SHIRLEY, Sir Hugh (c.1362-1403), of
Lower Ettington, Warws. and Shirley, Derbys.
Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons
1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C.
Family and Education
b.c.1362, s. and h. of Sir Thomas
Shirley of Shirley by Isabel, uterine or bastard sis. of Ralph,
3rd Lord Basset of Drayton; nephew and h. of Lord Basset. m.
bef. 1390, Beatrice (c.1366-20 Apr. 1440), da. of Sir Peter Brewes
(d.1377) of Wiston, Suss., sis. and event. h. of Sir John Brewes
(d.1426), 1s. Sir Ralph*, 5da. Kntd. bef. June 1392.
Commr. of weirs, Leics., Notts.
June 1398; array, Notts. Dec. 1399; oyer and terminer, Derbys.
Mar., July 1401; to make proclamation of Henry IVs intention
to govern well, Derbys., Leics., Warws. May 1402; of inquiry,
Notts. June 1403 (Sir Hugh Annesleys estates).
J.p. Notts. 28 Nov. 1399-d.,
Derbys., Warws. 16 May 1401-d.
Constable of Castle Donington,
Leics. 15 Mar. 1400-d.1
Master of the Kings hawks
27 Mar. 1400-d.
Master forester of Duffield Frith,
Derbys. 23 Feb. 1402-d.
Chief warder of Higham Ferrers
The Shirley family had held the
manor of Lower Ettington in the male line since the Conquest,
but derived its name from another of its manors, acquired subsequently
in the 12th century. To these holdings the Shirleys added Houne
and other properties also in Derbyshire, and Barnham, far away
in Suffolk. Sir Thomas Shirley, reputed to have fought at Crécy
and Poitiers and noted for his benefactions to the college in
the Newarke, Leicester, where he was buried in a large
and stately monument, left his son and heir, Hugh, still
an infant at his death, which occurred shortly before April 1362.
Hughs mother, either an illegitimate daughter of Ralph,
Lord Basset (d.1343), or more likely that lords stepdaughter,
then made a widow for the fourth time, took as her fifth and
sixth husbands Sir John Woodhill (d.1367) and Sir Gerard Braybrooke
I* (d.1403). It was to Braybrooke that in 1372 John of Gaunt,
duke of Lancaster, sold the wardship of the Shirley estates for
a single payment of 100 marks. Hugh would appear to have come
of age shortly before March 1383, when he confirmed his mother
in her life tenancy of the lands of his inheritance, his own
full possession being thus deferred for about ten years. The
Shirley estates were to provide him with an annual income of
at least £40 a year.3 But he and his son were to acquire
holdings of much greater value (at least six manors in Leicestershire,
two more in Sheldon, Warwickshire, and Ratcliffe-upon-Soar and
Colston Basset in Nottinghamshire) through the generosity of
his uncle, Lord Basset, who had no children of his own. Hugh
clearly rose in his uncles estimation as he grew older,
for although in 1376 he had been mentioned no higher than fourth
in succession in an entail of certain of these manors and would
only have inherited them if Basset himself and three others had
died without male issue, by January 1390, when Basset came to
make his will, he had decided that his nephew should inherit
all of the estates he held in fee simple, provided that he and
his heirs adopted the surname of Basset and bore his arms. Not
all of the manors so demised passed to the Shirleys in Sir Hughs
lifetime, for some were held in dower by Lord Ralphs widow
until her death in 1402, and others were retained by Bassets
trustees for the effective implementation of the many bequests
specified in his will. Nevertheless, it was this bounty which
made Shirley a landowner of considerable substance in Leicestershire,
the county he was to represent in Parliament.4
Throughout his career Shirley
served the house of Lancaster, linked by the ties of lordship
forged in his youth while under the guardianship of John of Gaunt.
Having been contracted on 14 Mar. 1386 as the dukes esquire
to serve in his army overseas, he probably stayed with Lancaster,
engaged in his wars in Spain and France, until the duke returned
to England late in 1389. Duke Johns high regard for him
was expressed in the award of two annuities for life: the first
of £20 charged on the issues of the honour of Leicester;
the other, which he shared with his wife, Beatrice, of as much
as 100 marks derived from the honour of Tutbury. In the 1390s
Shirley was among the dukes chamber knights, while his
wife also had a place in the household, as one of the Duchess
Constances closest companions. Furthermore, he also enjoyed
the esteem of Gaunts son and heir, Henry of Bolingbroke,
who in 1391-2 gave him a present of some jewellery. Shirley established
strong ties with other leading Lancastrian retainers, such as
Sir Walter Blount*, for whom he provided securities at the Exchequer
in 1392, Sir John Bussy* and Sir John Dabrichecourt*. These three
all came forward on his behalf in August 1394 to offer guarantees
under pain of £200 that he would keep the peace in future
towards Sir Thomas Erdington. His dispute with Erdington
concerned property at Barrow-upon-Soar from which Sir Thomas
had long sought to oust Lord Basset; Shirley had kept up the
feud with a midnight raid on Erdingtons own manor-house
there at the head of a band of 200 armed men. In the spring of
1397 Sir Hugh was in London making preparations for a voyage
to Bayonne, probably on Lancasters business, and in the
will John of Gaunt made on 3 Feb. 1398 he was left a bequest
of 100 marks. Richard II evidently considered it worthwhile to
procure Shirleys compliance following the seizure of the
ducal estates by the Crown a year later: on the point of departure
for Ireland on 24 May 1399 he issued orders to the duchy officials
for the continued payment of his annuities.5 Yet there could
be no question but that on Henry of Bolingbrokes return
from exile two months later Shirley would go to his side; indeed,
he was soon made a bachelor to the new King, Henry IV. In January
1400 he assisted in putting down the earls rebellion in
support of the deposed monarch; and royal commissioners sent
to Castle Donington (previously held by the rebel earl of Kent)
made him keeper of the castle for its safe governance, an appointment
formally ratified by the King on 15 Mar. On the same day Shirley
was granted an annuity of 40 marks for life from the issues of
the lordship of Donington, and although this was subsequently
reduced to 25 marks when the full amount of his other annuities
was revealed, henceforth he could still expect to receive £103
6s.8d. a year from the revenues of the duchy of Lancaster, a
sum not including fees paid for his official posts as master
of the Kings hawks (dating from that same month) and master
forester of Duffield. Loyalty to the house of Lancaster had made
him a wealthy man. The King could confidently rely on him to
perform functions of local government in the Midlands, as a j.p.
