60 Bowen v Nichols

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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'60 Bowen v Nichols', in The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640, (, ) pp. . British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/court-of-chivalry/60-bowen-nichols [accessed 1 March 2024]

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Thomas Bowen of the Middle Temple, London, gent v Humphrey Nichols of Lincoln's Inn, co. Middlesex, gent

April 1635 - November 1638


Bowen alleged that between February and March 1635, at the Middle Temple in London, Nichols had said that he was 'the son of a whore' and challenged him to a duel. This was probably connected with the confrontation with Guy Moulsworth and William Gartfoote on 16 March 1635 referred to in the previous case. Proceedings commenced in June 1635 and Bowen, the first son and heir of Charles Bowen of Trefloyne, in Penally parish, Pembrokeshire, esq, won the cause, with Nichols being censured to pay a fine of 50 marks to the king, with costs and damages to Bowen of 100 marks. Nichols was also sentenced to be imprisoned until he gave bond to perform the order of the court. He offered as sureties Captain Humfrey Hooke of Grubstreet, London, and Samuel Selwood of Lincoln's Inn, gent, and was released from confinement in the Marshalsea in December 1635 in view of 'this good time of Christmas'. On 20 February 1636, he was ordered to perform a submission before the Earl Marshal at Westminster in which he apologised to Bowen for having insulted and challenged him, and craved the forgiveness of the Court of Chivalry and the king. Proceedings to recover the fine and damages continued and were apparently still ongoing in November 1638.

Initial proceedings

9/4/63, Libel

Bowen was the first born son and heir of Charles Bowen of Trefloyne in Penally parish, co. Pembroke, esq. His family had been acknowledged as gentlemen for more than 300 years. Between last February and March, at the Middle Temple in the parish of St Dunstan-in-the-West, London, in the presence of persons of dignity, Nichols had said that Bowen was 'the son of a whore', which words were an insult to him and his family and liable to provoke a duel.

Endorsed 18 April 1635.


7/66, Defendant's petition to Arundel

December 1635

Nichols was now a prisoner in the Marshalsea. He reminded Arundel that on the last court day, he was censured to pay a fine to the king and the costs and damages to Mr Bowen '& to suffer imprisonment till he gave bond with good sureties to performe the order of the Court'.

He offered for his sureties Captain Humfrey Hooke of Grubstreet, London, and Samuel Selwood of Lincoln's Inn, gent 'who are sufficient and without excepcon'

As Christmas was approaching, he beseeched Arundel for 'your wonted favor & nobleness to be pleased to give direccons to Mr Dethick the Register of the Court, for taking of the said bond; and the rather in regard of the blessed time now approaching.'

7/67, Order for release

'Good Mr Dethicke

My Lord Marshall is pleased upon Mr Nicolls his petition that he be released and that it is referred unto your care that the sureties be sufficient and that he be released against this good time of Christmas.

Your faithful friend

John Coxe, Arundel house'.

23 December 1635.

4/3, Submission

20 February 1635/6

Nichols was to perform his submission before the Earl Marshal or his Lieutenant at Westminster:

'In open court in some eminent place to be appointed by his Lordship or Lieutenant standing bare headed shall with an audible voice say as followeth: Whereas I Humfrey Nicholls have very rashly and indiscreetly challenged into the field Mr Thomas Bowen of the Middle Temple, London, gentleman and also have given him very foule and opprobrious words thereby to provoke him the rather to answer my challenge and meet me in the field and whereas I do stand convicted of the premises by sentence diffinitive given against me in this court... I do humbly acknowledge myself to be hartily sorry for my so doing and do withal humility pray the favor and pardon of the kings most excellent majesty, whose lawes & pleasure signified and published in divers his Majesties proclamations and ordinances in that behalf. I do acknowledge my self thereby to have highly offended, and I do likewise humbly pray the forgiveness of this most honourable court and of his most honourable lordship and in particular of Mr Bowen, whom I confess myself to have much wronged in the premises and do hartily and faithfully promise never to offend in the like againe, but to carry and behave myself in all peaceable and respectfull manner towards Mr Bowen and all others his majesties loveing subjects whatsoever.'

