Paon de Roet

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The coat of arms of Katherine de Roet

Paon de Roet sometimes Payne Roet of Guienne (c.1310-1380), and also referred to as Sir Gilles de Roet, was a herald and knight from Hainaut who was involved in the early stages of the Hundred Years War. He became attached to the court of King Edward III of England through the king's marriage to Philippa of Hainaut.

He is most notable for the fact that he became the ancestor of the monarchs of England because his daughter Katherine married John of Gaunt. Her children, given the surname "Beaufort", became the forebears of the Tudor dynasty through Margaret Beaufort. Another of his daughters also made a notable marriage, to the poet Geoffrey Chaucer.


Early life[edit]

Paon de Roet was "probably christened as Gilles",[1] but seems to have been known as "Paon" or "Payne", Latinised as "Paganus". He is named in a legal document in the form Paganus de Rodio — referring to Rodium, the mediaeval Latin form corresponding to the Roeulx, or Le Rœulx, a town of 3000 inhabitants, 8 miles north-east of Mons, on the highway leading from Mons to Nivelle located in the County of Hainaut.

Paon de Roet may have been impelled to seek his fortune in England by the recital of the exploits of Fastre de Roet, who accompanied John of Beaumont in 1326, when, with three hundred followers, he went to assist the English against the Scots. Fastre was the younger brother of the last lord of Roeulx, descended from the Counts of Hainault. He and his brother Eustace fell into pecuniary straits, and were obliged to alienate their landed possessions. Fastre died in 1331, and was buried in the abbey church of Roeulx, while his brother Eustace survived till 1336. Paon was, like Fastre, a younger brother — possibly of a collateral line.

In England[edit]

Paon de Roet may have come to England as part of the retinue of Philippa of Hainaut, accompanying the young queen in her departure from Valenciennes to join her youthful husband Edward III in England at the close of 1327. His name does not appear in the official list of knights who accompanied the queen from Hainaut. However, Froissart says he was one of a number of additional young knights and squires who added to the queen's retinue, referred to as 'pluissier jone esquier', i.e. "plusiers jeunes escuyers" ('other young squires'); Speght (1598)[2]

Froissart's account of the history of English monarchs includes a genealogical tree, the relevant part of which begins with Paon's name. He is described as "Paganus de Rouet Hannoniensis, aliter dictus Guien Rex Armorum" ("Paon de Rouet of Hainaut, also called Guyenne King of Arms"). The latter part refers to the title of King of Arms granted by Edward III to Roet for the territory of Guyenne (Aquitaine) which was controlled by Edward.

France and Hainaut[edit]

In 1347, Roet was sent to the Siege of Calais, and was one of two knights deputed by Queen Philippa to conduct out of town the citizens whom she had saved (the so-called Burghers of Calais).[3]

He had returned to the lands of Hainaut, probably by 1349. He went to serve the queen’s sister, Marguerite, who was the empress of Germany, and his three younger children—Walter, Philippa and Katherine—were left in the care of Queen Philippa.[4] He died in Ghent in 1380.


Paon had three daughters, Katherine, Philippa and Isabel (also called Elizabeth) de Roet, and a son, Walter. Isabel was to become Canoness of the convent of St. Waudru at Mons in Hainaut, c. 1366. Philippa married the poet Geoffrey Chaucer in 1366. They met while still children when they were attached to the household of Elizabeth de Burgh, 4th Countess of Ulster.[5]

Katherine became governess to the daughters of John of Gaunt. After the death of John's wife Blanche in 1369, Katherine and John began a love affair which would bring forth four children born out of wedlock and would endure as a lifelong relationship. However, John made a dynastic marriage to Constance of Castille, a claimant to the throne of Castile, after which he called himself "King of Castille". When Constance died he married Katherine and legitimised their children.


Roet's name listed amongst early graves lost noted on the memorial in St Paul's Cathedral

Paon de Roet's tomb was in Old St Paul's Cathedral, near Sir John Beauchamp's tomb (commonly called "Duke Humphrey's"). The antiquary John Weever had previously recorded that "Once a fair marble stone inlaid all over with brass, nothing but the heads of a few brazen nails are at this day visible, previously engraven with the representation and coat of arms of the party defunct, thus much of a mangled funeral inscription was of late times perspicuous to be read".[6]

By 1658, viewed without its brass plate and effigies, this tomb was described by William Dugdale. The tomb, along with the tombs of many others, including John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster's, were completely destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. A modern monument in the crypt lists De Roet amongst the important graves lost.

The former inscription was as follows:

" Hic Jacet Paganus Roet Miles Guyenne Rex
Armorum Pater Catherine Ducisse Lancastrie."

(Here lies Paon de Roet, knight, Guyenne King of Arms, father of Katherine Duchess of Lancaster)


  1. ^ Weir, Alison (2007). Katherine Swynford: The story of John of Gaunt and his Scandalous Duchess. London: Jonathan Cape. ISBN 0-224-06321-9. 
  2. ^ Speght, M (1598). The life of Chaucer. 
  3. ^ Froissart, 5.215 : "Et au matin elle fist donner a casqun sys nobles [six nobles, about $150], et les fist conduire hors de l'oost par messire Sanse d'Aubrecicourt et messire Paon de Ruet, si avent que il vorrent, et que il fu avis as deus chevaliers que il estoient hors dou peril, et au departir il les commanderent a Dieu, et retournerent li chevalier en l'oost."
  4. ^ Davis, Craig R. “A Perfect Marriage on the Rocks: Geoffrey and Philippa Chaucer, and The Franklin’s Tale.” Chaucer Review 37.2 (2002). 130.
  5. ^ Braddy, Haldeen. “Chaucer’s Philippa, Daughter of Panneto.” Modern Language Notes 64.5 (1949). 342.
  6. ^ Weever, 1631. Antient Funeral Monuments, of Great-Britain, Ireland, and the Islands (in W. Tooke's edition of 1767, p.413).