30 March, 2007

Titles of Edward II

A post on the titles held by Edward II, when he got them, when he gave them up, and some facts about them.

1) Count of Ponthieu and Montreuil, Edward's first title; he inherited it on 28 November 1290, when his mother Queen Eleanor died. He was just six years old, the youngest of his mother's six surviving children, but the only boy. Ponthieu was a small, but strategically important, county in Northern France, bordering Normandy; Montreuil-sur-Mer was its port. Eleanor's nephew Jean, Count of Aumale (died 1302, son of her brother Fernando de Castilla) contested Edward's rights, but he was confirmed as Count in 1299.

To see why the future King of England inherited the county, we need to go back a century, to a huge royal scandal. Alais (Alix/Alice/Alys/Adele), daughter of Louis VII of France, was betrothed to Richard 'the Lionheart'. He repudiated her because she had allegedly borne a child to his father Henry II, imprisoned her for several years, and sent her back to France in 1195. Her half-brother King Philip Augustus promptly married her off to Guillaume IV, Count of Ponthieu. The marriage took place on 20 August 1195, a few weeks before Alais' thirty-fifth birthday; Guillaume was about sixteen. Philip Augustus probably intended the marriage to be childless, which would ultimately give him control of Ponthieu, but Alais gave birth to a daughter, Marie, in April 1199. (There may have been other children, but they didn't survive.) Marie, heiress of Ponthieu, married Simon, Count of Aumale, and their eldest daughter Jeanne de Dammartin succeeded as Countess of Ponthieu in her own right. On Jeanne's death in 1279, her only surviving child by King Fernando III, Eleanor of Castile, Queen of England, became Countess of Ponthieu and Montreuil.

On 14 May 1308, Edward II granted Ponthieu and Montreuil and all their revenues to Queen Isabella. Both of them occasionally used their title in letters: Counte/Contesse de Pontiff et de Monstroill, with a few variations in spelling. On 2 September 1325, at Langdon Abbey, Edward relinquished the title and lands of Ponthieu to his son Edward of Windsor (Edward III), so that the boy could pay homage for the lands to his uncle, Charles IV of France. Charles' successor Philip VI confiscated Ponthieu in the 1330s; it was restored in 1360, confiscated again, and finally passed to the French crown permanently.

2) Prince of Wales. At Parliament in Lincoln on 7 February 1301, Edward I bestowed the title of Prince of Wales on his son. Edward was sixteen years, nine months and thirteen days old. Edward I had completed the conquest of Wales a few years earlier. The title of 'Prince of Wales' had last belonged to Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, who was killed in an ambush by some of Edward's forces in December 1282. His brother Dafydd was hanged, drawn and quartered at Shrewsbury in October 1283; Dafydd's daughter Gwladys, and Llywelyn's daughter Gwenllian, were sent to convents in Lincolnshire, where they died in 1336 and 1337. Dafydd's sons were imprisoned in Bristol Castle. Llywelyn, the elder, died in 1288, but the younger, Owain, lived for many more years - unfortunately for him. In October 1305, Edward I sadistically ordered that Owain be kept in a wooden cage bound with iron at night. He was still alive in 1325.

Edward II was of course born in Caernarfon, and was always rather popular in Wales. 'Prince of Wales' was the one title he never relinquished; Edward III never held the title, and it was next given to Edward of Woodstock, the Black Prince, in 1343. In documents of the early 1300s, Edward of Caernarfon is often referred to as monsieur Edward prince de Gales, fiz nostre seignur le Roi ("Lord Edward, Prince of Wales, son of our lord the king").

3) Earl of Chester, also granted to Edward on 7 February 1301. The earldom had reverted to the Crown on the death of the childless John the Scot, Earl of Huntingdon and Chester, in 1237. In 1254, Henry III passed the lordship of Chester - though not the title of earl - to his elder son Edward, later Edward I. In April and May 1301, Edward of Caernarfon spent a few weeks travelling around his new lands in Cheshire and Wales, receiving the homage and fealty of his new tenants; at sixteen/seventeen years old, he was now a great and enormously wealthy feudal magnate.

Edward II granted the title of Earl of Chester to his son Edward of Windsor on 25 November 1312. Astonishingly, the new earl was a mere twelve days old. Since 1301, the earldom of Chester has always been granted to the heir to the throne, and since 1399, the earldom and the principality of Wales have always been granted together.

4) Duke of Aquitaine: bestowed on Edward in May 1306, when he was twenty-two, though his father continued to use the title for the remaining fourteen months of his life. Edward was knighted on 22 May 1306, and the granting of Aquitaine was presumably intended for him to sustain his new position. He was also granted the island of Oléron and the Agenais. Edward paid homage for his new duchy to his overlord and future father-in-law, Philip IV, at his own town of Montreuil-sur-Mer that year.

The story of English rule over Aquitaine - also known as Gascony or Guyenne - is beyond the scope of this post, but it caused a huge amount of tension and conflict between England and France for centuries. Edward II relinquished the title to his son on 10 September 1325, and the twelve-year-old set off for France to pay homage two days later.

5) King of England, naturally. Edward I died on 7 July 1307, so Edward II's reign dates from 8 July 1307. He was twenty-three; his father was sixty-eight and had been King of England since November 1272. Edward I died at Burgh-by-Sands near Carlisle at around 3pm in the afternoon of the 7th. Edward II, in or close to London, heard the news on the 11th - approximately 315 miles in four days, an interesting illustration of how fast royal messengers could travel in those days.

Edward renounced his throne at Kenilworth Castle on 20 January 1327, to his fourteen-year-old son.

6) Lord of Ireland; Edward also succeeded to this title on 8 July 1307 and gave it up to his son on 20 January 1327. He never visited Ireland (or Aquitaine/Gascony either). On 16 June 1308, forced to exile Piers Gaveston from England, he hit on the solution of making his favourite the King's Lieutenant of Ireland, a position Gaveston filled with some distinction. Roger Mortimer also spent a large part of his career in Ireland, as King's Lieutenant and Justiciar. All the Kings of England from Henry II in 1171 to Henry VIII in 1541 called themselves 'Lord of Ireland'. (Henry VIII upgraded the title to 'King of Ireland', but that's Henry for you.)

25 March, 2007

Donald of Mar: a Scottish Earl and his Loyalty to Edward II

A biography of a young Scottish nobleman closely associated with Edward II.

The earldom of Mar is one of the oldest titles in Britain; the first known Earl of Mar lived in the 1130s, though he probably wasn't the first Mormaer (the ancient Gaelic title). Donald (Domhnall in Gaelic), the eighth known Earl of Mar, was probably born sometime between 1295 and 1300. His grandfather was Donald, the sixth earl, and his father was Gratney ( in Gaelic: Gartnait mac Domhnaill, Gartnait son of Donald), the seventh Earl, who was born around 1270 and died sometime in or before 1305, apparently of natural causes. Gratney's sister Isabel of Mar was the first wife of Robert Bruce, later King of Scots, and the mother of his daughter Marjorie.

