Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Vaux, Nicholas

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708136Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 58 — Vaux, Nicholas1899Isaac Saunders Leadam

VAUX, Sir NICHOLAS, first Lord Vaux of Harrowden (d. 1523), courtier and soldier, was of the family of Vaus or Vaux, settled at Harrowden in Northamptonshire since the time of Henry IV. Vaux's mother is stated in a manuscript at the college of arms to have been ‘Katherina filia Georgii Peniston de Courtowsell Pedemontani’ (Vincent MS. 20). In Bridges's ‘History of Northamptonshire’ this is given as ‘Gregory Peniston of Courtesells in Piedmont.’ The lady's father was doubtless an English political refugee. Vaux's father, Sir William Vaux, was a zealous Lancastrian. He was attainted by Edward IV's first parliament in 1461 and his estates confiscated. It is not improbable that he then fled the country, and his eldest son, Nicholas, may have been the offspring of an Italian alliance, though Anthony Wood says that he was born in Northamptonshire. He probably returned to England at Easter 1471, accompanying Margaret of Anjou from Normandy. He was slain in the disastrous defeat of Tewkesbury on 4 May of that year (Paston Letters; Warkworth, Chron. p. 18; cf. Rot. Parl. vi. 304; Campbell, Materials, &c., ii. 325). One of the ladies taken prisoners in Queen Margaret's company was his wife, ‘Dame Kateryne Vaus’ (Warkworth, Chron. p. 19). Sir William Vaux's manor of Harrowden was, upon his attainder in 1461 (Rot. Parl. v. 516), given to Ralph Hastynges.

Wood states that Nicholas Vaux ‘in his juvenile years was sent to Oxford.’ But of this there is no evidence (Boase, Regist. Univ. Oxon.) A manuscript pedigree in the college of arms says of him, ‘floruit summa gratia apud Margaretam comitissam Richmundiæ,’ and she, it is known, retained Maurice Westbury, an Oxford man, for the instruction at her residence of ‘certayn yonge gentilmen at her findyng’ (Reg. Oxon. F. Ep. p. 458; Wood, Annals, i. 655; Churton, Life of Bishop Smyth, p. 13). This would account for the favour he evidently enjoyed with Henry VII, for within three months of the victory of Bosworth he obtained from the king a grant for life of the offices of steward of the towns of Olney and Newport Pagnell, dated 2 Nov. 1485 (Campbell, Materials, i. 168). Henry VII's first parliament met on 7 Nov. 1485, and a petition was immediately presented by Nicholas Vaux setting forth the attainder and forfeitures of his father, and praying the repeal of the act of 1461 and his restoration to his father's lands (Rot. Parl. vi. 304 b). The royal assent was at once given (ib.; cf. Campbell, Materials, ii. 325).

In 1487 Vaux was presumably resident upon his restored estates in Northamptonshire. He was mentioned by Polydore Vergil (ed. 1649, p. 728) among the notables who brought their followers to the support of Henry VII against Lambert Simnel in June 1487. After the king's victory on 16 June at Stoke, near Newark, Vaux received knighthood (Coll. Arms Vincent MS. 20; Metcalfe, Book of Knights, p. 14). Vaux actively devoted himself to agricultural improvement, and was in consequence returned by the commissioners for enclosures in 1517–18 as having violated the acts against enclosure at Stanton Barey in Buckinghamshire in 1490, at Harrowden in 1493, and at Carcewell, Northamptonshire, in 1509. For these and the numerous enclosures of his father-in-law, Sir Thomas Green of Green's Norton, whose daughter and coheiress, Anne, he had married, Vaux (and, after his death, his representatives) was repeatedly summoned before the court of exchequer in 1519 and 1527 (R. O. MSS. Exch. Q. R. Mem. Rolls, 2993, 11 Hen. VIII, M. T. m. 23; ib. 307, E. T. 19 Hen. VIII, 1527, m. 23). Vaux escaped the statutory penalties in the one case in which they seem to have been claimed by the crown during his lifetime by procuring a supersedeas (ib.) After his death a pardon for these and other similar offences was granted (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, iv. 4231).

