27 August, 2007

Medieval Darwin Awards

Just a short post, while I'm preparing the next proper one. This is about some men related to Edward II and the silly ways they died - candidates for Medieval Darwin Awards!

- Edward's uncle by marriage, Duke John II of Brittany (widower of Edward I's sister Beatrice), was killed in Avignon on 18 November 1305, at the ripe old age of sixty-six. He was leading Pope Clement V's horse through the town, during Clement's coronation (or whatever you call it) when a wall collapsed, thanks to all the people sitting on it to watch the procession, and crushed John to death.

- Edward's great-great-uncle King Enrique I of Castile (much younger brother of Edward's great-grandmother Queen Berenguela) was killed in Palencia on 6 June 1217, at the age of thirteen, when a tile fell off a roof and hit him on the head.

- Count Henri II of Champagne, grandson of Louis VII and Eleanor of Aquitaine and thus the nephew of Edward II's great-grandfather King John, died in Jerusalem on 10 September 1197 (he was the third husband of Isabelle, Queen of Jerusalem in her own right). He fell through a window, probably while watching a parade. One of his servants tried to grab hold of him to save him, but ended up falling out of the window as well and landing on top of Henri; he died, too. Poor Henri might have survived otherwise!

And finally, Almost A Medieval Darwin Award, from the Patent Rolls of 30 March 1324:

"Notification, lest sinister suspicion should arise hereafter, that the defect which William Sampson suffers in his right ear arose from the stroke of a tun of wine as he was walking amongst the tuns on board a ship to see that no harm came to them, as the king is informed on sufficient evidence." :-)

22 August, 2007

Children of Edward II: Childhood and Betrothals

A post on the four children of Edward II and Isabella, some details of their childhoods, and their betrothals and marriages.

Edward III

Edward was born at Windsor on Monday 13 November 1312. Edward II spent most of the last two months of Isabella's pregnancy with her at Windsor; he left for Sheen, about twenty miles away, on 9 November, and hurried back on the 12th, probably because he'd received a message that Isabella had gone into labour. Young Edward was created Earl of Chester when he was only a few days old (Edward II had become Earl of Chester in February 1301, aged sixteen). By January, still only a few weeks old, young Edward already had his own household, and was looked after by his nurse, Margaret.

Edward II and Isabella occasionally visited their son, who lived at Bisham in Berkshire from 27 January 1313, and the little boy was also taken to court - for example, spending twenty-seven days there in the early summer of 1313. He also lived at Ludgershall in Wiltshire for a time, then at Windsor Castle. In early 1318, Edward II appointed Sir Richard Damory as his son's guardian: 'keeper of the body of my lord Sir Edward, Earl of Chester'. Damory was the elder brother of Edward II's great favourite at the time, Roger Damory. Late that same year, Edward's brother John and sister Eleanor came to live with him.

The marriage of his eldest son and heir was a matter of great importance to Edward II, and in late 1318 - when his son had just turned six - he began the process of finding his son a royal bride. Margaret, the eldest daughter of Count William of Hainault, was put forward in 1319; she was born in 1311, and ultimately married Louis IV von Wittelsbach, future Holy Roman Emperor, in 1324 (he was a widower, born in 1282). In March 1321, Edward II informed Count William that he was keen to arrange the match, but that the King of Aragon and others had also shown interest in a marriage alliance with young Edward, and the plans fizzled out.

In the summer of 1323, Queen Isabella's uncle Charles, Count of Valois, proposed a match between Edward and one of his ten daughters. Edward II, however, being half-Spanish himself, favoured Spanish marriages for his children, and decided to continue with the Aragon match. The King of Aragon at the time (until November 1327) was Jaime II, whose elder brother Alfonso III had once been betrothed to Edward II's sister Eleanor. Jaime had five daughters, though one was a nun and one a prioress. The others were: Constança (born 1300), Isabel (born 1305) and Violante (born 1310) - all older than Edward III.

For some reason, the Aragon alliance did not work out, and in January 1325, Castile opened negotiations for young Edward to marry Leonor, daughter of Fernando IV (died 1312) and sister of Alfonso XI (born 1311). The young King of Castile would marry Edward's sister, Eleanor of Woodstock (born 1318). In October, negotiations were finalised, and Edward II informed Afonso IV of Portugal, who had proposed a match between young Edward and his daughter Maria, who was almost exactly the same age as the boy, that the proposed arrangement couldn't go ahead.

In September 1325, Edward II created his son Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Ponthieu, and sent him to France to pay homage to Charles IV for the lands. Edward was almost thirteen, and was soon caught up in his mother's plans to invade England. In August 1326, Isabella arranged a marriage alliance between Edward and an (unnamed) daughter of Count William of Hainault; there were three unmarried daughters. The girl's dowry was spent on ships and soldiers to invade England.

On 30 January 1328, fifteen-year-old Edward III married Philippa of Hainault, second daughter of Count William, at York Minster. Her mother was Jeanne, one of the ten daughters of Charles de Valois, and she was thus Edward's second cousin. Edward and Philippa were married for over forty years, and had twelve children.

John of Eltham

John was born on 15 August 1316, at Eltham Palace near London. Edward II was at Lincoln at the time, attending Parliament, but sent money for his son's christening, gave Isabella gifts of lands and jewellery, and had the Dominicans in York say prayers for his wife and child. In early September, conflict with Earl Thomas of Lancaster (who was meant to be John of Eltham's godfather, but didn't show up for the christening) came to a head, and fearing an armed confrontation with his powerful cousin, Edward ordered Isabella to come to him at York as quickly as possible. He generously rewarded a messenger who informed him that Isabella was on her way, and was clearly very anxious about her safety. As always when the royal couple were apart, they kept in frequent contact via messengers.

This episode, however, gets considerably less attention from historians and novelists than his alleged 'abandonment' of a tearful Isabella at Tynemouth on 10 May 1312, when she was pregnant with Edward III, which is often portrayed as callousness on Edward's part and proof that he cared far more about Piers Gaveston's safety than his wife's. However, he and Piers subsequently spent five days bobbing about in a small boat on the North Sea - hardly an ideal situation for a woman who was three months pregnant with the (possible) heir to England. Edward left Piers at Scarborough and travelled to York, where he and Isabella were reunited a mere week after he'd 'abandoned' her; she made her way there by land, a far safer mode of travel in her condition. But it's another stick to beat Edward with, and fits so nicely into the usual 'Isabella the Victim' theme.

John of Eltham joined his brother Edward's household in late 1318; his nurse was named Matilda Pyrie. In September 1324, he was granted his own household, under the command of Edward II's niece Eleanor de Clare. In October 1326, after Edward II and his few remaining supporters had fled to Wales, John was living in the Tower, where his first cousin and guardian Eleanor de Clare had been left in charge. Eleanor surrendered the Tower to the mob, who promptly made ten-year-old John the nominal Keeper of London.

John of Eltham became Earl of Cornwall (a title previously held by Piers Gaveston) on 31 October 1328, aged twelve. In 1334, a marriage alliance was proposed between John and Maria of Castile, another sister of Alfonso XI, and a papal dispensation was granted, but Maria died shortly afterwards. Other possible brides put forward for John were: a daughter of Philip VI of France; a daughter of the Count of Blois; a daughter of the Lord of Coucy; and a daughter of Guy, brother of the Duke of Brittany.

John died at Perth on 13 September 1336, wounded in a skirmish with Scots troops. He was only twenty, and still unmarried. It's on record that Edward III suffered nightmares over his brother's death.

Eleanor of Woodstock

Eleanor was born at Woodstock on Sunday 18 June 1318. Edward II arrived at Woodstock on the day of her birth and stayed for ten days, when he and Isabella left for Northampton, for the opening of Parliament.

In late 1318, just a few months old, Eleanor joined the household of her elder brothers. In September 1324, Eleanor and her younger sister Joan were granted their own household, and lived with Isabella Hastings, sister of the Younger Despenser, and her husband Ralph de Monthermer. Monthermer was the girls' uncle, kind of - he had previously been married to Edward II's sister Joan of Acre.

In 1325, Eleanor was betrothed to Alfonso XI of Castile, who was seven years her senior. He ultimately married Maria, daughter of Afonso IV of Portugal, once proposed as a bride for Edward III. By Maria, Alfonso was the father of King Pedro the Cruel, but he ignored his wife in favour of his mistress doña Leonor Núñez de Guzmán, by whom he had ten children - so Eleanor probably had a lucky escape. Doña Leonor was later murdered on the orders of Pedro the Cruel.

In May 1332, not quite fourteen, Eleanor married Count Reinald II of Gelderland at Nijmegen, and gave birth to the first of her two children before she turned fifteen. She died on 22 April 1355, aged thirty-six, and was buried in Deventer Abbey.

Joan of the Tower

Born in the Tower of London on 5 July 1321. The royal apartments were rather dilapidated, and rain came in onto Isabella's bed while she was in labour. Later, a furious Edward II relieved John Cromwell, Constable of the Tower, of his post. Joan was born in the middle of the Despenser War, and shortly after her birth, her mother went down on her knees before Edward II and begged him to exile the Despensers.

