SAVAGE, Sir Arnold I (1358-1410), of Bobbing, Kent.

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. 1390
Nov. 1390
Jan. 1404

Family and Education

b. Bobbing, 8 Sept. 1358, s. and h. of Sir Arnold Savage (d.1375) by his and w. Eleanor (d.1375), ?da. of Ralph St. Leger. m. bef. 1382, Joan (d. Apr./May 1413), da. of William Etchingham of Etchingham, Suss., 1s. Sir Arnold II*, 1da. Kntd. between June and Aug. 1385.

Offices Held

Commr. of array, I. of Sheppey and hundred of Milton Aug. 1380, Kent Jan., Apr. 1385, May 1386, Mar. 1392, Dec. 1399, Jan. 1400, July 1402, Aug. 1403, July 1405, May 1406, June 1407, Mar. 1410; to put down rebellion Sept., Dec. 1381, Mar., Dec. 1382; of sewers June 1382, Oct. 1388, June 1407; inquiry Mar. 1384 (tenure of certin estates acquired by Edw. III), Mar. 1385 (poaching on royal land), Mar. 1388 (complaint by the barons of Faversham), Oct., Nov. 1389 (revenues of manors forfeited by Sir Simon Burley), Dec. 1390, Feb. 1391 (amaldministration) Feb. 1392 (shipwreck), Sept. 1399 (removal of goods of Abp. Walden), Kent, Suss. June 1406 (concealments); to hold special assizes, Kent Oct. 1391;1 of oyer and terminer Feb. 1392, Sept. 1393, May 1406, May 1407, Jan. 1408; to take musters June 1404; determine appeals in the constable’s ct. May, Nov. 1406, Mar., Apr. 1407; raise royal loans, Kent, Suss. June 1406.

Sheriff, Kent 23 Nov. 1381-June 1386, 1 May 1396-d.

Constable, Queenborough castle 4 Jan. 1393-5 June 1396.

Dep. to Edward, earl of Rutland, as constable of Dover castle by Jan. 1397.2

Steward of the household of Henry, prince of Wales, prob. by Jan. 1401-bef. Apr. 1403.

Speaker 1401, 1404 (Jan.).

Member of Hen. IV’s council c. Mich. 1402-Dec. 1406.

Member of embassies to France Oct. 1408, May, Sept. 1409.


The connexions by marriage formed in the 14th century by the family of Savage, which had been established in William in Kent for some 200 years, point to its high standing in the local community. Sir Arnold’s father’s first wife had been a daughter of Michael, Lord Poynings, and his second (the future Speaker’s mother) most likely came from the well-to-do family of St. Leger.3 The Speaker’s sister, Eleanor, was married in about 1372 to (Sir) Roger, son and heir of John, 3rd Lord Northwood, a match which encouraged his own close association with that family and led to the marriage of his son, Arnold, to their kinswoman, Katherine, daughter of Roger, Lord Scales. His daughter, Elizabeth, was wedded first to (Sir) Reynold, son and heir of Sir Thomas Cobham* of Randall, a member of the junior branch of the baronial family of Cobham of Cobham, and then, after Sir Reynold’s death in 1405, to William Clifford, nephew and heir of Sir Lewis Clifford KG.

Savage’s Savage’s parents were both members of the closely-knit household of the Black Prince, a circumstance which naturally affected the course of his own career. His father had served Prince Edward in the years after 1349 as a feoffee of his estates, mayor of Bordeaux (1359-63), and as his representative on numerous diplomatic missions to France and Castile; and it was at Wallingford, the centre of one of his patron’s most important honours, that he died in July 1375. Buried in the local Benedictine priory, he was joined there later in the same year by his widow, Eleanor, to whom their son acted as principal executor. Eleanor herself had been employed by Prince Edward as nurse to his heir, Richard of Bordeaux, destined to succeed his grandfather on the throne not long afterwards. Still in his minority at the time of his parents’ deaths, Savage became a royal ward, first to Edward III and then to the boy King. Shortly after he came of age he received, in October 1379, Richard II’s licence to marry whom he wished, on payment of the sum of £40, but this fine was remitted a few months later in consideration of his mother’s services to the King during his infancy. Although Savage made formal proof of age in April 1380, it was not until two more years had elapsed that he received livery of seisin of his father’s estates. These included, besides Bobbing, ‘Tracies’ in Newington and three other manors, as well as land at Stockbury, Hartlip, Iwade and Milton. To them he was soon to add a tenancy in the manor of Shorne, under his kinsmen by marriage the Northwoods, along with a reversionary interest in the lordship of the same place. After his death these properties, as then in the possession of his widow and son, had an estimated annual value of £130, an income which had placed Sir Arnold among the wealthiest landowners of the shire.4

