TIPTOFT, Sir John (d.1443), of Burwell, 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



Jan. 1404
Oct. 1404
Apr. 1414

Family and Education

s. and h. of Sir Payn Tiptoft*. m. (1) bef. May 1407, Philippa (c.1367-2 May 1417),1 da. of Sir John Talbot, sis. and coh. of John Talbot (d.1388) of Richards Castle, Herefs., wid. of Sir Robert Assheton (d.1384), warden of the Cinque Ports, and of Sir Matthew Gournay (d.1406) of Farrington Gurney, Som., s.p.; (2) by contract bef. 8 July 1421 and licence 28 Feb. 1422, Joyce (c.1403-22 Sept. 1446), yr. da. and coh. of Edward, Lord Charlton of Powis (d.1421), by his 1st w. Eleanor, da. of Thomas Holand, earl of Kent, coh. of her uncle Edmund Holand, earl of Kent (d.1408), 1s. 3da. Kntd. 11 Oct. 1399; cr. Lord Tiptoft 7 Jan. 1426.

Offices Held

Commr. of array, Hunts. Aug. 1402, Cambs., Hunts. May 1405, Lisieux Jan. 1418;2 inquiry, Cambs., Hunts. June 1406 (concealments), Som., Dorset Jan. 1414 (lollards), Devon July 1414 (treasons and insurrections); to raise royal loans, Cambs., Hunts. June 1406, July 1426, May 1428, Mar. 1430, Feb. 1434, Feb. 1436, Cambs. Mar. 1442; take property into the King’s hands, Som., Dorset July 1411; determine appeals from the ct. of chivalry Apr. 1412, regarding a breach of the truce with Castile May 1414; of oyer and terminer, Hunts. July 1425, Devon Mar. 1427, Warws. May 1427, Cambs. Nov. 1429, Surr., Suss., Berks. Feb. 1437, Kent June 1438, London, Mdx., Essex, Kent, Surr. Oct. 1441; to take musters, Kent Feb. 1427, Hants May 1431, Sandwich July 1436; distribute tax allowances, Hunts. Dec. 1433, Cambs. May 1437, Apr. 1440, Mar. 1442; take oaths against maintenance, Hunts., Cambs. May 1434; assess a graduated tax Jan. 1436; of arrest Oct. 1436; weirs, Essex, Herts., Mdx. Oct. 1436; to treat for payment of parity. subsidies, Cambs. Feb. 1441.

Steward of the duchy of Lancaster manor of Soham, Cambs. 7 July 1404-d., the lordship of Brecknock by 1411-c. Feb. 1414, the Mortimer lordship of Bottisham, Cambs. 1 Nov. 1405-c. June 1413.

J.p. Cambs. 27 Jan. 1406-Nov. 1417, 12 Feb. 1422-d., Hunts. 1 Feb. 1406-18, 16 July 1429-d., Som. 18 Nov. 1408-Mar. 1413, Salop 28 May 1422-July 1423, Worcs. 28 May 1422-July 1423, Cambridge 21 Aug. 1437-Nov. 1441.

Speaker 1406.

Parlty. cttees. on the safe keeping of the seas 3 Apr. 1406, and to witness the engrossment of the rolls of Parliament Dec. 1406.

Treasurer of the Household 8 Dec. 1406-17 July 1408.

Keeper of the forests of Weybridge and Sapley, Hunts. 8 Dec. 1406.

Chief butler 13 May-4 Dec. 1407.

Seneschal of the Landes and constable of Dax, Aquitaine 8 Feb. 1408-d.

Treasurer of the Exchequer 14 July 1408-11 Dec. 1409.

Prefect of Entre-deux-Mers 8 Sept. 1408-aft. 1423.

Lt. of Thomas Beaufort, earl of Dorset, admiral of England by Aug. 1413.

Seneschal of Aquitaine 30 Apr. 1415-May 1423.

Ambassador to treat with delegates from the king of Castile 13 Jan. 1416, the abp. of Cologne 4 May 1416, the king of France 31 Aug. 1416, the king of Aragon, the princes of Germany, the Hanseatic League and the Genoese 2 Dec. 1416, the queen of Sicily 20 May 1418, the duke of Brittany 1 June 1418, the king of France 8 May 1419, the duke of Burgundy May 1427, Prussia and the Hanseatic League 6 Nov. 1436, the king of Scotland 20 Mar. 1438, the abp. of Cologne 4 Feb. 1439, 20 Aug. 1440.

Capt. of Essay 12 Oct. 1417-c. Apr. 1422, Bonmoleyns 21 Oct. 1417-c.1422.

