REMPSTON, Sir Thomas II (d.1458), of Rempstone and Bingham, Notts.
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Family and Education
s. and h. of Sir Thomas Rempston I*. m. by c.1418, Alice (b.c.1395), da. and h. of Thomas Bekering (d. 31 Aug. 1425) of Tuxford and Laxton, by Isabel, sis. and coh. of Sir John Lowdham (d.s.p. Aug. 1390) of Lowdham, 3da. Kntd. 8 Apr. 1413.1
Commr. to take securities, Notts. July 1413; of inquiry Apr. 1416 (illegal fishing in the Trent), Feb. 1450 (riots and disorder), Notts., Derbys. July 1454 (illegal fishing); to raise a royal loan, Notts. Sept. 1449; of kiddles July 1454.
Sheriff, Flints. and constable of Flint castle 4 Feb. 1417-d.2
Capt. of Bellencombre castle 12 Feb. 1419-c.1450, Meulan castle 22 Nov. 1419-aft. Dec. 1421, Argentan castle from c.1423, St. Jacques de Beuvron castle c.1428-1435.3
Chamberlain to John, duke of Bedford, in France by 1424-1435.4
Lt. of Calais by 15 Nov. 1437-9 Feb. 1439.5
Ambassador to treat for a truce with envoys from Holland and Zeeland 23 Nov. 1438.6
Seneschal, Gascony bef. 9 Apr. 1440-14 July 1442.7
J.p. Notts. 20 Mar. 1449-d.
Collector of a tax, Notts. Aug. 1450.
One of the leading military commanders of his day, Rempston dedicated his career, as his father had done before him, to the service of the house of Lancaster. With the exception of the ancestral estates at Rempston, almost all the property which descended to him on the death of Sir Thomas the elder in 1406 had been purchased out of the fruits of royal patronage, and it is thus hardly surprising that he kept up the same loyal attachment. The survival of his mother, the redoubtable Margaret Rempston, until 1454 deprived him of part of his inheritance in the manors of Bingham and Clipstone in Nottinghamshire and Hopewell in Derbyshire, as well as of other sizeable holdings in the two counties, but he could still rely on a comfortable landed income. It is unlikely that he came of age much before the accession of Henry V, who bestowed a knighthood upon him on the eve of his coronation. That he stood well with the new King may be inferred from his return to the first Parliament of the reign, which met a few weeks later at Westminster. In July 1413 he was appointed by the Crown to take securities for good behaviour from Sir John Burton II* and Sir Ralph (the future Lord) Cromwell, who were then being sued for assault by Thomas Annesley. Since Rempston was actually helping Annesley to prosecute his appeal, he no doubt discharged his duties with relish. Indeed, it is interesting to note that in July 1416 he assumed the wardship of the estates and person of Annesley’s next heir, who was still a minor. Rempston had, meanwhile, obtained his first taste of warfare overseas, fighting with a personal retinue of eight men-at-arms and 24 archers in King Henry’s first invasion of France. He came back to England with the royal army and again took his seat in the Commons in March 1416, but for part of the year he evidently performed garrison duty at Harfleur, as some of his men were accused of desertion and thrown into prison. The autumn was spent on his Nottinghamshire estates, helping Sir John Assheton II* to arbitrate in a serious property dispute (which involved Sir William Meryng*, and had probably been referred to them on the recommendation of Parliament), although the opportunity for further military conquests abroad led him to take up arms again in the following year, this time for a longer period.8
Sir Thomas left England with the royal army in July 1417, returned briefly at the beginning of 1418, perhaps on official business, and spent the next two years campaigning with the King across Normandy. He took part in the triumphant entry of the English into Paris in December 1420, having by then been rewarded with the captaincy of the enemy castles of Bellencombre and Meulan. While abroad he twice agreed to act as a trustee for Sir Robert Plumpton*, his kinsman and comrade-in-arms, who died in battle not long afterwards. A trusted member of the royal bodyguard, Rempston accompanied King Henry when he sailed to England in 1421 for the coronation of his queen, Katherine de Valois. Like his royal master, however, he was anxious to return to the theatre of war, and when the fleet embarked again for France in May 1421 he and his retinue of 40 soldiers were on board.9 On the death of Henry V in the following year the direction of military operations was assumed by his younger brother, John duke of Bedford, who, recognizing Rempston’s ability as a soldier, soon retained him as a member of his council and chamberlain of his household. He may already have been in office when, in about 1423, he became captain of the important stronghold of Argentan; and not long afterwards Bedford dispatched him with a force of 400 men to assist the Burgundians in