580 Sandys v Willett

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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Henry Sandys and Richard Sandys, his son, of Little Horwood, co. Buckingham, gents v George Willett of Little Horwood

February - December 1639

Figure 580:

Sir Peter Temple of Stowe, Buckinghamshire, one of the arbiters in the case between the Sandyses and Willett (Credit: WikiTree).


Henry and Richard Sandys complained that in December 1635 or January 1636 Willett had called Mr Henry Sandys 'a base rogue, base rascall and a base gentleman', and that in 1637 or 1638 Willett did 'boast, acknowledge and confess that he had spoken and uttered the wordes aforesaid to Henry Sandys.' Willett maintained that he had been provoked and assaulted, and that the charges against him had arisen out of Richard Sandys's thirst for revenge. During 1635 Sandys had accused him of murdering one Roger Horwood, and Willett sued him for defamation in the court of King's Bench. Sandys had been sentenced to pay Willett £64 costs and damages, but had escaped from the King's Bench prison where he was incarcerated for non-payment. Willett had then sued Sir John Lenthall, Marshall of the King's Bench, for negligence in allowing this to happen. The present case, Willett claimed, was largely a device to deprive him of these damages.

Soon after process had been granted in the Court of Chivalry the Sandyses had procured a commission from Arundel for the senior Buckinghamshire justices, Sir Peter Temple and Sir Alexander Denton to arbitrate. The mediation took place in September-November 1638 and Temple (who, Willett claimed, was compromised by acting as surety for Lenthall) promised to get the Sandyses to drop the case against Willett in return for his accepting 20 marks in place of the £60. In the course of the discussion, Willett remarked that 'he, George, was a gentleman and a soldier, and as good a gentlemen as Richard Sandys; and was descended of the house of Warwick by the mother's side and the father's side of the house of Mortimer earl of March; and that his armes were three wolves heads, three moorhens and a lyon rampant .' Temple, apparently, rather cruelly egged him on by telling him 'that he being descended from the familie of the earl of March it was fitt for him to sit amongst the best gentry in the shire, and to be their companion, and to leave off following the plough,' at which Willett 'did...then boast and affirme that he would maintain that he was of that house of the earl of March.' Willett presented the whole occasion as a device to entrap him, whereas the Sandyses maintained that his remarks were typical of the idle boasting of a man who twenty years earlier had had to flee to Ireland to avoid being prosecuted for the capital offence of coin clipping. In his defence interrogatories, Willett attempted to rescue himself by claiming that he was well enough thought of in the county to have served for twenty years as a sergeant in the trained band, and by admitting that he could lay no claim to being a gentleman; however, this did him little good. The Sandyses' libel was presented in February 1639; Willett drew up defence interrogatories in May and by December he had been ordered to pay the Sandyses 100 marks damages and £20 costs, and to perform his submission as the Earl Marshal directed.

Plaintiff's case

14/3f, Defence interrogatories

1. Was the witness related to either party, and if so, in what degree?

2. When were the words said, who were present, at what hour and upon what occasion? Did the witness see Willett and what words had passed between Henry Sandys and Willett before or after the speaking of the words? Did anyone then present 'violently lay hands, pull or haul Willet'?

3. 'Whether he think it probable that a man of meane state and condicon will presume to call a gent. a base rogue, a base rascall, or a base gent., without he the meane man have some cause or provocacon soe to doe... what was the reason or provocacon whereupon Willet called or termed Mr Sandys any of the pretended words or names in the second article menconed'?

4. 'And whether did Page professe and say, after the pretended speaking of the pretended words by Willet, that Page was not present at the tyme of the speaking of the pretended words, and that he did not heare that Willet speake or utter any of the words which are pretended that he spake against Mr Sandys'?

5. Whether 'Page be not the father or the reputed father of a base child'?

6. What people were present at the speaking of the words and where were they spoken? 'And did not one Alexander Stutbury or some other person come along with Willet to the place where the words by him deposed were spoken and continue with Willet for all the time that Willet remained in the same place'?

7. Upon 'what occasion were the words spoken, and was it not spoken in merriment; and did Mr Richard Sandys take the speaking of the words to hart or did he show himself offended or discontented at the speaking the words'?

