PARYS, Robert (d.1408), of Hildersham, Cambs.

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. 1388

Family and Education

s. of Robert Parys (d.c.1373), chamberlain of North Wales, by his w. Eleanor. m. aft. Apr. 1374, Katherine (d. 29 Oct. 1423), wid. of Sir John Baskerville (1350-74) of Hellidon, Northants. and Cressage, Salop, 2s. (1 d.v.p.)

Offices Held

Commr. to put down rebellion, Cambs. Dec. 1382; of inquiry July 1386, Feb. 1391, Feb. 1394, Feb. 1408 (repairs to the great bridge at Cambridge), May, July 1389 (rights to the ferry at Chesterton), July 1389 (enforcement of statutes controlling sale of wine and victuals), Dec. 1389 (arson), Jan. 1393 (de Vere estates); arrest Apr. 1387; oyer and terminer Feb. 1389; array Mar. 1392, Dec. 1399, Sept. 1403; to hold special assizes Jan. 1393; survey the estates forfeited by judgement of the Parliament of 1397 (Sept.), Staffs., Salop, Herefs. Oct. 1397; make a visitation of St. John the Baptist’s hospital, Chester Aug. 1400; issue royal pardons to repentant rebels, Cheshire, Flints. Aug. 1403.1

Escheator, Cambs. and Hunts. 12 Dec. 1382-22 Dec. 1383, 24 Oct. 1392-24 Nov. 1394, ?Cambs. 28 Nov. 1399-24 Nov. 1400, Hunts. 28 Nov. 1399-8 Nov. 1401.

J.p. Cambs. 20 Dec. 1382-June 1394, 28 Nov. 1399-May 1401, 16 Jan. 1405-d., Cambridge 24 May 1392-July 1394, 14 Feb. 1407-d.

Sheriff, Cambs. and Hunts. 18 Nov. 1386-7, 7 Nov. 1390-21 Oct. 1391.

Jt. manager of the collection of alnage, Cambs., Hunts., Norf., Suff. 6 Dec. 1393-c. 1394.

Chamberlain of Chester and North Wales 6 May 1394-16 Aug. 1399, c. Dec. 1399-?d., of the forfeited Fitzalan estates in the marches of Wales 20 Apr. 1398-Aug. 1399.

Vice-justiciar of Chester, North Wales and the Fitzalan lordships 1 Feb. 1398-Aug. 1399.2

Steward of the courts at Rhuddlan, Flints. 3 Jan. 1400-d.3

Constable of Carnarvon castle Mich. 1401-26 May 1405.4


The family of Parys probably had its origins in North Wales, where Robert’s brother, Nicholas, retained the manor of ‘Casfrogwith’, four other manors, 60 messuages and some 800 acres of land.5 Their father, after whom Robert was named, served as chamberlain of North Wales and Chester, by appointment of the Black Prince, from 1353 most likely until his death about 20 years later, for a short while during that period also holding the constableship of Carnarvon castle. A continuing family connexion with the region was no doubt a factor which contributed to the selection of Robert Parys, junior, for these same posts many years after his father’s death. It was Robert senior who established the family in Cambridgeshire by his purchase in the 1360s, from four of the coheirs of Sir Robert Busteler (d.1366), of a number of properties in the county. Major difficulties arose when the Crown claimed to occupy the whole estate owing to the minority of the fifth coheir, but Parys was eventually successful in disputing the royal wardship in the King’s bench, although litigation lasted until the Hilary term of 1373. Subsequently his holdings were divided between his two sons, Nicholas having Duxford, Great Linton and ‘Michaelotts’ in Linton, and Robert having Hildersham and lands at Haddenham and Abington. Robert came to enjoy an annual income from property in Cambridgeshire of at least £31 (as valued during his widow’s tenancy). He attained his majority before October 1377, when he and his mother had dealings with one of the Busteler coheirs.6 To this paternal inheritance he added interests in other counties as an outcome of his marriage to the widowed Katherine Baskerville, for she held for life as jointure ‘Baskervilles’ in Hellidon (Northamptonshire), a manor which had an estimated worth of £12 a year in 1412, and as dower the customary widow’s portion, consisting of four manors in Shropshire and Herefordshire.7

