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|1388 (Feb.)||Sir Gerard Braybrooke II|
|1388 (Sept.)||William Terrington|
|1390 (Jan.)||William Terrington|
|1390 (Nov.)||Sir Gerard Braybrooke I|
|1397 (Jan.)||William Terrington|
|1397 (Sept.)||(Sir) Baldwin Pigot|
|1399||Sir Gerard Braybrooke II|
|Sir Roger Beauchamp|
|1401||(Sir) Baldwin Pigot|
|1404 (Jan.)||Reynold Ragon|
|1404 (Oct.)||Thomas Durant|
|1413 (May)||William Bosom|
|1414 (Apr.)||John Goldington II|
|1414 (Nov.)||John Enderby|
|1416 (Mar.)||William Bosom|
|(Sir) Thomas Waweton|
|1421 (May)||John Goldington II|
|1421 (Dec.)||Thomas Manningham|
Returns survive for 27 of the 32 Parliaments which met between 1386 and the end of Henry V’s reign in 1422, those for 1410, 1411, 1413 (Feb.), 1415 and 1416 (Oct.) having been lost. We know the names of 27 of the men who represented the county during this period, and although gaps in the evidence now make it impossible to be absolutely certain about the parliamentary experience of them all, it appears that 11, an unusually large proportion, sat for Bedfordshire only once in their careers. Two of these were, however, returned elsewhere, Thomas Manningham sitting for Carlisle in the one Parliament of 1419, and possibly for Appleby three years earlier, and Robert Scott for Huntingdonshire on at least seven occasions between 1401 and 1425. Five Members were twice returned to the House of Commons by the Bedfordshire electors; and a further three served three times. Yet this group included Thomas Durant, MP for Buckinghamshire in 1401, and Sir Gerard Braybrooke II, who later represented Essex in 1402 and 1407, as well as Roger Hunt, whose record of 15 returns for Huntingdonshire (spread over a period of 26 years) marks him out as a particularly seasoned parliamentarian. Moreover, Hunt was twice made Speaker of the Commons: once, in 1420, when he was Member for Bedfordshire, and again in 1433, the date of his 18th and last Parliament. The first of these occasions was marked by the only known contest for the office to take place during the Middle Ages: his rival, John Russell III* commanded sufficient support for a scrutiny (examinacio) of votes to be taken, although Hunt’s legal training, important connexions and somewhat greater familiarity with Commons’ procedure enabled him to carry the day.
None of the four shire knights who evidently sat on four occasions appear to have sought election in other constituencies; but Thomas Waweton, the only individual to serve five times as a Bedfordshire MP, was equally popular with the Huntingdonshire electors, and he tended to be returned for the two counties alternately. His career in the Lower House lasted from 1397 to 1432, and he attended at least 12 Parliaments, occupying the Speaker’s chair in 1425 while representing Bedfordshire. None of our three remaining MPs were as experienced as either Hunt or Waweton, although John Worship had six elections to his credit, while John Enderby and William Terrington could each claim 11, extending over periods of, respectively, 21 and 24 years. Thus, although the men here under review sat for Bedfordshire on an average of just under three Parliaments each, when the record of the six who represented other constituencies is taken into account, the average rises to between four and five.
The pattern of representation remained fairly constant throughout our period, for although no instances of re-election are known to have occurred after April 1414, the loss of the returns for 1415 and 1416 (Oct.) makes it impossible to be certain on this point. Despite the number of novices elected for Bedfordshire during the late 14th and early 15th centuries, only once (in 1395) did two apparent newcomers to the Lower House sit together. It was, indeed, customary for each novice to be returned with a more experienced colleague, this being the case in at least 14 of the 32 Parliaments under consideration. On a further 12 occasions, if not more, both Members had already sat before (but not always for Bedfordshire). An element of continuity in representation was kept up (particularly over the years 1390 to 1406) through the immediate re-election of one of the two shire knights. Such was the case in 1390 (Jan.), 1393, 1394, 1397 (Sept.), 1404 (Jan.), 1406 and 1414 (Apr.). William Terrington was actually re-elected twice, and his four colleagues, John Worship, Reynold Ragon, Thomas Durant and Thomas Waweton once. Given that Waweton and Hunt were both returned frequently for Huntingdonshire as well, they may be said to have maintained an almost constant presence in the House through most of Henry V’s reign, albeit as the representatives of two counties rather than one. So far as we can tell, two MPs were never returned together to consecutive Parliaments, but whether this was because of competition for seats or a general reluctance to shoulder the burdens of parliamentary service remains a matter for speculation.
