29 July, 2012

When Genealogy Goes Wrong

In the almost seven years (wow!) that I've been writing this blog, I've had numerous messages and emails from readers, at least 95% of them lovely and supportive.  Quite a few readers find the blog because they've been doing research on their family trees and are looking for more information about their ancestors of the early fourteenth century, and occasionally they email me or contact me on Facebook for more details or to ask about someone I haven't yet mentioned on the blog.  This is great and I'm happy to help. I have noticed, however, that a small minority of genealogy researchers are so keen to find royal ancestry somewhere in their tree that they wrongly ascribe royal parentage to someone, who of course just happens to be an ancestor of theirs.  Others, also keen to find royal ancestry, who have read their posts online and are also descendants of the people with supposedly royal parentage then ask me if I can confirm this. When I can't, when I say that actually there is no evidence for this, they can become a bit - well, snippy and defensive. Even rude sometimes.

One classic example of this: I received an email a while ago about a fairly obscure knight of Norfolk of the mid-fourteenth century, whose name escapes me now (and I no longer have the email), who was an ancestor of my correspondent.  The correspondent asked me if it was true that this knight married a daughter of Edward II and Isabella of France, which apparently is a story that appears somewhere online.  No, I said, it's not possible.  Edward II and Isabella had two daughters, Eleanor and Joan, born in 1318 and 1321.  Edward negotiated at various times for his daughters to marry King Alfonso XI of Castile, the future King Pedro IV of Aragon, and two sons of Isabella's uncle Charles, count of Valois. Ultimately, after his deposition, the girls married Duke Reynald II of Gelderland and King David II of Scotland. These negotiations give you an idea of the kind of husbands Edward II wanted for his daughters - preferably kings, or at the very least someone closely related to kings and very well-connected to European royalty and nobility (as the count of Valois certainly was, being Philip IV's brother).

Edward II's marital negotiations with Castile, Aragon and France also reflect his foreign policy and which powers he wanted or needed to make an alliance with at the time. (And before anyone starts screaming about how nasty and unfair it is that he was so willing to use his daughters as 'pawns', a word I would be delighted never to have to see again in connection with medieval marriages, let me point out that his own future marriage had been used since the age of five in the furtherance of his father's foreign policy, and his list of fiancées reflects his father's political aims and need for certain allies at any given time, and this is entirely normal and the case for pretty well every other king of England.) If Edward and Isabella had had more daughters or if Edward had reigned longer, it's certainly possible that the girl(s) would have married in England, as two of Edward's sisters did - Joan of Acre and Elizabeth, who married the earls of Gloucester and Hereford. Edward might have decided to ally himself with an English earl and seal this with a marriage of their children. But it's 100% safe to say that a simple shire knight of Norfolk would never have been considered as a suitable husband for a legitimate daughter of the king of England, who was also granddaughter and niece of kings of France. Edward would have received no benefits at all from such a marriage and it would have disparaged his daughter to make such a match, and been shocking to contemporaries. If Edward II had had an illegitimate daughter, this is the kind of marriage she might have made. But there is no evidence that he did. Another way in which this marriage might just be possible is if one of his daughters was widowed and then decided to please herself by marrying a man of her own choice, as Edward's sister Joan of Acre did with her second husband Ralph de Monthermer. But Edward's daughters Eleanor and Joan married outside England so this evidently didn't happen, and there is no evidence whatsoever that he and Isabella had another living child beyond the four who are well-known to history. Sadly, my correspondent was unwilling to let this line of inquiry and an extraordinarily tenuous possible link to royalty go and basically told me that if I couldn't or wouldn't help, they'd look elsewhere for this non-existent daughter of Edward and Isabella and her marriage. Well, good luck with that.

Something similar has happened to me a few times, with a story doing the rounds that Edward II's niece the countess of Devon made a secret love marriage to a cousin of hers named Richard and bore him a son John, before this scandalous marriage was dissolved and she was forced to marry someone more suitable, Hugh Courtenay, future earl of Devon. The alleged son of this alleged secret marriage allegedly has - surprise! - descendants alive today, many of whom believe they are thus descended from Edward I. Margaret, the countess, was betrothed to Hugh Courtenay in 1314 when she was only three years old and married him on 11 August 1325 when she was fourteen. So if she did marry and have a child with this cousin, which I really, really doubt, it must have been when she was only twelve or thirteen.  (Hugh Courtenay lived until 1377 when Margaret was sixty-six, so her supposed son John can't have been born when she was widowed.)  Again, I haven't received any thanks on the few occasions I've pointed all this out to the self-proclaimed descendants of this secret marriage and love-child; quite the opposite. I'm not saying the story is totally impossible, but there is no contemporary evidence whatsoever for it, and the genealogy websites which perpetuate the story are all forced to make Margaret several years older than she really was when she bore 'John' in this fabulously romantic marriage with her cousin, because otherwise, ewwww, icky.

Finally, there was, according to numerous genealogical sites, a man born in England sometime between about 1320 and 1330, who has tens of thousands known descendants in the twenty-first century. His name is variously given as William Alfred, William Knight, William Alfred Knight, or William Knight of Bradley. (I haven't looked into him properly, so have no idea what primary sources prove his existence and his descendants.) Some time ago for reasons I can't quite fathom, someone got it into their heads that this William was the illegitimate son of Roger Mortimer and Isabella of France, and now this astonishingly dubious claim is repeated all over the place as fact with inventions and inaccuracies galore, such as:
"Mortimer was imprisoned in the Tower of London, and then hung. Isabella, who was pregnant with Mortimer's child, was given a large pension for life. She gave birth to a son, Willielmo, in 1325. After paying eight shillings for the "fifth part of a knight's fee", he became known as Willielmo Knyght de Bradley.  Smuggled out of the Tower of London after his birth by Adam Orleton, Bishop of Worcester. He was fostered in Worcester, and undoubtedly never told of his parentage. According to the French chronicler, Froissart, Isabella was pregnant in 1330 when Mortimer was executed. However, the evidence is that the child was conceived and born in the Tower of London during the year that both Isabella and Mortimer were in residence. Nevertheless, it seems to have been generally known that there was a child of this union. As soon as she had recovered from this birth, Isabella fled to France, taking her eldest son, the heir to the throne with her. He was given the name "Knyght" by his mother, who pleaded for his father's life with the words: "Now, fair sirs, I pray you that you do no harm to his body, for he is a worthy knight, our well-beloved friend and our dear cousin."

Notice how this account brilliantly warps known history, turning Isabella's journey to France in March 1325 to negotiate with her brother Charles IV (with Edward II's full knowledge and permission) into a flight to her homeland because she had borne a child to Roger Mortimer, and notice also that the illegitimate boy didn't know his true parentage but somehow genealogists of the twenty-first century do.  Amaaaaaaaazing.  Adam Orleton, bishop of Hereford, incidentally, had fallen out of Roger and Isabella's favour as early as 1327, and wouldn't have been smuggling their secret love-child anywhere in 1330. The notion that Isabella and Roger had a son who, ta-da, actually survived has become a popular one in recent times and has featured in at least one novel I know of, wherein simply by existing he is said to be some kind of threat to Edward III and his position on the throne, for reasons that are not at all clear to me. Details are breathlessly invented and added to this bizarre story for extra spice and excitement, and the whole unappetising concoction is then given credence by being repeated on numerous websites and posts on Ancestry.com. (All of them, not at all coincidentally, written by descendants of Sir William whatever his real name was.) There really is no evidence that Isabella and Roger Mortimer had a living child, no real evidence in English sources that she was ever pregnant by him at all, no evidence that they ever met in the Tower when he was imprisoned there in 1322/23 let alone had sex (puh-leaze!), no evidence that people at the time were so remarkably stupid that they wouldn't have noticed if the queen of England had borne a child to a prisoner and then fled abroad with the child years later. It makes me cross when sites like this make statements such as 'the evidence is that the child was conceived and born in the Tower of London during the year that both Isabella and Mortimer were in residence'. What evidence? Cite it. Oh wait, you can't, because you're talking utter nonsense.

