/ / / / Hugh Le Despenser, 1st Earl of Winchester, 1261-1326

Hugh Le Despenser, 1st Earl of Winchester, 1261-1326


Knights of the Middle Ages I 1146-1492

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Hugh le Despenser’s father, the first baron Despenser, was killed with Simon de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham in August 1265 when Hugh was just 3 years old. Summoned to parliament in 1295 he then married Isabel, daughter of William Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick but was then fined 2,000 marks for failing to secure the consent of King Edward I, a sum later remitted. From a rather ordinary, if privileged background, Hugh sprang to attention when he became a loyal supporter of King Edward I’s son, Edward (soon to be Edward II)’s favourite, Piers Gaveston. Gaveston had been appointed to his son’s household by the King, but the rest of the household and the barons took strong exception to the man and his influence over young Edward. He was exiled twice and brought back at Edward II’s request each time. But the resentment grew – and began to affect the Despenser’s, father and son. There is some confusion about whether Hugh’s son or Gaveston were involved in a homosexual relationship with King Edward II – or indeed if either of them was! But the guilt-by-association of the Despensers, father and son, only increased as Gaveston’s influence increased. Gaveston was exiled a third time, captured and executed for ‘breach of the ordinances’. Hugh senior became Edward’s chief administrator, but the resentment of the barons and their own corruption resulted in expulsion of father and son. The rebellion of Queen Isabella and her lover, Mortimer against her husband Edward resulted in the capture and swift and bloody execution of father and son with father’s head sent for display to Winchester.

Additional information

Dimensions 37 × 54 cm