16 December, 2017

Edward II And Dice Games

For the record, in a piece of news unrelated to the current post, this blog had a whopping 6,434 visitors yesterday! Thank you all for visiting and reading. :-)

It was Edward II's custom for many years to play at dice on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas night with members of his retinue. At Nottingham on 25 December 1316, for example, the king spent the large sum of five pounds to play (whether he won or not, I don't know). Edward didn't only play dice at Christmas: on 7 January 1323, he played while at the royal manor of Cowick in Yorkshire, and spent two pence at Langdon Abbey playing dice in late August 1325 and celebrated the Nativity of St John the Baptist at the Tower of London on 24 June 1326 playing dice with Sir Giles Beauchamp. On the Langdon occasion, Edward sent his chamber servant Piers Pulford to buy new dice at a cost of two pence. Christmas does seem, though, to have been Edward's favourite time to play at dice. Again at Nottingham on Christmas night 1324, he played a game called rafle or raefle with three members of his chamber staff and with William Montacute (b. 1301), future earl of Salisbury and the son of one of Edward's greatest friends, the elder William Montacute, who died in Gascony in 1319.

Edward also enjoyed a game called cross and pile, the medieval equivalent of heads or tails. On 5 May 1326, he borrowed five shillings from his barber Henry to play with him, and spent another twenty shillings playing again a few days later (these were large sums of money!). Edward II attended the wedding of Hugh Despenser the Younger's household retainer Sir Robert Wateville and Hugh's niece Margaret Hastings on 19 May 1326, and three days later lost eight shillings to the newly-married Wateville playing cross and pile with him. On 13 July 1326 the king lost another two shillings playing against his chamber usher Peter Bernard, so apparently wasn't very good at it, or was very unlucky.

The king did not only enjoy indoor games, he loved outdoor physical activity as well; I've previously written posts about his love of swimming and rowing, ball games, digging ditches and so on. But, sadly, the British climate and long hours of darkness for part of the year does not always permit outdoor activities - though Edward did go swimming in the Thames in February one year, brrrrrrr - and so Edward stayed inside and took part in games of chance to while away the long winter evenings.

09 December, 2017

The 'Portours' Of Edward II's Chamber, And Their Wives

I've written before (and here and here) about the men who served in Edward II's chamber, who are referred to in his chamber accounts as his vadletz or portours. There were around thirty of them at any one time, plus half a dozen pages, who are either called 'pages' or 'boys', garsons. Then there were the squires of the chamber, a higher rank, of whom I've been able to find about nine at any given time. Oh, and there were knights of the chamber, and clerks, and other categories of men whose wages were paid out of the chamber: Edward's archers, carpenters, whelers, the men who bought and looked after the carthorses, etc.

I make no apologies for another post about Edward's servants, because history is not only about royalty, and I find it endlessly fascinating to discover details about the men and women who knew the king well and to gain insights into the lives of ordinary people in England in the 1320s.

Edward II's Household Ordinance of December 1318 states that no member of the royal household may have his wife at court or following along behind. Edward, however, did not vigorously enforce this rule: as I've said before, he hired two of the wives of his chamber vadletz/portours to the same job as their husbands, at the same wages. They were Johane (i.e. Joan) Traghs and Anneis (i.e. Agnes) de May. Johane and her husband Robyn Traghs had a daughter born in London shortly before 15 September 1325, and in early 1326 Johane joined the royal household as a portour and was still with Edward at the end of October 1326 when his accounts ceased to be kept, a couple of weeks before his capture. Someone, therefore, was looking after Robyn and Johane's daughter while they both travelled all over the country with the king. On 16 May 1325, Roger de May was given half a mark (six shillings and eight pence) for his expenses going home for a while, and some months before, his wife Anneis de May had been paid for sewing shirts for the king and Hugh Despenser the Younger and for making smocks for the chamber servants. This was a few months before she was hired as a chamber portour, and her making clothes for the king and his attendants seems to mean she was living somewhere close to the royal household, at least for a while. On 14 December 1325 shortly before she was hired as a portour, Anneis was given ten shillings to cover her expenses visiting the royal household, and "for what she did at the gate of the Tower [of London]" to mark the feast of St Katherine on 25 November. Anneis's name sometimes appears in the account as Annote, an affectionate diminutive of her name, while her husband Roger's name often appears as Hogge.

On 16 May 1325, Beatrice the wife of the chamber portour John Gos received six shillings and eight pence/half a mark for her expenses coming to the royal household, and another twelve pence for four nights' accommodation in London (Edward II was then staying in Chertsey). We see here how the wives of royal servants were allowed to visit their husbands at court but not to stay overnight with them there, and the king paid for their accommodation somewhere nearby. Though not too near; Chertsey is a good twenty miles from London, so maybe John Gos was given four days' leave to go and stay with his wife.

