29 November, 2020

The Despenser Family of Lincolnshire

To celebrate the publication this week of my book Rise and Fall of a Medieval Family: The Despensers, which tells the dramatic story of the Despenser family from 1261 to 1439, here's a post about a little-known cadet branch of the Despensers in Lincolnshire, about the secret marriage of the heir to this branch of the family, Margery Despenser, to the squire Roger Wentworth, and about the marriage of another Despenser lady to the son of the man who commissioned the Luttrell Psalter.

Hugh Despenser the Elder (b. 1 March 1261) and Isabella Beauchamp (b. c. 1263/65), eldest daughter of the earl of Warwick, had four daughters, Alina, Isabella, Margaret and Elizabeth, and two sons. Their elder son was, of course, the notorious Hugh Despenser the Younger, who was born sometime in the late 1280s, and their younger son was Philip Despenser. Philip was, presumably, named in honour of his father's maternal grandfather Philip, Lord Basset (d. 1271), and was born sometime before 24 June 1294 when Hugh the Elder gave his manors of Alkborough ('Hauctebarg') in northern Lincolnshire and Parlington in Yorkshire, and everything in them, to his second son. Philip was then probably no more than about two years old and perhaps had recently been born, and these two manors belonged to his descendants for generations. [1]

Before 29 June 1308, Philip Despenser married Margaret Goushill of Lincolnshire, who inherited a few manors in that county from her father Ralph (born c. 6 November 1274). [2Margaret's family took their name from the Lincolnshire village of Goxhill, and it was sometimes spelt Gousell, Goushull, Gousle etc. As Philip had been given a manor in Lincolnshire by his father, his marriage to a Lincolnshire heiress made good sense, though there was a stark difference between Philip's marriage and that of his older brother Hugh, their wealthy and influential father's heir, to Edward I's eldest granddaughter. Margaret Goushill was born on 11 or 12 May 1294, and her nineteen-year-old father, whose only child and heir she was, died in August 1294 when she was just three months old. [3] Her mother was Hawise, daughter of Fulk FitzWarin (1251-1315) of Whittington, Shropshire; Hawise outlived her husband Ralph Goushill by half a century, and lived long enough to see at least one and perhaps two of her Despenser great-grandchildren. 

Edward I granted Margaret Goushill's marriage rights to Fulk FitzWarin, her maternal grandfather, in June 1299, and a royal order to hold Margaret's proof of age states that she was born in Whittington, which was Fulk's chief manor. This order was issued on 18 May 1308, shortly after Margaret turned fourteen on 11 or 12 May 1308, but sadly the proof of age itself no longer exists. [4] As she was said to be "of full age" on 18 May 1308, and women came of age at fourteen if married or sixteen or not, Margaret had evidently already married Philip Despenser, and her FitzWarin grandfather, who held the rights to her marriage, must have consented to the match and must have dealt with Hugh Despenser the Elder when arranging it. Edward II ordered the Goushill family's manors in Lincolnshire to be given to the young Despenser/Goushill couple on 29 June 1308 (see note 2 at the foot of this post).

When he married fourteen-year-old Margaret Goushill in c. May 1308, Philip Despenser was himself about fourteen, fifteen or sixteen. I do wish we had more evidence of things like weddings in the early fourteenth century, and where and when exactly the Despenser/Goushill wedding took place. Did Philip's brother Hugh and sister-in-law Eleanor née de Clare attend? And his sisters - Alina, and her husband Edward Burnell; Isabella, who married her second husband Lord Hastings in 1308 or 1309 after she was widowed from Gilbert de Clare of Thomond in November 1307; and the youngest Despenser siblings Margaret and Elizabeth? It's so frustrating when we don't know anything. Almost nothing is known about Philip Despenser as a person either, as he died long before his elder brother's period of power in the 1320s. He was dead by 24 September 1313, aged about nineteen or twenty, when the writ to hold his inquisition post mortem was issued. Philip left an infant son: Philip Despenser II was born on 6 April 1313. [5] Like his wife's father Ralph Goushill in 1294, Philip Despenser I died when his only child was mere months old.

Philip Despenser I's grandfather-in-law Fulk FitzWarin outlived him and didn't die until November 1315, a great-grandfather to the infant Philip Despenser II. The widowed Margaret Despenser née Goushill married her second husband Sir John Ros, a younger son of William, Lord Ros of Helmsley in Yorkshire (d. 1316), before 22 April 1314. [6] They had no children, and John's heir when he died in or shortly before November 1338 was his older brother William, Lord Ros, "aged fifty years and more". [7] John Ros is most famous for being beaten up by Hugh Despenser the Younger, his wife's brother-in-law, at the Lincoln parliament of early 1316. 

Philip Despenser II was thirteen years old when his grandfather Hugh the Elder and uncle Hugh the Younger fell from power in 1326 and were executed. I assume he knew them, but unfortunately we don't have the kind of evidence that would tell us what kind of relationship he had with them and whether he spent much time with his grandfather, who had been made earl of Winchester in 1322. Obviously he was far too young to have played any role in his uncle's despotic regime, and I find it interesting to speculate whether his father Philip Despenser I would have been involved in his elder brother's tyranny, extortions and piracy if he hadn't died so young. 

Philip II married Joan Cobham, daughter of Sir John Cobham, around June 1339. [8] Joan and Philip's first child, Philip Despenser III, was born in Gedney, Lincolnshire on 18 October 1342 ("St Luke's day, 16 Edward III"), and was baptised "at the hour of Vespers". When Philip III proved his age twenty-one years later, four jurors remembered his date of birth because in early August 1342, "there was a great inundation of the sea, which broke the banks of the sea-wall at Gedenay [Gedney]". Philip II, now twenty-nine years old, was at the abbey of Newsham on the day of his son's birth, and received a letter informing him from one William Hode. [9]

In or before June 1344, Margaret Ros née Goushill founded a chantry to celebrate divine service for herself, her mother Hawise, her son Philip Despenser II and her daughter-in-law Joan Cobham when dead, and for the souls of her long-dead father Ralph Goushill and her two late husbands, "Philip son of Hugh le Despenser [the Elder] and John son of William de Roos of Hamelak [Helmsley]". [10] Hawise Goushill née FitzWarin died later that year, and perhaps lived just long enough to see the birth of her namesake great-granddaughter Hawise, second child of Philip Despenser II and Joan Cobham. Hawise Despenser was said to be fourteen years old in mid-February 1359, so was born between February 1344 and February 1345. The third and youngest child of Philip II and Joan was Hugh Despenser, said to be twelve years old in mid-February 1359, so born in or before February 1347. [11] This Hugh may be the "Hugh le Spenser, donsel, of the diocese of Lincoln" who appears on record in April 1357, but otherwise he's obscure and might have died before he reached adulthood. [12]

Philip Despenser II fought in Edward III's Crécy campaign of 1346 with his first cousins Hugh, Gilbert and John Despenser, the three living sons of Hugh Despenser the Younger (Hugh's second son Edward was killed fighting in Brittany in 1342). [13] Philip died on 22 or 23 August 1349 at the age of thirty-six, a few weeks after his mother Margaret Ros née Goushill died on 22 or 29 July 1349 in her mid-fifties. Philip's cousin Hugh 'Huchon' Despenser (b. 1308/09), lord of Glamorgan, also died that year, aged forty, and it may be that all of them were victims of the Black Death. In 1349, the demesne lands of Philip II's manor of Parlington in Yorkshire, which he had inherited from his father and grandfather Hugh the Elder, were "uncultivated for want of tenants and on account of the mortality of men in those parts this year". [14] Joan Despenser née Cobham, widow of Philip II and mother of Philip III, Hawise and Hugh, died before 15 May 1357, and guardians were found for her two younger children in February 1359 (which usefully reveals their ages). [15] Queen Philippa sold Joan the marriage rights of her own seven-year-old son Philip Despenser III in July 1350, and sometime before c. 1364 Philip married a woman named Elizabeth, though sadly her identity and family background are unknown. [16]

Hawise Despenser, only daughter of Philip II and Joan Cobham, and the younger sister of Philip III, married Sir Andrew Luttrell, a Lincolnshire landowner like the Despensers, in September 1363, aged eighteen or nineteen; born in c. 1313, Andrew was about fifty and was the same age as Hawise's father. The wedding took place in a chapel inside Bourne Castle, Lincolnshire, which belonged to the Despensers' cousin Blanche of Lancaster, Lady Wake. [17] Andrew was the son and heir of Sir Geoffrey Luttrell (d. 1345), who commissioned the famous and gorgeous Luttrell Psalter, and Andrew's first wife Beatrice Scrope, with whom he had no children, appears in the Psalter with her father-in-law Geoffrey and mother-in-law Agnes Sutton. Hawise Despenser and Andrew had a son, Andrew Luttrell the younger, probably born in 1364 the year after their wedding. Andrew the elder died in 1390 at the grand old age of about seventy-seven, having appointed "my brother Philip Despenser [III]" as the supervisor of his will. Hawise Despenser, one of the three executors of her husband's will, died in 1414 aged about seventy. She had outlived her son Andrew the younger and her heir was her grandson Geoffrey Luttrell, born on 27 October 1383. [18]

