Una tradizione che attraverso i secoli giunge viva fino a noi. Sabato 19 e domenica 20 gennaio, pochi giorni dopo la ricorrenza di Sant’Antonio, all’Eremo di Sant’Alberto di Butrio (Pavia) si celebra il protettore degli animali e delle arti contadine con un ricco calendario di appuntamenti.
La manifestazione, coordinata dall’Associazione Culturale Il Mondo di TELS di Pavia, è giunta ormai alla quarta edizione e quest’anno raddoppia, proponendo attività nell’arco di due giornate.
Il programma prevede:
SABATO 19 GENNAIO
ore 15:00 ritrovo presso la strada del Campo Sportivo di San Ponzo (Ponte Nizza) e passeggiata lenta dedicata all’osservazione dell’ambiente ed alle prime avvisaglie del risveglio della natura – a cura di Volo di Rondine (costo 5 euro a persona) – PRENOTAZIONE RICHIESTA: firstname.lastname@example.org
ore 17:30 falò con musica tradizionale oltrepadana per mantenere il simbolo rituale del fuoco.
Al termine per chi lo desiderasse Aperitivo Oltrepò a base di specialità locali (costo aperitivo: 5 euro a persona)
DOMENICA 20 GENNAIO
ore 10:00 ritrovo presso il piazzale dell’Eremo e passeggiata naturalistica a tema seguita da visita guidata alla cappella di Sant’Antonio Abate all’interno dell’eremo – a cura di Calyx (costo 5 euro a persona) PRENOTAZIONE RICHIESTA: email@example.com
alle 11.30 si illustreranno gli affreschi dell’eremo e la misteriosa tomba del re mentre alle 13.00 presso la tomba del re i membri di The Auramala Project annunceranno lo stato di avanzamento della ricerca genetica e genealogica che punta a dimostrare la validità delle ipotesi sulla morte e prima sepoltura in Oltrepò di Edoardo II, re d’Inghilterra
dalle ore 12:00 presso l’eremo, zuppa di castagne e latte della tradizione, preparata dalla chef Piera Spalla del Ristorante Selvatico, accompagnata dal vin brulé dell’Azienda Agricola Montelio (degustazione gratuita); possibilità di acquisto di altri prodotti del territorio con un mercatino di produttori locali
ore 14:30 nel Salone dell’Eremo
“Il restauro degli affreschi di Sant’Alberto per l’arte, la storia e la tradizione. Una vicenda travagliata, un futuro possibile?”
Incontro di Elena Corbellini con esperti del settore e storici locali.
Donatella Gabba (“Gabbantichità” Tortona)
Cristiana Cattaneo (Osservatorio Astronomico Ca’ del Monte)
Elisa Pianetta (Associazione Spino Fiorito)
ore 16:00 sul piazzale benedizione degli animali (gli amici a quattro zampe sono i benvenuti)
ore 16:30 messa solenne, nel 55mo anniversario della morte di frate Ave Maria
NON OCCORRE PRENOTAZIONE AD ECCEZIONE DELLE ATTIVITÀ DI CAMMINATA (i percorsi sono semplici senza difficoltà, ma si richiede uso di scarpe da trekking o con suola non liscia).
IN CASO DI MALTEMPO L’EVENTO NON SARÀ ANNULLATO MA POTRÀ SUBIRE LEGGERE MODIFICHE
Don Agostino e i monaci dell’Eremo di Sant’Alberto di Butrio, Elena Corbellini, Piera Selvatico e Albergo Ristorante Selvatico, Caterina e Giovanna Brazzola e l’Azienda Agricola Montelio, Caseificio Cavanna, Salumeria Ceci, Calyx, Volo di Rondine, Azienda Agricola Oranami, Azienda Agricola Lino Verardo, Azienda Agricola Fabio Birilli, Azienda Agricola Valle Nizza di Aldo Agosti, Comuni di Ponte Nizza e Val di Nizza, Associazione Amici di Poggio Ferrato, Associazione Spino Fiorito, Associazione Varzi Viva, Alchemia Verde, Osservatorio Astronomico Ca’ del Monte, IOLAS, Park Hotel Salice Terme, Castello di Varzi, Gabbantichità Tortona, Associazione Culturale Il Mondo di TELS
It has long been known that one of the pieces of evidence indicating that Edward II might have lived after September 21st, 1327, consists of two entries in William de Norwell’s Wardrobe Account dated 1338. William de Norwell was the clerk in charge of King Edward III’s Wardrobe, and drew up a detailed account book for the period July 12th, 1338, to May 27th, 1340. The two entries that may indicate Edward II’s survival are contained in this book, and both refer to a man called ‘William le Galeys’ who ‘called himself the father of the king’. This means, he was saying he was the father of King Edward III, in other words, he was claiming to be Edward II, more than ten years after his supposed death.
