COPE, John (d.1414), of Adstock, Bucks. and Denshanger, Northants.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Family and Education

m. (1) prob. by Mar. 1388, Joan Hanstede; (2) by 1410, Joan (d. 20 Sept. 1434), 2s.2

Offices Held

Clerk and serjeant-marshal of the marshalsea of the royal household 11 Nov. 1399-d.

Escheator, Northants. and Rutland 26 Nov. 1399-24 Nov. 1400, 22 Oct. 1404-1 Dec. 1405.

Commr. to supervise repairs to the bridge at Stony Stratford, Bucks. May 1400; make arrests, Northants. July 1401; muster men to resist the northern rebels May 1405.

Sheriff, Northants. 24 Nov. 1400-8 Nov. 1401.

Tax collector, Northants. Sept. 1405.

Porter of the castle and manor of Moor End, Northants. 28 Jan. 1409-d.


This MP is first mentioned in September 1379, when he was granted royal letters of protection pending his departure for Ireland in the service of the King’s justiciar. He must then have been a very young man, and we hear no more of him for almost ten years. He appears to have married by March 1388, since he was then in possession of the two manors of Adstock and Denshanger which came to him through his first wife, Joan Hanstede. According to an inquisition then held to determine the value of certain goods and stock forfeited by Sir Robert Tresillian† as a result of his condemnation in the Merciless Parliament, Cope had somehow acquired 480 of the chief justice’s sheep, which he was keeping on these estates. Although he initially held Denshanger and Adstock in the right of his wife, our Member decided to purchase the title for himself and his heirs; and in July 1397 he offered 100 marks to the Crown for the reversion of the first of the manors together with extensive farmland in the surrounding area. One third of this property was then held by Anne Hanstede, who may have been his mother-in-law, but she died three years later, thus enabling him to make good his title. A similar transaction appears to have been effected at about this time with regard to the manor of Adstock, since he eventually acquired it outright as well.3

John Cope owed much of his success to his long association with Henry of Bolingbroke, the future Henry IV, whom he served loyally from 1390 onwards, if not before. He is recorded as one of the esquires retained by Bolingbroke to accompany him on the expedition to Prussia which left England in July of that year and returned in the following spring. His attachment to Bolingbroke, who was one of the Lords Appellant of 1388, no doubt explains why he thought it expedient to sue out a royal pardon in June 1398, by which date Richard II had already taken revenge against many of those whom he considered his enemies.4 Bolingbroke’s seizure of the throne in September 1399 brought an immediate and permanent improvement in Cope’s fortunes: his past services were duly rewarded with a lucrative office in the royal household, and he was also made escheator and then sheriff of Northamptonshire. His financial position was greatly helped by Henry IV’s decision, taken within a few days of his coronation, to excuse him the £40 which he still owed as part of the purchase price of the reversion of Denshanger. Recognizing his influence at Court, the county electors chose Cope to represent them in four of the seven Parliaments held between 1399 and 1406. Their confidence was not misplaced, for it is clear that the King held his old retainer in high regard. Cope was one of the six custodians who took charge of the earl of Northumberland in September 1403 after the failure of the Percys’ rebellion against the house of Lancaster. In December 1404, as one of Henry IV’s esquires, he received a gift of rents worth 20 marks p.a. from the confiscated estates of the traitor, (Sir) Thomas Shelley*; to this was added a further £8 6s.8d. a year as keeper of Moor End castle, and a special annuity of £10 allocated from the court of the marshalsea, which was his own department within the King’s household. The last of these awards, made originally in November 1409, was confirmed to him by Henry V, who continued to retain him as an esquire.5

Far less is known about Cope’s private affairs, which are barely documented at all. He seems to have fallen foul of the law at least once in his career, for in the spring of 1390 orders were issued for the holding of an inquisition at either Westminster or Buckingham into certain unspecified charges of felony then levelled against him. There is, however, nothing to suggest that he was either a violent or litigious man: on the contrary, in January 1399 he was one of the Northamptonshire landowners who came forward to offer securities on behalf of the chief protagonists in a dispute between several local figures, including John Harrowden* and Sir John Trussell*, in the hope of effecting a reconciliation between them. Our Member died towards the end of December 1414, having just settled his manor of Denshanger upon his parliamentary colleague, John Warwick I*, and other trustees holding to the use of his second wife, who was also named Joan. He left at least two sons, the elder of whom, named John, was then still under age. His widow retained the two manors of Denshanger and Adstock until her death some 20 years later, when the next heir was found to be Cope’s younger son, Stephen.6

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


  • 1. According to the return, Ralph Parles and John Warwick sat for Northants. in the Parliament of 1406 (OR, i. 269), but the writ de expensis records that Cope actually replaced Parles at some point during the session. Parles was probably still at Westminster on 25 May 1406 (RP, iii. 573), but the Parliament was not dissolved until 22 Dec.
  • 2. C138/7/20; C139/69/19; VCH Bucks. iv. 142; CPR, 1413-16, p. 285.
  • 3. VCH Bucks. iv. 142; CPR, 1377-81, p. 384; 1396-9, p. 210; 1399-1401, p. 63.
  • 4. Derby’s Expeds. (Cam. Soc. n.s. lii), 107; C67/30 m. 12.
  • 5. PPC, i. 217; CPR, 1399-1401, p. 18; 1401-5, p. 334; 1408-13, pp. 48, 146, 219; 1413-16, p. 76.
  • 6. CCR, 1389-92, p. 130; 1396-9, pp. 434, 493, 497; C138/7/20; C139/69/19; CPR, 1413-16, p. 285; CFR, xiv. 63.