The Harcourt/Lewknor conundrum, and new gateway ancestor Samuel Mathews?

+5 votes

1.  The potential gateway ancestor is Samuel Mathews, Sr., who was in Virginia before the Mayflower:  See his five-generation chart at

2.  The conundrum relates to the manor of Ranton (also spelled Raunton or Ronton), the reversion of which Roger Lewknor sold to John Harcourt in 1473.  ("Reversion" means that after the death of the current holder --Roger's cousin John D'Oyly -- the manor would revert to Roger or his heir or whoever he sold the reversion to.)  Roger Lewknor's profile is here:

3.  Ranton had been held by Roger Lewknor's D'Oyly ancestors since the 12th century; see Part 1 here:'oyly%20raunton&f=false 
and Part 2 here:,+the+eldest+son,+was+in+1403,+found+heir,%22&source=bl&ots=xQQOVpeuh8&sig=Nr1P2rwcPzFKmYMSYo9-BG7W_S4&hl=en&sa=X&ei=NpqWVfmgJ8qz-AGNpoC4BA&ved=0CCUQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=%22Thomas%20Lewknor%2C%20the%20eldest%20son%2C%20was%20in%201403%2C%20found%20heir%2C%22&f=false

4.  This last link cites A Biographical, Historical, Genealogical and Heraldic Account of the House of D'Oyly (1845) for the statement that Roger Lewknor sold the reversion of Ranton to John Harcourt to keep the ancient manor within the family.  This has led researchers to assume that John Harcourt was the son of one Eleanor Lewknor, assumed to have been an aunt of Roger Lewknor.  But this led to unsatisfactory theorizing about the father of John Harcourt; see

5.  Douglas Richardson gives the parents of John Harcourt (his mother was a Fraunceys, not a Lewknor) and mentions John's buying Ranton from Roger Lewknor.  But Richardson doesn't show any family connection whatsoever between the Harcourts and the Lewknors!  See http://

6.  And here the plot thickens.  There was a younger John Harcourt, parents unknown, who married Ann Scalers (Challers), heiress of the manor of Challers, which had been held by the Scalers family since the time of William the Conqueror(!).  John and Ann had a daughter Margery, born in 1475, and then John died in debt.  His widow Ann then married Giles Wellesbourne, who died in debt.  (This was the final period of the Wars of the Roses, and Giles appears to have been on the wrong side.)  Giles's presumed younger brother Humphrey Wellesbourne helped out Widow Ann with her deceased husbands' debts, and then he got to marry her heiress daughter Margery.  The younger John Harcourt's wikitree profile is here:

7. The big question here is, how does this younger John Harcourt fit into the family?  He definitely existed, per his widow's inquisition post mortem, here (scroll down, #995):  
Douglas Richardson doesn't mention this John Harcourt, and neither does anyone else.  Here is my proposed solution:
a) The elder John Harcourt was the husband, not the son of Eleanor Lewknor.  She was his first wife, and she died shortly after the birth of her son John, and then the elder John married (2) Margaret Bracy and had several children.
b) The elder John Harcourt bought the reversion of Ranton from his deceased first wife's brother Roger Lewknor in 1473, expecting it to pass to his eldest son and heir, the younger John Harcourt, nephew of Roger Lewknor.
c) However, because of the untimely death of the younger John Harcourt without a son, Ranton passed to the elder John's next son Thomas, who of course wasn't related to the Lewknors.

8.  Margery (Harcourt) Wellesbourne's daughter Agatha married Bishop William Barlow, and their daughter Frances married Bishop Tobie Mathew. Tobie and Frances Mathew were parents of Samuel Mathews, early immigrant to Virginia and father of Governor Samuel Mathews, Jr.  There has been a problem with this lineage, because earlier researchers haven't realized that Tobie Mathews had an elder son, also named Samuel, by an unknown first wife. For this reason, earlier researchers have incorrectly assumed that the Samuel Mathew, son of Bishop Tobie, who died in 1601 was the youngest son by Frances Barlow, instead of the eldest son.  See Samuel Mathews' profile at

WikiTree profile: John Harcourt
in Genealogy Help by Anonymous Schmeeckle G2G6 Mach 9 (95.7k points)

A fairly strong rebuttal from Adam Matthews.  ??? 

