Essex

County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Elections

DateCandidate
1386Sir Robert Marney
 Edmund Brokesbourne
1388 (Feb.)Sir John Gildesburgh
 Thomas Coggeshall
1388 (Sept.)Sir Alexander Walden
 Sir John Fitzsymond
1390 (Jan.)Sir Robert Swinburne
 Sir Robert Marney
1390 (Nov.)Sir Alexander Walden
 Thomas Bataill
1391Sir William Coggeshall
 Sir Walter Lee
1393Sir Thomas Swinburne
 Sir Walter Lee
1394Thomas Bataill
 Sir Walter Lee
1395Thomas Coggeshall
 John Doreward
1397 (Jan.)Sir William Coggeshall
 John Doreward
1397 (Sept.)Sir John Howard
 Robert Tey
1399Thomas Coggeshall
 John Doreward
1401Sir William Coggeshall
 Robert Tey
1402Sir William Coggeshall
 Sir Gerard Braybrooke II
1404 (Jan.)Sir William Bourgchier
 John Doreward
1404 (Oct.)Sir William Coggeshall
 Sir Robert Litton
1406Helming Leget
 Richard Baynard
1407Helming Leget
 Sir William Marney
1410
1411Sir William Coggeshall
 John Tyrell
1413 (Feb.)
1413 (May)John Doreward
 John Tyrell
1414 (Apr.)Sir William Coggeshall
 John Doreward
1414 (Nov.)William Swinburne
 Richard Baynard
1415
1416 (Mar.)Robert Darcy
 John Tyrell 1
1416 (Oct.)
1417Sir Gerard Braybrooke II
 John Tyrell
1419Robert Darcy
 John Tyrell
1420Sir William Coggeshall
 Lewis John
1421 (May)Robert Darcy
 John Tyrell
1421 (Dec.)Sir William Coggeshall
 Richard Baynard

Main Article

Returns for Essex are extant for 27 of the 32 Parliaments of the period under review, and Prynne supplies the names of the Members of that of 1416 (Mar.), an assembly for which the returns have been lost since his time. Gaps remain for the Parliaments of 1410, 1413 (Feb.), 1415 and 1416 (Oct.). Twenty-four individuals are known to have represented the shire between 1386 and 1421 (Dec.), 17 of them (over two-thirds) doing so on more than one occasion. Indeed, half of them sat for Essex three or more times. No more than seven shire knights were elected but once, and one of those seven, Sir John Howard, sat on other occasions for different places. Certain of our Members established an impressive record of parliamentary service for this county: Robert Darcy sat nine times, Sir William Coggeshall ten, Sir Robert Marney 11, and John Tyrell 12. Furthermore, six shire knights were also returned by other constituencies: Tyrell sat for Hertfordshire once, Howard for Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, once each, Sir Gerard Braybrooke II for Bedfordshire, at least twice, and Sir Walter Lee for Hertfordshire, 11 times. In the course of his long parliamentary career Robert Darcy represented the boroughs of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Maldon (once each), and Lewis John represented Taunton and Wallingford (in the same Parliament of 1413) as well as the county of Hampshire (on a later occasion). Except in the cases of Tyrell and Howard, such additional parliamentary service preceded election for Essex. If returns for other constituencies are taken into account, then the average number of Parliaments per Member amounted to five. Clearly, several of those elected by Essex came to be well versed in the workings of the Commons.

Parliamentary experience might be concentrated into a few years (Lee’s 14 Parliaments, all told, were compressed into the 13 years between 1377 and 1390), or, as was more often the case, spread out over many. Sir Robert Marney’s 11 appearances took place at intervals over 21 years (from 1369 to 1390), Lewis John’s seven and John Tyrell’s 13 were spread over 26 years in each case (1413-39 and 1411-37); between Richard Baynard’s first and sixth Parliament 27 years elapsed (1406-33), while Sir William Coggeshall’s ten stretched over 31 years (1391-1422) and Robert Darcy’s 11 over as many as 43 (1402-45). The collective experience of our group of MPs reached back to 1369 and forward to 1445, covering a period of more than 75 years.

Experience as a Member of the Commons would appear to have been valued by the electors of Essex, for to nearly every Parliament of the period they returned at least one man who had sat before. Both shire knights were tried men in no fewer than 14 of the 28 Parliaments, and on 12 other occasions someone with experience accompanied an apparent newcomer. It only happened twice that Essex returned two novices:2 to the Parliaments of 1397 (Sept.) and 1406. Seven instances of re-election to consecutive assemblies have been found: Sir Walter Lee sat in three Parliaments in a row for Essex (1391, 1393 and 1394), having represented Hertfordshire in the six immediately preceding; and John Doreward was re-elected in 1397 (Jan.) and 1414 (Apr.), Sir William Coggeshall in 1402, Helming Leget in 1407, and John Tyrell in 1419. But both Members of one Parliament were never returned together to the next.

The electors of Essex sometimes singled out men of such calibre as could command the respect of other Members of the Commons and be elected by them as their spokesmen. Indeed, Essex was the county which provided the greatest number of Speakers during the medieval period as a whole, and no fewer than four of the shire knights reviewed here achieved that distinction: Sir John Gildesburgh had been chosen as Speaker in both the Parliaments of 1380; John Doreward was the Commons’ second choice in two of the Parliaments of our period (1399 and 1413 May) when, on each occasion, their first choice was obliged to retire; Richard Baynard was chosen in 1421 (Dec.); and John Tyrell was to be selected in no fewer than three of Henry VI’s Parliaments (1427, 1431 and 1437).

Of the 20 families to which the knights of the shire belonged, as many as 11 had supplied Members to earlier Parliaments, although not always as representing Essex. Nine shire knights were the sons of former MPs, and five of these were also the grandsons of other Members. Indeed, on occasion the parliamentary experience of a family ran into several generations: both Sir Walter Lee and Sir Gerard Braybrooke II were of the fourth successive generation of their families to send men to Parliament. Furthermore, Braybrooke was the son of the Sir Gerard who sat for Bedfordshire in our period, and the brother of Sir Reynold Braybrooke, who sat for Kent. There were many contemporary links of kinship between the shire knights of Essex, of which just a few examples will suffice. Thomas Coggeshall was the uncle of Sir William; Sir Robert and Sir William Marney were father and son; Sir Robert Swinburne was the father of Sir Thomas and William; Sir William Marney and William Swinburne married sisters; the Speakers John Doreward and Richard Baynard were brothers-in-law; and John Tyrell was Sir William Coggeshall’s son-in-law. There were links of marriage between the children of Tyrell and Robert Darcy (who sat together on at least four occasions), and between Doreward and the Coggeshalls. But while a small number of families dominated the representation of the shire, and while it might be remarked that a member of the Coggeshall family sat in eight of the 13 Parliaments between 1395 and 1414 and in four other Parliaments of the period, it is nevertheless clear that no single family established a monopoly of even one of the county’s seats.

Without exception, all 24 shire knights held property within the county boundary. The majority (17) acquired the bulk of their landed holdings in Essex through inheritance, 14 of them coming from families established in the county for two or more generations. Sir Robert Swinburne was of Northumbrian origin, but he had inherited estates in Essex acquired by his grandfather and, after substantially increasing his holdings in the region through marriage, he chose to spend his active career in the south. Four MPs came to Essex through their marriages to wealthy heiresses, and were quickly absorbed into the local community. They were Sir John Gildesburgh, whose background is obscure, Helming Leget, whose inherited properties were situated at Tottenham in Middlesex, Sir Robert Litton, who may have been born in Derbyshire and certainly held an estate in that county by grant of Henry IV, and Sir John Howard, who came of an old Norfolk family but after his marriage to first one and then another heiress transferred his main interests to shires where their estates lay (Essex, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk). The remaining three shire knights acquired their lands in Essex principally through purchase: Sir Gerard Braybrooke II (whose hereditary estates were in Bedfordshire and elsewhere), Robert Darcy (whose early career was spent in Northumberland) and Lewis John (a Welshman whose property interests had centred on London before his marriage to the earl of Oxford’s sister). All but three of the knights of the shire—Braybrooke, Howard and Lee—kept their chief residence in Essex, and not one of those three exceptions was in any sense an ‘outsider’. Yet although most of the MPs had their principal landed interests in Essex, a majority owned some property in other places, too, chiefly, but by no means exclusively, in East Anglia, London and other parts of south-east England. Some held estates in the furthest reaches of the kingdom, in Northumberland (the Swinburnes) and Cornwall (Sir William Marney and William Swinburne), while Sir William Bourgchier’s marriage to the countess of Stafford (possibly contracted before his election to Parliament in 1404) gave him widespread holdings in 11 English counties, four Welsh lordships, and property in Ireland, too. All of those returned for Essex came from the wealthier section of the community, at least half enjoying annual incomes of £100 or more. Sir William Coggeshall, John Doreward and Sir William Marney received at least £130 apiece, and Sir Thomas Swinburne over £190. Even before his prestigious marriage Bourgchier could expect about £150 a year from his lands, while after it he received ten times that amount. At the time of his only election for Essex, in 1397, Sir John Howard enjoyed an annual income in excess of £333, while at the end of their careers (when tax assessments were made in 1436) Lewis John had an estimated £350, Robert Darcy £366 and John Tyrell nearly £400. Essex was always represented by men of substance.

