Thomas of Lancaster, rebel cousin of King Edward II/From warlord to Saint

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Thomas of Lancaster’s main possessions (Maddicott).



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Edward was twice jeered by Lancaster’s garrison at Pontefract in 1317 & 1320 as he passed from north to south 
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Thomas, Earl of Lancaster

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A photo of a small dark silver religious panel depicting the beheading of a medieval man

The beheading of the Earl is portrayed within the panel© MOLA / Andy Chopping
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This is a fascinating story about
Thomas of Lancaster and the persons
and events that played an important part in his
life in a very turbulent time.
But like
all fascinating stories, it is not told
in two minutes. It is a real longread.
My advice to my you:
Don’t read all chapters at one time,
because you will be overwhelmed, unless
you are totally fascinated.

Or when you are pressed with time, with time, read the Epilogue,

which gives my final opinion about Thomas of Lancaster and a
summary of this fascinating story….

To understand the political situation
in the early fourteenth century, especially
chapter one, four and five are important.
Chapters six describes the outbreak of the
war between Thomas and his cousin
the King, the chapters seven and eight the
dramatic end.
Chapters nine and ten, what happened

And I end with the Epilogue, giving my final opinion
about the life and activitities of Thomas of Lancaster.
Read all the Chapters with care and attention and you
will enter the Medieval world…..





”When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.
There is no middle ground
Dear Readers,How many warlords were proclaimed ”holy” after
their death and were venerated as Saints?
Not many, I presume…..Read further  and experience the excitement of a turbulent
time, with violent, lawless men, thirsty for power.Come with me…..Today I, your travel companion through the Middle Ages, introduce to you
an extroardinary man, who was a warlord, England’s
de facto ruler for certainly four years,  fighting his cousin
King Edward II for nearly ten years.His name was Thomas, the second Earl of Lancaster [1].
No, NOT to be confused with his younger  brother Henry, third Earl of Lancaster, [2]
one of the ancestors of the House of Lancaster [3], that branch of
the Plantagenet Royal House, which fought
a battle to the death with another Plantagenet branch,
the House of York [4] in the Wars of the Roses. [5]This was Thomas, second Earl of Lancaster, lesser
known, but in his time, a man of power and absolutely not insignificant.
That’s the reason I write about him, because I feel
people should know more about him.Besides:He intrigues me
Because as I said,  not only he was the de facto ruler in England
for certainly four years, fighting his cousin, King Edward II
for many years and making his own laws.


How many warlords end up ”holy”, as a Saint?

It is a longread, but worth the trouble……

Follow me, through the chapters of history, containing
power,treason, ambition, passion
deceit, cruelty, but also….chivalry…..


In general/Family ties/Conflict seen in a broader light/
Historical conflicts between
Kings and barons/Personal life/Power and wealth

Beginning of his career/Service under his uncle King
Edward I

Conflict with his cousin, King Edward II/
From day one?

Outburst of the conflict/Piers Gaveston, the royal

Thomas of Lancaster, the uncrowned King

Open War
Despenser War/First Phase
[February-August 1321]


Open War
Despenser War/Second Phase
[October 1321-March 1322]

The End

Saint Thomas








Thomas was the first cousin of  King Edward II
[King from 1307-1327] [6], since Thomas’ father, Edmund
Crouchback, the first Earl of Lancaster [7], was the younger brother of King Edward I [8],
,father of Edward II.
But he also was the uncle of Queen Isabella of France [9] [wife
of Edward II and daughter of the French King, Philip IV, the Fair,
the Hammer of the Templars] [10], since he was the half-brother
of her mother, Joan I of Navarre [wife of King Philip IV] [11]

Yes my readers, so complicated were the family relations of the
English nobility, not only because of internarriage
with each other, but also with French nobility [also Spanish,
Flemish and other, but often, French]

To give another example to ”tease” you a little and showing
the complexity of noble family relations:

Edward II had two halfbrothers, Thomas, Earl of
Norfolk [12] and Edmund, Earl of Kent [13], since
his father Edward I remarried after the death of his first wife,
Edward II’s mother, Eleanor of Castile. [14]

But the wife he remarried, was Margaret of France. [15]
the sister of the French
King, Philip IV [the Fair] [16], father of Isabella, future wife
of Edward II
[on the moment Edward I married the lady, Isabella was not
yet married to Edward II]

The Earls of Norfolk and Kent [halfbrothers of Edward II]
were, of course, the brothers in law of Queen Isabella, but
also her first cousins, since their mother, Queen Margaret of France [17], was
also the sister of Isabella’s  father, King Philip IV, the Fair. [18]

No wonder Papal Dispensation was often needed for noble
marriages! [19]



Let’s go to Thomas’ interesting, but turbulent life, in a turbulent
time, which led to the disaster of many, including the King. [20]

As shows the story, Thomas of Lancaster had a major conflict with the
King, was four years long the uncrowned King and  two times
leader of oppositional barons against King’s power, leading two
rebellions against the King. [21]

Now some sources called Thomas lawless, violent and powerseeking. [22]
He may have been all that [I am not going to deny that, on the contrary],
but it is shortsighted to see the conflict only from that personal point of view.

It’s more complicated:

Because this was not only a conflict between two powerful men,
cousins, one the King and the other close to the throne.
Moreover this conflict revealed the eternal struggle between centralization and
Between a King and his feudal lords about who should control
the country.

When the King was a ”strong leader”, like Edward I [23], he held the
nobles in order, when the authority was weaker, the nobles
gained power.
The causes of a weak authority may have differed, but fact was,
that nobility, of course, took advantage of weak leadership.




As I wrote, apart from the specific circumstances [see below], the fight
between Edward II and his cousin, Thomas of Lancaster has to be viewed
in a broader light:
The struggle between centralization [the Kings absolute power, ”divine
majesty”] [25]
and decentralization [increasing inluence of his feudal lords, the nobility].

Edward II was not the first King, who had serious conflicts with his barons

As well as his greatgrandfather John Lackland [John, King of England], [26]
as his grandfather, King Henry III [27], clashed with their barons:

Because the times changed:

Were John Lackland’s father, King Henry II [28], as his brother, Richard I
of England [The Lion Heart] [29], kings, who ruled on the basis, that the King was
”above the law” [divine majesty”]
, in the time of John Lackland,
there were contrary opinions expressed about the nature of kingship, and many contemporary writers believed that monarchs should rule in accordance with the custom and the law, and take counsel of the leading members of the realm. [30]

Now John Lackland was, as a person,  hard to
deal with and increasing troubles were ahead:

He had a serious conflict with Pope Innocentius III [32], which resulted in
an interdict of England [33] and John’s excommunication [34]
King John was  reported nearly to have converted to Islam in order
to get support from Caliph Nasir, asking for help…..[35]

He clashed [almost from the beginning of his reign]
with his barons, wanting to hold on

his ”rights” and claimed an “almost imperial status” for himself as ruler. [36]

This resulted in a number of wars with the barons, leading
to the Magna Charta in 1315, enlarging the power of the barons. [37]


During the reign of King Henry III [38], son of John Lackland and
grandfather of Edward II, at first peace seemed to be restored with
the barons. [39]

But…..nothing lasts forever!

Henry faced a true crisis with the barons, who rose against him
under the leadership of Henry’s brother in law, Simon de Montfort,
6th Earl of Leicester [40], who had [seen in the light of that
time], radical reform ideas. [41]
He was the de facto ruler of England for less than a year. [42]
and is known to have established a Parliament, with not only
the barons and the knights of the shires [43], but also burgesses
[44] of the major towns. [45]
This parliament is sometimes referred to as the first English parliament and Montfort himself is often termed the founder of the Commons.[46]

At the end, he died in the battle of Evesham in 1265, beaten by
the troops of prince Edward [eldest son of Henry III], the latter King
Edward I [47]

In sofar there is a similarity with Thomas of Lancaster, who also ruled England
[de facto] and seemed to have been influenced by
Simon de Montfort’s ideas. [48]

That being said:
Yet I think, that Thomas, far more than Simon de Montfort,
had a personal power motive to wage war on his cousin Edward II.

Besides I don’t think, that Thomas of Lancaster was interested in more
reforms than greater power for the barons.



Thomas of Lancaster [c 1278-1322], who became the great adversary of his cousin
King Edward II, was the eldest son of Edmund Crouchback, 1st Earl
of Lancaster [49], who
was the second son of King Henry III [50], and brother of King Edward I. [51]
Thomas’ younger brother was Henry, [later the 3rd Earl of Lancaster] [52], ancestor
of the House of Lancaster.  [53]

He was the cousin of King Edward II, since his father [Edmund Crouchback] was
the brother of Edward II’s father, King Edward I.

Thomas’ mother was Blanche of Artois [54], daughter of Count
Robert I of Artois [55], who was the son of the French King Louis
VIII [56] and the brother of King Louis IX [also called ”Saint Louis”] [57]
Which made Blanche the niece of King Louis [IX]
”Saint Louis”

Thomas of Lancaster descended from both English and French royal
Houses, being the grandson of King Henry III and the greatgrandson
of the French King Louis VIII.

A good Medieval curriculum vitae!

But there was more to the story:

When his mother, Blanche of Artois, married his father,
Edmund Crouchback, she was a Dowager Queen, having been
married with King Henry I of Navarre. [58]
From that marriage, a daughter was born, Joan I of Navarre. [59]

And this Joan I of Navarre was the mother of Isabella of
France, the wife of King Edward II.

Thomas was, therefore, the cousin of King Edward II, and
the uncle of Queen Isabella of France!


Thomas of Lancaster was married with Alice de Lacy [60], daughter
and heiress of Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln [61].
Jure uxoris [inheritance by the right of a wife] [62] Thomas had inherited in 1311 the lands of his father in law,
for which he paid homage to King Edward II [quite a story! See below] [63],
which made him rich and powerful, in combination with the lands he had
inherited from his father. [64]
The marriage is assumed to be unhappy [65] and they had no children together.
Although, Thomas fathered, llegitimately, two sons with another woman. [66]

Alice was abducted in 1317 by Richard de St Martin, a knight in the service
of John de Warenne, 7th Earl of Surrey. [67]
This incident caused a feud between Lancaster and Surrey; Lancaster divorced his wife and seized two of Surrey’s castles in retaliation. King Edward then intervened, and the two Earls came to an
uneasy truce.[68]



Because of his royal position and the inherited lands of his
father and father in law, Thomas was one of the richest and
most powerful men in England.
His annual income was a huge eleven thousand pounds. [69]

Of course it was easy for a that powerful man to raise
an army, when the time was ripe…..


In the beginning there seemed to be no trouble in paradise.
Grandson of King Henry III, nephew of King Edward I, who
probably arranged for him  the splendid marriage with Alice de
Lacy [70], daughter of Henry de Lacy, 3rd Earl of Lincoln [71]
[by the death of his father in law, Henry de Lacy, Thomas was to inherit the
Earldoms of Lincoln and Salisbury, added to the Earldoms
he inherited from his father, Edmund Crouchback [72] namely Lancaster, Leicester and Derby, which made him one of the richest
nobles in the land] [73],
what stood in the way of a splendid career?

And it all seemed going just fine:

On reaching On reaching full age he became hereditary Sheriff of Lancashire, but spent most of the next ten years fighting for Edward I in Scotland, leaving the shrievalty in the care of deputies.[74]
He served his uncle King Edward I, by participating in the battle
of Falkirk in 1298. [75]


From day one?

Because of the bitter battle between King Edward II and his
cousin, Thomas of Lancaster, there are people, who think,
that they were enemies from the very beginning.
However, that’s not the case.

Originally, Thomas was loyal to Edward and in good terms with him,
also before his accession of King.
For example:
In 1305, Thomas was forced to apologise to Edward for being unable to come and attend him, as he was ill. Edward wrote back to say that he hoped to visit Thomas soon, “to see and to comfort you.” [76]

At Edward’s Edward’s coronation, on 25 february 1308, Thomas carried Curtana,
the sword of St Edward the Confessor [one of the last
Anglo Saxon Kings before William the Conqueror]  [77]
And when you read the rest of the story, it will come as
a surprise to you, that according to some sources,Thomas was not after Kings’ favourite Piers Gaveston [78] from day one, but was initially rather on good terms
with him. [79]
He remained loyal to Edward, when in the spring of 1308, the majority
of the barons were pressing for Piers Gaveston’s exile. [80]

However it seems, that  in november 1308, Thomas suddenly
left the Court, from reasons unknown. [81]



[This is a rather elaborated story about Piers Gaveston,
since he played a large part in the enmity between Thomas
and his cousin Edward II]

It was the tragedy of Piers Gaveston, who set a deep and nearly
invincible enmity between King Edward and his cousin Thomas……

The first indication of tension between Edward II and his
cousin Thomas was his abrupt leave of the Court in 1308, the fact
that he, obviously, witnessed no charters after that day, until
march 1310 AND that the constant flow of grants and favours to him from Edward also ceased. [82]
I don’t know, what the cause of the conflict was.
In each case, it didn’t seem to be referred to Gaveston, since
Lancaster, at first, was on friendly terms with him and remained
loyal, when the barons were pressing for Gaveston’s exile
in the spring of 1308 [83], he later completely turned against
Piers Gaveston.

Before going to that, something about Piers Gaveston
[about whom I will write an article in the future, just wait and
He was a fascinating man.
Intelligent, witty, charming, with martial skills and later proved
to be a skilled military administrator.

Too arrogant and provocative, which eventually led to his downfall.


Piers Gaveston was an English nobleman from Gascon descent.
His father was a Gascon knight, Arnaud de Gabaston, his mother was
a noble woman,
Claramonde de Marsan [84]. Some sources suggest, that she is burned as
a witch [85], but there is no proof for that.
His father was in the service of King Edward I [Edward II’s father] and Piers
seems to have served King Edward likewise. [86]
Anyway, King Edward I was apparently impressed by Gaveston’s conduct and martial skills, and wanted him to serve as a model for his son [the
later Edward II], so he became a member of his household. [87]


To cut a long story short:
Prince Edward and Piers Gaveston grew very fond of each other, probably too fond in the
eyes of the King…..and  fearing the apparent influence
of Piers on the [then] Prince of Wales [88], Edward [II], Piers
Gaveston was banished. [89]
That was the first time.
There were still two times to go…..


Old King Edward I died on 7 july, 1307 and his son, Edward of
Caernarfon [named after his Welsh birthplace] [90], was now King of England.
One of his first acts was, surprise, surprise… recall his favourite
Piers Gaveston from exile.[91]


Very soon this led to great displeasure, to say it mildly under
the greatest part of the nobility, since Edward made him
”Earl of Cornwall” and this title was reserved for the members of
the royal family. [92]
So the great barons felt insulted, not only because of this title,
as for the fact, that compared with them, Piers Gaveston was of relatively
humble origins. ‘[93]

And then that coronation business!

As I wrote, Thomas of Lancaster carried the sword ”Curtana” at
the coronation of Edward II [and his wife Isabella of France], his
brother Henry carried  the royal rod, as were many other members
of high nobility involved in the ceremony. [94]

While the Earls wore cloth-of-gold, as they were entitled to do in the king’s presence (cloth-of-gold is material shot through with gold thread), Gaveston wore royal purple, of silk, encrusted with jewels. [95]
They were beaten by Piers Gaveston at the tournament at
Wallingford in december 1307, what seemed to have aroused fury. [96]
They were also insulted, that the King married Piers
Gaveston off to his niece Margaret de Clare [97], daughter
of Kings sister Joan of Acre [married Gilbert de Clare, 7th Earl of Gloucester] [98] and sister of the powerful [8th] Earl of Gloucester.

And then those nicknames!

Perhaps out of self-defence, or merely
for the pleasure of provocation, Piers gave the Earls
and barons all sort of insulting nicknames:

Henry de Lacy, [3rd] Earl of Lincoln, the father in
law of Thomas of Lancaster, was called ”burst belly” [boule
crevee], Thomas of Lancaster himself was called ”the churl”
or ”the fiddler”, the [2nd] Earl of Pembroke [100]
[a man of honour, which will show later] ”Joseph
the Jew” and  the [10th] Earl of Warwick [101], one of Piers”
most bitter enemies, was called ”the Black Dog of Arden.” [102]
Whether Piers really called his brother in law, the [7th] Earl of Gloucester ”whoreson”, is doubtful, since the lady in question,
Gloucester’s mother [as the mother of Piers” wife]
was the sister of the King….[103]

Yet, although annoying [apart of course from
that ”whoreson” what really was serious]
, one should think, that some
teasing, defeat at a tournament and arrogance would
not trigger such a hatred, as especially Thomas of
Lancaster and Guy de Beauchamp, 10th Earl of Warwick
have had for the vain, witty and charming
Piers, who did them, further [unlike the later
favourite, Hugh Despenser the Younger, who was
real powerseeking and dangerous [104] no harm.

But those were high Earls, most of them royal or
else married with royalty and no men to forget insults,
especially from a man, who was, in their eyes, of
”humble origin” [105] and considered to be an adventurer.

And the King did nothing to stop Piers” arrogance.
On the contrary:
He seemed the witty remarks of Piers ”funny”

Seen the King’s great love and emotional dependence
of Piers Gaveston [as shows not only the  numerous
gifts and honours he bestowed at him, as his reaction
on his banishments], some writers assumed they were lovers
and others, not [106]

I can’t look into the Medieval royal bedchamber, of course, but
given Edward’s great emotional need for Piers, that he swore
vengeance after his death [107] as the fact that
he never forgot him [108], it seems likely to me.


No part to play for Thomas of Lancaster
Not yet……..

Tensions rose between at one side the Earls and barons and
at the other side Piers Gaveston [and subsequently, the King]

This led to the second [Piers was already banished firstly
by Edward I, recalled by Edward II] banishment of Piers Gaveston in 1308

I already mentioned the arrogant behaviour of Piers,
the insulting nicknames, the fact that the King married him
off to a member of the royal family [his niece Margaret
de Clare], Piers” showing off at the coronation
of the King [and Isabella, his wife] [109], his beating of
important members of the nobility at the tournament
of Wallingford, the fact, that the King had made him
regent during his absence [his marriage in France, with
Isabella, daughter of King Philip IV] [110]

Reasons enough for the high and mighty Lords to hate Piers.
What I DIDN’T mention [and do now], that the King
refused to see any of his barons unless Piers was also present, and rudely ignored them, talking only to Piers. [111]

The Medieval
chronicle Vita Edwardi Secundi [Latin: Life of Edward the Second]
wrote about Piers” growing arrogance:’
””scornfully rolling his upraised eyes in pride and in abuse, he looked down upon all with pompous and supercilious countenance…indeed the superciliousness which he affected would have been unbearable enough in a king’s son.”

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, the Earls and barons must have said:
He has to go!

Under pressure of nearly every member of the nobility, the King was forced to banish Gaveston. [112]

Another powerful influence came from the French King, Philip IV
who, apparently offended by the Edward II’s favouritism
of Gaveston and the [intended or not] neglect, at least
at the coronation banquet [113] of his [Philip IV’s] daughter Isabella, and Edward’s wife, supported the barons. [114]

According some sources he said to have sent 40,000 livres to the earls of Lincoln [Thomas of Lancaster’s father
in law] and Pembroke to encourage them to proceed against Gaveston. [115]

Strangely although, at that time Thomas of Lancaster was
still supportive to the King, along with a small minority,
and was not behind the banishment. [116]
However, that would change, dramatically

Well, on 18 may [1308] Edward consented to exile
Piers, which he did grudgedly, but with no choice:
Civil war was treathening [figure, ONE YEAR a King
and already the nobility willing to rise against you…..]
and although he was stripped from his lands [being
Earl of Cornwall], but was allowed to hold the title.
And he was not without an income!
Edward granted Piers £2000 worth of lands in his homeland of Gascony, and another £2000 of English lands for
him and his wife Margaret [who accompanied him
in exiler, although she was not banished, being
the granddaughter of King Edward I and the sister
of the Earl of Gloucester.
Edward also gave him a gift of 1180 marks, about 786 pounds, an enormous sum ![117]

And he was not actually BANISHED from the realm, since
he was appointed Lieutenant General in Ireland, where he
showed [granted] a skilled military administrator and even
beat down a rebellion. [118]

Meanwhile Edward did his utmost to bring Piers back.
Through distribution of patronage and concessions to political demands, he won over several of the earls who had previously been of a hostile disposition. [119]
Henry de Lacy [Earl of Lincoln, Thomas
of Lancaster’s father in law], who was the leader of the baronial opposition due to his age and great wealth, was reconciled with Edward by late summer 1308. Even Warwick, who had been the most unyielding enemies, of Gaveston, was gradually mollified
The excommunication with which Piers was threatened by the
Archbishop of Canterbury should he come
back, was nullified by Pope Clement V. [120].
That was in april 1309.

So the way was free for Piers to return.
Of course it had come with a price:
At the parliament that met at Stamford in July, Edward had to agree to a series of political concessions, The so-called Statute of Stamford was based on a similar document Edward I had consented to in 1300, called the articuli super carta, which was in turn based on Magna Carta.

The ”Statute of Stamford” implied a promiose to redress baronial grievances. [121]

At 27 june 1309, Piers had returned to England.
On 5 August 1309, Gaveston was reinstated with the earldom of Cornwall.



You would expect some modesty, some cautiousness.

But no, Piers Gaveston was as arrogant as ever, perhaps
even worse and the King did nothing to stop him.
He played the old game again, provocating the nobility
and giving them insulting nicknames. [122]

Of course the Earls and barons were furious!
They had enough of it.

The political climate became so hateful that in February 1310, a number of the earls refused to attend parliament as long as Gaveston was present. Gaveston was dismissed, and, when parliament convened, the disaffected barons presented a list of grievances they wanted addressed. On 16 March, the King was forced to appoint a group of men to ordain reforms of the royal household.[This group of so-called Lords Ordainers cons isted of eight earls, seven bishops and six barons.[123]

Among them supporters of the King, like the Earl of Gloucester
[his nephew and brother in law of Piers Gaveston], but also die hard
opponents of Piers Gaveston [and subsequently the King], like
the [10th] Earl of Warwick and Thomas of Lancaster, who was now
neither a friend of the king, nor of Piers Gaveston.
The natural leader of the Ordainers was ”burst belly” [nickname
by Piers Gaveston….], Henry de Lacy, the [3rd] Earl of Lincoln
and father in law of Thomas of Lancaster.
Lincoln had a moderate influence, which, alas, would disappear…..


The meaning of the Ordinances, as eventually presented in 1311 [124], was
The great Lords wanted to get rid of Piers Gaveston, surely, but I
think, that even when there had been no Gaveston, such as the Ordinances
would have been presented [since Edward II was not the strong leader
his father was], aiming at limiting royal power.

To say it otherwise:
The eternal struggle between centralization and decentralization, as
I have described in part one.


Hatred against Piers Gaveston, the ”Gascon adventurer” and his
influence over the King, combined with adesire for reforms, partly
based on the ideas of Simon de Montfort [125]
Partly [or mainly, as you see it] based on greater influence for
the nobility and a weaker kingship.

With the King doting over Gaveston no difficult task…..

Anyway, to cut a long story short:

When the Lord Ordainers were working on reforms [consisting
diminishing royal power], the King launched a military campaign against
the Scots, but many barons refused to follow him.
Except his nephew [and brother in law of Gaveston] Gloucester, Warenne [126] and of course, Piers Gaveston.
It came to nothing, however, when the Scottish King and leader
Robert the Bruce [127] refused to engage in open battle, or even get involved in negotiations.
In February, Gaveston was sent with an army north from
Roxburgh to Perth, but he failed to track down the Scottish army. [128]


In the meantime it went worse and going to a new tragedy for the
King and Gaveston:
”Burst Belly”, Thomas of Lancaster’s father in law died on 6 february 1311,
which meant the end of the moderate influence in the
baronial opposition against the King.

Thomas of Lancaster, as his heir [now in the possession of five Earldoms,
three from his father and two from his father in law]
became the new leader of the Lords Ordainers and  a hardliner!

With the Ordainers ready to present their programme of reform, Edward had to summon a parliament. In late July he appointed Gaveston Lieutenant of Scotland, and departed for London.
The Bruce still evaded the English successfully, in early August even staging a raid into northern England, and shortly after this Gaveston withdrew to Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland.

When parliament met on 16 August, the King was presented with a set of proposed reforms of the royal household, as well as specific attacks on individuals, including a demand for the renewed exile of Piers Gaveston.
Edward initially offered to agree to the reforms as long as Gaveston was allowed to stay, but the Ordainers refused.

The King eventually had to agree to the Ordinances, which were published on 27 September.
On 3 November, two days after the allotted deadline, Gaveston left England ………..[129]

A triumph for the barons
A deep, personal tragedy for the King.


Before continuing with the Piers Gaveston tragedy, some examples of
the detoriation of the relationship between the King and his cousin
Thomas of Lancaster:

In February 1311, Thomas’  father-in-law Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln, died, and Thomas inherited his lands by right of his wife Alice. He had to perform homage to Edward II for the lands, but Edward was then on campaign in Scotland. Thomas refused to cross the Tweed to meet the king; Edward refused to return to England. According to the Lanercost chronicle, Thomas threatened to forcibly enter his lands with a hundred knights, at which Edward gave in and met Thomas at Haggerston, on the English side of the river Tweed.
Whatever they felt for each other by then, the men at least managed to conceal any hostility and “saluted each other amicably and exchanged frequent kisses.” [130]

This in fact was a declaraion of war against his King and is
considered to be treason…..

But there is more:

”In June 1314, Thomas refused to accompany his cousin to Scotland for the Bannockburn campaign, and sent only four knights and four men-at-armsto fulfil his feudal obligations.” [131]

Of course the Gaveston tragedy….. [132]

And in 1316, when open war was imminent between those two
most powerful men in England, the following:

Although Thomas was chosen as one of the godfathers of Edward and Isabella of France’s second son John of Eltham [133], Thomas’s great-nephew, he failed to attend the boy’s christening, a gross insult to the king and queen. [134]

But honesty obliges me to say, that before the christening solemnity of the second son of the King, Thomas and the King seemed
to have had a serious row in York…..[135]

Back to Gaveston:


You noticed the hatred, the barons felt for Piers Gaveston
Their attempts to get rid of him.
And this time, his exile was really
meant forever……

And guess who’s coming to visit?

Came back again.

Despite the fact the barons hated him.
Despite the fact that he was to be excommunicated,
whenever he set his foot on English soil again.

If the man was not playing a crazy and reckless game, his return
must have had a pressing need:
I think perhaps he came back for the birth of his
And for him it must have been a wonderful thing,
that at least he saw his child:
At 12 january, Piers’ wife Margaret gave birth to a
daughter, Joan.
Edward seems to have met Piers at Knaresborough on 13 January, [I don’t know when Piers set foot on English soil]
and the two men rushed the seventeen miles to York that same day, likely so Piers could see his wife and baby. [136]

Seen in the light of the tragic events, it’s good to know
that he at least saw his child, before the tragedy befell him……

What then happened was no clever politics
from the King:
He publicly revoked Gaveston”s exile. [137]
So the barons knew that he was back and were now
preparing for civil war, with Thomas of Lancaster
and The Earl of Warwick ahead!
In march Gaveston was excommunicated [138]
and soon he, the King and Queen Isabella were hunted
down by the barons.

Thomas of Lancaster came after them with an army
and Edward fled with his wife and Gaveston, pursued
by his own cousin Thomas! [139]


Edward should have been warned by this, that if he was not
able to restore his authority in short time, this could be
the beginning of the end!

And it was………

How powerful Thomas of Lancaster must have felt.
As if HE were the King…….

It was a dramatic flight, with a dramatic end.
Edward’s desperate attempts to keep
Gaveston safe seem to have gone so far, that he offered
Robert the Bruce [King of the Scots and the great leader
of the rise against the English domination] to acknowledge
him as King in exchange for the protection of Gaveston. [140]
Which the Bruce refused, who seems to have exclaimed
””How shall the king of England keep faith with me, since he does not observe the sworn promises made to his liege men?…No trust can be put in such a fickle man; his promises will not deceive me.”

I ask my readers:
If the king wanted to go that far to save his favourite, Gaveston,
were they just friends or lovers?
I think, lovers……


Meanwhile the barons, under the leadership of
Thomas of Lancaster, were determined ”to get him”

Thomas of Lancaster nearly captured the King and his favourite,
when they were in Newcastle and the [2nd] Earl of Pembroke [142]
and the [7th] Earl of Surrey, John de Warenne [143], were given the task to capture Gaveston. [144]

The King and Gaveston split up [probably the King wanted
to get reinforcements to protect Gaveston] [145], the king and
Queen went to York and Gaveston was in Scarbourough Castle.
That was the last time, King Edward would ever see Gaveston…..

Soon Gaveston was besieged by Pembroke, Warenne, Henry de Percy
[1st Baron Percy] [146] and Robert de Clifford [1st Baron de Clifford][147]


The rest of the story is gruesome, but one
man should get the credits he deserved.
Aymer de Valence, [2nd] Earl of Pembroke.
As written, Gaveston was besieged in Scarborough by
Pembroke, Warenne, with the help of Henry de Percy
and Robert de Clifford.

Gaveston could not held the castle, so he surrendered to the
The terms of the surrender were that Pembroke, Warenne and Percy would take Gaveston to York, where the barons would negotiate with the king. If an agreement could not be reached by 1 August, Gaveston would be allowed to return to Scarborough. The three swore an oath to guarantee his safety.After an initial meeting with the King in York, Gaveston was left in the custody of Pembroke, who escorted him south for safekeeping.

Pembroke [who was the cousin of the late King Edward I, his father
being the halfbrother of Edward I’s father, King Henry III] [148]
did his utmost to behold his word.
When leaving Gaveston in the rectory at Deddington in Oxfordshire
to visit his wife, Gaveston’s bitter enemy and great ally of Thomas of Lancaster, the 10th Earl of Warwick,
found out about Gaveston’s whereabouts, he immediately rode out to capture him. The next morning he appeared at the rectory, where he took Gaveston captive and brought him back to his castle at Warwick.

Pembroke, who was shocked, that he broke his word without
his guilt and found therefore his honour affronted, did his utmost
to bring Gaveston back:
He appealed for justice both to Gaveston’s brother-in-law Gloucester and to the University of Oxford, but to no avail. [149]


He [Pembroke] was so shocked about what happened thereafter, that
he left the baronial opposition and sided from then with King Edward. [150]


What happened then was dishonourable and criminal:

After putting Gaveston in his dungeons, Warwick sent word
to Thomas of Lancaster, the [4th] Earl of Hereford [married with the
sister of King Edward….] [151] and the [9th] Earl of Arundel [152]

They came to Warwick Castle and in a show trial they condemned poor Gaveston to death [among
else ”for having violated the Ordinances…]
On 19 June, he was taken out on the road towards Kenilworth as far to
a place, Blacklow Hill, which was on the Earl of Lancaster’s land.

