Gilbert de Clare the 8th and last de Clare Earl of Gloucester

gilbert de clare.jpgThe 7th Earl of Gloucester, Gilbert, the Red Earl, was born in 1243. He took part of the second Barons War in 1262 which saw the barons rise against King Henry III.  He was one of Simon de Montfort’s supporters and took part in the Battle of Lewes.  They were turbulent times and although  de Montford effectively toppled the Crown  it wasn’t long before there was a falling out amongst the barons.  This resulted in Gilbert changing sides and fighting on the side of Prince Edward at the Battle of Kenilworth and the Battle of Evesham where de Montfort was killed.

 

When Henry III died whilst Edward I was in Sicily, de Clare found himself Guardian of England. On the  home front however, the story remained rather more complicated.  Gilbert was married to his first wife in 1253 when he was just ten years old.  She was Alice de Lusignan – King Henry III’s niece – a possible reason for the relatively leniency with which Gilbert found himself being treated by Henry III during the baron’s war.  Having said that the pair separated in 1267.  Apparently Alice had taken a shine to her cousin young Prince Edward who would one day be Edward I.  The marriage was annulled in 1285.

 

In 1290  Gilbert married the twenty-two year old Joan of Acre,  a daughter of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile (not sure how that works on the laws of consanguinity marrying the daughter of your first wife’s cousin –dispensation was required.)  The pair had a son also called Gilbert and three daughters; Eleanor, Margaret and Elizabeth. He died in 1295 and was buried in Tewkesbury Abbey.

 

Gilbert junior was born in 1291 and became the 8th Earl of Gloucester when he was four.  Just a reminder here – his grandfather was Edward I who had some seventeen children in total by his two wives.  Joan of Acre was born in 1272 whilst Edward was on crusade.  He was raised, in part, at court in the household of his grandfather’s second wife Margaret of France.

It is sometimes thought that he was in his uncle Prince Edward of Carnarvon’s household. In 1305 there was a dispute that resulted in Edward I cutting his son’s household.  The prince wrote to his sister Elizabeth to ask her to write to their step-mother to ask their father to restore two members of his household to him: one was Gilbert de Clare the other was Piers Gaveston.  The following year both men were knighted prior to war with Scotland at the so-called Feast of the Swans. However, and you probably shouldn’t be surprised by this, there was a second Gilbert de Clare who was approximately three years older than Prince Edward and it was he who was in the prince’s household.  The two Gilberts were cousins – but let’s not get into the genealogy.

 

Unfortunately once Edward of Carnarvon became king our Gilbert became increasingly disgruntled with the king’s relationship with Gaveston and in 1310 became one of the Lords Ordainers seeking to  reform the king’s household resulting in Gaveston’s exile from England in 1311 and his death in 1312 when he returned to England – Edward II having announced that Gaveston’s sentence was unlawful and effectively reducing the country to a state of civil war. Gilbert as a royal relation was able to smooth troubled waters between the two groups.  He would go on, with the demise of Gaveston to be one of Edward’s loyal supporters. Possibly one of the reasons for his dissatisfaction was that when he inherited his titles at the age of sixteen he was quickly immersed in border warfare serving in border warden roles and as Captain of Scotland.

 

On 24 June 1314 Gilbert was part of his uncle’s army in Scotland at Bannockburn.  He was killed. The body was sent back to England with due honour.   He was only twenty-three had no children so the de Clare estates were divided between his three sisters who were now co-heiresses.

There is a final sting in the tale of this post. In 1308 Gilbert married Maud or Matilda de Burgh, daughter of the Earl of Ulster. The pair did apparently  have a son called John in 1312 who did not survive long after his birth. However, when her husband died in 1314 Maud claimed she was pregnant so that the estates of the Earldom of Gloucester could not be split.  The law required that everyone wait for a posthumous  child to be born.  Three years later it was decided that she really couldn’t have been pregnant for twice as long as an elephant and the earldom was broken up between Gilbert’s three sisters.

Maud died in 1320 and was buried in Tewkesbury Abbey beside her husband who is pictured in one of the abbey’s stained glass windows as depicted at the start of this post.

 

Three French Hens – Queens of England from France

isabella of franceI did consider titling this post “three foul french fowl”but decided it was an alliteration too far.

Richard I, a.k.a. the Lionheart,  should have married Alys of France – the dispensation for that marriage would have been interesting given that Richard’s mother Eleanor of Aquitaine and Alys’ father, Louis VII of France had once been married.  Alys arrived in England aged eight as Henry II’s ward following a treaty agreed in 1169.  However, the marriage never progressed which didn’t help Richard’s relationship with fellow monarch Philip II of France who was Alys’ brother.

In 1175 Henry II began to seek an annulment from his marriage to Eleanor.  It has been suggested that rather than marrying Alys to his son Richard, that he intended to marry her himself. Certainly it is thought that he began an affair with her after the death of Fair Rosamund in 1177.  All things considered it is relatively easy to see why Alys didn’t become one of England’s French hens.

On the other hand, Alys’ sister Margaret should be on the list of French hens because she married Henry II’s oldest son also named Henry in 1162.  Technically she became a royal consort when the Young King as he became known was crowned in 1172.  Henry II and his son being the only occasion when there have been two official monarchs on the English throne (excluding the Wars of the Roses and the joys of the Anarchy when Stephen and Matilda both claimed the Crown – and Matilda never had a coronation.)

I am not including women who would be defined as French by today’s geography but were daughters of independent or semi-independent realms in their own times: Matilda of Boulogne who was King Stephen’s wife or even Eleanor of Aquitaine who was Henry II’s wife come under this category of consort.

