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Calveley, Sir Hughlocked

(d. 1394)
  • Kenneth Fowler

Calveley, Sir Hugh (d. 1394), military commander, was the son of David Calveley of Lea in Cheshire and his first wife, Joan.

Military apprenticeship

Calveley served his military apprenticeship in the war of succession in Brittany (1341–64), in which the English supported the partisans of John de Montfort (d. 1345) against those of the French claimant to the duchy, Charles de Blois. In this war he was closely associated with another Cheshire soldier of fortune, Sir Robert Knolles, and on the French side, the Breton Bertrand du Guesclin, later constable of France, and he may have been a brother-in-arms of both men. He is first mentioned among the forces that laid siege to La Roche-Derrien under the king's lieutenant and captain-general in the duchy, Sir Thomas Dagworth, in 1346. In the guerrilla warfare that increasingly characterized the scene in Brittany, he was twice taken prisoner, first in 1351 among the combatants in the battle of the Thirty, and again in 1354 when, as one of the captains of the garrison town of Bécherel, he was captured beneath the walls of the neighbouring town of Montmuran. He may have been in charge of a contingent of archers in the first battle of the prince's army at Poitiers, and in the ensuing years he was able to command a substantial body of men-at-arms and archers in a war increasingly outside English royal control: with the Navarrese forces in Normandy in 1358–9, in the Auvergne in the latter year, and in the Loire provinces. Following the conclusion of peace between England and France at Brétigny (8 May 1360), he continued to operate on his own account, taking du Guesclin prisoner in a combat on the bridge of Juigné-sur-Sarthe towards the end of that year or early in 1361. In 1362 he commanded a contingent of men-at-arms in the army of Pedro of Castile, who supported Mohammed V, the deposed Moorish king of Granada, in his war against Abu Saïd. Returning to France, in January 1363 a royal order was put out for his arrest for violations against the Anglo-French peace; but at the beginning of May he was again in Brittany, where he led a contingent of forces sent to the relief of Bécherel, and in the following year he was present at the battle of Auray (29 September 1364), which brought an end to the succession dispute, and provided him with a substantial lump sum and a life annuity for his services to John de Montfort's son and heir, the new duke, John (d. 1399). He returned once again to fighting on his own account, but in November following, another royal order was issued forbidding him to make war in France, ostensibly in Navarrese service.

Career in Spain

The years that followed until 1369 were the most important in Calveley's life. During the course of 1365, as part of a more general plan to rid France of the independent companies whose numbers were swollen by the demobilization of troops that followed the Breton settlement and the fragile accommodation between the kings of France and Navarre, Charles V recruited du Guesclin to lead into Spain those forces occupying towns and fortresses in Normandy, Brittany, the Chartrain, and the Loire provinces, and Calveley was engaged as one of du Guesclin's subordinate commanders in respect of the English and other forces in those provinces over which he could use his influence. With the blessing of the pope and the emperor, in league with the king of France, the expedition took on the aspect of a crusade against the Moors of Granada; but as it emerged that the troops under du Guesclin's command were intended, first, to support Enrique da Trastamara's bid to dethrone Enrique's half-brother, England's ally Pedro of Castile, and, second, to assist Pedro IV, king of Aragon, to recover territories occupied by Castile on the Aragonese frontiers, Edward III ordered Calveley and other English captains in France to prevent English troops from entering Spain. The orders, issued on 6 December 1365, were too late to stem the flow of English troops, which arrived around Barcelona before Christmas, and the general concentration of the allied forces around Saragossa where, on 16 February 1366, du Guesclin and Calveley drew up a contract in the English diplomatic form of an indenture of war. By the terms of this agreement the two captains joined forces for the campaign in Castile and Granada, agreed the terms of pay for Calveley and the forces under his command, provided for the division of their profits of war (three-quarters to du Guesclin and one-quarter to Calveley), including the grants already made to du Guesclin by Pedro IV, notably the towns of Borja and Magallon on the Aragonese–Castilian frontier near Saragossa, and the valleys of Elda and Novelda in the kingdom of Valencia, which were still to be secured in the forthcoming campaign. The only exception to this division was the kingdom of Granada, over which Trastamara had already made certain undertakings to du Guesclin, and which, if conquered, was to be retained by him, with the exception of the fortified places of the Moorish king of Benamarin to the north of the Strait of Gibraltar, which were to be awarded to Calveley. A further significant clause provided that Calveley could abandon the campaign if Edward III or any of his sons required him to do so, or if they or the constable of Aquitaine, Sir John Chandos, intervened in the war in Castile or Granada.

