Sunday, 20 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

As is traditional this time of year, there are a range of novelty books with a history focus available. I've been treated to 'Robin the Hoodie - An ASBO history of Britain'. There's a section on Edward II, which raised a smile from me. It's called 'Edward II: A Royal Eye for the Straight Knight'.

Edward is described thus - 'This strange youth didn't seem at all warlike like his father, and as for booze, it as rumoured the only thing he would touch was gin. His favourite companion was a flamboyant young knight named Pirs Gaveston; togeher, the pair would spend their time giggling, whispering and criticizing the facial hair of the king's favourte knights.' Ed and Piers would also skip jousting lessons 'to hang around in the woods reading French poetry'.

Of course, Edward Ist fails to change his son's ways, and when crowned king, Ed decids to change things at court - the barons are summoned to the Tower, which has had a makeover. The Earl of Arundel is seized by Piers and some other knights, dragged through the streets of London to a merchant's house, where he is tied to a chair, and a blade held close to his throat - and is then shaved! Edward has orered a 'Style Emergency!' Arundel has his eyebrows plucked, his hair cut and given a bath, with new clothes and some chic Italian boots:) The other barons are astonished when Arundel appears in front of them after his makeover, with a spring in his step.

'"well?" said Edward.

"Well...' replied the earl slowly, "Mrs Arundel was impressed."

"How impressed?" said Edward.

"Like four times impressed", the earl roared.'

The chamber then descends into uproar. The barons love Ed's makeovers, and sign up for them. Their castles and themselves are madeover, and 'Edward II was celebrated far and wide as the leding light of a new golden age. It could have lasted forever were it not for a revolutionary new beauty treatment which arrived from France in 1327. Witht he benefit of hindsight, red-hot poker colonic irrigation was obviously a step too far.'

Other stories to receive the treatment are 'The peasants Revolt and the Birth of Social Networking', 'Henry VIII, Lover, Stoner, Entrepreneur' and 'Walter Raleigh, social climber'.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Inspired by the slogan generator featured on Alianore's site

I just couldn't resist -

1. Piers Gaveston Really satisfies – guaranteed by Ed?

2. Thank Piers Gaveston it’s Friday – why not every day?

3. Marvin the Mountie always gets his Piers Gaveston – Not if Ed gets him first!

4. Your Piers Gaveston, Right Away – if only!

5. I’m not gonna pay a lot for this Piers Gaveston – oh yes you are, he has expensive tastes!

6. Just for the taste of Piers Gaveston – MMM!

7. Get The Piers Gaveston Habit – a habit Ed couldn’t break!

8. Gotta Lotta Piers Gaveston – just ask the nobility!

9. Better Living Through Piers Gaveston – Ed certainly thought so!

10. It Makes Your Piers Gaveston Smack! – it will if you try to banish him!

11. Piers Gaveston Saves Your Soul! – one of Ed’s arguments against banishment?

12. Piers Gaveston keeps going and going! – so says Ed?

13. Makes You Feel Piers Gaveston Again! – erm, so says Ed!

14. Cleans a big, big Piers Gaveston for less than half a crown! – half a crown? You’ll be lucky!

15. Savour the flavour of Piers Gaveston – recommendation by Ed.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Alianore and Lady Despencer's Brilliant new website

I'm so sorry to be so late mentioing the new website from 2 of my favourite bloggers Alianore and Lady Despencer. It's called 'Everything Edward' and here's the link -

There is so much information on the life and times of Edward II, with links to books, resources etc, all meticulously researched. There's also some fun stuff on there. I particularly like the 'mythbusters' section. The articles on Piers are real gems as well.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Photos of my visit to the Tower of London

Nothing to do with Piers, but last month I went to the Tower of London to see the Henry VIII Exhibition 'Dressed to Kill'. I asked my buddy Alianore for any links with Edward II/Piers, and she sent me some information, telling me to look out for the Langthorn Tower in particular. I made my way towards the Medieval Palace exhibition. For those who haven't been there, the exhibition starts in St Thomas' Tower and is set out as it might have appeared in the reign of Edward Ist. St Thomas' Tower was built over the now infamously named 'Traitors Gate'. It was known as the Watergate in the time of Edward Ist.

Some more pictures - the Medieval Palace Exhibition

Historians have worked together to portray the palace as it might have been in the time of Edward Ist. I was most impressed with the bed - very cosy-looking.

St Thomas' Tower, Traitors Gate and the Langthorn Tower

According to Alianore, Edward II spent time in the Langthorn Tower - maybe even with Piers? Unfortunately, the Langthorn Tower suffered a fire in the 1700s and has been restored. It is often used as the education room in the Tower. It's quite small, and surprised me that the king would occupy such a small tower. He would nothave been able to 'hold court' here - so it was possibly his private chamber.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Review of 'The Gascon' by John Colin Penford

I had a real stroke of luck a couple of weeks ago – and got my hands on a copy of ‘The Gascon’ by John Colin Penford. I’ve just finished reading it and somewhat enjoyed it – even though it’s one of the most fictionalised accounts of the life of Piers I’ve ever read. It strays very far from what we know about Piers’ life and its chronology of events is all over the place, plus there are many fictionalised characters in it.

