168 Dover v Fox

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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Henry Carey, Earl of Dover v Humphrey Fox of London, merchant

November 1638 - February 1639


Dover complained that his name had been abused by Fox, a London merchant, at the Red Lion tavern in Putney on 24 September 1638. Fox had got into an argument with a waterman, Randall Minshawe, over getting a ride downstream to London and had ended up, allegedly, insulting the blue coat with a swan on the sleeve which the waterman wore as a servant to Dover. On Fox's version of events he had said, 'You fellow with the goose on sleeve, you are too saucy and peremptorie', without realising that the coat was Dover's livery. When the waterman pointed this out, Fox immediately declared that 'my lord of Dover was an honourable man and that he honored him.' According to Dover's counsel, Fox had said, 'Whose foole's coate doest thou wear, or what foole gave you that goose?'; and, because a waterman's coat was presumed to be his master's livery, this amounted to defaming the Earl. Fox called on a string of high powered witnesses to support his story, including Sir Thomas Bludder, Robert Holborne and Arthur Trevor, counsellors at law, and Mr Wood, minister. Dover's libel was supported by Minshawe and other watermen; but, in spite of this, Dover won the case. No sentence survives, but on 26 February 1639, with Arundel himself presiding, the court's proceedings record that Dr Duck 'porrected' (put forward) the sentence sought by Dover, which was a £200 fine to the king, 200 marks damages to Dover (£200 according to Edward Rossingham) and £20 for expenses. Rossingham reported this as an example of the court's severity and Edward Hyde highlighted the case in his speech to the Short Parliament on 18 April 1640, as an example of the court's arbitrary proceedings. The case also suggests that the London watermen understood very well how to use the court to protect their interests.

Plaintiff's case

14/2i, Defence interrogatories

1. The witnesses were warned of the penalty for perjury and bearing false witness.

2. Did they live of their own or were they dependent upon another? How much were they worth in goods with their debts paid? How much were they taxed in the last assessment?

3. Was the witness a household servant, retainer or relative to either of the parties? To whom would they give the victory if it were within their power?

4. Had they been compelled to attend? How much had they received or what did they expect to receive for their testimony?

5. Had there been any discord or controversy between the witnesses?

6. Had they talked with anyone about this cause or been instructed how to testify? If so by whom?

7. Was he 'present at the beginning of the difference betweene Mr Fox and Randall Minshawe'; and for 'how long was he there; and what occasion had he to be present; and what persons were then and there present'?

8. Did he 'conceave the words that were spoken by Mr Fox to Minshaw was spoken in any way in spleene to disparage or disgrace my Lord of Dover, himself, his coate of armes or crest. And whether he doth know or believe, that Mr Fox did know the Lord of Dover's armes or crest, or that Minshawe was the Lord of Dover's servant, or whether the words were not spoken onely in answeare to the crosse and evill language of Minshawe given to Mr Fox?

9. 'Did not Mr Fox soe soone as Minshaw told him that he was my Lord of Dover's servant reply that my Lord of Dover was an honourable man or that he honoured him; and was not Minshawe then and there rebuked, by Mr Fox and also by some other gentlemen, then and there present, for making such false interpretation and construction of the words then spoken by Mr Fox.'

Introduced on 30 November 1638.

Signed by Thomas Exton.

Defendant's case

10/12/11, Defence [badly damaged document]

1-3. Damaged.

4. At the time and place of the speaking of the pretended words in the libel, Humphrey Fox was in an upper room of a tavern in Putney which overlooked the street. There were present with Fox 'divers gentlemen of good quality and fashion, namely Sir Thomas Bludder, knight, Thomas Gray, esquire, cupbearer to his majesty, Robert Hoborne, Arthur Treavor, Counselors at Law, Clement Pattison, esquire, Richard Fanshawe, gentleman, Mr South, servant to the Lord Treasurer, Mr Wood, minister, and others.' Fox looked out of the window and 'a waterman in a blue coat, cognizance upon his sleeve, whom Humphrey Fox knew not neither yet knows, told him that if he was for London there was at that time a boat going down'. But Fox was informed the boat was crowded so he refused to go in it.

5. The waterman 'was then drunk and railed at Humphrey Fox and gave him much abusive language because he refused to goe.'

6. Duly provoked, Fox called to the waterman 'you fellow with the goose on your sleeve you are too saucy and peremptorie'. The waterman answered that it was not a goose but a swan. Fox replied that waterman 'would prove himselfe a goose by his carriage', and told him 'he was a saucy foole'. The waterman replied 'he was no foole and was my lord of Dover's servant and woare his coate; and did further suggest that Humphrey Fox had called his coate a foole's coate.'

7. As soon as Dover's name was first mentioned, 'Humphrey Fox in presence and hearing of divers gentlemen of qualitie then and there present answered that my lord of Dover was an honorable man and that he honored him'. Fox then told the waterman 'that if my lord of Dover knew of his misbehaviour he would turne his coate over his eares'.

