Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Basset, Philip

BASSET, Sir PHILIP (d. 1271), justiciar and royalist baron, was third son and eventually—on the death of his brother Fulk [q. v.], bishop of London (1259)—heir of Alan Basset, lord of Wycombe, Bucks [see Basset, Alan]. Though the son of so staunch a royalist, he joined (together with his eldest brother) the opposition under the Earl Marshall [see Marshall, Richard] in 1233 (Chron. Edward I and II, i. 31–2), and took part in the liberation of Hubert de Burgh (Claus. 18 Hen. III, m. 34 dors.). For this they were both outlawed, but on the earl's death in the following year made their peace and were restored (ib. m. 21), their outlawry being annulled as illegal 8 June 1234 (ib. m. 19 dors.). Resisting misgovernment, in church as in state, he was chosen by the barons in 1244 to serve as one of the deputation from their parliament which attended the council of Lyons (July 1245) to protest, on behalf of the 'communitas,' against the papal policy in England (Matt. Paris, 666, 681). He was still active on the baronial side at the great crisis of 1258, being appointed by the provisions of Oxford one of the twelve 'a treter ... pur tut le commun,' and one of the twenty-four 'a treter de aide le roi’ (Ann. Burt.) He was also associated with the justiciar in the regency when Henry left for France in November 1259 (ib. 479). Belonging, however, to the moderate section, he now began, like Falkland, to lean towards the king, and when the baronial party split in two (1259–60), he separated from De Montfort and the extreme faction and went over with Gloucester to the royalists. He is found testing a writ ex parte regis 20 July 1260 (First Report on the Dignity of a Peer, p. 132), and he was in that year entrusted by the king with the castles of Oxford and Bristol (Pat. 44 H. III, m. 3, 14). The following year he was appointed sheriff of four counties, was entrusted with two more castles, Corfe and Sherburne (Pat. 45 H. III, m. 13), and, on the king resuming power into his own hands, was made justiciary of England, 24 April 1261 (Rishanger, 10; Wykes, pp. 125, 129), though he is not so styled when named by Henry, 5 July 1261, as one of those to arbitrate between him and Simon (Pat. 45 Hen. III, m. 9). The baronial justiciary, Hugh Despencer, was his son-in-law, and they seem for about a year to have acted concurrently. Thenceforth the royalists were in full power, and Basset acted alone. In July 1262 the king went to France, leaving the kingdom in the charge of Basset, who presided at a parliament held in October (Rog. Hov. ii. 217), and kept him informed of the state of affairs. On Henry's return (24 Dec.) Basset met him at Dover (ib. ii. 218) with news that the opposition were gaining strength, and eventually, on 15 July 1263, Hugh Despencer was restored to the justiciarship [see Despencer, Hugh] and Basset consoled with Devizes Castle (Pat. 47 H. III, m. 9) and the counties of Somerset and Dorset (Pip. 47 H. III). Eager to restore the supremacy of the royalists, he assisted the king and the prince in their attempted coup de main on Dover, 3 Dec. 1263 (Rog. Hov. ii. 229), and headed the forlorn hope of forty knights at the storm and capture of Northampton on 5 April 1264 (ib. ii. 234). Meanwhile (16 Dec. 1263) he had become one of the sureties for the king's acceptance of the Mise of Amiens. Additionally embittered by the loss of his mansion (Ann. Osney, 146), which had been sacked and burnt by the London mob (circ. 1 April), he fought at Lewes (13 May 1264) with the most determined gallantry, and when entreated to surrender by his son-in-law, foremost in the barons' ranks, replied that he would never yield so long as he could stand upright (Ann. Worc. 452). Nor was he made prisoner till his body had been covered with wounds:—

Sir Philip Basset the gode knight worst was to overcome,
He adde mo then tuenti wounde as he were inome.—Rob. Glouc.

Imprisoned by De Montfort in Dover Castle, he was restored to liberty by the victory of Evesham (4 Aug. 1265), and nobly exerted himself at once in favour of the vanquished barons. He protested, with the king of the Romans (Ann. Wav. 367), against the decree of 'exhæredation' (October 1265), and, according to Rishanger, was with him appointed mediator on the surrender of Ely (28 Dec.) He was also one of the arbitrators by whom ‘the dictum of Kenilworth’ (31 Oct. 1266) was drawn up (ib. 376), and, on Gloucester inducing the citizens of London to admit the refugee barons (June 1267), Basset's second wife (Ela, daughter of William Longespée, earl of Salisbury, and widow of Thomas of Newburgh, earl of Warwick), interceded successfully with the legate for the citizens, while he himself reconciled Gloucester with the king (Chron. of Edward I and II, i. 77–8; Rog. Hov.) He was now again appointed sheriff of Somerset and Dorset (Pip. 52 Hen. III) and shortly after constable of the Devizes (Fin. 54 Hen. III, m. 5). In 1269 he took part in the translation of the Confessor (Wykes, 222), and he appears in February 1270 as a member of the king's council (Madox's Exchequer, ii. 170). After a public career of nearly forty years he died, a man ‘bonæ memoriæ’ (Ann. Lond. 82), on 29 Oct. 1271, and was buried at Stanley, Wilts. The chroniclers speak of him with enthusiasm ‘as noble, discreet, and liberal’ (Wykes, 247), ‘mighty in counsel, zealous in war, noble and exceeding faithful, a man who greatly loved the English and the commonalty of the land’ (Ann. Osn. 247). His daughter and sole heiress, widow of Hugh Despencer, was remarried to Roger Bigot, afterwards earl of Norfolk and marshal of England (Esch. 56 H. III, n. 31).

[Chronicles (Rolls series); Dugdale's Baronage, i. 384; Foss's Judges of England (1848), ii. 219.]

J. H. R.