BAGOT, Sir William (bef.1354-1407), of Baginton, Warws.
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Family and Education
b. bef. 1354, ?s. of Sir Ralph Bagot of Blithfield, Staffs., by his w. Joan; prob. half-bro. of Sir John Bagot*. m. by 1379, Margaret (d.1417), sis. and h. of Robert Whatton of Notts., 2 da. (1 d.v.p.). Kntd. bef. Mar. 1386.
Commr. of inquiry, Apr. 1380 (wastes on the estates of John, earl of Nottingham), Warws. Sept. 1384, Feb. 1389 (trepasses, Cheylesmore park), Leics., Warws. June 1395 (concealments), Leics., Warws., Northants., Worcs. Aug. 1397 (forfeited possessions of Thomas, earl of Warwick), Warws. Dec. 1397 (insanity of a tenant-in-chief), Aug. 1398 ( post mortem ), Nov. 1398 (royal grant to Coventry); to seize the goods of the prior of Chepstow, Wales Jan. 1387; administer the oath of adherence to the Lords Appellant, Warws. Mar. 1388; of oyer and terminer, Worcs. May 1391, Apr., July 1394, Feb. 1395; array, Warws. Mar. 1392; to take custody of a royal ward Nov. 1392; survey the estates forfeited by the Lords Appellant of 1387-8, Staffs., Salop, Herefs. Oct. 1397; of weirs, Warws. June 1398.
Sheriff, Warws. and Leics. 13 Nov. 1382-11 Nov. 1384.
J.p. Warws. 28 June-Dec. 1390, 27 July 1397-Aug. 1399, Salop 12 Nov. 1397-Aug. 1399.
Keeper, Carnarvon castle 15 Nov. 1389-6 July 1396.
Surveyor of sales of timber, Cheylesmore park 16 Nov. 1391-c.1392, steward of Cheylesmore 2 Dec. 1391-c. July 1399.
Lt. to the marshal, Thomas, earl of Nottingham c. Aug.-Nov. 1394, Feb. 1395.
Steward and surveyor of estates forfeited by Richard, earl of Arundel, in Wales and the marches 22 Sept. 1397-Aug. 1399.
Constable, Holt castle, Denbigh 22 Sept. 1397-29 May 1398.
Jt. keeper, Wallingford castle 12 July-Aug. 1399.
Tax collector, Warws. Mar. 1404.
This member of the infamous trio of ‘evil counsellors’ held by contemporaries as party to the despotic government of the last two years of Richard II’s reign, came from the Staffordshire family of Bagot and was probably a half-brother or cousin of Sir John Bagot. Not being heir to any of the family estates (the only lands he is known to have held in Staffordshire were at Longdon and Walsall and were of little value), he established himself as a landowner of substance in the neighbouring county of Warwickshire by purchasing, in the early 1380s, the manors of Baginton, Wolston and Draycote in Bourton on Dunsmore, and by acquiring from Stoneleigh abbey a long lease on the manor of ‘Morehall’.1 He also built up his landed interests in Cheshire, where he bought property at Nantwich, Hurleston and Acton. In 1394, he made a successful claim (based on an erroneous pedigree asserting that his mother was a descendant of Sir John Orreby) to four manors in the same county (worth £36 a year), of which, however, he lost possession before his death. Bagot’s wife was heir to the manor of Screveton, property in Bingham and land elsewhere in Nottinghamshire, but it is uncertain whether she came into her inheritance during his lifetime.2
Bagot owed his early political rise and his growing influence in Warwickshire largely to the patronage of Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick; and according to an anonymous versifier writing much later (in 1399), Warwick the ‘bereward’ (bear-keeper) had made a ‘bag’ of this ‘rag’, but through him had been brought down. Bagot’s connexion with the earl had begun by 1375, when he acted as a co-feoffee of Warwick’s councillor Sir Henry Arderne†, and two years later he was among those in Warwick’s entourage who were admitted with the earl to the confraternity of St. Albans abbey. That same year (1377) Bagot, with many accomplices, including certain of the earl’s servants, abducted Juliana, widow of Sir Richard Vernon, and held her prisoner in Warwick castle. Clearly, Bagot had the earl’s support for his action, his motive perhaps being to force the lady to marry him. However, even in these early years of his association with Warwick there are signs of rift among those of the earl’s affinity, and in 1384 there began a dispute between Bagot and one of Warwick’s legal advisers, John Catesby*, over the working of Bubbenhall mill. It is interesting to note that Bagot suggested to his adversary the arbitrament not only of their lord the earl, but also of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster.3
