PHELIP, Sir John (d.1415), of Kidderminster, Worcs.
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Family and Education
yr. bro. of Sir William Phelip*. m. (1) ? — Botetourt; (2) between Aug. 1407 and May 1409, Maud Harcourt (d.c. Aug. 1414), wid. of Walter Cokesey (d.1407) of Kidderminster; (3) c. Oct. 1414, Alice (c.1404-20 May 1475), da. and h. of Thomas Chaucer* of Ewelme, Oxon., s.p. Kntd. 8 Apr. 1413.
J.p. Worcs. 16 Feb. 1410-d.
Commr. of inquiry, Worcs. July 1413 (misdemeanours of the Burdet family), Jan. 1414 (lollards).
Ambassador to France 14 Dec. 1414-10 Mar. 1415.
Phelip came from a Suffolk family of no very great local importance,1 but the spectacular rise of Sir Thomas Erpingham, his maternal uncle, when Henry of Lancaster became King in 1399, had far-reaching effects on the family fortunes and the careers of both him and his elder brother, William. Erpingham, who had been a retainer of Gaunt and Bolingbroke and had shared the latter’s exile, was immediately appointed constable of Dover castle and warden of the Cinque Ports and later became chamberlain of the Household. One of the greatest beneficiaries from Henry IV’s favour, he used his new influence to further the interests of his nephews: thus, William became a ‘King’s esquire’ with a substantial annuity, and John was found a place in the household of Henry of Monmouth. The two are recorded together with Erpingham in 1401 as co-feoffees of the estates in Essex and Suffolk belonging to Sir Andrew Butler*, who had married their sister. John distinguished himself in Monmouth’s army in the marches of Wales, and in January 1406 he was granted an annuity of 40 marks for life from the prince’s manor of Kirton (Lincolnshire), in lieu of the smaller sum of £10 p.a. he had received from him previously. At the same time he was made a ‘King’s esquire’, with a fee of £20 a year at the Exchequer, and in April he was awarded for life lands worth 4 marks a year forfeited by certain Welsh rebels in the lordship of Newport. (This last grant he was to relinquish two years later to the benefit of the prominent military captain, Sir John Greyndore*.) Phelip remained in the service of both prince and King, receiving further grants from the latter of two tuns of Gascon wine every year for life, and (in 1409) of the farm of the manor of Horstead (Norfolk), parcel of Caen abbey (which last, however, he subsequently surrendered in favour of his uncle Erpingham). During this period Phelip was frequently recorded in association with the more prominent of the prince’s advisors and officers, and it seems clear that he was already one of Monmouth’s intimate circle of friends.2
Nothing is known about Phelip’s first marriage, although his wife may have come from the wealthy Botetourt family. Being a younger son, he could not expect to inherit much land from his parents and, as a consequence, after his first wife’s death he sought a lucrative match. This came his way in about 1409, when he won the hand of Maud Cokesey, the widow of an affluent Worcestershire landowner, who brought him her dower interests not only in that county but also in Buckinghamshire and Cheshire. Ownership of these estates enabled Phelip to become a j.p. in Worcestershire in 1410. The appointment was made while Parliament was in session, and it is quite likely that Phelip was then a Member of the Commons (although the loss of the Worcestershire returns makes this uncertain), for he had been named by Bishop Peverel of Worcester to act there as his proxy, and in January 1410, during the first session, he took out a royal pardon for all trespasses and felonies committed before the previous April. Without doubt the prince of Wales would have welcomed his support in the House at a time when he and his allies, the Beauforts, were strengthening their control over the government. In November 1411 Phelip was serving as a captain in the English army sent by the prince to France under the command of Thomas, earl of Arundel, and after this force had triumphantly succeeded in helping the Burgundians recapture the bridge at St. Cloud, he was specially commended by the French chroniclers. Among Phelip’s private transactions in these years was the acquisition (in January 1413) of a papal licence for a portable altar, and the purchase of the reversion of the manor of West Greenwich (Kent). Those assisting him in the latter business included four lawyers: John Wood I*, Thomas Belne* and John Throckmorton* from Worcestershire, and Thomas Derham* from Norfolk, all of whose careers were to benefit from their association with him.3