From another site, about William Alfred/Knight:
"On the genealogy web site Ancestry.com there are an astonishing 72,103 descendents of William Knight who have listed him in their family tree. Interestingly, almost all of them firmly believe that William was the illegitimate love child of Roger De Mortimer (The Earl of March) and Queen Isabella (The Queen of England). This fact may or may not be true, the history is inconclusive, but the story is well worth telling…It is accepted by most scholars that at the time of Roger De Mortimer’s execution, Isabella was pregnant with his child. The official record states that she lost the baby in childbirth, but others are not so sure. There are reports that the baby was smuggled out of the castle by Isabella’s friend and supporter Adam Orleton, the Bishop of Worcester, and given to a sympathetic family. It would make sense, since a male child of this union would have almost certainly been seen as a threat to the throne* and would not have been allowed to live. In case you haven’t guessed, that baby is said to have been William Alfred Knight, my ancestor.

Was William Knight really the child of Roger De Mortimer and Queen Isabella of England? We may never know. There are scant few records from the time to prove or disprove it. But the vast majority of the 72,103 people who list themselves as descendents of William Knight certainly think so. And as a descendant myself, I’m happy to include the Queen of England and one of England’s most notorious traitors in my family tree. Although I do feel an obligation to point out that most sources record William Knight’s birth year as somewhere between 1320 and 1325, 5 to 10 years before Isabella was pregnant with De Mortimer’s child in 1330. But hey, why let that ruin a great story."

* Why?  It was perfectly clear to everyone that Edward II by 1330 couldn't have been the father of any children Isabella produced, and any child of Isabella and Roger Mortimer - or any child she might have had by anyone else, legitimate or not - would have had no possible claim to the English throne.  (Which came from Edward II, not Isabella of France.  I really shouldn't have to point that out.)  The birth of an illegitimate half-sibling might have been deeply embarrassing to Edward III, but it was no threat to his position.  I find it hard to picture anyone seriously putting forward a son of the dowager queen and a married nobleman as a potential king in place of Edward III.  The latter was the eldest legitimate son of Edward II who was the eldest surviving son of Edward I who was the eldest son of Henry III and so on, and was thus the rightful king of England in the eyes of absolutely everybody.

That last sentence from the website is quite telling - hey, as long as it's a good story, and as long as some people believe that we might have a royal descent via this knight, who cares really if it's true or not?  Could I make a request to some of you: If you want to ask me about royal ancestry you think you might have in the period of history in which I specialise, and you don't get the answer you want, please don't get snippy and rude with me.  Frankly it's quite hurtful, and it's not my fault if other people have invented and perpetuated stories with no foundation which you want to believe because it's just so cool to think that Edward I is your 23 greats grandfather.  Some people do accept what I say (one lady recently sent me two lovely emails about William Alfred and really took on board what I said, so thank you for that, much appreciated!), but others just inform me that I must be mistaken because this one website is totally certain that Person A is definitely certainly positively the child of King X and if I think otherwise, I'm ignorant and wrong and They Will Prove It and then I'll be sorry to have doubted them.

Incidentally, it doesn't hurt your cause if you say 'please' and 'thank you' and use my name when you write to me requesting my help, and remember that I do all this for free out of the goodness of my heart and am not your own personal researcher with many hours available to work on your family tree.  Just saying.  Sending me peremptory emails such as 'I need to know details about William Alfred who is said to have been the son of Edward II's queen', and yes, I have received emails like that without so much as a hello, in no way makes me inclined to help you.  I know, I'm funny like that.  And to finish, a big thank you to all the many, many lovely readers and correspondents (who I am in no way talking about here) for your support and your thought-provoking ideas and suggestions and for kindly sharing your own research with me.

25 July, 2012

Henry of Lancaster's Grandchildren

A post about some of the grandchildren of Henry, earl of Lancaster (1280/81 - 22 September 1345), who was Edward II's first cousin, Isabella of France's uncle, Earl Thomas's younger brother and heir, Blanche of Artois's son, grandson and nephew of kings of England, great-grandson, brother-in-law and uncle of kings of France, half-brother of the queen of Navarre, and also descended from kings of Castile, Aragon and Germany and the Holy Roman and Byzantine emperors.  Henry and his wife Maud Chaworth (2 February 1282 - 1321/22), niece of the earl of Warwick who died in 1315 and elder half-sister of Hugh Despenser the Younger, had six daughters and a son: Blanche, died 1380, married Thomas, Lord Wake; Isabella, d. 1349, prioress of Amesbury; Maud, d. 1377, m. William de Burgh, earl of Ulster, and Sir Ralph Ufford; Henry, first duke of Lancaster, d. 1361, m. Isabella Beaumont; Joan, d. 1343/44, m. John, Lord Mowbray; Eleanor, d. 1372, m. John, Lord Beaumont, and Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel; Mary, d. 1362, m. Henry, Lord Percy.  Five of Henry of Lancaster and Maud Chaworth's seven children had children, the exceptions being Isabella (obviously) and Blanche Wake.  Kenneth Fowler, biographer of Henry and Maud's son Duke Henry, states that Henry's daughters continued to live with him most of the time even after marriage, and the siblings and in-laws often travelled around the country and spent time together.  This gives an impression of a family which was close-knit and enjoyed each other's company.

In no particular order, here are some of Henry of Lancaster and Maud Chaworth's grandchildren.

- Elizabeth de Burgh, duchess of Clarence and countess of Ulster (6 July 1332 - 10 December 1363)

The only child of Henry's third or fourth daughter Maud and her first husband William Donn de Burgh, earl of Ulster (17 September 1312 - 6 June 1333), Elizabeth was heir to a large inheritance: the earldom of Ulster, and her paternal grandmother Elizabeth de Clare's third of her brother the earl of Gloucester's lands. Edward III snapped up the rich heiress for his second son Lionel of Antwerp, who was more than six years Elizabeth's junior (b. 29 November 1338), and the couple had one child, Philippa, born in 1355, who married Edmund Mortimer, earl of March. This marriage ultimately led to the Mortimers, and their heirs the Yorkists, claiming the English throne in the fifteenth century as the descendants of Edward III's second son Lionel of Clarence, whereas the Lancastrians descended from the third son John of Gaunt.

- Blanche of Lancaster, duchess of Lancaster and countess of Leicester and Derby (25 March 1345 - 12 September 1368)

The only surviving child of Henry's only son Duke Henry, sole heir to the vast Lancastrian inheritance and, like her cousin Elizabeth de Burgh, married to a son of Edward III, in this case John of Gaunt (b. 1340). Geoffrey Chaucer immortalised Blanche, who (again, like her cousin Elizabeth) died very young, in his Book of the Duchess, praising her great beauty and kindness. Blanche's children included Henry IV, king of England and Philippa, queen of Portugal, the mother of the 'Illustrious Generation' who included the powerful Isabel of Portugal, duchess of Burgundy, Henry the Navigator and Ferdinand the Saint Prince.

- Henry Percy, first earl of Northumberland (10 November 1341 - 20 February 1408)

Son of Henry of Lancaster's youngest child Mary and Henry, Lord Percy, both of whom were born around 1320/21. Henry's paternal grandmother was Idonea, daughter of Robert, Lord Clifford killed at Bannockburn in 1314, and he was also descended from the Fitzalans and de Clares. He married Margaret Nevill, daughter of Ralph Nevill, lord of Raby and Alice Audley, and one of their children was the famous Harry Hotspur, killed at the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403. Henry was made earl of Northumberland soon after the coronation of Richard II in 1377, and is probably most famous nowadays for his important role in Shakespeare's plays about Richard II and Henry IV. He was killed at the battle of Bramham Moor in 1408 in rebellion against Henry IV, whom he had helped so much to become king in 1399.

- Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel (c. 1346 - 21 September 1397)

Henry of Lancaster's fifth daughter Eleanor (c. 1318-1372) had a son, Henry, by her first husband John, Lord Beaumont, who was killed jousting in 1342; Henry died in 1369. Richard, born probably in 1346, was her eldest child by her second husband Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel (c. 1313-1376), who had previously been married to Hugh Despenser the Younger's daughter Isabel and who disinherited their son Edmund when he had their marriage annulled in 1344. To Edmund's disgust, his much younger half-brother Richard succeeded their father, the richest man in England, on his death in 1376. (I really don't like the elder Richard. Anyone who can refer to his own child as 'that certain Edmund who claims himself to be my son' and totally ignore him and his (Edmund's) daughters in his will is beyond the pale, in my opinion.) The younger Richard married firstly Elizabeth, daughter of Edward II's nephew William de Bohun, earl of Northampton, with whom he had six or seven children. His heir was his son Thomas, who married Beatrice, illegitimate daughter of King João I of Portugal (Beatrice was thus the half-sister of the Illustrious Generation mentioned above). Richard married secondly the much younger Philippa Mortimer, daughter of Edmund Mortimer and Lionel of Clarence's daughter and heir Philippa, and the widow of John Hastings, earl of Pembroke, killed while jousting at the age of seventeen in 1389. Richard was an Appellant and enemy of Richard II, who had him beheaded in 1397.

- Maud de Vere née Ufford, countess of Oxford (1345/46 - 25 January 1413)

Daughter of Maud of Lancaster and her second husband Sir Ralph Ufford, justiciar of Ireland and brother of the earl of Suffolk, and thus the half-sister of Elizabeth de Burgh, duchess of Clarence. Ralph died when Maud was a baby, or perhaps still in utero, on 9 April 1346. She married Thomas de Vere, earl of Oxford and was the mother of the notorious Robert de Vere (1362-1392), also earl of Oxford, Richard II's favourite. Maud outlived her son Robert by more than twenty years; Robert's childless death meant that his uncle Aubrey, Thomas de Vere's brother, succeeded him as earl. As the mother of Richard II's beloved, it's hardly surprising that Maud was extremely hostile to Henry IV, to the extent of leading a rebellion against him in 1404 which would have involved an invasion of England by the duke of Orléans and the count of St Pol (see Ian Mortimer's biography of Henry IV for more details).

- Sir John Arundel, marshal of England (c. 1348 - 16 December 1379)

Second son of Eleanor of Lancaster and Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel. In February 1358 when he was only about nine or ten, John married a girl about three years his senior, Eleanor Maltravers, granddaughter and ultimately sole heir of John Maltravers (d. 1364), one of Edward of Caernarfon's custodians at Berkeley Castle in 1327. John and Eleanor's eldest son and heir John, born on 30 November 1364 when John was probably only sixteen, married Elizabeth Despenser, great-granddaughter of Hugh the Younger and sister of Thomas Despenser, earl of Gloucester. John (the elder) was appointed marshal of England by the new king Richard II in 1377, and drowned off the coast of Ireland two years later. Chronicler Thomas Walsingham accuses John and his men, whether correctly or not, of raping and assaulting nuns in a convent near Southampton and of ransacking the countryside nearby, and of carrying off widows and young girls taking refuge in the convent.

- Thomas Percy, earl of Worcester (1343 - 23 July 1403)

Brother of Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland, and steward of Richard II's household. Thomas took part in the rebellion of Henry and his (Henry's) son Harry Hotspur against Henry IV, and was captured at the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 where his nephew Hotspur was killed. He was publicly beheaded in the town two days later. Oddly enough, Thomas never married.

- Joan de Bohun née Fitzalan (or Arundel), countess of Hereford, Essex and Northampton (c. 1350 - 17 April 1419)

One of the two daughters of Eleanor of Lancaster and Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel. Joan married Humphrey de Bohun, son and heir of William de Bohun, earl of Northampton, and also heir of his uncle Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex; her brother Earl Richard married Humphrey's sister Elizabeth. Joan and Humphrey had two daughters: Eleanor, who married Edward III's fifth and youngest son Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester, and Mary, who married Thomas's nephew Henry of Lancaster, the future Henry IV. They were thus the grandparents of Henry V. Humphrey died on 25 March 1372, leaving Joan, then only in her early twenties at most, a widow with two young children. She lived as a widow for nearly fifty years, dying in 1419; I think she was the last surviving of Henry of Lancaster's grandchildren. Richard II's half-brother John Holland, earl of Huntingdon, came into her custody following the unsuccessful Epiphany Rising of January 1400, and Joan, a loyal supporter of her son-in-law Henry IV, had him beheaded.

- Alice Holland née Fitzalan (or Arundel), countess of Kent (c. 1352 - 17 March 1416)

Sister of Richard, earl of Arundel, Sir John Arundel and Joan, countess of Hereford. Alice married Sir Thomas Holland, earl of Kent, elder son of Sir Thomas Holland (d. 1360) and Joan of Kent, granddaughter of Edward I and mother of Richard II by her second marriage to Edward III's eldest son Edward of Woodstock, prince of Wales. Alice's elder son, yet another Thomas Holland, earl of Kent and formerly duke of Surrey, was beheaded in early January 1400 for attempting to restore his half-uncle Richard II to the throne during the Epiphany Rising. His uncle John Holland was also beheaded, while in the custody of Alice's sister Joan (see above), as were several other men including the earl of Salisbury and Thomas Despenser, formerly earl of Gloucester, great-grandson of Hugh the Younger. In the early 1400s Alice's second son Edmund, earl of Kent had an illegitimate daughter named Eleanor by the older and very highly-born Constance of York, Thomas Despenser's widow, daughter of Edward III's fourth son Edmund of Langley, duke of York and granddaughter of Pedro the Cruel, king of Castile. (You can read about Constance and her amazing life, and many of the other people mentioned here, in Brian Wainwright's wonderful novel Within the Fetterlock.) Alice and Thomas Holland also had five daughters: Joan, who married the decades-older Edmund of Langley, duke of York as his second wife; Margaret, who married John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford's eldest child John Beaufort, marquess of Dorset, and secondly Henry IV's second son Thomas, duke of Clarence; Elizabeth, who married Sir John Nevill (eldest son of Ralph Nevill, earl of Westmorland by his first wife and much older half-brother of Edward IV's mother Cecily Nevill); Eleanor, who married Roger Mortimer (d. 1398), earl of March; another Eleanor, who married Thomas Montacute, earl of Salisbury.

- John, Lord Mowbray (25 June 1340 - c. 9 October 1368)

Only son of Henry of Lancaster's third or fourth daughter Joan and John, Lord Mowbray, b. 1310, son and heir of the John, Lord Mowbray - they really weren't imaginative with names - born in 1286 and executed by Edward II in 1322. John born in 1340 married Elizabeth Segrave, born on 25 October 1338 as one of the two daughters and co-heirs of Edward II's niece Margaret Marshal (d. 1399), much later duchess of Norfolk in her own right (the other daughter was Anne Manny, born 1355, who married the earl of Pembroke). John died in his late twenties on crusade near Constantinople, leaving his elder son John who died as a teenager in 1379, a younger son Thomas born in 1366, and four daughters, one of whom was abbess of Barking. Thomas Mowbray, ultimately his father's heir, was perpetually banished from England by Richard II in 1398, and died in Venice the following year. He married Elizabeth, daughter of the earl of Arundel executed in 1397, and his descendants were dukes of Norfolk. (The extremely yummy James Purefoy played Thomas Mowbray in the BBC's fantastic recent production of Shakespeare's Richard II, first part of their Hollow Crown series.)

