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Audley, Hugh, earl of Gloucesterlocked

(c. 1291–1347)
  • J. R. Maddicott

Audley, Hugh, earl of Gloucester (c. 1291–1347), magnate, was the second son of Sir Hugh Audley (c.1267–c.1326) of Stratton Audley, Oxfordshire, by his marriage to Isolt (d. in or after 1336), widow of Sir Walter de Balun and daughter of Edmund (I) de Mortimer (d. 1304) of Wigmore, Herefordshire. Audley senior was a minor baron, with lands in Gloucestershire as well as Oxfordshire and a long record of service to the crown. This was the route by which his son rose into the higher nobility. Probably introduced to the court by his father, Audley junior first appears as a newly created knight of Edward II's household in November 1311 and thereafter rapidly became a central figure in Edward's circle. In March 1312 he was among the senior household men whom Edward sent to a magnate assembly to give the king's views on matters relating to the ordinances; in November 1313 he received a life grant of escheated lands; and in 1315 he was active on household business, serving, for example, as Edward's envoy to Thomas, earl of Lancaster. Loyalty and ability are likely to have been the qualities that most commended him to his master, who in 1317 rewarded him with one of the greatest prizes at his disposal: marriage on 28 April to Margaret de Clare (1291/2?–1342), widow of the former royal favourite Piers Gaveston, earl of Cornwall, and coheir to the estates of her brother, Gilbert de Clare, eighth earl of Gloucester, who had died at Bannockburn.

From 1316 to 1319 Audley was one of a small group of courtiers, including Roger Damory and Hugh Despenser the younger, husbands of the other two Gloucester coheiresses, who kept a tight grip on Edward II's patronage and favour, though he was perhaps the least prominent of the three. During this period he contracted to serve Edward for life and from 1317 he was summoned to parliament. The violent opposition to the king's friends of Thomas of Lancaster forced Audley to leave the court in 1318, but he returned to serve in the royal army at the siege of Berwick in September 1319. By this time the acquisitiveness of the younger Despenser was beginning to fracture the unity of the court, and Audley was one of Despenser's first victims. His holdings in south Wales—the gains of his marriage—made him vulnerable to Despenser's territorial ambitions in that area, and by May 1320 he had lost control of Gwynllŵg and Newport. These and similar provocations led Audley to join other marchers and former courtiers in rebellion, under the leadership of Lancaster, their one-time enemy. Audley's lands were confiscated in April 1321 and in March 1322 he was captured at Boroughbridge, in Yorkshire, where Lancaster's forces were conclusively defeated.

Between 1322 and 1326 Audley was in prison, escaping execution only through the influence of his wife, Edward's niece and the younger Despenser's sister-in-law. After Edward II's overthrow in 1326 he was restored and he received back a substantial portion of his estates. This did not prevent his joining the revolt of Henry, third earl of Lancaster, against the corrupt government of Queen Isabella and Roger (V) Mortimer, first earl of March, in 1328. In January 1329 he surrendered and was fined £10,000, a sum eventually remitted.

After the coup that established Edward III on the throne in 1330 he once again became an active royal agent, serving as envoy to France in 1331 and fighting in the Scottish campaigns of the mid-1330s. In March 1337 he was created earl of Gloucester—a title he owed to his wife's inheritance, to his own services to the crown, and to his popularity with the baronage. For the remainder of his career he continued to serve Edward III, fighting in Scotland, at the siege of Dunbar, in 1337–8, joining Edward in Flanders in 1339, and taking part in the battle of Sluys in 1340 and in Edward's Brittany campaign of 1342. He died on 10 November 1347, leaving only a daughter, Margaret, who married Ralph Stafford, later first earl of Stafford. He was buried among his wife's Clare ancestors at Tonbridge Priory in Kent. In surviving the conspicuous favour of Edward II in order to go on to win that of Edward III he had followed a course unusual enough to suggest both his high abilities and his political dexterity.

Sources

  • N. Denholm-Young, ed. and trans., Vita Edwardi secundi (1957)
  • W. Stubbs, ed., Chronicles of the reigns of Edward I and Edward II, 2 vols., Rolls Series, 76 (1882–3)
  • J. C. Davies, The baronial opposition to Edward II (1918)
  • J. R. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster, 1307–1322: a study in the reign of Edward II (1970)
  • J. R. S. Phillips, Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, 1307–1324: baronial politics in the reign of Edward II (1972)
G. E. C. [G. E. Cokayne], , 8 vols. (1887–98); new edn, ed. V. Gibbs & others, 14 vols. in 15 (1910–98); microprint repr. (1982) and (1987)
Chancery records (Public Record Office)