BUTLER, Sir Thomas (1358-98), of Sudeley, Glos.
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Family and Education
b. Tyrley and bap. Drayton in Hayles, Staffs. 1 Oct. 1358, s. and h. of Sir William Butler of Wem, Salop, by Joan, er. sis. and coh. of Sir John Sudeley† of Sudeley. m. c.1383, Alice (d. 8 Feb. 1443), da. of Sir John Beauchamp† of Powick, Worcs. and sis. of Sir Walter* and Sir William Beauchamp*, 4s. 2da. Kntd. bef. Nov. 1388.
J.p. Glos. 18 June 1394-d.
Commr. of weirs, Glos. June 1398.
Butler was the great-grandson of John, Lord Sudeley (d.1336), and heir to the barony of Sudeley, although he himself, like his uncle Sir John Sudeley before him, was never summoned to Parliament by personal writ. Sir John died childless in 1367, leaving as his heirs the young Thomas Butler and the latter’s aunt Margery, wife of Sir Robert Massey. Accordingly, a partition was made of the Sudeley manors of Fairfield (in Belbroughton), Sherriffs’ Lench and Wyche, in Worcestershire, Dassett and Griff, in Warwickshire, and Toddington, Stanley Pontlarge, Wormington and Sudeley itself in Gloucestershire, their total value being assessed at £108 10s.1d. p.a. On 6 Dec. Butler’s share, evidently greater than a moiety, was leased at the Exchequer to his father for £100 a year. Subsequently, his wardship passed into other hands: first, in 1374, to David Hanmere, the future judge, who paid £90 to secure his marriage; then to Sir William Trussell of Kibblestone; and finally to Sir Hugh Calveley, the celebrated commander. Eventually, on 28 Apr. 1379, Butler himself obtained custody of his inheritance, for the payment of £80 a year until he attained his majority. Then, on 8 Oct., a few days after he did so, his aunt Margery died childless, leaving her portion of the Sudeley estates to him, and he obtained a lease of these, too, for £50 a year. Butler failed to make proof of age until November 1380, when he was 22, possibly having spent the intervening year abroad on military service.1
Butler made an entail of his most important properties (Sudeley, Dassett and Griff) on his wife and their issue in 1385. He and his kinsman Sir Baldwin Freville were the coheirs to the estates of the Lords Montfort, whose legitimate line had ended in 1369, and it was also in 1385 that they sued Sir Thomas† and Sir Nicholas Stafford* for possession of two Montfort manors in Nottinghamshire. They were apparently unable to prove their title, but later lawsuits concerning the Montfort manor of Whitchurch in Warwickshire met with more success, while there seems never to have been any doubt about their rights to the castle and manor of Beaudesert in the same county. Butler’s interest in Beaudesert involved him in several transactions with Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, and his brother William, Lord Abergavenny, since the latter held the estate for life under the terms of earlier settlements. Thus, in 1393 Butler and Freville made a formal agreement with the earl concerning Butler’s sons’ inheritance of his moiety of Beaudesert after Lord Abergavenny’s death. Although Butler’s service in local administration was restricted to Gloucestershire, his landed interests in Warwickshire led to contacts of a social nature there, and he (described as ‘dominus de Sudeley’) and his wife both joined the guild of the Holy Trinity in Coventry.2
Butler’s career had begun by September 1383 when he was making preparations to sail for Ireland, most likely on royal service. That same month he was associated with Sir John Beauchamp† of Holt and other members of the King’s household as co-feoffees of certain properties on behalf of the former abbot of Stonleigh. Further travels abroad followed after he joined the retinue of the chancellor of Portugal, Fernand, master of the order of St. James, then, in January 1385, about to embark for his homeland, and it may well have been on this expedition that he was knighted. Butler’s relations with the earl of Warwick, a kinsman of his wife, were not so close as to earn him personally any material advantage when the earl came to power as one of the Lords Appellant, although in November 1388 he did stand surety for two men granted custody of certain estates forfeited by his former colleague, Lord Beauchamp of Holt (one of the victims of the Merciless Parliament). On 26 Apr. 1390 Butler obtained the King’s licence to journey overseas, and in the course of his subsequent travels he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This had some unfortunate repercussions, for while visiting the Holy Sepulchre and other sacred places he ate, drank and conversed with the ‘perfidious Saracens’ contrary to papal prohibition, and some time before the end of June 1391 the Pope at Rome, Boniface IX, excommunicated him. Matters were not helped by the fact that although he had made a vow to visit in person the sites in Rome made sacred by the apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, he had been unable to reach the Holy City owing to local warfare and the dangers of the journey. The Pope required the bishop of Worcester to impose alternative pious works on him, and he was accordingly ordered to pay to the papal collector a sum equivalent to the expenses of the uncompleted portion of his pilgrimage, together with the alms he would have offered if he had ever reached Rome, for the repair of the churches of SS. Peter and Paul. It was not until March 1392 that he was granted absolution and released from excommunication. A less adventurous journey took place two years later, when Butler, with two esquires and six mounted archers, joined the King’s army to serve in Ireland, he being absent accordingly from 7 Sept. 1394 until 21 Apr. 1395. Sir Thomas was clearly considered to be of more use as a soldier than as an administrator, and his service in the latter sphere was limited to some four years spent intermittently on the local bench and to one other royal commission. He was elected to his only Parliament early in 1397. Butler’s previous contacts with the earl of Warwick (who fell victim to Richard II’s revenge later that year) were now forgotten, and he made prudent moves to associate himself with one of the King’s closest supporters, John Montagu, earl of Salisbury. Certainly, in March 1398 they together entered into bonds with William Greville, the wealthy Cotswolds wool merchant. It was no doubt purely as a precautionary measure that Butler obtained a royal pardon three months later.3
In the meantime, on 5 Feb. 1398, Butler had taken out letters patent exempting him from further public office against his will. It seems likely that he was suffering from ill health, for, not yet 40 years old, he died on 21 Sept. following. He may have been buried in St. Peter’s church at Winchcomb (Gloucestershire), which his son Ralph was later to have decorated with stained glass depicting members of his close family. Shortly afterwards Sir Thomas’s widow Alice, who retained most of his estates as her jointure, married the wealthy Sir John Dallingridge* of Bodiam castle, Sussex, and after his death in 1408 lived on in widowhood until 1443, nearly half a century after Butler’s demise. One of Butler’s daughters, Elizabeth, married after July 1399 William Heron†, Lord Heron or Say, the steward of Henry IV’s household, and then John Norbury*, the former treasurer of the Exchequer. His two elder sons, John and William, died in 1410 and 1417 respectively, leaving as heir to the Butler estates his third son Ralph, who after a distinguished military career was to be created Baron Sudeley in 1441 and made treasurer in 1443. He it was who built Sudeley castle.4
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. CP, xii (pt. 1), 417-19; CIPM, xii. 166; xv. 275-6, 450; CFR, vii. 360, 376-7; viii. 244, 332; ix. 114, 133, 172; CCR, 1377-81, p. 418; VCH Warws. iv. 175; v. 70.
- 2. CPR, 1385-9, p. 12; Peds. Plea Rolls ed. Wrottesley, 162, 193-4; VCH Warws. v. 194, 210; CCR, 1413-19, p. 136; CIMisc. vii. 434; CIPM, xiv. 136; Reg. Holy Trinity Guild Coventry (Dugdale Soc. xiii), 76; CP, ix. 130.
- 3. E326/4861; CPR, 1381-5, p. 311; 1391-6, pp. 472, 475, 549; Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, ii. 148; CFR, x. 260; Reg. Wakefield (Worcs. Hist. Soc. ser. 2, vii), 107-8; E101/402/20, f. 34; CAD, iv. A6289; C67/30 m. 16, C76/74 m. 4.
- 4. CPR, 1396-9, p. 316; C136/102/10; C139/111/52; CP, xii (pt. 1), 417-19; Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. vii. 304; CCR, 1396-9, p. 346; J. Leland, Itin. ed. Toulmin Smith, ii. 55.