Donald's mother was certainly one of the sisters of Robert Bruce; she is usually identified as Christina (or Christian), but Christina's entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography disputes this. She is never called 'Countess of Mar' or even 'of Mar' in contemporary documents, and there is no evidence of any communication between Donald and Christina when they were imprisoned in England. Earl Gratney is explicitly stated to have married the eldest Bruce sister, which Christina almost certainly wasn't; she is never referred to as such, and she outlived all her sisters by decades, surviving until 1357. It's likely that Donald's mother was a Bruce sister whose name is unknown, but perhaps Margaret, the name of Donald's daughter.

At any rate, Robert Bruce was Donald's uncle twice over, and when Robert submitted to Edward I in 1302, one of his conditions was that he be granted the wardship and marriage of his young nephew. Donald's aunt Isabel Bruce was Queen of Norway, the second wife of Erik II, father of the Maid of Norway. His uncle Alexander Bruce was Dean of Glasgow, his aunt Matilda Bruce Countess of Ross, and his aunt Margaret (or Mary or Marjorie) of Mar successively Countess of Atholl and Countess of Sutherland.

Donald's family appear in two of Barbara Erskine's novels, Child of the Phoenix and Kingdom of Shadows; the main character of Child of the Phoenix is Donald's grandmother Eleyne. Donald himself makes a brief appearance in both novels, most notably at the very end of Child of the Phoenix, when Edward of Caernarfon himself takes him prisoner and gloats about the fact to Eleyne.

Little is known of Donald's early life. He succeeded his father in about 1305, and attended his uncle's coronation as King of Scots on 25 March 1306. He had a sister, Helen or Ellen, who married Sir John Menteith, Lord of Arran. Helen seems to have escaped the imprisonment that was the fate of so many women of the family.

The early years of the fourteenth century saw King Edward I exact savage and terrible reprisals on Donald's family. His uncle Nigel (or Neil) Bruce was hideously executed in Berwick-on-Tweed in September 1306, dragged through the streets, hanged and beheaded. Nigel's brothers Alexander and Thomas were captured on their return from Ireland to raise support for Robert and executed in Carlisle on 9 February 1307. Also executed in 1306 was Sir Christopher Seton, husband of Christina Bruce and thus Donald's uncle or stepfather, and his uncle by marriage John of Strathbogie, Earl of Atholl, in London on 7 November 1306, hanged, drawn and quartered. (John's son David was restored to his earldom by Edward II, and remained Edward's loyal supporter; he was one of the men who condemned the Earl of Lancaster to death in 1322).

Although the women and children of the family were spared execution, they were also harshly treated. Donald's aunt Mary Bruce was imprisoned at Roxburgh Castle, in a cage hanging from the battlements; a fate also suffered at Berwick-on-Tweed by Isabel MacDuff, Countess of Buchan, who had exercised her family's hereditary right and crowned Robert Bruce as King of Scots. Christina, Donald's mother or aunt, was sent to the Gilbertine nunnery of Sixhills, Lincolnshire, where she joined Gwladys, daughter of Dafydd ap Gruffydd, the last independent ruler of Wales. Gwladys was sent there as a young child in 1283; Edward II would later copy his father's method of incarcerating the wives and children of his enemies in convents.

Elizabeth de Burgh, Robert Bruce's second wife and Donald's aunt, was placed under comfortable house arrest in Burstwick; her father was Edward I's ally the earl of Ulster. Elizabeth's stepdaughter Marjorie, who shared all four grandparents with Donald of Mar, was at first intended to be caged at the Tower of London, but Edward I relented and sent her instead to the nunnery of Watton, as she was only nine or ten years old. See here for Edward I's original orders regarding the women.

Donald himself, probably somewhere between six and eleven years old, was sent to Bristol Castle. The document ordering his incarceration can be read here; he is called "the child who is heir of Mar" and is ordered to be carefully guarded so that he cannot possibly escape. However, Edward I, offering further proof of his gentle and kind nature [/sarcasm], says that the boy does not have to be fettered in chains, "because he is of such tender age".

Donald's only surviving uncles were Robert and Edward Bruce. In 1315, Edward invaded Ireland and was crowned King in 1316, defeated Roger Mortimer at the Battle of Kells in 1315, and was himself killed in battle in October 1318. Mortimer's ally John de Bermingham, later earl of Louth, delivered Edward Bruce's head to Edward II. I wonder if Donald saw it.

By this date, Donald had been transferred into Edward II's household. It's not known exactly when this happened, but a curious entry in the Patent Rolls dated 15 October 1311 might provide the occasion:

Windsor: Writ of aid, until Martinmas, for Thomas de Langehulle, king's yeoman, from whose custody Ralph de Thedmershe and Oliver son of Peter de Parva Hasele have removed Douenald de Mar, son and heir of the late earl of Mar in Scotland. He is to arrest them and to conduct them and Douenald to Westminster before the Council.

Donald became a page of Edward II's chamber. Whether this was intended simply as a measure to keep him under closer scrutiny, or to humiliate King Robert by forcing his nephew to serve the King of England as a page, the lowest rank of household servant, I'm not sure. However, it was to prove a turning-point in Donald of Mar's life.

It's clear that a deep bond of affection developed between the two men. On 24 June 1314, Edward II lost the Battle of Bannockburn to Donald's uncle Robert; a Patent Roll entry of 18 July states "...the king has commanded to conduct to York, and deliver to him there, Robert, bishop of Glasgow, Elizabeth wife of Robert de Brus, Donald de Mar and certain other Scots, who are in the realm." (I love how the entry suggests that the Scots are in England of their own free will!)

Edward released all the Scottish prisoners in exchange for his brother-in-law the Earl of Hereford, captured at Bannockburn. The others all returned to their homeland; Donald of Mar, however, got as far north as Newcastle, changed his mind, and returned to Edward. In doing so, he gave up his earldom, a large income, power and influence as the nephew of the King of Scots, and possibly even a claim to the throne (it wasn't a strong claim, but it existed, as Donald was the son of Robert's eldest sister; Robert had no legitimate son until 1324.) This proves how strong his affection for Edward II was.

On 26 July 1314, he was to "come and give counsel to the King". I wonder what that was about?

