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Table of contents :
Table of Contents
1. Chronology: 1307–99
2. Chronology: 1399–1485
A Chronology of Medieval British History 1307–1485
A Chronology of Medieval British History 1307–1485 is a year-by-year guide to political, military, religious and cultural developments in the states within the British Isles from 1307–1485. The book uses a range of primary sources to provide a detailed and comprehensive narrative of events as they occurred. Throughout, the dating and accuracy of the records are identified, and problems of interpretation highlighted. The result is both a narrative of developments in parallel and inter-connected polities, and an ‘epitome’ of source material. Where exact data is difficult to come by or problematic on account of the political bias of the sources, this is evaluated and various options in interpretation referenced along with any recent developments in study and interpretation by academic experts. Using a chronological framework and dividing the material into separate sections for each state or region each year to allow for easy cross-referencing, A Chronology of Medieval British History 1307–1485 is ideal for students of medieval British and European history. Timothy Venning is an independent scholar and researcher and formerly worked on the Oxford New Dictionary of National Biography. His previous books include A Chronology of the Crusades (2015) and A Chronology of Early Medieval Western Europe (2017).
A Chronology of Medieval British History 1307–1485
First published 2020 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2020 Timothy Venning The right of Timothy Venning to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Venning, Timothy, author. Title: A chronology of medieval British history, 1307–1485 / Timothy Venning. Description: New York : Routledge, 2020. | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2019058815 (print) | LCCN 2019058816 (ebook) | ISBN 9780367421496 (hardback) | ISBN 9780367822200 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Great Britain—History—Medieval period, 1066–1485—Chronology. Classification: LCC DA175 .V463 2020 (print) | LCC DA175 (ebook) | DDC 941.0402/02—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019058815 LC ebook record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019058816 ISBN: 978-0-367-42149-6 (hbk) ISBN: 978-0-367-82220-0 (ebk) Typeset in Sabon by Swales & Willis, Exeter, Devon, UK
Introduction1 1 Chronology: 1307–99 2 Chronology: 1399–1485
The period from 1307 to 1485 has advantages for the scholar over the earlier period of medieval British history – sources are more common and include many more written at a ‘local’ level. This is true both of London, the largest city in the islands, and the English provinces – with the older tradition of clerical chronicles centred on Church establishments continuing in Scotland (though not exclusively) and dominant in Wales and Ireland. Notably there is a noticeable shift in the C14th to the C15th in the language used by many chroniclers, as opposed to that of administrative record, from Latin or French to the demotic in everyday usage – the medieval ancestor of modern English. Latin remained the main language of record for the secular administration and monasteries/cathedrals alike, with the corpus of surviving administrative records expanding and including local town records. (Even at elite level at the royal court, Edward III appears to have spoken English regularly in contrast to his predecessors and from Richard II onwards English definitively replaced French as the elite language – possibly as a by-product of ‘Hundred Years’ War’ nationalism as well as English cultural confidence.) We are therefore faced with much greater survival of data after 1307 than before, now extending even to occasional elite letters and collections of surviving family correspondence in the C15th – most notably by the Paston family of Norfolk, intimately connected to the important commander Sir John Fastolf and local rivals of the Dukes of Norfolk, and the less important Plumptons of Yorkshire. There are also continuing (mostly monastic) chronicles on an ever larger scale – some of them written by men with connections to or who witnessed ‘high politics’, with a high reputation for accuracy and giving the ‘inside story’ as major sources for contemporary politics such as the writings of the late C14th St Albans monastic chronicler Thomas Walsingham and the C15th continuations of the Fenland Crowland/Croyland Chronicle. Obvious or more subtle political bias, e.g. by partisans/clients of one side or the other in the struggles at the courts of Richard II, Henry VI and Edward IV, is still a problem and may have distorted our views of certain controversial rulers, but the multiplicity of sources makes it easier to evaluate data from different origins – most notably in the case of still-controversial King Richard III. In the case of his usurpation and responsibility or not for his nephews’ disappearance, a whole literary industry has grown up to evaluate and criticise the sources. As early as the deposition of equally controversial ‘autocrat’ Richard II in 1399, his cousin and replacement Henry IV
2 Introduction is on record as calling for the monastic chronicles to be checked for their interpretations – so controlling the story available to the literate public (now increasingly including wealthier laymen even before the growth of printing) and future generations became important. We also have reports from occasional overseas visitors on British events, e.g. by the Italian traveller Dominic Mancini during the 1483 crisis in England, plus a larger than previous body of French chronicles (biased in the opposite direction from the English ones on the inter-state warfare of 1337–1453?) and official documents. Literate clerks from Southern England taught at Church or monastic schools remained the main sources of chronicles in the C14th, both monks and local Church administrative/cathedral employees, writing in scholarly Latin in the same tradition as seen since the Anglo-Norman era. Laymen educated in schools and working in legal or town/mercantile administration also started to play a role, and by c. 1440 the number of monastic chroniclers was in steep decline (perhaps reflecting a loss of energy, activism and cultural leadership in monasteries?). Where monastic chronicles continued this was due to doggedly keeping up an established tradition and source of local pride. The number of chronicles multiplies, to around fifty to sixty for the period from c. 1270 to 1470. Many of the new lay authors were monastically or Church educated and so influenced by Church cultural habits – and in the case of chronicles by traditions of moralising, Christian determinism, and retailing inspiring and providential stories pointing to God’s work. The literary traditions of earlier romantic and ‘nationalist’ ‘histories’ like those of Geoffrey of Monmouth in the 1130s also played a major role, and the long tradition of tracing English/British history back to the legend of the supposed British founding king ‘Brutus’ from Troy continued to produce a series of chronicles known as Bruts. Their ‘ancient history’ might be fable and they might include dubious ‘tall tales’, but there was patriotic horror from many contemporaries when the early Tudor (Italian) historian Polydore Vergil – himself subsequently accused of writing a propagandist attack on Richard III – expressed doubt over the historicity of Geoffrey’s ancient legends. However, as a consequence, there was a greater care in seeking out reliable sources and citing the chain of witnesses for events, with many chroniclers now hastening to assure that they had witnessed named events themselves or had used reliable first-hand sources. Some of the new plethora of lay writers, such as the major late C14th chivalric ‘elite history’ source Jean de Froissart, had fought in the battles and known the courtly warlords who they wrote about, though they tended to write ‘history’ as a series of ‘set piece’ events involving the elite rather than as an analysed process. Writing continued to be either for the inhabitants of the writer’s institution (such as monasteries) or for a smallish circle of personal friends, usually from the wealthy elite, but the growth of lay education, much greater usage of English rather than the courtly international language of French for communication, and finally the explosion of available works for the well-off to read via printing drastically expanded the expected audience. The authors remained male, usually middle-aged or elderly, and explicitly wrote within the established Churchtaught cultural traditions, but there was greater usage of witnesses (in quality
Introduction 3 and quantity) and addition of transcripts of original documents (e.g. charters and official letters) to make histories seem more reliable, showing that this was now expected of the writers – though modern criticism of the authors for gullibility and basing their narratives on too much gossip continues. The major chronicles for the C14th include the Anonimalle Chronicle, compiled at St Mary’s Abbey in York, in two published editions for 1307–44 and 1338–81 – in the ‘high politics’/war tradition of the continuing Bruts but with extra Church and London sources added in from c. 1333. Another major monastic source for the period is the Chronicon of Walter of Guisborough (alternatively known as Walter of Hemingburgh), a canon of the Augustinian priory in that town, covering the period to 1346 and ending with the Battle of Crécy. Like other current writers, he included data from earlier monastic works but is more analytical and reliable for his own period – the events were personally witnessed by himself or his informants and the chronicles include transcripts of original material. Another ‘balanced’ chronicler from a religious background was Adam Murimuth (d. 1347), canon of Hereford and then St Paul’s Cathedral in London and a former papal notary, who covered the period 1302–47 and wrote in retirement in Buckinghamshire after 1325. Like an increasing number of chroniclers he had travelled around, worked in a variety of places, and had witnessed events or at least met witnesses rather than just collecting what information happened to come to him. A ‘litmus test’ of assessing the plausibility and sources for different accounts of one particular event can now be used to work out the most reliable authors; e.g. the sensational but well-hidden presumed murder of the deposed Edward II at Berkeley Castle in 1327 where Murimuth’s near-contemporary account is more reliable and less lurid than that of Geoffrey Le Baker later. Another canon of St Paul’s contemporary with him compiled the Annales Paulini, which cover 1307–41. Other fairly reliable accounts in the Brut tradition include that of Ranulf Higden (a monk of the abbey of St Werburgh in Chester), the Polychronicon which covers events to 1347, and the C14th (1327–96 but mostly original only from 1337) chronicle of Henry Knighton, an Oxford-educated monk at Leicester Abbey who had known the controversial Church reformer John Wyclif and from his harsh words about proposed reforms was clearly a conventional conservative observer of his troubled times. Knighton criticised both the apparent autocracy and misrule of Richard II and the ‘Lollards’, but presented and quantified contemporary opinions as well as his own. The Anonymous of Canterbury (Anonymi Cantuarensis), covering 1346–65, and the mid-C15th hagiographer John Capgrave’s chronicle of the later C14th to mid-C15th were more traditionalist, explicitly moralist and less critical of their sources, collecting much of their data from other chronicles without question and writing in the Anglo- Norman monastic manner with an ‘improving’ Christian slant to their accounts. One other major clerical source for the period, Oxford-educated Church lawyer Adam of Usk (d. 1430 and covering 1377–1421), played a crucial eyewitness role in Henry of Bolingbroke (Henry IV)’s army as it marched to Flint to capture Richard II in 1399 and later deserted the new king to fight for Owain Glyn Dwr’s Welsh rebels before being pardoned. His and other accounts of the ‘1399 revolution’ have to be checked for signs of partisanship, and overseas visitors’ accounts
4 Introduction (e.g. that of Jean Creton) are now seen as more reliable – a problem that recurs in the inter-dynastic royal crises of the 1460s–80s. A different form of cultural conservatism marks the military and courtly history of Jean de Froissart (c. 1337–1405), a court ‘insider’ in the retinue of Edward III’s Queen Philippa who covered the period of 1337–1400. In his ‘war-heavy’ history he was keen to present vignettes of aristocratic and royal interaction and chivalric military encounters, and was gossipy and short on analysis concerning politics and campaigns. He failed to go into events in any depth and made much of individual incidents rather than overall changes, but was often either a witness or used first-hand accounts and did his best to be accurate. The period also has more, if still rare, elite ‘biographies’ (in verse or not) than earlier periods: for example, the Vita Edwardi Secundi by an unknown but allegedly monastic author (the original of which has been lost), which may have been written contemporaneously with events not in retrospect as analysed by Chris Given-Wilson, and the more laudatory life of Edward, Prince of Wales (the ‘Black Prince’) by the herald of his senior commander Sir John Chandos, a courtly ‘hanger-on’ and observer of elite events like Froissart. Another problematic chivalric ‘history’ writer from a similar (but Flemish) background was Jean Le Bel (d. 1370), a major source for Froissart who like him relies on eye-catching ‘set pieces’ and is the main source for such well-known contemporary stories as the ‘affair’ between Edward III and the Countess of Salisbury and that king’s pardoning of the ‘Six Burghers’ of Calais. Some shorter works from a source close to events have major importance for a particular period, such as the Westminster Chronicle for the period 1381–94. The main source for the later C14th and early C15th remains monastic, i.e. the St Albans works of Thomas Walsingham (d. c. 1422) including the Historia Anglicana (1272–1422), its summary with additions the Ypodigma Neustriae (written c. 1415 for Henry V), the Chronica Angliae (1328–88) and the Chronica Majora. Walsingham consciously kept to the monastic chronicle tradition of earlier writers like the C13th Matthew Paris, but in an ‘up-to-date’ manner he carefully marshalled his facts and was critical of both Richard II and his controversial uncle John ‘of Gaunt’. As shown by his patronage and use of Walsingham, Henry V was aware of and careful to recruit sympathetic historians – the authorship of his own laudatory life, the Gesta Henrici Quinti, was long unclear as his chaplain Thomas Elmham had referred to his biography of the king but the latter is now assumed lost and the extant book to be by the Italian literary scholar Tito Livio Frulovisi. There are even more chronicles for the C15th, now mostly lay and often written by urban laymen and concentrated in London. Mentions should be made of the chronicles of John Strecche (1413–22) and John Benet (1400–62), the latter of which was the first major chronicle written in the English language since the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle ended in 1154, the continuing variety of semi-official Brut chronicles through the period which seem to have been written by royal clerks, and the London-centric Gregory’s Chronicle (1189–1471) – derivative of other earlier works until the C15th but then by a contemporary, but presumably not the originally credited William Gregory who died in 1467. Another major source for the period of the so-called ‘Wars of the Roses’ and the crises of
Introduction 5 1470–1, 1483 and 1485 is the London New Chronicle of Robert Fabyan, compiled from antiquity to 1509 and printed in 1516. Another well-informed source was the contemporary continuations of the earlier (from 1117) monastic Fenland Crowland/Croyland Chronicle written at that abbey, of which the two parts of the second (1459–68 and 1485–6) and the third (from 1486) are highly rated as being accurate though it is now thought that Richard III’s chancellor Bishop John Russell was not the author after all. The chronicle account of 1461–74 attributed to John Warkworth, Master of Peterhouse College Cambridge, but probably written by one of his colleagues, is another major political source. A valuable but more unashamedly partisan account of one campaign is the propagandist ‘Arrival of King Edward the Fourth’, retailing how that king regained his throne in 1471 and apparently commissioned weeks later by him from a member of his entourage. A contrary, ‘Lancastrian’ political slant marks the chronicle of John Hardyng (1378–1465), a rhyming work covering political events to 1437, while the well-connected Wawickshire chantry priest John Rous (d. 1492), a client in turn of the ‘Kingmaker’ Earl of Warwick and of Richard III, used his Historia Regum Angliae in the Brut tradition covering from fictional antiquity to his last years but updated the 1480s coverage in tune with the wishes of the current regimes, changing his tone after 1485. Compared with England, Scots chronicle coverage remains patchy and Church-orientated for longer, with many early annals lost and charges made that the English invasions of the 1290s and 1330s saw deliberate destruction or looting of records to wipe out nationalist narratives and diminish the legitimacy of an independent state. The chivalric-style poetic heroisation of Robert Bruce, his lieutenant Sir James ‘the Black’ Douglas, and the independence struggle of 1296–1328 is seen in Barbour’s long romance The Bruce, probably compiled in the 1370s to play up the role of the new Stewart dynasty’s King Robert II’s grandfather, Robert I. It is not contemporary and is as prone to exaggeration, simplification and concentrating on ‘set pieces’ as Froissart in England. Similar doubts as to strict historicity and extra ones as to authorship mar the other main late C14th source, the Chronica Gentis Scotorum (c. 1370) of John of Fordun, probably written in Aberdeen and in the established clerical chronicle tradition (see the modern analyses by Professor Dauvit Broun), and more to the gossipy and prolix work of Walter Bower in the 1460s which was designed to continue his chronicles. For the earlier period to 1363, the Scalachronica by a Borders lay author, Sir Thomas Gray of Heton, is well placed and reliable. The main Continental C15th ‘high politics and war’ sources for England and its French wars are by Enguerrand de Monstrelet (Cambrai, Flanders, covering to 1444) and Jean de Monstrelet (Burgundy courtly poet, covering to the 1490s), along with invaluable personal witnessing of events in the 1460s–70s by Louis XI’s ex-Burgundian memorialist Philippe de Commignes who attended his master’s meeting with Edward IV in 1475. The coverage of the period in the later work post-1485 of firstly ‘official’ court historian Polydore Vergil (c. 1470–1555), whose work was completed in 1512–13 and printed in 1534, and then John Stow (written c. 1560, published 1580 and updated 1592) also used available sources that are now lost but have been questioned for their pro-Tudor, anti-Yorkist partisanship.
6 Introduction This also fed into the 1540s chronicle of John Hall which was a major source for Shakespeare – but the greater availability of sources and the existence of local, non-political family papers (most famously those of the Pastons) enable us to weight one source against another to a greater degree than pre-1300. For detailed discussions, see: Ernest Douglas Kennedy, Chronicles and Other Historical Writings, vol 8 of A Manual of the Writings in Middle English 1050– 1500, ed. Albert Harting and J Severs (Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1989); Encyclopedia of the Medieval Chronicle, ed. Graeme Dunphy and Cristian Bratu (2 vols, Brill, 2010); David Rolfe, ‘The Historia Croylandensis: A Plea for Reassessment’ (E H R, vol. 110, February 1995, pp. 93–108).
1 Chronology: 1307–99
REIGN OF EDWARD II: 1307–27 ENGLAND/SCOTLAND Edward II’s excessive grants of land and honours to a small and widely disliked group of ‘favourites’ spark off violent political opposition. The hatred shown by the leading earls towards the ‘low-born’ royal favourite Piers Gaveston is centred on the new king’s blatant loading of patronage onto him. The recall of Gaveston is accompanied by Edward’s bestowal of the earldom of Cornwall, previously held by his uncle Richard and cousin Edmund (d. 1300), on him on 6 August. This grant is reportedly not opposed by the leading ‘moderate’ baron at court, Henry de Lacey, Earl of Lincoln (1249–1311), father-in-law of the king’s bitterly anti-Gaveston cousin Earl Thomas of Lancaster (who is his heiress daughter Alice’s husband) and first cousin of the late ‘Red Earl’ Gilbert de Clare of Gloucester (d. 1295). But it was supposed to have been intended by his late father for one of his own younger sons, Edward II’s half-brothers Edmund of Kent and Thomas of Norfolk. Edward’s lack of interest in his overbearing father’s warlike pursuits is shown by his failure to pursue the royal campaign against Robert Bruce in July 1307, and his own preference for spending his leisure time lies in ‘unseemly’ manual crafts which the nobility regard as only suitable for the lower classes. His spendthrift nature and violent antipathy to his critics in youth are not seen as particularly unusual or reprehensible at the time, and he shares aristocratic interest in horses (Ditchling Stud, Sussex). However, his sporting pursuits centre not on tournaments or combat but on activities such as rowing; he also enjoys pursuits regarded as only for labourers (e.g. building walls). As Bruce’s initial successes in Galloway become more formidable he gains growing numbers of adherents among those provincial lords who had stayed aloof at first out of family jealousy of the Bruces or fear of English vengeance. He leaves his surviving brother Edward in charge in the SW and moves on by sea to the Western Highlands, in alliance with Angus ‘Mor’ MacDonald and the Mac Ruaris of Garmoran who supply
8 Chronology: 1307–99 ships, and starts a campaign in the Great Glen. The local English allies, the MacDougalls of Lorne, are unwilling or unable to stop him – perhaps due to the threat of invasion from the West by the rest of ‘Clan Donald’ in their rear if they leave Lorne unprotected? As the Bruce/MacDonald fleet sails up Loch Linnhe, Bruce’s old foe John MacDougall, deputising for his sick father Alexander, secures a truce. Bruce’s army of around 3000 Islemen (and Irishmen?) plus locals moves up the Glen unhindered; Inverlochy and Urquhart Castles are taken, and then Inverness and Nairn are sacked. Elgin holds out as Earl John Comyn of Buchan, cousin of the murdered ‘Red’ Comyn and consequently engaged in a blood feud with the Bruces, musters his tenants to the east to stop the Bruce advance. Earl William/Uilliam of Ross, lord of the lands north of the Great Glen and at risk of vengeance for handing over Bruce’s womenfolk and brother Neil to the English in 1306, comes to terms and is judged too valuable an ally to be punished despite his Comyn links. The only setback is an unspecified illness that detains Bruce for some weeks as he advances on Banff in late 1307 and holds up his campaigning, possibly an early sign of his later skin disease. But he recovers despite many of his troops drifting home due to the lack of action or loot, avoids a clash with the larger army of the Earl of Buchan, and moves back across Moray, taking Balvenie and Duffus. Gaveston arrives home in mid-August and is given the governorship of Ireland. He openly flaunts his monopoly of royal patronage and makes no effort to conciliate other nobles who made the most of their relationships with and the right to give advice to the king under Edward’s father and are now ignored. The unpopular treasurer Walter Langton, Bishop of Coventry, is replaced on 22 August by Walter Reynolds, the baker’s son who until the king’s accession was in charge of his wardrobe (i.e. private household accounts) and who now becomes the Bishop of Worcester too (elected in November). Langton is accused of embezzlement and sent to the Tower, and Gaveston receives his personal treasure. Edward writes to the Pope to reverse his father’s order suspending Archbishop Robert Winchelsey for ‘plotting’ and asking for him to return. Gaveston now enters Marcher politics, as the latest royal favourite ‘strongman’. Already Edward I has given him the ‘wardship’ of the under-age new head of the dynasty of Mortimer of Wigmore, Roger Mortimer (1287–1330), when the latter’s father Edmund died in 1304, at the prince’s request. 7 November. Gaveston is married by the king at Berkhamsted Castle to the king’s sister Countess Joan of Gloucester’s second daughter by the ‘Red Ear’ Gilbert de Clare, Margaret de Clare (1293–1342), co-heiress to her brother the current Earl Gilbert. (The latter is soon married off in 1308 to an heiress, Maud de Burgh the daughter of Earl Richard of Ulster and sister of Robert Bruce’s queen, but has no children.)
Chronology: 1307–99 9 Margaret’s elder sister Eleanor (1292–1337) has been married in 1306 to the rising and aggressively ambitious young court official Hugh le Despenser ‘the Younger’ (1286?–1326 executed). Gaveston is selected by the king to take over the lead role in the Marches for him, to the fury of the local barons. 2 December. Gaveston hosts a grand tournament at his Wallingford Castle, a royal family residence, and unhorses the Earls of Arundel (Richard Fitzalan), Surrey (the late king’s governor of Scotland John de Warenne, Fitzalan’s father-in-law) and Hereford (Humphrey de Bohun, married to the king’s sister Elizabeth). He demonstrates his horsemanship but infuriates the humiliated earls. 20 December. Gaveston is appointed as ‘Keeper of the Realm’ while Edward is in France in 1308 to do homage to Philip IV for Gascony and collect his bride, the king’s daughter Isabella. 1308
22 January. Edward’s party sails from Dover. 24 January, evening. Edward arrives at Boulogne and is greeted by Philip IV. He then meets his bride, does homage for Gascony, and receives the dowry of £18,000 for Isabella (taken from the Templars by Philip IV). Isabella is granted lands in Gascony by Edward, but the queen’s lands in England are still in the possession of his stepmother Margaret (Philip IV’s half-sister) so he promises to endow her separately within England later. Thursday 25 January. Marriage of Edward (aged 23) and Isabella (probably aged 15) at Boulogne Cathedral. The two kings and Edward’s stepmother Queen Margaret are joined by Philip IV’s heir Louis (also King of Navarre by marriage to its heiress), the German ruler Albert of Habsburg, King of the Romans and his wife, and Philip IV’s cousin King Charles II of Naples (and legally not ‘de facto’ Sicily). 28 January. Main wedding feast. The royal ‘summit’ talks are frosty as Philip issues a list of complaints over the governance of Gascony, asserting his right as overlord, clarifies that he is only granting it to Edward as his daughter’s husband for the duration of their marriage to pass on to their children, and issues hints about disliking Gaveston’s anti-French views – and Edward reportedly sends the king’s wedding presents to Gaveston in retaliation. 3 February. Edward and Isabella leave for Wissant to embark. 7 February. Edward and his court land at Dover to be greeted by Gaveston – who the king kisses and hugs in full view of his wife and her uncles. The king’s sister Elizabeth, Countess of Hereford, Alice d’Avesnes, Countess of Norfolk (wife of Earl Roger Bigod), Isabella de Beaumont the wife of John, Baron de Vesci (Northumberland lord) and sister of the king’s
10 Chronology: 1307–99 friend Henry, Baron de Beaumont, and Gaveston’s ex-ward and current ally Roger Mortimer’s wife Joan de Geneville, heiress of Ludlow and Trim, lead the queen’s new household – as set up by Gaveston. 9 February. The royal party leave Dover, and proceed to the main royal country residence SE of London at Eltham Palace near Greenwich, recently bequeathed to the king by his father’s late minister Bishop Bek of Durham who rebuilt it. At Eltham, the queen protests at her father’s jewellery gifts being worn by Gaveston. As the king ignores her, she writes to her father, and assorted nobles threaten to boycott the coronation after discovering that Gaveston will be in charge and have a prominent role. 19 February. The king and queen’s state entry to London, to the Tower. 24 February. State procession to Westminster ahead of the coronation; the court moves into the palace there, recently extended by Edward I after a fire. 25 February. Edward II’s coronation at Westminster Abbey – with the sumptuously dressed Gaveston (in royal purple) carrying the crown and then taking a major role in the banquet in Westminster Hall, to leading nobles’ fury. Earl Thomas of Lancaster takes part, carrying the sword ‘Curtana’, despite boycott threats, while the Earl of Hereford carries the sceptre and Gaveston’s critic Guy Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, carries the three swords of state. The food for the banquet is served up late for which Gaveston is blamed, and the queen’s uncles complain at Gaveston’s rather than Isabella’s heraldic arms being with the king’s on the ‘official’ tapestries. The displays of affection between Edward and Gaveston give rise to anger, exacerbated by Edward’s lack of interest in or granting of traditional funds and a separate household to his under-age teenage bride. Gaveston shows open contempt for the leading peers at court and uses his cutting wit on them with every sign of royal approval. References to the king’s illicit passion for Gaveston and neglect of his wife appear in the contemporary chronicles of Robert of Reading and Adam Murrimuth. The king’s cousin, Earl Thomas of Lancaster, High Steward of England from 9 May, known to contemporaries for haughtily standing on his rights and vindictiveness rather than principle, leads a faction of nobles determined to remove Gaveston and is joined by the king’s sister Elizabeth’s husband, Humphrey de Bohun (1276?–1322), fourth Earl of Hereford and tenth Earl of Essex. The other major Marcher warlord involved in the anti-Gaveston clique is another close royal relative, Aymer de Valence (1275?–1324), Earl of Pembroke and son of William de Valence (Henry III’s half-brother). He is seen by contemporary chroniclers as honest, honourable, less crude and ruthless than Thomas of Lancaster, and not driven by grudges unlike another member of the group, Guy de
Chronology: 1307–99 11 Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick (1275?–1316), Lord of Elfael in Powys but himself the latest head of a dynasty based in Worcestershire as lords of Elmley Castle. Warwick, hereditary sheriff of Worcestershire, is like Pembroke a trusted general of Edward I elbowed aside by his successor, and is known as ‘The Black Dog of Arden’ by Gaveston. The other major peer involved is John de Warenne (1286–1347), seventh Earl of Surrey or ‘Earl Warenne’, an abrasive character married to the king’s niece Joan of Bar (annulled 1315) and normally at feud with Lancaster. This ‘junta’ of peers use Parliament, which opens on 3 March 1308, to arrange a demand that Gaveston be banished – having apparently taken an oath to drive him out of England. They are led by Lincoln and are joined by the newly returned Archbishop Winchelsey. Only the young Earl Gilbert de Clare of Gloucester remains neutral among the great peerage, and his Marcher brother-in-law Hugh Despenser’s father, the elder Hugh (Warwick’s son-in-law), stands by the king with the latter’s cousin John de Montfort, Earl of Richmond, and is accused by the ‘opposition’ of toadying in return for hopes of gain. At this stage, the younger Hugh Despenser and his father are not such polarising figures as after 1312, probably as the younger Hugh’s wife (from 1306) Eleanor de Clare is not yet co-owner of the family Glamorgan lands and her brother Earl Gilbert could have sons to inherit them, but are protégés of Edward I. The king goes to Windsor over Easter; Gaveston arrives from Wallingford to join the royal court. The barons gather an army in London as Parliament resumes on 28 April, and demand that Gaveston be banished for embezzling royal funds and offices. SCOTLAND May 1308 sees Bruce’s return to Buchan, probably with a larger force but still physically weak – he has to be carried in a litter by his men for weeks. He defeats the earl at Inverurie on 10 May, when Bruce’s army is caught unprepared in the early morning as Buchan’s lieutenant David Brechin attacks the town but he rallies his men to drive the attackers out. Buchan is not ready to follow up Brechin’s raid so misses a great opportunity, and when Bruce draws up his men by the Hill of Barra they appear to have been dismayed to find that Bruce is able to sit on a horse and not incapacitated as reported. They are routed, and the earl is pursued as far as Turiff and subsequently flees to England without trying to save his estates. Bruce is able to ravage the Comyns’ lands across the area, and end the Comyn obstacle to his plans by driving the family out of their hereditary lands. The ‘Harrying of Buchan’ both extinguishes the Comyns as a power in the land and denies the manpower and supplies of the region to the English, and Bruce follows it up by defeating the English garrison at Aberdeen.
12 Chronology: 1307–99 Arguably the loss of men and material in this rich land, a centre of agricultural production, and the extinguishing of the Comyn power base shifts the politico-economic centre of gravity to the South. ENGLAND/FRANCE The English barons are backed against Gaveston by Philip IV of France, who has already sent his trusted clerk Ralph de Rosseleti to take control of Isabella’s privy purse and correspondence and is now reported on 12 May as sending envoys to England to join the demand to banish Gaveston or face him aiding the protesters; Isabella backs an appeal to her by assorted monks of Westminster Abbey to stop Gaveston forcing his client on them as their new abbot. 14 May. Edward grants the counties of Ponthieu and Montmirail in North France, in his hands, to Isabella to provide money for her court. 18 May. Edward has to promise to send Gaveston away by Midsummer Day and remove his titles and lands, and the archbishop replies that if that does not happen Gaveston will be excommunicated; the king meets Gaveston at Kings Langley near Berkhamsted (4 June), the late Queen Eleanor’s favourite country residence where Edward himself spends a lot of time (and now gives it to Gaveston), and chooses to give Gaveston the lieutenancy of Ireland on 16 June as an honourable alternative to banishment. That day he also asks King Philip to desert the barons and the Pope to revoke the excommunication threat. 25 June. The king sees Gaveston off to Ireland at Bristol, and takes over the earldom of Cornwall until his return. 4 August. The next Parliament opens at Nottingham, with the Gaveston issue dormant. September. The king meets Philip IV’s envoy, his brother the Count of Évreux, probably to get him to mediate in allowing Gaveston’s return; the autumn sees Thomas of Lancaster cease to attend court. SCOTLAND Bruce takes on the MacDougalls in Argyll rather than moving south to challenge the English hold of the Lowlands, preferring to build up an unchallengeable position in the Scots heartland north of the Tay rather than directly attacking the remaining English garrisons. The MacDougalls, pro-English branch of the ‘Sons of Somerled’, are defeated at the Battle of the Pass of Brander, probably on the bank of the River Awe below the slopes of Ben Cruachan though the site and date are disputed (August 1308?). John MacDougall, son of the family’s head Alexander MacDougall, is in command of his clansmen again, and tries to stage an ambush by hiding his men up on the hillside above the pass; however,
Chronology: 1307–99 13 Bruce sends Sir James Douglas and his men up the mountain to take them by surprise from above. The MacDougalls’ main castle at Dunstaffnage is besieged and taken, and Alexander surrenders as John flees by sea to England;. Argyll is overrun and the MacDougalls, like the Comyns, are expelled; local power now passes to the MacDonalds west of the Great Glen (led by Angus ‘Og’, ‘the Young’, acceded 1299) and to the Campbells, the family of Bruce’s close follower Sir Neil Campbell, in Argyll. Alexander MacDougall joins his son and the Comyns in exile as dependants of Edward II. Bruce’s nephew Thomas Randolph, one of the Scots lords fighting for the MacDougalls, is captured by the English in 1306 and changes sides. According to poetic legend, Randolph upbraids his uncle for his ‘un-knightly’ reliance on guerrilla attacks rather than chivalric combat when he is taken before him. In England, the militarily experienced nobles who could have led armies into Scotland to rescue the Comyns or MacDougalls are otherwise engaged. IRELAND Autumn. The younger Roger Mortimer (born 1287), Gaveston’s ex-ward, serves as senior military commander in Meath and Leinster in 1308–9 after being sent to assist Gaveston by the king. He defeats the ‘rebel’ Irish lords Dermot O’Dempsey and the O’Byrnes of Wicklow. The de Lacey inheritance that has come down to Roger’s wife Joan de Geneville upon their marriage in 1304 from her grandmother includes Trim Castle in central Ireland with its lordship in Meath, plus other Irish lands, which Maud de Lacey had inherited in 1241 from her grandfather Walter de Lacey (d. 1241) – so Roger Mortimer is now a major lord and influence in Ireland too. ENGLAND/SCOTLAND Christmas. Edward and Isabella hold court at Windsor Castle. 1309
In March 1309 Bruce holds his first Parliament at St Andrews. March–April. Edward encourages Philip IV to defect to him from the anti-Gaveston faction, falsely claiming that the latter are reconciled to the favourite’s return. 25 April. The Pope cancels Archbishop Winchelsey’s threat of excommunication against Gaveston, as urged by the king. 27 April. Parliament meets at Westminster; it turns down the king’s request to lift Gaveston’s sentence of banishment. The king retreats to the royal residence across the Thames at Kennington to hold inconclusive talks with assorted nobles; in mid-June the Pope’s bull lifting the excommunication threat arrives and the king announces it to the horrified archbishop.
