29 May, 2011

Article, The Earl Of Kent's Plot

 It has now been confirmed that my article 'The Adherents of Edmund of Woodstock, Earl of Kent, in March 1330' will be published in the August 2011 edition of the English Historical Review.  Kent was beheaded for treason against his nephew Edward III on 19 March 1330, aged twenty-eight, after he admitted plotting to free his half-brother Edward II from captivity - two and a half years after Edward's supposed death at Berkeley Castle on 21 September 1327.  It is often assumed that Kent had been tricked into trying to rescue a dead man to provide an excuse for Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer to execute him - which explanation either ignores altogether the men who supported Kent in his plot, or dismisses them as a few friars and a handful of others with grievances against Isabella and Mortimer's rule who did not truly believe in Edward II's survival.  (Although the archbishop of York, William Melton, certainly did, and told the mayor of London in January 1330 that "my liege lord Edward of Caernarfon is alive and in good health of body"; Donald, earl of Mar certainly believed that Edward was alive too.)  In fact, around seventy men can be demonstrated to have supported Kent in 1330, and in my article, I've provided backgrounds and allegiances for almost all of them, showing that the majority had been close to Edward II and had shown great loyalty to him before, during and after the revolution of 1326/27.  Kent's adherents in 1330 included two Scottish earls (Mar, Robert Bruce's nephew, and Buchan, Henry Beaumont), Welsh knights, a former chamberlain of North Wales and a former keeper of the peace in Berkshire, the earl of Warwick's stepfather, two sheriffs of Kent, a glover, a cellarer and a mercer, Edward II's tailor, the Dunheved brothers, and the notorious gang leader Malcolm Musard.  I hope the article goes some way to destroying the often-repeated myth that Kent only believed Edward was still alive in 1330 because he was 'stupid' and 'gullible'.  He wasn't, and in fact I believe that his many supporters, including men who had reason to dislike and distrust him (former adherents of Edward II and of the Despensers, whom Kent condemned to death in 1326) demonstrate that he was seen as a plausible and credible figure, a genuine leader.  The merciless speed with which Kent was condemned and executed for the 'crime' of trying to free a man who had officially been dead for two and a half years also indicates that Isabella and Roger Mortimer saw him (and his plot) as a real threat, not as a fool.

Anyway, more news about the publication of my article here as and when I know more!  :-) 

22 May, 2011

The Knighting Of 22 May 1306

Today is the 705th anniversary of the knighting of Edward of Caernarfon at Westminster on Sunday 22 May 1306, described by the contemporary chronicler Piers Langtoft as the greatest event in Britain since King Arthur was crowned at Caerleon.*

Some of the nearly 300 men knighted at the same time were: Roger Mortimer and his uncle Roger Mortimer of Chirk; Hugh Despenser the Younger and his kinsman Ralph Basset, future steward of Gascony; the earls of Arundel and Surrey; Edward Balliol, son of the former King John of Scotland; John Comyn, son of the John Comyn of Badenoch recently killed by Robert Bruce and destined to die fighting for Edward II at Bannockburn; John Maltravers, one of Edward II's custodians in 1327; Fulk Fitzwarin and William la Zouche, two of the men who joined the earl of Kent's plot to free Edward in 1330; John, Lord Mowbray, executed in 1322; and the Castilian Roderick of Spain (Rethericus de Ispania), a member of Edward's household.  The name of Edward of Caernarfon himself is given on the list of new knights as 'Lord Edward, Prince of Wales' (Dominus Edwardus Princeps Walliae).  Piers Gaveston (Petrus de Gavaston) appears on the list, but was in fact knighted four days later and not with the others (perhaps because of illness?).

I wrote a post about this splendid event on the 700th anniversary, and here's another one.  :-)  Edward I ordered all his sheriffs on 6 April 1306 to "cause proclamation to be made that all those who are not knights and wish to be shall come to London before Whitsunday to receive from the king's wardrobe all the gear necessary for them in this case, of the king's gift, so that they may be able to receive knighthood from the king there," having announced his intention the previous day of "making Edward, his eldest son, a knight."  The king purchased eighty rolls of scarlet and other coloured cloth, 2500 yards of linen and 5000 yards of canvas.  Edward of Caernarfon himself received, to adorn his chamber in Westminster Palace, five pieces of yellow silk to line his quilt; one piece of green silk to line his cloak; five pieces of red silk to make a dorsal curtain for his bed and five of green for another curtain; six pieces of red silk to line another quilt and five pieces of silk of an unspecified colour to line his second bed.  During the banquet after the knighting, four lengths of gold-threaded cloth were hung on the wall of Westminster Hall behind Edward I and his son.

