Upton, Nicholas (DNB00)

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UPTON, NICHOLAS (1400?–1457), precentor of Salisbury and writer on heraldry and the art of war, born about 1400, is stated (Lodge, Irish Peerage, vii. 153) to have been the second son of John Upton of Portlinch, Devonshire, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of John Barley of Chencombe in the same county. From a collateral branch of the family was descended Arthur Upton [q. v.]. Nicholas was entered as scholar of Winchester in 1408 under the name ‘Helyer alias Upton, Nicholas,’ and was elected fellow of New College, Oxford, in 1415, graduating bachelor of civil law. He was ordained subdeacon on 8 March 1420–1 (Hennessy, Nov. Rep. p. xlix; Tanner, p. 73), but instead of proceeding to higher orders he seems to have entered the service of Thomas de Montacute, fourth earl of Salisbury [q. v.], and fought against the French in Normandy. He also served under William de la Pole, earl of Suffolk [q. v.], and John Talbot (afterwards Earl of Shrewsbury) [q. v.]. He was with Salisbury at Orleans in October-November 1428, when it was relieved by Joan of Arcand Salisbury was killed. Upton was appointed one of the executors of his will (Letters and Papers illustrating the War in France, i. 415–17).

Soon afterwards Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, ‘observing the parts and vertues of Mr. Upton, who at that time was not meanly skilled in both the laws, perswaded him to lay aside the sword and to take up his books again and follow his studies.’ On 6 April 1431 he was admitted to the prebend of Dyme in Wells Cathedral, and before 2 Oct. 1434 was rector of Chedsey, which he exchanged on that date for the rectory of Stapylford; he was also rector of Farleigh. In 1438 he graduated bachelor of canon law from Broadgates Hall (afterwards Pembroke College), Oxford, and on 11 April 1443 was collated to the prebend of Wildland in St. Paul's Cathedral. He resigned his prebend on his election on 14 May 1446 as precentor of Salisbury Cathedral. In 1452 he went on a mission to Rome to obtain the canonisation of Osmund [q. v.], the founder of Salisbury. He reached Rome on 27 June, returning in May 1453 without accomplishing his object. He died in 1457 before 15 July, and was buried in Salisbury Cathedral.

Upton was the author of an elaborate work entitled ‘Libellus de Officio Militari;’ it was dedicated to Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, and was therefore written before 1446. It consists of four parts: (1) ‘De Coloribus in Armis et eorum Nobilitate ac Differentia;’ (2) ‘De Regulis et de Signis;’ (3) ‘De Animalibus et de Avibus in Armis portatis;’ (4) ‘De Militia et eorum [sic] Nobilitate.’ A fifteenth-century manuscript of the work, possibly the original, is Addit. MS. 30946 in the British Museum; a fifteenth-century copy is in Cottonian MS. Nero C. iii.; and later copies are in Harleian MSS. 3504 and 6106, and in Trinity College, Oxford, MS. xxxvi.; extracts from it are contained in Stowe MS. 1047, f. 252, and in Rawlinson MSS. (Bodleian Library) B. 20 and B. 107. The book, largely used by Francis Thynne [q. v.], was edited by Sir Edward Bysshe [q. v.] from Sir Robert Cotton's manuscript, and another belonging to Matthew Hale, both procured for Bysshe by John Selden; it was entitled ‘Nicholai Vptoni de Studio Militari’ (London, 1654, fol.; two copies are in the Brit. Mus. Libr.).

A later Sir Nicholas Upton (d. 1551), son of John Upton of Lupton, Devonshire, was turcopolier of the knights of St. John, and was killed by sunstroke in July 1551 during a gallant defence of Malta at the head of thirty knights and four hundred volunteers against Dragut, the Turkish admiral. The grandmaster, John d'Omedes, declared his death to be a national loss (Lodge, Irish Peerage, vii. 154–5; Vertot, Hist. of Knights of St. John, iii. 261; Sutherland, Knights of Malta, ii. 143; Whitworth Porter, p. 728; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. viii. 192, ix. 81, xi. 200, 4th ser. iv. 477, 6th ser. xii. passim, 7th ser. i. 118, 171).

[Preface to Bysshe's ed. of De Studio Militari, 1654, cf. Tanner MS. 21, f. 159; manuscript copies in Brit. Mus. Libr.; Bekynton Corresp. (Rolls Ser.), i. 265; Statutes of Lincoln Cathedral, ed. Bradshaw, i. 406; Newcourt's Repertor. Eccl.; Hennessy's Novum Rep. pp. xlix, 55; Kirby's Winchester Scholars, p. 36; Prince's Worthies of Devon; Le Neve's Fasti, ed. Hardy; Fuller's Worthies; Tanner's Bibl. Brit.-Hib.; Wood's Life and Times, ed. Clark, iii. 467 n.; Maclean's Pembroke College, p. 66.]

A. F. P.