MORTIMER, Hugh (d.1416), of Weldon, Northants.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

Sept. 1397

Family and Education

s. of Sir Thomas Mortimer1 by his w. Sarah. m. (1) Margaret,2 1s. (prob. d.v.p.), 1da.; (2) between Aug. 1409 and Feb. 1410, Isabel (c.1382-4 Sept. 1442), er. da. and coh. of John Frome* of Buckingham, Bucks. and Woodlands, Dorset, wid of Bernard Missenden of Great Missenden, Bucks.

Offices Held

Commr. of arrest, Lincs. Jan. 1400; sewers Aug. 1408; oyer and terminer, Herts. Nov. 1409, Beds. Nov. 1414; to examine indictments, Northants. Nov. 1409; of inquiry, Beds., Bucks. Jan. 1414 (lollards); to govern the marches of Wales, Herefs., Glos. June 1415.

Constable of Cardigan castle by Dec. 1402-26 Oct. 1403, Mich. 1408-9.3

Chamberlain to Henry, prince of Wales, by June 1403-aft. Sept. 1411.

Ambassador to France 5 Oct.-c. Dec. 1406, 11 June-July 1407, Aug.-?Oct. 1408, 15 May-aft. Sept. 1409, Burgundy 1 Sept.-c. Nov. 1411, France 28 Jan.-Mar. Burgundy 4 June-c. July 1414, c. Mar. 1416.

J.p. Northants. 30 Oct. 1409-Feb. 1412, Worcs. 16 Feb. 1410-d., Bucks. 18 Feb. 1412-d.

Chamberlain, duchy of Lancaster 10 Apr. 1413-d.4

Treasurer of the Exchequer 10 Jan.-17 Apr. 1416.

Justice, Queen Joan’s forest of Rockingham 26 Feb. 1416-d.

Biography

The family background of Hugh Mortimer, who was to become a friend and counsellor of Henry of Manmouth and an important figure in diplomatic negotiations with France and Burgundy under Henry IV and Henry V, is surprisingly obscure, and the names of his parents are known only from his will. There is no doubt, however, that his branch of the family was closely connected with the Despensers, and the first known record of Hugh dates from March 1375 when he and his brother, Michael, were mustered for service in Brittany in the retinue of the then Lord Despenser, Edward. This lord, who died before the end of the year, clearly made a deep impression on young Mortimer, who in his will drafted 40 years later to ask to be buried near his tomb. It is unclear whether the next 20 years in the employment of the young heir, Thomas, but certainly on 10 Sept. 1394 he took out royal letters of protection as going to Ireland in his retinue. Mortimer then nominated Sir William Burcester* and Stephen Makesey as his attorneys at home, which same two men stood surety for him in May in May 1396 when he secured at the Exchequer custody of land in Redmarley D’Abitot (on the borders of Worcestershire and Gloucestershire). About this time Lord Despenser granted Mortimer for term of his life an annual rent of £40 from the manors of Thorley and Wellow on the Isle of Wight. There can be little doubt that it was Despenser’s local influence in Gloucestershire which secured his retainer’s election to the politically crucial Parliament of 1397-8, where his colleage was John Browning, similarly a newcomer to the Commons, who like him had been one of Despenser’s company in Ireland three years previously. During the first session Despenser, along with seven of his peers, all suborned by the King, appealed of treason the Lords Appellant of 1387-8, and was rewarded for his support with the earldom of Gloucester. Clearly, the presence of his followers in the Commons may well have helped to ease the passage of Richard II’s measures against his enemies. Although he himself would appear to have had little to fear, as a precaution against prosecution Mortimer, described as ‘of Northamptonshire alias of Worcestershire’, took out a royal pardon in June 1398. Four months later Despenser named him as a feoffee of certain of his estates, and in April 1399 he appointed him to act as his attorney during his absence with the King in Ireland.5

