18 September, 2022
11 September, 2022
I have TWO free copies to give away to readers! You can live anywhere in the world, as long as you have a postal address I can send the book to. Please contact me with your email address or some other means of getting in touch with you, so I can notify the winners. To enter the draw, do one of the following: leave a comment here on the blog; comment or message me on my Edward II Facebook page or comment on my Twitter page; email me at edwardofcaernarfon(at)yahoo(dot)com; or if we're friends on Facebook or follow each other on Twitter, you can message me there. Best of luck! Deadline is midnight BST on Sunday 25 September. And please remember, if you leave a comment on the blog, give me an email address or some other way of contacting you. If I can't contact you, I have no way of telling you that you've won!
04 September, 2022
Geoffrey Chaucer, the poet, b. c. 1342/44.
One thing we do know is that Mary and Richard Chaucer asked for damages of £300 and were awarded £250, a massive sum in an age when £5 was a normal yearly income. Geoffrey Stace sent a petition to the king in the late 1320s or 1330, complaining that the lands of John Chaucer's inheritance were only worth £1 per year and that therefore £250 was an ureasonably excessive amount. Incidentally, the Second Statute of Westminster in 1285 set the punishment for abducting a child (whether male or female) whose marriage belonged to someone else at two years' imprisonment, as long as the person restored the child still unmarried, or paid what the marriage was worth. Otherwise, the punishment was either life imprisonment or abjuration of the realm, i.e. permanent exile from England.  It was taken very seriously. John's stepfather and guardian Richard Chaucer, and John's older half-brother Thomas Heyron, apparently exacted revenge on Geoffrey Stace and Agnes after the abduction. They travelled from London to Ipswich, a distance of about 70 miles, and stole goods worth £40 from Agnes Westhale/Stace's house, or so the indignant Agnes claimed in 1325.  John Chaucer was around twelve or fifteen in 1324/25, and his Heyron half-brother, given that his father died sometime around 1303/04, must have been in his early twenties or older. There is much evidence that the two half-brothers were very close and often acted together.
On 16 December 1330, eighteen-year-old Edward III - who had recently taken control of his own kingdom from his mother Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer - sent a letter to Sir Geoffrey Scrope, one of the chief justices of the King's Bench and ancestor of the Scropes of Masham (Henry, Lord Scrope of Masham, executed by Henry V in 1415 after the Southampton Plot and mentioned by Shakespeare in his play about Henry, was Sir Geoffrey Scrope's great-grandson). The letter, stating that John Chaucer was now 'of full age', is printed in the Calendar of Close Rolls 1330-33, pp. 90-91, and was almost certainly a response to Geoffrey Stace's petition. Geoffrey Stace had been detained in the Marshalsea prison in London because of his 'trespass against the king's peace', as well as being held liable for the massive sum of £250, and Edward ordered his release. The Letter-Books of London (vol. E, pp. 218-19, 226, 237, 239-40) show that several inquisitions were held in the city in 1328, one of which was to determine whether Geoffrey Stace, his relative Thomas Stace and his servant Lawrence had committed perjury, and the whole thing dragged on for several years, as often happened in medieval court cases (and the delay in this one was worsened by the dramatic events of 1326/27 when Edward II was forced to abdicate in favour of his son). The 16th of December 1330 was six years and thirteen days after John Chaucer's abduction had taken place.
A few years after his abduction by his aunt and uncle, John Chaucer married Agnes Copton, and they became the parents of Geoffrey Chaucer. I wonder if it's a coincidence that Geoffrey bore the same name as his father's uncle Geoffrey Stace, or if the latter was his great-nephew's godfather and John Chaucer was doing his best to bury the hatchet. Geoffrey Stace was still alive in February 1344, and Geoffrey Chaucer had probably been born by then. 
15 August, 2022
Edward III and Philippa of Hainault's third, but second eldest surviving, son Lionel of Antwerp married the heiress Elizabeth de Burgh in the Tower of London on 15 August 1342, the feast of the Assumption. The date is given in the Calendar of Select Plea and Memoranda Rolls of the City of London (vol. 1, 1323-64, p. 153), and confirmed in the Continuatio Chronicarum of the royal clerk Adam Murimuth (ed. E.M. Thompson, p. 125).
Born in Antwerp on 29 November 1338, Lionel was still only three years old when he married, and it therefore seems highly unlikely that he would have had any memories of his own wedding. On 5 May 1341, Edward III had issued a 'grant that Elizabeth, daughter and heir of William de Burgo, late earl of Ulster, deceased, who held of us in chief, shall marry our dearest son Lionel [Leonello filio nostro carissimo] ... when he is old enough', and evidently being three years and eight and a half months old was deemed 'old enough'. [CPR 1340-43, p. 187; Foedera 1327-44, p. 1159] Incidentally, Lionel's name was spelt Leonell or Lyonell in his own lifetime, revealing its contemporary pronunciation: as in Lionel Messi, not Lionel Ritchie.