In 1325, Edward II received a papal dispensation for one of his daughters to marry Pedro, eldest son and heir of Alfonso IV of Aragon and grandson of Jaime II. He must have had Joan in mind, as his other daughter Eleanor was betrothed to Alfonso XI of Castile. Pedro was born in September 1319 and succeeded his father as Pedro IV of Aragon on 24 January 1336. After the alliance with England fell through, he married, in 1338, Marie of Navarre, granddaughter of Louis X of France (brother of Edward II's Queen Isabella) and lived until 5 January 1387.

On 17 July 1328, Joan married David, son and heir of King Robert (Bruce) of Scotland, as part of the Treaty of Northampton. She had just turned seven, and David was four, born on 5 March 1324. Her sixteen-year-old brother Edward III refused to attend the wedding, and Robert didn't either. On 7 June 1329, King Robert died, and his five-year-old son succeeded him as David II. Joan and David's marriage was an unhappy one, and they had no children. David was captured at the Battle of Neville's Cross on 17 October 1346 and spent eleven years as a prisoner in England. The couple never lived together again, and Joan spent the rest of her life in England, often in the company of her mother Queen Isabella, who died in August 1358. Joan died on 7 September 1362, at the age of forty-one. David II died on 22 February 1371, and was succeeded by Robert II - his nephew, although eight years older.

14 August, 2007

Rioters and Ruffians? The Dunheved Gang (2)

The second part of my investigations into the Dunheved gang of 1327 - the first part is here. Unless stated otherwise, the men all disappear from the records after the summer of 1327.

Richard de Birchesden (or Bircheston) of Warwickshire

Birchesden or Bircheston (also spelt in fourteenth-century documents as Bercheston, Byrcheston, etc) is the Warwickshire village now written as Barcheston, which lies on the opposite bank of the river Stour to Shipston-on-Stour. In the last census, 2001, it had a population of 134. Barcheston is about thirty-five miles from the Dunheveds' home of Dunchurch, and twenty-two miles from Kenilworth.

Richard was described as lord of the manor of Barcheston in 1316, and apparently called to Parliament in 1322. He was an 'armiger' - a man entitled to his own coat of arms, often translated as 'squire'. A Simon de Bircheston, perhaps a relative, was Abbot of Westminster from 1344 to 1349, and was associated with Nicholas de Litlyngton, Abbot of Westminster from 1362 to 1386. Litlyngton was probably the illegitimate son of Hugh Despenser the Younger (or perhaps of his father).

On 25 May 1327, a 'Richard son of Thomas de Bercheston' was pardoned for an unnamed offence, but I don't know if that was the same one. 'Richard de Berchiston' was mentioned on 28 February 1319 for assault at Shipston-on-Stour - given that Richard came from less than a mile away, it must be the same one. And in June 1320, a 'Richard de Byrcheston' was given protection for going to France in the company of John, Lord Hastings, on the occasion of Edward II having to pay homage for Gascony to his brother-in-law Philip V. Hastings (husband of Juliana Leyburne) owned lands in Warwickshire, so I presume he was Richard's overlord.

I don't know of any connection between Richard and Edward II - perhaps he was an associate of Stephen Dunheved in some way. But I have no evidence for that, except that they both came from Warwickshire.

It's possible that Richard, one of the men named as taking part in the assault on Berkeley, was one of the handful of gang members who lived past the summer of 1327. 'Richard de Burcheston' (yet another spelling!) is mentioned on 21 November 1327 for committing theft at Campden in Gloucestershire. One of the men named with him is Malcolm Musard, the aristocratic leader of a notorious robber band of up to 300 men, famous for assault, theft, kidnapping, extortion and so on, like the Folvilles. Musard's lands were seized in 1327 because of his adherence to the Elder Despenser, whose retinue he joined in 1305. He was made Keeper of Hanley Castle, which belonged to the Younger Despenser, in 1321. However, Despenser wasn't always pleased with Musard, as shown by his letter requesting that the appointment of Musard as keeper of the peace in Worcestershire be revoked, because he was unsuitable. The reason for this was probably because Musard had attacked two manors belonging to Aline Burnell - who was Despenser's sister. (Got to love the irony of a notorious gang leader being made keeper of the peace.) And on 7 August 1326, Musard was pardoned for "adherence to the rebels", so apparently he switched sides at his own convenience.

Richard de Barcheston was described as the chief taxpayer in Barcheston in 1332. However, I suppose it's possible that this was his son, or nephew.

John de Rihale and Henry de Rihale, friar preacher

Presumably brothers, though unfortunately I haven't been able to find either man. Henry was a Dominican, and perhaps from the same convent as Thomas Dunheved, or John Stoke [last post]. A plot of land in the manor of Riseley, Bedfordshire, was called 'la Rihale', for example on 26 December 1329. Rihale may also be Ryhall near Stamford in Lincolnshire (then Rutland), or Ryall near Upton-upon-Severn in Worcestershire, which is thirty-seven miles from Berkeley and just two miles from Hanley Castle, which (had) belonged to the Younger Despenser. Ryhall near Stamford also had a connection with Despenser: in 1320, he granted it and other manors to his brother-in-law Hugh Audley, in exchange for lands in South Wales. In July 1322, Despenser was granted "the corn, hay, grass, cattle and goods" in Ryhall and other manors.

These possible links to Despenser may have been a reason for the two Rihale men to join the Dunheved gang, or alternatively it might have been the strong support for Edward II found among the Dominicans. Unfortunately, I have no more information on the two men, and neither appears after the summer of 1327.

Richard le Flesshewere

The name 'le Fles(s)hewere' (or 'Fleshewer', or about ninety-seven other possible spellings) means 'butcher'. The only reference I've found to Richard is on 15 March 1324, when Edward II sent his sergeant-at-arms Oto le Alemaund ('Otto the German') to arrest him - assuming it *is* him - and seven other men. No reason is given. If this was the same man, he must have forgiven Edward for having him arrested! According to Thomas Berkeley's letter of 27 July, Richard came from Gloucestershire.

One of the men ordered to be arrested with Richard by Otto the German was John Andreu. Andreu was one of the men accused of assault with John de la Haye [last post] on 13 July 1327.

Master Robert de Shulton, monk of Hailes [daunz Robert de Shultone, moigne de Hayles]

'Shulton' is probably Shoulton near Worcester, but could be one of several places named Shelton, or one of two towns named Shilton. One of these is in Warwickshire, fifteen miles from Dunchurch. Hailes Abbey is Cistercian, and was founded in 1246 by Edward II's great-uncle Richard of Cornwall. It's near Winchcombe in Gloucestershire, about forty miles from Berkeley.

William, nephew of Master Michael atte Hull, canon of Llanthony, Gloucester
[Williame nevou daunz Michael atte Hulle, chanoign de l'Antony de Glouc']

The mention of the Augustinian house of Llanthony Priory is significant in this context, as it was there that Edward II spent the night of 4/5 April 1327, on his way from Kenilworth to Berkeley, with Thomas Berkeley and John Maltravers. They left Kenilworth on 3 April, made very good time to cover the fifty-five miles to Gloucester in two days, and probably travelled the remaining sixteen miles from Gloucester to their final destination the next day. The Berkeley Castle records show that Edward II was at Berkeley by 6 April at the latest.

It was Llanthony Secunda Priory in Gloucester where they stayed, not the mother house of Llanthony Prima in Monmouthshire, as often stated, for example by Alison Weir and Paul Doherty. Kenilworth to Llanthony Prima is just under 100 miles, and Llanthony to Berkeley is another sixty-five miles - an impossible journey in three days in 1327 for anyone except professional messengers travelling alone. It's also often stated that Maltravers and Berkeley took Edward from Kenilworth to Llanthony Prima and then to Corfe Castle in Dorset, then to Berkeley via Bristol, zigzagging around the country and laying false trails to prevent Edward's friends finding him. Kenilworth to Llanthony in Monmouthshire to Corfe to Bristol to Berkeley is about 350 miles. Ridiculous! It would have taken at least a couple of weeks to make that journey, and dramatically increased the number of people who would have seen Edward when Berkeley and Maltravers were trying to keep his whereabouts secret.

Did Michael atte Hull, the canon of Llanthony, inform his nephew William that Edward was there on 4/5 April? It would have made the gang's job a lot easier to find Edward - who could have been taken from Kenilworth more or less anywhere in the country.

For a while, I thought that this William atte Hull was the man of the same name who murdered Agnes Coleman in Norfolk and abjured the realm sometime before September 1325, and who came from Thorndon in Suffolk. However, Thomas Berkeley's letter of 27 July 1327 specifically states that the William of the Dunheved gang came from Gloucestershire, and besides, I haven't been able to find any connections between William atte Hull the murderer and Edward II, or the Dunheved gang. (And the notorious William atte Hull was still active in East Anglia, accused of imprisoning a man and threatening to cut off his genitals - what a charmer - in 1346.) The William of the Dunheved gang is far more likely to be the "Thomas atte Hulle and William his son, and Robert brother of the same William, [who] assaulted a man" at Campden, Gloucestershire, on 26 February 1314. Thomas would then be the brother of Michael atte Hull, the canon of Llanthony.

On 8 March 1327, William atte Hull, with Roger Inman and John Ingelard, was accused by Philip Cheyne of stealing thirteen oxen and a cow, worth ten pounds, at 'Momerfeld' in Shropshire, which I can't identify (unless it's Munderfield, which is in Herefordshire). John Ingelard, sometimes called 'John Ingelard de Warley', was a merchant, the brother of Ingelard de Warley, who was the unpopular Keeper of Edward II's Wardrobe from 1309 to 1314. He (Warley, the Keeper of the Wardrobe) had served in Edward's household before he became King, and attended Piers Gaveston's funeral in January 1315. He was dead by 1327.

