EUSTACE FOLVILLE (died 1347 aged almost 60) is credited with
killing/assassinating the unpopular Sir
Roger de Beler , Baron of the
Exchequer and henchman of the despised Hugh le Despencer and
ineffective King Edward II . He was the most active member of the
Folville Gang who engaged in acts of vigilantism and outlawry in
* 1 The Folville family * 2 Background
* 3 The Folville Gang
* 3.1 The Slaying of Roger Beler 1326 * 3.2 Outlawry * 3.3 The Ransom of Richard Willoughby 1332 * 3.4 Rehabilitation
* 4 Assessment * 5 Later reputation * 6 See also * 7 Notes * 8 References * 9 Bibliography * 10 External links
THE FOLVILLE FAMILY
Eustace was the second out of seven sons of Sir
Upon the death of the well respected King Edward I , aka the "Hammer
of the Scots", he was succeeded by his son Edward II who did not
inherit his father's abilities. Edward II promoted a young French
Gaveston was soon replaced in the affections of the king by another
Hugh Despenser the Younger
Some rebels were imprisoned such as Roger Mortimer (who escaped to
France in August 1323) and
Robert de Holland, 1st Baron Holand .
Others fled and engaged in outlawry; Sir
As the injustices continued, and the effects of the Great Famine of 1315–22 lingered, discontent remained. Despenser and his father Hugh le Despenser, 1st Earl of Winchester were rewarded with lands that had belonged to Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, including those in Leicestershire. On 14 Mar 1323 Roger de Beler , Baron of the Exchequer , Richard de Willoughby and William de Gosefeld were issued with arrest warrants for Sir William Trussell, William his son, Roger la Zouch (son of Sir Roger la Zouch , Lord of Lubbesthorpe), Ralph his brother, Robert de Holland, 1st Baron Holand and others who were accused by Hugh le Dispenser of stealing horses, oxen, pigs, sheep and swans from his parks in Leicestershire. The warrant was reissued in 1324 alongside similar ones that dealt with rioting against Dispenser in Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire by other rebels.
By January 1326 English supporters of Isabella, Mortimer and Trussell, perhaps including the la Zouches, were assembling and equipping troops in preparation for an approaching Invasion .
THE FOLVILLE GANG
THE SLAYING OF ROGER BELER 1326
In January 1326 Eustace led a band of fifty men to a valley near
On 1 March a warrant was issued to multiple commissioners and named the suspects as;
* Ralph son of
Roger la Zouch of
Eustace Folville and his brothers Robert, Walter and Rev. Richard
Folville , Vicar of Teigh
* Adam de Barleye
* William de Barkeston of Bitham
* Roger son of Sir Roger la Zouch, Lord of Lubbesthorpe
* Ivo/Eudo son of Sir William la Zouch , 1st
The listing of the la Zouches of
Lubbesthorpe first implies their
leadership, which is backed up by an order on 24 March to the Sheriff
A further warrant on 18 Mar added the following names to the murderers
* Robert son of Simon de Hauberk of
On 14 March a warrant was issued to Edmund de Ashby, Sheriff of Leics
to arrest Thomas Folville for aiding Ralph son of
Roger la Zouch of
Eustace Folville and others escape from England. The
fugitives fled first to Wales and then to Paris to join Queen
Isabella, Mortimer and Trussell where they lost one of their band,
Ivo/Eudo la Zouch, perhaps from wounds received in the attack on
Beler or their subsequent flight from England. Ivo/Eudo was buried in
the church of the friars of
Queen Isabella , Mortimer and Trussell started their Invasion of
England by landing at Orwell ,
On 28 September a general pardon was issued by King Edward to all outlaws provided that they helped defend against the invasion. The only people excluded from the pardon were Mortimer and the Folville gang, who Edward obviously suspected were intrinsically linked.
Opposition to the invasion proved to be almost non-existent and so
many barons, sheriffs and knights joined the rebellion that they
gained control within just two months. Both Hugh le Despencer, Earl of
Winchester and his son
Hugh Despenser the Younger
A pardon for the Folvilles was rushed through and granted on 11 Feb 1327, presumably on the request of Roger Mortimer, now the new fourteen year old king's Steward, and the new Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir William Trussell, just ten days after Edward III had been crowned as the new king.
Despite Sir Roger la Zouch, Lord of Lubbesthorpe, seeming to have
been the 'brains' behind the assassination of Sir Roger de Beler, and
providing the link to Sir
The Fourteenth Century legal system included practices of vigilantism and retribution. Debts were often recovered using force, disputes resolved by duels and judges were only involved when all else failed. The Folvilles, finding themselves as 'heroes of the revolution' (at least locally, having saved their neighbours from the nefarious acts of Despencer and Belers), became emboldened and continued to commit acts of retribution and, as the years went by, found themselves on both sides of the law being repeatedly outlawed and then pardoned.
Upon their return to
Various indictments from the period portray Eustace and his brothers
as freelance mercenaries, hired 'by the ostensibly law-abiding...to
commit acts of violence on their behalf'. Members of Sempringham
Priory and Haverholm Abbey , both in
THE RANSOM OF RICHARD WILLOUGHBY 1332
The justice Sir Richard Willoughby , another one of corrupt
commissioners appointed in 1323 to arrest
It seems it took a long time for Willioughby to fulfil his duty and it was not until the next year when he caught up with his prey; unfortunately rather than capturing them they instead kidnapped the judge. Willoughby was ransomed for the large sum of 1300 marks and released.
