DABRICHECOURT, Sir John (d.1415), of Markeaton, Derbys.

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



Sept. 1397

Family and Education

?s. of Sir Sanchet Dabrichecourt (d.c.1360) KG. Bro. of Sir Nicholas*. m. by Sept. 1378, Maud, wid. of Sir John Tuchet (d.1371), of Markeaton, 1s. 5da.; 2s. illegit. Kntd. by Oct. 1375; KG 20 Mar. 1413.1

Offices Held

Commr. to suppress the insurgents of 1381, Derbys. Dec. 1381, Mar. 1382; of array Mar. 1392, Notts. Aug. 1402; oyer and terminer Feb. 1400 (an appeal against a judgement in the ct. of the constable of Bordeaux), Derbys. July 1406 (attacks on the property of Lord Darcy); inquiry Jan. 1412 (persons liable to pay subsidies), Leics. Nov. 1412 (ownership of the manor of Breedon).

Master forester of Duffield Frith in the duchy of Lancaster, Derbys. by 21 Nov. 1382-23 Feb. 1402.2

Steward of the household of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, by Feb. 1399.

Capt. of the castle of Calais 4 Oct. 1399-1 Apr. 1402.3

J.p. Derbys. 20 Jan. 1406-Feb. 1407, 28 Feb. 1410-d.

Ambassador to treat with John, duke of Burgundy, Mar. 1412; to negotiate a truce with John, duke of Brittany, and arrange for the release of confiscated merchandise and shipping Dec. 1413.4

Keeper of the Tower of London 28 Oct. 1413-d.5


Sir John was either the son or nephew of the distinguished Hainaulter, Sir Sanchet Dabrichecourt, whose family came to England in the retinue of Edward III’s queen, Philippa, and who was himself a founder member of the Order of the Garter. Another of his kinsmen, Sir Eustace (d.c.1372), actually married Philippa’s niece, Elizabeth, the daughter of William, duke of Juliers, and widow of the earl of Kent, so it is hardly surprising that both Sir John and his brother, Sir Nicholas, were from an early age assured every mark of royal favour. Not until 1407, however, after he had twice sat in Parliament, did he attempt to secure royal letters of denization which were granted to him because ‘from the time of his youth’ he had lived in England and had proved a loyal servant first to Edward III and then to various members of the house of Lancaster. According to Froissart, who is probably a reliable source in this instance, Sir John was actually educated at court among the royal henchmen. At all events, in 1375, by which date his brother had achieved considerable importance in the Household, he was allocated an annuity of £40, payable at the Exchequer. The accession of Richard II two years later brought with it a dramatic reversal of fortunes for the two men; for whereas Sir Nicholas withdrew reluctantly into semi-retirement, Sir John soon found himself a new patron. His connexion with Edward III’s now eldest surviving son, John of Gaunt, which probably began when he was quite young, was greatly strengthened by his marriage, in or before 1378, to Maud, the widow of the Derbyshire landowner, Sir John Tuchet. This lady possessed a life interest in the manor of Markeaton and land in Mackworth (which, perhaps together with later acquisitions, bore a valuation of £40 p.a. in 1412), and Dabrichecourt was thus able to establish himself in a prominent position among the local gentry, many of whom were employed or retained by Gaunt. Having taken part, in 1380, in the expedition which the latter’s brother, Thomas, earl of Buckingham, led to Brittany, Sir John was formally recruited, in August 1381, as a member of the ducal retinue at a fee of £20 a year; and soon after Gaunt made him master forester of Duffield Frith, a post then worth £10 annually in wages alone. The terms of his contract as a retainer required Sir John to accompany Gaunt on whatever military ventures he might undertake, and he consequently became involved in the duke’s ill-fated attempt, in 1386, to win for himself the throne of Leon and Castile, as well as serving with him overseas some nine years later. Sir John’s prowess in the field had already won him something of an international reputation, which was greatly enhanced in the spring of 1390 at the jousts of St. Inglevert, where he engaged in single combat with a number of distinguished French knights, including Jean, seigneur de Boucicaut, future marshal of France.6

