27 August, 2013

Edward II's Death and Afterlife Revisited (3): Survival

This is the third instalment in my Edward II's Death and Afterlife Revisited series.  Please take a look at part one and part two if you haven't already, and see also Ian Mortimer's new article on his website (PDF) for the arguments in favour of Edward II's survival past 1327 and the scholarly response to them.  If you're new to the blog and are interested in the debate surrounding Edward II's fate in 1327 and afterwards, I've also written these posts:

Freeing Edward from Berkeley
Edward was not tortured at Berkeley
Events from September to December 1327
Oddities in the narrative of Edward's death
The earl of Kent's plot of 1330
Archbishop Melton's Letter of 1330
John Trevisa and the red-hot poker
And plenty of others; see under 'Aftermath of Edward II's Reign' in the sidebar on the right for links.

Every fourteenth-century chronicle who dealt with the topic says that Edward of Caernarfon died at Berkeley Castle on or about 21 September 1327, though stated causes of death vary considerably (as I pointed out in part two of this series, the red-hot poker story is far from unanimous, not that you'd know it from most modern writing on the subject).  No chronicle says that Edward survived past 1327.  In addition to chronicle evidence, we have the former king's funeral taking place at Gloucester Abbey on 20 December 1327 and all the preparations made for that by the English government, and a statement by the fourteen-year-old Edward III himself, in a letter to his cousin the earl of Hereford of 24 September 1327, that n're t'sch' seign' et piere est a dieu comaundez, "our very dear lord and father has been called to God".  The parliament of November 1330, the first one held after the young Edward III took over the governance of his own kingdom, also repeated - very often - that Edward II was dead.

Edward III's letter of 24 September 1327. His announcement of the death of his father is at the start of the third line.

On the other hand, we also have a considerable body of evidence that Edward II did not die in September 1327:

- Two letters, one written in 1330 by an English archbishop and one written a few years later by an Italian papal notary who subsequently became a bishop, both of which make clear and entirely unambiguous statements that Edward II was alive past 1327.  The first letter asks the recipient, the mayor of London, to buy numerous provisions for the former king, who is said to be in 'good bodily health' at the time (January 1330, over two years after his funeral); the second provides a detailed account of how Edward of Caernarfon escaped from captivity at Berkeley Castle and made his way to the continent.  (See the top of this post for a link to the first letter, by Archbishop William Melton.)

- The execution of Edward II's twenty-eight-year-old half-brother Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent, on 19 March 1330 for the 'crime' of trying to free the supposedly dead former king from captivity at Corfe Castle.

- The support and aid given to Kent in this endeavour by many dozens of other men, including the archbishop of York, the bishop and mayor of London, the earls of Mar and Buchan, former and future sheriffs of Kent and many former members of Edward II's household.

- The promise made by Edward II's Scottish friend and ally Donald, earl of Mar, to the archbishop of York in the autumn of 1329 that he would bring an army of 40,000 men to England to secure Edward's release.

- Statements in various contemporary chronicles that many people in England believed Edward II to still be alive in the late 1320s, and proclamations of the same time period declaring that anyone who claimed that Edward was still alive would be arrested.

-The statement to the November 1330 parliament by Thomas, Lord Berkeley, custodian of Edward of Caernarfon from 3 April 1327 until Edward's supposed death at Berkeley's home on 21 September that year, that he hadn't heard about Edward's death until he attended the present parliament over three years later.  This despite his writing in September 1327 to inform Edward III of his father's demise (which information prompted the young king's letter to the earl of Hereford, cited above).

- The entry in Edward III's Wardrobe account of 1338 which refers to a man called William le Galeys or William the Welshman, "who says he is the father of the present king."  Not only was William not executed, as royal pretenders almost inevitably were, he was actually brought to Edward III in Koblenz and met him.

- One might also add the persistent legends in Italy of a king of England who died there, and the mysterious squire of the king of Navarre described as the 'son of the king of England' and 'the bastard of England'.

I'm going to look at all of these points in detail over several blog posts, starting soon!

25 August, 2013

Anniversaries in the second half of August

On 15 August 1316, Isabella of France gave birth to her and Edward's second son John of Eltham, later earl of Cornwall.  I suspect that John was named in honour of the new pope, John XXII, who was elected by the cardinals at Avignon on 5 August.  News of his election reached England about the time of little John's birth; Edward II gave a pound to Lawrence de Hibernia, the messenger who brought him the news in Yorkshire, on 17 August 1316, and Queen Isabella 250 miles further south in Kent had presumably heard the news a few days earlier.

