27 June, 2009

Edward II and Eleanor Despenser

This is a continuation of my last post - entries from Edward II's chamber account of 1325/26 relating to the king's eldest niece Eleanor, née de Clare, wife since 1306 of his chamberlain and favourite Hugh Despenser the Younger. The account is a fascinating illustration of the significant position the couple held in the king's life in the 1320s, and in fact two contemporary Flemish chronicles even claimed that Edward was having an incestuous affair with his niece. Whatever the truth of that, it's obvious that Eleanor was extremely important to Edward in the last years of his reign, and here are a few examples of his great affection for her.

Hugh Despenser is usually just called 'Sir Hugh', mons' Hughe, with no surname necessary - which in itself is evidence of his dominant position at court - or sometimes 'my lord Sir Hugh' or 'my lord Despenser', mon seign' le Despenser. Eleanor is usually referred to as 'my lady, Lady Eleanor Despenser', ma dame dame Alianore la Despensere. Isabella, always called 'my lady the queen', is the only other woman acknowledged with the honorific 'my lady' - other noblewomen, even Edward's niece the countess of Surrey and sister-in-law the countess of Norfolk, are not. Hugh and Eleanor's eldest son Hugh (born c. 1308) also appears in the account on occasion, called by the nickname 'Huchon'.

- I'd known for ages that Edward II had a ship called La Alianore, The Eleanor - 'Eleanor' was always spelt Alianore, Alianor, Alienora etc in the fourteenth century - and had assumed it was named in honour of his mother Eleanor of Castile or his grandmother Eleanor of Provence or even his daughter Eleanor of Woodstock. As it turns out, the ship's full name, as revealed by an entry in a chamber journal of 1323, was La Alianore la Despensere.

- Edward visited Eleanor at Sheen on the night of 2 December 1325, sailing along the Thames from Westminster and taking along only eight attendants. It appears that Edward rowed himself and that his attendants followed behind in another boat, which would hardly be surprising, given what we know of him. (This being the king who bought his own fish, invited sailors and carpenters to dine with him and went swimming in the Fens with "a great concourse of common people.") He gave his niece a whopping hundred marks or sixty-six pounds, and the chamber account says the money was "paid to my lady, Lady Eleanor Despenser, as a gift, by the hands of the king himself, when he went from Westminster to Sheen to my said lady and returned that same night to Westminster."

- Eleanor must have been heavily pregnant at the time, as on 14 December, Edward made an offering of thirty shillings to the Virgin Mary to give thanks for the fact that "God granted her a prompt delivery of her child." (As this was probably her ninth or tenth baby, I suppose it's hardly surprising that her labour didn't last long.) To the annoyance of Susan Higginbotham and myself, who would love to know when and in what order the Despenser children were born, the clerk didn't give the child's name or even specify if it was a boy or girl. Honestly, you'd think these people didn't care at all about the needs of historians 700 years later!

- On 1 January 1326, as her New Year gift, Edward gave Eleanor a palfrey with saddle and all other necessary equipment, and paid Wat Somer for looking after the horse and Richard de la Grene, Eleanor's 'chief carter', for taking it to her at Sheen (Edward was a hundred miles away at Haughley near Stowmarket, Suffolk). If the king gave Hugh something for New Year, too, it isn't recorded here - in fact, the palfrey is the only New Year gift to anyone recorded in the chamber journal.

- Edward gave Jack the Trumpeter ten shillings on 9 October 1325 for bringing him forty-seven goldfinches in a cage from Dover. The reason for this is clarified in the next entry, where Edward paid Will of Dunstable to look after the birds "until the arrival of my lady Despenser," for whom Edward had bought them as a present. In early December, however, Jack the Trumpeter was paid a pound for bringing Edward thirty goldfinches in a cage. Were these different goldfinches, and if so, who did the king intend them as a gift for? Or had Will failed in his allotted duty and allowed seventeen of the birds to die? And why, as Susan Higginbotham reasonably asks, only forty-seven and not fifty goldfinches in the first place? I can only speculate. What is especially interesting is that the word 'goldfinches' appears in English in the middle of the French text: q’ porta au Roi vne cage od xxx Goldfynches.

- Edward and Eleanor dined alone together in Windsor park on 11 July 1326. The entry about this one is fascinating: a cook named Will was given a present of two pounds - a lot of money for a cook, a year's wages or almost - and a hackney "on which he followed the king to my lady Despenser when they ate privately in the said park." Does Edward taking a cook with him mean that Will prepared their meal in the park, i.e. that they had some kind of picnic? 11 July, during a summer when the Pauline annalist says there was a drought in England, is likely to have been a hot sunny day.

- In July 1326, a couple of weeks after the picnic with Eleanor, Edward gave Hugh a manuscript of the doomed love story of Tristan and Isolde. For some reason this gift was not recorded in the chamber account at the time but a few months later, and is one of the last entries before the account abruptly ended on 31 October 1326, sixteen days before Edward's and Hugh's capture.

- In early June 1326, Edward sent his sergeant John de Mildenhale with twenty marks as a gift for Eleanor, called 'my lady, Lady Eleanor Despenser, consort of Sir Hugh'.

- the day after Edward visited Eleanor at Sheen at night in December 1325, there's an entry recording that she gave him vne robe de iiij garnamenz, 'a robe of four...?' I'm not sure how to translate the last word in this context - it usually means garments or clothing in general, or riding gear or some kind of armour.

- Edward stayed at Sheen, where Eleanor was also staying, from 12 to 18 October 1325. Meanwhile, Hugh Despenser was in Wales: an entry of 9 October says that he was at Caerphilly, and he was still "in the parts of Wales" on 18 November, when Edward wrote to him there. The two men kept in frequent touch while apart, although, frustratingly, their letters don't survive or at least have never been discovered.

- Edward paid Eleanor's expenses while she was staying at Sheen that October, and ordered forty bundles of firewood for her chamber. He also paid her expenses at Leeds Castle in Kent when she was staying there on another occasion.

- Eleanor wrote to Edward shortly before 30 December 1325, when the king paid her valet John a pound for bringing her letters to him. She was still at Sheen (or was at Sheen again) in February 1326, when Edward gave ten shillings to his valet Syme Lawe, sent there with the king's letters to his niece.

