28 January, 2014

The Tournament of Wallingford, 1307

A post about Piers Gaveston's jousting tournament held at Wallingford on 2 December 1307, with thanks to my friend MRats for the suggestion. :-)

Piers Gaveston was made earl of Cornwall by the new king Edward II on 6 August 1307, and married Edward's niece Margaret de Clare on 1 November that year.  (He would also be appointed regent of England on 26 December, to take effect when Edward travelled to France to marry Isabella.)  1307 was, in short, Piers Gaveston's year, and, being the great jouster and competitor he was, it's no surprise to find him holding a tournament to celebrate his good fortune.  The tournament was held at his castle of Wallingford, a dozen miles from Oxford, on 2 December 1307.  Edward II encouraged him to hold the tournament, though evidently he didn't attend himself, as his itinerary on that day places him firstly at Langley, forty-five miles away from Wallingford, then at Reading, twenty-five miles from Wallingford.  [1]  Edward had been at Langley since about 10 November, stayed at Reading for several days from 2 December, then travelled back to Langley via Bisham on the 6th.  There is nothing to indicate a ride to Wallingford to watch Piers jousting, unfortunately.

The tournament was, however, attended by the earls of Surrey (Edward II's nephew-in-law John de Warenne), Hereford (Edward's brother-in-law Humphrey de Bohun) and Arundel (Edmund Fitzalan), and apparently other earls and magnates who are not named, as the Vita Edwardi Secundi (ed. Denholm-Young, p. 2) says that "there were ranged on one side three or four earls with a strong troop...and not a few barons."  The Vita also says that "Sir Piers' side could not raise an earl, but almost all the younger and more athletic knights of the kingdom, whom persuasion or hope of reward could bring together, assisted him."  The Annales Paulini (ed. Stubbs, pp. 258-9) accuse Piers, whether correctly or not I don't know, of fielding 200 knights instead of the agreed sixty, and the St Albans chronicler 'Trokelowe' (ed. Riley, p. 65) says that Piers and his knights "most vilely trod underfoot" the opposition.  Oh dear, seems as though the high and mighty earls were defeated by Piers and his team and really didn't like it, and surely if Piers had tried to cheat by so dramatically increasing the number of knights on his side, the earls could simply have refused to compete.  Here's the Vita, which incidentally doesn't confirm the story in the St Paul's annals and Trokelowe that Piers cheated in some way: "So it was in this tournament his [Piers'] party had the upper hand and carried off the spoils, although the other side remained in possession of the field.  For it is a recognised rule of this game that he who loses most and is most frequently unhorsed, is adjudged the most valiant and the stronger."

The Annales Paulini say that Piers organised another tournament at Faversham to celebrate Edward's marriage to Isabella.  There is no other information about this, and nothing that I know of to confirm that this tournament did indeed take place, though Edward and Isabella's route from Dover (where they arrived on 7 February 1308) to London (where they arrived on 21 February) would have taken them past or through Faversham, so it seems possible.  The Annales also claim that this tournament caused anger among the barons, and that a third tournament which Edward II planned to hold at Stepney to celebrate his coronation on 25 February had to be cancelled when Piers told him he feared that the earls would have him killed if it went ahead and he participated.  For the record, I don't know of any occasion when Edward II is known to have jousted.  I wonder if his father forbade him from competing in his youth, given that the old king lost three sons in childhood and that for many years Edward of Caernarfon was his only male heir, and given the dangers of the sport.  The earl of Surrey's son and heir William de Warenne was killed jousting in 1286 when Edward was only two, and Duke John I of Brabant, father-in-law of Edward's sister Margaret, in 1294.

The Vita Edwardi Secundi says that the tournament of Wallingford "roused the earls and barons to still greater hatred of Piers."  Whether he broke the rules or not, the fact remained that he and his knights had destroyed the earls' dignity by knocking them off their horses into the mud, to their humiliation and anger.  Not only did Piers Gaveston dominate Edward II's favour to an incredible degree, the earls could match him neither in wit nor in military prowess.  Having said that, John de Warenne, earl of Surrey (whose father William was killed jousting in 1286), following a long period of hostility to Piers, changed his mind on Piers' return from his second exile in the summer of 1309: "Earl Warenne who, ever since the conclusion of the Wallingford tournament, had never shown Piers any welcome, became his inseparable friend and faithful helper."  No wonder the author of the Vita, who records this, exclaims in exasperation "See how often and abruptly great men change their sides...The love of magnates is as a game of dice, and the desires of the rich like feathers."  (pp. 7-8).