8. Whether Edward Sandys and Willet drank together before and after the 'pretended' speaking of the words, and did they not continue and part as good friends after the 'pretended words'?

9. Did Willet say the words of his own accord or was he moved thereunto? Did Willet say that he 'was but a meane man and that he did not stand upon any gentility'?

10. Whether the witness believed in their conscience that the Sandyses' suit would not have been pursued had not Willet 'prosecuted a cause in his Majesties Court of King's Bench against Mr Richard Sandys and taken and imprisoned him upon execucon for non payment of 64 pounds for costs and damages given and judged by the court unto George Willet'?

11. 'What is yearly revenue in lands of Mr Henry Sandys or Mr Richard Sandys, or either of them; or what are they and every of them worth in their personal estates, every man paid, as you know, believe or have heard'? Was Mr Richard Sandys 'imployed by his father at harvest times and at other times in fetching home of <theire> corne and doeing other servill work more fitt for a servant then for a son'?

12. For Mr Parr: 'How and by what meanes he doth maintayne himself and whether he hath not formerly (and how long since) been a miliner or a haberdasher of small wares and married the daughter of Mr Henry Sandys? What was the reason he gave of his trade and whether Mr Parr his wife or child all or some or one of them have not all or a good part of their meanes and maintenance from Mr Sandys and how longe have he or they soe done'?

13. For Smith alias Ruberry: 'Whether he or his wife be not of some degree of kindred unto Mr Henry Sandys or his wife, and hath not formerly been their servant or lived in house with them, and whether he did not marry his wife out of Mr Sandys house'?

14. Mary Sandys and Hester Sandys and Mrs Parr, whether they or either of them do not live, dwell and cohabit with Mr Henry Sandys; and have all or the most part of theire maintenance from him and dare not displease him'?

Introduced 4 May 1639.

Signed by Thomas Gwynn.

14/3l, Defence interrogatories

1. Whether 'Mr Richard Sandys did not lye in the Kings Bench prison upon an execution for not payment unto George Willett the sum of sixty and fower pounds in costs and damages given and adjudged unto him by that court? Hath Mr Sandys paid or satisfied Willet for the same? Hath not Mr Richard made an escape out of King's Bench, and have not you or any of your fellow witnesses promised by word or bond to save harmless Sir John Lenthall, the marshall of the King's Bench, for the same? And whether is Sir John Lenthall now sued by Willett for Mr Richard's escape; and whether doe you beare any parte of 'the charge' of that or this suite'?

2. Whether '...*speaking thereof*, Willett was sent for by him to come to his house; and whether among other things Sir Peter Temple did question him about his discent; and whether Willett did speak aforesaid word of his own accons, or onely by way of answering Sir Peter to such questions as he demanded of him answers, then acknowledge that although he had heard his ancestors were gent.; yet he was but a mean or pooreman.'

No date.

No signatures.

Defendant's case

16/1b, Defence

1. Which Mary Sandys was and is the wife of Henry Sandys; and which William Parr was and is brother in law; and which Sir Peter Temple, bart., was and is nephew by Henry Sandy's sister, all of which is commonly known.

2. Hester Sandys was the natural and lawful daughter of Henry Sandys; and at the time of her testimony she lived with and was maintained by her father.

3. Richard Sandys had said before November 1635 'that George Willett hath murthered, or killed, one Hoge, or one Roger Horwood, and that Horwood's blood was traced or followed to Willett's house'; and that Willett had laid Horwoods corpse in Willett's hen roost.

4. Willett had sued Sandys at common law for speaking these words and won £50 damages plus costs; and had Sandys imprisoned in King's Bench for the £60 costs and damages?

5. After Sandys escaped from the Kings Bench, Sir Peter Temple entered a bond to save the keeper of the prison, Sir John Lenthall, harmless from this £60.

6. After entering the bond, Temple, or one of the Sandyses, procured a commission from Arundel for Sir Peter Temple and Sir Alexander Denton 'for the examining and composing of the business and differences now questioned and objected against Willett by Henry Sandys and Richard Sandys in this honourable court, or for the hearing and composing of some of the business.

