The 1326 marriage contract between Edward III and Philippa of Hainault will be going up for sale at auction later this month. It is expected to be sold for between £100,000-150,000.
The contract, written on one skin of vellum, was the decisive factor in a carefully laid plot to invade England, raise a rebellion and depose the reigning monarch, Edward II.
The prime mover of these events was Isabella, wife of Edward II who plotted to unseat her husband and replace him with their 13-year-old son, the future Edward III. Sent to France in 1325 to negotiate with her brother King Charles IV, Isabella refused to return to London, established a court-in-exile and arranged for her son to join her in Paris. The marriage contract with Philippa – who was around 11 years old – had one purpose only: to raise the money and men with which to invade England and depose Edward.
Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer invaded England in September 1326 with the troops provided under the terms of the marriage contract, They met little resistance, and within a few days Edward’s reign was effectively over. By January the following year, Edward had formally renounced the throne in favor of his son, with Isabella and Mortimer appointed joint regents. Weeks later Edward II was murdered in Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire on the orders of Mortimer. Over the following two years, Isabella and Mortimer systematically abused their position to acquire estates and wealth, until Edward III asserted his authority in 1330 and had Mortimer arrested for treason and executed.
The marriage contract of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault is part of the Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts Sale in London on Wednesday 27 March. Other medieval items at this particular sale include a 15th century printed book of a work by Franciscus de Retza with woodcut illustrations.
The marriage of Edward III and Philippa was happy and successful, producing 13 children and ending only with the queen’s death in 1369. Philippa was a popular figure and won admiration for persuading the king to pardon the Burghers of Calais, six civic dignitaries who had volunteered to face death in order to spare the rest of the townsfolk. Queen’s College Oxford is named in her honor.
Historian Felix Pryor who cataloged the document for Bonhams said, “This deed is an extraordinary survival from the Middle Ages, and few more potent relics of English history have been offered for sale. Without it there would have been no Black Prince, nor any of his numerous siblings, the disputing claims of whose descendants were to give rise to the Wars of the Roses in the following century, curtain-raiser to the Tudors and the modern, post-feudal, age. It is also a physical embodiment of open rebellion and the invasion of England less than a month later.”