Clopton, Walter de (DNB00)
CLOPTON, WALTER de (d. 1412?), judge, was the fourth son of Sir William de Clopton of Newnham Manor, Ashdon, Essex, by Ivetta, daughter of Sir Thomas Grey. The seat of the family was Suffolk, and Sir William de Clopton appears as commissioner of array for that county in 1359. Having, however, purchased Newnham Manor in the following year, he permanently established himself there, and it remained in his posterity for some generations. For some reason, which the writ does not disclose, he and his sons Walter and Edmund were enjoined in 1366 not to leave the country on pain of forfeiture of their possessions. Clopton's name does not begin to appear in the year-books until 1376-7, when it suddenly rises into prominence. In 1378 he took the degree of king's serjeant, and in May 1383, as we learn from Walsingham (St. Alban's Chronicles, Rolls Ser. iii. 269), he sat with Bealknap to take the assizes at Hertford when a case in which the monastery of St. Alban was concerned was tried. In January 1388-9 he was appointed chief justice, being created knight banneret in the following April. He succeeded Tresilian, over whom an impeachment was then impending for his part in the conspiracy of 1387 against the council of state. Nine years later it was the turn of the Duke of Gloucester and the earls of Arundel and Warwick, who had been principally concerned in bringing about the revolution of 1386, to undergo impeachment, and in the consequent proceedings Clopton played a subordinate part, conveying to Arundel, who had pleaded a royal pardon, the formal intimation that the king was not bound by a pardon which had been obtained partly by intimidation and partly by deceit, and that in default of a better plea he would be convicted and attainted. Later in the year the ordinances passed in the parliament of 1387 were annulled. The identical interrogatories for answering which, in a sense favourable to the king, Tresilian had lost his head, were read in parliament with the answers of the judges. The parliament formally approved the conduct of the judges, and Thirning, chief justice of the common pleas, being also asked his opinion, replied that 'to declare an impeachment of treason null and void belonged to parliament, but if he had been a lord or peer of parliament, and had been asked his opinion, he should have concurred; 'and this extremely foolish attempt at evasion, if such it really was, was adopted by Clopton. This year also he was engaged in collecting and arranging evidence of the complicity of John Hall in the murder of the Duke of Gloucester, which parliament was then investigating. He was one of the triers of petitions from England, Ireland, and Wales in the parliament of 1399, and was appointed to inquire into the conduct of William Rickhill, one of the judges of the common pleas, in carrying letters between the late king and the Duke of Gloucester when, in prison at Calais. The nature of the communications does not appear from the evidence reported in the roll of parliament for that year, but Rickhill swore, and the estates believed him, that he was entirely ignorant of the contents of the letters which he carried. Clopton retired from office in November of the ensuing year, being succeeded by William Gascoigne, but he was summoned to the council in the following August. Blomefield (Hist. of Norfolk, ii. 569) says that he was induced by ' the piety, mildness, integrity, and commendable example ' of Robert Coleman, D.D. (chancellor of Oxford, 1419) to enter the monastery of the grey friars in Norwich, and that 'he wrote several treatises, some of which remain.' These, however, seem to be now entirely lost. The date of his death is uncertain, as the Walter de Clopton mentioned in the Escheat Roll for 1411-12 as late of the manor of Elingham Meoles in Hampshire cannot be identified with the judge. He left two daughters, but no male issue. His eldest daughter, Alice, married Thomas Bendish of Steeple in Binnstead, Essex. Her sister Elizabeth married one John Barwick.
[Add. MS. 19123, f. 301; Morant's Essex, ii. 540; Cullum's Hawsted, p. 112; Weever's Fun. Mon. 659; Rymer's Fœdera, ed. Clarke, iii. 449; Year-book, 50 Edward III, Hil. ff. 2, 3, 19, 20, Trin. ff. 2, 3, Mich. f. 3; Bellewe's Ans du Roy Rich. II; Dugdale's Chron. Ser. 51, 52; Cobbett's State Trials, i. 129; Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy Council, i. 158; Rot. Parl. iii. 358, 416, 430–2, 452; Cal. Inq. P.M. iii. 335; Wood's Hist. and Antiq. Oxford (Gutch), iv. App. 41; Foss's Judges of England.]