Philip le Despenser was the second son of Hugh le Despenser the elder and Isabel de Beauchamp, therefore making him a nephew of the earl of Warwick. He was born in the years 1291-1293 (although I favour 1291), although, like his elder brother, the exact date and place of his birth are unknown (despite some claims on genealogy sites). As with many children of the nobility, it is hard to track down anything about their childhood, but with Philip we do get an interesting glimpse. On Jun 24th 1294, Hugh the elder appointed Richard de Loutheburg (Lughtburgh), a rector, as his guardian, while at the same time granting his son two of his manors:
Grant by Hugh le Despenser, knight, to Philip le Despenser, his son, in tail, of the manors of Parlington, co. York, and Hauttebarg [Alkborough], co. Lincoln; with reversion to the grantor. 1
Loutheburg was obviously a trusted servant of the elder Despenser, as he appears several times in the records, standing as Despenser’s attorney when the knight travelled abroad on royal business. It is interesting to have this record of the manors, as there is no similar account of property being given to Despenser’s eldest son and heir, Hugh the younger. It seems almost inconceivable that this did not occur, however there is nothing to back up the assumption.
By 1306, when Hugh the younger was to be knighted and married to Eleanor de Clare, the King’s grand-daughter, the earl of Warwick was still unmarried and without an heir. In a rather strange move, he declared that Philip would be his heir in the event of him dying childless. This is strange because surely, if he was going to choose a Despenser relative, why not the younger Hugh who was already his father’s heir? It is a shame that we do not know of Hugh’s feelings about this. After all, if the arrangement had borne fruit, his younger brother would have one day become an earl and he, the Despenser heir would still only be a baron – albeit one who had married into the royal family.
Shortly before or on 29th June 1308, Philip, aged around 17, married Margaret Goushill, the daughter and only heir of Ralph de Goushill. I have seen the date of this marriage vary wildly and so assumed that maybe there was no record, but I tracked one down in the Calendar of Chancery Warrants:
Mandate, as Philip le Despenser, who married Margaret daughter and heiress of Ralph de Goushull, tenant in chief of Edward I, has done fealty to the king for the lands of her inheritance, with proof of her age, to order livery of these lands to be made to them. 2
Margaret was born on 12th May 1294, making her 14 at the time of the marriage. What is interesting is that both were considered under age to be landholders but obviously some exception was made for Despenser’s son on this occasion (not that it was rare, Roger Mortimer also took seisin of his lands before he came of age). Margaret was the heiress to quite a few manors and pieces of land in the counties of York, Lincoln and Essex, so Philip’s prospects were pretty good at that point – better even than his older brother who, although he had married into the royal family, had few lands to show for it. 3
At some point however, relations seemed to sour between father and son. On November 24th 1312, the elder Despenser sued against him in the King’s Bench:
To the justices of the Bench. Order to permit a fine to be levied in the Bench in the writs of covenant brought by Hugh le Despenser, the elder, against Philip, son of Hugh le Despenser, and Margaret his wife concerning the manors of Dodinton, Coldon, and Paulsflete, co. York, and the manors of Gedeneie, Poynton, Greyby, Rokkesham, Bassingham, Steynton, Goushil, and Halton-on-Humbre, and two messuages in Wikeford in the suburbs of Lincoln, and the advowson of the church of Gedeneie, co. Lincoln, and the manor of Toppesfeld, co. Essex, to levy a fine thereof between them, which the justices aforesaid would not permit to be levied because the premises are held in chief. The king, wishing to show favour to the said Hugh, orders them to allow such fine to be levied. 4
Interestingly, the manors of Parlington and Alkborough are not mentioned – probably because Hugh the elder probably still thought of them as ‘his’ under the terms of their granting. It would be great to know what caused this rift between them that it had to be taken to ‘court’ as it were. There are no records extant of the outcome but as the properties mentioned were still part of Philip’s estate at his death, it seems that Hugh the elder didn’t get his hands on any in the end. Maybe they settled their differences.
In other ways it seemed as though Philip was all set to join the family trade. There is an accusation against him – and others – that he was involved in assault, theft and extortion of one William de Swynesheved, the vicar of Gedeney, one of Philip’s manor’s through Margaret’s inheritance. 5 Unfortunately there is no exact date as to when this accusation was brought – nor is there any record of the outcome, although I doubt that it went against the son of Hugh le Despenser.
Philip died on 24th September 1313 – cause unknown – aged in his early twenties. 6 He died leaving a five month old son, Philip – his first child. In what seems like a short time, less than seven months, his widow married John de Ros, second son of William de Ros and cousin to Maud de Nerford, John de Warenne’s (earl of Surrey’s) mistress. John de Ros was the man who Hugh the younger attacked in Lincoln Cathedral on 22nd February 1316. Although Hugh gave the reason for the attack as being that Ros had tried to have one of Hugh senior’s men arrested, it also hints that there may have been more reasons for the discord lying under the surface – most likely something to do with Ros’s marriage to his former sister-in-law.
On Philip’s death, Hugh senior took back the manors he had granted his son as a baby; after all, they were returnable to the grantee upon death. Even so, Ros and Margaret challenged the decision after the Despensers’ downfall and eventually won them back for Philip’s heir, Philip. Sadly though, he also died at a young age – 36 – leaving another son (another Philip) to grow up without a father. Margaret died three months later.
1 Descriptive Catalogue of Ancient Deeds 4, A.6847
2 Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, p.275
3 While a minor, Margaret appears to have been the ward of Henry de Lacy, the earl of Lincoln: National Archives documents online: Ancient Petitions SC 8/69/3406
4 Calendar of the Close Rolls 1307-1313, p.493
5 National Archives documents online: Ancient Petitions SC 8/327/E833
6 IPM, Edward II 1307-1316, p.266, No. 472 (although it seems to have Margaret’s age wrong – citing her as being 17 rather than 19)