|SOME NOTES ON MEDIEVAL ENGLISH GENEALOGY|
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BY DOUGLAS HICKLING
Medieval English families of the baronial and gentry classes, whose young daughters were not heiresses, tended to have difficulty in arranging for suitable husbands for them, especially if the family's real estate was entailed to male heirs, its cash and chattels were limited, or the family simply did not want to give them up. When the potential husband was already rich in real estate, cash, and chattels, he might be less interested in the strictly economic aspects of the marriage than in the social and political or other benefits of an alliance with the bride's family. After all, the right social and political connections can themselves contribute to wealth preservation and accumulation. Although medieval marriage partners were sometimes unknown to each other, they were very likely well-known to the parents who had selected them from an extended family related by social class, politics, acquaintance, or, sometimes, blood.
In choosing which John de Mowbray was Christiana's brother, one may look for signs that show which John de Mowbray, or his father, belonged to the same extended family as Christiana's husbands. Were the John de Mowbray under consideration, and his father, well-acquainted with her husbands, as shown by substantial contacts with them before and during her marriages? Did they know and have contacts with the relatives, feudal lords, or other associates of Christiana or her husbands? On the subject of politics, considering that John Scot and Richard de Emeldon were much involved with the defense and governance of Northumberland and Newcastle both there and in parliament, does one of the John de Mowbrays stand out as being similarly involved in governing or defending the North of England? Finally, since there is no evidence that Christiana's early Newcastle marriages were based upon a transfer of Mowbray wealth to her husbands, was there some significant mutual benefit accruing to the families through the marriage, or any other factor which lends plausibility to the view that one John de Mowbray was more likely than the others to have been Christiana's brother?
John de Mowbray and his father Geoffrey of Wroot, both of whom were killed at Epworth in 1354, are virtually unknown in the public records. They are, therefore, unlikely ever to have been summoned to parliament or involved in public affairs. While it appears from their residence in the Isle of Axholme that they were cousins of John, Lord Mowbray, and therefore share his descent from William Longespee, there is no evidence that Geoffrey and his son were acquainted with Christiana's husbands and their extended families, or active in governing and defending the nothern parts of England. It is unlikely that John de Mowbray, son of Geoffrey, was Christiana de Plumpton's brother.
There is a possibility, though remote, that Christiana was a sister of John de Mowbray (the judge), son of William de Mowbray, of Easby in North Yorkshire. Sir John de Eure and his father of the same name,were neighbors of the Mowbrays of Easby and were the holders of extensive estates in Northumberland, some of their lesser properties being in Newcastle. CIPM 6: 206. Sir William and Christiana de Plumpton held the manor of Brenkley near Newcastle as feudal tenants of the younger Sir John de Eure as early as 1346. Sir John de Eure, the elder, very probably knew John Scot and Richard de Emeldon and could have introduced to them the daughter of his Easby neighbor.
Countering the latter possibility is the fact that Sir John de Eure, the younger, and John II, Lord Mowbray, had at least one significant thing in common. Their fathers were executed as traitors to the king following the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322. While the possible contacts between the Mowbrays of Easby and John Scot and Richard de Emeldon are of interest in looking for the existence of an extended family between Christiana, her husbands, and John de Mowbray (the judge), they are entirely too tenuous and insufficient to establish such a family without a good deal more.
It is most unlikely that William of Easby was acquainted with Christiana's Newcastle husbands as his public life does not seem to have extended very far from his manor at Easby. His only known venture in governance was his 1316 appointment as a grain surveyor in his home wapentake of Langbaurgh - a task which went undone, giving rise to an urgent reminder. There is no record that William's son, John (the judge), had any significant contacts with John Scot, Richard de Emeldon, or Sir William de Plumpton and their extended families. Although John de Mowbray (the judge) was summoned to attend parliament "among the lawyers from 1354 to 1370," this service occurred more than two decades after the deaths of Scot and Emeldon.
Until summoned to attend parliament, and his appointment as a Justice of the Court of Common Pleas in 1359, John, son of William, performed his public service near his home. In 1345, he served on a commission of oyer and terminer sitting in York looking into a complaint by John, Lord Mowbray, and his 1354 appointment as a justice on a commission to keep the Statute of Labourers was apparently limited to the wapentakes of Pickering and Cleveland, near his home at Easby. The appointment in 1359 to the common pleas bench no doubt resulted in his becoming a familiar figure in Northumberland and elsewhere in the North of England, but this was only three years before Sir William and Christiana de Plumpton died.
The public records provide no grounds for believing that John de Mowbray (the judge) had frequented Newcastle during the years leading up to Christiana's marriages there or that he was a part of her extended family or those of her Newcastle husbands. As the holder of a manor in North Yorkshire, he would have shared with the Newcastle magnates an interest in stopping the Scottish incursions into Northumberland and through Newcastle into Yorkshire, but there is no evidence that he was ever in any way involved in defending against the Scots or that he visited Newcastle until late in his life when he served on the Court of Common Pleas.
