The Soldier in Later Medieval England
BROTHERS IN ARMS: THE GENTRY IN SIR WILLIAM TRUSSELL’S RETINUE, 1378
When Richard II inherited the crown in June 1377, England’s enemies were gathering. The French and Castilians flitted across the Channel throughout the summer, raiding the south coast at will. So, in January 1378, the king’s ministers devised an ambitious plan to recover control of the Channel by capturing a chain of fortresses along the French coast and creating a first line of defence in France itself.
The primary aim of the so-called ‘barbican policy’ was to protect England. ‘Gascony and the other strong places which our lord the king had overseas are and ought to be like barbicans to the kingdom of England, and if the barbicans are well guarded, and the sea safeguarded, the kingdom shall find itself well enough secure,’ Sir Richard Scrope, steward of the royal household, told the Commons. But the fortresses also provided bases from which to ‘harass [the king’s] adversaries’.
The original idea was to adopt a two-stage approach. During the initial phase of the campaign a small force, led by Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, would attack the French fleet’s home ports in Normandy. It would then return to England and join the rest of the army that had been raised. In mid-April 1378 the second phase would commence, with a much larger force of 5,000 soldiers and 5,000 sailors setting off from the Solent on a ‘great expedition’ to be headed by John of Gaunt.
However, things soon went awry. By late March 1378 the men assigned to Arundel had been mobilised and the ships that had been requisitioned to carry them were ready. But on 1 June 1378, when the king’s ministers convened at Westminster, the earl’s fleet was still lying idle. Gaunt’s expedition had been delayed by a shortage of vessels. Arundel was therefore ordered to launch an immediate attack on the French fleet and then to seize Cherbourg, while Gaunt was instructed to redirect his efforts. Rather than landing at Brest and leading a chevauchée, he was to capture the port of St Malo, an operation that would require fewer horses and thus fewer ships.
Among the troops under Arundel’s command was Sir William Trussell of Kibblestone, in Staffordshire, who also held the manor of Sheriffhales, in Shropshire, as the earl’s military tenant. Trussell was a seasoned soldier; he had served in the standing force in Gascony in 1368 and had enlisted in the Black Prince’s retinue in May 1369, when Charles V, king of France, repudiated the Treaty of Brétigny, triggering the resumption of the Hundred Years War. On 22 March 1378 Trussell was granted letters of protection to serve ‘on the sea’ as one of Arundel’s retinue captains.
Trussell had brought thirty-seven archers with him. He had also persuaded some of his fellow gentry to sign up. Between 11 and 24 March 1378, fifteen men – thirteen of whom can be identified – received judicial protection to join his retinue (see Table 1). Unfortunately, it is impossible to verify whether they saw action, since letters of protection are only evidence of an intention to serve, as distinct from proof that a man did serve, and the relevant muster roll has deteriorated so badly that parts of it are illegible. Nevertheless, the individuals concerned provide a valuable insight into how the medieval English gentry were recruited, and their subsequent fortunes suggest that some of them did indeed take part in the campaign.
Table 1: The gentry who received letters of protection to join Sir William Trussell’s retinue
Source: The Soldier in Later Medieval England database, TNA, C76/62, m. 17.
One of the first men to volunteer was Geoffrey Boydell, lord of the manor of Standon, six miles west of Kibblestone. Geoffrey came from a long line of Cheshire gentry, but he had moved to Standon when he married his third cousin, Joan, the daughter and co-heiress of Vivian Standon. However, Geoffrey and Trussell were not only near neighbours, they were also distantly connected through marriage. Joan Standon was the granddaughter of Alice Swynnerton, whose third cousin twice removed, John Hastang of Chebsey, had married Trussell’s first cousin, Maud.
Geoffrey was another veteran. He had fought in Poitou under Sir James Audley in 1369 – an experience that would later earn him a role in the famous heraldic dispute between Sir Robert Grosvenor and Sir Richard Scrope. As Geoffrey’s testimony shows, he had served in the force that relieved the beleagured English enclave of Le Blanc and assaulted Le Soudun. He had also participated in a punitive strike on La Brosse, the stronghold of the Poitevin renegade Guy de Chauvigny, and the siege of La Roche-sur-Yon, the fortress belonging to the duke of Anjou.