The Auramala Project has finally managed to take a closer look at these two entries, thanks to the help of Kevin McKenzie, who has already made several valuable contributions to the Project in terms of genealogy and historical research. Kevin very kindly took the time and trouble to go to the British National Archives Kew and personally photograph the relevant pages of William de Norwell’s Wardrobe Account book. Why was this necessary? The Wardrobe Accounts in question were transcribed and published in 1983 by Mary Lyon, Bryce Lyon, Henry S. Lucas and with the contribution of Jean de Sturler. However, if I only had a euro for every time Stefano Castagneto has said to me “Don’t trust transcriptions, always go back to the original document!”, I would be a rich man. So we went back to the original document, and it paid off, as you will see below.
The two entries are within a section of the accounts headed:
INCIPIUNT PARTICULE EXPENSARUM FORINSECARUM FACTARUM IN GARDEROBA DOMINI EDWARDI REGIS ANGLIE ET FRANCIE INTER XI DIEM JULI ANNO REGNI SUI ANGLIE XII ET XXVIII DIEM MAII ANNO REGNI SUI ANGLIE XIIII ET FRANCIE PRIMO UT IN ELEMOSINIS, NECESSARIIS, DONIS, NUNCIIS, FEODIS, ROBIS, RESTAURO EQUORUM, VADIIS HOMINUM AD ARMA, SAGITTARIORUM ET NAUTARUM ET PASSAGGIO EQUORUM.
Translated, this means:
Here begin details of outgoing expenses made in the Wardrobe of Lord Edward, King of England and France, between July 11, the twelfth year of his reign as King of England (1338), and May 28th, the fourteenth year of his reign as King of England and France, firstly for charity, necessities, gifts, ambassadors, fiefs, clothes, care for horses, passage of men-at-arms, archers and mariners, and passage of horses.
The first entry that mentions William le Galeys is on folio 89 verso:
Francisco Lumbard servienti domini regis ad arma pro tot denariis per ipsum solutis pro expensis Willelmi le Glaeys qui asserit se patrem domini regis nunc nuper arestati apud Coloniam et per ipsum Franciscum apud regem sic ducti usque Confluenciam per manus proprias, 25 s. 6 d.
To Francis Lombard sergeant-at-arms of the lord king for the same amount of money spent by (means of) him for the expenses of William le Galeys who declared himself the father of the lord king and so/then recently stopped near Cologne and by (means of) him, Francis, taken thus to the king at Koblenz by own hands, 25 s. 6d.
The second entry that mentions William le Galeys is on folio 90 recto:
Francekino Forcet pro denariis per ispum receptis pro expensis Willelmi Galeys in custodia sua existentis quia nominavit se regem Angliae patrem regis nunc (videlicet per tres septimanas mense Octobris dicto anno xii) per manus proprias ibidem xviii die Octobris, 13 s. 6 d.
To Francekino Forcet for money by means of him received for the expensis of William Galeys being in his custody because he called himself king of England father of the king (as is evident for three weeks in the month of October of the said year xii ) by own hands the 18th day of October, 13 s. 6 d.
In both entries the term ‘manus proprias – by own hands‘ almost certainly means directly from William de Norwell, the writer of the accounts.
This entry is not dated, but refers to the time in which King Edward III was in Koblenz. The itinerary of Edward III as published by Mark Ormrod in his 2012 biography of that king, shows that Edward III was in Koblenz from September 1 to September 6, 1338, and so the event must have occurred in that time bracket. The entry refers to a Francis Lombard, who was a sergeant-at-arms of King Edward III. The word ‘Lombard’ most likely refers to his geographical place of origin. In the 14th century all of northern Italy was generically referred to as ‘Lombardy’ (though even as far south as Tuscany was sometimes referred to as ‘Lombardy’ in this period, for example by Dante). Francis Lombard spent 25 s. and 6 d. for the expenses of a certain William Galleys, who declared himself to be the father of the king (thus, he declared himself to be Edward II) and so, or and then (the Latin word nunc may mean either) was stopped. The word arestare may seem to mean ‘arrest’, but in fact it is an invention of medieval Latin and literally means to stop. However, we will be looking for other instances of the verb in Norwell’s account in order to confirm that the meaning is, indeed, to stop and not something else. Therefore, the Francis Lombard, probably Italian, stopped William Galeys near Cologne, and took him to King Edward III near Koblenz sometime between September 1 and September 6. William Galeys’ expenses amounted to 25 s. and 6d. A sergeant-at-arms like Francis normally received a daily wage of 12 s, to put this in proportion. The same amount of money was given to Francis Lombard. This logically indicates that Francis Lombard paid William Galeys’ expenses himself, perhaps for a two or three days, and was then reimbursed by William Norwell. When William Norwell asserts that he reimbursed Francis Lombard ‘by his own hands’, it means we can be sure this is a first-hand account of someone who actually met Francis Lombard, and was therefore in a position to verify that which he later wrote down.
