26 March, 2006

Pats Self On Back

Delighted to see that my attempts to correct all the misinformation on Edward II is having something of an effect. I visited this site recently, and was delighted to see that remarks to the effect that Edward II did not father his children had been corrected, and that the webmaster had included links to this blog.

05 March, 2006

Piers Gaveston and his daughters Joan and Amie

NOTE: there's a much longer essay on Piers Gaveston here, and a much shorter one here.

Edward's great favourite Piers Gaveston fathered a daughter, Joan, by his wife Margaret de Clare (Edward II's niece). She was born in York in the second week of January 1312, after Piers had returned illegally from his third exile, presumably anxious about his wife and keen to see his child. Edward spent forty pounds (in modern money, hundreds of thousands of pounds) on the week-long celebration of Joan's birth in February, after Margaret's churching. Joan was only 5 months old when her father was killed.

(By the way, if Queen Isabella's first pregnancy was full-term, the future Edward III was conceived at the time of this celebration, which is one of my Favourite Facts Ever.)

The nature of Piers' and Margaret's relationship can only be a matter of speculation. They married on 1 November 1307, in the presence of the king, a few months after Piers had been created earl of Cornwall. Margaret's date of birth is unfortunately unknown, but her elder sister Eleanor was born in October 1292 and her younger sister Elizabeth in September 1295, placing Margaret's birth in late 1293 or sometime in 1294. Therefore, she was either just 14 or (more likely) 13 when she married Piers. His birthdate is also unknown, but is presumed to be about 1283, so he was about 24 at the time of his wedding.

Many people assume that Margaret 'must' have hated Piers because of his relationship with her uncle, but on the other hand, she might equally have adored him, whatever she thought was happening between her husband and uncle. As a granddaughter and niece of kings, she would have grown up in the knowledge that her marriage would be used to make or cement a political alliance, and wouldn't be a love match. Piers was fairly young, and by all accounts handsome, witty, charming and athletic (he was a star jouster), so she might easily have been dazzled by him, and at least by marrying him, she could stay in England.
She might have been angry that she was being disparaged by marrying a humble Gascon knight, but then again he was earl of Cornwall, and Edward made him one of the richest men in England. It's notable that she accompanied him to Ireland during his exile, 1308-1309, although she didn't have to - nobody would have dreamed of exiling her, the sister of the earl of Gloucester.

They only had one child that we know of, but that doesn't prove anything about how often they did or didn't sleep together. As Margaret was so young when they married, Piers may have waited a year or two to consummate the marriage. Maybe she had miscarriages. It's also important to note that Margaret only had one child by her second husband Hugh Audley too, so probably she was sub-fertile.

Joan grew up, according to her late father's wishes, at the priory of Amesbury in Wiltshire. This is often portrayed these days as shunting the daughter of a dead embarrassment into an obscure convent, out of sight out of mind, in a Victorian kind of way. Nothing could be further from the truth - Amesbury was extremely fashionable at this time, after Eleanor of Provence (widow of Henry III and Edward II's grandmother) took the veil there in 1284. Edward's sister Mary (born 1279) was a nun there, as was his niece Joan de Monthermer, and the future prioress was Isabella of Lancaster, niece of the earl of Lancaster and Hugh Despenser the Younger. Other royal women were educated there, including Eleanor de Bohun, another niece of Edward II who later married the earl of Ormonde, and possibly others too. It was a privilege to grow up at Amesbury, not a punishment or an embarrassment.

Joan died in January 1325, around the time of her 13th birthday, still unmarried, although Edward II had arranged a very prestigious marriage for her with John de Multon (born 1308), son of Lord Egremont and eldest grandson of the Earl of Ulster. Thomas's aunt Elizabeth was queen of Scotland and another aunt, Matilda, was the widow of the Earl of Gloucester (Margaret de Clare's brother). Thomas was therefore first cousin to the future Earl of Ulster William de Burgh, and also first cousin to the future Earls of Louth, Kildare, and Desmond, as well as first cousin to the children of Robert, King of Scotland, by his second wife.

Edward II paid Joan an extremely generous allowance of a hundred marks or 66 pounds a year, at a time when 40 pounds was the minimum qualification for knighthood. Even if he didn't have time to see her very often, he didn't forget about his favourite's child. (Edward was very generous after Piers' death, giving Margaret a huge allowance and taking her into his own household, as he also did many of Piers' servants.)

