In 1401 many men of high status were faced with dilemma. Men who had been strongly associated with the previous regime, there was a question mark over their loyalty to the new regime. This uncertainty had been fuelled by the Epiphany Plot of 1400. As Henry IV asserted his rule, lords and bishops needed to prove their loyalty. One way in which this was done was through the use of Proctors. In this example, Proctors were employed by John Burgill, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield.
Proctors are people who act on behalf of somebody. In law, this would be a representative such as a solicitor, accountant, or knowledgeable advisor. These people can be appointed to ‘literate’ on behalf of a person. It is the deployment of expertise on one’s behalf in order to have matters dealt with efficiently and in accordance with correct procedure.
In a situation where the loyalty of lords and bishops may need to be asserted, the appointment of proctors could be done as means of demonstrating to the crown an intent to remain loyal. This is what happened in the case of the Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield.
Proctors and The Manor of Heywood
The Commission acted on his behalf on 12th January 1401 in relation to his Manor of Heyward. The Proctors on the Commission were all men who had been appointed by King Henry IV or his closest supporters. This included senior officials and lawyers who also worked for the crown: clerks being, John Abingdon, Nicholas Bubwith, William Bullock and Thomas Stanley with Richard Lugge and Thomas Tickhill acting as Literates. All were associated with the Duchy of Lancaster or soon would be.
Ties to the crown
Bishop Burghill then added the King’s own Secretary and the Earl of Stafford to his list of proctors in the following years. Clearly wishing to show his loyalty to the crown. The preoccupation that lords and bishops had with matters over loyalty help also to illustrate why the wars with France were less intense at this time: England was in the middle of civil uncertainty.
Lichfield Cathedral by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607–1677). Public Domain. Held by University of Toronto Wenceslaus Hollar Digital Collection