DARCY, Robert (d.1448), of Maldon, Essex.
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Family and Education
?s. of Thomas Darcy by a da. of Thomas Torell of West Thurrock, Essex. m. (1) by 1405, Margaret; (2) Alice, da. of Henry Filongley* of Old Filongley, Warws. and sis. of Henry Filongley† of the same, 2s. inc. Sir Robert†, ?6da.
Controller of customs and subsidies, Newcastle-upon-Tyne 19 June 1401-16 Dec. 1402.
Clerk of the ct. of c.p. 24 Apr. 1410-23 Mar. 1413, by Jan. 1423-Oct. 1440; jt. keeper of writs 16 Oct. 1440-d.
J.p. Essex 16 June 1410-Nov. 1413, 12 Dec. 1414-July 1424, 3 June 1427-d.
Commr. of oyer and terminer, Essex Nov. 1410, Nov., Dec. 1423; inquiry Nov. 1412 (post mortem), Essex, Suff. Oct. 1415 (Lord Scrope’s estates),1 Essex, Herts. Jan. 1416 (concealments), Essex July 1416 (dispute between Bishop Beaufort and John Doreward*), Feb. 1419 (treasons, concealments), Apr. 1421 (shipwreck), Dec. 1421 (disseisin, claim by Sir William Coggeshall*), July 1434 (concealments), June 1438 (customs evasion), Mar. 1442 (piracy and breach of truce with the Netherlands);2 array, Essex May 1415, Mar. 1419, Jan. 1436; to take custody of the late earl of Arundel’s estates, Norf., Suff., Essex Oct. 1415; raise royal loans, Essex Nov. 1419, July 1426, May 1428, Essex, Herts. Mar. 1430, Mar. 1431, Essex Feb. 1434, Nov. 1440, Mar. 1442, Essex, Herts. June 1446; assess contributions to a tax, Essex Apr. 1431, Jan. 1436; administer lands of St. Osyth abbey Feb. 1434; distribute tax allowances Apr. 1440, June 1445, July 1446; of gaol delivery, Colchester castle July 1440.
Escheator, Essex and Herts. 12 Nov. 1414-14 Dec. 1415, 16 Nov. 1420-20 May 1422, 12 Nov. 1427-4 Nov. 1428.
Steward of the estates of Joan, dowager countess of Hereford, prob. by 1415-c.1422.
Sheriff, Essex and Herts. 23 Nov. 1419-16 Nov. 1420.
Steward of lordship of Bradwell, Essex, by appointment of John, duke of Bedford, bef. 1435-d.
Robert is thought to have been the grandson of Henry Darcy, a London vintner and mayor of the City in 1337, who held the manor of Great Yeldham, Essex; and the son of Thomas Darcy, a spendthrift who before 1366 had sold all the family property.3 Nevertheless, the Darcys were connected with the north of England,4 and it was there that Robert began his career as a lawyer. Described as ‘of Northumberland’, in 1396 he stood surety in the Exchequer and Chancery for men from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and over the next few years he was active as an attorney in the common pleas for litigants from that part of the country. He witnessed deeds in Newcastle in 1400, and from May that year he shared an Exchequer lease of property there together with lands in Yorkshire which had belonged to a prominent Newcastle burgess, William Bishopdale*. He was holding office as controller of customs when returned to Parliament for the borough in 1402. However, although Darcy continued to be described as ‘of Northumberland’ for some three years more, he was loosening his ties with the north. His petition to Chancery against the parish clerk of St. John in Westgate, Newcastle, who had allegedly taken over his house next to the church, implies that he was not often resident there. By November 1401 he had made contact with the men of Maldon in Essex, for in that month he acted on their behalf in a dispute with the chief lord of the town, Robert Braybrooke, bishop of London.5 Between then and October 1403, when the bishop conceded to the townspeople the moot hall, a marsh, view of frankpledge, other courts and certain tolls, Darcy assumed a position of importance in the community; indeed, he headed the list of grantees. In 1406 he was a mainpernor for one of the parliamentary burgesses-elect for Maldon. During this period he and his first wife acquired property in Maldon which extended to more than 40 messuages and many other holdings, which were estimated to be worth £20 a year. Darcy’s wife may have been a local heiress, although his introduction to the area had possibly come about through his friend Robert Manfield, keeper of the writs and rolls of the common pleas, for Manfield was warden of the hospital of St. Giles at Little Maldon. Together with Manfield, Darcy purchased premises in Sermoners Lane, London, in 1409, and in the following year when Manfield decided to retire from his post in the common pleas, Darcy obtained it for life. (Several years later Manfield was to name Darcy as an executor of his will.) Darcy’s second wife, Alice Filongley, was connected with the royal court, for her father was serjeant of the King’s scullery. She may have been the widow of a Londoner, for she held property in the City which in 1412 was valued at as much as £40 6s.8d. a year.6
