28 April, 2013

28 April 1317: Wedding of Margaret de Clare and Hugh Audley

696 years ago today, Edward II's niece Margaret de Clare married her second husband Sir Hugh Audley, as his first (and only) wife.  Margaret, then aged twenty-three or almost - she was probably born in the spring or summer of 1294 - and a widow since the death of Piers Gaveston, earl of Cornwall, on 19 June 1312, was the third child and second daughter of Edward II's sister Joan of Acre (spring 1272 - 23 April 1307) and her first husband Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford (2 September 1243 - 7 December 1295).  Margaret's older siblings were Gilbert, earl of Gloucester (c. 10 May 1291 - 24 June 1314), killed at the battle of Bannockburn at the age of twenty-three, and Eleanor, Lady Despenser, born October/November 1292.  Their younger sister was Elizabeth, born on 16 September 1295, who in 1317 was the widow of firstly the earl of Ulster's eldest son and heir John de Burgh, and secondly of Theobald, Lord Verdon.  Hugh Audley was the son and heir of Sir Hugh Audley Senior and Isolde Mortimer, and in 1317 was probably in his mid-twenties.

Margaret de Clare Gaveston and Hugh Audley married in Edward II's presence at Windsor; the king's wardrobe accounts show that he provided three pounds in coins to be thrown over the heads of the bride and groom, and that he also gave thirteen shillings and four pence in oblations, which were distributed in his presence in the chapel in Windsor park.  Presumably Margaret's younger sister Elizabeth married Edward's other great favourite Sir Roger Damory at about the same time, though oddly there is no record of the latter wedding in the king's extant accounts.  Marriage to the de Clare sisters made Audley and Damory extremely wealthy, when the lands and goods of the late earl of Gloucester were divided among his three sisters and their husbands later in 1317.

Just as Elizabeth de Clare's marriage to Roger Damory produced one child, a daughter named Elizabeth Damory (May 1318 - 1361/62), Margaret de Clare and Hugh Audley's marriage also produced a single daughter, Margaret Audley, born sometime between early 1318 and late 1322.  Elizabeth Damory was heiress only to her father Roger, not to her extremely wealthy mother, as Elizabeth de Clare had a son by her first marriage, William Donn de Burgh, earl of Ulster, who by the laws of primogeniture was the sole heir to his mother (in fact, he died young in 1333 and his only child, also Elizabeth, who married Edward III's second son Lionel of Antwerp, inherited her grandmother's vast wealth).  At the time of her birth and for a few years afterwards, Margaret Audley was co-heiress to her mother with her older half-sister Joan Gaveston, Piers' and Margaret de Clare's daughter, born in early 1312.  Joan Gaveston sadly died at Amesbury Priory on 13 January 1325, around the time of her thirteenth birthday and before she could make the marriage to John, future Lord Multon arranged for her in 1317 by her great-uncle and guardian Edward II.  This left her half-sister Margaret Audley as sole heiress to their mother's share of the enormous de Clare inheritance in England, Wales and Ireland.

The huge wealth of the de Clare sisters was an enticing prospect for any man lucky enough to marry one of them, as he would control the lands by right of his wife as long as she lived and, as long as they had a living child together, after her death as well.  Elizabeth, ordered back from Ireland by her uncle Edward II after the death of her brother Gloucester, was abducted from Bristol Castle by Theobald de Verdon in early 1316 and forcibly (I presume) married to him, to the fury of Edward II.  Verdon in fact was dead within six months of the marriage, leaving Elizabeth pregnant; she gave birth to their daughter Isabella in March 1317, a few weeks before she married her third husband Roger Damory.  Eleanor, the eldest de Clare sister, had been married to Hugh Despenser the Younger since May 1306 and thus was safe from abduction while he lived (her heir, incidentally, was her eldest son, also Hugh, born in 1308 or 1309), but Hugh's execution in November 1326 left her vulnerable, and in early 1329 she too was abducted and forcibly married, by William la Zouche, widower of the earl of Warwick's widow Alice de Toeni.  Margaret de Clare lived in the household of and thus under the watchful eye of her uncle Edward II while a rich widow from 1314 to 1317, and thus remained unmarried until the king arranged her wedding to Hugh Audley, but her daughter and sole heiress Margaret Audley suffered the same fate as her aunts Eleanor and Elizabeth.  (As, indeed, did two other rich heiresses of the era, Alice de Lacy and Maud Clifford, a de Clare cousin.)

On 28 February 1336, an entry appears on the Patent Roll (Calendar of Patent Rolls 1334-1338, p. 283): "Commission to Robert de Bousser and Adam de Everyngham to find by inquisition in the county of Essex what persons broke the close of Hugh de Audele [Audley] at Thaxstede [Thaxted, Essex], carried away his goods and abducted Margaret his daughter; and to certify the king fully of the whole matter."

