9 Arundell v Cosworth

The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640.

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John Arundell of Trerice, co. Cornwall, esq v Samuel Cosworth of Cosworth, co. Cornwall, esq

May - August 1640

Figure 9:

The Elizabethan house at Trerice, the home of John Arundell (Photograph: Richard Cust)


Arundell accused his nephew, Cosworth, a trained band captain, of calling him 'a base cheating rascall' at his house in Trerice, Cornwall, in October 1639. Cosworth contended that he had spoken the words in 'a merry and pleasant way' and the following day had made a full apology, putting his action down to having been drunk. Since then, he claimed, he had been received at Arundell's house, with no sign of ill feeling. A commission, headed by Sir Nicholas Slanning, took depositions on Arundell's behalf at St Columb, Cornwall on 19 August 1640; but nothing further survives. [For another case in which Cosworth was plaintiff, see cause 134].

Initial proceedings

5/81, Plaintiff's bond

20 May 1640

He was to 'appear in the Court in the Painted Chamber within the Pallace of Westminster'.

Richard Arundel of Lincoln's Inn, gent, acted on behalf of John Arundell.

Signed by Richard Arundel.

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

5/70, Defendant's bond

10 June 1640

He was to 'appear in the Court in the Painted Chamber within the Pallace of Westminster'.

Signed by Samuel Cosworth.

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

EM3168, Libel

1. John Arundell's family had been gentlemen for up to 400 years, and several of them had been knights.

2. Between June and October 1639 in the parish of Newlin, co. Cornwall, and the parishes thereabouts, Samuel Cosworth said in the presence of several gentlemen that Arundell 'was a base cheating rascall' or words to similar effect.

3. Cosworth repeated these words of contempt against the dignity of Arundell and his family to provoke Arundell to a duel.

4. This was all true, public and notorious.

No date.

Signed by Arthur Duck.

17/6i, Personal answer

1. He confessed to be true.

2. He denied to be true 'in any parte further averring that in and since the months mentioned in the libel he hath oftentimes beene at the house of Mr Arundel of Trerise amongst companie and other persons of good qualitie and hath been there very friendly and courteously entertained; and Mr Arundell within the same time hath been at his house with persons of like qualitie and accepted of entertainment there, and that it did not at any time in either of those places appear to him or others then in company that Mr Arundell had conceived or retained any dislike or distaste against him by occasion of any such words as are pretended in the libel or otherwise.'

3. 'He believes what he hath affirmed and denies what he hath denyed.'

Introduced 26 June 1640.

Signed by Ra: Zouche.

Plaintiff's case

EM3168, Letters commissory for the plaintiff

Addressed to commissioners Jonathan Rashleigh, esq, Richard Prideaux, esq, John Polwhele, esq, William Scawen, esq, and also, Sir Nicholas Slanning, Francis Bassett, esq, Jonathan Trefusis, esq, and Hugh Boscawen, esq, to examine witnesses from 31 August to 2 September 1640 in the inn of John Dyer in St Columb Major, co. Cornwall.

William Lewin assigned John Watson as notary public.

Dated 3 July 1640.

Signed by William Lewin.

EM3169, Defence interrogatories

1. Was the witness a relative or household servant to Arundell? If they were a relative, by what degree were they related? If they were a servant, how much was their annual wage?

2. Which party did they favour and to whom would they give the victory?

3. Had Cosworth since October 1639 or since the time of the 'pretended words', been entertained at the house of 'Mr John Arundell of Trerice amongst company and gentlemen or other persons of good ranke and qualitie and been there very friendly and courteously entertayned'? Had Arundell been to Cosworth's house since October 1639 'with persons of the like qualitie and accepted of entertaynment and been courteously entertayned there with diver expressions of kindnes and love towards another, insomuch that it did not at any of those tymes or in any of those places appeare to the company then present that Mr Arundell had conceived or reteyned any dislike or distaste against Mr Cosowarth by occasion of any such wordes as are pretended in the libell to be spoken by him'?

