AYLESBURY, Sir John (1334-1409), of Milton Keynes, Bucks.
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Family and Education
b. and bap. Weldon, Northants. 6 May 1334, s. of Thomas Aylesbury (d.v.p.) of Milton Keynes by Joan, da. of Sir Ralph Basset (d.1341) of Weldon. m. (1) bef. Mich. 1359, Isabel, prob. 2s. inc. Sir Thomas* (1 d.v.p.); (2) bef. Nov. 1369, Alice.1 Kntd. by Jan. 1361.
Sheriff, Beds. and Bucks. 17 Nov. 1365-5 Nov. 1371, 7 Nov. 1373-12 Dec. 1374, 26 Nov. 1377-25 Nov. 1378, 1 Nov. 1381-3, 18 Nov. 1386-7.
Commr. of inquiry, Beds., Bucks. Oct. 1370 (embracery and forestailing), Beds., Bucks., Cambs., Hunts. Jan. 1371 (concealments), Beds. Nov. 1374 (oppressions), Bucks. Aug., Nov. 1375 (forfeited goods), Dec. 1376 (concealments), July 1378 (trespasses), Oct. 1389 (wastes, Tickford priory estates), Aug. 1392 (value of estates of Robert de Vere, duke of Ireland); oyer and terminer Feb. 1371, Feb. 1378, Jan., July 1384, Feb. 1392; array, Beds., Bucks. Feb. 1371, Bucks. Apr., July 1377, Mar. 1380, Mar. 1392; to collect the parochial subsidy Feb. 1372; of arrest, Beds., Bucks. July 1378, Herts. Dec. 1381; gaol delivery, Aylesbury, Bedford July 1378, Aylesbury Aug. 1381; to hold assizes, Bucks. Dec. 1383, Feb. 1388, Feb. 1392; administer oaths in support of the Lords Appellant Mar. 1388.
J.p. Bucks. 6 Dec. 1375-82, 18 Sept. 1385-Nov. 1397.
Tax surveyor, Bucks. Aug. 1379.
When John Aylesbury was born at Weldon ‘Basset’, the home of his maternal grandfather, Sir Ralph Basset, the bishop of Lincoln was immediately sent for to come and confirm the birth. However, one of those present at his baptism long recalled the occasion with a sense of outrage, since when he inquired of Basset as to why the baby was not being named after either of his godfathers (Basset himself and Warin, Lord Latimer), Sir Ralph punched him in the neck. On the death of his paternal grandfather, Sir Philip Aylesbury†, 15 years later in 1349, young John came into a substantial inheritance, which included the manors of Milton Keynes, Bradwell and Broughton in Buckinghamshire, Rousham in Oxfordshire, and Aldbury and Tiscot in Tring in Hertfordshire, most of which Sir Philip had himself amassed. To these John was to add a manor in Wiltshire and an inn with five adjacent cottages in the parish of St. Giles, Cripplegate, London. It was William Shareshull, the judge, who secured Aylesbury’s wardship and marriage from the Crown, only to sell the former to William Clinton, earl of Huntingdon. After making proof of age, Aylesbury received seisin of his inheritance in 1355.2Yet it was not until January 1361 that he did homage and fealty to Edward, prince of Wales, for those lands he held as the prince’s tenant. Perhaps the delay had been occasioned by military service overseas, for by then he had been knighted. Also since coming of age, he had married, and had settled on his wife in jointure the manor of Tiscot; and in 1360 he had begun legal proceedings to press his title to an estate at Abinger in Surrey — a suit in which he was to be ultimately successful.3
Aylesbury’s career in the public service was out of the ordinary in that he served as sheriff for no fewer than 11 annual terms. He was, moreover, in serious breach of the statutes of 14 and 28 Edward III and 1 Richard II which, inter alia, forbade the reappointment of sheriffs in consecutive years, for he held office six years running from 1365 and two years consecutively from 1381. However, only once in this remarkable series — in 1381 — did he find himself simultaneously sheriff and shire knight, having been appointed to the shrievalty two days before the opening of the Parliament which, in the event, was not to be dissolved until February 1382. Meanwhile, in March 1379, shortly before his third Parliament assembled, he had made the Crown a loan of £20 towards financing the war with France. As sheriff of Buckinghamshire, Sir John was held responsible for any escapes of prisoners from Aylesbury gaol, only to be granted, in July 1384, a royal pardon of the fines he had incurred. Certain circumstantial evidence links Aylesbury with Richard II’s youngest uncle, Thomas of Woodstock, from