31 May, 2015

Some Of The New Knights Of 22 May 1306 (1)

Edward of Caernarfon, prince of Wales, duke of Aquitaine, earl of Chester and count of Ponthieu, who succeeded as King Edward II of England a little over a year later, was knighted at Westminster on 22 May 1306.  With him were knighted more than 250 other men, in an event described by the contemporary chronicler Piers Langtoft as the greatest event in Britain since King Arthur was crowned at Caerleon.  For more info, see here and here.

The list of the men knighted on 22 May 1306 is very helpfully given in Constance Bullock-Davies' fab book Menestrellorum Multitudo: Minstrels at a Royal Feast (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1986), pp. 185-7, in the Latin spelling as it appears in the original document.  Edward of Caernarfon's name is given as Dominus Edwardus Princeps Walliae, 'Lord Edward, prince of Wales'.  In this post, I'm looking at some of the new knights, who also included Piers Gaveston ( 'Petrus de Gavaston'), Roger Mortimer ('Rogerus de Mortuomari') and his uncle Roger Mortimer of Chirk, Hugh Despenser the Younger ('Hugo filius domini Hugonis le Despenser'), and the earls of Surrey and Arundel.  I'm going to make this an occasional series and write about more of the men in the future; there are certainly plenty to choose from!  In this post, I'm looking at Roderick of Spain, John Comyn, John Maltravers the elder, Robert de Kendale, Nicholas Kyriel, Thomas de Vere, Fulk Fitzwarin and John Somery.

- Roderick or Rotheric of Spain (Rethericus de Ispannia)

Known as Roderick de Ispan(n)ia, which translates as 'of Spain', and means Castile in this context.  In early 1325, Roderick was said to have "dwelt longtime in the king's company during his minority" (Patent Rolls 1324-7, p. 83), and indeed there are references to him on the Patent Roll as early as April 1299, the month Edward of Caernarfon turned fifteen, as Edward's valletus, valet or yeoman.  Roderick was granted a wardship in October 1297, so must have been at least twenty-one then, which would place his date of birth in or before 1276.  I don't know anything about his family; there was also a clerk named James de Ispannia active during the reigns of Edward I and Edward II, who was said to be a kinsman of Eleanor of Castile (in some entries in the chancery rolls he's said to have been her nephew), but Roderick himself was never described as such.  In January 1307, Roderick went on pilgrimage to Santiago in northern Spain on Edward of Caernarfon's behalf, or at least, received permission from Edward I to do so.  (Close Rolls 1301-07, p. 482)  Roderick of Spain died sometime before 6 April 1312, when Edward II asked his cousin Fernando IV of Castile to "exhibit his favour" to Roderick's widow Mary and their children, who evidently were returning home, "in consideration of the said Rotheric's service to the king during the minority of the king."  (Close Rolls 1307-13, p. 457)

- John Comyn

A Scottish nobleman, son of John 'the Red Comyn', who was lord of Badenoch and one of the Guardians of Scotland, and killed by his great rival Robert Bruce in the Greyfriars church in Dumfries on 10 February 1306.  John 'the Red Comyn' was the nephew of John Balliol, king of Scotland from 1292 to 1296, and married Joan de Valence, which means that his son the younger John was a maternal nephew of Henry III's nephew Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke (died 1324).  (There was also, confusingly, yet another John Comyn, earl of Buchan, a cousin of John the Red Comyn, who lost the battle of Inverurie to Robert Bruce in 1308 and died in England that year; his wife Isabel MacDuff crowned Bruce as king in 1306.)  John the younger married Margaret Wake, and with her had a son Aymer, named after his uncle.  He fought for Edward II at Bannockburn against the man who had killed his father, and fell in battle.  His little son Aymer Comyn died young and thus his heirs were his sisters Joan, countess of Atholl, and Elizabeth, Lady Talbot, while his widow Margaret Wake married Edward II's half-brother Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent, in December 1325 and became the maternal grandmother of Richard II.

- John Maltravers (or Mautravers) the elder

Father of the John Maltravers (c. 1290-1364) who was Edward of Caernarfon's joint custodian in 1327 and who was also knighted on 22 May 1306, and son of John Maltravers who died in 1297; actually he was the sixth in a line of eight men named John Maltravers.  John the elder married Eleanor de Gorges, the mother of his son John born in c. 1290, and secondly Joan Foliot.  He was born in about 1266 and died in 1341; like his son, who was well into his seventies when he died in 1364, he lived a long time.  The Maltravers were a Dorset family and gave their name to three villages in that county: Lytchett Matravers, Langton Matravers and Worth Matravers.   Father and son both fought for Edward II at Bannockburn in June 1314, and the younger John was captured.  The younger John took part in the Contrariant rebellion against Edward in 1321/22, and was one of the few noblemen who managed to flee the country and evade execution or imprisonment after the battle of Boroughbridge in March 1322.  The elder John may also have played some small part in the rebellion, it's hard to tell sometimes which John Maltravers is meant in the chancery rolls of this period, but Edward declared him in July 1322 to have "remained faithful to the king," and his lands and goods were restored to him, having apparently been accidentally seized instead of his son's.  (Close Rolls 1318-23, p. 474).  In October 1325, the elder John was the first named in a long list of men accused of assaulting one Ralph son of John de Chidiok, and of attacking an annual fair held in the Dorset town of Bere.  (Patent Rolls 1324-7, p. 232).

