Blog Tour for Kathryn Warner's new book, Edward II: The Unconventional King

A warm welcome to author Kathryn Warner. Her new book is Edward II: The Unconventional King. In today's guest post, the subject is
Edward II's Household.
On 6 December 1318 at York, the four leading members of Edward II's household - his steward, chamberlain, treasurer and controller - formulated a Household Ordinance, mainly with the aim of eliminating waste and saving money. The earliest surviving English Household Ordinance dates from 1279, from the reign of Edward II's father Edward I, and the 1318 Ordinance is the second oldest still extant; later, more famous Ordinances are Edward IV's 1478 Black Book of the Household and Henry VIII's 1526 Eltham Ordinance. As the king travelled through the country, the burden of finding and paying for provisions for his enormous retinue could prove burdensome. During the Great Famine in 1315, a brave cleric told Edward II's confessor that "the inhabitants used to rejoice to see the face of the king when he came, but now, because the king's approach injures the people, his departure gives them much pleasure and as he goes off they pray that he may never return." In 1294 when the future king was only ten, the Dunstable annalist complained "Two hundred dishes a day were not sufficient for his kitchen. Whatever he spent on himself and his followers he took without paying for it." In August 1312, Edward declared himself unable to pay for his household provisions in Kent, which included 1000 sheep, 500 oxen, 300 swine, 1000 quarters of wheat and 2000 quarters of oats. 

Edward II's household was divided into two main sections: the chamber, led by the chamberlain, and the hall, managed by the steward; these men were always of noble or knightly rank. The hall was responsible for household management and was subdivided into numerous departments such as the napery (table linen), pantry (bread and other dry goods), buttery (drinks), spicery, laundry, larder (meat and fish), chandlery (wax and candles), saucery, scullery, and ewery (water and vessels for washing). The chamberlain was in charge of the knights, squires, ushers, porters, clerks, sergeants-at-arms, grooms and valets of the chamber, and held responsibility for Edward's personal service and private apartments, and for public events and ceremonies. Edward had a household of around 450 to 550 people, and also paid all the costs for the household of his queen, Isabella of France, which consisted of close to 200 people. In common with all great households of the Middle Ages, Edward's consisted almost exclusively of men, and only five female members are named in the York Ordinance of 1318, all washerwomen, who lived outside the household: their names are given as Dame Gonnore, Annote la Walisshe, Cristiane Scot, Amice Maure and 'the wife of Simon le Gawer'. In 1325/26, however Edward employed two more women to join his chamber staff, Joan Traghs and Anneis de May. They were married to two other chamber staff, Robin Traghs and Roger de May. Joan Traghs, in early 1326, continued to receive her wages for forty-four days while she was away from court, ill.

There was an astonishing degree of hierarchy and specialisation: in the hall, for example, Edward had a knight chief usher, two sergeant ushers, two knights marshal and two sergeants marshal. He had a personal bodyguard (
gard corps) of twenty-four archers on foot, and thirty sergeants-at-arms "who shall daily ride armed before the king's person," of whom he nominated four to sleep outside his bedchamber as close to the door as possible, while the other twenty-six were to "lie in the hall beside, to be nearby when the king needs them." In addition to the sergeants outside his chamber door, Edward also had a sergeant porter, "who will guard the door of there where the king sleeps, so that no-one will enter except those who have the right to do so," and half a dozen of the king's chamber valletz, valets or grooms, slept inside the king's chamber, at least sometimes. Some sort of ceremonial was performed when the king went to bed and during his meals. Generous payments were often made to members of Edward's staff "for what he did when the king went to sleep" or "for what he did when the king ate." Two valets of the chamber, Jack Pyk and Jack de la Coppehouse, were given forty and twenty shillings respectively in August and October 1325 for what they did when the king went to sleep, and Sir Richard Lovel received ten marks for the same reason in December 1325. Sir Alexander Mowbray also received ten marks on 12 February 1326 "for what he did this evening when the king ate," and the chamber squire Garsy de Pomit got another ten marks on 9 June 1326 "for what he did in the king’s chamber when he ate, in aid of the said Garsy because his son came with news from the parts of Gascony." The squire Richard Bloundel received twenty shillings on 7 January 1326 "for what he did when the king dined," and another squire John de Sufford a hundred shillings for the same on 10 February.

