23 June, 2012

Edward II And His Relationship With His Children

I'm becoming perturbed at a notion I've seen repeated several times recently - in two badly-written and barely-researched novels and various online articles - that Edward II 'ignored' his children and didn't care about them, to the point where he could hardly even remember their names and was unwilling to pay their expenses.  Where the hell does this notion come from?  And why do some people think, as I was informed in a blog comment and an email, that there's actually some historical evidence for it?  I can't imagine, but it's time to put this idiocy to rest right now.  The promised 'evidence', incidentally, was not forthcoming.  Now there's a surprise.  In fact, no historian or non-fiction writer of the last 700 years has ever, to my knowledge, argued that Edward II was a negligent parent; even Alison Weir, who appears to despise him, admits that he was a "good and loving father."  Neither did anyone in his own time claim that he was cruel to or did not love or was in any way neglectful of his children and his responsibilities towards them.  So, therefore, to anyone who is perpetuating this nonsense about him: just stop it.  To anyone who's read this rubbish somewhere and is wondering if there's any truth in it: no, there certainly isn't.  (You know, I am so damn sick of people inventing this kind of nasty, hateful nonsense to make Edward more unsympathetic or unlikeable to their readers.  How would you like it if you were accused of being a bad, unloving and neglectful parent when in fact you adore your children and would do anything for them?  It would hurt, wouldn't it?  Why are you saying it about Edward II then?)

See also here and here for my previous posts about Edward II and Isabella of France's four children (Edward III, born November 1312; John of Eltham, born August 1316 (Johan in contemporary spelling); Eleanor of Woodstock, born June 1318 (Alianore or Alienora); Joan (Johane) of the Tower, born July 1321).  Firstly I should point out that we're talking about 700 years ago and there really isn't very much evidence for anyone's personal relationship with anyone else, sadly; personal letters are practically non-existent, diaries actually are non-existent.  Secondly, we have to remember that familial norms of 700 years ago were different, and that Edward II was a medieval king, not a modern hands-on father.  This is so obvious it shouldn't even need pointing out, but unfortunately it does to some people.

Edward II was twenty-eight when his son and heir the future Edward III was born at Windsor on 13 November 1312.  (He might have become a father much sooner, but had to wait for Isabella, who was sixteen when their son was conceived, to be old enough to bear children.  Actually, he had become a father much sooner: his illegitimate son Adam was born sometime before 1310.)  The Vita Edwardi Secundi and the St Albans chronicler both say that the boy's birth "much lessened the grief which had inflicted the king on Piers' death," [1] which, given how much and for how long Edward had loved Piers Gaveston, is significant.  Edward granted the enormous sum of eighty pounds annually to Isabella's steward John Launge and his wife Joan, "on account of his bringing to the king the news of the birth of Edward his first-born son," on 16 December.  [2]  As Edward II was actually at Windsor at the time of the birth, this can hardly have been an onerous task for John Launge, and eighty pounds a year gave him and his wife a higher income than some knights.  Edward of Windsor was only eleven days old when his father granted him the entire earldom of Chester on 24 November, an earldom for which Edward of Caernarfon himself had had to wait until he was almost seventeen to receive from Edward I.  [3]  As Ian Mortimer points out in his biography of Edward III, "The king's [Edward II's] instinct was to shower those whom he loved with presents, and so he immediately ordered that the baby be raised to the front rank of the peerage."  [4]  Further grants of lands were made to the boy over the next few years, and he was also given a large household of his own.  This, of course, was entirely expected and normal for the heir to the throne, and it would have been an insult to the boy if he hadn't.

