07 December, 2016

More Fourteenth-Century Proofs of Age

Continuing an occasional series which answers the question 'How did people know their date of birth more than five hundred years before the invention of birth certificates and more than two hundred before parish records of baptisms began to be kept?' How did people remember dates? See also here, here and here.

1) Proof of age of Bartholomew son and heir of John Davelers, Suffolk, 'Friday before St Mark, 2 Edw. II' (i.e. 18 April 1309)

Sir William Visdelou, knight, age 40 and more, says that the said Bartholomew is 21 and more, and was born at Everwartone on Thursday after St Matthew, 15 Edward I [25 September 1287], which he knows because on that Thursday he made a feast at Schottele, and on the same day caused a tombstone to be placed over the body of Guy his father in the church of the same town.

Robert le Vyte, age 66, says as above, and knows it because on that Friday he came to the hall of Everwarton for 14 shillings due to him for a cloth of russet, and found the lady lying in childbed.

William de Bromptone, age 40 and more, says the same, and knows it because he was then butler there, and on that Friday he announced to Sir Robert Schelt that the lady had borne a child, who gave him two shillings and a gold ring.

Richard le Warde, age 55, says as above, and knows it because on that Friday he was repairing the house of Roger le Priur at Everwarton, and fell and broke his right leg.

John Hervi, age 68, says as above, and knows it because he came to the church of Everwarton and caused a celebration to be made for the soul of his father, and he saw the said Bartholomew lying there wrapped in a silken cloth.

John le Juvene, 72, says as above, and knows it because Sir Bartholomew Davelers, grandfather of the said Bartholomew, died in the same town on the Sunday after the said Bartholomew was baptised, and on the same day he himself had a son born called William, who is now 21 and more.

2) John son and heir of Walter de Sourdeval, Yorkshire, 4 June 1309

William de Appelton, aged 50, says that the said John was 21 on the feast of the Purification last [2 February], for he was born at Bothlum on that day and baptised in the church there on the morrow, 21 years ago, and this he knows because he has a son Richard, born on the octave of the Purification 21 years ago.

John de Appelton, aged 60, says the same, and knows it because Alice late his wife was churched of a daughter on the morrow of the said John's birth, who died at the feast of the Annunciation last and was then 21 years and 10 weeks old.

John de Middelton, aged 54, says the same, and knows it because on Christmas Day last 21 years ago, going home from the church, he fell and broke his arm, and the said John was born on the feast of the Purification next following.

William de Wath, aged 48, says the same, and knows it because Richard his brother abjured the realm on account of the death of Robert de [...]ath, whom he slew on Monday [missing] 21 years ago, and the said John was born on the feast of the Purification next before.

3) Elizabeth, younger daughter and co-heir of Brian Brampton, Herefordshire, Wednesday the morrow of St Martin, 3 Edw. II [12 November 1309]

John de Midelton. aged 45, says that the said Elizabeth was born at Ayston and baptised in the church there, and was 14 on Wednesday after St Nicholas last, and this he knows because he is her godfather and lifted her from the font.

Hugh de Careswell, aged 50, says the same, and knows it because on the same day he married his wife, and saw the said Elizabeth being baptised at the door of the church.

Adam Osberne, aged 60, agrees, and knows it because when building a chamber in his place near the manor of the said Brian [Brampton], he heard the said Elizabeth wailing.

William de Fraxino, aged 50, says the same, and knows it because he then was of the household of the said Brian, and on the said Wednesday saw the said Elizabeth lying in her cradle in her nurse's chamber.

4) John son and heir of Sir Hubert de Multon, Cumberland, Monday the morrow of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 8 Edw. II [9 September 1314]

Sir John de Lamplow, age 40 and more, says that the said John was born in the manor of Ishal, and baptised in the church of St Michael there, and was 21 on the feast of St Bartholomew last [24 August 1314]; which he well recollects as Robert his elder brother, whose heir he is, died on the morrow of the Assumption, 21 Edw. I [16 August 1293], and the said John was born on the feast of St Bartholomew next following.

Robert de Mulcastre says the like, and knows it because on the morrow of St Laurence in  that year [11 August 1293] he married Petronilla, daughter of Sir Robert de Pavelly, and the said John was born on the feast of St Bartholomew following.

Henry de Brumfeld says the like, and recollects it because in the same year on Sunday before the Ascension, the city of Carlisle with the great church was burned.

Alan de Arkelby says the like, and knows it because he returned from his pilgrimage to Santiago on the same day of St Bartholomew, 21 Edw. I, when the said John's birth was announced.

5) Edmund son and heir of Roger Coleville, Lincolnshire, 14 February 1309

Thomas de Sancto Laudo, knight, says that the said Edmund is son and next heir of the said Roger, and was born at Castelbitham at the feast of the Conversion of St Paul, 16 Edw. I [25 January 1288], and baptised in the church of St James there. Robert Coleville and William de Bergh lifted him from the sacred font and named him Edmund in dedication to St Edmund of Pontigny, because his father travelling there vowed to name his son Edmund.

William de Hellewelle, age 50, says the same, and knows it because Robert his son was age 3 on the day that the said Edmund was born.

John Broun of Castelbitham, age 50, says the same, and knows it because he announced the birth to Sir Richard de Brewosa and Lady Alice his wife, grandparents of the said Edmund, for which they gave him jewels to the value of 100 shillings.

6) Alice Coterel, daughter and heir of William Kendale, Derbyshire, 26 November 1309

Richard Danyel, knight, age 60, says that the said Alice was 15 on the feast of the Translation of St Thomas the Martyr last [7 July], and was born at Derleye on that day 15 years ago and baptised in the church there on the morrow, which he knows because he had a son Robert who was born at the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Mary next after the birth of the said Alice, and died at the feast of St Michael last [29 September], aged 15 and more.

Nicholas Kyng, age 40, says the same, and knows it because William Kendale held seisin at Haddon of lands which were of Robert de Derleye on the same day that the said Alice was born, and had magnates feasting with him.

