25 April, 2015

Lots of Visitors, and Happy Birthday to Edward II

Unfortunately, owing to various health issues suffered lately by me and my loved ones, I haven't been able to write a proper post this weekend.  Hope to have one up sometime in the next few days.  Just wanted to share the excellent news that the Edward II blog is now getting just under 40,000 visitors a month, which is absolutely thrilling!  I remember years ago being elated when I reached an average of 100 visitors a day, and now I'm at twelve or thirteen times as many.  THANK YOU, all of you, whether you're a regular reader or are here for the first time, for visiting and reading and for your support!

My book Edward II: The Unconventional King is still selling well, and will be available in paperback from January 2016.  Thank you if you've bought it, and I do hope you enjoyed it!  Even if you didn't, your feedback is still entirely welcome.  My second book, working title Isabella of France: The Rebel Queen, is well underway - I'm up to the battle of Boroughbridge and Thomas of Lancaster's execution now - and should also be out next year.  More info as and when.

And finally, today is 25 April and the feast day of St Mark the Evangelist, and the most important day in the year for me: Edward II's birthday!  731 years ago today, he was born to forty-two-year-old Eleanor of Castile in Caernarfon, North Wales.  Happy Birthday, my lord king!

17 April, 2015

Edward II and Minstrels (2)

I wrote a post a few years ago called Edward II and Minstrels, and am adding more here on the subject, as it's fascinating.  I highly recommend Constance Bullock-Davies' two books: Menestrellorum Multitudo: Minstrels at a Royal Feast (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1978) and A Register of Royal and Baronial Domestic Minstrels 1272-1327 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1986).  There's also Richard Rastall's fantastic 'Secular Musicians in Late Medieval England' (Univ. of Manchester PhD thesis, 1968), which may still be available online somewhere (it certainly was a few years back).  All three are packed full of information and superb research, and are essential reading for anyone interested in the topic of music, performance and minstrels in the fourteenth century.

Oh, and see also my recent post, Edward II being vindictive to the minstrel Roi Bruant in and after 1322.

- One of the men who accompanied Edward II's twelve-year-old son Edward of Windsor to France on 12 September 1325, when he went to pay homage to his uncle Charles IV, was Jerome Vala, who played the citole (see illustration of one here).  Jerome was married to a woman called Annote, who's mentioned in Edward's last chamber account of 1325/26, given five shillings by the king for her expenses in travelling to see her husband before he sailed for France.  Jerome had returned to England by early January 1326, when Edward gave him half a mark for his expenses.  He had been Edward's minstrel since at least 1312; his name also appears on record as Jiron and the rather peculiar Yomi.

- Among the many minstrels who performed at the January 1297 wedding of Edward's fourteen-year-old sister Elizabeth and twelve-year-old Count John I of Holland were: two trumpeters; a vielle player called Thomelin de Tunly (see here for a vielle); Thomas the Fool; Jakettus de Scocia ('Jamie of Scotland'), a king of heralds; Guillot de Ros and Ricardin, two more vielle players; two men called King Page and Monhaut, kings of heralds; Martinet the taborer.  A tabor was a kind of drum.  In July 1306, two shillings was paid out of the household accounts of Edward of Caernarfon and Elizabeth's young half-brothers Thomas (just turned six) and Edmund (not quite five) for repairing Martinet's tabor, which the two little boys had broken.  :-)

- In May 1304, the aged Edward I paid three shillings to seven women in Scotland he met on the road, who "sang to him in the way in which they were wont to do in the time of Lord Alexander, late king of the Scots."  That means Alexander III (died 1286), Edward I's brother-in-law.

- In 1310/11, one of Edward II's harpers was called Willekyn Sey.

- Edward of Caernarfon, aged twenty-one, had five 'boy minstrels' in his household in 1305/06: Ricard le Rimour, Master Andrew, Janin the Scot, Francekin, and Roger de Forde.  On 21 December 1305, he gave them twelve pence each "for the making of their gowns against the feast of Christmas."

