Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Skuish, John

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SKUISH or SKEWES, JOHN (d. 1544), lawyer and chronicler, was the son of John Skewes of Skewes in St. Wenn, Cornwall, who married Joan, daughter of Richard Tomyowe, and was probably born at Skewes. He went to Oxford University, matriculating either at Hart Hall or Exeter College, but does not seem to have taken a degree. Wood, in translating the Latin words of Pits, praises his ‘happy genie, accompanied with industry, prudence, and dexterity.’

Skewes adopted the profession of the law, and became a member of Lincoln's Inn. In 1514 he had the privilege of wearing his hat in the king's presence. He entered the household of Cardinal Wolsey, and was admitted to his private counsels, being presumably one of the ‘four counsellours learned in the lawe of the realm’ who dwelt in his house (Cavendish, Wolsey, ed. 1827, p. 100). In May 1523 he was entered in the subsidy-roll of the cardinal's officials for an assessment of 100s. Christopher, lord Conyers, granted to him and others in 1527 certain property for Wolsey's benefit; he was appointed in June 1529 a member of the commission to adjudicate on cases in chancery committed to them by the cardinal; and in the same month the bishop of Bangor complained of his action ‘as one of Wolsey's servants of the law.’

Skewes was the owner by inheritance and acquisition of much property in Cornwall, including the manor of Polrode in St. Tudy, and the lease of the tolls on tin in Tewington, Tywarnhaile, and Helston. He was placed on the commission of peace for that county in 1510, 1511, 1514, and 1515, and he was on the commission for Middlesex in 1528, 1531, 1537, and 1539. In July 1518 and July 1521 he was appointed one of the commissioners for the duchy of Cornwall, and he was possibly the John Skewes who served in 1521 as high sheriff of Cornwall. Some deeds relating to his property are in Lansdowne MS. British Museum, 207 F.

In July 1516 a grant of the next presentation to a canonry at Windsor was made to Skewes and two others, and in 1525 he was one of the commissioners for the suppression of St. Frideswide's convent at Oxford and other foundations (Dugdale, Monasticon, ii. 151). A fee of 6l. 13s. 4d. for his services is entered in 1519 in the expenses of Henry Courtenay, earl of Devon, and the same peer, then the Marquis of Exeter, writing to Wolsey in October 1525, recognised his relationship, calling him ‘my cosyn Skewes’ (Nichols, Lawford Hall, pp. 412–14). So late as 1534 he was employed as counsel. He died without issue on 23 May 1544; his will was dated from St. Sepulchre's parish, London.

His wife, Catherine, daughter of John Trethurffe of Trethurffe in Cornwall, by Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Hugh Courtenay of Boconnoc, died in August 1537 (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, vol. xii. pt. ii. p. 172).

Skewes was the author of the ‘Brevyat of a Cronacle made by Mathewe Paris … of the Conqueste of Duke William of Normandy uppon this Realme,’ Harl. MS. Brit. Mus. 2258, art. 9, pp. 35–125. It is said to have been written with his own hand, and it was given by him to Reginald Mohun. He also wrote a treatise, ‘De Bello Trojano.’ Fuller thought him ‘inclined to the Protestant reformation.’

[Matt. Paris's Hist. Minor (ed. Madden), preface p. xlii; Hardy's Materials, iii. 152–3; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 58–9; Fuller's Worthies (1811), i. 217; Pits, De Angliæ Scriptoribus, p. 709; Tanner's Bibl. Britannico-Hibernica (1748), p. 677; Nicolas's Testamenta Vetusta, ii. 495; Wilkins's Concilia, iii. 705; Prynne's Writs, iv. 280, 780–3; Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. ii. 654, 727, iii. 1337; Maclean's Trigg Minor, iii. 333, 385–7; Harl. MS. 4031, f. 77; Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, i. ii. iii. and iv. passim, vii. 607.]

W. P. C.