STOURTON, John II (1400-62), of Stourton, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. Stourton 19 May 1400, s. and h. of William Stourton*. m. aft. 1413 and bef. 1425, Margery, da. of Sir John Wadham* j.c.p. of Merrifield, Som. by his 2nd w. Joan, 4s. inc. Sir William Wadham†, 2da. Kntd. by Feb. 1431; cr. Baron Stourton of Stourton 13 May 1448.1
Commr. of array, Wilts. June 1421, Jan. 1436, Mar. 1443, Wilts., Som., Dorset Sept. 1457, Wilts., Som. Sept. 1458, Hants, Dorset Feb. 1459, Dorset, Som., Wilts. Dec. 1459, Apr. 1460, Aug. 1461; inquiry, Dorset Aug. 1426 (necromancy), Wilts., Dorset duly 1433 (intrusions, Ivychurch priory), Wilts. Sept. 1440 (arson), Dorset Jan. 1444 (ownership of land), Sept. 1444 (franchises at Gillingham), Hants June 1447 (treason), Calais Apr. 1451 (murder), Devon, Cornw., Som., Dorset, Wilts. Aug. 1455 (insurrection), Dec. 1460 (treason), Som., Dorset July 1461 (felonies), June 1462 (Hungerford estates), Som. Sept. 1462 (Luttrell estates); oyer and terminer, Som. June 1436, London, Mdx., Essex, Kent, Surr. Oct. 1441, London Mar. 1450, south-west Eng., Wales and the marches July 1452, East Anglia, s. Midlands Sept. 1452, Jan. 1453, Wilts. June 1459, Welsh marches Sept. 1461, 26 counties Feb. 1462, Wilts., Som., Dorset May 1462; gaol delivery, Ilchester Feb., Mar. 1438, Old Sarum Nov. 1452, Dorchester Feb. 1462; to take musters, Poole May 1438, of the duke of York’s army May 1441, of the garrison of Calais Sept. 1451; raise royal loans, Wilts. Mar. 1439, Nov. 1440, Mar. 1442, June 1446, Dorset, Wilts. Sept. 1449, Kent Jan. 1452, Wilts., Som., Dorset June 1453, Devon Apr. 1454; treat for payment of subsidies, Wilts. Feb. 1441; distribute tax allowances Aug. 1449, June 1453; raise an income tax, Wilts., Dorset Aug. 1450; assign archers, Wilts. Dec. 1457; distribute compensation for losses at sea, Bristol July 1459, July 1461; of arrest, Som. Sept. 1459, Hants, Oxon., Berks. Dec. 1460, Wilts. July 1461, Hants Nov. 1461, Som., Dorset, Wilts. Jan. 1462; to raise men to relieve Guernsey, May 1461; set watches, Poole Jan. 1462.
Sheriff, Wilts. 12 Dec. 1426-7 Nov. 1427, 5 Nov. 1433-3 Nov. 1434, 7 Nov. 1437-3 Nov. 1438, Som. and Dorset 4 Nov. 1428-10 Feb. 1430, Glos. 5 Nov. 1432-3, 5 Nov. 1439-4 Nov. 1441.
J.p. Wilts. 5 Dec. 1427-d., Som. 27 Mar. 1453-d., Dorset 14 July 1461-d.
Tax assessor, Dorset Jan. 1436.
Member of the King’s Council 13 Nov. 1437-c. Nov. 1460.
Ambassador to treat with France and Burgundy May-Oct. 1439, Burgundy Jan., Aug. 1451.
Dep. constable of England July 1440.
Treasurer of the King’s household 15 Nov. 1446-27 Mar. 1453
Surveyor of the royal parks, forests and chases, Wilts. 17 Mar. 1447-d.
Jt. governor of Ivychurch priory, Wilts. 13 Nov. 1447-c.1452.
Lt. of Calais 2 Apr. Sept. 1451; capt. of Rysbank Apr. 1450-c. Feb. 1455.
Jt. keeper of the seas Mar. 1454-July 1455.
Parlty. cttees. on Calais and Berwick-upon-Tweed July 1455, Calais 1461.
Trier of parliamentary petitions 1461.