On 16 August 1284, Isabella's parents the future Philip IV of France and Joan, queen of Navarre, and countess of Champagne and Brie, got married.  Philip was fifteen or sixteen, Joan eleven or twelve.  Their eldest child, or at least their eldest son, was born on 4 October 1289: Louis X of France.

On 19 August 1284, Edward II's elder brother Alfonso of Bayonne died suddenly at the age of ten (he was born in Bayonne in November 1273 and named after his uncle and godfather Alfonso X of Castile).  This made the four-month-old Edward of Caernarfon heir to the throne.  Alfonso himself had become heir to the throne at the age of eleven months in October 1273 on the death of their six-year-old brother Henry, the second son of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile.  Alfonso's death seems to have come as a great shock to his parents, as Edward I was arranging a marriage for him with a daughter of the count of Holland.  Eleanor of Castile was buried with his heart after her death in November 1290.

Also on 19 August, in 1315, Edward's twenty-five-year-old brother-in-law Louis X of France married his second queen Clemence of Hungary, five days after the death (or the murder?) of his adulterous first wife Marguerite of Burgundy at Château Gaillard. Clemence was crowned queen of France at Rheims on 24 August.  One of Edward II's scribes made an embarrassing mistake a few months later, and addressed her in a letter as 'Queen Elizabeth'.  Oooops.  Louis died suddenly on 5 June 1316, and on 15 November Clemence gave birth to his posthumous son King John I, who sadly lived for only five days.

On 24 August 1325, Edward wrote to his last remaining brother-in-law Charles IV telling him that he was ill and thus would not be able to travel to France to pay homage to Charles for his French possessions of Gascony and Ponthieu, as he was meant to do on 29 August.  This is unlikely to have been a genuine illness, but rather a diplomatic one as Edward stalled for time.  After weeks of prevaricating, on 12 September he sent his son to France in his place, which would with hindsight have been the worst thing he could have done.  At the time, however, he really had little other option.

On 27 August 1320, Edward wrote to the king of Cyprus and titular king of Jerusalem, Henri de Lusignan, asking him to protect three Dominican friars going to preach to the Saracens.  Henri was Edward's third cousin twice removed via common descent from Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henri being descended from Eleanor's eldest child Marie of France; he was also the great-great-grandson of the famous Balian Ibelin.

On 28 August 1311, Edward II paid £113 "for the expenses and preparations made for the burial of the body of the Lady Eleanor, the king's sister" at Beaulieu Abbey in Hampshire.  Eleanor was his half-sister and only five years old (born 4 May 1306) at her death, the youngest child of Edward I and Marguerite of France.  Edward I was almost sixty-seven at the time of Eleanor's birth, and she was at least forty-five or so years younger than his eldest child.  Edward I's eldest great-grandchild, Hugh, Lord Despenser (child of Eleanor de Clare and Hugh Despenser the Younger) was born in 1308 or 1309: only two or three years' age difference between a child and a great-grandchild.

29 August, the feast of the Beheading of St John the Baptist, in 1321 was the deadline for the two Hugh Despensers to leave England into perpetual exile, at the demand of their baronial enemies whom Edward II took to calling the Contrariants.  Hugh the Younger appears to have left a few days after the deadline, apparently accompanied by the king, and became a pirate in the English Channel.

16 August, 2013

Two Weddings Of 1326

Here's some information about two weddings which took place in 1326, from Edward II's chamber account of that year, which is now held in the library of the Society of Antiquaries in London (SAL MS 122).  The couples are Sir Richard Talbot and Elizabeth Comyn, and Sir Robert Wateville or Waterville and Margaret Hastings.

