TRUSSELL, Sir William (c.1385-1464), of Elmesthorpe, Leics. and Warmingham, Ches.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Dec. 1421

Family and Education

b.c.1386, s. of Laurence Trussell (d.c.1399) of Berks. by Maud, da. and h. of Sir Thomas Charnels of Elmesthorpe and Maud, da. and coh. of Sir Henry Garnet of Wennington, Essex. m. bef. Mar. 1402, Margery, da. of Sir John Ludlow (d.1398) of Hodnet, Salop, by Isabel, da. of Sir Ralph Lingen of Wigmore, Herefs., 1s. Kntd. between July 1415 and Jan. 1416.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Staffs. 4 Nov. 1418-23 Nov. 1419.

Commr. of array, Leics. Mar. 1418; inquiry May 1423 (murder); gaol delivery, Leicester Oct. 1440.1


That this shire knight ever became heir to the extensive Trussell estates was due to the failure of his wealthy kinswoman, Margaret Trussell, wife of Sir Fulk Pembridge* of Tong castle, to produce a child. Margaret died in June 1399 leaving William, then aged 14, the grandson of her uncle, Sir Warin Trussell, as next heir to Kibblestone and Acton in Staffordshire, Sheriff Hales on the Staffordshire border with Shropshire, five manors in Northamptonshire, Shottesbrook, Eton Hastings and other property in Berkshire and four manors, the bailiwick of the east gate of the city of Chester and land in the forest of Delamere elsewhere in the palatinate.2 Yet, through a combination of factors including his own generosity or excessive weakness, and the unexpected longevity of certain others, he was not to secure possession of every one of these properties until 50 years had elapsed. First, settlements made in Margaret’s lifetime entitled her husband, Pembridge, to retain all the Trussell estates until his death, and then Sir Fulk missed no opportunity to provide handsomely for his second wife, Isabel, to one of whose daughters the heir was promptly married. Although in 1402 Pembridge made formal arrangements for the manor of Warmingham to pass on his death to William and his new wife, Margery Ludlow, presumably as a marriage settlement, five years later the young man was persuaded to agree to his mother-in-law’s retention of his Berkshire inheritance (worth more than £27 p.a.) for a period of 20 years after Sir Fulk’s demise. Furthermore, other transactions ensured that Isabel and Pembridge’s feoffees could keep most of the Trussell estates in Northamptonshire and Staffordshire (worth at least £62 p.a.) until the lady’s death, which in the event did not occur until many years later, in 1446. The effect of these arrangements, to which William Trussell unwittingly or foolishly gave his consent, was that when Sir Fulk died in 1409 he could take possession only of the Cheshire estates (valued at £110 a year at his own death), and of Easton Maudit in Northamptonshire (estimated at £20 p.a. in 1412); the Berkshire properties were not his before 1428, and for the rest he had to wait until he was aged over 60. There were, however, one or two other Trussell holdings which seem to have escaped the net spread by Sir Fulk and Isabel Pembridge, among them the manor of Weybourne in Norfolk.3

Through his mother, Maud Charnells, Trussell inherited the Leicestershire manors of Swepstone and Elmesthorpe, Bilton in Warwickshire, and Wennington in Essex, although here, too, he was thwarted from entering his inheritance immediately on his coming of age, for his stepfather, Sir Robert Litton* (one-time controller of the household of Henry IV), held Elmesthorpe and Bilton for life under the terms of a settlement made by Trussell’s mother, and in order to obtain possession of Swepstone, William even had to bring an action against Litton in the lawcourts. Nevertheless, after Sir Robert’s death (in about 1415) these properties all passed to Trussell without further difficulty, and thereafter he made Elmesthorpe his chief place of residence.4

