14 November, 2014

The Children of Edmund of Woodstock and Margaret Wake, and Joan of Kent's Date of Birth

Edmund of Woodstock was born on 5 August 1301 as the youngest son of Edward I, then aged sixty-two; his mother was Edward's second queen Marguerite of France, Philip IV's half-sister.  Edmund was created earl of Kent by his half-brother Edward II, who was seventeen years his senior, on 28 July 1321, just before his twentieth birthday.  (Calendar of Fine Rolls 1319-27, p. 68)

Margaret Wake was the daughter of John, Lord Wake; first cousin of Roger Mortimer, first earl of March, via their mothers the Fiennes sisters; and great-great-granddaughter of both Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, prince of Gwynedd, and of John de Brienne, emperor of Constantinople.  She was married firstly to John Comyn, only son of John 'the Red Comyn', lord of Badenoch, stabbed to death by his great rival Robert Bruce in February 1306.  The younger John was killed at Bannockburn in June 1314 fighting for Edward II, and their little boy Aymer Comyn, named after John's maternal uncle Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, died in infancy.  Margaret was born sometime in the mid to late 1290s and was thus some years older than her second husband Edmund.  She died on 29 September 1349; her brother Thomas, Lord Wake, whose heir she was - as his marriage to Henry of Lancaster and Maud Chaworth's eldest daughter Blanche was childless - had died on 31 May that year.  (Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1347-52, pp. 201-10, 233-5)

Margaret Wake and Edmund of Woodstock married around the middle of December 1325; the date of their wedding is not recorded but the Annales Paulini (ed. Stubbs, p. 310) say that it took place at about the same time as the death of Edmund's uncle Charles, count of Valois, which occurred on 16 December 1325.

The couple had four children.  Their youngest, John, earl of Kent, who was presumably named after his maternal grandfather John Wake, was born in Arundel Castle, Sussex on 7 April 1330; the exact date was given on record when John proved that he had come of age, i.e. twenty-one, in April 1351 (Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1347-52, pp. 455-6).  John was Edmund of Woodstock's posthumous child, as Edmund had been beheaded for treason in Winchester on 19 March 1330: see my articles about his plot to free his half-brother Edward of Caernarfon in the sidebar here, in my article in the English Historical Review and in my book Edward II: The Unconventional King.  John, earl of Kent, died on 27 December 1352, aged twenty-two; 'he died on the night of St John [the Evangelist]'s day in Christmas week last' and 'he died on the night after St Stephen last', says his Inquisition Post Mortem. John left a widow, Elisabeth of Jülich, who was the niece of Queen Philippa, being the daughter of Philippa's younger sister Joan of Hainault and William V, duke of Jülich in the Rhineland. The couple had no children.

John's heir to the earldom of Kent, and also to the lands of their childless maternal uncle Thomas, Lord Wake, was his sister Joan 'the Fair Maid of Kent', by far the most famous of Edmund of Woodstock and Margaret Wake's children and the only one who outlived John.  Joan, of course, married Edward III's eldest son Edward of Woodstock and was the mother of Richard II, and caused a great scandal in her early life by being married to two men at once, William Montacute, earl of Salisbury and Sir Thomas Holland.

The date of birth of Joan of Kent, princess of Wales and countess of Kent, is almost invariably, in pretty well every book and article I've ever seen on the subject, given as 29 September 1328.  I've been looking today at her brother John's Inquisition Post Mortem, taken between December 1352 and February 1353 (Cal Inq Post Mortem 1352-60, pp. 41-57).  Jurors in the numerous counties where John had held lands gave Joan's age in December 1352 as between 22 and 26, which would place her date of birth somewhere between 1326 and 1330.  This is entirely typical of IPMs, where the stated ages of the heirs of tenants-in-chief can vary by as much as ten years.  We're talking about jurors who may never even have seen Joan, giving their best guess as to how old she was - probably they had some vague idea when Edmund of Woodstock and Margaret Wake had married, and a rather better idea of when Edmund had been executed, and took a stab at an age somewhere between those dates.  Two counties, however, give Joan an exact date of birth.  The jurors of Nottinghamshire stated on 14 February 1353 that she was '25 years and more at St Michael last', that is, she turned 25 on 29 September 1352, which would make her date of birth 29 September 1327 (eight days after the alleged death of her uncle Edward II), and the jurors of Leicestershire said on 19 January 1353 that Joan was '26 years and more at St Michael last', which would make her date of birth 29 September 1326, five days after the invasion force of Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer landed in Suffolk.  Given the date of Joan's parents' wedding, it is impossible that she was 'more' than 26 years old in 1352.  Her mother Margaret Wake, incidentally, died on Joan's birthday in 1349.