Why William atte Hull was willing to put his life on the line for Edward II is unclear, as he doesn't seem to have served him in any capacity, and as he came from Gloucestershire, was not likely to be an associate of the Dunheveds. Perhaps he was attracted more by the possibility of violence and plunder, not because he was loyal to Edward. However, he was ordered to be arrested in March 1327, before Edward II was sent to Berkeley - so probably he was already a gang member, and didn't join them simply because they were passing through Gloucestershire, where he lived. And the fact that he's named in Berkeley's letter and in the indictment of 1 August suggests that he was an important member of the gang, not someone who'd joined the attack simply for plunder.

A William atte Hull served as a juror in London on 7 July 1347. I'd love to think that this was the same man. But sadly, I doubt it.

Walter de Saunford

Another gang member who's difficult to trace. 'Saunford' could be one of many places called Sandford, or it could even be Stamford or Stanford or Sampford. One of the villages called Sandford is in Dorset, roughly halfway between Lytchett Matravers (where John Maltravers came from) and Corfe Castle, where Edward II seems to have been held at some point in 1327.
There are several possibilities regarding Walter's identity: there was a draper in London in 1310 called Walter de Saunford, and in 1322/23 a Walter de Staunford, possibly the same man, rented a shop with a solar at St Mary le Bow in London; he was granted a reduction of eight shillings in his rent "lest he should never leave because of the poverty of the time". In November 1317, there's a mention of "Walter son of Andrew de Stannford", who made a grant to the Carmelite friars, and in May 1310, a Walter de Stanford and others imprisoned a man named Matthew de Lescheqer ('of the Exchequer') at Norwich. One of the other men was named as Walter Langton, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, former Chancellor and Treasurer of England, and a great enemy of Edward II.

Whether the Walter de Saunford of the Dunheved gang was any of these men, I'm afraid I don't know. Or maybe he was none of them! A Walter de Saunford was Abbot of Abbotsbury (?!) in Dorset from 1343 to 1348, but the gang member is not identified as a cleric, and I'm pretty sure it's not the same one.

William de Roscele, parson of the church of Huntele [William de Roscele, persone de l'eglise de Huntele]

'William Russell' in modern spelling. On 11 December 1323, "William de Roscele, parson of the church of Huntelegh" was accused with many other men of assaulting a man named Richard de Portes in Gloucester and stealing his goods. So he was probably an aggressive, fighting kind of priest, and one not too bothered about breaking the law! Richard de Portes was an associate of Thomas, Lord Berkeley, John Maltravers and Thomas Gurney.

Huntley is a village seven miles to the west of Gloucester, about twenty-five miles from Berkeley. However, William was probably already a member of the gang before Edward was taken to Berkeley, as two orders for his arrest appears on 8 March: one for breaking into a house, and cutting down trees, in Berkshire, and the other for the same offence in Wiltshire. No mean feat, to be in Berkshire and Wiltshire at the same time, and all the manors mentioned are pretty far from his parish.

It's possible that the gang made use of Huntley as a useful base not far from Berkeley, or as a meeting point. It's on the edge of the Forest of Dean, a very handy place to hide. Huntley church was built in the eleventh century, but demolished and rebuilt in 1861. Only the tower is as it would have been in William's day.

Sir Edmund Gascelyn (Gacelyn, Gacelin, Gasselyn, Goscelyn, Wacelyn, etc etc)

Sir Edmund Gascelyn was a knight, and is therefore by far the easiest of the Dunheved gang to trace. He was born probably in 1281, aged twenty-six when his father died on 24 September 1307; his father Edmund had been a household knight of Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk (died 1306) and his grandfather Geoffrey a household knight of King Henry III. Edmund Gascelyn himself served in the Earl of Pembroke's retinue at around the same time as the Berkeleys and Thomas Gurney.

Edmund owned Sheldon Manor in Chippenham, which still exists and is open to the public, and other lands in Wiltshire. (One website I looked at says "The house, unfortunately, is closed this year due to ill health." I hope it gets better soon.)

Between 4 March and 1 August 1327, warrants were issued for Edmund's arrest no fewer than eight times - probably he was considered to be a particular threat, as he was a knight. On 4 March, he was said with a few others to have stolen "twenty horses, sixty oxen, fifty cows and fourteen hundred sheep, worth 300 pounds" in four villages in Gloucestershire; on 5 March, to have imprisoned a man at Shilton, near Coventry, until he paid a fine of ten pounds, and to have "mowed his corn" (the horror!); on 8 March, with a few others, to have stolen "two horses, six mares, two bulls, thirty-six oxen, thirty-two cows, six hundred and fifty sheep and twenty swine, worth two hundred pounds" in Wiltshire; on 10 March, to have stolen unspecified goods at Bushton, Wiltshire; also on 10 March, to have "imprisoned and maltreated" a man at York; and on 15 April, to have stolen unspecified goods at Langley Burrell, Wiltshire. Langley Burrell is just outside Chippenham, where Edmund held lands.

Plus, he was ordered to be arrested on 15 July for 'withdrawing himself' from Thomas Berkeley, and on 1 August for the Berkeley Castle affair. A busy man, and obviously an unusually talented one in managing to be in so many parts of the country at once - especially York and Bushton in Wiltshire, which are over 200 miles apart.

Edmund married a woman named Eleanor, widow of Sir John Kiriel, in 1303, and had a son called Geoffrey. Other knights with the name Gascelyn often show up in the records of Edward II's reign, Roger, John and Walter - brothers or cousins of Edmund. Roger Gascelyn was captured fighting against the royal army at Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322, and Edmund was granted his manor of Catmore, Berkshire, on 1 June 1322. He also received 'Wroxhale' in Wiltshire - which I can only imagine is Wroxall, which is actually in Warwickshire. On 6 April 1322, Edmund's lands were restored to him, having been seized by the Contrariants, Edward II's baronial enemies.

In July 1322, he went on the Scots campaign with Edward II, was summoned to the Great Council at Westminster on 9 May 1324, and was a Commissioner of Array for Wiltshire in November and December 1324, with responsibility for raising fifteen men-at-arms, 100 archers and more than 250 footmen (to send to Gascony). Lots of other men did the same - I can't see that Edmund was unusually privileged, or held any positions of power or influence, or that Edward II favoured him particularly.

Why Edmund Gascelyn was so determined to free Edward is rather puzzling, as there's really nothing to suggest that the two men were ever close. If Edmund served Edward II or Hugh Despenser as a household knight, I haven't found any evidence. On 16 October 1313, Edmund, Roger and John Gascelyn, his brothers or cousins, were three of the hundreds (really - there's pages of them) of men pardoned "of all causes of anger, indignation, suits, accusations, etc, arisen in any manner on account of Peter [Piers] de Gavaston..." There is some indication that Edmund was considered an adherent of the younger Despenser, but I'm not sure of the precise connection.

John Gascelyn was named with Edmund in one of his alleged crimes, mentioned above, so may have been suspected of gang involvement or sympathy for the former Edward II. And Walter Gascelyn was one of the men accused of stealing "fish, trees and corn" with William Aylmer in 1328 [last post], but both John and Walter crop up often enough in records of Edward III's reign.

Edmund Gascelyn does not. I can't find him after the summer of 1327, and he was surely dead. However, his son Geoffrey was in possession of Sheldon Manor by 30 December 1337. The fortunes of the Gascelyn family waned, perhaps because of Edmund's fate: Geoffrey was never knighted, and in 1351, reached an agreement with Thomas, Lord Berkeley, of all people (yes, that Thomas Berkeley) that he would hand over most of his lands to Berkeley in return for an annual rent and maintenance as a squire in Berkeley's household. At the end of the seven-year agreement, Berkeley offered Geoffrey the choice of staying in his household for a further five years or taking an annuity of 10 marks (six pounds, sixty-six pence) with an acre of meadow and an acre of field - evidence of the sad decline of the family, which had once enjoyed an income of £200 a year.

John de Hill

I couldn't find John de Hill for ages. However, I think I've finally traced the elusive git. He was a knight, albeit a very obscure one, came from Hill Croome in Worcestershire, and was also known as John de Hull or de Hulle. The family were either called 'de Hill', 'de Hill Croome' or 'de Hulle', confusingly, and their manor was called Hulecrumb, Hulcrombe, with many variants in the spelling, and also as Hull or Hulle.

Hill Croome is in southern Worcestershire, near the Gloucestershire border. It's about seven miles north of Hugh Despenser the Younger's manor of Tewkesbury, even closer to his manor of Hanley Castle, and three miles from Ryall, where two other gang members may have come from. Its thirteenth-century church is still extant; there are some photos by Tudor Barlow here.

John was summoned to the Great Council at Westminster on 9 May 1324, as was Edmund Gascelyn. He was named as a Commissioner of Array in Worcestershire on Christmas Day 1325 and on 12 September 1326, just twelve days before Mortimer and Isabella's invasion force landed in Suffolk. A Thomas de Hull, who may or may not have been a relative, was pardoned on 20 March 1327 for holding out against Isabella and Mortimer's forces at Caerphilly.