President of the Norman Exchequer 1 Nov. 1417-c. May 1419 and treasurer of the duchy of Normandy 1 Nov. 1417-1 May 1419.

Councillor to Hen. VI 9 Dec. 1422-d.

Chief steward of the Welsh estates late of Edmund, earl of March, 24 Feb. 1425-c. May 1432.

Steward of the Household c. May 1426-1 Mar. 1432.

Trier of parliamentary petitions 1427, 1429, 1431, 1433, 1435, 1437.

Gov. of Marck in the marches of Picardy 28 Sept. 1431-c.436.


Coming from a cadet branch of the half-blood of the baronial family of Tybotot, it was not to be expected that John would inherit any estates of much importance from his paternal relations; indeed, from his father he would succeed only to Harston and Burwell in Cambridgeshire. Nor was it until 1413 that he obtained possession of the lands of Elizabeth Wroth, a cousin on his mother’s side, situated in Middlesex, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Essex (and including Enfield in Middlesex and Puckshipton, Barford and Redlynch in Wiltshire), and other parts of the Wroth estates which were subject to dower rights only came to him in 1423. Long before the deaths of his father and cousin, however, Tiptoft had made his own fortune by able service to the Crown in both the military and administrative spheres, having become by turns soldier, Commons’ Speaker, household official, royal treasurer and diplomat, and through having made two socially and financially advantageous marriages.

Tiptoft’s early rise to prominence rested on fortuitous connexions. His father, Sir Payn, was closely attached to Richard, earl of Arundel, one of the Lords Appellant of 1388, but he himself joined the household of another of their number, Henry of Bolingbroke, so that as a young esquire, between April and September 1397, he spent 125 days serving infra curia at a wage of 7½d.a day. He continued in Henry’s service right up to his exile, and it is highly probable that he and his father rallied to the Lancastrian banner soon after Bolingbroke’s landing in Yorkshire to claim his birthright. John was among the 46 esquires knighted by Henry on the eve of his coronation, and it was as a ‘King’s knight’ that on 13 Nov. he was formally retained for life with a substantial annuity of 100 marks charged on the royal revenues from Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire. By 1402 both he and his father were among the 12 highly privileged milites camere et aule Regis. Such a position inevitably involved military duties on the Welsh borders and in the north during the early, troubled years of the reign, and Tiptoft’s loyalty and prowess in this respect won him substantial rewards. He raised troops in Huntingdonshire to come to the King’s aid against the rebellious Welsh, fought at Shrewsbury in the retinue of the earl of Somerset, and helped stamp out the northern revolt, having been instructed in particular, in March 1405, to obtain horses for the King’s business in Yorkshire and to bring reinforcements from Cambridgeshire. There were many marks of Henry IV’s high regard for him: from 1400 he had custody of the lands in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire of Sir Robert Shardelowe’s heir and, after overcoming some technical difficulties, the wardship and marriage of the same; in 1403 he shared with another royal retainer, (Sir) John Pelham*, a grant of a rent of £4 from premises in Broughton (Buckinghamshire), and a bond for 40 marks forfeited by (Sir) Thomas Shelley*; in February 1404 (during his first Parliament) he and Pelham were jointly allocated the farm of the manor of Stansfield (Suffolk), and, also in 1404, he was appointed steward of the duchy of Lancaster manor of Soham and received a gift of corn, up to the value of 50 marks, harvested on the estates of the alien priory of Swavesey. On 28 June 1405, after his service in the north, Tiptoft shared with the sheriff of Lincolnshire a grant of the traitorous Earl Marshal’s clothes, armour and saddles; on 3 Aug. he secured for life Kirby and Branston (Leicestershire), forfeited by Sir Ralph Hastings, with the prospect of shortly acquiring the dower lands of Sir Ralph’s mother; on 5 Oct. he received the gift of a ship lying at Orwell; two days later he was awarded for life an annuity of £20 from the fee farm of Norwich and a tun of Gascon wine a year out of the prisage of Ipswich; on 1 Nov. he was given the stewardship of the Mortimer lordship of Bottisham with a fee of £5 p.a.; and two months later he obtained another wardship worth 20 marks annually.