their reduction of Compiègne, Oisy and finally Guise, which fell in August 1424 after a protracted siege. Having spent some time in Paris, Rempston took part in the earl of Suffolk’s expedition into Brittany, capturing quantities of booty and establishing himself at St. Jacques de Beuvron, where he scored a notable victory over the constable of France himself. Towards the end of 1427 Rempston’s associate, the influential civil lawyer, John Eascourt (who had served with him on Bedford’s council), died, leaving him ‘unum ciphum deauratum de forma et opere Paris’ as a memento of their friendship. The following year marked a determined new offensive by the English, and in May Rempston was present at the recapture of Le Mans by John, Lord Talbot. He and his three sworn brothers-in-arms ( Sir John Popham†, Sir William Oldhall* and William Glendale), who shared the profits of ransoms and other spoils of war, became involved in a dispute with Talbot over the custody of certain valuable prisoners. The case, which proved unusually complex, was referred to the parlement of Paris in August, but a dramatic reversal of fortune on the part of all concerned soon brought the proceedings to a halt. Bedford’s main objective in 1428 had been the capture of Orléans, although after a long siege the English (including Rempston with a sizeable retinue of his own men) were driven to withdraw by a relieving force under the spirited command of Joan of Arc. Worse was to follow, for the French, emboldened by their unlooked-for success, marched against Beaugenci, which was then occupied by the enemy. Together with Sir John Fastolf, Rempston led a small army to assist the garrison, and was eventually joined there by Lord Talbot and other English commanders who had recently suffered yet another defeat in the field. Once again thwarted in their aims, they decided to cut their losses and return to Paris, with the victorious French hot in pursuit. Whereas Fastolf favoured a retreat, the rest of his comrades argued that pitched battle was the only honourable course of action. The odds were hopelessly against them, and in the ensuing rout at Patay on 18 June 1429 most of them fell into the hands of the French.10
By this date Rempston was the owner of impressive holdings on both sides of the Channel. In France he had been rewarded with land in Caen, the Côtentin, Alençon, Maine and Gacé, which, together with the other profits of war, made him a wealthy man. His assets at home had, furthermore, been greatly augmented by an extremely lucrative marriage to Alice, the only child of Thomas Bekering and his wife, Isabel, who was herself heir to a third of the Lowdham estates. On her father’s death in 1425 Alice gained possession of major properties in Walton and Brimington in Derbyshire, Tunford, Laxton, Bilsthorpe and Lowdham in Nottinghamshire Honington, Winterton and Marton in Lincolnshire, Catworth in Huntingdonshire and Farnborough and Avon Dassett in Warwickshire.11 At a conservative estimate these produced at least £50 a year, but despite the welcome increase in his rent-roll, Rempston still found it extremely difficult to raise even half the punitive ransom of 30,000 écus (about £5,000) demanded by the French. In November 1432, his brother, William, his mother, the earl of Suffolk and other members of his circle entered into a recognizance worth 1,750 marks with Sir William Phelip* presumably in an attempt either to borrow part of the money or else to arrange an exchange of prisoners. Matters cannot have progressed very far, as in the following May the royal council met to consider the problem of Rempston’s lengthy sojourn ‘in hard prisone in France’; and it was agreed that one of Lord Fanhope’s French captives should be allowed to return home in order to negotiate his release. The necessary letters of safe conduct were still being drafted in November 1434, when the earl of Suffolk and Rempston’s other friends encountered fresh difficulties. Guillaume Botiller, the Frenchman who had been selected for the task, was already acting as a hostage for the payment of an even heavier ransom due for Charles, duke of Orléans, and the executors of the late duke of Exeter, who laid claim to a share of this prize, refused to let him leave England. Suffolk was thus obliged to offer further indemnities to all the parties involved, and although the government promised a contribution of 1,000 marks in consideration of Rempston’s past services, delays and evasions at the Exchequer forced his family into a desperate position. Two petitions concerning their plight were presented before the Parliament of 1435, but despite the royal council’s readiness to comply with demands for Botiller’s release and the provision of immediate financial assistance, it was not until December 1437 that any money was actually handed over.12
