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Valence [Lusignan], William de, earl of Pembrokelocked

(d. 1296)
  • H. W. Ridgeway

William de Valence, earl of Pembroke (d. 1296)

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Valence [Lusignan], William de, earl of Pembroke (d. 1296), magnate, was the fourth or fifth son of Isabella of Angoulême, widow of King John, and her second husband, whom she married in 1220, Hugues (X) de Lusignan, count of La Marche. He was born probably at Valence, a hamlet of Couhé (Vienne), some 20 miles south of Poitiers: the date is unknown, but F. R. Lewis has argued for the period 1227–31, when Isabella was, astonishingly, aged over forty. His childhood, otherwise obscure, witnessed the near ruination of the powerful Lusignans in 1241–2 in a rebellion against the Capetians supported by Henry III. After its failure his parents went into retirement, and partitioned their lands between their sons in 1242, assigning Valence the castellanies of Montignac, Bellac, Rancon, and Champagnac; but he had still not reached his majority in June 1246.

Early career and acquisitions in England

In the summer of 1247 the Lusignans accepted Henry III's invitation to visit England. Valence and his brother Aymer de Lusignan (d. 1260) and sister Alice and a few adherents settled at court, whereas two elder brothers, Guy and Geoffroi, and others, returned home with pensions. Henry hoped thereby to cultivate clients among the Poitevin nobility, to advance his interests against the Capetians, and to protect Gascony. There is some truth, however, in the chroniclers' assertion that Valence really owed his advancement to Henry's affection and plans to create a strengthened royal family in England. Henry arranged his marriage on 13 August 1247 to Joan (d. 1307), daughter of Warin de Munchensi (d. 1255), who, thanks to her brother's recent death, was a coheir to £703 p.a. of the Marshal estate; thus Valence became in the right of his wife lord of Wexford, and lord of Pembroke and Goodrich castles. Probably as part of the marriage contract, Henry granted him in 1247 Hertford Castle at pleasure (for life from 1249) and a double money fee: 500 marks p.a. for life, with an additional £500 p.a., the latter eventually to be replaced by lands held in fee. There were a handful of other lucrative perquisites which enabled him to purchase the west-country Pont de l'Arche estate in 1252 and the Northumbrian Bertram lands in the 1260s. Consequently, on 22 August 1248, during his first return to Poitou, Valence ceded Montignac to his brother Geoffroi.

Although Valence was almost constantly at court for the next ten years in England, Matthew Paris's account of his influence, much coloured by later events, is not entirely supported by the records. At first he was often unruly, probably because the king was too slow to replace his money fee with lands. Henry ceremoniously knighted him at Westminster on 13 October 1247. Until 1249 he was active in tournaments, for which the king temporarily confiscated his estates in October 1249. These tournaments won him the earliest English knights for his retinue, together with powerful friends, such as his brother-in-law John de Warenne, earl of Surrey (d. 1304), and Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester (d. 1262). Valence took the cross with Henry III on 6 March 1250 at the Great Hall at Westminster, but in November 1251 the king closed all ports to prevent his going on crusade independently to rescue Louis IX. Although this may have been one of his attempts to extract more grants from Henry, Valence did make some preparations for crusade, leasing assets and securing papal promises of 2200 marks (part of which was paid by the mid-1250s). By early 1252 Henry had replaced Valence's money-fee of 500 marks p.a. with large wardships, such as that of Fitzjohn of Warkworth, Northumberland (held until 1268), and had begun to find him additional manors.

The Lusignans and their rivals, 1252–1258

In 1252 the importance of the Lusignans was greatly increased for a while by the outbreak of rebellion in Gascony, which they were instrumental in crushing. In January Valence joined the royal council, arbitrating in Henry's dispute with Simon de Montfort (d. 1265) over the lieutenancy of Gascony. The Lusignans now began to quarrel arrogantly with magnates, confident that the king would not punish them. In October 1252 Valence raided the lands of the bishop of Ely at Hatfield, and at the end of the year he joined his brother Aymer, bishop-elect of Winchester, in the notorious raid on the palaces of Boniface of Savoy, the archbishop of Canterbury. From this point onwards, if Matthew Paris and others are to be believed, the court was divided by struggles between the Lusignans and the queen's family, the Savoyards. Valence retained the friendship of the earl of Gloucester whose heir, Gilbert de Clare (d. 1295), married his niece Alice, in January 1253, and shortly after that they went on an unsuccessful tournamenting expedition to France. By October 1253 Valence joined Henry III in Gascony where the Lusignans raised a large force of over 100 Poitevin knights for the campaign. Valence helped to settle the border areas of Bergerac and Gensac and to arbitrate in the dispute between Simon de Montfort and Gaston de Béarn over Bigorre. Characteristically, he tried further to pressurize Henry for lands, but obtained only the promise of a large wardship. During the winter of 1254 he accompanied Henry back to England via Paris and in 1255 was rewarded with the wardship for a year of his rich kinsman, William de Munchensi (d. 1287).

