FRANCIS, Sir Robert (d.1419/20), of Foremark, Derbys.
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Family and Education
s. and h. of Robert Francis† (d. by 1370) of Foremark. m. by Easter 1392, Isabel, wid. of Thomas Brumpton (d.1382) of Longford, Salop and Church Eaton, Staffs., ?2s. inc. Robert†, 8da. Kntd. by Oct. 1385.1
J.p. Derbys. 14 Apr. 1386-Dec. 1387, 15 July 1389-Dec. 1390, 7 Feb. 1408-10; Staffs. I2 Nov. 1397-June 1410, 4 Dec. 1417-d.
Commr. of array, Derbys. June 1388, Mar. 1392, Staffs. Dec. 1399, Aug. 1402, July 1403, Sept. 1403 (bis), Derbys. May 1415, Staffs. May 1418, Mar. 1419; inquiry Nov. 1390, Mar. 1395 (use of defective weights), Cheshire Nov. 1399 (theft of cattle), Derbys. Mar. 1406 (defections from royal army), Notts., Derbys., Staffs., Leics., Warws., Northants., Beds., Bucks., Rutland, Hants Mar. 1410 (concealments), Warws., Staffs. July 1410, Derbys. Nov. 1413 (poaching); oyer and terminer Nov. 1391, Staffs. Oct. 1399 (withdrawal of labour services), Derbys., Warws., Leics., Staffs. June 1402 (treason), Salop Feb. 1403, Staffs. Dec. 1406 (poaching); kiddles, Derbys. June 1398; to arrest traitors, Salop May 1402; arrest Hugh Erdeswyk*, Staffs. Feb. 1409.
Sheriff, Notts. and Derbys. 15 Nov. 1389-7 Nov. 1390, 5 Nov. 1406-23 Nov. 1407, Staffs. 11 Nov. 1394-9 Nov. 1395, 29 Nov. 1402-5 Nov. 1403, 22 Oct. 1404-22 Nov. 1405, 15 Nov. 1408-4 Nov. 1409.
Constable of Castle Donnington, Leics. 8 Sept. 1403-d.2
Controller of a tax, Staffs. Mar. 1404.
Keeper of Repton priory, Derbys. 14 May 1415-aft. 9 Feb. 1416.
Francis inherited the manor of Foremark from his father, who represented Derbyshire in several Parliaments and served on a number of local commissions. Save for the evidence of his various official appointments and his election as a shire knight, not much is known about his early life. In October 1382 he was pardoned his outlawry for failing to appear in court when being sued by Sir Robert Launde for debt, and, while attending his fourth Parliament, in October 1388, he stood surety at the Exchequer for the earl of Pembroke and others.3 His marriage to Isabel, the widow of Thomas Brumpton, took place at some point before Easter 1392, when the manors of Longford and Church Eaton, which formed part of her dower, were the subject of a collusive suit brought by Isabel’s kinsman, Elias Brumpton, who confirmed her in possession of the property.4 Through his wife, Francis also acquired the advowsons of the parish churches of Longford and Preston-on-the-Weald Moors in Shropshire. We do not know when Isabel obtained possession of the manor of Doxey and other land in the High Offley and Bradley area of Staffordshire, but it seems likely that they were conveyed to her during Francis’s lifetime by Isabel Rickhill. She and her husband also acquired the Derbyshire manor of ‘Bulton’ which remained in their hands until 1417, when they settled it upon a kinsman. Their joint landed income must have been considerable, since the property around Foremark which Sir Robert inherited was alone said to be worth £50 a year in 1412.5
Although he occupied a distinguished place in the society of the north Midlands during Richard II’s reign, Francis held most of his many offices and commissions under Henry IV, who appears to have regarded him with particular favour. The royal pardon accorded to him in June 1398 was no doubt little more than a formality, yet he felt scant attachment to the court party and his real allegiance lay with the house of Lancaster. By November 1399 he had been made one of King Henry’s knights, with an annuity of £62 charged upon the fee farm of Nottingham. Seven years later this was reduced to £40 payable from the lordship of Newcastle-under-Lyme, but the second sum may have proved easier to collect.6 On one occasion, at least, Henry IV’s generosity involved Francis in a protracted and costly lawsuit. In August 1400, he was given the wardship and marriage of Thomas Cherlton, the heir to substantial properties in Shropshire, only to face a direct challenge from the latter’s kinsman, John Knightley†, who eventually proved his superior title.7 The grant to him and his former ward of the Leicestershire estates of John Staunton (d.1405) made by Henry V in November 1413 must also have caused some problems, as Sir Richard Arundel had successfully sued him for custody of the property, together with the wardship of Staunton’s young son, in the previous year, and was to do so again during the Easter term of 1414. Indeed, despite the wording of the royal letters patent, the sheriff of Staffordshire was eventually ordered to make a distraint upon Francis for failing to comply with the ruling of the court.8
