RIVER, Sir Henry de la (d.c.1400), of Tormarton, Glos.
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Family and Education
prob. s. of Sir John de la River of Tormarton by his w. Margaret. m. (1) 1s.; (2) between Jan. and Oct. 1385, Constance (d.c.1419), wid. of Sir Henry Percy† of Great Chalfield, Wilts., John Percy of Little Chalfield and Sir Philip Fitzwaryn†. Kntd. by Mar. 1384.
Tax collector, Glos. May 1384.
J.p. Glos. 15 July 1389-June 1390, 24 Dec. 1390-July 1397.
Sheriff, Glos. 21 Oct. 1391-18 Oct. 1392, 3 Nov. 1399-10 July 1400.
Commr. of oyer and terminer, Glos. Mar. 1394, May 1400; inquiry July 1396 (assault), Nov. 1398 (intimidation of a jury), Feb. 1400 (offences committed by the abbot of Cirencester), May 1400 (trespasses); weirs June 1398.
Sir Henry’s branch of the de la River family came into possession of Tormarton before 1253, when Henry III granted Richard de la River and his heirs a charter permitting them to hold weekly markets and annual fairs there. Their estates suffered forfeiture as a result of rebellion against Edward II, but were restored under Edward III. The landed holdings of Sir John de la River (Henry’s putative father) also included the manors of Acton Turville and Littleton (in Gloucestershire), Westrop and Hampton by Cricklade, together with land in Great Chelworth (in Wiltshire) and Worminghall (in Buckinghamshire) besides property at Woolwich on the Thames estuary. But by no means all of these passed to our MP, for Sir John made his uncle’s widow and children a gift of Hampton and Westrop, sold Worminghall and the Woolwich premises, and depleted the Gloucestershire estates through his ambitious foundation of an exceptionally large chantry (an establishment of ten chaplains) at Tormarton.1
De la River came of age before 1384 and inherited Tormarton not long afterwards. In 1398 he obtained royal confirmation of the charters granted to his ancestor in Henry III’s time. Through his second marriage, to the thrice-widowed Constance, he acquired other landed holdings in Wiltshire, which she occupied as dower. If the prejudiced account given by the compiler of the Tropenell cartulary is to be believed, Constance had led an interesting life before her marriage to de la River. She, ‘born to no lond, neither to none armes’, had been ’bedfelaw and cosyne to Maister Robert Wayvile, bishoppe of Salisbury’ (1330-75), the latter being the alleged father of her son, Robert. She was, moreover, said to have driven her first husband, Sir Henry Percy, away on pilgrimage to Jerusalem and to his death at Cologne because of ‘the naughty lyf [she] lyved in’, not just with Wayvile but also with others un-named. That this scandal was no deterrent to three more husbands, who included a younger son of Fulk, Lord Fitzwaryn, may be attributed to the lady’s personal charms or else to the dower she brought with her, which comprised the manors of Great Chalfield and Atworth Cottles in Wiltshire, and Folke in Dorset, altogether worth at least £30 a year.2
De la River was knighted, possibly for military service overseas, before the spring of 1384. His participation in local administration, including some eight years as a j.p. and two terms as sheriff, was restricted to Gloucestershire, the county he represented in his only Parliament, in 1394. Save for a single appearance at the Exchequer in 1397 (to act as surety for Sir John Devereux* and his wife) and his presence as a witness to deeds on behalf of such prominent local landowners as Sir John Roches*, the former admiral, his career was apparently uneventful. The fact that he procured a royal pardon in September 1398, may indicate no more than that he considered it sensible to insure against prosecution in the uneasy political climate of the time. However, he was clearly acceptable to the Lancastrians, for Henry IV appointed him as sheriff of Gloucestershire in November 1399. His replacement on 10 July 1400, before the end of his term, may suggest that he had died in office.