Maud Marshal’s son – Roger III Bigod, 4th Earl of Norfolk – revolutionary grandson of William Marshal.

Dlkeller999 at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons. Bigod coat of arms (or, a cross gules)

The death of Ansel (Anselm) Marshal just eleven days after his brother Walter ended the Marshal line of earls of Pembroke. The division of the estates which followed was not straight forward – there were three widows with dower rights. Ansel’s widow could not claim the rights of a dowager countess of Pembroke because her husband was not licensed to enter the estates and had not paid the necessary fees but it still complicated matters. Of Isabel de Clare’s five daughters only Maud Marshal was still alive in 1245 but in total there were thirteen co-heirs of whom Roger Bigod stood to gain most. Maud was the eldest and therefore the senior of the co-hieresses. To her came one fifth of her parents’ estates. With the land came the role of marshal which was a hereditary title – a title which Maud transferred to Roger the following year. Now is not the time to discuss the profits that could be accrued from this job or what else it entailed although when Roger was sent off to campaign in Gascony it was regarded as part and parcel of a marshal’s duties.

Maud died on 28 March 1248. Roger inherited the estates. Whilst he may have been very sad about his mother’s demise he now regained her dower lands as well as her portion of the Marshal inheritance including Chepstow and the county of Carlow in Ireland as well as other scattered manors the most valuable of which was Ross and the port of New Ross. Maud had already used some of the estate to provide for her younger sons as well as giving grants to various monastic houses to secure a speedy passage through purgatory with masses said for her soul. But essentially Roger was now a very wealthy and thus very powerful man-not as powerful as the de Clare- but still the most powerful man in East Anglia as well as being related by marriage through his Marshal connections to King Henry III. Having secured his inheritance Roger doesn’t seem to have spent much time at court. It was his younger brother who was the courtier.

As well as his inheritance Roger was also trying to ensure the future of his line by getting his marriage annulled. He and his wife Isabella of Scotland, a daughter of William the Lion, had been married for about twenty years since he was thirteen years old- he spent the rest of his childhood in Scotland. But the couple still had no children. He visited Rome himself in 1249 but he remained married to Isabella as there were no grounds for an annulment. It perhaps didn’t help that he had previously complained about papal taxes.

Roger served Henry in France, did what marshals were supposed to do and that might have been the end of the matter until Robert de Ros got into King Henry III’s bad books because he was a guardian of King Alexander III of Scots who was married to henry’s daughter Margaret. In 1255 Henry received word that Margaret was complaining that de Ros and his co-guardian John Balliol were mistreating the royal couple. Henry promptly confiscated de Ros’s land and fined him and Balliol. Roger did not think that the king was being fair and he argued with the king who called Roger a traitor. Roger was unamused and said that the king was wrong. ‘If you are just’ he said, ‘how can you harm me?’

The king’s response was that essentially he could seize the earl’s corn, thresh it and sell it.

Roger retorted that the king could try but that Roger would send the threshers back to the king sans their heads.

Henry responded by calling in Roger’s feudal scuttage (shield tax). There was inevitably a disagreement about what the correct dues might be and the matter of the dower owed to Eleanor, William Marshal the Younger’s widow was also raised. Eleanor was Henry III’s sister now married to Simon de Montfort. The king ordered that the exchequer should extract every last penny that Roger was supposed to owe to both the Crown and his sister (it was true that Roger hadn’t paid up his share of Eleanor’s dower for several years).

The row was about to escalate. Roger was not alone in feeling that the king’s justice was not everything it was cracked up to be. By 1258 Roger was involved in the reform movement agitating against the various misdeeds of King Henry III’s half brothers and their influence over Henry’s heir the young Prince Edward. It was Roger who told Henry that his Lusignan favourites had to go – it helped that he was backed up by many other barons and knights. And it was Roger who told the king that he and Edward should in future swear to follow the advice of their barons. The king’s decisions were going to be perused by twenty-four ‘prudent’ men according to the Tewkesbury Chronicle. He wasn’t the most important baron present at the gathering which brow-beat the king but he was the king’s marshal and it was the culmination of the Marshal family’s various opposition to some of King Henry III’s policies.

