16 July, 2017

A Letter from Edward of Caernarfon, 4 August 1305

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

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


08 July, 2017

Those Lawless Dunheveds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

06 July, 2017

Nicknames Of Edward II's Era

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

Ibote, Isode and Sibille for Isabel(la)

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

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

Alisour for Eleanor, spelt Alianore at the time

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomelyn/Thomelin and Thomme for Thomas

Wille and Willecok for William

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Henriot for Henry

Phelipot for Philip, usually spelt Phelip at the time

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

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

Huchon or Huchoun and Hughelyn for Hugh

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

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

01 July, 2017

Edward II Goes Fishing

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

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

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

29 June, 2017

Long Live the King: The Mysterious Fate of Edward II

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


19 June, 2017

My Edward II Study Day at Sutton Hoo

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

18 June, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 June, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

08 June, 2017

I am in The Times today

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

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


04 June, 2017

Where Did The King Sleep? Logistics of the Royal Household

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

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

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

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

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

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

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