This entry is dated October 13, 1338, so more than one month after the previous entry. This time, a smaller sum of money, 13 s and 6 d, is being given to a Francekino Forcet. Francekino seems to be a diminutive of Franciscus, the Latin for Francis. This is a version of the same given name used in the first entry, though Francis was an extremely common name, and this does not necessarily mean they were the same person. There is also a surname here, Forcet, which may very well be an alternative spelling of Forcetti/Forzetti. Four men with this name were involved with the Florentine banking firms of the Bardi (Dino Forzetti) and the Peruzzi (Francesco Forzetti and his two sons, Giovanni and Andrea. Dino Forzetti was a Bardi agent in England, and Andrea Forzetti was a Peruzzi agent in England. We cannot be sure, but it is possible that Francekino Forcet was the same man as Francesco Forzetti, who was a partner in the Peruzzi banking firm. Both the Bardi and the Peruzzi banking firms were heavily involved in lending very large sums of money to Edward III in this period. (1)
This time, money is being given to Francekino Forcet for another sum of money (it is not specified how much), received by means of him, for the expenses of William Galeys. Concerning this, it is necessary to specify that the Latin tex is per ipsum – ‘by means of him’. The sum of money was received by means of him. It is important to distinguish this from ‘by him’ – which would imply that it was Francekino Forcet himself who received the money. This is not that case, in Latin that would be ab ipso, not per ipsum. The construction per ipsum receptis literally means received by means of him, or through him. This means he was not receiving the money personally, he was the agent by which the money was received. So who did receive the money? Given the context of the Wardrobe Accounts, we may conclude that the Wardrobe (thus, King Edward III) received the money, by means of/through Francekino Forcet. Similarly, in the first entry, the expenses of William Galeys were paid by means of/through Francis Lombard, not by him personally, and in fact he was reimbursed by the Wardrobe. So, Francis Lombard was the agent by which those expenses were paid. If the Wardrobe received money by means of Francekino Forcet, this may add weight to the speculation that he was indeed Francesco Forzetti: given that Forzetti was a banker, working for a form that regularly lent money to King Edward III
The money received by means of Francekino Forcet was for the expenses of William Galeys, who was in Forcet’s custody for three weeks in the month of October, 1338. The published transcription mistakenly writes ‘December’, but this is incorrect: we have verified with the original, and indeed this and all other entries before and after it on the page refer to October, not December. Therefore, according to this entry, William Galeys was in the custody of Forcet for three weeks in October, because (quia) he said he was the king of England, father of the king). This second entry is very specific: William Galeys was claiming to be Edward II, and because of this, he was in the custody of Francekino Forcet for three weeks in October 1338, for which expenses the Wardrobe received money through Forcet himself. It seems, effectively, to be saying that this payment of 13 s. 6d. is payment to Forcet for his services in organising money for the Wardrobe, to cover the expenses of William Galeys.
You certainly do not pay a person for receiving money himself. That makes no sense.
But you certainly do pay a person if you receive money through him – a service that is typical of bankers.
I believe that this new analysis of the two entries of William de Norwell’s Wardrobe Book that mention William Galeys strengthens the hypothesis that Francekino Forcet was, indeed, the partner of the Peruzzi banking firm, Francesco Forzetti.
Ian Mortimer in his book Medieval Intrigue (2010) pointed out the links between Edward III and the Florentine bankers, the Bardi and the Peruzzi, and pointed out the possible connection with Francekino Forcet. Mortimer put forward the hypothesis that these links may lie at the heart of mystery of William Galeys/Edward II. I believe that the present analysis and its conclusions concerning Francekino Forcet support that general hypothesis.
[I want to thank both Kevin McKenzie and Kathryn Warner for the long discussions held with them, debating the meaning of these two entries.]