On 9 July 1326, Edward II gave ten marks to Sir Richard Talbot, "who had secretly married the lady Comyn at Pirbright..." (q' avoit espouses p'uement la dame de Comyn a Pirbright).  Sir Richard Talbot was a former Lancastrian knight who switched sides after defeat at the battle of Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322, where Richard and his father Gilbert were captured.  The arrest of Richard and Gilbert had been ordered on 15 January 1322, along with the earl of Hereford, Roger Mortimer, John Maltravers, Roger Damory, Henry Tyes and a few other well-known Contrariants, for their sacking of the town of Bridgnorth and Hugh Despenser the Younger's castles of Hanley and Elmley.  [Close Rolls 1318-23, pp. 511-513]

Despite these attacks on Hugh's castles, Richard joined Hugh's retinue after March 1322 and is called "knight of the said Sir Hugh" (chivaler le dit mons' Hugh) in Edward's chamber account of 1325/26 - perhaps because he and Hugh were fairly closely related, second cousins or thereabouts, via Richard's paternal grandmother Sarah Beauchamp (Hugh's mother was Isabel Beauchamp, the earl of Warwick's daughter).  The new allegiance of Richard and other Lancastrian knights generally was only skin-deep, however, as Edward and the Despensers discovered to their cost in the autumn of 1326.  Richard Talbot's date of birth is estimated as around 1302 or 1305, so he was still only in his early twenties in 1326.  His new wife Elizabeth Comyn was somewhat older than he, born on 1 November 1299.  She was the youngest of the three children of John the Red Comyn, lord of Badenoch, who was killed by Robert Bruce in February 1306, and the niece of Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke.  Elizabeth and her elder sister Joan were close to the Scottish throne, as their father the Red Comyn had been the nephew of John Balliol, the king of Scotland deposed in 1296.  It's interesting to note that Edward II didn't fine the couple for marrying without his permission, and instead seems to have been happy about it, if his generous gift to Richard is any guide.  A guilty conscience for letting Hugh Despenser the Younger imprison Elizabeth and bully her out of some of her lands, perhaps?  The date of Richard and Elizabeth's wedding is unfortunately not given in the king's chamber account, but presumably had taken place shortly before.

On 19 May 1326, at Marlborough, Edward II and presumably Hugh Despenser the Younger as well attended the wedding of Hugh's household knight Sir Robert Wateville and Margaret Hastings, Hugh's niece (her mother Isabel, Lady Hastings was Hugh's sister).  It was on this occasion that Edward II gave a massive twenty shillings to Lady Hastings' servant Will Muleward, "who was for some time with the king and made him laugh greatly."  Edward also gave twenty or forty shillings each to four other members of Lady Hastings' household, for their hard work in ensuring that the ceremony went ahead.

The family was interconnected: Isabel Hastings' third husband, who had died the previous year, was Ralph de Monthermer, whose first wife had been Edward II's sister Joan of Acre.  Isabel's first husband had been Gilbert de Clare, lord of Thomond, who was the first cousin of Edward II's niece Eleanor (née de Clare) Despenser, and her second, the father of all her children, was John, Lord Hastings.  I assume, though don't know for sure, that Hugh Despenser the Younger had arranged the marriage between his knight Robert Wateville - he was, like Richard Talbot, specified as being Hugh's 'bachelor' in Edward II's chamber account - and his niece, who can't have been much past her mid-teens at the time but was already a widow.  Sir Robert Wateville was high in Edward II's favour, as several other entries in the king's chamber account of 1326 demonstrate, and was one of the men with whom Edward played an unspecified ball game in the park of Saltwood Castle a couple of weeks after his wedding (he also won money from the king at cross and pile).  The Marlborough wedding sounds like it was a lot of fun, and presumably Edward II also got to spend some time with his daughters Eleanor and Joan, who were living at Marlborough Castle in Lady Hastings' care.

11 August, 2013

The De Clare Sisters

I saw someone on Facebook recently mixing up Edward II's nieces Eleanor and Margaret de Clare, and also seemingly unaware of their younger sister Elizabeth.  Here's a quick post about them.

Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford, was born on 2 September 1243, son of Earl Richard and Maud de Lacy, great-grandson of the famous William Marshal, earl of Pembroke.  Gilbert was first married to Alice de Lusignan, half-niece of Henry III, with whom he had two daughters, Isabel, Lady Berkeley (1262 - c. 1333/38) and Joan, countess of Fife (c. 1264/67 - after 1322).  This marriage was annulled in 1285, which made Isabel and Joan illegitimate.  On 30 April 1290, aged forty-six, Gilbert married Edward I and Eleanor of Castile's second-eldest surviving daughter Joan of Acre, who was born in the Holy Land in the spring of 1272 and thus was eighteen or almost at the time of her wedding to the irascible Gilbert.

