Guillaume d'Asthorp and Jean Coke

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Guillaume d'Asthorp (Sir William Asthorpe) Warden of the Isles 1373

Although he was only warden for a few months from April 1373, Sir William Asthorpe's stay is better documented than that of many wardens of this era because it coincided with the attack on the Jersey by Bertrand du Guesclin leading to the warden having to take refuge in Mont Orgueil Castle. He had already served as lieutenant to the previous Warden, Gautier Hewet, from 1367-1373 and was appointed to succeed him on his death.


His family background is somewhat vague, and it is thought that he may have been illegitimate. When he died on Wednesday 8 OCtober 1399 he had no heirs and his estates were taken into the hands of King Richard II before some eventually reverted to his wife's family. His wife, Lady Margaret Dynham, died before him.

Sir William Asthorpe and his wife obtained the licence to crenellate Hemyock Castle in Devon, which she inherited from her father.

Kings' service

Sir William held many important roles during the reigns of Kings Edward III and Richard II.

On 4 June 1360, he was granted a pardon for killing John Traveys on account of his good service in the war in France.

On 7 October 1365 he was granted exemption for life from being put on assizes, juries or recognitions, and from appointment as mayor, sheriff, escheator, coroner or other bailiff or minister of the king, against his will. On 2 March 1377, he represented Devon at the final parliament of King Edward III.

"...knights of the shire at the parliament summoned at Westminster in the quinzaine of St Hilary last, to have of the commons of the county, cities and boroughs excepted from which citizens and burgesses came thither, ... for their expenses in coming thither, there abiding, and thence returning to their own again, namely 4s a day ...

"... Devon: William Asthorp and Thomas Courtenay 18l. for 45 days.

Reign of King Richard II

On 1 July 1377, 22 August 1377 and 20 March 1380 he helped organize the defence of Devon. From 1387 to 1389 he was keeper of marlborough Castle.

Channel Islands

On February 10 1367 he was appointed to deputise for the Warden of the Isles, Gautier Hewet

"Writ de intendendo to the jurats, consuls, stewards, reeves, officers and other ministers and lieges of the islands of Jereseye, Gerneseye, Serk and Aureneye, in favour of William de Austhorp and John Cok, appointed by Walter Huwet, to whom the king has committed the keeping of the said islands and the islands adjacent from 2 April next, and who is staying in Brittany about the expedition of certain of the king's affairs, to be his lieutenants during his absence, as the king's yeomen, Thomas Cheyne, general attorney of the said Walter, has testified before the king.

On 20 April 1373, after Huwet's death, he was appointed as Warden.

"Commitment to William de Asthorp, chivaler of the keeping of the islands of Gernesey, Jereseye, Serk and Aurney, and the other isles adjacent thereto, and of the king's castle of Gurri in Jeresey and his castle Cornet and the tower Beauregard in Gernesey, to hold for 9 years from 1 May next, taking for such keeping all the profits, revenues and advantages thereof and therein which pertain to the king in respect of the farms of priories and other possessions of aliens and otherwise, provided that he reside there continually for the safe keeping and defence of the islands etc.,
faithfully keep the castles and tower at his peril and costs for the use of the king and his heirs, and bestow his best endeavours and diligence on safeguarding the islands, and provided that, if peace be made once more with the French before the end of 9 years, he pay yearly during such period of peace a farm of 300 marks at the Exchequer in equal portions at Michaelmas and Easter for the islands, profits, revenues and advantages aforesaid, (except only the farms of the priories, possessions and lands of aliens, which perchance will be restored to the said aliens by the terms of the peace),
and provided that he support all the charges of the said keeping, and of the castles and tower, without demanding or obtaining anything out of England from the king or his heirs for such keeping, and rule the people of the islands faithfully, and preserve the king's rights undiminished as far as possible, maintaining the castles and tower, as in walls, buildings, bridges, armour, artillery and all things pertaining thereto, well and properly, and leaving them in as good a state as he found them, or better;
as the king has learned for certain that Walter Huwet, to whom keeping of the said islands, and of the king's castles and fortresses there, was committed for life on 25 July, 40 Edward III, refuses to support the costs and charges of such keeping in this present time of war, or to stay personally on the safe-keeping of the islands, castles and fortresses, and purposes to go to other parts, whereupon the king by advice of the council has caused the islands etc. to be taken into his hand, and has committed them to William in order to avoid the perils which might arise by hostile attacks.
By K and C

French raids

During Sir William's time in Jersey the French made several major raids. In 1373, Bertrand du Guesclin, Constable of France, and Duc du Bourbon led a large force which overran Jersey, captured Grosnez Castle and besieged Mont Orgueil (then known as Gorey Castle).

The English forces retreated into the massive castle keep built on the solid rock of the promontory. There was stalemate. The French could not undermine the keep and were losing men to hunger and disease. They were also highly vulnerable to attack by the English fleet.

Finally, Sir William agreed terms with du Guesclin: If the English fleet did not arrive in time, Sir William would surrender the castle in two months, at Michaelmas (29 September 1373). In the meantime, the French would withdraw.

The English fleet did arrive so the castle was saved. Several defenders were knighted for their valour.

New warden for Jersey

Asthorpe's appointment had originally been for nine years but it was revoked after several months. On 20 November 1673 Edmond Rose was appointed Warden in Jersey and Asthorpe continued to exercise authority in the remainder of the Channel Islands until the appointment of Thomas de Beauchamp on 12 August 1374.

It is not clear why Asthorpe was removed from office in Jersey after the du Guesclin raid. It may be that Asthorpe was not present during the raid and the subsequent seige of Mont Orgueil and that Edmond Rose, who was Keeper of the Castle and military commandant at the time of the seige was rewarded with full authority over the island in its wake.

Jean Coke

When William Asthorpe was Gautier Huwet's lieutenant, he shared the role with Jean Coke, who was his own lieutenant from 1373.

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