Earlier in his career Trussell had been living at Easton Maudit. For some unknown reason he bore a grudge against a neighbour, John Mortimer*, and one November dawn in 1413 he rode at the head of ‘many evildoers’ assembled from Cheshire and Staffordshire over to Mortimer’s house at Grendon. Finding him clothed only in his doublet, while shaving his beard, they assaulted him to cries of ‘slee, slee’ and ‘houghsynowe hym’ [hamstring him], and escorted him at knife point to Easton, where he was held captive until local constables came to the rescue. Trussell appears to have escaped serious punishment. In the feuds endemic in Staffordshire at that time he supported the notorious Hugh Erdeswyk*, for whom he provided bail at Michaelmas 1414. In the following year his energies, evidently tending to riotous behaviour, were diverted elsewhere for Henry V’s expedition to France; and he and his contingent of five men-at-arms and 13 archers were mustered on 21 July in the duke of Gloucester’s retinue. Although he fell sick at the siege of Harfleur, it would appear that he did take part in the battle of Agincourt, for not only did he win his spurs in the course of the campaign, but he also excelled by taking nine prisoners (whose ransoms amounted to 614 crowns). Trussell’s appointment as sheriff of Staffordshire in 1418, when another royal army was engaged in the conquest of Normandy, indicates that for the time being he had no further part to play in the wars in France.5

In November 1419, at the close of his shrievalty, Trussell shared at the Exchequer custody of the manor of Fisherwick (Staffordshire), pending the court of Chancery’s decision as to its ownership. By that time he had become a prominent figure among the gentry of Leicestershire: a month later he headed the list of two knights and eight squires returned from the county to the King’s Council as considered best fitted for military service in the defence of the realm. Following his only known Parliament in 1421 (the last of Henry V’s reign), his name appeared first among those who attested the electoral indentures of 1423, 1427, 1429 and 1442, he having in the meantime been present also at the elections of 1432 and 1433. Sir William was often called upon to witness transactions at Leicester and elsewhere, doing so for such notables as William, Lord Lovell, and Sir James Ormond (afterwards earl of Wiltshire), while in 1433 he was among those chosen to arbitrate in the dispute between the mayor and commonalty of Leicester and the college in the Newarke. Then, in 1436, he witnessed the conveyance of a Leicestershire manor to the duke of Gloucester, his erstwhile commander. It is surprising, however, that despite being a landowner of substance he was not given an important role in local administration and was never made a j.p. Nor was this due to long absence overseas, for he is only known to have returned to France in the spring of 1430 when, as a member of the retinue of Henry VI’s governor, Richard, earl of Warwick, he no doubt intended to be present at the King’s coronation in Paris.6

Trussell’s lack of involvement in public duties may be attributed to a personality unsuited to such employment. The Mortimer incident of 1413 was certainly not the only crime of violence to which he was a party. A petition to the chancellor referred to him and his friends as ‘mayntenours’ of ‘suche might and power’ that they were beyond the reach of the common law. Nor did maturity make him more law-abiding. However, the armed clashes of his later years were nearly all occasioned by his need to defend his rights against the claims to the Trussell estates made by the former Speaker, Sir Richard Vernon* of Haddon, great-nephew and heir of Sir Fulk Pembridge. In the summer of 1442 Vernon seized possession of Trussell’s manors in Berkshire, and although the court of common pleas awarded him damages of 120 marks the proceedings moved by a writ of error to the King’s bench, with the result that satisfaction of this sum was long delayed. Relations between them became even more acrimonious following Isabel Pembridge’s death in 1446, when Trussell should at long last have come into his rightful inheritance in Staffordshire at Kibblestone, Acton and Sheriff Hales, for Sir Richard then arraigned an assize of novel disseisin against him, and the jury (allegedly bribed with sums amounting to £68) found in his favour on the ground that Trussell had ousted him by force. At Easter 1450 Sir William appealed against this verdict and the huge damages of £2,080 awarded to Vernon, claiming that his adversary had forged documents to disturb his title, but it was not until a year later that his feoffees—the well-known lawyer and former Speaker, William Burley* (whose daughter, Elizabeth, had married his only son), and the jurist, Thomas Lyttleton (Burley’s other son-in-law)—finally secured a favourable judgement on his behalf. Vernon’s death later in 1451 ended the feud, leaving Trussell at last in peaceable possession of his rightful inheritance.7