As for Elizabeth de Burgh, she was almost six and a half years older than her bridegroom. According to the inquisition post mortem of her father William 'Donn' de Burgh, earl of Ulster, Elizabeth was born on or close to 6 July 1332: in early August 1333, she was said to be 'aged one year on the eve of St Thomas the Martyr last'. [CIPM 1327-36, no. 537] Her father, himself born on 17 September 1312, was not yet twenty when his daughter was born and not yet twenty-one when he died on 6 June 1333, and was a minor in the wardship of the king, his first cousin once removed Edward III, who in fact was two months younger than he was. Elizabeth was surely named in honour of her paternal grandmother Elizabeth de Clare (1295-1360), Lady de Burgh, Edward II's niece. The older Elizabeth mentioned her granddaughter, who was her principal heir, in her will of September 1355, but only thus: 'Item, I bequeath to Lady Elizabeth my [grand]daughter, countess of Ulster, all the debts which my son, her father, owed me on the day he died' (It'm je devise a dame Elizabeth ma fille countesse Dulvestier tote la dette qe mon filz son piere me devoit le jour qil morust). Ouchie.
Elizabeth was her father's sole heir and was his only child, or at least his only child who survived infancy. She alone was named as his heir in his inquisition post mortem. There is some evidence, however, that William de Burgh's widow Maud of Lancaster (c. 1310/12-1377) might have given to birth to posthumous twins. On 16 July 1338, there's a reference on the Patent Roll to 'Isabella, daughter and heir of William, late earl of Ulster'. [CPR 1338-40, p. 115] It is quite possible that this means Elizabeth, as Isabel(la) was a variant of the name and they were sometimes considered interchangeable, though it does seem that by this stage of the fourteenth century they were thought to be separate names, and every other reference to Elizabeth de Burgh that I've found calls her Elizabeth, not Isabella. And on 6 April 1340, Edward III granted the marriage of 'Margaret, daughter and heir of William de Burgh, earl of Ulster' to his sister and brother-in-law Eleanor of Woodstock and Reynald II of Guelders, to use for their second son Eduard (b. 1336). [CPR 1338-40, p. 445] This might, however, be a scribal error; it wasn't unusual for clerks to get names wrong sometimes. Assuming that these two girls ever did exist, they must have died young, and if Maud of Lancaster was pregnant when her husband died in 1333, the jurors at his IPM hadn't heard about it. Assuming that 'Margaret' was an error for Elizabeth, at some point between 6 April 1340 and 5 May 1341 Edward III changed his mind and decided that Elizabeth should marry his son rather than his nephew.
Elizabeth de Burgh was ten when she wed three-year-old Lionel. She was related to him via both her parents: via her father she was a great-great-granddaughter of Edward I, who was Lionel's great-grandfather, and via her mother Maud of Lancaster, she was a great-great-granddaughter of Henry III, also Lionel's great-great-grandfather. Via Maud of Lancaster, Elizabeth was related to pretty well everyone: Henry of Grosmont, first duke of Lancaster, was her uncle, and her first cousins included Henry IV's mother Blanche of Lancaster (b. 1342), Henry Percy (b. 1341) and Thomas Percy (b. c. 1343), earls of Northumberland and Worcester, John, Lord Mowbray (b. 1340), Henry, Lord Beaumont (b. 1339), and Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel (b. c. 1347) and his sisters Joan, countess of Hereford and Alice, countess of Kent. Elizabeth was the eldest grandchild of Henry of Lancaster, earl of Lancaster and Leicester, who died in 1345 when she was thirteen, and her much younger half-sister was Maud Ufford (b. late 1345 or early 1346), who married Thomas de Vere, earl of Oxford (d. 1371) and was the mother of Richard II's 'favourite' Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford (1362-92). Elizabeth's namesake great-aunt Elizabeth de Burgh, one of the many sisters of her grandfather John de Burgh (d. 1313), was queen consort of Scotland as the wife of Robert Bruce, and was the mother of David II, king of Scotland (1324-71). Isabella of France was, I assume, the person responsible for granting William de Burgh's marriage rights to her uncle Henry of Lancaster, earl of Lancaster and Leicester, at the start of her son Edward III's reign on 3 February 1327. [CPR 1327-30, p. 8] Sometime that year William married Maud, third of Henry's six daughters, who was close to his own age, so this was a wedding of two people both aged about fourteen or fifteen at the time. Their daughter Elizabeth was born five years after their wedding.
