WHITNEY, Sir Robert II (d.1443), of Whitney-on-Wye and Pencombe, Herefs.
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Family and Education
Commr. to assess taxes, Herefs. Jan. 1412, Apr. 1431; raise the siege of Coity castle Sept. 1412; of array, Herefs. May 1418; inquiry July 1419 (rights of Henry Oldcastle†).
Sheriff, Herefs. 6 Nov. 1413-10 Nov. 1414, 7 Nov. 1427-4 Nov. 1428, 5 Nov. 1432-3, 8 Nov. 1436-7 Nov. 1437.
Captain of Vire 6 Dec. 1420-Feb. 1421.2
J.p. Herefs. 7 July 1423-Oct. 1432.
Escheator, Herefs. and adjacent March 5 Nov. 1430-26 Nov 1431.
Following the death of his father at the battle of Pilleth in 1402, Robert inherited the manors of Pencombe (near Bromyard) and Whitney-on-Wye, but his holdings (probably at the last named place, which lay on the border) were said to be so wasted by the Welsh that he had no fortress to hold against them. In February 1404, therefore, he received in compensation a royal grant of the custody, during the minority of Edmund Mortimer, earl of March, of the latter’s castle and lordship of Clifford and the lordship of Glasbury, as from the previous October. In the autumn of 1405 Robert was himself in action against the rebels, serving with Sir Richard Arundel’s force in South Wales; and he also saw service under the prince of Wales, who before Michaelmas 1407 granted him an annuity of 20 marks.3
In June 1410 Whitney acted as an executor of his brother-in-law, (Sir) Thomas Clanvowe*. The testator left him his favourite white horse, a gilt sword ‘ye callyd Warwik’ and a dagger. After the death of Clanvowe’s widow (Whitney’s sister, Perryne) in 1422, Sir Robert also appears to have come into possession of the Clanvowe manor of Ocle Pychard, near Hereford. Several years before this later date he had married Wintelan, one of the daughters of Thomas Oldcastle and ultimately a coheir of her brother, Richard.4 Meanwhile, by 1413, Robert had been knighted, and it was in November of that year that he was first appointed sheriff of Herefordshire. Only ten days after that appointment, he was one of those who found surety in the large sum of £4,000 that John Talbot, Lord Furnival, would keep the peace towards Thomas, earl of Arundel (then treasurer), a serious dispute having arisen between them over grazing rights in Shropshire. During Henry V’s first expedition to France, Whitney remained at home, being occupied between August 1415 and January 1416 as joint commander of a force safeguarding South Wales, his fellows being Richard Oldcastle (his wife’s brother) and John Merbury* (her stepfather). Save that he attended the Parliament of March 1416, nothing more is known about him until July 1417, when he stood surety for John ap Harry*, undertaking that the latter would not aid the lollard fugitive, Sir John Oldcastle*, or join him in rebellion.5 That Whitney himself had leanings towards lollardy is at least possible. His father had once protected the heretical evangelist William Swynderby, both his sister, Perryne, and her husband (Sir) Thomas Clanvowe were open to similar suspicions and, moreover, Sir John Oldcastle was his wife’s cousin. Admittedly, Sir Robert was in no way implicated in Oldcastle’s rising, but he did stand surety for ap Harry and in December 1419 he used his right of advowson to the church of Pencombe to present Robert Herlaston, the former vicar of Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire, who two years earlier had been indicted for having preached lollard doctrines in that county. (Whether Herlaston continued to spread heresy from Pencombe is not known, but he held the living until his death in about 1428.)6
Whatever Whitney’s religious sympathies, they seemingly in no wise affected his career. Having witnessed the county elections to Parliament in 1419, he joined Henry V in France in 1420, probably for the first time, and in December that year he was appointed captain of Vire in the Côtentin. However, his foreign service was brief, for he returned to England with the King in February 1421, then receiving robes of the royal livery for the coronation of Queen Katherine. He witnessed the indenture which recorded the result of the Herefordshire elections to the Parliament of the following May. Thereafter, he apparently stayed at home, representing his county for the second and last time in the Commons of 1422. He continued to be influential there during the reign of Henry VI, being the first to seal the county indenture of return to the Parliaments of 1425, 1426, 1427 and 1431, and acting as sheriff (three more times), escheator, and j.p. In July 1429 he served on a commission of inquiry concerning the right of Henry Oldcastle, son of Sir John, to his father’s forfeited manor of Almeley. In May 1434 he was required to take the oath devised by Parliament to combat maintenance of those who broke the peace.7
Little is known of Sir Robert’s later years. He may, however, safely be identified with the ‘Lord Whittney’ who, at the head of a royal commission, was sent to Carmarthen to arrest the powerful and unruly Gruffydd ap Nicholas. The latter, having first overawed him by the strength of his following, then stole his commission, it is said, threatened to hang him as an imposter, and sent him to Westminster humiliated and wearing Gruffydd’s own livery. The story is attributed to 1441, when Sir Robert must already have been well advanced in years. He died on 12 Mar. 1443, leaving as his heir his son, Eustace, who had been born in 1413.8
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: Charles Kightly
- 1. CCR, 1401-5, p. 306; Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. x. 189; C139/112/62.
- 2. DKR, xlii. 382.
- 3. CPR, 1401-5, p. 354; Reg. Lacy (Canterbury and York Soc. xxii), 116; Reg. Spofford (ibid. xxiii), 354-5; E101/44/7; SC6/813/23.
- 4. Lambeth Pal. Lib. Reg. Arundel, ii. f. 50; Fifty Earliest Eng. Wills (EETS lxxviii), 49-51; Feudal Aids, ii. 415, 420-1; T.R. Nash, Worcs. ii. 298.
- 5. CPR, 1413-16, p. 99; SC6/1222/14; CCR, 1413-19, p. 435.
- 6. Reg. Lacy, 116; Reg. Spofford, 354-5; KB9/209/45; C. Kightly, ‘Early Lollards’ (York Univ. D.Phil. thesis, 1975), 185, 283, 297, 300.
- 7. C219/12/3, 5, 13/3-5, 14/2; CPR, 1429-36, p. 376.