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


Kathryn Warner said...

Wow, is it really six years since you started your blog? Congrats! :)

I totally agree, that love was stronger than between brothers. Just the way they presented it for public consumption, perhaps, or how people chose to interpret it.

Anerje said...

Yes Kathryn 6 years - only feels like a couple of years. And yes, it all comes down to interpretation. I don't think anyone else had a brotherhood like those!

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

Hi, Anerje! I'm back from the seashore, trying to catch up with all the blogs I follow :-)

Very interesting read! And you certailnly have a point saying that scarcely anyone had a brotherhood like Edward and Piers :-) Six years... Congratulations!

Anerje said...

Hope you enjoyed your break Kasia. Thyanks for the congratulations - I can hardly believe it myself.

Gabriele C. said...

There has been an institutionalised brotherhood in the 10-12th century Germany about which Gerd Althoff has written several essays. It was basically a demonstration in an age with little literacy where symbolic acts - and formal utterances in chronicles and chartes - were important. I'm not sure if the examples are mostly restricted to the time and place which is Althoff's special area of research or if these things did indeed lose value in the 14th century. But I can see how the brotherhood of Edward and Piers could describe their closeness not only emotionally (like we see it today) but politically as well, according to tradition. So what the Lancaster party did to Piers was basically high treason in the eyes of Edward, and rightfully so.

Anerje said...

Hi Gabriele - yes I've read these type of chivalrous bonds of brotherhood existed. We'll never know the exact relationship that existed between Piers and Edward, but interesting to think Edward may have viewed Lancaster's as high treason.