Philip Despenser III, not yet seven years old when his father died in August 1349, proved his age in Spalding, Lincolnshire on 16 November 1363, a few weeks after he presumably attended his sister's wedding to Andrew Luttrell, and received his lands on 1 December. [19] His eldest son and heir Philip Despenser IV was born c. 1365 (he was aged about thirty-six in 1401). Philip III and his wife Elizabeth also had two younger sons, John and Robert Despenser - wonders will never cease! Despenser men who weren't called Hugh or Philip! - and a daughter whom they named Joan after Philip III's mother Joan Cobham, who married Sir James Ros. Philip IV had been knighted by 12 May 1385 when he and Philip III appear as "Philip le Despenser the elder and Philip le Despenser his son, knights". Philip III was also called "Philip le Despenser the elder" in August 1384. [20In April 1383, there are various entries on the Close Roll which show that Philip Despenser III was closely associated with Aline, daughter of the earl of Arundel executed in 1326 and widow of Sir Roger Lestrange of Knockyn (c. 1326-82), regarding the marriage of Aline's daughter Lucy Lestrange and William, eldest son of Robert, Lord Willoughby of Eresby. [21]

Philip Despenser IV married a woman with the same first name as his mother, Elizabeth, though in this case her identity is well-known: she was Elizabeth Tibetot, youngest of the three daughters and co-heirs of Sir Robert Tibetot (d. 1372). Her older sisters Margaret and Millicent married Roger Scrope and Stephen Scrope, and they all received their share of their late father's extensive lands in twelve counties and London in November 1385, having proved their ages. Elizabeth Tibetot, later Despenser, was about two years old when her father's inquisition post mortem was held in May 1372, therefore was born c. 1370; her sister Millicent was born c. 12 April 1368, and Margaret in c. 1366. [22] 

Philip Despenser IV and Elizabeth Tibetot had daughters Margery and Elizabeth, a son inevitably called Philip and apparently a younger son called George, but only Margery survived into adulthood, and was thus the heir of this branch of the Despensers. She was born around 1398 or 1400. [23Her grandfather Philip Despenser III died on 4 August 1401 in his late fifties, and his eldest son and heir, Margery's father Philip IV, was about thirty-six. Philip III mentioned his wife Elizabeth in his will, his three sons Philip, Robert and John, his son-in-law James Ros, and his sister Hawise, Lady Luttrell, who outlived him by thirteen years. [24

Margery Despenser married John, Lord Ros of Helmsley, who was the son and heir of William, Lord Ros (b. c. 1370, d. 1 September 1414), the grandson of the earl of Arundel who died in 1376, and the great-grandson of the first earl of Stafford (d. 1372). John Ros was born c. 1 or 2 October 1396, so was close to Margery's own age. Their marriage was planned as early as 1404 when they were both children, and they received a papal dispensation for consanguinity in September that year (they were "related in the fourth degree of kindred"). [25] John, Lord Ros was killed at the battle of Baugé in France, with Henry V's brother the duke of Clarence, on 22 March 1421. John and Margery had no children, and John's heir was his brother Thomas Ros, who was almost exactly a decade his junior, born at Belvoir Castle on 26 September 1406 and baptised in the church of St Mary, "adorned with cloths of silk and gold, and the font hung with a cloth of gold decorated in red." [26]

Margery Ros née Despenser was pardoned on 25 June 1423, in exchange for an obligation to pay £1,000, for marrying her second husband without royla licence. He was a squire named Roger Wentworth from Yorkshire. [27] As Margery was an heiress of noble birth and Roger was not a knight nor his father's eldest son, it must have been a love-match. Many years later in May 1436, Pope Eugene IV declared that the marriage of "Roger Wentworth, donsel, lord of Parlington in the diocese of York, and Margery, lady of Ros, his wife" was valid and their children legitimate. He stated that the couple had "contracted marriage lawfully per verba de presenti, consummated it and had offspring, but could not have the marriage solemnized before the church after the custom of the country because, being unequal in nobility, they feared that scandals might arise among their kinsmen and friends... they are moved by a scruple of conscience to doubt whether anyone may hesitate as to the validity of the marriage thus contracted." [28] (Parlington, incidentally, was one of the two manors given by Hugh Despenser the Elder to his infant son Philip I, Margery's great-great-grandfather, in 1294.)

