BOTELER, Nicholas (c.1384-c.1455), of Rawcliffe, Lancs.
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Family and Education
b.c.1384, s. and h. of Sir John Boteler (d. 27 Sept. 1404) of Rawcliffe by his w. Agnes. m. (1) by Aug. 1401, Margery (fl. 1428), da. of Sir Richard Kirkby, 1s. 1da.; (2) July 1441, Katherine (fl. 1464), da. of John Booth I*, wid. of Sir Thomas Radcliffe* (d.1440) of Astley and Winmarleigh.1
Commr. to make an arrest, Lancs. 1410; of array Apr. 1418.2
Collector of a tax, Lancs. Apr. 1440, July 1446.
The branch of the prolific Boteler family which acquired the two manors of Middle and Out Rawcliffe in 1266 produced a number of prominent local figures, among whom was Sir John Boteler, sometime sheriff and escheator of Lancashire and a retainer of John of Gaunt. Sir John figured high among the ‘foreign’ (or non-resident) members of the guild merchant of Preston, as, from 1397 onwards, did his four sons, headed by Nicholas, the eldest. The latter married Margery, a daughter of Sir Richard Kirkby, at some point before August 1401, when his parents settled upon them property in Little Hoole. Just over three years later, however, Nicholas succeeded to the rest of his patrimony, which, in addition to the Rawcliffe manors, also comprised extensive holdings in and around Freckleton and Goosnargh.3 Still a comparatively young man, Nicholas lived quietly on his estates until 1410, when he received his first appointment as a royal commissioner. He attended the elections for Lancashire to the Parliaments of 1413 (May) and 1414 (Nov.); and, in 1419, he was himself returned to the House of Commons. The Botelers and their kinsfolk, the Radcliffes, formed a remarkably close-knit group anxious to further their own interests through a combination of mutual support and complex marriage alliances. In May 1421, for example, Nicholas helped to secure the election of his former brother-in-law, Sir Thomas Radcliffe, whose father, in turn, used his even greater influence as sheriff to guarantee his son’s success. Another of Nicholas’s sisters had married Richard Boteler of Kirkland, the then escheator of Lancashire, who was also present on this occasion. In the following year Richard acted as a trustee of the manor of Little Hoole for Nicholas and his wife, perhaps in conjunction with an arrangement made at about this time for the betrothal of their son and heir, John, to a distant relative. By arranging this marriage with Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir William Boteler* of Warrington, Nicholas was able to strengthen his connexion with a more powerful branch of the family. Indeed, in 1426, he was returned to Parliament along with Elizabeth’s brother, John, who had but recently entered his inheritance. Elizabeth soon gave birth to a son, whom Nicholas promptly offered to Sir Thomas Radcliffe as a husband of his daughter, Alice, thus cementing even further the relationship between them. But not all of Nicholas’s dynastic ambitions were so easily realized. An alliance between his daughter, Isabel, and John Townley ended in divorce, because it was claimed that Isabel had previously ‘contracted herself in her father’s orchard’ to a more preposessing young neighbour. Her childlessness may, in fact, have been the real reason for the dissolution of her marriage, but at all events Isabel lost the property in Birtwistle which had been promised to her.4
In the meantime, Nicholas Boteler continued to play a significant, if not leading, part in the county community, attesting at least eight of the returns made to Parliament for Lancashire between 1422 and 1450, by which latter date he must have been well over 70 years old. During the same period he served on a number of local juries, including one summoned in 1431 to determine the value of feudal tenures in Amounderness, where the bulk of his own holdings lay. A few years before, he and Thomas Urswyk* had joined together as arbiters in a dispute over the ownership of land in Broughton in Furness, probably on the insistance of his father-in-law, Sir Richard Kirkby, who was one of the rival claimants. Nicholas also became involved in the affairs of Sir Ralph Langton (d.1431); and it was, no doubt, in the capacity of a trustee or executor that he offered the latter’s widow securities of 300 marks for the assignment of a reasonable dower.5 Although their names appeared together on the list of Lancashire gentry who were required, in May 1434, to take the general oath that they would not assist anyone disturbing the peace, Nicholas and his kinsman, Sir Thomas Radcliffe, repeatedly went bail throughout the 1430s for William Radcliffe of Todmorden, a lawless character given to frequent acts of violence. Sir Thomas, at least, must have bitterly regretted his generosity in this respect, as in 1439 William murdered his eldest son in a brawl at Clitheroe. The shock seems to have hastened Sir Thomas’s own death, which occurred shortly afterwards. His widow, Margery, obtained a generous dower settlement of land in Catterall and Garstang; and it was in keeping with his policy of consolidating both family ties and wealth through marriage that Nicholas promptly made her his second wife. A dispensation permitting them to marry although related within the three prohibited degrees was issued from the Papal Curia in May 1441, and reached the archbishop of York in the following July. It is, indeed, worth noting that some two years after the wedding, Margery and Nicholas settled their combined estate in 13 Lancashire manors upon trustees, holding to their joint use in survivorship. Her position as a member of the influential Booth family (she was, in fact, destined to be the sister of two archbishops of York) enabled Margery to secure a life interest in most of the Boteler estates, which she retained for another 21 years, if not longer, much to the annoyance of her stepson. Nicholas was, moreover, persuaded in March 1446 to surrender the annuity of £10, which had at some unrecorded date been granted to him by the Crown, in favour of Margery’s kinsman, William Booth.6
As we have already seen, Nicholas remained active during the last years of his life. Besides working as a tax collector for the government, he fought and won a lawsuit for the recovery of a debt of ten marks due because one of his neighbours had failed to abide by the terms of an arbitration award. He last appears at the head of the list of witnesses to the Lancashire parliamentary elections of 1450, being joined by his son, John Boteler the elder, and his grandson, also named John. He died at some point over the next five years.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. VCH Lancs. vi. 458; vii. 274; Lancs. Feet of Fines, iii. 62, 108-9; Chetham Soc. xcix. 25; Test. Ebor. iii. 328.
- 2. Chetham Soc. n.s. xcvi. 137.
- 3. VCH Lancs. vi. 154; vii. 193, 274; Lancs. Feet of Fines, iii. 62; DKR, xl. 530, 532; xliii. 363; Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. ix. 2.
- 4. VCH Lancs. vi. 458, 509; vii. 274, 313-14; Lancs. Feet of Fines, iii. 88; Chetham Soc. xcix. 25; C219/11/1A, 4, 12/5.
- 5. C219/13/1, 6, 14/2, 3, 5, 15/1, 6, 16/1; Chetham Soc. xcix. 9, 21, 56; DKR, xxxiii. 40; xxxvi(1), 170; Feudal Aids, iii. 95.
- 6. CPR, 1429-36, p. 379; DKR, xxxiii. 41, 42; xxxvii(2), 59, 69; VCH Lancs. vii. 274; Lancs. Feet of Fines, iii. 108-9; Test. Ebor. iii. 328.
- 7. VCH Lancs. vii. 274, 309; C219/16/1.