John inherited Hill Croome from his father Nicholas sometime before 1324. On 12 March 1347, there's a mention of John de Hulle, his son: "that he and his heirs for ever shall have charter of free warren...in his demesne lands of Hullecroumbe and Kereswell, co. Worcester." The charter was witnessed by a host of luminaries: Edward III's eldest son Edward of Woodstock, William de Bohun, Earl of Northampton, Robert Ufford, Earl of Suffolk, Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, and Richard Talbot, Steward of Edward III's household.

John de Hill/Hulle was one of the men mentioned on 15 July for 'withdrawing himself' from Thomas Berkeley, and indicted on 1 August for the attack on Berkeley Castle.

Roger atte Watre ('Atwater' in modern spelling)

Roger was one of the men pardoned on 20 March 1327 for holding out at Caerphilly Castle. I don't know when he joined the gang, but it must have been around the time that Edward II was moved to Berkeley, or later.

He was a sergeant-at-arms of Edward II, as were William Beaukaire, also pardoned at Caerphilly, who would play a very different role at Berkeley Castle, and several other members of the Dunheved gang. Roger came from London, and often appears in records there, as do many other atte Watres. He had a garden called the Hermitage, on the south side of Aldgate, which he leased in 1325 to a man named Peter de Staundone for ten shillings a year.

Roger had been a sergeant of Edward II since at least April 1311, as letters of safe-conduct were issued on 25 April "in favour of Roger le Palmere, William de Flete, and Roger atte Watre proceeding to Scotland with the King's treasure." On 18 July 1314, he and two other sergeants took Donald of Mar (who became one of Edward's most fervent adherents), Donald's aunt Elizabeth de Burgh, who was Robert Bruce's wife, and the other Scottish hostages to Edward at York, where they were freed. And in 1321: "as regards the sum of £20 12s. which Roger atte Watre, the King's Serjeant, demands on account of those who were in the King's service at Ledes, it was understood that this was given of the King's courtesy, but the money would be returned if the King would signify his pleasure." This is a reference to Edward II's siege at Leeds Castle in Kent, the opener to his successful campaign against the Marcher lords in 1321/22.

There are lots of other references to Roger atte Watre in connection with London. Probably, Edward II trusted him to act in his best interests in a place where he (Edward) was deeply unpopular.

Roger vanishes from the records after the summer of 1327, almost certainly dead. However, there are a few mentions of John atte Watre and John atte Watre junior in the 1340s, who I'd like to think were his son and grandson. John atte Watre junior appears as late as 1373. Roger's father may also have been named John - a John atte Watre appears in various London records in the 1310s.

William le Parker of Alecestre

Also very difficult to trace. There were plenty of William le Parkers in Edward II's reign, but none of them were designated 'of Alecestre'. A William le Parker, no placename given, accompanied Queen Isabella to France in 1314 and 1320, but it's probably not the same one.

'Alecestre' is Alcester in Warwickshire, thirty-five miles from the Dunheveds' home of Dunchurch, twenty-two miles from Kenilworth, and also twenty-two miles from Barcheston, where another gang member came from. William may therefore have been an associate of one of these men.

On 9 October 1327, an Adam le Parker was pardoned for adherence to Edward II's friend and Dunheved gang supporter Donald, Earl of Mar. Adam was "received into the king's peace" by Henry Percy, "provided that he return to, and abide on, the march, and aid in harassing the enemy." He may have been a relative of William, but then, it's a common name.


Although I would never deny that most people in England were glad to see the back of Edward II in 1327, I hope these posts demonstrate that he was far from friendless. Several members of his household, men who knew him well, were willing to risk their necks for him: his confessor Thomas Dunheved, Rhys ap Gruffydd, Donald of Mar, Thomas de la Haye, Roger atte Watre, John Boteler. It's not surprising that some of the Dunheved gang were Dominican, as Edward had always shown them great favour, but other clerical members of the gang were not Dominican - there were two Cistercians, an Augustinian, and several parsons. And there were others whose connection to Edward remains mysterious, but who nevertheless put themselves in great danger - and usually ended up dead - to help him. And as I'll write in a future post, a few of the men who helped the Earl of Kent in his conspiracy to free Edward in 1329/30 were also former members of his household. Even two and a half years after the official announcement that he was dead, there were still men willing to risk imprisonment, exile, and death for Edward II.

12 August, 2007

Ruffians and Rioters? The Dunheved Gang (1)

This post is a continuation of the one directly beneath, or you can read it here. On 1 August 1327, Thomas, Lord Berkeley was appointed to arrest, "for coming to Berkele[y] Castle with an armed force to plunder it, and refusing to join the king in his expedition against the Scots", the following men:

- Brother John de Neumester, Stephen Dunhevid, brother Thomas Dunhevid, William son of William Aylmer, John Boteler of Staffordshire, Thomas de la Haye, Peter de Rokele, William Aylemer, the elder, Richard de Birchesden of Warwickshire, John de Rihale, Henry de Rihale, friar preacher, Richard le Flesshewere, Robert de Shulton, monk of Hayles, William nephew of Michael atte Hull, canon of Lantony, Gloucester, Walter de Saunford, William de Roscele, parson of the church of Huntele, Edmund Gascelyn, John de Hill, Roger atte Watre, William le Parker of Alecestre.

These men were the gang leaders, not the entire gang. Thomas Berkeley stated in his letter of 27 July to the Chancellor that "I will make great efforts to take them" ( jeo mettrai peine a les prendre). The desertion from the Scots expedition is thrown in as an extra reason for arresting the men - as though clerics would have joined it! The fact that the men did plunder the castle, and release Edward II, at least for a while, is carefully not mentioned.

In addition to these men, there were two others, named in Berkeley's letter to the Chancellor: John de Redemere (possibly Redmire in North Yorkshire), the "keeper of our lord the king's stud-farm" (gardein del haras nostre seignor le roy) and John Norton. These men, who Berkeley describes as "great leaders of this company", were taken by the 'community of Dunstable', Bedfordshire, and held there in prison. They were taken to Newgate, the notorious prison in London, and disppear from history.

This John Norton may have been the man of the same name who was a clerk of Edward II, and who was appointed the King's attorney before the justices of the King's Bench on 5 September 1312. And finally, Brother John Stoke, a Dominican friar of the convent in Warwick, was in some way involved in the plot to free Edward from Kenilworth in March 1327. On 1 May, he was ordered to be arrested and taken to Edward III, who was still only fourteen. Three days later, Stephen Dunheved was ordered to be taken to Queen Isabella [see below].

There are some mentions of John Norton in the early months of Edward III's reign. On 3 March 1327, he and twenty-two others are said to have "carried away the goods" of William Trussell - who was the man who had pronounced the death sentence on both Hugh Despensers a few months earlier, and had acted as "proctor of the prelates, earls and barons and of other persons named in my proxy", renouncing their fealty and allegiance to Edward II at Kenilworth on 20 January 1327.

So here's the information I've found on the men, including Rhys ap Gruffydd - involved in a plot to free Edward II in August/September 1327, and possibly a supporter of the Dunheved gang - in order of their mention in the indictment of 1 August.

Sir Rhys ap Gruffydd [His name was usually anglicised in contemporary documents as 'Rees ap Griffith']

The son of Gruffydd ap Hywel ap Gruffydd ab Ednyfed Fychan and Nest ferch Gwrwared ap Gwilym, Rhys was a yeoman and 'privy squire' of the chamber of Edward II, and married Joan Somerville around 12 February 1325. Joan brought him lands in six English counties, in addition to the lands he inherited in Cantref Mawr. Rhys fought for Edward II during the Marcher campaign of 1321/22 - i.e., against Roger Mortimer, John Maltravers et al - and served in the retinue of the Younger Despenser from 1322 to 1326. In November 1326, he was one of the men Edward II sent to (unsuccessfully) negotiate with Queen Isabella, along with the Abbot of Neath, Edward's young nephew Edward de Bohun, and John Harsik and Oliver de Bordeaux, two of Edward's squires.

In August and early September 1327, Rhys, with Donald of Mar, was plotting to free Edward II from Berkeley Castle. They were betrayed to William Shalford, but Rhys evaded capture and fled to Scotland, most likely with Donald, the nephew of Robert Bruce. Rhys was offered a pardon several times in 1328, but evidently wasn't interested.

In 1329 and early 1330, Rhys and Donald were involved in the Earl of Kent's plot to free his (dead?) half-brother. Donald returned to Scotland, but Rhys fled to Brabant, where he joined some of the enemies of Mortimer and Isabella who were gathered there, such as Henry Beaumont, Thomas Roscelyn and Thomas Wake, Mortimer's own first cousin, who had played a big role in the deposition of Edward II. It's interesting to see that Mortimer and Isabella had alienated many of their supporters in much the same way as Edward II and Hugh Despenser had, and Edward II's enemies had also gathered abroad and plotted against him. In 1330, Edward II's sister Margaret was dowager Duchess of Brabant, and Duke Jan III was his nephew, so Brabant was a safe haven for enemies of Mortimer and Isabella.

On 9 July 1330, Edward III's father-in-law Count William of Hainault warned Edward that the Brabant exiles were planning an invasion of England, and that at the same time, their friends would attack Mortimer's Welsh lands. A general muster of troops was ordered and jousting tournaments were cancelled - a usual reaction, as tournaments provided a convenient excuse for armed men to gather together. However, nothing came of it. On 25 November 1330, after the overthrow of Mortimer and Isabella but four days before Mortimer's execution, Edward III invited Rhys and all the others back from exile, and restored their lands. Rhys fought at Crecy in 1346, and died on 10 May 1356. He was buried at Carmarthen.