1) Elizabeth Hallam, The Itinerary of Edward II and His Household, 1307-1327, p. 26; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1307-1313, pp. 13-26; Calendar of Close Rolls 1307-1313, pp. 9-13.

21 January, 2014

Women of Edward II's Reign: Aline Burnell

Part one of a two-part post about two of Hugh Despenser the Younger's sisters, Aline (or Alina), Lady Burnell and Isabel(la), Lady Hastings.  Hugh, Aline and Isabel were the oldest of the six Despenser siblings; the younger three were Philip, who died in 1313 leaving a baby son of the same name, Margaret, who married John, Lord St Amand, and Elizabeth, who married Ralph, Lord Camoys.

Hugh, Aline and Isabel's parents were Hugh Despenser the Elder, born on 1 March 1261, created earl of Winchester in 1322 by Edward II and executed by Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer in 1326, and Isabel(la) Beauchamp (died 1306), daughter of William Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (c. 1237-1298) and sister of Guy Beauchamp, the earl of Warwick who kidnapped and imprisoned Piers Gaveston in 1312.  Isabel Beauchamp's first husband Patrick Chaworth, with whom she had a daughter Maud, died in July 1283; Maud married Edward I's nephew Henry of Lancaster in or before 1297.  Isabel was the first cousin of, among others, Richard de Burgh, earl of Ulster and Robert, Lord Clifford, killed at Bannockburn in June 1314.  I'd also like to reiterate that the Despensers were a very well-connected noble family, absolutely not the jumped-up nobodies of modern myth.  Hugh Despenser the Elder's mother Aline Basset (died 1281), heiress of her father Philip Basset, was countess of Norfolk by her second marriage to Roger Bigod, and Hugh married the earl of Warwick's daughter.  Edward I himself arranged the marriage of Hugh Despenser the Younger to his eldest granddaughter Eleanor de Clare in 1306.

Hugh Despenser the Elder and the widowed Isabel Beauchamp married probably in 1286; on 8 November 1287 Edward I acquitted Hugh of a debt of 2000 marks (£1333) for marrying Isabel without royal licence, though by then Hugh had paid almost £1000 of it.  [1]  Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing the Despenser children's dates of birth.  That of their older half-sister Maud Chaworth is known, 2 February 1282, as she was her father's heir and it was recorded in his Inquisition Post Mortem.  Likewise, we know Hugh Despenser the Elder's date of birth as it was recorded on the Fine Roll (1272-1307, p. 152), because he was his mother's heir and was allowed possession of his lands shortly before he turned twenty-one.  There was no reason, however, for anyone to note his children's dates of birth, and so they weren't recorded.

Aline, Lady Burnell

Aline, named after her paternal grandmother Aline Basset, countess of Norfolk, was the eldest of the Despenser daughters.  I'd also speculate that she was the eldest Despenser child and older than her brother Hugh the Younger, as she married in 1302 and he in 1306, and I'd estimate her date of birth as about 1287.  On 1 January 1296, Aline's father acquired a grant of "the marriage of the heirs of Philip Burnel, tenant in chief."  [2]  Philip Burnel or Burnell's son and heir was Edward Burnell, born around 22 July 1286 and thus nine years old at the time, who was also heir to his great-uncle Robert Burnell, chancellor of England and bishop of Bath and Wells (d. 1292), a close ally of Edward I.  Edward Burnell, almost certainly, was named in honour of Edward I.  His mother Maud Fitzalan was the sister of Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel (d. 1302), which makes Edward the first cousin of Edmund Fitzalan, earl of Arundel executed in 1326, like Edward's father-in-law Hugh Despenser the Elder, by Roger Mortimer and Isabella of France.  I've previously written a post about Edward Burnell's mother and sister and their matrimonial adventures.

