The fortunes of war: the military career of John, second lord Bourchier (d.1400)

Coat_of_Arms_of_Sir_John_Bourchier,_2nd_Baron_Bourchier,_KGThe fortunes of war: the military career of John, second lord Bourchier (d.1400)

Michael Jones

Essex Archaeology and History: v.26 (1995)

‘And yet time hath his revolution; there must be a period and an end to all temporal things, finis rerun, an end of names and dignities and whatsoever is terrene; and why not of De Vere? For where is Bohun? where’s Mowbray? where’s Mortimer? nay which is more, and most of all, where is Plantagenet? They are intombed in the urns and sepulchres of mortality. And yet let the name and dignity of De Vere stand so long as it pleaseth God.’1


In this famous comment by the notable seventeenth-century judge, Sir Ranulphe Crewe, during the Oxford peerage case of 1626, he might have also poignantly asked, where is Bourchier? For in 1646, the year he died, the death also occurred of Robert Devereux, earl of Essex, son of Elizabeth I’s favourite. This resulted in the extinction of the titles of Viscount and Lord Bourchier, whilst the barony of Bourchier fell into abeyance where today it still technically remains.2  My intention is not to explain these recondite points of English peerage law but to resuscitate briefly from his `sepulchre of mortality’ one particular member of the Bourchier family, because his career, strangely neglected or misconstrued by generations of historians, vividly illustrates the fortunes of war as experienced by one fourteenth-century English noble.

A start may be made with John Bourchier’s birth on St Gregory’s day, 12 March 1329, an eventful one in the small, scattered Essex township of Tolleshunt, if evidence given in 1350 can be trusted.3  For on that day Thomas de Hodynges buried his uncle in the churchyard, Walter atte Mote married, Gerard Huraunt set off for St James de Compostella, John atte Fen’s house was burnt, Ralph atte Stokkes betrothed Joan Page, John Leybourne’s wife gave birth to their first son and Richard le Rowe sent his eldest to school for the first time. Yet all these diverting details are merely ancillary to the purpose of the 1350 inquiry, to establish Bourchier’s proof of age. For at the still-standing though much-altered Bourchier’s Hall at Tollesbury,4 Margaret Prayers, wife of Sir Robert Bourchier, who was to become the first lay Chancellor of England in 1340 and was later summoned to Parliament as the first Lord Bourchier, also gave birth that St Gregory’s day to her first child.


Baptised John in the parish church and named after his grandfather, a justice of Common Pleas under Edward II,5 the second John succeeded when plague carried his father off in 1349. Early in 1350 the formalities were complete and he performed homage for his lands.6  A grant of livery to a retainer at Tolleshunt two years later shows him in residence at his birthplace.7 Shortly afterwards, however, John joined the company of Edward, prince of Wales, taking up a military career that lasted for much of his remaining life. It took him chiefly to France and the Low Countries but also as far afield as Castile and Lithuania. Towards the end, in his sixties and loaded with honours, he returned to his native Essex; like his birth, the date of his death (21 May 1400), is also firmly established, since his son Bartholomew, third lord Bourchier, in turn also had to prove his age to gain his inheritance.8

It is thanks to such routine records that the bare outlines of John’s domestic career can be traced through the latter half of the fourteenth century evidence generated because of his obligations as a knight or member of the landed aristocracy to assist in the administration of his county or country and because private property rights or transactions required his attention. Some of these records will be used here to flesh out the story, especially to reveal his financial circumstances or to trace his movements and confirm his absences from England at particular points. To this written evidence can also be added certain material remains, in the form of church monuments, standing buildings or archaeological sites that provide further valuable confirmation of the ambitions, achievements and rising status of the Bourchier family in the fourteenth century, in the fifteenth it reached the top echelons of English society when John’s grand-nephew Henry Bourchier became earl of Essex under Edward IV. But it is on John Bourchier’s war experiences that attention will chiefly concentrate; his domestic life, membership of his household and the fortunes of his landed estates must remain subordinate themes.

Family background

The family of Bourchier (Burgcher, Bousser, Burser) may already have been of knightly rank in the thirteenth century: the eighteenth-century antiquary, the Rev. Philip Morant, in tracing the descent of Stanstead Hall, Halstead, the surviving property with which John may be most closely associated,9 from its Domesday tenant, via the Montchesny family, to the first John Bourchier, claims that he was son of a Sir Robert de Burser and his wife, Emma, who before 1300 married the last Montchesny heiress, Helen.10  These details cannot currently be substantiated; Morant was mistaken on occasion and has been the source of errors uncritically repeated by later historians.11  We may note his testimony but with due reservation; more certainly it can be asserted that successful marriage, the method by which the fortunes of the Bourchier family were enhanced in this case, was also the main key to its later success. It was, after all, the chief and normal avenue of social advancement in late medieval England amongst gentry families. Moreover, the early Bourchiers coupled it with that other high road to fortune for the ambitious: successful careers in the law.

The first John Bourchier was appointed a Justice of Common Pleas on 31 May 1321 and confirmed in office by the young Edward III in 1327.12  When he died in 1329, his eldest son Robert had already begun following in his footsteps; he served as a justice of oyer et terminer in the early 1330s. He was also one of the knights ofthe shire for Essex in the Parliaments of 1329, 1330, 1332 and 1339. Morant claims that he even became Chief Justice of Ireland, though recent work fails to confirm this.13  More definitely, after mustering for war service as early as 1324, and seeing action in the raid on Cadzand in 1337, probably in the company of Hugh Audley, earl of Gloucester, who retained him with the very large fee of £100,14 on 14 December 1340 Robert Bourchier was appointed the first lay Chancellor of England.15  Although he was replaced ten months later because of unpopularity and unwillingness to bow to parliamentary pressure, he remained close to Edward III. He took part in various expeditions, notably fighting in Brittany in 1342-3, at Crecy (1346) and the subsequent siege of Calais, and he was also sent occasionally on embassy.16  His personal advance was sealed when he was summoned to the parliaments of November 1348 and March 1349 by a personal writ, becoming thereby Lord Bourchier, but he did not survive long to enjoy his new status, dying around 18 May 1349, a victim of the first visitation of the Black Death. Like his father, Robert had also married well to another sole heiress, Margaret, daughter of Sir Thomas Prayers of Sible Hedingham, Essex. She brought him a considerable endowment scattered through the county, including the manor at which her eldest son was born in 1329.17

During his father’s lifetime, John was associated formally with him in various legal actions relating to family property;18 Robert was active in the marriage and land market, acquiring several new manors in addition to those which came to him with Margaret Prayers.19  When an aid for knighting Edward, prince of Wales, was levied in 1346, some manors in Essex held by `Sir John Bourchier’ contributed;20 these were probably in the hands of Robert’s younger brother, John, whose career needs to be distinguished from that of his nephew, though in the end most lands the elder man possessed passed to the latter. It may have been this elder John who as `un jone chevalier’, according to Froissart, captured Messire Pierre Portbeuf at a siege of Dinan (dep. Cotes-d’Armor) in the winter of 1342-3. But this detail is part of a later revision of the chronicler’s text, after he had got to know our John Bourchier and may be purely fictitious.21 Other examples of Froissart’s imaginative and confusing authorial sleight of hand, intended to excite the interest of potential patrons or acquaintances like Bourchier, but serving to infuriate and mislead modern historians, will present themselves shortly. As for Sir John Bourchier, senior, as late as 1369-70 he received protections for service in Guyenne.22

John Bourchier’s early military career

According to his own testimony given some forty years later during the Scrope-Grosvenor dispute, the younger John’s first experience of war came during the siege of Calais in 1346-7, probably in his father’s company although his name has not been found in any administrative document connected with the siege. By 1353 he had been knighted and it is probably to him that a protection, granted in 1355, refers as he set out abroad in the king’s service.23 Other evidence suggests that he was among the company that Edward, prince of Wales, took to Guyenne. His part in the prince’s first raid, which reached Narbonne (dep. Aude) in the autumn of 1355, is noted by the closely contemporary English chronicler, Geoffrey le Baker.24 The chances are that Bourchier was also at the battle of Poitiers (19 September 1356) though no definite proof can be adduced. It may be that his reputation as a soldier had begun to flourish since Froissart has him accompanying Henry, duke of Lancaster, in Normandy and Brittany in 1357, though many events related by him at this point, like another alleged siege of Dinan, are almost impenetrably enveloped in legend. Like the detail related above about a John Bourchier and an earlier siege of Dinan, this is also an addition to a revised and abbreviated version of Froissart’s first book, the reliability of which remains highly suspect.25