- The same year, a watchman of Windsor Castle named Richard the Watchman was paid twenty shillings to travel to Edward at Byfleet in Surrey to "make his minstrelsy before the same lord [Edward] and other nobles there in his entourage."  Hmmm, I wonder what kind of minstrelsy a watchman performed?  Clearly a man of many talents, Richard the Watchman roused Edward from his bed and helped him and his household to safety when a fire broke out at Windsor Castle in April 1306.

- Also that year, Edward of Caernarfon gave out the absurdly large sum of £1268, eighteen shillings and one pence "for gifts given by the lord prince [of Wales] to various minstrels," and for replacing horses which members of his household lost in his service in Scotland.  At a time when labourers earned one or one and a half pence a day and forty pounds a year qualified a man for knighthood.  Just wow.

- A harper named Robert de Clough received seven and a half pence a day for his wages in 1316/17, the same as the king's squires.  In 1310/11, Nicholas de Percy, a court trumpeter, received the same wages, and in 1313/14 Edward's singer William Milly (named 'Cantor Milly', meaning 'Singer Milly') was paid two shillings a day, the same wages as a knight earned,

- On 10 August 1307 at Dumfries in Scotland, just over a month after he had acceded to the throne, Edward II gave twenty shillings each to four minstrels who entertained him: William de Quenheth, Janin the Trumpeter, Januche the Nakerer and Janin the Organist.

- In June 1312, Edward gave a gift of twenty shillings to a married minstrel couple called Richard and Elena Pilke for entertaining his two young half-brothers Thomas and Edmund, and for "taking their leave to go to the lord king, who was in northern parts" (he and Isabella were then in Yorkshire).

- One of the many minstrels who performed at the great Feast of the Swan on 22 May 1306 was a harper called 'Adekin', real name Adam of Clitheroe.

- One of my favourite designations among the 22 May 1306 performers is "the minstrel with the bells," not otherwise identifiable.  Another was Reginald le Mentour, which means 'the Liar', perhaps in the sense of telling fabulous stories or tall tales.

- In Edward II's regnal year of 1316/17 and again in 1317/18, his king of heralds Robert Withstaff was ill; in 1317 he went to Edward at York "to get help" and received seventy shillings from him, and the following year received forty shillings and ten pence.  Evidently Robert recovered fully, as he entertained Edward and Isabella while they were in France in the summer of 1320 and was given the astonishingly large sum of twenty pounds.  Robert's mother was named Dulcia; she visited Edward II at Baldock in Hertfordshire in October 1317 and went away with a gift of ten shillings.

- A Jakemin de Mokenon received seven pounds, three shillings and one pence for playing before Edward and Isabella at St Richer, on their way to Paris, on 28 May 1313.

And finally, my favourite two anecdotes about Edward II and minstrels: on 7 July 1312, on his way from York to London after Piers Gaveston's death, Edward paid Janin the Conjuror a pound for performing tricks for him in his private chamber at Swineshead Priory, and a few weeks later gave three shillings to an Italian performer called John of Lombardy "for making his minstrelsy with snakes before the king" in Dover.

10 April, 2015

Marriage Negotiations between England and Aragon in Edward II's Reign

A post about the marriage negotiations between the kingdoms of England and Aragon in Edward II's reign, none of which resulted in any actual marriages.

Edward II was himself half-Castilian, and in the 1320s negotiated a future marriage between his elder daughter Eleanor of Woodstock (b. 1318) and his first cousin twice removed Alfonso XI (b. 1311, succeeded his father Fernando IV as a baby in 1312).  His elder son Edward of Windsor was also betrothed to Alfonso XI's sister Leonor.  These marriages, of course, did not go ahead; Edward of Windsor married Philippa of Hainault in January 1328 after his accession as Edward III, and Eleanor of Woodstock married the decades-older Count, later Duke, Reynald II of Guelders, in May 1332, the month before her fourteenth birthday.