Gilbert and Joan's eldest child Gilbert, earl of Gloucester, was born on or around 10 May 1291, just over a year after their wedding, and was killed at the battle of Bannockburn on 24 June 1314.  The younger Gilbert had no surviving children with his wife Maud de Burgh (but see here for her claims to be pregnant twenty months after his death), and left his vast lands and fortune to be divided equally among his three younger sisters and their husbands.  His sisters were:

- Eleanor, born in October or November 1292, died June 1337
- Margaret, date of birth unknown, probably in the spring or summer of 1294, assuming a regular spacing between the four siblings; died April 1342
- Elizabeth, born on 16 September 1295, just a few weeks before the death of their father Gilbert 'the Red' on 7 December 1295, aged fifty-two; died November 1360.

For the 45332896th time, Edward II did ***NOT*** arrange the marriage of Eleanor de Clare and Hugh Despenser the Younger.  Eleanor and Hugh married on 26 May 1306 at Westminster, in the presence of her grandfather Edward I, who had arranged the match.  There is ample evidence for this wedding date - for which, please see my post on the subject - and I'm sick to death of the laziness of writers who can't be bothered to research properly and instead repeat the usual rubbish about Edward II arranging it after Hugh had become his favourite, a dozen or more years after Hugh and Eleanor actually married.  Edward II did arrange the marriages of Margaret and Elizabeth de Clare, however, to his 'favourites' Piers Gaveston, earl of Cornwall in 1307 and Sir Hugh Audley in 1317, in Margaret's case, and to Sir Roger Damory in 1317 in Elizabeth's.  Elizabeth had previously been married to the earl of Ulster's eldest son and heir John de Burgh (d. 1313) and Theobald, Lord Verdon (d. 1316).

All the de Clare sisters were married two or three times and all left children.  Eleanor had at least nine or ten children with Hugh Despenser the Younger and at least one with her second husband William la Zouche, lord of Ashby, whom she married in 1329.  Her heir on her death in June 1337 was her eldest son Sir Hugh Despenser (1308/09 - 1349).  Eleanor's third of the de Clare inheritance passed from the Despensers to the Beauchamps and the Nevilles in the fifteenth century, as Eleanor and Hugh the Younger's great-great-granddaughter Isabel Despenser married Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick.  Margaret's daughter Joan Gaveston died young; her sole heir on her death in 1342 was her younger daughter Margaret Audley, abducted and forcibly married by Sir Ralph Stafford in 1336.  Elizabeth's heir when she died in 1360 was her granddaughter Elizabeth de Burgh (1332-1363), daughter of Elizabeth's only son William de Burgh; the younger Elizabeth married Edward III's son Lionel, duke of Clarence.  Elizabeth's share of the de Clare lands passed from the de Burghs to the Mortimers, thanks to Philippa of Clarence's marriage to Edmund Mortimer.  Elizabeth de Clare also left two daughters, Isabella Verdon and Elizabeth Damory.

All the de Clare sisters suffered imprisonment during or after Edward II's turbulent reign: Eleanor in the Tower of London in and after 1326, as she was the wife of an executed traitor (one Flemish chronicle claimed that she had had an affair with her uncle Edward II and was imprisoned in case she was pregnant by him); Margaret at Sempringham Priory in May 1322 after she successfully pleaded for the life of her husband Hugh Audley, once a royal favourite then a rebel, for the rest of Edward's reign; and Elizabeth at Barking Abbey, also in March 1322 for the same reason as her sister, but only for a few months.  [For Margaret and Elizabeth, see: Close Rolls 1318-1323, pp. 428, 440, 651; Livere de Reis de Britanie e le Livere de Reis de Engletere, ed. John Glover, p. 345]

And finally, just for the record, these are Edward II's nieces, the ones who lived to adulthood:

