The Lords of Tewkesbury
by Cynthia Brown
It is known from the Register that the noble Dukes Oddo and Doddo founded a monastery in 715 on their lands near the Severn, seven miles from Gloucester. They were said to live in the time of the Kings Ethelred and Ethelbald, and they were buried in Pershore in 725. Their brother, Almeric, was buried in ‘a little chapel at Deerhurst’. In the seventeenth century a stone was dug up at Deerhurst, and is now in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, which says that Duke Oddo commanded this royal palace to be built and dedicated to the Holy Trinity. The Saxon Chronicle agrees with this, and adds that in 1056 ‘died Oddo the Earl, and his body lies at Pershore’. Were there two Oddos? There must have been a church of some importance here for it to be chosen as the burial place of the Saxon King Bertric, who became king in 784 A.D..
In time the Saxons defeated the Britons, and were in turn defeated by the invading Danes. The Danes burnt the Priory of Tewkesbury. By 980 AD. the priory had been “made a subordinate of Cranbourn by Ethelred of Mercia. Earl Algar lived at Deerhurst when Edmund Ironside and Canute met and signed a treaty on Olney Island, in the Severn near Deerhurst. By the time Canute had ascended to the throne, Earl Bertric had become the last Saxon Lord of Tewkesbury. In his youth he had been to the Court of Flanders, where Matilda fell in love with him but was rejected. In 1053 she married William, Duke of Normandy, who was to become William the Conqueror.
When William became king, Matilda took her revenge, and had Bertric imprisoned in Winchester, where he died. She confiscated his lands, including the Lordship of Tewkesbury. Later she regretted this, and built a church to his memory at Avening.
When Matilda died in 1083 her possessions passed to her husband, William. He died in 1087, when they passed to his son, William Rufus, who granted them to Robert Fitzhamon, who had followed William the Conqueror to England. Robert was the son of Hamon Dentatus, Lord of Corboile, a descendant of Duke Rollo of Normandy, and therefore a blood relation of William.
Robert Filius Haymonis et Sibilla uxor eiusClick Image
Robert Fitzhamon had married Sybilla, daughter of the Earl of Arundel, and niece of the Conqueror. She was sister to Robert de Belleme, Earl of Shrewsbury. Robert had many estates on the Welsh border, but, not satisfied with them, in 1071 he attacked Rhys ap Tudor. This was supposedly to aid Jestin, Prince of Glamorgan, but having defeated the Prince of Carmarthen and Cardigan he turned on Jestin and slew him. Robert could now claim the title of ‘Prince of Glamorgan, Earl Corbiere, Baron of Thorigny and Granville, Lord of Gloucester, Bristol, Tewkesbury and Cardiff, Conqueror of Wales, kinsman of the King and General of the King’s arrny in France’. He saw in Cardiff Castle a strategic position, although his conquest did not extend far from there. He built the first castle there, concentrating on the keep, with a forty-foot mound surrounded by a moat. The keep was surrounded by a timber stockade.
Tewkesbury’s monastic buildings were now in ruins, and the town was of no importance, so why Fitzhamon chose to devote himself to Bertric’s lands and Tewkesbury in particular is uncertain. The priory was subject to Cranbourn, but when Fitzhamon, typically of the Normans after the conquest, started to rebuild the Abbey he found Abbot Gerald an enthusiastic supporter, because he realised the importance of the site between two rivers. When the abbey buildings had progressed sufficiently, Abbot Gerald brought most of his monks from Cranbourn, which then became a subsidiary of Tewkesbury. Abbot Gerald was inducted as the first Abbot in 1102 A.D., although the Abbey was not consecrated until about 1123.
Robert did not live to see the Abbey completed, dying in 1107 of wounds received at the siege of Falaise. His body was buried in the Chapter House.
Henry I was now on the throne, having succeeded William 11 (Rufus). Abbot Gerald, too, did not live to see the Abbey consecrated, for he fell out of favour with Henry and returned to Winchester, where he died in 1110. He was succeeded by Abbot Robert.