Edward II also negotiated with another important Spanish king, Jaime or James II of Aragon, regarding possible future marriages between their families.  Jaime was born on 10 August 1267 (making him seventeen years Edward's senior) as the second son of Pedro III of Aragon and Constanza of Sicily.  His elder brother Alfonso III was betrothed for many years to Edward's eldest sister Eleanor (1269-1298) but died suddenly in June 1291 before the wedding could go ahead; Jaime succeeded him as king.  The same year, he married eight-year-old Isabel of Castile, eldest child of Sancho IV and Maria de Molina, but repudiated the marriage after Sancho's sudden death in 1295.  Alfonso III and Jaime's sister Elisabeth married Diniz, king of Portugal, and in 1625 was canonised as a saint of the Catholic Church.

Jaime II married secondly Blanche of Anjou, also sometimes called Blanche of Naples, one of the many children of Charles of Anjou, king of Naples, and Marie of Hungary; Blanche's brothers included Charles Martel, titular king of Hungary, Philip of Taranto, king of Albania, and Robert 'the Wise', king of Naples and titular king of Sicily and Jerusalem.  Jaime II and Blanche's eldest son Jaime was born in 1296 and became a monk in 1319, renouncing his right to the throne of Aragon and repudiating his new wife Leonor of Castile, who was later betrothed to Edward of Windsor and who ultimately married (as his second wife) the younger Jaime's younger brother Alfonso IV of Aragon, born in 1299 as the second son of Jaime II and Blanche of Anjou.

In the summer of 1320, Jaime II proposed his daughter Maria as a possible bride for Edward II's half-brother Thomas of Brotherton, earl of Norfolk.  Maria was probably about the same age as Thomas, who was born on 1 June 1300.  She was married firstly to Pedro of Castile, son of Sancho IV and Maria de Molina, younger brother of Fernando IV, first cousin once removed of Edward II, and brother of Isabel of Castile, who had been married as a child to Jaime II.  Pedro was killed at the battle of Vega de Granada in June 1319, along with his uncle Juan.  In August 1321, however, Jaime II told Edward II that Maria had decided to become a nun and that he did not think he would be able to change her mind.  (Which I find quite interesting, that he respected her wishes and did not try to force her to marry again.)  Thomas married instead, rather bizarrely, Alice Hales, daughter of the coroner of Norfolk.

In March 1321, Edward II wrote to Jaime: the latter had proposed another of his daughters, Violante, as a potential bride for Edward of Windsor.  Violante was born in October 1310 and was thus two years older than Edward of Windsor.  Again, nothing came of the negotiations, though Edward once again raised the possibility with Jaime in March and September 1324.  In February 1325, Jaime told him that the marriage alliance between his family and Edward’s was "not agreeable…in the manner and form under which it was proposed."  Edward explained that he was eager to make "an alliance of love" with Aragon, and sent two more envoys to negotiate any union "as shall seem suitable and opportune."  Jaime consented to a betrothal between Edward's younger daughter Joan of the Tower and his grandson Pedro, who was born in September 1319 and was less than two years Joan's senior (she was born in July 1321).  Pedro was the son of Jaime's second son and heir the future Alfonso IV and his first wife Teresa d'Entenca, and succeeded his father as Pedro IV, king of Aragon in 1336; he lived until 1387 and was known as El del Punyalet, 'He of the little Dagger'.  Because Edward II had heard that Jaime II "is old and decrepit and it is not certain that he is not dead" – in fact, Jaime lived until November 1327 – he corresponded instead with Jaime's son Alfonso, Pedro's father, regarding the possible marriage.  Pedro IV of Aragon ultimately married firstly Marie of Navarre, daughter of Isabella of France's niece Queen Joan II of Navarre (daughter of Louis X of France and his adulterous first wide Marguerite of Burgundy), though the mother of his two eldest sons and heirs was his second wife Eleanor or Leonor, daughter of Afonso IV of Portugal.

03 April, 2015

Review and Letter

Just a very quick post as it's almost Easter and I have visitors - in case you didn't see it, Professor Nicholas Vincent's review of my book Edward II: The Unconventional King appeared in BBC History Magazine a few weeks ago (it can be read here, on the second page).  Professor Vincent is very kind about my book, but claims that my account of Edward II's survival past 1327 is 'entirely speculative' and 'make-believe' (it really, really isn't).  Dr Ian Mortimer has written a letter also in BBC History Magazine, responding to the review.