These violent disputes took place against a background of increasing unrest in the country as a whole, which government and magnates alike found it difficult to control. When this particular feud began both protagonists had been of the affinity of Humphrey, duke of Buckingham: in 1446 Trussell had headed the list of witnesses to a grant made by the duke to his eldest son, and his own son, Thomas, was currently one of Buckingham’s retainers; Vernon, on the other hand, was an annuitant of the duke’s and treasurer of Calais on his recommendation. Duke Humphrey’s failure to settle their differences, or perhaps his partiality for Vernon, who was, in any case, a far more forceful and influential character, may have prompted Trussell to seek ‘good lordship’ elsewhere; and his friend Burley might well have encouraged him to turn to the duke of York. Whether or not he did so is now unclear, but his disaffection was such that at the time of Cade’s rebellion he, too, apparently rose in armed insurrection: on 7 July 1450 he was among those who obtained general pardons for having ‘in divers places of the realm and especially in Kent’ gathered together in revolt. Sir William’s motives are now obscure, although it may be that a quarrel with Sir Humphrey Stafford of Grafton lay behind his actions, for after Sir Humphrey had been slain by the rebels at Sevenoaks his widow and son brought an action against Trussell for a debt of £20. It was not until 1458 that he was pardoned his outlawry for failing to answer them in court.8

Trussell lived to see the accession of Edward IV and, indeed, nearly into his 80th year. He died on 16 or 23 Jan. 1464, leaving his hard-won inheritance to his son, Sir Thomas (d.1472). The Trussell estates, by then worth at least £300 a year, eventually came by marriage to John de Vere, 15th earl of Oxford.9

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. Leics. Village Notes, ed. Farnham, v. 16.
  • 2. J. Bridges, Northants. ii. 50-53, 77-78, 111-12, 117-19, 164; VCH Staffs. v. 13, 145; VCH Berks. iii. 165, 181; iv. 529; CFR, xi. 305; xii. 52-53; DKR, xxxvi. 378; C137/3/15; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xvi. 35, 62; Peds. Plea Rolls ed. Wrottesley, 223, 253; Huntington Lib. San Marino, Ellesmere mss, dom. pprs. 565-6.
  • 3. DKR, xxxvi. 447-8; xxxvii (2), 64; CPR, 1405-8, p. 336; C137/73/45; Feudal Aids, i. 68, 70; v. 22; vi. 497; F. Blomefield, Norf. ix. 448. Trussell also had a reversionary interest in other properties in Norf. as next h. to his aunt Frances, wid. of Sir Robert Salle† (d.1381) and w. of Sir William Clopton of Melford Suff., but this he relinquished in 1416: CCR, 1413-19, pp. 372-3.
  • 4. Leics. Med. Peds. ed. Farnham, 94; J. Nichols, Leics. iii. 1035, 1049; iv. 604, 607; Warws. Feet of Fines (Dugdale Soc. xviii), nos. 2287, 2382; W. Dugdale, Warws. i. 26-29; ii. 717; VCH Warws. vi. 32; VCH Essex, vii. 182; Peds. Plea Rolls, 185, 266.
  • 5. CPR, 1413-16, pp. 115, 176; CIMisc. vii. 460; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xvii. 26; E101/44/30(1), 45/12, 13; DKR, xliv. 564.
  • 6. CPR, 1416-22, p. 253; E28/97/17; C219/13/2, 5, 14/1, 3, 4, 15/2. Leics. Bor. Recs. ed. Bateson, ii. 234-44, 246-53; CCR, 1429-35, p. 58; DKR, xlviii. 269; HMC Hastings, i. 1; Huntington Lib. Hastings ms HAD 4/81.
  • 7. C1/12/102; Wm Salt Arch. Soc. n.s. iii. 161-2, 167-8, 188-92, 200; C139/125/9; CCR, 1447-54, p. 12.
  • 8. C. Rawcliffe, Staffords, 235; DKR, xxxvii (2), 63; CPR, 1446-52, p. 355; 1452-61, p. 379.
  • 9. E149/214/10; DKR, xxxvii(2), 722; C140/78/83.