- In March 1326, Edward gave Eleanor a silver hanap worth twenty pounds, and Hugh a silver cup worth twenty-two pounds.

- And finally for now...in July 1325, Edward paid three shillings for two gallon jars of honey to make sucre de plate for Eleanor, which I assume means some kind of sweet (sucre means sugar). But I've only gone through part of the manuscript, so no doubt there will be more interesting discoveries about Edward, Hugh and Eleanor in the future!

24 June, 2009

Random Moments in the Life of Edward II

Here are a few entries from Edward II's chamber account of 1325/26, which I've transcribed and translated from the original manuscript in the Society of Antiquaries library at Piccadilly. Edward's chamber accounts are a fascinating glimpse into his private world, detailing presents he gave out, whom he dined with and what he ate, minstrels who performed for him, names of the men who served him closely and thus knew him best, and so on - hence my willingness to ruin my eyesight by spending many hours, weeks and months peering at tiny, faded handwriting in medieval French.

- a fisherman called Cock atte Wyk - seriously - gave Edward a present of a "great eel," a barbel, dace and other fish, and received a gift of two shillings in return, in October 1325.

- in October/November 1325 Edward paid various men, including his squire Thomelyn de Haldon and the Dominican friar Thomas Dunheved, for bringing him letters from his chamberlain and favourite Hugh Despenser the Younger, "who is in the parts of Wales," and returning to Hugh with the king's letters. This is very interesting, given that Hugh had successfully persuaded Edward a few weeks earlier not to go to France without him in the belief that he would be killed in the king's absence, but evidently was happy enough to set off for Wales by himself while Edward (and Hugh's very pregnant wife Eleanor) remained in the south-east.

- Edward also paid five shillings on 23 February 1326 to one of his messengers "sent out of court secretly with letters of the king to Sir Hugh [Despenser]," and a pound on 21 March to Hugh's squire Janekyn de Sufford, "who is sent from Kenilworth to London with letters of the king to the said Sir Hugh, on private business." So it seems that Edward and Hugh were apart far more than I had ever realised, which changes the mental picture I had of their relationship.

- in August 1325, Edward gave a gift of ten shillings to Robert Traghs, porter of his chamber, whose wife had recently borne a daughter. Robert got permission to travel to London to visit his wife, Joan, and their child. (Ten shillings, half a pound or 120 pence, was a pretty generous gift to a man of Robert's rank, who only earned one and a half or two pence a day - so was the equivalent of at least two months' wages.)

- Edward gave twenty-five shillings to Will Shene, another porter of the chamber, about to marry a woman whose name the king's clerk recorded as 'Isode'. The money was intended in part as a gift and in part to cover the expenses of their wedding, celebrated at Henley-on-Thames on Sunday 20 October 1325.

- on his way from Walton-on-Thames to Cippenham on 17 October 1325, Edward bought a pike, two barbels and a trout from Jack Fisher ('Jak Fyssher', as his clerk wrote it) of Shepperton, also giving Jack four shillings as a gift. The entry makes it clear that it was Edward himself, not one of his servants, who bought the fish from Jack: achatez de lui p’ le Roi mesmes. Edward also bought quantities of fish from four other people the following day, which were carefully recorded as having been purchased by the king himself.* That is soooo Edward.

* les queux choses susditz furent achatez en lewe de Tamyse p’ le Roi mesmes.

- there's a nice fishy entry in the account for the period when Edward was staying at Langdon in Kent, the end of August 1325, while he and his advisers debated whether or not he should travel to France to pay homage to Charles IV for his French lands - you know, the time he didn't stupidly fall into Isabella and Mortimer's Oh-So-Cunning Trap as so many writers like to claim he did. He, both Hugh Despensers, the earl of Arundel, Edward's friend the abbot of Langdon, the chancellor Robert Baldock, Robert Mohaut and unnamed "other magnates" sat in the garden at the abbey of Langdon and dined on large quantities of fish and seafood bought for them in Dover, Sandwich and other places: bream, cod, whiting, sole, salted herring, crabs and so on. There's a nice image, I think - the king and some of his great magnates sitting in an abbey garden enjoying the late-summer sunshine*, eating platters of fish and seafood.

* presumably - though I don't actually know what the weather was like then. There was a drought in England the following summer, 1326, according to Annales Paulini.

- Edward had chamber staff called Litel Wille, Litel Colle and Grete Hobbe.

- it has been known for many years that Edward gave two and a half pounds or the equivalent of a year's wages to his painter Jack of St Albans for dancing on a table and making him laugh uproariously. What is usually missed or ignored is that Edward intended the gift for Jack to support his wife and children - en eide de sa femme et ses enfauntz, the entry says - and that he gave Jack the money with his own hands, a great honour for the painter. Nor is it ever stated that this pleasant little interlude took place on 11 March 1326, when Edward was expecting Isabella and Mortimer's invasion at any time - but evidently hadn't lost his sense of humour.

- Edward gave a pound to one Alis Coleman for brewing ale for him in late 1325. He seems to have been fond of that particular drink: in February 1323, he gave five shillings to another Alis who had travelled from York to Pontefract to bring him ale as a present from her mother.

- Edward also gave a pound in November 1325 to a woman named Luce, who had brought him a gift of bread, chickens and ale (again!) while he was staying at Cippenham. Maybe she thought his cooks weren't feeding him properly. A pound each to two women of humble birth - very generous.

- The king spent five pounds on food for the poor to celebrate St Katherine's Day, 25 November 1325, and somewhat mysteriously, gave ten shillings to a woman called Anneis "for that done at the gate of the Tower" of London to mark the day. Presumably this had something to do with the church of St Katherine's by the Tower, next to the Tower.

- Edward's fondness for the company of the lowborn is demonstrated by the entries revealing that he invited sailors, carpenters and the like to dine privately with him reasonably often, such as Adam Cogg, captain of Hugh Despenser the Younger's barge, who ate with the king on four days in June 1325.

