The Despensers: The Rise and fall of a mediaeval family

Here is another of Kathryn Warner‘s volumes in which the genealogy is central but there is plenty of history about the principal individuals that comprise the structure of the book. These range from Hugh Despenser the Justiciar, who fell at Evesham in 1265 opposing Henry III, to his son and grandson (the latter married to Eleanor de Clare), who were executed for supporting Edward II, through the intervening generations to Thomas Earl of Gloucester, who was executed after the Epiphany Rising against Henry IV. Warner goes on to feature Gloucester’s twice-married daughter (to identically-named husbands) Isabelle, whose granddaughters married Richard III and George Duke of Clarence, although Lady Eleanor Talbot, the other York brother‘s wife, has slightly different Despenser descent (below right from p,21 of Ashdown-Hill’s Eleanor paperback), through Elizabeth Despenser’s Berkeley marriage, down to Lady Eleanor’s mother.

As the introduction makes clear, only one or two of the seven male principals died of natural causes, one of these probably of the plague. One of Hugh the Elder’s cadet branches featured four consecutive Philips and Margery Wentworth, daughter of the last, who lived to 1478. This book carries the story of Edward II’s family and his favourites forward two or three generations further than the others, exploring yet another facet of his world, whilst raising the intriguing possibility of a Despenser featured in Italian art. There is also a reference to the symmetry of Richard II’s death at Lancastrian hands in Pontefract with Edward II executing Thomas of Lancaster there after Boroughbridge.

By super blue

Grandson of a Town player.

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