(1) Information on the Dino, Francesco, Giovanni and Andrea Forzetti is available in Ian Mortimer’s Medieval Intrigue, 2010, and in publications by Armando Sapori, including Storia interna della compagnia mercantile dei Peruzzi, Florence, 1935
Non c’è dubbio che il grande amore della vita di Edoardo II fu Piers Gaveston. Un cavaliere nobile della Guascogna, era atletico, forte, un valente combattente, e soprattutto bello e spiritoso. Amava la festa, la musica, la poesia, il torneo… Era elegantissimo (al punto che, nel 1310, fu redarguito dal parlamento inglese per avere un gusto nel vestire troppo sofisticato!) Edward lo amava alla follia… Gli faceva regali assurdi – certe volte regalandogli castelli, palazzi, terreni… intere contee – ad esempio la contea di Cornovaglia, nel 1307. Infatti, più volte i baroni e conti inglesi, invidiosi e preoccupati, cercarono di seperare i due. Per loro volontà Piers fu esiliato ben tre volte nel corso degli anni, ma sempre Edward trovò l’escamotage per farlo tornare da lui. Piers, certo, non aiutava la propria causa con il suo comportamento. Una volta in un torneo a Wallingford nel 1307, sconfisse tre potenti conti inglesi. Poi si divertiva ad inventare soprannomi per loro, come “pancia scoppiata”; per il conte di Lincoln, che si vede mangiava un po’ troppo. Insomma, Piers Gaveston si faceva odiare a tal punto che, nel 1312 fu catturato e ucciso dai baroni. Per il resto della sua vita, Edward onorava sempre la sua memoria, arrivando a mandare richieste a case monastiche in tutta l’Europa di pregare e dire messa per la sua anima. Onorare la memoria del defunto amore non fu sempre un atto pio, tuttavia. Nel caso specifico del primo anniversario della morte di Piers, ordinò una festa durante la quale ben 54 ballerini francesi si esibirono – nudi! Si vede che Edward cercava una distrazione…
Probabilmente la cosa più nota di tutto il regno di Edoardo II è la sua sconfitta da parte degli scozzesi, alla grande battaglia di Bannockburn, nel 1314, che rese la Scozia a tutti gli effetti un paese indipendente per diversi anni. In fatti di guerra, Edward era il contrario di suo padre, Edward I, il cosiddetto ‘martello della Scozia’, che effettivamente sottomise gran parte di quel paese, e anche di suo figlio, Edward III, che avrebbe intrapreso con successo la Guerra dei Cento Anni contro la Francia, portando i suoi eserciti a vittorie leggendarie come le battaglie di Sluys, Crécy e Poitiers. Il nostro Edward non era un grande generale, e a parte qualche battaglia minore, perse quasi sempre. Addirittura, nel 1319 per liberare Berwick-upon-Tweed dagli scozzesi, cinse la città d’assedio – dimenticandosi di portare le macchine d’assedio! Sicuramente, avrebbe preferito mantenere sempre la pace, su questo non ci piove. Più volte rimandò campagne contro la Scozia, e le poche volte che mostrò grandi abilità politiche e diplomatiche per lo più o cercava di aiutare un suo favorito di corte oppure cercava di evitare scontri bellici. Tutto questo contribuì a creare la pessima fama che ha perseguito Edward attraverso i secoli. Nel medioevo, ci si aspettava da un re soprattutto capacità militari, e la sua popolarità sia con i contemporanei che con i posteri dipendeva soprattutto dai suoi successi sul campo di battaglia. Basta pensare a Re Riccardo I, Cuor di Leone. Lasciò suo regno nei guai economici e politici più profondi, ma in quanto grande combattente viene ricordato da tutti. Infatti, c’è un lato positivo di questo aspetto del carattere di Edward: fare la guerra era costosissima, e mentre suo padre gli lascio l’Inghilterra con gravi debiti, Edward alla fine del suo regno lasciò le casse della corona in ottimo stato. Certo, da buon pacifista, la vita da eremita tra le verdi colline dell’Oltrepò Pavese in Italia, come viene descritto nella Lettera Fieschi, gli sarà sicuramente piaciuta…
Sotto un turbinio di nuvoloni grigi, un forte vento da sudovest sollevava schizzi spumosi dalla cresta delle onde, che andavano a flagellare la ferita di Edward ogni volta che la prua della nave sprofondava.
E’ il 24 giugno, 1340, e sua maestà Edoardo III, re d’Inghilterra, è ferito. E’ stato un colpo di balestra, sparato da un mercenario genovese, durante la prima grande carica delle navi inglesi contro la linea di navi difensiva francese che bloccava l’ingresso a Sluys, uno dei porti mercantili fondamentali per gli interessi economici e bellici degli inglesi.
«Se almeno Vostra Maestà facesse la grazia di restare seduto!» esclamò il cerusico, esasperato. «No! I miei uomini devono vedermi ritto, tutti quanti. Devono sapere che sono qui, in piedi, pronto a combattere.»
Così inizia Edward. Il mistero del re di Auramala: con la più grande vittoria navale inglese prima dell’Armada spagnola e prima della Battaglia di Trafalgar. Infatti, già il 24 giugno 1340 si può dire Britain rules the waves – “la Gran Bretagna regna sulle onde”, uno degli slogan patriotici preferiti degli inglesi attraverso i secoli (quell’orgoglio nazionale che oggi ha portato al #Brexit era già ai massimi livelli con Edoardo III).
Eppure, in realtà la più grande potenza navale dell’epoca è la flotta genovese. E infatti, una forte contingente delle loro galee si è schierata a inizio giornata a fianco dei difensori francesi.
Le galee comandate da Egidio Boccanegra e dai suoi capitani avevano libertà di manovra, a vela o a remi. La loro forza erano l’agilità e la rapidità, nonostante l’imponente stazza. Se quelle temibili imbarcazioni si fossero scontrate con le lente, impacciate cocche di Edward, ci sarebbe stata una strage di inglesi e la vittoria francese sarebbe stata certa.
Ma, nel romanzo, entro mezzogiorno, le imbarcazioni mercenarie genovesi disertano i loro ‘alleati’ francesi. Perché?