Fitzhamon and Sybilla had no son, so the Lordship of Tewkesbury passed to their eldest daughter, Mabel. Sybilla’s two brothers, Arnulph de Montgomerey and Robert de Belleme, had helped Henry capture Pembroke Castle in 1093, but when they changed sides he allowed Gerald de Windsor to remain Custodian of Pembroke. He took Nesta, daughter of Rhys ap Tudor hostage and married her to Gerald de Windsor.
Henry had many illegitimate children, but the first, Robert, was the result of his seduction by Nesta. He was so keen to get his hands on Robert Fitzhamon’s property that he proposed the ‘marriage of his son to Mabel, who haughtily refused him until Henry had given him a title. Thus Robert Fitzroy was created the first Earl of Gloucester, known in Wales as the ‘Consul’. Henry then made sure that Mabel’s sisters would not inherit Fitzhamon’s wealth by making Hamice Abbess of Winchester and Cecily Abbess of Shaftesbury. He married Amice to the Earl of Brittany.
Mabel and Robert were married in Cardiff Castle in 1116. There is a mural on the wall of the castle showing the scene.
Robert and his wife threw themselves into completing the task which his father-in-law had begun. They built Holme Castle, which Florence of Worcester described as ‘a magnificent seat’. As well as continuing Tewkesbury Abbey, Robert built Margam Priory in Glamorgan and St. James Priory in Bristol. Leyland writes: ‘he built the great square stone dungeons at Bristoll’, with stone from Caen, which was also used for the tower of Tewkesbury Abbey, as well as stone from Prestbury. Robert is also believed to have built the first stone keep of Cardiff Castle, in which Robert, Duke of Normandy, William the Conqueror’s eldest son and brother of Henry, was imprisoned for twenty-eight years.
Henry I had two legitimate children, William, who was drowned in 1120 when returning from Normandy, and Matilda, whom he married to Emperor Henry V in 1114. On his deathbed Henry sought Robert’s support for Matilda, but it was Stephen, Henry’s nephew, who arrived first in England to be crowned king. Robert swore allegiance to him despite his promise to Henry. When Matilda arrived in England in 1139 Robert supported her, as he was her half-brother. There was civil war; Stephen was captured and imprisoned in Robert’s castle at Bristol. In turn, Stephen’s supporters captured Robert. The war continued, with each side alternately gaining the upper hand.
The two prisoners were exchanged, and a compromise was agreed, by which Stephen would reign until his death. Stephen tried to have the succession secured for his son, Eustace, but the Pope refused him. Matilda had now returned to Normandy, and her son Henry took her place, arriving in England so that Robert could instruct him in English in preparation for the throne.
Robert and Stephen fought again, once at Wilton, and then at Faringdon. Much of the life of Robert Fitzroy is shown in the murals in the banqueting hall of Cardiff Castle.
Earl Robert made Tewkesbury a free burgh, and he granted its first charter (See Bennett.- Appendix 1). Robert the Consul died in 1147, and was succeeded by his son, William, named Fitzcount. He resided mostly at Cardiff Castle. He was no soldier and had many disputes with the Welsh princes. Sadly, William and Anne had only one son, Robert, who died in 1166 and was buried in Keynsham Abbey. Of their three daughters, Mabel was married to Almeric de Montfort, Count d’Evreux, Amice to Richard de Clare, Earl of Hertford, and a marriage was arranged between their youngest daughter, Isabella, and Prince John, the King’s youngest son, the future King John, who was about two years old at the time. The marriage was annulled in 1200 on the grounds of consanguinity.
Earl William died in 1183 and was buried in Keynsham Abbey, which he had erected as a monument to his son. As he left no son, Henry II, claimed his rights as overlord. It was his son Richard I who restored the estates to his brother Prince John, the third Earl of Gloucester. John had a great liking for Tewkesbury, living and hunting in the area. He granted the town charters and built the first stone bridge over the Avon, which, like the castle on the Mythe, still bears his name. His
liking for the town did not end when he had his marriage annulled on coming to the throne. He soon remarried, to Isabella of Angouleme. He also procured another husband for his first wife, Isabella of Gloucester, Geoffrey Mandeville, Earl of Essex, restoring all Isabella’s possessions and making Geoffrey the fourth Earl of Gloucester.
