The Man of Trewen who Attended the Court of King Richard 11.
In 1397 King Richard II declared himself, at the age of 23 years, to be no longer a minor and took upon himself the role of Monarch of England; having the ‘Lords Appellant’ removed from office, he ordered Richard, Earl of Arundel and Surrey to be beheaded, the Duke of Gloucester (his uncle) murdered, two others, Henry of Bolingbroke and the Duke of Norfolk, who had quarrelled, were banished and their estates taken. Soon after this upheaval John of Gaunt died and Richard seized his estate and his lands and manors were handed to William le Scrope, Earl of Wiltshire. Richard then sent out notices for his Parliament to meet at Westminster on the 17th September, 1397; among the members of this parliament were two men from Launceston.
Willielmus Holt and Rogerus Menwynnek. Little appears to be known of the former, but it is known that Roger came from Menwennicke Barton, of the Parish of Trewen, which is near Piper’s Pool. I find nothing in our histories of any form of ceremony or rejoicings in Launceston when these two eminent citizens set out to do their duty for the County Town of Cornwall; whether they set out individually, both together, or if they met with others on a like journey to travel with. Did they have servants or bodyguards, were they armed, how did they feed, where did they rest, what route did they take? The questions are many, the answers few.
The king, having put down all opposition to certain measures which he was resolved to carry out, adjourned his Parliament at Westminster to Shrewsbury for the 29th of January, 1397 (the date of New Years Day then being March 25th, not January 1st).
This was known as the Great Parliament, where, in this regal visit he displayed great magnificence, and entertained the members with a sumptuous banquet, he appears among the people in his costly royal robes. Whilst in Shrewsbury, Richard made Chester a Principality and annexed to it the Castle of Holt, the lordship of Bromfield and Yale, Chirkland, and various other places in Wales and on the Borders. During the proceedings in Parliament, it was ascertained that deadly hatred subsisted between the Dukes of Hereford and Norfolk. These noblemen had been jointly concerned in the impeachment of Arundel and his fellow-sufferers, at Westminster.
Norfolk, touched by remorse for his share in the ruin of a patriotic peer, or desirous of ensnaring his late confederate, who had charged Norfolk with using words disrespectful to the king, fell into an open quarrel with Hereford, who made the matter a subject of public accusation in the Parliament against his antagonist.
The King, unwilling that any discourse about himself should be made the subject of open discussion, suddenly closed the proceedings of Parliament, and adjourned to Oswestry. After a journey of some 230 miles to London, then another 150 to Shrewsbury, and now another 20 miles to Oswestry our two representatives of the people of Launceston must have felt as though they had travelled the world, and how about the Members from Helston and other Cornish towns. (Remember that at this time vast tracts of land, especially moors, riversides, half of Somerset, and many valleys were not drained as today. Some of these areas were treacherous to travellers not familiar with the territory; besides, some areas of the country were peopled with robbers, murderers, people who would cut a throat as easily as a crust of bread. It is most probable our Members would have travelled many miles out of a direct route to the appointed destinations.)
In the assembly at Oswestry, a town of much the same size as Launceston and with a castle of much the same date, the dispute between the two Dukes was recommenced, and the king resolved that it should be ended by a duel between the belligerent parties at Coventry. The combat did not take place as the Duke of Norfolk refused to fight; upon which Norfolk was banished from the kingdom forever, and Hereford for ten years. As a mark of the royal favour, Richard granted, before the Parliament closed, the first Charter conferred upon Oswestry, by which the town was incorporated by the name of :-
“The Bailiffs and Burgesses of Oswestry, infra Parliament Cestrioe in Marchia inter Angliam et Walliam.” The Charter, which was founded upon the one granted just before at Shrewsbury, exempted the Burgesses from all contributions and exactions whatsoever, throughout the kingdom, the city of London excepted. It bears the date of August 14th, 1399.
By now the close of Richard’s rule was near. His love of idle show and magnificence, his delight in popular applause, the buzzing about him of parasites and flatterers, and his indulgence in pleasures, were followed by a brief scene of bitter existence, which ended in degrading humiliation and painful death. The eyes of Henry of Lancaster, Duke of Hereford, had long been directed towards the throne, and he actively employed his agents to place him upon it. The classic historians of Shrewsbury assure us that, either from the disgust occasioned by outrages perpetrated upon the Burgesses by Richard’s bodyguard, or disorderly multitudes brought into the town during the sittings of his Parliament, “it is certain that the revolution which placed Henry of Lancaster on the throne had the entire concurrence of the inhabitants of these parts (Shropshire). When the Duke proceeded into Wales to circumvent the unhappy Richard, he passed through Ludlow and Shrewsbury, and was joined here by the Lords Scales and Bardolph, Sir Robert and Sir John Legh, and other gentlemen of Cheshire.” Richard, after suffering much indignity, was secured a prisoner in Flint Castle by the great conspirator Lancaster, and from thence was led in the Duke’s train to Chester. Here Bolingbroke delivered the subdued monarch to the Duke of Gloucester and Thomas Earl of Arundel, saying, “Here is the murderer of your father, you must be answerable for him.” He was subsequently conveyed to Pontefract Castle, where he was basely assassinated by a band of armed ruffians, four of whom he killed with a battle-axe before he fell.
The untimely death of Richard caused an immediate change in the government of Oswestry. Its newly-created lord, the Earl of Wiltshire, fell a victim to popular fury, and Thomas, son of the attainted Earl of Arundel, was restored to the manorial rights and dignities of Oswestry.
The Earl of Huntington fled into Essex where he was captured by the Countess of Hereford, sister of the deceased Richard, Earl of Arundel, and was later put to death, very slowly and painfully.
The family became extinct in Trewen three centuries ago C.1650, when an heiress varied their property by marriage to a Copplestone.
The Cartulary of Launceston Priory helps to confirm some of the above dates.
Cartulary No. 559: The assize taken between the lord John Honeyland, prior of Launceston, and Ralph Botreaux, knight, and Reginald Pleute about the wood of Trefrye.
Writ of the king to the sheriff of Cornwall to empower a jury of twelve men and by pledges to arrange the attendance of Ralph & Reginald in a suit of the prior of Launceston that Reginald & Ralph had unjustly disseised him of his free tenement of Trefize. Dated Shrewsbury 28 January 1398.
No. 560: Writ from King Richard II to William Rikehill & William Brencheele appointing them and their companion’s justices at the assize of novel disseisin which the prior of Launceston had summoned before them versus Ralph Botreaux & Reginald Pluete about a tenement in Trefrize. They were to take the assize at the place and time appointed according to the law and custom of the realm of England, saving the amercements which would arise for the king himself.
Witnessed: the King. Dated Shrewsbury 25 January 1398.