Tracing Edward II’s links with the Fieschi and Malaspina: from Bazas to Oramala – Bernard Grimward, a wine merchant and money-lender to the King

by Kevin McKenzie

Today we are proud to publish a major new post by Kevin McKenzie, who has been making invaluable contributions to The Auramala Project over the last year. A wizard in genealogy and heraldry – a field of study that none of us at the Project knew anything about at all until Kevin enlightened us – he has helped us bring the family tree of Eleanor of Castile’s matrilineal descendants up to the 18th generation, and has applied formidable reasoning to many problems involving inter-family relations that have perplexed us for some time. Such as, for example, the question of Cardinal Luca Fieschi’s parentage, but more on that in another post. Here is his superb work on a totally unexpected connection between Edward II and the Genoese. Ed.

As a descendant of Edward II (many times over), of Hugh Despenser the Younger and of Thomas Lord Berkeley, when I came across the work of the Auramala Project I found it to be an imaginatively put together, utterly compelling and meticulously sourced piece of research, and the Project’s subject matter particularly appealed to me for these obvious personal reasons. (Because I am both a lawyer by profession and an amateur historian – who perhaps because of my training is never inclined to accept received wisdom unquestioningly or without careful verification in the primary sources – I also found the Project’s research methodology extremely attractive). Of course, if we look sufficiently diligently, it is inevitable that many of us in Britain will find these same individuals within their large pool of mediaeval ancestors (the statistical likelihood is that more than 99% of indigenous Britons descend from King Edward III), and it was only whilst carrying out genealogical research into another of my (at first sight less distinguished and to me therefore more interesting) family lines that I stumbled across information which I thought might prove a useful contribution to the Project. This was in fact basically a spin-off from my research into the ancestry of my great great great grandfather, Thomas Macdonough Grimwood, a grocer and law clerk, born in late 1817 in Sudbury in Suffolk.

Thomas’s father, Captain Joseph Grimwood (brother to a Suffolk rector and cousin of an admiral friend of Lady Nelson whose sister was an early gothic novelist), was a timber merchant and tea dealer who, having brought the family to London by the mid-1830s, seems soon to have ended up, after losing an Admiralty case relating to the enforceability of a guarantee of the cost of repairs to his ship (which had been wrecked on a voyage to Tasmania), in a debtor’s prison (probably the Marshalsea). By the early 1840s, Thomas and his younger brother were living close to the Marshalsea and appear to have become law clerks with the purpose of trying to rescue their father, but by 1842 their mother, the daughter of a wealthy packet captain (who in 1814 had helped restore the Bourbon monarchy by making a special voyage to return Louis XVI’s exiled brother Charles to the Continent so as to rule pending the return of the gout-ridden Louis XVIII, and who had funded Thomas’s clothing and education by means of a trust of monies which he had loaned to the poet Wordsworth’s cousin), was already in the Shoreditch workhouse. Their father, when at some point he left the prison, was living in the nearby squalid Mint Street, showing up in the 1851 census as a “waste paper dealer”; one brother Cornelius was to die of cholera; and Thomas himself, now a “dock porter”, was to die the next year, 1852, aged only 34, of tuberculosis.

But to see the relevance of Thomas’s family history to the Auramala Project we must leap back a few centuries, to the early 14th Century, and look at a member of the family who ironically was not an imprisoned debtor, but a money-lender – to the King.

It was in the Gascon Roll “for the 13th year of the reign of Edward, son of King Edward” [ie the 13th year of the reign of Edward II], when researching the likely mediaeval progenitors of Thomas’s Grimwood family ancestors, that I happened to stumble upon the following record (footnote 1):

For Bertrand de Mur and other merchants

 28 January, Westminster

Grant to the merchants of Gascony to whom the King is bound for wine bought in 1318 and 1319 …

 The King was lately bound to the merchants of Gascony in the sum of 1545 l 18 s 3 d st, for wine bought to his use by Stephen de Abingdon, his butler in August 1318, whereof he is still bound to … [there then follows a list of names which includes:] to Johan de Latour and Bernat Grimoard in 72 l of 90 l …”.

Elsewhere, in fact in the National Archives at Kew, I found the same Bernat Grimoard – or Bernard Grimward – described in the contemporary records as “an alien merchant of Lincoln” who hailed from “Besace” or “Besaz”, Gascony. This latter is clearly Bazas, near Bordeaux. These are the entries from their catalogue:

C 241/6/43

Debtor: Godfrey Francis, burgess of Lynn [Freebridge Hundred], of Norfolk. Creditor: Bertram Markeys, merchant of Bordeaux, Bernard Grimward, merchant of Besace [of Gascony] Amount: £6 14s. Before whom: Ralph de Gayton, Mayor of Lincoln; Adam Fitz-Martin, Clerk. 1286 Sep 30

C 241/7/51

Debtor: Godfrey Francis, burgess of Lynn [Freebridge Hundred], of Norfolk. Creditor: Bertram Markeys, merchant of Bordeaux, Bernard Grimward. Amount: £13 8s. Before whom: Ralph de Gayton, Mayor of Lincoln; Adam Fitz-Martin of Lincoln, Clerk. First term: 29/09/1286 Last term: 24/06/1287 Writ to: Sheriff of Norfolk Sent by: Henry Gopil, Mayor of Lincoln; Adam Fitz-Martin of Lincoln, Clerk. 1287 Jul 17

C 241/46/234

Debtor: Robert de Walsham, burgess [merchant] of Lynn [Freebridge Hundred], of Norfolk. Creditor: Bernard Grimward, and Arnold de Puges, merchants of Besaz [Gascony; Alien merchants in Lincoln] Amount: £16. Before whom: Stephen de Stanham, Mayor of Lincoln; Adam Fitz-Martin, Clerk. 1305 Aug 2

SC 8/317/E289

Petitioners: Bernard de Mure, merchant vintner of Gascony; Bartholomew de la Roke, merchant vintner of Gascony; Arnold de Luk, merchant vintner of Gascony; Bernard Grimward, merchant vintner of Gascony; Gaillard de Sesson, merchant vintner of Gascony; Guillaume Bondel, merchant vintner of Gascony; Garsi de la Vynon, merchant vintner of Gascony; Arnold de Castillon, merchant vintner of Gascony; Pierre de Mountlaryn, merchant vintner of Gascony; Arnold de la Vye, merchant vintner of Gascony; Guillaume de Byk, merchant vintner of Gascony; Simon de Meot, merchant vintner of Gascony; Guillaume de Ford, merchant vintner of Gascony; John de Poitau, merchant vintner of Gascony.

Intrigued by the clear suggestion that one of the earliest known individuals possessing an obvious variant of the surname Grimwood had emanated from Gascony, I then turned to further possible clues, both as to Bernard’s origins and his possible connection to the Grimwood family. Part of this detective work led me to Rietstap’s Armorial in the British Library. It soon transpired from this that the coat of arms of the family of Grimal, of Guyenne, Gascony, shows not only in chief the three silver stars on blue of the Grimwood family but also the black imperial or Hohenstaufen eagle displayed of the Grimaldi. Guyenne corresponds to the archbishopric of Bordeaux and included the Bazadais, the territory of Bazas – where Bernard Grimoard, Edward II’s wine merchant based in Lincoln was “of”.  Bernard is the German version of the Italian Bernabo and it immediately then struck me that Grimal/Grimald is in fact the surname as originally used by the Grimaldi dynasty, the name Grimaldi simply being the genitive form, so as to denote “of the dynasty of Grimal(d)”.

From Rietstap’s Armorial: the arms of Grimal of Guyenne, Gascony.
Famille de Grimal

D’argent, à l’aigle éployée de sable, au chef d’azur chargé de trois étoiles du champ.

Origine : Guyenne et Gascogne

Famille de Grimal de La Bessière

D’argent, au lévrier de sable, au chef d’azur, chargé d’un croissant d’argent entre deux étoiles d’or.

Origine : Rouergue et Languedoc


As can be seen, the Sicilian branch of the Grimaldi quarter their arms with the black imperial eagle, which features on a number of versions of Grimaldi, Grimm and Grimal arms which also use the same silver and blue and colours as the Grimwood arms.  And here I found another apparent coincidence: what has been described by the family as a martlet appears, holding an oak leaf in its beak, as part of the family crest embossed on the silverware of George Augustus Macdonough Grimwood (first cousin of Thomas Macdonough Grimwood) and his wife Betsy Maria Garrett (herself a first cousin of Dame Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first female doctor, and of Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett, the early pioneer of women’s suffrage).

George Augustus Grimwood (1826 – 1883), of Shern Hall, first cousin of the writer’s great great great grandfather Thomas Macdonough Grimwood.

The coat of arms of the family of Grimal of Guyenne, as can be seen, contains three silver mullets (or stars) on a chief made up of a blue background. This is just like those of the Grimwood coat of arms as registered by a branch of the family (that of Jeffrey Grimwood Grimwood) at the College of Arms in 1851 – but clearly long held prior to that, because I found an unquartered version of the same Grimwood arms in the earliest edition of Burke’s General Armory, dating from 1842 and thus well before this registration – and George Augustus Grimwood who was only an extremely distant cousin of Jeffrey, with their most recent common ancestor living in no later than the 16th or 17th Century, bore the same motto as him of “Auxilio Divino“.  This translates as by divine assistance. An alternative translation is “Deo Juvante”, which is the Grimaldi motto. It occurred to me therefore that a black bird, originally intended to depict a black eagle, could easily, over many centuries, have been corrupted into a “martlet”. As if this were not coincidence enough, I then found that the collar of the Monagasque Order of St Charles which surrounds the coat of arms of the Grimaldi Princes of Monaco is made up of oak leaves, and that the mantling of their arms is of ermine, which mirrors that used for the tincture, or heraldic colour, of the bend which appears in the first and fourth Grimwood quarters of the coat of arms, as registered in 1851, of Jeffrey Grimwood Grimwood.

The arms of the family of Grimaldi, Princes of Monaco. The collar of the Monagasque Order of St Charles is interspersed with oak leaves, the mantling is of ermine and the motto Deo Juvante is an alternative latin translation of the Grimwoo family motto of Auxilio Divinio – “with God’s help/with divine assistance”. (The two supporters are a reference to the tale of Francesco Grimaldi and his faction, who took the castle of Monaco disguised as friards in 1297).
The Grimwood family crest (copied from Two Hundred Years of the Grimwood Family Tree, by Adrian Grimwood (footnote 2) as it appears – along with the motto Auxilio Divino – on a silver tablespoon datin gfrom 1856 of George Augustus Grimwood. The bird (a version of the black eagle displayed of the family of Grimal or Grimaldi?) rests ona  tower (the silver tower fo the family de la Tour du Pin?) and holds in its mouth an oak leaf ( the collar badge of the Grimaldi Princes of Monaco?).

