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Notes for John de Warenne Earl of Surrey
Feudal baron (2nd class) of Lewes, Sussex.
DNB Main notes for John de Warenne Earl of Surrey
Warenne, John de, Earl of Surrey or Earl Warenne 1231?-1304

Name: Warenne, John de
Title: Earl of Surrey or Earl Warenne
Dates: 1231?-1304
Active Date: 1271
Gender: Male

Place of
    Death: Kennington in Surrey
    Burial: Lewes,   Church of St. Pancras
Spouse: Alice of Lusignan
Sources: Calendarium Genealogicum; Hist. Documents relating to Scotland...
Contributor: T. F. T. [Thomas Frederick Tout]

Warenne, John de, Earl of Surrey or Earl Warenne 1231?-1304, was the son of William de Warenne, earl of Warenne or Surrey (d. 1240) [q.v.], and of his wife Matilda, daughter of William Marshal, earl of Pembroke (d. 1219) [q.v.], and widow of Hugh Bigod, third earl of Norfolk. Roger Bigod, fourth earl of Norfolk (d. 1270) [q.v.], was thus his elder half-brother. He is said in the Lewes register to have been five years old at his father's death (Watson, i. 225), but two chronicles give 1231 as the date of his birth (Cont. Gerv. Cant. ii. 129; `Lewes Chron.' in Sussex Arch‘ological Collections, ii. 24). Henry III's alien kinsmen benefited largely by his long minority. Peter of Savoy [q.v.] was made guardian of his estates (Sussex Arch. Coll. iv. 133), and on 16 April 1247 he was married at London to the king's half-sister, Alice of Lusignan (Liber de Antiquis Legibus, p. 12). Warenne's earldom was thought too rich a provision for the needy Poitevin lady (Matt. Paris, iv. 629). In the next few years the young earl was closely attached to his Lusignan brothers-in-law, joining them in 1253 in the attack on the official of Archbishop Boniface, and sharing their excommunication (ib. v. 359). Absolved from this, he went abroad with William of Valence [q.v.] and Richard de Clare, seventh earl of Gloucester [q.v.] (Sussex Arch. Coll. ii. 26), probably to take part in the tournament at Paris that celebrated the betrothal of Gloucester's son Gilbert to Warenne's wife's niece, Alice of AngoulĖ†me. On 29 May 1254 he accompanied Edward, the king's son, to Gascony (Matt. Paris, v. 447), whence he attended Edward on his visit to Spain to wed Eleanor of Castile. He was knighted along with Edward (Sussex Arch. Coll. ii. 26) at Las Huelgas by Alfonso X of Castile. The statement that he took a prominent part in Gascon affairs at this time is due to a confusion between him and John de Plessis, earl of Warwick [q.v.] (B,mont, R“les Gascons, suppl,ment au tome i. p. 130. `Johannes comes de War.' was extended into `Warenne' instead of `Warwick' by Michel. The confusion is, however, older: see e.g. Flores Hist. ii. 412; and Watson, i. 227-8). His association with the courtiers made Warenne unpopular (Matt. Paris, v. 514).
On 15 Jan. 1256 the countess Alice gave birth to a son, William. Two days later her husband took ship from Dover to the continent. However, on 9 Feb. Alice died, and was buried by her brother, Bishop Aymer de Valence [q.v.], at Lewes priory (Sussex Arch. Coll. ii. 26). In May 1256 Warenne had the grant of the third penny of the Sussex county revenues. He soon became a member of the king's council.
During the earlier stages of the baronial troubles Warenne strongly upheld the king. He witnessed on 2 May 1258 the king's consent to the baronial project of reform (Select Charters, p. 381), and was one of the twelve `fideles de concilio nostro' associated with twelve opposition barons to draw up the plan of reform for the great council at Oxford on 11 June (Burton Annals, p. 447). In this `Mad' parliament Warenne joined with William de Valence and his other Poitevin brothers-in-law in refusing all concessions, even when Henry III and his son Edward had accepted the reforms (Matt. Paris, v. 696-7). They thereupon fled from Oxford to Winchester, where Bishop Aymer sheltered them in Wolvesley Castle. When the aliens gave up the struggle, Warenne took the oath to the Provisions of Oxford (Burton Annals, p. 444), and on 5 July escorted his Poitevin kinsmen to Dover.
