MERYNG, Sir William (d.1449), of Meering, Notts.
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Family and Education
s. and h. of Alexander Meryng (fl. 1418) of Meering by his w. Agnes (fl. 1409). m. (1) Millicent (d.1419), da. of John Bekering, wid. of Nicholas Burdon* (d.1403) and John Markham (d.1409) j.c.p. of Markham, Notts. at least 1s. William†; (2) Alice (fl. 1449). Kntd. by June 1417.1
Commr. of array, Rouen Aug., Oct., Nov., Dec. 1418, Evreux Mar. 1419, Mantes June, July (bis) 1419, Pontoise Aug. 1419, Bosquevillers Aug. 1419, Gisors Sept. 1419;2 kiddles, Yorks., Notts., Lincs. June 1440; to distribute a tax rebate, Notts. Mar. 1442; raise a royal loan Notts., Derbys. June 1446.
J.p. Notts. 16 July-Nov. 1432, 27 Nov. 1443-Mar. 1449.
Sheriff, Notts. and Derbys. 5 Nov. 1432-3, 3 Nov. 1438-5 Nov. 1439.
Collector of a tax, Notts. Jan. 1436.
This MP’s ancestors are known to have lived at Meering from the reign of Henry II if not before; and both his uncle, Francis, who was escheator of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire in 1397, and his father, Alexander, were actively involved in the business of local government. William himself is first mentioned in January 1408, when he obtained a grant for life from the Crown of dead wood in the forest of Galtres in Yorkshire with which to make charcoal. In the following year his parents conveyed to him a reversionary interest in the land at Radcliffe-on-Trent (Nottinghamshire) which constituted the inheritance of his younger brother, Thomas. His father’s legal affairs were at this time in a somewhat confused state as a result of a protracted dispute with John Tuxford and his wife over property in the Nottinghamshire manor of Little Markham. The Tuxfords had enlisted the support of Sir Richard Stanhope*, one of the most powerful landowners in the area, so in retaliation Alexander and William called upon Sir John Zouche* and Sir John Leek* to help them. Violence was narrowly averted after an abortive ‘love-day’, held in August 1411; and it was only through the timely intervention of William, Lord Roos, that both parties were forced to seek a more peaceful solution. Most of the chief protagonists, including William, were subsequently indicted for various crimes arising from the general mobilization of forces, although the majority secured royal pardons. Meanwhile, in October 1412 the Meryngs offered joint securities of 500 marks to abide the award of Lord Roos and two eminent judges, but all attempts at mediation proved useless, and two years later a special assize had to be arraigned to determine the ownership of the estate, again without much hope of success. However, a grant of royal letters patent in November 1416 permitted an equal division between the rival claimants, clearly in accordance with the terms of another arbitration award by Sir John Assheton II* and Sir Thomas Rempston II* (this time under mutual guarantees of 200 marks and upon the urging of Parliament). Eventually, at the beginning of 1418, a final agreement was reached whereby the Tuxfords entailed their half of the premises upon William and his heirs in the event of a failure of their own issue.3
Although his father lived on for some years, in possession of estates worth at least £22 p.a. in Nottinghamshire alone, William had already become a figure of consequence in his own right. In February 1410 he acted as a mainpernor in Chancery on behalf of a Nottinghamshire man who was being sued for debt; and three years later he and Alexander together attested the return for Nottinghamshire to the first Parliament of Henry V’s reign. If evidence later presented against him by the Londoner, Thomas Cressy, is to be believed, Meryng once again showed his contempt for the law, this time without the restraining influence of Lord Roos. He was accused in the court of Chancery of twice recruiting a large force of armed retainers and ‘famuliers’, in December 1414 and October 1416 respectively, in order to aid and abet two of Cressy’s kinsmen in their violent assaults upon the manor of Kingshaugh. The ease with which Meryng managed to escape justice probably owed a good deal to his position at Court, for we are told that he performed ‘good service’ to Henry IV and his successors. He was, indeed, a member of Henry V’s personal retinue during the latter’s first invasion of France in 1415 (although he had to wait no less than 14 years before the Crown redeemed the jewels worth £8 18s.9d. which it had then offered as security for the payment of part of his wages).4 Meryng had been knighted by the time that King Henry began to prepare his second expedition to Normandy in the summer of 1417; and in June he received letters of protection and general attorney preparatory to his departure with the royal fleet. He took part in the siege of Rouen late in 1418, and was present with the King at