According to the Medieval Lands project on the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy site, Lionel and Elizabeth had another wedding ceremony at Reading Abbey on 9 September 1342 three weeks after they married in the Tower, but no primary source is cited, so I can't confirm this. Edward III was nowhere near Reading in September 1342, spending all that month in Sandwich and Eastry in Kent. By contrast, he was certainly at the Tower of London on 15 August 1342.
Elizabeth de Burgh, countess of Ulster and later duchess of Clarence, gave birth to her only child, Philippa of Clarence, countess of March and Ulster, on 16 August 1355. Rather astonishingly, that was the day after her and Lionel's thirteenth wedding anniversary, and Lionel was still only sixteen when his daughter was born (Elizabeth was twenty-three). I doubt it's a coincidence that Philippa was born thirty-seven weeks after her father's sixteenth birthday on 29 November 1354. The Medieval Lands site states that the marriage was consummated in 1352, which to be honest I find a bit of a bizarre thing to claim, as I'm not sure where something like that would be recorded. Lionel turned fourteen on 29 November 1352, and for sure some noble and royal boys were allowed to consummate their marriages at fourteen, but the only way we know that is because a pregnancy resulted. To give an example, Lionel of Antwerp and Elizabeth de Burgh's grandson Roger Mortimer, fourth earl of March, was born on 11 April 1374, and his and Alianore Holland's daughter Anne Mortimer, countess of Cambridge, was born on 27 December 1388.
Neither of the child-couple who married in August 1342 lived long lives. Elizabeth de Burgh died on 10 December 1363 at the age of thirty-one, and Lionel of Antwerp died in Italy on 17 October 1368 a few weeks short of his thirtieth birthday, having been briefly married a second wife, the Italian noblewoman Violante Visconti. Elizabeth was outlived by her mother Maud of Lancaster, dowager countess of Ulster, who became a canoness after the death of her second husband Sir Ralph Ufford and died on 5 May 1377, a few weeks before her kinsman, Lionel's father Edward III. The couple's daughter and heir Philippa of Clarence gave birth to her eldest child Elizabeth Mortimer in February 1371 when she was fifteen and a half, and if Lionel had still been alive then, he would have become a grandfather at just thirty-two years old. If he'd still been alive at the end of 1388, when Anne Mortimer was born, he would have become a great-grandfather a month after he turned fifty.
07 July, 2022
My new book, London: A Fourteenth-Century City and Its People, is out now! It's a social history of the city and its inhabitants from 1300 to 1350, with dozens of short chapters on numerous aspects of life, such as Health, Houses, Food, Misadventure, Gardens. Privies, Belongings, Assault, Murder, and many others.
If you lived in London in the fourteenth century and a physician diagnosed you with tisik or a posteme, what were you suffering from? What were penitourtes, evecheping and deodand? What jobs did women called cambesteres. callesteres and frutesteres do? If you were accused of being a rorere or a pikere, was this a good thing or not? What was the murder rate like in fourteenth-century London and what happened to criminals? What happened to the drunk and disorderly? How much would you have to pay to rent a house in London, and what would your accommodation be like? What did people do in their spare time? What did they eat and drink, and where? The answers to all these questions and hundreds more are in the book!
I have TWO free copies to give away to readers! You can live anywhere in the world, as long as you have a postal address I can send the book to. Please contact me with your email address or some other means of getting in touch with you, so I can notify the winners. You can either leave a comment here on the blog, on my Edward II Facebook page or on my Twitter page, or you can email me at edwardofcaernarfon(at)yahoo(dot)com, or if we're friends on Facebook or follow each other on Twitter, you can message me there. Best of luck! Deadline is midnight BST on 20 July.
08 May, 2022
18 April, 2022
This is a continuation of my post yesterday, which is directly below this one, or can be found here. I've just noticed that E 101/379/5, a bundle of documents I looked at in the National Archives recently, also relates to Huchon's hunting trip of 1322. Firstly, there's the Latin original of the letter I cited in the post, sent by Edward II to twenty-three sheriffs on 21 July 1322, telling them that Huchon would be travelling through their areas, hunting. Secondly, there's a bundle of letters and memoranda from some of the sheriffs informing the king of the numbers of deer Huchon and his crew had successfully hunted, which they had been ordered to salt and store in barrels until further orders. There's also a letter from Thomas Rous, sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire, stating that while Huchon and his companions were staying in his jurisdiction he had paid out £11 and 4 shillings for their expenses and wages, and one from 'Amory la Souche' (or Aymer la Zouche), sheriff of Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire, who paid £14, 17s and 8d during their stay in his counties. The sheriff of Suffolk - and also of Norfolk, though Huchon didn't go there - was Sir John Howard ('Johan Houward'), who paid out £13 5s for Huchon's expenses, and who interests me because a) he was married to Edward II's second cousin Joan Cornwall, and b) he was an ancestor of the Howard dukes of Norfolk. The sheriff of London and Middlesex, or rather, one of them - there were always two sheriffs of London - was Richard Costantyn, though his letter is missing the total sum of expenses. There are other letters and memoranda from sheriffs of other counties too, and the letter from the sheriff of Essex, Sir Nicholas Engayne, says that he and Huchon had met at Waltham Abbey.
