Saturday, 20 December 2014

Christmas with Piers Gaveston

Somewhere I England, nearly Christmas, 1308, the new Earl Of Cornwall is preparing his Christmas list.

Ah, Christmas as an Earl is sure to be a tricky one.  I mean, what does one give the other barons for Christmas?  I doubt they will ever give me a present, but seeing their faces as I sit beside my dear Edward as they bend their knees to us, well, it’s unbeatable:) 

 Hmmmm, let me think.  The Earl of Lincoln – Burstbelly – now what would he like, apart from all the food he could gorge in one sitting?  Got it – a diet book!  That will be soooo good for his health.  Now for Guy of Warwick – the Black Hound – easy really.  A nice new bone to chew on, and perhaps a ball for his to chase after.  Edward’s cousin, Thomas of Lancaster – the Churl – well, Edward and I know what he’d like – the throne.  That’s out of the question of course.  I think a book on etiquette and a ‘Tales of King Arthur’ book would be ideal.  And for our dear, faithful friend Roger Mortimer – a friendship bracelet. 

Edward is going to be very difficult to get a present for.  I mean, he has everything he wants – me.  So he tells me.  I’m thinking along the line of personalised rowing oars.  I know how much he loves rowing, and it does help to build up those bulging biceps.  Plus a crate of ale from The Thatchers pub.  I do hope he doesn’t get me anything too extravagant – I mean, the Earldom and the fabulous castle that goes with it is more than enough – although a few diamonds are always welcome – after all, diamonds are an Earl’s best friend.
I suppose I ought to get something for the child bride, Isabella.  Some nice colouring in manuscripts, perhaps?  And a book.  Yes, I’ve heard of a new title just out – ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’.  It’ll be a big help to her – especially as she’s heading for her teenage years – which reminds me – some spot lotion would also be ideal.

I'm so looking forward to Christmas this year!   Merry Christmas to one and all!

Friday, 12 December 2014

The Dan Jones episode on the Plantagenets I've been waiting for.........

Last night, Channel 5 showed the episode I'd been waiting for in Dan Jones' series on the Plantagenets - a whole episode devoted to Edward II.   I started watching with low expectations - but was surprised at how good it was!  Straight away, the focus was on Edward's relationship with Piers Gaveston.  We're told Edward's first act of his reign was to re-call 'his mate' Piers Gaveston - one of the 'finest knights in the kingdom'.  Off to a good start!  Jones talked about Edward's obsession with Piers without going into the nature of the their relationship at the start.   He pointed out the obsession cost him the respect of his barons, particularly his cousin Thomas of Lancaster.  I was pleased to see Jones make the point that Edward married the 'child bride' Isabella of France, which is exactly what she was.  He repeats the story of the bad behaviour of Edward and Piers at the Coronation banquet - Piers wearing royal purple, banners with the arms of Edward and Piers on them - and says Isabella's relatives were insulted.  But we do not get Piers being given all the wedding gifts - phew!

Jones also says Thomas of Lancaster started 'a whispering campaign' against Piers, stealing money from the treasury and taking it out of the country.  Thankfully, Jones says Piers was undoubtedly innocent - he might have been arrogant and insulting, but he was no thief.  Jones makes it clear in this episode is all about 'personal revenge', and when discussing the Ordinances, says it might all sound as if the barons were trying to make a stand for justice against the king, when in fact it was a personal vendetta against Piers - and mentions clause 20, which calls for his banishment.   It's now that Jones discusses the nature of the relationship between Edward and Piers.  Jones says Edward was undoubtedly obsessed with Piers, and they may well have been lovers.  But it wasn't this that offended the barons - it was Edward's excessive favouring of Piers and Piers influence.  Jones skims over Piers' 2 exiles during Edward's reign - we hear nothing of his exile in Ireland.  Instead, we get the final exile and recall by Edward, who was basically 'painting a target' on Piers' back.  Jones says Edward was fixated on what would happen right now, than what would happen in the future, or the consequences of his actions.

The siege at Scarborough and Piers' capture is missed out - instead we have Piers a prisoner at Warwick castle, (there's very little mention of Guy of Warwick, it's all Thomas of Lancaster), with no trial and sentenced to death - Jones calls it 'political murder'.  We cut to a scene at Gaveston's Cross.  Jones says typically Edward doesn't blame himself, he blames Piers at first, then Lancaster.  That's a bit harsh in my opinion, as Edward no doubt lashed out in grief when he made the comment about Piers.  All in all, I was quite happy with Jones' interpretation.

