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Scrope, Richard le (1327?-1403) (DNB00)

SCROPE, RICHARD le, first Baron Scrope of Bolton (1327?–1403), chancellor of England, was the third son of Sir Henry le Scrope (d. 1336) [q. v.], chief justice of the king's bench, and his wife Margaret. At the age of seventeen (November 1344) he succeeded his eldest brother, William, in their father's estates. He had already served with this brother in Brittany, but won his first laurels at Neville's Cross, where he was knighted on the field, after which he lost no time in joining the king before Calais. There was hardly a campaign in France or Scotland for forty years to follow in which Scrope was not engaged. He early attached himself to the service of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, in whose train he fought at Najara (1367), and in nearly all his subsequent expeditions down to 1385. This association went far to determine the part he played in the critical domestic politics of the closing years of Edward III's reign. On 8 Jan. 1371 Scrope—who had once (1365) sat for his county in the commons—was summoned to the upper house, and on 27 March succeeded Bishop Brantingham as treasurer on Sir Robert Thorp taking the great seal from William of Wykeham. This substitution of lay for clerical ministers was not particularly successful. It was Scrope no doubt who, on a tax upon parishes being proposed, estimated their number at forty thousand, while in reality there were only 8,600. He laid down his office in September 1375 to take up the (joint) wardenship of the west marches against Scotland.

On Richard II's accession Scrope became steward of the household, an office to which the minority gave unusual importance. He figured prominently in the first two parliaments of the reign, in the second of which, held at Gloucester, the great seal was transferred (29 Oct. 1378) to him. He remained chancellor for little more than a year, giving way to Archbishop Sudbury on 27 Jan. 1380, and returning to the business of the Scottish border. But on 4 Dec. 1381 he again became chancellor and a member of the commission headed by Lancaster to inquire into the state of the royal household. But as the nominee of parliament and Lancaster (who between 1380 and 1384 retained his services for life in peace and war), Scrope was soon at variance with the young king. He refused to seal Richard's lavish grants, and, when royal messengers demanded the great seal from him, would only surrender it into the king's own hands (11 July 1382). He told Richard that he would never again take office under him (Walsingham, ii. 68).

Retiring into the north, Scrope resumed his activity as warden on the border, and was in both the Scottish expeditions of 1384 and 1385. It was on the latter occasion that he challenged the right of Sir Robert Grosvenor to bear the same arms as himself—viz. azure, bend or. This was not the first dispute of the kind in which Scrope had engaged. At Calais in 1347 his right to the crest of a crab issuing from a coronet had been unsuccessfully challenged (Scrope and Grosvenor Roll, i. 62). Again, before Paris in 1360, a Cornish squire named Carminowe, who bore the same arms, had questioned his right to them. It was then decided that both were entitled to bear them—Carminowe because his ancestors had borne them since the time of King Arthur, and because Cornwall was ‘un grosse terre et jadis portant le noun dune roialme;’ and Scrope because his forefathers had used this blazon since the days of William the Conqueror (ib. i. 50, 214). The bearings were simple, and their recurrence easily explicable in districts so isolated from each other as Yorkshire, Cheshire, and Cornwall. Nevertheless, after a trial extending over nearly five years [see under Grosvenor, Sir Robert, for details], in which doubts were thrown on the gentility of Scrope as the son of a ‘man of law,’ judgment was finally given (27 May 1390) entirely in his favour. He got his adversary excused a fine incurred by non-payment of the costs, and the two were publicly reconciled before the king in parliament. The records of the trial and depositions of the witnesses, printed by Sir Harris Nicolas in 1832, throw much incidental light upon the early history of the Scrope family and upon the details of Edward III's wars. Scrope's son, the Earl of Wiltshire, abandoned the crab crest for a plume of feathers azure, leaving the former to the Masham branch. There is an impression of the ‘sigillum de Crabb’ in the ‘Testamenta Eboracensia’ (ii. 187).