One of the most striking and unusual features of the parliamentary representation of Bedfordshire is the comparative infrequency with which knights proper were returned. Only once, in 1399, were both Members of knightly rank, Sir Roger Beauchamp (a newcomer to the Commons) having only just been promoted. One ‘belted knight’ sat with a gentleman or esquire in a further five Parliaments, namely those of 1388 (Feb.), 1390 (Nov.), 1397 (Sept.), 1401 and 1419. Altogether, a mere five such men represented the county in our period; and two of them (Thomas Waweton and Baldwin Pigot) first entered the Commons long before receiving knighthoods. There can, however, be no doubt that the great majority of their colleagues were rich and influential enough to have assumed the rank had they so wished. This is borne out by the fact that most MPs (23 in all) became involved in the business of local government at some time or another, although paradoxically three of the four who did not possessed particularly impressive personal connexions which could have been exploited to far greater advantage. Both Giles Daubeney and Robert Mordaunt belonged to important landowning families long established in Bedfordshire, while Henry Cockayne was the younger son of one of the country’s leading judges. Only Thomas Roxton seems to have come from relative obscurity, but he, too, had powerful friends who could have helped to further his career if he had been more ambitious.
By contrast, nine of the Members here under review served as sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire,1 Thomas Waweton being by far the most experienced with four terms to his credit. Both Sir Baldwin Pigot and Reynold Ragon were twice chosen, but, like Waweton, neither of them had held that office before first entering Parliament. Indeed, of the nine, only Philip Walwyn had been sheriff of the two counties before becoming a shire knight, which he did at the very end of a long and distinguished career at Court. Three of his parliamentary colleagues served as sheriffs elsewhere, Sir Gerard Braybrooke II in Essex (after sitting twice for Bedfordshire), Roger Hunt in the joint shrievalty of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire (again after representing Bedfordshire for the last time) and Robert Scott in these same two counties (where he discharged four terms over a period of 18 years). Scott’s last appointment as sheriff occurred in November 1420, so his one and only appearance as a Member for Bedfordshire in the Parliament which met on 2 Dec. following was technically in breach of the writ of summons, which forbade the return of sheriffs. Robert Digswell also contravened the letter, if not the spirit, of this prohibition in 1384, since he was made sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire on 11 Nov., just one day before the Commons (to which he had already been elected) assembled at Westminster. John Worship likewise attended the second session of the 1397-8 Parliament at Shrewsbury while occupying the same shrievalty, for he was one of the crown servants then chosen by King Richard to strengthen his hand in the regions.
The counties of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire also shared a common escheator, although this post was not usually held by either past or future shire knights during our period. Only four MPs appear to have occupied it,2 and of these Thomas Manningham alone did so twice. Both he and William Bosom had, however, gained experience of the duties involved before their first election to Parliament, while Robert Scott’s remarkable record of service in local government also included two terms as escheator of Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire again discharged before he represented Bedfordshire in 1420. On the other hand, well over half (16) of the Bedfordshire Members sat as justices on the local bench, the majority receiving their first commissions of the peace once they had embarked on their parliamentary careers.3 During the late 14th century the county electors appear to have been largely indifferent as to whether or not they were represented by a j.p. currently in office, and one such was returned only three times (1386, 1388 (Sept.) and 1390 (Nov.)). From 1402 (when two j.p.s sat together) onwards, however, there seems to have been a slight tendency in favour of the election of a serving member of the county bench, this being the case in the Parliaments of 1404 (Jan.), 1407, 1413 (May), 1414 (Apr.), 1416 (Mar.) and 1417.