Edward and Isabella's second son John was born at Eltham in Kent on 15 August 1316, and perhaps named in honour of the new pope, John XXII.  Edward was 250 miles away in Yorkshire at the time, meeting his cousin Earl Thomas of Lancaster; John was his only child for whose birth he wasn't somewhere close by.  The king had shown his concern for Isabella's comfort during her pregnancy by paying twenty pounds to John Fleg, horse dealer of London, for a bay horse "to carry the litter of the lady the queen" and paying Vannus Ballardi of the Lucca banking firm the Ballardi almost four pounds for pieces of silk and gold tissue and flame-coloured silk to make cushions for Isabella’s carriage, so that she could travel in greater comfort. [5] Edward gave £100 to Isabella’s steward Eubulo Montibus, who rode from Eltham to York to bring him the happy news, and the St Albans chronicler comments on Edward’s joy at the birth of his son. He had heard the news from Montibus by 24 August, on which date he asked the Dominicans of York to say prayers for himself, "Queen Isabella our very dear consort, Edward of Windsor our eldest son, and John of Eltham our youngest son, especially on account of John." Edward had a piece of Turkey cloth and a piece of cloth-of-gold delivered to Eltham, to cover the font in the chapel during John's baptism, and ordered Isabella's tailor Stephen de Falaise to make her a robe from five pieces of white velvet for her churching ceremony. [6]  John appears to have joined the household of his older brother the heir to the throne, and in later years - I'm not sure when - was granted his own household under the command of his first cousin Eleanor (née de Clare) Despenser, who remained in charge until late 1326.  Paul Doherty, a harsh critic of Edward II and just about everything he ever did, and the inventor of what I sometimes call the 'OMG Edward II totally stole Isabella's children from her OMG!!!' theory, calls Eleanor in his rather bizarre book Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II merely "Eleanor de Spencer [sic], Hugh the Younger's wife." It's interesting to note how he neglects to point out that she was also Edward I's eldest granddaughter, the daughter of Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester (d. 1295), in his day arguably the greatest nobleman in England, and a mother of at least nine children. Eleanor was thus of extremely high birth and an entirely appropriate person to be in charge of the household of the second in line to the throne (who was her own first cousin, albeit twenty-four years younger).

Edward II was at Woodstock with Isabella when their first daughter Eleanor was born on 18 June 1318, and the king's wardrobe accounts record a payment of 500 marks to "Lady Isabella, queen of England, of the king's gift, for the feast of her purification after the birth of Lady Alienora her daughter." The little girl soon joined the household of her elder brothers, under the care of a nurse named Joan du Bois. [7]  The king and queen's youngest child Joan was born in the Tower of London on 5 July 1321; Edward, then somewhere in London or Westminster, granted Robert Staunton a respite of eighty pounds on a debt of £180 he owed to the Exchequer, "in consideration of his services to queen Isabella, and of his bringing news of her delivery of Joan, the king's daughter." [8]   Edward arrived at the Tower on 8 July and stayed with Isabella and their newborn daughter for six days, removing the constable, John Cromwell, from his post, as the Tower was in a rather dilapidated state and rainwater had come in through the roof onto the queen's bed while she was in labour.  Edward later set up a household for Eleanor and Joan under the overall command of Hugh Despenser the Younger's sister Isabel, Lady Hastings; the girls' governess (mestresse) was Joan Jermy, sister of Edward's sister-in-law Alice Hales, countess of Norfolk. Isabel Hastings was married to Ralph de Monthermer, who had previously been married to Edward II's sister Joan of Acre and was therefore the girls' uncle. And thus, three more entirely appropriate people looked after the king and queen's children. There is nothing at all to suggest, incidentally, that Edward II cruelly and spitefully 'removed' his children from Isabella's care in 1324, as a few modern writers claim (I'll be looking at this in more detail in a future post). The king wrote to his daughters, then living at Marlborough Castle, on 26 July 1326, and no doubt on other occasions too, but the record of those letters happens to survive (Edward gave a messenger five shillings to ride from Sheen to Marlborough "to his daughters, with letters from the king"). He arranged excellent marriages, which didn't go ahead owing to his deposition, for Eleanor and Joan with King Alfonso XI of Castile and the future King Pedro IV of Aragon.