On 8 July 1325, Edward II gave a gift of ten shillings - and to put that in perspective, it was a few months' wages - to Anneis Lawe, wife of his chamber portour Henry Lawe. This implies Anneis was then visiting her husband. Henry was given permission to go home on 22 May 1325, with twenty shillings for his expenses. Henry's brother Syme Lawe was also a chamber portour, and also married to a woman called Anneis. This Anneis Lawe received twenty shillings in early July 1326 when she "came from her home to visit and talk to the said Syme, her baron [husband], for her expenses in returning to her home." The Lawe brothers' sister Alis Coleman sometimes brewed ale for Edward, their brother Willecok Lawe once helped with the ropes on a royal boat, and the king sent their father Roger Lawe a gift of money once when he was ill.

On 5 September 1325 at Dover, when Edward II was still debating whether or not to sail to France to pay homage to Charles IV or to send his son instead: "Paid to Nanne, wife of John Pecteman, one of the king's portours, who came to talk to her baron [husband] before he crossed the sea, of the king's gift, for her expenses towards the household, five shillings."

15 September 1325: "Paid to Robyn Traghs, one of the portours of the king's chamber, who went to London to talk to Johane his wife, who was delivered of a daughter, for his expenses, five shillings." This was a few months before Johane was admitted to wages as a fellow portour of the chamber.

16 October 1325: "Item, paid to Will Shene, one of the portours of the king's chamber, who will marry his wife at Henley next Sunday, five shillings. Item, paid to Isode, whom the said Will will marry, for their expenses on the said Sunday when they marry, twenty shillings."

29 April 1326: "To Hick Mereworth, vadlet of the king's chamber, who had permission to go to Henley to his house with his wife, who came to Kenilworth great with child, for his travel expenses and for what he did at Kenilworth before the king left there, twenty shillings. Item, to Johane wife of the said Hick, who came to her baron at the said Kenilworth great with child as is said above, because she had heard that her said baron was ill there, forty shillings." 

10 May 1326: "Paid to Johane wife of Robyn Traghs, one of the portours of the king, assigned to wages of three pence a day by the king as one of his portours from Saturday 8 March, on which day the king was at Sibson [near Leicester], and when he left the parts of Leicester the said Johane left court for the parts of Norfolk and the house of Lady Haward, where she stayed at the king's order because she was ill, and now on this day is being paid her wages, from 8 March until this day, sixty-four days, sixteen shillings."

Sick pay in the early fourteenth century! Awesomeness! And for two whole months as well. Who'd have thought it? Edward II offered equal pay for women, and gave sick pay to a woman he'd just hired who was unable to work for him for two months.

Edward spent Christmas Eve 1324 at Nottingham, playing dice with three of his chamber squires: they were called Giles of Spain (who later took part in the earl of Kent's plot to free the supposedly dead Edward in 1329/30), Burgeys de Till, and Garsy de Pomit. Garsy at least must have been an older man, as he had a son who was rewarded financially in 1326 for bringing the king news from Gascony. Another chamber squire was John Pymmok, who also had a son who was an adult in the 1320s. The chamber portours seem to have been of different ages: Will Shene, Robyn Traghs and Hick Mereworth and their wives evidently were pretty young in c. 1325 as they were getting married and having children - probably they were in their late teens or twenties - but Hick Hustret must have been older, as his son Henry Hustret was also a chamber portour. The pages of the king's chamber are often called garsons or boys, implying they were teenagers (or perhaps even younger), and sometimes are referred to by nicknames which reveal their youth and small stature: Litel Wille Fisher, Litel Colle, Litel Robyn. By contrast, one of the chamber portours was called Grete Hobbe, 'Great Hob', or in modern English Big Rob, implying that he was either tall or well-built, or both.
So we see that Edward II allowed the wives of his portours to come and visit them, and paid all the women's expenses. Servants were often given permission to go home to visit their families as well, with generous expenses that surely also counted as a kind of holiday pay. The permission to go home appears in the accounts as conge de aler en son pais, "leave to go to his country." The frequent use of nicknames in Edward's chamber accounts reveals the mutual affection and camaraderie among the chamber staff, and Edward took good care of his staff and was hugely generous to them. These were the men, and occasionally women, with whom Edward II spent the most time, and who knew him best. Six of the chamber portours slept in the king's bedchamber with him every night or most nights and thus knew Edward II intimately (I don't mean that in the sense of 'sexually'). This also strongly implies Edward's ability to speak fluent English, as men bearing names like Will Shene and Henry Lawe who worked as servants on pay of three pence a day were never going to speak French, though we can see from the names of some of the chamber squires like Burgeys and Garsy, above, that they were Gascon and thus French-speaking.

