30 May, 2020

"Living in Medieval England: The Turbulent Year of 1326"

My new book is out now in the UK! It's a detailed account of the year 1326, with a chapter devoted to each calendar month. I chose 1326 as it's such a dramatic year, when the queen of England invaded her husband's kingdom with an army, so there's quite a bit about what led up to the invasion, but it's far more focused on social history than my previous books are. I wanted to shine a light on the common people of England and how they lived and worked and died, how they dressed, what they earned, what their nicknames were, who they married, how much they paid for things. My main source for the book was Edward II's extant last chamber account, which covers the period from 24 May 1325 to 31 October 1326 and is full of the most delicious details about contemporary life (as well about Edward himself), and I also used chronicles, wills, the chancery rolls, petitions and other documents now in the National Archives, inquisitions post mortem, the London coroners' rolls and city letter-books, the London Assize of Nuisance, etc.

The Kindle version is available as of today in the UK, and is only £4.79! Bargain! Here's the link. Here is the hardback edition of Living in Medieval England on Amazon; it's also available via Book Depository and from the publisher's website. And if you haven't read my biography of Edward II's powerful chamberlain and 'favourite' Hugh Despenser the Younger yet, it's currently only £1.99 on Kindle. My Following in the Footsteps of Edward II, a guide to locations in Britain associated with Edward, is £4.99 on Kindle.

I'd really like to do a contest for one of you to win a free signed hardback copy of Living in Medieval England, but the lockdown in the UK is still on though has been eased quite a bit, and I'm not sure that I should be going to the post office and posting books just yet, unfortunately.

One of the 93 pages of Edward II's last chamber account, my main source for the book.

24 May, 2020

Philippa Arundel (d. 1399) And Her Children

In my last post, I looked at the three daughters of Sir Edmund Arundel (d. 1381/2), son of the earl of Arundel, and Sybil Montacute, daughter of the earl of Salisbury. Here's a post dedicated to Philippa Arundel, the best-known of their daughters.

Philippa was perhaps the second daughter of Edmund and Sybil, younger than Katherine and older than Elizabeth, though I'm not sure about that; she might have been the youngest. Given that she might have given birth as early as c. 1366/67, and almost certainly by 1370, she can hardly have been born later than the early 1350s. Her father Edmund was apparently born in 1326, and her mother Sybil perhaps in the early 1330s or thereabouts. Over the last few years and decades, there's been a lot of confusion about Philippa and her sisters, and a good few writers have followed the Complete Peerage in stating, erroneously, that the sisters (or at least one or two of them) were the daughters of Richard, earl of Arundel (d. 1376) and his first wife Isabella Despenser, rather than Richard and Isabella's granddaughters, as they in fact were. Philippa's parentage is, however, made perfectly clear by this entry on the Close Roll (CCR 1396-99, p. 72):

Philippa Arundel married Sir Richard Sergeaux or Cergeaux or Serjeaux, an important landowner, politician, keeper of the peace, justice, knight of the shire, and commissioner in Cornwall; his page on the History of Parliament site states that he held at least twenty-two manors in the county. I've seen Richard's date of birth estimated as c. 1340, which seems about right; he appeared on the Patent Roll from the early 1360s onwards with his father of the same name, and was called 'Richard Sergeaux the younger'. His father was called leisne, 'the elder', in 1361, so Richard the younger was of age and active by then. [1] Richard Sergeaux the younger was previously married to Elizabeth Bodrugan, granddaughter and co-heir of Sir Otto Bodrugan (1290-1331), the only child of Otto's second son William (b. 1311). He and Elizabeth had no children together, or at least, no surviving children. The dates of Elizabeth's death and Richard Sergeaux's subsequent second marriage to Philippa Arundel are uncertain. [2]

Philippa Arundel and Richard Sergeaux had one son and four daughters: Richard, Elizabeth, Philippa, Alice, and Joan. The birth order of their daughters is clear, though where their son fits into the order is not quite as clear, and the estimated ages and dates of birth for the eldest three of the five Sergeaux children are confusingly all over the place. They were widely spaced, with the eldest children born in the late 1360s or early 1370s, the fourth certainly born in 1384, and the fifth almost certainly born in or around 1392.