and commissioner, and sent him a personal summons to attend the
great council of August 1401 as one of six commoners selected
It was at this stage in Shirleys
career that his title to the Basset estates received a serious
challenge from Edmund, earl of Stafford, Lord Bassets coheir
in right of blood, who having succeeded to a number of Lord Ralphs
manors under the terms of entails made in the early 14th century,
nevertheless considered Shirley to have usurped his interest
in the rest; and Sir Hughs failure to change his name to
Basset as required by his late uncle no doubt gave him a pretext.
However, in an agreement apparently made on 20 July 1403, Earl
Edmund formally granted Shirley the estates Lord
Basset had willed to him, with reversion in default of male issue
to the Staffords, which concord the earl was bound to honour
under pain of £12,000. The indenture was never sealed,
for on the following day both men were slain at the battle of
Shrewsbury. A tradition, well established by Shakespeares
day, has it that they were two of the three knights (the other
being Shirleys colleague, Blount) who, clad in royal armour
in order to impersonate the King, successively encountered and
fell in single combat under the victorious arm of the earl of
Douglas, their deaths being avenged by a fourth champion, Prince
Shirley left a widow, Beatrice,
a son, Ralph (still a minor) and five unmarried daughters. Henry
IV showed concern for their welfare: on 10 Sept. following he
granted Beatrice custody of the Shirley estates to the value
of £44 10s. a year, and on Oct. he gave her Ralphs
wardship and marriage. Furthermore, when When shown the unsealed
agreement made between Sir Hugh and the earl of Stafford, he
commanded that the accord be kept as if formally ratified by
law. From 1406 Beatrice possessed a lease of four of the Basset
manors (as granted her by Lord Ralphs feoffees) to hold
until her son attained his majority; and following that event
she formally conveyed to him the family estates in return for
a regular pension.8 She became heir to her brother Sir John Brewess
lands (six manors in Sussex and another in Buckinghamshire) at
his death in 1426, but never took possession, for Sir Johns
widow retained them as her jointure until she died in 1449 (whereupon
they passed to Beatrices grandson, another Ralph). Left
a wealthy widow with an income of at least £92 a year,
and probably much more, Beatrice outlived her husband by 37 years,
dying in 1440.9
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
1. Somerville, Duchy, i. 573;
DL42/15, f. 94.
2. DL42/15, f. 23.
3. J. Nichols, Leics. iii. 707-8, 716; VCH Warws. v. 78-79; E.P.
Shirley, Stemmata Shirleiana (2nd edn.), 1, 26, 28, 373; W. Dugdale,
Warws. 620-2; CP, ii. 4; Reg. Gaunt, 1371-5, no. 386; Leicester
Mus. Archs. Ferrers ms 26 D53, no. 342.
4. CPR, 1374-7, p. 358; CAD, v. A11357, 11372; CP, ii. 4; Shirley,
29, 376; Coll. Top. et Gen. vii. 393; Ferrers ms 26 D53, no.
1583; VCH Warws. iv. 202.
5. Shirley, 373; DL28/1/3; CPR, 1392-6, p. 98; Procs. Chancery
Eliz. I ed. Caley and Bayley, i. p. vi; CCR, 1392-6, p. 367;
1396-9, pp. 473-4; Test. Vetusta ed. Nicolas, 143; Ferrers ms
26 D53, no. 2049; S.K. Walker, John of Gaunt and his retainers,
1361-99 (Oxf. Univ. D. Phil. thesis, 1986), 234.
6. CIMisc. vii. 44, 59; DL42/15, ff. 10d, 23, 96, 98; CPR, 1399-1401,
p. 239; PPC, i. 159, 162.
7. CAD, v. A11358; Harl. 4928, f. 68d.
8. C137/12/12; CPR, 1401-5, pp. 263, 373; DL42/15, f. 157d; Shirley,
381-3, 385, 388; Ferrers ms 26 D53, no. 343.
9. Suss. Arch. Colls. v. 6, 8; xxiii. 190; liv. 156, 160, 165;
C139/29/42, 101/65; Ferrers ms 26 D53, nos. 102-3; Shirley, 385-6;
VCH Bucks. iii. 148; EHR, xlix. 632.