- Robert de Kendale

The long-term constable of Dover Castle and Warden of the Cinque Ports, appointed to the office by Edward II at the beginning of his reign in 1307 and still there in 1324 (though occasionally replaced temporarily by other men).  Robert was, with Piers Gaveston, Roger Mortimer and Giles Argentein, one of the new young knights whose lands and goods were temporarily seized by Edward I in October 1306 for going abroad to attend jousting tournaments without his permission.  (Fine Rolls 1272-1307, pp. 543-4; Close Rolls 1302-7, pp. 481-2.)  Kendale means the town of Kendal in modern-day Cumbria, presumably Robert's home town, which means that to me he's a local boy, as that's close to where I grew up.  By June 1308 he was married to a woman called Margaret (Patent Rolls 1307-13, p. 79), but otherwise I know nothing about his family or about him personally except that he had sons called Robert and Edward, though he appears in the chancery rolls many dozens of times in his capacity as constable of Dover.  In 1317, twenty-eight of his horses and eight of his carts were stolen at 'la Lee' in Hertfordshire, and his servants assaulted.  (Patent Rolls 1317-21, pp. 86, 474).  In February 1321, Robert de Kendale was appointed mayor of London.  (Ibid., p. 562).  He died shortly before 2 April 1330, leaving his son Edward 'aged 21 years and more' as his heir; his widow Margaret was still alive in October 1345.  (Fine Rolls 1327-37, p. 170; Inq. Post Mortem 1327-36, pp. 209-10; Patent Rolls 1343-5, p. 569).

- Nicholas Kyriel (or Kryell or Cryel or Criol or Criel or Crioill, etc...)

It's a tad tricky to find Nicholas in the records as his family name can be spelt in so many ways!  His mother was called Margery, his father, also Nicholas, died in September 1303 and his grandfather, also Nicholas, in 1273.  (Fine Rolls 1272-1307, pp. 9, 483)  Nicholas was born at the beginning of 1283, so was fifteen or sixteen months older than Edward of Caernarfon: he was said at his father's IPM in Kent in November 1303 to be then aged 20 years and 45 weeks.  (Inq. Post Mortem 1300-07, pp. 102-3).  He married a woman named Roesia - 'Rose' in modern English - and their son and heir John was born at Walmer in Kent on 29 September 1307.  On 8 December 1325, Edward II appointed Nicholas "as captain and admiral of the king's fleet of ships as well of the Cinque Ports as of other ports and places on the coast from the mouth of the Thames westwards; with power of chastising and punishing the mariners and others of the fleet."  (Patent Rolls 1324-7, p. 197)  Nicholas was still alive on 12 September 1326 when he's mentioned on the Close Roll as Edward II's admiral, but died sometime before 29 January 1327.  His son John proved his age in August 1329, and his widow Roesia was given permission to marry whomsoever she wished of the king's allegiance in September 1334.  (Close Rolls 1323-7, p. 647; Patent Rolls 1334-8, p. 6; Fine Rolls 1327-37, p. 1; Inq. Post Mortem 1327-36, pp. 191-2)

- Thomas de Vere, son of the earl of Oxford

Thomas was the son and heir of the obscure Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford (1257-1331), the only earl who played no part whatsoever in Edward II's reign, and Margaret Mortimer, daughter of Roger Mortimer, lord of Wigmore (d. 1282).  This makes Thomas a first cousin of Roger Mortimer, first earl of March (1287-1330), and he was also a first cousin of John de Warenne, earl of Surrey (1286-1347), whose mother was Joan de Vere.  Thomas was born in the early 1280s or thereabouts and thus was slightly older than Edward of Caernarfon, and died childless in 1329, predeceasing his father the earl by about two years.  Robert de Vere's successor as earl of Oxford was therefore his nephew John, born in 1311 or 1312, son of Robert's curiously-named younger brother Alphonse de Vere (named in honour of Eleanor of Castile's brother Alfonso X, perhaps?).  Earl John married Maud Badlesmere, and they were the parents of Thomas and Aubrey de Vere, earls of Oxford, and the grandparents of Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford and Richard II's notorious 'favourite'.

- Fulk Fitzwarin ('Fulcius filius Warini')

A Marcher lord, latest in a long line of noblemen named Fulk Fitzwarin, and a descendant of the famous outlaw Fulk Fitzwarin of the early thirteenth century immortalised in a well-known medieval romance and in Elizabeth Chadwick's novel Lords of the White Castle.  This Fulk was born in about 1285, so was more or less the same age as Edward of Caernarfon, and married a woman named Eleanor.  His father, inevitably also called Fulk Fitzwarin, died shortly before 28 December 1315. (Fine Rolls 1307-19, pp 264, 268).  Fulk served in the retinue of Edward II's first cousin and deadliest enemy Thomas, earl of Lancaster, but switched sides, and joined Edward in his 1321/22 campaign against the Contrariants and Lancaster.  (J.R. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster 1307-1322, pp. 46-7, 55-6, 304-5).  I did a lot of research on Fulk for my article 'The Adherents of Edmund of Woodstock, Earl of Kent, in March 1330', as he joined Kent's plot to free Edward of Caernarfon and was ordered to be arrested on 10 March 1330, nine days before Kent's execution.  Fulk fled the country; his wife Eleanor was granted forty marks annually for her sustenance, and his sons Fulk (of course!) and Ivo were held in some form of captivity 'safely and honourably without duress' in Shrewsbury, where they remained until at least 8 October 1330.  Fulk and his sons' lands and goods were taken into the king's hands in April 1330, but after Isabella and Roger Mortimer's downfall a few months later, Edward III invited him to return to England and restored his property.  ('Adherents', pp. 782, 801-2).