Rempston’s imprisonment lasted for at least seven years and left him heavily burdened with debts, such as a loan of £180 which his friend, Sir Henry Pierrepont*, helped him to raise from a London draper. He returned to England in, or just before, July 1436, while some of his ransom was still outstanding, and began to resume the life and activities of a country gentleman. His duties as sheriff and constable of Flint, which he had discharged for many years through a deputy, evidently claimed some of his attention, for he stood bail on various occasions on behalf of local men. He was also much in demand as a witness and trustee, most notably on the part of Sir Robert Plumpton’s son and heir, Sir William†, who conveyed to him all his extensive estates in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire.13 News of a proposed attack by the Burgundians on Guînes threw the government on to a war footing in November 1437, and Rempston was brought out of his temporary retirement to act as lieutenant of Calais. In view of his long captivity and consequent absence from the field of operations, the choice was perhaps not altogether fortunate, although in the event Calais was spared an outright attack. On his assumption of office an assignment of 1,000 marks was made to Rempston, but his pay soon fell into arrears, and by September 1438 at least £400 remained owing to him. The circumstances of his removal from the lieutenancy a few months later suggest that he may have been driven to commit some financial malpractice to redress this situation (which, coming as it did so soon after his ransom, must have left him virtually bankrupt), since on 9 Feb. 1439 he was committed as a prisoner to Windsor castle until further notice.14 He seems, however, to have escaped serious punishment, being freed by the following June, when he enlisted for service in France under the banner of John, earl of Huntingdon. As Henry VI’s lieutenant in Guyenne, Huntingdon employed several members of his retinue in positions of responsibility, and Rempston became seneschal of Gascony. He took part in the siege of Tartas in January 1441, but was once again taken prisoner by the French during an engagement at Saint Sever in the following year. Less is known about his second period of incarceration, which appears to have been quite lengthy, and undoubtedly added even further to his heavy burden of debt.15
Rempston’s last years appear comparatively uneventful in comparison with the dramatic successes and reversals of his time overseas. From 1449 onwards he served regularly as a royal commissioner and j.p., and in 1450 Henry VI made him one of the temporary custodians of the Calais march. In other respects, however, his life was now generally free from incident, and although he acted briefly as warder of the duke of Exeter during his imprisonment at Pontefract in 1454, he managed to avoid the political upheavals which occurred during this period. Indeed, he was at last able to achieve a measure of financial stability, since the death of his wife’s aunt, Margaret, the widow of Sir John Lowdham, in May 1451, brought him a third share in her dower properties in Nottinghamshire; and that of his mother, three years later, finally released the manor of Arnold and other holdings settled upon her at the beginning of the century by her husband.16 Sir Thomas himself died on 15 Oct. 1458, having until shortly before been involved, with his brother, in a dispute with Sir Thomas Chaworth* over money due to their late father, their tenacity in the affair being clearly due to an urgent need for cash. He was buried ‘under a fair alabaster tomb, whereon lay the effigies of himself and his wife’ in the chancel of Bingham church, the living of which he had farmed for some years from his kinsman, George Plumpton. Since his wife predeceased him, all their property was shared, after his death, between their three daughters, Elizabeth (wife of John Cheyne†), Isabel (wife of Sir Brian Stapleton†) and Margaret (who married Sir Richard Bingham). The reluctance of Rempston’s feoffees to relinquish part of his estates led to protracted litigation in the court of Chancery, and it was some time before each of the claimants was satisfied.17
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. C115/K2/6682, f. 63v; Coll. Top. et Gen. i. 344-5; C139/23/25, 152/7, 171/14.
- 2. DKR, xxxvii (2), 616.
- 3. DKR, xli. 730, 807; xlii. 431, 433; Eng. Suits Parlement of Paris (Cam. Soc. ser. 4, xxvi), 302; Letters and Pprs. Illust. Wars of English in France ed. Stevenson, ii (2), 434.
- 4. J.H. Wylie, Hen. V, i. 23; Eng. Suits. Parlement of Paris, 302; Letters and Pprs. Illust. Wars of English in France, ii (2), 434.
- 5. Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, ii. 291-4.
- 6. Ibid. 294.
- 7. M.G.A. Vale, Eng. Gascony, 245; Co