It also seems clear that the 1851 registration was a registration of quartered arms with one quarter termed “Grimwood” – thus implying these latter arms already existed prior to 1851.  Over ten years ago, when first researching my grandmother’s Grimwood family ancestry, a visit by me to the College of Arms and discussions with both the College’s archivist and Richmond Herald confirmed that the College does not possess any extant record of these arms as existing before 1851. However this is not surprising, since the College’s foundation only dates from the reign of Richard III and that it would inevitably have no record of arms more ancient than that unless subsequently registered there. The existence of an armorial record for a similar version of the arms of Grimwood in the 1842 edition of Burke’s General Armory and the fact of the individual quarterings which formed part of Jeffrey’s arms as registered in 1851 being styled in their registration as for “Grimwood” act as further confirmation.

The arms of Jeffrey Grimwod Grimwood (formerly known as Jeffrey Grimwood Cozens) (1827-1909), of Woodham Mortimer, as registered in 1851 at the College of Arms, the first and fourth quarters of wich (for Grimwood) show in chief the three silver stars on blue of the family of Grimal of Guyenne, Gascony, and on a bend the ermine which appears in the mantling on the arms of the Grimaldi Princes of Monaco.

GRIMWOOD (R.L., 1851). Quarterly, 1 and 4, azure, a chevron engrailed ermine between three mullets in chief and a saltire couped in base argent (for Grimwood) ; 2 and 3, or, on a chevron gules, between three wolves’ heads erased sable, as many oval buckles of the first. Mantling: azure and argent; Crests – 1. upon a wreath of the colours, a demi-wolf rampant, collared, holding between the paws a saltire; 2. upon a wreath of the colours, a lion’s gamb erased and erect sable, charged with a cross crosslet argent, and holding in the paw a buckle or. Motto – “Auxilio divino.” Son of Jeffrey Grimwood Grimwood, Esq., J. P.

The black eagle “displayed” features in many versions of the Grimaldi coat of arms.  It is often shown as on a gold background and so may (as it often does when borne on a chief in Italian arms (footnote 3)) indicate Ghibelline (imperial) allegiance (contrary to the general support of the Grimaldi family – like the Fieschi – for the opposing Guelph (papal) faction – but some families were divided and the Doria for instance, who intermarried, were Ghibelline) or instead perhaps a marriage to an heiress with a descent from the Hohenstaufen emperors – which would exist for instance with any descent from Catarina da Marano. Catarina was an illegitimate daughter of the Hohenstaufen Emperor Frederick II and wife of Giacomo del Carretto whose daughters Aurelia and Salvatica married Lanfranco and Rainier I Grimaldi respectively. Brumisan their sister married Ugo Fieschi and there appears to have been another sister who (as the Auramala Project shows elsewhere) was likely to have been Leonora the wife of Niccolo Fieschi – mother of Cardinal Luca Fieschi and grandmother of Niccolo Malaspina (“il Marchesotto”) of Oramala and his brother Bernabo with his connection to Bordeaux and Bazas.

Because of the similarity in terms of both names and their respective dates, and the heraldry, I had long supposed that this Bernard Grimward could be identical to Bernabo (or Barnaba) Grimaldi (fl. late 13th/early 14th Century) son of Lucchetto Grimaldi and progenitor of the Grimaldi lords of Beuil/Boglio.  And I had already noted that Lucchetto’s brother Lanfranco Grimaldi married Aurelia del Carretto, a sister of Brumisan del Carretto – who appears (as is shown elsewhere by the Auramala Project) to have been the likely sister of Leonora, Cardinal Luca Fieschi’s mother.

Ian Mortimer, Ivan Fowler and Kathryn Warner’s ground-breaking research regarding the international connections of these prominent Italian families to Edward’s court now make our latter suggested identification of Leonora an even stronger possibility. Of course many of these people would have been wearing different hats and thus have been described in different ways in different contexts according to the purpose of any particular contemporary record. Thus it would seem we have Bernabo Grimaldi appearing in the Italian records as lord of Beuil or Boglio, as most likely the same person – or at least closely related to – the Bernat Grimoard (or Bernard Grimward) but who later (apparently first recorded in English records in 1286, thus some time considerably after the Grimaldi family’s flight from Genoa in 1271) crops up in the contemporary English records as Edward’s wine merchant and money-lender, trading between Lincoln and Bazas near Bordeaux – and apparently as progenitor or one of the earliest members of a family who established a line of descendants there, that of Grimal of Guyenne, and of a line descendants in East Anglia, the family of Grimwood.

When sharing this genealogical research with Ivan and Kathryn, in order to assist as part of our research to determine precisely how Cardinal Luca Fieschi’s mother Leonora’s family background could have made him a kinsman of Edward – and more particularly upon my sharing the fact that Bordeaux, a city so close to Bazas, appeared on Ivan’s map tracing the Europe-wide influence of the Fieschi against Edward’s travels as noted in the Fieschi Letter – Ivan then gave me an amazing piece of information. He told me that the individual who named Manuele Fieschi executor for his canonry in the diocese of Bordeaux was none other than Bernabò Malaspina, son of Niccolò Marquess of Oramala and Fiesca Fieschi. The canonry was conferred on 24th June 1335; the last executor was the abbot of Saint Croix of Bordeaux and another executor was the bishop of Bazas (Ep.o Vasat. = Episcopo Vasatensis = Bishop of Bazas).

The connection between Bernabo Malaspina and Bazas, and hence to Bernard Grimward, Edward’s wine merchant, was an “eureka moment” because not only do we have the name Bernabo (aka Bernard) cropping up here again (itself indicative of a possible relationship through family naming traditions), but also it is a known fact that Bernabo Malaspina’s mother was Fiesca Fieschi – a sister of Cardinal Luca Fieschi, the very man whose mother Leonora appears through independent research to have been the sister of Brumisan del Carretto. And Bernabo Malaspina would have been the great nephew of Lanfranco Grimaldi, who on the above basis was Bernabo Grimaldi’s uncle.

As Ian Mortimer writes, setting out here a tentative reconstruction of Edward II in Fieschi custody to the end of 1335: “After arrival in Avignon, he passed into the guardianship of his kinsman, Cardinal Fieschi, who sent him by way of Paris and Brabant … to Cologne … and then to Milan (ruled by Azzo Visconti, nephew of Luca’s niece, Isabella Fieschi). From there he was taken to a hermitage near Milasci, possibly Mulasco, where he would have been under the political authority of one of Cardinal Fieschi’s two nephews in the region, either Niccolo Malaspina at Filattiera or Manfredo Malaspina at Mulazzo itself, and the ecclesiastical authority of another nephew, Bernabo Malaspina, bishop of Luni. However, in 1334 troops began to gather for an attack on Pontremoli, which came under siege in 1335, hence the ex-king’s removal to the hermitage of Sant’Alberto, between Cecima and Oramala, an area also under the political influence of Niccolo Malaspina. The bishop for the area – the bishop of Tortona – was Percevalle Fieschi, another member of Cardinal Fieschi’s extensive family”.

And as an eureka moment the implications of this are threefold. Not only did the Grimward/Bazas/Malaspina/Fieschi connection (a) corroborate my own research based on heraldry which directly linked the family of Grimwood to that of the Grimaldi, but this would also (b) lend further support to the identification of Cardinal Luca Fieschi’s mother Leonora as being of the family of del Carretto – and thus explain how Cardinal Luca Fieschi was a king’s kinsman – and (c) explain why Bernard Grimoard/Bernabo Grimaldi was acting as a wine merchant to and lending money to Edward II (footnote 4). 

The fact that they were joint creditors for a single debt shows very clearly that Johan de Latour and Bernard Grimoard were partners as merchants, and this Johan de Latour must clearly be a younger son of the family of the Barons de la Tour du Pin. There is also another version of the Grimal of Guyenne coat of arms which appears in Riestap’s Armorial which displays the pine tree of the family of de la Tour du Pin.  “Johan Delatour” appears as a fellow wine merchant in conjunction with Bernard Grimoard in the contemporary record.  According to The Foundation for Medieval Genealogy‘s pedigree for the Fieschi, a likely unnamed sister of Ugo Fieschi (with his del Carretto wife Brumisan) and Niccolo Fieschi (with his presumed del Carretto wife Leonora) married Albert, Sire de la Tour du Pin: Matthew Paris records that Pope Innocent IV arranged the marriage of his niece to “domino de Tur de Pin” in 1251 and that he accepted his bride “non ratione personæ muliebris, sed pecuniæ eam concomitantis”.

If he is not to be identified as a member of the family of Grimaldi, it seems unlikely to be coincidence therefore that Bernat Grimoard is mentioned in a contemporary record in direct conjunction with a fellow wine merchant named “Johan Delatour”.

As well as their having the same motto as the Grimaldi, and as part of the crest above their coat of arms a black bird which matches the black eagle also used by the Grimaldi, the tower in the de la Tour du Pin coat of arms appears as part of this same crest of the Grimwood family which I have deduced to descend from Bernard Grimward or a near relative of his.  So there could well have been marriage to a de la Tour du Pin heiress at some point. Whatever the position, the latter family was clearly allied by marriage in around the mid to late 13th Century with both Bernard the wine merchant’s family and the Fieschi. As we have seen, part of George Augustus Grimwood’s crest was a silver tower – which matches the tower which also appears in the arms of the de la Tour du Pin – surmounted by the black bird holding an oak leaf in its beak, along with the motto “Auxilio Divino”. So this too further corroborates the heraldic evidence both of Bernard being the Grimwood ancestor and of his likely place on the Grimaldi tree – in order for him to have been a de la Tour du Pin cousin – as a younger son of Giacomo Grimaldi and Catarina Fieschi.

The use of the black imperial eagle by the Grimaldi in the various versions of their arms which I have found might perhaps have been part of a later attempt to reconcile with the Ghibelline faction (and I also note that support for the Guelph faction and the Ghibelline faction was apparently not a rigid divide), or it could simply have denoted a descent from the Hohenstaufen via an heiress – such as via Catarina da Marano, the wife of Giacomo del Carretto, who was an illegitimate daughter of the Emperor Frederick II.