- John Somery

Lord of Dudley in Worcestershire, son of Sir Roger Somery who died in 1291 and grandson of another Sir Roger Somery who died in 1273, and born in about 1280; his mother Agnes died in November 1308, and he was said to be twenty-eight then.  (Inq. Post Mortem 1307-27, p. 57; Fine Rolls 1307-19, p. 32).  The fact I like most about John Somery is that in 1311 Edward II ordered a commission of oyer et terminer regarding the alleged defamation of John by Sir William Bereford, chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas, who claimed that John "has obtained such mastery in the county of Stafford that no one can obtain law or justice therein; that he has made himself more than a king there; that no one can dwell there unless he buys protection from him, either by money or by assisting him in building his castles; and that he attacks people in their own houses with the intention of killing them, unless they make fine for his protection."  (Patent Rolls 1307-13, p. 369)  Another great fact, at least as far I'm concerned: John held the manor of Dunchurch in Warwickshire for life, demised to him by the one and only Stephen Dunheved.  (Fine Rolls 1319-27, p. 185)

John Somery was a household knight of Edward II, and was loyal to him throughout his reign, being appointed, for example, to seize Thomas of Lancaster's great castle of Kenilworth during the Contrariant campaign of 1321/22.  (Fine Rolls 1319-27, p. 107).  John was summoned on 21 July 1322 to attend the king's disastrous final campaign in Scotland due to take place in the autumn of that year, but in fact had already died, shortly before 2 July 1322.  (Patent Rolls 1321-4, pp. 186, 196; Fine Rolls 1319-27, p. 147).  John left a widow Lucy, but no children, and his heirs were his sisters Margaret and her husband John Sutton, and Joan, the widow of Thomas Botetourt.  (Fine Rolls 1319-27, p. 188).

26 May, 2015

Yolande de Dreux, Queen of Scotland, Duchess of Brittany and Countess of Montfort (c. 1263-1322)

A post today about a French noblewoman whose father was the the count of Dreux, who succeeded her mother as countess of Montfort in her own right, and who was both queen of Scotland and duchess of Brittany by marriage.  She married firstly the widower of Edward I's sister Margaret, and secondly the son of Edward I's other sister Beatrice.  (My eye has improved enough so that I've been able to write a blog post! Woooo!)

Yolande (or Joleta or Violante or Violette) de Dreux was born in about 1263, or perhaps as late as 1267, as the daughter of Robert IV. count of Dreux (d. 1282) and Beatrice de Montfort, countess of Montfort l'Amaury in her own right and great-niece of the famous Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, killed at the battle of Evesham in 1265.  (Just to clarify, Earl Simon was the younger brother of Yolande de Dreux's great-grandfather Amaury de Montfort.)  Yolande was one of five children, four girls and a boy; her brother was named Jean or John, and her sisters were Marie, Jeanne or Joan and Beatrice, an abbess.  John succeeded their father Robert as count of Dreux, and passed the title on to his only surviving child, a daughter Joan; he was also the great chamberlain of France, and died in 1309.  Yolande's mother Beatrice de Montfort, countess of Montfort, died in 1311 or 1312, and because her brother John was already dead and she was Beatrice's eldest surviving daughter, Yolande succeeded her as countess in her own right.  Yolande de Dreux was a first cousin of Margaret Fiennes, mother of Roger Mortimer, first earl of March, and Joan Fiennes, mother of Margaret Wake, countess of Kent; Yolande and the Fiennes sisters were all granddaughters of  Jeanne de Châteaudun, lady of  Château-du-Loir.

Yolande de Dreux married comparatively late, when she was in her late teens or early twenties: on 14 October 1285 at Jedburgh Abbey, she married Alexander III, king of Scotland, the widower of Edward I's sister Margaret of England and then aged forty-four.  The match had probably been arranged with the aid of Alexander's mother Marie de Coucy, also a French noblewoman who died this year.  Queen Marie's second marriage, after her first husband Alexander II of Scotland died in 1249, was to John de Brienne, son of the titular emperor of Constantinople and the king of Jerusalem, and a first cousin of Edward I's queen Eleanor of Castile; John de Brienne had previously been married to Jeanne de Châteaudun, Yolande de Dreux's maternal grandmother from Jeanne's first marriage to John de Montfort.  (Which, if I've worked this out correctly, means that John de Brienne was both the stepfather of Alexander III and the step-grandfather of Alexander's second wife Yolande de Dreux.  John and Jeanne de Châteaudun were also great-grandparents of Roger Mortimer, first earl of March.)  Alexander III's three children Alexander, David and Margaret of Scotland, queen of Norway, were all dead by 1285, and his only heir was his two-year-old granddaughter Margaret 'the Maid of Norway'.  He desperately needed a son, but it was not to be: only five months after his wedding to Yolande, on 19 March 1286, Alexander III rode his horse off a cliff during a storm and was found the next morning with a broken neck.  It is possible, though not certain, that Queen Yolande was pregnant with Alexander's child; it wasn't until some months later that the Guardians of Scotland acknowledged the little Margaret of Norway as the late king's heir, and it may be that Yolande had suffered a miscarriage or even a phantom pregnancy.  Had she given birth to a boy, he would have become king of Scotland immediately on birth, but sadly, Yolande de Dreux was not destined to be the mother of a king.  Had she given birth to a girl, that leads to an interesting 'what if?' scenario - presumably Alexander III's posthumous daughter would have taken precedence over his granddaughter Margaret of Norway, and become queen of Scotland, even though the granddaughter was some years older?  Not totally sure.

