Thomas De Grey (1359-1466)

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Thomas De Grey (1359-1466)
Sex: Male
Birth: 1359
Death: 26 NOV 1466
Father: Thomas De Grey
Mother: Margaret De Pressene
Spouse/Partner: Jane De Mowbray (1362-1402)
Marriage: about 1381


The Greys like many families, raised their station in society by advantageous marriage over several generations. Thomas Gray, married in c. 1384, Joan, sister of Thomas de Mowbray, recently created earl of Nottingham. The Grays owned no land south of the Tees, and at the time of the marriage, the earl of Nottingham had no interest in the far north; a marriage of such imminence, propelling Thomas into the social circles of the titled nobility, suggests that his family had established a national standing in just three generations.

By the beginning of Richard II’s reign, when the third Thomas Gray came of age, the Anglo-Scottish Marshes were once again under threat from Scotland, pushing them toward the top of the crown’s agenda, while the status of the Gray family was now so well established that the third Thomas was actively sought after as a retainer by both the nobility and crown. He received considerable royal patronage. He was retained by Richard II in October 1389 at a fee of L50 and serving on numerous commissions. Shortly before he had been appointed steward of the bishopric of Durham by the newly appointed bishop Walter Skirlaw. From 1397 he was a royal justice of the peace and he served as a knight of the shire for Northumberland in 1397 and 1399.

An indication of his standing in the society of the northern part of the country can be ascertained by the fact that when Ralph, lord Lumley, built his Castle at Lumley, his arms were on the main gate with those of the earl of Northumberland, Ralph De Neville, lord Neville, Ralph, lord Lumley, William lord Hylton and the arms of the king.

There is an indication of his having a relationship with the Percies, because his son, Thomas, was born in Alnwick Castle in October 1384. When his brother in law De Mowbray was appointed warden of the East March, March 1389, Thomas served as his deputy. Later when De Mowbray was made Duke of Norfolk October 1398), and then went into exile after being accused of treason, Thomas Gray was one of the council of nine appointed by the king to look after his interests while he was absent. De Mowbray died in September of the following September from the plague, in Venice, Italy.

He was enfeoffed with the castle of Wark on Tweed, and the lordship of it, by Ralph De Neville, Earl of Westmoreland about 1398. This was probably part of a settlement made with the marriage of his son Thomas to Ralph's daughter Alice. The De Nevilles were close allies to the house of Lancaster and made a very important connection for him. Through the connection, he became part of Bolingbroke's coup as soon as he landed in England. Bolingbroke had played a large part in his brother in law De Mowbray's downfall. Through his political connection to the Lancaster's and Bolingbroke, he was made a knight of the shire for Northumberland in September of 1399. And he was one of the witnesses to Richard II's renunciation of the throne

While he was absent, the Scots sacked his castle at Wark, and ransomed his family. He obtained Henry IV’s favor and was given an increased annuity of 100 marks; and at his premature death in November 1400, the future looked bright for his sixteen year old heir, Thomas. However, just fifteen years later, Thomas was to put all of his family’s achievements in jeopardy by indulging in a wildly unrealistic and incompetent conspiracy against Henry V.

The Gesta Henrici Quinti described the fourth Thomas Gray as ‘a knight famous and noble if only he had not been dishonored by this stain of treason’. He had initially enjoyed the benefits of being the son in law of the Earl of Westmoreland, who retained him for life in August 1404, purchasing for him the office of constable of Bamburgh Castle from the king. However, he also associated himself with the earl of Northumberland, whom he was serving as constable of Berwick, and by February 1405, such an association was neither compatible with a Neville connection, nor indeed, very wise.

There is no proof that the younger Thomas Gray actually joined Percy’s rebellion of May 1405, but he did lose his father in laws favor and the constableship of Bamburgh, which was assumed by Richard Arundel in 1408. He received an appointment by the crown to the commissions of peace in November 1405, February 1407 and May 1410, and served as sheriff of Northumberland in 1408; that October he was granted an annuity of L40 by the Prince of Wales. His annuity, though, seems to have soon dried up, and he seems to have faced considerable financial difficulties, perhaps due to the increasingly unsettled condition of the Marches at this time. Thomas faced outlawry for a debt of L2 to a London spur-maker. He most likely would have resented not inheriting his father's office as Constable of Norham Castle. When his father died the king appointed a Lancastrian retainer, William de Carnaby.

He must have still maintained good enough a reputation, because he married his son, Thomas, the 3rd of that name, to Isabel, the daughter of Richard of York, Earl of Cambridge. The marriage hinged around Gray’s purchase of the lordship of Wark in Tyndale, from the childless, Edward, duke of York, elder brother of Richard, for L500, payable in six annual installments of L83 6s 8d. As the lordship was reckoned to be worth over 200 marks per annum in time of peace, this was a veitable bargain at about half the customary market rate. Even at this low price, it seems to have been more than he could afford and he was left in financial difficulty. He did not have enough royal patronage or anything from the other lords he had been associated with.

He allowed himself to be dragged into the deluded plotting of the earl of Cambridge; indeed, he himself attributed his ruin ‘to povery (and) covetousness’. He was condemned and eecuted for treason.

His family does not seem to have been punished for his folly because his son inherited an unblemished estate. Other families that had been involved in the plot had forfeited their estates.

Name Birth Death
Children of Thomas De Grey and Joan De Mowbray

Agnes De Grey BET 1356 AND 1377
Heton, Northumberland, England
25 OCT 1420
Durham, England

Maud De Grey (BET 1380-1453) BET 1380 AND 1394
Wark, England
AFT 21 AUG 1451

Thomas De Grey 30 NOV 1384
Castle, Alnwick, Northumberland, England
3 AUG 1415
North Gate, Southampton, Hampshire, England

John De Grey about 1386
Wark Upon Tweed, Northumberland, , England
22 MAR 1418/19
Anjou, Isere, Rhone-Alpes, France

William De Grey about 1388
Heton, Northumberland, England
ABT 1435

Henry De Grey Ketteringham, Norfolk, Massachusetts, USA
after 1415


  • The Magna Charta Barons and Their American Descendants 1898: Together With ... - Page 384

by Charles H. Browning -

  • North-east England in the Later Middle Ages: Regions & regionalism in history - Page 68by Christian Drummond Liddy, R. H. Britnell - History - 2005

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