FLORE, Roger (d.1427), of Oakham, Rutland.
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Family and Education
s. and h. of William Flore† (d.c.1405/6) of Oakham prob. by his w. Ellen. m. (1) by Sept. 1398, Katherine, da. and h. of William Dalby (d.1405) of Oakham, at least 4s. inc. Thomas†, 3da.; (2) by Jan. 1412, Cecily, da. of Agnes Samon, at least 2s. 1da.2
Coroner, Rutland by May 1391.3
J.p. Rutland 12 Nov. 1397-9, 16 May 1401-Dec. 1416; ex officio (as steward of the duchy of Lancaster, north parts), Derbys., Leics., Lincs., Northants., Northumb., Notts., Rutland, Staffs., Westmld., Yorks. 1 Dec. 1416-d.
Keeper of the park of Flitteris in the forest of Leighfield and the warrens of the lordship of Oakham for Edward, earl of Rutland, 1 Nov. 1399-d.
Commr. of array, Rutland Dec. 1399, Sept. 1403; to take custody of the estates and person of Sir Robert Pleasington* during his temporary insanity Apr. 1401; prevent the spread of treasonous rumours May 1402; raise royal loans June 1406, Nov. 1419, Apr. 1421, July 1426; of inquiry, Rutland, Northants. June 1406 (concealments), Northants. July 1414 (claim by the townspeople of Benefield to common pasture), Lincs. Oct. 1414 (abduction from the nunnery at Heynings); to arrest all lollards at large, Northants., Rutland Jan. 1414; of oyer and terminer, Lincs. May 1415 (poaching on the Croyland abbey estates), Leics. May 1417 (treasons); sewers, Lincs. June 1418.
Verderer of the royal forest of Rutland to 19 Aug. 1401, of Rockingham forest, Northants. bef. 1415-d.
Collector of an aid on the marriage of Princess Blanche, Rutland Dec. 1401, a tax, Mar. 1404, a royal loan, Sept. 1405, Jan. 1420.
Escheator, Rutland 1 Dec. 1405-9 Nov. 1406, Rutland and Northants. 12 Nov. 1414-14 Dec. 1415.
Sheriff, Rutland Mich. 1407-15 Nov. 1408, 3 Nov. 1412-6 Nov. 1413.
Searcher of ships at Plymouth and Fowey, Cornw. 9 Feb. 1412-Mar. 1413.
Speaker 1416 (Oct.), 1417, 1419, 1422.
Steward of the duchy of Lancaster, north parts, 1 Dec. 1416-d.; chief steward of the duchy estates in Lancs. and Cheshire 22 Feb. 1417-9 July 1425, for Henry V’s feoffees in Lancs. 1422-3.
Justice of the great sessions, lordship of Cantref Selyff c.1422-4.4
One of the most celebrated and experienced parliamentarians to represent Rutland during the later Middle Ages, Flore was clearly following an established family tradition when he decided to pursue an administrative career in the service of the Crown. His father, a prominent local figure who not only sat on the county bench but also held office as sheriff, played a leading part in the administration of the royal lordship of Oakham, most notably during his long period as receiver there. It was, no doubt, through his influence that Roger secured the post of coroner of Rutland while still a comparatively young man. He also followed his father’s example by becoming involved in commerce, for it was largely as a result of his activities in the wool trade that William Flore had been able to make a joint loan of almost £2,100 to Edward III.5 The scale of Roger’s operations cannot now be determined, but we know that in February 1394 he was shipping 106 sarplers of wool from Lynn to Calais. One of his business partners on this occasion was the Calais stapler, William Dalby of Oakham, whose daughter, Katherine, may already have become Flore’s wife. The couple were certainly married by the autumn of 1398, when they received a papal licence to make use of a portable altar. Dalby is now chiefly remembered as the founder of the hospital of St. John the Evangelist and St. Anne in Oakham, although most of the legal arrangements for its endowment were effected by Flore in his capacity as principal executor of his father-in-law’s will. Despite his growing preoccupation with official business outside Rutland, he maintained strong connexions with the county town: besides consolidating his holdings in the surrounding countryside he built himself a house in the high street (which still stands) and proved a generous benefactor to the parish church when the time came for him to draw up his own will.6
