Kathryn Warner in Pavia to debate the Fieschi Letter with the Auramala Project researchers

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.

Kathryn and Ivan
Kathryn speaking about Edward II, and Ivan translating. Kathryn’s new book ‘Isabella of France, the Rebel Queen’ can be seen on the table.

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!

Elena and Fieschi Letter
Elena Corbellini reading directly from the Fieschi Letter during the debate.

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.

Ivan and Mario
On the left, Elena Giacomotti, president of Cultural Association Il Mondo di Tels, of which the Auramal Project is a part. Mario Traxino, Auramala Project researcher, points out medieval vocabulary to Lorena Gavazzoni, who acted as Kathryn Warner’s interpreter for the day, while Ivan adjusts the display focus.

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.

Kathryn and Ivan and Crotti
Kathryn Warner, Ivan Fowler and Prof. Renata Crotti, answering questions from the audience.

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.

 

 

 

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Kathryn Warner in Italy for King Edward II

The Auramala Project recently had the very great pleasure of hosting Kathryn Warner, distinguished Edward II biographer, in Pavia. Kathryn was in Italy for a week in late September (see Kathryn Warner’s own posts on the subject here). She first visited Vercelli and Turin with Gianna Baucero and Associazione Chesterton of Vercelli, the city of which Manuele Fieschi became bishop. On the afternoon of Saturday, September 19th, Kathryn gave a hugely successful and well received talk at the Seminar of Vercelli, in the presence of the current Archbishop, Marco Arnolfo. (Since I’m terrible at taking photos, most of those that follow come directly from the Associazione Chesterton page!)

Kathryn Warner (centre) with Archbishop Marco Arnolfo and Gianna Baucero of Associazione Chesterton

We then met Kathryn at – where else? – Sant’Alberto di Butrio, the abbey where, according to Manuele Fieschi’s celebrated letter, Edward II lived out his days in prayer and contemplation. It was an extremely moving moment to meet Kathryn there.

 Me meeting Kathryn in front of the tomb at Sant’Alberto di Butrio, said to be that of Edward II.

From left to right, myself, Gianna Baucero and Kathryn Warner.

Kathryn stayed in Pavia for four days, visiting the sites and, most importantly, discussing the evidence for and against the story told in the Fieschi Letter. The biggest day on the agenda was Tuesday 22nd, when we had a very important focus group that lasted three hours in which Fieschi expert Mario Traxino, Auramala Project researcher Elena Corbellini, Kathryn Warner and I all analysed in depth the documents and evidence brought to light so far by the Auramala Project, and our conclusions thus far. Kathryn was extremely informative and encouraging, and we feel that our research has proven quite worthy to stand beside other contributions on the same subject. Of course, what we have managed to publish so far on this blog is just a fraction of the total work done so far!

After the focus group, Kathryn gave a talk in the Salone Teresiano of the University Library of Pavia. Kathryn was introduced and presented to Pavia’s university-oriented public by Professor Renata Crotti, renowned historian of the University of Pavia. It was a memorable occasion, and as usual with Pavian audiences, question time went on for more than forty minutes. When the library closed, debate shifted to Loft 10, in Piazza Cavagneria, where it continued in English, French and German, thanks to Kathryn’s formidable linguistic skills.

From left to right, me, Kathryn and Professor Renata Crotti
From left to right, me, Kathryn and Professor Renata Crotti

The day after, Wednesday 23rd, Kathryn and I headed off to Genoa in the early morning for a visit to the archives of the archdiocese of Genoa. Numerous testaments left by the Fieschi Family are to be found there, but we were looking in particular for that of Manuele Fieschi’s nephew, Papiniano. Why? Well, it would take a long time to explain, so I’ll leave that for another post, but it’s a fascinating story.

At one point, I was just about to pass over a sheaf of documents as irrelevant to the search when Kathryn spotted the name of Papiniano, and we thankfully photographed them. Indeed, those were the very documents that revealed to us the name of the notary among whose documents we must now search.

Kathryn and I looking at ancient documents in the Genoa cathedral archive.
Kathryn and I looking at ancient documents in the Genoa cathedral archive.