There he was beheaded by two Welshmen….. [153]

They at least ”granted” him the ”honour” of
beheading, the nobleman’s death, since he was
the brother in law of the [8th] Earl of Gloucester, the
King’s nephew. [154]

Poor Gaveston, who flew too high and was too vain and
had a too sharp tongue…..

His daughter was just five months old.
She never knew her father [155]


[My Brother Piers, that was the way King Edward II called
Piers Gaveston…] [156]

If Thomas of Lancaster and [the 10th Earl of] Warwick had thought,
that their unlawful killing of Piers Gaveston would end the  threat of civil war,
they were wrong.
It only made things worse.

Not only the King who [understandably] was beside himself of grief and
rage and swore revenge on Gaveston’s killers [157],
many former adherents of Lancaster and Warwick were
alienated from them, shocked by the  illegality and brutality of
the murder of a man, who was only too arrogant, witty and
avarious, but posed no political threat.[158]
That would be totally different in the case of a later favourite, Hugh Despenser
the Younger, who, with his father, also Hugh, 1st Earl of Winchester,
would pose a real political threat, was powerseeking, greedy and dangerous
in a way, Gaveston never was…….[159]
People would miss Gaveston en wish he were here, in place ofthe  Despensers

So the brutal killing of Gaveston had the effect of garnering
support for the king and marginalising the rebellious barons.

So, many  turned to the King again, also those
directly  involved with the fight against Gaveston, especially

the Earl of Pembroke, who reproached Warwick to have offended his
honour by abducting Gaveston, when in his [Pembroke’s] custody
[see above] [160]
But also Warenne, the [7th] Earl of Surrey [161], with Pembroke, one of
the bersiegers of Scarbourough Castle [where Gaveston was hiding]
was pushed back into the kings’ camp, unhappy
about Gaveston’s execution. [162]
By the way:
Later, Warenne would become a bitter enemy of Thomas of
Lancaster, who accused him to have played a role in the abduction
of his wife, Alice de Lacy, with whom he was married unhappily…. [163]

But there was more to it:

Since civil war was still on the move, Thomas of Lancaster and his gang
[let’s bring some humour in this sordid story], the Earls of Warwick and Hereford
[who was, remember, King’s brother in law] [164], brought their armies
in Hertfordshire [immediately North of London] [165] and the King,
moving from York [where he had heard the news of the death of Gaveston],
headed for London.

He arrived in Westminster and on 14 July and stayed there for the rest of the month, and made an impassioned public speech at the house of the Dominicans asking the Londoners to defend the city against Piers Gaveston’s killers.
London supported him and closed the gates of the city against the earls of Lancaster, Warwick and Hereford. [166]


What to do?
That was the question.
Piers Gaveston was brutally murdered, the King wanted
revenge, he went to London, but the murderers of Gaveston
also brought their armies to Hertfordshire [immediately North
of London], although the Londoners closed the gates for them.

Civil war was close to begin, in earnest.

Something had to be done:

There were mediators between the King and the Earls
[Thomas of Lancaster, Guy de Beauchamp, Earl of
Warwick and the Earl of Hereford, brother in law of
the King]
I mention here:

The [8th] Earl of Gloucester, nephew of the King
[who, by the way, had refused to help Gaveston when
imprisoned in Warwick Castle [167]
Lord Clifford [one of the besiegers of Scarbourough,
but further loyal to the King]
Louis, Count of Evreux [168], halfbrother of King Philip
IV [father in law of Edward II], sent by him to mediate.
The Pope [Pope Clement V] [169], sent two
envoys, Arnaud d’Aux, bishop of Poitiers, and Cardinal Arnaud Nouvel.
Another negotiator was Edward II’s first cousin John of Brittany, earl of Richmond, grandson of Henry III [170]

High profile mediators, thus.

Yet a military confrontation threatened throughout the summer and early autumn of 1312.

But, luckily, nothing came from that.

Meanwhile, Edward II must have been consolated in a way
for the grief about Gaveston, when on 13 november 1312,
his first son, the future King Edward III was born [171], which
of course delighted his father [Edward II] and his
mother, Queen Isabella. [172]

Anyway, a treaty was made and sealed in London on 20 December 1312, in the presence of Cardinal Arnaud Nouvel, Arnaud d’Aux, bishop of Poitiers, Louis, count of Evreux, and the earls of Gloucester and Richmond.
It was agreed that the three earls and various barons would make obeisance to Edward II in his great hall at Westminster, “with great humility, on their knees” (oue graunte humilite as genuz/cum magna humilitate flexis genibus) and “humbly beg him to release them from his resentment and rancour, and receive them into his good will.” [173]

The precious goods, belonging to Edward II and Piers Gaveston,
seized by Thomas of Lancaster [174], must be returned
to the King.

On 16 December, four days before the treaty, Edward had granted Lancaster a safe-conduct and permission to use an escort of forty men-at-arms to bring him his possessions.

No action would be taken against Piers’ followers, and the three earls and all their own followers would be pardoned for anything they had done to Piers.

On 16 October 1313 at Westminster, Edward II pardoned the three earls, and more than 350 of their adherents, “of all causes of rancour, anger, distress, actions, obligations, quarrels and accusations, arisen in any manner on account of Piers Gaveston, from the time of our marriage with our dear companion, our very dear lady, Lady Isabella queen of England.”
Over 350 men were pardoned.

Of course this was only a show, because the King wanted
to take his revenge, but was was not in
the opportunity, since the power of the Earls was too strong.

The drama would continue.

And another dramatic addition:

When Piers Gaveston was murdered and the body
[that was simply ”left behind” at the place of the execution
and later found by a group of Dominican friars
brought the body and embalmed the body],
Piers Gaveston could not be buried in consecrated ground,
since he was excommunicated.
So the King had to wait, until he had secured a papal
absolution for his favourite. [176]
Eventually  when the absolution was given, Piers
Gaveston was burned at Langley Priory [founded
by Edward II]
at 2 or 3 january 1315…… [177]



Readers, although the story writes itself, I think you want
to know in advance, what happened to the killers of
Piers Gaveston.

An overview:

Guy de Beauchamp, the [10th] Earl of Warwick:

As been written, Guy de Beauchamp, that great ally
of Thomas of Lancaster and bitter enemy of Piers
Gaveston, had abducted him [Piers Gaveston] from
the custody of the Earl of Pembroke,
brought him to Warwick Castle, put him in one of his dungeons
and awaited Thomas of Lancaster and the Earls of Hereford
and Arundel.
Gaveston was given a mock trial and put to
death at Blacklow Hill.
Warwick didn’t attend the murder, in contary with the other
three Earls.

After Gaveston’s death, Warwick remained the enemy
of the King [received pardon nevertheless] and refused
to participate in the campaign of Edward II against
the Scots, which resulted in the defeat at Bannockburn. [178]
However, In mid-July Warwick had to withdraw from government to his estates, due to illness.[36]
He died on 12 August 1315. [179]
There were rumours that Edward II had him poisoned,
but there is no proof for that. [180]

In contrary with Thomas Lancaster, he was an intelligent and skilled politician and was undoubtedly greatly missed by him [:Lancaster]


One of the killers of Piers Gaveston, who attended his
murder was King’s the [4th] Earl of Hereford.
He did fight in the battle of Bannockburn, was taken
prisoner and although he was out of grace after the
murder of Piers Gaveston, was ransomed by Edward
II, obviously on the pleading of his [Edward’s] wife,
Isabella. [181]
Éventually, he joined the second rebellion of Thomas
of Lancaster and was killed in the Battle of Bouroughbridge.


Together with Thomas of Lancaster and the  Earl of
Hereford, the Earl of Arundel watched the murder of
Piers Gaveston, after [with Warwick, Lancaster and Hereford]
condemning him to death in a mock trial.
However, he turned to the King again in 1313 [and married
his son Richard to the daughter of Hugh Despenser the Younger,
the Kings later favourite].
As result of his loyalty, he was executed in 1326, when
Isabella of France and her [supposed] lover Roger
Mortimer invaded England and deposed Edward II. [183]


The Earl of Pembroke was one of the besiegers of Castle
Scarbourough, where Piers Gaveston was hiding.
And he was a man of honour, who gave Gaveston his
word for his safety and was honestly shocked, when
the Earl of Warwick abducted him.
He tried to save Gaveston by appealing for justice
at the University of Oxford and Gaveston’s brother in
law, the Earl of Gloucester, but to no avail. [184]
Being shocked at this violation of his honour,
he sided with the King again [185], tried to prevent
civil war by mediating between the King and Thomas
of Lancaster.
Eventually he came into trouble because the rise
of the Despensers, was sent to an embassy in France
and died there.  [186]


With the Earl of Pembroke and others one of the besiegers
of Castle Scarbourough.
However, unhappy with the extrajudicial execution of Piers Gaveston,
he sided with the King again.
Later he had a long lasting feud with Thomas of Lancaster over
his supposed role in the abduction of Lancaster’s wife.
Together with the Earl of Arundel, they were the last Earls, who
remained loyal to Edward II, when his wife Isabella of France
and her [possible] lover Roger Mortimer invaded England.
After the execution of Arundel, he went over to Isabella and
Eventually he died peacefully in 1345, as one of the few Earls
during the reign of Edward II. [187]


Together with Thomas of Lancaster he had pusued the King and Gaveston
on their way north.
Later he was one of the besiegers of Castle Scarbourough, but as Pembroke
and Warenne, not involved in the murder of Gaveston.
Yet out of revenge and being less powerful than the Earls, complicitín the
murder, the King confiscated his lands in 1312 and had him imprisoned.
The earls made Percy’s release a priority in their dnegotiations with the king and he was freed in January 1313. and was formally pardoned,

with the others involved. [188]
He didn’t participate in the Battle of Bannockburn, along with five of the earls and many other nobles refused summonses to this campaign because it had not been sanctioned by parliament, as required by the Ordinances.
In the first half of October 1314 Henry Percy died, aged forty one, of unknown causes. [189]


As Henry Percy, baron de Clifford had pusued the King and
Gaveston on their way North, under the leadership of
Thomas of Lancaster.
He also was one of the besiegers of Castle Scarbourough.
And in contrary with Henry Percy, Thomas of Lancaster,
the Earl of Warwick and many other nobles he DID fight
in the Battle of Bannockburn and was killed. [190]

Who also was killed in the Battle of Bannockburn,
was Gilbert de Clare, the [8th] Earl of Gloucester,
the brother in law of Piers Gaveston, who neither pusued him or
besieged him, but refused to help him when was asked
by the Earl of Pembroke. [191]

What happened to Thomas of Lancaster, how his
illustrious life ended, is yet shrouded in mist……

The story will tell…….




A Battle of Bannockburn [1314]
B The Great Famine [1315-1317]
C Lincoln Parliament [1316]/Thomas triumphant
D Three destructive favourites [1315-1318]
E Thomas of Lancaster/Feud with Warenne
F Thomas a peach?/Dangerous incidents
G Pembroke, man of honour/Treaty of Leake [1318]
H Aftermath/The favourites
I After the Treaty of Leake/New danger….

With his good friend and ally the [10th] Earl of Warwick gone, Thomas of Lancaster
not only suffered a personal loss [they were close, since
Warwick had named his son after Thomas [192], but
also it was a political setback.
Warwick was a skilled and clever ruler, while Lancaster,
although tough and forceful in action, was as incompetent as his
cousin Edward II, when it came to ruling, as the story will show…..

From the moment Piers Gaveston was murdered by Thomas and
his accomplices, it was a dance to the death between him
and Edward II, the two most powerful men in the land, yet apart’
from the struggle for power.
For although Edward officially had pardoned Thomas [and others]
for the murder of Gaveston [193],
it was quite clear, that he would never forgive or forget his cousin’s role
in the murder of a man, whom he lhad oved that much.

During  the [unsuccesful] siege of Berwick [in which Thomas of Lancaster
cooperated, for a change, with Edward II], in 1318, Edward was stated to have said::
””When this wretched business is over, we will turn our hands to other matters. For I have not forgotten the wrong that was done to my brother Piers.” [194]

So there was a situation in which two powerful men
competed for the rule of England, both incompetent
rulers, who could not put their own personal feelings above
the general political problems, like the war with the
Scots and internal questions [I’ll refer to the
great Famine between 1315-1317 later]
Disastrous for the country and eventually for




After a tense and dangerous year [since the murder
of Gaveston in 1312], where civil war threatened in a
moment and eventually there seemed some
de escalation, tensions flew high, again.
Presumably with the aim of strenghtening his position
[a victory on the Scots would enlarge both Kings popularity
as his royal position against the barons], Edward II decided to take a military campaign
against the Scots, who were leaded by the formidable military
commander and King, Robert the Bruce. [195]

And yes, Thomas of Lancaster reacted!

As to be expected, in June 1314, Thomas refused to accompany his cousin to Scotland for the Bannockburn campaign, and sent only four knights and four men-at-arms to fulfil his feudal obligations. [196]

The outcome was disastrous.
England suffered one of the most humiliating defeats
against the Scots, in the battle of Bannockburn [197]
in which the King’s nephew [remember, Gaveston’s
brother in law, who had refused to help him], the
[8th] Earl of Gloucester, was killed in battle, [198]
as Robert de Clifford, 1st Baron de Clifford,
one of the besiegers of Piers Gaveston at
Scarbourough Castle. [199]

To the great credit of the King must be said,
that although a bad military commander, he
fought very bravely and eventually they practically
had to drag
him from the battlefield to prevent the greatest
humiliation: to be captured, as would happen, years
later [in 1356], to the French King John II during
the Hundred Years War with England…. [200]

And figure:
A perhaps yearlong regency for his 2 year old
son [Edward, later Edward III, born in 1312…],
under the leadership of….guess who?
Likely, his cousin Thomas, Earl of Lancaster [King’s
halfbrothers were still too young].


The battle of Bannockburn not only was
a great personal humiliation for Edward II, it
put him entirely at Thomas’ mercy. [201]

Had Edward been victorious, he would
have gained a great prestige and popularity, as
secure borders in the North.
That would have strengthened his position
towards Thomas of Lancaster and the other
opposing barons enormously.

But the painful reality was a humiliating defeat
[and for the Scots a great step in their freedom

So Edward needed his cousin Thomas:
Without his help, the borders couldn’t be
defended against the Scottish raids, that now
ravaged English soil. [202]

A nasty position for a King, dependency on
a subject, who was his most powerful
nobleman and enemy.


In name Edward was the King, but the de facto
ruler was Thomas.
Alas, he proved to be as incompetent ruler
as his cousin Edward and although tough in military
action, he nevertheless was incapable to defend England against the Scottish attacks.

Perhaps it is not fair to reproach him that:
Robert the Bruce was an extraordinary skilled
military leader and the Scots were very motivated
to fight for their freedom [in the meantime ravaging
North England….]

But it IS reproachable, that neither the King nor
Thomas were capable to rise above personal
matters to work together in the State interests.

It was said, that
””Whatever pleases the lord king, the earl’s servants try to upset; and whatever pleases the earl, the king’s servants call treachery…and their lords, by whom the land ought to be defended, are not allowed to rest in harmony.” [203]



This disaster lasted from 1315 till 1317:

The first duty of a Medieval Lord [and certainly a King] was to look
to the welfare of the people.
To take care of them.
To feed the poor.
To defend the weak. [204]

When Thomas of Lancaster had sold some of his
precious belongings to feed the poor during that famine,
he should have been a saint already during his life….

That’s a pure joke, of course
Not ONE Lord in that time
would mind about the need of the poor [the chivalric
codes were merely theoretical] or would put it in his
head to sell precious things for the poor.
Besides that, the famine problem was not that simple,
because it was not only merely a question of not
HAVING food, but not capable to PRODUCE it.

The Great Famine started with bad weather in spring 1315. Crop failures lasted through 1316 until the summer harvest in 1317.

It rained heavily and constantly for much of the summer of 1314 and most of 1315 and 1316.
This torrential rain, inevitably, caused flooding; crops rotted away and livestock drowned in the waterlogged fields. So the result was the Great Famine, which is estimated to have killed at least five per cent, and perhaps much more, of the population of England. The rest of northern Europe suffered a similar or higher death toll. [205]

Edward II did his best to handle the crisis, but was not capable
to solve the problem. [206]
Perhaps Thomas of Lancaster took some measures
too, I don’t know.

Of course the famine was a hugh problem, yet it is the task
of rulers to handle wisely and competently.
Both failed, King and cousin, to handle the problems
and of course they didn’t cooperate together, which is
more than just bad ruling.
When famine is concerning, it is a crime against the poor population, which suffered the most.

However, to say to their defence, the situation WAS alarming
and partly they were powerless:
Even the King when visiting St Albans from 10 to 12 August 1315, had difficulties buying bread for himself and his household…….[207]

It is a wonder, that there had been no uprisings or peasants
revolt in that time….

The weather finally improved in 1317, and gradually the famine loosened its dread grip. [208]

Two big disasters and yet the most powerful men in the land couldn’t rise above personal matters and work together…..

A foreboding for all the mess, which was yet to come.


Just when there were such challenges and a need for strong
leadership, Edward II and his cousin Thomas could
do no better than thwarting each other, to the destruction
of many, including themselves.

For example [to begin with Thomas]:

Although Thomas was chosen as one of the godfathers of Edward and Isabella of France’s second son John of Eltham [209], Thomas’s great-nephew, he failed to attend the boy’s christening, a gross insult to the king and queen. [210]

But honesty obliges me to say, that before the christening solemnity of the second son of the King, Thomas and the King seemed
to have had a serious row in York…..[211]

But yet, try to keep the peace, my Lord Lancaster…..

The King acted no better:

”In April 1318 the Scots took the English town of Berwick which led to a shaky reconciliation between Lancaster and his cousin Edward.
The king, however, had not forgotten, or forgiven the death of Gaveston and was so ”wise” to have said:
When this wretched business is over, we will turn our hands to other matters. For I have not forgotten the wrong that was done to my brother Piers”.[212]

Well, the temporary ”peace” was over and Lancaster [Thomas] left. [213]
Not strange, since the remark of the King was aimed
directly against Lancaster, for his role in the murder of Gaveston.

But since the King had pardoned those involved in the
murder of Gaveston in 1313, [214]
he was obliged to his royal status to hold his word, whatever
his personal feelings and how painful for him as a person.

That’s the honour of a King AND wise ruling.
This remark but showed, that Lancaster was right, not
to trust the King…..

Nor could the King trust Lancaster.
And as will be revealed in the story, there were people
around the king, trusted ”friends”, who played a dirty role
to prevent any reconciliation between the King and
cousin Thomas.[215]



The Lincoln parliament of early 1316 – at which Thomas of Lancaster attended,  more than two weeks late – requested of the king’s “dear cousin” that “he might be pleased to be chief of his council, in all the great or weighty matters concerning him [Edward] and his realm,” and Thomas, “for the great love which he bears towards his said lord the king,” agreed. [216]

To cut this shortly
Thomas was appointed to the ”chief place” in the Council
[Chief Councillor]. [217]
Unfortunately, he seemed to take little part in government and
preferred to stay at his favourite residence at Pontefract Castle
[which he had inherited jure uxoris from his father in law,
Henry de Lacy, the 3rd Earl of Lincoln] [218]
That formed a problem, since Edward II and the Council
had to communicate with him ”as though he were an independent
potentate, or another King” [219]
[Hahaha, there was no Internet then/Otherwise they could
have mailed or Facebooked…….”’Dear Cousin”, ”Sire,
my cousin……]


Edward and Thomas met in York in the summer of 1316 and had a furious row, apparently over Edward’s ongoing reluctance to accept the Ordinances [220], to which Thomas was devoted. [221]

Now I can imagine, that Thomas was irritated:
After all Edward II had agreed with the ordinances in 1311, and
although he was more or less coerced to[222], when a King gives
his word, his subjects have a right to expect, that he holds it.
I refer to the last passage from the coronation oath of the
King [pronounced in French]

”Sire, graunte vous à tenir & garder les loys & les custumes droitureles, les quiels la communaute de vostre roiaume aura esleu, & les defendrez & afforcerez, al honour de DIEU, à vostre poer?”
And his answer and promise
Jeo les graunte & promette.”

[English translation:
Sire, do you grant to be held and observed the just laws and customs that the community of your realm shall determine, and will you, so far as in you lies, defend and strengthen them to the honour of God?

Answer and promise of the King
” I grant and promise them.”] [223]

That means of course, that if the King grants the Ordinances,
he has to hold word.
And as a subject, Thomas of Lancaster had the right
to hold the King accountable to his oath. [224]

On the other hand I can understand the King’s position
He was more or less coerced to those Ordinances, which
assaulted his royal position.
Yet a King is bound to his ”promises”…..

But of course that was not the point here.

After the brutal murder on Gaveston, any conflict
between Edward II and Thomas of Lancaster was in fact
about the King’s need for revenge on his cousin.
Maybe understandable being a private person, but a
King must put the interests of the State first.
And that Edward II was not willing or able
to do.

That was the King’s tragedy, which would led to his downfall.



To make matters worse, the next years [untill the
”reconciliation” treaty of Leake], three friends and
favourites of Edward II, declared enemies of Thomas
of Lancaster, would do their utmost to further arouse
Edward’s hostility towards his cousin Thomas.
Their names were Roger Damory, Hugh Audley and
William Montecute [father of that William Montecute,
close friend of Edward III, who helped him overthrow
the regime of his mother Isabella of France and her lover
Roger Mortimer] [225]
And I am not exaggerating, when saying, that their influence
was destructive, doing everything to enlarge the tensions
in the country.

Roger Damory/Favourite and first disturber of the peace

After having mourned Piers Gaveston for about three years, Edward II had a close companion again [I don’t speculate, whether
their relationship was sexually intimate or not, let the reader
form his or her own opinion] in Roger Damory,
the most important of the three favourites [ancestor of Walt Disney, hahahaha] [226]
That man was one of a kind:

First favourite of the King [about 1315-1319], later ally of the same Thomas of Lancaster he tried to destroy during the time
he was favourite……[227]
Joining the retinue of King’s nephew, the [8th] Earl of Gloucester
[also brother in law of Piers Gaveston, whom Gloucester didn’t help, when he [Gaveston] was in the dungeons of Warwick Castle]
, Damory fought bravely
in the Battle of Bannockburn [1314] and thus attracted the King’s attention.
And so he made a quick career. [228], which especially
seemed to have been characterized by seeking his own advantage
and hinder all reconciliation attempts between Edward II and his] cousin Thomas of Lancaster. [229]
Rightly Pope John XXII wrote to King Edward ” to “remove those friends whose youth and imprudence injure the affairs of the realm.” [230]
By the way, Edward II married Roger Damory to his
niece, Elizabeth de Clare, sister of the [8th] Earl
of Gloucester. [231]

Hugh Audley/Favourite and second disturber of the peace
[only favourite to survive the reign of Edward II  and also
rebel against the King and ally of Thomas of Lancaster
and the Marcher Lords]

Hugh Audley rose in royal favour in 1315 and the relationship
came that close, that Edward II married him to his niece
Margaret de Clare, sister of the [8th] Earl of Gloucester
and dowager countess of Cornwall, widow of Edward II’s
beloved Piers Gaveston [232].
That was a beautiful catch!
Remember, Edward married Roger Damory to his other
niece Elizabeth, sister of Margaret de Clare.

William Montecute/Favourite and third disturber of the peace

William Montecute, father of his namesake William, who
was one of the closesr friends of Edward III [233], rose
into royal favour after 1315 and was a good soldier.
He was appointed steward of the royal household in 1317,
which gave him direct access to the King, so a powerful
position. [234]
He had a reputation as a good soldier. [235]

Alas, he also was a great hindrance in bringing reconciliation
between Edward II and his cousin, Thomas of Lancaster……


Roger Damory, Hugh Audley and William Montecute
had a highly destructive and fatal influence on the
King, intruiging against Thomas of Lancaster at any means
The reason I condemn them so harshly is because this
dangerous policy led to further destabilisation of
the situation in the land, which was already torn
apart by the continuing threat of civil war, because of
the enmity between Edward and his cousin Thomas.

And as I see it, the destructive policy came mainly
from those three favourites, not from Thomas of
Lancaster [Thomas is no peach at all, but here he was
certainly not the attacker], who had reason to
feel himself threatened by those three.

For example [list is not complete]

At a meeting of the king’s council at Clarendon in the spring of 1317, the three openly called Thomas a traitor. [236]

That is a very serious accusation, dangerous too.

So understandably, Thomas protested.
He sent letters to the King, to say that “he fears the deadly stratagems of certain persons who thrive under the protection of the royal court…they have already carried off the earl’s wife to his disgrace and shame.” [on the history of his wife I refer later] [237]
That he subsequently [and repeatedly] asked the banishment from
Court of Damory, Audley and Montecute, comes as no suprise
either, since those gentlemen continued to sow discord
and counselled the king to remain hostile to his cousin. [238]

Out of self interest of course, and highly damaging for the
peace in the country.

Edward II, no great champion in knowledge of human nature,
was misled by those three and wrote Thomas, as reaction of
his letters with the request of banishment
””I will avenge the despite done to the earl when I can; I refuse to expel my household; for the abduction of his wife let him seek a remedy in law only.” [239]
By this, the King made things worse.

And Thomas was not alone, but was supported by Pope
John XXII, who wrote the King repeatedly in 1317 and 1318,
warning the King  not to allow any “backbiter or malicious flatterer” to bring about disunity between himself and Thomas, and to send away from court those men who offended the earl. [240]
He advised the King to “remove those friends whose youth and imprudence injure the affairs of the realm. [241]
He also warned  Thomas to “separate himself” from those who displeased Edward and to reject “suggestions of whisperers and double-tongued men.”[242]

The Pope was a real peacemaker!
In addition to the King and his cousin Thomas, he also
wrote to Thomas’ brother, Henry, [later] Earl of Lancaster several times in 1318 as a close kinsman of both the king and Thomas and “bound to pay them reverence and affection,” asking him to promote accord between them “so that the realm may be freed from disturbance” [243]

I don’t know whether Henry tried to mediate, since
it is likely, that he spent the most of that period
in France [perhaps because he wouldn’t be involved
in his brothers’ feud with the King? } [244]

But the machinations of the three favourites were
not done yet:

After several summons of the King to Thomas of
Lancaster to attend council meetings, which he not
attended [not suprisingly, since the three favourites attended,
sometimes armed…][245], the King asked his household and
friends for advice in this situation:
””You see how the earl of Lancaster has not come to parliament. You see how he scorns to obey our commands. How does it seem to you?” [246]
Some advised to arrest or exile Thomas, others, more sensible,
advised to negociate.
After all, although politically isolated now, Thomas of
Lancaster WAS a force of nature, since very powerful by the
possession of his five Earldoms and not to be underestimated,
his private army.

Be as it may, a very dangerous situation threatened:

To cut a long story short:
At the instigation of two cardinalswho had recently arrived in the country – they were with the king at York in September 1318 – a date was finally set for a meeting between Edward and Thomas, although it was postponed.
Edward agreed to take no hostile action against Thomas and his adherents, and Thomas agreed to attend the next parliament, due to be held at Lincoln in January 1318. [247]

At the beginning of October 1317, The King left York to return to London.
Alas, despite his promise a few days earlier not to take action against his cousin, he commanded his men to take up arms and attack him. [248]
Apparently one of Edward’s friends – most likely Roger Damory – had persuaded him that the earl posed a threat to Edward and that he should attack him first.
Fortunately the King informed the earl of Pembroke beforehand what he was intending to do.
He said “I have been told that the earl of Lancaster is lying in ambush, and is diligently preparing to catch us all by surprise.” [249]
Pembroke fortunately managed to convince Edward that this was not in fact the case, and talked the King out of it…..[250]

This unsound situation would continue from 1315 to 1318,
when the man of honour [see the Piers Gaveston story], Lord
Pembroke and the Middle Party intervened and managed to
reach the Treaty of Leake. [251]
But that’s for later



Never a dull moment in the Edward II/Thomas of
Lancaster times.
Not only Edward and his cousin had become
bitter enemies, which included enmity between
Lancaster and the named destructive favourites,
Thomas also had a bitter feud with John de Warenne,
7th Earl of Surrey [one of the besiegers of Piers Gaveston
in Scarbourough Castle].
What the original nature of the hatred of Warenne for Lancaster
was, is not sure:
Probably he blamed Lancaster for his [Warenne’s] inability to secure a divorce [he was unhappily married]. This may be because Lancaster had persuaded the Bishop of Chichester to prosecute Warenne for his adultery [252]

In each case, Warenne retaliated with the abduction
of Lancaster’s wife, Alice de Lacy, with whom he [Lancaster]
was unhappily married. [253]
Whether the abduction took place with or without
the consent of Lady Alice, is not clear.
Lancaster, not a man to forgive an insult, retaliated again
with seizing two castles from Warenne. [254]

At last the King intervened, which led to an uneasy
peace between the two noblemen. [255]


However, Lancaster also thought, that the three favourites
were behind the abduction [256], which made matters
worse and worse…….


[Jeering at the King/1318/1320/Blocking his way….]

The attentive reader shall have noticed, that I defended
Thomas of Lancaster several times:
Against the unpredictable behaviour of the King
[stating not to attack Lancaster and yet planning
an attack, not holding his word and failing to obey the Ordinances
of 1311] [257]
Against his destructive favourites, who did everything
in their power to prevent a reconciliation between the
King and his cousin Thomas.

But was Thomas then, a peach, only intended to hold
the King to his word?

The reader has read about his [and others’]  execution
of poor and vain Piers Gaveston.
That’s not ”peach” behaviour, but lawless and ruthless.

The King, on his part, was not ”true to his word”, stating
at one moment not to attack Thomas, and the second
moment attempting to attack him [Thanks to
the Earl of Pembroke, nothing came from that]
Stating to observe the ordinances and then not
to hold his promise.

But to the defence of the King must be said, that Thomas
did, also, his best to stir up the animosity”, which the
King [understandably] harboured because of the tragic
murder on Gaveston:

I already mentioned the absence of Thomas at the
battle of Bannockburn, as his failing to attend the
christening of the Kings second son, John of
Eltham, although he was one of the godfathers. [258]

But it became worse:


During the time of high tension [when the three favourites
accused Thomas of treason, his wife Alice had been abducted]
Edward and Isabella left Nottingham and the failed council meeting on 7 August 1317 [where Thomas didn’t attend, not willing
to meet the King, as long as the three destructive favourites were
not expelled from Court]] , and travelled to York. The most direct route would have taken Edward right through the town, but Thomas had blocked his way by placing armed guards on the roads and bridges south of York,
claiming he had the right to be informed about the
movement of armed men as he was the hereditary Steward
of England…..[259]

Of course the King was furious that a subject had blocked his way!