Like many of the young nobles, Warenne was now strongly attracted by Simon de Montfort. In 1260 he acted as justice in Somerset, Dorset, and Devon (Foss, Biographia Juridica, p. 705). In the same year he twice crossed the Channel to take part in tournaments (Sussex Arch. Coll. ii. 27). On 18 July 1261 he joined with the other barons in requesting the king of France to arrange their differences with the king (B,mont, Simon de Montfort, p. 331). On 21 Nov. he took part in the compromise by which the Provisions were submitted to the arbitration of six magnates, and was included among those who received pardons (ib. p. 193). Warenne now commonly acted with Henry of Cornwall [q.v.]. In the spring of 1263 he returned with Henry from a mission to France (Cont. Gerv. Cant. ii. 219). About Whitsuntide he supported Montfort at a council held `rege et concilio suo ignorantibus' (Dunstable Annals, p. 222, but cf. B,mont, p. 199). He joined the baronial army and took part in the attack on Peter of Aigueblanche [q.v.], bishop of Hereford (Dunstable Annals, pp. 221-2). On 7 Aug. he was made constable of Pevensey Castle, and on 23 Aug. joint commissioner to treat with the Welsh (Federa, i. 430).
By the autumn Warenne again wavered. After the flight of Edward from the capital the Londoners turned Warenne out of the city (Dunstable Annals, p. 225), whereupon he and Henry of Cornwall led a great secession to the royalists. Edward's timely grants of land encouraged the seceders. Warenne was with the king when, on 3 Dec., he was refused admission to Dover Castle (Cont. Gerv. Cant. ii. 229). On 16 Dec. he signed the agreement to submit to the arbitration of St. Louis (Royal Letters, ii. 252). On 24 Dec. the king made him guardian of the peace in Surrey and Sussex.
Warenne fought strenuously on the king's side in the war that followed the repudiation of the Mise of Amiens. In March 1264 he was with the king at Oxford, whence he went with Roger de Leybourne [q.v.] to protect his castle of Reigate from the Londoners (Rishanger, De Bello, p. 22). He soon retreated to Rochester, where he arrived on 16 April. On the 19th Leicester took the outworks of the castle and drove Warenne into the Norman keep, where he held out until 26 April, when Leicester retreated to London on the approach of Edward (Hemingburgh, i. 313; Wykes, pp. 146-7; Cont. Gerv. Cant. ii. 235-6). On 29 April Warenne left Rochester. A few days later he was at his castle of Lewes, where he entertained Edward on the night of 13 May (Battle Chronicle apud B,mont, p. 376). In the battle of Lewes, 14 May, Warenne fought on the right or north wing of the royalist host commanded by Edward (Rishanger, p. 26, Rolls Ser.; Hemingburgh, i. 316). If, however, he accompanied Edward's pursuit of the Londoners, he soon returned to the town, where, after the capture of the king, he fought a fierce fight in the streets with the victorious barons (Battle Chronicle, u.s. p. 377). Beaten signally in this, he rode off with Hugh Bigod and his Lusignan brothers-in-law over the Ouse bridge to Pevensey Castle, of which he was still constable. Leaving behind a garrison, they thence fled to the exiled queen in France. Warenne's flight was severely denounced by the chroniclers. Wykes (p. 151), the royalist, makes it an excuse for Edward's surrender.