On 6 July 1336, the following entry appears (Ibid., p. 298):

"The like [commission of oyer et terminer] to Richard de Wylughby, Thomas de Loveyne, Thomas Gobyon and Robert de Jedeworth, in the counties of Cambridge and Essex, on complaint by Hugh Daudele that Ralph de Stafford, Ralph son of Ralph Basset, [nineteen other men are also named] and others, broke his close at Thaxtede, carried away his goods, abducted Margaret his daughter and heir, then in his custody, and married her against his will."

So by then, Hugh Audley had discovered who had abducted his daughter, and had also learned that she had been forcibly married: Sir Ralph Stafford, a widower born in 1301 and thus around twenty years older than Margaret Audley (I'm only speculating, but I would assume that Margaret was born nearer the end of the early 1318 to late 1322 possible window for her birth than the beginning, given that she was still unmarried in 1336).  Unable to annul the marriage, and with Ralph Stafford high in Edward III's favour, Hugh Audley and Margaret de Clare had perforce to accept it, and the king's awarding the earldom of Gloucester to Hugh in 1337 may have helped the process.  I'd love to know how Margaret Audley felt about her marriage and her husband, who had removed her from her home with the aid of at least twenty men, but sadly history does not record her feelings or opinion.  She and Ralph Stafford had half a dozen children, two sons and four daughters, and via their daughter Katherine and her husband Michael de la Pole, earl of Suffolk, are the ancestors of, among many other illustrious descendants, all the kings of France from Louis XIII onwards, kings of Spain and Poland, archdukes of Austria, Marie Antoinette, queen of France, and Anna Jagiellonka, queen of Hungary.  Hugh Audley was a 'favourite' of Edward II, the only one in fact to survive the reign, and married a woman who in most other circumstances would have been out of his league.  This marriage arranged by Edward II, and the forced marriage of their daughter nineteen years later, ultimately resulted in the births of a fair few eminent people.  I just wish I knew more about Margaret Audley's feelings on the matter, and I can't help being extremely glad that I'm not a rich heiress of 700 years ago.  Being perhaps only fifteen years old, snatched from your home by a large group of men to be married off to a man two decades your senior, forced to have sex with him and bear his children, with absolutely no punishment whatsoever meted out to him for these actions - well, words fail me.

25 April, 2013

25 April 1284: Birth of Edward II

Happy Birthday to my lord king, born in Caernarfon, North Wales 729 years ago today on 25 April 1284.
Statue of Edward II which dates to his own lifetime, c. 1320, on the King's Gate of Caernarfon Castle.
Edward II, as well as being one of only two English monarchs with a Spanish parent (the other is Mary I, born in 1516 as the daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon), is one of only three English monarchs I can think of who were born in Wales, the others being Henry V, born in Monmouth in 1386, and Henry VII, born in Pembroke in 1457, neither of whom was particularly close to the succession to the throne at the time of their births.  Although Edward II was born as the son of the reigning king of England, he was not in fact born as heir to the throne: his ten-year-old brother Alfonso, born in Bayonne in November 1273 and named after their uncle and his godfather Alfonso X of Castile, was still alive at the time of his birth.  Alfonso, however, died what seems to have been very suddenly on 19 August 1284, four months after the birth of his little brother, and thus tragically deprived England of having a king called Alfonso of Bayonne.  (Bayonne, incidentally, is about 25 miles from the French-Spanish border and 75 miles from Gabaston, the little village that was the ancestral home of Edward II's beloved Piers Gaveston.)  Edward of Caernarfon and Alfonso's two elder brothers John (1266-71) and Henry (1268-74) having also died young, the infant born in North Wales in the spring of 1284 thus became heir to his father's throne, and presumably to the king's great relief was a robust and healthy child who grew up to be an enormously strong, physically powerful, tall and fit adult.

