents of Richard, earl of Gloucester and Hertford (1222-1262), himself the father of Gilbert 'the Red' born in 1243 and died in 1295, who married Edward I's daughter Joan of Acre in 1290 and was the father of Gilbert born in 1291.  The Gilbert de Clare who lived from 1180 to 1230 and married Isabella Marshall inherited the earldom of Gloucester from his mother Amicia and her sister Isabel (or Hawise or Avisa) of Gloucester, the latter the first wife of John, king of England, granddaughters and heiresses of Henry I's eldest illegitimate son Robert, earl of Gloucester.

Dower was assigned to Gilbert de Clare's widow Maud de Burgh, the customary one-third of his lands and with a value of £2222 a year, on 5 December 1314.  [2]  As Maud continued to claim to be pregnant until at least February 1316, the division of Gilbert's lands among his three sisters Eleanor, Margaret and Elizabeth, his co-heiresses, was delayed, and was delayed still further when some of the juries taking part in the Inquisitions Post Mortem for him held in numerous counties wrongly declared that one of his heirs was named Isabel rather than Elizabeth.  Isabel de Clare was Gilbert's much older half-sister and not his heir.  Edward II finally ordered the partition of the de Clare inheritance among the three sisters in April 1317, and they and their husbands took possession of them that November.  The schedules dividing up the lands still exist in the National Archives in Kew (C 47/9/23, C47/9/24, C 47/9/25).

The eldest sister Eleanor de Clare and her husband Hugh Despenser the Younger had lands in England, Wales and Ireland to the value of £1497 plus a reversion of £946 on the death of Countess Maud in 1320, to a total of £2443.  Eleanor and Hugh's most important possession was the rich lordship of Glamorgan in South Wales.  The second sister Margaret de Clare and her husband Hugh Audley had lands in England, Wales and Ireland to the value of £1384 plus a reversion of £928 in 1320, making a total of £2314.  The third sister Elizabeth de Clare and her husband Roger Damory had lands in England, Wales and Ireland to the value of £1391 plus a reversion of £881 in 1320, to a total of £2274.  This wealth immediately catapulted all three men to the forefront of the nobility.

Eleanor's share passed on her death in June 1337 to her eldest son Sir Hugh Despenser, who was then in his late twenties.  Hugh died childless in 1349, and the lands passed to his nephew Edward, born in 1336, eldest son of Eleanor de Clare's second son Edward, who was killed at the battle of Morlaix in 1342.  On the death in 1375 of the younger Edward - the famous Kneeling Knight of Tewkesbury Abbey - the Despenser lands passed to his son Thomas, born in 1373, who was briefly earl of Gloucester in the late 1390s and summarily beheaded in January 1400 after taking part in the Epiphany Rising to restore the deposed Richard II to the throne.  Thomas's sons died young and his heir was his posthumous daughter Isabel, born on 26 July 1400 six and a half months after Thomas's death, who married two men called Richard Beauchamp.  The second of these was the powerful earl of Warwick (1382-1439), guardian of the young Henry VI in the 1420s.  Isabel Despenser and Richard Beauchamp's ultimate heir (after the death of their son Henry and his young daughter) was their daughter Anne Beauchamp, born in 1426, who took the Despenser lands  and the earldom of Warwick with her on her marriage to Richard Neville, the 'Kingmaker'.  I assume the Despenser lands and thus the third of the de Clare inheritance of 1314 then passed to either George of Clarence or his brother Richard of Gloucester, Anne Beauchamp and Richard Neville's sons-in-law, but I don't know which one.

Margaret's share passed in 1342 to her daughter Margaret Audley, born c. 1320, her only surviving child after the death of Joan Gaveston in January 1325.  Margaret Audley was abducted and forcibly married to Ralph Stafford, later first earl of Stafford, in 1336, and her inheritance of the third of the de Clare lands passed to her eldest surviving son Hugh, second earl of Stafford, born in about 1341, and then through a long line of Staffords in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.  Margaret Audley's great-grandson Humphrey Stafford, born at the beginning of the 1400s, was created first duke of Buckingham; other descendants who inherited the de Clare lands included Duke Henry, executed by Richard III in 1483, and his son Duke Edward, executed by Henry VIII in 1521.

Elizabeth's share: Elizabeth's only son William Donn de Burgh, earl of Ulster, was killed in June 1333 when he wasn't even twenty-one years old, leaving a baby daughter, Elizabeth de Burgh, born in July 1332, who inherited the earldom of Ulster and her paternal grandmother's third of the de Clare lands in 1360.  The great heiress was married to Edward III's second son Lionel, duke of Clarence, and her inheritance passed to her only daughter Philippa, born in 1355, who married Edmund Mortimer, earl of March (great-grandson of Roger Mortimer executed in 1330).  Thus Elizabeth de Clare's inheritance came to the Mortimer family and stayed with them until the death of Edmund Mortimer, grandson of Philippa of Clarence and Edmund Mortimer, in 1425, when it passed to his sister Anne's son Richard, duke of York (1411-1460), who was also the heir of his paternal uncle Edward, duke of York (killed at Agincourt in 1415).  Duke Richard was the father of Edward IV and Richard III.


1) Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland 1307-1357, p. 41.
2) Calendar of Close Rolls 1313-1318, pp. 131-139; T.B. Pugh, 'The Marcher Lords of Glamorgan and Morgannwg, 1317-1485', Glamorgan County History, III: The Middle Ages, ed. T.B. Pugh (1971), p. 167.

24 November, 2013

Edward II's Nieces and Nephews

Edouard I, count of Bar (1294/95-1336)

Edouard, named presumably after his grandfather Edward I, was the only son of Edward II's eldest sister Eleanor, and succeeded his father Henri III as count of Bar - on the eastern side of France - when Henri died in 1302 (or rather, a few years later when Edouard came of age).  He married Marie of Burgundy, two of whose sisters were queen consorts of France: the disgraced Marguerite, wife of Louis X, and Joan 'the Lame, wife of Philip VI.  In May 1321, Edouard's uncle Edward II gave ten pounds to the messenger who brought him news of the birth of Edouard and Marie's only son, the future Count Henri IV of Bar.  Edouard died off the coast of Cyprus in 1336, when his ship sank.

Joan of Bar, countess of Surrey and Sussex (1295/96-1361)

The other child of Edward's eldest sister Eleanor, who died in 1298 when her children were still very young.  On 25 May 1306 in the presence of her grandfather Edward I, when she was only ten or eleven, Joan married the almost twenty-year-old John de Warenne, earl of Surrey and Sussex.  As I've written before, this marriage proved to be spectacularly disastrous, unfortunately for both of them.  Although John de Warenne (who died in 1347) fathered at least nine children with other women, he had none with Joan.  Joan's first cousin Elizabeth de Clare, below, left her "an image of St John the Baptist" in her will of 1355.  She lived until her mid-sixties, and I hope she found some measure of happiness despite the failure of her forty-year marriage.

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

Edward I and Eleanor of Castile's eldest grandchild, the first child of Joan of Acre and Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford, born a year after their wedding.  Gilbert married the earl of Ulster's daughter Maud de Burgh in Essex in September 1308, with Edward II present, in a double wedding with his sister Elizabeth and Maud's brother John, heir of their father Richard, earl of Ulster.  Maud's many sisters included the queen of Scotland (Robert Bruce's wife Elizabeth de Burgh), the countesses of Kildare, Desmond and Louth, and Eleanor, a companion of Edward of Caernarfon's youth, whose son John Multon was betrothed to Piers Gaveston's daughter Joan in 1317.  Gilbert and Maud are believed to have had a son in 1312 who died soon after birth, and when he was killed at the battle of Bannockburn he left no children.  Maud, however, famously claimed to be pregnant until at least 1316.