John Birchelis, age 54, says the same, and knows it because he had a sister Agnes married on the same day.

27 November, 2016

My Edward II Talk on Youtube

I recently gave a talk about Edward II at the International English Library, Düsseldorf. It's now available on Youtube, in three parts, including the question and answer session at the end.

Part One: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gj5TdVkR108

Part Two: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksbsLvijxjA

Part Three: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jV170dZXmWE This includes the question and answer session.

Not sure why the links aren't working, but you can copy and paste them into your browser. Enjoy! :-)

24 November, 2016

24 November 1326: Execution of Hugh Despenser the Younger, Lord of Glamorgan

690 years ago today on 24 November 1326, Edward II's notorious 'favourite', chamberlain and nephew-in-law Hugh Despenser the Younger, lord of Glamorgan, was executed in Hereford, in the presence of Edward's queen Isabella and her own 'favourite' Roger Mortimer.

Hugh was most likely in his late thirties at the time of his death; his date of birth is not known but was probably in the late 1280s. He had been married to Edward I's eldest granddaughter Eleanor de Clare for just over twenty years at the time of his death, since 26 May 1306, and they had at least ten children together. As I've pointed out before, Hugh was a high-ranking English nobleman, not a nobody or simply a humble knight: he was the grandson and nephew of earls of Warwick, step-grandson of the earl of Norfolk, and so on, and his marriage to Eleanor de Clare was arranged and attended by her grandfather Edward I, who paid two thousand pounds to Hugh the Elder for the privilege. Hugh the Younger was appointed Edward II's chamberlain in 1318, and used his proximity to the king to work his way into Edward's favour, until Edward - apparently - became as infatuated with him as he ever had been with Piers Gaveston. Edward refused to expel Hugh from his court and his side even when his very kingship depended on it.

Hugh had made a very bad enemy in Queen Isabella, who loathed and feared him. There is no reason, though, to think that he raped her, an invention of two authors of the early twenty-first century and based on no primary source evidence whatsoever. In late 1325, Isabella, at the court of her brother Charles IV in Paris, declared publicly that she would not return to her husband unless he expelled Hugh from his side and his court, and took to wearing widow's weeds to emphasise the death of her marriage thanks to Hugh's intrusion. Edward refused, which left Isabella with little option but to remain on the continent and ally with Edward and Hugh's greatest enemy Roger Mortimer, the only man with the ability and desire to help Isabella rid herself of the hated Hugh Despenser and his father the earl of Winchester.

Hugh was captured in South Wales on 16 November 1326, with the king and a handful of others. Edward II was taken to Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire and treated with all the honour, respect and dignity due to the king; Hugh was treated with every indignity possible. According to the Brut chronicle, he refused all food and drink and so "was almost dead for fasting." He was tied to a mean horse with the royal sergeant-at-arms Simon of Reading - a man who was not, despite what some modern writers have claimed, one of Hugh's 'henchmen' or his marshall or a knight - forced to carry his coat of arms upside down as a sign of his disgrace. A crown of nettles was placed on Hugh's head, Biblical verses were scrawled over his skin, and trumpets were blown loudly in his ears. In the public square of Hereford, in front of Queen Isabella, Edward II's half-brothers the earls of Norfolk and Kent and a few others, Hugh was given a mock trial and charged with a long list of offences: some were true, some were a little bit true, some were so ridiculous I wonder if anyone present could keep a straight face.The gallows on which he would be hanged had already been constructed before his so-called trial.

Hugh Despenser the Younger, lord of Glamorgan, was tied to four horses and dragged through the streets of Hereford. He was partly strangled on a gallows fifty feet high - the obscure Simon of Reading, who was not charged with any offence, was hanged on a smaller gallows next to him - then cut down and subjected to the most terrible brutalities before death finally claimed him. Hugh had done the same thing to the Welsh nobleman Llywelyn Bren in Cardiff eight years previously. Four years later in December 1330, Edward III gave permission to Hugh's family and friends to retrieve his head and the four parts of his body from London Bridge, Carlisle, York, Bristol and Dover where they had been displayed since November 1326, and to bury him at Tewkesbury Abbey, where his tomb can still be seen.


20 November, 2016

20 November In Different Years

On 20 November 1311, Edward II sent a polite letter to Sir Robert Holland, adherent and friend of the king's first cousin and enemy Thomas, earl of Lancaster, which included the following: "We are very joyous and pleased about the good news we have heard concerning the improvement in our dear cousin and faithful subject Thomas, earl of Lancaster, and that he will soon be able to ride in comfort. And we send you word and dearly pray that, as soon as he is comfortable and able to ride without hurt to his body, you should ask him to be so good as to hasten to us at our parliament." It's interesting that Thomas of Lancaster does seem to have been prone to illness, though exactly what he suffered from is unclear. In 1305, he excused himself from attending twenty-one-year-old Edward, then the heir to the throne, because he was ill; Edward promised that he would visit Thomas instead, "to see and to comfort you." The two cousins were apparently on close terms then, but it all went horribly wrong, and they came to loathe each other, especially after Thomas had Piers Gaveston killed in 1312.

On 20 November 1316, Edward II's brother-in-law Philip V acceded as king of France, on the death of Philip's nephew the five-day-old King John I 'the Posthumous', son of Louis X (died 5 June 1316) and Clemence of Hungary. Philip V and Edward II seem to have been on good terms, as brothers-in-law if not necessarily as kings: shortly before his accession, Philip sent Edward bunches of new grapes, and a year later, a box of rose sugar. Edward gave a very generous gift of twenty marks on 7 August 1316 to the messenger who brought him the news that Philip's wife Joan of Burgundy had borne a son, Louis, on 24 June (the boy died when he was a few months old). Edward excused himself from attending Philip's coronation in early 1317.

