Richard Rede

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Richard Rede (died after 1416) was a leading Irish statesman and judge of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. He held office as Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, Deputy Lord Chancellor of Ireland and Deputy Treasurer of Ireland.[1]

He was born in County Meath. Rede (also spelled Reid) has been a common Irish name, especially in Ulster, since the thirteenth century. Little seems to be known about his parents. His wife Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Richard Netterville of Dowth. Another branch of the family would later be among the most prominent in Meath, and acquired the title Viscount Netterville.

The Netterville inheritance[edit]

Elizabeth Netterville, whose father died when she was very young, was made a royal ward. The question of her inheritance, which was considerable, led to bitter disputes with neighbouring landowners, each of whom hoped to gain her estate by marrying her to a suitable male heir.

King Richard II appointed John Humbleton, one of his esquires of the body, as her guardian in 1394, only for Elizabeth to be kidnapped by members of the Darcy and Cusack families, who presumably hoped to gain control of her lands.[2] She was soon released, but six years later the Crown was informed that these families still hoped to cheat her out of her inheritance. By 1400 Humbleton, no doubt finding that the wardship had been more trouble than it was worth, had granted custody of Elizabeth to Rede, who married her soon afterwards, but this was not the end of the controversy.[3]


Richard spent much of his career moving between Ireland and England, and seems to have been uncertain which country he wished to permanently settle in. In England he served on a commission of the peace in Kent in 1394 and on a similar commission in Middlesex in 1407. He acted as executor of Robert Braybrooke, Bishop of London, in 1404.[4]

At the same time he maintained close links with Ireland: he was Chief Baron 1399-1401 and Lord Chief Justice 1404-6. Thomas Cranley, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, was through age and ill health frequently required to act through deputies: Rede served as his Deputy in 1404.[5]

Abduction and ransom[edit]

On 5 April 1401 while he was traveling from Drogheda to Trim, Rede was abducted near Skryne by Thomas Fleming, 2nd Baron Slane, and imprisoned in a nearby castle belonging to Thomas's son Christopher.[6] He was held hostage until he paid a ransom of £1000 (a vast sum at the time) to Christopher, and was also robbed of £200 and numerous official records. What lay behind the episode, which was exceptional even in that violent age,[7] is unclear. It has been suggested that the Flemings, like the Darcys and Cusacks, had previously had hopes of gaining the Netterville lands which Rede had acquired through his marriage to Elizabeth Netterville: while the latter families' abduction of Elizabeth in 1394 seems to have been fruitless, the Flemings' abduction of her husband brought them a substantial profit.[8]

The outraged Rede naturally petitioned the new King Henry IV to visit "suitable punishment" on the Flemings for their crimes, so that a "suitable example be made of all who would plan such things".[9] The King's Council endorsed the petition, and for a time it seemed that the Flemings would suffer heavily for their treatment of Rede: in June 1401 a powerful commission was appointed to arrest and imprison Lord Slane and his wife Elizabeth Preston.[10] This was however an era when the nobility found it easy to obtain a royal pardon for even the most heinous crimes,[11] and in October 1401 Lord Slane, on payment of £30 (a derisory sum compared to the £1200 he had extracted from Rede), was duly pardoned.[12]

Later years[edit]

After being superseded as Lord Chief Justice in 1406 he returned to England and asked for permission to reside there permanently. Given his treatment by the Flemings and his failure to obtain justice against them, this was natural enough.[13] Rather surprisingly, he returned to Ireland two years later and apparently died in Ireland. He was Deputy Treasurer of Ireland in 1413.[14] He and his wife were both still alive in 1416, and still expanding their holdings, with purchases of land in County Louth.[15]


  1. ^ Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221-1921 John Murray London 1926 Vol. 1 p.171
  2. ^ Smith, Brendan Crisis and Survival in Late Medieval Ireland- the English of Louth and their Neighbours Oxford University Press 2013 p.95
  3. ^ Smith pp.94-5
  4. ^ Ball p.171
  5. ^ Smyth, Constantine Joseph Chronicle of the Law Officers of Ireland Butterworths London 1839 p.8
  6. ^ Smith, Brendan Crisis and Survival in Late Medieval Ireland -the English of Louth and their neighbours 1330-1450 pp. 94-5
  7. ^ Although a later Chief Baron, James Cornwalsh, was murdered in 1441.
  8. ^ Smith p.95
  9. ^ Smith p.95
  10. ^ Smith p.95
  11. ^ Even for murder, as in the later case of Chief Baron James Cornwalsh.
  12. ^ Smith p.95
  13. ^ Smith p.95
  14. ^ Ball p.172
  15. ^ Smith pp.94-5
Legal offices
Preceded by
Stephen de Bray
Lord Chief Justice of Ireland
Succeeded by
Stephen de Bray