Brother John de Neumester/Neumoster

'Neumester' is Newminster, a Cistercian abbey near Morpeth, Northumberland, which is over 300 miles north of London and about forty-five miles south of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Edward II sometimes stayed at the abbey, the last time in August 1322.

Presumably Brother John joined the Dunheved gang out of sympathy for the former King he'd met or seen at Newminster, though it's hard to say, as he doesn't appear in any records besides the order for his arrest and Thomas Berkeley's letter (not that you'd really expect him to). Although a monk, he took part in the attack on Berkeley Castle.

Brother Thomas Dunheved (Donheved, Dunhevid, Dunneheved, Donhesd, Dunhead, etc)

(Called frere Thomas Dunhevid in Thomas Berkeley's letter of July 1327. More information on the Dunheved family follows below, in the Stephen part)

Brother Thomas Dunheved was a Dominican friar (the Friars Preacher, or Blackfriars) and Edward II's confessor - the Dominicans were Edward's favourite order. In return, they supported him, which made them very unpopular, and supposedly they had to flee from London after Isabella and Mortimer's invasion in the autumn of 1326.

Thomas became a papal chaplain on 16 September 1325, and sometime in 1324 or 1325, Edward II sent him to Avignon on 'secret business'. The Annales Paulini and Lanercost (in the far north of England) chronicles report a contemporary rumour that Edward was seeking a divorce from Isabella. I think this is very unlikely, for various reasons. Not a shred of evidence has ever been found, and when Thomas wrote to Edward on 7 October 1325, he made no mention of it. However, some historians have reported Edward's attempts to procure a divorce (or annulment) as an established fact, probably because it fits so nicely into the 'Isabella the Victim' theme. Obviously the authors of the chroniclers had no idea what the King's 'secret business' might be and could only speculate, but historian F. D. Blackley states that some of it at least was connected with Alexander Bicknor, the Archbishop of Dublin - which isn't a fraction as 'sexy' as Edward II trying to divorce Isabella.

Thomas stayed with Edward II in South Wales until the King's capture on 16 November 1326, and was paid for taking letters to the Younger Despenser. But he evaded arrest, and went to ground, plotting how to free Edward. He was joined by his brother and the others.

At some point after the gang freed Edward in the summer of 1327, however, Thomas was captured, apparently at 'Bidebrok' (Budbrooke), about eighteen miles from Dunchurch, where his family held land. He was taken to Queen Isabella. Thereafter, there are different accounts of what happened to him. One is that he was sent to the notorious Newgate prison in London, where he either died of prison fever or was murdered. Another states that he was sent to Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire, where, after a failed escape attempt, he was thrown into a horrible cell, then tortured and murdered, and his body thrown down a disused well. (The Annales Paulini chronicler claims he was captured and imprisoned at Pontefract as early as 11 June 1327, which can't be right, as that was before the attack on Berkeley.)

Almost certainly, Thomas was dead by 1329, although several chronicles claim that he was involved in the Earl of Kent's conspiracy of 1330, and raised a devil who told Kent that Edward II was still alive. As a cleric, he should have been allowed benefit of clergy, but evidently his fanatical devotion to Edward II and his determination to release the former King meant that he was considered very dangerous, and Isabella and Roger Mortimer merrily ignored the legalities.

Stephen Dunheved (Estephne de Dunhevid in Berkeley's letter)

Stephen was not a friar, as is often stated. He was the eldest son of John Dunheved, who probably died in February 1308, and a woman named Eustachia - though she may have been the Dunheveds' stepmother. Stephen's younger brothers were John, Thomas (the murdered friar) and Oliver, and there was also a sister, Roese. The Dunheveds owned the manor of Dunchurch, which is just outside Rugby on Dunsmore Heath in Warwickshire, and is fifteen miles from Kenilworth, where Edward II was imprisoned from November 1326 to April 1327.

Thomas and Stephen's paternal grandparents were John Dunheved and Christiane Butler, who inherited Dunchurch from her father Jordan. In 1300, Christiane's son John and his wife Eustachia, keeping two parts of the manor for themselves for their lives, settled the remainder on their children (or stepchildren).

In 1321 Stephen was forced to 'abjure the realm' for an unspecified, but obviously very serious, felony. Abjuring the realm was a legal procedure whereby outlaws could avoid trial and probable execution by solemnly swearing to leave England forever. There was a set routine for leaving the country, determined by the Coroner of a county - in some places, it meant wading into the sea every day to signify your willingness to leave, then getting on the first ship that agreed to carry you.

He managed to avoid forfeiting Dunchurch by leasing it to Sir John Somery, for life. Somery died in August 1322, and Stephen's brother John seems then to have mortgaged it to Sir John Pecche, granting it to him and his heirs completely in 1330. In this context, it's interesting to note that Pecche was Constable of Corfe Castle from 16 December 1325 to 24 September 1329, where Edward II may have been sometime after his rescue. In March 1330, Pecche was ordered to be arrested as an adherent of the Earl of Kent, along with Stephen Dunheved and Giles of Spain. Much more on all this in a future post.

I don't know when Stephen Dunheved returned to England, but certainly by March 1327. On 4 May, two men were appointed "to arrest Stephen Dunheved and bring him to the castle of Walynford, to be there imprisoned." Wallingford Castle, near Oxford, had formerly belonged to Piers Gaveston, and Edward II granted it to Isabella on 22 April 1317. Dunheved was therefore to be taken to Isabella herself, a strong indication of how dangerous Stephen was believed to be. Other writs for his arrest were issued on 2 March, for stealing "five horses, six oxen, two cows, a hundred sheep and fifty-two swine" from the parson of Duntisbourne church, near Cirencester, on 8 June at Chester, and on 1 July.

The other Dunheved brothers, John and Oliver, evidently didn't take any part in the plot to free Edward II, and John was pardoned for an unspecified crime (either the murder of his cousin Oliver Dunheved in 1325, or the rape of Edith de Grasbrok in 1319/20, or both) on 5 May 1327 - the day after his brother Stephen was ordered to be taken before Queen Isabella.

The Close Rolls, in fact, state that he was taken to Newgate prison on 1 July 1327 - but exactly a month later, Thomas, Lord Berkeley was ordered to arrest him, and other gang members. The records are terribly confused, as the government (i.e., Isabella and Mortimer) were desperately trying to arrest the Dunheveds without the reasons for their arrest becoming known.

If Stephen was incarcerated at Newgate at some point, he must have escaped. It's also on record that he was arrested again in June 1329 - if this is true, he must have escaped again. He was definitely free by late 1329 or early 1330, when he joined Edward II's half-brother the Earl of Kent in his attempts to free Edward.

I don't know why Stephen was such a fanatical supporter of the former Edward II. There's no evidence of any closeness between the two men, though surely they must have had some connections, as it hardly seems likely that Stephen would have put himself in so much danger for Edward, for years on end, merely because his brother was Edward's confessor.

He appears on the list (as "Stephen Donhesd") of Kent adherents ordered to be arrested in March 1330, with John Pecche, Giles of Spain and almost fifty others. Unfortunately, I have no idea what happened to him after that. If he was still alive in October that year, after the downfall of Mortimer and Isabella, he would have been safe. I hope he was. I hope he thrived.

William Aylmer, parson of Dadynton, and William Aylmer, parson of Bradewell (also called William son of William Aylmer and William Aylmer the elder)

A profusion of William Aylmers. 'Dadynton' is probably Deddington in Oxfordshire, which was owned by Hugh Despenser the Elder (incidentally, Deddington is where Piers Gaveston was abducted and taken to his death in June 1312), and 'Bradewell' is probably one of several places in England called Bradwell. Alternatively, it could be one of several places called Broadwell; one of these is less than five miles from the Dunheveds' home of Dunchurch in Warwickshire.

A William Aylmer was Steward of Hugh Despenser the Elder's manor of Soham, Cambridgeshire, in 1315 - he was probably the father of the William Aylmer identified as "the son of William Aylmer", most likely the Deddington one. William Aylmer the steward of Soham was assaulted by a group of men in 1315. One of his attackers was called 'William Aylmer of Soham'. *Groans*

One of the William Aylmers, almost certainly the parson of Deddington and the son of William Aylmer the assaulted steward, was a clerk of Hugh Despenser the Younger, and so closely associated with him that in April 1327 he was linked with Despenser as one of "the enemies of the king [Edward III] before he assumed the governance of the realm". Aylmer was the only 'enemy' named apart from Despenser, a clear sign of his close association with him (and if I'm right about his father, the family were long-term servants of the Despensers).

On 27 February 1327, a king's yeoman named Robert de Prestbury was granted "all cattle, wool and hay, late of the Despensers, and William Ayllemere, their adherent" in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. On 23 April 1327, gang member Peter de la Rokele was pardoned for adhering to Despenser and Aylmer; however, two days later, Aylmer himself was pardoned for his former allegiance to Despenser. The pardon was granted at the request of William Clinton, who in October 1330 would be one of the men who took part in Edward III's coup d'etat against Mortimer and Isabella, but who at this time was high in favour with them.

On 4 March 1327, both William Aylmers were accused of carrying away the goods of Sir Richard de la Rivere in 'Heghworth, Hampton and Westthorp' in Wiltshire, with Peter de la Rokele, Richard Aylmer, presumably a relative of one of them, and five other named men.

