Cobham, John de (DNB00)

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COBHAM, JOHN de, third Lord Cobham (d. 1408), was the grandson of Henry de Cobham (1260-1335), and son of John de Cobham, constable of Rochester Castle, and, if we may trust Dugdale, 'admiral of the king's fleet from the Thames westward' in 1335 (Dugdale, Baronage, ii. 65; Abbrev. Rot. Orig. Scacc. ii. 78; Collect. Topog. vii. 320). His mother's name seems to have been Joan, according to Hasted, a daughter of John, lord Beauchamp (Hist. of Kent, i. 490; Coll. Top. vii. 342). Dugdale has confused the two John de Cobhams, and has treated them as one individual who, in this case, must have held the barony of Cobham for about seventy years. As Henry de Cobham can be shown to have died in 1335 or 1339 (Coll. Top. 322), and as John de Cobham the elder was already married in 8 Edward III (1314-1315), and admiral of the fleet in 1335, on this supposition he can hardly have been less than 110 years old at the time of his death in 1408. The Cobham records (Top. Gen. vii. 320) also speak distinctly of two Johns, respectively the son and grandson of Henry de Cobham. Hasted makes John de Cobham the elder to have died in 36 Edward III (Hist. of Kent, i. 490), but in this statement he seems to be going beyond his authority, the 'Escheat Rolls ' for this year (cf. Esch. Rolls, ii. 258). From other evidence we find that John de Cobham the elder was alive in 25 Edward III (1351), but apparently dead by 33 Edward III (1359) (Coll. Top. vii. 345, 348); whence we may conclude that the younger John de Cobham succeeded to his father's estates between 1351 and 1359. An entry in the Cobham records dated 32 Edward III, and running in the name of 'John de Cobham, son of Lord John de Cobham' (ib. vii. 344), would seem to imply that the elder John survived the year 1357, in which case he must have died in 1358 or 1359. In 40 and 41 Edward III John de Cobham appears to have been serving in France, and in the latter year was despatched as ambassador to Rome (Dugdale; Rymer, vi. 542, 567; Palgrave, Excheq. Kalendars, i. 212). In 1374 he was at Bruges negotiating the futile attempts at a treaty with the French (Walsingham, Ypod. Neustr. 379), and is found associated with the Duke of Lancaster on a similar errand in the two ensuing years (Rymer, vii. 58, 88, &c.) On the accession of Richard II he was appointed one of the two barons in the young king's council (ib. 161). Two years later he was sent to treat with the French, and to help in the arrangements previous to Richard's marriage (September 1379). In the course of the next few years he is constantly found negotiating with France and Flanders (Rymer, vii. 229, 248, 412, &c.) Meanwhile, his name occurs with unbroken regularity as one of the triers of petitions for England, Scotland, and Wales, and later (from 1382) as trier for Gascony (Rot. Parl. in. 4, 144, &c.) In 1387-8 he was one of the commissioners of the king before whom the appellant lords brought their charges against Robert deVere, Michael de la Pole, and Richard's other favourites (ib. 229). This committee had been appointed about Michaelmas 1386, and was originally only intended to continue till Christmas (Eulog. Hist. 360) for the purpose of regulating the royal court and finance. In 1397 he was impeached by the commons for having been a member of this commission, and was brought up for trial in January by the Duke of Lancaster, who prosecuted for the king. A detailed account of the process has been preserved. He pleaded that he had only served on the commission at the king's command; but was unable to meet the retort that he must have been well aware that the king's consent had been obtained by pressure. As regarded the execution of Sir Simon Burley [q. v.], he made a similar defence that it was carried out by those who were at that time rulers de facto 'par yceux q'adonques furent mestres.' Finally he was adjudged a traitor, and sentenced to be hung, drawn, and quartered, a penalty which, however, the King commuted for one of forfeiture and perpetual banishment to Jersey (Rot. Parl. iii. 382). There can be little doubt that Cobham's extreme age (he must have been between eighty and ninety at the time) had something to do with obtaining him so lenient a sentence. Walsingham describes him as 'vir grandsevus, simplex et rectus,' and speaks of the king as granting 'the old man' 'a life for which he did not care' (Ypod. Neustr. 379). It would seem that he had before his impeachment withdrawn from the world to a Carthusian monastery, whence he was removed for his trial (Gower, Tripartite Chron. i. 433). The punishment of Cobham formed one of the charges brought against Richard II on his deposition (Capgrave, De Ill. Henr. 103) ; and on the accession of Henry IV Cobham was recalled from banishment (Eulog. Hist. 385). He acted as one of the ' triers ' for England in 2 Henry IV, apparently for the last time. His name, however, is appended to the document of 1406 in which Henry IV regulates the succession to the crown (Rot. Parl. iii. 580). Shortly after this (10 Jan. 1408) he seems to have died, being probably not very far short of a hundred years old (Coll. Top. vii. 329). He married Margaret, daughter of Hugh Courtenay, earl of Devonshire, to whom he was perhaps betrothed, if not actually married, as early as 1331 (Hasted, with which cf. Top. Gen. vii. 323). His heiress was his granddaughter Joan, whose mother, bearing the same name, had married Sir John de la Pole (ib. 320: Hasted; Dugdale). This younger Joan, at the time of her grandfather's death, was thirty years of age, and the widow of Sir Nicholas Hawberk. She is said to have been married five times (Coll. Top. 329 ; Hasted). One of her husbands was Sir John Oldcastle [q. v.], who, in the right of his wife, was sometimes known as Lord Cobham (Walsingham, Ypod. Neustr. 439). By another husband, Sir Gerard Braybrooke, Joan had a daughter, likewise called Joan, who married Sir Thomas Brooke of Somerset, and thus was ancestress of the Brookes of Cobham (Hasted). Cobham's name is associated with several important occurrences in the reign of Richard II, besides those mentioned above, as, for example, the famous Scrope and Grosvenor case (Rymer, vii. 620), and the letter of remonstrance to the papal court in 1390 (ib. 675). In 1372 he is found transacting business with a certain John Gower, probably the poet (Excheq. Rolls, ii. 78). Ten years previously (1362) he founded the college, or chantry, of Cobham (Hasted, i. 503), and nearly ten years later (1370-1) received permission to crenellate his house at Cowling, where his inscription and coat of arms were still to be seen over the eastern gate in Hasted's time (Coll. Top. vii. 346 ; Hasted, i. 539). Through his granddaughter Joan this castle passed into the hands of Sir John Oldcastle, and is said to have been the place where he entertained and protected Lollard priests (Hasted).

