The title of Baron Fauconberg is a barony by writ in the Peerage of England first created in 1295, and although currently in abeyance seems likely to be revived at some time in the future in conjunction with that of the Baron Conyers. Historically speaking the family name and dignity were variously rendered as Faucomberge or Fauconberge, and even further anglicised as Fawconbridge or even Falconbridge. Although Faucomberge is preferred by both Burke's Peerage and The Complete Peerage, most other historical accounts refer to title as being that of Fauconberg, particularly as the House of Lords referred to the title under that name when considering the matter in 1903.
The family of Faucomberge originated with a gentleman named Franco homo Drogonis who appears to have been related to the family who were feudal lords of Fauquembergue in Normandy. It was Franco who was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as being in possession of the manors of Rise and Catfoss in Yorkshire, which he held from Drogo or Dreue de Bevrere and hence the reason why he was regarded as 'Drogo's man'.
Walter de Faucomberge was a fifth generation descendant of this Franco homo Drogonis who married Agnes, the sister and coheir of Piers de Brus, and thereby obtained Skelton in Cleveland. Walter was one of the followers of Simon de Montfort and served with him in Gascony during the years from 1248 to 1254 and later joined in Montfort's rebellion against Henry III and thereby forfeited his estates, although these were later restored to him in 1268 on payment of the sum of £250. It was this Walter who later received a writ of summons to Parliament on the 24th June 1295 addressed to 'Waltero de Facoumberge' and is therefore regarded as having become the Lord or Baron Fauconberg. He subsequently died around midnight on the night of the 1st/2nd November 1304, being succeeded by his eldest surviving son Walter.
The 2nd Baron was twice married and died on the 31st December 1318, and since his eldest son Walter had been earlier been killed at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314, he was followed by his eldest serving son John. The 3rd Baron was with the Earl of Arundel fighting the Scots in 1322, although in the following year there was a warrant out for his arrest for poaching venison from Pickering Forest for which he was later fined the sum of 100 marks. He nevertheless came into the favour of Edward III and became the keeper of Berwick-upon-Tweed in 1342 and married his step sister Ivod or Eve, the daughter of Ralph de Bulmer, 1st Baron Bulmer and later died on the 17th or 18th September 1349. He was succeeded by his son Walter, the 4th Baron, who was fighting in France in 1355 and later died on the 29th September 1362 leaving a son named Thomas.
Sometime around the year 1376 the 5th Baron was suspected of conspiring with the king's enemies (i.e. the French) and was imprisoned in Gloucester Castle from 1378 and 1391 before being released into the custody of the Earl of Northumberland. His property was therefore seized by the crown and there was much debate thereafter as to whether or not the 5th Baron was an imbecile, although when he later appeared before the king and council on the 24th December 1406 it was decided that he was of sound mind, and he recovered possession of much of his estates. Unfortunately his only son John Faucomberge had taken a leading role in Scrope's Rebellion of 1405 for which he was later beheaded for treason at Durham on the 20th July 1405, and whilst John was on his second marriage at the time, he had failed to produce any issue by the time of his death.
However, although the aforementioned John Faucomberge was the only issue of the 5th Baron's first wife Constance, the daughter and heiress of John de Felton of Edlingham in Northumberland, following her death in June 1402 he remarried, taking as his second wife one Joan Brounflete, who then bore him a daughter (also named Joan) on the 18th October 1406. At that time the 5th Baron had recently celebrated his sixty-first birthday, and therefore it was no great surprise when he finally expired not long afterwards on the 9th September 1407, leaving his daughter Joan as heiress to the Fauconberg estates and title at the age of just eleven months. Despite being described as "a fool and idiot from birth", Joan was later married off to a William Neville, one of the many progeny of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland; it therefore appears likely that her wardship was granted to the Earl of Westmorland, who no doubt took the opportunity to provide an inheritance for one of his younger sons.
William Neville was later summoned to Parliament on the 3rd August 1429 by writ addressed to 'Willelmo de Nevill chivaler', although subsequent writs inserted the additional words of 'de Faucomberge'. Generally known to his contemporaries as the Lord Faucomberg, according to later legal doctrine he is considered as having become the 6th Baron Fauconberg in right of his wife. He was later created the Earl of Kent on the 1st May 1461, became Admiral of England in the following year, but died on the 9th January 1463 of an unknown cause whilst laying siege to Alnwick Castle. Unfortunately William died without legitimate male issue, although he did leave at least two illegitimate sons, one of whom is known to history as the Bastard of Fauconberg. As far as his legitimate issue and heirs were concerned he left three daughters as his coheirs. There was Joan, who married Edward Bethom or Bethum but died without issue; Elizabeth, who married Richard Strangways and had issue; and Alice who married a certain John Conyers who was killed at the battle of Edgcote on the 26th July 1469, but not before they had produced a son named William, who later became the Baron Conyers.
