Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dymoke, John
DYMOKE, Sir JOHN (d. 1381), king's champion, or champion of England, whose functions were confined to the performance of certain ceremonial duties at coronations, is stated to have been the son of John Dymoke, by his wife, Felicia Harevill. The family has been variously traced to the village of the name in Gloucestershire and to the Welsh borders near Herefordshire. The importance of Sir John and of his descendants was due to his marriage with Margaret (b. 1325), daughter of Thomas de Ludlow (b. 1300). The lady was the only granddaughter of another Thomas de Ludlow, and his wife Jane Marmion, daughter by a second wife of Philip Marmion, last baron Marmion. This Philip Marmion (d. 1291), lord of the castle of Tamworth, Warwickshire, and of Scrivelsby, Lincolnshire, claimed descent from the lords of Fontenay-le-Marmion, hereditary champions to the dukes of Normandy, and it was asserted that from the time of the Norman conquest Philip Marmion's ancestors had acted as king's champions at every coronation. It is tolerably certain that Roger Marmion, who died in 1129, was acknowledged as king's champion in Henry I's reign, although he had no opportunity of fulfilling his functions, and that his tenure of Tamworth and Scrivelsby was in grand serjeanty, i.e. on conditions of performing the duties of his office. The ceremonial details observed at coronations before the reign of Richard II are not recorded, and nothing is therefore positively known as to the appearance of any member of the Marmion family at any coronation; but there is strong presumptive evidence that Philip Marmion acted as king's champion at the coronation of Edward I, 19 Aug. 1274. On Philip Marmion's death without male issue in 1291, his castle of Tamworth descended to Jane, his eldest daughter by his first wife (Jane de Killpeck), who married William Morteyn, and on her death it became the property of her niece (daughter of her sister Mazera) Jane, wife of Alexander de Freville. Meanwhile the manor of Scrivelsby was the inheritance of Philip Marmion's daughter Jane, by his second wife, and descended to her granddaughter, Margaret Ludlow, who married John Dymoke about 1350. Dymoke, who was knighted in 1373, represented Lincolnshire in the parliaments of 1372, 1373, and 1377. On the coronation of Richard II he claimed, by virtue of his holding the manor of Scrivelsby in right of his wife, to act as king's champion. This claim was disputed by Sir Baldwin de Freville, the owner of Tamworth Castle through his mother, Jane, a granddaughter of Philip Marmion. The lord-steward temporarily decided in Dymoke's favour. It was stated that Edward III and Edward the Black Prince had both admitted that the office went with the manor of Scrivelsby, and not (as Freville asserted) with Tamworth Castle. Freville, who was allowed time to produce documents before a permanent decision was given, did not press his claim owing to ill-health. Dymoke died about April 1381, and Freville on 30 Dec. 1387. Lady Dymoke survived her husband, and at the coronation of Henry IV, 13 Oct. 1399, put her son Thomas forward to claim the office of champion. The son of the last claimant of the Freville family again disputed the championship, but failed to convince the court, and died 4 Oct. 1400, before the matter had been finally discussed. The claim of the Dymokes was not again seriously contested. Sir John's widow died in 1417. Her son Thomas, who performed the duties of champion at the coronations of Henry IV and Henry V, died in 1422, leaving the manor of Scrivelsby to his son Philip (by Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Richard Hebden). Philip acted as champion at Henry VI's coronation, and died in 1455. According to extant directions issued by Henry VI to Philip Dymoke, the champion at the time of the coronation received from the keeper of the royal wardrobe a rich accoutrement, which formed part of the perquisites of the office. From accounts of later coronations we know that this included an elaborate suit of armour and a well-caparisoned horse, together with twenty yards of crimson satin (cf. Notes and Queries, 5th ser. vii. 401). It was the champion's duty to ride on his horse into Westminster Hall at the beginning of the coronation banquet, and three times to formally challenge to combat any person who disputed the sovereign's title. The champion flung his gauntlet down as soon as the herald had announced the challenge. On no occasion was any opposition offered. When the champion took the gauntlet up for the third time, the sovereign drank to him from a golden cup, which was afterwards handed to the champion, who drank to his sovereign and became the owner of the cup. At Henry IV's coronation the champion's proclamation was made at six places in the city of London as well as at Westminster.
Sir Thomas Dymoke (1428?–1471), Sir Philip's heir, took part with the Lancastrians in the wars of the Roses. He had married Margaret, daughter of Richard, lord Wells, and aided Lord Wells's son, Sir Robert, in collecting an army in Lincolnshire in the interest of Henry VI and the Earl of Warwick in March 1470–1. Edward IV summoned Dymoke and Lord Wells to London to explain the conduct of Sir Robert. Fearing the King's anger, they took sanctuary in Westminster, and on receiving the royal pardon promised to induce Sir Robert Wells to disband his army. This they failed to do, and Edward marched to Lincolnshire and defeated Sir Robert's forces at Edgecote, near Stamford (13 March). Sir Robert was beheaded on the battle-field, and his father, Lord Wells, and brother-in-law, Sir Thomas Dymoke, met with the same fate, by gross treachery on the king's part, in London immediately afterwards (Warkworth, Chron., pp. 8, 9; Polydore Vergil, Hist. (Camd. Soc.), pp. 126–7; Bentley, Excerpta Historica, p. 282).
