The Missing Link in the Hungerford Pedigree, 1439

In this post Michael Hicks explores CIPM xxv.255-6, the inquisitions post mortem that furnish the crucial details explaining how the Hungerford family amassed the whole of the Peverell family estate and when.

The Hungerford family are the most remarkable success story in the late medieval West Country. The Hungerfords rose from obscurity in 1300 to a baronage and to become one of the principal landholders in central southern England by 1460. Partly this was from the profits of service that funded the land purchases, but principally in successive generations from marriages to heiresses , by Sir Thomas the Speaker (d. 1398) to Joan Hussey of Teffont Evias (d. 1412), by Walter Lord Hungerford (d. 1449) to Katherine Peverell, by Robert II Lord Hungerford (d. 1459) to Margaret Lady Botreaux (d. 1478), and by Robert III (d. 1464) to Eleanor Lady Moleyns (d.c. 1476). Walter remarried to Eleanor Dowager-Countess of Arundel (d. 1455) and Robert II's son Sir Thomas (d. 1469) to Anne Percy, [1. CP vi.613-21] two marriages that signalled the family's arrival into the high nobility, but which did not permanently augment the family estate. Until 1461 the Hungerfords were destined to become the principal noble house in central southern England. Such details are recorded in inquisitions post mortem and the Hungerford cartularies, [2. For example CIPM xxv.255-6; The Hungerford Cartulary, ed. J.L. Kirby, 2 vols.,Wiltshire Record Society 49, 60 (1994-2007)] and are explored in modern biographies and modern studies by Hicks, Kightly, Kirby, and Roskell. [3. J.L. Kirby, ‘The Hungerford Family in the Later Middle Ages', London Univ. MA thesis (1936); HPT ii.443-53; C.Kightly, ‘Hungerford, Sir Thomas (b. in or before 1328, d. 1397)' & 'Hungerford, Walter, first Baron Hungerford (1378–1449)', ODNB; M.A. Hicks, Richard III and his Rivals: Magnates and their Motives during the Wars of the Roses (1991), chs. 4,5,6,9,10 at p.80; Hicks, Hungerford, Robert, second Baron Hungerford (c.1400–1459)' & ‘Hungerford, Robert, third Baron Hungerford and Baron Moleyns (c.1423–1464)', ODNB; J.S. Roskell, Parliament and Politics in Late Medieval England, ii(London 1981), chs. 2 & 5]

The gap in the story relates to the first wife of Walter Lord Hungerford, Katherine Peverell, one of two daughters of Thomas and Margaret  Peverel.  Katherine married Walter, but predeceased him. He remarried in 1439. [4. CP  vi.616] For the good of Katherine's soul, Walter constructed a causeway across Standerwick marsh (Som.), towards which he bequeathed additional monies at his own death. [5. Hicks, Richard III & Rivals, 82, 125.] Katherine may also be commemorated in the dedication of his hospital at Heytesbury (Wilts.), although St Katherine was a common dedication for hospitals. [6. Hicks, Richard III & Rivals, 125.] Evidently Katherine's sister left no heir, so that the Peverel estate was reunited in Hungerford hands. Who this sister was, what was her marital surname, when she died, what she possessed, when her property devolved on the Hungerford line, and who was the beneficiary has long been unknown.Until 2010 answers to all these questions lay buried in the unpublished inquisitions post mortem and could only be conveniently accessed if the sister's marital name was known. They are now revealed by Eleanor Talbot's IPM in Calendar of Inquisitions post Mortem xxv.


The Hungerford-Peverell pedigree


 Katherine was the elder of the two sisters. The other was Eleanor Peverell, the wife in turn of Otes Trenewith, John Raleigh, and Sir William Talbot, who died in 1429. [7. HPT iv.564-5.] She was childless by all her husbands.  Her heirs under the common law were her sister Katherine (if she outlived her) and the latter's son Robert I, the future Lord Hungerford. However Eleanor's lands were held in trust and she was therefore able to determine their destination. In 1432, in what qualified as a last will, now three times widowed and past childbearing, Eleanor Talbot agreed with her sister Katherine, who was still living, and her husband Walter Lord Hungerford that her estates would devolve on her death to them both jointly for life and thereafter to their male heirs, with remainder to their right heirs. This created an entail in the male line. It ensured an orderly succession, it did change the immediate beneficiary of her estate.  When Eleanor did indeed die in 1439, Katherine was already dead, and the property under this agreement devolved on Walter as joint-tenant for life, not on her nephew – and Walter's son – Robert II, aged 26, who would normally have succeeded directly as his aunt's heir under common law. As usual if confusingly, the jurors quite correctly found Robert II to be Eleanor's heir at law, but the property passed under Eleanor's direction to her brother-in-law Walter Lord Hungerford for life. [9. CIPM xxv.255-6.] It follows that Hicks was wrong to suppose that Eleanor's properties passed direct to Robert II. Because of the 1432 agreement Robert II did not enjoy his aunt's inheritance during his father's lifetime. [10. Hicks, Hungerford, Robert, second Baron Hungerford (c.1400–1459)', ODNB] Indeed  since his own father-in-law William Lord Botreaux (d. 1462) lived much longer than anticipated at his own marriage c. 1420, [11. Historic Manuscripts Commission, MSS of Reginald Rawdon Hastings, i (1928), 287-8; C. Rawcliffe, ‘The Politics of Marriage in Later Medieval England: William, Lord Botreaux, and the Hungerfords', Huntington Library Quarterly 51 (1988), 161-75.] Robert II  had only his jointure and whatever Walter allowed him - in 1443 his mother's estates - until 1449 and was overshadowed even by his own son Robert III as Lord Moleyns.  Against those inheritances that were unexpected windfalls should be set those like Robert II's that were long delayed or never materialised at  all. Robert II's misfortune  may in part explain why he made so little impact until the 1450s and indeed thereafter.