Eleanor de Clare, Lady Despenser (Oct/Nov 1292 - June 1337)

Second child and eldest daughter of Joan of Acre and Gilbert 'the Red'.  Eleanor married Hugh Despenser the Younger on 26 May 1306 when she was thirteen and a half, and their first child, Edward I's eldest great-grandchild Hugh the Even Younger, was born in 1308 or 1309.  (Edward I, not, not, NOT Edward II as so many people continue to state, arranged Eleanor and Hugh's marriage.)  Eleanor was extremely close to her uncle Edward II, who was only eight and a half years her senior.  She and her two younger sisters were heirs to their brother's earldom of Gloucester.

Margaret de Clare, countess of Cornwall and Gloucester (1294 - April 1342)

Second daughter of Joan of Acre and Gilbert 'the Red'. Margaret married two of her uncle Edward II's 'favourites': Piers Gaveston, earl of Cornwall, in 1307 when she was about thirteen and a half, and Hugh Audley, later earl of Gloucester, in 1317.  She is often assumed in modern times to have been 'tragic' and 'complaisant', presumably on the grounds that she made no recorded objections to her two marriages, but I don't know about that.  Personally I can't imagine that any child of Joan of Acre and Gilbert 'the Red', of all people, was a shrinking violet.  Margaret was a countess twice over, and until her husband Hugh Audley rebelled against the king in 1321/22, appears to have been on good terms with her uncle Edward II.

Elizabeth de Clare, Lady Burgh (September 1295 - November 1360)

Fourth and youngest child of Joan of Acre and Gilbert 'the Red', and only a few weeks old when her father died.  Elizabeth was married three times and lived almost forty years as a widow, and was a remarkable woman who founded Clare College at Cambridge in 1338.  Many of her household accounts are extant and demonstrate her kindness to her Despenser and Audley nieces and nephews, although events of the 1320s evidently fractured the relationship of the three de Clare sisters.

Mary de Monthermer, countess of Fife (October 1297 - after 1371)

Eldest child of Joan of Acre and her second husband Ralph de Monthermer, and half-sister of the four de Clare siblings.  Mary married Duncan MacDuff, earl of Fife, some time after 4 November 1307 when the pope granted a dispensation for them to marry.  Duncan returned to his native Scotland in November 1314 after the battle of Bannockburn, and thereafter remained loyal to Robert Bruce, despite being Edward II's nephew-in-law.  Countess Mary lived until well into her seventies.  Her and Duncan's only child Isabella MacDuff was countess of Fife in her own right and married four times.

Joan de Monthermer, a nun (1299 - ?)

Joan was the second child of Joan of Acre and Ralph, and followed in the footsteps of her aunt Mary, Edward II's sister, by becoming a nun at Amesbury Priory.  Unfortunately I know nothing about her at all, not even her approximate date of birth.

Thomas de Monthermer (October 1301 - June 1340)

Third child of Joan and Ralph.  Despite being Edward II's nephew, he played little role in the king's reign, and seemingly first became embroiled in politics when he joined the unsuccessful rebellion of his kinsman Henry, earl of Lancaster against Roger Mortimer and Isabella of France in late 1328.  Thomas married a widow named Margaret Tyes; their only child Margaret was born in October 1329, and her son John Montacute became earl of Salisbury in 1397.  Thomas de Monthermer was killed at the naval battle of Sluys in 1340.

Edward de Monthermer (April 1304 - late 1339/early 1340)

Fourth child of Joan and Ralph, and the youngest of Joan of Acre's eight children.  Given that he was a grandson and nephew of kings, Edward is oddly obscure.  One of the few things I know about him is that in 1330 he joined the conspiracy of his uncle Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent (Edward I's youngest son) to restore Edward of Caernarfon to the throne.  He appears to have been close to his half-sister Elizabeth de Clare, who arranged and paid for his funeral, and evidently he was living in her household when he died.  Edward never married.

John III, duke of Brabant (1300-1355)

Only child of Edward II's third sister Margaret, born sometime in 1300 and succeeded his father John II as duke of Brabant in 1312.  John married Marie d'Evreux, daughter of Philip IV of France's half-brother Louis, count of Evreux, whose younger sister Jeanne married their first cousin Charles IV of France as his third wife in 1324.  Duke John had six legitimate children with Marie, and at least twenty illegitimate ones.

John de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex (November 1306 - January 1336)

Oldest surviving son of Edward II's fifth sister Elizabeth and her second husband Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex (she had no children with her first husband Count John I of Holland, who died at fifteen).  John married the earl of Arundel's daughter Alice in 1325, but had no children, and died at the age of twenty-nine, to be succeeded by his brother Humphrey.

Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex (December 1309 - October 1361)

Second surviving son of Elizabeth and Humphrey, and succeeded his brother John as earl.  Humphrey never married, and thus on his death his heir was his nephew, another Humphrey, son of Humphrey's younger brother William, below.  It may be that both John and Humphrey de Bohun suffered from some kind of illness or disability.

William de Bohun, earl of Northampton (1312/13 - September 1360)

Third surviving son of Elizabeth and Humphrey; he had a twin named Edward, who drowned in Scotland in 1334.  William married Elizabeth Badlesmere, whose father Bartholomew was executed in 1322 by Edward II and who was the widow of Roger Mortimer's son and heir Edmund Mortimer.  Edward III created his cousin earl of Northhampton in 1337.  William and Elizabeth's son Humphrey (1341-1373) succeeded his father as earl of Northampton, and his uncle Humphrey as earl of Hereford and Essex.  The younger Humphrey was also, via his mother, a half-brother of Roger Mortimer, second earl of March (1328-1360).

Eleanor de Bohun, countess of Ormond (1304-1363)

Oldest surviving child of Elizabeth and Humphrey, and married James le Botiler or Butler, earl of Ormond, and secondly Thomas Dagworth.  Eleanor had five children with her two husbands.

Margaret de Bohun, countess of Devon (April 1311 - December 1391)

Second surviving daughter of Elizabeth and Humphrey, and married Hugh Courtenay, future earl of Devon in 1325.  They had numerous children, and both lived to a ripe old age: Margaret died at eighty, Hugh at almost seventy-four.  There is a persistent story online that Margaret was married firstly to a distant cousin from Scotland called 'Sir Richard le Bon de Bohun' (?!) and had a son with him called John, but her family had the marriage annulled.  This is pure fiction, an invention of centuries later without a shred of contemporary evidence to back any of it up.

Margaret of Norfolk, duchess of Norfolk (c. 1322-1399)

Eldest child of Edward II's half-brother Thomas of Brotherton, earl of Norfolk, and his heir.  The last survivor of all Edward I's grandchildren, and the first Englishwoman to be made a duchess in her own right.  Her brother Edward died as a child, and her sister Alice was beaten to death by her husband in the early 1350s.

Joan of Kent, princess of Wales and countess of Kent (1328-1385)

Joan was the third of the four children of Edward II's half-brother Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent, and Margaret Wake.  Famous for being married to two men at the same time in the 1340s, William Montacute, earl of Salisbury and Thomas Holland, in 1360 she married her first cousin once removed, Edward III's eldest son Edward of Woodstock, prince of Wales.  Joan gave birth to the future King Richard II in early 1367, in her late thirties.  Of her siblings, her elder brother Edmund died as a child; her younger brother John died childless at the age of twenty-two; her elder sister Margaret died childless sometimes before 1352.  Joan was thus the heir of her father, and of her maternal uncle Thomas, Lord Wake (died 1349).  A fourteenth-century chronicler sarcastically called her 'the virgin of Kent', which makes me cackle with laughter. :-)

17 November, 2013

Charles de Valois, Grandfather of Europe

Today I'm looking at Edward II's uncle by marriage, Charles, count of Valois, Alençon, Perche, Chartres, Anjou and Maine, ancestor of the royal house of Valois which ruled France from 1328 to 1589, and some of his numerous descendants.

