Appendix C1: The composition of the Merciless Parliament (Feb. 1388)

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer


It would be entirely possible, given the wealth of information contained in the 3,173 biographies of Members of Parliament from the period 1386-1421, to produce a systematic analysis of the Membership of each of the 32 Parliaments covered, one by one. Since constraints of time and space make this exercise impracticable within the scope of these volumes, it has been attempted for just seven of the assemblies involved. The Parliaments of 1388 (Feb.), 1388 (Sept.), 1397 (Sept.) and 1399 form a coherent group with a common theme, considering the strength of the political opposition to Richard II, as mustered first by the Lords Appellant and then by Henry of Bolingbroke, together with a summary of the Members of the Commons upon whom the King might well have relied to help put through his retaliatory measures in 1397. The appendices regarding the composition of the Commons of 1410, 1411 and 1413 (May) likewise share a theme: the extent of support in the Lower House for the party and policies of Henry of Monmouth both before and immediately after his accession to the throne.

In the lists supplied below the following abbreviations have been used:

associate (e.g. recorded as providing securities at the Exchequer on the magnate’s behalf, or witnessing his transactions)
Mserved the magnate in a military retinue
Rretainer, in receipt of an annuity granted for life.




The composition of the Merciless Parliament

(February 1388)

The wording of the writs of summons issued on 17 Dec. 1387 reflected Richard II’s fear that his opponents, the Lords Appellant, would pack the Commons in their interest, thereby facilitating the destruction of the King’s friends, for it was stipulated that those elected should be persons who had not taken sides in the current disputes (‘in debatis modernis magis indifferentes’). Following the defeat at Radcot Bridge of the forces led by his favourite, Robert de Vere, Richard was forced on 1 Jan. to authorize fresh writs, leaving out this unique directive.1 The question nevertheless remains as to how many of the elected Members might have come to the House with open minds, prepared to be impartial in the responsible tasks they would be required to undertake, or whether, as the Commons’ compliant endorsement of the Appellants’ brutal attack on the court party suggests, they were predominantly partisan. It would appear that the electors in most constituencies made a deliberate decision to send to this particular Parliament men who had represented their communities before. As many as 187 of the 259 Members (72%) were already acquainted with the workings of the House. More significantly, no fewer than 65 of them had sat in the assembly immediately preceding, where they had borne witness to the creation of the parliamentary commission which effectively placed the government in the hands of a council beyond the control of the King. This commission Richard had understandably regarded with extreme mistrust, and his judges considered it to be unlawful and contrary to the royal prerogative. Indeed, a remarkably large number of places—15 in all—re-elected both their representatives from that Parliament of 1386, in which the duke of Gloucester and the earl of Arundel had asserted their dominance. It is very likely that those 65 Members, if not many more of their companions, were quite capable of making a viable contribution to a debate on the political and constitutional issues now at stake. The number of apparent newcomers to the House (72) was unusually low for the period, making up just 28% of the total, yet it is of interest to note that at least nine of these novices were committed adherents of one or another of the Lords Appellant, and included such figures as Sir William Bagot, counsellor to Warwick, Derby and Nottingham, and Thomas Coggeshall, who was probably already in the service of Gloucester.

The tables below provide information about the comparatively few Members whose circumstances might have led them to sympathize with the King’s favourites now facing trial by appeal, and about those who probably sided with the Appellants. Lists of Members considered by Gloucester and his fellows as trustworthy enough to administer the oath endorsing the acts of the first session, and of those who directly benefited from the change of government in terms of grants of land or offices, supply further details relevant to the question of the Members’ political persuasion. It should be appreciated that the limitations of the sources (in particular the loss of the estate papers of the duke of Gloucester and the earl of Nottingham) leave large gaps in our knowledge. There can be no doubt of the Commons’ pliancy with regard to the excesses of the assembly, as evidenced by their agreement with the appropriation to the Appellants of £20,000 from the subsidy voted by the Parliament. However, it will be clear from a cursory perusal of these lists that the same individuals sometimes appear in more than one camp. A more detailed study of their biographies may go some way to explaining the apparent contradictions.