The accession to the throne of Phelip’s patron, Prince Henry, in March 1413 was the signal for his sudden rise to prominence: and that he was one of the new King’s personal comrades is confirmed by his monumental brass which records how ‘Henricus Quintus dilexerat hunc ut amicus’. Both he and his brother were knighted on the eve of the coronation, and were promptly made ‘King’s knights’; indeed, Sir John became one of the select group of nine knights of the Chamber. He was elected to Henry’s first Parliament in May, and in the course of the next few months favours were showered upon him. The most important of these was the grant in July of the keeping of the estates of the alien priory of Grovebury in Leighton Buzzard (Bedfordshire) for life rent-free, for these estates were situated in eight counties and were valued as highly as 400 marks a year. Furthermore, Phelip was permitted to travel to France to treat with the abbess of the mother house of Fontévrault for the outright purchase of the same, although this may not have proved necessary, for a year later all alien priory estates were confiscated by the Crown, and the generous royal grant to Phelip was then extended to apply to his issue. Another concession was a licence for Edmund, earl of March, to award him, again for life, certain lands and rents in Bromsgrove and Norton, Worcestershire. Moreover, in November 1413 he and his wife, Maud, and any children they might have, had been granted the remainder (on the death of his uncle Erpingham) of the valuable manors of Wadley and Wicklesham, in Berkshire. Maud died shortly before September 1414, whereupon Phelip was permitted to retain possession of two of her manors in Cheshire, worth £40 p.a., during the minority of his stepson, Hugh Cokesey†.4
It was then that Phelip married Alice, the only daughter of the King’s chief butler, Thomas Chaucer, one of the wealthiest commoners in the country and shortly to be elected Speaker for the fourth time. Alice was still no more than a child, but Chaucer’s feoffees immediately settled on her and her husband the castle and manor of Donnington (Berkshire), along with other substantial holdings in the neighbourhood, while Sir John in his turn arranged that his new wife should have as her jointure the rich Grovebury estate. Together, they subsequently purchased Hatford in Berkshire; and in October 1414 the King generously granted them the reversion of the lease of Minchinhampton (Gloucestershire) after the death of Katherine, wife of (Sir) Roger Leche*, pending which event they were to receive from the Exchequer as much as £100 a year, this being the farm due from the property.5
Phelip’s high social standing at this time is clear from the ease with which he obtained papal indults for all manner of privileges. Henry V considered him a suitable choice for a diplomatic mission, and in December 1414 appointed him to the embassy headed by Bishops Langley and Courtenay to treat for peace with France on the basis of the King’s marriage to a French princess, while always insisting on the restitution of Henry’s right to the French Crown. Such a proviso could only result in renewed hostilities, and after Phelip’s return to England in March 1415 he immediately set about raising a force of 30 men-at-arms and 90 archers to serve in Henry’s army for the invasion of Normandy. At Southampton on 22 July, shortly before embarkation, he was made one of the distinguished group of feoffees of the duchy of Lancaster estates for the fulfilment of the King’s will should he chance to die abroad. Then, following the discovery of the plot against Henry’s life, on 6 Aug. Phelip and his wife were granted the manors of Nedging and Kettlebaston (Suffolk), worth 40 marks a year, as forfeited by one of the conspirators, Henry, Lord Scrope.6 On 20 June, before leaving London, Phelip had made his will. The number and substance of the bequests reveal him to have been a wealthy man, able to leave 40 marks to East Dereham church, Norfolk, 50 marks to each of his stepdaughters (Joyce and Elizabeth Cokesey), £50 to his sister and £100 to a kinsman called Thomas Bresingham. He made handsome provision for his soul’s welfare: 2,000 masses were to be said, and four priests were to pray for him over a period of ten years (receiving stipends from the issues of the Cokesey estates still in his keeping); while to the church where he was to be buried was donated a costly set of vestments (embroidered with the arms of himself and his second wife), a chalice and a mass book. Alice, his wife, was to have, among other items, a covered cup of gold and a gold ewer, while her parents, the Chaucers, were left similarly valuable gifts and £40. Phelip’s executors included his uncle, Sir Thomas Erpingham, his brother, Sir William Phelip, Sir John Rothenhale (then controller of the King’s household), (Sir) Roger Leche (chief steward of the northern estates of the duchy of Lancaster) and the Worcestershire lawyers John Wood I and John Throckmorton. He asked his wife’s kinsman, Thomas Beaufort, earl of Dorset, and John Talbot, Lord Furnival, to supervise their work.7
According to the inscription on Phelip’s brass he fought courageously and well at the siege of Harfleur; but it was there that he fell victim to the flux, and he died on 2 Oct. His body was brought back to England for burial in the middle of the choir in Kidderminster church, next to his second wife.8 He died childless, and his place in Henry V’s affections was to a certain extent taken by his brother, who subsequently became treasurer of the Household. Sir John’s young widow was later married successively to Thomas Montagu, earl of Salisbury (d.1428), and William de la Pole, duke of Suffolk (murdered in 1450), and she survived him by 60 years, eventually dying in 1475.<