A'Bear Family History

The Battle of Crecy

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Family legend has it that Richard Delabere saved the life of the Black Prince at the Battle of Crecy in 1346 and was consequently knighted for his act of bravery. Unfortunately, although details of the battle indeed the whole campaign leading to the battle were recorded at the time and written about afterwards, Richard’s heroicism was not apparently noted. Chroniclers agreed that the Black Prince, aged just sixteen at the time, got into difficulty on the battlefield and was saved by the action of others, but the acknowledged sequence of events written by Richard Wynkeley, a clerk within the English Royal Household (who was apparently responsible for drafting official letters for King Edward III), and Froissart’s Chronicles together give quite a comprehensive account of the incident. To summarise:

The Prince was in the front line and under attack by the French when the English knight Sir Thomas Norwich ran back to beg the King to send forward the reserve. The Earl of Warwick, Sir Reginald Cobham and others about the Prince were clearly struggling to fend off the attack by Count d’Alencon’s men. Edward asked if his son was dead, or hurt or thrown in the ground, to which Norwich replied in the negative, but repeated his plea for aid. The King despatched Norwich back to those who had sent him with the message that they should not send to him again whatever may happen so long as his son lives, and that they must let the boy win his spurs this day. As Count d’Alencon’s men tired, a second force led by the Count of Flanders charged to their assistance. As a result the English line thinned and the Black Prince was knocked to his knees by a blow that wounded him. Flanders saw the Prince go down and spurred his horse toward him. Sir Richard Fitzsimon, the Black Prince’s standard bearer was beside the Prince when he fell and threw the standard down to cover him and then stood on it to both protect him and prevent the standard from being carried off. Sir Richard Fitzsimon then slew the French knight who had knocked over the Black Prince, then killed the Count of Flanders. The Frenchmen eagerly pushed forward to seize a valuable prisoner and the Englishmen were struck down in turn until Fitzsimon was the only one left standing. Fortunately Sir Thomas Daniel and other knights had been sent by Northampton who had seen the standard go down, and Sir Thomas pulled the standard upright and the Prince to his feet. The prince was still conscious but in poor shape. The English then recovered and pushed forward, and the French lost heart and retreated.  

Whilst it remains feasible that Richard Delabere was involved in this incident, any preconception that he and he alone bravely fought off the assailants seems unlikely. Such records were kept primarily for the purpose of reproduction for the benefit of those who could read the account afterwards, and since those with a good enough education to be able to read would have included the English knights themselves, it seems unlikely that such credit would have been given to the wrong person.

Froissart’s Chronicle fails to give a comprehensive list of those who fought beside the Black Prince, merely stating: (ref : TAFOW pg7)

…the young Prince of Wales, with him the Earl of Warwick, and Oxford, and Lord Godref of Harcourt, Sir Raynold Cobham, Sir Thomas Holland, the Lord Stafford, the Lord of Mahun, the Lord Delaware, Sir Richard Chandos, Sir Bartholomew de Burghersh, Sir Robert Nevill, the Lord Thomas Clifford, the Lord Bourchier, the Lord de Latimer, and divers other knights and squires that I cannot name …

Another family legend in the Beauchamp family recalls that one of their ancestors, Richard de Beaumont, saved the life of the Black Prince at the Battle of Crecy, and that he was the standard bearer. It seems that Thomas de Beauchamp, the 11th Earl of Warwick (?-1369) certainly served.

(Ref: http://www.myarmoury.com/feature_battle_crecy.html)

For now any such claim has been put aside.

The Delabere family legend is supported by a preserved and very curious picture at Southam, Gloucestershire, representing a knight kneeling on a cushion and holding in his hand a helmet which has just received the crest—a plume of five ostrich feathers issuing out of a ducal coronet. The constant tradition has been that this picture (certainly a very ancient one) commemorates a distinction conferred by Edward the Black Prince upon Sir Richard de la Bere, who rescued him from imminent peril in the battle of Crecy (1346). ( ref: Castles of Herefordshire and their Lords, by C. J. Robinson). As we shall see, it is doubtful that the knighthood was conferred by the Black Prince himself, but the Southam connection may give us a clue as to where Sir Richard is placed in the Delabere family tree.