Annesley, Sir John                
‘King’s knight’                              
£40 p.a. jointly with his wife
Cheyne, Sir Hughten marks p.a.*
Courtenay, Sir Philip£200 p.a.*
Derby, Johnpurveyor to Household2d. per diem
Lee, Sir Walter?poss. still knight of Household
Parker, John Iretained by Queen Anne
Ramsey, Ralph‘King’s esquire’
Vache, Sir Philip de laexecutor of King’s mother£50 p.a.*
Waldegrave, Sir Richard‘King’s knight’
Wightman, Williamroyal servant6d. per diem
Wyly, Johnroyal servant6d. per diem*

* Granted by Edward III or the Black Prince; only confirmed by Richard II



1. Customs officials                                                    
Beaupyne, Thomascollector, Bristol and all ports Chepstow to Exeter; dep. butler, Bristol   
Bishopdale, Williamcollector, Newcastle-upon-Tyne; dep. butler, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Ellis, John IIcollector, Gt. Yarmouth
Grimsby, Simon IIcontoller, Kingston-upon-Hull
Hadley, Petercontroller, Exeter
Hardyng, Sampsoncollector, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Holt, Stephencollector, Chichester
Morton, Thomascontroller, Bishop’s Lynn
Ramsey, Ralphcollector, Gt. Yarmouth
Starling, Geoffreycollector, Ipswich
Sutton, Robertcollector, Boston
Walbrond, Thomas?poss. still searcher, Wareham and elsewhere
Waleys, Robertcollector, Ipswich
2. Employed in royal castles and manors                                                                                                   
Cheyne, Sir Hughkeeper of Shrewsbury castle
Crowshaw, Johncontroller of works, Nottingham castle
Heyberer, Williamsurveyor of works, Gloucester castle
Jonet, Williamconstable of Narberth and Builth during minority of the earl of March
Ramsey, Ralph?poss. still dep. constable of Windsor castle
Vache, Sir Philip de lakeeper of the manor of Woodstock and other royal estates, Oxon.
3. Other
Beaupyne, Thomasfarmer of cloth subsidies in six counties
Jonet, Williamsteward of lordships of Narberth, St. Clears, etc.
Oxenford, Alexander?poss. queen’s bailiff, Wilts.
Parker, John Iparker of Burstwick-in-Holderness, Yorks.
Waryn, Robertcoroner, Hunts.
Wightman, Williamspignurnel of the Chancery



1. Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester                                                             
Braybrooke, Sir Gerard IIA, F; E of Gloucester’s widow
Browe, Sir HughM (1380)
Coggeshall, ThomasA, Att., F
Constable, Sir RobertM (1380)
Dallingridge, Sir Edward (1380)
Gildesburgh, Sir JohnA, M (1378, 1385)
Ireby, Sir JohnA
Ludlow, Sir RichardM (1380)
Waldegrave, Sir RichardA
2. Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel
Annesley, Sir JohnM (1387)
Browe, Sir Hugh

M (1387), R (granted two manors, 16 Mar. 1388)                                        

Coggeshall, ThomasA
Dallingridge, Sir EdwardA, F, M (including 1387), O, R
Dauntsey, Sir JohnF, M (1387), R (£20 p.a.)
Holt, StephenR (land worth £5 p.a.)
Hugford, Sir WilliamM (1387)
Ludlow, Sir RichardM (1387)
Prideaux, Sir JohnM (1387)
Quecche, HughAtt.
Strange, Sir JohnA
Turk, Sir RobertM (1387)
Waldegrave, Sir RichardA
Waleys, Sir WilliamA, M (1385)
3. Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick
Bagot, Sir WilliamA, prob. C
Lilling, Sir NicholasA, C, E, F, M, O, R
Mallory, Sir GilesO, R
Spyne, GuyA, R
Trewythenick, RogerO
Trymenell, HenryO, R (£6 13 s. 4 d. p.a.)
Wydeville, JohnA
4. Henry of Bolingbroke, earl of Derby
Annesley, Sir John*M
Bagot, Sir Williamprob. C, R; *R
Boteler, Sir John*M, O, R
Browe, Sir Hugh*M
Clerk alias Okham, GeoffreyO; *O
Constable, Sir Robert*M
Fogg, Sir Thomas*M, R (100 marks p.a.)
Lee, Sir Walter*M
Melton, Sir William*M
Strange, Sir John*R (20 marks p.a.)
Tilney, Sir Philip*O
Walsh, Sir Thomas*M, O, R
White, Sir John*, M, O
5. Thomas Mowbray, earl of Nottingham
Bagot, Sir WilliamAtt., prob. C, E, F, O, R

