Thursday, 3 September 2020

Edward II's loyalty to Piers Gaveston


Whatever the relationship between Edward II and Piers– whether they were part of a brotherhood or, more likely lovers, - Edward’s devotion and loyalty after the death of Piers is surely one of the most positive things anyone could say about Edward II.  My last post dealt with the elaborate funeral of Piers – for which Edward II waited almost 3 years to carry out.   After the funeral – either 2nd or 3rd of January 1315, Edward remained at Langley until January 18th.  He more than likely took the time to come to terms that finally he had buried Piers, whilst still seeking to avenge his murder.  In years to come, Edward would continue to send money to pay for prayers to be said for Piers and sent gifts such as fine cloths to the Priory.

Edward did not forget the servants of Piers.  Many had previously been in his own service, but now he received many of them back into his service or provided for them.  No doubt the rebellious nobles quietly seethed at Edward’s continued love and loyalty to the memory of Piers.


Piers widow, Edward’s nice, Margaret de Clare, was also taken care of.  Of course, she was part of Edward’s family anyway, that was part of the reason Edward had married her to Piers – to bring him into his family.  She was endowed with castles, manors and grants.  He would later arrange another marriage for her – to his favourite Hugh Audley, in 1317.  Edward also arranged for the daughters of Piers to be taken care of.  Piers had 2 daughters – his daughter with Margaret, Joan, and an illegitimate daughter, Amie Gaveston.  Joan was only a few months old when her father died.  Edward sent her to be raised at a convent at Amesbury.  Here she received an allowance and was educated in comfortable surroundings.  He also planned a grand marriage for her – first to Thomas Wake, who went on to marry someone else against the King’s wishes, and then to John, the heir of the Earl of Egremont, Thomas de Multon.  The marriage would take place when Joan was of a suitable age.  Sadly, the marriage never took place, as Joan died of an unknown illness in 1325. 


Piers illegitimate daughter, Amie, fared better.  Her mother is unknown, but Amie secured a position at court, serving both Queen Isabella and Edward II’s daughter-in-law Philippa.  A marriage to John de Driby was arranged for her.


I often wonder what Edward II thought when he saw Piers daughters.  Did they resemble their father?  He must have seen Amie around the court, a constant reminder of his loss.  It is a credit to Edward that he cared for the family and servants of his beloved Piers Gaveston.

Sources - J S Hamilton 'Piers Gaveston, Politics and Patronage in the reign of Edward II'.

Friday, 14 August 2020

Burial of Piers Gaveston


I can't believe I've never written about the burial of Piers Gaveston before.  Having written about his 'execution' and his body left by the roadside, I've never written about what happened next.......because it's not a simple case of Edward II receiving the body and providing a fine tomb for Piers at Kings Langley, where they had spent many happy times.   This is indeed what happened, but not until January 1315, 3 years after his death, that Piers was laid to rest.  So why did Edward wait so long?   Piers had been excommunicated by the Pope in January 1312, and as such could not be buried in consecrated ground.  Edward was determined to get this reversed.  Also, maybe Edward wanted to bring the murderers of Piers to justice so that he could avenge Piers and he could rest in peace.  This is mentioned in the chronicle Vita Edwardi 

Piers body was left outside Warwick Castle, allegedly left by some shoemakers who discovered it where it had been abandoned.  The Annales Londonienses says the shoemakers re-attached the head and brought it to Warwick Castle.  Guy of Warwick, who had ambushed and kidnapped Piers, recoiled in horror and would not accept the body.  Indeed, he did not want it on his land.  Was this a sign of his guilt, or the fear of what Edward II would do?  The body was then taken by the Dominican Friars, an order favoured by Edward II, and taken to Oxford, There the body was guarded by Thomas de London and Philip de Eyndon before being moved to Langley.  Edward had Piers wrapped in cloth of gold and was preserved by spices.   He also arranged to have prayers said for the soul of Piers, whilst he sought the sentence of excommunication to be revoked.  This was done by Walter Reynolds, the Archbishop of Canterbury.  By this time, Edward had achieved some sort of peace with the murderers of Piers.  But it was all for show, as subsequent events would prove.  

