02 March, 2022

Richard Councedieu (fl. 1310-39), Sailor and Edward II's Friend

Richard Councedieu was a sailor active between 1310 and 1339 who knew Edward II personally. His unusual last name is French: dieu means God, and counce means 'begin' in Anglo-Norman, i.e. commence in modern French, so Councedieu means something like 'may God begin (it)'. Fourteenth-century clerks spelt the name in a variety of different ways, including Komsedeu, Comsedieu, Cumsedeu, and Concedeu.

Richard originally came from Sandwich in Kent, though by 1319, and surely well before, had settled in London. A subsidy roll of that year shows that he lived in Tower ward, where his name is recorded in Latin as Ricardo Counsedieu. [1] It is apparent from Richard's appearances in the extant Coroners' Rolls of London that he lived in the parish of St Dunstan by the Tower (later called St Dunstan in the East), near one wharf called 'St Laurence's wharf' and another which belonged to a William Box, on or close to the street now called Lower Thames Street. [2] In March 1310, 'Richard Consedeu of Sandwich' was the captain of a ship called the Marie of Westminster, and as he had risen to be a ship's captain must have been at least in his twenties then, perhaps older. In March 1311, as captain of the Marie, Richard was paid to "ferry the earl of Cornwall [Piers Gaveston] across the Forth at Queensferry." [3] Adam Councedieu, who must surely have been Richard's son (or perhaps his brother?) and was known by the diminutive Adecok, was also a sailor, and in 1325/26 was a crew member of a ship called the Rodecok. The Rodecok's captain was Jack Black, and other crew members were Cock atte Wose and Hick atte Wose. [4]

At an unknown date, Richard Councedieu married a woman called Rohese - possibly Adam's mother? - and on 29 October 1324, he received a very generous gift of ten marks (£6.66) from Edward II "because he was loyally devoted to Rohese his wife". [5] This is one of my absolute favourite things that I've ever found in Edward's chamber accounts, especially as the entry makes clear that Richard was actually in the king's bedchamber (couche chambre) in the Tower of London when he received this money. This was just days after Edward II left the Tower and hired a man to sail him across the Thames to his new house, La Rosere, where he "secretly took his pleasure" with an unknown woman. I wonder if Edward was feeling really horny at the time and hit on Richard, who managed to wriggle out of going to bed with the king on the grounds that he was married and didn't want to cheat on his wife. Whatever the reason, Edward II was obviously deeply amused, or was extremely pleased with Richard Councedieu, because ten marks, to a man who earned six pence a day - ships' captains earned six pence and crew-members three pence - was a good few months' wages. A few months later, Richard was present on another occasion when Edward went to bed. [6]

In early July 1326, Richard sailed Edward II from Burgundy, the king's cottage near Westminster Abbey, to Byfleet in Surrey (paie a Richard Councedieu marin[er] le Roi q' ala oue le Roi de Burgoyne a Byfleet). Edward went swimming in the river at Byfleet on that day, or, as his chamber account puts it, voleit iewer par ewe, literally "wanted to play by water". [7] A few weeks later, now captain of the royal ship the Valence - which must have been named after Edward II's kinsman Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke (d. 1324) or his father William (d. 1296) - Richard 'Komsedeu' took part in Edward's curious assault on Normandy and the French fleet. [8] A few months earlier, Richard had been one of the sailors granted protection to go with Edward II to France when Edward had to pay homage for his French lands to Charles IV (ultimately Edward sent his son instead), along with Richard 'Hick' atte Wose, crew-mate of Adam 'Adecok' Councedieu, Richard's son or brother. [9]

Below, Richard Councedieu in Edward II's accounts; the top one is his gift of ten marks for being loyal to his wife, and the second one is his sailing Edward to Byfleet.

On 3 May 1336, there's a reference on the Patent Roll which states that Edward III had ordered the monks of Westminster Abbey to provide Richard with "sustenance for his life", as very often happened with retired royal servants. [10] He was still living in the parish of St Dunstan by the Tower in December 1339, however, when he was questioned about the drowning of Peter Skomakere in the Thames near Richard's home (Peter was drunk one Sunday evening and fell into the river). [11] That's the last reference I can find to Richard Councedieu, sailor from Sandwich and resident of London who was close enough to Edward II to be allowed into his bedchamber.


1) Two Early London Subsidy Rolls, available on British History Online: https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/early-london-subsidy-rolls.
2) Calendar of Coroners Rolls of the City of London 1300-1378, ed. R.R. Sharpe, pp. 177, 199-200, 217, 245.
3) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1307-13, p. 210; Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland, vol. 5 (Supplementary), no. 562.
4) Society of Antiquaries of London Manuscript 122, pp. 18, 61; various entries in The National Archives E 101/380/4.
5) E 101/280/4, fo. 10r.
6) E 101/380/4, fo. 30r.
7) SAL MS 122, p. 69.
8) CPR 1324-27, p. 300.
9) CPR 1324-27, p. 168.
10) CPR 1334-38, p. 261.
11) Coroners Rolls of London, p. 245.


sami parkkonen said...

I bet it went like this: one day Edward and Richard were having few drinks and as sailors do, there were more than few drinks. Both were pretty blasted and Edward being himself got just a bit too friendly. Richard being a sailor had seen this kind of behavior before so it was not a shock to him nor he was terrified but probably said: "Oi mate, I have a wife!" And then Edward most likely passed out and Richard laid down on the floor and both woke up with a hammering hangover. Edward was just a little embarrassed and said: "Listen, about the last night..." and Richard said "Ah, forget it, mate! Those things happen, you know." From then on Edward trusted this man who never embarrassed him publicly, so much so that he trusted this man to be involved with his secret liaison with Eleanor.

Kathryn Warner said...

That's great! :-)

Nancy aka violetderey said...

I have enormous respect and a bit of envy that you can read the patent rolls. Perhaps this is a skill all the best historians have? Thank you for this fascinating biography of an “unimportant”figure, it’s the sort of thing that makes the cliché about history coming alive a truism. If you had been my English history teacher during my 9th grade high school year (1971 or so, good heavens!), I’d have paid attention and actually learned the subject - a complaint you’ve heard many times, I’m sure.
I began your book ‘ Edward II: the unconventional king’ today; it’s absorbing though difficult for me as I lack a sturdy foundation, but I know one will come the more I read..

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi Nancy! Actually the patent rolls have been translated into English, which is fab, though I do often read untranslated and unprinted primary sources as well! It's an absolute joy. Thank you for reading the book, and really hope you enjoy it!