HERVY, John (c.1353-c.1411), of Thurleigh and Kempston, Beds.
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Family and Education
Commr. to suppress the insurgents of 1381, Beds. Mar., Dec. 1382; to hold a special assize, Herts. Feb. 1385 (ownership of land in Rickmansworth claimed by St. Albans abbey);2 of array, Beds. Apr. 1386, Mar. 1392; to enforce labour services on the tenants of Ogbourne priory, Mdx. Feb. 1389; of inquiry, Beds. July 1397 (repairs to Harrold bridge), Aug. 1400 (ownership of land in Stevington), Aug. 1405 (ownership of rents in Cardington), Beds., Bucks. Feb. 1406 (concealment of the late earl of Huntingdon’s confiscated property); kiddles, Beds. June 1398; to prevent the spread of treasonous rumours May 1402; of oyer and terminer Feb. 1408 (attack on Elstow priory); to arrest Nicholas Styuecle*, Hunts. July 1408.
J.p. Beds. 20 Dec. 1382-July 1389, 28 June 1390-Feb. 1411, Hunts. 8 Feb. 1405-7.
Tax collector, Beds. Mar. 1404, Sept. 1405.
Although he was returned to only one Parliament, John Hervy was a leading figure in the Bedfordshire community, where a combination of personal connexions and professional expertise enabled him to establish a particularly thriving legal practice. As the husband of a great-grand daughter of Roger, 1st Lord Grey of Ruthin (d.1353), he possessed a valuable link with the most powerful landowning family in the county, and he was constantly employed by Reynold, 3rd Lord Grey, on a wide variety of legal and other business. It was also during his youth that he apparently established a useful contact with the house of Lancaster, for while giving evidence in 1408 in the celebrated dispute between Lord Grey and Edward, Lord Hastings, over the right to bear the arms of the earls of Pembroke, Hervy claimed to have ‘talked with John of Gaunt about coat armour’ many years before. His presence in the ducal household would certainly explain why Henry of Bolingbroke chose him to act as his counsel in a lawsuit over the Bedfordshire manor of Sutton which reached the courts in 1392, although since he was by then one of the most distinguished attorneys in the area too much cannot be made of this appointment. There is, on the other hand, no doubt whatsoever as to his kinship with Thomas Hervy, a canon of Lincoln cathedral and sometime treasurer of the household of Edward III’s younger son, Lionel, duke of Clarence (d.1368). Thomas later rose to become keeper of the royal mint at the Tower of London, and the task of executing his will of October 1382 fell jointly to both John Hervy and his father, who were also included in the long list of beneficiaries.3
On his own evidence, Hervy was born in about 1353, the son of a fairly prosperous landowner from whom he inherited property in and around Thurleigh worth at least £40 a year. His ancestors claimed to be descended from a follower of William the Conqueror named Hervy of Berri, who owned an estate in East Anglia; and it was not until the reign of Richard I that they acquired the Bedfordshire manor which soon became their home. John Hervy the elder seems to have retired from public life in October 1378, when he obtained royal licence of exemption from holding any official post or crown appointment, although in 1382 he served with his son as a commissioner for the suppression of the Peasants’ Revolt of the previous year. We do not know for certain where John Hervy the younger received his legal training, but his appointment, in August 1380, as a trustee of property in London suggests that he spent some of his early life in or near the City, possibly at one of the inns of court. This is borne out by his continuous involvement, from 1383 onwards, in the property transactions of John Durham*, John Shorditch I* and his son John Shorditch II*, and Thomas Charlton*, all of whom were landowners in the home counties.4 He also developed a fairly close association with St. Albans abbey, being appointed in 1384 to act as a trustee of certain rents in St. Albans which belonged to the house. His co-feoffees included John Rouland, rector of Toddington in Bedfordshire, and Thomas Pever†, the lord of the manor, both of whom were personal friends who may well have joined with him in providing material for the abbey chronicler, Thomas Walsingham. In the following year he was commissioned to hold an assize of novel disseisin to investigate the ownership of land in Rickmansworth, which was claimed successfully by the abbot. He was obviously well known to the monastic community, since his hunting expeditions with the parson of Thurleigh (who neglected his parochial duties for the pleasures of the chase and was reputedly pursued by an irate demon) are noted in another of the abbey chronicles.5
Hervy maintained his ties with Bedfordshire throughout this period, however, and in December 1382 he took a seat on the local bench where he served almost continuously until his death 29 years later. He then also first began to act as an attorney at the Bedford assizes, and not long afterwards his long connexion with the Greys of Ruthin became firmly established. From 1384 onwards Hervy appeared regularly as a trustee of property held by his two kinsmen, Reynold, 2nd Lord Grey, and his son and namesake who succeeded to the title in 1388. It was from the latter that, in 1394, he received for life a grant of the manor of Kempston, which he was to hold at a token rent of 26s.8d. in return for good services previously rendered. On at least four occasions (August 1394, October 1397, May 1399 and April 1405), Grey obtained royal letters patent permitting him to give Hervy general power of attorney over his affairs