19 March, 2017

The Death of Sir John Eure in 1322

I've previously written posts about Edward II's 1321/22 campaign against the Contrariants, the baronial rebels who had forced the exile of the two Hugh Despensers in August 1321: see here, herehere, here and here. In March/April 1322, twenty or so Contrariants were executed; they were all noblemen or knights. See here for an accurate list based on a variety of primary sources. The number of Contrariants executed in 1322 has been grossly inflated in modern literature, notably by Natalie Fryde in her 1979 work The Tyranny and Fall of Edward II 1321-1326, usually by including the names of men killed at the battle of Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322. Accounts of Edward II's executions of the twenty or twenty-two thuggish knights and noblemen who had committed serious crimes (such as homicide, assault, false imprisonment, blackmail, theft and plunder, and much else) often reach a fever-pitch of bizarre hysteria in modern writing: a 'bloodbath', 'atrocities', 'slaughter' and so on.

Four fourteenth-century chronicles - the amusingly anti-Edward II Westminster chronicle Flores Historiarum, the Lanercost chronicle, the Livere de Reis and the fragment called the 'Chronicle of the Civil Wars' - give the Lancastrian knight Sir John Eure as one of the executed Contrariants in March/April 1322. Sir John Eure was a supporter of Edward II's cousin and enemy Thomas, earl of Lancaster, and was suspected in 1317 of complicity in Sir Gilbert Middleton's attack on the cardinals Luca Fieschi and Gaucelin Duèse; Edward ordered the sheriff of Northumberland the mayor of Newcastle to arrest Eure on these grounds on 30 September 1317 (CPR 1317-21, p. 88). Earlier, in 1313/14, Eure had been the king's escheator beyond Trent.

John Eure in fact was killed by fourteen men who all were seemingly Edward II's supporters (though I don't recognise any of their names), though without Edward's prior knowledge. Eure's chaplain Richard Uttyng was also killed. One of Eure's killers, interestingly enough, was named as an adherent of Bartholomew Badlesmere, a Contrariant executed in April 1322. Edward II complained that 'malefactors', asserting that Eure was "the king's enemy, which he was not," killed him while he was "in the king's faith and peace." It seems that fourteen men got carried away when pursuing the Contrariants who had fought at Boroughbridge, or even just those they thought had fought there. Edward told his kinsman Louis Beaumont, bishop of Durham, on 26 March 1322 (four days after his cousin Thomas of Lancaster's execution and ten after Boroughbridge) not to 'molest' the fourteen men for "beheading John de Evre when pursuing him as the king's enemy, until the king shall issue further orders after he has been certified of this matter." On 28 May 1322, Edward II pardoned Eure's killers. This is just a little reminder that we can't always take contemporary chronicles at face value; even when they positively assert that Edward II had a man executed, other extant records prove that he did not (though admittedly he did not punish the men responsible for killing a knight and a chaplain without the slightest authority).

CCR 1318-23, 430, 474; CPR 1321-4, 127-8; Livere de Reis, ed. Glover, 345; Lanercost, ed. Maxwell, 236; Flores, ed. Luard, 208; Haskins, ‘Chronicle of the Civil Wars’, 79-80. The men who killed John Eure are named as: John Hert, Robert Stanford (Badlesmere's adherent), William Stapelton, Geoffrey Yelemund or Ikemund, Richard Heddeleye, Richard Thorp, Thomas Witton, Thomas Fox, William Those, Robert Corbrigge, John Conyngham, William Hortheworth, William Masham and Thomas Raynton. A Richard Skynner is added in one chancery roll entry, which probably means Richard Thorp.


sami parkkonen said...

Just recently read The Plantagenets by Dan Jones in which he talks about the reign of terror by Edward II and tyranny etc. It is a theme which is very wide spread these days and total hocus pocus. Also: I would very much like to ask from all these people who condemn Edwards retaliation to the baronial rebellion, what would their hero Edward I have done in similar circumstances? Let it pass??

What about Edward III, another hero of most of those who like to smear Edward II? I bet Edward III would have made mince meat out of every single one he would have seen as part of the rebellion against his majesty.

Jerry Bennett said...

I wonder if there was more to this execution in Bishop Aukland than is apparent in history? Call me a conspiracy theorist if you wish, but given that Bishop Aukland castle was one of the principal residences of the bishop of Durham, and John Eure's previous involvement with Gilbert Middleton, is this a coincidence too far?

Seymour Phillips mentions an indenture made in 1317 between John Eure, Sir Robert de Sapy and Geoffrey de Burdon, prior of Durham to try to delay Louis Beaumont's inauguration as bishop of Durham until after St Michael's Day (29th Sept.). After Gilbert Middleton's abduction of Henry and Louis Beaumont (and the two cardinals travelling with them), the Beaumonts were held at Mitford castle near Morpeth in Northumberland. Mitford nominally belonged to the earl of Pembroke, but at some time around 1312 I believe John Eure was given royal permission to occupy Mitford, to help defend Northumberland against the Scots. I recall a reference in a Northumberland chronicle (that I do not have to hand) that Mitford's garrison became notorious for running a protection racket against farmers across much of Northumberland.

Although John Eure's ancestral home appears to be Stokesley, just south of Stockton and Middlesborough, the family also had holdings in Northumberland and one of his ancestors was lord of Wirksworth. Again this is from memory and I don't have the evidence to hand.

I think his involvement with Gilbert Middleton is almost certain, particularly in view of the 1317 indenture. He was also probably at Boroughbridge as two of his horses were found by men of Tadcaster, and some of his armour found near Harrogate. I think if I were John Eure, trying to retreat back to Northumberland or even Scotland, I would have given both Bishop Aukland and Durham a fairly wide berth in the circumstances. But as a former sheriff of York and an escheator north of the Trent he would have been well known and easily recognised, even in some form of disguise.

In view of his previous opposition to bishop Louis Beaumont, his execution in the bishop's own town seems to me to be too much of a co-incidence.