(3rd B. Dacre of the South)
Born: 1516, Hurstmonceux, Sussex, England
Died: 29 Jun 1541
Buried: St. Sepulchre's
Father: Thomas FIENNES (Sir Knight)
Mother: Jane SUTTON
Married: Mary NEVILLE (B. Dacre of the South) 1536, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, Wales
1. Thomas FIENNES
2. Gregory FIENNES (4º B. Dacre of the South)
3. Margaret FIENNES (5° B. Dacre of the South)
Thomas Fiennes, baron Dacre of the South
Son of Sir Thomas Fiennes by his wife Jane, dau. of Edward Sutton, 2° B. Dudley. A youn boy at the death of his father, on the death of his grandfather in 1533/4 Thomas inherited the title when only about nineteen years of age. Not only was he very young to succeed to so important position, but it is probable he did not have the advantage of any education calculated to fit him for his responsibilities. His mother married again; if upon her second marriage she left him in the care of his grandfather who had 'famylyer & conversaunte beinge' with 'Theuves', the lad would most likely have associated with a set of men highly unfitted in every way to be the companions of any young fellow; and this bringing up may not improbably have been the cause of his adopting that wild and reckless career which was to bring him at an early age to an ignominious end upon the scaffold.
The young Lord Dacre was summoned to attend Parliament in Jan 1534 when only nineteen years of age. He married, apparently in 1536, just before his twenty-first birthday, Mary Neville, a daughter of George Lord Abergavenny, by his 3rd wife, Mary, dau. of Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham.
By her he had two sons: Thomas and Gregory, and one daughter Margaret. Gregory was christened on 25 Jun 1539. The document which gives his brother's age as fifteen in Aug 1553, says that Gregory at that date was aged thirteen years and a half, and, if so, he was about four months old when he was christened.
He appears to have had a good deal of trouble and some disputes with the executors of his grandfather's will. The two letters, written in Feb 1538, from Lord De la Warr, the one to Cromwell and the other to Lord Dacre, which are calendared, do not explain the whole matter in dispute. It probably arose in connection with the charges the deceased peer had laid upon his estates. Lord De la Warr says in his letter to Cromwell 'We were content he [Lord Dacre] should have such lands as we have by his grandfather's will, he to have the profits and we the rent, till the will be performed. Threle to be receiver of these lands to the performance of the will, and Dacre to take all other profits to his own use'.
It was probably in order to enlist Cromwell's interest on his behalf that Lord Dacre gave the former the right of sporting over his parks of Danny and Hurst; and with a like object when Gregory Cromwell, the powerful minister's son, came to live in Sussex, both Lord and Lady Dacre, he says in a letter to his father, welcomed him to the county and entertained him with presents.
In May 1536 Lord Dacre was one of the jury that sat on the trial of Anne Boleyn and Lord Rochford; and in Jun of that year he, with seventeen other peers, was summoned to a Council meeting at Westminster at what to us sounds a remarkably early hour, 8 A.M.
The rebellion which broke out in the north this year was the occasion of Lord Dacre being one of those appointed to attend the King in person with a force of 200 men, but in Oct, as the insurrection was so quickly suppressed, he was informed his services were no longer required. In the following year he was one of the jury who found Lord Darcy guilty of treason; and in 1538 he again formed part of the panel who tried and found guilty Lord Montague and the Marquis of Exeter.
On 4 Dec 1537, Thomas, Lord Dacre, wrote to Cromwell:
'... I have received your lordship's letters wherein I perceive your benevolence towards the frailness of my yoyth in considering that I was rather led by instigation of my accusers than of my mere mind to those unlawful acts, which I have long detested in secret. I perceive your lordship is desirous to have knowledge of all riotous hunters, and shall exert myself to do you service therein. I beg you give credence to Mr. Awdeley, with whom I send some of my servants to be brought before you; he can inform you of others who have hunted in my little park of Bukholt...'