After this, Donald crops up occasionally in the records as 'Donald/Douenald de Mar, king's yeoman'. 'Yeoman' was a couple of ranks higher in the household hierarchy than 'page'. He owned a ship called La Blithe, perhaps a gift from Edward, and the king also gave him several manors:
11 Sept 1317: Grant to Douenald de Mar, king's yeoman, of the custody of the lands and tenements, late of James de Perers, tenant in chief, to hold during the minority together with the marriage of the heir.
15 Feb 1318: Grant for life to Douenald de Mar, of the manor of Oveston, co. Northampton, quit of any payment.
6 Nov 1319: Grant, during pleasure, to Douenald de Mar, to enable him the better to remain in the king's service, of the manor of Long Bynyngton, co. Lincoln, to hold to the value of 160 pounds a year.

In June 1320, he accompanied Edward II to France, when the king had to pay homage to his brother-in-law Philip V for Gascony (Queen Isabella, Hugh le Despenser the younger, Roger Damory, and many others also attended the king.) The following February, he had protection for a pilgrimage to Santiago; it's not clear if he ever went, but as the Despenser War kicked off shortly afterwards, I would imagine not.

Donald, of course, remained totally loyal to Edward II during the turmoil of the years 1321-22. According to his ODNB entry, he fought at the Battle of Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322, when the Earl of Hereford was killed and the Earl of Lancaster captured. A few days after the battle, he and Robert FitzWalter (a retainer of the Earl of Pembroke, and formerly of the Elder Despenser) captured the rebel Bartholomew Badlesmere; the unfortunate Badlesmere, Edward II's Steward who had switched sides, subsequently suffered a terrible death at Canterbury. Donald, as a member of Edward's household, presumably knew Badlesmere well and may have shared the king's outrage at what he saw as Badlesmere's treachery.

Sometime before January 1322, Donald was made Constable of Newark Castle, a strategically important castle where Edward's great-grandfather King John had died in 1216. On 1 October 1322, Edward II ordered a commission of array of all men between sixteen and sixty, and was evidently keen to give Donald some responsibility; he was ordered to array all men within the town and wapentake of Newark. John de Segrave and Robert de Mauley, commissioners for Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, are sternly mandated "not to intermeddle in the said town and wapentake of Newark."

That same month, Donald, ironically, acompanied the English force that was humiliatingly defeated by the Scots at Byland. His uncle King Robert commanded the Scottish forces; I wonder if they faced each other on the battlefield?
The following July, 1323, Donald returned to Scotland: "Protection for one year for Douenald de Mar, king's yeoman, going to Scotland with four horsemen." This presumably has something to do with the thirteen-year peace Edward, the younger Despenser and the Earl of Pembroke concluded with Robert Bruce, beginning on 12 June 1323. Almost certainly this was Donald's first visit to his homeland since he had been taken prisoner seventeen years earlier; he was now about twenty-five or thirty. However, he soon returned to England and Edward.

Following the invasion of Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer in September 1326, Donald of Mar remained as loyal to Edward II as ever. He was appointed "to pursue and arrest the invaders wherever he can find them". Earlier that year, he had been made Constable of Bristol Castle - which may well be the only occasion when a former prisoner of a castle became its keeper - and was present there with Hugh Despenser the Elder in October. Somehow, he slipped out of the town before Isabella and Mortimer took it; Despenser was taken and executed.

Donald fled to Scotland, mainly with the aim of raising forces to help Edward II and to lobby for the king's support. King Robert, who now had a son and heir, welcomed his nephew and restored his earldom. He gave Donald command of one of the three Scottish armies that invaded England in the summer of 1327. However, Donald is also said by the chronicle Annales Paulini to have been in the Welsh Marches in the summer of 1327, and to have been deeply involved in the plot that freed Edward from Berkeley Castle. He can hardly have been both in the north of England fighting the English forces, and in Wales and the south-west of England, at the same time; but what is clear is that he was doing his best to raise support for the deposed king.

In documents of 1327, most frequently in October, he is often described as "enemy and rebel" and many men were pardoned for adhering to him. The cluster of pardons in October 1327, after Edward's rescue from Berkeley in July and supposed murder in September, suggest that Donald was deeply implicated in the attempts to free the king. One Patent Roll entry of 22 July 1327 states:
Writ of aid for Thomas de Southorp and Richard Knyvet', appointed to arrest William son of William de Sancto Mauro, John de Makeseye, William de Makeseye, John de Lodynton, and others of their confederation,who lately went to Scotland in the company of Dunald de Mar, a rebel, and have returned to do what mischief they can to the king and the realm.

Five days after this entry, Lord Berkeley wrote his panicked letter that the Dunheved gang had recently freed Edward II from Berkeley and plundered the castle; the timing of the Patent Roll entry indicates that Donald was involved.

After the downfall of Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer, however, Edward III's attitude to Donald softened; he was granted a safe-conduct on 15 October 1331 for "coming to England on his own affairs with a company of twelve horsemen and servants."

Donald finally married, probably in or around 1328, Isabel(la) Stewart, who seems to have been the daughter of Sir Alexander Stewart of Bonkill. They had two children: Thomas, Earl of Mar, who was married twice but died childless in 1374, and Margaret, who succeeded her brother as Countess of Mar in her own right. She died in the early 1390s and was the ancestor of the Earls of Douglas. Donald's grandson James, Earl of Douglas, was killed at the Battle of Otterburn in August 1388. Donald apparently also had an illegitimate daughter, name unknown, who married William Leith, Provost of Aberdeen, and had two sons.

Donald's uncle Robert Bruce died on 7 June 1329, not quite fifty-five; his heir was his son by Elizabeth de Burgh, David II, who was five years old and already married to Edward II's daughter Joan. In 1332, the regent Thomas Randolph died, and on 2 August, Donald, Earl of Mar, was elected regent of Scotland for his young cousin. It was a position he would hold for a mere nine days.

Donald was killed at the Battle of Dupplin Moor on 11 August 1332, aged probably in his mid-thirties. His cousin Robert, illegitimate son of King Robert, accused him of incompetence and of sympathising with the English and the pretender to the Scottish throne, Edward Baliol. To prove him wrong, Donald charged off wildly to face the bowmen of Baliol's army, and was promptly killed. The battle proved to be a dreadful defeat for the Scottish loyalists.

Donald of Mar's loyalty to Edward II was unwavering and lasted far beyond Edward's deposition and (official) death; Donald was also heavily involved in the Earl of Kent's conspiracy to restore his half-brother in March 1330. I don't know the reason for such intense loyalty and affection, but I can't help loving him for it. :) Nobody, in the fourteenth century or more recent times, has ever suggested a sexual relationship between them, though of course there’s no way of knowing for sure, but Donald was never a ‘favourite’ of Edward in the way that Gaveston and Despenser were. He had no influence on English politics and wielded no power. This strongly suggests that his devotion to Edward - the son of the man who had tried to destroy his entire family - was real, and not dependent on what Edward could do for him. Edward might have been deserted by most of his followers in 1326; but Donald remained loyal.

