MEYNELL, Sir William (d.c.1405), of Yeaveley, Derbys.
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Family and Education
Sir William’s elder brother, Ralph, was about 14 years old when their father died in 1376, leaving estates in Leicestershire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Derbyshire. Their widowed mother, Joan, was fortunate enough to acquire Ralph’s wardship and marriage for a payment of 100 marks at the Exchequer, and thus gain control of that part of the family estates which was not already in her hands, either as a jointure or by way of dower. Although his father had made more than ample provision for him in the long term, the four manors of Yeaveley, Kingsley (Staffordshire) and Upton and Burton Overy (Leicestershire), which constituted Sir William’s share of the inheritance, had been settled for life upon his mother, and it was therefore not until she died, in May 1398, that he took possession of them. He must, however, have acquired some property of his own by then, perhaps through marriage, as in 1397 he presented to the living at Monyash in Derbyshire.2
Evidently of age by August 1387, Meynell obtained a royal pardon for murdering one Richard ‘de Belle’ at some point in the previous year. His elder brother died not long afterwards, and although his mother continued to occupy virtually all the Meynell estates during the minority of Ralph’s four young daughters, Sir William became titular head of the family. This probably explains why he was returned to the House of Commons, for his career was not otherwise distinguished in any way, and he had no experience of local government. Indeed, hardly anything is known about him during this period, save that he acted as a mainpernor for Sir John Littlebury when, in 1395, the latter became farmer of the lands of the alien abbey of Bégard. The death of Joan Meynell three years later marked a turning point in Sir William’s fortunes, since he not only entered the property which had been settled on him in reversion so long before, but also secured for himself the custody of his late brother’s estates. On this occasion Littlebury reciprocated the service which Sir William had performed for him previously, offering guarantees that he would pay the rent of £9 10s.p.a. demanded by the Crown. Another of his securities was the Derbyshire lawyer, Peter de la Pole*, so he evidently kept up a fairly influential circle of friends. Unlike the great majority of local landowners, however, Sir William had no apparent connexion with the duchy of Lancaster. Indeed, whereas most of his neighbours threw in their lot with Henry of Bolingbroke when he returned from exile in 1399 to claim his confiscated inheritance, Meynell was actually then in Ireland as a member of Richard II’s unsuccessful expedition. His sympathy with the court party may also account, in part at least, for his Membership of the second Parliament of 1397, since it was there that the King revenged himself against his enemies, the Lords Appellant of 1388. Sir William’s service in Ireland earned him a second royal pardon, accorded in July, as a result of an outlawry which he had incurred when being sued for a debt of £22 by the London skinner, Adam Turk.3
Sir William died in about 1405, by which date one of his nieces had married, as her second husband, the influential Staffordshire landowner, Roger Bradshaw*, while two others were daughters-in-law of Sir William Dethick*. Once news of his death reached Westminster proceedings for the recovery of arrears of rent due at the Exchequer from the estates he had held in wardship were begun against his mainpernors. The case was, however, soon abandoned after Sir John Littlebury managed to obtain a writ of supersedeas. Meynell left at least one son, Gerard, a lawyer, who represented Derbyshire in the Parliaments of 1429 and 1435.