From 1255 to 1257 Valence remained high in the king's affections, but the records do not show him active in formulating policy; he was excluded by older rivals, especially Savoyards. In September 1255 he went north with the king and took a small part in negotiations concerning the minority of Alexander III, king of Scots. In the following month, at Windsor, he merely witnessed the king's acceptance of the ‘Sicilian business’; this is often mistaken as evidence that he proposed it. Even in January 1256 Henry ordered Valence to be consulted over Gascony only 'if expedient'. Only over the acceptance of the crown of Germany, by Richard, earl of Cornwall, at Christmas 1256 is it possible that Valence much influenced events.

The war with Llywelyn ap Gruffudd of Wales which broke out in 1256, however, suddenly made Valence indispensable in his own right as a marcher lord. Many of his estates were threatened. From the spring of 1257 his men of Pembroke under Roger of Leyburn were fighting against the Welsh at Carmarthen but he remained at court, witnessing on 10 April an ordinance on household economies and, no doubt, taking the councillors' oath of about that date reported in the Burton annals. In August he joined the king's ineffectual campaign at Deganwy where, according to John of Wallingford, he quarrelled with Humphrey (IV) de Bohun, earl of Hereford. When in April 1258 the truce with Llywelyn ended and the Welsh of Cemais raided Pembroke itself, Valence demanded revenge in parliament and accused Simon de Montfort and the earl of Gloucester of treachery. This helped precipitate the 'sworn conspiracy' of these two earls and five other magnates—all courtiers—on 12 April, which brought about the baronial reform movement and the Lusignans' eventual downfall.

Valence's rivals at court were afraid of the Lusignans' growing hold over the king and his heir. After Richard of Cornwall's departure for Germany in April 1257 Henry III increasingly turned to them for advice and financial assistance. Valence lent Henry 1100 marks in November 1257 and shortly afterwards, according to Matthew Paris, mortgaged Stamford and Grantham from the Lord Edward. An alliance then arose between Valence and Edward, whose lands were also threatened by the Welsh. Such developments, if unchecked, promised to give the Lusignans an indefinite monopoly on power. Their many enemies were enraged. Old quarrels again came to the surface. Litigants high and low had been denied justice against them, especially thanks to the king's order of about November 1256 (noted by Matthew Paris) forbidding any writ to be filed in chancery against them or other favourites. Their feud with the queen's family has been noted. Valence himself had sparred over rights in Pembrokeshire and Ireland with the earl of Hereford and his son. In 1257 his officials clashed with Simon de Montfort, provoking another confrontation in parliament in May. These disputes were complicated by their being rivals for land-grants from the king, where Henry favoured Valence. Valence also gained at the expense of other claimants on royal patronage, such as stewards of the household. His friendship with Edward even drove him apart from the earl of Gloucester, Edward's rival on the march. Thus, by 1258, although rising royal favourites, Valence and his brothers were politically isolated at court. Peter of Savoy and Montfort now advocated peace negotiations with Louis IX, undercutting the Lusignans' position. Thanks to the harshness of their estate officials, particularly Valence's notorious steward, William de Bussay, the Lusignans were accorded little sympathy in provincial society either. Indeed, they may even have been thought responsible for advising Henry's harsh rule of the localities, in order to raise money for the recent Welsh war. The Lusignans had become a major part of the general grievances accumulating against Henry III's personal rule.

Opposition to reform, and exile

The reform movement begun in April 1258, designed to win the king the support of the 'community of the realm', was deftly exploited by Valence's enemies. Although he and his brothers swore to support it, and were even nominated by the king onto the committee of twenty-four to draw up reforms, they soon fell foul of the new regime. Valence continued to frustrate Montfort's patronage claims and when, at the great Oxford parliament of June 1258, it was mooted to resume all alienations made from the crown, he refused his consent, only, according to Paris, to meet Montfort's riposte 'either you give up your castles or you lose your head' (Paris, Chron., 5.697–8). The Lusignans and their supporters, the Lord Edward and John de Warenne, fled at the end of the month to Bishop Aymer's castle at Winchester; however, they were easily forced to capitulate on 5 July and, after Valence refused the option to remain in custody until reforms were complete, they chose exile, sailing on 14 July. Valence accepted a pension of 3000 marks and the council placed his lands under some of his men, the revenues deposited at the New Temple, a remarkable arrangement that permitted his return; but the council later confiscated 1500 marks from his account.