Next to blocking the King’s path in his own Kingdom,
one of the worst things subjects can do is, make
a joke of their King, by jeering at him.
And that was precisely what Thomas of Lancaster
”Thomas made matters worse by leading his men out to the top of the castle ditch and jeering at Edward as he and his retinue travelled past. [260]

After the parliament in York ended [which Thomas failed to
attend], Edward II and his wife Isabella of France travelled through Pontefract on their way to London, and Thomas’s retainers once again jeered at the king, and also the queen, from the safety of the castle. [261]

Not very clever……



Finally a reconciliation
between the two most powerful men, Edward II and his cousin Thomas,
was about to take place.
With special compliments for the Earl of Pembroke, the man of honour, who
had been offended by Gaveston’s abduction since he had given
his word [262].
The same man, who had talked Edward II out of his foolish
and dangerous intention to attack Thomas of Lancaster at his
stronghold at Pontefract [263]

With Pembroke playing an important role,
since April 1318, a group of barons and prelates [the
”Middle Party] [264] had been negotiating with the earl of Lancaster, and trying to persuade Edward and his cousin to overcome their hostility to each other. On 8 June, they came to a preliminary agreement: Edward would uphold the  Ordinances, govern by the counsel of his magnates, and conciliate Thomas, who was threatened with sanctions if he continued to hold armed assemblies [which he indeed had held,
but also the King had permitted armed Lords to his councils]. [265]

On 7 August 1318 the two men exchanged the kiss of peace in a field between Loughborough and Leicester. Edward gave his cousin a fine palfrey “in recognition of his great love” of Thomas. (Hmmmm.) A formal agreement, the Treaty of Leake, was signed in the town of Leake near Loughborough two days later [266]

Thomas of Lancaster demanded [and right he was!] that
Roger Damory, Hugh Audley and William Montacute be sent away from court, the King consented and off they went…..[267]




Finally the destructive influence of the King’s
three favourites had come to an end!

How fared they?

Roger Damory

From Kings friend to enemy

His influence was over, athough he seemed to have been in the
favour of the king for a while.
At last, he clashed with the new and most destructive favourite
of the King, Hugh Despenser the Younger [268], joined the Marcher
Lords [sworn enemies of the Despensers, father and son and
allies of Thomas of Lancaster] [269]
He fought with the Marcher Lords against the Kings army, was
captured and tried [condemned to the traitor’s death, which was
not executed, happily for him] and died at Tutbury Priory on 12 March 1322, presumably of wounds sustained fighting against the royal army…… [270]

William Montecute

As his co favourites Roger Damory and Hugh Audleu he had
done everything to instigate further animosity between Edward II
and his cousin Thomas of Lancaster.
Therefore he was removed from his post as steward of the royal household and appointed steward of Gascony in november
He died in Gascony in 1319. [271]

Hugh Audley

Hugh Audley also turned from the friend of the King
to his enemy…..
Hugh fought with the Marcher Lords against the King
[and the Despensers] and later fought at the side of
Thomas of Lancaster [the Marcher Lords were his ally]
in the fatal Battle of Bouroughbridge [272].
He was spared execution thanks to his wife Margaret de
Clare’s pleas [she was the niece of Edward II and widow
of his former lover Piers Gaveston], somehow
survived the reign of Edward II and the regime
of his wife Isabella of France and lover Roger Mortimer [see his life/273]
and died peacefully in november 1347. [274]

He was the only one of Edward II’s favourite to
survive those turbulent times.



By late 1318, the relationship between Edward II and the earl of Lancaster was relatively good and Pembroke and
the other barons [as the other subjects of the King]
doubtless sighed with relief, because civil war
seemed to be at the end.
And for those, who doubt Thomas:
He actually co-operated with the king and took part in the siege of Berwick in 1319. [275]
But as we shall see:
Nothing lasts forever and the destructive favourites
would soon be replaced by a far more dangerous man:
Hugh Despenser the Younger [276], who would lead the King
to his destruction and his own [Hugh’s]

More about the Despensers and Thomas of Lancaster’s
role in the next chapter.



[February-August 1321]


This ”book” [this article is so long, beginning to show like a book
really, patience readers] is about Thomas of Lancaster, but since
so many other players play a part in this magnificent story, they
have to be described too.
Especially to point out the complicated situation and all those
changements of alliances…..
I will mention the events of the war, but probably not all details, I am sorry
Would I have done that, it would fill a university paper…
For more reading, just look to the notes below…….

The reader must realize also, that in the first phase of
the Despenser war, the role of Thomas of Lancaster is
important, but limited.
The biggest role is played by his allies
the Marcher Lords.
You will see, that in fact, they started the war, which
was, in short, due to the Kings excessive favouritism
of his friends the Despensers.
The first phase of the war ends with the coerced banishment
of the Despensers.

A Prelude
B United against the King’s favourites/
Despenser war/Unlikely allies
C The storm breaks out/Despenser war/ started/Sworn Oaths/Fist to
fist/Toe to toe/I [First phase february-august 1321]



In chapter five I wrote, that Thomas of Lancaster cooperated
well with the King in the unsuccesful siege of Berwick  [in the war
against the Scots][277]
But as I wrote earlier, the fragile co operation between
the two most powerful men, was ruined by the following
remark of the King
””When this wretched business is over, we will turn our hands to other matters. For I have not forgotten the wrong that was done to my brother Piers.” [278]
That despite the earlier pardons for the murder
of Piers Gaveston, the King had issued in
1313 [279] and the extended pardons to Lancaster and
his allies, given at the Treaty
of Leake. [280]
To say it again:
A king must rise above his personal feelings and must
be true to his word.
Edward II couldn’t or wouldn’t do that……

That being said:
Understandably Thomas of Lancaster, knowing
that the King’s remark about Piers Gaveston was directly aimed against him,
said ”Hasta la vista” and left Berwick. [281]
And from that moment, relations between the two men deterioriated again.

But not only the unpredictability of the King was to blame
for the deteriation between the two men,
also the rising of a new star favourite, more dangerous
than all the others had been:
You’ve met him already:
Hugh Despenser the Younger [282] and
with his coming, things would never be the same again….

To be fair, Thomas himself was certainly NOT
innocent either [not to speak about the murder of Gaveston],
because of his repeated provocations of the King.
I wrote about it in chapter five
Jeering at the King from his [Thomas’] castle Pontefract,
in 1317 [that jeering would be repeated in 1320 with the Queen accompanying the King] [283]
Once blocking the King’s path…. [284]

That could be considered as treason, and not without reason!
In each case it was to be expected, that the King would not
consider those insults lightly as will appear in this
story….. [285]



Thomas of Lancaster and his allies
The Marcher Lords and allies
Two former royal favourites

The last ”fight to the death” between Thomas and his cousin,
King Edward II, was actually a fight against the influence
of a new, far more dangerous favourite, Hugh
Despenser the Younger [286] and his father,
Hugh Despenser, 1st Earl of Winchester[ Despenser
the Elder]. [287]
Who were in this fight and why?
Thomas of Lancaster of course, being the leader
of the baronial opposition against the King,
the ”Marcher Lords” [288],
Roger Mortimer and his uncle, Roger Mortimer de
Chirk [289] and their allies.
And, painfully for Edward II, his two former favourites, Roger Damory and Hugh
Audley. [290]
Once deadly enemies of Thomas of Lancaster, now allies……

In the last battle Lancaster would fight against his king,
the battle of Boroughbridge [291], Hugh Audley  would even
fight at his side…..[292]
While Sir Robert Holland, his [Thomas’] close and die hard ally, would abandon him
in his hour of need… [293]
Something Thomas’ brother Henry of Lancaster [who by
the way NOT participated in any of his brother”s rebellions, although
he seemed to be involved in the anti Despenser coalition]
[294] , would not forget or forgive…..[295]

This anti Despenser  fight [and subsequently against the King]
was called the ”Despenser war”, with the aim to
crush the Despenser’s influence over the King, which
would eventually result  in avariciousness and tyranny. [296]
But that’s for later.

What thar Despenser influence really meant?

For the Marcher Lords, to be robbed of their lands
and privileges, as the revival of an old feud.

The former favourites of the King held a grudge against Hugh
Despenser the Younger regarding his land grabbing as
the ”Gloucester inheritance case”[see below]

And for Thomas of Lancaster it was threefold:
A personal matter [he seemed to have loathed Despenser
the Elder, the reason why I don’t know]
A wish to curb royal power through the Ordinances [297]
[which included no avaricious favourites].
And of course [let’s not make an idealist of Thomas, hahaha]
a personal need for power.


As written in chapter four, after the death of his father in law in 1311,
the 3rd Earl of Lincoln [called ”Burst Belly” by vain and tragic Piers Gaveston],
Thomas became very powerful [inherited from his father in law the Earldoms
Lincoln and Salisbury, already in the possession of Lancaster, Leicester and
Derby, inherited from his own father, Edmund Crouchback, brother of King
Edward I].
So he became the ”natural” leader of the opposition against
Edward II and his favourite Piers Gaveston.
After the battle of Bannockburn in 1314, which ended so destastrous
for England, Edward II was at the mercy of Thomas, in name King,
while Thomas was the real king, de facto.
See chapter five
He became gradually politically isolated  [298] [not attending parliaments,
personal conflicts/feuds with other barons, no wise political insight, lack
of governmental talents, unable to protect the borders
against the Scottish raids, etc], but was yet too powerful
to be ignored, because of his five Earldoms and,not to forget, his royal
birth [being first cousin of Edward II]

However, when the resistance against the Despensers grew, The Marcher
Lords and others looked up to Thomas as a leader of the resistance
again, since he was the most constant factor in the struggle
against King’s favourites [and the King]….. [299]

Together, they would go ”fist to fist’, toe to toe” in this rebellion……[300]


Let’s say it like it is.
The Despensers, father and son, were a bunch of thieves
and criminals, who went into length to aggrandise their power
and wealth, with less [or not at all] scrupules.
From noble birth, admitted and married into the royal family [301],
but nevertheless, thieves.
Whether Hugh Despenser the Younger [favourite of the
King] was really attached to Edward II[302]  is food for
Medieval historians [although even they can’t look into
the royal bedchamber, supposedly Hugh was the ”husband”
of Edward II, as Queen Isabella would write later [303].
In each case, he was a shameless royal adventurer
[funny side  was, not for his victims of course, that he was a pirate
during his exile, hahahahaha [304]
And one thing was sure:
Edward II was really very attached to him. [305]


Appointed as chamberlain of the King in 1318, Hugh moved himself
into the affections of the King [306], replaced the former royal
favourites [Roger Damory, Hugh Audley and William Montecute]
and the Piers Gaveston story [but this time a far more dangerous
player] started all over again.
But this time worse, given the greed and avariciousness of
the Despensers, their excessive ambition and need for
political power.
They didn’t allow anyone access to Edward unless at least one of them was present.
Even Queen Isabella couldn’t see her husband alone! [307]
Such a crazy situation existed….

Back to the avariciousness of the Despensers:

In the Middle Ages, land was power and that was just the thing
the Despensers wanted.
They wanted to build a huge ‘empire’ in South Wales and
that was the very territory where the Marcher Lords
[keepers of the borders with Wales] had lands.
They feared their lands to be taken over, with consent
of the King [who was infatuated with our Hugh Despenser..]

Their fears were proved to be right.
In october 1320 Edward II ordered the peninsula of Gower in South Wales to be taken into his own hands, apparently to
give it to Hugh Despenser.
See for the whole, complicated story, note 308
Roger Mortimer , his uncle Roger Mortimer of
Chirk and the other Marcher Lords were furious, considering
this as a deprivation of their rights [309]
Hugh Despenser was granted also other lands in the
Marches [Welsh territory]’, which was taken fromRoger
Mortimer and  other Marcher Lords [310]

Not only unfair, but also foolish of Edward, since
most of the Marcher Lords, especially Roger Mortimer and his uncle, were, until Edward’s clear favouritism of
Despenser, at the cost of them and the other
Marcher Lords, were loyal to the throne. [311]

To make matters complicated, there also was an old
feud between Marcher Lords Roger Mortimer [and his uncle,
Roger Mortimer de Chirk] and the Despensers….
Read about that in note 312


Hugh Despenser the Younger [as his father] had a mastertalent to
incite the fury and hatred from his colleague noblemen.
He pushed the Marcher Lords to the edge with his avariciousness
and unlimited ambition, and his avariciousness also led to a big
conflict with two former favourites of Edward II, Roger Damory and
Hugh Audley:

Not only Hugh Despenser replaced Damory and
Audley as favourites[also Montecute, but he played no further role, died in 1319 in
Gascony], he also claimed the best lands from the Gloucester inheritance.
[Hugh Despenser, Hugh Audley and Roger Damory were married to
the three sisters of the 8th Earl of Gloucester and when he died in the
battle of Bannockburn childless, his sisters were his heirs] [313]

And to further enrage Damory and Audley:
In october 1320 Edward II took the South Wales peninsula of Gower into his own hands prior to granting it to Hugh Despenser
See for background information about that, note 314
Despenser also had taken the Welsh lands of Hugh
Audley. [315]
That Despenser really was a man, who knew how to
make friends……[hahahahahaha] [316]

Is it wonder, that men like the Marcher Lords
, who once were loyal to the throne,
were driven into rebellion and that even sworn enemies
as Thomas of Lancaster and the former favourites found each other and fought side by side?




The Marcher Lords on the rampage/sworn oaths:

The  MarcherLords must have thought:
”Attack is the best way of defence.”

Because the war started with them attacking the
Despenser lands and properties in Wales. [317]
Those calamities [sacking, looting, pillaging,
with most of the victims of course the common
people….] took place from may 1321.
Stealing from the Despensers was one thing, far more
worse was, that, as usual, the poor and defenseless people
paid the highest price:
Sacking, looting, pillaging, extorting money
from poor villagers with the threath of burning their
village. [318]
It was degrading and cruel.
Those same horrors the Marcher Lords would repeat
in the second phase of the Despenser war, in
november and december 1321. [319]

But before going on the rampage, the Marcher Lords had arranged for support in the back:

In february 1321, they held a meeting with Thomas of
Lancaster [probably at his favourite Castle Pontefract]
and there was decided to attack
Despenser lands. [320]
However, Thomas  did not take part in the attack

As a reaction on the Marcher Lords-Lancaster agreement
[to attack Despenser lands], Edward II responded in March by mobilising his forces in Wales, demonstrating that he intended to make any attack on the Despensers an attack on the crown, and therefore treasonable

That was no clever movement of the King, thereby confirming his onesided favouritism of the Despensers
and making it nearly impossible for those who were hesitant
to go into rebellion, to stay loyal to the crown.
At the other hand, the King tried to placate the
rebels [or resistance fighters against the Despenser
avariciousness, it depends from how you see it], by
calling them [the Marcher Lords] to convene with him [first in Gloucester, later in Bristol] to no avail. [322]

After attacking Despenser properties [lands, castles, etc]
as much as they pleased, Roger Mortimer and Hereford
[brother in law of Edward II and together with Thomas of Lancaster, the 10th Earl of Warwick and the 9th Earl of
Arundel, the murderer of Piers Gaveston in 1312] marched
North to join Lancaster at Pontefract.

In june the barons swore an alliance at Sherburn-in-Elmet,
near Pontefract, calling their faction
the ”Contrariants” and promised
to remove the Despensers for good.
Sadly for Thomas and his allies:
An attempt to attract the northern Lords to
their cause failed.
They stayed loyal to the King. [323]

Lancaster and the Marcher Lords would swear an oath once more on 29 november 1321, in the second phase of
the Despenser war ”to maintain what they had
commenced” [324]


March on London
”We bow down to no man”………..

One thing you can say about the Marcher Lords”
They DID have guts……..

Not only destroying, looting, pillaging, extortioning
and terrorising as they pleased and not
only the Despenser possessions [and innocent
people, who were unlucky to live on Despenser
lands] [325].

No, they went farther.
Much farther…..

After making their alliance with Thomas of
Lancaster at Sherburn-in-Elmet [326], the
Marcher Lords marched [hahaha, but that was what
they did] from Sherburn [near Pontefract, in
Yorkshire] to…….London….
From all places, they had the audacity to march
on the royal centre of power….

From Yorkshire to London they repeated the
same atrocities as in Wales:
Assault, extortion and terror:
They seized victuals from local inhabitants and pillaged the countryside – not only Despenser manors – all the way from Yorkshire to London. [327]
Four Marchers [John Mowbray, Stephen Baret, Jocelyn Deyville and Bogo Bayouse] even robbed the Church in Laughton-en-le-Morthen [in Yorkshire] [328]

Further they tried to buy people’s allegiance with money, and seized the property of those who refused to join them. [329]

Real maffia practices……

But that terrorising and pillaging was only
a [bad] game:
Their goal was London, to put pressure on the King
in order to banish the Despensers for good.

When they arrived outside of London on july 1321,
not really surprisingly [even without Internet
and smartphone, bad news travels fast], the citizens
of London refused to let them in.
The King also refused to meet them or even to listen to their demands that the Despensers be perpetually exiled from England, and they and their heirs disinherited “as false and traitorous criminals and spies.” [330]

Then, to go  a stadium further [in fact that was treason]
, they   placed themselves and their armies outside the city walls, at strategic locations, to prevent the king leaving……[331]

Let us put this straight:

They then sent two knights as envoys to Edward II, to tell him that they held both Hugh Despensers “enemies and traitors to you and to the kingdom, and for this they wish them to be removed from here.” [332]
Not surprisingly, the King, again, refused to meet the envoys.

On 1 August the Marchers entered London, while their
great ally, Thomas of Lancaster, arrived also in August to support
them. [333]
Meanwhile, Despenser the Younger threatening them
from a ship  on the River Thames, and the rebels [Contrariants]
threatened  to begin to destroy royal properties and lands outside London unless he desisted. [334]

To cut a long story short:
the earls of Pembroke, Richmond, Surrey and Arundel finally brought the Marchers’ demands to Edward. If he refused to consent to the Despensers’ exile, he would be deposed. [335]

Even then the King refused.



And as in the chess play [336], where the Queen holds the most
important playing position, the solution came from Queen

Queen Isabella went down on her knees before her husband and begged him, for the good of his realm, to exile the Despensers.

That had not only the desired effect, it gave the King the opportunity, to get out from this without losing his
face, making it look like fulfilling his wife’s desire.

But it must have been very painful for Edward II, losing
his friends, who meant that much to him….
I think we must consider that, besides his foolish
and unfair favouritism at the cost of the other Lords.



And with all that negociating, let’s not forget the
important role of the Earl of Pembroke [the man of
honour, who didn’t want to breach his oath against
Piers Gaveston and after Gaveston’s death, diehard
loyal to the King [338] , who continually had
mediated between the Marcher Lords and the King and
was behind the exile plea of Queen Isabella. [339]



And finally the King decided on the banishment of
The Despensers, father and son [the favourite]
At 14 August in the Great Hall of Westminster it was to
be, in the presence, of course, of the King
”They were accused, among many other things, of “evil covetousness,” accroaching to themselves royal power, guiding and counselling the king evilly, only allowing the magnates to speak to Edward in their presence, “ousting the king from his duty,” removing good counsellors from their positions and replacing them “by other false and bad ministers of their conspiracy,” and “plotting to distance the affection of our lord the king from the peers of the land, to have sole government of the realm between the two of them.”  [340]
[They were also called ”evil councillors” by the
Contrariants [The Marcher Lords, Thomas of Lancaster and
That was all true. [341]
The judgement decreed that the Despensers “shall be disinherited for ever as disinheritors of the crown and enemies of the king and his people, and that they shall be exiled from the realm of England, without returning at any time,” saving only the consent of the king, prelates, earls and barons in parliament. They were convicted by notoriety, with no chance to speak in their own defence. [342]

Utterly unfair, that they had no chance to speak in their own
defence, but what was ”fair trial” in that time?

The same reprehensible thing happened to so many other noblemen thereafter……

The departure date was set on 29 August, 1321.
Despenser the Elder left England immediately, perhaps to one of Edward II’s French territories, Gascony or Ponthieu.
However, his son, Despenser the Younger BECAME A PIRATE



Between 20 August and late September 1321, Edward II
granted a pardon to more than 400 men for the murders, abductions, thefts and vandalism they had committed in the Despensers’ lands, which crimes the Marchers claimed were “a case of necessity, [and] ought not to be corrected or punished by the rigour of the law, nor could this happen without causing too much trouble.” [344]

Which of course was a hypocrite excuse and bagatellising
of serious and undefensible crimes.

Edward later protested that he had done this unwillingly and that any pardon he had given under coercion was invalid and contravened his coronation oath. [345]

I must say, the King had a point here.
The attentive reader remembers, that I wrote at the beginning
of this chapter [chapter VI], that the King was not true to his word, issuing
pardons and later to come back on them, [346]

But this case was different, because now the King was besieged
in his own capital as threathened with deposition,
if he didn’t consent with the Despensers exile.
That’s clearly coercion. And treason.



The King was furious, of course and by the way [but the reader
has already understood] never to consent with the permanent
exile of his Despenser friends.

The following morning at breakfast, the king talked to his ally Hamo Hethe, bishop of Rochester, “anxious and sad.”  He swore that he would “within half a year make such an amend that the whole world would hear of it and tremble,” [347]

And as we will see in the next chapter, he was true to his word…..


[October 1321[March 1322]


For the readers, who failed to read Chapter six:

What happened in Despenser war, first phase?

After the Treaty of Leake in 1318 [reconciliation between the King and
his overmighty cousin Thomas of Lancaster, with whom he
the King feuded endlessly] and the banishment of the three favourites of the King [what Lancaster had demanded], a new favourite, Hugh Despenser the Younger
rose [who took his father along with him in his enjoyment of favouritism].
The King’s excessive favouritism towards Despenser, and Despenser’s abnormal
avariciousness, drove the Marcher Lords
into rebellion and they made an alliance with Thomas of Lancaster, who
loathed those favourites of the King.
The Marcher Lords marched on London in 1321 [later supported by
Lancaster] and forced the King to send the Despensers in exile.


Queen Isabella’s Pilgrimage to Canterbury and

her reception at Leeds Castle

Hell breaks loose:

The Siege of Leeds Castle
The Siege of Leeds: Aftermath
King’s military victory/Political consequences

Fight to the death

Edward II’s war with the Marcher Lords
Events in november, december and begin of january

Fight to the death
The Marcher Lords and Thomas of Lancaster
Edward II’s war with the Marcher Lords
Swan Song

Fight to the death
Edward II and Thomas of Lancaster
Last dance



After the Marcher Lords’ ”March on London” late july 1321 [348], in august backed

by Thomas of Lancaster [349] and eventually forcing the King to banish the Despensers, tensions grew high in the country, both sides mobilising their forces.
And of course the King sought for an opportunity, to bring back his favourite
Despensers as soon as possible.
Then in the autumn of 1321, Something took place, which would change
the course of events for the King, the Despensers and the opposing rebels.



It happened in october 1321, that Queen Isabella went on pilgrimage
to Canterbury, and, not taking the usual route headed for Leeds
Castle, where Lord Badlesmere was appointed as governor.
And this Lord Badlesmere was at first loyal to the King,
being the King’s household steward [351], but later switched sides and
became a Contrariant, thus an ally of the Marcher Lords
and Thomas of Lancaster. [352]
At the moment of the Queen’s arrival, Lord Badlesmere was
at a Contrariant’s meeting at Oxford and whether on instructions
of her husband or not [353], his wife, Lady Badlesmere, refused
the Queen entrance to the Castle, which, of course, was a gross insult.
Queen Isabella, probably furious,  ordered her escort to force an entry into the castle, and the garrison of Lady Badlesmere
opened up a volley of arrows at them, killing six men of the Queen.
Isabella was left outside and had to find other lodgings..,.
Of course the King was furious.
He avenged the insult to the Queen, by
besieging the Castle of Leeds. [354]

Coincidence or deliberate?

Now it is possible, that Queen Isabella for some innocent
reason had taken another route than usual, but
according to some historians, she did so to create a casus belli. [355]
With other words:
Her heading for Leeds Castle was deliberate and on the
orders of the King, in the hope that Lady Badlesmere
[what she did, indeed] as the wife of a Contrariant rebel,
would refuse the Queen entrance to the Castle, giving
the King the excuse to revenge his wife’s insult, starting
the war again. [356]
And not only that:
Because of the insult of the Queen, many moderate barons,
who didn’t take sides yet, would join the royal army.

It also gave the King opportunity to a policy of
”divide et impera” [Latin for ”divide and rule],
since Thomas of Lancaster loathed Lord Badlesmere
and would probably not come to Lady Badlesmere’s assistance, when the castle were besieged. [357]

And Thomas of Lancaster
fell right into the trap [poor Lord Thomas, not very smart
and dishonourable, the Lady was in need…..] and indeed didn’t help , even ordered the Marcher Lords not to  …..[358]
Lord Badlesmere himself assembled an army and tried
to help his wife and break the siege of the castle, but
was not able to do so, since Thomas of Lancaster
and the Marcher Lords didn’t come to his aid …[359]

This strategic failure of Lancaster led to a major strengthening of the position of the King:

Because of the insult to the Queen and King’s readiness
to go á royal ”fist to fist, toe to toe on this,
many barons and volunteers indeed rallied
to his  assistance ……[360]

AND his victory would lead to his regaining control of South-East England…..
Another ”great” thing happened
Edward II felt his position strong enough to revoke the
banishment order of the Despensers in december 1321…..[361]
So the same mess started over again……


But to the honour of Lord Badlesmere [who did get a bad press
in history, whether it is uncertain, if it is deserved] [362] must be said, that he fought
side by side with Thomas of Lancaster in his last battle
against the King, the Battle of Boroughbridge, in spite of the
fact, that Thomas didn’t come to the assistance of his wife,
when besieged, nor help him [Badlesmere] to break the siege….[363]

Now about the coincidence or deliberate act regarding
Queen Isabella heading for Leeds Castle:
Assuming that it was a deliberate trap of the King, it
was very clever strategy.
What poses the question, whether the King had thought this
out for himself, since he had, to put it mildly, no great
strategic talents:
Therefore some historians think, that he was in contact with
[and likely had met] the banished Hugh Despenser the Younger,
who perhaps was the mastermind behind the casus belli….[364]

And concerning the clever ”divide and rule” policy of the KIng:

Edward [and possibly Hugh Despenser, when it was true
that they had met and were together in this] must have known that the earl of Lancaster detested Badlesmere, and gambled that the he would not help him. [365]
And he gambled right, alas for Thomas of Lancaster, the
other Contrariants and Lord and Lady Badlesmere themselves,
as the story will tell….

But again:
It was no clever strategy of Lord Thomas either, not to
help a man, who was his ally, just because he didn’t
like him.
In a rebellion, you can’t always choose your friends,
my lord of Lancaster…..




Edward II mobilised his forces and placed Leeds
Castle under siege, giving Queen Isabella the Great Seal
and control of the Royal Chancery. [366]
The assault on the Castle persisted for more than five days
and on 31 october 1321 Lady Badlesmere surrendered. [367]

Now any siege of a city or a Castle is a nasty business,
but especially Edward II’s siege of Castle Leeds:
It was a siege of a Castle, held by a woman, who
was totally outnumbered by the forces of the King [368]
and got no help whatsoever from the Contrariants [as I
from now on will call the rebels against the King, the
Marcher Lords, the Earl of Lancaster and their forces and
allies] [369], despite of her husband Lord Badlesmere
begging them to come to the aid of his wife. [370]
Of course there was a problem here, in this case
for the Marcher Lords.
Destroying the Despenser lands is one thing, using
your forces in a direct battle against the King is another
and openly, treason.
Besides, their ally the Earl of Lancaster had ordered them,
not to come to the aid of Badlesmere [which included his
wife], since he had a great personal dislike of him
[Badlesmere] [371]

A nasty business, as I said.
The King, with on his side the Earls of Kent and Norfolk
[his two halfbrothers] and the Earls of Surrey, Arundel,
Pembroke and Richmond

The King even brought his nearly nine year old son, the Earl
of Chester [the later Edward III] [373]

I can’t see this siege , even if the King wanted to revenge
the insult to his Queen, as utter cowardly.
But to be fair:
Also is the behaviour of the Contrariants, not to
come to the aid of the wife of one of their allies.

Siege of Leeds

The aftermath was gruesome:
Thirteen members of the garrison were drawn and hanged

after the end of the siege, even in those cruel times unusual,
since men had never been executed within for holding a castle against the king……….[374]
Lady Badlesmere pleaded for mercy, but was arrested and
with her children, sent to the Tower of London. [375]
She therefore became the first recorded woman, imprisoned
in the Tower. [376]
She was released in november 1322, seven months after
the horrible execution of her husband in april 1322
[hanged, drawn and quartered, the ”traitors’ death] [377], after
his fighting in the Battle of Boroughbridge, where Lancaster
was defeated by the royal forces. [378]

King’s military victory
Political consequences:

The Siege of Leeds [casus belli or coincidence…]
where the Contrariants failed to help Lady Badlesmere,
led to an enormous strenghtening of the position
of the King in the South-East [379] and a demoralisation
of the Contrariants, who must have realized, too late,
that they fell into the trap of the King’s game of
divide and rule….[380]

And not only his military position was strengthened,
also his political, with the increasement of
loyal barons [caused by the King’s readiness to avenge
the insult to the Queen] and the come back of the
Despensers, revoked out of banishment.

But now the fight  between the King, his
cousin Thomas of Lancaster and his allies
the Marcher Lords [together the Contrariants]
was about to begin in earnest.



As been said, Edward II’s succesful besiegement of
Leeds Castle led to his control over South-East England
A setback for the Contrariants, and Marcher Lords
Roger Mortimer and the Earl of Hereford [brother
in law of the King], travelled North to discuss the situation
with Thomas of Lancaster, who in thed meantime and
as a reaction on Edward II’s regained control of South-East
England, had mobilised his forces in the North. [381]

They met on 29 november [Edward II had prohibited
the meeting, to no avail], probably in Pontefract Castle
[other sources call Doncaster] and they were sworn together a second time to maintain that which they had commenced.

Battle with words:
Doncaster petition
Thomas of Lancaster’s high opinion about himself…..

