30 April, 2019

The Despenser Brothers

A post about three of Edward II's great-nephews, Sir Edward Despenser, Sir Gilbert Despenser and Sir John Despenser, the younger sons of Hugh Despenser the Younger and Edward's niece Eleanor de Clare. Edward, Gilbert and John's elder brother was Hugh or 'Huchon', lord of Glamorgan, born in 1308 or early 1309, and heir to their mother.

Most of the dates of birth of Hugh Despenser the Younger's many children are not known for certain, though they can be narrowed down, and the birthdates of his two youngest daughters Margaret and Elizabeth appear in Edward II's accounts (c. 2 August 1323 and c. 2 or 14 December 1325). A fifth son, whose name may have been Philip but this is uncertain, appears in Edward's accounts around 13 January 1321 after his death, and he was either stillborn or died soon after birth. Hugh's third daughter Eleanor was raised with her mother's first cousins, Edward II's daughters Eleanor of Woodstock (b. June 1318) and Joan of the Tower (b. July 1321), and she is likely to have been rather younger than one and rather older than the other. Hugh's eldest daughter Isabella was born in 1312 or the beginning of 1313, and his second daughter Joan was probably about the same age or a little younger than her fiancé John FitzGerald, who was born in 1314 (and died in 1323).

Hugh the Younger's second son Edward - father of Edward the Younger (1336-75), his childless uncle Huchon's successor as lord of Glamorgan - first appears on record on 23 November 1315. He must have been born by September 1313, as he inherited lands from his grandmother Isabella Beauchamp's cousin Idonea Leyburne in September 1334 and had to be at least twenty-one then; there is no mention of his being underage and not yet able to enter his lands. I believe Edward may have been born shortly before 21 October 1310, when Edward II gave a messenger a large sum of money for bringing him news of his niece Eleanor. This would mean that he was conceived overseas, when his father defied Edward II's order and went jousting on the continent, and would mean that he had recently turned sixteen when his father and grandfather were executed in October and November 1326.

Edward married Anne Ferrers at her brother Henry, Lord Ferrers' manor of Groby in Leicestershire in April 1335, and their eldest son Edward the Younger was born eleven months later at Essendine in Rutland, a manor Edward inherited from Idonea. Their middle two sons were Hugh and Thomas, and Henry the youngest, born in 1341 or early 1342, became bishop of Norwich in 1370. Edward the Elder was killed at the battle of Morlaix in the duchy of Brittany at the end of September 1342; if I'm right about his date of birth, he was not quite thirty-two when he died. Of his four sons, only Edward the eldest had descendants; the two grandchildren of his second son Hugh died young and childless, his third son Thomas never married, and his fourth son Henry was a bishop. (It's possible, of course, that Thomas and even Henry had illegitimate children, but I'm not aware of any.) Edward the Younger, however, made up for his brothers by having simply zillions of descendants via his daughters Anne, Elizabeth and Margaret and his son and heir Thomas.

Gilbert Despenser was Hugh the Younger and Eleanor's third son. He first appears on record in July 1322, when Edward II granted some manors confiscated by the Contrariants to Eleanor which the king intended to pass ultimately to Gilbert, but I'm sure he was already a few years old then, and may have been born around 1316/17. He was named after his Clare grandfather and uncle, earls of Gloucester, and the king talked of his 'affection' for the boy when making the grant of lands to him in July 1322. Gilbert was perhaps nine or ten when his father was executed, and was knighted sometime after October 1338 and before December 1344. He took part, with his eldest brother Huchon and younger brother John, in his cousin Edward III's Crécy campaign of 1346. Gilbert married a Norfolk woman named Ela Calveley and they had a son, John Despenser, born in May 1361, who died aged fourteen in August 1375. Gilbert served Edward III, Queen Philippa and Richard II as a household knight for many years, and died in April 1382, aged well over sixty. He was outlived by only two of his many siblings: Joan, nun of Shaftesbury, who died in November 1384, and Elizabeth, dowager Lady Berkeley, who died in July 1389. In his inquisition post mortem, his heir was returned as his brother Edward's grandson Thomas Despenser (1373-1400), later lord of Glamorgan and earl of Gloucester.

John Despenser was Hugh's fourth and youngest surviving son, and first appears on record in November 1324 when his great-uncle Edward II bought a saddle for him; he's called Johan le Despens' fuitz mons' Hugh le Despens' le fuiz, 'John Despenser son of Sir Hugh Despenser the son', in the king's accounts. I can imagine that boys of the noble and knightly class in the fourteenth century learnt to ride when they were pretty darn young, so John wasn't necessarily very old in November 1324, but he wasn't a newborn infant either. The fact that John was old enough to ride in late 1324 is a big reason why his elder brother Gilbert can't recently have been born when he first appears on record in July 1322, unless they were twins. Or perhaps John was the twin of the little Despenser boy who died young at the beginning of 1321. John Despenser is oddly obscure and I can't even find out if he was married and had children, and there's no inquisition post mortem for him, so apparently he didn't hold land of the king in chief. He had already been knighted by the summer of 1346 when he took part in the French campaign of that year, with his brothers Huchon and Gilbert (their other brother Edward was already dead). Other than that, and a reference to Huchon giving John some land and Edward III giving him an annuity from the Exchequer, there's not much on record about John Despenser. One chronicler says he was murdered around 11 June 1366 in London, and indeed there is a reference in the chancery rolls on 10 June 1366 that makes it apparent that John had recently died. The motive for the murder remains unknown.

23 April, 2019

Mortimer History Society Conference; New Books

If you're anywhere in the vicinity of Leominster, Herefordshire this May, the conference of the Mortimer History Society is taking place there on Saturday 18 May. See here for details, and screenshots below. Lots of great papers to look forward to, and I'm giving one about Hugh Despenser the Younger.

My next book is out at the end of July this year, and is called Following in the Footsteps of Edward II: A Historical Guide to the Medieval King. It's a travel guide to locations in the UK associated with Edward, including Caernarfon Castle, Berkeley Castle, and the battlefield of Bannockburn.

And on 15 October, the first biography of Philippa of Hainault for over a century is coming!

17 April, 2019

Edward II's Negotiations for his Half-Brothers' Marriages

I can't remember now where I read it, but I vaguely recall a writer making a claim that Edward II failed to do his duty by his two much younger half-brothers, Thomas of Brotherton, earl of Norfolk (b. 1 June 1300) and Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent (b. 5 August 1301), by not arranging suitable marriages for them. This is not true; Edward did attempt to arrange marriages for both Thomas and Edmund. Here's a post.

In August 1320, Edward II discussed a possible marriage for Thomas of Brotherton, then aged nineteen, with King Jaime II of Aragon in Spain (b. 1267, r. 1291-1327): they agreed that Thomas would marry Jaime's daughter Maria (b. 1299). Maria was Jaime's daughter from his second marriage to Blanche of Anjou-Naples - his first marriage to Isabel of Castile, later duchess of Brittany, was annulled before consummation - and was the widow of Don Pedro of Castile, a younger son of King Sancho IV, killed at the battle of Vega de Granada in June 1319. Edward II told his kinsman Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, on 16 August 1320 that Thomas of Brotherton would come to him at Langley to discuss his marriage, but ultimately the planned match with Aragon did not work out as Jaime II reported to Edward in August 1321 that Maria had decided to become a nun and he did not think he would be able to change her mind. [1

Marriage to Maria of Aragon would have been an excellent match for Thomas of Brotherton. On her father's side, she came from a long line of kings of Aragon and counts of Barcelona, and via her mother Blanche of Anjou-Naples (d. 1310) was the granddaughter of Charles 'the Lame', king of Naples and Albania, and the niece of the queens of Sicily and Majorca, the titular king of Hungary, and the despot of Romania and titular emperor of Constantinople. Maria was a great-great-granddaughter of Louis VIII of France and of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, a great-granddaughter of King Istvan V of Hungary, and a great-granddaughter of King Manfred of Sicily. Her brother Alfonso succeeded their father as king of Aragon, her sister Isabella was queen of Germany, her niece Eleanor was queen of Cyprus, and her first cousin Clemence of Hungary was the queen of Louis X of France. Another first cousin, the son of Queen Blanche's eldest sister Marguerite, became King Philip VI of France in 1328. It was probably soon after the news of Maria's decision to take the veil reached England in August 1321 that Thomas of Brotherton, deprived of his royal and extraordinarily well-connected Spanish bride, decided to marry Alice Hales, daughter of the late coroner of Norfolk. Whatever her personal qualities may have been, Alice was a decidedly odd choice of wife for a man who was son and brother of kings of England, nephew and grandson of kings of France. English negotiations with the kingdom of Aragon continued, as Edward II was keen to secure Violante, another of Jaime II's daughters, as a bride for his son and heir Edward of Windsor, though in the end, this failed as well.

On c. 23 January 1324, Ralph, Lord Basset of Drayton, sensechal of Gascony, sent a long letter to Edward II. Edward had ordered Basset to negotiate a possible marriage for Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent, then twenty-two, but Basset informed him that progress on the matter had stalled. Edmund's prospective bride was Régine de Got or Goth, born sometime in the early 1300s as the daughter and heir of Bertrand de Got, viscount of Lomagne and Auvillar, and a great-niece of Pope Clement V (d. 1314, real name also Bertrand de Got). Basset wrote "I had begun discussions and negotiations with the viscount of Lomagne to have had the marriage of his daughter and my lord your brother the earl of Kent". Unfortunately, Basset's negotiations proved unsuccessful, and he told Edward II that he had heard Régine was shortly to marry the count of Armagnac instead (a ceo qe jeo ay entendu ele serra mariee au counte de Armeniak en moult bref temps). John Travers, constable of Bordeaux, told Edward II on 1 September 1325 that "the countess of Armagnac, who was the daughter of the viscount of Lomagne, is dead without an heir of her body", and on the 23rd Edward wrote to inform his half-brother the earl of Kent, the spurned bridegroom and the king's lieutenant in Gascony. [2] 

Régine de Got did not have the high royal birth and illustrious connections of Maria of Aragon, but was a considerable heiress who would have brought Edmund of Woodstock lands in Gascony: territory in the Bordelais, Agenais and Gers, the vicomtés of Lomagne and Auvillars, the lordships of Veyrines, Blanquefort, Dunes and Donzac, and the castellanries of Duras, Puyguilhem, Alemans and Montségur. She also inherited the Italian marquisate of Ancona, which her father acquired in 1313. [3] As Edmund was Edward II's lieutenant of Gascony in 1324/25 and spent his career there until he returned to England with the queen's invasion force in 1326, finding him a bride who would bring him territory and influence in Gascony made good sense. Malcolm Vale points out that Régine de Got held '[l]ordships in the heart of Plantagenet Aquitaine'. 

As it was, Edmund of Woodstock married Thomas, Lord Wake's widowed sister Margaret Comyn in late 1325. She was not an heiress, though ultimately it turned out that her brother (b. 1298) had no children from his marriage to Blanche of Lancaster, and his heir was Edmund and Margaret's son John, earl of Kent, and later their daughter Joan after John's death in December 1352. Margaret (Wake) Comyn was of higher birth and rank than Alice Hales, though still of much lower rank than one might expect for the wife of a royal earl. Presumably, both Thomas of Brotherton and Edmund of Woodstock married for love. They both wed women who by rank were far beneath them and did not bring them lands, wealth or powerful in-laws, but that was their own doing, and Edward II had tried to arrange excellent matches for both of them.


1) Pierre Chaplais, English Medieval Diplomatic Practice (1982), part 1, vol. 1, pp. 64-66; SC 1/49/49.
2) Pierre Chaplais, ed., The War of Saint-Sardos (1323-1325): Gascon Correspondence and Diplomatic Documents (1954), pp. 15-17, 240; Foedera 1307-1327, p. 609.
3) Malcolm Vale, The Origins of the Hundred Years War: The Angevin Legacy 1250-1340 (1990), p. 94.