A dearth of references to Bourchier in England from 1355 to 1363, when he was in the first flush of manhood, is the best evidence that he spent most of this period in France, though whether in Brittany, Gascony or elsewhere, remains largely uncertain. He was definitely in London on 8 September 1359, preparatory to accompanying Edward III to France and he testified to seeing Sir Richard Scrope and other members of his family bearing the disputed arms Azure a bend Or in the king’s host before Paris later in the winter of 1359-60. After this, he was back again in England, at least briefly, in 1361.26 From 1362 his movements become clearer; he was among the troops despatched from Guyenne by the Black Prince to assist the claimant to the Breton ducal title, Jean de Montfort, on his return to the duchy in July 1362. A clear mark of his rising prominence is that a year later he was one of the Anglo-Breton guarantors of a truce agreed between Montfort and his rival, Charles de Blois, at the Landes d’Evran (dip. Cores-d’Armor) on 24 July 1363, where Bourchier was exchanged with a Breton hostage, being released by Blois from the terms of this arrangement on 18 November.27 For some part of the truce he remained in Montfort’s company, being present with him at Guirande (dip. Loire-Atlantique) on 2 October,28 and he accompanied jean to Poitiers (dip. Vienne) where Prince Edward, seeking to bring the two contestants for the Breton throne to terms, arranged a further truce between them on 26 November to last until the following February.29

Bourchier’s Breton counterpart at the Landes d’Evran, Guy de Rochefort, sire d’Acerac, released him on parole on 26 December until 11 June 1364.30 Taking advantage of this lull in hostilities, John returned briefly to England where he gathered another small company of troops for Brittany.31 In turn Montfort authorised Bourchier on 7 June 1364 to quit the lord of Acerac’s elder brother, Guillaume, sire de Rochefort, who had been one of Blois’s hostages the previous year.32 The Breton succession crisis was about to be resolved: on 29 September 1364 Bourchier was present on the field of Auray (dip. Morbihan) when Montfort finally vindicated his claim by defeating and killing Blois.33 Subsequently in the winter of 1364-5 Bourchier was employed reducing remaining centres of resistance to Montfortist rule like Redon and St.Malo (both dep. Ille-et-Vilaine),34 and he was one of an influential coterie of Englishmen, led by William, lord Latimer, high in Jean IV’s service.35

The years 1362-6 were thus passed mainly in Brittany, but preparations by the Black Prince to help Pedro I of Castile drew Bourchier back to Gascony. Chandos Herald lists him among those accompanying the prince on the campaign which culminated in the battle of Najira (3 April 1367), though no specific deeds are attributed to him.36 Returning to Guyenne, Bourchier spent the next few years there alongside his uncle.37  In the spring of 1370 he travelled to England, passing once more via Brittany, since he was at Vannes (dip. Morbihan) on 15 April.38 The reason for this journey soon became obvious: on 1 July he received his most important commission to date when he was named along with Sir Alan de Buxhill and Sir Thomas de Graunson as lieutenants to Sir Robert Knolles, who was to lead a large force of 2000 men-at-arms and 2000 archers to France.39  Unfortunately neither the size nor make-up of Bourchier’s own retinue is known since no indenture or accounts survive for him. Knolles’s army landed at Calais later in the month and its failure is too well-known to require much comment; personal quarrels and a lack of co-ordination between the leaders led to disaster at Pontvallain (dip. Sarthe) on 4 December, when the rump of the force was cut to pieces by the newly appointed Constable of France, Bertrand du Guesclin, whose Fabian tactics (upon which his sovereign, Charles V, and his council insisted) had seriously undermined English morale.40

Bourchier in eclipse

Was Pontvallain, to come to perhaps the decisive crux in Bourchier’s career, the beginning of his military misfortunes? Some modern authorities have thought so: according to Rene Blanchard,41 it was at Pontvallain that Bourchier was captured by the Breton marcher lord, Girard Chabot, sire de Rays, a former companion on the Spanish expedition of 1367, who had recently returned to his French allegiance.42 Rays, or rather his sister and successor, Jeanne, dame de Rays, did indeed later hold Bourchier to ransom, though it seems most probable that he fell into their hands on a later occasion. This is suggested by certain transactions in Brittany during the spring and summer of 1371 when Bourchier was apparently at liberty. On 5 June, for instance, at Knolles’s own Breton stronghold of Derval (dip. Loire-Adantique), to which he had retreated in the aftermath of Pontvallain, Bourchier and Sir Robert Warde lent Sir William Flete 640 marks `a mon grant bosoign pour la deliverance de mon corps hors de mains de mes enemis’ to be repaid by the feast of Angevin (8 September),43 while at Nantes (dip. Loire-Atlantique) on 14 June Bourchier undertook to repay 100 marks himself at London by Easter 1372.44 Indeed, as early as 5 March 1371, Thomas de Saham, tailor and citizen of London, cancelled a debt contracted by Bourchier for horses, bought from a merchant of Malines trading in Brittany in 1370 and due for repayment in London, implying that this had been done without any untoward complications.45 Given the difficulties Bourchier was to experience reaching terms and raising his own ransom in the next few years and the close confinement in which he claimed that he was kept during this period (below p. 148), it seems improbable that he had already contracted ransom debts or was out on parole following capture at Pontvallain. In fact, the autumn of 1371 (Rays died on 3 December)46 appears a more likely date for Bourchier’s capture, probably in a skirmish on the borders of Brittany and Poitou. In any event, he was in captivity by 10 June 1372 when the first of several protections, annually renewed until 1377, yeas issued for him as a prisoner abroad.47

Some circumstances of his imprisonment are revealed in several documents, most notably in a plaintiff letter to his wife, written from Machecoul (dip. Loire-Atlantique), the main castle of the lordship of Rays, on 13 May 1374 (to which attention was first drawn by K.B. McFarlane)48 and a draft agreement for release, drawn up around the same time,49 although it was to be another four years before Bourchier was physically free and a further two before his ransom was completely discharged. The letter, in particular, is one of the most remarkable and intimate private communications surviving between an English knight and his lady from the late Middle Ages and deserves to be better known than it is. It is almost certainly in Bourchier’s own holograph; the detailed ransom agreement, too, is a relatively rare survival. Whilst it is not unusual for several years to elapse in settling important ransoms, the particular reasons for delay in any specific case are often difficult to elucidate easily as several modern studies have shown.50 In addition to personal factors, like the prisoner’s ability or inability to raise the necessary finances quickly, matters of public interest might also conspire to prevent swift release or the striking of a private bargain.

