Warwickshire

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
1386George Castell
 Sir John Peyto
1388 (Feb.)Sir William Bagot
 Guy Spyne
1388 (Sept.)Sir William Bagot
 Guy Spyne
1390 (Jan.)Sir William Bagot
 Guy Spyne
1390 (Nov.)Sir William Bagot
 Guy Spyne
1391Sir William Bagot
 Guy Spyne
1393Sir William Bagot
 John Catesby
1394Sir William Bagot
 Sir Thomas Burdet
1395Sir William Bagot
 William Spernore
1397 (Jan.)Sir William Bagot
 Sir Thomas Clinton
1397 (Sept.)Sir William Bagot
 Thomas Crewe
1399Sir William Lucy
 Sir Alfred Trussell
1401Sir Thomas Burdet
 Sir Alfred Trussell
1402Sir William Bagot
 Sir Alfred Trussell
1404 (Jan.)Robert Hugford
 Roger Smart
1404 (Oct.)Thomas Crewe
 Thomas Raleigh
1406Sir Thomas Burdet
 Thomas Lucy
1407Sir Alfred Trussell
 Henry Sutton
1410William Mountfort I 1
1411(Sir) Thomas Lucy
 Thomas Erdington
1413 (Feb.)
1413 (May)William Birmingham
 John Mallory
1414 (Apr.)Robert Castell
 Thomas Stafford
1414 (Nov.)John Harewell
 John Knightley
1415
1416 (Mar.)
1416 (Oct.)
1417
1419Sir Thomas Burdet
 John Mallory
1420Sir John Cockayne
 William Peyto
1421 (May)William Holt II
 John Mallory
1421 (Dec.)Sir John Cockayne
 John Chetwynd

Main Article

Returns for Warwickshire have survived for 27 of the 32 Parliaments of the period, but any attempt to analyse the county’s representation has to take into account the long gap of four consecutive Parliaments between 1415 and 1417, which seriously restricts our knowledge of the MPs of Henry V’s reign. Given this difficulty, only tentative conclusions may be reached about such matters as parliamentary experience in the later part of our period. It would appear that of the 28 men known to have sat for Warwickshire as many as 15 (over half) did so in only one Parliament, and five more in just two. On the other hand, Sir John Peyto was returned to seven Parliaments, and William Mountfort I to at least eight (although neither sat more than once actually in the period under review); and Sir William Bagot was elected to as many as 11. When Peyto, Mountfort and Bagot entered the Commons it was always as representatives for Warwickshire. But it should also be noted that certain knights of the shire sometimes appeared for other constituencies too: thus, although Henry Sutton and Sir Thomas Clinton apparently represented Warwickshire but once, the former subsequently sat for Nottinghamshire, and the latter for Kent (twice), to William Spernore’s three Parliaments for Warwickshire should be added his four for Worcestershire, and Sir John Cockayne’s two for this county should be set beside as many as nine for Derbyshire. When all such service is taken into account the average number of Parliaments per Member rises to over three.

Warwickshire was represented on at least 11 occasions by one man with previous experience of the workings of the Commons, while on at least nine others both Members had been returned before. However, to possibly as many as six Parliaments—1388 (Feb.), 1399, 1404 (Jan.), 1413 (May), 1414 (Apr.) and 1414 (Nov.)—the shire returned two men not previously elected. Parliamentary experience would appear to have been more highly valued during Richard II’s reign than under his two successors. Between 1386 and 1397 (Sept.), a total of 11 Parliaments, no more than six novices were elected and on only one occasion (in February 1388) were both of Warwickshire’s MPs fresh to the parliamentary scene. Furthermore, during that period Sir William Bagot was returned to ten Parliaments in a row, in five of them with the same companion, Guy Spyne; and this gave Warwickshire a useful continuity of representation over a period of ten years. The pattern changed slightly under Henry IV: a total of nine novices were elected to the nine assemblies for which returns have survived, and on possibly three occasions both Members were inexperienced. However, Sir Alfred Trussell was returned to three consecutive Parliaments, between 1399 and 1402, and both the shire knights of 1401 and 1402 are known to have been elected before. The large gap in the returns in the middle of Henry V’s reign renders hypothetical any statement about the experience of those elected to the last four Parliaments of the period, but it is worth remarking on the strong possibility that in Henry’s first three Parliaments Warwickshire was represented entirely by men lacking familiarity with the ways of the House, whereas in each of the last four Parliaments of the reign certainly one Member had been returned before.