12 April, 2019

The Life and Tragic Death of Alice of Norfolk

A horribly distressing event took place in 1351: a brutal assault on Alice of Norfolk, a niece of Edward II, by her husband Edward Montacute and two of his retainers, which resulted in Alice's death. This was difficult for me to research and write, but Alice and her tragic fate should be remembered, so here's a post about her.

Alice was the younger daughter and co-heir of Edward II's half-brother Thomas of Brotherton (1300-38), earl of Norfolk and earl marshal of England, and his first, rather obscure wife Alice Hales (d. 1330 or before), daughter of the coroner of Norfolk. She was probably born c. 1323/24, as she seems to have been at least fourteen when her father died in the summer of 1338; see below. Alice's older sister Margaret, made duchess of Norfolk in her own right in 1397, was born c. 1322, and they had a brother, Edward of Norfolk, who married Roger Mortimer and Joan Genville's daughter Beatrice in 1329 but died as a child in or before 1334. Alice of Norfolk was a granddaughter of Edward I and his second queen, Marguerite of France, and therefore was a great-granddaughter of Philip III, king of France.

In early 1333, Alice of Norfolk was betrothed to William Montacute or Montagu (b. June 1328, d. June 1397), son and heir of William Montacute (1301-44), earl of Salisbury, though ultimately William married her first cousin Joan of Kent, daughter of Thomas of Brotherton's younger brother Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent. [CPR 1330-4, p. 402; SC 8/278/13885] The younger William was four and a half years old when his father and his putative father-in-law Thomas of Brotherton discussed his future marriage in early 1333, and Alice was some years older. Alice ended up marrying Edward Montacute, uncle of her fiancé of 1333 and the brother of William (b. 1301), earl of Salisbury. Their marriage would end in tragedy.

Edward Montacute was the fourth and youngest son of Sir William Montacute, seneschal of Gascony, who died in 1319, and Elizabeth de Montfort (d. 1354), and had six or seven sisters. The eldest Montacute brother John (d. 1317) was born in 1299, the second, William, earl of Salisbury, in 1301, and the third, Simon, bishop of Ely, probably in 1304 (in November 1318, it was said that he had not yet completed his fifteenth year). Edward Montacute was probably named in honour of either Edward I or Edward II, depending whether he was born before or after 1307, and one of the two kings may have been his godfather. His date of birth is not known, though there is a reference in one of Edward II's accounts to a boat he owned in Gascony in 1318/19 called La Peronelle, and he was old enough in September 1321 that his stepfather Sir Thomas Furnival acknowledged that he owed him £300 (and owed another £300 each to two of Edward's sisters, Hawise and Elizabeth). An entry on the Patent Roll of March 1337 implies that Edward Montacute had then only recently been knighted, which seems rather late. [CCR 1318-23, p. 496; CPR 1334-8, p. 401] He was certainly a good few years older than his wife Alice, most probably at least fifteen years older.

Alice of Norfolk and Edward Montacute were married by 25 August 1338 ("Tuesday before the Decollation of St John the Baptist") when "Margaret the wife of John de Segrave and Alice the wife of Edward de Monte Acuto" were named as the heirs of their recently-deceased father Thomas, earl of Norfolk. [CIPM 1336-46, nos. 195-6] Margaret was then seven months pregnant with her daughter Elizabeth Segrave - mother of Thomas Mowbray (1367-99), first duke of Norfolk - and was probably about sixteen. There's no proof of age for Alice, implying that she was at least fourteen when her father died and thus was of age, as she was already married (married women came of age at fourteen). Alice and Edward Montacute had one son, also called Edward, and four daughters, Audrey or Etheldreda, Elizabeth, Maud and Joan. Audrey was the eldest of the four Montacute daughters, and she and her brother Edward had been born by 13 March 1342, when their parents and their uncle the earl of Salisbury negotiated their future marriages to Lord Mowbray's son and heir John and to Lord Mowbray's daughter Blanche, future Lady Poynings. [BCM/D/1/1/9 and 11] Neither marriage took place, and the young John Mowbray (b. June 1340) married the Montacute siblings' first cousin Elizabeth Segrave (b. October 1338) in or before 1349 (their children weren't born until the 1360s).

It is probably very revealing that not one of the four Montacute daughters was named after Alice of Norfolk herself or her mother Alice Hales, or after her paternal grandmother Queen Marguerite and her sister Margaret. Three of Alice's children, including her only son, died in their teens or earlier, her third daughter Maud became abbess of Barking, and her fourth daughter Joan was the only one who had children. Joan Montacute (b. 1349) married William Ufford, earl of Suffolk (1338-82), but none of their five children had any children, and so Alice of Norfolk's line came to an end. When Alice's son-in-law William Ufford died in 1382, all his and Joan's children, and Joan herself, were already dead and he had no grandchildren. This left Alice's elder sister Margaret (c. 1322-99) and her Segrave/Mowbray descendants as the sole Norfolk heirs. William Ufford held a share of the Norfolk inheritance by the 'courtesy of England' after Joan Montacute's death, and Margaret of Norfolk was named as her niece Joan's heir after Ufford's death.

Alice of Norfolk gave birth to the last of her five children in February 1349, when she was probably twenty-four or twenty-five. Two years and some months later, something terrible happened. The Complete Peerage cites, in the original French, an indictment against her husband Edward Montacute [Complete Peerage, vol. 9, p. 85 note c, citing 'Ancient Indictments', file 114, mem. 3; my translation]:

"Item, that the said Sir Edward, William Dunch, and Thomas, parson of the church of Kelsale, with force and arms feloniously beat [baterount] Alice, daughter of Thomas of Brotherton, cousin of our lord the king, and wife of the said Sir Edward, at Bungay, that is, on the Sunday next after the feast of Saint Botolf in the twenty-fifth year of the reign of the present king, of which assault [baterye] the said Alice fell ill unto death and she died within the year and the day."