Boucicaut had initially thrown down the gauntlet at the start of the Castilian campaign, but although Dabrichecourt travelled through France in search of his adversary (being given 200 florins and a horse by the count of Foix as a mark of esteem), the contest had to be postponed. Gaunt certainly recognized his retainer’s value both as a soldier and an administrator, and in 1392 he increased his annuity by a further 50 marks. There can be little doubt that the duke’s influence helped to secure Sir John’s return to Parliament in the following year, although the latter was certainly a figure of consequence in his own right. His kinsmen, the Tuchets, must also have proved useful to him, for he remained on friendly terms with Thomas, a clerk (who joined him and Thomas Foljambe* in 1391 in accepting a bond worth £120 from Sir Nicholas Clifton and others), and his wife’s stepgrandson, John, Lord Audley. His circle also included Sir Hugh Shirley*, for whom, in August 1394, he stood bail of £200. Sir John’s status was, in fact, such that he then managed to secure for himself and his wife a papal indult for the plenary remission of sins at the hour of death; and three years later he joined with Sir Richard Adderbury II* in purchasing the marriage of Philip, Lord Darcy’s son and heir, John, for £600. When Darcy died, in the spring of 1399, a third of this sum remained outstanding, and it appears from his will that Dabrichecourt was actually the main party to the transaction. Meanwhile, the second Parliament of 1397, of which Dabrichecourt was a Member, had just assembled when Gaunt again decided to augment his retainer’s pension, granting him an additional 50 marks from the revenues of the lordship of Tutbury. We do not know exactly when Sir John became steward of Gaunt’s household, but he was clearly in office when the duke died in February 1399, since letters patent of Henry of Bolingbroke, Gaunt’s son, confirming him in his various annuities refer to him in this capacity. Not surprisingly, in view of their long and close connexion, Gaunt had chosen Sir John to be one of his executors, a position now fraught with difficulties because of the changing political situation. Bolingbroke was already in exile, and the subsequent confiscation of the entire duchy of Lancaster by Richard II strained Dabrichecourt’s loyalty to its limits, for although the King agreed to continue paying his fees and was, indeed, anxious to retain him as a knight of the royal household, his old allegiance remained unchanged. When, in the summer of 1399, Bolingbroke landed at Ravenspur in order to claim his inheritance, a large number of his father’s former retainers mobilized their own followers and flocked to meet him. Among them was Sir John with a force of men which, at a cost of £60 10s., provided part of Bolingbroke’s army then and at the Parliament which met later at Westminster to approve his seizure of the throne.7

Dabrichecourt was not himself a Member of this Parliament, although his brother, who had entered Gaunt’s service in 1391, was returned for Hampshire. He did, however, receive immediate preferment, being appointed at the very beginning of the new reign to the extremely important post of captain of Calais castle. Besides confirming him in annuities totalling 100 marks from the duchy of Lancaster and assigning him a similar pension from the Exchequer, King Henry granted him for life the two Kentish manors of Maplehurst and Merdale (in Boughton Aluph) and the manor of Cottesmore in Rutland, which together were said to produce at least £51 p.a. Moreover, in December 1401, he obtained the wardship and marriage of the heir of John Rolleston (whose estates at Swarkeston in Derbyshire were worth £20 a year), free of any rent or charge. By then he had also taken on the farm of lands in Enfield, Middlesex, and Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, for seven years from the London skinner, Walter Parker, who offered him a recognizance of £28 as an earnest of his readiness to accept the arrangement. The Lancastrian coup d’état consequently proved a great source of personal enrichment to Sir John (who was, furthermore, the receipient of generous gifts of timber from the duchy estates to help with his own building projects), although in return he proved a devoted servant to Henry IV and his sons.8 He was summoned to attend the great councils of 1401 and 1405 as a representative for Derbyshire, and after surrendering the captaincy of Calais castle in 1402 (still being owed £146, which remained unpaid until his death), he spent some time in attendance upon the King. His tenure of the captaincy did not pass without incident, for in July 1401 he complained to the royal council that he had been slandered with regard to his discharge of official duties. Eventually, after considerable delays, a royal commission of inquiry was set up six years later, and exonerated him completely, although nothing seems to have been done about paying his arrears. Even so, in June 1406 he was a party to a series of complex financial transactions involving the payment of 3,000 marks to the Exchequer by various members of the nobility and influential knights, probably as a contribution towards the cost of the war-effort. The problems and attendant expense of governing Ireland were certainly a matter of concern to King Henry, who felt that Dabrichecourt would be an ideal councillor for his son, Thomas, as governor there. In September 1407, Sir John acted as a trustee for the young man, and in the following year he set sail with him on an expedition to pacify the warring Irish. They returned to England in March 1409, but it was not until another three years had elapsed that Sir John received his reward, in the form of three Irish manors and the reversion of annuities worth £30. How far local conditions allowed him to collect any of this money is a matter of debate, although he did appoint attorneys to supervise his affairs in Ireland.9