Further support for the claim that Richard de la Bere was knighted around the time of the Battle of Crecy in 1346 comes from the following references. Firstly, an entry found in the Calendar of Patent Rolls just seven months before the Battle, refers to Richard simply as a yeoman: (ref : DNF & TAFOW pg8)

January 14 1346 Aylestone

Grant to the King’s yeoman Richard de la Bere in enlargement of the late grant to him for life of lands called “le Bernes” by Clebury, co. Salop, and “le Nokes” and “Bradewardy”, co. Hereford, at the rent of 10 2s 8d that he should hold the same without rendering anything.

References to Sir Richard de la Bere, Keeper of the Prince’s castle at Emlyn, begin as early as 8th February 1347:  (ref : TAFOW pg9)

February 8 1347 (Westminster)

Order to Sir Richard de la Bere, keeper of the Prince’s castle and lordship of Emlyn – if the facts stated in the enclosed petition from the abbot and convent of Blaunchelande in South Wales are true – to do right to the abbot and convent…

The campaign itself began on 5th July 1346 when the fleet put out from Portsmouth and nearby harbours. In fact, due to the poor wind direction, they were delayed leaving the Solent until 11th July, arriving in Normandy on 12th July at the port of St Vaast le Hogue. Their journey took them via Caen on the road towards Paris and then north to Airaines and the River Somme, with the Battle of Crecy taking place on 26th August. After their great victory the English Army marched via Boulogne to Calais, which they held under siege through the winter. The starving French finally surrendered and agreed terms on 3rd August 1347 after which Edward’s army sailed back to England. The English army was therefore in France for over a year, a period which extended far beyond Sir Richard’s post as Keeper of the Prince’s castle at Emlyn.

One of two things must be true. Either the newly knighted Sir Richard was sent home early – perhaps because of injury, or Sir Richard de la Bere, Keeper of Emlyn did not fight in France and was another person who was promoted to look after the Prince’s castle just before the campaign commenced. With the same name, one might consider the father to be this person. This possibility is considered later.

References to Sir Richard de la Bere continue thus:  (ref : TAFOW pg10)

March 9 1347 (Westminster)

Order to Sir Richard de la Bere, the prince’s bachelor and keeper of the castle of Emlyn, to levy speedily the old debts due from the time of Sir Gilbert Talbot, in respect of the issues and profits of the castle, and deliver them, together with the 10 which he is bound to pay the prince yearly to Thomas de Godrichecastel, chamberlain of South Wales, by indenture, as the prince has ordered Thomas to expand the said money on the repair of the said houses in the castle needing repair by view and testimony of John Lucas, his attorney and escheator in those parts.

April 29 1347 (Westminster)

Commission to Sir Richard de la Bere, constable of the castle of Emlyn, and John Lucas, the prince’s yeoman and escheator of South Wales, or one of them, to take and seize into the Prince’s hand all the temporalities of the bishopric of St David’s (void by the death of the Henry, late Bishop), the keeping of which pertains to the prince by reason of the Lordship of Wales which he has of the King’s gift and grant, and to keep them safely until further order.

The escheator is to answer to the Prince for the issues arising therefrom, and to do in the Prince’s name whatever the business demands; and they are both to extend the same temporalities, together with the fees and advowsons pertaining to the bishopric, and to certify the Prince’s Council at Westminster by midsummer next of the said extent of all that they have done in the matter.

The above writs seem to suggest that the Black Prince was indeed ‘away on business’ at the time they were written, whilst Sir Richard was back home in Wales.

