Fourteenth-Century (and Late Thirteenth-Century) England

In Which I Ponder the Subject of Queen Isabella

I do my best pondering in the shower, and today in the shower I was pondering two things: what I should blog about next, and why historians and novelists—particularly female ones—have taken such a rosy view of Edward II’s queen, Isabella, lately. Thus a blog post was born and my hair made squeaky clean, all …

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Two (Maybe Three) Little Nuns

On January 1, 1327, Queen Isabella, having executed her enemies and imprisoned her husband, King Edward II, turned her attention to much smaller matters: Hugh le Despenser the younger’s little daughters. On that day, the queen issued an order that Eleanor le Despenser be packed off to Sempringham, a Gilbertine priory in Lincolnshire, and veiled …

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A Medieval Love Story: Joan of Acre and Ralph de Monthermer

We had a dark post last week, so here’s a switch: a medieval love story with a happy ending. One of the more unlikely romances in the late thirteenth century was that between Joan of Acre, daughter of King Edward I, and Ralph de Monthermer, son of the Lord Knows Who. For Ralph, a squire …

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680 Years Ago Today in Hereford

Today is the 680th anniversary of the death of Hugh le Despenser the younger. I’m too lazy to write a proper blog entry about it. Instead, here’s the scene as I wrote it in The Traitor’s Wife. (It’s not dinnertime fare.) Leybourne and Stanegrave and their men had made Hugh’s journey to Hereford as miserable …

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Divorce, Medieval Style

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been reading The Well in the Desert, a historical novel by a Victorian writer, Emily Sarah Holt, available online through Google Books. The unsubtle religious message of the book makes it pretty unreadable today except as a curiosity (even readers of modern inspirational fiction, I suspect, would …

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A Good Night’s Work at Nottingham Castle

On the evening of October 19, 1330, William de Montacute (also spelled Montagu or Montague) and a couple of dozen men entered Nottingham Castle through an underground passageway. Their quarry: Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, who with Queen Isabella was the effective ruler of England at the time. The reign of Isabella and Mortimer had …

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The Other Hugh le Despenser, and a Too Perfect Heroine

I’d like my blog entry today to honor Hugh le Despenser (d. 1349), eldest son of Hugh le Despenser the younger and Eleanor de Clare, who on August 24, 1346, as a prelude to the Battle of Crécy two days later, stormed the town of Le Crotoy, killed hundreds of French troops, burnt the town, …

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A Father’s Day Look at Gilbert de Clare

Having posted about Eleanor de Clare’s mum for Mother’s Day, I’m posting about her dad for Father’s Day. (Symmetry is everything.) To put it very briefly, Gilbert de Clare (1243-1295) had a stormy relationship with both Henry III and Edward I. During the Barons’ Wars of the thirteenth century, he allied himself with Simon de …

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Edward III Joins the "Me Too" Meme, and It’s About Time

I see that Roger Mortimer’s been spouting off. (I’ll be damned if I’ll call him the Earl of March.) Now that my looney scribe’s stopped taking pictures of her bookshelves and popping bubble wrap, I’ll finally have my chance to reply. I am: Edward III, teenage king of England.I want: to be a real king, …

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