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|1386||Sir Thomas Fitznichol|
|1388 (Feb.)||Sir John Berkeley I|
|1388 (Sept.)||Sir John Berkeley I|
|Sir Laurence Sebrooke|
|1390 (Jan.)||Sir John Cheyne I|
|Sir Laurence Sebrooke|
|1390 (Nov.)||Sir Gilbert Denys|
|1391||Sir Maurice Berkeley|
|1393||Sir John Cheyne I|
|Sir Thomas Fitznichol|
|1394||Sir John Cheyne I|
|Sir Henry de la River|
|1395||Sir Thomas Fitznichol|
|Sir Gilbert Denys|
|1397 (Jan.)||Sir Thomas Butler|
|Sir John Berkeley I|
|1397 (Sept.)||Hugh Mortimer|
|1399||Sir John Cheyne I|
|Sir Thomas Fitznichol|
|Sir Thomas Fitznichol|
|1402||Sir Maurice Russell|
|Sir Thomas Fitznichol|
|1404 (Jan.)||Sir Maurice Russell|
|1404 (Oct.)||Richard Mawarden|
|1406||Sir Thomas Fitznichol|
|1407||Sir Thomas Fitznichol|
|1410||Sir John Drayton 1|
|1413 (May)||Sir Thomas Fitznichol|
|Sir John Pauncefoot|
|1414 (Apr.)||Robert Whittington|
|1414 (Nov.)||Sir Thomas Fitznichol|
|1415||Sir Thomas Fitznichol|
|1421 (May)||John Greville|
|1421 (Dec.)||(Sir) John Blaket|
|Sir John Pauncefoot|
The names are known of 26 knights of the shire who represented Gloucestershire between 1386 and 1421, inclusive, although gaps remain for one of the Members of 1410 and for both those of 1413 (Feb.), 1416 (Mar.) and 1416 (Oct.). So far as may be ascertained, ten of the 26 only sat for the shire once, and a further six but twice. However, a few were returned quite frequently: William Heyberer represented Gloucestershire five times, Robert Whittington six, and John Greville seven, while Sir Thomas Fitznichol, with no fewer than 15 Parliaments to his credit, was clearly outstanding. Furthermore, five of the shire knights supplemented their parliamentary service for this county by representing other constituencies; thus, although Sir John Drayton, (Sir) John Blaket and Richard Mawarden all sat for Gloucestershire in only one Parliament each, none of them was actually then a newcomer, for Drayton had been returned previously for Oxfordshire, Blaket for Leicestershire (three times) and Mawarden for Herefordshire and Wiltshire (one Parliament apiece). Similarly, although Gloucestershire was the first county which Sir John Berkeley I represented, and he sat for this, his native shire, three times, he was later elected successively for Hampshire, Wiltshire and Somerset, bringing his total number of Parliaments up to seven. William Heyberer would come close to rivalling Sir Thomas Fitznichol’s 15 Parliaments if his nine for the borough of Gloucester were to be added to his five for the shire. When such service for other constituencies is taken into account, the average number of Parliaments per Member amounts to nearly four. On only one occasion throughout the whole period were both of Gloucestershire’s representatives novices: in the critically eventful Parliament of 1397 (Sept.). Otherwise, the shire always elected at least one man who had some experience of the workings of the Commons, and in no fewer than ten of the 29 Parliaments for which returns have survived both men returned had been tried before. A certain degree of continuity was also achieved through the re-election of some shire knights to consecutive Parliaments; this occurred on as many as ten occasions in the course of the period, although it never happened that both Members of one Parliament were re-elected to the next.
