18 December, 2012

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The Edward II blog is taking a break until around the 6th of January, so let me wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year, and may you have a wonderful festive season!

I've written posts about Edward II and Christmas before: see here, here, here, here and here.  And as it's the festive season and I feel like being light-hearted, here are some links to amusing posts you might have missed:

Edward II joins Facebook

Edward II joins Facebook, part 2

Isabella of France and the Support Group for Tragic Queens

Edward II and the Support Group for People Unfairly Maligned in Historical Fiction

My super-snarky post detailing clichés about Edward II in fiction.

And on a more serious note:

My ten commandments for writing historical fiction and about history, one of my most popular posts ever.

The possible death of Edward II in 1327, which actually is my most popular post ever, and over six years old now, wow.

Why we can be sure that Edward II was the father of Isabella's children, another much-viewed page (thank goodness).

A post inspired by my irritation at the trend in histfict to depict various kings as not really the sons of their fathers, with particular reference to Henry III and Edward I.  Be sure to read Sarah's excellent post on the subject too.

Merry Christmas!  See you in 2013 for more Edward II defending! :-)

15 December, 2012

December Anniversaries

1 December 1249: The wedding of Edward II's uncle the future King Alfonso X of Castile and Leon and Violante, daughter of King Jaime I 'el Conquistador' of Aragon, took place in Valladolid.  Alfonso was then twenty-eight, Violante in her early teens.  Alfonso's father Fernando III was unable to attend the wedding, but his stepmother Queen Jeanne, Edward II's grandmother, did.  Violante's youngest sister Isabel married Philippe III of France and was the grandmother of Edward II's queen Isabella; their brother Pedro III was the father of Alfonso III, who was betrothed for many years to Edward II's eldest sister Eleanor.

1 December 1319: According to the Sempringham annalist, "there was a general earthquake in England, with great sound and much noise."  On the same day, Edward granted powers to his chamberlain Hugh Despenser the Younger, the royal steward Bartholomew Badlesmere, John Hothum, bishop of Ely and chancellor of England, and the earl of Pembroke, to make a truce with Robert Bruce.  Robert confirmed it on the 22nd.

1 December 1321: Edward ordered Walter Reynolds, archbishop of Canterbury, to summon the prelates to a provincial meeting at St Paul's on this day, and the day before, sent the earls of Pembroke and Richmond and Robert Baldock, lawyer, archdeacon of Middlesex and Despenser adherent, to present the Despensers' petition protesting their banishment.  Owing to the difficulty of winter travel and the short notice of the meeting, only four bishops attended the convocation: London, Rochester, Ely and Salisbury.  The Despensers claimed that the sentence against them contained nine errors, including that they had not been allowed to speak in their defence and that none of their crimes involved treason or felony and therefore did not merit exile.  Reynolds and the four bishops dutifully agreed to petition for the annulment of the judgement on the Despensers, while the earls of Arundel, Pembroke and Richmond claimed they had only consented to the exile "through fear of the undue power that the said magnates suddenly caused to be brought without their knowledge."

1 December 1325: Edward wrote to Isabella, then in Paris refusing to return to him until Hugh Despenser was removed from his side.  In the last (known) letter he ever sent to his wife, Edward unsurprisingly ordered her to return and bring their thirteen-year-old son Edward of Windsor with her, as "the king has a great desire to see and talk with him."  I find that deeply sad.

2 December 1307: Piers Gaveston held a famous jousting tournament at his castle of Wallingford, which Edward II evidently didn’t attend, as his itinerary places him at Langley, forty-five miles away.  Piers and his team of knights defeated the earls of Surrey, Arundel and Hereford, and destroyed their dignity by knocking them off their horses into the mud, to their great humiliation and anger.  Indignant chroniclers claimed that Piers "most vilely trod under foot" the opposition, and accused him of fielding 200 knights instead of the agreed sixty.

2 December 1325: An interesting entry in Edward's chamber journal indicates that he, then staying at Westminster, paid a visit to his eldest and favourite niece Eleanor (de Clare) Despenser at Sheen and gave her a remarkably generous gift of 100 marks (66 pounds), and returned to Westminster the same night.  It appears that Edward rowed himself along the Thames, with eight attendants following behind in another boat.