In fact Bernat Grimoard, the wine merchant to Edward II, or his father, may well have left Genoa for Bazas and thus appeared in the latter place at the time of the Grimaldi exodus from Genoa.  The timing of the banning of the Guelph faction from Genoa (1271) and their seeking refuge in territories outside Italy which were allied with the papacy would fit perfectly.  And the fact that Bazas had connections with Bernabo Malaspina and Manuele Fieschi – who were part of the similarly Guelph-supporting Fieschi family which was allied by marriage with the Grimaldi – would also fit perfectly. The general political history of the Grimaldi is well-known. As a ready precis, here is an extract from their Wikipedia entry:

“The Grimaldis feared that the head of a rival Genoese family could break the fragile balance of power in a political coup and become lord of Genoa, as had happened in other Italian cities. They entered into a Guelphic alliance with the Fieschi family and defended their interests with the sword. The Guelfs however were banned from the City in 1271, and found refuge in their castles in Liguria and Provence. They signed a treaty with Charles of Anjou, King of Naples and Count of Provence to retake control of Genoa, and generally to provide mutual assistance. In 1276, they accepted a peace under the auspices of the Pope, which however did not put an end to the civil war. Not all the Grimaldis chose to return to Genoa, as they preferred to settle in their fiefdoms, where they could raise armies.

In 1299, the Grimaldis and their close family the Grosscurth’s [sic] launched a few galleys to attack the port of Genoa before taking refuge on the Western Riviera. During the following years, the Grimaldis entered into different alliances that would allow them to return to power in Genoa. This time, it was the turn of their rivals, the Spinola family, to be exiled from the city. During this period, both the Guelphs and Ghibellines took and abandoned the castle of Monaco, which was ideally located to launch political and military operations against Genoa. Therefore, the tale of Francis Grimaldi and his faction – who took the castle of Monaco disguised as friars in 1297 – is largely anecdotal.”

However, none of the Grimaldi family’s specific, personal political connections during this period appear to have been investigated by historians until now; in the Summer of Britain’s referendum on membership of the European Union, we would do well to remember the inter-European nature of politics and culture even at this early date, inter-European connections as outlined in this article which could clearly not have been invented by the writer of the Fieschi Letter; and it is surely only if it is to be read in total isolation from these and other new finds that the Fieschi Letter can reasonably be dismissed as a forgery or (as some have suggested in the light of the compelling evidence which indicates the contrary) else as a rather crude (and unexplained) attempt at falsification and blackmail.

  1. A complete copy of this record can be found online in the Gascon Rolls Project.
  1. This silverware belongs to Adrian Grimwood, who lives in Kenya, is a distant cousin of mine and is a direct descendant of George Augustus Grimwood.

  1. Guelph allegiance was often indicated instead by having in chief three gold fleur de lis on a blue background.

  1. The Lincoln connection is also interesting in the light of Manuele Fieschi’s connection to that city too – although it could of course simply be that a supplier of wine to the King being based there was inevitable as it was an important centre of Edward’s court. Indeed, it was on 23rd September 1327, when he was at Lincoln, that Edward III received a letter from Lord Berkeley stating that Edward II had died on 21st September at Berkeley Castle.


The Search for Edward II’s Descendants 7) – Kathryn Warner’s genealogical research

After Kathryn Warner’s visit to Pavia in late September, she became passionate about the genealogical side of the Auramala Project, and we are very, very happy about that. Kathryn turns out to have a real talent for genealogy, and with her extremely in-depth knowledge of the 14th century royal family and it’s many, many branches, she has an edge over most other researchers. In fact, Kathryn has done what we feared was not going to be possible – she has breached the obscurity barrier from the 1500s to the 1700s, for at least one line of matrilineal descent from Eleanor of Castile. In the space of literally a few days, Kathryn managed to trace 17 generations, and since the last generation includes no less than four women, all carrying Edward II’s (well, really Eleanor of Castile’s) mitochondrial DNA. What a breakthrough! This latest generation must surely bring the research into the 1700s. Please, any reader who finds any of the women listed below in their genealogy should get in touch with us, you may be the carrier of Edward II’s mitochondrial DNA!

Here is the text Kathryn sent to us in full:

17 Generations of Female Descent from Edward II’s Mother Eleanor of Castile – by Kathryn Warner

Generation 1) Eleanor of Castile, queen of England, countess of Ponthieu (c. late 1241 – 28 Nov 1290)

m. Edward I, king of England (17 June 1239 – 7 July 1307)


Generation 2) Joan of Acre (spring 1272 – 23 April 1307) [Note: Second surviving daughter of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile, born in the Holy Land]

m. (1) Gilbert ‘the Red’ de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford (2 Sept 1243 – 7 Dec 1295)


Generation 3) Elizabeth de Clare (16 Sept 1295 – 4 Nov 1360) [Note: Fourth child and third daughter, born just a few weeks before her father died; married three times and a very wealthy widow for almost forty years; co-heiress of her brother the earl of Gloucester with her older sisters Eleanor de Clare Despenser and Margaret de Clare Gaveston Audley; founded Clare College, Cambridge; often known by her first married name, Elizabeth de Burgh]

m. (2) Theobald de Verdon or Verdun, justiciar of Ireland (8 Sept 1278 – 27 July 1316) [Note: he abducted her from Bristol Castle in early February 1316 and forcibly married her]


Generation 4) Isabella de Verdon (21 March 1317 – 25 July 1349) [Note: Born at Amesbury Priory, Wiltshire, eight months after her father’s death, and named after her godmother, Edward II’s queen Isabella of France; Edward II sent a silver cup as a christening gift for his great-niece; younger half-sister via her mother of William Donn de Burgh, earl of Ulster, whose daughter and heir Elizabeth married Edward III’s second son Lionel of Antwerp; co-heiress of her father with her three older de Verdon half-sisters]

m. Henry, Lord Ferrers of Groby, Leicestershire (1290s/early 1300s – 15 Sept 1343)


Generation 5) Elizabeth Ferrers (c. mid to late 1330s – 22 Oct 1375)

m. David de Strathbogie, titular earl of Atholl (c. early 1330s – 10 Oct 1369) [Note: Son of Katherine Beaumont, whose sister Isabella married Henry of Grosmont, first duke of Lancaster; David was thus a first cousin of Blanche of Lancaster, who married Edward III’s third son John of Gaunt and was the mother of Henry IV]


Generation 6) Elizabeth de Strathbogie, also called Elizabeth of Atholl (1361 – 1416)

m. (2) Sir John le Scrope (will dated 23 Dec 1405)


Generation 7) Elizabeth le Scrope (c. 1395 – 1430)

m. Sir Thomas Clarell of Aldwark (1394 – 1430)


Generation 8) Elizabeth Clarell (c. 1415 – 1503)

m. Sir Richard Fitzwilliam of Aldwark (will proved 5 Sept 1488)


Generation 9) Margaret Fitzwilliam (? – ?; her brother was born in 1448) [Note: had two sisters Isabel and Katherine; possibly more female lines to be investigated here]

m. Ralph Reresby (d. 1530)


Generation 10) Elizabeth Reresby (? – ?)

m. Edward Eyre of Holm Hall (d. 1557)


Generation 11) Lucy Eyre (d. before 1556) [Note: had sister Anne Eyre]

m. Humphrey Stafford of Eyam (the famous plague village in Derbyshire)


Generation 12) Gertrude Stafford (d. either before 1600 or in 1624) [Note: Gertrude had sisters Alice, Ann and Catherine Stafford; possibly more female lines here; another line from Catherine is below]

m. Rowland Eyre of Hassop (d. 1626)


Generation 13) Jane Eyre (seriously!!!) (d. after 1611) [Note: had sister Frances Eyre]

m. Christopher Pegge


Generation 14) Jane Eyre and Christopher Pegge had daughters Prudence Pegge, b. 1598, and Anne Pegge.

Another line, the same as above to Generation 11, Lucy Eyre

Generation 11) Lucy Eyre

m. Humphrey Stafford of Eyam, Derbyshire


Generation 12) Catherine Stafford (d. 1595), sister of Gertrude Stafford, above

m. Rowland Morewood of The Oaks


Generation 13) Anne Morewood (b. c. 1578) [Note: had sisters Gertrude, Mary, Alice, Faith and Elizabeth Morewood; possibly more female lines here to check]

m. James Bullock of Greenhill in July 1607


Generation 14) Elizabeth Bullock (christened 12 April 1608)

m. Godfrey Froggatt of Mayfield (d. 1664)


Generation 15) Elizabeth Froggatt (1636-1669) [Note: Elizabeth Bullock and Godfrey Froggatt also had daughters Alice, Catherine, Barbara (1639-1675), Anne, Mary and Priscilla Froggatt, Elizabeth’s sisters. With any luck should be some lines of descent to trace here]

m. Thomas Burley of Greenhill


Generation 16) Sarah Burley

m. Charles Johnstone of Pontefract


Generation 17) Jane, Elizabeth, Sarah and Barbara Johnstone [Note: I don’t have their dates of birth and death or any more info, but this must take us into the 1700s ]

