SWINBURNE, William (d.1422), of Gestingthorpe and Little Horkesley, Essex.

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



Nov. 1414

Family and Education

yr. s. of Sir Robert Swinburne* by his 2nd w.; half-bro. of Sir Thomas*. m. c. Feb. 1407, Philippa (c.1373-July 1420), da. of Sir Richard Cergeaux* of Colquite, Cornw. by Philippa, da. and coh. of Sir Edmund Arundel, e. but bastardized s. of Richard, earl of Arundel (d.1376); sis. and coh. of Richard Cergeaux (d.1396), and wid. of Robert Paschle of Pashley, Suss. and Evegate in Smeeth, Kent, 1s. d.v.p.

Offices Held

Capt. of Marck castle, march of Calais 23 Nov. 1408-d.


After Sir Robert Swinburne’s death in 1391 the bulk of the Swinburne estates remained in the possession of his widow Joan, William’s mother, who lived on until 1433, while the rest passed to William’s half-brother, Sir Thomas, already a distinguished military captain. But our MP was not left penniless: his mother settled on him her own property in Lincolnshire at Rippingdale and Hacconby (which had an estimated annual value of £20 in 1412), together with her manor of Gestingthorpe in Essex. And when Sir Thomas died in 1412, he took over the family holdings at Wiston (Suffolk) and Little Horkesley.1

Like his father and half-brother, William took up the profession of arms, first serving, from September 1394 until April 1395, as one of Richard II’s followers on the royal expedition to Ireland. He subsequently became, as an esquire, a more permanent member of the King’s household, remaining there at least until Michaelmas 1396, although whether he stayed with Richard right up to his deposition is unclear. In the autumn of 1403 he was campaigning with Sir Thomas in Wales under the command of the earl of Somerset, and before long he became a ‘King’s esquire’ to Henry IV. In December 1404 the King granted him the keeping of the manors of Throwley, Chilham and Moldash in Kent for an annual rent of 55 marks, but in February following his patent was revoked when it was discovered that the properties had already been assigned to others, including one Thomas Witton. Three months later a commission of oyer and terminer was set up on Witton’s complaint that Swinburne had laid an ambush for him at Gillingham, in which he had been assaulted and wounded, and had stolen his goods. But, despite these actions, in March 1407 it was decided at a judicial hearing in Chancery that Swinburne should have custody of the manors in question.2

Swinburne was evidently living in Kent at that time, and in 1407 he married a widow who held dower lands there and in Sussex, valued five years later at £78 6s.8d. p.a. She, Philippa Paschle, was also coheir with her two surviving sisters of the substantial Cergeaux estates in Cornwall and Oxfordshire, and she now settled her portion on her husband Swinburne for life. From being a younger son of comparatively meagre estate, he was thus made a landowner of wealth and substance.3 Furthermore, Philippa was well connected: she was the great-niece of Thomas Arundel, the archbishop of Canterbury, and of Joan, dowager countess of Hereford, while one of her sisters, Alice, was the wife of Richard de Vere, earl of Oxford. Her other sister, Elizabeth, was married to Sir William Marney* of Layer Marney, Essex, with whom Swinburne now came to be closely linked. For instance, he agreed to act as Marney’s attorney when he was in Ireland in 1408-9. It was probably the influence of Swinburne’s half-brother, Sir Thomas, then keeper of Hammes castle in the marches of Calais, which secured for him appointment for life as captain of the nearby castle of Marck; but Marney, then chamberlain of the household of Thomas of Lancaster, duke of Clarence, was the one who encouraged him to join the duke’s army in France in the summer of 1412. Having been empowered to appoint a deputy at Marck, he crossed France with the English forces to spend the winter at Bordeaux. There, he began to sort out the affairs of his half-brother, formerly captain of Fronsac, who had died in the previous August, and it would appear that he stayed on in Gascony after Clarence’s departure for home, for in April 1413 he was authorized with John Fastolf, the deputy constable of Bordeaux, to receive instalments of payments due to the duke from the Armagnac leaders. In England in the following year he was asked by Marney to oversee the administration of his will.4

Swinburne may have owed his return to Parliament for Essex in 1414 to his connexion with the countess of Hereford. But although he had seen no public service in the county he did hold substantial estates there (acquired after Sir Thomas’s death), and he was well acquainted with members of the local gentry. In February 1415 he was asked by the abbot of St. John’s, Colchester, to act as a mediator in the abbey’s dispute with the town authorities. When preparations were under way for Henry V’s invasion of France, Swinburne was formally contracted on 14 July to garrison Marck castle with four men-at-arms and 16 archers in peacetime, and 20 and 20 in war, but whether he stayed at Marck throughout the campaign or else marched with the King’s army from Harfleur to Agincourt remains unclear. While spending the next few months at home, Swinburn was party to landed transactions in Essex and Suffolk on behalf of Sir Andrew Cavendish’s widow and Sir Andrew Butler*.5

