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543 Prowse v Gyrd alias Knight

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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543 PROWSE V GYRD ALIAS KNIGHT

Thomas Prowse of Cullompton, co. Devon, gent v Henry Gyrd, alias Knight, of the same, yeoman

April 1638 - May 1639

Figure 543:

Cullompton, Devon, showing St Andrew's church. At the Red Lion Inn in January 1638 Henry Gyrd allegedly gave Thomas Prowse the lie (Photograph: Richard Cust)

Abstract

Prowse complained that at around 5pm on 21 February 1638 in the wine cellar of the Red Lion in Cullompton, Devon, Gyrd alias Knight gave him the lie, called him 'base fellow' and said he 'was as good a gentleman or better then myself, adding that the Prowses were no gentlemen, but the Prowzes were gentlemen' and that 'the Gyrds could display their armes as well as the Prowses.' Gyrd also asked Prowse 'how he came by his gentility, whether it were by marrying a minister's daughter, or being an attorney's son and said that he, Gyrd, was the son of a clothier.' Prowse then called Gyrd 'stinking knave' and a brawling scuffle followed. The quarrel was caused by Gyrd accusing Prowse of setting him at odds with his friend Mr Sainthill. Process was granted on 14 April 1638 and Prowse's witnesses were examined by a commission headed by Anthony Rous, gent, on 27 July at the Red Lion. Dr Sweit presented Gyrd's defence on 6 November 1638. On 21 February 1639 the court was urged to move towards sentence, and Gyrd appears to have lost the case because on 12 May 1639 a warrant was issued for his arrest if he failed to pay 200 marks for the use of the crown within 12 days.

Initial proceedings

EM116, Petition

'Your petitioner is a gent of an ancient family and upon or about the 21 day of February last 1637[8] juxta, and your petitioner being in the company of Henry Gyrd alias Knight of the same place, yeoman, Gyrd alias Knight took an occasion to fall out with your petitioner and in a rayling and scandalous manner told your petitioner he spake falsely and that he was as good a man and as good a gent as your petitioner or any of the Prowses; and that the Prowses were no gentlemen and that the Gyrds could display their armes as well as the Prowses; and used divers other words of provocation with an intent to draw your petitioner to a duell.'

Petitions that Gyrd may be summoned to answer.

Signed George Parry.

Dr Duck granted process on 14 April 1638.

Signed by Arthur Duck.

12/2i, Citation

Gyrd cited to appear in the Court Military within 10 days of the warning being received.

Dated 14 April 1638.

EM117a, Libel

Thomas Prowse was styled as gentleman and Henry Gird alias Knight as husbandman.

1. Prowse was from a family that had been gentry for up to 300 years.

2. Gyrd alias Knight 'said that I spake falsely, and gave me often the lye or once at least and said he was as good a gentleman or better then myself, adding that the Prowses were no gentlemen, but the Prowzes were gentlemen; and lately he called me base fellow.'

No date.

Signed by George Parry.

Plaintiff's case

EM117b, Letters commissory for the plaintiff

Addressed to the commissioners Anthony Rous, James Osmond, Emanuel Ford, Richard Slape, gent, and also, Richard Dene, esq, John Dewes, clerk, Henry Ritherdon, gent, Thomas Knott, gent, to meet in a cause of scandalous words provocative of a duel, from 26 to 28 July 1638, at Henry Skinner's Red Lion Inn, in Cullompton, co. Devon.

Christopher Kingdon assigned as notary public.

19 June 1638

Signed by Gilbert Dethick.

EM117c, Plaintiff's depositions

Taken before Anthony Rouse, James Osmond, Richard Deane, John Dewes, Henry Rotherdon and Thomas Knott, on 27 July 1638 at the Red Lion, Cullompton, co. Devon. The witnesses were Henry Skinner, of the Red Lion, vintner, Rose, wife of Henry Skinner, John Norris, blacksmith, Jonas Kendall, yeoman and Henry Cann, servant of Henry Skinner, all of Cullompton.