- Richard Sergeaux, the only son. His father's inquisition post mortem of November 1393 states that he was born around 21 December 1374, and also that he was 'nineteen and more'. According to another inquisition taken in 1398, however, Richard was twenty-six when his father died in September 1393 and would therefore have been born c. 1367, and this inquisition makes him, whether correctly or not, the oldest of the five Sergeaux siblings, with his sister Elizabeth two years younger and his sister Philippa four years younger. Other evidence, though, makes him younger than Elizabeth and perhaps younger than Philippa as well. Richard was named as his father's sole heir in 1393, but he outlived Sir Richard by less than three years and died on 23 or 24 June 1396. At yet another inquisition in July 1400, he was said to have died in his twentieth year, i.e. was still nineteen in June 1396, and to have died underage, i.e. under twenty-one. I haven't found any entries in the chancery rolls where Richard II took Richard Sergeaux's homage and allowed him livery of his lands, which would tend to confirm that he died before he reached his twenty-first birthday and was therefore born after 23/24 June 1375. [3] He doesn't seem to have been married, as I haven't seen any record of dower being assigned to his widow. Richard certainly left no children, and his four sisters became joint and equal heirs to the Sergeaux inheritance.

- Elizabeth Marny, the eldest daughter. According to various jurors at her mother Philippa Arundel's inquisition post mortem in January and July 1400, Elizabeth might have been as old as thirty-three then, which would place her date of birth in 1366/67, though other jurors estimated her age at thirty, or twenty-one, or twenty, in early 1400. She was also said to be twenty-four when her brother died in June 1396, placing her date of birth in 1372. Elizabeth cannot have been as young as twenty in January 1400, as she gave birth to her son Thomas Marny (or Marney) on 6 or 7 February 1393, and had a younger son John and a daughter Anne as well. [4] Thomas was the eldest grandchild of Philippa Arundel, great-grandson of Edmund Arundel and Sybil Montacute, great-great-grandson of Richard, earl of Arundel (d. 1376) and great-great-great-grandson of Hugh Despenser the Younger and Eleanor de Clare (d. 1337). Thomas's father was Elizabeth's husband Sir William Marny, landowner in Buckinghamshire and Essex, who died on 21 or 24 August 1414. 

The date of Elizabeth Sergeaux Marny's death is not recorded, to my knowledge, but in William Marny's inquisition post mortem taken in Cornwall and Oxfordshire in September/October 1414, he was said to have held a third of the Oxfordshire manor of Chipping Norton and a third of various Cornish manors "by the courtesy of England after the death of Elizabeth his wife", so she died sometime before August 1414. There's a great account of William's career here. His and Elizabeth's elder son Thomas Marny died on 22 March 1421 aged twenty-eight, and his daughter Margaret Marny was his heir; she was born posthumously on 14 August 1421. Some jurors at Thomas's inquisition post mortem did not realise that his widow (named Margaret, like their daughter) was pregnant, and hence named his brother John Marny as his heir. Little Margaret, however, died on 4 or 15 November 1421, so the Marny heir was her uncle John, after all. John Marny, second son of Elizabeth Sergeaux and grandson of Philippa Arundel, was born in Layer Marney, Essex on 14 August 1402, and his godmother was his aunt Philippa Sergeaux Passele. At John's proof of age in 1424, one of the jurors remembered his birth because he played football in Layer Marney that day and broke his shin when he fell, another remembered because a resident of the village hanged himself that day and he went to look at the hanging body (!), and another remembered because he and his wife attended Elizabeth's churching on 14 September 1402. [5]

