Umfraville, Gilbert de (1390-1421) (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 58
Umfraville, Gilbert de (1390-1421)

by Thomas Frederick Tout
1904 Errata appended.
Contains subarticle Robert de Umfraville (d. 1436).

UMFRAVILLE, GILBERT de (1390–1421), popularly styled the ‘Earl of Kyme,’ was the son of Sir Thomas de Umfraville (1362–1391) [see under Umfraville, Gilbert de, Earl of Angus]. He was born about the end of July 1390, and was only twenty-eight weeks old when his father's death on 12 Feb. 1391 put him in possession of Harbottle and Redesdale, and such of the Umfraville estates as were included in the entail of 1378. He was a royal ward (Hardyng, p. 365), and Ralph Neville (afterwards first Earl of Westmorland) [q. v.] received from Richard II the governorship of Harbottle Castle during his minority. The chief care for the youth devolved, however, upon his uncle, Robert Umfraville, whose martial exploits against the Scots did much to restore the waning fortunes of the house of Umfraville. After the Lancastrian revolution, to which Robert Umfraville early adhered, Henry Percy, called Hotspur, became guardian of young Gilbert's lands. The Umfravilles and the Percys were closely related, the Earl of Northumberland's second wife being the widow of the Earl Gilbert of Angus who died in 1381, who was Robert's uncle of the half-blood. Prudhoe Castle, an old Umfraville property, was already in Northumberland's hands. In 1400 Robert Umfraville was actually in command at Harbottle (Ord. Privy Council, i. 125), where on 29 Sept. he signally routed a Scottish force. In 1403 the wardship of the young heir was transferred, after the Percys' fall, to George Dunbar, earl of March (Fœdera, viii. 323); while in 1405 Warkworth was transferred from the rebel house to Robert Umfraville, who in 1408 became knight of the Garter (Beltz, Memorials of the Garter, p. clvii). Trained from infancy in the rude school of border warfare, Gilbert entered early on his career of arms. About 1409 he distinguished himself in a tournament at Arras (Hardyng, p. 365), and on 10 Jan. 1410 he had livery of his lands and was soon afterwards knighted. He now took an active share in his uncle's plundering forays against the Scots (Hardyng, p. 367), though apparently not participating in Robert's destruction of Scottish shipping in the Forth early in 1411. In the autumn of 1411 Gilbert accompanied his uncle on the expedition sent under Thomas Fitzalan, earl of Arundel (1381–1415) [q. v.], to help Philip of Burgundy against the Armagnacs. Hardyng, the rhyming chronicler, who after 1403 transferred his services from the Percys to Robert Umfraville, is careful in chronicling the exploits of his lord and lord's nephew, giving them perhaps a larger share of the glory of the expedition than is allowed by more sober historians. Both took part in the capture of Saint-Cloud on 8 Nov., and, according to Hardyng, gave voice to the English protest against the massacre and torture of the prisoners (p. 368; cf., however, Wylie's Henry IV, iv. 62–3). Hardyng also says that after the battle of Saint-Cloud Gilbert ‘proclaimed was Earl of Kyme’ (p. 367). This certainly does not mean that he was formally created an English earl. Neither he nor his uncle after him received a summons, even as a baron, to the House of Lords. The title may have been simply a mere popular recognition of his descent from earls, though he was not famous enough as a soldier to extort any special popular acclamation. It is not quite impossible, as Sir James Ramsay suggests (Lancaster and York, i. 131), that he received a grant of this title from his French allies. Nevertheless all similar titles given in France were, like the Greys' county of Tancarville, derived from French places and represented existing French dignities. Hardyng's authority, moreover, is of little weight, and the French writers, who mainly use the title, are so ignorant as to confuse him with the Earl of Kent. His designation in English official documents is ‘G. de Umfraville miles’ (Testamenta Vetusta, p. 20), or at most ‘dominus de Kyme’ (Puiseux, Siège de Rouen, p. 86; cf. Gesta Henrici V, p. 280). When asked his name by the Rouennais in 1412, he answered that he was a knight and named Umfraville (Puiseux, p. 253).

