Sir John Bourchier was the son and heir of Sir Humphrey Bourchier and his wife Elizabeth Tilney. Born about 1467, he was 7 in 1474 when he succeeded to the Berners barony on the death of his grandfather, his father having died in 1471 in the Battle of Barnet.
On 30 April 1472, his mother married Thomas Howard, K.G., K.B., Earl of Surrey, Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshal of England. Thomas was the son of John Howard, K.G., by his first wife, Katherine Moleyns. Thomas became John Bourchier’s guardian.
Marriage and legitimate children
Before 13 May 1490, John Bourchier married Katherine Howard, John Howard’s daughter by his second marriage to Margaret Chedworth. The couple were fined for their marriage in 1491/2. They had 1 son and 3 daughters:
Humphrey Bourchier, Esq., who married Elizabeth Bacon. (No issue.)
George Bourchier, Esq., mentioned in his father's will.
Ursula Bourchier, wife of Sir William Sherington, but died without issue.
John Bourchier was knighted in January 1478 when Richard Duke of York, son of Edward IV, married Anne de Mowbray.
He appears to have been involved in attempts in 1484 to place Henry Tudor, future Henry VII, on the English throne in place of Richard III, and, when these failed, to have fled to Brittany.
He was summoned to Parliament in 1495, and frequently attended it when he was in England, the last occasion being in 1529.
In 1497 he helped to put down the rebellion of Perkin Warbeck.
In 1513 he participated in Henry VIII’s military campaign in France, and then fought alongside his half-brother Thomas Howard in Scotland. Howard was Lord High Admiral, and John Bourchier was marshal of the army in the Scottish campaign.
In 1514 he was nominated as chamberlain of Princess Mary, Henry VIII’s sister, when, after peace had been secured with France, it was agreed she should marry Louis XII, but the French insisted that he and others in Mary’s entourage be dismissed. That same year he was prospectively given the chancellorship of the Exchequer when Sir Thomas Lovell died: he entered the office after Lovell’s death in 1524.
In 1518 he was joint head of a diplomatic mission to Spain in an attempt to negotiate a general peace in Europe. As was common with diplomatic missions of the time, funding was inadequate and he wrote to Wolsey complaining of this.
In 1520 he was appointed royal Deputy at Calais. In 1526 he was replaced by Sir Robert Wingfield: he resumed the post in 1531, agreeing to pay Wingfield 100 marks a year.
John Bourchier produced a number of translations from French and Spanish:
Arthur of Lytell Brytayne, from a French prose romance
Huon de Bordeaux, from another French prose romance. This translation is the first work in English referring to the fairy king Oberon.
Froissart's Chronicles, a translation, undertaken at the request of King Henry VIII, which played a significant role in the development of English prose style and which influenced the 16th century chroniclers Hall and Holinshed on whom Shakespeare drew heavily for his historical plays. Text available at Project Gutenberg.
The Castell of Love, from a French translation of a Spanish original with a continuation directly translated from Spanish: a book on manners and etiquette, fictionalised in the form of a tale of "the love betwene Leriano and Laureola doughter to the kynge of Masedonia"
The Golden Book of Marcus Aurelius, undertaken at the request of his nephew Sir Francis Bryan, from a French translation of a Spanish original, and completed a few days before John Bourchier's death: it was rendered into a flowery English which was a precursor of a florid style, popular in the later 16th century, called "Euphuism"; many editions were published in the 16th century.
He is said to have written a comedy in Latin, which was often staged after Vespers while he was in Calais, and which has not survived, as well as a work on the duties of the Calais population.
Sir John made a will on 3 March 1532/3 and died on 19 March 1532/3 at Calais, where he was buried. His will was proved 4 Feb 1533/4: it has been published and can be found, with accompanying notes, online. His estate was heavily encumbered by debt, much of it to the English Crown. In 1532 Henry VIII gave orders for John Bourchier’s personal property to be watched over to protect the crown’s financial interest, and soon after John Bourchier’s death Edmund Howard, a half-brother of John’s who was Controller of Calais, was commanded to seize all John’s goods in Calais on behalf of the king.