Oh yes – he died in 1270 without heirs and was succeeded by his nephew – another Roger who was just as stroppy as his uncle. It was this Roger- the 5th Duke of Norfolk- who refused to go to Gascony on King Edward I’s orders arguing that feudal tenure meant he only had to serve overseas in the company of the king rather than on the king’s orders. Edward threatened to have Roger hanged and Roger responded – ‘I will neither go nor hang.’

Marc Morris – The Bigod Earls of Norfolk in the Thirteenth Century (which is incidentally a fascinating read)

Margaret Stafford’s younger children – more Nevilles

The family tree of Ralph Neville and Margaret Stafford (subject to amendments)

Sir Ralph Neville of Oversley, the second son of the Earl of Westmorland’s first family with Margaret Stafford married his step-sister Mary Ferrers – sometimes called Margaret or Margery- who was the daughter of Sir Robert Ferrers of Wem and Joan Beaufort.  She was born in about 1394 and died circa 1457. Her marriage took place in about 1411. Like other members of the Neville family, she and her husband were admitted to the Guild of the Holy Cross at Stratford-Upon-Avon.  She was the co-heiress of the 2nd Lord Ferrers of Wem. Neville became Lord of Oversrlsey in Warwickshire by right of his wife. Margaret appears to have had one son John Neville who was born in about 1416. John would become the Sheriff of Lincolnshire.  John died in 1482.

Ralph’s sister Maud was married to Peter de Mauley of Mulgrave in about 1400. Maud did not give her husband any children so held Mulgrave Castle in her own right after his death as part of her jointure (Rickard, p.487).  The marriage reflects a regional pattern of intermarriage and affinity that can be seen repeated in the marriages made by Maud’s sisters.

Alice Neville was married to Sir Thomas Grey. Grey came from Heton in Northumberland.  His uncle was Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk and he was also a descendent of King Edward I through his maternal line. Grey succeeded his father in 1400 and was shown great favour because of his father’s support for King Henry IV at the time when he took the throne from his cousin King Richard II. By 1404 Grey was a retainer of the Earl of Westmorland with a marriage to cement the relationship but Grey drew closer to Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge who had a claim to the throne by right of his Mortimer ancestry. Meanwhile the couple went on to have at least eight children. The pattern continued to reflect regional intermarriage amongst affinities and extended kinship networks. One of Alice’s sons married into the FitzHugh family of Ravensworth. Together with the earl and Henry Scrope of Masham Grey was one of the three conspirators executed for his part in the Southampton Plot in 1415. Grey’s alliance with the earl of Cambridge was cemented in 1412 when his son Thomas was betrothed to the earl’s daughter Isabel of York who was three at the time of the betrothal. 

Alice’s son Thomas died before 1426 leaving his widow and a son. Isabel went on to marry Henry Bourchier who was created the Earl of Essex by King Edward IV for his support of the Yorkists. The couple had a large family including a son married to Edward’s sister-in-law Anne Woodville.

Philippa married into the Dacre family, Margaret married into the Scrope family and Anne married Sir Gilbert Umfraville who seems to have come from Harbottle and was killed in 1421 at the Battle of Bauge without heirs. He’d inherited his title and estates whilst an infant but came into his inheritance in 1411.  His wardship had been secured by the Earl of Westmorland and his betrothal to Anne was completed during his childhood. I’m not sure what happened to Anne after her husband’s death.

