23 February, 2020

The Siege Of Caerphilly Castle, 1326/27 (2)

A while ago, I wrote blog post about the siege of Caerphilly Castle in South Wales from November 1326 to March 1327, the only hold-out against the new regime. Here's a post about the men who remained in the castle with Hugh 'Huchon' Despenser, teenage son and heir of Hugh Despenser the Younger. Huchon was about seventeen or eighteen in 1326/27; according to his mother Eleanor's inqusition post mortem, he was either twenty-eight or twenty-nine in July 1337, so he was born sometime before July 1309 and perhaps in 1308. In December 1325, Huchon was old enough to own weapons which required repair, and that month and again in July 1326, his great-uncle Edward II had aketons (padded or quilted jerkins worn under armour) and coat-armour (jackets embroidered with heraldic devices) made for him in the colours of the Despenser arms and bought matching caparisons for his horses, as revealed by Edward's chamber account of 1325/26. So by late 1326, Huchon was a young man with years of military training behind him.

The list of the men inside Caerphilly with Huchon Despenser very usefully appears on the Patent Roll on 20 March 1327, when they were all pardoned for holding the castle against Queen Isabella. There were about 135 of them. [Calendar of Patent Rolls 1327-30, pp. 37-39] There's also, incidentally, a very long and useful inventory of all the items found inside Caerphilly when it finally surrendered, printed in English translation in William Rees' Caerphilly Castle and Its Place in the Annals of Glamorgan. The inventory reveals that the castle still contained vast quantities of food and drink even after nearly 150 men had lived there for four months. Starving them out would have taken an exceedingly long time.

Only two of the garrison were knights, Sir John Felton and Sir Thomas Lovel. Felton was a household knight of Hugh Despenser the Younger, and their correspondence to each other while Felton was in Gascony in 1324/25 during the War of Saint-Sardos still exists and was printed by the late, great, much-missed Professor Pierre Chaplais. At one point, Hugh told John that Edward II "has greatly given you his heart" because the king was so pleased with Felton's service, and on another occasion told John how much he personally appreciated his diligence, loyalty and good conduct. John Felton was not officially in charge of Caerphilly Castle in 1326, yet repaid Hugh's praise of him by saving the life of his teenage son and heir, who would have been executed if the Caerphilly garrison had decided to give Huchon up to Isabella.

A number of the men inside Caerphilly were valets of Edward II's chamber who appear frequently in his extant accounts of 1324-26: Peter Plummer, Henry Hustret, Simon Hod, John Pope, Walter 'Watte' Cowherd, Richard Gobet, John Edriche, Gilbert 'Gibon' Apse, Alexander 'Sandre' Rede, Hugh 'Huchon' Smale, John Traghs or Trasshe, and William 'Wille' Wallere. There may be others, as Edward's clerks tended to refer to some of the king's servants by nicknames rather than their real names, such as 'Grete Hobbe' or 'Big Rob', which makes them impossible to identify. Two sergeant-at-arms inside Caerphilly were named as Rodrigo de Medyne and William Beaucair or Beaukaire. Rodrigo had been in Edward II's household for a while and later joined Edward III's; William, oddly, guarded Edward II's body at Berkeley Castle for a month after the former king was supposedly murdered there on 21 September 1327. See here. William's first name is given as 'Gills', which I suspect is a nickname for Guillaume. He must have been French or at the very least of French parentage, as Beaucaire is a town near Avignon.

Edward II had a personal bodyguard of eight archers in 1326, and five of them were in the castle: John Horewode, Adam Bullok, Robert Pakynton, Roger Wight and Wille Draycot. In 1326, Hugh Despenser the Younger had bodyguards said in Edward's chamber account to have "followed Sir Hugh at all times wherever he went." The bodyguards were hobelars, armed men on horseback, and six are mentioned in January 1326 and eight that July. Five of the hobelars were also in Caerphilly: Roger atte Watre, a Londoner who had served Edward II since at least the early 1310s (and see also below), the Palington brothers John, Henry and Thomas, and John Grey.

