|Subject:||Dispute over bequests|
|Original source:||Corporation of London Records Office, Plea and Memoranda Roll A90, mm.1-2|
|Transcription in:||Philip Jones, ed. Calendar of Plea and Memoranda Rolls of the City of London, A.D. 1458-1482, Cambridge: University Press, 1961, 57-64.|
|Original language:||Middle English|
Let it be remembered that on 10 July 1471, Davy Herell gentleman and his wife Elizabeth delivered a written complaint, as per the custom of the city, to John Stokton, then mayor, and the aldermen of the city of London, in the Inner Chamber of the city Guildhall, against John Lambard mercer of London and John Basyngthwayte grocer of London. [Of which] the terms of the complaint, the answer thereto, the response [of the complainants] along with all other things pertaining to the same are written below.
To their most honourable lord and masters, the mayor and aldermen of the city of London, Davy Herell gentleman and his wife Elizabeth, daughter and heir of Alexander Marchall, son and heir of Robert Marchall citizen and grocer of London, declare to your good selves that the said Robert in his testament willed that his wife Elizabeth should have, for her lifetime, 4 messuages located in the parish of St. Antholin and 2 gardens lying in the parish of St. Giles Cripplegate, London. And that, after her death, the lands should remain to his son Alexander and to his direct heirs. Robert Marchall subsequently died. After his death his wife Elizabeth occupied those lands and tenements during her life and subsequently died. After her death, the said Alexander occupied the same lands without disturbance during his lifetime, and then died. After his death John Lambard mercer of London and John Basyngthwayte grocer of London laid claim to all the lands and tenements for their own use, contrary to Robert's will, in which it is stated that Robert Marchall wished John Lambard and John Basyngthwayte, as his feoffees, to carry out his wishes as expressed in his testament. [They] will not allow us, your supplicants, to collect any revenues from those lands and tenements. Instead they receive the revenues therefrom for their own benefit, contrary to the will of Robert Marchall. Therefore, may it please your lordships to give sympathetic consideration to these matters, to order John Lambard and John Basyngthwayte to appear before you to be questioned about them, and to give such direction and judgement thereon as is required by justice and good conscience. Doing so for the love of God and in the name of charity.
This is the answer of John Lambard and John Basyngthwayte to the written complaint of Davy Herell and his wife Elizabeth. The said John and John say that Robert Marchall, in his testament, willed that his wife Elizabeth have the 4 messuages and 2 gardens specified in the complaint, for her lifetime, and after her death the messuages and gardens were to remain to the said Alexander and his direct legitimate heirs, conditional upon certain specifications laid out in the testament. The wording of which is as follows:
"and in particular as regards the bearing and behaviour of my son Alexander. That is to say, if he behaves well and virtuously he is to have it, as is written above; but if his behaviour is not good or virtuous, but he gives himself over to unruliness and vice, the feoffees are to give his share to my other children, dividing it according to their discretion."as appears in the testament, which they are ready to put forward in evidence. Robert had as his offspring the said Alexander, now dead, Amy the wife of John Lambard, and Elizabeth the wife of William Langefeld, still living.
The two Johns say that the behaviour of Alexander after the death of his father was neither good nor virtuous, but given over to unruliness and vice. Furthermore, they say that at an earlier date, during the lifetime of Alexander, on the basis of the testament they sued a writ of sub pena in the king's Chancery, at great cost and expense to themselves, against one Thomas Wenslowe. Who had schemed with a willing Alexander, after the death of Robert Marchall, to arrange for one William Olyver who pretended to be a feoffee-to-use of Robert Marchall to turn over to Thomas Wenslowe the ownership of certain lands and tenements which Robert, by his testament, had assigned to Alexander under the condition indicated above. [The purpose of their suit was] to compel him to turn over ownership of those lands and tenements to the two Johns. Once the allegations and evidence of both parties had been heard, after great deliberation the Court of Chancery pronounced judgement compelling Thomas to turn over ownership of the lands and tenements to the two Johns.
