26 June, 2019

The Palmer Brothers, Shipwrights of London (d. 1335 and 1344)

Edward II knew two brothers, Alan and Martin Palmer, pretty well: both men worked as shipwrights next to the Tower of London, and often appear in Edward's accounts. Here's a post about them.

Alan, the elder brother, and Martin were the sons of one William Palmer; I have no idea when they were born, but would guess 1280s or early 1290s, and I also haven't been able to discover who their mother was or when their father died. As the elder son, Alan Palmer inherited their father's wharf at Petty Wales next to the Tower of London, and Martin also owned a wharf at Petty Wales. They appear in Edward II's accounts either as shypwryghtes, written in English in the middle of the Anglo-Norman of the accounts, or as fesours des niefs, 'makers of ships'. Martin Palmer also appears in the extant Coroners' Rolls of London in July and November 1324, when he was questioned as a possible witness to two murders which took place within the Tower of London.

Alan Palmer was married to a woman named Cecile, who was seriously ill in October 1324. Edward II, who was staying at the Tower at the time, sent her a gift of ten shillings probably to help with the cost of medicines. Cecile died shortly before 27 November 1324, when Edward spent two shillings and six pence on 'offerings for her soul'. He also gave Alan twenty shillings to pay for her funeral and interment. Alan and Cecile had a son named Philip Palmer, who at an unrecorded date before 1326 worked as a valet of the king's chamber. Later, Philip followed in his father's and his uncle's footsteps by becoming a shipwright.

In July 1325, Edward gave Alan and Martin a gift of five shillings each, and bought a ship called the Jonete of Westminster from Martin in or before September 1325. Edward invited both brothers and the six men they had working for them - four journeymen and two apprentices - to Kenilworth Castle in March and April 1326, during his long sojourn there. The eight built a small barge, a flat-bottomed boat and two fishing-boats for the king to use on the artificial lakes surrounding the castle. The king paid the two Palmers six pence a day each, their journeymen five pence each, and their apprentices four pence each. When they returned to London, Edward gave Alan Palmer five shillings to give to his son Philip, former royal valet, to buy himself linen cloth.

Alan Palmer made his will on 22 February 1335, leaving his son Philip his wharf and tenements at Petty Wales. Sometime after losing his first wife Cecile in November 1324, he married his second wife, Emma, who also appears in his will. Alan and Cecile's son Philip the shipwright wrote his will on Sunday, 11 July 1339. His wife was called Agnes, and their children - unnamed - are also mentioned in Philip's will. Martin Palmer, younger brother of Alan and uncle of Philip, outlived his nephew and made his will on 29 September 1344. He mentions his youngest son, John, so apparently had at least three sons though the others are not named, and had two daughters, Cecile - presumably named after his sister-in-law - and Joan. He left an unfinished boat each to his daughters, and his tenements to his son John. Leaving unfinished boats to his daughters implies that the women worked as shipwrights as well, which is rather fascinating. Martin's son John Palmer and his wife Amy both made their wills in 1348, and they had a son named Alan after John's uncle. All the Palmers were buried in the churchyard of All Hallows by the Tower. I lose sight of the family after 1348, unfortunately; it's possible that all of them perished in the terrible epidemic of the Black Death in 1348/49.

17 June, 2019

Edward II's Concern for People's Health

Edward II, while being a disastrous ruler and even more disastrous war leader par extraordinaire, did have some much more appealing character traits. One of them was a concern for and deep interest in the people around him. I've written here before about how the king spent part of the summer of 1326 chatting to his subjects along the River Thames, asking the retired parker of Cold Kennington, for example, about his ongoing repairs to his house and giving him a gift of three shillings to help out. On the same day, Edward talked to Robyn atte Hethe of Walton-on-Thames, and Robyn told him that he was 'suffering from a great illness'. Edward gave him some money to buy medicines.

Edward was staying at the Tower of London in October 1324 when he heard that Cecile Palmer, wife of the shipwright Alan Palmer - who worked near the Tower and whom Edward knew well - was very ill. The king sent Cecile ten shillings for medicines and other expenses. Sadly, she died a few weeks later, and Edward paid twenty shillings for her funeral and spent two shillings and six pence on 'offerings for her soul'. In April 1325, the king was staying in Winchester, and was in his private garden playing a game called palet (not dissimilar to boules) with men named Gaillard and Ernaudyn. His chamber valet Simon 'Syme' Lawe came into the garden and informed the king that his father, Roger Lawe of Byfleet in Surrey, was ill. Edward sent Syme to Roger with a gift of ten shillings.

