04 August, 2017

Win a FREE copy of my new book!

I'm offering a free, signed hardback copy of my new book Long Live the King: The Mysterious Fate of Edward II! All you have to do to win is leave a comment with your email address, either here or on my Edward Facebook page, or if you prefer, you can send me an email at: edwardofcaernarfon(at)yahoo(dot)com. It doesn't matter where in the world you are, as long as you have a postal address I can send the book to! You can ask for any dedication you like as well.

The closing date is Wednesday 16 August, midnight Central European Time. The following day, I will randomly select a winner and notify you via email, at which point you can give me your postal address and any special dedication you'd like me to write in the book.

Long Live the King is a thorough investigation of both a) Edward II's murder in 1327, what chronicles say about it, the fate of his alleged murderers, his funeral in Gloucester, etc, and b) his possible survival after that date, citing all the evidence in its favour. There's a long section called 'Arguments For and Against' both his murder and his survival, Appendices quoting the Fieschi and Melton Letters and other evidence in both English and the original French and Latin, and an Afterword and appeal for help by my friend Ivan Fowler of the Auramala Project. (Please check out their website; they're doing fab research into the possibility of Edward's survival in Italy.) My aim was to provide readers with all the wealth of evidence both for and against Edward's murder in 1327, and let you make up your own minds. It's intriguing that there's so much evidence for both. Will we ever be able to establish for certain whether Edward died at Berkeley Castle in 1327 or not?

Best of luck!

30 July, 2017

Edward II Goes Swimming?

There is evidence that Edward II thoroughly enjoyed swimming: in February 1303, for example, when he wasn't yet nineteen and was prince of Wales, he had to pay compensation to his fool Robert Buffard or Bussard for playing a trick on him in the river in Windsor (they were swimming in *February*), and in October 1315 the king spent a congenial month swimming and rowing in the Fens with lots of 'common people'.

I've been looking recently through one of Edward's chamber accounts, and there's more evidence of his enjoyment of swimming. In June 1324, at Thundersley in Essex, the royal valet Thomas Bower was paid for "what he did" (which sadly isn't specified) "when the king went into the water at Thundersley." I'm not at all familiar with Essex so am not sure which water this means. Maybe it was a hot summer and Edward was cooling off by plunging into the nearest body of water. Unless 'went into the water' means that the king fell off a barge or boat and Thomas Bower saved him, and he wasn't going swimming at all. I know I've seen another reference to Edward going into the water in the same chamber account, but darned if I can find it now. I'll post it here if and when I ever do.

Three rather intriguing entries from the same account record payments from Edward II to "the women of Lambeth, singing in the water of the Thames in the company of Burgeys de Till." Burgeys was one of Edward's chamber vadletz, and came from Gascony. Women of Lambeth and a man from the south of France singing in the water of the Thames? The mind boggles. At Christmas 1324, Edward played something called rafle, no idea what that is, with Burgeys and two of his chamber squires called Giles of Spain and Garsy Pomit. Garsy was also a Gascon. What I love about Edward's chamber accounts is that the same servants pop up over and over, so that after a while you get to know who they are, and I know from another chamber account that Garsy had an adult son. Burgeys de Till and Giles of Spain appear in another entry: they were performing some kind of act with fire for Edward at his Westminster cottage of Burgundy in February 1325, but it went horribly wrong, and they burned their arms. Ouch.

And some more nice little snippets from the same source:

On Edward's fortieth birthday, 25 April 1324, at his favourite residence of King's Langley in Hertfordshire, the king rewarded two young members of his household with five shillings because they had "found and arrested three thieves." The two young men were called Janekyn and Jakynet, both nicknames for men called John. Well done, the Johns!

Two days later, Edward gave forty shillings to a married couple going on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

In May 1324, Edward's painter Jack of St Albans - who crops up a fair bit in the records - received forty shillings for painting scenes from the life of Edward's father Edward I in the painted hall of Westminster Palace (I've heard of the Painted Chamber but this definitely says 'hall'. though I assume it was the same place).

There are references to Edward's house La Rosere, which was in London on the opposite side of the Thames to the Tower, which he was building or renovating in 1324/25. Hope to look at La Rosere again in a future post.

23 July, 2017

The Lancaster Brothers

A quick post about Edward II's first cousins Thomas and Henry, brothers of the house of Lancaster.

Thomas and Henry were the sons of Edmund, earl of Lancaster, Leicester and Derby, second son of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence and the younger brother of Edward I. Edmund was born in January 1245, and in about late 1275 married his second wife Blanche of Artois, dowager queen of Navarre and niece of Louis IX of France. Blanche had a daughter from her first marriage, Joan I, queen of Navarre in her own right, born in 1273. Joan married Philip IV of France and was the mother of Louis X, Philip V and Charles IV, kings of France and Navarre, and of Isabella of France, Edward II's queen. It's amazing how many people miss the fact that Thomas and Henry of Lancaster were Isabella's uncles, the younger half-brothers of her mother, as well as the first cousins of her husband Edward II.

The dates of birth of the Lancaster brothers are not known, but Thomas was probably born in late 1277 or 1278, and Henry in 1280 or 1281. There was a third brother John, born before May 1286 when he is mentioned on the Patent Roll, who is almost entirely obscure as he lived his whole life in France and died there in 1317, childless; his elder brother Henry was his heir. Thomas of Lancaster married Alice Lacy in 1294, and via her inherited the earldoms of Lincoln and Salisbury to add to the three he already had; she was abducted by the earl of Surrey in 1317, or more probably left of her own accord, and the couple had no children. Henry married Maud Chaworth on or before 2 March 1297 when she was fifteen or almost and he about sixteen. She was also an heiress, though not nearly as grand as Alice Lacy, and brought Henry lands in the south of England and Wales. Henry and Maud had seven children, six daughters and one son, the great and magnificent Henry of Grosmont, first duke of Lancaster. (If you've ever gained the impression here that I'm madly in love with Duke Henry, you'd be entirely correct.) Henry and Maud were the ancestors of much of the English nobility of the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries - and also, probably, of numerous people alive today.

16 July, 2017

A Letter from Edward of Caernarfon, August 1305

This letter was written in French during the period when Edward I had temporarily banished his twenty-one-year-old son and heir from court, dismissed most of his household and confiscated his great seal. Edward's priority was to get Piers Gaveston ('Perot de Gauastone') back, and asked his sister Elizabeth to ask their stepmother Queen Marguerite to ask the king to do so. The Gilbert de Clare mentioned is not Edward's nephew of this name, the future earl of Gloucester, but his first cousin of the same name, lord of Thomond in Ireland (born in 1281). The John Haustede mentioned in the letter was Edward's milk-brother. Edward also wrote directly to Marguerite on the same day in very similar vein, and the tone of both letters is somewhat melodramatic; that's Edward all over.

*

"Edward, etc, to his very dear sister, my lady Elizabeth, countess of Holland, Hereford and Essex, greetings and very dear affection. Of the good health of our lord the king our father, and of my lady the queen, and of yours, of which we have learned from your letters, we are very glad. And regarding ours, we make known to you that we were in good health, thanks to God, when these letters were made. And because our lord the king has granted to us two valletz to remain near us, namely John Haustede and John Weston, we beg and request you urgently that you may please beg my lady the queen our very dear [step]mother that she may beg the king that he may grant us an additional two valletz to remain with us, that is, Gilbert de Clare and Perot de Gauastone; because if we had those two, with the others whom we have, we would be much relieved of the anguish we have endured, and still suffer day after day, by the command and the wish of our said lord the king. Very dear sister, may our Lord keep you. Given under our privy seal, in the park of Windsor the fourth day of August [1305]."

08 July, 2017

Those Lawless Dunheveds

 I've written plenty before about the Dunheved brothers Thomas and Stephen, leaders of the group who temporarily freed Edward of Caernarfon from Berkeley Castle in the summer of 1327. See here, here, here and here. There were four Dunheved brothers: in birth order, they were Stephen, John, Thomas and Oliver, and there was also a sister, Rohese or Rose. Thomas the third brother was a Dominican friar, sent by Edward II to Avignon in 1324 to complain to John XXII about the archbishop of Dublin, and also sent as a messenger with letters from Edward to Hugh Despenser the Younger in Wales in 1325. Oliver the fourth brother also entered the Church, and was a chaplain. The siblings were the children of John Dunheved, who died between December 1306 and April 1307 [Cal. Inq. Post Mortem 1300-7, 217, 302; CIPM 1307-17, 25], and Eustachia, who died after January 1310. The Dunheveds held the manor of Dunchurch in Warwickshire from the Mortimer family of Richard's Castle (who were only quite distantly related to the Mortimers of Wigmore who became earls of March). John Dunheved the father also held tenements in the manor of Seething in Norfolk and three knights' fees in the same county, jointly with a woman called Isabel Haggele, during the lifetime of one Lettice de Lodne. [CIPM 1300-7, 217, 302] In November 1300, John and Eustachia Dunheved settled two parts of the manor of Dunchurch on themselves with remainders to their children, beginning with Stephen, their eldest son. [Warwickshire Feet of Fines, vol. 15, no. 1158]

I have no idea how old the Dunheved siblings were, but I'm guessing they were born in the 1280s to 1290s. Their father John Dunheved was born in or before 1260, as his mother Christiane Dunheved née Butler granted his wardship and marriage to Henry de Montford or Montfort that year, and he is first mentioned owning land in July 1287, which indicates that he was born by July 1266 at the latest. [Warwickshire Feet of Fines, vol. 11, no. 779; CIPM 1272-91, 395] The grant of John's marriage to Montfort probably means that Eustachia Dunheved was a Montfort by birth (and no, I have no idea how Henry fits into the the family tree of Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, assuming he does).