On 18 June all Warenne's lands, save Lewes and Reigate, were handed over to Earl Gilbert of Gloucester. He remained abroad for nearly a year, staying partly in France and partly in Flanders. The quarrel of Leicester with Gloucester at last gave him his opportunity. On 19 March 1265 he was summoned to appear in parliament `to do and suffer justice.' Early in May, along with William de Valence, he landed in Pembrokeshire (Wykes, p. 165; Royal Letters, ii. 282). They joined the escaped Edward and Gloucester at Ludlow, and took part in the Evesham campaign. On the night of 1-2 Aug. Warenne accompanied Edward in his secret march on Kenilworth, and took part in its capture on the morning of the latter day (Liber de Ant. Leg. pp. 74-5). After Evesham he reduced Kent and the Cinque ports (Royal Letters, ii. 289). On 27 May 1266 he and William of Valence suddenly attacked Bury St. Edmund's. The abbey at once yielded, and the townsfolk atoned for their disloyalty by a fine (Cont. Flor. Wig. ii. 197). In 1267, still acting with William of Valence, he mediated between Gloucester and the king and his son (Rishanger, p. 50, Rolls Ser., and De Bello, p. 60; Cont. Gerv. Cant. ii. 246). At the conclusion of the disturbances Warenne obtained a formal pardon for his rebellions against the king (Abbreviatio Placitorum, p. 168), and for the excesses of himself and his followers up to 1268 (cf. Cal. Patent Rolls, 1281-92, p. 167). On 24 June 1268 he took the cross at the same time as Edward (Wykes, p. 218). This did not prevent fierce quarrels with rival barons. In 1269 a contest broke out between Warenne and Henry de Lacy [q.v.], the young earl of Lincoln, with regard to their rights over a certain pasture. Both earls prepared to wage private war, but the king forced them to refer the dispute to the justices, who decided in favour of Lacy (Flores Hist. iii. 17-18). On 13 Oct. 1269 Warenne was present at the translation of Edward the Confessor (Wykes, p. 226). A dispute broke out between Warenne and Alan de la Zouch about a certain manor. On 19 June 1270 the case was being tried in Westminster Hall (ib. p. 234). Fearing lest once more the law might be adverse, Warenne overwhelmed Alan and his eldest son with reproaches. Thereupon his followers set upon the Zouches, dangerously wounding the father. The son only escaped by flight. The king and his son were in the neighbouring palace, and were greatly incensed at this violence. Warenne fled to Reigate Castle. Edward pursued him thither and threatened him with a siege, whereupon Warenne yielded. On 6 July he submitted himself in Westminster Hall to the king's mercy, protesting that he had not acted from malice but from anger. A fine of ten thousand marks was exacted, and on 3 Aug. he was further purged by the oath of twenty-five knights at Winchester, where, on 4 Aug., the king issued his pardon (Watson, i. 244-5). The death of Alan on 10 Aug. of a fever, brought about by his wounds, did not further complicate the matter, but it was thought a scandal that Warenne got off so lightly (London Annals, p. 81). The greater part of the fine was still unpaid at his death (cf. Cal. Patent Rolls, 1301-7, pp. 496-7; Wykes, pp. 233-5, and Winchester Annals, p. 109, give somewhat different versions of the Zouch affair). In 1270 he was rebuked by Archbishop Giffard for his exactions in Yorkshire (Letters from Northern Registers, p. 22).
After Henry III's death, Warenne on 20 Nov. 1272 took oaths of fealty to the absent Edward I (Winchester Annals, p. 112; Liber de Ant. Leg. p. 154). According to the Lewes chronicler he was one of four `custodes terr‘' (Sussex Arch. Coll. ii. 30). He resented the writs of quo warranto of 1278. When, in 1279, the justices asked Warenne by what warranty he held his franchises, he produced `an ancient and rusty sword,' saying, `Here is my warranty. My ancestors, who came with William the Bastard, conquered their lands with the sword, and with the sword will I defend them against all who desire to seize them. For the king did not conquer his lands by himself, but our ancestors were his partners and helpers' (Heminburgh, ii. 6). The entry in `Kirby's Quest' (Kirby's Quest, p. 3, Surtees Soc.) that he holds Conisborough but `non dicit de quo nec per quod servitium,' and the king's officials' complaint that his bailiffs would not permit them to enter his liberties, nor allow his tenants to answer or appear before them (ib. pp. 227, 231), show that he did not recede from this attitude. His claim of free warren and free chase in all his Sussex lands (Rot. Parl. i. 6 b) was equally uncompromising. Warenne's attitude so generally represented that of the greater baronage that Edward desisted. A letter from Archbishop Peckham to Warenne, expostulating with him for damaging his tenants by permitting an intolerable excess of game on his lands, shows that he was equally strict over his dependents (Peckham, Letters, i. 38-9; the Hundred Rolls speak of the `diabolical innumerable oppressions' of his steward at Conisborough (Hunter, South Yorkshire, p. 108). After 1282 Warenne was often called earl of Sussex as well as of Surrey. This was when the death of Isabella, widow of Hugh de Albini, last earl of Sussex of that house, had left that earldom vacant. It is sometimes thought to point to a fresh creation of Warenne as earl of Sussex, or to a contest for that dignity with the Fitzalans, who were forced in the end to be content with the title of earls of Arundel (G. E. C[okayne]'s Complete Peerage, i. 145; Courthope, p. 29).
