Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Piers Gaveston could be tactful - yes, really!

Being tactful is not something Piers Gaveston  is usually associated it.  After all, calling Guy, the Earl of Warwick 'the black hound of Arden' is hardly showing restraint, is it?    But it seems in his younger days, Piers did know how to be tactful.   Take for example this wonderful story from about 1302.  It appears in a book of chronicles about Peterborough, edited by J Sparks.   According to this book, Prince Edward, as he was then, was accompanying his father, Edward 1st and his Queen, on a visit to Peterborough.  Of course, Prince Edward brought along members of his own household, which included his dear friend, Piers Gaveston.  What emerges from this story is that already the relationship between the two was already rather, erm, intense. 

Prince Edward, on visiting the abbey at Peterborough, was presented with a fine gift - a cup, said to be of the value of £50.  Very generous of the Abbey.  Surely a gift to please the prince.  Yet what's extraordinary about this story is that Edward refused to accept the gift - unless a cup of the comparable value was presented to his dear friend Piers Gaveston.  Which is a bit cheeky, eh?  Edward might be king-in-waiting, but turning up at Peterborough Abbey and refusing a gift unless his 'dear friend' got one, is, erm, ungrateful, tactless, embarrassing?  Luckily for Edward, those much admired Gascon manners kicked in, and Piers negotiated with the Abbot's messenger.  He thanked the abbot for the gift of the cup sent to him  - worth £40 - with many thanks, and on hearing that Edward had refused his cup, Piers told the messenger to inform Edward that he, Piers, would like him to accept the abbot's gift.  Which of course, as a request from his beloved Piers, he did. 

What Edward 1st made of this story is unknown - but it surely reached his ears and gave him cause for concern about the influence of Piers' over the prince.  And it shows that already Edward was determined Piers should be shown respect and favour as his 'beloved friend/brother/lover' (select appropriate word here - I know which one I'm going for). 

I first came across this story from this marvellous blog, where you can read the translation of the chronicle.  Piers Gaveston's Cups.    Trying to research this story has been very difficult.   I came across 2 books from the early 1900s on-line - one of which is called 'A History of the County of Northampton' which actually says the gift was not a cup, but a beautiful embroidered robe/cloak.  I assume that recent translations have corrected robe/cloak for cup.  I mean, if it had been a cloak, Piers undoubtedly would have wanted one:)

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Guest Post by Kathryn Warner

Today I'm delighted to welcome a guest post by Kathryn Warner.  Kathryn's book, 'Edward II, the Unconventional King' has just been published by Amberley Publishing. Kathryn is currently doing a number of guest posts on various blogs.  In this guest post, Kathryn writes about Edward II's relationship with - who else? - Piers Gaveston.

Edward II and Piers Gaveston

Piers Gaveston is one of the most notorious 'favourites' in English history.  He was the beloved of King Edward II, who reigned from 1307 to 1327, and is still well-known today thanks to many productions of Christopher Marlowe's play about Edward and the Oxford University society which bears his name.

Piers came from Béarn, an area of Gascony in south-western France then ruled by the English crown.  His family took its name from the village of Gabaston close to the town of Pau and the Pyrenees.  Piers was the second child and second son of Sir Arnaud de Gabaston and Claramonde de Marsan, and, far from being the lowborn nobody he's often been made out to be in the last 700 years, was the grandson of two of the leading barons of Béarn.  He was probably named after his uncle Piers or Pierre Caillau, mayor of Bordeaux, who married Miramonde de Marsan, sister of Piers' mother Claramonde.  Piers' date of birth is unknown: his parents married sometime before 30 June 1272, and his younger sister Amie, the fifth child of his parents, was born in 1285.  Edward II was born on 25 April 1284 and Piers was described as his 'contemporary', so was perhaps born in the late 1270s or early 1280s.  He first appears on record in November 1297, when he and his father had moved to England and Piers had become a squire of Edward I's household.  At an unknown date perhaps in 1300, Edward I placed Piers in the household of his sixteen-year-old son and heir Edward of Caernarfon, the future Edward II.  It was a fateful decision.

One chronicler says that when Edward of Caernarfon first saw Piers, "he fell so much in love that he entered upon an enduring compact with him, and determined to knit an indissoluble bond of affection with him, above all other mortals."  A clerk of Edward's court who wrote a biography of him remarked "I do not remember to have heard that one man so loved another. Jonathan cherished David, Achilles loved Patroclus. But we do not read that they were immoderate. Our king, however, was incapable of moderate favour."  That Edward II adored Piers Gaveston is absolutely beyond doubt.  He made him earl of Cornwall in 1307, arranged his marriage to his (Edward's) thirteen-year-old niece Margaret de Clare a few months later, and demonstrated time and again that he was unable to live without Piers: Edward's father and his barons exiled Piers from England no fewer than three times, and Edward brought him back every time.  The king's obsession with and excessive favour towards Piers brought England to the brink of civil war in 1308, and most of Edward's magnates united against him and his beloved friend (or lover).  Edward's popularity plummeted, but he seemed to care nothing for this or for the opposition to himself and Piers.  In 1308/09, he worked tirelessly to bring Piers back to England from his second exile, using a policy of 'divide and conquer' among his barons and even manipulating Pope Clement V to his side, and this paid off when Piers returned in 1309, having done a pretty impressive job as lord lieutenant of Ireland in the meantime.

