LITTON, Sir Robert (d.c.1415), of Wennington, Essex.
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Family and Education
m. bef. Feb. 1400, Maud (d. bef. Mich. 1409), da. and h. of Sir Thomas Charnels† of Swepstone, Leics. by Maud, da. and coh. of Sir Henry Garnett† (d.1345) of Wennington, wid. of Laurence Trussell (d.1399) of Berks., ?1ch. Kntd. bef. Sept. 1403.
Controller of the household of Henry of Bolingbroke when both earl of Derby and King by Oct. 1396-bef. May 1401.
J.p. Essex 16 May 1401-Feb. 1407.
Commr. of array, Essex Aug.-Nov. 1403, July 1405; oyer and terminer Oct. 1404; to assess contributions to a subsidy Jan. 1412.
This MP’s antecedents are obscure, though his family may have come from Litton near Tideswell in Derbyshire. The most important factor in his career was his connexion with Henry of Bolingbroke, which dated from the summer of 1390 when, as a valet of Bolingbroke’s chamber, he embarked with him on his expedition to Prussia. They wintered at Konigsberg (where Litton was given livery of a fur coat) and returned home in April 1391. In the following year he accompanied his lord on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, travelling via Prussia, Bohemia and Venice and returning home in June 1393, having visited Cyprus, Rhodes and France. By 1396 Litton had risen in Henry’s employ to become controller of his household, and it is quite likely that he went with him into exile in 1398.1 For a year or so after Bolingbroke’s accession to the throne Litton remained at his post in the Household, receiving, as reward for loyal service, grants of a moiety of the castle and manor of Bolsover (Derbyshire) and an annuity of £6 13s.4d. from the duchy of Lancaster estate at Daventry (Northamptonshire), both grants being for life. He accompanied the King on his expedition into Scotland in the summer of 1400, but it may be that the task of running a royal, as opposed to a comital, establishment proved too much for him, for he relinquished the controllership a few months later. Litton’s assumption of knighthood during the summer of 1403 may point to participation in the battle of Shrewsbury.2
In 1399, or early 1400, Litton had acquired property in Essex as the outcome of his marriage to Maud Charnels. From her mother Maud had inherited the manor of Wennington and lands in Aveley and Rainham, of which she had come into full possession after the deaths of Sir John Gildesburgh* and his widow (whose interest dated from the time of Gildesburgh’s marriage to her aunt). It was these landed holdings which enabled Litton to secure election to Parliament as a knight of the shire. His somewhat limited service on royal commissions and as a j.p. centred on Essex too. But Maud also held the manors of Bilton, Warwickshire, and Elmesthorpe, Leicestershire, as inherited from her father; and after her death (some time in or before 1409) Litton’s right to retain the Charnels manor of Swepstone, also in Leicestershire, was challenged by his stepson, (Sir) William Trussell*.3 The properties in Essex which he continued to hold, presumably ‘by the courtesy’, were estimated to be worth £36 13s.4d. in 1412, when he also had premises in London, valued at £17 6s.8d. p.a., and the estate at Bolsover, at £20. Seven years previously he had been granted at the Exchequer a lease of the other moiety of Bolsover, for which, however, he was required to render an annual rent of £18.4 Despite his comparatively high income (some £74), and his important position at Henry IV’s court, Litton was rarely asked to act as a mainpernor, witness or feoffee. No more than two of his acquaintances are worth mentioning: Alice Perrers, the former mistress of Edward III and widow of William, Lord Windsor, who in 1400 named him as an executor of her will; and John Blaket*, a prominent ‘King’s esquire’ for whom, in 1405, he stood surety at the Exchequer.5
Litton was confirmed in his possession of Bolsover by Henry V, and he headed the list of electors of Essex recorded on the indenture for Henry’s first Parliament in 1413. But he was not appointed to any commissions in the new reign, and died shortly before April 1415.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. Derby’s Expeds. (Cam. Soc. n.s. lii), 112, 125, 129, 135, 140, 194, 202, 268, 269, 271; DL28/1/9 ff. 2, 17; 10 ff. 31, 32, 35.
- 2. CPR, 1399-1401, p. 141; DL28/27/1; Cal. Signet Letters ed. Kirby, 8; Cal. Scots. Docs. (supp.) v. no. 4612.
- 3. Peds. Plea Rolls ed. Wrottesley, 185, 266; CIPM, viii. 577; P. Morant, Essex, i. 85; Essex Feet of Fines, vii. 182-3; J. Nichols, Leics. iii. 1049; Warws. Feet of Fines (Dugdale Soc. xviii), no. 2382.
- 4. Feudal Aids, vi. 414, 438; Arch. Jnl. xliv. 60; CFR, xiii. 20.
- 5. Test. Vetusta ed. Nicolas, i. 153; CFR, xii. 316.
- 6. CPR, 1413-16, p. 76; CFR, xiv. 107; C219/11/1.