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Bourchier Family

In the following pages I will try and cover all aspects of the Bourchier family and their descendants.  If you find anything missing, please email me so that I may correct things.  I am also looking for any photo, portraits, certificates, etc. that I may add to these pages to make more of a history of the Bourchier family.  Any help will be greatly appreciated.

(The information on these pages have either been sent to me from various sources, or I have found through the internet or my local library.  Some of the places I have visited and taken photos.)

From Edward I to the start of the Commonwealth, some four centuries, few families equalled and none had as much wealth or political power as the Bourchier family.   This family intermarried with the royal house of Loraine and with many Plantagenent princesses of England. Many of its member filled every important office and dignity of the state.

There are, or were, many Bourchier families, and Burke's General Armoury gives eleven coasts of arms for the name spelt that way.  Then there are coats under variations of the spelling.  The family are of Norman descent, one of whom, we believe, was a Count Bourchier, (from Eu, in Normandy, France,) buried in Battle Abbey(On a recent visit to Battle Abbey, I could find no known graves or stones indicating any burials, only that of King Harold - the spot where he died. I have made several enquiries both at Battle Abbey and at record departments and no one knows of any known graves.  Apprently the soil is to acidic and bones would not have lasted long there.)   The arms of this family seem to date from one of the Crusades and are very ancient.  Those born by the first Earl of Eu and by all his descendants are: vix. Argent, a cross engrailed gules, between four water bougets sable.  The crest or Bourchier knot (also described as a badge) was of a later date.  It is engraved on the tomb of Archbishop Thomas Bourchier in Canterbury Cathedral, and it was also used by his brother Lord Berners in the reign of Edward IV (1461-83.)

The original Barony of Bourchier dates from the reign of Edward III.  

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John Bourchier (1278-1328)

Sir John was a knight and on the Justices of the King's Bench.  He was married to Helen, daughter of Walter of Colchester.

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Sir Robert Bourchier (1306-1349)

Robert was a Member of Parliament for Essex 1329, 1330, and 1330.
1334 was made Chief Justice of the King's Bench in Ireland, (although he does not appear to have accepted the office.)
1336 he was granted a license to make his mansion, Stanstead Hall at Halstead, in Essex into a castle.
In 1340 he was placed in charge of the Great Seal of England in the capacity of the Lord Chancellor of England, he was summoned to Parliament as a peer in 1342.
In 1342 Robert was created Baron and in 1348 he was knighted for his participation in the Battle of Crecy, 26 August 1346.
The barony went to his eldest son, Bartholomew, Lord Bourchier, whose only daughter Elizabeth, though twice married, had not issue.
He died of the plague in 1349.

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John Bourchier (1329-1400)

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Sir John, a figure from Tradition of London

Knight of the Garter.  Fought at Poitiers and served with the Black Prince in Gascony; also with Thomas of Woodstock in France.  Governor of Flanders.

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Sir William Bourchier (1330-1375)

Sir William, the second son of the 1st Baron, was the father of William Bourchier, Constable of the Tower, who was created Earl of Eu in Normandy in 1419 by Henry V.  He allied himself to the Plantagenet Kings by marring Ann, the only surviving daughter and heir of Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester,  Ann was descended through her mother Eleanor de Bohun from the ancient and illustrious family that had held the Earldoms of Hereford, Essex and Northampton.  Thomas of Woostock was the youngest son of King Edward III and Philippa of Hainult.

The first Earl of Eu had four sons:

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Henry Bourchier (1404-1483)

2nd Earl of Eu, married Isabel, sister of Richard, Duke of York.  Henry was the eldest son of Whilliam Bourchier, Count of Eu.  His mother, Anne, was one of the daughters of Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, the youngest son of Edward III.   In 1461 he was created Earl of Essex which title remained in the Bourchier family until 1539, when Henry, the 2nd Earl died from injured received in a tournament.  This Henry, a most valiant Knight, had the principal command at the Battle of Blackheath. Lieutenant-general under Duke of York in France 1440, captain of Crotoy, Picardy, 1443.  Henry was created Viscount Bourchier in 1445.  He fought for York at the 1st battle of St Albans, and at the battle of Towton.   In 1455 he had served as Treasurer of England during the time of his brother-in-law York’s term as Protector. He filled the position again in 1460, and from 1471 to 1483, under Edward IV. Edward gave him the title Earl of Essex in 1461. After Edward returned from exile to reclaim his throne in 1471 his uncle once more joined him in arms, at the advanced age of 68, fighting at the battle of Barnet. Two of Henry’s sons died in battle for Edward IV, Edward in 1460, and Humphrey, Lord Cromwell, in 1471. Henry himself lived until 1483. He died on April 4th, just five days before his nephew King Edward. He was buried in Beeleigh Abbey, but his tomb was transferred to King’s Langley Church after the suppression of the monasteries.  On his death the Earldom of Essex and the Viscounty of Bourchier expired and he was succeeded in the Barony of Bourchier by his only daughter Ann, who married Lord Parr of Kendall.  They had several children, all of whom were illegitimate by Act of Parliament in 1542, (Her husband, by special Act of Parliament, was allowed to divorce her and marry another.)  The Earldom of Essex was revived later in the Devereux family (where the Barony of Bourchier was also merged,) they being descended from Cicely Bourchier a daughter of the 1st Earl.
The Bourchier arms: Quarterly, first and fourth, argent, a cross engrailed gules, between four water bougets sable; second and third, gules, billety and a fess or, and their crest A man’s head in profile with sable hair and beard, ducally crowned or, with a pointed cap gules.

