MEYRICK, Rowland (1585-at least 1647), of The Court at Gladestry, Gladestry (Llanfair Llythyfnwg), Rad.
Available from Cambridge University Press
Family and Education
b. 1585,1 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Sir Gelly Meyrick† (d.1601) of Gellyswick, Hascard, Pemb., Wigmore Castle, Herefs., Gladestry, Rad. and Essex House, London, and Margaret (d.1627), da. of Ieuan Lewis† of Gladestry, wid. of John Gwynn of Llanelwedd, Rad.2 educ. Jesus, Oxf. 1597, aged 12; travelled abroad (Italy) 1601.3 m. by 1610, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Thomas Blundeville of Newton Flotman, Norf., 4s. 1da. suc. fa. 13 Mar. 1601. d. aft. Nov. 1647. sig. Ro[wland] Meyrick.4
The Meyricks claimed descent from a medieval prince of Powys and the lords of Cedewain in what later became Montgomeryshire.8 An ancestor served Henry VIII in France, and received grants of land in Anglesey which gave the family an enduring presence in north Wales. Among the most conspicuous of its members was Meyrick’s namesake grandfather, who became bishop of Bangor in 1559. This Rowland married into the Pembrokeshire gentry and his son, Gelly†, entered the service of the Devereux family there.9 Through this connection, Gelly became one of the most trusted clients of Robert Devereux, 2nd earl of Essex, whom he served as household steward and principal man of business. Gelly acquired the Gladestry estate in Radnorshire after marrying the daughter of a leading local gentleman, while his favour with Essex and consequent access to royal patronage brought him lands in Herefordshire, Radnorshire and Pembrokeshire, and also a knighthood.
Rowland Meyrick was thus born into one of the most influential gentry families of late Elizabethan Wales, which had parliamentary influence in several counties in the south-west of the country as well as Radnorshire. Groomed for a prominent position in local and national life, he attended the ‘Welsh’ college at Oxford, Jesus, at the tender age of 12 before being tutored by a governor in Siena. The intended course of his life was changed radically, however, by the leading role his father played in the Essex rising of February 1601, which saw Sir Gelly attainted and executed for treason the following month. Still a minor, Rowland remained in the care of his mother, Dame Margaret, in the years immediately after Sir Gelly’s death. She probably retained the mansion house of The Court at Gladestry and the 300 acres attached to it as these came to her and Sir Gelly jointly from her (still surviving) father and grandfather.10 The rest of the estate escheated to the Crown, leaving the family in a much reduced financial position that would dog Rowland’s steps for decades; as a defendant with his mother in a lawsuit of 1606, Meyrick described the event as being ‘of grievous memory and unspeakable sorrow ... and to their utter undoing.’11
James I proved unwilling to leave the families of Essex’s followers in the political wilderness, and granted a posthumous pardon to Sir Gelly in June 1603.12 The road to economic and political rehabilitation also required restitution in blood, however, and a bill to achieve this for Rowland and his sister, Margaret, was introduced in the second session of the first Jacobean Parliament. It may be significant that this was around the time when Meyrick came of age. The initiative could have come from Meyrick and his mother, but another possibility is that the bill was sponsored by Sir John Vaughan* of Golden Grove, who had married Rowland’s sister.13 Although not he did not sit in this Parliament, Vaughan may have helped get the bill into the Commons. At any rate, the remnants of an old faction were mobilized to steer the bill through the House, as the committee named at the second reading on 1 Apr. 1606 included the Essex associates Alban Stepneth, Sir James Perrot, Sir Robert Knollys I, Sir Thomas Smythe, Sir Henry Neville I and Sir Francis Popham. Thereafter the bill moved quickly to the Lords, where it passed without comment.14 The resultant statute restoring Rowland and his sister in blood was a simple affair which described the ‘unspeakable grief of the whole family’ engendered by the attainder.15 Shortly afterwards, the Crown granted Rowland a reversion of lands in his native Radnorshire, possibly an interest in the agistment of Radnor Forest granted to his father in 1588.16 A few days prior to this, Meyrick, entered into a statute bond of £5,000 with Robert Devereux, 3rd earl of Essex, for the performance of unspecified covenants which probably related in some fashion to his restitution and resumption of part of the family estates.17