Parsons or not, both Aylmers took part in the attack on Berkeley Castle. One of them, probably the Bradwell/Broadwell one, was captured in Oxford by 20 August 1327; we know this because of a mandate to the Sheriff of Oxfordshire ordering him to indict Aylmer on charges of plundering Berkeley Castle, abducting Edward of Caernarfon, and raising the populace in a war against Edward III. This is in fact the most explicit reference to the freeing of Edward II that exists.

Amazingly, Aylmer was released on condition that he found adequate sureties for his appearance in court. He did appear, all charges against him were quashed, and he was set free. Paul Doherty speculates that he had betrayed his colleagues in return for his own freedom, which makes sense. I would imagine that it was the Bradwell/Broadwell parson, who had never been described as an enemy of Edward III, but I'm not sure. The other William Aylmer was probably dead.

On 20 February 1328, William Aylmer was accused of stealing mares, oxen and "fish, trees and corn", in Gloucestershire, along with about thirty other men. One of them, oddly, was Sir Richard de la Rivere, whose goods he had been accused of stealing a year earlier. Three others were men ordered to be arrested with members of the Dunheved gang in March 1327: Robert and Henry Aston, and Richard Foxcote. Foxcote succeeded Thomas, Lord Berkeley as Sheriff of Gloucestershire in 1332. Another was Sir Walter Gascelyn, the brother or cousin of Edmund Gascelyn, another Dunheved gang member. A strange mix of men.

In 1329/30, William Aylmer was named as an associate of one Gregory Foriz, who was being prosecuted for murder. Henry, Earl of Lancaster stood as Foriz's guarantor - a link between a member of the Dunheved gang and the influential Lancaster, and perhaps an indication that Lancaster had indeed supported the gang, as I speculated in my last post.

Finally, on 4 March 1339, one 'John le Cok of Spellisbury' was pardoned "for the death of William Aylmer". Whether this was the Dunheved one, or the William Aylmer who had once been the steward of Hugh Despenser the Elder, or the one who assaulted the steward, or yet another one, I don't know. 'Spellisbury' or 'Spelesbury' in Oxfordshire belonged to the Elder Despenser.

John Boteler of Staffordshire

A difficult man to trace, as there were lots of John Botelers in Edward II's reign (the name also appears as Botiler, or Botiller). However, this one was probably the sergeant-at-arms of Edward II mentioned on 7 February 1322: "John le Botiller, king's sergeant, captured on the king's service in Wales and detained a long time, for two years."

Assuming this is the right man, John was a colleague of Roger atte Watre, Thomas de la Haye and William Beaukaire - two other gang members, and the man who watched over Edward II's dead body for a month.

A Stephen Boteler, presumably a relative, appears twice in March 1327, accused of the usual theft of horses, oxen and so on - once with William Roscele, a Dunheved gang member. John himself wasn't accused of any crimes at this time, so either he joined the gang later, or wasn't known to the authorities. John took part in the attack on Berkeley Castle, and not surprisingly, is not to be found after the summer of 1327. However, Stephen Boteler, perhaps his brother, was still alive on 21 September 1327.

Thomas de la Haye

Thomas was a sergeant-at-arms of Edward II. I'm pretty sure he was a relative, perhaps a younger brother or a nephew, of Sir John de la Haye, Sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire, and of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire. John was summoned to Parliament as a Knight of the Shire for Buckinghamshire in 1319. His son was also named Thomas.

In 1321, Thomas de la Haye was accused of stealing 300 sheep and taking them to the King's manor of Thorne. (Whether Edward ever returned them, I don't know.) On 30 November 1321, during Edward II's campaign against the Marcher lords, Thomas was ordered to raise 500 footmen in Essex and Hertfordshire, with two other men: Thomas Lovayn and William Marenny. This is interesting, as Marenny was one of the men ordered to be arrested in March 1330 as an adherent of the Earl of Kent, plotting to put his brother back on the throne. In July 1322, Thomas and gang member Edmund Gascelyn were two of the men who accompanied Edward on yet another unsuccessful expedition against the Scots.

On 9 March 1323, Thomas de la Haye was ordered to levy 300 archers in Essex and Hertfordshire, this time with Sir John Pabenham, who had served in the Earl of Pembroke's retinue with Edmund Gascelyn [next post], the Berkeleys and Thomas Gurney. On 3 July 1326, he and Badin de Fourne, "king's sergeants", were appointed "keepers of the mouth of the Thames to pursue and arrest malefactors infesting the same with ships and boats and plundering merchants coming by that water to London, and to keep scrutiny of persons landing or leaving the shore." This was in connection with the expected invasion of Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer.

However, Thomas must have accompanied Edward II on his flight into Wales in the autumn of 1326 (trying to hold back the invasion forces having become a hopeless task almost as soon as they landed) as on 10 October 1326, he and John de Toucestre and John le Keu were appointed "to select all men at arms wherever he goes and to lead them to the king as he is instructed; with power to arrest the disobedient." John le Keu was a sergeant-at-arms of the Younger Despenser; John de Toucestre (Towcester in Northamptonshire) was another of the men ordered to be arrested as an adherent of the Earl of Kent in 1330. Four days later, Thomas was appointed to "dwell in the castle of Wilton and those parts, and to arrest and destroy to the utmost of his power the king's enemies if they come to those parts..." There are several towns called Wilton, and I'm not sure which one is meant. Isabella and Mortimer were at Wallingford on 14 October, where they freed Thomas, Lord Berkeley.

I don't know what happened to Thomas de la Haye after Edward II's capture, but evidently he remained loyal, as he took part in the attack on Berkeley, and may have been involved in the earlier attempt to free Edward from Kenilworth. On 24 March 1327, he and twenty-eight other named men were accused of attacking the manor of 'Modeslee, Somerset' (probably Mudgley), burning timber and "broom, rushes, heath and grass growing there", and several other felonies. One of the men accused with him was Adam, Abbot of Glastonbury. ;)

On 13 July 1327, Sir John de la Haye, probably a close relative of Thomas, was accused of assaulting William de Storteford. This may have been genuine, but the timing - two days before four Dunheved gang members were ordered to be arrested, and probably after the attack on Berkeley had taken place - seems a little suspicious. As I wrote in my last post, there was a conspiracy to free Edward II in Buckinghamshire and neighbouring counties, and John de la Haye was the former Sheriff of Buckinghamshire, so may have been involved - though that's only speculation. Unlike most Dunheved gang members, however, John was still alive after the summer of 1327, so either he wasn't involved, or it couldn't be proved.

Predictably, Thomas de la Haye disappears after his indictment on 1 August 1327. There was a Thomas de la Haye of Edward III's reign, but this was John de la Haye's son, who was also summoned to Parliament as a Knight of the Shire for Buckinghamshire, in 1338.

Peter de la Rokele

Astonishingly, Peter de la Rokele was the grandfather of the great poet William Langland! Langland was born around 1330, died around 1390, and wrote the marvellous alliterative poem The Vision of Piers Plowman. Peter de la Rokele held lands in Buckinghamshire, and was in the service of Hugh Despenser the Younger; in fact, William Langland's ODNB entry says that Peter was "violently and unlawfully active in his [Despenser's] interest" and the Literary Encyclopedia calls him a "hired thug". He was probably a relative of Richard and William de la Rokele, knights of Edward II's reign.

On 30 May 1316, Peter and Geoffrey de la Rokele - perhaps his brother - were said with a few other men to have assaulted Elias Ashburn, who was one of Edward II's yeomen. However, in June 1322, he was given a commission of oyer and terminer to investigate a theft at Hugh Despenser the Younger's manor of Frampton ('Frauncton') in Lincolnshire. Perhaps this was one occasion where he was "violently and unlawfully active" in Despenser's interest. The affair dragged on for well over a year.

Peter joined the Dunheved gang early: he was one of the men accused on 4 March 1327 of carrying away the goods of Richard de la Rivere at 'Heghworth, Hampton and Westthorp' in Wiltshire. And on 22 March 1327 came a complaint by the abbot of Bruern that "Peter de la Rokele and James his son, with others, carried away two horses, two cows and three hundred and seventeen sheep, worth 41 pounds 3s, and other goods" in Oxfordshire.

I haven't found any references to Peter de la Rokele or his son James after 1327. However, his son Eustace, or Stacy, survived, and was a tenant of Hugh Despenser the Even Younger in Oxfordshire, where he was a well-respected man. He was the father of William Langland - why William's name was different from his father's is unclear, but he may have been illegitimate. One manuscript of Piers Plowman says: "It should be noted that Stacy de Rokayle was the father of William de Langlond; this Stacy was of noble birth and dwelt in Shipton-under-Wychwood, a tenant of the Lord Spenser in the county of Oxfordshire."

The next post, on the remaining gang members, will follow soon.

08 August, 2007

Freeing Edward, 1327: the Attack on Berkeley Castle

[Photo: the courtyard (inner bailey) of Berkeley Castle, taken on 1 October 2006. The open gateway would have been a fortified, guarded gatehouse in 1327. Edward II was held in the keep, on the right.]

