Everingham Family History Record Exclusive... (c)April 5 2002 |
The Thweng Family
c.1223 to c.1323
Dissertation by Simon Ross
The Thweng family rose significantly in prominence over the hundred years between c.1223 and c.1323. The rise in status through inheritance of land was in no ways uncommon in medieval England; marriage into certain noble families could bring rich rewards. However, in the instance of the Thweng family, other factors also played a crucial role in their rise in social status. Robert de Thweng’s leadership of the anti-papal riots of 1231 and 1232 seems remarkable given his ‘mere’ knightly status at the time. But the events of the early 1230s and their aftermath seem to have marked the Thwengs as a family of genuine local significance, and this must have been crucial in the marriage of Robert’s son Marmaduke to the daughter of Peter de Brus and co-heiress of his large estates c.1242. Certainly by 1260-61 Robert was playing a notable role in Henry III’s household. The history of the Thweng family climaxed in 1306-7 when Robert’s grandson, another Marmaduke, was summoned to Parliament by Edward I. Although the family soon fell into insignificance after Marmaduke’s death in 1323, the rise of the Thwengs is a remarkable and intriguing story. This dissertation aims to relate that story and put it into the context of the key political events and social changes of the period.
My research into the topic has revealed numerous possible spellings of the family name including de Tweng, Twenge, Tuenge, Twing, Twinge, Thwing, and Thweng. On occasion, two different spellings have been used within the same roll entry or even the same sentence. I have opted for the later of these spellings as it is close to the name of the village from which the name is taken (Thwing) and yet incorporates an ‘e’ in place of the ‘i’, which occurs frequently in the documents of the period. All references have been written in full the first time they appear in the footnotes and from then on are referred to in an abbreviated form.
The earliest references to the Thweng family have been traced to 1166 when ‘Robert, son of Robert’ was said to hold a knight’s fee from William de Percy in Legsby and elsewhere in Lincolnshire. It is likely that Robert and later members of the family took the title ‘de Thweng’ from the manor in Yorkshire East Riding of the same name, situated some 15 miles south of modern day Scarborough. Marmaduke, son and heir of Robert, is the first of the Thwengs whose appearance in documents is frequent enough to be properly researched. It would appear that he was a knight of some local status, becoming involved in baronial opposition to King John c.1215-6 and acting as coroner in Yorkshire until August 1230. In the same year he was amongst a group of men assigned the task of obtaining oaths from all those who had been sworn to arms at the time of King John. The exact date of his death is not known but he was succeeded by his son and heir Robert.
Although named after the village of Thwing, by January 1228 the family were established at Kilton Castle, some 15 miles east of Middlesborough. The castle had been built by Pagan Fitz-Walter, second holder of the fief of Kilton, part of the Barony of Percy. The anarchy of Stephen’s reign led Fitz-Walter to abandon his traditional family home at Seaton, just north of Newcastle, and construct a fortified residence on Kilton Beck, some 4 miles inland from the coastal village of Skinningrove, sometime between 1135 and 1140. The natural strength of this position is testified by William I’Anson in his history of the castle: ‘The site was one which could easily and economically be made practically impregnable.’ Fitz-Walter’s grandson, William de Kilton, reconstructed the castle upon his succession to the fief in 1186 using the natural features of the area, rather than existing castle-building doctrine, to create what I’Anson has described as one of the earliest examples of a keepless or Enceintric castle in northern England. The castle came into the Thweng’s hands upon the death of Richard de Autrey, when the overlord de Percy gave the son of one of his knights, Marmaduke de Thweng, the hand of Richard’s widow. Mathilda’s marriage to Robert de Thweng in c.1228 also brought to the family the manors of Kilton, Thorpe and Kirkleatham, all in the East Riding.
Robert de Thweng came to the attention of the nation in 1231-32 when he led a revolt against the impositions of foreigners upon the English church. The origins of discontent with certain papal policies is difficult to pinpoint but the introduction of a taxation of one tenth of ecclesiastical incomes in 1229, as ordered by the Pope, aroused a great deal of resentment from both clerics, who disliked the rigour with which the tax was collected, and laymen, who did not like to see so much wealth leaving England. Of more importance was the granting of English church revenues to foreigners. Not only was this practice a relatively new phenomenon, following the submission of King John to the Pope, it was also a direct infringement on the rights of lay landholders, and thus its role was more significant in raising a revolt than ecclesiastical taxation. The control of the English government by the papacy during the minority of Henry III allowed these grants to be made, whilst the presence of papal legates ensured that these mandates were carried out.