Letters patent of 3 May 1302 record a grant of 1000 marks from Hugh Despenser the Elder to Anthony Bek, bishop of Durham (and patriarch of Jerusalem!), "of the marriage of Edward, son and heir of Sir Philip Burnel, for the purpose of marrying him to Alina, Sir Hugh's eldest daughter."  [3]  (I'm not sure why Hugh paid the money to Anthony Bek when in 1296 he himself had been granted the Burnell marriage; haven't investigated that part.)  Edward and Aline probably got married soon afterwards, so when Edward was sixteen or almost, and Aline perhaps a year or so younger.  On 6 December 1307, the escheator was ordered to deliver Edward's lands to him, as he was now twenty-one and had done homage to the king for them.  [4]

Edward and Aline had no children in their thirteen years or so of marriage, and rarely appear on record, apart from some acknowledgements of debts recorded on the Close Roll.  Edward died on 23 August (the eve of St Bartholomew) 1315 at the age of only twenty-nine.  [5]  His heir was his younger sister Maud, aged twenty-four or twenty-five, then the widow of Sir John Lovel (killed at Bannockburn in June 1314), who shortly afterwards married the Despenser adherent Sir John Haudlo.  Aline was assigned a fairly sizeable dower on 3 February 1316 during the Lincoln parliament, though in July 1317 "Alina late the wife of Edward Burnel, puts in her place Henry de Laverdon to sue for her dower in chancery of her husband's knights' fees and adowsons."  Only three days later, these were granted.  [6]

Aline spent many years living quietly as a well-off widow.  As is almost always the case with people who lived in the early fourteenth century, it's impossible to know what she felt or thought about anything; whether she and Edward Burnell had a happy marriage or not, what she thought of her brother Hugh the Younger's rise to power and in Edward II's affection from 1318 onwards.  It is notable, however, that despite outliving her husband by almost half a century, she never re-married.  The notorious gang leader Malcolm Musard, formerly an adherent of Aline's father, attacked a manor of hers sometime before 7 August 1326, when Edward II pardoned him "for the outlawry in the county of Worcester published against him while he was in prison on that account, for non-appearance before the king to answer touching a plea of trespass of Alina Burnel, on condition that he surrender forthwith to gaol, and stand his trial if the said Alina will proceed against him...".  [7]

The most important and interesting fact about Aline Burnell is that on 30 January 1326, when he was at Burgh in Suffolk - a day when I know he was having dinner with his sister-in-law Alice Hales, countess of Norfolk, and paying two musicians to perform for them - Edward II appointed her as custodian of the great North Wales castle of Conwy, where he had taken the homage of his Welsh lords as the new prince of Wales in the spring of 1301: "Appointment during pleasure of Aline Burnel to the custody of the castle of Coneweye, so that she answer for the safe custody thereof at her peril."  [8]  Aline's appointment was perhaps thanks to the influence of her powerful brother Hugh the Younger, royal chamberlain and 'favourite'.  It was a most unusual honour for a woman to be appointed to such a position, especially of an important castle such as Conwy.  The only other contemporary example I know of (though it had happened in earlier times) is Isabella Vescy, Edward II's second cousin, being appointed constable of Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland by Edward I in 1304 and confirmed in the role by Edward II on 23 November 1307, both grants made to her for life (the earlier one made on condition 'that she marry not').  [9]  Aline Burnell was replaced as constable of Conwy on 20 October 1326 by Sir William Erkalewe or Arcalowe, sheriff of Shropshire and Staffordshire.  [10]  Given the timing, when Edward II had fled to South Wales after the invasion, I'm sure the change came about only because he wanted an experienced military man in charge of such a strategically important castle, and that this replacement doesn't say anything at all about Aline's loyalty to the king or her abilities.  Erkalewe was closely associated with the Despenser family; in later years he was the steward of Aline's nephew Sir Hugh Despenser (d. 1349), and on 26 April 1338 Aline was granted "alienation in mortmain...to two chaplains to celebrate divine service daily in the chapel of St Giles, Lolleseye [Lulsley, Worcestershire] for the souls of the said Edward [Burnell] and Alina, Hugh le Despenser, her brother, and Hugh le Despenser, her cousin [recte nephew], William de Ercalewe and Walter de Lench."  [11]  Definitely no hard feelings, then.  Aline's inclusion of her notorious brother Hugh the Younger perhaps indicates that she remembered him with affection.

After the downfall and hideous executions of her father and brother in the late autumn of 1326, and the imprisonment of her sister-in-law Eleanor de Clare, Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer, to their credit, left Aline alone.  She did of course still have influential relatives, being for example the sister-in-law of Queen Isabella's uncle Henry, earl of Lancaster (her half-sister Maud Chaworth had died in about 1321).  On 8 October 1327, the reversion of Aline's Worcestershire manor of Martley - granted to her for life many years previously by her father Hugh the Elder - was awarded to Roger Mortimer's adherent John Wyard, at the request of Edward III's uncle Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent.  [12]  This of course was just a couple of weeks after the public announcement of the former King Edward II's death at Berkeley Castle.  I wonder how Aline felt about that.