14 Chronology: 1307–99 Edward summons Gaveston home and meets him at Chester on 27 June; in late July they meet a new Parliament at Stamford, Lincs, away from the anti-Gaveston nobles’ political stronghold in London. Gloucester mediates and all the nobles apart from Warwick (and the archbishop) give in and accept Gaveston’s recall and restoration to office. 3 August. Gaveston is restored as Earl of Cornwall; the favourite is no less uncompromisingly assertive in pursuing influence and riches – and insulting to his opponents – than before. October. With Gaveston interfering in patronage again, the king takes his court to York; 18 October. Another Parliament opens at York, and the Earls of Lancaster, Hereford, Oxford, Arundel and Warwick refuse to attend as Gaveston is there. Edward postpones the next session until 8 February at Westminster in order to have better attendance, and calls in the Count of Évreux from France again to mediate as Philip IV is agreeable to trying to stop civil war (November). Edward bans scandalous rumours and armed meetings of the barons, and moves south to Kings Langley for Christmas. 1310
February. The baronial junta returns to the attack at the next Parliament at Westminster, while Gaveston is sent off to the North by the king for safety. The barons demand that the king cease his current ‘dismemberment of the Crown’ by giving undue wealth and power to an unworthy favourite and accuse him of losing Scotland by his incompetence. 16 March. The barons require a committee of 21 ‘Lords Ordainers’ be set up to create new legal ordinances to reform government and purge Gaveston’s influence; the king protests but is told that he has violated his coronation oath so will not be obeyed until he rules according to his coronation oath. In effect, the committee of Ordainers seizes power to usurp the king’s executive authority and control all appointments and political decisions as was done to Henry III in 1258. 17 March. The Ordainers are announced – led by Warwick, Lancaster, Hereford, Arundel and Archbishop Winchelsey, all trenchant royal critics, but also containing the more moderate Gloucester, Pembroke, Lincoln, Surrey and the ‘royalist’ Richmond. They start to issue ordinances reforming taxation and the administration. Edward proceeds to announce a new Scots campaign in June so he can take his court away from London and collect troops. A general meeting of the Scots clergy recognises Bruce as king in defiance of his papal excommunication. He slowly extends his power over the Lowlands as well as the Highlands as the isolated English garrisons are worn down. Linlithgow falls to the Scots.
Chronology: 1307–99 15 6 July. The English royal adviser Walter Reynolds, until recently treasurer, is made lord chancellor to reassert Edward’s influence in government. John Sandall becomes treasurer. Edward then sends Gaveston to the North to prepare the Scots campaign. August. Isabella heads north. September. Edward appoints the moderate Lincoln as ‘Keeper of the Realm’ and proceeds to Yorkshire and on to (18 September) Berwick to meet Gaveston. Edward invades Southern Scotland, in an unsuccessful attempt to rebuild his reputation as a leader with his distrustful barons by defeating Sir James Douglas who is now based in the Ettrick Forest launching ‘hitand-run’ raids. Needless to say, the latter will not risk battle against a vastly superior force and keeps carefully out of contact, wearing down Edward’s army with skirmishes until they run out of time and food supplies and return home. 16 November. Edward arrives back at Berwick, and decides to winter there and keep away from London. He summons Isabella and his court there for Christmas. 1311
5 February. Henry de Lacey, Earl of Lincoln, dies at his house in Holborn, removing a major advocate of compromise between the king and the Lancaster-Warwick ‘hardliners’; his lands go via his daughter Alice to her husband, Lancaster, who becomes Earl of Lincoln and Salisbury and uses his extra wealth and retainers/tenants to push for confrontation. Gloucester becomes ‘Keeper of the Realm’, but is overshadowed by Gaveston’s enemies on the Ordainers committee. Dumbarton falls to the Scots; May–June. Edward sends Gaveston on another failed campaign in Lothian but the latter cannot bring the Scots to battle. 26 June. Edward summons Parliament to London for a showdown as the Ordainers committee is demanding one so it can legalise its reform ordinances permanently; he sends Gaveston back to Scotland as its lieutenant (i.e. governor) but once the king has gone south in July Gaveston is pushed back across Lothian by a series of crippling Scots raids to his rear. With his supply lines under threat and grumbling rising as Northumberland is raided, Gaveston withdraws to Bamburgh Castle. The ‘Ordainers’ strike back and publish their full list of 41 Ordinances in August 1311 – banning the king from granting land, going to war or leaving the country without their permission and ordering Gaveston’s lifetime exile for arrogance, greed and misrule. They send a copy to the horrified king, who heads south for Parliament; Isabella follows and arrives in London around a couple of weeks after him, c. 21 August.
16 Chronology: 1307–99 8 August. The new Parliament meets at Blackfriars, the eponymous Dominican friars’ headquarters by the River Fleet in London; they proceed to diminish the king’s powers as set out in the Ordinances and banish Gaveston from the realm for ever. 27 September. The Ordinances are read out and put up in public at St Paul’s Churchyard; Archbishop Winchelsey makes an approving sermon and threatens to excommunicate anyone who resists them. 30 September. Edward has to sign up to the Ordinances; Gaveston has until 1 November to leave England. 8 October. Edward issues a safe conduct to Gaveston to come to him; he then moves to Windsor and later in October to Eltham where his favourite duly arrives, and on 9 October writes to his sister Margaret and her husband Duke John of Brabant to secure a refuge in exile for Gaveston. 15 October. Isabella goes on pilgrimage to the shrine of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury. The king joins her at Eltham after sending urgent letters to Philip IV seeking aid to overthrow the Ordainers, and on 3 November Gaveston sails from Dover to France. 23 October. Walter Norwich succeeds John Sandall as treasurer (to January 1312). November. The Ordainers require Edward to send Gaveston’s allies away from court. Edward recalls him in a fury at this humiliation, despite the risk, and gets Gaveston to travel via Flanders in case spies in France spot him and King Philip or one of his ministers tips off the Ordainers. 30 November. Having heard rumours that Gaveston is back in England at one of his castles, either Tintagel or Wallingford, the Ordainers compel Edward to order a public search for him. In fact Edward is helping him hide, and when he heads to Windsor on 18 December Gaveston is secretly summoned there to join him and his wife. 25 December. The court holds Christmas at Westminster – and Gaveston is spotted there, openly parading at court. 1312 Gaveston’s presence at Westminster enrages the baronial ‘opposition’; on 7 January the king takes his court – and his favourite – off to York out of the regime’s reach, arriving there on or around the 18th. He writes to Robert Bruce asking him to give Gaveston sanctuary, but Bruce refuses and says he cannot trust Edward who breaks faith with his own subjects. Perth falls to Bruce in January 1312; the pro-English Earl Malise (III) of Strathearn (d. 1317), acting as governor, is captured there and his eponymous son and heir Malise (IV), father of Malise (V) who is now heir to his maternal kinsman Jarl/Earl Magnus V of Orkney, stands surety for his good behaviour and loyalty in return for his release.
Chronology: 1307–99 17 At York Edward proceeds to nullify the Ordainers’ recent Ordinances and on 20 January restores Gaveston to all his lands and titles. He also restores the confiscated Isle of Man to the royalist adviser Henry de Beaumont. On 27 January he announces that only those Ordinances not contrary to the laws of England, as determined by him, should be observed, and his messengers announce in London that he has cancelled his friend’s illegal banishment. 5 February. Isabella arrives at St Albans Abbey en route to join her husband; she proceeds to York (22 February?). Meanwhile the king and Gaveston are joined by the latter’s pregnant wife Margaret, who gives birth to a daughter (Joan), and late in February the king and queen attend the baby’s christening in York. In March the king announces his wife’s pregnancy. The insurgent peers raise an army in London and set out to recapture the king and Gaveston by force, led by the implacable Lancaster, and the sovereign and his wife are put in the humiliating position of scurrying from place to place across the North-East to evade the baronial army and try to keep Gaveston safe. Lancaster, Warwick, Pembroke, Arundel and Hereford swear to kill Gaveston when they catch him, and Archbishop Winchelsey waves a sword around and proclaims anathema on Gaveston at a public ceremony. 6 March. Edward requires Henry, Lord Percy to hand over the secure clifftop Scarborough Castle as a refuge for Gaveston and sends the latter there to take it over. 31 March. Gaveston is formally granted Scaroborough Castle by Edward; both of them are at Scarborough overseeing its strengthening on 4 April. 5 April. As Lancaster closes in on York, Edward and Gaveston head for the safety of Newcastle and arrive on 10 April; Isabella is summoned from York to join them and the king sends to Gascony for troops. The queen arrives at Newcastle (by 22 April), and on 23 April the king sends his wife to the safety of nearby Tynemouth Priory; Lancaster enters York and heads north. 4 May. Lancaster and his army arrive at Newcastle and attack before the king is aware they are in the vicinity; the royal party with Gaveston escape down the Tyne by boat minus their baggage, which Lancaster loots, and Gaveston’s wife and baby are captured. The king reaches Tynemouth Priory to join his wife, and on 10 May accompanies Gaveston by sea to Scarborough Castle for his safety; the king then goes on to York to await the arrival of troops. The queen joins Edward at York on 16 May, having been assured of Lancaster’s goodwill and desire to protect her by letter but refused to accept his offer of protection.
18 Chronology: 1307–99 Gaveston is hunted down at Scarborough by Lancaster and his army, but the task of besieging and taking him is given to the more moderate Pembroke; he is forced to surrender, and promised a proper trial before Parliament in an agreement on 19 May. He will be held at his own Wallingford Castle until then and if no verdict has been reached by 1 August he will be free to return to Scarborough. Gaveston surrenders and Pembroke takes him south. Gaveston’s arch-enemy the Earl of Warwick ambushes his escort en route to his promised place of detention at Wallingford, and seizes him on the night of 9–10 June during an overnight stop at Deddington near Banbury. Pembroke has gone off for the night to stay with his wife who is nearby, and in the early hours Warwick’s men storm the Deddington rectory and drag Gaveston out; Warwick has his target marched barefoot through the streets of Deddington, then put on a mule and taken to his Warwick Castle to be thrown into a dungeon. The other senior Ordainers arrive at Warwick Castle and debate what to do with Gaveston, with Warwick demanding execution. The favourite is subjected to a ‘kangaroo court’ for returning from exile illegally in violation of the 20th Ordinance, and the accusers do not refer to the king cancelling that regulation and later claim they did not know he had done so. The honourable Pembroke has given his word that Gaveston will not be executed and objects to the death sentence, but Warwick ignores him. Meanwhile the frantic king is writing to the Pope and Philip IV for help. 19 June. Gaveston is taken out of the castle and beheaded on nearby Blacklow Hill (on Lancaster’s land); Pembroke boycotts the execution but Lancaster and his allies watch Warwick’s men carry it out from a distance. Pembroke, Surrey and the younger Despenser join the king, who is now determined on bloody vengeance (especially on Warwick, Arundel and Lancaster) as he arranges Gaveston’s funeral and gives grants to his widow; the queen remains in Yorkshire as Edward heads south to London. August. Edward sends Pembroke to Philip IV for military aid. He is determined on war with and the execution of Warwick and Lancaster, but Pembroke will not accept this despite his anger at the two for violating his honour by not accepting that he had sworn to Gaveston to keep him alive. Lancaster pledges to continue to carry out the Ordinances, i.e. keep Edward as a puppet and secure control of patronage for the Ordainers, and the extent of his personal greed as opposed to sincere concern for legality has been argued over ever since with most ‘neutral’ contemporary observers sceptical of his motives. Gloucester mediates and a clash is avoided as (September) Philip IV’s brother the Count of Évreux, is in London and mediates too, and the Pope sends legates to assist the bishops.
Chronology: 1307–99 19 WALES Dispute begins over the rightful inheritance of the mini principality of southern Powys when the Anglicised under-age lord, Gruffydd ‘de la Poole’, second Lord Powis and grandson of Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn (d. 1286), dies as a royal ward in 1307. As chief justiciar of north Wales, Roger Mortimer of Wigmore’s eponymous uncle Roger Mortimer of Chirk adjudicates on the inheritance and awards it to the heir under English law, the late lord’s elder sister Hawise and her new husband (1309), John, Lord Charlton, a friend of Gaveston’s. This excludes the rights of their uncle, Sir Gruffydd (‘Griffin’ to the English) de la Poole, who objects that under Welsh law he should inherit; he fails and in 1312 besieges his rivals in their main residence, Welshpool Castle. Sir Gruffydd successfully seeks the support of both Thomas of Lancaster and the Mortimers’ local rival on the mid-Wales borders – Edmund Fitzalan (1285–1326), eighth Earl of Arundel, whose grandfather John Fitzalan (1223–1267) had in 1243 inherited the lands of the D’Albinis of Arundel in Sussex from his mother’s childless brother Earl Hugh of Arundel. Having inherited the lordship of Clun from the de Says, the Fitzalans have added a major English earldom to their lands – though this diverts their centre of attention away from the Marches. ENGLAND/FRANCE 13 November. Edward and Isabella’s first son and heir, Edward (III), is born at Windsor Castle; he is baptised there on 17 November with the papal legate Cardinal Arnold Novelli officiating. The queen’s uncle, Count of Évreux, the Earls of Pembroke and Richmond, and Bishops John of Droxford (of Bath and Wells) and Walter Reynolds (of Hereford) are among the godfathers. 20 December. A settlement is agreed; Gaveston’s killers will beg the king’s pardon and return his treasure as seized at Newcastle, and then the king will pardon them. 1313
January–February. After Lancaster and Warwick issue a list of 20 objections to the peace terms and Lancaster threatens to keep Gaveston’s treasure, Hereford has to negotiate a settlement. 23 February. The ‘King/Lancaster and Warwick’ settlement is ratified and Lancaster hands over Gaveston’s treasure; on 1 March the king leaves Westminster for Windsor and is joined by the queen. 11 May. Death of the pro-Ordainers Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Winchelsey, aged around 68. 23 May. The king and queen sail for Gascony, leaving Gloucester as ‘Keeper of the Realm’. They proceed to Paris by 1 June, where Isabella
20 Chronology: 1307–99 attends her brothers’ knighting by their father Philip IV on 3 June (Pentecost Sunday), and the two kings then announce on 6 June that they will go on Crusade as urged by the Pope – but never go. They proceed to Poissy on 2 July. The monks of Canterbury Cathedral monastery elect Thomas Cobham as their new archbishop, but Edward prefers his favoured cleric Walter Reynolds and writes to the Pope to annul the election and choose the latter instead. 8 July. Parliament opens at Westminster, but disperses before the king’s return home which was expected earlier; he is probably suspected of a deliberate snub. Edward and Isabella proceed via Boulogne to Wissant to embark; on 15 July they arrive back at Dover. SCOTLAND In 1313 Bruce is confident enough to turn his attention to Scots overseas possessions seized by Edward and reconquer the Isle of Man from Edward’s nominee as governor, Henry, Lord Beaumont. He probably uses Angus ‘Mor’ MacDonald of the Isles and his Hebridean fleet to do this, and in reply Edward turns to the latter’s exiled rivals the MacDougalls of Lorne who also have experienced sailors at their command. 1314
ENGLAND/SCOTLAND/FRANCE Bruce is now able to raid Northern England at will, levying blackmail from the local communities and exercising more power than their own king. In March 1314 Sir James Douglas captures Roxburgh Castle and Bruce’s nephew Sir Thomas Randolph, the rising star among his lieutenants, captures Edinburgh Castle with a famous stratagem of hiring a civilian waggon to deliver food to the garrison and getting it ‘accidentally’ stuck under the castle gate portcullis so the latter could not be shut as the Scots charge up the hill. This leaves the English with the ‘lynchpin’ between north and south of the Forth, Stirling Castle, which has so far held out since October 1312 thanks to provisioning up the Firth of Forth and the strength of its walls. Edward Bruce now besieges it, and governor Sir Philip Mowbray promises to surrender if not relieved by 24 June 1314. This finally stings Edward II into personally leading an army to Scotland to relieve Stirling. It is unclear if either Edward Bruce or Robert Bruce want this decisive resolution to the war and Edward may have acted without his brother’s orders; one source has Robert rebuking Edward for forcing an unwanted battle on him.
Chronology: 1307–99 21 17 February. Edward II and Isabella attend the enthronement of the new Archbishop Walter Reynolds at Canterbury Cathedral. 26 February. Edward commissions Gloucester, Henry de Beaumont, the rising royal ‘trusty’ Bartholomew, Baron de Badlesmere, and William Inge to escort Isabella to France for talks with Philip IV, probably for military aid for a showdown with Lancaster; the royal party leaves Dover on 28 February, and is in Paris on 16 March. (Her arrival follows the 15 March execution of the Grand Master of the dissolved Templar Order, James de Molay.) Isabella and her advisers then hold talks with King Philip, mainly on Gascon matters, and she proceeds to her county of Ponthieu on the North coast in mid-April and to Wissant on 27 April. The expedition then returns to Dover and the queen goes on pilgrimage to Canterbury. Her departure from Paris precedes the scandalous arrests and interrogations of the sisters Margaret and Blanche of Burgundy, wives of her brothers King Louis of Navarre (heir to the French throne) and Charles, and their alleged lovers the d’Aulnay brothers for illicit sexual affairs, centred around parties at the Tour de Nesle in Paris. The princesses are imprisoned and divorced and their presumed lovers executed, and contemporary chroniclers allege that it was Isabella who first alerted her father to the scandal (1313?) and helped to provide evidence. The English army which Edward II leads north from Wark Castle, Northumberland, on 11 June to Berwick (16–17 June halt) is the largest seen since his father’s campaigns, with probably around 2–3000 cavalry and 16,000 infantrymen. Joint command under Edward is vested in the Earls of Hereford (Humphrey de Bohun) and Gloucester (Gilbert de Clare), two major Welsh Marches barons; Hereford, the ‘Constable’, served with Bruce earlier in the 1300s when the Bruces backed Edward I and is now the guardian of his interned wife and daughter; Gloucester, Edward’s nephew but only seven years his junior, is a relative of Bruce’s (Bruce’s grandfather married Gloucester’s aunt). Some of the dispossessed Anglophile lords who Bruce had deprived of their lands are in the English army, such as ex-‘Guardian’ Sir Gilbert de Umfraville and his relative the Earl of Angus. The Earls of Lancaster, Warwick, Arundel and Surrey do not turn up, arguing that the war is illegal as not called under the Ordinances. The Scots army, which musters in May in the Tor Wood south of Stirling to block the only possible English line of advance on the Castle via the old Roman road, is probably about half the size of the English, around 6–8000 men, and is heavily reliant on the defensive infantry ‘schiltrons’ as under Wallace and Moray. The Scots have fewer landed gentry and fewer horses than their Southern neighbour so giving the infantry prominence is necessary, but weapons and protective clothing are probably better than assumed by the popular myths of kilt-clad peasantry carrying spears and scythes.
22 Chronology: 1307–99 The English arrive at Falkirk on 22 June, but a battle is not inevitable; Bruce is more cautious than Wallace and is apparently prepared to consider withdrawing and letting Edward relieve Stirling, but changes his mind after hearing about poor English morale. Bruce has pits dug across the causeway around the line of the Roman road, the inevitable route for the English cavalry as it avoids the marshy farmland on either side, to force the attackers onto a narrow ‘front’ and nullify their advantage of numbers. Governor Mowbray emerges from the castle and reaches the English camp to warn Edward of this; his plea for caution was ignored, as was the argument that by arriving outside Stirling in time before 24 June Edward has fulfilled his promise and under the terms of the truce with the Scots the castle now did not need to be surrendered. Bruce moves north out of the Tor Wood to the more densely forested ‘New Park’, Alexander III’s hunting park outside Stirling, on the 22nd and draws up his army; he leads the rearguard, his nephew Sir Thomas Randolph the vanguard (at St Ninian’s Church about a mile from Stirling), Edward Bruce the third division, and according to one source Sir James Douglas leads a fourth division on behalf of the under-age ‘Steward’, Walter Stewart. On the 23rd hostilities open, though the exact site is still disputed and some historians argue that the battlefield monument is in the wrong place and should be a mile or so to the E or NE; arguments include one over how marshy the ground around the Bannock Burn on the traditional site was then and if that would have impeded a cavalry charge. After a quarrel between the cautious Gloucester and Hereford and the impatient Edward the English move forward towards Bruce’s position, and a memorable opening incident sees Hereford’s nephew Sir Henry Bohun charge on his huge warhorse against the isolated king of Scots as if in a ‘one-to-one’ joust. Bruce, sitting on a smaller Scots horse or pony, carefully dodges to the side as Bohun reaches him and delivers a crushing swipe at his challenger’s head as his horse carries him past, cleaving Bohun’s skull in two. This is taken in subsequent accounts as symbolic of how the crafty Scots leader made up for lack of brute force against superior opponents throughout the wars for independence. This would have had a psychological impact on both armies. In a more telling tactical move, an English attempt to infiltrate round the ‘right’ (north-east) side of the battlefield, avoiding the pits set around the line of the Roman road, to reach Stirling is driven back by a ‘schiltron’ under Randolph. The main battle takes place on 24 June, on an indefinite site but one which involved the English having to cope with a line of pits which inhibited a cavalry charge, boggy ground to either side of a narrow ‘causeway’, and solid bodies of bristling spears in the ‘schiltrons’. The Bannock Burn has to be crossed, and then served as an obstacle if the
Chronology: 1307–99 23 English need to retreat quickly. Given the boggy ground, the smaller Scots force could not be outflanked. The initial English cavalry charge against the ‘schiltrons’ is risky given that the wall of pikes is solid and would not be broken up easily with horses inclined to panic. The Scots have been devoutly praying for Divine aid on their knees as the English advanced and have high morale, aiding them to stand firm. Breaking the ‘schiltrons’ requires ‘thinning out’ the ranks of defenders first, usually by archery, but Edward’s army is short of trained archers to fire a devastating ‘hailstorm’ of arrows compared to its successors after 1330, particularly in France, when the use of archery became a decisive weapon for the English. The initial charge by the cavalry, possibly a hasty decision by Gloucester after a row with the king, is beaten back by the Scots pikemen and some time in the resulting struggle the earl is unhorsed and killed, aged 23. The English infantry ‘push’ against the ‘schiltrons’, which followed, is held back – and the fact that the two front ranks are intermingled in a hand-to-hand struggle means that the English archers (mostly Welsh) cannot fire at a clear target for fear of hitting their own men. The English are gradually pushed back, and eventually break; traditionally the Scots camp followers, waiting across the ridge out of sight of the battlefield, hear that their side are winning and eagerly charge into sight to join in, making the enemy think that they are fresh reinforcements. (One unlikely modern theory has it that refugee Templar Knights from France, given sanctuary by Robert Bruce after their Order was closed down, led or formed this force.) Casualties are unclear, but the Scots’ are relatively light whereas possibly 1100 English infantrymen (two-thirds of their total?) and 700 men-at-arms are killed; the panic-stricken flight across the Bannock Burn and marshes adds to the extent of casualties. Edward II flees on horseback all the way to Dunbar Castle, for which he is mocked in both countries; his military reputation never recovers though his defeat is political fodder for his critics and is exploited. To avoid the possibility of his being ambushed and captured by pursuing Scots on land, Earl Patrick of Dunbar (son of the ‘competitor’ earl of the 1292 succession claim) smuggles him back to England on a fishing boat – and soon defects to the Bruce cause to save his Border estates from ravaging. The royal camp and even the Great Seal are captured, and Robert Bruce sends the latter back as a semi-mocking goodwill gesture. The long list of English noble captives at Bannockburn include the Earl of Hereford, who Bruce is to exchange for his wife and daughter; the latter, his heiress as he had no son yet, is then married in 1316 to Walter Steward, the ‘High Steward’, as the lynchpin of the South-Western Scottish dynastic alliance of Bruce and Stewart. Other Scots hostages retrieved from years in captivity, logically in exchange for the prisoners taken at Bannockburn, include Bruce’s sisters Mary and Christina, the
24 Chronology: 1307–99 former of whom was married to his Argyll ‘strongman’ and close friend Sir Neil Campbell. Bruce’s new coterie of lords set up in the confiscated territories of pro- Comyn, pro-Balliol or Anglophile exiles is headed by his nephew Thomas Randolph, who now becomes Earl of Moray as his main lieutenant in the North; ravaged Buchan is left without an earl. The Western Highlands and the Hebrides are handed over to the MacDonalds, while in the SW the main regime stalwarts are the Stewarts (with ‘High Steward’ Walter married to Marjorie Bruce) and, guarding the Borders, the Douglases. There is a risk, however, that the Comyn and Balliol allies driven into exile will prove an asset to the English Crown and endeavour to return home by force as a ‘fifth column’, which arguably proves disastrous for the Bruce cause in 1332–3. Bruce prefers to take no risks by allowing these magnates to stay in Scotland; taught by hard experience since 1306, he clearly regarded them as irreconcilable. Bishop Lamberton, clerical stalwart of the regime and deported in 1306, appears to have been back in Scotland already, probably in 1312, and to have been under a political ‘cloud’ at first for collaborating with the English in exile. The fallout of Bannockburn leads to upheaval in the Welsh Marches. The younger Hugh Despenser’s rise to power as the king’s ‘strongman’ to thwart Lancaster and Warwick centres on his marriage to the king’s niece Eleanor de Clare, sister of the now deceased second Earl of Gloucester, as heiress to the section of the de Clare family’s lands in Glamorgan and Gwent, the SE region of the semi-independent Marcher lordships on the former Welsh frontier. When Earl Gilbert is killed at Bannockburn the Earldom’s lands are divided among his sisters, with the eldest, Margaret, being Gaveston’s widow. Despenser, as husband of the next sister (Eleanor), now receives the most important part of the inheritance, the lands of Glamorgan, and later the title of Earl of Gloucester; and Edward does nothing to stop him pressuring the husband of the other de Clare sisters, Hugh Audley (who married Gaveston’s widow Margaret de Clare in April 1317) and Roger Amory, to surrender the rest. Despenser soon secures extra local lands, such as Gower, by a blatantly ‘rigged’ legal process. Despenser’s aggregation of lands and power in the Marches arouses the antipathy of a body of rival lords. September. Parliament opens in York and the Ordainers turn up to demand that the king be supervised closely again. Lancaster blames Bannockburn on the king, and demands that the Ordinances be restored and adhered to closely and for the government/royal household to be purged and the king’s extravagance reined in. The atmosphere of disaster is exacerbated by weeks of torrential rain and a massive failure of the harvest, the start of several years of extreme climatic conditions that cause famine and a superstitious search for the cause of God’s disfavour with the kingdom.
Chronology: 1307–99 25 The famine and resultant deaths cause a slump in rents and thus in government income – and ability to hire troops and fight the Scots. 26 September. Walter Norwich (in office earlier, 1311–12) succeeds John Sandall as treasurer; the latter is now made lord chancellor after Archbishop Walter Reynolds and later (1316) will be given the bishopric of Winchester. 29 November. The queen’s father, Philip IV of France, dies in a fall from his horse while out hunting, aged 46; he is succeeded by her eldest brother, Louis X. 1315
2 January. Edward defiantly stages a ceremonial funeral for Piers Gaveston at the Dominican church at Kings Langley with the court in attendance and Archbishop Reynolds officiating. The Earls of Pembroke and Hereford attend. 20 March. Parliament meets at Westminster; the Lords Ordainers’ 1310– 11 Ordinances are enforced and more royalist officials, led by the elder Hugh Despenser and Lord Beaumont, are dismissed. April. Edward holds a failed ‘reconciliation’ feast at Westminster Abbey to rally support among the nobility. SCOTLAND/IRELAND In spring 1315 Bruce turns his attention to the Western seaways and thence to Ireland – a necessary diversion from the main war on the Borders as some of the pro-Comyn ‘Disinherited’ have fled there and early in that year John MacDougall leads a naval expedition to take back the Isle of Man for Edward II. Indeed his family had an old claim to Man via a marriage to its now extinct royal house in the 1270s, and as far back as 1249/50 John’s grandfather Ewan MacDougall had claimed its kingship via his descent from its C12th Lord Godred II (d. 1187)’s sister. A Scots naval force is duly prepared on the Ayrshire coast to ‘show the flag’ in the Inner Hebrides in April–May 1315, led by King Robert himself. Meanwhile messengers are sent to the Gaelic Lords of Ulster offering them support for a rising against the English, which was to be assisted by Scots troops led by Edward Bruce. Domnhall Ua Niall, King of Tir Eoghain (Tyrone), responds positively and invites the Bruces to send an expedition, and there is also a later accusation by Roger Mortimer (Lord of Trim and other ex-de Lacey lands in Meath) that two of his vassals invited Edward Bruce to Ireland. Edward assembles an Irish expedition at Ayr while his brother is preparing his fleet there. He also has the advantage of the Bruce family’s lineal descent from some of the most famous past Gaelic leaders – their descent from the leader of the Anglo-Norman conquest in the 1170s,
26 Chronology: 1307–99 Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke (‘Strongbow’) means that they are also descended via his wife Eva from the ancient kings of Leinster and Munster via Eva’s father, the last pre-conquest ‘High King’, Diarmait Mac Murchada of Leinster (d. 1171). This gives Edward Bruce a claim to the dormant Irish ‘High Kingship’, albeit mainly via Norman not Gaelic blood. Roger Mortimer may have heard rumours of the Bruce invasion plan, as he leaves the English Court to return suddenly to his Irish lands in April 1315 with King Edward’s permission despite recently making plans not to do so for another year or more; he is raising troops as deputy governor of Ireland at the time the Bruces land in Ulster. Edward Bruce is recognised as Robert’s heir by an assembly of Scots nobles on 26 April 1315 at Ayr, before he sails – a logical move as if Robert were to die Scotland would need an adult male king for wartime rather than Robert’s daughter Marjorie. (Or did Edward force the nomination out of opposition to Marjorie’s Stewart husband and his family?). 26 May. Edward Bruce lands at Larne/Olderfleet, Antrim, in the midst of the first heavy rain of what will be a drenched summer; the local English are not anticipating an attack. With him are Sir Thomas Randolph, Sir John de Soulis, Sir John Stewart, Sir Fergus d’Ardrossan and Sir Philip Mowbray, governor of Stirling, plus around 6000 troops; he sends letters from his brother King Robert to the local Gaelic lords asking for help in the common anti-English cause. Robert backs up his brother Edward as the rightful king of Ireland with enthusiastic requests to the Irish Gaelic lords, reminding them of the two peoples’ common cultural/ethnic heritage – the original ‘Scots’ had come to Argyll from Ulster around AD 500 – and calling them one nation (‘nacio’) which should now jointly recover its liberty. This line was also taken in appeals to the papacy for recognition of their cause’s validity. The stress on the unity of the Gaelic-speaking peoples is probably genuine as much as a political tactic, arising from King Robert’s gratitude to the Gaels of the Hebrides (and the Northern Irish) for their military support in 1307–14. Unlike any other Scots king since Malcolm III and Donald Ban, he has had experience of relying on the Gaels as much as the ‘Anglicised’ South of Scotland for his throne – and has lived among them as an exile. In June Robert Bruce himself leads a naval expedition from Tarbert across the Inner Hebrides, in alliance with Angus Og MacDonald, to ensure that the exiled MacDougall’s fleet could not endeavour to move northwards. Meanwhile, in Ulster, Sir Thomas Randolph defeats the local English administration and its Irish levies under Sir Thomas Mandeville at the Moyry pass in SE Ulster. Ua Niall and 12 other local kings, including the O’Cahan, O’Hanlon, Macmurray, Macartan and O’Hagan chiefs swear allegiance to Edward Bruce as ‘High King of Ireland’ at Carrickfergus in June, and they march
Chronology: 1307–99 27 on to sack Rathmore and (29 June) Dundalk where the local warlords helping out the over-confident townsmen turn tail and flee as the battle outside the town walls proves harder than anticipated, leaving the town gates open. Edward then lets his (drunk) men commit atrocities as Dundalk is pillaged as a warning to others to surrender. The Scots/rebel army overruns much of Ulster, and the main loyalist force left to hold out is led by King Robert Bruce’s father-in-law Richard de Burgh (d. 1326), earl of the province, supported by his kinsman King Fedlimid Ua Conchobair of Connacht. But de Burgh is away in Connacht as the invasion starts, and so concentrates on bringing in the Connacht Gaels to help rather than rushing back to Ulster. De Burgh then heads to Ardee where he meets the justiciar Edmund Butler’s army on 20 July. Probably due to a lack of supplies in the bad weather as well as over-confidence, the armies split up again as Bruce pulls back. ENGLAND 5–23 June. Edward II and his court visit Winchelsea, East Sussex, on a tour of the navally vital ‘Cinque Ports’. 8 August. Edward appoints his domineering cousin Lancaster as his lieutenant in the North – in practice handing over appointments and administration to him, or at least to his veto. 12 August. Death of Guy Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick and arch-foe of the king as Gaveston’s killer; this leaves Lancaster as the dominant force among the Ordainers. August–September. Second disastrous harvest and near-total crop failure due to repeated heavy rain – which affects Ireland as well as England, exacerbating the results of the invasion. Up to a tenth of the population of England may have died in the famine. Robert Bruce does not join Edward immediately, returning to the Borders after his expedition to the Hebrides to besiege Carlisle in summer 1315. He is unable to take the castle due to the courageous defence of local commander Sir Andrew de Harclay (or Harcla), a man who soon proves to be Edward II’s most competent commander. When Harclay is captured by the Scots a few months later they set his ransom at an impressive 2000 ‘marks’. IRELAND/ENGLAND As Edmund Butler moves troops up from Leinster and Munster while Roger Mortimer is rallying his rearguard force in Meath, Edward Bruce has to retreat. He burns down Coleraine as he passes through it, demolishes the bridge over the river, and then holds out on the far bank of the river, which the stronger Anglo-Irish army fails to cross as it is too risky
28 Chronology: 1307–99 a manoeuvre. Both sides strip the local region bare of food and wood. Once shortage of supplies forces the English to retreat in the continuing heavy rain, Edward Bruce is able to resume the offensive. Some supportive risings break out elsewhere and he successfully lures Fedlimid’s dynastic rival Ruadhri Ua Conchobair into deserting the de Burgh/ Connacht army to attack Fedlimid’s territories while his rival is away, offering help separately to both Ua Conchobair rivals; Ruadhri defeats Fedlimid as the latter leaves de Burgh to return home and save his lands, and Fedlimid has to accept Ruadhri’s (pro-Bruce) overlordship so Connacht leaves the English side. Edward now raises the serious possibility of driving the Anglo-Normans out of Ireland. 1 September. Parliament meets at Lincoln; John de Hotham is sent to Ireland to take administrative command after a sluggish response to Edward II’s 10 July letters to all the leading English and Gaelic landowners there requiring declarations of public loyalty to him. 10 September. Edward Bruce defeats Richard de Burgh at Connor after catching him up as he heads for Connacht to help Fedlimid Ua Conchobair, capturing his cousin William de Burgh. Richard pulls his army back to Carrickfergus Castle, which is besieged, then flees to Connacht without fighting again so is accused of treachery. Late October. De Hotham cannot arrive in Dublin in time to meet the Parliament which he has summoned to rally support, as his ships are held up by Thomas Dun’s Scots squadron in the Irish Sea; by the time he arrives on 5 November the summoned lords have gone home. 13 November? Edward Bruce leaves Carrickfergus for Meath after the arrival of Sir Thomas Randolph from a trip home to collect (c. 500) Scots reinforcements. 30 November. His army crosses the River Blackwater. Roger Mortimer faces ‘King Edward’ Bruce in Midhe. Early in December Roger loses a 3-hour(?) battle against the Bruce army at Kells on his lands’ frontier after brothers Hugh and Walter de Lacey either flee or (less likely) betray him, depending on what the sole chronicle account (by the Abbey of St Mary’s, Dublin) means about them ‘turning their shields’, with the Scots burning the town around him and most of his men being killed. Roger flees to de Hotham in Dublin and is sent back to report the disaster to the English king. December. Edward II meets his lords at Doncaster and then spends Christmas at Cambridge away from his wife and court, reportedly disporting himself at rowing races on the Fens with the ordinary citizens. Edward Bruce spends Christmas at Loughswedy after looting Kells and Granard, amidst rising misery from the armies’ depredations in the war zone.
