Drawing, by Stephanie Decavallas
After reading Magda’s blog earlier in the month about a "lust for scandal" I decided to do a bit of digging and have a look at some of the scandals of the past to see if those in history have also focused on the women. As a member of one of the most powerful medieval families–the de Clares–Eleanor went down in history as "the traitor's wife." The daughter of an Earl and of high status, Eleanor de Clare was married to Hugh le Despenser the Younger when she was just 13 years old. She bore Hugh 9 children and had a great deal of ups and downs within her life, being married to the most hated man in Britain. Hugh was known as one of King Edward's favourites and used his influenced to his advantage, grabbing land and leading the country into civil war. In addition, rumours began to surface that he was having an affair with Edward II and later that Edward II was in fact having an affair with Eleanor, who was actually his niece.
Queen Isabella escaped England to invade later, forcing Eleanor to hide out in the Tower of London while her husband fled with the King. It is thought that at this point Eleanor would have been pregnant. After spending two years imprisoned in the Tower when her husband was captured and executed she was then released and married the man who captured her husband. After further accusations of theft and another spell in the Tower, Eleanor eventually died in 1337 and is thought to have been buried at Tewkesbury Abbey with the rest of the de Clares and later the Despensers. This story had so much scandal, if it happened in today's time it would surely have been all over the papers. Did Eleanor marry her husband's captor willingly? Did she love her husband? The answers to these questions we may never know, but what is interesting is that not much was written about Eleanor at the time, many sources focused on her husband–Hugh the Younger. Would this have been the same today? Maybe not.
Girl Museum Inc.