Returning to events leading up to the Battle of Crecy, when Edward III, his son the Black Prince and the English Army arrived in St Vaast le Hogue on 12th July 1346 they met virtually no opposition, and Edward marched up the hill west of St Vaast to the village of Quettehou where the church of St Vigor stood. Here he declared himself the rightful King of France and ceremonially knighted his son, handing him his banner. Edward then knighted a number of other young men, including the Earl of Salisbury, aged only sixteen, and another teenager Roger Mortimer, whose father had been executed for treason. In all about a dozen young men were knighted. Such a ceremony was traditional at the start of a campaign, as it reaffirmed the young Englishmen’s allegiance to the King and raised their self-esteem before battle. The event is commemorated on a plaque in the church, and reads as follows:

Le 12 Juillet 1346

Edouard III Roi d’Angleterre Debarque le matin a St Vaast-le-Hough arma chevaliers dans l’eglise de Quettehou Edouard Prince de Galles dit le Prince Noir sons fils.

Guillaume de Montaigu, Roger de Mortimer, Guillaume de Roos, Roger de la Ware, Richard de la Vere, et un grand nombre d’autres jeunes guerriers.

Amongst the names listed are Roger de la Ware (who was also named by Froissart as one of those who fought at the Prince’s side), and a Richard de la Vere. One could be forgiven for thinking that this person had nothing to do with our ancestry and that any similarity with Richard de la Bere is coincidental until one looks into the matter a little more deeply. For such a person to exist and be singled out in this way there would surely be some record of his parentage amongst historical documents. Equally, if he survived the Battle of Crecy, he and any descendants would surely have appeared somewhere in the annals of history. Yet to date I have found no records in the National Archives of anyone with the name Richard de la Vere or Richard de Vere who lived around this time. It is true the de Vere family were successive Earls of Oxford, but the sixth Earl was Robert de Vere who died in 1331 and left no heir, and so his honours and titles devolved to his nephew John de Vere. John, the seventh Earl, was notorious on the battlefield and did serve in the Crecy campaign. (Ref: http://www.myarmoury.com/feature_battle_crecy.html) He lived from 1313 to 1360 and married Maud Badlesmere in 1336 and they produced four sons and a daughter from 1337 onwards. These sons were too young to fight at Crecy in 1346, and in any case none of their forenames are Richard.

(Ref: http://www.earlofoxford.com/eo02.htm)

At this juncture it is also worth mentioning that linguistically B and V are basically the same letter and that there is no V sound in Latin.

Additionally, amongst the de la Bere archives are two interesting references. The first reads as follows:

 Jervoise family of Herriard

Catalogue Ref. 44M69

Creator(s):

Jervoise family of Herriard, Hampshire

Charters

NORFOLK

FILE - Gift - ref.  44M69/C/772  - date: 13th century (late?)

[from Scope and Content] Witnesses: John de Cheverdone, Robert Bulluc, Nicholas de Quercu, Stephen de la More, William Gregori, Peter Abraham, John de la Vere, Henry Ernold, Hugh the clerk et al

 

There is a remarkable resemblance between this and another earlier deed which is witnessed by John de la Bere and reads:

 

Jervoise family of Herriard Catalogue in Full 

Creator(s): 

Jervoise family of Herriard, Hampshire

Charters

FILE - SOUTHROP; Grant - ref. 44M69/C/225  - date: c. 1240

Seal: large seal of Matilda de Herierd.

Contents

By Matilda de Herierd, widow

To the church of St. Mary Magdalene at Wintney (Hartley Wintney, Hants?)

Of 20s. annual rent out of lands of William le Geldene (10s.), William, son of Botild (5s.), William de Coterpunde (2s.) and Robert the Miller (3s.) in Sudrop.

Witnesses: Sir Henry de Fermly, Sir Adam de St. Maneveo, Sir Stephen de Bendeng, Sir William Banastre, Henry de Bovile, and John his brother, William Bolloc, Henry de Berkham, John de la Bere, William Gregorie.

