Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Adam of Usk

ADAM of Usk (fl. 1400), lawyer and writer of a Latin chronicle of English history from 1377 to 1404, was born at Usk, in Monmouthshire, probably between 1360 and 1365. By the favour of Edmund Mortimer, third earl of March, who held the lordship of Usk, he was appointed to a law-studentship at Oxford, and took a doctor's degree, being in 1387 an ‘extraordinarius’ in canon law. He also entered the church. He pleaded in the Archbishop of Canterbury's court for seven years, from 1390 to 1397; and in the latter year he attended, perhaps in some official capacity, the last parliament of Richard II, of the proceedings of which he has left a valuable account. In the revolution of 1399 he joined Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury—one of Bolingbroke's principal adherents—and accompanied the invading army in its march northward from Bristol to Chester. By his influence his native place escaped the punishment with which it was threatened for the resistance of its inhabitants. After Richard's surrender Adam was appointed one of the commissioners for the deposition of the king; and he gives us an interesting account of a visit that he paid to him in the Tower. The immediate reward of his services was the living of Kemsing and Seal in Kent, together with a prebend in the collegiate church of Abergwili. He soon afterwards received another prebend in the church of Bangor. As a further proof of the value set by the new king on his ability as a lawyer, a case was submitted to him in the following year, 1400, whereby Henry sought to avoid restoration of the dower of Richard's young queen, Isabella of France.

But soon afterwards Adam forfeited the royal favour by the boldness with which he remonstrated with Henry on the faults of his government; and in 1402 he was sent in banishment to Rome, where, however, he was well received, and appointed papal chaplain and auditor of the Rota. He was not allowed to return to England for four years; and of his life after that date we have no information, as the latter part of his chronicle is lost.

While at Rome he states that he was nominated by the pope to the see of Hereford, which fell vacant in 1404, but that the intrigues of his enemies in England prevailed to his exclusion; and again that, with no better success, he was afterwards proposed for the see of St. David's.

Among the different cases in which he was engaged as a lawyer, he mentions that he drew up the petition of Sir Thomas Dymock for the championship at Henry's coronation, and that he was retained in the well-known suit of Lord Grey of Ruthin against Lord Edward Hastings.

[Chronicon Adæ de Usk, ed. E. M. Thompson (Royal Socety of Literature), 1876.]

E. M. T.