29 October, 2017

c. 28 October 1294: Wedding of Alice de Lacy and Thomas of Lancaster

I missed the date yesterday, oopsie! Then again, the date of the wedding of the great heiress Alice de Lacy and Edward I's nephew Thomas of Lancaster is not 100% certain, but may have taken place on 28 October 1294. Alice was not yet thirteen, born on Christmas Day 1281; Thomas was probably sixteen, going on seventeen. His date of birth is not known for sure, but my research indicates that the end of 1277 or beginning of 1278 is the likeliest date. He was thus four years older than his wife. Alice was set to inherit the earldoms of Lincoln and Salisbury, and Thomas was set to inherit the earldoms of Lancaster and Leicester, and their fathers Henry de Lacy and Edmund of Lancaster arranged their marriage in 1292. (Thomas had previously been betrothed to Beatrice, granddaughter of Duke Hugh IV of Burgundy, but she died young in 1291.)

Alice de Lacy and Thomas of Lancaster were married for twenty-seven and a half years, but it proved to be an unhappy disaster, and Alice left her husband in the spring of 1317. The couple had no surviving children, and Thomas's younger brother Henry (born c. 1280/81) was therefore his heir. Thomas did have two illegitimate sons, John and Thomas, who joined the Church, and I have recently discovered that Alice de Lacy was pregnant in 1307 or 1308. She sent a messenger to Leicester, one of Thomas's towns, to inform the mayor and townspeople of her pregnancy sometime between Michaelmas (29 September) 1307 and Michaelmas 1308. The messenger was rewarded with a shilling for bringing the good news. Sadly, Alice must have lost this child - perhaps a miscarriage or stillbirth, or s/he died in early infancy. I feel terribly sorry for Alice, but from my point of view as a historian I have to admit that I was also thrilled to have found the reference to her pregnancy, as I'd long assumed that she must have been infertile (Thomas, as he had at least two illegitimate children, obviously wasn't). Perhaps the loss of this child of 1307/08 contributed to the couple's unhappiness. I can't help feeling sad for them and wishing they had been happier. Anyway, happy (almost) wedding anniversary, Thomas and Alice.

27 October, 2017

27 October 1326: Execution of Hugh Despenser the Elder, Earl of Winchester

On this day 691 years ago in 1326, Hugh Despenser the Elder, earl of Winchester, was hanged in Bristol on the orders of Queen Isabella and her allies including Edward II's half-brothers the earls of Norfolk and Kent and cousin the earl of Leicester (now styling himself earl of Lancaster as well). Despenser was sixty-five years old, born on 1 March 1261, not ninety as stated by the later chronicler Jean Froissart. He was left to hold Bristol after his son Hugh the Younger and Edward II went on to South Wales to try (unsuccessfully) to raise troops, and sent a letter to them on 18 October, the last letter Hugh the Younger would ever receive from his father. Isabella of France and her allies arrived outside Bristol on the same day, and on the 27th the city fell to them. The earl of Winchester was given a show trial during which he was not allowed to speak on the same day, and immediately hanged in his armour on the gallows where common criminals were executed. His head was placed on a spear and sent to Winchester, the town of which he was earl, to be displayed there in public, and supposedly the rest of his body was fed to dogs. Pretty vile even by the standards of the day. A chronicler of Bury St Edmunds claimed that Queen Isabella tried to save Despenser's life, but Bury St Edmunds is on the other side of the country from Bristol and therefore hardly seems like a reliable source, especially as no-one else mentions this tale. Besides, I'm not sure how Isabella's social inferiors would have overridden her wishes in public. Despenser was widely hated in England not only for his association with the regime of his son in the 1320s, but because of his own greed, brutality and corruption, especially in his capacity as justice of the forest. Still, if English medieval noblemen were executed merely for being greedy, brutal and corrupt, there wouldn't have been any English medieval noblemen left.