On 20 November 1322, Edward II gave two shillings each to ten fishermen of Thorne, near Doncaster, "who fished in the king's presence and took great pike, great eels, and a large number of other fish." I find it hard to think of any other medieval king of England who would willingly have stood by a river in winter watching men fish. This, though, was entirely normal of Edward II, who seemed to love nothing more than chatting to fishermen. And carpenters, and shipwrights, and ditchers, and blacksmiths, and any other of his 'lowborn' subjects he happened to encounter. One of my favourite Edward anecdotes dates to September 1325, when Edward paid compensation to a Thames fisherman called Colle (i.e. Nicholas) Herron, whose goods had been burned in some accident "the last time he was with the king." That's right, the king of England spent time hanging out with a fisherman called Colle Herron, and more than once at that. There are countless dozens of similar entries in Edward II's household accounts. Then of course there's the famous John of Walton, who in July 1326 was said to have "sung before the king every time he passed through these parts by water," i.e. along the Thames, and who was also a fisherman.

11 November, 2016

Tenants in Chief, Wardships and Inheritance in the Fourteenth Century

A blog post explaining the concept of tenants in chief in the fourteenth century, inheritance, Inquisitions Post Mortem and so on. It's more interesting than it sounds, honestly. :-) Necessarily simplified as this is a blog post aimed at a general audience, not an academic one.

Under the feudal system, tenants in chief were the people who held land directly from the king. Most of them were men, some were women, though the latter only controlled lands in their own right when they were widows. Otherwise, even when it was their own inheritance from their parents or other relatives, it was their husbands who swore homage/fealty to the king and controlled the lands on their behalf. Tenants in chief were always members of the nobility or high-ranking churchmen, i.e. bishops and abbots, and there were several hundred of them in England at any time. The origins of the system lay in the king granting lands in exchange for military service; women and churchmen obviously were exempt from performing military service in person but were still obliged to send men to fight the king's wars.

Special rules applied to tenants in chief. They weren't allowed to marry without the king's permission, although fairly often they did, and the chancery rolls of the fourteenth century are full of entries relating to the king temporarily confiscating lands and handing out huge fines usually running to a few hundred pounds, i.e. hundreds of thousands in modern terms - but hey, these people were really wealthy, they could afford it - to his tenants in chief who had married without royal consent. Women who were tenants of chief in their own right or the widows of such also required the king's permission to marry again. You sometimes see entries on the Patent Roll like "Permission to Eleanor late the wife of Sir John Darcy, tenant in chief, to marry whomsoever she will of the king's allegiance."

Tenants in chief had to swear fealty to the king whenever there was a change of personnel, as it were: whenever there was a new king of England, all tenants in chief had to swear an oath to him, and when one of them died, his heir had to swear after he came into his lands. When a tenant in chief died, his lands were temporarily taken into the king's hands by the escheator - there were two in England, one on either side of the River Trent - and an Inquisition Post Mortem was held in every county where he (or she) had held lands to establish which lands there were, how they were held, i.e. some from the king directly ('held of the king in chief') and some from other tenants in chief, and the terms of holding the lands. IPMs also established the heir or heirs to the lands, and their age. Often this is very specific with the exact date given, usually when the heir was under age, but generally the age varies according to how old the jurors of various counties thought the person(s) in question might be, sometimes only by a year or two but occasionally by as much as thirteen years. The 1307 IPM of the countess of Pembroke, for example, gives the age of her son and heir Aymer de Valence as anywhere between 24 and 37, so Aymer might have been born any time between 1270 and 1283. Thanks, that's very helpful. On the other hand, the IPM of Patrick Chaworth taken after his death in early July 1283 gives the exact date of birth of his daughter and heir Maud (older half-sister of Hugh Despenser the Younger): she was 'aged one at the feast of the Purification last,' i.e. Maud was born on or perhaps shortly before 2 February 1282. Two IPMs also give the exact age of Maud Chaworth's stepfather Hugh Despenser the Elder: he was born on 1 March 1261.

Here's one brief example of an entry in an IPM: it's that of Edward II's nephew Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester, killed at Bannockburn on 23 June 1314. (The full IPM goes on for just under thirty pages.)
"Inq. Tuesday after the Assumption 8 Edw. II.
Great Berdefeld. The manor (extent given), including stallage and toll of the market, and the farm of the market of Donemowe, held of the king in chief by service of 1 knight's fee...
If the countess is not pregnant, his next heirs are his sisters Eleanor the wife of Hugh le Despenser the younger, aged 22 and more, Margaret late the wife of Piers Gaveston, aged 20, and Elizabeth, late the wife of John de Burgh, aged 19." In the various county inquisitions, Eleanor Despenser's age is given as anywhere between 20 and 25 (she was born in October or November 1292, so was actually 21 at the time of her brother's death and when the inquisitions were taken in the following weeks). The age of the third sister Elizabeth was stated to be anywhere between 16 and 20 (she was born in September 1295 so was 18 going on 19 when her brother died).

The heir(s) of a tenant in chief, if of age - at least twenty-one for men, and fourteen or fifteen for women depending on whether they were already married or not - had to pay a sum of money called a 'relief', basically inheritance tax, swear homage to the king as his/her liege lord, and was allowed to enter his lands. If the heir was still under age, the king became his or her guardian, even if the heir's mother was alive, and the child or adolescent was known as the king's 'ward'. Edward II, for example, became the guardian of Piers Gaveston's five-month-old daughter Joan on Piers' death in June 1312, even though Joan's mother, Edward's niece Margaret de Clare, was alive. It was Edward who later arranged Joan's future marriage to the earl of Ulster's grandson John Multon, having made an unsuccessful attempt to marry her to Thomas Wake, another royal ward. This was entirely normal and expected, not Edward being cruel to his niece; a lot of people in modern times misunderstand this concept. The king could choose to keep the heir as his own ward, or give or sell the wardship (usually including the rights to the heir's marriage) to another person; this was one of the main ways a king could distribute patronage. It could be most lucrative for the recipient. Say a tenant in chief with lands worth five hundred pounds a year died when his son was only four. This meant that the heir's guardian would receive the tenant in chief's income for seventeen years until the son came of age. The guardian simply had to maintain the heir in suitable style, and hand over the lands at the end of the period in the same condition in which he or she found them.

There were of course strict rules relating to the inheritance of lands. Men were favoured, of course, and primogeniture was in operation, meaning that the eldest son inherited everything. In case there was no male heir, as above in the case of the earl of Gloucester, women inherited equally, primogeniture not applying to female heirs (at least in England; it did in France). Therefore the earl of Gloucester's three sisters inherited equally, though understandably it proved impossible to divide his estates and their value into three completely equal shares. William Marshal (d. 1219) and Isabella de Clare, earl and countess of Pembroke, had five sons and five daughters. None of the sons fathered a single child between them; if they had, the child would have received the entire Pembroke inheritance, whether male or female. The five daughters all had children, however, so the inheritance ended up being split between literally dozens of people, the sisters' children and grandchildren. on the death of the fifth Marshal son in 1245.

Widows of tenants in chief were entitled to hold a third of their husband's lands for their lives until they died, even if they married again. On a widow's death, the lands she held as her dower passed to her husband's heir, who would often be her own son or grandson. Maurice, Lord Berkeley, grandson of Roger Mortimer, died on 8 June 1368 when his eldest son Thomas was fifteen. Thomas inherited part of the Berkeley inheritance when he turned twenty-one in January 1374, but two-thirds of it remained in the hands of two Berkeley dowagers: Thomas's mother Elizabeth, daughter of Hugh Despenser the Younger, who lived until 1389, and his step-grandmother Katherine Cliveden, widow of Maurice's father the elder Thomas, who lived until 1385. Thomas thus had to wait until he was thirty-six to gain his full inheritance. Long-lived dowagers could keep a large part of inheritances in their hands for decades. When a woman who had inherited and held lands in her own right died before her husband, a custom called the 'courtesy of England' allowed a widower to keep all of his late wife's lands in his own hands until his own death, as long as they had had at least one child together. For example, Thomas, Lord Berkeley above (b. 1353) married Margaret Lisle, heir of the Lisles, and kept all the Lisle lands after Margaret's death in 1392 until his own death in July 1417. They then passed to his and Margaret's only child Elizabeth, countess of Warwick.

Some more concrete examples:

- Henry III's younger brother Richard of Cornwall died in 1272. His elder son, Henry of Almain, had been murdered (by his de Montfort cousins) in Sicily in 1271. Richard's heir was therefore his younger son Edmund, who succeeded him as earl of Cornwall; Edmund was over twenty-one when his father died, and therefore did not enter royal wardship. When Earl Edmund died in 1300, he left no children, and he had no (legitimate) siblings or nieces and nephews. His heir was his first cousin Edward I, son of Henry III - Edmund of Cornwall's mother and Edward I's mother were also sisters so they were first cousins on both sides - and Edmund's nearest male relative.

- William, Lord Leyburne, died in 1310. His eldest son Sir Thomas Leyburne had died in June 1307, and William's heir was his granddaughter Juliana (b. 1303/04), Thomas's only child, even though William had younger sons still alive. Juliana became the ward of Edward II, though her mother Alice Toeni, countess of Warwick, was alive, and Edward gave or sold her wardship and the rights to her marriage to Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke. Aymer arranged Juliana's marriage to his nephew and co-heir John, Lord Hastings. Juliana was also the heir of her grandmother Juliane de Sandwich, Lady Leyburne, who herself was the heir of her father and uncle. Juliana Leyburne's mother Alice Toeni was also the heir of her brother, though the Toeni inheritance did not pass to Juliana but to her younger half-brother Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (a male heir, if there was one, taking priority over his sisters even when they were older).

- Theobald, Lord Verdon, died in July 1316. He had three daughters from his first marriage to Maud Mortimer, and left his widow, Edward II's niece Elizabeth de Clare, pregnant. If she had given birth to a boy he would have been heir to the entire Verdon estate, but it was a girl, Isabella. She shared her father's estate equally with her three older half-sisters. Edward II gave the wardship of the eldest Verdon sister, Joan, to his friend Sir William Montacute, who arranged her marriage to his eldest son John (the teenage groom died a few months later).

- The aforementioned Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, died in June 1324, leaving no children from either of his two marriages. Aymer had had three sisters, two of whom had children: they were John, Lord Hastings, and the sisters Joan and Elizabeth Comyn. These three inherited Aymer's estate equally; because it came through the female line, John Hastings had no priority over his female cousins, though Laurence, his son with Juliana Leyburne, was Aymer's successor as earl of Pembroke.

- Edward II's niece Margaret de Clare had two daughters with her two husbands, Joan Gaveston and Margaret Audley. They were her joint and equal heirs to Margaret's share of the de Clare fortune until Joan's death in January 1325, and thereafter Margaret Audley was the sole heir. If Margaret de Clare had borne a son at any point, he would have been sole heir to his mother; if she had borne more daughters, they would all have been equal heirs with Margaret Audley.

- Richard FitzJohn, lord of Shere in Surrey, died in September 1297. He had four sisters, two of whom were still alive in 1297, and the other two had left children. His five heirs at the time of his death were: Maud Beauchamp née FitzJohn, countess of Warwick, his eldest sister (d. 1301; maternal grandmother of Maud Chaworth and Hugh Despenser the Younger; Maud's share ultimately passed to her son Guy Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, and then to his son Earl Thomas, who also came into the Toeni inheritance, as above); Robert, Lord Clifford, grandson of the second FitzJohn sister the late Isabel Vipont, and Robert's aunt Idonea Cromwell, Isabel Vipont's daughter; Richard de Burgh, earl of Ulster, son of the late third FitzJohn sister Aveline; and Joan le Botiler, the fourth FitzJohn sister.

It's interesting to note that quite a few of the English earls of Edward II's reign had no children: Gloucester, Lancaster, Pembroke, Richmond, Surrey. Thomas of Lancaster's heir was his brother Henry, and John de Warenne, earl of Surrey's was his sister Alice's son Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel. The earls of Cornwall (Piers Gaveston) and Lincoln (Henry de Lacy) each had one daughter. Edward II's half-brothers the earls of Norfolk and Kent were both ultimately succeeded by a daughter, Margaret Marshal and Joan of Kent, Richard II's mother.