The rest of the episode was mixed. We see Edward taking 'personal revenge' on Thomas of Lancaster, committing 'political murder' in not allowing Lancaster a fair trial - I think Jones failed to see the parallel that Edward treated Thomas as he had treated Piers.  I did like his point though about Lancaster letting Edward down at Bannockburn because he didn't want Edward to have anything that would make him successful.  We have the scene where Isabella's children 'are ripped from her' - by the nasty, snarling Hugh Despencer, complete with small sobbing children, and are told they were placed in the care of Despencer's wife - without mentioning his wife is actually their relative, Edward's niece, Eleanor.   Jones piles on the sympathy for Isabella - after all she has done for her husband, this was how he repaid her - hmmmmm.   Then we get Isabella in France immediately becoming lovers with Roger Mortimer and plotting her husband's downfall, her 'personal revenge'.  Sympathy for Isabella soon vanishes however, as we get a full description, and as much as can be acted out, of Hugh Despencer's execution - how near Isabella was to his suffering, and how she ate as she watched. 

Jones then tells us what happens to Edward II - sent to Berkley Castle where he was murdered with - yes - a red hot poker, and we're shown as much as possible of the horrific scene.  But hang on, Jones then demolishes this story, saying it appeared years after Edward's death, and that the method made too good a story for a possibly gay king receiving his 'just punishment'.  So good a story that Channel 5 decided to show a scene of it!  Unfortunately, there's no discussion of Edward's possible survival.

So, to sum up - this episode was a lot better than I expected, and dominated by Jones' theory of 'personal revenge'.  I'm not quite sure about the use of actors to dramatise each episode - particularly as they always speak French and we have to have the subtitles underneath.  I'm sure viewers could cope with being told the language of the court was French without having them actually speak in French.  Oh, and the actors playing Piers and Edward looked absolutely nothing like I thought they'd look, but I guess that's a minor detail;)

Sunday, 7 December 2014

My poppy from the Tower of London display

This week, my ceramic poppy from the display Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red arrived.  I bought it back in September.  The artwork was a stunning sight, and 2 parts of it are to tour.  The Weeping Window is the cascade of poppies which can be seen pouring out of a window in the Tower - see below.

Wave is the curling swathe of poppies which rises up to create an arch over the entrance to the Tower.  Both will tour Britain until 2018.

This is my poppy - thankfully is wasn't damaged, and yes, it does have a stem but I haven't assembled it yet.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Short review of channel 5's The Plantagenets

OK, any programme on the Plantagenets is always welcome - so thank you to Channel 5 for this documentary series.  The opening titles warn there will be scenes of Medieval bloody violence and torture.  We then get Dan Jones talking about Britain's bloodiest and deadliest dynasty, along with flashes of programmes to come.  The series is a sort of docu-drama, with Dan Jones telling the story, and with actors playing the parts of the key figures.  Be warned Kathryn, who runs the excellent Edward II  website and has just published Edward II: the Unconventional King, there was a clip of a man being held down on a table and screaming - so we can expect the red, hot poker story.

Anyway, episode 1 focused on Henry II and his treacherous family.  There wasn't anything in it I didn't already know.  As expected, Jones peppered his story telling with lots of modern phrases.  For example, the crowning of Henry, the Young King, was the 'archbishop's gig', news of Beckett's murder 'went viral', and the Young King set out to 'take down the old man'.

Having become interested in Henry, the Young King, after reading Kasia's marvellous Henry, the Young King blog, I was looking forward to how the programme would portray him.  Jones gives us a young Henry being frustrated by not being given any real power by his father, and reveals the royal accounts of 1172 show the young King existed on meagre amounts of money, that he was almost 'like a beggar'.  Henry II is blamed for guarding his power jealously, and being greedy with his riches.  He allowed the young Henry no power. The focus is on the treachery of the young Henry and Richard  - John barely gets a mention.  Henry and his sons are portrayed as deceitful, power-hungry and utterly treacherous - so nothing we didn't know already then.

Next week's episode focuses on Henry III.

Monday, 24 November 2014

'Britain's Bloodiest Dynasty'

Britain's Channel 5 will start showing a new documentary series on the Plantagenets this week.  Presented by Dan Jones, it will tell the story of 'Britain's bloodiest dynasty - the real life Game of Thrones'. Here's the blurb - The Plantagenets .   I've read Dan Jones book on the Plantagenets and wasn't that impressed with it, particularly comments about Edward II and Piers Gaveston.   I'm not holding out much hope for the TV series.  I also don't like the comparison with Game of Thrones.  Anyway, the series kicks off with Henry II and his troublesome sons, on Thursday, November 27th, at 9pm.  And talking of his troublesome sons, how refreshing to see a more accurate portrayal of King John in Channel 4's 'Walking through History' with Sir Tony Robinson.  He demolishes the Robin Hood myths, and whilst admitting John was a failure, and ruthless, cruel and greedy, he was no different from his predecessors.  As for Magna Carta, it was addressing grievances since 1066, and it was after John's death that it took on more significance.  Which anyone who bothered doing the most minimal of research would know. 

Here's a picture of Dan Jones looking menacing;) to plug his new show.

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:

Visit Kathryn’s blog here:

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

Monday, 28 July 2014

2014 – The year of Kathryn Warner

2014 maybe the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, the scene of Edward II’s allegedly biggest humiliation, but it also marks the year of the huge success of his greatest supporter, Kathryn Warner.

I will never forget the day I stumbled across Kathryn’s website/blog on Edward II.  I was suffering a serious bout of tonsillitis that kept me bedridden for a week.  During this time, I read the most abysmal novel on Piers Gaveston.  I’m not going to name it – suffice to say that it really upset me.  I’d developed an interest in Piers in the late 1980s, inspired by Jean Plaidy’s ‘Follies of the King’.  Not a very flattering portrayal of Piers, but it sparked my interest and then I devoured every book I could get hold of.  Except, there weren’t a lot around then, and those that were portrayed Edward’s reign as a disaster and it was nearly always Piers’ fault – both in fiction and non-fiction.  Reading the primary sources I could get hold of, the Piers in the non-fiction, usually romantic novels was not the Piers I knew – they were usually the pathetic fop, greedily pinching poor, faultless Isabella’s jewels, along with snogging her husband in full view of her.  With nothing new appearing, I put my interest to bed, so to speak.  And then Plaidy’s book was republished, and I bought my own copy, and then Amazon recommended that awful novel.  It really upset me, and made me think that all these years later, the same lies, and worse, were being published about Piers.  It was then I entered ‘Piers Gaveston and Edward II’ into my search engine – and there was Kathryn’s website and blog!

 The joy of reading those posts was indescribable!  I saved them, printed them off, put them in a file, and constantly re-read them.  I took note of book recommendations and ordered them.  Then I contacted Kathryn, and we’ve been cyber pals ever since.  I still print off posts and save them in a file, re-reading and checking them for info.  It was honestly one of my happiest days, finding that blog.  My interest was re-ignited.  Thanks to Kathryn’s blog,  I’ve read fresh interpretation of chronicles of the times, found hidden gems from chronicles that other academic books have ignored, totally re-thought Edward II’s fate and am convinced he survived – and that he definitely did not die by ‘red hot poker’ horror stories, read fascinating critiques of other historians work, found out interesting snippets from his chamber accounts, his extended international family, read about so-called facts being demolished, corresponded with Kathryn and shared my thoughts, as well as picking her brain – and most of all, found another person who didn’t see Edward and Piers as simpering, effeminate, inadequate men.

My interest re-ignited, I set out to find the Gaveston Cross, re-visit Warwick and Berkeley Castle, and Edward’s tomb in Gloucester Cathedral.  I also started this blog, and came across other fascinating and interesting blogs – my favourites being Gabriele’s  The Lost Fort , Kasia’s  Henry, The Young King   (both about subjects I knew very little about but have since learned a lot), and Susan Higginbotham’s History Refreshed, and whose books I’ve read the print off!  I love her portrayal of Piers and Edward in ‘The Traitor’s Wife’.

Kathryn’s research is truly outstanding, and now all her hard work has paid off.  There was the article published about the Earl of Kent in English Historical Review in 2011.  In June 2014, Kathryn appeared on the BBC’s ‘Quest for Bannockburn’ with Neil Oliver.  And later on this year, in October, Kathryn’s book, ‘Edward II – the Unconventional King’ (what a brilliant title) will be published!  I know Kathryn has been working on this book for several years, and I am so happy it is to be published this year!  I cannot wait to read it!

So, Kathryn, I’m dedicating this blog post to you – thank you for fighting to reveal the truth about Edward II and Piers Gaveston, and demolishing the ridiculous stories that have been passed on as facts.   You deserve your success and more.  Keep the posts – and dare I say – books – coming!  This is your year!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Re-action of Edward II on the death of Piers Gaveston

Edward II loved Piers Gaveston - no historian can doubt there.  It is the nature of the relationship which comes under discussion.  Whatever the relationship, Edward was devastated at the loss of Piers, and the circumstances of it.  It is therefore perhaps surprising to read the chronicler of the Vita Edwardi Secundi report Edward’s words  as the following -


"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."

It sounds as though Edward was furious with Piers, for what had happened.  As if he blamed him, and cursed him for it.  

If he had taken my advice he would never have fallen into the hands of the earls...... What was he doing with the earl of Warwick, who was known never to have liked him? 

 It was hardly Piers' fault that he had been kidnapped by the Earl of Warwick.  If, as has been suggested, Piers and Edward agreed the surrender of Piers to the Earl of Pembroke on very favourable grounds, both Edward and Piers must have felt they could resolve the situation.  But the intervention of Warwick was a disaster.   Panic must surely have set in for both Edward and Piers, and Edward did everything he could to secure Piers' safety.  But it wasn't enough, as Edward seemingly knew it wouldn't be. 

I knew for certain that if the earl caught him, Piers would never escape from his hands. 

Edward did as much as he could, but he, Piers, Warwick and his cousin Thomas of Lancaster knew Piers’ fate was sealed.  Edward’s re-action was surely one of shock and grief, and in his state of distress, as so often when tragic events occur, he didn’t think what came out of his mouth.  Desperately trying to secure Piers safety, looking for support, knowing he was virtually up against a ticking clock, waiting for the news he didn’t want to hear, Edward must surely have been overcome with grief, and quite literally, didn’t know what he was saying.  I’m sure in the previous days, Edward had cursed the Earl of Pembroke, his relative Gilbert de Clare, Warwick, Lancaster, and probably himself for the situation.  Hearing the news he didn’t want to hear, he cursed Piers.  He surely didn’t mean it – it was anger, terror and grief talking.

‘Wuthering Heights’, by Emily Bronte, is a masterpiece of literary achievement. Regarding Edward’s words I’m reminded of Heathcliff’s re-action to the death of Catherine Earnshaw/Linton - it is hardly what we would have expected – he curses her, and says may she never rest in peace – but we, the reader, understand his grief.  Likewise, I can understand why Edward uttered those words on hearing of the death of Piers.  

 Edward’s actions after the death of Piers speak volumes.  Edward swore revenge on his killers, and was true to his word.  His treatment of Piers’ body clearly shows the love he felt.  Piers lay in state almost – he had been previously excommunicated and Edward would not have buried him without getting it revoked.   Although this was done in late 1312, Edward still could not bring himself to bury Piers.  The Vita says he had sworn revenge on the rebels before burying Piers.  It may also have been because he couldn’t bring himself to be so finally separated from Piers.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

June 19th - death of Piers Gaveston.

Today is the anniversary of Piers Gaveston's death.   I can't bring myself to call it execution, as that would suggest some sort of trial and for Piers to be guilty of a crime that merited the death sentence.  To be snatched from the custody of someone sworn to protect his life with the sole aim to kill him cannot be termed an 'execution' - rather it was murder.  Piers certainly broke the ban on his exile - enforced by jealous nobles against the king's will.  His crime for being exiled?  Being a bad influence on Edward II, being a Gascon, not accepting his place in society, enjoying the good life and having a sharp tongue.  None of this merits a death sentence.

Guy of Warwick, who literally kidnapped Piers, quaked in his boots at murdering Piers on his land.  Piers was marched from Warwick Castle until he reached Blacklow Hill.  Warwick didn't even accompany him, leaving it to Thomas of Lancaster to carry out the deed.  According to one chronicle, Lancaster refused to witness the killing of Piers, asking only to see the head afterwards.   It had need decided to cut off Piers' head, awarding him this dignity because he had been an Earl.   Yet the chronicler says that first, Piers was run through with a sword first, then beheaded.  Why?   It could be because Piers might have tried to escape - highly unlikely, as once he fell into Warwick's clutches he must have known there would be no mercy.  Besides, it seems there was more than one 'executioner' given the task.  In my opinion, it was likely there was no-one who had actually beheaded someone before.  They are merely described as two Welsh archers.  I'm sure Lancaster didn't care how they did it, as long as head and body were eventually separated.  I can only hope it was quick.

Afterwards, neither Lancaster or Warwick could be bothered to bury Piers are even take charge of the body.  Lancaster left him where he died, and when some shoemakers came across the body and took it to Warwick Castle, Guy refused to accept it.  Thankfully, some Dominican Friars took charge of his remains.  The head was sewn back on and the body was taken to Oxford, where Piers literally lay in state until Edward could get his excommunication revoked and give him a Christian burial.

Today, there is a monument to Piers at Blacklow Hill, and surrounding streets/roads have been given his name.  There is even a Gaveston Lodge just before you cross the fields to get to Blacklow Hill.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Celebrating Kathryn's appearance on BBC Scotland!

Check out Kathryn's wonderful Edward II blog for news of her appearance on 'The Quest for Bannockburn'.  Can't wait for it to go national!   No doubt, Piers would send you a hearty congratulations!

Monday, 9 June 2014

June 10th – capture of Piers Gaveston by Guy of Warwick

Today marks the anniversary of the ambush and capture of Piers Gaveston by his deadly enemy, Guy, Earl of Warwick.  This was a disaster for Piers, Edward and enraged Aymer de Valance, into whose custody Piers had been placed.

Here’s a little background information about Pembroke – and his wives.  Aymer de Valence was the second Earl of Pembroke. He was born in 1275 and was one of the Lords Ordainers who had ensured that Piers Gaveston was sent into exile for the third time.  Pembroke had suffered from Piers sharp tongue, having been nick-named Joseph the Jew.  The reason was supposedly his appearance.  At the time of Piers’ surrender at Scarborough Castle, Pembroke was married to his first wife,  Beatrice, daughter of  Raoul de Clermont,  Lord of Nesle in Picardy (he later married  Marie de St Pol in 1321).  Beatrice was to play a part in the capture of Piers by Guy of Warwick.

In my previous post, I dealt with the favourable surrender of Piers to Pembroke.  It seems both Piers and Edward II were relieved that Pembroke had custody of Piers.  Pembroke was a man of honour, and had sworn an oath to protect Piers’ life.  Whether he had the full support of the other barons is questionable.  He may have acted without the support of Thomas of Lancaster and Guy of Warwick. 

Pembroke decided to take Piers South.   They arrived in Deddington on June 9th.  Piers was housed in the rectory house at Deddington.  Leaving Piers with some guards, Pembroke headed off to see his wife at Bampton.  It seems incredible that Pembroke would leave Piers at Deddington and then go on to see his wife.  What could be so important that Pembroke needed to see his wife?  And it begs the question – why didn’t he take Piers with him?   It seems Pembroke decided to make use of the opportunity of being so near his wife, and possibly he felt Deddington offered more protection to Piers than his manor house.  Or maybe, he was in contact with Guy of Warwick, and knew that Guy would seize Piers as soon as Pembroke left.  Had Warwick been in touch, and told Pembroke that he did not have the support of all the Lords Ordainers, and pressured him into literally handing over Piers?  Pembroke used the ‘excuse’ of going to visit his wife.  It seems very unlikely.  Pembroke had sworn a chivalric oath, with the threat of forfeiting his estates.   He had given his word, and ensured Piers and the king were separated.  This was a time for negotiation – not to betray his sovereign, whatever he may have thought of Piers. 

How Warwick found out about Pembroke’s actions remains a mystery.  He must surely have heard Pembroke was in his vicinity.  He may have had his men ‘spying’ on what was happening, keeping him informed of Pembroke’s movements.  Or did one of Pembroke’s men betray him?  Warwick may have suspected that Pembroke would visit his wife.  Pembroke trusted his men to guard Piers, and could surely never have guessed his authority would be challenged.  Warwick seized his chance, and ordered that the guards hand Piers over.  We don’t know how many men Pembroke had left guarding Piers – but it wasn’t enough to protect him.  I’ve often wondered why, if he was poorly guarded, why Piers didn’t plan some sort of escape.  However, he had surrendered to Pembroke on favourable terms, had been treated respectfully by Pembroke, and no doubt felt safe in his custody.  He too had given his word.  Piers was undoubtedly horrified to be taken by Warwick, and Pembroke was enraged.  His honour had been tainted.  Warwick’s actions ensured that after the death of Piers, Pembroke sided with the king from then on.  Warwick’s coup was a stain on the Chivalric code. 