Edward's actions during Isabella's pregnancies indicate how concerned he was about her well-being and that of their children, and I'm going to point out again here that the oft-repeated story that he 'abandoned' her at Tynemouth when she was pregnant with Edward III in May 1312 is a total myth, as Isabella's own surviving household account of 1312 proves.  See also Seymour Phillips, Edward II (2010), p. 203: "Contrary to the report in Trokelowe's chronicle, written at St Albans, the pregnant Isabella was not abandoned at Tynemouth; instead she left there with her husband on 5 May and accompanied him to Scarborough before returning to York on 17 May."  As Professor Phillips points out in a footnote, Trokelowe confuses events of 1312 with those of 1322, another occasion when Isabella was in Tynemouth and caught behind Scottish lines.  Not that this is ever going to stop fans of the Victim!Isabella school of thought repeating it solemnly as fact, however.  I imagine they can even think of something to find fault with in Edward's concern for his pregnant queen; no doubt in their minds, it proves that he was only interested in her as a 'brood mare' or some such nonsense.  If we try to look at the details we know about Edward II and Isabella of France's family life objectively or with sympathy towards Edward, rather than with the assumption that he was a cruel neglectful horrid husband and father to his long-suffering wife and children, a touching picture emerges of the king's delight in his children, his concern for their and Isabella's health and well-being, his treating his children with the respect to which royal children were entitled by granting them lands and their own households and servants, arranging good marriages for them and frequently ordering prayers to be said for them and his wife.  Not least, his actions demonstrate his total certainty that his children were indeed his. 

I have no idea how Edward of Windsor, the future Edward III, felt about Edward II as he was growing up. It's hard to imagine that he could have felt much pride in his father's rule. The boy's childhood was punctuated by his father's failures, problems and errors, such as Bannockburn when he was only nineteen months old, the endless conflict with the powerful earl of Lancaster, the loss of Berwick, the Contrariant rebellion of 1321, the disastrous Scots campaign of 1322, the unsuccessful war with France in 1324/25, the domination of the Despensers, and so on. Edward III's attitude to his father may have been very similar to his grandfather Edward I's attitude to his inept father Henry III: whatever his determination to be a better ruler and warrior and to avoid making Henry's mistakes, there is no doubt that Edward I loved Henry as a father, enjoyed a very close relationship with him and mourned him sincerely when he died. Edward of Windsor's probable embarrassment and shame at his father's misrule and his concern that Edward II was destroying his inheritance, does not necessarily mean that their personal relationship as father and son was an unhappy or not a close one. Edward II's younger children John, Eleanor and Joan were very young, only ten, eight and five, at the time of his deposition.  There is no reason whatsoever to suppose that they did not love their father or that he did not love them or care about them.

Edward II's relationship with Edward of Windsor became much more difficult and fraught in late 1325 and 1326, when Isabella chose to use the boy (then thirteen) as a weapon against her husband. It's unfortunate that much of what we know about Edward II's relationship with his son comes from the period when the latter was being held in France, whether with his consent or not is impossible to say.  Edward II sent three letters to his 'fair son' (Beaufitz) which are full of his distress, fear and anger that his beloved son had been taken from him and was being used against him, and that a marriage was being arranged for him to which Edward (the king) had not consented.  On 19 June 1326, a furious and distraught Edward ended his final letter to his son, who must also have been distraught to read it, with a threat: "...if the king find him contrary or disobedient hereafter to his will, he will ordain in such wise that Edward [of Windsor] shall feel it all the days of his life, and that all other sons shall take example thereby of disobeying their lords and fathers."  After September 1325, father and son would never see each other again, and I find it so sad that this is the last known contact between them.  In their rush to praise Isabella for her cleverness and bravery in detaining her son in France and using him as a figurehead in the invasion of England, very few commentators stop to consider the tragic personal consequences of this act: the destruction of Edward II and Edward III's relationship.  But hey, it's only Edward II, the useless snivelling gay king whom most people despise and who probably didn't even father the boy anyway, so who cares?   And it's Isabella, the patron saint of medieval feminist empowerment, so her actions are seen as brave and wonderful.  I'm struggling to imagine another woman who could destroy the personal relationship of her husband and son as completely as Isabella did, another woman who could hold her adolescent son hostage in another country to prevent him returning to his father - or who at the very least forced him to choose between his father and her - and ensure that the two could never meet or ever enjoy the same closeness again, and be lauded for it as Isabella usually is.

