25 July, 2013

Joan of Ponthieu, Queen of Castile and Leon, Countess of Ponthieu and Aumale

Following Sarah's recent terrific guest post about Eleanor of Provence, queen of England, Edward II's paternal grandmother, I thought it was time for a post about his other grandmother Jeanne de Dammartin, known in English as Joan of Ponthieu, queen of Castile and Leon, countess of Ponthieu and Aumale in her own right.

Joan's date of birth is unknown but is estimated as around 1220 or perhaps a year or two earlier.  At the time of her birth, Philip Augustus was still king of France, having reigned since 1180, while the young Henry III had recently succeeded his father John as king of England.  Joan was in fact the great-niece of Philip Augustus, her maternal grandmother Alais/Alys/Alex (who lived until c. 1220) being the king's elder half-sister.  Henry III of England would also loom large in Joan's life: she was betrothed to him for a few months in 1234/35, and in 1254 her daughter married his son.  According to Dr John Carmi Parsons, biographer of Joan's daughter Eleanor of Castile, Joan was known to be a great beauty.  [1]

Joan's father was Simon de Dammartin, count of Aumale, who was born around 1180 as the son of Aubry de Dammartin, count of Aumale, and Mathilde de Clermont, and was about forty when his eldest daughter was born.  Simon opposed Philip Augustus and fought against him at the battle of Bouvines in 1214, despite already being married to his niece, Joan's mother Marie, who was born probably in April 1199.  She was the only (surviving) child of the seemingly rather mismatched marriage between Guillaume Talvas, count of Ponthieu and Alais, daughter of Louis VII of France and Constance of Castile and older half-sister of Philip Augustus.  Guillaume and Alais married in 1195 when they were sixteen and almost thirty-five respectively, shortly after Richard Lionheart, king of England, finally returned his repudiated fiancée Alais to France and her brother the king.  Philip may have been hoping that Alais and Guillaume's marriage would remain childless and that the county of Ponthieu would thus fall to the French crown, but Marie survived, and although she did not at first inherit the county on her father's death in 1221 - Philip Augustus gave it to his cousin Robert, count of Dreux - she came to an agreement with his son Louis VIII in 1225.  Count Simon died in 1239, Countess Marie in 1251.

Joan of Ponthieu had three younger sisters, Matilda (or Agatha), Philippa and Marie, all of whom lived long enough to marry.  In England the inheritance of Ponthieu and Aumale would have been shared equally between the four sisters, but France practised primogeniture also for women, and thus Joan as the eldest sister inherited everything.  She was therefore a rich matrimonial prize, and in 1234/35 Henry III of England cast his eye on her and sent envoys to Ponthieu asking for her hand.  Marital negotiations advanced far enough that Henry wrote to Simon de Dammartin asking that Joan be sent to England before Pentecost, 27 May 1235, so that she might be crowned its queen on that day, and the two pledged themselves by verba de presenti, a binding agreement to marry.  [2]  Ponthieu, though neither large nor particularly rich, bordered Flanders and the duchy of Normandy, which Henry's father King John had lost to Philip Augustus in 1204.  The county was thus strategically important and would have made an excellent base for an English campaign to regain Normandy.  Philip Augustus's daughter-in-law Blanche of Castile and his grandson Louis IX were sufficiently alarmed at the prospect to threaten Simon de Dammartin and his daughter with invasion if the marriage to the king of England went ahead.

Henry III obligingly married instead Eleanor of Provence, whose elder sister Marguerite was already married to Louis IX, while Blanche of Castile, in collaboration with her eldest sister Queen Berenguela, arranged Joan's marriage to Berenguela's widowed son Fernando III of Castile and Leon, which had the dual benefit of allying the future countess of Ponthieu to the queen-regent of France's family and packing her off hundreds of miles out of the way.  Joan and Fernando were second cousins once removed by common descent from Alfonso VII of Castile (Alfonso VII - Constanza of Castile - Alais of France - Marie of Ponthieu - Joan of Ponthieu; Alfonso VII - Fernando II of Leon - Alfonso IX of Leon - Fernando III), for which they required a papal dispensation to marry.

The exact date of Joan and Fernando's marriage is uncertain, but had taken place before the end of October 1237.  Joan was probably about seventeen (though may have been twenty), Fernando twenty years older with eight children, seven sons and a daughter, still alive from his first marriage to Beatriz of Swabia (two other daughters had died in infancy).  His eldest child Alfonso was close to Joan's own age, having been born in November 1221, and with six other sons as well the chances that a son of Joan's would accede to the Castilian throne were vanishingly small; one notable disadvantage of marrying Fernando rather than Henry III of England, who had no previous wife and no children.  It probably goes without saying that we know next to nothing about Fernando and Joan's personal relationship and whether their marriage was a happy one; perhaps Joan was favourably impressed with her husband's military prowess, as town after town across Al-Andalus fell to him in the 1230s and 1240s.  Córdoba had been captured the year before their wedding, Niebla and Huelva fell to Fernando the year after, Écija in 1240, and so on.  In 1244 Fernando moved permanently to the south of Spain to better continue his operations against the Almohads, and Joan accompanied him, presumably with their young children, including Leonor, future queen of England.  Joan and her children likely took part in the triumphal procession into Seville on 22 December 1248, which had fallen to Fernando following a sixteen-month siege a month earlier.

