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|1386||Sir Richard Waldegrave|
|Sir William Wingfield|
|1388 (Feb.)||Sir Richard Waldegrave|
|Sir William Burgate|
|1388 (Sept.)||Sir Richard Waldegrave|
|Sir William Burgate|
|1390 (Jan.)||Sir Richard Waldegrave|
|Sir William Wingfield|
|1390 (Nov.)||Sir William Wingfield|
|Sir William Burgate|
|1391||Sir Roger Drury|
|Sir William Bardwell|
|1393||Sir William Elmham|
|Sir William Argentine|
|1394||Sir William Elmham|
|1395||Sir William Argentine|
|Sir William Burgate|
|1397 (Jan.)||Sir William Elmham|
|1397 (Sept.)||Sir William Bardwell|
|1399||Sir William Argentine|
|Sir John Heveningham|
|1401||Sir Roger Drury|
|1404 (Jan.)||Sir John Strange|
|Sir John Ingoldisthorpe|
|1404 (Oct.)||Sir Andrew Butler|
|Sir John Strange|
|1406||Sir John Strange|
|Sir William Bardwell|
|1407||Sir Roger Drury|
|John Lancaster II|
|1410||Sir Andrew Butler|
|John Lancaster II|
|John Lancaster II|
|1413 (May)||John Spencer|
|John Lancaster II|
|1414 (Apr.)||Sir William Phelip|
|Sir Robert Corbet|
|1414 (Nov.)||Sir William Phelip|
|Sir Robert Corbet|
|1417||Sir John Braham|
|William Rookwood 1|
|1421 (May)||Sir Andrew Butler|
|1421 (Dec.)||James Andrew|
Returns for Suffolk have survived for 28 of the 32 Parliaments of the period, leaving gaps for those of 1413 (Feb.) and the three consecutive Parliaments of 1415, 1416 (Mar.) and 1416 (Oct.). The names of 24 knights of the shire are known. Apparently, over a third (nine) were elected for the county just once; but 12 sat three or more times each, and Sir William Wingfield was returned on ten occasions and Sir Richard Waldegrave on as many as 12. The average number of Parliaments per shire knight comes to three, and this average increases to four if the parliamentary service which six of them undertook for other constituencies is also taken into account. James Andrew and Ralph Ramsey had both represented boroughs before their single Parliaments for Suffolk: Andrew on five occasions for Ipswich, and Ramsey on eight for Great Yarmouth. Sir John Ingoldisthorpe, Sir John Strange and John Lancaster II all sat for the neighbouring shire of Norfolk at some stage in their careers (once, twice and four times, respectively), and Sir Robert Corbet had twice been elected for Wiltshire and twice for Hertfordshire before his two appearances in the Lower House for Suffolk. The gaps in the returns (in particular those from the middle years of Henry V’s reign) must make any analysis of parliamentary experience somewhat tentative. Yet it may be stated with certainty that in half (14) of the Parliaments for which we know the names of Members Suffolk was represented by two men who had sat in the Commons for this or some other constituency previously; and that in ten more Parliaments one of the shire knights was so qualified. On the other hand, it was most probably the case that in 1391 and 1393 the shire elected two novices, and such may have been the position again in 1417 and 1420 (although this is less likely). The immediate reelection of one knight of the shire was far from uncommon: in fact, it happened in more than half (15) of the Parliaments for which there are extant returns. Furthermore, the Members of the Parliaments of 1388 (Sept.) and 1414 (Nov.) had both been re-elected. The same pair, Wingfield and Waldegrave, were sent by Suffolk to as many as nine of the 19 Parliaments which met in and between 1376 and 1390, so forming a combination unique in the late 14th century.2
The parliamentary careers of Waldegrave and Wingfield were encompassed in the space of 14 years. Others served over longer periods: John Lancaster’s eight appearances (four each for Suffolk and Norfolk) extended to 15 years; Ralph Ramsey’s nine (eight for Great Yarmouth and one for Suffolk) to 17 years; and Sir John Strange’s four were spread over 18 years. Nearly 30 years elapsed between Sir Robert Corbet’s first return in 1385 (when he sat for Wiltshire) and his last in 1414 (when he sat for Suffolk). But Corbet is not recorded as taking an individual role in the business of the Commons, as were Wingfield and Waldegrave: the former came forward in his first Parliament (the Good Parliament) with evidence in support of the Commons’ impeachment of Lord Neville; and Waldegrave was elected in his fourth Parliament (1381) to the office of Speaker, thus being assigned the difficult task of voicing criticisms of the government in the aftermath of the Peasants’ Revolt.
