REMPSTON, Sir Thomas I (d.1406), of Rempstone, Notts.
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Family and Education
prob. s. of John Rempston of Rempstone. m. Margaret (d. 21 Apr. 1454), da. of Sir Simon Leek† of Leake, Notts., wid. of Sir Godfrey Foljambe (1367-88) of Ockbrook, Derbys., at least 3s. inc. Sir Thomas II*. Kntd. by Jan. 1384; KG 21 May 1400.1
Sheriff, Notts. and Derbys. 7 Nov. 1393-11 Nov. 1394.
Commr. to make arrests, Notts., Derbys. Feb. 1394, Devon Dec. 1401, Leics. Apr. 1406; of inquiry, Northants. Jan. 1397 (disorder at Stanford), Glos. Feb. 1400 (usurpation of franchises by the abbot of Cirencester), Warws. Feb. 1402 (murder at Coventry), Notts. Oct. 1402 (bridge repairs), Notts., Leics. Mar. 1406 (desertions to northern rebels), Leics., Notts., Derbys. June 1406 (evasions and concealments); oyer and terminer, London, Mdx. Jan. 1400 (treasons), Derbys. Jan. 1406 (attack on Sir Thomas Chaworth’s* estates at Alfreton); to recruit workmen to repair Nottingham castle Feb. 1402; settle a dispute between the burgesses of Nottingham and Derby May 1402; prevent the spread of treasonous rumours, Notts., Derbys. May 1402; of array, Leics. Aug. 1402, generally Nov. 1403, Leics., Notts., Derbys. May 1405; to raise royal loans, Leics., Notts., Derbys., Warws. June 1406.
Steward of the duchy of Lancaster honour of Leicester bef. Feb. 1399-Mich. 1400, Castle Donington, Leics. and all the duchy estates in Leics., Warws., Northants., Beds., Bucks., Hunts. 13 July 1401-d.2
Constable of the Tower of London 31 Aug. 1399-d.
Steward of the household of Henry IV 15 Oct. 1399-Feb. 1401.3
Constable of Nottingham castle and steward of Sherwood forest, Notts. 4 Aug. 1400-d.
Admiral of the west 20 Apr. 1401-5 Nov. 1403.
Conservator of the truce with France 22 July 1401, 1 July, 1 Nov. 1402, 28 Apr. 1403; ambassador to negotiate Henry IV’s marriage with Joan of Navarre, 25 Oct. 1402-4 Feb. 1403; negotiate a truce with France 27 July 1403; examine breaches of the truce 18 Mar. 1404.4
Keeper of the temporalities of the archbishopric of York 8 June-8 Aug. 1405.
One of the most prominent—and highly favoured—supporters of the Lancastrian regime in the early 15th century, Rempston owed his success and influence to a longstanding connexion with Henry of Bolingbroke; and it was this, rather than wealth or privilege, which brought him high office and political power. Although of great antiquity, his family was not particularly affluent, its estates being confined to the Rempstone area of Nottinghamshire. He had evidently entered his inheritance by 1381, when he first sat in Parliament; and at some point over the next three years he received a knighthood. At the beginning of 1384 he was serving on the Scottish border in the company of Walter, Lord Fitzwalter, but before long he had enlisted under the banner of John of Gaunt, whom he accompanied to Spain on his ill-fated attempt to secure for himself the throne of Castile. In June 1386, not long before the fleet sailed from Plymouth, he gave evidence on behalf of Richard, Lord Scrope, in his dispute with Sir Robert Grosvenor over the right to carry the same coat of arms; and from then on his attachment to the house of Lancaster continued unshaken until his death. His friendship with Gaunt’s son, Henry of Bolingbroke, evidently developed at this time, and led the latter to secure a royal pardon for one of his servants who had been found guilty of murder. Needless to say, Rempston was closely involved in Bolingbroke’s plans for a crusading venture against the Lithuanians; and in August 1390 their small private army landed at Danzig to join up with a larger force of Teutonic Knights. As Bolingbroke’s standard-bearer during the expedition he received a reward of £10, but at some point between December 1390 and the following February he and one of his companions, Sir John Clifton*, were captured by King Wladislas of Poland and thrown into prison. John of Gaunt’s timely intervention evidently secured their release; and both men were back in England by February 1392, when they acted together as trustees.5
While sitting as Member for Nottinghamshire in the 1393 Parliament, Rempston offered substantial sureties for Thomas Foljambe*, who was then embroiled in a major feud with several local landowners. Just about his first act as sheriff, in the following year, was to arrest one of these men, and it seems likely that his interest in the affairs of the Foljambes was by then as much personal as official. His marriage to Margaret, the widow of Sir Godfrey Foljambe, and sister to Sir John Leek*, not only brought him the manor of Ockbrook in Derbyshire (which constituted her dower), but also strengthened even further his ties with the house of Lancaster, since both the Leeks and the Foljambes were committed supporters of Gaunt and his son. In October 1396 Rempston was present in Bolingbroke’s retinue at Calais for the negotiations which subsequently resulted in Richard II’s marriage to Isabella, the daughter of Charles VI of France; and over the next year he put in regular appearances at Court. Bolingbroke then still appeared to