WACE, Sir Gilbert (c.1328-1408/9), of Ewelme, Oxon.
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Family and Education
b.c.1328, s. and h. of William Wace of Ewelme by his w. Cecily. m. c. Apr. 1345, Nicola, da. and coh. of John Alveton† of Kingston (Blount), Oxon. by Nicola, wid. of Sir Hugh Blount (d.1327/8), s.p. Kntd. bef. June 1360.1
Tax collector, Oxon. Mar., June 1371, Dec. 1384; assessor May 1379.
Sheriff, Oxon. and Berks. 7 Nov. 1371-12 Dec. 1372, 12 Dec. 1374-4 Oct. 1375, 5 Nov. 1379-18 Oct. 1380, 18 Nov. 1387-1 Dec. 1388.
J.p. Oxon. 6 Dec. 1375-May 1380, July-Dec. 1382, July 1383-9.
Commr. of array, Oxon. Apr., July 1377; kiddles, river Thames May 1377, Jan., July 1383; inquiry, Oxon., Berks. Apr. 1378, Mar. 1380 (lands forfeited by Alice Perrers); gaol delivery, Oxford castle July 1378, June 1379, Sept., Oct. 1384, Feb. 1387, Wallingford castle May 1387, Nov. 1393; to put down rebellion, Oxon. Dec. 1381, Mar., Dec. 1382; administer oaths in support of the Lords Appellant Mar. 1388; of arrest Sept. 1388.
Escheator, Oxon. and Berks. 26 Nov. 1377-8.
Coroner, Oxon. bef. Nov. 1395, bef. Nov. 1398.
The Wace family had been in possession of lands at Ewelme since the late 13th century, and by Sir Gilbert’s time these had been extended to include property at Swyncombe and Nuffield. ‘Wace’s Court’ in Ewelme was presumably his home, but he also leased the manor of Ewelme itself from Sir John Burghersh* for 20 marks a year, and a separate arrangement with Burghersh had him paying ten marks a year for his lease for life of land at Kingsey and Towersey in Buckinghamshire of which he himself was the overlord. Other holdings came to him by marriage. A contract sealed in 1345, between his father and the former shire knight John Alveton, provided that Gilbert would marry the latter’s daughter Nicola, and that Alveton would keep the wardship of the young couple for three years in return for a payment of £50. It is uncertain how Nicola came into possession of a third part of the manor of Hall in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, which she was holding in 1358, but its issues may have partially compensated for the fact that several years were to elapse before she and her husband secured ownership of any of her father’s lands. Indeed, in 1362, after Alveton’s death, a number of his properties fell to Nicolas’s half-brother, Sir Thomas Blount†, whose title was formally confirmed by her uncle Geoffrey in a deed which Wace witnessed. However, before 1377 Blount released to Wace his right to these properties (including land in Checkendon, Ipsden, Newnham Murren and Stoke, together with the advowson of Checkendon church), perhaps doing so in return for the acquiescence of Wace’s wife in his own repossession of the manor of Kingston Blount. Wace witnessed an entail of this manor in favour of members of the Blount family in about 1390, and in 1394 Blount’s son, the younger Sir Thomas*, recognized his title to the other former Alveton holdings.2
Wace had come of age by 1351 and in March that year he witnessed a deed for John, Lord Mohun of Dunster, a retainer of the Black Prince. (Perhaps the connexion had come about through this nobleman’s wife, Joan, Lady Mohun, who, as guardian of (Sir) John Burghersh, was at that time in possession of the Ewelme estate.) His military service had already begun, for he had been ‘first armed’ at the age of 20, but he was not to be knighted until he joined the army led by Edward III which invaded France in 1359 and camped before Paris in the following spring. Later campaigns took him in 1369 to the Pays de Caux in Normandy with the duke of Lancaster and, on other occasions, to the borders of Scotland. It was doubtless the proximity of his home to Wallingford castle, caput of an honour pertaining to the Black Prince, which led to his association with several other of the prince’s retainers, including some afterwards in attendance on the prince’s widow, Joan of Kent, whose household was established there. Thus, he became friendly with John James† of Wallingford (later to be one of only two witnesses to Princess Joan’s will), who acted as a feoffee of his estates from 1369 onwards, while in return Wace not only served as trustee for both him and his son, Robert*, but also attested a number of their private transactions. John James was to be his companion in the Parliament of January 1377. Then, too, he was acquainted with Sir Hugh Segrave, whose deeds he witnessed even before the latter was made constable of Wallingford in 1382; indeed, they remained on good terms throughout Segrave’s stewardship of the King’s household (c.1378-1381) and treasurership of the Exchequer (1381-6). Another associate was Sir Richard Adderbury I*, like Segrave a former retainer of the Black Prince, who went on to serve his son, Richard II, as his tutor and councillor, and Princess Joan as her executor.
