Aymer de Valence, 2nd Earl of Pembroke

Born: c. 1275

Died: June 23, 1324

Picardy, France (Age c. 49)

Pembroke in History

Information on the early life of Aymer de Valence is fairly limited, and neither the exact date or place of his birth can be ascertained for certain. His connections to the royal family and nobility, however, were well-known. His paternal grandmother was Isabella of Angouleme, the widow of King John of England, therefore making his father a half-brother of John's son and successor, Henry III. On his mother's side, Aymer was descended from the powerful Marshal Earls of Pembroke, from whom he would eventually inherit his earldom. Also through his paternal relatives, Aymer had a number of important French connections. It appears that Aymer, as a third son, was being groomed for a career in the church, but became the heir to the vast fortunes of both his parents upon the deaths of his two elder brothers (1277, 1282). By the mid-1290s Aymer was in full royal service to King Edward I and acted, on many occasions, as both a diplomat and a soldier in the wars with France and Scotland. When Edward II became king (1307), Aymer was appointed keeper of Scotland. Later that year, Aymer became Earl of Pembroke, after his mother's death, and received his full inheritance, making him one of the wealthier magnates of the realm.

The new earl seems to have maintained cordial relations with the king, but he was most certainly one of the nobles who felt the need for him to govern better and show less favor to one Piers Gaveston, a man who many believed to have been a lover of the king's. Gaveston was exiled on three separate occasions but would always return to court and regain influence over the king. Gaveston had been upgraded to the nobility when he was created Earl of Cornwall and showed extreme arrogance and scorn towards the nobles, making up humiliating nicknames for many of them (Pembroke's personal nickname was Joseph the Jew). In 1310, Pembroke became one of the Lords Ordainer, a group of noblemen and church officials that whose assignment was to reform the laws and policies in the government of the increasingly incompetent Edward II. However, Pembroke did not always get along with his fellow nobles, particularly the ambitious Earl of Lancaster, the king's cousin and the richest magnate in England. In 1312, when Gaveston had illegally returned from his latest exile, the magnates had their fill of him and decided to take action. Pembroke was one of the lords who besieged Gaveston at Scarborough Castle, forcing him to surrender. The royal favorite was then placed in Pembroke's care to await trial. However, while the earl was away visiting his wife, the Earl of Warwick seized Gaveston and promptly had him beheaded. Though Pembroke was no friend of Gaveston, he felt the incident was an insult to his authority and switched his loyalties to the king.

Pembroke was now an invaluable ally of King Edward. He was one of the few magnates to provide military support for the Scottish invasion (1314) that ended in the embarrassing English defeat at Bannockburn and was constantly used as a border guard against Scotland and a diplomat in France (temporarily being taken captive at one point in the latter nation). The biggest role Pembroke played was as a mediator and peacekeeper between Edward II and the magnates. On this issue Pembroke was torn, considering he did not approve of the growing influence of the Despensers at the king's court, but also cared not for magnates such as the Earl of Lancaster. In the end, civil war was inevitable and Pembroke threw in his lot with the king. Lancaster was defeated and captured after the Battle of Boroughbridge (1322), and Pembroke was one of the men who gave the approval for his execution. For the remainder of his life, Pembroke continued to act as a diplomat and soldier in Scotland and France, dying suddenly while on a diplomatic mission in the latter country. If Pembroke had lived longer, it would have been interesting to see who he sided with in the revolution involving Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer that would occur in 1326.

Pembroke in Marlowe

Appears in: Edward II

Within Edward II, the Earl of Pembroke is one of the lords who pushes the king to shun his favorite Gaveston and to listen to their council. Pembroke shares the same hatred for Gaveston that the others do and would like nothing better than to be rid of him. When the king asks to see Gaveston once last time before he is executed, Pembroke agrees to be his conveyor and to bring him back once the meeting has taken place. However, Gaveston is seized from Pembroke's men by the Earl of Warwick and executed. Pembroke disappears from the play's action shortly after this incident.


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