27 February, 2019

The Belongings of Madame Yzabel of France, 1308

Philip IV of France provided his daughter Isabella with a magnificent trousseau when she married Edward II in early 1308 and moved to England to be its queen. The inventory of Isabella's belongings - hurrah! - still exists in the Archives Nationales in France, and was published by Walter E. Rhodes at the end of the nineteenth century, in the original French. Here's a post about it. These are only a few highlights of all the many lovely things Isabella owned, but I hope the post gives a good idea of the kind of items she was surrounded by.

The inventory refers to Isabella as 'Madame Yzabel of France, queen of England', and begins with a list of 'jewels for the queen's body'. These included three crowns, presumably of gold though this is not stated, two gold circlets, a chaplet and two gold fastenings for a cloak, one in the shape of a fleur-de-lis and one shaped like two lions and studded with precious stones. Further down the list, another four crowns are specified and these certainly were of gold, some with precious stones, and Isabella had a 'belt of gold' as well and three hats or head-coverings (chapeauxwith rubies and emeralds. She had a gold chalice, more gold and silver cups than I can count, two gold spoons plus four dozen other spoons, six large plates and thirty-six others, a 'very beautiful' gold cross, and two enamelled silver basins. Four more basins 'for washing' are mentioned, plus another two 'for washing her head' and 'four other basins for washing'. Isabella had an alms-dish and a nef, i.e. 'ship', also intended for alms, fifty escueles, meaning bowls or dishes. There was a large number of items for her chapel, such as cloth to cover her altar, surplices for her chaplains, hangings for her oratory, a cushion and carpets to set before the altar, a leather chest for storing currently unused items for the chapel, a box for storing candles, a jug or pitcher for holy water, an ivory box with silver bands to contain the Host, a missal and a gradual, etc etc.

Some of the clothes Isabella took with her were: a gown of red samite (a kind of silk); a gown 'of cloth of gold of turquie in which she was married' (not sure what that word means, maybe Turkey; the word for 'turquoise' usually has an S in it); a gown of crimson veluel (velvet?) with a mulberry-coloured jacket; a 'very good' marbled red cloth for six sets of clothes; green cloth to make another six sets of clothes; and fur linings for her cloaks, both ermine and other varieties. Isabella was also provided with linen for her bedchamber and other private rooms, including fifteen pairs of curtains for her bed and 419 ells of linen for her bath, and a cloth of gold with lozenges of the arms of France and England to hang in a chamber and another with the arms of France only. She had a canopy for her bed with matching curtains (in addition to the fifteen pairs of curtains just mentioned), cushions, pillows, blankets, yet more bed curtains of sendal, ten chairs, a table, rugs, etc etc.

Finally, the queen had six horses to pull her coach plus ten more horses for her attendants' coaches, five palfreys for Isabella to ride and another four for her attendants, all with the necessary equipment such as saddles, saddle-cloths and harnesses. There were also housings for the queen's palfreys, i.e. ornamental cloths to drape over the horses.

22 February, 2019

Eleanor of Lancaster, Lady Beaumont and Countess of Arundel

Eleanor of Lancaster was the fifth of the six daughters of Edward II's first cousin Henry of Lancaster, earl of Lancaster and Leicester. Here's a post about her.

Eleanor was born around 1316 or 1318 to Maud Chaworth (1282-1322), heir of her father Patrick (d. 1283), and the older half-sister of Hugh Despenser the Younger via their mother Isabella Beauchamp. Eleanor's father was Henry of Lancaster (b. 1280/81), who at the time of her birth was the heir of his older brother Thomas and who became earl of Leicester in 1324 and earl of Lancaster in 1327, after the death of his wife Maud Chaworth. Eleanor's older sisters were: Blanche, who married Lord Wake in 1316; Isabella, who entered Amesbury Priory in 1327 and later became its prioress; Maud, who married the earl of Ulster in 1327; and Joan, who married Lord Mowbray in 1328. Her younger sister was Mary, who married Henry, future Lord Percy in 1334, and she also had an older brother, Henry of Grosmont, who was their father Henry, mother Maud and uncle Thomas's heir. Eleanor may have been born in the year when her uncle Thomas, earl of Lancaster, made a peace settlement with his cousin Edward II in the village of East Leake near Loughborough on 9 August 1318. The seven Lancaster children were widely spaced: Blanche the eldest was born around 1302/5 and married in 1316 - so was almost certainly already married by the time her sister Eleanor was born - and Mary the youngest was born around 1320. Henry of Grosmont, the only boy, was born around 1310 or 1312, in the middle of six sisters. Whether or to what extent Eleanor knew her uncle Thomas is unknown, but she must have been aware that he was the wealthiest nobleman in the country, and she might just have been old enough to remember his execution in March 1322.