 Elizabeth became a nun. There is a reference to an annuity being left to an Elizabeth Neville who was a London Minoress in 1386.  However, she was the daughter of John Neville so the aunt of Ralph and Margaret’s daughter. It appears that there was a tradition of Neville women joining the London minoresses at Aldgate as Elizabeth received her annuity at the same time that John’s sister Eleanor the widow of Geoffrey Scrope was left money for the care of the convent.  Not only had she joined the sisterhood but she became its abbess. The minoresses were an enclosed order of Poor Clares. It was a popular location for aristocratic womenfolk although they did not always take vows. Interestingly John of Gaunt left money to the sisters and after 1398 Margaret Beauchamp lived there after her widowhood.

Rickard, J. (2002). The Castle Community: The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422. United Kingdom: Boydell Press.

Bourdillon, A. F. C. (1926). The Order of Minoresses in England. United Kingdom: The University Press.

‘Friaries: The minoresses without Aldgate’, in A History of the County of London: Volume 1, London Within the Bars, Westminster and Southwark, ed. William Page (London, 1909), pp. 516-519. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/london/vol1/pp516-519 [accessed 31 March 2022].

Margaret Ferrers of Groby, Countess of Warwick

Illustration of funeral effigies of Margaret and her husband at St Mary’s Church, Warwick

Yesterday I explored the Beauchamp link to the Mortimer family. The Beauchamps allied themselves to the Mortimer claim to the Crown in 1405. Katherine Mortimer’s second son Thomas became the 12th Earl of Warwick. This earl was a Lord Appellant who acted against Richard II. In 1397 he was charged with treason having been lured to London. The Beauchamp Tower gets its name from his incarceration there. It was a bit of a tricky time as he lost his estates, spent a year on the Isle of Man and then returned to the Tower. He was released when Richard II was deposed. Perhaps unsurprisingly he was not a huge fan of Richard and his was one of the voices urging King Henry IV to rid himself permanently of his cousin.

However, I’m supposed to be posting about the earl’s wife. Margaret Ferrers of Groby who came before Richard II on October 13 1397 to plead her husband’s case. The king was at Westminster and it was recorded that he was so incensed that he threatened to have her executed. Margaret’s father, William 3rd Baron Ferrers of Groby, was a descendent of King Edward I and her mother, Margaret d’Ufford, was a daughter and co-heiress of the Earl of Suffolk.

Margaret was not an heiress, she was younger than her husband and they were married by 1380. Her husband became earl because his elder brother Guy predeceased their father. Guy had been married to Philippa de Ferrers.She joined a confraternity at St Albans in that year as the Countess of Warwick. Although the marriage did not bring wealth it did bring closer ties to the Warwickshire gentry. William Lord Groby had consolidated his land holdings in the county. In addition to the benefits of local politics, Margaret was related not only to the earls of Suffolk but through her father’s second marriage to the Percy family. Somewhat ironically, the Ferrers of Groby would be replaced by the Grey family when Elizabeth Ferrers became the heir to the family lands including those at Stebbing in Essex which came into the family with Margaret d’Ufford.

Margaret was widowed in 1401 but did not outlive Thomas by many years, dying in 1407 having provided her husband with a son Richard who inherited his father’s title.

Katherine Mortimer, Countess of Warwick

Illustration of tkatherine Mortimer’s tomb in the quire of St Mary’s Church, Warwick

Ann Neville and her sister were descended through their mother from Roger Mortimer 1st Earl of March – the one who rebelled against Edward II, escaped for the Tower, came to an arrangement with Edwad’s wife Isabella of France , deposed the king, became regent and was finally executed for treason – it’s quite a resume when all’s said and done.

Suffice it to say that for a short while he was the most powerful man in England but Katherine’s marriage had taken place before her father became the focus for rebels angry with the king and his favourites. He was very much in the king’s camp on the side of Edward, the king’s cousin and rival Thomas of Lancaster being a rival of the Mortimers in the Marches. It helped that Mortimer had once been the ward of Piers Galveston, the king’s murdered favourite.

Mortimer went to Ireland and following the Scottish victory at Bannockburn in 1314 faced Robert the Bruce’s brother Edward. In December 1315 he lost the Battle of Kells before returning to the marches where he was required to put down a Welsh uprising.