- Philippa Passele (or Pasele or Passhelee or Pashley), later Swynbourne, second daughter. She was said to be twenty-two when her brother died in June 1396, eighteen in January 1400, twenty-eight in March 1400, and nineteen in July/September 1400, so might have been born any time between 1371/72 and 1381. Fabulous. Most inquisitions stated that she was somewhere between a year and three years younger than her sister Elizabeth, except for the Oxfordshire jurors of July 1400, who said that she was fourteen years younger than Elizabeth and that they were thirty-three and nineteen respectively. Philippa died on 13 July 1420, leaving her son John Passele as her heir; he was said to be twenty-two in her IPM of November 1420, so, if this estimate is accurate (which of course it might not be), he was born sometime between November 1397 and November 1398. Philippa married firstly Robert Passele and secondly William Swynbourne or Swinborne, and as well as her son John Passele, she had a daughter, Anne Passele. I haven't been able to find the date of Robert Passele's death, but Philippa was already married to her second husband William Swynbourne by 12 February 1407. William died on 22 May 1409, and as he had no children, his heir was his brother John, then aged about thirty. Philippa outlived her second husband by eleven years. [6]

- Alice Saint Aubyn, later de Vere, then Thorley, countess of Oxford, third daughter and fourth child, born in her father's manor of Colquite, Cornwall on 1 September 1384. We know her exact date and place of birth, because she proved her age in June 1400! Yay! Alice was said to be nine when her brother died in June 1396, though in fact she was eleven going on twelve, fourteen in January and March 1400 (actually fifteen), and fifteen in July/August 1400 (correctly). Alice Sergeaux married her first husband Guy Saint Aubyn between 20 September 1398 and 24 January 1400, when she was fourteen or fifteen. [7] He died childless sometime around 1405, and she subsequently married Richard de Vere, earl of Oxford, who was a year her junior, born on 15 August 1385. [8] Their eldest son John de Vere, earl of Oxford, was born at Hedingham Castle in Essex on 23 April 1408, and they had younger sons Robert and Richard as well. Alice was widowed on 15 February 1417, when Earl Richard died at the age of only thirty-one, and she married her third husband Sir Nicholas Thorley in or before October 1421. They wed without royal licence and Nicholas was imprisoned in the Tower of London, and were finally pardoned in December 1424. This would be the longest of her three marriages: Nicholas died on 5 May 1442, and Alice Sergeaux Saint Aubyn de Vere Thorley, dowager countess of Oxford, on 28 May 1452, in her mid-sixties. Her eldest son the earl of Oxford was beheaded ten years later. [9] 

- Joan Sergeaux, fourth daughter, fifth and youngest child, was probably born in 1392. She was therefore much younger than her siblings, young enough to be the child of her eldest sister Elizabeth (who gave birth in February 1393) and perhaps of Philippa as well. Joan was said to be four when her brother died in June 1396, seven in January 1400, and eight in March 1400. She died on 31 July 1400, and although Richard II had granted her marriage rights to her stepfather Sir John Cornwall in September 1398, John had not yet arranged her marriage. [10] After her death, the Sergeaux inheritance was shared out among Joan's three surviving older sisters. Had she lived into her teens, she, Elizabeth, Philippa and Alice would each have inherited a quarter of their late father's lands.

Philippa Arundel Sergeaux's first husband Sir Richard Sergeaux died on 30 September 1393, probably in London; he was certainly in London on 27 September, three days before his death. [11] She remained a widow for a few years, and sometime before 13 April 1398, probably not long before, married her second husband, Sir John Cornwall. [12] He was many years her junior, and might have been younger than her eldest children. Philippa's eldest grandchild Thomas Marny was already five years old when she married John, and given that she had borne her eldest child probably in the late 1360s or beginning of the 1370s (though her youngest child was only six in 1398), she might have passed beyond childbearing age when she married her second husband. Certainly she and John Cornwall had no children together. John Cornwall was himself of Cornish birth and was descended from Sir Richard Cornwall (d. 1296/97), illegitimate son of Richard, earl of Cornwall (d. 1272), younger son of King John and brother of Henry III.