Below, the letters, indentures and memoranda.
Then there are several memoranda which give the number of deymes or deer Huchon and his crew killed, and where:
17 April, 2022
Hugh 'Huchon' Despenser, born in 1308 or 1309, went hunting between July and October 1322, and a large roll of his expenses survives in the National Archives (E 101/379/4). The roll refers to Huchon throughout as le seignour, 'the lord'; although he was only an adolescent, just thirteen or fourteen, he was the eldest great-grandchild of Edward I, grandson of the earls of Gloucester (Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, d. 1295) and Winchester, and the eldest son and heir of the lord of Glamorgan. Huchon is also called Hughe le Despenser le juvene, 'the young', in the roll. Confusingly, he bore the same name as his grandfather Hugh Despenser the Elder (b. 1261), who had been made earl of Winchester earlier in 1322, and his father Hugh Despenser the Younger (b. late 1280s). The National Archives identifies the person in the roll as Hugh the Younger, but that it was in fact Hugh's eldest son is apparent from an entry on the Close Roll dated 21 July 1322, where Edward II sent letters to the sheriffs of no fewer than twenty-three counties, informing them that he was sending "Hugh son of Hugh le Despenser the Younger...to take fat venison of this season in the king's forests, chases and parks". [Calendar of Close Rolls 1318-23, p. 577; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1321-24, p. 184] Furthermore, it's highly doubtful that Hugh the Younger, royal chamberlain and favourite, and the man really in charge of the kingdom in and after 1322, would have taken three months away from court to go hunting.
The start of the expense roll states that Huchon would be going, in the original spelling, to "the counties of Cantebrigg [Cambridge], Huntingdon, Suff[olk], Essex, Hertford, Middelsex, Oxenford, Bokingham, Warwyk, Leycestre, Nottingham and Nicol [Lincoln]". Another royal letter sent on 10 November 1322 states that Huchon and companions hunted in Lincolnshire from 17 to 25 October, and from the roll it is clear that the expedition began in the Huntingdon/Kimbolton area on Monday 26 July 1322. [Calendar of Close Rolls 1318-23, p. 609] On 9 and 10 August, Huchon was near Barnwell, a manor which belonged to his grandfather the earl of Winchester, though the clerk who made up the account often forgot to add his location.
Huchon was accompanied by nine men and a number of dogs: twelve greyhounds, five bercelets, thirty-four buckhounds, and eight harriers. His nine companions' names were Thomas Borhunt (a huntsman), Richard Wygemore (a larderer, i.e. in charge of storing the meat), John Abbot, Peter Bul (these two were both berners, i.e. in charge of the hounds), John Suthwyk, Stephen Woxbrigg (these two were both ventrers, which I think means in charge of the carthorses carrying the meat, but I might be wrong on that), Hugh Preest, John Bacun (these two were both berceleters, in charge of the bercelets), and Richard Herlyngton (in charge of the harriers). There are also several references to garsones, literally 'boys', apparently some other young men who were temporarily helping out in some way. One 'boy' was given 3d for coming to see Huchon on behalf of the sheriff of Middlesex. There's one reference on 3 August 1322 to a man who was paid three shillings because he 'took care of the lord', but I can't make out his job title. I assume it's either sergeant or surgeon, though the spelling is weird. The roll mentions some of the same men and their job titles as Edward II's letter of 21 July recorded on the Close Roll, which I somehow find very pleasing, and two other men are named as accompanying Huchon as well: his magister or tutor Hugh de Lulleford, and his valet, i.e. attendant, Gilbert le Noreys. These two men appear on the expense roll but not in Edward II's letter.
Edward told all the sheriffs to receive any venison taken by Huchon and his crew, "and to cause it to be put in barrels and salted, and kept until further orders". Eight horses appear in the roll of expenses, though they aren't, unlike the dogs, specifically mentioned in Edward's letters. It cost between 10d and 12d a day to provide hay for them, plus another 20d to 24d daily for four bushels of oats, and 4d to 8d for straw for their bedding. I presume at least some of these eight horses were packhorses to carry the meat, though Huchon was certainly on horseback. His courser is mentioned once and Huchon received a mark (thirteen shillings and four pence) for a new saddle for the animal from his great-uncle the king, and on another occasion 'the lord's palfrey' is mentioned as well. At least six of his companions appear to have been on foot, as six pairs of shoes and six pairs of boots were bought for them.
