William de Ros, 6th Baron de Ros

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Arms of Sir William de Ros, 6th Baron Ros, KG: Gules, three water bougets argent[1]

William de Roos, sixth Baron Roos, was a medieval English soldier, politician and nobleman.

William Roos was born etc (GEC?) to Thomas de Ros, 4th Baron de Ros.

Early career[edit]

The de Roos family has been described as one of the greatest fourteenth-century baronial families never to be promoted to an earldom;[2] William, in fact, was not even expected to succeed to his father's baronage. That went to William's elder brother, John. They both had two younger brothers, Robert and Thomas, "of whom" says Charles Ross, "nothing is known."[3] John's death was earlier than would have been expected. In 1393 he was en route to the east, when he died at Paphos, Cyprus; William was in his early twenties at the time.[4][note 1] Soon after inheriting, John also married. His wife was Margaret, daughter of John FitzAlan, 1st Baron Arundel and Eleanor Maltravers, 2nd Baroness Maltravers. She was in possession of a 40 mark[5][note 2] annuity from King Richard II, having been in the household of the Queen, Anne of Bohemia, who had recently died.[6] This gave de Roos a useful connection to the Crown. Also useful to William, no doubt, was the fact that his new brother-in-law was Richard FitzAlan, 11th Earl of Arundel, and this "possibly accounts" for the grants he soon received of Clifford manors in Yorkshire, Derbyshire, and Worcestershire. These had been the dower lands of Euphemia, widow of Robert, Lord Clifford, who had died in November 1393.[7]

"It seems strange that a wealthy young lord, who later proved himself both active and able in the royal service, had no public, and very little local employment during the later years of the Richard II."[7]

Charles Ross notes that, however illustrious his connections and fortunes may have seemed at that point, it is possible that his identification with Arundel may have worked against him until after Richard II's deposition. This may have been because Arundel was very much an opponent of Richard; certainly de Roos seems not to have held major political office until the accession of Arundel's compadre, Henry Bolingbroke as king Henry IV in 1399. In fact, he seems to have only sat as a Justice of the Peace a few times, and not many more commissions Oyer and Terminer.

In contrast, de Roos was summoned to the first parlimanet of Henry IV's reign, in October 1399,[8], at which he was a Trier of Petitions, and Henry's first Royal council in December.[9] He was, therefore, one of the lords who agreed to the policy of secretly imprisoning the deposed King Richard.[10])


All that remained as of 2013 of the de Roos caput, Helmsley Castle. Built in the 12th century by Robert de Ros, the predominant East Tower was heightened in the 14th century.

The de Roos estates were primarilly in the east and north of England, with a sphere of influence focussed around Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, and eastern Yorkshire. He received livery of them in January 1384.[6] At this time, the estate had two dowager baronesses to support.[11] They were his brother's wife, Mary, and Beatrice, his father's widow. Mary died within a year of her husband, and her extensive inheritance was divided up among her Percy relations. William did receive her dower lands though, which included the ancient Barony of Helmsley.[12] Beatrice, on the other hand, had already outlived three husbands, and was to outlive William too. Her dower lands were assigned to her in December 1384; this meant that a large estate comprising de Roos lands in the East Riding of Yorkshire was never to come under William's control.[3]

Regime change[edit]