As a consequence Mortimer’s star began to rise at court and he set about consolidating his own inheritance as well as the lands he acquired by his marriage to Joan de Geneville. One such consolidation involved settling a dispute with the Beauchamp family over the lordship of Elfael. The dispute arose when one of Mortimer’s vassals died in 1315. The argument lived on even after the Earl of Warwick who claimed the land for his own died the following year. The matter was concluded with the marriage of his young daughter Katherine to Thomas Beauchamp, who had become the earl of Warwick at the age of two, and who was just three years old at the time the agreement was made. Warwick became Mortimer’s ward so young Katherine did not need to leave her home at Ludlow Castle when she was initially married. A papal dispensation as required as the young couple shared a common ancestor within the prohibited degree. A similarly advantageous marriage was made by Mortimer for another daughter Joan to James Audley, the grandson of another marcher lord. As one of eight daughters and four sons Katherine was part of Mortimer’s plan to secure his role in the marches.

Katherine escaped the wrath of Edward II when her three older sisters Margaret, Joan and Isabella were sent to a nunnery in 1324. Unlike Despenser’s daughters they were not forced to take the veil and they were released when Mortimer assumed power with Isabella in 1327. And already being married to an earl, Katherine was not part of her father’s plans to marry off his children to arrange marriages into the royal family and to other rich and powerful men. Beatrice Mortimer found herself married to Edward I’s grandson.

Katherine, who was just sixteen when her father was executed, had a large family of some fifteen children with her husband. Nor did Edward III hold a grudge against the daughter of his father’s enemy. She rose to become a significant part of the royal household whilst her husband became a military commander of the Hundred Years War as well as being one of the founding members of the Order of the Garter. She died on August 4th 1369 having made her will leaving £20 to the friars of Shrewsbury. Three months later her husband died in Calais from the Black Death. His body was transported home and the earl was buried beside Katherine in St Mary’s Church, Warwick. The church was rebuilt by the earl using loot from his victories in France. It was said that rebuilding began with the payment of a ransom from the Archbishop of Sens. Their tomb shows the couple holding hands.

Ian Mortimer (2004) The Greatest Traitor: the Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, Ruler of England 1327-1330

Sir Andrew Murray – Guardian of Scotland

Battle of Dupplin Moor

Sir Andrew Murray’s father, also named Andrew, fought with William Wallace. Our Sir Andrew was married to Christina Bruce the sister of King Robert I although his two sons were the issue of a previous marriage. He came to prominence during the Second Scottish War of Independence which started when Edward Balliol, one of the so-called ‘Disinherited’ made his claim to the kingdom of Scotland during the minority of King David II. Having won the battle of Dupplin Moor near Perth, Edward was crowned king.

However, supporters of David continued to fight on. Amongst them was Sir Andrew. In December 1332 he won the Battle of Annan which sent Edward packing to Carlisle, dressed it was reported only in his underclothes – where he presumably spent a miserable Christmas trying to drum up local support as well as some new togs. Having promised Edward III all of Lothian the king marched north with an army and besieged Berwick – not quite breaking the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton as I don’t think he crossed the Tweed.

Rather than taking Edward and his army on and lifting the siege, the Scots tried to draw the king away by raiding England. Sir Andrew got himself caught and imprisoned in Durham in April 1333. His replacement Guardian was Sir Archibald Douglas who rather unfortunately lost the Battle of Halidon Hill in July. Rather bizarrely, and in what can only be described as an own goal, the English ransomed Murray and allowed him to return to Scotland in 1334 – where he proceeded to besiege Balliol’s ally Henry de Beaumont (both names betraying their Anglo-Norman ancestry.)

Edward III was unable to bring Murray to battle, as the wily knight recognised that this was a sure fire way to lose any advantage. Instead, Murray harried the English with guerrilla tactics. When Edward and his army left Scotland he resumed the capture of castles fallen to supporters of Balliol. It was March 1337 before he recaptured his own castle of Bothwell.

