HAUTE, William (d.1462), of Bishopsbourne, Kent.
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Family and Education
1st s. of Sir Nicholas Haute*. m. (1) bef. Oct. 1419, Margaret, da. of Sir Hugh Berwyk of Frilsham, Berks., sis. and h. of Thomas Berwyk and wid. of Ralph Butler of Glos., 1da.; (2) c. July 1429 at Calais, Joan, da. of Richard Wydeville† (d.1441) of Grafton, Northants. and Maidstone, Kent by Joan, da. of Thomas Bittellesgate of Devon, 4s. 5da.
Commr. of array, Kent Apr. 1418, Mar. 1419, Dec. 1435, Mar. 1443, Apr. 1450, Feb 1452, Aug. 1456, Sept. 1457, Jan. 1458, Jan. 1460; weirs July 1423; inquiry Oct. 1428 (shipwreck), June 1435 (escapes of prisoners), Feb. 1436 (smuggling), July 1439 (concealments), Oct. 1439 (forestalling), Dec. 1454 (felonies), Mar. 1457 (unlawful gatherings), Dec. 1461 (trespasses); oyer and terminer Feb. 1433, Feb. 1434, Kent, Suss. June 1456; to take musters of forces going to France, Kent Feb., June 1434, Dec. 1451, Aug. 1452; assess a tax Jan. 1436, Aug. 1450; raise royal loans Mar. 1439, Mar. 1442, June 1446, Sept. 1449, Apr. 1454; seek contributions for defence Jan. 1452; make assessments for raising archers Dec. 1457.
Sheriff, Kent 16 Nov. 1420-1 May 1422.
J.p. Kent 20 July 1424-53.
In 1401, the year after the death of William Haute’s mother, the boy’s guardians brought suits at the assizes in Kent for possession of the substantial estates which had once belonged to his maternal grandfather, Sir Thomas Couen†, by asserting that he was the next heir of his uncle Robert. William’s three younger brothers were made party to the claim with respect to those lands held by gavelkind tenure. The outcome was a qualified success, as is suggested by William’s patronage in 1417 of Warehorne rectory, one of the disputed properties; but he could never entirely defeat the claims of the Peckhams (made through their guardians, the Uvedales) whose interest was in the manors of Sir Thomas Couen’s wife, Laura Morant.1 It was probably shortly after his coming of age that in March 1413, in the distinguished company of Bishop Langley of Durham, Haute was admitted to the fraternity of Christ Church priory, Canterbury. Together with his father, Sir Nicholas, in July 1415 he was mustered in the retinue of Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, for Henry V’s first expedition to France, although instead of joining his father’s own contingent he chose to embark as one of the small band led by John Tyrell* (the future Speaker), the son of his stepmother, Eleanor. The death of Sir Nicholas Haute, perhaps not on the campaign but certainly within 18 months of the victory at Agincourt, led to William’s succession to the paternal estates in Kent and Sussex, which were of considerable value. The young man attended the parliamentary elections at Canterbury in March 1416 and was himself elected to Parliament for the first time, while he must have been still in his twenties, in 1419. His name headed the list of a dozen esquires sent by the j.p.s of Kent to the King’s Council in January following, as being considered best able to do military service in defence of the kingdom. He had already begun his work as a royal commissioner, which was to cover nearly 44 years (including nigh on 30 years as a j.p.). During his only term of office as sheriff he was responsible for holding the Kent elections to the three Parliaments of 1420 and 1421.2
Haute made two marriages, both of them quite satisfactory from the material point of view. The first provided him with interests beyond the confines of south-east England, for his wife, Margaret Berwyk, had inherited three manors each in Berkshire and Somerset and another in Buckinghamshire. However, the Hautes were unsuccessful in the suit they brought in the King’s bench in 1420 against the civic authorities of London for the wardship of the young son of John Bryan* the fishmonger, on the ground that the boy’s father had been one of Margaret’s feudal tenants.3 Haute’s second marriage, into the Wydeville family, was to have momentous consequences for his own, affecting the lives and careers of his sons in the reigns of Edward IV and Richard III. But such consequences were, of course, unforseeable when it was contracted in 1429. Ten days after Haute had taken out royal letters of protection on 8 July to join the retinue of Sir John Stuard, captain of Rysbank Tower, he entered into an agreement with Stuard’s superior, Richard Wydeville, the newly appointed lieutenant of Calais, for his marriage to Wydeville’s younger daughter, Joan. He was evidently eager for the match; he was prepared to settle on Joan as jointure lands to the value of 100 marks a year ‘whech he saith he haith in fee symple’, and as her dower for life lands worth £40 annually of the ‘best and the suerest’ he had (to be selected by Wydeville and his advisors). Furthermore, he promised to ‘make discontinue and defeet’ an entail in favour of his daughter by his first wife, ‘as lafully and in als strangge wyse as the councell of the foresaid Richart and William can best devyse’. (William did, however, insist that he should not be obliged to force the disinherited girl into a convent.) On his part Wydeville agreed to give Joan and her husband 400 marks as her marriage portion, to furnish Joan’s chamber according to her estate and to pay the expenses of the wedding ceremony at Calais. Haute returned home to be elected to the Parliament which assembled that September, and on 11 Oct. the royal letters granting him protection for one year while overseas were revoked on the ground of his attendance in the Commons.4Thus brought into the Wydeville circle, and immediately after his marriage, Haute was asked by his wife’s brother-in-law, Sir John Passhele, to be a trustee of his estates in Kent and elsewhere. He and Wydeville struck up a friendship, and he was present at the parliamentary elections held at Rochester in 1433 at which his father-in-law was chosen knight of the shire. Together with Wydeville, he attended meetings of the great council convened in April and May 1434 at which the duke of Gloucester’s criticisms of the conduct of the war in France caused serious contention with his brother, the duke of Bedford. Yet while both the men from Kent subscribed their names to the King’s directive that the matter should proceed no further, they may have differed in their personal opinions as to the validity of Gloucester’s views, for while Wydeville’s military career and position as Bedford’s chamberlain would inevitably have prejudiced him in his patron’s favour, Haute’s own earlier service under Gloucester may have prompted him to support the younger duke. Both Haute and Wydeville had been planning to cross to France two months earlier, but they evidently now delayed their departure until the autumn. Details of Haute’s activities overseas have not been traced. Thus linked to Wydeville by ties of marriage and military service, Haute was to be named in 1441 among the executors of his father-in-law’s will.5