Margery and Roger Wentworth's first son, named Philip after his Despenser grandfather, was born c. 1424. Philip Despenser IV died on 20 June 1424, in his late fifties. His wife Elizabeth Tibetot was already dead, and their only surviving child Margery, aged twenty-four or twenty-six, and Roger Wentworth received all their lands. [29] Margery and Roger's elder son Philip Wentworth was beheaded after the battle of Hexham in 1464, where he had fought alongside Thomas, Lord Ros (b. 1427), nephew of his mother's first husband. Philip's son Henry Wentworth, heir to the Lincolnshire Despensers, was born c. 1448, and had a daughter he named Margery after his grandmother, who was born c. 1478. Margery Wentworth, aged about sixteen, married Sir John Seymour of Wolf Hall in 1494; via this marriage, Margery Wentworth née Despenser (b. c. 1398/1400) was the great-great-grandmother of Henry VIII's third queen Jane Seymour. Margery might have lived long enough to see the birth of her namesake great-granddaughter in c. 1478, as she died that year, aged eighty or almost, the last of the Despensers (unless her uncles John and Robert Despenser had descendants). Her younger son and three daughters all had children too.


1) The National Archives E 40/3185.

2) Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1436, p. 275.

3) Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1272-91, no. 607; CIPM 1291-1300, no. 209.

4) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1292-1301, p. 422; CIPM 1336-46, no. 692.

5) CIPM 1307-17, no. 472; Calendar of Fine Rolls 1307-19, p. 179.

6) Calendar of Close Rolls 1313-18, p. 50, "John de Ros and Margaret, late the wife of Philip le Despenser, whom John has now married".

7) CIPM 1336-46, no. 182.

8) CCR 1339-41, p. 223.

9) CIPM 1361-5, no. 544.

10) CPR 1343-5, p. 188.

11) Early Lincoln Wills, ed. Gibbons, p. 23.

12) Calendar of Papal Letters 1342-62, p. 588.

13) CPR 1345-8, pp. 495-513.

14) CIPM 1347-52, nos. 216-17.

15) CFR 1356-68, p. 38; CPR 1354-8, p. 568.

16) CPR 1348-50, p. 551; Early Lincoln Wills, 99.

17) Early Lincoln Wills, 56-7. Blanche's mother Maud Chaworth (1282-1322) was the older half-sister of Hugh Despenser the Younger and Philip Despenser I.

18) CIPM 1384-92, nos. 1008-9; CIPM 1392-9, nos. 1062-3; CIPM 1399-1405, no. 68; CIPM 1405-13, no. 158; CIPM 1413-18, nos. 154-6; CIPM 1418-22, nos. 30-2.

19) CIPM 1361-5, no. 544; CCR 1360-4, p. 491.

20) Early Lincoln Wills, 99; CPR 1381-5, pp. 450, 562.

21) CCR 1381-5, pp. 297-8, 300-01.

22) CIPM 1370-3, no. 212; CFR 1369-77, pp. 179-80; CCR 1385-9, pp. 27-8, 107.

23) J. Weever, Antient Funeral Monuments (1631), p. 487; CIPM 1422-27, nos. 307-12.

24) Early Lincoln Wills, 99.

25) CIPM 1413-18, nos. 237-47, 371-89; Calendar of Papal Letters 1398-1404, p. 609.

26) CIPM 1418-22, nos. 836-54; CIPM 1422-7, nos. 232, 307-12; CIPM 1427-32, nos. 139, 530-48.

27) CPR 1422-9, pp. 136, 183.

28) Calendar of Papal Letters 1427-47, p. 601.

29) CIPM 1422-27, nos. 307-12.


sami parkkonen said...

Once again staggering amount of info.

And once more: a woman who lived to her 80's in the middle of turmoil and upheavals. One has to love these people. They were tuff!

Anonymous said...

Great post. Any connection between the Wentworth who married a Despenser and a later Wentworth who married Sir John Seymour (and became mother to Queen Jane Seymour and grandmother to King Edward VI)?


Kathryn Warner said...

That's mentioned in the post, Esther - Margery Despenser and Roger Wentworth were the great-great-grandparents of Queen Jane Seymour.

Anonymous said...

Thank you .... I've been ill (nothing serious, Thank G-d), so I simply missed it.


Kathryn Warner said...

Sorry to hear that :( Get well soon!

Catherine said...

This is fabulous - thank you. I'm coming at the subject from the Wentworth side (Roger is from the North Elmsall Branch). Figuring out how to present this type of information was a worry at first (so many iffy parts), so it's always interesting to see how others are writing it up.

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi Catherine, best of luck with the research and writing!