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A Forgotten Hero? Edmund Of Almain, Earl Of Cornwall 1249-1300 Chapter 8 Edmund’s Friends And Associates

A forgotten hero? Edmund of Almain, Earl of Cornwall 1249-1300 Chapter 8 Edmund’s friends and associates




  A forgotten hero? Edmund of Almain, Earl of Cornwall 1249-1300 Chapter 8 Edmund’s friends and associates  After more than 700 years, it is difficult to decide which of the men with whom Edmund came into contact were his friends, enemies or mere associates. The witness lists of royal charters are excellent evidence of the people with whom Edmund associated. Whether he was friends with fellow witnesses cannot be ascertained but frequent meetings might have created bonds of trust and possible affection. There are 111 men listed in chancery documents as fellow witnesses. 1   Bishops   As might be expected, the Chancellor, Robert Burnell, Bishop of Bath and Wells, was Edmund’s most frequent associate. From the witness lists we know that they were together on at least 89 occasions or days. From humble beginnings as a younger son of a Shropshire knight, Burnell built his career as a servant of the King and was his chief clerk even before Edward became King. Burnell was probably the King’s best friend. The sale 2 by Edmund of Holdgate castle in Corvedale, Shropshire, to Burnell enabled the bishop to further strengthen his position in his native county. Amongst the other episcopal witnesses were the Bek brothers who were sons of a Lincolnshire baron. Antony, Bishop of Durham, and Thomas, Bishop of St Davids, were typical of curial bishops and were very prominent at court. They witnessed with Edmund on 44 and 28 times respectively. Later, Antony Bek, who had been a crusader with the Lord Edward and another of the King’s friends for a long time, would be an executor of Edmund’s will. Edmund lent him money and was given the rich manor of Howden in exchange. It was not until after Edmund’s death that  Antony had a serious quarrel with the King. The older brother, Thomas Bek, was never 3 so close to the King. Antony Bek’s presence as a fellow witness was almost matched by 4 William Middleton, Bishop of Norwich (43 occasions). Noted as a King’s clerk in 1277, # 80 #   eg. Those men who were his fellow witnesses on 2 December 1280 were frequent colleagues,  CPR 1272-81 , 426. 1 #   ODNB , 8, 898-901. 2 #   TNA:PRO CP 40/131 m.242d; ODNB , 4, 862-4. 3 #   ODNB , 4, 265-6. 4  Middleton had made his way to the episcopate as an associate of Archbishop Kilwardby. 5  Another frequent colleague of Edmund was the former Chancellor, Geoffrey Giffard, Bishop of Worcester (25 occasions). From a baronial family, Giffard was also the younger brother of the Archbishop of York. Two other curial bishops and witnesses became more 6 prominent later on in the reign; William Louth, Bishop of Ely (17 occasions) and William March, who succeeded Burnell at Bath and Wells (13 occasions). A Lincolnshire man, Louth might have been given his start by Thomas Bek. After studying at Oxford, March 7 had become a King’s clerk and owed his promotion to the monarch. 8    All three of Edward I’s archbishops of Canterbury met Edmund at court but none of them were members of the court circle before becoming archbishop and they were infrequent attestors of royal charters. Archbishops Kilwardby and Winchelsea were only mentioned alongside Edmund once each as a witness. John Pecham accompanied Edmund on five days but had more dealings with him away from court especially over his marriage. As 9 Edward I discovered, Pecham was an awkward man and his apparent siding with Countess Margaret cannot have made him a friend of Edmund. Two other archbishops came to court at the same time as Edmund. Huscroft noted that Archbishops of York avoided court when their fellow primate was present. This might explain why John le 10 Romeyn met Edmund as a witness on only two days although John de Sanford,  Archbishop of Dublin, was there on seven. Oliver Sutton, Bishop of Lincoln, was a curial colleague of Edmund’s, albeit as a fellow attestor on only five days and took his side against Archbishop Pecham, but they were on opposite sides over legal actions in 1294. Walter Langton, Bishop of Coventry and 11 Lichfield, who became one the greatest men of his time, witnessed with Edmund on only one occasion. However, they must have known each other well as he too was to be an # 81 #   Christopher Harper-Bill, ‘Middleton, William (d. 1288)’, ODNB , Oxford University Pre   http:// 5   ss, May 2008; online edn, May 2011 [accessed 23 April 2012] #   Susan J. Davies, ‘Giffard, Godfrey (1235?