There are signs, however, that Meyrick’s financial position began to collapse not long after he was restored in blood. By 1610 he was borrowing money, using a Pembrokeshire contact, (Sir) Thomas Canon*, as his surety, but he showed little interest in repayment. Canon related that by around 1617 Meyrick was ‘growing to decline in his estate’.18 Furthermore, in a Chancery case of 1626, Meyrick claimed that in about 1610 he fell victim to the sharp practices of James Price I* of Mynachdy, who had engineered a moneylending scam, as a result of which in around 1619 he had briefly been imprisoned in King’s Bench, probably for debt.19 It was perhaps because of her son’s money problems that Meyrick’s mother, on making her will in 1625, conveyed the family estates to Meyrick’s second son, Gelly, who was still a minor, an action intended to secure it from potential creditors.20
It seems likely that the insecure nature of his financial position encouraged Meyrick to seek election for New Radnor Boroughs in 1614. Alternatively, he may have had plans to introduce a private bill related to the protracted legal battle concerning his wife’s estate, discussed below, but if so no such bill ever materialized. In any event, he left no mark on the record of this, his only Parliament.
It was probably with a view to stabilizing his finances that in around 1610 Meyrick married Elizabeth, daughter of the author and translator of Newton Flotman, Norfolk, Thomas Blundeville.21 He entered a family riven with division, however, as Elizabeth had initially been destined to marry Robert King of Culpher, Suffolk, but had absconded with an unnamed ‘knight’ while King was absent in Italy.22 Upon his return, King had married the other Blundeville heiress, Patience, and adopted the Blundeville surname. He also established sole title to Newton Flotman, and thereby apparently persuaded Thomas Blundeville, angered at Elizabeth’s absconding, to disinherit his eldest daughter. A series of lawsuits ensued between King on the one hand and Meyrick and his wife on the other over the settlement of the estate and the armour, books of music and science and ‘instruments of astronomy and geography’ which the Meyricks claimed had been left to Elizabeth despite King’s intriguing with an aged Blundeville to bequeath them nothing.23 At one point Meyrick claimed that he had been unable to gain possession himself because, on the death of Thomas Blundeville’s widow in 1617, he had been living ‘in Wales far off from the county of Norfolk’.24 King, however, retorted that Blundeville’s widow had in fact given Elizabeth and Rowland Meyrick household goods and money worth around £4,000 from the estate.
Although living in Radnorshire, Meyrick’s profile within the county (never particularly high) waned as the 1620s progressed.25 Possibly because of his money troubles, he was omitted from the commission of the peace in 1622, apparently never to return. Fleeting glimpses of Meyrick are caught in the 1630s, such as the commission to apprehend him for non-appearance before Star Chamber in 1634.26 He also instigated a case in the Exchequer relating to an old mortgage which had been designed to pay some of his debts. Meyrick claimed that one of the parties to the mortgage, his former surety Sir Thomas Canon, had assigned two counterbonds over to the king in an attempt to ‘swallow up his [Meyrick’s] estate’.27 In December 1635 he sold his interest in the agistment of Radnor Forest to London property speculators.28 Apart from this he maintained a low profile in local affairs.