Swinburne joined Henry V’s second expedition across the Channel in 1417, sailing with a personal following of four men-at-arms and 14 archers. He took an active part in the subsequent conquest of Normandy, serving, for instance, at the siege of Rouen in the winter of 1418-19, and in June 1420, when the royal army was camped outside Paris, he was delegated with Sir Ralph Cromwell to take messages from the King to the merchants and citizens within the walls.6 A month later his wife died, and her Paschle estates passed to her son John Paschle, although Swinburne retained her other properties for life, ‘by the courtesy’. Among their feoffees was Philippa’s nephew, Sir Thomas Marney, who was also in France on campaign, and in the following year after their return home the young man named Swinburne as an overseer of his will. When in England Swinburne was involved in business dealings on behalf of the Waldegraves of Suffolk. He made preparations to sail for France again in June 1421, then signing a contract to provide a contingent of ten men-at-arms and 30 archers.7

Before this final departure Swinburne made a will, dated at Little Horkesley on 12 June, which reveals grandiose pretensions and high self-esteem. Asking to be buried in the chapel of Little Horkesley priory near his father and in an alabaster tomb with images of himself and his late wife, he required that the chapel be rebuilt in imitation of the Lady Chapel at Stoke Clare, and that the tombs of his father and brothers, Sir Thomas and Andrew, as well as his own, should be raised up and placed in the same way as were the tombs of the kings of England in Westminster abbey. He assigned revenues from the Swinburne estates for the works. William requested that 2,000 masses be said on his own behalf. Among those he remembered in the will was the countess of Oxford (his sister-in-law), to whom he left a ruby necklace and a gold bracelet, and he made generous bequests to members of his own and his mother’s households, in sums of money amounting to over £95. His executors included his nephew, William Rookwood*, and a friend of long standing, Robert Tey*, while Sir Lewis Robessart KG, the King’s standard-bearer, was asked to be overseer. Swinburne’s heir presumptive was then his only son, John, but before he made a codicil, dated at Paris on 15 May 1422, the youth had died, leaving William’s last surviving brother, also named John, to inherit the family estates. In the codicil Swinburne left some £70 to his soldiers manning Marck castle, and further bequests amounting to about £65. His armour was to be divided between his brother and his stepson, John Paschle, while the men under his command were to share out his horses and clothing between them. He insisted that the latter should receive their wages and £1 each in addition. Among the other bequests was 20 marks each towards the dowries of the two daughters of Richard Wydeville, his companion-in-arms. Swinburne died on 22 May, and his will was proved at Lambeth on 4 Nov. following. Whether his body was brought home as he had requested is not known.8

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. Feudal Aids, vi. 480.
  • 2. E101/402/20 f. 38, 403/10 f. 44; CCR, 1405-9, pp. 72, 229, 253; J.H. Wylie, Hen. IV, iv. 252; CPR, 1401-5, p. 494; 1405-8, p. 232; CFR, xii. 294.
  • 3. Arch. Cant. lxxiv. 33-35; Feudal Aids, vi. 472, 527; CCR, 1419-22, p. 3; C137/3/14, 4/23, 24.
  • 4. CPR, 1401-5, p. 488; 1405-8, p. 446; Harl. Ch. 55H 9; Wylie, iv. 74, 86; DKR, xliv. 548-9, 558; Reg. Jurade Bordeaux (Archs. Municipales Bordeaux, iv), 8, 138, 288, 474; PCC 31 Marche.
  • 5. CCR, 1413-19, p. 201; 1429-35, p. 97; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 265; E101/69/8/528.
  • 6. E101/51/2, 70/2/607; DKR, xli. 697, 711, 715, 717-20; xlii. 314, 318-19, 322, 324, 326, 373; Foedera ed. Rymer (orig. edn.), ix. 910.
  • 7. CPR, 1416-22, p. 303; CFR, xiv. 333; C138/46/40; PCC 52 Marche; CCR, 1419-22, pp. 121-3, 191; DKR, xliv. 268; E101/70/6/734.
  • 8. PCC 54 Marche; C139/15/23; CPR, 1422-9, p. 349; CFR, xv. 145-6.