Middle English Word of the Moment

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Jaunts of Sirs Thomas and Thomas

The following is adapted from a few paragraphs of chapter 3 of my thesis - the story, so far as it can be deduced from a few records here and there, of one member of the family whose movements in the 1320s I've been piecing together. And his friend.  I thought it might be fun!

In the first three months of 1322, the forces of Edward II and the rebel barons fought out a brief civil war, ending at the Battle of Boroughbridge in the middle of March. In the king’s army were a minor baron called Sir John Engayne and (most likely) his brother Sir Nicholas. In the barons’ army, however, was one Sir Thomas Engayne, actively fighting against his king and, therefore, against his relatives. According to the Boroughbridge Roll – the list of those killed or taken in arms against the king – he escaped after the battle and he fled over the sea, as did several other knights, for refuge in France (CPW II App. 201). Among these knights was one Sir Thomas Roscelyn of Norfolk, son and heir of Sir Peter Roscelyn.

Early in the following year, Thomas must have returned to England. A warrant was issued from Newark for his arrest, and for several others in his company: “Jakemin de Darynton, John de Hereford, parson of the church of Depeden, Robert de la Lee, Walter de Brawode, John de Goldynton, knight, Thomas Rocelyn, knight, Robert de Burer, John de Rothyng and Thomas de Engayne” (CPR EII IV p. 238). Of these men, Sirs Thomas Roscelyn and John Goldynton were at Boroughbridge, and the latter is recorded as being imprisoned as a result, although, in view of this arrest warrant, that may be a mistake (CPW II App. pp. 200-01, MS BL Cotton Cleopatra D IX [Fineshade manuscript] f. 88r).

The hunt was on – but it met with no success. Another warrant was January 6 of 1324, the men still at large. According to this warrant, Sir Thomas Engayne, Sir Thomas Roscelyn and James Darynton spent December and January 1322-23 safely ensconced in the priory of Bermondsey, Surrey, at which Darynton was a canon. Consequently, this warrant demands the arrest of the prior Walter de Lutz and “his fellow monk” Bartholomew de Whytsand, together with both knights, Darynton, Darynton’s brother Percival and one Peter de Mountmartyn, identified as the brother of Sir Ponsard de Mountmartyn. According to the warrant, the canons “received the said Jacominus, Percival, Peter and other persons adherents of the rebels, and especially of Thomas Rosselyn and Thomas Dengayne, knights, in the priory of Bermundsey, co. Surrey, and aided them from the feast of St Nicholas 16 Edward II [6 December 1322] until Shrovetide [8 February 1323], when they permitted them to go away at the expense and mounting of the said prior” (CPR EII IV 358).

No further warrants were issued for Thomas Engayne or Roscelyn. They were never caught - it is likely that they left England and, as many knights were to do, joined those exiles on the continent who were later to join Queen Isabella and Mortimer in their invasion.[1] The Westminster parliament following Edward III’s coronation would have restored them their lands, as it did all those who had lost them in 1322. But we do hear of them again.

In 1329, Henry of Lancaster assumed his executed brother’s mantle and capitalised on his popularity as a martyr to royal oppression, emerging as leader of the baronial opposition to Isabella and Mortimer. In January of that year, Thomases Roscelyn and Engayne were among this Lancaster’s armed forces when he marched into Bedford in open resistance, as were Sir John Goldynton and several other names familiar from the Roll of Boroughbridge. Roscelyn, being one of Lancaster’s four chief adherents, personally arrested and detained the sheriff for the duration of their occupation (CIMisc 274-75). And this time, Sir Thomas did not fight against his family: Sir John Engayne, who had inherited the estate from his uncle John in 1323, was also in Bedford with Lancaster’s party. On February 9, after Henry of Lancaster’s surrender, John Engayne acknowledged a fine of 1200 marks against his Essex lands for his participation in the uprising, and his lands were restored to him on those terms two days later (CClR X pp. 529 and 437).

Roscelyn, however, did not get off with a fine. He and Henry’s other three chief supporters were banished, partly for their part in this uprising and their general trouble-making status, but officially for the murder of Sir Robert Holland the previous October (ODNB “Henry of Lancaster”, CClR X p. 425).[2] The same four men, together with Henry, were pardoned by Edward III on 4 December 1330, following his coup against Mortimer and assumption of personal power. Although the charges against them are mentioned, they are tempered by the addition of “as was surmised by Roger Mortimer, our late enemy” (op. cit. p. 530-31, misfiled under December 1329). Finally, while in exile, Roscelyn was involved or implicated in the Earl of Kent’s attempt to rescue and restore Edward II to the throne (Murimuth 254).

