605 Somerset v Perkins

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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'605 Somerset v Perkins', in The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640, (, ) pp. . British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/court-of-chivalry/605-somerset-perkins [accessed 29 February 2024]

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Henry Somerset of Trelleck Grange, co. Monmouth, gent v William Perkins of Pilstone, co. Monmouth, gent

June - October 1634

Figure 605:

St Briavels Castle, Gloucestershire, where, at the ancient hundred court house, Henry Somerset's witnesses were examined in September 1634 (Photograph: Richard Cust)


Somerset complained that in Llandogo, Monmouthshire, on a Sunday in March 1634, in the presence of several gentlemen, Perkins said that he 'was a base fellow, a shitten beggarly fellow not worth sixpence'. Somerset claimed kinship with the Earls of Worcester, but dismissed Perkins as a plebeian. In his defence Perkins claimed to be a gentleman on the basis of 'the generall report of the country', his father and grandfather being reputed gentlemen and matched with the best families of the county and his family's long residence in Pilstone. Somerset's father, on the other hand, he implied was illegitimate. He also claimed that he had been provoked by scandalous words from Somerset and implied that his own words referred to the plaintiff's son, another Henry Somerset. Proceedings were under way by 6 June 1634 and this was one of the first batch of cases dealt with by the court. Somerset's witnesses were examined before a commission consisting of the Brecon and Monmouthshire gentlemen, Roger Vaughan, William Jones and William Morgan, on 25 September 1634 in the Court House at St Briavels Castle, Gloucestershire. One of them appeared uncertain over which Henry Somerset was being referred to. No indication of sentence survives.

Initial proceedings

Acta (5), fo. 18, Libel

Somersett's family had been gentry for up to 200 and more years, and the Perkins family were plebeians. Perkins, intending to provoke Somerset to duel, said 'I was a base fellow, a shitten beggarly fellow not worth sixpence'.

Signed by Arthur Duck.

R.19, fo. 13r, Summary of libel

'Somersett and his ancestors for above 200 yeares past is and have been gentlemen and descendants of the ancient family of the Earle of Worcester, and that Perkins is a plebeian and c. Perkins (such a time and place) before many gentlemen and others, said that Somersett was a base fellow, a shitten beggarly fellow, not worth sixpence, or to that effect, thereby to provoke and c.'


No signature.

Plaintiff's case

9/4/73, Nomination of commissioners

Dr Duck on behalf of Somerset nominated Roger Vaughan de Trephillipps, co. Brecon, gent, and Nicholas Kemys of Llanvair Discoed, co. Monmouth, gent, as commissioners.

Perkins named William Jones of Usk, gent, and William Morgan of Pencrug, co. Monmouth, gent. They were to sit at St Briavels Castle commonly called the Court House from 25 to 27 September 1634.

No date

Acta (5), fo. 19, Letters commissory for the plaintiff

Addressed to commissioners Roger Vaughan of Trephillipps, co. Brecon, and Nicholas Kemys of Llanvair Discoed, co. Monmouth, and also, William Jones of Usk, gent, and William Morgan of Pencrug, co. Monmouth, to meet from 25 to 27 September 1634 in the Court House at St Briavels Castle, co. Gloucester.

Dethick assigned Walter Vaughan as notary public.

'This commission not to be executed unless William Perkins have certaine notice of the daye and place above named at or before the sixteenth day of September 1634.'

No date.

Signed by Gilbert Dethick.

Acta (5), fos. 16-17, Defence interrogatories [damaged]

Positions and articles exhibited for William Perkins, gent, defendant, and his witnesses examined against Henry Somerset.

1. 'Doe you know the parties and doe you know Charles Somersett, esq, the plaintiff's father; and did you know Bridget Edmonds mother and Francis Somersett, reputed father of Charles Somersett'?