The Dunheved brothers were bad boys. Really bad. Stephen committed some serious felony which resulted in his abjuring the realm, that is, a specific legal procedure whereby someone expecting the death penalty could instead choose to voluntarily exile themselves from England for life. It was possibly murder. Edward II must have pardoned Stephen - only the king had the power to pardon an abjurer - as he was back in England by 15 February 1322 and in royal favour, appointed custodian of Lyonshall Castle and to 'make inquisition' into the goods of four Contrariants in Herefordshire. [Fine Rolls 1319-27, 95, 101] John the second brother had a long criminal career. In January 1310 he was accused of burning down the grange, with the corn and goods inside, of his own mother Eustachia in Dunchurch. [Patent Rolls 1307-13, 317-8] Edward II pardoned John of outlawry in July 1316 for failing to appear before King's Bench on a charge of trespass against William of Esthalle. [Patent Rolls 1313-7, 516] In September 1319, John, his brother Oliver the chaplain, John of the Crosse and two others were accused of raping Edith Grasbrok in Warwickshire, and, again, did not appear in court. See here. And the worst thing of all, on 9 February 1325 John murdered his own brother Oliver, whom John's wife Margery named as a 'common thief' (though she was hardly unbiased), in Dunchurch, by shooting him in the heart with a barbed arrow. He also tried to burn down the house of one William Mori where Oliver was staying, and killed Oliver when he ran out of the house, in the middle of the night. [Cal. Inq. Misc. 1308-48, no. 848] Oliver is not specifically stated to be John's brother, and I suppose he could be a cousin with the same name, but I don't think so. John was pardoned on 5 May 1327 near the start of Edward III's reign, presumably for all these criminal acts. [Patent Rolls 1327-30, 51] He was pardoned again in November 1345 for outlawry in Huntingdonshire for not appearing in court, and surrendered himself to the Fleet prison in London, unless this was his son of the same name (I don't know how old John would have been in 1345). [Patent Rolls 1345-8, 12] Orders were issued for the arrest of John's brothers Stephen and Thomas between March and June 1327, at the same time as John's pardon, because they were trying to free Edward of Caernarfon.

So we have Stephen Dunheved, guilty of murder or some other very serious felony for which he expected to be executed, John Dunheved accused of rape, murdered his own brother, burned down his mother's grange and committed trespass, Oliver Dunheved the chaplain, said to be a common thief and also accused of rape, and Thomas Dunheved the friar, said by the pope in 1325 to be acting against his Dominican order even though he was by now a papal chaplain. The Dunheved brothers probably weren't too delightful in person, though were exactly the kind of men you'd want trying to free you from captivity, and they temporarily succeeded in springing Edward out of Berkeley Castle in June or July 1327. Afterwards Stephen fled to London and was arrested there and imprisoned in Newgate, but escaped in or just before June 1329. [Close Rolls 1327-30, 146, 549] He was ordered to be arrested again on 31 March 1330 as an adherent of Edward II's half-brother the earl of Kent, trying to free the supposedly dead Edward from captivity, and that, sadly, is the last mention I've ever found of him. [Fine Rolls 1327-37, 169] Thomas Dunheved was captured in Budbrooke near their family home of Dunchurch after the attack on Berkeley Castle and sent to prison at Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire, or perhaps in York. He most probably died in captivity, though not before almost escaping, though there's a possibility that he just may have lived long enough to be involved in the earl of Kent's plot of 1330 as well.

Either Stephen or John Dunheved granted the manor of Dunchurch for life to Sir John Somery, who died in August 1322. [CFR 1319-27, 185] John Dunheved then mortgaged it to Sir John Pecche, lord of Hampton-in-Arden in Warwickshire, who, like Stephen Dunheved, was involved in the earl of Kent's plot of 1329/30 to free Edward of Caernarfon. Normally Dunchurch would have been forfeit to the king when Stephen abjured the realm, and indeed Edward II thought so at first, but an inquisition in November 1322 revealed that "John [Somery] held the said manor for life of the inheritance of John Dunheved." [CFR 1319-27, 185; CIPM 1317-27, 255]

Here's a petition presented by John Dunheved's wife Margery, probably in 1327:  "Margery, wife of John de Donheved, states that John Pecche, his wife, and twenty armed men came to her husband's house in Dunchurch one night, looking for him to kill him, and dragged her out of bed and ill-treated her, and carried off 100 shillings worth of goods. On the third day after that, her husband's sister [Rohese] had them expelled from that land by conspiracy, and John Pecche seised of it. He asked the aid of the Earl of Arundel and of Hugh le Despenser the younger, and when the king was last at Warwick, to inquire into the death of Roger de Belers [in January 1326], they had her husband indicted at Warwick, among other false indictments, of the death of Oliver de Donheved, who was a common thief. Because of this, they are destroyed, and driven from their land. They request a remedy, as he [Pecche] is so feared in the land that they do not dare to pursue their right there."

This is because Oliver Dunheved was John Pecche's rent-collector, so Pecche presumably wanted revenge for Oliver's murder. Pecche's second wife Eleanor was the widow of Sir Ralph Gorges, a Despenser adherent, so it seems that Pecche had joined the charmed circle of those protected and aided by Hugh Despenser. When the Despensers fell in late 1326, John Pecche managed to stay in favour with the new regime, until he joined the earl of Kent's plot with his son Nicholas and saw his lands and goods confiscated.

The Dunheveds don't seem to have been a particularly close family, do they, with the exception of Stephen and Thomas, who worked together to free Edward of Caernarfon. John the second brother murdered Oliver the fourth brother and burned down their mother's grange, and the only Dunheved sister, Rohese, had John 'expelled by conspiracy' from Dunchurch. The story of the Dunheved brothers also reveals what a violent place England often was in the fourteenth century. Stephen may have been a bad boy, but thanks to his unstinting support of Edward II even years after his official death, he's one of my heroes.

06 July, 2017

Nicknames Of Edward II's Era

From Edward II's household accounts, here are people's nicknames I've found from the early fourteenth century:

Ibote, Isode and Sibille for Isabel(la)

Jonete or Jonette and Jony for Joan, spelt Johane at the time

Emmot or Emote or Emmote for Emma, spelt Emme at the time

Alisour for Eleanor, spelt Alianore at the time

Annot or Annote for Anneis, which was a common name for women in Edward's time (also sometimes spelt Anneys)

Hogge for Roger, which I assume was pronounced Hog and not Hoggy or Hogguh

Robin or Robyn was and of course still is a nickname for Robert, and I've also seen Robynet

Hobbe was another nickname for Robert, as in Edward II's chamber servant Grete Hobbe, or Great Hob in modernised spelling, or Big Rob translated into modern English

Hick and Richardyn for Richard. I haven't seen Dickon, which seemed to appear later in the century; Richard II's Cheshire archers in the late 1390s notoriously called him Diccun

Nicknames for John were: Jak or Jakke, Janin, Jan(e)kyn, Jakynet, Janecok. (Seriously.)

Thomelyn/Thomelin and Thomme for Thomas

Wille and Willecok for William

Gibbe and Gibon for Gilbert; I've also seen Gille which I assume is another

I've seen Guilimot given to a man from Gascony, which is surely a nickname for Guilhem, the southern French version of Guillaume or William

One Gascon man called Arnaud was affectionately referred to as Arnaudyn in one of Edward's accounts, and of course we find Perot or Perrot for Piers Gaveston (whose first name was usually written Pieres)

Syme or Sime for Simon, which in Edward II's time was either spelt as nowadays, or Symond

Monde for Edmund, which was spelt Esmon or Edmon in the fourteenth century and was probably pronounced something like 'Aymon'

Waut or Watte for Walter, spelt (and probably pronounced) Wauter in the fourteenth century

Colle for Nicholas, spelt Nichol in the fourteenth century. Edward II had a servant called Litel Colle, or Little Colin, whose mother was called Anneis

Henriot for Henry

Phelipot for Philip, usually spelt Phelip at the time

Raulyn or Ravlyn for Ralph, spelt (and probably pronounced) Rauf in the fourteenth century

I haven't seen any nicknames for Edward, which in Edward II's time was still not a particularly common name. I've seen a letter from Edward II to David de Strathbogie, earl of Atholl, calling him 'Sir Davy', and a reference to Sir Marmaduke Someone or Other - his identity escapes me now - calling him Duket.

Huchon or Huchoun and Hughelyn for Hugh

In a petition of c. 1321/22, incidentally, Hugh Despenser the Younger's eldest sister's name was spelt Alyne Burnel; in a letter of Edward II responding to it, her name was written Eleyne, which looks like one of those implausible and pretentious fake medieval names you often find in romance novels along the lines of Brianna and Topaz, but is in fact genuine. Who'd have thought it? (Not me, until I saw it recently.)

And off-topic here, but: I wrote recently about my great affection for and interest in Edward II's household staff, and mentioned the Lawe brothers Henry and Syme who both served in the king's chamber, and who had another brother called Willecok and a sister called Alis Coleman who brewed ale for Edward. Interestingly, Alis's last name is once written as 'Colemanwyf', i.e. 'Coleman's wife'. I now know the name of the Lawe siblings' father: Roger Lawe, who was ill in August 1324 and received a gift of ten shillings from Edward. 

01 July, 2017

Edward II Goes Fishing

I've posted before that Edward II enjoyed the company of fishermen along the Thames and often chatted to them and spent time with them (including one Colle Herron), and in November 1322 stood by a river near Doncaster watching men fishing. Lately I've been looking at one of Edward's few extant chamber accounts, which shows that the king himself went fishing while staying at Beaulieu Abbey in Hampshire in April 1325. The account says Liu'e au Roi mesmes q'nt il ala pescher en lewe a Beaulieu...iijs, "Delivered to the king himself when he went fishing in the water at Beaulieu...3 shillings." He went with nine companions, one of whom was called Jak Bere; the others are not named, but they were all local fishermen. Sadly, the account does not specify if the king caught anything, and whether he enjoyed it for his dinner. Edward II in fact was a great fan of seafood, and had oysters brought to him at Beaulieu from Westminster, nearly ninety miles away. A former page of his kitchen also brought him shrimps around this time, and the word is written in English, shrympes, in the middle of the Anglo-Norman text.