Dabrichecourt’s attachment to Thomas of Lancaster rather than his elder brother and rival, the prince of Wales, may perhaps explain why little is heard of him during the latter part of Henry IV’s reign. His appointment as an ambassador to Burgundy in 1412 coincided with the brief period in which Thomas had supplanted his brother in the control of government, although the latter had too high an opinion of Sir John’s talents to bear him any grudge once he mounted the throne in 1413. On the contrary, the vacancy among the Knights of the Garter which followed upon Henry’s accession was filled by Dabrichecourt on the eve of the coronation, and he was permitted to retain all his pensions. He also became constable of the Tower of London, appointing the Derbyshire landowner, Thomas Okeover*, as his deputy. Together with another of his neighbours, Peter Melbourne*, he was made custodian of the estate of the abbey of Burton-upon-Trent so that essential reforms and improvements could be made in its finances (earlier provisions regarding his keepership of the priory of Tutbury had been revoked on the petition of the prior). Despite his advancing years, Dabrichecourt was anxious to take part in Henry V’s first invasion of France, and he enlisted under the banner of his patron, Thomas of Lancaster. He made his will at Wimbourne Minster in Dorset on 25 July 1415, and added a codicil 12 days later, just as he was about to cross the Channel. He died well before the end of October.10

The evidence of Sir John’s will shows him to have been both rich and generous. Not only did he make handsome provision for his own children, but he also left substantial bequests of money and plate to his servants and the offspring of his brother, Sir Nicholas. Over £80 was set aside for works of charity and piety alone. He left one son and five daughters (one of whom married the eldest son of the Derbyshire knight, Sir John Cockayne*, another prominent servant of the duchy of Lancaster) by his wife, as well as two illegitimate sons born at Copston in Warwickshire. His conscience was badly troubled by the neglect he had hitherto shown the latter, and he bequeathed £20 to pay for their education. He evidently felt rather less contrition towards their mother, who was promised only 20s. and a cow. Sir John’s executors included his nephew, Nicholas, his son-in-law Hugh Willoughby†, and the Derbyshire lawyer, Henry Booth*. In October 1415 they were pardoned any offences committed by Sir John against the Statute of Liveries, and were also excused whatever fines or debts he might owe the Crown.11

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


Variants: Dambreticourt, Daprichcourt, Daubruggecourt, Dawbriggecourt.

  • 1. JUST 1/1488, rot. 9; Top. et Gen. ed. Nichols, i. 197; Reg. Chichele, ii. 51-54, 108-10; G.F. Beltz, Mems. Order of the Garter, pp. lv, clvii; CPR, 1374-7, p. 180.
  • 2. Somerville, Duchy, i. 382, 556.
  • 3. Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, ii. 177; E404/18/233.
  • 4. E404/27/221; DKR, xliv. 549, 550.
  • 5. E404/29/136.
  • 6. JUST 1/1488, rot. 9, 1508, rot. 9; Reg. Gaunt 1379-83, p. 8, nos. 39, 587; Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ii. 150; CPR, 1374-7, p. 180; 1405-8, p. 298; Feudal Aids, vi. 412; S.K. Walker, ‘John of Gaunt and his retainers 1361-99’ (Oxf. Univ. D.Phil. thesis, 1986), 42, 271; J. Froissart, Chrons. trans. Jones, ii. 292, 434-46.
  • 7. Cam. Misc. xii. 24; CCR, 1389-92, p. 320; 1392-6, p. 367; 1396-9, pp. 199, 200-1; CPL, iv. 489; Test. Vetusta, ed. Nicolas, i. 143, 255; DL42/15, f. 70v; CPR, 1396-9, pp. 472-3, 534.
  • 8. DL28/27/3; DL29/738/12100; DL42/15, ff. 95-95v, 119-19v, 121, 160v; 16(3), ff. 46-46v; CPR, 1399-1401, pp. 15, 201, 430; 1401-5, p. 56; CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 417-18; Feudal Aids, vi. 487.
  • 9. DL42/15, f. 193; E101/187/6; E28/9; E404/20/203; PPC, ii. 99, 159; CPR, 1405-8, pp. 363, 456; 1413-16, p. 55; CCR, 1405-9, pp. 128-9; Rot. Pat. et Claus Hib. ed. Tresham, i (1), 206.
  • 10. DL42/17, f. 17; E101/45/4; CPR, 1401-5, pp. 366-7; 1413-16, pp. 204, 381; DKR, xliv. 570; Beltz, loc. cit.; Sel. Cases in Chancery (Selden Soc. x), no. 111.
  • 11. CPR, 1413-16, p. 381; Reg. Chichele, ii. 51-54, 108-10.