The companies under Calveley's command—1000 combatants of an army of 10,000–12,000—spearheaded the attack up the Ebro valley in the direction of Logroño which opened the campaign and speedily established Trastamara's position. On 28 March Trastamara entered Burgos and on the following day was crowned at Las Huelgas. By way of reward for his services Calveley was granted the ancient town of Carrión in Palencia, which was erected into a county, thus making him count of Carrión. Before the end of May Enrique's army had pushed south to encircle and take both Toledo and Seville which, like Burgos, were abandoned by Pedro, who had fled the realm by the beginning of June. Although the new king disbanded the greater part of his forces at this juncture, it was not until 2 January 1367 that he formally discontinued the service of the contingents under the direct command of du Guesclin and Calveley, some 1000–1500 lances in all. On the same day du Guesclin released Calveley from all the terms of their indenture, thereby facilitating Calveley's capture of Miranda de Arga and Puente la Reina in Navarre within the following two weeks, which was intended, it seems, to protect the frontiers of that kingdom from a new Franco-Aragonese invasion and thereby facilitate the invasion of Castile by Edward, the Black Prince. In the following year Calveley began a long pursuit, through the Aragonese court, of du Guesclin's debts to him.

Following the prince's intervention, Calveley's forces were placed in the van of the army, commanded by John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, together with the contingents of the Great Companies under the banner of Sir John Chandos. In an initial encounter near Ariñez in March they suffered a serious mauling in a night raid by Enrique's brother, Don Tello, perhaps in revenge for his abandoning the Trastamaran cause; but Calveley himself was not injured and took part in the battle of Nájera (3 April 1367). Thereafter he played a significant, if somewhat equivocal, role as a mediator between Pedro IV of Aragon and the prince, acting as an independent adviser to the king, while technically representing the prince, and taking advantage of his position to secure further rewards from Pedro IV. These were already substantial. While his forces were assembled at Saragossa in February 1366, he had been granted the service of twenty armed galleys for a crusade against the enemies of the faith for a period of four months following the conclusion of the Castilian campaign, which were clearly intended to secure the coveted fortresses in Granada; a perpetual pension of 2000 gold florins; the rank of a baron of Aragon; and the promise of a castle in the kingdom of Valencia. These grants were in part realized in August 1367, when he was awarded the town of Elda, together with the castle and town of Mola, situated in the south of the kingdom of Valencia. Calveley remained in Aragon when the Black Prince returned to Aquitaine during the second half of that month, and there is every evidence that he was building for a future life there. In June 1368 he married Constança, one of the ladies attached to the queen of Aragon's household, the daughter of a Sicilian baron, Bonifacio d'Aragón. The match brought him extensive rights and jurisdiction in the barony and castellany of Cervellón, just outside Barcelona. Together with certain rights that Pedro IV had previously retained in the Valencian territories granted to him in the previous year, the entire dowry had a value of some 40,000 libra of Barcelona. In the following two months he acquired the castle and place of Aspe, as part of a grant that doubled his pension, and disposed of certain annuities that he held in the principality of Aquitaine, which allowed him to purchase the town and valley of Novelda, hitherto granted to his comrade-in-arms, Sir Matthew Gournay. His combined possessions in the kingdom of Valencia thus gave him considerable interests on the Castilian and Granadian frontiers, which alone would have sufficed to detain him in Spain indefinitely. Events dictated otherwise.

