Monday, 1 December 2008

Ponthieu for Piers.......

Sorry to have neglected Piers for quite some time. Heavy workload is to blame. In this part of the blog, I shall look at the events leading up to Piers' first exile.

Piers had been in the service of Prince Edward since 1300 and had found favour. Everyone in the Prince’s service must have known how high Piers had risen, and indeed the king himself. It has been previously noted how King Edward 1st had hoped that Piers would be a good role model for the Prince. The king considered Piers to be of good manners and knew of his experience on the battlefield. However, it seems the king became concerned about the rise of Piers in 1305, because he removed Piers and Gilbert de Clare from the Prince’s household. Piers cannot have helped his cause when, in 1306, along with other members of the Prince’s household, he ‘deserted’ the Scottish campaign, ‘abandoning’ the King and Prince. Piers was amongst 22 knights who deserted. Gilbert de Clare and Roger Mortimer were part of the group. Why had they deserted? According to the sheriffs of London’s records, the knights ‘have crossed to foreign parts for a tournament…..without licence, while the king is engaged in the war of Scotland’. (Calendar of Fine Rolls). King Edward was furious, and ordered the lands of the knights were seized, they were to be arrested, and were to be treated as traitors.

Although the actions of Piers and the others seem serious, in reality, the campaign in Scotland had reached stalemate, and the young knights had sought the excitement and lure of money to attend a tournament across the channel. Prince Edward apparently knew that Piers and other members of his household had gone to the tournament. The Prince’s step-mother, Queen Margaret, did her best to pour oil on troubled waters, and in January, 1307, the deserters were pardoned. All except for Piers. Not only was he refused a pardon; he was to be sent into exile. So, why wasn’t Piers pardoned? And sent into exile?

It is likely that King Edward recognised how important Piers had become to his son. He had intended Piers to be a good role model for his son, but perhaps the relationship between Piers and the prince had gone too far. One of the chroniclers of the time, Walter of Guisborough, Piers was banished because the prince had asked his father for Ponthieu for Piers. Ponthieu was part of the Prince’s inheritance. Rather than ask his father himself, Prince Edward sent Treasurer William Langton to ask. Piers and the prince has previously been on bad terms with Langton, and I have to wonder whether he was sincere in his quest. Most likely, he probably realised what the king’s reaction would be. Edward Ist was furious. He sent for his own, and has been quoted as shouting 'You wretched son of a whore! Do you want to give away lands now? You who have never gained any? As God lives, if not for fear of breaking up the Kingdom, I would never let you enjoy your inheritance!' The king must have been in such a terrible temper to utter such words – he obviously would not have insulted his wife in such a way otherwise. He then grabbed the prince by his hair, pulling out a handful, pushed his son to the floor, and kicked him.

Why would Edward ask for such a high favour for Piers? And why did his father re-act in such a way? Would Piers have been aware of his influence over the prince, and seek to exploit it by asking for such a prize as Ponthieu? I doubt it. He knew he had angered the King, who had branded him a traitor, and surely to egg on Prince Edward to ask for Ponthieu was asking for trouble. My guess is Prince Edward’s depth of feeling for Piers, and the urge to assert himself at court, led him to think this was a great idea. He would show Piers how much he cared for him, and as he was the Prince, and Ponthieu was his, he could do what he liked with it. For the King, already concerned about the prince’s close relationship, it was the final straw. Parliament was summoned, and both Edward and Piers were forced to swear on the Host and other relics that they would never see each other again unless they had permission. It must have been humiliating for both young men. The fact that the king made them swear such an oath, is, in my opinion, evidence at how concerned he was regarding the friendship between them. If he thought the prince had developed a ‘crush’ on Piers, he must have become alarmed the crush had developed into something stronger.

The king’s anger seems to have been directed more at the Prince than Piers. Piers was exiled to Gascony, given a pension, plus was given time to leave England. The prince lavished gifts of tapestries, clothes and money upon Piers for his exile. Undoubtedly, both men must have been upset, even distraught, at being forced apart. Knowing the king’s health as deterioating, I wonder if, when they parted, they were already making plans for Piers return. Or did Piers think, once out of sight, he would be out of mind? Maybe Prince Edward even had such thoughts. And King Edward was certainly hoping so.

5 comments:

Alianore said...

Great post, Anerje. You're absolutely right to point out that Ponthieu was Ed's own inheritance, so why shouldn't he give it to Piers, if he wanted to? OK, you could quibble over Ed giving away his mother's county, but I've seen so many secondary sources that seem to think Ponthieu belonged to Ed I and that therefore Ed (II) had no right to offer it to Piers.

Anerje said...

Thanks Alianore. Wish I knew whose idea it was - did Ed think it up, or did Piers ask?

Alianore said...

I dare say it was Ed's idea - sounds like the kind of craziness only he could dream up. ;) Giving away a large part of his inheritance was pretty bonkers, but at least it *was* his inheritance, which many writers have missed.

Lady D. said...

Great analysis of the whole ponthieu/exile episode!

Anerje said...

Thanks!