FRANCIS, Sir Adam (d.1417), of London and Edmonton, Mdx.
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Family and Education
s. of Adam Francis† (d.1374/5), of London, mercer, by his w. Agnes. m. (1) by June 1372, Margaret (d. bef. 1393), da. of John Osterle of Trumpington, Cambs. by his w. Joan, wid. of Thomas Tuddenham (d.1371/2) of London, 2s. d.v.p. 3da.; (2) Margaret (d.1445), sis. of Sir John Holand. Kntd. by Oct. 1382.1
Commr. to suppress the insurgents of 1381, Mdx. Mar., Dec. 1382; of array Sept. 1386, Mar. 1392, Dec. 1399, Sept., Nov. 1403; of inquiry, Essex Jan. 1393 (Colchester abbey), Mdx. Jan. 1393, May 1402 (treasonous rumours); oyer and terminer Nov. 1393, Mar. 1394, Dec. 1403; to raise a royal loan Sept. 1405, London, Mdx. June 1406.
J.p. Mdx. 8 July 1387-d.
Sheriff, Essex and Herts. 18 Oct. 1392-18 Dec. 1393.
Controller of a tax, Mdx. Mar. 1404.
As the elder son of one of the richest and most powerful citizens of mid 14th-century London, Sir Adam Francis was, from birth, sure of both a distinguished place in society and an impressive personal fortune. In common with many leading merchants of the day, Adam Francis the elder had invested a substantial part of his profits in land, and, after a long and successful career, during which he twice became mayor of London and represented the City in at least seven Parliaments, he retired to live on his country estates.2 Between April 1360 and October 1369 he settled the reversion of his newly acquired property in Enfield, Tottenham and Edmonton, Middlesex, and Ruckholt and Cobhams, Essex, upon the young Adam Francis, who obtained formal seisin of his inheritance in May 1375.3 Although most of his father’s holdings in the City had initially been left to him in reversion on the death of his mother, these were in fact conveyed to him by the late mayor’s trustees in the following year, presumably after some arrangements had been reached with the dowager. This legacy made Francis one of the City’s richest landlords, since he had already acquired land and tenements in four London parishes through marriage to Margaret, the widow of Thomas Tuddenham, whose father-in-law had left her heir to most of his property. It is by no means clear if the couple retained all the Tuddenham estates, which came into their hands in 1373, but certain premises, including their home in the parish of St. Michael Bassishaw, remained permanently in their possession.4 We do not know from whom Francis bought or inherited the shops and tenements in the other London parishes of St. John Walbrook, St. Mary Colchurch, St. Andrew Holborn and St. Pancras, which were all either leased out by him or settled on his feoffees before 1405.5 Seven years later his income from property in London alone was assessed at £162 9s.6d. a year. Insufficient evidence has survived upon which to make a similar estimate of his annual revenues from land in the countryside, but it seems that his major holdings there produced a bare minimum of £114 a year (of which at least £92 came from his original inheritance).6 At some point before 1399 he purchased the manor of Moorhall in Writtle, Essex, but no contemporary valuation of it seems to exist. His other principal acquisitions comprised the manor of Eyworth in Bedfordshire and land in Southwark (together worth £22 a year) and property in Old Ford, Middlesex.7
Francis chiefly resided on the manor of Edmonton, and although he played an active part in local government in Essex and Hertfordshire (becoming sheriff in 1392), it was in Middlesex that his chief interests lay. From the time of his first election as a shire knight in November 1380 until his death 37 years later he represented the county in at least eight Parliaments and also spent a long period on the bench. He had been knighted by October 1382, when he obtained royal letters of protection for a journey overseas; but although he cannot have lacked the opportunity for personal advancement he evidently had no ambition to succeed at Court. It is possible that Francis kept up some of his father’s business contacts, for in June 1386 he was robbed of his seal and a considerable sum of money while staying at Burton-on-Humber in Yorkshire.8 On the whole, however, his career was that of a distinguished country gentleman, whose main concern was to avoid the intrigues of political factions and the dangers of financial speculation. As a Member of the Merciless Parliament of February 1388 he joined with the sheriff of London and Middlesex in administering an oath of loyalty to the Lords Appellant, but his election to the Commons of September 1397 suggests that he had by then found it expedient to help destroy those whom he had once supported. A personal connexion with John Montagu, earl of Salisbury, who was one of the counter-Appellants of 1397, may well have secured Sir Adam’s return because of his acceptability to the court party, although there is nothing to suggest that he was on particularly close terms with his brother-in-law. Not once during the 17 years of the earl’s marriage to Francis’s sister, Agnes, do either of the two men appear to have become at all involved in each other’s affairs. On the contrary, Sir Adam’s re-appointment to the Middlesex bench after Salisbury’s execution for high treason in January 1400, his inclusion among the retinue chosen to escort Richard II’s widowed queen to Calais in July 1401 and his summons to two meetings of the great council held shortly afterwards show their relationship to have been less consequential than might be supposed.9