- contrary to popular belief, there is nothing in Edward's chamber account to demonstrate that he didn't enjoy the company of women. For example, he dined alone with Lady Hastings on or shortly before 8 August 1326 and with his sister-in-law Alice, countess of Norfolk on 30 January that year, giving presents of ten shillings to Lady Hastings' valet and the same each to Henry Newsom, harper, and Richardyn, citoler, who "made their minstrelsy" before Countess Alice and himself as they ate. Not to mention his enormous affection for his niece Eleanor Despenser, who, with her husband Hugh, was arguably the most important person in Edward's life in the last eighteen months or so of his reign.

- Alison Weir, in her biography of Queen Isabella, points out that men named Wat Cowherd, Simon and Robin Hod and others appear in Edward's chamber account of 1322 and received what she calls "substantial" sums of money (though she doesn't specify the amounts) from the king for spending time "in his company." She speculates that Edward "was being promiscuous with low-born men" and that Isabella must have heard about it and been angry. In fact, Wat, Simon and the others were pages and porters of Edward's chamber and crop up extremely often in the accounts, accompanying the king on his travels and receiving their wages. There's no way of proving that Edward didn't have sex with them, of course, but there's no reason at all to think that he did. Sadly, reality proves far more mundane than speculation.

- Edward's scribes sometimes referred to his chamber staff by nicknames in the account - for example, the Simon Hod mentioned above (not the king's bit of rough but one of his porters) was often called 'Syme', short for 'Symond', the usual spelling then, as was Syme Lawe, a valet of the chamber. Hugh de Greenfield and Hugh Smale were often called 'Huchon'. Edmund Fisher and Edmund Quarrell, valets, were called 'Monde', short for 'Esmond', the usual contemporary spelling. Monde Fisher's wife Isabelle was sometimes called 'Sibille'. Men called John were often called 'Janekyn', men called Thomas 'Thomelyn' and the name Richard was sometimes written 'Richardyn'. Wat Cowherd's name was spelt 'Watte Couherde' (or Couhierde).

- One especially interesting piece of info I've found is the approximate date of the marriage between Sir Richard Talbot - a Lancastrian knight captured at the battle of Boroughbridge in 1322, who pragmatically switched sides and joined the Despensers - and Elizabeth Comyn, daughter of the John Comyn, the lord of Badenoch murdered by Robert Bruce in 1306, and niece and co-heir of the earl of Pembroke. Richard and Elizabeth married in secret, at Pirbright in Surrey, shortly before 10 July 1326: an entry in the chamber account on that day giving Richard a gift of ten marks says that he avoit espouses p’uement la dame de Comyn, 'had married secretly the lady Comyn'.

I'll post soon about entries from Edward's accounts relating to his niece, Eleanor Despenser.

21 June, 2009

The Tower Of London, 2

More pics of the Tower of London!

Left: this is Water Lane, which lay under the Thames until the 1270s, when Edward I pushed back the river and extended the Tower, building a new curtain wall. Ahead on the left is Wakefield Tower (the round building) and Bloody Tower; ahead on the right, St Thomas's Tower and Traitors' Gate.

Right: the Byward Tower, which was behind me when I took the photo of Water Lane. It contains wall paintings dating from the reign of Richard II at the end of the fourteenth century, but isn't open to the public. You can see some of the paintings here and here.

Another shot of the Traitors' Gate and St Thomas's Tower. The timber-work dates from 1533, during a renovation of the Tower for Queen Anne Boleyn's coronation.

The White Tower, oldest part of the Tower, built by William the Conqueror. In the background on the left is the building which houses the Crown Jewels. In the foreground on the left you can see the remains of the old wall of the Inmost Ward, built by Henry III. According to the guidebook, these remains were covered over by later buildings and only discovered thanks to bomb damage to the Tower during World War Two.

Next photo: taken from the same spot as the last one, with the White Tower on the right and the remains of the Inmost Ward and some of the famous Tower ravens in the foreground. The low building behind the trees is the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, with Tower Green in front and the Beauchamp Tower on the left.

Photo taken out of a window in the Lanthorn Tower (you can see bird droppings on it, which I didn't notice when I took the pic!) of Cradle Tower, built by Edward III as his private watergate.

There's a lot of graffitti in the Salt Tower - built c. 1240 - carved in the walls by men imprisoned there in the sixteenth century. Sadly the pics haven't come out well at all, and you can see me reflected in the protective glass in one of them.

Some medieval pottery:

The archway of Bloody Tower, vaulted by Edward III at the beginning of the 1360s.

Below, the castle moat.

Photo taken from the (modern) entrance to the Tower of London, with Middle Tower on the right and Byward Tower in the, umm, middle, with Water Lane just past Byward. Both were built by Edward I.

Staircase in the White Tower, where two bodies discovered in 1674 were assumed to be those of the Princes in the Tower. The sign says "The tradition of the Tower has always pointed out this as the stair under which the bones of Edward the 5th and his brother were found in Charles the 2nd's time and from whence they were removed to Westminster Abbey."

Display in Bloody Tower, where you can cast your vote for 'What really happened to the Princes in the Tower?' Options, left to right: murdered on the orders of Henry VII, murdered on the orders of Richard III, not murdered but disappeared. Richard III is currently a nose ahead of 'not murdered'.

Drawings of how the Tower of London might have appeared in the thirteenth century, in the reigns of Henry III and Edward I.

I haven't mentioned Edward II at all in this post, have I? Unlike his father and son, he didn't do any major building work at the Tower, though he did spend a lot of time here in the last year or two of his reign. He was here on 24 February 1325, when he paid Thomelyn Sautriour a pound for playing the psalter before him in his chamber, probably in the Lanthorn Tower.

18 June, 2009

The Tower Of London, 1

I spent a fantastic few days in London last weekend, mostly to view Edward II's chamber accounts of 1322 to 1326 at the Society of Antiquaries library and the National Archives (thanks to the staff of both places, by the way). Strange people that I am, I jumped up and down with excitement to see the original fourteenth-century documents written by Edward's clerks! I've posted a random page of the accounts - which are in French - so you can see what they look like.

Last Sunday, I visited the Tower of London - extremely crowded on a warm, sunny weekend. Talking of the Tower, I found an entry in Edward's chamber account of July 1326 where the king spent four pounds on cloths with gold and silver thread for his favourite Hugh Despenser the Younger's chapel in the Tower - which is an interesting revelation in itself, that Despenser had his own chapel there. (Of course the entry doesn't say where it was, frustratingly.) Lots more on Edward's chamber accounts coming soon.