In speculating on the possibility of Haute’s attachment to the duke of Gloucester, we should bear in mind his kinship to John Tyrell, one of the duke’s leading retainers. Back in 1427 Haute had made Tyrell and his brother Edward† trustees of his first wife’s manors in Somerset, and in June 1429 he joined the Tyrells in providing sureties, each of them in £100, that John de Vere, earl of Oxford, would keep up regular payments of the instalments of his fine for having married without the King’s licence. That he remained friendly with the Tyrells is clear from his nomination in 1442 as executor of Edward’s will, partly no doubt because the testator was greatly concerned that the debts of his mother (Haute’s own stepmother) should be honoured. Then, too, Haute was sometimes associated with Gloucester’s lieutenant warden of the Cinque Ports, Geoffrey Lowther†, and not only as his fellow knight of the shire in 1432, for in 1443 and 1444 he and Lowther, along with John Stopyndoun, master of the rolls, together received bonds from a Kentish gentleman as guarantee for payment of 120 marks, and a recognizance in £80 from Walter Moyle†, serjeant-at-law.6
In March 1450 Haute took on the trusteeship of the manor of Middleton Stoney (Oxfordshire), with a view to its settlement on John, 8th Lord Strange of Knockin (as yet a child just six years old), and his young bride, Jacquetta Wydeville, niece to Haute’s wife. Yet his close connexion with the Wydevilles did not necessarily cause him to follow his brother-in-law, Richard, Lord Rivers, in the political conflicts of the decade. Indeed, the rising in Kent just two months later saw them on opposing sides, for Haute, although appointed to a commission of array in the county in April, nevertheless came out in support of Cade, while Rivers was one of the leaders of the force sent to suppress the rebellion. Haute’s motives may only be conjectured: it could be that his earlier association with the duke of Gloucester’s retainers had given him cause to resent the rise to power in Kent of James Fiennes†, Lord Say and Sele, who had succeeded to the duke’s position as warden of the Cinque Ports immediately after Gloucester’s death in 1447, and against whom much of the ire of the Kentish rebels was now directed. However, Haute’s misdemeanours during the rebellion cannot have been too serious in their consequences, for he was able to obtain a full royal pardon on 7 July, and he kept his place on the local bench for three more years without a break. The political upheavals of the years from 1453 to 1460 apparently affected him little, but his personal reputation suffered from two lawsuits in Chancery in which he appeared as a defendant in 1454. First, John Danyell of Kent alleged that Haute and his son William had refused to relinquish to him the manor of Higham, of which he, when ‘lying in grete siknesse’, had enfeoffed them in order that they might perform his will, his intention being that the younger William should have the premises only when he died. The second suit involved aspects of Haute’s trusteeship of the Passhele estates, now inherited by his wife’s nephew, John Passhele. This, after evidence had been heard both in Chancery and in Christ Church priory, Canterbury, resulted in his being made to transfer the properties into young Passhele’s possession. In January 1460 Haute was appointed to the commission of array in Kent given the task of resisting the adherents of the earl of Warwick who had recently invested Sandwich and taken captive Lord Rivers. So far evidently regarded by the authorities as loyal to Henry VI, it may not have been until that summer, when the Yorkist earls passed through Kent on their way to London, that Haute offered them his support. The nomination of his son-in-law, Sir John Fogg†, as treasurer of the Household, gave him an influential connexion in the Yorkist camp, but his first official task by the earls’ appointment did not come his way until January 1461, that is, when he received instructions from the Council to array forces with which to help resist Margaret of Anjou’s army of ‘mysruled and outerageous people’ then marching south towards London. Whether our aged MP took part in the second battle of St. Albans which soon followed is not recorded.7
Haute did not live long enough to see his wife’s niece, Elizabeth Wydeville, crowned as Edward IV’s queen in 1464, nor to witness the effects initially beneficial but in the long run disastrous—which this event had on the lives of her kinsfolk (among whom his own children were numbered), for he died in the autumn of 1462, at a date between 20 Sept. and 4 Oct. He was buried in the church of Austin Friars, Canterbury, next to his two wives. Apart from suggesting a man of deep piety, his will, made on 9 May that year, is chiefly remarkable for its bequests of relics, which included a part of the stone on which stood the archangel Gabriel when he appeared to the Virgin Mary (now donated as a base for the statue of the Virgin in Bishopsbourne church), some of St. Bartholomew’s bones (given to Waltham church) and a piece of St. Katherine’s hair shirt, together with one of St. Nicholas’s bones, given to the Austin friars, who were also to receive the rest of Haute’s relics after his eldest son’s death. Haute made very numerous pious and charitable bequests of sums ranging from half a mark to 20 marks, and amounting to about £50, to several of the religious orders in Kent. His obit was to be celebrated for 20 years in St. Augustine’s priory, Canterbury. The household effects, quantities of silver plate and furred robes of this well-to-do esquire, were all divided among the nine surviving children of his second wife.8