Bungay and Kelsale are both in Suffolk. Saint Botolf or Botolph or Botwulf of Thorney was an Anglo-Saxon saint, and his feast day was celebrated on 17 June. This would seem to give a date of 19 June 1351 for the attack on Alice; Edward III's twenty-fifth regnal year ran from 25 January 1351 to 24 January 1352, and 17 June fell on a Friday in 1351, so the next Sunday was the 19th. 

The naming of the parson of Kelsale church in Suffolk as 'Thomas' may be an error; on 5 May 1351, the parson of Kelsale was named as William Botevileyn. [CCR 1349-54, p. 361] Unless, perhaps, William Botevileyn died soon afterwards and the 'Thomas' who took part in the assault on Alice, last name not given, was his successor. Interestingly, a 'Thomas son and heir of William Boteveleyn' is referenced in June 1354, holding part of the Suffolk manor of Newton. [CCR 1354-60, 81] This William Boteveleyn can't be the parson of Kelsale, but surely belongs to the same family. I haven't been able to find William Dunch on record, except that Edward III pardoned him for the assault on Alice; see below.

On 16 November 1351, Alice was called "late the wife of" Edward Montacute on the Patent Roll, and "the two daughters and heirs of Alice", not named, were sent to live in the custody of their paternal grandmother Elizabeth née de Montfort (d. 1354, the long-lived widow of Sir William Montacute, d. 1319, and also widow of her second husband, Thomas Furnival; Elizabeth outlived her son the earl of Salisbury and even her grandson-in-law Hugh 'Huchon' Despenser, lord of Glamorgan). [CPR 1350-4, p. 181] In 1359, Alice's daughters Elizabeth, Maud and Joan were still alive and were then said to be fifteen, thirteen and eleven years old respectively. Joan Montacute, future countess of Suffolk and the wife of William Ufford, was born in Bungay on Monday 2 February 1349 (so in fact was only ten in 1359). She was the youngest of Alice's five children, and was only two years old when her father killed her mother. [CIPM 1352-60, no. 564; CIPM 1361-5, no. 545] Elizabeth the second eldest Montacute daughter was perhaps already married to her husband Walter Ufford when her mother was attacked in 1351, and the two daughters of Alice to be sent to their grandmother were probably the younger two, Maud and Joan, aged four and two. Alice's other children Edward and Audrey (or Etheldreda) Montacute - whose future marriages to the Mowbray siblings had been arranged in 1342 - were alive in June 1349 when they were given permission to choose their own confessors, but dead by 1359. [Papal Letters 1342-62, p. 327]

So from this evidence, it appears that Alice of Norfolk was dead by 16 November 1351, five months after the brutal assault on her, and this is confirmed by an entry on the Fine Roll dated 14 November 1351 which ordered Alice's lands to be taken into the king's hands because she was dead. This order, however, was cancelled and a memorandum was added underneath to the effect that "it is testified that Alice is alive." The order to take her lands into the king's hands was repeated on 30 January 1352, and was not cancelled on this occasion, so apparently poor Alice truly was dead by then. A royal order to the sheriff of Norfolk dated 15 January 1352 to pay some money owing to Alice's stepmother Mary, Thomas of Brotherton's widow, refers to the 'assent' to the payment of Alice's sister Margaret and of Alice herself, and their husbands John Segrave and Edward Montacute. [CFR 1347-56, pp. 288, 345; CCR 1349-54, p. 459] It is most unlikely that Alice, probably in a coma or unconscious, was in any position to give assent to anything, but the order does not refer to her as being dead. She did not have much longer to live, however: her lands were taken into the king's hands on 30 January, and on 10 February the escheator in Norfolk and Suffolk was ordered "not to intermeddle with the lands" which Edward Montacute "holds by reason of the death of Alice his wife." Montacute had already performed homage for the lands to Edward III by then. [CCR 1349-54, pp. 411-12; CCR 1354-60, p. 222] An entry on the Patent Roll of 15 February 1352 refers to "Alice wife of Edward de Monte Acuto, deceased." [CPR 1350-4, p. 230]

It would seem, therefore, that the astonishingly violent attack on Alice by her husband, William Dunch and Thomas of Kelsale - who, lest we forget, was a parson and a man of religion - took place on or around 19 June 1351, and that Alice lingered for a few months afterwards. On 14 and 16 November 1351, royal clerks heard that she was dead, which she seemingly was not, and she did not die until a couple of months later. Had she perhaps lapsed into a coma that November? And her husband and attendants wrongly believed her to be dead and informed the authorities, then later realised their error? The wording of the indictment against the three men talks about force et armes, i.e., Montacute and the other two thugs didn't merely beat Alice with their fists, they launched a full-out assault on her with weapons. Alice of Norfolk, from the evidence above, would seem to have passed away sometime between 15 and 30 January 1352, about seven months after this brutal assault.

The reasons for Montacute's assault on his wife are unknown. One would assume that he was furiously angry for some reason. Michael Packe's biography of Edward III published a few decades ago suggests that Alice of Norfolk had an affair with her cousin the king and that her husband beat her to death when she confessed it to him. This is simply a garbled and, in my view, misguided attempt to explain chronicler Jean le Bel's claim that Edward III raped the countess of Salisbury, whom le Bel wrongly calls Alice (her name was Katherine, née Grandisson, the wife of William Montacute, 1301-44). There is no evidence whatsoever that Alice cheated on her husband with Edward III or indeed with anyone else, and to me, this is a deeply unpleasant piece of victim-blaming which maligns the reputation of a woman who suffered a terrible death. Whether intended or not, it comes across to me as "Well, she asked for it." The timing is also massively wrong: the supposed rape of the countess of Salisbury (and I don't believe Edward III actually did rape her) is meant to have taken place early in the 1340s, whereas the attack on Alice took place ten years later. Given the regular pattern of Alice's childbearing throughout the 1340s and that she was still only about twenty-seven in 1351, perhaps she was pregnant again or had recently given birth at the time of the attack, though if so, there was no surviving child. Was Montacute angry that Alice gave birth to a fifth daughter in 1351, when he had hoped for a second son to secure his line? Had their only son Edward perhaps already died before 1351? I can only speculate. It goes without saying, or at least it should, that full responsibility for the assault lies with Montacute and we should not try to find ways of blaming Alice for bringing it upon herself.