Mother of illegitimate children
The mother of John Bourchier’s illegitimate children is often named as Elizabeth Bacon (or Becon or Bakyn). These suggestions probably derive from Flower’s Visitation of Yorkshire in 1563 and 1564, which gives Elizabeth Becon as mother of James, George and Humphrey, in wording that makes clear that they were born outside marriage: they are said to be "by on (i.e. "one" or "an") Elizabeth Becon”.Tudor Place has Elizabeth Bacon as John Bourchier’s second wife, though there is clear documentary evidence of the illegitimacy of the children who survived him: the mistake is probably due to a misreading of the Bourchier pedigree in Flower's Visitation. Douglas Richardson’s Magna Carta Ancestry suggests that the identification of the mother of his illegitimate children as Elizabeth Bacon is likely to be mistaken, resulting from confusion with Elizabeth Bacon, the wife of John Bourchier’s illegitimate son Humphrey: vol.1, p.287 footnote 165. Dugdale’s Visitation of Yorkshire does not name the mother.
Field of the Cloth of Gold
Douglas Richardson states that John Bourchier was present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520. Cokayne says the same in the Complete Peerage. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states categorically that, although this is a widely held belief, it is wrong, as he remained in London with Henry VIII's Council. He was on a list prepared on 26 March 1520 of those expected to attend, with his name given as 'Lord Barnesse', but if the ODNB is right, he was in the event required to stay behind in England. The statement in the ODNB seems supported by a letter from the King’s Council in London in response to one sent from Calais by Cardinal Wolsey in late June: the signatories include 'John Berners', and the letter refers to ‘the Lord Barnes’ (another form of his name) being sent by the Council to welcome three gentlemen from France. This would seem to give fairly clear evidence that John Bourchier stayed in London as a member of the Lords in Council.
↑ 1.01.1 Douglas Richardson. Royal Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, 5 vols, ed. Kimball G. Everingham (Salt Lake City: the author, 2013), volume I, pages 479-492 BOURCHIER.
↑ Douglas Richardson. Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, 4 vols, ed. Kimball G. Everingham, 2nd edition (Salt Lake City: the author, 2011), volume I, pages 284-285 BOURCHIER 11.i.
↑ Ancestors of Muriel (Gurdon) Saltonstall, who immigrated with her husband when he returned to New England in April 1635, settling in Ipswich, Massachusetts. (Richardson, Royal Ancestry, III:183 GURDON 21.i.; IV:551-552 SALTONSTALL 24.)
↑ 12.012.112.212.3 Nicholas Harris Nicolas. Testamenta Vetusta: Being Illustrations from Wills, of Manners, Customs Etc. as Well as of the Descents and Possessions of Many Distinguished Families from Henry II. to Queen Elizabeth, Volume 2, 1826, pp.657-660, Google Books
↑ British Library MS. Cotton. D vii p.233, full text in Richard Turpyn, The Chronicles of Calais: in the Reigns of Henry VII. and Henry VIII. to the Year 1540. Ed. from Mss. in the British Museum, Camden Society, 1846, pp.92-94, Internet Archive, accessed 14 April 2019
Richardson, Douglas. Royal Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, 5 vols, ed. Kimball G. Everingham. Salt Lake City: the author, 2013. See also WikiTree's source page for Royal Ancestry.
Richardson, Douglas. Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, 4 vols, ed. Kimball G. Everingham. 2nd edition. Salt Lake City: the author, 2011. See also WikiTree's source page for Magna Carta Ancestry.
I have just found documentary evidence which seems to support the ODNB statement that John Bourchier didn’t attend the Field of the Cloth of Gold, but stayed behind as a member of the Lords in Council in London. See revised research note.
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states categorically that "Berners (ie John Bourchier, 2nd Lord Berners) was not present at the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520, as has been generally stated, but remained with the council in London." Because of this, I felt it better not to mention the Field of the Cloth of Gold in the bio. I am adding a research note and removing the Cloth of Gold category.