7. Willett and Henry Sandys met before Temple and Denton, and Sandys brought as witnesses only Richard, Mary and Hester Sandys. Temple moved Willett to 'forgoe and release the sixty pounds and to take the sum of twenty marks or some other small sum for the same, and Sir Peter did then and there offer to give Willett the sume of twenty marks for the sixty pounds, and that in case Willett would take the twenty marks for the sixty pounds he Sir Peter did then and there promise and offer that he would make Henry Sandys, Richard Sandys and Willett friends and that there should be no prosecution against Willett in this honourable Court.'

8. Willett had confessed at that meeting, and before and since, that he was not a gentleman and that Henry Sandys was.

9. 'It is probable and so reported and believed that the commission or reference to Sir Peter Temple and Sir Alexander Denton was obtained of purpose to intrap Willett, or to get some advantage of words by him to be spoken against Henry Sandys, and to draw and worke Willett to remit and forgoe the sixty pounds. And not for that Willett had called Mr Henry Sandys base rogue or base rascall, or had used any of the words libellated and objected to have been spoken (before the said reference) against Henry Sandys.

10. 'Robert Page, pretended to have heard some of the words libellated pretended to have been spoken in December or January 1635, did not die or depart this life before the beginning of the month of May, or the latter end of April last past; and that Page was sicke of a consumsion for the space of two years or of one yeare...six months next before his death, and that he then died of the consumsion.'

11. 'Henry Sandys and Mr Richard Sandys had in Hillarie term last past and on or about the 23 February, a commission decreed for the examination of witnesses in this cause, returnable the first session of Easter term following; and that on the first session the first commission was renewed and to be returned the first session of Trinity term.'

12. Henry Sandys's dwelling house in Horwood in December and January 1635/6 was near the centre of the town, with other houses roundabout.

13. 'Mrs Mary Sandys and Hester Sandys, both or one of them, have or hath solicited, moved and delt with some person, or persons, to be witnesses in this cause and to depose that they, or she, had heard Willett call Henry Sandys, Base rogue, base rascall, base gent., or they, or one of them, moved some person or persons to the same effect.'

14. 'Willett hath been and is a man of honest life and conversation and well thought of by divers of the gentry and commonalty of the county of Bucks.; and hath for these twenty years or thereabout been serjeant to a trained band of soldiers in the county.'

No date.

Signed by Thomas Gwynn.

14/3o, First set of plaintiff interrogatories

1. The witnesses were warned of the penalty for perjury and bearing false witness. What was the witness's age, occupation and condition? How long had the witness known the parties and to whom would he grant victory if it were in his power?

2. Did the witness live of his own or was he dependent upon another? How was the witness worth in goods with his debts paid? Had the witness been compelled or suborned to attend? What had the witness received or expect to receive for attending?

3. Had the witness been instructed how to depose?

4. Had the ancestors of Henry Sandys always been accounted gentlemen and lived in the quality and condition of gentlemen?

5. Whether, in the months September 1635 to May 1636, did they hear Willett say publicly that 'Sandys was a base rogue, base rascall and a base gentleman'; and whether they had heard Willet, in 1637 or 1638, 'boast, acknowledge and confess that he had spoken and uttered the wordes aforesaid or some of them to Henry Sandys.'

6. Whether Sir Alexander Denton heard Willett, between September and November 1638, 'falling into comparison with Mr Henry Sandys' or boast that he was 'a gentleman descended by the mother's side from the house of Warwick and that by the father side he was descended from the house of Mortimer, earle of March... and did Sir Peter Temple, kt. and baronet, or some other person then present tell Willett that Mortimer was of the blood Royall; and did not Sir Peter or some other person then also present tell Willett that he being descended from the familie of the earl of March it was fitt for him to sit amongst the best gentry in the shire, and to be their companion, and to leave off following the plough; and did Willett then boast and affirme that he would mainatin that he was of the house of the earl of March; and whether or noe did Willett also say that by his father's side he gave armes three Woolfes heades, three moorehens and a lyon rampant .'

