14 January, 2020

Eleanor de Bohun, Duchess of Gloucester, and Mary de Bohun, Countess of Derby

When Edward II's sister Elizabeth, countess of Holland, Hereford and Essex, died on 5 May 1316 at the age of thirty-three, she left seven surviving children from her second marriage to Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex (d. 1322). Elizabeth's fourth eldest surviving son, after John, born 1305, and Humphrey, born 1307, was William, a younger twin of Edward. Edward de Bohun drowned in Scotland in 1334 and left no children, and William was made first earl of Northampton by their first cousin Edward III in 1337. The de Bohun twins' year of birth is uncertain; they may have been born c. 1309 or c. 1312/13.

William de Bohun married Elizabeth, born c. 1310 as one of the four daughters, and ultimately the four Badlesmere co-heirs after their brother Giles's death in 1338, of Bartholomew, Lord Badlesmere (executed 14 April 1322). Elizabeth was the widow of Edmund Mortimer, eldest son of Roger Mortimer (executed 29 November 1330), first earl of March. Edmund did not outlive his father very long: the writ for his inquisition post mortem was issued on 21 January 1332. [1] Elizabeth Badlesmere and Edmund Mortimer had a son, Roger Mortimer, born in Ludlow, Shropshire on 11 November 1328, later the second earl of March, and William de Bohun's stepson. [2]

Elizabeth Badlesmere and William de Bohun's son Humphrey was born in Rochford, Essex on 24 March 1342*, and they also had a daughter, Elizabeth (d. 1385), probably younger than her brother, who married Richard, earl of Arundel (c. 1347-97). Humphrey born in 1342 was heir to his father's earldom of Northampton, and was also heir to his unmarried and childless uncle Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex. William de Bohun died on 16 September 1360 and his older brother Humphrey on 15 October 1361, and the younger Humphrey proved his age on 8 April 1363 and came into the three earldoms. [3It's worth noting that Humphrey de Bohun born in 1342 was a younger half-brother of Roger Mortimer (b. 1328), second earl of March and uncle of Edmund (b. 1352), the third earl, and that he was exactly the same age as Blanche of Lancaster, duchess of Lancaster, born 25 March 1342.

* According to his proof of age, though an entry on the Fine Roll dated 6 May 1363 says "...since the Annunciation last, on which day he came of full age," and the Annunciation is 25 March. [4]

Humphrey de Bohun the younger married Joan, eldest child of Richard, earl of Arundel (c. 1313-76) and his second wife Eleanor of Lancaster, before 27 October 1359, and Joan's brother the younger Richard married Humphrey's sister Elizabeth around the same time. [5] Humphrey was seventeen and Joan thirteen or fourteen when they married. They were to have two children, or at least, two children who survived infancy: Eleanor and Mary de Bohun, who shared their father's large inheritance between them. Eleanor de Bohun married Edward III's youngest son Thomas of Woodstock (b. 1355), duke of Gloucester and earl of Buckingham, and her sister Mary married Thomas's nephew Henry of Lancaster (b. 1367), later King Henry IV, son of Thomas of Woodstock's older brother John of Gaunt.

Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford, Essex and Northampton, died on 16 January 1373, aged only thirty; his widow Joan outlived him by forty-six years. In his inquisition post mortem, his daughters and heirs Eleanor and Mary were said to be aged seven and more and four and more, or seven and three and more. [6] Unfortunately Eleanor and Mary's proofs of age, which would give us their exact dates of birth, no longer exist, though there are references to the proofs of age in the chancery rolls which make it apparent that they were both, like their father in 1342, born in the county of Essex.

There is, however, evidence that can narrow down Eleanor and Mary de Bohun's likely dates of birth. Eleanor was said to be "now of age", i.e. fourteen for a married woman, on 8 May 1380, and she and Thomas of Woodstock were given her share of her late father’s lands on 22 June 1380 after she proved that she had come of age. An inquisition taken in Essex on 9 April 1380 says that Eleanor was "aged 14 years on the feast of St Barnabas last", which if accurate would give her a date of birth around 11 June 1365, though in that case it is not clear why she and Thomas did not receive her lands until June 1380. [7] It seems most likely that Eleanor was born not too long before 8 May 1366.

The date of Eleanor de Bohun and Thomas of Woodstock's wedding is not recorded, but they were certainly married by 24 August 1376. [8] On 1 June in an unstated year, John of Gaunt ordered a large silver cup and matching ewer to be "delivered to our beloved sister the lady of Woodstock [la dame de Wodstok] on her wedding day." [9] That's certainly a reference to Eleanor de Bohun, and as Thomas of Woodstock did not receive a title until July 1377 on the day of his nephew Richard II's coronation, it made sense for Gaunt to refer to his new sister-in-law politely as 'the lady of Woodstock'. It's rather frustrating that Gaunt's letter on this matter does not give the year, though it might well date to 1374 rather than 1376, as it's recorded in his register in the middle of other letters and instructions dating to 1374. Thomas of Woodstock, born 7 January 1355, was rather more than eleven years older than his wife, so would have to wait a good while until she was old enough to consummate the marriage; it's entirely possible that Eleanor was only eight years old at the time of her wedding, and she certainly wasn't more than ten.

