BROCAS, Sir Bernard (c.1330-1395), of Beaurepaire in Sherborne St. John and Roche Court, Hants.

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. 1380
Nov. 1380

Family and Education

b.c.1330, 3rd s. and event. h. of Sir John Brocas of Clewer and Windsor, Berks. by his 1st w. Margaret. m. (1) by 1349, Agnes, da. and h. of Mauger Vavasour of Denton, Yorks., 1s. div. bef. May 1360; (2) between Nov. 1358 and Feb. 1361, Mary (b.c.1331), da. and h. of John Roches†, wid. of Sir John Boarhunt of Boarhunt, Hants, 1s. 1da.; (3) between Dec. 1380 and May 1382, Katherine (6 Jan. 1341-19 Oct. 1398), er. da. and coh. of William de la Plaunk of Haversham, Bucks. by Elizabeth, da. of Sir Roger Hillary, c.j.c.p., of Bescot, Staffs., wid. of William Birmingham and Sir Hugh Tyrell. Kntd. by 1355.

Offices Held

Master of the King’s buckhounds 1361-d.

Commr. of array, Hants Feb. 1367, Nov. 1370, May 1375, Apr., July 1377, Mar. 1380, Hants, Wilts. July 1381, Hants Apr. 1385, Mar. 1392; arrest, Surr., Suss., Hants, Wilts., Berks., Som., Dorset June 1370 (criminals in his retinue), Nov. 1382 (mutineers), June 1387; to collect a parochial subsidy, Hants June 1371; of oyer and terminer Nov. 1375, Surr. Sept. 1383, Wilts. Apr. 1387; inquiry, Hants Nov. 1375 (possessions of John Sandys*), July 1376 (extortions of Richard Lyons†), Sept. 1377 (confederations of bondmen), Oct. 1379 (trespasses of soldiers going overseas), Oct. 1380, Feb. 1381 (disseisin), Wilts. Mar. 1387 (threats to a royal clerk); weirs, river Thames May 1377; to take musters, Calais May 1378, May 1388;1 survey the fortification of Southampton Mar. 1380; put down rebellions, Hants, Wilts. July 1381, Hants Dec. 1381, Mar., Dec. 1382; take possession of escheated lands, Suss. Aug. 1384; of gaol delivery, Winchester Mar. 1386; to supervise repairs to Odiham castle Sept. 1386; determine appeals from the constable’s ct. Nov. 1387; administer the oath in support of the Appellants, Hants Mar. 1388.

Keeper of Corfe castle 9 Sept. 1376-14 May 1377, Odiham castle May 1377-d.

Capt. of Calais 12 July 1377-c. Feb. 1379; controller 17 Feb.-c. May 1379; capt. of Sangatte, Pas de Calais 11 Jan. 1384-c.1385.2

Chief parker of the estates of Bp. Wykeham of Winchester 5 Dec. 1377-d.3

Ambassador to Flanders Jan. 1379, to treat with the count of St. Pol July 1379.4

J.p. Hants 26 May 1380-d, Wilts. 4 July 1391-4.

Tax surveyor, Hants Dec. 1380.

Sheriff, Wilts. 24 Nov. 1382-12 Oct. 1383.

Chamberlain to Queen Anne c.1387-1394.