Queen Yolande remained a widow for some years, and in 1292 or 1294 married Arthur, the future Duke Arthur II of Brittany, born in 1262 as the eldest son of Duke John II and Beatrice (d. 1275), one of the two sisters of Edward I and thus also the sister of Alexander III of Scotland's first wife Queen Margaret.  Arthur had previously been married to Marie, viscountess of Limoges (d. 1291), with whom he had his son and heir John III, born in 1286, and a younger son Guy.  Arthur attended Edward II - his first cousin, both of them being grandsons of Henry III - and Isabella of France's coronation at Westminster on 25 February 1308, having succeeded his father as duke of Brittany in 1305 when the unfortunate John II died in the strangest freak accident of the era: a wall fell on him as he led the new pope Clement V's horse around Avignon.  Yolande de Dreux, having been queen-consort of Scotland for a mere five months, was duchess of Brittany for seven years: Duke Arthur II died on 27 August 1312, just past his fiftieth birthday, to be succeeded by his son John III, Yolande's stepson.  In the same year as her husband's death, Yolande's mother died, and she succeeded as countess of Montfort.  Arthur and Yolande had half a dozen children: one son John, born in about 1295, and daughters Beatrice, Jeanne, Alix, Blanche and Marie.  John, who inherited his mother and grandmother's county of Montfort, is often known as John de Montfort to distinguish him from his older half-brother Duke John III.

John III was married three times, to Charles de Valois's eldest daughter Isabella, to King Sancho IV of Castile's eldest daughter Isabel, and to Joan, countess of Savoy, but left no children on his death in 1341.  His half-brother, Yolande's son John de Montfort, would reasonably have expected to inherit the duchy, but John III had disliked him, and favoured the succession of his niece Jeanne de Penthièvre, only child of his full brother Guy (d. 1331) and married to Charles of Blois, nephew of Philip VI of France.  This led to the War of the Breton Succession, and the involvement of Edward III of England.  John de Montfort, Yolande's son, was the father of Duke John IV of Brittany (d. 1399), who was briefly married to Edward III's daughter Margaret and whose third wife the decades-younger Joan of Navarre later married Henry IV of England as his second wife.

Yolande de Dreux, dowager queen of Scotland, dowager duchess of Brittany, and countess of Montfort, died on 2 August 1322, probably in her late fifties.  On 30 October 1323, an entry on the Patent Roll in England records a "[s]afe-conduct until Christmas for Theobald de Denysi, knight of France, going to Scotland for the dower of the duchess of Brittany for the time that she was queen of Scotland, and to treat of the deliverance of John de Brytannia, earl of Richmond, a captive of the Scots." (Calendar of Patent Rolls 1321-4, p. 347)  John of Brittany, earl of Richmond, was Edward II's first cousin and Yolande de Dreux's brother-in-law, being the younger brother of Duke Arthur II, and had been captured by Robert Bruce at the battle of Byland on 14 October 1322.  Yolande was already dead, so I'm not sure why the Scottish dower to which she was entitled from her brief marriage to Alexander III was being sought at this time.  It was due to her for her lifetime only and her entitlement to it didn't pass to her son and heir John de Montfort, unless John was claiming back-payments on it from during Yolande's lifetime from Robert Bruce.

22 May, 2015

Bartholomew Badlesmere (d. 1322) and Margaret de Clare (d. 1333)

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to write a post again this week owing to the intense pain and discomfort I'm having with my right eye; having suffered a corneal erosion a few weeks ago, the wound opened up again last week and became infected.  Which is every bit as horrible and revolting as it sounds.  It's slowly improving, thank goodness, and is less painful now, but will take a while yet to heal properly.  This is what I'd finished so far of a post about Bartholomew, Lord Badlesmere, who was given the traitor's death by Edward II in April 1322 after he joined the Contrariant rebellion against the king.  Badlesmere had been Edward's household steward, but switched sides, and Edward loathed him for it.  I'd written some of a post about his children, but that part will have to wait a while, I'm afraid!  So here's part one.

Bartholomew, Lord Badlesmere (c. 1275 - 14 April 1322) was a baron of Kent, the son and heir of Guncelin Badlesmere, and the maternal uncle of Henry Burghersh, bishop of Lincoln.  Sometime between about 1303 and 1308, Bartholomew married Margaret de Clare (1270s - 1333), niece of Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester (1243-1295) and widow of Gilbert de Umfraville, earl of Angus.  Margaret was the first cousin of Edward II's niece the much more famous Margaret de Clare, daughter of Gilbert 'the Red' and countess of Cornwall and Gloucester, who married Piers Gaveston and Hugh Audley.  Margaret (de Clare) Badlesmere's younger sister Maud married Robert, Lord Clifford, who was killed at Bannockburn on 24 June 1314 along with their first cousin Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester.  Margaret Badlesmere and Maud Clifford became heirs to their father Thomas de Clare, lord of Thomond (d. 1287), when their two brothers Gilbert and Richard and their young nephew Thomas died.  Bartholomew Badlesmere served in the retinue of his wife's first cousin the earl of Gloucester, and was said - whether accurately or not, I don't know - to have abandoned him to his death at the battle of Bannockburn on 24 June 1314.  A song written in Latin shortly after the battle accuses Badlesmere, condemned as "the traitorous man, Bartholomew" and "the representative of Judas," of deserting his lord Gloucester, and says "Because he refused to come to his master’s support, this traitor has deserved to be put to the rack."  (T. Wright, ed., The Political Songs of England (Camden Society, 1839), p. 263)