Sometime in September or October 1330 - that is, mere weeks before the downfall of Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer - Eleanor of Lancaster married. Her new husband was John Beaumont, born on or around Christmas Day 1317 and thus about the same age as Eleanor herself, and twelve going on thirteen years old when they wed. He was the eldest son and heir of Henry, Lord Beaumont, a French nobleman who spent most of his life in England, and Alice Comyn, niece and heir of the earl of Buchan (d. 1308). John Beaumont's father was not in England at the time of his son's wedding; he had been forced to flee abroad after taking part in Henry of Lancaster's brief rebellion against Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer in late 1328/early 1329. He returned in late 1330 after Edward III overthrew his mother and Mortimer and pardoned all the English exiles on the continent. Also in 1330, in June or a little earlier, Eleanor of Lancaster's brother Henry of Grosmont married Isabella Beaumont, sister of Eleanor's husband.

Eleanor of Lancaster and John Beaumont's only child was Henry, born probably in late 1339 nine years after their wedding, when they were in their early twenties. He was named after both their fathers. Little Henry Beaumont was born in the duchy of Brabant, where his parents spent much time with Edward III and his queen, Philippa of Hainault, between 1338 and 1340. Heirs to lands in England, Wales and Ireland had to be born 'within the allegiance of the king of England', but because Edward and Philippa were thoroughly enjoying the company of the young Lancaster/Beaumont couple, when it became apparent in 1339 that Eleanor was pregnant, the royal couple persuaded her to stay on the continent with them rather than returning to England for the birth. This was to cause young Henry Beaumont legal problems in 1349 when his grandmother Alice Comyn died and he should have been returned as her heir (as the only son of her eldest son), but was not because his late father John had no heir of his body born within the allegiance of the king of England, i.e. England itself, Wales, Ireland or Gascony. In 1351, Edward III changed the law and Henry duly came into his inheritance when he was of age.

I wrote a post a few months ago about the death in 1342 of John, Lord Beaumont, who outlived his father by only two years and died at the age of twenty-four when his son was two and a half. Edward III was hugely fond of his cousin Eleanor of Lancaster, and allowed her to hold all the lands her husband had owned (the Beaumont inheritance minus the dower of John's mother Alice, who outlived him) rather than the third of it that was customary for widows. There is much evidence in the chancery rolls of Edward III's high regard and great affection for his kinswoman Eleanor; she interceded with him on many occasions and he granted her appointments and favours. Not only were Edward III and Eleanor closely related - she was the granddaughter of Blanche of Artois (d. 1302) from Blanche's second marriage and Edward was Blanche's great-grandson from her first - but their families intermarried. Eleanor's niece Elizabeth de Burgh, her sister Maud's daughter, married Edward and Queen Philippa's second son Lionel of Antwerp; another of her nieces, her brother Henry of Grosmont's daughter and ultimate heir Blanche of Lancaster, married the royal couple's third son John of Gaunt.

Eleanor married her second husband Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel (b. c. 1313) on 5 February 1345 at Ditton in Buckinghamshire in the presence of Edward III and Queen Philippa. Arundel's first marriage to Eleanor's first cousin Isabella Despenser had been annulled a few weeks previously, which made Arundel and Isabella's son Edmund illegitimate. (I wrote a lot more about all this in my book Blood Roses, and there's lots more about Eleanor and her family in there too.) Eleanor was almost certainly already having a relationship with Arundel before his marriage to Isabella Despenser was annulled, but there is no reason to suppose that it began while John Beaumont was alive, as claimed by the Foundations for Medieval Genealogy website (see here and here). In widowhood Eleanor sometimes referred to herself by her first husband's family name, which implies that she remembered him with great affection. Other people, including her second husband, tended to refer to her as 'Alianore de Lancastre'.

Eleanor may already have been pregnant with her eldest child by Arundel in July 1345 when she asked the pope to legitimise their issue, present and future. In apparent birth order, as stated by an entry on the Fine Roll in the early 1400s, her Arundel children were: Joan, countess of Hereford, born late 1345 or early 1346; Richard, earl of Arundel, born before 1 March 1347; Alice, countess of Kent; John, marshal of England; and Thomas, bishop of Ely, then archbishop of York and later of Canterbury, who was twenty years old in August 1373 and was Eleanor's youngest child. Her elder daughter Joan married Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford, Essex and Northampton, a great-grandson of Edward I, and Joan and Humphrey were the maternal grandparents of Henry V. Eleanor's younger daughter Alice married Thomas Holland, earl of Kent, half-brother of Richard II, and they were the ancestors of, well, basically everyone, including Edward IV and Richard III. Eleanor of Lancaster's younger son John had seven children, and although most of them did not have children of their own, his eldest son John (b. 30 November 1364 when his father must have been painfully young) married Elizabeth Despenser, a great-granddaughter of Hugh Despenser the Younger, and their descendants became earls of Arundel. Eleanor's elder son Richard's male line ran out when his only surviving son, Earl Thomas, died without legitimate offspring in 1415, but Richard's daughters Eleanor Mowbray and Joan Beauchamp had plenty of descendants, including the Mowbray and Howard dukes of Norfolk and the earls of Ormond. Eleanor of Lancaster's eldest child Henry Beaumont died before she did, in September 1369, leaving his eight-year-old son John as the Beaumont heir, and the Beaumont line continued for many more generations. Eleanor's daughter Joan de Bohun was the last survivor of her children, living until 1419 when she was over seventy, six years into the reign of her grandson Henry V.

