31 July, 2016

Edward II's Murder...Or Not...?

I'm wading into the fray! My next book, provisionally titled Long Live The King? The Mysterious Fate Of Edward II, will be published in about May 2017. It's a detailed exploration of the evidence for a) Edward's murder at Berkeley Castle in September 1327 and b) his survival for years after that date. I want to try to present both sides as neutrally as possible and allow readers to make up their own minds. It's a very current debate; the latest edition of Fourteenth Century England contains an article by Dr Andy King called 'The Death of Edward II Revisited', an edition of BBC History Magazine earlier this year contained a debate on the topic by Ian Mortimer and Nicholas Vincent, and in November 2015 an entire TV programme was devoted to it. (A mostly horrible TV programme, but still.) There's so much information and so much to discuss that I decided to write an entire book about it; of course Edward's murder or possible survival is discussed in my two previous books, but I only had very limited space, and have been desperate to write a book dedicated to the topic for years. Yay! I hope you're excited :-)

22 July, 2016

Article And New Books

An article of mine about Isabella of France has just been published on the BBC History Magazine website. Enjoy! :-)

My book Isabella of France: The Rebel Queen got a great review in the weekly Catholic magazine The Tablet recently. You have to register on the site to read the full review, but it's free and very easy. I particularly enjoyed the part "she is very cross indeed with soi-disant [so-called] historians who bend known facts to fit their theories." That's very true; I am. :-)

Nick Gribit, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds recently, has written a book about Henry of Grosmont, then earl of Derby and later first duke of Lancaster, and his expedition to Aquitaine in 1345/6. Yay! As you probably know, I madly love Henry.

The latest edition of the fab series Fourteenth Century England, number nine, is out now, with an essay by Paul Dryburgh about Edward II's younger son John of Eltham (yippee!) and one by Andy King about Edward II's death (double yippee!). I have it on order; hope it comes soon as I'm dying (pun intended) to read both.

Martin White has written a novel, To Catch the Conscience of the King, about Edward II's downfall and his escape from Berkeley Castle. It came out as an e-book on 18 June this year, and the author tells me it will also be available in paperback soon. He's kindly sending me a copy. I'm looking forward to reading it; more here about it soon.

Finally, my good friend Ivan Fowler's novel about Edward II's survival in Italy has been entirely reworked and has been published in Italian, Edward; Il mistero del Re di Auramalawith a fab cover which I love. Can't wait to read the forthcoming English version!

14 July, 2016

St Andrew's Church, Heckington, Lincs, and my Edward II talk there

At Andrew's Church, Heckington.
One of Edward II's chaplains was Richard de Potesgrave, who was parson of Byfleet, Surrey when the king was there in November 1308, and whom Edward shortly afterwards made parson of Heckington, Lincolnshire as well. Richard was close enough to Edward for the rest of his reign to be able to present petitions to him on behalf of other people on occasion. Richard founded the church of Saint Andrew in Heckington sometime after March 1309, when Edward made him parson of the village, and his tomb can be seen there to this day (pic below). Edward II himself never visited Heckington, to my knowledge, but his son Edward III was here in August 1330, just a few weeks before he overthrew his mother Isabella and Roger Mortimer. The church of St Andrew, Heckington, still stands there magnificently, and is most unusual in that almost all of it dates to Richard de Potesgrave's time; as many of you will know, this is not often the case with medieval English churches, when you tend to move six feet to your left and thereby move out of a bit built in, for example, 1120 to a bit built in 1240 with fourteenth-century additions, then you move over there and stand in a fifteenth-century bit with a Victorian reconstruction.

On Friday 8 July 2016, I was kindly invited to give a talk about Edward II by the vicar, Chris Harrington, and some of his lovely parishioners, who all made me and my family feel incredibly welcome. Thank you especially to Mary, Lesley and Pete! We had the opportunity to look around the gorgeous fourteenth-century church, then I talked for an hour about Edward and his reign and the controversy surrounding his death and/or survival, in front of around a hundred people, some of whom had come from Leicester and Doncaster. (And sold quite a lot of books as well. :)

That moment when you walk round a place you've never been to before and see your own name...heh.

Outside the church.

The tomb and effigy of Richard de Potesgrave (died c. 1345), with missing head

Inside the church

Inside the church
St Andrew's is well known for its many fourteenth-century gargoyles and grotesques. Here are a few.