Another interesting entry relating to Aline appears on the Patent Roll on 4 March 1327, only a few weeks into Edward III's reign, when she, William Erkalewe, ten other named men and unnamed others were accused by Richard de la Ryvere, former sheriff of Gloucestershire, of attacking his manor of 'Wyk Fokeram', Somerset, assaulting his servants and cutting down his trees.  [13]  When this took place, or what on earth was going on, I really don't know, but the entry is part of a flurry of similar complaints against former Despenser adherents and others around this time, many of them involving the Dunheved brothers and their followers, who later in 1327 temporarily freed the former Edward II from Berkeley Castle.  On 3 November 1329, and again on 24 April 1330 and 3 February and 4 June 1331, Aline was given letters of protection to travel to Santiago de Compostela on pilgrimage, and appointed two attorneys to act for her during her absence.  [14]

Born probably in Edward I's fourteenth or fifteenth regnal year, Aline Despenser Burnell lived into the thirty-seventh regnal year of his grandson Edward III.  She died on 16 May 1363, in her mid-seventies.  The dower lands she held from her marriage to the long-dead Edward Burnell reverted to Edward's heir, his nephew Nicholas Burnell, eldest surviving son of Edward's sister Maud and her second husband Sir John Haudlo, who took his mother's name (see my post attempting to untangle the complicated Burnell/Lovel/Haudlo situation).  An order to the escheator to take the lands of 'Alina late the wife of Edward Burnel, knight' into the king's hands was issued on 24 May 1363; she held lands in Norfolk, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Shropshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire.  Aline's heir was her brother Hugh the Younger's grandson Edward, Lord Despenser, born in 1336, who inherited from her the manors of Compton Dando in Somerset, Bushley and Suckley in Worcestershire, and Little Rissington and Sodbury in Gloucestershire.  [15]  On 16 November 1338, a commission of oyer and terminer had been granted to Aline's nephew Sir Hugh Despenser (uncle of her heir Edward Despenser), William Erkalewe, John Inge (also a long-term Despenser adherent and former sheriff of Glamorgan) and Alan de Asshe on the grounds that half a dozen men and women had attacked her manor of Compton Dando, stolen her goods and assaulted her servants.  [16]  Aline outlived her husband by forty-eight years, survived the grotesque deaths of her father and brother intact, and lived through Edward II's turbulent reign, the first decades of the Hundred Years War and the first two awful outbreaks of the Black Death in 1348/49 and 1361.  I wish we could know more, or indeed anything at all, about her inner life, and those of her contemporaries!


1) Calendar of Close Rolls 1279-1288, p. 462; Martyn Lawrence, 'Rise of a Royal Favourite: the Early Career of Hugh Despenser the Elder' in The Reign of Edward II: New Perspectives (2006), ed. Gwilym Dodd and Anthony Musson, p. 208. See also Close Rolls 1279-1288, p. 184: c. April 1282, Hugh acknowledges that he owes William Beauchamp, earl of Warwick 1600 marks.  A memo added later says he gave the earl the money for his marriage, which the earl claimed belonged to him of the king's gift.  Calendar of Patent Rolls 1272-1281, p. 439, 28 May 1281, is the grant to Warwick "of the marriage of Hugh le Depenser, tenant in chief."
2) Patent Rolls 1292-1301, p. 179.
3) A Descriptive Catalogue of Ancient Deeds, ed. H.C. Maxwell Lyte, vol. 4, no. A. 6278.
4) Close Rolls 1307-1313, p. 13.
5) Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1307-1327, pp. 390-394; Calendar of Fine Rolls 1307-1319, p. 254; C. Moor, Knights of Edward I, vol. 1, p. 166.
6) Close Rolls 1313-1318, pp. 263-264, 487-488, 557.
7) Patent Rolls 1324-1327, p. 304.
8) Patent Rolls 1324-1327, p. 215.
9) Fine Rolls 1272-1307, p. 528; Patent Rolls 1307-1313, p. 36.
10) Fine Rolls 1319-1327, p. 421.
11) Patent Rolls 1338-1240, p. 50.
12) Patent Rolls 1327-1330, pp. 180-181.
13) Patent Rolls 1327-1330, p. 85.
14) Patent Rolls 1327-1330,  pp. 454-455, 514; Ibid. 1330-1334, pp. 69, 84, 123.
15) Fine Rolls 1356-1368, pp. 277, 284; Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1361-1365, pp. 371-373.
16) Patent Rolls 1338-1340, p. 183.