Joan and Fernando's eldest child, don Fernando, was born in 1238 or 1239.  Their second, Edward II's mother doña Leonor, was probably born in late 1241, perhaps in Valladolid where Fernando III spent much of the winter of 1241/42, though it is not entirely clear if Joan was with him.  A third child, don Luis, followed before the end of March 1243 (when he and Fernando's other children were named in the just-finished chronicle De Rebus Hispaniae Libris IX of don Rodrigo Jimenez de Rada, archbishop of Toledo and Fernando III's chancellor).  Two other sons, Juan and Ximen - the latter named after Joan's father Simon de Dammartin - died young; Juan died shortly after birth some time after February 1244 and was buried in Córdoba, while Ximen was buried in Toledo, presumably before Fernando and Joan moved permanently south early that year.  [3]

Joan was probably only in her early thirties when she was widowed on 30 May 1252.  King Fernando III of Castile and Leon, the great warrior-king, died in the city of Seville which he had recaptured from the Almohads, the city of which he would be made patron saint centuries later.  Queen Joan was at her husband's death-bed.  According to the court historian Jofré de Loaysa, who was also present at Fernando's death, the king was buried on Saturday 1 June "in front of the altar of the Church of Santa María in Seville" and "in the presence of all his children except the archbishop of Toledo [don Sancho]." [4]  This would of course include Edward II's then ten-year-old mother Leonor.  Fernando was succeeded as king by Joan's thirty-year-old stepson Alfonso X, who was married to Violante of Aragon, fifteen-year-old daughter of Jaime I 'el Conquistador'.  (She was also the elder sister of Isabel of Aragon, who married Philip III of France and was the paternal grandmother of Edward II's queen Isabella of France.)

According to Alfonso X's biographer, the new king was always very respectful to his stepmother, though perhaps their relationship was a rather distant and detached one.  Fernando III had given his queen 'doña Juana' an extremely generous land settlement, including Córdoba, Carmona, Marchena, Luque and other estates and territories in the provinces of Córdoba, Jaén and Arjona.  After Fernando's death Joan agreed with Alfonso X that she would keep only Marchena (I passed through this town on the train between Málaga and Seville on 30 May, incidentally).  [5]  Queen Joan returned to her native Ponthieu in or shortly after July 1254, when she and her eldest child don Fernando, then about fifteen, were granted a safe-conduct by Henry III of England to pass through his territory of Gascony.  Fernando was called Fernando of Ponthieu, not of Castile, presumably on the grounds that he was heir to the county ("Ferrand de Pontibus, son of Ferdinand sometime king of Castile and Leon"). [6]  Perhaps Joan felt more comfortable living in her own lands, with her own language around her, than she did in a Castile ruled by her stepson, but of course I can only speculate.  Her daughter Leonor married Lord Edward, son and heir of Joan's former fiancé Henry III of England, in Burgos on or around 1 November 1254 (see link above); her younger son don Luis, who was eleven or twelve in 1254, remained behind in Castile, and began to witness charters of his half-brother Alfonso X in October 1255.  [7]  Luis was eventually to marry a Castilian noblewoman,  Juana Gómez de Manzanedo, lady of Gatón, with whom he had a son Luis and a daughter Berenguela, while don Fernando made an alliance both with France and England when he married the French noblewoman Laure de Montfort, niece of Henry III's brother-in-law Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester.  Luis died sometime before 1279; Fernando died in or before 1264, leaving a son, Jean de Ponthieu, who was killed at the battle of the Golden Spurs (aka the battle of Courtrai) on 11 July 1302.

Contemporary and possibly malicious and untrue rumour had it that Queen Joan took another of her stepsons, the colourful don Enrique, who was at least ten years her junior (born 1230), as her lover.  As Alfonso X's biographer H. Salvador Martínez puts it: "Don Enrique, a rebellious, adventurous figure inclined to fall in love, was mocked by satirical poetry in the period that paint him as the lover of his stepmother, whose coif he would take into battle with him as a lucky charm.  Other poems present Queen Juana crying and begging her husband for mercy for the prince."  Martínez also states that after Fernando III's death, "The relations between the brothers worsened when Alfonso [X] found out that Enrique had become the lover of doña Juana of Ponthieu...for Alfonso had loved and honoured Fernando [III] and had promised him on his death-bed that he would protect his mother-in-law [sic].  Enrique's relations with doña Juana dishonoured the memory of Fernando III, so Alfonso took drastic measures against his brother."  [8]  Enrique fled from Castile in 1256 following a failed rebellion against Alfonso X and spent three years in England cheerfully sponging off his half-sister Leonor's father-in-law Henry III, having most probably passed through Ponthieu and spent time with Joan on the way.  [9]

Probably at the beginning of the 1260s, Joan married her second husband, Jean de Nesle, lord of Falvy and La Hérelle, who I assume was one of her vassals.  When her son-in-law Edward I of England and daughter Queen Eleanor were returning to England from the Holy Land in the summer of 1274, they stayed with Joan in Ponthieu, and left their two-year-old daughter, Joan's namesake Joan of Acre, with her.  Granddaughter and grandmother remained together until Queen Joan's death.  John Carmi Parsons has speculated that Joan of Acre had been "perhaps thoroughly spoiled by an indulgent grandmother."  [10]  Doting on her grandchildren is something Joan had in common with Eleanor of Provence, and makes me wish both women could have lived longer and been a presence in their grandson Edward of Caernarfon's life (he had Eleanor of Provence till he was seven, at least).

