29 November 1326 – Hugh Le Despenser

Hugh Le Despenser's huge dispenser

Hugh Le Despenser's huge dispenser

Strongly rumoured to have been the bisexual lover of Edward II, Hugh Le Despenser the Younger was strung up today in an execution fraught with animosity.

Leading the way, was the woman scorned by the monarch’s adulterous affair – the Queen of England: Isabella of France.

There is even conjecture that Despenser dispensed with all social nicety by forcing himself upon her as well.

So it came as no surprise that she was at the front of the queue to exact her revenge with her lover Roger Mortimer right by her side.

Sacked

Le Despenser had been busy amassing enemies throughout his Medieval life. He’d done well out of his kingly sexual conquest for Edward had proven to be a lucrative cash cow.

He’d made sure he had been on hand whenever Edward fancied going to war, such as the ill-fated run-in with Scotland led by Robert the Bruce or the clash with the Welsh barons, which was more lucrative. Hence, Le Despenser was always up for scooping up the spoils of their victories.

Back

This favouritism really got the other nobles’ goats and Le Despenser became pretty unpopular, so much so that the pair really had to watch their backs.

Cracked

Finally, the queen could take no more and she put a sharp end to the halcyon days for the king and his alleged lover.

She teamed up with her own bit of stuff, Justice of Wales Baron Roger Mortimer, who jumped the pair at Llantrinsaint and they were apprehended on 16 November 1326.

Of course, the king was unpopular but the real object of the exercise was to get a collar Le Despenser. That done, the disaffected nobles wasted no time in dispensing Le Despenser at Hereford where they set about exacting their inimitable brand of revenge.

Dispensed

Following a ropey trial-less set of accusations branding him a traitor, Le Despenser was given an equally ropey sentence, all headed up by the mistress of ceremonies: Isabella.

He was to be drawn and quartered as was to be expected if the crime was against crown or country.

But this was no ordinary hanging. According to a bizarrely over-zealous account on a Welsh government website, he was suspended between the prongs of a pitchfork 50 feet up and literally bounced until dead, but there is no evidence of this seeming embellishment.

Then he was relieved of his nether regions before being quartered and shipped off to be displayed round the country and his head festooned on London Bridge for all to see.

Head case

While his skull disappeared, Le Despenser’s headless corpse made a reappearance. It was apparently unearthed at Hulton Abbey in the 1970s.

According to ‘The Daily Telegraph’, carbon dating helped provide evidence that the remains could well have been his.

Sadly the same certainty does not surround the date of his execution. We’ve gone with the peerage date of 29 November 1326. But others state anything from 16 November onwards.

‘Wikpedia’ unfortunately bucks all the other sources by stating it took place in 1325. But seeing as Edward was officially deposed in favour of his own son ‘a couple of months later’ in January 1327, that date is completely wrong. And yes, you’ve guessed it, that act was the final humiliation and was instigated by none other than Isabella.

If you have come across any compelling evidence around his execution date, please drop us a line below.

Also on this day

29 November 1603 – William Clark
29 November 1920 – James Riley

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One Response to “29 November 1326 – Hugh Le Despenser”

  1. While it’s always great to see Hugh Despenser given some attention, you might be interested to check out my blog at Lady Despenser’s Scribery for the researched details of his life and death (which was on the 24th November by the way – and that’s according to documentary evidence – close rolls etc – of the time, so is quite certain).

    Most of my research comes from primary sources – the only secondary sources I use are those that I trust through testing their references (some ‘popular’ history bios – especially those of Isabella, are not among them as they come up with many un-evidenced events – such as Hugh forcing himself on Isabella – no proof on that one at all, just the author’s supposition)

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