Wonderful fourteenth-century tracery

Is this an image of Edward II? With the crown, bushy beard and long flowing locks, it certainly looks like other contemporary depictions of him.

Me sitting in the sedilia (canopied stone seats on the south side of the altar)
If you're ever in the vicinity of Heckington (near Sleaford in the North Kesteven district of Lincolnshire, just off the A17, about twenty-five miles south-east of Lincoln), I definitely recommend visiting St Andrew's church. I hope to go back myself sometime soon!

The Reverend Chris Harrington introducing me

During my talk

Selling and signing my books about Edward II and Queen Isabella

With one of the posters - will treasure it always!

09 July, 2016

International Medieval Congress 2016, Session 828: The Troublesome Twenties

On Tuesday 5 July 2016, from 4.30 to 6pm, I took part in the above session about the 1320s with Professor Mark Ormrod of the university of York, the moderator, and Dr Paul Dryburgh of the National Archives, who wrote his doctoral thesis on Roger Mortimer, first earl of March. Paul talked for thirty-five minutes, a general overview of the 1320s, about the 1322 Statute of York, and much else which I'm afraid I rather missed as I was thinking about my own impending talk! I then spoke for half an hour about Edward II's last chamber account of 1325/26, now held in the library of the Society of Antiquaries in London. I talked about Edward's relationships with his niece Eleanor Despenser and her husband Hugh, the king's powerful chamberlain and favourite: there is much in the account to imply a considerable amount of affection and familiarity between Edward and Eleanor, such as frequent letters, gifts and visits, private dining, and Edward's offering of thirty shillings to give thanks to God for granting Eleanor a prompt and safe delivery of her child in December 1325. (Not named or even given a gender, but probably the Despensers' youngest, Elizabeth.) Hugh Despenser was away from Edward far more than we might expect in 1325/26, given that he had persuaded Edward to send his son to France in September 1325 rather than go himself on the grounds that his life would be in danger if the king left him alone in England. He spent much time in Wales that year, and in November 1325 Edward II heard news that Despenser had been killed. He hastily sent three men there to ascertain what was happening, and gave the large sum of ten marks each to the men for telling him that Despenser was, 'by God's mercy', perfectly well. Despenser received a manuscript of the story of Tristan and Isolde from the king in 1326.

One thing I love about the last account of Edward II's chamber is the way it confirms that the stories the chroniclers tell about him, that he enjoyed the company of his common subjects and that he took part in 'rustic pursuits', are accurate. At Leeds, I gave a good few examples of this: the king giving out money to Thames fishermen and carpenters for spending time with him (one of them was called Colle Herron, Colle being a pet name for Nicholas), inviting shipwrights to come and visit him at Kenilworth Castle, joining in when a group of workmen dug ditches and made fences at the royal manor of Clarendon in Wiltshire. I throughly enjoyed the talk and would happily have stood there for hours, talking all about Edward II and his character and hobbies!

07 July, 2016

7 July 1307/1317

King Edward I died on 7 July 1307 at Burgh-by-Sands near Carlisle at the age of sixty-eight, 709 years ago today. Exactly ten years to the day later, on 7 July 1317 (whether by accident or design), Edward II founded the King's Hall at the University of Cambridge. When his descendant Henry VIII founded Trinity College in 1546, King's Hall was subsumed into it, as was Michaelhouse, founded in 1324 by Edward's ally Hervey Staunton of the King's Bench.

More posts coming soon - I visited Lincoln today so have lots of pics of the cathedral and especially the chapter-house, where Edward held parliament in early 1316, to post!

03 July, 2016

My Talks: IMC and Heckington

On Tuesday 5 July, from 4.30 to 6pm, I'll be taking part in a session at the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds with Professor Mark Ormrod of the University of York (Edward III's biographer) and Dr Paul Dryburgh of the National Archives. Our session is called The Troublesome Twenties, i.e. the 1320s, and my talk is about Edward II's last chamber account of 1325/26 and what it reveals about him.

And on Friday 8 July at 7.30pm, I'll be giving an hour-long talk about Edward II in the village of Heckington, near Sleaford in Lincolnshire. I've been invited by the good people at St Andrew's church, which was founded by Edward's chaplain Richard Potesgrave; Richard was also one of the men who guarded Edward's body (or was it Edward's body...?) in Gloucester during the two months it lay in state there before his funeral on 20 December 1327. If you're anywhere in the vicinity, please do come along!