Stall-plate of Henry Bourchier, Earl of Essex, St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.

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William Bourchier (1407-1470)

Lord Fitzwarine, jure uxoris, from whom descended John Bourchier, created Earl of Bath in 1536 by Henry VIII.  Afterwards the earldom became extinct and the Barony of Ftizwarine has been abeyant since 1636.  A co-heir to the barony is Sir Bourchier Wrey, Baronet, creation (E) 1628, of Trebich, Cornwall, and there are, or were, other claimants.

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Thomas Bourchier (1412-1486)

He was Cardinal, and Archbishop of Canterbury, died in 1486. Thomas was, says Weaver "preferred to the Bishopric of Worcester, from whence he was translated to Ely and lastly enthroned in this chair of Canterbury, where he sat for thirty years, and lived after that time of his first consecration fifty-nine years.  I find not that ever an Englishman continued so long a bishop, or that any archbishop either before or after him, in 800 years, enjoyed that place so long."  He erected a magnificent monument to himself in Canterbury Cathedral.

Tomb of Archbishop Thomas Bourchier in Canterbury Cathedral

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Sir John Bourchier  K.G. (1415-1474)

King's Guard-Constable of Windsor Castle.  This title was passed to Sir John in right of his wife, Lady Margery de Berners, daughter and sole heir to Richard de Berners of West Horsley, County Surrey, England, Constable of  Windsor Castle.   Sir John was summoned to Parliament as Baron de Berners in 1455, was the father of the celebrated Sir Humphrey Bourchier (1440-1471), killed at the Battle of Barnet in 1471.  

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Sir Humphrey Bourchier (1440-1471)

Sir Humphrey was married to Elizabeth Tilney, sole heir to Sir Richard Tilney, Knt. Elizabeth's father Richard Tilney of Boston was associated with the Pilgrim Fathers.  He was killed at the Battle of Barnet, he is buried in the Chapel of St. Edmund, Westminster Abbey, where there was once a magnificent tomb, now much damaged, but worth seeing. 

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John Bourchier (1467-1522)

"A Tournament held before the Duke of Lancaster; from an early sixteenth-century edition of Froissart's Chronicles"
Copyright © 1992 The National Trust 

By command of King Henry VIII, translated the Chronicles of Sir John Froissart into English, as well as a number of other works, and acquitted considerable fame by his learning.  After his death the barony became abeyant, but it is now held by a direct descendant of Jane, his eldest daughter, who died in 1561.  John Bourchier also left three illegitimate sons, James, Humphrey and George, who all used the name and arms of Bourchier.  From Nobel's Cromwell re this family: "From James, the eldest, descended the Bourchier of Beningbrough in Yorkshire, also Arthur Bourchier, the famous actor."

Statesman and author; grand-nephew of Henry Bourchier, first earl of Essex; 2nd Lord Berners;  marshal of Surrey's army in Scotland, 1513; chancellor of exchequer, 1516; accompanied John Kite, archbishop of Armagh, to Spain to negotiate alliance between Henry VIII and Charles V, 1518; attended Henry at Field of Cloth of Gokd, 1520; deputy of Calais, 1520.

The Bourchiers of Beningbrough are descended from James Bourchier (1510-1554), eldest natural son of John Bourchier (1467-1522), Lord Berners:  Sir John Bourchier (1560-1626) of Hanging Grimston, in Yorkshire, Knight, and 2nd son of Sir Ralph Bourchier (1531-1598) of Beningbrough.

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Sir John Bourchier (1467-1533)

It has been stated that John divorced Katherine and married Elizabeth Bacon.  But it also has been stated that James, Humphrey, George, and Ursula were the illegitimate children of John Bourchier.  John Bourchier was Chancellor of the Exchequer.   Lord Berners had financial problems and felt it was necessary to leave England in1520 and became Lord Deputy of Calais.

