Henry Bourchier. Earl of Essex

BOURCHIER, HENRY, Earl of Essex (d. 1483), was the son of Sir William Bourchier, earl of Ewe or Eu, and of Anne, daughter of Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester, and widow of Edmund, earl of Stafford. He was therefore great-grandson of Robert Bourchier [q. v.], chancellor to Edward III, brother of Thomas [q.v.], archbishop of Canterbury, and of Anne, wife of John, duke of Norfolk, and half-brother of Humfrey, duke of Buckingham. Early in the reign of Henry VI he served in the French war, going to Calais in 1430 with the king and the Duke of York. He succeeded his father as earl of Ewe, and was once summoned to parliament by that title. In 1435 he succeeded to the barony of Bourchier. He served in France under the Duke of York, was appointed lieutenant-general in 1440, and in 1443 was captain of Crotoy in Picardy. He was summoned to parliament as Viscount Bourchier in 1446. He married Isabel, daughter of Richard, earl of Cambridge, and aunt of Edward IV. In 1451 he served on the commission of oyer and terminer for Kent and Sussex. The battle of St. Albans made the Duke of York and his party the masters of the king, and on 29 May 1455 Henry appointed Bourchier, the duke’s brother-in-law, treasurer of the kingdom. Bourchier held office until 5 Oct. 1456, and was then succeeded by the Earl of Shrewsbury—a change that ‘perhaps indicates that the mediating policy of the Duke of Buckingham was exchanged for a more determined one’ (Stubbs, Const. Hist. iii. 176); for up to this time the Bourchiers, in spite of their close connection with the house of York, held a kind of middle place between the two parties, and, though the queen’s party came into power in February, continued to hold office in what may be called the Lancastrian government. His and his brother’s sudden discharge from office was put down to the queen’s influence (Paston Letters, i. 408). In 1460 Bourchier was with the Earls of March and Warwick at the battle of Northampton, and was therefore by that time a declared partisan of the duke. On the accession of his nephew, Edward IV, he was created earl of Essex (30 June 1461); he was made treasurer for the second time, and held office for a year. He received from the king the castle of Werk and the honour of Tindall, in Northumberland, together with many other estates in different counties. In 1471 the earl was again made treasurer, and retained his office during the rest of his life. When, on 28 May 1473, John de Vere, earl of Oxford, landed at St. Osyth’s, Essex and others rode against him and compelled him to re-embark (Paston Letters, iii. 92). In this year also he was for about a month keeper of the great seal during the vacancy of the chancellorship. Essex died 4 April 1483, and was buried at Bylegh. He had a large family. His eldest son, William, who married Anne Woodville, died during his lifetime, and he was therefore succeeded by his grandson, Henry [q. v.] His second son, Sir Henry Bourchier, married the daughter and heiress of Lord Scales; the third son, Humfrey, Lord Cromwell, died in the battle of Barnet; the fourth son, Sir John, married the niece and heiress of Lord Ferrers of Groby. He had four other children.

[Polydore Vergil’s Hist. Angl. 1299, ed. 1603; Paston Letters, ed. Gairdner; Will. Worcester; Dugdale’s Baronage, ii. 129; Stubbs’s Constitutional History, iii. 176; Foss’s Judges of England, iv. 423.]

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 06
Bourchier, Henry (d.1483) by William Hunt

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