Charles was born on 12 March 1270 as the fourth of five sons of King Philip III of France and his first wife Isabel of Aragon, daughter of King Jaime I 'el Conquistador'.  He was five and a half months old when his grandfather Louis IX died on 25 August 1270, and his father, then twenty-five, succeeded to the throne of France.  The eldest of Charles' brothers, Louis, was born around 1263 or 1265 and died in or before May 1276; according to Guillaume de Nangis's Gesta Philippi Tertia Francorum Regis (Deeds of Philip III, king of the French), he was poisoned by his stepmother Marie of Brabant, presumably so that her own son could inherit the throne, though I don't see what that would have achieved given that Louis's younger brothers Philip and Charles were still alive.  Philip, the second son, was born probably in the second quarter of 1268 and succeeded their father as Philip IV of France on 4 October 1285, when Philip III died at the age of only forty.  Robert was born in 1269 and died before May 1276, Charles in 1270 was the fourth son, and when Queen Isabel died after she fell from her horse on 28 January 1271, she was pregnant with a fifth son, who did not survive.  Of the five sons of Philip III and Isabel of Aragon - the latter four conceived in a remarkably short space of time - only Philip IV and Charles de Valois survived childhood.

When Charles was four, on 21 August 1274, his father Philip III married his second queen Marie of Brabant, the mother of Charles' three half-siblings: Louis, count of Evreux (3 May 1276 - 19 May 1319), a good friend of Edward of Caernarfon before his accession to the throne; Queen Marguerite of England (1278/79 - 14 February 1318), Edward II's stepmother; and Blanche, duchess of Austria (early 1280s? - 19 March 1305), who was betrothed to Edward of Caernarfon between 1291 and 1294.  Charles can never have known his mother or his grandfather Louis IX, but his grandmother Marguerite of Provence, Louis IX's widow, lived until 1295, and his maternal grandfather Jaime I of Aragon lived till 27 July 1276, when he was succeeded by Charles' uncle Pedro III.  Charles' aunt Violante, the eldest child of Jaime I and Yolande of Hungary, was the queen of Edward II's uncle Alfonso X of Castile and Leon, and his uncle Jaime (died 1311) was king of Mallorca.

As well as all the connections between Charles and Edward II mentioned above, the two men were second cousins via their grandmothers Marguerite and Eleanor of Provence, and Charles was the uncle of Edward's two younger half-brothers Thomas of Brotherton, earl of Norfolk and Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent.  (Ah, these tangled royal families.)  Charles put forward his son John and grandson Louis as future husbands of Edward II's daughters Eleanor and Joan in 1324, though nothing came of it.  Charles' brother Philip IV died on 29 November 1314 and was succeeded by Charles' nephews Louis X and Philip V, both of whom Charles also outlived.  He died on 16 December 1325 at the age of fifty-five, about halfway through the reign of his nephew Charles IV.  On 30 December 1325, Edward II gave four pounds to the messenger, Percival Symeon, who brought him news of Charles' death.  King Charles IV died on 1 February 1328.  Exactly two months later his widow Jeanne d'Evreux (who was also his first cousin, daughter of Louis, count of Evreux) gave birth to a daughter, Blanche, and in the absence of any surviving sons of Charles IV and his brothers, Charles de Valois's eldest son thus succeeded to the throne as Philip VI, first of the Valois dynasty which was to rule France until the death of Henry III in 1589.

Charles de Valois was married three times:

- In 1290 to his second cousin Marguerite of Naples and Anjou (1273-1299), one of the many children of Charles 'the Lame' of Salerno, king of Naples and Marie of Hungary.  Marguerite was countess of Anjou in her own right.  Her siblings included the king of Hungary, the king of Sicily and Jerusalem, the king of Albania, the queen of Aragon and Saint Louis of Toulouse.

- In 1301 to another of his second cousins, Catherine de Courtenay (1274-1307), titular empress of Constantinople as the only surviving child and heiress of her father Philip de Courtenay, son of the emperor Baldwin II.

- In 1308 to Mahaut de Châtillon (c. 1293-1358), daughter of Guy, count of St Pol and sister of Marie, countess of Pembroke.  Mahaut was a great-granddaughter of Henry III of England.

Charles had at least fourteen children with his three wives, and countless grandchildren.  Here are some details about a few of them.  It gets a tad confusing as some of his children and grandchildren were the same age.

- Philip VI, king of France (1293-1350), Charles' eldest son with his first wife Marguerite of Naples and Anjou, who succeeded his cousin Charles IV in 1328 as the first of the Valois kings of France.  Philip was succeeded as king by his son Jean II le Bon (John the Good), then his grandson Charles V, great-grandson Charles VI and so on.  Philip's wife was Joan or Jeanne 'the Lame' of Burgundy.

- Philippa of Hainault, queen of England (c. 1314-1369), daughter of Charles' and his first wife Marguerite of Anjou's second daughter Joan, countess of Hainault (c. 1294 - 7 March 1342), one of the full sisters of Philip VI.  Philippa married Edward III of England in early 1328.

- Joan, queen of Naples, Jerusalem, Sicily and Mallorca, princess of Achaea, duchess of Calabria, countess of Provence (c. 1326-1382), daughter of Marie (1309-1332), eldest daughter of Charles de Valois and his third wife Mahaut and her husband Charles, duke of Calabria.  Joan was the heir of her paternal grandfather King Robert the Wise, one of the brothers of Charles de Valois's first wife Marguerite of Anjou, and was married four times.  Queen Joan was acquitted in any complicity in the murder of her first husband Andrew of Hungary in 1345, but was assassinated many years later in 1382 on the orders of Charles of Durazzo in revenge.  Nancy Goldstone has written a biography of Joan.

- Catherine II de Courtenay (c. 1303-1346), eldest daughter and heiress of Charles' second wife Catherine de Courtenay, and also became titular empress of Constantinople in her own right.  Her two younger full sisters were Isabella, who became abbess of Fontevrault, and Joan or Jeanne, who married Robert, count of Artois (one of the main characters in Maurice Druon's Les Rois Maudits series of novels).  Catherine married the much older Philip of Taranto (1278-1331), one of the brothers of her father's first wife Marie of Anjou and Naples, whose first marriage to Thamar Angelina Komnena, great-niece of the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos, was annulled in 1309 when Philip accused her of adultery with no fewer than forty noblemen.

- Blanche, queen of Germany and Holy Roman Empress (c. 1316/17-1348), third daughter of Charles de Valois and his third wife Mahaut.  She is sometimes also called Marguerite.  Her husband Charles or Karl, born Wenzel or Wenceslas (1316-1378), was elected king of Germany in 1346 and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV in 1349.  He was the son of John the Blind, king of Bohemia, who was killed fighting on the French side at the battle of Crécy in 1346, and Blanche was the first of his four wives.  One of Blanche and Charles' daughters was queen of Hungary and Croatia.  Richard II of England's queen Anne of Bohemia (1366-1394) was Charles IV's daughter with his fourth wife Elizabeth of Pomerania.

