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Historical Note – Their Castilian Orphan

1294 was not a good year for Edward I. First, the increased tension between England and France led to Philippe IV demanding Edward do homage for Gascony ASAP late in 1293. This, in turn, led to all sort of diplomatic manoeuvring, and right at the centre of said manoeuvrings was Edward’s trusted brother, Edmund, Edmund’s wife—and his step-daughter, who also happened to be Philippe’s queen. The trio were quite convinced they’d found an adequate solution, which was why they convinced Edward to renounce his lordship over Gascony—on the understanding that Philippe would grant it back to Edward more or less immediately. Huh. Turns out Philippe tricked them all—although to be fair, we should note that Philippe was under considerable pressure from his counsel and his younger brother, Charles of Valois, to teach the English a painful lesson.

Whatever the case, suddenly Edward realised he’d been robbed of his hereditary lands, and Edward being Edward, he had no intention of accepting this state of affairs. In England, he came under a lot of criticism for how this had been handled, and yes, there were people that expressed that he’d been so taken with the idea of marrying the much, much younger Marguerite that he’d allowed Philippe to hoodwink him. There was also a lot of muttering concerning the fact that in this matter, the king had kept his own counsel. No discussions with his magnates or his counsel, just him and Edmund attempting to deal with the situation.

By summer 1294, Edward was mustering in Portsmouth, using the fine harbour established there by Richard Lionheart as the base for the planned invasion. As described in Their Castilian Orphan, there was no invasion—the weather made it impossible. And then, of course, in early October of 1294 the news that the Welsh had rebelled reached the king.

From an English perspective, it was almost fortuitous that constant bad weather had kept the fleet intended for Gascony from leaving. Here was an army, already mustered, and soon enough all those men were marching north west to crush the Welsh rebels. Edward must have been particularly stung by the fact that so many of the Welsh infantry he had armed—at his expense!—to fight for him in Gascony joined the rebellion.

What was initially assumed to be a relatively simple matter—ride into Wales, beat the rebels, ride back home again—proved to be anything but easy. This time, the Welsh were not only capably led, they were also united, tired of the heavy-handedness of the English officials—in particular the tax collectors. As described in the preceding pages, Edward was to ride out to do the Welsh battle only to be ambushed repeatedly, have his baggage train stolen and more or less chased back to the safety of Conwy Castle. And there, the weather yet again being most contrary to English interests, he suddenly found himself under siege.

Madog ap Llewellyn was captured in July. Instead of executing him, thereby creating yet another Welsh martyr, Edward condemned him –and his sons—to permanent imprisonment.

Repeatedly throughout the narrative I mention Owain ap Dafydd, the unfortunate young man who, at the age of seven or so,  was locked up in 1283. Owain was never to see anything else but Bristol Castle, and unfortunately, his life was long. We know he was still alive in the 1320, and yes, he was kept in a cage at night.

Lionel’s friend, Peter de Montfort, is my invention. His grandfather, Peter de Montfort, did, however, die at Evesham together with Simon de Montfort. Had our young Peter existed, he would have had an older sister, Elisabeth who did, in fact, marry William Montagu. As to the dean of St Paul, it is a tad uncertain if he belonged to that de Montfort family, but it seems he was the son of a Peter de Montfort. That may have made him young Peter’s uncle rather than his great-uncle, but as the man did collapse before the king in 1294, I think we must assume he was an older man, hence my assumption he was of the older generation.

I also have to come clean regarding Peter de la Mare, Constable of Bristol Castle. He actually died in 1292, but I gave him a couple of more years of life because I wanted him to react to Lionel’s resemblance to Owain ap Dafydd. (And no wonder, hey?)

In Chapter 12, the king refers to de Ferrer’s fate. Anyone interested in what happened to the rather unlikeable Earl of Derby (who, incidentally, was the maternal uncle of Owain ap Dafydd) can find a post about him on my blog.

I have taken some liberties:
King Edward’s brother, Earl Edmund, was in Portsmouth when the king got the news about the Welsh rebellion. But I felt Edward needed someone by his side at this trying moment…

Likewise, I am not entirely sure Edward was at Worcester for as long as I have him there. I do know he was there during the last days of November , from where he went to Chester and then onwards to Conwy

Finally, a word about gout. This disease has been around since yonks, and is usually the consequence of a meat- and wine-rich diet. People who could afford to eat and drink very well often ended up suffering from gout, especially as they got older. In 1294, King Edward is 55 and, yup, he has gout. The disease causes extreme pain in the afflicted joints, this due to a surfeit of uric acid in the blood. In Their Castilian Orphan, Edward is treated by a salve concocted from, predominantly, autumn crocus, Colchicum autumnale. This is a very poisonous plant, also known as The Naked Lady, but apparently its toxicity has an effect on gout as it is still used to treat this particular affliction.

Posts on my blog that may be of interest:

A medieval king’s headache – of Edward I, Gascony, and the events of 1294

When the Welsh underdog bites

What is in a name? A desire to rebel?

He had it all—and lost it

One son died young, one became an earl, one a bishop and one an abuser – the life of a medieval mother

Oh woe, my toe!

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