Valence and his brothers reached Boulogne, where they eluded an ambush from Henry de Montfort bent on avenging his father. Despite the opposition of Louis IX's wife, the sister of the queen of England, the Lusignans were allowed passage to Poitou; Louis may have believed their expulsion indicated that the peace treaty under negotiation between himself and Henry III would now go ahead. Valence's wife, displeased by the council's financial arrangements for her, was allowed to join him in exile in December. Meanwhile, efforts were made to prevent his smuggling money out of the country and, indeed, his steward, William de Bussay, was apprehended in November 1258 when he attempted to return. In the following months Bussay and a handful of Valence's bailiffs were tried and imprisoned for their oppressions.

Valence at first attempted to consolidate his interests in Poitou, but soon became involved in plots for his return. On 2 March 1259 he purchased property in Limoges, and then reacquired Montignac from his brother, for he styled himself 'Lord of Pembroke and Montignac', in a remission of rights granted to Charroux Abbey on 7 and 14 October (Monsabert, 246–8). By December he was at Paris where he met secretly with Simon de Montfort who had quarrelled with the baronial regime. Here, allegedly at the king's instigation, they settled their private differences and prepared for Valence's return with the support of Montfort's new ally, the Lord Edward. Their plans were foiled by the failure of Edward's rising in the spring of 1260, but this alliance held firm. From August to October 1260 Valence was ordered by Edward to defend Lourdes and Tarbes in Bigorre for Montfort against Esquivat de Chabanais; and in the truce with Chabanais at Tarbes on 2 October he represented Montfort. On 27 November he met Edward at Paris, probably again to discuss returning, but Aymer de Lusignan's death on 4 December at Paris forced another postponement.

Return to the king's side, 1261–1265

Valence returned thanks to Henry III's overthrow of the provisions of Oxford in 1261. The king could, even in February, appoint Valence's retainer Geoffrey de Gascelin constable of Hertford. However, Valence's loyalties were at first unclear, because on 27 March the king attempted to prevent him landing with the Lord Edward, then still in opposition. When he did return with Edward at about Easter (24 April) it was possibly 'by assent of the barons [who opposed Henry's recovery of power]' (Liber de antiquis legibus, 49), and because he swore at Dover his oath to the provisions of Oxford and to answer those who had complaint against him (Flores historiarum, 2.466). Valence may have flirted with opposition to secure himself the best terms from his Savoyard rivals at court. But the king, none the less, easily detached him from Edward and Montfort, receiving him at Rochester on 30 April to peace with restoration of all lands.

For the remainder of 1261 Valence concentrated on repairing his estates. In 1262 he was more frequently at court, but, thanks to the Savoyards, his influence was much reduced. He was unable to secure his henchmen pardons or, until 10 July, to get the king to compensate him for his exile; he was still awaiting full payment in March 1263. In July 1262 he accompanied Henry III to France and with Henry of Almain, the king's nephew, attempted unsuccessfully to reconcile the king to the new earl of Gloucester, Gilbert de Clare. Valence left the king in August, perhaps in anger, for although Henry III ordered him to return to him in France on 14 October, he was still in London on 11 November. Henry III only detached him from Clare by a grant of part of the latter's lands on 10 December, increased in July 1263 to £500, with promise of a further £500 in September. Thus, Valence did not support Clare and Almain's uprising with Simon de Montfort in 1263 and, indeed, Clare long resented this betrayal.

For the remainder of the barons' wars Valence remained loyal to the king. In February 1263 he represented Henry at Paris to secure concessions made by Louis IX; he probably proceeded to Poitou to receive on Henry's behalf the homage of the vicomte de Turenne and others. In October he accompanied Henry for the Boulogne conference before the French king, at about the same time receiving the Cressy wardship. During the fighting against Montfortians in 1264 he was frequently in the Lord Edward's force, for example at the battle of Northampton on 5 April, in revenge for which the Londoners attacked his property and stole his money deposited at the Temple. At the battle of Lewes on 14 May he fought on the right wing in Edward's squadron with John de Warenne, but made his escape with Warenne and Geoffroi de Lusignan to Pevensey Castle and the continent. His lands were forfeit, Pembroke going to the rebel earl of Gloucester and Goodrich to Humphrey (V) de Bohun (known as the younger). Valence returned a year later, landing in Pembroke in May 1265 with John de Warenne, a number of Lusignans, and a substantial force; this fanned a general marcher revolt against Simon de Montfort. Edward escaped from captivity and with Valence surprised Simon de Montfort the younger at Kenilworth and defeated Montfort himself at Evesham on 4 August 1265. Valence joined the siege of the remaining Montfortians at Kenilworth and in May 1266, with John de Warenne, punished rebels at Bury St Edmunds. He was well rewarded with the lands of Montfortians, for example Humphrey de Bohun junior, Roger Bertram, and William de Munchensi. He played no part in drawing up the dictum of Kenilworth and, indeed, seems to have opposed it, his harshness driving Munchensi into further rebellion. Valence clashed repeatedly with the renegade earl of Gloucester when they seized rebels' lands. In 1269 Valence, John de Warenne, and Henry of Almain conspired against the rebel Robert de Ferrers, earl of Derby, and secured his lands for Edmund, earl of Lancaster. In 1267–8 Henry III finally replaced Valence's money-fee of £500 p.a. with lands, mainly in East Anglia.