At the heart of the novel is an ancient blood feud, involving Piers mysterious family. He is descended fro a fictional family called the de Stirlemont, who are pursued by another family, the de Senlos. Piers’ mother manages to flee, is taken in by a peasant couple where she gives birth to Piers and then dies. Realising her identity, they fear for the child and place him in a monastery where is brought up by the monks. Yes, seriously, Piers is a God-fearing boy living in a monastery! Penfold has gone for Piers as being dark-haired and with piercing eyes, who is very pretty and much lusted after by some of the inhabitants of the monastery. He is given a classical education, meets a strange princess called Berengaria and becomes the object of chivalrous love by one of the young squires. Aged 12, Piers suffers a horrendous sexual assault, flees the monastery and meets Aubrey de Grey who is on a mission in France. Piers, having been cloistered in the monastry, is naïve and has been scared off women for life with tales of sin by his tutor Ivor. Aubrey feels compassion for Piers, and takes him to England as his ward. All Piers has with him are some silver coins and a mysterious ring and letter that give clues to his background.

In England, Sir Aubrey arranges for Piers to receive training to be a knight and finds his feeling change towards Piers, and he seduces him. He cannot stand the thought of Piers wanting to win his spurs and does all he can to stop Piers joining him on the battlefield. One day, Piers meets a mysterious youth when he has been swimming in the river – yes, it’s Edward, Prince of Wales (although Piers doesn’t know this), and they are smitten with each other. Even when he finds out who Edward is, he refuses to give him up although he does worry about the king finding out. Naturally, Sir Aubrey is heartbroken.

All this is very different from what we know about Piers’ early life. And Penford continues to deviate from the evidence. There’s no scene with Edward asking his father for Ponthieu, although Piers is banished – for 2 years! On his re-call with Edward as king, he is made Earl of Cornwall and all the nobles – real and fictitious – hate him. Edward is a nervous wreck and can only worry about keeping Piers safe without resorting to violence – something that causes them to argue a lot. There’s no tournament with the nobles at this point. Edward decides to marry Piers to his niece – who happens to be 11 and Piers can hardly agree to it. We never meet Margaret in the novel, Piers never consummates his marriage with her, so they never have their daughter Joan and in fact, her brother Gloucester wants a divorce as the novel moves on.

Piers loathes the idea of Edward getting married – as does Edward himself, feeling there’s no need as he has 2 healthy half-brothers! However, Piers has to suppress his jealousy and ‘allow’ Edward to marry Isabella to try to appease the nobles. Isabella’s portrayal is nightmarish! She is 16, unchaste, and ravishes Edward on their wedding night! Edward has to close his eyes and think of England!

The novel badly loses its way here – with Isabella openly conducting an affair with Thomas of Lancaster! Their first night together is rather funny, and I’ll leave it at that! Isabella joins the nobles to try and depose her husband and set herself up as regent – years before she actually did. Edward suffers countless humiliations at the hands of the rebel lords, argues with Piers who wants to wage war, (and eventually does defeat them in a tournament) and takes to his bed as a gibbering wreck whenever he can’t face ‘the real world’.

If this were a fictitious novel about a fictional period of history, it would be a fair read. It strays so far from what we know, it almost feels like that. The author was from Nottingham, which explains why most of the novel is set there. Maybe it should have been about a 7th century warlord in, erm, Nottingham? The relationship between Piers and Edward is touching in parts – they really do care for each other. Piers is handsome and heroic, but lacks his warrior status to carry out all his threats to wage war on the nobles, and there’s no sign of his wit. By contrast, Edward is not just weak, but very, very weak! To the extent where I wondered what Piers would ever have seen in him. He takes to his bed, is struck literally dumb and has to be dragged out of bed by his loyal friends to act to save Piers. At the conclusion of the novel, Piers cannot take anymore, feeling he and Edward have too much blood on their hands, and with the ancient blood feud rearing it’s head again, takes the decision to sacrifice himself and goes willingly to his death.

An enjoyable read, with a pleasing portrayal of Piers and a very different slant on his story. Read it with a pinch of salt:)

Friday, 21 August 2009

Time for a more light-hearted post. May I present, the A to Z of Piers Gaveston

A – for Amy, alleged illegitimate daughter of Piers and an unknown mistress.

B – for Blacklow Hill, the site of Piers murder.

C – for Cornwall, Piers’ earldom.

D – tempted to out dog, as in Black dog, but will go for Deddington, where Piers was surprised and taken by Guy, Earl of Warick.

E – who else – but Edward II – either Piers’ adopted brother or lover, whichever interpretation you go for.

F – for forks – how else would Piers eat his pears?

G – obviously Gaveston, so how about Gascony, birthplace of Piers.

H – Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, who deliberated Piers’ fate at Warwick.

I - for Ireland, where Piers served as Edward’s lieutenant.

J – Joan, Piers daughter with his wife Margaret de Clare. Or possibly one of Piers’ greatest loves – jewels!

K – Knaresborough castle, belonging to Piers.

L – as in Langley, one of Edward and Piers’ favourite palaces and site of the priory, the eventual resting place of Piers.