Later campaigns

With the renewal of the war with France, in the spring of 1369 the Black Prince recalled Calveley to Aquitaine, where he was given command of an army drawn from his own forces and several contingents of the Great Companies brought down from Normandy, which together conducted a destructive raid into the territories of the count of Armagnac and the seigneur d'Albret. Towards the end of the year they took part in a raid into Anjou under the earl of Pembroke, occupying Les Ponts-de-Cé and the abbey of St Maur which, together with a number of other places occupied around Angers, hemmed in the town from the north and south, with the intention of keeping communications open between the English garrisons in Aquitaine and those in Brittany and Normandy. Thereafter Calveley's fortunes were in large measure dictated by the wider decline in England's military position. With the breakup of the army commanded by Sir Robert Knolles at the end of his disastrous campaign in 1370, he avoided confronting du Guesclin at Pontvallain (4 December 1370) and the engagements that followed it, when the remaining contingents of the Great Companies were either defeated or dispersed by the constable's forces. Retreating to St Maur, which had been heavily fortified, he shortly afterwards negotiated its evacuation for a very considerable sum with his old comrade-in-arms. After the prince's return to England in January 1371 Calveley's services were primarily engaged by John of Gaunt, who first retained him in Aquitaine in that year, and with a more substantial retinue in July 1372 for a projected expedition to Aquitaine and Spain. When this was cancelled, he joined him in the expedition to relieve Thouars with a much smaller retinue, which was marooned for a month off the Norman and Breton coasts by contrary winds. In 1373 he commanded a contingent in the duke's impressive but largely ineffectual 'great march', at the outset of which his retinue once again suffered some serious casualties in an ambush by the captain of Ribemont. Appointed the duke's marshal, on his arrival in Aquitaine at the end of the year he established a base of operations in the Dordogne valley and lingered a while in Quercy. By August 1374 he was in command of the important town of La Réole, up the River Garonne some 40 miles from Bordeaux, and conducted a heroic defence of the castle, vigorously besieged by the duke of Anjou, but had to surrender it on 8 September, when no relieving force had materialized.

Returning to England following the conclusion of a truce with France and her allies in the summer of 1375, Calveley was appointed captain of Calais (1375–8), admiral of the fleet to the west (1379–80), captain of Brest (1379–81), along with Sir Thomas Percy, and of Cherbourg (1382). Although he does not appear to have taken up the captaincy of Cherbourg, and his wardenship of the Channel Islands (1375–94) seems largely to have been delegated, at least during the first ten years, these appointments derived from a new military strategy, outlined in parliament by Sir Richard Scrope in 1378: to defend England at sea, and through bases down the French Atlantic seaboard, from which the enemy could also be attacked in their own lands. It was formulated in response to the renewed military activity following the expiry of the truce in June 1377, and to Franco-Castilian naval attacks on the south coast of England, and Calveley played a significant role. From Calais he conducted two notable raids: on Boulogne, where his forces captured a large number of ships, burnt part of the town, and returned with considerable booty; and on Étaples, during a fair, where the French merchants produced rich pickings. He also recovered a number of the castles around Calais surrendered or taken by the French, notably Ouderwyk and Mark, and that of Ardres, which was razed to the ground after the captain had been captured and sent to England for his treachery. When crossing to Brittany early in 1379, Calveley and Percy took seven merchant ships and a man-of-war, which they sent on to Bristol. Rather more important was an engagement that took place in August of that year, when they were providing a naval escort for the return of John de Montfort, duke of Brittany, to his duchy. Following an attack on the duke's transport vessels, a flotilla of French and Castilian galleys, armed with cannon, attempted to prevent their departure. The battle was fierce and the outcome would probably have been disastrous but for Calveley's valiance and determination. In December, when an expeditionary force was being sent to the duke's assistance under Sir John Arundel, almost the entire fleet was wiped out in a storm, and Calveley narrowly escaped with his life by clinging to some of the wreckage. Having rebuilt his retinue following this disaster, in the summer of 1380 he commanded a contingent of 200 men-at-arms and 200 archers in the vanguard of the earl of Buckingham's expedition from Calais across northern France to the outskirts of Rheims, before it turned south into Champagne and descended the Loire valley into Brittany. Three years later he took part in another ill-fated expedition—the bishop of Norwich's ‘crusade’ to Flanders—which was doomed from the outset by fatal delays and a lack of any firm direction or clear-cut objectives. Calveley came out of it well enough, his military counsels having largely been ignored, having taken no part in the bribes to surrender Bourbourg, and having had no alternative but to acquiesce in the evacuation of Gravelines against overwhelming odds. It was his last campaign.

