OUDEBY, William, of Bisbrooke, Rutland.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
Keeper of the ‘Prince’s court’, Leics. 17 July 1393-5 Oct. 1399, 17 July 1401-d.
J.p. Rutland 28 Nov. 1399-Feb. 1407, Leics. 28 Nov. 1399-Sept. 1404, 27 Jan. 1406-May 1408.
Commr. of gaol delivery, Oakham castle, Rutland Dec. 1401; inquiry Feb. 1402 (claim by the dowager countess of Oxford to the manor of Market Overton).
Tax collector, Rutland Mar., Nov. 1404.
Although nothing is known about this Member’s early life, it seems likely that he was a kinsman of Sir Thomas Oudeby, another shire knight returned for Rutland during our period, whose younger brother, John, the rector of Flamstead, became chamberlain of the Receipt of the Exchequer in 1397, and subsequently held office as treasurer of wars to Henry IV. Most of the surviving information about Oudeby concerns his involvement in the legal or quasi-legal affairs of others, which suggests that, if not a lawyer, he at least possessed some basic training in the law. This is borne out by his appointment, in July 1393, as keeper of the ‘Prince’s court’ (a view of frankpledge) in Leicestershire, and his later appearance among the justices of gaol delivery at Oakham castle. He lived at Bisbrooke, near the border between Rutland and Leicestershire, and was thus well placed to maintain his influence in both counties, especially as he advanced a title to an estate in the Leicestershire village of Oadby (where a kinsman and contemporary of his named Thomas Oudeby was living). By February 1392 he had begun a lawsuit for the recovery of land there, perhaps because of a disputed inheritance. He also appears to have owned property in Northamptonshire, although no reference to his interests in that quarter survives after the early 1380s.1
Between May 1378 and December 1409 Oudeby acted as a mainpernor in Chancery and at the Exchequer on at least 24 occasions, largely for minor figures in the Midlands. Among those who enlisted his services was a chaplain named Roger Oudeby, but his connexion with the others was evidently professional rather than personal.2 Twice, in October 1397 and May 1399, he agreed to assume powers of attorney over the English affairs of persons going abroad, in the first instance for a clerk named John Melton, and in the second for John, Lord Lovell (who was a member of Richard II’s expedition to Ireland). Curiously enough for one with such a wide circle of clients, Oudeby is not much in evidence as a feoffee-to-uses, although he did hold part of William Flamville’s Leicestershire estates in trust. He seems to have been on fairly close terms with the dowager countess of Oxford: besides sitting on the royal commission of inquiry set up in 1402 to examine her title to the manor of Market Overton he also offered securities on her behalf some three years later, when, after the failure of her conspiracy against Henry IV, she appeared at Westminster to pledge her future loyalty.3 Oudeby’s sudden removal from the keepership of the ‘Prince’s court’ in November 1399 was clearly the result of an administrative error rather than a deliberate withdrawal of patronage on Henry IV’s part: indeed, his appointment to both the Leicestershire and Rutland benches at this time would mark him as a committed supporter of the new regime, unlike his kinsman, Sir Thomas, who briefly took up arms for King Richard. He recovered the keepership, together with his lost revenues, towards the end of 1401 after a fairly protracted lawsuit in Chancery against the man who had replaced him. Perhaps he sought election to Parliament as a means of expediting his appeal for reinstatement: his fee alone brought him £2 a year, above the perquisites of office, so the outcome of the case was clearly of some financial importance to him.4
The early years of the 15th century proved an eventful period in Oudeby’s life, for he was also involved, far less creditably, in an attempt by John Arblaster, the sheriff of Rutland, to falsify the electoral return made for that county to the Parliament of January 1404. Although Thomas Thorpe* was fairly elected in the county court, Arblaster substituted Oudeby’s name on the indenture. The Commons, incensed at this high-handed action, petitioned the Lords to examine those concerned, and as a result of their inquiry Thorpe not only took his rightful seat in Parliament, but also replaced Arblaster as sheriff. Oudeby does not appear to have shared the latter’s fate of imprisonment and a heavy fine, but he prudently abandoned any hope of sitting again as Member for Rutland. The first Parliament of 1404 sanctioned John Oudeby’s appointment as one of the four treasurers of war specially chosen to oversee the expenditure of a new tax voted by the Commons, although this reason alone is unlikely to account for his kinsman’s anxiety to obtain a place in the Lower House.5 It is, however, of interest to note that Sir Thomas Oudeby was returned for the third and last time in October 1404, and that he and William had together represented Rutland in four of the six Parliaments summoned between September 1397 and 1404. Was the family perhaps attempting to monopolize one of the Rutland seats?
Oudeby is last mentioned on 3 Dec. 1409, by which date he had been replaced as a j.p., possibly because of advancing years. His personal affairs are shrouded in obscurity, and it is now impossible to tell whether or not he left any direct heirs.
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. CCR, 1381-5, p. 282; CFR, xi. 228; xiii. 165; CPR, 1422-9, p. 244; JUST 1/1501 rot. 282; J.H. Wylie, Hen. IV, i. 413; C67/30 m. 28.
- 2. CCR, 1377-81, p. 140; 1381-5, pp. 117, 282, 625, 632; 1385-9, pp. 85, 122-3, 140-1, 254, 313; 1389-92, pp. 167, 356; 1392-6, p. 127; 1396-9, p. 287; 1399-1402, pp. 493, 499; 1402-5, p. 165; CFR, x. 181; xi. 228, 300; xii. 184; xiii. 165.
- 3. CPR, 1396-9, pp. 226, 541, 558; 1401-5, p. 69; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 112; Sel. Cases King’s Bench (Selden Soc. lxxxviii), 155.
- 4. CPR, 1391-6, p. 307; 1399-1401, pp. 6, 512; CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 357, 431.
- 5. RP, iii. 530; CCR, 1402-5, p. 366; Wylie, i. 413.