8. All of the gentlemen present 'did not conceive that any of the words then and there spoken by Humphrey Fox did any wayes at all tend to the disgrace or dishonor of my lord of Dover; and divers of them did then and there rebuke the waterman for such his construction of them.'

No date.

Signed by Thomas Exton.

11/32/3, Plaintiff interrogatories

1. The witnesses were warned of the penalty for perjury and bearing false witness. What were the witnesses' age, occupation and place and condition of living? How did they know the parties and to whom would they give the victory?

2. Had they been instructed how to depose, and if so, by whom?

3. At whose behest did they testify and had they received any expenses?

4. Was he at Putney on about 24 September 'and on what occasion, in what place and in what company was he then there'? Did he see Humphrey Fox, and if so, where? In what company was Fox? Was the witness present with them? Were Fox and his company drinking together, and if so, for how long?

5. Did he see Humphrey Fox look out of a window of the Red Lion Tavern in Putney?

Did he hear Fox 'in a flouting and jeering manner call to Randall Minshawe and say unto him, thou fellow with the goose on thy sleeve, whose foole's coate doest thou weare, or what foole gave you that goose'? Randall replied 'it is noe goose, nor is he a foole that gave it me, it is my lord and master the Earl of Dover that gave it me'. Did not Fox then reply that 'it was a foole's coate, and that he would maintaine it'.

6. After Fox had spoken those 'disgracefull speeches' did some in company with him 'rebuke and check Foxe for using such words'? Did not 'he or they advise him to hold his tongue, and to forbeare from using such language as conceiving and knowing that Foxe by such speeches as aforesaid uttered to Randall Minshawe did scandalize and abuse the Earl of Dover, and thereby might bring himself in question'? What was Fox's answer to them?

7. Did Humphrey Fox leave the Red Lion and go towards the waterside at Putney? Did he there again use the scandalous words expressed in the fifth interrogatory? Did Mr John Phillipps go with Fox and 'also utter the foresaid scandalous wordes'? Did Phillipps 'or some other boast that he would justifie and maintaine the speaking of the words'?

8. Did the witness defend Fox by arguing with the watermen in the street about 'the proprietie of a waterman's liverie coate'? What words did they use, and what was the answer of the watermen to such their argument? Was 'it not then affirmed by them that a waterman's coate was his lord and master's liverie; and was it not then also instanced by some or one of the watermen that the Lord Viscount Wimbledon latelie deceased, upon some misdemeanour of his waterman, did not onlie pull his waterman's coate over his eares, but tooke it quite away from him'? And 'such coate being a liverie, or in the nature of a liverie, how can the coate be called a foole's or knave's coate *or his badge nicnamed* but the master and giver thereof must be intended or defamed thereby'?

9. Why did he believe that Fox's words did not mean the Earl of Dover? 'Howe can such witness depose the intent or meaninge of Foxe to be contrary or otherwise then the words import'?

10. 'In case any witness shall depose that Humfrie Fox did not speake the wordes in the libel, lett him be interrogated whether he was in company with Foxe in the same roome with him all the time that Foxe remained in the Redlyon taverne'? Was he 'att the windowe in the roome with Foxe at that time when Foxe spake to Randall Minshawe out at the windowe'? Was he 'present at the beginning of the difference between Foxe and Minshawe, and whether he stayed there all the time that Fox was soe talking with Minshawe, or how long stayed he there, and how long stayed Foxe at windowe talkinge'? And 'let him express what occasion moved Foxe to call out of the windowe to Minshawe; and whether he was soe intent to what speeches were uttered by Foxe to Minshawe at the windowe that it was impossible that Foxe should utter any of the words in the 5th interr[ogatory] expressed, but that such witness must needs have heard them'?

11. Had he 'not beene diverse houres in the taverne drinking; or howe long was he there drinking; and whether he had not dranke verie freelie; and howe many were then in company together; and howe much wyne or other drink did they drink; and whether some of the company were not overtaken in drinke'?

12. Did he know Randall Minshawe, Henry Ansell, Robert Cureton, John Wright, John Munden and Thomas Harwood, witnesses procured by the Earl of Dover, and, if so, for how long? Were they 'men of honest life and conversation and such whoe by theire honest labour and vocations mainteine themselves in a good fashion fitt for the condicon of watermen'? Would they forswear themselves for 'favour, or respect, or gaine'?

No date

Signed by Arthur Duck.

Signed by Arthur Duck.

Summary of proceedings

Dr Duck acted as counsel to Dover and Dr Exton to Fox. On 20 November 1638 Dr Duck delivered the libel on the earl of Dover's behalf, and Fox was bound to the King to pay £50. The earl's witnesses, Randall Mynshaw, John Munden, Robert Luton, Thomas Harewood, John Wright and Henry Annsell, most of them watermen, were examined in November and December 1638. Fox's witnesses, including Sir Thomas Bludder, Arthur Trevor esq, Robert Hoborn, esq, Richard Fanshawe, John Phillipps Matthew Southies, Samuel Pynder and Thomas Browne, gents, and Mr Wood, minister, were examined before Lord Maltravers at Arundel house in January and February 1639. On 26 February 1639, Dr Duck porrected the sentence sought by Dover, which was a £200 fine to the king, 200 marks damages to Dover, and£20 expenses, with Fox to be attached for his contempt.


