Whilst researching for my post on Ada de Warenne I discovered that 100 years later, a kinswoman of hers also, briefly, made an appearance on the stage of Scottish history.
Isabella de Warenne was the daughter of John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey, and Alice de Lusignan. Alice was the daughter of King John of England’s widow, Isabella of Angouleme, and Hugh X de Lusignan and half-sister to Henry III of England. Isabella was, therefore, Henry’s niece and a 1st cousin of King Edward I. Through her paternal grandmother, Maud Marshal, Isabella was also a great-granddaughter of the ‘Greatest Knight’ William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke and Regent of England in the early years of Henry III’s reign.
Isabella was one of 3 children; her elder sister, Eleanor, married Henry Percy and was the mother of Henry de Percy, 1st Baron Percy. Isabella’s younger brother, William de Warenne, married Joan de Vere, daughter of the 5th Earl of Oxford, and was father to 2 children, a son and a daughter; John and Alice. Isabella’s nephew, John de Warenne, was the last Earl of Warenne and Surrey, whose marital and extra-marital situation led to the extinction of the senior Warenne line. It was through John’s sister, Alice de Warenne, that the title earl of Surrey would eventually pass to her son Richard Fitzalan, 10th Earl of Arundel.
Alice de Lusignan died in 1256, shortly after giving birth to her youngest child, William, leaving the 25-year-old Earl Warenne to raise 3 young children. Alice de Lusignan was buried at Lewes Priory, the family mausoleum, she was ‘placed in the earth before the great altar in the presence of her brother Adelmar [Aymer de Valence], [bishop] elect of Winchester.’1 Isabella was probably born around 1253, although some genealogical sources claim she was younger and the daughter of a second, unknown wife of John de Warenne. The theory is probably based on the fact that Isabella married relatively late for the era. However, there is no evidence that John ever remarried after Alice’s death, so this theory seems unlikely. It is just as likely – or more likely, in fact – that Isabella married late because previous marriage proposals or arrangements had failed, either due to failed negotiations or the death of the proposed groom. Such instances often went unrecorded, and are much more feasible than the suggestion that the earl had remarried but not one of the chroniclers of the time had mentioned it.
Isabella was married to John Balliol, Lord of Bywell, sometime before 7th February 1281. In the early 1290s, John Balliol was one of the 13 Competitors for the Scottish throne. He was the great-grandson of Ada de Warenne’s youngest son, David, Earl of Huntingdon, by David’s daughter, Margaret. John and Isabella were, therefore, 4th cousins, both being descended from William de Warenne, 2nd Earl of Surrey, and his wife, Isabel de Vermandois.
Balliol’s claim lay through seniority, he was grandson of Margaret, the eldest daughter of David of Huntingdon. The other leading Competitor was Robert de Brus, grandfather of the future King Robert (I) the Bruce. Robert de Brus’s claim lay in the fact he was closer in degree to the same David, being the son of David’s youngest daughter, Isobel. John Balliol was therefore David’s great-grandson, whereas Robert de Brus was his grandson, though by a younger daughter.
With 13 claimants to the Scottish throne it was Edward I of England who was given the duty of selecting Scotland’s next king. Isabella’s close family links to the English crown may have helped Edward decide in John’s favour and he was installed as King of Scotland in November 1292.
John and Isabella may have had at least 3, but possibly 4, children together.
A daughter, Margaret, died unmarried. There is mention of another daughter, Anne; but there is doubt as to whether she ever existed.
Their eldest son, Edward, was born around 1283. Following the deposition of his father, in November 1299 Isabella and John’s oldest son, Edward, was entrusted to the custody of his Earl Warenne, who was then approaching his 70th year. After his grandfather’s death in 1304, Edward was transferred to the custody of his cousin John, the 7th Earl Warenne, until he was delivered into royal custody in 1310.
By the 1330s Edward’s prospects had improved. He was seen as a useful political tool, a rival claimant to the Scottish crown. With English support, Edward made his own bid for the throne, and was crowned king following his defeat of 8-year-old David II‘s forces at the Battle of Dupplin Moor in 1332. David’s supporters and Edward struggled against each other, until they eventually triumphed over Edward and he was deposed in 1336.