Kilton Castle, the home of the Thweng family from c.1228 onwards
Hugh Mackenzie, in his authoritative essay into the subject, claims that the number of benefices in the hands of aliens or alien organisations must have been ‘several hundred…at least’. MacKenzie’s research, whilst unable to estimate the burden of such papal mandates on the Church as a whole due to the lack of extant documents, has highlighted the impact in specific cases. The monastery of Ramsey complained in 1228 that nearly a quarter of its revenues were being paid out to agents of the pope. At least a quarter of the canons at Salisbury Cathedral appear to have been aliens. Of more interest to Robert de Thweng would have been a complaint by St Mary’s at York that they were straining under the weight of grants to foreigners.
The dependence of both John and Henry on papal support added to the burden on the church. Numerous grants of pensions, and occasionally entire churches, were made to papal envoys, their servants, and cardinals. Grants of this nature were rarely done on a meritocratic basis; favour and family ties were of the utmost importance, and recipients could use their grants to support their families either in England or abroad. Moreover the grants made by the papacy were not issued as requests but orders, with punishments for those who did not comply. These penalties must have been serious enough for those concerned to have obeyed rather than face the consequences, even if it meant giving up or not receiving what was rightfully theirs. If the alien holders had been committed to their religious duties it seems certain that the anger felt by sections of society would have been far less vehement. However, it was common practice for the provisor of a church to farm it out to a vicar to relieve himself of the expense and inconvenience of running the parish, whilst retaining the financial benefits.
The grants of pensions and benefices to aliens met with disapproval in both the secular and spiritual spheres of society. One of the leading critics was Hugh de Burgh, the justiciar. The legality of his marriage was being investigated by the pope and Henry had already threatened to bring in a papal envoy to replace him. He had made significant political gains at court in 1224 by using the issue of aliens and it seems that he was aiming to repeat this success. De Burgh’s alleged involvement in, or at least his tacit support for, the disturbances would eventually lead to his downfall. Robert de Thweng also had a personal reason for getting involved in the disturbances, but unlike Hubert de Burgh, his involvement had a positive outcome. The church of Kirkleatham, situated a few miles east of modern-day Middlesborough, had been given to the priory of Guisborough by William de Kilton as he lay on his death-bed in 1210. Problems arose when William recovered from his illness and claimed that he was coerced into granting the church to the priory. Despite later confirming the grant twice before his death in 1213, the issue would not go away. Soon after the manor of Kirkleatham came into his hands, Robert de Thweng appealed to the archbishop of York to resolve the dispute over the advowson. Little if anything was done and Robert must have been further enraged by the appointment of a papal nominee to the church.
The prospect of violence first emerged in autumn 1231 when letters were sent to English bishops and monastic houses from a group of barons claiming to be willing to die rather than continue to be oppressed by Romans. By December 1231 a number of incidents had occurred around the country. In St Albans a group of foreign clerics were attacked as they left a church council and one, an Italian by the name of Cincius, was captured and only released in return for a large ransom. In Yorkshire and surrounding shires a group of men led by Robert de Thweng, who himself used the alias ‘William Whither’, entered the barns of alien provisors, removed the grain and then burned the property. It is claimed by some sources that this grain and other goods were distributed amongst the poor, but to what extent this charity was fact or propaganda is difficult to determine. I’Anson claims that Robert’s appeal for support brought the Lords of Percy, Nevill, Fitz-Randolph, de Mauley, de Menyll, de Ros, and de Brus, plus some twenty knights to Kilton Castle to assemble for the campaign ahead. Whilst support for some kind of action must have been widespread, it is difficult to see such major figures as de Brus and de Mauley (himself an alien) involved in such plunder. The involvement of Hubert de Burgh is also uncertain. It was claimed that he issued letters in the king’s name stating that the rioters had immunity from the authority of sheriffs. Certainly de Burgh had connections with the disturbers of the peace in Kent and Nick Vincent has suggested that he offered his support in the hope that the rioters, once finished attacking the property of the alien clerics, would turn their attention to other prominent aliens; namely, de Burgh’s rival, Peter des Roches.
Little seems to have been done to halt the abuse of the aliens. Even the excommunication of all those involved in the lawless acts, enacted by a council of bishops meeting in London in February 1232, had no effect. Henry ordered the arrest of all those involved but it was not until he received a strongly worded letter from Pope Gregory IX, which threatened serious consequences for England if the violence did not stop, that the King was galvanised into action. MacKenzie states that when royal officials and papal representatives reported back to Henry they concluded that the disturbances had involved so many high ranking and powerful clerics, nobles, knights and even government officials, any attempt to punish them may have caused another civil war. There seems to be some confusion as to the fate of the main players in the troubles. It would appear that although Robert was fined heavily, he was later reconciled with the King, meeting him c.1239 and receiving letters of safe conduct enabling him to visit Gregory in Rome to put his case. Little is known about this expedition although in 1240 the pope wrote to Richard earl of Cornwall recognising the rights of English lay patrons, so we can assume that it was a success. It would appear that Robert then accompanied Richard on crusade and then acted as Richard’s envoy to Emperor Frederick II.