The minstrels who performed during the splendid banquet afterwards included: the famous acrobat Matilda Makejoy; "the minstrel with the bells" (le menestral oue les cloches); Guilleme the Harper "who is with the Patriarch,"  i.e. Anthony Bek, bishop of Durham, patriarch of Jerusalem and a good friend of Edward of Caernarfon; Martinet "who is with the earl of Warwick"; Baudetti the Taborer and his companion Ernolet; Gauteron the Small and Gauteron the Big; Pearl In The Eye, who had cataracts, and unnamed companion; Mahu "who is with La Dammoisele de Baar," i.e. Edward of Caernarfon's niece Jeanne de Bar, who was shortly to marry the earl of Surrey; Mahu "of the North"; Edward's trumpeters Januche and Gillot, his crwth player Nagary and his harper Amekyn; Reginald The Liar; Lion de Normanville; Master Walter Leskirmissour and his brother, who performed a sword dance.  For their performance, the men and women received between twelve pence (the majority of them) and ten marks (for the highly-skilled musicians such as the trumpeter Janin of the Tower, the vielle-player Guillot de Roos, and the citole-player Richard de Leyland).

* Unkes en Bretagne puys que Dieu fu nez
N'estoye tel nobleye en villes n'en citez
Forpriz Karlioun en antiquitez
Quant sire Arthur luy reis i fust coronez.


- Calendar of Close Rolls 1302-1307, pp. 375, 377, 438, 484.
- Constance Bullock-Davies, Menestrellorum Multitudo: Minstrels at a Royal Feast
- Pierre Chaplais, Piers Gaveston: Edward II's Adoptive Brother

16 May, 2011

Piers Gaveston's Brothers And Some Of Edward II's Supporters In 1326

The second part of my post about Henry of Lancaster is coming soon (I hope)!  In the meantime, here's a kind of random post about some petitions I've been looking at on the National Archives website lately.

1) There's one presented by Piers Gaveston ('Perrot de Gavastun') and his elder brother Arnaud-Guilhem de Marsan to Edward I in or about 1305.  The two men call themselves "sons of Sir Arnaud de Gavastun, late knight of Gascony" (iadis chevaler de Gascoigne; Arnaud had died in 1302), and make various requests of the king, including that "the testament of the lady of Marsan their mother be kept and fulfilled."  Claramonde de Marsan died before 4 February 1287 (see J.S. Hamilton, Piers Gaveston, earl of Cornwall 1307-1312: Politics and Patronage in the Reign of Edward II, p. 25), when four castles of her inheritance were taken into Edward I's hands; Piers' and Arnaud-Guilhem's c. 1305 petition also relates to these castles.  [TNA SC 8/291/14546]

2) A petition presented sometime during Edward II's reign by "Arnaud Guilhem de Marsans and Fortaner de Lescun, brothers" asking for arrears to be paid to them from the lands of their mother the lady of Marsan, i.e. Claramonde.  This is interesting, as J.S. Hamilton (Piers Gaveston, pp. 22, 27-8) identifies Fortaner as Claramonde's brother, not her son.  The petition is pretty faded, and I need to go through it more carefully, but there appears to be a reference to "Sir Arnaud de Gavastun father of the aforesaid Arnaud Guilhem...".  It doesn't say, as far as I can tell, that Arnaud was Fortaner's father.  I'm confused about the Gaveston/Marsan/Lescun family tree.  Was Fortaner de Lescun a brother (or half-brother) of Piers, another son of Claramonde?  Why does Hamilton say he was Claramonde's brother?  Or were there two men called Fortaner de Lescun, one Claramonde de Marsan's brother and the other her son?  Who was the 'Bourd de Gavaston' living at Wallingford Castle in 1312 (Close Rolls 1307-13, p. 468)?  What happened to the younger brothers Gerard and Raymond-Arnaud which Hamilton (p. 26) says Piers had?  Hmmmmm.  [TNA SC 8/278/13863]
3) A petition presented by a John Beauchamp of Somerset which must date from the very end of Edward II's reign, as it's presented to "the king and his council" but mentions "my lady the queen and my lord the duke of Aquitaine her son," i.e. the soon-to-be Edward III.  The petitioner is clearly of Isabella's allegiance and it is apparent from the entire document that she and her faction are now in charge, which makes the naming in the petition of the powerless, imprisoned and soon-to-be ex-king Edward II rather puzzling - although perhaps it reflects the confusion over Edward's status in the weeks before his deposition and indicates that it was still unclear at this point what would happen to him.  Anyway, John Beauchamp complains that John de Toucestre and Richard Broun of Halford led men (eleven are named) from his manor of Shepperton to Bristol to fight against Isabella and her son, against their will (supposedly, but then Beauchamp would say that, wouldn't he?).  I don't know who Richard Broun was - though intend to look into it - but John de Toucestre was a staunch supporter of Edward II in 1326 and long afterwards, joining the earl of Kent's plot to free the former king in 1330.  I wrote about him a while ago.  Fascinating to see what's going on here: Toucestre and Broun take men to fight against a rebel army and for their lawful king and are accused of wrong-doing while he is still their lawful king.  [TNA SC 8/32/1572]