In a few cases parliamentary service extended over long periods of time: Sir Thomas Fitznichol’s 15 returns were spread over 33 years (1382 to 1415); William Heyberer’s 14 for the borough and shire over 31 (1361 to 1390); and Robert Whittington’s six over 30 (1384 to 1414). On the other hand, John Greville’s participation in seven Parliaments was compressed into 13 years (1414 to 1427). But the most outstanding parliamentarian was none of these, despite their many visits to the Commons: rather it was Sir John Cheyne I, a Gloucestershire man only by adoption, who in 1399, when representing the shire for the fourth time, was elected Speaker (only to resign ostensibly on the ground of ill health), and who in 1404 when attending the Coventry Parliament in his capacity as a member of the King’s Council acted as spokesman for the knights of the shire in promoting their radical proposals for the confiscation of the temporalities of the Church.
No single family dominated the representation of Gloucestershire. The ten Parliaments of Robert and Guy Whittington (father and son), were spread over nearly 50 years (from 1384 to 1432), while the three Berkeleys who sat in this period (Sir John I, Sir Maurice and Thomas) all came from different branches of the family and, in any case, filled no more than six seats between them in the course of 17 years (from 1380 to 1397). Perhaps some significance should be attached, however, to the election of Sir Thomas Fitznichol’s sons-in-law, John Browning and Robert Poyntz, and particularly to the occasions when they were returned in his company: Browning and Fitznichol represented the shire together in 1401 and 1414 (Nov.), and Poyntz and Fitznichol did so in 1415.
Well over half (17) of the Members came from old-established gentry families of Gloucestershire, and acquired the bulk of their estates in the region through inheritance. Five others ((Sir) John Blaket, Sir Gilbert Denys, Sir Laurence Sebrooke, Thomas Mille and John Browning), entered the community of the shire principally through marriage to local heiresses; certainly Mille, who came from Devon, and probably Denys and Sebrooke, whose antecedents are less definite, were not native to Gloucestershire. Two other strangers became landowners in the county as a consequence of royal grants: William Hervy owed his property there to the generosity of Edward III, and Sir John Cheyne I owed his, which included the substantial estates of the alien priory of Beckford, to Richard II. Of the remaining two, Richard Mawarden (who came from Herefordshire) and Hugh Mortimer (who probably came from Worcestershire), the former owned property at Sodbury (although how he acquired it has not been discovered), but the latter is not known to have had any landed holdings whatsoever in the county. Only Mortimer may be described as an ‘outsider’, having no known local concerns or associates among the gentry of the shire.
As many as 17 MPs also held estates outside Gloucestershire, for the most part in neighbouring counties, and some of them were among the wealthiest gentry in the land. Nine are known to have enjoyed incomes of over £100 a year, among them Sir John Drayton (with over £200), Sir Maurice Russell (over £242) and Sir John Berkeley I (over £333). Indeed, Berkeley, who sat three times for Gloucestershire, owned more territory in the shire than any other single landowner, with the exception of his kinsman, Lord Berkeley, and the dowager countess of Stafford, being assessed there in 1412 on an estimated income of £157.2 Ten others, while being less well-off, nevertheless enjoyed substantial incomes of between £40 and £100 p.a.; and all but one of the rest (a comparatively small group), had less sizeable incomes, but still generally over £20, derived almost entirely from property limited to within the shire bounds. Included in this last group were Guy Whittington and William Tracy, neither of whom, although both stood to inherit their family estates in Gloucestershire, had yet done so at the time of their earliest elections (Tracy in 1419 and Whittington in the two subsequent Parliaments). As in other respects, Hugh Mortimer was exceptional in being virtually landless at the time of his only return to Parliament in 1397, although he was then in receipt of £40 a year as a retainer of Lord Despenser and, later on in his career, his services to Henry of Monmouth were to bring him manorial holdings which produced annual revenues of at least £175. The unreliable nature of the evidence relating to incomes renders suspect any attempt to draw firm conclusions about changes in the parliamentary representation of the shire in this respect, but it appears that the wealthiest Members predominated in the reigns of Richard II and Henry IV, while those of lower income gained a larger share of the county’s representation under Henry V. Even so, a balance was maintained: on only one occasion (January 1397) did two of the wealthiest group sit together, and in none of the Parliaments of this period was Gloucestershire represented by two men of comparatively small means.