21 October, 2017

Thomas, Lord Wake (1298-1349)

Thomas Wake was an influential and extremely well-connected English nobleman in the first half of the fourteenth century: he was the son-in-law of Henry, earl of Lancaster (d. 1345) and brother-in-law of Henry of Grosmont, later first duke of Lancaster; a first cousin of Roger Mortimer, first earl of March; the brother-in-law of Edward II's half-brother Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent; and the uncle of Richard II's mother Joan of Kent, princess of Wales, who was his heir. He played an important role in the downfall and deposition of Edward II in 1326/27, but fled from England in early 1330 after getting caught up in his brother-in-law Kent's plot to free the supposedly dead Edward from captivity. Here's a (long!) post about him.

Thomas was, according to his father's Inquisition Post Mortem, born in March 1298: he was 'aged 2 years at mid-Lent last' in June 1300. [1] Easter Sunday fell on 6 April in 1298 and on 10 April in 1300. His father was John Wake (c. 1268-1300), lord of Liddell in Cumberland and an important landowner in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, with manors in other counties as well. John's mother Hawise de Quincy was a granddaughter of Saer de Quincy, earl of Winchester, and her mother was Elen ferch Llywelyn, which makes Thomas Wake a great-great-grandson of Llywelyn ab Iorwerth, prince of Gwynedd (d. 1240) and his wife Joan (d. 1237), illegitimate daughter of King John. Thomas's mother Joan Fiennes was a sister of Margaret Fiennes, mother of Roger Mortimer of Wigmore, first earl of March, and a great-granddaughter of John Brienne (d. 1237), king of Jerusalem and Latin emperor of Constantinople. Thomas Wake was only two years old when his father John Wake died in 1300, which made him a ward of Edward I and then of Edward II in and after 1307. He lost his mother Joan Fiennes in 1309 as well, whereupon Edward II gave custody of her dower lands to - who else? - Piers Gaveston, until Thomas came of age. [2]

Thomas Wake had a sister Margaret, wife respectively of Sir John Comyn (killed at Bannockburn in 1314) and of Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent. He also had a younger brother John Wake, who was still alive in March 1322 but who must have died childless as their sister Margaret, followed by her son John and then her daughter Joan of Kent, were Thomas's heirs. [3] The dates of birth of Thomas's siblings are not known. John the second brother might have been born in 1300, the year their father died, and in my opinion Margaret Comyn née Wake was older than Thomas. She had a son, Aymer Comyn, with her husband Sir John Comyn who fell at Bannockburn in June 1314, a month when her future second husband Edmund of Woodstock was not even thirteen (he was born in August 1301), so she must have been some years older than he and probably older than her brother Thomas, born in March 1298. Little Aymer died in 1316; for more info, see my post about his aunt Elizabeth Comyn, Margaret's sister-in-law. Thomas, Margaret and John's parents John Wake and Joan Fiennes were married by 24 September 1291. [4]

Sometime not long before 9 October 1316 when he was eighteen years old, Thomas Wake married Blanche of Lancaster, eldest child of Edward II's first cousin Henry of Lancaster and the niece of Thomas, earl of Lancaster. Blanche was born around 1302 or 1305, so was some years Thomas's junior, and they wed without a royal licence. Edward II was irate when he heard about it; he had previously offered Thomas the marriage of his great-niece Joan Gaveston, daughter and heir of the late Piers Gaveston and Margaret de Clare. Thomas's decision to turn down Joan and marry Blanche is perhaps a little puzzling. Joan Gaveston, though only four years old in 1316, was sole heir to her mother Margaret Clare and her third of the earldom of Gloucester, whereas Blanche of Lancaster had a brother and thus was not an heiress, and her father Henry of Lancaster was only the heir of his wealthy brother for as long as Thomas failed to produce legitimate children anyway. Perhaps Thomas gambled that Margaret Clare would marry again and have a son, which would instantly disinherit Joan, and ultimately his decision was vindicated when his father-in-law became earl of Lancaster in 1327 and hugely influential. (The unfortunate Joan Gaveston died in January 1325 just past her thirteenth birthday.) Edward II, annoyed with Thomas for "refusing a suitable marriage which the king offered to him," fined him a massive £1,000, but by 6 June 1317 had clearly forgiven him as he allowed him to take possession of his inheritance although he was still two years under age, at Henry of Lancaster's request. Thomas was also officially pardoned for refusing the marriage to Joan Gaveston on 9 December 1318. [5]