Most of the account details the food and drink consumed during the trip, which in itself is rather fascinating - to see how the men's diet varied day by day, and how much things cost - though it is entirely unilluminating as regards the game they hunted and how much venison they took. Every day, without fail, the company got through two and a half or three gallons (9.5 to 11.4 litres) of wine - three gallons cost 12d - twelve or fourteen gallons (45.6 to 53.2 litres) of ale, and between two and a half and three shillings' (30d to 36d) worth of bread. You could buy a loaf of the cheapest bread for a quarter of a penny, though one assumes that Huchon Despenser, as a partly royal nobleman, was eating bread of a far higher quality than that. The twelve gallons of ale consumed daily cost 24d, i.e. 2d per gallon, and you could always buy a gallon of ale for 1d in the 1320s, so obviously this was also very high-quality stuff and in fact is described as 'good ale' on at least one occasion in the roll. To me this seems like a staggeringly large amount of alcohol for a small group of people to consume every single day, even if we assume that it was weak and watered down and with a pretty low alcoholic content.
The food consumed, at least by Huchon if perhaps not by his more lowly companions, was flavoured with saffron (safferan), which cost a pricy 4d per ounce and was purchased at least twice during the expedition. Every day, wax candles (chandeyl de cyer) were bought for 2½d or 3d and were preferred over the much cheaper but much less nice tallow candles, so again we see that Huchon Despenser wasn't being forced to slum it but was living in the luxury to which he must have been accustomed, given his high rank. To put 3d a day into perspective, that was more than most people in England earned at the time, so it was heck of a lot of money to spend on candles, especially considering that the hours of daylight in late July and August are long. On 7 August, 2½d was spent on 'the lord's cresset', i.e. a lighted torch or other light of some kind set in a container and mounted on a pole.
Below, a typical membrane of the document.
The men ate a lot of fish, especially salmon, herring, roach, pike and eels, and also a lot of stockfish, i.e. dried unsalted fish. Stokfissh(e), incidentally, is a word that always appears in English in Edward II's accounts, which were kept in Anglo-Norman or Latin; this particular roll is in Anglo-Norman. The quantity of herring is usually given as 'half a hundred' (demy C de haring). They ate pottage, i.e. thick soup or broth, pretty well every day, but also meat sometimes: suckling pig is mentioned several times, as is grosse char, literally 'big meat' and meaning meat from animals other than poultry or game. Other food items and condiments mentioned include young pigeons (columbeux), chickens and young chickens, geese, a pheasant on two occasions (which cost 8d both times), a rabbit on two occasions (which cost 4d and 5½d), eggs, onions (only mentioned once), half a gallon of vinegar, 'white grease', fennel, galingale powder, sauce (which kind(s) was/were not specified), endless references to freshwater fish, butter (bure), milk (leet), almonds, and rice (rys). The almonds and rice are always mentioned together, and it was always two pounds of almonds and one of rice or a pound of almonds and half a pound of rice. Sugar (sugre) is mentioned once and cost 3½d per quarter.
There is absolutely no information in the roll about accommodation, so I have no idea where they slept every night, or who cooked all the food mentioned in the roll, or where all the food and drink came from; most of it was fresh, so presumably arrangements were in place to transport it regularly to wherever Huchon might be at the time. When Huchon was near Barnwell, I assume he stayed at his grandfather Hugh Despenser the Elder's manor-house there, and there was a castle at Kimbolton where his great-uncle Edward II sometimes stayed. There are a couple of payments of 3d to a lavender, i.e. a launderer/laundress. As this was almost certainly a woman, she did not accompany the men on their travels, but would have been a local woman hired to wash their clothes. Anyway, that's about all the information I've been able to extract from the document, and will finish this post by saying that I bet it was all massive fun for an adolescent boy at the start of his teens.
EDITED TO ADD, 18 April: there's now a continuation of this post, here.
12 March, 2022
I'm grateful to the Tudors Dynasty podcast for inviting me on to talk about Edward II recently! Steph Stohrer did a great interview with me and was absolutely delightful to talk to.
And if you're anywhere near the village of Kirk Hammerton in Yorkshire this coming Monday, 14 March 2022, I'm giving a talk about the battle of Boroughbridge, which took place on 16 March 1322. Tickets cost £3.
02 March, 2022
27 February, 2022
The eighth and final episode of Secrets of the Royal Palaces was shown on Channel 5 in the UK in the evening of Saturday 26 February, and featured, among much else, Kate Williams talking about Isabella of France and Edward II. Oh dear lord. Where even to start.
The programme begins with a voiceover stating that at Windsor Castle, we will discover "one of England's most ruthless queens", meaning Isabella of France, then we hear Kate Williams claiming "Legend has it that Isabella killed him herself by pushing a red-hot poker up his bottom. What a brutal way to die."