Perhaps thanks to a training given him by his father, Parys early developed skills as an administrator and was kept almost continually employed in the government of Cambridgeshire from 1382 for upwards of 20 years. During that period he served as a j.p., as escheator (possibly for three terms) and as sheriff (for two terms); and the political upheavals of Richard II’s reign seemingly had no adverse effect on his career. It was while the Lords Appellant were in control in 1388-9 that he was returned as knight of the shire for the only time—to the assembly summoned to meet in the shire town of Cambridge itself in September 1388. He had no known connexion with any of these lords, although he may have benefited indirectly from the judgements imposed in the previous Parliament (the Merciless Parliament) by joining a syndicate which, four years later, purchased from the Crown certain estates forfeited by Sir Robert Bealknap, c.j.c.p. In 1390, following Richard II’s return to power, Parys was appointed as sheriff, and there can be little doubt that in the 1390s he convincingly showed himself to be a loyal servant to the King. When the time came, in May 1394, for him to move to Chester to assume an office of major importance, he left his brother, Nicholas (then living in Robert’s house at West Wratting), in his place in the administration of Cambridgeshire. (Nicholas served as sheriff in 1394-5.)8

The post of chamberlain of Chester and North Wales was awarded to Parys on condition that he would perform the official duties in person. One of his many additional tasks, which he was given in February 1395, was to organize shipping for the passage to Ireland of the chancellor, then on his way to join the King. When, in 1397, Richard II took his revenge on the chief of his erstwhile enemies of 1387-8, Parys was commissioned to survey their forfeited estates in the shires bordering Wales, and, in November, perhaps as a reward for his diligence in so doing, he was granted for life certain mills and a fishery at Carnarvon, worth 16 marks p.a. In the following year his authority was increased, not only by his appointment by the justiciar of Chester (William le Scrope, earl of Wiltshire) as one of his deputies, but also by the extension of his chamberlainship to include the marcher estates of the late earl of Arundel. Parys was thus placed in fiscal control not only of the newly created principality of Chester, but over the Fitzalan lordships too, and, as the two areas were kept distinct, he found himself having to submit two separate accounts annually and to supervise two treasuries, one at Chester, the other at Holt. Prays matched up to the task satisfactorily: in July 1398 he was rewarded with a life annuity of £20 charged on the exchequer at Carnarvon and, in February 1399, with another of 40 marks funded by the Exchequer at Westminster. He was responsible for raising and paying a force of 900 archers led by ten knights and ten men-at-arms for service under Richard II in Ireland in the spring, but remained at home himself. On 5 Aug., receiving news of the King’s arrival back in Wales in response to the challenge of Henry of Lancaster (who had recently returned from exile), he ordered that the great seal of the principality be brought to his house at Bridge Street, Chester, and from there, on the instructions of Thomas Holand, duke of Surrey, he hastened with the seal to Richard’s side. Four days later Bolingbroke marched into Chester, and on the 16th Parys was removed from office as chamberlain. Yet this was not to be the end of his career: the new government under Henry IV soon recognized its need of experienced administrators and, finding Parys willing to accept the change of monarch, advised the young prince of Wales, Henry of Monmouth, to re-appoint him to the chamberlainship. This happened before 10 Dec., when the Exchequer was ordered to make him an interim payment of 100 marks for the safeguard of royal castles on the Welsh borders.9