Sir Robert Dymoke (d. 1546), Sir Thomas's son, was restored to all his father's property; was a knight-banneret; acted as sheriff of Lincolnshire in 1484, 1502, and 1509; performed the duties of champion at the coronations of Richard III, Henry VII, and Henry VIII; distinguished himself at the siege of Tournay, and died 13 April 1546, being buried at Haltham, Lincolnshire. His son (by his second wife, Jane Sparrow), Sir Edward, was sheriff of Lincolnshire in 1536, 1547, 1556, and 1557, and acted as champion at the coronations of Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth. Sir Edward married Anne, daughter of Sir George Talboys, and coheiress of her brother Gilbert, lord Talboys of Kyme. His portrait is in the College of Arms. His eldest son, Robert Dymoke (d. 1580), is stated by catholic biographers to have been dragged in a weak state of health before the Bishop of Lincoln and charged with recusancy. He was imprisoned at Lincoln, and is asserted to have died in confinement. He was buried at Scrivelsby in 1580 (Gillow, Bibliogr. Dict. of Catholics; Challoner, Memoirs, i.) Robert's son, Sir Edward (d. 1625), was champion at James I's coronation. His grandson Charles performed the office at Charles I's coronation; after showing himself a staunch royalist, he died at Oxford in 1644, and left 2,000l. to the king. His body was removed to Scrivelsby in 1655. Sir Edward Dymoke (d. 1664), Charles's nephew, was champion at Charles II's coronation, being knighted the day before. Sir Edward's son, Sir Charles, champion to James II, was succeeded by his eldest son, Charles (d. 1703), champion at William and Mary's and at Anne's coronations. Of this champion, who was returned M.P. for Lincolnshire in 1698, 1700, 1701, and 1702, Pryme writes in his ‘Ephemeris Vitæ’ that he ‘holds certain lands by exhibiting on a certain day every year a milk-white bull with black ears to the people, who are to run it down, and then it is cut in pieces and given among the poor. His estate is almost 2,000l. a year, and whoever has it is champion of England.’ Sir Charles's second son, Lewis (d. 1760), was champion to George I and George II. Lewis's heir was a collateral relative, Edward (d. 1760), whose son John (d. 1784) was champion at George III's coronation, when there was some talk of a Jacobite accepting the formal challenge. John's son, Lewis (d. 12 May 1820, aged 57), claimed in 1814 the barony of Marmion as owner of Scrivelsby, but without success. The last occasion on which the champion appeared was at the coronation of George IV (19 July 1821), when Henry Dymoke (1801–1865) performed the ceremony as the representative of his father, the Rev. John Dymoke, rector of Scrivelsby (Lewis's brother), who deemed the office incompatible with the functions of a clergyman. The champion rode up Westminster Hall in great state, accompanied by the Duke of Wellington and Lord Howard of Effingham (for a full account of the ceremony then observed see Gent. Mag. 1821, pt. ii. pp. 15, 109, with plate and letter-press by Sir Walter Scott). This Henry, the last champion, was at one time in the navy, wrote against Brougham's defence of Queen Caroline in 1821, was created a baronet in April 1841, and died 28 April 1865, when his title became extinct (Gent. Mag. 1865, i. 802). His brother John, rector of Scrivelsby, died in November 1873, and his nephew, the latest representative of this branch of the family, Henry Lionel Dymoke (b. 1832), died in 1877. A cap-à-pie suit of plate armour of the Elizabethan period belonging to the hereditary champion of Scrivelsby, and worn at George I's coronation, was sold at Christie's in 1877, and purchased for the collection at Windsor.
The chief part of the mansion of Scrivelsby was destroyed by fire late in the last century, and the present house is largely a new building (cf. Gent. Mag. 1821, pt. ii. pp. 395–7). In the church of the village are the tombs of Sir Robert Dymoke (d. 1546), and of Lewis (d. 1760). There are also mural tablets to the memory of John (d. 1784), of Lewis (d. 1820), and of the Rev. John, father of Sir Henry Dymoke.[T. C. Banks's Hist. of the Marmion Family, 1816; Palmer's Hist. of the Marmion Family, 1875; Mark Noble's MS. Hist. of the Dymoke Family, in the possession of the Rev. J. C. Hudson of Horncastle, Lincolnshire; Official Lists of Members of Parliament; W. Jones's Crowns and Coronations, 1883; notes and documents lent by the Rev. J. C. Hudson.]