John de Warenne, 7th Earl of Surrey

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John de Warenne, 7th Earl of Surrey (also Earl of Surrey and Sussex or Earl Warenne ; according to another count also 8th Earl of Surrey ) (born June 30, 1286 , † between June 28 and 30, 1347 in Conisbrough Castle ) was an English magnate . As one of the few magnates, he survived the turbulent rule of King Edward II and the troubled early days of Edward III.

Origin, childhood and youth

John de Warenne was a son of William V de Warenne († 1286) and his wife Joan de Vere , a daughter of Robert de Vere, 5th Earl of Oxford . Only a few weeks after his baptism on November 7th, his father died in a tournament accident. Little John thus became the heir of his grandfather John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey . When he was just seven years old, his mother, Joan, died in 1293. When his parents married, it was agreed that in the event of their death, the guardianship of their heirs and the management of the property would fall to their parents, Robert de Vere, 5th Earl of Oxford and his wife. In 1296 Robert de Vere also died. It is not known where John de Warenne grew up afterwards. Only after the death of his grandfather of the same name in 1304 did he appear when he inherited the titles of Earl of Surrey and Sussex as well as estates in Sussex , Surrey , Lincolnshire , Yorkshire , Wiltshire and Norfolk . Since he was still a minor, his lands were placed under royal administration. In February 1305, King Edward I sent him to Guildford to attend a tournament that belonged to his family. Although his property was still administered by royal trustees, Warenne lived on his castles afterwards. In May 1306, Parliament in Westminster determined that he was of legal age. Before the opening of parliament, Edward I gave him his grandfather's lands on April 7, although he was not yet 21 years old and had not yet paid homage . While Parliament was still in session, King Warenne offered to marry his granddaughter Joan, daughter of Edward's daughter Eleonore and Heinrich von Bar , in the Westminster Palace on May 15, 1306 . Although the girl was only half his age, Warenne agreed. Joan had arrived in England on April 13th and was escorted to Westminster with great pomp. A week after their engagement, the king held a grand celebration for the accolade of his eldest son, the Prince of Wales , at which nearly 300 other men, including Warenne, were also knighted. The celebrations also included a number of weddings, including Warenne and Joan's on May 25th.

Warenne under Edward II.

From the king's friend to Gaveston's opponent

King Edward I died in July 1307 and was succeeded by his son Edward II. Warenne was one of the earls who shortly afterwards, on August 6, 1307, witnessed the elevation of the royal favorite Piers Gaveston to Earl of Cornwall. Warenne was first appointed to parliament on August 26, 1307. At the beginning of 1308 he traveled with the king to France, where he married and paid homage to the French king for his possessions in southwestern France. He also took part in the coronation of Edward II on February 25, 1308 in Westminster Abbey .

After this hopeful beginning, relations between the king and his barons quickly deteriorated. The young Warenne wavered between the king and the aristocratic opposition and changed sides several times. Although he was connected to the king at the beginning of the reign of Edward II, he soon belonged to Gaveston's opponents. Together with the Earl of Arundel , who had married his sister Alice, and the Earl of Hereford , he fought in December 1307 at a tournament in Wallingford against Gaveston and his followers. In a controversial decision, Gaveston was declared the winner, which upset Warenne so much that he subsequently became Gaveston's bitter opponent. In January 1308, when he was with the king in France, he was one of four earls to sign the Boulogne Agreement , which is widely regarded as the beginning of the aristocratic opposition to Gaveston. Warenne and Arundel belonged to this opposition, which succeeded in pushing through the exile of Gaveston in parliament in April 1308. Around this time Warenne became a retainer of Thomas of Lancaster , a cousin of the king and England's most powerful magnate, who became the leading adversary of the king and Gaveston. Warenne promised Lancaster, perhaps during a tournament in Dunstable in late March 1308 , that he would serve him with 80 men-at-arms and one other earl. In April 1309 Warenne was part of Lancaster's entourage along with Arundel, who was believed to be the other, unspecified Earl. In June 1309 the King forbade Lancaster, Warenne, Arundel, and three other Earls from participating in tournaments or similar adventures.

