The New International Encyclopædia/Oldcastle, John

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OLDCASTLE, John (?-1417). An English nobleman, who suffered death as a Lollard. He was born about the time of the accession of Richard II. (1377), probably in the Manor of Almeley, near Weobley, Western Herefordshire. He acquired the title of Lord Cobham by marriage (1409), and later signalized himself by the ardor of his attachment to the doctrines of Wiclif. He took part in the presentation of a remonstrance to the English Commons on the subject of the corruptions of the Church. At his own expense he had the work of Wiclif transcribed and widely disseminated among the people, and paid a large body of preachers to propagate the views of the reformer throughout the country. During the reign of Henry IV. (1399-1413) he commanded an English army in France, and forced the Duke of Orleans to raise the siege of Paris; but in the first year of the reign of Henry V. (1413) he was accused of heresy and was imprisoned in the Tower, whence after some time he escaped and concealed himself in Wales. A bill of attainder was passed against him and 1000 marks set upon his head. After four years' hiding he was captured, brought to London, and, being reckoned a traitor as well as a heretic, he was hanged and his body consumed as it hung in chains over a fire, December 14, 1417. He is said to have been the original of Shakespeare's Falstaff, as he was believed to have been in his youth the boon companion of Henry V. in his early days. Consult his Life by Gilpin (London, 1765), Gaspey (ib., 1843). Brown (ib., 1848), and in Maurice's English Popular Leaders (ib., 1872).