Also in the castle: Hugh Despenser the Younger's blacksmith Will of Denbigh and two of Edward II's blacksmiths, John Cole and Robert Brakenhale. Robert le Ferrour and John le Ferrour were also blacksmiths, as evidenced by their name. Other men's job titles appear as their names, in medieval French: Eustace le Ceu and Richard le Keu ('cook'), David le Surigien ('surgeon'), Roger le Taillour, John le Taillour, Walter le Taillour, William le Taillour and Richard le Teghlour ('tailor'), William le Barber, Nicholas le Sarrour and Walter le Sarrour ('sawyer'), William le Pestour ('fisherman'), and Walter de la Panetrie ('of the pantry' or 'bakery'). The word maceon or 'mason' appears after Richard Ule's name.

Simon 'Simkyn' Simeon came from Lincolnshire and was a long-term Lancastrian adherent; he seems the odd one out among the men inside Caerphilly, though perhaps his decades of loyal service to the Lancasters only began in and after 1327. He was one of the men who went overseas with Edward II's cousin Henry, earl of Lancaster in 1329, served Henry's son Duke Henry for many years, and became the steward of Duke Henry's son-in-law John of Gaunt in Bolingbroke. Simon lived an extremely long life: he wrote his will in March 1386 and died shortly before 23 December 1387, when the will was proved. [Early Lincoln Wills 1280-1547, ed. Alfred Gibbons, p. 78] He was still actively serving John of Gaunt at Bolingbroke Castle in his native Lincolnshire as late as 1383, and John's letters and orders to him often appear in his (John's) register of 1379 to 1383. Assuming Simon was at least fourteen or sixteen in 1326/27 and wasn't a young child, which doesn't seem very likely, he can't have been born later than 1310/12 (which would make him exactly the same age as Duke Henry of Lancaster), hence was still active when he was past seventy and must have been at least seventy-five when he died.

Two men who joined the earl of Kent's plot to free the supposedly dead Edward II in 1329/30 and who were inside Caerphilly were Giles of Spain and Benet or Benedict Braham. Giles had been a squire of Edward II's household since at least 1317, and was the man sent by Edward III to the south of Europe to pursue Sir Thomas Gurney, supposedly one of Edward II's murderers, in the early 1330s. A man whose name appears as 'Stephen Dun' I suspect may mean Stephen Dunheved, co-leader with his brother Thomas, a Dominican friar, of the successful attempt to free the former Edward II from Berkeley Castle in the summer of 1327. See here, here, here, here and here. The hobelar Roger atte Watre was in Caerphilly and joined the Dunheveds in 1327. Although his brother Thomas might have been dead by 1330, Stephen also joined the earl of Kent's plot in 1329/30.

In 1326, Edward II employed half a dozen or more trumpeters, and three appear in the record of 20 March 1327 when they were pardoned for holding out at Caerphilly: Ferandus le Trompur, Henry le Trompur and Bernard le Trompur. Ferand or Ferandus was Spanish. Another man was 'Senchet Garcie'. I presume this means Sancho Garcia, a Castilian sailor who also often appears in Edward II's chamber account in 1326. That January, Sancho rode from Winchelsea in Sussex to Exning in Suffolk, where Edward was then staying, to ask if Edward wished to buy his wrecked ship the Seinte Katherine in Winchelsea harbour. Edward, as it turned out, did, and Sancho stayed at court until early May and returned three weeks later. Interestingly, there were four Spanish men inside Caerphilly: Giles of Spain, Rodrigo de Medyne, Ferand the trumpeter, and Sancho.