4) Another petition addressed to "my lady the queen and my lord the duke [of Aquitaine]," which presumably dates to the same period of December 1326/January 1327, by one John Giffard of Essex.  Giffard claims that his manor of Bowers Giffard was attacked by Roger Wodeham and more than fifty armed men (Giffard calls them "rebels") who stole some of Giffard's horses to ride against Isabella and her army, Wodeham supposedly claiming in doing so that Giffard was an enemy of Edward II and Hugh Despenser the Younger and of the queen's faction.  Without irony, the petition refers to Wodeham and his men as acting "against the peace of our lord the king" (encontre la pees n're seigneur le Roi).  Giffard says that Wodeham and the rest remained in the company of Hugh Despenser until Despenser went overseas - presumably a reference to his and Edward's sailing from Chepstow on 20 October 1326 - and then returned to Essex and attempted to kill Giffard because of his support of Isabella.  Roger Wodeham was a valet of Edward II's chamber and constable of Hadleigh Castle in Essex, and was said in March 1327 to have ousted a couple from their lands in Essex on Edward II's orders because they refused to "receive Hugh le Despenser, the younger, at the time of his exile" in 1321/22 (Close Rolls 1327-30, pp. 49-50).  As with the previous petition, men fighting on behalf of their king are accused of wrongdoing and named as 'rebels'.  [TNA SC 8/307/15309]

And finally, combining support for Edward II in 1326 and Piers Gaveston's family, here's some info about Arnaud Caillau, who may have been Piers' cousin (Piers' aunt Miramonde de Marsan married Pierre Caillau of Bordeaux) and was certainly a close ally of Edward II and Hugh Despenser the Younger, called "very dear friend" by the latter in a letter of February 1325.  The Gascon Caillau was in England in 1326, and was preparing to sail from Southampton on 10 September "for the expedition of certain of the king's affairs"; presumably the arrival of Roger Mortimer and Isabella's invasion force shortly afterwards delayed his departure. (Close Rolls 1323-27, p. 615 and Fine Rolls 1319-27, p. 415.)  On 22 February 1327, Mortimer and Isabella paid £35, 6 shillings and 6 pence to 158 men in three ships for pursuing Caillau along the coast of Devon and Cornwall between 8 and 20 December 1326; the timing strongly suggests that he had been with Edward until shortly before his capture.  (Close Rolls 1327-30, p. 9.)  The king was not entirely friendless...

08 May, 2011

Henry, Earl Of Lancaster

I've written four posts about Henry of Lancaster's brother Thomas, three about his son Henry of Grosmont, and one about his daughters, but never about Henry himself, so it's high time I rectified that (thanks to reader Kate S. for the the suggestion!). 

