Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Warenne, John de (1286-1347)

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WARENNE, JOHN de, Earl of Surrey and Sussez, or Earl Warenne (1286–1347), son of William de Warenne (d. 1286) and Joanna, daughter of Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford, and grandson of John de Warenne, earl of Surrey (1231?–1304) [q. v.], was born on 24 June and baptised on 7 Nov. 1286 (Calendarium Genealogicum, p. 378; Sussex Arch. Coll. ii. 35). His father died when he was only six months old, and his mother when he was aged 7. He was nineteen when his grandfather's death on 27 Sept. 1304 made him Earl of Surrey and Sussex. On 20 May 1306 he married, at the Franciscan church at Newgate, Joan, only daughter of Henry III, count of Bar, and of Eleanor, eldest daughter of Edward I (ib. vi. 119–21). On Whitsunday, 22 May, he was knighted along with the Prince of Wales (Chron. de Melsa, ii. 227). He received his first parliamentary summons for 30 May at Westminster (Parl. Writs, i. 164). He was, however, excused from attendance at the Carlisle parliament in January 1307 as being in Wales by license of the king (ib. i. 183). On 6 Feb. 1307 Edward I, being at Lanercost, released him from his grandfather's debt of 6,693l. 6s. 10¼d. to the crown (Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1301–7, pp. 496–7).

Under Edward II Warenne was one of the earls who on 6 Aug. 1307 attested the grant of Cornwall to Peter de Gaveston (Fœdera, ii. 2). On 2 Dec. in the famous tournament at Gaveston's castle of Wallingford he led the side that fought against the favourite, whose victory involved, as Trokelowe (p. 65) says, ‘his perpetual shame’ (see also Monk of Malmesbury, p. 156). The upstart's behaviour much irritated Warenne, who ‘never showed a cheerful countenance to Peter after that tournament’ (ib. p. 161). He was conspicuous in 1308 in procuring the banishment of the favourite, but in 1309, after Gaveston's unauthorised return, he was induced by Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln [q. v.], to become his ‘friend,’ probably at the parliament at Stamford in July, where on 6 Aug. he signed the letter of the barons to Clement V (London Annals, p. 162). With three other royalist earls he was appointed to enforce order at the parliament of March 1310 (Fœdera, ii. 103). On 15 June he was granted the castle, honour, and forest of the High Peak (Cal. Close Rolls, 1307–13, p. 283). That summer he accompanied Edward II and Gaveston against Robert Bruce (London Ann. p. 174; Ann. Paulini, p. 269). In February 1311 he traversed Selkirk forest, receiving the foresters into the English obedience (Lanercost, p. 214).

Archbishop Winchelsea reconciled Warenne with the barons (Hemingburgh, ii. 277), who appointed him to keep the peace in London and the eastern counties. In May 1312 he was sent with his kinsman, Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke [see Aymer], against Gaveston, and besieged Scarborough, forcing Peter to surrender on 18 May, on conditions which they swore to observe (London Ann. pp. 204–5; Lit. Cantuar. iii. 388–92). Disgusted at Warwick's putting Gaveston to death, they again went over to the king, and in August joined Edward's army against the ordainers (Flores Hist. iii. 337). In the pacification of October 1313 Warenne was specifically pardoned all offences since the king's accession. Early next year, however, he was again at variance with the court, and on 22 Feb. 1314 the sheriff of Derbyshire was ordered to resume by force the possession of Castleton and Peak Forest (Cal. Close Rolls, 1313–18, p. 38). In June he refused, like Lancaster, to follow Edward to Bannockburn (Monk of Malmesbury, p. 201). In September 1314 at the parliament at York he supported the northern primate in his attack on Archbishop Reynolds (Cal. Close Rolls, 1313–18, p. 194).