M – Margaret de Clare, wife of Piers and niece of Edward II.

N – for Piers ‘insulting’ nicknames for the nobility. Lancaster the fiddler, Lincoln, Burst Belly and not forgetting the Black dog of Arden, Warwick.

O – those awful Ordinances!

P – Perrot – Edward’s pet name for Piers.

Q – how about as in Queen? For Isabella. Of whom Piers may have said ‘who?’

R – as in Richmond, Earl of, whom Piers once professed to lova above all others.

S – for Scarborough, the castle at which Piers surrounded, and where his headless ghost is said to wander.

T – tournaments, which Piers was partial to – he ‘deserted’ Edward Ist’s Scottish campaign for tournaments in France.

U – hmm, this is tricky – how about ‘unsuitable’ – what many thought of Piers as a companion for Prince Edward.

V – for the Vita Edwardi Secundi, one of the main sources for information on Piers.

W – is for Wallingford, where Piers humiliated the nobility at his own tournament.

X – xenophobia – was one of the reasons for hatred of Piers because he was foreign?

Y – York – where Edward fled to try and raise an army to protect Piers.

Z – ok, I admit to scraping the barrel here – zany, a suitable adjective to describe Piers’ humour and wit?

Friday, 19 June 2009

Aftermath of Piers' death

Edward’s re-action to Piers’ death was one of shock at first – according to the Vita, he burst forth with –

"By God’s soul, he acted as a fool. If he had taken my advice he would never have fallen into the hands of the earls. This is what I always told him not to do. For I guessed that what has now happened would occur. What was he doing with the earl of Warwick, who was known never to have liked him? I knew for certain that if the earl caught him, Piers would never escape from his hands."

Not exactly what one would expect Edward to say about his ‘beloved brother’ – but the shock and grief he must have felt probably made him lose control of his emotions. The Vita goes on to add “But I am certain the king grieved for Piers as a father grieves for his son. For the greater the love, the greater the sorrow." His actions following Piers’ death prove this. Piers had died excommunicate and as such could not be buried in consecrated ground. His body was dressed in cloth of gold and preserved with balsam and spices. Edward ordered Thomas de London and Philip de Eyndon to watch over Piers’ body whilst he ordered prayers to be said for Piers’ soul. He also appealed to the pope to repeal the act of excommunication removed from Piers, in which he was successful. Yet still he could not bury Piers until January, 1315, when a lavish funeral ceremony was carried out by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Walter Reynolds. The earls of Pembroke and Norfolk attended. In he years between the death and burial of Piers, Edward paid the considerable sum of over £600 caring for the body and soul of Piers. Edward never forgot Piers – continuing to pay for prayers for Piers’ soul and sending gifts of remembrance to his tomb, especially on the anniversary of his death. Hamilton says of him,

‘Regardless of his many failures as a Ruler, Edward may be commended for his sense of loyalty, a constancy clearly demonstrated in his devotion to Gaveston’s memory’.

Edward also made provision for the family of Piers and swore revenge on those who had murdered him. I will deal with these areas in a later post.

Whatever anyone may have thought of Piers, he didn’t deserve to be murdered on Blacklow Hill. Arrogance, favour from the king and witty insults were not crimes. The nobles did not give Piers a fair trial – they condemn themselves by their cowardly actions – Warwick in particular, ordering him to Blacklow Hill, away from his lands, and hiding in his castle, awaiting the wrath of the king.

Sources – ‘Piers Gaveston, Edward II’s Adoptive Brother’ by Pierre Chaplain

‘Piers Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall, 1307 – 13 12’ by J. S. Hamilton

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Revenge of the nobles

I have often wondered if Piers thought his fate was sealed when Warwick captured him. Edward II’s re-action to Piers’ murder was one of shock and anger. I find his re-action particularly telling in that he initially blamed Piers for falling specifically into the clutches of Warwick, as though he was the magnate Piers was most in danger of. Yet Warwick did not immediately carry out the death of Piers. He waited 9 days. Had he acted on his own initiative? Or was there a plot between the barons? In my opinion, Warwick was waiting to hear from the other powerful barons to see if they could all agree on a plan of action. Lancaster, Hereford and Arundel, along wit some of the lesser nobles, made their way to Warwick. Pembroke was frantically trying to assert his right to have Piers back in his custody. He had sworn on his honour to protect Piers, pledging his lands. He appealed to the earl of Gloucester, Piers’ brother-in-law, to intercede. Gloucester could only shrug off Pembroke’s concerns, informing him Warwick had acted with the agreement of the other nobles, and Pembroke’s lands were lost. Pembroke appealed to the University of Oxford, but received no support. If Pembroke had been involved in the plot from the outset, surely he would not have pledged his lands and fought hard to recover the custody of Piers? His honour was at stake.

The barons had Piers in their power – and all that they had previously threatened was within their power. Yet still they seem to have agonised over what to do. It seems likely that Warwick and Lancaster sat in judgment on Piers, whilst two royal justices, William Inge and Henry Spigurnel, were asked to examine the case. The Ordinances had not been repealed in Warwickshire – as Hamilton points out, this was very convenient for the nobles. Thus Piers was sentenced to death. Still the nobles were uneasy and did their best to assure one another of their loyalty. Hereford was guaranteed in writing that he would suffer no personal losses for his role in Piers’ murder. They surely knew what Edward’s re-action would be.