Not surprisingly, an even larger proportion of MPs were appointed to royal commissions of various kinds, and roughly three out of every four (21) are known to have gained experience in this field. At least 14 of them had already executed one commission, if not more, before the date of their first return to Parliament; and some were very knowledgeable about the procedures involved. Of the eight men who served on ten or more of these bodies the lawyers, John Hervy (14) and John Enderby (18), stand out as being very much in demand, although neither could equal Sir Gerard Braybrooke I, who received no less than 20 commissions from the Crown, or Roger Hunt, whose total of 28 is particularly impressive. The collection or assessment of taxes likewise claimed the attention of several MPs, 16 in all being appointed to assist the government in this capacity. (Had he lived, Giles Daubeney would have raised this figure to 17, but his commission was issued to him posthumously.) A handful of shire knights occupied other posts in local government. As a young man, for example, Thomas Waweton served as alnager of Bedfordshire; and Thomas Durant was coroner of Buckinghamshire (an appointment which had previously been held by his father). Both Sir Gerard Braybrooke II and Robert Scott held offices in the royal forest of Salcey in Northamptonshire, the former as keeper and the latter as verderer. Scott was also verderer of Weybridge forest in Huntingdonshire, although he had been replaced by the time he sat for Bedfordshire. This was not as a result of any dereliction on his part, but specifically because he was ‘too much occupied with divers business of the King to have leisure to exercise that office’.
Taken as a whole, the combined administrative experience of the Bedfordshire representatives is even more noteworthy, since not all of them confined their activities to local government. Somewhat surprisingly, however, no more than six appear to have been retained or otherwise employed on a permanent basis as crown servants, and of these only two, Philip Walwyn and John Worship, can properly be described as courtiers. Together with his kinsman and namesake, Philip Walwyn the younger, Walwyn began his career in the household of the Black Prince, subsequently rising to become an esquire of the body to Richard II, who also made him usher of the royal chamber. Walwyn was rewarded with the keepership of Ashurst park in Kent and also served for a few years as constable of Corfe castle (Dorset). Worship, sometime yeoman of the royal cuphouse, was one of his successors as usher of the chamber, being made parker of Guildford in recognition of years of loyal service. His return to the two Parliaments of 1397 may well have been promoted by the King, who was then poised to crush his enemies, the Lords Appellant, with their own weapon, the bill of attainder. It is certainly interesting to note that he was made sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire on 3 Nov. of that year, during the parliamentary recess, although since he had long been resident in Bedfordshire and had already represented the county in the Lower House, he cannot be dismissed as a mere placeman. While young, John Goldington II wore the royal livery, having probably been introduced to the Court by his friend Sir Reynold Braybrooke*. Curiously enough, Braybrooke’s father, Sir Gerard I, made little use of an early connexion with the Black Prince (from whom he received a fee of £40 a year), nor did he derive much practical benefit from the popularity which his brother, Robert, enjoyed with the prince’s widow, Joan, and her son, the young King Richard. Robert acted as Richard II’s secretary until, in 1381, he was made bishop of London, but despite the close attachment between the two brothers, Sir Gerard I seems never to have sought preferment for himself at Court. Three of our men were associated with Henry IV, although Hugh Hasilden’s appointment in 1401 as steward of the duchy of Lancaster manor of Soham in Cambridgeshire was not followed by any other marks of royal favour. Robert Scott, on the other hand, served both Henry IV and Henry V as an esquire and spent a good deal of time on official business of various kinds. Over the years, Roger Hunt acted as King’s attorney in the court of common pleas, deputy steward of the duchy of Lancaster south parts and second baron of the Exchequer, but there can be little doubt that he owed much of his success to the help of such important patrons as Sir John Tiptoft*, John, duke of Norfolk, and Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester.
The most influential figure in late 14th- and early 15th-century Bedfordshire was, in fact, Reynold, 3rd Lord Grey of Ruthin, who succeeded his father in 1388 and continued to dominate the county until his death 50 years later. Towards the end of his life, his authority began to be challenged by the parvenu John Cornwall, Lord Fanhope, but during our period his position was such as to make him the uncontested leader of local society. The two Sir Gerard Braybrookes, who were all but baronial in wealth, connexions and social standing, and who themselves commanded an impressive power base among the local gentry, allied themselves firmly with Lord Grey, thus bolstering his authority to a considerable degree. The most telling example of Grey’s reliance upon them occurs in 1402, when he was captured by the Welsh rebel leader, Owen Glendower. The latter demanded a ransom of 10,000 marks, Grey’s release being conditional upon an immediate cash payment of 6,000 marks, most of which was advanced by his two friends from their own coffers. Also prominent among the team of men who negotiated the ransom was John Hervy, a senior member of the Grey council whose ties with the family were strengthened by marriage. Hervy’s loyalty and expertise had already been rewarded by Grey with the gift of the manor of Kempston, and he in turn gave outstanding service throughout his life. So too did John Enderby, who is known to have been one of Reynold’s councillors for over 30 years, and Reynold Ragon, whose father had long held office as steward of the 2nd Lord Grey’s household. Although his attachment to the Greys was of somewhat shorter duration, Thomas Waweton became one of Reynold’s most active supporters in his struggle with Lord Fanhope; and, together with John Enderby and Robert Mordaunt, he actually took up arms on Grey’s behalf once matters came to a head in January 1439 at the Bedford court-house. We know, furthermore, that Lord Grey and his immediate family had protracted dealings with Ralph Fitzrichard, Thomas Roxton, John Goldington II (who none the less managed to remain on friendly terms with Lord Fanhope) and Roger Hunt, who was steward of the Grey manor of Hemmingford Abbots from 1413 onwards. Henry Cockayne probably owed his election as Member for Bedfordshire to Lord Reynold, his uncle, but he lived in such obscurity that it is hard to tell how much he had to do with his influential kinsman. Sir Roger Beauchamp’s association with the Greys also began in early life, since much of his youth was spent in the custody of the 2nd Lord, his guardian.
Although no other noble family could command such a solid bedrock of support in Bedfordshire, the Greys certainly did not monopolize the affiliations of the local gentry. John Hervy, for instance, claimed with great pride to have ‘discussed coat armour’ with John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, as a young man, and he was employed by Gaunt’s son, Henry of Bolingbroke, on legal business in Bedfordshire. Although primarily a servant of the Crown, Philip Walwyn received a substantial annuity from Bolingbroke, who retained him from 1390 onwards. Robert Digswell also had connexions with the future King, being involved, along with Hervy, in his legal affairs. Comparatively few of the Bedfordshire Members had much military experience, but the two friends, William Terrington and Ralph Walton, campaigned together under the banner of Humphrey, earl of Hereford. Walton also served abroad with Gaunt’s younger brother, Thomas of Woodstock, and appears to have supported him at the time of the Merciless Parliament of 1388. One of Woodstock’s most prominent adherents was Sir Gerard Braybrooke II, who managed with great dexterity to avoid the political repercussions of his attachment to one of the leading Lords Appellant. After Woodstock’s death, Braybrooke became a councillor of the duke’s mother-in-law, Joan, countess of Hereford, who used her influence to have him returned to Parliament for Essex. Both Robert Scott and Thomas Waweton were drawn into the orbit of John Holand, earl of Huntingdon, Scott being made the earl’s deputy as constable of the Tower of London. Waweton had previously been retained at a fee of 40 marks a year by Edmund, earl of March (d.1425), and when the latter’s widow married Huntingdon he seems to have capitalized upon this new connexion. During the late 1420s Bedfordshire was the scene of mounting tension between the earl and John Mowbray, duke of Norfolk, whose supporters (according to one chronicle source, at least) eventually came to blows. This friction has been seen as the cause of a temporary rift in the otherwise firm friendship between Waweton and Roger Hunt, who had for some years been one of the duke’s most trusted advisors, although the reason for their mutual antagonism at the Bedfordshire elections of 1429 probably lies in a more personal disagreement over representation among the local gentry.4 As we have already seen, Hunt’s remarkable talents as a lawyer and administrator won him many contacts in high places. He was, for example, employed as a councillor, financial agent and attorney by Sir John Tiptoft, whom he had to thank for his appointment as King’s attorney in 1408. It is often very difficult to discover how closely concerned members of the local gentry were with the affairs of particular noblemen, but we can be reasonably sure that strong ties also existed between William Wenlock and William Beauchamp, Lord Abergavenny, the organization of whose finances preoccupied him for some time. Both Robert, Lord Willoughby, and his stepson, John, Lord Latimer, were similarly indebted to Baldwin Pigot, who played a notable part in their property transactions.
Although the two Sir Gerard Braybrookes stand out as being particularly influential in their own right, it is important to remember that many other Bedfordshire MPs belonged to powerful or well-connected families. Giles Daubeney was, for instance, the great-grandson of Elis, Lord Daubeney, and was also related by marriage to Richard II’s chief favourite, Sir John Bussy*. Neither he nor Henry Cockayne, the judge’s son, made much of their social position, however; and lack of ambition seems also to have characterized Thomas Zouche, the younger son of William, 2nd Lord Zouche of Harringworth. Despite the handsome settlement made upon him by his father and his own marriage to the daughter and coheir of John, Lord Engaine, Thomas chose to live in virtual seclusion, being very much overshadowed by his two brothers, William, 3rd Lord Zouche, and Eudo, sometime chancellor of Oxford university. Nor can Sir Roger Beauchamp be said to have derived much benefit from either his family name or his importance as a landowner. He was the grandson of Roger, Lord Beauchamp of Bletsoe, chamberlain of the household to Edward III, but unlike his famous ancestor he avoided political commitments of any kind. Not all of our Members were so reluctant to exploit their connexions, however. John Hervy clearly made much of his early acquaintance with John of Gaunt, and was also helped as a young man by his uncle, a former treasurer of Lionel, duke of Clarence, whom King Edward appointed keeper of the royal mint. Both William Terrington and William Wenlock were related to royal clerks, Wenlock being particularly fortunate in so far that his uncle (a canon of St. Paul’s, London) left him all his estates in Bedfordshire, where he had previously encouraged him to settle. Philip Walwyn belonged to a family of courtiers, since by the 1390s at least three of his kinsmen (Richard, John and Philip) had become esquires of the royal body. Thomas Waweton was already a figure of some consequence when he married Alana, the daughter of Richard II’s standard-bearer, Sir Simon Felbrigg, but the match still helped to improve his social position. The two Sir Gerard Braybrookes also made highly advantageous marriages, the father taking as his second wife a bastard sister of Ralph, Lord Basset of Drayton (who was already five times a widow and thus in possession of five separate dowers), and the son marrying Eleanor, the daughter of Amauri, Lord St. Amand.
At least ten of our men were heirs to a tradition of parliamentary service, the most notable being once again the Braybrookes. The elder Sir Gerard’s grandfather was the first of four successive generations of that name to sit in the Lower House. Between them they attended no fewer than 29 Parliaments over the years 1301 to 1417, Sir Gerard’s father being by far the most experienced with 16 returns to his credit. The Fitzrichards, the Pigots and the Ragons also provided Bedfordshire with representatives fairly regularly during the 14th century. Hugh Hasilden likewise came of a parliamentary family, since both his uncle, Thomas Hasilden I*, and his two cousins, Richard* and Thomas II*, sat for Cambridgeshire during our period. Thomas Waweton and Giles Daubeney were the sons of former Members for, respectively, Huntingdonshire and Somerset, while Henry Cockayne’s cousin, Sir John Cockayne of Ashbourne in Derbyshire, served alongside him in the Commons of December 1421.