Joan, countess of Ponthieu and Aumale, dowager queen of Castile and Leon and mother of the queen of England, died on 16 March 1279, probably aged sixty or almost.  Her widower Jean de Nesle lived until February 1292 (which would seem to indicate that he was younger than her).  Queen Joan outlived all four of her sons Fernando, Luis, Juan and Ximen, and was survived by her daughter Eleanor, queen of England, and several grandchildren.  Joan's grandson Jean de Ponthieu inherited her county of Aumale, while her county of Ponthieu passed to her daughter Queen Eleanor and in 1290 to her grandson Edward of Caernarfon.


1) John Carmi Parsons, Eleanor of Castile: Queen and Society in Thirteenth-Century England (1995), pp. 8-9.
2) Margaret Howell, Eleanor of Provence: Queenship in Thirteenth-Century England (1998), pp. 10-12.
3) All the information about the births and deaths of Joan and Fernando's children, and the approximate date of their wedding, comes from Parsons, Eleanor of Castile, pp. 8-9, 259-260 notes 9 to 11; Parsons, 'The Year of Eleanor of Castile's Birth and her Children by Edward I', Mediaeval Studies, 46 (1984), pp. 245 on.  I am indebted to Dr Parsons for his superb research and scholarship.
4) H. Salvador Martínez, trans. by Odile Cisneros, Alfonso X, the Learned (2010), p. 97.
5) Ibid., pp. 41, 111, 112.
6) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1247-1258, pp. 311, 351.
7) Parsons, 'Year of Eleanor of Castile's Birth', p. 247.
8) Martínez, Alfonso X, p. 111 note 64, p. 305.
9) Parsons, Eleanor of Castile, pp. 18-20.
10) Ibid., pp. 31, 40.

19 July, 2013

July Anniversaries

1 July 1308: Edward II remembered that in six days it would be the first anniversary of his father Edward I's death, and wrote to his chancellor John Langton, bishop of Chichester: "As next Sunday, 7 July, will be the anniversary of the king's father, and the king wishes that the service for his soul on that day shall be done so well and solemnly on all points that nothing shall fail and it shall be to the king's honour; the king prays the chancellor dearly to be at the said service at Westminster, both at the Saturday before at placebo and dirige and on the Sunday at mass, and to take pains with the other bishops and the treasurer, who will be there, that the service be well ordered."

1 July 1324: Day originally arranged for Edward II to pay homage for his French lands to his brother-in-law Charles IV of France. Edward made excuses, didn't go, and soon found himself at war with Charles.

5 July 1321: Birth of Edward and Isabella's youngest child Joan of the Tower, future queen of Scotland.  Edward was thirty-seven at the time of his daughter's birth, Isabella twenty-five or twenty-six.

5 July 1321: Edward authorised the foundation of several houses for teaching logic and theology at Cambridge University, at the request of his clerk Roger Northburgh, shortly to become bishop of Coventry and Lichfield on the death of Walter Langton.

5 July 1321: Wedding of Edward's kinsman Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, who was then about fifty, and the much younger Marie de St Pol.

5 July 1324: Wedding of Edward's brother-in-law Charles IV of France and Jeanne of Evreux, who was the daughter of Philip IV's half-brother Louis, count of Evreux and thus Charles' first cousin. Although lots of people nowadays claim that their wedding date is unknown or that Charles and Jeanne married in July 1325, the date is in fact known for certain 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 Dreux [sic]." (...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 [sic] qore est.)  The Translation of St Thomas Becket is 7 July, a Saturday in 1324.

5 July 1325: On Joan of the Tower's fourth birthday, Edward sent envoys to negotiate a marriage between her and one of the sons of Charles, count of Valois, Queen Isabella's uncle, although he was also negotiating a marriage for her in Aragon (with Jaime II's grandson the future Pedro IV) at the same time. The boy in question was not named, but can only have been Valois' youngest son Louis, count of Chartres, born in 1318, whose mother was Marie de St Pol's sister Mahaut.

6 July 1332: Birth of Elizabeth de Burgh, only child of William Donn de Burgh, earl of Ulster and Maud of Lancaster (one of the six daughters of Edward II's first cousin Henry, earl of Lancaster). Elizabeth was sole heir to her father's earldom and to the third of the vast de Clare inheritance of her paternal grandmother, Edward II's niece Elizabeth de Clare. She married Edward III's second son Lionel of Antwerp, who was a few years her junior, and had one daughter, Philippa, who married Edmund Mortimer, earl of March.