–1302)’, ODNB, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http:// 6, accessed 23 April 2012] #   ODNB , 434, 488-9. 7 #   ODNB , 36, 604-5. 8 #   See above. 9 #   WL Edward I,  vii-viii. 10 #   TNA:PRO CP 40/103 m.168; 40/105 m.168d; 40/110 m.24d. 11  executor of Edmund’s will. Coming from another episcopal family, Thomas Bitton, 12 Bishop of Exeter never witnessed with Edmund but he was another executor of Edmund’s will. 13   Earls   During Edmund of Cornwall’s tenure of the earldom of Cornwall, there were fifteen other English earldoms. They were those of Arundel, Derby, Devon, Essex, Gloucester, Hereford, Hertford, Lancaster, Leicester, Lincoln, Norfolk, Oxford, Richmond, Surrey (Warenne) and Warwick. But the actual number of earls was less. Gilbert de Clare was Earl of both Gloucester and Hertford whilst Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, was also Earl of Essex. There had been the earldom of Aumale. It and Devon were linked in the person of Isabella de Fortibus, the sister of Baldwin, the last Redvers Earl of Devon and the widow of William, Count of Aumale, who died before Edmund became Earl. She styled herself as Countess of Aumale and Devon but she was only Countess of Aumale by marriage. When she died in 1293, her heir to the Devon earldom was Hugh de Courtenay but he was not recognised as such for forty years. Previously important earldoms had 14 ceased to be noted as such as they were now held with other earldoms. The Ferrers family lost their earldom of Derby during the Barons’ Wars and it was now attached to that of Lancaster, held by Edmund, the King’s brother, as was Simon de Montfort’s old earldom of Leicester. Chester had been given to Edward I when he was the heir to the throne and, apart from a few months after the battle of Lewes when the Montforts seized it, has been part of the Crown possessions ever since. The effective number of earls was reduced to a maximum of eleven although Richard de Burgh, Earl of Ulster, from Ireland and John de 15 Comyn, Earl of Buchan and son of an heiress of the last Earl of Winchester, from 16 Scotland were also sometimes at court. Whilst William de Valence had a good claim to the Welsh earldom of Pembroke through his wife, he was never formally granted it, although he was sometimes referred to in official documents as earl. His son, Aymer, achieved the # 82 #   TNA:PRO CP 40/131 m.242d; ODNB , 32, 523-5. 12 #   His brother and uncle were Bishops of Bath and Wells and another relative was Archbishop of York, Nicholas Orme, 13 ‘Bitton , Thomas (d. 1307)’, ODNB , Oxford University Press, May 2008 [, accessed 23 April 2012]; TNA:PRO CP 40/131 m.242d. #   Complete Peerage , iv, 322-4. 14 #   Complete Peerage , xii/2, 173-177. 15 #   Complete Peerage , ii, 375. 16  comital rank in 1307. However, William was certainly considered to be of at least comital 17 rank; he was usually listed above the non-royal earls in the list of witnesses to royal charters. Another old earldom, that of Salisbury, was by right held by Margaret Longespée, the wife of Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, but neither she nor her husband used the title.   