I've talked before about a house in Southwark, more or less opposite the Tower of London and more or less where City Hall now stands in central London, called La Rosere. Edward II acquired La Rosere in October 1324 from Agnes Dunley (Anneys de Doneleye as her name appears in Edward's accounts) and another house called La Cage, next to it, from William Latimer in February 1325. Edward's accounts from October 1324 until the summer of 1326 are full of references to both houses, and La Rosere in particular: he spent a lot of money restoring the property, having the kitchen plastered and tiled, planting shrubs around it, building a jetty, and so on, and spent quite a bit of time there.
Edward, who was now forty years old, held a parliament in London from 20 October to 10 November 1324. An entry in his chamber account, dated 26 October 1324 during this parliament, states that the king crossed the River Thames from the Tower of London to La Rosere, and fist p[ri]uement son deduyt a cele place encont[re] la Tour, "secretly took his pleasure in that place opposite the Tower" or "privately made love in that place opposite the Tower". Another entry a couple of days later states that a man named Robin Carter was given two shillings because he "came promptly to the Tower with his boat to bring the king across the Thames to the place which the king bought there". [The National Archives E 101/380/4, fos. 19r, 20r] The intriguing statement about lovemaking appears at the end of what I thought at first was a rather tedious entry about buying fish. It turns out that two of Edward's clerks, William Langley and Piers Pulford, who compiled this account which is now held in the National Archives, recorded the purchase of eels, lampreys, stockfish, unsmoked herring, oysters, roach and smelt, plus butter and onions, for the king and the other person to share after they made love. The fishermen who sold the fish and seafood were called, for the record, Wille Swayncherche, Robyn Sharp, Wille Cros and Cock Swete (I kid you not). Oooooh, this was an exciting find.
Pic below: large eels, 10d for four large stockfish, herring, 5d for oysters, smelt, onions, OK, yeah yeah, this isn't very exciting, just a typical purchase of fish and seafood, le Roy fist p'uement son deduyt...wait, WHAT?!
Faire son deduit, or deduyt or dedoit, is translated in the online Anglo-Norman Dictionary - which, incidentally, is a terrific resource for which I'm very grateful - as "to have one's pleasure (of a woman)". Edward's crossing of the Thames to La Rosere was dated several months before Queen Isabella departed for her homeland in early March 1325, but as the king made love 'secretly' or 'privately' or 'discreetly' (priuement), Isabella surely cannot be the person in question. Whether the royal couple had much of a sex life after 1322, when their marriage began to go wrong, is a question we will never be able to answer. Their youngest child, Joan of the Tower, was born in July 1321; that they had no more children after this year, when Edward was thirty-seven and Isabella was twenty-six, might mean that the fertility of one or both of them had declined, or it might mean that their intimate relations had become sporadic or non-existent. As for Hugh Despenser the Younger, as royal chamberlain he was the boss of the two clerks of the royal chamber who wrote this account, and he would have been mentioned if it had been he who crossed the Thames to La Rosere with the king. And, as the Anglo-Norman Dictionary states, the phrasing used almost certainly means that Edward II's lover was a woman.
Edward had a household of something like 500 people; he had a bodyguard of eight or more archers around him all the time; he had numerous valets, pages, clerks, knights, ushers, squires, sergeants-at-arms, marshals and so on; he must have been surrounded by people at just about every moment. There's evidence that six of Edward's chamber valets slept inside his chamber, or at the very least just outside: in 1326, they were paid for waking up at night every time that the king himself awoke. Another six men, four of the king's sergeants-at-arms and two ushers, were meant to sleep just outside the door of his bedchamber, according to Edward's Household Ordinance of December 1318. Many of Edward's servants must, therefore, have known exactly when, where and with whom the king had intimate relations. Privacy was all but impossible for him, and of course for other medieval royals for the same reason.