In 1412 Umfraville served at Calais under the Earl of Warwick, and wrought great devastation in the Boulonnais, burning Samer and taking Wissant by assault (J. Le Févre, pp. 69–70).

Umfraville took a prominent part in Henry V's French wars, attended the campaign of 1415 at the head of twenty men-at-arms and ninety horse archers, and was, says Hardyng, joined at Harfleur by his uncle, with whom came his esquire, John Hardyng the chronicler (Hardyng, pp. 573–5). On 14 Aug. Gilbert was sent to reconnoitre Harfleur. On 22 Sept., when the formal surrender was made, he bore King Henry's helmet (Gesta, p. 32). During the famous retreat northwards he shared with Sir John Cornwall the command of the van, and on 18 Oct. first effected the dangerous passage over the Somme (ib. p. 43). He fought well at Agincourt, where the ransom of two prisoners fell to his share (Nicolas, Battle of Agincourt, p. lxi, App.) In 1416 he was again fighting at Calais under Warwick (Gesta, p. 96).

In the Norman campaign of 1417 Umfraville was captain of fifty-four lances (ib. p. 271), and one hundred and twenty-five archers. On 20 Aug. power was given to him and to Gilbert Talbot to take possession of all castles and towns in Normandy (Fœdera, ix. 486), and on 30 Sept. he was made captain of Caen, and afterwards of Gournay. On 25 March 1418 he was justice in the diocese of Bayeux. He received very liberal grants of forfeited Norman estates, which included, among other places, Amfreville, the cradle of his race. He was with Warwick at the siege of Neuilly l'Évêque (Walsingham, ii. 328). He was at the siege of Rouen in 1418–19, being stationed, under John Holland, earl of Huntingdon, on the left bank of the Seine (Le Févre, i. 344; Puiseux, Siège de Rouen, p. 86). On the besieged opening negotiations, Umfraville was sent by Huntingdon to treat with them on 1 Jan. 1419. The Rouennais welcomed him as of an ancient Norman stock, and persuaded him to intervene on their behalf through the Duke of Clarence with the king (details in Redman in Memorials of Henry V, pp. 53–6, but much more elaborate particulars in the English poem, ‘The Sege of Roan,’ printed in Archæologia, vols. xxi. and xxii., and translated by Puiseux, pp. 235–72, and pp. 162–3). Afterwards he was one of the commission of sixteen who drew up the terms of the capitulation of the city. In February 1419 he was appointed in rapid succession captain of Pontoise, Eu, and Neufchâtel. He also took part in the long siege of Château Gaillard (J. Le Févre, i. 368–9; Monstrelet, iii. 338).

On 28 March 1419 Umfraville was made member of an embassy accredited to the French king, and on 8 May was put on the commission empowered to negotiate for the marriage of Henry V with Catharine, and to arrange for an interview between the two kings (Fœdera, ix. 747–50). The negotiations at first were hollow, and on their way to Provins, where Charles VI was, the ambassadors were attacked by Tanneguy Duchâtel, the Armagnac, at Chaumes in Brie (Monstrelet, iii. 313; J. Le Févre, i. 359). After the murder of the Duke of Burgundy at Montereau, Umfraville helped to arrange the Anglo-Burgundian alliance. On 24 Oct. he was authorised to declare that Henry would accept the hand of Catharine with the reversion of the French crown as the price of his alliance. He accompanied Henry on his march to Troyes in the spring of 1420 (Monstrelet, iii. 388; Chastelain, i. 130). He took a conspicuous part in the great tournaments with which Henry celebrated Christmas in 1420 at Paris (ib. p. 380). On Henry's return to England Umfraville remained in France, being constituted captain of Melun by the king (Hardyng, p. 379; J. Le Févre, ii. 27, 379). In January 1421 he was made marshal of France (ib. p. 383). He joined the expedition of Clarence to Anjou against his old enemies, the Scots, accompanied, if Hardyng can be trusted, with ten men only. Hardyng (pp. 384–5) tells a long story how Umfraville, seeing that the army was not ready, urged Clarence to delay fighting until holy week was over; and how Clarence, who envied his fame, reproached him with cloaking cowardice under religious scruples. Against his advice Clarence fought at Baugé on 22 March (Easter Eve), but the Scotto-Armagnac host was two to one, and he suffered a complete defeat. Umfraville, like Clarence, fell on the field. His body was recovered and taken to England to be buried (Hardyng, p. 385).

