28 March, 2011

Edward II The Attorney

On 19 December 1316, Edward II made a most unusual offer: he wrote to his cousin* Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, offering to act personally as Pembroke's attorney while Pembroke travelled to Avignon to see Pope John XXII on Edward's behalf.

* Aymer de Valence (c. 1270/75 - 23 June 1324) was the son of William de Valence, earl of Pembroke (died 1296), Henry III's half-brother, and was thus Edward II's half-first cousin once removed.  Aymer's mother Joan Munchensi, who died in 1307, was the granddaughter of the great William Marshal, earl of Pembroke (died 1219).

Here's my translation of the letter, with punctuation added as there's very little in the original!

Edward, by the grace of God king of England, lord of Ireland and duke of Aquitaine, to our dear and faithful cousin Sir Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, greetings.  Very dear cousin, we have well understood the letters and the message which you sent us by our dear and faithful Sir John Sapy and Oliver de Bordeaux, and we thank you as dearly as we can, and we are extremely grateful that you have our business so tenderly at heart.  And we make known to you, very dear cousin, that we have a special interest in all the affairs which touch you, and we will be your attorney for as long as you are overseas, and we wish you to charge your people who will remain here [in England] that for the period of time while they manage the affairs which touch you that they should come to us in person, to show to us the state of your said affairs, and we will see to them in such a way that, if it please God, you will consider yourself satisfied on your return to us.  And know, very dear cousin, that all the items which you have drawn up regarding our estate, we will observe them.  Wherefore we beg and charge you especially that you may have our affairs tenderly at heart, which you have so well begun, and pursue them with all the diligence that you can, in the same way that we will especially do for you. And the progress of our affairs you will make known to us from time to time, with the news which comes to you, as dearly as you love us.
Given under our privy seal at Clipstone on the nineteenth day of December, in the tenth year of our reign [1316].

How the earl of Pembroke felt about this is anyone's guess; as Professor Seymour Phillips points out, "Edward's advice and assistance on anything might be regarded as a mixed blessing."  Still, as Phillips says, the letter demonstrates the remarkable level of trust and affection Edward II had for his kinsman, and it's also interesting to see that Pembroke had made some suggestions to Edward regarding the governance of the kingdom which Edward agreed to act on.  Sadly for Pembroke, however, the rise of Edward's favourite Roger Damory at court in 1317 led to a considerable reduction in the earl's influence over the king, which declined even further after Hugh Despenser the Younger became all-powerful at court.  In June 1322, Edward even forced Pembroke to swear an oath on the Gospels that he would always be obedient and faithful to him, because "the king was aggrieved against him for certain reasons…and could not assure himself of the earl," most probably because Pembroke had persuaded Edward to consent to the Despensers' exile in August 1321, and also made Pembroke swear that he would not ally himself against the king or "anyone whom the king will maintain," surely a reference to the Despensers.  [Calendar of Close Rolls 1318-1323, pp. 563-564.]  By the time Pembroke died in June 1324, on Edward II's service in France - still, despite everything, faithfully serving him - his influence over the wayward and ungrateful king was a thing of the past.

[Edward's letter is printed in French (or Anglo-Norman, rather) in J.R.S. Phillips' Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke 1307-1324: Baronial Politics in the Reign of Edward II, p. 317, and see also p. 110.  The original document is located in the National Archives, SC 1/49/39.]

22 March, 2011

Wine, Decrepitness And A Duelling Archbishop

Some fairly random, but I hope interesting, extracts from letters of 1324/25, at a time when Edward II was at war with his brother-in-law Charles IV of France over Gascony: the little-known War of Saint-Sardos.

- Some of the Englishmen sent to Gascony to aid the war effort evidently didn't think much of the place: the royal clerk Nicholas Hugate sniffily told Hugh Despenser the Younger in December 1324 that "in this country, one will find nothing except wine" (en cest pays homme ne trovera gueres fors que vyn).  [Pierre Chaplais, ed., The War of Saint-Sardos (1323-1325): Gascon Correspondence and Diplomatic Documents (Camden third series, 87, 1954), p. 114; my translation.]

