20 April, 2021

Foreign Parents of Earls in Edward II's Reign

It occurred to me recently how many of the English earls of Edward II's era had a non-English mother, and in a couple of cases, a non-English father. Edward II himself was the son of a half-Spanish, half-French mother, Leonor or Eleanor of Castile. His maternal grandfather Fernando III of Castile and Leon was Spanish, and both of his grandmothers, Joan of Ponthieu (often called Jeanne de Dammartin) and Eleanor of Provence, queens of Castile and England, were French. Of Edward's eight great-grandparents, only one, King John, was born in England, two were born in Spain, and five were born in France. Of his sixteen great-great-grandparents, thirteen were born in France, two in Spain and one in Portugal, and none were born in England.

The mother of Edward II's half-brothers Thomas of Brotherton, earl of Norfolk (1300-38) and Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent (1301-30), was French: Marguerite of France, daughter of Philip III from his second marriage to Marie of Brabant, and half-sister of Philip IV. 

The mother of Thomas (c. 1277/78-1322) and Henry (c. 1280/81-1345) of Lancaster, earls of Lancaster and Leicester, was French: Blanche of Artois, daughter of Robert, count of Artois; niece of Louis IX; widow of Enrique I of Navarre; mother-in-law of Philip IV; and grandmother of Louis X, Philip V and Charles IV of France and of Edward II's queen Isabella.

The mother of Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln (c. 1250-1311), was Italian: Alesia di Saluzzo, daughter of Manfredi, count of Saluzzo.

The mother of Edmund Fitzalan, earl of Arundel (1285-1326), was Italian: Alesia di Saluzzo the younger, niece of Henry de Lacy's mother of the same name, and daughter of Tommaso, count of Saluzzo.

The father of John of Brittany, earl of Richmond (c. 1266-1334) was, unsurprisingly, Breton: John II, duke of Brittany (1239-1305). John of Brittany's mother was Edward I's sister Beatrice (1242-75), making him Edward II's first cousin, and his older brother Arthur II (1262-1312) succeeded their father as duke of Brittany.

The father of Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke (1270s or early 1280s-1324) was French: William or Guillaume de Valence, earl of Pembroke (d. 1296). He was one of Henry III's Lusignan half-siblings, children of Hugues de Lusignan, count of La Marche, and King John's widow Isabelle of Angoulême.

The mother of Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex (c. 1276-1322) was French: Maud de Fiennes, daughter of Enguerrand, seigneur de Fiennes, and Isabelle de Condé. Humphrey married Edward II's sister Elizabeth of Rhuddlan (1282-1316).

The mother of Roger Mortimer, earl of March (1286/87-1330) was French: Marguerite de Fiennes, niece of Maud de Fiennes above, and daughter of Guillaume de Fiennes and Blanche de Brienne. When Marguerite died not long before 21 February 1334, incidentally, her heir was her great-grandson Roger Mortimer the younger, born November 1328 and later the second earl of March; she had outlived her son Roger, executed in November 1330, and Roger's eldest son Edmund, who died before 21 January 1332. [Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1327-36, nos. 387, 577] Marguerite's sister Jeanne de Fiennes (d. 1309) married John, Lord Wake (d. 1300) and was the mother of Margaret Wake, countess of Kent (d. 1349) and the grandmother of Joan of Kent, princess of Wales and Aquitaine (d. 1385), Richard II's mother.

Piers Gaveston, earl of Cornwall (1270s or early 1280s-1312), was of Gascon birth and heritage, and as Gascony was then ruled by the kings of England, was a subject of the English crown and not strictly French by the standards of the time. Piers' family name derives from Gabaston, now a commune in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in the far south-west of France. He was the son of Arnaud de Gabaston/Gaveston and Claramonde de Marsan, and his grandfathers were Garsie de Gabaston and Arnaud-Guilhem de Marsan.

For the sake of completeness, the earl of Chester in Edward II's reign was his son Edward of Windsor, later Edward III (1312-77), whose mother was also, obviously, French: Isabella of France, daughter of Philip IV of France and Jeanne/Juana I, queen of Navarre.

