WHITTINGTON, Robert (d.1423/4), of Pauntley, Glos. and Sollershope, Herefs.
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Family and Education
Commr. to put down rebellion, Glos. Mar., Dec. 1382; of array Apr. 1385, Mar. 1392, Dec. 1399, Sept., Nov. 1403, May 1415, May 1418, Mar. 1419; arrest, lordship of Newent, Glos. Sept. 1387; inquiry, Glos., Worcs. Dec. 1391 (salmon poaching), Glos. May 1393 (lands of a royal ward), Feb. 1394 (ownership of manor of Kingsholme), Mar. 1394 (assaults on Richard Baret*), July 1396 (assaults), Nov. 1398 (intimidation of a jury), Feb. 1400 (wastes, Deerhurst priory), May 1400 (trespasses), July 1400 (Sir Richard Talbot’s estates), Worcs. July 1401 (illegal entry into property), Glos. Aug. 1401 (felonies), Feb. 1406 (ownership of land), Glos., Herefs. June 1406 (concealments); to take assizes, Glos., Som. May 1395, Jan. 1396; of weirs, Glos. June 1398; oyer and terminer May 1400, Glos., Worcs. Mar. 1401; to escort a royal ward from Herefs. to the Council Nov. 1400; make proclamation of Henry IV’s intention to govern well, Glos. May 1402; to raise royal loans, Glos., Herefs. June 1406, Glos. Nov. 1419, Jan. 1420.
Tax collector, Glos. Dec. 1384.
J.p. Glos. 28 June 1390-July 1397, 28 Nov. 1399-c. July 1423.
Escheator, Glos., Herefs. and the marches 24 Oct. 1392-24 Nov. 1394, Glos. 8 Nov. 1401-29 Nov. 1402, 7 Nov. 1409-29 Nov. 1410.
Coroner, Glos. bef. Jan. 1393.
Alnager, Glos. 20 July 1394-26 Oct. 1396.
Constable, Forest of Dean by May 1398.1
Sheriff, Glos. 29 Nov. 1402-5 Nov. 1403, 23 Nov. 1407-15 Nov. 1408, 3 Nov. 1412-6 Nov. 1413.
Forester of Corse chace, Glos. 6 Feb. 1400-d.
Robert and his son, Guy, followed on a long, albeit intermittent, family tradition of parliamentary service for Gloucestershire: William Whittington (Robert’s grandfather) had sat in the Commons in 1327, Sir William (his father) in 1348 and William (his elder brother) in October 1377.2 Robert himself was to be outstanding not only for the number of his Parliaments (six) but for the leading role he played in the administration of his home county. Nevertheless, when it came to taking a part in national affairs and winning fame and fortune he was easily overshadowed by his younger brother, the legendary ‘Dick’ Whittington, who, of course, made his reputation in London. The chief family estates were at Pauntley in Gloucestershire and at Sollershope and Hopton in Herefordshire, but these were left by Sir William at his death in 1358 encumbered with an outlawry because of a plea of debt. However, some recovery of financial stability had taken place before Robert inherited the estates when his elder brother died childless shortly before August 1379, and although he never received more than a moderate income from land, he also obtained possession of the manor of Staunton in Worcestershire, by proving his claim to be the kinsman and heir of the Robert Staunton who, in 1343, had been granted a charter of free warren there.3 The annual value of his Gloucestershire properties was given as £20 when assessments were made in 1412; that of the rest of his holdings is not known.4
Whittington’s career was entirely dissimilar from that of his famous brother, though in many ways typical of that of a member of the landowning class. For instance, it began with military service: in March 1375 he was among the esquires mustered in the retinue of Edward, Lord Despenser, about to embark for Brittany. This was to be Despenser’s last campaign, for he died later that year, but Whittington long maintained contact with his widow, Lady Elizabeth, for whom he was to stand surety at the Exchequer several years later (in July 1388), and one of his closest friends was another associate of the Despensers, John Browning*. It is possible that Whittington also served abroad with Guy, Lord Bryan, on whose son’s behalf he acted as a feoffee of the manor of Oxenhall, Gloucestershire. However, from 1382 onwards he evidently remained at home, being kept busy for the next 40 years in many tasks of local government. Indeed, in this respect he was perhaps the most active member of the community of Gloucestershire, for he served as a j.p. for about 31 years altogether, and discharged office as alnager, coroner, escheator (for four terms) and sheriff (for three); indeed, there was scarcely a year between 1390 and his death in 1423 when he was not placed in some position of responsibility. His removal