Bagot’s choice of Lancaster is explained by his personal connexions with the duke. From before 1379 he had been among the esquires retained by Gaunt, and in that year the duke had granted him the farm of the issues of Pattingham church (Staffordshire). Furthermore, he was in receipt of an annuity of ten marks by Gaunt’s grant, at least from 1382 to 1388. When, however, Gaunt set out on his major expedition to the Iberian peninsula in 1386 and Bagot’s kinsman Sir John Bagot joined his company, Bagot himself was seconded to stay behind with the duke’s son and heir, Henry of Bolingbroke, earl of Derby. Evidently, he was considered to be a man to whom the young earl might turn for sound advice about the conduct of his affairs during his father’s absence. By Michaelmas Bagot was wearing Derby’s livery as a member of his household, and he was also engaged as ‘receiver of the earl’s money’ raised in the lordship of Brecon and elsewhere from then until Easter 1388. In the course of the year 1387-8 he sold Derby a grey courser for £13 6s.8d. and was presented by him with a specially made silver-gilt collar, to symbolize Bagot’s position as a much favoured retainer.4
This was by no means the full extent of Bagot’s aristocratic connexions. Over the previous few years he had been developing a close relationship with the Mowbray earls of Nottingham. In 1380 he had been among those (headed by John of Gaunt) to whom the earl of Northumberland had granted the wardship of certain of the estates of the young earl, John Mowbray; and that same year he had served on a royal commission to investigate the wastage of Mowbray’s assets, as well as having transferred to him two sums of £20 each from Gaunt’s purse, for the private expenses of his chamber. In the following year he was party with Gaunt and Mowbray to the grant of a lease of certain properties during the latter’s minority. Clearly, Bagot came to be of some importance to Earl John, who before his death in 1383 granted him for life the manor of Crick (Northamptonshire), which was worth £20 a year. Despite the findings of an inquiry in 1385 that Bagot, as guardian of Mowbray’s castle of Caludon (Warwickshire), had committed extensive wastes in the property, his relations with the new earl, John’s brother Thomas (shortly to be made Earl Marshal), were not impaired, and he was to retain Thomas’s confidence for the rest of his life.5
In 1398 Bagot was to obtain from Richard II a general pardon, expressly ‘for all deeds done whilst in the retinue of Thomas, duke of Gloucester, and Richard, earl of Arundel’, acting under the commission granted them in the Parliament of 1386. So it would appear that in the politically crucial year of 1387-8 he had links with all five of the Lords Appellant, his ties with Warwick, Derby and Nottingham being especially close. Indeed, it is quite possible that he was instrumental in persuading the younger lords, Derby and Nottingham, to join the older Appellants in December 1387. Significantly, Bagot’s first Parliament was the Merciless Parliament of February 1388 in which the Appellants carried through their programme against the King’s favourites, and it was he who was commissioned to administer in Warwickshire the oath of adherence to the new government. There can be little doubt of Bagot’s influence in the councils of these lords: in March, for example, he was able to obtain from them a pardon for Sir Thomas Aston*, indicted as an accessory to murder. After his second Parliament, which met at Cambridge in September following, he sent one of his servants to the countess of Derby with an account of its proceedings.6
In the course of the 1380s Bagot’s stature in Warwickshire had been steadily growing. He had served two consecutive terms as sheriff in 1382-4 (being therefore responsible for the conduct of three parliamentary elections), and had been sought after as a surety (for instance, by the keepers of the alien priory of Beckford) and as a feoffee-to-uses. Nor did his association with the Appellants exclude him from the patronage of Richard II. Indeed, it was not long before Richard set about cultivating his support; in August 1389, now formally retained by the King, Bagot was granted the lordship of Middlewich (Cheshire), and three months later he was made keeper for life of Carnarvon castle and was given the valuable wardship of the Meynell estates in the Midlands. Further signs of royal favour were to follow in the course of the next two years, including the farm of the royal lead mines in north Wales and the stewardship of the manor of Cheylesmore, situated in that area of Warwickshire (near Coventry) where Bagot was successfully building up his influence.7