Eleanor of Lancaster, countess of Arundel, died on 11 January 1372, at the age of 54 or thereabouts, and was outlived by two of her older sisters - Blanche, Lady Wake (d. 1380), and Maud, dowager countess of Ulster (d. 1377). The effigies in Chichester Cathedral which can still be seen today and which inspired Philip Larkin's brilliant poem 'An Arundel Tomb' are usually assumed to be Eleanor and her second husband the earl of Arundel.

14 February, 2019

Edward II and Isabella of France, 1322-1326

After the Tynemouth incident in the autumn of 1322, when Isabella of France rather unfairly accused Hugh Despenser the Younger of deliberately leaving her at the priory there in danger from a Scottish army - Isabella conveniently forgot that Hugh's wife Eleanor was at Tynemouth with her and he was hardly likely to arrange for his own wife to be captured by the Scots or to abandon her to her fate - it seems that there might have been a temporary rift in the royal marriage. On 23 December 1322, Edward II announced that the queen was going on a pilgrimage to various sites around the country, something she seems not actually to have done, so this might have been a politic excuse to explain her absence from court. The king also declared on 26 December that Isabella's clerk William Boudon was to travel to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain "to fufil a vow made by Queen Isabella", and to my mind this vow to leave her husband's realm seems likely to have been something Isabella shouted in the middle of a quarrel with Edward. [CPR 1321-4, pp. 227, 229] It might not have been, of course, but the timing of Isabella's declaration that she wanted to go on pilgrimage to Santiago seems a little suspicious to me. ("So you're taking Hugh's side over mine, huh? I'm going to leave England and go to Santiago and THEN you'll be sorry!")

The royal couple seem not to have spent Christmas 1322 together in York, though they did keep in touch via letter: Edward paid the queen's messenger Jack Stillego ten shillings for bringing her letters to him on 19 December. It is entirely possible that there was a temporary rift in Edward and Isabella's marriage, probably caused, at least in part, by the queen's blaming Hugh Despenser for abandoning her at Tynemouth and the king's refusal to accept that Hugh had done anything wrong. It was at Christmas 1322 that Edward shouted threats at his own niece Elizabeth de Burgh and tried to force her to give up some of her lands to Hugh Despenser, something which is hardly likely to have endeared Isabella to her husband. As for Eleanor Despenser, however, she and Hugh conceived a child shortly after Eleanor and the queen had supposedly been 'abandoned' at Tynemouth by their respective husbands, and the couple seem to have been getting on perfectly well - even, apparently, after Eleanor must have witnessed her husband and uncle bullying her sister Elizabeth.

For the first few weeks of 1323, until early March or thereabouts, Isabella was in London, and Eleanor Despenser (pregnant for at least the ninth time) was there with her. There's really no reason to think that Eleanor was the queen's jailer or a spy, as two fourteenth-century chronicles claim and has been repeated as though it's certain fact ever since. Isabella was not a helpless passive victim who could be forced to spend time - over many years - with an attendant she loathed, and it does her a disservice to paint her as such. One of the chronicles who makes this claim, Lanercost, was written decades later, and although it's an excellent source for events in the north of England and in Scotland, there's no particular reason why a monk cloistered at Lanercost Priory in the far north of England would have been privy to what was happening at Edward II's court in the 1320s. The other chronicle is the Flores Historiarum of Westminster, far closer both in time and place to Edward II's court, but written after his deposition perhaps with the aim of justifying it and of blackwashing Edward as much as possible, and therefore not entirely to be trusted. Eleanor Despenser is first recorded as attending Isabella in the autumn of 1310, and had probably done so since the young queen arrived in England in February 1308. In 1311/12, a year when Isabella's accounts fortuitously survive, Eleanor spent many weeks in her company and they travelled around the north of England together. The two women had been on excellent terms for many years, and to me it does not seem that the queen held Eleanor responsible for her husband's misdeeds or held a grudge against Eleanor because of Hugh's behaviour. On the contrary, it seems that she enjoyed Eleanor's company.