18   During Edmund’s time, there was just one Earl of Arundel, Lincoln, Norfolk, Richmond and Warenne. Richard Fitzalan was only recognised as Earl of Arundel in about 1290. Two 19 Clare Earls of Gloucester and Hertford were separated in 1297 by Ralph de Monthermer, the household knight who married Gilbert de Clare’s widow, Princess Joan, and was recognised as Earl in his wife’s right. The Oxford earldom was in the hands of two successive Robert de Veres. When Edmund Crouchback died in 1296, he was followed by his son, Thomas, as Earl of Lancaster. Warwick was also represented by two men, William de Beauchamp and then, his son, Guy, from 1298. Three Humphrey de Bohuns 20 held the joint earldoms of Hereford and Essex. The first Humphrey died in 1275 and was succeeded by his grandson who died in 1298. Thus, the maximum number of English 21 earls with whom Edmund could have dealings with was eighteen, although three only became earls in the last four years of Edmund’s life.    As to royal charter attestors, Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester and Hertford, who was Edmund’s brother-in-law, was the second most frequent fellow witness (69 occasions) and another recurrent witness was Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln (60 occasions). Edmund’s cousin, Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, was present on 64 days and his half uncle, William de Valence, on 54 days. The two holders of the great hereditary offices of state, the Marshal and Constable, were also familiar partners: Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk (37 occasions) and Humphrey II de Bohun, Earl of Hereford and Essex (29 occasions). Of the remaining earls, John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey (60 occasions) was more often there with Edmund than William de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick (30 occasions). Beauchamp’s son, Guy, was # 83 #   Complete Peerage , x, 377-82. 17 #   Complete Peerage , xi, 384-5. 18 #   Complete Peerage , i, 240-1. 19 #   Complete Peerage , xii/2, 368-72. 20 #   Complete Peerage , vi, 459-467. 21  to be one of Edmund’s executors. One earl, John of Brittany, Earl of Richmond, 22 Edmund’s cousin, was not noted at court at the same time as Edmund. The only other earl was Robert I de Vere of Oxford who was never very prominent and was only a witness with Edmund four times. Edmund met the non-English earl Richard de Burgh, Earl of 23 Ulster, on three days in 1285 but was not recorded together with the other non-English comital attender of Edward I’s court, the Earl of Buchan. 24   Of the earls unrelated to King Edward, Edmund’s most consistent support came from Henry de Lacy. He served in both Welsh wars and, on the death of Edmund of 25 Lancaster, he took command of the English forces in Gascony in 1296. He was back in time to be one of the leaders of the army that defeated the Scots at Falkirk in 1298. He helped negotiate the King’s second marriage with Margaret of France. In the year of Edmund’s death, Lacy was at the siege of Caerlaverock but, when Edmund died, he was on his way to Rome to complain about the Scots. For his services in Wales, he was granted the cantreds of Rhos and Rhufoniog in Gwynedd centred on Denbigh. Henry was the same age as Edmund and they shared a grandfather, John de Lacy. As men who shared the same goals, the two men must have been close. It was to Henry de Lacy that the King had committed Richard of Cornwall’s lands at Knaresborough, pending Edmund’s succession. They were regents together in 1279 when the King went to secure 26 Ponthieu. In addition to witnessing royal charters, they performed the same task for 27 private individuals such as John de Vescy, Robert de Tateshall and Amadeus, Count of Savoy. But, when the Welsh passes were not kept clear in 1288, Lacy was one of those 28 to whom Edmund complained. In the last few days of Edmund’s life, Lacy won a pardon 29 for Richard  Luve of Clifton, of his outlawry for taking deer in the free chase of Edmund at # 84 #   TNA:PRO CP 40/131 m.242d. 22 #   WL Edward I  , 4, 67 (55) and 72 (16-17). 23 #   WL Edward I  , 58 (136), 63 (101) and 64 (95). 24 #   Complete Peerage , vii, 681-87. 25 #   CFR 1271-72 , 621-5. 26 #    Foedera , i, 568. 27 #   CCR 1279-88 , 67-8;    Foedera , i, 914. 28 #   Welsh Rolls , 319. 29