As shows the story [as has
shown already], the
Despenser war and its aftermath was an extremely bloody mess, complete
with executions [including the ”traitor’s death], pillaging lands, robbing and extortioning
innocent people, hard imprisonment of wives and children
of the Contrariants [as we shall see].
Yet there was not only fighting with weapons, but also
with words:
Famous example is the ”’Doncaster Petition’, drewn up
by Thomas of Lancaster and his allies, which said that Hugh Despenser the Younger, amusingly called Sire Huge throughout, had been exiled “for diverse reasonable reasons” with the consent of the king himself and all the magnates in parliament. It accused Edward of placing Despenser under the care of the men of the Cinque Ports [383] [which proved to be right] [384]and supporting him in his piracy and various other crimes and included the usual  references to Edward’s ‘evil counsellors’ [which was certainly true in the case of the Despensers]
See for the sample text of the petition note 385

Now the amusing thing is not only their accusation of their
own Lord the King of accomplicity with some crimes
of Hugh Despenser [which by the way
was probably not nonsense at all] [386], but the fact that the petition showed
how highly Thomas of Lancaster thought about himself.
That because the petitioners [Thomas and his allies]
asked Edward to respond to the petition by 20 December….[387]

Understandably, the King was not amused by this and
informed Lancaster,  that imposing a deadline on him on to reform the affairs of his kingdom gave the impression that he was the earl’s subject, not vice versa……[388]

This ”deadline” was not the first time for Thomas to do such an act, which proved his arrogance and high opinion about himself:

Apart from the jeering at the King from the walls
of Thomas’ Castle of
Pontefract [1317 and 1320] and blocking the King’s way [in 1317] [389], Thomas had done another shocking thing, considering
the fact, that he was Edward II’s subject and not vice versa:

In February 1311, his father-in-law Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln, died, and Thomas inherited his lands by right of his wife Alice. He had to perform homage to Edward II for the lands, but Edward was then on campaign in Scotland. Thomas refused to cross the Tweed to meet the king; Edward refused to return to England
Edward II was right:
It was absurd, for the King to come to a subject!
At the end, Edward gave in, met Thomas on the English side of the river Tweed.
And there Thomas payed homage…..[390]

Back to the Marcher Lords:

After the meeting with the earl of Lancaster at Pontefract in
november where they renewed their allegiance against
the King [Edward II had forbidden the meeting, to
no avail] [391], the Marcher lords returned to the west of England and Wales with a great armed force [392] and
were playing the same  tricks, maffia
style again, as they did before:
Stealing, extorting and assualting mostly innocent
people under the pretext of attacking Despener lands [393]

This happened in november and december

Back in the Welsh borders, the Marcher Lords had firstly to
pay attention to an uprising of the  local peasantry [394]
Making use of the problems of the Marcher
Lords, in december the Edward II marched to
Cirencester to invade the Welsh borders. [395]


Meanwhile in the North, Thomas of Lancaster had tried to
win the support of the northern barons, his usual allies, but they stayed loyal to the king. [396]

Worse was, that Thomas to be already engaged in some
negociations with the Scots, to get their support, supposedly
to prevent the King to retake South Wales from the Marcher
Lords. [397]
How it came to light, that Thomas was engaged to parley with the Scots, the national enemy? [but I am on their
side, because they fought for their freedom….] [398]

It will be revealed in this article [or book, HAHAHAHAHA]
in this very chapter [seven]

Those military things took place in december 1321 and begin
january 1322.


As been said, the Contrariants [The Marcher Lords and Thomas of
Lancaster, and allies] could have won, were it not for
underlying feuds and the divide and rule policy of the King.
Added to that, a fatal strategic error of Thomas of Lancaster and lack of good
cooperation between the Marcher Lords themselves……
Tragic for them


December 1321/January 1322
Edward II’s war with the Marcher Lords

Edward marched to Cirencester in December 1321, preparing
to invade the

Welsh borders, [399] ordering the arrest of some main Contrariants,
like his former steward Bartholomew Badlesmere [the
man from ”The Siege of Leeds Castle”, see above], and his
[Edward’s] former Favourite, Roger Damory [first main enemy
of Thomas of Lancaster, now his ally, alienated from the King by the Despenser avariciousness] [400]
Meanwhile, the Marcher Lords seized Gloucester, twenty miles from Cirencester, and thus controlled the bridge over the river Severn.

”Strategy” of the Marcher Lords:
Don’t fight the King, run off from him…..

Now the strangest thing happened:
In stead of confronting the King in open war [when
Edward approached Gloucester], the Marcher Lords
failed to do that and simply….fled……
Not without playing their old maffia tricks of
robbing and assaulting innocent people again
[probably out of frustration not engaging the King
in battle] [402]

But there is a good explanation for their not engaging the
King in battle [although their forces were allegedly
almost four times bigger than the King’s]

Attacking Despenser lands and raging and pillaging
innocent people [who only happened to live on
or near Despenser lands] is one thing, openly engaging
the King in battle is treason…….

But the Marcher Lords were not totally crazy and hold
the bridge over the Severn against the King, so that he
could not cross it. [403]

And that was the last clever thing they did:

Fatal strategic errors of the Marcher Lords:
Not engaging the King in battle
Splitting up
Pillaging again

Damory remained at Worcester [a city, he at least took for the Contrariants], others headed north, while the earl of Hereford started plundering again [had The Marcher Lords

never got enough of those criminal games…….] and now for
a change not from innocent people, but their old goal:
Despenser property: this time Despenser the Younger’s younger Worcestershire castles of Hanley and Elmley. [404]


Instead of staying together as a group, engaging the King in
battle, they fled, split up and started pillaging again.

When they saw, that their military position started
weaker and weaker, they desperately hoped for Thomas
of Lancaster to come to their aid.

The aid of Thomas was extremely necessary, since
Edward II had arrived at Shrewsbury at 14 january and managed to cross over the river Severn and Roger Mortimer of Wigmore and his uncle Roger
Mortimer of Chirk were in a desperate position:
They were running out of money, their men were deserting
them and they were squeezed between two forces, Edward’s on the east side of the Severn and his allies on the west side, and their lands being occupied and burnt [yes, the Marcher Lords
received a taste of their own medicine, poor people,
who lived on their lands…..] [405]

Thomas of Lancaster’s fatal strategic error:

I don’t know, whether Thomas of Lancaster knew exactly,
how desperate the position of the Marcher Lords was, but
he certainly knew that they were losing the game in Wales.

And in stead of coming to the rescue of the
besieged Mortimers, he wasted his time and forces
to besiege Edward II’s Castle at Tickhill [near Doncaster]…..

Had he ridden out to the rescue of the Mortimers, together they would
have good chance to defeat the forces of the King [Lancaster
had a big army]

But he did not.


The end was predictable
Running out of money and men and without the help
of Thomas of Lancaster, who could not have come
to their aid anymore, anyway, since his two castles
of Holt and Bromfield were later seized by Edward’s forces [407],

the both Mortimers had no choice but surrender to Edward II…..
This happened on 22 january 1322 at Shrewsbury.

The last Contrariants surrendered on 6 february 1322 at Hereford [at the border of Wales] [409]

Their fight with the King was over, but there was still hope
for victory:
Thomas of Lancaster in the North.

So finally, the remaining Contrariants fled towards Yorkshire to seek refuge with the earl of Lancaster, their last hope
for fulfilling their cause…….




Now the Marcher Lords were dedeated, Edward could finally give his attention to his cousin, Thomas
of Lancaster.


But before telling this dramatic story, first the readers attention
for a mystery man I mentioned occasionaly in this story:
Henry of Lancaster, younger brother of Thomas of Lancaster
and the great ancestor of the House of Lancaster [410]
To say it like it is:
Where the hell was he in this fight to the death of his brother?
Oddly perhaps [since rebels mostly were joined and supported by their brothers ] Henry spent most of the years between 1318-1322 in France,
where he in 1317 had inherited the lands of his younger brother John, who died childless. [411]
During the life of his brother Thomas, he seemed to have been loyal to the King and took part, on the orders of the King, in dealing with an uprising in Wales in 1316. [412]
So he was made from quite other stuff than his brother….
However, in 1320/begin 1321, he was one of the Lords who formed a coalition against the Despensers
and stood [at that time],
shoulder to shoulder with the Rogers Mortimer, the former
favourites of the King and others. [413]
Doubtless his brother Thomas [who would soon
join the club] appreciated that.
But Henry was an interesting ”come and go” guy:
He suddenly seemed to have disappeared to
France, in each case untill january 1322 [414] [and so
kept out of trouble], when the Despenser war reached its
finale, which turned out dramatically for
Henry personally.
So clearly he did not participate in his brother’s rebellion
and opposition against the King [except for his initial
opposition against the Despensers, Henry was by the way
married with the half sister of Hugh Despenser
the Younger, by his mother’s side]

But as we shall see later, Henry was a man
to settle old scores……[415]
We’ll meet him again.


Back to Thomas and his last fight with his cousin, the King:

Oddly enough, after the surrender of the Marcher Lords,
there was no immediate fight between the King and
his not so dear cousin Thomas, as would be expected.
At first the King ”warned” Thomas.
On 8 February 1322 Edward II wrote to him, stating
that he “wished to continue and augment his affection to the earl” and ordering him not to adhere to the Contrariants, who “have publicly boasted that they were going to the earl, and that they would draw him to them in the aforesaid excesses, and that they were sure of this.” Edward pointed out that joining the Contrariants would render Thomas guilty of treason [416]

To put it mildly:
This was a strange letter, since Edward knew very well,
that Thomas and the Marcher Lords were ”thick as thieves”
[HAHAHA] [417]
Also the King knew [of course!] that since 10 january, Thomas
held his Castle Tickhill under siege. [418]

The answer of Thomas on the letter of the King
[but to be fair: he could hardly be honest,
criminalising himself as a traitor] was still stranger, since
he pretended not to have anything to do with rebels. [419]


But then the to be expected fight broke out:

And for the direct cause, the King certainly
was not to blame.
He was right:
Because, besiegement of a royal
Castle [Thomas had put Edward II’s Tickhill Castle
under siege] is a gross provocation and downright
And on 13 february, Edward announced his intention of going to raise the siege.
He asked his brother-in-law Charles IV of France – Thomas’s nephew,
son of his half sister Joan I of Navarre, who was also
the mother of Queen Isabella of France – to send men to help him fight Thomas and the Contrariants, and also asked his nephews the duke of Brabant and the count of Bar, his kinsmen the counts of Eu, St Pol, Aumale and Beaumont, Charles IV and Isabella’s uncle the count of Valois, and the count of Hainault to send horsemen and footmen, and ordered Amaury de Craon, steward of Gascony, to come to him with armed men and advice. [420]

I don’t know if they all send military aid to Edward, but
certain was, that Edward firmly wanted to confront his cousin
in battle.
On 19 february, Edward captured Thomas’s great Warwickshire stronghold of Kenilworth. [421]

But on 1 march 1322, Something would come to
light, what would lead, directly to the dramatic end
of the story…….


I mentioned the fatal error Thomas had made, not to come
to the aid of the besieged Rogers Mortimer, but instead of that, besieging
the royal Castle of Tickhill. [422]

But what directly  would seal his fate was writing
treason down!
The first lesson in the criminal’s handbook:


That was the fatal error he made.

Poor Thomas.
Proud and a high, an extremely well connected
royal Lord, but not capable to see
the danger of the written word….

What was the case here:

As I wrote before, when Edward marched on Cirencester in
december 1321 to invade the Welsh border, Thomas had apparently
asked the Scots to come to his [and the Contrariants] help, to
prevent Edward to retake control over South Wales. [423]
Now of course he could have done such a request only
when he was already parleying with the Scots…..

Now he was, apparently, earlier suspected of dealing with the
It was noticed that when the Scottish forces raided the north of England, they left his lands alone [425]

Now this is, obviously, circumstancial evidence [426],
since you can’t accuse someone of treason
for NOT being attacked by the national enemy,
but what raised understandable suspicion [although
not yet serious evidence] was the fact that although Thomas had a great army at Pontefract, he seemed not to have attempted to pursue the Scottish raiders……. [427]

Alas, for Thomas personally, real evidence DID show iself:


1 March was a fatal date for Thomas, because then,
William Melton, archbishop of York,
came into possession [I don’t know how] of letters,
that had been exchanged between the Scottish Sir
James Douglas [The Black Douglas]
[428] and a mysterious ”King Arthur”
In one of those letters, ”King Arthur” informed Douglas that the earl of Hereford, Roger Damory, Hugh Audley, Roger Clifford, Henry Tyes, Thomas Mauduit, John Wilington and  Bartholomew Badlesmere [See the Siege of Leeds Castle]
had come to ”King Arthur”
They were prepared to treat with the Scots, as long as the Scots did what had previously been discussed: “to come to our aid, and to go with us in England and Wales” and “live and die with us in our quarrel.” [429]

Using a pseudonym [430] but naming the men by their own name,
all adherents to Thomas of Lancaster!
And to make matters worse:
Thomas Randolph, earl of Moray and another close ally of Bruce, granted safe-conducts on 16 February 1322 for Roger Clifford, John Mowbray and forty horsemen to travel to Scotland.

Needless to say:
John Mombray and Roger Clifford [431]were diehard homies [432]
of Thomas of Lancaster.
By the way Mowbray was [not that the others were peaches,
but this went far] a  bad guy anyway.
When going on the rampage in one of those
Marcher Lords pillaging projects [somewhere in august or september 1321] he not only stole livestock, goods and chattels from the villagers of Laughton-en-le-Morthern in Yorkshire,
but even robbed the church! [433]

Back to the stupidity of putting treason on paper:

How is it possible that a high Lord, a political animal
as Thomas of Lancaster, who ruled de facto England for
four years [although not very cleverly, forlorn in feudism
with Edward II], could have fallen in the trap to put his
treason ON PAPER……,while he could have sent trusted men, with a verbal message,
then there was no evidence whatsoever…….

Yet it happened

I think:
The arrogance of power.

Anyway, the discovery of the letters proved to be disastrous
for Thomas.

I don’t know, whether the King already suspected Thomas of
possible parleying with the Scots, but it must have
been a great shock to him anyway.
In each case, he gave orders, to make the letters
public, which was, of course, a great moral setback
for Thomas, because the support he still enjoyed
, just scrumbled away.
After all, getting along with Thomas of Lancaster
now didn’t mean merely resistance against the destructive
influence of the Despensers on the King and subsequently
[since the King was so closely tied with those Despenser
guys] against the King [which was treason], but also
conspiring with the national enemy, the Scots…….[434]

And he felt it instantly.
Not only he had absolutely no hope to gain others for his cause
anymore [remember he wanted the Despensers out of
the throne’s influence and the Ordinances to be executed][435]
his allies were deserting him.
Sir Robert Holland, one of his most faithful men, deserted
him, when he needed him most [436], something his brother,
Henry of Lancaster [our ”mystery man”, who did not take part
in his brother’s rebellion] would not forget nor forgive. [437]

And others would soon follow. [438]

Battle of Burton-on-Trent:

Thomas and the earl of Hereford and their allies left Pontefract on 1 March, broke the siege of Tickhill, and took up position at Burton-on-Trent near Tutbury Castle in Staffordshire, which belonged to Thomas.

In the meantime, Edward had pronounced Thomas, Roger Damory, Hugh Audley, Hereford, Lords Clifford and Mowbray and others to be traitors, and ordered all the sheriffs of England, the justice of Chester and the bishop of Durham to arrest them, saying that they “inflicted evil against the king’s servants, conducting war against the king with banners displayed.” [439]
To cut a long story short:
Thomas tried to hold the stronghold at Burton on Trent, but when
Edward II’s forces came and Thomas saw, that he was outnumbered, he and his adherents withdrew [440]
[smart, when you see you can’t make it].
According to some sources, “they turned their backs, set fire to the town, and fled.” [441]

They retreated to Pontefract [442], where a heated debate
took place about what to do now.
Some wanted to flee to  Dunstanburgh, yet another of Thomas’s great castles on the Northumbrian coast, but Thomas didn”t want
that, since it would seem as fleeing towards the Scots [you remember: Scottish raids were succesfully held in North
England]. [443]
Strange way of reasoning, since Thomas’ correspondence
with the Scots had already been revealed……

At the end,Thomas was ”persuaded” [yeah, with Lord
Clifford’s sword waving in Thomas face….] [444] and they fled North anyway.
At least, they tried……



They did not get far.
On 16 march, as the King’s army continued to move
up from the North, Thomas of Lancaster, the Earl of
Hereford, Lord Clifford and others were suddenly
halted at Boroughbridge by the arrival of Edward’s second
army of approximately 4000 men under the command of Sir Andrew Harclay [445], sheriff of Cumberland and a
former adherent of Thomas of
Lancaster [446], who already
had secured the bridge against the rebels. [447]
Commanders at the side of the rebels were:

Thomas of Lancaster
his faithful companion [and also a Marcher Lord]
the Earl of Hereford [who had Piers Gaveston executed, together with Thomas of Lancaster, the Earl
of Arundel and the 10th Earl of Warwick]
And Roger, 2nd
Baron de Clifford [son of Robert de Clifford, one
of the besiegers of Piers Gaveston and died at the Battle
of Bannockburn in 1314] [448]

The Royal Commander was:

Andrew Harclay, 1st Earl of Carlisle [449]

To cut a long, dramatic story short:

Thomas and his men were forced to battle, the Earl
of Hereford and others, attempting to walk across the bridge  to break through Harclay’s lines, didn’t succeed and Hereford
died horribly. [450]

So they lost the Battle of Boroughbridge, which
took place on 16 march 1322. [451]

And Thomas, the great Earl of Lancaster, saw himself
made prisoner…….

The long battle between him and his cousin King
Edward II was over.

But Thomas’ humiliation and suffering was about to begin…….



The travel
Revenge of the King
The others
Last passage

””Now the king of Heaven give us mercy, for the earthly king has forsaken us!”

The long battle between Thomas and his cousin King Edward II
was over.
The way to the grisly end was about to begin:

An end, which was not about to bring the King and the
[in january returned] Despensers much joy, but
would cast a shadow on their lives and reign.

After the devastating end of the Battle of Boroughbridge,
resulting in the horrible death of the Earl of Hereford [452],
companion till the last of Thomas of Lancaster [and
by the way, the brother in law of Edward II] , Thomas
of Lancaster found himself prisoner of the King.

The humiliation could begin…….


Thomas was taken by water via York to Pontefract Castle.
That was an intent torment and humiliation, since
Pontefract Castle was his favourite residence.
[His constable had surrendered to the King without a fight]
That must have been very bitter for Thomas.

He was forced to wear garments of the striped cloth which the squires of his household wore, an intentional humiliation of a man of high birth and rank. [453]

But that was not enough:

On the way to York, a crowd of people threw snowballs at him, called him a traitor, and shouted “Now shall you have the reward that long time you have deserved!” [454]
Interesting though that there must have been among them people,
who later revered him……

At the meantime other adherents of Thomas of Lancaster were
taken prisoner, who would share his fate, as the story will show.


The King had tried to make it as humiliating as possible
for his cousin and long time adversary Thomas.
He ”received” his cousin at his own favourite Castle
of Pontefract,
accompanied by his favourites the Despensers, who
must have thought, that it was their moment of joy.
Quod non [Latin for: that is not the case] [455] as will
the story reveal later [See Chapter 10, Aftermath]

But although sad for Thomas, the satisfaction the King’
undoubtedly felt, now his powerful cousin was
at his mercy, is in a way understandable.

It was not only the 10 year long resistance of Thomas,
complete with jeering at the King [in 1317 and 1320],
and blocking his way with armed guards [456], probably
the King’s most important feeling was revenge for the death of
Piers Gaveston, since Thomas was one of the responsibles
for his [Gaveston’s] murder [457], a cruel and illegal act against a man,
who was vain, avaricious and insulting [to the Lords] [458],
but further didn’t do the Lords any wrong.

And Edward II had made no secret of his need for revenge!
During the siege of Berwick in 1319 [459] in which Thomas had
cooperated with Edward [460], he [Edward] made clear what was on his mind by declaring “When this wretched business is over, we will turn our hands to other matters. For I have not forgotten the wrong that was done to my brother Piers.” [461]
That threat was obviously aimed at Thomas, who
left Berwick later [and right he was!]. [462]

And as I have said before, when it came to revenge, Edward II
was true to his word.


On 21 march, Thomas of Lancaster arrived at his
Castle of Pontefract.
And what was to be expected, the Despensers couldn’t resist
to show their satisfaction in humiliating Lancaster.
Thomas was ”contemptuously insulted……to his face with
malicious and arrogant words” by the king and the recently returned Despensers” [463]
Nice reception in your own castle……


Now rumour had  it that Thomas of Lancaster had built a tower in which to hold the king captive for the rest of his life.
And, surprise, surprise……
In that very [supposed for imprisonment of the King] tower
Thomas was kept prisoner….. [464]
The day after Thomas’ arrival, 22 march 1322, his ”trial” took place.
I say ”trial” because it didn’t deserve the name at the least.

It was a mock trial, that took place in the hall of
Lancaster’s own castle [how bitter…..] and the outcome was a foregone conclusion.
Thomas was not allowed to speak in his own defence as his crimes were deemed ‘notorious’ [465]

According to sources he was said to have exclaimed:
” “This is a powerful court, and great in authority, where no answer is heard nor any excuse admitted,” [466]
And right he was!
The fact that Thomas didn’t grant Piers Gaveston a fair trial too
[yet apart from the fact that he had no right to give him
a trial anyway], doesn’t excuse his ”judges” to do the same with him.

And there were ”judges”, who undoubtedly would later
regret their own injustice…………

See Chapter 10 ”Aftermath”


The composition of those  socalled ”judges” was a laughing
stock anyway, were it not so grave an affair, since they
consisted of either his enemies, or staunch adherents of
the King [or a combination of those two]

The ”judges” were:

Thomas’ first cousin, King Edward II

The Despensers [father and son]

The Earl of Pembroke  [Thomas’
first cousin once removed.
Originally one of the besiegers of Piers
Gaveston in 1312, now he was a staunch adherer of the King,
since he was against his will, forced to break his word
against Piers Gaveston, who was in his custody
and in Pembroke’s absence abducted by the 10th Earl
of Warwick, which lead to Gaveston’s execution.
His presence at this mock trial was a pity, I have mentioned
him several times as a man of honour, who repeatedly
tried to reconcile Edward II and Thomas of Lancaster,
but perhaps he
was forced to become part of this show trial] [467]

The Earl of Kent [halfbrother of King Edward II, and
first cousin to Thomas of Lancaster] [468]

The Earl of Richmond [first cousin to King Edward II
and Thomas of Lancaster] [469]

The Earl of Arundel [choose the King’s side
after the murder of Gaveston, whom he had executed
after a mock trial together with Thomas of Lancaster, the 10th Earl
of Warwick and the Earl of Hereford,
who died at the Battle of Boroughbridge] [470]

The Earl of Surrey , [originally one of
the besiegers of Piers Gaveston in 1312 and
later a mortal enemy of Thomas.
Under his responsibility Thomas’ estranged wife Alice de
Lacy was abducted, which lead to a private war between
Surrey and Thomas] [471]

The [Scottish] Earls of Atholl and Angus, who had once
served in the retinue of Thomas of Lancaster. [472]

The royal justice Robert Malberthorpe, who spoke out
the charges against him. [473]

Striking is, that three of the ”judges” [Edward II, the Earl of Kent,
the Earl of Richmond] were first cousins of Thomas of Lancaster
[474] and one, the Earl of Pembroke, his first cousin removed.



Thomas was charged [of course] for treason, as he and other Contrariants had invited several of Robert Bruce’s liegemen to England in 1322 to ride with them against their king. [476]

But that was not all:

The list of charges comprised the many grievances Edward managed to dredge up against his cousin, going back to Thomas’s seizure of his possessions at Tynemouth in 1312 [when Lancaster
and the other barons were pursuing the King and his favourite Piers Gaveston, after his return from permanent exile. The charge however was unjust, since Lancaster had given the
possessions back in 1313] [477] and including Thomas’s jeering at him from the Pontefract battlements in 1317, [478]
and Lancaster’s blocking of the roads in an attempt to prevent Edward’s travelling through Yorkshire. [479]

A fourtheenth century scandal

One need not to be surprised about the verdict:

Of course Thomas was found guilty, since this
was a show trial, containing ”judges”, who were
extremely hostile to him.

But to be fair:
Even if it WERE a fair trial, the exchanged letters and dealings with the Scots [480] were reason enough to condemn him.

Therefore it was not the CONDEMNATION  that was shocking, and caused a scandal, but the
fact, that Thomas was condemned to death, which was
a break with the convention of the time, not only because of his close
kinship to the King [first cousin, Lancaster’s father was the younger brother of King Edward I], but especially because since
Waltheof, the Earl of Northumbria was executed  in 1076 on the orders of William the Conqueror [481], no English Earl was ever executed. [482]
In cases, comparable with Lancaster, an Earl had to suffer
”only” life imprisonment or exile. [483]

I think, that the King perhaps had shown mercy [I mean, not
imposing the death penalty], were it not for Lancaster’s involvement
in the murder of King’s favourite Piers Gaveston[484],
which was not one of the charges, but the underlying reason
for the King’s need for revenge. [485]

But there was more:
Not only the death penalty was pronounced, Thomas was
condemned to the worst form, the traitor’s death:
In other words: to be hanged, drawn and quartered…..[486]

But the King was not totally crazy:
Executing a [royal] Earl was already a scandal,
but to be hanged, drawn and quartered……
Besides, whatever had happened between them, Thomas
was the King’s first cousin and of royal blood
Therefore the King commuted this verdict to ”merely”

However, some sources mention, that the King commuted
the ”hanged, drawn and quarted” verdict to beheading “for the love of Quene Isabell,”[488], which possibly means, that the King
commuted the verdict to beheading as a result of intercession
of Queen Isabella [489], who was with King Edward at
Pontefract [brrrrrr, horrifying, to accompany one’s husband
at the eve of an execution….yet when she really intervened,
it was a good thing that she came…..] [490]
Queen Isabella was, you remember still,,,, Thomas’ niece, since he was the halfbrother of her mother, Queen Joan I of Navarre]

Of course the phrase “for the love of Quene Isabell” can also

mean, that the beheading verdict was the King”s own decision,
but that he considered his and Queen Isabella’s relationship
with Thomas of Lancaster……


Before we follow Thomas on his last passage, there is
a lot to tell about his adherents, who were captured together
with him or on other locations around the same time:
I mention six knights, who were hanged at Pontefract around
or at the same time as Thomas were executed:
William Cheyne or Cheney, Warin Lisle, Henry Bradbourne, William Fitzwilliam, Thomas Mauduit and William Tuchet [492]

According to the Flores Historiarum [493], such a lack
of humanity was shown, that Thomas had to face their execution
before he himself was executed[494] [although the Flores Historiarum mentioned
nine of his knights, while other sources give six] [495]

Anyway, Edward II was not satisfied with seven executions
[Thomas and the six knights], as a whole at least between
19 and 22 lords and knights were executed and one, Lord
Badlesmere [from the Siege of Leeds, see Chapter 7] suffered
the traitor’s death. [496]
Many were imprisoned, even the wives and children of
the rebels [see also Chapter 10, Aftermath] [497]
A bloody project of a vengeful King, undoubtedly
stimulated by the [with right mentioned so by the rebels!] evil councillors, the Despensers. [498]


It was on the morning of 22 march, that Thomas of Lancaster
heard his verdict, condemned in the Hall of his own
Favourite Castle in Pontefract.
The same morning, on a cold, snowy day, Thomas was executed.
The King, apparently making a holiday of his cousin’s
trial and execution, had arrived there on 19 march, together
with Queen Isabella and spent there until 25 march…..[499]
[strong nerves they must have had…….]

However, rather than have him executed in the castle
bailey, Edward II had a painful ”surprise” for
Thomas of Lancaster, which showed his desire for
revenge on the execution of his favourite, Piers Gaveston:
In fact, he arranged a ”parody” on the execution of
Piers Gaveston [who was executed on a hill, called
”Blacklow Hill” and also beheaded] [500]

Thomas was taken  outside to a small hill,  outside of the walls of his favourite Castle Pontefract, mirroring Piers’ 1312 death on Blacklow Hill.
He was forced to ride “some worthless mule” and “an old chaplet, rent and torn, that was not worth a half-penny,” was set on his head. A crowd of spectators again threw snowballs at him.
Apparently at the king’s order, Thomas was forced to kneel facing towards Scotland, in a pointed reminder of his  correspondence with Robert Bruce [which of course had been treason] [501]

Then Thomas uttered the words:

“Now the king of Heaven give us mercy, for the earthly king has forsaken us!” [502]

Two or three strokes of the axe and he was beheaded.

Thomas of Lancaster, Earl of Lancaster, Leicester, Derby,
Lincoln and Salisbury, long time adversary of his cousin
Edward II and the last to defend the Ordinances
[503] was no more………



”.O Thomas, strenuous champion of plentiful charity, who didst combat for the law of England’s liberty, intercede for our sins with the Father of Glory, that he may give us a place with the blessed in the heavenly court.”

Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, was no more.
But not forgotten, as this amazing story will tell:

Because within several weeks after his execution
, miracles were reported at the site of his execution and

on his tomb at Pontefract Priory, a dignified final  resting
place for a man, who loved Pontefract Castle
the world… [504]

And there were great stories to be told:


Blind priest:

There was a story of a blind priest, who dreamed, that he should
go to the hill where Thomas of Lancaster was executed, and that he should have his sight again.
Because the priest had this dream for three consecutive nights,
he went to the execution hill in Pontefract, he prayed, that he might have his sight again and that great thing happened. [505]

One of the authors of the Brut chronicles [506] reported:
”And as he was in his prayers, he laid his hand upon the same place there the good man was martyred on; and a drop of dry blood and small sand cleaved on his hand, and therewith he rubbed his eyes, and anon, through the might of God and of St Thomas of Lancaster, he had his sight again, and thanked Almighty God and St Thomas.”
[translation of Kathryn Warner, historian and writer of among else ”Edward II, the unconventional King and
and host of the weblog ”] [507]

Drowned child:

Another reported miracle was of a young child drowned in a well in the town of Pontefract, and was dead three days and three nights;
The child was laid upon the tomb of Thomas of Lancaster
and arose from death. [508]

The rich man from Condom [Gascony]

Another great story was from a rich man
from Condom [Gascony]:
About him the above mentioned author of the Brut chronicler wrote:

“Also there was a rich man in Condom in Gascony; and such a malady he had, that all his right side rotted, and fell away from him; and men might see his liver, and also his heart; and so he stank, that scarcely men might come near him. Wherefore his friends were for him full sorry. But at the last, as God wanted, they prayed to St Thomas of Lancaster, that he would pray to Almighty God for that prisoner, and promised to go to Pontefract for to do their pilgrimage. And the good man soon after slept full soft, and dreamed that the martyr St Thomas came unto him, and anointed all over his sick side. And therewith the good man awoke, and was all whole; and his flesh was restored again, that before was rotted and fell away; for which miracle the good man and his friends loved God and St Thomas evermore after. ” [509]

A touching story.
The rich man kept his promise and went to pilgrimage to
Pontefract and took with him four other men.
When back in his own country [France], they told about
the miracle of Saint Thomas [the executed Thomas of
Lancaster] [510]

Two men healed from ”morimal” [cancer or gangrene]

There was also a thrilling story of two men, healed
from ”morimal” [cancer or gangrene] [511]


Bad news travels fast.