- Edward II's seneschal of Gascony from June 1323 to March 1324 was Sir Ralph Basset, who was in some way related to Hugh Despenser the Younger (who always addressed Basset as 'very dear cousin'; Hugh Despenser the Elder's mother, who was countess of Norfolk by her second marriage and died in 1281, was Aline Basset).  Ralph Basset in December 1324 advised Despenser that he should "have the treasury of our lord the king searched, to see if you might find an ancient record" pertaining to Castile, because he had "heard from some old people" (jeo ai entendu par ascunes ancienes gentz) that the kings of Castile had often claimed homage for the part of Gascony as far north as the River Dordogne.  Alfonso X had incited a rebellion in Gascony in 1253 with a view to invading and taking over the duchy, though he renounced his claims to it the following year when his half-sister Eleanor married the future Edward I.   Presumably Basset was hoping that, seventy years after the marriage of Edward II's parents, the regents of Castile would decide to fight France for a share of Gascony, a ludicrously unrealistic proposition to which Despenser did not even bother to respond in his next letter to Basset.  [Chaplais, War of Saint-Sardos, pp. 118-119, 145; my translation.]

- Ralph Basset, as early as 6 December 1323, was aware of the hostility towards Edward II and England in general in Paris, and informed Hugh Despenser the Younger of the same, in a letter which began "Sire.  I am writing to you because I do not dare write to the king."  [War of Saint-Sardos, p. 3; my translation.]

- Edward II reached out to the Spanish kings as potential military allies against France, and entered into correspondence with Jaime II of Aragon regarding a marriage alliance between their families.  His younger daughter Joan, born July 1321, was betrothed to Jaime's grandson the future Pedro IV of Aragon, who was born in September 1319.   In February 1325, Edward decided to write not to Jaime but to his son, the future Alfonso IV (Pedro IV's father), on the grounds that Jaime, then in his late fifties, "is old and decrepit and it is not certain that he is not dead."  Jaime, in fact, lived until November 1327.  [Calendar of Patent Rolls 1324-1327, p. 104.]

- Edward II's elder daughter Eleanor of Woodstock was betrothed to Alfonso XI of Castile.  Carried away by the wonderfulness of his adolescent first cousin twice removed, Edward wrote "The king rejoices greatly that providence has illuminated abundantly the boldness of Alfonsus's youth by gifts of virtues and natural and gracious good things, as widely diffused fame has made known and is as now spread to the ends of the world."  [Calendar of Close Rolls 1323-1327, p. 344.]

- Edward wrote again to Jaime II of Aragon in September 1324, "remembering the treaties of love between his and James’ royal house that have existed for a long time."  (Edward’s eldest sister Eleanor had long been betrothed to Jaime’s elder brother Alfonso III, but he died in June 1291 before the marriage could take place, and she married the count of Bar instead.)  Edward grumbled to Jaime about Charles IV's "severity and malevolence," and asked Jaime to send men-at-arms, horsemen and footmen to aid him against Charles, so that "Charles's greed may be restrained and his pride repressed."  He sent the same letter to Alfonso XI of Castile and the regents Juan el Tuerto, Maria Díaz de Haro and her cousin Fernando.  [Close Rolls 1323-1327, pp. 313-314.]

- Edward was forced in October 1325 to send an apologetic letter to Pedro López de Luna, archbishop of Zaragoza (Saragossa, as his clerk spelt it) and primate of Spain, for his envoys' failure to present themselves or communicate their business to him, declaring himself "annoyed" by their error.  [Close Rolls 1323-1327, pp. 516-517.]

- In December 1324, Hugh Despenser the Younger told Edward II's half-brother Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent and commander of the king's forces in Gascony, that the only reason for the late arrival of the ships carrying provisions to Gascony was that "a strong wind was against them, which we cannot turn by our own command" - a statement clearly intended humorously but which also demonstrates Despenser's arrogance, with its implication that he could control everything except the weather.  [Saint-Sardos, p. 64; my translation.]  This statement was mistranslated in Natalie Fryde's Tyranny and Fall of Edward II 1321-1326 (1979) as "Even I cannot control the wind."