Caernarfon Castle, with the King's Tower on the right with the flags flying from it, traditionally (though probably wrongly) said to be Edward II's birthplace.
As well as his then still-alive brother Alfonso and his two dead brothers John and Henry, Edward of Caernarfon had five older sisters alive in 1284 in addition to at least another five who had died in infancy: his surviving sisters were Eleanor, later countess of Bar (born June 1269); Joan of Acre, later countess of Gloucester and Hertford (born spring 1272); Margaret, later duchess of Brabant (born March 1275); Mary, veiled as a nun at Amesbury Priory (born March 1279); and Elizabeth, later countess of Holland, Hereford and Essex, only twenty months Edward's senior, born in Rhuddlan in August 1282.  Edward I and Eleanor of Castile's daughters who died young were Katherine, another Joan, Berengaria and two whose names are unknown.  There may have been yet another sister who died in infancy, and perhaps even another brother.  Edward II was at least the fourteenth and perhaps the fifteenth or sixteenth child of Eleanor of Castile, of whom only six outlived her; he was also almost certainly her youngest child, his alleged younger sisters Beatrice and Blanche being inventions of the nineteenth century.  Edward I also had three children with his second queen Marguerite of France, Thomas, earl of Norfolk (1300-38), Edmund, earl of Kent (1301-30) and Eleanor (1306-11), and thus fathered at least seventeen children altogether.

At the time of Edward of Caernarfon's birth, Edward I was almost forty-five, born on 17 June 1239, and had been king of England for eleven and a half years.  Edward's mother Queen Eleanor, born Infanta Doña Leonor de Castilla, was forty-two, born most probably in late 1241 in the north of Spain.  According to the itinerary of Edward I, the king was in Caernarfon from 1 April to 6 May 1284, then went to Harlech via 'Lammanath'.  Presumably Queen Eleanor stayed in Caernarfon after her son's birth and was churched there; the king returned to the town on 25 May and stayed till 8 June.  To celebrate the birth of 'Lord Edward, the king's son', Edward I paid twelve shillings to feed 100 poor people and gave out nine pounds in alms in the town of Caernarfon.  The precise location of Edward of Caernarfon's birth is unknown, as the enormous castle which still stands in the town and is usually said to be his birthplace was in the extremely early stages of construction in April 1284.  Most likely he was born somewhere in the town, or perhaps in one of the timber buildings which already existed at the site where the stone castle was built.  If the latter, I can't imagine it was very comfortable for the queen, giving birth for at least for the fourteenth time, in her forties, in the middle of what would basically have been a large muddy building site.

Edward of Caernarfon was baptised on 1 May, though unfortunately the identities of his godparents have not survived.  His first wet-nurse was Mary, Marrola or Mariota Maunsel, presumably a Welsh woman, who fell ill and was forced to leave his service in the summer of 1284, replaced by Alice Leygrave, later called "the king's mother, who suckled him in his youth." (Calendar of Close Rolls 1307-13, p. 581.)  Mary Maunsel must have remained in contact with the future king, however, as Edward II never forgot her; on 14 November 1307 when he was twenty-three, four months after he became king, he gave her seventy-three acres of land rent-free in Caernarfon for life, and in March 1312 granted her an annual income of five pounds, a very generous amount for a woman of her rank and status.  (Calendar of Patent Rolls 1307-13, pp. 21, 448.)  The future Edward II lived in Caernarfon for the first few months of his life, until sent with his elder sisters to Bristol in the autumn of 1284; he did not return to the land of his birth until he was almost seventeen in April 1301, shortly after his father created him prince of Wales.

Caernarfon Castle, with part of the town visible in the background.

Further Reading
Seymour Phillips, Edward II (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2010)
Hilda Johnstone, Edward of Carnarvon, 1284-1307 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1946)

18 April, 2013

Edward II's Death And Afterlife Revisited (2)

Somewhat belatedly, here's the second part of my posts about Edward II's possible death and his possible survival after September 1327.  As I pointed out in part one of this series, no cause of Edward's supposed death on 21 September 1327 was ever stated in any official government source, and none of the men said to have been involved in it ever said a word in public about what happened.  Incidentally, there is little doubt that Edward's death happened or was assumed by many contemporaries to have happened on 21 September 1327, certainly not 11 October as several websites including Wikipedia state, citing much later sources; Edward's son Edward III kept the anniversary and attended mass in memory of his father on 21 September, or occasionally on the 22nd, and this anniversary was also kept by numerous churches, abbeys and so on.  [1]  Given the silence in official records, our only sources as to what (may have) happened at Berkeley Castle on that day are chronicles.  All fourteenth-century chronicles which talk about the subject say that Edward II died at Berkeley in September 1327, with none claiming that he survived (the ample evidence for this comes from elsewhere).  Some give the red-hot poker story as the cause of death, though the majority don't; some say instead that Edward was suffocated or strangled; some say that he died of natural causes or a grief-induced illness; some say that he was murdered without specifying how; some merely say that he died with no further details at all.  It is emphatically not the case that there was universal agreement on the red-hot poker story, which is the overwhelming impression you get these days online and in books written by anyone who isn't a specialist in the fourteenth century, that the story is certain fact and accepted by everyone at the time and ever since as being so.  Needless to say, it isn't.  And also needless to say, it certainly isn't the case that the red-hot poker story was given out at parliament in November 1330 as the official cause of Edward II's death, which is something I've seen stated online more than once.