The English earls of Edward II's era who had English parents were:

Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford (1291-1314), son of Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford  (1243-95) and Edward II's sister Joan of Acre (1272-1307).

John de Warenne, earl of Surrey and Sussex (1286-1347), son of William de Warenne (d. 1286) and Joan de Vere, daughter of the earl of Oxford; grandson and heir of John de Warenne, earl of Surrey and Sussex (1231-1304) and Alice de Lusignan, half-sister of Henry III and full sister of Guillaume de Valence.

Guy Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (c. 1272/75-1315), son of William Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (d. 1298) and Maud FitzJohn (d. 1301).

Hugh Despenser the Elder, earl of Winchester (1261-1326), son of Hugh Despenser, justiciar of England (d. 1265) and Aline Basset, countess of Norfolk (d. 1281).

Andrew Harclay, earl of Carlisle (c. 1270-1323), probably the eldest son of Sir Michael Harclay and Joan FitzJohn.

Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford (1257-1331), was the son of Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford (d. 1296) and Alice Sanford, and was the maternal uncle of John de Warenne (1286-1347).

11 April, 2021

English Earls Executed Between 1312 and 1330

It says so much about Edward II's turbulent reign that for centuries after William the Conqueror put the rebellious Waltheof to death in 1076, no English earls were executed, then in Edward's reign and just afterwards, the first three years and a few months of his son Edward III's reign - a period which to all extents and purposes belongs to Edward II's era - seven (seven!) earls were executed. Another two earls, meanwhile, died in battle: Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford, at Bannockburn in June 1314, and Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex, at Boroughbridge in March 1322. Furthermore, rumours were current in the fourteenth century that Guy Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, was poisoned in August 1315 with the connivance of Edward II himself (in revenge for Guy's abduction of Piers Gaveston in June 1312). Quite honestly, to be an earl in Edward II's era and to die of natural causes was a real achievement. After Edward III took over the governance of his own kingdom from his mother in October 1330, no other English earl was executed for the remainder of his long reign. 

Piers Gaveston, earl of Cornwall was stabbed and beheaded on the orders of several of Edward II's disgruntled barons, including the earls of Warwick, Lancaster, Hereford and Arundel, at Blacklow Hill in Warwickshire on 19 June 1312. There was and is some dispute as to whether he was really earl of Cornwall when he died, as the title had been taken from him the previous autumn when he was exiled for the third time, but certainly, Edward II thought he was, having granted him the title and lands again in January 1312. The next earl of Cornwall was Edward's younger son, 12-year-old John of Eltham, granted the earldom by his mother Isabella and brother Edward III in October 1328; it's probably revealing of Edward II's feelings about Piers Gaveston that he didn't give anyone else the earldom once held by his beloved, not even his own son.

Thomas of Lancaster, earl of Lancaster and Leicester, was beheaded outside his own Yorkshire castle of Pontefract on 22 March 1322, having lost the battle of Boroughbridge six days earlier. Numerous fourteenth-century chroniclers pointed out that Edward II executed his cousin in revenge for Piers Gaveston's death just under a decade earlier. Probably born in late 1277 or early 1278, Thomas was forty-four when he was executed, and because he was of royal birth - his father was Edward I's only brother and his mother was the niece of Louis IX of France and the widow of Enrique I of Navarre - his death shocked contemporaries. If we decide that Piers Gaveston doesn't really 'count' as an earl, and he was Gascon and not English anyway, Thomas was the first English earl executed for 246 years.

Andrew Harclay, earl of Carlisle, was, as sheriff of Cumberland, the man chiefly responsible for destroying the Contrariant army at the battle of Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322, and shortly afterwards was rewarded with the new earldom of Carlisle by a grateful Edward II. Andrew soon fell foul of the king, however, when in early 1323, sick of the king's inability to protect the north of England from Scottish raids, he came to an agreement with Robert Bruce without Edward II's knowledge or consent. Andrew suffered the traitor's death in Carlisle on 3 March 1323, probably in his early fifties, having been earl of Carlisle for less than a year. The next earl of Carlisle was James Hay, a whole 300 years later in 1622.

