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Monthermer, Ralph de, first Lord Monthermerlocked

(d. 1325)
  • C. L. Kingsford
  • , revised by Jennifer C. Ward

Monthermer, Ralph de, first Lord Monthermer (d. 1325), soldier and courtier, and for several years earl of Gloucester and Hertford, is said to have been born in the bishopric of Durham, but his parentage is unknown. Before 1296 he was a squire in the service of Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester (1243–1295), whose widow, Joan of Acre, daughter of Edward I, fell in love with him, and, after inducing her father to knight him, married him privately early in 1297. When in April Joan was forced to reveal the marriage, the king had Monthermer imprisoned at Bristol. The Song of Caerlaverock says that Monthermer 'acquired, after great doubts and fears, the love of the countess of Gloucester, for whom he a long time endured great sufferings.' Eventually Edward's wrath was appeased and Monthermer released.

Monthermer did homage at Eltham on 2 August 1297, when he is styled (miles'knight'). On 8 September he was summoned to appear with horse and arms at Rochester. After this time he is styled earl of Gloucester and Hertford, in right of his wife. Under this title he was present with his wife at the parliament held at York on 14 January 1298, and took part in the subsequent invasion of Scotland under Earl Warenne, when Berwick and Roxburgh were relieved. When the earls of Norfolk and Hereford demanded the reconfirmation of the charters, Gloucester was one of those nominated to swear on the king's behalf. He was with Edward in Scotland in June, and was presumably present at Falkirk on 22 July. He fought at the siege of Caerlaverock in June 1300, and again served in Scotland in 1301, 1303, 1304, and 1306. In the last year, on 12 October, he received the earldom of Atholl in Scotland, together with the lands of Annandale. During the winter he was one of the three wardens in Scotland, and was besieged by Robert Bruce in the castle at Ayr.

On 23 April 1307 Joan of Acre died; after this time Monthermer was no longer styled earl of Gloucester, and in March 1308 his stepson was summoned under that title. In June 1307, just before the death of Edward I, Monthermer also surrendered his Scottish earldom of Atholl in return for 10,000 marks with which to buy land to the value of 1000 marks for the support of himself and his children. On 24 June of the same year he was given the custody of the Clare lands in Wales during Gilbert de Clare's minority. On 4 March 1309 he was again summoned to parliament as Baron Monthermer, and on 16 September 1309 and 24 December 1310 received grants of land at Warblington and Westenden and other manors in Devon, Wiltshire, and Hampshire for himself and his sons. In 1311 and 1312 Monthermer served as warden and lieutenant for the king in Scotland, and received 300 marks in reward for his services. He was taken prisoner at Bannockburn, and owed his release without ransom to his former acquaintance with Robert Bruce. On 19 February 1315 he was appointed warden of the royal forests south of the Trent, an office which he held until 18 May 1320. On 30 December 1315 he had royal permission to appoint a deputy while on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, and earlier in 1315 he had held an inquest on the claim of John, earl of Richmond, to the towns of Great Yarmouth and Gorleston, but after this there is no mention of Monthermer in public affairs. Probably in 1318 Monthermer married as his second wife Isabella Despenser (d. 1334), the widow of John Hastings (1262–1313). He had pardon for this marriage on 12 August 1319. He was summoned to parliament as a baron until 30 October 1324, and was summoned to attend a great council in the spring of 1325, but died on 5 April before it met.

Monthermer had two sons with Joan of Acre, Thomas and Edward, and a daughter, Mary, who married Duncan, earl of Fife. Thomas de Monthermer was never summoned to parliament. During the early troubles of the reign of Edward III he supported Henry of Lancaster, for which he received pardon on 30 July 1330. He served in Scotland in 1333, 1335, and 1337, and was killed in the naval battle off Sluys on 24 June 1340. Edward de Monthermer served in Scotland in 1334, and, although the second son, was summoned to parliament in 1337; he accompanied Edward III to Antwerp in 1338, and fought at Vironfosse in 1339. He died in December 1339 and was buried near his mother in the church of the Augustinian friars at Clare. Thomas's daughter Margaret married John Montagu, from 1357 first Lord Montagu, in 1343. The titles of viscount and marquess of Monthermer were borne in the first half of the eighteenth century by the dukes of Montagu, who claimed an erroneous descent from this marriage.


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