The fluctuations of Warenne's policy during these years are partly explained by his domestic troubles. His marriage with Joan of Bar was unhappy, and he was now living in open adultery with Matilda de Nerford, a Norfolk gentleman's daughter. In May 1313 he was threatened with excommunication, which was postponed on the prayer of the king (Fœdera, ii. 216). In June and July the Countess Joan was living at the king's cost in the Tower (ib. 1313–18, p. 45). Before long, however, the bishop of Chichester issued the threatened sentence, and an unseemly fray ensued between Warenne's followers and those of the bishop. Warenne now sought to procure a dissolution of his marriage in the ecclesiastical courts on the ground of nearness of kin and want of consent. Archbishop Greenfield of York summoned Joan to appear at Michaelmas 1314 (Letters from Northern Registers, pp. 228–30; Blaauw in Sussex Arch. Coll. vi. 117–27). On 23 Feb. 1316 Warenne bound himself to pay 200l. a year to the king for Joan's support during the time the suit ran (Cal. Close Rolls, 1313–18, p. 325). The marriage was never dissolved, but the parties henceforth lived apart. In the interests of Matilda de Nerford and her children, Warenne on 11 July 1316 surrendered his Yorkshire, Welsh, Sussex, and Lincolnshire lands to the king (ib. p. 347), receiving them back for life with reversion to the crown, and obtaining on 4 Aug. the settlement of the West Riding estate after his death on Matilda and her sons (Watson, ii. 14–16).

The king and Warenne were for the moment close allies. On 9 Feb. 1317 the earl attended a council at Clarendon, where, perhaps, a plot was formed to attack Lancaster (Cont. Trivet, ed. Hall, pp. 21–2). Warenne's fears prevented his carrying out this scheme (Flores Hist. iii. 179). However, the Countess Alice of Lancaster was on 9 May carried off by Warenne from Canford to Reigate. Alice welcomed the abduction, and she was then or later guilty of adultery. Though it is probable that Warenne was not her lover, the abduction was a deadly insult to Lancaster, and private war at once broke out in Yorkshire and the north march of Wales, where Warenne and Lancaster were neighbours. Lancaster captured Sandal and Conisborough with the estate which they protected, and on 25 Oct. Warenne saved Grantham and Stamford from him by surrendering them to the king (Cal. Close Rolls, 1313–18, p. 569). It was vain for Edward on 3 Nov. to forbid Lancaster to continue hostilities (Fœdera, ii. 345). When, in March 1318, a new reconciliation between Edward and Thomas was effected, Lancaster was allowed to except his quarrel with Warenne. In June 1318 Lancaster attacked Bromfield and Yale, and, despite royal prohibitions, conquered them with their castles. He pleaded the king's favour to Warenne as an excuse for not attending the council at Leicester (Monk of Malmesbury, p. 235). When, in August, another pacification was patched up, Warenne was again excluded from its terms (Cal. Close Rolls, 1313–18, p. 113). Of all the king's friends, Warenne and Hugh le Despenser alone now refused to crave Lancaster's forgiveness (Monk of Malmesbury, p. 235). Finding, however, that obstinacy involved the loss of his remaining estates, Warenne was reconciled to his enemy on condition of an ‘exchange of lands’ (ib. p. 240) that was altogether in Lancaster's favour. Lancaster's conquests both in the West Riding and in the march remained his possessions for the rest of his life (Cal. Close Rolls, 1318–23 pp. 531, 658, 1323–7 pp. 120, 479). In May 1319 Warenne also surrendered a large estate in Norfolk to the victor (ib. 1318–23, p. 68). The Countess Alice was, however, able to grant to her deliverer the life tenancy of several manors of her father's earldom of Salisbury.