17 March, 2007

Alice de Toeni and Juliana de Leyburne

This weekend, I'd intended to write the second part of my Despenser War series, but I'm really busy preparing a two-day seminar I'm teaching on Monday and Tuesday and don't have enough time to sort out the tangled threads of Edwardian politics and battles! :) Instead, here's a post on two women of Edward II's (and Edward III's) reign: Alice de Toeni, countess of Warwick, and her daughter Juliana de Leyburne, countess of Huntingdon and mother of the earl of Pembroke. Both women were heiresses of their fathers and inherited lands in their own right; both women had three husbands. [More on the Despenser War soon!]

Alice de Toeni (or Tony or Tosny or Tosni) was born in 1283 or 1284, so was the same age as Edward II. Her father Ralph, or Raoul (1255-1295) was Lord of Flamstead in Hertfordshire; her mother Mary's parentage is unknown, but her paternal grandmother Alice was the daughter of Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford (great-grandfather of the earl of Hereford of Edward II's reign). The de Toeni family came over to England with William the Conqueror.

Alice's brother Robert, Lord de Toeni, was born on 4 April 1276, married the daughter of Malise, earl of Strathearn, but died childless in 1309, so Alice was her father's ultimate heir. The de Toeni lands included manors in Essex, Worcestershire, Wiltshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and the Welsh Marches, and were worth around £500 a year.

Alice's first marriage, to Thomas de Leyburne (or Leyburn or Leybourne), took place sometime around 1300. The marriage produced one child, Juliana, born in 1303 or 1304. Thomas was the son of William, first Lord Leyburn, who outlived his son and died in 1310. Thomas himself - about whom I know practically nothing, sadly - was dead before 30 May 1307, so Juliana was the sole heiress of her grandfather William. Her inheritance comprised extensive estates in Kent and Sussex.

The widowed Alice made an excellent second marriage in early 1309: to Guy Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, arguably Edward II's most implacable enemy. Guy was probably born in 1272, succeeded his father William Beauchamp as earl of Warwick in 1298, and was the younger brother of Isabel, wife of Hugh Despenser the Elder. He was thirty-six or thirty-seven at the time of his marriage to Alice; it's odd that he was still unmarried and childless at such an advanced age. It's possible that he was married to Isabella de Clare, elder daughter of Gilbert 'the Red', earl of Gloucester, by his first marriage; she and her sister were disinherited in favour of Gilbert's children by Edward I's daughter Joan of Acre. However, Isabella was at least eight or nine years Guy's senior, which would make it a very odd match, and if the marriage did take place, it had ended in divorce by the early 1300s. In 1306 Guy, concerned by his lack of heirs, made the decision to entail all his estates to his nephew Philip Despenser (younger son of Hugh the Elder), but his issue by Alice, and the fact that Philip died young in 1313, meant that this plan never came to fruition.

Guy was famously well-educated and cultured, possessing an extensive library, yet was the greatest opponent of Piers Gaveston and played a leading role in his murder; he was a 'cultivated, aristocratic ruffian' [T. F. Tout], the only earl whose opposition to Edward II was unrelenting. His name appears in contemporary documents as Guy de Bello Campo; this is comparable to Roger Mortimer, who was often called 'Roger de Mortuo Mari', and the name Beaumont is often seen as 'de Bello Monte'.

Guy and Alice's marriage was extremely fruitful. They had two sons and five daughters, in about six and a half years of marriage. Guy's heir, Thomas, later earl of Warwick, was born in February 1314 and (presumably) named after Guy's friend and ally, Thomas, earl of Lancaster. There was a younger son, John, who played a large role in the Hundred Years War, carrying the royal standard at Crecy in 1346, and daughters Maud, Emma, Isabel, Elizabeth and Lucia. All the children lived long enough to marry. (Either Alice was perpetually pregnant, or some of her children were multiple births).

Guy died at the age of forty-three in August 1315; rumour had it that he was poisoned by Edward II for his role in Gaveston's death, but modern historians give the story little credence. He left Alice some of his plate, a crystal cup, half his bedding and all the vestments and books of his chapel. The extreme youth of their son - about eighteen months old - was a huge problem. Thomas wouldn't receive seisin of the Beauchamp lands until he was twenty-one; in the meantime, they would come into the possession of the Crown, and the king had the right to give or sell custody of them to anyone he wished. In this situation, neglect of lands, and a subsequent drop in their value, was common. Not long before he died, Guy managed to wrest from Edward II a valuable concession - amazingly enough, considering their mutual enmity - that the executors of his will would have full custody of the lands until Thomas came of age. Unfortunately - and probably predictably - Edward II didn't keep the promise, and within two years, Hugh Despenser the Elder had gained possession of his brother-in-law's lands. [This was one of the articles of complaint against the Despensers in 1321, which I'll look at in my next post.] After 1327, possession passed to Roger Mortimer.

On or shortly after 26 October 1316, Alice married, as her third husband, William la Zouche de Mortimer, Lord of Ashby in Leicestershire, a distant cousin of Roger Mortimer. William was a younger son and had been a retainer of Guy Beauchamp; he is assumed to have been born about 1280, and there's no evidence I know of that he had a wife before Alice. Their son Alan, William's heir, was born on 15 September 1317, and they also had a daughter, Joyce, born about 1318 or 1320. Altogether, Alice bore ten children to her three husbands.

Alice de Toeni de Leyburne de Beauchamp la Zouche (!!), countess of Warwick, died on 1 January 1324, three years before the end of Edward II's reign, aged forty or just under. Her eldest child, Juliana, was about twenty, her youngest, Joyce, perhaps only about four. Five years after her death, her widower William la Zouche abducted Eleanor de Clare from Hanley Castle, and married her. Eleanor of course was the widow of Hugh Despenser the younger, Alice's nephew by marriage (son of Guy Beauchamp's sister).
William was, amusingly enough, one of the men who captured Despenser in Wales in late 1326, and besieged his son Hugh at Caerphilly. Susan Higginbotham has a great post on William and Eleanor, who both died in 1337. (And check out Gabriele's comment about William's 'badass sexiness', which kills me! :)

Meanwhile, Alice's eldest daughter Juliana was embarking on her own marital adventures. Although her half-brother Thomas Beauchamp would inherit the de Toeni lands of their mother, Juliana was the Leyburne heir, and her marital prospects were excellent. Accordingly, she married, around 1318, John, Lord Hastings, who was seventeen or eighteen years her senior - he was born on 29 September 1286. He was the eldest (surviving) son of John, Lord Hastings (1262-1313) who put in a claim to the throne of Scotland in the early 1290s, and Isabel de Valence (died 1305), who was the sister of Aymer, earl of Pembroke. The younger John's stepmother was Isabel Despenser, daughter of Hugh the Elder; she was several years younger than he was. This has caused some confusion among historians, for example Natalie Fryde, who assumes that Isabel was the wife of the younger John and mother of his son. In fact, Isabel was the mother of John's much younger half-siblings, Margaret, Thomas and Hugh Hastings.

