WYDEVILLE, John (bef.1341-c.1400), of Grafton Regis, Northants.
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Family and Education
b. bef. 1341, s. and h. of Sir Richard Wydeville† (c.1310-aft. 1378) of Grafton Regis, by his 1st w. m. (1) bef. 1364, Katherine, prob. da. and h. of Sir John Frembaud of Biddenham, Beds. and Bow Brickbill, Bucks., at least 3s. inc. Thomas*, 2da.; (2) bef. 1379, Isabel, wid. of Robert Passelow of Drayton Parslow, Bucks., at least 1s. Richard Parslow†.1
Escheator, Beds. and Bucks. 5 Nov. 1379-18 Oct. 1380, Northants. and Rutland 12 Dec. 1382-1 Nov. 1383.
Sheriff, Northants. 18 Oct. 1380-1 Nov. 1381, 20 Oct. 1385-18 Nov. 1386, 7 Nov. 1390-21 Oct. 1391, Beds. and Bucks. 1 Nov. 1383-11 Nov. 1384.
Commr. to suppress the rebels of 1381, Northants. Dec. 1381, Dec. 1382; seize into the King’s hand the revenues of the prebend of Sutton, Bucks. Nov. 1383; of oyer and terminer, Northants. Feb. 1384 (charges of extortion against the abbot of Croyland), Dec. 1391 (attack on Sulbv abbey), Bucks. Feb. 1392 (disorder at Ravenstone); inquiry, Northants. Sept. 1384 (estates of Henry Conquest), Bucks. Feb. 1385 (obstruction of the King’s highway), Northants. Feb. 1386 (the administration of St. Andrew’s priory), Aug. 1387 (forgery), Rutland, Northants. Aug. 1388 (estates of William Wingfield), Northants. Dec. 1392 (repairs to the highway at Towcester), Northants., Rutland July 1393 (breaches of statutes concerning weights and measures); array, Northants. Apr. 1385, Mar. 1392, Dec. 1399, Sept. 1403; to make arrests Dec. 1385, May 1393; hold a special assize Feb. 1392 (property dispute at West Stratford).2
J.p. Northants. 20 Dec. 1382-Mar. 1397.
The Wydevilles were a long-established Northamptonshire family, although Sir Richard, our Member’s father, was the first of their number to distinguish himself as an office-holder and shire knight. He served successively as a tax collector, escheator and sheriff for the county, which he represented in at least seven Parliaments; and he was also made surveyor of the works at Moor End castle (Northamptonshire) by Edward III. His marriage after 1369 to Elizabeth, the daughter and heir of a neighbouring landowner, Sir John Lyons† of Warkworth, and widow of Sir Nicholas Chetwode, helped to consolidate his estates, but his son, John, the subject of this biography, was already by then a figure of some consequence in his own right. The latter had evidently come of age by September 1362, when he was acting as a trustee of certain property in the Buckinghamshire village of Little Missenden. At some point before February 1366, he married his first wife, Katherine, who was probably a daughter, and certainly the next heir, of Sir John Frembaud. She brought him an impressive amount of land comprising the manors of Biddenham and Holcotc, together with holdings in Bromham, Bedfordshire, and of Bow Brickhall and Caldecote across the border in Buckinghamshire; and it was then that the couple obtained a royal charter (dated at Moor End) enabling them to enjoy rights of free warren on the demesne lands. In the following year Sir Richard Wydeville applied to the Crown for permission to acquire the manor of Wicken in Northamptonshire jointly with our Member, and to settle the remainder upon the latter’s two sons, Richard and John, who were probably the younger brothers of his next heir, Thomas. (The boys lost their promised inheritance in 1382, when a new entail was made in favour of the MP’s issue male by his second wife, Isabel. She was the mother of Richard Wydeville, whose grand daughter, Elizabeth, became Edward IV’s queen.) On his father’s death, which occurred shortly after 1378, John Wydeville also gained possession of the family seat at Grafton Regis, together with the manor and advowson of Stoke Bruern, Cleyley Hundred and extensive farmland in the village of Pattishall (all in Northamptonshire). In 1392, the last of these holdings alone was said to produce at least £13 6s.8d. a year, but unfortunately no contemporary valuations of the other family estates have survived.3