Thomas Wake and Blanche of Lancaster would be married for thirty-three years, but they had no children, so Thomas's heir was, successively: his younger brother John (who died sometime after March 1322 and had no children); his sister Margaret, who became countess of Kent on her second marriage in late 1325; Margaret's second but only surviving son John, earl of Kent, who died childless in late 1352; and Margaret's daughter Joan, who became princess of Wales when she married the heir to the throne Edward of Woodstock in 1361. It's basically impossible to ascertain what kind of relationship the Wake siblings had, though in February 1325 Thomas Wake and Margaret Comyn jointly acknowledged a debt of £200. [6]

On 24 April 1320, Edward II gave Thomas permission to go on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, and he set off with two attendants, leaving his young wife Blanche in England. While he was gone, one of his manors in Lincolnshire was attacked and robbed, and some of his and Blanche's servants killed. [7] Thomas, having married into the Lancaster family, was a staunch Lancastrian adherent for the rest of his life, so the period of the Contrariant rebellion in 1321/22 headed by Thomas, earl of Lancaster, must have been somewhat awkward for him. His uncle-in-law Earl Thomas was executed in March 1322, but his father-in-law Henry of Lancaster was abroad for most of 1320 to April 1322 so avoided having to make the awful decision either to follow his brother into rebellion and treason, or to abandon him. I've found it difficult to determine exactly what Thomas Wake was up to in the early 1320s; he rarely appears on record, so was probably keeping his head down. On 23 March 1322 the day after his uncle-in-law Thomas of Lancaster's execution, Thomas acknowledged a debt of 100 marks or £66 to Sir Ralph Camoys (Hugh Despenser the Younger's brother-in-law), and the following day his younger brother John Wake acknowledged a debt to Sir Andrew Harclay, sheriff of Cumberland and soon to become earl of Carlisle, who had defeated Thomas of Lancaster's army at Boroughbridge a few days before. [8] Thomas Wake accompanied the king on his ill-fated final campaign to Scotland in August 1322, as did his father-in-law Henry of Lancaster. [9] His relations with the regime of the 1320s seem not to have been too bad, and he received commissions of array in 1323 and in other years. On 16 June 1324, Edward II gave Thomas "the houses of the king's manor of Sandal for his lodging there." [10] Thomas's sister Margaret Comyn née Wake, a widow for eleven and a half years, married her second husband Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent, around 16 December 1325 (according to the annalist of St Paul's).

Thomas Wake was sometimes at court with Edward II and Hugh Despenser the Younger: he witnessed royal charters at Kenilworth in April 1326. [11] Kenilworth was part of the late Thomas of Lancaster's inheritance which the king had kept for himself, and Thomas surely believed that it rightfully belonged to his father-in-law Henry. Sir Roger Belers, chief baron of the Exchequer, was murdered in January 1326, and Thomas's father-in-law Henry of Lancaster was one of the men appointed to investigate it. Thomas Wake had given Belers his Bedfordshire manor of 'Styvington' for life in July 1323. [12] In March 1325, Thomas was said to be going to Gascony in the company of John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, during the War of St-Sardos between England and France, though in August, October and December that year he was in England. [13] There are no references to him in the letters and documents of the War of St-Sardos collected and edited by Pierre Chaplais, so presumably he never went.

Thomas followed the lead of his father-in-law Henry of Lancaster in the early autumn of 1326, when Queen Isabella invaded England. The two men were at Bristol with the queen on 26 October, when her and Edward II's son Edward of Windsor was appointed keeper of the realm and Henry of Lancaster was called 'earl of Lancaster' for the first time. [14] Both men witnessed the executions of the two Hugh Despensers on 27 October and 24 November 1326. Thomas, firmly on the side of his first cousin Roger Mortimer, was placed in the crowd with several of his men during the London parliament of January 1327, to yell their support for Edward II's deposition at appropriate moments. Isabella rewarded Thomas's support of her and her son by making him keeper of the Tower of London and justice of the forest this side Trent. [15] Yet it was soon to become apparent to Thomas, Henry of Lancaster and many others that the regime change of 1326/27 had merely replaced one greedy and despotic pair, Edward II and Hugh Despenser, with another, Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer. In 1328 Thomas's father-in-law Henry emerged as the leader of the opposition to his niece Isabella, and in late 1328 Thomas was one of the many influential men who took part in Henry's brief and unsuccessful rebellion. The lands of Henry of Lancaster and his adherents were seized on 16 January 1329 (though restored a few weeks later), and soon afterwards the leading rebels were forced to acknowledge liability for huge and unpayable debts. Thomas Wake's was 15,000 marks. [16] These debts were cancelled by Edward III when he took over the control of his own kingdom in and after October 1330. Before that, however, Thomas Wake had been forced to flee from England after becoming embroiled in his brother-in-law the earl of Kent's plot to free the supposedly dead Edward II. His lands were seized again in early 1330, and he made his way to Paris to join some of the other enemies of the regime. [17] His wife Blanche of Lancaster remained in England with her family, and his sister Margaret was widowed for the second time when her husband Kent was beheaded on 19 March 1330.