William de Roos was clearly Lancastrian rather than Ricardian in his loyalties. his father, after all, had been one of Gaunt's earliest retainers from the latter's earldom of richmond.[13] De Roos was also a retainer of John of Gaunt in the later years of the fourteenth century,[14] and went abroad both with the Duke and on his business at five times, for which duties he received annuities of £40 to £50, He was also one of only two of Gaunt's knight bannerets.[13] So when in 1399 Richard II was deposed by gaunt's son, Henry of Bolingbroke, Roos may or may not have had any specific grievances against Richard, but could well have felt generally aggrieved by Richard's poor treatment of his own great patron.<arvanagian H4 northern nobs 131>> In June that year he had been one of the first magnates to join Henry when he landed at Ravenspur[15] and he was witness to Richard's resignation in December.[16] Bolingbroke's accession to the throne as Henry IV thus saw a dramatic uplift in de Roos's fortunes, concomitant with those of his wife's family. Not only did he maintain close connections with Court, but he appears to have had a relatively close friendship with the new King.[9] It was de Roos' previous loyals ervice to the King and the Duke of Lancaster which earned him the King's patronage.[16] De Roos' activity in royal service in the shires rapidly increased, until eventually he was a leading member of political society in the north Midlands and Yorkshire as a result of his involvement in judicial and administrative commissions. Royal service was not confined to the localities, and in 1401 he was a leading figure in the King's efforts to increase his revenues, taking an active part in negotiations with the House of Commons. De Roos attended a meeting with them in the refectory at Westminster Abbey, and gave assurances of "favourable consoderation" by the King, whilst emphasising the expense the CRown had had to go to defending the Welsh and Scottish Marches.[17] He performed much the same role six years late, when he sat with the Duke of York and Archbishop of Canterbury on a committee to here the Commons complaints; these discussions apparantly resulted in an "altercation" in which the Commons were "hugely disturbed."[18] The Commons may have been "wary" about meeting Roos' commitee for good reason; his remit, put simply, was to garner as much in tax as possible for the granting away of as few liberties as possible.[19] Around this time[note 3] he was appointed Lord Treasurer (illustrating, says Ross, the King's "growing confidence" in him)[20], a post he was to occupy for the next four years.[9] His increased closeness to the King did have its downside however. The year after de Roos' appointment, Henry experienced his worst financial year yet.[16] The fiscal crisis meant diminshed royal revenues: as historian Chris Given-Wilson has put it, the treasury became "largely reliant on a dminishing circle of the faithful," of whom de Roose was one. It is likely that he made loans to the King, and possibly, on occasion, gave up his concillor's salary.[21]

He also performed important martial service for the Crown. He undertook to bring a fully crewed ship with twenty men at arms and forty archers to take part in the King's invasion of Scotland in 1400, and took personal part in the campaign.(Brown?) He took part in Henry's 1401 Great Council (Given Wilson?)[20] and the following year Owain Glyndŵr's Welsh rebellion touched upon him personally. His brother-in-law, Reginald, Lord Grey of Ruthin (married to his youngest sister, Margaret)[20] had been captured and a ranson demanded from the King; indeed it seems that it was personal animosity between Gray and Glyndŵr that led directly to the rebellion.[22] The King agreed to pay a 10,000 mark ransom, and de Roos, probably due to the family connection, agreed to contribute towards that sum. He also led the commission responsible for negotiating with Glyndŵr over its payment and his brother-in-law's release.[20] In this, he was accompanied by a fellow Midlands baron, Robert, Lord Willoughby,[16] with whom he was friendly..

In 1402- possibly around the same time as his appointment as Lord Treasurer- de Roos was elected to the Order of the Garter,[23] and in 1404 he was granted an annuity of 100 marks per annum as a retainer for his continuing activities on royal services. This could, perhaps, be seen as rather prescient, because by the following May, a rebellion had broken out in the north, led by Richard Scrope, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the disaffected Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland.[24] Following the capture buy the rebels of the King's envoy,[25] de Roos, as part of an extensive network of northern Lancastrian loyalists gathered around Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland,[13] led the King's forces to the north. Henry entrusted de Roos with the mission because his invaluable local knowledge.[24] Roos was at this time "high in the King's confidence and enjoyed especially trusted positions" within the regime.[26] His mission was a success. He personally witnessed the Earl of Northumberland's surrender of Berwick Castle back to the King[16] and sat on the commission that condemned Scrope to death without trial in early June 1405.[27] When the King arrived in York to oversee the executions of the rebels, de Roos personally brought Henry Percy's bonds to him.[28]

"...We have requested, and on your authority directed the respected Lord Sire de Roos and Monseur William Gascoigne your Chief Justice, as men in whom you have especial confidence, to proceed in all haste towards the north..."[29]
Proc Ord Privy Council, I, 262

He was, however, instructed not to engage the rebels before discussion with the King had taken place. What part he and Gascoigne actually played in the suppression of the rebellion is thus unclear, as unlike the Earl of Westmorland, for example, "no more is heard of their activities" in the north until after the confrontation at Shipton Moor. De Roos' role may have been weighted towards overseeing the judicial commissions that subsequently took place, and pardoning those who rejected the rebels and wished to return to the King's grace.[29] The may have been acting, in fact, as little more than spies tailing their prey, although in a proactive manner.[30]