Geoffrey died in 1216, and Isabella married Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent and Justiciary of England. He did not take the title of Earl of Gloucester, for Isabella retained it until her death two years later. She was succeeded by her nephew, Almeric, who married Millicent, daughter of Hugh de Gournay. This fifth Earl lived for only three years and was also buried at Keynsham.
The title then passed to the son of Earl William‘s third daughter and Richard de Clare, namely, Gilbert de Clare the first.
Part Two: The De Clares
As William, the second Earl of Gloucester, left no heirs when he died in 1183 the title passed to Robert Fitzroy’s great-grandson, Gilbert de Clare. Gilbert was the son of Richard de Clare, Earl of Hertford, who had married Amice, daughter of Earl William.
Gilbert did not take the title of Earl of Gloucester until after the death of his uncle Almeric about 1221. He then became the first to hold the titles of both Earl of Gloucester and Earl of Hertford. This gave him many manors, and his powers and land increased when he married Isabel, the third daughter of William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke in October 1214.
When King John died in 1216, his Queen, Isabella, daughter of the Count of Angouleme, was staying at Gloucester with her children. Isabella hastily arranged to have. her son, Henry III, crowned. The ceremony took place in Gloucester Cathedral on October 28th.,1216, with a gold torque belonging to his mother, as no crown was available. Henry was nine years old, so William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, exercised the regency until his death, when Hubert de Burgh took over.
Gilbert still opposed the king, and sought help from the King of France. He was taken prisoner at the battle called ‘the Fair of Lincoln’ and imprisoned at Gloucester, but was soon released and pardoned; the French were expelled and the barons brought to heel. During his short life Gilbert bequeathed the Manor of the Mythe to the Abbey, together with a silver gilt cross. He also asked to be buried in the Abbey. He had many a skirmish with the Welsh, and on one occasion levied a scutage, or tax, in lieu of military service, on all his tenants who failed to follow him. The revenue amounted to a great deal, for his estates covered most of the south of England.
When Gilbert died in 1230, his body was brought to Tewkesbury. Isabel retained the manor of Tewkesbury until her death.
Five months later she married Richard, Duke of Cornwall, son of King John and brother of Henry III. She had three sons by Richard, but died in childbirth in 1240. She had wished to be buried in Tewkesbury Abbey with her first husband, but Richard buried her at Beaulieu, sending her heart to Tewkesbury, and other parts of her body to Missenden.
Isabel bequeathed chalices and silver-bound service books as well as land to Tewkesbury Abbey. She had collected many relics, which she left to the Abbey. It is said that they were the means of many miracles, which were recorded until the time of the Reformation.
Isabel’s second husband, the Duke of Cornwall, according to Matthew Paris, the historian, cited in Bennett’s Register, ’caused to be dedicated with great solemnity and magnificence the Abbey of Hayles, near Winchcombe, which he had founded at great expense. in consequence of a vow made by him during a storm at sea, when he was on his return from Gascony.’ The historian adds that ‘the Earl assured him that he had expended the sum of ten thousand marks on the building of this Church.’
Gilbert’s son was only eight when his father died, and as he was a minor all the lands and titles were held by King Henry III until he came of age, or until Henry found a guardian for Richard. Others now enter into the lives and times of the de Clares.
Isabel did not appear reluctant to allow young Richard to be placed under the care of a guardian, and so it was that when Hubert de Burgh, the Justiciary of England, returned from France the King gave him Richard to bring up, with a verbal understanding that eventually Hubert’s daughter, a child of the same age, would marry Richard. Hubert was also given charge of the Manors belonging to Richard for the period of his guardianship. Hubert, anxious to hold these lands and even acquire more, fell foul of the Welsh princes. Montgomery and its Castle had had several infiltrations by Prince Llewelyn’s forces, and on one occasion several prisoners had been taken. This happened to coincide with one of Hubert’s tours of Richard’s manors. Annoyed that Llewelyn could be so brash, Hubert ordered the prisoners to be executed, a deed that he lived to regret. Llewelyn was so enraged that he gathered his forces, burnt Montgomery down and destroyed the church, and was on his way to Shrewsbury before Henry could organise his forces.