(Witness 1), Henry Skinner of Cullompton, co. Devon, vintner, born there, aged 48

To Prowse's libel:

1. He had known Thomas Prowse and his father for over a dozen years and they had always been reputed gentlemen, although whether they were gentlemen or not he did not know.

2. Prowse and Gyrd met at Skinner's house, where after some discourse Gyrd told Prowse that he spoke falsely, and Prowse replied: 'you were as good say I did lye, to which Gird replied then you may so take it if you will... and that he was as good a gentleman as Mr Prowse or any of the Prowses or a better and said that the Girds were gentlemen, but the Prowses were none. And you, speaking to Mr Prowse, are but an attorney's son. Adding the Prowses where the name is written with an S are no gentlemen but the Prowses who write their names with a Z are gentlemen... Mr Prowse thereupon calling Gird stinking knave, Gird told Mr Prowse that he was a base man which words were spoken by Henry Gird alias Knight in a very angry manner and in the presence of this witness, Mr Roger Deane, his contests, John Norris and others'.

Signed by Henry Skinner [his mark]

To Gird's interrogatories:

3. Robert Gyrd, father of Henry 'was a man of good esteem and quality and reputed within the town and parish of Cullompton where he lived; and left good lands and meanes behind him and Henry Gird hath continued in the like esteem and credit within the towne and parish and hath performed and borne the chiefest offices belonging to the towne and parish.'

4. Gyrd was in Skinner's house before Prowse arrived but he did not know how long before. Gyrd said to Prowse at their first meeting there, 'I marvell you should go about to give me wrong behind my back in going to examine witnesses to sett me and a gentleman at variance, naming Mr Peter Sainthill to which Mr Prowse made answer I did not. Then Gird replied you did, to which Mr Prowse replied the witnesses will say it. That is false sayes Mr Gird, to which Mr Prowse said you were as good as said I lyed, to which Mr Gird replied you may so take it if you please. Whereupon Mr Prowse called Gird stinking knave'.

5. 'There were many disgracefull and abusive words passed betweene Mr Prowse and Mr Gird; and Mr Prowse in answeare of ill termes used against him by Gird alias Knight called him base fellow stinking knave and used such other like tearmes'.

7. The words were spoken at 5pm in the wine cellar of the Red Lion Inn. Gyrd resided close to this tavern and Mr Prowse lived about a mile away.

Signed by Henry Skinner [his mark], and by commissioners Richard Dean, John Dewes, Thomas Knott and Anthony Rous.

(Witness 2), John Norris of Cullompton, co. Devon, blacksmith, born there, aged 40

To Prowse's libel:

1. He had known Thomas Prowse for over a dozen years and that he had always been reputed a gentleman, 'but whether he be so or no he knoweth not.

2. 'Gird told Prowse he spoke falsely and said the Girds were as good gentlemen as the Prowses or better and that the Prowses were not gentlemen; and also called Mr Prowse base man, which words were so spoken in a very angry and reproachfull manner and in the presence of this witness, Henry Skinner and his wife, Mr Roger Deane and others.'

Signed by John Norris.

To Gird's interrogatories:

3. He knew Gird's grandfather, Thomas Gird 'who was of good estate and well esteemed of amongst the best of the parish of Collompton, but Robert Gird father of Henry did not live in like esteem... Henry Gird hath lived and soe doth live in good esteem within the parish and towne of Cullompton Inter and hath borne and performed the chiefest offices within the towne'.

4. He was in their company but not in the room 'when the difference first fell between them.'

5. He heard Prowse call Gird 'stinking knave and sawe him and Gird lyeing upon the ground but how he came down he knoweth not.'

6. He heard Gird ask Prowse 'how he came by his gentility whether it were by marrying a minister's daughter or by being an attorney's sonn, and said that he, Gird, was the son of a clothier and also said that for ought he knew the Girds were as good gentlemen as the Prowses and said he had heard that the Prowzes were gentlemen but whether the Prowses were gentlemen or not he knew not.'

7. The words were spoken in Henry Skinner's wine cellar at about 5 or 6pm.Henry Gird lived next door to Skinner's tavern, but Prowse lived a mile away.

Signed by John Norish [his mark], and by commissioners Richard Dean, Anthony Rous, Thomas Knott and Henry Ritherdon.