Sir William Carrington and his son Thomas
Sir William Carrington, lord of Carrington, in Cheshire, and his son Thomas received letters of protection on the same day as Geoffrey. They, too, were related to Trussell by marriage. Sir William Carrington’s mother was Cicely Hyde of Urmston, in Lancashire. Cicely’s grandfather, Sir John Hyde of Norbury, had married twice and his second wife, Alice, was the sister of Ida Boteler, who had married Trussell’s uncle, Sir William Trussell of Kibblestone (d. 1363).
Sir William Carrington had, similarly, fought in the French wars. In fact, he had served directly under the Black Prince in 1369, as Trussell had done. Thomas Carrington had subsequently participated in a mission to reinstate the exiled Jean de Montfort, duke of Brittany, in November 1374 – although the offensive had been abandoned, when the English reached a truce with the French. Father and son had also received letters of protection in September 1377 to go abroad on the king’s service in the retinue of Thomas of Woodstock, earl of Buckingham and constable of England.
A second wave of volunteers received letters of protection on 21 March 1378. By then, Geoffrey had clearly convinced his kinsman William Boydell to enlist. William’s father, Hywel ap Owain Voil, had inherited half of the Boydell family’s ancestral estates through his mother, Margaret Boydell. They had been greatly depleted during Hywel’s minority. However, William retained the manor of Handley, as well as lands in Dodleston, where the castle belonging to his forefathers still stood.
William and Geoffrey were third cousins once removed, but the two men were close in age and enjoyed a warm friendship. So much so that when four burgages in Frodsham reverted to William under a grant made by his great-uncle, shortly after he had inherited his father’s remaining lands, he gave the properties to Geoffrey.
William, in turn, urged John Poole of Poole in the Wirral to enrol. Poole had married Alice, one of the two daughters and co-heirs of Adam Buerton, lord of Buerton, near Audlem, while William had married her sister, Elizabeth. Although Elizabeth was dead by 1378, William had stayed on good terms with his former brother-in-law.
William Hooton and Thomas Hough
It was probably Poole who then passed word of the campaign to William Hooton of Hooton and Thomas Hough of Leighton and Thornton Hough, both of whom held lands near his own estate in the Wirral. Hooton was distantly related to the Boydells; William Boydell’s aunt, Matilda Lymm, had married Hooton’s kinsman, William Tranmere. Meanwhile, Hough was related to Poole via his great-aunt Joan, who had married Thomas Capenhurst. Their daughter Isabelle was Poole’s mother. However, Hough had a direct connection with the Trussell family himself; his wife Katherine was the widow of Trussell’s first cousin, John Trussell of Acton Trussell.
Both Hooton and Hough had volunteered for previous campaigns. Hooton had received judicial protection to go to Brittany in the retinue of John, Lord Neville, in June 1372 and to serve at sea under John, Lord Cobham, during the turbulent autumn of 1377. But whether Hooton ever went to Brittany is questionable. When Neville was impeached in June 1376, the charges included an allegation that his retinue had sailed greatly under strength, and Neville himself claimed that he had only contracted to serve with 100 men-at-arms – not the 299 he had actually undertaken to bring.
Hough had likewise enrolled in the retinue of the illustrious Sir Hugh Calveley in June 1373, when John of Gaunt was planning to invade France. He had been fortunate to survive. In August 1373 Gaunt led a force of about 9,000 men out of Calais on a chevauchée. By the time the army reached Bordeaux, it was starving. More than half of the 30,000 horses with which Gaunt had set off were dead and many of the troops, forced to march on foot, had discarded their armour. Hundreds more had expired en route, succumbing to injury or disease or slain in skirmishes with the French.
Jeuan Voil of Malpas
The Boydells may also have been responsible for recruiting Jeuan Voil of Malpas, although here the evidence is tenuous. Voil is a byname as well as a surname (deriving from the Welsh for bald). Moreover, there are two places called Malpas (in Monmouthshire and Cheshire, respectively). Both factors make it difficult to identify Voil with complete certainty. But, given the strong Cheshire contingent in Trussell’s retinue, he was probably the same Jevan (sic) Voil of Larkton, near Malpas in Cheshire, who stood surety for James Bridgemere in May 1379, when Bridgemere purchased the wardship of William Wettenhall of Cholmondeston.
