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.


Gabriele Campbell said...

I wish I could make a more intelligent comment than, 'that's another interesting detail, thanks for sharing.' :-)

Kathryn Warner said...

Hehe, thank you, Gabriele :-)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for yet another interesting post. I would like to ask two questions related to the historical research behind it, if I may.

First, how does the French of the chamber accounts (and the other royal documents you research) differ from the French of today? I wondered how accessible fourteenth century Anglo-Norman French (the correct term?) is to a reader of modern French, or whether it needs to be studied thoroughly before any research is undertaken.

Secondly, to the untrained eye (looking at photographs of the chambers accounts in a previous post on them), the script looks physically very difficult to read (not to mention pretty stressful on the eyes!), or am I wrong? Do you have any special techniques for deciphering the text, or does that skill just come with practice and patience?

Kathryn Warner said...

Thank you! :)

The French of back then is very different from today, and also varied a lot by area, so that the letters sent from Gascony at this time look very different from the language used at the French court. I don't have any formal qualifications in medieval French (if such even exist), but taught myself over years, from my knowledge of modern French. So many letters and documents from Edward II's time have never been translated, so that was great motivation for me - either learn to read them in the original, or don't read them at all :-)

The handwriting is fairly tiny in Edward II's chamber account that I used here, but to me the writing is clear and not difficult to read. I did courses on paleography at university, which helps a lot. Again, it takes time and patience, and I find that looking at letters and petitions is helpful as they begin and end with certain formulaic constructions, so once you know what to expect you can read the opening quite easily, then use it as a guide as to how the scribe wrote each letter (of the alphabet). I do have to be very careful with my eyes, and take frequent breaks so I don't stress them too much.

Kathryn Warner said...

Just as a couple of fairly random examples of how the French is different - the modern word 'amitiés' was written 'amistez', and 'avec' was 'oue' or 'ove' or even 'od'. One sentence I'm looking at now is 'vostre realme Dengleterre', or in modern French 'votre royaume d'Angleterre'.

Here's the opening of a letter to Hugh Despenser the Younger in 1324: "A honurable et sage et trescher seignur et cosin, si luy plest, le soen Johan, seignur de Segrave, salutz..."

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for the fascinating insight. It makes me appreciate all the painstaking work and study that goes into your blog. It’s really interesting to see the French examples too. I didn’t cross my mind that there was such a strong regional angle. Just a thought, but after all your study of the Medieval language, all you need now is someone to invent time travel, and you can go back and converse with Edward II comfortably in his native tongue!

Kathryn Warner said...

You're most welcome! Ahhh, that's a lovely thought! Hope the boffins get on with inventing a time machine soon ;-)

Sami Parkkonen said...

Staggering amount of info again! Thank you very much.

I really would like to know what that Muleward guy did or said. I mean, twenty shillings for a comedy gig was a real load of money at that time so it must have been hilarious indeed.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Sami! Will must have been quite the comedian, eh? Such a large sum of money for spending a few hours (or however long it was) in the king's company ;) And so like Edward to spend time with a servant and have so much fun. Ah, that's why I love him :)

Carla said...

Fascinating comment about the differences between medieval and modern French. Is it like the difference between Chaucer's English and modern English, or more so?

Would Gascony have spoken langue d'oc at this period?

Kathryn Warner said...

It's a similar difference, Carla, yes. And Gascon French is very different - the langue d'oc, or Occitan :)