LISLE, Sir William (d.1442), of Waterperry, Oxon. and Great Wilbraham, Cambs.
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Family and Education
illegit. s. of Robert, 3rd Lord Lisle (d.1398/9) of Rougemont. m. (1) c. Feb. 1397, Amy, prob. wid. of John Fitzellis alias Duyn (d.1395) of Waterperry;1 (2) bef. Feb. 1423, Elizabeth, prob. sis. or half-sis. of John Tyrell* of Heron and Edward Tyrell† of Downham, Essex,2 1s. Kntd. by Nov. 1392.
Commr. of array, Oxon. Dec. 1399, Sept. 1403, May 1418; to take an assize of novel disseisin c. Mar. 1402; raise forces to serve in Wales under Edmund, earl of Stafford, Berks., Oxon. Aug. 1402; determine appeals in the cts. at Calais, Sept. 1407, July 1409, in the admiral’s ct. June 1409; of inquiry, Oxon. June 1409 (wastes on estates once held by Queen Anne); oyer and terminer Dec. 1418; to raise royal loans Nov. 1419, Jan. 1420.
Envoy to treat with the Burgundians Aug.-Sept. 1404, the French June 1415, the Burgundians Aug. 1415.3
Dep. to Ralph, earl of Westmorland, as marshal of England 27 Aug. 1409-?
Sheriff, Oxon. and Berks. 10 Dec. 1411-3 Nov. 1412, 16 Nov. 1420-22 Apr. 1422, 1 Oct. 1422-13 Nov. 1423.
Lt. to Richard, earl of Warwick, as capt. of Calais 16 Nov. 1414-aft. Mar. 1416.
Escheator, Oxon. and Berks. 4 Nov. 1418-23 Nov. 1419.
The 3rd Lord Lisle of Rougemont, who had no legitimate issue, disposed of the bulk of his estates during his lifetime. Thus, as early as 1368 he surrendered to Edward III 86 knights’ fees (receiving on the same day, along with other concessions, a royal grant of exemption from attending Parliaments); he conveyed his manor of Compton (Bedfordshire) to his brother, Sir William Lisle, in 1377; and then he sold, for £3,000, five other manors in Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire to Richard, Lord Scrope of Bolton. In 1390 this sale to Lord Scrope became the subject of acrimonious lawsuits brought by John Windsor, who claimed that Lord Lisle had wrongfully dispossessed him; but when the case came up before the King’s Council, Lord Lisle, being unable to attend owing to a ‘tres grant infirmite et maladie’ of many years’ duration, sent as his representatives his brother and his illegitimate son William (the subject of this biography). It would seem likely that the same two men also stood in for their noble kinsman during further hearings of the dispute before the King and Lords in the Parliament of 1394, which resulted in a decree that the matter be judged at common law. Following Lord Lisle’s death some five years later, his heir was his brother Sir William, who was himself to die childless, and in ‘great poverty in his old age’, at an unknown date in or after 1415.4
We cannot now be certain as to which Sir William Lisle, the brother or the son, was complimented by Froissart as the ‘tres gentil chevallier d’Angleterre et de la chambre du roy, qi se accointa de moy et je de luy’, although it is more likely to have been the younger man, for he became a knight of Richard II’s chamber at least five years before his uncle gained promotion to similar status. In November 1392 Sir William junior was granted 40 marks a year at the Exchequer as retained to stay with the King for life; described as ‘of the King’s chamber’ he set out on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in February following, and in March 1394 his annuity was increased to £40. Not surprisingly, he sailed to Ireland in the King’s retinue in the autumn of that year. Then, in February 1397, he received with Amy Fitzellis (probably soon to become his wife) a royal grant of £30 a year from the fee farm of Oxford, which thus raised his annuities to the value of £70. Shortly before the year was out his uncle, Sir William Lisle the elder, was to be formally retained by the King with a fee of £40, and both knights crossed to Ireland in the royal army in the spring of 1399.5