Larkton was a tiny manor just five miles south of Handley (where William Boydell lived) and had been much subdivided by the fourteenth century. So, like many a minor Cheshire landholder, Voil presumably hoped to supplement his income with the shilling a day a man-at-arms earned. However, he may also have been related to the Boydells through William’s grandfather, Owain Voil.
Thomas Touchet, lord of Buglawton and Lower Whitley, had no obvious kinship links with Sir William Trussell or with any of the other Cheshire gentry in Trussell’s retinue, but he must have known Trussell quite well. Buglawton lay twelve miles east of the manor of Warmingham, which the Trussells of Kibblestone had acquired in 1307-8, when Trussell’s grandfather married the heiress Maud Mainwaring. In 1356, as a very young man, Touchet had also served in Brittany with Trussell’s great-uncle, Sir Theobald Trussell. Friendship may therefore have fuelled his decision to join.
John Harding likewise held lands near Warmingham, as his subsequent military career indicates. In June 1380 Harding joined Sir Hugh Calveley’s retinue. In 1387-8 he served under Arundel again. And in 1398 he was a member of Richard II’s infamous Cheshire bodyguard. Two years later, Harding took up arms once more when Henry IV led an abortive expedition into Scotland. These records show that he was John Harding of Twemlow, a Cheshire landholder with a modest estate that encompassed parts of Blackden, Goostrey and Kermincham.
John Longford I and II
While news of the campaign was spreading through Cheshire, Sir William Trussell was simultaneously mining his contacts in Shropshire. On 14 March 1378 John Longford, esquire, of Shropshire received letters of protection to serve in Trussell’s retinue. A week later another John Longford joined the list.
There was a small manor called Longford in Shropshire, four miles northwest of Trussell’s lands in Sheriffhales, so the Longfords may have originated in the vicinity. But it is more likely that they were relatives of Alice Boteler’s first husband, Sir Nicholas Longford, lord of Longford, in Derbyshire.
A cadet line of the Longfords appears to have settled in Shropshire. In 1377 Henry Longford and his brother John witnessed a deed on behalf of Sir John Hopton. Ten years later Hopton granted Henry’s son, also called John, the manors of Great Harborough, Fulbrook, Pailton and Wodecote, in trust. In the meantime, however, John Longford junior had fallen foul of the law; in July 1377 he had killed a man, and the pardon he received in 1379 shows that he lived in Fitz, near Shrewsbury.
Hopton held half of the manor of Fitz. More pertinently, he was Alice Boteler’s half-nephew. Hopton was the grandson of Ela Herdebergh by her first husband, Walter Hopton, while Alice was Ela’s daughter by her second husband, William Boteler of Wem and Oversley. Thus the Longfords of Fitz were probably an offshoot of the Derbyshire Longfords, the two Johns being Henry’s brother and son, respectively.
John Longford II may have joined Trussell’s retinue to delay being prosecuted for homicide, since judicial protection meant than a man could not be sued while he was serving the crown overseas. Thomas Horde, another Shropshire man, was certainly on the run. Horde owned a small estate in Northwood and Newton. But he was both ambitious and unscrupulous; in 1371 he was indicted for abducting Juliana Rous, a wealthy minor in royal wardship.
According to one account, Horde surrendered and pleaded innocent but fled before the next court session took place – fearing that he wouldn’t receive a fair hearing, since Juliana’s guardian, Sir Robert Kendale, was presiding over the inquiry as sheriff of Shropshire. An alternative account suggests that he was arrested, admitted his guilt and was incarcerated in the Fleet prison but escaped.
In either event, Horde was outlawed and his lands were forfeited. However, although he succeeded in evading capture, the case resurfaced in 1378, when Roger Sapperton, the Fleet prison’s former warden, petitioned the king. Horde’s flight had cost Sapperton his job and he now hoped to be reinstated. Another eight years would elapse before Horde himself was finally pardoned for ‘ravishing’ Juliana, robbing her of a primer, stealing a horse from Kendale and breaking out of gaol. So in the spring of 1378 he had every reason to make himself scarce.