Chronology: 1307–99 29 1316
17 January. Roger Mortimer arrives back at court at Lincoln, where Parliament will shortly open, to report on the situation in Ireland to the king. Lancaster does not arrive until 12 February and claims he has to deal with the famine and the Scots first, but is chosen in his absence by a majority of the members as the king’s chief councillor. The king boycotts the meeting in protest, staying nearby at the manor of Somersby. 21 January. Election of new archbishop of York, William Melton (d. 4/5 April 1340), to succeed William Greenfield who died on 6 December 1315; royal assent 5 February. Edward Bruce attacks Kildare but cannot take the castle and leaves as supplies run low again; on 26 January he narrowly defeats justiciar Edmund Butler and John FitzThomas Fitzgerald of Kildare (at Ardscull near Castledermot) who have the larger army but end up retreating again. Walter Cusack holds Trim Castle for the English, while the Scots move around Leinster looting and burning but are kept on the move by chronic supply problems. WALES In January 1316 the incessant rain and famine of 1315 strikes Marcher politics as the famine causes a revolt in Glamorgan. Governed by royal officials on behalf of its co-heiresses since the death of Earl Gilbert at Bannockburn, it has recently been taken over by a harsh new sheriff, Payn Turberville of Coety Castle, who is more interested in keeping up the king’s revenues than in famine relief. The starving and robbed rural populace rally to the ambitious Llywelyn Bren, hereditary lord of Senghenydd in the hills and valleys inland from Cardiff, and on 28 January 1316 he and his five sons lead them to storm a meeting of the lordship’s court at Caerphilly and take Payn and his officials hostage. The formidable castle, rebuilt by the ‘Red Earl’ as one of the strongest fortresses in Wales, holds out but the rebels rampage across the district; the king authorises Roger Mortimer (as Lord of Ludlow, Wigmore and Ewais Lacey) and the Earl of Hereford (as Lord of Brecon) to raise their men and attack them. Henry of Lancaster, loyal younger brother of the king’s enemy Earl Thomas and husband of Matilda de Chaworth (d. 1322) the heiress of Ogmore and Kidwelly, and John Giffard, Lord of Brimpsfield in Shropshire, also assist the royal troops. The rebels are chased out of Caerphilly and back up into the hills, and Llywelyn surrenders to avoid a massacre and is escorted to the earl’s castle at Brecon en route to London. Hereford and Roger Mortimer successfully persuade the king to commute his sentence from execution to imprisonment, and Roger even helps his stepson to escape revenge attacks by English settlers and secure royal aid; Payn de Turberville is sacked and replaced by Giffard which shows unusual English moderation to rebels.
30 Chronology: 1307–99 SCOTLAND The surprise death of King Robert’s daughter Marjorie, married to Walter Stewart the ‘High Steward’, in childbirth at Paisley on 2 March 1316 (following a fall from her horse) confirms Edward Bruce’s heirship to Scotland until King Robert has a son. Marjorie’s and Walter Stewart’s new son Robert could hardly succeed to a nation in the middle of war as an infant. ENGLAND April. New Parliament at Westminster. The ascendancy of Lancaster is confirmed, but he spends most of the next year on his estates not at court and his administration is lax and sluggish in responding to the famine and to the increasing Scots raids. The famine takes hold after Easter in England, as the worst for a century. IRELAND 1 May. Edward Bruce is – optimistically – crowned as ‘High King’ of Ireland at Dundalk, following his return north from ravaged Leinster. 14 May. John FitzThomas Fitzgerald, visiting England to report on the Bruce invasion to the king, is made the first Earl of Kildare to cement his and the Fitzgeralds’ loyalty. This aids his family’s emergence as the region’s strongmen, but he himself soon dies (8 September at Loughbryan), aged around 65, and is succeeded by his son Thomas (d. 1328) as second earl. ENGLAND/FRANCE 5 June. Death of Isabella’s brother King Louis X of France, aged 27; his second wife Clementia of Habsburg is pregnant so the throne is declared vacant until her baby is born, and if it is a son he will succeed. The late king’s next brother Philip serves as regent. July. Military expeditions are sent under the Earl of Pembroke and Roger Mortimer to assist Mortimer’s new ally Bartholomew Badlesemere, as constable of Bristol, in punishing the rioting citizenry who have been protecting a group of accused citizens from arrest over an earlier riot – when the king’s itinerant justices were attacked by a mob for a supposedly biased legal procedure in favour of the mayor and a small group of merchants claiming full control of the customs revenues there (against a large and popular grouping of the town’s merchants). The royal armies have to blockade the town and threaten a formal siege with starvation to force the citizens to surrender the accused – an episode seen as symptomatic of rising chaos and factional feuding.
Chronology: 1307–99 31 15 August. Birth of Edward II and Isabella’s second son, John, at Eltham Palace, Kent. ENGLAND/FRANCE/IRELAND Roger Mortimer’s rise to court semi-prominence as a capable and loyal official is cemented by his marriage alliance with the other rising ‘star’ of the royalist cause Bartholemew de Badlesmere, whose small daughter Elizabeth (1313–1356) is married off to his son Edmund (c. 1308–1331) in summer 1316 as the famine and the Bristol civic confrontation rage. August. Death of Fedlimid Ua Conchobair, the main pro-English ruler in Connacht now eclipsed by the Bruces’ ally Ruadhri Ua Conchobair. September. Fall of Carrickfergus Castle to Edward Bruce. 23 November. Roger Mortimer is appointed as royal lieutenant of Ireland. 14 or 15 November. Birth of Louis X of France’s posthumous son, King John (I). 22 November. Death of the infant King John of France; his uncle Philip succeeds as King Philip V, but this cuts out the baby’s half-sister Jeanne/ Joan, Louis X’s daughter by his disgraced first wife, and her son by Philip of Évreux and she can succeed to the rule of Navarre as it allows female inheritance; she has some backers at the French court so a prolonged succession dispute commences – which will in due course affect the claims to France of Isabella and her son Edward III of England. 1317
9 January. Coronation of King Philip V of France at Rheims. February. King Philip calls a panel of senior judges to confirm that a woman cannot succeed to the throne of France, according to the so-called ‘Salic Law’. The authentic antiquity of this alleged ancient Frankish tribal custom is doubted at the time and in due course will be challenged by Isabella’s descendants. IRELAND/SCOTLAND/ENGLAND Robert Bruce takes an army to Ireland to assist Edward in January, leaving Sir James Douglas and Walter the ‘Steward’ as ‘Guardians’. The Bruces’ joint force outnumbers the troops that the English authorities in Dublin can call on, and they consolidate their position in Ulster in February, arriving at Slane on 16 February. Roger Mortimer has not arrived in Dublin yet as he has trouble collecting troops and supplies in England. 9 February. Edward II and Isabella hold a royal council at the royal Wiltshire hunting lodge at Clarendon, near Salisbury. Lancaster is accused of
32 Chronology: 1307–99 treasonous dealings with the Scots as his estates are not being touched on Scots raids into North England, which he denies but faces added hostility from the non-committed. Earl Richard de Burgh attacks the Bruce brothers near his manor at Ratoath but is defeated, flees to Dublin, and is arrested there due to fears over his contact with his son-in-law King Robert. In March the Bruce brothers march close to Dublin and on into Leinster. April. Parliament at Westminster. The Bruces penetrate right across the Irish Midlands in a bold march SW as far as Castleconnell near Limerick at the end of March, but they have little support from the Gaelic lords beyond Ulster. They loot and burn all villages who do not welcome and supply them, and their specifically ‘pan-Gaelic’ propaganda alienates semi-autonomous Anglo-Norman settler barons who are resistant to any centralisation from Dublin but have no desire for a vigorous new pro-Gaelic Bruce regime. There is the added problem of chronically poor summers from 1315 onwards meaning a serious shortage of food and resultant famine; this is a continent-wide phenomenon but in practical terms it means difficulty in finding supplies, half-starved soldiers unwilling or unable to fight, forced seizure of food with less left for the unfortunate locals, and rising resentment. The pillaging carried out by the Bruces’ army adds to an image of the Bruce expedition as yet another set of self-seeking ‘robber barons’, worse than the English. 7 April. Roger Mortimer and an English army of perhaps 750 men land at Youghal, and are joined by local levies and Mortimer’s own Midhe troops; when Edmund Butler’s force at Cork join them they have possibly 5–6000 men, though chronicles speak of an army up to thrice that size. The Bruces avoid battle as they retire across the famine-ravaged countryside northwards, and when Robert Bruce returns home in May 1317 his brother has to pull back into safer territory in Ulster. Meanwhile, Roger Mortimer holds a council meeting at Kilkenny in May and then moves to his own lands to punish the treacherous de Laceys for supplying guides to the Bruces’ army. May. Lancaster is humiliated as his wife Alice elopes with her lover, the squire Eubolu l’Estrange who is in the service of the Earl of Surrey. She seeks Surrey’s protection from her husband and l’Estrange declares that he slept with her before she married Lancaster therefore making their union legally void. Lancaster blames Surrey for the incident and ravages his lands in Yorkshire, and Lancaster’s faction probably suspect it is a plot to enable Alice to take her earldom of Lincoln estates away from Lancaster in an annulment and marry a pro-royalist lord. Roger Mortimer defeats the treacherous de Laceys in a major battle on 3–4 June 1317, and so regains full control of Midhe.
Chronology: 1307–99 33 2 July. John de Athy’s Anglo-Irish fleet defeats the Scots admiral Thomas Dun and captures and executes him, ending Scots naval power in the west Irish Sea. 20 July. Roger Mortimer holds a trial of the de Laceys for treason and declares them forfeit and their lands seized. ENGLAND/SCOTLAND July. En route for Parliament at Nottingham, Edward touches the sick for the ‘king’s evil’ (scrofula) at St Albans Abbey – the first recorded one of the royal ceremonies for this, presumably arranged as part of a publicity initiative to make him seem more majestic and divinely blessed ahead of political reassertion. 18 July. Parliament meets at Nottingham. 25 July. The county of Cornwall is granted to Isabella, replacing Gaveston with her as the main regional source of patronage. September. Royal visit to York. November. The de Clare inheritance ‘fall-out’ following the death of the Earl of Gloucester at Bannockburn becomes toxic, as Edward shows his goodwill to the younger Hugh Despenser – a legal ruling confirms that Despenser is to become Lord of Glamorgan as his wife Eleanor is Gloucester’s eldest sister. Normally all sisters would have an equal share so this is disregarded, and her sister Margaret (Gaveston’s widow)’s new husband Hugh d’Audley, who gets Newport and Nether Gwent, faces Despenser’s enmity and a subsequent legal tussle as Despenser tries to claim Gwynllwg (east of Cardiff, west of Newport) too and soon resorts to underhand false accusations. Edward II can still count on papal support against the Bruces, not least as Edward Bruce’s crowning as King of Ireland has defied the 1155 papal bull ‘Laudibiliter’ by which the papacy gave that kingdom to the rulers of England, and as Robert Bruce prepares his army in Lothian to attack Berwick (autumn 1317) two papal envoys arrive in England. They are supposed to command both Edward II and Bruce to a two-year truce, but Bruce refuses to let them cross the frontier as he was not addressed as king in the documents; he points out that he has been elected as king by the people and is addressed as such by other sovereigns, arguing that his demanding they use that term is therefore reasonable. The papal envoys aid Pembroke to negotiate with Lancaster as the latter boycotts the court, and he agrees to come to meet the king but pulls out after a royal force attacks his Pontefract castle in retaliation for his men seizing two castles from his courtier foe Roger Damory. Pembroke and his ally Badlesmere persuade Damory to sign an agreement that he will only advise the king in their company, so reassuring Lancaster about restricting his influence.
34 Chronology: 1307–99 1318
ENGLAND/SCOTLAND 14 February. Death of Queen Margaret, Edward I’s widow, at Marlborough Castle. She is buried at the church of the Grey Friars, Newgate, London. 26 March. Sir James Douglas recaptures Berwick-on-Tweed from the English with the aid of some of its inhabitants – the final loss of all that Edward I has gained since 1296. IRELAND Roger Mortimer drives the invaders out of all except Ulster and secures the allegiance of most of the Irish lords who deserted to them, before his recall in April 1318. ENGLAND April. A panel of English bishops and the Archbishop of Dublin meet Lancaster at Leicester, and talk him into negotiating. Late spring. Provisional settlement of claims between King Edward and Lancaster, but the latter still endeavours to insist that the royal grants of land and office since 1310 are ‘resumed’ (i.e. cancelled for reallocation). However, this is blocked by assorted recipients of royal bounty such as Despenser’s wife’s sisters’ husbands, Hugh d’Audley and Roger Damory. 11 June. Edward at Canterbury. 16 June. Isabella gives birth to a daughter (Eleanor) at Woodstock Palace, Oxfordshire. More negotiations between the court and Lancaster are organised by Parliament in July. On 4 July Pembroke, the younger Despenser, Badlesmere, the archbishop of Dublin, and the bishops of Ely and Norwich go from the court’s HQ at Northampton to meet Lancaster. They agree to a cancellation of royal grants that have breached the Ordinances and that Damory, d’Audley and William Montague should only be allowed at court when summoned for military service. This trio subsequently persuade the king to object to their treatment, but Pembroke stops a breakdown. On their second mission to meet Lancaster on 20 July, the more emollient Roger Mortimer replaces Despenser. 1 August. Under the Treaty of Leake, Edward agrees to Lancaster’s demands that he observe the Ordinances and in return Lancaster has to resign as ‘chief councillor’ so his vetoes on policies and appointments are ended. The king now has to follow the advice of his council, which is to be eight bishops, four earls and four barons; Pembroke is the most forceful member and Lancaster rarely attends.
Chronology: 1307–99 35 5 August. Edward meets Lancaster on a bridge over the River Soar near Loughborough to confirm the treaty, give him the kiss of peace, and pardon him for all misdemeanours. 28 September. The court arrives at York for Parliament. IRELAND 14 October. Battle of Faughart near Dundalk, where Edward Bruce is killed by the English administration in Dublin’s best generals, John de Bermingham and Edmund Butler; the Scots’ Irish expedition has to be abandoned. The Irish Annals of Loch Ce reckons the killing of Edward Bruce to be the best deed done in the country for ages due to the misery he has brought there – testimony to how the idea of a ‘pan-Gaelic’ alliance failed to win local support. The famine and the need for large armies to live off the land if they have inadequate commissariats makes disillusionment towards the Bruce expedition inevitable, but the scale of the suffering suggests that both Edward and Robert have made little or no effort to discipline their men. 28 October. Parliament opens at York. The Treaty of Leake is confirmed and a new royal council of 17 is named, including Roger Mortimer and the elder Hugh Despenser (who Lancaster now hates as he tried to stop the Leake agreement). The younger Hugh Despenser, recently made the royal chamberlain, is also on the council, as approved by its effective head Pembroke. The royal household is reformed, and Lancaster tries to claim its stewardship for his own candidate; the council chooses Bartholomew Badlesmere instead. SCOTLAND King Robert’s late daughter Marjorie’s son Robert Stewart becomes heir to Scotland aged 2, and is recognised by Parliament on 3 December as the next king if Robert Bruce has no more children. This possibly stimulates the sole plot against Bruce’s government, which is now uncovered and leads to executions (1320). The principal culprit is William de Soulis, grandson of one of the unsuccessful ‘competitors’ of 1292. The Irish war has bought time in distracting the shaky government of Edward II from sending another expedition to Southern Scotland, and Scottish raids into Northern England escalate. 1319
IRELAND March. Roger Mortimer is restored as the lieutenant of Ireland, though he does not go there until May. There he has to rebuild the administration and wrecked towns and castles after the trauma of invasion and famine. He also has assorted Bruce allies identified and deprived of their lands.
36 Chronology: 1307–99 ENGLAND/SCOTLAND The humiliation of the loss of Berwick spurs Edward to raise another army as he holds Parliament at York (from 1 May). 14 July. Edward leaves York with his section of the army to join the full muster on the 22nd, and heads north to Newcastle, en route to besiege Berwick on 7 September. King Robert marches his army to the defence and with a typical fondness for what would now be termed ‘psychological warfare’ sends Douglas and his Borders raiders on a swift cavalry thrust southwards from the Solway Firth over the Pennines into Yorkshire to cut Edward’s supply route. The real or perceived target is Queen Isabella and her household, residing at a village near York (Brotherton or Bishopsthorpe?). As the Douglases approach, luckily a Scots messenger is captured and taken before Archbishop William Melton of York; the latter hears that the Scots are approaching the queen’s residence and sends a warning, and she is hastily evacuated by water to Nottingham – another humiliation for Edward. Archbishop Melton leads out the regional levies, many of them hastily conscripted Churchmen, to block the Douglas advance but at the Battle of Myton-in-Swaledale on 20 September Sir James contemptuously drives this large but unprepared force into the River Swale. Possibly 4000 Englishmen are killed on the river bank and another 1000 drowned attempting to ford the river in what became called the ‘Chapter of Myton’ from the number of clerics involved. Edward has already left Berwick in a hurry on news of the intended attack on the queen (17 September). After the disaster at Myton-in-Swaledale Edward has to abandon the Northern campaign as he has no troops available to protect Yorkshire and local landowners currently fighting for him at Berwick, led by his cousin Lancaster, insist on going home to save their estates. It is noted that although the returning raiders burn the harvest in Westmorland en route they leave Lancaster’s lands untouched. The swift Douglas raiders on their ponies cause chaos across Northern England, which has already been hard-hit by the recent famine. Apart from the humiliation and the useful acquisition of loot and ‘blackmail money’ from communities desperate not to be sacked, the war within England is hoped to force Edward to recognise Scottish independence in a peace treaty. The English government agrees to a three-year truce in December 1319, and then tries to use diplomacy to rally international support from the papacy against their foe (as an excommunicated murderer who has violated the sanctity of a church). Rising bad feeling in the English elite involves accusations over who tipped off Bruce about Isabella’s location in 1319, and the younger Hugh
Chronology: 1307–99 37 Despenser and Lancaster are both accused. The war-impoverished Yorkshire knight Sir Edmund Darell, involved in the murder of Gaveston in 1312, is blamed by the contemporary Annales Paulini which says he was investigated for a suspected plot against Isabella at the May 1319 Parliament but released for lack of evidence and sacked from his offices. Edward holds his Christmas court at York. 1320
20 January. Parliament at York; Lancaster refuses to attend as he fears for his safety. Parliament appoints Robert Baldock, clerk of the royal wardrobe and a protégé of Despenser’s, as Keeper of the Great Seal (27 January) and Walter Stapledon, Bishop of Exeter, as treasurer. Edward returns to London at the end of January and plans to go to France to do homage for Gascony to the new king Philip V of France, but the royal party only gets as far as Canterbury – Philip has probably failed to send a safe conduct. Edward builds a private ‘hut’ retreat in the grounds of Westminster Palace called ‘Burgundy’ and camps out there, and sacks a number of disliked retainers amidst a desired move towards more decorum. He returns to Kent in March, but despite Philip V’s safe conduct for him arriving he goes back to London on 7 April instead of heading for France. The acquisitive ‘younger’ Hugh Despenser, now Lord of Glamorgan by right of his de Clare wife, schemes to gain the rest of the late Earl Gilbert’s lands from his wife’s sisters’ husbands, Hugh Audley and Roger Damory. The king becomes his fond friend and patron – though the first explicit charge of a homosexual affair between them is not made until Froissart’s chronicle in the 1380s. Edward’s partisanship to the Despensers leads to him handing over more of the de Clare lands, led by Gwynllwg east of Cardiff, to the younger Hugh, and in May 1320 he takes Newport/ Nether Gwent from Hugh Audley and hands it to the younger Despenser. 17 June. Edward and Isabella finally sail for France, accompanied by the younger Despenser, Damory and other favoured courtiers plus the king’s half-brother Edmund, Earl of Kent, and leaving Pembroke as Keeper of the Realm. 20 June. Edward does homage for Gascony to Philip at Amiens Cathedral. Philip promises to stop local anti-English nobles in Ponthieu harassing the queen’s officials and to send military aid against Lancaster. 20 July. Consecration of the new Bishop Henry Burghersh of Lincoln in Boulogne Cathedral – a relative of Mortimer and Badlesmere, aged under 30, elevated due to diplomatic success at the papal court in Avignon in acquiring a ruling exempting the king from obeying the Ordinances. 22 July. The royal party leave France by sea. 2 August. State entry to London.
38 Chronology: 1307–99 SCOTLAND In reply to the papal backing for England, the Scots lay and clerical ‘political nation’ is summoned to Arbroath in 1320 to draw up a dignified but firm response which would show that the defiance of Edward’s claims was the united will of an entire people not just the work of a power-seeking excommunicate. The ‘masterminds’ of this move, if any, are presumably King Robert, Bishop Lamberton and the chancellor of Scotland and host of the meeting, Abbot Bernard of Arbroath. The resulting letter, written by Bernard on behalf of the meeting and sealed by 51 magnates and clerics, left the king out of their number so that the current Pope (John XXII) could not refuse to accept a missive involving an excommunicate. But it made clear that the letter’s supporters were united in their assertion that Scotland had always been an independent nation, it had been unjustly invaded by Edward I with a long list of atrocities, and King Robert had saved the country from tyranny and destruction. If he was judged unworthy of the Crown the Scots would accept that, but would choose another king rather than accept the King of England – and the Balliol claim (now represented by the late King John’s son Edward) is cancelled out by the fact that John Balliol had been unable to defend his people from invasion. The letter is taken to the papal court, now at Avignon in Provence (leased by the Pope from King Robert of Naples, a junior branch of the French royal family), and Pope John is impressed enough to write to Edward II urging him to make peace with Scotland – though he is to change his mind again in 1321 after ferocious lobbying (and money?) from the English. The declaration has long-term significance, not least as an expression of national unity and self-confidence for the Scots – with the ‘community of the realm’, or at least its lay and ecclesiastical leaders, taking the lead rather than waiting on the will of the king. Its expression of popular sovereignty, vested in a people who had removed one king for incompetence and chosen another and who would never accept a foreign invader, represents the ‘democratic’ form of monarchy established in Scotland, with kings removable by popular will. But in practice, the use of these arguments has its own, contemporary reasons – they make it clear to the international community, as led by the Holy Father, that the Scots would accept neither Balliol nor Edward as their king. The form of the submission, by the ‘nation’ not the king, does not risk the Pope refusing to deal with the excommunicate King Robert. ENGLAND On 26 October 1320 the king confiscates Gower from its lord John de Mowbray (1286–1322), an ally of the royally hated Earl of Lancaster, who has bought it from his indebted de Braose father-in-law in the latter’s lifetime. Mowbray refuses to hand it over so the king sends in his troops in mid-November.