I've already written a post on this amazing event, but here's a more in-depth look at the events, and the men involved. There were at least four attempts to free Edward II (I'm calling him 'Edward II' to avoid confusion, though of course he was no longer King) in 1327 that we know of:

- one led by the Dunheved brothers, Thomas and Stephen, sometime in March 1327, when Edward was still at Kenilworth. This attempt was certainly a major factor in the decision to move Edward to Berkeley - the indenture transferring him to the custody of Thomas Berkeley and John Maltravers was drawn up on 21 March.

- the successful one by the Dunheved gang in June/July 1327, which (temporarily) freed Edward. "They came with an armed force towards the castle of Berkeley, seized the father of our lord the King from our guard and feloniously plundered the said castle, against the peace" (de lor venir aforceement devers le chastel de Berkel', d'avoir ravi le pere nostre seignor le roi hors de nostre garde et le dit chastel robbe felenousement encountre la pees) - from a letter by Thomas, Lord Berkeley to the Chancellor, John de Hothum, on 27 July.

- Berkeley's letter informed the Chancellor of another attempt by men in Buckinghamshire and neighbouring counties at the same time ("a great number of people in the county of Buckingham and in adjoining counties, have assembled for the same cause", i.e., freeing Edward). Unfortunately nothing more is known of this plot or who was involved, as it isn't mentioned anywhere else.

- and yet another attempt in August and early September led by the Welsh knight Sir Rhys ap Gruffydd, and supported by Edward II's close friend Donald, Earl of Mar, who was involved in most or all of the plots to free Edward. Intriguingly, this one was said to have the support of 'certain great lords of England', though their identity remains a mystery. The plot was betrayed to Roger Mortimer's Deputy Justice William Shalford on 7 September, and inspired his letter to Mortimer at Abergavenny, urging him to find a solution to the Big Edward Problem.

I should point out that Edward II, Prince of Wales, was always popular there - Thomas Walsingham, a chronicler of the later fourteenth century, wrote "...the Welsh in a wonderful manner loved and esteemed him. As far as they were able, they stood by him, grieving over his adversities both in life and in his death, composing mournful songs about him in the language of their own country. His memory remains to the present day, which neither the fear of punishment nor the passage of time can destroy." During the fourteenth century, many Welsh people travelled over the border to Gloucester, to pay their respects at Edward's tomb.

I'll focus in this post on the attempt of June/July 1327, as it's the only one we know anything about. The first sign that something was going on comes in March/April 1327, when several of the men who took part in the attack on Berkeley (and presumably the earlier attempt to free Edward in March) were frequently accused of affray, breaking and entering, assault, stealing and carrying away goods, and so on [more details in my next posts on the individual gang members]. Probably, at least some of these alleged crimes were a cover, an excuse to arrest the men - but trying to free Edward II was far too politically sensitive to mention openly. (It's only fair to point out that Edward II and the Despensers had often done the same thing.)

[Photo: a close-up of the Berkeley keep.]

After their unsuccessful attempt to release Edward from Kenilworth in March, the gang went to Cirencester, Gloucestershire, and stirred up a riot. Then they vanished for a few weeks, and showed up in Chester in early June. On 8 June 1327, Richard Damory, Justice of Chester (elder brother of Edward II's former favourite Roger Damory) was ordered by royal mandate to arrest and imprison Stephen and Thomas Dunheved, along with William Beaumard and John Sabant, who I haven't been able to trace, and "other malefactors who have assembled within the city of Chester and parts adjacent and perpetrated homicide and other crimes, and to enquire by jury of those parts who were their accomplices, and to keep them in prison till further orders."

From there, they must have started travelling towards Gloucestershire, to plan and execute their attack on Berkeley (Chester is over 140 miles from Berkeley). They probably travelled individually or in pairs to avoid attracting attention.

Exactly when the Dunheveds' attack on Berkeley Castle took place is not known, but was sometime between mid June and mid July. The first sign of trouble may be that on 26 June, the Sheriff of Shropshire was ordered to arrest troublemakers on the Welsh border - this may mean that the authorities knew, or assumed, that the Dunheved gang were making their way to Gloucestershire, or it may mean that the attack had been successful. On 1 July, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Stephen Dunheved, who along with his brother Thomas, was the driving force behind the gang. On 3 July, Thomas Berkeley was excused from his knight's service on the Scots expedition and "charged with special business of the king [Edward III]". On 11 July, Berkeley and John Maltravers were appointed commissioners of the peace "in the counties of Somerset, Dorset, Wilts, Southampton, Hereford, Oxford and Berks". It's not clear if any of this was in anticipation of a rescue attempt, or after the fact.

On 15 July, four known members (Edmund Gascelyn, Roger atte Watre, William le Parker and John de Hill) of the gang were ordered to be arrested, "who were indicted before him [Thomas Berkeley] and the other justices in the county of Gloucester for divers felonies, and have withdrawn themselves." On 22 July, two men were granted a writ of aid to arrest four named men "and others of their confederation, who lately went to Scotland in the company of Dunald [Donald] de Mar, a rebel, and have returned to do what mischief they can to the king and the realm." So Donald and his adherents were definitely involved, though it doesn't seem that Donald took part in the attack on Berkeley. Probably he was involved in planning it, though, and as the nephew of the King of Scots, he may have been considered too valuable to risk in such an obviously suicidal mission.

It was on 27 July that Berkeley sent his letter to the Chancellor, John de Hothum, asking for extra authority to hunt down the gang, which was granted on 1 August. (Berkeley seems to have been extremely keen to follow the letter of the law, which is rather odd, given the emergency.) Presumably, Edward II was back in custody by then, as no mention is made of a search for him - though you could argue that Edward's being free was far too dangerous to commit to paper, and Berkeley's messenger was told to inform Hothum in person. There's no way of knowing for sure, but on balance it seems likely that Edward was back at Berkeley, or at least back in custody, by 27 July. In September, John Maltravers was paid the large sum of £258 for the "expenses of the king's father in Dorset" and received letters from Thomas Berkeley at Corfe Castle, which may indicate that Edward II was re-captured and taken to Corfe at some point.

However, I should point out that it's not entirely clear if Edward was taken out of Berkeley Castle or not - the phrase "seized the father of our lord the king from our guard" is rather ambiguous. It might simply mean that the gang took Edward out of his room, but didn't manage to leave the castle with him.

[Photo: the gateway leading into the courtyard (inner bailey) of Berkeley. In 1327, this area would have been the outer bailey, where the stables, armouries etc were located.]
How did the gang manage to assemble close to Berkeley Castle without being spotted? That part probably wasn't too difficult - Berkeley, which lies close to the Severn Estuary, is rather a remote and lonely place, even today, and considerably more so 700 years ago. There were woods and heathland in every direction.

The more important question is how they ever got into the castle. The fact that they did proves that the attack was carefully planned, well-equipped - and brilliantly executed. Berkeley Castle was surrounded by around 200 acres of marshland - there was a causeway, which would have been guarded. There was the moat to get across, then a choice of either scaling the curtain walls or breaking through the gatehouse into the outer bailey. Needless to say, both were heavily guarded. Then, the gang had to get into the inner bailey, through yet another gatehouse, then into the keep (the most secure part of any castle), where Edward was held, and up a steep and narrow, and easily-defended, staircase, into his, presumably locked, room. They would have had to fight, hard, all the way.

It's fascinating to contemplate that the gang may have had inside information and help - it's hard to imagine that when they were planning the attack, they allowed time to search the entire castle for Edward. Possibly one or more gang members had managed to enter the castle before the attack; Paul Doherty speculates that they might have got in during the restoration work that was going on, pretending to be labourers. There were a few gang members apparently not known to the authorities before the attack, as no warrants were issued for their arrest, so they would have been ideal. Alternatively, perhaps some of the Berkeley garrison were sympathetic to Edward, and helped the gang.

[Photo: courtyard of Berkeley Castle. The keep is just out of shot on the left.]
There were a hundred reasons why attacking Berkeley Castle should not have worked. But it did. It should have been a suicide mission for the gang. But many of them survived, though of course there's no way of knowing how many men may have been killed. During restoration work at Berkeley in the 1920s, six skeletons were discovered near the keep. Possibly these were gang members killed during the assault - though, as the skeletons have never been examined, they could have come from another century altogether.

Thomas Berkeley's letter of 27 July states also that the gang "feloniously plundered the castle". This implies that they had overpowered the garrison, taken temporary control of the castle, and had time to search the storerooms, stables, other rooms, and take what they wanted. Almost certainly, they stole weapons, food, and horses. Did they take all the horses? Or at least let some loose, so that they could escape on horseback with their plunder, and couldn't be pursued? If they were on foot, they could have been followed on horseback the moment they were out of the castle - even if they'd plunged into the woods around the castle, it's hard to imagine them getting very far if pursued by men on horseback. If they didn't take horses, they must have taken carts to carry their plunder, which would have drastically slowed down their escape. Or possibly, they locked up the entire garrison somewhere.

It's basically impossible to know what happened that day (or night) - the expressions 'shroud of secrecy' and 'wall of silence' are particularly apposite here, as is 'I haven't got a sodding clue what really happened and I can only speculate'. I don't know how many men were guarding Berkeley that day. Thomas Berkeley had in his retinue about a dozen knights, twenty-five squires, about twenty men-at-arms, archers, etc - in total, a household of around 300 people, though of course not all of them were military. But given that the authorities knew that the Dunheved gang were plotting to free Edward, it's reasonable to assume that other soldiers were brought in and the castle was guarded by many dozens of men, possibly several hundred.