These letters of Edward II, and his letters sent at the same time to his rebellious queen and her brother, have often been used by writers as evidence that he was weak, feeble, unmanly; the contempt with which his emotive and anguished phrases have been dissected and sneered at in certain quarters is truly remarkable to me.  (Or it would be, if I weren't so used to the utter contempt in which many writers hold Edward.)  I'm not sure really what the correct and appropriate way would be for someone to react and feel and write in emotionally painful and difficult circumstances where he feels that he is losing his own child, and that the child has been forced to choose between his parents and is being deliberately used as a weapon against his father. (I'm sure Edward's detractors would themselves have written much more manly, strong, virile and unequivocally heterosexual letters in this horrible situation. Or you know, whatever.  Stiff upper lip and all that, what what?)

I have a personal interest in all this, admittedly; I care very much about Edward II and it genuinely hurts and upsets me when people accuse him without any evidence whatsoever of being a bad uncaring father.  Say all you want about him being an inadequate military leader and ruler, he deserves it, but don't make up such horribly personal insulting things about him.  Simply being a bad king doesn't mean he was bad at everything and a total failure in all his personal relationships.  Even if he was a bad husband - which isn't nearly as obviously true as a lot of people seem to think - this doesn't automatically make him a bad father.  It really doesn't.


1) Johannis de Trokelowe et Henrici de Blaneforde Chronica et Annales, ed. H. T. Riley, pp. 79-80; Vita Edwardi Secundi, ed. N. Denholm-Young, p. 36.
2) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1307-1313, pp. 516, 519.
3) Calendar of Charter Rolls 1300-1326, p. 202.
4) Ian Mortimer, The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III, Father of the English Nation, p. 23.
5) Frederick Devon, Issues of the Exchequer: Being A Collection of Payments Made Out of His Majesty’s Revenue from King Henry III to King Henry VI Inclusive, p. 131; Thomas Stapleton, 'A Brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the tenth, eleventh, and fourteenth years of King Edward the Second', Archaeologia, 26 (1836), pp. 342-343.
6) Stapleton, 'Brief Summary', p. 320 (Montibus and baptism); Trokelowe, ed. Riley, p. 95; Close Rolls 1313-1318, p. 430 (prayers).
7) Stapleton, 'Brief Summary', p. 337 (purification); Calendar of Fine Rolls 1307-1319, p. 389 (household); Patent Rolls 1327-1330, p. 163 (nurse).
8) Patent Rolls 1321-1324, p. 23.

19 June, 2012

19 June 1312: My Heart Is As An Anvil Unto Sorrow

700 years ago today, Piers Gaveston, earl of Cornwall, was run through with a sword and beheaded at Blacklow Hill in Warwickshire.  He was probably just under thirty*, and left his five-month-old daughter Joan as his heir as well as an illegitimate daughter, Amie, and his eighteen-year-old widow Margaret de Clare.  And, of course, the grieving and furious Edward II, and a very real chance that England would slide into civil war.

* EDITED TO ADD: After I wrote this post, more information about Piers and his family came to light, and I now believe he was older than thirty at the time of his death.

For more information, see: Piers' return to England; his execution; its aftermath.

"If I be England's king, in lakes of gore
Your headless trunks your bodies will I trail,
That you may drink your fill, and quaff in blood,
And stain my royal standard with the same,
That so my bloody colours may suggest
Remembrance of revenge immortally
On your accursed traitorous progeny,
You villains that have slain my Gaveston!"

Christopher Marlowe, Edward the Second, Act 3 Scene 3.  The title of the blog post comes from Act 1 Scene 4.

"This King Edward the Second after the Conquest bestowed great affection during his father's life upon Piers de Gaveston, a young man of good Gascon family; whereat his father became so much concerned lest he should lead his son astray, that he caused him to be exiled from the realm...Piers became very magnificent, liberal and well-bred in manner, but haughty and supercilious in debate..."  (Scalacronica).