About this time Henry was introduced to Simon de Montfort, grandson of Lord Robert of Leicester’s sister, Amicia. Simon, fresh from France and sponsored by Ranulf of Chester, was inclined to agree with Llewelyn’s cause, and they voiced their disapproval in front of the king. In the meantime forces had been despatched from Gloucester to help with the defence of Hereford. Ranulf decided that the fight was not for him and returned to Chester.
News reached Henry that the Bishop of Winchester, had died in France. Henry appointed Peter de Roche as the new bishop; he immediately railed against Hubert to the King, blaming him for the mismanagement of the French campaign and the trouble with the Welsh, saying that Hubert thought more of his manors than of the King. The new Bishop dominated the King’s affairs so much that he sent for his nephew, Peter de Revaulx and appointed him Treasurer of the Royal Household.
Henry journeyed to Shrewsbury, hoping to make a stable peace with Llewelyn, fearing that the truce would not last. While he was there he accused Hubert, Earl of Kent, of high treason, saying that he had misused the royal seal; later he discovered that it had been the Bishop and his nephew using it in Henry’s name.
Hubert was imprisoned, and his wife, Margaret de Burgh, her daughter, Meggotta, and young Richard sought sanctuary in a monastery in East Anglia. So it happened that Margaret, fearing for the safety of her daughter and Richard, who had been promised to each other, was present at the secret marriage of Meggotta de Burgh and Richard de Clare, the future seventh Earl of Gloucester, at St. Edmund’s Abbey, both ten years of age. Hubert was tried, but not convicted; however, he was stripped of his property and imprisoned in Devizes Castle. Richard was taken from the Abbey and placed with the Bishop of Winchester, Peter de Roche. Richard was sad at his separation from his wife in name only, but he determined to learn everything he could, remembering that he was the Earl of Gloucester and Hereford, and a de Clare.
Richard’s uncle, the Earl of Pembroke, with other barons, could see that Henry was being ill-advised, and it was through young Richard, who overheard a conversation, that his uncle was warned of a plot to kill him and seize Pembroke Castle. Hubert, with help from his supporters, escaped from Devizes and sought forty days sanctuary in a nearby church. Before Henry could reach him he had been taken secretly via Aust Ferry to the Earl Marshal’s castle at Chepstow.
Henry was beginning to see that his Bishop from Italy was not to be trusted, and called a council at Gloucester, a place for which he had a special affection, as he had been crowned there. He sent for Hubert de Burgh, and asked Margaret and her daughter to come to Gloucester. Peter de Roche and his nephew were exposed and fled. Henry had Richard’s marriage to his childhood bride annulled, and in the following year the Earl of Lincoln’s daughter, Maud de Lacy, became his wife. He was fifteen. The marriage was happy, and they spent a great deal of their time at Holme Castle. While he was staying in Tewkesbury the body of Fitzhamon was removed from the Chapter House and buried in the choir.
Richard joined the Crusades and went on a pilgrimage. He also introduced an order of Augustinian Friars into England.
Richard, the seventh Earl of Gloucester, had become a powerful baron, and he and Simon de Montfort headed the twelve appointed to carry out reforms in 1258. But de Montfort and he fell out, and the former left the country. Richard also commanded the forces in the wars against the Welsh. He died of poisoning, it is thought by the Queen’s uncle, and was buried in Tewkesbury Abbey on July 28th.,1262.
He was succeeded by his eldest son, Gilbert de Clare the second, born in Hampshire in 1243. Gilbert was twenty when his father died and so he had to await the return of Henry from France to obtain his Honour. The Welsh princes were again becoming restless. ‘Gilbert the Red’ started to build Caerphilly Castle to protect his land from the northern Welsh marauders, but Llewelyn attacked and destroyed it almost immediately. In 1271 Gilbert rebuilt this tremendous and powerful castle, and then reconstructed and improved Cardiff Castle. He became so powerful in this area that when Edward I made progress through Wales in 1284 he had to ask permission to enter Glamorgan.
