ROUTH, Sir John (d.c.1430), of Routh, Yorks.

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



Jan. 1404

Family and Education

m. Agnes, at least 1s. Kntd. by Feb. 1386.1

Offices Held

Commr. to provide horses for Robert de Vere, duke of Ireland’s expedition to Ireland, Dec. 1386, Feb. 1387; of inquiry, Cumb., Northumb., Westmld., Yorks. Dec. 1390 (extortions by the King’s attorney), Yorks. Feb. 1398 (abuses of the law), Mar. 1401 (water supply at Kingston-upon-Hull), May 1407 (crime at Beverley), (E. Riding) Jan. 1412 (liability to pay taxes), Feb. 1422 (counterfeit weights); to make arrests Apr. 1392 (receiver of the provost of Beverley), July 1408; of gaol delivery, Beverley Sept. 1392;2 sewers (E. Riding) Dec. 1395, Nov. 1396; to audit the accounts of Thomas Arundel, the former abp. of York, Feb. 1398; of array (E. Riding) Dec. 1399, Aug., Sept. 1403, May 1415, Apr. 1418, Mar. 1419; to treat for royal loans Nov. 1419.

Escheator, Yorks. 6 Oct. 1397-26 Nov. 1399.

Collector of a royal aid on the marriage of Princess Blanche, Yorks. (E. Riding) Dec. 1401, of a royal loan Jan. 1420.

J.p. Yorks. (E. Riding) 18 Dec. 1405-July 1409.


Not much is known about Routh’s early life, but he was almost certainly a close kinsman of Peter Routh and his wife, Alice, both of whom were loyal and trusted members of the royal household. While serving as an usher of the chamber to Edward III’s queen, Philippa, in 1354, Peter was made master forester of Knaresborough in Yorkshire. Many similar rewards followed in the shape of annuities and other local offices, so that he soon became a figure of considerable authority in the community. He spent many years as a j.p. in both the North and West Ridings, being thus clearly in a position to advance his young relative’s career. He may even have brought John to Court, for the latter first appears in September 1376 as a mainpernor for the Chancery clerk, Richard Ravenser, who had just been excused all debts and arrearages due to the Crown.3

It was no doubt at Westminster that Routh came to the attention of Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford (a favourite of the newly crowned Richard II), who retained him as one of his esquires. In January 1385 Oxford used his influence with the King to secure for him the custody of an estate in Sussex to the value of 20 marks a year, and later managed to obtain permission for him to keep all the profits without rendering any accounts at the Exchequer. The earl may also have helped his new acolyte to sue out a royal charter of free warren on his demesnes at Routh and the surrounding countryside, which was awarded soon afterwards, in February 1386. By this time, Routh had become a knight, and within a few months royal letters of exemption, excusing him from discharging routine administrative duties against his will, also came his way. That de Vere placed a high value on his services is evident from a gift he made to him in the following September of his ancestral manor of Cockfield in Suffolk, conditional only upon Routh’s willingness to pay the wages of six young grooms. In his new capacity as marquess of Dublin, Oxford already possessed quasi-regal powers within the Pale; and in October 1386 he was created duke of Ireland for life. Plans immediately began for an expedition to impose his authority there. Naturally enough, Routh played an important part in these preparations, being commissioned to provide horses for the army, although in the event his patron remained at home.

Meanwhile, an increasingly hostile reaction was developing against the duke and King Richard’s other close advisors, and in November 1387 charges of treason were levelled against them by the Lords Appellant. Routh may perhaps have been present on 20 Dec. at the battle of Radcot Bridge, which saw the complete rout of the half-hearted troops de Vere had raised in support of the King. Although he was not himself singled out for reprisals by the victorous Appellants, de Vere’s flight to the continent and the attainder passed against him by the Merciless Parliament of 1388 placed him in an extremely vulnerable position, and he deemed it expedient to retire quietly to his estates in the north. In 1389, for example, he joined with other local landowners in consenting to drainage schemes on the marshes near Routh, and he also began to act as a trustee and witness to property transactions in the area. In the spring of 1390 he faced arrest for behaving threateningly towards one Geoffrey Michel, but King Richard gave instructions for his release, should he be taken. A gradual weakening of the powers of the Lords Appellant, coupled with Richard’s reassertion of his own authority, clearly worked to Routh’s advantage. In February 1391, the King was able to order Maud, dowager countess of Oxford and mother of Robert de Vere, to surrender Cockfield and all the unpaid rents owing to Sir John from the time of her late son’s forfeiture. Further marks of royal favour followed, and in November 1393 Routh entered the King’s household as one of his knights, retained at a fee of 40 marks a year, payable for life, from the Exchequer.4