Mortimer’s whereabouts in January 1400 at the time of his lord’s rebellion against Henry IV are not recorded, but his appointment to a royal commission in Lincolnshire that same month indicates that he had somehow avoided implication in the plot. Perhaps he had prudently severed his connexions with Despenser in the previous autumn. Certainly, before very long he entered the service of the prince of Wales, and rapidly gained his confidence and friendship. In the summer of 1402 he was acting as a messenger on the prince’s behalf, and later the same year he was appointed by him as constable of Cardigan castle. Naturally, he became closely involved in the suppression of Owen Glendower’s revolt, and the summer of 1403 saw him in association with Sir John Stanley, the steward of the prince’s household, riding between Shrewsbury and Chester to organize the raising of the siege of Harlech. At this time, as a member of the prince’s council and chamberlain of his household, Mortimer had a major role to play in the preparations for battle; indeed he himself fought at Shrewsbury (like his namesake Sir Hugh Mortimer of Chelmarsh, who died there), and a commission issued in the following month (August) authorized him to pardon repentant rebels in the train of the defeated Sir Henry Percy (‘Hotspur’). Mortimer probably remained the prince’s chamberlain until Henry’s accession to the throne, and stayed close to him throughout this period unless calls were made on him by the government requiring his services elsewhere. At some unknown date Henry awarded him a handsome annuity of £60.6

The first of Mortimer’s several diplomatic missions took him to the French court in October 1406, with instructions to treat for peace on the basis of a marriage between Prince Henry and a daughter of Charles VI. Perhaps as a reward for his careful handling of negotiations on this occasion, in the following March the prince granted him substantial estates in Anglesey, forfeited by a rebel, and although these were returned to the pardoned man later it was not long before Mortimer received compensation in other ways. Among his colleagues at this time was (Sir) Roger Leche* who, being about to march into Wales with the prince’s army in June that year, committed his moveable goods to Mortimer and others for safe-keeping. He himself was about to depart on another embassy to France, where an armistice was agreed on 28 July, and in December he was among those instructed to treat with the French ambassadors when they came to England. Clearly, it was in the diplomatic rather than the military spheres that Mortimer excelled: Henry IV made use of his talents again in a 1408 and 1409, and he spent long periods in France engaged in protracted discussions for a permanent peace, intended to be cemented by the prince of Wales’s marriage to a French princess. He was well rewarded for his efforts: in October 1407 he had shared a lease of the substantial estates belonging to Lire abbey in England and Wales (including the priories of Carlsbrooke, Wareham and Hinckley); in 1408 he had been granted two wardships; and in 1409 he received a gift of £150 over and above the normal wages payable for his mission overseas.7

In addition, Mortimer was now offered an important marriage: that of Mary, the daughter and heir of Thomas Pever of Toddington, Bedfordshire, and widow of John, son and heir of John Broughton*, and of Richard, 5th Lord Saint Maur. The latter had died in January 1409 and on 20 Apr. royal licence was granted for Mary to marry Mortimer. However, their nuptuals were postponed until Mary, who was pregnant, had been delivered of her child, and she died giving birth to a daughter, Alice, on 24 July. Two days later Mortimer and his brother, Thomas, were granted ‘of the King’s more abundant grace’ custody of the baby’s inheritance, the extensive Saint Maur estates, on condition that they paid the sum at which these had been valued (about £215 a year) initially to the King’s son, Thomas of Lancaster, and then (after July 1412) to John Norbury*. Furthermore, on 11 Aug. Mortimer was granted the ward’s marriage.8 While there was evidently room to profit from the Saint Maur estates (the actual issues almost certainly exceeded the extent), Mortimer’s expectations of great wealth had been dashed. However, shortly afterwards he married instead Isabel Frome, one of the daughters of a former councillor to Henry IV, thus acquiring the properties she had inherited at Buckingham together with the dower estates elsewhere in Buckinghamshire which she held as the widow of Bernard Missenden. What is more, on their marriage the prince of Wales gave the couple an exceedingly generous gift for term of Mortimer’s life, consisting of the castle and manor of Mere, Wiltshire, and holdings at Fordington, Dorset, and Weldon and Little Weldon, Northamptonshire, then valued at the large sum of £171 6s.8d. a year. Now a substantial landowner, Mortimer seems to have lived mainly in Northamptonshire, although in his daughter 1411 he settled one of his manors there (Weston by Welland) on his daughter, Margaret, and John, son of Sir Thomas Aylesbury*, whom she was about to marry. He also held property in and near Droitwich in Worcestershire, but the background to his title is obscure.9