Warenne took a conspicuous share in carrying out Edward I's Welsh policy. In 1277 and in 1282 he served personally in Edward's campaigns. He spent most of 1283 in Wales with the king, and on 30 Sept. was summoned to the parliament of Shrewsbury. On the death of the two sons of Gruffydd ab Madog [q.v.] in 1281, the king, after some unsuccessful experiments (Rotulus Walli‘, p. 42, privately printed by Sir T. Phillips), divided their lands between Roger Mortimer [see Mortimer, Roger III] and Warenne, the former obtaining Chirk and the latter taking the more westerly lordship of Bromfield, with part of that of Yale. Warenne's grant was dated 7 Oct. 1282 (Watson, i. 267). Henceforth, as lord of Bromfield and Yale, he became one of the most important of the Welsh marcher lords, building the castle of Dinas Bran on a hill overlooking the Dee valley. In 1287 he raised troops and fought against Rhys ap Maredudd (Parl. Writs, i. 252), being sent to Wales in June and ordered to remain in Bromfield till Rhys was subdued (ib. i. 253; cf. Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1281-92, p. 271). In 1292 he granted the king a fifteenth from his Welsh lordships on condition that it should not be made a precedent (ib. p. 500). In 1293 he urged his right to the custody during vacancies of those temporalities of the bishopric of St. Asaph which lay within Bromfield, but the claim was rejected (Rot. Parl. i. 93 b; Haddan and Stubbs, i. 598-9). In 1294 again Warenne was despatched to relieve Bere Castle, threatened by Madog ab Llywelyn (Parl. Writs, i. 264). He repeatedly raised large numbers of Welsh foot from his lordships to serve against the Scots. On 7 Feb. 1301 he received the grant of the castle and town of Hope, in the modern Flint, at a rent of 40l. (Cal. Patent Rolls, 1292-1301, p. 576). It was not until 25 July 1302 that he did homage for Bromfield and Yale.
Warenne's share in Edward's Scottish policy was very conspicuous. In September 1285 he was sent on a mission to Scotland (Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1281-92, p. 192). Between September and November 1289 he was engaged in negotiating the treaty of Salisbury with the Scots (ib. p. 328; Cal. Doc. Scotl. i. 107). On 14 Feb. 1290 he received protection on going to Scotland as the king's envoy (ib. p. 343), and on 20 June was appointed with Antony Bek [q.v.], bishop of Durham, to treat with the guardians of that country (ib. p. 372; Cal. Doc. Scotl. i. 158). On 18 July they concluded the treaty of Brigham (ib. i. 162). On 28 Aug. he was nominated proctor for the king's son Edward on the occasion of his expected marriage with the little queen of Scots, and next day was one of an embassy appointed to treat with her father, Eric of Norway (ib. p. 386). During his absence he was respited from paying his debts (ib. i. 180). He strongly upheld the candidature of John Baliol, his son-in-law, for the Scottish throne.