Edward Montacute married again at an uncertain date in or before 1358, to a woman called Joan, whose parentage is unknown. Imagine having to marry a man who'd beaten his first wife to death; how horrible. Montacute and Joan had a son in 1361, inevitably also called Edward, Montacute's second son named after himself, and a daughter in c. 1359, called Audrey or Etheldreda, Montacute's second daughter of this name. Edward Montacute, the wife-killer, died on 14 July 1361. I can't help hoping that his death was a slow and unpleasant one. Fortunately for her, his second wife Joan outlived him. Montacute's and Joan's son Edward was his only surviving son and was duly named as his heir, and was only seven weeks old in late July 1361. The little boy died less than three months after his father, on 4 October 1361. Two-year-old Audrey Montacute was named as her brother's heir in his IPM, though her twelve-year-old half-sister Joan Ufford née Montacute, future countess of Suffolk, was heir to her mother Alice's lands which Edward Montacute had held by the 'courtesy of England'. Montacute's two children from his second marriage were not Alice of Norfolk's children, so had no claim to the Norfolk inheritance. [CIPM 1361-5, nos. 140-41] Alice's second daughter Elizabeth, married to Walter Ufford, died around 29 September (Michaelmas) 1361 aged about seventeen, and left no children. [CIPM 1361-5, no. 516] Alice's third daughter Maud "has taken the habit of religion" at Barking Abbey in Essex, and thus Alice's youngest child Joan Ufford was her sole heir. [CCR 1360-4, p. 444; CIPM 1361-5, no. 516] On 14 February 1363, even though she had only turned fourteen years old twelve days before, Joan Ufford née Montacute was said to be pregnant by her almost twenty-five-year-old husband. *sigh* [CCR 1360-4, p. 455] Given that her father beat her mother to death and that her younger sister became pregnant when she was still only thirteen, it's hard to blame Maud Montacute for not wanting to have anything to do with men and marriage, and she entered Barking Abbey in or before 1362. Her mother's cousin Edward III confirmed her election as abbess of Barking on 20 April 1377, two months before he died, and she held the position until her death shortly before 5 October 1393; she followed two of her aunts, her father's sisters Maud and Isabella Montacute, in the role. [CIPM 1361-5, no. 516; CPR 1374-7, pp. 449-50; CPR 1391-6, p. 317]

Despite the indictment cited in the Complete Peerage and translated above, I am unaware of any punishment being meted out to Alice of Norfolk's husband and the other thugs who assaulted her with their fists and with weapons, and killed her. One of Alice's murderers, William Dunch(e) of Bungay in Suffolk, was pardoned by her cousin Edward III on 4 June 1361 "for the death of Alice daughter of Thomas of Brotherton late wife of Edward de Montagu" because of his "good service done in the war of France." [CPR 1361-4, p. 26] So that's nice then. He's a competent soldier so let's just forget that he beat a woman, the king's own cousin, to death. On 15 February 1352, probably just a few weeks after poor Alice finally - and perhaps mercifully - slipped away seven months or so after the vicious attack on her, Edward III granted her widower and killer Montacute the marriage rights of his and Alice's daughters, "as a special grace", as normally such rights belonged to the king. [CPR 1350-4, p. 230] And as noted above, before 10 February 1352 Montacute did homage to the king for his late wife's lands and was allowed to keep all of them. Alice of Norfolk was a first cousin of Edward III, but he willingly did the man who beat her to death a great favour out of his 'special grace'. So there we go. 

Even a woman who was a granddaughter, niece and first cousin of kings could be murdered with impunity by her husband. I'm no expert on medieval law, but I imagine it would have been well nigh impossible to charge a man with the murder of his wife, given that she was basically his property. There are times when I really hate the fourteenth century.

08 April, 2019

Edward II Dug Ditches

Various chroniclers state that Edward II dug ditches, thatched roofs, worked with metal, and so on. His last chamber account of May 1325 to 31 October 1326 is particularly illuminating for proving the truth of the chroniclers' statements. Here's an image which reveals that in August 1326, the king of England himself was getting down and dirty in a trench at Clarendon Palace in Wiltshire, working alongside Elis 'Eliot' Peck, one of the king's wheelwrights, and another man called Gibbe. Edward spent much of August 1326 at Clarendon (near Salisbury) and had hedges and fences made around it.

Edward II didn't only enjoy performing manual labour, he loved watching others perform it too, and was present when some of his household servants chopped the wood to make the hedges at Clarendon. On 13 September 1326, the king watched two blacksmiths hard at work in their forge in Portchester, and a few weeks earlier, had watched a group of twenty-eight ditchers cleaning the ditches around Burgundy, his cottage near Westminster Abbey. Edward bought drinks for all the men. The summer of 1326 was an especially hot and dry one, and evidently the king was enjoying being outside. He had an alfresco picnic with his niece Eleanor (de Clare) Despenser in Windsor park on 11 July, for example, and his itinerary reveals that he sailed up and down the Thames somewhat aimlessly that month, presumably enjoying the breeze on the river. He also swam in the river on at least one occasion.

05 April, 2019

The Children of John, Lord Hastings (1262-1313)

John, Lord Hastings was born on 6 May 1262 ("aged six on the day of Saint John ante Porte Latinam, 52 Henry III") as the son and heir of Henry Hastings (d. 1268), and via his mother Joan Cantilupe was also the co-heir of his uncle George Cantilupe (d. 1273). He was a descendant of William Marshal, earl of Pembroke (d. 1219) and of David I, king of Scotland, which gave John a reasonable claim to the Scottish throne in the early 1290s. He married twice, and both his wives were also descended from William Marshal: Isabel de Valence (1260s-1305), one of the three daughters of Henry III's half-brother William de Valence and the sister of Aymer de Valence, both earls of Pembroke; and Isabella de Clare née Despenser (c. 1290/92-1334), second daughter of Hugh Despenser the Elder and sister of Hugh the Younger, a granddaughter of William Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, and the young widow of Gilbert de Clare, lord of Thomond (1281-1307), with whom she had no children.