The young man was quickly promoted to positions of responsibility in the government of Kent, as in the suppression of the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381, and he was aged no more than 23 when appointed sheriff in the autumn of that same troubled year. It seems likely that he was already attached as an esquire to the household of Richard II (a position he was certainly holding two years later), and he was to remain one of the King’s retainers until the end of the reign. Having joined Richard’s ill-conceived military expedition into Scotland in the summer of 1385 (perhaps performing the service of carrying a white banner, as his tenancy of Shorne obliged him to do), he was knighted while on campaign, and it was as a knight of the royal household that, on 7 Aug., he was issued with black robes of mourning following the death of the King’s mother. Re-appointed sheriff two months later, during his term in March 1386 he took out royal letters of protection as intending to go on John of Gaunt’s expedition to Spain, only to change his mind before the army embarked. After the parliamentary commission took charge of the administration that November and reversed the Lancastrian policy of appeasement with France, Savage, in spite of his connexion with the King, joined the maritime force put under the direction of Richard, earl of Arundel, to prosecute the war more vigorously in the Channel. His own retinue, as mustered in March 1387, included another knight besides himself, 28 esquires and 36 archers. Savage’s reaction to the dire political events of 1387-8 is not known. Although he was closely connected with the Court, nothing of ill befell him; perhaps his participation in Arundel’s naval campaign worked in his favour. He continued to be appointed to commissions both under the government of the Lords Appellant and after their withdrawal in 1389. He was still retained as a ‘King’s knight’ when elected to the three Parliaments which met in 1390 and 1391, and, indeed, shortly after the dissolution of his second Parliament, in December 1390, he was granted for life an annuity of 40 marks charged on the issues of Kent, in consideration not only of his father’s devoted service to the Black Prince but of his own to the King. It seems likely that he was already one of that select group of knights of the royal chamber (numbering eight in 1392-3, and nine in 1395-6—years when he was so named). In January 1393 he was granted for life the constableship and custody of the royal castle of Queenborough, being awarded an annuity of 20 marks to offset his personal charges while holding the office, only to surrender it in June 1396, when to compensate him for the loss of this fee and also to replace his other retainder of 40 marks, the King accorded him £50 a year for life charged on the petty customs of the port of London. Although Savage continued to receive this annuity and to be appointed to commissions of the peace throughout the troubled last years of Richard II’s reign, his conduct was evidently not above suspicion; and in April 1398 he was among those ordered, on pain of £200, to appear personally before the King’s Council ‘to declare what shall there be laid before them’. It is possible that his actions in 1387-8 had been equivocal in the King’s view, or that mistrust had arisen because of his relations with his neighbour, John, Lord Cobham, who as a member of the parliamentary commission of 1386, which the royal judges had declared in 1387 to be a treasonable appointment, had recently been condemned to banishment and forfeiture for his offence. Three years earlier (in 1395) Savage had become one of Cobham’s feoffees in the most important of his estates, and by now his daughter had married Cobham’s kinsman. Possibly under duress, or to prove his loyalty to King Richard, he now made the Crown a loan of £100.