Ian Mortimer has compiled an extremely useful table setting out which fourteenth-century chronicler said what about Edward II's death, and when, in chronological order.  For what follows, I have consulted this table and the 2010 biography of Edward by Seymour Phillips; for much more detail and if you're interested in this issue, I strongly recommend reading the books in question (see below for details).  [2]  The only chronicler in the south-west of England in September 1327 - he was 90 miles away from Berkeley, in Exeter - was the royal clerk Adam Murimuth, who wrote up his chronicle a few years later.  He gives the cause of Edward II's death as suffocation, gives the date as 22 September, apparently a day too late, and claims that the murderers were Sir Thomas Gurney and Sir John Maltravers, when in fact the parliament of November 1330 named the killers as Gurney and William Ockley.  Maltravers was never, at any point in his long life (he lived till 1364) accused of any involvement in Edward II's death by Edward's son Edward III.  Murimuth and other chroniclers who name Maltravers as one of the men responsible presumably were confused on this point because Maltravers was sentenced to death in November 1330 for his role in the entrapment and judicial murder of Edward II's half-brother the earl of Kent eight months previously.  Why Murimuth gives the cause of death as suffocation, what his source was if indeed he had one, or whether he was guessing and thought this was the most plausible method, I don't know, and although he's demonstrably mistaken on a couple of other points, he's usually a pretty reliable source.  Elsewhere, Murimuth also says that Edward was "murdered by a trick", per cautelam occisus, whatever he means by that; Professor Seymour Phillips suggests it is metaphorical, meaning that Edward was killed treacherously.

Other chroniclers reasonably close in time to September 1327 give the cause of death as a grief-induced illness (a continuation of the Brut in the early 1330s: enmaladist...grevousement de grant dolour et morust) or possibly strangulation (Lichfield Chronicle, early 1330s), or merely state that Edward died either without further details, say that it was a natural death, or say that he was murdered without stating how (Annales Paulini, Anonimalle, Wigmore chronicle, Newenham annals, Canterbury chronicle, Peterborough chronicle, French chronicle of London, Lanercost, which states that Edward "either died naturally or through the violence of others").  As late as the early 1360s, Sir Thomas Gray of the Scalacronica could still write that Edward "died, in what manner was not known."  The Bridlington chronicler of the 1330s wrote that he did not believe "what is now being written" about Edward's death, almost certainly an indication that he had heard the rumours of the red-hot poker (which Thomas Gray decades later either hadn't or thought was too implausible even to mention) but gave them no credence.  Note the essential point again that there are plenty of fourteenth-century chroniclers who do not give the red-hot poker as the cause of Edward II's death.

The first mention of the infamous poker appears in the longer continuation of the Brut in about the mid-1330s, which names Thomas Gurney (whose last name is spelt 'Toiourneye') and (wrongly) John Maltravers as the murderers, and includes the detail that a large table was placed on Edward's stomach as he slept and a "spit of copper burning" inserted through a horn inside him and "oftentimes rolled therewith his bowels" (that bit makes me want to vomit).  The story is also given in the Polychronicon of Ranulph Higden, a monk of Chester, and in the chronicle of Geoffrey le Baker of Oxfordshire, both written around 1350.  It's le Baker, in fact, who gives most of the details of Edward of Caernarfon's supposed mistreatment at Berkeley Castle prior to death; he was constructing a narrative of a saintly, Christ-like Edward nobly suffering the torments of lesser men, with a view to promoting the former king's canonisation.  As for Higden, he was summoned before Edward III's council in August 1352 and ordered "to come with all your chronicles and those in your charge to speak and treat with the council concerning matters to be explained to you on our [Edward III's] behalf."  [3]  As Ian Mortimer points out, Higden "was more responsible for the spread of the story about the death of Edward II being due to a red-hot poker than anyone else", given that the Polychronicon exists in more than 160 manuscripts and was, like the Brut, frequently used as a source by most later chroniclers.  [4]

