Family:Whitney, Robert (1348-1402)

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Robert Whitney (Robert, Eustace, Eustace, Robert, ...), son of Robert de Whitney,[1] was born 1348, Whitney, Herefordshire,[2] and died (prob. 22 Jun) 1402, near Pilleth, Radnorshire.[3]

He married Janet Trussell.[4]

He married Maud/Mary Cromwell, born 1352, daughter of Sir Ralph and Maud (Bernake) Cromwell.[5]

Sir Robert Whitney of Whitney, etc., Knight. Sent abroad to negotiate treaty with Count of Flanders in 1388. Member of Parliament for Herefordshire in 1391. Sent to France to deliver Castle and Town of Cherbourg to King of Navarre in 1393. Knight Marshal at the Court of Richard II. Sent on the King's business to Ireland in 1394. Killed, together with his brother and most of his relatives at the battle of Pilleth in 1402.[6]

"But there are clear signs in other counties of J.P.s being appointed for political reasons in these closing years when Richard II was also manipulating his men into the shrievalties. The commission of the peace for neighboring Herefordshire issued on 27 July 1397, shortly after Richard had moved against the former Appellant lords, numbered two esquires of the household, Robert Witney and Thomas Clanvow, among its ten members. (Cal. Pat. Rolla 1396-9, p. 227; cf. E.101/403/22 (Wardrobe Book, 16-17 Richard II).) Witney ad Clanvow remained J.P.s until the accession of Henry IV [1399] when they were both removed." - Knights and Esquires

See Archive:E 101/69/1/285 and Archive:E 101/320/18.

The History of Parliament includes the following biographical sketch:[7]