- The earl of Kent sent Despenser a letter on 22 November 1324 which ended "Very dear and beloved nephew, may Jesus Christ of his power grant you a good and long life."  Given that Kent was one of the men who sentenced Despenser to death two years almost to the day later, that is somewhat ironic.

 - Queen Isabella, sent as an envoy to her brother Charles IV in March 1325 - sometimes considered by her fans (though not by me) to be the first stage in her Super-Duper Extra-Special Clever Cunning Plan to meet Roger Mortimer, wrest control of her son from her husband and ultimately depose him - sent a letter to Edward II on 31 March 1325, in which she called him "my very sweet heart" (mon tresdoutz coer) five times.  [Saint-Sardos, pp. 199-200.]

- One of the men Edward II sent to Gascony was Alexander Bicknor, archbishop of Dublin, who proved deeply unpopular in the duchy: Arnaud Caillau, ally of Edward and Hugh Despenser, enemy of Charles IV and probably a relative of Piers Gaveston, informed Despenser in November 1324 that the inhabitants wished that Bicknor had not come to Gascony, but stayed in Ireland instead ("vostra gent de Guasconha ne vousissent ja qe larchevesque de Dovelina fust venu au pais, anceis voudreint qe fust oras en Irlanda").  [Saint-Sardos, p. 92.]   Bicknor loathed Hugh Despenser, and claimed that only his office prevented him from challenging Despenser to a duel; Edward retaliated by sending the Dominican friar Thomas Dunheved to the pope with letters asking John XXII to depose Bicknor from his archbishopric.  The pope refused.  [Foedera 1307-1327, p. 600.]

 And, on the note of the archbishop of Dublin boasting that he wished to duel against the king's chamberlain and 'favourite', I shall end this post.  :)

14 March, 2011

Private Chambers, Silver Images and Little Domesday

Some rather interesting payments made by Edward II, taken from Frederick Devon, ed., Issues of the Exchequer: Being a Collection of Payments made out of His Majesty's Revenue, from King Henry III to King Henry VI Inclusive (1837).  I love old books and their long titles; incidentally, the full title of Christopher Marlowe's c. 1592 play about Edward is The Troublesome Reign and Lamentable Death of Edward the Second, King of England, with the Tragical Fall of Proud Mortimer.

- 24 October 1307: 500 pounds paid to Piers Gaveston, earl of Cornwall, "for so much money which the same lord the earl lent in the Wardrobe for the lord the king."  The question is, how did Piers get such a huge sum of money to lend to Edward?  From Edward in the first place, almost certainly.

- 4 November 1307: 52 pounds paid to one Richard de la Bayr "for two war-horses purchased from him for the king's use, the one a bay and the other white spotted."  Also, 20 pounds paid to de la Bayr for "a roan coloured palfrey, purchased from him, and given by the king to the countess of Cornwall."  Given the date, this was almost certainly a wedding gift from Edward to his niece Margaret de Clare.

- 13 December 1307: 30 pounds paid to Peter de Sparham "by the hands of Godin, his boy, for diverse tassels of gold, a chaplet and frontal of gold, and for an alb with pearls and silk, and divers other mercery of this sort, purchased from the same Peter by the king's command, and given by him to the countess of Cornwall [Margaret de Clare] and to other ladies and maids of honour then with him."

There are numerous payments relating to Edward II's coronation on 25 February 1308.  Here are a few:
- 40 pounds paid to Nicholas Picot and Nigell Drury, sheriffs of London, for beer.
- 100 pounds paid to Ralph Ratespray and Nicholas Dorman, merchants of London, for "large cattle and boars."
- 20 pounds to John le Discher of London for - well - dishes.
- 70 pounds to Walter le Haken and Henry de Redenhale, fishmongers of London, for "large fish" and "small pike."  (All this food presumably ended up being served at the disastrous banquet.)
- 40 marks paid to Hugh de Bungey for "armour, beds and apparel for the lord the king on the day of his coronation."
- 100 marks to Edward de Lovekyn for "sheep, pigs, large cattle and other things of this kind."
- 20 marks paid to Roger Frowyk for repairing the royal sceptre.

- 29 January 1308, 10 marks paid to the fishmonger Henry de Redenhale "to obtain from Gloucester lampreys for the king."

