ARGENTINE, Sir William (c.1350-1419), of Halesworth, Suff. and Great Wymondley, Herts.
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Family and Education
b.c. 1350,1 illegit. s. of Sir John Argentine† of Halesworth and Great Wymondley. m. (1) c. May 1381, Isabel, da. of Sir William Kerdiston† of Kerdiston, Norf. by his w. Cecily, 2s. (1 d.v.p.); (2) aft. 1399, Joan (d. 21 Mar. 1410), da. and coh. of John Hadley* of London, wid. of Sir William Pecche* of Lullingstone, Kent, 1s. (?d.v.p.); (3) prob. aft. Mar. 1417, Margery (d. 28 Sept. 1427), da. of Ralph Parles* by his 1st w., wid. of John Hervy* of Thurleigh, Beds., ?1da. Kntd. by Jan. 1393.
Sheriff, Norf. and Suff. I Dec. 1393-11 Nov. 1394.
Commr. of array, Suff. Dec. 1399, July 1402, Sept. 1403; to examine a witness in a case of treason May 1401; of oyer and terminer July 1402.
Tax collector, Suff. Mar. 1404.
The Argentines were well-established members of the lesser nobility: this MP’s father, Sir John Argentine, was a great-grandson of Hugh de Vere, 4th earl of Oxford, a grandson of Reynold d’Argentine, who had received a personal summons to Parliament in the late 13th century, and stepson of John, Lord Mautravers (d.1364). He held substantial estates in Hertfordshire and East Anglia, including the important manor of Great Wymondley, which had been granted to an ancestor in the 11th century to hold in chief by grand serjeanty for the service of rendering the King a silver-gilt cup at his coronation feast. This service was duly performed by Sir John in 1377 at the coronation of Richard II.2 By his wife Margaret, daughter of Robert Darcy† of Great Sturton (Lincolnshire), Sir John had three daughters, but he wanted the bulk of his estates to pass to his only son William, who was illegitimate. Accordingly, in May 1381 he obtained a royal licence to entail Great Wymondley and the advowson of the priory and chapel there after his death on William and his wife; furthermore, in the same year he made similar entails of lands in Little Melton (Norfolk) and the manor of Melbourn (Cambridgeshire), while giving William and his wife immediate possession of the manors of Chalgrove (Oxfordshire), Fordham (Essex), Weston (Hertfordshire) and Newmarket (Suffolk). Finally, he arranged that Halesworth, his principal residence in Suffolk, should pass to William after the life interest of his own wife.3 Sir John clearly intended that his son should be recognized as his true heir by the gentry of East Anglia, and to this end he had negotiated William’s marriage to Isabel Kerdiston, grand daughter of William, Lord Kerdiston, and member of an ancient and wealthy family. That Isabel’s father was amenable to the match may be attributed to his own illegitimate birth.4
When Sir John Argentine died in November 1382 his legitimate heirs were found to be his daughter Maud, the wife of Sir Ivo Fitzwaryn*, and his grandchildren Margaret Naunton and Baldwin St. George*. It was natural that the disinheriting of these three of all but a small part of the Argentine estates should occasion considerable bitterness, and that William would be anxious to secure possession of the documents which proved his title to his father’s lands. In the following spring Fitzwaryn and his wife obtained a royal commission of oyer and terminer alleging that the prior of Wymondley, with whom Sir John Argentine had deposited certain deeds in a chest under lock and seal, had been seized by certain ‘evildoers’ on Newmarket Heath when on his way to Halesworth to conduct Sir John’s funeral, and had been held captive until he sent for the deeds and handed them over to William Argentine. The same ‘evildoers’ had then assaulted Sir John’s widow and Fitzwaryn at Halesworth and prevented Sir John from having a decent burial. Yet it was not until after Sir John’s widow’s death in September 1383 that William was able to secure tenure of his father’s lands: in November he was granted custody of Wymondley, Melbourn and the property at Little Melton, pending judgement in the royal courts as to whom they lawfully belonged, and three months later he was allowed to hold Halesworth under similar conditions. Finally, in May 1384, he won his case and obtained livery of all the entailed properties, leaving little of Sir John Argentine’s estates to pass to the legitimate heirs. William seems to have been troubled no more in his tenure, save by a suit for the manor of Newmarket, brought before the courts in 1394 by his kinsman Sir Edward Butler†, who was easily defeated.5 No accurate contemporary assessments of Argentine’s income from land have survived, although in 1412 his holdings in Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire were estimated to raise £51 a year, and at the time of his death those in Buckinghamshire and Suffolk were valued at £36 6s.8d. yearly. As both of these were probably undervaluations, it may be assumed that his annual income well exceeded £90.6