Isabella of France and Eleanor Despenser wrote virtually identical letters in support of Joan Mortimer on 17 February 1323, when they asked the chancellor to ensure that the money promised to Joan and her attendants during her husband Roger Mortimer of Wigmore's incarceration was paid promptly. [SC 1/37/4 and 1/37/45] On 5 March 1323, Edward II, in Knaresborough in Yorkshire, sent Eleanor's horses down to London, so apparently she was still with the queen then. Isabella's letter on behalf of Joan Mortimer is sometimes used as evidence that she was in cahoots with Roger Mortimer, imprisoned in the Tower of London, but Eleanor Despenser sent the exact same letter on the exact same date from the exact same place, so it hardly seems reasonable to use the queen's letter as evidence of her collusion with Roger while ignoring Eleanor's. The two women were staying at the Tower of London when they dictated their letters in support of Joan, which does not automatically imply that Roger had any contact with Isabella, or with Eleanor, for that matter. The prison cells of the Tower were far away from the royal apartments, and besides, Joan Mortimer was perfectly capable of petitioning the queen and the queen's niece-in-law herself, and Eleanor and Isabella were both perfectly capable of deciding to help an imprisoned noblewoman off their own bat without requiring any male involvement. Roger Mortimer escaped from the Tower on 1 August 1323, and Eleanor Despenser, at Cowick in Yorkshire with her husband, her uncle the king and perhaps with the queen, gave birth to a child on almost the same day. Isabella's itinerary is difficult to establish for most of the rest of 1323 and for a large part of 1324, but that in itself doesn't mean a great deal, or necessarily prove anything; her itinerary is also almost entirely unknown for a few other years of her husband's reign and even during her own period of power early in her son's reign. Same with Edward III's queen Philippa for much of her forty-year marriage.

On 1 January 1324, Queen Isabella was with King Edward at Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire, and they exchanged gifts on that date, as they always had (each gave the other a cup - don't you hate it when that happens?). Eleanor Despenser was also at Kenilworth and exchanged gifts with her uncle. (For the record, also cups.) If Edward and Eleanor's husband Hugh the Younger also gave each other presents, it's not recorded in Edward's surviving accounts that I've ever seen - but then, I suppose Edward's gift to Hugh of "Here you go, rule my kingdom and dictate my foreign policy and do whatever the heck you like to anyone" was a bit tricky for the royal clerks to record. Around this time, the queen sent letters to the royal justice John Stonor on behalf of Eleanor Despenser's chaplain John Sadington. Eleanor herself wrote to Stonor about her chaplain on 6 February 1324, and mentioned the letters sent to him on the subject by 'our very dear lady the queen'. [SC 1/46/4] This is one example of Isabella and Eleanor's closeness, and another is that Eleanor 'talked great good' of one of the queen's household squires to the king in 1325 and Edward gave him a cash bonus. Isabella sent another letter from Westminster on 27 February 1324, and Edward II was at Westminster on that day as well. [SC 1/36/38]

At Christmas 1324, Edward and Isabella were together at Nottingham, and again exchanged gifts on 1 January 1325, though this year the royal clerks didn't record what the gifts were. Edward gave a total of 100 shillings to three of his wife's female attendants on Christmas Day. The king and Hugh Despenser went to Derbyshire just before the New Year, while Isabella and Eleanor Despenser went to Kenilworth together, and the two women sent Edward his New Year gifts via two servants called Adam and Robynet (q' mena au Roi son nouel don de ma dame la Roigne, 'who brought the king his new gift from my lady the queen'). Isabella sent Edward at least three letters, on 6, 11 and 18 January 1325, during the period they were apart. Whether he reciprocated, I don't know, as the queen's own accounts don't survive and therefore there are no records of payments she might have made to the king's messengers. I'm not sure when the two were reunited, but they were together at the Tower of London in late February and early March 1325, before Isabella set off for France on 9 March. Unfortunately her letters to her husband don't survive either, only records of the payments Edward made to her messengers for bringing them to him, though a long extent letter from Isabella to Edward dated 31 March 1325 when she was in France reveals that she addressed him five times as "my very sweet heart" (mon tresdouz cuer).