One of the entries on the same folio of the account as this fab fishing one is also amusing and revealing. Will Gentilcorps, keeper of Edward's carthorses, was looking to purchase ten more carthorses from a man called John atte Pulle, and did so "in the presence of the king" underneath the vine outside the royal bedchamber. Whatever the feelings of Will Gentilcorps on the matter, Edward II made his opinion perfectly clear: eight of the horses were purchased, but the other two were not, because "the king did not agree at all that the said carthorses should be bought." One of the two was a bay, the other grey. Nor was this the only time that the king of England took an interest in the purchase of carthorses: his chamber accounts show that Will Gentilcorps and others often bought them "in the king's presence."

Can you imagine Jak Bere the fisherman talking to his men that morning? "Right, lads, we've got a busy day ahead, and oh, we've got a special guest coming with us."
"Who's that then, Jak?"
"Well, actually, it's the king."
"The KING? As in, God's anointed? As in, God's representative on earth, born to rule over us? As in, the most important man in the country? The KING? Yeah right, Jak. Pull the other one."

29 June, 2017

Long Live the King: The Mysterious Fate of Edward II

My third book Long Live the King: The Mysterious Fate of Edward II is published today in the UK, yippee! I take a look at all the evidence for Edward's death at Berkeley Castle in September 1327, and all the evidence for his survival past that date. It's not meant to be the final word on the subject, but to introduce readers to the evidence and debate, and to show them there's a heck of a lot more to it than a red-hot poker. There's also an afterword written by my friend Ivan Fowler of the Auramala Project with a 'call to action'. YOU may be able to help us solve the mystery of Edward II's fate!


19 June, 2017

My Edward II Study Day at Sutton Hoo

This coming Saturday I'm giving a study day about Edward II at the Wuffing Education Centre at Sutton Hoo - please do come! Details here: http://wuffingeducation.co.uk/events/2017b/king-edward-ii/ This is a very short post as Blogger is playing up and being incredibly annoying. I won't be around much for a couple of weeks, and the next post will be in early July! All the best!

18 June, 2017

My Very Sweet Heart: A Letter from Queen Isabella to Edward II, 31 March 1325

Edward II sent his queen Isabella of France to her homeland on 9 March 1325 in order to negotiate peace with her brother Charles IV, with whom Edward had been at war since the previous summer. Just over three weeks later on 31 March, Isabella sent a husband a very long and informative letter about how matters had been progressing since her arrival in France. Edward had also sent her as an envoy to her father Philip IV in 1314, and Philip granted all Isabella's (and Edward's) wishes, but Charles IV was a very different proposition, and Isabella admitted to Edward in the letter that she was finding her brother hard to deal with (lui trovoi deur). I've translated the last few sentences of this long letter to give a flavour of how Isabella addressed her husband:

"My very sweet heart [Mon tresdoutz cuer], with the assent of your council I will remain in these parts as long as I have your permission, and with me remain the bishop of Norwich and my cousin [the earl] of Richmond. By the advice of the pope's messages and of all of us, the bishop of Winchester and Master William Airmyn will come to you to inform you more fully of the said affairs; and also by advice of the pope's said messages and with the assent of my said brother, the lord of Sully and the said [sic] bishop of Orange will also come to you, and the archbishop of Vienne will remain in the parts of Paris until you have written your wishes.

My very sweet heart, I beg you and request of you as humbly as I may that you may please excuse me and the others who by your command are here with me that we did not write to you sooner that I had come to my said brother, but because of the uncertainty and inconstancy we have found, we could not write to you sooner with an exact record, and we did not dare to write of anything else until we had written to you on this matter. My very sweet heart, may the Holy Spirit by his grace save and protect you always. Written at Poissy the last day of March [1325]."

(The letter is printed in the original French in Pierre Chaplais's The War of Saint-Sardos: Gascon Correspondence and Diplomatic Documents; the translation is mine.)

'My very sweet heart', from a woman who we're supposed to believe loathed her husband and spent years plotting with her lover and others to bring him down. Colour me unconvinced. It's interesting, when Edward and Isabella's grandson Edward of Woodstock addresses his wife Joan of Kent in a letter as 'very dear and very loyal heart', this is proof of how much he loved her and how successful their marriage was, but when Isabella addresses her husband as 'very sweet heart', and as 'our very dear and very sweet lord and friend' in another letter, she was just pretending and this doesn't mean anything. Edward of Woodstock and Joan of Kent's son Richard II spent almost all his time with his wife Anne of Bohemia, which proves how much he loved her and what a great marriage they had, but when Edward II spent almost all his time with his wife Isabella of France (at least until 1322), somehow this doesn't mean anything and they hated each other really. French chronicler Geoffrey of Paris stated several times in 1313 that Edward and Isabella loved each other and could barely keep their hands off each other and were sleeping together naked and Edward saved his wife's life from a fire, but oh, Geoffrey was just sucking up to the royal family and so his eyewitness testimony is worthless and this doesn't mean anything. Isabella wrote a letter to the archbishop of Canterbury in early 1326 saying that more than anything she wanted to return to her husband but dared not because she thought Hugh Despenser would kill her, but she was just pretending and this doesn't mean anything. Isabella was still trying to reconcile with her husband even after his capture on 16 November 1326 and knelt in front of him, but obviously she was just pretending and this doesn't mean anything. She told the French court that she felt like a widow because a third person had violated her marriage and that she would only return to Edward once he sent Hugh Despenser away from him and they could resume their previous relationship, but this doesn't mean anything. In fact, it means that she hated Edward and was defying him and was declaring that she was in love with Roger Mortimer. Because obviously. Even though there isn't a shred of evidence that Isabella fell passionately in love with Roger in late 1325, somehow everyone just knows she did. Even though there isn't a shred of evidence that Isabella hated her husband or felt 'revulsion' for him, somehow everyone just knows she did. No matter how much evidence stacks up that Edward II and Isabella of France's marriage was a very long way from being an unhappy tragic disaster, and that Isabella loved her husband and did not, in the slightest, hate or despise him or wish him ill, somehow none of it means anything because everyone just 'knows' that their marriage actually was a tragic disaster from start to finish and that Isabella was an unhappy tragic abused victim.

12 June, 2017

The Valets of Edward II's Chamber; And A Time Machine of Sorts

As I mentioned recently, the word 'valet(s)' which was so often used in the fourteenth century is rather difficult to translate; it can mean a servant of a certain rank below squire, a young man of higher rank serving in a lord's household, a young gentleman, a household official, an assistant or deputy, etc. When the archbishop of York sent his letter to the mayor of London Simon Swanland in 1330 telling him that Edward II was then alive, for example, he addressed Swanland as 'our dear valet'. Edward II's accounts often refer to the vadletz or valletz of his chamber, who were also often called portours, which kind of means 'porters' but can also mean 'bearers' as in 'the bearers of these letters'. There were also half a dozen pages of the chamber, who were lower ranking as they were paid two pence a day and the vadletz/portours received three pence, and Edward II also had at least nine squires of the chamber, knights of the chamber, clerks of the chamber, two ushers of the chamber, and no doubt more staff of the chamber who do not occur to me at the moment. All the chamber staff were officially under the command of the chamberlain, i.e. Hugh Despenser the Younger in and after 1318.

Edward II's Household Ordinance of 6 December 1318, also often called the York Ordinance, stated that he should have eight vadletz of the chamber, who made beds, held and carried torches, and "other things according to the orders of the king's chamberlain." In fact, Edward's last chamber account of 1325/6 reveals that he had as many as thirty-three chamber vadletz. As always. the sheer number of royal servants baffles me; what on earth did they all do all day? Sometimes the vadletz were sent out of court to catch fish or make purchases for the household, but as far as I can make out at least twenty-six or twenty-eight of them were always at court at any given time, and sometimes all of them. They were paid approximately every two weeks in arrears, and sometimes were given permission to leave court for a while to visit their families. When they did so, the king paid all their expenses, and often gave them gifts for their families: for example, Robin Traghs the chamber valet was given twenty shillings or the equivalent of a few months' wages because his wife Joan "was delivered of a daughter" (awwww), and Joan the wife of the chamber valet Richard Mereworth got a massive forty shillings when she came to court "great with child" because she had heard that her husband was ill. (It was not actually the case that every woman alive in England in the 1320s was called Joan, though it often feels like that.) Robin and Joan Traghs came from London, and the Mereworths came from Henley-on-Thames, as did Will Shene (another vadlet/portour) and his wife Isode; the Shenes married at Henley on Tuesday 22 October 1325 and got twenty-five shillings as a wedding gift from Edward II. As well as their wages and holiday pay, the chamber valets - in common with all members of the royal household - were provided with all their food, drink, clothes, shoes and bedding for free.

Not only individuals but families served in the king's chamber: I've mentioned Edmund aka 'Monde' Fisher and his son Litel Wille (Little Will) Fisher before, valet and page of the chamber. There were also the father-son pairs Richard aka 'Hick' and Henry Hustret and Simon and Henry Baker, and the brothers Simon aka 'Syme' and Henry Lawe, who had another brother with the excellent name of Willecok and a sister called Alis Coleman. As well as Litel Wille Fisher, there was a vadlet called Litel Colle or Little Colin; Colle was a nickname for men called Nicholas, which in the fourteenth century was always spelt Nichol. Edward II also had a sergeant-at-arms called Colle of Derby. There was also Litel Phelip or Little Philip, page of the chamber, and one of my favourite names of Edward's chamber valets was Grete Hobbe, i.e. Great Hob, i.e. Big Rob. (No last name ever given. He was just Big Rob.)