OK, time for some pics! Clicking on them should bring up a larger version, at least if Blogger's behaving itself. And apologies in advance for any formatting weirdnesses. Blogger is not great on photo posts.

If you're visiting the Tower with a tiresome relative and have exhausted the possibilities of the cafe, shop, education centre and church, why not take them along to be beheaded?

This is the Lanthorn Tower, originally built between about 1220 and 1240, where Edward II mostly stayed when he was at the Tower. Sadly, the original building was destroyed by fire in the 1770s, and this one is a nineteenth-century reconstruction.

A view of Tower Bridge (far left) and across the Thames from the Lanthorn Tower, as never seen by Edward II. (Bet he'd have appreciated that ice-cream van.)

Reconstruction of Edward I's bedchamber in St Thomas's Tower:

A touchy-feely exhibition of cloths in said bedchamber:

In the Constable Tower, there's an exhibition on the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 (with Lady D's hand in one of the pics!):

Below: a portable altar of the fourteenth century. Not a great photo - came out a bit blurred with the windows behind me reflected in the protective glass - but an incredibly gorgeous object.

The rounded building on the right of this pic is Wakefield Tower, built in the early thirteenth century, where Henry VI died (or rather, was murdered) in 1471. The rectangular building on the left is Bloody Tower, formerly called Garden Tower, where Edward V and his brother the duke of York were held in 1483. (And possibly murdered. There's a display in the tower where you can vote for who you think murdered them, or if they weren't murdered at all. And no, I'm definitely not wading into that particular argument.)

The green area in this pic is the part of Tower Green where executions took place. On the right, the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula; in the middle, the Beauchamp Tower, built by Edward I in the 1270s and named after Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, imprisoned there by Richard II in 1397. The other buildings in the pic aren't open to the public.

Sculpture commemorating the deaths on Tower Green. The text begins: "Close to this site were executed: William, Lord Hastings 1483 - Queen Anne Boleyn 1536 - Margaret Pole, countess of Salisbury 1541..."

Below: St Thomas's Tower, built by Edward I in the 1270s, and its water gate, later known by its far more notorious name, Traitors' Gate.

More pics of the Tower to follow soon!

15 June, 2009

The Queens Of France, 1314-1328

A post about the six women who married Queen Isabella's three short-lived brothers Louis X (1289-1316), Philippe V (c. 1291/93-1322) and Charles IV (c. 1294-1328). With one exception, the women themselves didn't live very long, either. The three brothers fathered five sons between them, none of whom lived past the age of eight, and the throne of France passed from the Capets to the Valois.

Oh, and if anyone's landed on this page searching for the correct date of Charles IV's wedding to Jeanne of Evreux, which practically every book/genealogy site gets wrong: they married on Thursday 5 July 1324, not July 1325. See below.

Marguerite of Burgundy (1290-1315)

Marguerite married the future Louis X of France, who was already king of Navarre, on or about 21 September 1305, when she was probably fifteen and Louis not quite sixteen. Marguerite was the daughter of Duke Robert II of Burgundy (d. 1306), and through her mother Agnes was the granddaughter of Louis IX of France, so was the first cousin once removed of her husband. Two of Marguerite's brothers, Hugues and Eudes, were dukes of Burgundy, her brother Louis was titular king of Thessalonica, her sister Marie married Edward II's nephew Count Edouard I of Bar, and her sister Jeanne 'the Lame' (la Boiteuse) married Philippe VI of France, first cousin and successor of Louis X, Philippe V and Charles IV.

Marguerite and Louis had one child, named Jeanne after Louis's mother Queen Jeanne of Navarre, who was born on 28 January 1311 and became queen of Navarre in her own right in 1328, on the death of her uncle Charles IV. The couple had been married for at least four and a half years by the time they conceived their daughter. In early 1314, one of the great scandals of the Middle Ages came to light: Marguerite and her sister-in-law Blanche of Burgundy had been committing adultery with the d'Aulnay brothers Philippe and Gautier. The unfortunate young men suffered horrific torture, broken on the wheel, castrated, flayed, hanged and beheaded. Marguerite and Blanche were imprisoned at Château Gaillard in Normandy.

Marguerite's husband succeeded his father as king of France in November 1314; Marguerite remained in prison and, needless to say, was never crowned queen of France. She died at Château Gaillard on 14 August 1315, probably murdered so that Louis could remarry and father a son, and was buried at Vernon in Normandy. The recently-deceased Maurice Druon told her story in his novel La Reine Étranglée or The Strangled Queen.

Her younger sister Jeanne 'the Lame' became queen of France in 1328, when Philippe VI succeeded his cousin Charles IV. Marguerite's daughter Queen Jeanne of Navarre, who died in October 1349, married her cousin Philippe of Evreux and was the mother of the interestingly-named Charles the Bad (le Mauvais), king of Navarre. Marguerite of Burgundy was the great-grandmother of Jeanne of Navarre (1370-1437), duchess of Brittany and queen of England, who married Henry IV in 1403.

Clemence of Hungary (or Clemence of Anjou) (1293-1328)

Clemence was the daughter of Charles Martel, titular king of Hungary, and Klementia von Hapsburg, daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf I. Her paternal grandfather was Charles 'the Lame' (le Boiteux), titular king of Jerusalem, Sicily and Naples, who attended Edward II and Isabella's wedding in January 1308. Clemence was remarkably well-connected to European royalty, and her aunts and uncles included: Philip, titular emperor of Constantinople, prince of Achaea and Taranto and despot of Epirius; Robert the Wise, titular king of Naples and Jerusalem, duke of Calabria and count of Provence; Saint Louis, bishop of Toulouse; Albrecht von Hapsburg, king of Germany and duke of Austria, who also attended Edward and Isabella's wedding in January 1308 and was murdered by his nephew Johann a few weeks later; Jutta, queen of Bohemia; Blanche, queen of Aragon; Eleanor, queen of Sicily; and Hartmann, betrothed to Edward II's sister Joan of Acre, who drowned in 1281. Clemence's brother Charles, or Károly, succeeded their father as king of Hungary.