Flore had, meanwhile, gained the support of a particularly influential patron in the shape of Edward, earl of Rutland (later duke of Aumâle, and from 1402 duke of York), who received the lordship of Oakham and the shrievalty of Rutland in 1390 as a gift from the Crown. The first direct evidence of their association is to be found in November 1399, the date of Flore’s appointment by Aumâle as keeper both of the warrens of Oakham and one of the parks at Leighfield forest. Two days later the duke gave him the freehold of certain property lying near his house in Oakham which he had previously held by copy. It seems likely that our Member owed his two separate offices as verderer of the royal forests of Rutland and Rockingham to Aumâle, whose other posts included that of warden of the royal forests south of Trent (and thus of Rockingham) and forester of Rutland. Perhaps he had also to thank him for his first return to Parliament in January 1397, and for his subsequent inclusion among the j.p.s for Rutland, whose selection during this tense and difficult period was partly dictated by their political sympathies. In any event, Flore’s attachment to the duke remained strong until the latter fell at Agincourt in 1415, and it may even be said to have continued beyond the grave. He was a trustee of the property which York mortgaged to raise the revenues for building a college at Fotheringhay, and also of the ducal manor of Faulston which seems to have been excluded from this arrangement. Both men were themselves feoffees-to-uses for William, Lord Zouche of Harringworth, who settled a large part of his estates upon them. Together with Thomas Langley, bishop of Durham, Flore acted as an overseer of York’s will, and it is interesting to note that several of his own bequests were for pious works dedicated to the memory of his former benefactor.7
Although we do not know when (or where) Flore acquired his training in the law, it is clear that by the beginning of the 15th century he was regarded as a lawyer of considerable skill and repute. This certainly does much to account for the impressive range of official appointments and royal commissions which came his way after 1399. One of his tasks was to supervise the affairs of Sir Robert Pleasington, his colleague in the first 1397 Parliament, whose recurrent bouts of insanity made it necessary for the Crown to assert its rights of wardship over him and his estates. Pleasington’s son, Sir Henry*, eventually married one of Flore’s daughters, and no doubt obtained his first seat in the Commons (in 1419) through the influence of his father-in-law. The two men were returned together in 1422, when Flore, as Speaker for the fourth and last time, was ideally placed to utilize the network of connexions which he had built up over the years. Constantly in demand as a feoffee, he was a party to the property transactions of several prominent landowners, including Sir William Bourgchier*, John Harper*, Edmund Wynter*, Sir Ralph Eure*, John Newbold (with whom he was returned in November 1414), Drew Barantyn*, William Flete*, Sir William Papworth*, Sir Thomas Aylesbury*, Aubrey, the son of John Wittlebury*, Sir Simon Felbrigge (sometime standard-bearer to Richard II), Ralph, Lord Basset of Sapcote’s widow, Alice, and last, but by no means least, his own son-in-law, Sir Henry Pleasington. He may well have given counsel to Thomas, Lord de la Warre, who thought well enough of him to present his younger son, Roger, with a gift of plate when he was christened.8 Flore’s list of clients appears to have grown as his public commitments increased: Robert Wintringham (d. by 1420), a canon of Lincoln, chose him to be his executor; and he also undertook to supervise the wills of James Bellers* (d.1421) and Robert Stoneham, vicar of Oakham (d.1409). In October 1419 he and Richard Whittington* were licensed to act as attorneys in England for Richard Beauchamp, Lord Abergavenny; and at some point in the year ending at Michaelmas 1421 the latter’s kinsman, Richard, earl of Warwick, rewarded Flore’s friendship (amicitia) with a present of £2, perhaps because he was then anxious to win support for his wife’s claim to the Berkeley inheritance. At about this time, in April 1421, Flore was appointed (together with the treasurer of England, the chief baron of the Exchequer and Thomas Chaucer*) as a trustee of the annual pension of 500 marks which had just been settled upon Philip Repingdon, the recently retired bishop of Lincoln. He had other links with the Church in that area, for in April 1425 and again in February 1426 the abbot of Croyland authorized him to act as his parliamentary proxy. The beginning of Henry VI’s reign also saw his involvement in the property transactions of Henry Chichele, archbishop of Canterbury.9
