William Bonville, 1st Baron Bonville

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William Bonville, 1st Baron Bonville
Coat of Arms of Sir William Bonville, 1st Baron Bonville, KG.png
Arms of Bonville: Sable, six mullets argent pierced gules[1]
Spouse(s) Margaret Grey
Elizabeth Courtenay
William Bonville
John Bonville (illegitimate)
Philippa Bonville
Elizabeth Bonville
Margaret Bonville
Noble family Bonville
Father Sir John Bonville
Mother Elizabeth FitzRoger
Born c. 1392–93
Shute, Devon
Died 18 February 1461
Second Battle of St Albans (by execution)

William Bonville, 1st Baron Bonville (c. 1392–93 – 18 February 1461), KG, of Shute, Devon, was an English nobleman, soldier, and administrator. He was a staunch Yorkist during the Wars of the Roses, and was executed following the Lancastrian victory at the Second Battle of St Albans by order of King Henry VI's Queen Consort, Margaret of Anjou.


The Bonvilles were an old West Country family. The date of William Bonville's birth is uncertain. Cokayne states that he was born 30 August 1393, while Richardson states that various documents indicate he was four years of age in 1397, 16 years of age in 1408, and 21 years of age in 1414.[2] He was born at Shute, Devon, the son of Sir John Bonville (c. 1371 – 21 October 1396), son and heir apparent of Sir William Bonville (c. 1332 – February 1408) of Shute by his first wife, Margaret D'Aumarle (died 25 May 1399),[3] the daughter of Sir William D'Aumarle.[4]

Bonville's mother was Elizabeth FitzRoger (15 August 1370 – 15 April 1414), the only child and sole heiress of John FitzRoger (died 1370–72) of Chewton, Somerset and his wife Alice (died 27 March 1426). John FitzRoger was the 3rd son of Sir Henry FitzRoger (died 1352) of Chewton by his wife Elizabeth de Holland (died 13 July 1387). Elizabeth de Holland was a daughter of Robert de Holland, 1st Baron Holand, by his wife Maud la Zouche. Maud la Zouche was a daughter of Alan la Zouche, 1st Baron la Zouche of Ashby.[5]). Elizabeth FitzRoger survived her husband and remarried to Richard Stucley (died before 1441)[6] of Ridgewell, Essex, Member of Parliament for Sussex, in 1415, March 1416 and 1417, by whom she had two sons, Roger Stukeley and Hugh Stukeley (founder of the prominent Stucley family of Affeton in Devon), who were thus Bonville's brothers of the half blood.

Bonville had a brother and one sister of the whole blood: [7] [8]

  • Thomas Bonville.
  • Isabel Bonville, wife of Sir Richard Champernoun (died 20 January 1420) of Modbury, Devon, son of Sir Richard Champernoun by his second wife, Katherine Daubeney, daughter of Sir Giles Daubeney. [9]


As Bonville's father, Sir John Bonville, had predeceased his own father, Bonville was heir to his grandfather, Sir William Bonville (died 1408), when the latter died on 14 February 1408. He was also heir to his mother, Elizabeth FitzRoger, at her death on 15 April 1414.[3]


Bonville was knighted before 1417 during the campaigns in France of King Henry V.[3] He was Knight of the Shire for Somerset in 1421, and for Devon in 1422, 1425 and 1427. In 1423 he was appointed by the king as Sheriff of Devon. He was Seneschal of Aquitaine at various times from 1442 to 1453, and Governor of Exeter Castle from 1453–61.[10] In 1443 Bonville was retained to serve King Henry VI for a one-year term and in 1449 was retained to serve the King at sea. He was summoned to Parliament from 10 March 1449 to 30 July 1460 by writs directed, for the most part, Willelmo Bonville domino Bonville et de Chuton ("To William Bonville, lord of Bonville and Chewton"), by which he is held to have become Baron Bonville. On 8 February 1461 he was nominated to the Order of the Garter.[2]

Battle of Clyst Heath[edit]

In 1441 riots resulted from a dispute over the Duchy of Cornwall between Bonville and Thomas Courtenay, 13th Earl of Devon, and on 14 December 1455 the two sides fought the Battle of Clyst Heath near Exeter, which resulted in the defeat of Bonville, the sacking of Shute and injury to a number of persons.[11]

Wars of the Roses[edit]

According to Richardson, Bonville was to all outward appearances loyal to King Henry VI during the Wars of the Roses until he joined the Yorkist side at the Battle of Northampton in July 1460. Both his son, William Bonville, and his grandson, William Bonville, 6th Baron Harington, were slain at the Battle of Wakefield on 31 December 1460.[12]


Margaret of Anjou, who ordered the execution of William Bonville following the Second Battle of St Albans