To sum up, six of the thirteen men-at-arms whom Sir William Trussell recruited for the St Malo campaign and whose identities can be traced were related to Trussell by blood or by marriage. Four (possibly five) were also, or alternatively, related to other members of his retinue (see Table 2). Family ties, therefore, help to explain the presence of more than two-thirds of the known gentry who joined Trussell’s posse.
Table 2: The characteristics of the gentry Sir William Trussell recruited
Two recruits had serious criminal charges hanging over their heads. Ironically, both would end up making – rather than breaking – the law. John Longford junior would serve as MP for Shropshire in 1395, while Horde would act as MP for Bridgnorth in 1391 and 1399. Another six recruits had prior military experience, which must have made them particularly valuable additions to Trussell’s retinue. And seven would later serve again with one or more of their former brothers in arms (see Table 3).
Table 3: Other campaigns in which two or more members of Trussell’s retinue enlisted
Source: The Soldier in Later Medieval England database
Indeed, six men enlisted for a second time only two years afterwards. Thomas Carrington, Harding, Poole and Touchet signed up to serve under Sir Hugh Calveley during Thomas of Woodstock’s expedition to France to aid the duke of Brittany. Horde and one or other of the Longfords likewise received judicial protection to serve directly under Woodstock. That so many members of Trussell’s former retinue chose to fight together again is remarkable, particularly because the St Malo campaign itself was an abject failure. Gaunt’s ‘great expedition’ would prove a great fiasco.
Moreover, the opportunities to win war booty had dwindled markedly since the 1340s and 1350s. Yet a brave – and fortunate – soldier could still prosper. By the summer of 1380, when they next feature in the military records, Thomas Carrington and John Poole had been knighted. Meanwhile, Longford had been pardoned at the request of Richard’s half-brother, Sir John Holland, who had served directly under Gaunt at St Malo. The elevation of the first two men, and rehabilitation of the third, suggests that all three actually participated in the campaign and were rewarded for their service.
So perhaps the gentry from Trussell’s retinue who later joined Thomas of Woodstock’s army sought adventure and advancement. Perhaps, too, they enrolled together because they had learned to trust each other in the thick of battle. If war brought rewards, it also carried risks – and one of the men who volunteered for the St Malo campaign had apparently paid the ultimate price. William Boydell was about twenty-six years old when he set off for France and could reasonably have been expected to live for many more years. Yet he died in mid-September 1378, two weeks after Gaunt reluctantly started shipping his troops home. Reading between the lines, it seems likely that William succumbed to wounds incurred while fighting for king and country.
Helen Kay is the author of The 1066 Norman Bruisers (Pen & Sword, 2020). Her book explores medieval life through the lens of one family – the Boydells of Dodleston Castle – and shows how a bunch of Norman thugs became the quintessentially English gentry.
 J. Sumption, Divided Houses: The Hundred Years War III (London, 2009), pp. 304-5.
 C. Given-Wilson et al., ed., ‘Richard II: October 1378’, in Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, (Woodbridge, 2005), No. 25.
 Sumption, Divided Houses, pp. 314-6; A. Bell, War and the Soldier in the Fourteenth Century (Woodbridge, 2004), p. 16.
 Sumption, Divided Houses, pp. 316-23.
 Trussell’s great-grandmother, Rose, who brought Kibblestone to the family, also held Sheriffhales from the earls of Arundel by knight’s fee; see J.E.E.S. Sharp and A.E. Stamp, ed., Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem: Vol. 3, 20-28 Edward I (London, 1912), No. 172.
 Soldier in Later Medieval England database (hereafter SLME), TNA, E101/29/24, m. 1 and C61/82, m. 8.
 SLME, TNA, C76/62, m. 17.
 SLME, TNA, E101/36/32, m. 11.
 SLME, TNA, C76/62, m. 17. The campaign was delayed and a sixteenth man, Richard Elyng (whom I have been unable to trace), received a letter of protection on 24 May 1378.
 Bell, War and the Soldier in the Fourteenth Century, p. 17.
