John Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel

FITZALAN, JOHN VI, Earl of Arundel, (1408–1435), born in 1408, was the son of John Fitzalan, lord Maltravers, and of his wife, Eleanor, daughter of Sir John Berkeley of Beverston. His father, the grandson of Sir John Arundel, marshal of England, and of Eleanor, heiress of the house of Maltravers, inherited, in accordance with an entail made by Earl Richard II [see Fitzalan, Richard II]), the castle and earldom of Arundel after the decease, without heirs male, of Earl Thomas [ses Fitzalan, Thomas] and was in 1416 summoned to parliament as Earl of Arundel. But Thomas Mowbray, duke of Norfolk, the husband of Earl Thomas’s eldest sister, contested his claim both to the estate and title, and he received no further summons as earl. On his death, in 1421, the question was still unsettled, and the long minority both of his son and of John, duke of Norfolk, his rival, still further put off the suit.

The younger John, called Lord Maltravers, was knighted in 1426, at the same time as Henry VI at Leicester (Fœdera, x. 357). On attaining his majority he was summoned to parliament as a baron (12 July 1429). But he still claimed the earldom, and official documents describe him as ‘John, calling himself Earl of Arundel’ (Nicolas, Proceedings and Ord. of Privy Council, iv. 28). At last, in November 1444, on his renewed petition, it was decided in Parliament that his clainms were good, and ‘John, now Earl of Arundel, was admitted to the place and seat anciently belonging to the earls of Arundel in parliament and council’ (Rot. Parl. iv. 441-3; cf. Lords’ Report on the Dignity of a Peer, p. 405 sq.; and Tierney, Hist. of Arundel. pp. 107-39, for very different comments on the whole case).

Arundel’s petition had been sent from the field in France, where his distinguished services had warmly enlisted the regent Bedford in his favour, and possibly hastened the favourable decision. In February 1430, he had entered into indentures to serve Henry in the French wars, and on 23 April was among the magnates that disembarked with the young king at Calais (Waurin, Chroniques, 1422-31, p. 360). In June he joined Bedford at Compiègne, and brilliantly distinguished himself in the siege of that place (Saint-Remy,ii. 181-4). He was thence sent by Bedford to co-operate with a Burgundian force in saving Champagne from the victorious course of the French governor, Barbasan. He compelled Barbasan to raise the siege of Anglure, a place situated between Troyes and Chalons, but he could not force an engagement, and was constrained to retreat, leaving Anglure a ruin to save it from falling into the enemies’ hands (WWaurin, pp. 395, 396; cf. Martin, Hist. de France, vi. 245). In the summer of 1431 he was called with Talbot from the siege of Louviers to defend the Beauvaisis from invasion, and took part in the action in which Saintrailles was captured (Saint-Remy, ii. 263). On 17 Dec. he was at Henrv VI’s coronation at Paris, and next day shared with the bastard of St. Pol ‘the applause of the ladies for being the best tilters’ at a tournament (Monstrelet, liv. ii. ch. 110).

In February 1432 Arundel was made captain of the castle of Rouen, and on the night of 3 March was surprised in his bed by Ricarville and 120 picked soldiers, admitted by the treacherv of a Béarnais soldier. Arundel had only time to escape from capture; but the gallant attack was unsupported by a larger force, and Arundel managed to confine the assailants to the castle, where twelve days later they were forced to surrender (Chéruel, Rouen sur les Anglais, p. 113; cf. Pièces Justificatives, p.94; Monstrelet, liv. ii. ch. 113). Soon after he was despatched by Bedford with twelve hundred men to reconquer some French fortresses in the Isle de France. He captured several, but was checked at Lagny-sur-Marne, where, after partial successes, the greater part of his troops deserted. Not even the arrival of Bedford could secure the capture of Lagny. In November Arundel returned to Rouen as captain of the town, castle, and bridge (Luce, Chronique de Mont Saint-Michel, ii. 14). In 1433 he was at the head of a separate army, which operated mostly upon the southern Norman frontier, where his troops held Vernon on the Seine and Verneuil in Perche (Stevenson, Wars of English in France, ii. 256, 542, 543); while he was engaged on countless skirmishes, forays, and sieges (Polydore Vergil, p. 482,ed. 1570). With such success were his dashing attacks attended that he was able to carry his arms beyond Normandy into Anjou and Maine (ib.) He is described as ‘lieutenant of the king and regent in the lower marches of Normandy’ (Luce, ii. 20). His cruelty, no less than his success, made him exceptionally odious to French patriots (Blondel, Reductio Normanniæ, pp. 190-6, is very eloquent on this subject; cf. Monstrelet, liv. ii. ch. 158). In the summer of 1534 he was despatched with Lord Willoughby to put down a popular revolt among the peasants of Lower Normandy. This gave them little difficulty, though in January 1435 Arundel was still engaged on the task (Luce, ii. 53). The clemency with which he sought to spare the peasants and punish the leaders only was so little seconded by his troops that it might well have seemed to the French a new act of cruelty (PoPol. Verg. p. 483). In February 1435 his approach led Alençon to abandon with precipitation the siege of Avranches (Luce, ii. 54).

