27 April, 2018

The Abduction of Margaret Multon by Ranulph Dacre, c. 1316

The following entry appears on the Patent Roll on 28 October 1317 (CPR 1317-21, p. 39):

"Pardon to Ranulph de Dacre for abducting by night Margaret, the daughter and heiress of Thomas de Multon of Gillesland [Gilsland], tenant in chief, a minor in the king's custody, from the castle of Warrewyk [Warwick]."

There were two branches of the Multon family: the Multons of Gilsland in Cumberland and the Multons of Egremont, also in Cumberland. Piers Gaveston's daughter and heir Joan (1312-25) was betrothed in 1317 to John Multon (b. 1308), son and heir of Thomas, Lord Multon of Egremont and a grandson of the earl of Ulster. Thomas, Lord Multon of Gilsland was born on or around 19 September 1281. [CIPM 1291-1300, no. 285; CCR 1296-1302, p. 560] He was one of the 266 men knighted with Edward of Caernarfon, prince of Wales, duke of Aquitaine, earl of Chester and count of Ponthieu, on 22 May 1306, and married a daughter of Piers, Lord Mauley, who was granted his marriage on 21 August 1297. [CPR 1292-1301, p. 304] Sadly, his wife's name is not recorded. Thomas Multon died shortly before 14 January 1313 when the writ for his Inquisition Post Mortem was issued. [CIPM 1307-17, no. 452] According to the Complete Peerage, citing a record of the King's Bench, Thomas's daughter and heir Margaret Multon of Gilsland was born at Mulgrave Castle on 20 July 1300 when her father was still only eighteen, and was baptised four days later. Margaret was given livery of her lands on 30 October 1317 "as she has proved her age before the king," which was just two days after Ranulph Dacre was pardoned for abducting her. [CCR 1313-8, p. 504] Margaret Multon's birthplace, Mulgrave Castle, lay in Lythe near Whitby, Yorkshire, and belonged to her maternal grandfather Piers Mauley.

So there was Margaret, minding her own business in Warwick Castle, when along came Sir Ranulph or Randolf or Ralph Dacre. He was a few years Margaret Multon's senior, born around 1290 or 1294: he was said to be twenty-eight when his father William died in August 1318 and thirty when his mother Joan died in December 1324. [CIPM 1317-27, nos. 155, 574] (Yes, according to that evidence he only aged two years in six years! That's a useful trick!). According to the chronicle of Lanercost Priory, which is an extremely useful source for events in the north of England in the reigns of Edward I and Edward II, when Thomas de Multon of Gilsland died his daughter and heir Margaret was already married to Robert son of Robert de Clifford, and they married near Appleby when Margaret was in her seventh year. [Chronicle of Lanercost, ed. Maxwell, p. 205] This is somewhat puzzling. I assume this means the Robert Clifford who was born in 1305 and later succeeded his elder brother Roger (b. 1299/1300, executed as a Contrariant in March 1322). Their father Robert, Lord Clifford was killed at Bannockburn on 24 June 1314, and the Cliffords certainly were an influential family in Cumberland, Westmorland and Yorkshire so it's not unlikely that they would have married into another influential northern family. The Lanercost chronicle goes on: "and in the life of the said Robert [de Clifford], Ralph de Dacre, son of William de Dacre, married the same Margaret, having a right to her through a contract concluded between Thomas de Multon, father of the said Margaret, and William de Dacre, before her former marriage." [Ibid.] The bit I really don't get is how Magaret Multon can have married Ranulph Dacre if she was already married to young Robert Clifford.