Unsurprisingly, the funeral of Piers was lavish.  Edward paid £300 of 3 clothes of gold to bury Piers in, and also arranged to have 23 tuns of wine and food to be provided.  The Earls of Pembroke and Hereford were invited to attend, as well as the bishops of London, Bath and Wells, Worcester and Winchester.  Edward's Queen, Isabella, also attended.  Notable absentees were Guy of Warwick and Thomas of Lancaster.  After 2 and a half years, Piers was finally laid to rest.   Edward built Piers a fine tomb, which sadly no longer exists.  He continued to pay for prayers to be said for the soul of Piers and for the upkeep of his tomb.  But if Warwick and Lancaster thought this was the end of the matter, they were very much mistaken.


Sources - J S Hamilton 'Piers Gaveston, Politics and Patronage in the reign of Edward II'.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

The Maligned.......

Quite a few years ago, there appeared a support group on various history blogs.  The support group was for those much maligned in historical novels.   At the time, Edward II and Piers Gaveston had been amongst the most vilified.  Edward was always weak and enthralled by Piers Gaveston.  Ok, the latter part might be true, but Edward was far from physically weak and was seen as well built and handsome by his contemporaries.   And it seemed incredulous that he would spurn his beautiful, French wife for Piers.  Even though she was only 12!   That bit was always left out.  Piers was always foppish and vile to Isabella.  His wife, Margaret de Clare, often faced 'the ordeal' of having to marry Piers.  His success in tournaments, and the fact one chronicler described him as looking like the God Mars, was always forgotten, as was the fact that there is no evidence Margaret was unhappy in her marriage, followed him into exile in Ireland and Piers returned home for the birth of their child Joan.  Thankfully, there has been a change in this attitude - recent works like 'The Spell Binders' by Aleardo Zanghellini have been a welcome, refreshing change.  The work of historian Kathryn Warner and her Edward II blog have also changed attitudes to Edward.  However,  it seems that whilst Edward and Piers are undergoing a change of attitude, there's a new set of historical figures under siege.  

Kathryn's recent post deals with an irritating, and IMO, frankly insulting accusations against the latest crop of maligned figures - you can read it - here

Of particular interest to me is the continued attacks on Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII and George Duke of Clarence, brother of Edward IV and Richard III.  To be fair, Clarence doesn't have a great reputation anyway.  I was delighted to read Thomas Penn's 'The Brothers York'  and Michael Hicks recent book on Richard III, both of which have a far more sympathetic attitude to George - and try to understand why he behaved the way he did.  Looking at the original sources, the one area where Clarence gets praise is in his marriage to the Earl of Warwick's daughter Isabel.   Yet it's this relationship that comes under attack with George portrayed as an unsympathetic and indifferent husband.  This is usually to contrast with so-called 'childhood sweethearts' Anne Neville and Richard III.

My number one concern though is the character of Margaret Beaufort being under constant attack.  Most absurd is that she was consumed by making her son king from almost as soon as he was born and being responsible for the murder of the so-called Princes in the Tower. This does make a change from being 'the mother-in-law from hell' as she has been previously labelled.   Of course these recent accusations have taken root due to a certain novelist, but unfortunately, is now being taken as fact as I've seen online and had people tell me it's all true - even when I visited Margaret's refuge when she was pregnant at 13, Pembroke Castle, where she gave birth to Henry VII. Henry Tudor was a total outsider with his claim to the throne.  Probably most lower class people had never heard of him until he met Richard III at Bosworth.  How on earth could Margaret plot her son's accession to the throne when there were so many other candidates?  Henry VI had a son, Edward of Westminster, and the Yorks were blessed with an array of candidates - Edward IV, his 2 sons, George and his son, Richard and his son, plus their sisters offspring.  Can anyone seriously think Margaret would have tremendous hindsight and plot to bring her son to the throne?   Edward IV was confident his brother Richard would make an excellent Protector for his son, and clearly had no doubts about their legitimacy being questioned - after all, no one had questioned it whilst he was alive, even when his secret marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was announced.  The question only arose when it became convenient for Richard III to do do so.  

