2021-04-23 20:24:47 UTC
Complete Peerage 6 (1926): 470–471 (sub Hereford) includes an account of Sir John de Bohun, Earl of Hereford and Essex, Constable of England, who died in 1336. Regarding his second marriage to Margaret Basset, the following information is provided:
“He married, 2ndly, Margaret, daughter of Ralph (Basset), Lord Basset of Drayton, by Joan, daughter of John (de Grey), Lord Grey of Wilton. He died s.p. 20 Jan. 1335/6, at Kirkby-Thorpe, co. Westmorland, and was buried at Stratford Abbey, near London. His widow’s marriage was granted, 21 March 1335/6, to John de Beauchamp, brother of Thomas, Earl of Warwick, if she willed to marry him, which she does not appear to have done. She had assignment of dower 16 Apr. and 23 May 1336. As Margaret, Countess of Hereford, she had letters of attorney, 7 Oct. 1344, on going to Santiago and other holy places of pilgrimage in foreign parts for a year. On 1 Dec. 1347 she had a grant of £14 rent in Waresley, Hunts, instead of the manor of Debden, Essex, which she held in dower.” END OF QUOTE.
Reviewing the above information what strikes me as odd is that there is no indication by Complete Peerage as to when Margaret Basset, Countess of Hereford, died, yet she was the widow of one of the major barons of the realm. We are only told that Countess Margaret was sill living 1 December 1347. So when did she die?
I note that Proceedings of the Cambridgeshire Antiquarian Society 33 (1933): 18–19 includes a discussion of the subsequent history of Margaret Basset, Countess of Hereford. The author, W.M. Palmer, M.D., F.S.A., states that Countess Margaret was included in the remainder of a settlement of the manor of Clopton, Cambridgeshire in 1343. Even though Complete Peerage in 1926 showed that Countess Margaret was living as late as 1347, Dr. Palmer states that the last record found of her is the concord dated 1343. He then makes the incredible assertion that the Countess could have survived until 1405, when the manor of Clopton was the subject of a Common Pleas lawsuit. Here are Dr. Palmer's exact comments:
"We now return to the settlement or entailment of 1343. The first remainder in this was to Margaret Countess of Hereford for life, and it is necessary if possible to find out who she was and why she came into the settlement at all. She was the daughter of Ralph Baron Bassett and second wife of John de Bohun Earl of Hereford, who died without heirs. Bohun's first wife was Alice FitzAlan, a daughter of Edmund Earl of Arundel, and Edmund Bereford's son married Eleanor FitzAlan, a daughter of Alice's brother, also Earl of Arundel. The relationship between Eleanor and Margaret was slight, yet it may explain Edmund de Bereford's interest in the young widow, Margaret Bohun. There may have been some difficulty in the marriage of a FitzAlan lady with the bastard grandson of a lord chief justice, and his grant to Margaret Bohun may have helped matters. The Countess lived to a great age, because it was not until 1405 that the 'right heirs' of Edmund de Bereford took possession of Clopton. When she was left a widow in 1335, Margaret may have only been sixteen years old, which would make her eighty-six in 1405, not an impossible age. No mention of her has been found after the final concord of 1343, until the lawsuit brought by the right heirs of Edmund de Bereford to recover the property assigned to her by that fine. In 1383 a Countess of Hereford was travelling about the diocese of Ely with the Bishop, Thomas de Arundel, attended by Sir John Lovell and others (Roll in Bishops' Muniment Room). She may have been our Countess, and her connection with the Bishop was that she had succeeded the Bishop's aunt as Countess of Hereford. She was at least twenty-three years older than the Bishop, who was born in 1352.” END OF QUOTE.
Dr. Palmer’s full article can be viewed at the following weblink:
Dr. Palmer’s comments withstanding, my research indicates that Margaret, dowager Countess of Hereford, appears regularly in the records from 1336 until Easter term 1348, when I find that she sued two people in the Court of Common Pleas. She died testate sometime in or before 23 Edward III [i.e., 1349–50], when her executors made a grant to Stonely Priory.
Here briefly are the various records which I’ve collected of Countess Margaret during her widowhood:
1. Margaret presented to the church of Shenfield, Essex in 1337. Reference: Fowler, Registrum Radulphi Baldock, Gilberti Segrave, Ricardi Newport et Stephani Gravesend, Episcoporum Londoniensium, 1304–1338 (Canterbury & York Soc. 7) (1911): 311.
2. In 1339 Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford and Essex, granted her a release of all actions in respect of waste and trespass.
3. In 1340 Rannulph Chopyn, of Writtle, Essex, owed her a debt of £80.
4. In 1344 Margaret had letters nominating attorneys in England for one year, she going to Santiago and other holy places of pilgrimage in foreign parts. Reference: C.P.R. 1343–1345 (1902): 350.
5. In 1346 Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, sued Margaret, Countess of Hereford, on a writ of waste. Reference: Year Books of Edward III: Year XX (2nd part) 15 (Rolls Ser. 31b) (1911): 308–313.
6. In 1346 the king ordered her to provide 6 men-at-arms and 12 archers for the Siege of Calais. Reference: Wrottesley, Crécy & Calais (1898): 103.
7. In 1347 Margaret sued Walter de Finchingfeld in the Court of Common Pleas regarding the third part of the third part of the manor of Crendon, Buckinghamshire, which she claimed as her dower. by the dotation of John de Bohun her late husband; the said Walter came into court and called to warranty Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford and Essex, brother and heir of John de Bohun. Reference: Court of Common Pleas, CP40/350, image 413f (available at http://aalt.law.uh.edu/E3/CP40no350/bCP40no350fronts201toEnd/IMG_0413.htm).
8. In Easter term 1348 Margaret, Countess of Hereford sued Thomas de Loundres, parson of the church of Pertenhale, Bedfordshire, and another in the Court of Common Pleas regarding a trespass at Kimbolton, Huntingdonshire. Reference: Court of Common Pleas, CP40/354, image 1291 (available at http://aalt.law.uh.edu/E3/CP40no354/bCP40no354fr201toEnd/IMG_1291.htm).
9. In 23 Edward III [1349–50] William de Somerdeby, rector of Postwick, Norfolk, and another, executors of the will of Margaret de Bohun, late Countess of Hereford and Essex, granted Stonely Priory the wardship and marriage of John son and heir of William de Illefeld and the lands, etc., of the said William in Tilbrook, Huntingdonshire.
In summary, I find that Dr. Palmer’s allegation that Margaret Basset, Countess of Hereford, lived until 1405 is utterly groundless. Countess Margaret was living in Easter term 1348 (date of lawsuit), and she died testate sometime in or before 23 Edward III [i.e., 1349–50]. As such, she most certainly was not the mysterious Countess of Hereford who was travelling about the diocese of Ely with Bishop Thomas de Arundel in 1383.
Douglas Richardson, Historian and Genealogist