Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Joan Gaveston - daughter of Piers and Margaret de Clare

January 1312 saw the birth of Piers Gaveston's and Margaret de Clare's only surviving child - a daughter named Joan. Joan was born at a perilous time for her father. He had been banished for the third time by the barons for his 'influence' over Edward II. As his wife was pregnant, it's likely Piers did not go far, and with the birth due in January, he was back in England - re-called once again by Edward II. Margaret was born around the 12th or 13th of January. She was named Joan after the king's sister, Joan of Acre. Edward II collected his niece, Piers' wife Margaret, possibly from Wallingford castle, and took her to York to meet up with her husband. Of course, it seems Edward met up with Piers before Margaret did, which I'm sure Piers didn't object to! Typical of both of them! It may be Piers only ever intended to see his child born and spend time with his wife, before heading off back into exile, with plans for Margaret and his daughter to join him later. This all-changed. On January 18th, Edward II flouted the authority of the barons, and restored the Earldom of Cornwall to Piers. This set in motion a chain of events which would end in the killing of Piers on Blacklow Hill. On the death of her father, Joan was only 5 months old. Fortunately for Joan, Edward II became her guardian. This was due to Piers' lands being granted by the king, so Edward becoming her guardian was expected. It is hard to imagine that Edward would ever have abandoned the child of his beloved Piers anyway. Plus, her mother was his niece, so there was a blood relationship. No doubt Edward would have wanted to protect her and ensure she had a comfortable life and made a good marriage. Joan was sent to live at Amesbury Priory in Wiltshire. The king's sister Mary was a nun there. Joan was placed in the custody of Eleanor de Bohun, another niece of Edward's. Joan was generously provided for. Despite being the daughter of a perceived traitor, Joan was also a member of the king's family and had good marriage prospects. When she was barely 4 years old, Edward had the idea of marrying her to his ward Thomas, Lord Wake. Thomas was about 18 at the time. Such an age gap wasn't unusual for the times, and no doubt Edward was anxious to secure her future. Unfortunately for Thomas, he had married elsewhere without Edward's permission. Naturally, Edward was furious and imposed a heavy fine upon Thomas. Edward continued the search for a husband for Joan, and in 1317, his choice settled on John Multon. John was the son of Thomas Multon, lord of Egremont in Cumberland. John was nearer in age to Joan, being 9 in 1317. It was agreed the couple would marry at a suitable age, and there seems to have been plans for Joan to live with her bridegroom's family. Edward agreed to pay a dowry of £1,000. So anxious was Edward to provide Joan with a suitable marriage, that he extracted from Thomas Multon the promise of £10,000 should he fail to ensure the marriage took place. Joan's future had been secured. There's no doubt Edward expected his niece Margaret to re-marry. She was too young and valuable a widow not to. She would then more than likely bear her new husband children, hopefully a son, and would have little time for Joan. It was vital for Edward to ensure Joan was taken care of. Sadly, all these plans came to nothing. Probably on her birthday, in 1325, Joan Gaveston died of an unknown illness. She would have been just 13 years old. We have no idea what the illness was. Nor do we know how Edward re-acted, though no doubt he mourned Piers' daughter. It was another break from Piers. We don't know how often Edward ever saw Joan. We have no records of her attending court, though she may have attended with her relatives at some point. We obviously don't know what she looked like, but I have to wonder, if she took after her father, and that if he ever did see her, how much she reminded Edward of her father. If only she had survived, married and had children, the direct legitimate descendants of Piers would be around today. I'm sure Piers would have been very proud. Below is the Church of St Mary and St Melor in Amesbury, all that is left of the priory.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Happy New Year - and the 'best books of 2015'

At the start of 2015, I made a vow to read more historical fiction. After all, there's only so many times you can read the same information on the Tudors over and over again - when in fact, there's very little new information on them - maybe some long forgotten facts if you are lucky. And of course, historical biographies on Edward II and his court are few and far between. I was spurred on by Kasia, from the Young King's blog. Here's my top reads of 2015. 1. Colin Iggulden's 'Bloodline', the third part of his trilogy on the Wars of the Roses. I was impressed with the other 2 previous novels, but Bloodline was outstanding! I literally couldn't put it down. The battle of Towton was described in every horrific detail, bringing the battle to life and bringing the horror of medieval warship home to me. I also enjoyed the portrayal of Warwick the Kingmaker, and cannot wait for the next instalment. 2. I finally got around to reading the Sharon Penman trilogy on Eleanor of Acquitaine. I ended up reading them in reverse order - 'The Devil's Brood', 'Time and Chance' and 'When Christ and his Saints slept', and for me, it was the latter that really stood out. I found myself having sympathy for both Stephen and the Empress Maude, particularly her plight at Oxford. I also enjoyed the fictional Welsh characters and the portrayal of Henry Ist's illegitimate son. 3. 'Jasper Tudor' - Debra Bayani. A superb biography on an important character in the Wars of the Roses. 4. 'The Greatest Knight' by Thomas Asbridge. A fascinating account of the life of William Marshal and his relationship with 5 Kings of England. 5. 'King John' by Marc Morris. There were a lot of books out on King John last year, marking the anniversary of Magna Carta. This was a very honest account of John's character and reign. What more can I say? John is one of history's real bad boys. 6. 'Richard III - the king in the car park' by Terry Breveton - really enjoyed this unromantic biography of Richard III, another of history's 'bad boys'. The author uses many of the old Welsh sources, and also attacks the many myths that have grown up around Richard and his 'saintly character'. He also rebuts many of the Ricardian propaganda against Henry V II. Apologies for the way this post is set out - nothing I do will 'unblock the text'.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Merry Christmas!