You have provided some fantastic depth!  

I actually had Adam Matthews' assessment in mind as I began my research.  Here is my response:

1.  The Oxford alumni register clearly indicates that Samuel Mathew who matriculated in 1581 was a son of Bishop Toby Mathew.  Adam Matthews wants to simply wave this away, preferring two secondary sources from over a hundred years later.  I say: go with the original source, which points to a previously-unknown first wife for Bishop Toby (who then married a widow).

2.  It appears that Adam Matthews and other researchers have been inhibited by a mental block against the idea that a man could have two different sons with the same name.  I have seen repeated examples of this  -- here's one involving a different early Virginia family: http://family:

3.  Adam Matthews says the following about Captain Thomas Young's 1634 letter to Samuel's presumed brother Sir Toby Mathew, Jr.: "Young's 1634 letter to Toby Matthew contains several vivid accounts of Capt. Samuel Matthews of VA, and it is clear he is not refering to any relation of Sir Toby."

Unfortunately, Adam Matthews gives no reason whatsoever for his assessment, which I believe to be a clumsy error.  This is a situation where it is important to take into account the historical background of Captain Young's letter:
a) Both Captain Young and Sir Tobey Mathew were Catholics; Captain Young was reporting to Sir Tobey about the situation in the new Catholic colony of Maryland, at a time of extreme hostility toward Catholics in England. 
b) Samuel Mathews, as evidenced by Thomas Young's letter, was a leader in a staunchly Puritan faction militantly opposed to the Virginia Governor's policy of peaceful coexistence with Maryland.
c) It was only prudent for Captain Young to avoid indicating any family connection between Tobey, Jr. and Samuel Mathews of Virginia.

Re: John Harcourt.  I think this John Harcourt (Harecourte) husband of Ann Scales (Scalers) was a bastard.  He was more than likely from Oxfordshire and definitely a grandson of Thomas Harecourte of of Stanton Harcourt Oxf., Ellenhall Staff.,and Market Bosworth, Leic.  At the time of 1567-8 he was Lancastrian

A couple clues

Calendar of the Close Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office 1953

Membrane 5.* 20 March 15. Westminster 1467

To the escheator in Cambridgeshire. Order to take an oath, of Maud late wife of John Deschalers, knight, and in presence of John More who has taken to wife Alice, one of the daughters of her late husband, and of John Harecourt who has married Anne, a second daughter, and of Margaret Deschalers the third daughter, to assign her dower. To the escheator in Hertfordshire. Like order.

To the escheator in Cambridgeshire. = John is from the Staunton Harcourt group.  Probably son of Robert Harecourt Knight of the Garter before 1440 before his marriage to Margaret Byron.  He could also be a son of Richard Harecourte.   

1482 Feb 8th General Pardon John Harecourt gentleman “bastard” late of Staunton Harecourt, Oxford. and alias of Whytney (Whitney) Oxford. Equire, alias of Swynbroke, (Swinbrook) Oxford. (York)

There is also a John Harecourte de Wytney listed up until 1584.  I do believe he was not the same person than John Harcourte esq. Usher to King's Henry VI and Richard III. 

A very interesting link of a Noble bastard, John Harcourte basically given freedom to do as he pleases at 21. 

'Vatican Regesta 459: 1457', in Calendar of Papal Registers Relating To Great Britain and Ireland: Volume 11, 1455-1464, ed. J A Twemlow (London, 1921), pp. 123-140. British History Online [accessed 27 December 2017].


6 Id. Jan.

(8 Jan.)

St. Peter's, Rome.

