26 May, 2017

Happy Wedding Anniversary to Hugh and Eleanor Despenser

711 years ago today on 26 May 1306, Edward I's eldest granddaughter Eleanor de Clare married Hugh Despenser the Younger in the royal chapel at Westminster Palace, in the presence of her grandfather the king, who had arranged the match and paid Hugh Despenser the Elder £2000 for the marriage of his son and heir. Eleanor was thirteen and a half, Hugh probably about seventeen or eighteen, and their first child Hugh or Huchon was born around 1309. They were to have at least ten children together that I know of, perhaps more, of whom nine survived childhood: Huchon, Edward, Gilbert, John, Isabella, Joan, Eleanor, Margaret and Elizabeth Despenser. By the time of Hugh's execution on 24 November 1326, the couple had been married just over twenty years, and as far as I can make out their marriage was a solid and happy one.

I'm currently writing a biography of Hugh Despenser the Younger, to be published next year. He was a bad. bad boy, but also a highly intelligent one, and he's massively fun to write about!

20 May, 2017

My Books

In case anyone is keeping score :), here are my existing and future books! (Note: the titles of all books after number 3 are subject to change!) Long Live the King: The Mysterious Fate of Edward II will be out in the UK in twelve days.

1) Edward II: The Unconventional King (published October 2014)

2) Isabella of France: The Rebel Queen (pub. March 2016)

3) Long Live the King: The Mysterious Fate of Edward II (to be pub. 1 June 2017)

4) A True King’s Fall: The Life of Richard II, King of England 1377-1399 (to be pub. 15 October 2017)

5) Valour and Vainglory: The Life of Hugh Despenser the Younger (to be pub. probably September 2018)

6) Blood Roses: The Houses of Lancaster and York 1245-1415 (to be pub. late 2018 maybe)

7) Affluence and Abduction: The Lives of the de Clare Sisters, 1292-1360 (to be pub. probably September 2019)

8) Philippa of Hainault: Queen of Edward III, Mother of the English Nation (to be pub. around October 2019)

9) Time-Honour’d Lancaster: John of Gaunt, Grandfather of Europe (to be pub. around October 2020)

Phew! That's a lot of writing! I'd better go and get on with it :-)

11 May, 2017

John of Eltham Was Not 'Removed' From His Mother In 1324

I've dealt previously with the absurd notion that Edward II and his chamberlain and favourite Hugh Despenser the Younger cruelly removed the three younger royal children, John, Eleanor and Joan, from Queen Isabella's custody in September 1324, and gave them to the care of Edward's niece/Hugh's wife Eleanor and Hugh's sister Isabella Hastings. This was an invention of one extremely unreliable and inaccurate historian in the late 1970s, and frankly I'm astonished that better historians have chosen to repeat it without checking, especially as the document he cites for his claim does not date to September 1324 at all but to the period July 1322 to July 1323.

Browsing the Calendar of Memoranda Rolls recently, I discovered that Eleanor Despenser's care of John of Eltham dates back to at least 3 July 1322: she was paid a hundred pounds for his expenses from 3 July 1322 to 16 April 1324. As I note below, Eleanor spent quite a bit of time attending Queen Isabella for most of Edward's reign and until well into the 1320s, and at least on occasion she also took charge of John of Eltham and his household, though perhaps only irregularly. As Edward II's eldest niece and John of Eltham's first cousin, Eleanor Despenser was a perfectly suitable person to have the occasional care of the king and queen's second son, and she had a large brood of her own children. Growing up among his Despenser cousins might have proved a happy experience for John. John, aged not yet ten, was at Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire from 22 May to 20 July 1326, and Eleanor was there with him for at least part of that time, as Edward's chamber account shows. Isabella was then in France, by her own choice.

From my own research I know that Queen Isabella and Eleanor Despenser née de Clare spent a considerable amount of time together, even after Eleanor's husband Hugh began to get seriously on Isabella's nerves, to put it mildly. For all Isabella's loathing and even fear of Hugh, she doesn't appear to have held Eleanor even vaguely responsible for her husband's actions or to have allowed his behaviour to damage her affection for Eleanor, and Eleanor was attending the queen for at least part of February/March 1323, months after Isabella blamed Hugh Despenser for leaving her - and indeed Eleanor as well - in danger at Tynemouth Priory the previous autumn. The two women continued to get on well and spend time together. The notion that Edward II and Hugh Despenser imposed Eleanor on an unwilling Isabella in and after 1324 as a kind of jailer and spy is nonsense. Eleanor had been attending Isabella on a semi-regular basis since at least November 1310 and most probably since Isabella first arrived in England in February 1308.

