WESTON, Sir Richard (c.1465-1541), of Sutton Place, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. c.1465, 1st s. of Edmund Weston of Boston, Lincs. by Catherine, da. of Robert Cammel of Fiddleford, Dorset. m. by 1502, Anne, da. of Oliver Sandys of Shere, Surr., 1s. 2da. suc. fa. ?by 1505. Kntd. 3 Jan. 1518.1
Keeper, Sunninghill park, Berks, and forester, Windsor forest 1503-d.; groom, the chamber by 1505; keeper, Castle Cornet, Guernsey 1506; steward, manors of Bray and Cookham, Berks. 1507-d., Stratfield Mortimer, Berks. and lt. Windsor castle and forest 1508-d., other minor offices 1504-d.; esquire of the body 1509, knight 1518; gov. Guernsey and neighbouring islands 1509-d., jt. (with s.) 1533-6 j.p. Berks. 1510-d., Kent 1518, Surr. 1524-d.; keeper of swans on Thames 1517-d.; jt. master or surveyor of wards 1518-21, sole 1521-6; cup bearer, the Household 1521; commr. subsidy, Berks. 1523, 1524, tenths of spiritualities, Surr. 1535; other commissions, Berks., Calais, Kent, London and Surr. 1505-39; treasurer, Calais 1525-8; Councillor ‘for matter in law’ 1526; under treasurer, Exchequer 1528-d.; chief steward, Chertsey abbey by 1534-5.2
The Westons of Sutton first appear in the early 16th century. No relationship has been established between them and an old Surrey family of that name but they were kinsmen of the Westons of Prested Hall, Essex, a family which, on acquiring the earldom of Portland in 1632, would be provided with a pedigree reaching back to the reign of Henry I. Edmund Weston had been appointed joint captain, keeper and governor of Guernsey, of Castle Cornet and of the lesser Channel Islands, in 1485, while his younger brother, John, was prior of the Knights of St. John in England from 1476 to 1489. The elder Weston was probably dead by 1505, when his wife Catherine became the coheir of her brother William, the last of the Cammels of Shapwick in Dorset. It was the young Richard Weston who had made an agreement with William Cammel by which the Dorset manors of Kentleworth and West Parley were to come to him on the death of Cammel’s widow, although in 1547 West Parley was to be claimed from Weston’s widow by the descendant of a cousin of Cammel.3
Weston probably rose in the service of Henry VII’s queen, Elizabeth of York. A man of his name was paid £4 10s. in 1502 for buying ‘harnesses of girdles’ for her overseas, and the Mistress Anne Weston who was one of her gentlewomen may well have been the daughter of Oliver Sandys whom Weston married about this time. Sandys had a very distant connexion with Sir William Sandys, who in November 1506 joined Richard Weston in a recognizance for £100 to the King shortly before Weston was given the custody of Castle Cornet in succession to his father.4
Weston’s presence at the old King’s funeral, at the coronation, and thereafter at practically every great ceremony for the next 30 years, was accompanied by more substantial service. Already keeper of Cornet, in May 1509 Weston succeeded to the governorship of Guernsey and all the other posts held by his father and Thomas Martin, who was now also dead. At least two wardships were granted to him that summer and in August 1510 he received a two-year licence to ship merchandise free of customs on any vessel not exceeding 150 tons through the Straits of Gibraltar. Weston then went to fight the Moors with Thomas, Lord Darcy, but he was in Guernsey by May 1513 and in the following March he was granted for 40 years the alnage of woollen cloth at Presteigne, Radnorshire. Later in 1514 he attended the marriage of Henry VIII’s sister Mary to Louis XII, and in 1518 he formed part of an embassy to France to arrange the betrothal of the young Princess Mary to the Dauphin.5
In 1518 Weston was appointed to join the aged Sir Thomas Lovell I as master of the wards, at a time when the royal rights of wardship were being exploited more thoroughly than before. Weston soon took full charge and seems to have sought to control the indiscriminate sale of wardships and leasing of wards’ lands, while also strengthening the supervision of escheators. When Sir Edward Belknap succeeded Lovell in December 1520 a new patent described him and Weston not as ‘masters’ but as ‘surveyors, governors, keepers and sellers’ of wards, a title which brought more prestige to their office; at the same time, they were empowered to consult members of the Council on legal problems arising from their work. As a general surveyor of crown lands Belknap was experienced but preoccupied, so that Weston continued to exercise control both before and after his colleague’s death in March 1521. Success fed ambition, for in September 1525 Wolsey told the King that Weston had offered to surrender his post, or its annuity of £100, in return for the stewardship of the duchy of Lancaster. The cardinal supported this request, since the stewardship would be more suitable than the chancellorship of the duchy, but instead Weston succeeded Sir William Sandys, now Lord Sandys, as treasurer of Calais.6
Weston cannot be detected as a policy-maker at any stage of his long career and Wolsey’s letter of 1525 suggests that he was merely an able servant who deserved some reward. It is true that in May 1519 a reaction against the King’s young advisers had led to changes in the Household, whereupon Sir Thomas Boleyn reported Weston to be among the new men of influence, but the dubiousness of such advancement appears from Hall’s description of Weston and three other ‘sad and ancient knights’, appointed to the King’s chamber at the Council’s request, whose solemnity in dancing incurred the mockery of their master and of the younger courtiers. Ironically, if not altogether surprisingly, Weston’s only son Francis, who became a royal page in 1525, was to furnish a classic example of the attractive young courtier whose meteoric and undeserved rise ended in tragedy.7
