LOUTHE, Robert (d.c.1434), of Hertingfordbury, Herts.
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Family and Education
Commr. of inquiry, Herts. Feb. 1422 (falsifiers and counterfeiters).
As its name suggests, this MP’s family came originally from Louth in Lincolnshire, although his ancestors had been living in Hertfordshire from the early 14th century onwards, and were notable figures in the county. His father, Robert Louthe the elder, was twice returned as a shire knight and also sat on the local bench; his chief distinction, however, lay in his success at court in the service of Queen Isabella, who made him keeper of Hertford castle and surveyor of much of the surrounding countryside. He subsequently held this post under John of Gaunt, thus establishing a connexion with the house of Lancaster which was at first maintained by the subject of this biography.2 The early death in 1377 of the elder Robert’s childless cousin, John, meant that first he and then his two sons were able to gain control of a substantial estate. The property allocated to Robert Louthe the younger on his father’s death comprised the manors of Roxford, Humbangate and Blountes in Hertingfordbury, Essendon and Hatfield, and additional holdings in Enfield, Middlesex. He appears either to have sold off or leased some of this land at the very beginning of the 15th century, but in June 1408 he made a settlement of the remainder upon his elder brother, John, and Henry IV’s son, Humphrey (later duke of Gloucester), who were evidently his feoffees. John died shortly afterwards, and it was no doubt from him that Louthe inherited the property in Aldenham and Portsoken, Hertfordshire, which had come into his hands by 1412. Although then estimated at £20 a year, his landed income must have been far higher, for, besides omitting the profits due to him from Enfield, this figure takes no account of the revenues of the manor of Oxhey Richard in Hertfordshire. As early as 1397, his great-aunt, the widowed Amice Louthe, conveyed the manor to Edward, earl of Rutland, and others in trust for her young kinsmen, and Robert retained his title until about 1414, when he sold it to the judge, Sir Hugh Holes. At some point before 1431, Louthe leased part of his manor of Britwell in the same country to his neighbour, William Flete*, but we do not know how or when he acquired it, or what it was worth.3
His position as a local landowner notwithstanding, Louthe seems to have taken very little interest in administrative affairs, and the pattern of his career is therefore often hard to trace. The first known reference to him in this context occurs at Michaelmas 1401, when the annuity of ten marks which he expected to receive from the Sussex estates of the duchy of Lancaster was cancelled ‘because he did not accompany the King on his last journey to Wales and Scotland’. His reluctance to undertake any type of official or military commitment was not overcome until 1417, when he attended the Hertfordshire parliamentary elections. His own return, to the Parliament of May 1421, seems rather surprising in view of his previous unwillingness to shoulder any of the burden of local government, although he did play an active part in the elections of 1421 (Dec.), 1423, 1425, 1426 and 1427, as well as serving on at least one royal commission of inquiry.4 Fortunately, enough evidence of Louthe’s more personal activities has survived to cast some light on the general obscurity of his life. By September 1403, for instance, he and his wife were involved in two lawsuits arising from alleged acts of theft and trespass by their neighbours in Middlesex. Louthe was himself being sued in November 1408, when Hugh, Lord Burnell, and his wife arraigned him on an assize of novel disseisin at Hertford. He may well have been acting as a feoffee-to-uses on this occasion, but only one other case of his involvement in such transactions is now on record, namely, his appearance in July 1416 among the trustees of certain tenements in Southwark belonging to the widowed Joan Brook. Some five years later, Louthe parted with vet more farmland in Essendon, although there is, as before, no means of discovering the exact nature of this conveyance.5 His last years were marked by a dispute with a group of influential Hertfordshire and Essex landowners, including Sir John Montgomery† and Lewis John*, who were bound over in June 1426 to keep the peace towards him. Judging by the sureties demanded of them in Chancery—their bail came to over £100—the matter may already have taken a violent turn, and Louthe’s offer of recognizances worth 200 marks to other prominent local figures some two years later probably betokens a readiness on his part to accept arbitration. Yet the protagonists still remained at odds, for even after taking personal securities of £5 from our Member, Sir John persisted in suing him for debt. He was joined in this by John Fray*, John Hotoft* and the other notables to whom Louthe had initially pledged his 200 marks, so the case may perhaps have resulted from some real or imagined breach of faith on his part. Royal letters patent of 12 June 1434 pardoned Louthe the outlawry which he had incurred for failing to appear in court, and as no further information about him has been found, we may assume that he died soon afterwards.6 His son and namesake (who was serving on the Scottish border in 1432 under the earl of Northumberland) inherited the family estates, although he and his wife, Edith, appear to have sold their land in Hatfield during the 1460s.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variant: de Luda. This MP is not to be confused with his near contemporary, Robert Louthe, citizen and joiner of London (d.c.1429) who was fairly prominent in the City (Corporation of London RO, hr 127/8, 26, 134/45, 135/39, 108, 118, 168/17, 19).
- 1. H. Chauncy, Herts. i. 537; CAD, i. B1451; CPR, 1374-7, pp. 383, 386-7; E210/9674; VCH Herts. ii. 456. For an early, but somewhat conjectural, history of the Louthe family see Trans. E. Herts. Arch. Soc. xi. 260-7.
- 2. Trans. E. Herts. Arch. Soc. xi. 260-7; E101/397/5, 398/9; CPR, 1358-61, p. 97; 1381-5, p. 86; Somerville, Duchy, i. 370.
- 3. CAD, i. B1447, 1451; iii. B4024, D675; v. A11514; Feudal Aids, vi. 461; VCH Herts. ii. 382, 456; iii. 102, 104, 461, 465; E210/9674; E326/6073; E329/217.
- 4. DL 29/738/12098; C219/12/2, 6, 13/2-5.
- 5. JUST 1/1521 rot. 44; CCR, 1402-5, p. 269; CAD, iii. D508, 894.
- 6. CCR, 1422-9, pp. 277, 402; 1429-35, pp. 27, 318.
- 7. VCH Herts. iii. 102, 104; Trans. E. Herts. Arch. Soc. xi. 261; Cal. Scots Docs. (supp.) v. no. 4771.