The celebrated controversy had been interrupted by the political crisis of 1386–9, in which Scrope sided with the king's opponents, and sat on their commission of government. His opposition at least was disinterested, for he spoke out boldly in parliament on behalf of his much maligned brother-in-law, Michael de la Pole, earl of Suffolk [q. v.] (Rot. Parl. iii. 216–17). On Richard's resuming power and ruling with more deference to his subjects' susceptibilities, Scrope was more than once employed in negotiations with France and Scotland, and occasionally acted as a trier of petitions in parliament. But his advancing age induced him to devote much of his time to good works and the completion of his great castle at Bolton. The abbey of St. Agatha at Easby, close to Richmond, in which his father, its second founder, lay buried, had already experienced his generosity. He now (about 1393) set aside an annual rent of 100l. to provide twelve additional canons to pray for himself and his family. The fine late decorated refectory is said to have been his work (Testamenta Eboracensia, i. 274). He got the church of Wensley made collegiate, and furnished the chapels of St. Anne and St. Oswald at Bolton with a priest apiece (Dugdale, i. 655). His castle of Bolton, placed on the north side of Wensleydale five miles west of Wensley, was now rapidly approaching completion. The license to crenellate had been granted in 1379, but the contract with the builder is at least a year earlier. Though he lived to see it finished, Scrope passed most of his later life at ‘Scrope's Inn,’ Holborn, or at the manor of Pishobury in Hertfordshire, purchased in 1394 (Wylie, ii. 193). As the last stones of Bolton Castle were being placed in position, Richard took his belated revenge upon his old adversaries of 1386. But Scrope's former moderation or his eldest son's favour with the king procured an exception in his favour. On 29 Nov. 1397 a full pardon issued to ‘Sir Richard le Scrop, an adherent of the Duke of Gloucester’ (Fœdera, viii. 26). On the king's overthrow two years later, the odium incurred by Scrope's son as a chief agent of his tyranny threatened his father with a new danger. He appeared in the first parliament of Henry IV, and ‘humbly and in tears’ entreated the new king not to visit the sins of the son upon his father and brothers. Henry graciously consented that they should not be disinherited for Wiltshire's treason (Rot. Parl. iii. 453). With one exception—on the occasion of the attainder of the conspirators of Christmas 1399 in January 1401—this was Scrope's last public appearance. He died on 30 May 1403, and was buried in the abbey of St. Agatha. In ‘Testamenta Eboracensia’ (ii. 186) is a notice of a pension which he had to grant to a person seriously wounded by himself and his servants in York Minster.

By his wife Blanche (d. after 1378), daughter of Sir William de la Pole of Hull, Scrope had four sons, of whom the eldest, William, earl of Wiltshire (d. 1399), is separately noticed.

The second son, Roger, succeeded him as second baron, but died in the same year (3 Dec.), when his son Richard (b. 1393?), by one of the coheiresses of Robert, lord Tiptoft, became third baron; Richard's grandson was John le Scrope, fifth baron Scrope of Bolton [q. v.]

The third son, Stephen, whom his father married to a second Tiptoft coheiress, became in her right lord of Bentley, near Doncaster, and of Castle Combe, Wiltshire, where he founded a family, which has lasted to our own day [see Scrope, William, (1772–1852)]. In 1397 he served as justice of Munster, Leinster, and Uriell. He was one of the few who remained faithful to Richard II until his arrest, but under Henry IV became joint keeper of Roxburghe Castle (1400) and deputy-lieutenant of Ireland (1401). He won a victory there at Callan in September 1407, and died of the plague at Castledermot on 4 Sept. 1408. His widow married (January 1409) Sir John Fastolf [q. v.] He left a son Stephen and a daughter Elizabeth (Wylie, ii. 124, iii. 162, 168; Devon, Issues, p. 280; Testamenta Eboracensia, iii. 38; Holinshed, Ireland, p. 66).

The fourth son, Richard, is only mentioned in a deed, dated 31 Oct. 1366 (Scrope and Grosvenor Roll, ii. 53). In consequence of an ambiguous expression in Scrope's will (Testamenta Eboracensia, i. 272), Richard le Scrope [q. v.], archbishop of York, has often been considered his son, even since Sir Harris Nicolas's convincing proof of his real parentage (Scrope and Grosvenor Roll, ii. 121). Some authorities doubtfully give Scrope a second wife; but they are not agreed whether she was a Margaret, daughter of Sir John Montfort, or a lady named Spencer. The fact seems doubtful.

[Rotuli Parliamentorum; Rymer's Fœdera, original edit.; Walsingham's Historia Anglicana (Rolls Ser.); Testamenta Eboracensia (Surtees Soc.); Scrope and Grosvenor Roll, ed. Nicolas, 2 vols. 1832 (the second volume contains pedigrees of both branches of the Scropes, lives of their members down to 1405, and biographies of most of Scrope's witnesses); Quarterly Review, April 1836; Dugdale's Baronage; Wylie's History of Henry IV.]

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