After 1400 wealth and substance evidently came to bear little relation to nominal differences of rank within the society of the shire. Two of the more wealthy landowners, John Greville and Robert Greyndore, remained ‘esquires’ throughout their lives; Robert Poyntz, the grandson of a member of the titular nobility, went to the trouble of obtaining formal exemption from taking up knighthood; while Hugh Mortimer, who later in his career was to be appointed chamberlain to Henry of Monmouth, chamberlain of the duchy of Lancaster and treasurer of the Exchequer, never, although clearly of knightly estate, took up the appropriate rank. Furthermore, the spectrum was wider than the simple division between ‘knight’ and ‘esquire’ would suggest. A few of the MPs were related to members of the peerage: Sir John Berkeley I was a younger but well-favoured son of Thomas, Lord Berkeley (d.1361); Sir Maurice Berkeley was a great-grandson of another Lord Berkeley and grandson of the last Lord Botetourt; and Sir Thomas Butler was a descendant of John, Lord Sudeley, and heir to his barony (indeed, although he himself was never summoned to Parliament as Lord Sudeley, his son Ralph was to be so honoured later). Others married into the ranks of the nobility: Thomas Berkeley married Lord Chandos’s grand daughter; Sir John Cheyne I married Lord Deincourt’s daughter, who was Lord Tybotot’s widow; Robert Greyndore’s only daughter and heir was wedded successively to Reynold West, Lord de la Warre, and John Tiptoft, earl of Worcester; while Hugh Mortimer was at one time betrothed to Lord Saint Maur’s widow. At the other end of the social scale one of the ‘esquires’, John Greville, began his career in his father’s calling as a wool merchant, only to rise through his marriage to the wealthy Sir Robert Corbet’s* principal heir. Two others, William Heyberer and Thomas Mille, may have been lawyers, and the career of Sir John Cheyne I in the court of chivalry and as a diplomat at the Roman Curia suggests that he had been trained in canon and/or civil law. Even so, lawyers played no more than a small part in the representation of the county, for between them Heyberer, Mille and Cheyne sat in only seven of the 29 Parliaments for which returns have survived. But, whatever the limited significance of the terms used, the Members who were merely ‘esquires’ out-numbered the belted knights by 14 to 12, and as the period progressed so the knights’ participation diminished. Thus, in the 11 Parliaments between 1386 and 1397 (Sept.), the ratio of knights to men of lesser rank was 8:3; in the nine between 1399 and 1411 it became 9:8; and in the nine between 1413 (May) and 1421 (Dec.) it reversed to 1:2. The change was at first a gradual one, although two esquires were returned together in 1397 (Sept.), 1404 (Oct.), 1411 and 1414 (Apr.), but after 1415 there was a more marked decline in the number of knights, all but two of those elected to the last five Parliaments of Henry V’s reign being esquires. And neither of those two (Sir John Blaket and Sir John Pauncefoot), who were returned together in 1421 (Dec.), after a succession of four Parliaments in which no knights sat at all, could be described as prominent figures in the community: Blaket, representing Gloucestershire for the first and only time, had as yet taken no part in the administration of the shire, while Pauncefoot, sitting in his second Parliament, had been a virtual recluse for the previous 18 years.