01 December, 2017

Edward II's Sense of Humour

I've posted here before, and written in my biography of Edward II, some lovely details which reveal that the king's sense of humour ran very much towards the slapstick. In the summer of 1326, he gave a pound to his cook Moris for falling off his horse and making him laugh, and the same year gave two and a half pounds to his painter Jack of St Albans for dancing on a table and also making him laugh (the money was said to be to help Jack support his wife and children). In early 1325, two of Edward's chamber squires, Giles of Spain and Burgeys Till, accidentally burned themselves quite badly while performing some kind of show with fire for the king's entertainment at his Westminster cottage of Burgundy, and around the same time Edward paid a man for putting on a performance for him inside the Tower of London, outdoors, in what his account calls "the area in front of the long stable." In the summer of 1312, an Italian minstrel was paid for "making his minstrelsy with snakes before the king," and Edward also enjoyed watching conjurors.

I've just found another lovely entry in one of Edward II's chamber accounts - all of the details in this post are from his chamber accounts - revealing that just before Easter 1325, the king played some kind of prank or practical joke on Hugh Despenser the Younger while they were just outside Southampton on the way to Beaulieu Abbey. Edward's clerk wrote that "the king frightened Sir Hugh." Sadly there are no more details, but Edward was a very playful person who loved to laugh and have fun (though I'm not entirely sure if Hugh Despenser appreciated it!). In May 1326 at the wedding of Hugh Despenser's niece Margaret Hastings, Edward gave a pound to a servant of Hugh's sister Lady Hastings who spent time with him "and made him laugh very greatly." I've also found numerous entries revealing how the king played dice and cross and pile with members of his retinue; on Christmas Eve 1324 at Nottingham, he spent the evening playing dice with his chamber squires Burgeys Till, Giles of Spain and Garsy de Pomit. He also played unspecified ball games in the parks of various castles with some of his household knights. One of Edward II's friends, or at least an acquaintance, was a Thames fisherman called Colle Herron, and the king often chatted to fishermen while sailing up and down the Thames and invited a group of shipwrights to come and stay with him in April 1326. In October 1315 he went on a swimming and rowing holiday with "a great company of common people." What strikes me very strongly from the evidence of Edward II's chamber accounts is that he comes across as a boon companion, a person you can imagine meeting and having a good laugh with, a man who didn't stand on his royal dignity but could get on well with absolutely anyone. There aren't many medieval kings you can say that about.

24 November, 2017

24 November 1326: Execution of Hugh Despenser the Younger

691 years ago on 24 November 1326, Hugh Despenser the Younger, lord of Glamorgan, was executed in Hereford on the orders of Edward II's queen Isabella of France and her ally Roger Mortimer, lord of Wigmore. It was an atrocious death by hanging, drawing and quartering, and Hugh was also castrated. When it was finally over, Hugh's head was placed on London Bridge (on 4 December) and the four quarters of his body were sent for public display in York, Carlisle, Bristol and Dover. On 15 December 1330 after he had overthrown his mother and Mortimer, Edward III gave permission for Hugh's remains to be collected and buried, and his tomb at Tewkesbury Abbey in Gloucestershire exists to this day. His wife Eleanor was also buried in the abbey in 1337, as were several of their descendants including their eldest son Hugh or Huchon (d. 1349), grandson Edward (d. 1375), great-grandson Thomas, briefly earl of Gloucester (d. 1400), and great-great-granddaughter Isabella, countess of Warwick (d. 1439).

My biography of Hugh will be published in about September/October 2018, by Pen and Sword. Its current working title is Downfall of a King's Favourite: Edward II and Hugh Despenser the Younger. I guarantee there's plenty of stuff about him in it that you've never seen before!

Here's a post about Hugh's execution I wrote eleven years ago today (yowza, time flies!).

And here is my translation of the long list of charges against him at his show trial, from 2009.

My examination of the most devastating charge against Hugh, that he had someone called 'Lady Baret' tortured into insanity (which I very much doubt he did). This is one of the central planks in the popular modern notion that he was basically a psychopath, but there's no evidence for the tale whatsoever beyond the charge against him at his trial, and the list of charges is basically a tissue of fact and fiction, mostly the latter. The unpleasant idea that Hugh raped Queen Isabella is an invention of two writers of the twenty-first century entirely without evidence (see my 2012 post about it here), and even the notion that he had the Welsh lord and rebel Llywelyn Bren hanged, drawn and quartered in Cardiff in 1318 isn't nearly as certain a fact as you might think.

