Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bussy, John

BUSSY, Sir JOHN (d. 1399), speaker of the House of Commons, was sheriff of Lincoln in 1379, 1381, and 1391. He was first chosen a knight of the shire for Lincoln in 1388, and continued to sit for that county during the remaining parliaments of Richard II's reign. He was three times elected speaker, first by the parliament of 1393–4, and afterwards by the two parliaments of 1397. Though at first he showed some signs of a spirit of independence, he soon became a servile supporter of Richard's arbitrary and unconstitutional action. In the second parliament of 1397, which met at Westminster on 17 Sept., Sir John Bussy, Sir William Bagot, and Sir Thomas Green acted as prolocutors of the king's grievances, and Fitzalan, archbishop of Canterbury, the Duke of Gloucester, and the Earls of Arundel and Warwick were convicted of high treason. Bussy gained the favour of the king by grossly flattering his vanity. Holinshed, in his account of the trial of these nobles, says that ‘Sir John Bushie in all his talke, when he proponed any matter vnto the king, did not attribute to him titles of honour due and accustomed, but inuented vnused termes and such strange names as were rather agreeable to the diuine maiestie of God than to any earthlie potentate. The prince, being desirous of all honour, and more ambitious than was requisite, seemed to like well of his speech and gave good eare to his talke’ (ii. 340). This parliament was adjourned to Shrewsbury, where it met on 28 Jan. 1398, and Bussy was again formally presented as speaker. It sat there only three days, and by its last act delegated its authority to a committee of eighteen members—twelve lords and six members of the House of Commons—of whom Bussy was one. By his manipulation of this parliament Richard had contrived to become an absolute king, and every man of this committee was believed by him to be devoted to his interests. Upon the landing of Henry, duke of Lancaster, in England during the absence of Richard in Ireland, Bussy fled to Bristol. The Duke of York joined his nephew; they marched with their combined armies to Bristol, which quickly surrendered to them, and Bussy, the Earl of Wiltshire, and Sir Henry Green, three of the parliamentary committee, were put to death without trial on 29 July 1399. Shakespeare has introduced Bussy into the play of ‘Richard II’ (i. 4, ii. 2, iii. 1).

[Manning's Lives of the Speakers (1851), 14–21; Rot. Parl. iii. 310–85; Parliamentary Papers, 1878, lxii. (pt. i.) 235–56; Holinshed's Chronicles (1807), ii. 839–54: Stubbs's Constitutional History of England (1875), ii. 491–502].

G. F. R. B.