As far as his wife Joan, now the Dowager Countess of Kent was concerned, she remarried John Berwyuke two months later. Since she was fifty-six years old at the time there was no issue from this second marriage, and eventually died on the 11th December 1490 at the age of eighty-four having survived all her children. Although some would regard her as being the Baroness Fauconberg in her own right, the House of Lords was subsequently to decide that "the Barony of Fauconberg was in the reign of King Henry the sixth vested in William Nevill in right of his wife", and therefore the barony is regarded as having come to an end with William Neville's death in 1463, rather than that of his wife in 1490. According to John Horace Round it was the Resolution on the Fauconberg Case in 1903 that established the principle that "it is the law now that the husband of a peeress in her own right can sit in the House 'in right of his wife'".
The title revived
Historically speaking the title of Baron Fauconberg, Fauconberge or Faucomberge (which ever you prefer) became extinct in either 1463 or 1490 and therefore no objection was raised when the designation of Fauconberg was later revived in the form of the titles of Baron Fauconberg of Yarum, Viscount Fauconberg of Henknowle and the Earl Fauconberg which were bestowed on various members of the Belasyse family between the years 1627 and 1815. However following the extinction of those titles, the original title of Baron Fauconberg was to be revived by the descendants of William Conyers, 1st Baron Conyers, son of the Alice Faucomberge referred to above.
As it happens the descent of the title of Baron Conyers is a tale in itself, as this title passed through the hands of the Darcy family, later the Earls of Holdernesse, and then to the Osbornes who also held the title Duke of Leeds. It eventually came into the possession of one Sackville George Lane-Fox, who was the 12th Baron Conyers and also (although he wasn't aware of the fact) the de jure 15th Baron Darcy de Knayth, and died without surviving male issue on the 24th August 1888, leaving two daughters Marcia Amelia Mary and Violet Ida Eveline as his coheirs.
The eldest daughter Marcia was recognised as the Baroness Conyers on termination of the abeyance of that title on the 8th June 1892. Having done so she and her sister then went about the business of claiming the ancient titles of Darcy de Knayth, Fauconberg and Meinhill. Although the Committee for Privileges of the House of Lords rejected the Meinhill claim, it subsequently decided on the 23rd July 1903 that both she and her sister Violet were the coheirs to the titles of Darcy and Fauconberg. The two sisters very naturally decided to split the proceeds and Marcia became the 7th Baroness Fauconberg on the 29th September 1903 on termination of the abeyance of that title, whilst her younger sister was recognised in possession of the title of Baron Darcy de Knayth.
Marcia, both the Baroness Conyers and the Baroness Fauconberg in her own right, had married the 4th Earl of Yarborough, and therefore with her death on the 17th November 1926 the title passed to her son, the 5th Earl of Yarborough, although he chose to be styled as the 'Lord Conyers' rather than the 'Lord Fauconberg' until he succeeded to the Earldom in 1936. The 5th Earl however died without male issue on the 7th February 1948, at which point the titles of both Baron Fauconberg and Conyers fell into abeyance between his two daughters, whilst that of the Earl of Yarborough passed to his younger brother.
The 5th Earl's two daughters were named Diana Mary and Wendy Pelham. The younger sister Wendy married Michael Hildesley Lycett Lycett, and although there were no children from this marriage she adopted her niece Marcia Anne Miller, later renamed as Anthea Theresa Lycett. The elder sister Diana Mary married Robert Miller and had two daughters, one of whom was adopted by her sister, whilst the other Beatrix Diana Miller married a Simon William Jones Armstrong, and had two sons of her own named Guy William and Matthew Charles. Since it appears that neither Wendy Pelham Lycett (who has a half share in the titles) and Marcia Anne Miller/Anthea Theresa Lycett (with a potential quarter share) have no issue of their own, it seems that the abeyance will at some point in the future ultimately be automatically determined in favour of the aforementioned Guy William Armstrong, although depending on the sequence of mortality, either his grandmother or mother may well succeed before him.
THE BARONS FAUCONBERG
Title in abeyance between 1463/1490 and 1903
Title in abeyance since 1948
- George Edward Cokayne, Vicary Gibbs, et al, The Complete Peerage (St Catherine's Press, 1910-1959)
- The entry for YARBOROUGH from Burke's Peerage and Baronetage 107th Edition; specifically the section for the Lineage (of Faucomberge/Fauconberg(e))
- J.E. Powell and K. Wallis, The House of Lords in the Middle Ages, (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1968)