Bartholomew Badlesmere and Margaret de Clare had a son, Giles Badlesmere, and four daughters, Margery, Elizabeth, Maud and Margaret, two of whom married earls and one of whom was the grandmother of Richard II's notorious favourite Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford.  Bartholomew was high in Edward II’s favour: the king made him constable of Bristol Castle, gave him Leeds Castle in Kent, and in 1318 appointed him his household steward.  In 1321, Bartholomew changed sides and joined the Contrariant rebellion against the king.  A furious Edward sentenced him to the full traitor's death after the rebellion failed, and the king's good friend Donald, earl of Mar (Robert Bruce's nephew) captured Bartholomew at one of his nephew the bishop of Lincoln's manors and took him to Edward.  On 14 April 1322, Bartholomew was dragged three miles to the crossroads at Blean, hanged and then beheaded, and his head set on a spike over the gate into Canterbury; the only Contrariant in 1322 to suffer the full horrors of the traitor's death.  His widow Margaret was imprisoned for a few months in the Tower, released on 3 November 1322 and given two shillings a day by Edward II for her sustenance.  She died in 1333.

Bartholomew and Margaret's only son Giles Badlesmere was born either in 1313 or 1314 and thus was about eight years old when his father was executed; various dates of birth and ages for him are given in his father's belated Inquisition Post Mortem of 1328/29.  (Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1327-36, pp. 89-97).  Giles married Elizabeth Montacute or Montagu, daughter of William Montacute, earl of Salisbury (1301-1344) and Katherine Grandisson, but died childless on 7 June 1338, aged about twenty-four (CIPM 1336-46, p. 127).  William and Katherine Montacute only married in about 1327 and their son William, earl of Salisbury (d. 1397) was born in June 1328, so Elizabeth can hardly have been more than about nine years old when she was widowed from Giles.  She married secondly Hugh (Huchon), Lord Despenser, eldest son and heir of Hugh Despenser the Younger and Margaret Badlesmere's first cousin Eleanor de Clare, and thirdly Sr Guy Bryan.  She died between 30 May and 1 June 1359 (CIPM 1352-60, p. 414 on) and her tomb in Tewkesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire, next to her second husband Hugh, can still be seen.

Giles' four sisters were his joint heirs.  Judging by the evidence of his 1338 IPM, Margery was certainly the eldest daughter and Margaret the youngest, but it is not clear whether Maud or Elizabeth was the second eldest; jurors in some counties said that Maud was older than Elizabeth, others that Elizabeth was the elder.  Some of the Kent jurors badly messed up the names of the four women and the names of their husbands, which I find rather odd as the Badlesmeres' major landholdings lay in that county, so you'd think the jurors there might have had more reliable information (and they even got the first name of the earl of Oxford wrong - how careless!).  Margery certainly, and most probably both Maud and Elizabeth as well, were older than their brother Giles, and Margaret was younger than he.  Their estimated dates of birth below come from their ages given in Giles' IPM (CIPM 1336-46, p. 127 on).

More info about the four Badlesmere sisters coming when I can manage it!

15 May, 2015


Oh dear, I'm really not having a lot of luck with my health this year. For the second time in a few weeks I'm suffering from corneal erosion, which is just as painful and horrible as it sounds. I'm typing this with the affected eye closed and sitting in the dark as the eye is so sensitive to light. No chance at all to research and write a proper post, I'm afraid, so here are some pics to be going on with till I've recovered (very soon, I hope). All pics were taken by me.

Ruins of Knaresborough Castle, North Yorkshire, formerly Piers Gaveston's.

Ludlow Castle, Shropshire, formerly Roger Mortimer's.

Caernarfon Castle, North Wales, birthplace of You Know Who.

07 May, 2015

Isabella of France: Guest Post by Kyra Kramer

Today I'm delighted to welcome to the blog the excellent historical writer Kyra Kramer, who's sharing with us some of her thoughts on Isabella of France in popular culture.  Over to you, Kyra!


Isabella of France: She-Wolf or Lady of Shalott?

There are many myths about Edward II that live large in popular culture, and one of the most frequently asserted is that his queen, Isabella of France, hated him and plotted his death with the aid of her lover, Roger Mortimer. Such has been the vitriol aimed at Edward that the queen has been largely forgiven for deposing him. However, her act of maintaining power after Edward’s disappearance and her alliance (presumed sexual) with Roger Mortimer also earned Isabella a share of sociocultural condemnation and the eventual moniker “She-Wolf of France”.

Isabella is one of the more famous queens of England, yet like most of the women whom history remembers vividly, she is better known for her transgressions than her accomplishments. One reason for that is – as Laurel Thatcher Ulrich said – well behaved women seldom make history.  Well behaved women have traditionally been the ones who didn’t usurp men’s authority and who didn’t have any unsanctioned sexuality. Isabella, in contrast, was naughty; she overthrew her husband and is believed to have taken a lover to help her solidify power.

What is most interesting about Isabella to me is her nearly unique position balancing between support and slut-shaming in the cultural narrative. On one hand, the fear of Edward’s presumed homosexual attachments (and the attending derision heaped upon him courtesy of homophobia) have made Isabella a sympathetic figure. On the other hand, she is condemned as a heartless vamp for allowing Edward II to be murdered in such a foul manner (although evidence suggests he wasn’t murdered at all) and for abetting her lover in his power-grab over her son Edward III.