The parliamentary service of certain of the knights of the shire was extended over long periods. Although Guy Spyne’s five appearances were compressed into four years, John Mallory’s five were spread over 14; Sir William Bagot’s 11 Parliaments covered a like period (1388-1402) and Sir John Peyto’s seven covered 18 years (1368-86). Most outstanding in this respect were Sir John Cockayne, whose service in 11 Parliaments was rendered over four reigns and 38 years (1395-1433), and William Mountfort I, whose eight appearances stretched over four decades (from 1410 to 1450). The shire knights of this period enjoyed, therefore, a collective experience of the Commons going back to 1368 and forward to 1450. Knowledge of parliamentary procedure could also be passed down through families; and several of the MPs, such as William Birmingham, Thomas Erdington, John Harewell and Sir John Peyto, might have learned something from the experiences of their fathers or other kinsmen. In our period the county returned a father and son (Sir William and Thomas Lucy); a grandfather and grandson (Sir John and William Peyto), and two members of the Castell family. The majority of those elected for Warwickshire were local men; 18 of the 28 came from well-established county families, inheriting the bulk of their landed holdings in the region. Others owed their acceptance by the community of the shire to their marriages to Warwickshire heiresses; and to this group belonged Thomas Crewe (who came from Cheshire), John Knightley and Thomas Stafford (who both came from Staffordshire) and possibly Henry Sutton (of the Nottinghamshire family). Two more acquired their landed interests in the county through purchase: Sir William Bagot (a Staffordshire man) and Robert Hugford (whose origins are obscure). Another two owed their place in local society to crown patronage: Roger Smart, who was granted an annuity charged on estates in Warwickshire, and William Holt II (a native of the county) whose tenure of the family manor of Aston was authorized by Henry IV. Although Sir Thomas Clinton came of an old and important Warwickshire family (his father was Lord Clinton of Maxstoke), he himself owned little or no property in the county at the time of his election in 1397; yet he was qualified after a fashion by his receipt of an annuity of £20 from a Warwickshire manor belonging to the Earl Marshal. None of the knights of the shire could be classed as ‘outsiders’, for all had interests of one sort or another in the locality.

No fewer than 19 of the 28 MPs also held property beyond the bounds of the shire — usually in one or more of the five neighbouring counties, or else in those bordering Wales. Some, however, were in possession of estates situated far away from the Midlands: John Harewell had acquired holdings in Somerset through marriage, while Thomas Raleigh had inherited lands in Devon and on the Isle of Wight, Thomas Erdington in Dorset, and Sir Thomas Clinton in Kent. But despite their geographically wide-ranging involvements, for the majority their first commitment was to Warwickshire. Only Sir William Lucy, whose public service centred on Herefordshire and Wales, and Sir John Cockayne, who was more active in Derbyshire than in Warwickshire, could be regarded as taking no more than a casual interest in local affairs. Accurate information is lacking about the size of the incomes of many of those who sat for Warwickshire, but it is clear that the majority could expect revenues of between £20 and £100 a year from their lands and offices. None of the shire knights (save, perhaps, for George Castell and Henry Sutton) were men of unusually small means; even Roger Smart, who possessed little or no property in the county, could rely on annuities of about £31 at the time of his election. Seven Members were among the wealthiest landowners of the region: John Catesby received about £123 a year, Thomas Raleigh at least £140, the Peytos some £150 each, and Thomas Erdington £170; while Sir John Cockayne and William Mountfort I could boast annual incomes in excess of £200 and £300, respectively. (Indeed, in the tax returns of 1436 Cockayne and Mountfort stand revealed as the most highly assessed commoners in their respective home counties, Derbyshire and Warwickshire.) However, at no time during this period did the very wealthy dominate the representation of the shire.