Umfraville is described by his panegyrist, Hardyng, as of ‘goodly port, full gentle,’ while the Burgundian Chastellain calls him ‘vaillant chevalier et bien à douter’ (i. 225). He married Anne Neville, seventh child of his old protector, Ralph Neville, first earl of Westmorland (Surtees, Durham, iv. 159; G. E. C[okayne], Complete Peerage, i. 95, says that he died unmarried). He left no issue, so that while his uncle Robert succeeded under the entail to Harbottle and Redesdale—and also apparently to Kyme—his personal representatives were his five sisters, between whose descendants the Umfraville barony, according to later legal doctrine, would still remain in abeyance.

Robert de Umfraville (d. 1436) now became lord of Redesdale and Kyme. Apart from his possible share in the 1415 campaign, he remained under Henry V, as under Henry IV, mainly occupied on Scottish affairs. The Scots called him Robin Mendmarket, because of his burning Peebles on market day (Hardyng, p. 366). He was sheriff of Northumberland, vice-admiral of the north, chamberlain of Berwick, warden of Roxburgh Castle, and finally of Berwick; and in 1417 helped in checking the Scots while Henry fought the French (cf. Redman, in Memorials of Henry V, p. 38). He was one of the commissioners who concluded the seven years' truce of Durham. In 1429 he founded a chantry at Farnacres in Durham (Surtees, Durham, iv. 243). His last appointment was on a commission, dated 5 Feb. 1435, to negotiate a truce with the Scots (Fœdera, x. 629). He died on 29 Jan. 1436, and was buried at Newminster. Hardyng, who served him till his death as constable of Kyme Castle, has left a touching picture of his brave, simple, and honourable character (pp. ix–xi). He celebrates his valour, ‘sapience,’ his gentleness that would not even reprove his servants before others, and his justice that made many of his Scots enemies go to Berwick to submit their disputes to his arbitration. When made knight of the Garter he was but a poor man, whose estate was worth only a hundred marks a year. He was the last male representative of the Umfravilles that held Redesdale under the entail of 1378. The estates thus settled now passed away from his nieces to the Talboys—Sir Walter Talboys (d. 1444), the grandson of Sir Walter Talboys (d. 1418), who was the son of Eleanor Borrodon and Henry Talboys. Their son was Sir William Talboys (d. 1464) [q. v.], who was, with strange persistence, still styled Earl of Kyme.

[Hardyng's Chronicle, ed. Ellis; Gesta Henrici V (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Memorials of Henry V (Rolls Ser.); Walsingham (Rolls Ser.); Rymer's Fœdera, vols. viii. and ix.; Nicolas's Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy Council; Monstrelet, ed. Douet d'Arcq; J. Le Févre, Seigneur de Saint-Remy (the last two in Soc. de l'Histoire de France); Chastellain, ed. Kervyn de Lettenhove; Dugdale's Baronage, i. 508; G. E. C[okayne]'s Complete Peerage, i. 95, iv. 425; Doyle's Official Baronage, ii. 303–4; Ramsay's Lancaster and York, vol. i.; Wylie's Hist. of Henry IV; Sir H. Nicolas's Battle of Agincourt; Puiseux's Siège de Rouen par les Anglais; Surtees's Durham; Hodgson's Northumberland, I. ii. 48–55 for Robert, 55–60 for Gilbert.]

T. F. T.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.269
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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26 ii 7 Umfraville, Gilbert de: for 1535 read 1435