07 February, 2020

Heirs to the English Throne, 1272-1330

When Henry III died on 16 November 1272 and was succeeded by his son Edward I, the heir to the English throne became Edward's four-year-old son Henry of Windsor, born in May 1268. He was Edward's second son; Henry's elder brother John, born in July 1266, died in August 1271 in his grandfather Henry III's lifetime, so was never heir to the throne. Edward I and Queen Eleanor had another son on 24 November 1273, Alfonso of Bayonne, named after his maternal uncle and godfather Alfonso X of Castile. Little Henry died around 14 October 1274 at the age of six, and Alfonso, not yet eleven months old, became heir to his father's throne. He was to hold that position for just under a decade.

Edward I and Eleanor of Castile's fourth and youngest son Edward of Caernarfon was born on 25 April 1284, and on 19 August 1284, his ten-year-old brother Alfonso of Bayonne died. For ten years the people of England had grown accustomed to the idea that one day they would have a King Alfonso, but sadly it was not to be. Unlike his three older brothers, Edward of Caernarfon was a healthy, sturdy child who, though not actually born as his father's heir, ultimately succeeded his father as king, having spent twenty-three years as heir to the throne. It's interesting to look at who was next in succession after young Edward. On 17 April 1290, Edward I, with only one living son, confronted the possibility that Edward of Caernarfon, not quite six years old, might die young as his older brothers had, and before he fathered any male heirs. The king therefore decided that, in that case, the English throne should pass to his and Eleanor of Castile's eldest surviving daughter Eleanor of Windsor, born on 17 or 18 June 1269. I find it fascinating that Edward I considered the possibility of his throne passing to a woman, and that he favoured his daughters - he specified that if Eleanor died or had no children, the throne would go to his next eldest daughter Joan of Acre (b. 1272), and so on - over his brother Edmund, earl of Lancaster and Leicester (1245-96), and Edmund's sons Thomas (b. c. 1277/78) and Henry (b. c. 1280/81).

Eleanor of Windsor married Henri III, count of Bar in eastern France, on 20 September 1293, gave birth to her son Edouard and her daughter Jeanne sometime between 1294 and 1298, and died on 29 September 1298 at the age of twenty-nine. From 29 September 1298 until 1 June 1300, therefore, the heir to the English throne behind his uncle Edward of Caernarfon was Edouard of Bar, future count of Bar. On 1 June 1300, Edward I's second queen Marguerite of France gave birth to a son, Thomas of Brotherton, later earl of Norfolk. She bore a second son, Edmund of Woodstock, later earl of Kent, on 5 August 1301. For sixteen years between August 1284 and June 1300, Edward I only had one living son; now he had three.

Edward I died on 7 July 1307 and was succeeded by Edward of Caernarfon as King Edward II. Seven-year-old Thomas of Brotherton became heir to the throne on the death of his father and the accession of his half-brother, and held the position until 13 November 1312, when Edward II and Isabella of France's son Edward of Windsor was born. The royal couple produced the 'spare' part of 'the heir and the spare' when their second son John of Eltham was born on 15 August 1316. Edward of Windsor was born as heir to the English throne and succeeded his deposed and disgraced father as king on 25 January 1327, aged fourteen.

John of Eltham, just ten years old when his father was deposed and his brother became king, was heir to the throne from 25 January 1327 until 15 June 1330, when Edward III's queen Philippa of Hainault gave birth to their first son Edward of Woodstock, later prince of Wales. Although Edward III and Queen Philippa were to have seven sons, of whom five survived infancy, there was a long period in the 1330s when the king still only had one son and heir. Philippa gave birth to her daughters Isabella in June 1332 and Joan probably in January 1334, then had a three-year break from childbearing. Her second son William of Hatfield was born at the beginning of 1337, but sadly died soon after his birth. Her fifth child and third son was Lionel of Antwerp, born on 29 November 1338. With the exception of the few days or weeks in early 1337 when William of Hatfield was alive, there was a period of eight and a half years, 15 June 1330 to 29 November 1338, when Edward III only had one son. The king and queen's fourth but third surviving son John of Gaunt was born on 6 March 1340, and their fifth but fourth surviving, Edmund of Langley, was born on or just before 5 June 1341. The middle three sons of Edward III were very close in age, and their three births in two and a half years well and truly secured the succession to the throne. Queen Philippa's sixth son William of Windsor was born in May 1348 but also died in infancy, and her seventh and youngest, but fifth surviving, was Thomas of Woodstock, who was not born until January 1355.