- Isabella, duchess of Bourbon (c. 1313-1388), second daughter of Charles and his third wife Mahaut.  Isabella was the last survivor of all Charles' children, and his third daughter named Isabel or Isabella after his mother Isabel of Aragon, one with each wife (the other two were Marguerite of Anjou's daughter Isabella, duchess of Brittany, Charles de Valois' eldest child, c. 1292-1309, and Catherine de Courtenay's daughter Isabella, c. 1305-1349, abbess of Fontevrault).  The youngest Isabella married Peter I, duke of Bourbon.  Her daughter Jeanne (1338-1378) became queen consort of France via marriage to Charles V and was the mother of Charles VI (the Mad).  Another of her daughters, Blanche, married King Pedro the Cruel of Castile in 1353 and was imprisoned by him within days of the wedding when he went off with his mistress Maria de Padilla, the mother of his daughters Constanza, duchess of Lancaster and Isabel, duchess of York.

A full list of Charles de Valois's children:

1) Isabella (1292-1309), married John III, duke of Brittany (no children)
2) Philip VI (1293-1350), king of France, married Joan of Burgundy
3) Joan (1294-1342), married William III, count of Hainault
4) Marguerite (1295-1342), married Guy I, count of Blois
5) Charles (1297-1346, killed at the battle of Crécy), count of Alençon, married Jeanne de Joigny and Marie de la Cerda
6) Catherine, born 1299, died young
7) John, count of Chartres (1302-1308)
8) Catherine (1303-1346), titular empress of Constantinople, married Philip of Taranto
9) Joan (1304-1363), married Robert III, count of Artois
10) Isabella (1305-1349), abbess of Fontevrault
11) Marie (1309-1332), married Charles, duke of Calabria
12) Isabella (1313-1388), married Peter I, duke of Bourbon
13) Blanche or Marguerite (1316/17-1348), married Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor
14) Louis, count of Chartres (1318-1328).

08 November, 2013

Interview and Books

My lovely friend Kasia has been running a blog about Henry the Young King (1155-1183), son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, for a year now, and marked the anniversary yesterday by, yay, interviewing me about Edward II!  I'm honoured and privileged!  Here's the interview, and here's the front page of Kasia's blog, and here's her website.  Please do visit - her work is superb.  Henry the Young King, incidentally, was the elder brother of Edward II's great-grandfather King John.

Another lovely friend of mine, the historical novelist Susan Higginbotham (blog; website), has recently published a non-fiction book about the Woodvilles, the infamous family who rose to prominence during the Wars of the Roses when Elizabeth Woodville married Edward IV in 1464.  Susan was kind enough to thank me in the book for helping her with several translations and commenting on her first draft.  Here it is!

Today, 8 November, is the anniversary of the death of Edward II's great-grandmother Berenguela, queen of Castile and Leon, in 1246.  Berenguela was sixty-six at the time of her death, born in 1180.  She was the niece of Henry the Young King, above, being the eldest child of Henry's sister Eleanor, who married Alfonso VIII of Castile.  Berenguela's younger sister Blanche (1188-1252) is very famous as the queen-regent of France and mother of Saint Louis IX; Berenguela's son Fernando III of Castile and Leon, Edward II's grandfather, was also canonised.  There are two books about the great Queen Berenguela which I'm dying to read: one by Miriam Shadis and one by Janna Bianchini.  The daughters and granddaughters of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine fascinate me, and I'd love to read a novel about any or all of them.

Another non-fiction book I'm dying to read is Blood Cries Afar by Sean McGlynn, about Louis of France's invasion of England in 1216 at the end of King John's reign.  Louis was of course the husband of Blanche of Castile, above.  There's also a new biography of Edward II's grandfather Henry III by John Paul Davis, yippee, and Adrian Jobson's The First English Revolution about Simon de Montfort and the baronial rebellion of the 1260s.  All so exciting!

In general, I'd dearly love to read any kind of fiction or non-fiction about al-Andalus.  I'm also interested in historical fiction or non-fiction about or set in the Byzantine Empire, Russia, India, Africa, in any period before c. 1500 - basically I'd love to branch out in my reading and extend my knowledge of the history of other countries and cultures.  If you have any recommendations for me, please do leave a comment, or email me at edwardofcaernarfon(at)yahoo.com if you prefer.

01 November, 2013

My 500th post!

This is the 500th post on the Edward II blog!  Yay to me and Edward!  :-)

Today is 1 November, the feast of All Saints, which is quite an important day here on Planet Edward II, as it happens.  Firstly, there were two weddings.  The later one, which took place on 1 November 1307, was that of Edward's niece Margaret de Clare and his beloved Piers Gaveston, earl of Cornwall.  Margaret was then almost certainly about thirteen and a half, Piers considerably older, at least twenty-four and perhaps as much as thirty (?).  Edward gave jewels worth thirty pounds to the bride and groom, a roan-coloured palfrey worth twenty pounds to Margaret and expensive cloth worked with gold and pearls to her ladies, and provided the generous amount of seven pounds, ten shillings and six pence in pennies to be thrown over the heads of the bride and groom at the door of the chapel.  His almoner collected the money, which would comfortably have fed several families for a year, and distributed it to the poor.  The king spent an enormous twenty pounds on the minstrels, and evidently it was quite a celebration, as Edward had to give a local man five shillings' compensation for "damage done by the king's party" to his property.

Another wedding took place on 1 November, in 1254: that of Edward II's parents.  Fifteen-year-old Lord Edward, elder son and heir of King Henry III of England, and twelve or thirteen-year-old doña Leonor, half-sister of King Alfonso X of Castile and Leon, married in the church of the Cistercian monastery of Las Huelgas in Burgos, northern Spain.  Just under thirty years later on 25 April 1284, their heir Edward of Caernarfon was born, the youngest of their fourteen or more children.

1 November 1311 was the deadline for Piers Gaveston to leave England yet again, for his third exile.  He actually left on the 3rd, or possibly the 4th, and returned little more than two months later.

Another Edward II post coming soon.  And 500 more after that, and 500 more after that...:-)

26 October, 2013

Thomas of Brotherton's wedding, his daughter Margaret and his grandchildren

To clarify right from the start, I don't know when Edward II's half-brother Thomas of Brotherton, earl of Norfolk, got married, or when his eldest child Margaret was born, but here's some speculation anyway.  :-)  Rather curiously, there is no mention of Thomas's wedding in Edward II's extant accounts, no record of the king attending or sending a gift; nor is there any record of Thomas being fined or otherwise reprimanded for marrying without the king's consent.  Given that Thomas was the son and brother of kings of England and nephew of a king of France (Philip IV), it's remarkable that the date of his wedding is unknown and that his bride, Alice Hailes, daughter of the coroner of Norfolk, came from a very obscure family.