Of course it's impossible to know from the extant records how Edward and Isabella were getting on, though they do seem to have spent a lot of time together after their apparent spat in late 1322; where Isabella's location is known between 1323 and 1325, she was in the same place as her husband, except for the first few weeks of 1323 and for part of January 1325. Being in the same place doesn't automatically mean that all was well between the two, of course, though the exchanging of gifts at New Year 1324 and again in 1325 might at least imply that they were trying. Edward, unkindly and unjustly, confiscated his wife's lands in September 1324 during his war against her brother Charles IV of France, which Isabella was clearly (and understandably) incandescent about, and, unlike earlier in his reign, she doesn't appear in the chancery rolls between 1322 and 1325 interceding with him on behalf of others, as she had often done before. It does seem that something had gone badly wrong between them, even though Edward didn't 'steal' their children from her custody in 1324 (that's one of those wretched myths that refuses to die). Judging by Isabella's speech to the French court in late 1325 as recorded in the Vita Edwardi Secundi, the queen believed a third party to have come between her husband and herself, and spoke on several occasions of her fear of Hugh Despenser the Younger to the point where she believed her life to be in danger from him. She threatened to destroy him, and when Edward II ignored her ultimatum to send Hugh away from him, she allied with Despenser's baronial enemies on the continent to bring him down. 

The 9th of March 1325 when the queen sailed to France - or rather, several days before this, as Edward did not travel to Dover with his wife but remained in London - may well have been the last time Edward and Isabella ever saw each other in person. Edward heard of Isabella's refusal to return to him from France by mid-November 1325 when he cut off her funding, and had it proclaimed throughout his kingdom on 8 February 1326 that she had made an alliance with the English rebels who had fled to the continent, led by Roger Mortimer of Wigmore. Throughout 1326, Edward's fury with Isabella is apparent from the way he called her simply 'the king's wife' or 'his [Charles IV of France's] sister, our wife'. In his last known letter to her, dated at the beginning of December 1325, he addressed her abruptly as Dame or 'Lady', as in "And you know for truth, Lady, that..."). The royal couple were furious with each other in 1325/6, Isabella because Edward confiscated her lands and treated her like an enemy alien despite all her years of loyal support, and because of his excessive favouritism to a man she loathed; and Edward because Isabella actually decided to do something about the whole unpleasant situation and didn't just accept it, and because she allied with men he deemed his enemies.

One Flemish chronicle says that Edward II and Isabella of France met in person several weeks after the queen's invasion of her husband's kingdom on 24 September 1326. Supposedly Isabella fell to her knees in front of Edward and begged for his forgiveness, but he refused to talk to her or even to look at her. We don't know for sure that the two ever met after the queen's invasion and no other chronicle states that they did, though it certainly isn't impossible. Edward's chamber account was only kept until 31 October, and he definitely hadn't met the queen in person before that, though did pay spies on a few occasions for keeping him informed of her movements. In this reading, the unwillingness to reconcile and to try to rebuild their broken relationship came from Edward's side, not Isabella's. In the conventional interpretation of the dramatic events of 1325/26, Isabella is now no longer the helpless victim of her cruel neglectful husband and his nasty lover. It's Edward II who is now presented as a passive victim of his wife, who refuses to see him and who despises him and his sexuality and is deeply in love and lust with Roger Mortimer. It's always assumed that it was Isabella who was calling the shots and who made the decision not to return to Edward, Isabella who was in charge and who decided that their marriage was dead and that she'd prefer to live with her manly virile heterosexual lover Mortimer, thankyouverymuch. The Flemish chronicle cited above puts an entirely different spin on the matter. Whether you believe the evidence of this chronicle or not, it's a reminder that we don't really, truly know even things that we think we know; a reminder that a lot of Edward II and Isabella of France's story is a narrative that's been constructed with a considerable amount of hindsight and that has had a particular spin put on it. It's so easy and so tempting to repeat a story whereby a woman is the long-suffering victim of a cruel husband and his male lovers and comes to hate him and who falls in love with a manly heterosexual lover who heals her pain by giving her lots of awesome sex and helps her get revenge on her husband and his minion, but that doesn't necessarily make it true. Isabella of France was surely absolutely furious and exasperated with her husband in and after the autumn of 1322 and especially after he confiscated her lands in September 1324, and she had very good reasons to be, but it's a pretty big step from being angry with your husband and the father of your children to actually ordering his murder.

10 February, 2019

The Date of Birth of Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester (1291-1314)

Gilbert was the eldest grandchild of Edward I and only seven years younger than his uncle Edward II, and was the only son and heir of arguably the greatest English nobleman of the late thirteenth century, Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester (1243-1295). Gilbert 'the Red' married Edward I's second daughter Joan of Acre on 30 April 1290, and their first child, Gilbert, was born a year later. Exactly when the younger Gilbert was born is not entirely certain, though his date of birth fell somewhere between 23 April and 13 May 1291; here's a post about it.