(Witness 3), Rosa, wife of Henry Skinner of Cullompton, vintner, born at Exeter, aged 48

To Prowse's libel:

1. She had known Thomas Prowse and his father for over a dozen years and they had always been reputed gentlemen.

2. Prowse and Gird met at Skinner's house, where after some discourse Gird told Prowse that he spoke falsely, and 'in great heat and coller', that the Girds were as good gentlemen as the Prowses 'adding that the Prowses were no gentlemen'. In the presence of Henry Skinner, John Norris and Roger Deane and others.

To Gird's interrogatories:

3. Henry Gird had lived in 'good esteem within the towne and parish and hath borne the chiefe offices within the towne and parish.'

4. She was coming and going into the wine cellar and did not know whether Gird was in Skinner's house before Prowse arrived. The first words she heard Gird say to Prowse were, 'Mr Prowse, I will give you a pint of wine if you please to accept of it and hereunto Mr Prowse made answer I will not drinck. I have drancke already. I scorne your wine, which words were spoken by Mr Gird in a friendly manner for ought she conceived... And Mr Prowse and Mr Gird being afterwards come into her wine seller the next words she heard Mr Gird say unto Mr Prowse were these: Mr Prowse what had you to do to go about to raise a difference or make a discord between me and Mr Sainthill I thought you had been a better friend to me then now I find you to be. To which Mr Prowse made answer, What I have done I have done to find out the truth of an abuse offered a worthie friend of mine naming Mr Sainthill'.

5. She was present when Gird gave Prowse the lie. Prowse called Gird 'base rascal' and 'base fellow', but she 'was not present at all the passages and ill words which passed between them.' She saw Gird 'lying on the ground calling out, Bare witness he hath throwne me downe but how Gird came down she knoweth not.'

6. She heard Gird say to Prowse that he was 'but an attorney's son and that Gird's father was a clothier, but sayth the words were spoken in anger.'

7. The words were spoken in the wine cellar of her husband's tavern at about 6pm. Gird lived next door and Prowse about a mile distant.

Signed by Rose Skinner [her mark], and by commissioners Richard Dene, Anthony Rous, Thomas Knott, James Osmond, Henry Ritherdon.

(Witness 4), Jonas Kendall of Cullompton, yeoman, born at Buckenham, co. Norfolk, aged 36

To Prowse's libel:

1. He had known Prowse for 9 or 10 years during which time he 'hath been generally reputed to be a gentleman'.

2. He was with Gird in the house of William Stary in Cullompton and Gird said 'in a very angry and malicious manner' that 'Mr Prowse was no gentleman and would make it appear that he was no gentleman'. Gird said to Kendall, who was a friend of Prowse's, 'tell Tom Prowse that he the said gentleman and I spake these words to you because you should tell him of it again'. James Bradford and Elizabeth Stary were also present.

To Gird's interrogatories:

3. As witness 3.

Signed by Jonas Kendall [his mark], and by commissioners Richard Dene, Richard Slape, James Osmond and Henry Ritherdon.

(Witness 5), Henry Cann of Cullompton, domestic servant to Henry Skinner, vintner, born at Talaton, co. Devon, aged 16

To Prowse's libel:

1. He had known Prowse for three years during which time 'he has been generally reputed to be a gentleman.'

2. Last February Prowse and Gird argued in his master's wine cellar: 'Gird amongst other things told Mr Prowse that he spake an untruth or falcely, to which Mr Prowse made answer that Gird alias Knight had been so good he had told him he lied to which Gird alias Knight said speaking to Mr Prowse you may so take it if you will.' Gird said that the Girds 'were as good gentlemen as the Prowses but not as the Pruzes.' Those present included his master Henry Skinner, John Norris, Roger Dean and others.

To Gird's interrogatories:

3. Gird 'was a man of good esteem within the town of Cullompton' and had been a constable ever since Cann had resided there

4. He was coming and going from the room in question and he heard the words he deposed and no others.

5. He heard Prowse call Gird knave.

7. The words were spoken at 8pm and Gird lived next door but Prowse a mile away.

Signed by Henry Cann, and by commissioners James Osmond and Henry Ritherdon.