The Folville gang did not answer to the charges brought against them
and fled to Derbyshire where they "rode with armed force secretly and
openly", allied with the Coterel Brothers and were sheltered by Sir
Robert Tuchet, Lord of
A year after the kidnap of Willoughby, Eustace was serving in the
armies of Edward III against the Scottish . He may well have fought at
the Halidon Hill . In recognition of this military service, Eustace
received another full pardon for his crimes. He was in combat again in
1337 and 1338, in
Eustace Folville faced such little resistance in his lifetime, and suffered no form of legal penalty, despite being known as an habitual offender for two decades. During this time he went wholly unpunished, unlike his unfortunate brother Richard . Two factors may explain Folville's apparent good fortune. Firstly, the political turbulence of the 1320s worked in his favour, particularly in the case of his worst crime, the murder of Beler. Beler had been closely connected to the Despensers : he was appointed attorney to Hugh Despenser the Younger in 1322, and used the revenues of confiscated lands to curry favour with the family.
Secondly, and most importantly, there is a widespread perception that Eustace and others like him were basically honest and forthright, at least more so than the authorities that pursued them. This would mean that the justices and their clerks, reliant as they were on testimonies from local people, would find their job extremely difficult in the Folville's home territory. As E.L.G. Stones notes, complaints along these lines are frequently made by the trailbaston and other commissions: 'in all these things they are aided and abetted by local people, who incite them to their evil deeds and shield them after they are done'. While these laments might seem to excuse the commissions' own failures, there is undoubtedly some truth to them. After all, a tip-off from a local source allowed the Folvilles and Cotterels to elude capture in the Peak District.
This popular support seems to be rooted in a sense that the Folvilles were allies of the common people, combating the crooked establishment which oppressed them. There is at least some justification for this view. Eustace's two principal victims were certainly highly corrupt individuals. Beler used his office to seize land and siphon money to his patrons, and his murder should be regarded less as a crime by the Folvilles alone, and more a conspiracy by several Leicestershire landowners. Eustace's accomplices were members of the Halewell and Zouche families, which suggests a breadth of ill-feeling against Sir Roger, going well beyond any one group. Willoughby was no more popular. In 1340 he was targeted by a second gang, who trapped him in Thurcaston castle. He was later imprisoned by Edward III on charges of corruption, indicted by several juries across the country, and forced to pay 1200 marks for the king's pardon. Eustace was respected as an opponent of such figures, even if this opposition was not his primary motive.
For the generations after Eustace's death, the positive view of the Folville gang only increased. In later sources they are not merely regarded as law-breakers, but agents of an unofficial law, outside human legislation and less susceptible to abuse.
In William Langland 's (a Midlander himself) Piers Plowman (c.1377-9), he sees them as instruments of the divine order. While he is scathing about popular veneration of 'Robyn Hood and Ralph Erl of Chestre', he speaks approvingly of 'Folvyles lawes'. The crimes of the family are presented as correctives to the 'false' legal establishment, and the 'Folvyles' themselves are listed among the 'tresors' that Grace has given to combat \'Antecrist\' . Langland states:
"Therefore, said Grace, before I go, I will give you treasure and
weaponry to fight with when
"And some to ride and some to recover what unrightfuly was won;" "He instructed men to win it back again through strength of hands" "And to fetch if from false men with Folvilles Laws"
Henry Knighton is no less sympathetic. He portrays Bellere and Willoughby as entirely legitimate targets: Willoughby's ransom is reduced to a less avaricious 90 marks, while Bellere becomes the aggressor of his killers, not only 'heaping threats and injustices' on to his neighbours but coveting their 'possessions'. Most interestingly, the kidnap of Willoughby is portrayed as a direct conflict between the two codes represented by the outlaws and the justice: Sir Richard is abducted as punishment for trespassing on the territory of a rival order, specifically 'because of the trailbaston commissions of 1331'.
For his contemporaries and near-contemporaries, Eustace Folville was clearly more than an acquisitive thug. He was something closer to an enforcer of 'God's law and the common custom, which was different from the state's or the lord's law, but nevertheless a social order'.
* ^ his elder brother John was born in 1286
* ^ whose grandfather
Roger Mortimer, 1st Baron Mortimer
* ^ A B Lumley2 1895
* ^ A B Moor 1929
* ^ Farnham & 1919–20
* ^ A B Close Rolls & 1224–1468 .
* ^ A B C D E F G H I J K L M Patent Rolls & 1232–1509 .
* ^ A B Lumley 1895
* ^ Fine Rolls ">(PDF). Leicester:
* Lumley, Joseph (1895). Chronicon Henry Knighton. I. London: HMSO .
* Lumley2, Joseph (1895). Chronicon Henry Knighton. II. London: HMSO
* Musson, Anthony (2009). Crime, law and society in the later Middle
Ages. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0719038020 .
* Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem. VI. London:
HMSO . 1910.
* Moor, Charles (1929). The Knights of Edward I. London: Harleian
* Nichols, John (1795). The History and Antiquities of the County of
Leicester. Leicester: John Nichols.
* Close Rolls. Westminster:
Parliament of England