What a Rotter!

Article excerpt

Byline: By Steve Tucker South Wales Echo

A man whose family gave its name to some of South Wales' best-known streets and roads has been included in a list of the worst Britons of the last 1,000 years.

Hugh Despenser the Younger, who terrorised South Wales throughout the early 14th Century, joins the likes of fascist Oswald Mosley and serial killer Jack the Ripper in the list compiled by 10 historians for the BBC History Magazine by 10 historians.

The news will undoubtedly come as a shock to residents of Riverside, Cardiff, living in Despenser Street, Place and Gardens, along with those in Despenser Road, in Sully and Despenser Avenue, in Llantrisant.

Born in 1286, Hugh was the son and heir of the Earl of Winchester, Hugh Le Despenser the Elder.

In May 1306 he was knighted and that summer married Eleanor de Clare, a granddaughter of King Edward I of England, in payment of a debt owed to Hugh's father.

In 1316, Hugh murdered Llywelyn Bren, a Welsh hostage in his custody by having him hanged, drawn and quartered, in Cardiff.

Hugh, who was bisexual, then became close to the homosexual King Edward II who was to meet an awful end when a hot poker was rammed up his bottom.

Not content with the Lordship of Caerphilly, Hugh also took the Lordship of Cardiff, owning both Caerphilly and Cardiff Castles for a time.

Finally local barons prevailed on King Edward and Hugh and his father was exiled to France but he was reinstated as a royal favourite a year later.

However, when King Edward's estranged wife Isabella and Hugh's enemy Roger Mortimer invaded England, Hugh's father was executed, and Hugh himself was captured. He tried to starve himself before his trial, but was tried on November 24, 1326.

He was judged a traitor and a thief, was drawn and quartered, and his testicles severed and burnt before him.

Magazine editor Dave Musgrove said: 'How do you decide on the worst Briton? It's not an easy choice, is it the person who murdered the most citizens or the one who led the country into the most desperate straits of poverty or war, or perhaps just he who trod most unscrupulously on those around him? …