The way into England was now clear and the burghers of Carlisle were faced with a Scottish army.

Having made his point, Murray retired in 1338 to Avoch Castle where he died. By that time King Edward III of England had turned his attention to France but Murray’s actions turned the tide in David II’s and Scotland’s favour. Meanwhile in Bute, Robert the Stewart was also taking action to secure the revival of the Bruce cause.

After 1341 the Second Scottish War of Independence reached a stalemate and the seventeen-year old king returned from France where he had been sent for his own safety after Dupplin Moor. The Auld Alliance would see David invading England with disastrous consequences for his rule.

summer quiz 2 answers

British Library 13th Century Bestiary – Do you know where Edward IV sent a camel? I feel an animal themed Christmas series of posts coming on!
  1. Edward was born in 1284 in Carnarvon, according to legend Edward I presented his new-born on a child to the Welsh as a prince who spoke no English.
  2. Edward’s parents were King Edward I and Eleanor of Castile – remembered by the Eleanor Crosses.
  3. Edward was supposed to have been killed in Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire on 21 September 1327. By Tudor times he was supposed to have met his demise by the insertion of a red hot poker in an unmentionable and eyewaterinw location – a reference to his alleged homosexuality. Whilst medieval chroniclers placed the blame on Roger Mortimer’s doorstep no one suggested an incident with a poker although by 1326 his enemies did accuse him of sodomy. Ian Mortimer suggested in 2005 that he did not die. He pointed out that only the Brut written at the time gave his death as 1326. The discovery of the Fieschi Letter in the 1870s cast doubt on the events that history generally accepts as having happened and there is contemporary evidence that Edward was still alive at the end of 1327. There are two theories and it is up to you to consider the evidence provided and weigh the evidence to decide which one is more likely.
  4. Edward granted the earldom of Cornwall to his friend Piers Gaveston but not until after his father died.
  5. Pope Boniface VIII arranged the marriage between Edward II and Isabella of France to bring an to the warring over Gascony which Edward claimed as his.
  6. The Lords Ordainers demanded that Edward II reform his household and get rid of his favourite. They passed a series of ordinances – hence the name.
  7. Battle of Bannockburn June 1314 – Edward II didn’t win but he is on record as digging a lot of ditches.
  8. Thomas of Lancaster was executed on 22 March 1322 near Pontefract Castle following the Battle of Boroughbridge which took place on 16 March 1322.
  9. Hugh Despenser the Elder was the only baron who remained loyal to Edward II throughout his life. His son Hugh Despenser the Younger became Edward’s hated favourite. On the Marches his desire for land resulted in the so-called Despenser War.
  10. Isabella of France became Edward II’s wife.
  11. Isabella’s lover was Roger Mortimer of Wigmore.
  12. Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer invaded England at Orwell in Suffolk.
  13. Hugh Despenser the Elder was executed at Bristol then fed to the dogs.
  14. Edward II is buried in Gloucester Cathedral. Robert Curthose, the deposed Duke of Normandy, brother of William Rufus and Henry I is also buried in Gloucester Cathedral. At the time it was St Peter’s Abbey.
  15. Edward had four legitimate children, Edward who became King Edward III and started the Hundred Years War; John of Eltham who died aged twenty; Eleanor of Woodstock who married Reginald or Renauld II, Count of Guilders and was forced, according to the story, to show that she didn’t have leprosy and Joan of the Tower who was married to King David II of Scotland to bring an end to the Anglo-Scottish Wars. Edward also had an illegitimate son called Adam.
  16. Edmund of Woodstock, the Earl of Kent , Edward’s half brother by Margaret of France, was executed in 1330 for his part in a plot to depose Mortimer and Isabella. The death of his uncle was one of the factors which spurred seventeen-year-old Edward to act against his mother and her lover.
  17. The English and the French fought over Gascony. Edward I spent many years in Gascony. It was part of his personal possessions as was Aquitaine.
  18. Edward II kept a camel at Langley.
  19. He took a lion on campaign to Scotland.
  20. Christopher Marlowe wrote a play about the monarch ensuring he remained within the public eye.
The execution of Thomas of Lancaster