"Piers was an alien of Gascon birth...the magnates of the land hated him, because he alone found favour in the king's eyes and lorded it over them like a second king, to whom all were subject and none equal.  Almost all the land hated him too, great and small, even the old, and foretold ill of him; whence his name was reviled far and wide.  Nor could the king's affection be alienated from Piers, for the more he was told, in attempts to damp his ardour, the greater grew his love and tenderness towards Piers...Piers was very proud and haughty in bearing.  All those whom the custom of the realm made equal to him, he regarded as lowly and abject, nor could anyone, he thought, equal him in valour."  (Vita Edwardi Secundi)

And this is my attempt to express Edward II's love for Piers, in a fictional scene set in 1316 where Edward is talking to his friend Donald of Mar:

"...He was the most perfect, radiant, desirable, extraordinary creature that ever lived. There was never anyone like him. Damn Thomas for killing him! It's three years, seven months and twenty-three days since he and Warwick had him slaughtered, and God, I still need him, I can't bear my life without him. Every day I've woken up without him has been pointless."
He sent the chess piece flying across the room, and it struck the wall above a tapestry and smashed. Tristan [the king's dog] jumped at the sound and Edward patted his head absent-mindedly, and took a few deep breaths to try to control himself. "One day, Donald, I'll have my revenge for Piers' murder."

And another fictional scene of mine where Edward goes to see his cousin Thomas of Lancaster the evening before having Thomas executed for treason, at Pontefract in March 1322 (the earl is in chains in one of the towers of his own castle):

"...And do you remember how you once swore you’d protect me against all comers, in battle if need be, when almost all the others had deserted Piers and me before they sent him into exile? You stood by me, and I loved you for your loyalty. What happened to us? What went wrong, Thomas? Why did you abandon me, you, of all people? I still don't know."
     Thomas fidgeted, and picked at a thread on his soiled cloak, one of the few movements his manacles would allow. "That was before I found out what a fool you were," he finally said, though his voice lacked rancour. "Good lord, you let that Gascon get away with anything. A king can't rule like that!"
     "You can't even say his name, can you, Thomas?" Edward said, almost under his breath. He shifted position on the cold floor. "Let me say it instead: Piers Gaveston. The man you murdered."
     "I didn't! I had him executed. He was an outlaw, an excommunicate! He was begging for death."
     "I loved him, Thomas," Edward said with quiet emphasis. "He was my life. You knew how much I loved him, how much I needed him, but you murdered him anyway. Whatever you might think of me, you must know how deeply I can love. Have you ever loved, Thomelyn?" he asked suddenly, and Thomas didn't answer. "For all your hordes of mistresses, have you ever truly loved? And been loved? Have any of your women ever loved you, the real Thomas, and not your wealth and influence? I think not. But Piers, he loved the real me, Edward, the man not the king. And you tore him from me, humiliated him, you and your crony Warwick, before you murdered him. And there isn't a day that I don't think about him." The torment of ten years before ripped into Edward, as he fought to keep his voice level.
     Thomas stared at the wall above Edward's head. "I didn't have a choice. The way you acted forced me into it – it was the only way to get him away from you!"
     Edward shook his head. "You had a choice – to be faithful to your king and cousin, or not. And I share some of the blame, because I had a choice too. I had the choice between my kingdom and my love, and I chose my kingdom. I see now that I made the wrong choice, and we all live with the consequences of that, don't we?"
     Thomas dropped his eyes to Edward's face. "You're going to sentence me to death tomorrow, aren't you? As I sentenced the Gascon? For revenge?"
     "Yes," Edward said, and to his credit, Thomas didn't flinch, but merely sighed.

R.I.P. Piers Gaveston, oh thou beloved of a king.

17 June, 2012

Blanche of Artois, Queen of Navarre

A post about Blanche of Artois, queen of Navarre and countess of Brie, Champagne and Lancaster, who was both Edward II's aunt by marriage and his queen Isabella of France's grandmother.