In July 1319 Warenne attended the muster at Newcastle against the Scots, but little was effected against Bruce. Warenne's subjection to Lancaster was now complete. So late as July he joined with Lancaster in banishing the Despensers, and received formal pardon before parliament separated. However, when Edward II went to war against the Lancastrians, Warenne plucked up courage to join the king during his progress through the Welsh march. He was one of the four earls who lured the two Roger Mortimers into captivity (Murimuth, p. 35). On 22 March 1322 he took part in the condemnation of Lancaster at Pontefract (Walsingham, i. 165; Canon of Bridlington, p. 77). He attended the York parliament that revoked the ordinances. However, his position was by no means secure. He had to surrender the manor of Aldbourne to the elder Despenser to save himself from destruction (Cal. Patent Rolls, 1327–30, p. 21), but he was at once allowed to resume possession of Bromfield and Yale (ib. p. 561), though Sandal and Conisborough were treated as royal escheats.

On 2 March 1325 Warenne was reluctantly sent with a hundred men-at-arms as captain of the king's army in Aquitaine (Fœdera, ii. 594; Monk of Malmesbury, p. 280). On 25 Aug. he sailed from Portsmouth, accompanied by Edmund, earl of Kent [q. v.] He effected nothing of importance, and next year, 1326, was back in England.

The quarrel between Edward II and Isabella made Warenne's support more necessary to the Despensers, and he at last received his reward. He had the custody of the isle of Axholme, forfeited to the crown by the treason of John de Mowbray [see Mowbray, John, eighth Baron]. On 10 May 1326 he was appointed chief commissioner of array in the north. Already, on 7 May 1326, the West Riding estate, with Sandal and Conisborough, was restored for life, though he surrendered the reversion to the king. On 14 May he did the same for his Surrey, Sussex, and Welsh lands (Cal. Close Rolls, 1323–7, pp. 479, 573). He threw over the claims of his mistress and her children, though Matilda de Nerford's legal right to the reversion of the West Riding estate was so strong that on 19 May Warenne's brother-in-law, Edmund Fitzalan, earl of Arundel [q. v.], pledged himself that in the event of her obtaining legal possession after Warenne's death he would give the king an equivalent (ib. pp. 573–4). Warenne and Arundel were the two last earls to remain faithful to Edward II. Warenne, however, escaped the tragic fate of his brother-in-law, and on giving in his adhesion to the queen and Mortimer he was put forward prominently as their supporter, like Henry of Lancaster. He was one of the deputation of estates sent in January 1327 to urge abdication on Edward II. On 10 March he was at Edward III's coronation, and he was one of the standing council of regency, though his position was still by no means secure. He had to resign the Isle of Axholme to the young John de Mowbray [see Mowbray, John de, II, ninth Baron] (Cal. Close Rolls, 1327–30, p. 358, cf. p. 154). Henry of Lancaster claimed the Warenne West Riding estate as part of Thomas's possessions, and for some time it remained by mutual consent in the king's possession (ib. 1327–30, p. 79), though ultimately Warenne's prior rights were recognised. In February 1327 he was going beyond sea on the king's service, and in April was about to proceed to the marches of Scotland (ib. pp. 24, 70). On 29 March he was appointed supervisor of the commissioners of the peace for Oxfordshire (ib. p. 90). On 1 Sept. he received a new grant for life of Grantham and Stamford (ib. p. 160), and a little later some Despensers' property, already granted for life, was given to him in fee simple (ib. p. 271), as were some Essex manors forfeited by Edmund of Arundel (ib. p. 336). He entertained the king, who on 15 March 1329 paid him sixteen hundred marks by way of recognition (Cal. Close Rolls, 1327–30, p. 491). On 16 Sept. 1329 he received a grant of two thousand marks from the exchequer (ib. p. 441), and on 4 May 1330 the manor of Swanscombe and other lands and rent to a large amount were bestowed on him ‘on consideration of his agreement to remain always with the king’ (ib. p. 517); while in June he had the custody of a large part of the estates of the minor Thomas Bardolf (ib. p. 530). He managed, however, to retain his position after Mortimer's fall.