7 July 1307: Death of Edward I, aged sixty-eight, at Burgh-by-Sands near Carlisle; accession of twenty-three-year-old Edward II, duke of Aquitaine, prince of Wales, earl of Chester and count of Ponthieu as king of England and lord of Ireland.

7 July 1317: Edward II founded the King's Hall (Aula Regis) at Cambridge University as a place to educate the children of his chapel; the Hall maintained thirty-two scholars from 1319.  In 1546, Edward's descendant Henry VIII incorporated King's Hall and Michaelhouse – founded in 1324 by the chief justice Hervey Staunton, a staunch supporter of Edward II – into his new foundation of Trinity College.  Edward II was the first king of England to found colleges at Cambridge and Oxford (he also founded Oriel College at Oxford in 1326), and is one of only a handful of people throughout the centuries to establish colleges at both universities.

7 and 8 July 1312: Travelling to London from York after Piers Gaveston's murder, Edward gave a pound to Janin the Conjuror for performing tricks in his private chamber at Swineshead Priory, and three shillings to a group of acrobats for "making their vaults" before him at Surfleet.

8 July every year: The first day of Edward II's regnal year.

8 July 1313: Edward hosted a great banquet in Amiens, France, and gave the enormous sum of twenty pounds to Robert, 'King of Heralds' and other unnamed minstrels who performed there.

11 July 1307: The date on which Edward II, in or near London, heard that he had acceded as king of England.  His first act as king, almost certainly, was to recall Piers Gaveston from exile.

12 July 1380 (or shortly before): Death of Blanche, Lady Wake, eldest and last surviving child of Edward II's first cousin and Isabella of France's uncle Henry, earl of Lancaster (and sister of Maud of Lancaster, above).  Blanche was born in about 1302 in the reign of Edward I, and lived into the reign of his great-great-grandson Richard II.

13 July 1389: Death of Elizabeth, Lady Berkeley, youngest and last surviving child of Hugh Despenser the Younger and Eleanor de Clare, and thus Edward II's great-niece.  Elizabeth was fortunate to escape Isabella of France's vindictive forced veiling of three of her older sisters at the beginning of 1327, as she was either a baby or perhaps still in utero (the eldest sister, Isabel, also escaped the forced veiling because she was already married).  Elizabeth's eldest son Thomas, Lord Berkeley, also died on 13 July, in 1417.

14 July 1322: Five men – the mayor of London, three justices of the court of Common Pleas and the chief baron of the exchequer – condemned Roger Mortimer of Wigmore and his uncle Mortimer of Chirk to death.  Eight days later, Edward commuted the two men's sentence to life imprisonment, surely the biggest mistake he ever made given what happened in 1326.

15 July 1313: Around sunset, Edward and Isabella returned from their long visit to France, during which Edward saved his wife's life when a fire broke out in their lodgings and consoled himself on the first anniversary of Piers Gaveston's murder by watching 54 naked dancers perform for him.

15 July 1319: Edward knighted his half-brother Thomas of Brotherton, earl of Norfolk, who was then nineteen, born on 1 June 1300 (sixteen years the king's junior).

16 July 1212: Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, a resounding victory for the Christian kings Alfonso VIII of Castile, Pedro II of Aragon, Sancho VII of Navarre and Afonso II of Portugal over the forces of the Almohad caliphate, rulers of Al-Andalus, led by Muhammad al-Nasir. The battle fatally weakened Almohad rule in Spain and would prove to be a decisive moment in the Spanish Reconquista. In the 1230s and 1240s, towns and cities across Al-Andalus were recaptured by Alfonso VIII's grandson Fernando III of Castile (Edward II's grandfather!), with the greatest prize of all, Seville, falling to the king on 23 November 1248. The death toll among the Almohad forces during the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa is estimated at over 100,000; the defeated al-Nasir died in Marrakech a few months later.  Many thanks to my friend Kasia for informing me of a letter sent by Edward II's great-grandmother Berenguela, daughter of Alfonso VIII and mother of Fernando III, to her sister Blanca or Blanche, future queen of France: "Our father, the king and lord, conquered Miramamolin [Muhammad al-Nasir] in a pitched battle; we believe this to be a signal honour, because until now it was unheard of that the king of Morocco should be overcome on the battlefield."

17 July 1328: Wedding of seven-year-old Joan of the Tower and Robert Bruce's four-year-old son David, who succeeded his father as king of Scotland the following year.  The marriage would prove to be unhappy and childless.  Joan died in England in 1362 at the age of forty-one, and David - who had no children with his second queen either - died in 1371 to be succeeded by his half-nephew Robert II (grandson of Robert Bruce and his first wife Isabella of Mar), who rather oddly was eight years his senior.

18 July 1290: Edward's father Edward I expelled the entire Jewish population from England.

18 July 1317: Beginning of a meeting of the king's great council at Nottingham, which Edward's cousin and greatest enemy Thomas, earl of Lancaster, failed to attend.  On the 21st, Edward sent Lancaster a letter, repeating the summons and remonstrating with him for holding private assemblies and for employing an unusual number of armed retainers, "whence the people are considerably frightened." 