This dual-narrative means that there is a strong dichotomy between how Isabella is portrayed in history and historical fiction.

Early modern historians and authors disliked Isabella because instead of being the ideal long-suffering wife, she turned on her husband. Her motivations for rebellion were (subtly or overtly) given sexual overtones. The subtext of these depictions is that Isabella’s vexation was the result of Edward’s failures in the bedroom. She was typically sneered at as a cheap and hateful French tart who grabbed power from her husband and teenage son, then squandered it so she could be with the man who rattled her teeth in the way Edward couldn’t. In some accounts it is her lust for Mortimer inspires her usurpation of the throne and she thereafter acts as a kind of dim puppet for her paramour’s ambition. Even the insult “she-wolf” had sexually voracious connotations. A she-wolf (lupa) was the term the Romans used for a female prostitute and Latin slang was the bedrock of European languages and nomenclature.

This sexualization of Isabella was part of a larger pattern. Uncontrollable women who became powerful in their own right and flouted past or present cultural assertions about gendered traits, have usually been configured as sexually deviant and ‘slutty’. Strong queens expose the idea that women are inherently meek and sexually passive as the malarkey it is. Thus women like Isabella were seen as threats to social order and have been slut-shamed (accused of sexual impropriety to denote their status as ‘bad’ women) in order to make them appear to be gender anomalies. Women cannot be as powerful as men unless they are troublesome strumpets and freaks of nature.

In the last few decades, historians and writers frequently began reconfiguring Isabella (even in books that are labeled non-fiction) sympathetically as a wronged and abused wife who turned against Edward II because of his inept kingship and incessant cruelties. The king and his favorites are the clear and distinctive villains of the piece, driving Isabella to desperate measures with their immoral and heartless conduct. In this narrative, it is therefore understandable that she should fall in love with another man. Her presumed affair with Roger Mortimer is not based on mere sexual desire; it is a result of her love for this ultra-masculine and kind counterpoint to her effeminate and vicious husband. To this effect, Isabella emerges as a kind of Lady of Shallot, risking her doom in the hopes of uniting with Lancelot, and her romance with Mortimer is given the Romeo and Juliette veneer of star-crossed lovers. The reality of her love letters to the king and her seething anger toward his favorites for taking away Edward’s attention and affection are usually ignored in favor of the neglected-wife-seeks-real-love scenario.

However, the reimagined Isabella as non-slut is problematic in the same way slutty Isabella is; either depiction is still a manifestation of present beliefs about how each gender should behave overlaid on a historical figure to demonstrate ‘correct’ feminine behavior. Bad Isabella wanted to have sex and power; Good Isabella wants love and only overthrows her husband so she can be happy with Mortimer. Women don’t usurp thrones because they are angry or power-hungry! Women usurp thrones because their feelings are hurt and they want to be with the man they love! That’s why the retelling of the erroneous ‘facts’ that Edward let one of his favorites wear her wedding jewelry and that she was buried with Mortimer’s heart have such staying power; only true love and an evil husband can excuse a woman of adultery and overthrowing a king.

In truth, Edward was not cruel to Isabella and there is strong evidence she loved him. There is no evidence of a ‘great love affair’ between Isabella and Mortimer. Isabella was a fertile woman in her mid-30s when she was theoretically sleeping with Mortimer (who had 13 children with his wife), but she was never became pregnant (except in rumors) during the time of their supposed lovemaking. Were they physically intimate? Or were they just good allies? Or allies with benefits? No one knows for sure. Nonetheless, the excuse for Good Isabella’s bad actions are always situated in a passionate attachment to Mortimer.

What irks me the most is that in both the story of the Bad Isabella and the Good Isabella, she is falsely said to have been crushed by her cannier and stronger son and then driven insane by the punishments he inflicted and/or because he killed Mortimer. Either way, Isabella isn’t just pushed aside by her son – whom she had made sure was crowned king as soon as her husband was deposed – she suffers implied karmic retribution for being a women who dared enter into a power struggle. If she hadn’t been either 1) sexual or 2) in the sexual thrall of a man then she would have stayed safely ‘in her place’ and not been broken on the wheel of fortune. This is, of course, hogwash. When Edward III took over the responsibilities of the crown and executed Mortimer, the queen was given a fat living stipend and spent the rest of her life traveling among the various castles and manors her son gave her. She also visited her son and his wife reasonably often for the time period. The only consequence of the coup against Edward II that Isabella ever suffered was a long, full life with lots of jewelry.

Historical veracity is an explanation in and of itself, but does it really matter how Isabella is characterized in historical fiction? Yes, actually it does. Gender ideology, the understanding of the way men and women are supposed to act according to their biological sex, is significantly defined by both official history and historical narrative. Historical representation matters because history is a lens through which people view the world. The images of Isabella, either as a scheming harlot or as a desperate housewife, elide the truth and obscure historical fact in favor of reinforcing of gender ideology. The narratives of her life send several messages; that bad women are easily-manipulated sluts who get what they deserve when they try to keep power away from their heterosexual sons; good women are driven by their emotions and incapable of rational decisions if it means their lover would be denied something; women are axiomatically unable to hold the reigns of power if a man (in this case the teenage Edward III) is man enough to take it away from them; men who are suspected of loving other men are de facto weak and easily overpowered by recalcitrant women; heteronormative sexual behavior will save your life and crown. None of these messages, however, reflect the historical reality.