At Calais, Weston seems at first to have co-operated with Sandys, who was now captain of Guisnes, in the thankless tasks of keeping the defences in order, supplying victuals and paying the garrisons, but in 1528 he withheld the wages of Sandys and his retinue and had to be ordered by Wolsey to allow for the money, which had already been spent on repairs. It was always difficult to raise revenue from the Company of the Staple, which was supposed to help bear the military expenses, and Weston complained to the government about this and the weight of Sandys’s demands. He did not neglect his own family, for on 12 Apr. he asked Wolsey to further the promotion of his younger brother Sir William Weston, then turcopolier, if the illness of the prior of the Knights of St. John proved fatal; the prior died and Sir William Weston duly became the last head of the order in England before the Dissolution. Weston himself was sometimes absent during his treasurership, and after becoming under treasurer at the Exchequer was for a time torn between London and Calais: in January 1529 he was at Calais but anxious to be gone ‘on account of the term’, but in April his absence from a commission for the repair of the defences deprived it of a quorum.8
On 12 July 1529 Weston joined the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk and others as witnesses against a dispensation exhibited by Queen Catherine; this and his past services made it likely that he would be a useful Member of Parliament, experienced and respected, yet pliable. Weston’s main property now lay in Surrey but he had sat on more commissions in Berkshire, where he also held most of his local offices, and it was for Berkshire that he was returned in 1529, perhaps not for the first time. His fellow-Member (who was also a relative) was another veteran, Sir William Essex, but one less cautious in his political friendships. The King is not known to have intervened in the election for Berkshire, but he was at Windsor when the writs for several other counties were sent for, so that both Essex and Weston were probably royal nominees.9
In 1530 Weston married his son to Anne Pickering, sole heir of Sir Christopher Pickering of Killington, Westmorland, who had been his ward for 11 years. Francis Weston was now outbidding his father as a recipient of royal gifts and in 1533, at the time of Anne Boleyn’s coronation, he too was knighted. His father played host to Henry VIII at Sutton Place, and later in the same year a new grant invested father and son with the governorship of Guernsey, but on 4 May 1536 the younger Weston was arrested on a charge of being the Queen’s lover and two weeks later he was beheaded, despite his family’s attempts to save him.10
The father’s fortunes were not affected by the tragedy. It is not known whether he sat in the Parliament which followed, in accordance with the King’s general request, but on the outbreak of the Lincolnshire rebellion he was included in a list of Surrey gentry who were to attend the King; his quota of 150 men was larger than that of any of his neighbours save Sir Nicholas Carew. He was also named to advise Queen Jane Seymour, and a year later he attended first the christening of Prince Edward and then the Queen’s funeral. After a gap of several years he resumed local duties in 1538 and he was asked to sit as a knight of the shire for Surrey in 1539. Sir William Fitzwilliam I, Earl of Southampton, on his way to arrange the elections in Hampshire and Sussex, wrote to Cromwell on 14 Mar. that he had stayed with Weston, who was very sick and had refused a seat in Parliament, although promising to further the return of the earl’s half-brother and Sir Matthew Browne. Weston was then expecting to die, but he was well enough to greet Anne of Cleves in January 1540.11
Weston’s first acquisition of land had been the Berkshire manor of Ufton Pole in 1510, but his chief possession and monument was Sutton Place, near Guildford. The manor of Sutton, previously joined with that of Woking, had been granted in fee to Weston in 1521. While in France from 1518 to 1519 Weston had journeyed down the Loire to see the Dauphin, and his travels bore fruit in the palatial home which he built a few years later by the River Wey, on the site of the ruined manor. The building, with its perpendicular forms overlaid with Italian ornament, bears little resemblance to any other courtier’s house of the 1520s, and it ranks with the vanished Nonsuch as a landmark in the introduction of renaissance ideas. Its nearness to several royal residences (and to Wolsey’s house at Esher) made it convenient for a rich courtier, while it was also hard by Clandon, where Weston had a house as early as 1516; in May 1530 he was licensed to empark lands at Clandon and Merrow, thereby creating Clandon park. Also at Merrow were three manors held by the Knights of St. John, and on the dissolution of the order in 1540 one of these, Temple Court, was granted to Weston. He had numerous sources of income from keeperships and stewardships, apart from his lands: as knight of the body he enjoyed £100 a year, and as master or surveyor of the wards he drew a further £100 as well as the yield of many lucrative wardships. An inventory of goods at Clandon and Sutton, drawn up by his executors, valued the plate at £144, while the sumptuous furnishings included a ‘great carpet to lay under the King’s feet’.12
Weston made a short will on 16 May and died on 7 Aug. 1541. He began with the traditional bequest of his soul to the Virgin Mary and the saints and did not refer to the royal supremacy. He asked to be laid in Holy Trinity church, Guildford, where in 1540 he had endowed a chantry for 20 years, but there is no trace of his tomb among those of his descendants. He named as executors his wife, the Earl of Southampton and the lord high admiral, Sir John Russell, Baron Russell, and as overseer (Sir) Christopher More. In accordance with the terms of an enfeoffment which he had made to More and others on 29 May 1536, soon after his son’s execution, he bequeathed his lands to Anne for life and then to his seven year-old grandson Henry Weston. His daughters Margaret and Catherine had married Sir Walter Denys and Sir John Rogers, and ‘for lack of the said Henry’, who was not restored in blood until 1549, the lands were to be divided equally between their eldest sons, Richard Denys and Richard Rogers†.