Edmund of Woodstock and Margaret Wake had two other children.  Their elder son Edmund was named as Earl Edmund's heir both by the parliament of November 1330 which pardoned the earl for the 'treason' he had committed in trying to free a supposedly dead man a few months previously, and in various entries in the chancery rolls in 1331.  Edmund died as a child sometime shortly before 13 October 1331 (Cal Fine Rolls 1327-37, pp. 277, 279), and his younger brother John (b. April 1330) became heir to the earldom of Kent.  It makes me so sad to think of these little children dying.  :-(

There was also another daughter, Margaret, of whom little is known except that she was betrothed to the Gascon lord Arnaud-Amanieu d'Albret in 1340.  He was much her junior, born in August 1338, and later became great chamberlain of France.  He eventually married Marguerite de Bourbon, one of the many, many grandchildren of Charles of Valois and thus a first cousin of Queen Philippa and a first cousin once removed of Margaret of Kent herself.  We know that Margaret of Kent must have died sometime before her brother John died in December 1352, or she would have been his co-heiress with their sister Joan.  We know that she can't have had any children alive in 1352, as otherwise they would have been John's co-heirs with their aunt, Joan.  The fate of this obscure aunt of Richard II, however, is unknown.  (And oddly enough, little Aymer Comyn mentioned above, who died in infancy in 1316 as far as I remember, was Richard II's uncle, older half-brother of Richard's mother Joan.  Richard wasn't even born until 1367.)

Edmund of Woodstock and Margaret Wake thus had four children together in their marriage of four years and three months.  Except that John was the youngest, the birth order of the children is uncertain.  The earliest that any of them could have been born is September 1326, nine months after Edmund and Margaret's wedding of c. mid-December 1325, and their second youngest cannot have been born any later than May or June 1329, as John was born in early April 1330 and must have been conceived in about July 1329, and Margaret would have been 'off-limits' to her husband for thirty or forty days after birthing her second last child.  Joan of Kent, from the evidence of John's IPM, was born either on 29 September 1326 or 29 September 1327.  If the former, she must have been Edmund of Woodstock and Margaret Wake's eldest child and conceived very soon after their wedding.  It is possible that some of the children were twins - their aunt, Edward II's sister Elizabeth, countess of Hereford, had twins William and Edward, so they may have run in the family - though I'm just speculating.  Joan and Margaret?  Joan and Edmund?  Margaret and Edmund?  Margaret and John?

The April 1351 proof of age of John, earl of Kent, offers another piece of evidence.  John was baptised on the day of his birth, 7 April 1330, in the church of St Bartholomew in Arundel.  James de Byne, one of the dozen jurors who gave testimony in 1351 as to John's date of birth, stated that "Edmund son of the said Edmund [of Woodstock, earl of Kent], and Brother John de Grenstede, prior of the order of Friars Preacher of Arundel, and Joan, sister of the said Edmund son of Edmund, lifted the said John from the sacred font on 7 April, 4 Edward III...".  So both Joan of Kent and her brother Edmund were considered old enough and big enough and responsible enough to lift their newborn brother out of the font, albeit with an adult helping.  Their sister, Margaret, however, was not.  Does this indicate that Margaret was the younger sister and not considered old enough for this task?  Neither Joan nor Edmund could have been older than three and a half at the time, but it doesn't seem very likely that Joan was only eighteen months old, as she would have been if she'd been born in September 1328 as everyone who writes about her always, always, always states.  (Where does that date come from?  Did someone perhaps once see John's IPM and mess up the maths and think that age 25 or 26 subtracted from 1352 equalled a date of birth in 1328, and everyone else has just copied it ever since without checking?  Or is there some other evidence somewhere I'm missing?)