Thomas of Brotherton was born on 1 June 1300 as the eldest of the three children of King Edward I, then aged almost sixty-one (born 17 June 1239), and his second queen Marguerite of France, daughter of Philip III and younger half-sister of Philip IV.  Thomas, who was sixteen years younger than his half-brother Edward II, was followed by a brother Edmund of Woodstock, later earl of Kent (5 August 1301 - 19 March 1330) and a short-lived sister Eleanor (May 1306 - October/November 1311), who was born when their father Edward I was almost sixty-seven.  By way of comparison, Edward I's eldest great-grandchild Hugh, Lord Despenser (d. 1349), son of Eleanor de Clare and Hugh Despenser the Younger, was born in 1308 or 1309: only two or three years between a child and a great-grandchild.  Thomas of Brotherton was seven when his father died on 7 July 1307, and was heir to the English throne from that day until the birth of his nephew, Edward II and Isabella of France's son the future Edward III, on 13 November 1312.  Perhaps by way of consolation, Edward II created his twelve-year-old half-brother earl of Norfolk a month later.  [1]  Thomas was an executor of his mother Queen Marguerite's will after her death on 14 February 1318, and was knighted by Edward II in Newcastle on 15 July 1319.  [2]

Twenty-year-old Thomas was still unmarried on 16 August 1320, when he went to Langley in Hertfordshire to meet the king - recently returned from a trip to France to pay homage to his brother-in-law/Thomas's first cousin Philip V for his French lands - and discuss or ask advice about his marriage.  Edward II told Thomas to come back to him again sometime later at Clarendon and wrote about it to their kinsman Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, who would join him at Clarendon, "because in this matter...we do not wish to hear or do anything without your counsel" (pur ce qe en cele chose...nous ne voloms ouir ne rien faire saunz vostre conseil, my translation).  [3]  King Jaime II of Aragon had proposed his daughter Maria (born 1299), widow of Pedro of Castile, as Thomas's bride, but in August 1321 reported to Edward that Maria had decided to take the veil and that he did not think he would be able to change her mind.  [4]  (Pedro of Castile was the son of Sancho IV and younger brother of Fernando IV and thus Edward II's first cousin once removed via Edward's mother Eleanor of Castile, and was killed at the battle of Vega de Grenada in June 1319.  And it's interesting to see that Maria of Aragon went her own way here, chose her own fate and decided she didn't want to remarry, and that her father didn't force her to obey his will even when it meant allying with a powerful country.)  At the same time, Edward II and Jaime II were involved in negotiations for Edward's son Edward of Windsor, the future Edward III, to marry Violante (born 1310), another of Jaime's daughters, though ultimately nothing came of it; both marriages were proposed by Pierre Galicien, Edward II's treasurer of the Agenais in Gascony, and Vidal Villanova, a councillor of Jaime II.  [5]  Thomas of Brotherton must have been aware of these negotiations for his marriage in Aragon, as he was with Edward at Gloucester on 28 March 1321 when the king sent his envoy to Spain to continue them.  [6]

At some point after the negotiations with Aragon, Thomas married Alice Hailes, daughter of Roger Hailes, coroner of Norfolk.  It was an extraordinary marriage for a man who was, as I said above, son and brother of kings of England and nephew of a king of France, and whose marriage to the king of Aragon's daughter had been proposed and discussed.  Thomas turned twenty-one and thus came of age on 1 June 1321, and perhaps married Alice Hailes shortly after learning that Maria of Aragon was not available that August.  As to why a king's son would want to marry a woman of obscure family, with no lands, wealth or powerful connections, I cannot imagine.  Presumably it must have been a love, or lust, match, but in that case - sorry for being crude - Thomas could merely have taken Alice as his mistress rather than his wife.  However romantic a king's son marrying a woman of his choice so much farther down the social scale might seem to us, to Thomas's contemporaries it must have seemed entirely unaccountable, and deeply foolish.

Thomas of Brotherton and Alice Hailes had three children.  Their only son was Edward, who married Beatrice, one of the youngest of the eight daughters of Roger Mortimer, earl of March, and Joan Geneville, in 1329.  Edward can't have been more than five or six at the time, Beatrice presumably some years older (Roger's imprisonment at the Tower of London in February 1322 and his escape to the Continent in August 1323 necessarily ended his marital relations with Joan, and their twelve children must have been born before his imprisonment).  Edward of Norfolk sadly died as a child in 1334, or perhaps even 1332 or 1333; the date, as with so much else in Thomas of Brotherton's life, is not recorded, but Edward's young widow Beatrice Mortimer had married her second husband Thomas Braose by 2 December 1334.  [7]  There were also two daughters of Thomas and Alice Hailes' marriage: Alice, the younger, and Margaret.  Alice married Sir Edward Montacute (died 1361), youngest son of Edward II's friend Sir William Montacute (died 1319); Edward's elder brother William (died 1344) was earl of Salisbury, and another brother, Simon, was bishop of Worcester and Ely.  Edward Montacute must have been close to twenty years older than Alice, given that his elder brothers Earl William and Bishop Simon were born in 1301 and 1303/04 respectively, and Alice was born in or after 1323 (I don't know, and I don't know if anyone knows, if she was older or younger than her brother Edward).  Alice had in fact been betrothed to the earl of Salisbury's son John, but when he died suddenly, his uncle Edward Montacute was substituted and married her instead.  This was to prove tragic for poor Alice: in the early 1350s her husband beat her so badly she died of her injuries, and, although Alice was the first cousin of Edward III, Montacute suffered no penalty whatsoever for this vile act.  Alice had several children, who died quite young.

The date of birth of Margaret of Norfolk (also known as Margaret Marshal and Margaret of Brotherton), Thomas of Brotherton and Alice Hailes' eldest child, is almost invariably given as c. 1320, but given what I wrote above about the negotiations with Aragon for her father's marriage in 1320/21, that's too early.  A date of birth of 1322 for Margaret would seem about right, probably the year after her parents' marriage.  It can't be pushed back later than 1323 or 1324 as her own first child was born in 1338.  Margaret, niece of Edward II, first cousin of Edward III, married John, Lord Segrave (born 1315), whose father Stephen (died 1325) had been Constable of the Tower of London in August 1323 when Roger Mortimer escaped.  Thomas of Brotherton was granted the wardship and marriage of the twelve-year-old John Segrave on 3 March 1327, early in the regency of Mortimer and Isabella, and, so the entry on the Patent Roll states, "for service to queen Isabella."  [8]  It was logical, therefore, for Thomas to arrange his daughter's marriage to his ward.  The Segraves held reasonably extensive lands but were hardly among the first rank of the nobility, and arranging his daughter's marriage to John seems therefore not to have been a great decision on Thomas of Brotherton's part, which isn't surprising when we look at his life and career and choices in general.  John Segrave died in April 1353, and shortly before 30 May 1354 Margaret married secondly a man far more to her liking and by her own choice, without her cousin Edward III's permission: Walter, Lord Manny or Mauny, a Hainaulter who probably came to England in 1328 with Queen Philippa (of Hainault).

When Thomas of Brotherton, earl of Norfolk, died on 4 August 1338, his elder daughter Margaret, then aged perhaps sixteen, succeeded as countess of Norfolk in her own right, and also as hereditary Lord or Earl Marshal of England.  With the exception of her four greats granddaughter and heiress Anne Mowbray, who died as a child in 1481, Margaret is the only woman in English history to have held this office.  Richard II, great-grandson of Margaret's uncle Edward II, created her duchess of Norfolk in her own right on 29 September 1397, the first English woman in history to be a duchess in her own right.  (The first English duchess in history was Isabella Beaumont, wife of Henry of Grosmont, made duke of Lancaster in 1351.)  Duchess Margaret died on 24 March 1399, when she must have been in her late seventies, the last surviving of Edward I's grandchildren; her cousin Margaret de Bohun, countess of Devon, who lived till December 1391, was the second longest survivor.

Two of Margaret's six or seven children, both daughters, lived long enough to marry and have children, although Margaret outlived both of them.  One was Anne Manny, born on 24 July 1355, who married John Hastings, earl of Pembroke (born 1347) - grandson of Roger Mortimer and Joan Geneville via their daughter Agnes, and widower of Edward III's daughter Margaret (died 1361) - with whom she had one child, also John Hastings, earl of Pembroke, born in 1372 and killed jousting in 1389.  Although this John was only seventeen when he died, he had been married twice: to the much older Elizabeth of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt and granddaughter of Henry of Grosmont, which marriage was annulled; and secondly to Philippa Mortimer, great-granddaughter of Edward III.  John died childless, and that was the end of the Norfolk-Manny-Hastings line.  It was also the end of the genealogical line of one of my favourite women of the fourteenth century, Juliana Leyburne, who was the paternal grandmother of John Hastings, earl of Pembroke born in 1347.

