Edward II: January 1320

Parliament Rolls of Medieval England. Originally published by Boydell, Woodbridge, 2005.

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1320 January

Introduction January 1320


20 January - the terminating date is unknown but was probably on 28 or 29 January, or slightly earlier.

For the writs of summons see PW, II, ii, 215-16

(There is no surviving roll for this parliament)

The political settlement of 1318 was still working during the York parliament of May 1319, which was attended by Lancaster and a large number of his retainers. The war with Scotland was discussed at length during this parliament and it was decided to mount a campaign to recover the strategic border town and fortress of Berwick which the Scots had taken in April 1318. All the leading magnates, including Lancaster, answered the summons and Edward began the siege of Berwick on 7 September 1319. The king however broke off the siege on 17 September after a Scottish force under Sir James Douglas entered Yorkshire and defeated an army hastily gathered by the archbishop of York and bishop of Ely at Myton-on-Swale near York on 12 September. Edward was forced to open urgent negotiations with the Scots for a two-year truce which was agreed in late December. Relations between Edward and Lancaster also deteriorated once more, engendered by suspicions on the king's side that Lancaster had connived in the Scots attack and on Lancaster's side that, if Berwick had been taken, Edward would then have turned the army against him. There is also evidence that the behaviour of Hugh Despenser the Younger, who had merely been one of a number of royal favourites until his appointment as chamberlain of the royal household in 1318, also contributed to the failure of the 1319 campaign. Together with his father, Hugh Despenser the Elder, he was starting to achieve the control of royal favour that led to the outbreak of open civil war in 1321-22. (fn. J1320int-1)

The writs of summons were issued at York on 6 November 1319 for a parliament to meet at York on 20 January 1320. The writs say that the king has proposed the holding of 'parliamentum nostrum' to have a 'colloquium and tractatum' with those attending. A marginal note on the Close Roll also describes the intended meeting as a parliament.

Writs of summons were issued on 6 November 1319 to the two archbishops, sixteen bishops (including the four Welsh bishops), twenty-eight abbots, and four priors; nine earls (Lancaster, Norfolk, Surrey, Pembroke, Hereford, Arundel, Oxford, the earl of Angus from Scotland, and the earl of Richmond), seventy-three barons; twenty-five royal judges and clerks. Representatives of the knights of the shire and burgesses, and of the lower clergy were not summoned on this occasion.

The writs of summons issued on 6 November gave the purpose of the parliament as 'various arduous affairs touching the king and the state of the kingdom and of his duchy [Aquitaine].'

Lancaster's initial failure to attend parliament at York on 20 January 1320, allegedly because it was being held in cameriis (i.e., not held in a public place), was another indication of how far relations with Edward had deteriorated. (fn. J1320int-2) The situation seems to have spurred Edward into an unaccustomed burst of activity. While at York he addressed the parliament on the subject of Anglo-French relations, informing the magnates that he had earlier arranged to meet king Philip V of France on 9 March to perform homage for Aquitaine, but that because of delays by the French a meeting was no longer possible on this date. (fn. J1320int-3) It was then decided that he should go to France in May to perform homage for Aquitaine to Philip V, and in March the king's half-brother, Edmund, left for Paris to arrange the necessary safe conducts. It was also decided to transfer the Exchequer and Bench from York, where they had been since September 1318, back to Westminster. On 23 January the outgoing chancellor, the bishop of Ely, delivered up the great seal in the king's chamber in the house of the Friars Minor, in the presence of the earl of Pembroke, Badlesmere, and Hugh Despenser the Younger, and on 23 January the seal was given to his successor, the bishop of Norwich. On 28 January the earl of Angus, Henry de Beaumont, John Mowbray, John Clavering, and Andrew Harclay made a bond for £6000 with Pembroke, Badlesmere, and Despenser. The purpose was probably to guarantee their observance of the truce recently concluded with the Scots. After the end of the parliament in late January, Edward and Isabella left York. Although there is some indication that Lancaster may have attended the closing days of the parliament, his relations with the king were very bad. Edward and Isabella were greeted by cries of abuse from Lancaster's retainers as they passed Pontefract, and reached London on 16 February. (fn. J1320int-4)

Although the writs of summons are clear that the assembly was a parliament, the meeting was held in the absence of the knights and burgesses, who were not summoned on this occasion. There is no indication that petitions were either received or answered. There is no surviving Parliament Roll and it seems unlikely that one ever existed.


  • J1320int-1. Phillips, Aymer de Valence , 184-8; Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster , 243-53.
  • J1320int-2. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster , 253, citing the Vita Edwardi Secundi , 104.
  • J1320int-3. These and other details are given in a speech delivered (it is not recorded by whom) at the opening of the following parliament, held at Westminster in October 1320. See the Parliament of October 1320, C 49/43/20.
  • J1320int-4. Phillips, Aymer de Valence , 187-9; Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster , 253-5.