There's surely a great deal more I could write on this topic, but this post is long enough already, so I'll leave it to another time!

02 November, 2016

The Edward II Musical; And I Talk On A Radio Show

If you're likely to be anywhere near New York this month, you really need to go and see this. My awesomely talented friend Erik Ransom has written and is starring in a musical about Edward II, More Than All The World. I soooo wish I could go and see it. It opens this Friday, 4 November 2016, and runs for sixteen days; you can buy tickets and get directions to the theatre (The Theater for the New City) at the link above. Yay, an Edward II musical! Best of luck to Erik, the director Rachel Klein, and all the cast and crew. Edward would love it. :-)

This coming Sunday, 6 November, I'll be taking part in a discussion about the battle of Bannockburn on the Irish radio station Newstalk. It starts at 7pm GMT and will go on for an hour, and the other participants are Professor Sean Duffy of Trinity College, Dublin, and Professor Michael Brown of the University of St Andrews. The station website is here, and the programme, Talking History, is here: there's a button in the top right corner called 'Listen', wherever you are on the site, if you'd like to hear the debate! Remember, 7pm to 8pm GMT this Sunday, 6 November. As far as I can work out - it's a little confusing as Europe went back an hour to winter time last weekend and I think in North America you'll be doing that this coming weekend - that'll be 2pm East Coast US time. (But please do double check the time difference!) It's also 8pm Central European Time.

29 October, 2016

She's Called Elizabeth, not Isabel! A Big Oopsie in 1314

Edward II's nephew Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford, was killed during the king's disastrous defeat at the battle of Bannockburn on 23 June 1314, aged twenty-three. Gilbert was the eldest grandchild of Edward I, scion of the ancient noble house of Clare, and the greatest nobleman in the country behind Edward II's first cousin Thomas, earl of Lancaster.

Gilbert had married Maud de Burgh, one of the many daughters of the earl of Ulster, on 30 September 1308 when he was seventeen, but their marriage was childless. Edward II stated on 13 July 1314 that his nephew had died without heirs of his body. [Fine Rolls 1307-19, p. 202] However, soon the idea arose that the widowed Countess Maud was in fact pregnant by her late husband; the king had apparently not heard of this on 13 July. The majority of the jurors in the many English counties and elsewhere who issued Gilbert's Inquisition Post Mortem between August and October 1314 correctly stated that his heirs were his three younger sisters Eleanor, Margaret and Elizabeth, but five counties had heard that Gilbert's widow Maud was or might be pregnant, so added the disclaimer that the three de Clare sisters were only the late earl's heirs if Maud was not expecting a child or stated "heir not known, because it is said that the countess is pregnant." This child, whether male or female, would inherit the entirety of Gilbert's vast landholdings in three countries (England, Wales and Ireland) and his two earldoms. I don't know how the story of Maud's pregnancy arose; whether she genuinely was or at least thought she was expecting, whether the jurors of Suffolk, Hampshire, Worcestershire, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire had misunderstood or heard a rumour, but Edward II must have been absolutely delighted. As the heir of a tenant-in-chief, Gilbert's child would become a ward of the king, and Gilbert's vast income would pour into the king's coffers until he or she came of age (twenty-one if male, fourteen or fifteen if female). This would be a massive windfall for Edward, and although he surely mourned the death of the nephew who was only seven years his junior, the prospect of receiving Gilbert's seven thousand pounds a year (minus Maud's dower) for many years  must have sweetened the loss. [For Gilbert's IPM and all the following, Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1307-27, pp. 325-54]

By 20 May 1315, it had become clear to Gilbert's brother-in-law Hugh Despenser the Younger (Eleanor's husband since May 1306) that Countess Maud could not be pregnant by her husband eleven months after his death, and so he temporarily seized Tonbridge Castle which had belonged to the earl, presumably as a way of drawing the attention of Edward II and his council to the issue. A few weeks later, Hugh sent a petition to the royal council "asserting that the time had long passed and Maud late the wife of the said earl had not borne a child." Unfortunately, not only did Edward II continue to claim that Maud's pregnancy was "well-known in the parts where she lives" well into 1316, the partition of the earl of Gloucester's lands was further delayed by an error made by some of the jurors of the earl's Inq. Post Mortem. All of them had correctly named Eleanor and Margaret as the eldest two sisters, but five counties - Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Devon - incorrectly named the youngest sister Elizabeth as 'Isabel'. Further inquisitions therefore had to be held in these counties and also in London and Hampshire between 2 and 8 August 1315, when the jurors admitted their error and pointed out that "there is no Isabel sister of the said Eleanor and Margaret by the same father and mother; Elizabeth is their sister and co-heir." As is usually the case in IPMs, the given ages of the three sisters varied wildly, and a few counties stated that Elizabeth was as young as sixteen in September 1314; she in fact turned nineteen that month. The Suffolk jurors not only claimed that Elizabeth was called Isabel, they named her as the widow of Thomas de Burgh, when in fact her late husband, son and heir of the earl of Ulster and thus the brother of the supposedly pregnant Countess Maud, was called John.