It's really interesting therefore to note that during the parliament held in the autumn of 1324, Edward II left his entire enormous household behind in the Tower where he stayed from 16 to 28 October, and crossed the river to a house he'd only very recently acquired, in order to make love with someone secretly or privately or discreetly. Evidently, he didn't want anyone, besides his two clerks, to know who he was having sex with. Who the heck was it? Alas, William Langley and Piers Pulford were too discreet to say, or perhaps didn't even know.
In her Sexuality in Medieval Europe: Doing Unto Others (third edition, 2017, pp. 4-5), Ruth Mazo Karras points out the gendered nature of intimate language in the Middle Ages. In modern English, the words 'make love', 'have sex' and 'f*ck' are words we can use about both men and women; we can say 'she f*cked him' or 'she had sex with her' or whatever. The words imply something we do with someone, not to them. In contrast, the Middle English word swive(n), i.e. to have intercourse, meant something a man did to a woman. Karras also gives the example of the modern French word foutre, which means 'to f*ck' and like in English can refer to both men and women, but in medieval French, meant 'to penetrate' and was also only used to talk about what a man did to a woman. This is the reason, Karras says, that the subtitle of her book is Doing Unto Others; medieval people generally understood sexual acts as an active subject, inevitably a man, doing something to a passive object, almost inevitably a woman. The Anglo-Norman Dictionary translates faire lur deduit, literally 'make their pleasure', as 'to make love', i.e. this was something that two people did together, taking their pleasure, together. By contrast, the phrase used in Edward II's account of October 1324 is faire son deduyt, which literally means 'make his (sexual) pleasure' and is an example of a gendered phrase: something that Edward, as a man, is doing to someone, a woman.
The Westminster Abbey chronicle Flores Historiarum thundered in its account of events in 1324 that Edward II enjoyed "illicit intercourse [or copulations], full of sin" (concubitus illicitos peccatis plenos). It goes on to say that for this reason, Edward removed Queen Isabella and her "sweet conjugal embraces" (dulces amplexus conjugales) from his side. [Flores Historiarum, ed. H.R. Luard, vol. 3, p. 229] Although this may simply be a coincidence, Westminster Abbey is only a couple of miles from the Tower of London, from where Edward sneaked off to meet a lover secretly; perhaps the author of the Flores heard rumours.
The nature of Edward II's sexuality is something that can be endlessly debated, and it's impossible ever to know for certain. We have no way of knowing what Edward thought of his own sexuality, and there is no way of proving who he had sex with and when, unless the sexual act was procreative: we know he must have had intercourse with Queen Isabella approximately nine months before the births of their children, and we know he must have had intercourse with the unidentified woman who was the mother of his illegitimate son Adam. That's all that we can ever know for sure, however likely we think it might be that he had sex with Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despenser the Younger, and perhaps with Roger Damory and Hugh Audley. One assumes that Edward, born as the son of a reigning king and heir to his father's throne from the age of four months, was entirely accustomed to the lack of privacy in his life, and accustomed to the reality that many people would have known when he took a person to bed. He was, however, keen to keep the identity of the woman with whom he made love at La Rosere in October 1324 hidden, and we can only speculate as to the reasons for that.
Although Edward II is sometimes depicted in modern writing as a gay man who would have shunned sexual intercourse with women - and who therefore cannot possibly have been the father of Queen Isabella's children - we know that he had a sexual relationship with a woman sometime around 1305/10 which resulted in their son Adam (d. 1322). That Edward acknowledged Adam as his child indicates that this relationship was one of some duration and seriousness: after all, if a man has a one-night stand with a woman he's never met before, and a few weeks later she seeks him out and says "I'm pregnant and it's yours", if he doesn't know her, how can he be sure that the child really is his? And here in October 1324 is an example of the forty-year-old king having sex with another woman, a woman he didn't have to have sex with (i.e. unlike the queen, she was never going to be the mother of his heirs) but did have sex with, because he wanted to. Another fact to slot into the life of this complex man, and a reminder that the simplistic narratives about him created by many modern writers are just that: simplistic narratives that don't come anywhere close to the reality of who Edward II was.