VILLENEUVE, alias NOVA VILLA, Rustin, of Chebsey, Staffs.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
m. bef. May 1390, Joan (d. 1 Feb. 1420), da. and coh. of Sir John Hastang (d.1366) of Chebsey, wid. of Sir John Salisbury (d.1388), s.p. Kntd. by July 1402.1
Master of the King’s buckhounds 8 Feb. 1400-d.
Constable of the towns and castles of Carmarthen and Cardigan and the castle of Newcastle Emlyn 12 May-30 June 1404.2
Nothing is known of Villeneuve, who was perhaps a Frenchman by birth, before his marriage to Joan, the widow of Sir John Salisbury, at some point between 1388 and 1390. As daughter and coheir of Sir John Hastang, Joan was seised of the manors of Chebsey in Staffordshire, Upton Warren in Worcestershire, Bradwell and part of Leamington in Warwickshire and Shenington, now in Oxfordshire, which together produced well over £40 a year. Her first husband, an influential member of Richard II’s household, had fallen victim to the Merciless Parliament in March 1388, and this may explain why Villeneuve, whose connexions with Staffordshire were not particularly strong, was chosen to represent the county in September 1397, the date of Richard II’s counter-attack upon the Lords Appellant of 1387-8. Joan was related by marriage to the earls of Stafford, a factor which must also have carried some weight with the electors there.3
The circumstances surrounding Joan’s second marriage appear to have been somewhat unusual, for in March 1390 Roger Swynnerton of Eccleshall took sureties from Sir Thomas Gerberge* and Sir Thomas Swinburne* guaranteeing that Villeneuve would not contest any process of divorce between himself and his wife begun by Swynnerton before the bishop of London. It looks very much as if Joan had previously promised to marry Swynnerton, who, in his determination not to lose such a valuable prize, was now bringing pressure to bear on Villeneuve and his friends. The latter were not easily intimidated, however, and Swynnerton subsequently sued Gerberge for failing to honour his bond. Sir Thomas defended himself by maintaining that, since the divorce had been effected according to plan, the recognizances were null and void, but the facts bear a somewhat different interpretation. At all events, the belief that Joan later married Swynnerton is demonstrably untrue. In November 1398, Villeneuve and Joan, who continued to be described as his wife until her death, were involved in a dispute with Swynnerton over the ownership of the manor of Chebsey—a dispute which may well have had its origins, like the attempted divorce, in some agreement made by Joan before her marriage to Villeneuve.4
It seems quite likely that Villeneuve’s association with the house of York was already well established by the time of his return to Parliament, for in April 1399 Richard II confirmed him in an annuity of 40 marks which had been granted to him for life at an earlier date by Edward, earl of Rutland and duke of Aumâle. Villeneuve’s election in September 1397 may have been engineered by Rutland (who was one of the counter-appellants), although this cannot be proved. It is, however, worth noting that the latter’s father, Edmund of Langley, duke of York (who employed Villeneuve’s friend, Sir Thomas Gerberge, as his steward), retained our Member as one of his own knights bachelor at some point before July 1402, when he instructed Rutland, who was then serving as lieutenant of Aquitaine, to allocate to him a second fee of 100 marks a year, payable for life from the lordship of Wakefield.5 Absence on military campaigns may well account for the paucity of further evidence about the subject of this biography, who played no part in local administration and had little to do with the affairs of neighbouring landowners. His appointment as master of the royal buckhounds in 1400 (an office which pertained by hereditary right to William Brocas*), and his appearance eight years later as one of the King’s knights show clearly enough that he was not without influence at Court, no doubt because of his skill in the field. He saw service in Wales during the spring and early summer of 1404, being made responsible for the defence of the castles of Carmarthen, Cardigan and Newcastle Emlyn, probably on the recommendation of Edward, duke of York (formerly earl of Rutland), the then lieutenant of South Wales. Villeneuve and his immediate successors, Sir Henry* and Sir John Neville*, encountered severe and protracted difficulties over the payment of the garrisons’ wages, which proved hard to raise, despite York’s persistent attempts to obtain redress for his men. The two Nevilles eventually got themselves returned to the Parliament of 1406 in order to win the Commons’ support for their appeal, and following on their success, in March 1407, Villeneuve secured an assignment of 561 5s.5d. upon the forthcoming wool subsidy. Yet, despite his repeated attempts to obtain compensation, the money was still unpaid two years later, and he may never have obtained complete satisfaction.6
Comparatively little is known of Villeneuve after this date. In December 1411 he and William Gobyoun were suing John Hobildod* for debt, and in the following year he stood surety in Chancery for several persons accused of assault. On the latter occasion he is described as ‘of Yorkshire’, but the nature and extent of his property there is not recorded.7 He was dead by the Hilary term of 1419, when William Lee I* began a lawsuit against his widow for a debt of £5. Joan Villeneuve did not long outlive her husband, and died early in 1420, leaving her estates to Joan Delves, her daughter by Sir John Salisbury.8
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Vyleneof, Vylnagh. Sir Rustin may, of course, have derived his name from Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs., but no information survives to connect him with the borough.
- 1. CIPM, xiv. no. 36; CFR, x. 325; CPR, 1405-8, p. 48; CP, vi. 344.
- 2. R.A. Griffiths, Principality of Wales, i. 200, 213; C47/2/49 f. 18.
- 3. C138/36/6; VCH Warws. vi. 151; VCH Worcs. iii. 232, n. 21; CIPM, xiv. no. 36; CCR, 1374-7, pp. 121-2; 1377-81, pp. 294-5.
- 4. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xv. 99; CCR, 1396-9, p. 360; 1419-22, p. 36. It has been assumed (Ancestor, vii. 237) that Swynnerton married Joan and sued Gerberge in 1401 after her death, but the evidence shows this to be untrue.
- 5. C81/1395/5; CPR, 1405-8, p. 48.
- 6. PPC, i. 272, 313; RP, iii. 565 (wrongly dated Oct. 1404); J.H. Wylie, Hen. IV, i. 456-7; ii. 7; CPR, 1405-8, p. 426; E101/43/29; E404/21/227, 22/279, 23/301, 24/507; SC8/23/1110.
- 7. CCR, 1409-13, pp. 307-8, 327.
- 8. Ibid. 1419-22, p. 36; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xvii. 66; C138/36/6.