It's interesting (although, lacking data, rather fruitless) to speculate on a hypothetical family dinner around this time, and what turns a conversation on Politics and the State of the Land might have taken.  Nicholas and the older John, whatever their sympathies may have been, held to their legal obligations, while the younger John, although quiet during Edward II’s reign, was later to espouse a similar cause during the queen’s regency. Thomas felt strongly enough (or, of course, was in sufficient financial or legal trouble) to take a stand on the other side, both in 1322 and 1329. Between these years, and possibly earlier, Thomas kept company with Thomas Roscelyn, a man who was a close adherent of Mortimer, and who was later to aid Henry of Lancaster. In each case – Thomas of Lancaster, Roger Mortimer, Henry of Lancaster, even Edmund Earl of Kent – Roscelyn was quick to align himself with the man who presented himself as a force for change in the country. The frequent appearance of Thomas Engayne’s name in conjunction with his may suggest either a man easily influenced by a charismatic personality, or one inspired by a similar desire for change. Roscelyn and his opinions may therefore also have made themselves heard around the family estate at Blatherwycke, if only at second hand.

I’m not sure how close a relative Thomas Engayne was to the centre of the family – another brother to John and Nicholas, another of Nicholas’ sons and thus brother to the younger John, a cousin – but he was close enough to be known and significant to a canon writing at the priory of Fineshade, adjacent to Blatherwycke, of which the Engayne family were patrons.

The Fineshade manuscript (MS BL Cotton Cleopatra D IX, ff. 84-90) includes a version the Boroughbridge Roll, it includes neither the name of Sir Thomas Engayne, nor of Sir Thomas Roscelyn. It can hardly be an accidental omission, or an omission in the exemplar. A Fineshade canon could not fail to notice the name of Engayne above all others in such a list, nor would the exemplar be necessary to make that information known to the priory. That the same accident should extend to the knight who fought with him against the crown and accompanied him in his exile is altogether too much of a coincidence. Whether it is intended as rejection or protection of the exiled knights, the omission must surely be deliberate. Sirs Thomas and Thomas are carefully written out of the event.

This omission throws other silences on the chronicler’s part into interesting relief, illuminating the effort to which he has gone to render the chronicle an impersonal account. One or both of Sirs John and Nicholas Engayne must have been present at the battle and the following parliament, but they are not mentioned. Sir Thomas Engayne and a friend to whose name the chronicler was not indifferent were present in a very different capacity, but the chronicler of the priory carefully deletes them from precisely the point where he ought to have recorded their names. The events most closely detailed by the chronicler are precisely the events which these men experienced, but though that they must have been in his thoughts as he wrote, he who prayed regularly for the Engaynes’ souls mentions none of them. Their presence is systematically erased.


[1] Mortimer was a logical connection for Roscelyn to seek out, as they seem to have had a substantial prior acquaintance. Roscelyn had aided Mortimer in the Marcher rebellion, and had earlier been one of the “closest circle of Mortimer adherents” who witnessed his son’s wedding in 1316 (Ian Mortimer 79).
[2] Holland had been perceived by Lancastrians as a traitor, as his desertion of that earl on the brink of the Battle of Boroughbridge had been instrumental in his defeat. He had been murdered the previous October, and his head sent to Henry of Lancaster.


MS British Library Cotton Cleopatra D IX ff. 84-90 [Fineshade manuscript].

Murimuth, Adam. Continuatio Chronicarum. In Adae Murimuth Continuatio Chronicarum et Robert de Avesbury De Gestis Mirabilibus Regis Edwardi Tertii. Ed. Edward Maunde Thompson. Rolls Series 93. London: Longman, 1889. 1-276.

Calendar of the Close Rolls [CClR]. 21 vols. London: Public Record Office, 1902-27.
Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous (Chancery) [CIMisc]. 3 vols. London: Public Record Office, 1916-2003.
Calendar of Patent Rolls [CPR]. 49 vols. London: Public Record Office, 1891-1986.
Palgrave, Francis, ed. [CPW] The Parliamentary Writs and Writs of Military Summons. 3 vols. London: Eyre, 1827-34.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online) [ODNB].

Mortimer, Ian. The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, Ruler of England 1327-30. London: Jonathan Cape, 2003.

No comments: