Piers Gaveston, 1st Earl of Cornwall

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Piers Gaveston, 1st Earl of Cornwall (c. 1284 – 19 June 1312) was an English nobleman of Gascon origin, and the favourite of King Edward II of England. At a young age he made a good impression on King Edward I, and was assigned to the household of the king's son, Edward of Carnarvon. The prince's partiality for Gaveston was so extravagant that Edward I sent the favourite into exile, but he was recalled a few months later, after the king's death led to the prince's accession as Edward II. Edward bestowed the earldom of Cornwall on Gaveston, and arranged for him to marry his niece Margaret de Clare, sister of the powerful Earl of Gloucester.

Gaveston's exclusive access to the king provoked several members of the nobility, and in 1308 the king was forced to send him into exile again. During this absence he served as the king's Lieutenant of Ireland. Edward managed to negotiate a deal with the opposition, however, and Gaveston returned the next year. Upon his return his behaviour became even more offensive, and by the Ordinances of 1311 it was decided that Gaveston should be exiled for a third time, to suffer outlawry if he returned. When he did return in 1312, he was hunted down and executed by a group of magnates led by Thomas of Lancaster and Guy de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick.

It was alleged by medieval chroniclers that Edward II and Piers Gaveston were lovers, a rumour that was reinforced by later fictional portrayals, such as Christopher Marlowe's play Edward II. This assertion has received the support of some modern historians, while others have questioned it. According to Pierre Chaplais, the relationship between the two was that of an adoptive brotherhood, and Gaveston served as an unofficial deputy for a reluctant king. Other historians, like J.S. Hamilton, have pointed out that concern over the two men's sexuality was not at the core of the nobility's grievances, which rather centred around Gaveston's exclusive access to royal patronage.

Contents

Family background and early life

Piers Gaveston's father was Arnaud de Gabaston, a Gascon knight in the service of Gaston VII of Béarn.[1] Gabaston had come into a substantial amount of land in Gascony through his marriage to Claramonde de Marsan, who was co-heir with her brother of the great landowner Arnaud-Guillaume de Marsan.[2] Through the possessions of his wife, Gabaston also became a vassal of the king of England, in the king's capacity of Duke of Aquitaine.[3] His service to Edward I of England stretched over a long period of time, starting in the Welsh Wars of 1282–83, in which he participated with a substantial contingent.[3] Sometime before 4 February 1287, Claramonde died, and for the rest of his life Gabaston struggled to retain his wife's inheritance from rival claims by relatives and neighbours. Because of this, he became financially dependent on the English king, and was continuously in his service.[4] He was used as a hostage by Edward twice: first in 1288 to Aragon, secondly in 1294 to the French king, when he managed to escape and flee to England in 1297.[5] After returning home, he was back in England in 1300, where he served with Edward I in the Scottish Wars. He died at some point before 18 May 1302.[4]

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