The inquisition post mortem of Gilbert 'the Red' was taken in late 1295 and early 1296, soon after Gilbert's death at age 52 in early December 1295. He had held lands in every county of the south of England, Wales, and Ireland. The jurors in each English county had a pretty good general idea of his son and heir's age and approximate date of birth, and realised that the young Gilbert was either four or five years old (he was actually four), but their stated dates of birth for him vary somewhat. The Sussex jurors thought that Gilbert turned five at the feast of the Annunciation, 23 Edward I, which is 25 March 1295. This would place Gilbert’s birth around 25 March 1290, over a month before his parents even married. Buckinghamshire said he was 'aged five at the feast of St Mark last', which gives a date of birth of 25 April 1290, five days before his parents' wedding and also impossible. Somerset said 'aged four at the feast of St George last', or 23 April 1291. Wiltshire and Hampshire just said 'aged four and more', Worcestershire, Berkshire and Gloucestershire 'aged four and nine months' and Devon 'aged four at the Invention of Holy Cross last', which gives a date of birth of 3 May 1291. Surrey, Kent, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire all said that Gilbert was five or 'five and more' and Hertfordshire that he was 'aged five at Whitsunday next', which would give a date of birth of 13 May 1291. Suffolk said he was four and a half years old at the beginning of January 1296, and Norfolk, impossibly, that Gilbert was 'six and more'.

The inquisition post mortem of Gilbert's mother Joan of Acre was taken in June 1307 a few weeks after her death (and shortly before her father Edward I died). Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire both said that Gilbert was 'aged 17 on 11 May last', which again is a year too old, though jurors on two other Buckinghamshire inquisitions both said 'aged 16 on 11 May last'. Half a dozen inquisitions in Gloucestershire also said either '16 on 11 May last' or '17 on 11 May last'. Berkshire and Sussex said 17 and more, Cambridgeshire, Somerset, Essex and Kent said 16 and more, and Wiltshire and Norfolk thought he was, impossibly, 18. Northamptonshire and Dorset said 'age unknown' and Devon didn't mention Gilbert's age. Hertfordshire said 'aged 16 on 1 May last' and Glamorgan said 'aged 16 on the first Friday in May last', i.e. they thought Gilbert was born on 5 May 1291.

All of this gives us a date of birth for the young earl of Gloucester sometime between 23 April and 13 May 1291. We see that all the jurors on both his parents' IPMs, except Northamptonshire, Dorset and Devon who failed to come up with an age in 1307, had a not too inaccurate idea of how old Gilbert was. Perhaps they thought he was five in 1295 when he was actually only four, or thought he was seventeen in June 1307 when he was actually sixteen, but none of them thought he might be eight or thirteen or seventeen in 1295, or conversely, that he was only eight or eleven or fourteen in 1307. Quite a lot of them also had a pretty good idea of the time of year he was born, late April or early May. So, although we don't know the exact date of Gilbert de Clare's birth, we can narrow it down to a three-week period a year after his parents' wedding.

The date of Gilbert's death at the battle of Bannockburn is certain: 24 June 1314, when he was twenty-three years old. He was buried at his family's mausoleum of Tewkesbury Abbey in Gloucestershire. As he and his wife Maud de Burgh had no children, the heirs to his vast inheritance were his three younger sisters: Eleanor Despenser, born c. 14 October 1292; Margaret Gaveston, probably born sometime in the first half of 1294; and Elizabeth de Burgh, born 16 September 1295. At Gilbert's own IPM in July/August 1314, the jurors gamely had a stab at guessing his sisters' ages. Eleanor was actually twenty-one going on twenty-two at the time, and the estimates of her age varied between twenty and twenty-five; Margaret was probably twenty, and the estimates varied between eighteen and twenty-two; and Elizabeth was eighteen going on nineteen, and the estimates varied between sixteen and twenty. Some of the jurors copped out and just said that all three women were 'of full age' or 'aged sixteen and more', and a few counties weren't sure if they really were Gloucester's heirs, as his widow was thought to be pregnant. Again, although the estimated ages of the de Clare sisters vary, they weren't massively inaccurate, and all the jurors knew their correct birth order.

Sources: CIPM 1291-1300, no. 371; CIPM 1300-07, no. 435; CIPM 1307-17, no. 538.

06 February, 2019

Edward II and Sailors and Fishermen in 1325

Two of Edward II's chamber accounts from 1324 to 1326 still exist*, and reveal that on several occasions in 1325, the king spent time with groups of sailors, carpenters, and fishermen. On 2 March 1325, when Edward was at the Tower of London, he gave twenty-four shillings to six sailors for 'remaining in the king's company at his command' (demorantz en la compaignie le Roi p' son comandement) for the previous sixteen days. The sailors were named as Adam Cogger, Adam Furnival, John Osebern, John of Shordyche (i.e. Shoreditch), Hugh 'Huchon' Shene and John Baudekyn, and they are described as 'sailors of Sandwich' in Kent. Adam Cogger, captain of a ship called the Godyer, i.e. 'Goodyear' in modern English, is often mentioned in Edward II's accounts, and in June 1325 dined with Edward on four separate occasions.