Margaret of Norfolk's other surviving daughter was her eldest child Elizabeth Segrave, born on 25 October 1338 when Margaret was probably fifteen or sixteen.  Elizabeth married John, Lord Mowbray, born on 25 June 1340, one of the many grandchildren of Edward II's first cousin Henry of Lancaster.  John Mowbray died in his late twenties on crusade near Constantinople, leaving his and Elizabeth's elder son John who died as a teenager, a younger son Thomas born in 1366, and four daughters, one of whom was abbess of Barking.  Thomas Mowbray, heir to the Mowbrays, the Segraves and the earldom/dukedom of Norfolk, was made earl of Nottingham by Richard II in 1386 but perpetually banished from England by him in 1398 following a quarrel with the future Henry IV, and died in Venice the following year.  He had become duke of Norfolk in the meantime on the death of his elderly grandmother Margaret of Norfolk on 24 March 1399.  Thomas married Elizabeth, daughter of the earl of Arundel executed by Richard II in 1397, and his descendants were dukes of Norfolk in the fifteenth century, as Margaret of Norfolk's heirs.  Thomas Mowbray's son and heir John, duke of Norfolk (1392-1432) married in 1412 a woman, Katherine Neville (born c. 1400), who lived long enough to attend her nephew Richard III's coronation in 1483.  It's rather astonishing to me that a man born in Edward III's reign had a daughter-in-law who lived into Richard III's reign.


1) Calendar of Charter Rolls 1300-1326, p. 205.
2) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
3) J.R.S. Phillips,Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke 1307-1324: Baronial Politics in the Reign of Edward II (1972), pp. 190-191, citing The National Archives SC 1/49/49.
4) Pierre Chaplais, English Medieval Diplomatic Practice (1982), part 1, vol. 1, pp. 63-66.
5) Ibid.
6) Alison Marshall, 'Thomas of Brotherton, Earl of Norfolk and Marshal of England: A Study in Early Fourteenth-Century Aristocracy', PhD dissertation, Univ. of Bristol, 2006, p. 78.
7) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1334-1338, p. 62; Brad Verity, 'Love Matches and Contracted Misery: Thomas of Brotherton and his Daughters (Part 1), in Foundations, the Journal of the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy (2006), 2 (2), pp. 91-110 (p. 105).
8) Patent Rolls 1327-1330, p. 23.

18 October, 2013

Appearance of Edward II (2)

I've decided to update this old post a little as I still sometimes see people online claiming that Edward II was some kind of feeble court fop, and wanted to set the record straight (again).

Here are how fourteenth-century chroniclers described Edward II's appearance:

"Tall and strong, a fine figure of a handsome man."  From the Vita Edwardi Secundi, written during Edward II's reign by a very well-informed royal clerk who must have seen Edward often.  The writer expressed a wish when Edward's son Edward III was born in November 1312 that the boy would grow up to "remind us of the physical strength and comeliness of his father."

"Physically he was one of the strongest men in the realm."  Written some decades later in the Scalacronica by Sir Thomas Gray, whose father of the same name was captured fighting for Edward II at Bannockburn and who later served in the retinue of the Despensers.

"Of a well-formed and handsome person."  A description of Edward aged sixteen at the siege of Caerlaverock in 1300, by a poet who presumably saw him in person.

" A handsome man, strong of body and limb."  Anonimalle, 1330s.

"Elegant, of outstanding strength."  Probably 1330s, from the Bridlington chronicle Gesta Edwardi de Carnarvon (Deeds of Edward of Caernarfon).

"Fair of body and great of strength."  From the Polychronicon of c. 1350.

There are no physical descriptions of Edward II which contradict the picture given here, that he was tall, enormously strong and good-looking.  I don't see why there's any reason to doubt that he was indeed tall, enormously strong and good-looking.  The remains of his father Edward I ('Longshanks') were examined in 1774, and he was found to have been six feet two inches.  I'm virtually certain that Edward II was also at least six feet tall.

What do we know otherwise about his appearance?  Sadly there is no detailed description of his hair and eye colour, complexion and so on.  Looking at the illustrations of him below, however, I  think it's reasonable to assume that he had long, wavy or curly fair hair which he wore parted in the middle and framing his face, falling to chin level or thereabouts, perhaps almost to his shoulders.  Later in life, at least, he had a beard.  (Edward II Fact of the Day: his barber in the mid-1320s and probably earlier was called Henry. There's a nice record of the two men playing cross and pile together in 1326; Edward had to borrow five shillings from Henry in order to play, which he later reimbursed.)

Probably Edward II, from a manuscript dating to his time; a king dining alone.

Edward II's effigy at Gloucester Cathedral.

Edward II, from a manuscript of 1326/27.

Edward II, from a manuscript illustration where his father gives him the crown.

I've also written a couple of posts here and here about Edward II's eccentric hobbies and interests, to wit, swimming and rowing, hedging, thatching roofs, digging ditches, shoeing horses and working with wrought iron.  More conventionally, he loved hunting, but not jousting; I don't know of any record where he ever did so, though his son and half-brothers loved it.  I don't know why, but would speculate that as for a long time he was his father's only surviving son and heir, and as jousting killed several noblemen in Edward's childhood - the earl of Surrey's son in 1286, Duke John I of Brabant in 1294, father-in-law of Edward's sister Margaret - his father forbade him from competing on the grounds that it was too dangerous.  What would happen to England if the king's only son were killed?  Disaster.  And then when Edward was older, he'd never be able to compete properly against men who had been practising for many years.  Just speculation, but otherwise it seems odd for Edward not to have enjoyed the universal pastime of men of his class.  His love of eccentric (for the time) hobbies is borne out by chroniclers, Edward's own accounts and the statement at his deposition that his willingness to "give himself up always to improper works and occupations" had led him to neglect the business of running his kingdom.

The one thing you notice about Edward's hobbies is that most of them took place outdoors, and many of them involved manual labour, and an amount of skill and dexterity.  The king spent an entire month out of doors in the autumn of 1315, swimming and rowing with a large group of his subjects.  Combine this love of demanding physical exercise with the descriptions of Edward's enormous strength, above - a strength which seems to have been widely known about in his own lifetime and afterwards - and a picture builds up of what Edward really looked like, the kind of person he really was.  A big tall strong man who enjoyed using his own body, perhaps enjoyed pushing himself to his physical limits, perhaps revelled in his own remarkable physical abilities.  Such a man is the absolute antithesis of the utterly feeble, camp little fop claimed to be 'Edward, prince of Wales' in a certain popular and influential Hollywood film of nearly twenty years ago, no?  And I really do have to wonder where on earth the writer of a book published in 2006 gets the notion that Isabella "had known only the smooth girlish hands of Edward upon her; in their most intimate joining her husband must have fantasized that he was actually making love to Piers Gaveston.  And now this heated warrior [Roger Mortimer] took her, roughly at first, then tenderly.  And he never, ever imagined she was a man."  (Bold mine.)