I also wrote here about some of the common modern misconceptions about Hugh Despenser the Younger, including the ever-popular but entirely false idea that Edward II arranged Hugh's marriage to Edward's niece Eleanor de Clare after Hugh became the royal favourite. Hugh and Eleanor married on 26 May 1306 in the presence of her grandfather Edward I, who had arranged it. I stated in that post, wrongly, that Hugh Despenser the Elder did not give his son and daughter-in-law an income of £200 a year as he had promised Edward I. I've since found out that actually he did. Two historians of the twentieth century state that in 1309 Edward II gave Hugh the Younger the former Templar manor of Sutton in Norfolk. I have never been able to find a source for this.

20 November, 2017

Following in the Footsteps of Edward II

One of my many current writing projects - I have so much work I'm reluctantly having to turn some down - is a book for Pen and Sword titled Following in the Footsteps of Edward II, a travel guide to places in the UK associated with Edward. You can easily guess what some of the places are: Berkeley Castle, Gloucester Cathedral, Caernarfon Castle, etc. What I'm really having fun with at the moment is writing about Edward's Oxbridge foundations. He was the first of only two people in history to found colleges at both Oxford and Cambridge, an accomplishment not often noted (and not by a certain popular Twitter historian who wrote not long ago that Edward II succeeded his father on the throne in July 1307, and "never succeeded at anything ever again." Hahaha! Bless, isn't that so funny and clever?)

Edward II celebrated the tenth anniversary of his accession to the throne on 7 July 1317 by establishing the Aula Regis or King's Hall at the University of Cambridge. In 1546, his descendant Henry VIII founded Trinity College by merging King's Hall and Michaelhouse, which was founded in 1324 by Edward's friend and ally Hervey Staunton, chief justice of the King's Bench. On 21 January 1326, Edward and his almoner Adam Brome founded Oriel College, Oxford, or as they called it, the Hall of the Blessed Mary. It became known as Oriel in Edward III's reign, and still exists, and its long official full name is "The Provost and Scholars of the House of the Blessed Mary the Virgin in Oxford, commonly called Oriel College, of the foundation of Edward the Second of famous memory, sometime king of England." Oriel is the fifth oldest college foundation at Oxford; the fourth oldest is Exeter, founded in 1314 by Walter Stapeldon, bishop of Exeter and Edward II's treasurer of England. Stalpeldon was murdered by a London mob in October 1326 after the queen's invasion.

17 November, 2017

A Letter from the Archbishop of York to 'Your Royal Majesty' Edward II

A little while ago, I was looking through a very useful book called Recueil de lettres anglo-françaises 1264-1399, edited by F. J. Tanqueray (an historian who wrote an excellent article called 'The Conspiracy of Thomas Dunheved, 1327' in the English Historical Review in 1916, which I have read and used more times than I can count). Anyway, I found a letter in the book sent by William Melton, archbishop of York, to Edward II (on pp. 123-4). The letter is dated 8 January although the year is not given, but as far as I can tell it must be 1326, as Melton calls himself Edward's treasurer, and he held that position from July 1325 to November 1326. I loved the letter and have translated a bit of it here, to give a flavour of how Archbishop Melton addressed Edward II in writing. Melton was a staunch ally and supporter of the king without ever being a yes-man, and wasn't afraid to stand up to him when necessary (e.g., he protected Adam Orleton, bishop of Hereford, when Edward was persecuting him in 1323/24). He was one of the few men who spoke out on Edward's behalf at the parliament of January 1327 which deposed him, refused to attend Edward III's coronation out of respect for Edward's father, and was heavily involved in plots to free the supposedly dead Edward in 1329/30. Edward III also trusted William Melton and made him treasurer of England shortly after he overthrew his mother and Mortimer in October 1330, and Edward II was a far better judge of character than his father, so if he trusted Melton then we know Melton was trustworthy.

The letter of 8 January [1326], in Anglo-Norman in the original - which kind of goes without saying - begins:

"To the very high, very noble and very powerful prince, his very dear and beloved lord, if it please him, by his liege chaplain and servant, his treasurer, with all the honour, reverence and service he can, with the blessing of God."

It goes on:

"My very dear and beloved lord, because several people have told me that your wish is that your Tower of London be provisioned with various things, and I do not dare nor must not install such things from your treasury without your express command, my lord..."