20 July 1307: Edward II was proclaimed king of England and lord of Ireland "by descent and heritage" at Carlisle Castle.

20 July 1319: Edward asked the two archbishops and all the bishops of England to pray for him on his way to Berwick-on-Tweed, taken by Robert Bruce the previous year, but then didn't arrive in Berwick until 7 September.  (Predictably, Edward's siege and attempt to recapture the vital port ended in utter failure.)

Sometime between 20 and 24 July 1318: Execution of John of Powderham, royal impostor, who claimed to be the rightful son of Edward I.

21 July 1324: Now at war with France and with his French lands confiscated, Edward did the only thing he could to retaliate and ordered all French subjects in England to be arrested and their goods seized.

25 July 1317: Edward granted Queen Isabella the county of Cornwall.

25 July 1326: Edward gave two shillings to John de Walton, who "sang before the king [chaunta deuant le Roi] every time he passed by water through these parts," and also gave Edward a present of loach.

26 July 1316: End of the rebellion in Bristol.

26 July 1316: Edward left a very pregnant Queen Isabella - their son John was born on 15 August - at Eltham Palace in Kent to travel north for a campaign in Scotland which he then cancelled.  

27 July 1309: Opening of parliament at Stamford in Lincolnshire; Piers Gaveston, who had recently returned from his year in exile as lord lieutenant of Ireland, appeared at Edward II's side and was re-granted his earldom of Cornwall during the parliament.

28 July 1321: Edward created Edmund of Woodstock, the younger of his two half-brothers, earl of Kent.  Edmund was then almost twenty, born on 5 August 1301.

29 July 1304: Edward I granted the wardship of seventeen-year-old Roger Mortimer, whose father Edmund had recently died, to Piers Gaveston (who must have been at least twenty-one at the time and was probably quite a bit older than that).

29 July 1321: Edward and the Despensers' enemies the Marcher lords, who had recently despoiled the Despensers' lands in England and Wales and whom Edward soon took to calling the 'Contrariants', arrived in London, two weeks late for parliament.  The Londoners refused to admit them, and Edward also refused to meet them or even to listen to their demands that the Despensers be perpetually exiled from England, and they and their heirs disinherited "as false and traitorous criminals and spies." The Marchers placed themselves and their armies around the city walls, at strategic locations, to prevent the king leaving the city. Two days earlier, the Marchers had sent two knights as envoys to Edward, to tell him that they held both Hugh Despensers "enemies and traitors to you and to the kingdom, and for this they wish them to be removed from here [i.e. England]."  Edward refused to meet the envoys, offering the rather feeble excuse that they had no letters of credence.

11 July, 2013

Eleanor of Provence and her children (guest post)

Today I'm delighted to bring you a guest post by my lovely talented friend Sarah, formerly of Sarah's History, who now runs a fab new blog about Edward II's grandfather Henry III (see end of post for link).  Sarah tells us all about Henry's queen Eleanor of Provence and her relationship with her children and grandchildren, including the future Edward II.

Eleanor of Provence was not a faultless woman. In her time as queen she made many enemies, both within her court and among her subjects. She was skilled politically, but often advanced her Savoyard relatives ahead of those who were of English birth, which of course did nothing for her own reputation. The king, Henry III, advanced his own Lusignan relatives, causing further rifts within royal circles. During the struggles of the 1260s, the Simon de Montfort led barons of England called for all those of foreign birth to be expelled from the country, so angry were they with Eleanor’s influence (Simon de Montfort himself was, of course, not of English birth, but that didn’t seem to matter). The monarchy’s survival, for over a year, hung in the balance.

Putting political issues to one side, Eleanor and Henry were an extraordinarily close couple, loyal to one another throughout their marriage. Eleanor raised troops for Henry in 1264 following his defeat at Lewes, stood side by side with him throughout the struggles he faced during his reign, and was thought to have been at his bedside as he died (Howell, p.253). There was not a whiff of sexual scandal during their marriage, no mistresses, no lovers. Eleanor and Henry had five children together, and through them over twenty grandchildren.

Eleanor’s family was important to her, and this is demonstrated by her actions with regards to them. I’ve briefly spoken of her commitment to her husband so will say no more of that; today, I want to discuss Eleanor’s relationships with her children and grandchildren.

Of her five children, the relationship which is best documented is that between Eleanor and her eldest son, Edward, who was born at the Palace of Westminster in June 1239 and baptised at the abbey a few days later (Morris, p.5). Edward was very quickly installed with his nurses at Windsor Castle. His parents spent over £10,000 making improvements to Windsor, which of course means Edward was raised with the best of everything; stone chambers, fireplaces, tiled floors, beautifully painted walls and hygienic privy chambers- having enough hygienic toilet facilities, as well as their maintenance and condition, was important to Henry III (Wade-Labarge, p.25). Edward ate from a silver plate and wore clothes of the finest fabrics (Morris, p.6); he was raised in wonderful comfort. His education, too, was of the utmost importance. Though the exact details of what Edward learned are as yet unknown to us, we can safely assume he was taught to read, though not necessarily how to write (Morris, p.8), as well as languages, knightly skills, history and theology.