The whole episode of anti-papal riots was certainly a turning point in the history of the Thweng family. The rise in fortune is clearly demonstrated by the meeting between Henry and Robert, and Robert’s subsequent meeting with the pope - something that most knights would have had little hope of achieving. Moreover, this new-found status was recognised by Robert’s peers. Richard was keen to secure support for his crusade and would only have sent somebody deemed competent, trustworthy and of sufficient rank to meet a ruler as powerful as Frederick II. The riots themselves can be seen a something of a foretaste of the anti-alien feeling that would sweep the country in 1250s and 1260s. Where Robert had led with his cry of ‘England for the English’, so Simon de Montfort would follow.
The anti-papal rebellion of 1231-32 obviously elevated the Thwengs onto a different social plane, as future events would show. In 1245 Robert’s land was seized by the Crown in response to an incident at the royal hall of Windsor, when Robert is said to have attacked Richard de Sarr, a clerk of the Archbishop of York. The circumstances surrounding the alleged assault are unclear, although it could well have been a dispute over the advowson of Kirkleatham or other property. It seems unlikely that the link between de Sarr and the Archbishop of York was coincidental. Also of interest here is the fact that the incident occurred at Windsor, and in particular, in the royal hall. There is no explanation in any of the sources for his presence there but a letter sent to Robert and Imbert de Montferrand from John Mansell in 1261, possibly around August, does shed some light on the situation. In the letter Mansell, Henry’s closest aide, relays the news that Richard earl of Cornwall and King of the Germans wanted a messenger sent to him to inform him about the affairs of state in England. Mansell continues to instruct Robert and Imbert to make arrangements for Johannes de Castello to travel to Germany. Robert seems to have had close ties with Mansell. In a letter patent issued on 29 August 1266 Robert, along with John de Oketon, John de Hesel, and Simon de Stanbrugg, is offered protection as ‘executors of the will of John Mansell, treasurer of York’. The relationship with Mansell seems to have drawn Robert closer to King Henry himself (although conversely it is possible that it was through Henry that Robert and Mansell became close) and a letter patent of 1262 allows ‘Robert de Twenge, the king’s household knight’ to fortify his house at Bergh, county York. There is no evidence extant of any fee being paid to Robert by Henry, but he does appear to be the recipient of a gift of a ‘saddle with reins’ bought for him by Ellis of Rochester on the King’s behalf around April 1262. In addition, Robert and William Heyrun, Sheriff of Northumberland, were awarded 20 marks for expenses incurred on ‘divers (sic) occasions when going on the king’s errands to parts of Scotland’, c.1257. Robert also witnesses Close Roll charters in 1239 and 1248 at Westminster, although the significance of these may be misleading, as they both deal with minor local matters.
Further still, Marmaduke, Robert’s eldest son and heir, and Richard de Thweng, Robert’s second son, both received fees from Henry at the height of the political turmoil of the time. In many ways it is difficult to reconcile the close link between Robert and other Thwengs and Henry. The King was a pious man, and Robert’s anti-papal stance in 1231-32 must have caused some consternation at court, even if the pope was seen as domineering. But seen from Henry’s viewpoint the alliance must have made sense. Henry would have been looking to bolster the number of knights he could rely on should conflict erupt. By this time the Thwengs must have been known on a national basis. The anti-papal riots, Richard’s crusade, and the incident at Windsor, had shown that Robert was not a man to be trifled with. Indeed he may have come across as something of a maverick; someone who could be an invaluable ally or a deadly foe. Certainly such thoughts must have played on Henry’s mind. Having the Thwengs on his side would give the king a powerful ally in the northeast and would deprive Simon de Montfort of the kind of maverick baron that gave him success in 1264.
The exact date of birth of Marmaduke de Thweng is not known, but by 1260 he is obviously a significant figure. He was granted a fee of 40 marks per annum, whilst his younger brother Richard was the recipient of 20 marks per annum. Presumably this was in return for military service as Cockayne describes Marmaduke as a ‘royal banneret’ - someone who commanded troops in battle under their own standard. The award to Richard is interesting because it was one in a large number of similar grants made around March and April 1261. Henry had regained control of central government in January 1261, and using the Tower of London as a base during these uncertain times, he seemed to be recruiting knights to his cause.
Marmaduke was clearly active in all aspects of life. In 1257 he was granted the rights of free warren over his lands in the manors of ‘Twenge, Lyum, Kylton, Morsum, and Thorp, co. York’ and the right to hold weekly and annual markets at Lunt, Twenge, and Cotum. Richard was granted free warren of his manor of ‘Neuton in Wytebystrand, co. York’ in July 1261, and the right to hunt hares, foxes, badgers and cats in all the forests beyond the Trent. Interestingly enough, Marmaduke was granted similar rights but in Yorkshire and Northumberland. This would appear to be less land than Richard received rights to, even though Marmaduke was clearly the more important of the two. Like their father before them, Marmaduke and Richard were both witnesses to Charter Rolls on behalf of the king; Richard in May 1270, and Marmaduke in May 1278. Again, both these charters deal with very specific local matters.