He was member in the commission of sewers for Sussex; in a commission to 'search and defend' the coast of that county; in a commission for the peace; and in a commission for array. When Prince Edward was christened Lord Dacre was appointed to bear the spice plates to the young Princesses; and a month later, when the Queen, Jane Seymour, was buried, he was one of those deputed to bear the canopy over her corpse at the funeral.
In 1539, upon the introduction of three newly created peers, one of them was led between Lord Cobham and Lord Dacre in the procession at Westminster. It was, perhaps, the last post of honour filled by Lord Dacre.
With the Duke of Norfolk and Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy he headed the cavalcade of knights and esquires who met Anne of Cleves on Rainham Down on New Year's eve 1539-40. On the arrival of Anne of Cleves in 1540, when '... as she passed towards Rochester on Newyeares euen on Reinam downe met hir the Duke of Norfolke, and the Lord Dacres of the South, and the lord Montioie (Mountjoy), with a great company of Knights, and esquires, of Norffolke and Suffolke, with barons of the escheker, which brought hir to Rochester where she laie in the Palace all New Yeares daie...', Lady Dacre was one of those appointed to receive the bride.
Lord Dacre's career, which had begun so brightly, came to a premature and tragic termination in the following year. On the eve of May Day 1541, when less than 26 years of age, Thomas Fiennes, Lord Dacre, accompanied by John Cheney and Thomas Isley, Esquires, Richard Middleton and John Goldwel, yeoman, John Mantell, his only sister's husband,, John Frouds and George Roydon, his domestic servants, was unfortunately 'tempted by his own folly or that of his friends to join a party to kill deer' in Laughton Park, Sussex, the park of Sir Nicholas Pelham, an unpopular neighbor. The group divided into two bands, one under the leadership of Lord Dacre, and sallied forth on their expedition. It was apparently a bright, moonlit night, and they were spotted in their exploit by Pelham's gamekeeper, John Busbrig, who was patrolling the park with two companions, James Busbrig and Richard Somener. The gamekeeper ordered Dacre and his friends to leave the property, but instead they drew their swords and gave chase to him. The high jinks got out of hand, tempers became frayed, and a fight broke out between them. The gamekeeper fell to the ground from a sword wound, and suddenly the fun was over. Dacre and his men made a hurried retreat and the two companions carried the wounded man, John Busbrig, back to Sir Nicholas Pelham's house. The gamekeeper died as a result of his wound, but not before telling his master who his murderers were. Although he was in a distant section of the park when one of Pelham’s gamekeepers was killed; Dacre was convicted and executed for the murder on 29 Jun 1541 at Tyburn, whith some others.
Judging from the letter Lord Dacre wrote to Cromwell this was not the former's first offence of this nature, and however much, to use his own words, he may have 'detested those unlawful acts', he does not seem to have been strong-minded enough to shake himself free from the bad influence of some of his companions.
A letter written by William Paget, clerk to the Privy Council, to Sir Thomas Wriothesley, Garter King-at-arms, dated 27 Jun 1541, only two days before Lord Dacre's execution, tells that the Lord Chancellor and the Lords Sussex, Hertford and St. John, with Mr. Baker, consulted in the Star Chamber upon Lord Dacre's case:
Sir, I am sent for to the Council, and must stay my writing until soon.