The Search for Edward II’s Descendants 6) – Lady Elizabeth Plantagenet

With this post I’m going right back up the tree to Elizabeth Plantagenet (7 August 1282 – 5 May 1316). She was the youngest daughter of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile, and two years older than her brother, Edward II. For a short careful and detailed biography by Kathryn Warner, click here. For the Auramala project, what we want to know is not the details of Elizabeth’s day to day life, but simply who her daughters were, and dates of when she lived. However, even that creates a story! Firstly, thanks to her royal status, we actually can date both her birth and death, unlike most women of her age. We have that rare gift to medieval historians, a source! A fragment of the roll of daily expenses in Queen Eleanor’s household shows that she was churched on Sunday, 6 September 1282 (P.R.O. E 101/684/62 m.1). Since we know queens were usually confined for thirty days following the birth of a daughter, Elizabeth’s birth may be dated c. 7 August 1282. 1 We also know the location of her birth, Rhuddlan Castle, in Wales, as the Chronicle of Bury St. Edmunds states: “1282. Alienora regina Anglie apud Rothelan filiam peperit quam uocauit Elizabeth.”2 (Eleanor, queen of England, gave birth to a daughter at Rhuddlan, whom she named Elizabeth.) Moving on to her children. Elizabeth first married in 1297 (aged fourteen) the twelve year old Jan I, Count of Holland. It was a short lived marriage, and they did not spend much time together, Elizabeth choosing (of her own will, yes, that’s right, important medieval women could make some decisions!) to remain in England rather than go to Holland with her husband. She did go there for a few months in 1299, but Jan, now fifteen years old, died there on 10th November 1299. No children were born of the marriage, and a combination of distance, youth, and Jan’s ill health make it unlikely that it was ever consummated. No Dutch relations of Edward II to be traced from this line then, but fortunately, Elizabeth’s story doesn’t end here. Our seventeen year old widowed princess returned to England, and she would have known that she would be marrying again, probably fairly soon. Women of high status families, particularly when at a fertile age, were incredibly useful and powerful in politics, cementing alliances. This time she married an Englishman, Humphry de Bohun, 4th Earl of Hereford, 3rd of Essex, and Constable of England, at Westminister Abbey on 14 November 1302. The fruits of this marriage are a goldmine for us. Eleven children in thirteen years! Including four daughters, who we will be looking into in future posts. Sadly, this state of almost constant pregnancy and childbirth must have taken its toll on Elizabeth’s health. On 5 May 1316 she went into labour, giving birth to another daughter, Isabella. Both Elizabeth and her daughter Isabella died shortly after the birth, and were buried together in Waltham Abbey. A sad end to the story, but don’t worry, there’ll be another one. Enrica Biasi (The following information is courtesy of Craig L. Foster. Mr Foster is a research consultant at FamilySearch’s Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah ( FamilySearch collects digitized records and other information to assist people around the world searching after their ancestors. FamilySearch does not normally perform research on DNA and to search for living descendants.) Generation 2

  1. Elizabeth Plantagenet

Lady Elizabeth Plantagenet was born in August 1282 at Rhuddlan Castle, Rhuddlan, Denbighshire, Wales.2 She was the daughter of Edward I ‘Longshanks’, King of England and Eleanor de Castilla, Comtesse de Ponthieu. She married, firstly, Jean I Graaf van Hollant en Zeeland, son of Florent V Graaf van Hollant and Beatrix de Flandre, on 18 January 1297 at Ipswich Priory Church, Ipswich, Suffolk, England.2 She married, secondly, Humphrey de Bohun, 4th Earl of Hereford, son of Humphrey de Bohun, 3rd Earl of Hereford and Maud de Fiennes, on 14 November 1302 at Westminster Abbey, Westminster, London, England.1 She died on 5 May 1316 at age 33 at Quendon, Essex, England, childbirth.3 She was buried at Walden Abbey, Essex, England.3 From 14 November 1302, her married name became de Bohun. Children of Lady Elizabeth Plantagenet and Humphrey de Bohun, 4th Earl of Hereford

  1. Edmund de Bohun1
  2. Margaret de Bohun+1 d. 16 Dec 1391
  3. Hugh de Bohun1 b. c 1303, d. 1305
  4. Eleanor de Bohun+1 b. 1304, d. 1363
  5. Mary de Bohun1 b. 1305, d. 1305
  6. John de Bohun, 5th Earl of Hereford1 b. 23 Nov 1306, d. 20 Jan 1336
  7. Humphrey de Bohun, 6th Earl of Hereford1 b. 1309, d. 1361
  8. William de Bohun, 1st Earl of Northampton+ b. c 1311, d. 16 Sep 1360
  9. Edward de Bohun1 b. c 1311, d. 1334
  10. Eneas de Bohun1 b. c 1314, d. b 1343 – Died without issue.
  11. Isabella de Bohun3 b. 1316, d. 1316


  1. [S11] Alison Weir, Britain’s Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy (London, U.K.: The Bodley Head, 1999), page 84. Hereinafter cited as Britain’s Royal Families.
  2. [S11] Alison Weir, Britain’s Royal Families, page 83.

[S11] Alison Weir, Britain’s Royal Families, page 85. 1 John Carmi Parsons, “The Year of Eleanor of Castile’s Birth and Her Children by Edward I,” Mediaeval Studies, 46, 1984. 2 The Chronicle of Bury St Edmunds, 1212-1301, Antonia Gransden (ed.), Nelson Medieval Texts (London: 1964).

The Search for Edward II’s Descendants 4) Joan of Acre’s lineage continues

Today, we’ll continue with Craig L. Foster’s geneological research. Craig, research consultant at the Family History Library, a division of FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, is tracing the direct female line of descent from Edward II’s mother, Eleanor of Castille, towards the present day, in the hopes of discovering a living carrier of Edward II’s mitochondrial DNA.

Last time, after our options following the de Clare lineage through generations 4 and 5 decreased, we were left with hopes that the de Ros daughters, (great-great granddaughters of Edward II’s sister Joan of Acre), had more daughters than sons. Remember, mitochondrial DNA is only transmitted by mothers to their children, so whilst both men and women bear it, we can only follow its passage through the female line.

The first daughter, Elizabeth, married Thomas de Clifford in 1373. Thomas was only aged around 10 at this time, and although we do not have a date of birth for Elizabeth, there cannot have been a notable age difference, given that she lived until 1424. Their marriage seems to have been a happy one; Elizabeth apparently referred to him after his death as “my most dear lord and husband”.1 Thomas was one of King Richard II’s chamber knights, attending court frequently, and succeeded to his father’s barony in 1390. He traveled far, present at jousting tournaments in Calais, according to Froissart2 and at a crusade in North Africa, according to another French chronicler.3 Nicolson and Burn claim that he died accompanying Thomas, duke of Gloucester, on his journey to “Spruce in Germany against the infidels, where he was slain 4 Oct. 1493”.4 Since the de Clifford’s owned extensive lands, Elizabeth, like the wives of many knights at the time, probably was responsible for overseeing them during her husband’s absence. In 1405, the famous French author Christine de Pizan wrote in A Medieval Woman’s Mirror of Honour: The Treasury of the City of Ladies: “these women spend most of their lives in households without husbands…so the ladies will have responsibilities for managing their property, their revenues, and their lands…she must manage it so well that by conferring with her husband, her gentle words and good counsel will lead to their agreement to follow a plan for the estate.”5 Women were seen as able to govern land on a practical basis, but only in their subservient role as wife.

Elizabeth and Thomas’s son John served Henry V at the Siege of Harfleur and the Battle of Agincourt, being made a Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1421. He was slain at the Siege of Meaux in 1422.6 John’s grandson Henry de Clifford inspired William Wordsworth’s poem, Song at the Feast of Brougham Castle upon the Restoration of Lord Clifford, the Shepherd, to the Estates and Honours of his Ancestors. Elizabeth, as a daughter, wife, and mother of two influential knights, would have been part of the small elite sector of fourteenth and fifteenth century society.

However, it is Elizabeth’s daughter Matilda, also known as Maud, who interests us most here. Sadly, she seems to have been unlucky in terms of husband choice. Her first marriage to John de Neville, 6th Baron Latimer, ended in divorce (or more properly, annulment), before 1414 due to “causa frigidatis ejusdem”, or impotence.7 Her second marriage, to Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge, ended in 1415 when he was beheaded for his participation in the Southampton Plot. After that, Matilda apparently lived in “great state” at Conisburgh Castle and elsewhere until her death in 1446.8 Perhaps this was a relief for her: a life of luxury and independence without the men in her life causing trouble! Unfortunately for us, it means that we need to turn elsewhere if we are to find a living carrier of Edward II’s mitochondrial DNA. Matilda seems to have died without issue, although some genealogy sites suggest that she may have had a daughter by Richard called Alice Plantagenet, who married Thomas Musgrave. However we have not yet been able to find any verifiable source for this – please get in touch if you can help!

So now we’re left with only one more branch of this line, Elizabeth’s sister Margaret de Ros. Let’s hope we have more luck there!

(The following information is courtesy of Craig L. Foster. Mr Foster is a research consultant at FamilySearch’s Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah ( FamilySearch collects digitized records and other information to assist people around the world searching after their ancestors. FamilySearch does not normally perform research on DNA and to search for living descendants.)

Generation 6

80. Elizabeth de Ros

Elizabeth de Ros was the daughter of Thomas de Ros, 4th Lord de Ros of Helmsley and Beatrice de Stafford.1,2 She married Thomas de Clifford, 6th Lord Clifford, son of Roger de Clifford, 5th Lord Clifford and Maud de Beauchamp.2 She died in March 1424.2  Her married name became de Clifford.2

Children of Elizabeth de Ros and Thomas de Clifford, 6th Lord Clifford

  1. Matilda de Clifford1 d. 26 Aug 1446 – Died without issue.
  2. Sir John de Clifford, 7th Lord Clifford+3 b. c 1388, d. 13 Mar 1421/22


Enrica Biasi


  1. [S11] Alison Weir, Britain’s Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy (London, U.K.: The Bodley Head, 1999), page 112. Hereinafter cited as Britain’s Royal Families.
  2. [S6] G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume III, page 292. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage.
  3. [S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume III, page 293.

1 Cumbria AS, WD/Hoth/Books of record, 2.329

2 J. Froissart, Chronicles of England, France, Spain, and the adjoining countries, trans. T. Johnes, 2 (1839), 436

3 H. Summerson, ‘Clifford, Thomas, sixth Baron Clifford (1362/3–1391)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [, accessed 17 Sept 2014]

4 Whitaker, History of Westmoreland, i. 281, 31

5 E. Amt, Women’s Lives in Medieval Europe, (1993) p. 164

6 G. Cokayne, (1913). The Complete Peerage, edited by H.A. Doubleday III. London: St. Catherine Press. p. 293.

7C. Mosley, editor. Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage, 106th edition, 2 volumes. Crans, Switzerland: Burke’s Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 1999. p. 14

8 G. Cokayne, (1932). The Complete Peerage, edited by H. A. Doubleday VIII. London: St. Catherine Press. p.495

The Search for Edward II’s Descendants 3) The de Clare lineage ends…

In today’s post we continue with the genealogical research of Craig L. Foster, research consultant at the Family History Library, a division of FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah. Craig is following the direct female line of descendancy down from Edward II’s mother, Eleanor of Castille, toward the present, in the hopes of discovering a living carrier of Edward II’s mitochondrial DNA.