Brocas came from a Gascon family whose fortunes were made through service to the Kings of England, both in their native land and their new home, where they settled early in the 14th century. Bernard’s father, Sir John Brocas, who was a member of the households of Edward II and Edward III, held office under the latter as constable of Guildford castle and, in fact if not in name, as master of the King’s horse, and made Windsor castle the centre of his domestic and official life. His uncle, Master Bernard Brocas, an administrator of note, excelled as controller of Gascony and constable of Aquitaine.5 Bernard was a younger son, and of necessity set about making his own fortunes through military service. In 1346, aged about 16, he was ‘first armed on the seashore at Hogges’ (La Hogue) at the start of the invasion of France which led to the battle of Crécy (in which his father and older brother, Oliver, also took part, both of them being ‘King’s knights’ ), and in the course of the next 40 years he also served in the wars of Brittany, Spain and Scotland. By late in 1354 he had been knighted and had won a place as a favoured member of the entourage of Henry of Grosmont, duke of Lancaster, an experienced and able military commander. In that year he travelled with Lancaster to Avignon (where the duke conducted negotiations with Innocent VI for peace beween England and France), and in January 1355 he successfully petitioned the Pope for indulgences for visitors to a chapel in Windsor forest, and for an indult to choose his own confessor. At the same time the duke requested a canonry for Brocas’s uncle, Master Bernard, who subsequently, in July, named Lancaster as a trustee of the estates at Beaurepaire and elsewhere, which he was proposing to settle on his nephew and namesake. It was in July, too, that Brocas took out royal letters of protection to go on Lancaster’s proposed expedition in aid of Charles of Navarre, and, although the plans were changed, in the following spring he was in Brittany with the duke, the recently appointed lieutenant of the duchy, and he may have taken part in the battle of Poitiers later that year. Before February 1358 Duke Henry granted him an annuity of £20 for life, from the issues of the honour of Pontefract. Brocas was still in Lancaster’s employment the following year, when he sailed to Normandy to arrest a man accused of embezzling the revenues intended by the duke for fortifications, though he seems to have left his service before Lancaster’s death in March 1361. Certainly, before that date Brocas had commended himself to Edward III, who on 2 Aug. 1360 granted him an annuity of £40 at the Exchequer, and made him a knight of the royal chamber. Brocas again travelled to Normandy in 1361, but whether for Lancaster or the King (or, indeed, to supervise his own affairs, which by this time involved dealings in large sums of foreign currency) is unclear.6

In 1363 Brocas received an additional annuity of £10 from the Crown in recompense for his loss of the manor of Benham (Berkshire), which the King had by his gift; and in the same year, by Edward’s ‘special grace’, he obtained a charter of free warren in his demesne lands in Hampshire. As a ‘bachelor’ of Edward III Brocas was issued livery at the Household until the end of the reign, and continued to serve his royal master both at home and overseas. He may have fought at the battle of Najera in 1367; three years later he recovered £60 due to him for wages for himself and his men ‘in the war’, and he was again overseas in 1372. He received many other marks of patronage from the ageing monarch, notably a licence to impark Beaurepaire, which entailed the enclosure of lands belonging to the royal forest of Pamber, and, in 1373, the opportunity to exchange his annuities for the wardenship for life of the manor of Compton Basset (Wiltshire). His proximity to the King is also suggested by his appearance as a witness to a conveyance of property to Edward’s mistress, Alice Perrers. In 1376 Brocas was granted the keeping of Corfe castle and the warren of Purbeck, but, although he went to the trouble of securing this post for life, he surrendered it in May 1377 in favour of John, Lord Arundel, receiving, presumably in exchange, the castle, town and manor of Odiham at a farm of £55 a year.7

Brocas remained in favour at court under Richard II, and, indeed, was referred to as a ‘King’s knight’ for the rest of his life. Ten days after the beginning of the reign he was appointed captain of Calais, and seems to have been often abroad until the spring of 1379. While at Calais he was instructed to treat for the continuation of the alliance made between Edward III and Louis, count of Flanders. He also took a prominent part in the arrangements for the release of Waleran de Luxembourg, count of St. Pol, a prisoner of war, which involved him not only in handling securities for the count’s ransom of 100,000 francs but also in negotiations for his marriage to the King’s half-sister, Maud Holand, Lady Courtenay. In 1384 Brocas was appointed keeper of Sangatte castle, the western outpost of Calais, though in the following year he joined the army with which Richard II attempted to invade Scotland. It is uncertain precisely when he was appointed chamberlain to Richard’s queen, Anne of Bohemia, for the only evidence that he ever held this post is the inscription on his tomb; but it seems likely that he succeeded Sir Richard Adderbury I* in this office in about 1387. The political conflicts of the reign appear not to have troubled Brocas at all: he was commissioned to administer the oath of allegiance to the Appellants in March 1388, and employed on a committee to muster the troops of the earl of Arundel two months later; yet he remained close to Richard II: in 1391 as Richard’s attorney he took formal possession of property in Westminster, probably in connexion with the rebuilding of Westminster hall, and on 17 Aug. 1394 he was rewarded with an annuity of £40 for his good service to the late queen.8 Brocas was well placed to obtain grants of lands in the temporary possession of the Crown. Among those he received in the 1380s were the wardship of Robert Inkpen’s† lands in Hampshire, the joint keepership of the estates of the alien priory of Hayling (which he subsequently surrendered to John, Lord Montagu, the steward of the Household, in exchange for custody of the lordship of Cranborne Chase during the minority of the earl of March), the joint keepership of the estates of Hamble priory, rent-free, and the farm of the manor of Barford St. Martin, Wiltshire. Finally, in June 1395, he secured for 200 marks a grant to himself and to Juliana, widow of his nephew Sir Edmund Missenden*, of custody of the Missenden estates (of which he was already a feoffee) during the minority of the heir, his great-nephew, Bernard.9