After undertaking a pilgrimage to Santiago in 1262, Marmaduke returned to England and soon became heavily involved in the political turmoil of the period. Louis IX’s Mise of Amiens of January 1264 was a damning verdict, accepting not a single point of the Provisions of Oxford or any of the later additions. Simon refused to accept this verdict and civil war broke out. De Montfort left London to attack the royalist stronghold at Rochester and thereby drew Henry and his force south. By early May the King was established in the town of Lewes, blocking off the south coast ports from which de Montfort could escape or accept foreign reinforcements. With the onus on the rebel barons, on 13 May Simon marched for Lewes. Establishing himself on the ridge above the town he spent the evening receiving mass and exhorting his men to fight for God and the Kingdom of England. At daybreak, the rebels charged downhill from the positions and launched themselves at the massed ranks of royalists. By nightfall, Simon had won a military victory but both Henry and Edward were hiding in the town’s Cluniac Priory.
It is unclear just how many of the Thweng family were involved in this battle, but it is likely that Robert and both his sons were. There is ample evidence to suggest that all three were paid members of the royal household and Henry would have been relying on his knights to put an end to the reform movement once and for all. What cannot be disputed is the presence of Marmaduke. A Close Roll entry shows that he owed a ransom of 700 marks to Hugh Despencer, a loyal follower Simon de Montfort. With Marmaduke so clearly involved in the battle it seems almost certain that one or both of Robert or Richard would also have been present.
The date of Robert’s death is unclear. There is a reference to a ‘Robert de Thweng’ in the Close Rolls of 1272, but this could well have been one of Marmaduke’s two sons. By this time Robert would have been into his sixties or seventies so it is likely that the last reference to him is in fact a letter patent of December 1266, which appoints a certain ‘William de Bakepuz, bishop of Kilkenny’ as the proctor for the executors of John Mansell’s will. It appears that Marmaduke died sometime c.1283. His marriage to Lucy, the second daughter of Peter de Brus, seems to have produced five sons, Robert, Marmaduke, John, Gawain, and Edmund, and there are suggestions that he himself had four brothers and five sisters, although the evidence for this is unclear. The marriage to Lucy de Brus was fruitful in more than just a familial sense. Upon the death of Peter de Brus c.1272 Marmaduke and Lucy received the manors of Danby, Brochton, Kirkebrunnom, Southbrunnom, and Skinningrove, plus property at Lelhom, Wlvedale and Manselinges, and the towns of Jarum and Great Morsom. Also under their control came the forest and mills of numerous dales in the surrounding area. Dispute did arise over this division however, with Walter de Faucomberg and his wife Agnes complaining to the king that Marmaduke and Lucy had given the forests of Leavenes, Le Vaus and Le Jardyn, which belonged to the castle of Skelton, part of Walter’s inheritance, to their son, Robert de Thweng. The Thwengs also appear to have appropriated ‘six carucates of land without the borough of Jarum’ which was still to be divided amongst the beneficiaries of the de Brus inheritance. The outcome of the dispute is unknown although we can probably assume that the matter was rectified for there is no record of Walter making any further complaints. However there was additional confusion in 1281 when Margaret de Ros, one of Peter de Brus’ sisters, complained that she had not received her fair share of land. A Close Roll entry for November 1281 assigns land to Marmaduke, Lucy and the rest of the inheritors but as the land is described in terms of who held it and on what basis, for example ‘three fees [of] William de Percy of Kildale’, it is unclear whether this was land being assigned for the first time or a redistribution of previous grants.
The inheritance of 1272 was comparable to the land inherited by other de Brus descendants and greatly added to the wealth, prestige and power of the Thweng family. Marmaduke was succeeded by his eldest son Robert, who seems to have died prematurely around the same time as his father (c.1283). He was a witness to a royal charter in May 1278 and appears to have married twice, firstly to Alice, daughter and co-heiress of Roger de Merlay. Alice died in February 1267 and Robert must have married again, for his only child, Lucy, was born in March 1278.
Robert’s daughter Lucy is almost worthy of an essay in her own right. Marmaduke had inherited the Thweng lands upon the death of his father, valued at seven knight’s fees, and by 1271 he held sixteen and a half fees. Around this time he gave Kilton Castle to his son Robert and took up residence at Danby, some six miles to the south of the traditional family home. The move to a more comfortable, less protected residence reflects the relative peace in the kingdom after the years of turmoil that had gone before. When her father died, Marmaduke arranged for Robert’s fiefs at Kilton, Thwing and Lund to go to his second son, also called Marmaduke, whilst Lucy retained the land given to Marmaduke as part of the partition of the de Brus land. This made Lucy an extremely eligible woman.