And as Eleanor had received money for looking after John as early as 3 July 1322, and three months later was with Queen Isabella at Tynemouth Priory and in February/March 1323 was with her in London, I think it's safe to say that Isabella was perfectly happy with her niece-in-law and her lady attendant having the occasional care of her second son. I really do hope that the whole absurd nonsense of Edward II and Hugh Despenser cruelly removing Isabella's children from her can be laid to rest one day.

05 May, 2017

Dates of Birth and Death of the de Clare Siblings (1291-1360)

Edward of Caernarfon's second eldest sister Joan of Acre married Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford, on 30 April 1290 when he was forty-six and she eighteen or almost. Their first child, only son and heir Gilbert, earl of Gloucester and Hertford, was born a year later, sometime between 23 April and 11 May 1291, according to the evidence of his parents' Inquisitions Post Mortem taken in January 1296 and May 1307. [CIPM 1291-1300, pp. 234-51; CIPM 1300-07, pp. 311-31] Gilbert was the eldest grandchild of Edward I and only seven years younger than his uncle Edward II. He married Maud de Burgh, one of the many daughters of the earl of Ulster, on 29 or 30 September 1308 when he was seventeen, and was killed at the battle of Bannockburn on 24 June 1314, aged twenty-three.

Eleanor, Lady Despenser and lady of Glamorgan, eldest of the three daughters of Gilbert the Red and Joan of Acre, was born in October or November 1292. This is according to several books and articles, but I don't know what the source is and can't confirm the date. Eleanor was certainly the eldest of the three de Clare sisters, and the date of birth appears to be plausible. She married Hugh Despenser the Younger at Westminster on 26 May 1306 when she was probably thirteen and a half. Eleanor died, according to her (incomplete) IPM, on 30 June 1337 at the age of forty-four, leaving her eldest son Hugh or Huchon Despenser as her heir; he was then said to be between twenty-six and twenty-nine years old. [CIPM 1336-46, pp. 78-9]

The date of birth of the second sister Margaret de Clare, countess of Cornwall and Gloucester, is not known. Her Wikipedia page gives 12 October 1293 as the date, but I haven't the faintest idea where that comes from. Who knows where Wikipedia contributors find stuff? That date strikes me as a little too close to the date of birth of Margaret's sister Eleanor in October/November 1292 to be plausible, and a little too far away from her younger sister Elizabeth's birth in September 1295. Gilbert 'the Red' and Joan of Acre were in Ireland from June 1293 to April 1294, so Margaret may have been born there, or not long after they returned to England. A date of birth in the spring or early summer of 1294 would give a more regular spacing between Margaret and her siblings and would make her about thirteen and a half when she married Piers Gaveston on 1 November 1307; her sisters were also both thirteen when they married. She married her second husband Hugh Audley on 28 April 1317.

Wiki gives 9 April 1342 as the date of Margaret's death, as do many other websites. Her Inquisition Post Mortem in fact says that she died on ‘Tuesday the morrow of the Close of Easter last’ in Edward III's sixteenth regnal year, which ran from 25 January 1342 to 24 January 1343. Easter Sunday in 1342 fell on 31 March, so Margaret therefore would seem to have died on 2 April 1342, not 9 April. [CIPM 1336-46, pp. 253-5] Her heir was her only surviving daughter, Margaret Stafford née Audley, from her second marriage to Hugh Audley. Margaret Stafford was said to be either eighteen or twenty years old at the time of her mother's death, which places her date of birth around 1320 or 1322.

The youngest de Clare sibling, Elizabeth, was supposedly born on 16 September 1295, just a few weeks before their father Gilbert 'the Red' died in early December 1295. I'm not sure what the source for her date of birth is; I'm not saying it's incorrect, just that I haven't, yet, seen the document which gives it. Elizabeth married 1) John de Burgh, son and heir of the earl of Ulster, on 30 September 1308; 2) Theobald de Verdon, around early February 1316; and 3) Roger Damory, shortly before 3 May 1317. She had one child from each marriage. Elizabeth died on 4 November 1360, aged sixty-five, leaving her granddaughter Elizabeth de Burgh, countess of Ulster, as her heir. The younger Elizabeth was born in 1332 as the only child of the elder Elizabeth's son William Donn de Burgh, earl of Ulster (1312-33), and married Edward III's second son Lionel (b. 1338). [CIPM 1352-60, 507-13]