Meanwhile, in July 1401, Francis was summoned to attend a great council as one of four representatives from Staffordshire. The impressive number of official appointments (including the constableship of Castle Donnington in the duchy of Lancaster) which came his way at this time underlines the importance of his role in local government—a role which he continued to play for several years after being formally exempted from holding any further commissions or offices in November 1410. His presence at the Derbyshire elections for the Parliaments of May 1413 and April 1414 testifies to his continued interest in such matters.9 So much of Francis’s later life was taken up with responsibilities of this kind that he evidently had little time to become involved in the affairs of neighbouring landowners, although he seems to have had fairly close connexions with the earls of Stafford. He appears, for example, on the jury which gave evidence at the inquisition post mortem held on the fourth earl’s Staffordshire estates in February 1399. At a somewhat later date, in January 1410, he acted as a feoffee for Sir William Bourgchier* and his wife, Anne, dowager countess of Stafford, on whose behalf he was also appointed, with Humphrey Haughton*, to implement certain property transactions in Staffordshire eight years later.10 Nor is he much in evidence as a mainpernor, performing this function only twice in his mature years, when, while up at Westminster for the Parliament of 1401, he stood surety in Chancery both for Sir John Bagot (his colleague in no less than three Parliaments) and Thomas Newport, who was then involved in a dispute with his own adversary, John Knightley.11 His appearances in court were also few and far between: in 1395 he sued two local men for poaching on his property at Church Eaton, and in 1408 he began a lawsuit for debt in his capacity as executor of one Thomas Francis, who may possibly have been his younger brother.12
Francis died at some point between March 1419 and the Hilary term of 1420, still active as a commissioner and j.p. for Staffordshire. His widow, Isabel, lived on until after 1436, and was caught up in a number of lawsuits, both as his executrix and as a landowner in her own right.13 Robert Francis the younger did not achieve the distinction of his father, but none the less represented Derbyshire in the Parliament of 1437. His wife was Anne, the daughter (or possibly stepdaughter) of Sir Thomas Clinton*, whose mother had previously been married to John Staunton. The match may have been planned as a means of helping Sir Robert Francis to strengthen his claim to custody of the Staunton estates, but, if this was the case, it failed in its purpose. Sir Robert seems to have been more successful in the negotiation of contracts for his eight daughters, each of whom married into established gentry families.14
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variant: Frauncis, Fraunceys.
- 1. CIPM, xv. nos. 689, 690; CCR, 1381-5, p. 164; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xv. 48; n.s. ii. 153-4; viii. 49. The pedigree of the Francis family given in Genealogist, vii. 134-5, cannot now be fully verified. For details of the marriages of seven of the MP’s eight daughters see S.M. Wright, Derbys. Gentry (Derbys. Rec. Soc. viii), 214. They also had a sister, named Elizabeth, who married William Peyto*, but is not mentioned in any of the surviving family trees (CPR, 1413-16, pp. 324, 388; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xiv. 56; n.s. v. 109).
- 2. Somerville, Duchy, i. 573.
- 3. CIPM, xv. no. 561; CPR, 1381-5, p. 170; 1396-9, p. 76; CFR, x. 254.
- 4. CIPM, xv. nos. 689, 690; CCR, 1381-5, p. 164; CPR, 1391-6, p. 55. The reversion of the manors was settled upon
- 5. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xi. 228; xvii. 94, 102; R.W. Eyton, Antiqs. Salop, viii. 114, 261; CP25(1)39/43/9; Feudal Aids, vi. 414.
- 6. CPR, 1399-1401, p. 64; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 80; C67/30 m. 10.
- 7. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xv. 103; xvi. 35-37; CPR, 1399-1401, p. 331; CCR, 1402-5, pp. 22-24, 51-53.
- 8. CFR, xiv. 40; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xvi. 79; xvii. 48.
- 9. PPC, i. 163 (for Norfolk read Staffordshire); CPR, 1408-13, p. 260; C219/11/2, 3.
- 10. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xii. 308-9, 310-11; CPR, 1408-13, p. 158; C136/107.
- 11. CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 306, 319, 324.
- 12. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xv. 66; CPR, 1405-8, p. 402; Genealogist, vii. 134.
- 13. CPR, 1416-22, p. 212; EHR, xlix. 632; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xvii. 72, 97, 103-4, 109. It has been suggested that Francis married the widow of Humphrey Haughton (ibid. 1914, pp. 78-79), but the latter died after him in August 1420.
- 14. Genealogist, vii. 134-5; Wright, 214.