Edward III invited Thomas Wake and the other rebels back to England in November 1330, and Thomas had returned by 21 December 1330, when Edward III asked him, his (the king's) cousin William de Bohun and Alice de Lacy's second husband Eubulo Lestrange to escort his mother Queen Isabella to him for Christmas. A month later, Thomas was one of the men appointed as a mainpernor (guarantor) for Roger Mortimer's son Geoffrey, arrested with his father at Nottingham on 19 October 1330, but released. [18] Thomas was high in Edward III's favour, and was appointed keeper of the Channel Islands in 1332. [19] I won't say much about the remainder of Thomas's career in the 1330s and 1340s as this post is quite long enough as it is, but some of the highlights are that he founded the priory of Haltemprice in Yorkshire and had been intending to do so since as early as 1320 when he was only twenty-two, and that he went to fight at the siege of Algeciras in Spain 1343 with his brother-in-law Henry of Grosmont. In May 1337, Grosmont gave one of his manors in Norfolk to Thomas and his (Grosmont's) sister Blanche for life, to pass after their deaths to Haltemprice Priory. [20] Thomas remained on excellent terms with his father-in-law Henry, earl of Lancaster and Leicester, and in July 1339 visited him in Leicester and gave him a manor in Yorkshire to hold for the rest of his life (another six years, as it turned out). [21]

Thomas, Lord Wake died on 30 May 1349 at the age of fifty-one and was buried at his own foundation of Haltemprice. He left his widow Blanche of Lancaster, who did not die until 1380 when she was at least seventy-five and perhaps older, and his sister Margaret, dowager countess of Kent, who was his heir. She only outlived him by four months. [22] Margaret's daughter and Thomas's ultimate heir Joan of Kent called herself 'Lady Wake' in addition to her other titles (princess of Wales and Aquitaine, duchess of Cornwall, countess of Kent and Chester), and Joan's eldest son and heir Sir Thomas Holland (b. 1350/51) called himself 'earl of Kent and Lord Wake' in his will of 1397. [23] Sir Thomas Holland's two sons Thomas (d. 1400) and Edmund (d. 1408), both earls of Kent, had no children, so on Edmund Holland's death in 1408 the Kent and Wake inheritance was divided among Edmund's nephew Edmund Mortimer, earl of March and Ulster (b. 1391) and his four surviving sisters. They were Joan, dowager duchess of York, Margaret, countess of Somerset, Eleanor, countess of Salisbury, and and Elizabeth, daughter-in-law of the earl of Westmorland.

1) CIPM 1291-1300, no. 597.
2) CPR 1307-13, p. 196.
3) CCR 1318-23, p. 528.
4) CPR 1281-92, p. 445.
5) CPR 1317-21, pp. 43, 251-2; CCR 1313-8, 413.
6) CCR 1323-7, p. 356.
7) CPR 1317-21, p. 440; SC 8/87/4346.
8) CCR 1318-23, p. 528.
9) CPR 1321-4, p. 186.
10) CPR 1321-4, p. 431.
11) C 53/112, nos. 3, 5, 6.
12) CPR 1321-4, p. 305.
13) CPR 1324-7, pp. 112, 228, 233, 235.
14) CCR 1323-7, p. 650.
15) CCR 1327-30, p. 16; CPR 1327-30, p. 36.
16) CFR 1327-37, p. 116-7; CCR 1327-30, p. 425.
17) CFR 1327-37, p. 175; CCR 1330-3, p. 288.
18) CPR 1330-4, p. 36; CCR 1330-3, p. 178.
19) CCR 1330-3, p. 448.
20) DL 25/330.
21) DL 25/964/749.
22) CIPM 1347-52, nos. 219, 234.
23) Testamenta Vetusta, vol. 1, pp. 13, 139.