Gaveston’s daughter

Priory Church Amesbury

Joan Gaveston was born in January 1312 at York. Her father, Piers Gaveston, was supposed to be in exile but he returned to court by Christmas 1311. Edward travelled north, leaving his wife to follow, pausing long enough to collect his heavily pregnant niece Margaret de Clare, Gaveston’s wife, from Wallingford Castle before continuing to York. it’s possible that Piers only intended to see his wife and child before leaving the country but there is no evidence to support the view. Almost immediately after Joan’s birth the king revoked Gaveston’s exile and gave him back his titles and estates. This had the effect of infuriating the barons who had demanded his banishment the previous year.

Five months later Gaveston having fled north to Newcastle before returning south to York found himself under siege in Scarborugh Castle. A short time later he was dead at the hands of the Earl of Warwick and the Earl of Lancaster. Joan, a mere infant, now became a ward of the crown. As her legal guardian, Edward sent the child to Amesbury Priory in Wiltshire. There were a number of royal females in residence at the priory founded by Henry II for the Order of Fontevraud (there were four houses for this order – Amesbury, Westwood, Nuneaton and Grovebury) including Edward’s sister Mary who was a nun. It had a long tradition of providing a home and education for England’s royal women. It had also become the prison for King John’s niece Eleanor of Brittany for a time.

Joan was Gaveston’s sole heir but his lands were problematic given that many of them were crown lands. However, when her uncle, the Earl of Gloucester, was killed at Bannockburn in 1314 she became an heiress. Edward took the opportunity to try and arrange a marriage for her to Thomas Wake of Liddell but he married without Edward’s permission to Blanche of Lancaster the niece of Thomas of Lancaster.

In 1317 Joan, aged five, became betrothed to John Multon the heir to the Lord of Egremont in Cumbria. The king made Lord Wake pay the dowry having married without his permission to Leicester’s daughter. The agreement was that the marriage would go ahead as soon as the two children were old enough.

However, Joan died unexpectedly at the beginning of January 1325 just before her thirteenth birthday.

Kathryn Warner, Edward II: The Unconventional King

Joan of Acre, runaway princess

Joan of Acre was one of Edward I’s daughters. Joan was born in Acre in 1272 whilst her father, Edward, was participating in the 9th crusade. Edward narrowly escaped assassination during the unsuccessful conflict but by September the family was on its way home. Edward and his wife paused in Sicily and it was whilst there were there than news arrived that Henry III was dead. Edward was now the king. Joan’s mother, Eleanor of Castile, left the baby with her mother Joan, Countess of Ponthieu and continued back to England arriving in 1274.

King Edward I used all of his children as diplomatic pawns to further his foreign policy. Edward of Carnarvon was betrothed four times in his childhood. Meanwhile Joan did not arrive in England until 1278 by which time her father was negotiating a match for her. Joan was betrothed to Hartmann von Hapsburg, son of King Rudolf I of Germany but he drowned in 1281. Her father took the opportunity to marry her off to Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester who was already married to someone else when Edward suggested the match. The wedding took place in Westminster Abbey on 30 April 1290.

Gilbert de Clare

Gilbert was a half-uncle by marriage to Edward I – bear with me. Henry III’s mother, Isabella of Angouleme, married Hugh de Lusignan after the death of King John. Isabella of Angouleme’s daughter Alice de Lusignan was married to Gilbert in 1253. Gilbert was ten at the time and the marriage was annulled in 1285 after King Edward approached the papacy. This had the effect of illegitimising Gilbert’s children with Alice but Gilbert, the 9th Earl of Clare, 7th Earl of Hertford and 8th Earl of Gloucester was a very powerful baron who supported Simon de Montfort against Henry III. He only returned to the Crown faction when de Montfort formed an alliance with the Welsh prince Llewellyn ap Gruffudd. Edward wanted to bind the baron to the Crown through a marriage.