Of the 24 MPs just over half (13) had been knighted before they made their appearances in the Parliaments of this period, and two more (Lewis John and John Tyrell) were to be accorded that distinction later on in their careers. Certain of them ranked quite high in the social scale. For example, Sir John Howard was a grandson of Lord Scales, he married the only child of Lord Plaiz, and during his lifetime his grand daughter wedded the earl of Oxford. Sir Gerard Braybrooke II was a nephew of Bishop Robert Braybrooke of London, and the son-in-law of Lord St. Amand. Lewis John successively married the daughters of an earl of Oxford and an earl of Salisbury. Most impressive of all was Sir William Bourgchier, who, merely a cadet of a minor baronial house, married the daughter of the duke of Gloucester (a grand daughter of Edward III), and subsequently fathered an archbishop of Canterbury, an earl of Essex and a duchess of Norfolk. From 1386 to 1397 (Sept.) men of knightly rank predominated in the parliamentary representation of Essex, outnumbering esquires and lawyers in the ratio of 7:4. Knights occupied 14 of the 22 seats then available, and both MPs were of that status in 1388 (Sept.), 1390 (Jan.), 1391 and 1393. Only in 1395 were both MPs esquires. Between 1399 and 1411 there was an even balance between knights and men of lesser rank, each group filling eight of the 16 seats. But Henry V’s reign witnessed a reversal of the situation pertaining under Richard II; between 1413 and 1421 knights occupied no more than four of the 18 seats, and esquires and lawyers monopolized the shire’s representation in five of the nine Parliaments. Indeed, they outnumbered the knights in the ratio of 7:2 overall.

One reason for this change in the character of the shire’s representation may have been the absence abroad in Henry V’s armies of many Essex men of knightly status. Several of those elected in the period as a whole served at some time in their lives on military campaigns in France. For some it was simply one facet of their duties as country gentlemen or as retainers of one of the magnates of the region, but for others soldiering was their chosen profession. In this second category fell Sir Robert Marney, all three Swinburnes and Sir William Bourgchier. They held posts of a specifically military character: for instance, Sir Thomas Swinburne served successively as keeper of Roxburgh, warden of Guînes (a post he was holding at the time of his only election to Parliament in 1393), captain of Calais, Hammes and Fronsac, and mayor of Bordeaux; William Swinburne was captain of Marck at the time of his only Parliament in 1414; and Bourgchier was to serve as constable of the Tower of London and captain of Dieppe. It seems quite likely that the preoccupation of Bourgchier and William Swinburne with Henry V’s wars in France was a principal factor in their exclusion from parliamentary service after 1414. Both died overseas.