Good news too.

Given the amazing stories, it didn’t take
long, before they were spread under the common people, the clergy, the nobility, and even to Royal Court, as we shall see.

And you don’t have to be a Medieval man [or woman]
to understand, that with such stories,
hundreds, no, thousands of people came to visit
the tomb of  ”Saint Thomas” [Thomas of Lancaster]
hoping to be cured of some disease or having a healthy childbirth,
etc, etc.


Those miracles were reported to King Edward II during
the parliament that was held in York during april 1322. [512]
Since Thomas was executed on orders of the King, it
will come as no surprise, that neither he, nor his
favourites the Despensers, were very
happy with the news about the veneration of ”Saint Thomas”.

According to again the Brut chronicler, the Despensers
said that it was ”great heresy”. [513]
Of course they reacted like that:
Thomas of Lancaster had been their great adversary, wanting
them ousted from influence over the King.

The King himself was not pleased either, for the same reasons
[and not to forget, Thomas’ involvement in the execution of
his favourite Piers Gaveston in 1312].

In June 1323, Edward II ordered the bishop of London (Stephen Gravesend, a good friend and ally of the King] to prevent people praying and making offerings at a tablet in St Pauls “whereon are depicted statues, sculpture or images of diverse persons,” Thomas of Lancaster’s among them, “as the king learns with displeasure that many of the people go to the said tablet and worship it as a holy thing without the authority of the church of Rome, asserting that miracles are done there.” [514]

The Croniques de London describes  this object instead as a tablet which Thomas of Lancaster had had made to celebrate Edward’s granting of the Ordinances in 1311. [515]
So Saint’s veneration was mixed here with Lancaster’s struggle
to curb royal power and obtaining more freedoms for the
barons [which subsequently later could benefit other classes
like the burgesses, etc] [516]

The story goes on:

In early september 1323, from Barnard Castle, King Edward II
ordered Richard Moseley, his clerk and the constable of Pontefract Castle, to “go in person to the place of execution of Thomas, late earl of Lancaster, and prohibit a multitude of malefactors and apostates from praying and making oblations there in memory of the said earl not to God but rather to idols, in contempt of the king and contrary to his former command.”  [517]

Direct cause for the orders of the King:
In 1323, 2000 people, some of them from as far away as Kent, gathered to pray and make oblations at Thomas of Lancaster’s tomb. [518]

But the more the King pushed to prevent the veneration of
Saint Thomas, the more recalcitrant the people became:

Moseley and his servants, the men the King had ordered
to prohibit those, who went to pilgrimage, to pray
at the tomb of Saint Thomas were assaulted, and two of them, Richard de Godeleye and Robert de la Hawe, were killed. [519]

But not only the King wrote disapprovingly about the
veneration of ”Saint Thomas”
The archbishop of York, Edward II’s loyal friend and ally William Melton [who had sent the correspondence of Thomas
of Lancaster with the Scots to the King] [520]wrote
the Official of the Archdeacon of York, banning the cult
and empowering its activity there, pointing out
that Thomas of Lancaster was not a canonised saint, [521]

The veneration of  ”Saint Thomas” grew in popularity
according as the tyranny of Edward II and his favourites
the Despensers [522], became worse and worse.

And not only Thomas of Lancaster was venerated as a
Two Contrariants [you know: the rebels who fought
the Despenser influence over the King and forced their
banishment, under leadership of the Marcher Lords and
Thomas of Lancaster, in the Despenser War] [523] executed in March 1322 in Bristol were Henry de Montfort and Henry Wilington: in September 1323, miracles were also said to have taken place at their execution site. [524]
The mayor of Bristol told Edward II that Montfort’s brother Reginald bribed a ‘poor child’ of the city with two shillings “to pronounce to the people that he received healing of his sight.” [525]

On the contrary:
Men named William Cliff and William and John Corteis “went there many times and preached to the people that miracles were done and forcibly maintained this, saying that without doubt the things done there were true.” [526]

But a really impressive cult was the veneration of
Saint Thomas, that grew and grew during the last four
years of the reign [from 1322, the execution year of Thomas
of Lancaster until 1326-27, the invasion of Isabella of France and
former Marcher Lord Roger Mortimer and Edward II’s
subsequent downfall from power] of his cousin, King Edward II.


With Edward II’s downfall in 1327 and the rise in power
of Isabella of France [his estranged wife] and her [presumably]
lover, Marcher Lord Roger Mortimer and former
ally of Thomas of Lancaster [Mortimer surrendered to
Edward II at Shrewsbury, in january 1322, was imprisoned
in the Tower, escaped and fled to France, to return to England
with Isabella and an invasion army] [527], the
attitude towards the cult of ”Saint Thomas” changed.
Not only was it no longer officially banned, but royal and
ecclasiastical efforts were made to turn Thomas of Lancaster
from a popular to a canonized martyr. [528]
A campaign to canonise Thomas of Lancaster began in earnest, yet before Lancaster’s death sentence was
officially annulled by King Edward III in march 1328 [after
it had been discussed in the first parliament of the
new reign, february-march 1327] [529]


In a parliamentary petition to King Edward III
[who had succeeded his father Edward II after his forced
abdication or deposition, you can call it both] [530]
in the first year of his reign, the commons asked to
promote the canonization of Thomas of Lancaster. [531]
On the last day of february 1327 a letter was sent under
Edward III’s seal to Pope John XXII, requesting an inquiry into
the canonization of Lancaster.
Thomas of Lancaster was referred to as the Kings ”most
beloved kinsman” (nostrumque consanguinem carissimum”)
and described not only as a martyr by the manner of his death,
but also a pious man in life.
He was described as ”generous, provident and faithful” [532]
But this appeal for canonization was grounded not only
in his ”holy” life or ”martyr’s death” [as it was described and
which were conditions for a possible canonization], but also
on the miracles, performed after his execution. [533]

King Edward III wrote another two letters to the Pope to
promote Thomas of Lancaster’s canonization:

A second in march 1330 [534] and remarkably, a third AFTER his
deposing his mother Isabella of France and her [possible]
lover Roger Mortimer from power [535], meaning, that
he had not solely acted according to the wishes of Isabella and
Roger Mortimer [since he wrote the two first letters, when they
were the de facto rulers in England]

There was also this visit to the Pope:

After the downfall of Edward II [and before the third
letter of King Edward III to the Pope], Edward II’s own halfbrother,
so the uncle of Edward III,
the earl of Kent – who, by the way, was one of the men who condemned Thomas of Lancaster to death [536]
– visited Pope John XXII in 1329 to ask him to canonise Thomas. [537]

But the royal letters as the attempts of the Earl of Kent
were not the only ones:

Not surprisingly, Thomas of Lancaster’s
brother Henry of Lancaster [our ”mystery man, as
described in chapter seven, F], also wrote to the Pope,
a few days earlier than the first letter of King Edward III
on the last day of february 1327.
Archbishop William Melton of York [who in 1320 had sent
Thomas of Lancaster’s correspondence with the Scots to
King Edward II] [538] wrote the letter on behalf of
Henry of Lancaster,  requesting the Pope to inquire
into the canonization of the popular ”Saint”. [539]

But Henry did more:
In collaboration with Isabella [springing
probably from Isabella and Mortimer’s desire to
keep Henry of Lancaster on board in the rank of of their supporters],
an agreement [confirmed by King Edward III] took place
between the Priory and the Convent of Pontefract.
It dealt with a chapel, which was to be built outside
the city walls, on the hill where Lancaster had been executed
five years ago [so this great event took place in 1327]
A hermit was to reside there to receive alms
for the building of the chapel.
He was to be assisted by a clerk appointed by Isabella
and Henry of Lancaster. [540]
And that was not all:
A clerk was appointed for collecting alms from all
over the Kingdom for the construction of the said chapel.
It proved succesful:
The offerings received were very generous! [541]


Under King Edward III, the cult of ”Saint Thomas”
continued to flourish and was greatly encouraged:
Hagiographies [542] about him were written [543]
and pilgrims continued to visit his tomb or place
of execution.
In time, new attributes were added to the list of Lancaster’s
superlatives, as Christ’s noble knight and athlete (nobili
Christi miles et athleta) [544]

A text written in Latin probably in the late 1320s laments Thomas as “the blessed martyr” and “flower of knights,” and says “the pouring out of prayers to Thomas restores the sick to health; the pious earl comes immediately to the aid of those who are feeble.” It begins “Rejoice, Thomas, the glory of chieftains, the light of Lancaster, who by thy death imitatest Thomas [Becket] [545]of Canterbury, whose head was broken on account of the peace of the Church, and thine is cut off for the cause of the peace in England; be to us an affectionate guardian in every difficulty.”

The text further emphasizes the notion that Thomas was condemned to death unfairly and was a freedom fighter for the people of England against royal despotism. [546]

That was not entirely untrue, since the trial
of Thomas of Lancaster was utterly unfair [547] [although
proofs of  his letters with the Scots would eventually have
eventually led to death sentence or at least life
imprisonment of exile] and Thomas of Lancaster
DID combat the Edward II arbitrary favouritism on the
avaricious Despensers and tried to defend the Ordinances. [548]
On the other hand:
For a very important part he was guided by lust for
power and not idealism…….

The text also suggests, that Lancaster cared a lot about
the common people, writing
”Who when he perceived that the whole commons were falling into wreck, did not shrink from dying for the right, in the fatal commerce…he is delivered to dire death, on account of which England mourns. Alas! he is beheaded for the aid of the commons..” [549]
The reader may judge for his or herself, whether Thomas of
Lancaster really cared much about the common people….

Pilgrim’s badge were made for his veneration and
Thomas’ hat and belt preserved at Pontefract were used as remedies in childbirth and for headaches as late as the Reformation. [550]


Lancaster was never officially canonized, although the
chronicler Thomas Walsingham wrote in 1390, that
Thomas WAS. [Sanctus Thomas de Lancastria canonizatus est]
[551], which led to a big revival of his cult.

But although Thomas never received the official papal
status of martyr, he remained a martyr by popular acclamation
for the next two hundred years…..[552]


Now what intrigues me most in this amazing story
-I wrote that on the start of this book [HAHAHA, my article],
is the transformation of Thomas of Lancaster from
a warlord into a saint.
How was it possible that a man of high birth and rank
from double royal descent [both from his father’s as his
mother’s side] [553], who was a rebel warlord for nearly ten
years, taking up arms against his King, feuded with other
nobles [554], made the King’s favourite [Piers Gaveston]
executed [joined by other nobles] [555] and was [as far as I know] seeking wordly power and wealth only, in death was transformed
into a Saint?
A miracle in itself.

According to Medieval standards, to become a saint, certain clear qualifications were
necessary, like having led a pious life,
having defended the rights of the Church and [recommendable]
died for it, like Thomas Becket did, who indeed was
canonized [556]….

Now Thomas of Lancaster certainly did NOT
led a pious life, nor did he defend the rights of the Church.
On the contrary, he sought [to put it in familiar Medieval
terms] temporal power and wealth.

Thomas was not the best man of his time [I refer
to the murder of Piers Gaveston, Thomas’ arrogance,

taking up arms against his King], although there were
far worse men [I refer to the crimes of the Marcher Lords,
which Thomas did NOT commit, although supporting
the Lords] [557]
Also he was NOT known for a particular generosity to
the poor, in contrary to later hagiography.

On the other hand, following  Medieval standards, at least he
had one qualification to Sanctity:
Miracles were reported on his tomb and place
of his execution. [559]

And because of those  miracles, Thomas was considered
to be a Saint.


Now in the Middle Ages, when every person from
the King down to the lowliest peasant, lived lives,
that were ordered around the beliefs, ceremonies
and doctrines of the Catholic Church, the fenomenon ”miracle” was as real as computers and
televisions in modern eyes.
Regarding to the supposed miracles at the grave and
the tomb of Thomas of Lancaster:

Now of course it is impossible
to know what actually took place at his grave or tomb,
but whatever happened, people believed in those
miracles, which caused pilgrimages to his grave.


Whoever does NOT want to be healed
from a disease, freed from his [or her]
headaches or having a healthy childbirth? [560]
That can partly explain the agressive reaction on
the King’s clerk, Richard Moseley and his servants,
when they tried, on the orders of the King [Edward II],
to prevent the people to venerate ”Saint Thomas” [561]

People [often poor people], who wanted to be healed,
came ”as far as Kent” [562] [Kent lies in the
South of England, Pontefract
Castle lies in the middle of England, direction North] [563]
in the hope to be healed, only to discover, that the autorities
tried to prevent them reaching their goals:
Veneration of Saint Thomas and healing of their
Of course they were furious [not to justify
the violencer that took the lives of the
two servants of Richard Morseley, of course]


At every event in history or our times, whether
wordly of ”holy” events,  it is important to have a close look
[with regard to the ”holy” events, with all respect],
who benefits from it, or who loses.

That ”benefit” or ”lose” can be political or materialistic [money, possession, fame]
Or ”non materialistic”;
emotional and [or] spiritual [or a mix between materialistic
and non materialistic]

Now take a look on those, who were the ”losers”


”Losers” not in the present meaning of the word [564],
because here was a King and high nobility involved,
King Edward II and his favourites the Despensers.
Being Thomas’ executioners [together with a number
of ”colleague” nobles of the Despensers] [565] and
knowing that he had still support
[especially in the North of England], the news, that alleged
miracles had taken place on his tomb [or place of execution],
was, to put it mildly, disturbing to them.
And let’s not forget:
Thomas WAS a condemned traitor [566], in an unfair trial,
admittedly, but a ”legal” one, confirmed by the King,
who also had set in judgment over him.
And a traitor as a Saint….?
From their point of view, that must have been bizarre.

I can understand the King and the
Despensers [who were so closely connected with the
King that I think it is justified to mention them
simultaneously] very well:
They had a huge problem.
Their government was growing in unpopularity [567]
They didn’t know what really took place at
the tomb [or place of execution] of Thomas,
whether there was someone influential behind those ”miracle”
Someone [with support from the North], who was
able to rise against the King again?
Yes, I can understand their worries.

So the King took measures to end the veneration
of ”Saint Thomas” [see above : Reaction of King Edward II
Despensers], to no avail.
Because whatever he did to suppress the venerations, they only
grew in popularity……..


Now take a look on those, who ”gained” or ”profited”.

The first I mention is Thomas’ brother Henry.
Now it is known, that he took no part in his
brother”s rebellion [568] and spent most of
the ”hot years” [between 1319-1322, during which the
feud between King Edward II and Thomas of
Lancaster escalated, ending in his execution, see the
chapters 5 t/m 8] in France. [569]
There is even suggested, that Thomas and Henry were not that
close. [570]

Be that as it may: [571]
But of course the execution of his brother
Thomas must have been dramatic for Henry, as
his actions will show [see chapter 10, Aftermath]
We don’t know, how the stories about the
miracles were spread:
Perhaps Henry had a hand in it [I don’t know,
only pointing out the possibility]
Perhaps not.

But for sure he came at the heart of the action:
A few days earlier before the first letter
of King Edward III in 1327 [King after the deposition
of his father Edward II in 1327] [572], Archbishop William Melton of York [who in 1320 had sent
Thomas of Lancaster’s correspondence with the Scots to
King Edward II] [573] wrote a letter on behalf of
Henry of Lancaster,  requesting the Pope to inquire
into the canonization of the popular ”Saint” [574]

Under responsibility of Henry of Lancaster and Queen Isabella of France, also an agreement [confirmed by King Edward III] took place
between the Priory and the Convent of Pontefract.
It dealt with a chapel, which was to be built outside
the city walls, on the hill where Lancaster had been executed
five years ago
A hermit was to reside there to receive alms
for the building of the chapel.
He was to be assisted by a clerk appointed by Isabella
and Henry of Lancaster. [575]

Henry’s aim may have served several purposes:

An emotional one:
Publicly commemorating his brother and
restoring family honour [after all, Thomas was
executed as a traitor]
But also a materialistic one:

Veneration of Saints [and all the trade
in pilgrimages etc] was very profitable.

Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer:

The second to be mentioned were Queen
Isabella and her ally and possible
lover, former Marcher Lord Roger Mortimer
[see also the chapters six and seven about his
role in the Despenser war]

Their motives were mainly political:
First to counterbalance the potential
posthumous popularity of Edward II
[his tragic death aroused pity and the
Isabella and Mortimer regime grew more and
more unpopular, see chapter 10, Aftermath]
Their second motive was, possibly, to keep
Henry of Lancaster on board as their supporter,
especially since he headed the new minor’s kings
council. [576]

King Edward III

And King Edward III himself, who wrote three times
to the Pope in order to get a canonization for ”Saint Thomas”

I bring the reader into memory, that the initial two letters
were written by Edward III, when his mother Isabella
and her [possible] lover Roger Mortimer were the de facto
rulers [577], so it was on that moment not clear, whether the King
[then 14 years old] acted of his own accord.

However, after having overthrown the regime of his
mother and Isabella and Roger Mortimer [578],
Edward III did wrote a third [and last] letter to the Pope [579].
That WAS on his own accord, since now he was
not king in name anymore, but the de facto ruler too.

Edward III’s motive could have been his appreciation
for Henry of Lancaster, who not only served
in his council [under the Isabella and Mortimer regime],
but also helped the King to put an end to
the Mortimer [and Isabella] regime. [580]
Also Edward III’s great liking of Henry’s son, Henry
of Grosmont [first Duke of Lancaster, the second duke in
English history, after Edward III’s eldest son, the Black
Prince] [581], who represented his father in parliament
from 1330 [because of Henry of Lancaster’s loss of
eyesight], could have played an important part in
Edward III’s attempts to canonize Thomas of
Lancaster [582]

Anyway, that were my considerations about the motives
of the important players after the downfall of Edward II,
regarding the canonization of Thomas of Lancaster.


Thomas did not lead a pious life, nor seemed
to have cared much about the ”common people”
or ”the poor”
The only link with commons I can see is his
devotion to the Ordinances [583], curbing the royal power
and giving space to more power for the nobility,
which eventually could have led to more power
for the commoners too.

So he derived his Sanctity not from a pious
life or for fighting the rights of the Church,
but from the miracles
that were  reported on hisgrave and place
of execution, since people were appartently healed.

I ask myself:
Reported by who?
The people who were ”healed” and their
Or had Henry, Thomas’ brother, a hand in those rumours,
desiring to repair the honour of his executed brother
and the family name.

But at the end, there was more to it:

Not only people venerated ”Saint Thomas”
because of the miracles, this veneration was
also an
act of protest against the mounting tyranny of the King and
the Despensers, who repressed the Contrariant’s resistance
severely [executions, imprisonments, hard treatment of
the wives of the rebels] [584]

When faced with such a tyranny, those who opposed the
”tyrants” [The Contrariants, namely Thomas, the Marcher
Lords and allies], soon became ”freedomfighters” and in the light
of unfair trials, underdogs and in the case of
Thomas of Lancaster, eventually, holy…..

Also by law Thomas had his honour preserved [ in
1328 his trial was reversed] [585] and his brother
Henry his satisfaction.

I end with the beginning of this chapter:

A part of a prayer to ”Saint Thomas” “the blessed martyr” and “flower of knights,”

”.O Thomas, strenuous champion of plentiful charity, who didst combat for the law of England’s liberty, intercede for our sins with the Father of Glory, that he may give us a place with the blessed in the heavenly court.” [586]

The warlord had become ”Thomas the Martyr” [587]




King Edward II


The Despensers


Roger Mortimer


Queen Isabella


Henry of Lancaster

The unfair trial and execution of Thomas of Lancaster
was not the end of the story:
On the contrary:
It  would cast its shadows over the years to come.

With the champion of the Ordinances [588] dead, the way was paved for
a new and horrific Era in English history::
The tyranny……[589]
In may 1322, two months after the execution of Thomas
of Lancaster, the Ordinances were revoked [590], which gave King
Edward II and his favourites the Despensers all the space
they needed, without considering law and justice.

This had started with the execution and unfair trial of Thomas
of Lancaster, who was the first Earl to be executed since Waltheof [1076!],[591]
, following more Contrariants, also after unfair trials or simply
executed,  twenty or 22 in total [592], in one case even
the horrible traitor’s death.[593]
Prisons were filled with Contrariants, others were exiled
and some even being  forced to ”acknowledge” that they owed large debts to the king in return for a pardon. [594]
Pure maffialike extortion…..

Even their wives and children were imprisoned, although
they had nothing to to with the Despenser war rebellion,
often suffering harsh prison. [595]
But to be fair:
In case of Lady Badlesmere, who had refused
Queen Isabella admittance to Leeds Castle
, while on pilgrimage and
whose castle was besieged by the King in retaliation [596]:
She was imprisoned ”only” for a year and released seven
months after the brutal execution [traitor’s death] of
her husband in april 1322. [597]


Hell broke loose in those years of total arbitrariness and injustice in
which the Despensers did as they pleased, always backed by
a consenting King, as though they had hypnotised him…..

But as this dramatic story will reveal, soon
those, who imposed death penalty on Thomas of Lancaster,

pursued his and the Marcher Lord’s followers without mercy,  bringing
injustice and terror in the land, would learn,
that the very lawliness business they had created,  would
blow up in their faces……. [598]

Let’s have a close look at how fared the mayor players in this drama:



If the King had thought that he ”had it all”, by executing his cousin
Thomas of Lancaster
and crushing his opposition and that of the Marcher Lords,
he would be tragically mistaken.
Because now Lancaster gone and the opposition against Edward II’s destructive
reign [remember, those favourites!] destroyed, there was no one from
restraining him [Edward II], to run fast in the direction of his own downfall.
And holding the Despensers at his side, would prove desastrous for
both the King and the Despensers, although it must have seemed otherwise
in 1322.

Opposition not dead and buried:

At first not all opposition was dead and buried:
From 1323, Edward II had to deal with the veneration cult of
Saint Thomas [Edward II’s executed cousin Thomas of Lancaster] [599], which was
not only disconcerting for him and the Despensers, but also an
utterance of protest against his reign, that grew to be more unpopular
day by day.
Who were behind the ”reports” about the miracles at the tomb [or place
of execution] of Thomas of Lancaster, was unclear:
Perhaps just popular tales, but perhaps Thomas’ brother, Henry
of Lancaster [600], who, harmless as he looked [not participating
in his brother’s rebellions] would prove to be a very danger for Edward II and the

Another blow to Edward II was the spectacular escape from the Tower of London,
of leader Marcher Lord, Roger Mortimer in august 1323
[one of the few successful escapes from the Tower] [601].
Mortimer fled to France, what would prove desastrous for Edward II…..

Also, other Contrariants fled to France  [602], where they formed a circle
of resistance against the Edward II/Despenser regime…

Growing opposition against the regime Edward II/Despensers:

But the remaining Contrariant’s opposition [later led from France] is one thing.
More dangerous, at the moment, was the growing resistance against
the avariciousness and maffia like practices of the Despensers [603], with
the blessing of the King.
People,not only his magnates, but also lower born,  got more and more fed up with the bad rule, the injustice and King’s favouritism towards the Despensers, who ruled
in Edward’s name as if they were the King.
But that was not enough:
King Edward, champion in making enemies in those days [which proved to
be tragic], even managed to estrange a part of the higher clergy from him,
driving some of them right in the arms of the Contrariants inspired resistance. [604]
I mention the Bishops Adam Orleton, bishop of Hereford,
John Droxford, bishop of Bath and Wells, Henry Burghersh, bishop of Lincoln, John Statford, bishop of Winchester
Stratford, John Hothum, bishop of Ely and William Airmyn,  bishop of Norwich [605]

Not a clever chess player, King Edward II…….

Tensions with France:

As if the problems at home were not enough [606], to
make things worse [poor King Edward II……], in 1324 Edward II quarreled

big time [607]  with his brother in law, [his wife Isabella’s brother], King
Charles IV [608]
They had a serious row over Gascony [the land in France, the Plantagenet Kings had
inherited via their ancestor Eleanor of Aquitaine.
For that land they had to do homage
for the French King for their lands, the French King being their liegelord in France,
but that homage always was a source for tension between England and France] [609]
Edward also had to pay homage for Ponthieu, which was his inheritance
from his mother, Eleanor of Castile, countess of Ponthieu in her own right. [610]
This war had far reaching consequences for the relation between Edward II
and his wife Isabella, the sister of Charles IV.

Because Edward II did a ”great thing” ……..
During the war, ordered the arrest of any French persons in England and seized Isabella’s lands, on the basis that she was of French origin……[612]

Given the fact, that those measures were unfair anyway, since the
French in England, nor the Queen, were NOT responsible for the
measures of the French King, it was utterly unfair to Isabella,
who, until now, had been a loyal Queen to Edward.
Her life was not made much easier, by this, added to the fact,
that favourite Hugh Despenser was [seemingly] the TOP priority
for Edward and the Despensers did not allow ANYONE alone
with the King, even not his wife……[613]

But back to the war:
At a certain moment, it was agreed, that negociations would
take place between Edward II and Charles IV.

To perform them, Edward II sent his wife Isabella, sister
of Charles IV, to France [which proved to be desastrous later] [614]
who started the negociations late march 1325.
She did the best she could, but it proved to be difficult.

Charles IV insisted, that Edward II came to France to pay homage
for Gascony and Ponthieu.
And don’t underestimate it:
That homage thing was very serious:
When one failed, the lands were forfeited to the liege lord,
in this case, Charles IV. [615]
So homage was necessary.

Now Edward II had a huge problem.
He could not leave England like that, since the growing
unrest in the country, stemming from the unpopularity
of the Edward II/Despenser rule.
But that was not the only worry of Edward II.

One can safely say, that at that moment
[apart from his children], Hugh Despenser the Younger perhaps
was the most important person in Edward’s life.
He depended strongly upon him, both political and emotional.
Now there was a clear chance, that without Edward II’s protection,
Hugh and his father risked to be killed in an uprising.

But taking Hugh with him to France was no option either, since
Hugh was hated there because of his piracy [during his banishment
during the Despenser War] and risked to be arrested. [616]

So it was an enormous dilemma for Edward, which he tried to
solve by sending his son Edward of Windsor [ [the later Edward III,
whom his father had made duke of Aquitaine and count of Ponthieu]  to pay homage in his father’s place.

Was that a wise decision?
Because now the successor to the throne was out of
his father’s control and under the influence of his mother
Isabella [he was 12 years old], who had an agenda of her own…..

Yet Edward II had no other options……

Because when nether he nor his son would pay homage,
his lands would be forfeited, as I have pointed out above.

Isabella in France/Refusal to return to England

Well, Edward of Windsor, the 12 year old son of Edward II, payed homage in september
1325 [617], but then the mess really began.
Because apparently Edward II expected his wife and son to come back
to England and Isabella refused, pointing out, that she wanted Hugh Despenser
removed from Court.
Out in the open she accused her husband from supposedly having a
romantic and sexual relationship with Hugh.
In France she held a speech, stating
”’”I feel that marriage is a joining together of man and woman, maintaining the undivided habit of life, and that someone has come between my husband and myself trying to break this bond; I protest that I will not return until this intruder is removed, but discarding my marriage garment, shall assume the robes of widowhood and mourning until I am avenged of this Pharisee.” [618]
She made quite a show by dressing like a widow, since
Hugh Despenser had come beteen her and her husband. [619]

Her refusal to return to her husband was, of course,
a scandal in those Medieval times.

Some sources suggest, that the intention
of her speech was, that she wanted to save her marriage and to go back to her husband, when he would send Despenser away, while
others say, that she knew quite well, that the King would
refuse and that she used it as a pretext to side with his enemies
and depose him.

Now I can’t read Queen Isabella’s mind [no one can],
but I think that whatever her intentions, she could have known
that Edward would never send Despenser away….

Anyway, whatever Isabella wanted, felt or planned, Edward
made it perfectly clear, that sending Hugh away would
NEVER going to happen. [620]


Learning, that his wife refused to come back [since
HE refused to send his favourite Hugh Despenser away],
Edward began to write a series of letters, to the Pope
and King Charles IV of France, urging his concern about
his wife’s absence, but to no avail. [621]
Charles IV protected his sister, replying: ‘The queen has come of her will, and may freely return if she so wishes. But if she prefers to remain in these parts, she is my sister, and I will not detain her.’ [622]
[Wikipedia mentions not ”detain” but ”expel”] [623]

Edward II, in reaction of  Isabella’s refusal return to him
, cut off her expenses in mid-November 1325, and, short of funds, the queen was forced to borrow 1000 Paris livres from Charles IV on 31 December. [624]

Edward II wrote his last-ever letter to Isabella on 1 December 1325, ordering her home and claiming that he was suffering badly from her ‘so very long absence’.
This letter contained [certainly to the annoyment of Isabella!]
endlessly long  justifications for Hugh Despenser the Younger’s behaviour. [625]
Edward wrote simulateous letters  to his son Edward of Windsor, Charles IV and numerous French magnates and bishops. [626]

Edward defended Hugh Despenser also before before the parliament which began at Westminster – the last one he ever held – on 18 November 1325. [627]

If there were tabloids in those days, what a sensational stories
they could have written.

Contrariants, with a vengeance!/Roger Mortimer

We have met Roger Mortimer already, the powerful
Marcher Lord and ally of Thomas of Lancaster in
the Despenser war, imprisoned in the Tower and escaped
in 1323, fled to France. [628]

Probably between october 1325 and february 1326, Isabella associated
herself with  Roger Mortimer. [629]

In and around february 1326 , that Edward II complained that his queen was ‘adopting the counsel’ of Roger Mortimer and his allies on the Continent [630] [meaning other English noblemen and knights who had joined the 1321/22 Contrariant rebellion against the king and the Despensers and who fled the country after the Contrariant defeat at the battle of Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322, where Thomas
of Lancaster was captured and the Earl of Hereford was
killed in battle]
Of course it was obvious, that taken from Edward II’s and
medieval point of view, this act of Isabella was treason and
he was right to complain.

There is often suggested, that she already had associated
herself with him in England and even helped him escape
from the Tower.
Possible, I don’t know

What I DO know is, that they associated in France and would
stay allies until the end.
Were they lovers, as is usually assumed? [631]
In each case, they were very closely associated, but of course
there is no proof for a romance, as there is no proof for the romantic
relationship of Edward II with Hugh Despenser, [although
Edward II with Hugh Despenser seems
seems yet more probable, since the intense need of Edward
for this guy, defending him against all odds….]