From the beginning of Edward III's reign Warenne had been much employed on Scottish affairs. On 23 Nov. 1327 he was joint commissioner to treat with the Scots. The revival of the Baliol party after Robert Bruce's death in 1329 opened out better prospects to him. Edward de Baliol [q. v.] was his first cousin, and before 1310 had been his ward (Fœdera, ii. 116). Warenne naturally profited by his kinsman's elevation to the throne of Scotland. Before 27 Feb. 1333 Baliol granted him the palatine earldom of Strathern (Cal. Patent Rolls, 1330–4, p. 555), then actually held by Earl Malise [see under Strathearn, Malise, Earl of]. In June 1333 he joined in an expedition despatched to Baliol's assistance. On 23 July he was pardoned his debts to the crown in consideration of his great expenses in conducting the siege of Berwick (Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1330–4, p. 457). In 1335 he was at the Newcastle muster, and invaded the Lothians along with Baliol, penetrating as far as Perth. With Baliol's final discomfiture Warenne lost his last hopes of his Scottish earldom. He retained the title until his death, though in 1343 David Bruce bestowed the earldom on Sir Morice Moray, the nephew of Earl Malise (G. E. C[okayne], Complete Peerage, vii. 286).

In 1333 Warenne received a grant of the manor of Beeston, Norfolk, for life (Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1330–4, p. 404). In September 1337 he was one of four appointed to lay before the people of Surrey the king's plans of national defence against the French (Rot. Parl. ii. 502). In 1338 he was a councillor to the little Edward of Cornwall, the nominal regent during Edward III's absence abroad (Chron. Angliæ, 1328–88, p. 7). In July 1339 he seems to have acted as sheriff of Surrey and Sussex (Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1338–1340, p. 287), though the official lists do not mention his holding an office so beneath his dignity (List of Sheriffs, p. 136; P. R. O. Lists and Indexes, No. 9).

In Lent 1340 he was again one of five assistants to the little Duke of Cornwall. In Lent 1342 he was one of the earls whom ‘age and infirmity excused from taking part in a tournament at Dunstable’ (Murimuth, p. 123). In July 1345 he was, however, again a councillor of regency during the king's absence abroad. Towards the end of his life he was enriched by the discovery of a treasure hidden in a cave in Bromfield through the incantations of a Saracen physician (Walsingham, i. 264).

Warenne's domestic relations remained disorderly. In 1337 his countess quitted England (Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1334–8, p. 561), and during the later years of his life he lived with Isabella de Holland, the daughter of a Lancashire knight, Robert de Holland, and of his wife Matilda, daughter and coheiress of Alan de la Zouch, whose brother became first Earl of Kent [see Holland, Thomas, first Earl of Kent]. Warenne's chief concern was now to transfer his remaining property to her and to his illegitimate children. In March 1333 he had obtained from the crown power to bequeath his goods freely by testament. His will is dated Sunday, 24 June, at Conisborough, and is printed in ‘Testamenta Eboracensia’ (i. 41–5, Surtees Soc.) By it he made numerous bequests to servants, friends, and dependents. He gave minute directions for his funeral, and bestowed many legacies on religious houses, the poor, and favourite shrines. His illegitimate children were scantily provided for; and Matilda de Holland, ‘ma compaigne,’ was made residuary legatee. Neither his wife nor his heir was mentioned, and Archbishop Stratford was appointed chief executor. On 30 June he died at Conisborough. He was buried at Lewes priory, under an arch on the left side of the high altar.

Warenne was early admitted to the brotherhood of Durham priory (‘offert Deo primordia floridæ juventutis,’ Hist. Dunelm. SS. Tres, p. cxiii, Surtees Soc.), had a Franciscan confessor during the end of his life, and was religious enough to have a French bible specially prepared for his benefit. He established about 1317 a chantry within Reigate Castle (Monasticon, vi. 518), and after 1335 reconstituted the Maison Dieu hospital at Thetford (Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1334–1338 p. 158, 1338–40 p. 56). His relations with Lewes priory were as uneasy as those of his predecessors. Among his building operations may be included the still existing gateway of Lewes (Watson, ii. 38; cf. Sussex Arch. Coll. vol. xxxiv.).