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Henry Bourchier (1468-1539)

Second Earl of Essex, grandson of Henry Bourchier, first earl, member of Henry VII's  privy council / captain of Henry VIII's bodyguard; served at Terouenne and Tournay, 1513; chief captain of king's forces, 1514; attended Henry at Guisnes, 1520.

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John Bourchier (1499-1561)

The third Earl of Bath.  He was a commissioner at the trial of Lady Jane Grey.

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Sir James Bourchier (1510-1554)

He was the illegitimate son of John Bourchier (1467-1522). In Calais James Bourchier became lieutenant of the outlying castle of Ambleteuse,  and later lieutenant of Hambleton.  It was while in France that he married Mary Banester, another member of the local English community.   Their son Ralph was chosen by John Banester, Mary's brother, as heir to his estate at Beningbrough.

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Sir Ralph Bourchier (1531-1598)

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Sir Ralph Bourchier, painted in 1582.
Copyright © 1992 The National Trust 

He was born in Beningbrough, Yorkshire.
He built all or part of the Elizabethan Beningbrough on a site near the present house.   Ralph was 25 years of age when he inherited the estate in 1556 from his uncle John Banester, who purchases it from the crown in 1544.  Before this Ralph had inherited estates in Staffordshire from his father and in 1571 was first elected to Parliament as MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme.  His Elizabethan house lay approximately 300 yards south-east of the present hall.  In 1580-1 he was High Sheriff of Yorkshire, and was knighted in 1584.  In 1589 he was an MP for the county.  When he died most of his property went to his grandsons, as his eldest son William was declared insane.   The eldest was Robert who died unmarried at the age of 18 in 1606, so John inherited Beningbrough.
Note: Faris (1999, page 45)
"Ralph Bourchier, Knight, of Haughton, co. Stafford, and Beninbrough in Newton-upon-Ouse, North Riding, co. York, Knight of the Shire for Yorkshire, Sheriff of Yorkshire, Keeper of Rochester Castle, Kent, son and heir, was married for the first time to Elizabeth Hall, daughter of Francis Hall, of Grantham, co. Lincoln (descendant of King EdwardI), by Ursula, daughter of Thomas Sherington [see Hall 3 for her ancestry.]   They had two sons and four daughters.  In 1556 he was heir to his uncle, John Bannaster, Esq., by which he inherited the Manor of Beninbrough.  He was married for the second time to Christian Shakerley, widow of John Harding, Esq., Alderman of London, and daughter of Rowland Shakerley, of London.  He was married for the third time to Anne Coote, widow. 
Sir Ralph Bourchier died on 11 June 1598, and was buried at Barking, Essex.  His widow died the following August.  His grandson and heir, John Bourchier, Knt., subscribed as an adventurer for Virginia in 1620."

In 1575, Sir Ralph Bourchier bought the manor at Hanging Grimston and other lands in Kirby Underdale, Painsthorpe and Uncleby.  He probably bought it for his son John Bourchier, who was knighted in 1609

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Sir John Bourchier (1560-1626)

He married Elizabeth Wentworth, and Dame Elizabeth Verney.  Their daughter Mary M. Bourchier (b.1593) in Hanging Grimston, was the first Bourchier to go to the United States of America.  She died in Virginia, USA.

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John Bourchier (1590-1660)

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Sir John Bourchier, who owned Beningbrough in the first half of the seventeenth century
Copyright © 1992 The National Trust

Sir John Bourchier built Beningbrough Hall that one can visit today.

He was knighted in 1619.  Sir John was an eccentric and highly irascible individual, determined to fight for his rights and beliefs whatever the consequences.  He was the most prominent of the few North Riding landowners who refused to pay the forced loan which Charles I levied in 1627 so as to avoid having to see funds from Parliament.

Through his mother, Katherine Barrington, he was related to Sir Thomas Barrington, the Parliamentary general, and to Oliver Cromwell himself.  He was High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1645 and MP for Ripon in the Long Parliament from 1647.

He was one of Oliver Cromwell's Regicide Judges.    The Bourchier Silver Seal was attached to the Death Warrant of Charles I, the only King in English History of die on the scaffold.  John died just before his trial would have taken place, he was old and infirm and had surrender himself within the time limited by the proclamation: he died at the house of one of his daughter, where he obtained permission to remain, instead of going to the Tower: his relations pressing him much to express his sorrow for the part he had acted respecting the King's death, he rose up from his chair, which he had not done for some days before without assistance, and exerting himself said: "It was a just act: God and all good men, will own it."  having said which, he calmly sat down again and soon after expired.  He was no relation to the protector Oliver's wife, as appears by his seal in the warrant for King Charles execution.