The 1333 close rolls entry states that the widowed Christiana de Emeldon put "in her place John de Moubray, her brother" to collect her dower. While it is difficult to get into the mind of the 14th century author of that entry, it seems likely that he knew which John de Mowbray was Christiana's brother and intended to accurately reflect that identity. The John de Mowbray referred to in the close rolls entry was not styled "son of William," which tends to support the view that John de Mowbray (the future judge) was not the person named by Christiana as her brother.
Even so, had there not been a far more likely contender, John de Mowbray of Easby would be regarded as Christiana's probable brother. That far more likely candidate as Christiana's brother exists in the person of John, Lord Mowbray.
In weighing the known evidence, what meaning is to be given to the complaints of poaching brought against William de Plumpton by John II, Lord Mowbray? In his SGM newsgroup posting of 11 June 2003, Jeff Duvall concluded that the fact of Lord Mowbray's complaints against Plumpton "proves nothing" as to Christiana's ancestry. Douglas Richardson has a sharply contrasting view. He has told the author that Lord Mowbray's complaints are "fatal" to the view that he was Christiana's brother. Mr. Richardson says "to look more closely at the other John Mowbrays to find Christian's brother," whose family when he is correctly identified will have "the beneficial ties and common bonds which are typically present between two families which are intermarried."
Mr. Richardson's comments are not to be taken lightly. They should encourage all of us to redouble the search for Christiana's brother. But, while Lord Mowbray's disputes with Plumpton may be taken as some evidence that they were not brothers-in-law, those conflicts may not be determinative. They must be weighed together with all of the other evidence in identifying her brother.
Medieval brothers-in-law did not always share "beneficial ties and common bonds." King Edward III's sister Joan was married to King David of Scotland, "yet up to the time of the battle of Neville's Cross, the King of England never ceased to do his brother-in-law injury." [White, op. cit. p. 272, n. 10.] Consider also the relationship between Sir Adam Banaster, husband of Margaret de Holand, and his brother-in-law Sir Robert de Holand. In 1315, Sir Adam led a revolt against his brother-in-law seemingly motivated by jealousy arising from Sir Robert's advancement as the chief household official of the Earl of Lancaster. Banaster and the other captured rebel leaders were beheaded "by the order of the earl and Robert de Holland." ["South Lancaster in the Reign of Edward II," ed. G. H. Tupling, CHETHAM SOCIETY REMAINS, 3rd series, v. 1 (1949), pp. xlii-xlvii.]
The complaints brought by Lord Mowbray against Sir William de Plumpton may have resulted from the fact that Plumpton, through his father-in-law, had been given real estate in Kirky Malzeard once owned by the Mowbrays but forfeited to the Crown. Since the Mowbrays still held most of Kirkby Malzeard, differences were likely to occur. The disputes do not seem to have been particularly violent in nature and the complaints to the commissions of oyer and terminer may have been viewed as a peaceful and amicable means of resolving property disputes. It seems unlikely that, had Mowbray and Plumpton been enemies, they would have been selected to serve together on several commissions of oyer and terminer.
Contemporary records are convincing evidence that the baronial John de Mowbrays between them knew and had many contacts with the extended family comprised of Christiana de Mowbray, her husbands, their relatives, and feudal lords. Virtually all of these contacts between the Mowbrays and this extended family, Lord Mowbray's complaints of poaching against Sir William de Plumpton aside, relate either to the defense of the North of England from Scottish incursions or to its governance. The defense of Northumberland and Newcastle from the Scots was of great mutual interest, and resulted in a substantial joint benefit, to the magnates of Newcastle, who regularly saw their lands and commercial enterprises laid waste by the invaders, and to the Lords Mowbray, whose several estates in Yorkshire were inviting destinations for the Scots.
John I and II, Lords Mowbray, spent many years defending the North of England from Scottish invasions. From 1318 to 1319, the elder Lord Mowbray was regularly summoned for service against the Scots and in 1315 he was appointed captain and keeper of Newcastle. In 1317, he was given custody of castles in North Yorkshire to keep them from the Scots. In 1318, Mowbray, in association with Plumpton's second cousin William de Ros of Helmsley, took protective possession of the castle at Knaresborough, near Plumpton's Spofforth estate.
The younger Lord Mowbray served with Sir William de Plumpton's cousins and his feudal lord Henry Percy at the siege of Berwick and the Battle of Halidon Hill, at which Richard de Emeldon was killed, in 1333, and at the Battle of Neville's Cross in 1346. It is very likely that Plumpton served in Lord Percy's retinue in these battles as he was so identified in a 1347 order of the king's council.