Darcy’s ability as a lawyer soon attracted many clients for him in Essex, and he was much in demand as an executor, trustee and arbiter. He soon formed a useful acquaintance with a local clerk named John Wakering, who became keeper of the rolls of Chancery in 1405 and keeper of the privy seal and bishop of Norwich in 1415. At the accession of Henry V, Darcy was removed from his office as clerk of the common pleas, being replaced by John Hotoft*, though when, two years later, he petitioned to complain about this, he was granted in recompense a life annuity of £60 and an undertaking to the effect that when the post fell vacant he should have it for life as before.7 The success of this petition may have been owed to his connexion with Wakering or else to that with the King’s grandmother, Joan de Bohun, countess of Hereford. He had been a member of the countess’s circle since at least 1412, when he had acted as co-feoffee of lands in Essex with her and her brother, Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury. He served on her council, became steward of her estates, stood surety for her at the Exchequer and witnessed conveyances on her behalf. This concern with the interests of the countess led to Darcy’s inclusion in 1415 as a commissioner in the inquests following the death of her nephew, Thomas Fitzalan, earl of Arundel. Darcy’s first return to Parliament for Essex in the following year was probably influenced by this connexion. In 1418, as one of Countess Joan’s nominees, he was involved in the sale to Henry V of the Fitzalan lordships of Chirk and Chirksland. During this period Darcy was occasionally active as a crown lawyer, too: for example, in April 1416 with certain royal officials he was party to a conveyance to the Crown of lands in Middlesex.8 In May 1419, a month after the death of Countess Joan, who had named him as an executor of her will, Darcy obtained confirmation of his post as steward of her estates (which had been seized by the Crown), for the same fee of 40 marks p.a. and expenses as he had received during her lifetime. Darcy’s appointment as escheator in 1420 was probably made with a view to facilitating the partition of the dower estates of the late countess between her grandchildren — the King and Anne, countess of Stafford. The work, which involved an entirely new division of all of the former de Bohun inheritance was undertaken for the King by the council of the duchy of Lancaster, which co-opted Darcy to assist, granting him livery as a councillor in January 1421 and retaining him for just over a year. Evidence was heard in Chancery in the Hilary term of 1421, and the partition was discussed and ratified in the Parliament of 1421 (May), of which Darcy was a Member. After a new partition had been made the King’s portion was annexed to the duchy, Darcy bearing witness to certain of the necessary legal transactions. Some difficulties arose over the sharing out of the muniments relating to the divided estates, and the King’s Council decided that these should be examined and reallocated by Darcy and John Leventhorpe* (the receiver-general of the duchy) acting ex parte Regis, and two nominees of the countess Anne. In December Darcy shared at the Exchequer the wardship and marriage of a tenant on the former de Bohun estates. The matter of the partition was still under debate a year later in the Parliament of 1422, in which Darcy represented Maldon.9
At the beginning of Henry VI’s reign, when Hotoft became treasurer of the Household, Darcy recovered his post as keeper of writs and rolls in the common pleas. During the Parliament of 1423 he and his fellow shire knight, Richard Baynard, were members of a deputation sent by the Commons to the Upper House to declare their gratitude to the Lords for informing them of the treaty made with the Scots for the ransom, liberation and marriage of James I.10 His standing as a successful lawyer is well attested by the way in which he was extensively employed as a feoffee and executor. Some of his connexions grew out of his early years in the circle of the countess of Hereford: for instance, he acted as a trustee of the estates inherited by Thomas Coggeshall’s* son, Thomas, and from July 1422 he shared with Bishop Beaufort of Winchester and others the wardship of the new heir. He long remained on good terms with Sir Gerard Braybrooke II*, his fellow executor of the countess’s will: he served him and his son Gerard, Lord St. Amand (d.1422), as a feoffee-to-uses, received handsome bequests in Braybrooke’s will (1428), and towards the end of his own life founded a chantry in Danbury church in his memory. Throughout the 1420s he remained friendly with Richard Baynard, appearing as a feoffee of his property in Essex and London and as overseer of his will (1433); and it may well have been through Baynard that he joined the group of legal advisors to the Lords Fitzwalter, a group which included Baynard’s brother-in-law, John Doreward*, and the husband of Doreward’s stepdaughter, Richard Fox*. From as early as 1409 Darcy had been a trustee of the landed possessions of Joan, widow of Walter, 4th Lord Fitzwalter (d.1406) and those of her second husband, Hugh, Lord Burnell, as such being party to important land settlements on Burnell’s grand daughters. Later on, he was among the attorneys appointed by Walter, 5th Lord Fitzwalter, and a feoffee of that Lord’s estates.11 From 1424 Darcy was