The whole thing is quite incredible. It suggests a level of organisation, planning, purpose and sheer guts that can't be explained by simply assuming that the gang were a handful of mindless ruffians. They have often been described by their contemporaries, and more recent commentators, as ruffians, rioters, rifflers, a minute handful of marauding malcontents, and mostly clerical. But they managed not only to get into a heavily defended Berkeley Castle, they seized Edward, and had time to loot and plunder the castle. This was an incredibly dangerous undertaking in a castle full of armed men, and proves the gang's determination to free Edward - and by extension, their devotion to him (although some of the participants were probably attracted more by violence and possible plunder, the core of the gang were dedicated to Edward.)

A small group of clerics, untrained in fighting, could not have achieved this; only a large number of fighting men (including fighting priests), ruthless and determined, could have managed it. Although a fair few of Edward's supporters were clerical, many of them were not, as I'll show in the next posts.

Assuming the gang were being helped, which seems highly likely, who could it have been? Possibly Edward II's half-brother the Earl of Kent, given his actions in 1329/30, and maybe even their cousin Henry, Earl of Lancaster, Edward's custodian at Kenilworth. Some historians, following the chronicler Henry Knighton (who died in 1396, so probably wasn't even born in 1327), have stated that Lancaster willingly gave up custody of Edward in April 1327. However, the fact that Roger Mortimer was sitting nearby with an armed force during the transfer of custody to Thomas Berkeley and John Maltravers suggests that it was forced on him. By the summer of 1327, Lancaster - the legal guardian of Edward III - had probably realised that Isabella and Mortimer were freezing him out of power, although neither of them were members of the Regency Council. Isabella and Mortimer had good reason to be very wary of Lancaster, who was enormously wealthy and influential; in 1328/29, he would (unsuccessfully) rebel against them, and one of his stated grievances was that Mortimer had removed Edward II from him by force. In the summer of 1327, Lancaster may have been keen to regain custody of Edward II, to give him leverage over Isabella and Mortimer - if they angered him (which they often did) he could threaten them with Edward II's restoration to the throne. So perhaps he secretly funded the Dunheved gang, and gave them weapons and so on. But - of course! - I'm only speculating. I might be totally wrong.

[Photo: courtyard again. Much of the castle was rebuilt in the 1340s by Thomas, Lord Berkeley (the one mentioned in this post). It's in wonderful condition.]

Almost all of the gang vanish from the records after the summer of 1327. I'd like to think they some of them at least went to ground or fled the country, but they don't even crop up after October 1330, when Edward III took charge and it would have been safe to come out of hiding. The unfortunate conclusion is that they were dead, perhaps killed trying to defend Edward during his recapture, or 'were disappeared', thrown into prison and quietly killed. Even the clerics. At least two members, who I'll talk about in my next post, were sent to Newgate prison and were never heard of again.

The announcement of Edward II's death in late September 1327 inevitably put an abrupt end to attempts to release him, as of course it was intended to do. This was still not the end of the story, though. Two and a half years later, Edward's half-brother Kent was executed after trying to release him, a spectacularly odd event I'll be looking at in detail in future, including the people involved with it. The next posts, though, will look at the men of the Dunheved gang in as much detail as I've been able to find on them.

04 August, 2007

New Novels of Edward II

Three new novels of Edward II to tell you about:

Brandy Purdy's The Confession of Piers Gaveston has just been published by iUniverse. I'm still waiting for my copy, but Susan liked it, and as we have very similar taste in novels, I'm sure I will too.

The history books tell us that Piers Gaveston was many things: arrogant, ambitious, avaricious, flamboyant, extravagant, reckless, brave, and daring, indiscreet, handsome, witty, vivacious, vain, and peacock-proud, a soldier and champion jouster, the son of a condemned witch, who used witchcraft, his own wicked wiles, and forbidden sex to entice and enslave King Edward II, alienate him from his nobles and advisors, and keep him from the bed of his beautiful bride Isabelle. Edward's infatuation with Gaveston, and the deluge of riches he showered on him, nearly plunged England into civil war.

Now the object of that scandalous and legendary obsession tells his side of the story in The Confession of Piers Gaveston: "Mayhap even now, when I have only just begun, it is already too late to set the story straight. My infamy, I fear, is too well entrenched. Whenever they tell the story of Edward's reign I will always be the villain and Edward, the poor, weak-willed, pliant king who fell under my spell, the golden victim of a dark enchantment. There are two sides to every coin; but when the bards and chroniclers, the men who write the histories, tell this story, will anyone remember that?

Paul Doherty's The Poison Maiden, the second in his Mathilde of Westminster series, following The Cup of Ghosts, is due out in a few days, in both the UK and the US.

Synopsis from Amazon:
1308: murder and mayhem are rife in the court of Edward II. The 'Poison Maiden' is rumoured to have arrived in England forcing Mathilde of Westminster to face her most dangerous opponent yet. England hovers on the brink of civil war. Edward II, his wife Isabella and the royal favourite Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall, have been forced to retreat to the King's 'folly', as just an arrowshot away lie the Great Lords and Philip IV of France. They demand the King surrender Cornwall, so they can charge him with high treason. Edward is trapped, and worse, he has learnt that Philip has the 'Poison Maiden' on his side, a formidable spy who did untold damage during his father's reign. As Edward tries in vain to unmask the identity of the spy, Mathilde, handmaiden to the Queen, is called upon to assistance the King in his endeavours. Soon the crisis spills over into violence. The Lords attempt to take Cornwall by force and the King and his Court, including Mathilde, are forced to flee. As the enemy closes in, Mathilde finds herself embroiled not only in a brutal struggle for the English crown, but also for her own life.

I enjoyed Cup of Ghosts, which is narrated by Mathilde, attendant of Queen Isabella and future physician, in the first person, and set around the time that Edward II married Isabella. It has lovely sympathetic portrayals of Edward II, Isabella and Piers Gaveston, which you rarely see, and a very unusual and fascinating depiction of Edward II's treatment of Isabella in the first few months of their marriage. I'm really looking forward to getting Poison Maiden.

EDIT: Poison Maiden has just arrived. It doesn't look very impressive when there are two historical errors on the very first page, in the list of characters. Eleanor of Castile died in 1290, not 1296. And the Earl of Hereford in Edward II's reign was not Henry de Bohun, but Humphrey. Then on the second page of the Prologue, Doherty repeats, YET AGAIN, the old myth that Isabella was buried next to "her great love" Roger Mortimer in the Greyfriars church in London. Mortimer was actually buried at the Greyfriars in Coventry. And in his author's note, Doherty says that Edward I and Marguerite of France had four children - in fact, they had three.

*Sigh*. I've only looked at a handful of pages, and that's four mistakes already. I'd really expect better from a man with a doctorate from Oxford on Queen Isabella, and I hope the rest of the novel is more historically accurate.

Last but definitely not least, Michael Jecks' Dispensation of Death came out on 14 June in the UK, and is due out on 28 September in the US. It's the twenty-third in his popular Knights Templar mystery series, which are set in Edward II's reign. This one takes place in January and February 1325, and a damn fine novel it is, too.

The turmoil of Edward's reign, and important events such as Roger Mortimer's escape from the Tower and the execution of Thomas of Lancaster, have been a common background motif of the whole series, but this is the first one where Edward II, Isabella, Hugh Despenser and Eleanor de Clare appear in person. As always when I pick up an Edward II novel, I was a bit apprehensive in case I got the common 'Edward the shrieking effeminate feeble nancy-boy' depiction. But my fears were groundless. Edward is far more sympathetically portrayed than I'd expected, being tall, strong, handsome, virile, and "the epitome of a noble English knight. No one was better-looking than King Edward II..." Even his illegitimate son Adam gets a mention.

Isabella's victimhood is overdone, but then it always is these days, and Hugh Despenser is magnificently appalling. It's a great depiction of a man at the height of his ill-gotten power, with hired assassins and the ability to casually crush anyone he feels like (let's just say that an inn-keeper who does something that Hugh doesn't like really has cause to regret it).

The setting is very well done, too. Most of the novel is set at Westminster Palace, and the sprawling chaos of the place gives a strong feeling of menace. There are some nicely chosen details, which helped me visualise the scene, such as Hugh Despenser and his wife Eleanor de Clare trying to hold a conversation over the terrific din in Westminster Hall, where Chancery, King's Bench and the Court of Common Pleas are in session, and Edward's herald slamming his staff on the ground to announce the King's arrival, whereupon everyone falls to their knees.

I really enjoyed the mystery, which kept me guessing all the way through. There's a great twist at the end, which I hadn't expected at all.

There are some minor historical inaccuracies, but nothing too bad, and certainly nothing that came close to ruining my enjoyment of the novel. Hugh Despenser is described as a mere knight, son of a 'brain-addled knight', which isn't true - his maternal grandparents were Earl and Countess of Warwick, and his paternal grandmother was Countess of Norfolk. And Edward's half-brother the Earl of Kent was in Gascony in early 1325, not England. But I'm not complaining about that, as Kent is important for the plot, and besides, it's always nice to see him in an Edward II novel. Usually, he never appears before 1330.

Dispensation of Death is a real page-turner, and I stayed up late at night reading it. It's an intriguing mystery, and a convincing depiction of power politics, with plots and counter-plots and counter-counter-plots. A great read, and definitely recommended.