Juliana and John's son, Laurence Hastings, was born on 20 March 1320, at Allesley, Warwickshire. Juliana was about sixteen, John thirty-three. Despite Juliana's three marriages, Laurence would be her only child.
John Hastings was the nephew of the earl of Pembroke, and one of his retainers. Pembroke was childless, and when he died in June 1324, John and his cousins Elizabeth and Joan Comyn (daughters of Joan de Valence, another of Pembroke's sisters) shared the de Valence inheritance. John was one of the men who attested the Treaty of Leake in August 1318 (a reconciliation between Edward II and his baronial opponents, Lancaster in particular). In the Despenser War and Marcher campaign of 1321/22, he at first opposed the king, but was reconciled to him, perhaps influenced by his uncle Pembroke. Apparently Edward trusted him, but in 1324 John fell out with Hugh Despenser the younger and was forced to make a recognisance - Despenser's usual method of binding men to him by force - for the huge sum of £4000.

John, Lord Hastings died on 27 January 1325, a year after his mother-in-law Alice, aged thirty-eight. His son Laurence was not yet five. Later that year, Laurence was betrothed to the younger Despenser's third daughter, Eleanor, who was about the same age or a little older. Custody of the Hastings lands passed, inevitably, to Despenser (whose sister Isabel was Laurence's step-grandmother, though she was only in her mid-thirties).

Juliana's feelings about the Despenser alliance, and about the political situation in England, are of course unknown. Apparently, though, she stood in favour with the king and Despenser, as she married Thomas le Blount in or around September 1325, a few months after John's death, still only in her early twenties. Thomas le Blount had succeeded Richard Damory as Steward of Edward II's Household in April or May 1325. In late 1326, however, le Blount abandoned Edward, and in January 1327 at Kenilworth Castle, he ceremoniously broke his staff of office to show that the king's reign was over.

Juliana and Thomas had no children; Thomas had a son, William, by an unknown first wife. They were married less than three years, as Thomas died on 17 August 1328. Juliana, evidently not a woman given to long-term mourning, married her third husband William Clinton before 17 October 1328, less than two months after Thomas's death. I wonder if this means that their marriage was unhappy, and if Thomas's family were offended by the speed of her re-marriage. She was still only twenty-four or twenty-five, and would be married to William for twenty-six years. He was about the same age as Juliana, born around 1304, and was knighted by 1324. Edward II sent him to Gascony in 1325 during the War of Saint Sardos, but William evidently supported Isabella and Mortimer's invasion, as Isabella rewarded him with the castle and manor of Halton, Cheshire, in September 1327.

Around the time that Juliana married William, her half-brother Thomas Beauchamp and son Laurence Hastings also married. Half-uncle and nephew, though there was only six years between them, they both married daughters of Roger Mortimer. Roger had been granted Thomas's marriage back in July 1318, and although the upheaval of the 1320s meant that he lost the rights and Thomas Beauchamp was intended to marry one of the daughters of the earl of Arundel, the marriage never took place, and Thomas married Katherine Mortimer, probably in May 1328, when he was fourteen. Although Laurence Hastings was betrothed to Eleanor Despenser, Queen Isabella ignored the contract and forced the young girl to take vows at Sempringham Priory at the beginning of 1327; Eleanor was probably about nine at most. Instead, Laurence was married to Roger Mortimer's daughter Agnes, in 1328 or 1329.

Laurence was a great catch; he inherited his great-uncle's earldom of Pembroke, and was given livery of his lands in 1339, though still under age. In the meantime, his stepfather William Clinton was playing an important role in English political life. High in favour with Isabella and Mortimer, he accompanied Philippa of Hainault to England for her January 1328 marriage to Edward III, and was appointed Justiciar of Chester. However, it became apparent that his loyalties were to the young king, not the disreputable pair governing England in his name, and in October 1330 he was one of the men who took part in Edward III's coup at Nottingham Castle. For this action, he was rewarded with the earldom of Huntingdon in 1337. No longer only the stepdaughter and mother of earls, Juliana became a countess.

For the rest of his life, William Clinton remained a close friend and supporter of Edward III. He hosted a tournament at Dartford in 1331, at which the king himself fought under William's standard, a great honour which points to the close bond between the two men. Again, Juliana's feelings about her husband's choices are unknown; did she support his action against Mortimer and Isabella, or did she feel loyalty towards the queen? She must surely have been delighted at his favour with Edward III, however; the comital revenues the king bestowed on William, and the income from her own lands, enabled them to live in considerable state. They had no children.

William Clinton died on 25 August 1354, aged about fifty, and Juliana was a widow for the third time. Although she and her husband had mostly lived in Warwickshire, as a widow she preferred to live on her own estates in Kent, rather than on her dower lands from William.

Her son Laurence and Agnes Mortimer had a son, John, born 29 August 1347 - Juliana's only grandchild (unless Laurence fathered illegitimate children). A year and a day later, Laurence died, aged only twenty-eight.

Juliana de Leyburne de Hastings le Blount de Clinton, countess of Huntingdon, died between 30 October and 2 November 1367, aged about sixty-three or sixty-four. She was buried in St Anne's Chapel at St Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury, where she had founded a chantry. She had outlived her son Laurence by nineteen years, her third husband by thirteen years.
Her daughter-in-law Agnes Mortimer, who had re-married John Hakelut, died in July of the following year.
Juliana's grandson John Hastings, earl of Pembroke, married Edward III's daughter Margaret, who died in 1361, then Anne Manny, the granddaughter of Edward II's half-brother Thomas of Brotherton. He died in April 1375, only twenty-seven; a year younger than his father at his own death.
William Clinton's earldom of Huntingdon passed to the Poitevin Guichard d'Angle, who died in 1380, then to Richard II's half-brother John Holland.
Juliana's half-brother Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, died of plague in November 1369; his wife Katherine Mortimer died around the same time. Another half-brother, Alan la Zouche, died in 1346 and was succeeded by his son Hugh. All Juliana's six half-sisters married, and most had children. Her half-brother John Beauchamp died childless in 1360.

11 March, 2007

The Despenser War of 1321 (part one)

I wrote a post recently about some letters written by Hugh Despenser the Younger in 1321, which show how England was sliding towards civil war at this time - thanks entirely to Despenser's actions, and Edward II's infatuation with him.