By the date of his first return to Parliament, Wydeville had already gained a considerable amount of administrative experience, not only as a royal commissioner for the suppression of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, but also as escheator of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire and sheriff of Northamptonshire. For most of his adult life he played an active part in the government of these three counties, where his ownership of land brought him additional influence. Perhaps because so much of his time was taken up with official business we know far less about the more personal aspects of his career. Understandably enough, his name appears regularly among the witnesses to local deeds, and he was often in demand as a mainpernor, sometimes for quite eminent persons. Among those for whom he performed this service were, for example, Sir Henry Arderne† (1381), William, Lord Zouche of Harringworth (1389), Sir Thomas Aylesbury* (1391) and Sir Nicholas Lilling (1393), his colleague in the Parliaments of 1383 (Oct.) and 1390 (Nov.).4 His association with Lilling, for whom he was prepared to offer joint securities of £1,000, remained fairly close, thanks to their mutual connexion with Thomas, earl of Warwick. On 27 Nov. 1394, Lilling, in his capacity as chief steward to the earl, authorized the payment to him of £41 13s.4d. ‘for business of the lord touching the manor of (Long) Buckby in Northamptonshire’, which suggests that Wydeville was probably involved in legal matters of one kind or another. A man of the same name was employed as steward of the Beauchamp manor of Flamstead in Hertfordshire from 1387 until his death ten years later, and although this cannot have been our MP it may well have been one of his kinsmen, perhaps even his son. We have no means of telling if Wydeville had already got to know the earl at the time of his election to the Merciless Parliament of 1388, although his prompt removal from the Northamptonshire bench in March 1397 may, perhaps, be seen as an act of retaliation by Richard II against the known supporters of one of his old enemies. His appointment to a commission of array in the county soon after the Lancastrian usurpation could also be described as politically significant, but we must remember that, unlike many of Beauchamp’s erstwhile supporters (including Sir Nicholas Lilling), Wydeville never saw fit to obtain a pardon from King Richard. Moreover, his son-in-law, the Bedfordshire landowner, Reynold Ragon*, who had probably married into the Wydeville family well before 1399, stood well with the court party, and was in fact promoted to local office at the time of John’s temporary disgrace.5
Very little evidence can now be found to cast light on Wydeville’s other activities. We know that he was affluent enough to subscribe £5 to the war-effort in 1379, although no further information evidently survives regarding the state of his finances. There can be little doubt as to the prominent position which he occupied in the Northamptonshire community, for besides representing the county in five Parliaments and exercising various offices there, he was called upon to assist the forces of law and order in other, less formal ways. In January 1385, for instance, he agreed to act as an arbitrator in a dispute between the abbot of Croyland and his tenants in Wellingborough, and it reflects not a little to his credit that he and his colleagues were able to reconcile the two parties. From time to time, Wydeville was himself involved in disagreements with other people, most notably in 1386, when he sued Alice, the widow of William, Lord Windsor, and sometime mistress of Edward III, for possession of a messuage and three shops in Northampton. He again appeared as a plaintiff at the local assizes in September 1392, although on this occasion no further details are given about the property in question. At some point before June 1396 Wvdeville also began litigation at Westminster for the recovery of a debt of £40 which was owed to him by the parson of Checkendon in Oxfordshire. Whatever hopes of redress he may have had were, however, dashed by the award to the defendant of a pardon for the outlawry which he had incurred by failing to appear in court, and his losses were never made good.6
John Wydeville died between 18 Dec. 1399 and 1 Feb. 1401, when his son and heir, Thomas, obtained a writ of supersedeas to halt certain legal proceedings which had begun as a result of his