Edward finally surrendered his claim to the Scottish throne in 1356 whilst living in English exile; he died in Wheatley, Doncaster, probably in 1363 or 1364. Although his final resting place has recently been claimed to be under Doncaster Post Office, the former site of Doncaster Priory, it remains elusive.
John and Isabella’s possible younger son, Henry, was killed on 16th December 1332 at the Battle of Annan, a resounding victory for supporters of David II against Henry’s brother, Edward.
Although Edward was briefly married to Margaret of Taranto, the marriage was annulled. Neither Edward nor Henry had any children.
Very little is known of John and Isabella’s life together. Her death date and final resting place are both unknown. It is by no means certain that Isabella was still alive when John became king, so may have died before 1292, when John succeeded to the Scottish throne. She was no longer living, however, when her own father defeated John and the Scottish army at the Battle of Dunbar in April 1296; John abdicated in July of the same year and died in French exile in 1314.
John’s claim to the Scottish throne was supported by the Comyns, which led to the murder of John Comyn, in the church at Dumfries in 1306, by Robert the Bruce, who had succeeded his grandfather as the other leading Competitor to the throne. Shortly after the murder, he was crowned King Robert I at Scone but was only able to consolidate his rule after winning a resounding victory over the English at Bannockburn in 1314.
1‘Annals written by a certain monk of Lewes, from the birth of Christ to the year 1312’ quoted in W.H. Blaauw, On the Early History of Lewes Priory, and its Seals, with extracts from a MS. Chronicle
John Balliol and Isabella de Warenne from britroyals.com; Edward Balliol courtesy of Wikipedia
W.H. Blaauw, On the Early History of Lewes Priory, and its Seals, with extracts from a MS. Chronicle; William Farrer and Charles Travis Clay, editors, Early Yorkshire Charters, Volume 8: The Honour of Warenne; Nigel Tranter, The Story of Scotland; britroyals.com; Rev. John Watson, Memoirs of the Ancient Earls of Warren and Surrey, and Their Descendants to the Present Time, Volume I; G.P. Stell, John [John de Balliol] (c. 1248×50-1314) (article), Oxforddnb.com; Susan M. Johns, ‘Alice de Lusignan, suo jure countess of Eu’, Oxforddnb.com; Scott L. Waugh, Warenne, John de, sixth earl of Surrey [earl of Surrey and Sussex, Earl Warenne] (1231-1304) Oxforddnb.com; royal.gov.uk/HistoryoftheMonarchy/ScottishMonarchs; Alison Weir, Britain’s Royal Families; David Williamson, Brewer’s British Royalty; Mike Ashley, The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens; englishmonarchs.co.uk.
Defenders of the Norman Crown: The Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey tells the fascinating story of the Warenne dynasty, of the successes and failures of one of the most powerful families in England, from its origins in Normandy, through the Conquest, Magna Carta, the wars and marriages that led to its ultimate demise in the reign of Edward III.
1 family. 8 earls. 300 years of English history!
Defenders of the Norman Crown: Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey will be released in the UK on 31 May and in the US on 6 August. And it is now available for pre-order from Pen & Sword Books, Amazon in the UK and US and Book Depository.
Also by Sharon Bennett Connolly:
Ladies of Magna Carta: Women of Influence in Thirteenth Century England looks into the relationships of the various noble families of the 13th century, and how they were affected by the Barons’ Wars, Magna Carta and its aftermath; the bonds that were formed and those that were broken. It is now available from Pen & Sword, Amazon and from Book Depository worldwide.
Heroines of the Medieval World tells the stories of some of the most remarkable women from Medieval history, from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Julian of Norwich. Available now from Amberley Publishing and Amazon and Book Depository.
Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest traces the fortunes of the women who had a significant role to play in the momentous events of 1066. Available now from Amazon, Amberley Publishing, Book Depository.
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