Suffolk is not notable for the concentration of its representation in a few gentry families. Indeed, no two shire knights of our period came from the same family, although Sir William Argentine and William Rookwood were both sons of earlier Suffolk MPs. The fathers of Sir Richard Waldegrave and Thomas Hethe had sat in the Commons for other constituencies (Lincolnshire and Ipswich, respectively). Only in one family, the Rookwoods, had parliamentary service extended to the third generation. Nor were there ties of kinship or marriage between our knights of the shire worth remark, save that Sir Andrew Butler and Sir William Phelip were brothers-in-law, and John Spencer married Sir William Burgate’s daughter. Nevertheless, all 24 possessed some interests of land, lordship or office in Suffolk, and the majority had their chief place of residence there. Seventeen inherited lands in the county, having been born into well-established local families. Five others entered the local community principally as an outcome of marriage to daughters of Suffolk landowners: Ingoldisthorpe and Strange (who both came from Norfolk), Ramsey (probably of burgess stock of Great Yarmouth), Spencer (a Yorkshireman), and Waldegrave (whose family owned estates in Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire). Robert Bukton, who perhaps came from Huntingdonshire, acquired his landed holdings in Suffolk mainly by purchase and grant from the Crown, while Richard Sterysacre, possibly from Lancashire, acquired his few properties in the county through the patronage of the Mowbrays. A number of the shire knights occupied territory on both sides of the Stour valley; indeed, William Hanningfield’s interests were predominantly in his home county of Essex. Others, such as Strange and Ingoldisthorpe were basically Norfolk men, although Ingoldisthorpe lived in Cambridgeshire in the last years of his life. Argentine and Corbet inherited substantial estates in several counties, but both were residing in Suffolk at the time of their elections to Parliament. Through his marriage to one of Lord Bardolf’s daughters, Sir William Phelip eventually owned estates in as many as ten shires, worth as much as £400 a year. Although by no means all of this property had been acquired by him before he first entered the Commons in 1414, he was, nevertheless, then already a wealthy man earning a substantial income from fees and annuities. For the most part it is not possible to assess the value of lands held by the shire knights; returns from Suffolk for the subsidy levied on landed incomes in 1412 have not survived and the valuations given at inquisitionspost mortem, where such exist, are not reliable. Yet it is clear that Argentine, Bardwell, Corbet, Heveningham and Waldegrave could all expect revenues in excess of £90 a year, and Corbet’s income may have exceeded £145 p.a. Generally speaking, those returned to the last five Parliaments of Henry V’s reign were the least wealthy of the Suffolk representatives of our period. Sir John Braham (1417) derived only about £17 a year from his holdings and was often in debt; William Rookwood (who sat in four of those five Parliaments) had landed revenues of about £25 p.a.; and Richard Sterysacre (1420) held few properties of any worth.