Savage did not long delay in giving his adherence to Richard’s supplanter, Henry of Bolingbroke. On 10 Sept. 1399, three weeks before Richard was deposed, he was commissioned by the Council to inquire into the removal of the chattels of Roger Walden, who, having secured the see of Canterbury following Archbishop Arundel’s banishment in 1397, was now ejected so that Arundel might be restored; and in November, after Bolingbroke’s accession, his place on the bench in Kent was confirmed. Following his return to the Parliament of 1401, after an absence from the Lower House of nine years, Savage was elected Speaker on 23 Jan. Having made his official protestation he went on to rehearse the declaration of the causes of summons as made by Chief Justice Thirning, and then made the request that the Commons should be given ample time to deliberate questions of policy upon which they were asked to advise. A number of speeches made on the Commons’ behalf—presumably by Savage in his official capacity—were impressive enough to be reported in the Parliament roll with a fullness quite out of the ordinary. The mind of the Speaker can be detected in the definition of the three prerequisites of good government: ‘seen [sense], humanite et richesse’, and in the statement that the Members abstained from exaggerating the merits of the King in order to avoid being accounted ‘flaterers et glosers’. His listeners were also struck by his use of metaphor: on a later occasion, when deploring the existence of discord between certain of the lords, the Commons’ spokesman emphasized the need for unity between the estates, which he likened to a Trinity; and on 10 Mar., the last day of the session, he drew an analogy between the progress of a Parliament and that of the mass: the archbishop beginning the office, the King at the offertory undertaking to uphold the faith of the Church (a reference, perhaps, to the statute De haeretico comburendo passed by the assembly) and to ensure justice for poor and rich alike, and then finally the coming of the Commons to say ‘Ite missa est’ and ‘Deo gratias’. Savage’s fellows had no cause for dissatisfaction with him; Thomas Walsingham, the St. Albans chronicler, noted that his rhetoric (and sentiments) deservedly met with a favourable reception:

tam diserte, tam eloquenter, tam gratiose declaravit communitatis negotia, praecipue ne de cetero taxis gravarentur, aut talliagiis, quod laudem ab universis promeruit ea die.

Nor was Henry IV offended, either by the manner of his expression of the Commons’ criticism of the government and warning against future excessive taxation, or by the striking request (eventually turned down on the ground that it was uncustomary) that the King should answer the Commons’ petitions before they made a financial grant. Three days after the dissolution, Savage’s patent for the £50 annuity granted him by Richard II was renewed.

He was doubtless considered entitled to the fee as having been for some time, almost certainly from before the Parliament met, a member of the council of the prince of Wales, Henry of Monmouth, and also steward of the prince’s household, then engaged in the suppression of the Welsh revolt led by Owen Glendower. In May that year he was with Prince Henry at the siege of Conway castle, and after being personally summoned to a great council convened at Westminster in August, he returned to Wales in the autumn. How long he retained his important office close to the heir apparent is not known, but he probably gave it up when he became a member of the King’s own council, an appointment which he later maintained, when claiming his expenses, happened ‘about Michaelmas 1402’. If so, it coincided with his fifth Parliament, which assembled the day after Michaelmas, in the course of which he was one of a number of recipients of royal letters of privy seal requesting benevolences for the payment of the garrisons in South Wales. Then, on 27 Nov., two days after the Parliament was dissolved, he was awarded custody of the manor of Milsted, Kent, during the minority of the heir. As a royal councillor he was to be recompensed with £100 a year; furthermore, a meeting of the Council in the following June, at which he was present, favourably considered his petition for an additional royal annuity of 25 marks (over and above his £50) in view of the extra expense he would be bound to incur while attending on the King’s person. (Retained as a councillor until the end of 1406, Savage continued to enjoy this additional annuity for at least three years after that.) In the meantime, in November 1403, he was specially summoned to attend a meeting at which he and (Sir) John Pelham* were charged with the defence of the town and castle of Calais, then threatened with incipient mutiny by the garrison.5