Meantime, Simon de Montfort, one of the Earls who signed the Provisions of Oxford in 1258, was becoming restless in France. He was persuaded back to England, and was joined by many of the barons in the struggle against Henry. The King stormed Northampton and captured Simon’s son. Earl Simon had been resting at Kenilworth with a broken leg, but despite this he went to meet Gilbert de Clare, who was in Kent with a large force.
Simon’s aim was to secure London, so he abandoned Tonbridge. Arrived at Lewes, he and Gloucester wrote to the King declaring their loyalty, but resolving to proceed against his evil counsellors. The King refused all further dealing with them, renouncing their homage and fealty. Simon responded by replying the next day to renounce his homage and fealty, rejoined his forces at Lewes and knighted both Gilbert de Clare and Robert de Vere. Early in the morning they attacked Henry’s men, leaving them in such disarray that the king and his son had to seek refuge in a nearby monastery. A short peace followed; Simon’s son was released and Henry and Edward were taken to Kenilworth. Gilbert de Clare had left there before Parliament made peace. Gloucester spent the next few weeks avoiding Simon, who had moved Henry and Edward to Gloucester. where they were guarded by Henry de Montfort and Thomas de Clare, Earl Gilbert’s brother.
Simon was further embarrassed when Thomas de Clare allowed Edward to escape to Mortimore’s castle, where he was joined by Gilbert. The King was forced to make an uneasy peace and to allow the barons to advise him. Those who had called Simon from France to lead them, the Giffords, the Leybums and the Gloucesters, were now supporting Prince Edward against him. However, the Justiciar, Hugh le Despenser, still supported Simon.
The outcome was the Battle of Evesham in 1265, which ended in the death of both Simon and Hugh Despenser. Gilbert changed sides again and remained in opposition until 1270. Two years later Henry died, and was succeeded by Edward I (Longshanks).
The Red Earl had been married for twenty-three years to the King’s niece, Alice of Angouleme, but their only son, John, had died in infancy. In 1287 Gilbert sought an annulment of the marriage, and four years later married the daughter of King Edward I and Eleanor of Castile.
Fortunately, Gilbert and his wife, Princess Joan d’Acre had a son, followed by three daughters. The Red Earl had to give all his possessions to the Crown, keeping only his estates. Edward also insisted that after his death Joan’s heirs would inherit his estates, even if they were not his progeny. Gilbert died six years later at Monmouth Castle, and his body was brought to Tewkesbury.
The Red Earl had been Lord of Tewkesbury for thirty years, and throughout his life he had seen much fighting, but he gave Prestbury to the Bishop of Hereford, as Leyland says, ‘for emendes of wronges to Cantalupe, Bishop of Hereforde and his Chirche’. When Gilbert died in 1295 his widow married Ralph de Monthermer almost immediately and sent him to her father for a knighthood. The King was so indignant that he confiscated Joan’s possessions. Ralph soon became a favourite with the king, and distinguished himself in battles with the Scots. In 1300 Ralph was summoned to Parliament, bearing the title of Earl of Gloucester and Hereford, which he held until Joan’s death in 1307, when her son inherited the title. Ralph was given the title of Earl of Athol. He fought at Bannockbum, was taken prisoner but released, and married his second wife, the sister of the Earl of Pembroke. Joan was not buried in Tewkesbury, but at the Augustinian Friars’ Church at Clare. (The de Clares originally came from Brienne in Normandy, the town from which Sir Guy de Brien took his title.)
Gilbert III was only five when he succeeded to the title, for he had been born at Gloucester on May lst.,l291. He was able and so gained favour with Edward II, who came to the throne in July 1307 at an early age, and was only twenty when he was made Regent while the King was away in Scotland and France. He married Maud, daughter of John de Burgh; her elder sister was the wife of Robert the Bruce. In 1314 Gilbert found himself fighting against his brother-in-law, and was killed at Bannockbum.