16 January, 2014


In which I trawl through the internet to see what's been said about Edward II lately, good and bad...

Jules' fantastic blog about Hugh Despenser the Younger and all things Edward II has a new address and a new look.  Check it out!  This is my favourite post of hers, about the practically unknown rescue by Hugh of Margaret, Lady Badlesmere (his wife Eleanor's first cousin) when she was attacked and besieged by a large group of miscreants in Hertfordshire in 1319.  See!  He wasn't all bad!

Why can't you spell properly?

Just spotted this delightful and semi-illiterate comment on a blog post about the many historical inaccuracies in Braveheart. What a charming, polite person!

Totally bonkers and extremely hard to follow comment seen on a history forum: "I don't think Eddy II was he was [sic] born in Wales that title was just hearsay. He came across this possibility when was 16. The proof as the hearsay does not stack up, it is not possible."  Ummmm what?  There is no doubt whatsoever that Edward II was born in Wales.  In his own lifetime he was often known as Edward of Caernarfon.  Caernarfon is in North Wales.  QED.  I don't understand the rest of the statement, even though it was written by a native speaker of English, so can't comment.

From a book review: "Isabella finds herself nothing more than a political pawn in a loveless marriage."  You could say exactly the same thing about Edward II himself being a 'political pawn', no?  I am so bored with this endless modern 'Royal women in the Middle Ages were mere pawns in marriage!' whine, as though royal men had any choice in who they married either (with the exception of Edward IV).  Both Edward and Isabella were raised with the knowledge that they'd have to marry another royal person for reasons of foreign policy and political expediency (both of them were betrothed for the first time as little more than infants); they weren't twenty-first-century people dropped into the fourteenth century with the expectation of marrying for love; their marriage ended disastrously but for many years was pretty successful, and certainly wasn't 'loveless'.

I loved the following comment on a history forum.  Yes yes yes!  Let's face it, it can't have been easy, being the son and heir of a man like Longshanks.

From the sublime to the ridiculous:

Aaaggghhhh!!  A reminder of why I sometimes cannot stand historical fiction, because it spreads this kind of nonsense.  Hugh Despenser didn't become Edward's 'favourite' until 1318 or later, by which time three of Edward and Isabella's four children had been born, so let's throw this particular notion into the rubbish bin where it belongs.

Stereotypes R Us!
Stereotypes R Us, part 2!

I love this comment on Tumblr, from a poster who's very well-informed about Edward II and clearly reads my blog.  Well said!

From a great comment on Tumblr to a truly awful one:

Firstly, Isabella was not a 'princess'.  The daughters of kings were not called that until the sixteenth century.  Isabella, like the daughters of other kings in her era, was addressed from birth as ma dame in French or domina in Latin, 'lady' or 'my lady'.  Edward of Caernarfon likewise was monsire Edward or dominus Edwardus from birth, '(my) lord Edward'.  As prince of Wales from February 1301, he was addressed as 'my lord Edward, prince of Wales' or sometimes just 'the prince' for short, but never - this is a key point - as 'Prince Edward'.  The only princess in England in the Middle Ages was Joan of Kent (1328-1385), Edward II's niece, who married his grandson Edward of Woodstock, prince of Wales.

I'm uncomfortable with assertive declarations about the sexuality of people who lived 700 years ago, as in, assuming that Edward II was certainly 100% gay (which all too often leads to the notion that he couldn't possibly have been the father of his children*), or that Roger Mortimer was certainly straight or even 'unequivocally heterosexual'.  There are plenty of people I personally know very well about whom I couldn't, and wouldn't wish to, declare that their sexuality is 'unequivocally' anything, and I find it ludicrous to make such statements about people nearly 700 years dead.  It's presumptuous for one thing, and as Roger Mortimer wouldn't have thought of himself as heterosexual, let alone 'unequivocally' so, who are we to claim that he was?

* The history forum poster who made the comment above that 'Eddy II' might not have been born in Wales also made this assertion: "We all know he was gay. How come he was able to perform in the bedroom, he had four children. Edward, John, Eleanor and Joanna. I believe his wife had a lover called Roger Mortimer, Earl of March. Did he have some help in this direction?"  And "Sorry there has been to much recorded about him being gay, not to mention what happen with his death. I have known quite a few gay men and I know enough to say the last thing they would is go with a women. Although gay men like to talk and be friends with women, that where it stops there."