Joan was a princess with attitude – which was probably just as well given that her step-children were older than she was. Soon after her own wedding she was supposed to attend the wedding of her sister Margaret but she left court without her father’s permission. Edward expressed his wrath by giving seven dresses that had been destined for Joan to her sister instead.

Joan had four children before Gilbert died in 1295. Joan’s son Gilbert was killed at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 whilst her daughters all ended up married to various of Edward II’s favourites.

Joan chose her own future after the death of her husband. Edward I was arranging for her to marry the count of Savoy but she had other ideas. She had fallen in love with her husband’s squire Ralph de Monthermer. She sent Ralph to see her father with the request that he be knighted and when he returned she quietly got married. Unfortunately she didn’t tell her father what she had done so he continued with his plans and formally announced the betrothal of Joan to the Count of Savoy. Edward was said to be so angry when he found out that he threw his crown into the fire.

More practically he had Ralph locked up in Bristol Castle, refused to see Joan and confiscated all the estates she inherited from her husband. Joan sent her daughters to see their grandfather and the Bishop of Durham. Edward seems to have calmed down when he realised that Joan was pregnant – in August 1297 Ralph was created earl of Gloucester and Hertford by right of his wife. After ten years of happy marriage Joan died at Clare in Suffolk on 23 April 1307. Her titles passed to her son and Ralph became 1st Baron Monthermer.

Eleanor of Woodstock

Eleanor of Woodstock

Eleanor was born in 1318 was Edward II’s and Isabella of France’s eldest daughter. Edward was so pleased that he gave the queen 500 marks. For the first six years of her life she and her elder brother John and younger sister Joan remained in the custody of their mother Isabella of France at Wallingford Castle. Her eldest brother Edward also lived there until he was given his own household. Edward ensured that the family were provided for with manors in Macclesfield and the castle and the honour of High Peak, Derbyshire providing income.

In 1324 the little family were taken from the queen and taken into the care of Eleanor de Clare the wife of Hugh Despenser the Younger. Despenser had taken the opportunity of an Anglo-French conflict to state that Isabella, as a Frenchwoman, was a dangerous alien. Her lands were confiscated, her servants sent away or arrested and her children taken from her.

Eleanor and her sister Joan of the Tower left Eleanor’s care and were handed over to Ralph de Monthermer and Isabel Hastings at Marlborough Castle. Isabel was Hugh Despenser’s sister which perhaps explains his decision but equally Ralph was his brother-in-law having been married to Joan of Acre. John remained in Despenser’s household.

In 1328, a year before Isabella and Mortimer were toppled from power, Eleanor found herself in the household of her brother Edward III’s wife Philippa of Hainault. By that time negotiations were underway for a marriage to the Crown of Aragon. This match fell through and Eleanor was betrothed then married to Reinoud II of Guilders. He had something of a reputation but the whole family were aware of the difficulties of royal marriages – Eleanor’s mother, Isabella of France, having had enough of her husband’s male favourites, went to France, began an affair with Edward II’s enemy Roger Mortimer, invaded the country and allegedly arranged for her erstwhile spouse to have a nasty accident with a poker before being toppled from power by her eldest son. Eleanor was nine when her father died.

Eleanor sailed from Sandwich with a luggage full of Spanish cloth of gold and crimson velvet. The people of Guilders were pleased with their new countess – she was an English princess after all and might be able to provide a male heir. Reinoud had four daughters already. She gave birth to a son the following year in 1333 and three years later provided a spare heir called Edward.

In 1336 she was sent from her husband’s court and he began proceedings for an annulment of their marriage. He claimed that she had leprosy. There’s no evidence to support the story, nor for that matter her resolution of the problem. She arrived at court wearing a cloak which she removed to reveal…well… all of her…without a stitch on. She was very clearly not leprous so her husband had to take her back. Reinoud was shown to be a liar. It can’t have helped domestic bliss.