What probably caused the confusion, and was almost certain to cause legal difficulties in the future if it was not corrected, was that Gilbert, Eleanor, Margaret and Elizabeth de Clare had a much older half-sister named Isabel de Clare, born in 1262. She and her sister Joan, born c. 1264, were the daughters of Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford, from his first marriage to Alice de Lusignan. These two women were thirty years older than their half-siblings, the children of Gilbert the Red and his second wife Joan of Acre, and were not the joint heirs of the younger Gilbert when he died in 1314; only Gilbert's three full sisters were entitled to a share of his enormous inheritance. This confusion between Elizabeth de Clare and her half-sister Isabel, thirty-three years her senior, was probably one of the factors which led to Maurice Berkeley marrying Isabel de Clare in c. 1316. Maurice was born in 1271 and succeeded his elderly father as Lord Berkeley in 1321. His wife Eve la Zouche died in 1314, and he was almost certainly hoping to try to force himself into a share of the de Clare inheritance by marrying Gilbert the Red's eldest daughter, just in case it turned out that she was one of the late earl of Gloucester's heirs after all. Isabel de Clare was fifty-four in 1316, and had never been married before. Ultimately, she and her sister Joan, dowager countess of Fife, inherited nothing. As for the three full de Clare sisters and their husbands, they had to wait until November 1317 for the lands of their late brother to be partitioned and given to them, and Hugh Despenser the Younger was emphatically Not Amused by the long delay.

26 October, 2016

Edward II's Grandchildren

Edward II and Isabella of France had four children born between 1312 and 1321, two of whom had children of their own. Their younger son John of Eltham, earl of Cornwall, died unmarried and childless at the age of twenty in 1336, and their younger daughter Joan of the Tower had no children with her husband David II of Scotland (David had no children with his second wife either, and none that I'm aware of with a mistress, therefore was succeeded as king by his half-nephew Robert II, first of the House of Stewart). Edward and Isabella's eldest child Edward III had twelve children with his queen Philippa of Hainault, and their elder daughter Eleanor of Woodstock, duchess of Guelders, had two sons. As well as his dozen legitimate children, Edward III had three known illegitimate children, Sir John de Southeray, Joan and Jane. Nicholas de Litlyngton, abbot of Westminster, often said on genealogical websites to have been one of Edward III's illegitimate children, was emphatically not: he was about the same age as Edward himself and decades older than his putative mother Alice Perrers. Nicholas was most likely an illegitimate son of Hugh Despenser the Younger, or perhaps of Hugh's father Hugh the Elder; he was certainly a member of the Despenser family, called his parents Hugh and Joan and was closely associated with Hugh the Younger's grandsons Edward, Lord Despenser and Henry Despenser, bishop of Norwich. In addition to his four legitimate children with Queen Isabella, Edward II had an illegitimate son called Adam, who died on Edward's Scottish campaign of 1322 as a teenager and left no offspring. Therefore, Edward II's only grandchildren came from his elder legitimate son Edward III and his elder daughter Eleanor of Woodstock.

- Reynald III 'the Fat', duke of Guelders (13 May 1333 - 4 December 1371)

Elder of the two sons of Eleanor of Woodstock and her husband Reynald II, count and later duke of Guelders. Reynald was born a year after his parents' wedding in May 1332, a month before Eleanor's fifteenth birthday (ouch), and when Reynald the elder was in his mid-forties or so. He married his cousin Marie of Brabant, whose father Duke John III was Edward II's nephew, but had no children with her. He did, however, father at least two illegitimate children, a daughter Ponte of Guelders and a son Johan van Hattem, so there may be descendants of Edward II via Eleanor of Woodstock and her elder son.

- Eduard I, duke of Guelders (12 March 1336 - 24 August 1371)

Eleanor of Woodstock's younger son, named after his maternal grandfather, who in 1350 began a civil war against his elder brother for control of the duchy, which lasted for twenty years. Eduard fought in the battle of Baesweiler against Duke Willem II of Jülich (nephew of Edward III's queen Philippa of Hainault) and Duke Wenceslas of Luxembourg (uncle of Richard II's queen Anne of Bohemia) on 22 August 1371, and, badly wounded, died two days later. He was childless; therefore, there were no legitimate descendants of Edward II via his daughter Eleanor of Woodstock. Matilda, the eldest of Reynald III and Eduard's half-sisters, one of the four daughters of Reynald II and his first wife Sophie, and the second sister Marie, who was married to Duke Willem II of Jülich, both laid claim to the duchy of Guelders, which led to the War of the Guelders Succession.

- Edward of Woodstock, prince of Wales and Aquitaine, duke of Cornwall, earl of Chester (15 June 1330 - 8 June 1376)

Edward II's eldest grandchild, born on 15 June 1330 as the first child of Edward III (then aged seventeen) and Philippa of Hainault (probably aged about fifteen or sixteen), and named after his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Edward was born as heir to the throne, and for decades both he and everybody else expected that he would succeed his father as king of England, but he contracted some serious illness while campaigning in Spain in 1367 and died prematurely on 8 June 1376, a week before his forty-sixth birthday and the year before his father. Edward, rather curiously, remained a bachelor until he was thirty, and married his cousin Joan of Kent in 1361. She was the granddaughter of his great-grandfather Edward I, the daughter of Edward I's youngest son Edmund, earl of Kent. Edward and Joan's eldest son Edward died aged five or in late 1370 or early 1371, and their younger son succeeded his grandfather as King Richard II in 1377 when he was ten.

- Isabella of Woodstock, countess of Bedford (c. 16 June 1332 - shortly before 4 May 1379)

Named after her paternal grandmother Isabella of France, as was conventional for the eldest daughter (this doesn't say anything about Edward III's relationship with his mother). Isabella was the only one of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault's daughters who lived past her teens, and the only one who had children. She did not marry until July 1365 when she was thirty-three, having turned down a number of appropriate suitors: Louis, son of the count of Flanders; a son of Duke John III of Brabant; Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor, after the death of his first wife Blanche of Valois (Charles's daughter Anne with his fourth wife Elizabeth of Pomerania married Isabella of Woodstock's nephew Richard II in 1382); and the eldest son of Lord Albret. In 1365 when she was thirty-three, Isabella married the French nobleman Enguerrand de Coucy, and had two daughters: Marie, countess of Bar and Soissons, and Philippa, countess of Oxford and duchess of Ireland, the wife of Richard II's notorious favourite Robert de Vere.