After a few decades, chroniclers had no new information to add and of course no real knowledge of what had happened at Berkeley Castle in September 1327, and just copied from earlier chroniclers, whether their accounts were reliable or not.  I've already written a post demolishing the often-repeated myth that John Trevisa, chaplain of Thomas, Lord Berkeley, had inside knowledge of Edward's fate in 1327 and that his translation without comment of Higden's Polychronicon with its red-hot poker murder is indirect evidence that the story must be true.  (Sigh, if only some modern writers would just do a modicum of research before mindlessly repeating nonsense from others about Trevisa being a child in Berkeley village in 1327 and later being the confessor of Edward of Caernarfon's guardian.)  The Geoffrey le Baker story of the red-hot poker murder with all its lurid details is by far the most detailed and probably the one best known today, while Christopher Marlowe's c. 1592 play about Edward II has done more than anything else to popularise this story of Edward's supposed death.  As I and others in the comments noted in this post, and as far better historians than me have also pointed out, the red-hot poker story is extremely, highly, overwhelmingly unlikely to be true, and if you see anyone anywhere stating it as certain 'fact', they're only demonstrating their lack of familiarity with the whole issue.  As has often been stated in modern times, the red-hot poker story may "have been part of a popular tradition that fitted the punishment to the crime and imagined the ex-king as having been effectively sodomized to death."  [5]  My own belief is that if Edward II really did die at Berkeley Castle in September 1327, he is far more likely to have been sedated and then suffocated, which would also leave no marks and was a method of murder the perpetrators knew would work, as opposed to pointlessly sadistic and far-fetched notions of 'let's punish the sodomite by raping him with a hot poker'.  Roger Mortimer escaped from the Tower of London in August 1323 by feeding his guards drugs in their wine that knocked them out, so we know he was able to procure sedatives (which, given Edward II's enormous strength, are likely to have been necessary to overpower and kill him).

In the next post (posts?), I'll take a look at the evidence for Edward II's possible survival past 1327: the Fieschi Letter, William Melton's letter, the earl of Kent's plot, William le Galeys and so on.


1) Ian Mortimer, 'The Death of Edward II in Berkeley Castle', English Historical Review, cxx (2005), p. 1209 (reprinted in his Medieval Intrigue: Decoding Royal Conspiracies (2010), pp. 92-93, 107).  Wikipedia's current page on Edward II states "it was generally believed, he was murdered by an agent of Isabella and Mortimer on 11 October 1327, although Edward's death is commemorated annually at Berkeley Castle on 21 September."
2) Ian Mortimer, 'Sermons of Sodomy: A Reconsideration of Edward II's Sodomitical Reputation' in The Reign of Edward II: New Perspectives, ed. Gwilym Dodd and Anthony Musson (2006), pp. 58-60, reprinted in in Mortimer's Medieval Intrigue, pp. 55-58; Seymour Phillips, Edward II (2010), pp. 560-565.
3) Antonia Gransden, Historical Writing in England II: c. 1307 to the Early Sixteenth Century (1982), p. 43.
4) Ian Mortimer, The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III, Father of the English Nation (2006), p. 484 note 16.
5) W. Mark Ormrod, Edward III (2011), p. 67.  See also Ian Mortimer's 'Sermons of Sodomy' article cited in note 2 above and Ormrod's 'The Sexualities of Edward II', also in Dodd and Musson.

14 April, 2013

Sevilla! Córdoba! And Edward II's Spanish Connections!

Exciting news: in a few weeks, I'm off on a trip to Seville in southern Spain, and (almost certainly, time permitting) to Córdoba as well!  Edward II's maternal grandfather King Fernando III of Castile and León aka San Fernando is the patron saint of the city of Seville, with his feast day on 30 May, the day he died in 1252 - and I'll be there to see the celebrations held in his honour in the cathedral where he's buried.  *hugs self in excitement*  Córdoba isn't far from Seville and I have to go that way with the train back to the airport in Málaga anyway, so I'm hoping I'll have a few hours to explore the city and especially the amazing Mezquita-Catedral, the Mosque-Cathedral.  Late May should, I hope, be a great time of year to visit the area, hot but not excessively so, as it surely will be in July and August.  (Excessively hot by my Northern European standards, that is.)  As many of you will know, I'm really interested in Edward II's Castilian connections and get ridiculously thrilled at the knowledge that his grandfather was a Spanish saint, although Fernando wasn't canonised until 1671, long after his and his grandson's time.  (It's interesting to note that Fernando III's first cousin Louis IX of France - their mothers Berenguela and Blanche of Castile were sisters - was also canonised, but much sooner after death, in 1295.)  At any rate, even if Edward II had no way of knowing that his grandfather would one day be made a saint, he must surely have heard of Fernando's great military campaigns and his recapture of much of Andalusia. Edward I told a Castilian papal nuncio visiting England in 1306 that "he [the nuncio] should have a special affection for our dear son Edward, as he [Edward] is of Spanish descent." Edward II is one only of two English monarchs with a Spanish parent, the other being Mary I, born in 1516 as the daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon.

Seville, Córdoba and a large part of the Iberian peninsula were conquered by the Umayyad caliphate under the command of Tariq ibn Zayid in the 710s, and the cities were recaptured by Fernando III in 1236 (Córdoba) and 1248 (Seville) after more than half a millennium of Muslim rule.  Fernando's grandfather Alfonso VIII of Castile (whose queen Eleanor was the daughter of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine) and his fellow Christian kings Pedro II of Aragon, Sancho VII of Navarre and Alfonso II of Portugal won an emphatic victory over the forces of the Almohad caliphate at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212.  In the twenty years after 1228, Fernando III recaptured most of the rest of al-Andalus or Andalusia, including Jaén, Úbeda, Arjona, Mula, Lorca, Badajoz, Mérida, Huelva, Écija, Lucena, Orihuela, Murcia and Cartagena.  Granada, with its magnificent Alhambra, which sadly I won't have time to see on this trip (but it's a great excuse to go back to Andalusia sometime!), remained an independent emirate until captured by los Reyes Católicos Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492; Fernando III came to an agreement with the emir Mohammed ibn Nasr in 1238 that Granada would be allowed to remain independent on payment of an annual tribute to him.

Córdoba and Seville were the most important cities of Fernando's reconquista.  Córdoba, an ancient Roman provincial capital, had also once been the capital of the Umayyad caliphate, and during its golden age in the tenth century was the greatest city in western Europe and the greatest Muslim city in the world except for possibly Baghdad, with half a million inhabitants, 500 mosques, 300 public baths, 50 hospitals, 70 libraries, street lighting and a reputation for advanced and enlightened scholarship in medicine, science, philosophy, arts, mathematics and astronomy (source: Jason Webster's Andalus: Unlocking the Secrets of Moorish Spain (2004), pp. 156-7).

The great city of Seville fell to Fernando III on 23 November 1248, following a sixteen-month siege, and Fernando entered the city in triumph on 22 December that year.  I don't know if she did, but I'd love to think that Edward II's mother Eleanor of Castile, Infanta Doña Leonor de Castilla, Fernando's then seven-year-old daughter, took part in the triumphal procession into the city.  Eleanor was present at her father's death-bed in Seville on 30 May 1252 and lived in the city with her mother the dowager queen Joan until her marriage to the future Edward I of England in Burgos, northern Spain in 1254 (source: John Carmi Parsons, Eleanor of Castile: Queen and Society in Thirteenth-Century England (1995), p. 9).

Eleanor of Castile, queen of England, was the twelfth of Fernando III's fifteen children, the second eldest of the five he had with his second queen Joan, countess of Ponthieu (d. 1279).  He had previously had ten children with his first queen Elisabeth or Beatriz of Swabia (d. 1235), who remarkably enough was the granddaughter of two emperors: Frederick Barbarossa, Holy Roman Emperor, and Isaac Angelos, Byzantine Emperor.  Eleanor of Castile's biographer John Carmi Parsons (see above for citation) estimates her date of birth as late 1241, when Fernando III was forty and Queen Joan probably in her early twenties.  Of Fernando's fifteen children, eleven were sons; of his four daughters, two died young and the other, Berenguela, became a nun, so that Eleanor was his only daughter to marry and have children.  Fernando III and Queen Beatriz's eldest son Alfonso X of Castile and León (23 November 1221 - 4 April 1284) is, like his parents, buried in the cathedral of Seville, so I'll also get to see the tomb of one of Edward II's uncles, yippee.  Another of Edward's uncles, Infante Don Felipe, was archbishop of Seville.  So, I'm going to visit a city that has strong connections to his immediate family, and I couldn't be more thrilled about it.  :)  Given that Edward II can hardly have known his mother, who died when he was six and had spent more than three years of his childhood outside England and away from him, I really don't know how knowledgeable or interested he was in his Spanish heritage, but perhaps it's telling that he was keen to betroth his daughters Eleanor and Joan in 1324/25 to Spanish kings, Alfonso XI of Castile and the future Pedro IV of Aragon.  He was certainly in contact fairly often with his kinsmen and women in Castile, and the family connection was always acknowledged on both sides, though it would take me an entire blog post to detail the correspondence.

Lots of pics to follow in a few weeks after my holiday!  :-)

09 April, 2013

Edward II's chamber account of 1325/1326

For no particular reason except that I completely and utterly love it, here are some pictures of the last journal of Edward II's chamber, which covers the period from July 1325 to October 1326 and is now held  in the Society of Antiquaries of London.  The journal is written in French and lists the expenses out of Edward's chamber; they give a remarkably illuminating perspective on his life, as I've detailed in previous blog posts here, here, here and here.