Brocas’s circle of acquaintance gathered around the Court; and his close associates included Sir Ivo Fitzwaryn*, the veteran campaigner Sir Matthew Gournay, and one of the royal clerks, Master John Chitterne. Undoubtedly his most important connexion, and one which lasted for nearly all his life, was that formed with William of Wykeham, who served Edward III successively as secretary, keeper of the privy seal, and chancellor. Probably his first meetings with Wykeham had taken place at Windsor castle, for his father, like Wykeham, had been closely involved in the extensive building works there. Over the years Brocas witnessed a large number of deeds on his friend’s behalf; he was present when Wykeham was installed at Winchester in 1368; in 1377 Wykeham appointed him as chief surveyor and keeper of the parks on the episcopal estates, and on another occasion he excommunicated men who had poached in Brocas’s fish pond at Beaurepaire. Clearly, their friendship was close, yet there is no evidence that it ever led to Brocas’s participation in the bishop’s political quarrels, of which the most serious was that of 1376 with John of Gaunt. Indeed, Brocas himself seems to have been on amicable terms with Gaunt; at least, in 1380 and again in 1382 the duke instructed the keeper of his warren at Methwold (Norfolk) to allow him to hunt there when on pilgrimage to Walsingham.10

During his years of service to Edward III and Richard II Brocas was building up substantial landed estates. His uncle, Master Bernard Brocas, had purchased Beaurepaire in 1353 and not long afterwards settled it on his nephew along with lands near Guildford in Surrey, including the manors of Peper Harrow and ‘Picard’s’ . Sir Bernard made Beaurepaire his seat and spent large sums on the house and park, obtaining royal licences to enclose the latter in 1369 and to enlarge it in 1370 and 1388.11 Through his first marriage, to Agnes Vavasour, heiress of the junior branch of the Vavasour family, he acquired Denton and five other manors in Yorkshire, along with Weekley in Northamptonshire, but although they had issue, a son named after his father, they were divorced before May 1360. A peculiarity of the case was that the Church allowed both parties to marry again, and Agnes then married Sir Henry Langfield. However, she lost possession of most of her estates, which were settled on the younger Bernard, her son, and his wife.12 Sir Bernard’s own second marriage was even more advantageous than the first, for Mary Roches was collaterally descended from Peter des Roches, bishop of Winchester. In 1361, on her mother’s death, she came into full possession of her patrimony, which included eight manors in Hampshire and that of Bromley in Dorset. In addition, she brought Brocas a sizeable dower from her former husband, Sir John Boarhunt: five manors and other substantial properties in Hampshire. These last did not remain in Brocas’s keeping for long, however, for in 1365 he and his wife endowed Southwick priory with nearly all of the former Boarhunt lands, and in 1384, after her death, Brocas added the rest to the endowment. A more permanent acquisition arising from this marriage was the post of master of the King’s buckhounds, an hereditary office attached in grand serjeanty to ‘Hunter’s Manor’ in Little Weldon (Northamptonshire), which Mary Brocas held as part of her jointure as Boarhunt’s wife. In 1366 Brocas came to an agreement with the heir to the manor and office, Maud