Archiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 2002-04 > 1019199364

From: (Douglas Richardson)
Subject: Re: Did Isabel le Despenser marry Richard de Arundel and Maurice de Berkeley?
Date: 18 Apr 2002 23:56:04 -0700
References: <>

Dear Newsgroup ~

Today I had a chance to check various records regarding the two
purported sisters, Isabel le Despenser, wife of Richard de Arundel,
Earl of Arundel, and Isabel/Elizabeth Despenser, wife of Maurice de

I found helpful but conflicting information regarding the two women
and their siblings in the book, For Her Good Estate, by Frances
Underhill, published in 1999. As per Ms. Underhill's research, Hugh
le Despenser and his wife, Eleanor de Clare, had three sons, Hugh,
Edward, and Gilbert, as well as five daughters, Isabel (married
Richard, Earl of Arundel), Eleanor (nun at Sempingham), Joan (nun at
Sempringham), Margaret (nun), and Elizabeth (wife of Maurice de
Berkeley). Pugh, Glamorgan, 3:175 reportedly mentions only three of
the daughters, Isabel, Eleanor, and Joan.

Ms. Underhill explains that on the fall of Hugh le Despenser in the
1320's, Queen Isabel ordered the immediate veiling of younger three
Despenser daughters, namely Eleanor, Joan and Margaret "to remain for
ever under the under and regular habit of that house ... to be
professed in the same as speedily as possible." All three women
remained in religious orders the rest of their lives.

Ms. Underhill explains that Isabel, evidently the oldest of the
Despenser daughters, escaped the fate of her sisters by virtue of her
having already married Richard, Earl of Arundel. However, she fails
to explain why the fifth daughter, Elizabeth, was excluded from the
Queen's order.

Regarding Isabel le Despenser, wife of Richard, Earl of Arundel, she
gives few particulars. She merely notes that Isabel sent a gift of
fish to her aunt, Elizabeth de Burgh, in 1351-2. So clearly Isabel
was living as late as that date. This is new information and is an
addition to Complete Peerage.

As for Isabel/Elizabeth le Despenser, wife of Maurice de Berkeley, she
states that this couple were married in 1338. Yet, on page 90, she
informs the reader that Elizabeth le Despenser was delivered by the
prioress of Wix to her aunt, Elizabeth de Burgh, in August 1338. She
adds: "The young girl was part of her aunt's familia for about a year
and a half before she was sent to Tewkesbury, presumably to join the
Berkeley family."

The inconsistency of the dates is odd, as Elizabeth le Despenser was
supposedly married in 1338, yet Underhill explains she was a member of
her aunt's household from 1338 to 1340. Also, as best I can
determine, Ms. Underhill seems to be unaware that Elizabeth le
Despenser, wife of Maurice de Berkeley, was also called Isabel.

Moving onward, I checked the Patent and Close Rolls for any other
mention of Isabel/Elizabeth le Despenser, wife of Maurice de Berkeley.
I found two references to her in the Close Rolls, namely, in 1368,
when dower was ordered to be granted to her on her husband's death,
and in 1389, at her own death. In both instances, she is called

While Ms. Underhill treats the two women as separate individuals, as
best I can determine, there is a possibility that the two women were
the same person. Clearly Elizabeth was not included in the Queen's
order to veil her sisters. If Elizabeth was the same person as the
older daughter, Isabel, who was married at this date, it would explain
Elizabeth's exclusion from the Queen's order.

Likewise, it appears that Isabel, wife of Richard de Arundel, lived
apart from her husband for many years prior to their divorce. As
such, it would not be surprising if she resided at Wix Priory during
the 1330's and joined her aunt's household during the period,

What is not explained is how Elizabeth, wife of Maurice de Berkeley,
can reportedly be married in 1338, yet still be a member of her aunt's
household in 1340. The only possible explanation is that Elizabeth
was married in 1338, but that the marriage was not consumated until
1340. During the period of Elizabeth's espousals, she resided with
her aunt. If so, that would suggest that Elizabeth was born about
1325, and thus would have been an infant at the time of her father's
fall from power. If she was an infant in the 1320's, this could
explain why she was spared the fate of her three sisters who were
veiled on the Queen's orders.

So, while the evidence leaves it unclear that Isabel le Despenser and
her sister, Elizabeth, were two separate individuals, I believe this
matter can be quickly resolved. According to the record in the Close
Roll following the death of Elizabeth (le Despenser) de Berkeley, it
states she was jointly enfeoffed with her husband, Maurice de
Berkeley, by his father in the manors of Awre and Hurst (in Lydney),
co. Gloucester. This enfeoffment probably took place at the time of
Elizabeth and Maurice's marriage. If a record of the enfeoffment can
be found, and, if it dates prior to Isabel le Despenser's annulment of
her marriage to Richard, Earl of Arundel, then it will be clear that
the two women were separate and distinct people. If so, it will mark
another case where the names, Isabel and Elizabeth, were used
interchangably to the confusion of us modern historians and

Sometimes you just want to dig their bones up and shake them.

Best always, Douglas Richardson, Salt Lake City, Utah


(Douglas Richardson) wrote in message news:<>...
> Dear Newsgroup ~
> Recently as I was going through the book, Illustrated History of Late
> Medieval England, by Chris Given-Wilson, published in 1996, I found an
> ancient chart on page 61 (temp. King Edward IV) which lists the
> children of Hugh Despenser, the younger, by Eleanor de Clare. This
> chart lists one daughter for this couple named Isabel, but no
> daughter, Elizabeth.
> It has been commonly believed, however, that Hugh and Eleanor
> Despenser had two daughters, Isabel, who married Richard de Arundel,
> Earl of Arundel and Surrey, and, Elizabeth, wife of Maurice de
> Berkeley. In the course of my research, I have encountered two
> records in which Maurice de Berkeley's wife is called Isabel rather
> than Elizabeth. As such, I can't help but wonder if there wasn't just
> one Despenser daughter here but with two marriages.
> From contemporary evidence, we know that Richard de Arundel's wife,
> Isabel le Despenser, was born about 1313, she being aged 8 at her
> marriage in 1321. This marriage was subsequently annulled in 1344.
> Isabel le Despenser is known to have been still living in 1345. She
> subsequently vanishes from the records.
> Maurice de Berkeley and his wife, Isabel, were presumably married soon
> afterwards, as their eldest son and heir, Thomas, was born in 1353.
> The Berkeley pedigree found in the 1623 Visitation of Shropshire
> identifies Maurice's wife as follows: "Maurice lo. Berkley ob. 42 E.
> 3. = Isabell da. to Hugh Lo. Spencer") [Reference: H.S.P. 28 (1889):
> 30]. I find that Maurice's wife is likewise called Isabel in a papal
> letter dated 1365 (Reference: Calendar of Entries in the Papal
> Registers: Letters, 4 (1902): 47].
> Does anyone have any records which would conclusively show that Isabel
> le Despenser did not marry secondly Maurice de Berkeley? As best as I
> see, the chronology permits the first Isabel's marriage to both
> Richard de Arundel and Maurice de Berkeley. Or did Hugh le Despenser
> have two daughters both named Isabel?
> Comments invited.
> Best always, Douglas Richardson, Salt Lake City, Utah
> E-mail:

This thread: