Charlton, John de (DNB00)

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CHARLTON or CHERLETON, JOHN de, first Lord Charlton of Powys (d. 1353), sprang from a family that for several generations before his time had held of the abbey of Shrewsbury the manor of Charlton, in the parish of Wrockwardine, Shropshire. He was the son of Robert Charlton. Of his brothers, one, Alan, became the founder of the familv of the Charltons of Apley, and another, Thomas [q. v.], was subsequently bishop of Hereford. His father's name disappearing from all records after 1300, it was probably then that John succeeded to the estates he is mentioned as possessing in 1306. In 1307 he was proxy for the men of Salop in the Carlisle parliament. Before 1308 he had become a knight. When he first attached himself to the court is unknown, but within three months of Edward II's accession he is spoken of by that king as 'dilectus valettus noster ' in a charter that gave him the right of free warren on his demesne lands at Charlton and Pontesbury (18 Sept. 1307). In 1309 the dating of a power of attorney at Dublin suggests that he was serving in some Irish office. But on 25 June the death without issue of Gruffudd ap Owain, the representative of the old line of princes of Upper Powys (Powys Gwenwynwen), must have recalled him to the Welsh marches. He quickly obtained permission from Edward to many Hawyse, the sister and heiress of Gruffudd, and on 26 Aug. received livery of the castle of Welshpool (Powys Castle) and of the extensive domains of the Welsh chieftain. These had for several generations assumed, even under their Welsh rulers, the character of the adjacent lordships marcher, possessing, as Charlton himself claimed, every regalian right within their jurisdiction ('omnem regalem libertatem,' Rot. of. Parl. i. 355). Thus provided with rich estates, Charlton became one of Edward's most prominent and, for a time, faithful supporters. In 1310 he raised four hundred men for the abortive Scottish campaign of that year. In 131 he was excluded from office and court by the lords ordainers, and his sharing in the misfortunes of his sovereign probably led Gruffudd de la Pole, the uncle of Hawyse, to refuse to acquiesce any longer in holding as subtenant part of an estate the whole of which he regarded as his own. In 1312 Gruffudd, with the assistance of his kinsfolk the L'Estranges, raised a great force of Welshmen and regularly besieged Charlton and his wife in the castle of Pool. Hawyse's energy in the defence gave her among the Welsh the epithet of 'Gadarn,' or 'mighty.' But the siege was only raised by the intervention of Roger Mortimer of Wigmore, the justice of Wales, and in a few months later Gruffudd again broke the peace by taking forcible possession of Mercneyn Iscoed. The general pacification after Gaveston's death in 1313 included, however, both Gruffudd and Charlton; but the latter now received royal charters confirming him in the possession of his lands in North Wales, South Wales, and Powys. His confirmation of his predecessor's charters to Welshpool, and obtaining from the crown license to hold markets there and at Machynlleth, may show a desire to gain the support of his subjects against his rival.

In 1313 Charlton's position as one of the magnates of the middle marches was permanently secured by a writ of summons to parliament. Though frequently loosely spoken of as 'lord of Powys' and 'lord of Pool,' the writ summoned him as 'J. de Charlton,' so that the barony thus created more properly bears the name of Charlton than Powys (Courthope, Historic Peerage, 101).

The chronic confusion of the marches soon gave Gruffudd fresh opportunities of attacking Charlton. In 1315 the peace was again disturbed by their feuds, and at the parliament of Lincoln both parties were enjoined to keep the peace and attend before king and council to justify their claims. The non-appearance of Gruffudd led to a decision in Charlton's favour; but many years later the Welshman's complaints fill the rolls of parliament. After Edward III's accession he sent in a fresh petition, and in 1330 both parties were solemnly forbidden by the king in parliament to violate the peace. This is the last heard of Gruffudd, whose death without heirs transferred such title as he had to his niece. Besides his Welsh estates, Charlton acquired extensive properties in Shropshire, and received in 1316 license to crenellate and surround with a wall his castle at Charlton, though its condition at his death suggests that he took little pains to make it really a strong place. In 1325 he received leave to fortify his house in Shrewsbury.

During the whole of Edward II's reign Charlton was occupied in affairs of state. Besides sending or accompanying his feudal levies to the Scotch war, he constantly busied himself in raising large bodies of Welsh mercenaries for the king's service in Scotland. In 1316 he commanded the troops raised by the justice of Chester to put down a Welsh revolt, and in the same year was present at the siege of Bristol (Vita Ed. II auct Malmesb. in Stubbs, Chron. Ed, I and II, ii. 222). About the same time he became governor of Builth Castle. His appointment as chamberlain must have kept nim a good deal about the court. It is somewhat startling to find him wavering in his allegiance to Edward in 1321, being ordered in vain to keep the peace in his lordships, quarrelling with the king about the right of presentation to the church of Welshpool, attending on 29 Nov. the meeting of the 'good peers summoned by Lancaster at Doncaster, and ultimately fighting under Lancaster's banner at Boroughbridge (1322). After the battle he surrendered to the king, and his immediate restoration to favour IS even more mysterious than his former disloyalty. A week after he was summoned to serve against the Scots in person, and his recognisances for the good behaviour of several Lancastrian partisans were accepted. He made a bad return for Edward's clemency by holding intercourse with his old ally Roger Mortimer as early as the time of the latter's escape from the Tower, and by materially assisting in the king's overthrow by the capture of his faithful partisan Arundel at Shrewsbury in 1326 (Stubbs, Chron. Ed. I and II, ii. 87). For the rest of his life Charlton kept on good terms with the government. The marriage of his son to a daughter of Mortimer's did not prevent him continuing in the favour of Edward III after Mortimer's fall. In the new reign he served and levied troops for the French and Scottish wars as diligently as he had done in the previous period. He soon got over the renewed difficulties with Grufiudd de la Pole, and a feud in 1330 with Arundel on account of his father's death. At last in 1337 he was appointed viceroy or 'custos' of Ireland. That country was then in more than its chronic state of anarchy. The death of William de Burgh had lost Connaught and Ulster to the colonists. The corruption of the officials made the government of Dublin as contemptible as it was weak. The despatch of Charlton, accompanied by his brother Bishop Thomas of Hereford as chancellor, a Welsh 'doctor in decretals' named John ap Rhys as treasurer, and with a force of two hundred Welsh footmen, suggests a definite attempt to apply to Ireland through experienced Welsh officials the system of government which had at least partially pacified Wales. Charlton landed on 13 Oct. 1337. But within six months of his arrival he was deposed from office on an accu- sation of misgovernment raised by his brother Thomas, who, on 15 May 1338, became ‘custos’ in his stead. But despite this disgrace, and despite advancing years, Charlton continued employed in active service. In 1341 he and his brother were amon the auditors of petitions from Gascony, Vigales, and Ireland in the Easter parliament at Westminster. Since his return from Ireland he was summoned to parliament as John de Charlton senior, his son John perhaps taking his place in more active work. His last summons was in 1346. In 1343 he made an indenture to marry his grandson, John, to the daughter of Ralph, lord Stafford. In 1344 he incorporated the town of Llanidloes. His obtaining in 1341 a license to have divine worship celebrated at Charlton, his zeal for the reformation of the corrupt Cistercians of Strata Marcella, and his interest in the Grey Friars of Shrewsbury, which his wife had greatly benefited, anywhere she lay buried, show that with declining years he took an increasing interest in religion. At last he died in December 1353 at an unusually advanced age for his period, and was buried beside Hawyse in the church of the Grey Friars of Shrewsbury. The fourteenth-century stained glass now preserved at St. Mary’s Church in that town, and bearing the figure of a knight wearing the arms of Powys, is probably his effigy, originally set up in the church where he was buried (Owen and Blakeway, Shrewsbury, ii. 318.

Charlton’s son, John II, often mentioned in Rymer as John de Charlton junior, succeeded him in the title. He married Maud Mortimer and died in 1360. He was succeeded by John III, his son, whose marriage with a daughter of Lord Staflbrd had already been arranged by John I. Some writers confuse John II and John III, but it is quite clear that they were different persons. The latter was inturn succeeded by is two sons John IV and Edward [see Charlton, Edward with the latter of whom the peerage fell into abeyance.

[Parliamentary Writs, Rolls of Parliament, Rymer's Fœdera, Rotuli Scotize, Stubbs`s Chronicles of Edward I and Edward II. The facts connected with Charlton’s Shropshire estates are collected in Eyton’s Shropshire, especially ix. 32-3; his Irish viceroyalty is described in Gilbert’s History of the Viceroys of Ireland, p. 186 ; Dugdale’s Baronage, ii. 70-1 ; Courthope’s Historic Peerage, 101-3 ; the Collections, historical and archaeological, relating to Montgomeryshire, published by the Powysland Club, especially the articles in vol. i. on t.he Princes of Upper Powys, by the Hon. and Rev. G. T. O. Bridgman, and on the Feudal Barons of Powys by Mr. M. C. Jones, both containing valuable appendixes of original documents]

T. F. T.