She was only around four or five years of age at the time of her father’s death and naturally became the ward of Edward I, who gave custody to the younger Marmaduke. Lucy spent her childhood at Kilton and aged fifteen was given in marriage to William le Latimer the Younger, whose family had close connections to the King. Marmaduke opposed such a move as he wanted Lucy to marry his eldest son and thus keep the de Brus land in the family. However, Edward obviously had a great deal of influence over this marriage and encouraged by William le Latimer the Elder, who stood to gain vast tracts of land, the wedding went ahead in August 1294. Lucy strongly disliked her husband, and he distrusted her, and within a year of marriage she had left his home and returned to Kilton as the mistress of her cousin, Marmaduke, her former custodian. However, this relationship failed to last. When Marmaduke was away fighting in Scotland c.1304, Lucy fled Kilton and became the mistress of the young Peter de Mauley, who was approximately eighteen years of age at the time, compared to Lucy’s twenty-five. According to I’Anson, the King ordered Lucy to be returned to her first husband William but this never occurred. Her relationship with de Mauley was almost as short-lived as her marriage for she soon left him for Nicholas de Menyll of Whorlton, a baron of fearsome repute. By 1307 Lucy had born Menyll an illegitimate son. Around this time William le Latimer applied for and obtained a divorce and the king’s escheator took into royal hands Lucy’s inheritance at Yarm, Brunne, Skinningrove and Brotton. Lucy married twice more, firstly to Robert Everingham in 1313, who died on service in Scotland three years later, and then in 1320 to Batholomew de Fanacourt at the age of 41. Fanacourt fought against the royalist forces at Boroughbridge in 1322, who, ironically enough, were commanded by Lucy’s first husband William le Latimer. Latimer’s victory must have tasted all the sweeter.
The death of Marmaduke c.1283, shortly followed by the death of his eldest son Robert, left the Thweng inheritance in the hands of Marmaduke’s second son, also called Marmaduke. In the mid- to late-1290s the activities of Marmaduke offer a good reflection of the politics of Edward I’s reign. The 1259 Treaty of Paris had left Gascony as a fief of the French crown, held by the English, and they were keen to underline their authority over it. In the early 1290s an innocuous dispute between English and French sailors escalated into a full-scale conflict and Marmaduke de Thweng was one of many knights called upon to leave for Gascony in 1294. There was general resentment amongst the knights, barons, and magnates who were reluctant to fight for control of what they viewed as a foreign land, another example of the growing sense of national identity in England. Resentment was so strong in fact that attempts to obtain feudal military service were abandoned. After initial successes the English forces, jointly led by William le Latimer, Marmaduke’s nephew-in-law, were soon overcome by the French counter-attack.
It appears that Marmaduke was back in England towards the end of 1296 or early 1297, for in that year he was summoned to serve in Flanders. However, the deteriorating situation in Scotland forced Edward to call off the planned attack on France. The death of Alexander III in 1286 had left Scotland with no clear-cut heir to the throne and at the ‘Great Cause’, the parliament summoned by Edward to determine the rightful successor, at least eleven contenders put their names forward. Eventually Edward decided on John Balliol ahead of the other key figure in the dispute, Robert Bruce. However, no sooner had Balliol taken the crown Edward began to assert what he believed was his rightful feudal superiority over Scotland. His exertion of authority over Scottish justice, his attempt to summon leading Scottish magnates to fight in Gascony in 1294, and John Balliol’s apparent refusal or inability to prevent these incursions led to a council of twelve removing the King of Scotland from office. Edward’s response was swift and brutal, with the sacking of Berwick and routing of the Scots at Dunbar in what was intended to be a campaign of conquest.
The Scots revolted in 1297 under the leadership of Robert Bruce, grandson of the contender to the throne. Bruce was of course linked to the Thwengs by the marriage of Lucy, daughter of Peter de Brus, to Marmaduke’s father, Robert, c.1242. Bruce was swiftly defeated by English forces and it is not clear whether or not Marmaduke participated in this campaign. What is certain is that he fought at the battle of Stirling Bridge on 11 September 1297. The English forces were led by the earl of Warenne who marched from Berwick to Stirling to meet the forces of William Marshall and Andrew Moray. Crossing the Forth by bridge the English were easy targets for the Scots who lay in wait in the meadows on the opposite side of the river. The Scots quickly sealed off the north side of the bridge, trapping a number of English knights. Amongst them was Marmaduke de Thweng who, with a handful of followers, cut his way back through the Scottish lines and managed to cross the bridge to safety. J. H. Ramsey has Marmaduke escaping ‘with his nephew and an esquire, two of them riding on one horse.’ Such heroics led to the award of Stirling Castle to Marmaduke and William Fitz Warin, who were later joined by William de Ros. This however, was a rather poisoned chalice. The Scots, spurred on by their recent success, laid siege to the castle, soon had it under their control.
