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Hugh and Bess

 


 

 

When I finished writing The Traitor's Wife, I found it hard to let go of one character in particular: Hugh,
the oldest son of Eleanor de Clare, the heroine of The Traitor's Wife. I'd become quite fond of him, and I
wondered how he fared in his marriage to Elizabeth de Montacute, daughter of William de Montacute,
the man who helped Edward III overthrow Mortimer and Isabella and who was created Earl of Salisbury
as a result. Could the son of a disgraced traitor and the daughter of a newly made earl find happiness together? The result was Hugh and Bess.

 

You can read more about the historical Hugh here. Though records with respect to his lands and his military career have survived, little is known of him as a man, other than the description of him by a Tewkesbury chronicler as a great warrior. We do know, however, that he was on good terms with several people who

had been mistreated by his father, as well as with the son of one of his former jailers, suggesting that he valued good relationships with others and was sufficiently personable to overcome old grudges against his family.
He appears to have been close to some of his younger siblings. Hugh visited his aunt Elizabeth de Burgh—one
of his father's former victims—in their company, and two of his younger brothers served under his banner.
And Elizabeth de Montacute, married three times, chose to spend eternity by the side of Hugh, her second husband, even though the couple had no surviving children.

 

Even less is known about Hugh's wife, Bess, other than the bare genealogical details of her marriages, her
children by her third husband, and the date and place of her death. Her age can only be guessed at, but we
know that her parents were married no later than 1327, that her eldest brother was born in 1328, with another brother following in 1330, and that she married before her three sisters; probably, then, she was born in the late 1320's. She died in 1359; her tomb effigy portrays a young, attractive woman in a stylish headdress and gown.

 

Two of the most famous—and likely apocryphal—legends about Edward III, the supposed rape of the Countess
of Salisbury and the dropping of the garter by Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent, concern Bess's mother and sister-in-law, but Bess's personality is shrouded by history, obliging me to create a plausible persona for her out of thin air. In doing so, I can only hope that I did her and her husband justice.

 

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