In Bourchier’s case three factors seem especially responsible for him spending upwards of seven years in gaol when in the prime of life. First, the sum demanded for his ransom was large relative to his own resources, considering that he had passed many years abroad, leaving the administration of his estates to his wife and subordinates.51 Secondly, efforts to secure his freedom were for several years linked with those to obtain the simultaneous release of Roger de Beaufort, a prisoner of the Gascon lord, the Captal de Buch, a matter further complicated by the Captal’s own later capture. Since Beaufort’s brother, Pierre Roger, was elected as Pope Gregory XI on 30 December 1370, negotiations for his (and hence Bourchier’s and the Captal’s) release were often conducted at the highest level. Indeed they were also linked to the more general resolution of Anglo-French disputes which was a major concern of Gregory XI’s pontificate.52

Naturally, since the private and public interests of the pope were extremely complex, diplomatic and other delays inevitably occurred. Other parties too, like Jean IV of Brittany, suzerain of the dame de Rays, whose shaky hold on his duchy weakened to the point where he had to seek exile in England in April 1373,53 and Charles V of France also had a strong interest in the outcome of any negotiations; this too introduced further complications and new parties to be consulted in any deal. Thirdly, again mixing private interests and public ones, Bourchier’s hopes of release were also clouded by disputes among those claiming a share in the succession of his original captor, Girard Chabot, most notably between Girard’s widow, Marguerite de Sancerre, who married secondly Beraud, dauphin d’Auvergne, and his sister Jeanne, dame de Rays, who, to give a further twist to the story, contracted marriage to Roger de Beaufort shortly after his imprisonment.54 Only parts of this imbroglio can be unravelled from surviving evidence; here attention may particularly be directed to the financial aspects of Bourchier’s ransom; the diplomatic complications have been dealt with in more detail elsewhere.55

Bourchier’s ransom

After more than two years’ captivity during which there is an almost complete silence concerning him, a sum of 12,000 francs (approximately £2000 sterling) for his ransom was agreed by May 1374.56 This sum was made up of 4000 francs for his expenses in confinement, expenses which suggest that he lived in more style and comfort than the description he gave his wife implies, since there is mention of servants, and 8000 francs for the ransom proper. This latter (representing around C1300 sterling) would conventionally have been calculated on the basis of Bourchier’s annual landed income. It comes, in fact, plausibly close to double the £750 p.a. that has been suggested in another context for this figure at the end of the fourteenth century by a recent historian of the Bourchier family.57 But double (or, counting imprisonment expenses), triple Bourchier’s income represented a burden that required a huge sacrifice by his family at a time of great economic uncertainty. R.H. Britnell has shown, for instance, that although the amount of land held in his own hand on the lord’s demesne at Bourchier’s Hall, Tollesbury, increased after the Black Death, as tenements fell vacant, the amount actually under the plough by the early fifteenth century had fallen by over a hundred acres in comparison with the situation prior to the plague and he comments on the declining efficiency of the manor.58

It was to persuade his wife of the need for a great effort to secure his release that Bourchier wrote on 13 May 1374, instructing her to sell or mortgage estates if need be to raise the cash urgently required. Initially, it had been agreed that the 4000 francs for expenses were to be paid at Bruges before Bourchier was allowed to leave Machecoul. He was then to pay 2000 francs in each of four successive terms over two years to complete the ransom. Explaining to Lady Maud, whom he addressed in the most fulsome and affectionate terms, why he had accepted such excessive obligations, he impressed on her ‘le grant peril ou jeo ay de perdre la vie ou les membres a meins’, though preserving enough stiff upper lip humour, despite his hardships, to plead with her `stir lamour qest entre vous et moy’ to arrange payment with the help of his English friends: ‘que vous ne esparnietz reins que ne soyt engage ou vendu si meuxs nen poyetz fere, kar ky nad le corps il nad rein’ (`spare nothing that may be mortgaged or sold if you cannot do otherwise, for he who lacks the body has nothing’).

There is evidence that Maud acted on these instructions, which she received at home in England on 8 July 1374,59 and that Bourchicr’s friends did try to rally round. A draft credence from Edward III to John, lord Neville, to speak with Jean IV of Brittany over the delivery of Bourchier survives.60 So does an obligation, dated at London on 20 October 1374, by the duke, then in England preparing to reinvade his duchy, to deliver Bourchier from prison within six weeks of his arrival in Brittany or to return the 1000 marks (£666 13s 4d) he and others had received from the bishop of London and Lady Bourchier, towards the ransom.61 When nothing came of this, Maud also petitioned the king and council, briefly setting out Bourchier’s obligations.62 Some details had changed since May 1374: the 4000 francs were to have been delivered at Boulogne the previous Michaelmas, and William, lord Latimer, was to guarantee the outstanding 8000 francs, but Maud also claimed that full implementation had been prevented at a late stage by Roger de Beaufort’s intervention.

After this flurry of activity, the trail temporarily goes cold. The failure of Jean IV’s invasion of Brittany in 1374-5 and Latimer’s downfall in the Good Parliament (April-June 1376) may have been reasons for delay, though the Commons did take up Lady Bourchier’s petition again since its terms were subsumed in a more general request in that parliament to the king to help a growing list of Englishmen, who had been unfortunate enough to be captured (mainly on Gaunt’s chevauchee of 1373-4 or in subsequent fighting in Guyenne), and whose fame and martial deeds had resulted in them being put to ransom well beyond their means, for Bourchier was not alone in his sufferings.63 Among them were some notable figures: Sir Matthew Goumay, Sir Matthew Redmayne, Sir Thomas Fogg, Sir Digory Seys, Sir Geoffrey Workesleigh, Sir Robert Twyford and the Anglo-Gascon lord, Jean de Harpedenne.64 Although Edward III agreed to act specifically in the cases of Fogg and Goumay, and by implication in that of the other knights, including Bourchier, new delays ensued because of the old king’s death (21 June 1377) and personal and policy disputes amongst the young Richard II’s ministers. A leading royal ecclesiastical counsellor, William Wykeham, bishop of Winchester, for instance, was in bitter dispute with Fogg’s lord, John, duke of Lancaster, following events in the Good Parliament. On returning to power in 1377, Lancaster charged him with malversation in the matter of Fogg’s ransom and even attributed the recent renewal of war with France to Wykeham’s greed and short-sightedness.65

Negotiations over Beaufort’s release (a matter taken up on a number of occasions during the Anglo-French peace talks at Bruges between 1374-1377) were another cause of delay in implementing the terms of Bourchier’s release. By the time his own ransom resurfaces in extant records in 1377, the interest of Jeanne, dame de Rays, and her relatives in it seems to have been bought out, for on 5 March 1377 Beraud d’Auvergne and his wife came to terms with Jeanne and her mother, Philippe Bertrand, following a decision in the Grands Jours at Poitiers, to share the sum of £10,000. which had apparently been paid to them for Bourchier.66 A payment of £700 by Jeanne de Rays, acknowledged by Beraud and his wife on 4 August 1378, probably represents an instalment following this agreement.67 Bourchier’s purchaser was Olivier, sire de Clisson, a close friend and neighbour of the Rays family, who had apparently struck what he hoped would be an advantageous deal with them in 1375 or 1376. For as an outstanding soldier and astute financier, Clisson, a rising figure in French royal service, clearly saw in Bourchier’s misfortune a chance for profitable speculation through ransom brokerage.68 It was thus his representative, Guillaume Leet (once a go-between in arranging the Beaufort-Rays marriage),69 who finally agreed in late April 1378 to deliver Bourchier from his captivity.70 Indeed by this date, the deed was as good as done since Bourchier had been brought from his place of imprisonment, wherever that had been in recent years, to Tournai. On 29 April, after he once more acknowledged his remaining obligation to pay 8000 francs, Bourchier was finally allowed to go free.71

He was still heavily dependent on his friends for raising this sum, but he could return to England after an absence of seven years or more. How he met his obligations remains unknown; various Bourchier manors were let at farm in 1377-8, but since the document containing this information is an isolated item and the only nearly contemporary manorial accounts for Bourchier lands are also fragmentary,72 it is difficult to know how far this was an emergency measure or something that had already become customary. Nevertheless, regular payments must have been made, for two years later, on 20 April 1380, Clisson issued a quittance to the earls of Arundel, Warwick and Suffolk for the final (Easter term) instalment and declared Bourchier entirely quit.73 In the interim, besides attempting to bring order to his private affairs, Bourchier’s appetite for military action remained unsatisfied; indeed he was now perhaps driven by the hope of some equally fortuitous `gain of war’ to offset his recent losses.

Froissart is once again the sole authority for him embarking with Sir John Arundel in December 1379, in an expedition to relieve Brest (dep. Finistere) that ended in disaster when violent storms dispersed the fleet; such behaviour would have been a breach of the convention that undischarged prisoners should not fight against their captors and break solemn promises made by Bourchier himself.74  Had this occurred, the defence might have been offered that since the expedition was directed to Brittany, nominally in alliance with England, such a breach had technically not occurred, though it seems more probable that Bourchier did not breach the chivalric code and was thus absent from the 1379 expedition. In 1380 Clisson acknowledged that he had indeed kept his word.75 Shortly afterwards Clisson delivered a final quittance to his erstwhile prisoner; almost immediately Bourchier enrolled to serve in France again in the army that Richard II’s uncle, Thomas, earl of Buckingham, gathered in the summer of 1380.76 But before recounting the later stages of Bourchier’s military career, some loose ends with regard to the negotiations that had finally secured his release should be tied up.

