Audley, Hugh, Earl of Gloucester c.1291-1347, baron, was the second son of Sir Hugh Audley (c.1267-c.1326) of Stratton Audley, Oxfordshire, by his marriage to Isolt, widow of Sir Walter de Balun and daughter of Edmund Mortimer of Wigmore, Herefordshire. Audley senior was a minor baron, with lands in Gloucestershire as well as Oxfordshire and a long record of service to the Crown. This was the route by which his son rose into the higher nobility. First appearing as a newly created knight of the household of Edward II in November 1311, he rapidly became a central figure at court, obtaining in April 1317 one of the greatest prizes at the kings disposal: marriage to Margaret de Clare, widow of the former royal favourite, Piers Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall [qv.], and co-heiress to the estates of her brother, Gilbert de Clare, ninth Earl of Gloucester [qv.], who had died at Bannockburn.
From 1316 to 1319 Audley was one of a small group of courtiers, including Roger Damory [qv.] and Hugh Despenser junior [qv.], husbands of the other two Gloucester co-heiresses, who kept a tight grip on Edward IIs patronage and favour; though he was perhaps the least prominent of the three. During this period he contracted to serve Edward for life and from 1317 he was summoned to Parliament. The violent opposition to the kings friends of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, forced Audley to leave the court in 1318, but he returned to serve in the royal army at the siege of Berwick in September 1319. By this time the acquisitiveness of the younger Despenser was beginning to fracture the unity of the court, and Audley was one of Despensers first victims. His holdings in south Wales, the gains of his marriage, made him vulnerable to Despensers territorial ambitions in that area, and by May 1320 he had lost control of Gwynllwg and Newport. These and similar provocations led Audley to join other marchers and former courtiers in rebellion, under the leadership of Lancaster, their one-time enemy. Audleys lands were confiscated in April 1321 and in March 1322 he was captured at Boroughbridge, in Yorkshire, where Lancasters forces were conclusively defeated.
Between 1322 and 1326 Audley was in prison, escaping execution only through the influence of his wife, Edwards niece and the younger Despensers sister-in-law. After Edward IIs overthrow in 1326 he was restored and he received back a substantial portion of his estates. This did not prevent him joining the revolt of Henry, third Earl of Lancaster [qv.], against the corrupt government of Queen Isabella [qv.] and Roger Mortimer, first Earl of March [qv.], in 1328. In January 1329 he surrendered and was fined £10,000, a sum eventually remitted.
After the coup which established Edward III on the throne in 1330 he once again became an active royal agent, serving as envoy to France in 1331 and fighting in the Scottish campaigns of the mid-1330s. In March 1337 he was created Earl of Gloucester: a title which he owed to his wifes inheritance, to his own services to the Crown, and to his popularity with the baronage. For the remainder of his career he continued to serve Edward III, fighting in Scotland, at the siege of Dunbar, in 1337-8, joining Edward in Flanders in 1339, and taking part in the battle of Sluys in 1340 and in Edwards Brittany campaign of 1342. He died 10 November 1347, leaving only a daughter, Margaret, who married Ralph Stafford, later first Earl of Stafford [qv.]. He was buried among his wifes Clare ancestors at Tonbridge Priory. In surviving the conspicuous favour of Edward II in order to go on to win that of Edward III he had followed a course unusual enough to suggest both his high abilities and his political dexterity.
J. C. Davies, The Baronial Opposition to Edward II, 1918
J. R. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster, 1307-22, 1970
J. R. S. Phillips, Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, 1307-24, 1972
G. E. Cokayne, Complete Peerage, new edn., vols. i and v, 1910 and 1926.
Contributor: J. R. Maddicott