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.