LACON, Richard (d.c.1446), of Lacon and Willey, Salop.
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Family and Education
s. of William Lacon (d.1397) by Margaret, da. of Ralph Passelewe of Drayton Parslow, Bucks. m. (1) between Feb. 1406 and May 1411, Elizabeth, da. and h. of (Sir) Hamon Peshale* by his 1st w., wid. of Henry Grendon, 5s. 1da; (2) aft. 1435, Agnes. Kntd. c. Oct. 1415.
Constable of the earl of Arundel’s castle of Oswestry, Salop by Apr. 1405.
Sheriff, Salop 1 Dec. 1415-30 Nov. 1416.
J.p. Salop 12 Feb. 1422-July 1423.
Commr. of inquiry, Salop May 1422, Salop, Staffs., Herefs. Nov. 1435 (concealments); to raise royal loans, Salop Mar. 1431; of arrest Feb. 1433; to distribute tax allowances Dec. 1433; administer the oath against maintenance Jan. 1434.
Escheator, Salop and the adjacent march 4 Nov. 1428-12 Feb. 1430.
Richard came from a junior branch of the family of Lacon of Lacon near Wem, Shropshire, but he was nevertheless occasionally referred to as ‘of Lacon’ or ‘of Wem’. He held little property in his own right, apart from a lease of ‘Bulridges’, an area of pasture on the manor of Condover, and most of his landed holdings came to him through marriage. Lacon’s first wife was the grand daughter of Sir Robert Harley and Joan, daughter of Sir Robert Corbet† of Moreton Corbet, and besides bringing him at least six manors (including Willey) in Shropshire, she thus gave him kinship with the Corbet family which had once held the barony of Caus. Indeed, this relationship enabled their son, William, to assert to no less a person than Humphrey, duke of Buckingham, that he was ‘of yor blood not farre worin in degree’. (In fact their kinship was extremely remote.) Through his mother Richard Lacon inherited a claim to the manor of Drayton Parslow in Buckinghamshire, and apparently proved his title, but ‘for dread of displeasure’ of the duke he ‘delayed the execution of his said recovery’, leaving his son to do so.1 Lacon’s father, a retainer of Henry of Bolingbroke, was murdered in London on his way to Westminster to prosecute a suit in the Parliament of 1397 (Sept.) against Sir John Hawkstone. Hawkstone’s accomplice, Robert Kendale, esquire, was required in the following February to undertake not to harm the victim’s son, Richard, but neither he nor Hawkstone was brought to justice and, indeed, the latter obtained a full pardon for the crime from Richard II.2 His father’s connexion with Bolingbroke and the manner in which he met his death no doubt predisposed Lacon to welcome the deposition of Richard II, and from early on in Henry IV’s reign he was closely attached to Thomas Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, a staunch supporter of the new regime. On 15 Feb. 1404 Lacon was granted for life, ‘because he was prepared to ride to resist the Welsh rebels without reward and they in their last raid brent and destroyed 40 marks of his rent and took his beasts and goods to the sum of £100’, lands worth 20 marks a year forfeited by one such rebel, John Kynaston, esquire, within the hundred of Ellesmere. In fact, Kynaston had been the man who had allegedly led the raid on the Fitzalan lordship of Oswestry in 1400, and had been pursued by the earl ever since. Lacon was most likely already serving as constable of Arundel’s castle at Oswestry, a post he was certainly holding by April 1405. The steward and captain of the town of Oswestry was then John Wele*, an esquire with whom Lacon was to be constantly associated until Wele’s death 15 years later. In January 1407 they and others of the earl’s affinity, including John Burley I* and David Holbache*, witnessed Arundel’s charter to the borough of Oswestry, and later that year Lacon was party to the shire election indentures drawn up at Shrewsbury to certify Holbache’s election. In January 1408 he and Wele were made honorary members of the guild merchant of Shrewsbury, expressly in each case ‘pro amore et bono auxilio suo burgensibus ville et communitate as libertati eiusdem ville habitis et imposterum habendis’, and in the course of the year the town made them several gifts of wine. It would appear that the two men, who had command of the earl of Arundel’s forces in the marches, had done much to protect Shrewsbury against the Welsh rebels. In bringing about the defeat of the latter, they sometimes had to play a double game: in June in an unknown year before the end of Henry IV’s reign (possibly 1412) one of the former rebels, Gruffudd ap Dafydd ap Gruffudd, wrote to Lord Grey of Ruthin complaining of Wele’s treachery and deceit in promising him a royal pardon, offices on the Fitzalan estates and a regular fee, but then plotting with Lacon to have him arrested. Since, in Grey’s opinion, Gruffudd was ‘the strengest thiefe of Wales’ and deserved hanging, the actions of Wele and Lacon had some justification. Lacon served on no royal commissions during Henry IV’s reign, although he was often a juror at sessions of the peace in Shropshire. His first return to Parliament coincided with the earl of Arundel’s appointment as treasurer of the Exchequer by the new King, Henry V; and he was accompanied to Westminster by his wife’s kinsman, Robert Corbet, another esquire in the earl’s service, and David Holbache (representing Shrewsbury). While Parliament was in session these three and Holbache’s fellow Member, Urian St. Pierre, stood surety for one Matthew ap Meredith.3