- Thomas Arundel, archbishop of York, archbishop of Canterbury, chancellor of England (c. 1353 - 19 February 1414)

Third and youngest son of Eleanor of Lancaster and Richard Fitzalan, Thomas became bishop of Ely in 1373 when he was about twenty. Archbishop of York in 1388 then of Canterbury in 1396, he was exiled from England in 1397 by Richard II after the king's execution of his brother the earl of Arundel, and invaded England with Henry of Lancaster in 1399.

22 July, 2012

A New Novel And Recent Blog Searches

Here's a shout-out for an excellent new novel: Elizabeth Ashworth's latest, An Honourable Estate, which is set in 1315 during the rebellion of Adam Banastre in Lancashire.  (Where I was born.)  Hmmmm, that reminds me actually, I've never written a blog post about the rebellion.  *makes mental note*  If you're on Facebook, there's a page about the novel here.  Thank you to Elizabeth for mentioning me and my blog in the author's note, and so glad you found it helpful.  The novel looks terrific and I'm really looking forward to reading it.

I haven't done a weird blog search post for a while, so here are a few recent ones:

edward ii rain Either a reference to the terrible weather of the mid-1310s, or a misspelling of 'reign'. Knowing the internet, probably the latter.

uses of lady for princes in middle ages  

edward ii naked men Sounds like fun.

neath abbey kathryn warner I've never been there, unfortunately, but nice that you're thinking of me

edward ii is dead I'm afraid he is, yes.

whp a actually write ten commandments

what was the great european famine It was a great famine, in Europe.

this is a brilliant post, im really glad i found it thank you  Why, thank you!

I have absolutely no comment on the next few searches:

did king henry ii have sex with his son

the sexlife of robin hood

margaret of anjou incest with son

cornwall "marry your cousin"

married sibs hcp porphyria english

in which shakesoeare play did a king die from poker in rectum  Not Shakespeare, Marlowe.

english king smothered to death by a table

does william wallace have kids
As he's been dead for 707 years, I don't think 'does' is quite the word you're looking for.

edward ii threw out of window That reminds me of a question someone asked me on Facebook recently, whether Edward II threw one of his own sons out of the window for failing to answer a question correctly. Where do people find this stuff?

scenes from the tudors involving a red hot poker
edward the second must have felt during his execution

braveheart senator quoate to queen

why wasn't edward iii child king

king edward ii songs about hanging  Wow, they sound hilarious.

his dog king alfonso

royal family impaled on red hot poker up the ass
Good grief, not all of them? What a tragedy.

who was king of England in 1315 Wait, don't tell me, I know that one!

what year was edward ii crowned  I know that one too!  Yay!

monarch who changed the calendar in 1300's Hey, Edward, what have you done to the calendar? It's all messed up.  Is it last Sunday today or what?

being king sucks Most definitely. Nice clothes, though.

how many steps are there in caernarfon castle From personal experience, I can answer this: lots. Really, really lots.

batholomew badlesmere was gloucester's knight he earned an ignominious name at bannockburn in 1314 when he left his lord to be killed  All of that is true.  At least, according to a poem written a few years later.

Elizabeth  in Whales 1360 s Had 3 Husbands  That'll be the 154,857th time someone who can't spell 'Wales' has found my blog, then.  Is it really that difficult?

14 July, 2012

Who's Who In Edward II's Era

This post was inspired by some comments I saw on Facebook recently, and made me think it might be quite helpful to have a list of major 'characters' somewhere on the blog.  :-)

- Edward II, also often known as Edward of Caernarfon after his birthplace in North Wales.  He was born on 25 April 1284 as at least the fourteenth and perhaps the fifteenth or sixteenth, and the youngest, child of Edward I and his first queen Eleanor of Castile.  His three elder brothers (see below) having predeceased their father, Edward succeeded as king of England and lord of Ireland when Edward I died on 7 July 1307.  He was already prince of Wales, earl of Chester (both since February 1301), duke of Aquitaine (since May 1306) and count of Ponthieu (since his mother's death in November 1290).

- Isabella of France, Edward II's queen, c. 1295 - 22 August 1358.  Isabella was the sixth of the seven children of Philippe IV, king of France (born 1268, died 1314) and Jeanne, queen of Navarre in her own right (1273-1305).  Her elder sisters Marguerite and Blanche died in early childhood in the mid-1290s, and her younger brother Robert died in 1308 at the age of about eleven.  Her three elder brothers were all kings of France: Louis X (1289-1316), Philippe V (1291/93-1322) and Charles IV (1293/94-1328).  She married Edward II in Boulogne on 25 January 1308.

- Edward I, king of England, 17 June 1239 - 7 July 1307.  Father of Edward II and at least another sixteen children.  Born at Westminster as the eldest child of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence, and succeeded his father in November 1272.

- Eleanor of Castile, queen of England, c. late 1241 - 28 November 1290.  Born Infanta Doña Leonor de Castilla, the twelfth of the fifteen children of King Fernando III of Castile and Leon, and known as Alianore in England.  Edward II's mother, about forty-two and a half when she gave birth to him in April 1284, just under thirty years after she had married his father (Edward and Eleanor married on or about 1 November 1254 in Burgos, northern Spain).  Queen Eleanor became countess of Ponthieu in her own right in 1279, as her inheritance from her mother, and is probably best-known nowadays for the Eleanor Crosses her grieving widower erected in her honour. For many years she was remembered with masses every year on the anniversary of her death by the son who could barely have known her.

- Edward II's elder brothers, the first three sons of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile: John (July 1266 - August 1271), Henry (May 1268 - October 1274), Alfonso (November 1273 - August 1284).  John died in the lifetime of his grandfather Henry III so was never heir to the English throne; Henry was heir to the throne from his father's accession in November 1272 to his death aged six in October 1274; Alfonso was heir from Henry's death when he was less than a year old to his own (seemingly very sudden) death in August 1284. Edward of Caernarfon, then four months old, became England's heir. Alfonso was born in Bayonne and named after his uncle and godfather Alfonso X of Castile, and for ten years, the English grew used to the notion that they would one day have a king called Alfonso of Bayonne. Eleanor of Castile requested that Alfonso's heart be buried with her in 1290.

- Edward II's grandparents: Fernando III, king of Castile and Leon (1201-1252); Jeanne de Dammartin, queen of Castile and countess of Ponthieu in her own right (1216/20-1279); Henry III, king of England (1207-1272); Eleanor of Provence, queen of England (c. 1223-1291).

- Marguerite of France, queen of England (1278/79 - 14 February 1318).  Second queen of Edward I, whom she married in September 1299 when he was sixty and she twenty, and Edward II's stepmother.  (He was the first king of England since before the Norman Conquest to have a stepmother.)  She was the half-sister of Philippe IV of France.  Marguerite had three children with Edward I, two sons (see below) and a daughter Eleanor, born in 1306 when Edward I was almost sixty-seven and died in 1311.

- Thomas of Brotherton, earl of Norfolk (1 June 1300 - 4 August 1338), and Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent (5 August 1301 - 19 March 1330): Edward II's much younger half-brothers, sons of Edward I and Marguerite of France.  Edmund was the grandfather of Richard II.

- The sisters of Edward II who survived childhood: Eleanor, countess of Bar (1269-1298); Joan of Acre, countess of Gloucester and Hertford (1272-1307); Margaret, duchess of Brabant (1275 - sometime after March 1333); Mary, nun of Amesbury (1279-1332); Elizabeth, countess of Holland, Hereford and Essex (1282-1316). Edward appears to have been very close to them, or at least to Joan, Mary and Elizabeth, the ones who remained in England. Edward I and Eleanor of Castile also had at least five daughters who did not survive childhood; the ones whose names are known were Katherine, Joan (not Joan of Acre, another one) and Berengaria.