The Bourchier family, allied by the marriage of Elizabeth Bourchier to Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector, were apparently of different origin.  To quote Nobel:
"The Protector married, Aug. 22 1620, at St. Giles' Church Cripplegate, London, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Ja. Bourchier of  Felstead, in Essex, Knight.  She is generally represented as descended from the Earls of Essex, of that name; but this is so far from being the case, that Sylvanus Morgan acquaints us, Sir Ja. was of so new a family, that he had his coat of arms granted him in Oct. 1610, viz. sable three ounces passant in pale, or, spotted: this may be the reason why the Protectress' arms are never see with her husband's...they were, however, upon the exutcheons used at the Protoctor Oliver's funeral."

At the Restoration he faced trial and execution like other regicides, but died in December 1660 while his case was still pending, asserting to the last the justice of the King's condemnation "I tell you it was a just act; God and all good men will own it."

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Barrington Bourchier M.P. (1627-1680)

He was named after his grandmother's family, the Barringtons of Essex, staunch Puritans.  He rescued the family estates from the threat of forfeiture.   He was High Sheriff of Yorkshire.  When he retired from public life he expanded Beningbrough during 1660's by purchasing the adjacent manors of Overton and Shipton.

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Thomas Bourchier (-1586)

Friar of Observant order of Franciscans; probably educated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, doctor of theology, Sorbonne, Paris; joined Reformed Franciscans at Rome; penitentiary in the Latern; wrote a history of Franciscan martyrs (1582)

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Sir Barrington Bourchier (1651-1695)

He was knighted by Charles II at Newmarket in 1676 at the age of 25.   Like his father, he devoted his energies to local affairs and his own estates.   During the year 1688, the year of the Revolution, he was not alone in losing his position, he was deputy lieutenant of the North Riding, only to have it restored late the same year, once James II realised he could not achieve anything by bullying.

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Sir Barrington Bourchier (1672-1700)

In April 1697, less than two years after his father's death, he was knighted by William III at Kensington Palace.  He married Mary Crompton, daugther of Sir Francis Compton, Lieutenent-Colonel in the Horse Guards and a son of the 2nd Earl of Northampton.

But tragedy soon struck, Barrington's first son was buried in 1699, Barrington's brother, Mark, died in December the same year, only to quickly followed by his wife and second son and then by Sir Barriongton himself a few months later.

So at the age of 16, John Bourchier, Barrington's half-brother, inherited the estate.

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John Bourchier (1684-1736)

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John Bourchier, the builder of Beningbough.
This overdoor portrait attributed to Jonathan Richardson is in the Drawing Room
Copyright © 1992 The National Trust

He inherited Beningbrough on the death of his half-brother Sir Barrington Bourchier.  At the age of 20 John set off to Italy on a Grand Tour.  He returned with many ideas for the new house at Beningbrough.

Beningbrough became the most remarkable Baroque houses in England, standing proud in the flat landscape, the facades a bright read brick ornamented with stone, the interiors richly carved and finished.

At the age of 24 he married Mary Bellwood at Acomb parish church in York.

At Beningbrough the site chosen was a very slight rise above the general level of the Ouse flood plain, not far from the Elizabethan manor.  The new house took between 5 and 6 years to complete.

Not much is known of his later life.  John Bourchier was High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1720 as was his grandfather.  He died in 1736 at the age of 52, leaving one of the grandest new houses in Yorkshire as his monument.  It is now owned by The National Trust.

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Dr Ralph Bourchier (1689-1768)

He agreed to pass Beningbrough to his daughter Margaret Bourchier, who lived there for the next 70 years.

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John Bourchier (1710-1759)

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John Bourchier, the younger by John Vanderbank, 1732
Copyright © 1992 The National Trust

John followed his father as owner of Beningbrough Hall.  He married Mildred Roundell in York Minster.  They both featured prominently in York society.   He too was High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1749, and built one of the finest town houses in York, Micklegate House, completed in 1752.

He died in Bath after taking to the waters there.

Micklegate House became the home of John Bourchier's widow, while Beningbrough was claimed by his uncle, Dr. Ralph Bourchier, then aged 71, a successful physician who had made London his home.

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Margaret Bourchier (1739-1827)

Margaret owned Beningbrough for 65 years.  She married Giles Earle in 1761.  Margaret bequeathed Beningbrough to Rev. William Henry Dawnay, the future 6th Viscount Downe.

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The connection between Sir Oliver Cromwell (Lord Procetor) and Elizabeth Bourchier

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Copyright © Mrs Margaret C. Manning 2004
Update September 2008