Blanche of Artois's date of birth is usually estimated as about 1248, though may have been some years earlier.  Her father was Robert, count of Artois, who was born in September 1216 as the second surviving son of King Louis VIII 'the Lion' of France and Blanche of Castile (granddaughter of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine) and was thus the brother closest to age to Louis IX, who was two years and five months Robert's senior.  Blanche's mother Matilda was the daughter of Duke Henry II of Brabant and Marie of Hohenstaufen, third daughter of Philip of Swabia, king of Germany and Eirene Angelina of Byzantium, dowager queen of Sicily.  (Marie's younger sister Elisabeth was the first queen of Edward II's grandfather Fernando III of Castile and the mother of Alfonso X.)  Blanche of Artois was thus the great-granddaughter of Philip Augustus, king of France, of Alfonso VIII, king of Castile, and of Philip of Swabia, king of Germany, and the great-great-granddaughter of Frederick Barbarossa, Holy Roman Emperor, of Isaac Angelos, emperor of Byzantium, and of Henry II, king of England.

Blanche's father Count Robert of Artois was killed at Mansurah in Egypt on 9 February 1250, during the crusade of his brother Louis IX.  He left as his heir his son Robert, born posthumously in September 1250; Blanche was his only other child.  Robert's widow Matilda of Brabant, who was born in 1224 and married Robert in 1237 when she was thirteen, married secondly Guy de Châtillon, count of Saint-Pol, and had another five children.  She died in 1288.  Her daughter Beatrice of Saint-Pol, Blanche's half-sister, was described in a chronicle of the late fourteenth century as la plus belle qui fust en France, 'the most beautiful (woman) who was in France'.  Blanche of Artois's brother Robert was killed at the battle of Courtrai in 1302, leaving his daughter Mahaut as his heir; his son Philippe had predeceased him, leaving a son, also Robert, born in 1287.  The long struggle between Blanche's niece Mahaut of Artois - the mother of Jeanne and Blanche of Burgundy, who married Philippe V and Charles IV of France - and Mahaut's nephew Robert over the rights to the county of Artois form a major part of Maurice Druon's The Accursed Kings/Les Rois Maudits series of novels.

In 1269, when she was in her early twenties, Blanche married Henri or Enrique, younger son of King Thibaut I of Navarre, who was known as le Chansonnier or the Troubadour.  Henri himself was known as 'the Fat', le Gros or el Gordo.  In December 1270, Henri - then about in his mid-twenties - succeeded his childless elder brother Thibaut II, who was married to Blanche's first cousin, Louis IX and Marguerite of Provence's eldest surviving child Isabelle, as king of Navarre and count of Champagne and Brie.  Blanche and Henri had a son, whose name I'm uncertain of (possibly Thibaut?), who suffered a terrible, tragic fate as a baby: his nurse dropped him from the battlements of Henri's castle at Estella.  Their only other child was a daughter named Jeanne or Joan, born in early 1273, who succeeded her father as Queen Jeanne I of Navarre as a baby when Henri died in July 1274, aged thirty or so.  The little girl was arguably the most desirable marriage prize in Europe, and although Edward I of England arranged a marriage between her and his second-born son Henry (born July 1268), with Henri, the latter's death in July 1274 put paid to that alliance, and young Henry himself died at the age of six in October that year.  Blanche of Artois was left as regent of Navarre for her daughter the baby queen, and faced down threats of civil war and invasion by the kings of Castile (Alfonso X, Edward II's uncle) and Aragon (Jaime I).  In the treaty of Orléans of May 1275, she accepted the aid of her first cousin, King Philippe III of France.  The young Queen Jeanne thus married Philippe's sixteen-year-old son and heir in August 1284, almost certainly in Paris* - he succeeded as Philippe IV of France a little over a year later - and became the mother of Louis X, Philippe V, Charles IV and Isabella, queen of Edward II, as well as two other daughters and a son who did not survive childhood.  Blanche of Artois was thus the grandmother of three kings of France and a queen of England.

