HARCOURT, Sir John (by 1502-66), of Stanton Harcourt, Oxon. and Ellenhall, Staffs.
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Family and Education
b. by 1502, 1st s. of Sir Simon Harcourt of Stanton Harcourt and Ellenhall by Agnes, da. of Thomas Darrell of Scotney Castle, Lamberhurst, Kent. m. by 1525, Margaret, da. of Sir William Barentyne of Little Haseley, Oxon., 6s. inc. Michael†, Robert† and Simon† 8da. Kntd. 30 May 1533; suc. fa. 16 Jan. 1547.1
Commr. subsidy, Staffs. 1523, 1524, musters 1539, relief 1550; other commissions 1540-7; j.p. by 1536-54 or later; sheriff 1545-6, 1557-8.2
The Harcourt family had long been established in both Oxfordshire and Staffordshire: Sir John Harcourt’s father was four times sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire but he himself held that office in Staffordshire although appearing on the Elizabethan pardon roll as of Stanton Harcourt, Oxfordshire.[footnote]
Between 1530 and 1532, some eight years after his first appearance in local administration, Harcourt was one of those distrained for knighthood; he paid the fine in full but in May 1533 he was made a knight at the coronation of Anne Boleyn. It was probably soon after this that he was put on the commission of the peace, for although his name first appears on it in December 1536 he was present at the sessions dinner of 1535 when Walter Blount I spoke lightly of the saints. The years which followed saw Harcourt engaged in a dispute with John Peshall of Horsley, Staffordshire, who had married a Harcourt of Ranton in that county and had joined his branch of the family in a feud with their kinsmen of Ellenhall. In October 1537 the 4th Earl of Shrewsbury was intervening on behalf of Peshall and a year later Bishop Rowland Lee was supporting Harcourt, whose acquisition of land at Ranton in 1539 probably made matters worse.3
With his father-in-law Sir William Barentyne, Harcourt was among those appointed to receive Anne of Cleves, and in 1544 the two served together in the vanguard of the expedition to France, Harcourt leading 12 footmen. Shortly after completing his first shrievalty Harcourt succeeded to the family estates and was thus well qualified to serve as junior knight of the shire in Edward VI's Parliament: the current sheriff, Walter Wrottesley, was one of his many kinsmen among the Staffordshire gentry. He could also claim kinship with John Dudley, Earl of Warwick and later Duke of Northumberland, but nothing is known of any part he may have played in Dudley's rise to power. He was nominated sherrif in the autumn of 1552 but it was Sir George Blount* who was picked and thus required to act during the succession crisis of 1553. Harcourt's religious sympathies are likewise unknown although his father had tried to save Ranton abbey from supression and his father was to remain largely Catholic until the 17th century. He served a second term as sheriff during Mary's reign and his failure to sit in Parliament again fits the pattern of brief parliamentary careers among the Staffordshire gentry; his disappearance from the commission of the peace in the next reign may have been a sign of advancing age rather than of disaffection.4
Harcourt died on 19 Feb. 1566 and was buried at Stanton Harcourt. His son and heir Simon, then aged about 41, had been returned for Staffordshire to the Parliaments of 1559 and 1563, and had also taken his father's place on the county bench.5
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: Alan Davidson
- 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Lipscomb, Bucks. iv. 590; W. Harcourt-Bath, Harcuria, pt. ii. 39; LP Hen. VIII, vi; CPR, 1547-8, p. 1.
- 2. LP Hen. VIII, iii, iv, xi, xiii-xv, xviii, xx; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 75-76, 89; 1553, p. 357; 1553-4, p. 24.
- 3. H. H. Leonard, 'Knights and knighthood in Tudor Eng.', (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1970), 67-68; LP Hen. VIII, viii, x, xii, xiv; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. (n.s.), 1907, p. 84; (ser. 3), 1926, pp. 139-40.
- 4. LP Hen. VIII, vi, x, xiv, xv, xix; CPR, 1553, p. 387; T. Pape, Newcastle-under-Lyme, 42-43.
- 5. C142/143/42; E. W. Harcourt, Harcourt Pprs. i. 245.