Edward had two personal cooks and five valets to help them, while two more men cooked for all the other members of the household, and also had a "server and keeper of the foods for his mouth," a squire who carved his meat and another who served him from his cup. His musical needs were taken care of: "there will be two trumpeters and two minstrels, at times more, at times less, who will make their minstrelsy before the king at all times that will please him." The largest department was the marshalsea or stables, and Edward had, among many other servants, a man who "will lead to the king the horse which he will mount; and he will receive the king when he dismounts." Edward also had a confessor, nine chaplains and at least one almoner, and other jobs included the squire fruiterer, "who will provide figs and grapes for the king's mouth"; the squire under-usher of the wardrobe "who shall live in the wardrobe," and a sergeant overseer of the sideboard in the hall.

The 1318 Ordinance was keen to keep 'undesirables' away from the court. Prostitutes found there were merely removed the first time, but if caught a third time would be imprisoned for forty days. The Ordinance ordered that "no-one of the court should take with him a prostitute" (
Et qi null de la court ne menast ouesque luy nulle femme de fole vie); evidently a problem with hundreds of men, who were not allowed to bring their wives with them, around. Edward's marshals were ordered to search the court weekly to find any people who were not meant to be there, and who hadn't sworn an oath of loyalty to the king; such people were to be "taken and punished." Rank and status dominated everything, including what kind of material people wore and what they ate. Food and drink including a gallon of ale per day was all provided for free, though nobody below the rank of squire was entitled to eat roast meat but had to make to do with the boiled kind, and higher ranking servants also received candles or a torch for their chamber and a pitcher of wine. The king, queen, and any lords and bishops dining with them were entitled to "four good courses," but everyone else only three, and 'boys' only two. The servants received clothing or livery as part of their wages, usually given out twice a year at Christmas and Pentecost, and the lower ranks also received four shillings and eight pence annually for shoes. The livery was usually colour co-ordinated, and the overall effect must have been colourful and vibrant. Pages received two pence a day; valets and carpenters three pence; squires and ushers seven and a half pence; sergeants-at-arms twelve pence, or one shilling. All the royal household were given the king's permission to visit their homes on occasion – wives and families were not allowed to live at court or even to follow behind – and received sums of money between ten and a hundred shillings, depending on rank, for their travel expenses.

PublisherAmberley Books, October 2014.
The Amazon Kindle edition was published October 13.
The hardcover was published October 19.
Available at Waterstones. 
Pages: 336, with 30 illustrations. 

Kathryn Warner's blog:

He is one of the most reviled English kings in history. He drove his kingdom to the brink of civil war a dozen times in less than twenty years. He allowed his male lovers to rule the kingdom. He led a great army to the most ignominious military defeat in English history. His wife took a lover and invaded his kingdom, and he ended his reign wandering around Wales with a handful of followers, pursued by an army. He was the first king of England forced to abdicate his throne. Popular legend has it that he died screaming, impaled on a red-hot poker, but in fact the time and place of his death are shrouded in mystery. His life reads like an Elizabethan tragedy, full of passionate doomed love, bloody revenge, jealousy, hatred, vindictiveness and obsession.

He was Edward II, and this book tells his story. The focus here is on his relationships with his male ‘favourites’ and his disaffected wife, on his unorthodox lifestyle and hobbies, and on the mystery surrounding his death. Using almost exclusively fourteenth-century sources and Edward’s own letters and speeches wherever possible, Kathryn Warner strips away the myths which have been created about him over the centuries, and provides a far more accurate and vivid picture of him than has previously been seen.

Blog Tour Schedule: 

28/10/2014 – Christy Robinson at Rooting for Ancestors. blogspot will be posting a general introduction to Edward II and his ancestry, and a brief overview of his reign. 

29/10/2014 – Peter at will be posting a guest post about Edward II and his children.

30/10/2014 – Susan Higginbotham will be posting on her blog about Edward’s relationship with his niece Eleanor de Clareand and her husband Hugh Despenser, his chamberlain and 'favourite'.

31/10/2014 - Gareth Russell will be posting an author interview on his blog, ‘Confessions of a Ci-Devant'.

01/11/2014 – Jen has a blog about Piers Gaveston and will be posting a guest post by Kathryn about Edward and his relationship with Piers.

02/11/2014 – Annette at Impressions in Ink will be posting a guest post about Edward II’s household.

03/11/2014 – Becky Cousins at The Medieval World will be posting a guest post on ‘Edward II and his Rustic Pursuits’. 

04/11/2014 – Olga at Nerdalicious will be finishing off the blog tour with an author interview and a prize giveaway! 


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