'Their princess was stood to the side, while the king ruled with his loverboy'.  Isabella was a queen consort, not regnant.  It wasn't her place to rule England.  And 'loverboy', oh please.

Yet again, we see the assumptions that Edward II and Isabella had only one child together, when in fact they had four, and that Isabella overthrew Edward when their only child was a toddler and they'd been married for about five minutes.  And we see yet again the malign influence of Braveheart, which gives the impression that Isabella - pregnant by William Wallace, of course - will rebel against her husband and rule England shortly after her father-in-law dies.  Edward and Isabella married in January 1308 and so had been married for nineteen years at the time of his forced abdication in January 1327, though admittedly they hadn't seen each other since March 1325.  That's still over seventeen years of marriage, however - hardly a short time.

12 January, 2014

January Anniversaries

Edward II-related things which happened in January.

1 January 1317: Pope John XXII wrote to both Edward II and Robert Bruce to confirm a two-year truce between them, addressing Edward as "our dearest son in Christ, Edward, illustrious king of England," and Robert as "our beloved son, the noble man, Robert de Bruce, holding himself king of Scotland."

2 (or possibly 3) January 1315: Funeral of Piers Gaveston, earl of Cornwall, at Langley Priory, which Edward had founded in 1308.  Edward spent the vast sum of £300 on three cloths of gold to dress Piers' body, also paying fifteen pounds for food and sixty-four pounds for twenty-three tuns of wine, around 22,000 litres (I think).

3 January 1322: Death of Edward's brother-in-law Philip V of France, at the age of about thirty.  As Philip's two sons had died young, he was succeeded by his brother Charles IV.  Edward and Philip appear to have been on reasonably good terms: Philip sent Edward a gift of grapes in October 1316 and a box of rose sugar in September 1317, and Edward gave a massive twenty marks to the messenger who brought him news of the birth of Philip's son Louis in June 1316 (the boy died a few months later).

3 January 1323: Meeting at Lochmaben of Andrew Harclay, earl of Carlisle, and Robert Bruce, during which Harclay told Bruce that Edward II would acknowledge him as king of Scots.  Edward executed Harclay for treason exactly two months later.

5 January 1303: Edward of Caernarfon (aged eighteen) gave half a mark to three clerks of Windsor playing interludes before him.

8 January 1323 or before: Death by peine forte et dure of Robert Lewer, once a close ally of the king who loathed the Despensers and turned against Edward, and frankly was a bit of a thug.  Well, more than a bit.

9 January 1310: Edward seized the lands of Hugh Despenser the Younger, who had gone overseas without permission to take part in a jousting tournament.

9 January 1317: Coronation of Philip V as king of France.

11 January 1323: Near-escape of Maurice, Lord Berkeley and other Contrariants from Wallingford Castle.

11 January 1372: Death of Eleanor of Lancaster, countess of Arundel, whose father Henry was Edward's first cousin.

c. 12 January 1312: Birth in York of Piers Gaveston and Margaret de Clare's only child Joan Gaveston, Edward's great-niece, who died at Amesbury Priory on 13 January 1325.

12 January 1321: Death of Marie of Brabant, dowager queen of France, widow of Philip III (died 1285) and stepmother of Philip IV.  Marie outlived all her three children, who included Edward II's stepmother Queen Marguerite.

13 January 1312: Reunion of Edward II and Piers Gaveston in Knaresborough; they travelled the seventeen miles to York the same day so that Piers could see his wife and newborn daughter.

14 January 1330: William Melton, archbishop of York and long-term friend and ally of Edward II, told the mayor of London that the former king was still alive and in good health (over two years after Edward's funeral).

16 January 1245: Birth of Edward II's uncle Edmund, earl of Lancaster, Leicester and Derby, youngest surviving child of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence.

17 January 1334: Death of Edward's first cousin John of Brittany, earl of Richmond, son of Edward I's sister Beatrice and Duke John II of Brittany, brother of Duke Arthur II, in his mid-sixties at the time of his death (born 1268).  Oddly, John never married.

18 January 1297: Wedding in Ipswich of Edward's fourteen-year-old sister Elizabeth and twelve-year-old Count John I of Holland.  Edward of Caernarfon, also twelve, gave them a gold cup as a wedding gift.

18 January 1312: Edward declared the newly returned Piers Gaveston "good and loyal," and restored the earldom of Cornwall to him.

