CHEYNE, Roger (1362-1414), of Drayton Beauchamp, Bucks.
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Family and Education
b. 1 Aug. 1362, s. and h. of Sir William Cheyne (d.1375) of Drayton Beauchamp by Joan, da. of Thomas Lambourne and sis. and h. of William Lambourne (d.1361) of Polstead, Suff. m. bef. Mar. 1385, ?Agnes Charlton of Swakeleys by Uxbridge, Mdx.,1 2s. inc. Sir John II*.
Commr. of array, Bucks. Oct. 1403.
Tax collector, Bucks. Mar. 1404.
Roger came of a prolific family, several of whose members flourished as a consequence of employment by the Crown. Shortly after he was born, Edward III granted the reversion of Drayton Beauchamp to Thomas Cheyne, the royal shield-bearer; and this manor subsequently passed to Roger’s father, Sir William, on whose death in 1375 he himself, aged 13, was the heir. The Black Prince claimed that certain of the Cheyne lands were held of his honour of Wallingford, and received rents from them accordingly during the young man’s minority, while Roger’s mother, Joan, secured his wardship and marriage from other overlords. However, it was later asserted that, since Drayton Beauchamp was held of the King in chief, a number of transgressions had been committed: not only had Joan taken possession of her dower lands, and Roger himself entered upon the estate and married without obtaining licences from Richard II, but the King’s own mother, Joan of Kent, had also been at fault in transactions performed after Prince Edward’s death. It was Joan of Kent who, in March 1385, obtained pardons for them all. Roger’s mother had also ‘surreptitiously’ presented to the church at Drayton Beauchamp, but in this respect Richard II was less inclined to leniency: it was not until August 1394 that he released and quitclaimed to Cheyne all right and title to the advowson. Meanwhile, in 1390 Roger had inherited from Sir Hugh Cheyne†, one of his uncles, the manor of Rolleston in Leicestershire, which, although it was subject to the life interest of Sir Hugh’s widow, he recovered from his uncle’s feoffees in 1392. This property apart, he was evidently a man of some standing, holding lands which by his death were worth at least £50 a year. In south Buckinghamshire he owned, besides Drayton, the manor of Grove in Chesham, and also property at Marsworth, Saunderton and Wendover; and over the border in Hertfordshire he had land at Berkhampstead, in Oxfordshire the manor of Cassington, and in the London parish of St. Michael Paternoster a house with three attached cottages.2
Cheyne is chiefly remembered as being one of the leaders of the lollard movement in the early years of the 15th century. He may well have originally adopted his heretical leanings through the influence of the prominent lollard knight and diplomat Sir John Cheyne I* of Beckford, to whom he was related — the two men bore similar (if not identical) heraldic arms, and it is quite likely that they were cousins. In August 1394 Sir John appointed his younger kinsman as his attorney during his absence in Ireland on Richard II’s campaign, but no record survives of any later connexion between them. Information is also lacking as to the background to Roger Cheyne’s dispute with Sir Robert Corbet*, which reached a crisis in November 1399 when Corbet was required, under pain of £100, to undertake not to molest his adversary; but it may be assumed that their quarrel concerned Corbet’s tenure of the manor of ‘Maudeleyns’ in Northchurch, Hertfordshire, a property which extended into Chesham where Cheyne held land, for ownership of this manor was to be a central issue in outbreaks of violence inspired by the next generation of Cheynes. Roger was perhaps unwise to provoke Corbet, who as a supporter of Henry of Bolingbroke had recently been appointed constable of Berkhampstead castle, nearby. Certainly, his own public service on just two royal commissions hardly measured up to his standing as a landowner. Some significance may be attached to the fact that the only time he was elected knight of the shire it was to represent his home county in the Parliament summoned to Coventry in October 1404, a Parliament during which certain Members of the Commons urged proposals for the appropriation of the temporalities of the Church, and anti-clerical demonstrations, quite likely inspired by the lollards, took place. Furthermore, Roger’s kinsman, Sir John Cheyne I, was reputed to have been the knights’ spokesman on these matters, even though he had not been elected to the Lower House. In 1412 Roger Cheyne made a settlement of Rolleston in favour of his younger son, Thomas, and it was perhaps in connexion with this property that in the same year he obtained a royal pardon of outlawry for failing to answer Thomas Linford regarding a debt of 21 marks; certainly Linford had married the widow of the previous owner, Roger’s uncle, Sir Hugh Cheyne.3