John Cornwall became a household knight of Richard II in late 1396 or not long before, and accompanied Richard to Ireland in the summer of 1399, but switched his allegiance to Henry of Lancaster when Henry returned to England that year to claim his confiscated inheritance. [13John was also said to be 'sailing beyond seas' in July 1398 and February 1399, so it hardly seems likely that he and Philippa had much chance to spend time together during their brief marriage. [14]

Philippa Arundel Sergeaux Cornwall died on 13 September 1399, probably in her late forties or so. [15] Her inqusition post mortem was held in January and July 1400, and her heirs were her four daughters, her only son having already died in 1396, though her youngest child Joan Sergeaux only outlived her by a few months. Philippa's widower Sir John Cornwall made a brilliant second marriage in 1400 when he wed Elizabeth of Lancaster, dowager countess of Huntingdon, sister of King Henry IV and of Philippa, queen of Portugal, half-sister of Catalina, queen of Castile and Leon. Elizabeth (1363-1425) was the mother of John's two legitimate children, John and Constance Cornwall. Sir John Cornwall, made Baron Fanhope by Elizabeth's great-nephew Henry VI, finally died in late 1443, having fathered two illegitimate sons as well. He was one of the greatest and most renowned English warriors of the fifteenth century.


1) CPR 1361-4, pp. 65, 528.
2) See CFR 1391-9, pp. 105-6.
3) CIPM 1392-9, nos. 421-2, 1093; CIPM 1399-1405, nos. 35-6.
4) CIPM 1392-9, no. 1093; CIPM 1399-1405, nos. 31-8; CIPM 1413-18, nos. 190-94.
5) CIPM 1418-22, nos. 764-8; CIPM 1422-27, nos. 13, 257-8, 364.
6) CIPM 1392-9, no. 1093; CIPM 1399-1405, nos. 31-8; CIPM 1418-22, nos. 443-6; CIPM 1422-27, no. 416.
7) CFR 1391-9, p. 291; TNA SC 8/213/10650; CIPM 1399-1405, nos. 31-8, 312.
8) CIPM 1399-1405, nos. 190-204.
9) CIPM 1413-18, nos. 633-54; CIPM 1422-27, no. 416; CIPM 1427-32, no. 310; CIPM 1437-42, nos. 536-7; CPR 1422-29, p. 422; Complete Peerage, vol. 10, p. 236.
10) CIPM 1392-9, no. 1093; CIPM 1399-1405, nos. 31-8; CFR 1391-9, p. 291.
11) CCR 1392-6, p. 231.
12) CFR 1391-9, p. 254.
13) CPR 1396-9, pp. 64, 91, 187, 516, 550, 559; CCR 1396-9, p. 268.
14) CCR 1396-9, pp. 321, 371.
15) CIPM 1399-1405, nos. 31-8.

16 May, 2020

The Three Daughters of Edmund Arundel and Sybil Montacute

I've written before about Sir Edmund Arundel, grandson of Hugh Despenser the Younger, only child of Richard, earl of Arundel (c. 1313-76) and his first wife, Edward I's great-granddaughter Isabella Despenser (c. 1312-after 1356). Edmund was made illegitimate on the annulment of his parents' marriage in late 1344. His date of birth isn't recorded, but according to the pope he was eighteen in late 1344 and twenty in early 1347, and would therefore seem to have been born before the end of 1326 when his parents were only at the start of their teens. [1] It's possible that he had already been born when both of his grandfathers, Hugh Despenser and Edmund, earl of Arundel, were executed a week apart in November 1326. Edmund Arundel was the much older half-brother of Joan, countess of Hereford, Essex and Northampton (d. 1419), Richard, earl of Arundel (executed 1397), Alice, countess of Kent (d. 1416), John, marshal of England (drowned 1379), and Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury (d. 1414).

At an unknown date, Edmund married Sybil Montacute, daughter of William Montacute, earl of Salisbury (1301-44) and Katherine Grandisson. Sybil's brother William, earl of Salisbury was born in June 1328, her sister Elizabeth married firstly Giles, Lord Badlesmere (1314-38), secondly Hugh, Lord Despenser (1308/9-49) and thirdly Sir Guy Bryan (d. 1390), and another sister, Philippa, married Roger Mortimer, second earl of March (1328-60). It seems highly likely that Edmund Arundel and Sybil Montacute married before he was made illegitimate in late 1344, because after the annulment he was no longer his father's heir and would not inherit the earldom of Arundel and his father's lands. The earl of Salisbury hardly seems likely to agree to one of his daughters marrying an illegitimate knight who would not inherit anything - though of course Salisbury was killed jousting in early 1344, and perhaps Sybil's marriage to Edmund was arranged after his death when he was no longer around to take care of her welfare. I haven't been able to find the date of Sybil Montacute's death, even though she was the sister of the earl of Salisbury and the countess of March and hence was pretty well-connected. Edmund Arundel was still active in February 1381, in his fifties, and appointed attorneys to act for him when he went to Gascony on a military expedition. He was dead by February 1382, when his two surviving daughters and his grandson from his other daughter were involved in a legal case (see here and here).

Whenever they married, Edmund and Sybil had three daughters, Katherine, Philippa, and Elizabeth Arundel. I assume that Katherine was named in honour of her maternal grandmother, Katherine Grandisson Montacute, countess of Salisbury; I assume Elizabeth was named in honour of her aunt, Lady Badlesmere and Despenser; and I assume Philippa was named either after her aunt the countess of March or after the queen, Philippa of Hainault. The three Arundel sisters were granddaughters of the earls of Salisbury and Arundel; their uncle was the long-lived earl of Salisbury who died in 1397 when he was close to seventy, and their other (half-)uncles included the earl of Arundel executed by Richard II in 1397 and the famous archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Arundel. They were also first cousins of Edmund Mortimer, third earl of March (1352-81), and had numerous other important first cousins via their father's younger half-siblings. Although the three Arundel sisters married further down the social scale than their relatives because of their father's illegitimacy, one of Edmund and Sybil's granddaughters, Alice Sergeaux (1384-1452), became countess of Oxford by her second marriage and was the mother of John de Vere, earl of Oxford (1408-62).

It's difficult to ascertain the Arundel sisters' dates of birth or their birth order, but it seems that all three became mothers in the 1360s. Elizabeth married firstly Sir Leonard Carew, who was born in Stoke Fleming, Devon on 23 April 1342 and died on 9 October 1369, and their son and heir Thomas Carew was either one or two years old in April 1370, therefore was born sometime at the end of the 1360s not long before his father's death. She married secondly Sir John Meriet of Somerset, who was born on 24 March 1346. [2] The eldest of Philippa Arundel's five Sergeaux children was perhaps born c. 1367, and by 1370 at the latest. [3] Katherine Arundel's son Robert Deincourt or Deyncourt or Dancourt or Daynecourt, named after his father, was seemingly born around 1362/64; he was said to be either twenty-six or twenty-eight years old in early 1391. The rights to Robert's marriage passed to John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, who gave them to his mistress Katherine Swynford to use for her daughter Blanche Swynford at the start of 1375 (though for some reason Robert and Blanche never married). [4]

Given that Philippa and Elizabeth became mothers around 1367/69, and that Philippa's eldest grandchild was born in February 1393, they can hardly have been born later than the early 1350s, and if her son's date of birth of c. 1362/64 as stated in 1391 is correct, Katherine was surely the eldest Arundel daughter and must have been born in the mid or late 1340s. Philippa Arundel is the best known of the three daughters, and I'll discuss her and her children, and her two marriages, in the next post.
Elizabeth Arundel was widowed when Leonard Carew or Carru or Carreu or Carrewe (eldest son and heir of John Carew, d. 1362) died on 9 October 1369 at the age of only twenty-seven, leaving their infant son Thomas as his heir. Thomas Carew lived until 1431 and left a son and heir, Nicholas, and the line continued; the Carews became earls of Totnes in the seventeenth century[5] Probably in 1373, Elizabeth married her second husband, Sir John Meriet of Somerset, born on 24 March 1346 as the son of John Meriet Senior and Eleanor Beauchamp, daughter of John Beauchamp of Hatch. John Meriet Junior died on 26 July 1391, and it was found that his heir was his daughter Elizabeth, who had turned four around 13 December 1390 and hence was born in December 1386, and despite her youth was already married to the oddly-named Urry Seymour. John had married secondly a woman named Maud, the widow of Ralph Seymour, who apparently was his daughter Elizabeth's mother, even though the little girl shared a name with her father's first wife. Elizabeth Arundel Carew Meriet was still alive in Michaelmas term 1385, and must have died before March 1386 when her widower John Meriet - with what seems like undue haste - conceived a daughter with his second wife Maud. [6