Clemence married Louis X on 19 August 1315, a mere five days after the suspicious death of his first wife Marguerite. The marriage was arranged by Charles of Valois, brother of Philippe IV and Louis's uncle, and also Clemence's uncle by marriage (his first wife Marguerite of Anjou, mother of Philippe VI, was the sister of Clemence's father). Her unusual name caused problems for one of Edward II's clerks: when Edward wrote to her and Louis in May 1316, the clerk addressed her as 'Queen Elizabeth'.

Louis X died on 5 June 1316 at the age of only twenty-six, supposedly from drinking chilled wine after a vigorous game of jeu de paume, leaving Clemence about four months pregnant. She gave birth on 15 November to a boy who immediately became king of France: Jean I, the Posthumous. Unfortunately the baby king only lived for five days, and Clemence's brother-in-law succeeded as Philippe V. Clemence died on 12 October 1328, in her mid-thirties, and was buried at St Jacques in Paris.

Jeanne of Burgundy (c. 1292-1329)

Jeanne was the daughter of Othon (Otto) IV, count palatine of Burgundy, and Mahaut, countess of Artois in her own right. Jeanne's brother Robert, who was born in 1300, succeeded their father in 1302, but died unmarried in 1315. Edward I had on 8 May 1306 opened negotiations for Robert to marry his youngest child, Eleanor; the girl was four days old at the time. On the death of her brother, Jeanne inherited the county of Burgundy, and on her mother's death in 1329, the county of Artois. She married the future Philippe V in January 1307.

Jeanne was embroiled in the adultery scandal of 1314 and imprisoned. She was soon released, however, on the grounds that she had known of the adultery of her sisters-in-law but had not taken a lover herself - either because she was genuinely believed to be innocent, or because Philippe IV wanted to preserve her rich inheritance for his son. Her husband succeeded as Philippe V of France in November 1316, and died on 3 January 1322, aged about thirty. Jeanne outlived him by eight years, and left four daughters: Jeanne, who married Duke Eudes IV of Burgundy, and died in 1349; Marguerite, who married Louis I, count of Flanders, and died in 1382; Isabelle, who married Guigues VIII, dauphin of Viennois, and died in 1348; and Blanche, a nun at Longchamps, who died in 1358. Queen Jeanne also had two sons: Philippe, born in January 1313, died on 24 March 1321; and Louis, born in June 1316, died a little over six months later. Edward II gave twenty marks to the messenger who brought him news of Louis's birth. Like his brothers, Philippe V was destined to die with no surviving male heirs.

Blanche of Burgundy (c. 1295-1326)

Blanche was the younger sister of Jeanne, above, and married the future Charles IV probably in 1307, when they were both about twelve or thirteen. She was found guilty of adultery with one of the d'Aulnay brothers in 1314 and imprisoned, although the pope refused to annul her marriage to Charles until 7 September 1322, after Charles had succeeded as king of France. Blanche remained in prison at Château Gaillard until 1325, when she was allowed to retire to the abbey of Maubisson, and was dead by April 1326 or perhaps by the end of 1325, probably aged thirty. She bore Charles two children, neither of whom lived long: Philippe, January 1314-March 1322, and Jeanne, 1315-May 1321. Her daughter was born a few months into her imprisonment. I wonder what would have happened if her son had survived; given Blanche's adultery, would Charles have accepted the boy as his heir?

Marie of Luxembourg (c. 1304-1324)

Marie was the daughter of Henry VII (of Luxembourg), Holy Roman Emperor and king of Germany, and Margaret, sister of Duke Jan II of Brabant, husband of Edward II's sister Margaret. Henry of Luxembourg, said to be the greatest knight in Europe, attended Edward II's coronation in February 1308. Marie's sister Beatrix married King Charles of Hungary, brother of Queen Clemence, and died in childbirth in November 1319 at the age of only fourteen, and her brother John the Blind was king of Bohemia. John was the grandfather of Anne of Bohemia, who married Richard II of England, and was killed fighting on the French side at the battle of Crecy in 1346.

Marie married Charles IV on 21 September 1322, only two weeks after the annulment of his first marriage to Blanche of Burgundy. She was pregnant in 1323 but miscarried, and was pregnant again in March 1324 when she was involved in an accident. She gave birth to a premature son, hastily baptised Louis, who lived for some days, and died herself shortly after giving birth, aged nineteen or twenty.

Jeanne of Evreux (c. 1310-1371)

Jeanne was the daughter of Louis, count of Evreux, who was the half-brother of Philippe IV of France, and was thus the first cousin of her husband Charles IV. Her mother Marguerite was the daughter of Philippe of Artois, and the great-granddaughter of Henry III of England. Jeanne's eldest sister Marie married Edward II's nephew Duke Jan III of Brabant, and her brother Philippe married Queen Jeanne of Navarre, daughter of Louis X and Marguerite of Burgundy. Her uncle Robert of Artois (1287-1342), was involved in a decades-long struggle with his aunt Mahaut, mother of Jeanne and Blanche of Burgundy, over the county of Artois, and supported Edward III during the Hundred Years War.

Jeanne married Charles IV on Thursday 5 July 1324 at Annet-sur-Marne east of Paris, when she was probably fourteen and Charles thirty. For some reason there is a great deal of confusion about the date of their wedding, and most books and websites place it in July 1325. But the date is certainly known from a letter sent to Edward II by his envoys to France on 10 July 1324: "we found him [Charles IV] at Annet on the Thursday next before the feast of the Translation of St Thomas, where he had married on the same day the sister of the present count of Evreux." (lui trovasmes a Annet' le joedy prochein devant la feste de la Translacion de Seint Thomas, ou il avoit espouses mesmes le jour le soer le conte de Drews qore est.) The Translation of St Thomas Becket is 7 July, which fell on a Saturday in 1324. The letter is printed in The War of Saint-Sardos (1323-1325): Gascon Correspondence and Diplomatic Documents, ed. Pierre Chaplais, pp. 189-190, and cannot date to July 1325, as its contents - relating to Edward's failure to travel to Amiens to pay homage for his French possessions and Charles's confiscation of them - would make no sense if they'd been written a year later, by which time Charles and Edward had signed a peace treaty. Besides, Charles IV was desperate for a son and would hardly have waited more than fifteen months after the death of Queen Marie to marry again.

