Tuesday, 18 June 2013

June 19th - death of Piers Gaveston

My last post dealt with the capture of Piers by the Earl of Warwick.  Piers must surely have known that his fate was sealed.  On the morning of June 19th, Piers was taken from Warwick Castle some 2 miles towards Kenilworth.  It seems Thomas of Lancaster wanted Piers executed on his lands, not Warwick's.  Warwick himself did not attend the execution - no reason is given.  Lancaster waited whilst Piers was lead to the top of Blacklow Hill, where he was slain by 2 Welshmen - one plunged his sword into Piers' body, whilst the other cut off his head.  Lancaster insisted on seeing the head to ensure Piers was dead.  I do wonder why neither Warwick or Lancaster didn't observe the execution - or rather murder - of Piers.  After all, they hated him and his insulting nick-names for them.  Did they have a pang of conscience?  Unlikely, but it was one thing to condemn him to death in a farce of a trial and then to witness it.  I'm also intrigued as to why neither took charge of his body.  Lancaster and his retainers just left it there.  One chronicle, the Annales Londonienses, says 4 shoemakers recovered it, sewed the head back on, and took it on a ladder to the Earl of Warwick, who refused to admit it.  They then took it back to Blacklow Hill, where some Dominican Friars took care of it and returned it to the king at Oxford.  It was to be some time before Edward could bury his beloved Piers, who had died excommunicate.  

I shall raise a glass to Piers, and I hope Kathryn doesn't mind me posting her tribute to Piers from her blog - I can't think of a better one.

Piers Gaveston, a Notorious Royal Favourite


Piers Gaveston - only about thirty at the time of his death - was by no means a vicious or cruel man. He was handsome, athletic, bright, flamboyant, arrogant, and supremely confident (over-confident). He gave Edward the confidence that the young king lacked. In later centuries, Piers was often used as a salutary warning against kings' favourites, which has tended to obscure his own personality. He was about as far from the stereotypical image of him as an effeminate, perfumed court fop as it's possible to be: he was a very successful military leader in Ireland, King of the Joust, who could knock any man off his horse almost at will, a soldier as early as 1297 when he might only have been fourteen, or probably sixteen at the most.

It's difficult to see what he did to merit the death penalty, and I find it easy to imagine that the men who killed him were horrified by later events, when Piers was replaced in Edward's affections by men who were far worse.

A ruby worth the staggering sum of £1000 - perhaps a million or two in modern money - was found on Piers' body after his death. He was also famous for owning silver forks, for eating pears. Let it never be said that the man was lacking in style.



8 comments:

Kathryn Warner said...

RIP, dear Piers. A very sad day. :-( Great post, Anerje, and thanks for the link and for remembering our lovely Piers and Edward's grief for him.

Heh, one of my words in the word verif is Edward - how appropriate!

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

RIP, Piers. I too shall raise a glass to you today, and to baby William, Henry the Young King's son, who was born only to die shortly afterward.

Great tribute Kathryn!

P.S. Anerje I know you are a FB refuser, but would you mind if I recommend your post on FB? So that other people could learn of today's anniversary and of your brilliant blog?

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

I'm sure Kathryn has mentioned Piers's tragic death on Edward's FB page, but my recommendation will do no harm, I guess ;-)

Anerje said...

Hi Kasia, no I don't mind, thanks for asking.

Kathryn - wow, bit of a coincidence with Edward - I love it when things like that happen.

Wesley Saunders said...

Poor Piers. Murdered for the man he loved. What a shame! Just an aside--are there any Warwick's known for awesomeness?

Anerje said...

Hi Wesley. I'd say Warwick the Kingmaker was pretty awesome. Although not a Beauchamp like Guy. Richard Neville, 1428 - 1471, involved in the Wars of the Roses.

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

Hi, Anerje! I just want to report that your blog has been enthusiastically received. Perhaps, one day, you will change your mind and join us? :-)We will benefit from your "presence".

Kathryn Warner said...

Yes, Anerje, come and join us on FB! It'd be fab to have you on our history groups ;-)