How unutterably, unbearably stupid. Nobody has ever, in the fourteenth century or at any point in the 700 years since, accused Isabella of personally torturing her husband to death by inserting a burning hot metal implement inside him. What 'legend' says she did? That's a flat-out lie; a stupid, easily disproved, sensationalist lie.
It's basically certain that on the night of 21 September 1327 Isabella was in Lincoln, where her and Edward II's son Edward III (not yet fifteen years old) was holding parliament, when her husband was supposedly murdered at Berkeley Castle. Lincoln is 160 miles from Berkeley. There is not one single shred of evidence that puts Isabella anywhere near Berkeley Castle at any point in 1327.
As I've pointed out on numerous occasions, and Ian Mortimer has pointed out on numerous occasions, and other fourteenth-century specialists have pointed out on numerous occasions, it is, again, all but certain that the story of Edward II being murdered by red-hot poker is a myth.
At thirty-three minutes into the programme, we see an image on screen that says "Isabella, the She-Wolf". Because obviously. Because that stupid hateful name, given to Isabella by the poet Thomas Gray in 1757, 399 years after her death, is never ever going to die, is it.
"Edward's love for Piers means he snubs his wife." Having stated two seconds earlier that Isabella was *twelve* years old. Because obviously it would have been far better for a man in his twenties to fawn all over a girl who was barely pubescent.
"He gives Piers half her dowry of jewels." Of course, the tedious old tale invented by Agnes Strickland in the nineteenth century, endlessly repeated by lemmings who can't be bothered to look at primary sources and check that this story is nonsense.
"Soon Edward is back on the prowl for other men" after the barons "bump Piers off". Odd way of talking about Edward's relationships with men, as though he was some kind of predator. I'm pretty sure that wasn't the dynamic.
Edward "began showering titles and money on" Hugh Despenser the Younger. This is a frequently-repeated claim, and it's also untrue. Edward didn't give Hugh a single title. Hugh was lord of Glamorgan by right of his wife Eleanor de Clare, who inherited the lordship from her brother. His father was made earl of Winchester in 1322, but Hugh wasn't.
Isabella was "admired by everyone except her husband." So we'll just merrily skip over the decade and a half when they were happily and affectionately married then.
"Isabella starts her own affair with Roger Mortimer." Ah yes, the usual modern narrative of Isabella of France's life, where she's turned into this bored, sexually frustrated housewife who seeks revenge on her philandering husband in the most simplistic tit-for-tat way possible by taking a lover. All the complexities of the situation, the war against France, the Contrariant rebellion and its aftermath, Isabella as the mediator, intercessor and powerful politician that she so undoubtedly was, all of this is entirely ignored in favour of turning her into a character from a soap opera who apparently thinks "Right, I'll bring down a king for the first time in English history because he doesn't give me enough orgasms."
After the invasion of September 1326, we're told that "the queen storms to victory" over images of a battle, which is weird. What battle is that supposed to be?
"It's time for the She-Wolf to get her payback" when Isabella has Hugh Despenser executed. Can. We. Please. Stop. Using. That. Bloody. Word.
Edward abdicates, then we get the bit I mentioned above, "Legend has it that Isabella killed him herself by pushing a red-hot poker up his bottom. And the screams could be heard for miles around. What a brutal way to die." Told with a certain amount of relish, it seems, and Kate Williams was smiling at that point. Yes, a person being agonisingly raped to death really is madly hilarious, isn't it? I wonder if Williams would have smiled if it had been Isabella who had supposedly been murdered in such a vile fashion, or is it only funny when it happens to a gay or bi man? And yet again, the red-hot poker myth is repeated as though it's a certain fact.
"And that's why she was called the She-Wolf." So now we know. Isabella somehow teleported herself 160 miles to Berkeley Castle and murdered the man who was the father of her children, the man she'd been betrothed to since she was three years old, by insertion of a heated metal implement. That wouldn't make her a 'she-wolf' though, would it? It would make her an extremely sadistic, dangerous psychopath. Which I'm pretty sure Isabella actually wasn't. What an utterly bizarre way of portraying her, even in such an overly sensationalist programme.
25 February, 2022
I wrote a post on this topic all the way back in June 2007 (yowza, that's close to a decade and a half ago now!), and it's had an absolute ton of page views. I've decided it's time to write another one.
In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the children of kings, but nobody else, had the right to be called Lord and Lady from birth. Before his accession to the throne, Edward II was always known as Lord Edward, and after February 1301 was called 'Lord Edward, Prince of Wales' (Dominus Edwardus Princeps Walliae in Latin or (Mon)sire Edward prince de Galles in French), or often just 'the Prince' for short. He was never, however, called 'Prince Edward', an important distinction. Edward's wife Isabella, daughter of Philip IV, king of France and Joan I, queen of Navarre, was 'Lady Isabella' or more correctly 'my lady Isabella' (ma dame Yzabel) before she married Edward, and as his wife, was called 'Lady Isabella, queen of England'. A letter to Edward II from the bishop of Norwich and the earl of Richmond in the spring of 1325 talked of 'the queen of England, your consort, our lady' (la royne Dengleterre, vostre compaigne, nostre dame). It was also common to refer to Edward as 'our liege lord' and to Isabella as 'our liege lady'.