Lisle junior’s attachment to Richard II was not so strong as to prevent him accepting Henry of Bolingbroke as King, and he successfully sued to have both his royal annuities confirmed early in October 1399, just before Henry’s coronation. Furthermore, he did duty as a juror at the trial at Oxford castle in January following, which led to a traitor’s death for Sir Thomas Blount*, one of his fellow knights of the chamber in the previous reign. It was most likely his uncle who served under Thomas Percy, earl of Worcester, at Bordeaux in 1400, and who in the following year accompanied Worcester as escort to Richard II’s widow Isabella on her journey home to France, for when in September 1401 that Sir William surrendered his royal annuity, it was promptly given to the earl’s illegitimate son. But the younger Sir William was summoned from Oxfordshire to attend a great council in August 1401 (while so doing he received a grant of two tuns of wine a year from the royal prisage in London), and another such meeting in 1403. Under Henry IV his employment as a soldier and diplomat gradually increased to include military service in the marches of Wales under the earl of Stafford and participation in the negotiations conducted near Calais in 1404 in an attempt to come to terms with Burgundy regarding serious violations of the truce. From 1407 onwards he was appointed to tribunals set up to determine cases on appeal from the courts of chivalry, and this experience, coupled no doubt with soldierly qualities which fitted him for the task, singled him out in August 1409 to take the place of the marshal of England, Ralph, earl of Westmorland, during his absence on the Scottish border. In October following he is recorded carrying out the marshal’s duties at Windsor. Why, just one month later, he relinquished his royal annuity of £40, remains unclear, although quite possibly his action had something to do with the political changes of the time. There is no indication that he lent his support to the prince of Wales and his allies the Beauforts when they took over the government not long afterwards, although he may well have been known to this party since he was to obtain royal letters of protection to go overseas in the retinue of Sir Thomas Beaufort, the captain of Calais, in July 1411. However, it is doubtful that Lisle spent long in Beaufort’s company, for in December he was appointed as sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire.6
Henry V’s accession saw no reversal in Lisle’s fortunes, as his £30 annuity and two yearly tuns of wine were promptly confirmed. His election to the Parliament held at Leicester in April 1414 served merely as an interlude in his military career; in November he crossed the Channel again, this time in the retinue of Beaufort’s successor as captain of Calais, Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, with the intention that he should act as lieutenant while Warwick was absent at the General Council of the Church at Constance. In the summer of 1415 Warwick sent a letter to the chancellor asking that Lisle and eight others be given warrants allowing them to remain at Calais without suffering the loss of royal annuities and fees for their failure to comply with an ordinance requiring them to serve with the King on his impending expedition, and Lisle duly stayed at Calais: as lieutenant, he was empowered in June that year to negotiate with the French for a prorogation of the truce and, in early August, even as Henry V’s invasion fleet put to sea, he received appointment alongside Warwick as an envoy to John, duke of Burgundy, in an attempt to secure his neutrality during hostilities. He continued to act as Warwick’s lieutenant, certainly until March 1416, and is not recorded as back in England until July 1417, when he secured warrants authorizing the payment of his royal annuity, notwithstanding the preference for revenues of £10,000 given to the King in Parliament. He is not known to have taken part in Henry V’s second invasion of Normandy which was then under way; indeed, he was available for election to the Parliament summoned to meet in November.7
Following his retirement from active military service, Lisle became more closely involved in local administration and, in fact, occupied the posts of escheator and sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire for all but six months of the five years between 1418 and 1423. Nor did he lack for influence with the Council which governed England at the beginning of the infant Henry VI’s reign: in December 1422 he secured confirmation of his annuity, and, in May following, the Council sent a warrant to the Exchequer not only requiring a respite in the process for recovery of 100 marks owed by him as sheriff, but also recommending that, should he suggest a personally suitable farm or wardship, it should be assigned to him as a reward for his long service and expenses in the shrievalty, and at a lower price than any other tender. There is, however, no evidence that any such award was made him at the Exchequer, and after the end of his current term as sheriff he withdrew completely from further participation in local government.8