At my coming to the Star Chamber there I found a11 the lords, to the number of xvij assembled for a conference touching the lord Dacre's case;. . . To Council they went, and had with them present the Chief Justices, with others of the King's learned Counsel; and albeit I was excluded, yet they 'spake so loud, some of them, that I might hear them notwithstanding two doors shut between us. Among the rest that could not agree to wilful murder, the Lord Cobham, as I took him by his voice, was vehement and stiff: Suddenly and softly they agreed, I wot not how, and departed to the Kings Bench together; whereas the lord Chancellor executing the office of High Steward, the lord Dacre pledd not guilty to the indictment, referring himself to the trial of his peers, and declaring, with long circumstances, that he intended no murder, and so purged himself to the audience as much as he might. And yet nevertheless afterward, by an inducement of the confession of the rest already condemned, declared unto him by the judge, he refused his trial, and, upon hope of grace (as I took it), confessed the indictment; which he did not without some insinuation. His judgment was to be hanged. It was pitiful to see so young a man by his own folly brought to such a case, but joyful to hear him speak at the last so wisely and show himself so repentant. . . . To-day after dinner the Council was with the King to declare lord Dacre's humble submission, hoping thereby to move his Majesty to pardon him, which took no effect, for to-morrow shall. . . Mantel, Roydon, and Frowdes suffer, and the lord Dacre upon Wednesday. God have mercy upon them and give them grace to repent their evil doings and to take patiently their deaths.
The jury of peers consisted of the Marquis of Dorset, the Earls of Sussex, Derby, Rutland, Huntingdon, Bath, Hertford, Bridgewater, and Lords John Russell, Morley, Cobham, Powys, Stourton, Mountjoy, Windsor, Mordaunt, and St. John.
The charge was indeed serious: manslaughter following deer stealing, which in itself was a felony. Both he and his friends were general favorites and the privy council hesitated long before they adjudged him guilty, being convinced that 'if a poor man must be sent to the gallows for an act into which he might have been tempted by poverty, thoughtlessness could not be held as an excuse because the offender was a peer'. King Henry VIII, remaining true to his principles of equal justice, did not intervene and Thomas was hanged at Tyburn 29 Jun 1541, whereby it was considered that his honors were forfeited.
Holinshed gives the following full account of the circumstances which led to Lord Dacre's trial and execution:
'...There was executed at Saint Thomas Wateringe, three gentlemen, John Mantell (Lord Dacres brother-in-law), John Frowds, and George Roidon; they died for a murther committed in Sussex, in companie of Thomas Fines, Lord Dacres of the South: the truth whereof was thus. The said Lord Dacres, through the lewd persuasion of some of them, as hath beene reported, meaning to hunt in the parke of Nicholas Pelham, esquire, at Laughton, in the same countie of Sussex, being accompanied with the said Mantell, Frowds, and Roidon, John Cheinie, and Thomas Isleie, gentlemen, Richard Middleton, and John Goldwell, yeomen, passed from his house of Hurstmonceux, the last of Aprill, in the night season, toward the same parke, where they intended so to hunt; and coming unto a place called Pikehaie, in the parish of Hillingleigh, they found one John Busbrig (or Busbridge), James Busbrig, and Richard Summer standing togither: and as it fell out, through quarelling, there insued a fraie betwixt the said Lord Dacres and his companie on the one partie, and the said John and James Busbrig and Richard Summer on the other, insomuch that the said John Busbrig received such hurt, that he died thereof the second of Maie next insuing. Whereupon, as well the said Lord Dacres as those that were there with him, and diuerse other likewise that were appointed to go another waie to meet them at the said parke, were indicted of murther; and the seauen and twentith of Jun the Lord Dacres himselfe was arraigned before the Lord Audleie of Walden, then lord chancellor, sitting that daie as high steward of England, with other peers' of the realme about him, who then and there condemned the said Lord Dacres to die for that transgression. And afterward, the nine and twentith of Jun, being Saint Peter's daie, at eleuen of the clocke in the forenoone, the shiriffs of London, accordinglie as they were appointed, were readie at the tower to haue receiued the said prisoner, and him to haue lead to execution on the Tower Hill; but as the prisoner should come forth of the tower, one Heire, a gentleman of the lord chancellor's house, came, and in the kings name commanded to staie the execution till two of the clocke in the afternoone, which caused manie to think that the King would haue granted his pardon. But neuerthelesse, at three of the clocke in the same afternoone, he was brought forth of the tower, and deliuered to the shiriffs, who lead him on foote betwixt them unto Tiburne where he died. His bodie was buried in the church of Saint Sepulchers. He was not past foure and twentie yeeres of age, when he came through this great mishap to his end, for whom manie sore lamented, and likewise for the other three gentlemen, Mantell, Frowds and Roidon. But for the said yoong lord being a right towardlie gentleman, and such a one as manie had conceiued great hope of better proofe, no small mone and lamentation was made; the more indeed, for that it was thought he was induced to attempt such follie, which occasioned his death, by some light heads that were then about him...'
