Edward II: October 1320

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

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In this section

1320 October

Introduction October 1320


6 October - 25/26 October

For the writs of summons see PW, II, ii, 219-30

(Records of the parliament: there are three separate records for this parliament)

1. C 49/43/20: speech prepared for delivery at the opening of the parliament. There is no indication as to who delivered the speech. The document has previously been edited in R & S , 87. The speech does not appear in the Roll of this parliament, which begins with the arrangements for the receipt of petitions.

2. C 153/1, ff.78r-93v: this is the important manuscript known as the Vetus Codex which contains a fourteenth-century transcript of the Parliament Rolls of 18-35 Edward I and 14 Edward II. The record of the 1320 Parliament is transcribed between the Parliaments of 22 and 26 Edward I. The Vetus Codex text was used for the edition of the 1320 parliament in RP , i, 365-86. The text is almost identical to that in the Parliament Roll, SC 9/23, except that the material appears in a different order and the proceedings on the petition of the abbot of Ramsey are incomplete. (For more details see the discussion of SC9/23 below). The Vetus Codex, C.153/1, f.155r, contains a list of the major items of business which were transacted in the York parliaments of October 1318 and May 1319. It is possible that the compiler of the Vetus Codex also intended to transcribe the rolls of the 1318 and 1319 parliaments.

3. SC 9/23: Parliament Roll. This was unknown to the editors of RP and has not previously been edited. A hand-written note in the PRO copy of RP , i, 365, says that the roll was found in November 1861 among the documents called Nomina Villarum in the Pipe Series. The Deputy Keeper ordered the roll to be placed in the SC 9 series of Parliament Rolls. The roll has been used as the basis of the PROME edition, in preference to the Vetus Codex, with which it has been collated. The differences between the Vetus Codex and SC 9/23 are in general minimal, with even some of the same mistakes appearing, but the order of the Vetus Codex reflects a different membrane order (as can be seen from the RP edition): 1, 2, 3, 4, (as in SC 9/23), then 9d, 9r, 6r, 6d, 7r, 7d, 8r, 8d, 10r, 10d, 5r, 5d. The two schedules containing material relevant to the abbot of Ramsey's petition and included in the roll are not copied into the Vetus Codex, and the abbot of Ramsey's petition breaks off after a few sentences only at the bottom of a page. This entry, omitted in the Vetus Codex, is edited in R & S , 87-90, from SC 9/23. Either subsequent folios have been lost or, more likely, the clerk ceased to transcribe the petition at this point since he knew that the proceedings on the petition were incomplete. The original petition and the royal writ to the sheriff of Huntingdon, written on slips of parchment, were inserted, apparently in their original place, between membranes 9 and 10 of the roll in 1927. R & S used the original petition to help establish the text of the enrolment of the petition, but did not publish the petition itself. They did however print the writ to the sheriff of Huntingdon ( R & S , 91). For the PROME edition both the petition and the writ have been edited in their proper place between mm.9 and 10. The enrolled proceedings on the dispute between the abbot of Ramsey and the bishop of Ely appear to have lasted, with many adjournments, from October 1320, when the abbot lodged his petition, until January 1327. This suggests that the record of the proceedings was added to the roll at a later date and may explain why the Vetus Codex version of the text broke off just after the start of the abbot of Ramsey's petition. It also seems likely that the roll was put together in its final form some years after the 1320 Parliament to which it refers, and that in the process the membranes were placed in a different order from the text available to the copyist of the Vetus Codex.

C 49/43/20 is a single membrane, written in a neat official hand on the recto only. It is a rough rectangle, approximately 240-250 mm broad, by 190-210 mm long.