01 April, 2013

Edward II's Precious Goods at Newcastle, May 1312

On 4 May 1312, Edward II, a pregnant Queen Isabella and Piers Gaveston fled ninety miles by sea from Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Tynemouth down the coast to Scarborough, in order to escape Edward's cousin, Thomas, earl of Lancaster, who was slowly making his way north in order to capture Piers after his return to England from his third exile.  The Vita Edwardi Secundi has this to say, poetically, about Lancaster's journey: "Thus Thomas flies by night and hides by day/And to check rumour slowly wends his way."  (In the original Latin: Sic Thomas de nocte uolat, sub luce moratur/ Ut lateat, modicum cursum ne fama loquatur).  [1]

The king, taken entirely by surprise, was forced to leave behind his baggage train in Newcastle, and Thomas of Lancaster seized possession of it when he arrived in the town.  Edward fumed over the loss of his many valuable belongings, and pointed out a few months later (according to the Vita Edwardi Secundi) that "if any lesser man had done it, he could be found guilty of theft and rightly condemned by a verdict of robbery with violence."  Lancaster made an inventory of the possessions and claimed that he fully intended to return them to the king, though Edward had to wait a few months before he received them.  They were finally returned to him on 23 February 1313 with the inventory, which is printed in the original French in Foedera 1307-1327 and in Pierre Chaplais's 1994 book about Piers Gaveston, and in an often inaccurate English translation in Jeffrey Hamilton's 1988 biography of Piers (see the end of this post for the bibliography).  Edward granted on 16 December 1312 a "[s]afe-conduct, until the feast of St. Hilary, for Thomas, earl of Lancaster, into whose hands certain horses, jewels and other goods of the king fell at Newcastle-upon-Tyne and elsewhere, which he is bound to surrender to the king in the next ensuing feast of St. Hilary at St. Albans, or for his men, the king, on account of the difficulties and dangers of the road, having granted him a licence to provide an escort of 40 men-at arms to guard the same to the town of St. Albans, where such horses, jewels and goods are to be delivered to the person, or persons, whom the king shall depute to receive the same, and to give to the earl sufficient letters of acquittance."  [2]

It is often assumed that most of the goods were Piers Gaveston's, but there is little evidence that they were with the exception of several items adorned with his arms, and probably most of the goods were Edward II's.  The famous 'three silver forks for eating pears' (trois furchesces dargent pur mangier poires) are also often said to have been Piers', and maybe they were, but there's no real reason to believe they weren't Edward's.

So anyway, here are just a few of the many wonderful things owned by Edward II in 1312 and inventoried by the earl of Lancaster, and however angry Edward may have been about the temporary loss of his precious items, I for one am decidedly grateful for it, as otherwise we'd never know about them.  There are just so many jewels, it's quite head-spinning; page after page of them.

- "A gold ring with a sapphire, which St Dunstan forged with his hands."  This means Dunstan, archbishop of Canterbury, who died in 988.

- "A cameo in gold, from Israel."

- "On another staff, two rubies, two sapphires, a garnet, a crystal, of which five were delivered [to Edward II] by bishops' executors, and the sixth by the daughter of Llywelyn, prince of Wales."  This presumably means Gwenllian, daughter of Llywelyn and his wife Eleanor de Montfort, who was sent to a nunnery as a baby by Edward I in 1282.  Gwenllian was Edward II's second cousin, like him a great-grandchild of King John.

- "Another brooch, given to the king by my lady Isabella [madame Isabelle], the sister."  This must mean Edward II's sister the countess of Holland and Hereford, whose name is otherwise almost always given as Elizabeth.

"Another brooch, a gift of Edmund, earl of Cornwall to my lady Isabella, the sister."  Edmund, earl of Cornwall was the first cousin of Edward I: their fathers Henry III and Richard of Cornwall were brothers, and their mothers Eleanor and Sanchia of Provence were sisters.  As Edmund died in 1300 without children, nieces or nephews - his marriage to Margaret de Clare was annulled in 1294 - his heir was Edward I, then Edward II after his father's death.

- A gold cup, enamelled with precious stones, which Queen Eleanor [la reigne Alianore] left to the present king with her blessing."  It is unclear whether this means Edward II's mother Eleanor of Castile (d. 1290) or his grandmother Eleanor of Provence (d. 1291), but either way, the cup is likely to have had great sentimental value for him.

- "In a chest bound with iron, a silver enamelled mirror, a comb, a pricket [a spike for holding a candle], which was given to the king by the countess of Bar at Ghent."  This means Edward II's sister Eleanor, who died in 1298.  The king in this entry seems almost certainly to be a reference to Edward I rather than his son.