- Edward of Windsor, the future King Edward III, born at Windsor Castle on 13 November 1312 as the eldest child of Edward II and Isabella of France.  Succeeded his deposed father as a fourteen-year-old in January 1327.

- The younger children of Edward II and Isabella of France: John of Eltham, earl of Cornwall (15 August 1316 - 13 September 1336; Eleanor of Woodstock, duchess of Gelderland (18 June 1318 - 22 April 1355); Joan of the Tower, queen of Scotland (5 July 1321 - 7 September 1362).

- Adam (c. 1307/10 - shortly before 30 September 1322): Edward II's illegitimate son by an unknown mother.

- Edward II's aunts and uncles on his father's side: Edmund, earl of Lancaster, Leicester and Derby (1245-1296), and his wife Blanche of Artois, formerly queen of Navarre (c. 1248-1302); Margaret (1240-1275) and her husband King Alexander III of Scotland (1241-1286); Beatrice (1242-1275) and her husband Duke John II of Brittany (1239-1305).

- Some of Edward II's uncles on his mother's side: Alfonso X 'the Wise' (1221-1284), king of Castile and Leon; Felipe, archbishop of Seville, abbot of Castrojeriz and Covarrubias (1231-1274); Sancho, archbishop of Toledo (1233-1261); Enrique, lord of Écija, Medellín, Dueñas, Atienza, etc (1230-1304), senator of Rome, mercenary in North Africa, rebel against his brother Alfonso X, exile at Henry III's court in England for years, prisoner in Naples for decades, regent of Castile for his great-nephew Fernando IV; Fadrique, lord of Sanlúcar de Albaída, Gelves, Gizirat, Abualhinar, etc (1223-1277), secretly executed for rebelling against Alfonso X.

- Edward II's brothers-in-law: Henri III, count of Bar (1260s-1302); Jan II, duke of Brabant (1275-1312); Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester (1243-1295); Ralph de Monthermer, earl of Gloucester (1260s-1325); Jan I, count of Holland (1284-1299); Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex (c. 1276-1322).

- Some of Edward II's nephews: Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford (1291-1314); Edouard I, count of Bar (1294/95-1336); Jan III, duke of Brabant (1300-1355); John de Bohun, earl of Hereford (1306-1336); William de Bohun, earl of Northampton (1312/13-1360).

- Some of Edward II's nieces: Joan of Bar, countess of Surrey (1295/96-1361); Eleanor de Bohun, countess of Ormond (1304-1363); Margaret de Bohun, countess of Devon (1311-1391); Mary de Monthermer, countess of Fife (1297-after 1371); Margaret de Clare, countess of Cornwall and Gloucester (1294-1342); Margaret Marshal, duchess of Norfolk (c. 1322-1399); Joan of Kent, countess of Kent and princess of Wales (1328-1385).

- Some of the English earls during Edward II's reign: Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln and Salisbury (c. 1250 - 1311); John de Warenne, earl of Surrey and Sussex (1286-1347); Edmund Fitzalan, earl of Arundel (1285-1326); Guy Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (c. 1272-1315); John of Brittany, earl of Richmond (1266-1334); Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke (c. 1275-1324); Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex (c. 1276-1322); Hugh Despenser the Elder, earl of Winchester (1261-1326); Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford (1257-1331, so obscure and insignificant I had to double-check his first name); Thomas, earl of Lancaster, Leicester, Derby, Lincoln and Salisbury (c. 1278 - 22 March 1322), the king's first cousin and an ally at the start of his reign, who after 1308 became his greatest enemy and rival. Many of these men were closely related to Edward II either by blood or marriage.

- The king's favourites: Piers Gaveston, earl of Cornwall (1270s/early 1280s - 19 June 1312); Roger Damory (1270s/early 1280s - 12 March 1322); Hugh Despenser the Younger (1287/90 - 24 November 1326).

- The queen's favourite: Roger Mortimer, earl of March (25 April 1287 - 29 November 1330).

- Edward of Caernarfon's fiancées before he was betrothed to Isabella of France in the summer of 1299: Margaret of Norway, queen of Scotland (betrothed from 1289 to her death in 1290); Blanche of France, half-sister of Philippe IV (betrothed 1291 to 1294); Philippa of Flanders, daughter of Guy de Dampierre, count of Flanders, with her sister Isabella as substitute (betrothed 1294 to 1297).

08 July, 2012

Fictionally Adulterous Queens, Especially Eleanor of Provence, And Maligning Piers

Some weeks ago on her excellent history blog, my friend Sarah wrote a great post entitled The Queen As Whore, discussing the annoyingly popular trend in modern historical fiction of portraying medieval queens as adulteresses who willingly foist non-royal sons fathered by lovers onto the throne. It's becoming, to me and quite a few other people I know, profoundly irritating, and Edward II and Isabella of France are by no means the only victims of it. The medieval kings of England I can think of who have been portrayed as not really the sons of their fathers in various novels are: Henry II (fathered by his mother Maud's cousin and enemy King Stephen, not Geoffrey of Anjou); Richard I (fathered by a troubadour, not Henry II); Henry III (fathered by his mother Isabelle of Angoulême's half-brother, not King John); Edward I (fathered by his uncle Simon de Montfort rather than Henry III); Edward II (Edward I thinks an invented character called William Wild, The Irish Irishman Who Is Irishly Irish, may be his son's father, not himself); Edward III (fathered by William Wallace, Roger Mortimer, Robert Holland, Edward I or pretty well any other man alive or dead in England, Scotland or Ireland at the time rather than Edward II); Henry VI's son Edward of Lancaster, prince of Wales (fathered by the duke of Somerset or sundry others, at least one of them also dead at the time, rather than Henry); Edward IV (fathered by the archer Blaybourne rather than the duke of York). Perhaps you know of others, from different time periods or in different countries, or novels about English kings that I've missed. Admittedly, a couple of these depictions are based on contemporary or near-contemporary rumours and slurs, but most are not, and I find 'OMG, King Whoever was not really the son of his father, SCANDAL!!!!' a tedious and overdone cliché in historical fiction, a lame way of making a novel more salacious and sensationalist - and extremely disrespectful to the queens and their children.  Of the eight kings of England from the mid-twelfth century to the end of the fourteenth (Henry II, Richard I, John, Henry III, Edward I, Edward II, Edward III and Richard II), that's six whose paternity has been changed in print, with John and Richard II the only exceptions, at least that I know of.

In a post titled Edward I of England and his Legitimate Parentage, Sarah also discusses in greater detail (with a few contributions by me) the idea put forward in a series of four self-published novels that Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, killed at the battle of Evesham in 1265, was the real father of Edward I instead of Henry III. This of course presupposes that Eleanor of Provence was visiting Simon's castle of Kenilworth with the king in September 1238 - Edward I was born at Westminster on 17 June 1239 - and committed adultery with her husband's brother-in-law. (Simon married Henry III's youngest sister Eleanor in early 1238. She had taken a vow of chastity after the death of her first husband the earl of Pembroke from which she had to be released by the pope, but was not a nun, as the author states.) If this were just in a novel and clearly stated to be a fictional invention in an author's note or on her website, one would probably just roll one's eyes and let it be, but the author has been propounding her theory on Facebook, Amazon and various other websites and blogs as though it has a strong basis in fact. Henry III can be placed at Kenilworth on several days in September 1238, and presumably Queen Eleanor was with him, though this hasn't been proved conclusively. A member of the Historical Fiction Online forums pointed out a while ago that Simon de Montfort wasn't even in England at the time Edward I was conceived; he was still in Italy, and the chronicler Matthew Paris says that he returned to England on 14 October 1238, several weeks after Henry III stayed at his castle of Kenilworth. Unless Simon committed adultery with Queen Eleanor immediately on his return to England and Edward I was a month premature, both of these notions without a shred of evidence, this idea simply doesn't fly. 