The last time we dipped into his research, we were following the de Clare lineage, descended from Edward II’s sister Joan of Acre, which produced many female descendants in Generation 3. Unfortunately, there’s bad news. Here we outline generations 4 and 5 following the same lineage, but you can see that with each generation the field narrows considerably, as female descendents most often did not have daughters. Fortunately, we see here in generation five a promising group of de Ros family daughters. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, and see how it turns out.

(The following information is courtesy of Craig L. Foster. Mr Foster is a research consultant at FamilySearch’s Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah ( FamilySearch collects digitized records and other information to assist people around the world searching after their ancestors. FamilySearch does not normally perform research on DNA and to search for living descendants.)


Generation 4

45. Eleanor le Despenser

Eleanor le Despenser, daughter of Lady Eleanor de Clare and Hugh le Despenser, 1st Lord le Despenser, married Sir Hugh de Courtenay.

Children of Eleanor le Despenser and Hugh de Courtenay

72. Margaret de Courtenay d. 18 Mar 1349 – Mar. Nicholas de Moels, 2nd Baron Moels and had one son.

48. Margaret Audley, Baroness Audley

MargaretAudley, Baroness Audley was the daughter of HughAudley, 1st and last Earl of Gloucester and MargaretdeClare.1 She married RalphdeStafford, 1st Earl of Stafford, son of EdmunddeStafford, 1st Lord Stafford and MargaretBasset, before 6 July 1336.1 She died between 1347 and 1351.1 She was buried at Tonbridge, Kent, England.2
She succeeded to the title of
2nd Baroness Audley [E., 1317] on 10 November 1347, suo jure.1

Children of Margaret Audley, Baroness Audley and RalphdeStafford, 1st Earl of Stafford

73. CatherinedeStafford+ d. a 6 Dec 1361 – Mar. Sir John de Sutton and had one son.

74. BeatricedeStafford+2 d. 14 Apr 1415

75. LadyElizabethdeStafford3 b. c 1334, d. 7 Aug 1376 – Died without issue.

76. JoandeStafford+4 b. 1336, d. b 1397 – Mar. John Cherleton, 3rd Lord Cherleton and had two sons.

77. SirRalphStafford b. b 1344, d. b 1347

78. HughdeStafford, 2nd Earl of Stafford+1 b. c 1344, d. 13 Oct 1386


  1. [S6] G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume I, page 346. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage.
  2. [S1545] Mitchell Adams, “re: West Ancestors,” e-mail message to Darryl Roger Lundy, 6 December 2005 – 19 June 2009. Hereinafter cited as “re: West Ancestors.”
  3. [S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume III, page 353.
  4. [S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume III, page 161.

Generation 5

74. BeatricedeStafford

BeatricedeStafford was the daughter of RalphdeStafford, 1st Earl of Stafford and MargaretAudley, Baroness Audley.2,1 She married, firstly, MauricefitzMaurice, 2nd Earl of Desmond, son of MauricefitzThomas, 1st Earl of Desmond.3 She married, secondly, ThomasdeRos, 4th Lord de Ros of Helmsley, son of WilliamdeRos, 2nd Lord de Ros of Helmsley and MargerydeBadlesmere, circa 1 January 1359.3 She married, thirdly, SirRichardBurley after 1384.3 She died on 14 April 1415.3
From after 1384, her married name became Burley.

Children of Beatrice de Stafford and ThomasdeRos, 4th Lord de Ros of Helmsley

  1. ElizabethdeRos+1 d. Mar 1424
  2. MargaretdeRos+2
  3. ThomasdeRos3
  4. RobertdeRos3
  5. JohndeRos, 5th Lord de Ros of Helmsley3 b. c 1368, d. 6 Aug 1393
  6. WilliamdeRos, 6th Lord de Ros of Helmsley+4 b. c 1369, d. 1 Sep 1414


  1. [S6] G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume III, page 292. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage.
  2. [S1545] Mitchell Adams, “re: West Ancestors,” e-mail message to Darryl Roger Lundy, 6 December 2005 – 19 June 2009. Hereinafter cited as “re: West Ancestors.”
  3. [S37] Charles Mosley, editor, Burke’s Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes (Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke’s Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003), volume 1, page 1107. Hereinafter cited as Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage, 107th edition.
  4. [S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume XI, page 102.



The Search for Edward II’s Descendants 2) Joan of Acre’s descendants

Having published some significant progress in the historical and archival research, we decided it was time to continue with the genealogical research currently being carried out at the same time by Craig L. Foster, research consultant at the Family History Library, a division of FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah. As mentioned in previous posts, Craig has been following the direct female line of descendants down from Edward II’s mother, Eleanor of Castille, toward the present, in the hopes of discovering a living carrier of Edward II’s mitochondrial DNA.

The Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah

The last time we took a look at his research, we had looked at the generation of Eleanor of Castille’s daughters1, and had singled out one possible fruitful line of research in the person of Joan of Acre. As Craig reports:

Joan of Acre was born circa April 1272 at Acre, Israel.2 She was the daughter of Edward I ‘Longshanks’, King of England and Eleanor de Castilla, Comtesse de Ponthieu. She married, firstly, Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Gloucester, son of Richard de Clare, 5th Earl of Gloucester and Matilda de Lacy, on 30 April 1290 at Westminster Abbey, Westminster, London, England.2 She married, secondly, Ralph de Monthermer, Earl of Gloucester before 2 August 1297, without her father’s consent, although this was pardoned on 2 August 1297. She died on 23 April 1307 at Clare, Suffolk, England.3 She was buried at Priory Church of the Austin Friars, Clare, Suffolk, England.3
She was also known as Joan Plantagenet.4
From 30 April 1290, her married name became de Clare. From 1297, her married name became Monthermer.

So let’s continue down the line, where Joan of Acre’s children are a part of the vast de Clare lineage. Remember, the key aspect is that mitochondrial DNA follows the path from mothers to their children, but is NOT passed on to the next generation by men, only by women. So both men and women bear it, but only women transmit it.

(The following information is courtesy of Craig L. Foster. Mr Foster is a research consultant at FamilySearch’s Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah ( FamilySearch collects digitized records and other information to assist people around the world searching after their ancestors. FamilySearch does not normally perform research on DNA and to search for living descendants.)

Generation 3

25. Eleanor de Clare

Lady Eleanor de Clare was born in October 1292.2 She was the daughter of Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Gloucester and Joan of Acre.1,2 She married, firstly, Hugh le Despenser, 1st Lord le Despenser, son of Hugh le Despenser, 1st and last Earl of Winchester and Isabella de Beauchamp, in 1306.3 She married, secondly, William la Zouche, 1st Lord Zouche of Mortimer, son of Robert de Mortimer and Joyce la Zouche, circa January 1328/29.4 She died on 30 June 1337 at age 44.5,3

Children of Lady Eleanor de Clare and Hugh le Despenser, 1st Lord le Despenser

  1. 43.   Elizabeth le Despencer+6 d. 13 Jul 1389 – Mar. Maurice de Berkeley, 4th Lord Berkeley and had only sons.
  2. 44.   Sir Edward le Despenser+3 d. 30 Sep 1342
  3. 45.   Eleanor le Despenser+
  4. 46.   Hugh le Despenser, 1st Lord le Despenser3 b. c 1308, d. 8 Feb 1348/49
  5. 47.   Isabel le Despenser+1 b. c 1313, d. 1375 – Mar. Richard FitzAlan, 10th Earl of Arundel and had one son.


  1. [S6] G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume I, page 243. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage.
  2. [S106] Royal Genealogies Website (ROYAL92.GED), online Hereinafter cited as Royal Genealogies Website.
  3. [S37] Charles Mosley, editor, Burke’s Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes (Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke’s Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003), volume 1, page 1385. Hereinafter cited as Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage, 107th edition.
  4. [S37] Charles Mosley, Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage, 107th edition, volume 3, page 4289.
  5. [S11] Alison Weir, Britain’s Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy (London, U.K.: The Bodley Head, 1999), page 83. Hereinafter cited as Britain’s Royal Families.
  6. [S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume II, page 130.

26. Margaret de Clare

Margaret de Clare was born in 1293.2 She was the daughter of Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Gloucester and Joan of Acre.1 She married, firstly, Piers Gaveston, 1st Earl of Cornwall circa 1307.3 She married, secondly, Hugh Audley, 1st and last Earl of Gloucester, son of Hugh Audley, 1st Lord Audley (of Stratton Audley) and Isolt de Mortimer, on 28 April 1317 at Windsor, Berkshire, England.3 She died in April 1342.2,3
From circa 1307, her married name became Gaveston. As a result of her marriage, Margaret de Clare was styled as Lady Audley on 28 April 1317. From 28 April 1317, her married name became Audley. As a result of her marriage, Margaret de Clare was styled as Countess of Gloucester on 16 March 1337.

Child of Margaret de Clare and Hugh Audley, 1st and last Earl of Gloucester

  1. 48.   Margaret Audley, Baroness Audley+3 d. bt 1347 – 1351


  1. [S106] Royal Genealogies Website (ROYAL92.GED), online Hereinafter cited as Royal Genealogies Website.
  2. [S11] Alison Weir, Britain’s Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy (London, U.K.: The Bodley Head, 1999), page 83. Hereinafter cited as Britain’s Royal Families.
  3. [S6] G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume I, page 346. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage.

27. Elizabeth de Clare

Elizabeth de Clare was born on 16 September 1295.3 She was the daughter of Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Gloucester and Joan of Acre.4,1 She married, firstly, John de Burgh, son of Richard de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster and Margaret (?), on 30 September 1308 at Waltham Abbey, Essex, England.1 She married, secondly, Sir Theobald de Verdun, 2nd Lord Verdun, son of Theobald Verdun, 1st Lord Verdun and Margery de Bohun, on 4 February 1315/16.5 She married, thirdly, Roger d’Amorie, Lord d’Amorie in 1317. She died on 4 November 1360 at age 65.1 Her will was probated on 3 December 1360.4
She succeeded to the title of 11th Lady of Clare [feudal baron] on 24 June 1314.4 Her last will was dated 25 September 1355.

Child of Elizabeth de Clare and John de Burgh

  1. 49.   William de Burgh, 3rd Earl of Ulster+6 b. 17 Sep 1312, d. 6 Jun 1333

Child of Elizabeth de Clare and Roger d’Amorie, Lord d’Amorie

  1. 50.   Elizabeth d’Amorie+7 b. b 23 May 1318, d. 5 Feb 1360/61 – Mar. Sir John Bardolf, 3rd Lord Bardolf and had one son.