The only sociocultural messages we can really glean from Isabella’s life are that people are complex admixture of good and bad qualities, that privilege has its pleasures and its price, and that being the daughter, wife, and mother of a king will usually work out for you in the end. Those messages, however, aren’t nearly as dramatic or interesting as the idea of a she-wolf or an ill-fated beauty.


Thanks so much, Kyra!  On this topic, don't miss Kyra's great new book The Jezebel Effect: Why the Slut Shaming of Famous Queens Still Matters, and there's also her last one Blood Will Tell: A Medical Explanation of the Tyranny of Henry VIII.  Her website was linked above, and here's her blog too.

01 May, 2015

Proofs Of Age (4), Or, I Know How Old You Are Because On That Day My Rivals Injured My Head

See here, here and here for my previous posts on this subject, which is one dear to my heart.  These are from Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1327-1336 and Ibid. 1336-1346.  There are all kinds of snippets of great information about life in England in the early fourteenth century.

1) Middlesex, 15 July 1333: Proof of age of Edmund, son and heir of John de Benstede.

William le Rous, aged 60 years and more, says that the said Edmund is 21 years of age, for he was born at Rosamunde on the feasts of SS Processus and Martinianus, viz., 2 July 5 Edward II [1312] and baptised in the church of St Margaret's, Westminster, which he knows because on that day he was present in the said church, and saw the chaplain baptising the said heir and noting the day of his birth in the missal of the said church.

Roger de Presthope, aged 50 years and more, says the like, and knows it because in May of that year he was injured in the head and right arm at the stone cross of Cherryngge [Charing] by certain of his rivals, almost to death, of which trespass he impleaded the said rivals in the King's Bench.

Nicholas de Beek, aged 50 years and more, says the like, and knows it because at the same time he was one of the household of Sir Louis of France [Philip IV's half-brother the count of Evreux, died 1319] and was sent into England to make provision against the coming of the said Sir Louis to Westminster, who was coming to England and remaining there until the birth of the present king [Edward III], who was born on the feast of St Brice the bishop [13 November 1312] then next coming.

Thomas le Barber, aged 44 years and more, agrees, and knows it because he was then with the Lady Mary, sister of King Edward II, at Ambresbury [Amesbury Priory, Wiltshire], and was sent thence by her to the said John de Benstede, father of the heir, to the said place of Rosamund, and he came there the second day of the birth of the heir, and immediately returned to the said Lady Mary, informing her of the birth of the said heir, for which message she bestowed on him 30 shillings, with which he put himself into the trade of barber the following year.

2) Kent, 3 August 1329: Proof of age of John, son and heir of Nicholas Kyriel.  Nicholas was one of the admirals of Edward II's fleet in 1325/26.

Richard Kyriel, aged 60 years, says that the said John was 21 years of age on Monday after the feast of St Michael last and was born at Walmere [Walmer] on that feast, 1 Edward II [29 September 1307], and was baptised the same day in the church there, which he knows because he was then present.

Ralph le Brewere, aged 62 years, says the like, and knows it because he brought the news to the said Nicholas Kyriel of the birth of the said John his son, for which the said Nicholas gave him a robe in two parts, with four ornaments.

Simon Lot, aged 54 years, says the like, and knows it because on Monday after All Saints next after the said John's birth, his ship was sunk in the sea.

Alexander de Oxeneye, aged 59 years and more, says the like, and knows it because on Sunday after the said John's birth he was sent to Ipre to buy whole cloths for the robes of the said Nicholas and Roesia his wife, mother of the said John, against the purification of the said Roesia.

Alexander de Bernefelde, aged 65 years and more, says the like, and knows it because at the feast of St Michael before the said John's birth, Robert de Kendal, then constable of the castle of Dover, committed to the said Alexander the office of porter at the outer gate of the said castle.

3) Derby, 22 December 1328: Proof of age of Richard Heriz son of Richard Heriz

John de Brokestowe, aged 50 years and more, says that on the morrow of St Leonard, 1 Edward II [7 November 1307], the said Richard was born at Stapelford, co. Derby [Stapleford on the border of Derbys and Notts], in the manor-house of the said town, in the large stone chamber by the hall, and was baptised in St Helen's church there [here!]...and this he knows because King Edward II was crowned at Westminster on Sunday next after the Purification next before the aforesaid feast of St Leonard*.

Geoffrey de Bronnesle, aged 48 years, says the like, and knows it because, on Sunday next after the Purification, 1 Edward II, the said king married Isabella, queen of England, at Westminster; and he [Edward II not Geoffrey, presumably] spent the night before the celebration of the said nuptials at the Tower of London*.

John de Strelle, aged 60 years, agrees, and knows it because at that time he was bailiff with Robert de Strelleye, knight, of the manor of Schippele, co. Derby, and on Thursday next before St Edmund, the king and martyr, 1 Edward II [16 November 1307], there came robbers by night to the said manor, and made assault, and, whilst he was defending the manor, one of the robbers struck him through the arm with an arrow.

John Gervase of Chylewelle, aged 40 years, agrees, and knows it because, on the third day after the birth of the said Richard, Cecily his wife was engaged for the nourishment of the said Richard, and stayed for three days as his nurse, but the stay did not please her, for on the fourth day she withdrew from her service, and returned home to her husband.

* This information is a little garbled and inaccurate; Edward II and Isabella of France married at Boulogne on Thursday 25 January 1308, and were crowned king and queen of England at Westminster on Sunday 25 February, not the Sunday after the Purification (which is 2 February).

4) 19 May 1336, Essex: Proof of age of Edward de Wodeham, brother and heir of William de Wodeham.