Joan of Bar long survived her husband. She died on 31 Aug. 1361, and was buried abroad. As there was no issue of the marriage, Warenne's nephew, Richard Fitzalan II, earl of Arundel (1307?–1376) [q. v.], was heir-at-law to the earldom. The estates which Warenne held at his death are enumerated in ‘Calendarium Inquisitionum post mortem’ (ii. 137). They now mainly reverted to the crown. The Yorkshire and other estates beyond the Tweed were regranted by Edward III to his son Edmund Langley [see Langley, Edmund de, first Duke of York]. But on 25 June 1349 the southern Warenne estates were granted to the Countess Joan, with remainder to the Earl of Arundel. As long as Joan lived, Arundel did not assume the Warenne titles. However, after 1361, Arundel entered into possession of the estates, and henceforth styled himself Earl of Surrey or Warenne, as well as Earl of Arundel. Thus the house of Warenne became merged in the house of Fitzalan.

Warenne left numerous illegitimate children. His children by Matilda de Nerford, named John and Thomas, who were living in 1316, had apparently died before him. He had a Welsh son named Ravlyn, who in 1334 joined in the attack of the Hope garrison on Ralph Butler. The sons mentioned in the will are: (1) Sir William de Warenne, the largest legatee, to whom his father had in January 1340 granted 122 acres of waste from the manor of Hatfield, Yorkshire, at a rent of 10l. a year (Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1338–40, p. 411). (2) Edward de Warenne, the same probably as the Sir Edward de Warren who, by his marriage with Cicely de Eton, heiress of the barons of Stockport, established himself at Poynton and Stockport, Cheshire, and was the ancestor of the later Warrens of Poynton, barons of Stockport. It was in honour of the last male representative of this house, Sir George Warren (d. 1801), that John Watson, rector of Stockport, wrote his elaborate ‘History of the Earls of Warren or Surrey,’ in which he vainly sought to prove the legitimate descent of his benefactor from Reginald de Warren, the son of Earl William (d. 1138) [q. v.] of the elder Norman house, and to urge that the earldom ought to be revived in his favour. The early arms of this family suggest that Matilda de Nerford was Edward's mother. (3) Another William de Warenne, prior of Horton, Kent, to whom his father bequeathed his French bible. There were also three daughters: (4) Joan de Basing; (5) Catharine; and (6) Isabella, a canoness of Sempringham.

[Ann. Londoni, Chron. of Monk of Malmesbury and Canon of Bridlington in Chronicles of Edward I and II, Trokelowe, Flores Hist. vol. iii., Murimuth, Walsingham, Chron. Angliæ, 1328–88 (all the above in Rolls Ser.); Chron. de Lanercost (Maitland Club); Chron. Walter de Hemingburgh (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Cont. Trivet, ed. Hall; Calendars of Close and Patent Rolls; Parl. Writs, vols. i. ii.; Rymer's Fœdera; Statutes of the Realm, vol. i.; Testamenta Eboracensia, vol. i. (Surtees Soc.); Watson's Memoirs of the Earls of Warren or Surrey, 1782, ii. 1–74; Ormerod's Cheshire, iii. 680–7, 794–796, ed. Helsby; Earwaker's East Cheshire; Hunter's South Yorkshire, i. 108–10; Dugdale's Baronage, i. 80–2; Dugdale's Monasticon, vol. vi.; Sussex Archæological Collections, vols. ii. iii. vi. xxxiv.; G. E. C[okayne]'s Complete Peerage, vii. 328–9, cf. also vii. 286 and iv. 236; Doyle's Official Baronage, iii. 472–3; Nicolas's Hist. Peerage, pp. 463, 465, ed. Courthope.]

T. F. T.