as early as 1378, when his son, Sir Thomas, served under Woodstock’s command in a naval force. Sir John’s nomination to a royal commission of oyer and terminer early in 1384 was made in response to Woodstock’s request for justice against trespassers on his land in Buckinghamshire; and that Woodstock counted him among his well-wishers is further suggested by his selection, during the Merciless Parliament of 1388, as the person who would administer in Buckinghamshire the oath of compliance with the acts of Woodstock and the other Lords Appellant. Coincidentally, John Aylesbury, junior (most likely Sir John’s younger son), was made steward of the royal castle of Berkhampstead; and it was doubtless on account of appointments such as these that, ten years later, following Woodstock’s murder, Sir John thought it expedient to procure a royal pardon.4
The final decade of the century saw Aylesbury, in conjunction with his kinsman, John Knyvet* of Mendlesham, obsessively pursuing a claim to the estates of their cousin, Sir Ralph Basset, who had been murdered in 1385. The escheators’ inquests had established that Basset had left a young son, Richard, who was promptly placed in the King’s wardship; but at Michaelmas 1391 Aylesbury and Knyvet took over a cause begun by their recently deceased uncle, Thomas Basset, clerk, by pleading that under the terms of an entail made in 1339 — governing the descent of Weston and Weldon (Northamptonshire) and the advowson of Launde priory (Leicestershire) — they were now Sir Ralph’s true heirs. Furthermore, growing impatient of legal formalities, Aylesbury tried to take possession of certain of the disputed properties by force, with the consequence that on 20 Oct. he and his son, Sir Thomas, were bound, each under pain of 1,000 marks, not to molest John Clisby, the man who had married Basset’s widow. Clearly the Crown’s own interests were best served by procrastination: less than a year later the suit was suspended until Richard Basset should come of age. Notwithstanding this setback, Aylesbury and Knyvet presented a petition in Parliament — probably in 1393 — asserting that Richard was the bastard son of one Tybot Lowekin, and requiring fresh inquiries to be made. In 1396 they renewed their suit in the court of common pleas, this time claiming that the entail of 1339 also applied to Thorpe Langton (Leicestershire) and Madeley (Staffordshire), only to have their plea suspended during Richard Basset’s minority. Two years later, they were similarly unsuccessful when prosecuting the royal grantees of Basset’s wardship, chief of whom was the King’s cousin, Edward, duke of Aumale, then in high favour at court. Meanwhile, in 1397, in the midst of these reversals, Aylesbury had been dropped from the Buckinghamshire bench — an event which brought more than 30 years’ public service to an end. True, he was now evidently suffering from ill-health; and, ‘being too infirm to sue and defend in person in the King’s courts’, he was granted leave in October 1398 to appoint attorneys to act on his behalf for the next year. In one respect, however, the outlook for his case was improving, for Richard Basset, although still under age, had been given livery of the disputed estates two months earlier, and presumably might soon be permitted to appear as defendant in the courts. However, even when, in January following, Basset was killed on the highway leading through Whittlewood forest, Aylesbury and Knyvet were not automatically put into possession of all the Basset estates. They managed to persuade Basset’s feoffees to relinquish to them Drayton Beauchamp (Buckinghamshire) and Madeley before November 1399, and seem to have then secured Weldon, Rockingham and Weston, too. The Crown, however, retained Thorpe Langton and other properties in Leicestershire as late as February 1409; and it was only then that a partition between the two cousins was officially ordered. After all their trouble and expense, the Aylesburys settled for possession of Drayton Beauchamp, ‘Bassets’ in Pytchley (Northamptonshire), and Wilstone in Tring (Hertfordshire), these estates being the principal part of their share in the inheritance.5