Such were Tiptoft’s circumstances at the time of his election to the Parliament which met on 1 Mar. 1406 at Westminster and was to continue, with two adjournments, until nearly Christmas. He had inherited no estates of his own, but was enjoying an income of over £91 a year from fees and annuities and of well over £34 from land placed temporarily in his keeping. He was heavily dependent on Henry IV’s favour. Yet despite, or perhaps because of his close connexions with the King, and notwithstanding his own request for exoneration ‘par cause de sa juvente et pur defaute de seen et discrecion’ the Commons chose him to be their Speaker, and it was he who therefore became the conduit of their vociferous criticisms of the administration and their demands for ‘good and abundant governance’ In a Parliament noteworthy for the Commons’ determination to impose restrictions on the King and his Council, culminating in the nomination of the Council in Parliament and its subjection to articles drawn up by both Houses, Tiptoft played a very active role. He handled his difficult task with discretion, offending neither his fellow Members of the Commons nor his royal master. Indeed, the new Council thought well enough of him to entrust to his charge a part in the execution of the plan to reform the royal household: on 8 Dec. they appointed him its treasurer to help ensure ‘moderate governance’ He was only the second layman ever to hold this post, and even then after a lapse of a century and a half. On the same day the Council authorized grants to Sir John of a forfeiture of £150 and estates in Carmarthen and Cardigan confiscated from a rebellious Welshman, along with the forestership of Weybridge and Sapley. For eight months of the following year Tiptoft also held the important office of chief butler, and he was to be removed from the treasurership of the Household, in July 1408, only to facilitate his promotion to that of the Exchequer. Tiptoft’s post at the Exchequer, where he enjoyed considerable control over royal patronage, resulted in further acquisitions of property for himself: in 1408 he obtained custody of his mother’s family’s manor of Enfield, wardships of the heirs of Sir Roger Heron and (for a short time) Sir William Bonville I* of Shute; and there were ‘special rewards’ (for example the sum of 200 marks paid him in May 1409) added to the normal fees appurtenant to his office. During his one-and-a-half years as treasurer and in the course of the last four years of Henry IV’s reign, Tiptoft came into the enjoyment of the issues of the duchy of Lancaster manors of Glatton and Holme (Huntingdonshire), estimated at £88 6s.5d. a year, an annuity of fits £5 6s.8d., levied from the forests on the duchy lordship of Kidwelly, the farm of manors in the lordship of Brecknock, worth £7 6s.8d. a year, a fee of £20 attached to the stewardship of Brecknock, and the lease of the manor of Trowbridge (Wiltshire) estimated at £73 10s.5d. Ex officio, he was a member of the King’s Council and, indeed, he witnessed the will which Henry made on 21 Jan. 1409, when lying gravely ill at Greenwich.

It had been during his treasurership of the Household that Tiptoft had made the first of his lucrative marriages, to Philippa Talbot, the widow of Edward III’s last chamberlain, Sir Robert Assheton, and of an old and renowned campaigner in the French wars, Sir Matthew Gournay, who was herself coheir (with the daughters of her sister Elizabeth, wife of Sir Warin Archdeacon†) of various of the Talbot estates. Philippa brought to Tiptoft property in ten shires of the south and west, the most important part of her holdings being the Gournay estates which were considerable enough to warrant Henry IV’s son, Humphrey, offering 5,000 marks for a reversionary interest. When Philippa died in 1417, Henry V himself was ready to pay Tiptoft £4,000 to have the Gournay estates after his death. Tiptoft thus acquired through this marriage no fewer than II manors in Somerset, one in Dorset, one in Wales, a moiety in Berkshire and part of a manor in Kent. But in addition he came into possession of an important collection of estates and rights in the Bordelais in the duchy of Aquitaine, property which resulted in his appointment, shortly after his marriage, as seneschal of the Landes and constable of Dax, posts held previously by Gournay. Sir John immediately took an interest in the defence of this estate and dispatched a ship containing artillery, horses, wool, corn and other victuals said to be worth £2,500, and also containing vestments, jewels and personal effects valued at £500, but despite the truce then in force the ship was taken by a vessel from Bilbao and the crew held prisoner. It is a mark of Tiptoft’s close relationship with Henry IV that the King wrote personally to his nephew, King John of Castile, to seek redress for him. Tiptoft retained all of the Gournay estates in France and England for life, even though he apparently had no issue by Philippa (after her death her share of the Talbot estates passed immediately to her nieces and was never held by Tiptoft ‘by the courtesy’). As a result of this marriage Sir John had become a landowner of substance: in 1412 he was said to have an annual income from land of more than £360 (and this did not include the family properties he later inherited). The bulk of his holdings (providing some £231 p.a.) were situated in Somerset, and their tenure goes some way to explain the readiness of the shire community to elect him to Parliament in 1414.3

Meanwhile, Tiptoft had been dismissed from the treasurership of the Exchequer in December 1409, only shortly before Archbishop Arundel, with whom he appears to have been associated on more than an official footing, left the Chancery. During the ascendancy of Henry of Monmouth and the Beauforts which followed Tiptoft retired from Court and then remained in comparative obscurity until 1415, keeping in the background even when Arundel returned to the chancellorship. It was some time before he won Henry of Monmouth’s confidence; and although Henry on his accession confirmed him in the various patents which provided him with such a considerable income as a royal annuitant, he restricted his fees to £120 a year. Clearly Henry was not inclined to be anywhere near so lavish in his grants to Tiptoft as his father had been. Even so, during the first Parliament of 1414, when sitting in the Commons at Leicester, Tiptoft was able to secure, along with Thomas Boys, esquire, the right to a weekly market and an Ascensiontide fair in their Somerset manor of West Harptree. He also retained contacts at Court: in her will made in November that year Elizabeth, dowager countess of Salisbury, left him a silver goblet and his wife an ivory box.4 Henry V’s determination to renew the French war with its inevitable calls on military experience, diplomatic skill and administrative talent was almost bound to result in the recall of a man of Tiptoft’s obvious abilities. The King, now being ‘confians en le layaulte, sen et discrecion’ of Sir John, appointed him in April 1415 as seneschal of Aquitaine, and by contract engaged his service there with a retinue of 30 men-at-arms and 60 archers in time of truce and 140 and 700 in time of war. Tiptoft retained two Norfolk esquires, John Fastolf† and Henry Inglose†, to supply a part of this force, but the King subsequently withdrew their contingent to serve in the invasion of Normandy, leaving him with 80 men-at-arms and 400 archers. The military incursions of the duke of Bourbon necessitated the seneschal’s prompt departure; and his army, which was mustered at Plymouth on 19 June, arrived at Bordeaux before 20 Aug. Before he sailed, as a further mark of his reinstatement to royal favour, he was nominated as a feoffee of estates belonging to the King’s brother, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester. Tiptoft was still in Gascony early in 1416, when he was empowered to treat for an extension of the truce between England and Castile, but he was able to reduce his company to 30 men-at-arms and 100 archers and return to England in the spring. It was then that Henry Inglose accused him of failure to honour his contract for wages of war (made in May 1415) and challenged him to a duel. The details of the case, heard in the court of chivalry, have not survived, but since Inglose had never, in fact, served under Tiptoft, it would appear that the latter was justified in not paying him. During 1416 Sir John was very much involved in the diplomatic negotiations preparatory to the military reduction of northern France. Thus, for example, he spent May and June in London helping to cement an alliance with the ambassador of the archbishop of Cologne. And, in fact, under Henry V he was the man most frequently chosen to carry out the King’s secret negotiations with foreign courts. On 1 Sept. he took out royal letters of protection as going abroad in the retinue of the Emperor Sigismund, and he even acted for a while as steward of the Emperor’s household, which Henry V had subsidized during its stay in England. Tiptoft travelled with Sigismund to Dordrecht and Luxembourg, discussing with him the ways in which he might support Henry’s impending renewal of the campaign in France, and he received a commission dated 2 Dec. to carry on important diplomatic work at the Council of Constance, including negotiations with the Genoese, the princes of the Empire, the Hanseatic League and Alfonso V of Aragon. On 25 Jan. 1417 Henry V wrote to him giving him a most secret charge (written by the King himself and sealed with his personal signet), to disclose to Sigismund the news (known in England only to the King and Bishop Langley of Durham) that the duke of Bourbon had offered to carry to France his terms for a settlement and of Bourbon’s promise, failing acceptance of the terms, to do Henry homage as rightful king of France. As the King’s ‘banneret’ on this journey abroad Tiptoft received wages of £2 a day from 19 Dec. 1416, when he left London, until 2 May 1417, when he returned, making a total of £268.5 He again visited Constance in August following, his task then being to put further pressure on the Emperor to implement his undertakings under the treaty of Canterbury, and he managed to persuade Sigismund to be on the French frontier ready to support Henry on 1 May 1418.

It was probably because of his usefulness in diplomacy that Tiptoft had been passed over as candidate for the position of miles constabularius when, with the second expedition to France impending, this important position was discussed by the Council in February 1417. Although he took out royal letters of protection on 21 June as a member of the King’s retinue, and undertook to provide a force of 30 men-at-arms and go archers, if he did indeed sail with the royal forces at the end of July, he must have then left them for his visit to Constance. Nevertheless, he had joined the King in northern France by the autumn and, at Alençon on 1 Nov., was appointed president of the Exchequer and other judicial tribunals in Normandy and also as treasurer-general of the duchy. His centre of administration was to be at Caen, and in March 1418 he received an entailed grant of a manor-house in that town to use as his residence. Tiptoft continued to occupy these positions until the re-organization which followed the fall of Rouen, the duchy capital, in January 1419. During this period, besides many tasks in the governance of Normandy and the conquest of further territory, a certain amount of local diplomatic work came his way, notably for the redress of violation of truces with Brittany and Anjou, and in May 1419 he was one of the commissioners appointed to arrange a meeting between Henry V and Charles VI to negotiate for peace and a royal marriage alliance. At the same time he continued to hold the seneschalcy of Aquitaine, and it was largely due to his initiative that between July 1418 and June 1419 war was suspended between that duchy and the lord of Albret and the count of Armagnac.