from the coronership in 1393 only happened because his duties as escheator were too heavy to permit him to exercise both offices concurrently. There were few signs that the Crown appreciated his efforts, although in November 1394 he did manage to obtain, jointly with Thomas Walwyn II*, the farm of the valuable estates in England and Wales belonging to the foreign abbey of Lire, in return for the annual payment of £122, only to relinquish it in the following June, when the abbot’s proctor successfully sued for restoration. Like many others, Whittington saw fit to procure a royal pardon in the summer of 1398, but there is no evidence that he was ever suspected of disloyalty to Richard II, and indeed, in the spring of 1399 he joined the King’s expedition to Ireland. It may be conjectured that his brother Richard’s seemingly good relations with the King (he was the only individual Londoner to lend substantial sums of money to the Crown between August 1397 and Richard’s deposition) stood the family in good stead, and it is interesting to note that Robert named his brother to act as his attorney in England during his absence.5
Whittington may, nevertheless, have welcomed the accession of Henry IV, and it was during his brother’s brief spell as a member of the royal council that, as a ‘King’s esquire’, early in 1400 he was granted for life custody of Corse chace, lately belonging to the traitor Thomas, Lord Despenser, together with a fee of £12 a year from the manor of Stoke Orchard. Perhaps this was a reward for unrecorded services in the suppression of the revolt in which Despenser had taken a prominent part; certainly, his earlier connexion with the Despensers was now overlooked. Under the new King, Whittington was kept busier than ever, and in addition to his local administrative duties he attended a meeting of the great council in August 1401 (as one of five men summoned from Gloucestershire), and sat in three more Parliaments. He was present at Gloucester for the shire elections of 1407, conducted those of 1413 (May) as sheriff, and was himself returned for the last time in 1414. That his interest in parliamentary affairs continued subsequently is clear from his appearance as a witness to the electoral indentures of 1414 (Nov.), 1419 and 1420, on the last occasion being party to the election of his own son, Guy.6
Over the years, Whittington became involved in various transactions with or on behalf of his neighbours. But not all of his relationships were amicable: in June 1393 he and Alexander Besford* had entered into recognizances with Guy Spyne* of Warwickshire and Edmund Lowe of Staffordshire, in the course of a dispute over land, allegedly involving maintenance and oppression on the part of Whittington’s opponents. By contrast, his friendship with John Browning lasted many years, beginning well before May 1400, when he became godfather to Browning’s son, William†; strengthened by the marriage of his only son to Browning’s daughter, Cecily, and lasting until his colleague’s death in 1416. Thus, Whittington acted as a feoffee of his friend’s estates in Gloucestershire and Dorset, stood surety for him on occasion, and, in the end, served as an executor of his will. Whittington also took on the trusteeship of the manor of Dixton, Gloucestershire, on behalf of John Dixton (a former Despenser tenant), and, more important, of the territory in the Welsh marches belonging to Gilbert, Lord Talbot (d.1418).7
There was apparently little contact between Robert and his wealthy younger brother, although they obviously shared some property interests: thus, in 1388 they had together brought a legal action against Bishop Gilbert of Hereford over the next presentation to Westbury church, Gloucestershire; and both were involved in lawsuits against James Clifford* of Frampton-on-Severn over lands once belonging to their kinsmen the Mansells. Robert’s particular interest was in land at Frampton Mansell, which Clifford eventually quitclaimed to him in December 1406, at the same time as he relinquished all title to the manor of Over Lyppiat in Stroud, which Richard Whittington held. After Richard’s death, shortly before 8 Mar. 1423, Robert and his son Guy claimed that he had left this manor in trust for them, but that Thomas Roos of London, the only surviving trustee, refused to hand it over. They were apparently successful in their plea. Neither Robert nor Guy were mentioned in Rich