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.


Alianore said...

Great post, Anerje!

I love that Edward gave Margaret a 'roan-coloured palfrey' worth £20 for her wedding, and 'cloth worked with gold and pearls' to her ladies!

Anerje said...

Thanks Alianore. I didn't put all the detail in, as it was on your blog:) I should have put a lnk in. I do wonder what plans Ed and Piers made when he was 'Prince of Wales'.

Lady D. said...

Great post Anerje.

I know that Edward would have had some control over wo Margaret married, but he must have had consultations with her brother, Gilbert and possibly Ralph de Monthermer. I would love to know what they thought about the proposed match. I would also love to know what Eleanor thought about being outranked by her little sister - not too happy I would bet!

Alianore said...

Lady D: I bet poor Eleanor was really hacked off that her younger sister became a countess, when she wasn't! ;)

I wonder who Margaret's legal guardian was in 1307? Was it Ed, or her brother Gloucester after Ed granted him his earldom, or Monthermer? I don't actually know.

Anerje said...

well, Lady D, I happen to think Ed would have insisted on the marriage whatever Gilbert thought - although I suspect he would have been happy with Piers being Ed's favourite.

Maybe Eleanor was jealus as well because Margaret's husband was much better looking :) (Anerje ducks in case Lady D swings for her!:>)

Seriously, both marriages started so promisingly, and ended in unhappiness for both brides.