- 21 October 1310, 20 marks "paid to John Chaucomb, "of the king's gift, for the news which he brought to the same lord the king, respecting the lady Eleanor le Despenser."  This means Edward's eldest niece Eleanor de Clare, who had married Hugh Despenser the Younger in May 1306.  I wonder what the news was - that she had borne a child?  (Their eldest son, the imaginatively-named Hugh, was born in 1308 or 1309.)  Hugh the Younger himself had left England without Edward II's permission at the beginning of the year to take part in a jousting tournament in Mons with Robert d'Enghien; Edward issued an order on 31 December 1309 forbidding any Englishman to leave the country to joust, and seized Hugh's lands nine days later after he disobeyed the order.  Perhaps Hugh impregnated his wife just before leaving the country!

- A sad entry on 28 August 1311: Edward paid 113 pounds for the "expenses and preparation made for the burial of the body" of his five-year-old half-sister Eleanor, Edward I's youngest child and born in May 1306 when he was nearly sixty-seven, at Beaulieu Abbey in Hampshire.  I don't know what the poor little girl died of.

- 14 June 1315: 20 shillings paid to sailors Edmund of Greenwich, Thomas Springet and William Kempe "for their labour in taking a whale, lately caught near London Bridge."

- 16 August 1315: 8 marks paid to William le Clerk of London "for eight pots of brass and one great brass pot, purchased from him for the king's use."

- 26 November 1315: 20 marks given to Roger Frowyk, the London goldsmith who mended the royal sceptre before the coronation, in part payment for making "a crown of gold" for Edward.

- 5 December 1315: Edward paid 70 shillings to 35 Dominicans for "performing divine service at the anniversary of the lady the queen, mother of the present lord the king."  28 November 1315 was the twenty-fifth anniversary of Eleanor of Castile's death.

- a somewhat intriguing payment on 9 December 1315: 20 shillings paid to William Ward, a valet of Edward's chamber, "to keep certain private chambers for the king in the palace of the said lord the king at Westminster."

- 12 February 1316: 60 shillings paid to John Norton, "surveyor of the king's works within the king's palace at Westminster," for purchasing iron, steel and sea coal to "make divers heads for the king's lances."

- 27 March 1316: 20 pounds paid to "Adam de Brugges, farrier to the lady the queen, consort of the lord the king, and to William de Watford, keeper of the palfreys of the same lady the queen, by the hands of John de Salisbury, for a bay horse purchased by them from John Fleg, a horse dealer of London, and delivered to them to carry the litter of the said lady the queen."  Isabella was about four months pregnant at the time with her and Edward's second child John of Eltham.

- 13 April 1317: 20 marks paid to Roger de Gretford, "the king's bailiff at the manor of La Nayte, to complete certain works there begun for the lord the king at his command."  The manor of La Nayte or La Neyte lay in modern-day Pimlico, London.

- 15 April 1317: Edward gave 20 pounds to the Dominicans (his favourite order) of Pamplona for "three days' entertainment...to wit, one day for the lord king himself, the second day for the lady queen his consort, and the third for the Lord Edward their son."

- 6 May 1317: 8 pounds and 4 shillings was paid to a goldsmith called Walter de Spaldingg for "making a silver image, weighing ten marks, for the use of the lord the king, which said image the lord king commanded to be made."  Which image is sadly not recorded.

- 17 May 1317: 50 marks paid to Rose de Bureford - half of what was owed to her - for making an embroidered cope as a present from the queen to the new pope, John XXII.  (Note that Edward, not Isabella, paid for it.)

- 18 May 1317: 4 pounds paid to Hugh de Bungeye for making a bed for Edward.

- 21 May 1317: Edward paid 20 marks for his sister, the nun Mary, and niece Elizabeth de Burgh to go on pilgrimage to Canterbury.  Elizabeth had just married Roger Damory, and apparently wasn't in any great rush to settle down into married life with him.  (Talking of Roger Damory, Hannah Kilpatrick has an excellent new post about the judgement on him in 1322.)