  1. [S6] G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume XII/2, page 177. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage.
  2. [S3409] Caroline Maubois, “re: Penancoet Family,” e-mail message to Darryl Roger Lundy, 2 December 2008. Hereinafter cited as “re: Penancoet Family.”
  3. [S106] Royal Genealogies Website (ROYAL92.GED), online Hereinafter cited as Royal Genealogies Website.
  4. [S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume III, page 245.
  5. [S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume XII/2, page 251.
  6. [S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume XII/2, page 178.
  7. [S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume I, page 419.

28. Mary de Monthermer

Mary de Monthermer was born in 1298.2 She was the daughter of Ralph de Monthermer, Earl of Gloucester and Joan of Acre.3,1 She married Duncan MacDuff, 8th Earl of Fife, son of Duncan MacDuff, 7th Earl of Fife, after 1306.2 She died after 1371.2

Children of Mary de Monthermer and Duncan MacDuff, 8th Earl of Fife

  1. 51.Isabel MacDuff d. a 12 Aug 1389 – Died without issue.
  2. 52. Elizabeth MacDuff, Countess of Fife1 b. b 1332, d. a 12 Aug 1389 – Died without issue.


  1. [S11] Alison Weir, Britain’s Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy (London, U.K.: The Bodley Head, 1999), page 215. Hereinafter cited as Britain’s Royal Families.
  2. [S11] Alison Weir, Britain’s Royal Families, page 83.
  3. [S106] Royal Genealogies Website (ROYAL92.GED), online Hereinafter cited as Royal Genealogies Website.

We can see that Joan of Acre had four daughters, in the third generation counting from Eleanor of Castille. Let’s investigate what happened to them and their own daughters in the Joan of Acre/de Clare lineage in the fourth generation. As we progress, readers will notice that we don’t mention every single person mentioned as a child in the previous generation. This occurs where that individual female descendant had no daughters, bringing that particular line of research to a close. For example, No. 43, Elizabeth le Despencer, daughter of No. 25, Eleanor de Clare. She married, but had only sons, and as a consequence did not pass on the mitochondrial DNA molecule we are looking for, and so she takes her bow with this generation. In the next blog post she, and others like her in this respect, will not appear. In the next post we’ll go into the fourth generation with results concerning her sisters and first cousins.

To summarise the work so far, we’ve followed the Joan of Acre/de Clare line down a couple of generations, and we can see that Eleanor of Castille’s female line is still looking healthy here. The family-tree mapping is an ongoing process, and we still have not found our living descendant(s), so please, genealogy enthusiasts, do keep checking on this blog and write to us as soon as you see a name appear in these genealogy blog posts that you know for certain appears in your own family tree. We really need people around the world to get involved and help us track descendants. A big thank you in advance to anybody who can help with this.

Note: Craig L. Foster has made extensive use of the resources of the Family History Library, and

Debating our research with Ian Mortimer

In this post we will summarize the progress so far, and it is our great pleasure to also report the reactions to our work to date of historian Ian Mortimer, and in the process add meaningful details to his own fresh ideas. It is particularly exciting to receive his observations, as his research was one of the starting points for the the Auramala Project. Of fundamental importance has been Mortimer’s outstanding leap of intuition that the Fieschi Letter could be examined through the lens of Fieschi family geo-politics. He commented on our work via email after reading our last post, and the hypothetical timeline for the Fieschi Letter it proposed. Here is a complete summary of that reconstruction:
The timeline
September 21, 1327: Edward II leaves Berkeley Castle.
March 19th, 1330: the Earl of Kent is executed. Sometime after this, Edward II leaves Corfe Castle. (The Fieschi Letter states he had been in Corfe for a year and a half, though this does not correspond to the period from late 1327 to spring 1330. This may also be a copyist’s mistake.)
1330?: he travels to Ireland by ship.
133-? to 133-?: he spends nine months in Ireland.
133-? to 133-?: he travels back to England, makes his way to Sandwich, and sails to Sluys.
133-? to 133-? he travels to Normandy and then south to Avignon, where he spends fifteen days and meets Pope John XXII. Here Manuele Feischi meets him, and hears his story in great detail.
133-? to late 1334: he leaves Avignon and travels to Paris, then to Brabant, then to Cologne, then to Milan, then finally to the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Monte above Mulazzo.
April 15th, 1336: Niccolò Fieschi arrives in England, carrying a copy of the Fieschi Letter complete up to Edward II’s sojourn in Avignon. He is immediately welcomed into the King’s council.
8th May-June/July 1336: the Rossi family of Parma flees to Pontremoli, near Mulazzo. The rival da Correggio clan attacks Pontremoli to finish off their enemies, and Edward II is moved on to Cecima, near Oramala, for his safety, given that the besieging soldiers are ‘countryside wreckers’.
Spring or summer 1338: Edward II leaves Cecima under the name of ‘William le Galeys’ to meet his son, Edward III at Koblenz in early September.
January 1339: Pope, Benedict XII, corresponds with his ambassador at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor, Arnaud de Verdale. The Pope sends Verdale two secret letters to show the Emperor, one marked ‘A’ and the other marked ‘B’. One of these letters is the Fieschi Letter, updated for the occasion by Manuele Fieschi in Avignon with un-detailed, second-hand information about Edward II’s travels after leaving Avignon.
Post-January 1339: Verdale retains his copy of the  Fieschi Letter when he becomes Bishop of Maguelone. During his time as Bishop, a register of cathedral documents is started, into which the Fieschi Letter is copied (presumably by mistake).
An old man in the snow?
In the above reconstruction, the length of time between leaving Corfe Castle and the arrival in Mulazzo is around four years. This is far longer than required to complete this itinerary.
One possible explanation is that Edward II, after years as a prisoner and being now around fifty (considered aging at the time), quite simply had trouble walking. Frankly, I am 33 and have just spent the last ten days avoiding walking due to acute muscular pain in one of my legs – and I have the benefit of modern medicine, too. If I was a medieval pilgrim, with no pain-killers, I would be looking for somewhere to rest for a good while, right now. If alive, and if the Fieschi Letter is the truth, Edward II was not only aging: he had been in captivity for years, so would have grown unused to physical exercise. He may simply have taken the journey at a particularly leisurely pace, staying for some time to rest at many places on his way. Also, as Chaucer tells us in the opening lines of the Canterbury Tales, medieval pilgrims preferred to start traveling in April. Edward II may have wintered over on more than one occasion, to avoid tramping through snow-drifts and slipping over on ice. I certainly would. If he habitually wintered over from December through April, this would explain a lot. Where and how he would have done so is something we’ve considered at great length, but it will have to wait for later posts.
Ian Mortimer comments (the context of this observation is actually a different timeline, see the full text below, under ‘Birth of a fresh timeline): “It leaves a long time for him to have travelled to Brabant and Cologne from Avignon but there is no reason especially to rule that out. Also, the dates inthe letter may be incorrect; we have no way of verifying. Manuele Fieschi got the length of time he was at Corfe wrong (or so it seems to me).”
War, or the threat of war?
Ian Mortimer commented on our hypothesis of the move from Mulazzo to Cecima in late spring or early summer, 1336. It contrasted with his timeline, given in Medieval Intrigue, in that he proposed Edward II changed abode due to the threat of war, not the outbreak of war itself.
“I know what you mean about the suddenness of battle but I do not think you can apply that generally to the threat of war. Things may simmer dangerously for some time before the knives are out. And Cardinal Luca was not the sort of person to leave it to the last moment to make sure his investment was safe. Nor I imagine were his nephews, especially il Marchesotto [Niccolò Malaspina, Margrave of Oramala, Ed.]. I would therefore not rule out the move in 1334 as a precaution.”
We certainly believe that the Fieschi family was prudent and habitually planned well ahead. However, if we base our research on the Fieschi Letter, the only solid piece of information we have about the sanctuary near ‘Castro Milascio’ – here identified as Mulazzo – is the phrase ‘…since war overran that castle [Milascio], he [Edward II] moved on…’ The letter does not say ‘since there was the threat of war’. This begs an open question: should we take the letter at its word? If so, the only military violence that actually touched the region of Mulazzo in those years was the siege of Pontremoli, which began in June, 1336.
Furthermore, the siege of Pontremoli was two years and a few months before a man traveling under the name ‘William le Galeys’ and claiming to be Edward II met with Edward III in early September, 1338, in Koblenz. The Fieschi Letter states that Edward II stayed in the sanctuary near Cecima for ‘two years or thereabouts’ and was no longer there at the time of writing. If he had moved to the sanctuary near Cecima to escape the siege of Pontremoli in June 1336, he would have been there for two years before leaving again to reach Koblenz. We believe one great strength of our hypothesis is exactly this: it neatly ties the war that ‘overran’ Castro Milascio’ to the arrival in Koblenz of a man claiming to be Edward II, using the precise timing given in the Fieschi Letter. Last, but not least, ours is the only hypothesis we are aware of that explains the fact that the Fieschi Letter states Edward II was no longer near Cecima at the time the letter was written (or rather, updated): he had just gone to Koblenz.
But, as we will shortly see, whether we take the letter literally or interpret it as implying the threat of war, both interpretations find plausible explanations in the history of the area at the time.
Birth of a fresh timeline
Mortimer’s next bit of feedback is particularly exciting, as a new proposal emerges from it.
“Having said that, let’s imagine – for the sake of argument – that we shift everything back a year [with respect to Mortimer’s timeline proposed in Medieval Intrigue, Ed.] So Edward II moved to Oramala in late 1335 as a precaution against a war that bubbled over into violence in 1336. The internal evidence of the letter (2 years at the sanctuary near Oramala) would then date it to the second half of 1337. This would tie in with the visit of Luca’s nephew, Antonio Fieschi, to England, with two men from the Val di Magra [Lunigiana, Ed,]. I’ve often thought about that visit. Given their names (Giffredus di Groppo and Francesco Fosdinovo) and the bishop’s see (Luni), it would not have been hard for Edward III and his Italian friends to put two and two together and to work out whereabouts his father was, if he didnt already know. Certainly the Fieschi would have been cautious of giving too much away if Edward II’s location was secret at this time. On this basis, I think that that visit of Antonio Fieschi is the terminus ante quem [last possible opportunity, Ed.] for the receipt of the Fieschi letter (original copy) by its intended recipient, Edward III. If Antonio carried Manuele’s letter (the two men were co-executors of Cardinal Luca’s will, I seem to remember, so were in contact), then this would suggest the letter was written in the autumn of 1337, and the transfer of the king took place in the autumn of 1335. Possibly a little later if the ‘two years’ was a rounding up. This would suggest in turn he did not arrive at the Mulazzo hermitage until perhaps late 1332. It leaves a long time for him to have travelled to Brabant and Cologne from Avignon but there is no reason especially to rule that out. Also, the dates inthe letter may be incorrect; we have no way of verifying. Manuele Fieschi got the length of time he was at Corfe wrong (or so it seems to me).”
We are delighted to be able to add weight to Mortimer’s speculation above. He wonders if Edward II might have been moved to Cecima in autumn 1335. Indeed, on 4th December, 1335, Bernabò Malaspina, together with his cousin Spinetta Malaspina, seized Sarzana, 35 kilometres away from Mulazzo, with a handful of men and the help of a traitor inside the town(1). Bernabò Malaspina was the bishop of the Lunigiana and nephew of Cardinal Luca Fieschi, head of the Fieschi family. He may well have known that Edward II was in Lunigiana, and had him moved to Cecima, near Oramala, ahead of time, in case the attack on Sarzana went horribly wrong, and the violence spilled over into the surrounding countryside. If we imagine Edward II wintered over at the Fieschi-dominated Abbey of St Andrea di Borzone before arriving in the region of Oramala in the spring, it brings the rest of this fresh timeline proposed by Mortimer snugly into line with the rest of our own timeline above. We also know from a letter addressed to Luca Fieschi that a trusted agent of the Cardinal’s reached Oramala in November 1335(2). He possibly arrived there from the Lunigiana, as the letter in question is full of news concerning that region. It’s tantalizing to think: had this agent, named Giovanni Nero, gone to the Lunigiana and then to Oramala in order to oversee the move of Edward II? We eagerly await feedback from Mortimer and others on this possibility, too.
The Verdale Hypothesis revisited
Mortimer’s last comment concerns the idea that Arnaud de Verdale, papal ambassador to the Emperor, used the Fieschi Letter as a tool of diplomacy in January 1339.
“I’m not convinced that Verdale used the text of the letter in negotiations with the Emperor. His volume also contains a letter concerning Niccolinus’ Fieschi’s arrest by the king of France; clearly he was interested in the Fieschi side of things. It is possible, for example, that he heard of the survival of Edward II while on his mission in Germany (after Edward II had been taken to Cologne in 1338 under the auspices of Niccolinus Fieschi) and wanted to know more – and enquired of Niccolinus or Manuele as to the details – and copied both of the letters into his book prior to returning them (or their otherwise being destroyed).”
Here we feel obliged to defend the Verdale Hypothesis on the basis that incredibly sensitive documents like the Fieschi Letter were unlikely to be given out to satisfy mere curiosity. If we compare this with the Verdale Hypothesis, where a plausible diplomatic explanation for his possession of the letter is given within a broader historical and political context, we believe the Verdale Hypothes wins out. Interestingly, the original tip-off for that hypothesis came from opposers of the Fieschi Letter. We enjoy this irony, and believe it even adds an extra edge of credibility to the theory, as it encompasses information coming from both sides of the debate.
The second Fieschi-related document Mortimer mentions here is contained in a separate volume of the Maguelone register, copied by a different scribe, and refers to an event (a kidnapping) that was as scandalous and well-known at the time as Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA are today (or rather, as famous as any event could be at the time, given the mass media did not exist). The content of the Fieschi Letter, by contrast, was completely secret until its re-discovery in the 1870s.
The fundamental outcome
Readers may be wondering why we are so pleased to find evidence supporting Mortimer’s new theory (see Birth of a fresh timeline, above) even though it partly contradicts our own. To put it simply, what really emerges from all of this is that there was more than one window of opportunity in the geo-politics if the 1330s for the Fieschi Letter to be plausible in its details. That is what really counts: this debate shows that the Fieschi Letter was, and is, plausible, given the known historical context of the time.
Frustratingly, it may yet be a plausible, sophisticated lie, and Edward II really did die in Berkeley Castle. Only Phase 3 of the Auramala Project will tell. But what really matters for now is its plausibility. The Fieschi Letter was not some cheaply concocted fairytale: it would have represented a potentially devastating threat to Edward III if its contents had become widely known. Indeed, Ian Mortimer has thoroughly explored the potential consequences of this for Edward III in both Medieval Intrigue and his biography The Perfect King.
(1) Hkedikova, Zdenka, Raccolta Praghese di Scritti di Luca Fieschi, Prague, 1981
(2) Dorini, Umberto, Un Grande Feudatario del Trecento: Spinetta Malaspina, Firenze, 1940