During John’s minority the wardship of his estates was placed in the hands of his father’s executors: Sir William Hankford, c.j.KB, and his uncle, John Stourton I* of Preston Plucknett. It was no doubt these two who arranged his marriage to a daughter of Hankford’s former colleague on the judiciary, Sir John Wadham. John proved his age on 1 July 1421 and duly obtained seisin of his patrimony in Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset and Essex. He had already served on his first royal commission, and was to enter the House of Commons for the first time only five months later. His uncle, sitting at the same time for Somerset, no doubt familiarized him with parliamentary procedure.2 That Stourton was elected to Parliament so young may be attributed to the size of his inheritance, which in 1412 had been estimated to be worth £200 a year. To these estates were added, in 1429, the bulk of the substantial landed holdings of his maternal grandfather Sir John Moigne; and in 1436 he admitted to receiving an annual income of £600 from land and annuities. By the time of his death he was in possession of over 20 manors in 11 counties, as well as property in London, and Fulham Hall in Middlesex.3
During the early years of his career, John was frequently associated with his uncle, in particular with regard to leases issued at the Exchequer, and when John senior made his will in 1438 he received from him a psalter which had once belonged to his father, as well as vestments and ornaments for his chapel. It was in accordance with his uncle’s instructions that he subsequently conveyed the manor of Thorn Coffin to Stavordale priory. Other close associates in his youth included his brother-in-law, William Carent* of Toomer, and John Hody*, the future chief justice. The record of his royal commissions and shrievalties over the 20 years after he attained his majority is some indication of his growing influence in the localities, and in 1434 his name appeared second only to the sons of Sir Walter (now Lord) Hungerford*, on the list of those gentry of Wiltshire required to take the oath to keep the laws against maintenance. Stourton attended the Wiltshire elections to the Parliaments of 1422, 1426, 1433, 1435, 1442 and 1447, in the meantime representing that county in two more Parliaments and Dorset in one.4
Stourton soon came to the attention of the royal council of regency, which in June 1428 granted him a licence to turn 1,000 acres of land into a park at his seat in Wiltshire. His subsequent preferment may have owed something to the then treasurer of England, Lord Hungerford, on whose behalf he was to be involved in many business transactions as a feoffee of estates and a witness to deeds. On 18 Feb. 1430 Stourton was retained to serve in the war in France with a modest personal contingent of three men-at-arms and 12 mounted archers, and thus provided part of the large entourage which accompanied the young King across the Channel for his coronation in Paris. It may even have been in the course of the celebrations that he was knighted. He was overseas again in the summer of 1436 on the defence of Calais, this time with a much larger following of five men-at-arms and 112 archers.5 He had appeared in the minutes of the Council in February that year, as being asked to contribute £40 towards the war-effort. On 10 Apr. 1437 he was nominated to go on an embassy to treat with the French (although it seems unlikely that negotiations ever took place), and in October he was present at a great council at Sheen. Then, on 13 Nov., King Henry formally appointed him to be one of his regular councillors, with a salary of £40 a year for life. Stourton was now of sufficient standing to take over from the earl of Suffolk custody of the duke of Orleans, a prisoner of war since Agincourt, who had become an important pawn in Anglo-French diplomacy. Sir John kept charge of the duke at Stourton from 9 July 1438 until 8 May following, when, having been appointed one of the commissioners to negotiate with the French and Burgundians, he escorted his prisoner to Calais, where he continued to be responsible for him throughout the envoys’ protracted stay. After their return on 13 Oct. Orléans remained at Stourton until 10 Feb. 1440, a few months before his release.6 Stourton clearly owed much for his position at Court to the Beauforts, whose most senior member, Cardinal Beaufort, had headed the embassy to Calais. In the previous year he had held the muster of the army of the cardinal’s nephew, Edmund, earl of Dorset, before its departure for France, and ‘de sa grand naturesse et propre vouloir’ had made a loan of £20 to help finance the expedition. Sir John’s connexion with the Beauforts was strengthened by the marriage of his cousin, Margaret Beauchamp (daughter of his aunt Edith), to Dorset’s elder brother, John, duke of Somerset, and in July 1443, shortly before his death, the duke named him as one of the trustees of his estates for the execution of his will and for the performance of entails.7