As for Katherine Arundel, I'm confused about the family she married into, the Deincourts, and how members of the family were related to whom. Sir John Deincourt, uncle of Katherine's son Robert Deincourt, worked in John of Gaunt's household for many years, and his son and heir Roger Deincourt was born in May 1377 in Gaunt's castle of Kenilworth. [7] The records of Richard II's reign are full of stuff like the following, and my brain just waves a white flag and gives up. I'm not even sure whom Robert Deincourt ended up marrying after he failed to marry Blanche Swynford as planned, and when he died.

Katherine Arundel Deincourt was already dead by February 1382 when her son Robert Deincourt and her sisters Philippa and Elizabeth were involved in a legal case (see above for links). Philippa Arundel Sergeaux Cornwall was the last living of the three daughters of Edmund Arundel and Sybil Montacute, and died on 13 September 1399; I'll write about her in the next post.


1) Calendar of Papal Letters 1342-62, p. 254.
2) B.W. Greenfield, 'Meriet of Meriet and of Hestercombe', part 2, Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society Proceedings, vol. 28 (1882), pp. 99-215 (at pp. 154, 160-3); CIPM 1361-5, no. 613; CIPM 1365-9, nos. 269, 436.
3) CIPM 1392-9, nos. 421-3, 1093; CIPM 1399-1405, nos. 31-8.
4) CIPM 1384-92, nos. 847-50; John of Gaunt's Register 1371-75, nos. 181, 1607.
5) CIPM 1361-5, nos. 300, 613; CIPM 1365-9, no. 436; CIPM 1427-32, nos. 526-8.
6) CIPM 1365-9, no. 269; CIPM 1392-9, no. 98; Greenfield, 'Meriet of Meriet', pp. 154, 158, 160; Feet of Fines for Devon, CP 25/1/44/62, no. 17 and CP 25/1/44/64, no. 62.
7) CIPM 1399-1405, no. 313.

10 May, 2020

Hugh Mortimer (d. 1304) and William la Zouche (d. 1337), Brothers

Hugh Mortimer and William la Zouche were brothers, and were only rather distantly related to the much more famous Mortimers of Wigmore, who became earls of March; this branch of the Mortimer family came from Richard's Castle on the border of Shropshire and Herefordshire.

Hugh and William were born in the 1270s, and were the sons of Robert Mortimer and Joyce or Joice la Zouche. Hugh was named after their grandfather Hugh Mortimer, who died shortly before 28 November 1274 leaving his son Robert, aged '22 and more', as his heir to several manors in Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire. [1] Robert Mortimer was therefore born around the early 1250s, and died on 7 April 1287. Robert and Joyce's elder son and heir Hugh was allowed to take possession of his inheritance on 10 December 1295 as he was now 'of full age', meaning that he was born before 10 December 1274, probably not too long before, around the time that his paternal grandfather and namesake died. During his minority, Edward I had granted Hugh's wardship to William Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (d. 1298). [2]

Hugh Mortimer married a woman named Maud, who is known to have been a relative of Eleanor of Castile, queen of England, and of Eleanor's son Edward of Caernarfon, though the precise connection remains elusive. According to the Complete Peerage (vol. 9, pp. 264-5), Maud was a niece of William Marshal, and Edward of Caernarfon's extant correspondence of 1304/5 shows that he referred to her as nostre chere cosine Dame Maud de Mortimer du Chastel Richard, 'our dear cousin Lady Maud Mortimer of Richard's Castle'.

Hugh and Maud had two daughters, who were Hugh's heirs, and heirs to the Richard's Castle branch of the Mortimer family: Joan Mortimer, born in Caerphilly Castle on 24 November 1291, and Margaret Mortimer, born c. 14 September 1295. Hugh, born not too long before 10 December 1274, was a young father, barely seventeen when Joan was born. One of Joan's godfathers was Henry le Waleys, 'the Welshman'. Margaret's proof of age is missing so her place and exact date of birth are not known, but a reference on the Close Roll shows that the proof of age was held on or just before 18 September 1309. As well as being the heirs to their Mortimer father and grandfather, the Mortimer sisters were heirs to their father's uncle William Mortimer of Hamme, who died shortly before 2 November 1308. [3They inherited lands in Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire, Wales, Northamptonshire, Essex, Hampshire and Devon.

