ADDERBURY, Sir Richard II (d.1416), of Steeple Aston, Oxon. and Donnington, Berks.

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



Jan. 1397

Family and Education

s. and h. of Sir Richard Adderbury I*. m. bef. Feb. 1388, Alice (d.1416), da. and h. of John Cleet of South Denchworth, Berks., wid. of Edmund Danvers (d.1381) of Winterbourne Danvers, s.p. Kntd. by May 1381.

Offices Held

On embassies to Portugal Apr.-May 1386, France 1393, Bavaria 6 Oct. 1394-21 Jan. 1395, 8 Aug.-7 Oct. 1395, Aachen 1396.

Chamberlain to John, duke of Lancaster, by July 1388-bef. Mich. 1392.2

Commr. of array, Berks. Dec. 1399.


Before the death of his father in 1399, the younger Sir Richard Adderbury held only those estates in Berkshire which his marriage had brought him. These comprised his wife’s paternal inheritance — including the manors of Stainswick and ‘Cleets’ in Denchworth as well as a number of properties at Lambourn — together with her interest for life in a substantial part of the Danvers estates, due to pass eventually to her son, William Danvers*. The marriage had taken place by 1388, when Adderbury and his wife sold some land in Longcot.3

By that time Adderbury’s career was already well begun. While his father was devoting his energies to serving the Black Prince in Aquitaine, he attached himself to the prince’s brother, John of Gaunt, whom he followed on campaign in 1370. By 1372 he was in receipt of a retaining fee payable by the receiver-general of the duchy of Lancaster, and within a few years he had been made a knight of the duke’s chamber. In May 1381 he took out royal letters of protection as about to sail for Portugal, most likely for service in the army led by the earl of Cambridge, intending to prosecute Gaunt’s claim to the throne of Castile. When, in the summer of 1385, Adderbury rode north to Scotland as a member of the army led by Richard II in person, it was no doubt as one of Gaunt’s contingent, for by Michaelmas that year his annuity from the duchy estates had risen to £20. The following spring (1386) saw him once more in Portugal, this time accompanying two other English negotiators sent to promote a treaty crucial for Lancaster’s plans to invade Galicia. The resulting alliance, concluded on 9 May and afterwards known as the treaty of Windsor, was to have long-term importance in Anglo-Portuguese relations. No sooner back in England, Adderbury made preparations to return to the Iberian peninsula, this time with the army raised by his lord. It was while awaiting embarkation at Plymouth in June that he made his deposition to the constable’s court, in favour of Richard, Lord Scrope, in the latter’s celebrated dispute with Sir Robert Grosvenor. (His father was to do likewise at Westminster a few months later.) Adderbury remained in Spain with Lancaster throughout the following year, and at some unknown date before July 1388 he was made the duke’s chamberlain. In this capacity he travelled to Paris in the autumn of 1389 in order to procure safe-conducts from Charles VI for Gaunt’s return home overland from Bayonne.4

John of Gaunt lent his bachelor Adderbury £200 in order to allow him to accompany Henry of Bolingbroke to Prussia on the latter’s first expedition there. By now an experienced diplomat, Adderbury was to be employed during the 1390s on a number of missions on behalf of Richard II and his uncle Gaunt, although since only two of these journeys were accorded the status of formal embassies, documentation about them is generally meagre. It is known, for instance, that he took out royal letters of exchange before travelling overseas in May 139I, but his destination is not recorded. More important, he received 100 marks at the Exchequer in December 1393 for his expenses and reward in accomplishing a mission to France on secret business of the King, connected with the long drawn-out negotiations with Charles VI towards a permanent peace (negotiations in which Lancaster had taken a prominent part). The secret treaty concluded earlier was to be submitted to Parliament for its approval in January following, and it seems quite likely that Adderbury’s election to this same Parliament took place because he was known to be conversant with these weighty affairs and enjoyed personal access to the King. Indeed, it was expressly because he was in Richard’s confidence that in August following he and a fellow knight of the King’s chamber were sent to treat with the duke of Bavaria for an alliance. Accordingly, he was absent overseas from that October until January 1395, when he reported to the King at Dublin before returning home. He received £1 a day for his expenses, as well as just over £10 for his crossings from Calais to Dover and from Chester to Ireland. No more than seven months elapsed before he was back in southern Germany, having received a fresh commission on a similar diplomatic purpose, but with extended powers; and the following year (1396) saw him travelling to Aachen to negotiate for a settlement of claims made by certain English merchants.5 During his second appearance in the House of Commons, in 1397, Adderbury was no doubt able to contribute to the discussions lessons learned as a royal envoy to foreign courts.