In the spring of 1419 Tiptoft’s agents in England were able to secure for him Exchequer assignments for over £633 owing to him, on various counts, for his tenure of the seneschalcy of Aquitaine and his embassies to Germany, though some amounts were still outstanding in 1422 and even later. In January 1420 he was granted at Rouen the King’s share of the bark Crayera captured by the English and at that time anchored in Southampton Water.6 A few months later he prepared to sail for Gascony once more, this time with a retinue of 60 men-at-arms and 300 archers and furnished with additional vice-regal powers. The castle of Lesparre was now granted him; he was accorded preferential treatment for the payment of his troops; and 200 marks was allotted for use on repairs to Bayonne castle. There was much to be done in the duchy: jurisdictional disputes between the city of Bordeaux and the archbishop needed to be settled, and he was faced with continual French military pressure so that his position was sometimes extremely difficult. In February 1421 he petitioned home for supplies of grain to be sent from Bristol and for relief from paying customs duties on such shipments, but the Council stipulated that the wheat was to be his own, and denied him exoneration from the subsidies. He returned to England briefly that spring (when the King was there), but sailed back to Aquitaine in June, subsequently besieging and taking Budos. Although this was his final visit to the duchy, Tiptoft’s connexions with Gascony remained close, and he continued to ship Gascon wine (quite likely produced on his own estates in the Bordelais) for the consumption of his household at home, receiving between 1421 and his death no fewer than nine exemptions from customs duties on his shipments.

Tiptoft was once more back in England by February 1422, when he secured royal permission for his second marriage to proceed because of his ‘good service as seneschal of Aquitaine’ But he made one more trip to France before the end of the reign, personally visiting Henry V there to deliver to him 1,000 marks in cash from the Exchequer and to discuss with him ‘certain business and special matters’ Meanwhile, before July 1421 Sir John had contracted to marry Joyce Charlton. The marriage had two important consequences, for it cemented his relationship with some of the most distinguished members of the nobility, and brought considerable additions to his landed estate. Joyce’s mother, Eleanor, had been a niece of Richard II and sister (and coheir in her issue) of Edmund Holand, earl of Kent. The other coheirs to the earldom were Joyce’s aunts: Margaret (widow of John Beaufort, earl of Somerset, and of Thomas, duke of Clarence), Joan (widow of Edmund of Langley, duke of York, and of Henry, Lord Scrope of Masham), Elizabeth (wife of the heir to the earldom of Westmorland), and another Eleanor, the countess of Salisbury. As a consequence of her mother’s first marriage, to Roger Mortimer, 4th earl of March, Joyce was half-sister to Edmund, earl of March, and to Anne, wife of Richard, earl of Cambridge and mother of Richard, duke of York. Her elder sister of the whole blood, Joan, had married Sir John Grey KG, count of Tancarville, and when their half-brother the earl of March died without issue in 1425 Joyce became one of his coheirs in their mother’s portion of the Holand estates, the others being her nephew Henry Grey, count of Tancarville, and the duke of York, both of whom were then still minors. Subsequent partitions of the Holand estates made on the deaths of the earl of March’s widow (in 1432), Joyce’s aunt Joan (in 1434) and the widow of Thomas, earl of Kent, Joyce’s uncle (in 1442) all resulted in further acquisitions for the Tiptofts. In addition, Joyce was coheir with her sister to the estates in Shropshire and elsewhere of their father Edward, Lord Charlton, who had died in March 1421. The sister, Joan Grey, took the lordship of Powis as part of her share, and although Tiptoft later called himself Lord Tiptoft ‘and of Powis’ he was never summoned to Parliament by the latter title, which descended to Joan’s representatives, the Greys. Not content with these estates, now added to the Gournay acres and the property inherited from his own parents, Tiptoft made purchases of even more lands, most notably in Cambridgeshire. It is not surprising, therefore, that when, in 1436, annual incomes were made subject to a tax, he was one of the small group of peers found to have a taxable revenue in excess of £1,000. His precise income is difficult to ascertain in the absence of receivers’ accounts for his estates, but what can be certain is that the sum of £1,098 then declared was a figure which failed to take note of his lands in Wales and the marches.