Crusade and service under Edward I

From 1264 Valence revived his friendship with the Lord Edward. On 24 June 1268 at the parliament at Northampton he took the cross with Edward, John de Warenne, and Henry of Almain, promising under one of the earliest known military contracts to recruit nineteen knights for 2000 marks. In July 1268 he again visited Pembroke and was in Ireland, probably for the first time, in the spring of 1270, taking custody of Maurice Fitzgerald's heir whose wardship he and his daughter, Agnes, purchased from his fellow crusader, Thomas de Clare. On 20 August following he sailed for the Holy Land with Edward [see also Lord Edward's crusade]. His movements there are not known, but he acquired a cross with a foot of gold and emeralds (which his daughter-in-law was later to bequeath to Westminster Abbey). Following the attempt on Edward's life at Acre he was one of the executors of the prince's will, made on 18 June 1272, but he left the crusade early, in August, perhaps through fear for his estates at the hands of his old enemy, the earl of Gloucester. He returned independently to London on 11 January 1273, ahead of Edward, now king. On 7 June he was hunting illegally with his retinue in Hampshire.

Valence held many commands in Gascony and Wales under Edward I. On 3 September 1273 he received for Edward the fealty of the citizens of Limoges. He remained in Gascony with the king, but was reported illegally hunting in Hampshire on 29 November. He returned to Limoges in July 1274 to honour Edward's promise to defend the citizens, appointing a seneschal and besieging the vicomtesse de Limoges's castle at Aixe. On 19 August he attended Edward's coronation at Westminster. On 4 September he was again hunting illegally with his retinue in Hampshire. In February 1275 he represented Edward at the Paris parlement at Candlemas, receiving Gaston de Béarn's challenge to do single combat with Edward. Valence returned by May and Edward duly granted him the constableship of Cilgerran Castle and the wardship of the heirs of Roger de Somery, on condition that he paid some of the king's debts.

Valence played an active part in the campaign of 1277 against Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. With Prince Edmund he led a second army which marched up the coast from Pembroke and reached Aberystwyth by 25 July, where they laid the foundations of the new castle. They drove Llywelyn north into Snowdonia. Valence returned to Pembroke on 3 October, but by 27 December he was at Marwell, Hampshire.

After a quiet year spent mainly at court Valence was in June 1279 sent to receive the Agenais, ceded to Edward I under the peace of Amiens. He entered Agen on 8 August and two days later installed Jean de Grailly as seneschal. After an embassy to the king of Castile in November, in January 1280 he returned to Agen where he laid the foundations of Tournon and the bastide of Valence d'Agen. He returned to London by 6 June and remained in England for the next two years.

Valence fought in the final struggle against Llywelyn; in July 1282 the king appointed him to replace the earl of Gloucester as commander in west Wales, and rewarded him with the wardship for a year of his son-in-law, John Hastings, lord of Abergavenny. Valence's son, William the younger, had been killed by the Welsh on 16 June in an ambush near Llandeilo. After mustering another force at Carmarthen on 6 December against Llywelyn's last sortie, he crushed a further rebellion in Cardiganshire in January. He left Aberystwyth in April with over 1000 men and captured Prince Dafydd's last stronghold, Castell y Bere, in a ten-day siege. From September to Christmas 1284 he accompanied Edward I on his triumphal tour of Wales. It is notable, however, that Edward did not reward his loyalty with increased lands or liberties on the march; indeed, in 1285, despite Valence's personal remonstration at Aberystwyth, Edward ordered royal justices into Pembrokeshire to hear appeals by the earl of Hereford and the burgesses of Haverfordwest against Valence, a significant royal intrusion into marcher liberties.