It seems that some kind of stomach ailment was going around in June 1326, as four of Hugh Despenser the Younger's household staff fell ill that month, and Edward bought them a pomegranate each. Pomegranates have long been considered an aid against digestive and stomach complaints. Edward's chamber valet and fisherman Edmund 'Monde' Fisher also fell seriously ill in June 1326 perhaps with the same ailment, and had to be left behind at the archbishop of Canterbury's manor of Sturry in Kent when the king departed on 12 June. Edward told Monde's son Litel Wille Fisher to stay and look after his father and gave Monde twenty shillings and Wille two shillings for the wages he would miss while away from court. Monde died two days later, and the king gave Litel Wille's messenger who brought him the news a shilling. Litel Wille Fisher had himself been left behind at Kenilworth Castle a few weeks before as he was ill, and received five shillings from Edward. At some point later, he rejoined the court.

John Dene from a village near Canterbury (somewhere between Chartham and Bishopsbourne) was one of Queen Isabella's household servants who came back to England in late 1325 and early 1326, and was re-assigned to work as an usher of Edward II's chamber. In March 1326, John was sent home as he was 'very ill in one side'. Ten weeks later he still hadn't recovered, and when Edward was in the area, he visited John at home and gave him a generous gift of a hundred shillings. Sir Robert Wateville, a retainer of Hugh Despenser the Younger who became Hugh's nephew-in-law on 19 May 1326, also fell ill in July 1326, while the royal court was at Henley-on-Thames, and Edward sent him to London to 'take cures there' with a gift of forty marks. On 21 July, Wateville was still ill, and the king visited him in person at his home on or near Aldgate to check on his condition. Wateville received another gift of forty marks on this occasion. The king's personal physician Pancio da Controne, who later worked for Edward's son Edward III as well, was another man who was ill in 1326 and who received money from the king.

Edward II himself seems to have been remarkably healthy. In August 1325, he claimed to be ill, but almost certainly this was a diplomatic ailment to avoid having to travel to France to pay homage to his brother-in-law Charles IV for the lands he owned in that kingdom, or at least to postpone the decision of whether he should travel or not. I've never found anything in Edward's accounts that would confirm that he was genuinely ill at the time, though, as noted here, there are plenty of references to other people's illnesses and to Edward's willingness to pay the costs of his servants who were unable to work. You wouldn't necessarily expect to encounter sick pay in the fourteenth century, but as well as the payments I've noted in this post, there are a good few references to Edward's paying his servants' full wages while they were ill and to the way he accommodated them at one of his royal manors while they recuperated.

09 June, 2019

My Talk on Hugh Despenser the Younger, and Other Talks

Three weeks ago on Saturday 18 May 2019, I gave a talk about Hugh Despenser the Younger at the annual Mortimer History Society conference in Leominster Priory, Herefordshire. The video is now on Youtube, and you can see it here. It's forty minutes long and covers Hugh's family background, his marriage to Eleanor de Clare, his complete obscurity for the first half of Edward II's reign, his career as powerful royal favourite between 1318 and 1326 including his penchant for extortion, false imprisonment and threats, and his downfall and execution.

Other videos from the conference are also available now on Youtube, though sadly the video of Andrew Spencer's excellent and highly informative talk about Roger Mortimer of Wigmore (d. 1282) and his sons Edmund (d. 1304, father of the Roger Mortimer of Wigmore who became first earl of March in 1328) and Roger Mortimer of Chirk (who died in the Tower of London in 1326) was corrupted, and cannot be viewed.

Ian Mortimer's talk about the genealogy of the early Mortimer family is here.

Here's Paul Dryburgh talking about Roger Mortimer of Wigmore, later the first earl of March (d. 1330), and his role in the first few years of Edward II's reign.

Paul gave another talk, after mine, about Roger Mortimer's later career after 1321, his role in Edward II's downfall, and his and Queen Isabella's regency from 1327 to 1330.

And this is the Mortimer History Society channel on Youtube, where you can see videos of other talks as well.

Many thanks to Jason, Philip, Hugh, Fran and other members of the MHS for inviting me to take part in their excellent conference and for making me feel so welcome! It was a brilliant weekend and a brilliant experience. Hope you enjoy watching the Hugh Despenser talk as much as I enjoyed giving it, and here is the Mortimer History Society website if you'd like to learn more about the organisation and to join and support them. Their next conference, held jointly with the Richard III Society, is taking place in Ludlow on 29 June; more info here. If you're interested in learning more about Hugh Despenser the Younger, I wrote an article about him in the second volume of the Mortimer History Society Journal (see here) and I've published a biography of him, here or here.