7. Whether 'Sir Peter Temple be not a kt. and baronett, and a gentleman of such integritie ,that he will not for favour or respect to Mr Henry Sandys, or any other person, be drawne to depose an untruth as such witness doth knowe and verily believe'?

8. Whether 'or noe Mrs Mary Sandys, and Hester Sandys, and Wm Parre be not people of honest life and conversation, and such that will not for favour or any sinister respect be drawne to depose an untruth'?

9. Had the witness heard Willett boast that he was a gentleman?

10. Whether 'he knoweth of any commission or reference directed to Sir Peter Temple and Sir Alexander Denton concerning the hearing of some differences between Mr Henry Sandys and George Willett from the Earl Marshall of England'? 'Doth such witness believe that the commission was sent or procured to be sent with any purpose to intrapp Willett, or that the commissioners had any intent to get any advantage of words from Willett, or to worke Willett to remitt a judgement of £60 which Willett had recovered against Richard Sandys; and lett him sett downe the reasons he hath so to believe'?

11. Whether 'or noe he hath heard Robert Page, in the matter defensive mentioned, say and confesse that he had heard Willett call Mr Henry Sandys rogue, rascall and base gentleman; and did not he heare Page say that he would justify it upon his oath when he should be thereunto lawfully called'?

12. If the witness deposed that Hester and Mary Sandys had 'dealt and tampered with some person, or persons, to depose in this cause, upon promise of reward or otherwise, let the witnesses express the name of such persons, or person, with whom they or either of them tampered with, or laboured to suborne, and in what place and in whose presence; and to what effect or purpose did they or either of them labour such witness to depose? What reward did either of them promise, or what words did Mrs Mary Sandys or Hester Sandys use to such person? Whether hath not such person or persons acknowledged that they have heard Willett call Mr Henry Sandys, Base rogue, base rascall'?

13. In 'case any witness shall depose that George Willett hath beene, and is, a man of honest life and conversation, lett such witnesse be interrogated whether he doth know or hath crediblie heard that Willett about 20 yeeres since did flye the countrie, and goe into Ireland, to avoid punishment for some capitall offence, which Willett had committed; and lett him expresse for what greate offence it was as he knoweth or hath crediblie heard'?

14. Whether between January and May last, Margaret Weston came to the house of Henry Sandys; 'and upon what occasion and at whose command or direction, or of her owne accord, cameth hither; and when she was there did not she tell Mrs Mary Sandys or her daughter <Mrs Hester>*Henrie* Sandys voluntarily, and without any interrogation, that George Willett had said of Mr Henry Sandys that he was a base rogue, a base rascall, a base gentleman; and did she freely and of her owne accord say that she would swear it or depose it on her oath... [3 lines crossed out] and who hath since laboured or tampered with you to deny the words that you had formerlie related to Mrs Mary Sandys, and Mrs <Hester>*Henrie* Sandys, or one of them, as aforesaid? What reward or promise of reward hath been given or made unto you to deny the words and by whome and at what time'?

16. 'Whether were not you Margaret Weston *latelie* questioned for filching in Stowe Markett.'

No date.

No signatures.

14/3t, Second set of plaintiff interrogatories

1. Did the witness know that Sir Alexander Hamden, or some other Buckinghamshire J.P.s' warrant, was issued to apprehend Willett 'when he was fled into Ireland, after Thomas Smith was taken at Buston and put into the gaol; and being afterwards tried was hanged at Wickham Scises [High Wycombe Assizes]; and the constable of Little Horwood was forced to returne his warrant coming too late for Willett'?

2. Did the witness know that Richard Smith dwelled with Willett; and whether Smith had confessed who 'had taught him to coyne or clip the king's silver; or was he ever knowne to have such skill of coyning or clipping, or did he ever use or practise it before he dwelt with Willett'?

3. Did the witness know that within the last 3 months Margaret Weston of Little Horwood had been questioned for it? 'What do you know concerning her, declare the truth herein'?

No date.

No signatures.