Be as it may, Isabella associated herself with Roger and
other Contariants as Sir William Trussel [632], a die hard ally of
Thomas of Lancaster and soon her environment
became a circle for the resistance against the Edward II
Despensers rule.


To cut a long story short.
The ”Court” of Isabella became a centre of the resistance
against the Edward II/Despenser rule, including
King’s own halfbrother, the Earl of Kent [633]:
In order to do that, they had to invade England.
So Isabella and Roger went to Hainault [part of
modern Belgium], where her son Edward of Windsor
[the later Edward III] was bethroted to the daughter of the
Count of Hainault with as a ”dowry”, ships, mercenaries
and cash to invade England. [634]
Which they did on september 1326.
Alas for King Edward II, they were received with great
approval and his support crumbled almost immediately.
One of the main causes was the joining with the rebels
[Isabella and Roger] of Henry of Lancaster, brother of
the executed Thomas of Lancaster [at the moment of the
invasion, Henry was only Earl of Leicester] [635], he was,
to put it mildly, certainly no friend of the Despensers.
The cause of that may be clear:
The Despensers were the main force behind the execution
of his brother Thomas, although not the only ones. [636]
Also [must be very painful for the King], King’s other
halfbrother [and full brother of the Earl of Kent] abandoned
the King and joined the rebels.

Almost deserted by everybody [with special thanks to the
Despenser’s evil councils, although it was Edward II’s choice
to favourite them], the King and the Despensers fled London,
westwards with the King.
Despenser the Elder tried to defend Bristol, but had to
surrender himself. [637]

After a mock trial [a parody of that of Thomas of Lancaster]

he was condemned to be hanged, drawn and quatered [horrible!]
on the orders of Roger Mortimer, Queen Isabella, Henry of Lancaster
and others. [638]

The King and Hugh Despenser [his great favourite],

fled west and tried to sail to Lundy, a small island
off the Devon coast, but failed, because of the weather [639]
and were captured at South Wales by the forces of Henry

of Lancaster. [640]

The King went to Kenilworth, the castle of Henry
of Lancaster, who was ordered to hold him in custody
and treated him very courteously, according to his
royal rank [641]

But poor Hugh Despenser was treated totally otherwise:

After a horribly humiliating journey to Hereford, where
Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer were waiting for him.
Actually, Queen Isabella wanted him to be executed
in London [because of course he was a fair trial], but since he tried to starve himself
to death [poor man], she was afraid he would not make
Therefore his ”trial” in Hereford with his horrible execution,
to be hanged, drawn and quarted”
This gruesome execution took place on 24 november
1326. [642]


I can imagine the immense grief Edward II must have felt:
First the execution of Hugh’s father, Hugh Despenser the Elder [643]
and a month later the execution of his favourite Hugh, whom
he had defended unconditionally, whatever the consequences.
It must have been devastating to him.

As if that were not enough,
he had to face an immense humiliation, his deposition as a King.
For us, modern people, it’s hard to understand what pain
he must have been through.
Because deposing a King was unprecendented in English history
[as far as we know], the Kingship was divine [644] and was supposed
to end with the death of the King.
But of course the new de facto rulers, Isabella and Mortimer,
had this huge problem.
Edward II was still King in name, but beaten, powerless
and imprisoned.
So to execute power de jure [645], they had to get rid of him
as a King.
So the whole thing was orchestrated.
Adam Orleton, the Bishop of Hereford, strong supporter of Isabella and
Mortimer, since the King had alienated him by his unfunded accusations
of siding with the Contraraints [646], made a series of public allegations about Edward’s conduct as king, and in January 1327 a parliament convened at Westminster at which the question of Edward’s future was raised
Edward II refused to attend the gathering;[647]

To cut a long story short:
After consent of the leading barons and the clergy, in january 1327 a representative delegation of barons, clergy and knights was sent to Kenilworth to speak to the King.
Probably under thtreat [the story is told, that  if he were to resign as monarch, his son Prince Edward would succeed him, but if he failed to do so, his son might be disinherited as well, and the crown given to an alternative candidate]
, the King abdicated. [648]
His reign was formally ended, when Sir William Trussell, a strong adherer
of Thomas of Lancaster, representing the kingdom as a whole, withdrew his homage. [649]

Edward of Windsor, son of Edward II, was the new King.
He crowned in february, 1327 as King Edward III. [650]
Henry of Lancaster, his father’s cousin, was appointed as
”chief advisor” of King Edward III. [651]

His father was the first English King, who was deposed.

Edward II
From Kenilworth to Berkeley Castle

During his custody under his cousin Henry of Lancaster
[brother of Thomas of Lancaster] he was treated with all honour,
due to a King.
But, doubtless to the regret of Edward II, this was not going to last,
since there were a number of plots to free him.
Therefore the new rulers [his son Edward III was only King in name] probably for security reasons,
removed Edward from his cousin Henry to another location,
Berkeley Castle. [652]
Whereas Edward enjoyed an honourable treatment at his cousin Henry’s Castle, it is not clear, what
treatment he got in Berkeley Castle.

His custodians were Thomas Berkeley [son in law of
Roger Mortimer] [653] and his [Thomas’] brother in law, John Maltravers, who sided with the Marcher Lords in the Despenser War and fought at the side of Thomas of Lancaster in the last decisive battle, the Battle of Boroughbridge.,
after which he fled abroad, to return to England with
Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer in 1326. [654]

Now I have not the faintest idea, what treatment Edward II got
in Berkeley Castle.
According to some sources he was often mistreated [655], other sources doubt it. [656]

Well, perhaps he was not mistreated, but I have an idea, that his treatment was totally different than at his cousin Henry’s Castle, since he was surrounded by his enemies.

For whatever grudge Henry -probably- held against Edward II
because of the execution of his brother Thomas, being his
royal cousin he must have had a thorough respect of monarchy
and after all, he was a less hardliner than his brother and almost certainly no enemy of Edward [in contrary with his brother], at least not before the execution of his brother.

With Berkeley and Maltravers, I think it was another matter….

For Isabella and Roger Mortimer their problems were
not over, since new plots arose to free former King Edward II.
What happened then in Berkeley Castle is not clear, but at
23 September Edward III was informed that his father had died at Berkeley Castle during the night of 21 September. [657]

Generally accepted by fourtheenth century chroniclers
was that Edward II died indeed in Berkeley Castle at 21 september,
some wrote that he was murdered, while there were chroniclers
who thought that he died from natural causes. [658]
However, a majority, as the most historians, are in agreement,
that he probably was murdered, [659], what is quite a logical
assumption, since a natural death seemed to be too
”convenient” dor the de facto rulers and it was
clear, that Edward formed a security risk and a source of fear.


What as the adherents of Edward succeeded in their attempts to
free him and he was restored  to power again, revoked his abdication
and doubtless would take mercilessly revenge on those,
who executed the Despensers?
Exactly, Isabella and her ally/favourite and likely lover,
Roger Mortimer!

About the possible murder of Edward II a horrifying story circulated,
which was lontime widely believed, that he was murdered
by a ”red hot poker” [see for details under note 660]
But now it is commonly believed by historians as a complete invention.


Now obviously, in the Middle Ages and in our times, celebrity stories are celebrity stories and tend to be fantastic [however it CAN be the truth]
Fantastic tales about contemporary as historical celebrities,
like Kings, who were not the sons of their fathers, however fancied [662], change of babies or children [663], etc, etc, are from all
times and places and will always excite people.

So it would seem a matter of time when a story rose,
that Edward II not died at Berkeley at all, but somehow
escaped [or was freed], went abroad and lived long
after that.
But there is a minority of historians, who believe this
seemingly fantastic story and support it with evidence,
they have found.
However, it is not convincing to me yet,
but under note 664 I present to you some articles.
Judge for yourself.

But no matter how and when he died and whether he
was murdered or not, to me, Edward II was a tragic character,
who was emotionally dependent on men, yet had to marry to
secure the line of succession.
And  his deep feelings towards men, sexually or
not, which explained his dangerous and silly favouritism,
led to his downfall.
I am not saying here that he had no feelings at all
for Isabella.
There are plenty occasions where he proved his
respect and affection for her. [665]
But I am nearly convinced, that his deepest feelings were
not for her, as he clearly showed in his loves for Piers
Gaveston and especially Hugh Despenser, whom he refused
to send away from him, despite Isabella’s pleas.

That absolute loyalty to his favourites was his weakness, but makes him
sympathetic in my eyes [only that aspect, NOT his clear
vindictiveness and merciless conduct, especially after the Despenser
War], as his affinities for common people, and his generosity.  [666]

An inadequate [to put it mildly] military leader and ruler.
But also a man, capable of great loves.

A pity, that he ended so tragically, whether murdered or died
at Berkeley, whether escaped and died faraway, losing
his dearest friend Hugh, without ever seeing
his children again and never knowing his grandchildren……



Now about the Despensers, who were [not to exclude of
course  the King’s own responsibility!] the main persons,
responsible for Edward II”s and tragically also their own downfall:


One thing I must say to the defence of Hugh Despenser the Elder:
He is one of the rare magnates, who were loyal to Edward II
from start to finish, [667] in contrary with his son Hugh, who in his early years
had followed the political line of his maternal uncle, Guy de Beauchamp,
the 10th Earl Warwick, one of the executioners of Piers Gaveston.
of Warwick, one of the executioners  of Piers Gaveston…… [668]
Rather surprisingly, seen in the light of the 1320’s……..
Loyal to Edward I and serving him on numerous cases on battles [669],
Hugh Despenser the Elder was likewise to his son and successor, Edward II.
As a reward for Despenser’s loyal service and to settle a debt, Edward I owed
him, he [Edward I] married his granddaughter Eleanor de Clare [669]
to Despenser’s son, Hugh, the later favourite of Edward II. [671]

Despenser the Elder was by the way one of the few barons, who remainedloyal to Edward during the controversy regarding Piers Gaveston.
So Despenser became Edward’s loyal servant and chief administrator after
the execution [by the barons] of Piers Gaveston. [672]

And there ends the credit I give to Hugh Despenser the Elder:
It has been said over and over again:
Hugh the Elder and his son were nearly abnormally avarious and
it was one great show of landgrabbing, extortioning and imprisoning
people [in order to get their lands from them] and further misuse of
They even managed to give no one access to the King [especially
in the 1320’s, when they were at the top of their power], unless
one of them attended. [673]
Even Queen Isabella was victim to that dangerous nonsense. [674]
It comes as no surprise that they became the most hated men in
England! [675]

That show all began, when Hugh’s son, also ”Hugh” was appointed
as royal chamberlain in 1317 and somehow managed to charm
his way to the top. [676]
Because of their avariciousness and their violation of the rights
of the Marcher Lords and Despenser’s robbing of his
own brothers in law [the husbands of his sisters in law],
the former favourites of the King [Roger d’Amory and Hugh de Audley] [677],
The Despenser war started, with the King, his adherents and the Despensers
at one side and the Marcher Lords and King’s turbulent cousin Thomas
of Lancaster at the other side. [678]
The Despensers were initially exiled [the demand of the Marcher Lords and
Thomas of Lancaster], but later revoked.
The King was successful, the Marcher Lords surrendered, his cousin Thomas
of Lancaster and approximately nineteen or twenty two adherents were
executed in 1322. [679]
Those executions were preceded by either mock trials or no trial at all.
In the case of Thomas of Lancaster, a mock trial took place in his
own, favourite Castle of Pontefract with as ”judges”, his cousin King
Edward II, of course the Despensers and others [ the earls of Kent, Pembroke, Richmond, Surrey, Arundel, the Scottish earls of Angus and Atholl and the justice Robert Malberthorpe] [680]

The Ordinances [curbing the royal power], to which Thomas
of Lancaster had given his heart, were revoked in may 1322
and nothing stood in the way of the reign of terror, Edward II
and the Despensers established. [681]
And in 1322, Despenser the Elder was created Earl of Winchester. [682]

Eventually, due to tensions with France, Queen Isabella
[who had suffered by the King’s favouritism of Despenser the
Younger] left for France as a mediator between Edward II and
her brother, Charles IV. [683]
She did not come back, associated herself with Roger Mortimer
[the most powerful Marcher Lord and ally of Thomas of Lancaster,
who, Mortimer I mean, had escaped from the Tower of London].
They invaded England in 1326, captured the King and
Hugh Despenser the Younger and put an end to that terror regime.

That’s the history.
Before capturing the King however, Hugh Despenser the Elder,
who tried to defend Bristol, surrendered Bristol Castle to
Isabella and Mortimer.

He was given a mock trial by Mortimer, Isabella, Henry of Lancaster [who had scores to settle with the Despensers….]and a few others at Bristol Castle in October 1326, in what was clearly intended as a parody of Thomas of Lancaster’s trial.

Gory detail:
He was hanged in his armour, his head was sent to Winchester on a spear, and his body was cut up and fed to dogs…[685]


Edmund Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, one of the executioners
of King’s favourite Piers Gaveston [686] [together with
the 10th Earl of Warwick, the Earl of Hereford and Thomas
of Lancaster], who later completely changed sides and
became loyal to the King.
He was one of the ”judges”, who condemned
Thomas of Lancaster, his former ”partner in evil”
[execution of Piers Gaveston] to death…… [687]
To his credit however must be said, that he
stayed loyal to Edward II till the end and fled with him
and Hugh Despenser the Younger [his close relation
by marriage, since his son was married with Despenser’s
eldest daughter Isabel] to Wales.
In November 1326, Edmund was captured by John Charlton, who had been Edward II’s chamberlain until 1318.

Edmund was beheaded, almost certainly without a trial, on 17 November 1326, probably at Hereford, though one chronicle says Shrewsbury.

Two of Edmund’s friends, John Daniel and Thomas [or Robert] de Micheldever, were executed with him…….[688]

Horrible, all those executions…..

Hugh Despenser the Younger

Despenser the Elder’s son, another ”Hugh”, was the great favourite
of King Edward II.
Originally following the political line of his uncle [brother
of his mother Isabella de Beauchamp, married Despenser],
the 10th Earl of Warwick [one of the executioners
of Edward II’s favourite Piers Gaveston] [689], nevertheless he
was appointed to royal chamberlain in the autumn of 1318 [690]
and somehow managed to charm himself into the favour
of Edward II.
Now the function of royal chamberlain was an extremely powerful one. since the chamberlain controlled access, physical and written, to the king and the physical proximity and the frequent contact gave Despenser a real advantage to become ”intimate” with the King
[whether physical or not].

Be it as it may:
Despenser became the second great favourite of Edward II,
after Piers Gaveston and he could do almost anything and yet
hold the King’s favour.

The Despenser war [the name says enough] was fought because of him [reason: his and
his father’s extreme avariciousness and ambition, disadvantaging
the other nobles, especially the Marcher Lords] [691], leading to
his [and his father’s] banishment, but revoked by Edward as soon
as possible.

Edward held on to his extreme attachment to him, against
the pleas of his estranged wife Isabella [from France], to
send him away, as we have seen in my writings above.

His and his father’s [rising with his son’s power] avariousness
and numerous crimes in the 1320’s after the Despenser war was won by the King and the Ordinances [the great cause of Thomas of
Lancaster] were
revoked and all their enemies were either dead, imprisoned
or exiled, led to his downfall.

After the invasion in september 1326 of Queen Isabella and her ally [lover] Roger Mortimer
and the support of Edward II was crumbling down [mainly
because of the hatred against the Despensers], theDespenser  game was over.

His father Hugh was captured in Bristol and executed after a
mock trial, a parody of the trial and execution of Thomas
of Lancaster [692] and Hugh and the King were captured
in South Wales by the forces of Henry of Lancaster [brother
of the executed Thomas of Lancaster, who immediately
had taken the sides of Isabella and Roger Mortimer against
King Edward II and the Despensers] [693]
and Hugh Despenser’s fate was sealed.

Poor vain man, who overplayed his hands….

It was now all suffering, to the end:
It was reported by several chroniclers that, since the capture, Hugh had refused all food and water in an attempt to try and starve himself to death before his execution. [694]

Now I can’t resist to point out the following:
Hugh Despenser was captured at 16 november, and executed
on the 24th.
Now it IS possible, that someone can manage without food
for eight days [in a very weakened state, the maximum seems three weeks], but it is impossible not to DRINK for eight days.
The maximum without drink [and then you are from the world
already] seems to be a week. [695]
But complete with hallicunations, complete weakness.
So no way Despenser should have made a journey from
South Wales to Hereford [where they brought him in a rather fast
time, between eight days] and survived….

So he will have refused FOOD and survived the journey, but not drink.

His journey was utterly humiliating and he was accompanied to Hereford by Henry de Leyburne
[who had fought for Thomas of Lancaster in the last
Battle of Boroughbridge] and Robert de Stangrave and
they made sure that it was a journey from hell. [696]

Factually, Queen Isabella wished to have Hugh executed in
London, but apparently because of his weakness [the hungerstrike], Hereford was decided for the ”trial”
and place of execution.

When he arrived in Hereford, of course, horrible, new
humiliations were the poor man’s fate [697]

At last, he faced his ”trial” at the marketplace in Hereford:

His ”judges” were Henry, earl of Lancaster, the earl of Kent
[ironic! Kent also was, together with the Despensers,
one of the ”judges” in the trial of Thomas of
Lancaster…], Roger de Mortimer and others [698]

As had happened at the trial of Thomas of Lancaster in 1322, Hugh was not permitted to speak in his defence. [699]

And the outcome was, of course predictable, since revenge
[from Isabella and Roger Mortimer against Despenser, from Henry of Lancaster against Despenser] was the case here.

Hugh was sentenced to the traitors death:
To be hanged, drawn and quartered and he suffered the whole
horror of that sentence……

Sir William Trussel, strong adherer of Thomas of Lancaster,
who had fought at his side at the Battle of Boroughbridge
‘fled to France and returned with Isabella and Roger Mortimer]
[700] read out the charges  against Hugh Despenser [701]

And the outcome was, of course predictable, since revenge
[from Isabella and Roger Mortimer against Despenser, from Henry of Lancaster against Despenser] was the case here.

Hugh was sentenced to the traitors death: [702]
To be hanged, drawn and quartered and he suffered the whole
horror of that sentence……

At 24 november 1326 [703]
Together with him also Simon Reading, a rather unknown man,
who was captured together with Despenser and the King and whose ”crime” seemed to have been [he got no trial]
to have ”insulted” the Queen, was hanged. [704]

That was the hideous end of Hugh Despenser the Younger, the
great favourite of Edward II.

What a death.
Whatever he had done, no he didn’t deserves to die like that.
No one deserves to die like that.




And now about Roger Mortimer, powerful Marcher Lord and
ally of Thomas of Lancaster.
How fared he?

The story is known about the Despenser war Roger, Thomas and
their allies fought out against the Despensers and ultimately
King Edward II,  I wrote it already extensively in chapter six and

A powerful Marcher Lord, Initially loyal to the King, being King’s Lieutenant and
Justiciar in Ireland [705], Roger Mortimer came into
rebellion, together with his uncle Roger Mortimer de Chirk  and
many others, because of Edward II´s extreme favouritism of the Despensers, which
disadvantaged the Marcher Lords. [706]
This resulted in the Despenser war in which the Marcher Lords destroyed
Despenser lands [707], but also attacked, pillaged and extortioned
innocents, with as main victims poor villagers ¨[708]
They formed a close alliance with Thomas of Lancaster, who was yearlong
in opposition against his cousin and King.
At the end, Thomas of
Lancaster was defeated in the Battle of Boroughbridge on 16 march 1322 and executed on 22 march 1322 after
a mock trial [709], with so many others also executed (not always after a ´´trial,
Roger Mortimer and his uncle de Chirk, who were already complelled
to surrender in january 1322 [711], were imprisoned at the Tower of London.

One of the few who ever escaped the Tower of London!
He fled to France and there he met other Contrariants (rebels against the
King in the Despenser war), who fled England after the defeat at Boroughbridge.


But Mortimer was an ambitious man, who wanted his power, position and
lands back.
That was only possible with a military victory against the King, which meant a military
invasion of England.
Now for him, that step was not so great.
He had rebelled against his king before.

But the main problem:
With whom to associate, who enabled him to raise an
army and for whom the people in England were prepare to fight?

Question, question, untill Queen Isabella arrived in France in 1325,
for mediating between her husband Edward II and brother
King Charles IV in their military conflict over Gascony [713]
She DID mediate, but then did not return to England under the pretext
(or perhaps she really meant it, which is more likely) that Hugh Despenser had
ruined her marriage (as if he did that singlehanded, without the passionate
cooperation of Edward II) and that she would not return to England unless Edward
would send him away [714]
Of course he refused (she could have known that before….) infatuated
with the man as he was. [715]

To cut a long story short
Isabella and Mortimer associated with each other, probably as lovers
(or perhaps that came later), but chiefly for having a strong common interest,
certainly now the successor to the throne, prince Edward (who payed homage over Gascony and Ponthieu instead of his father Edward II) was in France under
his mother´s guard.

Mortimer alone could not go to England and demand the throne for prince Edward.
But Isabella, his ally änd possible lover, and the mother of the successor to
the throne, could and, presenting her as a Lady in distresss, put aside by
her husband, who preferred his favourite, would do for the people to
fight for her…..[716]

So Isabella promised to marry her son Edward to Philippa, daughter of
the Count of Hainault.
As  a ´´dowry´´ she got the necessary troops, cash and
merecenaries [717] and she and Mortimer invaded England in september 1326.
The support for Edward II was now crumbling down, his cousin Henry of Lancaster
(brother of Thomas of Lancaster) and his halfbrother the Earl of Norfolk [718]
[his other halfbrother and full brother of the Earl of Norfolk, the Earl of Kent,
had already joined Isabella and Mortimer in France) [719] abandoned him and at the end, Edward II was captured together with his favourite, Hugh Despenser the Younger.
The Despensers were hideously executed…..

Edward was compelled to abdicate in january 1327 in favour of his son [720]
who became Edward III, but for the moment, only ruler in name (until 1330)
Isabella and Mortimer were the de facto rulers..


Because of the period of tyranny of Edward II and the Despensers, Isabella
and Mortimer were received as heroes and saviours of the nation
and in the beginning
it must have seemed for many people, that better times had come:
But soon they would be disappointed

But first:
Apart from the hideous executions of the Despensers and the executions
of some of their adherents [like the Earl of Arundel], some good things
turned out of this invasion.
Many people, imprisoned by the Despensers, were pardoned [721] and doubtless
to the satisfaction of Henry of Lancaster and the former adherents of his
brother Thomas [and remember, Roger Mortimer had been Thomas’ ally during
the Despenser war], the trial of Thomas was reversed [722]

Henry, who  had  petitioned for his brothers
Earldoms and got Leicester back in 1324 [723] [but NOT the rest of his Earldoms, which were forfeited,
since Thomas was executed as a traitor], was restored in his brother’s Earldoms and
now officially the Earl of Lancaster. [724]
In 1327, Henry also was made chief of the Council of Regency [since King Edward III
was a minor, yet] [725]


In september 1327, former King Edward II died at Berkeley Castle,
probably murdered [726], although some modern historians presume that he
escaped and lived years and years  abroad. [727]
Be as it may:
Young King Edward III believed his father was murdered, since
that was one of the charges against Roger Mortimer in 1330. [728]


The rather abrupt death of King Edward II casted, of course, a shadow
on their reign, but there was more:
If people had hoped, all things would be better with the Despensers gone,
they were mistaken!
There was a new terror reign, this time not the Despenser terror, but the Isabnella
and Mortimer terror.
In fact, there was a new ”favourite” in the land, Hugh Despenser, favourite
of former King Edward Ii, was simply replaced by Roger Mortimer, favourite
of Queen Isabella…..
The pair was abnormally avaricious, worse than the Despensers ever had
been and their political opponents suffered prison and execution too. [729]
They rewarded themselves  [and family] with vast estates and the expenses of the royal
treasury and in 1328 Roger Mortimer was made the Earl of March.

Moreover they made peace with Scotland, which made them very unpopular. [730]

This and their avariciousness led to great discontentment in the lands and their allies
began to desert them.
The first was Henry of Lancaster, who had enough of the ”tyranny”,among else since the Council of Regency [from which he was chief] was de facto ousted out of power.
He raised an army against the Mortimer/Isabella regime in 1328, since like his
brother Thomas before, he had many armed man at his disposal, but
he failed, although he was spared from death.
But in exchange for the ”mercy” of Isabella and Mortimer, he had to
pay a very huge fine……[731]
Apparently, Henry resembled his brother Thomas’ rebellious nature more
than it had seemed in the past…..

So discontent with Isabella and Mortimer grew day by day and more former adherents abandoned them. [732]


As if they were not unpopular enough, the Isabella and Mortimer
pair executed the King’s uncle, Edmund of Woodstock, the Earl of Kent. [733]

This Earl of Kent had interesting ”life and times”:
Halfbrother of King Edward II, he, together with the Despensers
[and others] had been one of the ”judges” in the mock trial
against Thomas of Lancaster [734], later went to the Pope to promote
the very Thomas’ canonization ……[735]
He took part in the rebellion of Isabella and Mortimerf against
his halfbrother King Edward II.
And to make the story complete:
He was one of the ”judges”  at the mock
trial of Hugh Despenser the Elder [736] and present at the trial against
Hugh Despenser the Younger [737]
The same men with whom he sentenced Thomas of Lancaster to death….
Speaking from ”switching sides”………

What lead to Kent’s execution:

After apparently have participated  in the failed rebellion of
Henry of Lancaster [Thomas’ brother] against Isabella and Mortimer [738]
[and, as Henry, been spared by the Isabella/Mortimer regime], it
was not over yet and Kent played a far more dangerous game:

He became involved in another plot against the Isabella/Mortimer pair
, when he was convinced by rumours that his halfbrother was still alive…..[739]

According to some historians, the whole ”Edward II is still alive” thing,
was a set up by Roger Mortimer to lure Kent into a trap to commit
treason against his nephew, the present King, Edward III [740]
Some modern historians allege, that in fact Edward II WAS still alive and
that somehow Kemt had got some proof of that [741]

Be as it may [I let the reader judge for him or herself], whether
Kent was naive and gullible enough to believe that the dead Edward
II was not dead after all or that Edward II REALLY lived, it is to be praised
in Edmund, Earl of Kent, that he tried to free his halfbrother, former
King Edward II.

Needless to say, that Roger and Isabella were not pleased at all:

Poor Earl of Kent was executed at 19 march 1330…..[742]

But at the end, this worked all wrong for Roger Mortimer, since
the death of Kent was one of the charges against him in 1330…..[743]


Since Kent had that high royal status [son of late king Edward I, halfbrother of
former king Edward II and uncle of present king Edward III] [744] the executioner was unwilling to take part in the judicial murder of a king’s son and fled, and so the unfortunate Kent had to wait around in his shirt for many hours until a common felon under sentence of death was offered his freedom if he agreed to wield the axe……. [745]


””Whereas the king’s affairs and the affairs of his realm have been directed until now to the damage and dishonour of him and his realm and to the impoverishment of his people, as he has well perceived and as the facts prove*, wherefore he has, of his own knowledge and will, caused certain persons to be arrested, to wit the earl of La Marche [i.e. Roger Mortimer], Sir Oliver de Ingham, and Sir Simon de Bereford, who have been principal movers of the said affairs, and he wills that all men shall know that he will henceforth govern his people according to right and reason, as befits his royal dignity**, and that the affairs that concern him and the estate of his realm shall be directed by the common counsel of the magnates of the realm and in no other wise…” [746]

Proclamation of King Edward III, the day after the arrest of Roger
Mortimer [747]

I wrote it before:
People became more and more fed up with the Isabella and
Mortimer terror and the execution of the Earl of Kent,
King’s uncle, was probably the last straw.
But there was more to it.

Young King Edward III, who was untill now the ‘puppet king”
in the hands of his mother and Roger Mortimer, grew more
and more dissatisfied about this state of affair.

And I can state safely here, that the execution of his uncle,
Earl of Kent, did NOT have Edward III’s consent, since
one of the later charges against Roger Mortimer was
procuring the death of King Edward III’s uncle, the
said Earl of Kent. [748]

To cut a long story short:

King Edward III was fed up with Mortimer [probably
he suspected him Mortimer already of the alleged
murder on his father, since that also was one of
the charges held against Mortimer] [749]
Likely the last straw was the birth of his
eldest son, the later ”Black Prince” in june 1330 [750]

So the King Edward III, with the help of his dearest and
closest friend, William Montecute [son of
the former favourite of Edward II, William Montecute,
who formed a ”triumvirate” together with the two other favourites,
Roger Damory and Hugh Audley] [751]
and other companions of his [Edward III’s] age,
made a clever plan, that was very well prepared.
Although spontaneous by nature, probably
Edward had planned some sort of movement
against Mortimer all along
[which was difficult enough to execute, since
Isabella and Mortimer had spies in his household]


Mortimer and Isabella were at Nothingham Castle
and there the show began:

Via a secret tunnel [likely Isabella and Mortimer
were not aware of that] Edward III, his close friend Montecute
and his other loyal knights entered the Castle and Isabella and
Mortimer, who were in conference with their few adherents left,
were totally surprised and Roger was arrested, despite [according
to the chroncicles] Isabella was supposed to have pleaded for him:
‘Fair son, have pity on gentle [translated as ”from noble birth”]
Mortimer”  [752]

The reign of Edward III now de facto [Latin for ”in fact”] had started.

Mortimer was imprisoned  in the Tower of London until his trial on 26 November. [753]
But ”trial” is a too big word for what really happened:
Like of Thomas of Lancaster and the Despensers, Roger was not permitted to speak in his own defence when he was taken before Parliament at Westminster.
He was charged with fourteen crimes, including: the murder of Edward II; procuring the death of Edward’s half-brother Kent; and taking royal power and using it to enrich himself, his children and his supporters. [754]

Of course, Roger was found guilty of these crimes, and ‘many others’, by notoriety, that is, his crimes were ‘notorious and known for their truth to you and all the realm’. [755]

He was convicted to be ”hanged, drawn and quartered” [the
”traitors death”], but King Edward III showed himself
merciful and commuted his punishment to ”merely” hanging. [756]

He was executed at Tyburn, the first nobleman to be hanged there.
Tyburn was the execution site for common criminals, and hanging was the method used to dispatch them. Noblemen were usually beheaded. [757]

But obviously, Edward III wanted him to be executed as a
common criminal.

Some of the young knights who supported and aided Edward III during his coup were later rewarded with earldoms: William Montacute, with Salisbury [758] Robert Ufford, with Suffolk; William Clinton, with Huntingdon and so others [759]


And so passed Roger de Mortimer, 3rd baron de Mortimer,
1st Earl of March. [760]
He had gambled for power and eventually lost.