The Vita says that Piers’ was told the news the morning of June 19th that he was to die. Piers’ re-action was a heartfelt lament – ‘Oh! where are the presents that brought me so many intimate friends, and with which I had thought to have sufficient power? Where are my friends, in whom was my trust, the protection of my body, and the whole hope of my safety;…….They had promised to stand by me in war, to suffer imprisonment and not to shun death. Indeed my pride, the arrogance that one single promise of theirs nourished, the king’s favour and the king’s court, have brought me to this sorry plight. I have no help, every remedy is vain, let the will of the earls be done.’

This paints Piers as realising all that he ever had or enjoyed in the past, his rise and fall, was through patronage, and now there was nothing to save him. He realises his pride and arrogance – and how grateful barons must have been to hear him admit it – which suggests to me, he never said it. He surely would not have given ‘the fiddler’ and the ‘black dog of Arden’ the satisfaction. No mention of Piers begging for mercy is mentioned – probably because he knew he would receive none. He must surely have known from his ‘trial’ that he could expect none. One chronicle does mention his vanity – claiming he was too handsome to have his head cut off. This sounds to me more like Piers’ wit, and was said ‘tongue in cheek’.

Piers was led out of Warwick castle and taken along the road to Kenilworth. It seems the ‘Black dog’ was worried – he didn’t want Piers blood shed on his land. Piers was marched out of Warwick’s lands, and as soon as he set foot in Lancaster’s, he was taken to Blacklow Hill. Warwick didn’t even accompany him. Was this a twinge of conscience? Or fear for what he had done? The Vita says Lancaster decided to take control because of his higher birth and he was more powerful. Lancaster handed him over to two Welshmen – ‘one of whom ran him through he body and the other cut off his head’.

Once Piers had been killed, his head and body were abandoned. No-one thought to put his remains on display – an example of the death of a traitor. According to one chronicle, the Annales Londonienses, some shoemakers found the body and placed it on a ladder, and brought it back to Warwick castle. Warwick refused point blank to receive the body, ordering the shoemakers to take it from his lands. This the shoemakers did, and a group of Dominican friars recovered the head and body, which were ‘re-united’ – the head was stitched back to the body. The friars then took the body back to the Dominican house in Langley.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Disaster at Deddington

Once Piers returned, both Edward and Piers decided to make a stand against the barons. On March 31st, Piers was made custodian of Scarborough and Carlise castles and it appears he asked Edward to make him keeper of Nottingham Castle. On April 4th, Piers swore a solemn oath – that he would never relinquish control of Scarborough castle to no one except Edward – except if Edward himself were a prisoner. The next day, Edward sent letters to Gascon leaders, commanding them to raise troops. There was a delay in their plans whilst Edward and Piers were at Newcastle – and it seems it was due to Piers suffering some sort of illness. A doctor, Master William de Burntoft, was paid £6 13 s 4d, along with Robert de Birmingham, a monk from Tynemouth. During this time, armies led by Lancaster, Percy and Clifford caused Edward and Piers to flee suddenly to Scarborough castle. That they left in such a hurry is evidenced by what they left behind (I’ll save that for future post).

What happened next was catastrophic, with the benefit of hindsight. Leaving Piers at Scarborough, with orders to hold the castle, Edward left for Knaresborough and then York to try and raise troops. Lancaster seized his chance, and placed his army between Edward and Piers. Lancaster laid siege from about a week to ten days. Edward ordered the barons to desist, but they took no notice. Whether Piers was disheartened, running out of supplies, or possibly even sick again, he arranged to surrender. Despite his surrender, Piers had actually achieved fairly good terms. He was to surrender to the earl of Pembroke who would take Piers to St Mary’s Abbey in York, where Edward and the Earl of Lancaster would negotiate. If they could not reach terms by August 1st, Piers would be returned to Scarborough Castle. Pembroke, along with Warenne and Percy, swore an oath to guarantee Piers’ safety until then. In my opinion, Piers must have been relieved to be in the custody of someone like Pembroke, rather than Lancaster or Warwick. Piers had to promise not to try and persuade the king to change anything in the agreement.

Various sources claim Pembroke had accepted a bribe to protect Piers, whilst he planned to appeal to the Pope and Phillip of France. Edward met with Pembroke, Warenne and Percy in York on May 26th. Was Piers with them? Did Edward and Piers meet for one last time? There is no record of this. Pembroke made the decision to take Piers South, possibly to further protect him. On June 9th, the party reached Deddington. It seems Pembroke decided to leave his prisoner here at the rectory so that he could visit his wife in nearby Bampton. Piers was left with only a few of the Earl’s retainers. Did Pembroke deliberately leave Piers here, vulnerable, ready for the Earl of Warwick to strike? Or had Warwick been tailing them, waiting for his chance? The latter seems more likely. While Pembroke was absent, visiting his wife, Warwick and his followers entered the courtyard early in the morning. The Vita quotes him as shouting out ‘Arise traitor, thou art taken’. One can only imagine the horror Piers must have felt, seeing Warwick in the courtyard below. The Vita says he dressed quickly and came downstairs, where he was treated ‘not as an earl, but as a thief; and he who used to ride on a palfrey is now forced to go on foot’.