Henry of Lancaster, Edward II's first cousin, was born in or about 1281 as the second son of Edward I's brother Edmund, earl of Lancaster, Leicester and Derby (16 January 1245 - 5 June 1296), and Blanche of Artois (c. 1245/48 - 2 May 1302).  Blanche was the niece of Louis IX of France, queen of Navarre by her first marriage, mother-in-law of Philip IV of France and grandmother of Louis X, Philip V, Charles IV and Isabella of France.  (Yes, Isabella's grandmother was also the aunt by marriage of Isabella's husband Edward II; oh, these complicated royal inter-relations.)  Henry of Lancaster was thus grandson and nephew of kings of England, brother-in-law of a king of France, half-brother of a queen of Navarre, and uncle of three kings of France and a queen of England.  So was pretty well-connected, then. 

Sometime before 2 March 1297 [1], when he was about fifteen, Henry married the heiress Maud Chaworth (elder half-sister of Hugh Despenser the Younger), who was born on 2 February 1282 and inherited the lands of her father Patrick and uncle Payn in Carmarthenshire, Glamorgan, Hampshire and Wiltshire.  Henry inherited a part of his father's vast lands, though of course the bulk of it went to his elder brother Thomas, and was lord of Kidwelly and owned the Three Castles in Monmouthshire (Grosmont, Skenfrith and the White Castle).  Henry and Maud had six daughters - the countesses of Arundel and Ulster, the prioress of Amesbury, Lady Percy, Lady Wake and Lady Mowbray - and one son, the great Henry of Grosmont, first duke of Lancaster.  Henry was the grandfather of: Elizabeth, duchess of Clarence; Blanche, duchess of Lancaster (both of the latter daughters-in-law of Edward III); Richard, earl of Arundel, executed by Richard II in 1397; Thomas, archbishop of Canterbury; Maud, countess of Oxford; Alice, countess of Kent; Joan, countess of Hereford; Henry, earl of Northumberland and Thomas, earl of Worcester; and was also the great-grandfather of King Henry IV and of Philippa, queen of Portugal.

As well as his elder brother Thomas, Henry of Lancaster had a younger brother, John, who died childless in 1317; Henry was heir to his lands in France, including Beaufort, after which the illegitimate children of his grandson by marriage and heir John of Gaunt were named.  Henry was widowed sometime before 3 December 1322 [2], and never remarried (the Alix de Joinville often named on genealogical sites as his second wife was in fact the wife of his brother John).  How Henry got on, or not, with his brother-in-law Hugh Despenser the Younger is a matter for speculation, though he seems to have been a loving and caring father to his children and formed close relationships with them: his daughters Blanche Wake, Joan Mowbray and Maud de Burgh (and perhaps the others) lived with him most of the time even after they married, and Henry paid all or most of the expenses of his son Henry long after he reached adulthood.  There is also evidence that the siblings were close and that they and their spouses often travelled together.  [3]  On the other hand, Henry's relationship with his elder brother Thomas was, according to Thomas's biographer John Maddicott, a distant one [4] - for which Thomas's prickly personality was perhaps largely to blame.

Given the eminence of the Lancaster brothers, it's surprising how little is known of their early lives; even their dates of birth are not known.  Henry accompanied his elder brother and their cousin by marriage Jan of Brabant - husband of Edward II's sister Margaret - on several visits to their cousin the future king in 1293, and were with him for his ninth birthday on 25 April.  The boys stayed with Edward again in June, Henry and Thomas accompanied by thirty horses and twenty-one servants and Jan by thirty horses and twenty-four servants, much to the exasperation of Edward's clerk, as Edward's household had to bear all the costs ("They are still here" and "Here they are still, and this day is burdensome," the clerk wrote).  In September 1293 Henry stayed with Edward again, for longer than expected, as he fell ill.  [5]  Henry accompanied his uncle Edward I on the Flanders campaign of 1297, when he was perhaps only sixteen - he wasn't paid for it - and took part in the king's siege of Caerlaverock three years later; the Roll of Arms of Caerlaverock says of him:
"I may go on to speak of Henry,
Whose whole daily study
Was to resemble his good father..."  [6]

In the Barons' Letter to the pope of February 1301, Henry - then about twenty - is named as 'Henry of Lancaster, lord of Monmouth' (Henricus de Lancastre Dominus de Munemue).  He appears tenth on the list, after the eight earls and William, Lord Leyburn.  According to the later and frequently unreliable chronicler Jean Froissart, Henry was known as Wryneck (Tort-Col in French).  To quote Scott L. Waugh in the ODNB, this name "could refer either to a physical deformity, or to the stiff-necked pride that he displayed in his family's political and territorial heritage."