enjoy every mark of royal favour, which probably explains why Rempston was returned to both Parliaments of 1397, although it was in the second of these assemblies that Richard began to take action against the Lords Appellant of 1388, who had numbered Bolingbroke among their ranks. Despite the fact that the latter was now promoted duke of Hereford and seemed at first to have escaped unscathed, he none the less still found himself in a highly equivocal position so far as the King was concerned. In point of fact, Richard was simply waiting for a suitable moment to strike, and his patience was amply rewarded when, at the end of the year during the parliamentary recess, Bolingbroke quarrelled with his former co-Appellant, the duke of Norfolk. This gave the King a heaven-sent opportunity to treat them both as traitors and, eventually, to have them sentenced to exile. Norfolk was banished for life and Bolingbroke at first for ten years, but later, following the death of his father (in February 1399), his exile was made permanent too. Even worse, at least in the eyes of the landowning classes, was Richard’s decision to break an earlier promise by depriving him of the succession to the duchy of Lancaster. Thus, although he had shrewdly procured for himself a royal pardon, Rempston still chose to throw in his lot with the unfortunate Bolingbroke, whom he accompanied to France as one of a small but devoted band of retainers. King Richard’s sequestration of the Lancastrian inheritance had deprived him of an annuity of £20 and at least one duchy stewardship, so he readily assisted Bolingbroke’s plans for a return to England; and in June 1399 he was party to secret negotiations in Paris with the duke of Orleans which led to a pact of mutual support. King Richard’s departure for Ireland left the way clear for Bolingbroke to take action. He landed at Ravenspur in July, attracted a formidable body of supporters, and by late August had taken Richard prisoner at Flint. Just three days before his arrival in London he appointed Rempston, one of his most trusted followers, constable of the Tower, thus making him responsible for the safeguard of the royal captive both before and after his abdication. He was, indeed, called upon to witness Richard’s formal renunciation of the throne, in favour of his now triumphant patron.6
The Lancastrian coup d’état was followed by a general redistribution of offices, fees and honours which made Rempston one of the most influential commoners in England. In addition to the constableship of the Tower, he occupied first the important post of steward of the royal household, and then served for two years as admiral of the west, in which capacity he escorted Henry IV’s bride, Joan of Navarre, to England from Brittany. His close relationship with the King, no less than his wide experience of life overseas, made him particularly valuable as an ambassador; and he travelled abroad on a number of diplomatic missions. On one such embassy, made to Brittany in 1402 to negotiate the royal marriage, he was attended by a retinue of almost 100 at a cost of over £336, part of which sum remained unpaid for some time. Yet he certainly did not lack the means to sustain these heavy expenses. By then his various fees and annuities, many of which were assigned from the revenues of the duchy of Lancaster, came to just over £200 p.a.; and he was also the recipient of such other marks of royal favour as election to the Order of the Garter, a life interest in the constableship of Nottingham castle, and the grant of the farm of part of the Mowbray estates during the minority of the young Earl Marshal. (The award to him of the manor of Crick in Northamptonshire proved of short duration, however, as Sir William Bagot* managed to establish a superior title at law.) Gifts of wine and handsome presents likewise came his way from time to time, and in 1400 King Henry actually set up a royal commission to undertake the repair of his manor-house at Rempstone. Needless to say, he was summoned to great councils as a matter of course, attending sessions in 1401, 1403, 1404 and 1405.7
Because of his involvement in government business it is often difficult to establish which of Rempston’s myriad financial transactions concerned him as a private individual. The ‘divers travails and expenses in the King’s court’ which the executors of the London vintner, William More I*, caused him in 1405 were, for example, the result of long-term borrowing on the part of the royal household; and he was often called upon to provide securities for such officers of the Crown as William Merwe, the master of the Mint. He seems to have been particularly friendly with Thomas Tutbury, the keeper of the Wardrobe (who had served as treasurer to John of Gaunt, and had taken part with Rempston in the Prussian expedition of 1390), since besides acting with him as custodian of the confiscated estates which Henry IV intended to use for the support of the household, he also twice guaranteed his reliability as a farmer of royal property. Not surprisingly, Rempston was much sought after by those who wished to secure an influential friend at Court. Maud, countess of Oxford, whose unsuccessful conspiracy of 1402 brought her before the King’s bench three years later on a charge of treason, persuaded him to stand bail on her behalf, and was duly released from custody. Nor was she the only member of the nobility to seek his help: William, Lord Zouche of Harringworth, employed him as a trustee, and Thomas Mowbray, the Earl Marshal, who paid him an annuity of 66s.8d., engaged his services as an attorney for the transfer of property. Rempston also maintained cordial relations with the Church. In 1403, for instance, he acted as a parliamentary proxy for John Burghill, bishop of Coventry and Lichfield; and, in the following year, he obtained a papal indult for the use of a portable altar.8