The connection between Bourchier’s ransom and that of Roger de Beaufort has been mentioned; the latter was a cadet of the important Limousin family of Rogier, whose fortunes were made when Pierre Rogier, a close adviser of Philip VI, became Pope Clement VI in 1342.77 His sympathy for Philip’s cause was evident in important loans that he and other relatives made in subsequent years though, like many other families living in frontier areas between zones of French and English allegiance, the Rogiers divided their loyalties, perhaps intentionally, to spread the risk of complete political disaster. Thus of the three sons of the comte de Beaufort, Clement VI’s brother, the eldest, Guillaume Rogier, vicomte de Turenne, was pro-English for much of his life, the second, Pierre, became Pope Gregory XI on 30 December 1370, while Roger, the third, remained in French service. It was while serving under Jean, duc de Berry, in 1369 that he too suffered the misfortune of capture.

The event at which this happened is notorious: after taking Limoges (dip. Haute-Vienne) in August 1370 Berry left a garrison there under Roger de Beaufort and his companions.78 But on 19 September the city capitulated once more to the Black Prince. Roger, together with a nephew, Jean de la Roche, was taken prisoner by the important Gascon lord, Jean III de Grailly, Captal de Buch, while less fortunate civilians were massacred in one of the most notorious, though exaggerated, acts of atrocity perpetrated during the Hundred Years War.79 As for Beaufort and la Roche, although negotiations for their release began almost immediately and were taken up vigorously by Gregory XI after his election, the two prisoners were still in Buch’s hands when he, in turn, was captured at Soubise (dip. Charente-Maritime) on 23 August 1372.80 By then Bourchier too was a prisoner and a deal involving a multiple exchange was aired. Bourchier’s potential release had already been tied into that of Beaufort; it was now also indirectly linked to that of the Captal, so that it can hardly surprise us that in ensuing discussions delay was heaped on delay and that it was to be a further seven years (and following the death of the Captal) before Bourchier obtained his conditional freedom and another two before he was finally discharged from his ransom.81

Bourchier’s military fortunes after 1380

Bourchier’s post-captivity career was left at the point he received a copy of Buckingham’s indenture for service in France on 2 May 1380 and was preparing to accompany him abroad. On 12 June, the day he received a protection to go with Buckingham, he drew up a subcontract which shows that he intended to serve in arms for a year,82though he may not in the end have gone over to France with Buckingham’s main force, since he was still in London as late as 20 October, arranging a contract for digging the still-extant moat around his manor of Stanstead.83

He thus probably missed the first stages of Buckingham’s chevauchee through northern and eastern France in the late summer and autumn of 1380. Like Knolles’s expedition of 1370, the last with which Bourchier had been personally associated, this also achieved only moderate success. Moreover, Buckingham’s arrival in Brittany was an embarrassment to England’s ally, Jean IV, who after the death of Charles V (16 September 1380), had been seeking terms with the French.84 Though the English government continued as late as February 1381 to make preparations for sending reinforcements to join Buckingham, by January a new Franco-Breton peace agreement had been drafted. This was confirmed at Guirande (dip. Loire-Atlantique) in April.85

In the interim Jean IV used Buckingham’s force to invest Nantes, one of the few towns still holding out against him, thanks to French help, since his return from England in August 1379. It appears that Bourchier joined the siege but, as was common, especially in those conducted through the winter, disease took a severe toll and by early 1381 the English were anxious to lift it. Buckingham was at Vannes (dip. Morbihan), one of the main centres of Breton administration, on 27 February, accompanied by Bourchier and Latimer, both renewing long-standing acquaintances with Jean IV.86 Just over a month later, as Jean IV sealed the new Franco-Breton treaty, the duke also agreed to pay off his English allies. Up to 50,000 francs was promised to Buckingham and his lieutenants and quittances for various instalments were issued in the following weeks.87 How much passed to Bourchier is unknown though, still at Vannes on 12 April, he acknowledged receipt of a modest 300 francs for the wages of himself and his retinue.88

Buckingham’s troops returned to England to find the Peasants’ Revolt in full swing, and were used in its repression. Essex, Bourchier’s home county, was one of the epicentres of unrest and, as a leading local landholder and experienced soldier, he was immediately put onto various commissions to punish the insurgents.89 He was also now summoned to Parliament for the first time by personal writ, resuming the style once briefly enjoyed by his father, friendship with Buckingham and other local peers like Lord Fitzwalter or Richard II’s rising favourite, Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford, further enhanced his position.90 In keeping with his seniority and longer spells in England, Bourchier now took a more active part in both county and national administration, being particularly associated with those whom Buckingham gathered around him.91 He also gave some attention to the estates from which he had so long been absent.92

Foreign affairs, however, continued to interest him: in 1383, together with his wife, Maud, and eldest son, Bartholomew, Bourchier received an indulgence for supporting Bishop Despenser’s crusade to Flanders,93 in which a number of his former companions in arms – or opponents like Roger de Beaufort, participated, though he resisted the urge to enlist. He thus escaped the opprobrium that fell on the army’s leaders when it was forced to retreat ignominiously.94 But in the following year, new opportunities for service presented themselves; summoned first to fight against the Scots,95 in November 1384 the royal council decided to send Bourchier with a small force as `Rewaert’ or governor to support the men of Ghent, in revolt against Philip of Burgundy, successor to Louis de Male, count of Flanders, who had died the previous February, and for whose unnamed heir the English government ingenuously now claimed to be acting.96 In command of a force of 100 men-at-arms and 300 archers, to which some other small contingents were gradually added, Bourchier spent the next year cooperating with a regime of leading citizens of Ghent, led by Frank Ackerman, who moved onto the offensive in the spring of 1385. As Professor Vaughan has written, `Their strategy was dictated by their commercial needs: it was imperative for them to secure communication with England to ensure a continued supply of raw material for the cloth-workers’.97

Whilst economic concerns also clearly influenced the English in their support of the Gantois, in their broader strategic thinking, this entanglement in the affairs of the Low Countries was also defensible on the grounds that it contributed to the `Barbican’ policy that Richard H’s government had been following for some years: placing England’s first line of defence not along the country’s southern coastline but across the Channel, where a series of castles and fortresses among them Calais and its pale, Cherbourg and Brest and now, potentially, Ghent – served as England’s frontline defences.98

There is no need here to describe in detail the various military actions in Flanders during the summer and autumn of 1385, recounted at length by Froissart and other chroniclers, in which the Anglo-Gantois forces were involved.99 A notable feat was the capture of Damme in August by troops from Ghent, but Ackerman’s success spurred Philip of Burgundy to mobilise French resources for a major counter-attack to subdue the rebellion in his wife’s patrimonial lands. Gradually Ghent was isolated militarily and diplomatically, so that it became responsive to French overtures for peace; for their part, promised reinforcements from England were too few and too late to prevent an accommodation.100

Franco-Flemish negotiations were taken up actively in October 1385 and eventually on 18 December a peace treaty was agreed at Tournai. Both before the talks and as they were proceeding, Bourchier at Ghent appears to have acted with considerable bravery and good sense; his advice on military matters was generally well-thought out and practical, and he exercised a moderating influence on the hotheads among the citizen body.