In February 1308, Henry was ordered to meet his cousin Edward II and Isabella of France on their arrival in England after marrying in Boulogne.  [7]  Whether Henry had ever met his niece before, I don't know.  At their coronation several weeks later, Henry carried "the royal rod [virga], at the top of which was a dove" in the procession.  [8]  He crops up occasionally throughout Edward's reign, though as he was a younger brother, he wielded little political influence and didn't play a huge role in events of Edward's turbulent reign.  Edward was probably annoyed with Henry in 1316, when Henry's eldest daughter Blanche (then aged about twelve or fourteen) married Sir Thomas Wake without the king's permission; Edward had been planning to marry Wake, his ward, to his great-niece Joan Gaveston.  Still, it doesn't appear to have had a deleterious effect on the two men's relationship, and Henry took part in the campaign against Llywelyn Bren in early 1316, with Sir William Montacute.  [9]

Henry's younger brother John died childless in 1317, and in May 1318 Edward II granted him permission to travel to France to "obtain the inheritance in that land which by the death of John de Lancastre, his brother, descended to him."  In June 1319, Edward excused Henry from attending the siege of Berwick as he was "beyond the seas on important business."  Henry appears to have spent much if not all of the next few years in France, to judge from the number of times Edward granted him permission and protection to remain overseas (he was still out of England in January 1322 and perhaps even later).  [10]  The pope wrote to Henry several times in 1318 as a close kinsman of both the king and the earl of Lancaster, and "bound to pay them reverence and affection," asking him to promote accord between them "so that the realm may be freed from disturbance" (Edward and Thomas of Lancaster were, to cut a very long story short, feuding endlessly).  [11]  I wonder how effective Henry's intervention was, assuming he even attempted one, given that he was not close to his brother and had little if any influence over his cousin Edward II.

Henry's life was to change dramatically in March 1322, when his brother Earl Thomas was beheaded for treason.  As Thomas had no legitimate children by his wife Alice de Lacy (though had at least two illegitimate sons), Henry was heir to his vast inheritance - but Edward II was unwilling to give all or even most of it up to him, and Henry was to play a vital role in the revolution of 1326/27 and the regime of his niece Isabella. 


1) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1292-1301, p. 239 (a grant to "Henry de Lancastre and Matilda his wife").
2) Calendar of Close Rolls 1318-1323, p. 687 (when the "executors of the will of Matilda, late the wife of the aforesaid Henry" are mentioned).
3) Kenneth Fowler, The King's Lieutenant: Henry of Grosmont, First Duke of Lancaster 1310-1361, pp. 26-27.
4) J.R. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster 1307-1322: A Study in the Reign of Edward II, p. 319.
5) Seymour Phillips, Edward II, pp. 51-53.
6) Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster, p. 68 (for 1297); Thomas Wright, ed., The roll of arms, of the princes, barons, and knights who attended King Edward I to the siege of Caerlaverock, in 1300, p. 20.
7) Close Rolls 1307-1313, p. 51.
8) Ibid., p. 53.
9) Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1308-1348, p. 439.
10) Patent Rolls 1317-1321, pp. 145, 146, 153, 217, 329, 343, 503; Ibid. 1321-1324, p. 69.
11) Calendar of Papal Letters 1305-1341, p. 439.

01 May, 2011

Thank You, My Readers

Edward II's Effigy
Keep of Berkeley Castle
Just wanted to put up a quick post before the next proper one (about Edward II's cousin Henry, earl of Lancaster) to say: today the average number of daily visitors to this blog reached 200 for the first time.  The number of page views stands at just under 225,000 since I added a counter to the site in 2008, and readers have left 4220 comments.  Wow, that's a lot of people who read a blog dedicated to a disastrous and unpopular king of 700 years ago.  :-)  Edward also has almost 600 fans on his Facebook page now.

I'm so pleased, and really want to say a big THANK YOU to all of you for visiting and for your support!  By the way, I'm open to suggestions about future posts, so if there's anything or anyone of Edward II's era you'd like to read about, let me know any time, either in a comment thread or via email: mail(at)edwardthesecond(dot)com, or edwardofcaernarfon(at)yahoo(dot)com.
Edward II's Effigy, with angel

Edward II's Effigy: lion at his feet

Edward II's Tomb

Edward II's Tomb and Effigy

Gloucester Cathedral