Jeanne was crowned queen of France on 11 May 1326, and Roger Mortimer attended and carried the train of Edward II's son the duke of Aquitaine, to Edward's fury. Jeanne bore Charles two daughters: yet another Jeanne, who died at a few months old in January 1327, and Marie, who died in 1341 at the age of fourteen. Charles IV died on 1 February 1328 at the age of about thirty-four, leaving Jeanne seven months pregnant. She gave birth on 1 April to another daughter, Blanche, and thus the throne of France passed to her husband's Valois cousin, Philippe VI. Blanche married Philippe de Valois, duke of Orleans, son of Philippe VI, and died on 8 February 1382. Apart from her cousin Marguerite, countess of Flanders, who oulived her by three months, Blanche was the last of the Capets.

Queen Jeanne survived her husband by forty-three years, and died on 4 March 1371 in her early sixties. She was buried next to Charles at Saint-Denis in Paris.

08 June, 2009

Edward II's Executions Of 1322

Because you so often read exaggerated numbers of men executed by Edward II in March and April 1322 after his successful campaign against the Marcher lords and the Lancastrian faction - the Contrariants, as Edward called them - here's an accurate list of the executions. Fourteenth-century chronicles are consistent in recording the names; some modern writers have inflated the numbers, saying that men were 'hunted down and slaughtered', that bodily remains decorated the walls of every town in England, that a veritable 'bloodbath' took place. Given the highly emotive way the executions are described in some secondary sources, I'd always assumed that many dozens or even hundreds of men were executed and/or murdered, then when I researched them, discovered there were in fact between 19 and 22 executions of lords and knights, plus one knight killed by Edward II's supporters without the king's prior knowledge. That's a heck of a lot, obviously, but hardly seems to meet the requirements for a 'bloodbath' or to justify the frequent statements about men being hunted down and murdered in cold blood on Edward or the Despensers' orders. I also include information about men who were killed at the battle of Boroughbridge, but whose names are often incorrectly included on the list of executions by writers too lazy or sloppy to check primary sources.

Talking of sloppy research: you often seen in books that Edward II had the 'elderly' countess of Lincoln, the earl of Lancaster's mother-in-law, imprisoned in 1322. Oh, the pathos! Oh, the opportunities for bewailing Edward's dreadful cruelty! Natalie Fryde, for example, writes in The Tyranny and Fall of Edward II 1321-1326 "One wonders whether the aged countess of Lincoln, mother of Alice, countess of Lancaster, could have done much harm. She was carried off to prison..." Well, that would really be something, given that Countess Margaret had been dead for about fifteen years in March 1322. But who cares about such minor details when you can bash Edward II?

What is difficult to comprehend about Edward II's actions in 1322 is the way he had some men executed but others merely imprisoned, and the executions come across as extremely arbitrary and capricious. Having said that, the Vita Edwardi Secundi says that in 1322 the Contrariants "killed those who opposed them, [and] plundered those who offered no resistance, sparing no one," a quote mysteriously missing from every book I've ever read on the subject. It is apparent from numerous petitions and inquisitions that the Contrariants committed homicide, assault, theft, false imprisonment and extortion on non-combatants and bystanders, burned and vandalised towns and the countryside - not only Despenser lands - and committed treason by asking Robert Bruce and his adherents to come to England and ride with them against their king. Not that you'd ever guess it from most secondary sources, which usually ignore the Contrariants' numerous crimes and make out that the fault was all on Edward II's side. Edward did push these men into rebellion by his stupid favouritism towards Hugh Despenser, but the Contrariants were a very long way from being the snowy-white innocent victims of That Nasty Edward II And His Appalling Favourite and the glorious freedom fighters against royal tyranny of legend. Contrary to popular report, there was wrong on both sides: Edward threatened his magnates by favouring Despenser, and had no ability whatsoever to learn from past mistakes; the Contrariants took out their anger and frustration on innocents. Seeing the situation of 1321/22 in shades of black and white, as it so often is (Edward and the Despensers = Bad! Contrariants = Good!) is ludicrously simplistic.

To give a handful of examples of the Contrariants' actions in 1321/22 (there are many more): John Mowbray, Jocelyn Deyville and Stephen Baret stole goods from the townspeople of Laughton-en-le-Morthen in Yorkshire, even robbing the church, and took the goods to Mowbray's manor of Axholme. Roger Mortimer and his adherents stole wheat, grain, livestock and other goods worth over £140 from villagers in Herefordshire. Lord Berkeley told the villagers of Lydney in Gloucestershire that he would burn the village unless they gave him three pounds. Unsurprisingly, they sent the money. Other Marchers travelled through Gloucestershire seizing goods and selling them to raise funds. Roger Mortimer of Chirk "violently ejected" William la Zouche from his manor and stole goods worth 100 marks from him, because Zouche refused to join the rebels. A group of John Mowbray’s adherents stole provisions worth forty pounds from a boat belonging to a Grantham merchant. The earl of Lancaster's adherent Robert Holland chased the 'poor people' of Loughborough from their homes, and they dared not return for three months. When fleeing from Edward II in late 1321, because they didn't want to face him in battle - although their army was nearly four times larger than his - the Contrariants burned and devastated the Gloucestershire countryside behind them. The earl of Hereford and the two Roger Mortimers arrived in the town of Bridgnorth in January 1322 and, in an attempt to prevent Edward's army crossing the Severn, the Vita says that they "burned a great part of the town and killed very many of the king’s servants." They killed, beat up and wounded townspeople, stole "garments, jewels, beasts and other goods," and imprisoned people "until they made grievous ransoms." For all the Contrariants' grievances -and I'm not at all denying that they had plenty and that Edward provoked them into rebellion - they could always have tried, you know, not killing, wounding, imprisoning and impoverishing bystanders. The two Hugh Despensers were the targets of the Contrariants' ire, but it was the innocent who suffered most from their brutality and vindictiveness.

All the English earls alive in 1322 except Lancaster, Hereford and maybe the obscure and insignificant Oxford (and Edward II's son the earl of Chester, who was only nine) supported the king both before the executions and after, as did numerous other lords and knights and three Scottish earls (Atholl, Angus and Mar), which is hard to explain if they thought Edward was behaving like a blood-soaked, power-crazed despot. The inconvenient fact that Edward enjoyed the support of a very large part of the English nobility in 1322 is often ignored, as is the fact that no fewer than seven earls - Kent, Pembroke, Richmond, Surrey, Arundel, Atholl and Angus - condemned the earl of Lancaster to death, an execution blamed solely on the Despensers in 1326 and used as an example of Edward II's tyranny ever since.