According to the Complete Peerage citing a King's Bench record, Ranulph Dacre and Margaret Multon were already married at Easter in Edward II's ninth regnal year, which was 11 April 1316. Warwick Castle, from where Dacre abducted Margaret, belonged to Guy Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, who died on 12 August 1315. As his son and heir Thomas was then only eighteen months old, all Guy's lands and castles passed into the king's hands, which presumably was why Edward II accommodated Margaret Multon at Warwick Castle (as she was the heir of a deceased tenant in chief, by the rules of the era he was her legal guardian). When Dacre took Margaret from Warwick Castle, it was in the custody of the late earl of Warwick's executors. [CPR 1313-7, p. 664]

Evidently, Ranulph Dacre went to Warwick Castle at night and abducted Margaret, and presumably married her shortly afterwards; yet another abduction and forced marriage of a fourteenth-century noble heiress, along with Elizabeth de Burgh, her sister Eleanor Despenser, their niece Margaret Audley, and Alice de Lacy, countess of Lincoln. As with all the others, Margaret Dacre née Multon basically had no choice but to live with her abductor, now her husband, and to make the best of the situation. She gave birth to her first son William Dacre, named after his paternal grandfather, around 1319 (William was said to be twenty years old at Ranulph's IPM in June 1339), and had younger sons Ranulph (born in or before 1322), who was a parson, Hugh, who was the ultimate Dacre heir, Peter, and Thomas. William the eldest Dacre son inherited his parents' lands but died childless, whereupon they passed to the second son Ranulph and then to Hugh. As far as I can tell, Hugh was the youngest Dacre son but his older brothers Peter and Thomas died before he did, and it was Hugh who carried on the Dacre line; he died in 1383 when his son and heir William was twenty-six. [CIPM 1336-46, no. 229; CIPM 1361-5, nos. 60, 317; CIPM 1374-7, no. 119; CIPM 1377-84, nos. 971-3] Horribly, Hugh Dacre was suspected of murdering his elder brother Randolph the parson, whose heir he was, and sometime before 2 July 1376 was imprisoned in the Tower of London. [CCR 1374-7, p. 433] Margaret Dacre née Multon died on 10 December 1361 at the age of sixty-one, having outlived her abductor and husband by twenty-two years, her eldest son William Dacre by some months, and her younger sons Peter and Thomas as well.

20 April, 2018

The Abduction of Eleanor Despenser, 1329

Recently I wrote a post about the abduction of Edward II's niece Elizabeth de Burgh née de Clare from Bristol Castle in February 1316, and a while ago, one about the abduction of Elizabeth's niece Margaret Audley from Thaxted, Essex, c. February 1336. Margaret Audley was the sole heir of her mother, Margaret de Clare, Elizabeth's sister. Their rich inheritance from their brother Gilbert, earl of Gloucester, proved a poisoned chalice for the three de Clare sisters. Elizabeth was abducted, Margaret's daughter and heir was abducted, and Eleanor Despenser née de Clare was abducted, and like the others, forcibly married. Here's a post about it.

Eleanor de Clare married Hugh Despenser the Younger on 26 May 1306, and they had been married for twenty and a half years and had had at least ten children together when Hugh was executed on 24 November 1326. Eleanor was still only thirty-four when she was widowed, and was imprisoned at the Tower of London until February 1328. She was restored to her own lands that year, including the rich lordship of Glamorgan. Little is known about Eleanor's life for the next few months, but shortly before 26 January 1329 she was living at Hanley Castle in Worcestershire (her own castle) when she was abducted by the Leicestershire baron William la Zouche, lord of Ashby. The abduction reached the ears of the chancery clerks by 26 January 1329, when they recorded it on the Patent Roll. Eleanor and William married, though whether Eleanor consented to the marriage is, as with her sister Elizabeth thirteen years later, unknown.