Flore’s record of service in the House of Commons—particularly in the Speakership—is one of the most striking features of his career. His tenure of this office in three consecutive Parliaments (in 1416, 1417 and 1419) was not to be repeated until the mid 17th century, and it reflects the extent of his influence and experience. Flore had already begun to work for the Crown as a lawyer by the time that he first became Speaker, since he then held in trust some of the estates which Henry V had settled upon his recent foundation, the Bridgettine nunnery of St. Saviour at Syon in Middlesex. He entered upon a regular career in royal employment just after the close of the second 1416 Parliament, which suggests that the King wanted to reward his efforts as Speaker. The post of chief steward of the duchy of Lancaster estates north of the Trent was a demanding and onerous one, carrying with it ex officio membership of the duchy council and a seat on the bench of each northern county in which the duchy owned property. In return for his labours Flore received an annual fee of £40, together with an allowance of 5s. for every day spent on official business. Not long afterwards he was made chief steward of the duchy estates in Lancashire and Cheshire, too, thus becoming one of the most powerful administrators then employed in the organization. By May 1417, the King had appointed Flore and other members of the duchy council as his feoffees-to-uses in the manor of Wethersfield, Essex, a property recently incorporated into his own inheritance after the partition of the de Bohun estates. On his departure for France in the following July, Henry placed a further mark of confidence in Flore, by naming him among the 12 persons upon whom his trustees in the duchy were to draw should one of their own number die and have to be replaced. The Parliament which met four months later witnessed Flore’s re-election as Speaker, his two main tasks being to secure enough taxes to pay for the war-effort and to supervise the Commons’ petition for the execution of Sir John Oldcastle* on the dual charge of heresy and treason. As a royal commissioner for the suppression of lollardy, Flore had previously been instrumental in punishing Oldcastle’s supporters, so his orthodoxy may well have been a matter of strong personal conviction. All four of the Parliaments in which he occupied the Speakership proved more than generous in the matter of money supply, that of 1419 granting a whole tenth and fifteenth together with a supplementary third of such a subsidy, in order that persons ready to make anticipatory loans to the Crown could be offered adequate securities. Although Flore was not returned to any of Henry V’s last three Parliaments, his son-in-law, Sir Henry Pleasington, and his great friend, John Pensax, who sat for Rutland in 1420 and May 1421 respectively, may in a certain sense be regarded as his placemen. Flore is known to have been present at the county elections to Parliament in 1407 (when, as newly appointed sheriff he was first to attest the indenture drawn up by his predecessor), 1420, May 1421, 1423, 1425 and 1426, so he was clearly in a strong position to influence the choice of those present. Flore entered the House of Commons for the 12th and last time in November 1422, and was once again elected Speaker. Less than two years before this, he had attended the coronation of Henry V’s queen, Katherine of Valois, but the King’s sudden death in France had dispelled the mood of general optimism characteristic of the later Parliaments of his reign. The main business of the session was to provide for the payment of Henry’s debts and the administration of his will, two tasks which were of immediate concern to Flore in his capacity as a senior employee of the duchy of Lancaster. Perhaps he had already been made chief steward of the late King’s feoffees in Lancashire, a post which was certainly in his hands by the end of the year.
Although he relinquished the stewardship of Lancashire and Cheshire in Flore retained his principal duchy office until his death at some point shortly before November 1427. Both his testamentum (which he had prudently drafted much earlier on 15 Apr. 1424) and his ultima voluntas (made in October 1425 after the birth of his youngest son, William) provide eloquent witness to the precise legal mind which had served him so well throughout his career. It is, moreover, from these two documents that we are able to compile a list of the various properties which he bought over the years out of the profits of his flourishing legal practice. In addition to his family estates in and around Oakham, he owned land in the Rutland villages of Whitwell, Masthorpe and Little Hambledon, most of which he purchased in 1412 from Sir Thomas Burton* for the sum of 200 marks.10 His other holdings comprised the Lincolnshire manors of Stenby and Braceby, as well as property in Bratoft and Halton in the same county, and a substantial estate in Leicestershire centred upon the manor of Leesthorpe. He acquired the latter during the course of the 1422 Parliament, and it is interesting to note that one of the feoffees employed by him at the time was John Frank, the clerk of the Parliament. Flore also possessed an inn in London, and since he spent so much time at Westminster it may well be that he further endeared himself to the electors of Rutland by agreeing to forgo his parliamentary expenses. That Flore died a wealthy man is beyond question. As early, as August 1404, he and his kinsman, John Dalby, offered Henry IV a joint loan of £100 towards the cost of the Welsh wars, and although no other comparative evidence of his financial dealings has come to light, we may be sure that he grew much richer with the passage of time. By 1425 he was evidently in a position to make personal legacies of over £550 to members of his family alone. He was generous not only to friends but also to the poor of Oakham and a number of religious bodies in various parts of the country. His munificence was, however, qualified by a lawyer’s shrewdness: seizing the opportunity to advise his wife and children about the conduct of their affairs, he characteristically urged them to find ‘a wel lerned man of the lawe’, and pressed upon them the need to safeguard their title to the property which he had left them.11
At least eight of Flore’s children survived him, but only one, his eldest son, named Thomas, ever sat in Parliament. Although less impressive than his father’s, his career was not without distinction: he served six terms as sheriff of Rutland and sat on the local bench for over 25 years. Mindful of the great debt which his family owed to the house of Lancaster, he remained loyal to Henry VI despite the many vicissitudes of his later years, and thus died (in c.1472) in comparative obscurity, under something of a cloud.12
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Flour(e), Flower. He is frequently referred to as ‘Gerus’ in contemporary sources.
- 1. W. Prynne, Brevia Parliamentaria Rediviva, i. 125.
- 2. CP25(1)192/8/11; CPR, 1370-4, p. 319. Unless otherwise stated, all references used in this biography are derived from J.S. Roskell’s article on Flore in Trans. Leics. Arch. and Hist. Soc. xxxiii. 36-44. We know that Flore had at least 11 children, three of whom — Agnes, James and William — were definitely by his second wife. Two of his daughters were, in fact, called Agnes, although the elder, who married Sir Henry Pleasington of Burley, clearly predeceased her father. He also had two sons named William, one of whom was born before 1404 and seems to have died young. The other is first mentioned in a codicil added to Flore’s will in October 1425, which suggests that he was then a mere infant. The latter’s mother, Cecily, and her second husband obtained custody of the boy after Flore’s death (C1/7/109).
- 3. C242/7C no. 24.
- 4. SC8/302/15060.
- 5. CPR, 1370-4, pp. 90, 402-3; 1381-5, p. 502; 1385-91, p. 81; 1388-92, pp. 139, 343, 345; CCR, 1374-7, p. 41.
- 6. CP25(1)192/7/22, 8/4; 9; VCH Rutland, ii. 6-7, 26, 222, 224.
- 7. CPR, 1413-16, pp. 350-1, 395-6; 1416-22, p. 382; CCR, 1413-19, p. 294; 1422-9, p. 355.
- 8. C1/16/647a; C137/58/48; CP25(1)145/156/25, 192/8/6; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xii. 308-9; CPR, 1405-8, p. 452; 1416-22, p. 41; 1422-9, p. 87; CCR, 1422-9, pp. 263, 454.
- 9. Early Lincoln Wills ed. Gibbons, 139; E326/4611; SC10/2383, 2390.
- 10. CP25(1) 192/8/11; VCH Rutland, ii. 70, 165.
- 11. Fifty Earliest Eng. Wills (EETS, lxxxviii), 55-64.
- 12. HP, 1439-1509 ed. Wedgwood, Biogs. 339.