The abbreviation 'JYD' means 'Judgement on the Younger Despenser', a transcript of the charges against Hugh Despenser at his trial in November 1326, when he was accused of the deaths of nineteen men in 1322. The abbreviation 'CCW' means 'A Chronicle of the Civil Wars of Edward II', ed. G. L. Haskins (Speculum, 14, 1939), a short and unnamed chronicle which covers some of the events of Edward's reign. I've added the sources for each execution in brackets.

Men certainly executed:

1) Thomas, earl of Lancaster, Leicester, Derby, Lincoln and Salisbury, beheaded at Pontefract on 22 March 1322. [Sources: Foedera, JYD and every contemporary or near-contemporary chronicle.]

Off-topic here, but interesting: secondary sources often say that Queen Isabella remained in the south and only joined her husband in Yorkshire after the execution of Lancaster, her uncle. In fact, she had evidently joined him before, as Edward's squire Oliver de Bordeaux told the earl of Richmond that the king and queen "were well and hearty, thank God" when he saw them on St Cuthbert's Day, 20 March 1322, two days before the execution. The wording implies that Oliver saw them together. [Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland] Edward arrived at Pontefract on 19 March and stayed until the 25th.

2-7) Six of Lancaster's knights were hanged at Pontefract around the same time: William Cheyne or Cheney, Warin Lisle, Henry Bradbourne, William Fitzwilliam, Thomas Mauduit and William Tuchet. The Flores Historiarum says that Lancaster was tormented by being forced to watch nine of his knights executed before him, but the official indictment in Foedera and the 1326 judgement on Hugh Despenser give six. The names of the three other knights the Flores thinks were executed appear in no source, not even the Flores. Lanercost says that eight barons of Lancaster's affinity were executed; other chronicles correctly give six. [Foedera, JYD, CCW, Anonimalle, Croniques de London, Brut, Lanercost, Livere de Reis, Adam Murimuth, Bridlington, Annales Paulini]

8) Bartholomew, Lord Badlesmere, formely Edward II's steward, suffered the traitor's death at Canterbury. [Livere de Reis, Brut, Flores, Croniques de London, Lanercost, Adam Murimuth, CCW, JYD]

9-11) Roger, Lord Clifford and the church-robbing John, Lord Mowbray were hanged in York. Sir Jocelyn Deyville, whom the Lanercost chronicler calls "a knight notorious for his misdeeds," was also hanged there. [Lanercost, Bridlington, Flores, Brut, Anonimalle, Croniques de London, Adam Murimuth, Scalacronica, CCW, JYD, Livere de Reis, Bridlington, Annales Paulini]

12-13) Sir Henry Montfort and Sir Henry Wilington were hanged in Bristol. [Foedera, Flores, Brut, CCW, JYD, Anonimalle, Croniques de London; Adam Murimuth names Wilington]

14-17) Sir Henry Tyes was hanged in London, Sir Thomas Culpepper in Winchelsea, Sir Francis Aldham in Windsor, and Sir Bartholomew Ashburnham in Canterbury. [Annales Paulini, Anonimalle, Adam Murimuth, Croniques de London, Lanercost, Livere de Reis, Flores, Brut, CCW, JYD]

18-19) Sir Roger Elmbridge and John, Lord Giffard of Brimpsfield were hanged in Gloucester. [Flores, Anonimalle, Croniques de London, CCW, JYD, Adam Murimuth, Bridlington, Brut; the Vita Edwardi Secundi names Elmbridge]

Men probably executed:

20) Three chronicles (Croniques de London, CCW and Flores) say that Sir Stephen Baret was hanged; Croniques gives the location as 'Collyere', probably Swansea. This is probably correct, although Baret is not mentioned in the judgement on Despenser. He was certainly dead by 1327, when his brother and heir David petitioned for the restoration of his inheritance. [Close Rolls] Edward II ordered on 26 March 1322 that Baret be taken to Swansea "to be there delivered as they are more fully instructed" by three men of his (Edward's) household, one of whom, Guy Amalvini, had been captured by the Marchers in South Wales in May 1321 when they were attacking Hugh Despenser's lands. [Patent Rolls, wardrobe accounts]

21) Sir William Fleming was probably hanged in Cardiff, though he is also not mentioned in the judgement on Despenser. [CCW, Flores, Brut, Croniques de London] Edward sent John Inge and Thomas de Marlebergh, Despenser adherents, to pronounce judgement on Fleming on 26 March 1322, at the same time as he sent men to try the other Contrariants. [Patent Rolls]

22) Two chronicles (Brut, Flores) say that the earl of Lancaster's squire John Page was also executed. This is probable: an entry on the Close Roll of 1323 says that a John Page "underwent the punishment of death by consideration of the king’s court for being a rebel." However, there are two references to a man of this name imprisoned in the Tower of London in February 1323 and June 1324 (Close Rolls, records of King's Bench), and the judgement on Despenser does not name Page among those executed. Something of the confusion over Page's possible execution is apparent in Natalie Fryde's The Tyranny and Fall of Edward II 1321-1326, where Fryde says twice (pp. 63, 160) that Page was imprisoned after 1322, and once (p. 61) that he was executed.

Men definitely not executed

- Men who have frequently been named among those executed who were certainly not were Sir Ralph Eplington or Ellington, Sir William Sully and Sir Roger Burghfield, Bromsfield or Bernesfield. They were killed at the battle of Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322. [Annales Paulini, Anonimalle, Brut, CCW, JYD, Parliamentary Writs, SC 8/47/2305, SC 8/95/4719] Natalie Fryde's Tyranny and Fall of Edward II of 1979 was the first work to say that these men were executed, and this totally wrong 'fact' has been copied in later books, which does at least usefully demonstrate which writers didn't bother to do their own research into primary sources.