Throughout the 1390s, although often busy on missions overseas, Adderbury remained in close contact with the duke of Lancaster and members of his entourage. For instance, in 1397 he assisted Sir John Dabrichecourt*, a fellow Lancastrian retainer, to raise £600 as purchase-price for the marriage of the son and heir of Philip, Lord Darcy. In August that same year John of Gaunt entrusted an important letter to the King to ‘mon tresbien ame bachiler, monsire Richard Abberbury le fitz’, and in his will drawn up in the following February the duke made Adderbury a bequest of 50 marks. Moreover, Adderbury’s subsequent tenure of the duchy of Lancaster manor of East Garston, Berkshire, worth as much as £50 a year, was almost certainly owed to Gaunt’s patronage.6

Strange to relate, the accession to the throne of John of Gaunt’s son, Henry of Bolingbroke, was not a signal for Adderbury’s further advancement. On the contrary, after 1399 Sir Richard ceased to have contact with the royal court and, following his appointment to a single commission of array, he took no further part in local administration, either. Perhaps the life-long devotion of his father to Richard of Bordeaux, and his own personal contacts with that monarch made the change of ruler regrettable to him. There is no evidence that any of the many journeys overseas which he took during Henry IV’s reign were on business of state; indeed, their purpose may well have been private, and on one occasion at least a pilgrimage was intended. He took out royal letters of attorney before going abroad in 1401, 1410 and 1411, and in the meantime, in 1407 and 1409, he obtained authorization to exchange sums of 100 marks and £120, respectively, into Italian currency. No doubt these journeys were expensive ventures, and Adderbury is known to have sometimes run up debts, as in 1400 when he was sued by a London merchant for £31, or another time when he owed the earl of Salisbury 20 marks.7

It was at the very end of this obscure, final phase of his career that Adderbury took the extraordinary step of selling off the very substantial estates he had inherited from his father in 1399. True, by this time he was growing old, and there was little hope that his marriage of nearly 30 years’ duration would produce heirs: as a petitioner later put it, Sir Richard ‘havyng non issue and beyng of right grete age prefered ... to sell’. Even so, such a large scale disposal of ancestral estates was an unusual event in the 15th century. By a series of transactions completed early in 1415 Adderbury first made arrangements regarding his wife Alice’s lands in South Denchworth and her rents from 30 messuages in Lambourn (ensuring, however, that after the deaths of the donees his wife or her heirs would once more receive an income from these properties); then in a much more drastic move he sold outright to Thomas Chaucer* the castle and manor of Donnington and five other manors, together with the reversionary interest after his own and his wife’s deaths in three more (Kidlington, Hanwell and Thatcham). At the same time he made a settlement on Sir Richard Arches*, the son of his sister Lucy, of a substantial part of his inheritance in Oxfordshire, consisting of the manors of Steeple Aston, Glympton, Ludwell, Duns Tew and Souldern. It remains a mystery as to what happened to the money raised by these transactions; perhaps it had already been spent overseas. Certainly, the name of the younger Sir Richard Adderbury, unlike that of his father, is not remembered in connexion with the endowment of religious institutions.8

Neither Sir Richard nor his wife lived long after disposing of the Adderbury estates. They are last recorded in the Hilary term of 1416 as still in possession of the manor of Hanwell — which was due to revert to Thomas Chaucer on their deaths — and Alice, who outlived her husband, was dead by September following. Many years later, in 1448, Richard Adderbury of Newbury (most likely this Sir Richard’s nephew) took advantage of the Crutched friars’ failure to respect the provisions of Sir Richard Adderbury I’s foundation at Donnington priory to seize their land at Souldern and sell it to the duke of Suffolk. Thus, all the ancestral estates of the Adderburys were finally dispersed.9

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. Called ‘junior’ on both returns: OR, i. 247, 252.
  • 2. Foedera ed. Rymer (Orig. edn.), vii. 595.
  • 3. VCH Berks. iv. 255, 282, 508; F.N. Macnamara, Mems. Danvers Fam. 510; CIPM, xv. 480-1; CCR, 1409-13, p. 346; CP25(1)12/76/19.
  • 4. Reg. Gaunt 1371-5, ii. 49; 1379-83, i. 613; ii. 1236; DL 29/738/12104; Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, ii. 136, 152, 155; P.E.L. Russell, Eng. Intervention in Spain and Portugal, 414; Scrope v. Grosvenor, i. 70; A. Colville, Gontier et Pierre Col, 26; S.K. Walker, ‘John of Gaunt and his retainers, 1361-99’ (Oxf. Univ. D.Phil. thesis, 1986), 8, 266.
  • 5. CCR, 1392-6, p. 544; E403/546, 3, 4 Dec.; Foedera, vii. 785, 805; CPR, 1391-6, p. 526; E364/30 m. Dd; Dip. Corresp. Ric. II (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, xlviii), 169; TRHS (ser. 5), xvi. 89; Walker, 65.
  • 6. Anglo-Norman Letters and Pets. ed. Legge, 75; Test. Vetusta ed. Nicolas, i. 143; DL29/738/12096; CCR, 1396-9, pp. 199, 201.
  • 7. Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ii. 182, 199, 202; CCR, 1405-9, pp. 195, 444; E28/24; E159/176 adhuc recorda Hil. rot. 16, Easter rot. 1.
  • 8. CP25(1)191/26/6-8, 22; VCH Berks. iv. 91; CPR, 1413-16, p. 273; C1/29/62-63; C.C. Brooks, Hist. Steeple Aston, 51, 68.
  • 9. CP25(1)191/26/9; S. Barfield, Thatcham, ii. 333; C139/174/46; CPR, 1446-52, p. 169 (in which Richard Adderbury of Newbury is stated to be the nephew of Sir Richard Adderbury I, but this is improbable on chronological grounds).