From September 1286 to June 1289 Valence accompanied Edward to Gascony; he fell ill with fever at Saintes in November 1286. In September 1289 he helped negotiate at Salisbury the proposed marriage between Prince Edward and Margaret, the Maid of Norway. From January to March 1291 he was appointed to adjudicate in the feud on the Welsh march between the earls of Gloucester and Hereford; however, he and other marchers, fearing further royal assaults on their liberties, intervened to prevent Edward I carrying out the sentence. In the following August he assisted the king in the preliminary hearings of the Scottish succession at Berwick. On 10 December, at Westminster Abbey, he witnessed Edward's grant of the heart of Henry III to the nuns of Fontevraud for reburial. On 5 February 1292, at Westminster, the king appointed him one of the five to regulate tournaments under the laws of arms. In the summer he returned with the king to Norham, declaring that the Scottish succession should be decided according to English law, which favoured John de Balliol. In October, at Berwick, he was one of those marchers who granted Edward a fifteenth, provided that it would not constitute a precedent. In October 1294 the king sent him, with Roger (IV) Bigod, earl of Norfolk, to hold south Wales against the revolt of Madog ap Llywelyn.

Death and assessment

In January 1296 Valence, accompanied by his son Aymer de Valence (d. 1324), headed an embassy to Cambrai in a fruitless attempt to negotiate between Edward I and Philippe IV of France. Despite old age, he may have been involved in a skirmish, for he returned to England wounded and was met at Dover by a litter sent by his wife. He died at his manor of Brabourne in Kent on 16 May. John Leland's account that he was slain by the French at Bayonne on 13 June must, therefore, be incorrect. Valence was buried near Henry III at Westminster Abbey in the chapel of St Edmund and St Thomas the Martyr where his monument, an expensive piece of foreign workmanship, remains—a canopied stone altar-tomb bearing his effigy in wood covered with copper gilt, in full armour with heraldry and inscription, decorated in Limoges enamel. Valence was survived by his wife, Joan, who retained the title of countess of Pembroke, Pembroke and Goodrich castles, and Wexford until her death in September 1307. They had three sons: John, who died in childhood in January 1277, buried in the chapel of Edward the Confessor, Westminster Abbey, where his grave-slab survives; William the younger, who was killed by the Welsh on 16 June 1282, and who may be buried at Dorchester Abbey, Oxfordshire; and Aymer, born 1270×75, who succeeded in 1296 as lord of Montignac and in 1307 as earl of Pembroke. There were also four daughters: Isabel (d. 1305), who married in 1275 John Hastings (d. 1313); Margaret, who died in childhood on 24 March 1276 and was buried with John de Valence at Westminster Abbey; Agnes (d. 1310), who married first, in 1266, Maurice Fitzgerald (d. 1268), second Hugh de Balliol (d. 1271), and third Jean d'Avesnes (d. 1283); and Joan, who married John Comyn, lord of Badenoch (d. 1306).

Valence was never created an earl by Henry III or Edward I. On his seal, and in most of his charters, he merely styled himself ‘lord of Pembroke’. His wife, in fact, only inherited part of the Marshal earldom of Pembroke. However, control of the Pembrokeshire county court may have led to his assumption of the title of earl in documents by the late 1280s, and in the 1290s Edward I occasionally accepted it, even summoning him to parliament as earl in 1295, a unique example of informal elevation, perhaps an inexpensive reward for Valence's loyalty. His relationship with the king was always one of dependence as much as kinship. His scattered estates, a half held by marriage, were worth some £1500 p.a., relatively modest for an ‘earl’; his income needed royal grants, such as wardships, to increase it by an average of £1000 p.a., which prevented him from pursuing an independent political line or developing a large retinue. Thus, his benefactions were modest: mainly to Pembroke Priory and the foundation of a hospital at Tenby. His disputes with the Clares and Bohuns arose from their being fellow Marshal coheirs whose claims much reduced the extent of Pembroke. Valence pursued another vendetta against the Munchensis, culminating in his unsuccessful attempt in 1289 to have William de Munchensi's surviving daughter, Dionysia, bastardized; he was almost certainly supported by his wife, who hated the descendants of her father Warin de Munchensi's second marriage, who deprived her of the family inheritance. But Valence's poor reputation has been much exaggerated: in 1270, for example, he refused to be dishonest and break open a private letter (Shirley, 2.345). He inspired the lasting affection of his wife and his brother-in-law, John de Warenne, one of his executors. Vilified as an 'alien' in the reign of Henry III, his interests were, in fact, overwhelmingly English, justifying the Dunstable annalist's epitaph of (satis fidelis regno Anglie'sufficiently faithful to the kingdom of England'; Ann. Mon., 3.400).


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