John of Eltham, 1st Earl of Cornwall

Royal Descent:

Edward II, King of England m. Isabella of France

JOHN ‘of Eltham’ PLANTAGENET, 1st Earl of Cornwall

Birth:      15 Aug 1316      Eltham Palace, Kent

“Anno Domini mcccxvi…Eodem anno, die Doninica in festo Assumptionis beatae Mariae, natus Johannes filius regis Edwardi apud Eltham” [Annales Paulini];1 “The generally accepted date for John of Eltham’s birth is 15 August 1316. Handbook of British Chronology (3rd edition, London, 1986), p. 39, adds a precautionary ‘c.’ Elsewhere the date is given as 25 August 1316. Chronicon Galfridi le Baker de Swynebroke, ed. E.M. Thompson (Oxford, 1889), p. 234, gives 15 August 1315.”2

Baptism:      20 Aug 1316      Eltham Palace Chapel, Kent

“Edward had a piece of Turkey cloth and a piece of cloth-of-gold delivered to Eltham, to cover the font in the chapel during John’s baptism, and ordered Isabella’s tailor Stephen de Falaise to make her a robe from five pieces of white velvet for her churching ceremony (Thomas Stapleton, ‘A Brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the tenth, eleventh and fourteenth years of Edward II’, Archaeologia 1836, p. 336). On 31 July, Isabella had sent her messenger Godyn Hautayn with letters to the bishop of Norwich and her uncle the earl of Lancaster, asking them to stand sponsor (godfathers) to her soon-to-be-born child. However, there is no record of the earl of Lancaster attending the ceremony-a gross insult. John was probably named in honor of the new Pope, John XXII, as news of his election reached King Edward on 17 August.”3

Death:      13 Sep 1336      Perth Castle, Perthshire, Scotland

“On the petition of William de Cusancia, king’s clerk, setting forth that he has not yet rendered account of the receipts and expenses in the household of John, late earl of Cornwall, the king’s brother, whereof he was treasurer from Michaelmas 9 Edward III. until 13 September following, the date on which the earl died” [CPR 1334-1338]; “Et in vigilia Exaltationis Sanctae Crucis ejusdem anni in Scotia obiit dominus Johannes de Eltham, comes Cornubiae et frater domini regfis Angliae…Cibus ille potusve horumque minister inter felices non numerenter, qui, ut vulgo dicebatur, tam validum subito militem extinxerunt” [Westminster Chronicle 1325-45];4 “The patent roll records that John of Eltham, earl of Cornwall, died on 13 September 1336. According to the anonymous middle section of the Westminster chronicle, Eltham died on 13 September (Vigilia Sancti Crucis), but it goes on in unique style: ‘That food or drink, and the person who served them-which, so it was commonly reported, suddenly carried off so worthy a knight-are not to be counted among the fortunate’. This certainly hints at poisoning-cited by Prestwich as ‘mysterious circumstances’ (Three Edwards, p. 241)-which perhaps gives impetus to Scottish accusations of foul play. However, obscure though this passage is, the Westminster chronicle says nothing about any involvement of Edward III, nor any physical violence against John”;2 “And died on 13 September at Perth.”5

Burial:      15 Jan 1337      Westminster Abbey

“Edward left Bothwell in mid-December and came south with his brother’s embalmed body, to the Tower, arriving on Friday, 10 January (See TNA E101/387/19 m.13; Stubbs (ed.), Chronicles, i. p. 365). The next morning, he walked with it in a great solemn procession to St Paul’s Cathedral, surrounded by clerics and citizens, where it lay the night. The following day, Sunday, he attended mass in its presence. After mass it was taken to Westminster Abbey. The next day solemn exequies were celebrated by the archbishop of Canterbury in the presence of the king and many earls, prelates and barons. Funeral feasts were arranged at Westminster and St Paul’s. Finally, on Wednesday 15 January, John of Eltham was laid to rest in St Edmund’s Chapel, Westminster. As a mark of respect, Edward commissioned an exceptionally fine alabaster effigy for his tomb.”6

Occupation:      Earl of Cornwall 1328-1336

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Sources

1. Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II, Volume 1, Rolls Series 76 Part 1, William Stubbs (ed.), Longman & Co. (London: 1882), p. 279.

2. Tom Beaumont James, “John of Eltham, History and Story: Abusive International Discourse in Late Medieval England, France and Scotland,” Fourteenth Century England II, The Boydell Press (Woodbridge: 2002), pp. 65-66, 74.

3. Kathryn Warner, “The Birth of John of Eltham,” Edward II Blog, http://edwardthesecond.blogspot.com/, 13 August 2008.

4. Chronica Johannis de Reading et Anonymi Cantuariensis 1346-1367, James Tait (ed.), Manchester University Press (Manchester: 1914), pp. 81-82.

5. Scott L. Waugh, “John [John of Eltham], earl of Cornwall (1316–1336),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004.

6. Ian Mortimer, The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III, Father of the English Nation, Pimlico (London: 2007).