ABSTRACT

One of the most striking features about the history of early Lollardy is the absence of systematic persecution, which, as was suggested in Chapter 40, was probably due to the patronage which it had from various influential men. Only after Henry V's accession, with the prosecution of Sir John Oldcastle, was a direct attack launched on an upper-class Lollard. When and how Oldcastle first became associated with heresy is not known though, as we have seen, Swinderby was a possible influence, but by the first years of the fifteenth century he was connected with some of the earlier Lollard knights; in 1404 he was named as an executor of Sir Lewis Clifford's will, of which Sir John Cheyne was the overseer. He may also have had contacts with the Clanvow family, whose lands in Herefordshire were not far from his own. He became involved in public affairs like other men of his class, serving in the Scottish campaign of 1400 and, as might be expected from the location of his lands, fighting against the Welsh rebels in the following years. Such service was rewarded in 1406 by an annuity of 100 marks. In 1409 he took part in a tournament at Lille, and in 1411-12 was again serving in the King's forces, being apparently closely associated with the prince of Wales. He was parliamentary knight for his shire in 1404, and in 1409, after marrying the heiress of Lord Cobham, he was summoned to the upper house in his own name in the right of his wife. Altogether, until his heresy came to light, he seems to have been generally well respected by his contemporaries. The first sign of his religious proclivities attracting unfavourable attention came in 1410, when Archbishop Arundel cited a chaplain who may have been associated with him on a heresy charge, although he himself was still left untouched, as the earlier Lollard knights had been. He was, however, probably now strongly suspected, and with good reason, as he may well by then have been regarded as the leading figure among the Lollards. Certainly in the same year he wrote to a lay supporter of Hus, and in 1411 to King Wenceslas of Bohemia, congratulating the Hussites on their recent successes (135, pp.207, 212; 226, pp.160-2).