Henry V’s premature death brought Tiptoft back from France and placed him once more in a position of considerable authority at home. During the first Parliament of Henry VI’s reign he was appointed as a member of the newly constituted Council. His salary, as a ‘banneret’ was to be £100 a year, and he was destined to remain a councillor throughout Henry’s minority and beyond, that is for the last 20 years of his life. In the ten years after 1422 Tiptoft was conspicuous among the councillors for the regularity of his attendance at meetings, being especially assiduous in those duties for which good administrators were necessary. Indeed, he was usually one of the small group of eight to ten men taking the executive decisions of government. He was now, of course, extremely well placed to enjoy the fruits of royal patronage authorized by the Council of the minority. Not that Henry V’s last years had been lean ones for him: in 1419 he had invested in a wardship for £300, and in 1422 he had paid 400 marks for another, no doubt making a profit on both transactions. Now, himself a member of the decision-making body, he not only secured the renewal of his annuities but also the wardship and marriage of Edmund†, the grandson and heir of Sir John Ingoldisthorpe* (he was granted £10 a year for the sustenance of the boy, who later became heir to his other grandfather, Sir Walter de la Pole*, and married him to his daughter, Joan). Then, in 1431, he paid £800 for the wardship and marriage of the heir of Thomas, Lord Roos of Helmsley, a grandson of the earl of Warwick, again turning this to his financial advantage, for he received £40 p.a. from the Exchequer for the youth’s upkeep, and made sure that he married his eldest daughter, Philippa. Other profitable items were the custody of the Hankford estates (1431), the farm of the lordship of Abergavenny (1435) and control of the manorial holdings of the alien priory of Linton (from 1437 to 1439). In 1425 Tiptoft’s colleagues appointed him chief steward of the Welsh possessions late of his wife’s half-brother, the earl of March. Among other benefits of his position was the opportunity to obtain preferential treatment at the Exchequer: on 6 Mar. 1423 he had been present at a council meeting which authorized the Exchequer to account with him for his term as seneschal of Aquitaine on the basis of a sworn declaration on his part, and in December 1426 he was regranted the lordship of Lesparre, along with the hospicium of Castas, together valued at £375 a year, until the debt of 7,000 marks owing for his services as seneschal should have been paid off. Besides the normal business of administration other tasks fell to him as a councillor: in February 1423 he had been preparing to go on embassy to the General Council of the Church summoned to meet at Pavia; later that year he was one of those appointed to arbitrate between the earl of Warwick and Lord Berkeley in their dispute over the Berkeley estates, and early in December 1424 he was sent to France to see the Regent, John, duke of Bedford, ‘on certain special matters moving the King and Council’ (no doubt to do with the duke of Gloucester’s activities in the Netherlands which threatened the Anglo-Burgundian alliance). Along with his fellow councillors he helped tide the government over pressing financial needs by advancing loans to the Crown, and in return for one such loan of 250 marks he was given a share in the right to dispose of the earl of Oxford’s marriage. As a member of the Council, Tiptoft was present in the Parliament of 1425, there lending his voice to the Lords’ debate to end the controversy over precedence between the Earl Marshal and the earl of Warwick, but it was as a peer in his own right that he was summoned to the Parliament which met at Leicester in February 1426. Tiptoft’s elevation to the peerage at this time suggests that he had expressed sympathy for the policies of Bedford and Bishop Beaufort, then in the ascendancy over Gloucester, and this is further indicated by his appointment later that year as steward of the Household, when the previous occupant, Sir Walter (now Lord) Hungerford*, became treasurer. From May to July 1427 Tiptoft was absent from England on an embassy to the dukes of Bedford and Burgundy, the business in hand being mainly the ‘materia ducisse Hollandie’ (Jacqueline of Hainault, Gloucester’s wife). The Council asserted its dominance over the Protector (Gloucester) in the Parliament of 1427-8, and Tiptoft subscribed the declaration of the duke’s constitutional position made by the Lords on 3 Mar. 1428. He was evidently well able to take an independent line of argument at council meetings: for instance, he wrote ‘nolens volo’ against his signature on a petition presented later that year. Changes were made in the administration both in 1429, when Henry VI was crowned, and in 1430 when he proposed to go to France. On the latter occasion the Council was divided into two parts, Tiptoft himself, as steward of the Household, being naturally one of those chosen to travel abroad with the King. He entered into a contract to serve abroad for one year, with 35 men-at-arms and 105 archers, and for his attendance on the Council in France he later received a reward of £100 as well as, expressly to cover his expenses in returning to England at various times to communicate with his colleagues at home, further sums of £100 and 20 marks.