For many years Oxfordshire had been the centre of Lisle’s concerns. His chief residence there was evidently the manor of Waterperry, which his marriage to Amy Fitzellis had brought to him, and which he and Amy were entitled to hold for life, as was confirmed by John Fitzellis’s son and heir, John, in 1409 after he had come of age. From 1417 Amy also had a reversionary interest for life in other Fitzellis properties in the event of the deaths without issue of John Fitzellis and his sister Maud (afterwards wife of Robert James* of Wallingford). Elsewhere, Lisle held the manor of Great Wilbraham in Cambridgeshire, to which his uncle and namesake had relinquished all title in 1400. This particular property was estimated to be worth 20 marks a year according to the assessments made for the purposes of taxation in 1412. Nevertheless, Waterperry remained his home, and the gentry of Oxfordshire produced his closest friends. Most important among these was Thomas Chaucer* of Ewelme, with whom Sir William was associated in 1416 over a landed settlement on the widow of Sir Richard Camoys; and in or before 1423 he made Chaucer and the latter’s friend, John Golafre*, trustees of his manor of Great Wilbraham.9
Chaucer was Lisle’s companion in his last Parliament, summoned to meet at Leicester in 1426, which was known to contemporaries as the ‘Parlement of Battes’, owing to the mutually hostile confrontation of supporters of Bishop Beaufort and the duke of Gloucester. Perhaps Lisle’s earlier connexion with the bishop’s brother, Thomas, coupled with his amicable relations with their cousin, Chaucer, predisposed him to Beaufort’s cause. He was summoned to attend the great council held in the spring of 1434 at which Gloucester criticized his brother the duke of Bedford’s conduct of the war in France, but his own opinions are not recorded. According to the returns made for the tax on incomes from land levied in 1436, Lisle was then in possession of landed holdings in Cambridgeshire and Kent worth £100 a year. How he had acquired the Kentish properties is not known, although perhaps his second wife, Elizabeth, was a widow possessed of dower in that county. It seems likely, too, that by birth she belonged to the Tyrell family. Certainly, Edward Tyrell was among those who in July 1441 made a settlement of Lisle’s manor of Great Wilbraham in favour of Sir William and Elizabeth’s son, Drew, and his issue; and a few months after the MP’s death (which occurred shortly before 30 Apr. following) Tyrell was to charge his own executors to make sure that the debts of his late ‘brother’ Lisle were ‘truly satisfied and payed’ from his own goods. Undoubtedly the connexion was close, for at the same time Tyrell laid down that Lisle should be included among those of his ‘brethren’ for whom prayers were to be said in the parish church at Downham, Essex.10
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. C136/87/25; CPR, 1396-9, p. 80.
- 2. Reg. Chichele, ii. 629-31.
- 3. Letters Hen. IV ed. Hingeston, i. 304, 324, 332, 347, 349; Foedera ed. Rymer (orig. edn.), ix. 260; DKR, xliv. 562, 573.
- 4. CP, viii. 76-78; RP, iii. 310-13; CCR, 1392-6, pp. 373-7.
- 5. CPR, 1391-6, pp. 198, 385, 473; 1396-9, pp. 80, 292, 494, 522; Rot Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, ii. 167.
- 6. CPR, 1399-1401, pp. 11, 200, 533, 546; 1408-13, pp. 112, 148; PPC, i. 137, 163; ii. 87; E37/28; J.H. Wylie, Hen. IV, iii. 274; Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ii. 187, 203.
- 7. CPR, 1413-16, p. 70; DKR, xliv. 556; Foedera, ix. 178-9; PPC, ii. 209-11 (wrongly ascribed to 1417); CIMisc. vii. 509; CCR, 1413-19, p. 401.
- 8. CPR, 1422-9, p. 61; PPC, iii. 86.
- 9. VCH Oxon. v. 298; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 180; 1405-9, pp. 484, 487; Boarstall Cart. (Oxf. Hist. Soc. lxxxviii), 10-11, 122-3; Feudal Aids, vi. 406; Harl. Ch. 54 I 34; Belvoir Castle, deeds 338-9, 5374, 5515.
- 10. PPC, iv. 212; EHR, xlix. 636; Belvoir Castle, deeds 338, 5513, 5520-2; CFR, xvii. 197; Reg. Chichele, ii. 629-31.