Lovell, by which he paid £100 in order to retain them for life and pass them on to his own descendants.13 When Sir Bernard’s father, Sir John, died in 1365, his heir was Sir Bernard’s nephew, John, who himself died childless in 1377, leaving his uncle with an undisputed title to the manor of Broksham and lands at Hever (Kent). Brocas was now also heir to his late father’s holdings in Berkshire and Calais, but several years elapsed before he was able to obtain possession. Shortly before his death Sir John had given or sold his manors of Clewer-Brocas and Didworth, along with property at New and Old Windsor and Bray, to Edward III, from whom he was to hold them, rent-free, for the rest of his life. Subsequently, the King had granted these properties to one of the masons working at Windsor castle, and it was not until 1384 that Sir Bernard, with the assistance of Bishop Wykeham, finally recovered them. He used part of this inheritance for the endowment of a chantry in Clewer church in his father’s memory. He was less successful in the matter of his father’s property in Calais, which, allegedly for default of keeping a watch, had escheated to the Crown and been commandeered by the King’s carpenters. Brocas brought a suit in Chancery to assert his rights, but it would appear that the issue was still unresolved at his death, for the claims were renewed by his son. Sir Bernard’s father had purchased the manor of Pollingfold in Ewhurst (Surrey), and although this was initially settled on his stepmother, Isabel (who later married Sir Nicholas Lilling*), she relinquished her interest to Sir Bernard in 1366. Thus, the extent of Brocas’s landed holdings fluctuated over the course of his career, perhaps being at their most extensive in 1378, when he placed them in the hands of a group of feoffees, headed by Wykeham. He was then in possession of at least 13 manorial estates in six different counties.14 To these he added the manors of Compton Chamberlain (Wiltshire) and Claybrook (Leicestershire), the inheritance of his third wife, Katherine, sister of Elizabeth, Lady Clinton, and after the death of Sir Edward St. John† in 1385, he also held for life the bailiwick of the forestership of Woolmer and Alice Holt (Hampshire).15

Brocas’s pilgrimages and religious foundations reveal him to have been a man of conventional piety, wealthy enough to express his devoutness in style. In 1375 he obtained a royal licence to grant lands worth £40 a year to Titchfield abbey, for prayers for Edward III as well as for himself and his wife Mary. This endowment was never completed. Instead, Brocas founded a chantry at Southwick priory, his choice no doubt being influenced by his sister, Isabel Golafre, who had become a nun there after the death of her second husband, and by Bishop Wykeham, himself a prominent benefactor of the priory. Indeed, Wykeham presided in person at the celebration of Brocas’s foundation. On a less impressive scale, Brocas also made a gift of property to Ivychurch priory (Wiltshire).16

Brocas died on 20 Sept. 1395. A mark of the esteem in which he had been held by Richard II was his burial, with great pomp and expense, in the chapel of St. Edmund in Westminster abbey, close to the royal tombs. Brocas’s widow took a vow of chastity before Bishop Stafford of Exeter, and died three years later. His heir was another Sir Bernard Brocas, the offspring of his first marriage, who was to be executed in 1400 for plotting to restore Richard II.17