Still the author is insisting that her decades of research mean that her theory of Edward I's parentage has a strong factual basis, and Sarah has noticed a growing number of people hitting her blog searching for things like 'Edward I was Simon de Montfort's son' and 'was Eleanor of Provence a whore?'. (In much the same way as I get searches every day along the lines of 'Was William Wallace Edward III's father?'. Thank you, Braveheart and several crappy novels. I hope the 'But it's FICTION!' crowd take note, though of course they won't.) Sarah's blog post goes into detail about why we believe that of course Edward I was Henry III's son. Just pause for a moment to consider how incredibly, astonishingly, vanishingly unlikely it is that in 1238 the fifteen(ish)-year-old queen of England could have had sex with her husband's brother-in-law in a castle where her husband was also present and that lots of people knew that Edward I was the result but no-one ever mentioned it until the Super-Sekrit Hidden Explosive Truth That They Tried To Hide!!! was cleverly unearthed by one author more than 750 years later.  That's before we remember that Simon wasn't even in England at the time of Edward's conception, and that the chronicler Nicholas Trivet, who was a near-contemporary of Edward I (around eighteen years younger) and probably saw him often, mentions that the king had a drooping eyelid, which Henry III also had. What are the odds of this, if they weren't father and son? 

The author also depicts Henry III having Simon de Montfort - his own brother-in-law, remember - vilely tortured, and says that "for 700 years it was a hanging crime to speak his [Simon's] name." Sadly, despite repeated requests, the details of this particular statute and its repeal in or about 1965 have not been forthcoming. In 1323, incidentally, Edward II paid a group of women in Yorkshire to sing songs about Simon de Montfort for him, so evidently it wasn't a 'hanging crime' to speak of him then, even in front of Henry III's grandson. Neither does it seem to have been a crime in the nineteenth century when several constitutional historians wrote enthusiastically of Simon and his achievements in parliament. Several of us asked the author for evidence that Eleanor of Provence was at Kenilworth at the time her eldest child was conceived and that anyone of the era knew Edward I was not Henry III's son and so on, and in return were removed and blocked from her Facebook page, and accused on her blog of 'bullying' and of being 'trolls' and 'harpies'. Surely, if a person is confident that her theory can stand up to scrutiny, she can provide the sources and debate her ideas with people who care passionately about medieval history as well as with fans who don't question her. Blocking people, completely misrepresenting what happened, patronising people by assuming they can't read Latin and/or look at thirteenth-century sources, insulting them by calling them names and deleting comments that are anything less than fawning don't create a very good impression, or inspire me to read the novels in question. Whatever Eleanor of Provence's faults - and for sure she had plenty, and was very unpopular in England in her own lifetime - she was a loving and devoted mother and grandmother, and for that I can't help liking her enormously, especially her concern for the six-year-old Edward of Caernarfon when she asked her son Edward I to provide a safe and healthy place for him in the south of England when the king went north in 1290. I really don't feel inclined to read anything which paints her as an adulteress.

A comment on an Amazon forum, by a person claiming to be a fan of the author who in fact appears to be the author herself.

My Facebook comment which got me banned from the author's page and accused of bullying.  I'm  in good company; a few other people suffered the same fate.  There's a typo: 'dropping' should be 'drooping'.
A comment on Amazon addressed to me, by the same person as above.  (Who in other comments proves herself remarkably knowledgeable about thirteenth-century sources and goes out of her way to fight the author's corner, and uses a pseudonym which the author herself uses on another site.)
The author, errrr, I mean her number one fan, on Amazon again.
In certain quarters these days it seems to be the case that anything less than fawning praise and adulation, and complete unquestioning agreement no matter how far-out a theory, is interpreted as a 'personal attack' on a writer and deemed to be 'venom', 'spite', 'vindictiveness', 'bullying' and 'pillorying'. In the same vein, a polite request for sources to back up jaw-dropping statements such as Simon de Montfort being most probably the real father of Edward I is also often interpreted as hostility, discourtesy and a personal attack. If you hold a different opinion to the writer and her - and mostly, though not always, it is 'her' - fans, if for example you believe that an extraordinary statement that Edward I was his uncle's son requires extraordinary evidence rather than a deliberate and unconvincing misinterpretation of a line in Matthew Paris's chronicle (the author postulates that when Henry III publicly accused Simon of 'seducing my sister' at his son's christening in 1239, he really wanted to say 'seducing my wife' but didn't dare), then you are often made to feel that you are in the wrong, and being uncivil and unreasonable.

From the author's website.
I'd like to reiterate my strong belief that Edward I was indeed the biological son of Henry III and that there is absolutely no reason to think otherwise, and certainly no reason to malign the memory of Eleanor of Provence by portraying her as an adulteress.  Among the many, many reasons why I'm totally sure that Edward I was Henry's son, I'd like to mention the Lancasters - the author believes that Eleanor of Provence's second son Edmund of Lancaster was Henry III's biological son, so in that case, why didn't Edmund's son Thomas, Edward II's first cousin and greatest enemy, ever try to claim the English throne as Henry III's rightful male heir, or at the very least spread malicious rumours about his cousin's lack of royal blood?  The royal pretender who appeared in 1318, John of Powderham, was believed in some quarters (not among anyone who mattered, though) to be Edward I's real son because Edward II's behaviour was so unregal, and it had nothing to do with Edward I's parentage.  Evidently John of Powderham had never heard that Edward I was meant to be Simon de Montfort's son; no pretender ever claimed the throne on the grounds that Edward I was not Henry III's son.  All his life, Edward I was treated with the respect and deference due to a man of royal birth, and no-one, not even his, his father or his mother's enemies, ever behaved as though he wasn't Henry III's son, the rightful heir to the throne and the rightful king.

EDIT: Thanks to Andrew Spencer in the comments of this post and Susan Higginbotham on Facebook for providing information that is the final nail in the coffin of the 'Simon de Montfort fathered Edward I' theory: the theory hinges on Eleanor of Provence being at Simon's castle of Kenilworth in September 1238, but the castle wasn't granted to Simon until 1244, as an entry on the Patent Roll proves: Calendar of Patent Rolls 1232-1247, p. 419, dated 13 February 1244: "The like [appointment during pleasure] of S[imon]. earl of Leicester to the custody of the castle of Kenilleworth, with like mandate to the tenants of the castellany.  And G. de Segrave, who had the custody of the said castle, has letters patent testifying that he surrendered the castle to the king at Wudestok on Saturday before Ash Wednesday."  Kenilworth was a royal castle when Henry III and perhaps Queen Eleanor stayed there in the early autumn of 1238, and thus there was no reason for Simon de Montfort to have been there, even if he had been in England at the time.

 And I still firmly believe that writers should avoid making up unpleasant tales about historical people they don't like, simply to make a person they do like look better or more sympathetic by comparison, or to claim that the royal line of England after 1239 wasn't royal at all but descended from a French nobleman they happen to be a huge fan of. I wrote a post recently about the serious allegation in books by Paul Doherty and Alison Weir that Hugh Despenser the Younger raped or physically assaulted Isabella of France. I dismissed as almost certainly untrue the notion that Hugh ever did such a thing and expressed my concern that, because Hugh is seen as some kind of one-dimensional evil villain with no redeeming features, certain writers feel they can invent any charges they like against him on the flimsiest of 'evidence' and use weaselly justifications such as "it is not beyond the bounds of possibility" that he did in fact do it. Frankly, I was quite upset to see a comment on Facebook recently on a post about the 700th anniversary of Piers Gaveston's execution, which said that "For what he (rumored) did to Isabella, he had it coming." When I asked what Piers was meant to have done to the queen, the answer was "Alison Weir hints that he physically assaulted her." You see, this is what happens when authors, authors claiming to be writing non-fiction at that, start making up unfounded, slanted nonsense about someone in an effort to make their beloved subject appear even more of a victim to their readers. Some readers will believe their inventions, and years later, mixing up Edward II's two best-known 'favourites', will believe Piers Gaveston to have been the perpetrator of a crime which didn't happen and declare that he deserved to die because of what he did. Lies told about historical people spread and grow in the telling. So stop telling them.