Unfortunately Piers and Edward had little political sense and soon proved they had learnt nothing from Piers' year-long enforced exile.  Piers gave the English magnates insulting nicknames and behaved towards them with a "superciliousness which would be unbearable enough in a king's son," and aggravated beyond endurance, Edward's magnates exiled Piers for a third time in late 1311.  Unable to live without him, Edward II defiantly recalled him within two and a half months and restored him yet again to the earldom of Cornwall in January 1312.  King and earl fled to the north of England, out of the way of the enraged magnates, but Piers was captured in June 1312 by the earl of Warwick, whom he had taunted as 'the black dog of Arden'.  The earls of Lancaster, Hereford and Arundel arrived at Warwick Castle and condemned Piers to death, and he was run through with a sword and beheaded at Blacklow Hill near Warwick on 19 June 1312.  Edward II's reaction to Piers' murder was utter rage, and that he grieved for him deeply and sincerely is obvious.  For the rest of his reign, until 1326, Edward remembered Piers often in prayers and took care of his mortal remains, which he buried at Langley Priory in Hertfordshire, his own foundation.  Piers left a daughter, Joan, Edward II's great-niece, who sadly died when she was thirteen, and an illegitimate daughter, Amie.

Kathryn Warner’s new book, ‘Edward II: The Unconventional King’, is available to buy now at the Amberley website: www.amberleybooks.com.

Visit Kathryn’s blog here: http://edwardthesecond.blogspot.co.uk/

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Look what's arrived in the post........

Shocked and delighted to receive in the post this morning Kathryn Warner's  long-awaited biography of Edward II!     Not quite sure why it's arrived so early, but what a wonderful surprise!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Elizabeth 1st's locket ring at the National Portrait Gallery

In London at the weekend, and with an hour to fill, I visited the National Portrait Gallery, with my favourite gallery being the Tudors.  I never tire of seeing those portraits close up, and occasionally new ones are borrowed to show.  I was thrilled to find a new exhibition called 'The Real Tudors - rediscovering the Kings  and Queens'.   Ok so most of the portraits are permanent - but one exhibit was Elizabeth 1st's locket ring.   Elizabeth Ist had a ring made with 2 small portraits inside - one of her profile, and the other of a lady wearing a French hood and seemingly her mother Anne Boleyn.  It's enchanting!  What a wonderful memorial to her mother.   The ring is kept at a house called Chequers, the 'country' home of serving British Prime Ministers.  I've never had the chance to see it before. And to think I only saw it because I had an hour to fill - what luck!  Other gems included a page from the diary of the 9 year old son of Henry VIII, Edward VI,  and a rosary that had belonged to Henry VIII with his initials and those of Katherine of Aragon.  The exhibition runs until March 2015.  

Sunday, 7 September 2014

What the Chroniclers said.......part 2

A continuation of my previous post. 

   11.  Of course, it wasn’t all Piers fault he was like a second king – Edward was equally blamed. The St Paul’s Annalist tells us – ‘if any of the earls or magnates sought the king’s special grace with regard to any business, the king sent him to Piers’.   What else are favourites for?:)

12.  The Lanercost puts it a bit more bluntly.  "There was not anyone who had a good word to say about the king or Piers."  Except each other, maybe?

13.  Murimuth points the finger at Piers again!  Edward was ‘ruled by Piers’ counsel, despising the counsel of the other nobles and of those whose counsel especially used by his father’.  

14.    I can imagine this being a headline from a newspaper today – it’s from the Vita Edwardi Secundi  and reflects on Edward’s decision to leave Piers as Regent as he heads to France for his wedding.  ‘ What an astonishing thing, he was lately an exile, an outcast from England, has now been made governor and keeper of the land.’  Shocker, eh?:) 

15.  Time from another classic from the Vita.   "The earls and barons he despised, and gave them insulting nicknames".  Most of these were reported much later, after the death of Piers.  The only contemporary nickname concerns Guy of Warwick – the ‘Black dog of Arden’.   

