Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Brabazon, Roger le

BRABAZON, ROGER le (d. 1317), judge, descended from an ancient family of Normandy, the founder of which, Jacques le Brabazon of Brabazon Castle, came over with William the Conqueror, his name occurring in the Roll of Battle Abbey. The name is variously spelt Brabaçon, Brabançon, and Brabanson, and was originally given to one of the roving bands of mercenaries common in the middle ages. His great-grandson Thomas acquired the estate of Moseley in Leicestershire, by marriage with Amicia, heiress of John de Moseley. Their son, Sir Roger, who further acquired Eastwill in the same county, married Beatrix, the eldest of the three sisters, and coheirs of Hansel de Bisset, and by her had two sons, of whom the elder was Roger, the judge. Roger was a lawyer of considerable learning, and practised before the great judge De Hengham. His first legal office was as justice itinerant of pleas of the forest in Lancashire, which he held in 1287. In 1289, when almost all the existing judges were removed for extortion and corrupt practices, Brabazon was made a justice of the king's bench, receiving a salary of 33l. 6s. 8d. per annum, being as much greater (viz. 6l. 13s. 4d.) than the salaries of the other puisne justices as it was less than the salary of the chief justice. When Edward I, though acting as arbitrator between the rival claimants to the crown of Scotland, resolved to claim the suzerainty for himself, Brabazon (though not then chief justiciary as one account has it, the office then no longer existing) was employed to search for some legal justification for the claim. By warping the facts he succeeded in making out some shadow of a title, and accordingly attended Edward and his parliament at Norham. The Scottish nobles and clergy assembled there on 10 May 1291, and Brabazon, speaking in French, the then court language of Scotland, announced the king's determination, and stated the grounds for it. A notary and witnesses were at hand, and he called on the nobles to do homage to Edward as lord paramount of Scotland. To this the Scotch demurred, and asked time for deliberation. Brabazon referred to the king, and appointed the day following for their decision; but the time was eventually extended to 1 June. Brabazon, however, did not remain in Scotland till then, but returned south to the business of his court, acting as justice itinerant in the west of England in this year. After the Scottish crown had been adjudged to Baliol, Brabazon continued to be employed upon a plan for the subjection of Scotland. He was one of a body of commissioners to whom Edward referred a complaint of Roger Bartholomew, a burgess of Berwick, that English judges were exercising jurisdiction north of the Tweed; and when the Scottish king presented a petition, alleging that Edward had promised to observe the Scottish law and customs, Brabazon rejected it, and held that if the king had made any promises, while the Scottish throne was vacant, in derogation of his just suzerainty, such promises were temporary only and not binding; and as to the conduct of the judges they were deputed by the king as superior and direct lord of Scotland, and represented his person. Encouraged by this decision, MacDuff, earl of Fife, appealed against the Scottish king to the English House of Lords, and on the advice of Brabazon and other judges it was held that the king must come as a vassal to the bar and plead, and upon his contumacy three of his castles were seized. He is found in 1293 sitting in Westchepe, and with other judges sentencing three men to mutilation by loss of the right hand. But, although sitting as a puisne judge, Brabazon, owing to the political events in which he was engaged, had completely overshadowed Gilbert de Thornton, the chief justice of his court. The time was now arrived to reward him. In 1295 Gilbert de Thornton was removed and Brabazon succeeded him, and being reappointed immediately upon the accession of Edward II, 6 Sept. 1307, continued in that office until his retirement in 1316. He had been a commissioner of array for the counties of Nottingham, Derby, Lancaster, Cumberland, Westmoreland, and York, in 1296, and was constantly summoned to the parliaments which met at Westminster, Salisbury, Lincoln, Carlisle, Northampton, Stamford, and York up to 1314. In 1297 Brabazon's position pointed to him naturally as a member of the council of Edward, the king's son, when left by his father in England as lieutenant of the kingdom. On 1 April 1300 he was appointed to perambulate the royal forests in Salop, Staffordshire, and Derby, and call the officers to account. In 1305 he is named with John de Lisle as an additional justice in case of need in Sussex, Surrey, Kent, and Middlesex, pursuant to an ordinance of trailbaston, and although the writ is cancelled, he certainly acted, for he sat at Guildhall 'ad recipiendas billas super articulis de trailbaston.' In the same year, being present at the parliament held at Westminster, he was appointed and sworn in as a commissioner to treat with the Scotch representatives concerning the government of Scotland. On 29 Oct. 1307 he sat at the Tower of London on the trial of the Earl of Athole and convicted him. In 1308, having been appointed to try certain complaints against the bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, Brabazon was ordered (19 Feb.) to adjourn the hearing, in order to attend the coronation of Edward II. He was twice assigned to hold pleas at York in 1309 and 1312, was detained specially in London in the summer of 1313 to advise the king on matters of high importance, and was still invested with the office of commissioner of forests in Stafford, Huntingdon, Rutland, Salop, and Oxon, as late as 1316.

All these labours told severely on his health. Broken by age and infirmity he, on 23 Feb., asked leave to resign his office of chief justice. Leave was granted in a very laudatory patent of discharge; but he remained a member of the privy council, and was to attend in parliament whenever his health permitted. He was succeeded by William Inge, but did not long survive. He died on 13 June, and his executor, John de Brabazon, had masses said for him at Dunstable Abbey. He was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral. He appears to have had a high character for learning. To his abilities his honours and offices bear testimony, whatever blame may attach to him for his course in politics. He was a landowner in several counties. In 1296 he is enrolled, pursuant to an ordinance for the defence of the sea-coast, as a knight holding lands in Essex, but non-resident, and in the year following he was summoned as a land-owner in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire to attend in person at the muster at Nottingham for military service in Scotland with arms and horses. In 1310 he had lands in Leicestershire, and in 1316 at Silbertoft and Sulby in Northamptonshire, at East Bridgeford and Hawkesworth in Nottinghamshire, and at Rollright in Oxfordshire. The property at East Bridgeford came to him through his wife Beatrix, daughter of Sir John de Sproxton, with the advowson of the church appurtenant to the manor. As to this he was long engaged in a dispute, for after he had presented a clerk to the living and the ordinary had instituted him, one Bonifacius de Saluce or Saluciis, claiming apparently through some right connected with the chapel of Trykehull, intruded upon the living and got possession, and though Brabazon petitioned for his removal as early as 1300, the intruding priest was still unousted in 1315. Brabazon left no issue, his one son having died young; he had a daughter, Albreda, who married William le Graunt; his property passed to his brother Matthew, from whom descend the present earls of Meath, barons Brabazon of Ardee, in Ireland.

[Foss's Lives of the Judges; Campbell's Lives of the Chief Justices, i. 78; Dugdale's Origines; Tytler's Scotland, i. 80; History of the Family of Brabazon; Rot. Pat. 9 Edw. II; Thurston's Notts, i. 294; Biographical Peerage, iv. 30; Roberts's Calend. Genealogicum, 461; Parliamentary Rolls, i. 138, 218, 267, 301; Palgrave's Parliamentary Writs, i. 490, ii. 581; Luard's Annales Monastici, iii. 410, iv. 506; Stubbs's Chronicles Edw. I and II, i. 102, 137, 149, 280.]

J. A. H.