A higher proportion of the Members elected to the five Parliaments between 1417 and 1421 would appear to have been more youthful and inexperienced in the spheres of local administration or military service than had earlier been the case. Although Thomas Berkeley had been only about 29 when elected for the first time in 1380, Sir Thomas Fitznichol about 28 in 1382, and Sir Maurice Berkeley 33 in 1391, all three came from well-established Gloucestershire families, had inherited their estates and had seen service overseas as well as at home. And for the most part the other Gloucestershire MPs were similarly already started on their careers and aged between 35 and 60 when elected. Among those returned to Henry V’s last five Parliaments, however, were Robert Greyndore (1417 and 1420), who had only recently inherited his father’s lands and had hardly embarked on his career, William Tracy (1419), and Guy Whittington (1420 and May 1421), all of them young men with no, or very little, experience of regional affairs. In a sense, Tracy and Whittington may be seen as standing in for their fathers (another William Tracy and Robert Whittington), both of whom were prominent and respected figures in the shire and, at the time of their sons’ elections, members of the local bench. Part of the explanation for the apparent reluctance of such shire notables to seek election on their own account at this time, may be the diminished importance of Parliament itself during the absence in France of the King and many of the magnates of the realm. Certainly, it would appear that during Henry V’s reign the Gloucestershire men of higher social rank and greater wealth showed less interest in parliamentary affairs. No more than a single knight is recorded attending the elections of 1407, 1411, 1422 and 1427, and no other of that rank figured among the named electors (who usually numbered between 16 and 42, though exceptionally as many as 188 in 1427) between those dates.
Whatever their social background, the great majority of those returned had some experience of local government. Nineteen of the 26 had served on at least one royal commission before first being elected for Gloucestershire (although in the cases of (Sir) John Blaket, Sir John Drayton and Richard Mawarden this service had taken place outside the county). Five of the remaining seven were to be appointed to commissions in the locality subsequently, and one (Hugh Mortimer) elsewhere. William Tracy was exceptional in that he apparently never sat on an ad hoc royal commission, although he was appointed escheator of Gloucestershire shortly after his only Parliament. As many as 15 of the 26 Members were sometime j.p.s in Gloucestershire, and three of these served on the bench in other counties, too. In addition, Sir John Drayton and William Hervy were j.p.s in Oxfordshire and Hugh Mortimer in Northamptonshire, Worcestershire and Buckinghamshire, although they never appeared as such in this county. Eleven of these men had seen service on the bench before their first elections for Gloucestershire, and the county returned a current member of its commission of the peace to 12 of the 29 Parliaments for which returns have survived, and to three more (1390 (Jan.), 1404 (Jan.) and 1411) elected two. Five MPs were sometime escheators of Gloucestershire (three of them being employed in this capacity before they sat in the Commons), while John Browning occupied the escheatorship in Dorset and Thomas Mille did likewise in Herefordshire. Fifteen of the knights of the shire (over half) held office as sheriff of Gloucestershire (only four of them before their first elections for the county), and five of these also occupied shrievalties elsewhere.3 Certain of these men were evidently constantly employed as administrators: John Greville, Robert Poyntz and Robert Whittington all served as escheator for four terms; while Sir Maurice Russell had four shrievalties for Gloucestershire to his credit, and Richard Mawarden and Sir John Berkeley I were appointed sheriffs of various counties no less than six and eight times, respectively. To this weight of administrative experience should also be added the coronerships of Cheyne, Fitznichol, Russell and Robert Whittington, the employment of the last, Whittington, as alnager, and the appointment of Thomas Mille (apparently after his parliamentary career had ended) as duchy of Lancaster steward in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. It is also indicative of the county’s preference for mature men of wide experience that several of the knights of the shire had spent time abroad on military campaigns. Furthermore, Sir John Cheyne I and Sir John Drayton had been captains of important garrisons overseas, both in the march of Calais; while at home James Clifford had been constable of Caldicot castle and Richard Mawarden of those at Dynevor and Southampton. It should be noted, however, that only rarely were current office-holders actually returned to Parliament: in 1385 and 1388 (Feb.), when the acting surveyor of works at Gloucester castle (William Heyberer) was elected; 1386, when William Hervy, the former yeoman of the robes to Edward III and currently alnager throughout England, sat; 1393 and 1395, when one of the coroners (Sir Thomas Fitznichol) was returned; and 1414 (Apr.) and 1419 when it was the turn of the escheator, John Greville. On no occasion between 1386 and 1421 was the ordinance prohibiting the return of sheriffs contravened by the electors of Gloucestershire, although only three years before, in 1383, the sheriff, Sir Thomas Fitznichol, had transgressed by returning himself to both the Parliaments of that year.