WHITNEY, Sir Robert I (d.1402), of Whitney-on-Wye and Pencombe, Herefs.
Constituency - Dates
Family and Education
s. and h. of Sir Eustace Whitney† of Whitney-on-Wye. m. 1s. Sir Robert II*, 1da. Kntd. by 1373.
Offices Held
Sheriff, Herefs. 25 Nov. 1377-8.
Commr. to assess a tax, Herefs. Aug. 1379; put down rebellion Dec. 1381, Mar., Dec. 1382; of inquiry, Ireland July 1394 (concealments); array, Herefs. Dec. 1399.
J.p. Herefs. 26 May 1380-c.1383, 27 July 1397-Nov. 1399.
Harbinger of the Household by Oct. 1393-aft. Mar. 1399.2
Ambassador to Aragon and Foix 21 Aug. 1397-3 Mar. 1398.
Sir Robert came of an old-established Herefordshire family, whose chief manor (held of the de Bohuns) was Whitney-on-Wye near the county boundary with Breconshire. He had presumably inherited the family estates by February 1361 (the date of his first mention) when he presented to the living at Pencombe near Bromyard.3 Seven years later Whitney obtained royal letters of protection as going abroad in the large retinue of Lionel, duke of Clarence, who was then ready to travel to Italy for his marriage to Violanta, niece of the duke of Milan, but whether he was a permanent member of Clarence’s household at this time is not revealed. Subsequently, he served in the company of Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford (d.1373), his feudal lord. After Richard II’s accession, he was appointed sheriff of Herefordshire, and it was in this capacity that (along with Sir Walter Devereux* and Sir John Eynesford, the then shire knights) he petitioned the Parliament at Gloucester in 1378, asking for government action against the companies of Welsh raiders which were plundering and terrorizing the shire. In 1385 he accompanied Richard II’s expedition to Scotland.4
Some five years later Sir Robert apparently became involved in the activities of William Swynderby, the lollard who was then preaching in Herefordshire in defiance of the diocesan, Bishop Trefnant. Swynderby was brought to trial before the bishop in June 1391, when (among other things) he was accused of delivering an heretical sermon at Whitney-on-Wye two years previously. The lollard admitted preaching the sermon, but denied that it contained heresy, ‘and that wil witnesse the lord of the toun that has the same sermon writen, and mony gentiles and other that herden me that day’. The ‘lord of the toun’ was certainly Sir Robert, and the fact that he possessed a written copy of the suspect tract suggests that, apart from allowing Swynderby to preach in the church of his manor, he was interested in his teachings. He may, indeed, have been among those ‘certain nobles’ who procured the safe conduct which enabled the lollard to withdraw from the bishop’s court after presenting his defence. It is additionally significant that Whitney-on-Wye was one of the places to which (in July and September following) the bishop sent citations ordering Swynderby to re-appear before him. In October Swynderby was finally convicted of heresy, but he refused to accept the verdict of the bishop’s tribunal, publishing instead two written defences in English, one of which ends by appealing to the anonymous addressee, ‘that ye woln vouchesauf this thinges that I sende yow writen ... to late them be schewet in the parlement as your wyttes can best conceyve’. It is at least possible, therefore, that the appeal was addressed to Sir Robert, who was then about to attend the Parliament of November 1391 but there is no evidence that the lollard’s views were ever laid before the Commons. All things considered, it appears likely that Whitney (like several others of the Herefordshire gentry) had heretical sympathies, if only for a limited period; and this impression is borne out by the lollard connexions of his son, Sir Robert the younger, his daughter, Perryne, and his son-in-law, Thomas Clanvowe*.5
Any such sympathies did not, however, affect Sir Robert’s public career adversely, and during the latter part of his life he was closely connected with the household of Richard II. When this association began is not known, but by 1390 his daughter had been retained as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne, and on 14 Oct. 1393, when he was granted a life annuity of 40 marks, he himself was referred to as a ‘King’s knight’. Indeed, he was already holding office as harbinger of the Household. It was then that he was authorized to restore the town and castle of Cherbourg to Charles III of Navarre, following the death of the latter’s father, who in 1378 had relinquished the place to the English for the duration of his own lifetime. So, on 29 Oct. Whitney sailed for the Côtentin with nine ships, and during the following two months was engaged in transferring part of the castle’s stores to Calais or London and in selling the rest to the Navarrese.6 In July 1394, this time in his official capacity, Sir Robert was preparing to go to Ireland in advance of Richard II’s expedition. On the 8th he appointed his neighbour, Thomas Oldcastle*, as one of his attorneys to look after his affairs at home; two days later he received a royal writ of aid ordering him to purchase provisions against the arrival of the royal army; and at the end of the month, by which time he had presumably made the crossing, he was appointed to investigate, in Irish ports, arrears of customs and alleged frauds by the collectors. He evidently performed his duties satisfactorily, for two years later, in May 1396, he received a royal reward of two tuns of wine a year for life.7
Sir Robert was apparently something of a diplomat, for he was engaged for six months from August 1397, along with Master Henry Bowet (later archbishop of York), in an embassy to Aragon, Foix and Aquitaine. The party carried letters of credence addressed to King Martin of Aragon, its task being to mediate (on behalf of Richard II) in the dispute between him and the count of Foix. He was still a harbinger of the Household, and a year after his return from Spain he once again made preparations to go to Ireland in advance of the King’s second expedition. On 4 Mar. 1399 he was granted royal letters of protection and authorized to appoint his son-in-law, Thomas Clanvowe, as his attorney. Then, during the same week, he was ordered not only to store food and fuel in readiness for the King’s arrival, but also to requisition enough fishing boats to supply the Household with fish during its stay in Ireland.8
Despite his close associations with the court of Richard II, Sir Robert apparently had no great difficulty in adapting to the changes consequent upon the accession of Henry IV, within a month of which his royal annuity and other grants were confirmed to him. He was not, however, re-appointed to his office of harbinger and he was also dropped from the county commission of the peace. In any case, he must now have been well on in years. All the same, he turned. out to fight against Owen Glendower at the battle of Pilleth on 22 June 1402, there (together with his brother and other kinsmen) being slain.9
Variants: Whetteneye, Witteneye, Wytteney.
1. According to OR (i. 195), Sir John Eynesford and John Loverans represented Herefs. in this Parliament, but writs de expensis were made out to Eynesford and Robert Whitney.
2. E101/41/24.
3.CCR, 1381-5, p. 512; Reg. Charlton (Canterbury and York Soc. xiv), 64, 70; Reg. Courtenay (ibid. xv), 12; Reg. Trefnant (ibid. xx), 178; UCNW, Whitney and Clifford ms 2.
4.Foedera ed. Rymer (Hague edn.), iii. 842; SC8/107/5303; PPC, i. 88; E101/32/20.
5.Reg. Trefnant, 235-7, 245, 252-3, 256-7, 271-5; K.B. McFarlane, Wycliffe, 130; C. Kightly, ‘Early Lollards’ (York Univ. D.Phil. thesis, 1975), chap. 3.
6.CPR, 1388-92, p. 250; 1391-6, p. 320; E101/41/24.
7.CPR, 1391-6, pp. 450-1, 519, 698.
8. E101/320/18; Dip. Corresp. Ric. II (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, xlviii), 172; CPR, 1396-9, pp. 480-1, 487, 511.
9.CPR, 1399-1401, p. 54; 1401-5, p. 354; J.E. Lloyd, Owen Glendower, 151.

Children of Robert and Janet (Trussell) Whitney:

i. Joan Whitney,[8] b. say 1375;[9] m. 1) William Walwyn,[10] m. 2) William Weldon.
a. Margaret Walwyn, b. -----; d. 1450; m.(1) John Parles; m.(2) Robert Catesby.
b. John Walwyn, b.of Longford
c. Christian Walwyn, b. -----; m. Thomas Knyvett. (Foundations 3:2)

Children of Robert and Maud (Cromwell) de Whitney:

i. Sir Robert Whitney,[11] b. about 1379;[12] m. Wenllian Oldcastle.[13]

Children of Robert Whitney and an unknown wife (or one of the above):

i. Thomas Whitney,[14] One of the "lances" in the retinue of the Duke of Gloucester at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Granted an estate in France, for his services, by Henry V. in 1419.[15] He was perhaps the "Sir Thomas Whitney", father of Peryn Whitney, b. say 1415, who m. as his 3rd wife, John Abrahall, b. ca. 1406. Children: William Abrahall, b. 1437, d. 1487, of Eaton Tregoz.[16] He was possibly the Thomas Whitney, father of Isabeau de Hutenay, the wife of Guillaume Maillart. (see here).
ii. Peryne Whitney,[17] b. say 1373,[18] d. aft. 1422,[19] married say fall of 1393[20] Sir Thomas Clanvowe, whom Brusendorff and Ward conclued was the author of the early English poem The Cuckoo and the Nightingale.[21] The will of Peryn Clanbowe, dated 1422, has been obtained. She requested to be buried next to her husband in Yazor, Herefordshire.
Oct. 2, 1392, Woodstock Manor. Grant, for their lives in survivorship, to Thomas Clanvowe, esquire of the king, and Perrin Wytteneye, his wife, one of the damsels of the queen's chamber, of the 10l. a year from the manor of Tydderley, co. Southampton, which the king lately granted to her for life by letters patent now surrendered; with the consent of the said Perrin. Vacated by surrender and cancelled, because the king granted to them 20l. for their lives, and to the said Thomas 40 marks a year for his life from the fee farm of the castle and cantred of Built? 12 August in his eighteenth year.[22]
The day after Ascension, 7 Henry [V] [26 May 1419]. And afterwards one week from Holy Trinity in the same year [18 June 1419]. Parties: Roger Bodenham, esquire, John Boderell' and John Fox, querents, and Nicholas Wylkys and Joan, his wife, deforciants. Property: 4 messuages, 100 acres of land, 6 acres of meadow, 5 acres of wood, 4 acres of pasture and 55 shillings of rent, and the rent of a fourth part of 1 pound of pepper and a moiety of a fourth part of 1 pound of cumin in Kyngespewne, Lastres and Brethwaldestrue. Action: Plea of covenant. Agreement: Nicholas and Joan have acknowledged the tenements and rent to be the right of John Fox, of which the same John, Roger and John Boderell' have 2 messuages, 54 acres of land, 4 acres of meadow, 3 acres of wood and 2 acres of pasture of the gift of Nicholas and Joan, and have granted to Roger, John and John the rent, together with the homage and all services of the prior of Wormeslay and his successors, Thomas Barton', Elizabeth Hevyn', John Hull' and John Poly and their heirs in respect of all the tenements which they held before of Nicholas and Joan in the aforesaid vills, to hold to Roger, John Boderell' and John Fox and the heirs of John Fox, of the chief lords for ever. And besides Nicholas and Joan granted for themselves and the heirs of Joan that 2 messuages, 46 acres of land, 2 acres of meadow, 2 acres of wood and 2 acres of pasture in the aforesaid vill of Kyngespewne - which Perina (Peryn(e)), who was the wife of Thomas Glanvowe, knight, held for life of the inheritance of Joan on the day the agreement was made, and which after her decease ought to revert to Nicholas and Joan and the heirs of Joan - after the decease of Perina shall remain to Roger, John and John and the heirs of John Fox, to hold of the chief lords for ever. Warranty: Warranty. For this: Roger, John and John have given them 200 marks of silver.[23]


He was probably the Sir Robert Whitney, a king's knight and harbinger of the household who lent support to the lollard preacher William Swinderby - Richard II. Other knights connected to the new lay movement included Sir John Trussell, Sir John Oldcastle, and Sir John Clanvow. - Church and People. For more of Swinderby, see Who's who in Late Medieval England, 1272-1485.


1.^  Source for relationship between Robert and Robert Whitney.

2.^  Source for birth information for Robert Whitney.

3.^  Source for death information for Robert Whitney.

4.^  Source for marriage information for Robert and Janet.


6.^  Melville, Henry, A.M., LL.B., The Ancestry of John Whitney: Who, with His Wife Elinor, and Sons John, Richard, Nathaniel, Thomas, and Jonathan, Emigrated from London, England, in the Year 1635, and Settled in Watertown, Massachusetts; the First of the Name in America, and the One from Whom a Great Majority of the Whitneys Now Living in the United States Are Descended (New York, NY: The De Vinne Press, 1896), Chart between pp. 216-217.

7.^  See

8.^  Source for relationship between Joan and Robert Whitney.

9.^  Source for birth information for Joan Whitney.

10.^  Source for death information for Joan Whitney.

11.^  Source for relationship between Robert and Robert Whitney.

12.^  Source for birth information for Robert Whitney.

13.^  Source for death information for Robert Whitney.

14.^  Melville, Henry, A.M., LL.B., The Ancestry of John Whitney: Who, with His Wife Elinor, and Sons John, Richard, Nathaniel, Thomas, and Jonathan, Emigrated from London, England, in the Year 1635, and Settled in Watertown, Massachusetts; the First of the Name in America, and the One from Whom a Great Majority of the Whitneys Now Living in the United States Are Descended (New York, NY: The De Vinne Press, 1896), chart near p. 216.

15.^  Melville, Henry, A.M., LL.B., The Ancestry of John Whitney: Who, with His Wife Elinor, and Sons John, Richard, Nathaniel, Thomas, and Jonathan, Emigrated from London, England, in the Year 1635, and Settled in Watertown, Massachusetts; the First of the Name in America, and the One from Whom a Great Majority of the Whitneys Now Living in the United States Are Descended (New York, NY: The De Vinne Press, 1896), chart near p. 216.

16.^  The Visitation of the County of Gloucester: Taken in the Year 1623 By John Philipot, William Camden, College of Arms (Great Britain), Henry Chitting, John Maclean, p. 201.

17.^  Source for relationship between Peryn and Robert Whitney.

18.^  Source for birth information for Peryn Whitney.

19.^  Source for death information for Peryn Whitney.

20.^  Ward, C.E. (of Duke University)"The Authorship of the Cuckoo and the Nightingale", Modern Language Notes, Vol. 44, No. 4(April 1929) Published by Johns Hopkins University, pp. 217-225. "Thomas, who might have been wooing Perrin Whitteneye in 1391 or 1392, was at this time between 31 and 45 years of age."

21.^  Archive:Engaging Words: The Culture of Reading in the Later Middle Ages, p. 29. For the identification of Thomas Clanvowe as husband of Peryne Whitney, see also, The Age of Transition, 1400-1580 By Frederick John Snell London: 1905 and Shaping the Nation: England 1360 - 1461 By Gerald Harriss (Clarendon Press: Oxford pp. 394). See also, Ward, C.E. supra.

22.^  Calendar of Patent Rolls, p. 185, 16 Richard II. - Part II, Membrane 24

23.^  Court of Common Pleas, General Eyres and Court of King's Bench: Herefordshire: Feet of fines for 1-10 Hen V: 1-19, CP 25/1/83/53, number 13. See also

Copyright © 2006-2008, Robert L. Ward. Tim Doyle and the Whitney Research Group

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