John Hastings' second wife was younger than his children from his first marriage, and as both his wives were called Isabel(la), this has caused endless confusion among some modern writers. To be fair, even John's own descendants later in the fourteenth century were also confused, and his and Isabella Despenser's then sixty-two-year-old granddaughter Maud de la Mare née Hastings (born c. 1335) was asked to give testimony in 1397 on the issue of which Hastings relatives were descended from which wife. And to make the matter even more confusing, Maud wasn't entirely correct on a couple of points.

John, Lord Hastings died shortly before 28 February 1313 when the writ for his inquisition post mortem was issued. His widow Isabella née Despenser married thirdly, in 1318, Ralph Monthermer (b. c. 1262), the widower of Edward II's sister Joan of Acre (1272-1307) and formerly earl of Gloucester. The couple had no children, though Ralph had four from his first marriage. Isabella was widowed for the third time in April 1325 and died in December 1334, having survived the catastrophic downfall of her father and brother the two Hugh Despensers in 1326.

From his first marriage to Isabel de Valence (d. 1305), John Hastings had the following children:

William Hastings, born 4 October 1282*, died before 1 March 1311

William Hastings was born when his father was twenty, and was the Hastings heir until he died in his late twenties in early 1311, two years before his father. He may have died in Gascony, where his father was serving as Edward II's seneschal. In or after September 1297, William married Eleanor Martin, one of the three children of William, Lord Martin, but they had no children. Eleanor married secondly Philip Columbiers and had no children with him either. Her younger sister Joan (d. 1322) was briefly countess of Lincoln from her first marriage to the decades-older Henry de Lacy (c. 1250-1311) and had a son and a daughter from her second marriage to Sir Nicholas Audley (b. 1292). There were also two Martin brothers; see below. As for William Hastings himself, he's pretty obscure, as medieval noblemen who died in the lifetime of their fathers usually are.

*According to the Complete Peerage.

John Hastings, born 29 September 1286, died 20 January 1325

The second son and the Hastings heir after his brother William's death; his exact age is given in his father's IPM of 1313. At an unknown date John the younger married the Kent heiress Juliana Leyburne (b. 1303/4); the union was arranged by his maternal uncle Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, who was granted the rights to Juliana's marriage after her grandfather William, Lord Leyburne died in 1310. John Hastings and Juliana were the parents of Laurence Hastings, earl of Pembroke (1321-1348), himself the father of John Hastings, earl of Pembroke (1347-75) and grandfather of John Hastings (b. 1372). John Hastings (b. 1286) and Juliana Leyburne's line ran out with the death of their great-grandson John Hastings (b. 1372) while he was jousting at Christmas 1389, aged seventeen; he was married to Philippa Mortimer, sister of the earl of March, but she was still only fourteen, so they had no children.

John Hastings born in 1286 and his cousins Joan Strathbogie née Comyn, countess of Atholl, and Elizabeth Comyn, later Lady Talbot, were named as the heirs of their childless maternal uncle Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, when Aymer died in June 1324. John died in his late thirties in January 1325, before his son Laurence was even four years old. His widow Juliana became countess of Huntingdon in 1337 by her third marriage to William Clinton, and was the older half-sister of Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (1314-69). 

Jonetta Hastings, died 1307

Jonetta, daughter of John, Lord Hastings and Isabel de Valence, is mentioned on the Patent Roll on 3 November 1297. [Patent Rolls 1292-1301, p. 314] Her name must have been Joan, or Johane in contemporary spelling, and Jonete or Jonetta was her nickname. On 30 September 1397, so this entry states, her marriage had been arranged to Edmund, son and heir of William, Lord Martin. Edmund Martin's sister Eleanor was to marry Jonetta's brother William Hastings, and, as noted above, did. Edmund Martin was specifically said to be the eldest son of Lord Martin, and Jonetta Hastings was specifically said to the be the eldest daughter of Lord Hastings. Edmund, however, must have died fairly young, as their marriage seems never to have taken place, and Lord Martin's ultimate heir was his younger son William Martin (b. c. 1294). Jonetta Hastings may have been born c. 1284, between her brother William Hastings born in 1282 and her brother John Hastings born in 1286, or she might have been born after John. She ultimately married Sir William Huntingfield, had children, and died in 1307.

Elizabeth Grey née Hastings

Elizabeth was, to my knowledge, the only daughter of John Hastings and Isabel de Valence who lived into adulthood and had children. I cannot find her approximate date of birth or even her date of death; she was probably born in the 1290s, perhaps in 1297 when Isabel seems to have given birth. She married Roger Grey, lord of Ruthin, who died in 1353, and they founded a dynasty which endured for centuries. Their elder son John Grey died in his father's lifetime and so the Ruthin heir when Roger died was their younger son Reginald or Reynald, who was born in about 1319 and died in 1388. Elizabeth's grandson Reginald Grey the younger (1362-1440) was returned as the heir of his cousin John Hastings of Pembroke (1372-89, see above), but had a long-running feud with Sir Hugh Hastings, descendant of the other branch of the Hastings family (see below) over the right to bear the Hastings arms.


From his second marriage to Isabella Despenser, who was born c. the early 1290s and was close to three decades his junior, John, Lord Hastings (1262-1313) had the following children:

Hugh Hastings (d. 21 July 1347)

Born in 1310 or early 1311; he was said to be twenty-four years old in his mother's inquisition post mortem of February 1335. Hugh Hastings was named after his mother's father Hugh Despenser the Elder, made earl of Winchester in 1322. He was twenty-four years younger than his half-brother, the younger John, Lord Hastings (1286-1325), who was their father's heir. Hugh cannot have been more than three years old when his father died.