Joan Mortimer married Thomas Bykenore sometime between 1 October 1304 and 27 June 1305, and Margaret Mortimer married Geoffrey Cornwall before 15 February 1308. [4] Geoffrey was a son of Sir Richard Cornwall (d. 1296/97), himself an illegitimate son of Richard, earl of Cornwall (1209-72), younger son of King John, brother of Henry III, and uncle of Edward I. That makes Geoffrey Edward II's second cousin, and his brother Edmund was knighted with Edward in 1306. Their sister Joan Cornwall married Sir John Howard of Norfolk and was an ancestor of the Howard dukes of Norfolk.

The sisters' father Hugh Mortimer of Richard's Castle died on 20 July 1304, probably not yet thirty years old, and peculiarly, his wife Maud was accused of poisoning both him and a man named Hugh de Kyngesmede or Kyngeshemede. She was pardoned at the request of Edward I's second wife Marguerite of France on 16 September 1305, and Marguerite's twenty-year-old stepson Edward of Caernarfon, Maud's kinsman, also took an interest in the case and sent numerous letters on the matter. One of Edward's letters reveals that he knew his mother Queen Eleanor had arranged Hugh and Maud Mortimer's marriage (nostre treschere dame e mere la fit marier). [5] Eleanor of Castile died on 28 November 1290, so Hugh and Maud's marriage must have been arranged before then, and as their first child was born in November 1291, the latest date their wedding can have taken place was February 1291. Maud Mortimer, cleared of the charges of murder, died sometime before 15 February 1308. [6]

The second Mortimer son, William, lived a much longer life than his older brother, and made two brilliant marriages. In 1298, he fought for Edward I at the battle of Falkirk as 'Sir William Mortimer of Richard's Castle' (Dns Willelmus de Mortuo Mari de Castro Ricardi), but by the autumn of 1304 had adopted his mother Joyce's name and began calling himself 'la Zouche'. [7] He often appears on record as 'William la Zousche de Mortuo Mari'. William's date of birth is not known, but his brother Hugh was almost certainly born in 1274, and as William was already a knight by the time of the battle of Falkirk in 1298, he must have been born before 1280. William acquired the Leicestershire manor of Ashby de la Zouch from his kinsman Alan la Zouche (d. 1314) on 20 October 1304, apparently an important factor in his decision to change his name. [8]

In contrast to his elder brother, a teenage husband and father, William la Zouche remained unmarried until 1316, when he wed Alice Toeni, dowager countess of Warwick and heir of the Toeni family. William must have been in his late thirties by then, perhaps even forty. Edward II granted the couple a licence to marry on 26 October 1316 in exchange for a payment of 500 marks. [9] Alice had been married twice before. She was the widow of Sir Thomas Leybourne (d. 1307), with whom she had a daughter Juliana, Lady Hastings and countess of Huntingdon (1303/4-1367), and of Guy Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (d. August 1315), with whom she had several children including Guy's heir Thomas, earl of Warwick (1314-69). Alice and Guy's son Thomas Beauchamp remained in her and William's custody until 20 July 1318, when Edward II gave Thomas's marriage rights to Roger Mortimer of Wigmore (later the first earl of March) and ordered Alice and William to "deliver to him the body of the said heir, in their keeping, to be married." [10] Thomas Beauchamp, who was only four years old then, later married Roger's daughter Katherine Mortimer.