16.   One for speculation here from the Vita.  It concerns a Christmas Edward and Piers spent together, in 1307.   Apparently, they spent the time "making up for former absence by their long wished-for sessions of daily and intimate conversation’.   I do hope Piers didn’t have too long a Christmas present list.  Feel free to use your own imagination here as well! 

17.  Piers loved the Earl of Richmond!  Well, so says John of Canterbury – Piers loved him "beyond measure."  Thankfully for Edward II, he adds Piers called him ‘father’ and Richmond called him ‘son’, and then to complicate it further, Piers addressed him as his ‘dear cousin’. 

18.  Wallingord 1307 saw a triumphant Piers holding a tournament and trouncing the opposition.  The Vita says ‘Sir Piers' side could not raise an earl, but almost all the younger and more athletic knights of the kingdom, whom persuasion or hope of reward could bring together, assisted him.’  The new knights on the block, I presume!

19.  Oh dear – talk about sour grapes!  The Vita says  "So it was in this tournament his party had the upper hand and carried off the spoils, although the other side remained in possession of the field.  For it is a recognised rule of this game that he who loses most and is most frequently unhorsed, is adjudged the most valiant and the stronger."    How can losing be ‘most valiant’?   

20.   Edward loves Piers – as his dear brother! ‘When the King's son saw him he fell so much in love that he entered upon a compact with him, and chose and determined to knit an indissoluble bond of affection with him, before all other mortals’.  Erm, a case of Piers scornfully rolling his eyes upwards?   A shrug of the graceful shoulders and a ‘whatever’?

Monday, 1 September 2014

What the Chroniclers said…….Part 1

OK, so they may not be the most reliable source, get dates wrong, confuse people and be heavily biased,  but they are one of our primary sources and their content has been used to either damn or praise people and most often, these comments stick.  These are my favourite Piers Gaveston quotes from assorted chronicles.  Read and enjoy!
1.        From the St Paul’s Annalist, describing Piers at the coronation of Edward II.  Piers was dressed in royal purple, and "so decked out that he more resembled the god Mars than an ordinary mortal".  My favourite quote ever!  More than likely Piers’ favourite as well!
2.       A classic from the Vita Edward Secundi - "I do not remember to have heard that one man so loved another. Jonathan cherished David, Achilles loved Patroclus. But we do not read that they were immoderate. Our King, however, was incapable of moderate favour, and on account of Piers was said to forget himself, and so Piers was accounted a sorcerer."   Roughly translated as ‘wow!  They really love each  other, just like others in the past.  Bit over the top most of the time.  The King needs to rein it in a bit!’.  No doubt the sorcerer reference led to stories later on that Piers’ mother had been a witch.
3.       From the Vita again.  Piers "alone found favour in the king's eyes and lorded it over them [the English barons] like a second king, to whom all were subject and none equal. Almost all the land hated him..his name was reviled far and wide...he was an object of mockery to almost everyone in the kingdom."  No-one of course could out-mock Piers, and being like a second king obviously made any insults bearable.  Being adored and raised high by Edward, Piers no doubt thought it was worth it;)
4.       Of course, his arrogance grew – and the Vita gives us this great description.   I can just imagine Piers "scornfully rolling his upraised eyes in pride and in abuse, he looked down upon all with pompous and supercilious countenance…indeed the superciliousness which he affected would have been unbearable enough in a king’s son." 
5.       From the Canterbury Chronicle we learn Piers came from  ‘the region of fine manners he was courteous’.   Gascony must be THE place to get your manners from;)
6.       Another chronicler, Geofffrey Le Baker, writing years later, recalls why Edward Ist had thought Piers was an ideal companion for his son.  Piers was  ‘graceful and agile in body, sharp witted, refined in manners, sufficiently well versed in military matters’  He sounds an ideal role model, doesn’t he?  Note the ‘well versed in military matters’ – yes, he really was an excellent soldier, not a languid fop!
7.       Another reference to Piers as a king – “two kings reigning in one kingdom, the one in name and the other in deed".   How pleasing that Edward had someone willing to help him reign.  And I’m sure he let Piers wear his crown as well, as it probably looked sooo much better on him;)  After all, digging ditches and thatching roofs is quite tricky wearing royal robes and jewels.
8.        An absolute classic from the Trokelowe Chronicler.   The alleged scene when Edward returned from France with his bride and greets Piers after his absence.  Edward was ‘giving him kisses and repeated embraces, he was adored with singular familiarity’.   The line that launched a thousand scenes in ‘historical’ trashy novels, with a helpless Isabella looking on.  Sort of like a medieval ‘From here to Eternity’ scene, with Edward and Piers crashing through the surf for a huge snog!  Yeah, right!   Personally, I’d like Isabella to have said to her maids ‘gosh, Ed’s friend is rather hot, isn’t he? ‘ Of course, what was missed out in these novels is that Trokelowe adds ‘ Which special familiarity, already known to the magnates, furnished fuel to their jealousy’.  So Isabella wasn’t offended at all, just the other nobles who wanted to be embraced firstJ 
9.        Yet again, from the Canterbury Chronicle, ‘He adopted such a proud manner of bearing towards them, that the earls coming before him were forced to kneel in order to bring their reasons before him, ‘  I do hope the Chronicler means Thomas of Lancaster and Guy of WarwickJ 
10.     And talking of Thomas of Lancaster, the Lanercost Chronicler mentions this scene – a meeting between Edward and Lancaster to reconcile, with Piers present.  Lancaster  "would neither kiss him [Piers], nor even salute him, whereat Piers was offended beyond measure."  Oh Piers, you surely don’t want a kiss from Lancaster?  Really?  Actually, it was highly unlikely Piers was there anyway – so hence he didn’t get a kiss from Lancaster.
Sources - Seymour Phillips 'Edward II'  ,   J.S. Hamilton  Piers Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall, 1307-12: Politics and Patronage in the Reign of Edward II      Kathryn Warner  Edward II
Part 2 to follow........