As well as John of Eltham, the heir to the throne from January 1327 to June 1330, there were other royal males who took their places in the line of succession in the late 1320s. Edward II's half-brother Thomas of Brotherton came next after John of Eltham, until Edward of Woodstock's birth in June 1330. Thomas had a son, Edward of Norfolk, who was probably born in the mid-1320s or thereabouts (as far as I can figure out, his sisters Margaret and Alice were older and were born c. 1322 and c. 1324). Edward of Norfolk died as a child sometime in the early 1330s - young though he was, he had already been married to Roger Mortimer's daughter Beatrice - and Thomas's heirs were his two daughters.

Behind Thomas of Brotherton and his son Edward of Norfolk came Thomas's younger brother Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent, who was beheaded at the age of twenty-eight on 19 March 1330. Edmund had a son, Edmund of Kent, probably born in 1328 or 1329, who died in 1331. Earl Edmund also left a posthumous son John, later earl of Kent, born on 7 April 1330, as well as his daughter Joan, born 1326 or 1327, later princess of Wales and Richard II's mother.

As well as Edward I's sons and grandsons, there was his nephew Henry of Lancaster, second son and ultimate heir of Edward's brother Edmund of Lancaster, Edmund's first son Thomas having died (or having been executed by his cousin Edward II, rather) childless in 1322. Henry's only son was Henry of Grosmont, later the first duke of Lancaster, born c. 1310/12. The two Lancastrians came after Edward I's sons and grandsons in the line of succession, and of course the births of Edward III's sons in the 1330s and 1340s pushed them further and further away from the throne.


sami parkkonen said...

All of this makes me understand that if and when one killed the king or deposed him, there were still men who had a claim to the throne, which makes Roger Mortimer's actions and attitudes understandable.

Emőke Kovács said...

I've seen you mention a couple of times how delightful it would have been to have a King Alfonso of England. Sometimes I also think about how there could have been a King Arthur (twice), or indeed a King Lionel. I know he was only second in life all his life, but with a bit of luck...
Perhaps more relevant to this post, I also sometimes wonder how Queen Catherine must have felt about her stepson. How many times she might have thought that her sons would have made infinitely better rulers. Do you think they would really have? I often think that although quite a few weak rulers may follow each other on the throne, strong ones do not tend to have strong successors. I guess any of Edward I's sons would have had a hard time trying to live up to their father's image.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thomas of Brotherton seems to have been rather incompetent and perhaps violent, was excommunicated at one point, and there was something in the 1330s where his nephew Edward III had to order him to set his own household in order (can't quite remember). It's interesting to note that neither Edward II nor Edward III trusted Thomas with important diplomatic missions, and Edward II sent Edmund of Woodstock instead. Although Edmund had been maligned as 'stupid' and 'unstable' by a few modern historians, unable otherwise to explain his belief that Edward II was alive in 1330, that's a very unfair judgement, and he might have made a decent ruler given the chance.

Emőke Kovács said...

By Queen Catherine I meant Margaret of course :) (I've just finished reading a book about Henry V...). Could you recommend something to read about the Queen dowager's relationship with Edward II? Are there some reliable contemporary sources? For some reason she has always struck me as less ambitious/ less concerned with power.

Kathryn Warner said...

Just about the only source I can think of is a newsletter of May 1308, which states that Marguerite was aiding the baronial opposition to Gaveston, including financially. She almost never appears on record for the last ten years of her life, which in itself is really revealing! She doesn't seem to have visited court much if at all, and about the only ref to her I can think of is that she was at Windsor Castle with Isabella before Isabella gave birth to Edward III in 1312. It seems that Edward mostly just ignored her, though he did attend her funeral in 1318. It's also interesting to me that Edward I never had Marguerite crowned as his queen. Maybe because she was his second wife, I don't know. Perhaps if Edward of Caernarfon had died, and Marguerite was the mother of Edward I's future successor (King Thomas!), he would have done.