It may have been the MP’s son and namesake who held the escheatorship of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire in the years 1399 to 1401, rather than he himself, for he was kept busy in North Wales during this period. In January 1400 Prince Henry made him steward of the courts of Rhuddlan, granting him also the farm of local tolls and judicial perquisites as well as a fishery, on a 12-year lease. When Glendower’s rebellion erupted Parys played an important role in keeping the prince and his council, wherever they happened to be (in London, Coventry or St. Albans) informed about the state of North Wales and the movements of the rebels. He was responsible for sending spies into the rebel camps, and in 1401 dispatched messengers to Sir Henry Percy (‘Hotspur’) and to Lord Grey of Ruthin with reports of skirmishes with the enemy. In the month following the battle of Shrewsbury in July 1403, when Hotspur met a traitor’s death, he was among Prince Henry’s officers who were commissioned to issue pardons to those of his supporters who had joined the rebellion but were now willing to repent. Whether Parys himself had fought in the battle is unclear, although presumably he was quite capable of doing so. He had taken on the post of constable of Carnarvon in the autumn of 1401 and was thus in military command of the castle in January 1404 when it came under siege by the French. The constableship earned him a fee of £40 a year, but he was ready to relinquish it in the following year in favour of his son, Robert junior, who was to fall at Carnarvon on 9 Mar. 1407.10

Following Parys’s resignation from the post at Carnarvon in 1405, he returned to his home in Cambridgeshire, where he served once again on the bench, and witnessed local deeds. Putting his affairs in order, he made settlements of two manors in Long Stanton in 1406 and, following his son Robert’s death, he placed his holdings at Hildersham into the hands of trustees. He died on 26 July 1408, leaving as his heir his grand daughter, Katherine, aged one year old, who, however, did not long survive him.11 Parys’s brother, Nicholas, retained other family estates (which gave him an income of at least £41 a year) until his death without issue in 1425, whereupon the properties acquired long before by their father were re-united in the person of Robert’s younger son, Henry (d.1427), thereafter to remain in the possession of his descendants until the late 17th century.12 Robert’s widow, Katherine, had lived on to 1423, when her Baskerville dower lands fell to the Fouleshursts of Edleston.13

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


He has been distinguished from Robert Parys of london, who was active from 1361 until his death c.1406 (Cal. Wills ct. Husting London ed. Sharpe, ii. 561) as an ironmonger, grocer, wool merchant and shipowner, served as keeper of the seas between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Winchelsea in 1383, and was marshal of the Marshalsea of the King’s bench 31 July 1384-16 Oct. 1391.

  • 1. DKR, xxxvi. 239, 502.
  • 2. Ibid. 376, 426.
  • 3. Ibid. 376, 403.
  • 4. E101/43/39.
  • 5. CPR, 1381-5, p. 541; CCR, 1381-5, p. 626; C139/52/63.
  • 6. Reg. Black Prince, iii. 378, 491; SC8/209/10674; T.F. Tout, Chapters, vi. 63; VCH Cambs. vi. 8, 13, 62, 68, 85, 88, 207; CIPM, xiii. 10, 125; KB27/440 rex m. 4d; CFR, viii. 97, 101; Ely Diocesan Remembrancer, 1895, p. 91; CCR, 1377-81, p. 93; 1381-5, p. 141.
  • 7. CIPM, xiv. 12, 98; C139/9/1, 69/22; Feudal Aids, vi. 492.
  • 8. CPR, 1391-6, p. 48; Ely Episcopal Recs. ed. Gibbons, 399.
  • 9. CFR, xi. 115; CPR, 1391-6, pp. 553, 587; 1396-9, pp. 256, 378, 483; Reign Ric. II ed. Du Boulay and Barron, 262, 264, 276, 278; E364/37 m. E; DKR, xxxvi. 9, 376, 426; E404/15/127.
  • 10. DKR, xxxvi. 376, 403; E101/43/39, 320/28; J.H. Wylie, Hen. IV, i. 431; ii. 17; iv. 246.
  • 11. CCR, 1405-9, p. 361; Add. Chs. 22597-8; C137/72/32.
  • 12. C139/52/63; Cambs. Mon. Inscrips. ed. Palmer, 231; Feudal Aids, vi. 407; DKR, xxvii (2), 380; PCC 2 Luffenham.
  • 13. Feudal Aids, vi. 407; C139/9/1, 69/22; CCR, 1435-41, pp. 20, 401-2.