EM117d, Notary public's certificate

16 August 1638.

Notary public's mark.

Signed Christopher Kingdon, notary public.

Sentence / Arbitration

EM3156, Warrant

Warrant to attach Henry Gird if he failed to pay 200 marks for the use of the crown within 12 days.

12 May 1639.

Summary of proceedings

Dr Parry acted as counsel for Prowse and Dr Sweit for Gyrd alias Knight. On 20 October 1638 Dr Parry was required to prove the libel and Dr Sweit was to relate material for the defence. Dr Sweit presented the defence on 6 November 1638. The court was to hear the verdict of Sir Henry Marten upon Sweit's allegations on 15 November 1638. Dr Parry denied articles 1-4, and 7-8 of Dr Sweit's defence. Dr Talbot, acting for Sweit was required to prove these articles of the defence in the first session of the next term. On 28 January 1639 Dr Swett was required to prove material for the defence. On 21 February Dr Parry urged the court to move towards sentence.

Notes

During the civil wars, Thomas Prowse may have been the Lieutenant-Colonel Prouse in the royalist regiment of Colonel Sir Henry Cary.

P.R. Newman, Royalist Officers in England and Wales, 1642-1660: A biographical dictionary (London, 1981), p. 308.

There were three Prowse families in Devon mentioned in the Visitation, but none with a Thomas Prowse.

F. T. Colby (ed.), The Visitation of the County of Devon in the year 1620 (Publications of the Harleian Society, 6, 1872).

Henry Prouz of Chagford was a Devon J.P. during the 1630s: M Wolffe, Gentry Leaders in Peace and War (Exeter, 1997).

Documents

  • Initial proceedings
    • Petition: EM116 (14 Apr 1638)
    • Citation: 12/2i (14 Apr 1638)
    • Libel: EM117a (no date)
  • Plaintiff's case
    • Letters commissory for the plaintiff: EM117b (19 Jun 1638)
    • Plaintiff depositions: EM117c (27 Jul 1638)
    • Notary public's certificate: EM117d (16 Aug 1638)
  • Sentence / Arbitration
    • Warrant: EM3156 (12 May 1639)
  • Proceedings
    • Proceedings before Arundel: R.19, fos. 434r-449v (20 Oct 1638)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: R.19, fos. 454r-468v (6 Nov 1638)
    • Proceedings before Marten: R.19, fos. 470v-471v (15 Nov 1638)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 1/9 (28 Jan 1639)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 1/6, fos. 20-33 (21 Feb 1639)

People mentioned in the case

  • Bradford, James
  • Cann, Henry, servant
  • Cary, Henry, knight
  • Deane, Roger, Mr
  • Dene, Richard, esq
  • Dethick, Gilbert, registrar
  • Dewes, John, clerk
  • Duck, Arthur, lawyer
  • Ford, Emmanuel, gent
  • Gird, Robert
  • Gyrd alias Knight, Henry, yeoman (also Gird, alias Knight)
  • Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
  • Howard, Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey
  • Kendall, Jonas, yeoman
  • Kingdon, Christopher, notary public
  • Knott, Thomas, gent
  • Marten, Henry, knight
  • Norris, John, blacksmith
  • Osmond, James, gent
  • Parry, George, lawyer
  • Prouz, Henry, gent
  • Prowse, Thomas, gent (also Prouse)
  • Ritherdon, Henry, gent
  • Rous, Anthony, gent (also Rouse)
  • Sainthill, Mr
  • Skinner, Henry, innkeeper / vintner
  • Skinner, Rose, vintner
  • Slape, Richard, gent
  • Stary, Elizabeth
  • Stary, William
  • Sweit, Giles, lawyer

Places mentioned in the case

  • Devon
    • Chagford
    • Cullompton
    • Exeter
    • Talaton
  • Norfolk
    • Buckenham

Topics of the case

  • coat of arms
  • comparison
  • denial of gentility
  • drunkenness
  • giving the lie
  • justice of the peace
  • military officer
  • royalist
  • tavern brawl