It was an interesting experience to work with Kathryn for a couple of days on the nitty gritty of history. I was hugely impressed by a number of qualities, that I think the best historians should have. For example, apart from her linguistic skills and flexibility, she is very swift in looking at things analytically and adjusting to circumstances. The Genoese documents we looked at had this oddity: the number ‘3’ was always written back to front, making it look more like the letter ‘E’. It took Kathryn about half a second to spot this and get her eye in, as we scanned document after document. She sought, and very quickly found, the key to the ordering of documents that at first glance seemed put together without rhyme or reason, and was able to dismiss a whole bundle as useless pretty early on. Yes, we did check every single page of it, just to be on the safe side, anyway, but we knew there was no point. Kathryn is also distinguished by her extreme integrity: if it isn’t written in a trustworthy contemporary source, it just didn’t happen. She never lets a ‘might-have’ become a ‘must-have’, and then become a ‘fact’, and she will not tolerate it when other historians do. Either there is a source, or there is not. If there is not, it is hypothesis, and must be called hypothesis. And when it comes to original documents, I can tell you that Kathryn is fast working, efficient, and devastatingly good at finding them, reading them and interpreting them.

Sadly, Kathryn went back home the next day, but we are sure she will come again, and we can’t wait for it! In the meantime, she is giving us a helping hand with some parts of the research, in particular genealogy and the search for Edward II’s descendants, and there will be more on her extremely exciting findings in future posts!

From everybody here at the Auramala Project, a huge thank you to Kathryn for your visit!

Ivan Fowler.

The Hunt for the King 18) Mario Traxino’s errata corrige

Posts 12, 13 and 14 of the ‘Hunt for the King’ category of this blog were concerned with research generously shared with the Auramala Project team by Mario Traxino, a scholar specialized in the Fieschi Family. Traxino independently (without having read Ian Mortimer’s research on the subject) came to the conclusion that the Fieschi Letter must be telling the truth because it subtly traces out fine, and little-known, details of the geo-politics of the Fieschi Family. This makes it seem, in his opinion, either the ‘perfect fake’, or the real thing.

In transcribing my interview with Traxino, and commenting upon it, some small mistakes and ambiguities crept in, so Traxino very kindly sent me an ‘errata corrige’ a short time ago. However, there is good news in this for supporters of the Fieschi Letter and the ‘Edward in Italy’ theory.

 

In the interview ‘Just who were the Fieschis?‘ (The Hunt for the King 14), I transcribed:

“…the first gold coin in the west was the Genoese pound, not the Floren, which came out a year later. Now, the gold used to mint the Genoese pound came from the mines of Palola, on the Atlantic coast of Marocco, and it was mined and shipped by the Fieschi. They had a company, Societas, the brothers Niccolò, Tedisio and Opizzo Fieschi, who held a near-monopoly on the gold of Palola.”

However, Traxino wrote to correct this statement, clarifying that: “Niccolò, Tedisio and Opizzo were not brothers. Opizzo came from the Savignone branch of the family, whilst Niccolò and Tedisio were from the Torriglia branch, and the gold mine was called Palalla, not Palola.”

Where I mentioned, in the interview, the fact that another Fieschi scholar, Marina Firpo, refers to the Fieschi Family as a ‘consortium’ and that this term smacks of business and finance, he comments: “Marina is probably referring to the fact that the Fieschis descend from the ‘consertium’ of the Counts of Lavagna, like the Ravaschieri branch, and the Scorza branch, etc. In any case, it’s best to ask for Marina’s confirmation of exactly what she means.”

 

Finally, in the post ‘The Fieschis and the Plantagenets – a beautiful friendship‘ (the Hunt for the King 13), I stated: “Mario Traxino tells us that a young Percivalle Fieschi was with Luca in England during that mission. In that case he, too, would have met Edward II in person.” Traxino very kindly sent me an exerpt from Ricardo de Rosa’s essay ‘Luca Fieschi alla Corte d’Avignone’ (Florence, 1994) confirming the fact that Percivalle Fieschi was in England with Luca Fieschi in 1317.  Indeed, on page 48 we read: “Cardinal Luca Fieschi’s following [on the mission to England] included Federico Cybo, a prelate from Savona who temporarily forewent promotion to the rank of bishop in order to go, and Percivalle Fieschi, who had already been named bishop of Brescia before leaving for England.”