C 153/1: the 'Vetus Codex' is a manuscript in book form, consisting of 157 numbered parchment folios of 335 by 205 mm (ruled 270 by 135-140 mm), preceded by nine unnumbered paper folios and succeeded by thirty-three unnumbered folios also of paper, of which only the first has any writing and represents the beginning of a later index to the contents. It contains partial transcripts (apparently carefully checked against the originals) of a number of parliament rolls of various dates between 1290 and 1307 plus that recording a single parliament of 1320. Maitland believed that the volume was probably copied at various dates and that parts of it may even have been copied as early as the reign of Edward I [ Memoranda de Parliamento , 349]. The transcripts taken from the records of the parliament of Edward I are numbered in a single sequence of roman numerals, but the parliament of 1320 does not form part of this sequence [The numbers are given in Memoranda de Parliamento , 347-8]. Maitland suggests that the Vetus Codex may have been the 'book of parliaments' delivered into the treasury by the treasurer in 1322, that it was the 'book of parliaments' borrowed by a chancery clerk from the treasury in 1357 and that it was also the 'book of parliaments' cited in a Patent Roll exemplification of 1382 [ Memoranda de Parliamento , x; the 1382 entry is calendared in CPR 1381-5 , 214]. He also noted evidence that the volume had strayed from official custody by the first half of the sixteenth century, but that it then passed into the ownership of successive keepers of the records at the Tower of London from 1599 onwards and thereafter remained in official custody [ Memoranda de Parliamento , x-xii]. The volume was printed in its entirety in 1661 by William Ryley junior in his Placita Parliamentaria . The 1320 parliament occupies folios 78r to 93v, where it breaks off at the foot of the folio, just after the start of the Abbot of Ramsey's petition. On fol. 78r is the heading: 'Parliamentum apud Westm' convocatum die lune in octabis Sancti Michaelis anno regni regis Edwardi filii regis [E interlined] quartodecimo'. It is not included in the sequence of numbers given to the Edward I parliaments in the book. The hand does not differ greatly from the other hands found in the Vetus Codex. The version of this parliament in the Vetus Codex contains exactly the same material as the roll, although the order of the membranes has been altered, and the end of the Abbot of Ramsey's petition is missing: there is no sign of the selection of items that has taken place with the Edward I parliaments. It does not feature in the index on the first of the guard folios at the end of the volume.

SC 9/23 is a roll of ten membranes, sewn together at the head. The stitching is modern, and the end of each membrane is encased in a paper guard about 60mm long, before these are sewn together. Modern conservation has also built up the foot of membranes 3, 5, 8, 9 and 10, and the whole is enclosed in a protective wrapper 275mm wide. The roll is written in a neat official hand, in a similar style throughout, if not necessarily by the same scribe. The only place where a change of hand, or at least a change of ink, seems obvious is on the dorse of m. 7, between the petitions of Guillaume de Bruly and of the executors of Queen Margaret. The writ and petition inserted between membranes 9 and 10 are in slightly different hands. The roll as a whole is somewhat discoloured and hard to read in places. Several membranes show signs of water damage. The membranes are numbered at the foot, in a modern hand, in pencil. The number of m. 10 appears to have been altered. Their order appears to have been altered: the Vetus Codex copies this parliament in the order 1r, 2r, 2d, 3r, 3d, 4r, 4d, 9d, 9r, 6r, 6d, 7r, 7d, 8r, 8d, 10r, 10d, 5r, 5d, and it would seem from the headings of the membranes of petitions that this was the original order. The writ and petition between membranes 9 and 10 are not found in the Vetus Codex, and were a recent addition: a note inserted just before them reads '2 document (sic: the note is on a form, which gives the singular) found loose and inserted here in their original place (see filing holes). 18.8.1927.' Membrane 1 is 210mm wide at the top, tapering slightly to 205 at the foot. It is 640mm long from the beginning of the paper guard. Written on the recto only, it is badly worn and discoloured, making it the hardest membrane to read. Membrane 2 is 210mm wide at the top, 200-205mm at the foot, and 845mm long. It is written on both sides. A note in a contemporary hand at the foot of the dorse reads: 'Rotuli de parliamento regis Edwardi filii regis Edwardi, apud Westm' convocato in octabis Sancti Michaelis, anno regni sui quartodecimo.' Membrane 3 in 210mm wide at the top, 200-205mm wide at the foot, and 735mm long. Both this and membrane 2 are at their narrowest towards the middle of the membrane, widening out again slightly at the foot. Both sides of the parchment have been used. A large water stain can be seen on both sides of the parchment, just above half-way down, on the left-hand side of the membrane, as seen from the recto. Membrane 4 is 210mm wide at the top, 205mm wide at the foot, and 735mm long. It is written on both sides. There are small faint water stains just above halfway down on both recto and dorse. Membrane 5 is 220mm wide at the top, 210 mm wide at the foot, and 640 mm long. It is written on both sides. The two paragraphs from 'Johannes Elien' episcopus ponit loco suo . . .' appear to have been added later, as, judging by the ink, do the various adjournments of the case. The last adjournment ignores the margin observed on the rest of the membrane. There are a number of small stains, some of which do not appear to have been made by water, near the top on both sides. Membrane 6 is 215mm wide throughout, and 685mm long, and is written on both sides. Membrane 7 is 210mm wide and 630mm long. Both sides are used. There is slight water damage just above halfway down the membrane on both sides: not, however, enough to obscure the writing. Membrane 8 is 210mm wide and 740mm long. Both sides of the parchment are used. There are mild water stains near the top on both sides, but further down the parchment has become blackened, and the writing worn, faded and hard to read. Membrane 9 is in good condition, apart from the conservation work at the foot. Its width varies between 210 and 215mm, and it is 700mm long. Both sides of the membrane have been written on. Between membranes 9 and 10 there are a writ and a petition. The writ is 230mm wide, and between 70mm (at the left-hand side) and 65 mm (at the right-hand side) long. There is a small hole 45mm from the left-hand edge and 30mm from the top. The sheriff's response on the dorse has been damaged by water until it is almost illegible. The petition which follows it measures 215mm by 125mm. Again the writing on the dorse is badly worn. A margin of 35mm has been left on the dorse, apparently to take into account the hole which, from the recto, is 40mm from the left-hand edge and 25mm from the top. Membrane 10 measures 212mm by 690mm. At the foot is sewn a parchment guard, measuring 240mm by 375mm, and blank except for the modern number 5, which has been scored out and replaced with 23. Both sides of the parchment are used. At the foot of the dorse of the membrane proper is the contemporary identification (very faint and hard to read): 'Rotuli de parliamento convocato apud Westm' in octabis Sancti Michaelis anno regni regis Edwardi filii regis Edwardi.