In this post, I'll be looking at the background and build-up to the so-called 'Despenser War'; I'll cover the war itself, its aftermath and far-reaching consequences in later posts.

The years 1318 to 1320 were, at least on the surface, some of the calmest of Edward II's turbulent reign. However, since the younger Despenser had been elected by Parliament as Edward II's Chamberlain in the summer or early autumn of 1318, he had been tirelessly working himself into the affections of a man who'd never shown him any great favour before, despite their close familial relationship (Despenser was of course married to the king's eldest niece) and the fact that they'd partly grown up together. Despenser managed to displace Edward's other favourites, Hugh Audley and Roger Damory, who had married Edward's other de Clare nieces, from the king's affections.

Despenser's close personal relationship with Edward II was a threat to the English barons for several reasons. Firstly, they knew by then exactly what Edward was like; they had seen his infatuation with Piers Gaveston and, later, with Audley and Damory. Edward allowed his favourites to wield enormous influence over him - in 1317, he let Damory persuade him to attack the earl of Lancaster at his stronghold of Pontefract, an incredibly foolish and dangerous action. Fortunately, the earl of Pembroke managed to talk Edward out of it at the last minute, but the king's habit of allowing himself to be swayed by those closest to him, men with ulterior motives, unbridled ambition and a high degree of selfishness, could not be viewed with anything but the gravest concern.

Secondly, Despenser's determination to build himself a huge 'empire' in South Wales was a huge problem. In the Middle Ages, land was power, and every landowner's greatest fear was that a neighbour or an enemy would take over his land with impunity, without being stopped by the king. Therefore, Despenser's actions in South Wales worried many. He didn't let even family ties stop him; in May 1320, he forced his sister-in-law Margaret de Clare and her husband Hugh Audley to exchange their valuable lordship of Newport for some of his English lands of lesser value, and his machinations against them had begun almost as soon as the Clare lands were divided in 1317. At first, Edward II had tried to protect Audley, but as time went on and his infatuation with Despenser developed, he allowed his new favourite to gain control of Newport.

Edward II was prepared to sacrifice the well-being of a former favourite to satisfy his current one. Despenser was by now as important to him as Gaveston had ever been, but Despenser was far more dangerous than the Gascon - and cleverer, more ruthless and unscrupulous than Audley and Damory.

Thirdly, Despenser was abusing his position as Chamberlain by refusing anyone permission to see the king unless he himself or his father were present. He was controlling patronage and depriving the barons of their influence over Edward, and he frequently demanded bribes before he would allow anyone to see the king. He answered petitions as he wanted, 'throwing back answers', replaced Edward's household officials with his own supporters, and didn't allow Edward to take advice from anyone but himself or his father.

By the autumn of 1320, the situation in England was already very tense. At this time, Roger Mortimer returned to England from Ireland, where he had served as King's Lieutenant and Justiciar. Now thirty-three, about the same age as Despenser, Mortimer must have been horrified when he saw the situation in England. The dominant force in the country was Hugh Despenser, his enemy; the Despensers and Mortimers had a long-standing feud, and Despenser had sworn revenge on Mortimer because of the death of his grandfather, who had apparently been sought out and killed on the battlefield of Evesham in 1265 by Mortimer's grandfather. [The grandfathers were named, inevitably, Hugh Despenser and Roger Mortimer.]

In the autumn of 1320, Hugh Despenser set alight the powder keg that was contemporary England by his actions regarding the Gower peninsula in South Wales. Gower belonged to an impecunious baron named William de Braose, who had no son, and had since about 1315 been trying to sell it, in a series of rather spectacular double dealings. Edward II's brother-in-law Humphrey de Bohun, the earl of Hereford, was keen to buy it for one of his sons, and had in fact made a down payment. Roger Mortimer was interested, as was his uncle, Roger Mortimer of Chirk. However, Hugh Despenser had also shown interest in Gower, since at least 1319. As the owner of Glamorgan, and now Newport, Cantref Mawr, Dryslwyn and many other lands in the area - and as the greedy, ambitious man he undoubtedly was - he probably felt that Gower should rightfully be his, as it would nicely round off his estates in the area. And Edward II agreed with him.

In 1320, William de Braose sold Gower to John, Lord Mowbray (born 1286), the husband of one of his daughters, Alina. Knowing full well how furious Hugh Despenser would be at losing this prime piece of land, Mowbray took immediate possession. Despenser persuaded the pliant king that Mowbray had broken the law by taking possession of the land without a royal licence. In England this was technically correct, but Gower was a Marcher lordship, and no royal licence was necessary (although Natalie Fryde in The Tyranny and Fall of Edward II states that the original grant of Gower in the thirteenth century was as a royal lordship.) Hugh Despenser declared that any baron who disagreed with him on the issue was guilty of treason.

On 26 October 1320, Edward II confiscated Gower from John Mowbray and took it into royal hands. The implication was clear: he would re-grant it to his favourite. The Marcher lords were furious at this attack on their privileges, the unfairness of Edward's actions in blatantly acting in Despenser's interests, and being accused of treason by the royal favourite. On top of Despenser's other abuses, it was the final straw. In late 1320 and early 1321, they gradually left court. Roger Mortimer - a long-term supporter and friend of the king - was one of the last to leave, in February 1321, but even he realised that there was no negotiating with Edward, whose stubbornness and determination to protect Despenser must have been exasperating.

Edward II, in fact, found it very difficult to obtain seisin of Gower - in late November, his officers met armed resistance, and it wasn't until the 14th of December that royal sergeants managed to take possession.

Hugh Despenser had built up a powerful alliance against himself. The earl of Hereford and Roger Mortimer were the leaders. Edward II's former favourites Hugh Audley and Roger Damory also abandoned him, not surprisingly. Other important enemies of Despenser included John Giffard of Brimpsfield and Roger, Lord Clifford, whose inheritance from his de Clare mother had been taken by Despenser. (John Mowbray's mother was also a de Clare). Maurice, Lord Berkeley and his son Thomas, who had recently married Roger Mortimer's eldest daughter Margaret, formed an important part of the coalition.

Interestingly, Aymer de Valence, the earl of Pembroke, left England at this time. A staunch royalist who had no wish to go against the king, he nevertheless sympathised with the Marchers (he was one himself) and, rather than take sides, preferred to leave the country. The man best able to negotiate between the two parties was gone.

On 30 January 1321, twenty-eight men were ordered not to attend an assembly held by Edward II's greatest enemy, the earl of Lancaster. This pointed to a powerful and dangerous confederation of the Marcher Lords, led by Hereford and Mortimer, and the northern barons, led by Lancaster. Lancaster played no active role in the coming war and the destruction of Despenser lands - perhaps it was too strange for him to make common cause with men he hated and had until recently been his enemies, i.e., Damory and Audley, and also Bartholomew Badlesmere, as we'll see. However, Lancaster held a meeting at Pontefract on 22 February with other (unnamed) magnates, where it was decided to attack the Despenser lands.

Edward II and Hugh Despenser put their Welsh castles into a state of readiness. They left Windsor around the 6 March and were in Gloucester by the 27th, attempting to negotiate. It was on the 6th that Despenser sent the letter to John Inge that I quoted in a previous post; he was 'subtly' taking hostages (?!). Despenser's over-confidence is obvious - he over-estimated his ability to defend his lands and drastically under-estimated his enemies' hatred of him and determination to hurt him.

Around this time, Sir John Inge described the earl of Hereford in a letter to Despenser as mornes et pensifs plus qu'il ne soleit, "even more gloomy and thoughtful than usual". Despenser retorted that it was hardly a wonder if he was, as he was taking against his liege lord who had done him much honour ("n'est mye mervaille sil est, quar il se ad si portez en contenances devers son lige seignour...")

Hereford refused to come into Edward's presence while Despenser was with him, allegedly for fear of being murdered - an excuse previously used by Lancaster in the Gaveston years. Hereford suggested that Despenser should be placed in Lancaster's custody until he could appear before Parliament to explain his actions - a suggestion which must have worried Edward enormously, given Gaveston's fate. He sent Hereford a cleverly-written letter reminding him that Despenser had been elected Chamberlain by Parliament (including Hereford himself) and no official complaints had been registered against him, and that it would be against Magna Carta, the Ordinances and Edward's coronation oath to put Despenser into someone's custody without just cause.

In early April 1321, Edward II confiscated the lands of Hugh Audley, his former favourite and nephew by marriage. On 1 May, he received intelligence that the Marchers were planning to sack Despenser's lands, and he forbade the men to touch them. He also summoned the earl of Hereford and Roger Mortimer to a council at Oxford on 10 May. But the time for negotiation and reasoned debate was long past.

The Marchers no doubt felt that they had no other option but violence and attack. One of Despenser's letters contains the line "...and if you think it necessary that we send men-at-arms for the garrisons of our castles, if you will inform us speedily, we will send some of the king’s men and our own, as many as shall be necessary", which shows how closely associated he and the king were, that the Marchers could not defend themselves against his abuses without attacking the king, too. If Edward refused to protect them, their rights, and their lands, and favoured one man above all others, allowing him to behave in any way he wanted, he would face the consequences.

On 4 May 1321, the Marchers began sacking, looting and pillaging numerous Despenser properties in South Wales. The Despenser War had begun in earnest...

(to be continued soon...;)

03 March, 2007

Edmund Fitzalan, earl of Arundel

Edmund Fitzalan's career provides a fascinating perspective on Edward II's troubled reign. Here's a mini-bio of him.

Edmund was born on 1 May 1285 in Marlborough Castle, Wiltshire, which makes him almost exactly a year younger than Edward II. His father Richard was only eighteen at the time of his birth - born 3 February 1267 - and became earl of Arundel in 1289. Edmund's paternal grandmother was Isabel Mortimer (c. 1248-1292), sister of Edmund (c. 1251-1304), the father of Roger Mortimer. Roger and Edmund Fitzalan were therefore first cousins, once removed. Roger would have Edmund executed in 1326.

Edmund's mother was Italian: Alesia, or Alasia, di Saluzzo, eldest daughter of Tomasso, marchese (margrave) of Saluzzo and Luisa di Ceva; Tomasso had eighteen children altogether, some of them illegitimate. Alesia's date of birth is unknown, but she was probably younger than her husband, so maybe only fifteen or sixteen when Edmund was born; she and Richard also had three daughters, and a younger son, John, who went into holy orders. Alesia died very young, on 25 September 1292, when Edmund was seven. Through Alesia, Edmund was closely related to European royalty and nobility. His uncle Manfredo IV, marchese di Saluzzo, married Beatrix von Hohenstaufen, daughter of King Manfred of Sicily; his great-grandmother Beatrice of Savoy was King Manfred's first wife; another uncle, Filippo, was Governor of Sardinia. His grandfather Tomasso's sister married Edmund de Lacy, earl of Lincoln, and was the grandmother of Alice de Lacy. Edmund was, however, one of the very few English earls of Edward II's reign not closely related to the king by blood or marriage. He and Edward were only third cousins once removed.

Richard, earl of Arundel, died in early 1302, aged not quite thirty-five; his son was not yet seventeen. Edmund's wardship and marriage rights were granted to John de Warenne, earl of Surrey (died 1304); Edmund would later marry John's granddaughter Alice. Custody of the Arundel lands was given to Amadeus, count of Savoy, until Edmund came of age.
Edmund was knighted in the great ceremony of 22 May 1306, and was summoned to Parliament on 9 November of that year as the earl of Arundel. He was given livery of his lands in the same year, shortly before his twenty-first birthday. In documents of Edward II's reign, he is called 'Monsire Edmond conte de Arundel' (or 'Arundell').

In 1305, Edmund married Alice de Warenne, whose brother John succeeded their grandfather as earl of Surrey in 1304. Alice must have been her father William de Warenne's posthumous child, born in 1287, as he married her mother Joan de Vere in June 1285, and her brother Surrey was born in June 1286; William was killed at a jousting tournament in December 1286. Edmund and Alice had several children, though, as so often, ascertaining exactly how many is difficult. Their son Richard was presumably born in 1313 or the beginning of 1314 (he was said to be seven years old at the time of his wedding in February 1321). Their eldest daughter Alice married Edward II's nephew John de Bohun, later earl of Hereford, in 1325. Genealogics gives Edmund and Alice four daughters, though other sites state that they had three. Edmund's nephew John de Segrave, son of his sister Alice, married Edward II's niece Margaret, later duchess of Norfolk (she was the daughter of Edward's half-brother Thomas of Brotherton).

[EDIT: I've just found this document in the Patent Rolls, dated 30 December 1304, which says that Edmund refused to marry Alice! I suppose someone must have persuaded him!]

Although Edmund was a contemporary of Edward II and Piers Gaveston, he spent the first few years of Edward's reign in opposition to them. Edmund was, along with his brother-in-law Surrey, one of the earls defeated by Piers in the great jousting tournament at Wallingford in December 1307, which helped to crystallise opposition to Piers. Despite this, Edmund played a prominent role in Edward's coronation on 25 February 1308, carrying Edward's robes, along with his cousin Roger Mortimer, Hugh Despenser the Elder, and the earl of Oxford's son Thomas de Vere (whose mother was Margaret Mortimer, making him a cousin of Edmund and Roger).

