First of all, this post was originally going to be about the accusation that Hugh was responsible for abandoning Isabella at Tynemouth Priory in 1322. But then, like Topsy, it began to grow and grow as I did the research. I soon realised that any discussion of the issue could not be seriously considered without an in-depth look into the reasons why she was there in the first place. This in turn led to other considerations about the Battle of Byland (so-called) and the 1322 Scottish campaign in general. Actually, it’s been quite fascinating digging out stuff on a period that generally only gets a cursory page or so glance in text-books – but it has taken time, hence the long gap between posts. My research on the topic is by no means complete though – as I need to investigate some more primary sources in The National Archives and British Museum – but here are my findings so far…
Edward’s Scottish campaign of 1322 has, invariably, been called a dismal failure by commentators both contemporary and modern day. Technically it was certainly a failure – and a bit of a disaster for Edward. But was it dismal? Was it really a complete cock-up from start to finish?
After the Battle of Boroughbridge on 16th March 1322, Edward must have been pretty elated. After all, he’d defeated his enemies, the rebel earls who had exiled his favourites, the Despensers and attempted to control him; their downfall had proved that he was capable of winning a military campaign. Which was just as well, because, while he’d been busy with his civil war, Robert the Bruce had taken advantage by attacking his northern borders (the two year truce of 1319 had also just ended).
The month after Boroughbridge was spent mainly on dealing with the fallout: executions, imprisonments, land forfeitures etc of rebel lords and their families. But Edward was already considering a new campaign against the Scots. Natalie Fryde in The Tyranny and Fall of Edward II has put forward that Edward was actually thinking about a war against the Scots as early as February (while in the middle of his campaign against the Contrariants). This may be due to certain entries in the Close and Patent Rolls, for example, an entry on February 14th 1322:
“Commission to Griffin Ap Rees and Giles de Bello Campo to array 2,200 footmen in the following counties, viz. 800 in Angleseye, 800 in Karnarvan, and 600 in Merionyth, and to march them to Coventry to the king by Friday after the first Sunday in Lent for service against the Scots and rebels.”This does not mean to say that Edward was preparing for a war against the Scots separately from the rebels: at the time it was believed, due to certain intercepted letters, that the earl of Lancaster and the Contrariants were colluding with Bruce, and therefore Edward was preparing to face a combined front of rebels and Scottish forces. As it turned out, the royalist army caught up with the fleeing Lancaster before he reached the Scottish border (if, indeed, that was where he was going), at Boroughbridge, so there was no full on confrontation between England and Scotland at this point. *
But the Scots were certainly a continual threat. As early as January, Bruce, together with the earl of Moray and James Douglas, entered England and plundered Durham before moving southwards towards Hartlepool, Cleveland and Richmond. Those who could buy off the invaders (a kind of Medieval protection racket), did – the ones that couldn’t, suffered seeing their houses burned and their stock driven away. Lancaster, the obvious lord in the area to see off the invaders, remained at his castle, unwilling to fight. Andrew de Harclay, so heroic at Boroughbridge, with a similarly heroic reputation in his fights against Scottish raiders, was alarmed enough to ride to Edward to request his aid in repulsing the attack. Edward, however, was too preoccupied in his own fight against his dissenting earls to be able to respond favourably.
However, after March 16th, Edward could at last look towards Scotland again: something obviously had to be done against these men who invaded his northern lands with impunity. He decided to stay in the north and ordered his exchequer to travel from London and set itself up in York, so as to help with the administration. This was done in early April, with the manuscripts in London having to first be sorted, bundled up and then transported to York in reconditioned beer-barrels. Hence, March must have been a time of absolute chaos in the ‘corridors of power’ wherever they happened to be at the time (Edward was in Burton-on-Trent, Derby, Doncaster and Pontefract during March): the lands of the rebels had to be administered, ‘normal’ governance of the realm carried out and a war to organise, all the while dealing with a vital department at the other end of the country which was preparing itself for an immense upheaval.
Nevertheless, Edward was now committed to war with Scotland and the wheels had to be set in motion. The first indication of his intentions is seen in an entry in the Patent Rolls for March 18th:
“Mandate to the bailiffs of the town of Kyngeston on Hull, as the king is coming to the parts of York on an expedition against the Scots, to cause proclamation to be made that all merchants, native and alien, may come in safety to that town with victuals and goods and sell the same there and that no one shall take goods or wares for use of any person without due payment.”In other words, he was starting to set in motion the machinery whereby his household and army in the north could be supplied with food and drink, bought from merchants. Of course, this alone would never feed an army and on March 24th, the first purveyance order was sent out to various counties and to Ireland for quotas of wheat, oats, barley-malt, livestock (hogs), fish, salt, wine and other essentials – all to arrive at Newcastle upon Tyne by the ‘octaves of Holy Trinity**’.
On March 25th, the first order of array is seen:
“Commission to Thomas Lercedekne and Reginald de Botereux to select 500 footmen in Cornwall for the Scotch expedition and to conduct them to the king at Newcastle on Tyne by the octaves of Holy Trinity.”This order was repeated for many other places in England, all with varying quotas of men to be found.
Also on the 25th March, Andrew de Harclay at last received his well-deserved reward for his actions at Boroughbridge: he was made earl of Carlisle and was granted 1000 marks a year for the upkeep of his office. But, along with the accolade, Harclay must also have realised that a great deal would be expected of him during the forthcoming war: his practical experience and knowledge of Bruce’s tactics was exactly what Edward needed.
The first steps had now been taken towards war. In the next post, I’ll write a bit more about Edward’s preparations and his march into Scotland.
* However, just to confuse matters, there is an odd entry in the Patent Rolls for February 11th, 1322:
“Safe-conduct and writ of aid until Whitsunday for Hugh le Despenser the elder, and Hugh le Despenser, the younger and their men at arms proceeding against the king’s enemies, the Scots, who have invaded the realm.”** From what I understand, this should be the Sunday following Holy Trinity Sunday, which is a week after Pentecost. Please correct me if I'm wrong, and if anyone can accurately date this for 1322, it would be a great help!
The Close Rolls 1318-1323
The Patent Rolls 1321-1324
Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland
Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke 1307-1324, J.R.S. Philips
The Tyranny and Fall of Edward II 1321-1326, Natalie Fryde
Edward II 1307-1327, Mary Saaler
King Edward II, Roy Martin Haynes
The Itinerary of Edward II and His Household, Elizabeth Hallam