And goes on to ask Edward if he wishes Melton and the barons of the Exchequer to make an estimate of the cost for the provisioning of the Tower. One sentence begins Prie ge a vostre reale mageste, "I beg your royal majesty," which surprised me as I hadn't realised such language was in use as early as Edward II's reign. Calling him "very high, very noble and powerful prince" at the start of the letter is something I've often seen; Edward himself addressed his father-in-law Philip IV of France the same way. But "I beg your royal majesty"? Interesting.

Archbishop Melton's letter ends:

"My very dear and beloved lord, may God in his grace keep you in joy, honour and health. Written at our lodgings [hostiel] near Westminster, the eighth day of January."

Ah, people certainly knew how to write letters 700 years ago, didn't they? Fab stuff.

05 November, 2017

Book Giveaway: Richard II

My fourth book Richard II: A True King's Fall is out now in the UK, and I have two free hardback copies to give away! I'll sign them, and if you win you can let me know whatever dedication you'd like me to write in your copy. I can send them anywhere in the world, so don't worry about having to have an address in Europe.

If you'd like to win a copy, leave a comment here with your email address (so I can get in touch with the two winners), or if you prefer, email me at edwardofcaernarfon(at)yahoo.com. If you're on Facebook, you can also message me via my Edward II page, here. The closing date is Sunday 19 November, midnight GMT, so you have two weeks to enter! Best of luck!

Oh, and my third book Long Live the King: The Mysterious Fate of Edward II is out now in the US and can be purchased from Amazon (and of course other retailers): see here if you're interested in a detailed account of what happened to the deposed and disgraced king in 1327!

29 October, 2017

c. 28 October 1294: Wedding of Alice de Lacy and Thomas of Lancaster

I missed the date yesterday, oopsie! Then again, the date of the wedding of the great heiress Alice de Lacy and Edward I's nephew Thomas of Lancaster is not 100% certain, but may have taken place on 28 October 1294. Alice was not yet thirteen, born on Christmas Day 1281; Thomas was probably sixteen, going on seventeen. His date of birth is not known for sure, but my research indicates that the end of 1277 or beginning of 1278 is the likeliest date. He was thus four years older than his wife. Alice was set to inherit the earldoms of Lincoln and Salisbury, and Thomas was set to inherit the earldoms of Lancaster and Leicester, and their fathers Henry de Lacy and Edmund of Lancaster arranged their marriage in 1292. (Thomas had previously been betrothed to Beatrice, granddaughter of Duke Hugh IV of Burgundy, but she died young in 1291.)

Alice de Lacy and Thomas of Lancaster were married for twenty-seven and a half years, but it proved to be an unhappy disaster, and Alice left her husband in the spring of 1317. The couple had no surviving children, and Thomas's younger brother Henry (born c. 1280/81) was therefore his heir. Thomas did have two illegitimate sons, John and Thomas, who joined the Church, and I have recently discovered that Alice de Lacy was pregnant in 1307 or 1308. She sent a messenger to Leicester, one of Thomas's towns, to inform the mayor and townspeople of her pregnancy sometime between Michaelmas (29 September) 1307 and Michaelmas 1308. The messenger was rewarded with a shilling for bringing the good news. Sadly, Alice must have lost this child - perhaps a miscarriage or stillbirth, or s/he died in early infancy. I feel terribly sorry for Alice, but from my point of view as a historian I have to admit that I was also thrilled to have found the reference to her pregnancy, as I'd long assumed that she must have been infertile (Thomas, as he had at least two illegitimate children, obviously wasn't). Perhaps the loss of this child of 1307/08 contributed to the couple's unhappiness. I can't help feeling sad for them and wishing they had been happier. Anyway, happy (almost) wedding anniversary, Thomas and Alice.

27 October, 2017

27 October 1326: Execution of Hugh Despenser the Elder, Earl of Winchester

On this day 691 years ago in 1326, Hugh Despenser the Elder, earl of Winchester, was hanged in Bristol on the orders of Queen Isabella and her allies including Edward II's half-brothers the earls of Norfolk and Kent and cousin the earl of Leicester (now styling himself earl of Lancaster as well). Despenser was sixty-five years old, born on 1 March 1261, not ninety as stated by the later chronicler Jean Froissart. He was left to hold Bristol after his son Hugh the Younger and Edward II went on to South Wales to try (unsuccessfully) to raise troops, and sent a letter to them on 18 October, the last letter Hugh the Younger would ever receive from his father. Isabella of France and her allies arrived outside Bristol on the same day, and on the 27th the city fell to them. The earl of Winchester was given a show trial during which he was not allowed to speak on the same day, and immediately hanged in his armour on the gallows where common criminals were executed. His head was placed on a spear and sent to Winchester, the town of which he was earl, to be displayed there in public, and supposedly the rest of his body was fed to dogs. Pretty vile even by the standards of the day. A chronicler of Bury St Edmunds claimed that Queen Isabella tried to save Despenser's life, but Bury St Edmunds is on the other side of the country from Bristol and therefore hardly seems like a reliable source, especially as no-one else mentions this tale. Besides, I'm not sure how Isabella's social inferiors would have overridden her wishes in public. Despenser was widely hated in England not only for his association with the regime of his son in the 1320s, but because of his own greed, brutality and corruption, especially in his capacity as justice of the forest. Still, if English medieval noblemen were executed merely for being greedy, brutal and corrupt, there wouldn't have been any English medieval noblemen left.