Chronology: 1307–99 39 Llywelyn Bren, who has been promised his life, is executed by Despenser in contempt of the terms of his surrender in a snub to his ‘guarantors’, led by Mortimer. 1321 Roger Mortimer, Audley, Damory and others under threat from the Despenser ‘land grab’ withdraw from court and prepare their castles and men for revolt; on 27 January they go to meet Lancaster and seek his aid which enrages the king. Despenser claims they are traitors whose lands should be seized to protect the king from revolt, and confiscation of their offices and the mustering of a royal army follows. Lancaster is believed to be about to come to the rebels’ aid, and the latter and their new ally, the Earl of Hereford, refuse to come to the king at Gloucester on 5 April. They send demands to him to sack Despenser and hand him over to Lancaster pending a resolution of the confrontation by Parliament. The king raises an army and arrives at Bristol for Easter; he summons the accused Marchers to meet him on 10 May. On 4 May–c. 12 May, Roger Mortimer leads a central Marcher army into Glamorgan to storm Newport, Cardiff and other places now owned by Despenser. They set about looting or burning his property, as the favourite’s agents indignantly detail to the king, and Roger’s replacement as justiciar of Ireland, Sir Ralph Gorges, is kidnapped en route to take up his office and carried off to Wigmore as a hostage. Roger then besieges the loyalist Earl of Arundel’s castle at Clun, and it appears that his supporters (whether local ones or Marchers sent in by him) attack and sack manors owned by Despenser and his father across over a dozen counties in Southern England. The official royal legal account of these enormities, exaggerated or not, blames Roger and his Marcher army in person, but it is unlikely that they had the time to visit so many sites, let alone do damage worth two-thirds of the king’s annual income. Backed up by a meeting of Northern barons at Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire on 24 May led by its owner Lancaster, followed by a wider rally of barns at Sherburn-in-Elmet on 28 June, the Marchers head for London where the queen is handed the Tower of London on 14 June and takes up residence there ahead of her impending confinement; she has daughter Joan there in early July. The ‘Contrarians’, as the rebels call themselves, are joined by the Earls of Hereford and Surrey, and as Parliament opens at Westminster on 15 July their main force, led by Roger, enters St Albans and Waltham Abbey (they leave the latter on 29 July). They arrive at London to find that the city gates are shut, and set up camp in front of various gates, all wearing identical livery to stress their common cause; they boldly demand the exile of the Despensers. Lancaster joins them. The king lacks a strong army and is advised by his clerics and the returned Pembroke (who has been abroad that spring in open disgust
40 Chronology: 1307–99 at Despenser’s control of the court and has been marrying the king’s cousin Marie de Châtillon, daughter of Count Guy of St Pol) to give in when he is called from arrival at Dover to Westminster to see the king on 2 August. The king holds out, but Pembroke asks the queen for help and she publicly begs her husband on bended knee to give in, supported by the bishops; Pembroke warns Edward that he who puts another (i.e. Despenser) above himself will perish. The king calls the Marchers to meet him at Westminster Hall on 14 August, and Archbishop Reynolds delivers the invitation; the king says he is giving the Despensers a month to leave court as they state their terms. 19 August. A formal treaty sees the Despensers exiled and their property seized; all the rebels are pardoned and restored to their confiscated lands and offices. The Despensers leave for Flanders, but the elder Hugh is able to go to Gascony without arrest and sets himself up as a pirate to seize shipping and rebuild his fortune while the king keeps in touch. Later in September a royal visit to Kent, where the king is in Gravesend by 19 September, is probably timed to coincide with a furtive visit by the younger Despenser by sea to Thanet. The king then returns to London on 23 September and goes on to the royal manor on the Thames at Sheen (i.e. the later Richmond) and to Byfleet in Surrey. In Kent Roger Mortimer’s ally Badlesmere, steward of the royal household, stations his troops in Canterbury in a presumed move to stop Despenser landing. Roger Mortimer’s son’s mother-in-law Margaret, Lady Badlesmere (née de Clare) obeys her husband’s orders not to let anyone into their Leeds Castle in Kent; she refuses hospitality to the passing Queen Isabella and her entourage on 2 October. This is probably a provocation by the king, as he is angry at Badlesmere backing the rebels despite his court office and the nervous Badlesmere has put his treasure in Leeds Castle for safety – was Isabella sent in an attempt to seize the latter? The Badlesmere retainers scuffle with the queen’s men and kill several of them, and the queen retreats to a nearby priory and on 3 October from there she writes to her husband (at Witley SW of Guildford) for help. The king is at Portchester Castle on Portsmouth harbour on 4 October to meet the younger Despenser and plan the latter’s return, and on 7–8 October he is assembling a mercenary army. When he hears of the insult to his wife, he returns to Westminster (14 October) and writes to Lord Badlesmere demanding that Leeds Castle be surrendered. Badlesmere refuses to apologise and sends a reply backing up his wife; Edward promptly sends Pembroke at the head of an army to Leeds Castle on 23 October demanding vengeance and surrender. Public opinion in London is on the king’s side and volunteers join the attack, along with Arundel, Surrey and the king’s half-brothers Edmund and Thomas. The siege of Leeds Castle opens on 24 October. Lord Badlesmere appeals to Roger Mortimer for help and the latter agrees and set out for Kent;
Chronology: 1307–99 41 he is stopped at Kingston bridge by the Earl of Pembroke and the Archbishop of Canterbury. They promise to mediate and Roger says that if the king lifts the siege and the case is put to Parliament he will not prevent the castle being handed to the king. The king rejects this and goes on with the siege, and Lancaster refuses a request to help from Roger and his allies – possibly out of hatred of Badlesmere. The king joins the siege and rudely uses his own dogs to hunt down Badlesmere’s game on the Leeds Castle estate to feed his army; on 31 October the castle surrenders unconditionally and Edward executes the constable and some of the garrison. He carries off Lady Badlesmere and her children to the Tower of London as an example to insolent subjects. Roger and his ally Hereford promptly ally with Lancaster and his army and take over Warwick Castle. Although Lancaster is too far off to help them, he communicates with supporters in London and circulates a petition drawn up at Doncaster demanding that the king stop persecuting his nobles at the Despensers’ request and stop backing the elder Despenser’s piracy. 31 December. The king arrives at Worcester ready to attack the Marchers. December. A new English embassy is sent to the Pope to seek support for the Scots treaty, led by Bishop Reginald de Asser of Winchester who is assisted by the future Archbishop John de Stratford (native of and until 1319 vicar of Stratford-upon-Avon, now Archdeacon of Lincoln). 1322
3 January. Death of King Philip V of France, who is succeeded by his brother Charles, the last son of Philip IV. At New Year the full weight of the royal army, collected at Cirencester, is flung against the Marchers. They try to block the Severn crossings and hold the bridge at Worcester, and on 5 January Roger and his uncle Roger Mortimer of Chirk drive the arriving royal army back out of Bridgnorth and set fire to the town. Loyalist Welshmen overrun Chirk and attack Mortimer-occupied Clun, and after the Earl of Hereford leaves Roger to join Lancaster in the North and the king occupies Shrewsbury with its bridge intact on 14 January, Roger and his uncle agree to negotiate as arranged by the Earl of Pembroke. They arrive at the great hall of Shrewsbury Castle on 22 January to meet the king after a promise of their lives and pardons by Pembroke, but the latter is bamboozled by the king. Instead the two Mortimers are arrested and dragged off to the Tower of London as traitors, and their estates are subsequently confiscated and looted by the Despensers’ men. Roger’s wife Joan de Geneville, Lady of Ludlow and Trim, is forfeited too and removed to a Hampshire nunnery and her older children end up with
42 Chronology: 1307–99 Hereford’s in Windsor Castle with the girls being sent on to nunneries. Hereford has his lands seized as he flees to Lancaster. Also arrested with his castle confiscated is Thomas, Lord Berkeley of Berkeley Castle near Gloucester – who will end up as the king’s custodian when he is deposed – as his son Maurice is married to a daughter of Roger’s. The vicious Anglo-Scots war of raids and counter-raids resumes unabated on the Scots Borders in 1322, with the more determined and co- ordinated Scots having the better of it and pressing far southwards. These guerrilla attacks particularly raise the English profile of Sir James Douglas, now known as ‘the Black Douglas’, as a ‘bogeyman’ in the region; his family are to assume military leadership on the Scots side of the Border for the next century-and-a-third. This level of disorder, constant insecurity and systematic looting by annual raiding has not been seen on the Borders since the warfare of the 1130s, and King Edward still obstinately refuses to treat with the ‘usurper’ but cannot provide adequate security to halt the raids either. Lancaster has opened private negotiations with Scotland which are suspected of aiming at a Scots–baronial alliance to coerce Edward, and on 15 January receives a safe conduct to visit the Scots. He uses the provocative code name ‘King Arthur’, showing royal pretensions and a role as the champion of chivalry and justice. In early 1322 the Anglo-Scots truce expires, and Robert Bruce sends three Scots-raiding armies into the North-East – Douglas to Hartlepool, Sir Thomas Randolph to Darlington and the ‘Steward’ Walter Stewart to Richmond. Lancaster, based at his estate at Pontefract Castle, does nothing to tackle Bruce, and the king has to bring an army north himself. Meanwhile the Despensers return secretly to court, and on 13 February the king announces their restoration to all their lands and offices. 10 March. The king takes Lancaster’s Tutbury Castle in the Peak District, capturing his ally Roger Damory who is mortally wounded and dies a few days later after being reprieved from execution by the king; also found is written evidence of Lancaster’s treason with the Scots. 12 March. Lancaster is declared a traitor and all his lands are forfeited; he flees north. Isabella is said (by Robert of Reading’s chronicle) to have written to Harclay, in command at Carlisle as sheriff of Westmorland, asking him to move quickly south to trap Lancaster, which he does. Lancaster is defeated by Harclay at Boroughbridge on the River Eure west of York on 16 March, with the English adapting Bruce’s ‘schiltrons’ into an infantry wall of pikes to halt the charging baronial cavalry – a compliment to the Scots king’s reputation. The Earl of Hereford, aged 46, dies from a spear thrust in the bowels from below as he tries to cross the bridge. Hundreds of Lancaster’s men are killed, and Lancaster is seized and taken to his castle at Pontefract to be tried for treason on 20 March
Chronology: 1307–99 43 on the king’s orders. He is sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered but this is commuted to execution, allegedly at Isabella’s intercession. 22 March. Lancaster is beheaded on St Thomas’ Hill near Pontefract in front of a jeering crowd, the first execution of a royal prince since the Norman Conquest. The only competent military commander left in the region to face Robert Bruce is now the governor of Carlisle, Harclay, who has showed what a capable general can do in driving back Scots raids from his sheriffdom of Westmorland. The death of the Earl of Hereford, at Boroughbridge plus that of Damory at Tutbury leaves the younger Hugh Despenser supreme in the Marches and at court – and to round off his victory he forces Damory’s widow, the king’s niece Elizabeth de Clare, to hand over her lordship of Usk to him and gives her Gower which he later has confiscated too. 2 May. Parliament meets at York and annuls the Ordinances. 10 May. Edward makes the elder Hugh Despenser Earl of Winchester. The Despensers reign unchallenged in controlling patronage as Pembroke fades from influence ill, but they do reform and tighten up the administration and add to royal income with their allies Robert Baldock, Keeper of the Great Seal, and from August 1323 chancellor and treasurer Bishop Stapledon of Exeter. June. The two Roger Mortimers are formally tried and sentenced to life imprisonment in the Tower of London, and their property is seized. Edward, flushed with victory, leads another large army into Lothian after a muster at Newcastle on 22 July; Bruce prudently withdraws in front of it and burns the crops so that the English starve. Reaching Edinburgh but short of food, the English burn down Holyrood Abbey and withdraw, and Bruce shows his strategic ability again in launching a devastating raid from the West Marches south-east into Yorkshire. He is at Northallerton on 12 October as Edward marches back south, some miles to his east and heading for York. Avoiding the English troops in Durham, Bruce’s army slices the English line of retreat to York as he closes in on the panic-stricken king at Rievaulx Abbey and the queen is cut off at Tynemouth Priory before she can move back to join her husband. Edward has her evacuated by sea to Yorkshire, and flees from Rievaulx leaving his luggage and correspondence behind to be taken by Bruce. Edward’s cousin John of Brittany, Earl of Richmond and so the principal local lord since Lancaster’s removal, marches his levies to intercept the Scots at Old Byland but is defeated there on 14 October, the Scots outflanking his defensive position on a hill by sending a party of Highlanders up a cliff to attack them from above. Many English are killed and prominent knights led by Richmond are taken for ransom as Edward flees southwards, the chronicles indicating that after this Bruce was seen as invincible.
44 Chronology: 1307–99 25 December. Edward and Isabella are at York. 1323
Harclay’s concern for his pillaged Cumbrians and the fact that no aid is forthcoming from the king leads him to agree to a local truce with the Scots on 3 January without seeking the king’s permission. This provides for Bruce to pay 40,000 ‘marks’ to England in a peace treaty and to receive one of Edward’s daughters to marry his heir. Edward has been accusing Bishop Lewis de Beaumont of Durham (appointed February 1317, d. September 1333) of unauthorised contacts with the Scots in seeking to agree a truce that winter, possibly as prodded by the Despensers to attack the Beaumont family as their rivals – and around this date hostility between the Despensers and the queen, the Beaumonts’ patron, also seems to commence. The Despensers then stoke up royal fear of Harclay. His truce is judged as trespassing on the royal prerogative of foreign policy – and possibly implying a military alliance between Harclay and King Robert to coerce King Edward. As a result, Harclay, Edward’s best commander but too independent-minded for him to trust, is arrested and executed too on 3 March. 12 April. Death at the papal court at Avignon of the king’s ambassador there, Bishop de Asser of Winchester. His assistant, Archdeacon John de Stratford of Lincoln, is ordered to lobby for the appointment of the king’s clerk Robert de Baldock to the see but gets himself chosen instead (consecrated 22 June), which the angry king will refuse to recognise into 1324. Left without any effective commanders in the North and in fear that giving any great magnate an army there could lead to the latter turning traitor too, Edward gives in to pressure from the Earl of Pembroke and the Despensers and agrees a 14-year truce with the Scots on 30 May 1323. Recognition of King Robert is not included, but it gains both sides breathing space. The vagaries of the climate since 1315 play their part in the English crises, in that the sequence of famine years in 1315–19 seriously damage the ability of the English government to raise and supply armies. It is believed that God must be punishing the formerly successful English for past sins, and the executed Thomas of Lancaster is soon being treated as an unofficial saint. 30 May. Parliament opens at Bishopsthorpe near York. Lord Beaumont is arrested for his support of his brother the bishop’s illegal Scots talks and ordered to take an oath of loyalty to the Despensers, refuses and is thrown into prison. Roger Mortimer is able to make the most of his victimisation by the Despensers – and he does not accept his dispossession and imprisonment in the Tower of London. On 1 August 1323, Roger’s birthday, the Feast of St Peter ad Vincula when the miraculous release of St Peter from
Chronology: 1307–99 45 Roman custody is celebrated, his ally Gerard d’Alspaye, sub-lieutenant of the Tower, gets his guards drunk and then arrives with a crowbar to help Roger dig his way out of his cell. He and his cellmate and their rescuer then escape through the nearby royal palace kitchen with the help of a cook, climb up the chimney onto the battlements, and make their way to a quiet part of the outer wall to let themselves down a rope onto Tower Wharf outside. Waiting accomplices with a boat ferry them down to Greenwich where horses are waiting to take them into Kent, and within a few days they are on the Continent. The first story that Isabella helped plan the escape or provided the alcohol to the guards is in Christopher Marlowe’s 1590s play Edward II. Roger is sheltered by his de Fiennes kinsmen in Picardy and is later received with honour by the queen’s brother King Charles IV in Paris amidst fury by Edward and a rising heroic reputation for his escape. More dangerous is Charles IV’s enmity to Edward, which is probably fuelled by Isabella’s complaints at the insults offered to her by the Despensers and how her husband backs them rather than her. The rift is more probably political than due to a sexual relationship between the king and the younger Despenser, as the Despensers corner patronage and cut the queen’s spending. September. Edward is summoned to France to do homage for Gascony to Charles IV, but writes that he cannot safely leave his kingdom; the ceremony is postponed to July 1324. 25 December. The court is at Lancaster’s ex-stronghold of Kenilworth Castle. 1324
January. Anglo-French tension rises over an incident in October 1323 in Gascony, where the French authorities have been controversially building a new ‘bastide’ (fortified town) on the site of a former abbey at St Sardos and this has been attacked by a local English Gascon force without official backing. Charles IV accepts Edward’s assurances of no official involvement, but as the English king fails to arrange the required homage ceremony the French threaten to confiscate Gascony again. February. Mortimer’s neighbour and friend Bishop Adam Orleton of Hereford (appointment 15 May 1317) is accused in Parliament by the younger Despenser of treason in supplying the weapons and horses used in the Mortimer escape; he denies it and proclaims benefit of clergy, i.e. that he can only be tried by an ecclesiastical court. Edward orders Archbishop Reynolds to hold him in custody, but both archbishops (Reynolds of Canterbury and Melton of York) back him and declare that anyone laying hands on him will be excommunicated; Edward arrests him and seizes his secular property anyway. 23 February. Parliament opens to discuss the French crisis.
46 Chronology: 1307–99 Edward stops paying his debts to his wife, possibly lest she send the money to her brother Charles IV, but in April gets her to write to Charles asking that Gascony not be confiscated as the marriage was supposed to protect a permanent peace not cause discord. May. Edward writes to the Pope demanding Orleton’s sacking from his bishopric; the Pope refuses as no adequate evidence of treason is provided. Bishop John of Droxford (of Bath and Wells) is also targeted by the king for disloyalty but protected by the Pope. Edward sends Pembroke on a peace mission to Charles IV, but on 23 June the earl dies suddenly during his mission, aged c. 51; the latter is abandoned and as Edward postpones his homage again Charles declares Gascony forfeit. Pembroke is succeeded by his sister Isabella (d. 1305)’s grandson, Laurence Hastings (born 1319). Edward sends his half-brother Edmund, Earl of Kent, to Gascony as Lieutentant but he stirs up resentment with his harsh tax-raising and is ineffective in the field; he fails to protect Gascony as a French army invades on 13 August, and has to pull back across the Agenais (east of the River Garonne) which is mostly occupied; he withstands siege in La Reole (from 25 August) to await arrival of troops from England, and there the king fails to secure recruits despite his threats to hang anyone who deserts the army. The elite are increasingly unwilling to prop up the Despenser regime, and the Archbishop of Dublin is said to have preached resistance (affecting experienced Anglo-Irish recruiting?) and declared he would have fought a duel with the younger Hugh were he not a cleric. 25 September. Kent has to surrender La Reole as supplies run out and agrees a six-month truce; each side will hold what they have, which means that only Saintes is left to England east of the Garonne. With the admiral of the eastern seas (i.e. the North Sea) John de Sturmi warning in October via Despenser that Roger Mortimer is raising a fleet in Hainault and Holland to invade, Edward forces the Earl of Surrey and John de St John to gather a rescue mission for Gascony at Portsmouth but the troops are too small in number to set out. 18 September. Edward sequesters his wife’s estates and makes her totally reliant on his whims for her expenses, as advised by the treasurer Bishop Stapledon. Despenser machinations are seen as behind it – especially by the outraged queen who probably now starts to plan her retreat to France and/or to remove her husband. The arrest of assorted French servants of hers, the flight of others to France, the use of the Despenser ally Eleanor de Clare to control access to the queen and spy on her correspondence, and her reduced court expenses are all seen by contemporaries (e.g. the Lanercost chronicle) as deliberate and provocative, not just security measures.
Chronology: 1307–99 47 October. Edward complains to Count William of Hainault/Holland, Isabella’s future Low Countries ally, of alleged hostile military plans there – Roger Mortimer, who is in Hainault that autumn, is seeking mercenaries to invade England, as will occur in 1326. In winter 1324–5 a royal mission by the court clerk Robert Baldock and the ‘politically involved’ friar Stephen Dunheved to Pope John apparently seeks a divorce between Edward and Isabella, at the king’s request as prompted by Despenser; this is unsuccessful and the motives and timing are unclear. Another embassy is sent to pressurise Charles IV, led by Bishop John (de) Stratford of Winchester. December. Charles suggests to the Pope that if Edward will cede the Agenais he can keep the rest of Gascony, subject to doing homage. The Pope uses his legates in France, headed by the Archbishop of Paris, to suggest that Isabella be sent to Paris to negotiate with Charles IV. This may be at Isabella’s own suggestion (according to Geoffrey le Baker’s chronicle) and it may be the origin of the plan by her, Mortimer or Charles IV to use her to overthrow Edward II. 1325
January. The royal council and Parliament debate sending Isabella to France to negotiate; Despenser is suspicious but on 13 January Bishop John Salmon of Norwich speaks to him about its usefulness aided by the Earl of Richmond and Henry Beaumont. 17 January. Bishop John de Stratford, recently on an embassy to Paris, backs them up and alleges that Charles IV has said he will allow Edward’s son Prince Edward to do homage for Aquitaine/Gascony instead if he is given that land and will give the lands recently taken back. The addition of ‘send the prince to France’ to the plan may be a sincere suggestion to secure peace without Edward II having to go to France, or a ‘double cross’ to get the prince out of England ahead of deposing the king. Stratford is currently in disfavour with the king for using his recent embassy to Avignon to get the Pope to nominate him as the next bishop of Winchester rather than supporting his colleague Robert Baldock’s claim to it as instructed, and the suspicious Despenser has required him to pay £1000 for his goodwill so he has no love for the regime. Meanwhile the French have a muster arranged for midMay, and a siege train is being assembled at Toulouse to be shipped down the Garonne to besiege Bordeaux while a separate army attacks Saintes – disaster for England is likely if talks fail so Edward has little choice. 7 February. Reassured by the bishops, the king agrees to let Isabella go to talk to her brother and the prince is to follow once negotiations are proceeding well; Parliament favours this solution too, as does the elder Hugh Despenser. On 7 February Edward orders Thomas Astley to take
48 Chronology: 1307–99 the suggestion to the English envoys in France and obtain Charles IV’s reaction. 8 February. Prior Henry Eastry of Christ Church monastery, Canterbury, asks Archbishop Reynolds for help to get Isabella’s full royal rights (e.g. her lands and income) restored before she leaves for France, after private talks with the queen. The latter have also involved her revealing assorted secret matters that fill him with foreboding – probably her husband’s sexual affair with Despenser, his threats to divorce her or her plans to overthrow him? 18 February. The king writes to Charles IV that Isabella is coming to negotiate and says that he wants an agreement by midsummer so she can join him for a visit to Gascony. Her French safe conduct arrives by 5 March, when the king draws up her list of official instructions. 9 March. Isabella crosses from Dover to Wissant; she proceeds to Pontoise where on 21 March she is received by Charles IV’s fiancée, her cousin Jeanne of Évreux. 10 March. She joins the English negotiators at Poissy. A temporary stalemate in the talks is broken by 31 March, as Isabella then writes back to her husband. That day’s agreement is that Edward will hand over Gascony plus Ponthieu to Charles, do homage to him at Beauvais by November, and then have it all restored apart from the disputed Agenais (mostly seized in 1324) which will be decided on by French negotiators. The Bishops of Winchester (i.e. Stratford), Norwich (Airmyn) and (for Charles and the Pope, as papal legate) Orange take these terms to Edward. Agreeing a truce in the interim is also satisfactory. 1 April. The queen makes her state entry to Paris to celebrate the treaty agreement; by 10 April the English envoys arrive back in England, and Orange follows once he has a safe conduct. The treaty reaches Edward on 29 April and on 2 or 3 May Edward reluctantly agrees to it. By 18 May the English envoys are back in Paris, and talks resume on the minor details especially clarification on the Agenais adjudication (which has to be fudged over Edward doing ‘justice’ for France over it); the treaty is formally drawn up at the royal palace on the lsIe de la Cite in Paris on 30 May. Charles IV signs on 31 May, and Edward signs on 13 June. The queen uses the excuse of her diplomatic mission to her French homeland to stay on, initially for Charles IV’s wedding to Jeanne of Navarre in July; in effect this amounts to ‘defection’ as it becomes clear that she is not coming back as long as the Despensers are in power, though it is unclear if she and Charles IV planned this before she arrived. From 17 June the payment of her expenses by the English exchequer ceases, as if the king is getting suspicious of her intentions.
Chronology: 1307–99 49 6 July. Death of the queen’s ally Bishop John Salmon of Norwich. The queen backs the claim of the new keeper of the privy seal William Airmyn, her former clerk, and sends his name to the Pope (who duly names him as bishop by 19 July), but the king chooses and arranges the election of his clerk Robert Baldock instead. Edward goes to Dover with his son Edward in mid-August, en route to the homage ceremony arranged at Beauvais, but never crosses the Channel – allegedly due to advice from the alarmed Despensers. On 24 August the king announces that he is too ill to travel, and sends a new embassy to Paris under the Earl of Richmond and Bishop Stratford to make other arrangements. This may doom him, if Isabella and King Charles had intended to use his visit to pressurise him to remove the Despensers but now resort to using the prince to overthrow him. 1 September. The embassy arrives in Paris. 2 September. Isabella meets Stratford for dinner and suggests that the king send his son to do homage for all the English possessions in France, which he will then take over; on the same day Edward II has the prince invested as Count of Ponthieu at Langdon Abbey near Dover. 4 September. Charles IV formally agrees to the prince taking over and doing homage for all the English possessions in France; Bishop Stratford takes the proposal back to Edward II. He agrees, with the Despensers still not wanting him to leave the country himself so they back it. 10 September. Prince Edward is created Duke of Aquitaine. 12 September. Prince Edward sails from Dover to France, after promising not to accept any guardian or wife without his father’s permission; Bishops Stratford and Stapledon and Henry Beaumont escort him. 14 September. Prince Edward arrives at Boulogne to meet Isabella. 22 September. The queen and prince arrive in Paris. 24 September. Edward does homage for the English possessions in France to Charles IV at Vincennes. Once Isabella has her eldest son Edward in Paris she starts to raise an army to overthrow her husband; the prince instead is to be Isabella’s nominee as figurehead to overthrow his increasingly hated father and the Despensers. Her small court of exiled foes of the Despensers is probably in touch with the king’s half-brother Edmund, Earl of Kent, who is now back in Gascony again and in autumn 1325 obtains a papal dispensation to marry Margaret Wake, daughter of Lord Wake and a cousin of Roger Mortimer. The Earl of Richmond is also in Paris and fails to return home. In England the late Earl of Lancaster’s younger brother Henry, Earl of Leicester, who Edward II has refused to allow to inherit that confiscated earldom, is probably also involved in the plot as is the young Earl of Norfolk, the Earl Marshal.
50 Chronology: 1307–99 The king sends his treasurer Bishop Stapledon to Paris that autumn to order Isabella to come home, but she apparently refuses; he is alarmed at the talk going on among her allies and on 31 October leaves suddenly for England after receiving a death threat. He reports to the king at Portchester Castle that treason and his overthrow are being plotted, and after this on 14 November the queen’s expenses stop being paid in England. The king is presumably aware of the invasion threat from this point, and his final order to Isabella that autumn to return home or else (according to the Vita Edwardi Secundi) is sent not via Stapledon but by the November embassy of Bishop Stratford. The queen purportedly retorts that she is in effect widowed as somebody (i.e. Despenser) is coming between her and her husband, and starts to dress in black as a widow. 18 November. Parliament meets, initially at the Tower of London. Before it rises on 5 December, Edward II addresses a session at Westminster Hall and complains that an anonymous person is causing mischief between him and his wife and making her behave scandalously and calumniate the innocent Despenser. It is not clear if he means Mortimer, who may not yet be in Paris. The bishops write to the queen on 1 December asking her to do her duty and return to her husband. Edward writes to Charles IV that day denying that he has done the queen any wrong, or that the unjustly slandered Hugh Despenser has done so as far as he is aware, and asking Charles to protect her reputation by sending her home. On 2 December he writes to the prince asking him to do his duty to his father and come home, with or without his mother. Most of Isabella’s entourage in Paris who are not involved in the plot return home. Roger Mortimer, who has mortgaged his lands in France to the Count of Hainault to raise troops, arrives in Paris to join the exiles. Subsequently, Isabella and Countess Jeanne of Hainault hold talks and it is agreed that Prince Edward (aged just 13) will marry Jeanne’s daughter Philippa (aged 11) as part of an alliance that will involve Hainault troops joining the invasion of England. 1326
8 February. Edward II sends letters to the sheriffs ordering them to put the realm in readiness to withstand an invasion by the queen, who has refused to come home and has taken up with his foes the Mortimers. Mortimer and Isabella are assumed to become lovers. The pair apparently live openly together in Paris. 24 March. Confiscation of the lands of the Earl of Richmond and of John, Lord Cromwell, for not obeying their recalls; apparently 5000 florins are sent to Pope John to try to bribe him to help. 11 May, Whitsun. Isabella and the prince attend the coronation of the new queen Jeanne in Paris, with Mortimer carrying the prince’s robes.
Chronology: 1307–99 51 May. A shipload of treasure is sent by Despenser to Paris to win support and help to influence Charles IV to abandon Isabella (according to Froissart in the 1380s, based on Isabella’s later complaints), apparently also in a bid to hire men to kill the queen, but the ship is intercepted by the Hainault navy. July. Isabella arrives in her lands in Ponthieu to raise men for the invasion, and Roger heads for Hainault for the muster of the troops who he has hired. Apparently the invasion was originally planned for February 1326; did hesitancy by France after a papal complaint delay it? Froissart later says that Charles temporarily abandoned the plan in June–July and asked Isabella to stop meddling in English politics; Edward II had also written to him about encouraging adultery and his first wife had been divorced for this crime. The story may be connected to an abortive rumour reported on 12 March by Prior Eastry of Christ Church, Canterbury, about a papal mission to Paris having persuaded Isabella to agree to return if her husband would banish the Despensers and swear to uphold her full status as queen. The papal mission leaves Kent empty-handed on 11 June; and on the 15th the king and Despenser meet Bishop Hamo at Rochester and a report of the discussion says that Despenser grumbled that the queen has no right to insist that he should leave court. Edward apparently refers to the banishment of the West Saxon Queen Eadburh in 802 after her misbehaviour and political meddling (in fact she accidentally poisoned her husband). July. Edward II declares war on France. 5 July. An array of troops is ordered against invasion in East Anglia. 3 August. Isabella and her entourage arrive in Mons in Flanders en route to Hainault. Roger Mortimer’s imprisoned uncle Roger Mortimer of Chirk dies in the Tower of London, allegedly from natural causes. 4 August. The king appoints searchers to watch the coast in each coastal county for invasion. 30 August. Edward arrives at Portchester to prepare for the invasion. 1 September. The assembly date for 140 vessels at the Holland ports of Rotterdam and Dordrecht by their sovereign, Count William of Hainault. 2 September. Edward’s half-brother Earl Thomas of Norfolk is ordered to have 2000 men ready by 21 September to defend Orwell Estuary in Suffolk, indicating knowledge of the invasion plans. 7 September. Isabella arrives in Hainault and goes to Brill to meet Roger, Count William’s brother John who is to command the invasion fleet, and other senior figures involved. 16 September. The king leaves Portchester for London to join Despenser at the Tower.
52 Chronology: 1307–99 22 September. The invasion fleet (95 ships) leaves Dordrecht – 2757 men according to Thomas of Walsingham, 1500 according to the Lanercost chronicle, Froissart says 700, the Meaux chronicle says 500. As the small army of at most a thousand or so Hainaulter and German/ Bohemian mercenaries land in Orwell Estuary in Suffolk on 24 September 1326, Edward’s orders to his sheriffs to raise an army are ignored across the country. The queen is welcomed to Suffolk by Earl Thomas of Norfolk and spends the night at his manor of Walton-on-the-Naze. 25 September. The queen’s army marches to Bury St Edmunds to give thanks at the shrine of St Edmund and play up the holiness of their cause; they then proceed to Cambridge for a three-day halt where they are joined by Bishops Orleton of Hereford, Burghersh of Lincoln, Hotham of Ely and Beaumont of Durham, along with Archbishop Bicknor of Dublin. Recruits pour in. Hundreds (possibly thousands) hurry to join the invaders including a substantial section of the nobility. In London, the king hears of the queen’s landing at dinner at the Tower on 27 September and issues calls for recruits but has no support. On 30 September Archbishop Reynolds reads a papal bull against (Scots) invaders at St Paul’s Cross to a hostile audience. Only the Earls of Arundel and Surrey among major magnates fail to slip away from his court. Edward faces riots against his greedy and corrupt officials and on 2 October is forced to flee the Tower of London for the Severn valley to try to raise an army of Welsh tenants, taking along £29,000 in cash, the Despensers, the two earls and his chancellor (Robert Baldock). Meanwhile, Earl Henry of Leicester declares for the queen and raises an army for her, and on 3 October seizes Leicester town and confiscates Despenser’s treasure at the abbey. 4 October. Edward is at Ruislip, then at Wallingford Castle on 6 October, Cirencester on the 9th and Gloucester on the 10th; he fails to raise recruits. 6 October. The queen writes from Baldock to the Londoners, inviting them to join her in removing the hated Despensers (no mention yet of deposing the king). 12 October. The king arrives at Westbury-on-Severn, with only 12 archers left as his entourage breaks up. 14 October. He arrives at Tintern Abbey. Once the king has left London Archbishop Reynolds calls an episcopal summit at Lambeth on 14 October and proposes to mediate, but is told that things have gone too far for that; with London in an ugly mood and himself regarded as a royalist he retreats to his manor at Maidstone, and Bishop Stratford rides off to defect to the queen. The hated treasurer,
Chronology: 1307–99 53 Bishop Stapledon, other ministers and the sheriff are caught and lynched by a mob on 15 October, the bishop being spotted heading for St Paul’s and being seized and beheaded in Cheapside, after the citizens storm the Tower of London and force Despenser’s wife Eleanor to hand it over to the king’s younger son Prince John, who is found abandoned in the royal apartments, as nominal commander. Roger and the queen chase the king into the West, and occupy Wallingford Castle on 14 October. On the 15th Isabella issues a proclamation calling for the capture of the Despensers and condemning their greed and tyranny. She then occupies Gloucester, where the Northern rebel army led by Henry, Lord Percy, Henry de Beaumont and Baron Wake join her and she is presented with the head of Bishop Stapledon. 21 October. Edward and the younger Despenser set out by boat from Chepstow, possibly for the latter’s island of Lundy, but are driven by adverse winds into Cardiff Bay on 25 October. As Bristol is besieged by the queen on 18 October the elder Despenser is surrounded in the castle and gives in as the city surrenders on 26 October; with the garrison of the castle are her daughters who have been in the elder Despenser’s custody. The latter is captured and tried for treason on 27 October before being publicly executed as a traitor; the king’s cousin Henry of Leicester apparently insists on execution as revenge for what happened to his brother Lancaster in 1322. Prince Edward is proclaimed ‘Keeper of the Realm’ at a council held by Isabella on 26 October as the king has ‘deserted’ his people. 1 November. The queen celebrates All Saints’ Day at Hereford as the guest of Bishop Orleton. 6 November. Bishop Stratford is appointed as treasurer and proceeds to London to take charge; he arrives on the 15th and a new lord mayor is elected. At Neath near Swansea on 10 November the king sends envoys to Isabella to negotiate, and she sends William, Lord Zouche and local guide clerk Rhys ap Hywel to arrest him. He is captured by Earl Henry of Leicester, now restored to the earldom of Lancaster, on 16 November in heavy rain near Llantrisant, possibly after some bribery to his entourage to supply details of his hiding place. Bishop Orleton later alleges that Despenser was holding Edward hostage and that he surrendered willingly. The ‘younger’ Despenser is captured with the king and is dragged off to Hereford, where the queen has the royalist Earl Richard Fitzalan of Arundel beheaded on 17 November. On 24 November Despenser is tried and convicted of treason, sentenced to death and taken to the marketplace for execution up a tall ladder in front of the appreciative public. He is eviscerated while still alive before a baying crowd before being
54 Chronology: 1307–99 beheaded; his castration may mean that the usual penalty for homosexual acts was being implied. The bloodbath is not that extensive as the queen spares the younger Despenser’s sons; the elder (Hugh) is besieged in Caerphilly Castle for two months and when he surrenders is able to keep his lands after two months in gaol and later inherits the family baronage. The younger Despenser’s widow Eleanor gets her lands back too, after two years in the Tower. The king is taken to Kenilworth Castle, soon after it is handed over to its new owner Lancaster at the end of November. 30 November. The queen’s faction hold a ceremony at Cirencester to make Bishop Airmyn chancellor in place of the disgraced Despenser ally Baldock; he, Isabella and the prince hold the Great Seal to 20 January 1327. The queen leads her court to London, and has Despenser’s and Arundel’s money handed over to her – the start of a period of systematic extravagance by her and politic generosity to her supporters. The triumphant rebels, headed by the queen, cannot not trust Edward II to keep any promises after what he has done in 1310 and 1322 and arrange for Parliament to remove him permanently. At Woodstock on 3 December, Parliament is summoned for 7 January. 4 December. The queen has the younger Despenser’s head put up on London Bridge as is the usual fate of traitors, but sends Bishop Stapledon’s body (rescued from a rubbish heap) back to his cathedral at Exeter. 21 December. The court arrives at Wallingford Castle for Christmas. Isabella holds a council a few days later and stops some of her partisans who want the king executed, backed up by her commander John of Hainault (Count William’s brother) who argues against a trial of an anointed king either as this is dubiously legal; forced abdication is agreed which will leave her as regent for her 14-year-old elder son. 26 December. Commissioners are appointed to treat with Robert Bruce for peace. 1327
4 January. The court arrives at Westminster from Merton Priory. 7 January. Parliament opens at Westminster. It either opens with arrangments for the abdication (Dene chronicle) or else puts this off until the return of a delegation to the king at Kenilworth on the 12th (Ranulf Higden/Pipewell chronicle/Lanercost). The queen receives all Despenser’s moveables and treasure (8 January) and all her pre-1324 property (10 January); on 12 January the delegates to Kenilworth return to say that Edward has refused to abdicate or even attend Parliament. 13 January. A letter from London’s new Lord Mayor Bethune, an ally of Mortimer’s, invites Parliament to join the citizens at the Guildhall to take an oath to the queen and prince and agree to deposing the king, for
Chronology: 1307–99 55 violating his coronation oath, in favour of the prince – presumably as prompted by Mortimer. Later that day the MPs and peers do this, led by Mortimer and with Earl Edmund of Kent presiding, and they also swear to uphold the 1310–11 Ordinances and rid the land of Edward II’s favourites. Archbishop Reynolds distributes free wine to the citizens but is still booed and jostled. Back at Westminster Hall, Mortimer acts as spokesman for the lords in announcing to the queen that they are agreed that the king should be deposed; Wake backs him up and says he will never obey Edward II again, and the Commons cheer them. Bishop Stratford then invites the crowds inside to give their assent, and Bishop Orleton delivers a sermon on ‘Woe to the land whose king is a child’ referencing Edward II’s childish behaviour. He declares that the queen cannot live with her husband again or her life will be in danger, and, after a speech from Stratford, Wake calls on the public to assent to the deposition. They do, though Archbishop Melton of York speaks up for the king. Archbishop Reynolds expounds on ‘vox populi, vox dei’ as Biblical justification for the deposition, and Wake makes the formal request to the crowds for their assent after which Reynolds declares the king deposed. The written articles of Edward II’s deposition – for incompetence, treachery, imposing tyrannical favourites and persecuting the great men of his realm – are then read to Parliament. Edward III is then called in and presented to the public for loud acclaim – which Melton and three bishops do not join. 16 January. Bishop Orleton leads a delegation of 30 members of all sections of Parliament to Kenilworth. 20 January. Bishop Orleton, Bishop Stratford and Lord Burghersh meet Edward II in the castle’s great chamber, and Orleton denounces the (ex-) king for his tyranny and threatens that if he refuses to abdicate the people may acclaim a non-royal as his successor so he should give in to save the Crown for his son – a blatant falsification of the situation. He panics and agrees to abdicate, and is ordered out into the hall to annouce this to his cousin Henry of Lancaster and the other delegates which he does; afterwards he faints as he is led out. 21 January. At Kenilworth, Lord Chief Justice Sir William Trussell formally declares that the nation now renounces its homage to Edward II and the Lord Steward breaks his staff of office as is done at a king’s funeral; the delegation then takes the crown and regalia back to Westminster. 24 January. Isabella processes from the Tower to Westminster to occupy the palace. 28 January. Bishop Hotham becomes chancellor and Bishop Orleton treasurer. 29 January. The abdication is formally announced and new Justices are put in office.