During the January parliament Edward had told the assembled magnates that he had planned to meet Philip V of France on 9 March 1320, in order to perform his homage for the duchy of Aquitaine and the counties of Ponthieu and Montreuil, which had been due since Philip's accession to the French throne in 1316. But because of delays on the part of the French, this date could not be met. It was then decided that he should instead go to France in May to perform homage. In March the king's half-brother, Edmund of Woodstock, Hugh Despenser the Elder and Bartholomew of Badlesmere left for Paris to arrange the necessary safe conducts. From Paris the ambassadors went to the papal curia where they apparently petitioned the pope to release Edward II from his oath to uphold the Ordinances. If so, it is not clear whether they succeeded. Nothing could have been more calculated to offend the earl of Lancaster. On 19 June Edward and Isabella crossed to France, leaving the earl of Pembroke as keeper of the realm. On 29 June Edward performed homage for Aquitaine and Ponthieu in the cathedral at Amiens. At about this time he was joined by Edmund of Woodstock, Despenser and Badlesmere with news of their visit to Avignon. A few days later, when the two kings met to renew the alliance of perpetual friendship concluded between Edward I and Philip IV in 1303, a French councillor suggested that Edward should also swear fealty. This was firmly rejected by Edward in a recorded speech which clearly represents his own views. It is an incident which suggests that, although in some situations Edward could be unduly influenced by people in whom he placed particular trust or by his hatred of other individuals such as Lancaster, he nonetheless possessed greater abilities as king than are usually credited to him. The episode is one of a number of signs of a new energy and initiative, and perhaps a growing self- confidence, on Edward's part. Edward returned to England on 22 July and reached London on 2 August. (fn. f1320oint-1)

The writs of summons were issued at Westminster on 5 August 1320 for a parliament to meet at Westminster on 6 October 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 5 August 1320 to the two archbishops, nineteen bishops (including the four Welsh bishops), twenty-eight abbots, and four priors; ten earls (Edward earl of Chester (the future Edward III). This is the first occasion on which he was summoned), Lancaster, Norfolk, Surrey, Pembroke, Hereford, Arundel, Oxford, the earl of Angus from Scotland, and the earl of Richmond), seventy-four barons; thirty-two royal judges and clerks; and for the election of representatives of the knights of the shire and burgesses. The lower clergy were not summoned on this occasion.

The writs of summons issued on 5 August gave the purpose of the parliament as 'various arduous affairs touching the king and the state of the kingdom.'

The parliament began with a speech (C 49/43/20) (it is not known by whom it was delivered) outlining the various delays which had occurred in the king's plans to visit France to perform homage for Aquitaine. One effect of these delays had been the postponement of the king's intention to hold a parliament at Westminster on 1 June 1320 'to complete the remaining business from the said York parliament [January 1320], and to dispatch other business of the realm which is the concern of parliament'. On his return to England, 'in his great desire and wish to do all the things which concern a good lord for the benefit of his realm and of his people', the king had arranged to hold his parliament at Westminster on the octave of Michaelmas [6 October 1320], 'for the greatest convenience of his people and at the most suitable time for his people after the season of August.' 'Our lord the king' willed and ordered all, 'prelates, earls and barons, and others who are assembled here at this parliament, to proceed in the business of this parliament as is appropriate'.