One last point.  Joan of Kent secretly married her first husband Sir Thomas Holland in 1340, and later also married her fiancé William Montacute, son and heir of the earl of Salisbury and later earl of Salisbury himself, too afraid to admit what she had done.  Joan is usually stated to have been only twelve when she married Holland, who was many years her senior, born in around 1314 and thus about twenty-six in 1340.  According to the information of her brother Earl John's IPM, however, Joan must actually have been thirteen or fourteen at the time of her secret wedding, which is at least slightly less alarming by our modern standards.  It also means that when she gave birth to her youngest child Richard II on 6 January 1367, Joan was likely forty years old.  I do think the evidence indicates that she was rather older than is always assumed and stated nowadays.

9 comments:

Brad Verity said...

Great post, Kathryn. Some thoughts:
1) Joan would not have been born exactly on the feast of St. Michael (29 September) as both the Leicestershire IPM jurors in Jan. 1353, and the Nottinghamshire ones the following month used the phrase "and more" after her returned age (26/25) on St. Michael. She was most likely born just a few days prior to the feast of St. Michael.
2) There are a couple reasons to think that her sister Margaret was older than Joan. First, the names. Margaret would've been named for their paternal grandmother Margaret of France, Queen of England, and Joan after their maternal grandmother Joan de Fiennes, Lady Wake. As Queen Margaret was much more prestigious than Lady Wake, it would be expected that the firstborn daughter would've been named for her. Secondly, Margaret's marriage was arranged by Edward III in a treaty on 4 April 1340, while Joan's marriage to William Montagu occurred afterward, in the winter of 1340-41 (probably in January 1341 - she and Montagu were certainly married by 10 Feb. 1341, see Cal. Pat. Rolls 1340-43, p. 145). Again, it would be expected for the elder daughter to be arranged in marriage first. However, there are always exceptions, so neither point can be viewed as proof that Margaret was older than Joan.
3) Margaret of Kent's husband was not Arnaud-Amanieu d'Albret (who inherited and married Marguerite of Bourbon), but rather his elder brother Amanieu d'Albret (c.1322-1347). Margaret appears to not only have predeceased her brother John, Earl of Kent, but also her husband as well. Since the plague did not break out in Europe until 1348, Margaret must have died of some other cause (perhaps a too-early childbirth?) at some point between 1340 and 1347.
4) The marriage of Edmund of Woodstock and Margaret Wake had to have been a love match. She was not an heiress - her brother Thomas Wake had recently married Blanche of Lancaster and there was no reason to suspect in Dec. 1325 that the young couple would end up childless and Margaret inherit. The only thing Margaret brought to her marriage was herself, as the Scottish lands of her first husband had been confiscated, leaving her with claim to dower in a handful of relatively worthless properties in Northumberland. Though Margaret was slightly better connected socially than the two wives of Edmund of Woodstock's brother Thomas of Brotherton, she was still a huge step down for an earl, let alone the brother of a king. This is the kind of woman you made your mistress, rather than your wife, status-wise. So September 1326 as the earliest a child could be born to Edmund and Margaret is assuming they were not carnal prior to their marriage. But given the unusual circumstances of their marriage, I'm not certain we can assume they weren't a consummated couple already.

Anerje said...

Fascinating post - especially about Joan of Kent. It seems amazing, considering her parents, that they could not identify her age, and I have this vision of her being paraded around while people tried to guess her age.

Kathryn Warner said...

Brad, thanks for the great comment! I'd considered the naming issue as possible evidence of the girls' birth order, but decided that as Edmund and Margaret called their first son Edmund instead of Edward as they 'should' have, they probably weren't that strict about following naming conventions. Edmund's half-sisters Eleanor and Elizabeth didn't follow convention either by naming their first daughters after their mother Eleanor of Castile - Eleanor's only daughter was Joan of Bar, and Elizabeth's first child was Margaret de Bohun. Edward II and Isabella followed convention with their daughters, but their second son was John, not Philip.

