Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Felton, William (d.1367)

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FELTON, Sir WILLIAM (d. 1367), seneschal of Poitou, was the son of Sir William Felton of Northumberland, who died about 1358, by his first wife. He was descended in the fourth generation from Roger or Robert Fitz-Pagan or Felton, brother of the William Fitz-Pagan who was ancestor of Sir Thomas Felton [q.v.] . Sir William owned the manors of Bodington, West Matsden, Edelyngham, and half of West Milburne, all in Northumberland. He held important commands during the wars with Scotland. He took part in the battle of Halidon Hill in 1333, and in the subsequent capture of Berwick-on-Tweed. In 1334 he was governor of Bambrough Castle in Northumberland. From 1338 to 1340 he was in command of Roxburgh Castle, which in April of the latter year he defended against an attack of the Scotch. In 1340 he was also named a commissioner to attend to the defence of the Scottish marches. He was summoned to parliament in 1343. In 1348 he was named lord justice of all the king's lands in Scotland. He was appointed sheriff of Northumberland and governor of the town of Newcastle-on-Tyne both in 1342 and 1343. When the king sought to detach the Flemings from their allegiance to France, Felton accompanied him to Hainault. During the following year he was at the naval battle of Sluys and at the siege of Tournay. In the winter of 1343 he followed the king to Brittany, and was at the siege of Nantes. He was with the expedition which invaded Normandy in 1346, and took part in the battle of Crécy and the subsequent campaign in the north of France. He was with the Black Prince at the battle of Poitiers. In 1359 he was at the siege of Rheims, which the English were forced to raise and retreat to Brittany. While here Felton went to attack the castle of Pontorson, commanded by Bertrand Duguesclin. He was defeated and taken prisoner. Shortly after Duguesclin became a hostage to Jean de Montfort, and was entrusted to Felton. Duguesclin, riding out one day with Felton's young son, escaped to Guingamp, and thence sent a message to De Montfort exonerating Felton from any connivance at his departure, with a challenge appended to all who might assert that he had thereby broken his word of honour. Felton wished to accept, but the combat was forbidden. In May following the French signed the treaty of Bretigny, in which Felton was named one of the commissioners to receive and take formal possession of the territories ceded to the English. At this time he became seneschal of Poitou. Many documents addressed to him in this capacity which relate to the protracted negotiations of this period are to be found in Rymer's ‘Fœdera.’ In 1364 and 1365 he was engaged in numerous combats in Guyenne. He accompanied the Black Prince in his campaign into Spain to restore Don Pedro to the throne of Castile. Chandos herald, who was also with this expedition, of which he has written an account in a rhymed chronicle in French, makes frequent mention of ‘Felleton Guilliam qui ot cœur de lyon.’ He was killed on 19 March 1367 in a skirmish before the battle of Navarrete, in which his kinsman Sir Thomas Felton was taken prisoner. The heroic resistance of a handful of Englishmen and the rash bravery of Felton seem to have struck the imagination of the people of the country, where the recollection of this feat of arms is still to be found in legend. The mound near Ariñez in Alava on which the English fought on this day is still known in the local dialect as Inglesmundi, or the Englishmen's mound.

According to Davy, the Suffolk antiquary (Addit. MS. 19129, f. 120), Felton was married, but his wife's name is unknown. By her he had a son, Sir John, born about 1340, who was, according to Dugdale, never summoned to parliament. He was at the battle of Otterburn, and was appointed to receive the oath of the king of Scotland to observe the truce between the two countries. Sources

[Suffolk Institute of Archæology, iv. 27; Dugdale's Baronage, ii. 64; Rymer's Fœdera; Froissart's Chroniques, ed. Luce; Anselme, Maison Royale de France; Chandos Herald, Life and Feats of Arms of Edward the Black Prince; Ayala, Crónica del Rey Don Pedro, included in Crónicas de los Reyes de Castilla, Madrid, 1875.]

J. G. F.