An astute politician, Bagot now allied himself more closely with the younger ex-Appellants (who had regained the King’s favour) than with his first lord, Warwick (whose inclination was to retire from national affairs). There are signs that the relationship between Warwick and Bagot had deteriorated by 1391, when the earl brought a suit against him for lands at Walsall. Yet Bagot long remained on good terms with Warwick’s brother, William, Lord Beauchamp of Abergavenny: that same year he acted as a feoffee of the lordship of Abergavenny and the extensive Pembroke estates in 13 English shires which Beauchamp had recently inherited (thus incidentally coming into contact for the first recorded time with Sir Henry Green*, with whom his name was to be so often linked by the chroniclers); and in 1392 and 1393 he was associated with Beauchamp in substantial recognizances. In 1396 Bagot was made a trustee of Beauchamp’s estates for the performance of his will, subsequently undertaking to pay his debts and perform other covenants on his behalf; and, indeed, he was to be involved in this lord’s affairs right up to the time of his own death.8
It is clear that in the 1390s Bagot no longer needed to look to aristocratic influence, not even to that of the earl of Warwick, to secure repeated election to Parliament for Warwickshire. His strong character and personal following in the shire were sufficient to guarantee his return to as many as ten consecutive Parliaments between 1388 and 1397, and there were few men who dared challenge his local interests. He and his supporters emerged unscathed when Sir John Drayton* of Nuneham alleged in the Parliament of 1394 that a number of men maintained by Bagot had so threatened the sheriff of Warwickshire that he was unable to execute a writ of redisseisin, and in the autumn of 1395 he, then engaged in ‘many suits and debates’ with the mayor and burgesses of Coventry, provoked an armed uprising in the town, in which some 100 men attacked the authorities. An attempt was made at the assizes held at Warwick in the first week of Lent in the following year to bring Bagot to justice, but he arrogantly rode in at the head of his household men, all fully armed, one of whom had the audacity to assault Robert Walden*, a retainer of the earl of Warwick, in the very presence of the justices. Indictments were hastily brought against Sir William the next day (24 Feb.), and two weeks later Earl Thomas himself presided over a court at which allegations of a very serious nature were made against him. In May a royal commission was set up to attempt to settle the disputes at Coventry. Bagot, having been imprisoned in the Marshalsea, was brought to trial in the King’s bench two months later, charged with several crimes (among them homicide and the harbouring and maintenance of known felons and murderers), all committed in the past ten years, as well as for earlier offences dating from his time as sheriff, when he had allegedly released miscreants from custody on their payment of large sums of money. Needless to say, Bagot was granted bail, and when his case was eventually heard, in Hilary term 1397, he was fully acquitted.9
Throughout this period while Bagot’s relations with the earl of Warwick worsened noticeably, he had somehow managed to retain the goodwill of Henry of Bolingbroke. In 1390 he had sent ten of his servants to join Bolingbroke at Calais at the start of his expedition to Prussia, and lawsuits arising from discrepancies in his accounts as Derby’s receiver (debts of £128 11s. to the earl and £240 11s. to Gaunt, for which latter he suffered a spell of imprisonment in Kenilworth castle) were evidently cleared up, at least to Henry’s satisfaction, for as late as June 1397 Bagot was receiving 1s. a day as a member of his household. During that year, too, when Bagot appointed trustees of his place at Baginton, Bolingbroke was among those named.10 Similarly, Bagot had remained in the Earl Marshal’s favour: from 1388 to 1390 he had served as chief steward of Mowbray’s manor of Haynes (Bedfordshire); and in 1389 he had been named as an executor of his will. Then, in 1394 he had not only acted as one of Earl Thomas’s attorneys in England during his absence in Ireland, but had also served as his lieutenant at the Marshalsea. In 1396 the earl, being at Calais for the King’s marriage to Isabella of France, again chose Bagot to look after his affairs at home, and in the course of the next year or so he named him as a trustee of certain of his estates.11