So far, Cheyne’s lollard sympathies have been no more than inferred from circumstantial evidence. A much clearer sign of his heretical tendencies was his presentation to the living at Drayton Beauchamp, in October 1410, of a priest called Thomas Drayton, for over the next few years, with Cheyne’s support and protection, Drayton preached lollard doctrines not only in Buckinghamshire but in other counties as far afield as Warwickshire. Firm proof of a personal connexion between Cheyne and Sir John Oldcastle* before the latter’s trial for heresy in the autumn of 1413, has not been found, yet it is interesting to note that the two men held neighbouring properties at Burnham-Westgate in Norfolk (Cheyne’s consisting of a life tenancy of the ‘Markethouse’, which he had probably inherited from his mother). That there was a link between them, forged by shared religious convictions, is clear; for when Oldcastle escaped from the Tower and raised his fellow lollards in rebellion early in 1414, the rebels from Buckinghamshire had at their head Roger Cheyne and his sons, (Sir) John II and Thomas. The Cheynes’ contingent suffered heavily for its part in the revolt: nine men were tried on 12 Jan. and drawn on hurdles to St. Giles Fields, the scene of their insurrection, to be hanged the following day; and on the 18th (a week after the revolt) Cheyne himself and his elder son John were handed over to the constable of the Tower for imprisonment, although whether they had been taken at St. Giles Fields or had escaped to Buckinghamshire and been arrested there is not known. Thomas Cheyne and their priest, Thomas Drayton, were still at large at the end of March, when they were both specifically excluded from the general royal pardon then issued.4 The leaders of the revolt had got off lightly, for none of them was actually executed. But Roger Cheyne did not survive the ordeal of confinement: he died still a prisoner in the Tower on 14 May, and, according to one account, was buried in the Tower church.5
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
Not to be confused with his namesake, the King’s esquire elected for Oxon. in Oct. 1382 and Nov. 1384, who may well have been his uncle of that name (CPR, 1367-70, p. 215; CIPM, xvi. 818-20). The older Roger Cheyne had entered royal service at Woodstock in 1349, risen to be an esquire in the households of Edward III and Richard II, and died in 1398 (CPR, 1377-81, p. 247; 1396-9, p. 327). It seems very likely that he was the ‘quondam Armiger domini Regis’ whose monumental brass (in the shape of a plain cross lacking any other inscription) is at St. Peter’s church in Cassington, Oxon., although since the manor of Cassington later belonged to the younger Roger, the brass is generally ascribed to him: Bucks. Rec. Soc. i. 295.
- 1. CIPM, xi. 355; CPR, 1381-5, pp. 550-1. No contemporary record has been found to confirm the name of his wife as given in Add. 5840, f. 41.
- 2. CPR, 1381-5, pp. 550-1; 1391-6, p. 491; CIPM, xvi. 818-20; VCH Leics. v. 20; C138/7/19. There is no evidence that his mother’s inheritance of the Lambourne manors of Copford in Essex and Polstead in Suffolk ever came into his possession: CIPM, xi. 355; J. Copinger, Suff. Manors, i. 180; P. Morant, Essex, ii. 54; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 182.
- 3. K.B. McFarlane, Lancastrian Kings, 163-4; CPR, 1391-6, p. 486; 1408-13, p. 440; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 97; E326/4532.
- 4. C. Kightly, ‘Early Lollards’ (York Univ. D.Phil. thesis, 1975), 370, 388-90, 392-4; CCR, 1413-19, pp. 54, 176-7, 318-19; F. Blomefield, Norf. vii. 34.
- 5. C138/7/19; Add. 5840, f. 41.