Few of the shire knights evidently owed their election for Gloucestershire to their connexion either with the King or with a member of the titular nobility, although such links (and there were several) may well have helped to recommend them to their electors. Thus, William Hervy’s personal service to Edward III was long over by the time of his election in 1386, and Sir Laurence Sebrooke had apparently left the royal court after the death of the King’s mother, Princess Joan, in whose household he had served, before his first return in 1388. On the other hand, Sir John Cheyne I was still in Richard II’s favour at the time of his elections in 1390 and 1393, having been regularly at Court at least since 1374 and acted as Richard’s diplomatic emissary to Brittany, Germany and Rome in the meantime. Indeed, the King’s generosity to Cheyne, revealed in grants of annuities and the farm of the estates of alien priories, suggests a close personal connexion between them. There were clearly advantages for both King and electors for Cheyne to be a Member of the Commons: Richard might find it useful to have a man conversant with his foreign policies in a position to put the Crown’s case; while the gentry of Gloucestershire might hope that a man so well placed at Court would be able to obtain redress for their local grievances. Similarly, although Henry IV may well have welcomed the election of Cheyne to the Parliament of 1399 (it was not to be long before he made him a member of his Council and sent him on important embassies), there is nothing to suggest that he was not the county’s free choice. Greater suspicion of outside interference in elections must be attached to the return to the Coventry Parliament of 1404 of two ‘King’s esquires’, Richard Mawarden and James Clifford, neither of whom had been elected for Gloucestershire before and were not to be chosen again. Mawarden possessed little property in the locality, and had spent his career in the service of Richard II and Henry IV primarily as an administrator; while such lands as Clifford held in the county had for the most part been acquired through unlawful means, and his violent temperament had earned him both unpopularity among his fellow countrymen and the captaincy of one of the Welsh castles threatened by Owen Glendower.
There is no evidence of direct interference in the Gloucestershire elections on the part of those members of the nobility (notably the dukes of Lancaster and Bedford, the earls of Stafford and the Lords Berkeley and Despenser), who owned estates in the county, and other magnates who did not, although there is reason to suppose that, at least on occasion, they had an interest in the outcome. Four MPs are known to have been retainers of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster: William Hervy had entered his service after the death of his first patron, the duke’s father Edward III, and his indenture of retainer was dated five years before his only election to Parliament in 1386 (that the connexion was a strong one is also suggested by the subsequent position of Hervy’s wife as governess to Gaunt’s grandchildren); Thomas Berkeley was retained by the duke before his second Parliament in 1390; Sir Maurice Berkeley’s indenture of retainer was dated the day before the Commons assembled for his only Parliament in 1391; and Sir Gilbert Denys, who had begun his career in Gaunt’s service, may have still been attached to him at the time of his elections in 1390 and 1395. Sir John Cheyne I and Sir Thomas Fitznichol were both connected with the Lords Appellant of 1387-8: Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester (whom Cheyne was serving as lieutenant in the court of chivalry at the time of his third Parliament, in 1394), and Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel (for whom Fitznichol was acting as a feoffee at least by the time of his Parliaments of 1393 and 1395). The duke and the earl were Richard II’s greatest enemies, and it is significant to note that to the Parliament of 1397 (Sept.), which was to lend its authority to the King’s acts of revenge, Gloucestershire elected two men, John Browning and Hugh Mortimer, who had close connexions with Thomas, Lord Despenser, a friend of the King and destined to be one of the eight lords who in this same Parliament would appeal Arundel of treason and ratify the seizure of Gloucester’s estates. The election of Browning and Mortimer was unusual in several respects: both were newcomers to Parliament (and this was the first time in 15 years that Gloucestershire had returned two novices together); neither came from prominent local families—indeed, Mortimer is not known to have held any property in the shire; neither had any experience of royal office in the county; and Browning was probably under 30 years of age. The most important thing they had in common was their attachment to Despenser: both had served in his company in the Irish campaign of three years before, and Mortimer, who enjoyed a large annuity of £40 by his grant, was long to hold dear the memory of his father, Lord Edward. Precisely how the election was arranged is not known, but, surely, it was more than coincidental that the sheriff responsible for making the return was Robert Poyntz, Browning’s brother-in-law, who himself had personal links with Despenser and his Lady. During the Parliament Sir John Cheyne I (who had been arrested at the same time as his patron the duke of Gloucester), was condemned to death, only to escape this fate in exchange for imprisonment in the Tower; and not long afterwards Sir Thomas Fitznichol was forced to pay heavy fines to procure Richard II’s pardon for his association with the earl of Arundel. Not surprisingly, it was these two whom the shire elected to the Parliament of 1399, to witness Richard’s formal deposition and acclaim the accession of Henry IV.