Apparently in the belief that thirty-two valets of the chamber simply wasn't enough, Edward hired another while he was sailing along the Thames between Bisham and Sheen in May 1326. This was 'Ambrose son of Will de la Wyk'. And as I've also mentioned before, Edward hired two of the wives of his chamber valets to do the same job as their husbands, Anneis wife of Roger May and Joan wife of Robin Traghs, at the same wages as the men. What a champion of sexual equality!

What I love so much about Edward's last chamber account of 1325/6 (sadly it's the only one of his chamber accounts extant in its entirety) is that it's such a delightful glimpse into the lives of not only the king but also of his servants, of the normal everyday people alive in England in 1325, who were getting married and having children and drinking ale and calling each other by affectionate nicknames and falling ill and catching fish and dropping knives into the Thames by accident and repairing their houses and having their houses broken into and losing keys and singing songs for the king every time he sailed past and playing dice and making cheese and digging ditches and repairing windows and and and...Reading Edward's last chamber accounts is like looking back into the distant past of almost 700 years ago and seeing how people were living then. I can't even express how much I love it. I read it and I think, awwww, Joan and Robin Traghs have had a daughter, how lovely! Will and Isode Shene are getting married next Tuesday, how lovely! Oh no, someone broke into Hick Mereworth's house, and Robin atte Hethe is suffering from a great illness, and now Monde Fisher is dying, this is awful! Then I remember that actually all these people have been dead for a realllllly long time. But they don't feel dead to me.

08 June, 2017

I am in The Times today

I'm delighted to announce that today's edition of The Times features an article about Edward II and his possible survival in Italy, in which I am quoted. Many thanks to journalist Marc Horne for his interest and for contacting me. The link to the article is here, if you'd like to read it and you're not in the UK; you need to register to see the whole article, but I think you can do it for free.

My book Long Live the King: The Mysterious Fate of Edward II will be released three weeks today, on 29 June (in the UK). You can now use the 'Look inside' feature!


04 June, 2017

Where Did The King Sleep? Logistics of the Royal Household

Edward II had at least 500 people in his household. The queen had close to 200. At any given time the king would have been attended by a sizeable number of earls, lords and bishops, who would all also have large retinues with them. Add to this all the merchants, prostitutes, petitioners, etc etc who would have followed the royal progress, and we're looking at thousands of people present at court, all the time. It's hardly surprising that the king hardly ever spent more than a handful of nights in one place; the localities wouldn't have been able to cope with feeding and housing such a huge number of people for any longer than that.

I often think about the logistics of the royal household, where everyone slept and so on. Sometimes Edward stayed at remarkably small villages, and I wonder, where the heck did all those thousands of people sleep? I've recently seen a couple of entries in the chancery rolls which I found interesting. In January 1322 during the campaign against the Contrariants, Edward stayed at Shrewsbury for about ten days, in the house of a woman called Isabella Borrey. This is rather intriguing; presumably the king stayed in her home with a small number of attendants while the majority of his retinue found lodgings elsewhere. Even a large-ish house would only have had room for a few people, not, of course, hundreds. Which attendants stayed with the king, I wonder? In 1326, Edward gave a gift of money to six of his chamber 'valets' (a word that's hard to translate) who woke up at night whenever he himself awoke. That seems to imply the six men slept inside his chamber. Except, I assume, on nights when Edward slept with his wife or anyone else he might have been intimate with. Or would they have made love and then the queen left for her own chamber, and they didn't spend the whole night together? I know that was sometimes the case with some later European royals. During Edward and Isabella's extended visit to France in the summer of 1313, the chronicler Geoffrey of Paris commented that one morning the couple overslept thanks to their night-time dalliance, and on another occasion a fire broke out in their pavilion during the night and Edward scooped up Isabella in his arms and rushed out into the street with her, both of them naked. This implies that they did spend nights together, at least sometimes. In 1326 when Edward thanked his chamber staff for waking up when he did, Isabella was in France and refusing to return to him, so he couldn't have been sleeping with her. Did he sleep with other people? Piers Gaveston, Hugh Despenser? If so, how did his chamber staff feel about their king taking men to his bed? Given the total lack of anything even resembling privacy, they could hardly have failed to be aware of it. Your guess is as good as mine. As he fathered an illegitimate son, probably before he married Isabella, and given that Isabella was pregnant at least five times, Edward was evidently not averse to sleeping with women either.

Edward II's Household Ordinance of December 1318 stated that he should nominate four of his thirty sergeants-at-arms (quite a high rank, below knight but involving considerable military training and ability) to sleep outside the door of his chamber "as near to it as they can" with the two ushers of the chamber, while the other twenty-six slept in the 'hall' to be nearby if the king needed them. The Ordinance also stated that Edward should have two dozen archers as his personal bodyguard (garde corps le roi) and, given their responsibility for keeping the king's person safe, I imagine at least some of them slept near him, or rather, stayed awake near him, perhaps in shifts (though I'm only speculating on that). So that's potentially six valets inside the chamber, four sergeants-at-arms and two ushers outside, plus, I assume, a few archers somewhere nearby, perhaps out in the street and around the building.

Another interesting entry in the chancery rolls of the 1320s I chanced on recently demonstrates that four of the king's hobelars (armed men on horseback, a lower rank than sergeants-at-arms) had been assigned lodgings by the marshal of the royal household in the dwelling of one Robert Gumby in Fleet Street, at some point when Edward was staying in London. (They were robbed and assaulted there.) Again, this indicates that the hundreds of members of the royal household were scattered among private houses to sleep and perhaps to eat, and presumably were given stables for their horses too. This must have taken considerable organisation on the marshal's part, especially when the court moved every few days. Quite a task. Just think, all those hundreds of people, horses, carts. Imagine having to bake bread or provide food, ale, bedding, firewood and so on for that many people, on a regular basis. Imagine having to pack up and move all your and the king's possessions several times a week. Even beds were moved; I've also just seen a reference to Edward's bed being taken along the Thames by boat in the summer of 1326.

Edward II travelled to France in June/July 1320 to pay homage to his brother-in-law Philip V for his lands of Gascony and Ponthieu, and sent commissioners to Amiens ahead of his visit to find lodgings for him and his huge retinue. Edward himself, certainly with a few attendants, stayed in the house of one Pierre du Garde, and later paid him ten marks in compensation for "all damage to his dwelling" caused during his stay. The king's chapel was placed in the house of Jean le Mouner, his offices in the house of Sanxia, the store-room for his kitchen in the house of Marguerite, and the passage between his chamber and chapel in the house of Guillaume le Mouner. Edward paid Pierre le Peyntour a shilling and sixpence to paint shields of the king's arms in the streets of Amiens, "in order to make known where the king’s liveries were," and four pounds to a master carpenter to repair "damage done by carpenters and others in the state rooms" of the court. So again, we see that the king stayed in a private dwelling with another home assigned for his chapel, and one inhabitant of Amiens opened up his house to provide a 'passage between the chamber and chapel', so that Edward didn't have to go out into the street whenever he wanted to pray or hear Mass, I assume. I wonder - I'm doing a lot of wondering in this post - if this was what usually happened wherever the king stayed.

Sometimes Edward stayed at the house of the Dominican friars in London, and in 1316 spent five weeks at the house of the Franciscan friars in York and gave them £10 for the expenses of himself and his household. On the way from York to London in early July 1312 after Piers Gaveston's murder, he stayed at Swineshead Priory in Lincolnshire. He also spent a fair few nights throughout his reign at Cawood in Yorkshire, a manor of the archbishop of York, and Sturry in Kent, a manor of the archbishop of Canterbury. As the king he had the right to stay wherever he chose, and so did the queen. (Lady Badlesmere's refusal to let Isabella into Leeds Castle in October 1321 gave Edward the excuse he needed to attack Badlesmere and go after Badlesmere's allies the Marcher lords, feigning outrage over this insult to his consort.) Especially near the end of his reign, Edward enjoyed spending time at Borgoyne or 'Burgundy', his cottage within the precincts of Westminster Abbey, rather than staying at the great royal palace of Westminster or the Tower or the palace of Sheen along the river.

I wonder, did the inhabitants or owners of private dwellings have to leave their homes for the duration of the king's visit, or did Edward have cosy chats with them in the evenings? Knowing him, I wouldn't be at all surprised. Did the household staff of, say, the earl of Surrey and the bishop of Worcester and Lord Whoever, all the great magnates and prelates attending the king at any time, also have to find their own lodgings or did the marshal of the king's household take care of that? The logistics of it all are quite staggering. Edward's marshals were told in 1318 to check regularly for people who had not taken an oath of loyalty to the king, and to throw them out of court. Given the huge numbers of people involved, it must have been fairly easy for intruders to insinuate themselves into the household and to eat at the king's expense, and the costs of the royal household were massive enough as it was. There are also a few entries in the chancery rolls indicating that it was not uncommon for 'persons pretending to be of the king's household' to go around the country thus obtaining lodgings and food for themselves for free. In or before September 1324, six men were imprisoned by Edward's marshals for "asserting themselves to be of the king's household and following it at a distance, [and] committed diverse larcenies and felonies at Winchester and elsewhere in the county of Southampton."

02 June, 2017

A Letter From Piers Gaveston

I've just found a short letter by Piers Gaveston cited in a book published in Paris in 1916, sent to John Langton, bishop of Chichester and chancellor of England. The letter is dated 6 November, almost certainly in 1309 though the year is not given. I found it most interesting, because there are so few extant letters from Piers. It was written (of course) in French; the translation is mine.