Hugh Despenser the Elder, earl of Winchester, was hanged in Bristol on 27 October 1326, aged 65. Edward II had left him in Bristol to hold the city against Queen Isabella and her invasion force, but it fell to her after a few days, and Hugh was given a show trial and immediately hanged, then beheaded after death. His body was suspended for several days on the gallows by the arms, and then, horribly, fed to dogs, and his head was taken to Winchester for public display. He had been earl since May 1322, a little under four and a half years, and there was no other earl of Winchester until the 1470s.

Edmund Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, aged 41, was beheaded in Shrewsbury on 17 November 1326, also on the orders of Queen Isabella and Arundel's cousin Roger Mortimer. It seems that he wasn't even allowed the semblance of a trial before his death, which was a horribly slow and painful one: it took the incompetent executioner at least seventeen and perhaps more than twenty strokes of the axe to sever his head. Arundel, present at the execution of Piers Gaveston in 1312, had become a staunch ally of Edward II and the Despensers, and his son and heir Richard, who restored the family fortunes and then some in later years, was married to Hugh Despenser the Younger's eldest daughter Isabella.

Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent, the youngest son of Edward I and half-brother of Edward II, and grandson of Philip III of France, was beheaded in Winchester on 19 March 1330, aged 28. He had been making attempts to free his supposedly dead half-brother the late king from captivity in Corfe Castle, Dorset, and was beheaded after being forced to wait around on the scaffold for many hours because the executioner had fled, unwilling to participate in the judicial murder of a king's son. His wife Margaret Wake was almost nine months pregnant with their son John at the time.

Roger Mortimer, earl of March, was hanged at Tyburn on 29 November 1330, aged 43 or 44, on the orders of Edward III. A list of fourteen charges was issued against him during parliament, which reveals the young king's fury that March's dominance of his government made him feel that he was "like a man living in custody". As with Hugh Despenser the Younger, lord of Glamorgan, almost exactly four years earlier, March was accused of usurping royal power which did not belong to him.

The earls who died of natural causes were:

Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln, died in 1311, aged about 50 or 52. Henry's heir was his daughter Alice (1281-1348).

Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, son of Henry III's half-brother William de Valence. He died in France in June 1324 in his forties or fifties, on his way to Charles IV's court in Paris, somewhat in disgrace with Edward II. Possibly Pembroke's sudden and unexpected death - he collapsed and died in the arms of an attendant without being shriven - spared him from later execution either by Edward II or Queen Isabella.

Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford (1257-1331): a weirdly obscure nobleman who played no role whatsoever in events of Edward II's reign, and at least part of the fact that he survived both the reign and Queen Isabella's regime unscathed was because he wasn't important enough for anyone to bother with.

John of Brittany, earl of Richmond (c. 1266-1334): a younger son of Edward I's sister Beatrice, and thus a first cousin of Edward II and of Thomas and Henry of Lancaster. Oddly, John never married. He was loyal to Edward until 1322, and later joined Isabella in France. Although he mostly grew up in England, where his relatives affectionately called him Briton, he was always something of an outsider in English politics.

John de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex (1305-36): Edward II's nephew, and, with his younger brothers, a close ally of their cousin Edward III.

Thomas of Brotherton, earl of Norfolk (1300-38): Edward II's other half-brother; possibly, he survived Isabella and Roger Mortimer's regime because his son and heir was married to Mortimer's daughter Beatrice.

Henry of Lancaster, earl of Lancaster and Leicester (c. 1280-1345): brother and heir of Thomas, first cousin of Edward II, with whom he was somewhat in disgrace from 1322 to 1326. Henry played an important role in Edward's downfall in 1326/27, but two years later fell out badly with Isabella and Mortimer and rebelled, and again, was perhaps lucky not to be executed or judicially murdered.