Warwick must have realised Piers travelling on foot would slow down his party, and once out of the village he ordered Piers to be placed on an old nag. Along the route, he was jeered as he was taken to Warwick’s castle. ‘He whom Piers called Warwick the Dog has now bound Piers with chains’.

Sources – ‘Piers Gaveston, Edward II’s Adoptive Brother’ by Pierre Chaplain

‘Piers Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall, 1307 – 13 12’ by J. S. Hamilton

Sunday, 14 June 2009

The events of June, 1312

Pressures of work have overtaken me lately, so that I’ve neglected Piers. However, I cannot let the month of June go by without posting about Piers' murder on Blacklow Hill.

Piers had first been exiled by Edward Ist, and recalled by his son when he became king. Piers was again exiled, this time to Ireland for bout a year, before Edward recalled him yet again. Edward had worked hard for Piers to be allowed to return, and within weeks of his arrival back in England, he regained his former titles and lands. The Vita records ‘Once he had been reinstated, his behaviour went from bad to worse. He showed his content for the barons by giving them vile nicknames. He took offices and dignities from others to bestow them on those close to him. The magnates of the land began to resent this, particularly the earl of Lancaster, because one of his retainers had been removed from office at the instigation of Piers’. In this particular post, I won’t discuss the charges of Piers taking offices etc. His so-called insulting nicknames may seem tame and childish in today’s society, but at the time, they infuriated the barons. Piers attacked their physical features, lineage and showed a real lack of respect. Why he chose to do this, we simply don’t know. It may have been a childish response to their lack of respect for him, possibly mocking his low birth. It my have been a way to entertain himself and Edward, and also to show them he wasn’t afraid of them. Lancaster was known as ‘the churl’ or ‘the fiddler’, mocking his lineage. Lincoln was ‘burst belly’, for obvious reasons. Pembroke was ‘Joseph the Jew’ and Warwick was ‘the dog of Arden’. The fact that these nicknames were recorded and seen as a genuine insult to the barons show how they must have wounded and stung them.

Armed with their evidence, the barons once again demanded that Piers be banished. Piers was ordered to leave from Dover by November 1st 1311. He was forbidden to take refuge in any of the king’s lands. England, Ireland, Wales, Ponthieu and Gascony were all forbidden to him. If Piers remained after November 1st in any of these lands, he was to be treated as the king’s enemy and to be arrested and punished.
Typically of Piers, he actually sailed 2 days later, and from the Thames. There is no way of knowing where Piers sailed to, but Flanders has been identified as a possibility. We also don’t know the intentions of Piers and Edward – though in my opinion, neither would have seen it as a permanent exile.

The Annales Paulini states Piers spent his exile in Flanders and returned to England shortly around Christmas. There seems to be much speculation as to how long he left England for, or if indeed, he ever did. I shall save this speculation for another post. Why did Piers return? He may not have taken the threat by the barons seriously, placing his faith in Edward. Perhaps Edward recalled almost immediately. And of course, his wife Margaret was expecting their first child. Piers would surely have wanted to be present at the birth. The canon of Bridlington records ‘Not long after Epiphany, he arrived, in the king’s company, in York, where the countess, his wife, gave birth to a daughter, for which he stayed there for some time’.

Piers Chaplais argues that Piers had come back for the birth of his daughter and no other reason, and would have surely headed back to his exile. He wasn’t defying the barons – it was simply a personal matter. And if this were indeed true, it makes his capture and murder poignant – well, it does for me.

I want to meet the anniversary of Piers’ death, and this means I won’t have time to go into detail of Edward and Piers ‘abandoning’ Isabella at Tynemouth and the siege at Scarborough. Those events will keep for another post. I will move on to the events at Deddington.

Sources – ‘Piers Gaveston, Edward II’s Adoptive Brother’ by Pierre Chaplain

‘Piers Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall, 1307 – 13 12’ by J. S. Hamilton

Friday, 24 April 2009

apologies for Tamise

I'm so sorry Tamise, only just picked up your message - re Leanda de Lisle's book 'The Sisters who would be Queen'. I've missed the question deadline, but hope this makes up for it in some way.

I read so many history books, with the Tudor period being amongst my favourites, and I've been thnking of expanding Piers' blog to include reviews of any history books. I thoroughly enjoyed Leanda de Lisle's books on the Grey sisters. She wrote about Jane Grey from the point of view of Jane being the Protestant queen who would preserve the 'true religion' - and not, as she rightly criticised past bios as the child-victim pawn of others. Jane was manipulated into a position by Northumberland to satisfy his own ambition, but Jane, and many others, for example Cranmer, believed it her duty to God to accept the crown.