In June 1325, Edward II sold the marriage rights of two young sisters, heiresses called Margery and Margaret Foliot, to Isabella Hastings née Despenser and her brother-in-law Ralph Camoys (whose second wife was Hugh Despenser the Elder's youngest child Elizabeth) for £200 each. The Foliot sisters were about eleven and twelve years old in 1325. Margery the elder Foliot sister married Hugh Hastings, probably in 1325, brought him lands in Norfolk, and with him, founded a cadet branch of the Hastings family known as the Hastings of Elsing and Gressenhall. Hugh Hastings and Margery née Foliot had a daughter, Maud de la Mare (b. c. 1335), and their first son John Hastings was born around 1329 or 1331* and lived until 1393, though he had no children. Their second son Hugh (c. early or mid-1330s-1369) had a son Hugh born in or just before February 1354, who married back into the Despenser family in 1376 when he wed his third cousin Anne Despenser**, and died in Spain in 1386. The heir of Hugh Hastings III and Anne Despenser was their second son Edward Hastings (1382-1438), after Edward's elder brother died as a teenager in 1396, and Edward was also heir to his childless uncle John Hastings (1329/31-1393).

Edward Hastings had a long and bitter feud with his cousin Reginald Grey of Ruthin (d. 1440) over the right to bear the Hastings arms: Grey of Ruthin as the grandson of Elizabeth, sister of John Hastings (1286-1325), i.e. of the full blood but in the female line; and Edward Hastings as the great-grandson of John Hastings' half-brother Hugh (1310/11-1347), of the half blood but in the male line.

* He was said to be either sixteen, seventeen or eighteen at Hugh's IPM in July/August 1347.

** Born c. early 1360s as the eldest daughter of Edward Despenser (1336-75), lord of Glamorgan, grandson of Hugh Despenser the Younger, and Elizabeth Burghersh (c. 1342-1409). Edward Hastings (1383-1438) was named after his Despenser grandfather.

Thomas Hastings (d. January 1333)

Thomas is very obscure. His brother Hugh's marriage to an heiress was arranged in 1325, but no marriage was ever arranged for Thomas, and he didn't join the Church either. Thomas Hastings died on 11 January 1333 in his mother's lifetime, according to Isabella née Despenser's inquisition post mortem of February 1335. Decades later in 1397, Thomas's niece Maud de la Mare née Hastings, his brother Hugh's daughter, claimed that Thomas died soon after his baptism. [Close Rolls 1396-9, pp. 83-4] She also, however, claimed that Isabella Hastings née Despenser gave birth to only two children, Hugh and Thomas, evidently forgetting about her childless aunt Margaret Wateville née Hastings (see below). Maud stated that Isabella née Despenser was unable to bear more children after giving birth to Thomas Hastings, because her womb was "torn inside." If this is true, this would indicate that Hugh Hastings was older than his brother Thomas and probably that their sister Margaret was as well. An entry on the Patent Roll indicates that Thomas Hastings was still alive in July 1332, so his niece Maud de la Mare was wrong to state that he died soon after his baptism. He cannot have been born later than 1313, the year his father died, so certainly died as an adult.

Margaret Wateville née Hastings (d. 1359)

I wrote recently about Margaret Hastings and her two marriages to William, Lord Martin (c. 1294-1326), and to Sir Robert Wateville (d. 1330). She was perhaps older than her brother Thomas, as her niece Maud de la Mare stated in 1397 that Thomas Hastings was Isabella née Despenser's youngest child and that Isabella was unable to bear more children after giving birth to him. Then again, Maud de la Mare forgot about her aunt Margaret's existence, perhaps because Margaret had no children. Margaret's first husband William Martin (b. c. 1294) was the brother of Eleanor Martin, married to her oldest half-sibling William Hastings (1282-1311), and was the younger brother of Edmund Martin, betrothed to her half-sister Jonetta Hastings in 1297. There was a long-standing connection between the Hastings and Martin families which endured years past the death of John, Lord Hastings in 1313.

 Margaret was about thirty years younger than her eldest half-sibling, William Hastings (d. 1311). She died in 1359, and as she was childless, her heir was John Hastings (b. 1347), heir also to the earldom of Pembroke, grandson of her much older half-brother John Hastings (1286-1325).

01 April, 2019

Robert, Lord Clifford (1274-1314)

A post about Robert, Lord Clifford, who was born c. 1 April 1274 and who was the second highest ranking Englishman, after the earl of Gloucester, who fell at the battle of Bannockburn in June 1314.

Robert was the only son of Roger Clifford, born c. 1248 and the son and heir of Roger Clifford the elder (1221-85). Roger the younger, born c. 1248, drowned in the Menai Strait between Anglesey and the mainland of North Wales on 6 November 1282, when the bridge Edward I had built to connect the two collapsed. Robert Clifford was eight years old when his father died, and eleven when his grandfather, whose heir he was, died in 1285. His father's inquisition post mortem of December 1282 says Robert was then either seven, eight or nine, and the Westmorland jurors specifically stated that he would be nine at 'Easter, 11 Edward I.' Easter Sunday in Edward I's eleventh regnal year fell on 18 April 1283, and in 1274 fell on 1 April. The IPM of Robert's mother in May 1292 states that he was 'eighteen at Easter last', confirming Robert's date of birth around Easter 1274, though the Yorkshire jurors claimed that he was 'aged eighteen on the feast of St Michael next,' i.e. 29 September. [CIPM 1272-91, no. 478; CIPM 1291-1300, no. 70]

Robert Clifford's mother Isabel Vipont (d. 1292) was one of the two daughters and co-heirs of Robert Vipont and Isabel FitzJohn, and she was a first cousin of Guy Beauchamp, earl of Warwick and his sister Isabella, mother of Hugh Despenser the Younger. Robert was one of the five FitzJohn heirs when his great-uncle Richard FitzJohn died childless in 1297, and the inheritance was shared out among the two surviving FitzJohn sisters, Robert Clifford as grandson and co-heir of Isabel FitzJohn, his aunt Idonea Leyburne née Vipont as daughter and the other co-heir of Isabel FitzJohn, and Richard de Burgh, earl of Ulster, as son and heir of Aveline FitzJohn. [CIPM 1291-1300, no. 422] Robert Clifford, therefore, inherited the Clifford lands, half of the Vipont lands, and a fifth of the FitzJohn lands. Robert's aunt Idonea married Sir John Cromwell as her second husband, and as she had no children, made a deal with her first cousin Isabella Beauchamp's son Hugh Despenser the Younger in 1315 that her lands would pass ultimately to Hugh's second son Edward Despenser. They duly did on Idonea and John Cromwell's deaths in the 1330s.