'William Hurle[y], carpenter' is the most famous name on the list: he was Edward II and Edward III's master carpenter, and died in 1354 having worked on Ely Cathedral, Windsor Castle and other places. Hugh Despenser the Younger had sent William Hurley to work on the great hall of Caerphilly Castle in February 1326, and some of the men named on the list, such as the two sawyers, were probably William's workmen. There are dozens of other men named among the Caerphilly garrison whom I can't as yet identify. Apart from the Spanish men above, the blacksmith Will of Denbigh, Henry of Cardiff and William of Monmouth, all the names are English rather than Welsh, and include Gilbert of Newcastle-on-Tyne and Robert of Alnwick, who were both very far from home, Adam of Pershore in Worcestershire, and Benedict of Nailsworth in Gloucestershire. Some of the men were almost certainly members of Hugh Despenser the Younger's household, but unless they appear in Edward II's accounts or the chancery rolls and are specifically named as Hugh's servants (as the hobelars and Will of Denbigh are), there's no way of identifying them as such as none of Hugh's accounts survive, with the exception of payments he made into and out of his accounts with Italian bankers in London.

Edward II and Hugh the Younger left Caerphilly on c. 1 or 2 November 1326. By the time they were captured two weeks later, they only had a tiny number of men still with them, and it's usually stated that Edward had been abandoned by his entire household. Given that the Caerphilly garrison held out against the new regime for four months and were clearly loyal to Edward and Hugh (with the likely exception of William Hurley and his men, who may simply have been caught up there by accident), and given that many of them were former members of Edward's or Hugh's households and that others would become involved in plots to free Edward after his deposition in 1327 and even after his official death in 1329/30, the picture was in fact a bit more complicated than the usual 'everyone abandoned Edward' narrative. Edward's chamber account was last kept at Caerphilly on 31 October 1326 and records payments to some of the king's chamber staff who were still with him then, a few of whom appear, as noted here, in the list of the garrison on 20 March 1327. The others apparently left the castle sometime between Edward's departure and the start of the siege some weeks later, and I don't know what happened to them as none of them appear in the extant list of the members of Edward III's household made on 24 June 1328, so apparently they all left royal service and perhaps returned to their homes and families (some of them had young children). On 31 October 1326, there were still twenty-nine chamber valets with Edward II, though it's impossible to say how many squires, sergeants-at-arms, ushers, clerks and knights remained with the king then, as their wages weren't paid out of the chamber like the valets' were and hence their names weren't recorded in his extant chamber account, now in the library of the Society of Antiquaries in London.

1 comment:

sami parkkonen said...

Very interesting indeed. Simon Hod? Any relationship to one Robin Hod/Hode/Hood? Well, that one made my imagination going on.

As for the "death" of Edward: Isabella and Roger Mortimer, the latter for sure, must have seen how many loyal men Edward still had across the realm (150 at Caerphilly alone) and must have calculated that something had to be done and fast. Thus the whole "Edward is dead" propaganda attack. And yes, I believe Edward II did not die in 1320's but much later but that is another discussion.

Now, why on earth they did not kill him for real? I believe it was because Isabella. Isabella may have had personal reasons for keeping him alive albeit socially dead. I think she still loved him in some way but I also believe she was already thinking about the future and the time when her son will be the king.

Had she been part of any real plot to kill Edward II, the son Edward III would have done something about it for sure. He was that kind of a guy. Roger Mortimer would have killed Edward II at once if he would have had enough power but he did not at this time. He was totally dependent of Isabella and her good will. He tried to gain more power and I believe he was later plotting to become king himself when he was done by Isabella and Edward III. But she just stopped any plans to kill her husband and former king, I believe.

I think the number of men inside this castle must have been some kind of warning or wake up for both Isabella and Mortimer. It is one thing to see powerful lord, barons or knights taking sides in political power plays but to see so many lower born men staying loyal to deposed king to the very end is another thing. It could have meant that this king, Edward II, had substantial support among the commoners (which I believe he did simply because he got along with them so well and those stories must have spread like a wild fire among the people) so Mortimer and Isabella had to be careful here. Any lord or a baron loyal to Edward could have mustered a substantial levy from the population for Edward II so they had to be really careful how to treat these men.

Edward II*s popularity among the commoners must have also been the reason why he was able to get out from England as I believe he did. There had to be a whole network of ordinary men and women among which Edward and his guard must have been able to hide, move around, sleep, eat etc. I believe that the events in Caerphilly showed this too.