Coincidentally, in those Parliaments of Henry V’s reign in which Essex was poorly represented by knights and others with military interests (unless like Sir William Coggeshall and Sir Gerard Braybrooke II they were too old for campaigning), lawyers predominated. Four of the MPs for Essex apparently had some training in the law, all four specializing in the administration and conveyance of landed estates. John Doreward was serving as steward of the franchise of Bury St. Edmunds abbey when returned in 1395 and 1397, and he subsequently acted likewise on the local estates of Edward, duke of York; Richard Baynard succeeded Doreward on York’s manorial holdings and, throughout his career, he was employed in a legal capacity by the Lords Fitzwalter; Robert Darcy officiated as steward of the estates of Joan, countess of Hereford, both before and after her death in 1419; and John Tyrell was a professional administrator who served several members of the nobility (including the Lords Bourgchier, Anne, countess of Stafford, and Humphrey, duke of Gloucester) before rising to be chief steward of the duchy of Lancaster north of the Trent, receiver-general of the estates of Richard, duke of York, and treasurer of the household of Henry VI. Darcy is known to have practised in the royal courts and, indeed, for long periods of his career (some 28 years in all) he held office as clerk of the common pleas. Whereas before 1413 the election of men of this type had been a comparatively rare event in Essex, after Henry V’s accession the four lawyers occupied no fewer than 12 of the 18 seats for which we have returns. Essex was well placed so far as traffic with the continent was concerned, and as a matter of course some of the shire knights took a personal interest in trade. For example, Robert Darcy was one of a group of Maldon men who exported grain and dairy produce to the Netherlands, and Richard Baynard was sometimes party to the commercial dealings of his stepfather, the London draper and financier, John Hende. One of our MPs even made his fortune through trade: Lewis John was a shrewd entrepreneur who supplied the households of Henry IV and Henry V with wine, in this way and through his lucrative post as master worker of the Mints, being enabled to buy into the ranks of the country gentry. These three all filled royal offices connected with trade—Darcy and Baynard as controllers of customs and subsidies (the one in Newcastle, the other in Ipswich), and John as deputy butler and collector of customs in London—but these duties never coincided with their parliamentary service for Essex.

With one exception (William Swinburne) all the knights of the shire were involved to a certain extent in local administration. Over half (14) served as sheriffs of the joint bailiwick of Essex and Hertfordshire (seven doing so before their first returns to Parliament for this county), and four of that number also occupied shrievalties elsewhere.3 There were two instances of contravention of the ordinance of 1372, which prohibited the return of sheriffs to Parliament. The first was quite blatant: in 1391 Sir William Coggeshall, appointed sheriff on 21 Oct., returned himself to the assembly due to meet on 3 Nov. The other was unintentional: in 1420 Lewis John was appointed sheriff after his election to Parliament but before the two Houses met. In the meantime, in 1399, there would appear to have been a conscious effort made to ensure observance of the ordinance (and, indeed, of the prohibition expressed in the writs of summons themselves). John Doreward was appointed sheriff on 22 Aug. 1399, only to be replaced on 19 Sept. by Thomas Coggeshall, who was himself replaced by Robert Tey on the 30th. Yet when returns were sent in for the Parliament due to assemble on the 30th, the very day of Tey’s appointment, his name was given as sheriff, and Doreward and Coggeshall were elected. Of the five shire knights who served as escheators of the joint bailiwick,4 two were holding that post when returned to Parliament: Helming Leget in 1406 and Robert Darcy in 1421 (May). One other local office should be mentioned here, although it was an appointment more specifically denoting royal preferment: the constableship of Colchester castle. This post was held by Sir Walter Lee when elected to all three of his Parliaments for Essex (1391, 1393, and 1394), and by Robert Tey when elected to both of his (1397 (Sept.) and 1401).

All but one shire knight served on royal commissions in Essex or elsewhere, as many as 18 having gained some familiarity with such duties before their first election. Thus, only six MPs had no experience of local administration at the time of their earliest appearance in the Commons. William Swinburne was never appointed to an official post in England, although he did take on positions of responsibility abroad. Twenty of the 24 knights of the shire were sometime j.p.s in Essex or elsewhere,5 eight of them having seen service on the local bench before their first return to Parliament. To 16 of the 28 Parliaments for which returns are extant, Essex elected a j.p., and in five of those (1395, 1402, 1404 (Oct.), 1419 and 1421 (May)) both shire knights were current members of the local bench. As all this evidence suggests, those selected to represent this county were generally well advanced in their careers; they were experienced to some extent in local administration and, in several cases, they were used to commanding men in the field. Ages may not be ascertained with much degree of accuracy, but it is nevertheless clear that nearly all the shire knights were aged over 35 and under 60 at the time of their elections. Those MPs who were first returned at a relatively youthful age were members of the better known county families, who had already inherited substantial estates, such as Sir William Coggeshall (aged about 33 in 1391), Sir John Howard (about 31 in 1397) and Sir William Bourgchier (about 30 in 1404). The youngest pair to be returned were Howard and Robet Tey (34 or so) who, as newcomers, represented Essex in 1397 (Sept.). Both had considerable landed interests in the shire and had served on local commissions—indeed, Tey was then a member of the Essex bench and Howard a j.p. in Suffolk. Similar qualifications applied to the comparatively youthful novices of 1406, Helming Leget and Richard Baynard. The most elderly combination occurred in 1390 (Jan.), when two veterans of the French wars, Sir Robert Swinburne (aged about 63) and Sir Robert Marney (aged about 71) were returned together.

Eleven shire knights may be placed in the category of royal retainers, in that they all received annuities from the Crown or else held more important offices by the King’s grant, and there were occasions when the relationship of a particular individual to the King was clearly a factor in his election. Such seems to have been the case in 1393 when Sir Thomas Swinburne was returned even though he was at the time far away on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land; for Swinburne was then warden of Guînes by appointment of Richard II, and his wife, Lady Trivet, was much in favour at Court. Sir Walter Lee, elected in 1391, 1393 and 1394, had been a knight of the King’s body and had earlier received livery of black cloth to mark the death of Richard’s mother. However, his appointment as constable of Colchester castle at a time when the Lords Appellant were in power casts doubt on the suggestion that he was simply a royal placeman. More significance should be attached to the election of Sir John Howard and Robert Tey to the second Parliament of 1397. Both had been formally retained by Richard II three years earlier: Howard, the cousin of Richard’s standard-bearer, with an annuity of £40, and Tey with one of 40 marks. Furthermore, since the previous year Tey had been occupying the post of constable of Colchester castle. The return of two inexperienced Members together was a very rare event (it had not happened since 1380), and must be attributed to the delicate political situation of the time. There can be little doubt that the result of this particular election was gratifying to Richard, for he needed supporters in Parliament to ease the passage of his extreme measures against the former Lords Appellant. Indeed, so sure was he of Tey’s backing that in January 1398 the esquire was named as one of the six commoners appointed to the committee assigned to complete the business of the Parliament and to settle the dispute between Bolingbroke and Mowbray. By contrast, to the Parliament which witnessed Richard II’s deposition in 1399, Essex elected two men who had good cause to welcome his downfall: John Doreward and Thomas Coggeshall. While that Parliament was still in session Henry IV named both these Essex MPs as members of his Council, with salaries set at 100 marks a year, and he singled out Doreward (the Speaker) for other special marks of favour. It seems very likely that they had been returned because of their espousal of the new regime. Early in 1404 the shire elected Sir William Bourgchier, who was then in receipt of an annuity of 50 marks at the Exchequer (a retaining fee originally granted him by the duke of Gloucester, for which the King had assumed responsibility), and also of another of the same amount granted him by the prince of Wales, whom he was then serving as his bachelor and on whose behalf he had recently gone on embassy to Scandinavia. Later that year there arose the serious threat of insurrection in Essex as a result of a conspiracy to dethrone Henry IV; Maud, dowager countess of Oxford, and the heads of certain local monasteries had plotted with the duke of Orléans for French forces to land at Orwell and raise the country in the name of Richard II. The reaction of the electors of Essex was to choose as their representatives in the Parliament of 1404 (Oct.) men of proven loyalty to King Henry: Sir William Coggeshall, who had played a prominent part in the suppression of local unrest, and Sir Robert Litton, the former controller of the King’s household, who was still in receipt of royal annuities and grants worth 40 marks a year. It was undoubtedly Litton’s links with King Henry which prompted his selection as an MP, for he was a recent newcomer to the community and had not yet established close connexions with any of the local gentry. It is also worth mentioning that Robert Tey, who was implicated in the plot, was apparently never elected to the Commons again. Helming Leget, returned by Essex to the next two Parliaments (1406 and 1407) was another retainer of Henry IV: since 1399 he had been in receipt of an annuity of £20 and other grants worth £40 a year; and, furthermore, he was currently an usher of the King’s chamber and constable of Clare. He was accompanied in 1407 by Sir William Marney, a retainer of the King’s second son, Thomas of Lancaster, and possibly already acting as the latter’s chamberlain. When William Swinburne was elected to his only known Parliament in 1414 he was captain of Marck castle in Picardy, having been retained in that post by Henry V following duty as ‘King’s esquire’ to Henry IV. Finally, in 1420 Essex was represented by Lewis John, once the King’s drinking companion, currently master worker of the royal mints, and long the recipient of a fee of 1s. a day by grant of Henry IV.