In broad terms income status were linked. The knights as a body were the wealthiest group. But some of the squires were evidently more affluent than some of the knights, so clearly the relationship between income and status was not straightforward. There would appear to have been a growing disinclination among wealthy squires to take up knighthood: for example, Thomas Erdington, the direct descendant of a man who, by personal writ, had been summoned to the Upper House as Lord Erdington, never did so. In fact, only seven of the 28 Members (a quarter of the total) were belted knights at the time of their first election to Parliament, though four more achieved this status subsequently, and as the period progressed so the number of occasions when individuals of that sort were returned decreased. Thus, in the 11 Parliaments between 1386 and 1397 (Sept.) the ratio of knights to those of lower rank was 13:9; in the nine Parliaments of Henry IV’s reign it evened out to 9:8; and in the seven of Henry V’s reign for which returns have survived it was 3:11. In fact, status seems to have counted for comparatively little when it came to repeated election to Parliament. Four of the MPs were related to the nobility—Sir Thomas Clinton was the son of the 3rd Lord Clinton, William Mountfort I, a grandson of the same nobleman, was also a descendant of Lord Montfort, Thomas Raleigh was the son-in-law of Lord Astley, and Thomas Stafford was the grandson of Richard, Lord Stafford, and closely related to more than one bishop or earl—yet all of these save Mountfort represented the shire only once. Certainly two MPs (John Catesby and John Harewell) were lawyers, and two more (Sir John Peyto and Thomas Crewe) may have received some training in the same field, but it is clear that members of the legal profession played no more than a small part in the parliamentary representation of Warwickshire in the period under review.

The majority of the knights of the shire were involved to a greater or lesser extent in the administration of the region. Twenty-two of the 28 served on royal commissions in Warwickshire or elsewhere, and of those who did not do so three held some other sort of local office. Thirteen were appointed as j.p.s in Warwickshire (four of them also being employed in other counties),2 and although Sir William Lucy never served as a j.p. in Warwickshire, he did so in Herefordshire. Outstanding in this respect was John Catesby, who sat for more than 25 years on the local bench. Twelve shire knights were sometime sheriffs of the joint bailiwick of Warwickshire and Leicestershire, and two more discharged the office elsewhere.3 Eight were made escheators, and two are known to have been coroners. Indeed, only three Members (William Birmingham, Thomas Raleigh and Thomas Stafford) never, so far as is known, served on a royal commission or in any other official capacity, although in extenuation it might be pointed out that Birmingham and Stafford were temporarily debarred from office at home by service in France, and Raleigh died at the age of 24 before his career had properly begun. Yet it is difficult to ascertain whether experience of local administration was ever an important, still less a decisive, factor in promoting an individual’s election to Parliament. It rarely happened that a member of the local bench was returned (this occurred no more than seven times); and there are few instances of a direct correlation between office-holding and parliamentary election, although it is interesting to note that the MPs of 1414 (Nov.) were the retiring escheator (John Harewell) and his recently appointed successor (John Knightley). Generally, those sent to the House had some experience of local administration and where such experience was lacking they may be shown to have been wealthy men (such as Raleigh, Erdington and Mountfort), or else to have had important connexions with prominent magnates from the region. Indeed, at least eight of those who had not filled a local office at the time of their first election are known to have been retainers of the earl of Warwick. Although the ages of only a few of the MPs may be assessed with any degree of accuracy, the majority would appear to have been over 30 and under 55 on the first occasion that they entered the Commons. The most notable exceptions were Sir Thomas Clinton, who was about 30 when elected in 1397 (Jan.), William Peyto, who was about 26 in 1420, and Thomas Raleigh, who was only 24 in October 1404. None of these three had ever occupied a governmental post, but all came from important Warwickshire families and were connected with influential members of the nobility.