17 October, 2017

John, Lord Beaumont (1317-1342)

John Beaumont was an English nobleman of partly French, partly Scottish origin, who married into the great Lancastrian dynasty. Here's a post about him.

According to the evidence of his father's Inquisition Post Mortem in 1340, John Beaumont was born on or around Christmas Day 1317. He was the first son, though almost certainly not the first child, of Henry, Lord Beaumont, a French and partly-Spanish nobleman who was Edward II's second cousin, and Alice Comyn. Alice was one of the two nieces and co-heirs of John Comyn (d. 1308), earl of Buchan in Scotland, whose wife Isabel MacDuff crowned Robert Bruce as king of Scotland in 1306. Comyn himself was a great enemy of Bruce, and after his defeat to the latter at the battle of Inverurie in 1308 fled to England and died there shortly afterwards. Edward II arranged Alice Comyn's marriage to his kinsman Henry Beaumont in or a little before 1310, and Beaumont thereafter called himself earl of Buchan, though never held the lands. Alice was much her husband's junior, probably born in the late 1290s; Henry's date of birth is not known but was probably sometime in the 1270s or 1280, and his parents had married as early as 1253. He and his siblings Louis, elected bishop of Durham in 1317, and Isabella, Lady Vescy, spent most of their lives in England. They were the children of Agnes, viscountess of Beaumont - they used their mother's name - and Louis Brienne, also known as Louis of Acre, one of the sons of John Brienne, Latin emperor of Constantinople and king of Jerusalem. Louis Brienne's mother, the grandmother of Henry, Louis and Isabella Beaumont and their siblings was John Brienne's third wife Berenguela of Leon, sister of Edward II's grandfather King Fernando III of Castile and Leon.

John Beaumont's sisters, the daughters of Henry Beaumont and Alice Comyn, included Katherine, probably the eldest Beaumont child, who married David Strathbogie, earl of Atholl in or soon after January 1327, and Isabella, who married Henry of Grosmont, later the first duke of Lancaster, in or before June 1330. Isabella Beaumont was the mother of John of Gaunt's first wife Blanche of Lancaster, and was the grandmother of King Henry IV of England and Philippa of Lancaster, queen of Portugal. John Beaumont himself married Henry of Grosmont's sister Eleanor of Lancaster, fifth of the six daughters of Edward II's first cousin Henry, earl of Lancaster (d. 1345). The young couple wed sometime between September and November 1330, at Henry's castle of Kenilworth in Warwickshire; John was not yet thirteen at the time, and Eleanor was almost his own age, probably twelve or thirteen. His sister Isabella and her brother Henry of Grosmont had married some months before. The Beaumonts' mother Alice née Comyn may have attended her children's weddings, but their father Henry Beaumont could not: in 1330 he was in exile on the continent, plotting an invasion of England to bring down the queen mother Isabella of France and her ally Roger Mortimer, now the first earl of March. Henry Beaumont had, like his long-term ally and friend Henry of Lancaster, supported the invasion of 1326, but soon grew sick of Isabella and Roger's greed and illegitimate power. After Edward III overthrew the pair in October 1330, he recalled Henry Beaumont and the dowager queen's other enemies on the continent back to England. Beaumont died in March 1340, weeks before the birth of his granddaughter Maud of Lancaster (elder surviving daughter of Henry of Grosmont and Isabella Beaumont, and sister-in-law of John of Gaunt).