*

To the honourable father in God, Sir John, by the grace of God bishop of Chichester, chancellor of our lord the king, Pieres de Gavastoun, earl of Cornwall, greetings, honours and very dear affection. Sire, we beg you urgently that, if it please you, you may please let us have two letters, by the bearers of these [letters], according to what you will see in the petition we have enclosed within these letters, if it may properly be done. Sire, may our Lord keep you. Written at Knaresborough the sixth day of November.

*

The letter cannot date to 6 November 1307 as on that date Piers had just married Margaret de Clare at Berkhamsted, or 1308 as he was then in Ireland,  or 1310 as he was then in the far north with Edward who was trying to subdue Robert Bruce, or 1311 as he was then yet again in exile, or 1312 as he was then dead. It must therefore date to 1309, several months after Piers had returned to England and been restored to his earldom of Cornwall. John Langton was only chancellor until 1310 so it cannot be dated any later than that. On 6 November 1309 Edward II was at Great Ribston, just six miles from Knaresborough, which was Piers' own castle. I don't know what was in the petition Piers sent, but I think this is a lovely polite letter. He was certainly capable of courtesy when required, even if he did have a sharp tongue.

26 May, 2017

Happy Wedding Anniversary to Hugh and Eleanor Despenser

711 years ago today on 26 May 1306, Edward I's eldest granddaughter Eleanor de Clare married Hugh Despenser the Younger in the royal chapel at Westminster Palace, in the presence of her grandfather the king, who had arranged the match and paid Hugh Despenser the Elder £2000 for the marriage of his son and heir. Eleanor was thirteen and a half, Hugh probably about seventeen or eighteen, and their first child Hugh or Huchon was born around 1309. They were to have at least ten children together that I know of, perhaps more, of whom nine survived childhood: Huchon, Edward, Gilbert, John, Isabella, Joan, Eleanor, Margaret and Elizabeth Despenser. By the time of Hugh's execution on 24 November 1326, the couple had been married just over twenty years, and as far as I can make out their marriage was a solid and happy one.

I'm currently writing a biography of Hugh Despenser the Younger, to be published next year. He was a bad. bad boy, but also a highly intelligent one, and he's massively fun to write about!

20 May, 2017

My Books

In case anyone is keeping score :), here are my existing and future books! (Note: the titles of all books after number 3 are subject to change!) Long Live the King: The Mysterious Fate of Edward II will be out in the UK in twelve days.

1) Edward II: The Unconventional King (published October 2014)

2) Isabella of France: The Rebel Queen (pub. March 2016)

3) Long Live the King: The Mysterious Fate of Edward II (to be pub. 1 June 2017)

4) A True King’s Fall: The Life of Richard II, King of England 1377-1399 (to be pub. 15 October 2017)

5) Valour and Vainglory: The Life of Hugh Despenser the Younger (to be pub. probably September 2018)

6) Blood Roses: The Houses of Lancaster and York 1245-1415 (to be pub. late 2018 maybe)

7) Affluence and Abduction: The Lives of the de Clare Sisters, 1292-1360 (to be pub. probably September 2019)

8) Philippa of Hainault: Queen of Edward III, Mother of the English Nation (to be pub. around October 2019)

9) Time-Honour’d Lancaster: John of Gaunt, Grandfather of Europe (to be pub. around October 2020)

Phew! That's a lot of writing! I'd better go and get on with it :-)

11 May, 2017

John of Eltham Was Not 'Removed' From His Mother In 1324

I've dealt previously with the absurd notion that Edward II and his chamberlain and favourite Hugh Despenser the Younger cruelly removed the three younger royal children, John, Eleanor and Joan, from Queen Isabella's custody in September 1324, and gave them to the care of Edward's niece/Hugh's wife Eleanor and Hugh's sister Isabella Hastings. This was an invention of one extremely unreliable and inaccurate historian in the late 1970s, and frankly I'm astonished that better historians have chosen to repeat it without checking, especially as the document he cites for his claim does not date to September 1324 at all but to the period July 1322 to July 1323.

Browsing the Calendar of Memoranda Rolls recently, I discovered that Eleanor Despenser's care of John of Eltham dates back to at least 3 July 1322: she was paid a hundred pounds for his expenses from 3 July 1322 to 16 April 1324. As I note below, Eleanor spent quite a bit of time attending Queen Isabella for most of Edward's reign and until well into the 1320s, and at least on occasion she also took charge of John of Eltham and his household, though perhaps only irregularly. As Edward II's eldest niece and John of Eltham's first cousin, Eleanor Despenser was a perfectly suitable person to have the occasional care of the king and queen's second son, and she had a large brood of her own children. Growing up among his Despenser cousins might have proved a happy experience for John. John, aged not yet ten, was at Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire from 22 May to 20 July 1326, and Eleanor was there with him for at least part of that time, as Edward's chamber account shows. Isabella was then in France, by her own choice.

From my own research I know that Queen Isabella and Eleanor Despenser née de Clare spent a considerable amount of time together, even after Eleanor's husband Hugh began to get seriously on Isabella's nerves, to put it mildly. For all Isabella's loathing and even fear of Hugh, she doesn't appear to have held Eleanor even vaguely responsible for her husband's actions or to have allowed his behaviour to damage her affection for Eleanor, and Eleanor was attending the queen for at least part of February/March 1323, months after Isabella blamed Hugh Despenser for leaving her - and indeed Eleanor as well - in danger at Tynemouth Priory the previous autumn. The two women continued to get on well and spend time together. The notion that Edward II and Hugh Despenser imposed Eleanor on an unwilling Isabella in and after 1324 as a kind of jailer and spy is nonsense. Eleanor had been attending Isabella on a semi-regular basis since at least November 1310 and most probably since Isabella first arrived in England in February 1308.

And as Eleanor had received money for looking after John as early as 3 July 1322, and three months later was with Queen Isabella at Tynemouth Priory and in February/March 1323 was with her in London, I think it's safe to say that Isabella was perfectly happy with her niece-in-law and her lady attendant having the occasional care of her second son. I really do hope that the whole absurd nonsense of Edward II and Hugh Despenser cruelly removing Isabella's children from her can be laid to rest one day.

05 May, 2017

Dates of Birth and Death of the de Clare Siblings (1291-1360)

Edward of Caernarfon's second eldest sister Joan of Acre married Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford, on 30 April 1290 when he was forty-six and she eighteen or almost. Their first child, only son and heir Gilbert, earl of Gloucester and Hertford, was born a year later, sometime between 23 April and 11 May 1291, according to the evidence of his parents' Inquisitions Post Mortem taken in January 1296 and May 1307. [CIPM 1291-1300, pp. 234-51; CIPM 1300-07, pp. 311-31] Gilbert was the eldest grandchild of Edward I and only seven years younger than his uncle Edward II. He married Maud de Burgh, one of the many daughters of the earl of Ulster, on 29 or 30 September 1308 when he was seventeen, and was killed at the battle of Bannockburn on 24 June 1314, aged twenty-three.

Eleanor, Lady Despenser and lady of Glamorgan, eldest of the three daughters of Gilbert the Red and Joan of Acre, was born in October or November 1292. This is according to several books and articles, but I don't know what the source is and can't confirm the date. Eleanor was certainly the eldest of the three de Clare sisters, and the date of birth appears to be plausible. She married Hugh Despenser the Younger at Westminster on 26 May 1306 when she was probably thirteen and a half. Eleanor died, according to her (incomplete) IPM, on 30 June 1337 at the age of forty-four, leaving her eldest son Hugh or Huchon Despenser as her heir; he was then said to be between twenty-six and twenty-nine years old. [CIPM 1336-46, pp. 78-9]

The date of birth of the second sister Margaret de Clare, countess of Cornwall and Gloucester, is not known. Her Wikipedia page gives 12 October 1293 as the date, but I haven't the faintest idea where that comes from. Who knows where Wikipedia contributors find stuff? That date strikes me as a little too close to the date of birth of Margaret's sister Eleanor in October/November 1292 to be plausible, and a little too far away from her younger sister Elizabeth's birth in September 1295. Gilbert 'the Red' and Joan of Acre were in Ireland from June 1293 to April 1294, so Margaret may have been born there, or not long after they returned to England. A date of birth in the spring or early summer of 1294 would give a more regular spacing between Margaret and her siblings and would make her about thirteen and a half when she married Piers Gaveston on 1 November 1307; her sisters were also both thirteen when they married. She married her second husband Hugh Audley on 28 April 1317.

Wiki gives 9 April 1342 as the date of Margaret's death, as do many other websites. Her Inquisition Post Mortem in fact says that she died on ‘Tuesday the morrow of the Close of Easter last’ in Edward III's sixteenth regnal year, which ran from 25 January 1342 to 24 January 1343. Easter Sunday in 1342 fell on 31 March, so Margaret therefore would seem to have died on 2 April 1342, not 9 April. [CIPM 1336-46, pp. 253-5] Her heir was her only surviving daughter, Margaret Stafford née Audley, from her second marriage to Hugh Audley. Margaret Stafford was said to be either eighteen or twenty years old at the time of her mother's death, which places her date of birth around 1320 or 1322.

The youngest de Clare sibling, Elizabeth, was supposedly born on 16 September 1295, just a few weeks before their father Gilbert 'the Red' died in early December 1295. I'm not sure what the source for her date of birth is; I'm not saying it's incorrect, just that I haven't, yet, seen the document which gives it. Elizabeth married 1) John de Burgh, son and heir of the earl of Ulster, on 30 September 1308; 2) Theobald de Verdon, around early February 1316; and 3) Roger Damory, shortly before 3 May 1317. She had one child from each marriage. Elizabeth died on 4 November 1360, aged sixty-five, leaving her granddaughter Elizabeth de Burgh, countess of Ulster, as her heir. The younger Elizabeth was born in 1332 as the only child of the elder Elizabeth's son William Donn de Burgh, earl of Ulster (1312-33), and married Edward III's second son Lionel (b. 1338). [CIPM 1352-60, 507-13]

30 April, 2017

Top Ten Myths About Edward II and Isabella of France

In no particular order, here are the top ten fake stories still often repeated about Edward II and Isabella of France. Thanks to my good friend Sami Parkkonen for the suggestion!

