John L'Archers

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John L'Archers, or L'Archer (died 1349) was an English born cleric and judge who had a distinguished career in Ireland, holding the office of Lord Chancellor of Ireland; he died during the first outbreak of the Black Death in Europe, and was probably a victim of it.


The Archer family, who later held the title Baron Archer, came from Tanworth in Arden in Warwickshire, where they had owned Umberslade Hall since the time of Henry II.[1] John was probably the younger brother of Thomas L'Archer (died 1372), and he was great-nephew of an earlier Thomas L'Archer who was English Prior of the Order of Hospitallers from 1321 to 1329.[2] This family tradition may have influenced John to join the Hospitallers; he is first recorded as a brother of the Order's Nottingham house in 1334.[3]

Umberslade Hall, ancestral home of the Archer family, present day


On the death of Roger Utlagh in 1341 L'Archer was appointed Prior of the Order's Irish house at Kilmainham. He was Deputy Justiciar of Ireland in 1347. As so often in this period, the exact dates of his term as Lord Chancellor are uncertain, but the most likely dates are 1342-1344.

O'Flanagan[4] writing in 1870, said that L'Archer was one of several mediaeval Chancellors of Ireland who leave no trace on the pages of history, except their name. On the other hand, Otway-Ruthven[5] more recently described L'Archer as a leading statesman who played an important part in the political events of the early 1340s. The Irish Parliament which met in Dublin in 1341 and then adjourned to Kilkenny, denounced the Anglo-Irish government of Ireland in terms of extraordinary severity, and then produced a series of petitions to King Edward III to be presented by a group of leading magnates and officials. These petitions were a comprehensive denunciation of every aspect of government, including charges of corruption, maladministration and military incompetence. The King gave a favourable reception to the petitioners and promised redress for the wrongs complained of. L'Archer was one of the delegation, and Otway-Ruthven believes that the fact that the newly appointed Lord Chancellor of Ireland went in person to present the petition was one of the reasons for the good reception it received.[6]


The Black Death reached Ireland shortly after its first appearance in England in 1348. The death toll among senior officials in Ireland does not seem to have been particularly high, but L'Archer who died suddenly in 1349 was probably a plague victim.[7]


  1. ^ Lawrence-Archer, J.H. Memorial of Families of the Surname of Archer London 1861
  2. ^ Lawrence-Archer, above
  3. ^ Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221-1921 John Murray London 1926
  4. ^ O'Flanagan J. Roderick Lives of the Lord Chancellors of Ireland London 1870
  5. ^ Otway-Ruthven J.A. History of Mediaeval Ireland Barnes and Noble 1993
  6. ^ History of Mediaeval Ireland
  7. ^ Otway-Ruthven Medieval Ireland