It was only a few years later that the King's health, which had not been strong for some time, had clearly broken down. At the parliament of 1406, Henry IV agreed that, so far was his health impinging upon his ability to perform his royal duties, that he agreed to the formation of a Grand Council to assist him in governing. De Roos was on the original list presented to parliament of those to be appointed to this council, although how long he actually served upon it is subject to conjecture. He was certainly attending its meetings in late 1406, as he acted as an unofficial "chaperone" for his successor to as Lord Treasurer, Lord Furnivalll.[31] He may well have still been acting in this role in June the following year;[29] certainly, he was regularly witnessing royal charters at this time, and was acting as a royal spokesman in parliament itself.{{sfn|Biggs|2003|p=191}} He may also have assisted the Bishop of Arundel in the latter's difficult period (due to the Kng's ill-health at this time) as chancellor- although how willingly or not de Roos assisted is unknown.[32]

Royal favour[edit]

De Roos "was clearly a reliable and trusted servant, as well as beng a reasonably talented adminstrator and royal councillor."[16]

By this time too he had lent money to the Crown for the purpose of funding the Calais garrison. Not only was he promised repayment, but he was also receiving royal patronage. By 1409 he had been appointed to the lucrative positions of Constable of Pickering Castle and Master Forester of the same. These positions not only strengthened his direct influence in the area, but also allowed him to appoint a deputy, which gave him a source of patronage of his own. This was closely followed by the grant of the lands of the recently deceased John Tuchet, 4th Baron Audley (who had died in December 1409). With this grant came the right to sell Audley's heir's marriage at a price of £2,000- a price which, however, was swiftly reduced by half (possibly because the value of the Audley estates from which de Roos was to pay had been "grossly overestimated.") Later the same year, in October 1409, de Roos also received- for £80- the custody of various lands of the Giffard family in the south Midlands.[33][note 4] He also enjoyed a salary of £100 a year for his duties as a councillor to the king, as well as the use of Chillingford to quarter himself and his men whilst he was in the south on his conciliar duties.[34] Throughout this peroid he was both an active councillor for the King at the same time as he was playing significant military and diplomatic roles,[35] and often, when not a councillor, then he remained a counsellor, for example, regularly witnessing royal charters even while not officially on the council.[26]

Later years[edit]

In 1410, as a result of his proximity, and acceptability to, the King, de Roos took part in what has been described as "a show trial of national importance."[36] The previous year John Badby of evesham[37]had been found guilty before an ecclesiastical court of Lollard heresy, and according to custom he had been given a year in which to reconsider and recant; he had not done so.[38] If anything, his vews were more entrenched than before, and, returned before convocation at the Friars-Preachers House in London on 1 March 1410, de Roos and other lords passed secular judgement upon Badby. He was burned, psssibly in a barrel,[39] at Smithfield.[40] Fifteenth century England has been noted for a pervasive lawlessness and particularly the propensity of its baronage to feud and fight amongst themselves.[41][note 5] De Roos was no exception to this, and by 1411 he had become involved in a dispute with his neighbour in Lincolnshire, one Robert Tirwhit.[45] Tirwit was a newly-appointed royal justice[46] and in general a well-known man in the region. Their dispute centred around rival claims to comon grazing in Wrawby. Using the customary methods of arbitration of the time before Justice Gascoigne, a Loveday was arranged at which the two parties could demonstrate their adherence to the arbitration. They were, of course, expected to attend with their followers, but it appears that Tirwhit brought a small army of 500 men;[45] he later claimed not to have agreed to the Loveday in the first place.[46]

"...Atte Wrareby in the shire of Lincoln on the Saturday neghst after the Feste of Sainte Michael dyd assemble greet noumbre pf men aurmed and areyed agaynst the pees, to lygge in awayte agaynst the same Lord the Roos."[47]