John de Warenne, earl of Surrey and Sussex (1286-1347), nephew of the obscure Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford, and nephew-in-law of Edward II: switched sides from Edward to the queen at the right moment in 1326 and thus saved himself from the horrible execution of his brother-in-law the earl of Arundel, and died the day before his 61st birthday in June 1347.

And finally, for the sake of completeness, I should also mention Edward III, who was made earl of Chester in late 1312 when he was a few days old.

04 April, 2021

Margaret Gatesden, John Camoys and William Paynel

The fascinating story of a thirteenth-century noblewoman who left her husband and moved in with her lover, with, amazingly enough, her husband's blessing.

Margaret Gatesden (or Gatesdene or Gattisden, etc) was born sometime in the early or mid-1250s as the daughter of Sir John Gatesden, a landowner in Sussex and Surrey, and Hawise née Courtenay, widow of John Neville. Margaret had older half-brothers from her mother's first marriage, but was her father's only surviving child and heir, and inherited manors in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Sussex. She married Sir John Camoys, who was born around 1247/52: in November 1276 he was said to be 27 years old, and in April/May 1277, he was either 25, 26 or 30. John inherited lands in Surrey, Norfolk, Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire. [1] Margaret Gatesden and John Camoys' son Ralph Camoys was born in or before November 1273: he paid homage to Edward I for a manor in November 1294, and must have been at least 21 then. [2] Ralph Camoys was a long-term adherent of Hugh Despenser the Elder, and in 1316 married Despenser's youngest daughter Elizabeth as his (decades-younger) second wife. Ralph's grandson Thomas Camoys was born around 1350 and lived until 1421, having commanded part of the English army at the battle of Agincourt in 1415. Thomas's daughter Alice Camoys, Margaret Gatesden's great-great-granddaughter, was the mother of Edward IV's friend William, Lord Hastings (d. 1483).

Sometime in or before 1277, according to the Complete Peerage, Margaret Camoys née Gatesden fell in love with another man, Sir William Paynel, lord of Trotton in Sussex, who many years later inherited lands in Wiltshire, Hampshire, Sussex and Surrey from his older brother Thomas Paynel (d. 1314). William was said to be 60 years old in 1314, so was born c. 1254 or rather earlier, and was therefore apparently around Margaret's own age. [3] Margaret left John Camoys and went to live with William. Rather remarkably, John accepted the situation and responded to the situation with astonishing kindness and benevolence. He stated on 11 June 1285 that 'I will and grant … that the aforesaid Margaret is to live and remain with the aforesaid Sir William', transferred his rights to the greater part of Margaret’s inheritance to Paynel, and gave up his claims to her goods and chattels. In 1300, it was said that Margaret 'lived with the same William … with the consent and by the will of the said John, then the husband of the same Margaret'. On 9 June 1281, there's a record of a '[f]eoffment by John de Cammays [Camoys] to John de Kirkeby of the manor and advowson of Cotherstok and the mills of Pireho with their suits, all of which Sir William Paynel, who enfeoffed the said John de Kirkeby thereof, had by his gift and feoffment.' [4]

After Sir John Camoys died, Margaret married Sir William Paynel, by then her lover for more than twenty years. Edward I’s government appeared far more upset about Margaret’s behaviour than her first husband did, claiming after John died that she had no right to dower as his widow because she had 'abandoned' him, was 'guilty of the crime of adultery', and 'is living in adultery rather than in any other proper or lawful manner'. Gilbert St Leofard, bishop of Chichester, however, acknowledged that in early 1296 Margaret had 'solemnly and canonically purged herself' of adultery before Gilbert’s dean and treasurer, the prioress of Easebourne, four ladies named as Margaret Martel, Isabel de Montfort, Hawise de Houtot and A. Corbet, and 'many other married women and young maidens of the neighbourhood'. The bishop therefore declared her innocent of the crime and requested that she might be restored to her good name. William Paynel had also legally purged himself of adultery before John Pecham, archbishop of Canterbury, in 1288. The reaction of Edward I's government to the Margaret Gatesden/William Paynel situation mentions a recent statute 'concerning women leaving their husbands and living with their adulterers and not reconciled freely and without ecclesiastical coercion before the deaths of their husbands … in which it is expressly contained that, if a wife freely leaves her husband and goes to live with her adulterer, she is to lose in perpetuity her action for claiming her dower which might belong to her'. [5] This was the second Statute of Westminster of 1285.

