26 August, 2011

Poems On Piers Gaveston's Death

According to the Vita Edwardi Secundi, the death of Piers Gaveston on 19 June 1312 was an enormously popular act throughout England: "When Piers had met his end, and the voice of the people had dinned his death into the ears of all, the country rejoiced, and all its inhabitants were glad…The land rejoices, its inhabitants rejoice that they have found peace in Piers' death."

It is surely an exaggeration to say that all the country rejoiced at Piers' death, though for sure some did, as demonstrated by two contemporary poems, which are in Latin in the original:

"Celebrate, my tongue, the death of Piers who disturbed England, whom the king in love for him placed over all Cornwall; hence in his pride he will be called Earl, not Piers.
This is the work of our salvation, that Piers is dead; all the artfulness of the multifarious traitor has perished;
Henceforth let the good omen rejoice our hearts, for sorrow is past; when the fullness of time which was fit for the thing came, his head is cut off from the juncture of his body; he who raised trouble within is now troubled from without.
He who was unwilling to have an equal, clothed in the extreme of pride, against his will bends his neck to the executioner; of whose merited death this hymn is set forth.
He who placed himself as a head above his equals, loses his own head; justly his body is pierced, whose heart was so puffed up; both land, sea, stars and world, rejoice in his fall.
Ferocious and cruel among all men, he ceases now from his pomp,
Now he no longer behaves himself as an earl, or a king;
The unworthy man, worthy of death, undergoes the death he merits…
May the house of Piers, in which he is held, not be supported in strength;
May the other place [the Dominican friary of Oxford, where Piers' body was taken] be profane, and may it be in disgrace, which the filthy gore spilled from Piers’ body has defiled!
Glory be to the Creator!  Glory be to the earls
Who have made Piers die with his charms!
Henceforth may there be peace and rejoicing throughout England!"


"The bad tree is cut down, when Piers is struck on the neck;
Blessed be the weapon which thus approached Piers!
Blessed be the hand which executed him!
Blessed the man who ordered the execution!
Blessed the steel which struck him whom the world would not bear any longer!
O Cross, which allowed to be suffered this wretched misery, do thou take from us all the material of misery.
Thee, highest God in Trinity, we pray earnestly, destroy and crush forever the maintainers of Piers."

(Both poems cited in T. Wright, The Political Songs of England (1839)pp. 258-261.)

According to the Vita, Edward II issued an edict ordering everyone to refer to Piers by his title, earl of Cornwall, rather than by his name (as mentioned in the first poem above), and talks of Piers "scornfully rolling his upraised eyes in pride and in abuse, he looked down upon all with pompous and supercilious countenance…indeed the superciliousness which he affected would have been unbearable enough in a king’s son."  The somewhat later Scalacronica agrees that the "great affection" which Edward bestowed on Gaveston made him "haughty and supercilious" – although the author also calls him "very magnificent, liberal and well-bred" – and Lanercost says that Gaveston "had now grown so insolent as to despise all the nobles of the land."  His behaviour evidently alienated many...

12 August, 2011

Friday Facts

Another post with some fairly random facts about Edward II and his reign. :-)

- The Gascon sheriff of Edinburgh and constable of Linlithgow, Piers Lubaud, was a cousin of Piers Gaveston, according to the Vita Edwardi Secundi. Shortly before Christmas 1312, Edward II sent Lubaud's wife Nichola a palfrey horse worth six pounds and a saddle "with a lion of pearls, and covered with purple cloth" worth five pounds. (Whatever a 'lion of pearls' is.)

- Thomas Cobham, bishop of Worcester, told Pope John XXII that at the Westminster parliament of October 1320 "Holy Father, your devoted son, our lord the king, in the parliament summoned to London bore himself splendidly, with prudence and discretion, contrary to his former habit rising early and presenting a nobler and pleasant countenance to prelates and lords. Present almost every day in person, he arranged what business was to be dealt with, discussed and determined. Where amendment was necessary he ingeniously supplied what was lacking, thus giving joy to his people, ensuring their security, and providing reliable hope of an improvement in behaviour."

- Edward's efforts were rewarded in April 1320 when Thomas Cantilupe, bishop of Hereford, who had died in August 1282, was canonised: he had written to Popes Clement V and John XXII half a dozen times between December 1307 and January 1319, asking them to canonise Cantilupe. The two archbishops and all the bishops of England asked Edward to be present at the "translation of the holy body" in Hereford Cathedral on 14 June 1321, as this "would be greatly to the honour of God and Holy Church" and to Edward himself. He responded "it pleases the king to be there." As it turned out, Edward was unable to be present; thanks to the Despenser War, he had far more pressing matters to deal with.

- In England on the day of Cantilupe’s canonisation, according to the Sempringham annalist, "about midnight, there were frightful thunders heard, with lightning, and immoderately high wind."

- Edward wrote to his first cousin and greatest enemy Thomas of Lancaster's adherent and friend Sir Robert Holland (who was destined to be beheaded in a wood in Essex in 1328) on 20 November 1311: "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." I wonder if he gritted his teeth as he dictated that one.

- At Bannockburn, according to the Scalacronica of Sir Thomas Gray (whose father of the same name fought for Edward there), Edward "struck out so vigorously behind him with his mace there was none whom he touched that he did not fell to the ground." And according to the St Albans chronicler, he fought "like a lioness deprived of her cubs." Not exactly the coward he's been depicted as in some novels, then.

