Murder in the First

After an unreasonably long mid-season break, Keeping Up with the Cantilupes resumes!

Welcome back to 1224, and the Essex branch of the family [Emma’s branch] who are up to no good.

Another local gentry family, the de Goldinghams, became embroiled in a bitter feud with the Cantilupes, and this gets a bit convoluted because it involves two pairs of antagonists regarding apparently unrelated matters, but at the core it would seem the court cases were part of the same feud.

The feud started when Peter de Cantilupe, then on the king’s service in Scotland, had a complaint made against him by Hugh de Goldingham, recorded that year in the Curia Regis rolls for Trinity term (June to July).

essex 1
[Cur. Reg., vol. 11, No. 1431 p. 287]
Peter de Cantilupe was apparently in the service of Herbert FitzMatthew, who survived Scotland but was, according to John Burke, ‘killed by a great stone hurled down upon him by one of the Welch [sic], having entered South Wales at the head of his forces against Llewellin [sic], prince of Wales, buried at Margam Abbey in Glamorganshire, leaving Peter [FitzMatthew] his brother and heir.’1

But I digress.

In the next term (Michaelmas, October to December) another entry is recorded. In this entry, Hugh de Cantilupe (Peter’s father, perhaps) is the petitioner against John de Goldingham, claiming that John owed him service as a tenant of his. John came to court and recognised there that he did indeed owe Hugh de Cantilupe rent for the lands he held of him, agreed to resume paying the modest twelve pence per year that was due, and that seemed to be that.

essex 2
Cur. Reg., vol. 11, No. 2392 p. 475

This could well have been brought by Hugh de Cantilupe in order to break the deadlock in Peter’s case, or to put pressure on the Goldinghams.

However, Peter de Cantilupe and Hugh de Goldingham were still embroiled in their proceedings. Peter did not turn up to court, and this caused some further issues.

essex 3
Cur. Reg., vol. 11, No. 2445 pp. 485-6

The complaint progressed: now not just about service, Hugh’s case against Peter is now listed as a complaint that Peter broke the king’s peace – that is, had attacked Hugh in some way, or committed a (usually violent) crime against him. This could be an attack on his person, or livestock theft or a form of violent trespass. The details are unrecorded in these rolls. Peter didn’t show up to court but provided an excuse for his absence, so another date was set to hear the case – which Peter again failed to attend.

Essex 4
Cur. Reg., vol. 11, No. 2888 p. 580

While we don’t know the details, sometime between Michalemas term 1224 and mid-1225, the conflict between the two families escalated. Yet it wasn’t Peter, already charged with breaking the king’s peace, who committed murder: it was Hugh de Cantilupe who killed John de Goldingham, despite having had their case settled in Hugh’s favour.

essex 5
Rot. Litt. Claus. vol. 2, (1224-1227), pp. 38b, 44b, 47.

[The last entry refers to ‘Basilla’, Hugh’s widow, another elusive woman in the Cantilupe tree.]

Hugh de Cantilupe’s lands were taken into the king’s hands as forfeit and he was hanged for this crime, but confusingly is called ‘Roger’ in the chronicle account of the murder. The Annales Monastici claims that in 1225, ‘Rogerus de Cantilupo’, [as opposed to ‘Hugonis’] a noble knight of Essex, was accused of an infraction of the king’s peace, and he was hanged while his son [unnamed here but Hugh’s son was either Peter or another William] was outlawed.2

This case is treated to a longer study by Tony Moore in, ‘A Medieval Murder Mystery, or the Crime of the Canteloups’, Henry III Fine Rolls Project, Fine of the Month (April, 2006).

Moore notes that this branch of Cantilupes ‘probably shared a common twelfth-century ancestor’ with the main branch discussed here, probably the William de Cantilupe who was possibly the father or brother of Walter de Cantilupe, who was the father of William I, since Hugh de Cantilupe also had a son named William.

Unfortunately, as a supporter of des Roches, William I’s influence at court had waned in this period, and he was unable or unwilling to support his kinsman in this case. However, William I did seem to forfeit lands in Bettingham as a result of John’s murder, so it seems that the kin connection was recognized and perhaps closer than Moore believes here.3

How ‘Hugh’ became ‘Roger’

The Ann. Mon. seems just to have made a mistake. Why would the author confuse ‘Hugh’ with ‘Roger’? A case of miscounting minims or glancing at the wrong place in the text being copied, or a simple case of misheard information?

Possibly, but there’s another option: the monastic author of this may have mis-written the name ‘Roger’ accidentally on purpose to undermine and criticise the Roger de Cantilupe causing trouble in ecclesiastic circles a little later on.

Another chronicle, the Chronica Majora, complains about Roger de Cantilupe, legate, whose authority was questioned by the bishops he was charged with reprimanding. Evidently not popular with his fellow churchmen, Roger had been tasked with telling off the bishops for their closeness to the regent, Earl William Marshal, no doubt siding with the anti-Marshal faction in court headed by the young king’s tutor, the unpopular Bishop Peter des Roches. This had not gone down well. Bishop Alexander of Coventry and Lichfield had responded scathingly to this, pointing out that king’s own legal representative was himself the son of a traitor who had been hung for his felony.4

burn gif

This slur against Roger the legate could account for the change of name in the Ann. Mon. account, although ‘treason’ in this context probably referred to ‘breaking the king’s peace [by committing murder]’ rather than plotting against the king himself, since Hugh de Cantilupe is the only Cantilupe who is hanged at this time.

As Peter owed service to the Goldinghams, this would be a slight stretch, but clearly Bishop Alexander wanted to undermine Roger by framing the event in this way. What makes this fall from grace more tragic is that at the Seige of Bedford in 1224, Hugh de Cantilupe had fought on the side of Hubert de Burgh, who with the Earl Marshal and des Roches made up the third faction within the minority government, against his factional rivals. Hugh had received a grant of favour and respite from his debts to the Crown as a result.5

Definitely an unfair label, and poor Roger has been tarred by the treasonous brush as his dad ever since.


…This and more in my forthcoming book with Pen & Sword Books, working title: A Knight’s Tale: How to get Away with Murder in 1375, projected publication date of Summer 2020.

1. John Burke, A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland, Enjoying Territorial Possessions Or High Official Rank: But Uninvested with Heritable Honours, Volume 4 (London, 1838), p.728
2. Ann. Mon. iii. 95; CR 1226-1257, pp. 1, 92, 180.
3. Melissa Julian-Jones, Land of the Raven and the Wolf, (PhD thesis, Cardiff, 2015), p. 236, n. 695.
4. Chron. Maj. iii, p. 268.
5. Tony Moore, ‘A Medieval Murder Mystery, or the Crime of the Canteloups’, Henry III Fine Rolls Project, Fine of the Month (April, 2006), online resource,