And this book pretends to be non-fiction.  The mind boggles.  There is so much wrong there I don't even know where to start.  As we've seen in this post, if ever a human being is vanishingly unlikely to have had 'smooth girlish hands', it's Edward II, and this portrayal owes everything to stereotypes relating to sexuality and nothing at all to reality.  It derives from the same mentality as the statement in a 2005 book that Roger Mortimer "was everything that Edward II was not: strong, manly, unequivocally heterosexual, virile, courageous, audacious and decisive."  Here, yet again, we see Roger Mortimer presented on minimal evidence as the anti-Edward II, as though the two men existed not as complex human beings but as cardboard cutouts fit only to be squeezed into false, silly, meaningless, contrived - not to mention highly offensive - dichotomies like this.  We do not and cannot know that Edward did not enjoy making love with Isabella, or even, for that matter, that Roger did.  How on earth can anyone write a book in the twenty-first century and say that Edward II was not strong?  And what do 'manly' and 'virile' really mean anyway?  Let's face it, they're two words only ever applied to straight men, or men assumed to be straight.  Edward II fathered children with two women, was hugely strong, far more so than Roger Mortimer, it seems safe to assume, yet no-one ever calls him 'manly and virile' because, it seems safe to assume, he wasn't straight.  Always interesting to see how some writers allow their prejudices and outdated assumptions to colour their narrative.  The makers of the Hollywood film did the same thing, of course, turning Edward into a caricature, and so have many novels, even when it flies in the face of a wealth of historical evidence to the contrary.  Shame on you all, perpetuators of cruel stereotypes.

11 October, 2013

Edward II and Isabella in Fiction

Here's a list of novels about Edward II and Isabella of France, and my (entirely subjective, of course) opinions of them.  See also the very full list of Edward II fiction on Susan Higginbotham's website.

Highly recommended

- Susan Higginbotham's The Traitor's Wife (2005), a novel about Edward II's niece Eleanor de Clare.  A brilliantly-researched, thorough and dramatic account of Edward's reign seen from the perspective of the woman who arguably was closest to him, by a writer who knows Edward's era inside out.

- Brenda Honeyman's The King's Minions (1974) and its sequel The Queen and Mortimer (also 1974).  My reviews are here and here.  Fantastic pair of novels about Edward and Isabella, full of insight and compassion, packing a lot of story, superb characterisation and good humour into a few pages.  The first one especially is just gorgeous, the most beautiful, erotic and sympathetic telling of Edward II and Piers Gaveston's love story it's ever been my pleasure to read.  Sadly, both novels are long out of print and extremely difficult to find these days.  I live in hope that they'll be reissued some day soon.

- Ivan Fowler's Towards Auramala, a very recent novel, which explores Edward II's survival past 1327 and his secret afterlife in Italy.  Ivan also runs a website on the same theme, well worth a read.  I was thrilled to see my beloved Henry of Grosmont, duke of Lancaster make an appearance in the novel, and he's written very well and convincingly; the scene where he pauses before diving into a lake to save a drowning man so that the ladies present can look at and admire his excellent figure - that's so Henry! - literally made me cry with laughter.  Edward III's good friend William Montacute, earl of Salisbury, also appears as a character, which pleased me a lot.  I'm not really taken with Ivan's depiction of Edward II, who too often comes across as so naive and innocent he's implausibly simple, but his memories of his beloved Piers Gaveston, dead for so long, and his relationships with the people he meets in Italy are beautifully done and moving.  Overall the novel is a terrific exploration of what might have happened to Edward after 1327, and is based on very solid research.


- Margaret Campbell Barnes' Isabel the Fair (1957).  Pretty good account of Isabella's life; both she and Edward are fairly sympathetic characters, and the historical accuracy is good for a novel written more than half a century ago.

- Chris Hunt's Gaveston (1992).  My review is here.  Sexually explicit, and despite the excessively purple prose, a very well-written account of Edward II's life narrated by the king in the first person.  I got exasperated by the slow-moving middle section, and finished the novel frankly exasperated with Edward himself for being so selfish, but still, it's a detailed and accurate telling of Edward's life, or rather, his love life.

- The She-Wolf by Pamela Bennetts (1975); see my review here.  The action in this one takes place between 1325 and 1330, and features a highly unlikeable, even deranged, Isabella and a rather more sympathetic, albeit totally incompetent, Edward.

- The Lion of Mortimer by Juliet Dymoke (1979), which I reviewed here.  Confusing title as the main characters are Edward II's friend William Montacute and his son of the same name, but overall a short and competent account of Edward's reign and its aftermath, and well worth a read if you're interested in the era.

- Harlot Queen by Hilda Lewis (1970).  Awful title and my copy has an awful cover (you can see it here), and melodramatically over-written, but despite myself I rather like this one, even though Edward II runs away at Bannockburn (nooooo, he didn't!), which makes Isabella despise him as a coward and his stepmother Marguerite of France, annoyingly called 'Madam Queen Margaret' throughout, declare "If the dead know aught he [Edward I] is shamed this day!"  I like it basically because of the ending; it's one of the very few Edward II novels which follow the notion that he didn't die at Berkeley Castle, which makes a pleasant and refreshing change from endless fictional accounts of a red-hot poker.  Without wanting to give too much of the story away to anyone who might want to read the novel - it was reissued a few years ago and is also easily available on Kindle - the last scene really moved me and felt emotionally satisfying and like real closure, and I'd love to think something similar actually happened.

- Alice by Sandra Wilson (1976), a romance where the (fictional) heroine Alice de Longmore falls in love with Piers Gaveston.  Well, who wouldn't, say I.  My hero Stephen Dunheved also features as a character, so that's two reasons to love it.  A downside is the description of Edward II as having a "strange womanish air" despite also being "a giant, strong and muscular," though overall he's pretty likeable.  A very nice story; I really enjoyed this one.

- The Lord of Misrule (1972) and its sequel King's Wake (1977) by Eve Trevaskis; the first one opens in 1300 and features Piers Gaveston as a major character, and the second begins shortly before Edward II's forced abdication, at Christmas 1326.  I'm afraid I can't say much about either novel at the moment as it's a few years since I read them and I really can't remember much about what happens in them.  Sarah Johnson at Reading the Past wrote a review of Lord of Misrule back in 2006.

- A Brittle Glory by Jean Evans (1977).  I can't remember this one much either, except that it's narrated in the first person by Edward II's Fool Robert Withstaff - who was a real person - and that I enjoyed it.

- The Follies of the King by Jean Plaidy (1980).  A typical Plaidy, competently told story, well-researched, characterisation minimal, and the usual red-hot poker.

- Cashelmara by Susan Howatch (1974), Edward II's story transplanted to nineteenth-century Ireland, with Piers Gaveston renamed Derry Stranahan and Roger Mortimer Maxwell Drummond; and Gaveston by Stephanie Merritt (2002), narrated in the present day by Gaby Harvey (i.e. Margaret de Clare), who falls in love with the glamorous academic Professor Piers Gaveston and later discovers his real relationship with her uncle Edward.  I really enjoyed both 'updates' of the story.

Not my cup of tea

- David Pownall's The Ruling Passion (2008), which I reviewed here, achieves something I always thought was impossible and makes the story of Edward II and Piers Gaveston really, really boring, so boring, in fact, that after I'd read a few chapters staring at a bare wall began to seem preferable to reading any more.  It has Edward and Isabella having to consummate their marriage while being spied on by a heavily-breathing dwarf, and in another scene has Edward being 'noisily buggered' by Piers Gaveston, which is possibly even less sexy than it sounds.  The main character is not in fact Edward or Piers, but the invented and also deeply boring William Wild, the Irishman.  It's very, very talky, and despite the title, has no passion whatsoever.  Actually, on the passionometer, it'd clock in at about minus 286.