* Associated with Henry of Bolingbroke’s father, John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster



Bagot, Sir WilliamWarws.
Beaupyne, ThomasBristol
Braybrooke, Sir Gerard IIBeds.
Dallingridge, Sir EdwardSuss.
Dauntsey, Sir JohnWilts.
Fogg, Sir ThomasKent
Francis, Sir AdamLondon and Mdx.
Gildesburgh, Sir JohnEssex
Ireby, Sir JohnCumb.
Lee, Sir WalterHerts.
Quecche, HughSurr.
Walsh, Sir ThomasLeics.

The remaining 25 so appointed at the close of the first session of the Parliament were not Members.



1. Sheriffs (appointed on 1 Dec. 1388)
Flamville, Sir WilliamWarws. and Leics.
Ireby, Sir JohnCumb.
Peckham, JamesKent
Popham, HenryHants
Umfraville, Sir ThomasNorthumb.
2. Customs officials
Pound, Williamcollector, Kingston-upon-Hull 4 Nov. 1388
Ramsey, Ralphcollector, Gt. Yarmouth 12 June 1388
Waleys, Robertcollector, Ipswich 12 June 1388
3. Other
*Beaupyne, Thomasdiplomatic envoy to Flanders, May 1388
Courtenay, Sir Philipsteward of duchy of Cornw. 15 Nov. 1388
*Lee, Sir Walterconstable, Colchester castle 23 Mar. 1388
*Mitford, Johnsteward of Hexhamshire 20 Mar. 1388
*Vache, Sir Philip de lacaptain of Calais castle 15 May 1388

* Appointments made before the dissolution of the Merciless Parliament on 4 June.



Bredon, John                            
More, William I
Cheyne, Sir HughStrange, Sir John
Courtenay, Sir PhilipSutton, Robert
Dallingridge, Sir EdwardWaldegrave, Sir Richard
Lilling, Sir NicholasWalsh, Sir Thomas

In his opening speech to the Parliament of September 1397, summoned after Gloucester, Arundel and Warwick had been charged with high treason, the chancellor announced that Richard II, having considered the many misdeeds committed by various people against their allegiance, nevertheless wished to show lenience, and proposed to grant a general pardon. Fifty persons were formally excluded from the King’s grace, and, since the names of those thus left to the rigours of the law were not published, a number of men, doubtless out of feelings of either guilt or insecurity, sued for pardons straight away. The first individual charters of pardon were granted on 18 Oct., at the forefront of the supplicants being Sir Giles Mallory and Sir Nicholas Lilling, prominent retainers of the now exiled earl of Warwick. The general pardon, as eventually issued in January 1398 at Shrewsbury, in direct response to the Commons’ unprecedented generosity in granting the King for life the customs subsidies on wool, still excepted all persons who had risen against him in 1387-8. These unnamed men were then required to seek the King’s grace individually, the deadline for doing so being initially set at 24 June 1398, but later extended to Michaelmas following. Several of the exempted persons were made to appear before the Council and pay heavy fines before their pardons were issued, and some were obliged to purchase a second one for good measure.2 A few (including the notorious trio Sir William Bagot, Sir John Bussy and Sir Henry Green, former adherents of the Lords Appellant, but now entrenched among the King’s most trusted supporters), were fortunate enough to secure that their letters of pardon were given extra weight by enrolment on the patent rolls of the Chancery. Of the many pardons granted in the year beginning October 1397, some 600 referred specifically to the recipients’ treasonable association with the Appellants. It was stated that these particular individuals had adhered to Gloucester and Arundel when they assumed the royal authority in 1386 by commission under the great seal ‘in derogation of the King and his crown’, or when those lords had drawn after them others including the earl of Warwick into insurrection at Harringay and elsewhere, and that, having come to the King in his palace at Westminster, had plundered, imprisoned and killed many of his loyal subjects (this last being a direct allusion to the deeds of the Merciless Parliament).3

