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Bodrugan [Trenowith], Sir Henrylocked

(c. 1426–1487x1503)
  • Philippa C. Maddern

Bodrugan [Trenowith], Sir Henry (c. 1426–1487x1503), landowner and rebel, sometimes called Henry Trenowith, was the son and heir of Sir William Bodrugan of Newham, Cornwall (c.1398–1441), and of Philippa, daughter of Sir John Arundel of Lanherne, Cornwall (fl. 1426–1450). He was descended through his paternal great-grandmother, Joan, wife of Ralph Trenowith, from an ancient knightly family. He married in 1454 Joan, widow of William Beaumont of Devon, whose illegitimate son he may have fathered. She died between 1466 and 1475; his second marriage, by 1475, to Margaret, youngest daughter of William, Lord Herbert, and widow of Thomas Talbot, Viscount Lisle, was childless.

A ward of Thomas Courtenay, earl of Devon, from 1441 to 1447 (Devon paid the earl of Suffolk and other royal servants for the privilege), Bodrugan grew up during years of developing warfare between Devon and William, Lord Bonville. Described as 'scheff reulere of Cornwayle' (Warkworth, 27), he was regularly commissioned between 1454 and 1486 as JP, commissioner of array, and to investigate piracy. He befriended, by 1454, Devon's dissident cousins the Courtenays of Powderham, evidently following them into the Yorkist camp (he was ordered to be brought before the privy council in 1460 following a parliamentary petition, and the spate of commissions to him ceased between 1458 and 1460, resuming on 28 March 1461). While his mother held valuable dower lands at least until 1450, his estate possibly deteriorated under Devon's guardianship. He was in financial (and perhaps political) difficulties between 1450 and 1458: it was alleged that he sold, then fraudulently repossessed, timber, and that, immediately after Edward IV's accession, he forcibly repossessed lands that he had earlier quitclaimed. His own counter-petitions generally disputed landownership. He was charged in 1473 to besiege John de Vere, earl of Oxford, in St Michael's Mount. Deprived of commanding the siege, allegedly for double-dealing with Oxford, he subsequently retained some of Oxford's men, and was attainted in 1474. The commission to carry out the attainder was cancelled, following his petition in parliament. Unlike the Powderham Courtenays he did not support Clarence, taking no part in the readeption and becoming a consistent peace commissioner only after the duke's fall in 1478. Almost certainly knighted in 1475, he was a knight of the body of Richard III, and possibly present at Bosworth. His Ricardian stance gained him two manors; but helping Richard III ultimately seems to have proved expensive. In 1485 he mortgaged several manors held by his family since 1389.

From c.1456 to 1478 Bodrugan was repeatedly accused in chancery, privy council, and parliament of a range of violent, extortionary, and piratical offences. Detailed petitions suggest his practised expertise in extortion, but are hardly disinterested and may also reflect a hairbreadth medieval distinction between lawful provincial administration and the unjustified use of force. The statement that he 'manned twoo Karvels to the See' (RotP, 6.138) implies piracy, but could easily be redefined as legitimate privateering whenever international alliances shifted. Accused of forcibly repossessing a tin mine, he claimed that his warrant as JP was to protect the original developer's interests. Charles Ross's statement that 'half the gentry of Cornwall' petitioned against him in the 1473 parliament (Ross, 410) is exaggerated; of five petitioners, Bodrugan had pre-existing land disputes with at least two. Contemporary allegations that the petitioners' lives were at risk if they pursued cases at common law must be read warily. It was not unusual, in any appeal to equity, to claim that for such reasons common-law justice was unattainable. However, the accusation that Bodrugan illegally altered wills and proved testaments to his own advantage is unusual enough to warrant suspicion, though no known supporting evidence of such misdeeds survives. Finally, the picturesque story that in 1484 he systematically persecuted Sir Richard Edgcumbe, who retaliated in 1487 by pursuing him so hotly that he escaped only by leaping over a cliff to a waiting boat, though possibly based on tradition, apparently stems from persistently over-imaginative readings of Richard Carew's Survey of Cornwall (1602).

Though named on one Tudor commission, Bodrugan early supported Lambert Simnel. On 8 February 1487 a commission was issued to arrest him and his putative son as rebels. Both attended Simnel's ‘coronation’ in Dublin that May, and though not listed as fighting at the battle of Stoke in June, were attainted on 11 November 1487. Bodrugan died in exile between then and 1503, when his next heirs petitioned the king for reversal of his attainder. Though often thought to typify fifteenth-century aristocratic lawlessness and prodigality, he may be better understood in the light of undoubted political (and, at least between 1450 and 1458, financial) constraints, and of fifteenth-century administrative realities.


  • RotP, vol. 6
  • early chancery proceedings, TNA: PRO, C1 16/474, 27/338, 28/388, 32/168, 34/47, 48/81, 53/56, 55/42–44, 58/342, 59/283, 76/32, 76/48–49, 116/14, 173/47–48, 305/40–41
  • Star Chamber proceedings, Henry VIII, TNA: PRO, vol. 16, fol. 181 STAC2/16; vol. 23, fol. 305 STAC2/23
  • CPR, 1422–1509
  • CClR, 1422–61, 1483–5
  • J. Warkworth, A chronicle of the first thirteen years of the reign of King Edward the Fourth, ed. J. O. Halliwell, CS, old ser., 10 (1839)
  • R. Horrox and P. W. Hammond, eds., British Library Harleian manuscript 433, 4 vols. (1979–83)
  • A. L. Rowse, ‘The turbulent career of Sir Henry Bodrugan’, The little land of Cornwall (1986), 178–90
  • C. Ross, Edward IV, new edn (1975)
  • J. Whetter, The Bodrugans: a study of a Cornish medieval knightly family (1995) [to be used with caution]
  • TNA: PRO, ancient correspondence of chancery and exchequer, SC 1, vol. 50, nos. 142, 162
  • ancient petitions, TNA: PRO, SC8, file 344 no. E1281
  • The register of Edmund Lacy, bishop of Exeter, ed. G. R. Dunstan, 5 vols., CYS, 60–63, 66 (1963–72), vol. 3
  • copy of inquisition post mortem for Sir Richard Edgcumbe, Royal Institution of Cornwall, Henderson MSS, vol. 25, p. 36
  • D. Gilbert, The parochial history of Cornwall: founded on the manuscript histories of Mr Hals and Mr Tonkin, 4 vols. (1838)
  • M. J. Bennett, The battle of Bosworth (1985)
  • CIPM, Henry VII, 2
  • W. E. Hampton, Memorials of the Wars of the Roses: a biographical guide (1979)

Wealth at Death

approximately £100 p.a. in 1487 at attainder, based partly on value (£67 p.a. in 1489) of nine estates passing to Sir Richard Edgcumbe; technically devoid of real estate after attainder: copy of inquisition post mortem for Sir Richard Edgcumbe, Royal Institution of Cornwall, Henderson MSS, vol. 25, p. 36; RotP, 6.400

Camden Society
Canterbury and York Society
J. Strachey, ed., , 6 vols. (1767–77)
G. E. C. [G. E. Cokayne], , 8 vols. (1887–98); new edn, ed. V. Gibbs & others, 14 vols. in 15 (1910–98); microprint repr. (1982) and (1987)
, 47 vols. (1892–1963)
, [20 vols.], PRO (1904–); also , 3 vols. (1898–1955)
National Archives of the United Kingdom, Public Record Office, London
J. S. Roskell, L. Clark, & C. Rawcliffe, eds., , 4 vols. (1992)