Edward's accounts from the year 1293/94, when he was nine years old, happen to survive. In them, he always appears as Lord Edward, while his Lancaster cousins, who stayed with him for a while, were referred to as 'Thomas and Henry the sons of Lord Edmund', i.e. Henry III's younger son Edmund, earl of Lancaster and Leicester. The Lancaster boys were grandsons of a king but sons of an earl, and so had no right to the title which their father had held from birth. The accounts of the joint household of Edward II's brother Henry (1268-74) and sister Eleanor (1269-98), and their cousin John of Brittany (1266-1334), son of Edward I's sister Beatrice, also survive for a few months when they were small children. Henry was always called Dominus Henricus, Eleanor was Domina Alianora, but John, grandson of King Henry III and son of Duke John II of Brittany, was simply Johannis or, rather amusingly, Britonis, meaning 'the Breton'.
The same applies to Edward's brother-in-law Jan of Brabant (1275-1312), who married Edward's sister Margaret in 1290 and was the son and heir of Duke Jan I of Brabant. A roll of expenses of Jan's household survives from an unknown date probably in the early 1290s, and he is simply called Jehan or Jehans in it. He hadn't yet been knighted, and was only the son-in-law of a king, not the son. By contrast, an indenture regarding the household of Edward I and Marguerite of France's first child Thomas of Brotherton, dated 7 January 1301, refers to the 'wardrobe of Lord Thomas the king's son', garderobe domini Thome filii regis. Thomas was then only seven months and six days old, but because he was the son of a king, the document calls him Lord Thomas. I assume it was the sixteenth century when the children of kings began to be known as Prince and Princess, and they certainly weren't in the fourteenth. Contrary to popular modern belief, Isabella of France was not a princess. That title was not yet given to the daughters of kings, and Isabella married Edward II after his accession to the throne and was never Princess of Wales.
It's interesting to note that Edward II has always been very closely associated with his birthplace in North Wales. In January 1330 a little over two years after his funeral, his friend William Melton, archbishop of York, referred to him as 'our liege lord Edward of Caernarfon' (n're seign' liege Edward de Karnarvan) in a letter to the mayor of London. Some of Edward's sisters are also known by their places of birth, Joan of Acre in particular, and also Elizabeth of Rhuddlan. Edward's half-brothers and his children were always known by their places of birth in their own lifetimes - e.g. Edmund of Woodstock, Eleanor of Woodstock, Joan of the Tower - as were his grandchildren, the twelve children of Edward III and Queen Philippa, e.g. Lionel of Antwerp, Margaret of Windsor, Edmund of Langley. With the exception of Richard of Bordeaux, however, and sometimes Henry of Bolingbroke, this custom wasn't carried on to Edward III's grandchildren, who instead were mostly known by their fathers' ducal titles: Philippa, Elizabeth and Katherine/Catalina of Lancaster, Philippa of Clarence, Humphrey and Anne of Gloucester, Constance of York, and so on. Elizabeth of Lancaster, countess of Huntingdon (1363-1425), the second daughter of John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster, almost always called herself 'Elizabeth Lancastre' without a de or 'of', as though it was her family name. I find it interesting that she continued to refer to herself this way throughout her long and apparently very happy third marriage to Sir John Cornwall, and did not use his surname. When attending their grandmother Queen Philippa's funeral in early 1370, Elizabeth and her older sister Philippa (b. 1360, later queen of Portugal) were called 'the two daughters of Lancaster'.
The future Edward III (b. 1312) was created earl of Chester at a few days old but was never made prince of Wales - the next time the title was used was for Edward III's eldest son Edward of Woodstock in 1343 - and it is incorrect to call him 'Prince Edward' or 'Edward the prince'. He and his brother John of Eltham (b. 1316) were called Monsire Edward de Wyndesore ('Lord Edward of Windsor', his birthplace) and Monsire Johan Deltham, or d'Eltham as it would be in modern French, during their father's reign. A letter to Edward II of 1325 refers to his and Isabella's daughters Eleanor of Woodstock (b. 1318) and Joan of the Tower (b. 1321) as mes dames vos deus files, 'my ladies, your two daughters', and in Edward's accounts John of Eltham appears as Monsire Johan Deltham fuiz le Roi, 'son of the king'. Isabella appears in her husband's accounts as ma dame la roigne or 'my lady the queen', and in royal documents from the reigns of Edward I, Edward II and Edward III, the words ma dame used alone always refer to the queen.