Froissart is joined by the English chronicler Thomas Walsingham in praising the way in which he prevented retaliation for various cruelties perpetrated by the French.101 His own position remained secure: his appointment as regent was confirmed by the Gantois as late as 25 October and the English government was still expecting to send Bourchier further reinforcements when the ground was cut from under his feet by the peace talks.102 He was allowed to leave the city with military honours, retreating with his men to Calais at the end of October or beginning of November 1385.103

With his usual flair for the dramatic, Froissart provides a vivid account of Bourchier’s return to England to report to the king and council about events at Ghent which we must as usual take with a pinch of salt, but there is no doubt he was soon back on the continent, taking up residence in the garrison at Calais where he appears to have served for much of 1386, perhaps concerning himself especially with repairing and overseeing the fortifications.104 The chronicler Knighton also numbers him among those who accompanied Henry Percy, ‘Hotspur’, on a chevauchee against Boulogne in late May 1386, after a first raid by Percy alone had resulted in numerous English casualties, events also related by Walsingham but without mention of Bourchier’s part.105

From Calais it was also relatively easy for him to keep an eye on his own private affairs. But recognition of Bourchier’s long experience of military matters and contacts with those around Richard II is also demonstrated by the fact that in August 1387, when relations between the king and his nobles were deteriorating rapidly, Bourchier was among those summoned by Richard to meet him at Nottingham to discuss the state of the realm.106  It was, of course, on this occasion that the king posed the famous questions to the judges about royal prerogatives, and Bourchier was later present in the Merciless Parliament (3 February-4 June 1388) which condemned the king’s favourites and restricted his powers.107 What stance he took during these events is unknown: his close contacts with Buckingham (promoted duke of Gloucester in 1385) have been mentioned, but so too have those with his Essex neighbour Robert de Vere, by now duke of Ireland, one of those condemned by Parliament and driven into an exile from which he did not return afive.108 There is evidence that Bourchier was willing to help Oxford’s family avoid the full consequences of the forfeiture he had incurred and he remained on good terms with the dowager countess of Oxford in later years.109

Bourehier on crusade

Politics were never a consuming passion for Bourchier; he was by preference a man of action and he no doubt deplored the divisions that had riven the English aristocracy in recent years. Disenchantment, disillusion or a desire to avoid making difficult choices may be behind one last episode in the vicissitudes of his military career. For with the conclusion of a series of Anglo-French truces from 1388, Bourchier, by then aged around 60, was free to complete the classic curses honorum of a late medieval noble by going on crusade.110 On 5 May 1390 he had a licence to cross the sea to ‘Barbary’, with a retinue of six esquires, fifteen valets and eight stable boys. Next day letters of exchange for £300 were arranged by a Lombard banker in London, Angelo Cristoforo.111 Perhaps his first intention was, like that of Henry, earl of Derby, to join the expedition that Louis, duc de Bourbon, was preparing to lead to Africa.112  If so, he quickly changed his mind, for when Derby arrived in Danzig in August 1390 on his own Preussenreise, it was in Bourchier’s hospicium that he initially stayed, while it was one of his esquires that Derby rewarded for raising the standard ‘primo super muro civitatis de Welle’ [sc. Vilnius], the main military action of that summer’s campaign.113 When in the spring of 1391 Derby left Prussia, Bourchier stayed on. In the summer he featured in a notable incident at Konigsberg recorded by the Monk of Westminster.114

The Scottish knight Sir William Douglas unexpectedly entered a church where Mass was being said in the presence of various English lords and their followers, including Lords Clifford, Despenser, Fitzwalter, Beaumont and Bourchier, at which point the celebrant stopped, saying he would not continue in the presence of schismatics (since the Scots supported the Avignonese pope and the English the Roman one). At this Douglas became incensed and withdrew in high temper, claiming that it was Clifford’s doing, since they had already quarrelled some time before, presumably during earlier Anglo-Scottish border wars. When the English emerged into the street, Douglas led a furious attack on them, though the ensuing fracas cost him his life and some of his companions were injured in a counter-attack led by Bourchier who, like his squire in the previous year, seized a standard to rally his men. Others joining in the affray included supporters of the Roman pontiff from Germany, Bohemia and Guelders, and it was some while before peace was restored. Proud, brave and still quick-thinking as this episode shows, recognition of Bourchier, a soldier’s soldier, culminated on his return to England when in late 1392 he was named Knight of the Garter.115

Last years

Bourchier remained active in Parliament and on local commissions almost to the end of his life; on 26 July 1398, for instance, he was ordered to release five prisoners whom he had apprehended with characteristic vigour and gaoled at Colchester for holding the `Logge’ at Tolleshunt by force.116  He received Garter robes in 1399,117 but by the winter he was in decline. On 14 February 1400 he was exempted from attendance in Parliament and Council and from further service on commissions.118 He died a few months later on 21 May 1400 and was buried in the Bourchier chantry at St Andrew’s, Halstead where mutilated fragments of his tomb survive.119 It had been the intention of his father to establish a College there for eight chaplains; it was his grand-daughter, Elizabeth, who with the help of Richard Clifford, bishop of London, and her two successive warrior husbands, Hugh, lord Stafford and Sir Lewis Robesart K.G., eventually succeeded in providing a sufficient endowment for five chaplains to celebrate masses in perpetuity for her Bourchier ancestors.120

Some of the delay in raising this monument to family pride can be attributed to the restless worldly concerns of John Bourchier traced here that took him from Calais, Narbonne, Poitiers and Najera, via Auray, Pontvallain, Machecoul, Nantes, Ghent and Calais to Danzig and Vilnius, and kept him so long from his native Essex heath, though as the anguished letter to Maud, lady Bourchier in 1374 shows, his wife, family and friends always seem to have lain at the centre of his life. In this respect, Bourchier’s misfortune is our good luck, providing as it does a brief personal glimpse into the mind of one notable fourteenth-century soldier whose chequered and colourful career has otherwise to be disinterred from more formal and hence all too frequently anodyne records, although the story is full of incident and interest as this account has sought to demonstrate. Thus, correct as Justice Crewe was to lament `an end to all temporal things’, the historical record and the now sadly incomplete state of Bourchier’s own `urns and sepulchres of mortality’ his tomb at Halstead, the site of his manors at Stanstead Hall and Tollesbury and other visible signs of Bourchier pride like his stall plate at Windsor – are touching reminders that `the name and dignity of Bourchier still stands’.


The material for this paper has been gathered over many years. I am particularly grateful to the late and present Marquesses of Bath for permission to work at Longleat and to publish documents from their muniments, and to Dr Kate Harris, Librarian at Longleat, for her help. Dr Gerald Harriss kindly allowed me access to transcripts of further Longleat material in the McFarlane Papers, Magdalen College, Oxford. Crown copyright material is published by permission of the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. Among others who have helped with historical data are Linda Clark, Alison McHardy and Jennifer Ward, and I am indebted to the University of Nottingham and the British Academy for funding part of my research. Thanks are also due to Mr and Mrs Norman Smith, who kindly welcomed me to Stanstead Hall, Halstead, and to the Rev. Barry Rose, who allowed me to study and photograph the Bourchier tombs in St Andrew’s, Halstead.


ALA                Archives de la Loire-Atlantique

BIHR               Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research

BL                   British Library

CCR                Calendar of Close Rolls

CP                   The Complete Peerage, revised edn. V. Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday er al., 13 vols. London (1910-59)

CPL                 Calendar of Papal Letters

CPR                 Calendar of Parent Rolls

CIM                 Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous

CIPM              Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem

DNB                Dictionary of National Biography, ed. Sir Leslie Stephens and Sir Sidney Lee

EHR                 English Historical Review

PRO                Public Record Office

RCHM             Royal Commission on Historic Monuments (England), Essex, 4 vols. London (1916‑22)

VCH                Victoria County History


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End Notes

1. CP, x, 256 note e.

2. CP, ii, 246-50; the account there of our John Bourchier’s life is extremely brief and inadequate.

3. CIPM, ix, no. 591.

4. RCMH, Essex, iii, 217.

5. DNB, s.n. and CP, ii, 246.

6. CCR, 1349-54, 129, 165.

7. Muniments of the Marquess of Bath, Longleat House, Wilts. Longleat MS 101, grant to John FitzNichol of Shaldeford, senior, of a robe at Christmas or 10s for life on manor of Tolleshunt.and 6s 8d p.a. for shoes, 11 April 1352. I have also used transcripts of Longleat documents in KB. McFarlane’s papers, Magdalen College, Oxford, for access to which I am grateful to Dr Gerald Harriss. Carter, 239-46 seeks to identify the many different manors of the parish: that which became Bourchier’s Hall, Tollesbury, was held at Domesday by Eustace de Boulogne; cf. Reaney, 173, who identifies the same property as Tolleshunt Guynes in 1384.