But…….through the marriage of his greatgrandson Edmund, 3rd
Earl of March, with the
granddaughter of Edward III, Philippa [daughter of his son
Lionel of Antwerp], Mortimer became the ancestor of Richard,
Duke of York, his sons, the Plantagenet Kings Edward IV and
Richard III and via Edward IV’s daughter, Elizabeth of York
[wife of Henry Tudor, Henry VII and mother of Henry VIII],
the ancestor of  all subsequent monarchs in England! [761]




And now:
Queen Isabella:

How fared she after the execution of her cousin by marriage
and uncle [halfbrother of her mother Joan I of Navarre] Thomas
of Lancaster?
Much about her life I have written already:
See above ”King Edward II” and ”Roger Mortimer”

To cut a long story short [at least an attempt…..]


King Edward II clearly was totally infatuated with Hugh Despenser
the Younger, and he and his father held such a power, that no one
could access the King without one of them being present. [762]
That also applied to Queen Isabella [763], what must have been
very disconcerting to her.
And her position further deteriorated, when, due to tensions
with France and the outbroken war, Edward II reduced her income,
seized her lands and treated her more like an enemy than his Queen.
Due to the fact it was difficult for Edward II to leave the country
to pay homage for Gascony and Ponthieu
[growing unrest and great unpopularity of the Despensers and subsequently,
the King] [765], he sent Isabella to France to mediate between him and her
brother Charles IV, King of France. [766]
She did mediate, but stayed in France, made publicly known, not
to return to England before Despenser was sent away from Court. [767]

Edward II and Isabella made from their marriage  laughing stock by sending
letters to each other [and to others], rejecting Hugh Despenser [Isabella] and defending him firmly [Edward II] [768] and at that time it became clear to Isabella
[what she could have known from the start], that Edward II was NOT going
to send dear Hugh away from him…..[769]

When prince Edward [the later Edward III] came to pay homage for Gascony
and Ponthieu instead of his father and now under his mother’s control,
Isabella came into the position to pose a serious threat on her husband.
In the meantime, she had began a cooperation [romantic or not]
with escaped Marcher Lord Roger Mortimer and more and more
fled Contrariants [rebels against King Edward II in the Despenser war
and adherents of the Marcher Lords and Thomas of Lancaster]

At the end, after promising her son Edward in marriage with the daughter
of the Count of Hainault [and so getting the necessary military aid],
Isabella and Mortimer invaded England, defeated Edward II [whose support
was crumbling down into almost nothing], executed the Despensers in the
style of Thomas of Lancaster [in mock trials] [770] and establising their


Edward II had shown his vindictiveness against the women and
children of the Contrariants after 1322 [defeat and execution of Thomas
of Lancaster, which marked the end of the Despenser war] [771],
but Isabella proved not to be better:

In january 1327, Isabella revenged herself on three little daughters of
the late Hugh Despenser, by forcibly let them veiled to nuns.  [772]
Hugh’s eldest daughter escaped, since she was already married with
Richard Fitzalan [773]
the son of the executed Earl of Arundel [once one of the executioners
of Piers de Gaveston, together with the 10th Earl of Warwick, the Earl of Hereford
and Thomas of Lancaster, then returned to loyalty to Edward II and paid the
highest price being beheaded by Isabella and Mortimer] [774]
Hughs youngest daughter also escaped, being too young or still
in her mother’s womb. [775]

Their grandfather and father dead, brutally executed, their mother imprisoned [776]
Bereaved from their hitherto priviliged state.

From Isabella’s side a low act of pure vindictiveness, to those innocent girls…..


The Isabella and Mortimer pair deposed King Edward II in favour of his son, now Edward III [777],
poor King Edward II was imprisoned, first at his cousin Henry of Lancaster’s castle
Kenilworth [treated with all honour and respect] [778], thereafter at Berkeley
Castle [no idea how he was treated, but I guess less honourably] [779],
where he officially died in september 1327,  probably
murdered [780] [some historians however think he survived
and lived years later abroad] [781]

Discontentment grew, since Isabella and Mortuimer proved no better rulers than the Despensers and were more avaricious than even the Despensers had been. [782]


Edward III, who was King only in name, had enough of it and in october
1330 overthrew the power of Mortimer and his mother and had Mortimer
executed in november 1330, among else on the charges of the murder
of his father and the execution of his uncle, the Earl of Kent,
halfbrother of his father. [783]

That was the end of Mortimer and the power of the Isabella/Mortimer pair…..


Whatever Edward III must have thought of possible
accomplicity of Isabella in the [what he then thought] murder
of his father, she was still his mother:
In contrary with all dramatic stories, EDWARD III DID NOT LOCK
In fact, Edward held her out of the storm:
In the charges against Mortimer, she was mentioned in only one charge: “the said Roger falsely and maliciously sowed discord between the father of our lord the King and the Queen his companion…the said Queen remained absent from her said lord, to the great dishonour of our lord the King and the said Queen his mother…” [785]

After Mortimer’s arrest, Isabella was taken to Berkhamsted Castle and placed under temporary house arrest., where she was treated
with respect, due to her royal status.[786]
Later she lived at Windsor Castle and from 1332 in her own Castle
Rising. [787]
On 1 December, Isabella surrendered her vast estates into the hands of her son [many she had stolen to enrich herself], but Edward turned

to be very lenient with her and granted her  an income of £3000 a year: “Grant for life, with the assent of Parliament, to queen Isabella of a yearly sum of 3,000l at the Exchequer to provide for her estate…”
[in 1331 her estates, which belonged to HER, were given back to
her, not what she had stolen] [788]
This income was in fact higher than her income as reigning Queen. And considering that most people in England earned less than five pounds per year, and forty pounds qualified a man for knighthood, it was still a vast income by any standards. In 1337, it was raised to £4500.[789]

So she lived a luxuriously life, returning to Castle Rising in 1332
[790], although her political influence and power was over.

And the relationship with her son Edward seemed to be well.
In 1330, she passed Christmas with her son and likely
her daughter in law and baby grandson, the later
Black Prince, with whom she became very close. [791]

The death [execution] of Mortimer must have been very painful
for her and perhaps she suffered a nervous breakdown [792],
what some historians have suggested,
but she was smart enough not to show any grief in public.
[which was by the way highly uncommon by people
of noble birth and certainly royals]

Anyway, she led a comfortable, but conventional life
until her death, received visitors, had a regular contact
with her son the King and especially with her favourite grandson
Edward, the Black Prince, who visited her regularly and vice
versa [793].
Interesting too was, that she was often visited
by the captive French King John II, son of
her first cousin, who was the first Valois
King, Philip VI [Philip VI’s father, Charles
of Valois, was the brother of Philip IV, the Fair,
father of Isabella] [794]
The last period of her life her youngest daughter
Joan, who had been married with David the Bruce [son
of Robert the Bruce and King of the Scots, her grandfather Edward I
would have exploded!], took care for her. [795]

Isabella died at 22 august 1358 at Hertford Castle. [796]
At her request, she was buried with her wedding clothes.
Edward III visited his mother’s funeral, the convention that kings did not attend funerals belonging to later centuries, not the fourteenth. [798]

There are rumours, that she was also buried with the heart
of Edward II, but that is not sure. [799]

Isabella left the bulk of her property to her favourite grandson,
Edward the Black Prince and some of her belongings to
her youngest daughter Joan, who nursed her the last
period of her life. [800]

And so passed Isabella of France, daughter of Philip IV the Fair of France, wife of King Edward II and mother of King Edward III.
A remarkable, tumultuous royal Lady, who broke with
the conventions of her time to rebel openly
against her Lord and husband…..


However, the story isn’t over yet:
Because I can’t describe the life and times of Queen Isabella
, without some thoughts about her marriage with Edward II:

How was the marriage of King Edward II and Queen Isabella of
Well, there are conflicting opinions about that
Some sources say, that this marriage was a disaster from day one
[due to Edward II’s extreme favouritism of Piers Gaveston], but
that version you mostly see by older historians and often in fiction.
According to more, modern versions, it was a good and happy marriage
until along came Hugh Despenser…….. [only in that case
you can question WHY Hugh got such an emotional impact
on the King, if his marriage was that good…..]
And although modern writers don’t make of this marriage an
extremely romantic thing, they tend to it, perhaps as a countraweight
against the ”disaster” version.[801]
I think both versions are wrong.
To my view, the marriage was a well working Medieval union
at least from the death of Piers Gaveston until the coming of Hugh Despenser
but not neccessarily loving.

Now nobody can’t possibly know how the marriage really was, since the only sources are the chronicle
writers, who  gave insight in that time and the lives of Edward II and Isabella,
but were NOT in the royal bedchamber….
Medieval documents [letters, offiicial documents etc] are valuable, but
the relationship between two persons, which is complex and can change, is, of course, not recorded.
So the quality of their marriage  remains a matter of interpretation.


Taken into consideration, that, bisexual [or homosexual] or
not [a matter of interpretation, nobody can know for sure],
Edward II had a strong, emotional need for male companions [802]
and got at lengths [especially in the case of Gaveston and Despenser]
to keep them at his side, that is no recipe for a good, succesfull and happy marriage,……

My view [but only a view] is that the marriage was NO disaster from day one, , ,neither a succesful, loving and happy marriage, but a well working Medieval union
[four children, including the successor to the throne and his brother, John
of Eltham], Isabella fulfillling her royal duties loyally, as
trying to act as peacemaker and mediator, and Edward
having a high regard of her, untill along came
Hugh Despenser……..

That the marriage was not particulary loving and happy seems understandable, since it was arranged.
But that is not the only explanation, since some arranged marriages
[for example Edward I’s and Edward III’s, as Isabella of France’s father]
were seemingly very happy. [803]
No, another aspect was the Kings infatuation
and obsession with Piers Gaveston [I can safely assume: HIS
great love] and later Hugh Despenser.

How Isabella really thought about Gaveston, is not recorded, although
it is often presented, that she loathed and hated him.

The only recorded source however is a letter she wrote, after Gaveston”s third
exile to the receiver of Ponthieu “concerning the affairs of the earl of Cornwall.” [804]
That was perhaps an indication, that she had agreed to help
Gaveston in his exile, at least financially [interpretation
on EdwardthesecondBlogspot and I can agree with that] [805]
But I can’t see it as a proof, that she actually LIKED him.
More as a possible indication, that she must be glad to have him out of the way
and to make sure [from financial perspective] that he stayed where he was…..

After the arrival of Hugh Despenser in the royal favour however, from
a working union, the marriage became a disaster, with Isabella
leaving for France, invading England and the deposition of Edward II.
I wrote it all above here.

But to say in the defence of Despenser:
However reproachable his role into the marriage was, it was Edward II
who made the choice to lay explosives under his marriage,
not only becoming that infatuated with Hugh, but wanting to
hold him at his side,
no matter which plea of Isabella to send him away. [806]

That was HIS choice, not [only] the machinations of Hugh Despenser.

Was Edward a man, who led a ”great  happy marriage” before Hugh’s coming?
I don’t think so, since his extreme emotional dependence of men
[Gaveston, and to lesser extent, the trumvirate Roger Damory, Hugh Audley
and William Montecute]

Whether Isabella loved Edward on the great, happy, romantic way
before Despenser, I can’t say.
There is no proof of that, nor proof of the contrary.

But it takes two to make a happy and loving marriage….


To my opinion:
A good and working union,after the death of Piers Gaveston and
untill Hugh Despenser came.
No more, no less.



I vividly imagine a scene in, let’s say
1324, when Hugh Despenser the Younger meets
Henry of Lancaster in the Westminster Palace.

With feigned friendliness he asks for Henry’s welfare and
pretends some ”cordiality”, knowing full well, that
Henry doesn’t like him at all.
After all, he was one of the ”judges”, who condemned his
brother Thomas to death in a mock trial in 1322…….

Despenser suggests, that although the death of his brother must have been painful
for Henry, life goes on.
After all, he was not that close to his brother?

”Forgiven and forgotten, my Lord brother?” [807]
Despenser falsely asks: [Henry
was married with Despenser’s maternal half sister
Maud Chaworth]
Henry, having no alternative,  Despenser being
the most powerful man in the land, responds

”Yes my Lord” and bows.

But when Despenser leaves, Henry’s face is stern and grief-stricken

Because whether close or not, Thomas after all WAS his brother.

So he mutters against the disappearing back of Despenser


Despenser overconfident as always, had no idea whatsoever,
what was really in Henry’s mind…..

Such a scene COULD have happened.
Did it really happen?
No idea.


Now during the turbulent 1312-1322 part of the reign of Edward II, in
which Thomas of Lancaster, Henry’s elder brother, and Edward II had
a furious struggle for power, which eventually led to the execution
of Thomas, Henry almost seems forgotten, gone away to France or
in each case, rather mysteriously absent.

Yet in 1326, Edward II and Despensers would know, that
Henry all those years played his own games
And waiting for his chance to settle old scores. [808]
But then, for them, it was too late……


Born in or about 1281, he was the younger son of Edward I’s brother Edmund [Crouchback],
Earl of Lancaster, Leicester and Derby and Blanche of Artois,
and brother of Thomas of Lancaster and the not well known
John [809]

So Henry and his brothers were the first cousins of
Edward II [their fathers being brothers]
Henry also was the halfbrother of Queen Joan I of Navarre
[daughter of Blanche of Artois from her first marriage with King
Henry of Navarre], who was the wife of the French King Philip
IV and the mother of Isabella of France, Edward II’s wife [and the French Kings Louis X, Philip V and Charles IV]
Which made Henry [and Thomas] the maternal uncles of
Isabella of France! [810]

After their father’s death in 1296, the bulk of his lands was inherited by Thomas, being the eldest son.
Yet Henry inhertited a part of his father’s vast lands, and was lord of Kidwelly and owned the Three Castles in Monmouthshire (Grosmont, Skenfrith and the White Castle) [811]

On  6 February1298/99 his uncle Edward I had a surprise for him:
He was summoned to Parliament on 6 february 1298/99 by writ directed to Henrico de Lancastre nepoti Regis (“Henry of Lancaster, nephew of the king”), by which he is held to have become Baron Lancaster. [812]

Around 1297, he  married Maud Chaworth, the elder maternal halfsister of Hugh Despenser the Younger. [813]

He fought for his uncle, King Edward I, in the Scottish wars [814]
and in the Flanders campaign [815]
With his elder  brother Thomas he visited the future Edward II
[then ”just” heir to the throne] during the 1290 years. [816]

In 1308 Henry was present at the coronation of his cousin
Edward II and his wife Isabella, Thomas carrying the sword
”Curtana” and Henry had the honour to carry the royal
rod. [817]


Concerning Henry of Lancaster, two things puzzles me:

Why the hell he didn’t participate in his brother Thomas’

And the  fact, that he managed to hold himself ”low profile”
until he emerged out of from nowhere, to become the main force
behind the fall of Edward II and the Despensers…..

I will come back to my ”puzzles” later in the story.

You should think, that with such an impressive family background,
Henry would be destined to play an important role in political affairs.
But that was not the case, at least not until 1326….

Now the fact, that he, as a younger son, was not rich, doesn’t explain
Since his brother Thomas was twice in open rebellion to
Edward II [1311-1312, the Piers Gaveston case and in 1321-22,
Despenser war] [818]and continually, from about 1312 until 1322,
was struggling with Edward II for power, one should think, that
Henry would take part in his brother’s rebellions.
Quod not.

According to some historians, Henry was not that close with his brother [819]
I don’t know, whether that’s really true, but that can hardly be
an explanation for
his lack of political/military participation on behalf of Thomas,
since it was usual, that brothers joined each other when there was
a rebellion and they were not all close with each other either.
Besides, when the rebellion succeeded, the supporting brothers
could be assured of high positions, so it was their
own interest as well.

What perhaps can explain his lack of political involvement
was the fact, that Henry was a real family man
with such a close and affectionate bond with his son and daughters,
to that extent, that his daughters
lived a great part of their life with him, even when they were married.
And that was not usual.
He also seemed to have had a more quiet temper than Thomas, which
perhaps urged him to keep out of political turbulences.

But living in England could bring him in an impossible
position, since he could eventually have been forced to choose between his brother and his cousin the King.

I think that he didn’t want to fight against the King [there was
no indication whastoever, that Henry was not altogether loyal to Edward II and the relationship between them was seemingly well, at least until Thomas’ execution], but he certainly would not have wanted to fight against his own brother, whether they were ”close”
or not.

He seemed to have tried  not to meddle in the quarrels of his brother:
In 1316 he was among the men chosen by the King [821], to
take part in the campaign against Llywellyn Bren, which Henry did
[822] with Sir William Montacute [823], one of
the King’s favourites from around  1316-18, who, together with Roger Damory and
Hugh Audley [HAHAHA, the latter two would end up as allies of
Thomas] [824], would become serious enemies of his
brother Thomas. [825]
Although, admittedly, that animosity with Thomas was not
so apparent in 1316 yet:

The great trouble between Thomas
and those destructive favourites [I wrote about them
extendedly in chapter five] would fully emerge in 1317 [826], a year after the campaign against Llywellyn Bren…..[827]

Taking no part in the quarrels of his brother and yet didn’t

want to be turned against him, can be the reason, that
Henry ”escaped” when the opportunity rose and
his escape route was France.
His ”escape”  however was a sad one:

In 1317, Henry’s [and Thomas’]  younger brother John died childless and in May 1318 Edward II granted Henry permission to travel to France to “obtain the inheritance in that land which by the death of John de Lancastre, his brother, descended to him.” [828]

So since he had possessions now in France, he could live there.

So he said ”Hasta la vista” to England and spent spent much if not all of the next few years in France, to judge from the number of times Edward granted him permission and protection to remain overseas (he was still out of England in January 1322 and perhaps even later) [829]

But strangely enough he did crop up sometimes.
During the tensions  before the outbreak of the Despenser war,
which would cost his brother Thomas his life, Henry had participated in an anti Despenser coalition, perhaps [speculation
from my side] because Henry had possessions in Wales  [830] [where the Despensers went on the rampage, with full consent of the King] [831]
Which proved that he must have been in England somewhere between let’s say 26 october 1320 and the early months of 1321…..[832]


Henry was part of a confederation of allies against Hugh
Despenser the Younger [remember: Hugh was his brother in law,
since he was married to Hugh’s half sister Maud Chaworth], in
and around 1321
with among else, Roger Mortimer and his uncle Roger Mortimer
de Chirk, the King’s former favourites Roger Damory and Hugh Audley and others. [833]

Doubtless Henry’s brother Thomas was pleased with Henry’s
involvement, but then Henry seemed to have dissappeared again…
To France, where he stayed at least untill january 1322……[834]
Mysterious fellow…..


I don’t know whether Henry was in France or back in
England around march 1322.
However, the execution of his brother Thomas on 22 march
must have been a great shock to him, whether he was
”close” to him or not.
Thomas was condemned to death by King Edward II, the Despensers, the earls of Kent, Pembroke, Richmond, Surrey, Arundel and the Scottish earls of Angus and Atholl, in an unfair trial, where Thomas
was not allowed to speak  in his own defence or asked anyone
to raise a defence on his behalf. [835]
Some of Thomas’ ”judges” had no idea yet, that this mock trial some
day would be used against them in their own so called ”trials”, with
now HENRY as one of their ”judges”….

And there was another person, who would not be forgotten,
by Henry either:
Sir Robert Holland, a former close ally of Thomas of Lancaster,
who had betrayed him, one of the reasons why he had lost
the Battle of Boroughbridge……[836]
I will deal with that later.
To the honour of King Edward II must be said, that he didn’t
appreciate the treacherous changes of sides of Robert Holland at all:
He imprisoned him and it was not before 1327, that he
was released by Queen Isabella. [837]


After the execution of his brother, Henry, apparently,
kept himself low profile.
Not that it was very likely, that he was in danger, since
he didn’t participated in his brother’s rebellion,
but in those times of tyranny [he was after all Thomas’
brother] you never can tell….
But he had one advantage, which protected him against
the possible vindictiveness of the Despensers [don’t forget
he had been part of the anti-Despenser coalition just before
the outbreak of the Despense war] [838]:
He was married with Maud Chaworth, halfsister of
Hugh Despenser the Younger from his mother’s side.

But although he kept on the background, in the years to
come he at least once rose his voice:
To petition for his brother Thomas’ lands and titles
[he was Thomas’ heir, since he had no legitimate children], which were
forfeited after his execution for treason. [840]
He did that partially successfully, since Edward II restored
the Earldom of Leicester to him.
In 1324 he was created Earl of Leicester.[841]

You may wonder why Edward II didn’t give him all the lands
of his brother back?
I don’t know, of course, but I will make a speculation
The possession of all those Earldoms had made Thomas not
only the richest, but also most powerful man, after King Edward II and he had used that power in a 10 years long battle
for power with his cousin the King.

Edward II and the Despensers could not be sure of Henry’s
loyalty-after all they had executed his brother and he might
take it into his head to take revenge on them-and from their
point of view, it could be dangerous to give him that power.
Henry had loyal men at his disposal and some former adherents
of his late brother appeared in his retinue. [842]
It was a ”security risk” to make him too powerful……


But there was more to it:
Shortly after the execution of Henry’s brother, Thomas of
Lancaster, rumours began to circulate about miracles, performed
at his tomb and the place of his execution. [843]
And it didn’t take long before hundreds, no thousands of people
came to worship ”Saint Thomas” [yes, Thomas of Lancaster]
as a Saint. [844]
I have described this extendedly in chapter nine.
Now it is not clear, how those rumours came into the
world, but it is not imaginary, that brother Henry was behind those
tales about the Sainthood of his brother.
It was the perfect revenge on Edward II and the Despensers
[since Henry had no other option], since the more people
venerated ”Saint Thomas”, the more the already hated Despensers
would be despised.
At the other hand:
Apart from Henry’s possible need for revenge, the veneration of
Saint Thomas, however stemmed from, had a source in the
discontentment with the Despenser tyranny, condoned by
a doting Edward II…..[845]

That the veneration of his brother meant a lot to
Henry, appeared from the fact, that, at his request, in
1327  [after the downfall of Edward II of course],
Archbishop William Melton of York [who in 1320 had sent
Thomas of Lancaster’s correspondence with the Scots to
King Edward II] [846] wrote a letter to the Pope,
with the request  to inquire
into the canonization of the popular ”Saint” [”Saint Thomas”]
. [847]
Also, in collaboration with Queen Isabella,
an agreement took place with Queen Isabella [confirmed
by King Edward III], dealing with
a chapel, which was to be built outside

the city walls, on the hill where Lancaster had been executed
five years ago [so this great event took place in 1327]
A hermit was to reside there to receive alms
for the building of the chapel and was to be
assisted by a clerk appointed by Isabella and Henry. [848]

But back to 1322-23:
The veneration of ”Saint Thomas” was a source of great
worry to Edward II and although he did his utmost to finish it,
it only grew in popularity. [849]

How Henry further fared between 1323 until 1326, I have
no idea, but being a man of surprises, he was to make his great
move in 1326…..


So our ”mystery man” Henry, who didn’t participate
in his brother Thomas’ rebellions and kept to himself most
of those turbulent years [1317-1322] in France and hardly
made any appearance during the Edward II and Despenser
tyranny, suddenly rose, to play a key role in the events in

When Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer invaded in England
in 1326, Henry, then ”merely” Earl of Leicester, was one
of the first to abandon Edward II and join the Isabella
and Mortimer rebellion. [850]
Not so difficult, why, although it might have been a mixture
of reasons.
He doubtless must have wanted to take revenge for the
execution of his brother, especially wished by the Despensers,
and, of course,  also by Edward II, because of Lancaster’s involvement with
the murder of his favourite Piers Gaveston] [851].
Discontentment with the greedy tyranny of EdwardII/The Despensers
may have also played a role, as the fact, that Henry was granted only the Earldom of Leicester, when he petitioned for
his brother’s inheritance in 1323.

But to my opinion, Henry’s most important reason
to support Isabella and Mortimer was revenge for the
execution of his brother.

The joining Isabella and Mortimers” rebellion was
an enormous problem for Edward II, since his cousin Henry,
like Henry’s brother Thomas before, had many means and
men at his disposal, as a number of former adherents of Thomas,
who had now joined Henry’s retinue. [852]
In a futile attempt of damage control, Edward II ordered
to seize Henry’s Welsh castles of Grosmond,
Skenfirth and White Castle. [853]

Painful for Edward II must have been the desertion of
his own halfbrother, Thomas, Earl of Norfolk. [854]
His other halfbrother [and full brother of Thomas of
Norfolk], Edmund, Earl of Kent, had already joined
Isabella and Mortimer in France and invaded with them….

Kent was to play a very strange role in 1330 in an
attempt to free his supposedly dead halfbrother Edward II
from prison and was executed for it……[856]



NOW it was Henry’s chance to settle old scores with
the Despensers……

Following the invasion of Isabella and Mortimer, Edward II
and the Despensers left London.
In the meantime, Despenser the Elder failed to defend
Bristol Castle against the forces of Isabella and Mortimer,
surrerendered and was given a mock trial in what was clearly intended as a parody of Thomas of Lancaster’s trial.
He was not allowed to speak to his own defence.
His ”judges” were Mortimer, Isabella, Henry of Lancaster and a few others….. [857]
So it was-hard, but true-”what goes around, comes around.”
Thomas of Lancaster had been ”judged” in a mock trial,
by among else Despenser the Elder and his son [859], and now
Thomas’  Henry set in ”judgement” over him…..
Despenser the Elder was hanged in his own armour…..[860]
Sadly enough for him and his family….

To be fair with Despenser the Elder:
He committed many crimes, but was
one of the few barons, who were loyal to Edward II
from start to finish and never switched sides. [861]

Now Henry was ordered to pursue Edward II and Despenser the Younger [accompanied by a few faithful adherents], who
fled to Wales, where they were captured by Henry’s forces
at 16 november. [862]
Edward II and Despenser the Younger were split up:
Edward II was taken in Henry’s custody to Kenilworth
Castle, Henry’s family Castle where Henry treated
him with honour and respect, due to a King. [863]

Poor Despenser the Younger suffered a totally other fate:
After a humiliating journey in which he had tried
to starve himself [864], he was taken to Hereford, to
undergo, as his father before him, a mock trial:
They, again, made a cruel show of it and a clear
parody of the mock trial of Thomas of Lancaster:
He was not permitted to speak in his own defence….[865]

The charges against him [followed by his verdict] were
read by Sir William Trussell, a die hard supporter
of Thomas of Lancaster, who had fought at his side
at the Battle of Boroughbridge, fled to France and returned
with the Isabella and Mortimer invasion. [866]
As a proof that this verdict was- apart from the just charges as
piracy, extortions, stealing and imprisonment- also a revenge
for the execution of Thomas of Lancaster, the following charge/
passage was included:

”You took the good earl of Lancaster [le bone Counte de Lancastre], who was the cousin-german of our lord the king and his brothers and uncle of the very noble king of France and his sister my lady the queen of England, and had him falsely imprisoned and robbed, and in his own hall in his castle, by your royal power which you had seized from our lord the king, had him judged by a false record contrary to law and reason and Magna Carta and also without response, and you had him martyred and murdered by hard and piteous death.” [867]

To be fair, that was not quite right, since Thomas was not ”falsely
imprisoned” or ”robbed”, but ”judged” [even though it was no fair
trial] because of his open rebellion against Edward II…..

Trussell ended the charges with the dramatic words:

”Withdraw, you traitor, tyrant, renegade; go to take your own justice, traitor, evil man, criminal! [868]
[In French, likely the language in which the charges
were read out: Retrees vous traitour, tyrant, Reneye, si ales vostre iuys prendre, traitour, malueys, et atteyntmalueys or malveis]

His verdict and death was gruesome:
To be hanged, drawn and quartered……[869]

Those present were Queen Isabella and her son [then still] Prince
Edward [the later Edward III], Roger Mortimer, Edward II’s halfbrother the Earl of Kent, many others and Henry of Lancaster….

The lawliness of the mock trial of Thomas of Lancaster
had not only boomeranged on the Despensers and other
executed loyal friends of Edward II [often without
ANY trial] [871], but cast a foreboding on the coming years:
The Isabella and Despenser regime proved to be as
lawless and tyrannic as the Edward II/Despenser rule….

But before continuing there, first a notorious ”Sir Traitor”,
Sir Robert Holland and the scores Henry had to settle with him…
This Sir Robert Holland was a yearlong  very close and trusted ally of
Henry’s brother Thomas:
In 1311 Edward II wrote to  Robert about some illness
of Thomas of Lancaster and spoke out his hope to see
him in parliament soon, accompanied by  Robert….[872]
However, Robert, who was that close to Thomas, would proof
to be a big traitor:
He abandoned Thomas when he needed him most:
During the Battle of Boroughbridge on 16 march……..[873],
which he lost, was taken captive and executed on 22 march….

However, Sir Traitor Robert was imprisoned by Edward II, who couldn’t appreciate his betrayal [874], but released by Isabella in 1327 [875].

A former adherent of Thomas of Lancaster
killed him in 1328 and his head was sent to
Henry. [876]
Was Henry behind this murder, since he must
have been very upset about the betrayal of Robert, leading
to his brother’s defeat and execution?
Probably we’ll never know, but in each case he
must have felt like settle old scores, since he
took the killers under his protection….[877]

This betrayal
against his brother must have touched him
very deeply, especially because Robert
Holland had been so close with Earl Thomas.

Old scores……..


At first Henry must have gone well with the Isabella and
Mortimer regime:

An initial token of Isabella and Mortimer’s trust and
appreciation for his military support was their order
to him to pursue and
capture Edward II and Despenser the Younger [as written above]
hold Edward II in custody in his Castle of Kenilworth, where he
treated the fallen King with honour and respect. [878]
Later he was made chief of the Council of Regency for the minor
King Edward III. [879]

One of the other things the Isabella and Mortimer regime did,
which doubtless meant a lot to Henry was the reversion
of the treason conviction of his brother Thomas. [880]
And  to his satisfaction, he was granted  the full restoration of his brother’s inheritance. [881]

Now he was , finally, Earl of Lancaster, Leicester and Derby.

He [see above] also promoted the veneration cult
of his brother Thomas in collaboration with
Isabella, dealing with
a chapel, which was to be built outside

the city walls, on the hill where Lancaster had been executed. [882]


But the first troubles in paradise appeared…….
And it related with the very task Isabella and Mortimer
gave Henry:
The custody of his cousin Edward II, the lenient
way Henry treated the King, the security risks and the power
this custody gave Henry, which easily could be misused……

Whether Henry still held a grudge against Edward II for
the execution of his brother Thomas, I don’t know.