This is the same Percivalle Fieschi who, from the year 1325 onwards, was Bishop of Tortona, in which diocese lies the town of Cecima, named in the Fieschi Letter as Edward II’s last destination. The records show that Edward II generously helped and indeed defended Cardinal Luca and his staff during their mission. It seems certain that Percivalle met Edward II in England in 1317. Therefore the Fieschi Letter states that Edward II went to a location in the power of a man he had personally met and, as far as we can tell, was on good terms with.

Just another ‘coincidence’ that critics of the Fieschi Letter must, somehow, explain away.

Our sincerest thanks to Mario Traxino once again, for all his help.

 

 

 

The Hunt for the King 14) Just who were the Fieschis?

INTERVIEW WITH MARIO TRAXINO, SCHOLAR OF THE FIESCHI FAMILY

A symbolic illustration of the House of Fieschi from Federici's history of the illustrious family, 1645
A symbolic illustration of the House of Fieschi from Federici’s history of the illustrious family, 1645

Ivan Fowler: How did you first find out about the mystery surrounding the death of Edward II?

Mario Traxino: At Sant’Alberto di Butrio, by sheer chance. I was there with some friends, who’d asked me to show them around the lands of the Malaspina family, so we went to Oramala, and then on to Sant’Alberto, and there I discovered the tomb of Edward II. And when I started investigating, I found that the Fieschis were involved. And when I read the Fieschi Letter, I thought ‘This must be the truth. It’s his cousin, for goodness sake, he wouldn’t send a monumental lie to England. I quickly verified that everything the Letter says coincides with what we know of the Fieschis and their role in Europe at the time, and all the dates… There’s nothing implausible about it. It is absolutely perfect.

IF: But most British scholars have simply dismissed it as a lie.

MT: What can I say? They obviously have no idea who the Fieschi were… But… But… Well, perhaps it’s not easy for them. You know, for a king of England to say ‘well, here is his tomb, but my ancestor actually isn’t here.’

IF: Do you confirm that you have never read Ian Mortimer’s investigation of the case?

MT: Unfortunately I haven’t, but you’re going to lend me the book soon, I hope.

IF: Of course. So you quite independently concluded that the places mentioned in the letter coincide…

MT: Of course, it’s a jigsaw puzzle. Edward II goes precisely where the Fieschis were. It’s absolutely clear. If you know about the Fieschi Family and what it represented at the time.

IF: I think we all need to understand the Fieschi Family, to get to the bottom of this. How would you describe the Fieschi Family, in a nutshell?

MT: The Fieschi Family owed everything to generations of below-the-surface networking that led to the papacy of Innocent IV (Sinibaldo Fieschi, Ed.), who started the Family’s era of glory. He made his nephews cardinals, and so on. But behind him there were generations of churchmen whom nobody knows anything about. For example, Innocent IV’s uncle was Archbischop of Parma, just ot give you an idea. With Innocent IV’s papacy, the family entered the world of international politics, and he ensured they married into the great ruling houses of Europe, so that in France and England and Germany the name ‘de Flisco’ (the medieval Latin form of ‘Fieschi’, Ed.) took on great importance. They were the cousins of kings and princes everywhere. In fact, that’s why Genoa always used them as ambassadors, because at the time family relations, being kin, were very important in political affairs.

IF: Were the Fieschis patriotic Genoese? What came first for them, Genoa, or the Family?

MT: The Family first and foremost, without a doubt. But often that coincided with the interests of Genoa. The Fieschis were an international Genoese family. In particular, they were from Lavagna (a small town East of Genoa, Ed.) where they constructed the magnificent Basilica of San Salvatore. To be Genoese was to be international, in some ways. For example, Sinibaldo Fieschi, who became Pope Innocent IV, was the son of Ugo Fieschi and of the daughter of Amico Grillo. The Grillo Family was a family of bankers, and this particular Grillo was banker to the king of Castile. So a Fieschi could go to the court of Spain and say ‘I’m kin to Amico Grillo.’ and they would say ‘Ah, welcome!’. You see? They were everywhere.