On 16 Sept. 1295 Warenne was appointed custodian of the sea coast (Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1292-1301, p. 147). On 5 Oct. he was made, jointly with Anthony Bek, custodian of the counties beyond the Trent (ib. p. 152), and next day of Bamburgh Castle (ib. p. 151). On 18 Oct. he nominated attorneys until Easter, as being about to go to Scotland on the king's service (ib. p. 156). He was therefore on the borders already when, in the spring of 1296, Edward began his great invasion. A month after the capture of Berwick, on 30 March, Edward sent Warenne and William Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, to attack the castle of Dunbar. Arriving outside the walls on 23 April, on the 27th they defeated the Scots army that sought to relieve the town (Hemingburgh, ii. 103-4), and next day forced Dunbar to surrender. Warenne accompanied Edward in his march through Scotland. He was at Montrose on 10 July, and went back with Edward to Berwick. There on 22 Aug. Warenne was appointed `warden of the kingdom and land of Scotland.' On 23 Nov. 1296 he was at Jedburgh (Hist. Doc. Scotl. ii. 245, misdated 1297 by the editor), but early in the winter Warenne quitted his government on the plea that the climate made it impossible for him to remain without danger to his health (Hemingburgh, ii. 127). He made a merit of remaining in the north of England. It was during his absence that Sir William Wallace [q.v.] rose against the English in May 1297. Even then Warenne delayed his return on various excuses. `And know, sire,' he wrote, `that the delay which we have made will cause you no harm whatever, if God pleases' (Hist. Doc. Scotl. ii. 183-4; cf., however, Hemingburgh, ii. 127, `quod fuit nobis in posterum fons et origo mali'). On 14 June the king ordered Warenne to his post (Hist. Doc. Scotl. ii. 184-5); it was not until the end of July that he reached Berwick (ib. ii. 204, 223). Even then he lost time by sending his grandson, Henry Percy, to negotiate with the Scots. On 14 Aug. the king, losing patience, made Brian Fitzalan [q.v.], lord of Bedale, governor of Scotland (Federa, i. 874). Edward then went to Flanders. Fitzalan, however, showed such unwillingness to take office that on 7 Sept. the regents begged Warenne to continue in his command (Hist. Doc. Scotl. ii. 230). During these transactions Warenne crossed the border. His want of men and money probably extenuates, though it does not excuse, his remissness. Late in August he advanced to Stirling. He was still unwilling to fight, and gladly negotiated with the steward of Scotland, who counselled delay and offered to bring back the insurgents to the king's peace. Ultimately Warenne found that the steward could not or would not redeem his promise. Meanwhile the Scottish army under Wallace had taken up a position north of the Forth on the hills overlooking the narrow bridge of Stirling. On 11 Sept. the clamour of his soldiers forced Warenne to fight (Hemingburgh, ii. 135). Though warned of the certain consequences, he foolishly sent his men over the bridge to attack the enemy on the other side. When the van had crossed over, Wallace fell upon it and cut it off almost to a man. The demoralised English army melted away. The steward of Scotland joined Wallace. Warenne threw a garrison into Stirling and escaped with a few followers to Berwick (Lanercost, p. 190). Thence he hurried to England, begging for help from the regency. On 27 Sept. he was at York (Hist. Doc. Scotl. ii. 232-3). The Scots then occupied Berwick, only the castle holding out. Later in the year Warenne joined with other royalist earls in protecting his nephew Norfolk and the Earl of Hereford against the wrath of Edward I (Hemingburgh, ii. 154).
Despite his past blunders, on 10 Dec. Warenne was again appointed captain of an expedition against the Scots (Hist. Doc. Scotl. ii. 249-50). This time he showed greater haste, taking out on 12 Dec. letters of attorney until Easter (Gough, Scotland in 1298, p. 53), and receiving on 14 Dec. letters of protection as about to go to Scotland (ib. p. 16). His debts and pleas were respited until his return. On 14 Jan. he held a council at York, where the charters which the regents had continued in the king's absence were renewed and excommunication threatened against all who broke them (Hemingburgh, ii. 155-6). On 22 Jan. Warenne was ordered to invade Scotland at once (Scotland in 1298, p. 70). He raised the siege of Roxburgh and occupied Berwick (Hemingburgh, ii. 156-7), whence he was recalled to attend the Whitsuntide council at York `as secretly as might be' (Scotland in 1298, p. 95). However, in June he crossed the border with the king, joining other lords in assuring Norfolk and Hereford that the king would confirm the charters on his return (Rishanger, p. 186). On 22 July he commanded the rearward `battle' at Falkirk (Scotland in 1298, p. 151). On 25 Sept. he was back at Carlisle (ib. p. 256).