The awesome John Camoys, who evidently cared more about his wife's happiness than he did about his own reputation, died shortly before 4 June 1298, and Margaret married William Paynel in or before 1300. [6] They had no children during their long relationship, or at least, no children who survived. Margaret Gatesden Camoys Paynel was still alive on 16 June 1310 when she appears in an entry on the Close Roll, and died shortly before 4 January 1311, when Edward II ordered his escheator to take into his own hands the lands 'late of Margaret late the wife of John de Camoys, deceased'. [7] Her heir was her son Ralph Camoys. 

Margaret's widower William Paynel died on 1 April 1317, leaving his younger brother John, said in William's IPM to be anywhere between 40 and more than 60 years old (!!), as his heir. It seems more likely that John was much closer to 60 than to 40, and that the two younger Paynel brothers were born around 1254 and 1257. William was said on 7 June 1314 to be too physically weak to be able to travel to Edward II and perform homage for the lands he had inherited from his older brother Thomas, and by 14 June 1316, he was blind ('deprived of his sight'). [8] He had, however, married a second wife, Eve Dawtry, before 6 November 1314. She was the granddaughter and heir of William Dawtry and the widow of Roger Shelvestrode, with whom she had a son named John. [9] Eve married her third husband Sir Edward St John just a few weeks after William Paynel's death, sometime before 26 May 1317 when the king seized their lands because they had married without a royal licence. In February 1321, Edward II pardoned Eve, Edward St John and twenty men for supposedly abducting Eve from Cowdray in Sussex, "she being willing and assenting thereto". Edward's father John St John had acknowledged a debt of 72 marks to William Paynel in 1281, so the families had known each other for a long time. Many years William Paynel's junior, Eve did not die until August 1354, having outlived her eldest son John Shelvestrode. Her heir to her Paynel dower lands was William's niece Maud, daughter of his younger brother John; her primary heir was her grandson Roger Shelvestrode (b. 1334); and she had two sons with Edward St John as well, named John and Edward St John. 

William Paynel's stepson Sir Ralph Camoys died shortly before 17 September 1335, when his lands were taken into the king's hands. In June 1334, Ralph's eldest son Thomas Camoys (d. 1372), grandson of John Camoys and Margaret Gatesden, was one of the two godfathers of Roger Shelvestrode, grandson and heir of Eve Dawtry, second wife of Margaret Gadesden's widower, while Eve herself was her grandson's godmother. [10] This is a rather fascinating illustration of how the Camoys, Paynel and Dawtry/St John/Shelvestrode families remained close, decades after Margaret Gatesden left her husband John Camoys with his blessing to live with her lover William Paynel.


1) CIPM 1272-91, nos. 178, 212.

2) CFR 1272-1307, p. 349.

3) CIPM 1317-27, no. 456; Complete Peerage, vol. 10, pp. 319-31.

4) The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England: Original Documents, Edward I Parliaments, Roll 11; TNA E 40/9069.

5) Parliament Rolls.

6) CFR 1272-1307, pp. 76-8, 349, 400; Parliament Rolls.

7) CCR 1307-13, p. 217; CFR 1307-19, pp. 77, 81.

8) CIPM 1317-27, no. 46; CFR 1307-19, pp. 198, 321; CPR 1313-17, p. 472.

9) Complete Peerage, vol. 10, p. 330.

10) CFR 1307-19, p. 328; CPR 1317-21, pp. 559-60; CCR 1279-88, p. 130; CIPM 1352-60, nos. 189, 271; CFR 1327-37, p. 459.