BUCKTON, Sir Peter (c.1350-1414), of Buckton, Yorks.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b.c.1350. m. Cecily, 3s. Kntd. by Jan. 1383.1
Commr. to make arrests, Yorks. Feb. 1371, Apr. 1392, Apr. 1403; suppress the insurgents at Scarborough July 1381; of sewers Jan. 1383, Oct. 1387, Mar. 1402, June 1406; inquiry, Essex, Lincs., Norf., Northumb., Suff., Yorks. Oct. 1389 (illicit grain exports), Lancs., Northumb., Westmld., Yorks. Feb. 1400 (withholding of dues from St. Leonard’s hospital, York), Yorks. Mar. 1401 (water supply at Kingston-upon-Hull), c. Feb. 1404 (blockage of weirs), June 1404 (payment of money to Sir William Clifford), July 1411 (fraudulent dealing in victuals); array, Yorks. (E. Riding) Mar. 1392, Dec. 1399, Aug., Sept. 1403, July 1410; oyer and terminer Feb. 1397 (disorder at West Harlsey), Lincs. Oct. 1404 (disorder at Wrangle); kiddles, Yorks. (E. Riding) June 1398; to supervise bridge repairs, Kingston-upon-Hull Nov. 1399; prevent the spread of treasonous rumours, Yorks. May 1402.
Steward of the household of Henry, earl of Derby, by May 1390-prob. Oct. 1399.2
J.p. Yorks. (E. Riding) 24 Aug. 1395-Mar. 1397, 1 June 1400-Feb. 1407, 19 July 1409-Mar. 1411.
Escheator, Yorks. 18 Nov. 1395-6 Oct. 1397.
Steward, constable and master forester of Knaresborough in the duchy of Lancaster, Yorks. 9 July 1399-d.3
Chirographer, ct. c.p. 15 Oct. 1399-d.
Steward and master forester, Holderness, Yorks. 1 Nov. 1399-d.
Standard-bearer to Henry IV by 9 July 1403.
Surveyor of the estates confiscated from Maud, countess of Oxford 8 May-5 Dec. 1404.
Sheriff, Yorks. 4 Dec. 1404-22 Nov. 1405.
Mayor, Bordeaux bef. 3 Nov. 1411-1413.4
Ambassador to negotiate a truce with John II of Leon and Castile 3 Nov. 1411.5
Sir Peter’s ancestors are known to have lived at Buckton, near Bridlington, from the mid 13th century onwards. By 1401 he himself was also in possession of the manors of Bempton and Benningholme in the East Riding and Threekingham in Lincolnshire, although it was through service to the house of Lancaster rather than by the ownership of land that he established himself as a leading figure in the north. On his own testimony, Sir Peter was born in about 1350 and first took up arms on the Scottish border. He soon became connected with John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, under whose banner he campaigned in France, in 1369; and on at least two later occasions he took to the field with Gaunt’s brother, Thomas of Woodstock, earl of Buckingham, who retained him to fight against the French, in 1379, and the Scots not long afterwards. While still a young man, Buckton became involved in the business of local government, sitting on his first royal commission as early as 1371, and helping to put down an outbreak of violence in Scarborough at the time of the Peasants’ Revolt. During the summer of 1385 he himself faced the prospect of arrest as a result of an action for debt begun against him by the executors of Sir Robert Corbet†, although he managed to obtain a writ of supersedeas, and thus escape the force of the law. In common with many other northern knights, Sir Peter gave evidence in the following year on behalf of Richard, Lord Scrope, who was then engaged in a dispute with Sir Robert Grosvenor over their respective rights to the same coat of arms. Another of his associates at this time was Isabel, the widow of Walter, Lord Fauconberg, for whom he offered sureties in February 1389 as the keeper of certain estates held by the Crown in Yorkshire. Sir Peter also appears to have been friendly with Henry, earl of Northumberland, being approached by him to witness various deeds, although his most important patron, to whom he owed his rapid advancement and improved social position, was Gaunt’s son, Henry of Bolingbroke.6
We do not know exactly when Sir Peter became steward of Bolingbroke’s household, but he was already in office when preparations began in the spring of 1390 for a crusading venture in Lithuania. Much of the initial organization was undertaken by him on various trips to Lincoln, Hull and Boston, whence the expedition finally set sail in the following July. By then a seasoned commander with considerable experience of warfare in various parts of Europe, Sir Peter was clearly valued as much for his military skills as his administrative ability, and he played a full part in the ensuing campaign, during which relations between the English and their allies, the Teutonic Knights, began steadily to deteriorate. Bolingbroke’s plans for a second crusade, two years later, foundered as a result of this mutual animosity; and, disbanding most of his retinue, he relinquished his original scheme in favour of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Sir Peter once again assumed most of the responsibility for commissariat and transport, accompanying the earl as far as Venice, where he remained to supervise the hiring and equipping of galleys.7 The relationship of trust and mutual dependence which grew up between Sir Peter and Bolingbroke during this period was to remain constant for the rest of their lives; and its effects soon made themselves felt in practical terms. Sir Peter’s first return to Parliament, his appointment as a j.p. and his tenure of the escheatorship of Yorkshire, all within the space of a year, clearly point to the exercise of patronage by either Bolingbroke or his father, both of whom were clearly anxious to do their best for an able servant. It was probably through Gaunt that he became friendly with Geoffrey Chaucer*, who addressed a humorous warning to ‘my master Bukton’ on ‘the sorwe and wo that is in marriage’, advising him to keep his liberty and stay single:
The wyf of Bathe I pray you that ye rede
Of this matere that we have on honde.