IF: So they were a family that specialized in international networking.

MT: Exactly. Whilst never forgetting that they were Genoese. But you see, being Genoese in and of itself meant being international.

IF: Another Fieschi scholar, Marina Firpo, calls the Fieschi Family a ‘consortium’. Do you agree with this description, and why?

MT: She’s right. How can I put it… The Fieschis had links with the Orsini, the House of Savoy… everywhere. Honestly, I believe they were one of the most important families of Europe of the time, of the world. I’m not joking, it’s not easy to find a family with such a vast network of connections.

IF: But the word ‘consortium’ to me means also economic power. Business.

MT: Just think, the first gold coin in the west was the Genoese pound, not the Floren, which came out a year later. Now, the gold used to mint the Genoese pound came from the mines of Palola, on the Atlantic coast of Marocco, and it was mined and shipped by the Fieschi. They had a company, Societas, the brothers Niccolò, Tedisio and Opizzo Fieschi, who held a near-monopoly on the gold of Palola. Naturally, this was at the time of Pope Innocent IV. But it turned out that their business was based on extremely fragile economies at the time. The Fieschis had invested all of their capital in two banks, firstly the bank of the Leccacorvo family of Piacenza, but above all the Gran Tavola of Orlando Bonsignori of Siena. But both of these banks became insolvent, the Leccacorvo almost immediately, just after the death of Innocent IV, and the Gran Tavola towards the end of the 13th century. And nobody knew where all the money had gone… Then, in some periods, they invested in land, and they bought up fiefs. In this way, they controlled important toll roads across the Apennines, by which goods came to Lombardy (at this time in history, the term Lombardy generically means the north of Italy, Ed.) from the sea, where they arrived by ship. For example, the fief of Savignone and Crocefieschi, and the roads that lead to Pavia, Tortona and Piacenza, or Pontremoli and the Cisa Pass, that leads from Tuscany to Parma and Verona. From Genoa to La Spezia, practically everywhere, if you arrived with your goods in the mountains to take them into Lombardy you would always find a Fieschi toll collector saying ‘One pound, please’. So they controlled the toll roads of the Apennines, and I don’t actually think they needed to rely a lot on the banks.

IF: So they were a land-based family, more than a sea-faring one, even though they were Genoese.

MT: Both. For example, and this is something few people remember nowadays, from 1400 to 1500, many of the admirals of the Genoese fleet were Fieschis. But even back in the time of Edward II there were Fieschi admirals. Like Andrea, the father of our friend Manuele Fieschi, the author of the Fieschi Letter. He wasn’t very lucky though, because while he was in command of some galleys he lost against Venice.

IF: So, bearing in mind what the Fieschi family represented at the time, if you had been a fugitive king, to whom would you have turned for protection, and a peaceful life far away?

MT: The Fieschis. Also because, Edward II already knew Luca Fieschi in person (Cardinal Luca Fieschi was the undisputed head of the family both at the time of Edward II and during most of the period we presume the Fieschi Letter represents, Ed.). Luca had been to England as a Papal Legate, but they were also cousins. Luca wasn’t the pope, but almost. He was the cardinal who carried the most weight at the papal court. He was extremely influential.

IF: In what way were they cousins?

MT: Luca Fieschi’s aunt, Beatrice Fieschi, married Tommaso II of Savoy, and thereby the Fieschis became kin of all the ruling houses of Europe. In particular, the sister of Tommaso II of Savoy, Beatrice of Savoy, married Raimondo Berengario IV of Provence, and their daughter, Eleanor of Provence, married Henry III of England, and Edward I of England was their son, so Eleanor was the grandmother of Edward II. So Luca Fieschi and Eleanor were ‘first cousins by marriage’. If you then follow the family tree of Luca Fieschi and see how his nephews and relatives have power over the places mentioned in the letter, everything becomes clear.

IF: Thank you, it’s been a fascinating experience.

