DANVERS, William (c.1367-1439/40), of Winterbourne Danvers, Berks.
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Family and Education
b.c.1367, s. of Edmund Danvers (d.1381) of Winterbourne Danvers by Alice (d.1416), da. and h. of John Cleet† of South Denchworth. m. bef. Sept. 1394, Joan (d. 18 Jan. 1458), da. of Helming Leget (d.1391) of London and Suff. and sis. of Helming Leget*, 1s. d.v.p.1da.1
Escheator, Oxon. and Berks. 24 Jan.-17 Dec. 1426.
Commr. to assess contributions to a tax, Berks. Jan. 1436; to distribute tax rebate May 1437.
On the death of his father in 1381, Danvers inherited the manors of Winterbourne Danvers, Leckhampstead and Aston Danvers in Berkshire, along with a share in certain former de la Beche estates in the county to which he was coheir through his paternal grandmother. However, he was still a minor, and the bulk of his inheritance was to remain in the possession of his mother and her second husband, Sir Richard Adderbury II*, until their deaths many years later, in 1416. Furthermore, his mother’s own inheritance from the Cleet family, including the manor of Stainswick and many properties in Lambourn, was to be made subject to tenancies for life granted out by his stepfather in the final year of his life.2
Danvers may have entertained hopes that his marriage would lead to wealth and preferment, for although Joan Leget was not an heiress, her father had left her a dowry of 100 marks (payment of which was guaranteed by her stepfather, the rich Lombard merchant, Angelo Christoforo); and her kinship with Maud (d.1413), widow of Thomas de Vere, 8th earl of Oxford, and niece to William de Ufford, 1st earl of Suffolk, looked as if it might provide him with some useful connexions. If so, the hopes were ill-founded, for the dowager countess Maud was disgraced in 1404 for her prominent part in a plot to dethrone Henry IV, and she apparently fell out with Danvers and his wife, although in 1408 she released them from all legal actions. (Nevertheless, Joan remained beholden to her kinswoman, and in her will made nearly 50 years later she made provision for prayers for Maud’s soul.) Danvers and his wife obtained a papal licence for a portable altar in 1408, and in the following year they secured certain Danvers estates, including the manor of Winterbourne ‘Grey’ and a third part of that of ‘Beaumys’, by a formal settlement.3
Danvers lived in relative obscurity until he was nearly 50. It may be that he travelled extensively overseas in the company of his stepfather Adderbury in the 1390s and early years of the 15th century, but this is to speculate. All we know for certain is that he was mature in years when first elected to Parliament in 1420, and that some time was to elapse even then before his earliest appointment to royal office. This period of isolation ended with the cultivation of acquaintances among the leading gentry of the locality: the trustees of Danvers’s estates included John Golafre* (his companion in the Parliament of 1427), William Warbleton† (his companion in 1431 who was also to act as his executor) and William Brocas*. In about 1425 he himself took on the feoffeeship of Warbleton’s lands in Hampshire. Danvers attended the Berkshire elections to the Parliament of 1432, and in July that year he shared with Richard Adderbury of Newbury (kinsman of his late stepfather) custody at the Exchequer of lands in the county previously owned by Robert Broune, although he surrendered his interest just a few months later. In 1434 he was among those members of the gentry of Berkshire required to take the generally prescribed oath not to harbour malefactors. The background to the transaction of July 1438 whereby Robert Symeon was bound to Danvers in the huge sum of £1,000 remains unrevealed.4
Danvers’s will, made on 15 Dec. 1439, was proved on 30 Jan. following. He was buried in the chapel of St. Francis in Grey Friars’ church, London. William was the last of his line: in 1421 he had made a settlement of a portion of his maternal inheritance on his son, Robert, and the latter’s bride, Alice Brouns, but Robert had died without issue a few years later, and William’s daughter Eleanor (or Isabel), the childless wife of Thomas Haines, was to relinquish her interest in Leckhampstead and Winterbourne Danvers to William de la Pole, duke of Suffolk, in the 1440s. The rest of the Danvers estates were left, alo