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|There is confusion
concerning the various families called Despencer, a name taken from the
position of a dispensator or steward. BE1883 appears to mix up, or at least
makes it easy for people to view as closely connected, two of the most
important. We show them both on this page to help clear the position with
regard to what various sources report. On the second of these families,
in Volume IV page 259 note c, TCP reports as follows: "Their pedigree has
been distorted by the unscrupulous efforts of many heralds and genealogists
to derive the Spencers of Althorpe from an illustrious origin: with the
result that 1 these Despensers, who appear to have been
of the Earls of Chester, 2 the Despensers of King's Stanley, co. Gloucester,
who were dispensatores Regi, and 3 the above-named now ducal family
of Spencer, who emerge from obscurity,
as wealthy graziers, towards the end of the 15th century, have been associated
in a single pedigree in which "fact and fiction are cunningly intertwined."
For the first of these families, BE1883 starts with the following Robert, younger brother of Urso de Abitot, Sheriff of Worcestershire:
Space for your banner and link!
|Robert 'le Despencer' steward to William the Conqueror BE1883 then reports that in the reign of Henry I 1100-1135 was ...|
|1.||William le Despencer steward to King Henry I who r. 1100-1135 BE1883 then reports that the next person holding this office "and in the same reign" was ...|
|A.||Thurstan Dispenser steward to King Henry I|
|i.||Almaric de Spencer, Sheriff of Rutland a 1188, 1205
m Amabil dau of Walter de Chesnei
|a.||Thurstan de Spencer, Sheriff of Gloucestershire d 1248|
|b.||Almaric de Spencer|
|c.?||Muriel Despenser b about 1180 possibly of this family and generation or in the following section.
m Hugh de Dutton b about 1175 d after 1234, 4th son
|Hereafter TCP is shown. BE1883 seems to confuse the families for it says that a contemporary of Thurstan just above "and doubtless of the same family" was the Hugh d 1238 shown in the second family below as of Loughborough.|
|TCP says for this family of Despensers vol IV, pages 287-8.|
|Thurstan le Despenser steward to King William II who reigned 1087-1100|
|1.||Hugh le Despenser steward to King Henry I in 1105|
|Whether or not by Hawise is not known but TCP says it is "highly probable" that Hugh was father or grandfather of ...|
|A.||Thurstan le Despenser|
|i.||Walter le Despenser of Worthy and Stanley|
|ii.||Aymer le Despenser of Worthy and Stanley a 1204|
|m1. before 15.07.1186 Amabel dau of Walter de Chesney|
|a.||Julian le Despenser|
|m1. William Bardolf|
|m2. Piers de Stokes dsp|
|m3. Geoffrey de Lucy|
|m2. Alda Bloet|
|b.||Sir Thurstan le Despenser of Stanley, Leckhampton, etc d before 03.09.1249|
|1||Sir Adam le Despenser of King's Stanley, Leckhampton, etc d before 18.06.1295|
|m2. Joan d before 25.06.1309|
|The second family is the one that obtained some notoriety through the actions of the two Hughs: the elder and the younger.|
|De25 =26 =27 =33 =35. Thomas le Despenser b c 1160|
|De24-1.||Thomas le Despenser dsp 1218|
|De24 =25 =26 =32 =34||Hugh le Despenser of Loughborough, etc b about 1180 d c23.02.1238 BE1883 suggests that this Hugh was grandfather rather than father of ...|
|De23 =24 =25 =31 =33||Sir Hugh le Despenser of Loughborough, etc b by 1223, d Evesham 04.08.1265, Justiciar|
|m. by 1260 Aline or Aliva Basset dau of Sir Philip Basset of Wycombe|
|De22 =23 =24 =30 =32||Sir Hugh le Despenser or Despencer of Loughborough, 'the Elder', Earl of Winchester b 01.03.1260/1, d 27.10.1326|
|Hugh and his son were great favourites of King Edward II but abused their position and earned the enmity of many other barons which ended in their downfall and that of King Edward. For the main line, we move here from identifying the family name as le Despenser to Despencer to make it consistent with most other sources and cross-references. However, TCP continues to use the name "le Despenser".|
|m. by 1286 Isabel de Beauchamp dau of William de Beauchamp, 1st Earl of Warwick|
|De22 =23 =24||Sir Hugh Despencer, 'the younger', Lord Despencer d 11.1326
m after 14.06.1306 Alianore de Clare b 1292, d 30.06.1337, dau of Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, Earl of Hertford & Gloucester Eleanor's grandfather, Edward I, owed Hugh's father vast sums of money, and the marriage was intended as a payment of these debts. When Eleanor's brother was killed at the Battle of Bannockburn, she unexpectedly became one of the three co-heiresses to the rich Gloucester earldom, and in her right Hugh inherited Glamorgan and other properties. In just a few short years Hugh went from a landless knight to one of the wealthiest magnates in the kingdom.