Whereas Davy and Elizabeth say that after the death of his mother Alexander occupied the lands throughout his lifetime, the two Johns say that he never occupied them, other than illegally. And then he never took possession until recently, during the time of troubles that is, a little before last Michaelmas and occupied them until the following Easter; during which time they dared not try to regain possession, out of fear. John Lambard says that Alexander used threats to scare him off and publicly accused him of being a traitor to Henry VI, lately called king of England, so that throughout that period he hardly dared go out in public.
These statements they are ready to prove in whatever way seems appropriate to your lordships. Moreover, whatever direction and decision that your lordships give as regards the testament they are ready to respect and carry out.
This is the response of Davy Herell and his wife Elizabeth to the answer given by John Lambard and John Basyngthwayte. Davy and Elizabeth protest that the statements made in the answer is not a tenable answer to the complaint laid by them. Notwithstanding, so that the truth of the matter be known, in response Davy and Elizabeth say that Robert Marchall caused the condition, specified in the answer, to be incorporated in his testament with the intent of encouraging his son Alexander to shun and avoid vice and unruliness, but not so that he would be utterly disinherited, nor to remove his source of livelihood. Davy and his wife Elizabeth also say that, after the death of his father Robert, Alexander was of good and virtuous character and did not give himself over to unruliness and vice in the way that John Lambard and John Basyngthwayte allege in their answer. What is more, Davy and his wife Elizabeth say, after the death of Robert Marchall his wife Elizabeth occupied all the lands in question and died around 24 August 1470. Within the space of 3 days following her death Alexander took possession of all those lands and tenements, and retained possession without disturbance throughout his life, dying in possession of them about the last day of April last past. While he was alive neither John Lambard nor John Basyngthwayte made any accusation of vice or unruly behaviour on Alexander's part, nor that Alexander used threats to scare him off or called him a traitor. Nor that Alexander occupied the lands and tenements illegally, in the way that John Lambard has alleged in his answer.
John Lambard and John Basyngthwayte have also alleged in their answer that, as a result of a sub pena brought by them in the king's Chancery, they compelled one Thomas Wenslowe to turn over to them ownership of the lands and tenements. To which Davy and his wife Elizabeth respond that those lands were lands in the country[side], and not part of these lands [i.e. claimed by the plaintiff?]; and that their complaint was made in Chancery, via that sub pena, to compel Thomas Wenslowe to turn over to them ownership of the lands and tenements in the country with the intent that they carry out the last will of Robert Marchall, not for their own use and benefit, as evidenced in the records of the Court of Chancery.
All of which statements Davy and his wife Elizabeth are ready to prove in whatever way seems appropriate to your lordships, beseeching you to give whatever direction and judgement in this matter as you think right and in good conscience.
[Response of Lambard and Basyngthwayte:] Let it be remembered that Alexander Marchall, after the death of his father, displayed such unruliness and vices, among others, as are described below which John Lambard and John Basyngthwayte are sorry to have to relate, but they are forced to it.
First, at the month's mind for his father, Alexander stole and carried off a gilded silver salt cellar, worth ?6 or more. Since the death of his father, the character of Alexander's life can be seen in that he has lived adulterously with various women with one of which women he was arrested and brought before the Counter in Passion Week, as evidenced in its records. Also, since his father's death, Alexander has robbed various men of their goods; that is, among others, the vicarage of Ashwell of a boar and Robert Trigge of Ashwell in Hertfordshire of 4 loads of timber, for which he was indicted, as evidenced in the king's records. Also he committed various other felonies in Yorkshire, which can be proved if necessary. Also, after his father's death, Alexander stole and carried off from this father's place in the country the inventory of his father's goods, against the will of his executors. Also, John Lambard and John Basyngthwayte delivered to Alexander, immediately and forthwith following his father's death, everything his father had bequeathed him; notwithstanding which, Alexander, because of his malicious character, had Danyel and Trevilian threaten and harass the two Johns, to the point where they were prepared to give Alexander £300 to have him leave them in peace. Also, Alexander forged a document in the form of a testament in his father's name, of which there was a great deal that was never part of his father's will, as can be clearly proved. Also, John Lambard and John Basyngthwayte sued Thomas Wenslowe in Chancery by writ sub pena for certain lands and tenements which had belonged to the testator, but of which Thomas Wenslowe had obtained possession unscrupulously, through a conspiracy with Alexander after the death of his father, contrary to the last will of his father, at great cost and expense to themselves. John Lambard has since undertaken extensive repairs to those lands and tenements.