8. CIPM, xviii, nos. 13-15. Bartholomew was aged 32 or more in 1400. His brass and that of his two wives survives at St Andrew’s, Halstead.

9. RCMH, Essex, i, 146-7 for Stanstead Hall; below n. 83 for work undertaken there by John Bourchier.

10. Morant, ii, 253.

11. A most obvious error is the naming of Bourchicr’s wife as Elizabeth when all contemporary records call her Maud: Ward, 61-6 is the latest authority to repeat the inaccuracy. The supposition that Bourchier’s wife was a member of the Coggeshale family (with whom he did have many dealings) essentially depends on cockle shells among the armorial evidence on the fragments of John’s tomb (cf. Clark, 312 n. 2; Bayley, 100 and pl. VIII). Powell, 95-6, discusses with characteristic acumen the attributions of the surviving monuments at Halstead and identifies an alabaster head of a Saracen (in private hands in 1974; current whereabouts uncertain) as a probable part of the now much-fragmented tomb of John, lord Bourchier.

12. Tout, 372; his effigy, now mounted over what appear to be panels from the tomb chest of Robert, lord Bourchier, survive at Halstead (cf. Powell, 95). The famous Halstead shield, displaying the Bourchier arms Argent, a cross engrailed Gules between four water bougets Sable, once thought to date from the fourteenth century but now considered a seventeenth-century piece, currently lies on top of this effigy (cf. Mann, 80-100)

13. Morant, ii, 253, repeated in DNB, but cf. his absence from Frame.

14. CCR, 1341-43, 46.

15. Wilkinson, 113-5 and passim.

16. CP, ii, 246; Wrottesley, 1898, index s.n. for Robert’s part in the 1346-7 campaign.

17. cf. Morant, i, 329, 380, 400-1; ii, 135; for the tomb of Robert, lord Bourchier and Margaret Prayers at Halstead, cf. Powell, 95-6.

18. Feet of Fines, iii, no. 605; CCR, 1349-54, 64.

19. cf. Morant, ii, 40; VCH, Essex, iv, 59, 131. For Robert’s estates see below, n. 58.

20. Feudals Aids, ii, 156-7, 159-60, 166, 170-1, 177.

21.Cf Froissart, 1972, 588; cf. ed. Kervyn de Lettenhove, iv, 183; ed. S. Luce et al., iii. 28. Other examples of Froissart’s invention with regard to ‘John Bourchier’ a the part attributed to him in Gaunt’s chevauchee of 1373-4 when, as we shall see, our John was already a prisoner (ed. Lettenhove, viii, 280), and his alleged part in Sir John Arundel’s expedition of 1379 (ibid., ix. 213; ed. Luce, ix, 210; and above p. 149).

22. PRO C61/82 m. 7, 2 April 1369; it is not clear whether it was him or his nephew who received a renewal exactly a year later when serving with the earl of Cambridge (ibid., 83 m. 9).

23. Nicolas, i. 189, ii. 445-8; John is not mentioned in Wrottesley, 1898; Feet of Fines, iii. no. 1028 (as knight); Carte, i. 135 (protection, cf. PRO C61/68 m. 2, Sept. 1355).

24. Thompson, 1889, 129; Hewitt, 52.

25. Froissart, ed. Lettenhove, xvii, 334; cf. ed. Luce, iv, 186, 388; Fowler, 158-71 is the best modern account of events in Brittany from 1355-8. There is no mention of this siege of Dinan, but cf. Luce, 194-200; La Borderie and Pocquet, iii, 554 for a less critical stance.

26. Only four mentions of Bourchier in English sources have been found in these years, three of which do not necessarilyentail his presence in England; some may in any case concern his uncle, John: CPR, 1358-61, 21, 6 March 1358, ap–pointment as feoffee for Roger de Stonham and his wife but cf. ibid., 43, 1 May 1358, when Stonham surrendered his let–ters as of no effect; on 8 September 1359 Bourchier was defi–nitely in London to seal a deed quitclaiming Thomas Bourchier, probably a cousin, for lands at Coggeshall and Marke–shall, once held by John Buk and his uncle, John Bourehier (PRO DL27/151, the fine armorial seal of which is described in Ellis, ii, no. P1077); Nicolas, i, 189 for 1359-60. CCR, 1360. 64, 292, 12 Nov. 1361, cancellation on payment of a bond by which Sir William Bourchier, Sir John’s younger brother, recognized owing him £500. The seal is the same one he used on a deed given at Patchingshall, Brimfield, Essex, on 2 Nov. 1353 (PRO, LR 14 (E 593)), when found–ing a chantry in Theale parish church in memory of his par–ents.

27. Longleat MS 139; on 13 Nov. 1363 Bourchier received a protection for a year in Montfort’s service (PRO C76/46 m. 4). Jones, Recuil, i. no. 27 for the truce.

28. Jones, Recueil, i. no. 29.

29. ibid., i. no. 30; Blois took Bourchier into his safeguard until Laetare Hierusalem next (3 March 1364) on 28 Nov. 1363 at Poitiers (Longleat MS 106).

30. Longleat MS 107: ‘Noun Guy de Rocheffort seigneur Dacerac ayent povair do monseignour moseur Charles due de Bretaigne viconte de Limoges de longier a monsieur Jahan seigneur de Bourssier lostage en quoy estoit tenu aud. moscur le due, comme plus piainement est contenu es lettres de ccluy povair, ly avons alonge et recieu ledit hostage juques a la saint Bamsbe prochaine venant apres le date de ces lettres. Tesmoegn nostre seau. Don’ le mardi apres Noel Ian toll ccc sexante et troys.’ [Sealed on tongue with a fine impression of Guy’s seal (vairy)].

31. Feet of Fines, iii. no. 1381, 3 Feb. 1364 for a fine between John and his wife, Maud, and Robert de Nailinghurst, clerk,  who frequently acted as one of John’s attornies; CCR, 1364-68, 43 shows John at Halstead on 4 Feb. 1364; ibid., 200, for a charter issued by him at Maldon on 23 Feb.; a grant of protection and general attorney was made to him on 27 Jan. 1364 for service with the Black Prince in Gascony (PRO C61/77 m. 4 and cf. Rymer, III, ii, 719-20). On 12 March John Verdun received a protection going abroad in Bourchier’s company as did Ralph Davyell on 4 May (PRO 076/47 mm. 12 & 13).

32. Jones, Recueil, no. 36; Bourchier quitted Jean IV for his expenses as a hostage on 3 June (Morice, i. 1581 and cf. AI.A, E 238 f. 72r).

33. cf. Froissart, ed. Lettenbove, vii, 37, 52-3, 56, 6 1; xvii, 409; ed. Luce, vi, 164, 169, 337.

34. Jones, Recueil, i, no. 38; Morice, ii, 468-9.

35. Jones, 1970, 39-50; Jones, 1991, 257-65.

36. He appears to have been in Brittany as late as 24 June 1366 when he received a quittance from Jacquemes de Keminade, a German merchant, acting in the name of Ludek Wale, by the hands of Robert Queldenac of Dinan, for 300 nobles (worth 50 gros Flemish each), which Bourchier and John Hertuelt had been obliged to pay Ludek (Longleaf MS 109). Tyson, line 2335; Russell, 79ff. for the preparation and course of the prince’s expedition.

37. He received a protection for service with the Black Prince in Guyennc on 1 June 1367 (PRO C61/80 m. 3). A letter, to be dated between 1367 and 1372, from Jean IV of Brittany to Bourchier, referring to the exploits of ‘noz seignours et freres et de vous’ (Jones, Recueil, i, no. 213 after Longleat MS 390), may refer to the Spanish expedition, though it is more likely alluding to events in Guyenne and Poitou between 1369-72. In Bourchier’s absence abroad, his proctor presented Robert de Nailinghurst as prior and master of the Hospital of St Giles, Maldon, of which Bourchier was patron, on 21 June 1369 (VCH, Essex, ii, 190).