|De21-1||Hugh Despencer, Lord Despencer b c1308, dsp 1349|
|m. Elizabeth de Montacute dau of William de Montacute, 1st Earl of Salisbury She married 2nd before 10.07.1350 Guy de Brian or Briene or Bryan, Lord Bryan/Briene/de Bryen d 17.08.1390 VII|
|De21||Edward Despencer of Buckland b 1310
k 30.09.1342 at the siege of Vannes; father of Edward II le Despenser,
Knight of the Garter
m. 20.04.1335 Anne Ferrers d 08.08.1367, dau of William Ferrers, 1st Lord of Groby
|De20||Sir Edward Despencer, 1st Lord b 24.03.1336, d 11.11.1375|
|m. before 02.08.1354 Elizabeth Burghersh d 26.07.1409, dau of Bartholomew de Burghersh, 4th Lord|
|De19-1||Thomas Despencer, Earl of Gloucester b 22.09.1373, d 17.01.1400|
|Thomas supported King Richard II. When that king fell, Thomas was captured, attainted and beheaded.|
|m. 1386 Constance Plantagenet d 28.11.1416, Edmund Plantagenet of Langley, 1st Duke of York|
|a||Richard Despencer b 30.11.1396, dsp 07.10.1414|
|m. Elizabeth or Eleanor Nevill dau of Ralph Nevill, 1st Earl of Westmorland|
|b||Elizabeth Despencer d young|
|c||Isabel Despencer b 26.07.1400, d 27.12.1439|
|m1. Richard de Beauchamp, 2nd Lord of Abergavenny, Earl of Worcester b c1397, d 18.03.1421/2|
|m2 Richard de Beauchamp, 5th Earl of Warwick, Earl of Albemarle b 28.01.1381, d 30.04.1439|
|De19-2||Hugh Despencer d 1424|
|De19-3||Cicely Despencer d young|
|De19-4||Elizabeth Despencer d 10/1.04.1408|
|m1 John FitzAlan, Lord Maltravers b 1365, d 1391|
|m2 after 28.04.1393, sp William la Zouche, 3rd Lord b by 1342, d 13.05.1396|
|De19-5||Anne Despencer d 30/1.10.1426|
|m1. Sir Hugh Hastings d 1386|
|m2Sir Thomas Morley, 4th Lord d 24.09.1416/7|
|De19||Margaret Despencer d 03.11.1415
m Robert de Ferrers, 5th Lord of Chartley d 13.03.1412-3
|De21-3||Gilbert Despencer of Melton Mowbray 1309- 1381|
|De21-4||Elizabeth Despencer d 13.07.1389|
|m. 1338 Maurice de Berkeley, 4th Lord b 1330, d 08.06.1368|
|De21 =20 =22||Isabel Despencer b c 1314|
|m. div 1345 Richard FitzAlan, 9th Earl of Arundel b 1306, d 1376|
|De29 =31||Philip le Despenser of Parlington, etc d 24.09.1313 shown
by BE1883 as a generation later
m Margaret Gousell b 12.05.1294, d 29.07.1349, dau of Ralph de Gousille of Goxhill
|De28 =30||Sir Philip le Despenser of Camoys Manor b 06.04.1313, d 22/3.08.1349>
m Joan Cobham dau of Sir John de Cobham, 2nd Lord
|De27 =29||Sir Philip le Despenser of Goxhill and Camoys Manor, 1st Lord b 18.10.1342, d 04.08.1401
|De26 =28||Sir Philip le Despenser of Nettlestead, Goxhill and Camoys Manor, 2nd Lord d 20.06.1424
m Elizabeth de Tiptoft b 1371, dau of Robert de Tibetot, 3rd Lord
|De25 =27||Margery le Despenser d 20.04.1478
m1 John de Ros, 8th Lord dsp Beauge 1421
|m2. Roger Wentworth of Nettlestead d 24.10.1445|
|De22-3.||Isabel Despencer d 04.12.1334|
|m John de Hastings, Lord d 10.02.1313|
|De22-4||Aline Despencer d before 28.11.1353|
|m. after 03.05.1302 Edward Burnell of Acton Burnell, Lord dsp before 01.09.1315|
|m c Dec 1313 John de St. Amand, 1st Lord d before 25.01.1329/30|
m Sir Hugh de Courtenay, Lord of Okehampton d 28.02.1291
|m by 1272 Sir Thomas de Furnivalle, 1st Lord d 1332|
|De22-4||Anne Despencer b c 1240
m. William de Ferrers of Groby b c 1240, d before 20.12.1287
|De23-2.||Pernell le Despenser
m. Geoffrey le Sauvage of Hintes d 1230
|Probably also of this family and of this generation was ...|
m Sir Roger de St. John d Evesham 04.08.1265
|De24-3.||Geoffrey le Despenser of Mart d 1251
m Emma d'Harcourt a 1265, dau of Richard d'Harcourt
|De24-3-1||John le Despenser dsp 1275
m Joan d 1266, dau of Robert le Lou of Castle Carlton
|De24-4.||Rohese Despenser probably also of
m. Stephen of Segrave, Sheriff d 1241
|Hugh Despencer was knight of Hanley Castle, Worcestershire, King's Chamberlain, Constable of Odiham Castle, Keeper of the castle and town of Portchester, Keeper of the castle, town and barton of Bristol and, in Wales, Keeper of the castle and town of Dryslwyn, and the region of Cantref Mawr, Carmarthenshire. Also in Wales, he was Lord of Glamorgan which gave him possession of Cardiff Castle. He was also Keeper of the castles, manor, and lands of Brecknock, Hay, Cantref Selyf, etc., in County Brecon, and, in England of Huntington, Herefordshire. He was given Wallingford Castle although this had previously been given to Queen Isabella for life.In May 1306 Hugh was knighted. His wife Eleanor was also the niece of the new king, Edward II of England, and this connection brought Hugh closer to the English royal court. He joined the baronial opposition to Piers Gaveston, the king's favourite, and Hugh's brother-in-law, as Gaveston was married to Eleanor's sister. Eager for power and wealth, Hugh seized Tonbridge Castle in 1315. In 1318 he murdered Llywelyn Bren, a Welsh hostage in his custody.Hugh became royal chamberlain in 1318. As a royal courtier, Hugh manoeuvred into the affections of King Edward, displacing the previous favourite, Roger d'Amory. This was much to the dismay of the baronage as they saw him both taking their rightful places at court and being a worse version of Gaveston. By 1320 his greed was running free.