Eleanor de Clare, Lady Despenser (1292-1337)
Margaret de Clare, countess of Cornwall and Gloucester (1293/94-1342)
Elizabeth de Clare, Lady Burgh (1295-1360)
Mary de Monthermer, countess of Fife (1297 - after 1371)
Joan de Monthermer, a nun (1299-?) [all the above, daughters of his sister Joan of Acre]
Joan of Bar, countess of Surrey (1295/96-1361) [daughter of his sister Eleanor]
Eleanor de Bohun, countess of Ormond (1304-1263)
Margaret de Bohun, countess of Devon (1311-1391) [daughters of his sister Elizabeth]
Margaret of Norfolk, duchess of Norfolk (c. 1322-1399)
Alice of Norfolk (c. 1324 - early 1350s) [daughters of his half-brother Thomas]
Joan of Kent, countess of Kent and mother of Richard II (1328-1385) [daughter of his half-brother Edmund]

07 August, 2013

Marriage Negotiations in January 1324

Recently I was looking through the correspondence relating to the 1324/25 War of Saint-Sardos between Edward II and his brother-in-law Charles IV of France, and came across a letter of c. 23 January 1324 written to Edward by Sir Ralph Basset (see Lady D’s excellent post on him), who was the king's steward of Gascony.  [1]  The letter is long and informative and contains some information about marriage negotiations between England and France which I don't remember ever hearing about before. They concern Edward II and Isabella of France's daughters Eleanor, then aged five (born June 1318) and Joan, then aged two (born July 1321), and also, most interestingly to me, the king's half-brother Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent, then twenty-two (born August 1301). I'd never known before that any marriages were discussed for Edmund before he married Margaret Wake in late 1325, though of course it makes complete sense that they would have been. In August 1320 Edward II discussed a possible marriage for his other half-brother Thomas of Brotherton, earl of Norfolk (born June 1300) with King Jaime II of Aragon: Thomas would marry Jaime's daughter Maria, widow of Pedro of Castile, who was the son of Sancho IV and thus Edward II’s first cousin once removed. In August 1321, however, Jaime 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.  [2]  Thomas of Brotherton ended up making a remarkably obscure marriage to Alice Hales, daughter of the coroner of Norfolk, probably later in 1321.

The potential marriages for Edward II's daughters mentioned in Ralph Basset's letter were with the offspring of the powerful Charles de Valois, count of Valois, Alençon, Perche, Anjou and Maine. Valois (12 March 1270 - 16 December 1325) was the son of Philip III of France and Isabel of Aragon and the brother of Philip IV, and the uncle of Louis X, Philip V, Charles IV and Edward II's queen Isabella. His children and Edward II's therefore were first cousins once removed. His eldest son Philip, born in 1293, succeeded his cousin Charles IV in 1328 as the first of the Valois kings of France, as Charles and his two elder brothers had no surviving sons and therefore were the last of the Capetian kings. Valois was married three times and had about fourteen children, including Jeanne, mother of Edward III's queen Philippa of Hainault; Isabelle, who married the heir of the duke of Brittany; Catherine, titular empress of Constantinople and princess of Taranto; another Isabelle, duchess of Bourbon; Blanche, Holy Roman Empress and queen of Germany; yet another Isabelle, abbess of Fontevrault. Valois was, in the usual tangled manner of royal relationships, also the uncle of Edward II's half-brothers the earls of Norfolk and Kent, being the elder half-brother of their mother Queen Marguerite.

Basset’s letter states that Valois had asked his nephew Charles IV for permission to send Amaury de Craon to England to meet Edward II, "to discuss and negotiate the marriages of my ladies your two daughters, that is, one for the son of the said Sir Charles who is of the issue of his last wife, and the other for one of the sons of his son from his first marriage" (...pur parler et treter de mariages de mes dames vos deus files ceo est asavoir la une pur le fitz du dit monsire Charles qui est del issue de sa dreine femme et lautre pur un des fitz de son fitz qui est des primeres esposailes).

Valois’s third and last wife was Mahaut or Matilda of St Pol, also known as Mahaut de Châtillon (d. 1358), sister of Marie de St Pol, countess of Pembroke.  With her he had only one son, who must be the boy mentioned here: Charles, count of Chartres, born probably in 1318.  Valois had two sons with his first wife Marguerite of Naples and Anjou, who died in 1299: the aforementioned Philip, who succeeded as Philip VI of France in 1328, and Charles, count of Alençon, born in 1297, who was killed at the battle of Crécy in 1346.  Charles of Alençon had been married to Joan de Joigny since 1314, but the couple had no children (Alençon’s children all came from his 1336 second marriage to Fernando de la Cerda the younger's daughter Maria).  Philip of Valois had married Joan ‘the Lame’, Jeanne la Boiteuse*, of Burgundy in 1313; she was the younger sister of Marguerite, first wife of Louis X, who was imprisoned for adultery in 1314.  As far as I can tell, the only son of Philip of Valois and Joan of Burgundy alive in 1324 was John, or Jean in French, the future King John II of France, who was born in April 1319 (they had had an older son, Philip, but he died young).  It must be John who was being put forward as a husband for one of Edward II's daughters in January 1324.  [* Later known in France as la male royne boiteuse, 'the evil lame queen']