During the 1440s Stourton’s political importance steadily increased. In September 1440 he was one of the nine men suggested as suitable councillors for the duke of York in the latter’s capacity as King’s lieutenant in France, and two months later he was instructed to go to Thomas Courtenay, earl of Devon, to take from him a recognizance in 2,000 marks as guarantee that he would keep the peace towards Sir William Bonville II*. He had recently obtained confirmation of a charter of Henry III, relating to rights in the New Forest, and in May following he was granted another, permitting him to make deer-leaps in his park at Stourton, to hold a yearly fair, and to have free warren in all his demesnes there. After his promotion as treasurer of the Household, he naturally became involved in the desperate measures undertaken to deal with the crisis in the royal finances. He was a member of a group of five men, including the chancellor and the treasurer of the Exchequer, who, in July 1447, were granted for five years all wardships, escheats, forfeitures and fines due to the Crown, the revenues from which were to be used to meet household expenses, and in the same month he alone was granted, from the customs, £5,000 for the same purpose. Meanwhile, in March he had been awarded in tail the decayed castle of Old Sarum and the office of surveyor of the royal parks in Wiltshire, and in September his estate in the bailiwick of the bedelry of Somerset on the western side of the river Parret was formally ratified. Sir John was now moving among the highest in the land, and his status was given weight by his creation in May 1448 as Lord Stourton. In order to help him maintain this new dignity, Henry VI bestowed on him all the crown lands within Grovely forest, Wiltshire, together with other properties in Somerset and Dorset.8
Stourton often attended council meetings, but only on one occasion was his opinion recorded: at a session at Winchester in the summer of 1449 he held that before any attempt was made to relieve Guyenne it was essential to establish law and order at home in England. As treasurer of the Household he had to work in close association with the chamberlain, William de la Pole, duke of Suffolk, and outside their official duties the two men also acted together as co-feoffees of certain premises in Bristol. Even so, Stourton does not seem to have been particularly friendly with the duke, and although his name figured in some of the popular rhymes issued in criticism of the government at the time of Cade’s rebellion, he did not share the opprobrium heaped on Suffolk and his allies. For a time, by Act of Resumption passed in the Parliament of November 1449, Stourton lost the lands given to him with the barony, but his letters patent were renewed in March 1451. He had in the meantime encountered ‘great charges’ while serving in Calais and, furthermore, had made the King a gift of the manor of Brixton Deverill, so that it might form part of the endowment of King’s college, Cambridge.9
Stourton’s military service in Calais had followed after his appointment in April 1450, for a period of five years, as one of the wardens there. In fact, effective responsibility for Calais lay with him, as lieutenant of the town and captain of Rysbank, and with Ralph Lord Sudeley, as captain of the castle of Calais. Their tenure of office lasted until Edmund, duke of Somerset, took over the latter captaincy in September 1451, although Rysbank may have remained in Stourton’s keeping until 1455. At Calais in January 1451 he had been assigned to treat with the Burgundians concerning an infraction of the truce, and in August he negotiated with the same regarding sums of money due to the merchants of the Staple. His efforts in raising loans in Kent to help support the garrison won him a reward of £20 a few months later.10
Despite his connexions with the Beauforts, Stourton seems to have avoided becoming overtly partizan in the quarrels between the duke of Somerset and Richard, duke of York. In February 1452 he was among those sent by the King to Duke Richard and the earl of Devon, commanding them to desist from rebellion, and his replacement as treasurer of the Household in March 1453 did not prevent him continuing to be a councillor throughout the period of the King’s mental illness and during York’s first protectorate. In March 1454 he was a member of the delegation sent to Windsor by Parliament to ascertain whether the King might be fit for affairs of State, and in the following month he appeared among the prelates and Lords appointed to invest Henry’s son, Edward, as prince of Wales and earl of Chester. During the same Parliament, having been formally given joint responsibility for naval defence, he indented to serve in this capacity for three years (although in the event he was discharged after just one). York’s protectorate came to an end early in 1455 and Stourton was present at the Council in February when the King ordered Somerset’s release from the Tower. He was a trustee of the duke’s estates in Dorset, and a co-feoffee with him of property in Salisbury, and it may have been for this reason that he was chosen a month later to be an arbitrator in the vain attempt to settle by peaceful compromise the differences between him and York. There is no record that he took any part in the battle of St. Albans, where Somerset lost his life. In the Parliament which assembled in July following he sat on committees nominated to discuss the problems associated with the strongholds of Calais and Berwick-upon-Tweed, and along with other members of the House of Lords he took an oath of allegiance to Henry VI. In the November session he was one of the eight noblemen who negotiated with the duke of York concerning the terms of his second protectorate.11