Eleanor’s younger sister and co-heir Mary de Bohun, who would marry John of Gaunt’s son Henry of Lancaster in early February 1381, was probably born not too long before 22 December 1370, as on 22 December 1384 she and Henry were given her share of her late father's lands as she had come of age. [10] The Essex inquisition of 9 April 1380 mentioned above states that Mary was then nine years old, which fits well with the likelihood that she was born in or a little before December 1370. Her father's IPM of early 1373 states, however, that she was then either three or four, whereas it seems more probable that she was actually only two years old when her father died, and that her sister Eleanor was six going on seven in January 1373, being approximately four years and eight months older than her sister. Mary was most probably only ten years old when she married Henry of Lancaster in February 1381 (born in April 1367, Henry himself was thirteen going on fourteen), and there are several references in her father-in-law John of Gaunt's register and in the chancery rolls to indicate that she would remain with her mother until she turned fourteen, and that Gaunt himself and his nephew Richard II gave Countess Joan money for Mary's maintenance.

Mary gave birth to her eldest child Henry of Monmouth, later King Henry V, in September 1386 when she was probably fifteen years and nine months old. As Ian Mortimer points out in his biography of Henry IV, a child born in April 1382 who has often been wrongly assigned to Mary and Henry was in fact Mary's nephew Humphrey of Buckingham, later called Humphrey of Gloucester after his father received the dukedom of Gloucester in 1385. [11] Humphrey was the eldest child of Eleanor de Bohun and Thomas of Woodstock, and was obviously named in honour of her late father. Eleanor had either recently turned sixteen or was shortly to turn sixteen when she gave birth to Humphrey. If I'm correct that Mary de Bohun was born not too long before 22 December 1370, it's physically impossible that she could have given birth to a child in April 1382; she would only have been ten years old when Humphrey was conceived in c. July 1381 and eleven when he was born. Bizarrely, one modern writer has given the non-existent child born to Mary and Henry in April 1382 the name 'Edward' and has stated that he only lived for four days. It's amazing how creative you can be when inventing details about non-existent children. The same writer has stated that Mary de Bohun turned fourteen on 15 February 1382, but no source is cited and I have no idea what it is, and if so, it's hard to explain why she and Henry were not given their lands until almost three years later in December 1384.

Both Eleanor and Mary de Bohun lived tragically short lives. Mary died in June 1394, aged about twenty-three and a half, having borne six children in under eight years. Eleanor died in October 1399 aged thirty-three, just a month after losing her only son Humphrey of Gloucester. Their mother the dowager countess of Hereford outlived them both by many years and died in 1419, six years into the reign of her grandson Henry V. Mary de Bohun never became duchess of Hereford and Lancaster or queen of England as she died before her husband received those titles and before he took the throne in September 1399, and she was only countess of Derby. Henry buried her at the Newarke in Leicester, which was founded in 1330 by his great-grandfather Henry, earl of Lancaster, and extended by his grandfather Henry of Grosmont, first duke of Lancaster. Henry's stepmother Constanza of Castile and his brothers, sons of John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster who died in infancy, were also buried in the Newarke.

Eleanor de Bohun lived through the tragedy of her husband Thomas of Woodstock's murder in September 1397, and wrote her will at Pleshy Castle in Essex on 9 August 1399. [12] To her son Humphrey she left a 'bed of black damask', a coat of mail, a psalter and several books in French. Seventeen-year-old Humphrey died on 2 September 1399, and Eleanor on 3 October 1399, but she did not update her will after his death; perhaps she was too ill or grief-stricken. In the end, only one of her children lived into adulthood and had children: Anne of Gloucester (1383-1438), countess of Stafford and Eu, ancestor of the dukes of Buckingham and numerous others. Eleanor's other three daughters died at the age of sixteen or younger.

1) Calendar of Fine Rolls 1327-37, p. 293; Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1327-36, no. 387.
2) CIPM 1347-52, no. 247.
3) CIPM 1352-60, no. 639; CIPM 1361-65, nos. 485, 543.
4) CFR 1356-68, pp. 258-59.
5) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1358-61, pp. 274, 304.
6) CIPM 1370-73, no.167.
7) CPR 1377-81, p. 502; Calendar of Close Rolls 1377-81, pp. 390-95; CCR 1381-85, pp. 511-16, 548; CIPM 1377-84, no. 201.
8) CPR 1374-77, p. 337.
9) John of Gaunt's Register 1371-75, no. 1431.
10) CCR 1381-85, pp. 511-16, 548.
11) Ian Mortimer, The Fears of Henry IV: The Life of England's Self-Made King (2007), pp. 370-71.
12) Testamenta Vetusta, vol. 1, pp. 146-49.

1 comment:

sami parkkonen said...

These medieval family facts are simply quite astonishing.