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] 

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.


Chris Klein said...

Hi Kathryn -

As one barely fluent in my native language, how do you keep track of the multiple surnames in your research? (Example: Margaret Gatesden (or Gatesdene or Gattisden, etc)). Yes, phonetic spelling rather than actual spelling was the given method, but it must make your research far more difficult. I've gritted my teeth when I've seen others write my surname as, "Kline", "Cline", "Clein". And it's 2021.

How are you able to reconcile the names? Are they consistent among the various chroniclers/writers of the time?

As an organic chemist, I appreciate the fact I share a language with others that I am not able to converse with linguistically. (I once had a great conversation with a Japanese scientist which was completely written on paper, sharing chemical reactions and structures. No words were exchanged.)

It feels to me, the research you have to do is far more complicated than that of what I have done as I have the luxury of a common language. That you dragged out this story, these peoples lives, out of a series of fragmented documents and brought them to life, is really amazing to me.

Have you done a post where you walk the reader through the process you have to undertake to tell the story? I have read several of your books, I'm a fan, and I see all the cites and appendices, but I don't necessarily follow them. (If they discussed the concentration of boron nitride/aluminum oxide in thermally-conductive thermosetting compounds in end winding series loop connections in large hydrogen-cooled turbo generators, then I would, LOL!)

I guess my question is, you are prolific in this subject, and you present it very well, so how do you go about researching a post such as this? In this case, did you find a notation in something you were researching, and it lead you down another rabbit hole?

I'm so sorry for potentially hijacking this post, but the subject matter is really interesting and I'm curious as to how it's developed.

You bring these people to life, and I'm fascinated with the process behind it. I really enjoy these posts in my e-mail.

sami parkkonen said...

Wonderful story of genuine love in medieval times.

Kathryn Warner said...

Sami: absolutely!

Chris: the multiple and inconsistent spellings of names can drive you up the wall. :D As one example off the top of my head, Nicholas Dauney or Daunay was often called d'Aulnee, and the name also often appears in the Latin form, de Alneto. I was recently looking at an entry in the coroners' rolls from 1322 which spells Grimsby in four different ways in about three sentences. :-D Another fun thing to conjure with is that 14th-century documents often don't use punctuation.

I came across Margaret via her son Ralph's connection to the Despensers, and was astonished to see her and William Paynel's story! I absolutely love to check out different sources and pull all the strands together to create (or try to, haha) a coherent narrative. And yes, I often fall down the rabbit hole! Another example was Margaret Hydon (d. 1357), whom I wrote about a few months ago; she was married three times and lived to be about 80. I also found her via her third husband's connection to the Despensers.

Thank you for the kind words, and so glad you like my posts! I didn't know you were an organic chemist, so that's great to find out :-)

Anonymous said...

Not sure if this is duplicative (I think my prior post didn't go through), but ... the husband sounds like a remarkable guy ... I hope he found someone with whom he could be happy. Also, why was the king concerned with Margaret's dower? Would the crown get it if she were "disqualified"?


Kathryn Warner said...

Esther, no, I didn't receive your comment before, unfortunately! And yes, I hope John found someone he loved too. <3

I'm not sure how the law worked in this instance, but as Edward I's lawyer Nicholas of Warwick "sued on behalf of the lord king, [and] said at that time that the aforesaid Margaret was not entitled to have her dower from this, nor ought she to be heard or admitted to claim any dower", it seems that Margaret's dower should have remained in the king's hands.

anonymous said...

Hi Kathryn I know this is irrelevant to this post but I’ve been trying to research this on google but to no avail. I was wondering if Edward ii shared any fond times with his father or was their relationship all bad? The same thing with his mother too if you know anything about it. Thanks already appreciate your reply in advance.

Kathryn Warner said...

Hello! :) They appear to have had a good father-son relationship when Edward of Caernarfon was a child and the king bought him toy castles, toy swords etc to play with. It's very difficult to get much sense of their personal relationship from the sources we have (which is true of pretty well any personal relationship in the 14c), but it appears that cracks started to appear when Edward the son got older and his father perhaps came to realise that he wasn't all he wanted and needed in a successor. Eleanor of Castile kept in touch with Edward via letter, sent him gifts, appointed people to his household, etc, though as she spent over three years of his childhood outside England and died when he was only six, he can't have known her that well. He marked the anniversary of her death every year. I'd dearly love to know how much he knew about her early life in Spain!