4 December 1307: Edward II wrote to the kings of Sicily, Castile, Portugal and Aragon, telling them that he believed the charges of his soon-to-be father-in-law Philippe IV of France and Pope Clement V against the Knights Templar were nothing more than "the slanders of ill-natured men, who are animated…with a spirit of cupidity and envy," asking them to remember the Templars' devotion, honesty and long service to the Christian faith, and saying that belief in the accusations was "hardly to be entertained."

5 December 1314: Edward ordered his escheators to assign dower to Maud de Burgh, widow of his nephew Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester, killed at Bannockburn the previous June.  Gilbert was so wealthy that the customary third of his lands granted to Maud go on for page after page after page.

5 December 1320: Edward paid three shillings and four pence to William, bookbinder of London, "for binding and newly repairing the book of Domesday, in which is contained the counties of Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk."  This manuscript still exists in the National Archives in London and is known as 'Little Domesday'.

6 December 1315: Death of William Greenfield, archbishop of York.  He would be succeeded, with some delay, by Edward II's close friend and ally William Melton, a man who managed to be loyal to the king without being a yes-man and to gain the respect of pretty well everyone who knew him or of him.  Melton was closely involved in plots to free the supposedly dead Edward in 1330, and spoke out against his deposition in January 1327.  Melton sent a letter to his kinsman the mayor of London in January 1330 saying that Edward of Caernarfon was "alive and in good health of body," which news made him joyous.

6 December 1316: on the feast day of Saint Nicholas, Edward gave six shillings and eight pence to John, son of one Alan of Scrooby, who officiated as boy-bishop in his chapel.

6 December 1318: the leading members of Edward II's household - Bartholomew Badlesmere, steward; Hugh Despenser the Younger, chamberlain; Roger Northburgh, treasurer; Gilbert Wigton, controller of the Wardrobe - created a Household Ordinance, mainly with the aim of eliminating waste and saving money in the royal household, always a political hot potato.  The earliest surviving English Household Ordinance dates from 1279, in Edward I's reign, and the 1318 Ordinance is the second oldest still extant.  See here, here and here.

8 December 1321: Edward issued a safe-conduct for Hugh Despenser the Younger to return to England, "in pursuance of his petition that the judgement of exile and disherison lately passed upon him by certain magnates contains errors and should be annulled."  The same was granted to the elder Despenser on Christmas Day.

10 December 1307: Edward wrote to Clement V with reference to the Templars, saying that he had heard "a rumour of infamy, a rumour indeed full of bitterness, terrible to think of, horrible to hear, and detestable in wickedness" and declaring that "we are unable to believe in suspicious stories of this kind until we know with greater certainty about these things."

10 December 1321: Edward sent a letter to his treasurer, Walter de Norwich, asking him to "provide sixteen pieces of cloth for the apparelling of ourselves and our dear companion [Isabella], also furs, against the next feast of Christmas," also ordering more cloth and linen for Isabella and her damsels and "other things of which we stand in need, against the great feast."  He paid £115 for these items.

14 December 1307: Edward received the papal bull Pastoralis praeeminentiae, which ordered all Christian rulers of Europe to arrest the Templars and seize their lands, in the name of the papacy.  As a papal bull was basically impossible to ignore, he was forced to issue an order on the 20th for the Templars in England, Wales, Ireland and the parts of Scotland he had jurisdiction over to be arrested on Wednesday 10 January 1308, three weeks later; in France, they had been given no such warning and thus had no chance to flee.  Edward ordered that the Templars should be kept "in a fitting place" with good sustenance and "not in a hard and vile prison," and a few months later granted all the Templars in custody their normal wages of fourpence a day, backdated to the day of their imprisonment.

15 December 1314: Edward ordered the archbishops of Canterbury and York, all the bishops and twenty-eight abbots to "celebrate exequies" for his father-in-law and second cousin Philippe IV of France, who had died after a hunting accident on 29 November.

16 December 1325: Death of Philippe IV's brother Charles, count of Valois and ancestor of the dynasty which ruled France until 1589, at the age of fifty-five.  Edward II gave four pounds on 30 December to the messenger who brought him news of the death of 'Sir Charles de Valeis, uncle of my lady the queen'.

