Sir Robert Wyngefeld (Wingfield) (b. 1403 – d. before 21 November 1454), was an English landowner, administer, politician and soldier. He was the eldest son of Sir Robert Wingfield (d. before 26 June 1409) of Letheringham and his wife Elizabeth Russell, daughter of Sir John Russell of Strensham, Worcestershire, who was the Master of the Horse to Richard II of England.
At the age of six, Robert succeeded his father Sir Robert Wingfield to become the 4th Wingfield Lord of Letheringham, Suffolk. He inherited the Manors of Letheringham, Thorpe Hall, Hasketon, “Bacon’s alias Wingfield” in Westhall, Wilby, Dallinghoo, Bourt’s Hall in Laxfield, Clarvalves and Iken in Framlingham, and Shelton Hall in Stradbroke.
In 1410, Henry IV formally granted to Robert’s great-aunt Elizabeth Elmham, nee Hastings who was the window of Sir William Elmham of Westhorpe, Suffolk, the wardship and marriage for payment of no more than 100 marks in view of the great expense she had suffered. In 1409, she was troubled by major lawsuits brought by Henry Monmouth, the Prince of Wales, Edward, the 2nd Duke of York and Joan FitzAlan, Countess of Hereford over the wardship of her great-nephew Robert Wingfield.
Before 1 December 1419, Robert married Elizabeth Goushill, daughter and co-heir of Sir Robert Gousill of Hoveringham, Nottinghamshire and his wife Lady Elizabeth FitzAlan, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, widow of Thomas Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk, and daughter of Richard FitzAlan, 11th Earl of Arundel and Lady Elizabeth de Bohun.
On 14 February 1420, Robert was a legatee of his great-aunt Elizabeth Elmham’s will, dated 1 December 1419.
On 17 August 1424, Robert fought at the Battle of Verneuil in Normandy under the command of John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford, 1st Earl of Richmond, and Governor of Normandy.
The Battle of Verneuil was a strategically important battle of the Hundred Years’ War, and a significant English victory. It was a particularly bloody battle, described by the English as a second Agincourt.
On 19 May 1426, Robert was knighted by Henry VI of England on Whitsunday, in the fourth year of his reign at Hereford, Herefordshire. He was a knight bachelor.
In 1427, Sir Robert was elected a knight of the shire for Suffolk and sat in all Parliaments until 1436.
In the 1430s, Sir Robert became John de Mowbray, 2nd Duke of Norfolk steward, and received from him a life grant of the manor of Hoo, Suffolk, which adjoined Letheringham.
On 28th November 1436, Sir Robert was appointed stewardship of the honour and lordship of Richmond in the county of Norfolk, England, which was in the King’s hands due to the death of John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford.
In 1438, Sir Robert was placed on the Commission with William de la Pole, 4th Earl of Suffolk, and several others, to make inquisition in the county of Norfolk as to goods said to have been sent abroad from thence uncustomed.
In 1440, Sir Robert was involved in a dispute with Robert Lyston, Esq. of Badingham in Suffolk, who accused him of forcibly disseizing him of his manors of Badingham, Dallinghoo and Creeting, which lay near both Letheringham and Framlingham, and inducing the 3rd Duke of Norfolk to drive him out of his properties. A commission for Sir Robert arrest was issued on 14th June 1440 from Westminster to:
“…Thomas Descales, Knight, the Keepers of the Peace in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, and the Sheriff of the said counties, to arrest Robert Wyngfeld, Knight, Richard Haddelesay, clerk, and John Houghton, wherever found in the said counties, and commit them to the nearest prison, until the King gives special orders for their release; and if they cannot be found, the Sheriff shall cause proclamation to be made in the said counties, so as to come to the knowledge of the said Robert, Richard and John as soon as possible, that on their fealty and on pain of forfeiture of all that they be before the King in person with all possible speed to answer to answer the things that shall be objected to them on his behalf, and then to do and receive what shall there be commanded concerning them. By K.”
On 3th September 1440, Sir Robert was committed to the Tower of London, where he spent the next nine months and was released on 18th June 1441.
In 1443, Sir Robert and the 3rd Duke of Norfolk were completely estranged, and they continued at loggerheads throughout much of the rest of the decade. After Sir Robert’s defeat by Robert Lyston, Esq., it seems that he began to turn away from the 3rd Duke of Norfolk ineffective lordship towards that of William de la Pole, 4th Earl of Suffolk, whose support lay behind Robert Lyston’s success.