Several noble families owned estates in Warwickshire, but few possessed enough territory to warrant prolonged involvement in local affairs, and only the Beauchamp earls of Warwick had their caput honoris in the county. There can be little doubt that the earls of Warwick of our period, Thomas (d.1401) and Richard (d.1439), took a close interest in the parliamentary representation of Warwickshire, and it was only on comparatively rare occasions that retainers of any other magnates were returned. At least six members of the affinity of Earl Thomas are known to have been elected to the earlier Parliaments of Richard II’s reign (before 1386), and seven of the 11 men who represented the shire between 1386 and the earl’s death in 1401 are known to have had close connexions with him. Guy Spyne, who sat in five consecutive assemblies between 1388 and 1391, was an esquire in Warwick’s household; John Catesby (1393) acted as his attorney and steward of his estates in Northamptonshire; Sir Thomas Burdet (1394 and 1401) received an annuity from him; William Spernore (1395) had been in his service for over 20 years and was to receive bequests in his will; Thomas Crewe (September 1397) was probably already an officer on his demesnes; and Sir Alfred Trussell (1399 and 1401) was his retainer, a member of his council, and a feoffee of his property. The seventh and most prominent of this group, Sir William Bagot, may have owed his earlier elections (the five between 1388 and 1391) primarily to Earl Thomas, but his growing importance as a figure of independent political influence in the county, his close attachment to Thomas Mowbray, the Earl Marshal, and to Henry of Bolingbroke, earl of Derby (both of whom ceased to be Warwick’s allies in the early 1390s), together with his establishment as a ‘King’s knight’, enjoying the patronage of Richard II, all suggest that by 1393 he had no need of Warwick’s help. Indeed, evidently being an individual of unusually strong personality, whereas Warwick himself was sometimes weak or indifferent, Bagot proved well able to dominate the Warwickshire electors without the assistance of his former lord. The electors in their turn would have seen the advantage in choosing someone whose counsel was sought by men of the highest distinction. Members of Earl Thomas’s affinity occupied no fewer than 17 of the 26 seats available between 1386 and 1401, but there were, nevertheless, times when either the earl took no interest in the outcome of an election (and it is clear that he became more preoccupied with private affairs in his later years), or else was unable to affect it. In this context it may be noted that in 1386 Warwickshire elected Sir John Peyto, who had close connexions with the Earl Marshal, in company with George Castell, who apparently did not enjoy Warwick’s favour: indeed, he was to be removed from the shrievalty of Warwickshire just before the elections to the Merciless Parliament, in which the earl, as one of the Lords Appellant, needed to be sure of support in the Commons to guarantee the success of their opposition to the King’s favourites. (Had Castell still been sheriff, Warwick might not have been able to secure the election of his retainers, Bagot and Spyne.) From 1388 to 1395 Bagot was always sent to Parliament along with one of Warwick’s followers. But in 1397 (Jan.) he was accompanied by Sir Thomas Clinton, who, like himself, was in receipt of a substantial annuity from the Earl Marshal, then standing high in the King’s regard. The summit of Bagot’s parliamentary career came in the succeeding assembly—that of 1397 (Sept.)—when, associated with Sir John Bussy and Sir Henry Green, he helped promote the success of the King’s policies in the Commons, while his patron, Mowbray, was instrumental in achieving the same in the Lords. Although Warwick was then in prison, one of his retainers, Thomas Crewe, was elected as Bagot’s colleague, and it may be that he and other members of the earl’s affinity sitting in the Commons helped to ensure that their lord did not share the fate of the earl of Arundel.

The southern stronghold of the duchy of Lancaster honour of Leicester was Kenilworth castle, situated between Warwick and Coventry, and from 1399 a Lancastrian interest in the representation of Warwickshire may be discerned. Henry of Bolingbroke could be certain of the support of Sir William Lucy, one of those returned to the critical Parliament of 1399, for Lucy was an old retainer of his father, John of Gaunt, and had occupied important duchy offices in Wales and the marches. In 1402 there was re-elected Sir William Bagot, whom Henry IV had generously forgiven for any past infidelities by assigning him a handsome annuity of 100 marks, a sure sign of his rehabilitation. Two years later, to the first Parliament of 1404, Warwickshire returned Roger Smart, who had done Henry invaluable service by holding Kenilworth for him in the summer of 1399, and was currently a ‘King’s esquire’. It should be noted that Bolingbroke, evidently hoping for a more compliant Commons than he had encountered hitherto, moved the venue of the next Parliament—that of 1404 (Oct.)—to Coventry, within easy reach of Kenilworth. It is uncertain whether Thomas Lucy, who sat in 1406 and 1411, should be accounted as a representative of the Lancastrian interest (he had been retained by Gaunt and served Henry as a ‘King’s esquire’), or that of the Beauchamps (by 1408 he was in receipt of an annuity from the earl of Warwick). There can be no doubt, however, that at least one of the knights of the shire of Henry V’s reign was closely attached to the King, having been in his service when he was prince of Wales: Robert Castell (April 1414) had held offices in the palatinate of Chester by Henry of Monmouth’s grant, and by the time of his election he was probably already employed as clerk of the marshalsea of the royal household. Another knight of the shire with strong links with the duchy of Lancaster was Sir John Cockayne (1420 and December 1421), who received a substantial annuity for his early commitment to the new dynasty.