Mortimer continued to serve Henry IV’s government primarily in diplomatic enterprises. In September 1411 he was sent on embassy with Thomas, earl of Arundel, to treat once more about Prince Henry’s marriage, only this time it was for an alliance with one of the daughters of John, duke of Burgundy. He was with Arundel’s army when it joined up with the duke’s at Arras in October. Back home, in December Mortimer obtained a joint wardship of part of the castle and lordship of Coity and also of three manors in Glamorgan, once held by a tenant of the late Lord Despenser. Naturally, when Henry of Monmouth acceded to the throne in March 1413 major offices came Mortimer’s way, most important among them being the chamberlainship of the duchy of Lancaster. He already had some experience of administration of the duchy, having served on its council in the few months preceding Henry IV’s death, and now he formed close attachments with other duchy officers: for instance, in association with Sir Roger Leche, now chief steward north of the Trent, in July he was named in a distinguished group authorized to undertake the reform of Combermere abbey. The lease of the Lire abbey estates was now re-granted to him together with his son, Constantine, and a close friend, William Ingram, clerk, and he retained it until May 1415. Further marks of royal favour included a wardship in Northamptonshire and the joint keepership of the alien priories of Clatford and Abergavenny. The question of the King’s marriage had still not been settled, and now assumed an even greater international importance. Consequently, in January 1414 Mortimer was dispatched to France with Henry, Lord Scrope, for further negotiations for the hand of Princess Katherine, and in June these two and Thomas Chaucer* (for whom at one time Mortimer acted as a feoffee) were empowered to be the King’s proctors in accepting as his bride one of the duke of Burgundy’s daughters, at the same time concluding a league with the duke and receiving his formal homage as Henry V’s vassal. These were essential preliminaries before Henry’s invasion of France in the summer of 1415. Mortimer himself evidently took no part in the expedition, for on 16 June he was one of those appointed with the earl of Warwick ‘to conserve and govern’ the Welsh marches and defend them from rebel incursions during the King’s absence. On 22 July, as a chief officer of the duchy of Lancaster, he was naturally a member of the group of eminent figures appointed as trustees of the duchy estates, whose task would be to carry out the provisions expressed in the King’s will should he chance to die abroad.10

Following the deaths in October 1415 of the earl of Arundel and the duke of York, Mortimer shared temporary custody of the estates of the earldom, and a wardship of the late duke’s manor of Wendover in Buckinghamshire. Then, on 10 Jan. following he succeeded Arundel as treasurer of the Exchequer and ex officio member of the King’s Council. It was at this vitally important stage in his career that Mortimer was stricken with illness. He was replaced as treasurer by his colleague Sir Roger Leche on 17 Apr., and as chamberlain of the duchy on 12 May, and it seems likely that he died in the meantime, either on or shortly before 11 May, when Sir Walter Hungerford* was granted Mere castle, which he had held for life.11

Mortimer had made his will a year before, on 18 Apr. 1415, shortly after obtaining papal licences to have his own chapel and a portable altar before which all sacraments save burial might be administered. He asked to be interred in the chapel in Tewkesbury abbey where his first lord, Edward, Lord Despenser, had his tomb, and instructed that the bones of his brother, Michael, and the remains of his parents and first wife be exhumed and transferred there. Two thousand masses were to be provided on the day of his death, 40 torches were to burn at his funeral, and 300 paupers were each to receive 1d. Besides Master William Ingram, Mortimer’s executors included several prominent royal officials: Nicholas Merbury*, John Leventhorpe*, John Wilcotes* and Robert Andrew II*, while the King himself was respectfully asked to oversee their work, with the assistance of Archbishop Henry Chichele and Bishop Thomas Langley of Durham (both of whom were former colleagues of Mortimer’s on royal embassies). The executors were on some other occasion instructed to found a chantry of three priests in Tewkesbury abbey, providing three masses daily. Probate was granted by Chichele on 23 May 1416. Henry V’s appreciation of Mortimer’s services was further expressed by his permitting the widow, Isabel, to retain until her death Fordington, Weldon and Little Weldon, valued at £84 a year. Isabel took as her third husband John Cheyne* of Chenies, and lived on until 1442, when her son by the latter was her heir.12 Mortimer’s only son, Constantine, apparently died before him.

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger

Notes

The MP should not be confused with Sir Hugh Mortimer of Chelmarsh, Salop, and Luton, Beds., who held lands in Magor, Mon., on the other side of the Severn from Glos. Sir Hugh was the yr. s. of Sir Henry Mortimer (d.1369), by Elizabeth, da. and h. of Sir Philip ap Rees of Talgarth, Herefs., and Shifnal, Salop; gds. of Sir Hugh Mortimer† (d.1372), and bro. and h. of William, an idiot, who died in 1391. His patrimony included four manors in Salop and substantial properties in Beds., altogether estimated to be worth over £98 p.a. His mother’s inheritance remained in the possession of her 2nd husband, Sir Adam Peshale* (d.1419). In Aug. 1394 Mortimer went to Ireland in the retinue of the lieut