1) Edward II gave Isabella's wedding gifts and/or jewels to Piers Gaveston in 1308

I'm bored to tears with this stupid fake story, which I see repeated everywhere. This particular piece of unhistorical idiocy was invented by Agnes Strickland in the mid-nineteenth century and is based on a misreading of one line in the Annales Paulini, which says that King Philip IV of France gave some gifts (war-horses, a bed, rings) to his new son-in-law Edward II at the time of the royal wedding in early 1308 and that Edward sent them to Piers Gaveston in England. Firstly, the gifts were given to Edward, not to Isabella, not even to Edward and Isabella jointly (unless we think that Isabella's father gave her war-horses for, y'know, all the wars she was personally going to fight in. Doesn't seem terribly likely, does it?). Secondly, there is no indication at all that Piers was meant to keep the gifts permanently; he was Edward II's regent of England during the king's absence in France, and was the person Edward trusted most. He was sent the items so that he could store them safely, not keep them. Isabella is not even mentioned in the Annales Paulini at this point. See here and here for my posts about this spectacularly annoying fake story, and for the line in the Annales which has (deliberately?) so often been misinterpreted. There's also an even sillier continuation of this fake story, wherein it is said that poor Isabella had to watch Piers Gaveston parading round in her own jewels and was helpless to do anything about it. For the record, there's no hint of any animosity on Isabella's part towards Gaveston; the notion that she and Piers were somehow rivals for Edward II's affections and that as Piers 'won' Isabella somehow 'lost' is merely an assumption.

2) Edward cruelly removed Isabella's children from her in 1324

Invented by Paul Doherty in his doctoral thesis about Isabella in 1977. Look at any book or article or thesis or even novel about Edward II and Isabella written before the late 1970s, and search for any notion or even a hint that 'Edward removed Isabella's children from her custody in 1324'. I assure you that you won't find it. Since then, however, it's been repeated everywhere, even by usually careful and excellent historians who should know better and yet seem, bizarrely, to believe that Paul Doherty is a reliable source. Bear in mind, this is the man who doesn't even know which of Isabella's brothers was king of France in 1320 or what year their mother the queen of Navarre died, who calls Edward II's niece Margaret de Clare 'Joan of Gloucester', who can't even figure out that a woman he says was born in 1296 cannot have been nine in 1303 and twenty-three in 1321, who makes up irrational nonsense that the queen of England was asked to take an oath of loyalty to a nobleman, and who cheerfully misquotes primary sources so that they say what he wants them to say. For his claim that Edward II inflicted even more hardship on his wife in September 1324 by cruelly removing her children from her custody, Doherty cites a document which actually dates to Edward II's regnal year from July 1322 to July 1323. Awesome. See here for a rebuttal of the whole absurd notion. And frankly, if Paul Doherty tells you that the pope is Catholic and that the Atlantic Ocean is wet, double check.

3) Edward abandoned Isabella when she was pregnant in 1312 to save Gaveston instead

Another main plank in the trendy Victim!Isabella school of history, which says that Edward II was so horrid to his poor young newly pregnant teenage wife that he abandoned her weeping at Tynemouth in early May 1312 in order to take Piers Gaveston to safety in Scarborough instead. The story is based solely on a misunderstanding by the St Albans chronicler, writing decades later and nearly 300 miles away, who mixed up events of 1312 with those of the autumn of 1322 when Isabella really did get trapped at Tynemouth with Robert Bruce's army nearby. See here. No doubt, if Edward had taken Isabella on a boat on the bleak, rough and cold North Sea for five days in the first trimester of pregnancy, his modern 'Edward II could never do anything right' detractors would be wailing about that too. No real historian takes the idea that Edward 'abandoned' his pregnant wife in May 1312 remotely seriously, because it's so obvious that the St Albans chronicler was mixing up events which took place ten years apart; the story only appears in books written with a preconceived and wildly inaccurate notion that Isabella was the tragic neglected victim of her nasty cruel gay perverted husband for many years.

4) Edward II was not the father of Edward III

We mostly have Braveheart to thank for this one. Thanks, Mel Gibson! It was the above-mentioned Paul Doherty who first invented the notion, however, in a 1985 novel in which he changed Edward III's date of birth by eight months in order to accommodate the fiction that his real father was Roger Mortimer. Yes, that would be the Roger Mortimer who was in Ireland at the time that Edward III and all of Isabella's three younger children were conceived. There is no doubt whatsoever that Edward II and Isabella were together at the right times to conceive all their children, and the idea that Edward II was not the father of Isabella's offspring is based solely on the notion that human sexuality only ever exists as a binary and that because Edward loved men, he must necessarily have been incapable of intercourse with women. Daft. He fathered an illegitimate son as well as his children with Isabella. The 'Edward II hurted poor ickle twagic Issy howwibly, de howwid meanie' crowd also get a lot of mileage out of the fact that Edward and Isabella only conceived their first child in February 1312 when they'd been married for just over four years, apparently because they think that a man in his twenties should have been having lots of enthusiastic sex with a pre-pubescent or barely pubescent twelve-year-old. Because yes, that would be just great, wouldn't it? See here.

5) Edward II was weak and feeble

Because he loved men, and men who love men are automatically girly and camp and pathetic and feeble, as opposed to strong manly virile heterosexual men who only love women and are thus terribly strong and manly, dontcha know? That's not homophobic at all. For the absolute nadir of this school of thought, check out the novel about Piers Gaveston by Brandy Purdy, if you can stomach it (I can't), and if the idea of a gay man stamping his ickle foot and screeching and shaking his ickle fists impotently and throwing girly tantrums and wailing appeals to you. As for the real Edward II, as opposed to the feeble girly caricature so beloved of some modern writers who cannot write actual people but only offensive stereotypes, he was "one of the strongest men of his realm." "Fair of body and great of strength." "Tall and strong, a fine figure of a handsome man." "A handsome man, strong in body and limb." "Elegant, of outstanding strength." And so on and so on and so on.

6) Hugh Despenser the Younger raped Isabella with Edward's connivance

An invention of Paul Doherty and Alison Weir in the early twenty-first century in the service of their Victim!Isabella agenda, and a particularly nasty one based on no evidence whatsoever except a pile of silly rhetorical questions. I think it's appalling to accuse a person of a serious and devastating crime with evidence that's not merely absurdly flimsy but actually non-existent. See here.

7) Edward was trying to annul his marriage to Isabella in c. 1324/25

A rumour reported by two chroniclers, disproved by actual evidence from the chancery rolls and the Vatican archives, which shows that Edward II sent Friar Thomas Dunheved to John XXII to complain about the archbishop of Dublin, not to try to annul his marriage. He would have had to be spectacularly stupid to try to annul his marriage to Isabella at the same time that he was sending her as a peace envoy to her brother Charles IV, and of course he had no grounds whatsoever for an annulment and knew it. But who cares about evidence and logic when your main aim is to portray Isabella as the helpless tragic victim of her cruel husband? See here.

8) Isabella was aiding Roger Mortimer in and before 1323; Isabella and Roger fell passionately in love in late 1325

The idea that Isabella was helping Roger in the Tower during his imprisonment there in 1322/23 is based entirely on hindsight and knowledge of their later association, and has not a single shred of evidence to support it. It wasn't even suggested until the 1590s, by the playwright Christopher Marlowe. The idea that they fell madly in love and had a passionately and blatantly sexual affair is also an assumption based on little or no evidence.

9) Isabella hated Edward II

No, she didn't. This is based firstly on the idea that because their marriage ended with Isabella rebelling against her husband and playing a huge role in his downfall, their relationship must always have been an unhappy disaster, which doesn't follow at all. I think we've all been in relationships that didn't work out, right? Sometimes relationships that have ended with a great deal of animosity and emotional pain. That doesn't mean that we hated our partner for years or that the relationship was doomed from the start and always unhappy, does it? Yet somehow, some people seem to forget that human beings and human relationships are complex and change and evolve over time, and act as though Edward and Isabella could only ever have felt one thing for each other in nearly twenty years. (Him for her: indifference. Her for him: loathing.) It's based secondly on the assumption that Isabella fell madly in love with Roger Mortimer in late 1325, and that he was very different to Edward II and his antithesis, therefore if she loved Roger she must have hated Edward. And been happy to have a 'real man' in her life after so many years of the inadequate and inadequately heterosexual Edward, blah blah blah, you've read all this crap before. It's my strong belief that in fact Edward and Isabella loved each other for many years and had a mutually supportive and affectionate partnership, and that when it all started to go wrong in and after 1322, Isabella was devastated. Far from hating Edward and wanting to destroy him, she wanted her old happy marriage back. And only when that didn't work, and Edward refused to send Hugh Despenser away from him, did Isabella decide to remove Despenser herself.

10) Edward II was a coward

This one comes from the fact that Edward had to flee the field of Bannockburn on 24 June 1314 in order to evade capture, though proponents of this idea never seem to stop and wonder why a physical coward would have been fighting right in the thick of the battle in the first place (and one chronicler pointed out that Edward fought "like a lioness deprived of her cubs"). Edward wasn't much of a commander, and having lost the battle, there was really little else he could do but ensure that he wasn't killed or captured by the Scots - and it seems that he was dragged protesting from the field by his kinsman the earl of Pembroke, and certainly didn't turn tail and run the minute things got difficult. Being killed in June 1314 would have brought Edward's nineteen-month-old son to the throne, with all the perils of a regency of many years standing that would have entailed - and who would have ruled England for all those years anyway? Who was more competent than Edward II? His cousin Lancaster? His queen Isabella? Yeah, no. Edward being captured would have meant a ransom massive almost beyond imagining being imposed on the English for his release. Neither situation was much of an improvement on what actually did happen; quite the opposite. 