Tiptoft’s journey back to England in December 1430 was, significantly, made in Cardinal Beaufort’s train, and he kept Christmas with the cardinal in the priory of Christ Church, Canterbury (where he had been received into the confraternity long before, in 1412). During the Parliament of 1431 he successfully presented a petition asking for consideration of the agreement he had made with Henry V regarding the latter’s purchase of the reversion of the Gournay estates, thereby obtaining an additional 120 marks at the Exchequer; and he and his wife and the other coheirs of the Holand estates petitioned for a judicial hearing against Eleanor, wife of James, Lord Audley, who by pretending to be the legitimate daughter of Edmund, earl of Kent, threatened to deprive them of their inheritance. It was during this Parliament, too, that he acted as a mediator in disputes arising over the payment of the wages of the knights of the shire for Cambridgeshire. In March 1431 Tiptoft looked to the Exchequer for an advance for his next half year of service in France and received by conciliar agreement on 23 Apr. the sum of £160 for himself and his retinue. He sailed for France in May, was made governor of Marck near Calais in the following September, and probably attended Henry VI’s coronation in Paris on 16 Dec., returning home with the King in February 1432. Their arrival at Westminster found Gloucester staging a coup d’état directed against Beaufort and his supporters, of whom Tiptoft must be regarded as one. He was promptly displaced from the stewardship of the Household, and for some time his appearances in Council became infrequent. Nevertheless, he continued to receive his salary of £100 p.a., to make loans to the government (for example £200 in 1434, £100 in 1435 and 250 marks in 1437—the last on the understanding that he would be supplied with sound Exchequer assignments for all crown debts due to him), and to carry weight at council meetings. When, for instance, in 1432 the duke of Bedford asked to be granted the castle and barony of Lesparre, Tiptoft’s claims were accorded priority. On 12 Nov. 1434 he was party at Cirencester to the protest of the body of councillors to Henry VI that he was inclined to overlook their advice and was susceptible to ‘sturinges or motions maad to him apart in thinges of greet weight and substance’.

Tiptoft took part, with a retinue of 16 men-at-arms and 69 archers, in the expedition sent under Gloucester in June 1436 to prevent Calais from falling into the hands of the duke of Burgundy, and it seems likely that he was still governor of the nearby castle of Marck, which was also under threat. Later that year he was involved in negotiations in London with delegates from Prussia and the Hanseatic League which resulted in a commercial treaty eventually signed in May 1437. Constitutional arrangements made at the great council of November following marked Henry VI’s formal assumption of control over the composition of his council, and the loss by this body of its supreme authority. Even so, Tiptoft was one of the ‘prive counseill’ then selected by the King to advise him during his majority, and although the change resulted in a reduction of his annual salary by a third, from £100 to 100 marks, he was one of only 12 men to receive salaries as councillors at this time, and his, now to be paid from the issues of the manor of Bassingbourne and the bailiwick of Babraham (Cambridgeshire), instead of directly by the Exchequer, was granted expressly notwithstanding his continued enjoyment of old annuities. Furthermore, it was to be paid him for life even though he might fall into ‘suche unweldenesse or impotence that he shal not mowe entende unto the Kynges said Counseil’ Tiptoft’s faculties clearly remained unimpaired for a few years more, however, as his further diplomatic assignments attest. In 1438 he successfully petitioned the King for discharge regarding a process in the Exchequer against him and his wife, as coheirs to the earl of Kent, for as much as £1,215 owing as arrears of a farm granted to the earl’s ancestor. The other heirs had obtained pardons for their share by authority of the Parliament of the previous year, and Tiptoft, who had been unwilling to do likewise in case his claim to certain still outstanding wages of war should be prejudiced, had found himself liable for the whole sum. For many years he had been the dominant figure in the community of Cambridgeshire, but this position was now challenged by Sir James Butler, the heir to the earldom of Ormond, who disputed his possession of local estates pertaining to the honour of Richmond (owed to his continuing influence at Court and alliance with Cardinal Beaufort). The ambitious young man determined to secure the return of two of his friends as knights of the shire to the Parliament of 1439, by overwhelming the electors assembled at Cambridge castle with his large body of supporters. According to a partisan report of the affair sent to Beaufort, Tiptoft himself played a morally superior role throughout, valiantly seeking to preserve order, as was his duty as a j.p., and all the while ‘supportyng and comfortyng the commones to make free eleccion’ He backed the sheriff, Gilbert Hore† when he asserted that as Butler and his followers were not resident in the county they were ineligible to vote, and concurred in his opinion that the election could not proceed. No mention was made of the part which Tiptoft’s own men must have played in the riotous affray, clearly because they were worsted: a second election, held by Hore’s successor, resulted in the return of two of Butler’s allies. Naturally, Tiptoft was not inclined to let the matter rest. On 20 Jan. 1440, while the Parliament was in session, he had Sir James ordered under pain of a fine of £2,000 to appear before the King to answer charges that his servants had lately assaulted Lord John’s in Cambridge. But there were two sides to the quarrel. In the defence the younger man presented to the Council, he stated that if he were to expound on all the wrongs done by Tiptoft to the men of Cambridgeshire ‘he sholde make to longe a boke’ 7 By then Tiptoft was putting in fewer appearances at meetings of the Council, and his last recorded attendances fell between 21 and 24 Aug. 1442, when he came to Sheen to hear of business with the Emperor Sigismund and a declaration about the situation in Guienne. Even though, in agreeing to advance £100 for the proposed military expedition there he no doubt had some personal concerns in mind (for he was still in possession of estates in the Bordelais and technically still holding the stewardship of the Landes), it is arguable that right up to his death he continued to serve the interests of the dynasty with which his own advancement had been so intimately linked.