Eleanor, as queen, was required to move around the country with Henry III, so she did not spend every day with her children. She did visit Windsor often, however; the queen on average spent more than half of the year, every year, with her children at Windsor Castle (Morris, p.6). This was, by the standards of the time, a lot of time to be spent with one’s children. King Henry, too, spent a lot of time at Windsor with his family, though not quite as much as Queen Eleanor. Edward was joined quickly by three siblings; Margaret was born in 1240, Beatrice in 1242 and Edmund in 1245. All of the royal children were raised at Windsor with the help of nurses, guardians and the queen’s relatives from Savoy.

As the children grew older the love of their mother and the concern for their welfare remained constant. One incident that demonstrates the depth of the love held by Queen Eleanor is that of when Edward fell sick while travelling with his parents in 1246. The family had travelled to Beaulieu for the rededication of the royal Cistercian foundation, and while there, Edward suddenly became extremely ill - so ill that it was thought too dangerous to move him. The queen decided quickly that Edward was to stay at Beaulieu and that she would stay with him (Howell, p.101). A woman staying within the walls of a Cistercian abbey was unheard of as it seriously breached their rules, but Eleanor would not move. She stayed with her son for three weeks, refusing to leave him in the care of doctors, nurses or monks, risking her own health at a time when medicine was not what it is now.

Eleanor showed a similar display of concern, it could be argued, soon after Edward married Eleanor of Castile in November 1254. Eleanor of Castile had almost certainly fallen pregnant soon after her marriage and given birth to a stillborn daughter the following May (Morris, p.22); a heartbreaking incident, which had stirred King Henry and Queen Eleanor into wanting to protect the thirteen year old princess. Henry III requested that Lord Edward travel to his lands in Ireland, while his wife was to be received by the king and queen in England; the separation would obviously mean that Eleanor would not fall pregnant again soon, protecting her health and safety from the dangers of being pregnant so young. Edward defied his parents and travelled to England instead, arriving home six weeks after Eleanor of Castile (Morris, p.23). It would seem the older couple had the younger couple’s interests at heart, though were probably thought of by the young prince as interfering. The worry about a daughter in law dying in childbirth became a tragic reality when in 1274 Aveline, the wife of Eleanor’s second son Edmund, died while giving birth to twins.

In 1253 a daughter had been born to Eleanor and Henry after an eight-year period with no children. Little Katherine was not in good health; she is thought to have been born deaf and mute, as Matthew Paris described her as muta et inutilis, and she was not strong like her siblings. She died in her fourth year, in November 1256 (Howell, p.101). The king and queen were devastated, both so deeply grieved their little daughter that they became sick, the queen dangerously so (Howell, p.101). Masses were said daily for the little girl’s soul, a demonstration of the love and affection felt by the king and queen for their lost daughter. She had not been betrothed or served any political purpose yet; she was grieved so deeply simply because she was loved. Henry and Eleanor loved all of their children. Messengers were frequently travelling between their courts and the new courts of their older, married daughters; excellent marriages were made for the four surviving children, with the girls not endangered by early consummation; and though they were grown and left home Eleanor’s daughters visited often.

Eleanor of Provence was widowed in November 1272 and entered into a new phase of her life as queen dowager. Just before he died Henry III placed Windsor Castle in Eleanor’s custody, and it was to here that she moved (Howell, p.288). Just like her children, the households of some of Eleanor’s grandchildren were established at Windsor- Edward I’s son Henry and daughter Eleanor were both there. When she was awarded her dower lands by her son the following summer, Eleanor established herself a household at her palace at Guildford, her grandchildren with her.

It is with her grandson Henry, named after her husband, that Eleanor seems to have had the closest relationship. He was a sick child, and as she had cared for his father in 1246 she cared for his son. Physicians that were held in high esteem by the dowager queen were appointed to care for young Henry (Howell, p.289) and on one occasion he was bathed in a gallon of wine, at a cost of 4d, as the process was thought to be strengthening (Wade-Labarge, p.26). Henry died aged just six years old in October 1274, shortly after his parents had returned from crusade and had been crowned king and queen. He died at his grandmother’s palace at Guildford (Howell, p.289); presumably, she had been with him as he died too, just as she was likely with his grandfather. It was at the dowager queen’s insistence that a gift of £10 a year for Henry’s nurse was made permanent, and it was she that founded a Dominican priory at Guildford in his memory (Howell, p.289). These are the actions of a woman who is clearly grieving for someone beloved. The following year both of Queen Eleanor’s daughters died, too; the chronicler Thomas Wykes commented that the grief of losing her daughters was only comforted by the joy Eleanor found in their children.

After Eleanor left Windsor for Guildford, she was frequently visited by her grandchildren, and more were still to come. In April 1284 Edward of Caernarfon was born, who quickly became heir apparent when another of the dowager queen’s grandchildren, ten year old Alfonso, died later that year. By this time Eleanor was making preparations to enter the convent at Amesbury for the rest of her days, though she still took an active interest in the well-being of her grandchildren. Edward I was advised by his mother not to take young Edward north, for the fear of the cold weather making him ill.