[* Powicke's The Thirteenth Century 1216-1307 says they married at Estella, but my friend Elena looked up Philippe III's itinerary for August 1284, and he was in Paris, so it seems extremely likely that the wedding took place there.  Elena isn't sure if Jeanne or Philippe IV ever set foot in Navarre.]

The treaty of Orléans gave Philippe III control over the kingdom of Navarre, and it ultimately passed  to Jeanne and Philippe IV's eldest son Louis on Jeanne's death in the spring of 1305, and later to Louis's daughter Jeanne II.  Blanche herself kept control of the county of Champagne, which meant by the standards of the time that she needed a powerful husband.  A man was chosen, either by herself or others, who was also Philippe III's first cousin (their mothers were sisters) and was as royal as Blanche of Artois herself was: Edmund, earl of Lancaster, Leicester and Derby, fourth child of Henry III of England and Eleanor of Provence and thus Edward I's brother.  Blanche and Edmund married sometime between 18 December 1275 and 18 January 1276.  Edmund was born in January 1245, and had previously and briefly been married to the great heiress Aveline de Forz, daughter of the count of Aumale and the countess of Devon, who died aged fifteen in 1274.

Blanche and Edmund had three sons: Thomas, earl of Lancaster, born c. 1278, executed 1322; Henry, earl of Lancaster, born c. 1281, died 1345; John, who died childless in France in 1317 - Henry was his heir - and is very obscure.  Earl Henry had one son, the wonderful Henry of Grosmont, duke of Lancaster, and six daughters; five of his seven children had children of their own, so Blanche had numerous descendants in England in the fourteenth century, and also a few in France via the descendants of her grandsons Louis X and Philippe V.  Blanche of Artois was the great-grandmother of Edward III and the great-great-grandmother of Charles the Bad, king of Navarre.  Her great-granddaughter and namesake Blanche of Lancaster married Edward III's son John of Gaunt and carried the vast Lancastrian inheritance to him.  Her sons Thomas and Henry of Lancaster, when they were growing up, were brothers-in-law of the king of France and nephews of the king of England.  It is often missed that they were Isabella of France's (half-)uncles as well as Edward II's first cousins, and I can think of at least a couple of novels that portray Thomas as opposed to Edward at least in part because he is in love with Isabella.  Thomas and Henry of Lancaster's ancestry was remarkably illustrious, a fact which needless to say did not go unnoticed at the time: the Vita Edwardi Secundi remarks "Earl Thomas was related to the king in the second degree of kinship, for they were descended from two brothers...His mother was Queen of Navarre, his sister Queen of France, and his sister's daughter now Queen of England. As each parent was of royal birth he was clearly of nobler descent than the other earls."

Blanche of Artois, queen of Navarre, countess of Brie, Champagne and Lancaster, the wife, granddaughter, niece, mother-in-law and sister-in-law of kings, was widowed on 5 June 1296, when Earl Edmund died in Bayonne at the age of fifty-one.  He was buried in Westminster Abbey, where his elaborate tomb still exists, next to that of his brother Edward I; his first wife the teenaged Aveline de Forz is also buried nearby.   Blanche was the chief executor of his will.  [1]  Edmund and Blanche's eldest son Thomas succeeded to the considerable Lancastrian inheritance, augmented still further by his 1294 marriage to the wealthy heiress Alice de Lacy.  Queen Blanche herself died at Vincennes on 2 May 1302 and was apparently also buried in England, though not next to her husband but at the convent of the Minoresses without Aldgate, which Earl Edmund had founded in 1293.  I've also seen it stated, however, that she was buried at the Franciscan nunnery of Nogent l'Artaud near Paris, which she herself had founded; I'm not sure which is correct.  One of the executors of her will was her daughter Jeanne, queen of France and Navarre.  [2]  Blanche of Artois and Edmund of Lancaster feature as characters in Sharon Penman's novel The Reckoning, the final part of her Welsh trilogy.


1) Patent Rolls 1292-1301, p. 288; Close Rolls 1296-1302, pp. 174, 180, 387.
2) Patent Rolls 1301-1307, p. 117.