When John Beaumont and Eleanor of Lancaster consummated their marriage cannot be known, but their only child was born in late 1339 or thereabouts, nine years after their wedding. This was Henry Beaumont, named after both his grandfathers, and his birth brought about a change in English law. Edward III was extremely fond of Eleanor and John - they were his second cousin and third cousin respectively - and invited them to accompany him and Queen Philippa on their long sojourn on the continent between July 1338 and February 1340. Henry Beaumont the younger was born in the duchy of Brabant while Eleanor was attending the queen. In case their son's birth outside England and outside the lands ruled by the king of England caused the boy legal problems in the future – as in fact it did – Edward III announced in December 1340 that "the king’s kinsfolk John de Bello Monte [Beaumont] and Eleanor de Lancastre" had accompanied him and the queen overseas at his command and had intended to return to England for the birth of their child, but Edward and Philippa persuaded them to stay with them because their company was "very desirable." [1] Despite Edward III's statement, when John Beaumont's mother Alice Comyn died in July 1349 (John was already dead by then), her heir was returned as John's younger brother Thomas rather than John's son Henry, because John had died "without an heir of his body born within the realm of England or the allegiance of the king of England." [2] The parliament of February 1351, however, declared that Henry Beaumont and all other Englishmen "born beyond the sea" should have the full right to their inheritances, and Henry duly inherited his father and grandmother's lands when he came of age. [3]

According to the royal clerk and chronicler Adam Murimuth, John Beaumont was killed at a jousting tournament in Northampton on 14 April 1342. [4] He was only twenty-four, and had been Lord Beaumont for barely two years. However, there is an entry on the Patent Roll dated 10 May 1342, which gave John Beaumont royal permission to grant three of his own manors to himself and his wife Eleanor of Lancaster jointly. Either this permission was only recorded by royal clerks a few weeks after John was already dead, or the date of his death given by Murimuth is wrong. [5] John was certainly dead by 26 June 1342, however, when his Inquisition Post Mortem was ordered (unfortunately, the IPM does not give the date of his death). His lands were taken into the king's hand on 1 July, and an entry on the Close Roll of 10 August calls Eleanor of Lancaster "late his wife." [6] In early 1345 she married her second husband, Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, who had previously been married to her first cousin Isabella Despenser, eldest daughter of Hugh Despenser the Younger and a great-niece of Edward II. Richard and Isabella's marriage was annulled in December 1344 mere weeks before he married Eleanor. Eleanor and Richard had five children: Richard, earl of Arundel, executed by Richard II in 1397; Joan, countess of Hereford, grandmother of Henry V; Alice, countess of Kent; John, admiral; and Thomas, archbishop of Canterbury. The Arundel children were the younger half-siblings of John Beaumont's son Henry, born in c. late 1339. Henry Beaumont died in 1369, before his mother, but the Beaumont line continued: Henry had a son John, who had a son Henry, who had a son John, and so on and on in perpetuity. (Well, almost.)


1) CPR 1340-3, pp. 72-3.
2) CIPM 1347-52, no. 415.
3) CPR 1350-4, p. 63.
4) Murimuth, ed. Thompson, p. 142.
5) CPR 1340-3, p. 428.
6) CIPM 1336-46, no. 381; CFR 1337-47, pp. 288, 386; CCR 1341-3, p. 578; CPR 1340-3, p. 506.

13 October, 2017

Mortimer History Society Essay

I haven't been around to update the blog for absolutely ages - apologies for the long delay, and I hope to rectify the situation very soon! On Saturday 7 October, I gave a talk about Isabella of France in Ludlow, Shropshire, at the kind invitation of the Mortimer History Society. See here for Anerje's take on it, and here for more information. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole day and have now joined the Society, and hope to be as active a member as possible. Many thanks to Hugh Wood, Philip Hume, Fran Norton - who very kindly took me for dinner in Ludlow the evening before - Stanton Stephens of the Castle Bookshop in Ludlow, and all the other MHS members who made me feel so welcome.

On 7 October, we were also treated to an excellent talk titled 'Networking the Marches' by Matthew Lampitt, winner of the first Mortimer History Society's essay prize. The second round of the essay competition is taking place this year: the deadline is 1 December 2017. Information here, here and here. If you're a hsitory researcher, why not give it a go and try to win the £750 first prize?

Talking of the Castle Bookshop in Ludlow, I was delighted to see my three books for sale there, and also spotted Long Live the King for sale in the gift shop of Ludlow Castle!