MT: Thank you.

 

Connections between the Fieschis, the Plantagenets, the House of Savoy and the Malaspinas, the key to understanding the Fieschi Letter.
Connections between the Fieschis, the Plantagenets, the House of Savoy and the Malaspinas, the key to understanding the Fieschi Letter.

 

Intervista con Mario Traxino, studioso della famiglia Fieschi

IF: In quale modo hai scoperto il mistero attorno alla morte di Edoardo II?

MT: A Sant’Alberto di Butrio, casualmente. Accompagnavo alcuni amici nelle terre dei Malaspina, e siamo stati ad Oramala, e quindi a Sant’Alberto. Ed ecco che scopro la tomba di Edoardo II, e comincio a informarmi su di lui, e scopro che in mezzo ci sono i Fieschi. Appena leggo la Lettera Fieschi, penso ‘ma questo sta dicendo la verità. Erano cugino, caspita, non manderebbe in Inghilterra una bugia mostruosa.’ Ho verificato in poco tempo che tutto coincide con quello che sappiamo dei Fieschi, e del loro ruolo in Europa all’epoca, e tutte le date… Non c’è niente di implausibile qua, lo trovo perfetto.

IF: Ma la maggior parte degli studioso inglesi non esitano a dire che si tratta di una bugia.

MT: Boh. O non hanno capito cos’erano i Fieschi… Ma… ma… Ma, magari, sai, certe volte non è facile. Sai, per un re d’Inghilterra dire ‘ecco la bara, ma mio antenato in realtà non è dentro.’

IF: Mi confermi che non hai letto le indagini su questo caso di Ian Mortimer.

MT: Purtroppo no, me le farai leggere al più presto.

IF: Certo. Quindi tu, indipendentamente, hai notato che i luoghi della lettere coincidono…

MT: Ma certo, è un grande puzzle. Va nei posti dove c’erano i Fieschi… è chiarissimo.Conoscendo la Famiglia Fieschi e quello che rappresentava all’epoca.

IF: Credo che abbiamo tutti bisogno di conoscere meglio la Famiglia Fieschi, per venire a capo della questione. Come descriveresti la famiglia Fieschi, in poche parole?

MT: La Famiglia Fieschi deve tutto a un lavoro sotterraneo che porta poi al papato di Innocenzo IV, perché è lui che da, poi, la gloria alla famiglia. Fa cardinali i suoi nipoti… Me dietro di lui ci sono tantissimi uomini di chiesa che nessuno conosce, ad esempio lo zio di Innocenzo IV, che era Arcivescovo di Parma, tanto per dire… I Fieschi diventano grandi con Innocenzo IV, che li fa entrare nel mondo della grande politica, e li fa imparentare con le grandi case regnanti, per cui in Francia, in Inghilterra, in Germania, per cui il nome ‘de Flisco’ ha un’importanza notevole, erano cugini dei re e principi ovunque. Infatti, Genova li mandava nelle ambascerie proprio per questo motivo, perché all’epoca le relazioni familiari, essere uno di famiglia, contava molto nella politica.

IF: I Fieschi sono appassionati genovesi? Cosa viene prima per loro, Genova o la famiglia?

MT: La famiglia prima di tutto. Assolutamente. Poi, hanno fatto anche spesso gli interessi in parte della città. Direi che la famiglia Fieschi era una famiglia genovese internazionale. In modo particolare, Lavagna, perché loro erano Conti di Lavagna, dove hanno costruito quella meravigliosa Basilica di San Salvatore. Essere genovese voleva dire in qualche modo essere internazionali. Ad esempio, Sinibaldo Fieschi, Papa Innocenzo IV, era il figlio di Ugo Fliscus e della figlia di Amico Grillo. La famiglia Grillo era una famiglia di banchieri, e questo Amico Grillo era banchiere del re di Castiglia. Quindi un Fiesci poteva andare alla corte di Spagna e dire ‘Io sono il nipote di Amico Grillo.’ e direbbero ‘Ah, benvenuto!’. Vedi, erano ovunque.

IF: Erano dunque una famiglia specializzata nella creazione di una rete di contatti familiari.