The Cliffords had long been a Marcher family, but the Vipont inheritance shifted their centre of power to the north of England, and in March 1310 Edward II granted Robert Clifford the great northern stronghold of Skipton (CPR 1307-13, pp. 220, 273). It remained in the family until the seventeenth century. The famous Rosamund Clifford, mistress of Henry II, was the sister of Robert's great-great-grandfather Walter, and the much-married and long-lived Lady Anne Clifford (1590-1676), countess of Dorset and Pembroke and high sheriff of Westmorland, was Robert's descendant and the last of the Cliffords of Skipton.

Robert Clifford's mother Isabel Vipont entrusted his upbringing to Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester, and Robert married Gilbert's niece Maud de Clare on 13 November 1295, when he was twenty-one. [Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Annales Monastici, vol. 4, ed. H. R. Luard, p. 523] Maud was one of the two daughters and ultimate heirs of Thomas de Clare (c. 1245-1287), lord of Thomond in Ireland and a younger brother of Gilbert 'the Red', and her mother was the Anglo-Irish noblewoman Juliana FitzGerald. Maud was thus a first cousin of Edward II's nieces the three de Clare sisters, and her sister Margaret married Bartholomew, Lord Badlesmere, of Kent. Her brother Gilbert, their father's heir, was briefly married to Hugh Despenser the Elder's second daughter Isabella but died at the of age of twenty-six in November 1307, leaving their other brother Richard as the Thomond heir. Maud de Clare's date of birth, or even whether she was older or younger than her sister Margaret, is hard to ascertain; her brother Gilbert was born in Limerick on 3 February 1281, and her other brother Richard was, according to Gilbert's IPM of late 1307, born around 1283/85. Maud was probably born in the late 1270s and was perhaps five or so years younger than Robert Clifford.

Robert and Maud's first son Roger Clifford was said by the Westmorland and Yorkshire jurors who took part in Robert's IPM of July 1314 to be aged fourteen on the feast of St Agnes in Edward II's seventh regnal year, which would give him a date of birth of 21 January 1300. The Worcestershire jurors, however, gave him a date of birth of 2 February 1299, and the Cumberland jurors said in July 1314 that he was fourteen 'on the feast of St Agnes, second last past,' which would also give a date of birth in early 1299. [CIPM 1307-17, no. 533] Roger would have had to prove that he had turned twenty-one, in 1320 or 1321, so that he could take possession of his late father's lands, but his proof of age doesn't seem to exist.

Robert and Maud's daughter Idonea - presumably named after Robert's aunt Idonea Leyburne, formerly Vipont - was probably born around 1302/3, and their second son Robert, Robert Clifford's ultimate heir and ancestor of all the later Cliffords, was born on 7 November 1305. [CIPM 1327-36, no. 77] Robert the younger married Isabel Berkeley, sister of Thomas, Lord Berkeley (d. 1361). His sister Idonea Clifford married Henry, Lord Percy (1301-52) and was the ancestor of all the later Percys, including Henry, first earl of Northumberland (1341-1408) and his brother Thomas, first earl of Worcester (1343/4-1403), her grandsons.

Robert, Lord Clifford (b. 1274) took part in Edward I's siege of Caerlaverock Castle in Scotland in July 1300, when he was twenty-six and a new father. The English herald(s) who wrote a poem (in French) in praise of the English noblemen at Caerlaverock was particularly impressed by Robert:

"I well know that I have given him no praise of which he is not worthy. For he exhibits as good proofs of wisdom and prudence as any I see...If I were a young maiden, I would give him my heart and my body, so good is his fame."

Someone had a bit of a man-crush there, evidently. Lucky Maud de Clare, is all I can say. Robert was high in Edward II's favour in the first few years of his reign, and as well as being granted Skipton Castle was also made marshal of England in September 1307 and 'captain and chief keeper of the king's munitions and men-at-arms in Scotland' in August 1308. There are also quite a few references to pardons or grants being made 'on the information of Robert Clifford', revealing that he had a lot of access to the king. Despite this, Robert was one of the men who planned to capture Piers Gaveston in 1312 after his return from his third exile, and, with Thomas, earl of Lancaster, seized the king's and Gaveston's goods at Tynemouth in May 1312, which they later restored to Edward.

Robert Clifford fought for Edward II at Bannockburn on 23 and 24 June 1314, and was killed there, the second highest ranking Englishman after the earl of Gloucester to fall during the battle. Robert Bruce returned his body to England with full honours, and he was buried at Shap Abbey in the modern county of Cumbria (see here). Robert was forty years old when he died. His widow Maud née de Clare was abducted by John the Irishman in 1315, and romantically married Sir Robert Welle or Welles, one of her rescuers (see here). Maud and her sister Margaret Badlesmere became the Thomond heirs when their nephew Thomas de Clare died as a child in 1321. To my knowledge, she had no more children with Robert Welles.

Robert Clifford's elder son and heir Roger, born 1299 or 1300, was hanged as a Contrariant in York in March 1322. Roger had no legitimate children as he never married, though an old story told in the north of England states that he had a mistress whom he loved dearly, Juliane of the Bower, for whom he had a house built. Robert, Lord Clifford's ultimate heir therefore was his second son Robert, born 1305. Twenty-year-old Robert and his fifteen-year-old ally John Mowbray, son of a Contrariant executed in 1322, attacked Tickhill Castle in Yorkshire in early 1326. Robert the younger's second son Roger, born at Brougham in Westmorland on 20 July 1333, was his heir and the ancestor of the later Cliffords.