Alice Toeni and William la Zouche had two children: Alan la Zouche, William's heir, and Joyce, named after his mother. Alan was probably born not long before 15 November 1317, as Edward III allowed 'Alan la Zouche, son and heir of William la Zouche Mortimer' to enter his late father's lands on 15 November 1338, having taken his homage. He was said to be nineteen years old in his father's inquisition post mortem, held in March to May 1337, which fits well with a date of birth in c. November 1317, about a year after his parents' wedding. He died on 12 November 1346 in his late twenties. [11] Joyce la Zouche married John, Lord Botetourt (b. c. 1316/18) and had children; her brother Alan married a woman named Eleanor, whose identity is unknown, and with her had a son and heir, Hugh la Zouche, born on 29 September 1338 in Powick ('Poywyk'), Worcestershire. [12] Alan la Zouche might have named his son in honour of his father's older brother Hugh Mortimer (d. 1304); alternatively, it is possible that Hugh la Zouche's godfather was his father's stepbrother Hugh, Lord Despenser (1308/9-1349). For the Zouche-Despenser connection, see below.

Alice Toeni Leybourne Beauchamp la Zouche died before 8 January 1325, leaving her eldest son Thomas Beauchamp as her heir (her eldest child was Juliana Leybourne Hastings, heir to her father but not her mother). [13] Marrying the countess of Warwick had been quite a coup for William la Zouche given that he was a younger son and not an heir, and his second marriage was even better: Eleanor de Clare, Lady Despenser, born in October 1292 as the eldest niece of Edward II, lady of Glamorgan, and one of the richest women in the country. William abducted Eleanor from Hanley Castle in Worcestershire not long before 26 January 1329; see my post about it. By 1329, he must have been over fifty years old.

Around 1330, Eleanor bore William a son, William the younger, half-brother of Alan and Joyce la Zouche, and also half-brother of Eleanor's many Despenser children, the eldest of whom was born in 1308 or 1309. William la Zouche the younger is, considering that he was a great-grandson of King Edward I, remarkably obscure; at some point before February 1361, he became a monk at Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset, and was still alive on 6 December 1390. His cousin Edward III granted the abbot of Glastonbury ten marks a year during William's lifetime, and his Despenser kin gave him an allowance of a hundreds shillings a year. [14] Rather curiously, William la Zouche the younger was a first cousin of Joan Mortimer Bykenore, who was born in 1291 and was about four decades older than he.

William la Zouche the father died on 28 February 1337, and Eleanor buried him in Tewkesbury Abbey in Gloucestershire, where her first husband Hugh Despenser the Younger and many of her Clare relatives and ancestors were also buried. She only outlived him by four months and died at the age of forty-four on 30 June 1337, and was also buried in Tewkesbury Abbey. William had made her an executor of his will, and as Eleanor buried him in her family's mausoleum, it would seem that they had made a success of their marriage, whether Eleanor had consented to it in January 1329 or not. William la Zouche's marriages to two women of much higher rank and much greater wealth than he would seem to imply that he was an attractive, appealing man.


1) CIPM 1272-91, no. 132.
2) CIPM 1272-91, nos. 640, 785; CCR 1288-96, pp. 72, 467.
3) CIPM 1300-07, no. 221; CIPM 1307-17, nos. 57, 66, 133; CCR 1307-13, pp. 97-8, 177-78.
4) CIPM 1300-07, no. 221; CIPM 1307-17, no. 57; CPR 1301-7, pp. 261, 265, 311, 321.
5) CPR 1301-7, pp. 378, 402, 486; Hilda Johnstone, Letters of Edward, Prince of Wales 1304-1305, pp. 34, 50-51, 58,, 75-6 etc. 
6) CIPM 1307-17, no. 57; CFR 1307-19, p. 14.
7) Complete Peerage, vol. 12B, p. 957.
8) Feet of Fines for Leicestershire, CP 25/1/285/25, no. 298; CFR 1307-19, p. 191; CCR 1313-18, pp. 59-61.
9) CFR 1307-19, p. 308.
10) CFR 1307-19, p. 369.
11) CCR 1337-9, p. 559; CIPM 1336-46, nos. 112, 662.
12) CIPM 1352-60, nos. 592, 644.
13) CFR 1319-27, pp. 324-5; CIPM 1317-27, no. 611.
14) CPR 1358-61, p. 538; CFR 1377-83, p. 46; CFR 1383-91, p. 346.