Gourney, Mathew (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 22
Gourney, Mathew

by James Gainsborough Fotheringham
Matthew Gournay in the ODNB.

GOURNEY, Sir MATHEW (1310?–1406), soldier, was fourth son of Thomas Gourney, one of the murderers of Edward II, who was afterwards banished from England, and in the parliament held at the end of 1330 was condemned during his absence. Next year he was arrested at Burgos in Spain, but escaped, only, however, to be recaptured at the end of 1332 at Naples; he died in 1333 while on his way back to England as a prisoner (see paper by Mr. Hunter in ‘Archæologia,’ vol. xxviii.; and ‘Fœdera,’ iv. 488 and 509). Mathew Gourney was born at Stoke-under-Hamden in Somersetshire about 1310. He became a distinguished soldier of fortune. Froissart terms him a ‘moult vaillans chevalier.’ He was first mentioned as being at the battle of the Sluys (1340). In 1342–4 he was at the capture of Algeziras, taken by Alphonse XI from the Moors, at Crecy (1346), and at Poitiers (1356). In November 1357 he was named governor of Brest Castle and of the neighbouring town of Saint Mathieu (Fœd. vi. 70). In the same year a safe-conduct was granted from Westminster to Tristram Kerrety and Peter Prescy, prisoners of Mathew de Gourney, to go to France and return (ib. vi. 66). In May of the following year Gourney obtained a safe-conduct to go to Brittany to assume his command (ib. vi. 80). He was one of the jurats of the peace of Bretigni (1360) (ib. vi. 238). He, however, joined the bands of military adventurers known as ‘les grandes compagnies,’ who made war on their own account. In 1362 he was in disgrace and imprisoned in the Tower, probably for the part he had taken in this predatory warfare (ib. ed. 1830, iii. 648). In 1364 he was at the battle of Auray in Brittany, where Duguesclin was taken prisoner by Sir John Chandos and Charles de Blois killed. There is a bond in the archives of the Château of Vitré in Brittany, dated 13 March 1365, showing that John de Laval is the prisoner of Mathew de Gourney, who of his own free will has given to the said John his ransom for the sum of thirty thousand crowns. He was probably taken prisoner at the battle of Auray, in the month of September previous. When Henry the Trastamare, with the help of the free companies, had obtained the throne of Castile, from which he had driven Don Pedro, Pedro applied for help to the king of Portugal. Gourney, on the suggestion of Duguesclin, who had the direction of the expedition, was sent as an ambassador from Henry to learn how the king of Portugal was disposed towards Don Pedro. Having reached Lisbon, on entering the Royal Palace he was recognised by an esquire who had seen him at Poitiers, by whom he was presented to the king, who received him at his table and loaded him with honours. Tournaments, which lasted several days, were held to give him an opportunity of showing his prowess. The trouvère Cuvelier gives a detailed account of the pageantry. He terms Gourney an ‘Engloiz souffisans … qui bien fiert de l'espée.’ None of the Portuguese knights could stand before him, his only rival being a Breton knight. On his return to Henry to render an account of his mission, he found that the Black Prince had taken up the cause of Don Pedro, and had recalled all the English knights. He, with the others, left the service of Henry and their French companions, and, having joined the prince's standard, invaded Spain, and was present at the battle of Nájara (1367), which reinstated Don Pedro on the throne of Castile. Gourney became afterwards one of the military followers of the Black Prince and attached to his person. He was made a baron of Guienne, and received grants of several estates there. Immediately on the outbreak of hostilities against France in 1369 he accompanied the Earl of Buckingham, Thomas of Woodstock (afterwards Duke of Gloucester), on a raid into the Bourbonnais, and, having laid siege to the chateau of Belleperche, he was sent to treat for the surrender of the place with the Duke of Bourbon, who defended it. Duke Louis II of Bourbon had been one of the hostages for King John while he was prisoner in London, knew Gourney and was glad to have to do with him. He afterwards joined John of Gaunt on an expedition into Artois and Picardy, and fell into an ambush near Soissons, where he and others were taken prisoners. In 1376 he and his companions, in prison in France, petitioned parliament to ransom them. The commons petitioned the king to grant the request of Gourney and his companions. It was granted, but the ransom of these mischievous persons was afterwards made a charge against William of Wykeham, the chancellor. In 1378 Gourney was governor of Bayonne, where he was besieged by the combined forces of the Duke of Anjou and Henry, king of Castile. The following year he was named seneschal of the Landes, and on 13 Oct. of this year a royal commission was drawn up in which he and three others were named umpires to decide the rival claims of Charles, king of Navarre, and John de Arundel, marshal of England, to the ransom of Oliver Duguesclin, brother of the better-known Bertrand Duguesclin (Fœdera, vii. 230). In 1388 he was with the expedition to Portugal, under the command of Edward, earl of Cambridge (Walsingham, Ypodigma Neustriæ, p. 334, Rolls Ser.) Gourney, then over seventy years of age, was constable of the forces. In 1390 he was present, as a baron, in parliament at the decision given by Richard II in the famous controversy between Scrope and Grosvenor, in which Chaucer was cited as a witness. It has been suggested that Gourney may have been the prototype of Chaucer's knight, who, in the prologue to the ‘Canterbury Tales,’ is described as having been at the ‘siege of Algezir, and riden in Belmarie.’ Chaucer's description of his knight ‘as worthy and wise, meke as a mayde, who no vileinye sayde, and a perfight gentil knight’ scarcely applies to Gourney. Yet Fuller, in placing Gourney among his worthies, says: ‘The veneration attached to this distinguished warrior was so great that his armour was beheld by martial men with much civil veneration, and his faithful buckler was a relic of esteem.’ He sat in the upper house in the first parliament of Henry IV, and voted for the detention in safe custody of the deposed king Richard. He possessed considerable estates in England, those of his brothers having reverted to him. In 1401 he received a regrant of the district called ‘between two seas,’ or the baillage of Criou, near Bordeaux, which district had been originally granted to him by Edward III, and inadvertently, so the record states, taken from him by Richard II. These lands he was to enjoy during his life. He was twice married, first, after 1362, to Alice, sister of Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, and widow of John, lord Beauchamp of Hache (d. 1362); she died 26 Oct. 1384; and again, before 1389, to Philippa, sister of John, lord Talbot, who died in 1419, aged 51. Gourney died on 26 Sept. 1406, leaving no issue. His estates reverted to the crown. Leland, in his ‘Itinerary’ (ii. 93–4), describes a fine brass, no longer extant, above his tomb at Stoke-under-Hamden, Somersetshire. The French inscription (given by Leland) enumerates the battles in which he was engaged, and states that he was ninety-six years of age (cf. Record of the House of Gurney, i. 680).

[Rymer's Fœdera, orig. ed.; Froissart; Cuvilier's Chronicle de Bertrand Duguesclin, ed. E. Charrière, 1839; Chazaud's Chronique du Duc Louis de Bourbon (French Hist. Soc.); Daniel Gurney's Record of the House of Gurney, 1848; Fuller's English Worthies, ii. 285; Gough's Sepulchral Monuments, vol. ii. pt. ii. pp. 20–2.]

J. G. F.