Piers also fathered an illegitimate daughter called Amie, mentioned in a document of the 1330s when she married John de Driby. She is described as the daughter of Piers Gaveston, and was apparently a damsel in the household of Queen Philippa, wife of Edward III. As with Edward II's illegitimate son, the mother of Amie is unknown, as is Amie's (even approximate) birth date. Amie has descendants alive today.

There was a huge amount of debate on Amie online, several years ago. Anyone interested in Piers' daughter should try googling 'Amie Gaveston' or 'Amie de Gaveston'' (with Amy and Gavaston as occasional alternative spellings). Bizarrely, it was postulated that Amie was the illegitimate daughter of Margaret de Clare, not Piers! There was also a theory that the 'Piers Gaveston' mentioned was not THE Gaveston, but another one. It's possible, but as there's no evidence at all of another Piers Gaveston, it seems a bit of a strange argument to me. Another very silly theory was that Joan was not Piers' daughter either, but fathered by Some Other Man (a similar argument to the 'paternity of Edward III' nonsense). Edward's expensive celebration of Joan's birth was explained away as Edward's wish to protect Piers from the public humiliation of being cuckolded. Honestly, I don't know where people get these ideas from.
There seems to be no reason at all why Piers couldn't have fathered children, so searching for ways in which Amie and Joan might not have been his children strikes me as silly and pointless.

The most recent biography (2003) of Edward II, by Roy Martin Haines, states that Piers Gaveston had a sister called Amie, who was with him during the siege of Scarborough in 1312. Given medieval naming methods, this makes it 99% certain that Amie was indeed Piers' daughter. Likewise, if we could find a woman connected to Edward II with a father or brother called Adam, we'd almost certainly discover the identity of Adam's mother.

Edward II's illegitimate son Adam

Having commented in my last post that Edward II was emotionally reliant on men, I thought I should emphasise that he must have had relationships with women too - at least one, in addition to Queen Isabella. Edward fathered an illegitimate son called Adam, as well as his four legitimate children by Isabella, who were definitely his, insofar as anyone's paternity can be certain. As there is still a load of crap online that Edward III was fathered by Edward I/Roger Mortimer/the milkman/ any other man in England alive at that time, I'm going to repeat this at the top of my voice:


Got it? Please, pretty please, can people get this into their heads and stop writing sub-'Braveheart' crap as though it's fact?

Anyway, back to Adam. He's mentioned in a wardrobe account of 1322 and described as "Ade filio domini Regis bastardo": "Adam, bastard son of our lord the king". He was provided with equipment for the Scottish campaign of that year, but was accompanied by his tutor Hugh Chastilloun, which suggests he was somewhere between the ages of 13 and 16. He was probably serving his father as page or squire. After this, he disappears from the records and is assumed to have died during the campaign. His birth must have been between about 1306 and 1310, and it's tempting to speculate that Edward fathered him during one of the periods that Piers Gaveston was exiled from England - either 1307 or 1308-1309 - although there's no way of knowing for sure.

The identity of Adam's mother is unknown. However, in my view, she must have been more to Edward than a one-night-stand. Given that Edward openly acknowledged the boy, he must have been certain that he was the father, which he hardly could have been if he hadn't known the mother reasonably well. However, to my almost certain knowledge, nothing has yet been found in the records pointing to the existence of a mistress. It's rather mysterious. Maybe the mother was someone who lived on Edward's favourite estates of Langley or Clarendon.

Adam and Piers Gaveston's natural daughter Amie (see other post for information on her) both appear as characters in Susan Higginbotham's novel The Traitor's Wife.

04 March, 2006

Edward II and Roger Damory

This post is about a man few people have heard of, yet was a major influence at the English court between about 1315 and 1320: Sir Roger Damory. (Thanks to Prince Lieven for providing the inspiration for this post!)

Roger Damory began his career as a rather obscure knight of Oxfordshire. He was about the same age as Edward II, who was born in 1284: Damory's father Sir Robert died in 1285. The identity of Damory's mother is unknown. His elder brother Sir Richard was Sheriff of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, and later (1322-1325) the Steward of Edward II's household. It's possible that Roger Damory was knighted at the great ceremony of May 1306, when almost 300 young men were awarded the honour alongside the future Edward II (other men knighted at this ceremony were Hugh Despenser the Younger and Roger Mortimer, as well as numerous others destined to play a large role in Edward's reign.)