This case was reported by Edward Rossingham on 5 March 1639: TNA, C 115, 8854

'One Fox, a merchant in London, was find in the Court of Honour 200 li. to the kinge, 200 li to the earl of Dover and 20 li. costs of suite. His offence was this. Lord of Dover's waterman and Fox could not agree on the price of going by water. Fox said the waterman told him hee was a threepenny companion, wherefore Fox askt whether the badge upon his sleeve was not a goose. Noe, said the waterman, It is a swan, and the earle of Dover's coate of armes. Said Fox to him againe, It is a foole's coate, and a knave's coate. Fox denyed hee meant my Lord of Dover, but it was fully proved it was spoken maliciously against my lord of Dover. '

Henry Carey (c. 1580-1666) was the son of Sir John Carey, knt, and Mary, daughter of Leonard Hyde of co. Hertford, esq. Baron Hunsdon from 1617, and Viscount Rochford from 1621, he was created Earl of Dover in 1628. He sat in the Oxford Parliament and was colonel of an auxiliary regiment of royalist foot in that city from April 1644. His first wife was Judith (1590-1629), daughter of Sir Thomas Pelham, bart. His second wife, whom he married in 1630, was Mary (1573-1649), widow of Sir William Cokayne, a former Lord Mayor of London.

G. E. Cokayne, The Complete Peerage (London, 1916), vol. 4, p. 445; P. R. Newman, Royalist officers in England and Wales, 1642-1660: A biographical dictionary (London, 1981), p. 59.

Humphrey Fox did not appear in the Visitations of London:

J. J. Howard and J. L. Chester (eds.), The Visitation of London in 1633, 1634, and 1635 (Publications of the Harleian Society, 15, 1880), vol. 1; J. J. Howard (ed.), The Visitation of London in 1633, 1634, and 1635 (Publications of the Harleian Society, 17, 1883), vol. 2; J. B. Whitmore and A. W. Hughes Clarke (eds.), London Visitation Pedigrees, 1664 (Publications of the Harleian Society, 92, 1940); T. C. Wales and C. P. Hartley (eds.), The Visitation of London begun in 1687 (Publications of the Harleian Society, new series, 16 and 17, 2004).


  • Plaintiff's case
    • Defence interrogatories: 14/2i (30 Nov 1638)
  • Defendant's case
    • Defence: 10/12/11 (no date)
    • Plaintiff interrogatories: 11/32/3 (no date)
  • Proceedings
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: R.19, fos. 400v-412v (20 Nov 1638)
    • Proceedings before Marten: R.19, fos. 412v-413r (24 Nov 1638)
    • Proceedings before Marten: R.19, fos. 413v-416v (27 Nov 1638)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: R.19, fos. 422r-428r (28 Nov 1638)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: R.19, fos. 474r-484v (5 Dec 1638)
    • Proceedings before Marten: R.19, fos. 488r-490v (12 Dec 1638)
    • Proceedings before Marten: R.19, fo. 491v (19 Jan 1639)
    • Proceedings before Marten: R.19, fo. 491v (24 Jan 1639)
    • Proceedings before Marten: R.19, fo. 492v (25 Jan 1639)
    • Proceedings: R.19, fo. 492v (25 Jan 1639)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 1/9 (28 Jan 1639)
    • Proceedings: 1/7, fos. 36-47 (9 Feb 1639)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 1/6, fos. 20-33 (26 Feb 1639)

People mentioned in the case

  • Ansell, Henry (also Annsell)
  • Bludder, Thomas, knight
  • Browne, Thomas, gent
  • Carey, Henry, earl of Dover
  • Carey, John, knight
  • Carey, Judith
  • Carey, Mary
  • Cokayne, Mary
  • Cokayne, William, knight
  • Cureton, Robert (also Luton)
  • Exton, Thomas, lawyer
  • Fanshawe, Richard, gent
  • Fox, Humphrey, merchant
  • Gray, Thomas, esq
  • Harwood, Thomas (also Harewood)
  • Holborne, Robert, lawyer
  • Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
  • Howard, Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey
  • Hyde, Leonard, esq
  • Hyde, Mary
  • Marten, Henry, knight
  • Minshawe, Randall, waterman (also Mynshaw)
  • Munden, John
  • Pattison, Clement, esq
  • Pelham, Judith
  • Pelham, Thomas, baronet
  • Phillipps, John, gent
  • Pynder, Samuel, gent (also Pindar)
  • Rossingham, Edward
  • South, Matthew, gent (also Southies)
  • Trevor, Arthur, esq (also Treavor)
  • Wood, Mr, minister
  • Wright, John

Places mentioned in the case

  • Middlesex
    • Arundel House
    • Oxford
    • River Thames
  • Surrey
    • Putney

Topics of the case

  • drunkenness
  • heraldry
  • livery
  • military officer
  • nicknaming
  • royalist
  • royal servant