At this point there seems to be some confusion amongst the chroniclers and certainly amongst historians as to the course of events. The Patent Rolls show that Marmaduke was released by the Scots around April 1299 in return for a certain ‘John de Moubray’. The other names mentioned in this exchange of prisoners include William Fitz Warin and William de Ros, so we can reasonably assume that these men had been held captive since the fall of Stirling Castle. A letter patent of December 1298 diplomatically states that Marmaduke was ‘staying in Scotland on the king’s service’! By the time of the exchange Stirling Castle must have been in English hands again, for the Scots began another siege. According to Barrow, the garrison was still holding out in August, but a letter patent of 16 July 1299 awards ‘Protection…for Marmaduke de Tweng, taken prisoner by the Scots while on the King’s duty in Scotland.’ Barrow also states that after this siege the entire English garrison was released. It may be that the letter patent was backdated to deal with an issue arising during Marmaduke’s capture after the Battle of Stirling. In any case, the garrison appears to have held out until late 1299, during which time they were ‘reduced to eating their own horses.’ It is difficult to imagine a situation in which conditions were so bad, food so scarce, and the prospect of relief so distant, that the garrison were forced to consume their only method of escape. Marmaduke was back in Scotland around November 1299 and he was instructed to take six knights with him, one of who was ‘John de Twenge’, one of his sons. Marmaduke nominated Roger de Kildale and Geoffrey de Roston to be his attorneys until Michaelmas.
Marmaduke’s service in Gascony between 1294 and 1296, and in Scotland from 1297 onwards, seems to have been rewarded by a summons to Parliament in February 1307, which lasted almost until his death. This summons is a classic example of the ‘parliamentary barony’ that was emerging around the turn of the thirteenth century. The concept of a baron being someone who held a fee of around £100 or more was beginning to be replaced by summonses based on wealth. It is unlikely that Marmaduke held such a large fee, but his status in Yorkshire and his exploits in the king’s service made him rich in a social and a financial sense. A search of the original Charter Rolls of 1307 to 1322 at the Public Record Office, the period during which Marmaduke was at parliament, has not revealed any charters to which he was a witness. This is not evidence that Marmaduke was not at parliament, but rather that he was not a member of the royal household and was not as close to court as others; in a period of dominant court favourites this comes as no surprise. The summons to parliament was perhaps the pinnacle of the Thweng family history, for Marmaduke was now referred to as ‘Lord Thweng’; the only higher rank outside the royal family was that of earl. However, even this apex was overshadowed by the problems north of the border in February 1313, with Marmaduke being instructed to remain in Yorkshire despite a summons to Parliament, ‘for the security [of England] against the Scots.’
Even if Marmaduke was not a witness to any royal charters, he continued to play a role on the national political stage. Marmaduke joined Thomas earl of Lancaster in his opposition to Piers Gaveston, the court favourite of Edward II. Gaveston’s influence had been the source of controversy for some years, and his ability to dominate the young prince caused Edward I to pull out handfuls of his son’s hair and force the Gascon into exile in 1307. The relationship was undoubtedly of a homosexual nature, although this does not seem to have been the source of disagreement, however much such behaviour was condemned by clerics. Rather the prince’s demands that Gaveston be awarded either the earldom of Cornwall or the county of Ponthieu proved too much for Edward. However, upon the death of his father later in the same year, the way was clear for Gaveston’s return, and there seemed to be only muted dissent amongst the baronage. However, the following year murmurings of discontent could be heard with a statement from a group of leading magnates being issued, pledging allegiance to the king but stating the need for reform. One of the underlying demands, although not clearly expressed, was the expulsion of Gaveston. This was granted, but the Gascon was allowed back from exile 1309 in return for Edward conceding to the demands of the opposition. Further reforms were suggested in 1311, with the most significant ones being the curtailing of the king’s financial and political independence, and of course the expulsion of one Piers Gaveston. Many of the supporters of the reforms were former royalists who had been alienated by Edward II. It seems likely that Marmaduke would have fallen into this category; he had supported Edward 1 in Gascony and Scotland, and was a regular attendee at parliament. He was in no way anti-royal, but like even more pro-royal men such as the Earl of Lincoln and John Botetourt, he found himself distanced from Edward by the king’s own actions. Edward, for once, stood up to the challenge posed by the rebels, who were besieging Gaveston in Scarborough Castle. Typically however, his actions were insufficient and poorly planned. By the time the royalist army had been assembled, Gaveston was in baronial hands. He fell into the custody of the Earls of Lancaster, Arundel and Hereford who wasted little time in executing him. Exactly what Marmaduke’s role in this episode was is pure speculation, but it is hard to imagine that he would not have been involved in the siege at Scarborough; less than a day’s ride form his ancestral lands around Kilton and a few miles north of the village of Thwing.