||Hugh seized the Welsh lands of his wife's inheritance, ignoring the claims of his two brothers-in-law. He forced Alice de Lacy, Countess of Lincoln, to give up her lands, cheated his sister-in-law Elizabeth de Clare out of Gower and Usk, and allegedly had Lady Baret's arms and legs broken until she went insane. He also supposedly vowed to be revenged on Roger Mortimer because Mortimer's grandfather had murdered Hugh's grandfather, and once stated though probably in jest that he regretted he could not control the wind. By 1321 he had earned many enemies in every stratum of society, from Queen Isabella to the barons to the common people. There was even a bizarre plot to kill Hugh by sticking pins in a wax likeness of him. Finally the barons prevailed upon King Edward and forced Hugh and his father into exile in 1321. His father fled to Bordeaux, and Hugh became a pirate in the English Channel, "a sea monster, lying in wait for merchants as they crossed his path". Following the exile of the Despensers, the barons who opposed them fell out among themselves. The following year, King Edward took advantage of these divisions to secure the defeat and execution of the Earl of Lancaster, and the surrender of Roger Mortimer, the Despensers' chief opponents. The pair returned and King Edward quickly reinstated Hugh as royal favourite.||His time in exile had done nothing to quell his greed, his rashness, or his ruthlessness. The time from the Despensers' return from exile until the end of Edward II's reign was a time of uncertainty in England. With the main baronial opposition leaderless and weak, having been defeated at the Battle of Boroughbridge, and Edward willing to let them do as they pleased, the Despensers were left unchecked. They grew rich from their administration and corruption. This period is sometimes referred to as the "Tyranny". This maladministration caused hostile feeling for them and, by proxy, Edward II. Hugh repeatedly pressed King Edward to execute Mortimer, who had been held prisoner in the Tower of London, following his surrender. However, Mortimer escaped from the Tower and fled to France. Queen Isabella had a special dislike for the man. Various historians have suggested, and it is commonly believed, that he and Edward had an ongoing sexual relationship. Froissart states "he was a sodomite, even it is said, with the King." Some speculate it was this relationship that caused the Queen's dislike of him. Others, noting that her hatred for him was far greater than for any other favourite of her husband, suggest that his behaviour towards herself and the nation served to excite her particular disgust. Alison Weir, in her 2005 book, Queen Isabella: Treachery, Adultery, and Murder in Medieval England, speculates that he had raped Isabella and that was the source of her hatred. While Isabella was in France to negotiate between her husband and the French king, she formed a liaison with Roger Mortimer and began planning an invasion. Hugh supposedly tried to bribe French courtiers to assassinate Isabella, sending barrels of silver as payment. Roger Mortimer and the Queen invaded England in October 1326.||Their forces only numbered about 1,500 mercenaries to begin with, but the majority of the nobility rallied to them throughout October and November. By contrast, very few people were prepared to fight for Edward II, mainly because of the hatred which the Despensers had aroused. The Despensers fled West with the King, with a sizable sum from the treasury. The escape was unsuccessful. Separated from the elder Despenser, the King and the younger Hugh were deserted by most of their followers, and were captured near Neath in mid-November. King Edward was placed in captivity and later deposed. Hugh the father the elder Despenser was hanged at Bristol on 27 October 1326, and Hugh the son was brought to trial.Hugh tried to starve himself before his trial, but face trial he did on 24 November 1326, in Hereford, before Mortimer and the Queen. He was judged a traitor and a thief, and sentenced to public execution by hanging, as a thief, and drawing and quartering, as a traitor. Additionally, he was sentenced to be disembowelled for having procured discord between the King and Queen, and to be beheaded, for returning to England after having been banished.