(f. 149.)                To John Harecourt, clerk, of Exeter. Dispensation, at his recent petition (containing that after he had been dispensed by papal authority, on account of illegitimacy as the son of an unmarried nobleman and an unmarried woman, to be promoted to all even holy orders and hold a benefice even with cure …), so that he, who is in about his twentieth year and is of noble birth, may receive and retain with the aforesaid benefices forthwith (exnunc) any benefices without cure, of any number and kind, and, after he is of the lawful age any benefices with cure, of any number and kind, compatible with one another and with the aforesaid benefice, even if canonries and prebends, dignities etc., even major or principal dignities (fn. 10), and may resign them all, simply or for exchange, as often as he pleases. Nobilitas generis, vite etc. (M. Ferrarii. | xx. A. de Hirspaco. P. de Legendorff.) [In the margin: Februarii. 1 p.]

Ibid.       To the same. Dispensation to him (who is in about his twentieth year and is of noble birth, and was lately dispensed by papal authority, on account of illegitimacy as the son of an unmarried nobleman and an unmarried woman to be promoted to all even holy orders and hold a benefice even with cure, and has been dispensed this day to receive and retain etc. as in the preceding) so that, after he is of the lawful age, he may receive and retain for life any two benefices with cure or otherwise incompatible with one another, even if dignities etc., even major or principal dignities, and may resign them, simply or for exchange, as often as he pleases, and receive and retain for life instead two other incompatible benefices, provided that they be not two parish churches or their perpetual vicarages, or such mixed. Nobilitas etc. (M. Ferrarii. | xxx. A. de Hirspaco. P. de Legendorff.) [1¾ pp.]

Thanks to JQ for your post.  The first source is especially welcome as documentation for the Harcourt/Scalers (Deschalers) marriage.

The other sources serve as a useful test for my theory that John Harcourt, husband of Anne Deschalers, was the eldest son of John Harcourt of Ellenhall by a supposed first wife Eleanor Lewknor.

Here are my thoughts: First of all, John Harcourt, the bastard "clerk" of Exeter in 1456/7, was a priest ("clerk") who was given dispensations to hold two incompatible positions ("benefices") within the church.  I think that he can be rejected as the John Harcourt who married Anne Scalers.

Second is the record of John Harcourt, bastard, who was pardoned in 1482.  He is given three different residences, which seems to indicate that he didn't hold any land.  Anne Scalers, however, was the co-heiress of an ancient family with an unbroken lineage holding the same land, going back to the time of William the Conqueror.  If I am not mistaken, it is inconceivable that a woman of this rank would marry a landless bastard.  Further thoughts are welcome.

Here is what Roskell's History of Parliament Online says about Anne's father Sir John Challers: "John came of a family which had been established in Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire for nigh on 300 years, being directly descended from Hardwin de Scalers, who had acquired the manors of Whaddon, Wyddial and Reed shortly after the Conquest. John’s sizeable inheritance also included six knights’ fees and the overlordship of Broadfield elsewhere in Hertfordshire, as well as the Norfolk manor of Thelveton."  See


I found a lot more info, and made a timeline.  I found sources that John Harecourt the bastard (from Wytney) did hold land and had a daughter named Margery forced into marriage in 1493 and was the son of Robert.  "He is given three different residences, which seems to indicate that he didn't hold any land."  actually proves he has land.  I posted my findings on the soc.genealogy.medieval group!topic/soc.genealogy.medieval/aWHunzol9PQ   I am sure this group can hash it out.  This could open up an easy Royal Line through the William Overton (if we can prove with certainty that Valentine was his son working on that too!topic/soc.genealogy.medieval/BLUWloSKKAk)  so a lot of people will be out to find holes, which is a good thing. 

Here is a small part of it

John Harecourte (bastard) b.c. 1536* - (de Wytney, esq., the elder, senior, Gentleman Usher of the King’s Chamber, Receiver, Keeper of the Peace of Oxfordshire).  Eldest (illegitimate) son of Robert Harecourt KG.  Married Ann Scales (Scalers) and had one daughter b.c. 1475, Margery who Married Humphrey Wellesbourne c. 1493-4

c. 1481-2 John Harecourt, the King's Receiver, had come to Caversham from Witney, Oxon. pg 24. Historical Notices of Caversham, Volume 1

1485 Jan 11th Grant to Anne Harecourte, widow, late the wife of John Harecourt, esquire, son and heir of Robert Harecourt, knight, of a yearly rent of 20 marks from all manors and lands in the county of Oxford in the king's hands by reason of the minority of Edward, earl of Warwick, son of George, late duke of Clarence, during the said minority. >> Note John Harecourt esq. de Staunton husband of Anne Norreys died June 26th 1485 and this John (de wytney) is late receiver to the crown.