Sentence / Arbitration

12/3m, Plaintiff's sentence [badly damaged]

Willett declared that Henry Sandys 'was a base conditioned man, a base rogue, a base rascall; that he George was a gentleman and a soldier and as good a gentlemen as Richard Sandys; and was descended of the house of Warwick by the mother's side, and the father's side of the house of Mortimer earl of March; and that his armes were three wolves heads, three moorhens and a lyon rampant'.

Awarded 100 marks and £20 respectively.

Signed by Arthur Duck and Arundel and Surrey.


2/107, Defendant's bond of submission

The defendant was described as of Little Horwood, co. Buckingham, gent

5 December 1639

Arundel had passed a definitive sentence upon Willet for him to pay £20 costs and 100 marks damages to Henry and Richard Sandys, and to perform his submission 'in such manner, forme and place as his lordship shall injoyne'.

£10 of the costs was to be paid by the first court day of Hilary term. The first 50 marks of damages were to be paid by the 5 June 1640 and the next 50 marks were to be paid by 6 December 1640.

Sealed, subscribed and delivered in the presence of Humphrey Terrick.

Signed by George Willet, Hugh Willet of Great Horwood, co. Buckingham, yeoman, and John Grainge of St Sepulchre, London, innholder.

Summary of proceedings

Dr Duck acted as counsel for Sandys and Dr Gwyn for Willett. On 23 February 1639 Dr Duck presented the libel and Dr Gwyn denied it.


For a brief notice of the case, see G. D. Squibb, Reports of Heraldic Cases in the Court of Chivalry, 1623-1732 (London, 1956), p. 43.

Henry Sandis was the youngest son of Miles Sandis of Latimer, co. Buckingham, clerk of the crown, and Hester, daughter of William Clifton of co. Somerset. He married Mary, daughter of Sir Richard Conquest of Houghton Conquest, co. Bedford, by whom Richard Sandis was his eldest son.

W. H. Rylands (ed.), The Visitation of the County of Buckingham made in 1634 (Publications of the Harleian Society, 53, 1909), p. 109.


  • Plaintiff's case
    • Defence interrogatories: 14/3f (4 May 1639)
    • Defence interrogatories: 14/3l (no date)
  • Defendant's case
    • Defence: 16/1b (no date)
    • First set of plaintiff interrogatories: 14/3o (no date)
    • Second set of plaintiff interrogatories: 14/3t (no date)
  • Sentence / Arbitration
    • Plaintiff sentence: 12/3m (no date)
  • Submission
    • Defendant's bond on submission: 2/107 (5 Dec 1639)
  • Proceedings
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 1/6, fos. 1-9 (23 Feb 1639)

People mentioned in the case

  • Clifton, Hester
  • Clifton, William
  • Conquest, Mary
  • Conquest, Richard, knight
  • Denton, Alexander, knight
  • Duck, Arthur, lawyer
  • Grainge, John, innkeeper
  • Gwynn, Thomas, lawyer (also Gwyn)
  • Hambden, Alexander, knight (also Hampden)
  • Horwood, Roger
  • Howard, Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey
  • Lenthall, John, knight
  • Mortimer, earl of March
  • Neville, earl of Warwick
  • Page, Robert
  • Parr, William, Mr
  • Parr, Mrs
  • Rich, earl of Warwick
  • Sandys, Henry, gent (also Sandis)
  • Sandys, Hester (also Sandis)
  • Sandys, Mary (also Sandis)
  • Sandys, Miles, clerk of the crown (also Sandis)
  • Sandys, Richard, gent (also Sandis)
  • Smith, Thomas
  • Smith alias Ruberry
  • Stutbury, Alexander
  • Temple, Peter, knight and baronet
  • Terrick, Humphrey
  • Weston, Margaret
  • Willett, George
  • Willett, Hugh, yeoman

Places mentioned in the case

  • Bedfordshire
    • Houghton Conquest
  • Buckinghamshire
    • Great Horwood
    • High Wycombe
    • Latimer
    • Little Horwood
    • Stowe
  • Ireland
  • London
    • King's Bench prison
    • St Sepulchre

Topics of the case

  • allegation of murder
  • arbitration
  • assault
  • assizes
  • coat of arms
  • constable
  • denial of gentility
  • justice of the peace
  • King's Bench
  • office-holding
  • other courts
  • trained band