Which brings us to our first indisputable French hen – Margaret of France who was the second wife of Edward I.  She was swiftly followed by Isabella of France who is better known as a “she-wolf” on the grounds that she and her lover Roger Mortimer deposed Isabella’s husband Edward II and according to official histories arranged for his dispatch – purportedly with a red hot poker.

French consort number three was Isabella of Valois who was married to Richard II after his first wife Anne of Bohemia died. She was married to Richard at the age of seven in 1396.  Four years later Richard was deposed by his cousin Henry of Bolingbroke.  Richard was fond of his young wife and she returned the feeling.  She refused to marry Henry IV’s son and went into mourning.  She died aged nineteen in childbirth following her return to France and second marriage to Charles of Orleans.

Henry V ultimately married Catherine of Valois in 1420 following his victory at Agincourt.  After Henry’s death Catherine went on to be associated with Edmund Beaufort but when the laws changed  specifying that if the dowager queen married without her son’s consent that the new husband would loose his lands, Beaufort swiftly lost interest. Catherine went on to make an unequal marriage with Owen Tudor.

In 1445 Catherine’s son, Henry VI, married Margaret of Anjou as part of a policy to bring the Hundred Years War to an end.  Margaret had no dowry and was plunged into a difficult political situation which resulted in her ultimate vilification by the winning Yorkists.  Her hopes for the Lancaster Crown ended on 4 May 1471 when her son, Prince Edward, was killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury. Henry VI was killed in the Tower shortly afterwards.  She eventually returned to France.

Isabella of  France and Margaret of Anjou are the two consorts that popular history remembers most clearly.  The third of English history’s three foul French fowl arrived in 1625.  Henrietta Maria married Charles I shortly after he became king.  Initially she had to contend with Charles’ reliance upon the Duke of Buckingham.  Her Catholicism made her an unpopular choice in England despite Charles’ insistence that she be known as Queen Mary, as did her ability to buy armaments and mercenary forces  on her husband’s behalf during the English Civil War. She also decided on a new title for herself – Her She-Majesty, Generalissima.

 

 

Christmas with Henry II and his sons.

feastChristmas at the court of Henry II probably became increasingly fraught as his sons grew to adulthood. They revolted at various times against their father and feuded with one another. Vincent and Harper-Bill reference in particular the Christmas of 1182.  Eleanor of Aquitaine was not in attendance having been kept a prisoner since she’d sided with her three elder sons in their first revolt against Henry in 1173.  The one thing that Christmas 1182 wasn’t, was the season of peace and goodwill to all men.

 

The Young King had semi-revolted against his father by waging war with brother Richard over Poitou. In the spring of the following year his brother Geoffrey of Brittany would join up with Young Henry against their father and brother as well. William Marshall, widely accepted as the hero of the age and all round trustworthy chap on account of his loyalty to a succession of Plantagenets, was facing accusations of adultery with none other than the Young King’s wife, Princess Margaret of France. And, just because things come in threes rather like buses, William de Tancarville was insisting on his right to wash the king’s hands.

 

The great and the good were summoned to Caen for the celebrations. More than a thousand knights attended. William Marshall took the opportunity to challenge the Young King to bring out Marshall’s accusers – the non-too-subtle implication being that Marshall would then proceed to thrash them soundly. He volunteered to fight three accusers on three successive days and if he lost any of the knightly bouts then he would be deemed guilty of adultery through trial by combat. Young Henry did not accept the challenge. So Marshall then suggested that if no one would fight him they could cut off one of his fingers and then have the fight. Unsurprisingly this resulted in a stunned silence. Now, what should have happened is that Marshall should have been declared innocent of the crime that no one was naming on the spot because quite clearly his accusers weren’t prepared to put themselves in dangers way. However, the Young King didn’t do what protocol required, it should also be added that some historians believe that Marshall’s biography makes much of the accusation because he was actually guilty of being ambitious and greedy and he was trying to make the adultery smear into a scandalous smokescreen for his real activities (think more along the lines of Game of Thrones than Sir Walter Scott). Marshall announced that he was being denied justice. Henry II gave the knight safe conduct and Marshall left in what can only be described as a bit of a righteous huff…it also gave him an excuse to leave his lord…yes, that’s right…the same lord who was just about to rebel against his father. Marshall did not rejoin the Young King until he was dying of dysentery and he’d sought permission not only from Henry II but also Philip of France.  Make of it what you will.

 

Meanwhile William de Tancarville, who was a hereditary chamberlain, insisted on his hand washing rights. Apparently the king was just about to have his hands washed when Tancarville pushed his way to the front and grabbed at the silver basin that the chamberlain was using. The person who had been about to wash Henry’s hands kept hold of the basin and I suspect that much sloshing about ensued until Henry told the bloke with the basin to hand it over to Tancarville who then made a great show of ensuring that Henry had clean hands – ceremonially speaking of course. And then he proceeded to pocket the basin that had held the water for the king’s clean up as well as the basins employed for the handwashing of the princes. It turns out that the silver basins were a perk of the job, which would perhaps account for why the first handwasher-in-chief wasn’t keen on letting go of it in the first place.

 

Good will at the Christmas Court at Caen in 1182 seems noticeable only by its absence. By January the king and his sons were heartily fed up of one another and took themselves off for a spot of perennial Plantagenet family fisticuffs – de Tancarville siding with the Young King.

Click on the image of the festive feast to open up a new tab and a post about the Young King at Christmas including 1182.

Christopher Harper-Bill, Nicholas Vincent Henry II: New Interpretations

William M. Reddy  The Making of Romantic Love: Longing and Sexuality in Europe, South Asia and Japan 900-1200 CE