HOWARD, Sir John (c.1366-1437), of Wiggenhall and East Winch, Norf., Stoke Nayland, Suff., Stansted Mountfichet, Essex, and Fowlmere, Cambs.
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Family and Education
b.c.1366, s. and h. of Sir Robert Howard (d.1389) of Wiggenhall and East Winch by Margaret, da. of Robert, 3rd Lord Scales (d.1369), and Katherine, sis. and coh. of William de Ufford, 2nd earl of Suffolk. m. (1) c.1380, Margaret (c.1367-Aug. 1391), da. and h. of John, 5th Lord Plaiz, by his 2nd w. Joan, da. of Sir Miles Stapleton of Bedale, Yorks. and Ingham, Norf., 1s. d.v.p.; (2) bef. June 1397, Alice (d. 18 Oct. 1426), da. and h. of Sir William Tendring of Tendring Hall and Stoke Nayland by Katherine, wid. of Sir Thomas Clopton, 2s. Kntd. by Mar. 1387.
Commr. of inquiry, Norf. May 1388 (collusion and maintenance in a lawsuit), Essex. Apr. 1405 (treasons and felonies), Suff. June 1422 (post mortem); sewers, Cambs., Norf. Apr., May 1392; array, Norf. Mar. 1392, Essex Dec. 1399, July 1402, Suff. Aug. 1403, Essex Aug.-Nov. 1403, July 1405, Suff. Apr. 1418, Mar. 1419, June 1421; to seize and supervise estates forfeited by the Appellants of 1387-8, Essex Oct. 1397; treat for payment of a communal fine of £2,000 Dec. 1397; make proclamation of Henry IV’s intention to govern well, Suff., Essex May 1402; raise royal loans, Suff. Nov. 1419, Suff., Norf. Mar. 1430, Mar. 1431; of oyer and terminer May 1431.
J.p. Suff. 22 July 1397-May 1408, 14 Dec. 1417-July 1434, 16 Nov. 1436-d., Essex 12 Nov. 1397-Oct. 1399, 28 Nov. 1399-Dec. 1414.
Steward of the franchise of Bury St. Edmund’s abbey, Suff. c. Oct. 1399-aft. May 1404.1
Sheriff, Essex and Herts. 24 Nov. 1400-8 Nov. 1401, 10 Nov. 1414-1 Dec. 1415, 4 Nov. 1418-23 Nov. 1419, Cambs. and Hunts. Mich. 1401-4 Nov. 1403.
Tax collector, Essex Mar. 1404.
John was a descendant of Sir William Howard, j.c.p. under Edward I, who possibly came of burgess stock from Bishop’s Lynn. His grandfather, Sir John Howard, served as admiral of the northern fleet (1335-7), and by the mid 14th century the family was of quasi-baronial importance with interests and connexions scattered throughout East Anglia. The Howard estates, accumulated through marriage and purchase, included five manors near Bishop’s Lynn and the property of John’s grandmother, the de Boys heiress, at Fersfield and Garboldisham in south Norfolk and Brook Hall near Dunwich in Suffolk. John’s father died in 1389, when he was about 23, but his mother lived on until 1416. Most of the inheritance passed to him at his father’s death, however, and that same year his landed holdings were augmented considerably following the demise of his father-in-law, Lord Plaiz.2 Howard’s marriage to Lord Plaiz’s only daughter had been purchased nine years earlier for 300 marks, and now, besides the Plaiz manors at Toft, Weeting and Knapton in Norfolk, he acquired properties outside East Anglia, namely ‘Benetfield Bury’ in Stansted Mountfichet, Oakley and Moze (Essex), Chelsworth (Suffolk) and Fowlmere (Cambridgeshire). These estates, valued at over £117 a year when his wife died in 1391, he retained for life ‘by the courtesy’. Howard’s second wife brought him properties on the border of Essex and Suffolk, the most notable being the manor of Stoke Nayland. The estates thus acquired by marriage qualified Sir John for election to Parliament by three shires. In 1404 he was numbered among the few landowners of England whose net incomes amounted to over 500 marks a year.3
Howard’s career had begun by March 1387 when he was already a knight and serving at sea in the fleet commanded by Richard, earl of Arundel. He was closely connected with Sir Simon Felbrigg, a cousin on his mother’s side, with whom he was associated in a religious foundation in 1392, and it may have been Felbrigg who introduced him to the royal household. (Sir Simon had married a kinswoman of Queen Anne and from 1395 appeared on ceremonial occasions as the King’s standard-bearer.) On 10 Mar. 1394 Howard was retained by Richard II for life with an annuity of £40. That September he joined the King’s expedition in Ireland, returning in the following spring. The cancellation of his appointment as sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire in December 1396 was evidently of no lasting political significance, for he was nominated as a j.p. in Suffolk in the following July. Howard’s election to Parliament in the autumn of 1397 probably owed much to his position as one of the King’s retainers, for Richard required supporters in the Commons for the enforcement of his stringent measures against the Appellants of 1387-8. During the recess he was commissioned to seize and supervise estates forfeited by Gloucester, Arundel and Warwick, and in December he was instructed to treat with the men of Essex and Hertfordshire for payment of a communal fine of £2,000 and to return to Parliament when it re-assembled at Shrewsbury ready, in conjunction with his fellow shire knight, Robert Tey, to give a personal account to the King of that commission’s activities. When Richard set off on his second voyage to Ireland, in the spring of 1399, Sir John again accompanied him.4