Eleanor entered Amesbury in July 1286, shortly after her two granddaughters were veiled; Eleanor of Brittany was the ten year old daughter of Beatrice, and Mary the six year old daughter of Edward (Howell, p.300). The girls took their vows with other girls from noble families in grand ceremonies in March and August of 1285 respectively. Eleanor is often accused at this point of acting selfishly; the installation of her granddaughters would of course make life at Amesbury more appealing. However, the entry of girls into convents was regarded as an act of great piety, and Eleanor may have been thinking of the well-being of her family’s souls as well as her own interests. The younger Eleanor and Mary were protected from the danger of dying in childbirth, they were protected by God as nuns and their lives were not as restricted as one might think, as both girls visited their families at the royal courts and Mary took part in several pilgrimages. Eleanor of Brittany eventually became an abbess, and both women lived long lives in good health.

Eleanor of Provence is an often maligned queen and was politically unpopular in her time. She was, however, a loving and committed wife, mother and grandmother, and while this was not politically important in the grand scheme of things, it gave her immediate descendants a love and security that is often thought to be missing in medieval families. Eleanor and Henry, and their children and grandchildren, experienced love, trust and a familial closeness that would be difficult to replicate in their times.
Margaret Howell, Eleanor of Provence: Queenship in Thirteenth Century England, Blackwell Publishing, 2001
Margaret Wade-Labarge, Mistress, Maids and Men: Baronial Life in the Thirteenth Century, Phoenix Books, 2003 (Originally published in 1965)
Michael Prestwich, Edward I, Yale English Monarchs Series, 1997 (Originally published in 1988)
Marc Morris, A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain, Hutchinson/Random House, 2008
Seymour Phillips, Edward II, Yale English Monarchs Series, 2010

Sarah is currently studying for a Bachelor of History with Latin degree at an English university and regularly blogs at her site: http://henryofwinchester.wordpress.com/

07 July, 2013

7 July 1307: Death Of Edward I

Edward I, king of England and lord of Ireland, died at Burgh-by-Sands near Carlisle on 7 July 1307.  He was sixty-eight and on his way to yet another campaign in Scotland, this one against Robert Bruce, who had had himself crowned king of Scots at Scone the previous year.  Around the middle of the afternoon on the feast day of the Translation of St Thomas Becket, and with Scotland in sight across the Solway Firth, King Edward raised himself from his bed to take some food, and fell back dead in his attendants' arms.

Edward's twenty-three-year-old son Lord Edward (of Caernarfon), duke of Aquitaine, prince of Wales, earl of Chester and count of Ponthieu, was in or near London at the time of his father's death, nearly 320 miles away, and probably heard the news on the 11th.  His first act as king almost certainly was to recall his beloved Piers Gaveston from exile on the continent, and the two men were reunited in southern Scotland a few weeks later.

As I've already written a post about Edward II's accession, today I'll take a look at the wider stage, at who was reigning in other European countries in 1307.  The king of France was Philip IV 'le Bel', then in his late thirties, Edward II's future father-in-law and second cousin (their paternal grandmothers Marguerite and Eleanor of Provence, queens of France and England, were sisters).  On Friday 13 October 1307, Philip would arrest the Knights Templar in France, and the new king of England would do his best to protect them, refuse to believe the charges against them and arrest them in his own country, even after receiving the papal bull Pastoralis praeeminentiae on 14 December.

The king of Germany and duke of Austria in 1307 was Albrecht or Albert von Hapsburg, then in his early fifties, who would be murdered on 1 May 1308 by his nephew Johann of Swabia.  Albrecht was one of the many children of Rudolf I, king of Germany (died 1291), and the brother of Hartmann, who was once betrothed to Edward II's sister Joan of Acre and who drowned in 1281.  Another European king was Edward I's first cousin (his mother was Beatrice of Provence) Charles, king of Naples and Albania, prince of Salerno, Achaea and Taranto, then also in his fifties, who died on 5 May 1309.

The king of Castile was twenty-one-year-old Fernando IV, Edward II's first cousin once removed via Edward's mother Eleanor of Castile.  According to a contemporary English newsletter, a Castilian cardinal named Pedro, visiting England in late 1306, announced that the Castilian magnates had decided that if Fernando died without a son, Edward of Caernarfon should succeed him as king.  Fernando IV and Constanca of Portugal's son Alfonso XI was finally born in 1311, nine years after their marriage.  The king of Aragon in 1307 was forty-year-old Jaime II, successor of his brother Alfonso III (died 1291), who had long been betrothed to Edward II's sister Eleanor but died before the wedding took place.  In later years, Edward and Jaime, or rather their representatives, took part in various negotiations for marriages between members of their families - Edward's half-brother Thomas of Botherton to Jaime's daughter, Edward's son Edward of Windsor to another of Jaime's daughters, Edward's daughter Joan of the Tower to Jaime's grandson the future Pedro IV - but ultimately nothing came of them.  The king of Portugal in 1307 was Diniz, whose mother Beatriz of Castile was Edward II's first cousin.  Diniz also offered his daughter Maria in marriage to Edward's son Edward of Windsor in the 1320s, but as the latter was then betrothed to Leonor of Castile, daughter of Fernando IV and sister of Alfonso XI, Edward had to refuse.  (Maria of Portugal later married Alfonso XI of Castile, who had previously been betrothed to Edward II's daughter Eleanor of Woodstock; Leonor of Castile married Jaime II's son Alfonso IV of Aragon, father of Pedro IV by a previous marriage.  Alfonso XI and Maria of Portugal's son Pedro I 'the Cruel' was due to marry Edward III's daughter Joan in 1348, but she died of plague on the way; Pedro's daughters with Maria de Padilla, Constanza and Isabel, later married Joan's brothers John of Gaunt and Edmund of Langley.  Alfonso XI of Castile and his queen Maria of Portugal were first cousins on both sides of the family, his father Fernando IV and her mother Isabel of Castile being brother and sister, and his mother Constanca of Portugal and her father King Diniz being brother and sister.  Diniz's wife Elizabeth of Aragon, canonised in 1625, was the sister of Jaime II.  It's all so confusing.)