18 December 1316: Edward pardoned most of the Bristol rebels and restored the liberty of the town.

19 December 1322: Edward paid a messenger named Jack Stillego for bringing him letters from his wife.  Otherwise, there is scarcely any evidence of contact between the king and queen for quite a few months around this time.  On the same day, Edward gave two pounds to Janekyn, the messenger who brought him news of Robert Lewer's capture (the Flores Historiarum says that Lewer died on 26 December 1322) and three shillings to a cordwainer named Reynald, who had made boots for him.

19 December 1325: Edward paid thirty shillings as an offering to the Virgin Mary in gratitude that his niece Eleanor Despenser had been safely delivered of her latest child.  Annoyingly, his scribe didn't record the name or even the sex of the child.  Hmph.  It may have been Hugh and Eleanor's youngest daughter Elizabeth, future Lady Berkeley.

20 December 1308: Edward founded and generously endowed the Dominican priory at (King's) Langley where he would bury Piers Gaveston some years later, "in fulfilment of a vow made by the king in peril," whenever that might have been – probably on campaign in Scotland or one of his sea crossings.  Edward's grandson Edmund of Langley, duke of York was also buried here in 1402, as was Edward's great-grandson Richard II, at least for a few years.  The Dominicans were Edward's, and his mother Eleanor of Castile's, favourite order.

20 December 1321: Edward arrived at Cirencester to begin his campaign against the Contrariants.

23 December 1311: Edward paid Piers Gaveston's messenger a pound for bringing him messages from Piers somewhere in exile, which tends to indicate that the claims in some chronicles including the Vita Edwardi Secundi that the pair spent Christmas together are wrong.  They don't seem to have been reunited till about mid-January 1312.

25 December 1323: Edward, with Isabella as far as I can tell, spent the festive season at Kenilworth, where Edward gave a pound each to Thomas le Barber and Robert Polidod, minstrels of the bishop of Ely, who performed for them.  He also gave half a mark each to three of his vigiles or watchmen to buy themselves "winter tunics for their night vigils."  (I hope they were nice warm tunics.)

25 December 1325: Edward spent his last Christmas as a free man at Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk.

26 December 1307: Edward took the extraordinary step of appointing Piers Gaveston custos regni, 'keeper of the realm' or regent, while he travelled to France in January to marry Isabella.  The author of the Vita Edwardi Secundi spoke for many when he exclaimed "An astonishing thing, that he who had lately been an exile and outcast from England should now be made ruler and guardian of the realm."  Piers in fact seems to have performed his duties as regent admirably, as he did his duties as lord lieutenant of Ireland in 1308/09, and I believe he was far more competent and intelligent than he is usually given credit for.  He was certainly a very long way from being some foppish, useless parasite.

26 December 1321: Edward and his army left Cirencester for Worcester during his campaign against the Contrariants, who, although their army was apparently four times bigger than his, made no attempt to engage him in battle but fled, burning and devastating the countryside as they went.  A furious Edward said later that they "ravaged the king’s people during their retreat from Gloucester to the north."  Too afraid to confront the king directly, they once more vented their anger and frustration on innocents, as they had been doing for much of the year.

26 December 1322: Edward paid two women a shilling each for singing for him in the garden of the Franciscan friary in York. (I assume it was an unusually mild and dry 26th of December.)

27 December 1314: Edward gave the chancellor and scholars of Oxford University twenty pounds to pray for Piers Gaveston's soul, and a week later finally buried him at Langley Priory, two and a half years after his death.  Since June 1312, Edward had paid two custodians to watch over the body, and they lived very well at his expense; for a mere twenty-eight days in December 1314, he paid them the huge sum of fifteen pounds.

28 December 1319: Edward II spent the festive season at York, having invited the warden and thirty-two scholars of King's Hall, his foundation at Cambridge, to join him.  Twenty-six of them arrived late, on 28 December, and one joined in an assault by the prior of the Dominicans of Pontefract on a William Hardy and was left behind in disgrace when the scholars returned to Cambridge.   

29 December 1312: Edward's Genoese friend and money-lender Antonio di Pessagno lent him £5000 for the "private expenses of his chamber."

29 December 1317: Pope John XXII excommunicated "all those who invade the realm of England or disturb its peace," which basically meant Robert Bruce.

09 December, 2012

A Guest Post By Author David Pilling

Today I'm very pleased to welcome talented historical fiction writer David Pilling to my blog with a guest post!