Less than two months later in February 1461 the Yorkists suffered another defeat at the Second Battle of St Albans, where Lord Bonville and another Yorkist, Sir Thomas Kyriel, were taken prisoner by the victorious Lancastrians. The two men had kept guard over King Henry VI during the battle to see that he came to no harm. The King had been held in captivity by Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, and transported in the train of the latter's army, but had been abandoned on the battlefield. In return for their gallantry the King promised the two men immunity.[13] However Queen Margaret, who was present at the battle, remembered that Lord Bonville had been one of the men who had held King Henry in custody after the Battle of Northampton in July 1460, and wanted revenge. Disregarding the King's promise of immunity, she gave orders for the beheading of Lord Bonville and Sir Thomas Kyriel the next day, 18 February 1461.[14] It is alleged that she put the men on trial and appointed as presiding judge her seven-year-old son, Prince Edward. "Fair son", Margaret is said to have inquired, "what death shall these knights die?" The young prince replied that they were to have their heads cut off, an act which was swiftly carried out, despite the King's pleas for mercy.[14]


Bonville was not attainted, as within three weeks of his death the Yorkist King Edward IV came to the throne. Bonville's widow, Elizabeth, was assigned a substantial dower in recognition of his services to the Yorkist cause.[15] The Barony passed suo jure to his great-granddaughter, Cecily Bonville, the seven-and-a-half-month-old daughter of his grandson, William Bonville, 6th Baron Harington, who had already succeeded suo jure to the Barony of Harington following the death of her father at Wakefield in December 1460.[16] In the space of little more than six weeks Cecily Bonville thus became the wealthiest heiress in England, having inherited the vast Bonville and Harington estates. She became a royal ward and on 18 July 1474, by order of King Edward IV, she was married to Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset, the eldest son of Elizabeth Woodville, then the king's wife, by her first marriage to Sir John Grey of Groby.

Marriages and children[edit]

Bonville married twice:

According to William Pole, writing in the early 17th century, Bonville also had an illegitimate son, John Bonville, by his mistress Elizabeth Kirkby.[21] Tristram Risdon, writing about the same time as Pole, calls her "Kirby".[22]).

Residences and landholdings[edit]

Bonville's principal residence was at the manor of Chewton Mendip, Somerset. He was also lord of the manors of Sponton (or Spaunton) and Hutton Bonville in Yorkshire.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Burke's General Armory 1884, p. 99
  2. ^ a b Cokayne 1912, p. 218; Richardson I 2011, p. 255.
  3. ^ a b c Cokayne 1912, p. 218.
  4. ^ Richardson I 2011, pp. 254–5.
  5. ^ Richardson I 2011, p. 253.
  6. ^ Richard Stukeley died shortly before 28 November 1441.Richardson I 2011, pp. 253–4
  7. ^ Rogers Strife of the Roses & Days of the Tudors in the West (1890): pp. 43–44. "John Bonville, ... , married Elizabeth, only child and heiress of John Fitz-Roger... John Bonville had two sons, William eldest and heir, Thomas, and one daughter Isabel."
  8. ^ Roskell The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1386–1421 v. 2 (1992): pp. 284–288 [biog. of Sir William Bonville II].
  9. ^ Rogers Strife of the Roses & Days of the Tudors in the West (1890): p. 44.
  10. ^ Richardson I 2011, p. 255.
  11. ^ Richardson I 2011, p. 256.
  12. ^ Richardson I 2011, pp. 256–7.
  13. ^ Thomas B. Costain, The Last Plantagenets, p. 305
  14. ^ a b Costain, p. 305
  15. ^ Cokayne 1912, pp. 218–19
  16. ^ Cokayne 1912, p. 219; Richardson I 2011, pp. 257–8.
  17. ^ Faris Plantagenet Ancestry of Seventeenth-Century Colonists 1st Ed. (1996): p. 28 [see BONVILLE 9].
  18. ^ Roskell The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1386–1421 v. 2 (1992): pp. 284–288 (biog. of Sir William Bonville II) "These ties were to be strengthened by the marriage of Bonville's son and heir, William, to Lord Harrington's only child, and of two of his daughters, Philippa and Margaret, respectively to William Grenville ... and William Courtenay ..." (Roskell identifies Philippa Bonville, wife of William Grenville, as the daughter of William Bonville, first Lord Bonville as numerous other authors have done).
  19. ^ Richardson IV 2011, pp. 163–4
  20. ^ Richardson I 2011, pp. 257, 397–8, 546–7; Cokayne 1912, pp. 218–19.
  21. ^ Pole, William. Collections Towards a Description of the County of Devon (1791), p.132.
  22. ^ Risdon, Tristram. Survey of Devon, 1810 edition, p.39.


  • Cokayne, George Edward (1912). The Complete Peerage edited by Vicary Gibbs. II. London: St Catherine Press. 
  • Richardson, Douglas (2011). Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, ed. Kimball G. Everingham. I (2nd ed.). Salt Lake City.  ISBN 1449966373
  • Richardson, Douglas (2011). Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, ed. Kimball G. Everingham. IV (2nd ed.). Salt Lake City.  ISBN 1460992709
  • Costain, Thomas B., The Last Plantagenets (New York: Popular Library, 1962).

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