Name: Hugh Swynford
Note: Aged 28 in 1361
Death: 13 NOV 1371 in Bordeaux, France
Residence: Kettlethorpe & Colby, Lincs
Burial: St. Peter & St. Paul, Kettelthorpe, Lincolnshire, England
MEM: Lincoln Cathedral: tomb wiht brass - despoiled by Roundheads in 1644
Change Date: 5 JUN 2012
Incorrectly called Otes
A respected member of John of Gaunt's retinue whose family estate was situated at Kettlethorpe in Lincolnshire.
Hugh was descended from Saxon stock apart from one Ketel, a Dane, who ravaged and pillaged to his way along the Trent in about 870, who stopped and set up his home (thorpe) in Lincolnshire. It is now known as Kettlethorpe and can be found off the A57 Lincoln to Gainsborough road, where you turn off the A57 on to the B1133/B156 at Newton-on-Trent. However, for some reason Hugh moved to the Swinesford (Swynford) in a Leicestershire and appears to have married and settled there.
It was his father, Sir Thomas, who bought back Kettlethorpe when Hugh was a child and the family moved back to Lincolnshire. He used funds from the dowry of his 2nd wife Nichela (Nicole), from Bedford. Hugh and his stepmother did not get on together and would it would appear that Hugh decided to pursue his own life and left home at about the age of 15 to join up Edward III's army which was invading Scotland. During this period he first met John of Gaunt, then only Earl of Richmond, and they appear to have established some rapport.
Hugh then appears again fighting for the Black Prince at Poitiers, when Jean de France was captured. It would seem to be at this time that Hugh was knighted and returned home to show off his title and spoils. There is the gap until he goes to London, with squire in tow to do knights' service to the Duke of Lancaster, his feudal overload. Hugh owned a manor at Coleby that belonged to John's manor of Richmond.
However, by this time John had married Blanche of Lancaster and had possession of all her lands and the Dukedom. Hugh was one of a retinue of two hundred barons, knights based at the Savoy Palace in London. He was very unpopular with the "Norman" contingent and the rest don't seem to have had any good rapport him. He does not appear to have had much time for chivalry and earthly pursuits. However, he was a "damn good soldier" and is described in the registers as "a shrewd and terrifying fighter". He was small, stocky and known by his fellow as has "the battling Saxon ram!"
Nothing is known of him until his marriage to Katherine. It would seem that the marriage was arranged under the auspices of Queen Philippa of Hainault and was not to Katherine's liking. Unusually, they did not remain at court after their marriage. It would appear that Hugh offended someone, the registers state that he was sent back to Kettlethorpe to wait the time when and if his services as a fighter should be required!
It would seem that this exile was short-lived, however, just long enough for him to collect his rents, sort out manor affairs, settle Katherine into her new home and depart in August 1366 for Aquitaine. John and Edward, the Black Prince were entering into war in Castile with King Pedro against his brother Henry of Trastamere, who had usurped the throne.
Katharine was with child when he left and Hugh obviously confided this fact to John. Again, the registers record that Katherine was escorted to Bolingbrook to spend Christmas and New Year with Duchess Blanche who was herself with child. No more is known of either Katherine or Hugh until May 1367 when the registers note that John of Gaunt appointed his servitor, Nirac de Bayanne, as Stewart over Kettlethorpe until Hugh could be sent home. They also record that he stood sponsor to Blanchette, Hugh and Katherine's daughter born in May 1367 and ordered for her the silver and gilt cup and at as a baptismal gift.
Hugh was sent back to Lincoln shortly after having taken part in the battle of Najera and distinguishing himself again as a good warrior and battle tactician. No more is heard of either Hugh or Katherine until 1369 by which time they had a son, names Thomas after his grandsire.
It was a bad year for England, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, died on his honeymoon trip. There was a rebellion in Acquitaine in April, war was declared against France. There were floods, on August 15 Queen Philippa died and plague broke out in London.
On a local level, Hugh's stepmother died. Gildan, Hugh's half-brother died and Kettlethorpes' crops failed. Hugh was ill - it would appear to have been dysentery. Hugh and Katherine's relationship had mellowed, but Katherine appears to have been quite pleased to go to Bolingbrook to wait on the Duchess Blanche. Sadly, by the time she arrived, Blanche was dying of plaque. Katharine nursed her and was able to locate a priest to give her the last rights. It would then appear that Hugh sanctioned Katherine's journey to London in Blanche's funeral train.
Quite what happened when she got to London is not really certain, but Katharine returned to Kettlethorpe as an armiger in her own right. Her blazon was designed, bestowed and registered by John. He also rewarded her, as a pension, "all issues from, and profits from his towns of Waddington and Wellingere to be paid yearly". Hugh was, not unnaturally, not too happy, but seems to have accepted the reason for the gift. This was "for the care shown to the late Duchess and for the Lancastrian children after their mother's death".
There was also a summons for a Hugh to go to France in a company led by Sir Robert Kindles. They would carry on as a fighting force under Kindles until John arrived to take over. The war was protracted and nothing more is heard of Hugh until 1371. He was seriously wounded and transported back to Bordeaux in John's train. John appointed his own physician, bother William Appleton to care for him and secured lodgings for him in Bordeaux.
It was unusual for John to be so personally involved with one of his retinue. However it may have been because John had arranged for Katharine to travel to Bordeaux as one of the group of women picked to attend the Infanta Costanza (Constance) of Castile who was to be John's second wife. It is known that against John's wishes, Katharine went straight to Hugh. It is also worth noting that Nirac de Bayanne was her escort.
No love was lost between Hugh and Nirac and this may have had some bearing on the next events. It was not until the relationship between Katherine and John was ending that Nirac was posthumously implicated in Hugh's death. He is reputed to have confessed to poisoning Hugh on his death that and he repeatedly stated that neither John nor Katherine was aware of what he had done.
It would appear that he was privy to John's desire for Katherine, he hated Hugh so much that he was literally able to kill two birds with one stone. Less than a week after Katherine is arrival, Hugh was dead. His death surprised everyone as he had been making a good recovery. Katherine seemed to have been genuinely shocked and upset by his passing. Aided by Brother William, she arranged for Hugh's body to be returned to England and Kettlethorpe for burial. Unusually, she returned to court in Bordeaux, rather than accompanying his body home. Hugh was buried at his home, and faded into obscurity, his contribution to history was his death which left Katherine free to enter into a liaison with John.
It is known that John and Katherine disappeared for several weeks prior to his second marriage, and presumably this is when she became his mistress. She returned to England and was obviously pregnant because she gave birth to John, later John Beaufort. It was assumed that John was Hugh's posthumous child, but when Henry was born to John and Katherine, they acknowledged John as theirs.
However, Hugh's son Thomas was raised with the Duke's own children and was knighted in his own right. He inherited Kettlethorpe, which was much improved by Katherine, and he turned it into a prosperous holding. He had two wives, the first was Janet Crophill of Nottingham by whom he had twin children, Hugh and Dorothy. He later married an older widow, Margaret D'Arcy when Janet died giving birth. The infant also died.
Aged 28 in 1361.
Don Stone<DonStone@plantagenet.com >
Weir calls him Hugh.
Father: Thomas Swynford
Mother: Nicola De Arderne b: ABT 1315 in Drayton, Oxfordshire
Katharine Roet b: 1350 in Picardy, France
in St Clement Danes Church, Strand, London
- Thomas Swynford b: SEP 1368 in Kettlethorpe Manor, Kettlethorpe, Lincs
- Type: Book
Periodical: Scandalous Duchess (Katherine Roet)
Author: Alison Weir