Come ha fatto il giovane re Edward III, sempre a corto di denaro, a riunire la sua grande flotta, e ad assicurarsi questo tradimento?
E’ molto semplice: contrattando debiti enormi con e grandi famiglie bancarie di Firenze, i Bardi e i Peruzzi. Debiti equivalenti a molte volte l’intero PIL d’Inghilterra all’epoca. Ma, si sa, i banchieri non cedono mai un mutuo senza una garanzia. Quale garanzia poteva mai offrire Edward III ai banchieri fiorentini, così sicura da convincerli a trasferire l’equivalente di miliardi di euro nelle casse della Corona d’Inghilterra?
E se quella garanzia fosse… un uomo?
Edward. Il mistero del re di Auramala è un romanzo storico basato sulla ricerca contenuta in questo blog, e precedenti ricerche effettuate dagli storici britannici Ian Mortimer e Kathryn Warner, che ringrazio di cuore per il loro prezioso aiuto.
Con l’uscita di Edward in libreria oggi si sta creando #intornoa noi un gran fermento. Con grande emozione ho tenuto in mano per la prima volta il romanzo a Libreria il Delfino, e ho partecipato a una bellissima intervista radiofonica con Radio Ticino Pavia. Nei prossimi giorni ancora presentazioni, interviste ed emozioni. Grazie Il Mondo di Tels, grazie Edizioni Piemme!
Ed ecco il booktrailer ufficiale del romanzo – condividiamo con tutta l’Italia questa grande storia di Pavia e dell’Oltrepò Pavese!
Nei prossimi giorni seguiranno più video, ciascuno che racconta una storia intrigante di Edoardo II, della sua vita, e del mistero della sua morte…
Today we interrupt our series of posts on Manuele Fieschi to tell you about an important event that took place in Pavia last Wednesday, when Kathryn Warner, British historian and biographer of King Edward II and his queen, Isabella of France, was with us in Pavia. We held an accademic debate on the Fieschi Letter and in general the hypothesis of the survival of King Edward II at the Biblioteca Universitaria of Pavia. Present were members of the Auramala Project team, and a number of history professors of the University of Pavia, as well as the general public. Professor Renata Crotti, teacher of Medieval History at the University of Pavia, moderated the event and contributed to the debate.
Elena Corbellini read aloud her new transcription of the Fieschi Letter in Latin, and Mario Traxino read aloud the Italian translation. With his Genoese accent, it really seemed that Manuele Fieschi had entered the room!
Line by line we deconstructed the Fieschi Letter, relying on Kathryn Warner’s encyclopaedic knowledge of 14th century England for the first part of the story, dealing with Edward’s overthrow and imprisonment in England, and then more and more on Auramala Project research as Edward’s steps take him towards Italy.
Line by line, we dissected the Feischi Letter and other evidence for Edward’s survival, such as the Melton Letter, for no less than three exhausting hours. Other university professors and academics present included Prof. Ezio Barbieri, diplomatist, Prof. Luisa Erba, historian, and Prof. Italo Cammarata, historian.
Ironically, even after three hours of debate we still hadn’t managed to debate absolutely everything… But we did make a video of the event, and we will post snippets of the most interesting bits over the coming weeks, so that our followers online can be a part of the debate, too.
On 08.06.1329 a papal letter (15) grants Manuele a canonry and relative prebend in the archdiocese of York. This letter states that the canonship was swapped for his existing canonship of Arras with Theobaldus Rotarii of Troyes, who was probably the physician of Queen Isabella of England. From this time on until he became Bishop of Vercelli in 1343, the papal letters, and the majority of other documents that mention him, refer to him as canon of York, papal notary, or both. These were clearly the two most prestigious and important titles he bore.
Canonries and prebends
When we read that Manuele Fieschi was a canon of various dioceses at various stages of his career (the list of canonries actually conferred on him runs: Pisa, Arras, Salisbury, York, Maastricht, Liège, Cambrai) and archdeacon or provost of others (Genoa, Lavagna, Salisbury, Nottingham) we must not think that he was ever necessarily physically present in any of these places. As we mentioned in the previous post, as a papal notary he, like other employees of the papal chancery, did not receive a fixed salary from the Curia, but rather was paid through prebends. (16) Prebends were essentially yearly earnings derived from lands owned by the diocese, where tenants lived, worked the land, paid their rent to the cathedral, and the produce of the land generated profits. Each diocese in Europe possessed numerous prebends, for example, Salisbury alone had 53. (17) Some were richer than others, and the actual amount of earnings varied from prebend to prebend. Each prebend was attached to an office or dignity within the diocese, for example canon, deacon, archdeacon, percentor, treasurer, and so forth. So, in order to receive a prebend, it was necessary to be appointed to one of these offices within the diocese.