56 Chronology: 1307–99 1 February. Coronation of Edward III by Archbishop Reynolds, after he is knighted by Lancaster. 21 February. Formal pardon of Mortimer and (posthumously) his uncle Roger Mortimer of Chirk. The late Thomas of Lancaster is pardoned so his lands can all go to Earl Henry, but a request to the Pope for his canonisation is ignored; ex-minister Robert Baldock is fatally beaten by a London mob when he is dragged out of custody at Bishop Orleton’s house but there are no more major lynchings. The queen has the unpopular and harsh Forest laws jurisdiction restricted. Edward II’s ‘voluntary’ abdication leaves the possibility that if he escapes from custody he could claim that it had been invalid as done under duress and the Pope can absolve rulers from legal promises – as Innocent III had done for John over accepting Magna Carta. REIGN OF EDWARD III: 1327–77 As Edward III is only 14, Isabella and Mortimer take over the government though their relationship remains prudently ‘low key’ and most of the stories of their openly scandalous behaviour are later and unreliable. Isabella is the effective regent as holder of the privy seal and Mortimer no more than her unofficial adviser, though he clearly exercises enormous influence as well as securing large grants of land and local office (Justiciar of Wales for life and controller of all Crown lands in Wales as of mid-February 1327) and a degree of hubris soon becomes apparent. Mortimer also acquires the wardship of the under-age holders of the earldom of Warwick and the Audley and Hastings lordships. The technical head of the council as the king’s guardian, Edward’s oldest male blood relative, Henry, Earl of Lancaster, has little political power and political and patronage matters are decided solely by the acquisitive Isabella. Isabella is greedy for lands and riches as her acquisitions in 1327–8 show. (Her massive portfolio of estates include the site of her earlier humiliation, Leeds Castle in Kent, plus the late king’s favoured Kings Langley near Berkhamsted, Sheen/Richmond on the Thames in Surrey, the royal Essex hunting estate at Havering-atte-Bower, Odiham Castle in Hampshire, Rockingham Castle in the Midlands, Builth in the Marches, Bristol Castle and Pontefract Castle.) No queen has exercised such an important role in government before and the prominence accorded to Mortimer, not a senior peer and only a minor Marcher lord until his accession to vast estates in 1326–7, presents dangers to her regime – their affair was enough to blacken her reputation in subsequent centuries, adding to the unease felt about her ‘unnatural’ action in overthrowing her husband. Her behaviour is seen as an affront to the natural order of things – and thus to God – though it is only Christopher Marlowe in the 1590s who provides the final touches to her reputation, presenting her as a vengeful and over-sexed harridan
Chronology: 1307–99 57 who unnaturally betrayed, deposed and murdered her husband in association with her lover. 31 March. Peace treaty signed with France; England gets most of the conquered Gascon lands back in return for a cash payment, but Charles IV keeps the Agenais so Isabella is blamed. The Scots turn down her peace offer and attack the Borders again so she sends a second embassy to King Robert. Edward II is removed from Lancaster’s Kenilworth Castle on 3 April by Mortimer’s trusted agents headed by Thomas, Lord Berkeley, owner of the eponymous castle and Mortimer’s son-in-law. He is transferred around the country in disguise in great secrecy in evident fear of a rescue. Presumably the massive fortifications of Kenilworth are not thought adequate to protect Edward from rescue as Isabella and Mortimer do not trust Lancaster’s loyalties; but it is the later and unreliable Geoffrey le Baker who accuses Orleton of arranging this out of spite towards the ex-King. Berkeley’s sister Ela’s husband Lord Maltravers is Edward’s official custodian with him (appointed 31 March) and is in charge of his escort, and they proceed in unobtrusive secrecy around the SW Midlands. Also in the party is a Somerset ally of Mortimer’s who was with him in the Tower in 1323, Sir Thomas Gurney. Edward’s whereabouts are unclear after his initial move in early April to isolated Llanthony Priory in the SE Marches, with stories linking him to Corfe Castle in Dorset near Maltravers’ estates. According to the later chronicler Bishop, the ex-king is given poisoned food. Early April. The new king and the queen proceed north to Stamford for a council to discuss how to deal with the Scots; Edward III is said to prefer a new campaign and on 5 April a general muster is ordered. 29 April. The court arrives at Nottingham to prepare for the Scots campaign, and John of Hainault is asked to bring his mercenaries to England again; a general evacuation of the Northern counties is ordered ahead of an invasion by the Scots. There is an alleged plot by local citizens to free Edward II while he is at Bristol Castle (main evidence in Baker), and after that he is moved hurriedly to isolated Berkeley Castle – assumed by later writers as a planned prelude to a pre-planned murder. The evidence of the contemporary chronicler Adam Murrimuth and the stories collected by Froissart later in the century indicate that Lord Berkeley treats Edward well whereas Maltravers does not, and the ex-king’s traditional chamber in the castle is not the noxious dungeon of Baker’s story. It is a reasonably sized room on an upper storey, in residential quarters. The supposed pit full of rotting bodies intended to spread noxious vapours is certainly not adjacent to the king’s chamber as the legend would have it. (The Baker evidence was said by its writer to come from a soldier called William Bishop who was in the garrison, as told to Baker after 1348.)
58 Chronology: 1307–99 23 May. The court arrives at York. 27 May. John of Hainault and 500 Flemish mercenaries arrive at York. On Trinity Sunday (7 June) the campaign is disrupted as drunk English archers have a brawl with the Hainaulters’ servants during a series of court/army banquets and start massacring them, and up to 300 people are killed as the archers attack the hated foreigners’ lodgings at the Blackfriars monastery; the king and Lord Wake have to ride through the streets ordering calm and threatening to execute rioters on the spot. 1 July. The king leaves York for the campaign, and Isabella moves into the safer York Castle; however, the Scots evade the royal army. 1 July. A warrant is issued for the arrest of the outlawed Edwardian partisan Thomas Dunheved, brother of the unsavoury friar Stephen Dunheved who Edward sent to the Pope for a divorce in 1324, along with members of his gang and for whom a warrant has been issued on 4 May; the charges are connected to what a letter by Berkeley on 27 July makes clear was a successful infiltration by raiders into Berkeley Castle. The guards had been overpowered and the ex-king had been carried off, probably aided by building work at the castle which could have enabled the raiders to disguise themselves and smuggle weapons into the buildings. The letter does not mention Edward’s recapture, which must remain uncertain – but the next plot to free him by Rhys Gruffydd in early September indicates that the latter’s South Wales conspirators believe Edward to be back in custody then. One theory has been raised that the Dunheved raid was the occasion of Edward’s permanent escape from custody, as is argued by Ian Mortimer in The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Roger Mortimer, Ruler of England: 1327–1330, on the basis of what Roger Mortimer was doing at Abergavenny in mid-September (i.e. ‘looking for the ex-king’); others prefer a later date for any escape. Isabella and Mortimer hedge on a promise made in exile in 1326 to recognise Scots independence, after negotiations led by Lord Percy (a leading Northumberland magnate) broke down. The crucial issue is the land seized from the ‘Disinherited’ of the Balliol and Comyn factions in Scotland; many of these men come from Northern England families and/or have relatives and friends eager to insist on at least partial restoration in any treaty. They are backed by Earl Henry of Lancaster, and the regency endeavours to rally the ‘political nation’ with a final expedition to fight the ageing and ailing King Robert. As Mortimer leads the royal army north, the Scots army, under Sir James Douglas and Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray – Bruce’s two most gifted commanders – are already pillaging the English countryside, and they carefully avoid battle as they retreat across County Durham. The English probe Weardale, and when they find the Scots drawn up in a formidable position on the banks of the River Wear Edward III wishes to attack and show his valour but
Chronology: 1307–99 59 Mortimer vetoes it. The English head for the Tyne to cut the Scots retreat but the Scots do not follow and on 27 July the English have to abandon a precarious position in the countryside near Haltwhistle. An uneasy stand-off continues until c. 7 August when the Douglases launch a daring midnight raid on the English camp and humiliatingly cut through the ropes of Edward’s and others’ tents. The King of England is left crawling under the fallen canvas while the raiders kill and loot at will in the chaos-strewn camp, though he may have been lucky if the Douglases intended to kidnap him as well. Mortimer orders a retreat to York, the expedition is abandoned despite Edward’s fury. Parliament is summoned for 15 September and on 13 August the king returns to York. 31 August. The court is at Nottingham. 3 September. The court arrives at Lincoln and Mortimer is ordered as Justiciar of Wales to go there and investigate conspiracies; this is presumably connected to the Rhys ap Gruffydd plot (warrants for whose participants are issued on 7 September) but has been linked to the murder/ escape of Edward II as above. 14 September. Mortimer is at Abergavenny as a letter from his lieutenant in N Wales, William de Shalford, arrives there with details of the Rhys ap Gruffydd plot. (Geoffrey le Baker has the queen advised by Bishop Orleton to be rid of her husband and duly sending a letter to Berkeley for him to be killed at this point; in fact Orleton was at the papal court in Avignon.) 21 September. The news of Edward II’s death at Berkeley Castle is sent to the court at Lincoln; it arrives there on the 23rd, brought by one of his guardians (Thomas Gurney). Suspiciously, the royal sergeant-at-arms in charge of the ex-king’s funeral arrangements at Berkeley, William Beaucaire, arrives there on the day of his death not after it has been reported to the court, as if it was anticipated. This is conventionally used as evidence that either Mortimer or Isabella sent him to commit regicide. 24 September. Edward III writes to his cousin, the Earl of Hereford, saying that he heard the news of the ex-king’s death the previous night. The date announced to the public is confirmed as being the 21st by contemporary chroniclers; a grief-related illness is blamed, as was to be the case for the equally sudden and convenient death of Henry VI in 1471. Edward II’s body is kept for several months under guard by Mortimer’s underlings at Berkeley Castle. 28 September. The senior regime ally Bishop Orleton is transferred by royally requested papal provison to Worcester after the death (26 August) of Bishop Thomas Cobham; he is replaced by Thomas Charlton at Hereford.
60 Chronology: 1307–99 SCOTLAND 9 October. Isabella appoints new commissioners to negotiate with the Scots. Robert Bruce responds positively on 18 October but insists that Scotland cannot be in any way a vassal of England and that his son David (born 1324) should marry one of Edward III’s sisters; this is acceptable to Isabella but probably pushes Henry of Lancaster and experienced commanders like his son-in-law Lord Wake into opposing the regime. 27 October. Death of King Robert’s second wife Elizabeth de Burgh, daughter of Earl Richard of Ulster, aged probably in her late 40s. ENGLAND 16 November. Death of Archbishop Walter Reynolds of Canterbury, after 15-year episcopate. 11 December. Election by the Canterbury Cathedral monks, as per a royal request letter, of royal clerk and ‘trusty’ Simon Meopham, canon of Chichester. He will prove less astute or competent than his predecessor Reynolds – and will alienate his bishops by persistent officious interference in their affairs, e.g. by conducting unwelcome visitations to their sees. In December ex-king Edward’s body is escorted to Gloucester for a ‘lowkey’ funeral on 20 December, which the court attends; the delay is not unusually long by medieval standards as the pageantry of the ceremony has to be arranged in detail and preparations made. But the circumstances are dubious, with no public viewing of the body as was usual. Only one party of visiting clerics (under the Abbot of Gloucester whose abbey was to be the place of burial) have been allowed to view Edward, and then from a distance as they arrived on 21 October. Claims are duly made that he escaped or was freed in disguise. The secrecy surrounding his captivity was such that an escape is plausible. The geographically nearest of the contemporary Church chroniclers, Adam Murrimuth, resident in SW in 1327, reported in the mid-1330s that it was commonly said then that Gurney and Maltravers suffocated Edward with Mortimer’s connivance. He was the only local chronicler, and is thus the most crucial witness. The subsequent despatch of Beaucaire from court to take charge of Edward’s body before he was known to be dead would indicate that Mortimer knew what was to happen and when. The chronicle of St Paul’s Cathedral and the shorter of the two versions of an ongoing chronicle known as the Brut give little detail on Edward’s death. The longer version – earlier than Murrimuth, and written by a sympathiser of the anti-Mortimer Earl of Lancaster – presents the famous story that Gurney and Maltravers murdered him with a redhot poker. It is confused about the site, naming it as Corfe at first and as Berkeley when dealing with the subsequent enquiry in 1330. The reference to Corfe may be due to confused memories of the later Kent plot
Chronology: 1307–99 61 which centred on Edward II being at that castle, or reflect real stories that Edward had been at Corfe not Berkeley in 1327. Ranulph Higden’s Polychronichon, written at Chester by 1340, agrees with this version. Other chroniclers (e.g. the prior of Bridlington, who refers to ‘common stories’ which he scrupled to describe) seem to have been aware of the ‘poker’ rumour. Geoffrey le Baker, c. 1356, is even more lurid. This elaboration probably reflects myth. 23 December. Edward III’s bride Philippa of Hainault arrives in England and enters London on the 24th; she is lodged at Bishop Hotham’s house at Ely Place over Christmas before going on to York. 1328
30 January. Marriage of Edward and Philippa in a snowstorm at York Minster. Archbishop Meopham heads for Avignon (via Dover on 18 January) to have his appointment confirmed and to receive ‘pallium’, but ends up in a long wait at Avignon and the king writes to suggest that if the Pope is unsure of him he should choose the Bishop of Lincoln instead; Meopham does not return until September. FRANCE 1 February. Death of Charles IV of France, aged 33 (born June 1294); the funeral is held on 5 February. If his widow Jeanne does not give birth to a son this means that his nearest male relative will be his first cousin, Count Philip of Valois, and by the precedent of 1316 Philip should succeed to France. The ‘Salic Law’, of dubious historicity, supposedly bans female inheritance – but does it ban inheritance via a female, and if it does not, is the heir Charles’ sister Isabella’s son (Edward III) or the late Louis X’s daughter’s son (Charles of Navarre)? The royal princes, including the Dukes of Burgundy and Bourbon, and a small number of great peers meet and listen to legal arguments; they agree that Philip should be regent, blocking claims by Isabella’s lawyers for her son Edward III to assume this role. 28 March. Edward III announces that he will seek the throne of France (as primed by Isabella?). 8 April. After Queen Jeanne of France gives birth to a daughter (Blanche) on 1 April, Philip of Valois (aged 35) is chosen by the French elite as their new king; he is proclaimed Philip VI on 14 April. The scene is set for the Anglo–French conflict over the French crown. SCOTLAND In early 1328 an English council meeting at York during the festivities for Edward’s marriage approves terms whereby Scotland’s independence under King Robert would be recognised, all English lordships held
62 Chronology: 1307–99 within Scotland would be transferred to Scots legal jurisdiction, Scotland’s boundaries as of 1286 would be accepted, and English lawsuits against the Bruce regime at the papal law courts would be dropped. The ‘Disinherited’ would be abandoned, which led to furious verbal attempts to halt the ‘sell-out’ treaty by the Earl of Lancaster to no avail, and one of Edward’s sisters would marry Robert’s son David Bruce. This is signed by Robert on 17 March, and forms the basis of the Treaty of Northampton, signed at the next meeting of the English Parliament there on 4 May. The marriage of David Bruce (aged 4) to Edward’s sister Joan ‘of the Tower’ (of London, aged 7) is rushed through on 17 July at Berwick to seal the peace despite the participants’ tender ages. Joan is duly despatched to Scotland. This ‘surrender’ to the long-term national foe is seen as a humiliation in England, and is blamed on Isabella and Roger Mortimer. Lancaster, possibly brooding over the December 1327 restoration of lands seized by Edward II from his late brother Lancaster’s 1322 betrayer Sir Robert Holland as implying dishonour to his family, starts to assert his rights as the king’s legal guardian to have more influence in policy. Restrictions on use of the privy seal for grants of gifts, lands and offices are probably aimed at Isabella’s lavish generosity by Lancaster, though she wins support too by ostentatious curbs on the current disorder in poorly governed London and issuing commissions of ‘oyer and terminer’ to judges to crack down on local feuding. 14 May. End of the Northampton Parliament. 16 May. Bishops Orleton and Northburgh (of Coventry) are sent to France on a vain mission to have Edward III recognised as its king, challenging Philip VI’s accession – a move towards conflict or the impoverished and defeated Isabella seeking to blackmail Philip into buying her off? 24 May. Lancaster hosts the king at Warwick Castle and discusses plans to attack France. The marriages of Roger’s daughters to two major peers, teenagers who are his wards (James Audley and the new Earl of Warwick, Thomas Beauchamp), are held with grand celebrations at Ludlow on 31 May with Isabella present as Roger’s guest. She then goes to Worcester on 10 June, while the king and queen head to Woodstock and then join Isabella and Roger at Worcester to discuss sending troops to Gascony to invade France. Lancaster demands that no decision be taken until the full council are present, so this is postponed until the wedding of Princess Joan and David Bruce in Berwick in July brings the elite there. The Stone of Scone is supposed to be handed to King Robert as a wedding gift, but angry Londoners stop its removal. 2 July. Bishop Burghersh, the queen’s ally, is made chancellor. The royal party heads to Berwick for the wedding of David and Joan on 16 July,
Chronology: 1307–99 63 but Edward III does not attend so Robert Bruce does not either. The new queen of Scots is then escorted to meet her father-in-law at his usual residence, Cardross Castle, as his health declines. 28 July. Robert issues partial restitution of land to assorted English members of the ‘Disinherited’ to return their Scots lands, including Henry Beaumont, Henry, Lord Percy and Lord Wake – but it is noticed that these are mostly pro-Isabella nobles and her foes are left out of the list. However, Wake now has a grudge over her sacking him as Justice in lands south of the River Trent in favour of her ally Lord Zouche in May, and he joins Lancaster, Surrey and the king’s uncles Edmund of Kent and Thomas of Norfolk in boycotting the 31 July meeting of Parliament at York. The court heads south to Nottingham (2 August), and Lancaster is invited to meet the queen but instead turns up unexpectedly as they arrive at Barlings Abbey on 7 September at the head of an armed force (to make sure he is not arrested?). He has a slanging match with Isabella and Roger who accuse him of intimidation and refuse to listen to his demands, and the king summons him to bring his complaints to the next Parliament at Salisbury. Once he has left, Isabella bans all public assemblies – i.e. of potential rebels – and Roger heads to Gloucester to raise his Marcher tenants. This is reckoned by the contemporary Brut chronicle as the start of his and Isabella’s tyranny. 27 September. Edward, arriving at Cambridge en route to London, is warned that Lancaster is marching on him from Higham Ferrers to capture him, and evades this with a swift detour – presumably to join his mother and Roger. Meanwhile, Wake and Bishop Stratford have held a Londoners’ rally at the Guildhall to demand that Isabella stop her extravagance, live off her dower and hand over the queen regnant’s usual lands to Philippa, and send Roger Mortimer back to his lands with no power. 15 October. Lancaster’s men murder their lord’s foe Sir Robert Holland at Borehamwood just as the king is sending him orders to raise troops against Lancaster, and send the earl his head; the king and Isabella join Parliament at Salisbury for its meeting from 16 October, but Lancaster ignores his summons to explain himself and instead lists the Guildhall speeches’ charges against the regime. The Brut also says he accused Isabella and Roger of kidnapping Edward II from his custody and hiding him away ahead of murdering him. Bishop Stratford tries to hold a bishops’ rally to support Lancaster, but Roger sends men to break it up and he flees to hide at Wilton nunnery after a murder-plot rumour. Roger assumes the title of ‘Earl of March’ in October. Lancaster marches into Winchester; on 1 November Parliament adjourns, and the earl is persuaded to pull back to let the MPs and peers pass
64 Chronology: 1307–99 through Winchester en route to London; Isabella tells the king to go to confront Lancaster with Roger and reportedly alleges that the earl and Kent and Norfolk want to depose him. Edward and his party arrive in Winchester on 3 November, but Lancaster does not turn up and instead heads back north to his estates, saying the bishops have advised him to lie low – and he claims in a letter to the Lord Mayor of London that Kent has told him something important in confidence (the first hint of the ‘Edward II is alive’ story?). The king’s party arrive at Windsor by 14 November, and are in London for Parliament on the 21st with Isabella. Philip VI’s envoy the Abbot of Fecamp (later Pope Clement VI) arrives in London to demand that Edward do homage for Gascony, but Isabella ensures that he refuses. Philip is talked out of confiscating Gascony by his council, but sends the abbot and others to Gascony to impound its revenues until homage is done. Parliament ends; the royal party heads for Gloucester with Roger (10–20 December stay) to raise troops, and once they have left London the king’s uncles Kent and Norfolk issue a manifesto accusing him of breaking Magna Carta. The new Archbishop Meopham of Canterbury then preaches against the king and in support of them at St Paul’s Cathedral on 18 December, and on the 19th the rebel earls hold a rally there. But no other bishops back him up, arousing his wrath towards his timid supposed supporter, Lancaster’s ally Bishop Hamo de la Hethe of Rochester. 21 December. The king’s letter to London asking for support is read in the city and wins favourable backing among the citizens, but when Archbishop Meopham sends a threatening letter to Isabella and Roger on 23 December warning of sanctions on anyone who breaks the peace (but not naming the king in his threats) Roger takes the king and his Marches troops to Warwick Castle, whose earl is Lancaster’s ward, en route to Lancaster’s estates. IRELAND Maurice FitzThomas Fitzgerald, head of the branch of the Fitzgeralds in SW Munster, is created first Earl of Desmond – part of the recognition by Dublin (after the reduction in central control and power due to the Bruce invasion) of the need to rely heavily on increasingly autonomous regional lords (and their private armies of retainers, of which Desmond is a pioneer). The main regional magnate of E Munster, James Butler, Lord of Kilkenny, is created Earl of Ormonde. 1329
ENGLAND 1 January. The king and Roger arrive at Lancaster’s HQ at Kenilworth Castle and are refused admittance; Lancaster enters London and raises recruits, while Roger ravages his E Midlands estates and occupies his town of Leicester. The king is in Leicester by 11 January and arrives in
Chronology: 1307–99 65 Bedford on 12 January. Kent and Norfolk hasten to court and submit, and Lancaster gives up and follows. At Bedford Lancaster kneels before the king and begs pardon, and is sacked from all his offices except the seneschalship of England and has to pay a fine amounting to half the value of his estates; Archbishop Meopham secures his pardon from prosecution for treason. Having been enthroned at Canterbury (22 January), Meopham holds his first Church council at St Paul’s, London, and orders the excommunication of Bishop Stapledon’s 1327 murderers. His officious clumsiness leads to episcopal resistance to his visitations of his subordinates’ sees in 1329–30, the Archbishop of York refuses to give him precedence in processions as he demands so he boycotts Parliament, and the Pope temporarily suspends him for insolence in refusing to accept his provision of Archbishop de Ceccano of Naples to the church of Maidstone. 9 February. Parliament meets; Philip VI’s envoys arrive to repeat their master’s demand that Edward do homage for Gascony and are assured that he will duly do this – but ‘conditional’ homage not prejudicing his claim to France at a later date. This amounts to a climbdown by Isabella. Edward duly sails from Dover on 26 May, leaving his younger brother John as ‘Keeper of the Realm’, and does homage to Philip at Amiens Cathedral on 6 June in the company of his uncles, the Earls of Kent and Norfolk. He tries to do homage for the occupied area of the Agenais too implying that it should legally be returned, but this is refused and it is declared as rightfully sequestered so the meeting is tense. Edward returns to England on 11 June. SCOTLAND King Robert has been ailing for several years, apparently from some skin disease probably picked up while on campaign – which was not specified at the time but later writers were to call ‘leprosy’ but probably just had similar side effects of physical disfigurement, and evidently involved physical weakness too so a series of strokes are possible; it could have been psoriasis. The king’s foes allege that it is a punishment for his killing the ‘Red’ Comyn in a church. The king cannot be expected to last until his son David, born on 5 March 1324, reaches his majority; hence his agreement with England in 1328. The king is (presumably) physically fit enough in 1328 to promise to go on Crusade – cancelling which would have brought further Church anger. After a further period of illness he dies at Cardross Castle near Dumbarton on 7 June 1329, aged probably 54. David becomes king at the age of 5, with his cousin Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, as regent. As is well-known from its recent discovery, the king’s heart is not buried with the rest of him at Dunfermline Abbey but is taken on Crusade to fulfil his promise. Sir James Douglas, in charge of the expedition, takes it and hangs it in a casket around his neck.
66 Chronology: 1307–99 The planned Crusade which the Pope was expected to call is postponed so Douglas joins in the latest expedition of the ‘Reconquista’ in Castile instead, fighting for King Alfonso XI in the Moslem emirate of Granada in 1330. He is killed at the siege of Teba, legendarily taking off the casket and throwing it into a crowd of his foes as he is overwhelmed to enthuse his followers to recover it. It is later found and returned to Scotland to be buried at Melrose Abbey as the king had requested – and rediscovered in 1996. ENGLAND Roger Mortimer’s now open rule by armed force reflects his political eminence, but rumours of abuse of power spread through 1329 and are followed by more high-status marriages for two more Mortimer daughters (to the new young Earl of Pembroke, Aimery of Valence’s nephew Laurence Hastings, and the king’s cousin John, heir of the Earl of Norfolk) and a spectacular ‘Round Table’ tournament in the Arthurian manner at Wigmore Castle on 4–7 September. But the private mission by the king’s trusted friend William de Montague/Montacute to the Pope at Avignon in September, arranging a code for royal letters to the Pope which are to be sent by Edward unprompted by his mother and her lover, may indicate the start of the king’s plans to remove Roger. Opposition to the regime starts to coalesce, centred on the late king’s half-brother Edmund, Earl of Kent, who believes stories that he has really been kept alive at remote Corfe Castle under the care of its custodian (from 1329) Lord Maltravers, his captor at Berkeley. He is also at Avignon that autumn, and apparently tells the Pope that he has information that Edward II is still alive – though the account of who said what when and if the story was credible or a plot by Roger Mortimer is confused as it depends partly on the ‘evidence’ at Kent’s later trial. He has supposedly been visited by a friar – Stephen Dunheved, the man involved in the royal rescue plot of July 1327 according to the Lanercost chronicle – who told him Edward II is alive. He then meets the exiled Mortimer foe Henry Beaumont in Paris on his way home and discusses restoring the ex-king. Kent later accepts a statement from two friars that they had seen a man resembling the ex-king dining in Corfe Castle’s hall, and apparently the castle’s custodian in 1328–9, Sir John Pecche, also backs up the claim. (Ian Mortimer points out that the terminology of the subsequent treason charge accuses Kent of trying to free Edward II, not a known ‘fake’ – and was it treason to free a ‘fake’ king rather than a real one?) Kent has usually assumed to have been fooled by an insubstantial rumour, and so desperate to overthrow Roger Mortimer that he would believe anything. But other important people believe the rumours too, notably Archbishop Melton of York who wrote in January 1330 that he had heard news that the ex-king was still alive and so made arrangements to send suitable clothing to him in ‘hiding’. The story may be a ‘sting’ by Roger to trap Kent.
Chronology: 1307–99 67 29 October 1329 – 3 January 1330. The court is resident at Kenilworth Castle. 1330
25 January. Parliament is summoned to Winchester to discuss a treaty with France; the plan is for the king’s siblings John and Eleanor to marry Philip VI’s children. The court is at Eltham in Kent. Kent mounts a plot to free and reinstate Edward II, which swiftly leaks out to the government resulting in his arrest, as ordered on 10 March – apparently after a surprise visit by him to Corfe Castle looking for his brother. Lancaster’s current diplomatic mission to France is possibly organised by Isabella and Roger to get him out of the way. The stories about Edward II are usually presumed to have been invented or used by Roger, as a means of luring his enemy Edmund to his doom and provide an excuse for executing him. It remains uncertain if the friars were in his pay, or if they were genuine partisans of the ex-king – linked to friar Stephen Dunheved? – whose indiscretions enabled Roger to discover Kent’s intentions. 11 March. Kent is arrested and is taken before Mortimer and shown captured incriminating letters to the friars who had visited Corfe; Edward III is presumably pressurised by Isabella to let a treason trial go ahead and then have Kent executed, and is reliably assumed to be extremely reluctant and either bullied into it (Brut story and Thomas of Walsingham) or perhaps warned that he could be deposed. Kent is impeached by Parliament, illegally as he is a peer who should be tried by his fellow peers, and condemned for treason; on 14 March he is executed outside the gates of Winchester. The aftermath shows that the king blames Roger for this and is determined to take revenge. April. Edward’s brother John is sent, aged 13, to Gascony as titular governor. 15 June. Birth of Edward and Philippa’s first son Edward at Woodstock, the royal hunting lodge outside Oxford (not known as the ‘Black Prince’ in his lifetime). 9 July. An emergency council is called at Oseney Abbey, Oxford, to discuss a warning from Hainault that exiled Henry de Beaumont and his allies are hiring mercenaries to invade and overthrow Isabella. 28 July. Expiry of the deadline for Edward to do homage for Gascony, with Bishop Airmyn of Norwich at the French court to delay any retaliation with excuses. Edward is declared in default of his obligations by the Parlement of Paris and given until 15 December to turn up. 19 October. A royal visit to Nottingham Castle with Roger in charge ends abruptly when the king arranges for a group of his friends, led by William Montague (soon to be Earl of Salisbury), to attack the regents.
68 Chronology: 1307–99 Roger has been warned that something is afoot and has questioned the king and Montague a day or so beforehand, but they have denied everything. Montague and about a dozen armed men sneak up a secret passage (still extant) from a nearby inn underneath the castle rock, reportedly revealed to them by the castle’s deputy governor William d’Eland who is in charge while governor Lord Grey of Codnor, an ally of Roger’s, is away. They emerge into the inner bailey with the royal apartments and are let into the keep by the king. Heavily armed, they storm Isabella’s apartments and kill the queen’s steward, Sir Hugh Turpington, who shouts a warning to Roger; two of the latter’s squires are cut down and the attackers overpower, arrest and remove Roger, with the queen screaming to no avail to her son who she correctly believes to be watching from a nearby vantage point ‘Have pity on the gentle (i.e. nobly born) Mortimer! Do not harm him, he is a worthy knight.’ This effective coup ends with Isabella removed from court and all political influence and temporarily kept under guard at Berkhamsted, possibly suffering from a nervous breakdown but also sidelined by the king as a public relations threat for her unpopularity and her public affair with the hated Roger. Her estates are handed over to Queen Philippa, except her favourite residence of Castle Rising near King’s Lynn to which she soon ‘retires’ – probably forced by her son. 26 November. Parliament opens; Lord Berkeley is tried for his part in Edward II’s murder by his peers, but denies it or even knowing that the ex-king is dead. Mortimer is indicted too; the king apparently wants him hanged without trial but Henry of Lancaster insists on a legal process and on 28 November he is tried for treason. The trial is somewhat hypocritical and politically risky as the entire current regime – not least Isabella – either participated in or tacitly approved of the removal of Edward II, and had not objected to the grants to Roger and the subsequent dismissal of Lancaster; and the apparent murder of the ex-king was presumably known to if not arranged by Isabella. The charges do include murdering Edward II (though as seen above this may have been a sham) and Edward III’s indignation at his being used as a puppet is presumably behind the accusations that he has been forced by Roger to ennoble him, give him offices and sentence his uncle Edmund to death. The charges of usurping royal authority and killing Edmund are the most just, and Roger is gagged so he cannot make a reasoned defence that he has acted with the support of the queen and others – or desperately let out assorted embarrassing facts that the king would prefer to keep hidden. Roger is sentenced to be hanged (i.e. as a commoner not an earl), and on 29 November this is done at Tyburn – with him (aged 47) gagged again and wearing a plain tunic, as worn at Edward II’s funeral, without his heraldic arms to emphasise his disgrace. His widow is also forfeited for treason, though her lands are returned to her in 1336.
