ZOUCHE, Thomas (by 1359-1404), of Westoning and Sandy, Beds.
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Family and Education
b. by 1359, yr. s. of William, 2nd Lord Zouche of Harringworth (by 1321-1382) by Elizabeth (d.c.1380), da. of William, 2nd Lord Roos of Helmsley (d.1343). m. Mary (1343-14 May 1401), yr. da. of John, Lord Engaine (1302-58) of Colne Engaine, Essex, and Sandy by Joan, da. of Sir Robert Peverel of Castle Ashby, Northants.; and sis. and coh. of Sir Thomas Engaine (c.1336-1367), wid. of Sir William Bernak (d.1386) of Saxlingham, Norf. and Ranby, Lincs., s.p.1
Commr. of array, Beds. Nov. 1403.
Although he was his father’s younger son, and thus not heir to the extensive estates built up over a long period by his ancestors, Thomas Zouche received a handsome settlement of land which secured him a regular income for life well in excess of £60 a year.2 He must have still been very young, when, in 1359, the 2nd Lord Zouche obtained permission from Edward III to grant him a reversionary interest in the manor of Barby in Northamptonshire, with successive remainders to his two brothers, Eudo and Richard. Several years later, in 1372, Lord Zouche paid a further £16 for a licence to entail the Bedfordshire manor of Westoning upon Thomas; and over the next ten years he made similar arrangements concerning the manors of Middle Claydon and Ellesborough in Buckinghamshire, Ings manor in Wheathampstead and land in Redbourn, Hertfordshire, the manors of Igtham and Eynsford in Kent, Alveneley in Suffolk and King’s Worthy in Hampshire. When he died, in April 1382, all this property passed directly to Thomas Zouche, who became a landowner of some consequence in his own right.3 The date of his marriage to Mary, the third and youngest daughter of John, Lord Engaine, is not now recorded, although it probably took place shortly after the death of her first husband, the Norfolk knight, Sir William Bernak. In addition to the dower properties left to her by Sir William in 1386, Mary brought her new husband all the lands which she had inherited from her brother, Sir Thomas, who had died without issue in 1367. Her immediate share of the Engaine estates (which were then partitioned between her and her two sisters) comprised the manors of Hallaton (Leicestershire) and Pytchley (Northamptonshire), although on the death of Sir Thomas’s widow, in 1399, she also gained possession of the manors of Sandy (Bedfordshire) and Dillington (Huntingdonshire).4
Thomas Zouche was even more fortunate in the range and importance of his connexions, since from the mid 13th century onwards his forebears had contracted a series of marriages designed to forge links with some of the leading families in England. His elder brother, William, 3rd Lord Zouche, continued this policy, marrying first the daughter of Sir Henry Green, c.j. KB (and thus becoming the brother-in-law of one of Richard II’s chief ministers, Sir Henry Green*), and secondly Elizabeth, the daughter of Edward, Lord Despenser, and widow of Joan, Lord Arundel (d.1390). Thomas’s more ambitious younger brother, Eudo, did not hesitate to use these reserves of influence to make himself a career in the Church. Three times chancellor of Oxford university, he held a number of lucrative livings which, from 1393 until his death in 1414, included the archdeaconry of Huntingdonshire. Both William and Eudo were appointed to execute their father’s will, but Thomas played little part in family affairs, and is not even mentioned in his elder brother’s last testament of 1396. Indeed, despite the manifold advantages which his territorial interests and noble blood had to offer, he spent most of his life in virtual retirement, avoiding the kind of administrative and social obligations which would normally have been assumed by a man in his position. He may, perhaps, have been somewhat daunted by the two major reversals suffered during the 1380s by his elder brother, who was accused before the Salisbury Parliament of 1384 (Apr.) of making false accusations against the King’s uncle, John of Gaunt, and subsequently deprived of his position at Court by the Lords Appellant of 1388.5 Even so, he showed little inclination to capitalize upon the political changes of the following decade, and evidently did not seek re-election to the House of Commons after sitting in the second Parliament of 1390.
The general obscurity of Zouche’s life is illuminated by just enough information to suggest that he spent most of his time in Bedfordshire, the county which returned him to Parliament. In January 1385, for instance, he was engaged in a lawsuit against several local men for trespassing on his estates there, and in the following December he and Ralph Fitzrichard* witnessed a conveyance of property on his manor of Westoning. Seven years later he himself was being sued, together with two of his servants, for menacing behaviour towards members of the Ashwell family. Securities of £40 were then offered on his behalf by two prominent figures in the Bedfordshire community, where he himself had clearly become well established. The only royal commission on which he ever served was for the array of Henry IV’s subjects in the county, although it arrived in November 1403, just one year before he died.6 Zouche was already a widower, his wife having predeceased him in 1401. Her own estates then became the property of Sir John Bernak, the son of her first marriage, and Zouche thus faced a substantial fall in revenues. His own death occurred on 1 Nov. 1404; and since he left no children of his own, all the land which had been entailed upon him by his father reverted to the main line of the family. His nephew, William, 4th Lord Zouche, had indeed already taken good care to secure his title to the estates in question.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
This MP is not to be confused with Thomas Zouche (or Souche) of London, who killed a man in 1391, and later appears on a charge of trespass (CPR, 1388-92, p. 401; CCR, 1392-6, p. 412).
- 1. CP, v. 75-81; xii (2), 937-44; Early Lincoln Wills ed. Gibbons, 91-93; CIPM, xvi. no. 349; C137/21/15, 47/17; C143/333/10.
- 2. C137/47/17. The inquisition post mortem from which this figure is derived omits Zouche’s manor of Barby and other smaller properties.
- 3. C143/333/10; CPR, 1358-61, p. 301; 1370-4, p. 204; 1391-6, p. 2; CCR, 1381-5, pp. 146, 220; 1402-5, p. 427; VCH Bucks. ii. 332; VCH Herts. ii. 307, 367; Beds. Hist. Rec. Soc. xxix. 98-99.
- 4. CP, v. 75-81; C137/21/15; CIPM, xvi. no. 349; VCH Beds. ii. 243; CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 65-66; Add. Ch. 33137.
- 5. CP, xii (2), 937-44; Early Lincoln Wills, 92-93; Alumni Cantabrigiensis ed. Venn, i (4), 495.
- 6. CCR, 1381-5, p. 601; 1385-9, p. 109; 1389-92, p. 549; CPR, 1401-5, p. 358.
- 7. C137/21/15; 47/17; CP25(1)6/71/10; CPR, 1391-6, p. 2; CCR, 1402-5, pp. 427, 435.