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Hugh le Despenser

Born: 1262
Died: 27-Oct-1326
Location of death: Bristol, Gloucestershire, England
Cause of death: Execution

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Aristocrat

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Favorite of King Edward II

English courtier, was a son of the English justiciar who died at Evesham. He fought for King Edward I in Wales, France and Scotland, and in 1295 was summoned to parliament as a baron. Ten years later he was sent by the king to Pope Clement V to secure Edward's release from the oaths he had taken to observe the charters in 1297. Almost alone Hugh spoke out for King Edward II's favorite, Piers Gaveston, in 1308; but after Gaveston's death in 1312 he himself became the king's chief adviser, holding power and influence until Edward's defeat at Bannockburn in 1314. Then, hated by the barons, and especially by Earl Thomas of Lancaster, as a deserter from their party, he was driven from the council, but was quickly restored to favor and loaded with lands and honors, being made Earl of Winchester in 1322. Before this time Hugh's son, the younger Hugh le Despenser, had become associated with his father, and having been appointed the king's chamberlain was enjoying a still larger share of the royal favor. About 1306 this baron had married Eleanor (d. 1337), one of the sisters and heiresses of Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, who was slain at Bannockburn; and after a division of the immense Clare lands had been made in 1317 violent quarrels broke out between the Despensers and the husbands of the other heiresses, Roger of Amory and Hugh of Audley. Interwoven with this dispute was another between the younger Despenser and the Mowbrays, who were supported by Humphrey Bohun, Earl of Hereford, about some lands in Glamorganshire. Fighting having begun in Wales and on the Welsh borders, the English barons showed themselves decidedly hostile to the Despensers, and in 1321 Edward II was obliged to consent to their banishment. While the elder Hugh left England the younger one remained; soon the king persuaded the clergy to annul the sentence against them, and father and son were again at court. They fought against the rebellious barons at Boroughbridge, and after Lancaster's death in 1322 they were practically responsible for the government of the country, which they attempted to rule in a moderate and constitutional fashion. But their next enemy, Queen Isabella, was more formidable, or more fortunate, than Lancaster. Returning to England after a sojourn in France in 1326 the queen directed her arms against her husband's favorites. The elder Despenser was seized at Bristol, where he was hanged on the 27th of October 1326, and the younger was taken with the king at Llantrisant and hanged at Hereford on the 24th of November following. The attainder against the Despensers was reversed in 1398. The intense hatred with which the barons regarded the Despensers was due to the enormous wealth which had passed into their hands, and to the arrogance and rapacity of the younger Hugh. The younger Despenser left two sons, Hugh (1308-1349), and Edward, who was killed at Vannes in 1342.

Father: (justiciar)
Wife: Eleanor (m. 1306, d. 1337)
Son: Hugh Le Despenser (d. 24-Nov-1326 execution)



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