- Edward's nephew Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester, killed at Bannockburn, was buried at Tewkesbury Abbey in Gloucestershire. His heart, however, was buried at Shelford near Nottingham: on 8 August 1317, Edward passed through the village on his way to York with Isabella, and attended masses and distributed five shillings and sixpence in oblations at the conventual church of Shelford in memory of the young earl, "whose heart lies there inhumed."

- Edward's name, in contemporary English documents, was always spelt the way it is today. In letters sent to him from France, however, it appeared as Edouwart, Eduart or Edduvart. Isabella's name was spelt in a variety of ways: Isabell, Isabele, Ysabel, Ysabell, Ysabelle, Yzabel. The name Hugh was often spelt Hughe, Hue, Hew, Hugg or Huge, while the foreign name of Edward II's elder brother Alfonso (November 1273-August 1284) baffled English scribes, who wrote it Anfuls, Aufos or Auffoms.

05 August, 2011

Friday Facts

A post with some fairly random facts about Edward II and his reign.  :-)

- Sometime before October 1311, Edward's first cousin once removed Fernando IV of Castile asked him "for a loan of money in aid of his war against the enemies of Christ."  Edward politely declined that month, on the grounds that he "had been so engaged since his accession with the war in Scotland and other matters that he is unable to accede to this request."  The 'other matters' presumably meant Piers Gaveston, in large part; Edward was at that time batting against the Lords Ordainer, who were determined to send Piers into exile for the third time.  I'm a very long way from being knowledgeable about Spanish history, but I imagine Fernando's war had something to do with his and Jaime II of Aragon's crusade against the king of Granada.
(Close Rolls)

- Edward sent letters on 2 and 12 June 1319 to Haakon V of Norway regarding debts which the Norwegian king owed to eight English merchants - evidently unaware that Haakon had died on 6 May.  Edward had as a child been betrothed to Haakon's niece Margaret the 'Maid of Norway', queen of Scotland.  (Close Rolls).

- On 16 October 1325, Edward asked Pope John XXII to grant dispensations for his children Eleanor of Woodstock and Edward of Windsor (the future Edward III) to marry Alfonso XI and his sister Leonor of Castile, they being second cousins once removed, and sent letters to Jaime II of Aragon's son Alfonso and the regents of Castile two days later, thanking them for their affection for him and "the gracious and benevolent way” they had handled his affairs.  (Close Rolls).

- On the same day, at Cippenham in Berkshire, Edward gave twenty-five shillings to his porter Will Shene and his new wife Isode as a wedding present.  (SAL MS 122).

- Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke and also Edward's first cousin once removed, died on his way to Paris (the precise location is uncertain, but his biographer Seymour Phillips thinks probably Saint-Riquier near Amiens) on 23 June 1324; the news took only three days to reach the king at Tonbridge in Kent. (Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke 1307-1324: Baronial Politics in the Reign of Edward II by J.R.S. Phillips)

- During the war of Saint-Sardos (with Charles IV of France, over Gascony) in 1324, an atmosphere of fevered suspicion pervaded England: two letters were sent to Hugh Despenser the Younger, telling him that a fleet of foreign vessels with a hundred armed men aboard each ship had been seen in Falmouth and mysteriously disappeared in the middle of the night.  This turned out to be a group of Genoese merchants making their annual trip to the Netherlands, with armed men to guard their valuable cargo.  (Pierre Chaplais, The War of Saint-Sardos (1323-1325): Gascon Correspondence and Diplomatic DocumentsNatalie Fryde, The Tyranny and Fall of Edward II 1321-1326).

- Edward's brother-in-law Philip V of France sent him a gift of a box of rose-coloured sugar in September 1317.  Edward gave Philip's messenger William de Opere two and a half pounds for bringing it.  (Thomas Stapleton, 'A Brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the 10th, 11th, and 14th years of Edward II',Archaeologia, 1836)

- Edward's huntsman William Twyt or Twici wrote a French treatise called Le Art de Venerie around 1320; the earliest text on hunting written in England, it opens "Here begins the art of hunting, which Master William Twici, huntsman of the king of England, made in his time to instruct others."  

- "...we command you to watch our affairs that we may be rich and may attain our ends, of which you have good cognisance; and this cannot be attained without pain and diligence on your part."  Hugh Despenser the Younger to Sir John Inge, sheriff of Glamorgan, on 18 January 1321; entirely open about his aims and ambitions.  (J. Goronwy Edwards, Calendar of Ancient Correspondence Concerning Wales)

- From 8 July 1315 to 7 July 1316, Edward spent £627 on clothes for his household.  He received in April 1316 two tunics for himself, comprising six ells of scarlet – expensive woollen cloth, not the colour – two ells of yellow cloth for sewing leopards, his heraldic arms, on them, and more scarlet for making bags or purses.   He also received sixteen ells of green medley (dyed in the wool cloth) to make two sleeved tunics and two tabards, while three household knights had twelve ells of the same for their tunics.  Green cloth lined with miniver was also given to Isabella, their son Edward of Windsor, the king's sister the countess of Hereford, his nieces Margaret Gaveston and Eleanor Despenser, and the dowager countess of Warwick.  (Malcolm Vale, The Princely Court: Medieval Courts and Culture in North-West Europe).

- In November 1319, Edward wrote to William, count of Hainault, to raise the possibility of a marriage between his son Edward and William's eldest daughter Margaret (who later married the Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV; her sister Philippa ultimately married Edward III).  His careless scribe addressed the letter to 'Robert, count of Hainault'.  Names could prove a problem for inattentive scribes: Louis X's queen Clemence was called Elizabeth in a letter sent to her by Edward II in May 1316, and Edward's niece Jeanne de Bar, countess of Surrey, was called Isabella in a writ of 1313.  (Foedera)