Despite the pressing matters of the war in Scotland, Marmaduke remained active in his county. In December 1307 he was appointed to work alongside the sheriff on certain matters, and was relieved of his responsibility in investigating ‘forestalling’ within Yorkshire in 1311. The fact that all three men relieved of this responsibility were appointed to aid the sheriff in 1307, shows that there was a considerable amount of work being done. A rather interesting issue emerged in May 1313, when Marmaduke complained to the king that Walter de Faucomberge and Robert de Everingham, amongst others, had taken goods cast ashore by a shipwreck at ‘Cotum, Mersk and Wilton.’ He was joined in his complaint by a certain Miles de Stapelton and in response the king gave commission to John de Donecastre, Adam de Middleton, Hugh de Louther, William de Houk, and Thomas de Fissheburne to hold court on the matter. Mersk (now Marske-by-the-Sea) is the only place name that is traceable. It is some ten miles north of Kilton Castle, right in the heart of the Thweng lands. It would appear that Marmaduke and de Stapelton claimed some or all of the goods as they had been cast ashore on the coastline of their land. The case is referred to again in September 1314, but now the Close Rolls indicate that an actual trespass has been committed against Marmaduke, so we can assume the dispute has been resolved.
The Thweng family itself was not free of controversy. In July 1321 a letter patent shows that a certain Walter de Stirkeland complained to the king that a number of men, including ‘William son of Marmaduke de Twenge’ (by his marriage to Isabel, daughter of William de Ros) and ‘Marmaduke son of John de Twenge’ (Marmaduke’s nephew) committed a number of crimes on his manor of Sighrichesard, county Westmoreland. It was alleged that the men broke into Walter’s houses, destroyed the doors and windows, and then proceeded to set the properties alight in an attempt to kill him. A similar entry into the rolls for August 1321 gives a little more detail, adding that many of Walter’s possessions were removed, his bondsmen Gilbert de Crakhale was kidnapped, and that the men also ‘assaulted his servants and fixed the fingers of some of them into holes of post with pins and beat others of them.’ The rolls give no indication as to the motive for such an unsavoury incident and neither is there any indication as to whether the dispute was resolved. This episode must have been rather embarrassing for Marmaduke, as the previous June he had been appointed as one of two ‘conservators of the peace’ for the East Riding of Yorkshire. Ironically enough, one of the protagonists in this incident, William de Thweng, was later instructed by the king to arrest ‘disturbers of the peace…[who] make raids…commit robberies, imprison people until they make ransom…[and] beat those who will not be of their party.’
If precedent is anything to go by, it seems most likely that the perpetrators of the crime at Sighrichesard would not be punished, provided that is, they were knights. In 1301, at Marmaduke’s instance, a certain John de Bonyngton was pardoned ‘for the death of Thomas de Heslerton, and the rape of Beatrice, and for robberies and other trespasses, and of any consequent outlawry.’ Chivalry is a concept that modern historians have found difficult to grasp. It puts the idea of ‘fair play’ above almost all else, and yet within itself it is a mass of contradiction for this ‘fair play’ only extended to the knightly class. In battle for example, it was considered acceptable, if not glorious, to kill as many foot soldiers as possible, and yet to kill or injure a fellow knight was a major faux pas. If a knight were to face another knight in battle, the death of one or the other was highly unlikely. Rather, just as happened to Marmaduke at Lewes in 1261, the defeated knight would be captured then released upon payment of a ransom. Even the captivity was done in a respectable fashion. It would appear that often the captured knight would be allowed to return home before the payment was made, such was the bond between knights. The tournament was perhaps the finest embodiment of the concept chivalry, and they grew in popularity over the course of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Knights would take it in turn to do battle with one another in return for the honour and respect that victory brought.