Back home in time to be re-elected to Parliament in January 1404, Savage was once more chosen by the Commons as their Speaker. As had also happened in 1401, he soon requested that the King should not take umbrage at what was said in the Lower House by way of criticism of the administration, as reported to him by unauthorized persons. The necessity for such a request clearly reflected the temper of the Commons, for before long they made a virulent attack on the conduct of the royal household, demanding the removal from it of certain unacceptable people, complained of excessive royal expenditure, and objected to granting a large subsidy on the grounds that the King’s normal revenues and personal wealth were deemed sufficient for the government’s needs. An anonymous newsletter sent to Durham in the course of the session provides an account of a series of verbal exchanges between Savage and the King himself in the Upper House, which can only have resulted from very plain speaking in the Commons. It appears that Sir Arnold countered the royal request for fresh taxes by drawing attention to improvident expenditure; not only did he demand an audit of accounts, but also pointed to specific causes for the drain on royal funds, notably by excessive grants under the great seal. Henry’s protest, that for him to repeal his letters patent would be shameful, drew from the Speaker a suggestion that the grants be reduced to a tenth of their original value, and when the King confessed himself amazed at the Commons’ ill-will and discontent, he reminded him that despite the subsidies voted by previous Parliaments, the expeditions into Wales were still not paid for, and bills for purveyance for the Household amounted to £6,000 and more. Very interesting, in view of Savage’s own membership of the King’s Council, was the view he expressed on behalf of the Commons that Henry was ill-served by the malicious advice of certain of his councillors, and that in their opinion ‘quiete et paix’ would not be achieved unless he discussed matters with those considered to be ‘sage’. ‘Et si noun’, he continued, ‘nous ne veions my coment vostre Roialme serra bien governee’. Evidently, the King was much put out by all this, and kept away from Westminster for five or six days. But then, when he re-appeared (on 28 Jan.), the Commons resumed their badgering: Savage asked him to order the Lords to state their views openly, instead of harbouring their grievances (a suggestion which Archbishop Arundel greeted with anger, but to which Henry himself eventually assented); and then he raised the awkward question as to the continued imprisonment of the earl of Northumberland, who in the previous year had raised forces to support the rebellion led by his son (Hotspur) and his younger brother (the earl of Worcester), which had been crushed at the battle of Shrewsbury. The Speaker proposed that Northumberland should be allowed to explain himself to his peers and, if proved only to have committed a trespass (not treason), given a charter of pardon. The Commons’ threat to refuse a financial grant until this matter was settled prompted Henry to call for an adjournment, during which Northumberland was indeed pardoned and released. Eventually the Lower House did succumb to the government’s demand for a subsidy, but its grant was a novel levy on landed income, made only after much disputation at the end of a long session and on condition of the appointment of special treasurers for war to administer the proceeds. The Members had insisted on a two-year appropriation of income amounting to over £12,000 for the Household and on the nomination of the King’s Council in Parliament, in order to ensure the remedying of all the complaints and grievances disclosed during the session. Among those so nominated was the Speaker himself. The role played by Savage in this stormy parliamentary session suggests that being a royal councillor in no way inhibited him from revealing the Commons’ criticisms, as was his duty as Speaker. To what extent he had helped frame opinion in the House, or, indeed, how far his personal views coincided with those he was bound to express, we cannot tell. However, from what is revealed of his character by the reports in the Durham newsletter, he was not one to mince words, and it may well be that his outspokenness was just as evident at the council table as it was in Parliament. He was again nominated as a member of the Council during the Parliament of 1406, in May that year, only to make his last recorded appearance as a councillor on 2 Dec. following, a few days before he was dismissed, along with all the other commoners.6 At an important meeting on the 8th he was proposed for the post of controller of the Household, only for the appointment to go to Sir Thomas Brownflete instead. It is perhaps hardly surprising that no alternative preferment at Henry IV’s court came his way. He did, however, continue to be employed on various royal commissions, and in 1408 and 1409 the King sent him as an ambassador to France, to treat for reformation of breaches of truce and for a perpetual peace.

Aged 52, Savage died on 29 Nov. 1410 and was buried in Bobbing church.7 He was survived by his widow (who herself died less than three years later), and his son, Arnold. The latter, in his own will made in 1420, arranged for the completion of his parents’ tomb, leaving a bequest of 20 marks for a monumental brass. This, conventionally representing the Speaker as a knight in armour and his wife as a widow in weeds, still remains.

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Authors: J. S. Roskell / L. S. Woodger


For a fuller treatment of Savage’s career, and for all sources unless otherwise stated below, see J.S. Roskell, ‘Sir Arnold Savage’, Arch. Cant. lxx. 68-83.

  • 1. C66/333 m. 16d.
  • 2. C219/9/12.
  • 3. In her will made in 1359 Joan, wid. of Ralph St. Leger, referred to her da. Eleanor and named Sir Arnold Savage the elder as an executor: Test. Vetusta ed. Nicolas, 64.
  • 4. CIPM, xiv. 202; xv. 292; Feudal Aids, vi. 474.
  • 5. Roskell, Speakers, 77-78; EHR, lxxix. 11, 25; Cal. Signet Letters ed. Kirby, no. 167.
  • 6. Speakers, 46-48, 51-52; C.M. Fraser, ‘Some Durham Documents relating to the Hilary Parl. of 1404’, Bull. IHR, xxxix. 197-9; TRHS (ser. 5), xiv. 56, 62-63.
  • 7. C137/84/42.