WILLOUGHBY, Sir Thomas (d.1418), of Boston and Frampton, Lincs.
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Family and Education
3rd s. of Robert, 4th Lord Willoughby of Eresby (c.1349-1396), by his 2nd w. Margery (d.1396), da. of William, 2nd Lord Zouche of Harringworth (c.1321-1382). m. (1) Katherine, da. of Sir Thomas Friskney, div. Aug. 1381; (2) by July 1396, Elizabeth, da. of John, 3rd Lord Neville of Raby (d.1388) by his 2nd w. Elizabeth (c.1385-1395), da. of William, 4th Lord Latimer of Corby (1330-81), suo jure Baroness Latimer, 1s. Kntd. 11 Oct. 1399.1
Sheriff, Lincolnshire 5 Nov. 1403-22 Oct. 1404.
Alderman of the guild of St. George, Boston by 12 Feb. 1404-d., Corpus Christi, Boston c.1406-7.2
Commr. of oyer and terminer, Lincs. Mar. 1406 (disorder at Friston); sewers (Lindsey) Nov. 1410, (Holland) Feb. 1412, May, Dec. 1415; to reinstate the abbot of Kirkstead Nov. 1410.
J.p. Lincs. (Holland) 20 May 1406-Feb. 1407, 14 Feb. 1412-Dec. 1417.
Although he was his father’s younger son, and had thus to make do with a comparatively modest income for most of his life, Thomas Willoughby was at least able to exploit the considerable reserves of influence which his family had exercised for over a century. He was one of the four sons of Lord Willoughby’s second marriage, his mother being the daughter of William, Lord Zouche of Harringworth, and his maternal grandmother a child of William, Lord Roos of Helmsley. On his father’s side he was descended from Cecily, the daughter of Robert Ufford, 1st earl of Suffolk; and so, even as a young man, he could boast an impressive range of connexions. At some point before 1381 he married Katherine Friskney, who belonged to a Lincolnshire family, but for a now unknown reason she (or her kinsmen) sued for divorce and the marriage was dissolved in the late summer of that year. By July 1396, when his father drew up his last testament at Eresby, Thomas had taken as his second wife Elizabeth, the daughter of John, Lord Neville of Raby, and Elizabeth, suo jure Baroness Latimer. They were already related by marriage, since on the death of Thomas’s mother in 1391, Lord Willoughby had decided to remarry, his choice falling upon the baroness, a widow of some three years’ standing. Long-term dynastic considerations made it advisable that their two children should marry each other, for although the baroness had a son to inherit her title, she was clearly anxious to secure the succession should he die without heirs. (This did, in fact, prove to be the case, and in 1430 Thomas’s son by Elizabeth became the 7th Lord Latimer.) Meanwhile, Lord Willoughby specified in his will that the young couple should receive a hostel and other property in Calais, although he did not then leave them any land in England, and an arrangement whereby they were promised the reversion of a sum of 250 marks to buy a suitable home never came into effect. Their joint legacy did, however, include a quantity of silver and gold plate and all the ornaments from Lord Willoughby’s portable chapel, as well as a newly painted chamber (la novelle sale stayne) which had belonged to the baroness. Elizabeth became the owner of a magnificent bed whose hangings bore the arms of her ancestors the Nevilles and the Latimers, together with other ornate household goods. She and Willoughby went to live at Frampton during this period, for in November 1396 Bishop Buckingham of Lincoln awarded them a licence for the private celebration of mass in their house there. The last years of the 15th century were, otherwise, an uneventful period in Thomas’s life, although in the spring of 1398 he and his younger brother, John, to whom he was very close, acted as co-feoffees of land in Skegness. At about the same time he and his wife obtained two papal indults, one permitting them to make use of a portable altar, and the other granting plenary remission of sins at the hour of death.3
The accession of Henry IV brought with it a dramatic improvement in Thomas Willoughby’s career prospects. He was one of the 46 knights created by Henry IV on the eve of his coronation; and two months later he and an associate named John Toup were granted the farm of the petty custom at Bishop’s Lynn an initial term of five years which was subsequently extended to Easter 1411. The two men agreed to pay £114 a year at the Exchequer for this privilege, although by the spring of 1404 they had fallen badly into arrears and Toup was committed to the Fleet prison until his debts were paid. Willoughby, who was then serving as sheriff of Lincolnshire, easily managed to avoid this fate, no doubt because of his influential social position. His eldest brother, William, 5th Lord Willoughby, had indeed gone surety on his behalf when he became sheriff, and may well have been instrumental in securing him a seat on the county bench. It is, even so, worth noting that despite his popularity with the new regime Willoughby did not escape harassment at the hands of duchy of Lancaster officials trying to raise money to pay for Henry IV’s expedition against King Richard in the summer of 1399. He complained to the authorities that ‘graundes et excessives sommes’ had been demanded of his tenants in and around Frampton, and asked that these should be repaid at once. We do not know exactly when or how he acquired his property in Lincolnshire, although some of it had probably been settled upon him by his father when he was a child. In December 1402, he arraigned the vicar of Frampton and others on an assize of novel disseisin at Lincoln, but his claim to land in the village was found to be fraudulent. In June of the following year he settled the manor of Bicker (in Lincolnshire) upon trustees including his brother, John, and the merchant, John Bell*, who was a fellow member of the guild of Corpus Christi in Boston. His influence in the town must already have been quite strong, for by May 1404 he had been elected alderman of the rather less powerful guild of St. George. A dispute then arose between its members and those who belonged to the fraternity of St. Simon and St. Jude over the right to precedence at public assemblies and processions in Boston. The matter was submitted to three arbitrators, one of whom was Willoughby’s brother, the 5th Lord, while the other was his kinsman, William, Lord Roos. Needless to say, their decision went in his favour, and the guild of St. George was accorded priority. He appears still to have been in office when, in about 1406, he was made alderman of the Corpus Christi guild as well. Not all his affairs ran so smoothly at this time, however, as in May 1406 one of his former servants managed to avoid prosecution for failing to account satisfactorily for money received on his behalf.4
The Willoughbys were a close-knit family: on the death of the 5th Lord in 1409, Sir Thomas transferred his loyal attachment to his nephew, Robert, who then succeeded to the title. They served together on various local commissions and were frequently associated on the Lincolnshire bench. Our Member’s presence in the Parliament of 1411 also owed something to his brother, John, who was one of the electors named on the return. A few months after his second and last appearance in the appearance in the House of Commons, some three years later, he began preparations for Henry V’s expedition to France, during which he and John served under the command of their young nephew. In July 1415 he obtained royal letters of protection pending his departure overseas, but whereas his brother and three other kinsmen were struck down with dysentery at Harfleur, he appears to have emerged from the siege unscathed.5 Having already managed to secure a pardon for not appearing in court to answer a London draper for debt, Sir Thomas himself went to law after his return to England for the recovery of sums totalling £24. He was unsuccessful, because the delaying tactics which he had previously used to such advantage were now employed against him. He did, however, obtain a licence for the guild of St. George (of which he was still head) to hold in mortmain additional property for the support of a chantry; and it was also during this period that Sir Thomas Dymock engaged his services, together with those of Sir Thomas Hawley* and John Bell, as a trustee.6
Sir Thomas Willoughby died intestate shortly before 6 May 1418, when the sequestrator of Lindsey and Holland granted letters of administration to three local men, including the merchant, John Glaston. As already noted, he left at least one son, who eventually succeeded to the barony of Latimer, and whose descendants became the Lords Willoughby de Broke.7