I knew a little of the history of the other Grey sisters - Katherine and Mary. I was riveted by de Lisle's research into Katherine's marriage and her fate, and likewise with Mary's life. I have read many times of the suffering of Elizabeth during her sister's reign, and yet Elizabeth meted out the very same treatment to her Grey cousins. The book brought home the predicament Elizabeth faced - if she did not marry and beget an heir, she faced a very real threat from her Grey cousins - particularly Katherine, who as a protestant had made a good match - and a love match at that - and produced 2 male heirs. Katherine's fate proved tragic. I was left hoping that Mary was able to find some sort of happiness when she was relased from prison to her small household.

A riveting read that shows the tragedy of all three Grey sisters.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Another very 1970’s Gaveston novel

After reviewing ‘Where Nobles Tread’, in which Piers was portrayed in a very 1970’s, I decided to continue in that mode for my next review – Sandra Wilson’s ‘Alice’. The cover is better than that for ‘Nobles’. We have our heroine, ‘Alice’, looking a bit like Sophia Loren, to me. Piers is extremely macho on this cover – shirt open to reveal a very Tom Jones-like hairy chest. He’s also dark-haired in this novel. At the bottom of the picture is a very Tudor-looking executioner and a dejected Piers, awaiting his fate.

Once again, this novel is littered with clichés from the 1970’s. Piers and Alice often feel the ‘warmth’ coming from each other. And they seem to ‘want’ each pretty regularly. Of course, Alice does her best to resist Piers, not wanting to be one of his conquests – and Piers is genuinely in love with her. His wife does put in an appearance in this novel, but Piers has lost his heart to Alice. Piers is handsome, confident and powerful. Oh, and he’s completely heterosexual. He tells Alice has only shared the king’s bed out of friendship. Once again, Edward is seen as weak, easily led, frequently drunk, and it’s Piers who tries to keep him away from the boys he lusts after. How noble, eh? Indeed, he rounds on the king ‘like a tiger’ after catching him with a naked youth! This Piers also practices the ‘old religion’, and we get the tale of his mother being burned as a witch.

Piers meets his fate being very brave, telling Alice not to cry, as he won’t be able to prepare himself for fretting about her tears. Of course, as he is led away, Alice just has to swoon. The rest of the novel is taken up with an unsavoury episode between the Earl of Warwick and Alice, and she takes full revenge on him but poisoning him.

This is a typical ‘romantic novel’, full of historical accuracies and clichés, but once again, a novel I would have loved when I was about 14. Interestingly, at the end of the novel is this inscription –

‘Soon after Gaveston’s execution the earl of Warwick died mysteriously; it has been suggested he was poisoned by Gaveston’s mistress’.

This snippet comes from the ‘Official Guide to Warwick Castle’. Piers did have a mistress at one time – there is a record of an illegitimate daughter. But who the lady was, we don’t know – and there is no evidence Warwick was poisoned. If he was, I’d rather like it to have been Edward II himself- although a public execution would have been much more to my liking!

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Piers in fiction

Finally got around to including a review on fictional Piers Gaveston. Bit surprised at my first choice, but as I’ve just finished reading it, and enjoyed the interpretation, somewhat, I’ve settled on ‘Where Nobles Tread’ by Janet Kilbourne, a novel published in the early 1970’s. You can tell it’s from the 1970’s, just by it’s cover – featuring a colourful picture of the heroine, Eleanor Stanton – an entirely fictional character – and a man in the background who is either Piers or one William Darcy, as both figure equally in the novel. If it is meant to be Piers, he isn’t very well dressed – as inside his clothes are always described as beautiful and richly embroidered and decorated. The man on the cover is in a rather dull green – dull green would never do for Piers!

Piers is dark-haired in this novel, with piercing blue eyes. There are plenty of references to his good looks, and dark hair, and those piercing blue eyes are much in evidence. The author tends to use plenty of ‘romantic’ 1970’s clichés in her descriptions. Piers’ blue eyes are always raking over everyone at court – and particularly the ladies, whom he seems to ‘strip naked’ with those raking eyes. For the men, they tend to be full of mockery. Clearly this is Kilbourne’s favourite adjective for Piers – every time he appears in the novel, he’s always being ‘mocking’ – and it doesn’t matter what his mood is – whether he’s bating the nobles, trying to seduce Eleanor, fighting with William Darcy or drinking with the king, he’s always ‘mocking’.

Piers is very much a 1970’s man as well. He has his shirt and doublet open, often slashed to the waist to show off his manly chest – and he also wears that 1970’s classic – a medallion! Yes, Piers is a medallion man! Reminded me of Tom Jones or Oliver Tobias (if you know the latter, you remember the 1970’s well! :> ). Naturally, he constantly fiddles with the medallion, and poor Eleanor is practically swooning when he does it.