while he was absent on business of state; and when his patron was captured by the Welsh, in 1402, Hervy was one of the group of men whom Henry IV appointed to treat with Owen Glendower over the payment of the ransom of 10,000 marks then demanded for his release. As we have already seen, Hervy gave evidence before the court of chivalry in support of Reynold’s claim to bear the arms of the earls of Pembroke, having already been empowered by him to act as a proxy there. Perhaps to lend credence to his testimony, he described himself not only as a member of Lord Grey’s affinity, but also as the bearer of the Foliot coat of arms (gules on a bend argent, three trefoils sinople). In so doing he incurred the further wrath of Lord Hastings, who laid claim to those arms as well. An altercation ensued in which Hastings vilified Hervy as a liar and a mountebank: even so, he was no more successful here than in his dispute with Lord Grey, and the MP continued to bear the arms of his great-grandfather, Richard Foliot, without further interruption.6
Because of the attachment between them, Grey and Hervy often acted together as feoffees for other people, most notably Sir Matthew Gournay and his wife, Philippa (who later married Sir John Tiptoft*).7 Among the other prominent members of Lord Grey’s circle were the two Sir Gerard Braybrookes*, in whose affairs Hervy played an important part for many years. He was, for example, closely involved in the endowment of Harrold priory in Bedfordshire by both Grey and Sir Gerard Braybrooke II, and he also had a great deal to do with the latter’s part (as a trustee of Sir John Trailly†) in the foundation of a college of secular priests at Northill church in the same county. He and Sir Gerard likewise held property in trust for John, Lord Latimer, although they were quite prepared to perform this service for less distinguished persons too.8 Inevitably, in view of his reputation as a lawyer, Hervy was in constant demand as a feoffee-to-uses, and his name appears on innumerable conveyances of property in the Bedfordshire area. His ties with such figures as Robert Digswell*, John Styuecle*, the above-mentioned Thomas Pever, Thomas Roxton* and Ralph Fitzrichard (his colleague in the Parliament of 1386) seem, however, to have been personal as well as professional; and these influential Bedfordshire landowners are often to be found acting together on each other’s behalf. Hervy was also on close terms with John Worship*, who made him his attorney at the time of Richard II’s first expedition to Ireland, although by and large he was kept busy supervising the affairs of the Greys and their retainers while they were overseas.9
As is the case with so many medieval lawyers, very little evidence survives about Hervy’s personal affairs and activities outside the legal profession. We know that over the year ending at Easter 1397 he and his widowed mother, Joan, were involved in either the purchase or the settlement of a fairly large estate of 15 messuages and farmland in the Bedfordshire village of Souldrop. Shortly afterwards he obtained a papal licence for the plenary remission of sins at the hour of death, which clearly reflects the important position he then occupied in county society. That he was generally considered to be rich as well as influential is evident from his inclusion in a list of persons approached by the Crown in 1402 for ‘benevolences’ or long-term loans. He was at this time instrumental in endowing Sawtry abbey with land in Huntingdonshire, where he subsequently served a brief term as a j.p. His principal sphere of interest still lay in Bedfordshire, however, and in 1407 he attended the parliamentary elections for that county.10 Hervy died in about 1411, and was buried at Elstow priory. His widow, Margery, retained control of land in and around Thurleigh worth about £24 a year, and later married Sir William Argentine*. She and Hervy had at least four children, the eldest of whom, John, married a daughter of Sir John Neyrnut† of Fleetmarston in Buckinghamshire, and was himself the father of John Hervy†, the master of the ordnance to Edward IV. The MP’s two other sons were Richard, a clerk, who in 1429 was retained in the service of Margaret, the widowed duchess of Clarence; and Thomas, a soldier, who is known to have campaigned in Aquitaine at the very beginning of the 15th century. Margery died in September 1427, just a few months after drawing up a will in which she asked to be buried next to her first husband. She chose her son-in-law, Guy Corbet of Assington in Suffolk, to be her executor, although her principal bequests were to one Thomas Hervy, a minor, who appears to have been her grandson.11
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variant Harvey. Although studied in great detail by later members of the family, the Hervy genealogy still seems extremely confused over the subject of this biography. The most reliable pedigree, at least so far as his ancestry is concerned, is given by Lord Arthur Hervey in Procs. Suff. Inst. Arch. ii. 412-15; but like many other scholars (see, for example, VCH Beds. iii. 106) he assumes, wrongly, that John Hervy’s father and namesake was returned to the Parliament of 1386. His account of the MP’s children is also misleading, and here S. Hervey, Dictionary of Herveys, nos. 278, 282, 332-3, offers a fairly accurate corrective. Our John Hervy is, moreover, sometimes confused with the royal clerk of the same name who, in 1415, carried messages to Henry V from the Council of Constance (Letters Margaret of Anjou (Cam. Soc. lxxxvi), 7), but the two can usually be distinguished from each other.