The question of the sons of Edward IV's legitimacy seems to be the main reason for exonerating Richard of ordering their deaths.  So therefore, it must be somebody else - and that it should be Margaret is frankly a joke.  Yes, Margaret did plot with Elizabeth Woodville to marry her son to make him an alternative king to Richard III.  But I sincerely believe that's how far her involvement went.   By then, Elizabeth and Margaret must have accepted the Princes were dead.  There had been an attempt to free the boys shortly after Richard took the throne - so there were people who questioned them being labelled illegitimate, and they were a threat to Richard.  The princes were in the custody of Richard - he was responsible for their care and safety, and they were removed deeper into the Tower and were never seen again.  Would Richard be sloppy enough not to have those boys well guarded, in case another attempt was made to free them?  Or they won the sympathy of certain guards in the Tower?  I don't want to turn this post into yet another discussion on who killed the princes, because historians know that if any of the candidates were put on trial today, there is not enough evidence to convict any of them.  We can only speculate.  I personally do think Richard had them murdered - they were in his custody and they were a threat to them, and when he faced any challenges to his throne, he only had to produce the boys to show they were still alive.  That doesn't mean that I think of him as the monster that Shakespeare created.  Henry Tudor was jittery in his treatment of pretenders - if his mother knew anything about the princes, she would surely have told him and he would have nothing to worry about.

Margaret was known to be pious, and yet even this has been used to attack her, making her into some kind of religious maniac.  No doubt, Margaret's faith sustained her through a troubles early life.  Pregnant at 13, and a widow, she was vulnerable.  After giving birth, when some wondered if she'd survive the ordeal, she set about ensuring her safety and her son's.  She arranged another marriage, and trusted her son with Jasper Tudor.  She spent perilous years at the courts of Edward IV and Richard III.  Her main concern was to ensure she married for protection and for her son to have his rightful title - Earl of Richmond.  Not surprisingly, she never had any more children and took a vow of chastity whilst still married to her last husband.  

Margaret was a pious, clever woman, promoting her faith, being a devoted mother to her son and I also think she was an incredibly strong woman living in perilous times.  Yet her contemporaries did not attack her in the same way they did Margaret of Anjou and Elizabeth Woodville, which is typical of the attacks  on women at that time.  It's sad to think that because of a creative novelist, she suffers many attacks on her character.

I'll end this post in a light-hearted way.   If you check out the Royal History Geeks Facebook page, you will see some very amusing tongue-in-cheek jokes about Margaret's reputation.  It's well worth a look and a laugh.  Here's a taster - 

Reconstruction of Margaret Beaufort in the chamber where Henry VII was said to have been born.

 Pembroke Castle, Margaret's home when she was pregnant with her son Henry.

Friday, 19 June 2020

June 19th - Death of Piers Gaveston.

June 19th, 1312, marks the anniversary of the death of Piers Gaveston.  Having surrendered to Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke on May 19th, Piers must have hoped his luck would hold.  Surrendering at Scarborough Castle, Pembroke had sworn an oath to protect Piers while a solution was sort yet again to sever the relationship between Edward II and Piers.  If no solution could be reached, Pembroke promised that Piers could return to Scarborough and prepare for a long siege.  Piers must have though he was on a win, win situation.  Unfortunately for Piers, there were others that set out to prevent that from happening.

Arriving at Deddington Priory in Oxford, Pembroke decided to visit his wife at nearby Bampton.  He left Piers at the Priory with a small guard, content that Piers would not try to escape.  But it wasn't Piers or Pembroke who would break their oath.  Guy de Beauchmp, Earl of Warwick, detested Piers.  The fact that Piers had surrendered on very favourable terms must have been galling for Warwick.  It seemed that Piers would yet again wriggle off the hook.  