Meyrick was inconspicuous during the early stages of the Civil War in Radnorshire. However, his familial links with the Devereux clan may have encouraged sympathy for the parliamentarian cause, as he was appointed chairman of the sub-committee for accounts in Radnorshire in February 1647. His appointment was part of a drive to energize the largely moribund committee, and he set about his task with some relish, engendering a lively dispute over the questionable fiscal probity of some of the sequestrators such as Howell Jones and the county treasurer, Henry Williams of Caebalfa. This activity caused a division to emerge within the committee of accounts itself, however, with some of its members claiming that Meyrick and a small number of associates had split themselves off from the committee proper and were acting as an independent body; the central committee of accounts even referred to the ‘gentlemen of Mr. Meyrick’s division’ in its correspondence. Part of the problem concerned allegations that Meyrick had retained £30 of public money to finance a report on the condition of the county as requested by the knight of the shire, Arthur Annesley, a report which would probably be critical of the county committee. Meyrick’s allies were largely established county gentlemen, many of whom had royalist sympathies, and this suggests that Meyrick himself was only lukewarm in his parliamentarianism. Meyrick indicated that he was planning on going to London in November 1647 to defend himself against his opponents’ allegations of misappropriating state funds, but he disappears thereafter from the record.29 No will or administration has been found, and no member of this branch of the family subsequently sat in Parliament.
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Lloyd Bowen
- 1. Age calculated from admiss. to univ.
- 2. Dwnn, Vis. Wales ed. S.R. Meyrick, i. 136-7; Add. 39747, f. 56; NLW, BR1627/137; E112/151/30.
- 3. Al. Ox.; HLRO, O.A. 3 Jas.I, c. 55.
- 4. NLW, BR1627/137(B).
- 5. JPs in Wales and Monm. ed. Phillips, 325-9.
- 6. C212/22/21-3.
- 7. SP28/257, unfol.
- 8. Dwnn, i. 136-7.
- 9. DWB (Meyrick of Bordorgan, Anglesey and Hascard, Pembs.).
- 10. Arch. Camb. (ser. 3), x. 24; REQ 2/414/91; NLW, BR1627/137. In 1598 the 2nd earl of Pembroke noted that Margaret was ‘no inheretrix’, suggesting that possession of Gladestry may have been by way of a jointure settlement or similar conveyance: HMC Hatfield, viii. 233.
- 11. REQ 2/414/91. See also REQ 2/281/30.
- 12. C66/1615.
- 13. According to an inventory of 1601, Vaughan possessed his own chamber at The Court at Gladestry: E178/1044.
- 14. CJ, i. 290b, 291b, 300b; LJ, ii. 425a, 426a, 438b.
- 15. HLRO, O.A. 3 Jas.I, c. 55.
- 16. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 327; CPR, 1587-88, p. 115.
- 17. Longleat House, Devereux mss VII. 97.
- 18. E112/278/6. This is counterbalanced by a claim in one lawsuit that lands of £200 p.a. had come to Meyrick’s mother in around 1608 on the death of the heir to the estate by her first marriage, David, son of John Gwynn of Llanelwedd. However, Meyrick was appointed guardian to David’s son, Roderick, a minor, and claimed to have occupied the lands only from 1615, and then to have held them only in trust for Roderick: C2/Jas.I/P22/44.
- 19. C8/36/73; NLW, Noyadd Trefawr 104.
- 20. NLW, BR1627/137.
- 21. Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. xxxii), 40-1. Meyrick’s son, Blundeville, was born at Newton Flotman in 1610: Norf. Arch., xxi. 356.
- 22. This ‘knight’ might have been Meyrick; he was described as ‘eminent and strong in friends though weak in means’: C2/Chas.I/M46/41.
- 23. C2/Chas.I/K18/55; 2/Chas.I/K26/124; 2/Chas.I/K27/64; 2/Chas.I/M46/41; 2/Chas.I/M46/65.
- 24. C2/Chas.I/K18/55.
- 25. E179/265/21; 179/224/585.
- 26. Cal. of Docquets of Ld. Kpr. Coventry ed. J. Broadway, R. Cust and S.K. Roberts (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xxxv), 450.
- 27. E112/278/6.
- 28. NLW, Harpton Court 345-7.
- 29. SP16/539/407, 447; 16/28/189; 28/253A, ff. 28, 52v, 58v, 62v; 28/257, unfol.