[Dugdale's Baronage, ii. 66-7 ; Hasted's History of Kent, i. 490, &c. ; Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica, vii. 320-54, where is to be found a very large collection of records from the muniment room at Cobham House, which have been of the greatest assistance in fixing the dates and successions in the above article; Nicolas's Peerage, ed. Courthope, 118; Walsingham's Historia Anglicana, ed. Riley (Rolls Series), ii. 227 ; Walsingham's Ypodigma Neustrise, ed. Eiley (Rolls Series), 379, 320; Eulogium Historiarum, ed. Haydon (Rolls Series), 360, 376, 385, &c. ; Trokelowe's Chronica et Annales, ed. Riley (Rolls Series), 224 ; Knyghton ap. Twysden's Decem Scriptores, 2685, 2697 ; Abbreviatio Rotulorum Orig. Scaccarii, 86, 216, 275, 340; Kalendarium Inquisitionum post mortem (Escheat Rolls), 224, 315, &c. ; Rolls of Parliament, iii. 4, 34, &c. ; Palgrave's Calendars and Inventories, i. 212 ; Nicolas's Proceedings of Privy Council, i. 12, 59, &c. ; Issue Rolls of Exchequer, ed. Devon (1835), 440, &c. ; Issue Rolls of Exchequer from Henry III to Henry VI (1837), 208 ; Rymer's Foedera, vi. 542-3, vii. 58, 88, &c. ; Capgrave, De Illustribus Henricis, ed. Hingeston (Rolls Series), 101, 103; Gower's Tripartite Chronicle in Wright's Political Poems (Rolls Series).]

T. A. A.