- J.R. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster 1307-1322: A Study in the Reign of Edward II
-  Maurice Powicke, The Thirteenth Century 1216-1307
- Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

03 June, 2012

Don't Defame The Dead (2)

Why do some people make it their life's mission to invent hurtful rubbish about people who are no longer here to defend themselves, and get all snidey and huffy when you politely point out that, just maybe, trashing people's posthumous reputations is not very fair?  Why do some people make it their life's mission to get offended by absolutely anything or anyone at all that even slightly disagrees with their opinion, and bang on about another person's respectfully-expressed point of view as though it's a personal attack on them?  Anyway, continuing the Don't Defame The Dead campaign, here are some excellent contributions by friends of mine, and please see also the terrific cards on A Nevill Feast's own Don't Defame The Dead post and Undine's great post Speaking Up For Those Who Can No Longer Speak For Themselves on her equally great World of Edgar Allan Poe blog.  EDIT: Hannah at the Thomas Cromwell Experience has also done a great post on her blog.

To everyone who drones on tediously about poor Isabella and her tragically awful sex life with Edward II, when, dammit, she was desperate for so long for a real manly strong virile man, I give you this:

I still get a good laugh at the statement posted on Facebook a while back with as much as certainty as though there was a video camera on the wall of Edward and Isabella's bedchamber: Edward II was "a fastidiously gay guy who begat children on her - note not with her - as a painful duty."  Classic.

"One of the strongest men of his realm."  Not that you'd know it from some books and films.

My card about Joan de Geneville, based on my annoyance at novels which turn her into a grossly overweight, unattractive, sexless bore (when they even bother to mention her in the first place):

My card about Isabella (which could also apply to Margaret of Anjou):

My card about a novel which maligns a fifteenth-century man beyond all my previous notions of maligning by choosing to ignore this essential difference:

My friend Rachel's card about Isobel MacDuff (of Fife), countess of Buchan (with ref to a novel which turns her husband John Comyn, earl of Buchan into a thuggish rapist who beats her up even when she's pregnant):

Also from Rachel, Joan de Geneville's card to Isabella of France:

Blogger is up to its usual tricks and being weird so I can't put spaces between some of these cards - that last one was made by my friend Hannah.  You can probably guess who it's about.  :-)

Two made by my friend at A Nevill Feast:

This is about Richard Nevill, earl of Warwick (1428-1471), though could also apply to other men of the Middle Ages deemed 'cruel' for arranging their daughters' marriages (though not their sons' for some reason):

Rachel's card featuring Thomas Boleyn (who has already featured on my blog as one of the indignant people maligned in histfict): 

Lovely Ashmodiel's card about our beloved Piers Gaveston:

01 June, 2012

Don't Defame The Dead (1)

Well, would you like it? If not, why are you inventing such hateful, hurtful nonsense about Edward II in your badly-written melodramatic novels? Don't defame the dead.
This is one of the most disrespectful and unpleasant things that you can write about anyone. Don't defame the dead.
I am bored beyond tears with all the nasty snidey bigoted remarks about Edward II's sexuality. Deal with it. Don't defame the dead.
Do you have any actual evidence that Hugh Despenser raped or sexually assaulted Queen Isabella? No. Don't defame the dead.
Edward II was popular in Wales and didn't order any Jewish people murdered, as a 2006 novel says he did. Don't defame the dead.
Roger Mortimer and to a lesser extent Henry of Lancaster are SO useful to Isabella fans in this respect. Don't defame the dead.
Is it so hard to believe that Piers Gaveston was more than some idiotically one-dimensional cardboard cut-out 'favourite'? Don't defame the dead.  Isabella of France was a complex human being who was neither a devil nor a saint. Don't defame the dead.
Don't defame the dead.  It's easy to do.  You just remember that they were human beings as much as you are and remember that telling lies about them says far more about you than it does about them.

Some friends of mine joined in my Don't Defame The Dead campaign on Facebook; their posts are coming here soon.  If you fancy having a go yourself, here's the site to make the cards!