- Joan (c. January 1334 - 1 July 1348)

Named after her maternal grandmother Jeanne or Joan of Valois, countess of Hainault and Holland, as was conventional for the second daughter (and also perhaps after her paternal aunt Joan of the Tower, queen of Scotland). Joan died of plague in 1348 on her way to marry Pedro, son and heir of Alfonso XI of Castile, the future King Pedro 'the Cruel' of Castile. Edward III wrote a wonderful and moving letter to Castile after her death which demonstrates his grief at the loss of his daughter. Pedro later married the French noblewoman Blanche de Bourbon, whose mother was a half-sister of Philip VI and his full sister Jeanne de Valois; he imprisoned her within days of their wedding and she died still in prison eight years later.

- William of Hatfield, born January 1337, died March 1337

Named after his maternal grandfather William, count of Hainault and Holland, and died as a baby.

- Lionel of Antwerp, duke of Clarence (29 November 1338 - 17 October 1368)

The third son of Edward III and Queen Philippa and the second to survive adulthood, Lionel married his cousin Elizabeth de Burgh when he was still a child. She was the granddaughter and heir of Edward II's niece Elizabeth de Clare and heir to her father the earl of Ulster, and was six and a half years Lionel's senior. Their only child Philippa of Clarence was born in August 1355 when Lionel was still only sixteen; she was Edward III's eldest legitimate grandchild, though Edward of Woodstock was the father of at least one of the illegitimate variety by then. Philippa was the mother of Roger Mortimer, earl of March (b. 1374). Lionel, a widower from 1363, married Violante Visconti of Milan in 1368 but died not long after his wedding, a few weeks before his thirtieth birthday.

- John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster (early March 1340 - 3 February 1399)

The Grandfather of Europe: father of a king (Henry IV of England) and two queens (Philippa, queen of Portugal, and Katherine, queen of Castile), father of the Beauforts, hero of Anya Seton's novel, ancestor of absolutely everyone. First married to Blanche of Lancaster in 1359, then Constanza, rightful queen of Castile in her own right in 1371, then his long-term mistress Katherine Swynford in 1396.

- Edmund of Langley, duke of York (5 June 1341 - 1 August 1402)

The last survivor of Edward III's children, the only one to live past 1400, and born only fifteen months after his brother John of Gaunt (the middle three of Edward III's sons were all very close in age, born November 1338, March 1340 and June 1341). Edmund was made earl of Cambridge in 1362 and was later made duke of York by his nephew Richard II. He married Isabel of Castile, younger sister of his sister-in-law Constanza, with whom he had two sons and a daughter (though there's speculation that his younger son Richard, earl of Cambridge, grandfather of Edward IV and Richard III, was really the son of Richard II's half-brother John Holland). In 1393, the fifty-two-year-old widower Edmund married his second wife Joan Holland, niece of Richard II and of John Holland. She was about thirteen. (Lovely.) This marriage produced no children. Edmund was left as guardian of the realm by Richard II on three occasions, most famously in 1399 when his nephew Henry of Lancaster invaded and ended up becoming King Henry IV.

- Blanche, born and died in March 1342, so very soon after the birth of her brother Edmund; it seems very likely that she was some months premature, which probably explains why she did not live long.

- Mary (10 October 1344 - after 1 October 1361)

Mary married Duke John IV of Brittany in 1361; he later married Richard II's half-sister Joan Holland (Joan of Kent's daughter from her first marriage to Sir Thomas Holland) and thirdly Joan of Navarre, daughter of King Charles II 'the Bad'. Joan of Navarre married secondly Henry IV of England as his second wife, after he became king. Both Mary and her sister Margaret, twenty-one months her junior, died as teenagers and left no children.

- Margaret (20 July 1346 - after 1 October 1361)

Margaret married John Hastings, earl of Pembroke, in 1359. Via his mother Agnes Mortimer he was the grandson of Roger Mortimer (d. 1330), first earl of March, and was also the grandson of Juliana Hastings née Leyburne, and was born in 1347, so was a little younger than his wife. After Margaret's early, childless death, Pembroke married Edward III's first cousin Anne Manny, younger daughter and co-heir of Margaret, countess of Norfolk, daughter and heir of Edward II's half-brother Thomas of Brotherton.

William of Windsor, born and died in 1348; the second son of Edward III and Queen Philippa to bear the name William, and the second to die as a baby.

- Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester (7 January 1355 - September 1397)

Apparently a surprise late child and seven and a half years younger than his nearest (known) sibling, in much the same way as Henry III and Eleanor of Provence's youngest child Katherine, born in November 1253 (who died aged three and a half) was almost nine years younger than her nearest sibling Edmund of Lancaster. Thomas was a quarter of a century older than his eldest brother the prince of Wales, and born when his father was forty-two and his mother probably forty or so. Thomas was only a dozen years older than his nephew Richard II; they detested each other, and Richard had Thomas murdered in Calais in September 1397. Thomas married Eleanor de Bohun, elder daughter and co-heir of Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Northampton (1342-73) and a great-grandson of Edward I. Their only son Humphrey died as a teenager in 1399 and their ultimate heir was their daughter Anne, countess of Stafford, ancestor of the fifteenth-century Stafford dukes of Buckingham.

Sir John Southeray (b. c. 1364), Joan and Jane

Edward III's illegitimate children with his mistress Alice Perrers, born when he was in his fifties. John was knighted in April 1377 with his half-nephews the future Richard II and the future Henry IV, who were both ten.

19 October, 2016

19 October 1330: Arrest of Roger Mortimer

686 years ago today on 19 October 1330, Edward III arrested Roger Mortimer, earl of March, at Nottingham Castle, in a swift and successful coup d'etat against his mother Isabella and her favourite. Edward III, born on 13 November 1312, was not quite eighteen years old. Roger and Isabella were having a conference in her bedchamber when the king and his allies burst in, a situation not nearly as intimate as it might sound to modern ears, and with them were their few remaining allies, including the bishop of Lincoln (who tried to escape down a latrine shaft), Roger's son Geoffrey (who was also arrested but soon released), Sir Hugh Turplington and Sir Oliver Ingham. Twenty or so young knights aided the king, some of whom, such as William Montacute, William Clinton and Robert Ufford, were later rewarded with earldoms. The actual arrest was probably only planned with a few hours' notice, but clearly the young king had been planning some kind of action against Roger Mortimer for a long time, probably since the year before, and struck as soon as he was able. He had sent William Montacute to the pope on his behalf most likely in 1329 with the famous letter containing a sample of his own writing, and after all, it was hardly a coincidence that twenty loyal young knights were with him that night and ready to strike against the hated royal favourite.

