The Castle, the King, the Gay Lover, and the Fury of a Scorned Queen
Andrew-Paul Shakespeare

Hi, I have researched Hugh Despenser the Younger for nearly ten years now and I feel I need to address many of the erroneous points in this article. Why I do this is because I know people learn things from articles such as this, and it would be a disservice to let them go away with the wrong information, which I’m sure was not what you intended. I do, however, feel that the tone of the piece was rather ‘sensational’ and ‘tabloidistic’, which, to be honest, is not really necessary when writing history — it is usually sensational all by itself.

However, as a content writer, I do understand the need to draw readers. Anyway, as my points add up to nearly 1500 words, I won’t write them all here, but would instead like to direct your readers, if they wish, to visit my website at: where I have made it into a blog post.

Here are the first few points…

1. First of all, calling Hugh Despenser ‘gay’ is rather speculative. I understand that a headline like that will attract more readers, but it isn’t necessarily true. Apart fro the fact that ‘gay’ wasn’t even a concept in medieval times (for reasons too long-winded to go into here), there is no proof that Edward and Hugh had an intimate relationship. Propaganda may have hinted at it, but that was par for the course when besmirching someone’s character. It must also be remembered that Hugh had ten children with Eleanor and also maybe one illegitimate child as well. Edward had four legitimate children with Isabella and one illegitimate son — so neither of them disliked sex with women.

2. Hugh was not a Welsh boy — he was Anglo-Norman, probably born on one of his father’s estates in the Midlands. He inherited most of his Welsh lands from his marriage to Eleanor de Clare, one of the joint heirs of Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford, in 1317 when the late earl’s lands were divided between his three sisters. It is possible that, in his quest for more Welsh lands, Hugh was trying to form a marcher earldom and perhaps be granted the title of earl of Gloucester. It is interesting to note that Edward never granted him a title.

3. Mortimer would not have unleashed ‘serfs’ to fight his wars — he had retainers, mainly nights and minor nobility, plus their own retainers — all trained fighting men. Serfs, as you call them, otherwise known as villeins, were tied to the fields and so the crops were not left to rot, as you have put. There was not a famine as such in 1322 either, (although the areas plundered by the Contrariants would certainly have suffered). However there was a great animal murrain which swept through cattle and sheep herds across the country, and that would certainly have led to a shortage in meat.

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