The Hunt for the King 5) The Verdale Hypothesis Part Two

Just a coincidence?

The catalogue of the Montpellier Archives states that the cathedral register of Maguelone, containing the Fieschi Letter, was compiled under the episcopate of Arnaud de Verdale (1339-1352) and completed under Gaucelm de Deaux (1367-1373).

Our last post shows that, in January 1339 (some few months before becoming bishop of Maguelone), Verdale was exchanging ‘secret letters’ with Pope Benedict XII. This occurred in the context of the beginning of the Hundred Years War between France and England, a new alliance between England and the Holy Roman Emperor, and strong disapprovement on the Pope’s part of the actions of England’s king, Edward III.  Indeed, Verdale was at the court of the Emperor as papal representative at the time.

Pope Benedict’s letter to Verdale (the full letter is reported at the end of this post) mentions at least three secret letters. In chronological order: Verdale had already sent one secret letter to the Pope, and with his reply to Verdale the Pope in turn sent two secret letters, one marked A and the other marked B, which Verdale was to show to the Emperor one after another. Verdale’s instructions in the rest of this particular letter were not, as Sumption states, to ‘disrupt’ the alliance between the Emperor and King Edward III, but to work towards peace between England and France.

At this point, it is difficult not to imagine that at least one of the these secret letters may have been the Fieschi Letter. After all, it would be an incredible coincidence that the Fieschi Letter was subsequently copied into a register initiated by Verdale himself. It is tempting to think that Verdale carried the letter back with him when he returned to become bishop of Maguelone, and that years later it somehow ended up in a pile of unrelated papers, and was copied into the register along with all the others.

Maguelone Cathedral. It was here that the Fieschi Letter was copied into the register where Alexandre Germain found it in the 1870s.

Royal Blackmail?

What could have been the purpose of sending the Fieschi Letter to Verdale, if indeed one of these secret letters was the Fieschi Letter? Some commentators on the Fieschi Letter have proposed that it was a tool of blackmail. If we simply read the Pope’s letter to Verdale, in which his instructions are to encourage reconiciliation and the peace process, it is not immediately clear how the Fieschi Letter may have been useful to him. But if we consider the wider context of alliance between Edward III and the Emperor at the outbreak of war between Edward III and France, it seems at least possible that Verdale was either seeking to break off this alliance, or asking the Emperor to use his influence with Edward III to convince the English king to back down and go home.

To put it very simply, Fieschi Letter could have been used to tell the Emperor “your ally, Edward III, may not even be the legitimate king of England, given that his father, Edward II, is actually still alive. Why don’t you break off your dealings with him before the news gets around, or if you do want him as your ally, why don’t you convince him to back down and leave the French alone?”

Our research reveals that Manuele Fieschi, purported author of the Fieschi Letter, was present throughout this period at the Papal court, working as Papal notary (there will be future posts concerning Manuele Fieschi in detail) (1). It would have been perfectly possible for him to write the letter for the Pope, for this use.

Frustratingly, none of this tells us anything about the truthfulness of the Fieschi Letter itself.  Quite the opposite, it begs an unanswerable question: would the Pope bluff with a matter of such extreme importance?

The Question of Timing

Auramala Project researchers think it is fair to say that the Fieschi Letter in its present form – the document copied into the register of Verdale’s  See of Maguelone – may have been a tool of Papal diplomacy in January 1339. This means that the events it describes could have unfolded over the period September 1327 (‘death’ of Edward II) to December 1338 at the latest. This dos not fit in with the timing proposed by Ian Mortimer in Medieval Intrigue, who believes that the Fieschi Letter may have been delivered to Edward III in 1336 by the Genoese ambassador Nicolinus Fieschi. However, Mortimer’s comparatively shorter timescale is based on incorrect information about events occurring in the interim in Italy.

Over the next two posts we will start investigating the Italian side of the Fieschi Letter, and we will correct some misinformation in Mortimer’s book.

(1) Manuele Fieschi’s continuous presence at the Papal court of Avignon is attested by his role as guarantor of newly-conferred church benifices, as will be explored in later posts. As late as the mid 1340s, when he was bishop of Vercelli, Manuele Fieschi was writing to his diocese from Avignon. These documents are to be found in the archives of Vercelli and Biella.

Here follows the letter from Pope Benedict XII to Arnaud de Verdale, 23rd January, 1339. Daumet, Georges,  1899-1920, Benoit XII (1344-1342) ; Lettres closes, patentes et curiales se rapportant à la France

Pope to Verdale 1

Pope to Verdale 2Pope to Verdale 3

The Hunt for the King 2) Discovering the Fieschi Letter

Let’s be absolutely truthful about what we know for certain concerning the Fieschi Letter (see the text of the letter here). 1) we know the words contained in the text; and 2) the physical nature of the letter. In other words, we know the content of the text itself, and the fact that this text was copied into a register, which was completed in the 1360s. This register belonged to the Diocese of Maguelone, which has since become the Diocese of Montpellier, hence the the letter is in the archives there. That is all. Everything else is hypothesis, sleuthing and deduction. Everything else must be accompanied by expressions like ‘maybe’, ‘possibly’, ‘perhaps’ and ‘must be’.

The Archives of Montpellier today, with Auramala Project resident film maker, Giacomo Sardelli
The Archives of Montpellier today,  by Zaha Hadid Architects, with Auramala Project resident film maker, Giacomo Sardelli

In order to better understand the nature of this sleuthing, I want to pay homage to the discoverer of the letter, Alexandre Germain. I want to imagine seeing the letter for the first time, just as he did back in the 1870s. However, we will go through this process of discovery as though it was us looking at it for the first time. This way, some of the possible thought processes involved emerge. Alexandre Germain himself was a famous, distinguished professor of history and head of the department at the University of Montpellier, not a mere mortal like us. He may well have accomplished everything that follows in a matter of minutes, in a largely instinctive manner.