 For proof of Geoffrey Boydell’s marriage to Joan Standon, see J. Kirby and J.H. Stevenson, ed., Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem: Vol 21, 6-10 Henry V (Woodbridge, 2002), No. 523.
 Joan’s father, Vivian, was the son of Vivian Standon (d. 1318) and his wife Alice. In a grant of lands dated 1345 Nicholas Swynnerton, parson of Mucklestone, explicitly described Vivian junior as his ‘kinsman’; William Salt Library M9/16 and M9/17. Nicholas was a younger son of Sir Roger Swynnerton and Joan, daughter of Sir Robert Hastang of Chebsey. Alice (a recurring name in the Swynnerton family) was almost certainly Nicholas’s sister. Sir Robert Hastang’s great-great-grandson, John, married Maud Trussell c.1357. For details of the Swynnertons, see G.T.O. Bridgeman, ‘A History of the Family of Swynnerton of Swynnerton’, Staffordshire Historical Collections, Vol. 7 (1886), Part 2. For John Hastang’s marriage to Maud Trussell, see R. Glover et al., The Visitation of Cheshire in the Year 1580 (London, 1882), pp. 225-6.
 N.H. Nicolas, ed., The Scrope and Grosvenor Controversy, Vol. 1 (London, 1832), p. 275. For a discussion of these events, see Sumption, Divided Houses, pp. 29-31.
 G. Ormerod, The History of the County Palatine and City of Chester, Vol. I (Helsby edition, London, 1882), p. 544. (Hereafter Ormerod, History.)
 Ormerod, History, Vol. III, pp. 808 and 810; R. Bevan, ‘A Study of A Medieval Knightly Family: The Longfords of Derbyshire’, Part 1, Foundations, Vol. 1, No. 4 (July 2004), p. 216.
 SLME, TNA, E101/29/24, m. 1d and C61/82, m. 9.
 SLME, TNA, C76/57, m. 10. For details of the campaign, see Sumption, Divided Houses, pp. 181-2, 213-7, 222-3, and 228-38.
 Ormerod, History, Vol. I, p. 543.
 Inspeximus of the inquisition post mortem of William Boydell (d. 1349), ‘Recognizance Rolls of Chester’, Appendix 1, Thirty-Ninth Annual Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records (London, 1878), p. 281. The original version is now completely illegible.
 M.C.B. Dawes, ed., Register of Edward the Black Prince, Vol. 3 (London, 1932), pp. 93-4.
 Inquisition post mortem of William son of Howel ap Oweyn Voil (sic); TNA, CHES 3/8 No. 4.
 William Boydell (d. 1349) gave his cousin, Matilda Hallum, four burgages in Frodsham, with remainders to various people; British Library Add. MS. 6032, f. 30. By 1376 the remaindermen and their heirs were all dead, so the properties reverted to William, son of Hywel, who then ceded his right to them to Geoffrey Boydell; Cheshire Archives and Local Studies DCH/f/94.
 A suit for dower in 1369-70 shows that Adam Buerton’s co-heirs were Alice, wife of John Poole, and Elizabeth, wife of William Boydell; ‘Welsh Records: Calendar of Deeds, Inquisitions and Writs of Dower’, Appendix 6, Twenty-Eighth Annual Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records (London, 1867), p. 66.
 In 1395 Thomas Boydell (William’s son), William Tranmere and John Tyldesley sued to recover lands in Lymm. The case shows that Thomas was the grandson of Joan Lymm, while William and John were the sons of her sisters, Matilda and Emma; G. Wrottesley,Pedigrees from the Plea Rolls (London, 1905), p. 198. The Tranmeres and Hootons both descended from Ralph de Hooton (al. Walensis); Ormerod, History, Vol. II, pp. 410, 452 and 456.
 For evidence of the relationship between the Capenhurst, Hough and Poole families, see Harl. MS. 1424, p. 119 and Ormerod, History, Vol. II, pp. 552 and 569. Isabelle, widow of Robert Poole, was still alive in 1402; Rylands Charter RYCH/1379.