Louis of Chartres died on 2 November 1328, probably aged only ten or thereabouts.  John of Valois married Bonne (born Jutta) of Bohemia, daughter of John the Blind, king of Bohemia, in 1332 and succeeded his father as King John II in 1350.  He is known to history as Jean le Bon, John the Good, and was succeeded by his son Charles V and then his grandson Charles VI, and so on.  No-one could have known at the time of Charles de Valois's marriage proposals in January 1324 that Charles IV would die without a son in February 1328, and that if this proposal had been realised it would ultimately have made one of Edward II's daughters queen of France.  Given that Edward's son Edward III claimed the French throne from his kinsman Philip VI (who was also the uncle of Edward's queen, Philippa), that's a fascinating what-if.

The marriage of the future Edward III to one of Charles of Valois's daughters had also been proposed, incidentally, in about May 1323; Edward II told Valois and Charles IV on 6 June that he would put the suggestion to his next parliament, which didn't take place until February 1324, by which time the alternative marriage proposal had been suggested.  [3]  The daughter is not named, but presumably meant one of Valois's daughters with Mahaut of St Pol, who were all about the right age to marry Edward of Windsor: Marie (b. c. 1309), Isabelle (b. 1313) or Blanche (b. 1317).  In March 1324, Edward II sent envoys to Jaime II of Aragon to discuss a marriage between Edward of Windsor and Jaime's daughter Violante, and in February 1325 sent envoys to Castile to arrange a marriage for the boy with Alfonso XI's sister Leonor.  [4]

Unfortunately, nothing came of these proposed marriages for Edward II's daughters and Charles de Valois's son and grandson, and I'm not sure whether Valois's envoy Amaury de Craon did indeed visit England and Edward to discuss them.  I've found a reference to Craon in July 1325 as an envoy of the duke of Brittany and a clerk of his being granted protection in England earlier that same year, but that's it.  Amaury had twice served as Edward II's steward of Gascony, Ralph Basset's predecessor, and was always acknowledged as 'cousin' or 'kinsman' by Edward; if I've worked it out correctly, Amaury's grandmother was one of Henry III's Lusignan half-siblings.  Over the next year or two Edward II betrothed his daughters instead to Alfonso XI of Castile and the future Pedro IV of Aragon, Jaime II's grandson, and after his deposition they married David II of Scotland and Duke Reynald II of Gueldres.  

The impetus for the Valois marriages came from Charles de Valois himself.  The next proposed marriage, however, was one which Ralph Basset had been trying to negotiate on Edward II's behalf. The prospective bridegroom was Edward's half-brother Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent, and the prospective bride was Régine de Got, daughter and heir of Bertrand de Got, viscount of Lomagne, a small town north-west of Toulouse (Basset wrote: jeo avoi comence parlaunce et trettement od le viscounte de Leomaine pur avoir euz le mariage de sa file et mon seignur vostre frere le counte de Kente, "I had begun discussions and negotiations with the viscount of Lomagne to have had the marriage of his daughter and my lord your brother the earl of Kent").

Bertrand de Got, viscount of Lomagne, was one of the many nephews of the Gascon Pope Clement V, who died on 20 April 1314 and whose real name was also Bertrand de Got.  On 16 June 1308, Edward II had granted Bertrand the nephew the castle and town of Blanquefort and appointed him his proctor at the papal court.  This was just before Piers Gaveston was forced to leave England for his second exile, and Edward candidly admitted that he hoped the grant to the pope's nephew would encourage Clement to support him in the Gaveston matter and to lift the conditional sentence of excommunication imposed on him by the archbishop of Canterbury.  [5]  In November 1317, Bertrand de Got, his kinsman Peter de Via, another nephew of Clement V, and other men were accused of "proceeding by witchcraft" against Pope John XXII.  A letter in the Gascon Rolls states "However, it is not possible to credit accusations against such important and noble persons...The pope has hitherto acted so  affectionately towards them, for it not to be reasonable that they should be suspected of such horrendously criminal behaviour."  [6]