While such recipients of annuities from the Crown might well have been selected to represent the shire because of their ability to gain acess to the King, it seems likely that others were chosen to a large extent because of their connexions with magnates who held estates in Essex. Almost all of those returned established links with at least one of the leading baronial families resident in the county. But of most interest are the attachments of certain shire knights to Joan, countess of Hereford, the widow of Humphrey de Bohun (d.1373), sister of Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, and Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury, and mother-in-law of both Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester, and Henry of Bolingbroke, earl of Derby, for clearly she was in close touch with the aristocratic opposition to Richard II. The countess, whose estates in Essex were conservatively estimated at £250 a year in 1404 and £280 in 1412,6lived on for 46 years after de Bohun’s death, and during that period she attracted around her a circle of prominent knights, esquires and lawyers. During Gloucester’s lifetime they tended to attach themselves to the ducal entourage and, to a greater or lesser extent, supported him in his moves against the King’s favourites. As few of Gloucester’s estate papers have survived, definite information about his affinity is hard to come by, but there can be no doubt that many of his retainers were from families with property in Essex, where he himself had a concentration of estates and usually resided (at Pleshey castle).7 Six of the shire knights returned for Essex between 1386 and Gloucester’s death in the summer of 1397 are known to have been connected with him. Edmund Brokesbourne, an esquire in his service and later his treasurer of war, was elected in 1386 to a Parliament in which a powerful combination of lords, led by Gloucester, removed from the administration leading members of the court party. Then, to the Merciless Parliament of 1388 (Feb.), summoned after Gloucester and his fellow Lords Appellant had taken over the government, were returned Sir John Gildesburgh and Thomas Coggeshall, both of whom sympathized with their policies. Gildesburgh, a former de Bohun retainer, had been closely linked with Gloucester since before 1380, the year in which, doubtless because of those links, he had twice been elected Speaker of the Commons; and Coggeshall had long been attached to the duke’s mother-in-law, Countess Joan, and was soon to be named by Gloucester himself as a feoffee of his estates. Circumstantial evidence connects Sir Robert Swinburne (January 1390) and Thomas Bataill (November 1390) with the duke’s affinity, but none of it is strong enough to identify them without doubt as his retainers. This is not the case with the Members of 1395 (the Parliament which met when Richard II was absent in Ireland), John Doreward and Thomas Coggeshall, for while the Commons were actually in session both men were named by Gloucester as his attorneys. Doreward subsequently acted as a feoffee of the estates of Woodstock’s duchess, Eleanor, and he was always closely linked with the latter’s mother, the countess of Hereford, and with her Fitzalan uncles. To this group of shire knights of the circle of the duke of Gloucester should perhaps be added Sir Alexander Walden (1388 (Sept.) and 1390 (Nov.)), a retainer of the Lords Fitzwalter who were staunch adherents of the duke, and Sir John Fitzsymond—also 1388 (Sept.)—who had some links with the countess of Hereford. But while such men as Coggeshall and Doreward evidently felt a firm commitment to their lord, other shire knights switched their allegiance when preferment was offered elsewhere. Thus, Fitzsymond was also connected with Sir Aubrey de Vere, uncle of the King’s favourite, Robert, earl of Oxford; and Sir William Coggeshall (1391 and 1397 (Jan.)), early on a retainer of that same earl, attached himself to Gloucester and Lord Cobham in the 1390s after Oxford’s exile, and then, immediately after the Appellants’ fall in 1397, offered his services as chamberlain to Richard II’s half-brother, John Holand, earl of Huntingdon.

