Segrave, Stephen de (d.1241) (DNB00)

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SEGRAVE or SEDGRAVE, STEPHEN de (d. 1241), chief justiciar, was son of Gilbert de Segrave, called also Gilbert, son of Hereward, who in 1166 held Segrave in Leicestershire as a fourth part of a knight's fee, under William, earl of Warwick. He took orders, but from a clerk became a knight. In 1201 he was sued as unjustly occupying a virgate of land in Segrave that had belonged to Thomas FitzGilbert, evidently his brother, then an outlaw. He was made constable of the Tower of London, with a salary of 50l., in 1203, and was fortifying it at the king's cost in 1221. Out of regard for Hugh le Despenser, Segrave's brother-in-law, John in 1208 remitted half a debt of 112 marks that, as his father's heir, he owed the crown. Remaining faithful to the king, he received from him in 1215 the lands of Stephen de Gaunt in Lincolnshire and Leicestershire, and in 1216 the manor of Kineton in Warwickshire in fee, at a yearly rent. After the accession of Henry III his importance and offices rapidly increased. From 1217 onwards he was prominent as a judge, sitting at Westminster in 1218 and later, and being constantly employed as a justice itinerant, as in Bedfordshire in 1217–18, in Warwickshire and Leicestershire in 1220, in Nottinghamshire, Bedfordshire, and Derbyshire in 1226–7, and in Yorkshire in 1231. In 1219 he was sent on the king's business to the legate, receiving payment for his expenses. He was given the custody of Sauvey Castle, Leicestershire, in 1220, in which year he received a grant from the king of the manor of Alconbury in Huntingdonshire. He was sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire from 1221 to 1223, and of Lincolnshire from 1222 to 1224. From 1228 to 1234 he was sheriff of Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire, and from 1229 to 1234 of Warwickshire, Leicestershire, and Northamptonshire. His wealth increased, and he bought lands. In 1229 he made a simoniacal bargain with the pope's envoy Stephen, with reference to tithes. He was then one of the king's chief councillors, and on Henry's departure for Brittany in 1230 was left one of the justiciaries of the kingdom [see under Neville, Ralph, (d. 1244)]. In 1232 he bought the profits, other than the ferms paid into the exchequer, of the counties of Bedford, Buckingham, Warwick, and Leicester for life. On the fall of Hubert de Burgh [q. v.] in that year, the king on 29 July appointed Segrave chief justiciar, though he was only styled a knight (Matt. Paris, iii. 220), and gave him the custody of the castles of Dover, Rochester, Canterbury, Windsor, Odiham, Hertford, and Colchester. He was violently hostile to Hubert, and pressed the king to imprison him, and even to put him to death as a traitor.

Segrave as chief justiciar gave his full support to the system of administration by foreigners carried out by Peter des Roches, the king's favourite [q. v.], and in conjunction with him counselled Henry to withstand Richard Marshal, third earl of Pembroke [q. v.], Gilbert Basset [q. v.], and other lords who in 1233 were associated against the government. The bishops in October threatened to excommunicate him and others of the party by name for giving the king evil counsel, but finally pronounced only a general sentence against those who turned the king's heart against his natural born subjects. He accompanied the king's army to Grosmont in November, and lost his baggage when Marshal's adherents surprised the royal camp. The king having made an offer to Marshal in December, provided that he would surrender to his mercy, Segrave took means that the earl should be informed that he advised him to do so. In the first days of 1234 Richard Siward, at the head of a company of outlaws, ravaged Segrave's native place, evidently Segrave, burnt his fine houses, oxen, and stores of grain, and carried off many valuable horses and rich spoil. Later the same band ravaged Alconbury, and burnt his buildings there. He was much hated, and it was believed that he was concerned in the treachery by which Richard Marshal lost his life in April. When in May the king was reconciled to his lords, Segrave was dismissed from his offices, and on 14 June was deprived of five of his manors, and was called upon to give an account of his receipts and expenditure. He took shelter in the abbey of St. Mary des Prés, near Leicester, where it is said that he resumed the clerical office; but this doubtless is a sarcasm. On 14 July he appeared before the king at Westminster, under the protection of the archbishop of Canterbury. Henry called him a foul traitor for having evilly advised him against Hubert de Burgh and his other lords, and demanded his accounts, but, at the archbishop's request, gave him until Michaelmas to make them up. He is said to have attempted to excuse himself by laying the blame on Peter des Roches and Walter Mauclerk [q. v.] In February 1235 he paid a fine of one thousand marks to be reconciled with the king, but was not then taken back into favour as he had hoped. In June 1236 he was fully restored to favour, and in 1237 was reconciled by the legate Otho to the lords whom he had offended. He was appointed justice of Chester (Dugdale). Henry seems to have again made him one of his trusted counsellors, and it was perhaps because he was on specially confidential terms with the king that, in common with Richard of Cornwall and the queen, he was exempted by name from the excommunication pronounced by the archbishop of Canterbury in 1239 against certain of the king's advisers, though it is possible that his conduct had become less obnoxious than formerly. Before his death he entered the Augustinian abbey of St. Mary des Prés, where he died after making a just will, and devoutly receiving the sacrament, on 9 Nov. 1241 (Matt. Paris, iv. 169). As his lands were taken into the king's hands on 13 Oct., it has been supposed that he must have died before that date (Excerpt. Rot. Fin. i. 356); but it seems possible that he may have vacated his lands on taking the habit of a canon in the abbey, so that the date given by Paris may be exactly correct. Paris says that he was easily led by others, that he owed his rise from a humble station to great wealth and high office to his own exertions, that he cared more for his own interest than the public good, but that he did some things that merited the happy end of life that he made. He was a benefactor to the abbey of St. Mary des Prés, and to the priory of Stoneleigh, and the Cistercian abbey of Combe, both in Warwickshire. His shield, as given by Paris, was blazoned sable, three garbs or, banded gules. He married, first, Rohesia, daughter of Thomas and sister of Hugh le Despenser [see under Despenser, Hugh de, (d. 1265)]; and, secondly, Ida, also called Ela, sister of Henry Hastings, who in 1247 was fined 500l. for a second marriage with Hugh Pecche (Rot. Fin. ii. 6, 17). He had three sons, the eldest, John, who married Emma, daughter and heiress of Roger de Caux, and died in 1231; Gilbert (d. 1254) [q. v.], who succeeded him; and Stephen, and a daughter Eleanor. In Segrave's time was compiled the ‘Red Book’ of the lordship of Segrave, much used by Nichols, and now in the British Museum.

[Lives of Segrave are given by Dugdale, Baronage, i. 671–2; Nichols's Hist. of Leicestershire, iii. 407, with many notices in other places, and Foss's Judges, ii. 468–72. Many notices are in Rot. Litt. Claus., Rot. Litt. Pat., and Excerpt. e Rot. Fin. (Record publ. and as quoted by Dugdale and others from MSS.). Much will be found about him in Rog. Wend. (Engl. Hist. Soc.), Matt. Paris, and the Ann. Monast., and some notices in Royal Letters Hen. III (these three Rolls Ser.)]

W. H.