Had Thomas Wake and Blanche of Lancaster only 'recently' married in late 1325? I always had the impression they'd married, or at least been betrothed, as early as 1316, when he refused marriage to Joan Gaveston. So Edmund and Margaret may have known the marriage had been childless for some years and therefore might remain so. Still a very odd marriage for a man who was son, brother and nephew of kings though, absolutely. Negotiations had taken place in 1324 for Kent to marry the daughter and heir of Bertrand de Got, viscount of Lomagne, one of Clement V's nephews. I do wonder why both of Edward I's youngest sons made such 'low' marriages. Love or lust, surely, but then, why did they not marry more suitable women (as it were) and keep Alice and Margaret as mistresses? Perhaps Kent's marriage had something to do with his allying with Roger Mortimer, Margaret's first cousin, though mid-Dec 1325 seems early for this, especially as a dispensation had been issued by the pope in October, and I can't really see Kent allying himself with Mortimer against Edward II as early as that. And what was Margaret doing in France in 1325 anyway? Attending Queen Isabella, perhaps?

Kathryn Warner said...

Anerje, my next post will probably be about Alice de Lacy, countess of Lincoln, and there the IPM jurors guessed her age between 24 and 32 in 1311 ;)

Carla said...

Could jurors in some counties have been better informed about Joan than in others? I'm just curious as to whether the Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire jurors might have actually known Joan's date of birth for some reason, or whether they were guessing but happened to pick a precise date.

Caroline said...

Wonderful as always Kathryn. The matter of Joan's age solved a question which had been puzzling me for some time - why the papal tribunal happily accepted Joan's agreement to marry Thomas Holand in the spring of 1340 as valid when according to all I had read she was just eleven and a half and the Church only accepted a girl as being "competent" from the age of twelve. If, however, she was older then it all makes sense.

Sami Parkkonen said...

Once again: nothing but HISTORY

Brad Verity said...

Kathryn, I didn't know about the October 1325 dispensation for the marriage of Edmund of Woodstock and Margaret Wake, nor did I know about the negotiations the previous year for his marriage to the heiress of Lomagne. Is Lomagne in Gascony, I wonder? Didn't Edmund serve in Gascony in the War of Saint-Sardos? I realize I know very little about Edmund's career under Edward II, except that he seems to have received much more responsibility from Edward than their brother Thomas of Brotherton did.

You are correct about Thomas Wake's marriage to Blanche of Lancaster taking place in 1316. I guess by 1325, she would've been about age 23-24, still quite young enough to bear a child. I'm sure there must have been many prayers for a male heir to carry on the Wake legacy - it's sad she remained childless. Unless there was already physical evidence of Blanche's barrenness, it wouldn't be until Blanche was in her 30s that Edmund and Margaret could count on the likelihood of the Wake inheritance coming into their hands, so I don't think it was a factor at all in Edmund's marrying Margaret. My guess is that if anyone helped the young earl and the widow orchestrate their nuptials it was Queen Isabella, whom I agree with you was probably the reason why Margaret Wake was in France at all in 1325. Her brother Thomas Wake had spent some time in Isabella's household during his minority.

I was a bit too severe about Margaret Wake's social status. Her mother had been a kinswoman of Edward I's queen Eleanor of Castile, and Margaret was related to other baronial families. In addition, unlike the wives of Thomas of Brotherton, Margaret Wake seems to have been a member of the royal court prior to her marriage, likely attending on Queen Isabella. But Edmund of Woodstock didn't need Margaret for her connections - his position as the king's brother guaranteed him favour. My guess is that Edmund fell hard for the slightly older widow Margaret, and Isabella encouraged the match, as she would have her own reasons for wanting to draw Edmund closer to her and her inner circle.

Kathryn Warner said...

The dispensation was granted on 6 Oct 1325: Papal Letters 1305-1341, p. 246. Margaret isn't named, but it gives Edmund permission to marry a woman he was related to in the third or fourth degree, which they were via common descent from King John.

I wrote about the marriage negotiations for Edmund here: http://edwardthesecond.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/marriage-negotiations-in-january-1324.html Apparently Lomagne is near Toulouse.