669 Wadham v Cooke

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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'669 Wadham v Cooke', in The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640, (, ) pp. . British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/court-of-chivalry/669-wadham-cooke [accessed 2 March 2024]

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Nicholas Wadham of Saltash, co. Cornwall, esq v Thomas Cooke of Liskeard, co. Cornwall, mercer

February - July 1640

Figure 669:

The funeral monument for William Coryton (d.1651), in the parish church at St Mellion, Cornwall. Coryton was one of the commissioners appointed to examine Thomas Cooke's witnesses (Photograph: Richard Cust)


Wadham complained that at George Wadham's tavern in Liskeard, Cornwall, Cooke, a mercer, had several times called him 'a base rogue and a base gentleman' in the presence of many gentlemen. Cooke, who claimed to be a gentleman, had also declared that he was as good a man as Wadham, and challenged him to the field to fight. In October-November 1639 the Earl Marshal referred the matter to Sir Richard Buller and Sir William Courtenay to settle out of court, but when they found in favour of Wadham, Cooke refused to submit himself. Therefore process was granted on 10 February 1640, bonds entered and Wadham's libel delivered. On 3 July 1640 a commission headed by Buller and Courtenay was appointed to examine witnesses for Cooke. Cooke maintained that he had been provoked when Wadham and Richard Rawe beat him and called him 'a base rogue'. He refrained from retaliating, saying to Wadham, so he claimed, 'I knowe you are a gentleman therefore I will not replie, because you shall not take advantage against me in my Lord Marshall's court'; however, he did commence a suit at common law against Wadham and Rawe for assault. No further proceedings survive.

Initial proceedings

2/33, Petition to Arundel

'Your petitioner, being a gentleman descended from an antient family and heyre to the founders of Wadham College in Oxon., about March last received [abuse] from Thomas Cooke of Liskerd in Cornwall, mercer, who in the presence of diverse gentlemen oftentimes published and declared that your petitioner was a base rogue and a base gentleman, and did then often dare and challenge your petitioner to go into the field to fight with him, and that he was as good a man as your petitioner. That in Michaelmas Terme last your petitioner proferred his petition to your honor for relief herein, whereupon your lordship was pleased to referre the same to Sir Richard Buller and Sir William Courteney, knts., before whom, in the presence of Cooke, the truth of the petition was proved by good testimonies, as by the certificate of Sir Richard Buller and Sir William Courteney appeareth.

And in regard thereof, and for that your petitioner hath not received any satisfaction touching the abuses, by reason Cooke refused to submit himselfe to the order of the said gentlemen, may it please your honor that a process may be awarded against Cooke for his appearance before your honor in Easter term next to the end he may receive punishment for the abuses and your petitioner may have due reparacon touching the same.'

Maltravers granted process on 10 February 1640.

2/32, Plaintiff's bond

13 February 1640

Bound to appear 'in the Court in the painted Chamber within the Pallace of Westminster'.

Signed by Thomas Dandy of St Stephen's, Saltash, gent, on behalf of Wadham.

Sealed, subscribed and delivered in the presence of John Watson.

5/26, Defendant's bond

11 May 1640

Bound to 'appear in the court in Arundel house in the Strand without Temple Barr, London'.

Robert Langford of Islington, co. Middlesex, acting for Cooke.

Signed Robert Langford.

Sealed signed and delivered in the presence of John Watson.

R.19, fo. 2r, Summary of libel

'Nich. Wadham and his ancestors, for above 300 yeares past, is and have [been] gentlemen and soe commonly reputed. That Cooke (before many persons) said that Wadham was a base rogue and a base gentleman, and did oftentimes challenge him to go into the field and fight with him, and said he was a better gentleman than he. Thereby to provoke and c.'


No signature.

Defendant's case

EM3170, Defence

1. The witnesses John Michell and Richard Rawe examined on behalf of Wadham were partial witnesses, Wadham's intimate relatives and friends, and unfit to testify.

2. Michell is 'a common gamester at cardes and dice and other unlawfull games, a man debosht or given to excessive drinking and tipling in innes, alehouses and tavernes, and one that is reputed to be cheater, a man of none or little estate, an incontinente person and reputed to be a man of noe credit or reputacon, And John Michell have beene questioned for abusinge his wife, and for such a person commonly accompted.'

3. Richard Rawe was 'a common brawler and a contentious person and have been fined in the court of Star Chamber [for raising a false clamour], and Richard Rawe was the abettor and assistant to [Wadham] in the quarrell against me [Cooke]' at the time of the words in the libel and at that time and place 'did strike and beate [Cooke] for which [he] have convented a suite at common lawe against Nicholas Wadham and Richard Rawe for the batterie and assault'.

4. 'That there is no credit to be given to the sayings and depositions of John Michell and Richard Rawe in this cause: for whereas they deposed that in one of the months in the libel 'in the house of George Wadham, being a taverne in Liskeard, Thomas Cooke, without any provocation [or] grievance by Nicholas Wadham, said that he was a base rogue, and a base gentleman and challenged Nicholas Wadham to fight with him, and that he was as good a man as Wadham, [it] was false.' And 'in case I, Thomas Cooke, did utter or speake any of the wordes to and of Nicholas Wadham, 'having heard these words, Nicholas Wadham and Richard Rawe 'did assaulte, strike and beate me, Thomas Cooke, upon the head and face and other parts of the body black and blew; and give me ill language and said I was a base rogue, or words to that effecte. Upon which wordes, I, [Cooke] said to Nicholas Wadham that I speake noe scandalous words at all of the plaintiff, but tould him, I knowe you are a gentleman, therefore I will not replie, because you shall not take advantage against me in my Lord Marshall's court. and there were many other persons presente from the beginning' who observed all that happened and do know it to be true.'

5. 'I, Thomas Cooke, have beene and am a merchante of honest life and conversation, and a man of good estate and abilityye; and I have lived and doe live in the fashion of a gentleman and a man of good repute and credit with gentlemen and others, and a man of a peaceable disposicon, and for such a man commonly accompted and taken'.

[3 July 1640]

Signed by Clere Talbot.

EM3170, Letters commissory for the defendant

Addressed to William Coryton, esq, Hugh Boscawen, esq, Roger Porter and Piaschoe John, gents, and also, Sir Richard Buller, knt, Sir William Courtney, knt, John Moyle, esq, Henry Wills, gent, to examine John Michell and Richard Rawe on behalf of Thomas Cooke, on 8-10 September 1640, in the inn of Priscilla Welsh in Liskeard, with John Watson to act as notary public.

Dated 3 July 1640.

Signed by William Lewin.


Neither party appeared in the 1620 Visitation of Cornwall: J. L. Vivian and H. H. Drake (eds.), The Visitation of the County of Cornwall in the Year 1620 (Publications of the Harleian Society, 9, 1874); J. L. Vivian (ed.), The Visitations of Cornwall of 1530, 1573 and 1620 (Exeter, 1887).


  • Initial proceedings
    • Petition to Arundel: 2/33 (10 Feb 1640)
    • Plaintiff's bond: 2/32 (13 Feb 1640)
    • Defendant's bond: 5/26 (11 May 1640)
    • Libel: R.19, fo. 2r (1640)
  • Defendant's case
    • Defence: EM3170 (3 Jul 1640)
    • Letters commissory for the defendant: EM3170 (3 Jul 1640)

People mentioned in the case

  • Boscawen, Hugh, esq
  • Buller, Richard, knight
  • Cooke, Thomas, mercer
  • Coryton, William
  • Courtenay, William, knight
  • Dandy, Thomas, gent
  • Howard, Henry, baron Maltravers
  • Howard, Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey
  • John, Piaschoe, gent
  • Langford, Robert
  • Lewin, William, lawyer
  • Michell, John
  • Moyle, John, esq
  • Porter, Roger, gent
  • Rawe, Richard
  • Talbot, Clere, lawyer
  • Wadham, George
  • Wadham, Nicholas, esq
  • Watson, John, notary public
  • Welsh, Priscilla, innkeeper
  • Wills, Henry, gent

Places mentioned in the case

  • Cornwall
    • Liskeard
    • St Stephen, Saltash
    • Saltash
  • Middlesex
    • Islington
    • Westminster
  • Oxfordshire
    • Wadham College
    • University of Oxford

Topics of the case

  • allegation of cheating
  • arbitration
  • assault
  • comparison
  • challenge to a duel
  • denial of gentility
  • drunkenness
  • insult before gentlemen
  • other courts
  • provocative of a duel
  • Star Chamber