The 'London Chronicle' says:
'The xxix day of Jun Wensday Saynt Peturs day was my lorde Dakars of the Southe led be twene bothe the scherevis of London a foote from the Towr to Tiburn and there he was hanggid, and the said lorde Dakars a bove said was beryid in Saynt Powlkurs churche, and ye said lorde Dakars a bove saide was hanggid for robbre of ye Kingges deer and murther of ye Kepars.'
There are two letters amongst the public records from foreign ministers referring to this case. The first in date is from Charles de Marillac to Francois I of France, dated 30 Jun 1541; in it he tells the King that:
'...the same day [Saturday, Jun 25th] was led to judgment a young lord called Dacre of the South, also allied with the greatest lords in England, and of 6000 or 7000 ducats income, who, for assembling armed men with the intention of seeking a park keeper whom they wished to slay, and slaying another in place of the man they were seeking, was condemned to be hanged, and yesterday was executed at the common gibbet of London, called Tyburn. His three companions suffered the like death, who were Mr. Mantel, one of the Kings 50 gentlemen whom he calls his Pensioners, a controller of his customs, and one Reddyn, of a Kentish family; all gentlemen of a good house, aged 25 to 30, and much esteemed...'
The other letter is from Chapuys, the Emperor's Ambassador written to the Queen of Hungary on 2 Jul in which he mentions that:
'... Lord Dacres... 23 yeares old and possessing a property of about 5000 ducats a year, was hung from the most ignominious gibbet, and for the greater shame dragged through the streets to the place of execution, to the great pity of many people, and even of his very judges, who wept when they sentenced him, and in a body asked his pardon of the King...'
The writ for this unfortunate young man's execution is as follows:
'Henricus Octavus Dei gracia Anglie et Francie Rex, fidei defensor, Dominus Hibernie et in terra supremum Caput Anglicane eclesie, vicecomes London, salutem. Pecipimus vobis puniter iniungentes quod statim visis presentibus Thomam Fynes nuper de Hurst Mounseux in Comitatu Sussex, Dominum Dacre, alias dictum Thomam Dominum Dacre, de quibusdam felonijs et murdris Attinctum et morti adiudicatum ac in Turri nostra London detentum a dilecto et fideli Consiliario nostro Johanne Gage ordinis nostri Garterij milite, Constabulario Turris nostre London, seu eius locum tenente vel eius deputato, ibidem apud 1e Tower hill, per Indenturam inde inter vos et dictum Constabularium, locum tenentem aut deputatum, debite conficiendam recipiatis et eundem Thomam Dominum Dacre vsque ad furcas de Tyborne ducatis ducive faciatis, et super furcas illas suspendatis suspendive faciatis vsque ad mortem. Mandamus enim eidem Constabulario eiusve locum tenenti sive deputato ibidem quod ipsum Thomam Dominum Dacre vobis ibidem liberent vobisque in executione predicta fienda debite assistant. Teste me ipso apud Westmonasterium xxix die Junij Anno regni nostri Tricesimo tercio. Lucas.'
In view of what both Camden and Sampson Lennard suggest, that his large fortune made some of the courtiers anxious to have him attainted of felony in hopes that the King might make grants to them of his estates, it is interesting to learn what the annual value of those estates were. His income was more than a thousand pounds, which in those days appears sufficient to have constituted an abnormally large fortune.
Upon Lord Dacre's execution and attainder, his widow was left quite penniless, but no time was lost in obtaining an Act of Parliament in order to provide a dower for her from out of her late husband's estates.
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