Bagot’s connexions with Bolingbroke and Mowbray ensured his survival when, in July 1397, Gloucester, Arundel and Warwick were arrested. Indeed, he was promptly put to use by the King, being instructed to take possession of the movable goods of Warwick and his supporters. In August, as a King’s knight, he was granted a substantial life annuity of £60, and his friend John, Lord Clinton (a Warwickshire landowner for whom he had earlier acted as a feoffee, and from whom he had obtained the important wardship of the heirs to Coleshill, the Mountfort brothers), was now given custody of the castle and lordship of Warwick. In the Parliament assembled a month later, in which Mowbray acted as one of those lords who, again as ‘appellants’, demanded the condemnation for treason of all three of the arrested magnates, Bagot was linked with the Speaker, Sir John Bussy, and with Sir Henry Green, in formally requesting on behalf of the Commons the annulment of the charters of pardon previously granted them. Bagot’s reward for aiding and abetting the King’s policy of revenge was not long delayed: on 22 Sept., the day after Arundel’s execution, he was appointed steward and surveyor of the earl’s marcher lordships, thus becoming the effective head of the administration of most of the Fitzalan estates. Furthermore, he was now given a prominent place on the King’s Council: when, during the following week, it was decided that certain persons were to be summoned to appear before that body, and induced to lend money to the King, the only councillors present, officers of state apart, were Bagot, Bussy and Green.12 It was ‘in consideration of his recent great expenses, labours and diligence in the King’s service’ that, on 9 Oct., Bagot was to be granted a wardship in Cheshire; and this was followed, in July 1398, by a grant for life of Cheylesmore. Meanwhile, his new role as one of the King’s closest advisers had evidently left him open to suspicion of disloyalty to both Bolingbroke and John of Gaunt, and it was to dispel this suspicion (and allegations of his involvement in a plot against them) that in March 1398 he signed bonds for £1,000 payable in the event of his ever attempting to disinherit Gaunt, his wife or his issue. Even more startling, he additionally undertook that if ever he should be party to the murder of one or other of them, he should immediately be put to death without trial. All this suspicion of disloyalty probably arose out of the quarrel between Bolingbroke and Mowbray which had come to a head between the two sessions of the Parliament of 1397-8, and it may have been because of his close association with both men that Bagot had not been appointed to the parliamentary committee assigned to deal with this matter. In September 1398, for the occasion of the duel between Bolingbroke and Mowbray, which was intended to have taken place at Coventry, the King is said to have lodged three miles away at Baginton, Bagot’s home. Bagot was not, however, so active as a royal councillor as were Bussy and Green, and it was not until March 1399 that he was formally retained as such, with an annual fee of £100. During that spring he was often associated with the chancellor, Edmund Stafford, bishop of Exeter, and it was probably then that the marriage was arranged between Bagot’s only surviving daughter, Isabel, and the bishop’s nephew and heir, Thomas Stafford*. Among his friends in Warwickshire was William, the new Lord Clinton, who before his departure for Ireland with the royal army declared that when he died Bagot or his issue should have lands worth £100 a year from his estate, and who was among the several people of importance who asked Bagot to act as their attorney during their absence.13
Bagot stayed behind in England, along with Bussy and Green, to assist the duke of York in administering the kingdom while Richard II was in Ireland. And when news came of Bolingbroke’s landing in Yorkshire, it was they who advised the duke to transfer the seat of government to St. Albans, and to take precautions for the protection of Richard’s queen at Wallingford. Bagot himself raised 140 men for York’s army, only to flee to Bristol at Bolingbroke’s approach, along with Bussy and Green. There, the two latter were seized and summarily executed, but Bagot himself was more fortunate and managed to escape by sea.14 It was not long, however, before he was captured in Ireland, and brought back by Sir Peter Buckton*.