On the first day of the parliament, the king, with the assistance of the archbishop of Canterbury, the bishop of Norwich, the chancellor, the bishop of Exeter, the treasurer, the bishops of London, Ely, and Coventry & Lichfield, the earl of Pembroke, Edmund of Woodstock, the king's brother, and several other magnates and great men of the realm, made arrangements for the receipt and answering of petitions to be presented in the parliament for England and Wales, and for Gascony, Ireland and the Channel Islands. The Parliament Roll shows that a great deal of business was processed during the parliament. One hundred and forty-one petitions with answers are recorded. Several of the items of business involved a lengthy search of the records and take up much space on the roll: e.g. the dispute between the abbot and convent of Abingdon (item 4), the process between the monks of St. Martin's, Dover, and the prior of Christchurch, Canterbury (item 5), and the dispute between the abbot of Ramsey and the bishop of Ely (item 14). There were two petitions concerning the city of London (items 6, 7); and several from Ireland (items 9 - 13). There was also a complaint from the entire community of the realm concerning trespasses and felonies perpetrated in the realm. This petition was presented by the knights, citizens and burgesses present there on behalf of the counties, cities and boroughs of his realm. The parliament of October 1320 was the last occasion during the reign of Edward II when the business of receiving and answering petitions was dealt with on such a scale. The Statute of Westminster the Fourth, which consists of only two chapters concerning the acquittance of sheriffs and juries of twenty-four, may have been the result of commune or private petitions presented during the parliament. There is however no trace of such petitions among the records of the parliament. (fn. f1320oint-2)

The signs of a new energy and initiative on Edward's part, which had become apparent earlier in 1320, were confirmed by the events of the parliament . In a well-known letter to the pope bishop Cobham of Worcester remarked that the king was rising unusually early and was contributing to the discussions of parliamentary business. The unpublished chronicle attributed to Nicholas Trivet adds that Edward 'showed prudence in answering the petitions of the poor, and clemency as much as severity in judicial matters, to the amazement of many who were there' (fn. f1320oint-3) Despite these encouraging signs, there were more sinister developments. Lancaster refused to attend the parliament, and stayed at Pontefract, where he had been since February. He did however send Nicholas of Seagrave and others to represent him at Westminster. On 14 November, after the parliament had concluded, the king ordered the careful observation of the Ordinances, which suggests that the pope had not in fact absolved him from his oath. This may have been done in order to reassure Lancaster, but does not appear to have resulted in any recorded actions. On the other hand the order on 5 November requiring Lancaster to answer for the relief for the lands he had inherited from the earl of Lincoln in 1311 can only be regarded as provocative. During the parliament it was decided to send the bishops of London and Winchester to visit Lancaster. This may have been in response to a letter in July 1320 in which the pope urged the king to make peace with Lancaster and to rely on the advice of the two bishops. The pope had written to Lancaster at the same time urging him not to provoke the king. The bishops set out in mid November, but were delayed at Northampton by the bishop of London's illness. It is not clear whether the bishops ever reached Lancaster. The bishop of London finally returned alone to Westminster on 6 February 1321, without apparently achieving anything. By that time events were in any case moving too swiftly for mediation by bishops or the pope to have any effect. One cause of Lancaster's absence from parliament was probably the growing influence of the younger Despenser. As his ambition to obtain the earldom of Gloucester in his own right became increasingly apparent, Despenser's behaviour also alienated the husbands of the other Gloucester heiresses, Roger Damory and Hugh Audley, together with other magnates, such as the earl of Hereford, with interests in the Welsh March. The turning-point came on 26 October 1320, at the end of the parliament, when Edward seized the lordship of Gower in South Wales and granted it to Despenser. The slide into open civil war had now begun. (fn. f1320oint-4)


  • f1320oint-1. Phillips, Aymer de Valence , 188-191; Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster , 255-7; M. Vale, The Angevin Legacy and the Hundred Years War, 1250-1340 , 51-2. Edward's II's request to the pope to absolve him from upholding the Ordinances is mentioned only in an unpublished chronicle attributed to Nicholas Trivet (BL, Cotton Mss, Nero.D.X, f.110v.) There is no extant papal bull to prove that this concession was actually made.
  • f1320oint-2. SR , I, 180-1.
  • f1320oint-3. Register of Thomas de Cobham, Bishop of Worcester, 1317-27 , 97-8); BL, Cotton Mss., Nero D.X, f.110v.
  • f1320oint-4. Phillips, Aymer de Valence , 198-9; Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster , 257-8.