William la Zouche used the name of his mother, Joyce la Zouche; his father was called Robert Mortimer and his elder brother (d. 1304) was Hugh Mortimer of Richard's Castle, Herefordshire. William's date of birth is not known but was probably in the 1270s, so he was quite a bit older than Eleanor Despenser, born October 1292. His first wife was Alice Beauchamp née Toeni, dowager countess of Warwick (d. 1324), widow of Sir Thomas Leyburne (d. 1307) and Guy Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (d. 1315). Guy Beauchamp was the maternal uncle of Eleanor's first husband Hugh Despenser the Younger. By her first marriage Alice Toeni was the mother of the great Kent heiress Juliana Hastings née Leyburne, countess of Huntingdon (1303/4-67), and by her second the mother of the earl of Warwick, Thomas Beauchamp (1314-69) and of several other children. She had two children with William la Zouche, Alan and Joyce, as well. Eleanor Despenser and William la Zouche had one child together, William the younger, born around 1330 and a monk of Glastonbury Abbey, and still alive in 1381. (Three of Eleanor's Despenser children, Joan, Gilbert and Elizabeth, also lived into the 1380s.) Eleanor was in her late thirties when her youngest child William was born, and the elder William was in his fifties.

The really strange thing about William la Zouche's abduction of Eleanor Despenser in early 1329 is that a baron called John Grey of Rotherfield began claiming her as his wife as well, and persisted in this claim for more than four years. In fact, Eleanor Despenser's abduction from Hanley Castle was recorded twice on the Patent Roll, once as Hugh Despenser's widow and once as Grey of Rotherfield's wife, the chancery clerks evidently not realising that what seemed to be two women abducted from the same place at the same time was in fact just one person. John Grey was born in October 1300 and was eight years Eleanor's junior, and already a widower with one son. He took his claim to be married to Eleanor to the papal court in Avignon but lost and finally gave up, but not before his quarrel with William la Zouche over Eleanor became so acrimonious that he came close to drawing a dagger on la Zouche in Edward III's presence and was arrested. He later became a Knight of the Garter and steward of Edward III's household, and married his second wife and had two more sons, so in the end didn't do too badly despite missing out on marriage to the wealthy and partly royal Eleanor Despenser. I don't know why he claimed to be Eleanor's husband: perhaps she'd had an affair with him, or they'd made an informal arrangement to wed which was foiled by William la Zouche.

I doubt there was much if any romance involved in la Zouche's abduction of Eleanor. (Or in John Grey of Rotherfield's determination to be married to her, for that matter.) While Eleanor's lands were in the king's hands during her imprisonment in the Tower, la Zouche had been appointed as keeper of Glamorgan, and by marrying her he would become Glamorgan's outright owner. He was firmly on Queen Isabella's side in 1326/27 and was one of the men who captured Eleanor's husband Hugh and her uncle Edward II in South Wales on 16 November 1326, and was appointed as the leader of the siege of Caerphilly Castle in 1326/27 with Eleanor's son Huchon Despenser inside. I'm not sure that "hi honey, it's la Zouche of Ashby, the man who besieged your teenage son for months with a view to handing him over to the woman who had your husband disembowelled and three of your little daughters forcibly veiled, so that she could have him executed. Will you marry me?" was likely to go down particularly well with Eleanor. Numerous large debts acknowledged by William la Zouche recorded on the Close Roll in the early 1330s indicate that, despite having forced himself into a share of the vast de Clare wealth, he was living well beyond his means, and despite being appointed keeper of the peace in Wales and the Marches that decade, Edward III had to warn la Zouche to cease his bitter quarrel there with Hugh Audley (husband of Eleanor's sister Margaret and father of Margaret Audley, abducted and forcibly married to Ralph Stafford in 1336). Eleanor's first husband Hugh Despenser the Younger had a supreme talent for quarrelling with people, and it seems that her second shared the same quality.

Whatever the private nature of Eleanor Despenser and William la Zouche's relationship after he abducted her, she had no way to stop being married to him, so had to find some way of living with him and accepting what he had done. By the time they both died in 1337, it seems that Eleanor had at least come to terms with her second marriage, whether she had consented to it or not. Zouche appointed her as one of the executors of his will before he died in February 1337, though as it was the norm for men to do so, I'm not sure this necessarily tells us anything about his feelings for his wife. Eleanor buried la Zouche at Tewkesbury Abbey, where her first husband, brother, father, grandfather and numerous other de Clare ancestors were interred and which stood on her own lands, and this probably does give more insight into her feelings and might indicate that she and William la Zouche had made a decent stab at things over the previous eight years. But the abductions and forced marriages of two of the three de Clare sisters and the daughter and heir of the third had nothing to do with romance and everything to do with an opportunistic grab for wealth and influence by three men with few scruples. The abducted women basically had no comeback; even if their abductors were temporarily imprisoned, they were now their husbands and the women had no way to stop them being their husbands, so ultimately had little choice but to accept the situation. Being a woman of means in the Middle Ages was, in many ways, an unenviable position, and Eleanor Despenser, Elizabeth de Burgh and Margaret Stafford née Audley were far from being the only women abducted for their wealth in the fourteenth century.

15 April, 2018

The Abduction of Elizabeth de Burgh, February 1316

The third and youngest of Edward II's de Clare nieces, who were the daughters of his second eldest sister Joan of Acre and her first husband Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford, was Elizabeth de Burgh, born in September 1295. Elizabeth married her first husband, the earl of Ulster's eldest son and heir John de Burgh, at the end of September 1308 just after her thirteenth birthday. She stayed in England for just over a year after her wedding before travelling to join her husband in Ireland, evidently considered too young to live with her husband until she turned fourteen. She bore her only child with John, William de Burgh, future earl of Ulster, the day after her seventeenth birthday on 17 September 1312, and was widowed nine months later. Elizabeth remained in Ireland with her father-in-law the earl, Richard de Burgh, until her uncle Edward II ordered her back to England; her son William was three years old when she left Ireland, and seems to have spent the next few years travelling between Ireland and England.

On 24 June 1314, Elizabeth's brother Gilbert, earl of Gloucester, was killed at the battle of Bannockburn, and she and her elder sisters Eleanor and Margaret were heirs to his vast landholdings in three countries, though matters were complicated by the claims of Gloucester's widow Maud de Burgh - daughter of the earl of Ulster and thus Elizabeth's sister-in-law twice over - to be pregnant with his posthumous child. Edward II ordered Elizabeth to return to England around the end of 1315 or beginning of 1316, obviously realising that she was one of her late brother's three co-heirs despite pretending in public that he believed in the dowager countess of Gloucester's pregnancy more than eighteen months after Gloucester's death. Elizabeth arrived at Bristol on 4 February 1316 ("Wednesday after the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the ninth year of his [Edward II's] reign"), where her uncle the king would pay for her expenses at the castle there. Bristol Castle was under the command of Bartholomew Badlesmere, a baron of Kent who had once been in the retinue of Elizabeth's brother the earl of Gloucester, and was alleged to have abandoned the young earl at Bannockburn; a contemporary poet stated venomously that he was a Judas figure who deserved to be "put to the rack" for his actions. Badlesmere was married to the Clare sisters' first cousin Margaret de Clare. Despite what strikes me as his endless gross incompetence* he was an important figure in English politics from 1316 until 1321, was appointed steward of the king's household in 1318, and has an excellent reputation among some modern historians which, I have to admit, I find difficult to understand.

[* Allegedly abandoning his lord to die on the battlefield. Allowing the king's niece to be abducted from the castle for which he was accountable. Provoking a full-scale rebellion against himself in Bristol in the 1310s which went on for years. Refusing to give up custody of Bristol Castle despite several direct orders from the king to do so. Changing sides to the Marcher lords in 1321, for which he was grotesquely executed in 1322. Conspiring with Hugh Despenser the Younger to free one John Lashley from prison in Colchester in 1319 or 1320 and gaining control of Lashley's Essex manor, then hypocritically blaming Despenser alone for it in August 1321. Committing blatant fraud and trickery in trying to get the younger Despenser accused of treason at the same time, a trick which was soon spotted and which backfired completely. Etc.]

