Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports

The Cinque Ports - Dover, Sandwich, Rye, New Romney, Hastings, Hythe and Winchelsea - rarely claim the attention of historians. They were no longer the mainstay of royal navies after the thirteenth century, and their economic decline set in soon after. By the 1530s Dover and Sandwich were still reasonably prosperous, and the silting at Rye and Hastings had not yet ruined their harbours, but Hythe was fighting a losing battle against the shingle that had already blocked New Romney and Winchelsea. The maritime activities of the portsmen were confined largely to fishing, with most seaborne trade in the hands of foreign merchants.

The Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports is a ceremonial official in the United Kingdom. The post dates from at least the 12th century but may be older. The Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports was originally in charge of the Cinque Ports, a group of five port towns on the south coast of England.

The Lord Warden was solely responsible for the return of all writs to the Crown, along with the collection of taxes and the arrest of criminals. His court was held in St James' church, near Dover Castle, and there he exercised jurisdiction broadly equivalent to that of chancery. He also had a "lieutenant's powers of muster", and the constableship of Dover Castle, later merged with the warden's office, enabled him to keep a garrison and administrative staff, including the clerk and the lieutenant of the castle.

The creation and appointment of the Lord Warden, once the most powerful appointment of the realm, by the monarch, was instituted principally after the portsmen sided with Simon De Montfort, Earl of Leicester, against Henry III, in the Second Barons' War, and was intended to provide some central authority over the Cinque Ports, which were essentially otherwise independent of the king's sheriffs. It was combined with the office of the Constable of Dover Castle. However from 1708 Walmer Castle at Deal was to be preferred as the official residence of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. The Lord Warden is also referred to as Admiral of the Cinque Ports with a maritime jurisdiction extending to mid Channel, from Redcliffe near Seaford, in Sussex to Shoe Beacon in Essex.

The courts of Brodhull and Guestling were established to protect the privileges of the Cinque Ports by the portsmen themselves. From the 15th Century these courts had been largely replaced by the Lord Warden's Court at Dover. From the 16th Century the principal business of the courts was the installation the Lord Warden and the court is now only occasionally summoned. The office continued to be a powerful one. In 1550 the mayor and jurats of Dover refused to accept a royal writ because it was not accompanied by a letter of attendance from the Lord Warden. The member ports' parliamentary representatives were appointed by the Lord Warden at first; this influence continued until the 19th century.

At the installation of a new Lord Warden, the Speaker of the Confederation of the Cinque Ports instructs the Lord Warden "to undertake the duties of the Ancient and Honorable Office and to uphold the Franchises, Liberties, Customs and Usages of the port". The office of Speaker has traditionally rotated between the affiliate townships every year dating from at least 1550. Inaugurations are begun on May 21, and membership is ordained through a longstanding maritime tradition of a principle of the prevailing winds coming from west to east.

All Freeman of the Ports originally held the title "Baron of the Cinque Ports". The traditional title, which bears no relationship with those lords in command of castles, otherwise referred to as Barons is now reserved for Freeman elected by the Mayor, Jurats, and Common Council of the Ports to attend a Coronation, also now only in an honorary capacity.

The position of Lord Warden and Admiral of the Cinque Ports is the most ancient military honour available in England. Of the 158 holders of the office, only three have to date been commoners'.

The Coat of Arms of the Cinque Ports first appeared in 1305, second amongst the earliest English known heraldic emblems, predating even the coat of arms of the city of London. The Coat of Arms of the Cinque Ports displays three ships hulls and three Lions passant guardant con-joined to these hulls, all in gold. These may originally have been Gules three lions passant gardant in pale Or (for England) dimidiating Gules three ships' hulks in pale Or. The Coat of Arms of the Confederation of the Cinque Ports is set out on a red and blue background and traditionally represents the 14 'Corporate' Members.

The first authoritative list of Cinque Ports Confederation Members was produced in 1293 when Stephen of Pencester was Warden. The Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports is appointed for life, but in the earliest of records this was not the case. The office of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports has been traced from the year 1226 from the appointment William De Averanch, although he was not the first incumbent of this office. The longest term of office was that of William Brooke, Lord Cobham, who presided at the court for 40 years.

