Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Holland, Thomas (1374-1400)

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HOLLAND, THOMAS, Duke of Surrey and Earl of Kent (1374–1400), was eldest son of Thomas, second earl of Kent [q. v.], by Alice, daughter of Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel; he was nephew to John Holland, duke of Exeter (1352?–1400) [q. v.] He was elected a knight of the Garter after his father's death in 1397, and on obtaining livery of his inheritance was summoned to attend Richard II (his uncle) at Nottingham, where deliberation as to the deprivation of Thomas, duke of Gloucester, both of power and life, was being held. After Richard had secured Gloucester, the Earls of Kent and Rutland were sent to arrest Thomas Fitzalan, earl of Arundel. Kent was forward in urging the execution of Arundel, who was his mother's brother, and shared in the confiscation of the estates of Gloucester and his partisans. He obtained Warwick Castle, and the stud of horses and cattle belonging to the attainted Thomas de Beauchamp, earl of Warwick. On 29 Sept. 1397, the same day on which his uncle John was created Duke of Exeter, he was created Duke of Surrey. Selden, in his ‘Titles of Honour’ (p. 755), observes that the virga aurea was first used on this occasion. On 31 Jan. 1398 he was created marshal of England during the king's pleasure, in order that he might officiate at the forthcoming duel between the Duke of Hereford [see Henry IV] and the Duke of Norfolk, who had himself held that office for life, with remainder to his heirs male (Beltz, Memorials of the Garter, p. 358). When both the duellists received sentence of banishment, Surrey obtained a grant of the office of marshal for life, and some of Norfolk's forfeited estates were given him.

On 18 Feb. 1398 he obtained royal license to found a Carthusian monastery at Mountgrace, within his manor of Bardelby in Cleveland, and on 26 July following he was appointed the king's lieutenant in Ireland in succession to the Earl of March, who had been slain by the Irish. His appointment was to date from 1 Sept. following, and to last for three years, according to an indenture which he is said to have made with the king. An abstract apparently of this indenture is among the Harleian MSS., with the date 10 April 22 Richard II—a mistake, in all probability, for 21 Richard II, i.e. 1398, some three months before the date of his actual appointment. This abstract recites that Surrey is to have with him during his term of office 150 men of arms, knights, and esquires, and a hundred archers, in every twenty archers a mason and a carpenter, and that his duties as lieutenant are to cease whenever the king himself should be in Ireland. In May 1399 payment was made to him of 11,500 marks, the annual sum allowed for the support of himself and his men in Ireland (Pells Issue Rolls). He was made lord of co. Louth and of the town of Drogheda 1 March 1399; keeper of the castle and lordship of Carelagh and baron of Norragh 16 May 1399.

On Richard's return from Ireland, Surrey accompanied him, and went, with his uncle the Duke of Exeter, to visit Henry, duke of Lancaster, in order to try and effect a reconciliation between Henry and Richard II. Henry treated Surrey with less civility than he did Exeter, and kept him for a time a close prisoner at Chester. The reason was probably that Richard had given Surrey a grant of some of John of Gaunt's property in Lancashire to hold until Henry, as heir of John of Gaunt, should sue for livery of them.

On 20 Oct. 1399 Surrey, with the other advisers of the deposed king Richard, were arrested by order of the council. Surrey, at first committed to the Tower, was afterwards transferred to Wallingford, and on 29 Oct. was brought before parliament, with his fellow-prisoners, to answer the charges brought against them. Surrey, who was ready to forsake Richard's cause, pleaded his tender age, and the necessity for obedience to Richard II. Finally, the dignities and estates which he had acquired after Gloucester's death were forfeited, and he was deprived of his dukedom on 6 Nov.

At the beginning of 1400 Surrey—or Kent, as we should now speak of him—joined with his uncle John (then Earl of Huntingdon) and other of Richard's partisans in an open conspiracy against Henry IV. He seems to have taken a more active part in the plot than his uncle. Their intention was to seize Henry and his son, and for that purpose they went to Windsor, but found the new king had withdrawn, so they rode on to Sonning, where they found Richard's queen, and boasted that Henry had taken to flight at their approach. Kent declared that Richard was free, and was lying at Pontefract with a hundred thousand men. They moved to Colnbrook, where they were joined by Rutland. But Rutland had betrayed the conspirators, and though Kent valiantly kept the bridge at Maidenhead for three days, he was forced to retire, and escaped with his friends to Cirencester. They left their men-at-arms outside, and, being suspected by the townsmen, were attacked. It is said that a priest in their retinue, seeing that violence was likely to be offered to them, set fire to a house in order to divert attention and allow Kent and the others an opportunity to escape. This act, however, only served to excite the populace, who captured Kent and the other leaders and beheaded them during the night (Walsingham, Hist. Angl. ii. 244; cf. Traison et Mort, p. 242). The date was 7 Jan. 1400. Contemporary documents record the payment of a reward to the men of Cirencester who took the rebels in their town, and further payments to those who conducted them to Oxford and carried their personal possessions to London. Kent's head was sent to be placed on London Bridge, but was given up to his widow in compliance with the king's writ in the following March. His body, which had been temporarily interred at Cirencester, was then exhumed and laid with the head within the abbey he had founded at Mountgrace.

Kent was in his twenty-fifth year at the time of his death. He married Joan, daughter of Hugh, earl of Stafford, by whom he left no issue. Soon after his death his widow was captured at Liverpool while endeavouring to escape with a large quantity of plate and other valuables; she was taken to London, and kindly treated by Henry.

Froissart is loud in his praise of Surrey's valour, and states that he was led into the conspiracy against Henry by his uncle John, the Duke of Exeter.

[Walsingham's Historia Anglicana (Rolls Ser.); Trokelowe and Blaneforde, Chronica (ib.); Chronique de la Traison et Mort du Roy Richart (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Froissart's Chronicle; Account of the Deposition of Richard II, printed in Archæologia, vol. xx.; Wallon's Richard II, vol. ii.; Wylie's Hist. of Engl. under Henry IV, vol. i.; Beltz's Memorials of the Garter; Doyle's Official Baronage.]

W. J. H-y.