In 1310, Edmund became one of the Ordainers, or Lords Ordainer, a kind of reform committee. All the English earls were members, except: Surrey (for some unknown reason); Oxford, who was totally insignificant, and Cornwall, who was Piers Gaveston. In June 1312, Edmund was one of the men who had Gaveston killed. He joined the earls of Warwick, Lancaster and Hereford at Warwick Castle, and condemned Piers to death; unlike the earl of Warwick, who skulked in his castle, Edmund attended Piers' 'execution'.
Two years later, he refused to fight for Edward II at Bannockburn - the only earls who accompanied the king to Scotland were Hereford, Pembroke and Gloucester. (Sometimes, the changes of allegiance in Edward II's reign are dizzying.)

Surprisingly, sometime after 1314, Edmund changed sides completely. The reasons for this are unknown, but he is later found as one of Edward II's greatest supporters. Clearly, Edward forgave him for Piers' death, which is equally surprising. It may be that Edmund - in common with most other people - grew tired of his former ally the earl of Lancaster, who was the de facto ruler of England after Edward's defeat at Bannockburn, and who proved to be equally as incompetent as his cousin the king.

Edmund was not the kind of man to act as an effective political leader, and he isn't noted for any great abilities or strong opinions. Maybe, after 1318, he simply saw that English political life was coming to be dominated by Edward's new favourite the younger Despenser, and decided to ally himself with him. On 9 February 1321, Edmund's seven-year-old son Richard was married to the younger Despenser's eldest daughter, eight-year-old Isabel, one of the king's great-nieces. The wedding took place at Havering-atte-Bower, in Edward II's presence. The king's Wardrobe account:

"Ninth day of February, in money thrown by the King's order at the door of the King's chapel, within the manor of Havering-atte-Boure, during the solemnisation of the marriage between Richard son of Edmund Earl of Arundell and Isabella, daughter of Sir Hugh le Despenser, junior, 2 pounds....Delivered, for a veil to be spread over the heads of Richard de Arundell and Isabella, daughter of Sir Hugh le Despenser, junior, at their nuptial mass in the King's chapel, at Haveryng, 9th of February, one piece of Lucca cloth."

Later that year came the Despenser War and the exile of both Despensers, father and son. Edmund presented the younger Hugh's petition (to return to England) to Parliament, claiming that he'd been forced to agree to the Despensers' exile, probably truthfully. He fought for the king in his campaign against the Marcher lords, and on 5 January 1322, he replaced his grandmother's brother Roger Mortimer of Chirk - uncle of the younger Roger Mortimer - as Justice of North Wales, and gained custody of many lands of the Mortimers, John Mowbray and Bartholomew Badlesmere, other rebels. [I'll look at the Despenser War and Marcher Campaign in future posts.]

In March 1322, he was one of the men who condemned Thomas, earl of Lancaster to death, along with his brother-in-law the earl of Surrey, Edward II, the earls of Kent, Pembroke and Richmond, the Scottish earls of Atholl and Angus, and both Despensers.

The period 1322 to 1326, when his ally the younger Despenser was all-powerful, was also the period that saw Edmund reach the height of his power and influence. In 1323, he was made Justice of South Wales as well as the North, and in 1325 was Warden of the Welsh Marches. He also made use of Despenser's method of 'recognisances' - binding men to him by forcing them to acknowledge huge debts (Roger Mortimer also used the method in his own years of power).

In June 1326, Edward II gave Edmund and the younger Despenser some valuable velvet cloth - the king was apparently more interested in distributing gifts than in the impending invasion of his wife and her lover!

In the autumn of 1326, following Isabella and Mortimer's invasion, Edmund remained loyal and fled towards Wales with Edward II and the Despensers. The earl of Surrey also remained loyal - though apparently not entirely, as Isabella and Mortimer spared his life (he lived until 1347).

In November 1326, Edmund was captured by John Charlton, who had been Edward II's chamberlain until 1318. Charlton joined the Marcher rebellion of 1321/22, was later pardoned by the king, but repaid him by promptly joining Isabella and Mortimer in 1326. His son John had married Roger Mortimer's daughter Maud in 1319.

Edmund was beheaded, almost certainly without a trial, on 17 November 1326, probably at Hereford, though one chronicle says Shrewsbury. Exactly a week later, the younger Despenser, his ally and close relative by marriage, would be excuted in a far more public manner, also at Hereford. Two of Edmund's friends, John Daniel and Thomas de Micheldever, were executed with him. What they are meant to have done is unclear. According to the well-informed chronicler Adam Murimuth, Roger Mortimer hated his cousin with a 'perfect hatred', which is perhaps understandable, but doesn't excuse Edmund's illegal execution. His crimes seem mainly to have been his loyalty to the king, his familial relationship with Despenser, and his rivalry with Mortimer in Wales. Even Alison Weir is forced to admit that the executions of the three men were 'acts of tyranny'.

Edmund was forty-one at the time of his death. Although his estates and titles were forfeit to the crown, his widow Alice was given some manors for the sustenance of herself and her children - and presumably her fourteen-year-old daughter-in-law Isabel Despenser, whose father and grandfather were dead, and whose mother and eldest brother were in prison. Edmund's body was later removed to Haughmond Abbey, where many of the Fitzalans were buried. According to the historian Linda E. Mitchell, his captor John Charlton and his son (Roger Mortimer's son-in-law) later paid for three chaplains at Haughmond to pray for Edmund's soul. Towards the end of the fourteenth century, Edmund's great-granddaughter Alice Fitzalan married John, fourth Lord Charlton, great-grandson of both John Charlton and Roger Mortimer (and also of Margaret de Clare).

Edmund's son Richard, known by the nickname 'Copped Hat', was arrested in the summer of 1330 after plotting to overthrow Mortimer, but a few months later was restored to his father's earldom and estates by Edward III. In 1344 he divorced Isabel Despenser; he was succeeded as earl of Arundel by his eldest son from his second marriage, who shared his grandfather's fate and was beheaded by Richard II in 1397. Richard 'Copped Hat' was one of the richest men in England in the entire fourteenth century, and lived until 1376. He succeeded to the title of earl of Surrey, as his uncle John de Warenne had no (legitimate) children. Susan Higginbotham has written an excellent post on the Fitzalans.

The present duke of Norfolk, Edward Fitzalan-Howard (born 1956), is Edmund Fitzalan's eighteen greats-grandson; he is also earl of Arundel and Surrey. Edmund is also the ancestor of earls of Shrewsbury, Southampton, Northampton, Scarborough, Peterborough, Devon, Warwick, Exeter, Salisbury; dukes of Rutland, Suffolk, Northumberland, St Albans, Newcastle; and countless others.

Edmund Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, born Marlborough 1 May 1285, executed Hereford 17 November 1326.