Other rulers in 1307 were: Duke Arthur II of Brittany, Edward II's first cousin; Duke John II of Brabant, Edward's brother-in-law; Andronikos II Palaiologos, Byzantine Emperor, whose second wife Eirene (born Yolande of Montferrat) was Edward II's first cousin once removed; Henri de Lusignan, king of Cyprus and titular king of Jerusalem; Károly or Charles I, king of Hungary, whose sister Clemence married Edward II's brother-in-law Louis X of France in 1315; Hugues V, duke of Burgundy and titular king of Thessalonica, whose sister Marguerite was Louis X's first wife; Leo III, king of Armenia, to whom Edward wrote shortly after his accession and who was assassinated in November 1307; Oljeitu or Öljaitü, also called Mohammed Khadobandeh, great-great-great-grandson of Genghis Khan and the ruler of the Il-Khanate from 1304 to his death in 1316.  The Il-Khanate was one of the four khanates of the Mongol Empire, and covered modern-day Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and western Pakistan. Edward II wrote to Oljeitu twice in October and November 1307.

05 July, 2013

Friday Facts

More random Edward II stuff :-)  Today, 5 July, is the anniversary of the birth of Edward and Isabella's youngest child Joan of the Tower in 1321, incidentally.

- According to the Westminster chronicle Flores Historiarum, Edward II often broke his word, "forgetting in the morning what he had said in the evening."  This is somewhat reminiscent of what the  author of the Song of Lewes said about his father Edward I: that he was inconstant and unreliable, making promises but forgetting them.

- After the battle of Bannockburn in June 1314, a member of Edward's own household was arrested for speaking "irreverent and indecent words" against the king: Robert le Messager commented that nobody could expect the king to win a battle when he spent all his time idling, digging and ditching, when he should be hearing Mass.

- For their wedding in Boulogne on 25 January 1308, Isabella wore a red mantle lined with yellow sindon, over a gown and tunic in blue and gold; fifty years later, she would be buried with the mantle. Edward wore a satin surcoat and cloak embroidered with jewels, and both wore crowns glittering with precious stones.

- Edward's cousin King Fernando IV of Castile asked him in the autumn of 1311 to donate money for a crusade.  Edward politely refused, informing Fernando that "he has been so engaged with the war in Scotland and other matters that he is unable to accede to this request."

- On 9 October 1325, Edward gave ten shillings to Jack the Trumpeter of Dover, who had bought forty-seven caged goldfinches for Edward to give to his niece Eleanor Despenser, and also paid his clerk Will of Dunstable to look after the birds until Eleanor took possession of them.

- At least four fourteenth-century chronicles claim that Edward bribed Pope Clement V in 1313 to appoint his (Edward's) friend Walter Reynolds, bishop of Worcester, as archbishop of Canterbury.  The Flores and Vita Edwardi Secundi both say that "a large amount of gold and silver" passed between king and pope.  Bridlington puts the amount at 32,000 marks, Meaux at a mere 1000 marks.

- In May 1317, Edward gave twenty ells of striped cloth to William de Horsham and three others for "singing before the king in his chamber," and two pounds to his violist Richard to help support his wife and children.
- Edward (without his queen, as Isabella was visiting France) spent the end of March and beginning of April 1314 at St Albans Abbey, and made an offering of a gold cross decorated with precious stones, which contained relics of St Alban. The St Albans chronicler 'Trokelowe' comments approvingly on his munificence to the abbey.

- The Scalacronica of the 1360s says that Edward "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."

- No less a person than Pope John XXII condemned Edward's "childish frivolities."

- In the spring of 1317, the king asked Tupholme Abbey to take in a former servant of his and give him "sustenance in their house for term of life," but they replied "although they would gladly obey him in all things, their very small income is already heavily burdened with the charge of finding a chaplain to say mass for the soul of Sir Piers Gaveston, formerly earl of Cornwall." They humbly asked Edward to understand and forgive their "trespasses." Evidently Edward did, and sent his servant, Robert de Crouland, to Reading Abbey instead.