Thanks to the generosity of his royal patron, Rempston was able to enlarge his own fairly modest patrimony, acquiring for himself and his heirs the Nottinghamshire manors of Bingham and Clipstone, together with extensive appurtenances in the surrounding countryside. The late King Richard had, in fact, been a trustee of these estates, but because he was by then a prisoner at Pontefract, a special fine was engrossed in November 1399 whereby he released his title to Sir Thomas. Some years later, the widowed Margaret Rempston made further additions to the Bingham properties, although her aggressive policy of expansion in the area led to protracted disputes with neighbouring landlords, tenacious of their rights.9 Rempston also bought the manors of Hopewell in Derbyshire and Etton in Northamptonshire, the second of which was sold to him in about 1405 by Hugh Northborough, his colleague in the second Parliament of 1397. His property transactions in Nottinghamshire were often undertaken in conjunction with his wife’s younger brother, William Leek*, whom he employed regularly as a trustee. His dealings with the Leek family in general seem to have been fairly close, for, together with Sir John, Simon* and William, he was involved in a series of complex transactions following the sale of the manor of Brant Broughton in Lincolnshire by Sir Richard Waldegrave*. Another party to these conveyances was his fellow courtier, (Sir) Roger Leche*, whom he actually engaged as an attorney, in 1402, when suing William Adderley* at the Derby assizes.10
According to a now unsubstantiated tradition, Rempston fell into the hands of the French in 1406 while escorting Henry IV across the Thames estuary from Sheppey to Leigh. It seems more than likely, however, that this story is the result of confusion by later chronicles between Sir Thomas and his son and namesake, the distinguished soldier, who was taken prisoner at least twice during his colourful career. At all events, he was engaged in government business during the summer of that year; and on 27 Sept. he acted as godfather for Thomas, the second son and eventual heir of William, Lord Roos. Rempston died one month later, on 31 Oct., as a result of a tragic accident for which he was largely to blame. The boatmen who were to row him down the Thames from Paul’s Wharf to the Tower at first refused to pass under London Bridge at high tide because of the dangerous currents, but he drew his sword and forced them to take to their oars. Sure enough, the vessel collided with one of the piles of the bridge, capsized and threw all hands into the river. Rempston was drowned, and the coroner who viewed his body pronounced him responsible through his impetuosity for the disaster.11 He left at least three sons, Sir Thomas, who succeeded to the family estates, Robert and William. The latter (then aged nine) was destined for the Church, and as early as 1411 he received a papal indult allowing him to hold a benefice with cure of souls. The widowed Margaret Rempston retained an impressive jointure which, in Nottinghamshire alone, produced at least £60 a year. A formidable dowager much given to litigation, she survived until 1454, by which date she had extended her holdings there even further to include the manor of Arnold as well. She was buried beside her husband in the parish church of Bingham, a living occupied by their youngest son for several years. It was, however, at Rempstone that she endowed a chantry, where prayers were to be said for the late Sir Thomas and his chief benefactor, Henry IV.12
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Rampston, Remeston, Remmeston, Remston.
- 1. R. Thoroton, Notts. ed. Throsby, i. 60; Test. Ebor. ii. 224-5; Plumpton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. iv), p. xxviii; CPL, vi. 213, 215; C139/152/7; E101/39/38; G.F. Beltz, Mems. Order of the Garter, p. clvi.
- 2. DL42/15, f. 35; Somerville, Duchy, i. 375, 563.
- 3. Bull. IHR, xxxi. 87.
- 4. Foedera ed. Rymer (Hague edn.) iv (1), 17, 44, 46, 50-51; Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, ii. 181-2; Letters Hen. IV ed. Hingeston, i. 215; E364/39 m. B.
- 5. Thoroton, i. 60; E101/39/38; CPR, 1388-92, p. 7; Scrope v. Grosvenor, ii. 199; Derby’s Expeds. (Cam. Soc. n.s. lii), 106, 131, 304; Dip. Corresp. Ric. II (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, xlvi