Retirement from active service

Following the invasion scare of 1385–6, and the advent of a further period of truce, Calveley's military services were no longer required. He was thus able to give some time to affairs in the Channel Islands, served twice as knight of the shire for Rutland (October–December 1385 and January–March 1390), and occupied himself with charitable pursuits at home. Although a large part of the profits of his service in Spain appear to have eluded him—in the 1390s he, and after him his nephew John, were still pursuing claims of 300,000 francs in the Aragonese court—it would seem that he was a moderately wealthy man. His paternal estate of Lea had devolved upon him on the death of his father's second wife, Mabel, in 1361. He enjoyed a life annuity of 200 marks from the Black Prince. In 1378 he had acquired the manors of Steventon in Berkshire and Westbury in Wiltshire from the priory of Ste Marie de Pré near Rouen, and in 1385 he had a grant of the royal manor of Shotwick in Cheshire. In March 1387 he secured a royal licence to appropriate the rectory of Bunbury, near Tarporley, Cheshire, which he had purchased, for the foundation of a college with a master and six chaplains. Work on it was already in progress in the previous year, and doubtless completed before his death on 23 April 1394, which may have occurred in Guernsey. Whether or not he was buried at Bunbury, his effigy, in complete armour, may still be seen in the chancel of his college on one of the finest altar tombs in the country. Around the tomb chest are traces of the arms of the founder, interspersed with those of Sir Robert Knolles. Their appearance together may allude to their family or a military relationship, or derive from the possible erection of the tomb by Calveley's old comrade-in-arms. Stow's statement that the two men, together with Sir John Hawkwood, founded a hospital in Rome in 1380, is of doubtful authenticity.

Calveley was physically a large man, of great personal strength and courage, undoubtedly an able soldier, and one who could command the loyalty of his men; but, sometimes impulsive, he lacked the cool calculation of Hawkwood and Knolles. He was estranged from his wife, who continued to reside on their estates in Valencia until the spring of 1380, despite Calveley's repeated requests for her to join him. A year later, when she was cohabiting with Pedro IV's son Juan, their marriage, which was childless, had effectively broken up. Following Calveley's death the custody of his lands and tenements in England was granted, during the minority of his great-nephew David, to his second nephew, John, but on David's death the estate passed to his second great-nephew, also called Hugh.


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  • alabaster effigy on monument, 1390–1410, Bunbury Church, near Tarporley, Cheshire; repro. in Blair, ‘The effigy and tomb of Sir Hugh Calveley’
  • C. A. Stothard, Indian ink drawing (after effigy), BM; repro. in C. A. Stothard, The monumental effigies of Great Britain, 12 pts (1817–32), pl. 98, 99

Wealth at Death

moderately wealthy; owned various estates and was able to found a collegiate church

Chancery records (Public Record Office)
T. Rymer & R. Sanderson, eds., , 20 vols. (1704–35); 2nd edn, 20 vols. (1726–35); 3rd edn, 10 vols. (1739–45); new edn, ed. A. Clarke, J. Caley, & F. Holbrooke, 4 vols., RC, 50 (1816–69); facs. of 3rd edn (1967)
Oxford Medieval Texts