Henry VIII,the Reign
Lollard Knights & Associates
Clanvowe’s family were of Welsh origin, being descended from Hywel ap Meric of Radnorshire. The first to use the English form of the name was Philip Clanvowe, MP for Herefordshire in 1340, who was probably Thomas’s great-grandfather. The family estates included the manors of Michaelchurch-on-Arrow, and Gladestry, Radnorshire, and Hergest, Ocle Pychard, Lyde Bevis and Yazor, Herefordshire. Which of these descended to Thomas himself is uncertain, but he owned Yazor at least, and his influence in Herefordshire suggests that he held others.
The Clanvowe family boasted a tradition of service in the royal household. John Clanvowe (probably Thomas’s grandfather) was a household esquire in 1349, and Sir John Clanvowe (either his father or an uncle) was one of Richard II’s knights of the chamber, a councillor and an intimate member of the court circle. Thomas himself had entered Richard II’s household by October 1391 when, as one of the King’s esquires, he was given a life annuity of 40 marks drawn on the Exchequer. A year later he married Perryne Whitney, one of Queen Anne’s ladies-in-waiting and a daughter of his Herefordshire neighbour, Sir Robert Whitney. Then, on 2 Oct. 1392, the King granted the couple an additional joint annuity of £20. Both royal grants were confirmed in 1394, the lordship of Builth being then made liable. In September 1394 Thomas had royal letters of protection issued to him in anticipation of his joining the royal expedition to Ireland, his neighbour, Thomas Oldcastle*, undertaking to act as one of his attorneys. It was probably during this campaign that he was knighted, for on 14 June 1395, shortly after Richard II’s return home, he was described as ‘King’s knight’. Two years later, in March 1397, he was granted, for life, an annual gift of two tuns of wine.
During the last few years of Richard II’s reign, Clanvowe was also busy in his native Herefordshire, perhaps in accordance with the King’s policy at this time of introducing his supporters into important local government posts. He represented the county in both the Parliaments of 1397 (sitting in September with his presumed nephew, John Skydemore), and in the same year was appointed j.p. and sheriff, holding the latter office for two consecutive years, almost certainly as a royal placeman, and contrary to the letter of the law. He was still attached to the Court, and specifically to the household of the young Queen Isabella, to whose parents and relations in France he carried New Year’s gifts in January 1399. Two months later he acted as an attorney for his father-in-law Sir Robert Whitney, who (as herberger of the royal household) was preparing to go to Ireland in advance of the King’s second expedition there. As a serving sheriff, however, Clanvowe did not himself accompany the royal army.
Despite his close association with the court of Richard II, Sir Thomas was able to adapt, apparently without difficulty, to the government of Henry IV. Certainly his grants and annuities were confirmed as early as 31 Oct. 1399. In the following year, moreover, he took part in Henry’s invasion of Scotland, serving from September to December 1400 in the retinue of Richard, Lord Grey of Codnor, who was charged with the custody of Roxburgh castle and the east march. He had apparently remained a member of the household of the now dispossessed Queen Isabella, and in June 1401 he was among those charged with escorting her home to France, being granted £20 expenses for the return journey.
After serving on several commissions in Herefordshire, in 1402 he accompanied Sir Edmund Mortimer’s forces against the rebel Welsh leader, Owen Glendower. However, the English were disastrously defeated at Pilleth, near Knighton, Radnorshire, on 22 June, when Clanvowe’s father-in-law was killed and he himself captured. Released by the following November, presumably after paying a ransom, he was granted an exemplification of his royal grants, the original letters patent having been lost when the Welsh ravaged his property after their victory at Pilleth. His estates in the march had apparently not recovered by May 1404, when he was granted exemption from having any royal troops quartered on them or anything taken for the King’s use. By this time he was again being called a ‘King’s knight’, and in the following October he shared a royal grant of the reversion of the castle and manor of Moresend, Northamptonshire, with Thomas Langley, then keeper of the privy seal, and two of Henry IV’s councillors, Sir Thomas Erpingham and John Norbury*. In the same week he acted as a surety when his friend, (Sir) Leonard Hakluyt*, took out a royal lease on lands in Herefordshire.
Clanvowe’s closest private links, however, were with certain erstwhile colleagues in Richard II’s household, members of a group (with whom his relation, Sir John Clanvowe, had also been involved) known from their apparent heretical sympathies as ‘the lollard knights’. Of these, he was especially closely associated with Sir Lewis Clifford and his son-in-law, Sir Philip de la Vache*, who was another member of Queen Isabella’s entourage. In April 1399 Clanvowe had been made a trustee in the reversion of de la Vache’s manors of Bury in Chalfont St. Giles, Buckinghamshire, and Hook Norton, Oxfordshire; and a year later he acted as a witness to the complicated series of transactions whereby de la Vache,Sir John Cheyne I* and Sir Thomas Latimer† transferred ownership of Clifford’s castle and lordship of Ewyas Harold to William Beauchamp, Lord Abergavenny. Cheyne and Latimer were also ‘lollard knights’ and the latter was an especially notorious supporter of heretics. In the late autumn of 1404 Clanvowe, together with de la Vache and Cheyne, was an overseer of Sir Lewis Clifford’s will, a document which (with its contempt for the testator’s ‘stinkyng careyne’, rejection of all funeral pomp and absence of legacies to the Church) is of all the ‘lollard wills’ most firmly indicative of heretical tendencies. After Clifford’s death, Clanvowe transferred the reversion of de la Vache’s estates to Edmund Hampden* and others, and in April 1407 he and Hampden also acted as overseers of Sir Philip’s will (which, incidentally, was quite free of ‘lollard elements’).
Quite apart from his links with ‘the lollard knights’, Clanvowe was also associated with other suspected lollard sympathizers.
In December 1407, for instance, he was a fellow mainpernor with John Croft, a Herefordshire esquire who had been imprisoned for lollardy in 1394-5. More significantly still, both his father-in-law, Sir Robert Whitney I, and his brother-in-law, Sir Robert II*, showed an interest in the new doctrines. It is at least possible, therefore, that Sir Thomas himself approved (if only privately) of some aspects of lollard teaching, and this impression is borne out by his will, which was made at Hergest on 29 May 1410 and proved two weeks later. Written in English, its language closely resembles that employed by Sir Lewis Clifford and other ‘lollard’ testators. Sir Thomas requested burial at Yazor with ‘myn auncestres’, but forbade funeral pomp, and ordained that ‘my boodi be y putte and yledde in to erthe as sone as it may be doon after that y am deed, pouerlich wythoute ony grete cost or dispenses doyng ther upon’. His debts were to be paid, and 100 poor men were to be given doles of cloth, while £20 was to be devoted to ‘make weys longg ther as most commen puple in to chepyng townes’.
Significantly, however, no legacies were left to parish churches or religious houses. Nor was any provision made for requiem masses, an unusual omission which accords well with lollard doctrines. Among the testator’s personal bequests were gifts of gilt cups to (Sir) Leonard Hakluyt and (Sir) John Skydemore with the request that they should help his widow ‘at here nede’. Other gifts were of a gilded sword, ‘y called Warwik’, to Sir Robert Whitney II, of several suits of armour, and of ‘my basnet that was my lord Umfree’ to Hugh Monnington. His executors included his wife Perryne, Whitney and Roger Partrich, a retainer of the Mortimer family. Clanvowe’s widow survived until 1422, and when she died her will not only resembled her husband’s, but also mentioned among the bequests certain suspect devotional treatises. Sir Thomas had no surviving issue, and his heir was apparently a member of the Poyntz family of Gloucestershire.