One of the writers of the Sussex Archaeological Collections has taken great trouble in tracing the lineage of Margaret Hoo, the wife of Thomas Sinclair; and he is justly proud of his success, as compared with the efforts of other genealogists in this particular inquiry. He has drawn up a table of pedigree, besides writing his careful paper; and to them for full knowledge it would be instructive to go. Sir William Hoo of Hastings had served three sovereigns in ambassadorial, diplomatic, and other distinguished ways during forty years. He died Lord Hoo and Hastings, 22nd November 1410, aged 75. His first wife was Alice de St.Omer, daughter and coheiress of Thomas de St.Omer, her mother being Petronella, coheiress of Nicolas, Lord de Malmaynes, of the baronial Kent family who came with the Conqueror, and who were heired chiefly by the Crevequeres, barons of Chatham and Leeds Castle. Sir William Hoo and Alice de St.Omer had Thomas, who succeeded his father, and in more ways than one.
When after fifteen years of war from the appearance of Joan of Arc both French and English grew exhausted, and a peace was desired in 1444, Sir Thomas Hoo, Robert, lord Ros, and others, went as ambassadors of England with De la Pole, earl of Suffolk, to Tours, according to Rymer's Foedera, and got a two years' truce, at the same time getting a queen, Margaret of Anjou, for Henry VI. In the roll of the knights of the garter, Sir Thomas Hoo, lord Hoo and Hastings, is entered as elected in 1445, and these services are the explanation of his K.C. In 1460 William, lord Hastings, had K.G. Sir Thomas had two brothers, John and William, and one sister, Margaret, who married the wealthy Thomas St.Clere, from which marriage the family of Gage is descended. The antiquary adds,
‘The descendants of the daughter Margaret were ultimately the heirs of Thomas Hoo who died in 1486’. This was the last of the line.
Margaret's brother William was also a distinguished man, holding a command as Sir William Hoo in the Sussex contingent at the battle of Agincourt. He was knight to Lord Camoys, having both respectively, as money then went, 2s. and 4s. a day. Brady's Appendix has a table of pay from the prince at 20s. a day to the Welshman at 2d. But this was earlier, 20 Edward III, though little or no change occurred. The French war, for a year and one hundred and thirty-one days, had cost altogether only £127,101, 2s. 9d. Sir William and Thomas Sinclair of Grinstead, the uncle of Margaret's husband, were fellow-officers under Henry V on the memorable day.
It was the inquisition in Bedfordshire, where the Hoo from which the name came was, at the death of the last male, Thomas Hoo, in 1486, that gave the clue to the antiquary as to Margaret, the wife of Thomas Sinclair, the last of his branch. Sir Wilham Boleyn, aged 36, entered on his cousin Thomas Hoo's manors of Offley, Cokern-Hoo, and Hoo in Luton, under the feoffment of 10 Dec 1473; and the Bedfordshire jury found that he had for coheirs,
‘Ann was the eldest daughter and coheir of Thomas, lord Hoo and Hastings’, and that she married Sir Geoffrey Boleyn who was
‘lord mayor of London in 1458’. A Kent guide-book takes care to state that he was a tradesman. He is yet another connection for these Sinclairs with the city of London's mayoralty, but it is also the courtly connection, which unions became more and more common as feudalism grew milder by decay.
The English nobility is now made up much more of commercial than feudal blood, and the road to this was paved considerably by the Kent and Sussex nobles in particular. Sir William Boleyn himself was married to Margaret, daughter and coheir of Thomas Butler, earl of Wiltshire and Ormond: and it was through her that her son Sir Thomas Boleyn, the great ambassador of Henry VIII's reign, after being Viscount Rochford, got the title of earl of Wiltshire and Ormond, the father of the marchioness of Pembroke who became the queen, Ann Boleyn. Her mother was Elizabeth Howard, sister of the duke of Norfolk, and Camden says her daughter Ann was born in 1507. Rapin declares that
‘Ann Boleyn was of a good though not a noble family’, by which he must mean that Geoffrey the lord mayor was one of the people. After him, all that was noblest in England seems to have connected with the Boleyns. Ann Boleyn's daughter, Queen Elizabeth, the Gloriana of England's poetic age, could easily trace kin with these ladies, the daughters of Thomas Sinclair by Margaret Hoo; and the favour at court of their descendants is explainable thus, in good degree. But this is enough of anticipation, before returning to the history of the coheiresses after 1435, when their father died.
Elizabeth the eldest was then twelve, Edith the second eleven, and Alianor the youngest nine; their mother, Margaret Hoo, about thirty, able to give them every motherly care and devotion. Whether educated at home or by the religieuses of the famous four nunneries of England, whose abbesses were baronesses, might be discovered; but the public records find them quite equipped with, all the charms of womanhood, natural and acquired, the chief figures at what must have been a triple marriage in 1446, their ages twenty-three, twenty-two, and twenty. The division of their lands to the respective husbands took place on the eighth of July of the same year. To their father had come all the estates which gave names to the family, Igtham, Parvapreston, Farthingo, Stean, Aston-Clinton, Burstow, Aldham-St.Clere, East Grinstead, and the rest; and out of them provision had to be made for the young widow, and also for his sister Margaret, married to Thomas Pulteney, armiger, of the Ospring and Penshurst baronial family founded by Sir John de Pulteney, lord mayor of London. But enough remained after these and perhaps other similar claims were satisfied, to make the coheiresses the best prizes for loving husbands of the period.
If comparison be made with the inquisition lists of the family properties in 1335, and again in 1408, both already given, it will be seen that the coheiresses did not by any means divide all among their husbands, princely though their dowers were. The Somersetshire estates must have remained with their mother, or gone to their aunt Margaret, as well as Igtham and various other manors which Thomas Sinclair is known to have possessed besides those mentioned. Lyghe manor in Kent he sold, or had to sell perhaps, from friendly or other cause, to the brother of Henry V, John, duke of Bedford, regent of England till the warlike Henry died, and afterwards that of France till his death at Rouen in 1435, the year in which Thomas Sinclair died. Bickmersh in Warwickshire had come to him from Sir Baldwin de Bereford; Covelingley, Caterham, Home, Wolksted, Tanrugge, and Godstone, where Diana's fountain gives back youth to London maidens, were his, in Surrey; in Kent he had Eythorne Court, and Hasted in his history gives the tale of a South Court which John de St.Clare held, 20 Edward III (1346), as one knight's fee from the castle of Eynesford (whose ruins were then large and remarkable), and which came to Thomas. This is indication to be added to what has been said before of the relation between the lords of Eynesford and these Sinclairs of Aldham.
Aldham St.Clere itself was at one period held from the castle of Eynesford, probably as being by a younger branch of the family which Thomas Becket's interference made the occasion of all that trouble to himself, and to his king, the greater martyr of the two. Hasted also gives account of Woodland, which came from “the lords of Kent”, as by pre-eminence he calls them, the Crevequeres, to John, son to John St.Clere, in 9 Edward III (1336). Stone, too, in Buckinghamshire, called “Sentler's Stone” or “Sencler's Stone”, which was shown to have been for many generations in possession of a branch of the Bradfield St.Clare lords in Suffolk, seems to have fallen by heir-general to this family. But there were difficulties about it, and opposition to some of their claims. Sir Philip of Burstow urged his right of presentation to St.Mary's Church there in 1407, but it was not admitted. Probably Wethersfield, Suffolk, came to him by the same connection. They had in Hartwell of this county, West Orchardson or Seyntclares. Four miles from Newmarket they held in 1408 a St.Cleres in Cambridgeshire, and in Norfolk, Huntingfield. But antiquity, though singularly favourable to them, does not give up every point; and perhaps enough has been said for all purposes, their tale being quite safe in many records, books, and manuscripts of their country. That they had large share of Kent and Sussex in particular, is easily remarked.
Elizabeth Sinclair, the eldest daughter, married a second time. Richard Lewknor was her choice, and they built the Brambletye House which is so well celebrated by Horace Smith's novel of society, and whose ruins are now one of the favourite studies of artists. There are older and later portions of buildings about which there is antiquarian dispute, but there is no doubt that Lewknor and his lady were the founders of the mansion. The Lewknors were one of the best Sussex families, bearing knightly title and holding sheriffships and commissionerships to parliament frequently. Under various kings history shows that they held legal, court, and state offices. Sir John Lewknor was killed at the battle of Tewkesbury, 1471. Such heirships as Elizabeth's to Lord Hoo and Hastings must have aided considerably to their aggrandizement. On her death she was succeeded herself by a daughter of Lord Say, who was Sir Thomas Grey's widow, and one of the ladies of the queens of Edward IV and Henry VII. The historical associations connected not only with this but with many others of their manor-houses are endless. Within sight of Aldham-St.Clare the road of the pilgrims to St.Thomas' shrine at Canterbury went, and these coheiresses may well have had Chaucer's gay ambassadorial company at the beautiful home there, when he was gathering ideas as to the twenty-nine types of society then and ever. They could have seen the Jack Cade gatherings to revenge the loss of Normandy by putting the house of York, in other words the Mortimers, on the throne, from their castle-tower; and many a tear for slaughtered friends must the wars of the roses have cost them.
Edith Sinclair was not a long liver. Her husband Sir Richard Harcourt married a second and a third time, dying himself in 1487. His heir, however, was Edith's son, Sir Christopher. She had a daughter Anne who married Henry Fiennes, lord Say and Seal, a Kent neighbour, son of the learned high treasurer, James Fynes, lord Say and Seal, barbarously beheaded by Jack Cade in his rebellion of 1450. Lord Clinton and Say is the later title. There is a well near Kemsing which is called St.Edith's Well, and it is probable that the character of this one of the coheiresses is immortalized in the name. The history of the Harcourts, afterwards earls of Oxford, and in the heart of the good things, needs no illustration.
The youngest lady, Alianor or Eleanor Sinclair, was married to Sir John Gage, and went with him to found a home in England one of the most ancient and honoured by distinguished dwellers, Firle Place in Sussex. Sir John was a Yorkist, and figured like most of his descendants as a warrior. General Gage of the American independence war a century ago, is a more recent historical example. Their son William Gage died 1496, and was buried in the Greyfriars Church, London, having married Agneta, daughter of Thomas Bolney, armiger, M.P. for Sussex in 1459. Sir John Gage, the son of William, was knight of the garter, and elected in 1541 lord chamberlain to Queen Mary, the general who quashed the rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyatt; his wife, Philippa, daughter of Sir Richard Guildford, an equally distinguished man of the time.
Collins says that the first Sir John bought lands in Cirencester, Mursater, Sidington, and Brimsfield, Gloucestershire,
‘and made a further addition to his estate by his marriage with Eleanor, daughter and heir of Thomas St.Clere, esquire, lord of the manor of Aston-Clinton in county Bucks, and Offspring in Kent’. In Henry VIII's reign Leland the antiquary speaks of Master Gage, “controller of the kinges howse”, a descendant of the Gages, and says,
‘One told me that much of the lande that Mr. Gage hath are landes of the S.Clares in Kente’. Leland gives further information about other counties where he inherited thus, and use of it will be made in due place.
‘One told me that Mastar Gage hath miche of S.Clares lands in Kent’, is another version Hearne gives of his deciphered MSS. called the Collectanea, parts of which are lost and other parts difficult to master.
This Sir John Gage, K.G., was constable of the tower, and in the dissolution of the monasteries reported on Battle Abbey. The Sussex Archaeological Collections sings his praises greatly as not only knight of the garter and constable of the tower, but chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, privy councillor to Mary, soldier and statesman previously to Henry VIII, his death taking place 1557, at the age of 77. The ancient MS. by his 3d son Robert, quoted in Burke's Peerage, is still more remarkable by its list of offices and honours. The Segraves or Sulgraves of Northamptonshire, prominent as governor of Scotland in Edward I's reign, and as chief justiciaries and other such officers of other reigns, seem to have been consanguineous with these Gages, originally of Gloucestershire. A Harleian MS., however, makes the first Sir John have a father John and a grandfather of the same name lords of Cirencester.
But these Gages, well known lately in all the English wars with France and America, have relations to other branches of the Sinclair lineage in the reigns of Henry VIII and his successors. The Peerages of Burke and Foster give plentiful details of their honours, lineage, and marriages. Two quarters of the shield of Viscount Gage have the arms of the St.Clere family, “Azure, the sun in splendour, or”; and the marriage which gained them has good genealogical treatment by the professionals. The historical MSS. commission of 1863 reported on the charters then in Lord Gage's possession; and of one in “box 5”, it is said:
‘24 Henry VI - To a deed of this date is the seal of William Lovell, Esq., of Rotherfeldgrey; the arms are barry, nebuly, quartering St.Clair (a sun in splendour)’. This is evidence of the connection of the Lord Lovell with the Lord Gage family through these Sinclair ladies. The court rolls of Heighton St.Clair in the times of Edward III, Henry IV, Edward IV, Henry VII, Henry VIII, and Elizabeth are still among the Gage documents, as well as bailiffs' accounts for Shovelstrode in East Grinstead in the time of Elizabeth, and for Heighton St.Clair in the reigns of Henry IV and Edward III.
As early as the eleventh century Earl Simon Sinclair is a witness to some of the family charters.
By the death of Thomas, the father of the coheiresses, those wide and numerous lands were lost to the Sinclair name irremediably, and the chief satisfaction is that so much wealth went to building up names for other English houses worthy of all the fortune which energy and gallantry deserve.