17/2b, Submission

Exactly as 4/3, but signed by 'Humfrye Nicoll'.

Summary of proceedings

Dr Duck acted as counsel for Bowen and Dr Eden for Nichols. Proceedings commenced. On 9 May 1635 the witness Morgan was warned to submit to examination. On 30 May the other witnesses were all to submit to examination, except Philip Morgan. Proceedings continued in June 1635 and Nichols was sentenced to pay a fine of 50 marks to the king, with damages of 100 marks to Bowen. Proceedings to recover this money continued in May 1636 and January-February 1637, and were, apparently, still ongoing in November 1638.


Thomas, son and heir of Charles Bowen of Trefloyne, co. Pembroke, esq, was admitted to the Middle Temple on 24 May 1631. Humphrey Nicoll, second son of Humphrey Nicoll of St Tudy, co. Cornwall, esq, was admitted to Lincoln's Inn on 22 May 1631. In the case of Humphrey Nicholls v John Billinge et al. in Star Chamber in February 1637, Nicholls was fined £20 'pro falso clamore'.

H. A. C. Sturgess (ed.), Register of Admissions to the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, vol. 1, 1501-1781 (London, 1949), p. 125; J. Foster and W. Pailey Baildon (eds.), Records of the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn, vol. 1: Admissions, 1420-1799 (London, 1896), p. 213; CSP Dom. 1636-7 , p. 429.


  • Initial proceedings
    • Libel: 9/4/63 (18 Apr 1635)
  • Submission
    • Defendant's petition to Arundel: 7/66 (Dec 1635)
    • Order for release: 7/67 (23 Dec 1635)
    • Submission: 4/3 and 17/2b (20 Feb 1636)
  • Proceedings
    • Proceedings: EM348 (9 May 1635)
    • Proceedings: EM349 (30 May 1635)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 8/24 (9 Jun 1635)
    • Proceedings before Huntingdon: 8/25 (20 Jun 1635)
    • Undated proceedings: R.19, fos. 390-399 (c.Jun 1635)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: College of Arms MS. 'Court of Chivalry' (act book 1636-8) [shelfmark R.R. 68C] (hereafter 68C), fos. 89r-100r (May 1636)
    • Proceedings before Sir Henry Marten: 68C, fos. 84r-88v (9 May 1636)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 68C, fos. 51r-59r (28 Jan 1637)
    • Proceedings: R.19, fos. 381-2 (28 Jan 1637)
    • Proceedings: 68C, fos. 43r-49v (28 Jan 1637?)
    • Proceedings: 68C, fos. 14r-20v (16 Feb 1637)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 8/26 (14 Oct 1637)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 8/27 (14 Oct 1637)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 8/28 (31 Oct 1637)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: 8/29 (18 Nov 1637)
    • Proceedings before Maltravers: R.19, fos. 422r-428r (28 Nov 1638)

People mentioned in the case

  • Billinge, John
  • Bowen, Charles, esq
  • Bowen, Thomas, gent
  • Coxe, John
  • Dethick, Gilbert, registrar
  • Duck, Arthur, lawyer
  • Eden, Thomas, lawyer
  • Hastings, Henry, earl of Huntingdon
  • Hooke, Humfrey, Captain
  • Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
  • Howard, Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey
  • Marten, Henry, knight
  • Morgan, Philip
  • Nichols, Humphrey, esq (also Nicholls, Nicols, Nicoll)
  • Nichols, Humphrey, gent (also Nicholls, Nicols, Nicoll)
  • Selwood, Samuel, gent
  • Stuart, Charles I, king

Places mentioned in the case

  • London
    • Grub Street
    • Marshalsea
    • Middle Temple
  • Middlesex
    • Arundel House
    • Lincoln's Inn
    • St Dunstan-in-the-West
    • Westminster
  • Cornwall
    • St Tudy
  • Pembrokeshire
    • Penally
    • Trefloyne
  • Wales

Topics of the case

  • challenge to a duel
  • inns of court
  • insult before gentlemen
  • military officer
  • other courts
  • sexual insult
  • Star Chamber