Robert the Bruce must have thought highly of Gilbert, for he allowed his body to be brought to Tewkesbury to be buried in the Abbey alongside three previous de Clare earls. His widow died within a year leaving no heir, for their son had died in infancy. During restoration work in the Abbey in 1875 both bodies were found.
With Gilbert III’s death at Bannockburn the male line of the de Clares came to an end. His eldest sister, Eleanor, was made a ward of Edward II and given the Honour of Gloucester and Lordship of Tewkesbury. The King lost no time in marrying Eleanor to his favourite, Hugh le Despenser son of Hugh le Despenser, Earl of Winchester, and created him eleventh Earl of Gloucester on his marriage. Hugh was given wide powers which caused opposition from the barons, who established themselves as the Lords Ordainers in 1310. Various charges were laid against both Hughs, but the King refused to move against them, even making Hugh King’s Chamberlain in 1313. The Earls of Hereford and Lancaster gathered forces to demand that the King banish them. The estates of the younger Hugh were pillaged and villages were burnt. It may be that it was at this time that Holme Castle was destroyed. The Barons gained so much support that eventually the King had to give in to them, and a sentence of banishment was pronounced in July 1321, but Archbishop Reynolds declared it illegal on January lst.,l322. The King now raised an army against the Barons and they were defeated at Boroughbridge. More favours were given to Hugh, Lord of Tewkesbury, including the lands of Severn Stoke, Worcestershire. In 1324 the King granted Hugh a Fair at Tewkesbury, to be held every year, “upon the eve and day of St. Mattias, and for the following eight days’.
The Barons now induced the King to deprive his Queen, Isabella, of her estates. The Queen, known as the ‘she-wolf of France’ was furious at this treatment, and left for France with her son, Edward, ostensibly on a mission for the King. Roger Mortimore, who was imprisoned in the Tower, had become the Queen’s lover, and she enabled him to escape and join her in France. Within a few months they had gathered an army and landed at Harwich in September 1326, to be joined by many of the Barons.
The King and Hugh fled from Gloucester to Glamorgan, but were captured and imprisoned, first at Bristol. Later, the King was taken to Berkeley Castle, where he met an horrific end. He was buried in Gloucester Cathedral, and his tomb became a place of pilgrimage.
Isabella’s son became King in 1327, in name only, for he was ruled by his mother and Mortimore. However, he soon took control, and Mortimore was executed at Tyburn, while Isabella was banished to Norfolk, where she died in 1358.
The Despensers also met a terrible end. The elder Hugh, Earl of Winchester, although ninety years old, was hanged at Bristol in October 1326, and his body thrown to the dogs. His son was drawn through the streets of Hereford on a hurdle, then hanged and quartered, his remains hung on the gates of various towns, while his head was placed on London Bridge. His scattered remains were eventually collected and buried in Tewkesbury Abbey.
On Hugh’s death Countess Eleanor retained the title of Gloucester until her death in 1337, although she remarried, to William, Lord de la Zouche of Mortimore, who died two years before her. They are both buried in the Abbey. It was not until four years after the accession of Edward II that Eleanor and her young son Hugh had their titles restored, amongst them the lands of Glamorgan. When Eleanor died the Lordship of Tewkesbury and the Earldom of Gloucester became separated.
The Lordship of Tewkesbury and Glamorgan came to Hugh, the eldest son of Eleanor and Hugh the younger, who was only nine when his father was executed. Margaret de Clare, Eleanor’s sister, had married Hugh de Audley and they were granted the Earldom of Gloucester, until Hugh’s death in 1347, when the title was dropped.
When Edward III took control of the kingdom young Hugh and his mother were released from Bristol Castle. Hugh so distinguished himself in the King’s service during the next few years that he discharged all his debts. He also commanded two ships at the Battle of Sluys. He married Elizabeth, widow of Giles, Lord de Baddlesmere, and daughter of William Montacute, Earl of Salisbury. He died in February 1349, when he was thirty-one. His widow lived for another ten years, retaining the title until her death, although she took a third husband, Guy de Brien, Lord of Welwyn. She was buried beside her second husband in Tewkesbury Abbey.