38. Jones, Recueil, i, no. 151, when he obtained pardon for Olivier Gauteron, accused of murder.

39. Longleat MS 137, original letters, 1 July 1370; cf. Rymer III, ii, 894. Bourchier was not present at Westminster with the other captains on 5 July to make various promises to the king over the division of spoils but swore to do so on 10 July, as noted on the dorse of the original agreement (BL, MS Cotton Caligula D III no. 115; cf.Rymer III, ii, 897); Sherborne, 723-5 for the size and make‑up of the force.

40. The classic account of Knolles’s expedition is Delachenal, iv. 301-48.

41. Blanchard, i, pp. cii-ciii.

42. ibid., pp. xcviii-cv for the career of Rays; cf. Froissart, ed. Luce, vi, 38, 262, 287 for him in Spain with Sir John Chandos and Olivier, sire de Clisson.

43. Longleat MS 117.

44. BL, Add. Ch. 8417. A now virtually indecipherable letter from Bourchier to his wife, probably from Derval (?1371), reports that he was ‘seyn et en bonpoint’ and shows him borrowing 100 marks from Jankin Curteys, butler of Jean IV of Brittany (Longleat MS 400).

45. Longleat MS 116.

46. He was in Paris on 4 June 1371 (Delisle, no. 771) but dead by 3 December: Blanchard, i, p. cv.

47. PRO 076/55 m. 18; cf. also 56 m. 18 (10 June 1373), 57 m. 17 (27 April 1374), 58 m. 18 (20 May 1375), 59 m. 27 (15 Feb. 1376), 60 m. 7 (2 March 1377); original letters of general attorney survive for him ‘dwelling abroad’, 20 Oct. 1377 (Longleat MS 119).

48. McFarlane, 28, 45 and 241 after Longleat MS 396.

49. Longleat MS 395; see below Appendix nos. 1 and 2.

50. Jones, 1972, 7-26 and Given-Wilson, 1981, 17-28 for two near contemporary cases.

51. For evidence of his officers’ misbehaviour in his absence, cf. writ to the sheriff of Essex to inquire into defects at the hospital of St Giles, Maldon, including a break-in by John, chaplain and steward of John Bourchier in 1373 (CIM, iii, no. 906, 12 Sept. 1373), though this was part of a longrunning dispute over the patronage of the hospital between Edward III and Bourchier (cf. VCH, Essex, ii, 189-90); it was not entirely resolved even in 1382 (CIM, iv, no. 172). Brimell, 1986, 146 mentions tenants’ flocks trespassing on the lord’s demesne at Bourchier Hall in 1365 and 137 t, after surviving court rolls (Essex Record Office, D/DK M75 mm. 5v, 12v; 76 mm. 4r, fir).

52. Holmes, 1975, 7-20 for a useful summary.

53. Jones, 1970, 60-76.

54. Blanchard, i. pp. cv-cviii summarises Jeanne’s eventful life.

55. Jones, 1995, deals at greater length with the diplomatic aspects of Bourchicr’s ransom.

56. Longleat MS 395, below Appendix no. 1.

57. Linda Clark in Roskell et al., ii. 315.

58. Brimeli, 1986, 142-6, 151 and in Thirsk, 57, 60, 66, summarising Brimell 1977, 53-66, which is a detailed discussion of the surviving rolls from Bourchier’s Hall for the years 133742, 1349-52, 1356-7, 1403-6: Essex RO, D/DK/MB6-90; see also Holmes, 1957, 114ff. for the economic changes affecting great landholders in this period.

59. Longleat MS 396, below Appendix no. 2, is endorsed ‘Ceste lettre nous vent le viij’ jour de Julet’ and ‘Porte par Russh’. As late as 1400 John Rush was still in Bourchier’s service (CIPM, xviii, no. 15).

60. Longleaf MS 156, below Appendix no. 4.

61. Jones, Recueil, i, no. 231, after BL, Add. Ch. 7909.

62. Strachey iii. 256a, where it is arbitrarily dated 1387; for the original see PRO SC8/21/1016, below Appendix no. 3.

63. Strachey, ii. 343a.

64. cf. Galbraith, 1927, 74, 179 for the capture of Goumay, Redmayne and Fogg.

65. ibid., 97; Roskell et al., iii. 95-7 for Fogg’s career.

66. Blanchard, ii, no. cclx.

67. Samaran, 223 [now Archives Nationales, Paris, 1 AP *2210 no. 8].

68. Neither Lefranc nor Gicquel throw any light on this matter; John B. Henneman is writing a new biography. Currently the best indication of Clisson’s role as a financier is found in the list of obligations found at Josselin (dep. Morbihan) on his death (Bruel, 193-245). Richard FitzAlan, third earl of Arundel (d. 1376), played a very similar role as creditor to fellow nobles in England (Given-Wilson, 1991, 1-26).

69. Mirot and Jassemin, no. 2843, 19 Feb. 1373.

70. Longleat MS 142, notarial instrument drawn up at Bruges, 27 April 1378, before Bartholomew de Arquato, by which Guillaume Leet, esquire of Olivier, sire de Clisson, agreed to deliver Bourchier, Clisson’s prisoner, to Guichard d’Angle, earl of Huntingdon and Sir Hugh Segrave at Courtrai.

71. Longleat MS 165.

72. Longleat MS 232; cf. above n. 58. Bourchier’s Hall was still kept in hand by Bartholomew Bourrhier between 1401‑6 (Britnell, 1986, 146) but that was only one Bourchier manor.

73. Longleat MS 120; there is no mention of the sums advanced to Bourchier by Richard, fourth earl of Arundel, in Given-Wilson, 1991.

74. CP, ii. 247 follows Froissart (cf. ed. Lettenhove, ix, 213; ed. Luce, ix, 210) for the Brest expedition but see Bourchier’s promise in 1374 not to serve until his ransom had been paid (Longleat MS 395, below Appendix no. 1).

75. Longleat MS 120: ‘et parmi cc quictons le dit sire de Bourcher tant de la foy et serement quit noun fist de non soy armer jusques a cc quil Bust paie la somme des viij’ frans’.

76. A copy of Buckingham’s indenture was sent to Bourehier OIL 2 May 1380 (BL, Add. Ch. 7914) and a protection for him to serve with Buckingham was issued on 12 June (Rymer, iv, 88), the same day that he engaged William Cap’oun to serve with him in France for a year (Longieat MS 121). On 11 June Edmund, earl of Cambridge, had acknowledged owing him 597 marks, to pay which he established an annual pension of C20 on the 500 marks p.a. that Cambridge took by royal order during the nonage of Thomas, lord Despenser until the loan was paid off (Longleat MS 141).

77. Anselme, vi, 315-9 for the Rogier family; cf. also Delachenal, iv, 282 n. 4.

78. Lehoux, i, 236, 240; cf. Delachenal, iv, 288-91, 293n. Hugues de la Roche and Roger de Beaufort with a retinue of five other knights and 87 esquires were mustered at Limoges on 22 August 1370 (Hay du Chastelet, 330-1).

79. Emerson, 238-40; Barber, 224-6; the most detailed account remains Leroux.

80. Delachenal, iv, 291 n. 2, 293 n. 3; Lehoux, i, 287-8.

81. Jones, 1995.

82. Longleat MS 121.

83. Longleat MS 136: indenture with Nicholas Degrowe, who dwelt on London bridge, by which he agreed to make ‘une dowe entour le manoir de Stansted tout environ contenante quarante pies de long’ entre les deux coustes et vignt et cinq pies de par sount pour plourne. Et ledit Nicholas apourtera et sera apourter et carier tout lisemer et la teae qui voudra hors de la dit dowe le long de quatourze verges apelles mette yerdes en Englis hors de checun eouste tout environ la ou ledit Sire de Bourchier vouldra assigner et deviser’. It was to be finished by All Saints 1381 for the price of 100 marks and a quarter of wheat, Nicholas getting 40s to start. Bourchier agreed to find ‘chambre et feu’ and ‘hamois’ for him, to cut down all the trees in the ‘dowe’ and send a cart to bring Nicholas and his ‘harnois’ from London.