MT: Esatto. Pur non dimenticando di essere genovesi. Ma vedi, essere genovese voleva dire già essere internazionale.

IF: Un altro storico dei Fieschi, Marina Firpo, descrive la famiglia come ‘consorzio’. Sei d’accordo con questa descrizione, e perché?

MT: Ha ragione. Come posso dire, i Fieschi sono alleati con gli Orsini, i Savoia… hanno agganci ovunque. Sinceramente credo che sia una delle famiglie più importanti dell’Europa del tempo… del mondo. Non è una battuta. Non è facile trovare una famiglia con questi agganci.

IF: Ma la parola ‘consorzio’ mi parla anche di potere economico, di business.

MT: Tu pensa che la prima moneta d’oro in occidente fu il genovino d’oro, non il fiorino, che esce un anno dopo. Ora, l’oro usato per zeccare il genovino d’oro veniva dalle miniere di Palola, sulla costiera Atlantica del Marocco, veniva estratto e trasportato dai Fieschi, avevano una società chiamata Societas, i fratelli Niccolò, Tedisio e Opizzo Fieschi, che avevano il quasi monopolio sull’oro di Palola. Naturalmente all’epoca di Innocento IV. Ma poi si è visto che il loro business si basava su economie molto fragili. I Fieschi avevano investito i loro beni in due banche, la banca dei Leccacorvo di Piacenza, ma soprattutto avevano i loro capitali nella Gran Tavola di Orlando Bonsignori di Siena. Ma tutti e due poi faliranno. I Leccacorvo quasi subito, dopo la morte di Innocenzo IV, e la Gran Tavola alla fine del 1200. E non si sapeva dov’erano finiti i soldi…Poi in certi periodi investivano in terra, e si compravano i feudi. E così loro controllavano grandi strade a pedaggio che portavano in Lombardia dal mare, dove arrivavano le merci via nave. Per esempio, Savignone e Crocefieschi, e le strade dal mare verso Pavia, Tortona, e Piacenza. Oppure Pontremoli e il passo della Cisa, dal mare e dalla Toscana verso Parma e Verona… Praticamente da Genova fino a La Spezia, ovunque tu attraversavi le montagne con le tue merci, trovavi un esattore fliscano che diceva ‘un fiorino, per favore’, e addirittura credo che in questo periodo non dipendesse nemmeno troppo dalle banche, dal momento che controllavano le strade apenniniche.

IF: Quindi, una famiglia più di terra che non di mare, al contrario di quello che si potrebbe pensare, dato che sono genovesi.

MT: Tutt’e due. Per esempio, e pochi lo sanno questo oggi, dal 1400 al 1500 gran parte degli ammiragli della flotte genovese sono Fieschi. Ma fin dai tempi di Edoardo II c’erano ammiragli Fieschi, ad esempio Andrea, il papà di nostro amico Manuele Fieschi, l’autore della Lettera Fieschi. Solo che non era molto fortunato, perché comandava delle gallee quando ha perso contro i veneziani.

IF: Quindi, considerando quello che rappresentava la famiglia Fieschi in quel momento storico, se tu, re fuggito, ti dovessi affidare a qualcuno per protezione e una vita tranquilla lontano, a chi ti saresti affidato?

MT: I Fieschi. Anche perché Edoardo II li conosceva già. Non solo Luca Fieschi era stato in Inghilterra come legato papale (Cardinale Luca Fieschi era l’indiscusso capofamiglia all’epoca di Edoardo II e durante gran parte del periodo presumiamo descriva la Lettera Fieschi, Ed.) Ma erano anche cugini. E Luca Fieschi non era papa, ma quasi. Era il cardinale più ascoltato alla corte pontificia. Era davvero potentissimo.

IF: In quale senso erano cugini?