Roger Damory was in the retinue of Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, a nephew of Edward II who was killed at Bannockburn in June 1314. His bravery in the battle brought him to Edward's attention, and he was soon transferred to the royal retinue.
He was Edward's great 'favourite' between 1315 and 1318, until he was ousted from Edward's favour by Hugh Despenser the Younger. It's interesting to see Damory's rise to favour from the beginning of 1315, around the time Edward finally had Piers Gaveston's embalmed body buried, two and a half years after his death! Perhaps Piers' funeral had finally enabled Edward to draw a line under his past, though to be fair to Edward, it's obvious that he remembered Piers with great love and affection for the rest of his life. You can criticise Edward II for many things, but fickleness to those he loved was emphatically not one of his faults.

Edward's growing infatuation with Damory can be tracked from the extensive list of gifts, grants, wardships, lands etc, until by 1317 Damory was the most important man at court. He was married to Edward's niece Elizabeth de Clare in 1317 as a mark of Edward's great favour - Elizabeth, probably the richest woman in England after the queen, was one of the heirs of her brother the Earl of Gloucester's vast inheritance, and she also held many dower lands from her first two husbands John de Burgh and Theobald de Verdon. As her husband, Damory controlled all these lands.

There were two other men, Hugh Audley and William Montacute, who jostled for favour in this period (Audley was married to Piers' widow and Elizabeth de Clare's sister Margaret, probably the next richest woman in England), but Damory was dominant and had a powerful influence on Edward, even persuading Edward to attack the Earl of Lancaster at his stronghold of Pontefract in 1317 (fortunately, the Earl of Pembroke managed to talk Edward out of such a foolish, dangerous action). The great historian JRS Phillips has described Damory as malignant and dangerous, and in late 1317 the Earl of Pembroke and Lord Badlesmere forced him to sign an indenture with them, to curb his reckless and irresponsible influence on the king.

What's really fascinating about all this is that the so-called Middle Party of barons (Pembroke and Badlesmere and a few others) put Hugh Despenser the Younger next to the king (as chamberlain) in 1318, deliberately, to minimise the dangerous influence of Damory. Ironically of course, Hugh turned out to be far more dangerous than Damory or Piers, made himself the de facto ruler of England and became a hugely rich extortionist. From 1318 to 1320, Hugh worked himself into Edward's favour and then infatuation, and the gifts/grants etc to Damory decreased rapidly, until in 1321 he joined the rebellion against Edward and Hugh and was killed in 1322.
Hugh was about 30 in 1318, the barons must have known him all his life and thought they could trust him, and yet they obviously had no inkling what he was going to do - or they'd never have put him so near the king. This says to me that Hugh was incredibly clever, had hidden his true nature and aims for many years, and had schemed like holy hell. And the way he made Edward infatuated with him - although they'd known each other since boyhood and Edward had apparently either disliked him or been indifferent to him - is intriguing! It's such a shame that there's no proper biography of Hugh. Please, please somebody write one!

There's no way of knowing if Roger Damory was Edward II's lover or not, but it seems to me that Edward's infatuation with Roger was weaker than his feelings for Piers and Hugh Despenser - perhaps that's why most people have never heard of him. Roger, Hugh Audley and William Montacute were banished from court in 1318, and the key point is, Edward let them go. He fought hard to keep Piers with him, years later he refused to banish Hugh Despenser from court even to stop his wife and her lover invading, but he let Roger go. Roger and Hugh Audley repaid Edward's favour by rebelling against him and Hugh Despenser in 1321-22. Roger was killed fighting against Edward, and Hugh Audley was imprisoned until Isabella and Mortimer released him in 1326, saved from execution only by the pleas of his wife, Edward's niece. Although their actions appear at least partly understandable, Edward must have found their betrayal hard to bear.

I think Edward's list of favourites - Piers Gaveston, Roger Damory and Hugh Audley, then Hugh Despenser the Younger - proves that emotional reliance on, and infatuation with, men was an important part of his make-up. The only period when he was 'alone' from the age of about fourteen (when Piers entered his household) was June 1312 to circa January 1315, when he was mourning the loss of his beloved Piers. Presumably he was bisexual, but his intensely emotional relationships seem to have all been with men.