Warwick's hatred of Piers was seemingly driven by jealousy over the favour he enjoyed with Edward II.  This could have been based on his opinion that Piers had no right as he considered him low born and he was from Gascony.  No doubt, Piers lack of respect for Warwick infuriated him.   It was said that Piers had given him the nickname of the Black Hound of Arden.  We're not sure why, but possibly when Warwick was in a temper he seemed to foam at the mouth like a mad dog.  I can imagine Edward and Piers laughing at Warwick in a temper, with Piers likening him to a mad dog.  The fact that the Vita Edwardi Secondi mentions this nickname when Warwick came for Piers at Deddington shows Warwick's hurt pride.

Piers must have been sick to his stomach.  He must have known then his fate was sealed.  Warwick did his best to humiliate Piers as he took him to Warwick Castle.  He removed his belt so he was no longer a knight, and was dragged on foot, as the Vita says like a thief and traitor.  Once out of Deddington, Warwick knew the pace would be too slow, and had Piers tied to a nag to ensure they arrived at Warwick before the King could intercept.  Warwick must have taken a sadistic delight in his treatment of Piers, putting him in chains and then in the dungeon in Warwick.  A mockery of a trial was held, in which Piers was not allowed to speak, and not surprisingly, Piers was found guilty and sentenced to death.

For all Warwick's bravado, he would have nothing to do with Piers execution, leaving that to the King's cousin, Thomas of Lancaster.  He didn't even escort Piers to his place of 'execution'.   This was to be done not on Warwick's land, but Lancaster's - Blacklow Hill.  I can only be scornful of Warwick, hiding in his castle, thinking he would escape any blame, when it was his ambush that had proved to be Piers' death sentence.   Even Lancaster balked at taking a ringside seat, commanding 2 of his henchmen to take Piers and carry out the sentence.  I'm sure Piers drew some satisfaction at the cowardice of both Warwick and Lancaster.

Rest in peace, Piers.

Above, the inside the dungeon at Warwick castle. 
The track that leads to Blacklow Hill.

The listed monument for Piers, overgrown, but still standing.

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

May 19th Anniversaries

May 19th marks 2 important anniversaries for my two favourites from history.    Firstly, May 19th marks the anniversary of the execution of Anne Boleyn, 2nd wife and Queen of England for Henry 8th.  Along with the usurpation of Richard III, this is one of the most stunning coup d'etat of all time.  Anne was arrested on May 1st, and should have been executed on May18th, but the swordsman from Calais  was late!  Goodness knows how Anne must have been feeling.  Undoubtedly innocent, I wonder if Anne truly expected to be executed or did she think it was a 'test' Henry set for her?  I've also wondered why her fall was so quick, and I've thought it may be because Jane Seymour was pregnant, or thought she was.  I've been lucky enough to be at the Tower of London on the anniversary of Anne's execution, and it's been wonderful to meet other admirers of Anne, clutching flowers.  That won't be possible this year, but I expect the usual basket of roses will arrive, as it has done for many, many years.  So here are some photos of a past visit, and also my Anne Boleyn rose, which is blooming already.  

May 19th is also the anniversary of the surrender of Piers Gaveston at Scarborough Castle.  Unlike Anne, Piers must have felt confident surrendering to Amyer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, on such favourable terms, including the oath the Earl swore to protect Piers.   Badly prepared for a long term siege, Edward II and Piers made a pact that Piers would surrender to the Earl and if no agreement could be reached, Piers would return to Scarborough and be well prepared for a siege.  Piers could have had no idea what was to happen to him, but he was surely relieved to be in de Valence's custody, and no doubt, Edward would be able to secure his freedom and protect him, as he had done before.

The Keep at Scarborough Castle.

