MELBOURNE, alias FAUCONER, Peter (d.1418), of Melbourne, Derbys.
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Family and Education
e. s. of Amy Melbourne (d.1385) of Melbourne. m. by 1390, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Sir Simon Handesacre (d. by 1374) of Handesacre, Staffs. and Charlton, Worcs. by his w. Isabel. (fl. 1381), wid. of Roger Colman (d.1385) of Staffs., at least 1s.1
Constable of the duchy of Lancaster castle of Melbourne and keeper of parks and woods there 24 Nov. 1376-3 Apr. 1399, 2 Oct. 1399-d.; steward of the lordship of Melbourne 1408-d.2
J.p. Derbys. 15 July 1389-June 1390, 7 Feb. 1408-10.
Chamberlain of the household of Henry, prince of Wales by 13 Dec. 1401.3
Commr. to pardon any associates of Sir Henry Percy (Hotspur) treating for amnesty Aug. 1403;4 of array, Derbys. May 1415.
Melbourne’s lifelong attachment to the house of Lancaster was not simply due to the fact that, like his ancestors before him, he lived in an area where its influence predominated. Family tradition clearly marked him from childhood as a future servant of the dukes of Lancaster, for his mother, Amy, was a leading member of the household of John of Gaunt and his second duchess, Constance, from whom she received many gifts and marks of favour. At the time of his death, in 1360, Gaunt’s father-in-law, Henry of Grosmont, was paying £10 a year to a retainer named Peter Melbourne, who may perhaps have been the MP’s father. It was, however, no doubt at Amy’s request that her son was initially retained by Duke John at a fee of £5 p.a. charged upon the revenues of the lordship of Melbourne. In 1376, however, he surrendered this grant in return for the two offices of constable of Melbourne castle and keeper of the surrounding parks and forests, thus greatly augmenting his personal authority in the area. On his mother’s death, in, or just before, December 1385, he was, moreover, permitted by Gaunt to enjoy the gift of rents worth 66s.8d. from the locality which she had previously held for life.5 At some point over the next five years Melbourne was able to increase his landed income far more dramatically as a result of his marriage to Elizabeth, one of the daughters and coheirs of Sir Simon Handesacre, lord of the manors of Handesacre and Charlton and also owner of property in Repton (Derbyshire), Hardwick (Lincolnshire), Eastington (Yorkshire) and Higham-on-the-Hill (Leicestershire). Her first husband, Roger Colman, had experienced considerable difficulty in securing an acceptable partition of these estates, but after her marriage to such an influential figure as Melbourne Elizabeth’s two sisters were prepared to compromise; and in the spring of 1390 the family inheritance was conveyed to trustees, prior to a new settlement. This seems to have satisfied all three parties, for no more litigation ensued. By 1412, Melbourne could rely upon revenues of £26 p.a. from land in Derbyshire alone, and in all his holdings may have been worth almost twice as much. At about the same time he elected to pay a fine rather than assume the order of knighthood, for which he was more than qualified in every respect.6
A substantial part of Melbourne’s increasing wealth came from the fees paid to him both by John of Gaunt and his son, Henry of Bolingbroke. His association with the latter began at some point before 1390, by which date a separate life annuity of ten marks was assigned to him by Bolingbroke’s receiver-general; and it had obviously grown very close by July 1392, when he sailed for Pomerania as a member of Bolingbroke’s second crusade against the Lithuanians. The marked disinclination of the Teutonic Knights to join forces with this somewhat disorderly expedition led, however, to a change of plan. Having sent most of his followers home, Bolingbroke embarked upon a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, whence he was accompanied (as far as Venice at least) by Melbourne and a few other intimates. Two years later Melbourne received a second grant of ten marks p.a., specifically by way of reward for services rendered to his noble patrons; and their support probably played some part in his election to the Parliament of 1395. We do not know when he started to draw yet another pension of ten marks from the duchy lordship of Daventry in Northamptonshire, but in August 1396 this particular sum was doubled, thus bringing him a total of 45 marks each year in fees alone.7
The political upheavals of the late 1390s threatened to undermine Melbourne’s position, for Bolingbroke’s role as one of the younger Lords Appellant of 1388 marked him down as an enemy to be destroyed by the court party, and inevitably threw suspicion on his supporters. In March 1398, by which date relations between Richard II and Bolingbroke had already cooled dramatically, Melbourne had gone to Westminster to collect part of the royal pension paid to his master; and a few weeks later he felt it expedient to return and sue out royal letters of pardon, specifically as an erstwhile supporter of the Appellants. This was obviously a wise precaution, for Bolingbroke’s exile in the following September and the subsequent confiscation of the entire duchy of Lancaster on Gaunt’s death in February 1399 were matters of grave concern