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Portrait of Thomas Fitzalan, 5th Earl of Arundel
Thomas Fitzalan, 5th (12th) Earl of Arundel (1381-1415)

THOMAS FITZALAN, Earl of Arundel and Surrey (1381-1415),1 the second and only surviving son of Richard Fitzalan (III), Earl of Arundel, and his first wife, Elizabeth Bohun, was born on 13 Oct. 1381. He was only sixteen when his father was executed. Deprived by his father's sentence of the succession to the family titles and estates, he was handed over by King Richard II to the custody of his [King Richard's] half-brother, John Holland, Duke of Exeter, who also received a large portion of the Arundel estates. In after years Fitzalan retained a bitter remembrance of the indignities he and his sister had experienced at Exeter's hands; how he drudged for him like a slave, and how many a time he had taken off and blacked his boots for him.2 He was no better off when confined in his father's old castle of Reigate, under the custody of Sir John Shelley, the steward of the Duke of Exeter, who also compelled him to submit to great humiliations.3

At last Fitzalan managed to effect his escape, and with the assistance of a mercer named William Scot arrived safely on the continent, either at Calais or at Sluys. He joined his uncle, the deposed Archbishop Arundel, at Utrecht, but was so poor that he would have starved but for the assistance of his powerful kinsfolk abroad. The conjecture, based on a slight correction of Froissart's story of Archbishop Arundel's commission from the Londoners to Henry of Derby, that Fitzalan bore a special message from the London citizens to Henry, that he should overthrow Richard and obtain the English crown, seems neither necessary nor probable. Froissart's whole account of the movements of the exiled Henry is too inaccurate to make it necessary to explain away his gross blunders. However, Archbishop Arundel left his German exile and joined Henry at Paris, and his nephew doubtless accompanied him, both on this journey and on the further travels of Henry and the archbishop to Boulogne.

Fitzalan embarked with Henry on his voyage to England, and landed with him at Ravenspur early in July 1399. There is no foundation for the story of the French anti-Lancastrian writers that when Richard II fell into Henry's hands the latter entrusted Fitzalan and the son of Thomas of Woodstock (who was already dead) with the custody of the captive prince, with an injunction to guard closely the king who had put both their fathers to death unjustly, and that they conveyed Richard to London 'as strictly guarded as a thief or a murderer.'4

On 11 Oct. [1399] Fitzalan was one of those knighted by Henry in the great hall of the Tower of London on the occasion when the Order of the Bath is generally considered to have been instituted. Next day he marched, with the other newly-made knights, in Henry's train to Westminster, all dressed alike and 'looking like priests.' At Henry's coronation, on Monday 13 Oct., he officiated as butler.5 The new king even anticipated the Commons' petition in his favour by restoring him to his father's titles and estates.6 Though still under age he at once took his seat as Earl of Arundel, and on 23 Oct. was one of the magnates who advised the king to put Richard II under 'safe and secret guard.'7 Early in 1400 Arundel took the field against the Hollands and the other insurgent nobles.

On the capture of John Holland, now again only Earl of Huntingdon, by the followers of the Countess of Hereford, in Essex, Arundel, if we can believe the French authorities, hastened to join his aunt in wreaking an unworthy revenge on his former captor.8 After taunting Huntingdon with his former ill-treatment of him, Arundel procured his immediate execution, despite the sympathies of the bystanders and the royal order that he should be committed to the Tower.9 He then marched through London streets in triumph with Huntingdon's head on a pole, and ultimately bore it to the king.10

Arundel's great possessions in North Wales were now endangered by the revolt of Owain of Glyndyfrdwy [see Owen Glendower], who had begun life as an esquire of Earl Richard. Earl Thomas was much employed against the Welsh chieftain during the next few years. In 1401 he fought with Hotspur against the rebels near Cader Idris. In August 1402 he commanded that division of the threefold expedition against the Welsh which assembled at Hereford. Within a month all three armies were compelled by unseasonable storms to retreat to England. In 1403 he was again ordered to assemble an army at Shrewsbury. After attending, in October 1404, the parliament at Coventry, where he was one of the triers of petitions for Gascony, he entered into an agreement with the king, in accordance with the ordinance of that parliament, to remain for eight weeks with a small force at his castle of Oswestry; but in February 1405 he confessed that he was able to do nothing against the insurgents.11

In the early summer of 1405 the revolt of Archbishop Scrope and the Earl Marshal brought Arundel to the north. After the capture of the two leaders Arundel joined Thomas Beaufort in persuading Henry to disregard his uncle, Archbishop Arundel's, advice to respect the person of the captive archbishop. On 8 June, while Archbishop Arundel was delayed at breakfast with King Henry, his nephew was placed at the head of a commission which hastily condemned both Scrope and Mowbray, and ordered their immediate execution.12 This violence seems to have caused a breach between Arundel and his uncle. Henceforth the earl inclined to the policy of the Beauforts and the Prince of Wales against the policy of the archbishop.