Gloucester might be able to secure the return to Parliament of his supporters on occasion (as in 1386, 1388 (Feb.) and 1395), but Essex also sometimes elected those in favour at Court, such as Sir Walter Lee and Sir Thomas Swinburne. And, directly after Gloucester’s arrest in July 1397, the shire returned two of Richard II’s retainers (Sir John Howard and Robert Tey) to the Parliament which was to condemn the duke for treason. Even so, this politic move could not disguise the fact that there was considerable hostility to the King in the region. In December a commission was set up to assemble the men of substance in Essex and Hertfordshire in order that they might ‘offer’ Richard £2,000, in return for which sum they were to be pardoned for all their treasonable activities committed before 1 Oct. Howard and Tey were instructed to return to the Shrewsbury session of the Parliament bearing the consent of the two communities to these exactions and their humble pleas for pardon. Subsequently, the men of Essex were alone required to give Richard 2,000 marks; but there is no record of any pardon, and by January 1399 they had paid into the Exchequer £269 in excess of the agreed sum.8 Local feelings of relief at the news of Richard’s downfall may quite possibly be discerned in the return to the next Parliament of Doreward and Thomas Coggeshall, while a continuing sense of outrage at Gloucester’s murder was surely demonstrated in January 1400 when the earl of Huntingdon was seized by the mob and put to death at the gates of Pleshey castle, having been handed over by the countess of Hereford and her constable at Pleshey, Sir Gerard Braybrooke II.

Under Henry IV the de Bohun interest, now represented by the Countess Joan and her grand daughter Anne, countess of Stafford, was linked with that of the royal family, for Joan was the grandmother of the new King’s children. Nevertheless, it should be remarked that at least nine shire knights returned between 1399 and 1421 (Dec.) were of the affinity of the two countesses, and that those nine occupied 20 of the 34 seats available. Numbered in that group were Thomas Coggeshall, John Doreward, Robert Tey (who retained close connexions with Countess Joan and her retainers while apparently harbouring disaffection for the new regime), Sir Gerard Braybrooke (Joan’s councillor, feoffee and executor), Sir William Bourgchier (who was associated with Countess Anne before his election in 1404 and may even have married her before that date), Sir William Marney (who long served Countess Joan as a trusted retainer and married a kinswoman of hers), John Tyrell (steward of Countess Anne’s estates), William Swinburne (whose wife was related to Countess Joan) and Robert Darcy (Joan’s steward, councillor, feoffee and executor). Marney also established close links with Joan’s grandson, Thomas of Lancaster—certainly before his return in 1407—and Tyrell was retained by another of her grandsons, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, whom he served as estates’ steward. Tyrell’s association with Gloucester became an important factor in his frequent elections to Parliament.

There are no indications of overt interference at parliamentary elections for Essex; indeed none may have been necessary to ensure the return of men sympathetic to the interests of a local magnate. However, it may be significant that Marney was sheriff when Braybrooke was returned in 1402, and Braybrooke was sheriff when Marney was returned in 1407, both being at the time closely attached to the countess of Hereford. Records of the elections reveal nothing of the actual process of selection. The county court generally met at Chelmsford, although in 1411 and 1413 elections were held at Stratford. Numbers attesting the parliamentary indentures between 1407 and 1421 (Dec.) ranged from six to 26, but those recorded at the elections of 1422 numbered 59. Furthermore, whereas in our period it was rare for a knight to attest (only one was recorded doing so in May 1413, 1419 and May 1421), in 1422 two knights and several esquires of substance did so.

Author: L. S. Woodger

Notes

  • 1. W. Prynne, Brevia Parliamentaria Rediviva, iii. 112.
  • 2. And it is practically certain that all four were novices, for there are no gaps in the returns for Essex from before their births.
  • 3. Howard in Cambs. and Hunts., Sir William Marney in Cornw., Sir Thomas Swinburne in Kent and Tyrell in Norf. and Suff.
  • 4. Bataill, Baynard, Thomas Coggeshall, Darcy and Leget.
  • 5. Braybrooke was also a j.p. in Beds., and Howard in Suff. Lee only sat on the Herts. bench.