2. 'Doe you know that Charles was son to Bridgett reputed to be upon her bed begotten by Francis Somersett out of wedlock and was she (in the life time of Francis Somersett) married unto any other and to whome? What do you know, or have credibly heard, or verily believe touching these questions; and how doe you know by whome have you heard, or what doth induce you to believe the same'?

3. 'Doe you know that Francis Somersett died seised of land or tenements of what personal estate and did the same (for want of legitimate issue of his body begotten)... [damaged] and come to the late Earle of Worcester [damaged] to any other and to whom. And is Charles Somersett seised in fee or of any estate of inheritance that discended to him as heire to his reputed father'?

4. 'What estate in possession or expectance hath the plaintiff? Is he indebted above the value of his present estate, and have other men paid debts for him; and who and how much and to whom'?

5. 'Doe you know that Perkins and his father and grandfather and others his ancestors have byn resident at Pilston where Perkins now liveth during all your memory; and for how long? And were they and theire ancestors ever reputed, deemed and taken to be gent. of an antient family; and were they matched with families of eminent and auntient gentries, and whom in particular? And is the defendant owner of Pilston in right of inheritance by discent from his father, grandfather, and others his ancestors? Is he, and were they, ever in your memory and by the generall report of the country reputed and esteemed to be honest gentlemen of good credit and reputation'?

6. 'Doe you know that the plaintiff in or about January, February, or March 1633 or at any other tyme, and when and in what manner, either publiquely before Perkins's face or other wise behinde his back, use any words, meanes or accons, or procure any other and whome, to provoke, move or stirre upp Perkins to wrath or anger? And were such provocations dealings or justifications, invective and moveing Perkins to use words against Somerset? What were such Somerset's provocations? When, where, and to whome did Somerset use any words or meanes or procure other private discourtesies and what were they against Perkins'?

7. Exactly when 'did you hear Perkins speake the words in question, or the like, against Somerset'? In whose presence, where and how many were present? 'Did Perkins then name Henry Somersett; or what or whose name was then used'? Was it mistically [sic] used by any other whoe propose any question' to Perkins and by what name was the proposition'? 'Was it by the name of sone Somersett or noe? And was or is the plaintiff's sone, and in what degree, to the party that soe proposed the questions or propostions' to Perkins?

No date.

Signed Roger Vaughan, William Jones and William Morgan, commissioners.

Acta (5), fos. 14-15, Plaintiff's depositions

Taken before commissioners Roger Vaughan, William Jones and William Morgan, gents, at the Court House at St Briavels Castle, co. Gloucester, on 25 September 1634.

fo. 14r (Witness 1), Richard Stallard the younger of Leigh, co. Gloucester, gent, born in the parish of St Briavels, co. Gloucester, aged 29

To Somerset's libel:

In February 1634 in Llandogo, co. Monmouth, William Perkins called Henry Somerset 'a base fellowe, a shitten beggarly fellowe not worth sixe pence'. The witness was present and heard the words together with Mrs Elizabeth Aylway, widow and John Heaven.

Signed by Richard Stallard and by the three commissioners.

fo. 14v (Witness 2), Elizabeth Aylway of Brockweir, co. Gloucester, widow, aged 38

To Somerset's libel:

Between January and March 1634 in Llandogo, co. Monmouth, William Perkins said 'Henry Somerset is a base fellow a shitten beggarly fellow not worth sixe pence; or worse words in effect which she cannot now remember'. Perkins spoke these words to her, also in the hearing of Richard Stallard and John Heaven, gents.

Signed by Elizabeth Aylway and by the three commissioners.

To Perkins's interrogatories:

7. 'The words were spoken upon a Sunday, but what day of the month this witness knoweth not; and this witness did propose something concerning Mr Somerset to William Perkins. It may be the proposition was by the name of some Somersett by way of curtesie and not otherwise.'