Howard’s royal annuity was not confirmed by Henry IV, but he soon accommodated himself to the new regime and his influence as a landed magnate remained unimpaired. He continued to serve on royal commissions and as a j.p. without interruption, and he now became steward of the liberty of Bury St. Edmunds. Sir John’s chief interests lay not with his hereditary estates bordering the Wash, but rather in the property acquired by his marriages. Thus, he officiated as sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire in 1400-1 (during which term he was summoned to the great council of August 1401), and of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire in 1401-3; and it was as knight of the shire for Cambridgeshire that he was returned to Parliament for the second time, in 1407.5 But his family holdings ensured that at least to some extent he would be active in Norfolk. Earlier in his career he had devoted some attention to Raveningham college, an important foundation with which his father and his father-in-law, Lord Plaiz, had been much concerned, and he assisted in the removal of the college first to Norton Subcourse (Norfolk) and then to Mettingham castle (Suffolk). Something of his standing in East Anglian society is suggested by that of his associates: for instance, his brother-in-law, Constantine, Lord Clifton, owned Buckenham castle and other substantial estates, of which he was a feoffee. He served as trustee of the properties of Joan, Lady Fitzwalter (d.1409); among those given a fiduciary interest in his own estates was another kinsman, Robert, 5th Lord Scales; and in 1413 he was named as supervisor of the will of Maud de Vere, dowager countess of Oxford. It is not known precisely when he joined the circle of Joan de Bohun, countess of Hereford, but he had evidently done so by 1402 and thereafter he became close to the countess by whom he was engaged as a councillor. It seems likely that his son John (the issue of his first marriage) was a member of Joan’s household, for when the young man made his will in 1409 he named her, along with his father, as overseer. Others connected with Countess Joan included Robert Tey, for whom Howard acted as a feoffee, and Sir William Marney*, who asked him to be godfather to one of his sons. It was in association with Marney that Howard became a trustee of the estates of the Essex lawyer, Richard Baynard*. Then, too, he was well known to Sir Thomas Erpingham, formerly chamberlain to Henry IV and steward of the household of Henry V, who after the death of Howard’s son John married his widow, Joan Walton.6
As sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire in 1414-15, Howard became involved in preparations for Henry V’s first expedition to France, and in January 1416 he was pardoned £180 charged on his account in consideration of the expenses incurred at that time. In the summer of 1420 there was grave danger of a breach of the peace at the Suffolk assizes between the followers of Howard and Sir Thomas Kerdeston†, a distant kinsman of his wife, and the prospect of a riot prompted Sir Thomas Erpingham to inform the King’s Council so that both men might be warned to cease ‘alle suche gederyng of strengthe and of meigntenance’. Both Howard and Kerdeston were described as ‘weel ykynde and of gret allyaunce’, able to gain support ‘as weel of lordys of estate as of othre gentilmen as knyghtis and squyers’.7 Howard naturally found no difficulty in securing marriages for his children and grandchild with important gentry families. Young John had been married to the Walton heiress, and now, in 1420, Howard obtained for Robert, his elder son by his second wife, the hand of Margaret Mowbray, daughter of Thomas, duke of Norfolk (d.1399), and sister to John, the Earl Marshal, who was to be acknowledged duke in 1425. One eventual outcome of this match was that part of the inheritance of the great comital houses of Mowbray and Fitzalan became vested in the Howard family in the person of Sir John’s grandson, John†, who was to be summoned to Parliament as Lord Howard in 1470 and created Earl Marshal and duke of Norfolk by Richard III. Meanwhile, in about 1425 Howard secured for his grand daughter Elizabeth (the only child of his son John) the hand of John de Vere, the young earl of Oxford, who had refused a marriage proposed to him by the King’s Council in order to wed her. The price was high: Sir John settled on Elizabeth many of the family properties near Lynn and all of the former de Boys manors; and he assured de Vere that she would inherit the Plaiz and Walton estates of her parents. These settlements were to lead, after his death, to bitter feuds between the earl of Oxford and Lord Howard, which influenced their fateful alignment in the civil wars.8