84. Jones, 1970, 90-2.

85. Jones, Recueil, i. nos. 354-5, 360-1, 363.

86. CPR, 1381-5, 235, 5 March 1383, inspeximus and confirmation of letters of Buckingham at Vannes, 27 Feb. 1381 n.s., pardoning Blethin ap Yrian (sic) for all treasons and other crimes committed in the company of’Owen Retherrick’ (i.e. Owain Llawgoch) ‘qui se disoit princes de Gales’, in the presence of Lords Latimer, Bourchier and Morley and Sir Hugh de Hastings, a document overlooked in Jones, 1970. For Bleddyn ap Einion, see Carr, 61.

87. Jones, Recueil, i, no. 362; Jones, 1970, 91 and notes.

88. Longleat MS 125. Buckingham allegedly still owed him 600 marks when Bourchier drew up a list of debtors in 1384-5 (Longleat MS 231). Others owing him money included Edward, prince of Wales (11735 francs ‘et soit pluys’), Jean IV of Brittany (3000 ccus Jean) and Sir Simon Burley (L40).

89. CPR, 1381-5, 73, 10 July 1381; renewed several times (ibid., 8 Oct. 1381, 85, 14 Dec. 1381, 139, 8 March 1382, 253, 20 Dec. 1382, 246, 21 Dec. 1382).

90. CPR, 1381-5, 235, 6 Jan. 1383 for commission to Bourchier and Fitzwalter to arrest Walter Savage of Tendring for inciting rebels.

91. cf. those named to commissions cited in n. 89 above.

92. The dispute over St Giles’ hospital, Maldon, for instance, prorogued on 18 March 1381 because of his absence abroad (CCR, 1377-81, 504), was proceeding by Dec. 1381 when Lord Fitzwalter and others were ordered to investigate (CPR, 1381-5, 83). For Bourchier’s acquisition of a moiety of the manor of Ryveshales in East Mersea in 1383, see CCR, 13815, 309; and for other acquisitions cf. Morant, i, 353, 360, 367. The best guide to the estates Bourchier possessed at this point is given by the list of his demesne lands included in a grant of free warren received on 14 Dec. 1384 (Cal of Charter Rolls, v, 1341-1417, 296).

93. Longleat MS 2964.

94. Perroy, 166ff; the most recent detailed account is Aston, 12748; see also Palmer, 44ff, and Van Heerwarden.

95. PRO SCI/56 no. 96; Longleat MS 154, is a summons from Richard II to Bourchier to serve with his men by the end of the month against the Scots, who have invaded, dated Westminster, 12 August, but without a year; similarly Longleat MS 398, Westminster, 30 May, also without year, informed him that news has been received from the earl of Northumberland that the Scots had invaded, and that another force led by the three sons of the king of Scotland was expected, ordering him to be at Westminster on the Translation of St Thomas [7 July] with his retinue.

96. Rymer (0), vii, 448; Froissart, ed. Lettenhove, x, 303ff. and 544-5. Richard II’s commission is dated IS Nov. 1384 in the enrolment in PRO C76/69 m. 21 and cf. m. 15.

97. Vaughan, 35.

98. cf. Palmer, 7ff.

99. Usefully summarised in Vaughan, 34-8; see also Roskell, 98109 for English policy at this point in the Low Countries. The appointment of Bourchier is noted by Walsingham (Thompson, 1874, 363 and Riley, 1863‑4, ii. 120) though he mistakenly calls him ‘Edward Le Bourser’.

100. Perroy, 206, 208 provides some details on the troops; Thomas Restwold paid at least 24 ship masters for transporting troops to Ghent between July and Sept. 1384 and as late as Nov. 1385 316 horses were also transported (PRO E101/40/11). Bourchier received £367 14s in money and assignments worth £329 12s 8d when setting out for Ghent on 1 Dec. 1384 (PRO E 403/505, m. 13).

101. Froissart, ed. Lettenhove, x, 319, 406-7, 555; Riley, ii, 120-1.

102. Longleat MSS 106a, 108, 109, 159 and 164 provide copies of Bourchier’s commissions as rewaert, the latest, 25 Oct. 1385 issued by the echevins of Ghent.

103. Perroy, 208 n. 3 shows English payments for his troops ceased on 7 Nov. 1385; Froissart, ed. Luce, xi, pp. lxxiii-iv for his retreat. He was named on a commission of array in Essex in view of an expected French invasion on 18 Feb. 1386 (CPR, 1385-9, 176).

104. He retained Sir Richard Claveryng for service at Calais in London on 18 April 1386, John Hemehike on 1 May and Robert and John Nele on 3 May (Longleat MSS 144, 128 and 131). Letters of attorney were issued for his service at Calais for a year on 4 May (Wrottesley, 1893, 243 after PRO C76170 m. 9). Simon Burley and others were ordered to review at Dover the troops of Henry Percy, John Bourchier and others going to Calais on 31 (sic) April 1386 (ibid., m. 8) and a very faded and rubbed retinue roll for Bourchier’s troop of about 70 men-at-arms and archers and five crossbowmen, either at Dover or Calais, in May 1386 survives (EI01/42114 m. 2).

105. Lumby, ii. 210-11 and c£ Riley, ii. 144. Longleat MS 155, a privy seal letter, Westminster, 8 May [?1386], notes that the French ‘font gmndes assembles de gens et puision dartillerie au fm que sodeignement ils purront assailler nostre ville de Caleys et nostre chastebr en la marche la entour encountre le teneur de ces presentes trieves’ and urges the recipient to come to the council to advise the king on this and other matters. Longleat MS 376 is a similar summons, Westminster, 12 Dec., no year, ordering Bourchier to appear in council in London on Sunday, 13 Dec., to deal with pressing business and great matters: Sunday fell on that date in 1383, 1388 and 1394.

106. Longleat MS 149, below Appendix no. 5; for the crisis of 1387-8, cf. Tuck, 87-120; Goodman, 16-54, though neither notes the summons to Bourchier.

107. CCR, 1385-9, 457, 17 Dec. 1387, writ of summons.

108. Bourchier was named with Gloucester, Fitzwalter and de Vere on a commission of the peace in Essex on 18 Feb. 1386 and this was repeated on 28 July 1387 (CPR, 1385-9, 82, 385).

109. CPR, 1391-6, 305, 14 July 1393, grant, at supplication of Maud, countess of Oxford, to Thomas Percy, Bourchier and others of reversion of various manors which had once belonged to Robert de Vere; ibid., 644, 30 Nov. 1395, further transactions over this grant. Halliday, 71-85 provides a brief conspectus.

110. Keen, 45-61 provides the general context.

111. PRO C81/515/6289, 5 May 1390, ‘put passer la meet vets les parties de Barbarie ovesqes sys esquiers, quinzse vadletz ovesqes oyt garcions, lour chivaux et lour hamoys ensemblement ovec eschange de troys centz livres pour sea despenses’ (cf. CCR, 1392-6, 531). He had letters of general attorney on 6 May (076/74 m. 4).

112 Du Boulay, 153-72; Palmer, 197-8 for Derby’s original intentions. His bastard brother, John Beaufort, did accompany Bourbon (Keen, 56).

113. Toulmin Smith, 39, 105, 302.

114. Hector and Harvey, 474-6.

115. Beltz, cliv shows that he was elected in place of Robert de Namur (d. 18 Aug. 1392) and was eventually succeeded by Sir Thomas Rempston; ibid., 343-5 for a summary of his career. His stall plate survives but is a replacement provided in Henry V’s reign (St John Hope, pl. XIV). Longleat MS 397 is a memorandum concerning royal stable equipment, saddles etc. in Bourchier’s custody, 1391-2.

116. Strachey iii, 356 for his presence in Parliament in 1397; CCR, 1396-9, 322.

117. Anstis, i, 13; Beltz, 254. No other records of provision of robes between 1392-99 appear to survive.

118. CPR, 1399-1402, 201.

119. Bayley, 80-100, reproducing in pl. VIII (after BL, Harleian MS 4204 f. 146), an early seventeenth-century sketch of the monument to Bourchier and his wife before its removal to the south aisle in order to accommodate more pews in the eighteenth century.

120. Clark, 311-37 for both Sir Robert Bourchier’s petition to Benedict XII (1340) for the original college and the licence Henry IV to Richard, bishop of London and others to refound the college (1412). The font at Halstead bears the arms of Stafford as well as those of Vere and Bourchier.


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