Thursday, 9 April 2020

A song on the demise of Piers Gaveston

Like most of the world at the moment, I have had a lot of time to read.   Whilst re-reading 'Piers Gaveston, Politics and Patronage in the Reign of Edward II' by J. S. Hamilton, I came upon this song.   It supposedly reflects what the sympathy the 'common man' felt for the Earls and their actions, and the contempt felt for Piers.     Here is the verse -

Celebrate, my tongue, the death of Piers who disturbed England.
Whom the king in his love placed over all Cornwall
Hence in his pride he would be called earl and not Piers.
The people of the kingdom were saddened by the defrauding of the treasure.
When Piers would become wastefully insolent with the treasury,
Not bearing in mind what the future day might produce for him.
This is the work of our salvation that Piers is dead.
He who was unwilling to have an equal, clothed in the extreme pride.
He who had placed himself as a head above his equal loses his own head.
Justly his body is pierced whose heart was so puffed up;
Land, sea, stars and world rejoice in his fall.
Now he no longer behaves himself as an earl, or a king;
The unworthy man, worthy of death, undergoes the death he merits.
Glory be to the Creator
!  Glory to the earls
Who have made Piers die with his charms!
Henceforth may there be peace and rejoicing throughout England!

We are used to reading the views of chroniclers of the time, whatever their bias.  This song, however, captures all the supposed faults of Piers.  What stands out for me is the pride of Piers, with his insistence on being called Earl Of Cornwall and seeing himself above even those who he is not equal to.  His love of fine living matches his pride, with him 'clothed in extreme pride'.  The accusation that he stole the treasure of the King is also mentioned, and the idea that he was 'wastefully insolent with the treasury' suggests to me that he himself wore these jewels.  There is a mention of the Edward II, in that he loved him enough to make him Earl Of Cornwall, but everything else is directed at his his pride, and what is evident to me from that is that the barons main bone of contention was that Piers had risen too far above his station.  There's no mention of Piers being ambitious, manipulating the king, or those insulting nicknames for the barons.  There is no criticism of Edward II as such.  If this was a popular song of the time, then it has been clearly influenced  by the barons, and it is their views that are expressed.  Their focus is that Piers is an upstart, with no right to be raised up to be Earl of Cornwall, and that they loathed the pride he felt in this and no doubt exhibited.  Throw in an inaccurate fact that he took England's treasure for himself, and the barons felt they were perfectly justified in their actions, bringing 'peace and rejoicing' to the realm.  Unfortunately for them, it had the reverse effect, because Edward II was a man hellbent on revenge.  No doubt the barons encouraged their retainers and followers to sing this song, but just as the chroniclers reflect their personal views, so this song reflects what the barons wanted believed at the time by the common people.

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Hatfield House

Found these photos of Hatfield House which I took a few years ago and completely forgot about them.  Hatfield House is usually remembered as the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth 1st.  Very little remains of the original Hatfield House.  The older part of the palace was built by Cardinal John Morton, Bishop of Ely in 1497.   Morton is a fascinating character in history, a supporter of Lancaster in the Wars of the Roses but served under the Yorkist King Edward  IV, before conspiring with Henry VII's mother, Margaret Beaufort to topple Richard III.  He served Henry VII well, and was the architect of Henry's financial policy,  'Morton's Fork'.  Put simply, those who spent money, must have a lot of money in reserve, and those who didn't, obviously saved it!  This was to be made available to the King, through forced loans and benevolences.  

Elizabeth 1st spend a great deal of her childhood at Hatfield, and was also there when she heard the news her sister Mary was dead and she was now Queen.  Hatfield eventually passed into the hands of the Cecil family, and it was Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, who rebuilt it.  Hatfield is often used for filming locations, and films include Shakespeare in Love, Sleepy Hollow, Elizabeth, the Golden Age and The Favourite, amongst others.  It's also popular in television shows.  It's very easy to spot!

                                            The old, Tudor parts of Hatfield House.

Functions such as weddings are held here.  Just imagine marrying in Elizabeth 1st's former home!
Inside the Jacobean part of Hatfield House.

The outside of the Jacobean building.  Instantly recognisable in films and tv shows.

Hatfield House is well worth a visit, particularly as it is home to the stunning Rainbow portrait of Elizabeth 1st.