Sir John’s regular appearance from 1390 onwards as a member of royal commissions in Yorkshire helped him to consolidate his influence in the county. This, in turn, made possible his election to Parliament; and in 1394 he first took his seat as a shire knight at Westminster. King Richard could confidently expect that Sir John would give full support to his increasingly absolutist policies, so for the last two years of the reign he remained in office as escheator of Yorkshire. During this period he seems to have been more closely connected with the locality than the Court, for besides discharging his official duties he acted as an executor for his neighbour, Sir John St. Quentin*, and was busy as a feoffee-to-uses of sizeable estates in Holderness.5 Indeed, his association with the King and his unpopular favourites was no longer sufficiently strong to threaten his career once Henry of Bolingbroke seized the throne in 1399. Although the Lancastrian coup d’état led to his eventual (but not immediate) removal from the escheatorship, it did not cause him to lose either his annuity or his post as a King’s knight. On the contrary, Henry IV seems to have been anxious to benefit from his expertise; and, as early as December 1399, we find him employed by the new regime on a commission of array. By January 1404, when he was elected to Parliament for the second time, Sir John’s personal position was more than satisfactory; and by the end of the following year he had taken a seat on the East Riding bench. Sir John had already begun to involve himself closely in the affairs of other landowners in Holderness, where his popularity as a trustee appears to have been growing considerably. Together with a clerk named Peter Head, he was a party to various collusive suits and settlements of the extensive estates of Sir Ralph Hastings in and around Aldbrough. He performed a similar service for Sir John Hothom, whose daughter, Maud, eventually married his own son and heir. It was probably through Hothom that Routh came to know Sir John Godard’s* son and heir, another important local figure, who succeeded in 1415 to the widespread East Riding properties of Peter, Lord Mauley. Routh and Hothom together agreed to hold these lands in trust; and from then until 1423, when they settled a dower on Godard’s widow, they were much occupied with their duties as feoffees. It is also worth noting that Sir John was approached, in 1408, by the leading townspeople of Beverley (where he was already well known as a crown commissioner) to witness the endowment of a chantry chapel, so he was quite evidently much respected by burgesses and gentry alike.6

By now advanced in years, Sir John took no further part in government business, serving on his last royal commission in 1422. Both Henry V and his son, Henry VI, confirmed him in the annuity first awarded by King Richard, and a complaint regarding arrears suggests that he was still claiming the fee eight years later. The last part of his life was, however, spent in total retirement, which makes the exact date of his death hard to determine. Sir John was buried beside his wife, Agnes, in a tomb at Routh church. A contemporary brass shows both of them wearing ‘SS’collars of the Lancastrian livery, so Agnes must, like her husband, have changed allegiance in 1399. The couple left at least one son, John, a somewhat disorderly character, who found himself in serious trouble with the authorities on various occasions during his father’s life.7

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


  • 1. Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xii. 223-5; CChR, v. 301.
  • 2. C66/335 m. 7v.
  • 3. CPR, 1354-9, p. 281; 1358-61, pp. 291, 541; 1361-4, pp. 123, 197; 1364-7, pp. 44, 389, 436; 1367-70, p. 240; 1374-7, p. 338; 1377-81, pp. 346, 571-2.
  • 4. CPR, 1381-5, pp. 516-17; 1385-9, pp. 16, 138, 248, 275; 1391-6, p. 339; G. Poulson, Holderness, i. 393; CCR, 1389-92, pp. 182, 267-8.
  • 5. CCR, 1396-9, p. 414; CPR, 1399-1401, p. 448; E404/17/334; Test. Ebor. i. 216.
  • 6. JUST 1/1517 rot. 3v, 40; CP25(1)279/149/5, 7, 152/43, 291/64/78; Yorks. Arch. Soc. Rec. Ser. lix. 152, 160; lxxxiii. 33; Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xii. 223-5.
  • 7. CPR, 1413-16, p. 57; 1416-22, p. 141; 1422-9, p. 76; CCR, 1419-22, pp. 259-60, 262; E404/47/124; Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xii. 223-5.