These hints of a change in the pattern of representation in the course of the period, whereby the wealthier members of the shire community apparently withdrew from parliamentary service towards the end of Henry V’s reign, are reinforced by evidence of a gradual alteration in emphasis with regard to the social standing and professions of those elected. This change may be charted more precisely. Fourteen of the 24 men who represented Suffolk were belted knights, and there was a marked preference shown for men of this status in the earlier part of our period. During Richard II’s reign only one man who had not been knighted was elected, and he (Bukton) sat in no more than three of the 11 Parliaments assembled between 1386 and 1397 (Sept.). Under Henry IV the shire was represented by seven knights and five esquires, and in four of the nine Parliaments both Members had achieved knighthood. But in Henry V’s reign knights were outnumbered by men of lower rank in the ratio of 3:5, and it became more usual for two esquires to be returned together (this happened in four of the eight Parliaments), than for two knights (which happened but twice). In the first two Lancastrian reigns half of the seats were filled by individuals described as ‘esquires’, or, in the case of James Andrew, as ‘gentleman’. The difference from Richard II’s reign does not seem to have been due to any decline in the quality of the representation at first: some of the esquires were as wealthy and well connected as any of their knightly predecessors; indeed, in 1411 three of them (Debenham, Lancaster and Spencer) all paid fines so as to be exonerated from taking the order of knighthood.3 They mark the rise in influence of a different section of the gentry at a time when the title of knight as such was apparently losing something of its social importance. But there is some slight sign of a decline in the quality of the representation towards the end of our period, when many of the gentry were serving in France and when Parliament (except in May 1421 when Henry V was present for the first time since 1416) was, politically, much less important than previously. James Andrew, parliamentary burgess for Ipswich in the Parliament of May 1421, was elected as shire knight on the very next occasion (December 1421), an occurrence unprecedented in the county’s history; and Braham, Rookwood, Hanningfield, Hethe and Sterysacre were never particularly outstanding figures in the local community.
Explicit information as to which shire knights were lawyers is scarce. Nevertheless, the careers of five of them (Andrew, Debenham, Hanningfield, Lancaster and Rookwood) suggest strongly that they were in fact trained in the law. These five evidently specialized in the type of transaction necessary for the settlement or conveyance of property, and on occasion they acted as counsel to local magnates and towns. Thus, Lancaster was of service to the civic authorities of Norwich, and Andrew held office as under steward of the liberties of Bury St. Edmunds abbey. They might also represent the interests of people from the locality in the courts at Westminster: Andrew apparently undertook much business at the Exchequer, and Hanningfield’s contacts with the judges and other officials of the court of common pleas point to a familiarity with its workings. During Richard II’s reign, Suffolk was usually represented by men of military background: Bardwell, Bukton, Drury, Elmham, Waldegrave and Wingfield had all seen service overseas. Indeed, Waldegrave and Elmham were knights of considerable soldierly reputation: the widely travelled Waldegrave had fought against the Turks and for his feats of arms had been awarded by the earl of Kent the privilege of wearing his helm; while Elmham, who, although his conduct in Bishop Despenser’s ‘crusade’ in Flanders in 1383 left much to be desired, had earlier won fame as a retainer of the Black Prince, particularly for his valiant defence of Bayonne against the Castilians, and at the time of his first election to Parliament was a veteran of nearly 30 years of campaigns on land and sea. No lawyers were elected by Suffolk between 1386 and 1402, but a probable member of the legal profession was returned to nine of the 15 Parliaments from then until 1422. Both the representatives of 1419 and 1421 (Dec.) were most likely men of law.
The dates of birth or the exact ages of very few of the shire knights are now known. Those that are suggest that the majority were in or aproaching middle age at the time of their elections for Suffolk. Wingfield was about 50 years old when first returned in 1376 and about 64 when last returned in 1390. His frequent companion, Waldegrave, began and ended his parliamentary career at a younger age: he was about 38 in 1376 and about 52 in 1390. Andrew, Braham, Elmham, Ramsey and Spencer were all probably over 50 at the time they first entered the Commons for Suffolk, and Corbet may have been over 60, all of them being returned for this constituency towards the end of their lives. Conversely, about a third of the shire knights were in their early thirties at their initial appearance in the House, one of the youngest being Sir William Phelip, who was returned to Parliament in 1414 early in what was to prove a brilliant career. All but one of the total of 24 were appointed to royal commissions in the course of their lives (the exception being Braham), and the great majority (20) had done service of some sort in the sphere of local government before being returned to Parliament. Half (12) were at some time j.p.s in Suffolk, and ten held similar commissions elsewhere.4 However, no more than seven had served on the bench before their first election to Parliament for this county, and it was not usual for a knight of the shire to be simultaneously a j.p. Current members of the Suffolk bench filled only 11 of the 56 seats available in the period under review. Only one third (eight) of our MPs were ever appointed sheriff of the joint bailiwick of Norfolk and Suffolk, and in no more than two cases did such appointment precede election to Parliament for Suffolk.5 Corbet, however, had served as sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire as well as of Wiltshire before he represented Suffolk in the Commons; and at the time of his two returns for this constituency in 1414 he was actually holding office as sheriff of Shropshire, thus directly contravening the terms of the writs of summons prohibiting the election of sheriffs. Six shire knights occupied the post of escheator of Norfolk and Suffolk, and Sir John Strange was returned to both Parliaments of 1404 during one of his tenures of office. Four (Andrew, Bukton, Debenham and Ramsey) were made collectors of customs revenues for the Crown, but in no instance did election to Parliament for Suffolk coincide with such duties.