- "A clasp of gold with two emeralds, two rubies, two sapphires and eleven pearls, with a cameo in the middle...which was left [to Edward II, presumably] by the queen of Germany [la reigne Dalemaigne]."  This might mean Elisabeth of Carinthia, wife of Albert I, or Margaret of Brabant, wife of Henry VII; Margaret was the sister of Duke John II of Brabant, who married Edward II's sister Margaret.

- (Talking of whom): "Three gold clasps...given by the duchess of Brabant" and "A stone with enamelled sides, given to the king by the duchess of Brabant."

- Three brooches, two said to be gifts to Edward from the queen, presumably Isabella, and one said to be a gift from "my lady the queen, the mother" (madame la roine, la miere).  That probably means Eleanor of Castile, but might also be a reference to Edward II's stepmother Marguerite of France, who was almost always courteously referred to as his mother.

"Another brooch neither valued nor weighed, and a ring given to sire Anfour by Sir William de Salines."  This almost certainly means Edward II's elder brother Alfonso (November 1273 - August 1284); English scribes always struggled with the spelling of his Spanish name.

- "A jewel of gold with nine emeralds and nine garnets, and a white cameo in the middle, enamelled on the other part."

- "An amethyst in gold and a sapphire and a gold bar with relics."

- "Seven set stones, of which we don't know the names except jasper and amethyst."

- Sixty-three horses: forty-one destriers and coursers, one palfrey, nine pack horses and twelve cart horses.

- A gold ring containing a great ruby 'called the cherry' (apele la cerise), which is clearly stated to have belonged to Edward. The name gives a good indication of how big the jewel must have been.

- Another great ruby set in gold, worth a staggering £1000, which was found on Piers' body after his death, and was probably a gift to him from Edward. Also found on Piers' body were "three large rubies in rings, an emerald, a diamond of great value, in a silver box," and "two vessels, a large and a small, and in the small a hanging key, a sterling cord and a chalcedony." (Whatever a 'sterling cord' is.)

- A belt "decorated with ivory, notched with a purse hanging down from it, with a Saracen face," a belt made of lion skin, decorated in gold with a cameo, one of silver with enamelled silver escutcheons, one with bands of silver and gold, and two of silk, covered with pearls.

- A gilded eagle with rubies, emeralds, sapphires and pearls, containing relics of St Richard of Chichester (died 1253).

- A gold dragon with enamelled wings (un dragon dorre od les eles enamaile), with a leather container.

- Numerous silver salt cellars, spoons, cups, goblets, saucers and pots, numerous gold-plated silver pots and cups, and a pair of gold-plated silver basins, belonging to Piers, with his coat of arms on them.

- A silver ship with four gold oars, enamelled on the sides.

- A fur-backed altar frontal of green cloth, powdered (poudre) with gold birds and fishes.

- A belt "decorated with ivory, notched with a purse hanging down from it, with a Saracen face" (od un visage de Saracyn).

- A belt made of lion skin, decorated in gold with a cameo.

- Two silver plates for fruit, with the arms of the king of England.

- A sendal curtain; two pieces of velvet to cover plates (deux cotes de velvet pur plates coverir); a cloak of velvet cloth furred with miniver; a buckle for a palfrey with the king's arms.

- Two silver washbasins with two leather boxes; a silver pot for water; two silver pots for water, one gilded and the other white; a silver plate with feet, for spices.

- A silver ship for incense (une neef dargent pur encens).

- A gold crown with various (unspecified) jewels, worth 100 marks or 66 pounds.

- A  silver chaplet decorated with various jewels, worth twelve shillings.

- A cross with a silver chain.

- In a chest, a large silver bowl for alms with an eagle on the bottom.

- An ivory box decorated with silver, with four feet.

- A crystal goblet with a silver base; a gold-plated silver cup; countless other silver cups.

- Page after page of other precious items.


1) Vita Edwardi Secundi Monachi Cuiusdam Malmesneriensis, ed. Noel Denholm-Young (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1957), p. 23.
2) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1307-1313, p. 517.

Further reading

- J.R. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster 1307-1322: A Study in the Reign of Edward II (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), p. 125
- R.A. Roberts, Edward II, The Lords Ordainers and Piers Gaveston's Jewels and Horses (1312-1313) (Camden Miscellany, xv, 1929)
- Pierre Chaplais, Piers Gaveston: Edward II's Adoptive Brother (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), pp. 90-95, 125-134
- Foedera, Conventiones, Litterae et Acta Publica, ed. T. Rymer, Record Commission edition, vol. 2.1 (London, 1816), pp. 203-205
- J.S. Hamilton, Piers Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall 1307-1312: Politics and Patronage in the Reign of Edward II (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1988), pp. 119-127