The tournament was crucial in the development of heraldic displays, most noticeably the use of coats of arms. Although the Bayeux Tapestry and the Song of Roland indicate that shields were decorated with armorial designs, it was the tournament that turned them from mere decoration into a useful form of identification, allowing spectators to determine which competitor was who. By the mid-thirteenth century, when Matthew Paris drew pictures of coats of arms in the margins of his chronicles, their use must have been widespread. The existence of the arms of foreign rulers such as the Holy Roman Emperor and the kings of France, Norway and Jerusalem show the international significance of chivalry and its heraldic devices. From the time of Paris’ death in 1259 there appear a number of armorial rolls, such as Glover’s, Walford’s, the Herald’s Roll, and the Falkirk Roll. The Thweng coat of arms was described by Matthew Paris in ‘blazon’, the language of heraldry, as being ‘Argent, a fess gules between three popinjays vert’. In other words, the shield had a silver background, a red stripe across the middle, separating three green popinjays. Almost identical descriptions are found in Glover’s Roll and Walford’s Roll. It is difficult to determine exactly what date the Thweng coat of arms was first used. The earliest arms were also the simplest, with later arms being derived from those. Coss gives the example of the arms borne by Geoffrey de Mandeville, who died in 1144. He bore a shield divided into quarters - two of which were red, and two of which were gold. One hundred years later a descendant of his, John de Lacy, bore the same design with a diagonal black stripe running from top right to bottom left of the shield, plus a silver bar superimposed on the stripe. In comparison the Thweng arms were simple and the one described by Paris seems to be the original design. Although coats of arms were by no means restricted to the highest ranks, the Thwengs would probably not have been in a position to warrant such heraldic displays until the 1220s or 1230s.
The Thweng family coat of arms
Some historians have suggested that beyond this veneer of chivalry the knightly class was in crisis. Peter Coss is perhaps the most well known proponent of this view, but he is ably supported by the likes of Professor M. Postan and Professor R. Hilton. The basic tenets of their argument is that the material wealth of the knightly was decreasing as prices rose and the cost of being a knight, with all the expenses that that involved, became too much for many. One of the main indicators of this was the increasing amount of money owed to moneylenders, in particular, the Jews. This is some thing that affected the Thwengs at various points between 1223 and 1323. For example, in 1286 Marmaduke was forced to acknowledge that he owed William de Hamilton twenty pounds, whilst in 1318 he was asked by the king to pay 200 marks to Roger de Selby of York and fifty pounds to other York merchants. These however, appear to be rather isolated instances and there is no additional evidence of debt within the family.
David Carpenter has challenged the idea that the knightly class was in some kind of decline. Using a study of Oxfordshire knights, Carpenter concludes that the evidence to support Coss’ argument is insubstantial at best. The cost of knighthood was undoubtedly increasing, which is why many of the smaller knightly families decided to drop out of the class to avoid the obligations and expenses that went with knightly status. At the other end of the scale, knights with large demesnes could use their excess produce to take advantage of the rising price of foodstuffs. It is into this latter category that the Thwengs must have fallen; their land was not sufficient enough to give them baronial status in the old sense of the term, but it was enough to support them and ensure that they could realise their political ambitions. On the political front, the king relied on the knightly class to provide the coroners, sheriffs and magistrates that ensured the smooth running of the country, and in return, the most senior of these knights were summoned to parliament and thus could consider themselves to be ‘barons’. The argument over the status of knights is by no means at a conclusion, but the Thwengs found themselves at the top end of the knightly spectrum and were thus in a relatively secure financial situation. Perhaps it is worth noting that Richard de Thweng, Robert’s younger and therefore less wealthy son, was indebted to Benedict Krespyn, ‘Jew of York’ in 1272.
An entry into the Fine Rolls of 26 February 1323 clearly indicates that Marmaduke had died. In 1320 Marmaduke had granted much of his land to his eldest surviving son, William, and the same son was to inherit the rest of the land upon the death of his father in 1323. William died in 1340 without an heir. The inheritance passed to Robert de Thweng, and then to Thomas, both brothers of William. However, just like William, Robert and Thomas produced no children and the barony fell into abeyance. It was divided amongst female heirs who were either married or soon to be married. The Thweng family lands were soon in the hands of other Yorkshire barons and knights.
The rise of the Thweng family had begun in the early thirteenth century and had reached an apex in 1307 with the summoning of Marmaduke to parliament. Certain events such as the anti-papal riots of 1231 and 1232, the baronial rebellion in 1258-65, and the wars in Scotland at the end of the thirteenth century undoubtedly helped the Thweng’s achieve their status. But above all, the real determining factor in the rise of the family was a seemingly inherited sense of duty. Robert, in his dispute with the pope, and the two Marmadukes and their respective battles against the barons and the Scots, were fighting for what they believed to be best for England. They also showed remarkable courage. To stand up to the papacy was something that even the King of England was not prepared to do for fear of spiritual retribution. At the Battle of Stirling Bridge and the siege of Stirling Castle, Marmaduke showed the bravery, leadership and military prowess that earned him recognition from many contemporary chroniclers. The move towards a ‘parliamentary barony’ transformed a barony dominated by the richest magnates and allowed less wealthy, but undoubtedly more deserving men like Marmaduke to be rewarded for their service, loyalty and commitment.
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The Everingham web site by;
Simon Ross, April 5, 2002
Printed here with permission (c)2002
Photos and footnotes excluded