Bannockburn; and after a division of the immense Clare lands had been made in 1317 violent quarrels broke out between the Despensers and the husbands of the other heiresses, Roger of Amory and Hugh of Audley. Interwoven with this dispute was another between the younger Despenser and the Mowbrays, who were supported by Humphrey Bohun, earl of Hereford, about some lands in Glamorganshire. Fighting having begun in Wales and on the Welsh borders, the English barons showed themselves decidedly hostile to the Despensers, and in 1321 Edward II. was obliged to consent to their banishment. While the elder Hugh left England the younger one remained; soon the king persuaded the clergy to annul the sentence against them, and father and son were again at court. They fought against the rebellious barons at Boroughbridge, and after Lancaster’s death in 1322 they were practically responsible for the government of the country, which they attempted to rule in a moderate and constitutional fashion. But their next enemy, Queen Isabella, was more formidable, or more fortunate, than Lancaster. Returning to England after a sojourn in France in 1326 the queen directed her arms against her husband’s favourites. The elder Despenser was seized at Bristol, where he was hanged on the 27th of October 1326, and the younger was taken with the king at Llantrisant and hanged at Hereford on the 24th of November following. The attainder against the Despensers was reversed in 1398. The intense hatred with which the barons regarded the Despensers was due to the enormous wealth which had passed into their hands, and to the arrogance and rapacity of the younger Hugh.
The younger Despenser left two sons, Hugh (1308-1349), and Edward, who was killed at Vannes in 1342.
The latter’s son Edward le Despenser (d. 1375) fought at the battle of Poitiers, and then in Italy for Pope Urban V.; he was a patron of Froissart, who calls him le grand sire Despensier. His son, Thomas le Despenser (1373-1400), the husband of Constance (d. 1416), daughter of Edmund of Langley, duke of York, supported Richard II. against Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester, and the other lords appellant in 1397, when he himself was created earl of Gloucester, but he deserted the king in 1399. Then, degraded from his earldom for participating in Gloucester’s death, Despenser joined the conspiracy against Henry IV., but he was seized and was executed by a mob at Bristol in January 1400.
The elder Edward le Despenser left another son, Henry (c. 1341-1406), who became bishop of Norwich in 1370. In early life Henry had been a soldier, and when the peasants revolted in 1381 he took readily to the field, defeated the insurgents at North Walsham, and suppressed the rising in Norfolk with some severity. More famous, however, was the militant bishop’s enterprise on behalf of Pope Urban VI., who in 1382 employed him to lead a crusade in Flanders against the supporters of the anti-pope Clement VII. He was very successful in capturing towns until he came before Ypres, where he was checked, his humiliation being completed when his army was defeated by the French and decimated by a pestilence. Having returned to England the bishop was impeached in parliament and was deprived of his lands; Richard II., however, stood by him, and he soon regained an influential place in the royal council, and was employed to defend his country on the seas. Almost alone among his peers Henry remained true to Richard in 1399; he was then imprisoned, but was quickly released and reconciled with the new king, Henry IV. He died on the 23rd of August 1406. Despenser was an active enemy of the Lollards, whose leader, John Wycliffe, had fiercely denounced his crusade in Flanders.
The barony of Despenser, called out of abeyance in 1604, was held by the Fanes, earls of Westmorland, from 1626 to 1762; by the notorious Sir Francis Dashwood from 1763 to 1781; and by the Stapletons from 1788 to 1891. In 1891 it was inherited, through his mother, by the 7th Viscount Falmouth.
DES PÉRIERS, BONAVENTURE (c. 1500-1544), French author, was born of a noble family at Arnay-le-duc in Burgundy at the end of the 15th century. The circumstances of his education are uncertain, but he became a good classical scholar, and was attached to various noble houses in the capacity of tutor. In 1533 or 1534 Des Périers visited Lyons, then the most enlightened town of France, and a refuge for many liberal scholars who might elsewhere have had to suffer for their opinions. He gave some assistance to Robert Olivetan and Lefèvre d’Étaples in the preparation of the vernacular version of the Old Testament, and to Étienne Dolet in the Commentarii linguae latinae. In 1536 he put himself under the protection of Marguerite d’Angoulême, queen of Navarre, who made him her valet-de-chambre. He acted as the queen’s secretary, and transcribed the Heptaméron for her. It is probable that his duties extended beyond those of a mere copyist, and some writers have gone so far as to say that the Heptaméron was his work. The free discussions permitted at Marguerite’s court encouraged a licence of thought as displeasing to the Calvinists as to the Catholics. This free inquiry became scepticism in Bonaventure’s Cymbalum Mundi ... (1537), and the queen of Navarre thought it prudent to disavow the author, though she continued to help him privately until 1541. The book consisted of four dialogues in imitation of Lucian. Its allegorical form did not conceal its real meaning, and, when it was printed by Morin, probably early in 1538, the Sorbonne secured the suppression of the edition before it was offered for sale. The dedication provides a key to the author’s intention: Thomas du Clevier (or Clenier) à son ami Pierre Tryocan was recognized by 19th-century editors to be an anagram for Thomas l’Incrédule à son ami Pierre Croyant. The book was reprinted in Paris in the same year. It made many bitter enemies for the author. Henri Estienne called it détestable, and Étienne Pasquier said it deserved to be thrown into the fire with its author if he were still living. Des Périers prudently left Paris, and after some wanderings settled at Lyons, where he lived in poverty, until in 1544 he put an end to his existence by falling on his sword. In 1544 his collected works were printed at Lyons. The volume, Recueil des œuvres de feu Bonaventure des Périers, included his poems, which are of small merit, the Traité des quatre vertus cardinales après Sénèque, and a translation of the Lysis of Plato. In 1558 appeared at Lyons the collection of stories and fables entitled the Nouvelles récréations et joyeux devis. It is on this work that the claim put forward for Des Périers as one of the early masters of French prose rests. Some of the tales are attributed to the editors, Nicholas Denisot and Jacques Pelletier, but their share is certainly limited to the later ones. The book leaves something to be desired on the score of morality, but the stories never lack point and are models of simple, direct narration in the vigorous and picturesque French of the 16th century.
DESPORTES, PHILIPPE (1546-1606), French poet, was born at Chartres in 1546. As secretary to the bishop of Le Puy he visited Italy, where he gained a knowledge of Italian poetry afterwards turned to good account. On his return to France he attached himself to the duke of Anjou, and followed him to Warsaw on his election as king of Poland. Nine months in Poland satisfied the civilized Desportes, but in 1574 his patron became king of France as Henry III. He showered favours on the poet, who received, in reward for the skill with which he wrote occasional poems at the royal request, the abbey of Tiron and four other valuable benefices. A good example of the light and dainty verse in which Desportes excelled is furnished by the well-known villanelle with the refrain “Qui premier s’en repentira,” which was on the lips of Henry, duke of Guise, just before his tragic death. Desportes was above all an imitator. He imitated Petrarch, Ariosto, Sannazaro, and still more closely the minor Italian poets, and in 1604 a number of his plagiarisms were exposed in the Rencontres des Muses de France et d’ltalie. As a sonneteer he showed much grace and sweetness, and English poets borrowed freely from him. In his old age Desportes acknowledged his ecclesiastical preferment by a translation of