The offices and prebends, often referred to as ‘church benefices’, were theoretically appointed by the bishop, however both the pope and the king put great pressure on the bishop to appoint people they preferred, and since the pope was the bishops direct superior, to whom the bishop owed allegiance, the pope often had the upper hand. (18) Thus, the pope was using prebends across Europe to pay the wages of people working in the Curia, like Manuele Fieschi. Indeed, a papal letter dated 24.08.1330 (19) awards Manuele the right to enjoy the incomes deriving from his various prebends even though he is resident at the papal court in Avignon. By contrast, we have no document whatsoever that indicates Manuele Fieschi was ever outside of Avignon until he first visited his new diocese of Vercelli in the 1340s. Before that, as far as we know, he was always in Avignon. We cannot exclude that he travelled to the places where he held prebends, but we cannot prove it, and it was by no means necessary for him to physically go to these places. Indeed, the day-to-day functioning of the diocese was in the hands of the resident canons, not the absent ones. For Manuele, being canon of York represented prestige (York was not just a diocese, but an archdiocese) and income. However, it does imply that, should he have wanted to, he could have initiated correspondence with the Archbishop of York at any time, and of course that the Archbishop of York could have initiated correspondence with him. Given that the Archbishop of York in this period, William Melton, was the author of another important letter claiming that King Edward II did not die in Berkeley Castle in 1327 (20), this may be an important fact, although we have no reason to believe that there ever was any correspondence between the two regarding the ex-king. On the other hand, it is entirely plausible that there could have been.
In our next post, we will follow the career of Manuele Fieschi from 1330 to 1343, in his role as papal notary, and find out what this meant in terms of power and influence.
We do not know where or when Manuele Fieschi was born. We can, however, assume that he was born either in Genoa or in Lavagna, the ancestral home of the Fieschi Family, or in one of their territories in the Republic of Genoa, a state which roughly corresponded to what is now the Italian region of Liguria, with the addition of a number of territories along the eastern French riviera.
The first document we possess that refers to Manuele Fieschi (or Manuel de Flisco as he is called in the documents) is dated 04/12/1316. (1) It is a papal letter conferring on him the right to a canonry and prebend (ecclesiastic income) in the diocese of Arras (now in northern France) in the archdiocese of Rheims. The letter is one of forty consecutive papal letters which, on the same day, confer church benefices on members of Cardinal Luca Fieschi’s household and family, and indeed Manuele Fieschi is qualified in the letter as ‘nepos’ (nephew) of Cardinal Luca. This is not in the literal sense, as they were in fact distant cousins. In these papal letters every member of the Fieschi family, bearing the surname ‘Fieschi’, is referred to as Cardinal Luca’s ‘nepos’, without distinction. The letter also specifies that, in 1316, Manuele was already provost (praepositus) of the church of San Salvatore di Lavagna in the diocese of Genoa. This celebrated church is known today as ‘San Salvatore of the Fieschi’. It was erected by the first Fieschi pope, Innocent IV (Sinibaldo Fieschi) in the 13th century, in the territory of Lavagna.
At this time many career churchmen who entered the clergy through family connections, just like Manuele, were awarded their first benefices when very young. We know, for example, that Cardinal Luca Fieschi was already subdeacon, papal chaplain, canon of Lichfield in England and canon of Paris by the age of twenty (2). Perhaps it is reasonable to assume therefore that Manuele was born around the year 1300, but we cannot be sure.
A papal letter dated 29.01.1317 (3) confers on Manuele the right to a canonry and prebend in the diocese of Genoa. Another, dated 12.07.1319 (4), confers on him the right to expect a church benefice in the diocese of Salisbury to the value of 30 marks per annum. Another papal letter issued the same day sees Manuele actually receiving a church benefice, not just the right to one. He receives archdeaconship of the diocese of Genoa upon the death of Gotifredo Spinola, former holder. A further papal letter, dated 09.02.1327 (5) confers on him the benefice in Salisbury, the right to which he had been given in the letter dated 12.07.1319. This letter states that the prebend (annual earnings generated from the cathedral of Salisbury’s posessions) had become vacant due to the marriage of Hector de Flisco, implying that this benefice in the diocese of Salisbury was swapped from one family member to another. In reality, the benefice that Manuele received was almost certainly the prebend of Netheravon. (6) However, the prior holder of this benefice was Gilbert de Middleton. (6) Does this mean that there was a ‘re-shuffle’ of prebends at this time? We do not know. A papal letter dated 14.11.1327 (7) confers on Manuele provision for a canonry and prebend in the diocese of Maastricht, now in the Netherlands.
A fundamental moment in the life of Manuele Fieschi is represented by a papal letter dated 13.12.1327 (8), in which he is named executor to a church benefice granted to one Mathaeus Voguoni de Tropharello, cleric of the diocese of Turin. This letter refers to him for the first time as papal notary, the title used in the signature of the Fieschi Letter. From this moment onwards it is safe to assume that he was resident at the papal court of Avignon, though he may nevertheless have travelled in between duties.
We are still only at the beginning of Manuele’s story, but we will pause for an important digression: what exactly was a papal notary?