De Roos, who had kept to his side of the deal regarding the size of his retinue[48] (bringing only two men),[46] seems to have escaped from Tirwhit unharmed, and petitioned parliament for satisfaction. The case was decided by the Lord Chamberlain and Archbishop of Canterbury; Tirwhit was bound to gift de Roos a quantity of Gascon wine as well as to provide the food and drink for the next Love-day, where he would also publicly apologise to de Roos. His apology centred on recognising that a nobleman of de Roos position could also have chosen to bring a large army, but that de Roos had shown forebearance by not doing so. At this second Love-day, de Roos was to provide the entertainments.[48]

The King's health had continued to decline, and de Roos- the "reliable royalist"- sat on the council for the next fifteen months.[49] This was a council of around seventeen men who were now more or less in charge. De Roos and the others now signed off the administrative work that had previously required the King's personal signet seal.[50] Henry IV died in 1413, and William de Roos seems to have been excluded from government from this point on. Charles Ross posited that he was "no particular favourite" of the new King, Henry V. He played no part in the new government or councils; in any case, de Roos was himself to survive only eighteen months into the new reign. William's mother had drawn up her Will in January 1414,[51] to which he was an executor.[4] De Roos himself did little, taking part in just one anti-Lollard commission, and another investigating the murder of an important Midlands figure on his return from parliament.[52] before he died in Belvoir Castle on 1 November 1414. He had drawn up his will in 1412, and added a codicil to it in February 1414.[note 6][53] William de Roose died a wealthy man, having one of the highest disposable Incomes in Yorkshire.[54][note 7]

Family and bequests[edit]

By his wife Margaret Fitzalan, William de Roos had five sons, as well as one who was illegitimate. De Roos's heir was John, who inherited not just the lordship and patrimony, but all William's armour and a sword made of gold. His second son robert- whom Ross decsribes as being "evidently his favourite"- also inherited "considerable estates."(Ross) This had to be carved out of the elder son's patrimony, and has been descrobed by G. L. Harriss as "overrid[ing] both family duty and convention."[55] The youngest three sons, Thomas, Robert, and Richard received a third of de Roos's goods between them, under control of his executors. Thomas, as was often the case for a younger son, was intended for an ecclesiastical career. Margaret was likewise not forgotten, and received another third of his goods, and even his illegitiate son, John, received £40 for his upkeep. Loyal retainers received benefices, and even "humbler dependents"- for instance, the poor on his Lincolnshire estates received often massive sums.[note 8] His executors too received £20 each for their services (one of whom was his eldest son John).[57] He was buried in Belvoir Priory, and an alabaster effegy of him was erected to him in St Mary the Virgin's Church, Bottesford,[58] which church has de Roos family armigers throughout. His effigies was placed to one side of the alter; seven years later, that of his son John was placed on the other.[59] He left £400 to pay ten chaplains for eight years for the education of his sons.[60]

"The will of William Lord roos provides full confirmation of what the scanty evidence of as to the character of his earlier career suggests, that Roos was a man of just and equitable temperment."[56]

In literature[edit]

William de Roos appears as a character in Richard II by William Shakespeare, as Lord Ross,[61] and was portrayed as being an overt follower of Henry Bolingbroke frmo the beginning. Described by Shakespeare, vice Holinshed, as being "fiery-red with haste," Ross / de Roos joins Bolingbroke at Berkeley, Gloucestershire.[62]


  1. ^ Specifically, he was given as aged twenty-three in John's Inquisition post mortem.
  2. ^ A medieval English mark was a unit of currency equivalent to two-thirds of a pound.
  3. ^ In fact, there is some uncertainty as to when the appointment was precisely made; and when it ended. William Dugdale, in his Baronage reckons 1403 through to 1406. F. M. Powicke suggested 1403 to 1406, while J. H. Wylie believed it had started by 1401 and had ended by 1404.
  4. ^ It should of course be noted that he also lost grants through natural reasons; for instance, although he had enjoyed custody of various Clifford family estates since 1394 (his sister had married Thomas de Clifford, 6th Baron de Clifford, sometime around 1379), and their son came of age age around 1411.
  5. ^ For example, the feuds between the Courtneys and Bonville families in the southwest,[42] between different branches of the Neville family in the north,[43] and between Ralph, Lord Cromwell and William, Lord Tailboys[44] in the Midlands some years later.
  6. ^ And has been printed in full in F. M. Powicke's The Register of Archbishop Chichele II, 22-7. It is extremely detailed, specifying three separate burial sites depending on where he died, and makes much provision for his sons, including the distribution of estates, goods, and annuities between them.
  7. ^ It has been estimated that his income was matched only by three of his fellow Yorkshire-based barons, those of Neville, Furnivall, and Scrope of Bolton.
  8. ^ His poor, his servants, and his tenants all received £100 each between them.[56]