On 21st August 1443, the 3rd Duke of Norfolk decided to reclaim the manor of Hoo, which his father had granted for life to Sir Robert, by seizing the property by a group of men described as “of Framlingham”, led by Sir Robert Conyers.
Before 26th November 1443, the 3rd Duke of Norfolk with a force of men mounted an assault on Sir Robert’s home in Letheringham forced entry during which, Sir Robert claimed, evidences belonging to him were stolen, together with other property which he valued at nearly £5,000.
On 26th November 1443, the 3rd Duke of Norfolk was forced to bind himself in the sum of £2,000 to keep the peace towards Sir Robert, and to appear before the council on 26th April 1444. The matter was then submitted to arbitration of Thomas Brunce, Bishop of Norwich, William de la Pole, 4th Earl of Suffolk, and Sir John Fortescue, Chief Justice of the King’s Bench. The settlement which they imposed on 26th May 1444 allowed the 3rd Duke of Norfolk to retain possession of Hoo, but in return he was forced to grant Sir Robert the manor of Weston by Baldock in Hertfordshire, and to confirm his position as chief steward of the Mowbray lands in Suffolk for life. Sir Robert was also awarded 3,500 marks in damages (approximately £2,333).
In November 1444, Sir Robert joined William de la Pole, who recently became the 1st Marquess of Suffolk, on his expedition to escort Margaret of Anjou to England to marry Henry VI of England, which landed in England on 9 April 1445. Sir Robert appears to have been in Queen Margaret’s service from the time she landed in England through 1450.
In 1447, Sir Robert accompanied the 3rd Duke of Norfolk on his embassy to the court of Charles VII of France.
On 18th December 1447, Sir Robert and his son Robert Esq., with their associated William Brandon (grandfather of Charles Brandon who would become the 1st Duke of Suffolk in 1514) who had also been prominent in the 3rd Duke of Norfolk’s service earlier in the decade, were indicted in King’s Bench for a series of offenses including assault, theft, and threatening behavior. It was alleged that on 6th December Richard Hadilsay, the 3rd Duke of Norfolk’s chaplain at Framlingham, complained to the Duke of threats made against him by Sir Robert’s son Robert Esq., who was also at that point staying at Framlingham Castle. The 3rd Duke of Norfolk, in his capacity as the Justice of the Peace (JP) for Suffolk, ordered Robert Esq. to bind himself to keep the peace towards Hadilsay. Robert Esq. refused, and was sent to Melton gaol on the 3rd Duke of Norfolk’s orders. Three hours later, on Sir Robert’s instructions, William Brandon and three other gentlemen rescued Robert Esq. from prison.
A special commission issued on the 18th December 1447 of oyer and terminer to investigate the above action by Sir Robert, as further noted in the Patent Rolls issued from Maidstone –
“Commission of oyer and terminer to Robert Wyllughby, Kt., Thomas Fulthorp, Kt., John Prysot, John Hevenynham, Kt., John Heydon, Reynold Rous, and William Bury to make inquisition in Suffolk about the evildoers who, with Robert Wyngefeld late of Letheringham, co. Suffolk, Knight, committed any trespasses, riots, routs, and gatherings in the county.”
On 23rd January 1448, Sir Robert was summoned into King’s Bench to show why, in light of the charges against him, he should not forfeit a bond he had made in 1447 to keep the peace; he pleaded not guilty, but on the day appointed for the hearing produced a royal pardon, which was granted on 14th February 1448 from Westminster –
“General pardon to Robert Wyngefeld, late of Letheringham, co. Suffolk, Knight, specially of all sureties of the peace forfeit by him hitherto, and pardon to John Griffith of Wechenore, co. Stafford, John Trivilian of the King’s Household, ‘gentilman,’ Henry Langton of the same, ‘gentilman,’ and Edmund Mulso of Fotheryngham, co. Northampton, Knight, to who Robert was delivered of late in bail in the Marshalsea prison for a survey of the peace to be found on Monday after the octave of Martinmas last in the King’s Bench at Westminister, of all sums forfeited, recognisances, assumptions, and pecuniary pains pertaining to the King herein.” By p.s., etc.
Marshalsea was originally the name of the Marshalsea Court. The prison was built to hold those brought before that court and the Court of the King’s Bench, to which Marshalsea rulings could be appealed. Also known as the Court of the Verge, and the Court of the Marshalsea of the Household of the Kings of England, the Marshalsea court was a jurisdiction of the royal household. From around 1290, it governed members of the household who lived within “the verge”, defined as within 12 miles (19 km) of the king.
