The Despensers were a baronial English family who rose to great prominence in the reign of Edward II (1307-27) when Hugh Despenser the Younger became the king's chamberlain, favourite and perhaps lover. He and his father Hugh the Elder wielded great influence, and Hugh the Younger's greed and tyranny brought down a king for the first time in English history and almost destroyed his own family. Rise and Fall tells the story of the ups and downs of this fascinating family from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries, when three Despenser lords were beheaded and two fell in battle.
We begin with Hugh the justiciar, who died rebelling against King Henry III and his son in 1265, and end with Thomas Despenser, summarily beheaded in 1400 after attempting to free a deposed Richard II, and Thomas's posthumous daughter Isabella, a countess twice over and the grandmother of Richard III's queen. From the medieval version of Prime Ministers to the (possible) lovers of monarchs, the aristocratic Despenser family wielded great power in medieval England. Drawing on the popular intrigue and infamy of the Despenser clan, Kathryn Warner's book traces the lives of the most notorious, powerful and influential members of this patrician family over a 200 year span.