Chronology: 1307–99 69 28 November. Bishop Burghersh is sacked as chancellor and replaced by Bishop Stratford (30 November), though he will return as treasurer in 1334. On 29 November Thomas Gurney and William Ockley/Ogle, Mortimer’s henchmen, are sentenced to death in absentia for murdering Edward II and some of Edmund of Kent’s trickers are sentenced too. There is no mention of Lord Maltravers, who had formal charge of the ex-king. Gurney is later arrested in Spain and dies on the way home, conveniently or not. A case has been made for possible sightings of Edward II in Europe in the 1330s, possibly as the ‘William de Waleys’ who Edward III had apparently tracked down and met at Cologne in 1338. The famous and controversial ‘Fieschi Letter’, which has some private information on the ex-king’s circumstances, refers to him escaping on his own – probably with a captor (Berkeley or Maltravers?)’s connivance. It depends on the veracity of one written statement apparently made to Edward III by a member of the Genoese trading dynasty of Fieschi around 1340. The timescale of events in 1327–30 in the ‘Fieschi Letter’: ‘Edward II’ himself, now living in an isolated hermitage at Cecima in Lombardy, says he escaped from Berkeley Castle by changing clothes with a ‘look-alike’ attendant who warned him that ‘Lord’ Gurney had arrived from Mortimer to kill him. He killed a porter, and wandered around England and then Ireland with a ‘keeper’, who was apparently keeping an eye on him for a mysterious ‘Lord Thomas’. He was at Corfe Castle for 18 months, presumably in the period 1328–9; then Dublin. From Dublin he travelled back to England, sailed across the Channel from Sandwich to Brabant disguised as a friar, and called on the Pope at Avignon in 1331. He then pursued his devotion to the cult of the ‘Three Kings’ with a pilgrimage to Cologne – which is where Edward III sought out a man pretending to be him a few years later. After two years at Melasci/Milazzo in Northern Italy he moved to Cecima, where Fieschi found out about him. Critics have pointed to its inconsistencies, particularly the difficulty of the tall and well-known Edward getting out of Berkeley Castle (which had a moat) even in disguise. The Fieschi story contains some precise information that can be verified about the king’s capture and captivity in 1327, details not then available in chronicles that an Italian writing some time between 1335 and 1338 (with no apparent contacts in Edward II’s entourage) would have found out for himself; if it was a ‘scam’ the Fieschis do not suffer for it. 1331
Early 1331. The invasion of Gascony by Philip VI’s brother Charles, Count of Alençon, leads to the sacking of Saintes. Before this news arrives in England, Bishops Orleton and Airmyn (and William Montague) lead a large embassy to France to assure that homage will be done quickly and on 30 March Edward sends a letter reassuring Philip that he will do
70 Chronology: 1307–99 ‘liege’ homage (i.e. to Philip as his king not just his landlord) as he failed to do this in 1329 and it is now demanded. 13 April. Edward and a small party of nobles (led by his close ally Montague) and Bishop Stratford head from Eltham to France, in secret and dressed as merchants – the first of the king’s famous courtly ‘disguise’ ventures as appropriate for an enthusiast for Arthurian literary romance. According to Adam Murrimuth’s chronicle, this is supposed to have been to do homage to Philip VI for Gascony now the king is free of restraint and in ‘liege’ form, and so to confirm that the French treaty is still valid. Philip had written in March that a second ceremony was unnecessary, so some doubt that any ceremony occurred and believe that the secret talks at an isolated hunting lodge (Ponte-St-Maxence) were just diplomatic discussions. May. The first of Edward’s famous royal tournaments to ‘bond’ with his nobles at Dartford, unlike his father did. He fights on the ‘team’ of host William Clinton. Another tournament follows, at Stepney for Prince Edward’s first birthday. IRELAND Arrest of Maurice Fitzgerald, first Earl of Desmond and leading AngloIrish magnate in SW Munster, by the justiciar Anthony de Lucy. Having caused disquiet in Dublin and raided his enemies in the region at will for years with his private army of ‘kerns’ (the first private army for a major magnate of English extraction and a sign of declining government control in Munster), he is now accused of plotting rebellion with his regional allies. Allegations follow as the authorities investigate in 1332 that in 1326 he held a ‘summit’ of his regions’ major warlords, including his Geraldine cousin the Earl of Kildare and the head of the Butlers (the Earl of Ormonde) plus the head of the Gaelic Ui Brians of Thomond, to plan a major S Ireland Anglo-Gaelic revolt with himself designated as the king of Ireland (using the Bruce template for a breakaway regime?). He is not released until 1333, when he is judged safer controlling his turbulent vassals than in gaol, and is not much curbed by his ‘warning’ detention. ENGLAND September. Royal tournament in Cheapside in the City; then Parliament meets and Edward asks for advice on going to war to reclaim the Agenais from France. Bishop Stratford’s opening address calls for the peers to give their opinions on pursuing war, arbitration by the peers of France (Philip VI’s offer) or diplomacy and a marital alliance and the king is advised to pursue diplomacy as the other two options are considered too risky. 16 October. Bishop and lord chancellor Stratford’s brother Robert, who succeeded him as vicar of the family parish of Stratford-upon-Avon in
Chronology: 1307–99 71 1319, becomes chancellor of the exchequer; the brothers are the mainstay of the regime’s bureaucracy for the next 15 years. SCOTLAND David II is crowned at Scone on 24 November 1331, with the first anointing of a Scottish king (by the Bishop of St Andrews) added to the usual ceremonies. The ever-careful King Robert has secured a papal bull for this purpose (13 June 1329) so that it could not still be said that a Scots coronation was not complete or legally valid. The accession of a 5-year-old king would not have given a serious chance to the Balliol cause had Robert Bruce’s feared lieutenants remained active in defending the realm, at least until Edward III (as eager for asserting his rights as his grandfather) had disposed of Mortimer and trained and funded an adequate army. It is probably the death of the ‘Black Douglas’ in Spain in 1330 that first gives ideas to the most aggressive of the ‘Disinherited’, former Buchan lord Sir Henry Beaumont, and then he has to convince John Balliol’s son Edward (in family estates in Picardy). 1332
ENGLAND/FRANCE March. Parliament: Philip VI has said that Edward can come and negotiate concessions personally but not promised anything specific, and his haughty refusal to deal with subordinates annoys the English; caution is advised on the king. April. Court moves to Woodstock. 16 June. Birth of Edward and Philippa’s first daughter Isabella. ENGLAND/SCOTLAND In 1332 Henry Beaumont persuades Edward Balliol to come to England and stay with him. Balliol appeals to Edward III for aid in regaining his ancestral crown and estates, and this leads to Edward postponing a plan of a 1332 campaign in Ireland which he has informed the Pope about. However, the king has had to agree that English troops should not cross the Tweed in the Treaty of Northampton so he tells the ‘Disinherited’ to go north by sea. The English adventurers raise an army of adventurers to back up the exiled ‘Disinherited’, estimated at 500 men-at-arms and 1000 foot by one source (the Bridlington chronicle) and at 1500 to 1800 men in all by another (the Lanercost chronicle). They are buoyed up in the desperate venture by the (presumably) fortuitous death of the Scottish regent, Bruce’s nephew Thomas Randolph, on 20 July 1332 at Musselburgh; he had been preparing to resist the invasion and was a highly capable general who would not have made his successors’ mistakes.
72 Chronology: 1307–99 Randolph is replaced as regent by Earl Donald of Mar, son of Bruce’s sister Christina and probably aged around 30 and lacking much military experience. Beaumont, by contrast, is a veteran of the English army from the Battle of Falkirk in 1298 and so has experience of defeating the Scots. On 31 July 1332 the invaders sail, landing at Kinghorn in Fife and marching overland via Dunfermline to the River Earn where a traitor shows them a ford to cross. Mar has drawn up his army on the ridge of Dupplin Moor west of Perth and has a useful position, but fails to send out adequate scouts; the Scots seem to have forgotten the lessons of sudden attacks taught to them by Bruce and Douglas. While he is inactive, Beaumont, the real leader of the invaders, sends Sir Alexander Mowbray and his advance guard across the ford unintercepted to attack the Scots camp by surprise on the night of 10–11 August, though in the event they mistake a collection of civilian ‘camp followers’ at Gask for the main army. 11 August. Beaumont and Balliol arrive at dawn to reinforce them, and they climb up onto the moorland above to secure a defensible position at the head of a valley – again, without interception. When the Scots army hears of their arrival the boldest of their senior officers, the late king’s illegitimate son Sir Robert Bruce, accuses Mar of being a Balliol sympathiser who has let the invaders take a strategic position. He denies it, and both men insist on the honour of leading the attack so they have to be given joint command. The Battle of Dupplin Moor on 11 August sees a display of Scots incompetence matched by English discipline. The invaders have a large force of the dreaded longbowmen ready to shower the Scots lines with a hail of arrows – provided that the latter are a distinct ‘target’ separated from their enemies. The bowmen are set in two squadrons to either side of the ‘centre’. The two ‘schiltrons’ of Sir Robert Bruce and Mar charge in a haphazard fashion, Bruce reaching the English line first, but the latter hold thanks to their ‘hedge’ of pikes. The archers shower arrows on the Scottish flanks, driving them inwards on the ‘centre’, and as Sir Robert’s Scots fall back they blunder into the arriving men from Mar’s force. The result is chaos and a general slaughter, in which both Scots commanders, the late Earl of Moray’s elder son and successor Thomas Randolph, and 2–10,000 Scots are killed. The disaster is entirely avoidable, and suggests Scots over-confidence and an inadequate appreciation of what archers could do to a packed force. While Sir Andrew Murray/Moray, son of Wallace’s co-leader of 1306 and Lord of Avoch Castle in Ross, assumes the vacant regency and ‘Guardianship’, Edward Balliol is crowned King of Scots at nearby Scone on 24 September. However, he does not have the men to keep hold of the Angus-Fife region in winter when no reinforcements could be expected, so his army marches southwards to the Balliol lands in Galloway where
Chronology: 1307–99 73 a friendlier welcome might be expected. The remnants of the Scots army hang on their flanks, harassing them but not daring to fight. Edward calls a Parliament for 9 September, which votes taxes for a Scots war in 1333; the English Border garrisons are harassed in sending ships to aid the ‘Disinherited’ by pirate John Crabb who the Scots have hired, but he is captured by Edward’s flamboyant and capable Flemish ‘knight errant’ commander and friend Walter Manny. Edward pardons and hires him. Balliol reaches Roxburgh, where Sir Andrew Murray tries to intercept him outside the town but as the Scots break down the bridge the Balliol troops quickly throw planks across and charge across to capture Murray; Balliol settles down in southern Galloway for the winter, within reach of the English in Carlisle, but is tackled by the best strategist of the current Douglas line, Sir William the ‘Knight of Liddesdale’ (son of a cousin of Sir James). Backed up by the arrival of regency troops under the ‘Steward’s’ son Robert, King David’s older nephew and heir – and the new Earl of Moray, John Randolph – he defeats Balliol at the Battle of Annan on 16 December 1332. Balliol is forced to flee to England, having shown that he had over-estimated the amount of support he could call on in Scotland. Meanwhile Balliol’s emissaries, sent before his flight, have arrived in England for the next Parliament offering the cession of Berwick plus Balliol serving with a contingent in the English army for six months a year and handing over some Border lands. 4 December. Parliament opens at York; delayed as many have not yet arrived. On 8 December Chief Justice Scrope makes his opening speech, shrugging off the 1328 treaty as having been done by unscrupulous and now removed ministers taking advantage of the young king and asking for a decision on whether to restore Balliol or give Scotland to Edward – hints at the king preferring the latter are ignored. 1333
January. Edward joins Parliament at York, and counters the wariness of a majority of the members about invading Scotland after Balliol’s eviction and papal reminders that he has declared he wants to go on a Crusade not invade his neighbours. Edward sets up a small committee of six advisers (led by Archbishop Melton) to study possibilities – ignoring ones based on negotiation. As the autumn 1332 meeting voted funds, Parliament cannot stop him. Balliol has to do homage and pledge to hand over Berwick to Edward when he secures his crown, in February. Edward plans the invasion at Pontefract, and troops start mustering in April; Philip VI sends an embassy to protest but is told that the Scots attacked first. With English help Balliol is able to besiege Berwick on 23 April 1333, and Edward arrives to join him after ordering some pioneering proto-cannons (already used in Italy) ready to batter the walls.
74 Chronology: 1307–99 Edward is joined by Philippa at the siege of Berwick, sends a diplomatic mission to Guelderland for his sister Eleanor’s marriage to the count, and visits Lindisfarne island with his wife. But Berwick holds out and Balliol has to retreat from his positions inside Scotland back across the Border as the Bruces’ army approaches. Edward III now has to violate the 1328 treaty and cross the Tweed with English troops to secure a puppet king on the Scots throne. But the Scots have their own problems, as the militarily capable Murray is awaiting ransom and a new ‘Guardian’ has to be appointed. This is Archibald Douglas, brother of Sir James and uncle of the new Lord (William) Douglas. Another of the victors of Annan, Sir William Douglas, now warden of the West Marches, is also captured by the English in winter 1333–4, seized by Sir Anthony Lucy on a retaliatory raid after his attack on Westmorland. IRELAND 6 June. Assassination of the main Anglo-Norman lord of northern Ireland, Earl William de Burgh of Ulster (born September 1312), brother of King Robert Bruce’s late wife and uncle of King David. He is murdered by Sir Richard Mandeville, whose wife Gylles’ brother Sir Walter de Burgh has been starved to death in prison by him; his infant daughter Elizabeth (born 6 July 1332) succeeds him under ‘regency’ by the English government, and King Edward duly decides to marry Elizabeth off to one of his sons. ENGLAND/SCOTLAND King Edward arrives at Tweedmouth on 9 May. On 27 June the English send boats across the Tweed at low tide to attack the town walls, and the defenders launch piles of burning wood faggots against them but these drift back to shore and start fires in nearby buildings. Preoccupied with fighting a major conflagration, governor Sir Alexander Seton cannot halt the immanent land attack so he appeals successfully for a truce. He is given 15 days’ grace to wait for relief, and will surrender if none arrive. Twelve children of prominent townsmen are sent out as hostages. 12 July. On the final day of the truce a large Scots force under ‘Guardian’ Sir Archibald Douglas arrives, crosses the Tweed to cut off Edward’s army (on the north bank) from Northumberland, and occupies Tweedmouth. Sir William Keith enters Berwick with a small contingent over the half-wrecked bridge to announce that he has relieved it and is taking over as commander. He cancels the promise to surrender, so Edward spitefully hangs Seton’s hostage son Thomas from a gallows within full view of the defenders and announces that he will kill two more of the boys every day that Berwick resists him. In practical terms the atrocity shocks Keith into reopening negotiations, Douglas having moved off to raid towards Morpeth and Queen Philippa’s base at Bamburgh Castle.
Chronology: 1307–99 75 On 16 July Keith agrees to surrender on the evening of the 19th if Douglas has not arrived and relieved the town by then. He is permitted to leave the town and go to inform Douglas, who he finds near Bamburgh, and on the morning of Monday 19 July they arrive within reach of Berwick and cross the Tweed back into Scotland to find that Edward has drawn up his army on the high ridge of Halidon Hill between them and the town. To attack Edward, the Scots would have to descend from their own position, cross a marsh and then climb up the hill, giving the English the advantage – and Edward has brought along a large force of archers to shower them with arrows as they do so. The first European ruler to make use of the concentrated ‘firepower’ of archers against a conventional ‘feudal’ host of cavalry and infantry, Edward may have been advised by veterans of Boroughbridge in 1322 (when Harclay had used this tactic on a smaller scale) and had certainly sought the advice of Sir Henry Beaumont about his tactics at Dupplin Moor in 1332. He has the resources to create a war-winning ‘machine’ using well-trained archers from across England and Wales, and the Scots seem to have been unaware of the danger – a sharp contrast to the caution and flexibility of Robert Bruce and Sir James Douglas. Their army is larger and they are over-confident and seem to have hoped to use weight of numbers to push the English (who Edward ordered to fight on foot) back into the Tweed. The Scots charge down the hill and over the marsh, but the slope up Halidon Hill slows their advance and a hail of arrows meets them; then the Balliol infantry charges them. Those who hesitate or retreat are run into by those still advancing behind them, and when Edward Balliol’s men on the English ‘left’ eventually break the first line of the Scots, flight begins. Edward orders ‘no quarter’ (though Douglas has done so first) and thousands are killed in the slaughter; Douglas himself and the Earls of Ross, Lennox and Menteith also fall and Edward celebrates his triumph by executing large numbers of prisoners. Berwick is stormed on the same day – with English cannons taking part in wrecking the walls as a reminder that a new age of warfare has dawned with richer countries at a distinct advantage. The only senior Scots lord to escape is Robert Stewart, who takes refuge at Dumbarton Castle and soon crosses the sea to Bute, part of the ancestral Stewart lands which Balliol has handed over to Alan Lisle. Stewart and his Argyll ally Campbell of Lochawe now evict Lisle, keeping the Clyde Estuary islands in Bruce hands. In retaliation, Balliol gives the Stewart mainland territories to David of Strathearn. Subsequently Robert Stewart, now 18, is able to recover his mainland lands in Cowal by a guerrilla war aided by the Campbells – though the chronicle which records this ‘heroic’ return, incorporated in Andrew of Wyntoun’s chronicle, may have modelled it consciously on the Steward’s grandfather’s heroics in 1306–7.
76 Chronology: 1307–99 Unlike the English, the Scots cannot afford to lose many senior figures without a serious effect on military capability; the majority of the Scots aristocratic military elite falls at Dupplin Moor and Halidon Hill. The ‘Guardianship’ passes to John Randolph and Robert Stewart, both young and inexperienced. With the Bruce regime left without the means to resist, Edward is able to reimpose Balliol as his client king on Scotland and thus returns Anglo-Scottish relations to the pattern of indirect rule via a vassal followed in 1292–6. He keeps his word to Balliol and does not seek to take the Scots throne himself; Scotland is probably minor to his vision of himself as a great European warrior king. Edward leaves it to Balliol to restore himself to the throne – due to a desire to let Balliol seem less of an English puppet, or over-confidence in the depth of his support, or distaste for a long campaign? ENGLAND/SCOTLAND/MAN Acquired by Robert Bruce in 1319, Man is secured by England as Edward III invades Scotland. It is granted by Edward on 9 August 1333 to William de Montague/Montacute, Earl of Salisbury (d. 30 January 1344) – as a full kingdom not a feudal fief, Edward thus abdicating his rights as its current king. ENGLAND 10 August (to January 1334). Archishop Melton replaces Bishop Stratford as keeper of the Great Seal while the latter is on a diplomatic mission abroad, indicating rehabilitation after his pro-‘Edward II’ plotting in 1330. FRANCE 2 October. Philip VI takes the Cross at the Abbey of St Germain, Paris, ready for a Crusade in 1336; this presumably implies a temporary willingness to make concessions to Edward, who is invited to join him, and no reinforcements are sent to Scotland after a failed supply fleet for Berwick in June was blown off course and ended up in Hainault. ENGLAND 12 October. Death of the unpopular Archbishop Simon Meopham of Canterbury, after a five-year episcopate. On 3 November the prior and monks of Christ Church monastery elect the senior royal administrator and lord chancellor Bishop John (de) Stratford of Winchester as per a royal request. He is given royal approval on 18 November and papal approval on 26 November/1 December. 25 December. Edward holds his Christmas court at Wallingford Castle.
Chronology: 1307–99 77 1334
March. Edward grants the revenues of the earldom of Chester to Philippa, to be used for his heir’s household. Arrangements have now begun with Castile for the king’s and queen’s daughter Isabella to marry the young King Alfonso XI and for the king’s brother John to marry the N French sieur de Coucy. SCOTLAND The Balliol expedition secures the Lowlands, and Beaumont and David of Strathbogie march on NE to regain their ancestral lands. Bruce having devastated them thoroughly and pulled down the castles in 1308–9, Beaumont is kept busy rebuilding his castle of Dundarg on the Aberdeenshire coast. The Bruce forces pull back to evade open battle with the dreaded English archers and return to Bruce’s and Douglas’ tactic of guerrilla warfare, in which Sir William Douglas of Liddesdale and his rival Sir Andrew Ramsay make their names. Meanwhile Edward forces Balliol to hand over Lothian, whose principal castles are garrisoned by the English (July 1334). In May 1334 King David and his wife Joan (Edward’s sister) leave for refuge in France in a ship paid for by Philip VI via the Earl of Moray, arriving on the 14th at Boulogne; they become useful pawns for Philip VI in his stand-off with England. The arrival of King David’s party coincides with a high-profile English embassy (Archbishop Stratford, William Montague, and Chief Justice Scrope) opening negotiations with a French delegation at Senlis to settle the Gascon frontier question, and as Philip now wants David Bruce included in the treaty the talks break up. This is the occasion of the reputed quip by Philip to the departing English that there will never be lasting peace until one man rules both England and France – later taken as prophetic of the forthcoming war. Lacking the resources to stand up to the English army in an open battle, the Scots ‘resistance’ fall back on their main ally France and seek to draw Edward away to a war over his diminished lands in Gascony which his French overlord covets. Edward sends Archbishop Stratford to France to win over Philip and negotiate over the return of the Agenais, but in July he returns with a sharp letter of protest that Edward has deposed his own brother-in-law (i.e. David Bruce) and taken up the discredited Balliols. Meanwhile, Edward prepares a new army with plenty of archers and holds a morale-boosting tournament at Burstwick where he has his prototype cannons’ gunpowder demonstrated. A second and final pre-war tournament is held at Nottingham later in the summer, while a new embassy to France invites Philip to join Edward on Crusade – possibly to reassure the Pope who wants the sovereigns to join in a forthcoming expedition to Anatolia against the Turks. It is autumn 1334 before Edward is ready to lead a major army into Scotland, boldly choosing to fight in winter. The lesson learnt at Halidon Hill
78 Chronology: 1307–99 means that the Scots within his reach in the South are extremely unlikely to venture to engage his army, and it is too far to march all the way to Dundarg where Balliol’s lieutenant Beaumont is now being besieged by the main Northern ‘Bruce’ army under Sir Andrew Murray, who has been ransomed and returned home. Worse, Beaumont and Strathbogie take one side in the legal dispute over the succession to a de Mowbray landowner killed at Annan in Edward Balliol’s earlier rout (that of de Mowbray’s daughters) but Balliol awards the lands to the rival claimant, his friend Alexander de Mowbray, so these two senior lords are angered and keep away from Balliol’s court. Strathbogie revolts against Balliol, joining the Bruce cause – though he is to defect again the following summer as the Balliol cause revives. 6 October. The English muster is held at Newcastle; Edward heads north. The winter of 1334–5 turns out to be extremely harsh which inhibits movement, with snow and hail continuously for four months from 11 November; Edward proceeds no further than Roxburgh. 23 December. Henry of Beaumont surrenders Dundarg Castle to the Bruce army; Edward gives up planning to march north. FRANCE Autumn. A French commission set up by Philip as overlord to deal with outstanding issues in Gascony ahead of a treaty, as arranged earlier, annoys the Anglo-Gascon side by demanding that the (French) Count of Armagnac be handed his ancestral castle of Blanquefort within English-held Gascony; the English do not trust him and refuse so the commission fails. 1335
ENGLAND/SCOTLAND 2 February. Edward retires from Roxburgh to Newcastle to plan a summer campaign, leaving his navy to blockade the Scots East coast. Back at York, he summons Parliament. As a French embassy led by the Bishop of Avranches arrives on 18 February to demand a truce (and accuse him of giving Scotland to a man with no rightful claims there), the fact that a pro-French papal mission is following leads him to agree a truce. April. A three-month truce is called, and Edward allows the pro-Bruce Scots to send an embassy to the York Parliament to explain their master’s case as the French insist on this. 26 March. Great council at Newcastle. 27 March. The muster for the next campaign is ordered for 11 June – i.e. before the diplomatic negotiations at Parliament in York have even opened.
Chronology: 1307–99 79 David of Strathbogie is supposed to have been behind a violent quarrel between Robert Stewart and John Randolph at the Bruce partisans’ Parliament at Dairsie Castle near Cupar, Angus, in April. The meeting then breaks up without agreement on any strategy. 26 May. Edward’s Parliament opens at York; he issues a statute allowing free trade by merchants across England to boost customs revenue for the war. This is objected to by partisans of preference for local merchants’ rights in their own areas, led by the London delegation. The export of coins is restricted in an effort to slow the loss of silver and gold due to an imbalance of trade and pilgrims are required to use Dover and have their baggage searched for excess coins. A second, impressively sized expedition of around 13,000 men musters at Newcastle in June, joined by troops and a huge siege engine sent by the lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Darcy. The muster is set for 23 June. After a royal council of war, which Edward Balliol comes to join, around 15,000 men march to Berwick and Balliol and some of his lieutenants command troops, along with Edward’s brother Prince John (Earl of Cornwall), his brother-in-law Count William of Julich, Germany, and rather more of the English nobility than turned out for most of Edward II’s campaigns. Edward divides his army into two, giving one contingent to Balliol, and marches across Southern Scotland raping, pillaging and burning via Nithsdale and Carrick en route to Glasgow. He does not waste time with sieges of those local castles still in Bruce hands, but concentrates on destroying their cause’s resources – and his lieutenants are allowed to burn abbeys (e.g. Newbattle) too. Balliol joins Edward in Glasgow after crossing Lothian, having committed his own excesses (such as massacring all the surrendered male defenders of the tower at Cumbernauld) to try to assert his position as a warrior king to be feared. The ravaging is designed to punish the small Scots freeholders who form the backbone of the Scots army and had played the pivotal role in Wallace’s and Bruce’s ‘schiltrons’, ruining their economic resources and killing as many of them as possible. Without this source of manpower for their armies, the great nobles would be driven to accept Balliol to save their estates. In France, the elite are assembled in the estates by Philip VI in July and agree to send 6000 troops to aid David Bruce in Scotland; the new ‘hard line’ has been connected to the emergence of the more determined veteran bureaucrat Mile de Noyer as Philip’s chief adviser and/or the normally indecisive Philip being in need of divine approval after the scare over his 16-year-old son John’s serious illness in June. The English/Balliol invaders move on to Perth, occupied on 6 August, where Edward holds an assembly of his Scots collaborators to show the alleged strength of support for Balliol (not least to outside observers such as papal envoys). On 18 August an assembly of previously pro-Bruce
80 Chronology: 1307–99 nobles, allegedly with the permission of their leaders Robert Stewart and David of Strathbogie, agrees to recognise Balliol as their king; Edward then makes Strathbogie his ‘lieutenant’ in Scotland. Unlike his grandfather, he uses Scots not English viceroys to minimise resentment. A naval descent from NE England sacks Inchcolm Abbey in the Firth of Forth and then Dundee, while in the North-East David of Strathbogie deserts back to the Balliol cause and starts terrorising the smallholders of Mar and Buchan in another campaign of burning and pillaging. The only bright moment for the Bruce cause is a successful ambush of a smaller English force by ‘Guardian’ John Randolph outside Edinburgh. On 30 July Queen Philippa’s Low Countries cousin Count Guy of Namur arrives at Berwick with his men (c. 300?) too late to join Edward’s or Balliol’s armies, so they march to Edinburgh on their own. This manageable force is then attacked on the ‘Borough Muir’ moor outside the city by Randolph and overwhelmed, and as William Douglas arrives to complete the rout the invaders are chased through the streets up to the safety of the castle. Guy is captured and has to swear not to fight against King David again before Randolph will release him – as he is a vassal of the Bruces’ ally King Philip it is advisable to treat him in a chivalrous manner. An English force ambushes and captures Randolph as he escorts Guy’s party back to Berwick and he is carried off to England to be imprisoned in the Tower of London; Douglas escapes the ambush but his brother James is killed. King Philip’s troops are now preparing to embark and his shipping is mustering in the Channel as Edward is warned – though this chivalrous international knightly enthusiast is more interested long-term in the E Mediterranean ‘Crusade’ than in Scotland. Philip’s envoys visit King Edward in Scotland and ask him to submit his claim to Scotland to the joint arbitration of him and the Pope. To complicate matters, Philip’s own enemies as King of France are now in England to ask Edward to press his own claim to France and invade that country, promising a revolt there. Plotting noble Robert of Artois’ nephew Robert of Namur arrives in Scotland seeking aid – only to be captured by the Bruce faction’s guerrillas near Edinburgh, forced to swear not to fight against them, and then be sent back to Berwick. He has to sail to Perth instead to approach Edward for aid, escorting the English king’s wife and her entourage. The ransomed Sir Andrew Murray, as husband of David Bruce’s aunt Christina, resumes the ‘Guardianship’ at a council meeting the Bruce faction leaders hold at Dumbarton Castle in September. Philip VI allows raids by French Channel coast warships on Southern English ports in late summer, principally Portsmouth (the usual embarkation point for English expeditions to France). Even if assisting David II is in the French strategic tradition of trying to weaken England by propping up its northern enemy, the so-called ‘Auld Alliance’, Philip has less
Chronology: 1307–99 81 excuse for now claiming that Edward’s ceremony of homage to him for Gascony in 1331 was defective and was thus legally invalid. The implication of this is that he can confiscate the duchy whenever he wishes. Edward’s Irish fleet arrives in the Clyde Estuary (having left Dublin at the end of August) and lands on the Stewart-owned island of Rothesay to besiege its eponymous castle; this is unsuccessful. The Bruce cause is now best served by lying low or surrendering and waiting for Edward to return home and leave Balliol exposed to rebellion – a repeat of the ‘rebel’ tactics of 1299–1302. Andrew Murray’s army at Dumbarton find it prudent to secure a three-month truce from early October, though this excludes Edward Balliol so his lands could still be attacked, and talks are held with the English at Bathgate near Edinburgh in November. As John Randolph, Earl of Moray, is captured attacking Roxburgh, halting the Bruces’ campaign in the Southern Uplands, Robert Stewart, the Earl of Fife, and many other great nobles make their submission to Edward. He is able to inform the latest French envoys that Scotland is submissive to his control and that there is no cause for France to interfere; he sets up large and costly garrisons at Edinburgh and other Lowlands strongpoints, and retires to Roxburgh for the winter. Senior Balliol commander David of Strathbogie is defeated and killed on 30 November 1335 as he is besieging Murray’s wife’s garrison in Kildrummy Castle, his army destroyed by Sir Andrew Murray at Culblean. Murray has been hastening to relieve Kildrummy and draw off Strathbogie’s army; aided by locals sent from Kildrummy to guide him through the woods. Murray is able to take the pursuing Strathbogie by surprise and destroy his men (who do not seem to have had archers). A straightforward hand-to-hand infantry combat sees Sir William Douglas hold and push back the Balliol troops’ charge, and Strathbogie is backed against an oak tree and cut down. The destruction of his army heralds the collapse of the Balliol cause’s Scots support in the North-East, undermining the possibility that the ‘Disinherited’ and assorted turncoats could hold out without regular English expeditions to rescue them. It was later said that Douglas had insisted on killing Strathbogie in revenge for the latter failing to ransom him when he had been an English prisoner in 1334. Edward pulls back to Roxburgh for the winter, and keeps a – dangerously small – force in Edinburgh Castle and another at Caerlaverlock in the SW to run the war on the cheap for the winter. He is warned by Edinburgh’s constable John Stirling of the serious danger of losing ground this way. December. Papally sponsored peace talks resume with the new Pope Benedict, a Cistercian idealist who is hostile to the French aggression shown towards the papacy since the 1300s and a personal foe of Philip’s minister Mile de Noyers. He rejects Philip’s offer to help him mediate between David Bruce and Edward Balliol as Philip is an interested party and sends the Provencal Bishop Aimery to mediate with Edward III.