Lacon figured prominently in the indictments brought before the King’s bench sitting at Shrewsbury in the summer of 1414, along with Wele, the Corbet brothers and others of the Arundel ‘connexion’. Among the charges made against him and Wele in particular was that on 17 June 1409, during the subjugation of Wales, they had shut the gates of ‘Shrewsbury’ (more probably Oswestry) against John Talbot, Lord Furnival, and refused supplies for his force of 200 men on their way to Carnarvon. Their numerous other alleged offences included homicide, theft, assault, breach of the Statutes of Livery and the granting of safe conducts to partisans of Owen Glendower. In one indictment Lacon was described as captain of Clun castle (another Fitzalan stronghold), and in a petition to the chancellor the prior of Wenlock alleged that he had taken the tithes of churches at Clun and elsewhere and usurped his rights of presentation, and that, furthermore, he had attacked the prior’s servants and destroyed a mill, having no regard for the King’s peace and making war with bands of mounted Welshmen. In this petition the prior may well have been alluding to a purported raid made on Much Wenlock by Lacon and the rest with 2,000 men, fully armed and dramatically riding in with ‘clarions and trumpets’. The prior had sought remedy from the earl of Arundel, but the earl naturally supported his own men: when they came for trial at Westminster that autumn he provided bail, and no doubt he was also instrumental in securing their royal pardons. Lacon was returned to Parliament again in November.4
In May 1415 Earl Thomas named Lacon among the feoffees of his considerable estates in Surrey and Sussex so that they might be entailed before he embarked with Henry V’s expedition to Normandy. Lacon enlisted as an esquire in the earl’s retinue, and took part in the siege of Harfleur and, most likely, also in the battle of Agincourt. He was knighted before the end of October, when a fellow member of Arundel’s retinue, John Burley I, named him as an executor of his will. The death of Earl Thomas, from dysentery contracted at Harfleur, left Lacon without a patron, although he continued to be employed at Oswestry (serving as steward there between 1422 and 1425), perhaps on the authority of the earl’s widow. It was only after Arundel’s death, however, that Lacon began to be appointed to royal offices. On 1 Dec. 1415 he became sheriff of Shropshire, and the King later allowed him £40 laid to his account, in consideration of his losses while discharging his duties. Sir Richard now widened his acquaintance among the titled nobility of Shropshire, witnessing transactions for Hugh, Lord Burnell, and, in 1417, providing bail for Richard, Lord Strange, then a prisoner in the Tower. On other occasions he acted as a mainpernor in Chancery and the Exchequer for various members of the Shropshire gentry, notably on behalf of George Hawkstone*. In February 1419 he took out royal letters of protection as returning to France, this time in Henry V’s own retinue, accompanied by his old friend John Wele and his own ‘leech’. Lacon was back in England for a brief visit a year later, during which he stood surety for another prisoner in the Tower, Sir John Mortimer, and entered into recognizances for 400 marks that John Over, the constable of the former Fitzalan castle of Chirk, would loyally hold it for the King. On 8 Feb. 1420, however, he entered another contract to serve in France for the year beginning in April, with a contingent of five men-at-arms and 45 mounted archers. Wele joined the same company.5
After Henry V’s death Lacon returned home to Shropshire, only to put his experience of warfare to other uses. In the Parliament of 1422 Richard Hankford† and his wife Elizabeth, the Fitzwaryn heiress, alleged that on the night of 13 Nov. Lacon and William Fitzwaryn at the head of a large armed band of Welshmen, had scaled the walls of Whittington castle and taken it ‘as if in war’. The two were threatened with attainder should they fail to make amends. Yet Sir Richard was elected to the following Parliament, and then, after a gap of eight years, to two more, in the meantime attending the Shropshire elections of 1426. He later witnessed the electoral indentures of 1432, 1437 and 1442.6 During this period he continued to be occasionally associated with Lord Strange, but more important were his links with John, Lord Talbot (afterwards earl of Shrewsbury), with whom, their earlier clashes forgotten, he came to be on amicable terms. In 1424 he witnessed a conveyance to Talbot; in 1428 the two men were cofeoffees of the manor of Leighton; in September 1434 the receiver of Talbot’s lordship of Blackmere rode to ‘Lacon’s place’ with 19 horses on the business of his lord’s son, Sir Christopher†; in 1435 Lacon and his second wife made a quitclaim to Lord Talbot and his sons of property in Bridgnorth; and some time in 1438 he and Talbot’s receiver-general, Richard Legett, were in Shrewsbury together, drinking wine at the borough’s expense. Five years later Sir Richard, by now one of the earl of Shrewsbury’s councillors, witnessed an important enfeoffment of Blackmere and other Talbot estates. The earl’s son and heir was subsequently made a feoffee of the Lacon estates by the shire knight’s eldest son, another Richard, who was probably the ‘Lacon’ killed by his own servant in 1452 while taking the part of the countess of Shrewsbury in her quarrel with the Berkeleys.