[* The National Archives, E 101/380/4; Society of Antiquaries of London, MS 122]

Shortly after the six sailors spent sixteen days with him, Edward II gave all of them and two of their other crew-mates a set of clothes each at Burgundy, the cottage within the precincts of Westminster Abbey which he'd acquired c. 1320 and where he spent quite a lot of time in 1325. Some weeks earlier, the king had to pay a year's wages each to his squires Giles of Spain and Burgeys Tilh, as compensation because the two men burned themselves quite badly while performing some kind of act with fire for his entertainment at Burgundy. A 'valet' of the king's chamber called Litel Colle or 'Little Colin' was also said to be 'playing before the king' at Burgundy in February 1325 and received ten shillings for his performance, and it seems that at least some of the king's household staff were expected to be entertainers for the king. Litel Colle, in addition to working in the king's chamber and being a performer in his spare time, was the captain of a barge which had once belonged to Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke (d. June 1324) and passed to Edward II. Colle's mum was called Anneis, and she came to visit him at court in June 1325.

A fisherman of the Thames was called Nichol 'Colle' Herron. On 20 August 1325, he and three other fishermen called Will, John and Richard were said to be 'remaining in the king's company' for a week, and on 21 August, Colle Herron received twenty shillings from Edward to replace his goods which were burned by accident 'the last time he was with the king'. There are various entries in Edward's accounts of 1324/25 which reveal that sailors were present in the king's bedchamber on various occasions when he went to sleep. One of them was Richard Councedieu, who, like Adam Cogger, came from Sandwich in Kent but lived in the Tower ward of London as of 1319 or earlier, and another was William 'Willecok' Lucas, who came from Andover in Hampshire and lived in Portchester in the same county.

02 February, 2019

Queen Isabella and Edward II's Male 'Favourites'

One thing I noticed - yet again - while watching Danny Dyer's BBC1 programme Right Royal Family recently, and reading the responses to it on Twitter, is the way Roger Mortimer is always, always, always called Isabella of France's 'lover', while Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despenser are virtually never called Edward II's 'lovers' but his 'favourites' or 'companions' or 'friends'. There's really no more evidence that Roger and Isabella had a sexual relationship than there is for Edward, Piers and Hugh. Even Right Royal Family, where Dyer rather touchingly displayed his sympathy for Edward's sexuality and called Hugh Despenser the Younger the love of Edward's life, shied away from using the word 'lover' to describe Despenser and Gaveston, while happily using the word for Roger Mortimer. In the year 2019, are people still really so squeamish about the idea that some men have sex with other men?

Anyway, this is a post about Queen Isabella's possible attitude to her husband Edward II's male 'favourites', or lovers - as they most likely were, even though we can't conclusively prove it - Piers Gaveston, Roger Damory and Hugh Audley. (I'll come to Hugh Despenser the Younger later in the post.) It's often assumed that Isabella of France must necessarily have been hostile to these men, that she must have considered them, or at least Piers, to be her rivals for Edward's affections, that she must have been delighted when Piers was killed in 1312, and that if Edward II loved Piers Gaveston, as he so obviously did, that there must have been less room in his heart for Isabella and that she came a distant second.

Human relationships are complex, and tend not to lend themselves to simplistic assumptions. People's hearts are not cakes, whereby if Piers Gaveston had a large 'slice' of Edward's, that automatically means that Edward had less love left for Isabella. Some, or many, people are polyamorous and are perfectly capable of deeply loving more than one person at the same time, and I'm convinced that Edward loved Isabella, not in the same way that he loved Piers, to be sure, but nonetheless. I'm a member of various history groups on Facebook, including several about Edward II and Isabella's grandson John of Gaunt (1340-99) and Katherine Swynford, John's long-term lover and later his third wife. I find it rather astonishing to see how many people see John's relationships through a kind of lens of competitiveness, and feel the need to 'prove' somehow that John loved Katherine best of all. It's as though John's undoubted love for his first wife Blanche of Lancaster and his wish to be buried with her somehow detracts from his love for Katherine and makes it less 'special'. I wonder if Isabella of France's 'fans' feel the same way, that Edward II's love for various men means that he didn't love her alone and uniquely as she deserved to be loved, or something.