In Latin, the title is either notarius domini papae, (notary of the Lord Pope) or protonotarius apostolicus (protonotary apostolic, the title still in use today). At the time of Manuele Fieschi’s notaryship (during the reigns of Pope John XXII and Pope Benedict XII), these were the highest ranking members of the Papal Chancery, the offices responsible for the creation of official documents for the papal see. Lower ranks included abbreviatores (responsible for the creation of drafts) and scriptores (copyists), whose work was supervised and revised by the papal notaries and by the auditores, who literally listened while the drafts of certain types of document were read aloud (a process called audentia) by lectores, (readers, who were in fact scriptores in another role) and made criticisms and corrections to points of law (no connection with modern ‘auditors’). (8) We see from this that there was a complex and articulated structure within the papal chancery, responsible for creating dozens of documents daily, pertaining to thousands of church benefices and other appointments around Europe, and the notaries were at the top of this structure. They were seven in number, of which one was the Chancellor, a cardinal responsible for the Chancery’s workings, thus effectively there were really six notaries carrying out regular duties. (9) In rank, they were the highest non-episcopal members of the Curia. This might imply that the ‘next step up’ in their careers was that of bishop. Indeed, this was the case for Manuele Fieschi, who later became Bishop of Vercelli. However, in reality, papal notaries were very often elevated directly to the rank of cardinal, from which they could then become pope themselves. This had already happened in the case of Benedetto Caetani, a papal notary who became cardinal and then Pope Boniface VIII. This was later to happen in the case of Rodrigo Borgia, who was papal notary at the age of twelve, Chancellor for no less than 35 years, before becoming Pope Alexander VI. (10) In short, becoming a papal notary was a superb career move.
What did a papal notary actually do? Well, apart from supervising and revising the work of others, they were expected to create only certain types of documents personally: the investitures of bishops and archbishops, and of the abbots of the largest and most important abbeys and monasteries. In the middle ages, bishops, archbishops and abbots were men of great standing, who were not only spiritual leaders, but held great temporal power and wealth in their hands, due to the extensive lands their sees and abbeys owned. Another duty of the notaries was the correction (together with their staff of abbreviatores) of the litterae de iustitia (literally, ‘letters of justice’, these were mandates or commissions, normally relating to church benefices). (11) Yet another important role of the papal notaries was assisting the pope create his political correspondence, in other words, diplomatic letters relating to international affairs, normally addressed to heads of state or to the papal legates sent to negotiate with heads of state. These letters were clearly confidential in nature, and were in fact called litterae secretae, or ‘secret letters’. It was during the career of Manuele Fieschi that, for the first time a new figure in the chancery emerged, due to a leak that compromised the peace negotiations between France and England in November/December 1338 at the outbreak of the Hundred Years War. This was the secretarius (literally ‘secret-keeper’). The most sensitive correspondence was afterwards entrusted to this close associate of the pope, whose title is the origin of our word ‘secretary’ today (incidentally, this is the first time the term appears in history). (12) In other words, until December 1338 the papal notaries were privy to the secrets of international papal diplomacy.
The papal notaries did not receive a fixed salary at this time, and were remunerated in two ways. Firstly, there was a fee for every document they created or corrected, paid by the person benefiting from the document (i.e., the new bishop or abbot, or the person receiving the benefice). Secondly, they were awarded church benefices, particularly canonry, carrying handsome annual earnings. (13) As we have seen, just one of Manuele’s benefices (in the diocese of Salisbury) carried annual earnings of 30 marks, or 18 pounds. Given that an annual revenue of 40 pounds entitled a person to the rank of knight in England, (14) and that Manuele at any one time enjoyed several such benefices, and furthermore received payment for every document he created, and furthermore was a scion of an immensely wealthy family, we can see that he was not a poor man. Of course, he was not the richest person in the Curia either, but he was certainly well off, and as we have said, papal notary was a position to be aspired to.
Let’s relate all this back to the Fieschi Letter. In 1331, when Edward II (according to the story told in the Letter) is most likely to have been a the papal court, Manuele Fieschi as papal notary was still privy to the secret diplomatic correspondence of the pope. Thus, when the Fieschi Letter claims that Edward II reached Avignon, and spent 15 days with the pope, and ‘discussed everything’ in great detail, it is entirely reasonable that Manuele should have been privy to these discussions, thus having the chance to record Edward II’s story up to that point, and entirely reasonable that he could have written a letter to a king (the Fieschi Letter to King Edward III) dealing with secret matters. In fact, he regularly wrote such letters in his work. As simple as that. Lastly, relating this back to our Verdale Hypothesis (see here and here and here), it is entirely reasonable that Manuele could have been privy to, and a part of, secret negotiations with the Emperor in September and Autumn 1338. The only doubt can be that after the creation of the role of secretarius, he was no longer privy to papal secrets, though this is not certain, and it seems plausible that, if he was already involved in such a matter, he may have seen it through to the end. Is it a coincidence that the leak causing Pope Benedict XII to create the new role of ‘secret-keeper’ happened at about the same time? We cannot know.