Office Holder


Henry d' Essex ABT 1150-54
William De Warenne, 2nd Earl of Surrey 1204-06 and 1214
Hubert De Burgh, 1st Earl of Kent 1215
Geoffrey De Lucy 1224 (1230)
William De Averanch 1226
Robert De Ayberville 1228
Peter De Rivaux 1232-34
Walerland Teutonicus 1235
Bertram De Crioill 1236 (intermitently until 1255)
Henry Hoese  
Lord De Segrove  
Peter De Savoy 1241
Reginald De Cobham, 1st Baron Cobham 1255
Sir Roger Northwode  
Nicholas De Moels 1258
Richard De Grey 1258
Hugh De Bigod 1259-60
Nicholas De Croill 1260
Robert De Walerand 1261
Walter De Burgsted 1262
Hamo De Crevequer 1263
Humphrey De Bohun, 3rd Earl of Hereford ABT 1264?
Edmund "Crouchback" Plantagenet, Earl of Lancaster and Leicester  
Henry De Sandwich  
John De Haia  
Sir Roger De Leybourne  
Henry De Montfort 1264
Matthew De Hastings 1265
Edward "Longshanks" Plantagenet, Earl of Chester 1265
Sir Matthew De Bezille 1266
Stephen De Pencester 1267-71, then at intervals until 1298 (32 years)
Robert De Burghersh, 1st Baron Burghersh 1299-1306
Henry Cobham, 1st Baron Cobham 1307
Robert De Kendall 1307
Henry Cobham, 1st Baron Cobham 1315
Baron De Badlemere 1320
Hugh Despenser, 1st Earl of Winchester  
Edmund Plantagenet of Woodstock, Earl of Kent 1321
Sir John Peche 1323
Baron De Drayton 1325
Bartholomew De Burghersh, 2nd Baron Burghersh 1327
William Clinton, 1st Earl of Huntingdon 1330
Bartholomew De Burghersh, 2nd Baron Burghersh 1348
Patrick Dunbar, 2nd Earl of March 1355
John Baron Beauchamp 1359
Sir Robert De Herle 1361
Baron Spigurnell 1364
Sir Richard De Peinbrugge  
Andrew De Guldeford  
Lord Latymer  
Sir Thomas Reines  
Edmund Plantagenet of Langley, Earl of Cambridge 1376
Sir Robert Assheton 1381
Sir Simon De Burley 1384
John Lord Devereux 1387
John Lord Beaumont 1392
Edmund Plantagenet of Langley, Duke of York 1396
John Beaufort, 1st Marquess of Dorset 1398
Sir Thomas Erpynham 1399
Henry Plantagenet "of Monmouth", Prince of Wales 1409
Thomas Fitzalan, 7th Earl of Arundel 1412
Humphrey Plantagenet, Duke of Gloucester 1415
James Fiennes, 1st Baron Say and Sele 1447
Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham 1450
Richard Woodville, Lord Rivers 1459
Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick 1460
Sir John Scott 1471
Phillip Fitz Lewes 1488
Sir William Scott 1492
Henry Tudor, Prince of Wales 1493
Sir Edward Poynings 1509
George Neville, 3rd Baron Abergavenny (appointed, but resigned)
Sir Edward Guilford 1474/9-1534
George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford 1533
Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond  
Sir Thomas Cheney 17 May 1536
Arthur Plantagenet, 1st Viscount Lisle 1539-1542
Sir Thomas Cheney 1545 - 1558
Sir Thomas Seymour temporary joint Lord Wardenship between Cheney in 1545
William Brooke, 5th Baron Cobham  
Henry Brooke, 6th Baron Cobham 1597
Henry Howard, 1st Earl of Northampton 1604-1614
Robert Carr, 1st Earl of Somerset 1614-1615
Edward Zouche, 11th Baron Zouche of Haryngworth 1615-1625
George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham 1625-1628
Theophilus Howard, 2nd Earl of Suffolk 1628-1640
James Stewart, Duke of Richmond and Lennox 1641-1642
Sir Edward Boys 1642-1646
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