If these examples are not considered sufficient, the two Johns can prove various other misbehaviours and unruly actions of Alexander after his father's death, which they are very loath to reveal.
This is the response of Davy Herell and his wife Elizabeth, daughter and heir of Alexander Marchall, to the slanderous accusations alleged by John Lambard and John Basyngthwayte regarding the character of Alexander Marchall.
As to the first accusation, Davy and Elizabeth say that Alexander never stole nor carried off in any larcenous fashion a salt cellar, as alleged in the accusation; if he had any salt cellar it was as part of the goods bequeathed him by his father Robert Marchall. As to the second accusation, Davy and Elizabeth say that Alexander did not live adulterously, as alleged in that accusation etc. As to the third accusation, Davy and Elizabeth say that Alexander was never a thief nor did he rob anyone; regarding the boar of the vicarage of Ashwell and the 4 loads of timber of Robert Trigge, Alexander claimed a quit-rent from the vicarage, for the arrears of which Alexander took the boar and 4 loads of timber by way of a distress, and not by way of theft as is slanderously and maliciously alleged by John Lambard and John Basyngthwayte. Nor was Alexander ever indicted for felony for taking the boar and 4 loads of timber, as alleged in the accusation etc. As to the fourth accusation, Davy and Elizabeth say that Alexander never stole the inventory of his father's goods; nor did he ever take it in any other fashion, except with the intent to ensure that neither John Lambard nor John Basyngthwayte deceive him concerning his share of the goods of his father etc. As to the fifth accusation, Davy and Elizabeth say that Alexander never had Danyel and Trevilian harass John Lambard and John Basyngthwayte; if they were harassed by Danyell and Trevilian, it was for a reason stemming from some matter of the two Johns, and not that relating to Alexander etc. As to the sixth accusation, Davy and Elizabeth say that Alexander never forged any testament of his father in the manner alleged by the two Johns etc. As to the seventh accusation, Davy and Elizabeth say that Thomas Wenslowe never had possession in the lands as a result of a conspiracy involving Alexander, as alleged in the accusation. In proof of which, John Lambard and John Basyngthwayte alleged in their suit of sub pena in Chancery that the possession Thomas Wenslowe had of those lands was against Alexander's will, as is evidenced by Chancery records. As for the costs they expended on that suit, they have recouped it and much more from the revenues and profits from the lands and tenements in question.
Thereafter, on 13 September 1471, John Lambard, in order to prove the bad and misguided behaviour of Alexander Marchall, after the death of his father, brought before the mayor and aldermen John Horne gentleman, Roger Richard butler, and Simon Blower beadle of Candlewick Street ward of the city.
With regard to the first accusation, claiming that at the month's mind of Robert Marchall Alexander stole a salt cellar from a cupboard in Roger Richard's keeping, then and there before the mayor and aldermen Roger was administered an oath upon a book to tell the truth in response to whatever enquiries were put to him on this matter. Then it was asked of Roger whether he had certain knowledge that Alexander had stolen the salt cellar or not. To which he responded that he did not know it for certain, but it was his conscientious opinion that Alexander, and no-one else, had stolen the salt-cellar.
And John Horne said and affirmed, in that time and place, that after the death of his father Alexander Marchall was indicted for felony, for stealing a boar from the vicarage of Ashwell and also for stealing timber from Robert Trygge. He showed to the mayor and aldermen a copy, unsealed, of that indictment. John Horne was asked if he would swear upon a book that what he said was true. John Horne answered that what he said was true, but that he would not affirm it under oath.
Simon Blower was, then and there before the mayor and aldermen, administered an oath upon a book. He stated and affirmed that he, with others of Candlewick Street ward, in Passion Week last past, at about 11 o'clock at night found a woman in Alexander's chamber, sitting by his bedside, with no-one else present. Whereupon Simon took Alexander and the woman to the Counter of the Poultry, London, and there advised them of the orders of the ward alderman.