We’re now going to leave aside our in-depth analysis of the Fieschi Letter and finally take a look at the identity of the man who probably wrote it. As we have said, very few commentators doubt that it was written by Manuele Fieschi, we ourselves have found no reason to doubt it, so we will proceed to consider him the true author of the text, and try to understand who he was.
How we know what we know about Manuele Fieschi
In order to write in an informed way about Manuele Fieschi, I have personally examined approximately 800 papal letters from the reigns of Pope John XXII and Pope Benedict XII, in easily consultable printed editions (in Latin). Together with Stefano Castagneto and Elena Corbellini, we have also examined several hundred original documents in the Capitulary (Cathedral) Archives of Vercelli, Genoa and Bologna and the State Archives of Biella. Further assistance has come from the Vatican Secret Archives. For nearly two years I searched in vain for a complete copy of his last Will and Testament: I still haven’t found it, though I have pieced together much of what it must have contained from incomplete fragments, discovered after leafing through seemingly unending archival documents in various cities. In fact, though I have discovered in the order of 600 documents that concern Manuele in some form or another, most of which are papal letters, in order to find them I, Castagneto and Corbellini have examined at least 10,000 documents, perhaps twice that. No one was counting!
This was not just an obsessive search for biographical information about an obscure papal functionary. Together with the analysis of the Fieschi Letter, this is perhaps our most important contribution to the debate over the true fate of Edward II. Many authors have piled conjecture upon conjecture as to Manuele Fieschi’s motivations in writing his famous letter. Paul Doherty in his 2003 book Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II, is the writer who, before us, has dedicated the most time and attention to Manuele Fieschi. Sadly, his lengthy dissection of the Letter, purporting to know the mind of Manuele, his motivations and his methods, depicts him as a scheming, immoral, self-aggrandizing priest in need of cash and benefices and willing to blackmail a distant king (Edward III) and his mother (Isabella of France) in order to get them. Doherty’s analysis not only claims to be mind-reading, but displays total ignorance of a) Latin, b) the functioning of the medieval church and c) the Fieschi Family. As a senior member of this family and a high ranking employee of the Pope, Manuele no doubt had far healthier finances than the English crown… Edward III was more likely to have asked him for a bit of cash than the other way round! Oh, if only Doherty had actually read something about the workings of the 14th century church before writing… It will take time, but I will come back to Doherty’s analysis little by little over the next few posts and show why it is so profoundly inept.
While Doherty’s “analysis” is by far the worst researched, it is certainly not the only one to approach Manuele through conjecture. Even the great Seymour Phillips himself is guilty of this: in his 2010 biography of Edward II, the most complete treatment of the subject to date, and a work of such high scholarship that I could only dream of, he lets his guard down when discussing Manuele Fieschi. He suggests that he was deceived into writing the Fieschi Letter by an impostor pretending to be Edward II. As we will show over the next few weeks, it is absolutely certain that Manuele Fieschi could not have been fooled by an impostor. He had numerous ways in which to verify the identity of the man he was talking with, and not only. Our research shows that he also had the tools to personally verify every single detail of the account in the Letter, except perhaps one or two. This is one reason we did this research: in order to answer the question ‘If Manuele Fieschi wrote the Letter, could he have been fooled by impostor?’ And, after years of work, we can answer with a resounding ‘No!’
Ian Mortimer, whose groundbreaking research was the starting point for our own research, says very little about Manuele Fieschi in his Medieval Intrigue. The great strength of Mortimer’s work lies in understanding the spread and significance of the Fieschi Family. In revealing this ‘clan-like’ organisation, and realising that the clan chief was Cardinal Luca Fieschi, Mortimer leaps from Manuele Fieschi to Cardinal Luca andthe entire Fieschi syndicate, a powerful, widespread and highly structured organisation at the time. There is no doubt in my mind that this is indeed the true key to understanding the Fieschi Letter, but at the same time it is a deductive leap made from the actual signature on the page, that of Manuele himself. Furthermore, although the contents of the Letter do indeed hint at the Fieschi power network, once one knows what it was and how it worked, only one member of the clan is directly named, Manuele himself. Of course, at the time to name one Fieschi was to name them all, but we cannot expect modern readers to take our word for that. And so, we said to ourselves at the start of our research, it’s time the world really found out just who Manuele Fieschi was.
Essentially, the Auramala Project team has gone the extra mile, has found the documents, and done the research, and we are now ready to publish, firstly a biography of Manuele Fieschi (as complete as possible given the sources) and secondly examine how, even without taking the Fieschi Family syndicate into account, Manuele by himself can easily account for everything written in the Letter. Then, by further investigating the extent and workings of the syndicate through Manuele Fieschi (as we will see, his role in the family was one of networking, cohesion, bringing together of family interests), our research adds enormous confirmation and weight to Ian Mortimer’s brilliant hypothesis.