PROUS, Thomas, of Exbourne, Devon.
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Family and Education
m. by 1401, Joan.1
Members of the family of Le Prouz or Prous of Gidleigh and Chagford, Devon, figured eight times in the parliamentary returns between 1295 and 1406. A namesake of our MP sat for Barnstaple in 1381, and he himself may have been a younger son of the John Prous† of Weddicott, who represented Totnes in 1358, Torrington in 1361, and Barnstaple in 1384.2 It is not known how he acquired property at Exbourne, but his holdings were substantial, including lands at Lashbrook in Bradford, Dornaford and ‘Buston’ and the right of advowson of the rectory at Exbourne (which he exercised in 1411).3
In 1399 Prous stood surety at the Exchequer for Geoffrey Stafford, an Augustinian canon of Ranton priory (Staffordshire), who was then granted the keeping of the alien priory of Modbury, Devon. This and similar appearances suggest that he was a lawyer. Thus, for instance, in 1402 he was associated with John Lopynford*, in providing securities in Chancery for the claimants to the Cornish manor of Trelaske, pending the court’s decision whether it should pertain to the Crown, and in the same year he offered bail for one Alderbrand Gascon.4 But on other occasions Prous showed scant regard for the law: in 1401 he was indicted in Devon for felony, the charges being sufficiently serious to warrant his trial before the King’s bench; and in 1412 he was allegedly one of the gang of armed men who broke into the abbot of Tavistock’s property at Hatherleigh, tore down his hedges, and assaulted his servants. The memory of his early crimes may have lingered long, for in 1434 he was required to take the oath authorized in Parliament not to maintain breakers of the peace. In the meantime, in 1423, he had been present at Exeter castle for the elections of the knights of the shire.5