The Ufford Family in MS Ashmole 804, Powell Roll of Arms

The Bodleian is home to a manuscript commonly called the Powell Roll of Arms, MS Ashmole 804, pt IV (and obligingly digitized, for which I am inordinately grateful!). It is a formidable document, with over 600 shields and, of interest to me, a tentative identification with Robert Ufford, earl of Suffolk. This was first suggested by Neil Denholm-Young, who mused that the presence of so many members of the Ufford family and of people within Suffolk’s affinity meant that it was probably made for the earl at some point. Few people have picked up on this point since then, but for a while now I’ve been working through the shields, nailing down identities, and tracking careers (and been consulting with Andrew Ayton at Hull and Rob Kinsey at Boydell & Brewer). At some point next year it should be ready to send off as an article. Right now, I want to draw attention to the members of the Ufford family in the roll, both as a way of clarifying my own thoughts and giving people a taste of what I’ve been working on. (I’ll also be presenting on this at the Saint Louis Medieval and Renaissance Studies Symposium, with lots of graphics, so stop by if you’ll be there!).

There are seven members of the Ufford family in the roll (descriptions of the arms from James Greenstreet, The Reliquary, July 1889). In fact, I would argue that the roll presents a snapshot of all surviving male members of the Earl’s immediate family–brothers and sons. This in itself is interesting, though as can be seen it is tricky to draw conclusions from the information presented on the shields. For details on the Ufford family, see selection from the 1912 edition of the Complete Peerage that Curt Hofemann obligingly posted in 2009 over at For heraldry terms, see Parker’s 1894 Glossary (there are many others available, but this one has the virtue of being comprehensive and digitized with care).

Robert Ufford, earl of Suffolk, page 1, 11th banner, #11    

[Sable, a cross engrailed Or fimbriated Gules]

This one is pretty self-explanatory–this is the first earl, born 1298, died 1369, one of Edward III’s closest companions, veteran of Crécy, hero of Poitiers, admiral of the north, head of the prince’s military council, knight of the Garter. The red fimbriation is a nice touch I haven’t noticed elsewhere.

Sir John Ufford, page 5, 1st shield, #4   

[Sable, a cross engrailed Or; a baston Argent]

The “John” named here is most likely the Earl’s next youngest brother, who served under him several times in the 1330s and 1340s. There was also a “John” from the Norfolk branch of the family (whose father was killed at Bannockburn), and who had two brothers at least, Edmund and Robert (you see how complicated this gets). This Edmund at least is notated as “the cousin” when he served with the earl. Sir John is less clearly differentiated from his cousin (assuming there are two Johns, which, given the arms here, is reasonable).

Sir Edmund Ufford, page 5, 3rd shield, #6   

[Sable, a cross engrailed Or; a baston gobony Argent and Gules]

For Edmund we are on surer ground, as “the cousin” is always noted as such in the sources, establishing that the Earl DID have a brother named Edmund (we actually have details on his life, also). As with John, above, Edmund’s retinues were usually quite small, indicative of the relatively modest means the family had before Earl Robert was elevated to the peerage.

Ufforde, page 12, 2nd shield, #89

[Sable, a cross engrailed Or, and in the dexter chief an annulet Argent]

This one is a puzzle, because the annulet usually signifies the fifth son. I would hazard a guess that these are the arms of the Earl’s youngest brother Ralph, who died on April 9, 1346, in Ireland. It would be consistent with John and Edmund being the middle brothers, and Ralph the youngest, and in need of a good marriage (in this case to Henry of Lancaster’s sister Maude, as it happens–it’s a long story). However, two points: we don’t actually know that Ralph was the youngest brother, and other sources on their military service suggest that he wasn’t. Also, this raises difficulties because a date of composition that has Ralph alive would not work for other knights included in the roll (some of whom, as Andrew Ayton pointed out, would not yet have been knights if we take an earlier date of composition). But the annulet Argent strongly suggests Ralph, and it is possible that John Suffolk (the Earl’s herald, presumptive author of the roll) may not have known of his death right away, or decided to keep the shield anyway when he found out.

Sir Thomas Ufford, page 15, 1st shield, #124

[Sable, a cross engrailed Or and label of three pendants Azure]

Now this is interesting because the label, on the left pendant of which you can still see a bit of the original blue tincture, indicates that he was the eldest son at the time the shield was painted (see the Oxford Guide to Heraldry, p. 66, and cadency marks in the British royal family). Thomas, however, was the Earl’s second son. This means that this part of the manuscript was made after Robert junior died–but of course, we don’t know precisely his date of death (something else I’m trying to pin down). We know he was alive in October of 1345, and was probably the Robert serving under Henry of Lancaster in Gascony (something Nick Gribit misses in his otherwise brilliant new book on the campaign). The Thomas named here is the Thomas who was a Garter knight, and whom the Chandos Herald mistakes for his father in his description of the Battle of Poitiers. He served under Lancaster in the Black Prince’s Spanish campaigns, including Nájera, and died in 1368.

Sir Walter Ufford, page 15, 3rd shield, #126

[Sable, a cross engrailed Or, and in the dexter chief a crown Argent]

Comparatively less is known of Walter Ufford. The main thing he did was to marry one of the Montagu/Brotherton heiresses–his brother William married the other. Elizabeth’s and Joan’s lives would be fascinating to tell; the same is true for most of the Ufford women–the earl’s wife, Margaret, was, from what I can piece together, quite a power in her own right. The issue with this shield, of course, is whether Walter was the third or fourth son of the Earl. The shield here is clearly labeled “Walter,” but the cadence is not right for a third son (that would be the shield below, with the silver mullet). The latest edition of the Complete Peerage names Walter as the 3rd son, however, in contrast to the 1912 edition, entry by Tout, which lists William as, well, the second son…).

Ufford , page 15, 4th shield, #127

[Sable, a cross engrialed Or, and in the dexter chief a mullet Argent]

The final Ufford shield in MS Asmole 804 is most likely that of William, who would go on to survive his brothers and become the 2nd Earl of Suffolk in 1369. He was a hard campaigner in the second phase of the Hundred Years War, and had a key role in suppressing the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381. He was also a peace broker and deal-maker in the troubled court of Richard II. He was married twice, but all his children, and his first wife, died around same time, perhaps of plague, and he died on 15 February 1382 (according to the Inquisition Post Mortem, TNA C136/22). It is interesting how neither edition of the Complete Peerage gets it right; the 1912 edition says December 1381, the new edition says February 1381/1382, but the IPM is crystal clear–February 15th of the 5th year of Richard II’s reign, which means 1382, since Richard’s regnal year ran from June to June.)

So, there you have it, a glimpse into the joys and aggravations of doing medieval prosopography (a fancy name for family and career research). Does this get us any closer to dating or identifying the author, function, and purpose of MS Ashmole 804 pt. 4? Not by itself, but in conjunction with other data derived from the roll these seven are suggestive of certain things–they help to fix parameters, or tell us what to research further. Stay tuned over the next few months for more on The Powell Roll of Arms, and if you’re at SLU in June maybe stop by to hear my paper.

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