The following is a list of those Members of the Merciless Parliament who successfully sued for pardons in 1397-8. Those pardons specifically relating to the recipients’ adherence to the Appellants are marked *; those enrolled on the patent roll, rather than on the supplementary pardon rolls, are marked . Not all the Members of the Merciless Parliament were still alive in 1397-8, able to face the consequences of their participation in the momentous events of ten years earlier; at least 34, and perhaps several more, of the 259 had died in the meantime. But of the survivors 46 (21% of the total) received pardons, 15 of them for the active support they had offered to the Appellants.

Adderley, William                                    
16 June 1398
Appleyard, William12 June 1398
*Bagot, Sir William†1 Mar. 1398, *20 Oct. 1398
Barantyn, Thomas14 June 1398
Benefeld, Simon10 June 1398
Berkeley, Sir John I10 June 1398
Bettesthorne, John8 Apr. 1398
*Bixton, Walter*†20 May 1398
Bonet, John12 June 1398
Bonville, Sir William I4, 20 Feb. 1398
Boteler, Sir John13 June 1398
*Braybrooke, Sir Gerard II*12 May 1398
Bedon, John10 June 1398
Brooke, Sir Thomas4 Feb. 1398, 20 Apr. 1398
*Browe, Sir Hugh3 Feb. 1398, *1 May 1398
Carlisle, Robert I8 June 1398
*Cheyne, Sir Hugh*12 May 1398
Chippenham, Thomas I11 Mar. 1398
*Coggeshall, Thomas*7 Nov. 1397, 15 May 1398
*Crowshaw, John*12 Aug. 1398
Drew, Laurence14 June 1398
Fordham, Simon10 June 1398
Francis, Sir Robert16 June 1398
*Holme, Thomas*3 July 1398
Hugford, Sir William10 May 1398
Knap, Thomas16 Mar. 1398
Leek, Sir John12 June 1398
*Lichfield alias Swinfen, Roger*26 Oct. 1398
*Lilling, Sir Nicholas*18 Oct. 1397, 16 June 1398
*Mallory, Sir Giles*18 Oct. 1397, 16 June 1398
Mitford, John15 June 1398
Morton, William16 June 1398
Norton, Robert16 June 1398
Popham, Henry10 June 1398
*Quecche, Hugh*18 Feb. 1398
Sparsholt, Edmund16 June 1398
Spyne, Guy15 June 1398
Stotesbury, John12 June 1398
Sutton, Robert16 Feb. 1398
Tailboys, Sir Walter25 Apr. 1398
*Trymenell, Henry*5 May 1398
Turk, Sir Robert5 June 1398
Waldegrave, Sir Richard†14 Nov. 1397
*Waleys, Sir William*28 Apr. 1398
*White, Sir John*28 May 1398
Wilcotes, William16 June 1398

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: J. S. Roskell

End Notes

  • 1. J.S. Roskell, Introductory Survey, above, p. 57.
  • 2. RP, iii. 347, 359, 369. The pardons are discussed by C.M. Barron in ‘The Tyranny of Richard II’, Bull. IHR, xli. 1-18.
  • 3. C67/30 mm. 2, 3, 19, 31 mm. 2, 12, 13; CPR, 1396-9, pp. 184, 331, 340-1.