Ralph Basset informed Edward in his letter that unfortunately his negotiations with Bertrand had been unsuccessful and he had heard that Régine de Got was shortly to marry the count of Armagnac instead (a ceo qe jeo ay entendu ele serra mariee au counte de Armeniak en moult bref temps). The count of Armagnac in 1324 was Jean I, who was still underage at the time and lived until 1373.  Countess Régine sadly did not live long: John Travers, constable of Bordeaux, told Edward II on 1 September 1325 that "the countess of Armagnac, who was the daughter of the viscount of Lomagne, is dead without an heir of her body," and on the 23rd Edward wrote to inform his half-brother the earl of Kent, the spurned bridegroom and the king's lieutenant in Gascony.  [7]  Betrand de Got, viscount of Lomagne, died in 1324, within months of Basset's letter.  Ralph Basset was afraid of an alliance between the viscount of Lomagne, the Armagnacs and Amanieu, lord of Albret against Edward II, which he had been hoping to avert with the marriage of Kent and Régine. Armagnac and Albret supported Charles IV against Edward II in the War of Saint-Sardos, although Albret's son Bérard was a staunch ally of Edward.  Malcolm Vale's 1990 book The Origins of the Hundred Years War: The Angevin Legacy 1250-1340 mentions Kent and Régine's proposed marriage (p. 94 footnote 87), but otherwise I don't believe it's ever been discussed, except here.


1) Pierre Chaplais, ed., The War of Saint-Sardos (1323-1325): Gascon Correspondence and Diplomatic Documents (1954), pp. 15-17.
2) Pierre Chaplais, English Medieval Diplomatic Practice (1982), part 1, vol. 1, pp. 64-66.
3) Foedera 1307-1327, p. 523; Close Rolls 1318-1323, pp. 713-714.
4) Foedera 1307-1327, pp. 548-549; Close Rolls 1323-1327, p. 171; Patent Rolls 1324-1327, pp. 103-104; Chaplais, War of Saint-Sardos, pp. 214-216.
5) Patent Rolls 1307-1313, p. 83; Foedera 1307-1327, p. 51.
6) Gascon Rolls C 61/32, mem. 17.
7) Chaplais, War of Saint-Sardos, p. 240; Foedera 1307-1327, pp. 609-610.

04 August, 2013

Roger Mortimer Escapes From The Tower, 1323

Yes, this post is somewhat late for the anniversary of Roger Mortimer's escape from the Tower on 1 August 1323, but it's been a hectic (and very hot and humid!) week, and I had no time to write it before.  :-)  Then after I did write it, I accidentally pressed some key and the entire post disappeared, Blogger auto-saved a split-second later, and it was gone forever.  I felt like weeping.  So here it is again, considerably shorter than it was originally because I'll discuss the notion that Queen Isabella was involved in the escape in a second post soon.  I simply can't face writing it all again at the moment!

Roger Mortimer and his uncle Roger Mortimer of Chirk were imprisoned in the Tower of London in February 1322 after taking part in the unsuccessful Contrariant rebellion against Edward II and the Despensers.  The two men surrendered to Edward at Shrewsbury in January 1322, supposedly, according to some chroniclers, after the earl of Pembroke and other earls loyal to the king lied to them and promised them that the king would grant them a pardon if they did so.  Well, maybe, but they would have had to have been pretty gullible and naive to think that they'd be offered a pardon after committing so many crimes: armed rebellion against the king, destroying lands and homes all over England and Wales in May 1321, forcing Edward to banish the two Hugh Despensers, destroying much of Gloucestershire when the king advanced on them in early 1322, and taking part in other Contrariant crimes such as homicide, assault, theft, false imprisonment and extortion.  I'm pretty sure Roger Mortimer wasn't that naive, and given that forces led by Edward II's ally Sir Gruffydd Llwyd had captured their castles and that the rebellion was collapsing around them, I don't really see what other choice they had but to surrender.

