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.


sami parkkonen said...

The last chamber account?

With all the stuff happening around him perhaps the manual labor, real hard work was his way to steal one moment for himself and forget about the politics and his own situation. Maybe, just maybe, working with his own hands and sweating it out in an honest work for a moment was a way to remind himself that the world was not all about the crown and realm, that there was other things in life too, for the most people. Maybe.

Kathryn Warner said...

Yes, it's from Edward's last chamber account. Which is such an amazing resource, both for Edward himself and for his subjects. It opens a window into England in 1325/26. Which is why I had to use it as the main basis for a book. :-)

sami parkkonen said...

Wonderful stuff. <3