Discovering the Fieschi letter

The fine, beige, almost shiny pages of parchment crackle ever so slightly as we turn them over, one by one. At page 86 we pause. The margins are empty, giving this page a different appearance to all the others. The rest all bear the main text in reddish brown ink, with smaller texts in black ink in the margins, probably markings made by the scribe’s overseer to certify each copy as it was made. They are missing on this particular page. But actually, the margins are not quite empty: in the same ink as the main text, to the extreme right, the word ‘vacat’ (it is vacant/missing) appears, smaller than the main text. What is vacant? What is missing? In other contexts we have seen the word ‘vacat’ used to indicate where portions of text of the original are missing, or where the original itself has since gone missing. But we know that words like this are used in different ways in different times and places, so we can’t draw any firm conclusions. (1)

Vacat: 'it is vacant/missing' - but what does it mean here
Vacat: ‘it is vacant/missing’ – but what does it mean here?

Now we take a quick look at the first and last lines of the text. The first lines of medieval church documents generally contain a date, written out in words, whilst the last lines list the person who created the document, generally a notary, and the people who witnessed it, generally church officials of some sort. This document cites neither a date, nor a notary, nor witnesses. And it is signed like a letter: ‘Your Manuele Fieschi, notary of the lord Pope, your devoted servant’. How curious! What’s a private letter doing in a register of 13th and 14th century administrative documents relating to the Cathedral of Maguelone?

Let’s see what information we can glean by skimming through the letter for key words, such as names of people, their titles, and the names of places. But even skim reading is no simple thing! 14th century handwriting is a challenge in itself.

ex confessione patris vestri… if you can read it!

We soon realize that the writer never names the person he is writing to. He tells the intended receiver his/her father’s confession, but never names the father either. So who were the intended receiver and his father? What was their relationship to the writer? We now notice that the writer and receiver were not on intimate terms. The intended receiver is addressed  in a formal way, using the second-person plural, just like ‘Vous’ in French, but in Latin it is ‘vos’. So now we know that the writer and the intended receiver weren’t on highly intimate terms, such as half-siblings, foster brothers or childhood friends.

We are now faced with an entire document which essentially speaks formally to an unidentified ‘you’, and talks about ‘your father’, and the name of the father is never mentioned either. Let’s look again at the end of the document, there must be a clue somewhere. Yes, this Manuele Fieschi character recommends the letter to the attention of ‘vestre dominacionis’, so this was the title of the intended receiver. ‘Dominacionis’ comes from the same root as domus (house), dominus (which in its most essential meaning could be something like ‘master of the house’), and ‘dominatio’ from which derives our English ‘domination‘, to rule over. But we know that this expression in the Latin of the time could have been appropriate for a great lord, a duke or a prince, a King or even the Emperor. So, the letter is intended for a very important person, but we don’t know their specific rank.

Our eyes alight on a piece of direct speech. A servant is addressing the father, and calls him ‘dominus’. This is one of the few Latin words that English speakers are familiar with today, thanks to hymns and church music, but it doesn’t help enormously. This term could be appropriate address for everyone from a lower ranking but respected individual (a householder without noble rank) right up to the Emperor, the Pope and God. In fact, Manuele Fieschi identifies himself as ‘domini pape notarius’, notary of ‘dominus’ Pope. It’s vague, but there’s no help for it. It makes us think of the way that, today, one might tap a gentleman on the arm to get his attention and say ‘excuse me sir’. We don’t mean that the gentleman has been knighted, this is just a form of address. Indeed, we know that the female equivalent of ‘dominus’, which is ‘domina’, was used irrespectively of rank in what is now Italy to the extent that its derivative ‘donna‘ now generically means woman.

Now let’s look at the place names. Perhaps we can identify which corner of the continent the Letter talks about. And there, we find a great surprise. The letter begins by saying that the father understood that all of England was against him. England! The following place-names are unfamiliar, particularly with the erratic, unpredictable spelling that is typical of medieval documents. For example, where is this castle called ‘Berchele’? Then we find an interesting name: Henricus de Longo Castello. Isn’t ‘Longo Castello’ pretty much the Italian for ‘Long Castle’? Let’s Anglify it a little… Longchester? Longcaster… What’s ‘long’ in Old English? ‘Lang’… Langcaster, Lancaster!’

Seal of Henry of Lancaster, 3rd Earl

Next, our gaze falls upon another familiar-looking word – ‘coronam’. This is the accusative case for ‘corona’, or crown. We pause to translate the whole phrase, and are startled to learn that the father of the receiver loses his crown. He is a king! Now our attention is completely riveted on this letter. It’s not everyday you come across the confession of a king, after all.

We continue through the letter, until we reach the section describing how the two assassins presented the murdered gate-keeper’s body and heart to the queen ‘as that of your father, and as the king’s body it was buried in Gloucester’. Now we finally have an element that can tell us who the mysterious ‘father’ is. He was a King buried in Gloucester. We reach across to our tablet and swiftly search for… Oh, this is the 1870s. Um, we search back in our memory to our school days, when we were forced to learn the complete succession of the Kings of England,  and we remember that the only king buried in Gloucester was Edward II, after the infamous red-hot poker murder in Berkeley Castle (‘Ah!’ we think ‘so that’s the place the letter calls ‘Berchele’) After a little research, we realise that the letter goes far beyond accepted knowledge about the death of Edward II, claiming that he escaped death in Berkeley Castle and went on to become a pilgrim and hermit far away on the continent – after meeting the Pope in Avignon!

Upon discovering the letter, Germain no doubt believed that he was re-writing a page of history. And it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person: it took enormous preparation and special qualities to notice and identify the Fieschi Letter. Germain and his colleagues in France and Italy seem to have embraced the story told in the letter fairly easily. After all, the loss to the English of the bones of one of their kings was hardly a matter of concern to them. I wonder if the great Germain would have been put out by the way the English very calmly dismissed the letter as sheer falsehood for the following one hundred and twenty-odd years?

The main source for this blog post is Seymour Phillips biography of Edward II, 2010, chapter 12, Afterlives, pg 583-585. The Auramala Project verified this information, and expanded on it, during a visit to the Archives départementales de l’Hérault, where the Fieschi Letter is to be found, in early August, 2013.

(1) For example, we found ‘vacat’ used to mean missing portions of text and/or a missing original in: Cammarata, Italo, Cronache del marchesato. Documenti per la storia della rocca di Oramala, del Castello di Cella e dell’Abbazia di S. Alberto, Guardamagna, 2006

The Hunt for the King 1) The Story So Far



This post is aimed at summarizing (in as few words as possible) the state of thhe art regarding the fate of Edward II in existence when the Auramala Project commenced research.



Historians fall into two broad camps regarding this issue. There are those who reject the idea that the standard accepted theory, that Edward II died at Berkeley Castle in 1327, may require revision. Up to a short time ago, the majority of the academic community certainly fell into this camp, and perhaps still does. Then there are those who urgently call for a re-examination of the standard theory, in the light of a series of pieces of evidence that seem to indicate the survival of Edward II well into the 1330s.

In the first camp, we feel that the most enlightened, thorough, and methodologically rigorous presentation of the evidence and its possible interpretations is the work of Seymour Phillips, who is also the leading biographer of Edward II in print. His biography of Edward II is by far the most complete and up-to-date treatment of the life and (supposed) death of the King among printed academic texts. He does not dismiss the evidence for the survival of Edward II out of hand, but engages with it, albeit with a strong stance to discount it. We profoundly respect Philips and his work, and are grateful to him and his research for a great deal of the detail behind both the novel Auramala and the work of the Auramala Project. Since the idea that Edward survived 1327 would place the end of his lifetime in the era of Edward III, we also recommend the work of Mark Ormrod, who also falls loosely into this camp, too. His biography of Edward III is nothing short of outstanding, and is an inspiration for historians, including all of us at the Auramala Project.

In the second camp, Ian Mortimer stands out as a vocal and combative adherent to the idea that the standard theory must be revised. His background is working with archives, and we here at the Auramala Project, after spending a lot of time in archives, can sympathize strongly with his background. He is also an outstanding communicator and philosopher of history.  Another outstanding person in this second camp is Kathryn Warner, who is also the leading biographer of Edward II in contemporary media. To Kathryn I, personally, owe a great deal, as much of the characterization of leading characters in my novel Auramala is based on her research (though at times we disagree on the interpretation, but that is only natural). And Kathryn neatly summarizes the evidence and arguments for and against the survival of Edward II on her blog. It is our hope that both Ian Mortimer and Kathryn Warner, and all other interested historians, will interact with the Auramala Project blog over time. In particular we invite Ian Mortimer to share his views on how our work has extended, confirmed, criticized and corrected his own. It would be a wonderful experience, and a stimulating variant of what Mortimer himself calls ‘Free History‘.

The crux of it is this: contemporary chronicles from England, and all over Europe, state that Edward II died in 1327, probably murdered in Berkeley Castle. As time passed after his death, the chronicles embroidered the story with more and more layers of interpretation. However, against this there exist a number of pieces of evidence (summarized and discussed hereherehere, here and here (just for a start) on Kathryn Warner’s blog) that indicate Edward II did not indeed die. These include a letter written by the Archbishop of York of the time, William Melton, addressed to the then mayor of London, and a letter (the Fieschi Letter) purported to be written by a papal notary (who later became bishop), which appears to be addressed to Edward III himself. Other contemporary events cast doubt on the death of Edward II, such as a plot to free him from captivity when he was supposedly long dead.

The Auramala Project decided to directly tackle the trickiest piece of evidence of all, the Fieschi Letter. One of our main motivations in making this choice is that the Letter also deals with our part of Italy – the Province of Pavia. With the notable exception of Mortimer, English speaking historians have been loathe to engage in detail with the portion of the letter that deals with the latter days of Edward II’s life (if, that is, he did survive) and look for further evidence that may either confirm or deny what is written in it. This may simply have been due to the sheer difficulty of it: logistically speaking it is extremely costly, difficult and time consuming to go after the various threads implicit in the Fieschi Letter. But that is what we have done. And from now on, we will gradually be publishing the results of our work.