Following imprisonment first in Knaresborough castle in Buckton’s custody and then in Newgate, Bagot was sent for trial before Henry IV’s first Parliament. How much of his reported defence was true is open to question, but he was able to make some points which were irrefutable. In the matter of his alleged participation in a plot hatched by Richard II and Mowbray to kill John of Gaunt, he produced a pardon from Gaunt himself; furthermore, his claim that in March 1399, after Gaunt’s death and Richard’s avowal that Bolingbroke would never inherit his estates or return to England, he had sent Bolingbroke’s retainer Roger Smart* to France to warn Henry of Richard’s enmity, was verified by Smart under oath. Given his precarious situation Bagot’s continued loyalty to Mowbray (by this time dead at Venice, although Bagot was not to know it), is commendable: he protected Mowbray’s reputation by relating how in Richard’s presence he had vindicated Henry’s right to succeed to the Lancastrian inheritance, and he reported conversations purporting to show Mowbray’s innocence in respect of the murder of the duke of Gloucester. Bagot blamed the dukes of Surrey, Exeter and, above all, Aumale for Gloucester’s death and named a fellow prisoner in Newgate as a key witness against Exeter in the business. Bagot’s evidence about Richard II’s autocratic rule was useful to the new King in stirring up feeling in the Lords against Richard and his favourites. Old ties with Bagot may also have made Henry more ready to believe his story and to forgive him the part he had played. Although Sir William was put in the Tower (on 22 Nov.), Henry instructed the sheriff of Warwickshire to give his feoffees seisin of his estates, and even told the Exchequer to pay him £100 p.a. for his sustenance. That there was a year’s delay before this annuity was formally patented is an indication that the King was wary of arousing popular feeling by any swift expression of clemency. In April 1400 Bagot was loosed from his chains and allowed to take exercise in the grounds of the Tower, but seven months were still to elapse before he was released.15
Meanwhile, Bagot’s enemies had taken advantage of his imprisonment. In September 1399 he had been indicted before the Warwickshire bench for the alleged theft of muniments, one of the justices being John Catesby (who had valid cause for grievance against Bagot for the latter’s manipulation of legal proceedings in the dispute over Ladbroke); and the abbot of Stoneleigh sued him for waste at ‘Morehall’. But Bagot’s reputation was not so bad as the chroniclers made out; in the Parliament which met in February 1401 (just three months after his release from the Tower), the Commons successfully petitioned that he be restored to law and to his lands and possessions, on the ground that he had been wrongly accused of ‘horribles faitz et mesprisions’. In April following the King made a grant in favour of Bagot’s daughter, and in 1402 Bagot felt himself secure enough in Henry’s favour to bring a suit in Chancery against the King’s friend Sir Thomas Rempston I* for the recovery of Crick, which the Mowbrays had granted him. He must still have been held in some respect in Warwickshire, for he was elected to Parliament again that year, and no action was taken in reply to a petition alleging his forcible seizure of property. In 1405 Henry granted him timber from Kenilworth forest for repairs to his house at Baginton. During his last years Bagot was engaged in disputes with William Holt II* (probably his own nephew) over the manor of Aston, the matter coming before Edward, duke of York, and Richard, earl of Warwick, for arbitration in May 1407.16
Bagot did not live to hear their decision. He died on 6 Sept. 1407, and the brass on his tomb showed him wearing the ‘SS’ collar of Lancaster. His heir was his daughter Isabel Stafford, whose inheritance had been diminished by the sale of certain manors in Bagot’s later years.17
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. n.s. xi. 35, 45-54; W. Dugdale, Warws. 231-2; VCH Warws. vi. 40, 275; Stoneleigh Ledger Bk. (Dugdale Soc. xxiv), 195, 209, 237; C143/429/8.
- 2. DKR, xxxvi. 18; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xvi. 78; xvii. 49; CP, x. 174-5.
- 3. Pol. Poems and Songs ed. Wright, i. 364; Cott. Nero DVII, f. 129d; CPR, 1374-7, p. 494; 1377-81, p. 89; Med. Legal Recs. ed. Hunnisett and Post, 295.
- 4. Reg. Gaunt 1379-83, p. 10, nos. 169, 1016, 1172; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xiv. 244; xv. 56; DL28/1/2 ff. 1, 4d., 14d, 17d; S.K. Walker, ‘John of Gaunt and his retainers, 1361-99’ (Oxf. Univ. D.Phil. thesis, 1986), 109.
- 5. Reg. Gaunt, nos. 209, 556, 1023; CPR, 1377-81, p. 456; CIMisc. iv. 299; vi. 392; C137/81/8.
- 6. CCR, 1385-9, p. 414; DKR, xxxvi. 18; DL28/1/2; CPR, 1385-9, p. 435; C67/31 m. 2.
- 7. C219/8/8, 10, 11; CFR, ix. 238; x. 10, 313, 315; CCR, 1389-92, p. 523; 1396-9, p. 331; CPR, 1381-5, p. 312; 1388-92, p. 131; 1391-6, p. 2; 1396-9, p. 10; DKR, xxxvi. 17-18.