1486 - Plaintiffs: Reynold Danvers and Jane, his wife, previously the wife of Edward Bekyngham. Defendants: John Cesson, clerk. Subject: Detention of deeds relating to the same, and bond obtained without consideration by John Harecourt, bastard, esquire, late of Wytney.  Oxfordshire.  documents

1493 - In the third case, arising from the abduction in 1493 of Margaret Harecourt, daughter and heir of John Harecourt esquire, of Witney in Oxfordshire, two gentlemen and two yeomen did surrender to the crown, but nothing more is known. Pg. 31 Wealth and power in Tudor England: essays presented to S. T. Bindoff. Source in book 48. (KB 9 Indictment Rolls) KB9/402/52 — indicted 24 Feb. 1494, to king's bench Mich. 1494 but no entries in Rex Roll for Mich, to Pas. 1494-95, KB27/933, 934, 935. >>>> Note: I believe this has to do of the forced marriage between Humphrey Wellesbourne and Margaret Harecourte in 1493.  Margaret was the heir of 1/3 of the John Scalers Inheritance tail in fee.  


Thanks Jason, for continuing the discussion.  I see from the links you posted that you are also interested in the Bishops' descent from the Harcourt/Wellesbourne connection.

I have two reservations about your conclusions.  I'll be the first to admit that I can make mistakes, so perhaps the following discussion is off-base, but...

If I'm not mistaken, "bastard" John Harcourt did not hold the manor of Wytney.  Rather, per your source, he had "custody of the park, chase, warren, meadows and waters belonging to the episcopal manor of Witney, and also of the woods and undergrowth there for which he is to have charge of collecting the pennies due [for their use] at the tourns and the court; in addition he is to act as summoner for the tourns and the court and as assistant to the serviens of the of the manor who collects the rents and distrains [for non payment]. These positions are to be held by Harecourte during his lifetime and may be filled by deputies for whom he will remain responsible. He will receive the customary wages and fees which pertain to these offices and which will be paid from the revenues and profits of the manor each year in 2 equal instalments at Easter and Michaelmas by the rent collectors there."  

In other words, he held an office, with "wages and fees,"  which included responsibility for certain portions of the manor of Wytney, but he did not hold the manor.

Your quote a record that shows that John Harcourt, bastard, had a daughter MargarET who was abducted in 1493.  If I understand correctly, you see this daughter as the same as MargerY, daughter of Ann Scalers and John Harcourt, who married Humphrey Wellesbourne in 1493.  The problem, as I see it, is that the 1493 record of MargarET implies that her father John Harcourt (bastard) was living, while MargerY Harcourt's father John Harcourt was long dead in 1493.  Am I looking at that right?

1 Answer

+1 vote
by David Martin G2G6 (8.6k points)

That remains to be seen... It seems to me that there's a good case for connecting the younger John as the "uncertain" son of the elder John, but others may notice a problem that I've missed.  We'll have to wait and see if a consensus emerges, and it wouldn't surprise me if others take a wait-and-see approach while somebody contacts Douglas Richardson and asks for his opinion.  And who knows what might turn up when others start digging up information about these families. 

It would certainly be nice if WikiTree could eventually claim a second "home grown" gateway ancestor, but we might not find enough to rate the proposed lineage as anything more than "plausible but unproven."  

By the way, wikitree's one-and-only "home grown" gateway ancestor is Robert Rose, who came to Virginia in the 18th century, too late for Douglas Richardson to consider (he uses a cutoff time of 1700).  Robert Rose's lineage is a good example of the in-depth research necessary to establish a new gateway ancestor.  His profile is here:

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