MARNEY, Sir William (c.1370-1414), of Layer Marney, Essex and Kingsey, Bucks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

b.c.1370, s. and h. of Sir Robert Marney* by his 2nd w.1 m. c. July 1388, Elizabeth (c.1379-bef. 1414), da. of Sir Richard Cergeaux* of Colquite, Cornw. by his 2nd w. Philippa, da. and coh. of Sir Edmund Arundel, e. but bastardized s. of Richard, earl of Arundel (d.1376), sis. and coh. of Richard Cergeaux (d.1396), 2s. 2da. Kntd. by June 1400.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Cornw. 28 Oct. 1400-Mich. 1401, Essex and Herts. 8 Nov. 1401-29 Dec. 1402.

Commr. to make proclamation of Henry IV’s intention to govern well, Essex May 1402; of array July 1402, Sept.-Nov. 1403; oyer and terminer Nov. 1410; inquiry Jan. 1414 (lollards).

J.p. Essex 18 June 1402-Nov. 1413.

Chamberlain to Thomas, duke of Clarence, prob. by Dec. 1411-d.


As the only surviving son of Sir Robert Marney, William was to inherit substantial estates in Essex and Buckinghamshire when his elderly father eventually died in 1400. Before that date he came into possession of certain of his mother’s properties in Beckenham, Kent, and in London, and he was assured of a reversionary interest in the estates of his half-brother (Sir) Ingram Bruyn, although this last never came into effect.2 In 1388, before he came of age, Marney was married to Elizabeth Cergeaux, and his father settled on them the manor of Gibcrack in Great Totham, at the same time giving Elizabeth alone an annual rent of 20 marks from Arden Hall in Horndon. Along with his wife, William joined the guild of the Holy Trinity at Coventry.3 After the successive deaths of her father, brother, mother and one of her sisters (all in the years between 1393 and 1400), Elizabeth inherited a third share of the Cergeaux estates, including part of Chipping Norton (Oxfordshire) and several properties in Cornwall. These were valued at over £61 a year at Marney’s death, when the estates inherited from his parents were estimated to be worth about £76. In fact, it seems likely that his annual income from land well exceeded the figure of £137 suggested.4

At the time of Marney’s marriage it could not have been foreseen that Elizabeth would inherit any of the Cergeaux estates; she was chosen entirely for her family connexions. She was a great-niece of Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel (then actually in control of the government as one of the Lords Appellant), of Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury, and of Joan, countess of Hereford; and, coincidentally, Marney entered the service of the Countess Joan, to whom he was to remain attached for the rest of his life. He had attained his majority by 1393 and in the following year, when he joined the royal expedition to Ireland, he named two of the countess’s legal advisors, John Doreward* and Robert Rikedon, as his attorneys during his absence (which lasted from September 1394 until April 1395). In May 1397 Marney became bound up in his father’s financial and legal difficulties arising from the quarrel with Lady Moleyns, and he himself saw fit to convey to trustees—including the countess of Hereford, her kinsman, Sir William Arundel, and Robert Tey*—an annual rent of £100 from Great Totham and his wife’s lands in Cornwall, and also to entrust to their keeping all his goods and chattels. It seems likely that he was seeking to protect himself from the effects of outlawry. The arrest and execution of the earl of Arundel just a few months later put the lives of the members of the Fitzalan circle in jeopardy. That November Marney was required to provide large securities in Chancery on the pretext that he had threatened the life of a certain Carmelite friar; but Rikedon and Thomas Coggeshall* (another of the countess’s retainers) came forward in his support.5

Not long after the accession of Henry IV—an event which was warmly welcomed by the countess and her followers—Marney was knighted and appointed in successive years as sheriff of Cornwall and of Essex and Hertfordshire. He owed his first shrievalty to Countess Joan’s grandson, Henry of Monmouth, the duke of Cornwall. Shortly before his appointment, in July 1400, he had shared with his lady the wardship of the portion of the de Bohun estates which had fallen to her grand daughter Isabel following the death of her daughter Eleanor, duchess of Gloucester; and in August, after the countess had obtained the wardship of Sir Ingram Bruyn’s lands and the marriage of his heir, she gave them to Marney (Bruyn’s half-brother) on no other condition than that he should assume responsibility for payment of the dues at the Exchequer. It is clear that Sir William had become an intimate member of the countess’s entourage, closely involved in her affairs and in those of her other retainers. In 1401 he was made, with the countess, a co-feoffee of the estates of Robert Tey; a year later he asked Sir John Howard*, a member of her council, to be godfather to one of his sons; subsequently he acted as the countess’s feoffee of Margaret Roding (Essex) which she wished to donate to the great hall of Oxford university; and it was with the countess and Sir Gerard Braybrooke II* (another of her councillors) that, in 1405, he shared the wardship of the Torell estates in Essex. Sir William assisted his lady in the purchase of lands in Sussex, and she in her turn helped him to sell some of his Kentish properties and to make settlements of his other holdings in Essex and London.6 Such was Marney’s position when he was selected to be knight of the shire in 1407. During the Parliament he and Braybrooke acquired together a lease at the Exchequer of a manor in Northamptonshire, belonging to the inheritance of the Earl Marshal, John Mowbray, who was the countess’s ward. In the following year he was party to Countess Joan’s foundation of a chantry in Foulness and to her grants to the abbey of Coggeshall, their purpose being to provide prayers for the soul of Thomas Coggeshall, and in 1412 he was associated in her endowment of the Fitzwalter chantry in Little Dunmow priory church. Clearly, the countess relied heavily on him for the satisfactory performance of all manner of transactions.7