God graunte you your lyf frely to lede
In fredome; for ful hard is to be bonde.8
In the event, however, political rather than matrimonial problems threatened to undermine Buckton’s position. Seizing the opportunity presented early in 1398 by a quarrel between Bolingbroke and the duke of Norfolk (both of whom had been junior Lords Appellant in 1388), Richard II decided to exile his two enemies, banishing the former for ten years, but promising him that he might appoint attorneys with power to administer his inheritance should Gaunt die while he was still abroad. On 3 Oct. 1398, just a few days before he left England, royal letters patent were issued to Bolingbroke naming the trusted advisors who were to act for him. Naturally enough, Sir Peter was among them, although Richard’s duplicity in rescinding the letters and confiscating the duchy of Lancaster after Gaunt’s death in the following February left Buckton and his colleagues powerless. Those estates which Bolingbroke had occupied in the right of his late wife, Mary de Bohun, did, however, escape the King’s grasp, and Buckton, who continued to act as both councillor and steward to his exiled master, ensured that they were efficiently managed. When Bolingbroke returned to England in July 1399, ostensibly to recover his rightful inheritance, Sir Peter hastened to join him. He landed at Ravenspur, not far from the manor of Buckton, and received an enthusiastic welcome from the local tenantry, some of whom were probably mobilized by Sir Peter himself. The latter certainly played a major part in smoothing Bolingbroke’s path towards the throne, for if the Kirkstall chronicler is to be believed it was he who brought Sir William Bagot* under arrest from Ireland to face charges of treason before the Parliament of October 1399 and later kept him a secure prisoner at Knaresborough castle. Hardly had Bolingbroke set foot in England than he entrusted this important stronghold to Sir Peter’s care, in a grant for life which included the offices of steward and master forester of the lordship as well.9 Other rewards followed, the most notable being Sir Peter’s appointment as chirographer of the court of common pleas, again for life, and then, in November 1399, the award of a clutch of lucrative posts in Holderness. A lease of the temporal possessions of Scarborough parish church (which belonged to the alien house of Citeaux, and was therefore liable to confiscation when England and France were at war) also came his way at this time, the entire rent of 110 marks a year being assigned by Henry IV to the prior of Bridlington. The property was actually worth almost twice this amount, but, as royal letters patent of July 1403 show, Sir Peter retained 100 marks himself in part payment of the annuity of £100 promised to him ‘by word of mouth’ when he became standard-bearer to the King. The latter’s generosity to his loyal follower extended beyond such direct marks of patronage to include a royal pardon, issued in November 1400, for whatever arrears or debts Sir Peter might have accumulated during his time as a crown servant, and a charter of 1401 allowing him and his heirs free warren throughout their estates.10 In return, Sir Peter remained in close proximity to his master, retaining a force of archers from the lordship of Knaresborough to serve on Henry IV’s Scottish campaign of 1400, and attending great councils held at Westminster in August 1401 and 1405 as one of the representatives for Yorkshire. Not long after the first of these two assemblies, Sir Peter assumed the guardianship of the English estates of Henry IV’s young son, Thomas of Lancaster, while he was away in Ireland. Thomas eventually made Sir Peter one of the trustees of his valuable lordship of Burstwick in Holderness, where he already exercised unrivalled authority as an employee of the Crown; and in May 1408 he once again acted as an attorney for the prince.11