19 January 1326: Murder of Sir Roger Belers, chief baron of the Exchequer.

20 January 1327: A deputation from parliament visited Edward in captivity at Kenilworth Castle to persuade him to give up his throne to his son.  Various chroniclers say that Edward wore black and wept, which may well be true, though there's no real way of knowing what actually happened that day.  I doubt that he fainted as is also claimed in some chronicles - Edward certainly doesn't strike me as a fainting type - or that he believed an alleged threat that if he didn't abdicate, an unnamed other person, presumably Roger Mortimer, would take the throne instead (a very silly and improbable story).  According to the Flores Historiarum, Edward said "I greatly lament that I have so utterly failed my people, but I could not be other than I am."  One of the members of the deputation sent to Kenilworth was William Trussell.  I find it hard to escape the conclusion that Trussell was sent deliberately in order to inflict maximum emotional pain on Edward, as he had pronounced the death sentence on Hugh Despenser the Younger on 24 November.  If so, the plan backfired: Trussell "knelt before our lord the king and cried him mercy, begging him to pardon his trespasses against him, and he [Edward] pardoned him and gave him the sign of peace in front of them all." (Pipewell Chronicle)

21 January 1326: Edward founded Oriel College at Oxford University.

22 January 1322: Surrender of Roger Mortimer of Wigmore and his uncle Roger Mortimer of Chirk to the king at Shrewsbury, during the Contrariant rebellion.

24 January 1327: Last day of Edward II's reign, after nineteen and a half years.  For the first time ever in England, a king had been forced to abdicate, and was still alive when his son took the throne.

25 January 1308: Wedding of Edward II and Isabella of France in Boulogne, attended by much of the European royalty and nobility.

25 January 1327: Official start of the reign of fourteen-year-old Edward III, nineteen years to the day after his parents' wedding.

25 or 26 January 1328: Wedding of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault in York Minster.

26 January 1316: The Welsh nobleman Llywelyn Bren attacked the great South Wales stronghold of Caerphilly, built by Edward's brother-in-law Gilbert 'the Red' in the 1270s.

27 January 1316: Start of an eventful parliament in Lincoln.

28 January 1271: Death of Isabella of France's grandmother Isabel of Aragon, queen of France - wife of Philip III and mother of Philip IV - after whom Isabella was presumably named.

28 January 1312: Birth of Joan or Jeanne, only child of the future Louis X of France and his first wife Marguerite of Burgundy, later queen of Navarre in her own right.

29 January 1312: Shortly after Piers Gaveston's return from his third exile, Edward gave a pound each to his minstrels Peter Duzedeys, Roger the Trumpeter and Janin the Nakerer for performing for him.

30 January 1326: Edward appointed Hugh Despenser the Younger's sister Aline Burnell constable of Conwy Castle in North Wales, a very rare honour for a woman.

31 January 1308: Sealing of the Boulogne Agreement by a group of English noblemen in France attending the king's wedding, including the earls of Pembroke, Lincoln, Surrey and Hereford. This document attempted to separate the two sides of kingship: the king as a person, and the Crown, and stated that the barons' loyalty was due less to the current king than to the Crown itself. This theory, the 'doctrine of capacities', was to rear its head again during Edward's reign. The Agreement probably demonstrates the enormous concern over Edward's reliance on Piers Gaveston, though it also reflects the conflicts which arose between the king and the barons at the end of Edward I's reign, and Piers was not in fact mentioned.

07 January, 2014

Was Edward II Violent?

Recently I was reading through the Polychronicon, a chronicle written around 1350 by Ranulph or Ralph Higden, a monk of Chester.  It has this to say on the subject of Edward II:

"A handsome man, of outstanding strength...He forsook the company of lords, and fraternised with harlots, singers, actors, carters, ditchers, oarsmen, sailors, and others who practise the mechanical arts...He was prodigal in giving, bountiful and splendid in living, quick and unpredictable in speech...savage with members of his household, and passionately attached to one particular person, whom he cherished above all..." (Bold mine).  [1]