21 October, 2017

Thomas, Lord Wake (1298-1349)

Thomas Wake was an influential and extremely well-connected English nobleman in the first half of the fourteenth century: he was the son-in-law of Henry, earl of Lancaster (d. 1345) and brother-in-law of Henry of Grosmont, later first duke of Lancaster; a first cousin of Roger Mortimer, first earl of March; the brother-in-law of Edward II's half-brother Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent; and the uncle of Richard II's mother Joan of Kent, princess of Wales, who was his heir. He played an important role in the downfall and deposition of Edward II in 1326/27, but fled from England in early 1330 after getting caught up in his brother-in-law Kent's plot to free the supposedly dead Edward from captivity. Here's a (long!) post about him.

Thomas was, according to his father's Inquisition Post Mortem, born in March 1298: he was 'aged 2 years at mid-Lent last' in June 1300. [1] Easter Sunday fell on 6 April in 1298 and on 10 April in 1300. His father was John Wake (c. 1268-1300), lord of Liddell in Cumberland and an important landowner in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, with manors in other counties as well. John's mother Hawise de Quincy was a granddaughter of Saer de Quincy, earl of Winchester, and her mother was Elen ferch Llywelyn, which makes Thomas Wake a great-great-grandson of Llywelyn ab Iorwerth, prince of Gwynedd (d. 1240) and his wife Joan (d. 1237), illegitimate daughter of King John. Thomas's mother Joan Fiennes was a sister of Margaret Fiennes, mother of Roger Mortimer of Wigmore, first earl of March, and a great-granddaughter of John Brienne (d. 1237), king of Jerusalem and Latin emperor of Constantinople. Thomas Wake was only two years old when his father John Wake died in 1300, which made him a ward of Edward I and then of Edward II in and after 1307. He lost his mother Joan Fiennes in 1309 as well, whereupon Edward II gave custody of her dower lands to - who else? - Piers Gaveston, until Thomas came of age. [2]

Thomas Wake had a sister Margaret, wife respectively of Sir John Comyn (killed at Bannockburn in 1314) and of Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent. He also had a younger brother John Wake, who was still alive in March 1322 but who must have died childless as their sister Margaret, followed by her son John and then her daughter Joan of Kent, were Thomas's heirs. [3] The dates of birth of Thomas's siblings are not known. John the second brother might have been born in 1300, the year their father died, and in my opinion Margaret Comyn née Wake was older than Thomas. She had a son, Aymer Comyn, with her husband Sir John Comyn who fell at Bannockburn in June 1314, a month when her future second husband Edmund of Woodstock was not even thirteen (he was born in August 1301), so she must have been some years older than he and probably older than her brother Thomas, born in March 1298. Little Aymer died in 1316; for more info, see my post about his aunt Elizabeth Comyn, Margaret's sister-in-law. Thomas, Margaret and John's parents John Wake and Joan Fiennes were married by 24 September 1291. [4]

Sometime not long before 9 October 1316 when he was eighteen years old, Thomas Wake married Blanche of Lancaster, eldest child of Edward II's first cousin Henry of Lancaster and the niece of Thomas, earl of Lancaster. Blanche was born around 1302 or 1305, so was some years Thomas's junior, and they wed without a royal licence. Edward II was irate when he heard about it; he had previously offered Thomas the marriage of his great-niece Joan Gaveston, daughter and heir of the late Piers Gaveston and Margaret de Clare. Thomas's decision to turn down Joan and marry Blanche is perhaps a little puzzling. Joan Gaveston, though only four years old in 1316, was sole heir to her mother Margaret Clare and her third of the earldom of Gloucester, whereas Blanche of Lancaster had a brother and thus was not an heiress, and her father Henry of Lancaster was only the heir of his wealthy brother for as long as Thomas failed to produce legitimate children anyway. Perhaps Thomas gambled that Margaret Clare would marry again and have a son, which would instantly disinherit Joan, and ultimately his decision was vindicated when his father-in-law became earl of Lancaster in 1327 and hugely influential. (The unfortunate Joan Gaveston died in January 1325 just past her thirteenth birthday.) Edward II, annoyed with Thomas for "refusing a suitable marriage which the king offered to him," fined him a massive £1,000, but by 6 June 1317 had clearly forgiven him as he allowed him to take possession of his inheritance although he was still two years under age, at Henry of Lancaster's request. Thomas was also officially pardoned for refusing the marriage to Joan Gaveston on 9 December 1318. [5]