Few of Sir Adam’s activities as a private individual during this period are now on record. October 1391 he paid the last instalment of the 350 marks’ purchase price asked by Sir Oliver Mauleverer* for the marriage of Sir John Basings’s† young son, Thomas, whom he subsequently married to his daughter, Agnes. One year later he received permission from the Crown to make a pilgrimage to Rome, but there is no means of telling if he and his two mounted yeomen ever even set out on the journey. The nature of the transaction whereby Thomas Green of Northamptonshire bound himself, in May 1397, to pay Francis and others the sum of 4,000 marks likewise remains open to conjecture.10 Shortly afterwards, Francis offered sureties of £100 in Chancery on behalf of Robert Newport*, this being the only occasion on which he seems to have performed such a service. Nor, in view of his special position, is he much in evidence as a feoffee-to-uses. The most notable incident to befall Sir Adam after 1400 was, in fact, his dispute with the dowager countess of Hereford over the enclosure of common land in Enfield. Even he was unable to withstand such an adversary, especially as she encouraged the tenants to take the law into their own hands and pull down all his fences.11 Sir Adam’s name was initially included among those to be approached for a royal loan in October 1402, although he was crossed off the list in its final form. At about this time, one John Waleys of London behaved threateningly towards him, being bound over to keep the peace in the following summer.12 Towards the end of his life, which passed without further disruption, Francis was able to arrange extremely lucrative marriages for two of his daughters, Agnes and Elizabeth. After the death of her first husband, Thomas Basings, the former married secondly the wealthy grocer, William Standon* and thirdly William Porter II*, who was then an esquire of the body to Henry of Monmouth. Elizabeth became the wife of the eminent Middlesex landowner (Sir) Thomas Charlton*.13
Although quite advanced in years, Sir Adam attended the Middlesex parliamentary elections of 1407 and 1415, as well as remaining on the bench until his death, which occurred on 23 Apr. 1417. He was buried at the parish church of Edmonton. Besides leaving the customary third of his goods to his widow (on the condition that she should ‘comport herself well and without scandal’), he bequeathed a gift of £20 to his youngest daughter, Thomasina, who had taken the veil.14 A mere five months later Margaret Francis was pardoned for marrying Conrad Ask, esquire, without a royal licence, and obtained custody of the dower which had made her so attractive to suitors. She lived on until July 1445.15
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Franceys, Fraunces, Fraunceys.
- 1. Corporation of London RO, hr 100/58, 77; C136/81/29, 95/40; C138/29/53; C139/118/21; PCC 38 Marche; Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, ii. 138; VCH Cambs. viii. 256.
- 2. S.L. Thrupp, Merchant Class Med. London, 341; Beaven, Aldermen, i. 387.
- 3. VCH Essex, vi. 71, 194; VCH Mdx. v. 168; CCR, 1360-4, pp. 108, 290, 411; 1369-74 pp. 292, 309; 1374-7, p. 133; CPR, 1367-70, pp. 312-13.
- 4. Corporation of London RO, hr 100/58, 77, 101/151, 170-1, 103/79, 140/167; London Rec. Soc. x. no. 606; CCR, 1435-41, p. 446.
- 5. Corporation of London RO, hr 116/72-73, 133/34, 36; CAD, v. A11942, 11946; London Rec. Soc. i. no. 133.
- 6. These figures are based on the tax returns of 1412 (Arch. Jnl. xliv. 60; Feudal Aids, vi. 487, 438) and Francis’s post mortem (C138/29/53).
- 7. C138/29/53; CCR, 1402-5, p. 498; 1413-19, pp. 392-4; 1419-22, p. 255.
- 8. Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ii. 138; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, p. 135.
- 9. CCR, 1385-9, p. 406; CP, xi. 392; PPC, i. 137, 164; iii. 87.
- 10. CCR, 1389-92, p. 500; 1392-6, p. 520; 1396-9, p. 121; CFR, xiv. 404-5.
- 11. CCR, 1396-9, p. 236; Edmonton Hundred Hist. Soc. n.s. xxvii. 3-4.
- 12. PPC, ii. 74; CCR, 1402-5, p. 123.
- 13. Corporation of London RO, hr 133/34, 36; CCR, 1402-5, p. 498; 1413-19, pp. 392-4; Feudal Aids, iii. 382; CFR, xv. 200.
- 14. C219/10/4, 11/7; C138/29/53; PCC 38 Marche; D. Lysons, Environs London, ii. 265.
- 15. C139/118/21; CFR, xvii. 302, 321, 335; CCR, 1413-19, p. 400.