82 Chronology: 1307–99 1336
The peace talks reach agreement to extend the truce on 26 January, five days before it expires. Philip now requires that Edward surrender the refugee French dissident noble Robert d’Artois, who has been in England since 1334 but whose cause was not taken up at once, and specifically declares that any peace is impossible so long as he is in England. Edward agrees to a truce until April to show the Pope his goodwill, and will accept peace if David abdicates his claim to Scotland for Edward Bruce’s lifetime then succeeds him as king; the French are apparently prepared to accept this, but David, now residing at the old Anglo-Norman royal castle of Château Gaillard near Rouen as Philip’s pensioner, stymies this papal attempt to solve the Scots crisis by refusing to abdicate his throne despite Andrew Murray and his other generals having agreed to it. (Did Philip put David up to it?) David’s refusal to abdicate is delivered by his envoys to the Westminster Parliament on 11 March; he and Philip are the main obstacles to a settlement at this point. Edward announces on 7 April that the Scots war will resume shortly. In France, Philip pays a visit to Avignon for secret talks with the Pope; the latter postpones the Crusade as not enough recruits and money are available yet, freeing Philip for his other plans. 4–13 April. Edward is on a pre-war pilgrimage to Waltham Abbey, Essex, ahead of the muster due on 12 May. He also engages the Italian diplomat Niccolinus di Fieschi, cousin of the elusive Manuele Fieschi (author of the ‘Fieschi Letter’, written c. 1336/7, alleging Edward II’s survival as a hermit in N Italy) as his new secret agent at the papal curia – which some have seen as significant. With the danger of a French expeditionary force landing in Scotland, Edward sends his cousin Earl Henry of Lancaster, commanding in Scotland in his absence, to deal with Bruce attacks on Lochindorb and Cupar Castles in the North-East and rebuild the vital coastal fortress at Dunnottar. The king hurries north to Durham (10 June) and Perth (19 June). He destroys the Scots East coast countryside, removing resources of men and food before the French can land and use them. He relieves the Bruce forces’ siege of Lochindorb Castle in Moray, where David of Strathbogie’s widow is holed up, and so asserts his military supremacy as far north as his grandfather had done, and ruthlessly burns Aberdeen to the ground in September to deny it to the ‘rebels’ or to any French naval expedition. The queen presides at a major council at Northampton with the chancellor (Archbishop Stratford) and treasurer (the veteran Bishop Burghersh), along with seven other bishops and 46 senior barons plus the king’s younger brother John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall, on 25 June. It is agreed to send a new embassy to France to halt the slide to war there,
Chronology: 1307–99 83 and Edward approves when he is informed. The Bishops of Durham and Winchester are sent to Philip VI (leaving Dover on 24 July), and just in case all the royal castles in S England are put on alert for a French invasion and the Earls of Arundel and Surrey are sent to guard their castles of Arundel and Lewes. John of Eltham is summoned to assist Edward. But Philip rejects the English embassy and will not alter his demands to restore David Bruce or face war. The French galleys assembled in the Mediterranean for the Crusade are moved to the Channel. 22 August. French ships raid and loot English ones at Orford, Suffolk, and carry some of the ships off to France; there is another attack on Walton-on-the-Naze on the 23rd, and a separate attack on English shipping off the Isle of Wight. John ravages Carrick and the Clyde valley with an army. The Scots chroniclers’ hatred for the king is shown in their story that his sudden death at Perth on 13 September, aged 20, was due to the homicidal Edward stabbing him during an argument, which is unlikely. But the king is taking a gamble in concentrating his main army so far north, as Philip’s fleet – allegedly assembled for the Crusade – is cruising the English Channel rounding up English ships and an invasion of England cannot be ruled out. Luckily the gamble pays off and in October Edward hurries south again to a council meeting at Nottingham on 22 September – where the threat of war with France is far more important to the majority of his barons and ministers than propping up Edward Balliol. He secures a grant of taxes, and puts more ports on alert for the invasion which never comes. Then he heads north again to rebuild Bothwell Castle on the Borders, where attacker William Douglas harasses his workers. September. The shadowy John Thrandston, an Englishman living in the Rhineland, is sent by Edward to the courts of Hainault, Julich and Guelders to rally support against Philip in a coalition; he is at William of Hainault’s court in late October. 22 and 26 October. Cancellation of the ‘imminent invasion’ alerts to the English fleets, which are instead despatched to protect the annual Gascon wine harvest fleet as it brings wine from Bordeaux. Edward winters on the Clyde, while Murray’s army destroys Dunnottar and undoes his recent achievements in the region. A French army musters in the Agenais to threaten Gascony. 26 November. The Pope writes to Edward saying that Philip VI has refused to negotiate as long as Robert of Artois is in England but asking him to send envoys to Avignon anyway as he still hopes to arrange peace. 25 December. Edward and Philippa hold court at Hatfield.
84 Chronology: 1307–99 1337
15 January. State funeral of John of Eltham at Westminster Abbey. 16 January. Philippa gives birth to her second son, William (who dies young weeks later). 23 January. Major council is held at the Tower of London; the magnates advise Edward not to attack France yet but to build up his navy and a European coalition of allies first. SCOTLAND February. Fall of Kinclaven Castle to Murray. He and Douglas then invade Fife and take Leuchars; on 28 February St Andrews falls. ENGLAND/FRANCE/SCOTLAND 3 March. Parliament opens at Westminster; Edward proclaims his heir Prince Edward as Duke rather than Earl of Cornwall. A ban on all exports of unworked wool is agreed so that from now on the cloth-weaving trade can be diverted to England to add prosperity and tax revenues. The import of cloth and furs is banned except for the use of the king and senior nobles, who will have to pay a high tax to do so. The nobility are sweetened ahead of war by a mass creation of earls, which enables Edward to carry out more morale-raising Arthurian pageantry and show off as a paragon of courtly munificence – William Montague as Earl of Salisbury, Henry of Lancaster’s son Henry of Grosmont (a future leader in the war) as Earl of Derby, William de Bohun, younger brother of the Earl of Hereford and involved with Montague in the 1330 arrest of Mortimer, as Earl of Northampton, Hugh Audley as Earl of Gloucester, William Clinton (warden of the Cinque Ports) as Earl of Huntingdon, and Robert Ufford as Earl of Suffolk. 15 March. Date set for the assembly of English fleets at Portsmouth, with double the usual crews and three months’ supplies. Twenty ships are ordered to quickly head for Bordeaux as an invasion of Gascony is suspected now Robert of Artois is there. 16 March. Parliament ends with a grand feast. 18 March. The king dispenses grants to the new peers. Meanwhile Philip’s shipping has raided Portsmouth again and attacked Jersey. After Parliament, Edward sends Bishop Burghersh and the new Earls of Salisbury and Huntingdon to go to France and also to meet the leaders of Holland/Hainault, Guelderland and the Rhineland at a conference called at Valenciennes on 4 May by William of Hainault. The papal nuncio Bernard Sistre is sent to Avignon with a secret message for Pope John. Philip VI refuses to let the English embassy come to Paris, and it only goes to Valenciennes.
Chronology: 1307–99 85 27 March. Archbishop John Stratford’s younger brother Robert, chancellor of the exchequer 1333–4 and prebendary of Salisbury, succeeds him as lord chancellor (until his return to office in July 1338). May. The Burghersh mission joins the conference at Valenciennes to rally support and pressurise France, aided by £2000 from the Bardi bank and £1000 from the Peruzzi bank. But Philip VI and his ally Count Louis of Flanders do not attend and Louis ignores the effects of an English ban of August 1336 on exporting wool to Flanders on his economy; neither does the leading German dynast King John of Bohemia, Count of Luxembourg, whose daughter is married to Philip’s son and heir John; Count William of Hainault/Holland (Philippa’s father), who dies weeks later, and his son preside and Edward’s sister Eleanor’s husband, the Count of Guelders, the Duke of Brabant, and the Dukes of Cleves, Julich, Berg, Marck and Namur (i.e. the Lower Rhine princes) attend. With no French presence, the English can attack their obstinacy and offer bribes to the assembled to join Edward’s coalition but Salisbury is doubtful over the allies’ reliability. Philip is invited to give Robert of Artois a safe conduct to Paris to defend himself to French courts and to set a date for French legal arbitration over who is its rightful king, so the allies cannot be accused by France of acting unreasonably – but Philip does not reply as his sister Jeanne, Count William of Hainault’s wife, delivers the message to his court at Vincennes. 30 April. The general ‘call-up’, the ‘arriere-ban’, is proclaimed in France; the French council recommends the confiscation of Gascony for the insult of Edward III harbouring Philip’s refugee enemy Count Robert of Artois. (8 July date for rendezvous at Amiens.) 3 May. Edward heads for York for the next Scots campaign at speed; he opens the siege of Stirling Castle but faces French shipping delivering supplies via Dunbar. 24 May. Philip VI announces the confiscation of Gascony and the title of Duke of Aquitaine. Edward and his senior noble commanders face a war on two fronts, but have gained useful military experience in Scotland and tried out leaving time-consuming sieges alone for ‘razzia’ marches. Personalising the issue of Anglo–French conflict, contemporary literature claims (Low Countries poem 1340s) that Robert of Artois (who had opposed Philip’s claim in 1328) provokes Edward to swear to invade France and seize his ‘rights’ at a banquet (the ‘Vow of the Heron’) by taunting him over his cowardice as he presented a heron which he had caught at the meal. This is too simplistic and in its original form is dated at 1338 – after the confiscation of Gascony – anyway, though it probably suited Edward for it to be thought that he was a chivalrous hero king like King Arthur who undertook solemn vows at ceremonial occasions and was too honourable to back down.
86 Chronology: 1307–99 The formal English claim to France in reply to the confiscation is as much a diplomatic weapon as an idealistic, non-negotiable decision to claim Edward’s legal inheritance. By making himself the rightful king of France he enables potential French or French-allied defectors, such as the leadership of Flanders and Brabant, to ‘save face’ by transferring their allegiance from one (‘usurper’) king of France to his rival rather than breaching their oaths of loyalty. Edward returns to S England, holds a great council at Stamford in May, and sends envoys to Geneva and Savoy to the SE of France and Holy Roman Emperor Lewis of Bavaria to the E to add to his coalition, with 300,000 gold florins (£45,000) offered to Lewis in return for 2000 men for two months; another embassy takes a promise of £60,000 over four years to the Duke of Brabant. Hainault, Guelders and Julich are to receive 100,000 florins (£15,000) for 1000 men each. Pope John writes urgently to the French clerical leaders to pressurise them to mediate and in June writes to Edward and Philip. 7 June. Death of Edward’s father-in-law and the lynchpin of his coalition, Count William of Hainault. July. Philip sends an army under the Count of Eu to invade Gascony and some lords there defect while the competent veteran governor, Oliver Ingham (a former Despenser protégé who held office there in 1325–6), is skilful but hampered by lack of troops and money. John of Norwich is sent with a small English army to Gascony under a commission issued in July, though he is still mustering in Portsmouth as the invasion starts with the delivery of the formal confiscation order to Ingham in Bordeaux by a herald and then a French muster beginning on 8 July, and a larger English campaign is planned for Flanders. Henry Burghersh, the bishop’s brother, is intended to reinforce Gascony but is sent to Hainault instead as a more promising ‘front’. Mid-July – 31 July. An elaborate but abandoned siege of St Macaire by the French constable Raoul of Eu opens the invasion of Gascony. He moves on to besiege and take Pommiers in August but splits his army into two; his own force takes Civrac but no other towns, while the second force under the Count of Foix raids SW towards Bayonne but takes no towns either. The invasion fizzles out and is called off in September as John of Norwich arrives with c. 500–1000 troops. Edward has a national wool trading company set up under the great merchants William de la Pole (Suffolk entrepreneur) and Reginald Conduit. This then exports some of the non-exported wool from the 1336–7 sheep shearings to Brabant to tempt its duke into a formal alliance. August. With the emperor’s military aid confirmed (as of late June) and the main campaign switched to Flanders rather than Gascony, Edward offers good but dangerously expensive terms of pay for troops across
Chronology: 1307–99 87 Germany to create a new allied army, based on loans from the Italian banking houses of Bardi and Peruzzi – which he proves unable to repay on time. September. Parliament meets at Westminster and agrees to Edward going to the Rhineland to meet Lewis of Bavaria. The Pope sends legates to France and England to try to delay Edward’s Continental campaign. 3 October. An embassy is sent to France to ‘show willing’ to the peace- demanding Pope. 6 October. Edward sends letters to his chosen commanders in the Flemish war, his North German allies the Count of Hainault and Duke of Brabant, and his general William Bohun, the Earl of Northampton, referring to himself for the first time as ‘King of England and France’ and as ‘King of France and England’. But the English are hampered by lacklustre logistics and the fleet and troops assembling on the South coast, now moved east from Portsmouth to Kent and Essex for a Flanders campaign, are too short of supplies and men to sail despite Edward’s angry chivvying letters; the French are on high alert expecting an attack on Boulogne. The Scots raid Cumberland as a diversion and besiege Edinburgh. 6 November. Pope John warns Philip that Edward is planning to get Lewis to resign as emperor then get himself elected in his place so he can command a large German coalition against Philip, and that the latter will end up isolated and doomed so he must negotiate seriously now; Edward orders his troops in Gascony to retake the positions lost in July and in Flanders Sir Walter Manny’s fleet arrives to attack the port of Sluys. They are repulsed but then lure the Flemish army into a trap on the coast at Cadsand on 9 November and shower them with arrows from on board ship. Edward pays Manny £1000, which he can ill afford, to hand over his ransomable prisoner, the pro-French Count Louis of Flanders’ brother, to him as a hostage; his prodigal ambassador in the Low Countries, Bishop Burghersh, offers unrealistically large sums of cash to the wavering Duke of Brabant to sign up to an alliance, causing a crisis of confidence by dubious bankers as the English treasury becomes over-extended, and annoys the Pole-Conduit wool trading company by seizing their wool for sale. November. Edward tells the papal mission in a meeting in the Painted Chamber hall at Westminster Palace that he cannot agree peace with the French without Parliamentary permission which is unlikely, and he has a legal duty to include his German allies in any treaty. 1338 As England and France drift into war during 1337–8, Edward’s vital ability to devote time to marching large armies to Scotland every year
88 Chronology: 1307–99 diminishes. Philip’s aggression speeds up the revival of Bruce fortunes and he sends supplies to the Bruce cause via Dunbar Castle, now held against the Balliols by Earl Patrick of Dunbar’s countess, ‘Black’ Agnes (sister of John Randolph and daughter of the late regent Thomas Randolph). The main English force in Scotland is now led by William Montague/ Montacute, the new Earl of Salisbury. Their ‘set-piece’ action of 1338 is the prolonged and unsuccessful siege of Dunbar Castle, set on isolated ‘stacks’ of rock on a cliff so the English cannot wheel their siege towers up to the walls or dig under them and resort to bombardment. William Montague commences the siege in January 1338. The militant ‘Black Agnes’ personally leads the defence, assisted by Alexander Ramsay, and shouts defiance at the attackers from the walls. Edward visits the siege in spring 1338 to no effect; Montague has to give up the siege in June. Scots commander Sir Andrew Murray dies some time in 1338, and Robert Stewart succeeds as sole ‘Guardian’. The Balliol position collapses in Galloway thanks to the merciless guerrilla war waged by Sir William Douglas, who takes over Liddesdale in 1337 by right of conquest rather than any legal inherited right and in 1338 takes the crucial strongpoint of Hermitage Castle. Later in 1338, Stewart sends him as ambassador to Philip VI to gain French aid. January/February. Oliver Ingham restores the morale of the army in Gascony with a daring raid over the Garonne into the Agenais and besieges the capital, Agen; he has to pull back to avoid attack by stronger forces but it rattles the French. February. Parliament at Westminster; the peers and the newly assertive MPs agree to Edward going to Germany on a prolonged tour to rally support for his coalition and invade NE France. Further financial support for the French and Dunbar campaigns is promised, and in March French shipping under its new admiral, Nicolas de Behuchet, attacks Portsmouth (sacked 24 March) and Jersey (attack on Gorey Castle 28 March). To satisfy the papal envoys, on 24 February the truce is extended to midsummer – with the French raids showing who are the obvious breachers of this. The same day, the North Sea northern and southern fleets are ordered to assemble at Great Yarmouth and the mouth of the Orwell on 26 April ready to sail in May. April–July. Unsuccessful French siege of King Richard I’s stronghold at Penne in Gascony; a separate French force attacks Blaye at the mouth of the Garonne but is no more successful and is driven off in a surprise attack by governor Ingham from Bordeaux. May. Bishop Burghersh is sent on a new embassy to Philip – with letters addressed to the latter as ‘he who calls himself King of France’ asserting that Edward has a stronger claim to the throne. Edward holds his Whitsun festivities at Bury St Edmunds as his army musters at Norwich, and
Chronology: 1307–99 89 orders the cancellation of the planned expedition to Gascony on 19 June so all the troops can go to Flanders. 12 July. Edward’s royal party arrives at the River Orwell for the naval assembly, two months late, and Edward appoints Archbishop Stratford as chief regent for his son, Prince Edward; his queen accompanies him on board the royal ship Thomas. 16 July. The fleet sails for the Continent, collecting the other fleet off Great Yarmouth a few days later and making up around 350 ships (GY contributes 68 ships to the fleet compared to only 40 from the Cinque Ports); on 21 July they disembark at Antwerp and are greeted by the Duke of Brabant, but that night the royal family have to flee their lodgings after they catch fire. Edward cannot rally enough local volunteers to make his army strong enough for his planned attack on the Cambrai region, so he has to raise more money and arrange an £8000 loan from his Italian bankers while his financier Paul de Montefiore mortgages his crown and other treasure. The French muster is set for 8 August at Amiens, but is disrupted by rumours of an impending settlement with England as Stratford’s embassy is now in Paris. 26 July–2 August. Prince Edward nominally presides at a great council at Northampton where the king’s orders to find more money for his allies are met by a new levy of wool to be sold for funding the war; in Antwerp Edward raises £70,000 more from the Bardi and Peruzzi on the security of this wool in advance of its arrival but also has to mortgage his crown and some monastic treasures. Edward makes a prestigious and munificent pilgrimage to the shrine of the ‘Three Kings’ (the ‘Magi’) at Cologne in mid-August, and hurries on to Niederwerth island near Koblenz on 30 August as rumours say the emperor, Lewis of Bavaria (married to Philippa’s sister Margaret), is to meet French ambassadors on 1 September. He secures a meeting with Lewis at Koblenz on 15 September after lavishing money on his councillors and local allies, and obtains a grant of the title of ‘Vicar of the Holy Roman Emperor’; this obliges Lewis’s vassals to support him in war as their sovereign’s trusted lieutenant. August. Philip VI attends a ceremony at St Denis Cathedral near Paris to unfurl the royal French war banner, the ‘Oriflamme’. The most that can be said about Edward’s forcing the pace to war by claiming France openly in 1337–8 is that he ‘jumps the gun’ by naming himself as King of France in documents while papal mediators are still trying to arrange peace; but chances of the latter are minimal given Philip’s equally provocative confiscation of Aquitaine. Edward was to be prepared to abandon his claim if the alternative offers were substantial enough. Edward postpones making a public statement of his claim by
90 Chronology: 1307–99 issuing letters patent or a heraldic coat of arms containing the title – allegedly to satisfy appeals by the alarmed Pope. The formal claim, in writing and as a heraldic ‘device’, is only made in 1340. Modern historians are more convinced than earlier interpreters that for all Edward’s bold claims about it being a matter of ‘honour’ to pursue it to victory he was quite prepared to reconsider it as practical politics. By making such a show of his devotion to the claim he raised the price for surrendering it. At Koblenz, Edward meets one Francesco Forzetti, a Florentine, and his charge ‘William le Galeys’ (i.e. ‘the Welshman’), who is in Edward’s company in Flanders for several weeks in December. The records for Edward’s payments to cover this visit are the crux of Ian Mortimer’s theory that ‘William’ was in fact the ‘new identity’ of Edward II, as the hermit from Cecima in N Italy, and that the ‘Fieschi Letter’ was genuine. 8 September. Fall of Castle Cornet, Guernsey, to a surprise French assault joined by some Monaco galleys from the Mediterranean, one of a number of autumn 1338 naval setbacks which include the French shipping now based at La Rochelle attacking an English supply convoy to Gascony and looting some ships. On 21 September, the king’s supply ships the Cog Edward and Christopher are boarded and seized by French attackers off Walcheren, Holland. The council in England mobilise the fleet on 27 September. September/October. Death of Edward’s surviving half-uncle Thomas of Brotherton, Earl of Norfolk; he is succeeded by his elder daughter Margaret, Countess of Segrave (c. 1322–99), via whom the earldom descends to the Mowbrays. 13 September. Edward arrives back at Antwerp. On 18 September he announces a ceremony for 12 October, where his Imperial letters of credence as Vicar of the Empire are read out to an assembly of his vassals at Herk. 5 October. Demoralising sack of Southampton by an unchallenged French fleet. Next day the town is set on fire as the rescuers arrive too late, and the ruin of their storehouses damages the wool trade and causes the Italian bankers to leave. With no major English army available for the Scots war Balliol’s position in Scotland declines irreversibly. As the military balance tips, the last of his ‘Disinherited’ allies restored to the North, led by Henry de Beaumont, have to flee again. 29 November. Edward and Philippa’s third (second surviving) son Lionel is born at Antwerp; he is named after the Arthurian hero ‘Sir Lionel’. November–December. Abortive and failed peace talks at Arras chaired by papal mediators, with Stratford and Bishop Richard Bury of Durham representing Edward; these briefly adjourn to Paris to no avail.
Chronology: 1307–99 91 Late 1338. Under the command of Gaston of Foix, Philip’s army attacks Gascony in midwinter and crosses the Garonne, taking the stronghold of Penne quickly unlike its previous successful defence. Edward summons his English vassals in haste for a muster on 18 December instead of the earlier announced May 1339, but very few turn up – quite apart from a poor harvest in 1338 and rising inflation cutting the value of rents, there are echoes of the war-weary ‘strikes’ by the magnates of Edward I’s reign. 1339
February. Parliament meets and Edward tries to enthuse it with talk of French aggression and deal with criticism of his leech-like ‘purveyors’ who are impounding goods for military supplies with minimal or delayed compensation. He cannot get his new German allies to start their campaign earlier either, and he proceeds to Brussels with his own small escort and announces that he will invade France himself without support if his faithless allies let him down, showing his resolution or desperation. 12–16 March. Failed attack on Gorey Castle, Jersey, by the French admiral Robert Bertrand who has been granted the Channel Islands if he can conquer them; he gives up after a strong defence and sails on to the Garonne to attack Blaye. SCOTLAND 1339 sees Balliol’s power restricted to a dwindling area around Perth, and with the region blockaded by sea the English cannot send reinforcements; King Edward is far away in Flanders. Sir William Douglas visits King David in France, probably to advise him on his return home, and brings a force of French crossbowmen and men-at-arms (led by Eugene de Garancières) back to the Lowlands to aid the Bruce cause. Finally, in August Robert Stewart’s army overruns the Perth region; the town is besieged, a Churchman with a knowledge of siege warfare called William Bullock aids Stewart to build siege engines, and the English commander Oughtred surrenders on 17 August. Balliol and his remaining adherents have to flee to England; Edward III is left with a precarious hold on Edinburgh and Roxburgh Castles. ENGLAND/FRANCE Mid-May. Failed French attempt to land at Southampton as this time the locals are mustered ready to meet them; the attackers sail down the Channel taking merchant ships and make a second attack on 20 May on Plymouth, where they enter the town but Earl Hugh Courtenay catches the invaders in time and drives them to their ships. Hastings is burnt down on 27 May as the Monaco officer Carlo Grimaldi leads a successful arson attack from his hired Genoese galleys.
92 Chronology: 1307–99 July. Final major naval clash of the summer, as the French and Genoese squadrons attack Sandwich, find the English fleet waiting and move off SW to Rye, where they set fire to the town but are caught while ravaging and driven back in panic to their ships; they withdraw to Wissant safely. After this the Genoese mutiny over not being paid and leave for home, and with the French fleet reduced by over half the English admiral Robert Morley leads a retaliatory sack of Le Treport. 16 July. Edward sends a defensive letter to the disapproving Pope Benedict whose legates in France are taking the French line about his aggression; he complains that he wants peace but Philip has attacked him unprovoked by supporting Scotland and invading Gascony – and is a usurper anyway. He denounces the ‘Salic Law’ and points out that it cannot bar a claim via a female otherwise it would contradict the Bible where Jesus bases his right as God’s son on female descent via the Virgin Mary. His claim to succeed his mother’s brother Charles IV is therefore legal and necessary for justice, and it is painful for him to see the Pope allow Philip to spend money raised for the Crusade on the English war. 20 September. Edward invades NE France from Flanders, but the Duke of Brabant is still negotiating with Philip and does not turn up and neither does Emperor Lewis. The French countryside is set ablaze, and on the first night inside France Edward’s aide Sir Geoffrey le Scrope takes the attendant legate, Cardinal Deacon Bernard Montfavez, up a tower to show him the fires and points out how weak Philip’s boasted defences clearly are and what is happening thanks to his obstinacy. But Edward is running short of money and unable to pay his Low Countries debts, and has to assure that he will stay in the region as a personal pledge that these will be paid. Late September. The Duke of Brabant joins the invasion, but Edward’s brother-in-law the Count of Hainault joins Philip. On 14 October the English army confronts the waiting French army outside Peronne, and as it is smaller Edward takes a defensive stand; he lures the French to fight by systematic attacks on the locale and taunting Philip that he cannot protect his own people. Assorted towns are also set afire by the Earls of Salisbury, Derby (his cousin Henry, heir of Lancaster) and Northampton and his wife’s cousin Sir John of Hainault, who burns his own son-inlaw’s local estates. Philip sends a herald to propose a battle on 21 or 22 October at or near La Flamengerie, unencumbered by any rivers or earthworks to protect either side, and Edward agrees. 20 October. In the evening, Edward and his aides pick a battle site near La Flamengerie, a low hill summit with a wood to one side and a slope to slow down a French cavalry charge and prevent outflanking on one side, while also enabling a devastating hail of arrows to be concentrated on a narrow area (as at Halidon Hill and later at Crécy).
Chronology: 1307–99 93 23 October. The English form up, with Edward leading one (English) battalion, the Duke of Guelderland and Sir John of Hainault leading the second (Low Countries), the third (LC) being led by the Duke of Brabant, and a force guarding the rear under Sir Laurence Hastings, the new Earl of Pembroke, and the Earl of Warwick. Trenches have been dug in front of the English lines, and this is probably a major reason for nervous French officers advising against a charge; supposedly the Count of Hainault also declines to fight, saying he has consulted an astrologer and the latter has declared that Philip will lose any frontal attack, and those who argue honour impels an attack are unsuccessful. After a long hesitation Philip withdraws, and despite Edward claiming a moral victory Edward’s allies decide to go home if there is to be no battle, so Edward is too weak to fight again. September. Anger in Parliament at high taxes and inflation from the war and nothing to show for it, and Archbishop Stratford’s concessions on cutting the duty of debtors to pay up in full and on prosecuting felons (agreed with Edward) do not win over the assembly; the peers demand abolition of the new wool duties and there are calls for ‘purveyors’ (government contractors who buy/requisition goods for wartime use) to pay up in full or be prosecuted as thieves. The chief purveyor William Wallingford is arrested and commissions of enquiry set up into purveyance in various counties. Further taxes are withheld until the county enquiries have finished, and Edward returns to the Low Countries without any grant. He now forms an alliance with the militant autonomist leader of the Flemish burghers against their overlord Count Louis (Philip’s ally), Jacob van Artevelde, head since January 1338 of a committee of rebel townsmen who have seized Bruges from the count. Van Artevelde has formed a plan to overthrow the pro-French count’s power in the region’s towns as part of regaining towns lost to France in the 1300s (e.g. Lille), and has allied with Edward to do this after the showdown at La Flamengerie – but the English army is short of men after its allies went home and the Pope could put an interdict on rebel areas if they deserted their legal overlord, King Philip VI. As a result, Edward probably offers him a way out of this in return for alliance, by claiming that he not Philip is really the legal king of France so by backing him the rebels are still loyal to their rightful lord (i.e. Edward). Early November. Edward stages a tournament at Brussels for the end of the campaigning season; the rebel townsmen of Flanders and the duchy of Brabant agree a trading and military alliance, with one helping the other if attacked (i.e. by Philip). 1340
26 January. Edward finally openly proclaims himself King of France, with the new royal arms putting the heraldic emblems of France in the most important upper-left quarter of his new flag whereas until now he has always put the English royal arms there. The royal seal for international
94 Chronology: 1307–99 use, i.e. intended for external observers’ view and thus for propaganda, proclaims him as ‘King of France and England’. 8 February. Edward issues a proclamation, saying that the citizens of Flanders have recognised him as King of France and inviting the rest of the French to do likewise. The Pope insists that females cannot inherit or transmit rights to the French throne and if they could there would be others nearer to it than Edward (i.e. presumably the line of Louis X’s daughter in Évreux/Navarre), so Edward has foolishly listened to evil counsel. 21 February. Edward returns to England to receive the Parliamentary decision on new taxes, after a delay to the intended date in December 1339 as he has pledged himself to remain in Brabant in order to pay his local debts and the duke will not let him break this agreement. He leaves Philippa, about to give birth again, in Ghent. The Parliament’s decision, of 19 February, is not to grant any new taxes without redress of grievances, and Edward duly summons a new Parliament to draw up these and assures that his placing the heraldic arms of France in the more prestigious quarter of his new seal was not intended as a snub to his homeland. February/March. Birth of Edward and Philippa’s fourth (third surviving) son John at Ghent, probably at the Abbey of St Bavo – known as ‘of Gaunt’ from English mispronunciation of his birthplace. 29 March. Edward opens Parliament, and insists on a promise of taxes by the MPs to precede any redress of grievances. The Commons agree to grant him every ninth sheep, fleece and sheaf of corn for two years; there is to be a tax of a 15th on the goods of all who live in forests or ‘wastes’ (i.e. not on farmland) and on foreign merchants, but exemptions for the poor; there is to be a duty of 40 shillings on every sack of wool, 300 sheepskins and ‘last’ of leather exported. In return legal liberties are confirmed, debts to the Crown pardoned, and delays in justice speeded up; weights and measures across England are to be standardised. Appointments of sheriffs are reformed and purveyance improved, and a permanent committee of barons will supervise royal taxation and expenditure; the realm of England is not to be subject to France, which implies an end to the formal vassalage of the king for holding Gascony. 4 or 5 April. Death at Cawood, Yorks, of Archbishop Melton; the York Cathedral canons elect their (1336) dean, William Zouche, as Archbishop instead of the king’s secretary William de Kilsby as instructed on 2 May. Zouche is currently the royal treasurer (December 1338 to May 1340) and a distinguished royal clerk who ran the wardrobe in 1329–35, but the king refuses to accept his election and unsuccessfully tries to get the Pope to block it. 11 April. The Earl of Salisbury, senior commander in Flanders in Edward’s absence, and the Earl of Suffolk are spotted spying out the defences of
Chronology: 1307–99 95 Lille with some men-at-arms by the defenders and are attacked and captured; this demoralises the English, and the French are able to secure some important positions in Flanders and in May sack Valenciennes and kill Sir Walter Manny’s brother. Edward is forced to return to Flanders earlier than expected, and writes to the Senate of Venice to hire 40 galleys assuring them that he is only defending himself against French aggression and offers to put his claim to France to an honourable limited combat with Philip and his chosen champions to avoid unnecessary bloodshed. 27 May. Edward arranges for his eldest son to act as regent in his absence, in practice nominally and as governed by Archbishop Stratford and the council. A few days later the archbishop warns him that the Duke of Guelderland has sent a letter to him that the French are massing a large fleet off the Flemish coast to intercept him as he returns – it is too dangerous to sail as planned on 17 June, so he should stay in England. Edward refuses to accept this advice and shouts at him for being defeatist, whereupon Stratford resigns as chancellor. The king’s senior naval advisers, Robert Morley (commander of the northern fleet) and the pirate John Crabb, are asked for their opinions and say it is indeed very dangerous but that they will join the king if he insists on going. 20 June. Edward goes aboad his flagship Thomas at Harwich, with around 120–47 ships and 6000 men to meet a French force waiting in the Zwin Estuary of around 200 ships and 19,000 men. The archbishop sees him off and Edward accepts his apology for his resignation; the king asks him to stay on in office, but he politely refuses and his younger brother Robert Stratford, Bishop of Chichester since August 1337, is appointed instead. 23 June. The English arrive off the Flemish coast to find the French navy waiting in the Zwin Estuary, and drop anchor. 24 June, St John’s Day. Battle of Sluys. The French wait with their largest ships in a line in front to bar any English breakthrough, and in any case the English ships are fewer and mostly smaller so the French can open fire on their decks from above. Edward waits for the tide to be in his favour and the sun to move behind him in the afternoon, then advances and his first line of ships gets within range for a devastating volley of arrows; the English longbowmen outpace the slower French and Genoese crossbowmen and rake their decks, and then the English close in. The English board the French front-line ships and prove better fighters at close quarters, having had recent experience in Scotland, and the lines of French ships behind the front line are unable to come and rescue the beleaguered front line in the ‘jam’ of tightly packed ships. The previously captured English ship Christopher is retaken and this inspires the English, who move on to assault the French second line. The third French line loses its nerve and retreats, and those who do not flee are
96 Chronology: 1307–99 overwhelmed. The Flemings watching on shore join in, and a massacre follows; around 7000 French are killed and 166 ships are captured with 24 escaping. The French now lose their ability to mount raids on the English coast except in ‘hit and run’ attacks, and cannot stop Edward attacking France where he likes. Once he has recovered from a thigh injury received at Sluys and gone on a pilgrimage of thanks to Bruges, he joins his wife and new son at Ghent on 10 July; the war has to be speeded up as Archbishop Stratford writes that he is having difficulty selling enough wool to raise funds and the Bardi and Peruzzi banking houses are failing. 12 July. Parliament reopens. 15 July. The king’s envoys deliver the official account of Sluys to stir up enthusiasm and cash, but not much is forthcoming. On 24 July a forced loan of 20,000 sacks of wool is agreed, but enthusiasm diminishes after a French naval squadron shows it is still a force to be reckoned with by raiding an English wool convoy at sea on 26 July. A landing on the Isle of Wight is repulsed on 1 August, but Portland and Teignmouth are attacked succesfully. The main English Channel fleet is away at the reconquest of Guernsey, commanded by Sir Thomas Ferrers. Robert Morley puts to sea to drive the French back to port. On 23 July Edward arrives with his army at the pro-French town of Tournai while Robert of Artois leads a second force to aim at St Omer, but his siege there is aborted as he tries to attack a waiting French force with a traditional charge rather than a shower of arrows and is routed with heavy losses. 26 July. Edward writes to Philip as ‘Count of Valois’ challenging him to a one-man duel or a battle of 100 champions each for the French throne, mixing Arthurian chivalric ‘spin’ with an attempt to make Philip look a coward. Philip returns the letter saying there is nobody at his court called Count Philip of Valois. 26 August and 2 September. Failed attempts to break through the crumbling walls into Tournai. Meanwhile van Artevelde has killed a rival commander, a snobbish Brabantine lord, for telling him to go back to brewing and the Germans are complaining at not having been paid; the Pope sends a secret ‘low-key’ emissary to Philip urging peace in late August and reminding him that now he has lost control of the seas the English can land anywhere, and sends his chaplain William Bateman to tell Edward that Philip has a much bigger army and it only takes one disaster to ruin his run of success. On 7 September King Philip approaches with his army, including David Bruce of Scotland, and Edward draws up his troops to face both the approaching rescuers and the ready-to-sally townsmen simultaneously.
