Fiennes, Thomas (DNB00)

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FIENNES or FIENES, THOMAS, ninth Lord Dacre (1517–1541), was son of Sir Thomas Fienes, by Joan Sutton, daughter of Edward and sister of John, lord Dudley. Sir Thomas died in the lifetime of his father, Thomas, eighth baron Dacre of the South. The eighth baron married Anne, daughter of Sir Humphrey Bourchier, and granddaughter of John, lord Berners; was engaged in repressing Perkin Warbeck's insurrection 1496–1497, and after much public service died in 1534. He succeeded his grandfather in 1534–5, aged about 18. With the Duke of Norfolk and Lord Mountjoy he headed the cavalcade of knights and esquires who met Anne of Cleves [q. v.] on Rainham Down on New Year's eve 1539–40 (Holinshed, Chron. iii. 811). On the night of 30 April 1541 Lord Dacre and a party of youths left his castle of Hurstmonceux for a poaching frolic in the park of Mr. Nicholas Pelham at Laughton. On their way thither the company got divided. One party, not that, it would appear, to which Lord Dacre belonged, fell in with some persons, perhaps some of Pelham's servants, one of whom was mortally wounded in a scuffle. The whole company was indicted on the charge of murder. The innocence of the other party was so clear that the privy council hesitated long before ordering a prosecution, and then probably under pressure from the king (Froude, Hist. of England, iv. 120). Henry, now nearing his worst, ‘cruelly, royally vindictive’ (Stubbs, Lectures, pp. 200–1), was resolved that the young man should die, and his ‘surpassing self-wilfulness’ drove his councillors to a decision, though not without a long and stormy debate. The case was tried in the court of king's bench on 27 June, before the lord chancellor (Lord Audley of Walden), ‘sitting that day as high steward of England.’ Lord Dacre at first pleaded ‘not guilty;’ but, ‘overpersuaded by the courtiers, who gaped after his estate, to confess the fact’ (Camden, Elizabeth, ap. Kennett, ii. 580), he pleaded guilty, and ‘cast himself on the king's mercy, as the only way to save his own and his servant's life.’ A capital conviction necessarily followed. The judges thereupon used their influence with the king to obtain mercy. The king, however, was determined, and Dacre was ordered to be executed next day, 29 June, at 11 A.M., on Tower Hill. The execution was stayed by an order from the king, but carried out the same afternoon at Tyburn. Dacre was buried in St. Sepulchre's Church on Snow Hill. The popular compassion was deeply moved. Seven of his companions besides himself were indicted. Four of them were acquitted, and three shared his fate. The case has ever since been referred to as a notable precedent (Hall, Pleas of the Crown, i. 439; second part by Jacob, i. 47). Lord Dacre, by his wife Mary, daughter of George Neville, lord Abergavenny, left two sons, Thomas, who died, aged 15, in 1553, and Gregory [q. v.], who was restored to his honours in 1558, and a daughter, Margaret, who married Sampson Lennard, esq., of Chevening, Kent, and on the death of her brother without issue inherited his entailed estates, and was declared Baroness Dacre in 1604.

[Hall's Chronicle, p. 841; Holinshed's Chronicles, iii. 821; Froude's Hist. of England, iv. 120–2; Camden's Elizabeth, sub anno 1594; Hayley MSS. Brit. Mus. i. 743.]

E. V.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.122
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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432 ii 25f.e. Fiennes, Thomas, 9th Lord Dacre: for He succeeded read Thomas succeeded