Why Sir Robert was referred to as “late of Letheringham” in these last two above commissions is unclear. At any rate, six months later, the efficacy of Sir Robert’s connection with William de la Pole, 1st Marquess of Suffolk was even more apparent. Sir Robert made a formal complaint about the 3rd Duke of Norfolk’s earlier attack on Letheringham, and it was presumably a result of the 3rd Duke of Norfolk being committed to the Tower of London on 28th August. During the six days of his imprisonment, a special commission was appointed to investigate the incident, as noted in the below commission at Westminster, 1st September 1448 –
“Commission of oyer and terminer to William Bishop of Winchester, William, Bishop of Ely, Walter, Bishop of Norwich, William, Duke of Suffolk, Robert de Wyluby, Knight, Richard Neuton, Knight, William Yelverton, John Portyngton, and John Markham touching the complaint of Robert Wyngefeld, Knight, that John Duke of Norfolk, of Framlyngham, co. Suffolk, Edmund FitzWilliam, late of Framlyngham, esquire, John Leventhorpe, late of Framlyngham, esquire, alias John Leventhorpe, ‘tresoror,’ Gilbert Debenham, late of Pyldewenham, co. Suffolk, esquire, Richard Southwell, late of Framlyngham, esquire, and Edmund Stapilton, late of Framlyngham, esquire, and others, bringing by night carts and wagons with cannons, and other engines of war to Letheringham, co. Suffolk, besieged the houses of Robert in his Manor at Letheryngham, and hurled stones thereat, brake his walls, towers, and stone chimneys, sawed asunder the posts and beams of divers houses in the same Manor, set coals of fire in the litters of his beds within his houses, and in his corn growing at Letheryngham, wholly burned a house of Robert in the Manor, broke into his house there, and hunted therein, and carry away the deer thereof, goods to the value of £ 1,200, goods of William Brandon, esquire, to the value of 350 marks, goods of Robert Wyngefelde, esquire, to the value of £ 30, and goods of Stephen Broom to the value of £ 40 in the complainant’s keeping, and 100 marks of William Brandon in money by tale, and a chest of Robert Wyngefeld, esquire, with charters, writings, and other muniments therein in the same keeping, and also two chests locked of the complainant with charters, writings, and other muniments therin, and 856 marks 6s. 8d. of the complainant in money by tale, and assaulted his men and servants at Letheryngham, Ikene, Badyngham and Westhall, co. Suffolk, and so threatened them that they dare not go about on their business.”
On 13th July 1449, Sir Robert would appear to have been in further trouble in the succeeding year, as noted in the Patent Rolls at Westminster –
“Grant to William Say, Dean of the King’s Chapel, of the forfeiture incurred for breach of peace by Robert Wyngefeld, Knight, and John Griffith of Wichenore, co. Stafford, and John Curson of Belhawe, co. Norfolk, the same to be applied to the repair and provision of vestments, altar-cloths, censers, and other ornaments, and stuff necessary to the Chapel.”
In 1499, Sir Robert was elected a knight of the shire for Herefordshire.
By 8th May 1449, Sir Robert seems to have been a member of Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset’s retinue (evidence for this in the calendar of the French Rolls, Henry VI, 383).
On 20th July 1452, Sir Robert complained to the council that the 3rd Duke of Norfolk on 5th June had forcibly retaken the manor of Weston by Baldock in Hertfordshire, which he had been granted in exchange for Hoo, and seems to have ended only with Sir Robert’s death.
On 6th October 1452, Sir Robert made his will at Cambridge, which was proved in the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury on 21st November 1454, in which he mentions his wife Elizabeth, his sons John, Thomas, William, and Henry and his daughters Elizabeth, Anne, and Katharine (it appears that his sons Henry and William were then under eighteen years of age).
Sir Robert was buried in the Prior Church of St. Mary of Letheringham, Suffolk. His canopied alter tomb, which no longer exists, was located on the south cancel wall. An armed figure of Sir Robert with his wife Elizabeth Gousill’s effigy behind lay on the tomb chest. Both figures are shown in the drawing below made in 1785, but the James Basire engraved plate must have been engraved after a later drawing, shows Sir Robert’s figure broken off and only that of Lady Elizabeth Goushill in place.
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