Meanwhile, in 1372, as sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire, Wace had been responsible for forwarding to Chancery his own return to the Commons (a not unusual practice which was to give rise in this same Parliament to an ordinance prohibiting the election of sheriffs in future). In May 1381 he obtained a royal pardon for penalties imposed following the escapes of prisoners in his custody during his third shrievalty, and a year later he took out a second pardon, perhaps to exonerate himself from misdemeanours committed during the public disturbances of 1381. Wace’s election to seven Parliaments running between 1382 and 1386 may be attributed to his membership of that circle of knights, once retained by the King’s father, to whom Princess Joan could look for support; indeed, he was one of the dozen or so men who, on 12 June 1385, were exonerated from the general requirement to ride north with Richard II to invade Scotland, on the ground that they were needed ‘to assist continually about the person of the King’s mother for her comfort and security’. He was quite likely in attendance at Wallingford that August when Joan of Kent died, for the constable of the castle (Segrave) and the steward of the honour William Brouns*) were among those who attested a document of his drawn up shortly afterwards. In this legal instrument Wace made a declaration to the feoffees of his estates (who included Sir Thomas Sackville I* and Thomas Barantyn*) repeating a wish, first expressed long before in 1369, that after his death they should found a chantry in his memory in the church at Ewelme.3
In October 1386, while up at Westminster for what was to prove to be his last Parliament, Wace gave evidence in the court of chivalry on behalf of Richard, Lord Scrope, in his dispute with Sir Robert Grosvenor over their right to bear identical heraldic arms. That same month he and Sir Richard Adderbury, his companion in the Commons, were among those enfeoffed of the manor of Crawley and land in Witney, which, six years later, they were to convey to William of Wykeham, bishop of Winchester, in aid of his educational foundations. No evidence has been found of a connexion between Wace and any one of the Lords Appellant of 1387-8, yet in March 1388 it was he who with the sheriff was appointed to take oaths from the gentry and officials of Oxfordshire to support their party, which must have meant, he himself being sheriff at the time, that he carried out the task alone. It remains uncertain whether the large loan of 100 marks he made to the Crown in September 1397, at the very time of the Appellants’ downfall, was a willing gesture made to confirm his loyalty to Richard II, or was rather intended to purchase his own indemnity when faced with the possibility of prosecution for treason. The latter seems more likely.4
Wace had been removed from the coronership of Oxfordshire in 1395 as being ‘too sick and aged to travail in exercise of that office’, yet he was nevertheless re-appointed, and a similar order had to be issued in November 1398. By then he was probably aged about 70. Being childless, he had already begun to dispose of his landed property, notably by demising in 1397 to Thomas Chaucer* all his holdings in Ewelme, Swyncombe and Nuffield (thus enabling Chaucer to consolidate the estates he had acquired through marriage to one of Sir John Burghersh’s daughters). He also abandoned his long-cherished plans for a chantry chapel at Ewelme: in a will made on 10 Nov. 1407 he instructed his executors to use the proceeds of the sale of the advowson of Checkendon to found a chapel for his soul in a place to be decided by the abbot of Dorchester. Those lands yet remaining in his possession he placed in the hands of feoffees in April following, and he died, aged about 80, before May 1409. He was probably buried in the chancel of Dorchester abbey, where there was once a monumental brass of a man in armour with a lion at his head, which John Leland, writing in the 16th century, ascribed to a ‘gentlemen called Ways’. His heir was a very distant relation: Sir Richard Camoys, son of Thomas, Lord Camoys.