Thomas Wake and Blanche of Lancaster would be married for thirty-three years, but they had no children, so Thomas's heir was, successively: his younger brother John (who died sometime after March 1322 and had no children); his sister Margaret, who became countess of Kent on her second marriage in late 1325; Margaret's second but only surviving son John, earl of Kent, who died childless in late 1352; and Margaret's daughter Joan, who became princess of Wales when she married the heir to the throne Edward of Woodstock in 1361. It's basically impossible to ascertain what kind of relationship the Wake siblings had, though in February 1325 Thomas Wake and Margaret Comyn jointly acknowledged a debt of £200. [6]

On 24 April 1320, Edward II gave Thomas permission to go on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, and he set off with two attendants, leaving his young wife Blanche in England. While he was gone, one of his manors in Lincolnshire was attacked and robbed, and some of his and Blanche's servants killed. [7] Thomas, having married into the Lancaster family, was a staunch Lancastrian adherent for the rest of his life, so the period of the Contrariant rebellion in 1321/22 headed by Thomas, earl of Lancaster, must have been somewhat awkward for him. His uncle-in-law Earl Thomas was executed in March 1322, but his father-in-law Henry of Lancaster was abroad for most of 1320 to April 1322 so avoided having to make the awful decision either to follow his brother into rebellion and treason, or to abandon him. I've found it difficult to determine exactly what Thomas Wake was up to in the early 1320s; he rarely appears on record, so was probably keeping his head down. On 23 March 1322 the day after his uncle-in-law Thomas of Lancaster's execution, Thomas acknowledged a debt of 100 marks or £66 to Sir Ralph Camoys (Hugh Despenser the Younger's brother-in-law), and the following day his younger brother John Wake acknowledged a debt to Sir Andrew Harclay, sheriff of Cumberland and soon to become earl of Carlisle, who had defeated Thomas of Lancaster's army at Boroughbridge a few days before. [8] Thomas Wake accompanied the king on his ill-fated final campaign to Scotland in August 1322, as did his father-in-law Henry of Lancaster. [9] His relations with the regime of the 1320s seem not to have been too bad, and he received commissions of array in 1323 and in other years. On 16 June 1324, Edward II gave Thomas "the houses of the king's manor of Sandal for his lodging there." [10] Thomas's sister Margaret Comyn née Wake, a widow for eleven and a half years, married her second husband Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent, around 16 December 1325 (according to the annalist of St Paul's).

Thomas Wake was sometimes at court with Edward II and Hugh Despenser the Younger: he witnessed royal charters at Kenilworth in April 1326. [11] Kenilworth was part of the late Thomas of Lancaster's inheritance which the king had kept for himself, and Thomas surely believed that it rightfully belonged to his father-in-law Henry. Sir Roger Belers, chief baron of the Exchequer, was murdered in January 1326, and Thomas's father-in-law Henry of Lancaster was one of the men appointed to investigate it. Thomas Wake had given Belers his Bedfordshire manor of 'Styvington' for life in July 1323. [12] In March 1325, Thomas was said to be going to Gascony in the company of John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, during the War of St-Sardos between England and France, though in August, October and December that year he was in England. [13] There are no references to him in the letters and documents of the War of St-Sardos collected and edited by Pierre Chaplais, so presumably he never went.

Thomas followed the lead of his father-in-law Henry of Lancaster in the early autumn of 1326, when Queen Isabella invaded England. The two men were at Bristol with the queen on 26 October, when her and Edward II's son Edward of Windsor was appointed keeper of the realm and Henry of Lancaster was called 'earl of Lancaster' for the first time. [14] Both men witnessed the executions of the two Hugh Despensers on 27 October and 24 November 1326. Thomas, firmly on the side of his first cousin Roger Mortimer, was placed in the crowd with several of his men during the London parliament of January 1327, to yell their support for Edward II's deposition at appropriate moments. Isabella rewarded Thomas's support of her and her son by making him keeper of the Tower of London and justice of the forest this side Trent. [15] Yet it was soon to become apparent to Thomas, Henry of Lancaster and many others that the regime change of 1326/27 had merely replaced one greedy and despotic pair, Edward II and Hugh Despenser, with another, Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer. In 1328 Thomas's father-in-law Henry emerged as the leader of the opposition to his niece Isabella, and in late 1328 Thomas was one of the many influential men who took part in Henry's brief and unsuccessful rebellion. The lands of Henry of Lancaster and his adherents were seized on 16 January 1329 (though restored a few weeks later), and soon afterwards the leading rebels were forced to acknowledge liability for huge and unpayable debts. Thomas Wake's was 15,000 marks. [16] These debts were cancelled by Edward III when he took over the control of his own kingdom in and after October 1330. Before that, however, Thomas Wake had been forced to flee from England after becoming embroiled in his brother-in-law the earl of Kent's plot to free the supposedly dead Edward II. His lands were seized again in early 1330, and he made his way to Paris to join some of the other enemies of the regime. [17] His wife Blanche of Lancaster remained in England with her family, and his sister Margaret was widowed for the second time when her husband Kent was beheaded on 19 March 1330.