connected with John de Vere, the young earl of Oxford. When, in 1429, the earl was fined £1,000 for marrying without royal licence, Darcy was one of the ten men who stood surety on his behalf, each in £100; and he was later asked to assist in conveyances of the earl’s property.12 By 1427 he had become involved in the affairs of Joan, widow of William Beauchamp, Lord Abergavenny, and niece of the late countess of Hereford, as such serving as a feoffee of those estates of her inheritance as were held for life by Beatrice, countess of Arundel (d.1439), and, from 1430, as trustee of the lands of her son-in-law James, 4th earl of Ormond. In her will in 1435 Lady Joan left Darcy an image of St. Mary and the very large sum of 400 marks, as well as 100 marks for his wife; and she put him and Bartholomew Brokesby* in sole charge of her belongings at Abergavenny to keep safe for her grandson James, later earl of Ormond and Wiltshire. Darcy and Brokesby were her principal executors. Darcy’s connexion with young Ormond continued for the rest of his life.13
Perhaps of more importance, Darcy was also known to John, duke of Bedford, possibly entering that lord’s service through his acquaintance with Lewis John*, one of Bedford’s councillors. The association had been formed by 1427 when Darcy obtained at the Exchequer keeping of property at Bradwell, Essex, where he was soon to be (if he was not already) the duke’s steward; and in May that year he was among those to whom Bedford gave powers of attorney on his departure for France. Together with Bedford’s retainers, Richard Wydeville† and Robert Whittingham*, in 1431 Darcy was appointed by the King’s Council to settle a dispute between John Reynwell* of London, mayor of the Staple of Calais, and certain of his fellow merchant staplers. Reynwell later reported that they ‘have so notably so indifferently and so truly laboured these materes that all manere hevynesse et grevance been concluded to parfite reste and pees’. In the following year Darcy was associated with Bedford in the conveyance of the advowson of a London church. Like Lewis John, Darcy had long had an interest in trade: he now, in the 1430s, obtained royal licences to ship grain and dairy produce directly to the Netherlands, no doubt doing so from the port of Maldon, where he still lived.14
Among other members of the nobility for whom Darcy acted in legal transactions were Richard, Lord Grey of Wilton (whom he served as executor in 1442), Anne, countess of Stafford (for whom he witnessed settlements of former de Bohun manors), and the latter’s son Henry, Lord Bourgchier. Furthermore, as feoffee of Lord Bourgchier’s estates he came to the attention of his brother-in-law, Richard, duke of York, who in 1441 enlisted his services for an entail of his own widespread inheritance.15 Having risen to a position of eminence in Essex, Darcy was naturally one of the local gentry required to take the oath introduced in 1434 as a measure against maintenance. In the course of his career he served on many royal commissions, perhaps the most important being those to raise loans for the Crown. He made his own contributions in 1435, when he joined Bartholomew Brokesby and John Doreward† in advancing a loan of £173 6s.8d., and in the following year when he lent 100 marks for York’s expedition to France. He had been steadily adding to his landed holdings in Essex (on one occasion allegedly using violent means), and the assessments made in 1436 show him with an annual income of £366, higher than that of any other Essex esquire and second only to his friend (Sir) John Tyrell* among the non-baronial proprietors in the locality.16 Much of this income had come from legal fees paid to him at his post in the common pleas, although in 1440 he agreed to share this office with his brother-in-law, Henry Filongley.17
Darcy died on 3 Sept. 1448 and was buried in a marble tomb in All Saints church, Maldon, where his executors subsequently founded a chantry of two chaplains who were to pray for Henry VI and Queen Margaret as well as for the souls of Darcy and his wives. He left two sons (Sir) Robert (d.1469) and Thomas (d.1485) and about six daughters.18
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Authors: J. S. Roskell / L. S. Woodger
- 1. CIMisc. vii. 516.
- 2. C76/124 m. 12.
- 3. P. Morant, Essex, i. 396; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 5, 109.
- 4. But he is not to be confused with Robert, s. of Sir John Darcy, who was a minor in 1387 when he inherited the manor of Harverton and property in Durham and Sunderland, and who died bef. 1416 (DKR, xxxii. 306; xxxiii. 110).
- 5. CFR, xi. 191; xii. 59, 230; CCR, 1396-9, p. 60; 1399-1402, p. 489; 1402-5, p. 512; Arch. Aeliana (ser. 3), vi. 65; xix. 204; C1/7/93.
- 6. CPR, 1401-5, p. 307; 1408-13, p. 219; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 248; Feudal Aids, vi. 447; JUST 1/1512 m. 17; Arch. Jnl. xliv. 64; North Country Wills (Surtees Soc. cxvi), 22-23; Beverley Chapter Bk. (ibid. cvii), p. lxxxi; Corporation of London RO, hr 136/73, 137/22; C219/110/3.