MT: La zia di Luca Fieschi, Beatrice Feischi, sposa Tommaso II di Savoia, e così facendo i Fieschi realizzano rapporti di parentela con tutte le case regnanti di Europa. Innanzittutto, la sorella di Tommaso II, quindi la cognata di Beatrice Fieschi, sposa Raimondo Berengario IV di Provenza, la cui figlia, Eleonora di Provenza, sposa Enrico III d’Inghilterra, padre di Edoardo I, quindi era la nonna di Edoardo II. Quindi, Luca e Eleonora erano cugini acquisiti di primo grado. Seguendo poi l’albero genealogico di Luca Fieschi, e come i suoi nipoti occupano i luoghi della lettera, tutto diventa chiaro.

IF: Grazie, è stato affascinante.

MT: Grazie a te.

The Hunt for the King 12) Mario Traxino, Fieschi Scholar, enters the scene

In december 2013 I was presenting Auramala at one of Milan’s historic bookshops, Il Trittico, just around the corner from the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio, where the 4th century Bishop and patron saint of Milan, Saint Ambrose, lies. While I was speaking a tall, robust gentleman with the air of a professor burst in, whose already sizable presence was doubled by a spectacular, expansionist beard and moustache. With the unmistakeable accent of Genoa he boomed “Mister Fowler, Mister Fowler, I must speak to you, and I must read your book!”

This had a wonderful impact on the other people in the bookshop. I guess the astonished expression on my face made them feel like the mystery of Edward II had leapt out of the Middle Ages, right into the middle of the bookshop. “Traxino,” he shook my hand vigorously “Mario Traxino”.

Mario Traxino

Ah! His reputation preceded him. Mario Traxino, born and raised in Genoa, with a Degree in Literature from Genoa University, had taught for a time in Argentina before coming back to Italy and becoming one of the most knowledgeable scholars of the Fieschi Family alive today.

Traxino siezed a copy of Auramala, and in the tone of a time-travelling detective, interrogated me: “Mister Fowler, what exactly can you tell me about Manuele Fieschi?“

Everyone held their breath: I was well and truly in the hot-seat.

“Well… he was sort of a man in a grey suit… Like the anonymous men and women you see in G8 conferences and the like, hanging around in the background talking in hushed tones, making big decisions that will never get into the newspapers…”

Traxino looked at me shrewdly for a moment.

“Very well, very well. I shall read your book, and if need be, we shall speak again. Thank you.” And then he swept of the bookshop as suddenly, and mysteriously, as he had come.

Piazza Cavagneria, Pavia

Towards the end of January Traxino contacted us again, through the more conventional Italian approach of a friend of a friend of a friend. We arranged a meeting in Loft 10 cafè in one of Pavia’s picturesque old squares, Piazza Cavagneria – in the shadow of the palace where Emperor Barbarossa had anti-Pope Victor IV appointed in 1160.

He brought with him a large folder containing a series of large family trees, and photocopies from ancient books concerning the Fieschi Family. With great academic generosity, he shared with us his own original research into the Fieschi Letter, which he had deliberately conducted without reading Ian Mortimer’s work, or any other historian’s comment on the letter for that matter. He had thus, independently, come to the conclusion that the Fieschi Letter must be telling the truth, based on comparative analysis of medieval family trees. Here, in a nutshell, is the result of his research. Out of a maze of family ties, he had distilled the connections which made the Feischi Famly the logical choice to give sanctuary to Edward II, if he survived the night of 21st September 1327.

Fieschi Family connections related to the Plantagenets and the Fieschi Letter
Fieschi Family connections related to the Plantagenets and the Fieschi Letter. Click to enlarge

The first thing to point out is just why Edward II and Cardinal Luca Fieschi referred to each other as ‘kinsmen’. Luca Fieschi’s aunt, Beatrice was married to the brother of Beatrice of Savoy, Edward II’s great-grandmother. This marriage was probably sponsored by Pope Innocent IV, Sinibaldo Fieschi, and tied the Fieschis to the House of Savoy, and through them to all the royal families of Western Europe – including the Plantagenets. As far as we know, no British scholars are aware of this tie, and its implications. For now, we leave readers to examine this family tree for themselves. In our next post, we will trace the long association between the Fieschi Family and the Plantagenets, which may well have reached its climax with the ‘afterlife’ of Edward II. Following that, we will post a full interview with Mario Traxino, in which the scholar exposes the full splendour and power of the House of Fieschi.