As for the plot – well, it concerns Eleanor Stanton, a country baron’s daughter, who has come to court to attend Queen Isabella. She makes friends with a French girl Jeanne, who fills her in on all the court gossip. Piers is the no.1 topic of conversation – plenty of swooning adjectives, mockery, and yes, Jeanne identifies him as the King’s lover but with a lust for the ladies. Edward doesn’t appear to mind, as Piers tires of them rather quickly and only the king holds his attention. Naturally, Isabella hates him. Then there is Sir William Darcy, a mysterious knight who, although he doesn’t know Eleanor, has fallen in love with her and wants to protect her from the carnal Piers. Eleanor has other ideas – and decides it would be rather useful for her to become Piers’ mistress so she can reap the rewards. She realises this is rather sinful, but can’t help herself. Initially, she decides she will hate Piers, attract him by rebuffing him (of course, Piers has raked her already an decided she’s his next conquest) in order to make him desire her more and in that way, hold his attention. However, she can’t help falling in love with Piers, and embarks on a love affair with him. Piers can read her character well, and knows she is looking to advance herself, and keeps telling her how awful he is and what a bad influence he is on the king and kingdom, all with mockery and thoroughly enjoying himself. All the time, William Darcy smoulders with indignation.

Won’t give away the ending for Eleanor, but poor Piers meets his fate. We only hear about it second hand, when it is reported to the king. We have Piers leaving court with a sense of doom, but for no particular reason, and then hearing he’s been murdered with a rusty sword and that it was painful, taking several attempts – damn that rusty sword:> Naturally, Eleanor faints.

As much as I may display some of Piers mockery, I actually liked the portrayal of Piers. This Piers has charisma, he holds the attention of all at court, and there’s no doubt who rules this court. He dominates the novel whenever he appears. He may be promiscuous with the ladies, but the love between him and Edward appears to be genuine. He knows he’s a ‘bad boy’ and a bad influence on the king, but he doesn’t think much of the morals of anyone else, and maybe part of the charm of this fictional Piers is his honesty. He has nothing but contempt for Lancaster, Warwick and Isabella, realising they seek to rule. It’s a case of him and Edward against the world.

The portrayal of Edward is disappointing. The relationship between him and Piers seems genuine and touching. However, Edward is seen as an indolent, childlike, weak king. He always seems to be drinking, and when he can’t have Piers, whom he almost seems to worship, he’s surrounded by young boys fawning all over him. Lancaster and Warwick talk to him as if he were a naughty, peevish child whom they can bully easily. Only when Piers is around to protect him, can Edward stand up to them – and yet he tells Piers he is his protector and must stay at court to be safe. There’s no sign of that terrible Plantagenet temper. After Piers’ death, Edward seems to accept that Lancaster and Warwick rule the kingdom now, and he must do their bidding. There’s no sign of any fightback by him. Isabella is equally contemptuous to him – getting pregnant by him but enjoying the young knights of the court. I would have liked to have read a scene between Edward and Eleanor, but they never exchange a word.

As for historical accuracy – well, allowing for interpretation of character – there is no sign of Piers’ wife Margaret, banishment by the nobles, sieges at Tyneside, Scarborough etc.

If you can stand the clichés, - ladies swooning, fainting, scorching tears running down cheeks, hearts burning with desire – this novel is definitely worth a read.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

A little more on my visit to Caerphilly Castle

Caerphilly castle currently has an exhibition running on the building of the castle and two historical people linked to the castle. One is Llywelyn Bren, the other Edward II.

After the death of Gilbert de Clare at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314, his lands were divided between his 3 sisters. Hugh Despencer the younger, was married to Eleanor de Clare, the eldest sister and niece of Edward II. He was also the ‘favourite’ of Edward II. He chose the largest portion of the de Clare lands, the lordship of Glamorgan, which included the castles of Caerphilly and Cardiff. The current custodians of Caerphilly castle, CADW, are in no doubt of his greed, ambition and treachery. Llywelyn Bren had led a revolt in 1316 and attacked Caerphilly castle. The revolt spread throughout Glamorgan. A royal army was assembled and sent to quell the revolt. Llywelyn surrendered, and asked for royal mercy. He was sent to the Tower of London. However, in 1318, in an act of ‘wanton cruelty’, Despencer had him brought to Cardiff, where he was hanged, beheaded and quartered. Llywelyn’s story is told with sympathy and compassion. Despencer is definitely the ‘bully boy’. Llyeleyn’s body was buried in Greyfriars church in Cardiff, which no longer exists – yes, another victim of the Reformation. A tower block currently stands on the site.

The second history story centres on Edward II, and obviously involves Despencer again. When the castle’s restoration was begun, a carved head was found, and identified as that of Edward II. Despencer spent a lot of time and money on Caerphilly, and the great hall’s supporting pillars had the heads of the Despencer family and the king carved into them. The head is no longer at the castle – probably kept in Cardiff museum. Edward fled with Despencer, and his treasure, to Caerphilly castle when his estranged Queen, Isabella, and her favourite, Mortimer, staged an invasion to seize the crown for Prince Edward. They stayed a few nights at Caerphilly, from October 29th until November 2nd, before fleeing to the Cistercian abbey at Neath. Edward took some of the treasure with him and hurriedly hid it, so the story goes, throughout the abbey. Edward and Despencer then fled the abbey and were then captured near Llantrisant.