- Paul Doherty's Death of a King (1982), the novel which - grrrrrrr - invented the theory that Edward II was not the father of Edward III, and made Roger Mortimer his real father, which of course is entirely impossible, despite being enthusiastically taken up as a theory by various other novelists.  The novel is wildly historically inaccurate, as all of Doherty's Edward II/Isabella novels and even his non-fictional book about them are, but has more credibility than it deserves, given that Doherty has a doctorate from Oxford about Isabella.  It's an interesting read, as a clerk of Edward III sets out to discover the truth about Edward II's fate in 1327 and ends up putting himself in danger as he gets too close to finding out what really happened, but the characterisation lets it down: both Isabella and particularly her son Edward III are weirdly portrayed as evil, raving psychopaths prepared to kill just about anyone.

- Paul Doherty's Mathilde of Westminster novels; my review of the third and so far final one is here.  (Did you know that Isabella of France was really, really, amazingly beautiful and sexy and desirable?  You certainly will when you've read these novels.)  As crime novels the series works, more or less, but as always Doherty abandons any pretence to historical accuracy, though his author's notes claim otherwise.  There's also his Prince of Darkness, one of his Hugh Corbett series, set in 1301 and featuring Piers Gaveston and a very precocious Edward of Caernarfon, who despite being only seventeen had discarded a mistress two years previously and is now desperate for her to die, for reasons that are never made clear.

- The Vows of the Peacock by Alice Walworth Graham (1955), reviewed here.  Narrated by the earl of Warwick's daughter Elisabeth Beauchamp, mysteriously much older than she was in real life.  Very slow, not too bad a read and by all means give it a try if you come across a copy, but don't go out of your way to find it.

- Janet Kilbourne's 1975 Where Nobles Tread, featuring the fictional characters Eleanor 'Nell' Stanton and William Darcy and the real-life Edward II, Isabella, Piers Gaveston and so on.  Nell becomes Piers' mistress, though Piers shares Edward II's bed with as much enthusiasm as he does Nell's.  Edward is much given to "drunken, rutting orgies" and Isabella calls him a 'pig' to his face, though she's hardly any better herself, taking lovers with wild abandon.  No-one seems to notice or care.  Isabella tries to seduce Our Hero William, who of course turns her down because he has far too much integrity to take advantage of the seductive little minx.  The novel is splendidly awful, full of stuff like "The Gascon eyes of Piers Gaveston blazed in a drunken wrath as he swayed slightly. 'Nell,' he gritted, 'are you coming?'...".  In fact, Piers 'grits' with alarming frequency.  It can't be healthy.  The author has a strange allergy to the word 'said', so that the characters grit, pout, croak, hiss, huff, bawl suddenly, retort bitterly, and ooze words, but rarely 'say' anything.  (To be fair, the author was only seventeen when she wrote it.)

No, thank you

- N. Gemini Sasson's Isabeau and its sequel The King Must Die, self-published in 2010 and 2012.  Isabeau is a very modern novel which follows all the usual tedious and inaccurate Victim!Isabella tropes that we see so often nowadays, and of course we have Shrieking Gay Edward II and One-Dimensionally Nasty Hugh Despenser.  Edward, who was described by fourteenth-century chroniclers as "one of the strongest men of his realm" and "fair of body and great of strength" here is "frail and defenceless"; the king who fought on the front line at Bannockburn and had his horse killed underneath him is said to have fled from the battle "because the sight of blood made him queasy" and to have been too "cowardly" to hit Isabella (errrrr, what?).  As with numerous other novels about Edward II and Isabella (Felber, Campbell Barnes and so on), Isabeau opens with a scene where Edward is not particularly interested in twelve-year-old Isabella at their wedding in January 1308, and evidently the reader is supposed to feel great sympathy for her and baffled annoyance with Edward for failing to acknowledge her amazing beauty and appeal, rather than thinking 'But surely it's normal and indeed preferable for a man in his twenties not to be sexually attracted to a pre-pubescent he's only just met and is having to marry for political reasons?'.  There are some scenes I found really unpleasant, such as the one where Isabella's young children are literally torn from her arms on Edward's orders - this never happened - and one near the beginning where Edward "snivels," which is entirely typical of the way he's depicted throughout.  Of course he does.  He's a lover of men.  Unpleasant stereotypes and clichés of how gay men are supposed to behave and feel such as this are what lazy writers use in place of actual characterisation.  Does the very manly and hetero Roger Mortimer "snivel" in the novel?  I think you know the answer to that one.

- Edith Felber's Queen of Shadows: A Novel of Isabella, Wife of Edward II (2006), which would be more accurately titled A novel of an invented Welshwoman called Gwenith who tediously spends half the novel mooning around trying to kill Edward II because his father hurt her family, which is really bizarre if you think about it.  See my review and comments here, here and here.  Shadows is full of awful inaccuracies and is another novel, grrrrrr, which has Edward II not being the real father of Edward III, who appears - though it's never made clear - to have been fathered instead by an unidentified Scotsman when Edward II 'abandoned' Isabella in Scotland (as for when and how that is meant to have happened, your guess is as good as mine).  I did rather like the character of Edward in this one, however; Felber does have talent as a writer and, unlike Sasson and others, doesn't go down the lazy and offensive route of using Edward's sexuality and caricatures of gay men as a cheap and easy way of creating reader sympathy for Isabella.

- Brandy Purdy's self-published The Confession of Piers Gaveston (2007).  My review is here.  It has a few really good reviews online, but I found it laughably awful, with the characterisation of Edward II evidently taken straight out of The Big Book Of Horrible Gay Caricatures and Piers Gaveston written as a low-born prostitute.  A prostitute.  Piers Gaveston, a prostitute.  Words fail me.

- Maurice Druon's 1959 The She-Wolf of France, La Louve de France in the French original; part of his Les Rois Maudits/The Accursed Kings series.  I utterly loathed it, with its dreadful characterisation and silly, entirely implausible dialogue (see here).  Druon's series has tons of fans, however, some of whom have commented or emailed me to complain about my review.  Haha, tough!

- Bannok Burn, part of the series about Robert Bruce by Charles Randolph Bruce and Carolyn Hale Bruce.  I read as much of it as I could stand, which wasn't much, because the dialogue is the worst I've ever read, Isabella of France inexplicably can't speak even the most basic French correctly ('mon dames'??) and Roger Mortimer is Edward III's real father.  Too, too dreadful to contemplate.  Here's an all too typical example of the awful writing:

"Better that, than hiein' south as you did when you heard Black Douglas was lurkin' in Douglasdale," gainsaid Percy. "Did ye fear his father's ghost was guidin' the young whoreson's hands for your throat?"
"Cease this bickerin'!" shouted the king, standing and throwing his hands in the air.



There are plenty of other novels which feature Edward II as a background or minor character, or which are set in his reign, such as David Pilling's Folville's Law; Steven McKay's Wolf's Head; Michael Jecks' long historical crime fiction series; Elizabeth Ashworth's An Honourable Estate, to name but a few.  Also a few romance novels: Virginia Henley's Infamous and Notorious, which should however be given the widest berth possible unless you enjoy seeing gay men constantly derided and disdained as perverted and disgusting; Mary Reed McCall's excellent and highly recommended Templar series; books by Melissa Mayhue, Annelise Kamada, Madeline Hunter, Isolde Martyn, and the very enjoyable The Lion and the Leopard by Mary Ellen Johnson, featuring an invented character who is Edward II's illegitimate half-brother.

And finally, other novels which feature Edward II as a character, which I haven't found time to read properly yet:

- The Queen's Tale by D.L. Birmingham
- Alesia de Lacy by J.G. Ruddock
- Woman into Wolf by Terry Tucker
- Letter from Poitou by Michael J. Eardley
- A Secret Chronicle by Jane Lane (whose main character is Edward II's daughter Joan of the Tower, queen of Scotland).