Communication with Gaveston

When Gaveston returned from exile shortly thereafter, Warenne supported the king, who reinstated Gaveston in his rank. Responsible for this was the Earl of Lincoln , the leading English magnate alongside Lancaster, who also tolerated Gaveston's return. Warenne is said to have made friends with Gaveston and supported him afterwards. In October 1309 he was in York with the King and Gaveston , while the other magnates avoided the King and his favorite. In February 1310, the king commissioned him to ensure order and peace during the parliament in London, as he feared disputes with the other magnates. During this parliament, the king had to approve the election of a committee, the so-called Lords Ordainer , to draw up reform proposals for the royal rule. Besides Gaveston and the Earl of Oxford , Warenne was the only earl not on this committee, and besides the Earl of Hertford , Warenne was the only earl who, in August 1310, followed the call to participate in a campaign to Scotland, which the king and Gaveston made led. Warenne remained in Scotland with an English force until the summer of 1311. The king rewarded him generously for this support, including the transfer of two estates in Northamptonshire . In June 1310 the king gave him lifelong rule over Peveril Castle and the lands belonging to it for the small annual fee of 437 marks . In 1310 the king gave him back most of this fee and in 1311 he granted him a lifelong estate.

Role in Gaveston's fall and execution

In 1311, however, Gaveston was again banished from England by Parliament, and when he returned in early 1312, Archbishop Winchelsey convinced Warenne to participate in the pursuit and capture of Gaveston. Together with the Earl of Pembroke, Warenne Gaveston besieged at Scarborough Castle , where Gaveston surrendered to them on May 19th. Pembroke now wanted to bring Gaveston to London, and Warenne was not involved in the subsequent execution of Gaveston by the Earls of Warwick , Hereford and Lancaster. The violence against Gaveston split the opposition of the barons. Although the relationship between Warenne and the king was initially strained, he and Pembroke were subsequently loyal to the king. The Earls of Warwick, Lancaster, Arundel and other barons, on the other hand, maintained their opposition to the king. In August 1312 the king commissioned Warenne to secure the peace in Sussex and in 1313 forbade him twice from participating in tournaments in which Lancaster, Arundel and other opponents of the king also took part.

Marital crisis

In the summer of 1314, however, together with Lancaster, Arundel and other barons, Warenne refused to participate in the king's campaign to Scotland, thus avoiding the crushing English defeat at the Battle of Bannockburn . The reason for Warenne's absence, however, was not a solidarity with the opponents of the king, but his unhappy marriage, which the king refused to annul. The marriage with Joan, who was a niece of the king, had so far remained childless, so that the king had already allowed Warenne in 1309 to name an heir of his wishes, as long as he did not disinherit any possible children from his marriage. In the spring of 1313 the king had commissioned his watchman William Aune to bring Joan from Warenne's Conisbrough Castle to his court. As of June 1313, Joan lived in the Tower of London while Warenne openly lived with his lover Maud Nereford . The bishops then threatened him with excommunication . Although the king tried to prevent this, Warenne was eventually excommunicated by Bishop John Langton of Chichester. This led to a protracted legal battle in which the king and other nobles also became involved. Warenne tried to have his marriage annulled in order to be able to marry his beloved and to be able to legitimize his two sons, whom he had with her. He alleged that he had been forced into marriage and that he was too closely related to his wife. His wife rejected this, according to her account, Warenne had proposed the marriage herself. This dispute lasted for over two years, during which both a meeting of bishops and a meeting of barons deliberated on Warenne's marriage. In 1316 Warenne finally offered his wife an annual payment of £ 200 as compensation for the annulment of the marriage, and in addition, if the marriage were actually annulled, he offered her land that brought her annual income of 740 marks. When there was still no agreement, in the summer of 1316 he handed over the majority of his family property to the king, who returned them to him for lifelong use. The king stipulated that after his death the goods would first go to his son John from his relationship with Maud Nereford. If he died childless, his younger brother Thomas and only then to other members of the Warenne family would inherit the property. In return, Warenne agreed that on his death two of his most lucrative goods would go to the crown. In doing so, he decisively weakened the position of his family in favor of his illegitimate children, although he did not give up hope that his two sons would still be legitimized. Presumably with the help of the Earl of Pembroke , he turned to the Pope to have his marriage annulled, while his wife Joan left England in August 1316 and henceforth lived with her relatives in France.

Feud with Lancaster

After the king met him during his marital crisis, Warenne remained a loyal supporter of Edward II and soon incurred even greater costs. In February 1317 the king called a small group of nobles, including Warenne, to Clarendon for a conference . The subjects were not fixed, but there they were certainly discussing the problems with Scotland, but also the possibility of an attack on the Earl of Lancaster , who had again become the king's main opponent. Warenne initially hesitated to challenge Lancaster directly, but on May 9, 1317, he kidnapped Lancaster's wife Alice de Lacy from Canford Castle and brought her to his own castle at Reigate . No sexual assault should have occurred, but the incident was a tremendous humiliation for Lancaster. Warenne probably wanted revenge on Lancaster, who had voted against a divorce between Warenne and his wife, perhaps their political opposition or even a direct order from the king or his courtiers played a role in the kidnapping. However, Warenne soon discovered that he had gone too far with this attack against the most powerful magnate in the empire. The enraged Lancaster began a violent feud , leading a series of raids on Warenne's Yorkshire estates that bordered on his own. Lancaster was clearly superior to Warenne militarily, and the king was unable to stop these attacks. Even Warenne's lover Maud Nereford had to flee her property before the raids. The king and other nobles finally settled their dispute with Lancaster through negotiations and concluded the Treaty of Leake on August 9, 1318 . Lancaster managed, however, that it treated his feud with Warenne as a private matter and excluded from the contract. In June 1318 he attacked Warenne's dominions at Bromfield and Yale in North Wales. In the face of the overwhelming enemy, Warenne finally had to ask Lancaster for a peace of her own. Lancaster forced him to an unfavorable land swap, in which Warenne had to hand him over lands in Yorkshire, Wales and Norfolk for life, in exchange he was given lands in Somerset , Dorset and Wiltshire . To do this, he had to acknowledge that he owed Lancaster the enormous sum of £ 50,000, although Lancaster never insisted on paying that sum.

Renewed support from the king

Even after this defeat, Warenne remained a close supporter of the king, although his loyalty wavered at times due to Edward's weak rule. In 1319 he joined the royal army in Newcastle on a campaign against Scotland, which, however, achieved little. After the successful Despenser War the Marcher Lords against father and son Despenser , who were close favorites of the king, the Marcher Lords forced the Earls of Arundel , Pembroke and Warenne to agree to the exile of the Despensers during parliament in August 1321 . However, when the king retaliated in October, he forgave Warenne, who supported him in the siege of Leeds Castle . Warenne also took part in the king's campaign in the Welsh Marches in January 1322. Together with the Earls of Arundel, Pembroke and Richmond , he was able to persuade the Marcher Lord Roger Mortimer of Wigmore to surrender to the king on January 17th . In March, Warenne and Arundel attended a royal council meeting during which the remaining rebels were declared traitors. Together with the Earl of Kent , Warenne was commissioned by the king to seize the fugitive Lancaster, but this was provided by royal troops from northern England. In the Battle of Boroughbridge , Lancaster was decisively defeated and captured. The king appointed Warenne one of the judges who sentenced Lancaster to death in a sham trial. Warenne then took part in the following parliament in York that finally repealed the ordinances of 1311. In the summer of 1322 and February 1323 he took part in further campaigns against Scotland.

Switch to the opponents of the king

During the Saint-Sardos war against France, Warenne led an English expedition to Gascony in 1325 and did not return until the following year. In May and July 1326 the king made him commander of the royal troops in northern England. For this he gave him back some of the lands that Lancaster had forced to surrender in 1318. Although he thus had the favor of the king, Warenne also had to hand over an estate to the older Despenser, who, together with his son, had meanwhile a dominant influence on the king. However, when Queen Isabelle , who had fled into exile, landed in England with her favorite Roger Mortimer of Wigmore in September 1326 to overthrow the rule of her husband and the Despensers, Warenne cleverly switched sides, thereby surviving the overthrow of the King and the Despensers . His brother-in-law Arundel was executed. Warenne was a member of the delegation that asked the imprisoned Edward II in January 1327 to recognize the change of power and abdicate. He remained an important courtier, he attended the coronation of the young King Edward III. and was a member of the Regency Council, which led the government for the minor king. In 1327 he was charged with keeping the peace in Oxfordshire.

Warenne under Edward III.

Supporting Mortimers during the early reign of Edward III.

During this time his marital quarrel seemed to subside. When he returned to England from Gascony in 1326, his wife Joan is said to have accompanied him, and in 1327 he applied to travel abroad with her. His wife had spent a lot of time in France with the exiled Queen Isabelle and her underage son Eduard, the Prince of Wales. After the Queen came to power, she reversed Warenne's inheritance agreement, according to which his illegitimate sons from his relationship with Maud Nereford should be his heirs. Instead, his illegitimate sons now joined the Order of St. John . The new King Edward III. Joan gave some goods for lifelong use as a thank you for his mother's support, as well as other confiscated goods from the executed Earl of Arundel. For a fee of 200 marks Warenne received his castles and estates in Yorkshire back in 1328 from Henry of Lancaster , heir to the Earl of Lancaster. After Warenne had already managed to survive the turbulent government of Edward II, he also managed not to get too deep into the intrigues of the early rule of Edward III. getting involved, while Roger Mortimer was the real ruler. As an advisor to the minor king, he attested to numerous royal documents and belonged to several royal courts between 1327 and 1332. When he continued to loyally support the king after the execution of the Earl of Kent in 1330, he received an estate in Kent which had belonged to the Earl of Kent and which brought in more than £ 230 in income. Although he obviously enjoyed the favor of Roger Mortimer, he survived his fall unscathed a few months later.

Military service against Scotland and other services

Like most of the other barons, Warenne took an active part in the war against Scotland during this period. In the spring of 1327 he took part in the campaign against Scotland and in November was part of the English negotiating delegation that negotiated the Edinburgh and Northampton Agreement with Scotland. When Edward III. Resuming the war in 1330, Warenne served again in Scotland that year. In 1333 he took part in the Siege of Berwick and the Battle of Halidon Hill . As a reward, the king forgave him his debts to the crown, and the titular king, his cousin Edward Balliol elevated him to Earl of Strathearn , but this remained meaningless. When Edward III. learned of alleged riots in the Welsh Marches , he instructed Warenne and other barons to take action against it. At first he did not take part personally in the campaign against Scotland from 1334 to 1335, but only provided a contingent of troops. On June 12, 1334, however, he was in Newcastle when Edward Balliol a large part of Scotland south of the Forth to Edward III. handed over. In 1335 he then accompanied Balliol on his failed campaign to Scotland, with six Knight Bannerets , 47 knights and 187 men-at-arms, the largest single contingent of the army. As an older magnate, Warenne took on various offices from 1336. During the king's campaign in Scotland in 1336, he served as defender of the empire. Over the next few years he held various offices in southern England, including in 1339 that of the Sheriff of Surrey and Sussex. When Edward III. Moved to Flanders during the Hundred Years War in 1338 and 1340, he appointed his son Edward and Warenne as imperial administrators during his absences . During the crisis of 1340, when the king was in dire financial straits, Warenne insisted in parliament that peers should advise and help the king instead of officials. In 1342 the king called him to his campaign in Brittany , but the now 56-year-old Warenne no longer took part in the campaign, in the same year he refused to take part in a tournament in Dunstable. When the king moved to France in 1345, Warenne served as counselor to Lionel of Antwerp , the king's underage younger son who was appointed regent.

Edward III. Warenne generously rewarded Warenne for his services, especially after the victory at Halidon Hill in 1333. He forgave Warenne all debts he and his ancestors owed the Crown and allowed his executors to take possession of his estates immediately upon his death. He promised Warenne an expense allowance of 2,000 marks. Warenne's cousin Edward Balliol appointed Warenne Earl of Strathearn after Maol Íosa , who was on the Scottish side, was expropriated, but after Balliol's failure in 1336 this title became irrelevant.

Another marriage crisis and inheritance dispute

However, Warenne's political success did not carry over into his personal life. After he had approached his wife Joan again in 1326, Joan left England after further quarrels in 1337 with her entire household. Adam Orleton , the Bishop of Winchester, admonished Warenne in 1344 to love his legitimate wife and to respect the dispensation he had received prior to his marriage. In 1345 Joan went abroad again, and the king confirmed her lands, which she legally owned and had no access to the Warenne. Warenne claimed in 1345 that, prior to his marriage, he had had an affair with Joan's aunt Mary of Woodstock , a daughter of King Edward I who had entered the convent as a nun. Even this assertion did not lead to the annulment of the marriage, which Warenne had hoped for. Despite his age, he lived with his new mistress Isabella Holland, a daughter of Sir Robert de Holand , whom he hoped to marry and to whom he transferred a number of lands. The king initially agreed to these transfers until Richard FitzAlan, 10th Earl of Arundel , the son of Warenne's brother-in-law, who was executed in 1326, and thus his nephew and next heir, protested against this disinheritance. As a result, Warenne had to reverse the transfers.

Death and inheritance

Because of his age, the King excused Warenne from parliament in July 1346 and also exempted him from other vassal services. He died with no legitimate offspring at the age of 61 and was buried in the Lewes Priory Church. His wife Joan was out of the country at this point. She survived him by 14 years. In his will of June 24, 1347, written shortly before his death, Warenne bequeathed various gifts to his mistress Isabella, but nothing to his wife Joan. He had at least three sons and three daughters from various illegitimate relationships, whom he gave gifts in his will. Despite his failed marriage, Warenne was still considered personally pious. He founded a chapel and gave lands to monasteries, joined the Durham Priory Brotherhood and owned a Bible in French. His nephew Richard Fitzalan inherited his lands . After the death of Warenne's wife in 1361, he assumed the title of Earl of Surrey , while the title of Earl of Sussex expired.


Warenne survived the changeable and risky reign of Edward II and the early days of Edward III by skillfully changing sides. and died a respected statesman. Even though he was involved in most of the political activities of his day and was often close to the center of the action, he was nonetheless not a leading figure. He had no high political or moral principles, but his survival and fate make it clear why a steadfast, loyal attitude was dangerous during his time and why it was sensible to change sides. Personally, he was considered a brave and loyal knight. His failed marriage and his unsuccessful attempts to bequeath parts of his lands to his illegitimate children, however, affected his political position.

Web links

Commons : John de Warenne, 7th Earl of Surrey  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Ranald Nicholson: Edward III and the Scots. The formative Years of a Military Career . Oxford University Press, Oxford 1965, p. 139.
  2. ^ Ranald Nicholson: Edward III and the Scots. The formative Years of a Military Career . Oxford University Press, Oxford 1965, p. 141.
  3. ^ Ranald Nicholson: Edward III and the Scots. The formative Years of a Military Career . Oxford University Press, Oxford 1965, p. 177.
  4. ^ Ranald Nicholson: Edward III and the Scots. The formative Years of a Military Career . Oxford University Press, Oxford 1965, p. 199.
predecessor Office successor
John de Warenne Earl of Surrey
Richard Fitzalan
John de Warenne Earl of Sussex
Title expired