Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke

Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke (* around 1275, † 23 June 1324) was an important magnate and relative of the English royal house. His grandmother Isabelle d’Angoulême had been married to John I in her first marriage, so she was a grandmother of Edward I. He had good family ties to France, which is why the king liked to use him as a diplomat. When Edward II came to the throne, Pembroke felt personally snubbed by the latter’s favourite Gaveston. He was one of the Lords Ordainers and in 1312 laid siege to Scarborough Castle, where Gaveston had fled after his illicit return from exile. Gaveston surrendered to Pembroke, who promised to bring him to justice and guaranteed his safety until then. On 9 June he left Gaveston in the care of some retainers at Deddington, but travelled on himself to Bampton Manor to join his wife. The Earl of Warwick seized the opportunity and abducted Gaveston to Warwick Castle, ultimately leading to his murder. Pembroke regarded this breach of the rules of chivalry as an attack on his personal honour. Although he was still convinced of the Ordinances, from then on he was loyal to Edward II. He fought with the king at Bannockburn and afterwards tried to mediate between him and Lancaster. Although he supported the exile of the Despensers in 1321, he was again on the king’s side in the ensuing fight. He was also part of the tribunal that sentenced Lancaster to death. Pembroke died unexpectedly in 1324 on a diplomatic mission in France.

Edward II

Pembroke is part of the nobility’s opposition to Piers Gaveston. In [Scene 9] he commits himself together with Arundel to bring the captured Gaveston to Edward II, who wants to see him once more. Pembroke, however, takes Arundel home and leaves Gaveston to his men. It is mentioned that Pembroke lives in nearby Cobham and wants to visit his wife.

"We that have prettie wenches to our wives, Sir, must not come so neare and balke their lips."1

In principle, this agrees with the historical facts, except that Aymer de Valence resided at Deddington. Cobham Hall belonged to William Brooke, Baron Cobham, in the 1590s. One suspects that the constellation of Pembroke, Arundel and Cobham reflects Marlowe’s time rather than Edward II’s.2 William Brooke’s wife at the time was Frances Newton, a lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth I and one of her closest friends. Baroness Cobham was generally known to exert great influence over her husband. From 1589 they were the parents-in-law of Robert Cecil, Lord Burghley’s son. Henry Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, was patron of Pembroke’s Men and married to Mary Sidney on her third marriage. He was a close ally of the Earl of Leicester. Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel had been in the Tower since 1585. He was a Catholic and had been sentenced to death for high treason in 1589. However, Elizabeth I never signed the sentence. (Arundel died of natural causes in 1595.) These nobles thus represented the major factions at the Elizabethan court.

Another allusion4 to Henry Herbert and his company may be contained in the following scene, when the Earl of Warwick kidnapps Gaveston with the words:

"My lord of Penbrookes men, Strive you no longer, I will have that Gaveston."3


  1. Edward II. 9,101-102↩︎
  2. Marlowe (1994)↩︎
  3. Edward II. 10,7-9↩︎
  4. Kay (1997)↩︎

Aktualisiert am 10.05.2024

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