Reinould fell off his horse and died in 1343 leaving a nine-year-old son. Eleanor assumed power as regent but in 1350 her son confiscated all her lands. She retired to a convent where she lived in poverty for five years before she died in 1355 – at the start of the 1360s her son Edward usurped his brother and made himself Duke of Guilders but kept his brother in prison rather than murdering him. After Edward died his elder brother, Reinoud, was released from captivity – by that time he had put on a bit of weight and would be known in the history books as Reinoud the Fat.

Alison Weir, Isabella She-wolf of France, Queen of England

Joan of the Tower

Joan and David being greeted by Philip IV of France

Edward III’s youngest sister was called Joan of the Tower. She died in September 1362 at Hertford Castle four years after her mother died. They were both buried in Greyfriars Church in London. She spent the last years of her life living with her mother Queen Isabella (the one who got the She-wolf nickname thanks to deposing her husband and allegations of red hot pokers.) Edward III mourned for his sister and paid every year to commemorate her passing.

Joan, the daughter of Edward II and Isabella of France was seven when she married the son of Robert I of Scotland. The aim was to bring the Scottish Wars of Independence to a close with a treaty and a royal marriage. For the Scots it was an opportunity to be recognised as independent. In 1328 a border was recognised and negotiations for a royal wedding started in earnest. David was three years younger than Joan so the marriage would not be a true one until David reached the age of fourteen. If the marriage wasn’t consummated then the terms of the treaty were void – the treaty also stipulated that replacements could be founding the event of the death of the happy couple. What could possibly go wrong?

The treaty was signed by the English at Northampton in May 1328, the Scots having already signed it in Edinburgh. Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer were behind the treaty so perhaps it’s not a surprise that Edward III didn’t hurry north when his mother and sister went to Berwick where the groom was waiting – though his father Robert I was also absent. After the wedding Joan travelled to Scotland with her new family. Joan gained the name ‘make peace’ which wasn’t necessarily complimentary. The treaty was seen as the cowardly option.

It was two years before Edward III was able to take control of his own kingdom. Edward pursued different policies from his mother and her lover. He supported Edward Balliol’s claim to the Scottish kingdom rather than his own brother-in-law’s simply because he wa snot happy at having conceded independence to the Scots and he thought that the Balliol claimant would accept English overlordship. Needless to say Edward III’s interference in Scottish politics had an effect and before long Edward Balliol was king. King David’s forces gathered against Balliol and he was forced to flee to England. In July Edward III took an army north and on the 19 July 1333 fought the Battle of Halidon Hill. Sir Archibald Douglas’s army was defeated. Archibald was the Guardian of the Realm during David’s minority. To cut a long story short Balliol did homage to Edward III and recognised the English as Scottish overlords.

Moving swiftly on – King David and Joan were sent for their own safety to France. Philip IV was Joan’s cousin once removed. There remained there from 1334 until 1341 when Balliol lost power. Unfortunately David did not know how to rule. He had received no training so there was the usual faction fighting. To make matters worse, Edward III was now waging the Hundred Years War and won the Battle of Crecy in August 1346 triggering a Scottish invasion of England thanks to a Franco-Scottish treaty dating from 1295.

On 17 October 1346 the Scots lost the Battle of Neville’s Cross and King David was taken prisoner. He spent the next eleven years in England. Joan’s position was now more difficult than ever. She had insufficient funds. Queen Isabella provided her with clothes. She was effectively a hostage for the safekeeping of David although history knows that a safe conduct was issued for her to visit David at Windsor in 1348.. To make matters worse – if possible- David fell in love with Katherine Mortimer during his captivity. When he was allowed to return to Scotland he took Katherine with her. Joan packed her own bags and came home when she was issued with another safe conduct from her brother. Edward III gave his sister and annual pension.

The image comes from Froissart’s Chronicles