Although between 1399 and 1421 those apparently returned in the Lancastrian interest (now synonymous with that of the Crown) filled at most eight out of 31 seats, in the same period members of the affinity of the earls of Warwick secured at least 21. In the Parliament of 1402, during the minority of Earl Richard, the Beauchamp interest was represented by Sir Alfred Trussell. Subsequently, no fewer than 14 of the 17 men returned after the earl came of age and before the end of the period are known to have been so closely linked with him as to have been awarded annuities charged on his lands, or to have been engaged as members of his council and officers on his estates. Several served him as feoffees, legal advisors or executors, while five were appointed as deputy sheriff of Worcestershire, a post in his hereditary patronage. Those sent to the Commons in this period included Robert Hugford (January 1404), former keeper of the household of Earl Thomas and receiver-general of the Beauchamp estates, and currently a councillor and retainer of Earl Richard, Thomas Crewe (October 1404) the chief steward of his estates, William Mountfort I (1410), shortly to be made steward of his household overseas and a prominent member of his council, John Farewell (November 1414) an advisor on legal matters, and Thomas Stafford (April 1414) and William Peyto (1420), who both received annuities from him. Furthermore, at least one Beauchamp retainer was elected by Warwickshire to every Parliament between 1422 and 1439 (when Earl Richard died), and to that extent his influence was clearly felt in the parliamentary representation of the county. No other magnate successfully challenged him throughout his tenure of the earldom; even when he was overseas on pilgrimage or on prolonged campaign, he was able to ensure that his personal concerns were well looked after at home. How far this dominance was due to the inspiration of the earl’s personality and great achievements is shown by the collapse of this power structure after 1439, during the minorities of his son and grandson.4

Up to Earl Richard’s death there was a small group of men who monopolized many of the local offices and dominated the representation of the shire. They formed a closely knit association, drawn closer by marriage between their families. There were many such ties linking the shire knights of Warwickshire with those of Worcestershire, where the earl of Warwick also played a highly influential role in the selection of MPs. For instance, Sir Thomas Burdet’s only son married Henry Bruyn’s* heir; Thomas Crewe’s stepson, Sir William Clopton (another Beauchamp retainer), married one of Alexander Besford’s* daughters; one of the latter’s sisters was wedded to Thomas Throckmorton*; and four of John Harewell’s sons became the husbands of her nieces, themselves the cousins of John Throckmorton*, whose father-in-law was Guy Spyne.

From the official records, the Warwickshire parliamentary returns and indentures, it is difficult to find evidence of electoral management at work. However, it may not have been merely coincidental that the sheriff when Smart was elected in 1404 was another ‘King’s esquire’, John Blaket*; that (Sir) Thomas Lucy was responsible for holding the elections of 1407 when two of his fellow members of the Beauchamp affinity were chosen; or that Thomas Crewe supervised those of 1414 (Apr.) which resulted in the return of another Warwick retainer. It may also be significant that Crewe, the earl of Warwick’s chief steward, was named at the head of the list of electors set out in the indentures of 1407, 1411, 1413 (May) and 1414 (Nov.), and that others of the Beauchamp circle such as Robert Hugford, William Peyto, Ralph Arderne* and Nicholas Rody* were also recorded as present at the hustings. At the election to the Parliament of 1413 (May) no fewer than four Beauchamp retainers set their seals to the return of William Birmingham and John Mallory, both apparently untried as MPs and lacking experience in local government. The predominance of men of this affinity at the shire court is the more remarkable when it is considered that the number of electors named was sometimes as low as six and rarely more than a dozen.

Author: L. S. Woodger

Notes

  • 1. The return is torn, leaving only the description ‘de Coleshill’ for one of the Members. As Mountfort was almost invariably described as ‘of Coleshill’ at the time, it seems highly probable that he was the person concerned.