I'd just like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful, happy New Year!

Friday, 11 December 2015

Commemorating the Battle of Agincourt at the Tower of London

Once again, I found myself visiting the Tower of London recently.  This time, it was to see the current exhibition commemorating the anniversary of the  Battle of Agincourt.  The exhibition is in the White Tower.  The White Tower has been organised differently, and some previous exhibits removed to house the exhibition on the top floor of the White Tower.  Artifacts range from chronicles written from the time, an angel from the tomb of Alice Chaucer, copies of various documents, Charles VI's armour as a child and Richard's Burton's tunic from the 1950's when he played Henry V on stage!  Quite a mixture.  As no longbows survived from the battle, some were borrowed from the Mary Rose exhibition to show what they would have been like, as well as a chest of arrows.  There's also a digital database in which you can research the battle and find out if any of your family took part.  And no, mine didn't take part.

One of the highlights is a superb model of the battle.  It's huge, and you can walk around it and find out the positions of the various combatants at certain times in the battle.  For someone like me, a non-expert in military history, it gave me an excellent understanding of the battle.

Outside the White Tower on the green are 'history characters'.  I got to see Henry V and the Duke of Orleans 'fight'.  First of all, the armour that was worn was thoroughly explained, and then the weapons used were shown and a demonstration on how to use them in 'slow motion', as it were.  Any hand to hand fighting that took place was over very quickly and the pollaxe was used to great effect.

I couldn't take any pictures inside the exhibition, but here are some of the 'history characters'.  The exhibition runs until January.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Murder Mysteries - Edward II

Not a promising start to Yesterday 's Medieval Murder Mysteries on Edward II.    The expert on Edward II?      Paul Doherty!   Defender of Isabella!   Kathryn Warner has cited numerous errors in his writings.  We also have the Berkeley family and various criminal barristers and psychologists, plus medical experts giving their views.   So you just know the red hot poker story will be centre stage.  Sure enough, Richard Felix, a 'historian' believes in the poker story entirely.   He states Edward II is a homosexual, and Isabella and Roger Mortimer were lovers.  He then repeats the poker story word for word.  Edward was murdered this way so as to show no marks on his body.   Yet Felix says his screams could be heard throughout the castle and lasted for 15 minutes.   No marks on the body but Edward's screams heard by all.   Isabella orchestrated it out of a perverse sexual jealousy to humiliate the king.  The programme actually showed a reconstruction and then computer generated skeleton/body with the injuries Edward might have suffered depending on how hot the poker was and the length to which it was inserted - yes, really!   It was gross - and I'm not going into detail here as do we really want to know these facts?  Edward may have died of a seizure, shock or a heart attack. The barristers and criminologists refute this as a ridiculous way to murder Edward.  Quite right!

The Berkeley family claim Edward was smothered in such a way as no marks were shown.   Linda, one of their guides, was the one who showed me around on my last visit, and explains this theory.  She concedes very few people viewed Edward's body and the body was hastily prepared for burial.   She mocks the idea of the survival of Edward living as a hermit in Italy - as if a Plantagenet king would do that!   A broken, weakened, tormented and repentant king may well have done this - especially to protect his son.

Doherty then puts forward the survival of Edward II.  He cites lack of witnesses, the burial not being at Westminster Abbey and Lord Berkeley's statement to parliament that he did not know the king was dead in 1329.   The Fieschi letter is only briefly mentioned.

So, the conclusion?   The red, hot poker story can surely be discounted as it was a complicated and a rather elaborate way to murder someone.   Natural causes seems too convenient, and most of the experts agree that Edward died at Berkeley Castle, probably suffocated, although his escape and survival cannot be discounted.   So basically, they don't know!  

I guess having the poker story demolished is a victory for historians like Kathryn and Ian Mortimer, and those of us who follow their blogs etc.   And the possible survival of Edward seriously considered another victory.  It's just a shame neither was invited to take part, and we had to have endless replays of Edward being tied up and gagged with a twisted look and cry of agony as the poker is inserted.   It was gratuitous and unnecessary.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

UK TV channel Yesterday's Medieval Murder Mysteries

UK TV channel Yesterday has a new TV series called Medieval Murder Mysteries on Monday Evenings.   This week was all about Christopher Marlowe.   Next week is all about Edward II.   Marlowe's was all about conspiracy theories - dare we hope the episode on Edward II may entertain the theory that Edward actually survived?   Or will the focus be on the dreaded red hot poker story?  Or murder of some sort at Berkeley Castle?    I'm daring to look forward to it and will review it next week.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Belated anniversary to Piers Gaveston and Margaret de Clare

I'm almost a week late but November 1st marked the anniversary of the wedding of Piers Gaveston and King Edward's niece, Margaret de Clare.   Margaret would only have been about 13 or 14, and undoubtedly would have expected to make a good match, being the King's niece.   We don't know what Margaret 's feelings were, but marrying the king's favourite and becoming Countess of Cornwall was a good match.  The marriage took place at Berkhamstead Castle.  Edward paid the grand sum of 7 pounds, 10 shillings and six pence in coins for well-wishers to throw over the couple at the church door.  He also gave the newlyweds jewels worth about 30 pounds - I'm sure Piers had first pick:)