By the latter part of the 14th century the direct administrative influence of the Crown in Suffolk had been greatly reduced by grants of liberties to various magnates, but royal authority was not by any means excluded. In 1382 Richard II’s queen, Anne of Bohemia, had been granted the castle and manor of Eye, and Sir Richard Waldegrave, the former Speaker, subsequently held office for about five years as steward of these and other of her estates. His close association with the Court, which had dated from the very beginning of Richard’s reign, was also fostered by amicable relations with the King’s maternal kinsmen, the Holands, and his chamberlain, Guy, Lord Bryan, whose son had married Waldegrave’s stepdaughter. In 1377, directly after he attended Richard’s first Parliament, Waldegrave as a ‘King’s knight’ had been granted custody for life of the royal castle of Moresende (Northamptonshire), and he was to remain in favour with the King despite his own close connexions with certain of the nobles who opposed Richard’s personal rule; indeed, after his parliamentary career had ended he was to serve from 1393 to 1397 as a member of the royal council, and he only severed his association with the Court after the first session of the Parliament of 1397 (Sept.), the session in which Richard took radical action against the former Lords Appellant. To the Parliaments of 1393, 1394 and 1397 (Jan.) Suffolk returned as one of its representatives Sir William Elmham. Elmham still received the large annuity of £100 granted him by the King’s father; he had served Richard in his wars in France and as admiral of the northern fleet (1380-2), and his close association with the court party had been demonstrated by his imprisonment from January to May 1388 during the purge of the royal household carried out by the Appellants. The fact that he was sent to Aquitaine in the years 1390-2, to treat with the French concerning violations of the truce, when taken together with his subsequent service, shows that he continued to align himself with Richard II’s personal following: he was employed by the King in preliminary negotiations for his marriage to Isabella of France, and in 1396 for the settlement of disputes over ransoms between the English and the French. As peace with France was the keystone of Richard’s policy, this employment shows how closely he was attached to the King’s interest. Furthermore, he was to be one of the very few men who took up arms in Richard’s cause in the summer of 1399. Elmham was well known to several members of the nobility: his wife was sister-in-law to Sir John Wingfield†, kinsman and friend of the de la Pole earls of Suffolk; he won the confidence of Thomas Mowbray, duke of Norfolk; and he had on occasion been of service to John of Gaunt and Henry of Bolingbroke. But none of these connexions apparently involved him in a conflict of interests, and the most constant factor in his career was his attachment to the King. Robert Bukton, returned in 1394, enjoyed tenure of certain lands at Eye by grant of Queen Anne and after her death later that same year the King appointed him constable of Eye castle for life. He had long been an esquire in the retinue of Sir Thomas Percy and had evidently come to royal attention through his master’s influential position, first as sub-chamberlain and then as steward of the Household. Furthermore, after Percy received an annuity of 50 marks out of the lordship of Eye by gift of Queen Anne, he gave 20 marks of it to Bukton. At the time of Bukton’s second return, to the Parliament of 1397 (Sept.), Percy was one of the most prominent of Richard’s adherents: he was to act as proctor for the clergy in the treason trials held in the Parliament and at the end of its first session was to be created earl of Worcester. That Bukton had been among the King’s supporters in the Commons is clear from the royal confirmation of his annuity at Eye granted soon afterwards. To sum up, royal retainers, or those most unlikely to oppose Richard II in his policies, were returned by Suffolk to the Parliaments of 1386, 1388, 1390 (Jan.), 1393, 1394 and 1397; indeed, more often than not one of the two shire knights was identified with the King’s cause.