Mantes during the following summer, marching with him to take possession first of Pontoise and then Gisors. He may, however, have returned to England soon afterwards, as the death of his first wife, Millicent (and probably that of his father, too), occurred at about this date. Through her he had gained control not only of part of the Bekering estates in Nottinghamshire, which she inherited from her father, but also the dower lands which had come her way as a result of her two previous marriages to Nicholas Burdon and the judge, John Markham. Sadly for Meryng, her death deprived him of all rights of ownership over the latter, although he was probably still obliged to spend some time supervising the administration of her effects. He was certainly at home on his manor of Meering in August 1420, when he set out for Southampton to escort Arthur of Brittany, who was then a prisoner of war, over to France for a meeting with the King at Melun. Roughly one third of his expenses (which totalled almost £44) remained unpaid for several months, and Meryng may well have used the opportunity presented by his first return to Parliament in May 1421 to press for satisfaction. The outstanding sum was allocated to him during the course of the session, although his interest in financial affairs clearly went far beyond the personal. One of the main items of business dealt with by the Commons was the underwriting of all the debts contracted by King Henry while mounting yet another expedition to France; and, since Meryng himself was a member of the royal army, we may confidently assume that he gave his unequivocal support to this display of generosity. He clearly planned to return to the theatre of war, as in about 1422 he appeared on a list of English captains entitled to share in the ransoms paid by French captives, but the death of his royal master at Bois de Vincennes in August of that year evidently marked the end of his military career.5
Sir William attended the Nottinghamshire parliamentary elections of 1423 and 1429, being himself returned as a shire knight for the second time in 1425. Little else is known about him during this period, and it was not until 1432 that he became seriously interested in local administration. He then began to serve as a j.p., although his initial term on the Nottinghamshire bench was cut short by his appointment as sheriff. Not long afterwards he stood surety at the Exchequer for John Pigot, who had been entrusted with the shrievalty of Lincolnshire. Naturally enough, in view of his social position, Sir William was included in the list of Nottinghamshire notables who were to take the general oath of May 1434 that they would not support any disturbers of the peace. The award to him of a royal pardon three years later was, none the less, probably little more than a formality, because he was again made sheriff in 1438 and also began to discharge various royal commissions. By 1442, if not long before, he had achieved the rank of King’s knight, his previous loyal service (which, as we have already seen, dated back to the reign of Henry IV) being then rewarded with a gift of two tuns of wine a year for the rest of his life. The Commons, among whom he was sitting for the third and last time, were still in session when this grant was made, although in 1445 its terms were changed to include his son, William, who had by then himself become one of Henry IV’s esquires and the holder of a reversionary title to the constableship of Lincoln castle. Sir William, too, maintained interests in Lincolnshire, having been awarded joint custody of two manors there, in May 1447, until the question of their ownership could be decided.6
Sir William drew up his will in July 1449, and probably died soon afterwards. To his second wife, Agnes, who survived him, he left all his lands in the Nottinghamshire villages of Sutton, Laxton, Kirton, Leverton and Beckingham to hold for life, while at the same time conceding that if his son were reluctant to assign her dower out of the manor of Meering she would have to take ‘Skarlehouse’ instead. The task of supervising the will fell to William Meryng the younger, who, like his father, eventually represented Nottinghamshire in Parliament.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. CP25(1)186/37/30, 38/4; DKR, xliv. 627; Mon. Brasses ed. Mill Stephenson, 395; Test. Ebor. iv. 179n.
- 2. DKR, xli. 715, 717, 718, 720, 797; xlii. 314, 321-4, 326.
- 3. R. Thoroton, Notts. ed. Throsby, i. 370-2; CP25(1)186/37/30, 38/4; KB9/204/2 mm. 6-7; CPR, 1405-8, p. 395; 1408-13, pp. 431-2; 1416-22, pp. 54-55; CCR, 1409-13, p. 397; 1413-19, pp. 50-52, 373-4; E. Powell, Kingship, Law and Society, 226-7.
- 4. C1/6/41; C219/11/2; E101/407/10; E179/159/48; E404/31/370; CCR, 1409-13, p. 86; DKR, xlii. 568; N.H. Nicolas, Agincourt, 382; CPR, 1441-6, p. 56.
- 5. E364/54 m. C; E404/37/96, 97; DKR, xl