The elder Lord Mowbray's parliamentary service coincided with that of John Scot in 1307, 1309, and 1320, and with that of Richard de Emeldon in 1311 and the session at York on 9 September 1314. The parliamentary service of the younger John, Lord Mowbray, also coincided with that of the extended family members. If he attended the parliaments to which he was summoned, he would have been there with Richard de Emeldon in 1329 and 1332 and with Sir William de Plumpton in September 1331.
In his many years serving on various commissions in the North of England, John, Lord Mowbray, the younger, had extensive contacts with the extended family comprised of Christiana, her husbands, their relatives and associates. These contacts included his serving with William de Plumpton on at least four commissions of oyer and terminer. Following the murder of John Denton, who had succeeded Emeldon as Mayor of Newcastle, Lord Mowbray, in 1345, served with Henry Percy, Sir William de Plumpton's feudal lord, on a commission of oyer and terminer that looked into Denton's death. In 1346, Edmund de Widdrington, an apparent grandson of Richard de Emeldon's second daughter Maud, was indicted and turned over to Lord Mowbray and his fellow members of a commission of oyer and terminer. In the same year, Mowbray served on a commission of inquisition into a petition by the same Maud trying to recover property in Newcastle previously held by him. In 1347, Mowbray was commissioned to look into a claim for rent from a messuage in Newcastle granted by Peter Graper, a close relative of the husband of Richard de Emeldon's eldest daughter Agnes.
In 1353, Lord Mowbray was appointed to serve on a commission of peace in Northumberland together with Henry Percy, Plumpton's feudal lord, and John Stryvelyn, Jacoba Emeldon's second husband, Christiana's son-in-law. Mowbray and Henry le Scrope, who was Plumpton's first cousin, were appointed by the council to a peace commission in Yorkshire. The following year, Lord Mowbray and Wiliam le Scrope, another of Plumpton's first cousins, were commissioned as justices to enforce the statute of labourers in the North Riding of Yorkshire, while le Scrope and Plumpton were appointed to a similar commission in the West Riding. Finally, in 1357, the king revoked a commission of inquiry that had included Lord Mowbray and John de Middelton. John de Middelton and his sisters were co-heirs of Jacoba (Emeldon) Stryvelyn.
Who, then, was Christiana de Plumpton's brother John de Mowbray, and who was her father? It is not possible to answer these questions with the certainty that DNA evidence would permit. Nor can they be answered by applying the beyond a reasonable doubt standard that usually applies in criminal cases. The standard of proof generally applied in civil litigation is known as "the preponderance of evidence," which BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY (6th ed. 1990) p. 1182 defines as evidence which shows "that what is sought to be proved is more likely true than not true." Using this standard, I conclude that it is more likely than not that John I, Lord Mowbray, was Christiana's father and John II, Lord Mowbray, was her brother. The joint participation of John, Lord Mowbray, father and son, with members of Christiana's extended family in the governing and defense of the North of England produced significant benefits to both families. The most important of these benefits was the protection of John Scot's and Richard Emeldon's properties in Newcastle and the Mowbray and Plumpton estates in Yorkshire from Scottish invaders.
The conclusion that Christiana de Plumpton was a member of the baronial Mowbrays coincides with the published beliefs of the leading antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne extending back one hundred years. [See Dendy (1904), p. 63; NCH (1930) 13: 313-314; Blair, "Members of Parliament etc.," (1936) p. 70; and Blair, "The Mayors and Lord Mayors, etc." (1940), p. 3.] The most recent and authoritative expression of this view is that of Constance M. Fraser, PhD., a former President of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne and the author of the lengthy, scholarly article "Embleton, Richard," appearing in the 2004 OXFORD DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY 18: 387-388.
I encourage all of you to discover additional evidence that will remove any remaining doubt as to the identity of Christiana's brother.
I gratefully acknowledge John Schuerman's generous assistance in the preparation of this article. Each of its pages bears the imprint of John's scholarship and his passion for genealogy. I also thank Douglas Richardson for his thoughtful comments.
516 Blair Avenue
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1 June 2005
Douglas Hickling, a son of Canadian parents, was born and raised in Eden, New York, the hometown of the kazoo. He graduated from Cornell (1954), the U. S. Army Field Artillery (1956), and the Harvard Law School (1959). At Harvard, he studied labor law under Archibald Cox, who was later to become the Watergate special prosecutor who was ordered dismissed by President Nixon in the famous "midnight massacre." Hickling has been married for 40 years to the former Madeleine Henning of St. Cloud, Minnesota. She is descended from William and Christiana de Plumpton through Peter Worden I of the Massachusetts Colony.
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