Although the affairs of the countess of Hereford and members of her circle were of the utmost importance to Marney, he did also act as feoffee-to-uses for others of the local gentry, such as the lawyer, Richard Baynard*. In 1402 he had been asked by the government to help raise ‘benevolences’ in aid of defence, and he took a more active part against the King’s enemies two years later when he enlisted for service in the fleet commanded by Thomas, Lord Berkeley, admiral to the south and west. Although subsequently described as a ‘King’s knight’, he was more closely attached to Henry’s second son (another of the Countess Joan’s grandsons), Thomas of Lancaster, later duke of Clarence. In April 1405 he obtained royal letters of protection to enable him to accompany Thomas, then admiral of England, on his voyage to Flanders, and in September 1407 (a month before he entered the Commons) he was made a trustee of the prince’s estates. Marney was attached to Lancaster’s household in Ireland in 1408, probably returning home with him in March 1409 when Henry IV fell ill. He had evidently become a trusted member of Thomas’s entourage and the appearance of his signature on a letter sent by the prince to the chancellor in December 1411 suggests that he was by then already his chamberlain. He joined Clarence’s expedition which embarked for Normandy in August 1412 to assist the Orléanists against the Burgundians, and when, three months later, a treaty was drawn up between Clarence and the duke of Berry, the latter saw fit to make him a handsome gift of 650 crowns. The English army marched south to winter at Bordeaux, and Marney was probably still there in February 1413 when he obtained papal indults to have a portable altar and the right to choose his own confessor. On receiving news of Henry IV’s death, Clarence and his followers sailed home in April. Marney subsequently had dealings with the authorities of Bordeaux, apparently with regard to the affairs of the late Sir Thomas Swinburne*, a former mayor of the city. His own interest was on behalf of Swinburne’s half-brother, William*, who was married to one of his sisters-in-law.8

Marney made his will on 19 Aug. 1414 and died two days later. He was buried in Layer Marney church in an alabaster tomb bearing an effigy which depicted him in armour with his head resting on a helmet and his feet on a lion. He had left £37 for his funeral expenses and for the fabric of the church, while other bequests included £5 to the parish of St. Mary Aldermanbury, London, £16 to be distributed among five houses of friars, £10 to each of his five executors and 300 marks for the dowry of his daughter, Anne. The contents of his houses were to pass with his armour and six best horses to his elder son, Thomas, while the younger son, John, was to have property at Horndon in tail-male. Sir William left to his lady, the countess of Hereford, a silver jug and six goblets. Thirty-six servants, ranging from the steward down to the kitchen-boy, were each to have sums of money, amounting to £111 in all. Indeed, Marney died a wealthy man, able to leave bequests amounting to at least £419. His executors included Robert Tey, and both William Swinburne and Robert Newport* were overseers.9 They subsequently arranged the marriage of Marney’s daughter, Anne, to Thomas, son of John Tyrell*, the future Speaker and treasurer of Henry VI’s household. Marney’s heir, Thomas, served under Clarence when Henry V first invaded France and was knighted, but he died in 1421, perhaps at Baugé, leaving the family estates to his younger brother. The latter’s son, Sir Henry Marney KG, was to be created Lord Marney by Henry VIII.10

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. He was not the William, s. of Sir Robert Marney, who was living in 1353 (Cal. Letter Bk. London, G, 19).
  • 2. Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 178; CPR, 1374-7, p. 296; CCR, 1389-92, pp. 501-2; 1392-6, pp. 120-1, 124, 126; Harl. Ch. 111D 60; Corporation of London RO, hr 123/21.
  • 3. CCR, 1385-9, p. 598; Reg. Holy Trinity Guild Coventry (Dugdale Soc. xiii), 95.
  • 4. CCR, 1413-19, pp. 161-2; CPR, 1399-1401, p. 372; CFR, xii. 73, 100-1; xv. 145-6; J. Maclean, Trigg Minor, ii. 504-7; Feudal Aids, vi. 439; Arch. Jnl. xliv. 60; C137/3/14, 4/23, 24.
  • 5. CPR, 1391-6, p. 476; CCR, 1396-9, pp. 82, 116, 121, 126, 220; E101/402/20 f. 38.
  • 6. CFR, xii. 65, 70, 72, 74, 306; xiii. 27-28; CCR, 1399-1401, pp. 306, 396; 1422-9, p. 337; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 233; CPR, 1405-8, pp. 122, 185; Harl. Ch. 111D 43; C139/13/55.
  • 7. CFR, xiii. 84; CPR, 1405-8, pp. 386, 389; 1408-13, p. 411; CCR, 1409-13, p. 171; Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. ser. 2, i. 270; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 259; CP, x. 235-6; Feudal Aids, vi. 436.
  • 8. CCR, 1402-5, p. 295; 1409-13, p. 221; Feudal Aids, vi. 442; PPC, ii. 74-75; CPR, 1401-5, p. 397; 1405-8, pp. 363, 444, 446; J.H. Wylie, Hen. IV, iv. 74; Hen. V, i. 120; CPL, vi. 345, 387; SC1/57/31; Reg. Jurade (Archs. Municipales Bordeaux iv), 6; Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, ii. 189, 206.
  • 9. PCC 29, 31 Marche; C138/8/29; Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. iii. 30; v. 283-5; ser. 2, xxii. 280.
  • 10. CFR, xiv. 82, 377, 408; xv. 145-6; PCC 52 Marche; E101/45/4; CCR, 1422-9, pp. 118, 408; CP, viii. 523.