Chronology: 1307–99 97 On 22 September the Pope prompts Edward’s mother-in-law Jeanne of Hainault, an abbess whose younger son is a hostage of Philip’s, to visit him and make one of the dramatic public appeals at a ‘set-piece’ assembly which Edward is to become famous for accepting. He has heard from a captured Tournai citizen sent out to hasten Philip’s approach that the starving town is near surrender, but he cannot be certain if they will give up before Philip and his huge army arrives and he is running out of money; he agrees to meet the French at the nearby chapel of Esplechin as a favour to Jeanne and the Pope. 25 September. At Esplechin, a truce until midsummer 1341 is agreed, including Gascony and Scotland. Van Artevelde and his Flemish rebels avoid a papal interdict and French attack and keep their new English wool trade, and Tournai is saved for France. 28 September. Edward arrives back at his court at Ghent – which has led to one theory that as his next son Edmund was born on 5 June 1341 there may have been doubts over his paternity. There is a later story in Thomas Walsingham’s chronicle that the queen allegedly told Bishop William of Wykeham that her earlier son John ‘of Gaunt’ was a changeling – though this is unreliable given the political reason by this later C14th time for trying to undermine John’s family’s claim to the throne. October. Edward holds a celebratory tournament for his ‘victory’ at Ghent, but he still owes huge debts to the locals and his offer to his creditors later that month of 12,000 sacks of wool instead of cash is not accepted. 18 November. Edward’s letter to the Pope (see above) also refers to his current antipathy to Archbishop Stratford, who he will turn on when he returns to England – probably blaming him for the council being unable to find more money in England to pay off his debts and let him leave Ghent or re-start the war? 28 November. Edward sneaks away from his court at Ghent with a few friends, including Manny and the Earl of Northampton, to ‘go riding’ and goes on board a ship at Zeeland to head for England, breaking his agreement with the great merchants of Ghent and the Duke of Brabant to serve as pledge that he will pay his debts to them. 30 November. After a stormy crossing of the Channel, Edward arrives at the Tower of London to find that the security measures are inadequate and the Tower warden Nicholas de la Beche is away; he turns on the guards for incompetence and then accuses his ministers, led by the Stratford brothers, of deliberately undermining his campaign by not sending him money. Bishop Robert Stratford is sacked as chancellor and told to deliver his accounts and be ready to defend himself on 6 January, and the Bishop of Lichfield (Roger Northburgh, bishop since 1321) is sacked as treasurer too.
98 Chronology: 1307–99 4 December. Death of the diplomat Bishop Henry Burghesh of Lincoln, probably of exhaustion from overwork. 1341
1 January. Denying the king’s accusations of his undermining the war effort, the archbishop issues a letter accusing Edward of tyranny like his father and saying that he is violating Magna Carta and his coronation oath; he threatens to excommunicate those who are slandering him. 4 January. Stratford demands a trial before his peers; Edward summons him but he refuses to come. 28 January. The archbishop threatens excommunications again. 30 January. Stratford calls a halt to the clergy paying taxes to the king. Edward replies with a document (known from Stratford’s description of it as ‘Libellus Famosus’) accusing him of criminal negligence, failing to help the Crown financially as promised, impoverishing the Crown, and using office for his and his family’s private gains, and sends copies around the country and to the Pope. February. Archbishop Stratford is formally accused of undermining the king’s war effort by opposing the taxes granted in Parliament, reducing the king’s income, and abuse of authority; public opinion is more in favour of the archbishop’s stand over the matter of unjust high taxation. Late March. Parliament is summoned. On 23 April the wardens turn Archbishop Stratford away (Painted Chamber hall, Westminster) and send him to the nearby Exchequer court to answer current legal charges. This is repeated on 24 April, but he refuses to be shut out of proceedings and goes into the hall to join the bishops; in reply Edward boycotts the proceedings so no legal decision can be reached. 26 March. Stratford is barred at the door again, but refuses to leave Parliament until he has the king’s direct order; he is insulted by some junior royal officials, but waves his cross at and anathematises them and is backed up by the Earl of Arundel, a political moderate, who says that it is hardly a legally correct Parliament if those who have a right to be there are barred and non-members (like the king’s insulting officials) are there instead. He proposes that the archbishop be let in and heard, and a petition is drawn up over the next few days and signed by assorted magnates, merchants and others including the London and Cinque Ports delegates; Edward recognises the strength of public opinion and agrees to receive the archbishop back into his favour, but his over-reaction dents his reputation. He re-employs the archbishop and accepts a Parliamentary statute asserting that everyone must be tried by their peers not by the king’s arbitrary appointees – but he repeals the latter after Parliament ends, on 1 October.
Chronology: 1307–99 99 SCOTLAND In April Edinburgh Castle is retaken for David Bruce by Sir William Douglas. A party of Bruce supporters, Highlanders shaved and dressed in Lowlands clothes to resemble civilian carters, cross the Firth of Forth with a load of coal and commandeer a waggon to ‘bring supplies’ up from the city to Edinburgh Castle. They arrive at dawn to haggle with the porter, and the waggon ‘accidentally’ breaks down underneath the gateway portcullis. Then the ambushers produce weapons, kill the porter and set on the few guards awake, and as Douglas blows a horn as a signal more men sprint up the road to help them seize the gate and storm the castle. On 2 June 1341 King David and Queen Joan land from France at Inverbervie near Aberdeen, the country now being safe for them to return. The teenage king is totally inexperienced in the type of warfare that would be of use for a nation usually outnumbered by its neighbour’s army, though King Philip has taken him on his campaign against Edward III in 1339. For the moment, he chiefly resides at Kildrummy (his aunt Christina’s castle) and Aberdeen in the North-East for the summer of 1341, before coming south to Lothian to raid into England. The complex nature of the Northern and Western Highlands elite – some ‘outsider’ Anglo-Norman barons from further south married into old Gaelic/Scandinavian families, some still ancestral lords – has been altered by 1341, resulting from complications in the struggles of Bruce and Balliol for the Crown after Robert Bruce died in 1329. John MacDonald, Lord of the Isles and ruler of the Inner Hebrides based on Islay, is not the only local great lord whose family has benefited from backing the Bruces in 1308–14 but who realistically abandoned his young son’s cause as (temporarily) hopeless after Halidon Hill in 1333. The war to 1341 sees further losses among the elite there and the failure of the pre-1307 Comyn faction and allies, the ‘Dispossessed’, to regain their lands while the newly local Randolph dynasty, Earls of Moray, are busy in the South; the MacDonalds of the Isles are the main pre-1307 dynasty left with any power across the region. This is an era of major structural change in the Highland lordships, with many of the old families (especially the MacDougalls of Lorne and Comyns of Buchan) destroyed in the civil wars and English invasions and ‘new men’ awarded the lordships. The evicted pro-Comyn Strathbogie family, Earls of Atholl, are replaced as the main landholders in Atholl by the Campbells – Bruce’s close companion Neil ‘Mac Cailean Mor’ (‘son of Great Colin’) and after him his son John, who acquires the earldom of Atholl, but this dynasty is cut short when John falls in battle for David Bruce at Halidon Hill in 1333. Neil also gains the lordship of Loch Awe in Argyll from King Robert in 1308. This power vacuum aids the emergence of the MacDonalds in the West Highlands – and the
100 Chronology: 1307–99 ‘devolution’ of leadership in the central Highlands to ‘lower-level’ local lords rather than the pre-C14th system of great earls. Arguably much of the ‘clan’ system’s success in the C14th and C15th is due to the politico-military rifts among the Scots elite between 1290 and 1341. ENGLAND/FRANCE/SCOTLAND 30 April. Death of Duke John III of Brittany (born 8 March 1286), ruler since August 1312 and cousin to both Kings Edward and Philip. He has no children, but has tried to ‘cut out’ the nearest male heir, his halfbrother John of Montfort (born 1295), by marrying off his late brother Count Guy of Penthievre (d. 1331)’s daughter Jeanne to Charles of Blois (born 1319), nephew and protégé of King Philip, in 1337. John of Montfort seizes Nantes and most of the duchy’s castles, but Jeanne appeals for French help – and the French king passes the matter over to his courts. Recognising Jeanne as heiress would allow the principle of female inheritance which the French courts have barred in 1328 for inheriting France itself, so probably John of Montfort’s accepting the court’s right to judge is in expectation of success. But he accepts an envoy from Edward offering an alliance once he is duke and the Anglo-French truce ends, and this may push Philip over the brink into hostility. 27 August. The Breton succession legal commission meets in Paris. John meets Philip who accuses him of treasonable dealings with England and orders him to cut links with Edward or else. John loses his nerve, and flees Paris without waiting for the verdict as ordered; Jeanne is duly recognised as rightful Duchess of Brittany and her pro-French husband Charles as Duke by the Paris Parlement on 7 September. Philip proposes a truce-extension meeting to meet at Antoing near Tournai; Edward agrees and sends the Earl of Huntingdon, Sir Bartholemew Burghersh, his royal clerk and future chancellor John de Offord (Archdeacon of Ely), and international diplomat Niccolinus Fieschi (cousin of the elusive Manuele Fieschi) to meet the French. An extended truce until 24 June 1342 is agreed, with the Brabantines pressing for this so Edward cannot expect Flemish help. Edward sends his household clerk agent Gavin Corder to John of Montfort’s court in July; he has to wait as John leaves for Paris just as he arrives, and leaves before he returns. John returns home and appeals successfully for English aid, coinciding with the Low Countries allies telling the Earl of Huntingdon they will not support a 1342 Flemish war and the truce commission extending the truce to 24 June 1342. Edward orders a small force on five ships to be ready for Brittany in November; a ‘proxy war’ between France and England follows on behalf of their rival claimants. Jeanne’s and Charles’ loyalty to Philip VI is what counts in Paris, and John of Montfort is believed to be about to transfer his fealty to Edward so granting him
Chronology: 1307–99 101 Brittany could lead to him opening its ports to an English invasion fleet en route to Guienne or Normandy. Late June 1341. Edward is removed as Imperial Vicar by Emperor Lewis, ending his authority over the Rhineland princes. October. The main French army, led by Charles of Blois, heads for Vannes in Brittany from Angers to drive out John of Montfort and impose Jeanne as ruler; Philip’s son John leads the rear portion of the army. John (who is told he can succeed Jeanne if she has no children but has his French county of Montfort confiscated) is defeated in October trying to save Champtoceaux, which falls on the 26th, and flees back to Nantes; the citizens are defeatist and Charles of Blois has a large army so on c. 2 November John surrenders. He is deported to Paris and held prisoner in the Louvre for refusing to abdicate, but his wife, at Rennes, evacuates his treasury to Brest to await an English landing and retires to the SW Brittany stronghold of Hennebont. IRELAND October. Famous protest by the Irish Parliament, in session at Kilkenny after moving from Dublin and banning government officials from it, to the king assuring their loyalty but condemning the incompetence, acquisitiveness and Anglocentricity of officials sent to Dublin from London. SCOTLAND Aided by French troops, David launches a raid into Northumberland to open a new front in the Anglo-French war; however, he has no experience of war and his attack on Newcastle in early October is badly organised. In a mirror image of English over-confidence and Scots resourcefulness from the 1320s, his besiegers fail to set adequate guards and the besieged raid his camp to kidnap one of his senior commanders, John Randolph, Earl of Moray. A frontal attack on the walls fails, and David retreats as (on 10 October) Edward sends an army north under the Earl of Derby, Henry of Lancaster junior. The English king joins in or takes over the campaign in an attempt to catch his brother-in-law and his army, and arrives at Newcastle on 2 November after a swift journey; the Scots evade him in Ettrick Forest. All Edward can do is prevent his errant brother-in-law from fulfilling his plan to hold his Christmas court provocatively close to the Border at Melrose Abbey and to reinforce Derby’s expeditionary force, now based at Roxburgh Castle. Edward holds Christmas 1341 himself at Melrose, a salve to his notoriously touchy pride. A temporary truce sees a series of chivalric jousts between the Scots and English knights at Roxburgh, with the international ‘camaraderie’ of knights seeing William Douglas arriving there
102 Chronology: 1307–99 with 12 Scots jousters to issue challenges for a tournament while 12 more Scots joust at Berwick. Unfortunately, Douglas is injured in the hand in his joust against the enemy commander Derby and has to be taken home in a litter; he is replaced as ‘team captain’ for a second tournament by Alexander Ramsay who has more success. This seems to have worsened his dislike of the latter. c. 30 December. Edward leaves Melrose for Alnwick on the way back south to the London area for an early 1342 tournament at Dunstable. 1342
SCOTLAND Ramsay leads the successful Scots attempt to retake Roxburgh Castle in 1342, and as a reward he is granted its custodianship and the sheriffdom of Teviotdale by King David. The titular governor of Roxburgh until now has been Douglas, who retaliates by kidnapping Ramsay, dragging him off to isolated Hermitage Castle, and starving him to death. This sordid feud thus removes one of the Scots’ best commanders, but luckily King Edward is by now distracted by his 1342 expedition to intervene in Brittany. That year also sees King David raid Westmorland, sacking Penrith. ENGLAND/FRANCE 11–12 February. Edward holds a grand tournament at Dunstable; the Countess of Monfort’s adviser Amaur de Clisson turns up seeking aid and Edward agrees. An alliance and expedition is announced for June as per a treaty signed on 21 February, and a preliminary force of c. 1000 men sails under Sir Walter Manny as ‘mercenaries’ so as not to violate the current Anglo-French truce. The English aid is late as not enough ship commanders and troops volunteer and the Countess of Montfort is left exposed at Brest, but she refuses orders to surrender and Philip rigidly plans his next campaign for Flanders as usual. Charles of Blois takes Rennes in early May, but is unable to storm well-defended Hennebont; meanwhile the death of Pope Benedict on 24 April leads to the election of a French Pope, Philip VI’s 1330s minister Pierre Roger, Archbishop of Rouen, as Clement VI on 7 May. This ends hopes of the English accepting papal mediation. 7 July. The new Pope consecrates William Zouche, the ex-treasurer who the king has been trying to block, as Archbishop of York; Edward gives in but does not employ him in administration again until 1346. August. The Duke of Brabant and Count of Hainault agree a long truce with papal envoys at the latest talks at Antoing, meaning no likely Flemish war in 1342–3. 14–15 August. With most of the French army now deploying to Brittany, the Earl of Northampton sails with c. 1350 men from Southampton and
Chronology: 1307–99 103 Portsmouth for Brest after a delay while his ships have to drive off a menacing French squadron in the Solent, who land and burn Portsmouth again but are forced to retreat; they reach Brest on 18 August but when the ships arrive home some shipmasters desert (to earn more cash transporting mercantile goods) instead of obeying orders to pick up the king and his second force. The English in Brittany secure the N coast, and on 5 October Edward leaves Sandwich to lead the second wave of the invasion – though gales delay his departure until 23 October. This war gives Edward and his captains, e.g. the Earl of Salisbury and Sir Walter Manny, invaluable experience of fighting the French on French soil – possibly making victory in Normandy in 1346 easier? The campaign gives Edward a valuable ‘rehearsal’ for his Norman war, and opens with Charles of Blois committing the classic mistake of charging an entrenched army of Englishmen near Lanmeur (as he heads to relieve Morlaix from the siege) on 30 September and being decimated by archers; 50 or so French are killed and many captured in a ‘mini Crécy’. It has been argued that Edward initiated a ‘military revolution’ in England, both in his systematic and well-organised provision of a suitably sized, trained and equipped army (from ‘captains’ commissioned to raise a fixed contingent) and in his adaptation of the tactic of archery to inflict devastating showers of arrows on his opponents in a concentrated barrage. This, as seen at Halidon Hill against the Scots in 1333, would decimate a packed mass of infantry or cavalry provided that they did not have the chance to overrun the archers first. The new English tactics rely on a barrage of missiles to destroy a numerically superior force, not mere weight of numbers on foot or horseback – a contest which the English are unlikely to win against any major French army. 26 October. Edward lands at Brest, and marches on Vannes; Robert of Artois is put in charge of the fleet to move parallel at sea, but he is not a good naval commander and is defeated by a Castilian-Genoese squadron of larger galleys at Beauvoir. He presses on to land near Vannes and attack the town, but as his men storm through a gate left open by retreating Frenchmen he is mortally wounded and his men retreat; he dies a few days later and when Edward arrives on 29 November with the main army he has to mount a formal siege. November–December. The Earls of Northampton (around Nantes) and Salisbury (in the NE) spread terror in ‘razzias’ across pro-Charles areas of Brittany, and Charles’ allies like the Rohans have their estates burnt – a ‘dry run’ for tactics in France in the 1350s–70s. 14 December. The magnates in England meet in London and agree a new expedition led by the Earls of Arundel and Huntingdon for 1 March 1343 – too late to be effective in tipping the balance given Edward’s low numbers and rising French reinforcements.
104 Chronology: 1307–99 1343
January. Having arrived in Nantes at Christmas in time to stop a surrender, Philip VI’s son John leads his army out to take back recently lost towns such as Redon and Ploermel; they halt at the latter and as two papal mediator cardinals arrive from Avranches the outnumbered Edward agrees to let them negotiate. On 19 January a truce is concluded in the church at Malestroit, with the Pope to hold Vannes and England and France to keep their present possessions in Brittany. The Countess of Montfort thus keeps most of S and W Brittany, and her husband John is released from detention in Paris. The truce is to last until 29 September 1343. Philip VI, at Redon, agrees and calls off his muster to attack Gascony, where Ingham’s Anglo-Gascon army has pushed his men back in the Agenais. Flanders has the right to remain autonomous so its defiance of its lord Philip VI and alliance with Edward are preserved, and Philip’s main gain is the securing of David Bruce’s restored position in Scotland. A peace conference is to follow at Avignon, but the English are unlikely to accept Philip’s old ally Clement VI as neutral. Edward leaves Brittany for home; the Earl of Northampton is replaced as military commander by elderly ‘professional’, Sir John Hardeshull. The king has the advantage of creating a group of allied clients in the Breton nobility during 1342 who can aid him in France too via their friends and relatives, led by Olivier de Clisson who is seized and executed on a visit to Paris in August 1343 (which infuriates his allies), and the latter’s friends have a network of nobles plotting for Edward in Poitou. The next year also sees the stirrings of a plot in Normandy, led by the dissident noble Godfrey of Harcourt, who feuds with the Bishop of Bayeux and later in 1343 evades arrest to flee to Brabant. His family are ‘old nobility’ critics of King Philip’s ‘new man’ Marshal Robert Bertrand, and a mixture of resentment of greedy royal favourites/centralising bureaucrats and anger at wartime taxes aids a Norman noble plot against Philip. Harcourt is later accused of recognising Edward III as king in return for the promise of an invasion of Normandy pre-1346 and so tempting Edward to return to war, but dates and the seriousness of this are debatable. July. Nicholas Beche, ex-governor of the Tower and now head of Prince Edward’s household, replaces Ingham as governor of Gascony. He repairs town and castle walls and restores competent and alert government to keep order and a watch on the frontier, which will appeal to the less brigand-like nobles, at a time of growing disorder from demobilised soldiers and weak governance to the E and SE in the Languedoc which undermines Philip’s reputation and noble obedience to him. (The economic dislocation of the Black Death from 1347–8 will make this far worse.)
Chronology: 1307–99 105 SCOTLAND The childlessness of King David and his English wife Joan raises the question of the succession, and David’s only full sister, Margaret Bruce, is married off around 1343 to William ‘de Moravia’, fourth Earl of Sutherland. This raises the possibility of their son John (1346–61) as the next king of Scots until he dies young; the alternative is David’s half-sister Marjorie Bruce (d. 1316)’s son Robert Stewart, hereditary ‘High Steward’ and head of the Stewart family who rule Lennox and Menteith (and Bute and Arran). 1344
ENGLAND/FRANCE 30 January. Death of the king’s close friend and general Sir William Montague, first Earl of Salisbury, the leader of his arrest of Mortimer in 1330; he dies of wounds after a recent ‘Arthurian-themed’ royal tournament at Windsor, and is succeeded by his eponymous son William, second Earl, aged around 16 and recently married to the king’s late uncle Edmund of Kent’s daughter Joan. William also succeeds to the rule of Man, as ‘king’. The tournament is probably linked to plans for an ‘Arthurian’ order of chivalry. Sporadic war continues in Brittany as local nobles feud and attack each other, and Charles of Blois claims he is an independent actor not a subject of Philip VI so he is not bound by the truce; he attacks Quimper in March 1344 and storms and sacks it on 1 May. The Montfort party in Brittany put an appeal to the English Parliament, meeting from April 1344, and Edward calls a rendezvous at Plymouth for Whitsun but not enough volunteer men and ships turn up; Parliament agrees a subsidy for an expedition, belatedly, but the money will not be payable until November. In October the year’s Breton expedition is formally abandoned. The main result of the Breton disorder (demobilised soldiers and brigand nobles) is suspicion of Philip being behind it, especially as prisoners taken at Quimper are hauled off to Paris for trial for treason against him and executed. 12 May. The English government promises to have a delegation in Avignon ready for the postponed papal peace conference in June; but only the Earl of Lancaster’s son, Earl Henry of Derby, turns up – in a private capacity. He meets the Pope who coaxes or threatens him into advising Edward to send a formal delegation, which the council agrees to do on his return in July; in August the king’s secretary and confidential clerk John Offord and the new Bishop of Norwich, Ralph Bateman, lead a delegation to Avignon. Niccolinus Fieschi also goes. September. A Breton delegation of nobles and friars goes to England and appeals to Edward, in the Welsh Marches, for aid; he sends a small force of 250 men later that autumn to garrison Vannes. But their main
106 Chronology: 1307–99 Montfortian Breton commander as chosen by Edward, Amaury de Clisson, surrenders to Charles of Blois in December as the military balance tips in his favour. 22 October. The peace conference opens, but the French are only empowered to discuss frontier adjustments in Gascony and then only if it is accepted as a full French vassal. They are not to discuss who is rightful king of France. Edward’s envoys are only to discuss his claim to the throne and not to consider holding Gascony from a man who is not legally king of France; the talks are in effect pointless. The Pope talks to the delegations separately, and after four fruitless sessions hands the English to two cardinals; they have no success either and argue that Edward has done homage for Gascony already so he has accepted Philip as his sovereign there. The English hint at accepting Gascony as a separate and non-feudal form of vassal of France, an ‘allod’; this is not followed up. Clement suggests that Edward give up Gascony and have the lands of the Hospitallers in England as compensation or allow the papacy to persuade King David to abdicate Scotland in Edward’s favour and move to the Continent as a papal vassal there, and then suggests Edward letting his son be vassal ruler of Gascony so he does not have to do homage himself. These proposals are rejected (7–10 November), but Offord is apparently worried at letting a good opportunity slip to preserve his master’s position of ‘honour’ on the French succession claim. Final papal audiences on 20–21 November end the talks. IRELAND The widowed Countess of Ulster’s second husband, Ralph Ufford, is appointed Justiciar by the king as his centralising agent; he uses English troops to reassert control of W Munster, overrunning Youghal and Inchiquin, and annoys local strongman Maurice FitzThomas, Earl of Desmond (guardian of young earl James of Ormonde). 1345
ENGLAND/FRANCE February. Edward’s proposed embassy to Avignon is cancelled; on this news the final ambassador left in Avignon, Offord, returns home. Edward prepares one army to set out for France on 5 June, led by himself, and an expedition which Derby is to lead to Gascony. The Breton claimant John of Montfort, who has fled house arrest in Paris, arrives in England on 1 April to seek help to evict Charles of Blois. In May, the Norman exiled plotter Godfrey de Harcourt arrives from Brabant with some friends to stake his claim to an invasion of Normandy which he says his rebels will aid – the core of the 1346 invasion project. 20 May. John of Montfort does homage to Edward as his duke of Brittany at the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lambeth Palace – with Edward
Chronology: 1307–99 107 acting as legal king of France. This in effect renews his claim and the war. The king then formally renounces the truces on 14 and 15 June. Edward sends Ralph, Lord Stafford, to Gascony to take over from Beche, and Henry of Derby prepares an expedition to retake the Agenais and raid into SW France. Crucially, the French now believe the main attack in 1345 will come in the N and ignore the Gascon threat; the French muster is called for 22 July at Arras. Late May. Derby’s expedition musters at Southampton. In early June Stafford marches his troops already in Gascony to attack Blaye, down the Garonne from Bordeaux, and then Langon too. Meanwhile, the Earl of Northampton and John de Montfort land another expedition at Brest in early June to invade Charles of Blois’ Breton lands and Sir Thomas Dagworth leads the vanguard out to defeat Charles near Josselin. June. Rebellion against the pro-English league of Flemish towns, led by van Artevelde and starting in Denredonde; as the pro-Philip Count Louis assists this and looks to regain his full authority, Edward is warned in late June during embarkation at his HQ at Sandwich. He probably intended his mysterious destination to be the N French coast (Normandy?), but on 29 June he alters this to Sluys near Antwerp to intervene in Flanders. He sails on 3 July to Sluys, landing on 5 July; Philip is away on the Loire. On the 7th, van Artevelde arrives to seek aid as a civil war is raging between factions in his home town, Ghent. Edward maintains that he will recognise the authority of Count Louis as ruler if Louis does homage to him, to win over moderates; but van Artevelde is then murdered in a riot back in Ghent on 17 July. Edward signs an agreement with the remaining autonomist regimes of the Flemish towns on 19 July that they will not recognise Louis as Count until he does homage to Edward as King of France. He is thus tied down to propping up the Flemish rebels and has to delay his N French expedition. On 22 July he sails from Sluys and is blown by a storm back to the Downs off Kent so any ‘probe’ on French soil is abandoned. He holds a council at Westminster and agrees to postpone any invasion of France to 1346 and just reinforce Brittany and Gascony in the autumn. 18 July. Death of the ultimate ‘political’ bishop, Adam Orleton of Winchester (formerly Hereford/Worcester), ex-ally of Roger Mortimer, probably in his 60s; he is succeeded (8 December) by another royal clerk/ administrator, the later chancellor (1356) William Edington who is currently treasurer (from April 1344 to November 1356). 9 August. Henry of Derby disembarks his troops at Bordeaux, and heads to Langon to call off the siege there and tell Stafford he has been wasting time on it. He heads to attack Bergerac instead, probably as invited by the local Lord d’Albret who wants to re-establish English power (and so his own power) in the local region of Perigord. The English hurry to d’Albret’s besieged castle of Montcuq to take the French attackers
108 Chronology: 1307–99 by surprise, and the latter flee in a panic back to nearby Bergerac. The English chase them on horseback, and arrive to find them straggling over the Dordogne bridge into the town. The English charge onto the bridge, defeat a sortie from the town, and take the bridge and its gate to enter Bergerac; it is sacked and occupied, and many senior French officers are captured. 24 August. Castle Cornet on Guernsey is recaptured by the English, marking the end of the French campaign in the Channel Islands. But the Earl of Northampton’s small army in Brittany cannot progress, and after a failure to take Quimper John of Montfort dies on 26 September leaving his cause to his under-age son. Edward III and his commanders recognise the latter as duke but in practice the majority of Breton nobles back Charles of Blois though the English hold out in the West and South. 22 September. Death of Derby’s father, the king’s cousin Earl Henry of Lancaster, aged around 63; he succeeds to the earldom of Lancaster (and also has his mother Maud de Chaworth’s estates, the lordships of Kidwelly and Ogmore in S Wales). September–October, Gascony. Derby (aka Lancaster) heads N to the valley of the River Isle, and takes Mussidan before heading E upstream to the provincial capital, Perigord; this is besieged but is relieved by Louis of Poitiers, who is sent by the advancing Prince John of France. As Derby pulls back, a large detachment of the main French army attacks the nearby English garrison at Auberoche but on 21 October Derby comes to their rescue, taking the French by surprise and routing them. Many nobles are taken for ransom, led by a nephew of the Pope and seven viscounts, and Louis of Poitiers is mortally wounded. The French are left demoralised, and Prince John retires to Angoulême and demobilises his army; the English now control the Perigeux region E of Bordeaux. Autumn. In Brittany, the Earl of Northampton fails in an under-resourced attack on Carhaix and Guincamp, in a pro-Charles of Blois region loyal to his wife, local Jeanne of Penthievre; he manages a precarious control of Tréguier and La Roche-Derrien. 8 November. Fall of the crucial fortified town of La Reole on the Garonne to Derby/Lancaster; the citadel is besieged until it runs out of food and surrenders in January 1346. Papal envoy, Archbishop Canali of Ravenna, visits Edward in London to call on him to send envoys to a 1346 conference but is told sharply that the Pope is not neutral and Europe will shortly discover England’s – aggressive – response to French underhandedness. French traders in England are interned so they cannot report on war preparations to Philip.
Chronology: 1307–99 109 IRELAND Justiciar Ufford declares Earl of Desmond forfeit as a brigand and seizes his Munster castles, deporting him to London with claims of links to France (pardoned 1349). 1346
ENGLAND/FRANCE January. Philip VI orders a ruthless modernisation of the current taxation system to produce more revenue for the war, and calls the Estates-General in two sections, for N France at Paris and for the S at Toulouse (17 February); the Northern meeting hands the decision on approval over to its provincial sub-sections, delaying any collection well into the year, and the S concedes a tax of about a third of what the king wants – with consideration of requests for more also delayed until later. The use of the hoped-for money to fund a professional army of c. 30,000 for a major clash is thus stymied, and the king’s search for hired crossbowmen and galleys in Italy (especially Genoa) is undermined by delay and uncertainty over payment. Philip has to call on his wife and relatives for private contributions, but still manages to call on the largest ever ‘feudal’ assembly of Central/Northern French nobles to join Prince John in assembling in Quercy in March to retake the lost Aquitaine regions (