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, i. 175; ii. 125, 158.
  • 2. Ibid. ii. 124, 128, 145.
  • 3. Reg. Wykeham (Hants Rec. Soc. 1896-9), ii. 280.
  • 4. Foedera ed. Rymer (Hague edn.), iv. 53; (orig. edn.), vii. 224.
  • 5. M. Burrows, Fam. Brocas of Beaurepaire, 9, 53, 58-61, 63-64, 94; R. Tighe and J. Davis, Annals of Windsor, 145, 166-8. Burrows incorrectly states that it was Sir Bernard Brocas (rather than his uncle) who was constable of Aquitaine 1362-4, and this is repeated in the DNB (ii. 1273). See CCR, 1385-9, p. 651; T.F. Tout, Chapters, iv. 143; v. 307; vi. 70.
  • 6. Burrows, 70, 75-76, 82, 85, 87-88, 400, 454; Scrope v. Grosvenor, i. 180-1; ii. 421; CPL, iii. 550; CPP, i. 270, 283, 380; C76/33 m. 9, 34 m. 16, 44 m. 12; CPR, 1358-61, pp. 16, 20, 452. Burrows exaggerates Brocas’s personal connexion with the Black Prince, for which there is no substantial evidence.
  • 7. CPR, 1361-4, p. 309; 1370-4, p. 330; 1374-7, pp. 339, 358, 462-3; Issue Roll Brantingham ed. Devon, 88; Burrows, 98, 104; E403/446 m. 33; CCR, 1374-7, p. 280; SC8/191/9505-6; CFR, viii. 178; CChR, v. 178.
  • 8. CPR, 1377-81, p. 118; 1381-5, p. 26; 1388-92, p. 459; 1391-6, p. 493; E101/68/7/168; Burrows, 114-15; CCR, 1385-9, p. 406.
  • 9. CIPM, xv. 654; CFR, ix. 284-5, 295, 349; x. 308; xi. 130; CPR, 1381-5, p. 131; 1385-9, p. 199; 1388-92, pp. 326, 425, 433; 1391-6, p. 575; CCR, 1392-6, p. 344; 1396-9, p. 7; VCH Hants, iv. 443.
  • 10. CCR, 1364-9, p. 270; 1385-9, p. 451; Reg. Wykeham, ii. 2, 155, 173, 412; Reg. Gaunt 1379-83, i. 252, 645; CFR, x. 56; CPR, 1377-81, p. 443; 1388-92, pp. 157-8.
  • 11. Burrows, 359, 400, 425-9; VCH Surr. iii. 50; CPR, 1367-70, pp. 188, 436; 1385-9, p. 517; VCH Hants, iv. 165-7; Add. Ch. 26559.
  • 12. Burrows, 85, 444-7; Yorks. Deeds (Yorks. Arch. Soc. Rec. Ser. lxv), 16; Yorks. Feet of Fines (ibid. lii), 76, 78; CCR, 1360-4, p. 112; CIPM, xvi. 154-6. Burrows is in error in supposing that the younger Bernard was not Sir Bernard’s son, and that the Bernard who became his heir was his son by his second marriage. See Misc. Gen. et. Her. (ser. 5), x. pt. iv. 98-99.
  • 13. Burrows, 321-39; VCH Hants, iii. 52, 145-6, 212-13, 363, 449; iv. 172, 202, 259, 289; CPR, 1361-4, p. 141; 1364-7, p. 248; 1374-7, p. 91; CIPM, x. 466; xi. 63, 184; VCH Berks. ii. 285; CCR, 1364-9, pp. 278-9.
  • 14. CIPM, xiii. 163; xv. 8-15; Burrows, 79-80, 279-80, 295, 298-9, 359; CAD, i. A149; VCH Berks. iii. 73, 76; CCR, 1364-9, p. 277; 1377-81, p. 129; 1381-5, pp. 333, 350, 361; 1385-9, p. 623; VCH Hants, ii. 502; CFR, ix. 100; CIMisc. vi. 169, 409; HMC 9th Rep. pt. 1, p. 39; VCH Surr. iii. 99; CPR, 1381-5, pp. 372, 566; 1385-9, p. 49.
  • 15. CIPM, x. 335; xv. 420-6; CPR, 1381-5, pp. 131, 275; 1391-6, p. 699; CCR, 1369-74, p. 406; 1381-5, p. 537; 1396-9, pp. 7, 372; C136/102/8; CP, iii. 314.
  • 16. CPR, 1374-7, p. 50; 1381-5, pp. 282, 441, 526; 1391-6, p. 184; Burrows, 300; CCR, 1381-5, p. 631; Reg. Wykeham, ii. 364-5.
  • 17. C136/86/3; B. Harvey, Westminster Abbey Estates, 378; Coll. Top. et Gen. iii. 381; Reg. Stafford (Exeter) ed. Hingeston-Randolph, 39.