EDIT: Thanks to Kathleen for kindly providing a reading list of proper histories in the comments:

Margaret Howell, Eleanor of Provence: Queenship in Thirteenth-Century England (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998).

J. R. Maddicott, Simon de Montfort (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

Louise J. Wilkinson, Eleanor de Montfort: A Rebel Countess in Medieval England (London: Continuum, 2012)

I'd also add David Carpenter, The Reign of Henry III (London: The Hambledon Press, 1996), which incidentally, clearly states on p. 226 that "Simon had received Kenilworth from the king in 1244..."

I have the first two, and they're excellent.

The author in another of her incarnations on Amazon.
EDIT: A comment I left today, 14 July, on a blog where the author expands on her theory of Edward I's paternity and once again claims that it was a 'hanging crime' to speak of de Montfort. At the time of writing, the comment has not been approved.

01 July, 2012

Joan Gaveston, Piers' Daughter

Piers Gaveston's only legitimate child, Joan, was born in York on or around 12 January 1312 (the Bridlington chronicler says his (unnamed) daughter was born "not long after Epiphany," 6 January, and her mother Margaret de Clare was churched on 20 February, which usually took place forty days after childbirth).  [1]  Piers had been sent into his third exile in November 1311, but Edward II, unsurprisingly, brought him back to England yet again as soon as he could. The king (probably) collected his heavily pregnant niece Margaret de Clare from her castle of Wallingford sometime in early January, and travelled to Yorkshire with her in order to keep her out of the way of his and Piers' baronial enemies in the south, despite the difficulties Margaret must have endured travelling while in such an advanced state of pregnancy, and despite it being the middle of winter. It is also possible that Edward caught up with Margaret on the road or that she travelled ahead of him and arrived in Yorkshire somewhat earlier, though Queen Isabella evidently expected her to be at Wallingford when she sent her messenger there with Margaret's New Year gifts in late December 1311. [2]  Edward II had reached Knaresborough by 8 January 1312 and was still there on the 11th and 12th, and seems to have met Gaveston there on 13 January. The two men travelled the seventeen miles to York that same day - a contemporary newsletter says Edward II arrived in York on Thursday 13 January - presumably so that Piers could see his wife and new-born child. [3] It may be that Piers had only ever intended to sneak into the country for a while to see Margaret and Joan and then leave again, but Edward II had other ideas, and on 18 January declared Piers "good and loyal" and restored the earldom of Cornwall to him, to the fury of many.

Joan Gaveston's maternal grandparents were Edward I's second daughter Joan of Acre (1272-1307) and Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester (1243-1295); her paternal grandparents were Sir Arnaud de Gabaston, baron of Béarn (d. 1302) and Claramonde de Marsan (d. 1287), daughter of Arnaud-Guilhem de Marsan, baron of Gascony.  She was presumably named after her grandmother Joan of Acre, and as well as being his beloved Piers' daughter and heir, was also Edward II's great-niece. He had become a great-uncle at the ridiculously young age of twenty-four or twenty-five, at the birth of Eleanor de Clare and Hugh Despenser the Younger's first child Hugh in 1308 or 1309 (Edward I's eldest great-grandchild). In York on 20 February 1312, after Margaret's churching – the purification ceremony forty days after childbirth – Edward and the proud parents celebrated the birth of Piers' first legitimate child (as far as anyone knew then, he was likely to have more).  Edward paid out the huge sum of forty marks to celebrate Margaret's purification, and the guests were entertained by his minstrel 'King Robert'. [4]  He and Isabella conceived Edward III (born 13 November 1312) around this time.

Margaret de Clare was probably seventeen when she gave birth to Joan. The fact that she and Piers only had one child, born over four years after their wedding, has been used by some commentators as evidence that they rarely slept together or had an unhappy marriage (Natalie Fryde calls Margaret "tragic," for example).  I don't agree.  Margaret's date of birth is not known, but her elder siblings Gilbert and Eleanor were born in May 1291 and October/November 1292, and her younger sister Elizabeth was born in September 1295.  The likeliest date of Margaret's birth is the spring or summer of 1294, and therefore she was thirteen when she married Piers on 1 November 1307 - young enough so that she most likely hadn't yet become fertile.  Her sisters Eleanor and Elizabeth were also both thirteen when they married Hugh Despenser the Younger on 26 May 1306 and John de Burgh on 30 September 1308 respectively.  Eleanor's first child Hugh was born two or three years after her wedding sometime in 1308 or 1309, and Elizabeth's first child William was born four years after her wedding in September 1312, the day after her seventeenth birthday.  Isabella of France was twelve when she married Edward II on 25 January 1308 and conceived their first child just over four years later.  Joan Gaveston must have been conceived in about April 1311, which may have been around the time of Margaret de Clare's seventeenth birthday.  Margaret's aunt by marriage Queen Isabella and her sisters Eleanor and Elizabeth married at twelve or thirteen and first became pregnant at sixteen (perhaps fifteen in Eleanor's case, as her son Hugh's date of birth cannot be narrowed down to a month), so Margaret was hardly far behind the norm in her family.  In any case, we don't know for certain that Joan was her first pregnancy, only that she was her first surviving child, and previous miscarriages can't be ruled out. She had only one child, Margaret Stafford née Audley, by her second husband Hugh Audley as well. Margaret the daughter's date of birth is not known, but must have been sometime between early 1318 (nine months after Hugh and Margaret's wedding on 28 April 1317) and late 1322 (nine months after Edward II imprisoned Hugh as a Contrariant). As Margaret the daughter was abducted and forcibly married by Ralph Stafford in January or February 1336, I tend to assume that she was born in 1320 or later rather than 1318, as it would be odd if such a great heiress had reached the age of seventeen or eighteen and was not yet married. This would mean that Margaret de Clare also took several years to become pregnant or to bear a living child in her second marriage, and that therefore, the supposed 'delay' in becoming pregnant by Piers doesn't say anything negative about her relationship with him.

Joan Gaveston was only five months old when her father was killed at Blacklow Hill on 19 June 1312. As Piers had been a tenant-in-chief - i.e. he held land directly of the king - Edward II as the king became her legal guardian, as per the rules of the time.  Edward sent her to live at Amesbury Priory in Wiltshire with her cousin Eleanor de Bohun, future countess of Ormond, daughter of Edward's sister Elizabeth and the earl of Hereford (one of the men present at Piers Gaveston's execution, in fact).  The king provided generously for the girls' upkeep. They had relatives at the priory, which had become fashionable among royal ladies since the dowager queen Eleanor of Provence retired there in the 1280s: Edward II's sister Mary was a nun there, as were Joan Gaveston's aunt Joan de Monthermer (her mother's half-sister, one of Joan of Acre's five daughters) and Henry of Lancaster's daughter Isabella. Other royal and noble ladies appear to have lived at Amesbury temporarily on occasion: Joan Gaveston's aunt Elizabeth de Clare stayed there for a year or so after her marriage before she went to Ireland to join her husband, and again when she was pregnant with her second child Isabella de Verdon. So Joan likely had plenty of her relatives about and didn't lack for company.