Today in Deddington, Piers’ short stay is recognised – there is a Piers Row and Gaveston Gardens.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Countdown to the death of Piers Gaveston, part 1.

May 19th, 1312, had seen the surrender by Piers Gaveston  at Scarborough Castle.  Initially, Piers and Edward II  had agreed that Piers would stay at Scarborough Castle and prepare for a siege, whilst Edward would do his best to rally support.  For whatever reason,  (and I’ll discuss this in another post),  there was no long term siege.  

Piers had surrendered to Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, and the Earl of Surrey, after returning without permission from his third exile.  The terms of the surrender were most favourable to Piers (the most likely reason he surrendered, maybe).  Pembroke would take Piers to St Mary’s Abbey in York, where it was hoped the king, Edward, and either Thomas of Lancaster or his someone chosen by him, would come to an agreement about Piers. If an agreement could not be reached by 1 August, Piers would be allowed to return to Scarborough.  Pembroke, Surrey and Percy of Northumberland swore an oath that they would protect Piers and return him unharmed to Scarborough.  All 3 promised to forfeit their property if they broke the oath.  Piers himself swore that he would not try to influence the king.   Edward and Piers surely had no doubt such a serious oath would be kept.

When Pembroke arrived in York, there is no mention of Lancaster being present.  Seymour Phillips, in his biography of Edward II, says the lack of Lancaster being mentioned may mean that Pembroke had not consulted the other nobles when agreeing to the surrender of Piers.  This could well be true, as the terms of the surrender were so favourable, and Lancaster, and Guy of Warwick, may have felt they were not bound by the agreement.  The chronicler of the Vita Edwardi  Secundi says that Edward was playing for time, and hoped to ensure the support of his Queen’s father, Philip of France, and the Pope,  who would come to his aid and help to save Piers.

There’s no mention of whether Edward and Piers met for the last time at York.  In fact, we don’t even know if Pembroke took Piers to York.   Edward must surely have been relieved that Piers was in the custody of someone like Pembroke, and having sworn to protect Piers, Edward now assumed his efforts could be fully focused on finding a way to keep Piers with him and to appease his barons.   Of course,  his plans came to nothing, as by June 19th, Piers had been killed.  In my next post, I’ll look more in depth at the role of Pembroke’s oath and actions.

Friday, 23 May 2014

At last! Judgement on burial of Richard III

The High Court has reached a decision on the final resting place of Richard III.  It has been decided he should have a 'dignified burial' in Leicester Cathedral.   The Justice Secretary blasted  the 'Plantagenet Alliance' for wasting public money.  The Alliance had wanted Richard re-buried in York Minster.  I totally agree with the judgement - including the remark about wasting public money! 

To begin with, Leicester University had funded part of the search for Richard's remains.  They always intended to re-bury Richard in Leicester - with dignity and honour.  As far as I know, York didn't pay anything towards the search, and didn't voice an opinion on what would happen if the remains were found.  It was only after the discovery that the debate began.

Richard himself never intended to be buried in York.  He was preparing a tomb in St George's Chapel, Windsor, alongside his brother Edward IV.  His Queen, Anne Neville, was buried in Westminster Abbey - clearly Richard had no plans for a joint tomb, and today her burial place is marked with a simple plaque. 

With the Battle of Bosworth actually taking place in Leicester, surely Richard and Henry Tudor would have expected to be buried in Leicester, whichever one of them fell in battle.  Margaret of Anjou's son, Edward of Lancaster, fell at Tewkesbury, and is buried in the Abbey there.  Edward II is said to have died at Berkley Castle, and was buried in nearby Gloucester, and the same for Prince Arthur, who died at Ludlow and was buried in nearby Worcester Cathedral.

Most importantly - Richard was actually given a Christian burial and a tomb in Leicester - why remove remains that have lain in Leicester for 500 years, over some romanticised notion that Richard 'belongs' in York.

I find it somewhat ironic that all this fuss has been made, when the bones of Edward V and his brother Richard of York, were shown scant respect by Richard and buried in a chest under a staircase in the White Tower.  Though if Thomas More is to be believed, a priest was summoned to say prayers, and their resting place may have been a temporary measure.  Thankfully, after the bones were discovered, they were re-buried in Westminster Abbey.

If the remains of Piers Gaveston are ever found, I wonder where he would be re-buried............