Signed by Elizabeth Aylway and by the three commissioners.

fo. 15r (Witness 3), John Heaven of Brockweir, co. Gloucester, gent, born at Haven, co. Hereford, aged 22

To Somerset's libel:

'Within this twelvemonth last past he did heare William Perkins speake some words of Henry Somerset by the name of Henry Somerset, or son of? [damaged] Somerset, Perkins spurning the ground, naming six pence'.

Signed by John Heaven and by the three commissioners.

Acta (5), fo. 12, Notary public's certificate

Certificate in Latin signed by Walter Vaughan, notary public that the below examinations had been completed and were now being returned.

Dated 6 October 1634.

Notary's mark.

Summary of proceedings

Dr Duck acted as counsel for Somerset and Dr Eden for Perkins. Perkins was cited for scandalous words against Somerset on 7 June 1634, and Dr Duck was required to give the libel on 30 June. On 20 October 1634 the court required the examinations of Somerset's witnesses from the commissioners.


Henry Somerset of Trelleck Grange, co. Monmouth, was a lieutenant-colonel of foot in the royalist garrison at Raglan castle.

P.R. Newman, Royalist officers in England and Wales, 1642-1660: A biographical dictionary (London, 1981), p. 352.

William Perkin of Pilston, living in 1647, was the son of Christopher Perkin of Pilston and Jane, daughter to Christopher Hall of High Meadow, in the parish of Staunton, co. Gloucester, esq. William married Elinor, daughter to George Catchmay of Brockweir, co. Gloucester, esq.

M. P. Siddons (ed.), Visitations by the Heralds in Wales (Publications of the Harleian

Society, new series, 14, 1996), p. 185.


  • Initial proceedings
    • Libel: Acta (5), fo. 18 ([30 Jun 1634])
    • Summary of libel: R.19, fo. 13r (1634)
  • Plaintiff's case
    • Nomination of commissioners: 9/4/73 (no date)
    • Letters commissory for the plaintiff: Acta (5), fo. 19 (no date)
    • Defence interrogatories: Acta (5) fos. 16-17 (no date)
    • Plaintiff's depositions: Acta (5) fos. 14-15 (25 Sep 1634)
    • Notary public's certificate: Acta (5) fo. 12 (6 Oct 1634)
  • Proceedings
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 7/17 (7 Jun 1634)
    • Proceedings: 8/23 (30 Jun 1634)
    • Proceedings before Arundel: 1/1 (20 Oct 1634)

People mentioned in the case

  • Aylway, Elizabeth, widow
  • Catchmay, Elinor
  • Catchmay, George, esq
  • Dethick, Gilbert, registrar
  • Duck, Arthur, lawyer
  • Eden, Thomas, lawyer
  • Edmonds, Bridget
  • Hall, Christopher, esq
  • Hall, Jane
  • Heaven, John, gent
  • Howard, Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey
  • Jones, William, gent
  • Kemys, Nicholas, gent (also Kemeys)
  • Morgan, William, gent
  • Perkins, Christopher (also Perkin)
  • Perkins, Elinor (also Perkin)
  • Perkins, Jane (also Perkin)
  • Perkins, William, gent (also Perkin)
  • Somerset, Charles, esq (also Somersett)
  • Somerset, Francis (also Somersett)
  • Somerset, Henry, earl of Worcester
  • Somerset, Henry, gent
  • Stallard, Richard the younger, gent
  • Vaughan, Roger, gent
  • Vaughan, Walter, notary public

Places mentioned in the case

  • Brecknockshire
    • Trephillipps
  • Gloucestershire
    • Brockweir
    • High Meadow
    • Leigh
    • St Briavels
    • St Briavels Castle
    • Staunton
  • Herefordshire
    • Haven
  • Monmouthshire
    • Llandogo
    • Llanveir Discoed
    • Pencrug
    • Pilstone
    • Raglan Castle
    • Trelleck
    • Usk
  • Wales

Topics of the case

  • allegation of bankruptcy
  • allegation of illegitimacy
  • civil war
  • denial of gentility
  • military officer
  • provocative of a duel
  • royalist
  • scatological insult