Joan was two years old when her uncle Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester was killed at the battle of Bannockburn in June 1314. As the only child of one of Gilbert's three sisters and co-heirs, she became an enticing marriage prospect. In 1316, Edward offered her to his ward Thomas, future Lord Wake of Liddell, who was then eighteen or nineteen (and the brother of the future countess of Kent). However, Edward discovered that Wake had married Henry of Lancaster's eldest daughter Blanche without his permission, and fined him a large sum, probably £1000, which he granted to "our very dear relative," Joan.   [5]  In November 1317, Wake paid 1000 marks (£666) in "part satisfaction" of the fine.  As he had no means of raising such a large sum – he was still under twenty-one and hadn't yet come into his lands – he probably had to borrow the money from his father-in-law Henry, the earl of Lancaster's brother, or Lancaster himself; a nice way for Edward to get money out of his enemy and give it to Piers Gaveston's daughter. It is somewhat odd that Wake chose Blanche of Lancaster in preference to Joan, as Blanche had a brother and thus would not inherit anything from her father or uncle, while Joan was then sole heir to a third of the vast de Clare inheritance. Perhaps Wake gambled that Margaret de Clare would marry again and have a son and that Joan Gaveston ultimately wouldn't inherit anything, and that it was more advantageous in the political climate of 1316 to be allied to the earl of Lancaster than to Edward II.  Margaret in fact had another daughter, but no son, which would have meant that the two half-sisters Joan Gaveston and Margaret Audley shared the inheritance equally as her joint heirs (primogeniture not applying to women).

On 25 May 1317, Edward II arranged Joan Gaveston's future marriage to John, son and heir of Thomas Multon, lord of Egremont in Cumberland.  John, born in 1308, was the eldest grandson of Richard de Burgh, earl of Ulster (d. 1326) via his mother, and nephew of Elizabeth de Burgh, queen of Scotland and Gilbert de Clare's widow Maud, dowager countess of Gloucester (the lady who pretended to be pregnant by Gilbert for years after Bannockburn).  John's other aunts included the countesses of Louth, Desmond and Kildare.  In the agreement between the king and Thomas Multon, Joan is called "daughter of Sir Piers Gaveston, formerly earl of Cornwall" (Johane la feile monsieur Piers de Gavaston, jadys counte de Cornewayll). The marriage of John and Joan would take place "as soon as the said children shall be of reasonable age" (si tost come les ditz enfauntz serront venuz a age covenable, qils peussent estre marietz). Thomas Multon agreed to grant Joan 400 marks' worth of land yearly, and promised the king that "he will not eloign from himself any lands that he now holds or that he shall inherit by reversion or otherwise, to the damage or disinheritance of his son," though presumably it wasn't John Multon's disinheritance that Edward cared about, but Joan Gaveston's. He intended for Joan to go and live with the Multons – though apparently she didn't – and ordered Thomas Multon to maintain her honourably, "as it shall please our lord the king or other friends of the said Joan."  Edward agreed to give Multon £1000 for Joan's dowry, in three instalments of 500 marks, the first payable immediately, the second on 24 June (Nativity of St John the Baptist) and the third on29 September (Michaelmas). Edward did not in fact pay this money to Multon; Thomas Wake did so on his behalf, "for refusing a suitable marriage, which the king offered to him, and marrying elsewhere without licence." Multon had to promise to pay the king the staggeringly large sum of £10,000 if he defaulted on his son's marriage – proof of Edward's determination that this match he had arranged for Piers Gaveston's daughter should succeed where the first hadn't. [6]
After this, Joan Gaveston remains obscure until she died suddenly at Amesbury Priory on 13 January 1325, of an unknown illness. This may have been the day after her thirteenth birthday.  I very much doubt that Edward II would have let the death of Piers Gaveston's child and his own great-niece pass without making expensive and elaborate funerary arrangements for her, though sadly no record of such is still extant. Edward spent, for example, considerable amounts of money on the funeral of his friend William Montacute's teenaged son John in 1317, and seems to have been particularly affected by John's death.  It's hard to imagine that he felt less sorrowful at the death of Piers' thirteen-year-old daughter.

Joan's marriage to John Multon, who was sixteen or seventeen when she died, had not yet taken place.  (John was destined to die childless in 1334, leaving his three sisters as his co-heirs.)  An inquisition taken in January 1332 - which was probably commissioned in order to ascertain whether John Multon owed any of the £10,000 penalty agreed by his father and Edward II to Edward III, which he didn't as he hadn't defaulted on the marriage - states vaguely that Joan "died of illness" and also, wrongly, that she was fifteen at the time of her death.  [7]  This discrepancy of two years, easily explicable by the fact that the two men sitting on the inquisition seven years after Joan's death had almost certainly never met her and were going on hearsay of how old some people thought she might have been, in a world where birth certificates and parish records of births did not yet exist, was used by some commentators on soc.genealogy.medieval a few years ago to create endless confusion with Joan's half-sister Amie, Piers' other daughter, who was certainly not Margaret de Clare's daughter and thus must have been illegitimate. Amie Gaveston was a damsel of Queen Philippa's chamber, granted lands by the queen in 1332 (the entries relating to this are on the Patent Roll), and in 1334 called "Amie, daughter of Piers Gaveston", Amie filie Petri de Gauaston. The endless and for the most part astonishingly pointless debate about Amie - if you go to Google groups and search for 'Amie/Amy Gaveston' you'll find it - resulted in such craptacular statements as "just because she [Amie] was called the daughter of Petrus de Gaveston did not make her his blood relation."  Yeah, happens all the time, doesn't it, that someone named in an official document as the child of someone else wasn't actually a blood relative of that person. Seems that some people have trouble imagining that Piers, the beloved of Edward II, might have fathered an illegitimate child, but given that Edward II himself certainly did, it's hardly to be wondered at that Piers did too. Another classic ('classic' here meaning 'totally bonkers') argument from a few years back was that 'Amie, daughter of Piers Gaveston' was in fact the illegitimate daughter of Margaret de Clare. Ho ho ho, I'm still laughing at that one. From some extremely knowledgeable comments left on my blog recently by a lovely anonymous commenter (thank you!), I now know that Piers Gaveston had a sister named Amie or Amye, born in 1285 - I'd thought before that she was in fact called Amie, but had no evidence. This makes it pretty well certain that the Amie Gaveston found on record in the 1330s said to be Piers' daughter was indeed his daughter (what a surprise!), whom he named in honour of his younger sister. (Who, according to the Vita Edwardi Secundi, naming her only as 'his sister', was with him during the siege of Scarborough in May 1312.)  Both Edward II and Piers Gaveston fathered children by two women each that we know of, as well as carrying on their own intense relationship. The mothers of their illegitimate children are unknown.

RIP, Joan Gaveston. I wish you'd lived longer. I wish your father had lived longer.


1) Gesta Edwardi de Carnarvon Auctore Canonico Bridlingtoniensi, in W. Stubbs, ed., Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II, volume 2 (1883), p. 42; Pierre Chaplais, Piers Gaveston: Edward II’s Adoptive Brother, pp. 78-79; J.S. Hamilton, Piers Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall 1307-1312: Politics and Patronage in the Reign of Edward II, pp. 93-94.
2) F. D. Blackley and G. Hermansen, eds., The Household Book of Queen Isabella of England, p. 139.
3) Elizabeth Hallam, The Itinerary of Edward II and His Household, 1307-1328, p. 81; Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, p. 382; Chaplais, Gaveston, pp. 77-78.
4) Constance Bullock-Davies, A Register of Royal and Baronial Domestic Minstrels 1272-1327, p. 143.
5) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1313-1317, p. 553; Cal Pat Rolls 1317-1321, p. 43; Calendar of Close Rolls 1313-1318, p. 468; Foedera 1307-1327, pp. 299, 331.
6) Cal Pat Rolls 1317-1321, p. 43; Foedera, p. 331.
7) Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous 1308-1348, pp. 325-326.