By the time of Argentine’s first return to Parliament in 1393 he had been made a knight, perhaps for military service overseas. An indication of his standing in local society is his appointment as sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk at the end of the year. When he was returned to Parliament for the third time, in 1399, it was in the company of Sir John Heveningham, who became his friend and later acted on his behalf as a feoffee and executor. Parliament was adjourned for Henry IV’s coronation, which took place on 13 Oct. with Argentine performing the ceremonial duties of cupbearer. He had successfully defeated Sir Ivo Fitzwaryn’s claim to the role in right of his wife Maud, but, in order that he and his heirs should not be troubled in future with counter-claims of this sort, in the following May he obtained royal confirmation of a charter granted by King Stephen to one of his ancestors, which in effect strengthened his position.7 There is no clear indication of where Argentine’s political sympathies rested, but his more frequent employment in the tasks of local government after Henry IV’s accession than before, and his association in land transactions with Sir Thomas Erpingham, a staunch supporter of the new regime who had shared Henry’s exile, suggest that he had favoured the change of monarch. He was on good terms with Erpingham’s nephews, William* and John Phelip*, who had been given places in the households of the King and the prince of Wales, and later on he witnessed the will of Sir Robert Tye of Barsham, who could also refer to Erpingham as his ‘uncle’. Argentine possibly occupied some official post under Erpingham in his capacity as warden of the Cinque Ports, a post which might account for his being in Sandwich early in 1400, where with misguided zeal he seized 12 tuns of wine, not realizing that they pertained to the Crown.8
After 1404 Argentine ceased to serve on royal commissions, from then on restricting his activities to local affairs. He continued to perform the service of trustee of estates in East Anglia belonging to neighbours and friends, and among those for whom he acted was John Wynter*, a household official of Henry of Monmouth.9 Argentine’s second marriage, to the widow of a Kentish landowner, gave him an interest for life in a number of properties in the City of London, which his wife inherited from her father, the wealthy grocer John Hadley.10 By contrast, arrangements made for his eldest son John proved to be financially disadvantageous. In about 1412 John married Margery, the daughter of Sir William Calthorpe, and Argentine made a settlement on the couple of his manors at Gislingham (Suffolk) and Chalgrove; but John’s death, which occurred not long afterwards, meant that these properties had to be transferred back to Argentine and his feoffees in return for an annuity of £20 for his widowed daughter-in-law. Argentine’s second son, William, was among the esquires who served in the retinue of Michael de la Pole, 2nd earl of Suffolk, in 1415, going on after the earl’s death at Harfleur to fight at Agincourt under the banner of his son and heir, the 3rd earl. The feoffees of Argentine’s estates included Sir John Grey, son of Reynold, Lord Grey of Ruthin, a kinsman of his third wife, Margery. This last marriage evidently took place late in Argentine’s life, Margery not being mentioned in the will which he made on 28 Mar. 1417, less than two years before his death. Argentine was not concerned as to where his final resting-place should be — he would be buried ‘where death overtook him’ — but he bequeathed 20s. to the high altar of Halesworth church, and a further £5 for repairs to the fabric. He left ten marks to a godson and other smaller monetary gifts to certain of his friends, among whom were two of his executors, Sir John Carbonel† and Sir John Heveningham. Argentine died on 22 Jan. or 8 Feb. 1419, and his will was proved on 14 May following. His heir was his grandson John, then aged six, whose wardship and marriage, being of considerable value, were sought after at the Exchequer.11 Argentine’s widow Margery obtained custody of the boy at first, but she was unable to reach an agreement with the treasurer over financial terms, and the wardship was then granted to (Sir) William Porter II*, while certain of the Argentine estates were leased to John Hotoft* of Knebworth (once one of Argen