Coincidentally, to nearly every Parliament from 1381 to 1399 the county community sent someone closely connected with the de la Pole family. The local standing of Michael, Lord de la Pole, was partly due to the substantial estates in the shire which he had acquired through marriage, but a more important factor in his influence was his position as chancellor (1383-6) and royal favourite, which secured for him grants of a number of properties escheated to the Crown following the death of William Ufford, earl of Suffolk, in 1382, and, in 1385, of the earldom itself. De la Pole’s father-in-law, Sir John Wingfield of Wingfield (the Black Prince’s principal councillor), was the last male representative of the senior branch of the Wingfield family, but there were two cadet lines: one, seated at Letheringham and descended from Sir John’s brother, Thomas, the other at Dennington and descended from his uncle, Richard. Sir John Wingfield of Letheringham represented Suffolk in the two Parliaments of 1384, and his half-brother, Sir Robert Carbonel, did so in 1385, while Sir William Wingfield of Dennington was made shire knight ten times between 1376 and 1390. All three were closely connected with the de la Poles, and Sir William’s name had even been linked with Lord Michael’s in the proceedings of the Good Parliarment. To each of the nine Parliaments between 1381 and 1386, that is including the Wonderful Parliament of 1386 in which de la Pole was impeached and dismissed from the chancellorship, one of the Wingfield circle secured election. In 1387, when the Lords Appellant took control, the earl of Suffolk fled overseas and in his absence he was appealed of treason, his estates declared forfeit and his title abrogated. Yet the forfeiture did not extend to lands of his wife’s heritage or to his entailed estates, and his son Michael was able to gain livery of a sizeable part of his inheritance after the earl’s death in 1389. De la Pole influence in the local community was reflected in the election to Parliament of Sir William Burgate (1388, 1390 (Nov.) and 1395), who was later to act as Sir William Wingfield’s fellow godfather to the late earl’s grandson William (the future 4th earl, marquess and duke of Suffolk); and of Sir William Bardwell (1391 and 1397 (Sept.)), who was to receive a substantial annuity for his services to the family. The de la Poles certainly needed friends in the Commons at this time—men who might work for some mitigation of the judgement against the 1st earl. Richard II seems to have been anxious to secure the sympathy of the latter’s heir for his moves to establish unchallenged royal supremacy, and in the Parliament of 1397 (Sept.) the way was prepared for Sir Michael’s restoration to the earldom, which duly came about in June 1398. There is no evidence that the influence of any other magnate affected the representation of Suffolk in the reign of Richard II. Thomas Mowbray, earl of Nottingham and duke of Norfolk, never had seisin of the considerable estates in East Anglia held by his grandmother Margaret Marshal, countess of Norfolk, who died in 1399 when he was in exile. It is, however, possible that his interests were served in the Commons in 1393, 1394, and 1397 by the royal retainer Sir William Elmham, whom he was to choose in 1398 as one of his continuous council during his enforced absence overseas.
