The Despensers: King Edward II's "Favourites"

Here are a few notes for the father and son "favourites" of King Edward II, both of whom were executed in 1326. The first entry is for the father & grandfather of the pair, who lost his life in battle. See The Dictionary of National Biography published since 1917 by the Oxford University Press, for biographies.

Arrangements for wardship made by Alina la Despenser countess of Norfolk, 1280

source: Women of the English Nobility and Gentry by Jennifer Ward

[Public Record Office, London, E40/ 5480; in Latin, trans. Jennifer Ward]

Agreement made in the eighth year of King Edward at Fastern [in Wootton Bassett] on the feast of Holy Trinity [16 June] between Lady Alina la Despenser countess of Norfolk on one side and Robert fitz John of Otley on the other, namely that Alina grants and demises to Robert the custody of the lands and tenements in Barningham with all appurtenances which used to be held by John Pond and Lucy his wife, and were in the hands of the countess because of the custody of Isabella and Katherine, daughters and heirs of John and Lucy, except anything which can fall to the countess because of the custody or which ought to belong to her in 'Ighinton' and elsewhere in Hertfordshire, and saving to the countess the marriages of Isabella and Katherine. Robert, his heirs and "assigns are to have and hold the custody until Isabella and Katherine come of age. In return for this grant and demise, Robert is bound to pay the countess or her appointed attorney in her manor of Wix ten marks a year of good sterling until Isabella and Katherine come of age, at these terms, namely five marks at Christmas and five marks at the Nativity of St John the Baptist, the first payment to be made at Christmas in the ninth year of King Edward [1280]. The countess also granted to the aforesaid Robert the portion appertaining to her of all the grain sown on the aforesaid land on the day of completion of the agreement, in return for six marks of good sterling which Robert is bound to pay to the countess or her appointed attorney in her manor of Wix.

Alina was the daughter and heiress of Philip Basset and the widow of Hugh le Despenser (d. 1265). Wix and Wootton Bassett were part of her inheritance. She was dealing with this matter in the lifetime of her second husband, Roger Bigod earl of Norfolk (d. 1306).
The surname is given in the Latin form, de stagno.

Hugh le Despenser, the Elder

Earl of Winchester, b 1262 - d 1326 Bristol, England

Hugh le Despenser, the Younger

Earl of Winchester, b c1285/1290 - d Nov 1326 Hereford, England

The Executions of Hugh Despenser the elder and the younger

source: The Berkeley MSS: the Lives of the Berkeleys, lords of the honour, castle and manor of Berkeley in the county of Gloucester from 1066 to 1618, with a description of the hundred of Berkeley and its inhabitants

By John Smyth of Nibley, edited by Sir John Maclean. Gloucester. Printed by John Bellows for the subscribers 1883.

Writing of the life of Thomas III, Lord Berkeley, vol 1, p287-8, in 1361:

Alonge with the Queene and prince and their Army goeth this lord Thomas to Bristoll, where Hugh Spenser the elder Earle of Winchester was taken, And without answering for himself was drawn and hanged in his Armor, taken down alive, and bowelled, his bowells burnt, his head smote of and sent to Winchester, his body hanged up againe and after fower dayes cut to peeces and cast to dogs to bee eaten.

thence through Wales in search after the kinge, the Queene and her Army come to Hereford; The kinge on the 16th of November is found out and taken, with Hugh Spenser the sonne Earle of Gloucester; The kinge is conveyed to Kenellworth, The Earle is brought to Hereford, where clad in his coat Armor he was dragged to the place of execution, where beinge first hanged upon a gallows fifty foot high, was afterwards beheaded and cut into quarters, his head sett up at London, and his quarters in fower parts of the kingdome.

Spencer Descent as indicated in the Dictionary of National Biography's articles

1 - Hugh Despenser Justiciar, d 4 Aug 1265 battle of Evesham
m Aliva Basset
2 - Hugh Despenser the elder - b1262 executed 1326
3 - Hugh Despenser the younger - knighted 1306, executed 1326
m c1309 Eleanor, dau of Gilbert Clare, earl of Gloucester
4 - Hugh in parliament 1338, d w/out issue 1342
4 - other children
4 - Edward d siege of Vannes 1342
m 1337 Anne, dau of Sir Ralph Ferrers of Groby
5 - son
5 - Edward, 2nd son, in parliament 1357, knight of the Garter, d 1375
m Elizabeth, dau of Bartholomew, Lord Burghersh
6 - daughters
6 - Thomas, b 1373, in parliament 1396, created Earl Gloucester 29 Sep 1397,
beheaded at Bristol Jan? 1400
m Constance Langley dau of Earl of Cambridge
7 - Richard d underage in 1414
7 - Isabel
m Richard Beauchamp, earl of Worcester
5 - another son
5 - Henry, 4th son, bishop of Norwich b 1341/2 d 23 Aug 1406 bur Norwich Cathedral

Historical fiction based on the Despensers:

Hugh and Bess
Hugh and Bess - based on Hugh son and grandson of the two who were executed