23 April, 2017

But They Were In A Chamber Together!

Edward III, not quite eighteen years old, arrested his mother's 'favourite' Roger Mortimer, earl of March and lord of Wigmore, at Nottingham Castle on 19 October 1330. The story is well known: the young king and about twenty of his loyal household knights entered the castle via a secret tunnel and burst into the queen's chamber. Isabella herself supposedly shouted out to her son "Fair son, fair son, have pity on gentle Mortimer," according to the later chronicler Geoffrey le Baker (who tends to be massively unreliable); in the French original, Beal filz, beal filz, eiez pitie de gentil Mortymer. 'Gentle' 700 years ago did not of course mean the same thing it means today, but rather meant someone of noble birth, as in 'gentleman'.

As Isabella and Roger Mortimer were in a chamber in Nottingham Castle at the time of their arrest late at night, it's often assumed nowadays that they were, if not necessarily in the act of making love, sharing a bed when the young king burst in, or at the very least alone, private and in an intimate space. This is emphatically not the case. Isabella and Roger were by no means alone: their remaining close allies were present in the chamber with them, including the bishop of Lincoln Henry Burghersh, Roger's son Geoffrey Mortimer, Sir Oliver Ingham, Sir Simon Bereford, Hugh Turplington, who was the steward of the king's household but loyal to Roger Mortimer, a household squire called Richard de Munimuth, an usher called Richard de Crombek, and probably others. The pair were having a meeting with the few men who were still loyal to them after almost four years of their unpopular misrule, not in bed together. When Edward III and his knights suddenly, shockingly, burst in, the bishop of Lincoln tried to escape down a latrine shaft and had to be rescued. Oh dear, how humiliating. During the ensuing scuffle, Hugh Turplington was killed by Sir John Neville of Hornby while trying to protect Roger Mortimer and shouting "You shall all die an evil death here!", and Richard de Monmouth was also killed, though at whose hands is unclear. Monmouth had been an attendant of Mortimer during the latter's imprisonment in the Tower of London, and fled to the continent with him.

Next year, I have a long article coming out in an academic journal, which includes the words 'Edward II and his Chamber' in its title. Much more information on this at a later date, but I assure you that the article only very briefly deals with Edward II's sex life, and not in relation to his chamber, which was a department of his household with the chamberlain, Hugh Despenser the Younger, at its head. The word 'chamber' in the Middle Ages really does not have the intimate meaning we tend to assign to it nowadays.

17 April, 2017

Edward II And His Stepmother

I so often see it stated that Edward II and his stepmother Marguerite of France had a close, loving relationship, and I just want to examine that idea here. My primary aim with this blog has long been to examine stories about Edward II, both negative and positive, and see if they stand up to scrutiny.  They frequently don't. It's fascinating and frankly alarming how much we think we know about Edward is not based on any contemporary evidence whatsoever, or at the very least is exaggerated. Because of the paucity of evidence for inter-personal relationships in the early fourteenth century, what little information we do have tends to be exaggerated by modern writers and made into something far more than it actually is. After all, no-one kept diaries and vanishingly few private letters are extant, so modern writers tend to take whatever they can find. This is fair enough, of course, but we should always bear in mind how little we can really know about people's personal relationships, and try not to make more of scanty evidence than we should. And it's also often stated that Marguerite had a close relationship with her husband Edward I and that after his death she stated 'When he died, all men died for me', but I'm also not really convinced that their marriage was a particularly happy one. Edward I never had Marguerite crowned as queen of England, which is probably quite revealing. And it's understandable that she never wanted to remarry after Edward I's death, because of course he was a king, and marrying any other man would have been a real comedown. Isabella of France never remarried in all the years of her widowhood either, and no-one has ever taken that to mean that she adored and had been madly happy to be married to Edward II. Anyway, just putting it out there as a possibility.

Edward of Caernarfon's mother Eleanor of Castile, queen of England, died on 28 November 1290 when she was in her late forties and Edward, her youngest child, was only six. Edward I, after nine years as a widower, married Philip IV's half-sister Marguerite of France on 8 September 1299, when he was sixty and she twenty (she was born sometime between September 1278 and September 1279).  Edward of Caernarfon was fifteen at the time of his father's wedding, only about five years younger than his new stepmother. Marguerite was younger than some of her other stepchildren, such as Joan of Acre, countess of Gloucester (born 1272) and Margaret, duchess of Brabant (born 1275). Edward II was the first king of England since before the Norman Conquest to have a stepmother, and of course after Edward II married Isabella of France in January 1308, Marguerite was also the new queen's aunt, as half-sister of Isabella's father Philip IV.

Fifteen-year-old Edward of Caernarfon spent time with his new stepmother  - who was already pregnant with his half-brother Thomas of Brotherton, born on 1 June 1300 a little under nine months after the royal wedding, whether she knew it or not - at Langley in Hertfordshire from 2 to 20 November 1299.  Edward's twenty-year-old sister Mary, the reluctant nun, was also present. The three were entertained by Henry, a fool sent by the count of Savoy. Edward of Caernarfon as was his wont, played dice, and they ate nuts, apples, pears and other fruit. Edward and Marguerite were also together from Christmas until February 1300, and as her New Year gift, Edward gave his stepmother a gold ring with a ruby. [Seymour Phillips, Edward II, pp. 81-82 and note 26, citing The National Archives E 101/355/17, E 101/355/30; Hilda Johnstone, Edward of Carnarvon 1284-1307, pp. 44-46]

This is just one example of Edward of Caernarfon spending a considerable amount of time in the company of his stepmother in his father's lifetime. The last four words are, in my opinion, key here. Edward was still only fifteen in early 1300, and not operating under his own agency but following his father's orders. There were other times when he was in Marguerite's company, or in touch with her. In the summer of 1305, Edward quarrelled badly with his father, who sent his household away and cut off his income. The prince of Wales thanked Marguerite for intervening for him with his father so that Piers Gaveston and Gilbert de Clare of Thomond would be restored to him, yet it was his sisters who really came to his rescue; Joan for example sent him her seal so that he could order goods, and Mary the nun invited her to stay with him. The tone of Edward of Caernarfon's letter to Marguerite is almost obsequious. He wrote to her on seven further occasions in 1304/05, a year his correspondence happens to survive, and we may fairly assume that this was not unusual and that Edward sent letters to his stepmother in other years as well. Jeffrey Hamilton believes that Edward's asking his stepmother to intercede with his father on his behalf shows the 'tangible sense of the deep trust and faith' he had in Marguerite. ['The Character of Edward II', in Reign of Edward II: New Perspectives, ed. Dodd and Musson, pp. 16-17] It might well mean that, of course, or it might just be that Edward assumed Marguerite was the obvious person to ask her husband for a favour. Isabella of France often interceded with Edward II on behalf of petitioners, and I'm not sure anyone would take that as evidence of 'deep trust and faith' between them. I sometimes think historians see what they expect to see, and interpret evidence in a way that fits something they already believe, whether correctly or not.

Official documents of the era almost inevitably refer to Marguerite of France as Edward II's 'mother', but as there was no word for 'stepmother', this means very little. Edward II and his father-in-law Philip IV of France (Marguerite's older half-brother) always addressed each other as 'very beloved father' and 'very beloved son' in their correspondence; such forms were purely conventional and say nothing at all about their personal relationship. Edward and Philip quite probably disliked each other, but courtesy and addressing fellow royals in the correct ways were more important than personal feelings. Alice Leygrave, Edward's wet-nurse who much later joined the household of Queen Isabella, was in 1312 referred to as "the king's mother, who suckled him in his youth." I've also seen people claiming that Edward II's great-grandson Henry IV (reigned 1399 to 1413) was also very fond of his stepmother Katherine Swynford on the grounds that after he became king, he referred to her as his 'mother.' But of course he did; she was his father John of Gaunt's widow. There was no other way for him to refer to her. It says nothing about their personal relationship and does not necessarily mean that he was fond of her, let alone that he saw her as his mother (his own mother Blanche of Lancaster died when he was under eighteen months old). Henry might well have been enormously fond of Katherine, of course; I'm not saying that he wasn't, merely that conventionally addressing her as his mother means nothing much one way or the other. In an extant letter of 1305, twenty-one-year-old Edward of Caernarfon addressed his much older kinswoman Agnes de Valence (daughter and sister of earls of Pembroke) as his 'good mother' and promised to do whatever he could for her as a loving son should do, which doesn't suggest that he'd found a maternal figure in Marguerite and was in need of one. This is probably not terribly surprising as she was only about five years his senior. I find this letter poignant.

One of Edward II's possessions in 1312 was a brooch specifically said to have been a gift to him from madame la Roine la miere, 'my lady the queen, the mother.' Whether this means Eleanor of Castile or Marguerite of France is not clear. It might even mean Edward II's grandmother Eleanor of Provence, wife of Henry III and mother of Edward I, who lived until Edward II was seven and did give him other gifts. Again, even if Marguerite did give her stepson a brooch, this is not necessarily evidence that she was hugely fond of him, but was merely expected and normal behaviour. Marguerite of France married a king, but with the knowledge that her sons would never succeed to the throne because her husband already had an heir. Her sons would only ever be the half-brothers and later the half-uncles of kings, but could not expect to be kings themselves unless something happened to Edward of Caernarfon. I wouldn't be surprised if that caused some resentment in Marguerite. I don't mean for a second that she ever wished him harm, but it might have been a barrier between them.

Even if we think that Edward of Caernarfon was close to and fond of his stepmother up to 1307, in early 1308 she opposed his beloved Piers Gaveston and, according to a contemporary newsletter, gave financial support to the English barons trying to force his exile. The newsletter gives the sum of forty thousand pounds, which is obviously an absurd exaggeration and Marguerite cannot possibly have given them anything like as much (or even had a fraction of that sum available to her), but it seems clear that she was hostile to Piers and helping his enemies. If Marguerite and Edward had been so close as is often surmised, I find it hard to see why she would have opposed Piers Gaveston in 1308 and even actively funded the baronial opposition which was determined to banish him abroad. However politically sensible it might have been to detach Piers from the king, there is nothing Marguerite could have done which would hurt Edward II more, or which he would find harder to forgive. She surely knew that.

I'm not saying for certain that Edward II and Marguerite did not have a good relationship, only that the available evidence has, in my opinion, been stretched too far. They may well have enjoyed each other's company enormously and been extremely fond of each other, but what evidence we have doesn't automatically point to such a conclusion. At any rate, however they might have felt about each other before Edward became king, Marguerite's supporting the baronial opposition to Piers Gaveston in 1308 put an abrupt end to any closeness and affection there might have been, and for the remaining ten years of her life, there is little if any evidence of visits or letters or gifts. Edward mostly ignored his stepmother. He attended her funeral in 1318, as did his sister Mary the nun, but again this was most likely simply what convention demanded. If Edward kept the anniversary of Marguerite's death every year with prayers, as he did for his own mother, I'm not aware of it.

13 April, 2017

Contrariant Miracles 1322/23

In March and April 1322, Edward II had between nineteen and twenty-two knights and noblemen executed for taking part in the Contrariant rebellion, including his own first cousin Thomas, earl of Lancaster. Here's a reliable list of the names of the executed men; the numbers have often been inflated in modern literature, generally by including the names of men killed at Boroughbridge, and also by talking about a 'bloodbath' and a 'reign of terror' and 'horror piled upon horror' and other such absurdly over-emotional comments which tip over into the hysterical.

This post is about a rather interesting phenomenon which occurred in the aftermath of the executions: many of Edward II's subjects claimed that miracles had taken place at the execution sites of several of the Contrariants. This was, for the most part, a political protest against Edward II, the Despensers and their greedy and tyrannical regime after their victory over the Contrariants in 1322.

Miracles were being reported at the execution site of Thomas, earl of Lancaster, beheaded just outside his Yorkshire castle of Pontefract on 22 March 1322, within weeks of the earl's death. [1] A campaign to canonise Lancaster – surely one of the unlikeliest saints of all time, nearly as unlikely as Edward II himself – began in 1327, and his cult grew in popularity; as late as the Reformation, his hat and belt preserved at Pontefract were used as remedies in childbirth and for headaches. [2] A Latin song written at the end of Edward II's reign or at the beginning of his son Edward III's laments "the blessed martyr" and "flower of knights" (my response to this can be basically be summed up as: ROFL), and says "the pouring out of prayers to Thomas restores the sick to health; the pious earl comes immediately to the aid of those who are feeble." [3]

In 1323, miracles continued to be reported at the site of Lancaster's execution. 2000 people, some from as far away as Kent, gathered to pray and make oblations at his tomb in Pontefract. [4] The archbishop of York, Edward II's friend and ally William Melton, twice had to remind his archdeacon that Lancaster was not a canonised saint and order him to disperse the throng gathering at the earl's tomb, some of whom were crushed to death. [5] Edward sent his clerk Richard Moseley to investigate, the king's attitude to the situation apparent from his description of the crowd as "malefactors and apostates" and his comment that they were praying "not to God but rather to idols." The crowd made their feelings clear, too: Moseley was assaulted, and two of his servants killed. [6] The very pro-Lancastrian Brut chronicle includes a bizarrely disgusting story in which Hugh Despenser the Younger, troubled and angered by the "great heresy" of the alleged miracles, sent a messenger to Edward to inform him about them. As the messenger passed through Pontefract, he "made his ordure" at the place where Lancaster had been beheaded – and later suffered punishment for this sacrilegious act when he "shed all his bowels at his fundament." [7]

Miracles were also said to have taken place at the execution site of the Contrariants Sir Henry Montfort and Sir Henry Wilington in Bristol: the mayor of the city told the king that Montfort’s brother bribed a poor child with two shillings "to pronounce to the people that he received healing of his sight." Edward II ordered an inquisition into the alleged miracles in October 1323. [8] On 28 June 1323, Edward had ordered Stephen Gravesend, bishop of London, to prevent people praying and making offerings at a tablet in St Paul's "whereon are depicted statues, sculpture or images of diverse persons, and amongst others the effigy of Thomas, late earl of Lancaster...as the king learns with displeasure that many of the people go to the said tablet and worship it as a holy thing without the authority of the church of Rome, asserting that miracles are done there." [9] The French Chronicle of London describes this object instead as a tablet which the earl of Lancaster had had made to celebrate Edward's granting of the Ordinances in 1311. [10]

This whole thing is, I think, most revealing of the contemporary mindset. Edward II was disturbed at the political implications of these alleged miracles performed by his executed enemies, but also, being a very pious man, seems to have been genuinely angry at what he saw as 'apostasy', the worship of false images, and people disobeying the Church.

Sources

1) Anonimalle Chronicle, 108: The Brut, 228; J. R. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster, 329.
2) Maddicott, Lancaster, p. 329.
3) Thomas Wright, The Political Songs of England, pp. 268-72.
4) Foedera 1307-27, 536-7? 
5) Natalie Fryde, The Tyranny and Fall of Edward II, 153.
6) Cal Inq Misc 1308-48, 528-9.
7) Brut, 230.
8) Cal Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, 543.
9) Cal Close Rolls 1318-23, 723; Flores Historiarum, 213.
10) Croniques de London, 46; Anonimalle, 114.

02 April, 2017

Seville!

Apologies for not updating the blog more regularly; I've been really busy lately, had visitors, and am still going through the long and painful bereavement process.

Just to let you know, I was commissioned to write another piece for BBC History Magazine, this time for their 'historical holiday' series. I chose the fabulous Spanish city of Seville, an ancient, beautiful and fascinating place with strong links to Edward II: his maternal grandfather Fernando III of Castile and Leon is the patron saint of the city. The piece will appear in the May edition of the magazine, and will be out later this month. Here's a short preview!

19 March, 2017

The Death of Sir John Eure in 1322

I've previously written posts about Edward II's 1321/22 campaign against the Contrariants, the baronial rebels who had forced the exile of the two Hugh Despensers in August 1321: see here, herehere, here and here. In March/April 1322, twenty or so Contrariants were executed; they were all noblemen or knights. See here for an accurate list based on a variety of primary sources. The number of Contrariants executed in 1322 has been grossly inflated in modern literature, notably by Natalie Fryde in her 1979 work The Tyranny and Fall of Edward II 1321-1326, usually by including the names of men killed at the battle of Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322. Accounts of Edward II's executions of the twenty or twenty-two thuggish knights and noblemen who had committed serious crimes (such as homicide, assault, false imprisonment, blackmail, theft and plunder, and much else) often reach a fever-pitch of bizarre hysteria in modern writing: a 'bloodbath', 'atrocities', 'slaughter' and so on.

Four fourteenth-century chronicles - the amusingly anti-Edward II Westminster chronicle Flores Historiarum, the Lanercost chronicle, the Livere de Reis and the fragment called the 'Chronicle of the Civil Wars' - give the Lancastrian knight Sir John Eure as one of the executed Contrariants in March/April 1322. Sir John Eure was a supporter of Edward II's cousin and enemy Thomas, earl of Lancaster, and was suspected in 1317 of complicity in Sir Gilbert Middleton's attack on the cardinals Luca Fieschi and Gaucelin Duèse; Edward ordered the sheriff of Northumberland the mayor of Newcastle to arrest Eure on these grounds on 30 September 1317 (CPR 1317-21, p. 88). Earlier, in 1313/14, Eure had been the king's escheator beyond Trent.

John Eure in fact was killed by fourteen men who all were seemingly Edward II's supporters (though I don't recognise any of their names), though without Edward's prior knowledge. Eure's chaplain Richard Uttyng was also killed. One of Eure's killers, interestingly enough, was named as an adherent of Bartholomew Badlesmere, a Contrariant executed in April 1322. Edward II complained that 'malefactors', asserting that Eure was "the king's enemy, which he was not," killed him while he was "in the king's faith and peace." It seems that fourteen men got carried away when pursuing the Contrariants who had fought at Boroughbridge, or even just those they thought had fought there. Edward told his kinsman Louis Beaumont, bishop of Durham, on 26 March 1322 (four days after his cousin Thomas of Lancaster's execution and ten after Boroughbridge) not to 'molest' the fourteen men for "beheading John de Evre when pursuing him as the king's enemy, until the king shall issue further orders after he has been certified of this matter." On 28 May 1322, Edward II pardoned Eure's killers. This is just a little reminder that we can't always take contemporary chronicles at face value; even when they positively assert that Edward II had a man executed, other extant records prove that he did not (though admittedly he did not punish the men responsible for killing a knight and a chaplain without the slightest authority).

CCR 1318-23, 430, 474; CPR 1321-4, 127-8; Livere de Reis, ed. Glover, 345; Lanercost, ed. Maxwell, 236; Flores, ed. Luard, 208; Haskins, ‘Chronicle of the Civil Wars’, 79-80. The men who killed John Eure are named as: John Hert, Robert Stanford (Badlesmere's adherent), William Stapelton, Geoffrey Yelemund or Ikemund, Richard Heddeleye, Richard Thorp, Thomas Witton, Thomas Fox, William Those, Robert Corbrigge, John Conyngham, William Hortheworth, William Masham and Thomas Raynton. A Richard Skynner is added in one chancery roll entry, which probably means Richard Thorp.