Although no obvious friend or supporter of the house of Lancaster was returned for Suffolk before 1399, several Lancastrian retainers secured election for the shire after Henry IV’s accession. Ralph Ramsey (1402) was an esquire of the royal household, having been retained by Henry while he was still duke of Hereford; he currently enjoyed royal grants and annuities worth £70 a year and had just returned from Germany where he had acted as an escort of the King’s daughter, Blanche. Sir John Strange, returned to the three consecutive Parliaments of 1404 (Jan.), 1404 (Oct.) and 1406, was holding office as chief usher of the King’s hall in 1404 and as controller of the Household at the later date. Sir Andrew Butler (also October 1404) was a ‘King’s knight’ receiving an annuity of 40 marks, although in his second Parliament, in 1410, he may rather have supported the policies of Henry of Monmouth, whom he was then serving as deputy constable of Dover castle; indeed, the election of followers of Prince Henry and his allies the Beauforts by several constituencies helped to ensure that this Parliament was dominated by their party. John Spencer, once a ‘King’s clerk’ engaged in the administration of the wardrobe of Richard II, had been retained as an esquire by Henry IV with all his former annuities, which amounted to over £50. At the time of his return in 1411 he was holding high office in the household of the prince, from whom he received a fee of £20 p.a., and it may not have been coincidental that the prince was still in control of the royal administration when that Parliament was summoned. After Henry’s accession to the throne Spencer was elected to the first Parliament of the reign (May 1413). By that time he was serving as cofferer of the King’s household and shortly afterwards was to be promoted keeper of the Wardrobe. To both Parliaments of 1414 Suffolk returned the same two royal retainers: Sir Robert Corbet, who had been appointed by Henry IV as constable of Berkhampstead castle (Hertfordshire) for life and kept that office along with an annuity of 40 marks; and Sir William Phelip, a former member of the household of Henry IV, who received several grants and annuities by that King’s gift and was currently occupying the post of constable of Norwich castle. Phelip, who had been knighted on the eve of Henry V’s coronation, was to rise to be treasurer of his household and, under Henry VI, King’s chamberlain, a chief steward of the duchy of Lancaster and a regular member of the royal council. Sir William’s attachment to the house of Lancaster had been fostered by his uncle, Sir Thomas Erpingham KG, who having accompanied Bolingbroke into exile in 1398 owed his meteoric rise to his master’s assumption of the Crown.6 Appointed by Henry IV as King’s chamberlain, constable of Dover castle and warden of the Cinque Ports, Erpingham was placed by royal patronage in a position to exercise immense territorial influence in East Anglia on the King’s behalf, becoming as powerful in the local community as any member of the higher nobility. So far as we know, Erpingham himself was never elected to Parliament, but many of those returned by Suffolk after 1399 found it expedient to be on amicable terms with him. Most notable in this group was Sir Andrew Butler (1404, 1410 and 1421) who married his niece, served as his deputy at Dover from 1406 onwards, and eventually took on the executorship of his will. Men such as these—royal retainers and friends of Erpingham—accounted for more than half of the known returns for Suffolk to Parliaments assembled between 1399 and 1415. And to these royalist sympathizers should also be added Robert Bukton, who when returned for the third time in 1401 was still constable of Eye castle and retained by Thomas Percy, earl of Worcester, himself then high in Henry IV’s confidence and soon to be re-appointed to the stewardship of the Household.
Nor were those returned in the de la Pole interest (if such they were) likely to have been out of sympathy with the new regime, for the 2nd earl of Suffolk had shown himself to be one of Bolingbroke’s most willing supporters on his return to England in 1399. From King Henry he had received a number of grants including the castle and honour of Eye, the revenues of which estate he used to reward his retainers—men like Sir William Bardwell (1406). It is quite likely that James Andrew (December 1421) was also in the service of the de la Poles: after his violent death in 1434 at the hands of followers of the duke of Norfolk, the then earl of Suffolk had to promise the King’s Council that his supporters would not seek vengeance. The elder son of Thomas Mowbray, duke of Norfolk, was under age at the time of his father’s death in 1399, and his East Anglian estates remained until 1404 either in the possession of his father’s widow or in the custody of Sir Thomas Erpingham. Yet a sign of a recovery of Mowbray influence in Suffolk may be discerned in the election of Sir John Ingoldisthorpe to the Parliament of 1404 (Jan.), for Ingoldisthorpe had been retained by the late duke with an annuity of £20 which he still received from the Mowbray estates, and he himself, at the time of his return, had few if any landed interests in the county. No doubt, following the young Earl Thomas’s execution in 1405, the Mowbray electoral interest lay dormant during the minority of his younger brother, John, who was to receive no personal writ of summons to Parliament as Earl Marshal until Henry V came to the throne. It is, however, possible to think of that family interest being represented in the interim, if only indirectly, for to the three consecutive Parliaments of 1407, 1410 and 1411 the county court of Suffolk elected John Lancaster II. This esquire had been a leading retainer of the late duke, whom he had served in the 1390s in the marches of Scotland and Calais, and, since then, he had been a member of the council of Earl Thomas, for whom he had also done duty as constable of Framlingham castle. At the time of his elections in the second half of Henry IV’s reign, Lancaster was being paid retaining fees of at least £56 a year from the Mowbray estates. He was returned again in 1413 (when Earl John first received a parliamentary summons), and he was to remain the most highly paid and prominent of that earl’s councillors until his death. Another known Mowbray retainer was elected for Suffolk in 1420. This was Richard Sterysacre who, not being a native of Suffolk and holding few properties there, most likely owed his position in the county to his lords. He had long been a dedicated servant of their house: retained successively by Duke Thomas and both his sons, by the time of his election to Parliament he was enjoying annuities of at least £36 13s.4d. from the Mowbray estates, and was employed by Earl John as feoffee, councillor and attorney-general. Men like Sterysacre could be relied upon to safeguard the earl’s interests during his absence in France.