 

The second reference reads as follows:

 

Context : quick reference  

SC 8  Special Collections: Ancient Petitions

Subseries within SC 8  PETITIONS TO THE KING; TO THE KING AND COUNCIL; TO THE COUNCIL; TO THE PARLIAMENT; AND THE LIKE.

SC 8/145  7201-7250. Individual petitions are described and dated at Item level.

Record Summary

Scope and content Petitioners: Thomas de la Vere (Bere).

Addressees: King and council.

Places mentioned: Haselbere (Haselbury Plucknett), [Somerset].

Other people mentioned: William de Scharshull (Shareshull), justice.

Nature of request: Thomas de la Vere states that as he had various actions against various people concerning various lands, they, in order to prevent him pursuing them, procured an inquest of office, claiming that the King had reason to seize half the manor of Haselbury Plucknett into his hand. The King instructed him to present any reasons why this should not happen, and seven years ago Thomas appeared in King's Bench and asked for the matter to be put to a jury. Since then the matter has been delayed, through malice, until the King's thirtieth year, when Thomas petitioned, complaining of this, and was granted letters to William de Scharshull and his companions to hold the inquest. They have not done so, and he requests new letters asking them to hold the inquest without more delay, and that it might be held in the country by a writ of nisi prius, by a jury of the best and most suitable people of those parts.

Endorsement: Coram rege.

Covering dates [c. 1357-c. 1359]

Availability Open Document, Open Description, Open on Transfer 

Note The petitioner states that he petitioned in the King's thirtieth year (25 January 1356-24 January 1357), and that this petition has had no result: so this current petition is likely to date from the next year or so. This would agree with William de Shareshull's time as Chief Justice of King's Bench (1350-1360).As the various entries in the Close, Patent and Fine rolls show, the petitioner was involved in disputes about both halves of the manor of Haselbury Plucknett. The relevant half is probably that mentioned in CPR 1350-4 p.338 (dated at Westminster, 14 July 1352), which belonged to Alan de Plogenet, and was then granted to his sister Joan: this would then probably be the procured inquest mentioned by this petition, which would date it to seven years later, ie. c.1359. This would agree with the dating of SC 8/32/1600, where the dispute has been going on for ten years. Note also that SC 8/169/8436 apparently mentions that the dispute has been going on for five years: this may mean that this petition had been presented in the thirtieth year (i.e. 1356-7).

Held by The National Archives, Kew 

 

This clearly relates to Thomas de la Bere, as the document is one of a sequence concerning the Plokenet estate. Thomas is in fact a brother of a Richard de la Bere and is here claiming his rightful inheritance of this estate following the death of his father, Richard de la Bere, who was also knighted.  The misspelling of the surname within both what appears to be the same family group and same time frame might serve as further evidence that the recorded name following the knighthood ceremony was incorrect.

If we accept that Richard de la Vere was in fact Richard de la Bere, we can say for certain that Richard was knighted as a young man along with the Black Prince at the start of the Crecy campaign before he had had much of a chance to earn his knighthood on the battlefield. [One other similar ceremony is recorded only hours before the Battle of Crecy began when, as the comparatively huge French army amassed, Edward distracted his troops by knighting as many as fifty esquires for their action in the campaign thus far. Additionally two knights were raised in status to knight banneret].

I now return to the question of whether or not the Keeper and Constable of Emlyn Castle was this same Richard or another Sir Richard de la Bere, perhaps his father.

Sir Richard was still Constable of Emlyn in 1359:  (ref : TAFOW pg12)

 

November 26 1359 (London)

Order and strict injunction to Sir Edward de Seint Johan, constable of the Prince’s castle at Coneway, or his lieutenant, - inasmuch as the King, the Prince, and other great ones of the realm have now crossed to France for the furtherance of the war, and the Prince knows not how events may shape themselves during his absence, - to ordain that the said castle be well and safely guarded in accordance with the charge he has thereof, being furnished with both men and victuals, so that no peril may arise through his default.

By testimony of the Bishop of Wyncestre.