However, Edward II was the King after all [and after his
deposition the King’s father], and Henry
treated him, regardless of what he possibly must have felt, with dignity and honour, according to his royal state. [883]

Security risks:

Now keeping a fallen King in custody is an enormous
responsibility, also in this case:
There were several plots to free Edward II, also
when he stayed in Kenilworth. [884]
So for security reasons Isabella and Mortimer
removed Edward II from Kenilworth, Henry’s family
Castle, to Berkeley Castle. [885]
The security reasons were a sensible argument”, of course, since
Berkeley Castle had the advantage of being far away from Scotland, where many of Edward’s allies were, and also, the Dunheveds
[a gang, very loyalto Edward II who repeatedly tried to free Edward II] were strong in the vicinity of Kenilworth…..[886]

Besides the loyalty of Lord Berkeley was assured:
Not only he was the son in law, but also he and his father
had been imprisoned under Edward II [his father, an adherent
of Thomas of Lancaster,  who rebelled with him
against Edward II died in prison] [887]

So he had no reason at all to be ”sympathetic”
to Edward II…..

Henry’s lenient treatment of Edward II:

Besides over important ”security reasons”, there was more:

Henry was very courteous to Edward II, not forgot
his royalty and after all, they were royal cousins:
[remember, Henry had, certainly
before the execution of his brother, never been Edward II’s
enemy and never rebelled against him]
Perhaps his treatment
of Edward II was too lenient in the eyes of the regime [especially
Mortimer and possibly Isabella]

Very, very important: Henry’s powerful position:

What mattered more to the Isabella and Mortimer couple was the POWER Henry had, not only
as Edward II’s custodian, but especially by the restored Earldoms
he had inherited from his dear brother Thomas.
And Thomas, Edward II’s not so dear cousin, had used the power
he derived from his Earldoms in a to year long battle for
power against Edward II.
My ”overmighty subject” theory is confirmed by note 888


I can understand, that the fear that the whole Thomas of Lancaster
show would be repeated by brother Henry, caused Isabella and
Mortimer to remove the custody out of the hands of Henry and
place them in the more reliable hands of Sir Thomas Berkeley,
son in law of Roger Mortimer, who, to repeat it again,
would have no inclination
to treat Edward II as an honoured guest, since he had been
imprisoned by him and his [Berkeley’s] father had died in
imprisonment under Edward II…..[889]

So King Edward II was removed to Berkeley Castle,
after his courteous custody at his cousin
Henry, where he had stayed from
november 1326 until the end of march 1327.

It’s not certain, how Henry reacted on the removal of
his cousin Edward II , king no more, from Kenilworth:
There are sources, stating that he was quite relieved
to be freed of his huge responsibility [890], but other
sources claim, that he was very angered about Edward II’s
replacement. [891]

And what threatment [good or bad]
Edward II got in Berkeley Castle, is not
clear, although it is stated, that he was often mistreated
There is no evident proof for that,
but I also can’t imagine that he was treated like an honoured
guest,  Lord Berkeley being yearlong prisoner
of Edward II and his father even died in Edward II’s
There are statements, that he was treated well, since
Queen Isabella sent him gifts and letters [894], but for me,
that proves nothing.
Because who says that he ever really received
those ”gifts and letters”?

Possibly the only reason they were sent was, that
the Isabella and Mortimer couple wanted to keep up
appearances, at least towards Edward’s and Isabella’s son ,
the now King Edward III.

Admittedly, Edward III still was  a ”puppet king”, under tutelage
of Isabella and Mortimer, but he would grow up
one day, be the real King.
it was better for Isabella/Mortimer, when Edward thought
his father had been treated well.
And by the way?
Why should a woman, who had rebelled against her
husband, took his kingdom from him, executed
his great favourite cruelly [knowing how that must
have hurt Edward II], giving him no chance to see
his children and, by the way, imprisoned him,
sent ”gifts and letters”’to him?
Out of love, as is sometimes claimed? [895]

A woman, who loves her husband or ”still feels
affection for him”, does NOT imprison him
Who would believe that?

It is either convincible to me, that Edward II got a
”royal treatment”:
The Berkeley Castle muniments roll records the purchase of wine, cheese, eggs, beef, capons and spices for Edward (Seymour Phillips, Edward II, p. 541 n. 118, citing rolls 39, 41, 42) [896]

I think it is well possible, that Edward II never ate that delicious
food in Berkeley Castle….
And whether he died there or not [murdered or natural causes]
is still open to speculation, as I wrote already in this very chapter 10, ”Aftermath” under ”King Edward II”
See also note 897


Let’s go back to Henry:

The problem between Henry and the Isabella/Mortimer
pair over Henry’s custody of his cousin, king no
more Edward II and his [Edward II’s] removal from Kenilworth
Castle [Henry’s castle] to Berkeley Castle, was one thing:

Soon worse points of disagreement rose:

There was that peace agreement with the Scots, which
Isabella and Mortimer closed, the Treaty of Northampton. [898]
Henry of Lancaster was very much against it [899], like many
others, especially [of course!], the earls, who had lost
their Scottish estates without compensation, like [I come
to him later] Henry’s future relative, Lord Beaumont. [900]
And the compensation the Scots DID pay, 20. 000 [pounds,
Medieval] were seized by Isabella and Mortimer…..[901]

But especially Henry was annoyed by the fact, that Mortimer sidelined him:

He was chief council of the Regency [of the minor King Edward III],
but his position was somehow ”usurped” by Roger Mortimer
and Henry was even allegedly denied access to King Edward III.

The beginning of the open confrontation between Henry
and Roger Mortimer took place at the time of the Salisbury
parliament in october 1328, in an attempt of Henry to regain
power again as chief council of the Regency and so reassert
his influence over the king, which failed. [903]

However, the ”trouble in paradise” seems to have
started earlier that year, since in the middle of september
1328, he ceased to attest royal charters. [904]

Anyhow, hell broke loose between Henry and the Isabella/
Mortimer couple:
The end of 1328 was a deja vu, since the whole Thomas
of Lancaster show seemed to be repeated again:
As his brother Thomas in the good old days, Henry had
large numbers of men at his disposal, who once
came to the rescue of Isabella and Mortimer at their
invasion in 1326. [905]
Now they were against them.
And not only that:
Henry, being one of the most important magnates
in England now, being restored to the vast inheritance of his
dear brother Thomas, could attract discontented people
and the discontentment against the  tyranny and
greed of Isabella and Mortimer was big, let alone the
unpopularity of the Treaty of Northampton. [906]

So Henry mobilised his army against Isabella and Mortimer. [907]

But sadly for Henry, his rebellion failed.
In january 1329 he was  defeated and a large amount
of his estates were seized, resulting in his surrender. [908]
But unlike his brother Thomas in 1322 under the Edward II
Despenser regime, he didn’t lose his life, but had
to pay a huge fine, which crippled his political
power. [909]
However, the most followers of Henry were pardoned by
the Isabella/Mortimer regime. [910]
Of course, after that, he was out of grace and didn’t seem to
have played any role under the Isabella and Mortimer regime.
Or did he play a role yet?
I come to that point later

Meantime, there are some interesting
facts about some important men, who joined

Henry in his rebellion:

Two  important men of the realm, who joined
Henry’s rebellion [initially, later they seemed to have
abandoned the venture] were former king Edward II’s halfbrothers,
the Earls of Norfolk and Kent [911], first adherents
of Isabella and Mortimer, now fallen
out with them, probably because out of annoyance with the
dominant position of Mortimer [912] and  because of the Scottish war,
which ended in the unpopular Treaty of Northampton. [913]
Henry’s son in law, Thomas Wake, 2nd baron Wake of
Lidell, who had joined Isabella and Mortimer in 1326, following
his father in law, [914], buty later fell out with
the regime, also supported him. [915]

Another significant figure who joined Henry
was a nobleman named Henry Beaumont.

The career of that man was interesting, as his relation
with Henry:
Henry was a French nobleman, who came to England in the

Being 1st baron Beaumont and 4th Earl of Buchan [a Scottish
Earldom] jure uxoris [916], he was
initially loyal to Edward II, fought for him at the

Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 against the Scots
-was one of the few nobles to attend the funeral of Piers
Gaveston- [917] AND fought at Edward’s side against Henry’s brother, Thomas of Lancaster. [918]

However later was out of grace with Edward II, was imprisoned,
then [in favour again] sent as an envoy to France and later
accompanied Edward’s son prince Edward [the later Edward III]
to France, who did  homage to his [Edward III’s] uncle Charles IV
in the place of father Edward II.
Eventually imprisoned again…..and [understandably]
joining Isabella and Mortimer. [919]

But after falling out with them, Beaumont joined Henry. [920]
And because of his support Henry, who must not have
been pleased with Beaumont fighting against his brother,
will have consented to the marriage of his son Henry
[the later
Duke of Lancaster] with Isabella, daughter of
Henry Beaumont.
Also Henry’s daughter Eleanor was married to Beaumont’s
son, John. [921]

After the failing of the rebellion of Henry, Henry Beaumont
was forced to go in exile, since he
was one of the four men specifically excluded from a pardon in early 1329, like William Trussell [922], that loyal supporter
of Thomas of Lancaster [fought at his side at the
Battle of Boroughbridge] [923], who had read the charges
against Hugh Despenser the Younger. [924]
Thomas Wake, Henry’s son
in law [who perhaps was implicated in the
plot of the Earl of Kent to free the supposedly
dead Edward II] also fled the country. [925]
As well as Beaumont as Wake returned after the fall of Isabella and
Roger Mortimer. [926]
Trussell fared well, became Edward III’s secretary, fulfilled
diplomatic missions for him [Edward III] and died peacefully
in 1347. [927]


Having rebelled against Isabella and Mortimer in 1328-29
, it may be clear,
that Henry was heavily out of grace.
How he fared in that period is shrouded in clouds, as his
[possible] role in the overthrowing the Isabella and Mortimer
regime by Edward II’s and Isabella’s son Edward III, until
now king only in name. [928]
It was commonly accepted, that he played no role whatsoever,
in that overthrow, but some modern sources doubt that and state, that
Henry, possibly, was more involved than hitherto had been
presumed. [929]
However, it happened and Henry must have been quite relieved.
Historian sources state, that on hearing the news of Roger
Mortimer’s arrest, he supposedly threw his cap in the air with joy…..[930]

However, horribly for Henry, he gradually lost his eyesight
in the course of 1330, so he couldn’t play a role on political
and military level anymore.


He retired from public life and from now he would be represented in parliament and public life by his son, the
flamboyant and charismatic Henry of Grosmont, the later
[and first] Duke of Lancaster, warrior, diplomat and politician,
good friend of King Edward III [931] and [via his daughter Blanche], Henry of Grosmont became
the grandfather of the later King Henry IV. [932]

The last fifteen years of his life he stayed at Leicester
Castle, where he founded a hospital for the poor and
died in 1345, being one of the few Earls from the era
of Edward II, who died peacefully.
His funeral was attended by King Edward III
and Queen Philippa. [933]

He was a loving and caring father [934], a ”mystery
man”, who came and went to France, when
England was ”hot” [during the struggle
between his brother Thomas and Edward II],
who didn’t participate in his brother Thomas’
rebellions, but yet was a loyal brother, promoting Thomas
as a ”Saint” [935] and never forgot those, who
had betrayed him at the battle of Boroughbridge [936]

And then, while most men must have thought he was of no importance [he didn’t participate in his brother’s
rebellions, which was not usual in those times],
he was one of the leading forces in the deposition of
Edward II and the fall of the Despensers…..[937]

An interesting, but underestimated man, and one of
the great ancestors of all subsequent English Kings.

See note 938

Henry of Lancaster, brother of Thomas of Lancaster.

A man, who deserves to be remembered!


In defence of Thomas of Lancaster

Finally, I have come to the end of my travel
to fourtheenth century England and the life and times of Thomas,
2nd Earl of Lancaster, who was double royal and first cousin
of King Edward II.


The facts are known and described by me in the earlier chapters:

First Edward II’s close ally [939], he later moved into
opposition because of king’s favourite Piers Gaveston,,
killing the poor man together with his baron
allies in 1312 [940] , which set, of course
a deadly enmity between
him and Edward II. [941]
Simultaneously, Thomas and his allies pleaded for a set of reforms,
limiting the king’s power, the so called Ordinances.[942]
Then, after the desastrous defeat against the Scots at the battle
of Bannockburn in 1314 [943],
being the de facto ruler in England from 1314-1318,
battling new favourites of the King [944] and finally
droven into armed rebellion against the King because
of his most dangerous, favourite, Hugh Despenser the Younger [945],
with the Ordinances as one of his playing cards [which gave Thomas
rightly or wrongly, a sort of heroism], leading to his execution in 1322. [946]

And being a warlord during his later life, became a Saint
after his death! [947]


And although his many faults and injustices [having
Piers Gaveston executed and having summarily executed
men who rebelled in Lancastershire against
him in the Banastre rebellion in 1315] [948]
to be ten years  in constant opposition against your king,
trying to limit his powers, gathering allies ansd adherents….

Some of those adherents were that loyal to Lancaster,
that years later they killed men, who had betrayed him….[949]

Or, like die his hard Lancaster ally Sir William Trussell, who was seething with
resentment against  the Despensers, to read out the
charges [and the verdict] against the captured Hugh  Despenser the Younger at his mock trial in 1326….[950]

That’s immediately debunking the often heard story, that Lancaster
couldn’t keep friends and allies…..[951]
Of course Lancaster lost allies, since it was a time of continually switching alliances, but the loyalty of some of his adherents, as described above, was striking.

And let’s not forget in this story the ”mystery man”,
Lancaster’s  often underestimated brother Henry of Leicester

[952], who sided with the Isabella and Mortimer invasion in 1326, stabbing a
dagger in the back of
Edward II , which lead to a general desertion of Edward II’s cause [953],
the execution of the Despensers and eventually, the deposition of Edward II
Henry, who would do whatever was in his power to restore the honour
of his brother by promoting him as a Saint [955] and did not
forget or forgive the ones who did his brother harm [The Despensers
and their enmity with Thomas of Lancaster,
see the Chapters, six, seven, eight and ten], or committed treason
against him, like Thomas’ close adherent and ally, Sir Robert Holland
, who deserted him, when he needed him most. [956]

But when everything is said and done, I raise one major question




There is much said about him:

I pick some examples:

Edwardthesecondblogspot [the great Blog of historian Kathryn Warner, writer
of a book about Edward II and Isabella of France and Edward II
expert] writes

”Whatever some of Thomas’s contemporaries may have thought of him – the extremely pro-Lancastrian Brut called him the ‘gentle earl’, for example – it’s hard to find a modern historian with a good word to say about him, and hard, for me at least, to find much sympathy for a man who did his utmost to thwart his cousin Edward II at every turn.”

Luminarium Encyclopedia describes him as a
”coarse, selfish and violent man, without any attributes of
a statesman”

Encyclopedia Britannica writes

”His opposition to royal power derived more from personal ambition than from a desire for reform.” [959]

Website ”English monarchs” described Thomas of
Lancaster as someone initially loyal, who was forced into opposition
because of the King’s favourite policies [960]

Website the Lady Despenser’s Scribery writes

”Despite his seemingly high ideals about the poor and oppressed, fair patronage and justice, records show that Thomas was actually as vicious, ruthless and corrupt as those he opposed. He was well known for ignoring the matter of the law, especially when he wanted to take land and manors and his harshness as a landlord was also legendary.” [961]

Historian Stephen Spinks, wrote in a very interesting
article about Thomas of Lancaster
about his ”weakness” , describing him as

”In short, he had no aptitude for government and once he was in a position to enact reform, the earl quickly found he did not understand nor was capable of achieving what he had long since demanded. Shouting about the Ordinances was one thing, but once he had them, enacting change was too arduous for him.” [962]

In his dissertation ”Lancashire in the reign of Edward II,
about the lordship of Thomas
of Lancaster in relation to the gentry in his county
[after which he and his family is named] Lancastrershire,
historian Gunnar A. Welle writes about Thomas
of Lancaster as ”avariciousness” and accuses him
of ”bad lordship”, at least referring to Lancashire
[the county Lancaster] [963]
Not one of the mentioned sources or writers was very
pleased with the Earl, therefore it was interesting to read
a less aphrehensive comment
on the website ”Lady Despenser’s Scribery, which is
very fair, given her less complimentary comments above

To be fair, Lancaster did his best to implement the Ordinances in full, purging the royal household and local government of men thought to be bad for the running of the country (in other words hostile to Lancaster), and he also attempted to get the country’s finances back into shape by limiting spending. ” [964]


”Edward II certainly had his faults as a king and many of Lancaster’s Ordinances were indeed worthy suggestions for much needed reform.” [965]

And now the following, very

complimentary comment on the New World Encyclopedia:

His instinct, however, was to uphold the law and, notwithstanding his faults, he can not be accused of pure self-interest. He saw himself as answerable to Parliament, which, unlike Edward, he did not ignore or manipulate.”

”As an admirer of De Montford, Thomas would have subscribed to the principles that had developed subsequent to his Parliament of 1265, that all classes should be represented there, that all taxes except “those sanctioned by custom” must be approved by Parliament and that the “common man” was also entitled to protection, security and justice……….
”Edward had vowed to “maintain the laws and rightful customs which the community of the realm shall have chosen,” as well as to “maintain peace and do justice” and Thomas had heard this promise. This development of the law was a shared responsibility—through their representatives, the “community of the realm”[14] would have a say in framing these laws for the common good. Thomas Plantagenet did his best to hold the king accountable to his oath. He can be said to have made a valuable contribution to the development of constraints on kingly power. In time, these constraints would result in full-blown democratic government.” [966]


I will come to that later

First this:



Now people are complex natures, as in their relations to
others, as in their ”playing the game of thrones”, the
highest level power play of the Middle Ages.
Sometimes their actions are easy to understand, but in most
cases more complicated than expected af first sight.

Often there is written, that Thomas regularly didn’t attend
parliament and generally didn’t took part in government
at all, as if done to undermine the King’s orders and
position [967] and that may true to some extent:
On the other hand it may be possible, that illness played
a major part too.
In two letters of Edward II, the first to Lancaster himself
in 1305 [when they were still on very good terms] and the
second, in 1311 [when they already were in conflict because of
Piers Gaveston and the Ordinances], directed to Lancaster’s
close ally Sir Robert Holland, there was a reference to an
unknown] illness of Lancaster.
Historian Gunnar A Welles wrote in his dissertation that
the reason Lancaster preferred his Castle Pontefract in his
later  years was perhaps due to ill health. [968]

But why not Lancaster sent a message to his king like:

”To my Lord Edward, by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland and Duke of Aquitaine…..[969]
Your Grace,
I can’t attend parliament, due to illness ……”
Your faithful subject and cousin, Thomas, Earl of Lancaster” [”faithful”? HMMMMM……]
Well, of course Lancaster couldn’t and wouldn’t do that because
of the growing enmity and power struggle between him and Edward II, thus undermining his own position by referring to some illness.

No, better to seem ”defiant” [and for a great part he was,
of course], than weakening his position by admitting
an ”ill health”……

Except for [possible] illness there was an other plausible
explanation for Lancaster not to attend parliament.
Since his unlawful execution of Edward II’s favourite
Piers Gaveston [970] there was an obvious enmity
between him and his cousin Edward II.
Doubtless Edward II would have taken revenge on
Lancaster, were it not because that was quite impossible,
since the great power of Lancaster [you remember,
readers, due to Lancaster’s five Earldoms] [971]
The king more or less uttered his desire to
revenge, during the siege of Berwick [to which
Lancaster for once took part], when anncouncing:
”When this wretched business is over, we will turn our hands to other matters. For I have not forgotten the wrong that was done to my brother Piers.” [972]
Perhaps understandable from Edward II’s point of view,
but likewise understandable, that Thomas of Lancaster
not only left the battlefield in Berwick [973], but did not
trust the king anymore. [not that he trusted him
before, but things grew worse]
What if he attended parliament and was arrested?

To make matters worse, the 1315-1318
three favourites of Edward II, Roger Damory, Hugh
Audley and William Montacute did their utmost
best to undermine any reconciliation between Edward II
and his cousin Thomas and even threatened him
by openly calling him a traitor [974 and see also
chapter V]
It is even possible that Damory had persuaded the
king to attack Lancaster at his castle of Pontefract
in october 1317,
which  was prevented by the Earl of Pembroke
at the last moment. [975]
Of course it was understandable then, that Thomas
refused to come to parliament, or to meet the king
[who summoned him to come], as long as those three favourites
were at Court…..[976]
A very tense political situation.

So there some possible reasons why Lancaster
didn’t attend parliament or took much participation
in governmental affairs.

On the other hand he seemed to have done his best to
implement the Ordinances [977] which led to a serious
row between him and Edward II. [978]

So summarized:
Lancaster’s reluctance to attend
to parliament or to participate in the government is
not only simply explained as obstructing the king or indifference
and incompetence
in governmental affairs, but could also stem
from illness and Lancaster’s not imaginary
fear of the malicious intentions from Edward II’s 1315-1318
favourites, who intrigued against him [Thomas].
Add to that the [likely understandable] enmity of
Edward II because of Thomas’ involvement in the
murder of his great favourite Piers Gaveston and you
have a good explanation for Thomas’ ”reluctance”
It is a pity that that’s often overseen by some sources.




Thomas of Lancaster is called ”coarse, selfish and violent” [979] , ”arrogant”, [980], having a ”seeming desire for power” [981]
and a
”bad lord” in the sense of not meeting the needs and wishes
of his retainers , as some sources state [here limited
to his retainers in Lancashire] [982]

That may be true and I found it confirmed in what
I read about him, but so were the other nobles, who

were no peaches either, without of course justifying Lancaster’s behaviour and attitudes.

Let’s be honest:

During the Edward II reign, there  was a constant dance for power and switching of alliances
and but few nobles, among who was Hugh Despenser the Elder
[to be fair!] stayed where they were:
In this case:
Loyal to the King. [983]

There has also been stated, that Thomas of Lancaster
”found it difficult to keep friends and allies”
However, he managed to bind men to him,
who stayed diehard allies, even though they could not
benefit from him anymore.

A man like Sir William Trussell, his loyal adherent since the
beginning of the Lancaster/Edward II conflict, stayed loyal
to him, fought at his side at the battle of Bouroughbridge
,was imprisoned, later escaped and fled
to France, joining the Isabella and Mortimer invasion
and reading out the charges against Hugh Despenser. [985]
Lancaster had allies who were prepared to kill those,
who had betrayed him, years after his execution. [986]

And he WAS capable
of true friendship, for example to his close adherent, Sir Robert
Holland, whom he favoured that much, that an uprising
in Lancashire took place against Lancaster and Holland,
the Banastre rebellion….[987]

Yes, that same Sir Robert Holland, who deserted Lancaster in his hour
of need [988], something his brother Henry, the later Earl of
Lancaster, would never forgive or forget….[989]



Describing Thomas of Lancaster only as the one

”who did his utmost to thwart his cousin Edward II at every turn”
[990],  a ”coarse, selfish and violent man” [991]
, ”that his opposition to royal power derived more from personal ambition than from a desire for reform [992],
is too one-sided.

On the other hand:
To pose him as ”having made a valuable contribution to the development of constraints on kingly power, which constraints
would, in time ” result in full-blown democratic government”
[993] thus making from the Earl a sort of pioneer of later
democratic developments, as the New World Encyclopedia
does [994], is, to my opinion, unbalanced either and a little
anachronistic, because it is somewhat dangerous to
compare the thoughts and opinions of a medieval
royal Earl with views about democracy that would
emerge much, much later.

Life and history are more complicated then that.

The sources, which gave Lancaster a bad press, calling him
”coarse and selfish”, ”a bad lord”, ”arrogant” and ”having a
desire for personal ambition”, etc fail to see, that be as it may.
looking this game of power only at the personal level is denying
one of the important historical developments, which rippled through Middle Ages, namely the struggle
between centralization and decentralization.

In Chapter one I pointed out, that, apart from the personal
matters, the Edward II/Thomas of Lancaster conflict stood in
a tradition of the struggle between centralization
[absolute royal power] amd decentralization [king’s liegemen/
nobles who tried to take as personal power for themselves
as possible]
See it not only as a power struggle, but also
as a fight for more equality:
Not all power concentrated in the hands of one man, but
influence for other groups too.

In this centralization-decentralizatio n game Edward II’s
great grandfather king John Lackland got trouble
with his barons, resulting in the Magna Charta [995]
John Lackland’s son King Henry III [father of Edward I and grandfather
of Edward II], got troubles with his brother in law, the
French noble Simon de Montfort with
English roots [6th Earl of Leicester by inheritance,
officially invested in the Earldom in 1239,
after coming to England and initially
in the favour of Henry III, marrying his siter
Eleanor of England with Henry’s approval]
a man of substance, who rose into open rebellion
against Henry and had far reached ideas about
more freedom for other groups.
In fact, he was the de facto ruler of England
for about a year and is known to have
established a Parliament [some refer to it as
the first English parliament] which stripped
the king of unlimited authority and a second, included
not only barons and knights, but also the burgesses of
the major towns. [996].

So in that light, the struggle between Edward II and
Thomas of Lancaster must be seen and in that light
I find it interesting to answer my final question:


”Coarse”, ”selfish”, ”arrogant”, a troublemaker, a rebel, ”contributor to
later democratic developments”, ”droven by personal ambitions”
Was he merely a troublemaking rebel or a second Simon de
Montfort, as the New World Encyclopedia seems to think. [997]

There are many connections between Lancaster and England’s first great
”parliamentary” rebel, Simon de Montfort and o irony, one
connection between Lancaster and de Montfort is often overlooked.
They possessed the same Earldom:

After Simon de Montfort was killed in the battle of Evesham in
1265, fighting against the royalist troops under the command
of Prince Edward [eldest son and heir of Henry III, the latter Edward I].
his lands and title were forfeited, being a traitor [rebel against
his king] [998]
Then Henry III created the Earldom of Leicester for his second
son Edmund Crouchback [999], father of Thomas of Lancaster and his
brother Henry.

New World Encyclopedia writes, that Thomas of Lancaster”based his policies on a strict adherence to the ordinances and an appeal to the work of Simon de Montfort” [1000]
In each case, with his implementing the Ordinances, limiting
royal power, he was building upon a tradition of baronial
opposition, for which de Montfort has given his life. [1001]

In their histories and lives, both men had many parallels.

Starting with royal favour, they fell out with their kings,
developed reform ideas, eventuallty rose in open rebellion
and died fighting their Kings, de Montfort in battle in 1265
and Lancaster, executed in 1322.
And, amazingly:
After their death both men were venerated as martyrs and attempts
were made to canonize them. [1002]

One of them, de Montfort, is now honoured as one of the founders
of modern parliament [1003], while Lancaster has got a
bad press, being a rebel, troublemaker etc
I don’t think that’ s completely fair and both men had more
in common then modern historians seem or are prepared to admit.

Because who was Simon de Montfort?

Reading about his life and times,
he seems to me an adventurer, who firstly enjoyed royal

favour, then fell out with his king,
sided with the already existing baronial opposition [inheritence from king Henry III’s father John
Lackland] and in the process developed radical
reform ideas [for that time] and at the end gave his life defending them..[1004]
And in contrary to Thomas of Lancaster, he had the chance to form
two parliaments to implement his ideas [1005], since he defeated
the king in battle and ruled England more than a year. [1006]
That’s why de Montfort did make a great impression and Lancaster was merely
seen as a troublemaking rebel.

Admittedly, Lancaster was the de facto ruler in England between 1314-1318, but he had much against him, what made it difficult to implement
the Ordinances, although he surely tried.
He had to deal with the Scottish raids in North England, with the Great famine [1007], and with the fact, that
after his execution of Piers Gaveston, he was politically isolated,
especially after the death of his main ally, the 10th Earl of Warwick in 1315. [1008]
And admittedly::
De Montfort was a better soldier and statesman

The nature of the reforms of de Montfort and Lancaster differed, but had in
common, curbing royal power:
De Montfort focused on the installation of a parliament, to which not
only the barons had access, but also the knights and even the burgesses.
But the whole thing got further and was quite radical:
Because [according to Simon de Montfort’s ideas] although Henry III retained the
title and authority of King,  all decisions and approval now rested with his council, led by Montfort and subject to consultation with parliament. [1010]

The Ordinances, promoted by Lancaster and allies, focused on
curbing the royal power to raise armies and go to war, collecting taxation
and going abroad.
The Lords Ordainers had to give their consent for those royal plans.
However, contrary to the  Simon de Montfort reforms,
the Lord Ordainers were especially
involved in giving more power to their own social
class, not to the ”lower classes” as the commoners.
But curbing the royal power like that was quite radical too
and in fact building on the ideas of Simon de Montfort.

But was it all ”noble”?

De Montfort’s end was tragic, dying for his ideals, but it was also a
struggle for power between him and king Henry III, no different
from the fight between Lancaster and Edward II.

For let’s be frank:
Would de Montfort really have grown out to a reform rebel, when
not falling out with Henry III, due to political circumstances?

Or would Thomas of Lancaster have developed his love for
the Ordinances, when he did not fall out with his king and cousin?
I doubt it.

Because neither de Montfort, neither Lancaster, seemed to have manifested
those high ideals when still in royal favour.

Both men suddenly ”discovered” those ideals, when falling out with their kings….

Both men developed ideals, but loved power likewise.

And stripped off the personal elements:
There we go again:

The Simon de Montfort/Henry III fight and the Thomas of Lancaster/.
Edward II fight is part of the greater struggle between centralization and

And without forgetting the injustices they committed [1012], they both were
reformers and at the end prepared and compelled [there was no way back!]
to pay the highest price.

It’s important, that de Montfort’s contribution is appreciated and honoured.

But it is also important, to see Lancaster in a more positive light and
acknowledge, that he made an important contribution to curbing
absolute monarchy and implementing the parliamentary rights.

It is high time for someone to write  this down, giving Lancaster,
with all his faults [but so had Simon de Montfort] a far better press than
he got untill now.

He held to the Ordinances [1013] against all odds and fought a king, who,
although certainly generous [1014] and sometimes unexpectedly forgiving [1015],
was a tool in the hands of ambitious and ruthless favourites
and therefore turned into a bad and even desastrous ruler.
And although rising against his king WAS treason and he had his own selfish motives,
Lancaster also fought to implement those Ordinances.
That deserves appreciation, which I want to
give him posthumously, 695 years after his execution, not closing
my eyes for his faults and injustices.

Readers, when you really read all those chapters out, KUDOS!

Hereby a bottle of champaign, out of appreciation.

It was nice to travel with you to the past again.

Until next time

Astrid Essed


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