Along came Theobald de Verdon, former justiciar of Ireland and an important English nobleman, whom I wrote about in a recent post. Verdon had been a widower for more than three years since the death of Maud Mortimer in September 1312, and oh so conveniently just happened to find himself in Bristol when Elizabeth de Burgh arrived there. Or not. What happened next is uncertain, but on 4 February 1316 immediately after Elizabeth's arrival in England - on the same day - she married Verdon without the knowledge or consent of her uncle the king. Her biographer Frances Underhill, in her 1999 book For Her Good Estate: The Life of Elizabeth de Burgh, states that Elizabeth was not forcibly abducted and most probably consented to the marriage as she had surely known Verdon in Ireland in his capacity as justiciar there, and that it is 'unlikely' that the marriage took place against Elizabeth's will. She offers no real explanation for why it is 'unlikely,' and I disagree. Elizabeth had only just returned to England for the first time (as far as is known) since she left to join her husband in October 1309. I find it hard to believe she was so desperate to marry Verdon that she would have done so before she had even met or had any contact with her elder sisters Eleanor and Margaret and her uncle the king, or had even settled into her homeland for the first time in more than six years. I find it hard to believe she would have married Verdon without obtaining her uncle's permission. Edward II treated Elizabeth callously in later years, but in early 1316 he had done nothing at all wrong to her that might have made her wish to defy him. Tenants in chief required permission from the king to marry, and Edward II was not only Elizabeth's liege lord to whom she owed obedience and allegiance, he was her nearest male relative. Verdon was appointed justiciar of Ireland in April 1313 ten months after Elizabeth's first husband John de Burgh died and fourteen months before the earl of Gloucester fell at Bannockburn, and could have married Elizabeth at any point if he'd so wished. Interesting that he was only overcome by the strong urge to marry her after her wealthy brother died and she was one of his co-heirs, and as soon as she was no longer under the protection of her powerful father-in-law the earl of Ulster and her uncle the king was 170 miles away.

I find Frances Underhill's attitude towards Theobald de Verdon and his abduction of Elizabeth surprisingly indulgent, and she treats Elizabeth's third husband Sir Roger Damory far more harshly and, to my mind, unfairly. She calls him "a grasping, reckless mediocrity with a petty crook's mentality." Ouch! Whatever Damory's numerous faults, he did at least seek Elizabeth's consent to their marriage, and yes, he only married a great noblewoman because her uncle the king was currently infatuated with him, but none of his contemporaries would have turned down marriage to the king's wealthy niece. Underhill considers that Edward II "pursued his heavy-handed tactics" by taking Damory to visit Elizabeth at Amesbury Priory in the spring of 1317 a few weeks before her wedding to him, but somehow Verdon taking Elizabeth out of Bristol Castle on the very day of her return to her homeland and either forcing her or at the very least strongly encouraging her to defy and disobey her liege lord and uncle isn't 'heavy-handed'? Abducting the king's rich niece and marrying her without his permission isn't "reckless" and "grasping"? Perhaps Damory wished to get to know Elizabeth better and to make sure that she was marrying him of her own free will. I don't know. Maybe he didn't, but I've never seen anything that makes me think Theobald de Verdon gave a damn about Elizabeth's feelings, but somehow he's judged far more indulgently than Damory. Would it somehow have been preferable if Edward II hadn't taken Damory to meet Elizabeth, or would there then be the criticism that he forced his niece to marry a man she'd never met or talked to? I just think sometimes that absolutely everything Edward II ever did is castigated by modern writers and it's not always entirely fair, and there seems to be this assumption that everyone he loved, e.g. Roger Damory, must have been irredeemably bad and have only ever done bad things whereas anyone opposed to Edward and his 'favourites' must necessarily have had purer and nobler motives.