The like to the following or their lieutenants:-

Sir Walter de Mauny, constable of Hardelagh,

Sir Edmund Makeluyt, constable of Dynveour,

Sir Robert de Stretton, constable of Lampadervaur,

Sir Richard de la Beere, constable of Emlyn,

Robert de Parys, constable of Caenarvon.

By bill endorsed by Delves and Spridlyngton and by advice and agreement of the Bishop of Wyncestre.

 

Furthermore, Sir Richard’s post of responsibility seems to have continued until March 16th 1382 when the Lordship of Emlyn passed to Simon de Burle. (ref : TAFOW pg17). [The Black Prince died earlier than this in 1376, followed by Edward III’s death in 1377]. David Nash Ford’s research adds that Sir Richard “died early in 1382, shortly followed by his wife, and they were buried together in the Friary Church of the Dominican Friars in Hereford”. For the newly knighted Sir Richard to be a young man in the Battle of Crecy, he must have been born around 1325, fitting the time frame well. On the other hand, if the Constable of Emlyn had been the previous generation it seems he must have lived to a very good age.

Additionally, it is known that the Prince poured lavish gifts upon Richard. Even before the campaign the Prince was bestowing gifts upon him, for the Prince’s Register tells us that on 31st July 1345 Richard de la Bere received from the fifteen-year-old Prince a ton of wine, with the same to Sir Peter De Gildesburgh. (ref : DNF & TAFOW pg14 which states 1346). This is followed by the gift of land dated January 14th 1346 (see earlier). They were clearly friends before the campaign, and even greater friends after the campaign as indicated by a 1347 new year’s gift from the Black Prince, namely a buckle of “an ounce of gold with pearls, with a rose in the middle and a crown above it, set with a breast of two birds” (ref : DNF & TAFOW pg14). This reference goes on to declare:

Five rings of gold with diamonds, bought the same day; four to Sir Richard de la Bere, Sir W Montagu, Sir J de Montagu and Sir J de Bradeston, and the fifth kept by the Prince for his own use when the Queen was with him at Berkhamsted.

A hood of black budge, bought the same day (28 June) to Sir Richard de la Bere (ref : TAFOW pg14)

Such lavish gifts might indicate sincere gratitude, endorsing the notion that during 1346 Sir Richard acted in a way which caused the Black Prince to be forever grateful to him. Amongst the beneficiaries named here is Sir W Montagu, or Guillaume de Montaigu, whose name appears alongside Richard de la Vere as one of those knighted on 12th July 1346 at Quettehou in Normandy at the start of the Crecy campaign. Sir William was the 2nd Earl of Salisbury. He lived at Bisham just down the road from Wargrave. Sir J Montagu is probably his younger brother, John, father of the 3rd Earl.

See http://www.berkshirehistory.com/bios/wmontacute_2eofs.html .

To summarise, there seems to be substantial evidence to support the family legend of Delabere participation in the Battle of Crecy. It seems possible that Richard was knighted together with the Black Prince at the start of the campaign and that, as friends, they fought in the same division. To what extent Richard was involved in saving the Prince’s life in the actual battle remains unclear, indeed any bravery on Richard’s behalf may have occurred during skirmishes en route. If the dates are correct, it seems certain that Sir Richard returned home before the main army, perhaps due to injury. As a trusted and valued friend he was very soon asked to take on the role of Keeper of the Prince’s home, Emlyn Castle.

Richard de la Bere was not the only de la Bere to fight in the Battle of Crecy. Mentioned in the Calendar of Patent Rolls is the following extract:

September 4 1346 by Calais

A pardon for good service in the wars to John son of John de Bere … by testimony of the Earl of Arundel

Judging by the date, clearly John de Bere was involved in some incident in the battle, possibly injured or killed, and this raises the question as to how he relates to Sir Richard de la Bere.  How both men fitted into the family tree is considered in the article Our First Wargrave Ancestor.

 

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