to Melbourne, not least because he had been appointed one of the executors of Gaunt’s will. In the event, Richard II was prepared to confirm the various annuities previously assigned to him out the duchy revenues, albeit on the condition that he surrendered his offices as constable and parker of Melbourne. Although he agreed to accompany the King on his ill-fated expedition to Ireland in the summer of 1399, Melbourne naturally welcomed Bolingbroke’s return and subsequent coup d’état.8 Indeed, he was one of the first to benefit from the Lancastrian usurpation, being restored at once to his former posts and obtaining royal letters of confirmation of two of his former annuities together worth 25 marks. The loss of the others was, however, more than offset by the grant to him of an additional new fee of 100 marks p.a.—followed, in February 1400, by rents of £43 p.a. from three Derbyshire manors recently forfeited by the bishop of Carlisle. Melbourne and his brother Simon, a priest, were, moreover, able to gain permission for the endowment of a chantry in the church of St. Mary Magdalen, Derby, which was dedicated to the souls of the King’s mother, Blanche, duchess of Lancaster, and their own mother, Amy.9
Henry IV was certainly not one to forget the devotion of a former servant, and by December 1401 Melbourne was installed in office as chamberlain of the household of the young prince of Wales. His duties about the person of the prince led to his involvement in the war against the Welsh: in the summer of 1403, for example, he and a personal contingent of nine archers spent four weeks campaigning in North Wales; and in the following year he and Hugh Mortimer* (his successor as chamberlain) held a meeting at Lichfield to discuss plans for the safeguard of Denbigh castle. Prince Henry rewarded him in August 1406 with the gift of two pipes of wine a year for life; and at dates now unknown gave him supplementary fees totalling £40. Within a few days of his coronation, in March 1413, Henry secured these revenues for his old retainer by making a formal assignment upon the fee farms of Coventry and of Newport in Essex, noting that Melbourne had served him assiduously ‘from his youth up’. He was also permitted to farm a fishery in the river Trent at a rent of 32s. a year, again for life, in recognition of his past loyalty.10
Although his long years in attendance upon various members of the house of Lancaster left him comparatively little time for the business of local government, Melbourne did sit for two brief periods on the Derbyshire bench, and was also present at the county elections to the Parliaments of 1411, 1413 (May) and 1414 (Apr.). In June 1414 King Henry appointed him as a custodian of the abbey of Burton-upon-Trent in Staffordshire, with the specific purpose of improving its finances and administration; and in the following year a similar arrangement was made regarding Repton priory. As we have seen, the MP owned estates in this part of Derbyshire, and since he had already been involved in the property transactions of both this house and Darley abbey, he was an ideal candidate for the task.11
Melbourne died shortly before 8 Apr. 1418. He left a son named John, who married a daughter or kinswoman of Sir John Eynesford, for whom, in 1394, Melbourne had acted as a feoffee. The match brought the couple the manor of Westbury in Gloucestershire, although they had to wait until 1422 for complete possession.12
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Melburn, Mellebourne.
- 1. Reg. Gaunt 1379-83, nos. 223, 251; J.C. Cox, Notes on Churches Derbys. iii. 402; CPR, 1396-9, pp. 522-3; 1399-1401, pp. 433-4; 1422-9, pp. 17-18. S. Erdeswyk (Staffs. 231-2) is wrong in his assumption that Sir Simon Handesacre had only one child, Eleanor, as the complex litigation between his three daughters and their husbands after his death shows (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xiii. 150, 169, 174, 179, 185, 186).
- 2. Somerville, Duchy, i. 377, 557, 558; Cam. Misc. xxii. 91.
- 3. DKR, xxxvi. 304.
- 4. Ibid. 502.
- 5. DL42/15 f. iv; G.A. Holmes, Estates of Higher Nobility, 66n; S.K. Walker, ‘John of Gaunt and his retainers, 1361-99’ (Oxf. Univ. D.Phil. thesis, 1986), 7, 234; Reg. Gaunt 1371-5, nos. 694-5, 706, 1124, 1343; 1379-83, nos. 128, 223, 251, 463, 558, 592, 688; Cam. Misc. xxii. 91.
- 6. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xi. 208; xiii. 169, 174, 179, 185, 186; C139/26/50; CCR, 1413-19, p. 208; CFR, xv. 168, 327-8; J.H. Wylie, Hen. IV, iii. 322.
- 7. DL28/3/4 ff. 7, 21v, 34v; DL42/15 ff. iv, 62; Derby’s Expeds. (Cam. Soc. n.s. lii), 266, 275, 277.
- 8. C67/30 m. 3; Issues ed. Devon, 269; CPR, 1396-9, pp. 522-3, 525; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 264; Early Lincoln Wills ed. Gibbons, 100.
- 9. DL28/27/3; DL29/738/11988, 12098, 12100; DL42/15 ff. 6v, 149v; 16 (pt. 1) f. 43, (pt. 3) f. 2, 17 f. 17; SC8/128/6353; CPR, 1399-1401, pp. 195, 433-4.
- 10. DL42/17 f. 1; E101/404/24 f. 5; DKR, xxxvi. 304, 338, 447; CPR, 1413-16, p. 13; CCR, 1413-19, p. 149.
- 11. C219/10/6, 11/2, 3; C143/441/12, 445/13; CPR, 1408-13, p. 197; 1413-16, pp. 186, 393-4; Derbys. Chs. ed. Jeayes, nos. 1980, 1984-5.
- 12. Somerville, i. 558; CCR, 1422-9, p. 6; CPR, 1422-9, pp. 17-18.