In the course of his life Tiptoft had come into close contact with many of the outstanding figures of his day, in particular with fellow members of the Council. He acted as a feoffee for Lord Hungerford (and helped him raise money for his son’s ransom), for Ralph, Lord Cromwell, and for Edmund, earl of March. Philippa, the dowager duchess of York, asked him to be a trustee of her estates and overseer of her will, and he took on the executorship of the wills of Bishop Morgan of Ely and Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick. Among his acquaintances was Dr. Adam Moleyns, in all but name the King’s secretary, whom he presented to the rectory of Cory Malet. Tiptoft’s own feoffees included Archbishop Kemp, Bishop Alnwick and the Lords Hungerford and Cromwell, and he arranged the marriage of his third daughter, Joyce, to the eldest son of another royal councillor, John, Lord Dudley. Lord John apparently employed his leisure in composing the commonplace book of English history now known as ‘Tiptoft’s Chronicle’ which provides evidence of a literary habit of mind and an interest in past and contemporary affairs, attributes which, no doubt, he transmitted to his son, John, afterwards earl of Worcester, who became a polished humanist and discriminating patron of letters. The last pages of the chronicle deal with the troubles of Henry IV in Wales and the later triangular relationships between England, France and Burgundy, matters which Tiptoft was pre-eminently qualified to discuss.8

Gloucester had evidently been expecting Tiptoft’s early demise in July 1437, when he secured the reversion of the forestership of Weybridge and Sapley, but he lived on until January 1443. The inquisitions post mortem conducted in the counties where he held estates give different dates of death: 30 or 31 Jan., or 1 Feb., but the most likely is 30 Jan.9 Tiptoft had made provision for a foundation of a chantry for the souls of himself and his wives in Ely cathedral, and it was probably there that he was buried. His advowson of the priory of Spinney was shortly afterwards (presumably in accordance with his wishes) absorbed by the cathedral authorities. Despite his position at the centre of government, he had been unable to obtain full payment at the Exchequer for his wages of war (in 1440 he was still owed over £430 for the expedition of ten years earlier), but in 1452 the administrators of his will (which has not survived) were allowed by the King certain sums owing to his estate for wines bought by the Household and for other outstanding items, in consideration of ‘the good and trewe service that he did unto us all the termes of his lyf’10 On Tiptoft’s death the Gournay estates reverted to the Crown and were granted to Cardinal Beaufort’s nephew, Edmund, marquess of Dorset. Beaufort himself briefly enjoyed the issues of the rest of the Tiptoft estates during the minority of Lord John’s son and heir, but after the death of Tiptoft’s widow in 1446 the wardship and marriage of the latter were granted to Henry VI’s collegiate foundations at Eton and Cambridge. How far in importance, social and political, the first Lord Tiptoft had brought his family was soon made clear in the career of the second. He married Cecily, daughter of Richard, earl of Salisbury, and widow of Henry Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, and having barely attained his majority was created earl of Worcester in 1449.

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

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


For a more detailed account of Tiptoft’s career, and all source material, unless otherwise indicated, see J.S. Roskell, Parl. and Pol. in Late Med. Eng. iii. 107-50, and Speakers, 147-9, 367-8.

  • 1. C138/27/40.
  • 2. Rot. Norm. ed. Hardy, 359.
  • 3. Feudal Aids, vi. 406, 411, 438, 464, 486, 504, 534; C138/27/40.
  • 4. Reg. Chichele, ii. 16.
  • 5. E364/51 mm. A, C.
  • 6. C64/12 m. 41.
  • 7. Bull. IHR, xlvi. 96-101.
  • 8. J. Mitchell, John Tiptoft, 9-10.
  • 9. C139/110/45; SC6/974/9. Roskell follows CPR, 1441-6, p. 171 in giving 24 Jan.
  • 10. E404/69/76-77.