[Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. ii. 45–50; Maskell's Mar-Prelate Controversy, pp. 131–3, 159; Nash's Works, ed. Grosart; Harvey's Works, ed. Grosart; Fuller's Worthies; Cooper's Annals of Cambridge; Heywood and Wright's University Transactions; Dr. Jessopp's One Generation of a Norfolk House; Notes and Queries, 6th ser. ii. 185.]
PERRERS or de WINDSOR, ALICE (d. 1400), mistress of Edward III, was, according to the hostile St. Albans chronicler (Chron. Angliæ, p. 95), a woman of low birth, the daughter of a tiler at Henney, Essex, and had been a domestic drudge. Another account makes her the daughter of a weaver from Devonshire (see Duchetiana, p. 300). It seems, however, more reasonable to suppose that, as a lady of Queen Philippa's household, she was a member of the Hertfordshire family of Perrers with which the abbey of St. Albans had a long-standing quarrel (Gesta Abbatum S. Albani, iii. 49, 199–209). Sir Richard Perrers was M.P. for Hertfordshire in several parliaments of Edward II and the early years of Edward III (Return of Members of Parliament), and was sheriff of Hertfordshire and Essex from 1315 to 1319, and again in 1327, 1329, and 1330. He may be the same Sir Richard Perrers who, in consequence of his quarrel with St. Albans, suffered a long imprisonment from 1350 onwards, was outlawed in 1359, and whose son, Sir Richard Perrers, in vain endeavoured to obtain redress (Gesta Abbatum, iii. 199–209). Alice may have been the daughter of Sir Richard Perrers the elder; if so, this circumstance would go far to explain the manifest hostility of the St. Albans chronicler. It has, however, been alleged that she was daughter of John Perrers or Piers of Holt, by Gunnora, daughter of Sir Thomas de Ormesbye, and was twice married—first, to Sir Thomas de Narford; and, secondly, to Sir William de Windsor (Palmer, Perlustration of Great Yarmouth, ii. 430; Blomefield, Hist. Norfolk, i. 319, xi. 233). The first incident definitely known about her is that she had entered the service of Queen Philippa as ‘domicella cameræ Reginæ’ previously to October 1366 (Notes and Queries, 7th ser. vii. 449). It has been contended that ‘domicella cameræ Reginæ’ is the equivalent of ‘woman of the bedchamber,’ and that the designation was applied only to married women (ib. vii. 449, viii. 47). But it is definitely stated that the manor of Wendover, which was bestowed on her in 1371, was granted to her ‘ten qu'ele fuist sole’ (Rolls of Parliament, iii. 130a), and she was a single woman when she obtained possession of Oxeye, apparently in 1374 (Gesta Abbatum, iii. 236). She was married—or at any rate betrothed—to William de Windsor in 1376 (Chron. Angliæ, p. 97); she is elsewhere stated to have been his wife for a long time previously to December 1377 (Rolls of Parliament, iii. 41b). The contemporary chronicles and records do not show that she was ever the wife of Thomas de Narford, and the statement is probably due to a confusion.
Alice Perrers became the mistress of Edward III in the lifetime of Queen Philippa, and her connection with the king may date from 1366, when she had a grant of two tuns of wine. In 1367 she had custody of Robert de Tiliol, with his lands and marriage, and in 1375 had similar grants as to the heir of John Payn and Richard, lord Poynings. In 1371 she received the manor of Wendover, and in 1375 that of Bramford Speke, Devonshire. On 15 April 1372 as much as 397l. was paid for her jewels (Devon, Issues of Exchequer, pp. 193–4). On 8 Aug. 1373 Edward bestowed on her ‘all the jewels, &c., which were ours, as well as those of our late consort, and came into the hands of Euphemia, wife of Walter de Heselarton, Knight, and which were afterwards received by the said Alice from Euphemia for our use’ (Fœdera, iii. 989). This grant has not unnaturally exposed both her and Edward to unfavourable, though perhaps exaggerated, comment, but it was not a grant of all Philippa's jewels, as sometimes stated. On 2 June 1374 the sum of 1,615l. 3s. 11d. was paid, through her hands, to her future husband, William de Windsor (Devon, Issues of Exchequer, p. 197). In 1375 she rode through Chepe ward from the Tower, dressed as the Lady of the Sun, to attend the great jousts that were held at Smithfield (Nicolas, Chronicle of London, p. 70). In the following year, on 20 May, robes were supplied her to appear in another intended tournament (Beltz, Memorials of the Garter, p. 10). Alice had obtained great influence over the king, and is alleged to have used her position to acquire property for herself by unlawful means. In this statement the St. Albans chronicler probably has in view her dispute with his own abbey as to the manor of Oxeye, which commenced in 1374 (Gesta Abbatum, iii. 227–249). She is also accused of having interfered with justice in promoting lawsuits by way of maintenance and of having actually appeared on the bench at Westminster in order to influence the judges to decide cases in accordance with her wishes (Chron. Angliæ, p. 96; Rolls of Parliament, ii. 329a). Her position induced John of Gaunt and his supporters, William, lord Latimer (1329?–1381)