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Brother Perrot?

Whilst researching my posts on the death of Piers Gaveston, I hadn't quite realised how often Piers was referred to as Edward II's 'brother'.   The theory of a brotherhood pact between the two men was explored in depth in Pierre Chaplais' book Edward II's Adoptive Brother, published in 1994.  I looked at his work in one of my very first posts on this blog,  here .  I can't believe that was written 6 years ago.  I've read so much more since.  Here are some examples of Chronicles and other sources in which the idea of a brotherhood between the two men existed.  

According to one chronicle, Edward had used the term even as Prince of Wales. Throughout his reign he continued to use the term - and sometimes, even the word adopted was used.  Here's a quote from early on in the Vita Secundi, when Piers returns from Ireland after exile.  Edward greeted him at Chester and greeted him like a brother, - 

'indeed he had always called him his brother’.  This suggests Edward had been referring to Piers as brother for some time.  Had he been doing this in his father's reign to the extent that his father became concerned and banished Piers for his first exile?  The Vita also refers to Piers as - 

'a great earl whom the king had adopted as brother’,  and then adds that Edward loved him like a son, companion and friend, just to add confusion.  Piers as Edward's son?  seems strange to me, especially as Piers was older than Edward.  It seems to me the author was trying to find a way to explain how much Edward had loved Piers.  The word 'lover' was not used.  The Vita also quotes Edward as complaining that the Ordainers were persecuting his 'dear brother'.

Another chronicle, the Annales Paulini, quotes Edward as 'the king called Piers, because of much love, his brother', and also used the phrase 'adopted brother'.  

Edward himself uses the phrase in his own documentation - for example, in a letter to his treasurer Walter Reynolds, dated July 1308, Edward writes -

‘We are sending you enclosed herein a letter which our dear brother and faithful Peres de Gaveston….’

Chaplais points out that Edward used the same phrase 'our dear brother and faithful' in letters to his half-brothers Thomas and Edmund.   The implication is obviously that Edward thought of Piers as his brother in the same way as his real brothers.   

The Chronicle of the Civil Wars of Edward II also suggests that some sort of brotherhood existed between Piers and Edward.  When Edward first saw Gaveston, the king felt such love for him that he 'tied himself to him against all mortals with an indissoluble bond of love'.  The bond of love being the brotherhood pact, obviously. 

So, from the Chroniclers evidence, are we to conclude that Edward and Piers thought of themselves as brothers, a pact drawn up in their early teens, and based it on some chivalric code?  Or, did they feel such love for each other, that the only way they could express it publicly was to proclaim they had a brotherhood pact?  This to me seems more likely.  After all, the Chroniclers also refer to Piers as an ‘evil male sorcerer’, but that doesn’t mean that’s what he actually was.  It also adds for good measure that this sorcerer was keeping the king from his wife – what brother would come between the king and his wife, unless of course there was more to it.  Chroniclers of the time would not have been able to speculate on whether the nature of the relationship between Edward and Piers was sexual.  Certainly Edward and Piers would have been discreet about this if it were so - and yet we get all those protestation of love that Edward felt.  J.S. Hamilton  in his book ‘ Piers Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall, 1307-12: Politics and Patronage in the Reign of Edward II puts it perfectly for me –  

'The love that the King felt for Piers Gaveston has been described as greater than the love of women. It still seems more likely that it was also stronger than the love of brother'. 


Piers Gaveston: Edward II's Adoptive Brother Hardcover – 19 Sep 1994 Pierre Chaplais

Piers Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall, 1307-12: Politics and Patronage in the Reign of Edward II J. S. Hamilton

Kathryn Warner’s Edward II blog