||Treason had also been the grounds for Gaveston's execution; the belief was that these men had misled the King rather than the King himself being guilty of folly. Immediately after the trial, he was dragged behind four horses to his place of execution, where a great fire was lit. He was stripped naked, and biblical verses denouncing arrogance and evil were written on his skin. He was then hanged from a gallows 50 ft 15 m high, but cut down before he could choke to death, and was tied to a ladder, in full view of the crowd. The executioner climbed up beside him, and sliced off his penis and testicles which were burnt before him, while he was still alive and conscious; although castration was not formally part of the sentence imposed on Despenser, it was typically practised on convicted traitors. Subsequently, the executioner slit open his abdomen, and slowly pulled out, and cut out, his entrails and, finally, his heart, which were likewise thrown into the fire. The executioner would have sought to keep him alive as long as possible, while disembowelling him. The burning of his entrails would, in all likelihood, have been the last sight that he witnessed.||Just before he died, it is recorded that
he let out a "ghastly inhuman howl," much to the delight and merriment
of the spectators. Finally, his corpse was beheaded, his body cut into
four pieces, and his head was mounted on the gates of London. Mortimer
and Isabella feasted with their chief supporters, as they watched the execution.
As well as satisfying Mortimer's and Isabella's desire for revenge, the manner of Despenser's death was rich in symbolism. As Despenser was dragged to his place of execution, the crowd was able to jeer at him, proving that he had lost his power. Hanging was a shameful death, the punishment for a common thief. Castration showed to the crowd that he had ceased to be a man; his evil desires were thought to reside in his heart and entrails. Thus, his disembowellment, and the burning of his innards showed that the land was being purged of evil. Finally, the quartering and beheading of his corpse was considered to jeopardise his chances of Salvation after death. The man once known as Sir Hugh Le Despenser, Lord of Glamorgan, was thus physically and spiritually obliterated.
|After his death, his widow asked to be given the body so she could
bury it at the family's Gloucestershire estate, but only the head, a thigh
bone and a few vertebrae were returned to her.
What may be the body of Despenser was identified in February 2008, at Hulton Abbey in Staffordshire. The skeleton, which was first uncovered during archaeological work in the 1970s, appeared to be the victim of a drawing and quartering as it had been beheaded and chopped into several pieces with a sharp blade, suggesting a ritual killing. Furthermore, it lacked several body parts, including the ones given to Despenser's wife. Radiocarbon analysis dated the body to between 1050 and 1385, and later tests suggested it to be that of a man over 34 years old. Despenser was 40 at the time of his death. In addition, the Abbey is located on lands that belonged to Hugh Audley, Despenser's brother-in-law, at the time.
No book-length biographical study of Hugh Despenser exists, although The Tyranny and Fall of Edward II: 1321–1326 by historian Natalie Fryde is a study of Edward's reign during the years that the Despensers' power was at its peak. Fryde pays particular attention to the subject of the Despensers' ill-gotten landholdings. The numerous accusations against the younger Despenser at the time of his execution have never been the subject of close critical scrutiny, although Roy Martin Haines called them "ingenuous" and noted their propagandistic nature.
Despite the crucial and disastrous role he played in the reign of Edward II, Despenser is almost a minor character in Christopher Marlowe's play Edward II 1592, where, as "Spencer", he is little more than a substitute for the dead Gaveston. In 2006, he was selected by BBC History Magazine as the 14th century's worst Briton.
His image on the stained glass window of the Banqueting Hall of Cardiff Castle, shows his coat of arms inverted - a symbol of disgrace.