On 9 Sept. 1299 Warenne was at Edward I's second marriage at Canterbury (Cont. Gerv. Cant. ii. 317). In November he was made guardian of his grandson, Edward Baliol (Hist. Doc. Scotl. ii. 405). In July 1300 Warenne and his grandson, Henry Percy, commanded the second squadron of the army that besieged Caerlaverock (Nicolas, SiSge de Karlaverok, p. 14). In February 1301 he signed the Lincoln letter of the barons to the pope (Federa, i. 426-7). In March 1301 he was chief of the embassy treating with the French at Canterbury. He died on 27 Sept. 1304 at Kennington in Surrey (Sussex Arch. Coll. ii. 37; cf. London Ann. p. 133). On 1 Dec. the remains were taken to Lewes, where they were buried after Christmas, in the church of St. Pancras (Hemingburgh, ii. 240), Archbishop Winchelsea celebrating the funeral service.
By Alice of Lusignan, who died on 9 Feb. 1256, John left three children: (1) Alice, born in 1251 (Sussex Arch. Coll. ii. 25), and married, in September 1268, to Henry Percy (d. 1272); she was the mother of Henry Percy, first baron Percy of Alnwick [q.v.] (2) Isabella, born on 23 Sept. 1253 (ib. ii. 26), and married, in 1279, to John de Baliol [q.v.], afterwards king of Scots; she was the mother of Edward de Baliol [q.v.] (3) William, the only son of the marriage, born on 15 Jan. 1256 (ib. ii. 26), and married before 1283 to Joanna, daughter of Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford (d. 1296). William was knighted in 1285 (ib. ii. 35), and in December 1286 was accidentally killed at a tournament at Croydon, and buried at Lewes. His only son, John de Warenne (1286-1347) [q.v.], thus became the heir.

Calendarium Genealogicum; Hist. Documents relating to Scotland, 1286-1306; Rymer's Federa, vol. i.; Parl. Writs, vol. i.; Calendars of Patent Rolls under Edward I; Annales Monastici, Royal Letters, Henry III, vol. ii., Matt. Paris's Hist. Major, vols. iv. and v., Flores Hist. vols. ii. and iii., Cotton, Rishanger, Oxenedes, Peckham's Letters, Chron. Edw. I and Edw. II, vol. i. (the last nine in Rolls Ser.); Liber de Antiquis Legibus, Rishanger's De Bello, Wright's Political Poems (the last three in Camden Soc.); Trivet and Hemingburgh (both in English Hist. Soc.). Mr. Blaauw has printed in Sussex Arch‘ological Collections, ii. 23-37, a Lewes chronicle that gives many details of Warenne's personal history; Gough's Scotland in 1298; Wallace Papers, Chron. de Lanercost (both in Maitland Club); Courthope's Historic Peerage, pp. 29, 462, 465, ed. Nicolas; G. E. C[okayne]'s Complete Peerage, vii. 327-8; Doyle's Official Baronage, iii. 471-2; Nicolas's SiSge de Karlaverok, pp. 130-6; Dugdale's Baronage, i. 77-80. The elaborate life in Watson's Memoirs of the Earls of Warren and Surrey, i. 225-304, must be used with caution; B,mont's Simon de Montfort; Stubbs's Const. Hist. vol. ii.; Pauli's Geschichte von England, vol. iv.

Contributor: T. F. T.

published  1899
Last Modified 7 Dec 2006Created 14 May 2022 by Tim Powys-Lybbe
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