Edward II was only very rarely called 'Edward II' in his own lifetime, and was usually 'King Edward son of King Edward'. His father was 'King Edward son of King Henry [III]'. On Edward III's accession in 1327, it appears that clerks decided that they couldn't keep writing 'King Edward son of King Edward son of King Edward' all the time forever and ever, sometimes adding 'son of King Henry' for good measure, because their hands were going to cramp or whatever. Therefore, they decided to start calling the young king 'Edward the third' (the third English king of that name after the Norman Conquest of 1066).
'Your Majesty' was a later title, as indeed were 'Your Highness' and 'Your Grace'. Edward II was addressed fairly simply in speech as 'Sire' or 'my lord king', or even just 'my lord' or 'my king'. In writing, it was polite to refer to him as 'our lord the king' or 'the lord king', and you can tell that the author of the Vita Edwardi Secundi was becoming utterly exasperated with Edward in and after 1322 when he started referring to him merely as 'the king' (rex in Latin) rather than 'the lord king' (dominus rex) as he had always done before. An extant letter sent by Hugh Despenser the Younger in 1319 rather discourteously refers to Edward simply as 'the king' (le Roy in the French original) and not as 'our lord the king' (nostre seignur le Roy) as Hugh always did in his later letters.
When talking to other people, even pretty high-ranking ones, Edward II appears to have addressed them by their first names. The Vita Edwardi Secundi records a conversation he had with Sir Andrew Harclay, sheriff of Cumberland, in early 1322, and Edward just called the sheriff 'Andrew' not 'Sir Andrew'. How he addressed earls when talking to them, or how he referred to them when they weren't present, isn't something I've been able to find evidence for. A few decades later, Edward's great-grandson Richard II addressed Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, as 'Thomas of Warwick'. I should probably note at this point that there were no dukes in England until 1337, except that either the king or his heir was duke of Aquitaine in south-west France. The first English duke was Edward III's eldest son Edward of Woodstock, made duke of Cornwall in 1337 and prince of Wales in 1343. The second was the royal cousin Henry of Grosmont, made duke of Lancaster in 1351, and until 1397 when Richard II went slightly mad creating lots of new duketti ('little dukes', as contemporaries contemptuously called them), the only other English dukes were Edward III's younger sons Lionel, John, Edmund and Thomas. The first English duchess (excepting that the queen of England was duchess of Aquitaine) was Henry of Grosmont's oddly obscure wife Isabella Beaumont (d. 1359/60) in 1351, because Edward of Woodstock, the first English duke, didn't marry until 1361. The first English duchess in her own right was Edward II's niece Margaret of Norfolk (b. c. 1322) in 1397.
In writing, people tended to be rather more polite and formal than when speaking, which is usually the case, of course. I somehow find it quite funny that in his extant letters of 1323 to 1325, Hugh Despenser the Younger always punctiliously referred to Roger Mortimer of Wigmore by his correct title, 'Sire Roger de Mortimer', even when telling people that Roger was planning an invasion of England and when Hugh certainly knew that Roger wanted him dead.
Hugh himself was addressed in letters of the 1320s, when he was the king's mighty favourite, in the most fawningly obsequious terms: 'the very noble man, my very honourable lord'; 'the very noble and wise man, his very dear and very honourable lord'; 'my very honoured and very dread lord'; 'to the noble man, very honourable lord, all manner of reverences', and so on. There's only one extant letter I know of sent from Hugh Despenser to Edward II, which dates to c. 1324 - and is more of a note than a proper letter - and it opens 'Honours and reverences, very honourable lord'. Others tended to address Edward in their correspondence as 'Very dear, very dread lord' (trescher tresredotable seignur), and throughout their letters often addressed him in the third person, as in 'Very dear, very dread lord, your humble subject recommends himself to your very high lordship. May it please your very high lordship to know...'. Three of Edward's clerks outdid themselves in a letter of July 1324, which opened 'To the very noble and very honourable lord, our lord, Lord Edward, by the grace of God king of England...'.
Edward II's own letters mostly began 'Edward, by the grace of God king of England, lord of Ireland and duke of Aquitaine, to our dear and faithful [name and title], greetings', sometimes 'greetings and dear affection'. It was conventional in the fourteenth century to end a letter with 'May God keep you' (A Dieu qe vous gard in French), or 'May the Holy Spirit have you in his keeping', or, rather more hair-raisingly but surprisingly common, 'May God grant you vengeance over your enemies'.
Below, part of a letter from the Gascon lord Arnaud Caillau to Hugh Despenser the Younger in 1325, with two closing salutations: 'May our Lord increase your honour, and grant you a good and long life, and give you vengeance over your enemies wherever they may be', and a few lines later, 'May our Lord have you in his keeping and guard you from all evils'.