29 September, 2019

29/30 September 1308: Double Wedding of the de Clare and de Burgh Siblings

Edward II attended two weddings at Waltham Abbey, Essex on 29 and 30 September 1308: those of his eldest nephew Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford, who was just seven years younger than his uncle and was now seventeen, and Gilbert's third and youngest sister Elizabeth de Clare, who was two weeks past her thirteenth birthday. (According to the Complete Peerage, which states that she was born in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire on 16 September 1295, but fails to cite its source.)

The de Clare siblings married siblings. Elizabeth's new husband was John de Burgh, eldest son and heir of Richard de Burgh, earl of Ulster (b. c. 1259), and Gilbert's new wife was Maud de Burgh, one of John's many sisters. The de Burgh siblings' dates of birth are not known, but John was probably some years older than Elizabeth de Clare, perhaps eighteen or so, and Maud would also have been in her teens. One of their sisters, Elizabeth de Burgh, had married Robert Bruce, earl of Carrick and future king of Scotland, in 1302, and was under house arrest in England from 1306 until 1314. (Elizabeth, much later, became the mother of King David II of Scotland, born March 1324, who married Edward II's youngest child Joan of the Tower.) Other de Burgh sisters included: Eleanor, probably the eldest, who married Thomas, Lord Multon of Egremont in Cumberland in 1295; Aveline, who married John de Bermingham, made earl of Louth by Edward II after John defeated Edward Bruce in battle in 1318; Katherine, who married Maurice FitzGerald, earl of Desmond; and Joan, who married Thomas FitzGerald, earl of Kildare.

As Elizabeth de Clare was barely thirteen years old, she was evidently considered too young to travel to Ireland and to cohabit with her husband, and seems to have spent the next year or a little more at Amesbury Priory in Wiltshire with her aunt Mary (b. 1279), Edward II's sister, a nun there. She gave birth to her son William de Burgh on 17 September 1312, the day after her seventeenth birthday, and was widowed in June 1313. Her father-in-law Earl Richard outlived his eldest son by thirteen years, and was succeeded as earl of Ulster in 1326 by his grandson, Elizabeth and John's son William. Gilbert and Maud de Clare, earl and countess of Gloucester, seem to have had a son born in 1312, according to several chroniclers; he may have been called John. Assuming he did exist, the little boy did not live long, and Countess Maud's claims to be pregnant after Gilbert was killed at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314 went on, and on, and on, until late 1316. Finally, Edward II had to admit that Gilbert's heirs were his three younger sisters Eleanor Despenser, Margaret Gaveston and Elizabeth de Burgh. Maud, dowager countess of Gloucester, died rather obscurely sometime in 1320 when she can hardly have been more than thirty, and was buried with her husband at the de Clare mausoleum of Tewkesbury Abbey in Gloucestershire.

15 September, 2019

Woking Palace, Surrey (Pics!)

The Surrey manor of Woking belonged to Philip, Lord Basset (d. 1271) - it's called 'Wocking' in his inquisition post mortem that year - and passed to his daughter Aline, countess of Norfolk (d. 1281), then to Aline's son and heir Hugh Despenser the Elder (1261-1326). Hugh was in possession of Woking from 1282, the year he came of age, until his execution on 27 October 1326, when, like all his many other lands across England, it became forfeit to the Crown. Woking was subsequently granted to Edward II's half-brother Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent (1301-30), and passed to Edmund's daughter and ultimate heir Joan of Kent (d. 1385), princess of Wales and countess of Kent, and to Joan's eldest son Thomas Holland (d. 1397) and his sons. Later, the manor belonged to Margaret Beaufort (d. 1509), granddaughter of Margaret Holland and mother of Henry VII, and her grandson Henry VIII spent a lot of time at Woking.

I've written previously about Hugh Despenser the Elder and his son Hugh the Younger's incarceration of the Scottish noblewoman and heiress Elizabeth Comyn (1299-1372) for eighteen months at Woking and Pirbright, a nearby manor also held by Hugh the Elder, in 1324/25. Most probably, Elizabeth was held at the manor-house of Woking, and although none of the buildings still there today date from the early fourteenth century, the fourteenth-century buildings would have stood on the same site.

Woking Palace stands on a large site bordered on one site by the River Wey and on the other sides by a moat. The Friends of Woking Palace website is here, with lots and lots of great info about the site and its history, and excavations which have taken place there; they're holding open days at the palace this weekend, though probably by the time you read this, it might be a bit too late to go! If you're on Twitter, follow them here. Funnily enough, a few people who grew up in the area or lived there for a few years have told me that they've never even heard of Woking Palace and had no idea it was there, and it does stand a long way from the road and is barely, if at all, signposted. I'm sure that will change.

01 September, 2019

My Talk in Byfleet, Surrey

The Surrey manor of Byfleet belonged to Edward II personally; Sir Henry Leyburne (uncle of Juliana Leyburne, d. 1367, countess of Huntingdon) gave it to him sometime before August 1312, when it appears on the Patent Roll as 'the king's manor of Byfleet'. On Tuesday, 10 September 2019, I'm giving a talk about Edward II, his life, his reign and his connections to Byfleet, in the village. The talk will take place at St Mary's Church Community Hall, 124 Church Road, Byfleet, Surrey, KT14 7NF, and doors open around 7.30pm on 10 September with the talk due to begin at about 8pm. Tickets cost £3 and are available at the door, and see Google Maps for the venue. If you're anywhere in the vicinity, do come along and listen! I'll be talking for about an hour or a bit more and I promise to make it entertaining :-)