Thomas Gobioun, knight, aged 60 years, says that the said Edward, who was born at Chigwell, co. Essex, was 21 years of age on Sunday next after St Luke last [22 October 1335]; and this he knows because on 15 November, 8 Edward II [1314], he received a commission as steward to Humphrey de Bohun, then earl of Hereford [Edward II's brother-in-law]; and by the date of the said commission, he well remembers the age of the said Edward.

John de Wytonville, aged 50 years and more, agrees, and knows it because he was at the house of the said Edward's mother on the day of his birth, and in going towards his own house fell among thieves, and was robbed and badly wounded.

John de Purlee, aged 44 years and more, agrees, and knows it because on the same day he was at the castle of Hadelehe [Hadleigh, Essex] with the father of the said Edward, when news came to him of the birth of the said Edward; and King Edward II, in the eighth year of his reign, lifted the said Edward from the sacred font, and the said John was present.*

John Ivot, aged 50 years, agrees, and knows it because on Monday in Whitsun next after the birth of the said Edward, he took his journey for Santiago, and made his will on the same day, which he still has in his possession, and by its date he well remembers the age of the said Edward.

* Edward II spent the period from 4 to 26 May 1315 at the castle of Hadleigh.

5) Durham, 12 April 1328: Proof of age of Robert de la Legh, brother and heir of John de la Legh.

John de Aleynscheles, aged 55 years and more, says that the said Robert was born 2 November, 34 Edward I [1306], at 'Le Pavylion' by Suthwermuth...

Walter de Ludewrth, aged 33 years, says as the said John; and this he knows because a certain Walter Man had a daughter born, named Alice, and took the said Walter [de Ludewrth] with him to the aforesaid church of Wermuth, and caused him, then aged nine years, to lift the said daughter from the sacred font, on the same 2nd of November, and then and there he saw the aftersaid Robert [de la Legh] baptised before the aforesaid Alice, whereby a long delay occurred, for which cause she wept, and he know by the age of the aforesaid Alice, who survives, that the aforesaid Robert has completed the age of 24 years, as they have often computed among themselves.

John de Herwrth, aged 50 years, says the like, and knows it because on the same 2nd of November his sister Iseult died, whose death is inserted in the calendar of the church of Suthwermuth, and because of the 2nd of November 24 years will have elapsed. He then saw the said Robert baptised with great solemnity, the priest sprinkling the holy water excessively in his face and in his eyes from the scared font, wherefore he was angry for a long time with the aforesaid priest; and therefore he well knows that the said Robert has completed the age of 24 years.

Adam de Elyngeham, aged 48 years, says the like, and knows it because William de Suthewik, his beloved neighbour, begged him to eat with him on the same 2nd of November, where he remained the whole of that day, and accompanied him to the same church of Suthwermuth, where he saw the same Robert baptised and lifted from the sacred font by Robert de Hilton and the said William de Suthewik, now 24 years ago.

Roger de Weston, aged 60 years, says the same, and knows it because on the Morrow of All Saints, 24 years ago, he set out for the fair of Derlington, and stayed the night at 'La Pavilon' aforesaid, where he found the mother of the said Robert lying in her bed on account of the birth of the said Robert; and at that time he had a certain bond of Peter de Morpath, a horse dealer, for 6 marks, for a horse sold to him there, and now, as appears by the date of the writing, 24 years have elapsed.

John de Midilton, aged 52 years, says that on the morrow of All Saints, the 2nd of November last, 34 years had elapsed since a certain John Makman was found slain in the field of Suthwermuth, at the inquest on whom he was present, and he has a copy of the same; on which day he was eating with John de la Leygh, brother of the aforesaid Robert, whose heir the aforesaid Robert is, in the house of the father and mother of the said John, and on the same day the said Robert was baptised, and he gave 18d to the same little brother of the said John lying in his cradle.

6) 12 July 1329, Essex: Proof of age of Alice the wife of John de Newentone and Joan the wife of Thomas de Rocheforde, daughters and heirs of Peter de Southcherche.

John Baldewyne, aged 58 years, says that Alice is 21 years of age and more, for she was born at Southcherche on 1 November, 32 Edward I [1304], and baptised in the church there, which he knows because he came to the said church to hear mass, and then saw her baptised.

Adam Sare, aged 44 years, says the same, and knows it because at the time of the birth of the said heir he was in a garden where he heard the cries and groans of the mother of the said heir labouring in childbirth.

John Coleman, aged 40 years, agrees, and knows it because he had a beloved daughter, Margaret, who died on the day of the said heir's birth.

John Berlaund, William Clement, Thomas de Lackedon, John du Gardyn, Robert de Potone, John Hughe and Alexander de Aldham agree, and know it because they were present at a feast when the birth of the said heir was announced.

Adam de Stapelforde, aged 54 years, says that the said Joan is 21 years of age and more, for she was born at Southcherche on 13 March, 1 Edward I [1308], and baptised in the church there, which he knows because at the time of the birth of the said heir he was her father's chamberlain.

William de Blaxhale, aged 52 years, says the like, which he knows because he had a beloved daughter, Isabel, who died on the second day after the birth of the said heir.

John de Wakeryngge, aged 49 years, says the like, which he knows because he announced the birth of the said heir to the father, who on that account gave him a fitting robe.

Walter Jacob, aged 44 years, says the like, which he knows because he gave to the said heir, lying in her cradle, a gold ring in which a precious stone was set, which he greatly valued.

John Brok, aged 43 years, says the like, which he knows because he had a beloved son, Philip, who died on the third day after the birth of the said heir.