After January 1456 Stourton attended few Council meetings, and it would appear that his connexions with such staunch Lancastrians as Leo, Lord Welles (the husband of his cousin Margaret, dowager duchess of Somerset), and Robert, Lord Hungerford, failed to persuade him to lend whole-hearted support to the party growing up around Margaret of Anjou. Similarly, his association with Humphrey, duke of Buckingham (for whom he acted, certainly from 1448 until 1458 and perhaps longer, as steward of estates in Gloucestershire, Hampshire and Wiltshire), did not lead to closer ties with Henry VI, despite the duke’s unwavering support for the monarch. Although he was summoned to great councils in 1457 and 1458 and put on some important commissions in the south-west in this period, it may be that he was beginning to entertain some sympathy for the opposing party. However, in August 1459 he contributed towards a loan of £2,000 to the King, specifically designated to pay for an embassy to the Pope, and he swore his allegiance once more in the Coventry Parliament. That he was considered loyal is clear from his appointment to raise forces to resist the invasion of the Yorkist earls in the summer of 1460. Yet, following their success, he not only served on many of their commissions, but also attended councils controlled by them. Furthermore, in a curious transaction dated that August, his name was linked with those of York, Salisbury, Warwick and March as a feoffee of land in Chicklade, Wiltshire, and in November he was associated with Archbishop Bourgchier, Viscount Bourgchier and other prominent Yorkists in making a settlement of the estates of Sir Thomas Browne†, who had been executed by their faction a few months earlier.12
After the accession of Edward IV, Stourton continued to serve as a commissioner, but there is no record that he ever sat on the new King’s Council. The comparatively few rewards that came his way suggest that he had been no more than a moderate supporter of the Yorkist cause: in May 1461 he was granted the farm of the castle and lordship of Mere and the keepership of the park there; in December he obtained assurances of fresh assignments for the payment of old crown debts for his services at Calais and in the following spring he was appointed as keeper of the Hungerford estates, his appointment being backdated to the previous Michaelmas. During Edward’s first Parliament Stourton’s experience of the administration of Calais was put to good use, following his nomination to the committee authorized to have discussions with the merchants of the Staple about the future funding of the garrison. Stourton was active on the new King’s behalf in the south and west, raising forces to resist an anticipated invasion from France, and holding important sessions of oyer and terminer. In the autumn of 1462 he journeyed north with Edward’s army, and it was probably while at Durham that he died on 25 Nov.13
In the course of his career, Stourton had established close links with several men of influence in Church and State. Besides his connexions with the Beauforts, the Hungerfords and the duke of Buckingham, he also acted as a feoffee of the estates of Ralph, Lord Cromwell, and William, earl of Arundel, and in 1453 and 1456 he had appeared as one of the parliamentary proxies of Bishop Bekynton of Bath and Wells. That he himself dispensed patronage and exerted influence goes without doubt, and his ’good lordship’ may well have been behind the grant to his chaplain, John Hert, a canon of Christchurch, of a papal dispensation to hold benefices, and the return of a servant of his, Giles Dacre, as representative for Wilton in the Parliaments of 1455 and 1460.14 The extent of his territorial holdings alone would have been sufficient to enable him to wield considerable authority in Wiltshire and Somerset, but he had also supplemented his large income from land with the perquisites of high office, the profits of overseas trade in Brittany and France, and the substantial sums made from ransoming prisoners-of-war. According to Leland, a significant part of the house at Stourton, which contained two courts (the front of the inner one being ’magnificent and high embatelid castelle lyke’) was built ‘ex spoliis Gallorum’. It is remarkable that Stourton used none of his wealth for the endowment of religious foundations.15
Lord Stourton was succeeded by his eldest son William, who by then had sat in the Commons for Dorset on at least two occasions. His wife survived him.16
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Authors: Richmond / L. S. Woodger
- 1. CP, xii. 301-2. The account given by C.B.J. Stourton in Hist. Noble House of Stourton, is not always accurate.
- 2. Som. Med. Wills (Som. Rec. Soc. xvi), 41-42; CFR, xiv. 30-31, 80; CCR, 1419-22, p. 159; CPR, 1416-22, p. 352; C138/61/72.
- 3. C139/43/16; EHR, xlix. 621; CPR, 1422-9, p. 294; C140/8/18; Stourton, 211-15.
- 4. CFR, xv. 129, 154; Som. Med. Wills, 143-6; CPR, 1429-36, pp. 119, 370; 1441-6, p. 27; C219/13/1, 4, 5, 14/4, 5, 15/2, 4.
- 5. CPR, 1429-36, pp. 477, 526; CCR, 1447-54, p. 147; W. Dugdale, Baronage, ii. 229; E101/71/3/898; E404/46/269; E403/723 m. 13; Huntingdon Lib. San Marino, Hastings ms HAD 170/2978.
- 6. PPC, iv. 326; v. 8, 16, 66, 70-73, 340, 349, 404; RP, v. 439; CPR, 1436-41, p. 162; J.F. Baldwin, King’s Council, 185; Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, ii. 295; Foedera ed. Rymer (orig. edn.), x. 728; E101/53/20, 21, 29; Issues ed. Devon, 438, 450; Bull. IHR, xl. 11; E364/76 m. I; E404/55/128, 280, 297, 59/308.
- 7. CPR, 1441-6, p. 349; 1461-7, p. 150; E404/54/183.