As I've pointed out before, there's really no reason to suppose that Isabella was particularly hostile to Piers Gaveston. A letter often quoted by modern writers that she supposedly sent to her father Philip IV complaining that Edward was 'an entire stranger to her bed' and that Gaveston was alienating her husband from her was invented many decades later by chronicler Thomas Walsingham. After Piers was exiled from England for the third time in late 1311, Isabella wrote to her receiver in the French county of Ponthieu (which Edward II gave to her in 1308) "concerning the affairs of the earl of Cornwall." Her naming Piers as earl of Cornwall, when the title had been stripped from him, demonstrates respect, and she may well have agreed to aid him financially during the exile. I can't imagine that Isabella was overwhelmingly thrilled after Gaveston's return to England in early 1312 that her husband the king skulked in the north with him while his furious barons plotted Gaveston's capture, but she was certainly there with them, and the story that Edward abandoned her weeping at Tynemouth in early May 1312 is certainly not true. Neither is the very silly tale that Edward gave all of Isabella's wedding gifts and jewels to Piers Gaveston, an invention of the nineteenth century. Isabella may have found Gaveston as irritating as a lot of other people did; she may have been hugely fond of him, and mourned for him and missed him when he was gone. We just don't know, and we can't automatically assume that she saw Piers as her rival in love.

Sir Roger Damory was high in Edward's favour between 1315 and 1319 or thereabouts, and Edward arranged Damory's wedding to his twice-widowed niece Elizabeth de Burgh in 1317. Was he Edward's lover? Who knows; quite possibly. Isabella certainly tolerated Damory, and at an uncertain date gave him splendid gifts for his chapel: a chasuble of red cloth of Tarsus "sprinkled with diverse flowers of Indian colour, together with alb and amesse, stole and maniple, and two frontals of the same sort." [CPR 1327-30, pp. 439-40] The queen's itinerary, where it is known, reveals that in the 1310s Isabella was in the same location as the king far, far more often than not, and on the rare occasions when the couple were apart, they exchanged letters (Isabella sent Edward no fewer than three letters when they were apart for four days in early March 1312, for example). Edward and Isabella conceived their second son John of Eltham and first daughter Eleanor of Woodstock in 1315 and 1317, while Edward was in some way involved with Roger Damory. Sir Hugh Audley was also high in Edward's favour at the same time as Damory, and was the only one of Edward's male lovers (assuming he was) who survived the reign. In 1327 during her period of power early in her son Edward III's reign, Isabella appointed Audley as an envoy to her brother Charles IV of France, and granted requests that he made of her, such as approving the second marriage of his widowed sister Alice Greystoke to Lord Neville. This all implies that if the queen knew or believed that Hugh Audley had been her husband's lover a decade previously, she didn't bear him a grudge for it, and she appears to have liked and trusted him.

On the other hand, there is no doubt whatsoever that Isabella absolutely loathed Hugh Despenser the Younger, her husband's chamberlain and last and most powerful lover (?). Given that she accepted Gaveston, Damory and Audley and did them favours on occasion, clearly she did not hate them or refuse to tolerate their presence anywhere near her, simply because all three men had very close and probably sexual relations with her husband. It is obvious, however, that Isabella feared and despised Despenser and claimed on several occasions that her life was in danger from him, and in c. late October 1325 she threatened to destroy him. The Vita Edwardi Secundi records an ultimatum she made to Edward while at her brother's court in Paris: either Edward must send Despenser away, or she would not return to him. Edward refused the ultimatum, and left Isabella with no choice but to stay in France and ally with the remnant of the Contrariant faction, who also wished nothing more than to destroy Hugh Despenser. On 24 November 1326, they did.

Edward II's relations with various men from the time of his marriage to Isabella in early 1308 until the beginning of the 1320s did not impede Isabella's access to her husband. She was in Edward's company almost all of the time for the first fourteen years or so of their marriage, and until 1322 often interceded with him on behalf of others, mediated for him with his barons, and even had the confidence to promote her own candidates to bishoprics in preference to Edward's choices. This all ended abruptly after Hugh Despenser's return to England in March 1322, whereupon Isabella disappears almost entirely from the chancery rolls. (She does appear in Edward's chamber and wardrobe accounts of the 1320s, and the couple did continue to spend much time together and to send each other letters when apart, and to exchange gifts on 1 January as they always had.) It was not Hugh Despenser's existence as her husband's lover that bothered Isabella, but that Hugh seems to have gone out of his way to limit her political influence and her role as an intercessor and even did his best to destroy her and Edward's marriage, something his previous male companions had not done.

It seems to me that, far from hating Edward II, Isabella accepted him the way he was for many years, and did her utmost to support him. I don't see any particular reason to believe that Isabella jumped into bed with Roger Mortimer in late 1325 or fell in love with him - it's certainly not impossible that they had an intimate relationship later, but I think in 1325/26 they simply needed each other to bring down Hugh Despenser - or that she ever hated Edward or wished him ill. I think Isabella loathed the hold Hugh Despenser had over her husband. I think Edward II was deeply in thrall to Despenser and that Edward's queen tried her utmost to break that hold. In doing so, and in destroying Hugh Despenser and his father, she brought her husband down as well, whether she had ever intended to do so or not.