(Just before he begins, I'd like to apologise to all the people I owe emails to, who have contacted me via the blog with questions and are still waiting for a reply: I haven't forgotten you, I promise, but am just very, very busy at the moment and rarely online.  Will get in touch as soon as I can. :)

Kathryn has very kindly given me a guest spot to talk about my new historical novel, “The Half-Hanged Man”. This is a tale of high adventure and romance set during the Hundred Years War between England and France. Relevant to this blog, it is set during the reign of Edward III, son of Edward II – that’s Edward II, not William Wallace, Roger Mortimer, Robert de Holland, or any other absurd ‘alternative’ candidates. I've wanted to write about the latter half of the 14th century for a long time. Even by medieval standards, this was a savage and bloody era. Edward III’s decision to be a warrior-king in conscious emulation of his grandfather Longshanks, and as a way of uniting England after his father’s troubled reign, resulted in Europe being plunged into a series of dynastic wars.

England was at war with France and Scotland, and Spain and Italy were divided by internal conflicts. The constant fighting and general chaos offered rich pickings to savvy mercenary captains such as Sir John Hawkwood, Bertrand du Guesclin, Hugh Calveley and Robert Knolles, all of whom succeeded in making a fat profit while Christendom burned. The Half-Hanged Man is the story of one such captain, though a fictional one. Like many of his peers, Thomas Page is a commoner, destined to rise to brief greatness by virtue of wielding a nifty sword. The book also follows the story of the Spanish courtesan known as the Raven of Toledo, and of Hugh Calveley, a particularly ruthless soldier and black-armoured giant with flaming red hair and incisors he had specially sharpened to terrify the French! Thrown into the mix are any number of battles and sieges, including the Battle of Auray in 1364, where the Franco-Bretons and Anglo-Breton armies hammered the life out of each other for possession of the Duchy of Brittany. Below is an excerpt of Hugh Calveley’s memories of the epic Battle of Najéra…

Excerpt: “I led my portion of the rearguard across the open ground to the right of the prince’s battalion, and surged into the first company of Castilian reinforcements as they tried to arrange into a defensive line. They were well-equipped foot with steel helms and leather jacks, glaives and axes, but demoralised and unwilling to stand against a charge of heavy horse. I skewered a serjeant in the front rank with my lance and rode over him as the men behind him scattered, yelling in fear and hurling their banners away as they ran. If all the Castilians had behaved in such a manner, we would have had an easy time of it, but now Enrique flung his household knights into the fray. It had started to rain heavily, sheets of water blown by strong winds across the battlefield, and a phalanx of Castilian lancers on destriers came plunging out of the murk, smashing into the front rank of my division. A lance shattered against my cuisse, almost knocking me from the saddle, but I kept my seat and slashed at the knight with my broadsword as he hurtled past, chopping an iron leaf from the chaplet encircling his basinet, but doing no other damage.

My men held together under the Castilian charge, and soon there was a fine swirling mêlée in progress. I was surrounded by visored helms and glittering blades, men yelling and horses screaming, and glimpsed my standard bearer ahead of me, shouting and fending off two Castilians with the butt of his lance. Another Englishman rode in to help him, throwing his arms around one of the Castilians and heaving him out of the saddle with sheer brute strength, and then a fresh wave of steel and horseflesh, thrown up by the violent, shifting eddies of battle, closed over them and shut off my view. I couldn’t bear to lose my banner again, and charged into the mass of fighting men, clearing a path with the sword’s edge. A mace or similar hammered against my back-plate, sending bolts of agony shooting up my spine, and my foot slipped out of the stirrup as I leaned drunkenly in the saddle, black spots reeling before my eyes.”

Intrigued? See the links to the Kindle and paperback below:


And links to my blog and joint website:

Many thanks to David for giving us this glimpse of his new novel, and I'd like to wish him all the best and much success in his future writing career!

03 December, 2012

Happy Anniversary To Me And Edward!

Today marks the seventh anniversary of the Edward II blog!  Yes, I started it on 3 December 2005, wow.  Seven years, 445 posts (at least three or four a month every month since December 2005) and almost half a million page views later, I'm still here and still have lots and lots and lots on the subject of Edward II that I want to say, and am really looking forward to the next seven years of the blog, and the seven after that.  :-)

Thank you so much for reading and for your support over the years!