After due consideration, the mayor and aldermen asked John Lambard (John Basyngthwayte then being absent) and David Herell whether they would accept the decision of the mayor and aldermen, or the majority thereof, on this matter. And would each put up a bond to do so to the city chamberlain, by a recognizance of £400. They agreed to put up bonds in that regard, and so were each bound to Robert Colwyche, chamberlain of the city, in £400, by two separate recognizances, with conditions, the tenor of which is given below. [The two recognizances are entered into the record, but have not been transcribed by the editor].
Thereafter, on 18 September 1471, John Stokton mayor, Humphrey Starkey recorder, Richard Lee, Mathew Philipp, John Yonge, William Tailour, George Irlond, Robert Basset, William Hampton, John Tate, William Edward, Bartholomew James, John Bromer, Thomas Stalbrok, Richard Gardyner, William Haryot, Robert Drope, John Crosby and John Warde aldermen of the city, took upon themselves the responsibility for arbitration of the matter:
Forasmuch as the witnesses put forward by John Lambard did not satisfactorily prove Alexander to have been misguided, unruly, and profligate following the death of his father. And also Robert Trygge came before the mayor and aldermen on 20 August last and stated and affirmed that Alexander Marchall claimed as his father had done before him to have a quit-rent from the property where the boar and timber were taken; and that Alexander removed the boar and timber by way of distress, and not for any other reason. And because John Basyngthwayte, who knew most of Robert Marchall's intent when he was drawing up his testament, stated under oath before the mayor and aldermen on 24 July and affirmed that, to the best of his understanding, the intent of Robert Marchall in what he expressed in his testament was never to prevent Alexander from having the 4 messuages and 2 gardens, but rather that Alexander should avoid unruliness and vice and be of a good and virtuous character. And because Alexander, for the period of nine months before his death was in possession of the messuages and gardens, during which time John Lambard allowed Alexander to occupy those messuages and gardens without disturbance or interruption.
It was therefore adjudged, deemed and awarded by the mayor and aldermen that John Lambard should not prevent but allow David Herell and his wife Elizabeth to collect and receive the revenues and profits from the messuages and gardens, to [the use] of that David and his wife Elizabeth and the legitimate direct heirs of Elizabeth. Since John Basyngthwayte has been out of the city and not always ready to respond to the issues of the complaint, when he next returns to town John Basyngthwayte is to be ordered to appear before the mayor and aldermen, to be questioned on the above matters etc.
Whether the mayor's court reached the right verdict is of course more than we can say with confidence. It does look as though John Lambard was either being over-zealous in fulfilling his duties as executor, or, more likely, was using that authority to further his vested interest, as Robert Marchall's son-in-law, in the disputed property and had persuaded his fellow executor, John Basyngthwayte, to go along with him. Of Marchall's two other executors, Robert Heworth had died at some time in the 1460s, and William Freeman was probably also dead by the time of the dispute. Whether Basyngthwayte's own testimony, which helped bring judgement against him and Lambard, and his absences from town reflect discomfort with the proceedings, we will never know. At the same time, it seems plausible that Robert Marchall may have had valid concerns about his son, who was likely a teenager at the time of his father's death (which would explain why he was not among Robert's executors, but his daughter was an adult by 1470); some of the accusations against Alexander's character his daughter and son-in-law could not convincingly refute.
Nonetheless, we have the impression that Lambard's case was somewhat exaggerated and distorted in its claims, and he may have hoped his status in the city he having served as sheriff in 1461 and as alderman 1460-70 would carry some weight with the court. His failure to obtain a share of Alexander's inheritance probably did him little harm; he likely already had a share of the Marchall property through his wife's inheritance, for he was buried (1487) on his estate at Hinxworth, Hertfordshire, a neighbouring village to Ashwell.
Numerous cases of such disputes are known, and others are discussed elsewhere. One has the impression that they were common, but this is of course a bias caused by the type of records that survive to us from medieval England, largely judicial and administrative. Compared to the number of wills that were proved without evident subsequent dispute, legal battles resulting from the execution of testaments were the exception rather than the rule.
"writ of sub pena"
"time of troubles"
"lived adulterously with various women"
"Counter of the Poultry"
|Created: February 29, 2004||© Stephen Alsford, 2004|