Twenty-six years to the day after her husband's arrest, on 19 October 1356, Roger Mortimer's widow Joan née Geneville, dowager countess of March, died at the age of seventy. She outlived eight of their twelve children. At the time of her death, her grandson Roger Mortimer was the second earl of March, her grandson John Hastings (b. 1347) was heir to the earldom of Pembroke, and her grandson Maurice Berkeley was heir to Lord Berkeley. Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, was Joan's son-in-law, and she had numerous great-grandchildren.

09 October, 2016

Hugh Despenser the Younger's Daughters, Forced to become Nuns

Edward II's powerful favourite Hugh Despenser the Younger, lord of Glamorgan, was executed in Hereford on 24 November 1326. His widow Eleanor de Clare, Edward's eldest and favourite niece, was imprisoned in the Tower of London on 17 November, and his eldest son Huchon held out at Caerphilly Castle until 20 March 1327 and then was imprisoned at Bristol Castle until after the downfall of Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer. Hugh's eldest daughter Isabel, who was probably thirteen or fourteen in 1326, was married to the son and heir of his ally the earl of Arundel, executed on 16 November, and his youngest daughter Elizabeth, future Lady Berkeley, was either a baby at this time or still in utero. Hugh's younger three sons Edward, Gilbert and John may have been kept in the Tower of London with their mother, but I don't know.

That left Hugh and Eleanor's middle three daughters Joan, Eleanor and Margaret. Their dates of birth are not known, but Joan, eldest of the three, is unlikely to have been more than twelve in late 1326 and may only have been nine or ten. Margaret, youngest of the three, may have been little more than a toddler. (Eleanor de Clare gave birth in 1323 and in December 1325; this may have been John and Elizabeth, or Margaret and John, with Elizabeth born posthumously in 1327.) On 1 January 1327, an order appears on the Close Roll relating to Eleanor and Margaret Despenser:

"To the prior and convent of Watton. Order to cause Margaret, daughter of Hugh le Despenser the younger, whom the king [i.e. Edward II, who was imprisoned and had nothing to do with this] is sending to them, to be admitted and veiled without delay, to remain forever under the order and regular habit of that house, and to cause her to be professed in the same as speedily as possible. The like to the prior and convent of Sempryngham, for Eleanor, daughter of the said Hugh. To the master of the order of Sempryngham. Order to cause the aforesaid Eleanor and Margaret to be admitted and veiled in the said houses, and to cause them to be professed as speedily as possible." [Calendar of Close Rolls 1323-1327, p. 624.]

The order is missing for Joan Despenser, but she was also veiled at Shaftesbury Abbey. Joan had previously been betrothed to the earl of Kildare's son, and Eleanor to Laurence Hastings (b. 1320), future earl of Pembroke, who married instead Roger Mortimer's daughter Agnes a couple of years later. See also Susan Higginbotham's excellent blog post on this topic from a few years ago. (My goodness, I remember reading and commenting on it as though it was yesterday, and she wrote it almost ten years ago! Scary.)

In 1324, Edward II had sent three of his greatest enemy Roger Mortimer's eight daughters to live at convents with a pittance to live on, but the girls or young women were not veiled as nuns and were later released. Edward sent his own niece Margaret de Clare to live at Sempringham Priory in May 1322 after her husband Hugh Audley joined the Contrariant rebellion against him, and her sister Elizabeth was sent to live at Barking Abbey for a few months also in 1322. Edward's father Edward I had placed the daughters of the last princes of Wales in Lincolnshire convents in the early 1280s: Gwenllian (a great-granddaughter of Edward I's grandfather King John) and Llywelyn the Last's only child, and her cousin Gwladys, daughter of Llywelyn's brother Dafydd. This, callous and cruel as it doubtless was, did at least make a cold kind of sense: it was done to prevent the girls marrying, having children and passing on a claim to the principality of Wales to their children. Dafydd's young sons were also imprisoned for the rest of their lives.

Frances Underhill is the only historian of the fourteenth century I know of besides myself who has dealt with the forced veiling of the Despenser girls in print, in her 1999 biography of Elizabeth de Clare, For Her Good Estate (pp. 39-40). Otherwise the situation is either ignored or we get disingenuous claims that "the girls later became nuns," as though they did it by their own choice. Underhill says that Isabella's aim must have been to prevent anyone claiming the Despenser lands via the girls. This doesn't really work. The Despenser inheritance was forfeit to the Crown after the girls' father and grandfather were executed for treason. The vastly larger de Clare inheritance belonged by right to the girls' mother Eleanor de Clare, who was very much alive. Besides, the girls had four brothers so their chances of inheriting anything from their parents were remote, and it is hard to escape the conclusion that the order to veil the girls was issued out of spite and a desire for revenge on Isabella's part because of her loathing of their dead father. In the chaotic and unprecedented state in which England found itself at the beginning of 1327, when Edward II was imprisoned but still officially king and it was unclear what was going to happen, Isabella still found the time to ponder the fate of three children and to deem their veiling as nuns, their forced acceptance of lifelong binding vows, so important that she required it to be done "as speedily as possible" and "without delay." Both Isabella and her husband Edward II could be remarkably vindictive, and innocent people suffered because of it. Hugh Despenser and Eleanor de Clare's other two daughters Isabel and Elizabeth, who survived the queen's order because they were a) already married and b) a baby or not yet born, both had children, and so did their second son Edward, grandfather of Thomas Despenser who was made earl of Gloucester late in Richard II's reign. Edward Despenser was also the ancestor of Richard III's queen Anne Neville.