While there is strong circumstantial evidence for the interest of Lord Despenser in the Gloucestershire elections to the second Parliament of 1397, the view that any other magnate was similarly involved regarding later Parliaments is more difficult to substantiate. The earldom of Stafford suffered from minorities for much of this period, but even so the connexions between the Staffords and Sir Gilbert Denys, Sir Thomas Fitznichol, John Greville, Robert Greyndore and Robert Poyntz should not be overlooked. It seems likely that Anne, the dowager countess of Stafford, would not have been indifferent to the election of Poyntz, a member of her household and steward of her estates in Gloucestershire, to the Parliaments of 1415 and 1417, or to that of Greville, one of her tenants and a future steward, in 1414, 1419 and 1421 (May). Certainly, on the last occasion the countess had need of supporters in the Commons, for it was in this Parliament that the partition of the de Bohun estates between herself and Henry V was to be finally accomplished.4 It should be noted, however, that although Greville may well have defended the countess’s rights in the Lower House, he is more likely to have owed his return to five of his seven Parliaments (those of 1419, 1421, 1422, 1423 and 1425) to his position as receiver-general of the estates of Henry V’s brother, John, duke of Bedford. This is not to suggest that the duke himself took the trouble to secure Greville’s election, for apart from in 1419, when he himself opened the Parliament as the King’s lieutenant, Bedford was abroad while these Parliaments were in session; but during his absence he no doubt found it useful to have men like Greville in the Commons to protect his interests. Of course, the electors of Gloucestershire may well have chosen Greville in the hope that their grievances would thereby obtain a better hearing. Whether Thomas, Lord Berkeley (d.1417) took any interest in parliamentary affairs is unclear; and no firm conclusions may be drawn from the facts that Sir John Berkeley I was his uncle of the half-blood, that Sir Maurice Berkeley and Sir Thomas Fitznichol were also related to him (though distantly), and that Sir Gilbert Denys, John Greville, and Robert Greyndore were all feoffees of his estates. Similarly, the fact that Sir John Pauncefoot was a retainer of the earl of March may have had little connexion with his elections to Henry V’s first and last Parliaments. More significance may, however, be attached to the links between Sir John Drayton and Thomas Chaucer* of Ewelme, the influential cousin of Bishop Beaufort of Winchester, which dated from before Drayton’s only election for Gloucestershire in 1410. This was a Parliament to which quite a number of the friends of Chaucer and Beaufort were elected, and one of those in which Chaucer was elected Speaker and where the faction of the prince of Wales held sway. It is noteworthy that previous to his election Drayton had taken no part in Gloucestershire affairs, and that he owed his estates in the county to marriage rather than to inheritance.
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. SC8/106/5291.
- 2. The 1412 taxation returns have not survived among the Exchequer records, but the prior of Llanthony, one of the assessors, copied details of the assessments into his own register: C115/K2/6682, ff. 37d.-39.
- 3. (Sir) John Blaket in Warws. and Leics., Sir John Pauncefoot and Guy Whittington in Herefs. Richard Mawarden in Herefs., Wilts. and Hants and Sir John Berkeley I in Som. and Dorset, and Hants and Wilts.
- 4. Somerville, Duchy, i. 179.