Brocas, Bernard (DNB00)

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BROCAS, Sir BERNARD (1330?–1395), third son of Sir John de Brocas, knight, of Clewer and Windsor, who was master of the horse to King Edward III, was born about 1330. The family came from Gascony, where they had fought and suffered for the English cause against the French for several generations before John de Brocas became an officer of the household of Edward II, and settled in England. Brocas was one of the favourite knights of the Black Prince, with whom he was certainly present at the battle of Poitiers, almost certainly at Crécy and Najara. After the peace of Brétigny, he and other members of his family were employed in the settlement of Aquitaine, where he held the office of constable, and on the death of the prince he was specially invited to his funeral. He was also a friend of William of Wykeham, whose first acquaintance with his family seems to have been connected with the building of Windsor Castle, in the earlier operations of which Sir John had been employed. Of the three knights present by invitation at Wykeham's enthronement at Winchester, Brocas was one. In the year 1377, Wykeham's first act, after emerging from the difficulties in which he had been placed by his political struggle with John of Gaunt, was to make Brocas 'chief surveyor and sovereign warden of our parks … throughout our bishopric.' Soon after this he became the chief trustee of the Brocas estates.

Immediately after the death of Edward III, Brocas was appointed captain of Calais, an appointment which he held only for a short time, but he was now constantly employed in various diplomatic and military services. He also sat for Wiltshire in one parliament (1391) and for Hampshire in ten (between 1367 and 1395), closely connected with Wykeham in his political line of conduct. On or soon after Richard's marriage with Anne of Bohemia, he became the queen's chamberlain, and he is said to have also been chamberlain to the Comte de Hainault.

Brocas was thrice married: (1) About 1354, to Agnes, daughter and heiress of Sir Mauger Vavasour of Denton, Yorkshire, from whom he was divorced. (2) In 1361, to Mary des Roches, daughter and heiress of Sir John des Roches, and collaterally descended from Peter de Rupibus, bishop of Winchester. This lady was the widow of Sir John de Borhunte, knight. With her Brocas received several estates, amongst others Roche Court, near Fareham, Hampshire, which has continued ever since in possession of his lineal descendants and representatives. Through this second marriage Sir Bernard became master of the royal buckhounds, an hereditary office retained by his descendants for three centuries. (3) To Katharine, widow of Sir Hugh Tyrrell, in 1382, soon after which he parted with some of his estates to the priory of Southwick, and others to the parish church of Clewer, where he founded the Brocas chantry.

Before his second marriage Brocas came, through the agency of his uncle, Bernard Brocas, rector of Guildford, into possession of the estate which formed his chief property, Beaurepaire, near Basingstoke. Here he built a house, which has long ago been pulled down. Brasses and monuments of the Brocas family are still to be seen in the neighbouring churches of Sherborne St. John and Bramley. Brocas died in 1395, and was buried in St. Edmund's Chapel in Westminster Abbey. That his handsome monument stands so close to the royal tombs is a mark of the estimation in which he was held by his master. The inscription on the tomb runs thus: 'Hic jacet Bernardus Brocas miles T. T. quondam camerarius Anne Regine Anglie cujus anime propitietur Deus.' The recumbent figure is apparently of a much later date, but certainly antecedent to the time of Addison, who, in the 'Spectator,' describes the verger of the abbey as pointing out to Sir Roger de Coverley 'the old lord who cut off the King of Morocco's head,' a story which deeply impressed Sir Roger. The remark was occasioned by the crest, which represents what is heraldically called 'a Moor's head orientally crowned.' This crest is found on the seals of Sir Bernard Brocas, along with the lion rampant of the Brocas arms, as early as 1361. He was the first to use it, and it has been borne by his descendants ever since, but its origin is not known. It was, of course, granted by Edward III, and probably represented some feat of war or chivalry. It may be remarked that the features of the 'Moor' are represented in all the seals as of the distinct, and even exaggerated, negro type.

The son of Brocas by his second wife, of the same name as himself, who also held office at Richard's court, was executed in 1400 by Henry IV for his share in the conspiracy formed in favour of his dethroned master. Shakespeare mentions him in his 'Richard II ' as one of the conspirators—

My lord, I have from Oxford sent to London
The heads of Brocas and Sir Bennet Seely,
Two of the dangerous consorted traitors
That sought at Oxford thy dire overthrow.

In some of these details the poet was misled by his authorities. The 'Brocas' at Eton and 'Brocas Street' in Windsor take their name from this family, to whom considerable portions of Eton and Windsor once belonged.

[Family papers; Gascon Rolls ; Record Office papers ; The Family of Brocas, of Beaurepaire and Roche Court. Hereditary Masters of the Royal Buckhounds, with some hints towards a history of the English Government of Aquitaine, by Montagu Burrows, Capt. R.N., F.S.A., Chichele Professor of Modern History.]

M. B.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.37
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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365 i l.l. Brocas, Sir Bernard: after 1395 insert In 1391 he was M.P. for Wilts