The years following Bolingbroke’s coup d’état saw Sir Peter’s rise to a position of power and influence enjoyed only by a small group of the new King’s intimates; and it is hardly surprising that, in October 1404, while he was still acting as keeper of the extensive estates confiscated from the rebel dowager countess of Oxford, the electors of Yorkshire again chose him to represent them in Parliament. Some indication of his local standing may be gained from an incident two years later, when the prior of Meaux sought his help in obtaining exemption from a clerical tax. Sir Peter was approached, we are told, partly because he lived nearby and was a friend of the house, but chiefly on account of his great intimacy with the King, ‘who regarded him with especial favour’. Yet, notwithstanding his continuing success at Court, Sir Peter did experience certain problems during this period. A series of obligations in sums totalling £476 offered by him, in March 1401, to the earl of Northumberland admit a variety of interpretations and are not necessarily evidence of indebtedness on his part, although there can be little doubt that his one and only term as sheriff of Yorkshire, which ended in November 1405, left him financially embarrassed. By the following May, Henry IV had seen fit to excuse ‘une grande somme des ... issuez esteantz en ses mayns come arrerages de son aconte’, so he at least escaped the prospect of confiscation. Paradoxically, however, Sir Peter’s other difficulties arose as a result of King Henry’s generosity, which on at least three occasions brought him into direct confrontation with powerful adversaries. The most dramatic of these occurred in 1402, when the Commons in Parliament criticized the King’s choice of an ‘unqualified’ candidate as chirographer of the common pleas, insisting that a lawyer should immediately be engaged as Sir Peter’s deputy, and further demanding that his successors should henceforth be ‘capable men’, learned in the law. A royal grant made to him in 1408 of the manor of Kilburn in Yorkshire proved even more controversial, as Henry IV had previously given the property to Robert Waterton, one of the few royal favourites strong enough to oppose Sir Peter on his own terms and carry the day. A far more protracted and bitter dispute may already have flared up between Sir Peter and the prior of Bridlington (to whom, as we have already seen, he paid a considerable amount of rent), for by July 1410 the two parties had gone to law at the York assizes. The precise nature of their disagreement is not stated, but in the following March Thomas Langley, bishop of Durham, was commissioned by Henry IV to effect a settlement by arbitration. In February 1414, not long before Sir Peter’s death, the prior actually received the farm of the temporalities of Scarborough parish church from Henry V, who specially excused him from making any further payments to Sir Peter, thus presumably depriving him of his annuity of 100 marks. Buckton’s replacement as mayor of Bordeaux, the last of his many royal appointments, at the beginning of the new reign may possibly be regarded as evidence of his declining influence at Court, but he could equally well have decided to retire from public life because of advancing years.12
Although his final award may have gone against Sir Peter, Bishop Langley evidently remained on friendly terms with the knight, who named him as the supervisor of his will. In this document, which was drawn up on 28 Feb. 1414, and proved four days later, Sir Peter asked to be buried in the church of the Cistercian nunnery of St. Mary at Swine. He had disregarded Chaucer’s advice against the evils of matrimony, and left a widow, named Cecily, and at least three sons, the eldest of whom, Peter, had been involved with him in the litigation at the York assizes, and must therefore have been of age when his father died.13
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. Scrope v. Grosvenor, i. 195; ii. 466-7; Test. Ebor. i. 360-1; CPR, 1381-5, p. 200.
- 2. Derby’s Expeds. (Cam. Soc. n.s. lii), 126, 201, 265; Somerville, Duchy, i. 136, 385.
- 3. Somerville, i. 523, 525.
- 4. Reg. Jurade Bordeaux (Archs. Municipales Bordeaux iv), 43.
- 5. Foedera ed. Rymer (Hague edn.), iv (1), 199.
- 6. Scrope v. Grosvenor, i. 195; ii. 466-7; CChR, v. 408; VCH Yorks. (E. Riding), ii. 83; CCR, 1381-5, pp. 403-4; 1385-9, p. 80; CFR, x. 281-2.
- 7. Derby’s Expeds. 35-36, 126, 128, 133, 138, 201, 265, 300; Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, ii. 161.
- 8. G. Chaucer, Works, ed. Skeat, i. 398-9, 558.
- 9. Somerville, i. 69n, 136, 385; Thoresby Soc. xlii. 78, 82; DL42/15, ff. 31v, 32v, 103.
- 10. CPR, 1399-1401, pp. 16, 73, 379; 1401-5, p. 248; 1405-8, p. 52; CChR, v. 408; CFR, xii. 17, 23.
- 11. PPC, i. 157; ii. 99; DL42/15, f. 117; CPR, 1401-5, p. 1; 1405-8, pp. 363, 439.
- 12. Chron. Melsa ed. Bond, iii. 298-9; RP, iii. 496; CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 324-5; E404/21/225; JUST 1/1517 rot. 42, 45, 47, 48v, 51, 57v; CPR, 1408-13, p. 316; 1413-16, pp. 153-4.
- 13. Test. Ebor. i. 360-1; JUST 1/1517 rot. 57v.