- Fryde also claims that Hugh Lovel and his three squires were executed. Hugh Lovel, a Scottish knight imprisoned at Gloucester Castle between 1307 and 1311, was in fact also killed at the battle of Boroughbridge, with said three squires. [Parl Writs] Not one of the sources cited here and in Tyranny and Fall says that Lovel, Sully, Eplington and the others were executed, so I can't imagine why Fryde thought they were, and she cites Parliamentary Writs and various other sources that clearly state they were killed at Boroughbridge. For example, a petition of c. 1322/1327 begins "Joan, widow of Roger de Burghfeld, who died at Boroughbridge, requests her dower," the Anonimalle Chronicle says "There on the bridge of the said town [Boroughbridge] the noble earl of Hereford was killed, and Sir William de Sule, Sir Roger de Bromsfeld and Sir Rauf de Elpingdon were also killed," and the Brut says "Sire William of Sulley and Sire Roger of Bernesfelde were slain in that battle." The 1326 judgement on Despenser also names Sully and Burghfield with the earl of Hereford at Boroughbridge, not in the list of the men executed. Oh dear, Natalie Fryde. That's seriously sloppy work in what has become a standard textbook on Edward II's reign.

- The chronicles Livere de Reis, Lanercost and Flores say that the Lancastrian knight Sir John Eure was executed at Bishop's Auckland. From various entries on the Close and Patent Rolls, however, it is apparent that Eure was captured and beheaded by fourteen of Edward II's supporters without Edward's prior knowledge or consent. Edward named the men responsible for the murder as 'malefactors' and said that they had killed Eure "while he was in the king's peace" and had "declared that he was the king's enemy, which he was not." (He did pardon them, though.)

In March 1324, at the request of the bishops - not Queen Isabella, as some writers believe - Edward ordered the sheriffs of London, Middlesex, Kent, Yorkshire, Gloucestershire and Buckinghamshire to take down the bodies of the twentyish executed men and have them buried. Yes, that's only six counties. [Close Rolls, Foedera, Adam Murimuth, Annales Paulini]. I've seen it stated, without a reference, that Pope John XXII begged Edward to show restraint over the executions. Having trawled through the papal letters, the only reference John made to events of March/April 1322 that I can find is his advice to Edward to ascribe his victory over the Contrariants to God. Far from sympathising with Edward's opponents or wailing over their deaths, John in fact excommunicated "those nobles and magnates who attack the king and his realm." [Papal Letters 1305-1342]

The executions of, at most, 22 men and the murder of one knight were capricious and vengeful and some contemporary chroniclers were shocked by them, but they were hardly the indiscriminate and cold-blooded slaughter of innocents ordered by a despotic king and his nasty favourite, the appalling bloodbath and the pitiful sight of bodies hanging in every English town that some modern writers seem to think.

02 June, 2009

Possessions of the Losers of 1326

I finally got back from holiday last night after a truly nightmare journey of endlessly delayed trains and delayed planes. Hideous. Made me feel like I never ever want to get on a plane again, which is unfortunate, as I'm off to London on a research trip a week on Thursday. Several days of looking at Edward II's chamber accounts in the original French - woot, so exciting! (I mean that seriously, not sarcastically.)

I've had emails from a few people saying they haven't been able to comment on the blog as it keeps crashing - I've had the same problem myself on other blogs, and apparently it's something to do with the 'followers' widget. Hope Blogger fixes it soon. Until I get my act together and write a proper post, here's a quick one on some possessions of Edward II and Edmund Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, in 1326.

When Edward fled from London in early October 1326 after the arrival of Isabella and Mortimer's invasion force, he left some items behind with the merchant Simon Swanland. Swanland was a draper who occasionally provided cloth for the king's household, became mayor of London in the autumn of 1329, and was the recipient of his kinsman the archbishop of York's incredible letter in January 1329 or 1330 stating that Edward was "alive and in good health of body." The items Edward left with him included:

- a cloth-of-gold mantle edged with "diverse white pearls" and silver.

- three velvet garments with green stripes, and matching hat.

- four ells of ‘Tarse’ cloth with golden stripes.

- a green coverlet with three matching tapestries.

- a cushion cover of vermilion sendal.

- a silver cup with foot and cover.

- three "gilded acorn branches."

- a "piece of beautiful napery, which contains fifty-three ells."

- two "good and beautiful" Bibles (ij bibles bons et bels), one covered with red leather and the other with tanned leather, and a missal covered with black leather.

- this entry is partly damaged: "the sixth book of ...vel, well-glossed, covered with green leather."

- two coffers (or cases, or boxes), well-decorated.

- a "good and beautiful" chalice of silver which weighed four marks, and two matching pitchers.

- an encensq (incense-holder?) of silver which weighed sixteen shillings.

- an orfiller - not sure what that is - of silk, with golden birds.

- four mazers [entry damaged] with sorrels and silver-gilt.

- a piece of coarse black woollen cloth (i. neyr falding)

Edward's ally the earl of Arundel was executed in Hereford on 17 November 1326, and a week later, the possessions he had stored in the cathedral church of Chichester "pertaining to the king by the forfeiture of the earl" were delivered into the wardrobe of "Queen Isabel and of Edward the king's firstborn son," i.e. the soon to be Edward III. They were:

- £524, 2 shillings and 1p in 6 canvas sacks, labelled £533, 6 shillings and 8p.

- a silver-gilt cup, enamelled in parts, with a cover but without a foot, which weighed 7 marks.

- a silver-gilt cup, enamelled all over, with foot and cover and a basin to match, which weighed £11, 6 shillings and 8p.

- a silver-gilt cup, enamelled all over with foot and cover and a pint pot to match, which weighed 6 marks.

- a silver cup, gilt and partly enamelled, with a trivet, which weighed 103 shillings and 4p.

- a silver salt-cellar, enamelled all over, with a cover, which weighed 35 shillings.

- three silver-gilt cups, partly broken, with feet and covers, which weighed six pounds and 1 shilling.

- three silver-gilt cups, with feet and covers, which weighed 108 shillings and 4p.

- three cups of plain silver, with feet and covers, which weighed 101 shillings and 8p.

Evidently Arundel really liked silver things.

J. Harvey Bloom, ‘Simon de Swanland and King Edward II’, Notes and Queries, 11th series, 4 (1911), p. 2.
Calendar of Patent Rolls 1324-1327, p. 339.