Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Weyland, Thomas de
WEYLAND, THOMAS de (fl. 1272–1290), judge, was a member of a Norfolk family that since the beginning of the thirteenth century had possessed land at Oxburgh and elsewhere in that county (Black Book of Exchequer in Rye's Norfolk Antiquarian Miscellany, i. 48, 95). The gossip of the Dunstable annalist ‘de imo in altum elevatus’ (p. 356) ignores the respectability of his descent. The name comes from Weyland, a wood near Watton, which gives its name to a Norfolk hundred. The family had also possessed lands in Ireland since about 1248, at which time one William de Weyland was in Ireland, in the service of Aymer de Valence (d. 1260) [q. v.], the half-brother of Henry III (Cal. Doc. Ireland, 1171–1251, pp. 439, 450). This William is probably the same as the Sir William de Weyland whom a pedigree in Blomefield's ‘Norfolk,’ vi. 173, makes, with his wife Marsilia (who afterwards married John de Brandon), the father of Thomas the judge. This William is generally identified with the William de Weyland who was escheator south of Trent between 1261 and 1265, justice itinerant, holder of many particular assizes, and justice of the common pleas in 1272 and 1273 (Foss, Biographia Juridica, p. 720). However, an entry in ‘Calendar of Documents relating to Ireland,’ 1252–84 (p. 499), makes this William a brother of Thomas Weyland. There were several other Weylands mentioned in the records of this time whose precise relationship to each other and to the judge is hard to determine. The most important of these, Sir Nicholas de Weyland, also a son of Sir William, was probably the justice's elder brother, or possibly his nephew. He got the manor of Oxburgh with his wife, Juliana Burnell, and was knight of the shire for Suffolk in 1297, 1298, and 1305 (Parl. Writs, i. 901).
Thomas de Weyland became a clerk and a subdeacon in early life, but, attaining success as a lawyer, he kept his clerical status in the background, and before 1272 had married a lady named Elizabeth (Cal. of Patent Rolls, 1 Edward I, in Deputy-Keeper's Forty-second Report, p. 560). It is possible, however, that this Thomas was Thomas de Weyland of Rydon, who, with his wife Elizabeth, acknowledged a fine so late as 28 Edward I (Rye, Cal. of Norfolk Feet of Fines, pp. 138, 153). About 1271 or 1272 he was associated as justice itinerant with Roger de Seyton in Essex and Hertfordshire (Dugdale, Chronica Series, p. 25). In the early years of Edward I's reign he was constantly employed in holding particular assizes, especially in the eastern counties. There are innumerable instances of this in the ‘lexicographical’ calendar of the early patent rolls of Edward I, scattered in the reports of the deputy-keeper of the records. Before Michaelmas 1274 he became justice of the bench at Westminster, that is, in more modern phrase, of the court of common pleas, though in 1275 he is described as one of the ‘servientes regis ad legem’ (ib. p. 26). In July or August 1278, during the parliament at Gloucester, Edward reorganised the staff of the bench at Westminster, appointing Weyland chief justice, with a salary of sixty marks a year (Parl. Writs, i. 382). On 29 Sept. of the same year Weyland was present at the homage of Alexander III, king of Scots, at Westminster (ib. i. 7).
During the eleven years that Weyland acted as chief justice he showed great activity in the administration of the law, but neglected no opportunity of furthering his own interest and building up a great landed estate. His behaviour, always questionable, became exceptionally scandalous between 1286 and 1289, when the absence of Edward I and the chancellor Burnell on the continent removed the chief checks upon his action and that of his colleagues. In November 1276 he obtained from his mother and her new husband, John de Brandon, a release of all her dower rights both in Ireland and in England, in return for the manor of Middleton for life (Cal. Doc. Ireland, 1252–84, p. 211). He was already in possession of his father's Irish estates, and in February 1281 had letters of protection in England for two years (ib. p. 376). Again, on 1 July 1285 he had protection in Ireland for three years ‘on remaining in England on the special affairs of the king’ (ib. 1285–92, p. 39). In England he collected a large amount of property. On 29 June 1276 he received the manor of Great Massingham, and two years later that of Northall, both in Norfolk (Blomefield, Norfolk, ix. 262–3). In 1288 he bought a large property at Grimestone, Crongham, and Gayton, Norfolk (ib. viii. 450). He made other acquisitions in Suffolk and in Essex, where in 1286 he had license for making parks at Chigwell and Writtle. In Kent he obtained the manor of Gravesend, and in Gloucestershire inherited that of Sodbury from William, his father, where in 1280 he had license for holding a market and fair (Cal. Rot. Cartarum, p. 107). The estates he held at the time of his fall are enumerated in ‘Calendarium Inquisitionum post mortem,’ i. 102, 106, 115, 130, 144, 317.