  1. ^ Debrett's Peerage, 1968, p.347
  2. ^ Given-Wilson 1987, p. 64.
  3. ^ a b Ross 1950, p. 107.
  4. ^ a b Ross 1950, p. 111.
  5. ^ Davis 2012, p. 17.
  6. ^ a b Ross 1950, p. 112.
  7. ^ a b Ross 1950, p. 113.
  8. ^ PROME 2005, p. Henry IV: October 1399.
  9. ^ a b c Ross 1950, p. 114.
  10. ^ Ross 1950, p. 115.
  11. ^ Ross 1950, p. 105.
  12. ^ Ross 1950, p. 105-6.
  13. ^ a b c Arvanigian 2003, p. 119.
  14. ^ Given-Wilson 1987, p. 173.
  15. ^ Given-Wilson 1999, p. 99.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Arvanigian 2003, p. 133.
  17. ^ Wylie 1884, pp. 402-406.
  18. ^ Wyle 1895, p. 120.
  19. ^ Bruce 1998, p. 254.
  20. ^ a b c d Ross 1950, p. 116.
  21. ^ Given-Wilson 2016, p. 287 +n.
  22. ^ ODNB 2004, p. Glyn Dŵr [Glyndŵr], Owain.
  23. ^ Ross 1950, pp. 115-6.
  24. ^ a b Given-Wilson 2016, p. 267+n.
  25. ^ Wylie 1894, p. 178.
  26. ^ a b Dodd 2003, p. 104.
  27. ^ Wylie 1894, pp. 231-232.
  28. ^ Wylie 1894, p. 175.
  29. ^ a b c Ross 1950, p. 117.
  30. ^ Given-Wilson 2016, p. 413.
  31. ^ Given-Wilson 2016, p. 299+n.
  32. ^ McNiven 1987, p. 128.
  33. ^ Ross 1950, p. 119.
  34. ^ Ross 1950, p. 120.
  35. ^ Given-Wilson 2016, pp. 440-1.
  36. ^ McNiven, P. (2004). "Badby, John (d. 1410), Lollard heretic". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. (Subscription required (help)). 
  37. ^ Bevan 1994, p. 144.
  38. ^ Bevan 1994, pp. 144-145.
  39. ^ Bevan 1994, p. 145.
  40. ^ McNiven 1987, pp. 202-203.
  41. ^ Kaminsky 2002, p. 55.
  42. ^ Storey 1966, pp. 84-92.
  43. ^ Petre 1981, pp. 418-435.
  44. ^ Freidrichs 1988, pp. 207-227.
  45. ^ a b Ross 1950, pp. 121-123.
  46. ^ a b c Wylie 1894, pp. 189-190.
  47. ^ Ross 1950, p. 121.
  48. ^ a b Ross 1950, p. 122.
  49. ^ Given-Wilson 2016, p. 496.
  50. ^ Wylie 1894, pp. 427-428.
  51. ^ Ross 1950, p. 110.
  52. ^ Jacob 1993, p. 455 +n..
  53. ^ Ross 1950, pp. 124-5.
  54. ^ Given-Wilson 1987, p. 157.
  55. ^ Harriss 2005, p. 104.
  56. ^ a b Ross 1950, p. 125.
  57. ^ Ross 1950, p. 124=125.
  58. ^ Wylie 1894, p. 180.
  59. ^ "Church of St Mary, Church st, Bottesford: List entry Number: 1075095". Historic England. 
  60. ^ Wylie 1894, p. 119 n..
  61. ^ Forker & 2002 177.
  62. ^ Griffin Stokes 1924, p. 283.


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Preceded by
Guy Mone
Lord High Treasurer
Succeeded by
Thomas Nevill, 5th Baron Furnivalll
Peerage of England
Preceded by
John de Ros
Baron de Ros
Succeeded by
John de Ros