The inventory taken in 1327 at Caerphilly makes fascinating reading. Amongst the arms found there were 1,130 crossbows fitted with hedgehog quills! £13,000 was found packed into 26 barrels, and a further £1,000 was found in a barrel belonging to Despencer. The king’s personal belongings included his armour, his bed, a mattress, canopy and curtains, two sheets, four pillows, a silk coverlet, a red dressing-gown, doeskin gauntlets and a black cap decorated with butterflies and pearls. Edward’s story concludes with him being dismissed as weak and foolish, and being murdered ‘horribly’ at Berkley castle. At one pint in the commentary, his wife changes from Isabella to Eleanor!

Stories of Edward II’s treasure hidden around Neath are part of local legend. Coins have been found hidden around the Abbey, dating from Edward II. Being somewhat of a local myself, I’ve grown up with stories of ‘the English king’s treasure’ being hidden around Neath. Parts of the Abbey remain in various decayed states, and the town has grown up around it. One interesting fact is the story of Edward and Isabella’s ‘wedding certificate’ turning up in the 19th century. A doctor was called out to treat a farmer’s wife, and the farmer, unable to pay the doctor, gave him the certificate which had been in his family ‘for years’. He couldn’t read it, had no idea what it was, but felt it may be worth something!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Visiting Caerphilly Castle

Nothing to do with Piers, really, but this week I visted the magnificent castle at Caerphilly. It's the largest ruined castle in Wales, and was built not by the royal family, but by the de Clare family, which makes it even more unique. The de Clare family gained the lordship of Glamorgan in 1217. The de Clares were confronted with petty revolts, and to take control of Glamorgan, they built the castle at Caerphilly. The castle fell into the hands of Hugh Despencer, after the death of Gilbert de Clare at Bannockburn in 1314. Despencer was married to Gilbert's elder sister, Eleanor. Piers had been married to Gilbert's second sister, Margaret.

Here are some of the pictures I took. It was cold, but thankfully dry. I will add a little more about Despencer's time at Caerphilly castle next week.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Check out Alianore's latest blog on Edward II

There's a well re-searched article on Piers with lots of fascinating facts! Check out the link below!

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Piers' marriage

Almost as soon as Edward II recalled Piers Gaveston, he began to arrange a marriage for him. Piers’ bride was Margaret de Clare, Edward’s niece. Margaret was the daughter of Edward’s sister, Joan of Acre, from her marriage to Gilbert de Clare, 3rd Earl of Gloucester. Her elder sister Eleanor was married to Hugh Despencer, the Younger. The date of the wedding was November 1st, 1307 – just a few days after the funeral of Edward Ist. The timing may have offended the nobility – but they would doubtless have been horrified that the grand-daughter of the old king was marrying the king’s favourite – someone without royal blood, and worse, a foreigner. With her royal connections, Margaret would have been a ‘prize bride’, much sought after. According to the chronicler of theVita Edwardi Secundi the marriage was arranged by the King "to strengthen Piers and surround him with friends."

The true nature of the relationship between Edward and Piers will probably never been known. That Edward loved Piers is undoubtedly true – but the nature of the love is unknown. The historian, J. S. Hamilton, believes the marriage between Piers and Margaret was arranged by Edward as part of his desire to bring Piers into his family and strengthen their bond. Hamilton put forward the theory that Edward and Piers had made a bond to be ‘blood brothers’, with Piers being his adopted brother. Marriage to Margaret would bring Piers officially into the royal family. Piers and Margaret would go on to produce a daughter, Joan. Hamilton’s interpretation, and with the marriage producing a daughter, has been seen as evidence that Edward and Piers were not lovers. However, both Edward and Piers would have known what society would expect them – certainly Edward had been raised to do his royal duty – to marry and provide the county with an heir and secure the future of the Plantagenet dynasty. His private feelings, whatever they were, would not have come into it. As for Piers, Edward had already showered expensive gifts upon him and made him Earl of Cornwall – a royal bride would be ‘the icing on the cake’, as it were. Piers, as Earl of Cornwall, would want to establish his own dynasty. If the two men were lovers, Edward would have felt some satisfaction that he had control over who Piers would marry.

Margaret would have been around 13 or 14 at the time of her wedding. At such a tender age, Edward would not have seen Margaret as a threat to his relationship to Piers. It s possible that Edward and Piers may have discussed their marriages whilst Edward Ist was still alive – none of us know the plans they may have made when Edward would become king. It is unlikely Margaret would have been consulted about her marriage – she would not have expected to be, and whatever the nature of the relationship between her uncle and her husband, she would have obeyed her uncle’s command. Maybe Margaret herself would not have been unhappy with her choice of bridegroom. Piers was reckoned to be handsome, well-mannered, elegant and the favourite of the king. He may have lacked a noble ancestry, but he had been made Earl of Cornwall, and Margaret would be a countess – higher in status than her elder sister. Margaret and her husband should have enjoyed a littering career at court.

The wedding took place at Berkhamsted Castle, and Edward was once again generous. The couple were given gifts of money and jewels. The nobles must have been seething with envy that the ‘upstart’ Gascon was marrying into the royal family.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

New Year Resolutions

Having read the amusing New year Resolution's on Susan's blog, I'm sure Piers would have had no intention of ever making any, and if he did, with the express purpose of breaking them. Same with Edward II - if the Ordinances couldn't keep them in line, new year resolutions had no chance.

Happy New Year to all!