- 5 December 1321: 3 shillings and 4 pence paid to William, bookbinder of London, for "binding and newly repairing the book of Domesday, in which is contained the counties of Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk."  This means Little Domesday, which still exists in the National Archives in Kew.  Nice to see Edward doing his best to preserve an ancient and incredibly valuable document!

10 March, 2011

Improper Works And Occupations: Edward II's Hobbies

A post detailing what fourteenth-century sources said about Edward II's love of physical labour and 'rustic pursuits' and his fondness for the company of his low-born subjects...

- The Chronicle of Lanercost: "...from his youth he devoted himself in private to the art of rowing and driving carts, of digging ditches and thatching houses, as was commonly said, and also with his companions at night to various works of ingenuity and skill, and to other pointless trivial occupations unsuitable for the son of a king."

I wonder what the night-time activities 'of ingenuity and skill' were?

- The articles of deposition in January 1327 mentioned Edward's inclination to "give himself up always to improper works and occupations, neglecting the business of his kingdom" (se ad doné toux jours as ouraignes et occupations nient covenables, entrelassaunt lesploit des bosoignes de son roialme).
- According to the Scalacronica of Sir Thomas Gray, whose father must have known Edward II well as he served in the Despensers' retinue, Edward "tarried in the south, where he amused himself with ships, among mariners, and in other irregular occupation unworthy of his station, and scarcely concerned himself with other honour or profit, whereby he lost the affection of his people."  The chronology in this section of the chronicle is unclear, but it seems to be referring to 1315.

- The Vita Edwardi Secundi laments: "If only he had given to arms the labour that he expended on rustic pursuits, he would have raised England aloft; his name would have resounded through the land."

- After the battle of Bannockburn in 1314, Robert le Messager, a member of Edward's household, was arrested for speaking irreverently of the king: he complained that Edward had lost the battle because "he spent the time when he should have been hearing Mass in idling, ditching, digging and other improper occupations."

- Edward's love of rowing appears to have been known in Scotland too, to judge from a song written there after Bannockburn, which mocks the traditional oarsman's chant of Heavalow, Rumbelow:

"Maidens of England, sore may you mourn,
For you have lost your men at Bannockburn with 'Heavalow'.
What, would the king of England have won Scotland with 'Rumbalow'?"

- Here's the Polychronicon of Ranulph Higden on Edward's affection for the company of his low-born subjects: "He forsook the company of lords, and fraternised with harlots, singers, actors, carters, ditchers, oarsmen, sailors, and others who practise the mechanical arts."

- The Flores Historiarum comments derisively that Edward spent a month swimming and rowing in the Fens in 1315 "with a great company of common people" (who saved him from drowning on one occasion, apparently).

These statements are to some extent borne out by the evidence of Edward's own accounts, and I could give numerous examples of the eccentric king's fondness for the company of his lower-born subjects and for watching - if not necessarily actively taking part in - manual labour.  Here are a few:

- Twenty-seven men in July 1326 "cleaned the ditches around the manor of Burgundy in the king's presence."  Burgundy was Edward's cottage at Westminster, where he spent a lot of time in the last couple of years of his reign.
- In November 1322, ten men of Thorne near Doncaster "fished in the king's presence and took great pike, great eels, and a large number of other fish."
- December 1322: "Paid to Master John Cole, king's blacksmith, for iron and steel bought by the said John at the king's command, for various things, and who this day showed the items to the king himself, paid at the king's command and in his presence in the forge of Templehurst, 7s and 1p."
- May 1326, at the wedding of Hugh Despenser the Younger's niece Margaret Hastings to Sir Robert Wateville in Marlborough: Edward gave a pound to one Will Muleward, who "was for some time with the king and made him laugh greatly."
- In July 1326, Edward gave a gift of a pound to Alis de la Churche, who had brought him a pike (fish), "by the hands of the king himself."
- In September 1326, Edward paid a fisherman three shillings for two salmon "bought by the king himself" at the postern gate of the Tower of London.

There are dozens of other examples.

Edward's eccentricity by the standards of his age is demonstrated by the emergence in 1318 of the impostor, John of Powderham, who claimed to be the real son of Edward I and to have been swapped in his cradle for a peasant baby.  It's difficult, if not impossible, to imagine this happening to Edward I or Edward III...