The part 'savage with members of his household' immediately grabbed my attention.  I've also seen it quoted as 'lashed out at members of his household' or as 'cruel to his household'.  Frankly I find this quite astonishing.  There's no doubt at all that Edward II had a vile temper, as did most of the Plantagenet kings, and certainly he was a capricious and unpredictable person prone to difficult moods - he can't have been an easy man to be around sometimes - but I've never seen any confirmation anywhere else that he was ever actually violent, and definitely not with members of his own household.  All the evidence I've seen from Edward's household accounts indicates mutual affection between the king and the men who served him closely.  The only possible indications that he was capable of violence are, to my mind, unreliable: statements by Roger Mortimer and later Adam Orleton, bishop of Hereford, that if Queen Isabella returned to her husband in 1326/27 her life would be in danger from him, and in the very pro-Lancastrian Brut chronicle there's a passage wherein Edward was informed after his deposition that people suspected him of wanting to strangle his wife and son Edward III to death.  He responded "God knows, I thought it never, and now I would that I were dead! So would God that I were! For then were all my sorrow passed."  [2]  Edward's horrified reaction, that he would rather be dead than have people think him capable of murdering his wife and child, is surely an indication that he had never thought such a thing.  Isabella needed an excuse in 1327 not to return to her lawful husband; claiming that he might potentially hurt or even kill her provided a cast-iron one, and Roger Mortimer and their ally Orleton are hardly unbiased witnesses.

I can't, however, conclusively prove that Higden was mistaken in his assertion.  Perhaps Edward II did indeed lash out at members of his household when in a rage, and there's just no other evidence of it which survives.  This lack of corroborating evidence in itself doesn't necessarily make Higden wrong, of course, and the rest of his description of the king seems very accurate.  (Higden also says that Edward habitually drank too much, and spilled state secrets while in his cups.  That strikes me as entirely plausible.)  I'm inclined to think, however, that at least in this instance, Higden confused Edward with his father.  We do know that Edward I assaulted servants on occasion - he had to pay twenty marks' compensation to a squire at his daughter Margaret's wedding in 1290 after hitting him with a stick - and then there are the famous stories when he assaulted his own son Edward of Caernarfon near the end of his life and pulled out handfuls of his hair, and the earlier occasion when he was so exasperated with his daughter Elizabeth he tore the coronet off her head and threw it in the fire.  There's also Edward I's cruelty as a young man, when for example he and some of his followers had another young man they encountered mutilated for very little reason.  Here, for the record, is an example of Edward II's temper: on one occasion in the 1320s he flew into such a screaming rage with his ally Walter Reynolds, archbishop of Canterbury, that the archbishop pretended that he had to make an urgent visitation to his cathedral in order to escape from the king's presence.  OK, shouting and ranting in an archbishop's face isn't very pleasant behaviour, but given that Edward's great-great-grandfather Henry II had the archbishop of Canterbury assassinated and his great-grandson Henry IV had the archbishop of York executed, it's hardly that bad.  Edward II's first cousin Sancho IV of Castile, incidentally and to put Edward's relations with his barons into some kind of perspective, killed dissident nobles with his own hands.  (Which was perhaps something Edward wished was possible in England in the weeks and months after Piers Gaveston's execution.)

As for Edward being cruel or savage to his household in ways that didn't necessarily involve violence, well, perhaps, but I don't really see it.  I've pored over Edward II's household accounts and only see the king's frequent generosity towards his servants.  The fact that many members of his household joined the Dunheveds' attempts to free him from Berkeley in 1327 and the earl of Kent's plot to free him in 1330 - willing to help him long after his downfall and even years after his alleged death - doesn't indicate to me that he had been cruel towards them.

In conclusion, no, I tend not to think that Edward II was physically violent towards anyone and especially not his servants, despite his temper and occasional rages.  If he had been, I'm sure we'd have more evidence of it in chronicles, or, as we do for his father, records of compensation paid to injured servants (even the king wasn't allowed to hit people with impunity!).  There is, for example, a record of Edward of Caernarfon as prince of Wales in February 1303 paying four shillings in compensation to his Fool Robert Bussard or Buffard for accidentally injuring him by playing some unspecified trick on him while they were swimming in the river at Windsor.  Although it seems highly likely that Edward drank too much sometimes, alcohol seems to have made him liable to talk too much rather than aggressive.  For all Edward II's numerous faults, I rather doubt that being violent was one of them, and I think that probably Ranulph Higden mistakenly had his father in mind when he thought that Edward assaulted his servants.


1) Polychronicon Ranulphi Higden, monachi Cestrensis, ed. Joseph Rawson Lumby (1857), vol. viii, p. 299.
2) The Brut or the Chronicles of England, ed. F. W. D. Brie (1906) vol. 1, pp. 252-253.