Stapleton, Brian de (DNB00)

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STAPLETON, BRIAN de (1321?–1394), of Wighill, knight, was the second son of Sir Gilbert de Stapleton, and younger brother of Miles de Stapleton (d. 1364) [q. v.] His father died in 1321, and the length of his life makes it unlikely that he was born much earlier. In 1385 he describes himself as ‘sixty years of age and more’ and ‘fifty years in arms’ (Scrope and Grosvenor Roll). This would make his active career begin with Edward III's first wars against France, in which he won considerable distinction. He was at the siege of Tournay in 1340, and again in 1347 at the siege of Calais, having probably therefore served in the Crecy campaign. He attached himself to William de Montacute, second earl of Salisbury [q. v.], serving under him for example in the campaign of 1359, and for many subsequent years. In 1369 he was one of the knights sent to help the Black Prince in Aquitaine, under Edmund, earl of Cambridge. In 1373 he served under Salisbury at sea, and again when Salisbury had custody of Calais, where he did him such faithful service that he received two manors from him as a reward. In 1378 he was exempted from serving on juries or being forced to hold offices against his will (Cal. Rot. Pat. 1377–81, p. 288). The subsidy roll of 1378–9 gives an interesting list of his household at Helaugh (Yorkshire Arch. Journ. vii. 176, 181). On 20 Feb. 1380 Stapleton was himself made captain and warden of the castle of Calais (Fœdera, iv. 77), and a little later of Guisnes. On 11 March 1381 he was also warden of the castle of Guisnes (ib. iv. 107). In April 1380 he was associated with others in negotiations with the French. In 1382 he became knight of the Garter, remaining in office at Guisnes till 1383, and holding in that year a muster of Bishop Despenser's crusading force (ib. iv. 70). He was employed in various negotiations with France and Flanders, including those which led to the truce of Leulinghen (ib. iv. 122, 172). In 1386 and 1388 he was similarly employed in Scotland (ib. old edit. vii. 572). He gave evidence in the Scrope-Grosvenor controversy, and was one of the commissioners appointed to examine witnesses. As late as 1390 he appeared in arms among the knights of the Garter at a tournament at Smithfield. He is the hero of several famous legends of the later genealogists. There is a sixteenth-century story of his slaying a Moor in single combat, and therefore bearing as his crest a Saracen's head. He is also said to have brought from France the right hand of St. Mary Magdalen, which he placed in the house of the friars preachers at York, and where, according to the legend, he himself was buried.

Before 1360 Stapleton married Alice, widow of Sir Stephen Waleys of Helaugh and daughter and coheiress of Sir John de St. Philibert. He inherited Carlton and Kentmere from a cousin, and in 1376 bought Wighill, where he died on 25 July 1394. His will, written in French, was dated 16 May the same year, and is published in ‘Testamenta Eboracensia’ (i. 198 sq.). He directed that his body should be buried at Helaugh priory, beside his wife, who had died before him; he left directions for a sumptuous burial, and made many legacies to friends and kinsfolk. He left two sons, of whom, the elder, Brian, who married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Aldeburgh, and was the ancestor of the Stapletons of Carlton (now represented by Lord Beaumont), died before him; the younger, Sir Miles (d. 1400), was the ancestor of the Stapletons of Wighill.

[Chetwynd-Stapylton's Stapeltons of Yorkshire, pp. 110–38, collects practically all that is known; other authorities quoted in the text.]

T. F. T.