In 1492 Vaux was among the knights appointed to ride and meet the French ambassadors. Ten years later Vaux became ‘lieutenant’ of Guisnes, three miles inland from Calais (cf. Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, i. 4635). While here an attempt seems to have been made by the Yorkist party to tamper with his fidelity (cf. Gairdner, Letters and Papers of Richard III and Henry VII, i. 231). Henry VII, unlike his successor, was singularly free from uneasy suspicions of the loyalty of his professed friends. Vaux continued when in England to figure at court ceremonies, where his taste for magnificence of dress made him conspicuous (cf. Stow, Annals, p. 484; Grafton, p. 598, cp. p. 600; Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, ii. 4661).

Vaux augmented his ample patrimony by a second marriage with an heiress of extraordinary wealth. His first wife, Elizabeth Fitzhugh, was the widow of Sir William Parr, and the daughter and coheir of Henry, lord Fitzhugh (d. 1472). She died at some time during the reign of Henry VII, leaving three daughters by Vaux. About 1507 Vaux married Anne, daughter and coheir of Sir Thomas Green, who had died in 1506. This lady and her sister, who married Sir Thomas Parr, inherited lands in Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Buckinghamshire, Yorkshire, Kent, and Nottinghamshire. During her minority an attempt was made by Bishop Foxe, Lord Daubeney, Sir Charles Somerset, and others of Henry VI's court to obtain possession of this vast property for the crown (Baker, Hist. of Northamptonshire, ii. 60; cp. Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, i. 602). This Vaux succeeded in defeating, but both he and Sir Thomas Parr were compelled on 10 July 1507 to enter into indentures for the payment of nine thousand marks (6,000l.) to the king, probably either as a fine for having married, or for license to marry wards of the crown. Of this sum 2,400 marks were paid, and the residue remitted by deed of 26 Oct. 1509, after the accession of Henry VIII (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, i. 600, cp. 3049).

Henry VIII renewed Vaux's appointment at Guisnes under new and somewhat onerous pecuniary conditions (ib. i. 544, 545, 598, 599, 652; Chronicle of Calais, Camden Soc. xxxv. 203; Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, i. 545). Vaux, who had perhaps suffered from the exactions of Sir Richard Empson [q. v.] and Edmund Dudley [q. v.] (ib. Nos. 464, 777, 1026), profited by their fall, receiving a large share of Empson's offices. On 28 Feb. 1511 Vaux was commissioned with five others to make inquisition as to the possessions of Empson, who had been executed in the preceding August (ib. 1518). In July of the same year he entertained the king at his Northamptonshire seat (ib. ii. p. 1452).

During the campaign in France of 1513 Vaux saw much service. In April of that year he, under Lord Lisle [see Brandon, Charles], was one of the commanders of the English van of 3,200 men (ib. i. 3885; cf. 4008, 4021). During the siege of Therouenne Vaux and Sir Edward Belknapp convoyed the supplies from Calais, and on 29 June 1513, being surprised by the French, narrowly escaped with their lives after losing three hundred men (Chron. of Calais, p. 12). On 30 June Henry VIII landed at Calais (ib.), and Vaux was attached to the division of 9,466 men immediately under the king's command (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, i. 4307). At the end of the war in August 1514 Vaux, despite signs of loss of royal favour, was still at Guisnes. On 4 Sept. 1514 he was one of those who were selected to meet the Princess Mary, the sister of Henry VIII, and conduct her to Abbeville for her marriage with Louis XII. Lady Vaux was to accompany him (ib. No. 5379). His appointments were characteristically sumptuous—‘forty horses in his train and all with scarlet cloth’ (ib., and 5407). At the end of the year he probably returned to England, for on 1 Dec. 1514 he was placed upon the commission of the peace for Northamptonshire, a position to which he had not been nominated since January 1512 (ib. 5658, cp. 2045). Thenceforth his custom was apparently to spend the summer months at his post, and the autumn and winter in England (ib. App. iv. 87). His favour at court continued, for in October 1518 he was nominated with others to settle both the terms of peace and the marriage treaty between Henry VIII's daughter, the Princess Mary, and the dauphin (ib. ii. 4529, 4564). On 14 Dec. 1518 Vaux, as ambassador, together with his colleagues, received the oath of Francis I to the treaty (ib. 4649, 4661, 4669; Rymer, Fœdera, xiii. 672). On 10 Feb. 1519 Vaux and his colleagues surrendered Tournay to the French in accordance with the terms of peace (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, iii. 65, 71). In March 1520 he was (Chron. of Calais, p. 18) making preparation at Guisnes (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, iii. 704) for the Field of the Cloth of Gold held between Guisnes and Ardres (ib. 737, 750; cf. Chron. of Calais, pp. 79–85). The interview between the two kings took place on 7 June following (ib. p. 28). Vaux and Sir William Parr represented the knighthood of Northamptonshire (ib. p. 21). On 10 July Henry VIII rode to Gravelines with a large retinue, in a list of which Vaux's name stands first among the knights, to meet the king of the Romans (afterwards the emperor, Charles V) (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, iii. 906; cf. Rutland Papers, Camden Soc. p. 31).