 In 1368 Sir William Trussell sued Thomas and Katherine Hough for the manor of Blaken. Thomas and Katherine claimed that William, son of William Trussell of Acton [Trussell], had settled Blaken on his son John and Katherine, as John’s wife, for life. After John’s death, Katherine had married Hough but retained her life interest; G. Wrottesley, ed., ‘Extracts from the Chester Plea Rolls’, Staffordshire Historical Collections, Vol. 16 (1895), p. 21.
 SLME, TNA, C76/55, m. 34; and TNA, C76/61, m. 28.
 J. Sherborne, ‘Indentured Retinues and English Expeditions to France’, in A. Tuck, ed., War, Politics and Culture in Fourteenth-Century England (London, 1994), pp. 8-9.
 SLME, TNA, C76/56, m. 33.
 Sumption, Divided Houses, pp. 187-95.
 ‘Welsh Records’, Appendix II, Thirty-Sixth Annual Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records (London, 1875), p. 57
 Ormerod, History, Vol. III, p. 226.
 G. Wrottesley, ‘An Account of the Military Service performed by Staffordshire Tenants in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries’,Staffordshire Historical Collections, Vol. 8 (1887), pp. 100-01.
 SLME, TNA, E101/39/9, m. 4; E101/40/33, m. 19; E101/40/33, m. 19d; E101/40/34, m. 6; E101/40/34, m. 12; E101/41/5, m. 6; E101/41/5, m. 17d; E101/42/10, m. 1; E101/42/29, m. 1.
 Ormerod, History, Vol. III, p. 136.
 Bevan, ‘The Longfords of Derbyshire’, p. 216.
 R. LL. Kenyon, ‘Manor of Sanford and Woolston’, Transactions of the Shropshire and Archaeological and Natural History Society, 3rd series, Vol. 4 (1904), p. 304.
 J.Y.W. Lloyd, History of the Princes, the Lords Marcher and the Ancient Nobility of Powys Fadog, Vol. 3 (1882), p. 208. The Hopton family retained an interest in Great Harborough until 1461, so the grant probably formed part of an entail.
 Calendar of Patent Rolls (CPR), 1377-81, p. 405.
 R. LL. Kenyon, Manor of Sanford and Woolston’, p. 304.
 For details of Ela Herdebergh’s marriages and the ownership of the manor of Great Harborough, see L.F. Salzman, ed., ‘Harborough Magna’, A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 6, Knightlow Hundred (London, 1951), p. 100.
 CPR, 1370-74, p. 68; Calendar of Close Rolls (CCR), 1369-74, p. 507.
 G. Wrottesley, ed., ‘Extracts from the Coram Rege Rolls, 1327-1383’, Staffordshire Historical Collections, Vol. 14 (1893), p. 129.
 CCR, 1377-1381, pp. 67-8.
 CCR, 1369-74, p. 507; CCR, 1374-7, p. 159.
 CCR, 1377-81, pp. 67-8.
 CPR, 1385-89, p. 250.
 J.S. Roskell, L. Clark and C. Rawcliffe, eds., The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1386-1421 (Woodbridge, 1993), pp. 414 and 621.
 Carrington, Harding, Poole and Touchet enlisted between 18 June and 2 July 1380; SLME, TNA, C76/64, m. 9; E101/39/9, m. 4; C76/65, m. 27; and E101/39/9, m. 4. Horde enlisted on 18 June 1380, and Longford on 9 February 1381; C76/64, m. 4 and C76/65, m. 18. In 1398 Harding and Poole also served in Richard II’s bodyguard (as did Thomas Hough’s son, Thomas); TNA, E101/42/10, m. 1 and E101/42/10, m3. Similarly, in 1400 Geoffrey Boydell and Harding took part in Henry IV’s Scottish expedition, albeit under different commanders; E101/42/16, m. 37d and E101/42/29, m. 1.
 SLME, TNA, C76/64, m. 9 and C76/65, m. 27.
 SLME, TNA, E101/36/39, m. 1.
 William Boydell’s inquisition post mortem shows that he died ‘during the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross’ (i.e., 14 September); see TNA, CHES 3/8 No. 4. By then Gaunt had sent some retinues home, probably because of supply problems. In the last week of August 1378 the French started carrying out mounted raids on the English rear, making it far more difficult to forage for food; see Sumption, Divided Houses, p. 327.