In May 1435 Arundel was despatched by Bedford to stay the progress of the French arms on the Lower Somme; but on his arrival at Gournay he found that the enemy had repaired the old fortress of Gerberoy in the Beauvaisis, whence they were devastating all the Vexin. He accordingly marched by night from Gournay to Gerberoy, and arrived at eight in the morning before the latter place. But La Hire and Saintrailles had secretly collected a large force outside the walls, and simultaneous attacks on the English van from the castle and from the outside soon put it in confusion, while the main body was driven back in panic retreat to Gournay. Arundel and the small remainder of the van took up a strong position in the corner of a field, protected in the rear by a hedge, and in front by pointed stakes; but cannon were brought from the castle, and the second shot from a culverin shattered Arundel’s ankle. On the return of La Hire from the pursuit the whole body was slain or captured (Monstrelet, liv. ii. ch. 172). Arundel was taken to Beauvais, where the injured limb was amputated. He was so disgusted at his defeat that he rejected the aid of medicine (Basin, i. 111), and on 12 June he died. His body was first deposited in the church of the Cordeliers of that town. A faithful Shropshire squire, Fulk Eyton, bought the remains from the French, and his executors sold them to his brother William, the next earl but one, who deposited them in the noble tomb in the collegiate chapel at Arundel, which Earl John had himself designed for his interment (Tierney in Sussex Arch. Collections, xii. 232-9). His remains show that he was over six feet in height. The French regarded the death of the ‘English Achilles’ with great satisfaction. ‘He was a valiant knight,’ says Berry king-at-arms, ‘and if he had lived he would have wrought great mischief to France’ (Godefroy, p. 389). ‘He was,’ says Polydore Vergil, ‘a man of singular valour, constancy, and gravity.’ But his exploits were those of a knight and partisan rather than those of a real general. He had just before his death been created Duke of Touraine, and in 1432 had been made a knight of the Garter.

Arundel had been twice married. His first wife was Constance, daughter of Lord Fanhope; his second Maud, daughter of Robert Lovell, and widow of Sir R. Stafford. By the latter he left a son, Humphrey (1429-1438), who succeeded him in the earldom. On Humphrey’s early death, his uncle, William IV Fitzalan (1417-1487), the younger son of John V, became Earl of Arundel. He was succeeded by his son, Thomas II Fitzalan (1450-1524), whose successor was William V Fitzalan (1483-1544), the father of Henry Fitzalan [q. v.] [Monstrelet’s Chronique, ed. Douet d’Arcq (Soc. de l’Histoire de France); Waurin’s Chroniques, 1422-31 (Rolls Series); Jean le Fèvre, Seigneur de Saint-Remy, Chroniques (Soc. de l’Histoire de France); Thomas Basin’s Histoire de Charles VII, vol. i. (Soc. de l’Histoire de France); Godefroy’s Histoire de Charles VII, par Jean Chartier, Jacques le Bonvier,&c. (Paris, 1661); Stevenson’s Wars of English in France (Rolls Series); Blondel’s De Reductione Normanniæ (Rolls Series); Hall’s Chronicle, ed. 1809; Polydore Vergil’s Hist. Angl. ed. 1570; Rolls of Parl., vol. iv.; Luce’s Chron. de Mont Saint-Michel, vol. ii. (Soc. des Anciens Textes Français); Doyle’s Official Baronage, i. 76; Tierney’s Hist. of Arundel, pp. 106-27, 292-303, and 625, corrected in Sussex Arch. Coll. xii. 232-9; Lords’ Rep. on Dignity of a Peer; Martin’s Hist. de France, vol. vi.]

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 19
Fitzalan, John (1408-1435) by Thomas Frederick Tout

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