Guy de Brien, being Lord of Welwyn was also, no doubt, Earl of Pembroke and Glamorgan. He was Governor of St. Briavels and Warden of the Forest of Dean, and was one of the Barons who attended Parliament during the reigns of Edward 111 and Richard II, and was also twice an ambassador to Rome. He was a great benefactor to the Abbey, and he also founded and endowed a chantry at Slapton, in Devon. He died in 1390, aged ninety, and was buried in one of the newly-built chapels exactly opposite one to the memory of Elizabeth and her former husband, Hugh le Despenser.
Guy did not hold the manor of Tewkesbury after Elizabeth’s death in 1359, as it passed, with Hanley Castle, Malvem Chase and Fairford, to Edward le Despenser, her first husband’s nephew. He was Edward, the eldest son of Hugh the Younger’s second son and Ann, daughter of Edward, Lord Ferrers of Groby. (Guy and Elizabeth had a son, Guy, who died in 1360. He left two daughters; the first left no heir although twice married; the second, Maud, also twice married, left a son, the Earl of Arundel and daughter, the Countess of Orrnonde. As neither of them had the line of Guy de Brien the title of Lord Welwyn became extinct.)
Edward, the sixth Baron, was the tenth Knight of the Order of the Garter when it was instituted. He saw service with the King’s son, Edward, the Black Prince, when he was only twenty. He was frequently abroad with the King’s army, spending only a short time at home. Although much of that time was spent at Cardiff Castle, both he and his wife were great benefactors to Tewkesbury Abbey. He married Elizabeth. daughter of Bartholomew, Lord de Burghersh, who was Edward III’s Lord Chamberlain. They had six children, all buried in the Abbey. Edward died in 1375 at Cardiff Castle, but his body was brought to Tewkesbury for burial. Elizabeth survived him by thirty years. She left instructions that her funeral should be plain, but for her soul she left money for a thousand masses to be said during the year following her death, and seven honest priests were to be given five pounds apiece for this service. She was to be buried between her husband and her son, Thomas.
This Thomas was five when he succeeded his father in 1375, and he remained under his mother’s care until he came of age. Elizabeth did not remarry. Thomas married Constance, daughter of Edmund Langley, Earl of Cornwall and Duke of York, the fourth son of Edward III. When Edward III died in 1377 the crown passed to Richard of Bordeaux, only surviving son of the Black Prince, first son of Edward III and Queen Philippa. Richard had a troubled reign; first, the imposition of a Poll Tax of a shilling a head on all persons over fifteen years of age led to the Peasants’ Revolt led by Wat Tyler in 1381. and then the struggle for power and eventual succession between his uncles. Thomas of Woodstock. Duke of Gloucester, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and Edmund Langley, Duke of York and father-in-law of Thomas le Despenser. Thomas staunchly supported Richard II against the Dukes, and was rewarded with the usurped title of Earl of Gloucester. He was the last Lord of Tewkesbury to bear this title, and he only enjoyed the honour for three years, as Richard was overthrown by his cousin Henry IV (Bolingbroke), son of John of Gaunt, in 1399, when he tried to establish a royal autocracy. Thomas joined a conspiracy against the new king, but he was taken prisoner by a mob at Bristol and executed in 1400. His body was brought back to Tewkesbury by his mother.
Thomas and Constance left two children, Richard and Isabel. Richard, the eighth Baron, Lord of Tewkesbury, was under the guardianship of his grandfather, Edmund Langley, Duke of York, who married him to Elizabeth, daughter of Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland and Joan, daughter of John of Gaunt. Both were therefore grandchildren of Edward 111. Richard died before his nineteenth birthday and was buried in the Abbey. His widow married Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, son of Henry Hotspur, and they had twelve children. As Richard had died without an heir, the Despenser line on the male side had come to an end.
Visits to various castles, named and unnamed.
‘Kings and Queens of England‘: D.Williamson.
‘Tewkesbury Abbey’: John Blunt.
‘Tewkesbury Abbey’ : Bradley Birt.
For further information on Tewksbury please visit http://tewkesburyhistory.org/