This is a snippet of domestic history that hints at the wider social and political turmoil of the Fifteenth Century.
The Victoria County History for Essex reveals that In 1454 Sir John Bataille temporarily forfeited two-thirds of his manor in Ongar. He had pledged the property as surety for the good behaviour of Robert Poynings, who had been ‘carver and swordbearer’ to Jack Cade (and who had married Elizabeth Paston the same year as becoming involved in the Kent rebellion). He was pardoned and bound over to keep the peace, but failed to do so. It wasn’t until 1455 that Poynings was cleared of treason having been outlawed in the meantime. John Bataille, who’d clearly been a good friend to Poynings in his time of need, was left out of pocket. His land was removed from him by the king for 15 years – which is an awful lot of rent to miss out on especially as he died a short time after it was returned to his care.
There is evidence of Sir John Bataille’s straitened circumstances because in 1468, he mortgaged the manor of Magdalen Laver to Sir Thomas Cooke for £200. Soon afterwards Thomas became owner of the estate. (S) Magdalen Laver: Manor, A History of the County of Essex: V4: 1956.
And don’t be mistaken into believing that Robert Poynings was a disgruntled soldier returning from the disasterous war with France neither was he a yeoman nor a peasant who was fed up with taxation and an unfair social system. No, not at all…Robert Poynings’ grandfather was a baron who had settled the manors of Newington, Eastwell and Westwood in Kent on his granddaughter, Eleanor Poynings – the wife of the Earl of Northumberland. Our Robert had a countess for a niece and he wasn’t happy that she’d bagged the land which he had his eye upon. Even worse, someone else had carted off his grandfather’s belongings. (Was everyone related to everyone else at the beginning of the Wars of the Roses? It must have been ever so difficult to keep track of which members of your family you weren’t speaking with.) Anyway, back to Poynings -it was this disgruntlement with his grandfather’s will and the response to his lawsuit that apparently led him to join with Cade. It didn’t do him any harm in the long run as he ended up as MP for Sussex.
So why did Sir John pledge his property? Well his wife Elizabeth who was the daughter of John Orell and Alice Poynings. Didn’t I say everyone was related to everyone else?
Now while this isn’t a complete biography by any stretch of the imagination it does provide a snapshot that goes to show that family alliances and friendships could have far reaching consequences during the reign of Henry VI in the run up to the Wars of the Roses.