On 14 July 1322, five men – the mayor of London, three justices of the court of Common Pleas and the chief baron of the exchequer – were ordered to try the two Roger Mortimers, and on 2 August condemned them to be drawn for their treason and hanged for their arson, robberies, homicides and felonies.  Edward II had on 22 July, however, already commuted their sentence to life imprisonment, which would prove to be one of the worst mistakes he ever made and seems to defy explanation, unless he was remembering the Mortimer family's long service to himself and his family.  [1]  I looked recently at the possibility that Edward II, despite his decision of the previous year to spare the younger Mortimer's life, was planning to execute him in 1323, and that this is the reason why Mortimer escaped.  It's possible, but is a story which appears in some chronicles but not others and is not corroborated by any evidence in the chancery rolls or other government sources.  Roger Mortimer of Chirk died still imprisoned in the Tower of London on 3 August 1326, aged about seventy.  Roger Mortimer of Wigmore, future self-appointed earl of March and favourite of the queen, escaped from the Tower on 1 August 1323, and here's what we know about the event.

Mortimer escaped by feeding his guards sedatives in their wine, and made his way to the continent.  Gerard Alspaye, deputy constable of the Tower and a Mortimer sympathiser, fled with him, letting Mortimer out of his cell while the guards were incapacitated, taking him through the kitchens and over the wall with a rope ladder to the river, where more men were waiting with a boat.  They were the prominent Londoners John de Gisors, Richard de Bethune and Ralph de Bocton.  Five days after the escape, Stephen Segrave, constable of the Tower, was still seriously ill from the sedatives.  [2]  Edward II, at Kirkham in Yorkshire, heard the news on 6 August, and ordered all the sheriffs and keepers of the peace in England and the bailiffs of fifteen ports to pursue Mortimer with hue and cry and take him dead or alive.  [2]  For a long time, he had no idea where Mortimer had gone, and assuming that he had fled to Wales, ordered the loyal Welshmen Rhys ap Gruffudd and Gruffudd Llwyd to search for him there.  Hugh Despenser the Elder was also ordered "to capture the said Roger and his adherents; with power to punish all persons not aiding him by incarcerating them and seizing their lands and goods."  [3]  On 26 August, Edward told his brother the earl of Kent that he thought Mortimer was in Ireland, and was still ordering numerous bailiffs to search for Mortimer on 20 September.  By 1 October, had finally learned where Mortimer was: in Picardy, with his kinsmen the Fiennes brothers.  [4]  As early as mid-November 1323, Mortimer was allegedly inciting "aliens to enter the kingdom and to murder the king’s counsellors," which certainly meant the Despensers, and perhaps Mortimer’s detested cousin the earl of Arundel and the younger Despenser's protégé Robert Baldock, whom Edward had appointed as chancellor of England in August 1323. [5]

With Roger Mortimer on the continent beyond his reach, Edward II lashed out vindictively at his family. This was no doubt inspired at least in part by his frustration at being unable to re-capture his enemy, though as Mortimer had sent assassins to kill Edward's friends, it is hardly surprising that the king would retaliate, and Mortimer chose to flee the country in the full knowledge that he was leaving his family to Edward's not-so-tender mercies. I n March and April 1324, his wife Joan and her servants were moved from Southampton to Skipton-in-Craven, and three of their eight daughters – Margaret Berkeley, Joan and Isabella – were sent to separate convents and granted the pitifully small amounts of fifteen pence (Margaret) or twelve pence (Joan and Isabella) per week for their sustenance.  [6]  As far as I know, three of Mortimer's four sons also remained under guard, though Geoffrey was reunited with his father on the continent, about which much more in the second part of this post, soon.


1) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1321-1324, p. 249; Ibid. 1327-1330, pp. 141-143.  The judgement on the Mortimers is printed, in the original French, in James Conway Davies, The Baronial Opposition to Edward II (1918), p. 565 (...pur les Tresons soiez treynez et pur les arsons roberies homicides et felonies soiez penduz).
2) Calendar of Close Rolls 1323-1327, p. 13.
2) Ibid., p. 132.
3) Patent Rolls 1321-1324, p. 335.
4) Close Rolls 1323-1327, pp. 133, 137-138, 140-141.
5) Patent Rolls 1321-1324, p. 349.
6) Close Rolls 1323-1327, pp. 87-88, 106.