Wednesday, February 3, 2010

{3} Badlesmere Part 1: Lineage/Background

Badlesmere coat of arms
[Argent, a fesse between two gemelles gules]
[Format Note: Posts with specific genealogical information will start with the name of the family, numbered chronologically starting from the earliest post on that family to to the most recent.]

One of the individuals who will have a full biography on my eventual website Royal Descent is Elizabeth Badlesmere, Countess of Northampton, as she was the wife of Edward I's grandson, William de Bohun. In honor of the talented researcher Kathryn Warner - whose Edward II website and blog are jam-packed with detailed information about that king and the people of his reign, and are extremely fun and readable - I'm making my first genealogy post on the mid-13th- to-early-14th-century baronial family of Badlesmere (whose coat of arms is shown). Kathryn and I have exchanged comments and ideas about Bartholomew Badlesmere as a result of her recent posts on Roger Damory, and I figured now was as good a time as any to start gathering the information for the first part of his daughter Elizabeth's biography.

1316 was a pivotal year in the middle-aged Badlesmere's career. He had been constable of Bristol Castle for more than eight years, appointed just weeks after Edward II had ascended the throne. It was a post of much strategic importance, militarily and politically. Bristol was the third largest city in medieval England, following London and York. The castle itself was under royal command, but it lay within geography that was dominated by the Clare dynasty, the second most powerful in England after the ruling Plantagenets. Badlesmere owed the appointment to two factors. First, an apparent talent for administration. He certainly did not have a talent for feats of arms in battle - he was accused of fleeing the field of Bannockburn, abandoning his overlord Gloucester to his fate. Badlesmere was more Ichabod Crane than Brom Bones. Second, his marriage into the Clare dynasty.

Born about 1275 [*1], Bartholomew was the son and heir of Gunselm de Badlesmere, a banneret in the household of the King (then Edward I). The Badlesmeres were not a mighty baronial dynasty. They had a respectable knightly lineage localized in the county of Kent, taking their name from (or granting its name to) the castle and manor of Badlesmere in that county, which they held of the crown. There may also have been feudal ties to the archbishop of Canterbury [*2]. Gunselm had been a member of Simon de Montfort's opposition to the Plantagenets during the Barons' War of the 1260s. But by 1274, the year before Bartholomew's birth, the family had gone entirely pro-Plantagenet: Gunselm had proven himself enough that he was made Justice of Chester, an important geographic area with which Edward I had a strong symbolic association since his creation as Earl of Chester in 1254, eighteen years prior to becoming king. Gunselm served as Justice of Chester until the outbreak of the Welsh War in 1281, and accompanied Edward I and Eleanor of Castile on their expedition to Gascony later that decade. Bartholomew was first called to military service at age 19, in the 1294 Gascony expedition. His service on that campaign, as well as the Flanders expedition of 1297, and the Falkirk campaign in 1298, either resulted from, or earned him, his position as a knight of the household of Edward I, which we know he held by 1299 [*1]. When Gunselm died in 1301, he left a son to inherit the Badlesmere name and fortune who had followed closely in his own footsteps but had not yet done anything to further advance the family honor. That would change thanks to the patronage of Bartholomew's commander in the Scottish wars, Lord Clifford.
Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, Earl of Gloucester

Badlesmere served as a retainer of the earl of Lincoln (one of Edward I's top commanders) in October 1300 [*1], being a little fish in a big pond in that camp, then joined the retinue of the northern magnate Robert Clifford by 1303, where he became a big fish in a smaller pond. Clifford, a strong and dynamic leader (the author of the Song of Caerlaverock stated that had he been a girl, he would have given himself, heart and body, to Clifford [*3]), sprang from a stock of Anglo-Welsh marcher lords on his father's side, and the lords of Westmorland in the northern march on his mother's side. Inheriting the family estates as a minor, he spent time as a ward in the households of Edmund, Earl of Cornwall and Gilbert 'The Red' de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, before ending up a ward in the King's household and coming into his inheritance in 1295. By then old Gilbert the Red had managed to make Clifford's alliance to the Clare dynasty sacred by marrying him to his niece Maud, the elder daughter of his late younger brother, Thomas de Clare, Lord of Thomond.

Whatever Badlesmere was doing in the Scottish wars in the early 1300s as a retainer of Lord Clifford impressed the commander enough that he decided to make a sacred bond of kinship with the knight from Kent, who was almost his exact age. Clifford shepherded Badlesmere's marriage to the childless teenaged widow Margaret de Umfraville, younger sister of his wife Maud. He was making Badlesmere his brother. Like that of her elder sister, Margaret de Clare of Thomond's first marriage, to the heir of the Umfraville earl of Angus, had been arranged in 1289 by her uncle Gilbert the Red in order to strengthen the influence of the Clare dynasty in the northern marches [*4]. By the time her first husband died in 1303, her uncle was dead, her brothers still under-aged knights cutting their military teeth in the households of the King and the Prince of Wales, and it was Clifford who was Margaret's eldest male relative. Badlesmere and Margaret were married by 1305, with their first child, daughter Margery, following in the next year or so [*5].

The death of Edward I in the summer of 1307 brought a new King to the English. Clifford, respected by Edward II, "who in August 1305 described him as ‘our dear and well loved knight’ (Letters of Edward, Prince of Wales, 92)" [*6], was appointed to the highly important military position of Marshal of England on 3 September 1307 [*7]. It would have been made known to Clifford and the other earls and barons at the time that Edward II was planning to allow his 16-year-old nephew, young Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, to gain full control of his inheritance. Clifford was too involved elsewhere to preside over the day-to-day councils of the teenaged earl, but Badlesmere no doubt was made a retainer of the earl to act as Clifford's representative in that capacity. His appointment as Constable of Bristol Castle served to give him military authority within the Clare inheritance sphere, and also placed him in a position to act as mediator between the crown and the earl of Gloucester, a symbolic union that stretched back to the Welsh wars of the 1280s.

By May 1316, Badlesmere would fail the trust placed in him to maintain the joint interests of the Plantagenet and Clare dynasties in two major ways, the details of which will appear in the next post.

[*1] Most of the facts on Badlesmere are taken from his bio by John R. Maddicott in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004).
[*2] Conway Davies, in his 1918 work, The Baronial Opposition to Edward II: Its Character and Policy; a Study in Administrative History, p. 427, states that Badlesmere "held certain lands of the archbishop of Canterbury by serjeanty of being his chamberlain", but whether this was a traditional role in the Badlesmere family, or one which Bartholomew achieved himself, needs further research.
[*3] Michael Prestwich, War, Politics and Finance Under Edward I (1972), pp. 65-66.
[*4] In 1289, Gloucester gave the Earl of Angus 1,200 marks to have the marriage of Angus's son and heir for his niece. Michael Altschul, A Baronial Family in Medieval England: The Clares, 1217-1314 (1965), p. 46 n. 113, citing PRO, Coram Rege Roll Easter 17 Edward I, KB 27/118 m.21, as his source. Margaret was not yet two years old, so her uncle must have had a strong reason that year to ally his dynasty with the Umfravilles.
[*5] Margery Badlesmere's estimated birthdate of about 1306 is deduced from the fact that she herself was a mother by the early 1320s.
[*6] Henry Summerson,
"Clifford, Robert, first Lord Clifford (1274–1314)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Sept 2004.
[*7] Davies, The Baronial Opposition to Edward II, p. 208, citing Cal. Patent Rolls, 1307-13, p. 6, as his source.


  1. Thanks for this post, Brad! Very interesting, and I'm looking forward to part two. Badlesmere's career under Edward II in the 1310s and early 1320s, from esteemed steward to hunted-down enemy, would make a great study.

    I've read some of the Song of Caerlaverock, but had missed the author's comment about Robert Clifford - that's terrific! :-)

  2. I've just found the ref to Clifford in the song; there are nearly 30 lines dedicated to him, and the bit Prestwich cites is: Si je estois une pucellette, Je li donroie quer e cors, Tant est de li bons li recors, If I were a young maiden, I would give him my heart and body, So good is his fame. (The roll of arms, of the princes, barons, and knights... ed. Thomas Wright, on Google Books)

  3. Hi Brad
    Thanks for posting such great information. I descend from two of Bartholemew and Margaret's daughters, so I am grateful for any writings you are happy to post! You really bring them to life.

    Glad to have you on my bloglist!

  4. I just revised the original post to include the date Clifford was appointed marshal of England.

    Kathryn, I agree that Badlesmere would be a very good study. I haven't decided yet what I think of him overall. Thank you for the original snippet from the Song of Caerlaverock. All I can say is ... lucky Maud de Clare!

    Kate with the Cool Last Name, thank you for the kind words! I'm glad you're enjoying so far.

  5. I revised the original post yet again to include more detail on Margaret de Clare of Thomond's first marriage to the Umfraville heir.

  6. Trying to contact Kate, I am interested in the Baddlesmere genealogy, trying to trace the sister of Bartholomew baddlesmere, daughter of Giles who married John Coningbsy. Any help woule be much appreciated
    Robin Wood

  7. Wonderful info! Like others of you, I'm a direct descendant and love knowing more of their history. Thank you!

  8. I am descended from Bartholomew and Margaret's daughter Maude through her second marriage to John deVere. Very interesting reading.