Edward III invited Thomas Wake and the other rebels back to England in November 1330, and Thomas had returned by 21 December 1330, when Edward III asked him, his (the king's) cousin William de Bohun and Alice de Lacy's second husband Eubulo Lestrange to escort his mother Queen Isabella to him for Christmas. A month later, Thomas was one of the men appointed as a mainpernor (guarantor) for Roger Mortimer's son Geoffrey, arrested with his father at Nottingham on 19 October 1330, but released. [18] Thomas was high in Edward III's favour, and was appointed keeper of the Channel Islands in 1332. [19] I won't say much about the remainder of Thomas's career in the 1330s and 1340s as this post is quite long enough as it is, but some of the highlights are that he founded the priory of Haltemprice in Yorkshire and had been intending to do so since as early as 1320 when he was only twenty-two, and that he went to fight at the siege of Algeciras in Spain 1343 with his brother-in-law Henry of Grosmont. In May 1337, Grosmont gave one of his manors in Norfolk to Thomas and his (Grosmont's) sister Blanche for life, to pass after their deaths to Haltemprice Priory. [20] Thomas remained on excellent terms with his father-in-law Henry, earl of Lancaster and Leicester, and in July 1339 visited him in Leicester and gave him a manor in Yorkshire to hold for the rest of his life (another six years, as it turned out). [21]

Thomas, Lord Wake died on 30 May 1349 at the age of fifty-one and was buried at his own foundation of Haltemprice. He left his widow Blanche of Lancaster, who did not die until 1380 when she was at least seventy-five and perhaps older, and his sister Margaret, dowager countess of Kent, who was his heir. She only outlived him by four months. [22] Margaret's daughter and Thomas's ultimate heir Joan of Kent called herself 'Lady Wake' in addition to her other titles (princess of Wales and Aquitaine, duchess of Cornwall, countess of Kent and Chester), and Joan's eldest son and heir Sir Thomas Holland (b. 1350/51) called himself 'earl of Kent and Lord Wake' in his will of 1397. [23] Sir Thomas Holland's two sons Thomas (d. 1400) and Edmund (d. 1408), both earls of Kent, had no children, so on Edmund Holland's death in 1408 the Kent and Wake inheritance was divided among Edmund's nephew Edmund Mortimer, earl of March and Ulster (b. 1391) and his four surviving sisters. They were Joan, dowager duchess of York, Margaret, countess of Somerset, Eleanor, countess of Salisbury, and and Elizabeth, daughter-in-law of the earl of Westmorland.

1) CIPM 1291-1300, no. 597.
2) CPR 1307-13, p. 196.
3) CCR 1318-23, p. 528.
4) CPR 1281-92, p. 445.
5) CPR 1317-21, pp. 43, 251-2; CCR 1313-8, 413.
6) CCR 1323-7, p. 356.
7) CPR 1317-21, p. 440; SC 8/87/4346.
8) CCR 1318-23, p. 528.
9) CPR 1321-4, p. 186.
10) CPR 1321-4, p. 431.
11) C 53/112, nos. 3, 5, 6.
12) CPR 1321-4, p. 305.
13) CPR 1324-7, pp. 112, 228, 233, 235.
14) CCR 1323-7, p. 650.
15) CCR 1327-30, p. 16; CPR 1327-30, p. 36.
16) CFR 1327-37, p. 116-7; CCR 1327-30, p. 425.
17) CFR 1327-37, p. 175; CCR 1330-3, p. 288.
18) CPR 1330-4, p. 36; CCR 1330-3, p. 178.
19) CCR 1330-3, p. 448.
20) DL 25/330.
21) DL 25/964/749.
22) CIPM 1347-52, nos. 219, 234.
23) Testamenta Vetusta, vol. 1, pp. 13, 139.