Verdon went to the parliament then being held at Lincoln and claimed to Edward II that Elizabeth had voluntarily come out of Bristol Castle to marry him and that they had been betrothed in Ireland. This is merely a case of "he would say that, wouldn't he?" and should not be taken too seriously. Given that Elizabeth's eldest sister Eleanor was abducted and forcibly married to William la Zouche in January 1329, and their niece Margaret Audley was abducted and forcibly married to Ralph Stafford in February 1336, and their second cousin Alice de Lacy, countess of Lincoln was abducted and forcibly married to Hugh Frene also c. February 1336, and Margaret Multon, the  daughter and heir of Thomas Multon of Gilsland, was abducted from Warwick Castle in c. 1315 and married to Ranulph Dacre, I'm not sure why it's so 'unlikely' that Elizabeth de Burgh would be as well. Not that I want to turn her into a victim - that's the last thing she was - but abductions and forced marriages did happen to noblewomen in her lifetime, and not infrequently either.

In the end, Verdon never benefited from his abduction of the king's niece as he died on 27 July 1316 long before the Clare lands were partitioned, leaving Elizabeth a month pregnant with his daughter Isabella de Verdon, born on 21 March 1317. He never paid a fine for marrying without royal licence, though was deprived of some of his liberties on one of his Shropshire manors. Theobald's daughter Elizabeth (his second daughter with Maud Mortimer) and her husband Bartholomew Burghersh later claimed rather disingenuously that Edward II had only done this because of his "rancour of mind" against Theobald, as though there was not an excellent reason for the king's "rancour." For sure some people disagree with me, but I don't see anything pleasant or even romantic in the marriage of Elizabeth de Burgh and Theobald de Verdon, and nothing I've read on the subject convinces me that Elizabeth was a willing party to it.

08 April, 2018

Edward II and Mitochondrial DNA: Can you help?

A couple of days ago, my blog was mentioned on the popular Go Fug Yourself website, as part of its weekly Royals Round-Up section: see here. My friends at the Auramala Project in Italy and I are still hoping to find a modern descendant with Edward II's DNA, so that maybe one day we can determine once and for all if Edward really is buried in Gloucester. See also my book Long Live the King: The Mysterious Fate of Edward II for more details, especially Ivan Fowler of the Project's call to action at the end. A modern descendant with Edward II's mitochondrial DNA would have to come from one of his sisters or one of his female ancestors, entirely through the female line, and that's very tricky to find. If you're of English origin you're almost guaranteed to be descended from Edward, but finding an all-female line back to the thirteenth century is really hard. See this post from last year by the Auramala Project...we got so close!

Edward II had five sisters. The fourth, Mary, was a nun and had no children, so she's out. The eldest, Eleanor, had only one daughter, Joan countess of Surrey, who herself had no children, so she's out. The third, Margaret, had only one son, so she's out. That leaves Edward's second and fifth sisters: Joan of Acre, countess of Gloucester (1272-1307) and Elizabeth, countess of Hereford (1282-1316), who both had daughters who had daughters who had daughters. I found a promising line from Joan of Acre's third daughter Elizabeth de Clare and her daughter Isabella de Verdon, which resulted in the post by the Auramala Project linked above, as a professional genealogist took over. If you know of any other female lines from either of these two women, please get in touch! You can either leave a comment here, or at the Auramala Project, or email me at: edwardofcaernarfon(at)yahoo.com.

Edward II's mother Eleanor of Castile (c. 1241-90) had no sisters of the full blood from the same mother, so there are no possible lines there. Eleanor's mother Joan of Ponthieu, or Jeanne de Dammartin as she's sometimes called, had three younger sisters, so there may be some descendants there, though I didn't get very far when I tried to look into it a while ago (maybe you'll have more luck?). Joan's mother was Marie of Ponthieu (no sisters), whose mother was Alais of France (no sisters of the full blood who had descendants), whose mother was Constance of Castile, whose mother was Berenguela of Barcelona, whose mother was Dulcia of Provence, whose mother was Gerberga of Provence, and so on. This is the line of Edward II's maternal ancestors, who carried his mitochondrial DNA down the female line. Are there any female lines of descent from any of these women? Can you help?