4. Was Cosworth 'not an esquire and a gentleman of good ranke and qualitie descended of the auntient family of Coswarth of Coswarth' within the parish of St Columb Minor, co. Cornwall'? Was Cosworth's mother, a sister of Mr Arundel's?

5. Describe when, where and in what context the words were spoken. Were Cosworth and Arundell 'att that tyme very pleasant and merry together and were not the words spoken in a merry and pleasant way, without any thought or intention of Mr Cosowarth to lay any aspersion, disgrace or dishonour upon Mr Arundell or his family'?

6. The next morning after the words were supposed to have been spoken did not Cosworth address himself to Mr Arundell in 'a very civell and humble manner, sayeinge I am told that I sayd wordes in your offence last night, but I do not remember I said any such words; yett I am hertely sorry if I sayd any such wordes'? 'Did not Mr Cosowarth therupon bowinge his knees even to the ground aske forgiveness of Mr Arundel'? 'And did not Mr Arundell saye that he did hartely forgive him, and therewithall take him by the hand, lead him into his cellar and seeme to be verie good friends'?

No date.

Signed by George Parry.

EM140, Notary public's certificate

31 August 1640

Certificate signed by John Watson, notary public, that in the inn of John Dyer at St Columb Major, co. Cornwall, Sir Nicholas Slanning, knt, Francis Bassett, Jonathan Rashleigh and John Polwhele, esqs, commissioners appointed by the Earl Marshal, examined witnesses. Arundell produced John Messer, John Hall and Thomas Baily as witnesses but their testimony was disputed by Cosworth. Arundell then asked leave to produce further witnesses at the house of Catherine Kessall in Fowey, co. Cornwall, in the presence of John Trethewey.


The Arundells were a prominent Catholic royalist family during the civil wars. John Arundell was M.P. for Bodmin and a royalist colonel killed in November 1644. He was the second son of Sir John Arundell, popularly known in Cornwall as 'Jack for the King' Arundell. Samuel Cosworth was the son of Edward Cosworth, esq, and Dorothy, daughter of Sir John Arundell of Trerice. Samuel Cosworth was knighted for his royalism in 1643.

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), pp. 2, 50; A. Duffin, 'Sir John Arundell', Oxford DNB (Oxford, 2004); P. R. Newman, The Old Service: Royalist Regimental Colonels and the Civil War, 1642-46 (Manchester, 1993), pp. 111-13; P. R. Newman, Royalist Officers in England and Wales, 1642-1660: A biographical dictionary (London, 1981), pp. 7, 87; M. F. Keeler, The Long Parliament, 1640-1641: A Biographical Dictionary of its Members (Philadelphia, 1954), pp. 87-8.


  • Initial proceedings
    • Plaintiff's bond: 5/81 (20 May 1640)
    • Defendant's bond: 5/70 (10 Jun 1640)
    • Libel: EM3168 (no date)
    • Personal answer: 17/6i (26 Jun 1640)
  • Plaintiff's case
    • Letters commissory for the plaintiff: EM3168 (3 Jul 1640)
    • Defence interrogatories: EM3169 (no date)
    • Notary public's certificate: EM140 (31 Aug 1640)

People mentioned in the case

  • Polwhele, John, esq
    • Prideaux, Richard, esq
    • Rashleigh, Jonathan, esq
    • Scawen, William, esq
    • Slanning, Nicholas, knight
    • Trefusis, Jonathan, esq
    • Trethewey, John
    • Watson, John, notary public
    • Zouche, Ralph, lawyer

Places mentioned in the case

  • Cornwall
    • Bodmin
    • Cosworth
    • Fowey
    • Newlin
    • St Columb Major
    • St Columb Minor
    • Trerice
  • Middlesex
    • Lincoln's Inn
    • Westminster

Topics of the case

  • allegation of cheating
  • denial of gentility
  • drunkenness
  • Long Parliament
  • military officer
  • office-holding
  • parliament
  • reconciliation
  • Roman Catholic
  • royalist
  • trained bands