On Edward I's return to England in August 1289, a chorus of complaints were raised against the conduct of his judges. Weyland was the first victim. He was charged with inciting his esquires to commit a homicide, and of giving them refuge and protection after the perpetration of the murder. The ‘Annals of Dunstable’ (p. 355) say that he was found guilty of this by a jury; but the ‘Osney Annals,’ with more probability, assert that he ran away to avoid the king's judgment being passed upon him. Anyhow, before 19 Sept. the king had ordered all his estates to be seized (Cal. Patent Rolls, 1282–91, p. 323), and on 24 Sept. Ralph of Sandwich [q. v.] was made chief justice of the bench, ‘the king not desiring that Thomas de Weyland should exercise that office until further order’ (ib. p. 324). Thereupon Weyland fled for sanctuary to the convent of the Franciscans, established at Babwell, just outside the north gate of Bury St. Edmunds, where he was allowed to assume the friar's habit. The convent was watched by Sir Robert Malet, and as Weyland did not withdraw after the traditional forty days, Edward resolved to starve out the inmates. Great commotion was excited among the stricter clergy by the severity of the king. Archbishop Peckham wrote twice to Malet by 22 Nov., urging him to have pity on the poor friars. The primate now first discovered that Weyland was a subdeacon, and strove to claim for him the immunity of his clergy (Peckham, Letters, iii. 968–9). Edward allowed the friars to leave the convent, and eventually Weyland himself was starved out and conducted by Malet to the Tower. There Weyland was offered a threefold option. He might stand trial by his peers, endure perpetual imprisonment, or abjure the realm for ever. Other charges had in the interval been formulated against him. Moreover, the storm had now burst against the other judges, and further complaints were threatened. Accordingly Weyland agreed to abjure the realm. On 20 Feb. 1290 Sir R. Malet was appointed to deliver Weyland from the Tower, with power to grant him life and liberty if he confess his felony and abjure the realm (Cal. Rot. Pat. 1282–91, p. 344). On the same day Weyland abjured the realm. Dover was assigned as his port of embarkation, and thither the ex-judge went with bare feet, uncovered head, and cross in hand (Ann. Dunstaple, p. 356. For the ceremonial and legal incidents involved in the abjuratio regni, see A. Réville in Revue Historique, 1892, l. 1–42). He took refuge in France (Langtoft, ii. 185). Unlike Ralph de Hengham [q. v.] and other judges, he was never pardoned or allowed to return. His subsequent history in exile is unknown.
Weyland's goods and chattels were forfeited by the mere fact of his abjuration, and were already in the king's hands. However, he had carefully provided against the complete ruin of his family by jointly enfeoffing his second wife, Margaret, and their son Richard with some of his property, while other lands had been held jointly by him, his elder son John, and his daughter Eleanor. A vigorous attempt was made by Gilbert de Clare, eighth earl of Gloucester [q. v.], to upset this arrangement with regard to the manor of Sodbury, of which Gloucester was capital lord. He urged that there was no precedent for the wife of a felon holding his lands during his life, and that it would be a great prejudice to all capital lords were this done. It was, however, decided that the joint feoffment had been formally made, and judgment in favour of Margaret and her son was duly given. She was, however, ordered not to give support, openly or secretly, to her banished husband (Rot. Parl. i. 66–67). In this and in similar cases Edward treated Weyland's family with such rigid justice that he even declined to set aside the ‘maritagium’ that Weyland had procured of the heir of John de Neville, though his kin pleaded that it would now be disparagement to marry him to the felon's daughter (ib. i. 52).
Weyland was twice married. Though Archbishop Peckham denied the validity of both of the marriages of the ex-subdeacon, they were never questioned by any other authority. By his first wife he seems to have been the father of Thomas and John de Weyland, both of whom retained scraps of his property (ib. i. 51). By Margaret de Mose, Maze, or Moyes, he was the father of Richard de Weyland, and probably also of his daughter Eleanor. His wife Margaret died in 1326 (Cal. Inq. post mortem, i. 317).[Ann. of Dunstable (iii. 355–6), Ann. of Osney (iv. 320), and Ann. of Worcester (iv. 499) in Annales Monastici; Ann. London and Monk of Malmesbury in Chronicles Edward I and Edward II (i. 97, ii. 239); Peckham's Letters, pp. 169, 392, 968–9, B. Cotton, pp. 171–3, John Oxenedes, p. 273, all in Rolls Ser.; Hemingburgh, iii. 16 (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Political Songs, pp. 224–30 (Camden Soc.); Rot. Parl. i. 9, 23, 46–8, 51–3, 57, 59, 66–7; Parl. Writs, vol. i.; Calendars of Patent Rolls, Edward I; Cal. Doc. Ireland; Abbreviatio Rotulorum Originalium, Abbreviatio Placitorum; Cal. Rotulorum Cartarum; Rymer's Fœdera, vol. i.; Calendarium Genealogicum; Dugdale's Monasticon, vi. 1532; Excerpta e Rot. Fin. ii. 360–80; Madox's Hist. of the Exchequer; Dugdale's Origines Judiciales and Chronica Ser.; Foss's Judges of England, iii. 170–3; Blomefield's Norfolk.]