Taken as a whole, the shire knights here under review formed a body of well-connected and affluent landowners, some of whom were very rich indeed. The fluidity of the property market in Bedfordshire and the surrounding area meant that land could easily be acquired by those who wished either to consolidate existing possessions or buy new ones: and all our men owned substantial estates in the county by the time they first sat in Parliament. Although we cannot be certain about the origins of some, eight or nine, at least, did not belong to families with previous Bedfordshire connexions, and of these the majority initially acquired interests there through marriage. This was certainly the case with Thomas Manningham, a Yorkshire lawyer, whose wife also brought him estates in Cumberland (hence his possible return for Appleby in 1416 and definite return for Carlisle in 1419). John Worship (from Surrey), Philip Walwyn (from Herefordshire) and William Terrington (possibly from Norfolk) also benefited in this respect. Some idea of the extent of our Members’ territorial influence may be gained from the fact that all but seven are known to have owned property in other counties as well as Bedfordshire. The most impressive landowners in terms of both wealth and acreage were Sir Robert Beauchamp, Robert Scott, Thomas Manningham and Robert Mordaunt (each of whom had estates in a total of six English counties), their position being rivalled only by Sir Gerard Braybrooke I (with land in seven), his son (who added estates in Essex to his existing inheritance) and Thomas Zouche (whose rental covered no less than 11 counties in all).
Not surprisingly, most of the shire knights with estates outside Bedfordshire had interests in the five adjacent counties, eight owing land in Northamptonshire, seven in Buckinghamshire and Huntingdonshire alike, five in Hertfordshire and just four in Cambridgeshire. At least four MPs had houses or tenements in London, and the same number acquired or inherited holdings in Norfolk and Lincolnshire. Three men owned Suffolk manors, while two are to be found in the counties of Kent, Oxfordshire and Essex. We have already seen how far north some of Thomas Manningham’s interests lay, and he was by no means unique in having to deal with properties scattered right across the country. A substantial part of Sir Roger Beauchamp’s inheritance lay in Somerset and Cornwall, for example; and Hugh Hasilden owned a number of manors around Wakefield in Yorkshire. It is now impossible to tell exactly how much any one individual could expect in landed revenues, because in most cases insufficient evidence has survived for us to obtain more than a very general idea of each man’s wealth. We do, however, know that John Enderby’s Bedfordshire estates produced over £82 a year, and that Thomas Zouche’s father settled land worth £60 p.a. upon him for life (his wife probably brought him at least as much again). Reynold Ragon seems to have enjoyed an annual income of £50 from property, while Baldwin Pigot and John Hervy both counted upon receipts in excess of £40. It can safely be assumed that the three somewhat lesser landowners, William Bosom, John Goldington II and William Wenlock owned property worth a minimum of £25 a year, and that Thomas Durant was almost as well-off.
Throughout our period the Bedfordshire parliamentary elections were held at the county court in Bedford. From 1407 onwards (when they first took the form of an indenture) the returns were witnessed by a fairly small group of between ten and 20 leading local landowners, although evidence from the two neighbouring counties of Buckinghamshire and Huntingdonshire suggests that a far larger number of people actually participated. At least two or three former shire knights, if not more, were invariably present on these occasions, and tended to head the list of electors. It was in the second Parliament of 1413 that stricter regulations were passed concerning the residential qualifications of electors as well as elected, but at least three of our Members showed scant regard for the statute which they infringed repeatedly. Thomas Waweton, who sat for Bedfordshire in this Parliament, also witnessed the return for Huntingdonshire, and contrived to attend elections in both counties, even though he could only have been resident in one at once. As sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire he was responsible for returning two sets of shire knights to the Parliament of 1416 (Mar.), but this did not prevent him from taking part in the Huntingdonshire elections as well. His appearance there in 1419 coincided with his return for Bedfordshire, and in the following year this situation occurred in reverse. His name also appears on both the Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire returns for the first Parliament of 1421, and in the following year he took part in the Bedfordshire elections when standing for Huntingdonshire. Such conduct was evidently not considered worthy of censure, since his two friends, Roger Hunt and Robert Scott, offended in the same way. Each of the three held sizeable estates in both counties, however, so their offence was, in a sense, only a technicality.