Vaux had maintained his intimacy with some of the Yorkist leaders, and in May 1521 Wolsey suspected him of complicity in the intended treason of Edward Stafford, third duke of Buckingham (Brewer's Reign of Henry VIII, i. 379–80). There does not appear to have been any direct evidence against Vaux, and no proceedings were taken against him; but, with a refined cruelty frequently practised by Henry VIII's government upon persons whose sympathies were suspected, he was nominated upon the commission of oyer and terminer in the city of London, which on 8 May 1521 found an indictment against the duke (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, iii. 1284). Vaux shared Buckingham's hatred of Wolsey. He took into his service in France in 1522 a refugee from England, Buckingham's former chaplain, John Coke or Cooke, against whom a warrant was out for seditious preaching at Walden in Essex, and using violent language against the king, cardinal, and the Duke of Norfolk (ib. iii. 1070, iv. 4040).

On 29 May 1522 war was declared against France. Vaux was probably already at his post (ib. iii. 2020). During June he was actively engaged in securing the defence of Guisnes (ib. 2326, 2352, 2878). On 22 Sept. Sandys wrote to Wolsey from the camp at Hesdin giving an account, in a letter which is unfortunately mutilated, of what was probably a quarrel between Sir Richard Wingfield, captain of Calais, and Vaux, ‘touching the castle of Guisnes.’ He adds, ‘Sir N. Vaux lieth very sore,’ as though he had been wounded (ib. p. 2560). Probably as a recognition of his services during the war, Vaux was raised to the peerage in 1523 as Lord Vaux of Harrowden. Dugdale, on the authority of Stow, gives 27 April 1523 (cf. ib. 2982). On 14 May following Vaux was reported, in a letter from an anonymous correspondent in London to the Earl of Surrey, as ‘sick and in great danger’ (ib. 3024); and on 16 May his successor, Sir William Fitzwilliam, was appointed to the command of Guisnes (ib. 3027). Vaux died on 14 May 1523. His will, undated, was proved on 3 July of the same year. He bequeathed 100l. for religious uses, founded a chantry in the parish church of Harrowden, and left 500l. each to his three daughters by his second marriage. He was succeeded in the title by his eldest son, Thomas [q. v.]

[Coll. Arm. MSS. Vincent 20, B. and H. fol. 169 b, Philpot 29 b; Record Office MSS., Exch. Q.R. Mem. Rolls, 299 and 307; Gairdner's Letters and Papers of Richard III and Henry VII, vols. i. iii.; Campbell's Materials for the Reign of Henry VII, vols. i. ii.; Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, vols. i. ii. iii. iv.; Rot. Parl. vols. v. vi.; Domesday of Inclosures (Roy. Hist. Soc. 1897); Chronicle of Calais (Camden Soc. 35); Paston Letters, vol. iii. ed. Gairdner; Warkworth's Chronicle (Camden Soc. 10); Nicolas's Testamenta Vetusta, 1826, ii. 559; Dugdale's Baronage, 1676, ii. 304; Nicolas's Historic Peerage, 1856, p. 487; Clutterbuck's Hist. of Hertfordshire, 1827, iii. 81; Baker's Hist. of Northamptonshire, 1822–36, i. 33; Collins's Peerage, ed. Brydges, iv. 202; Brewer's Reign of Henry VIII, vol. i.]

I. S. L.