Arundel next accompanied Henry in August into Wales, where he is said to have successfully defended Haverfordwest against Owain and his French allies under Montmorency.13 But in the autumn he was engaged in negotiating a marriage with Beatrix, bastard daughter of John I, King of Portugal, by Agnes Perez, and sister therefore of the Duke of Braganza. John's wife was sister of King Henry IV, and English assistance had enabled him to secure his country's freedom against Castile. The projected marriage was but part of the close alliance between the two countries, and Henry IV actively interested himself in its success. As Arundel's means were much straitened by the devastation of his Welsh estates, the king advanced the large sums necessary to bring the bride 'with magnificence and glory' to England. On 26 Nov. the marriage was celebrated at London in the presence of the king and queen.14

In 1406 Arundel was present at the famous parliament of that year, and supported the act of succession then passed.15 In May 1409 he was again ordered to remain on his North Welsh estates to encounter Owen,16 and in November was ordered to continue the war, notwithstanding the truce made by his officers, which the Welsh persisted in not observing.17

In 1410 Arundel's ally, Thomas Beaufort, became chancellor, and the frequency of the appearance of his name in the proceedings of the council shows that he took, in consequence, a more active part in affairs of state. The old differences with his uncle, now driven from power, continued, and in one letter Arundel complained to the archbishop that he had been misrepresented.18 The triumph of the Beauforts involved England in a Burgundian foreign policy, and when in 1411 an English expedition was sent to help Philip of Burgundy against the Armagnacs, Arundel, the Earl of Kyme, and Sir J. Oldcastle were appointed its commanders. He was also one of the commissioners appointed to negotiate the marriage of the Prince of Wales with a sister of the Duke of Burgundy.19 He was well received by Burgundy, whom he accompanied on his march to Paris, arriving there on 28 Oct. On 9 Nov. he fought a sharp and successful engagement with the Orleanists, which resulted in the capture of St. Cloud.20 The result was the retirement of the Armagnacs beyond the Loire. The English, having been bought out of their scruples against selling their prisoners to be tortured to death by their allies, returned home with large rewards soon afterwards. The fall of the Beauforts and the return of Archbishop Arundel to power kept Earl Thomas in retirement until Henry IV's death. Before this date he had become a knight of the Garter.21

The day after his accession [20 March 1413] Henry V turned Archbishop Arundel out of the chancery and made the Earl of Arundel treasurer in place of Lord le Scrope. Arundel was also appointed on the same day Constable of Dover Castle and Warden of the Cinque Ports. In 1415 the Commons petitioned against his aggressions and violence in Sussex,22 and an Italian merchant complained of his unjust imprisonment and the seizure of his effects by him.23 He was also engaged in a quarrel with Lord Furnival about some rights of common in Shropshire, which ultimately necessitated the king's intervention.24

From such petty difficulties he was removed by his summons to accompany Henry on his great invasion of France. He took a leading part in the siege of Harfleur, but was one of the many who were compelled to return home sick of the dysentery and fever that devastated the victorious army. On 10 Oct. he made his will; on 13 Oct. he died. He was buried in a magnificent tomb in the midst of the choir of the collegiate chapel that his father had founded at Arundel.25 Earl Thomas was in character hot, impulsive, and brave. He was a good soldier, and faithful to his friends; but he showed a vindictive thirst for revenge on the enemies of his house, and a recklessness which subordinated personal to political aims. He left no children, so that the bulk of his estates was divided among his three surviving sisters, while the castle and lordship of Arundel passed to his second cousin, John V Fitzalan (1387-1421), grandson of Sir John Arundel, Marshal of England, and of his wife, Eleanor Maltravers. The earldom of Surrey fell into abeyance on Thomas's death.



1. Depending on the source and on how the barons are counted, he is called either the 5th, 12th, or 15th Earl of Arundel.
2. Chronique de la Traison et Mort de Richard English Hist. Soc., p. 97.
3. Annales Ric. II, ed Riley, p. 241; Leland, Collectanea, i. 483.
4. Chronique de la Traison, p. 210; Religieux de Saint-Denys, ii. 717; cf. Archaeologia, xx. 173.
5. Adam of Usk, Chronicon Adae de Usk, ed. Thompson, 1876. p. 33.
6. Rot. Parl. iii. 435-6; Cal. Rot. Pat. p. 238 b; Continuation of Eulogium Historiarum, iii. 385.
7. Rot. Parl. iii. 426-7.
8. Chronique de la Traison, p. 97 sq.
9. Rymer, Foedera, viii. 121.
10. Religieux de Saint-Denys, ii. 742.
11. Rot. Parl. iii. 546-7; Nicolas, Proceedings of the Privy Council, i. 246-7.
12. Annales Henrici IV, p. 409; Raynaldi, Annales Ecclesiastici, viii. 143; but cf. Maidstone, in Raine, Historians of the Church of York, ii. 306 sq., Rolls Ser., for a different account.
13. Hall, Chronicle, p. 25, ed. 1809.
14. Ann. Hen. IV, p. 417; Walsingham, Chronicle of Richard II,ed. Riley, ii. 272; Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica, i. 80-90.
15. Rot. Parl. iii. 576, 582.
16. Foedera, viii. 588.
17. ib. viii. 611.
18. Proceedings of the Privy Council, ii. 117-18.
19. ib. ii. 20.
20. Walsingham, ii. 286; Jean Le Fèvre, Chronique, i. 36-43; Pierre de Fenin, Mémoires, pp. 22-23, both in Soc. de l'Histoire de France; cf. Martin, Histoire de France, v. 521.
21. Ashmole, Order of the Garter, p. 710.
22. Rot. Parl. iv. 78.
23. ib. iv. 90.
24. Gesta Henrici V, pref. p. xxviii, Eng. Hist. Soc.
25. There is a vignette of the tomb in Tierney's History of Arundel, p. 622.




      Excerpted from:

      Tout, T. F. "Thomas Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel And Surrey."
      Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. VII. Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, Eds.
      New York: The Macmillan Company, 1908. 100-103.




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