The Suffolk elections were held in county courts which met at Ipswich, and the names of the elected representatives and their mainpernors were written, along with those for Norfolk, on schedules stitched to the writs to be sent back to Chancery. The returns themselves provide few hints as to whether, or, if so, in what manner, influence was ever brought to bear on particular elections. But it may be that on occasion the sheriff’s ties of lordship were a factor in the selection of knights of the shire: for instance, William Rees*, a retainer of Thomas Mowbray, duke of Norfolk, officiating at the elections to the Parliament of 1397 (Sept.) returned a royal retainer (Bukton) and a probable supporter of Sir Michael de la Pole (Bardwell). At that time (although not for much longer) Mowbray was in sympathy with Richard II’s policy of eliminating those who had most fervently opposed him ten years before, and the King was also showing himself anxious to win the support of de la Pole. Since, after 1399, several of the sheriffs had personal ties of loyalty and service to the new regime, it is not unlikely that they played a part in the election of so many MPs sympathetic to the Lancastrians. The number of witnesses, who, as required by statute after 1406, put their seals to the indentures of election, ranged from 18 (as at the hustings of May 1413 and November 1414), down to eight (in 1420), and the list was always headed by the two coroners of the shire. The attendance of individuals of the rank of knight would seem to have been a rarity: only one such appears on an indenture throughout the period (in 1410). On the other hand, royal officials present at the county court may well have influenced the outcome: John Staverton, a baron of the Exchequer, attended in 1407, and so, on other occasions, did ministers of the duchy of Lancaster. Of most interest are those recorded as party to the election of 1410, which resulted in the return of Sir Andrew Butler, for several members of the circle of his wife’s uncle, Sir Thomas Erpingham, put in an appearance, including Sir Robert Tye and (Sir) William Phelip, two of Sir Thomas’s nephews. The earl of Suffolk’s interests at the elections were perhaps sustained by the attendance in the shire court of his stewards and councillors, such as John Glemham and Robert Bolton.7
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. C219/12/2 - not printed in OR, i. 290.
- 2. N.B. Lewis, ‘Re-election to Parl.’, EHR, xlviii. 378.
- 3. E159/187.
- 4. Andrew in Ipswich, Ramsey in Yarmouth, Elmham, Lancaster, Phelip and Strange in Norf., Hanningfield and Waldegrave in Essex, Ingoldisthorpe in Cambs. and Corbet in Herts. Phelip was later j.p. in 16 southern counties by virtue of his office as chief steward of the duchy of Lancaster.
- 5. Perhaps this is less surprising than at first sight might appear, given that the Crown had the gentry of the two shires to select from. Moreover, there does seem to have been a general reluctance to serve on the part of suitable men, owing to the fact that the allowances made on the sheriff’s farm were insufficient. Several complaints were made (sometimes in Parliament) that a sheriff might be impoverished by his tenure of office, and a number of sheriffs sought pardons for large sums owing on their accounts at the Exchequer.