The Baron Bourchier was a barony by writ in the Peerage of England which existed between the years 1348 to 1646. It is currently in abeyance and is therefore (theoretically) capable of being resurrected.
The title was originally created in favour of the Bourchier family of Essex, founded in the fourteenth century by a John Bousser, Burgchier or Bourchier of Halstead in Essex who was appointed a justice of the common bench on the 31st May 1321. By his marriage to Helen, the daughter and heir of Walter of Colchester, John obtained the manor of Stanstead, whilst although he was a political supporter of the Despensers he later acquiesced in the deposition of Edward II before he died sometime before October 1330.
His son and heir Robert Bourchier was the Member of Parliament for Essex in the years 1329, 1330, 1332 and 1339, and whilst he was undoubtedly a soldier, the oft repeated claim that he fought at the battle of Cadsant in 1337 seems to be an error, and although there was a 'Boursier' present at the battle of Crécy in 1346 it may well have been his son. Nonetheless he was employed as an envoy in conducting peace talks with the French in 1347 and 1349. This Robert Bourchier also served as the Lord Chancellor between 1340 and 1341 and has the distinction of being the first layman ever to hold that office, before receiving a writ of summons to Parliament on the 20th November 1348 addressed to 'Roberto Burgchier', being therefore regarded as having been created the Lord or Baron Bourchier. The 1st Baron then died of the plague sometime between the 12th March and the 18th August 1349, and was buried at Halstead, being succeeded by his son John Bourchier.
The 2nd Baron also fought in the Hundred Years War, being present at the battle of Auray in 1364, and also later spent eighteen months as the Ruward or Governor-in-Chief of Flanders in 1384. He later died on the 21st May 1400 leaving an only son named Bartholomew who himself died on the 18th May 1409, leaving an only daughter named Elizabeth who, according to later doctrine, became the Baroness Bourchier in her own right. Certainly by September 1410 Elizabeth was married to a Hugh Stafford, who was himself summoned to Parliament on the 21st September 1411 by writ addressed to 'Hugoni Stafford'. Stafford died without issue on the 25th October 1420 and Elizabeth then married a Lewis Robsart, standard bearer to Henry V who was similarly summoned to Parliament on the 24th February 1425 by writ addressed to 'Lodewico Robessart', but later also died without issue, being killed in action near Amiens on the 26th November 1431. Since it is apparent that both Stafford and Robsart were only called to Parliament in view of their status as husbands of the aforementioned Elizabeth, they are both now regarded as having been summoned by right of their wife as the Baron Bourchier. However Elizabeth failed to produce any children by either of these marriages and therefore died without issue on the 1st July 1433.
The title then passed to her cousin Henry, who was the grandson of William Bourchier, the younger brother of the 2nd Baron. Henry, who succeeded his father as the Count of Eu in Normandy in 1420, therefore succeeded to the family's English estates in 1433 being then summoned to Parliament as the Baron Bourchier from the 5th July 1435. He was later created the Viscount Bourchier or possibly the Viscount Bourchier of Tickhill, sometime during 1446, being summoned as such to Parliament on the 14th December 1446, and then created the Earl of Essex on the 30th June 1461. On the death of his grandson the 2nd Earl without male heirs on the 13th March 1540 both the titles of the Viscount Bourchier and the Earl of Essex became extinct, since both were limited to the heir male. However the 2nd Earl of Essex did leave an only daughter named Anne, who was regarded as being the Baroness Bourchier in her own right.
Anne was married in 1527 at the age of ten to the thirteen year-old William Parr, whose mother went into debt in order to buy her son's marriage to such a potentially valuable heiress. This investment didn't quite pay off as in 1541 Anne abandoned her husband in favour of "one Hunt or Huntley". William duly obtained a legal separation in 1542, and then an Act of Parliament on the 15th April 1543 that declared her children to be bastards and incapable of inheriting and later obtained a further Act annulling the marriage in 1552. Although William Parr did have designs on the title of Earl of Essex held by his father-in-law (which he was granted in 1543), he never assumed or claimed his wife's barony. Anne subsequently died in some obscurity on the 28th January 1571, when whatever issue she had produced was rendered incapable of inheriting her title thanks to the Act of 1543.
Anne's closest legitimate blood relative was Cecily Bourchier, the only sister of the 2nd Earl and 6th Baron, who had married one John Devereux, and it was their son Walter who was created the Viscount Hereford on the 2nd February 1550. It was another Walter Devereux, grandson of the 1st Viscount, who therefore succeeded his cousin as the Baron Bourchier in 1571, and was soon afterwards created the Earl of Essex on the 4th May 1572. Once more the barony was subsumed beneath this superior title, although there was a brief hiatus when the 2nd Earl was attainted on the 25th February 1601, his son the 3rd Earl and 10th Baron was restored on the 18th April 1604 only to then die without issue on the 14th September 1646.
The title Earl of Essex then became extinct, but as was later determined, the title of Baron Bourchier, together with that of the Baron Ferrers of Chartley fell into abeyance between his two sisters. These were Frances, who married William Seymour, Duke of Somerset and died on the 23rd November 1629; and Dorothy, who married firstly Henry Shirley and then William Stafford before her death on the 30th March 1636. It was Dorothy's grandson and heir, one Robert Shirley who later received the title of the Baron Ferrers of Chartley when the abeyance in that title was terminated in his favour on the 14th December 1677, being subsequently created the Earl Ferrers in 1711. Robert Shirley however, never claimed to the Barony of Bourchier, and the abeyance in that title has never been terminated, although there was a time when one of Shirley's descendants named George Townshend, and the 10th Baron Ferrers, described himself as the 'Baron Bourchier' when he was created the Earl of Leicester in 1784. Townshend did not however, possess that title any more than he held the baronies of Louvaine and Baset which he similarly apparently laid claim to.
THE BARONS BOURCHIER
Barons by the right of the 4th Baroness
Title forfeited in 1601, restored in 1604
- George Edward Cokayne, Vicary Gibbs, et al, The Complete Peerage (St Catherine's Press, 1910-1959)
- The entry for BERNERS from Burke's Peerage and Baronetage 107th Edition
- J.E. Powell and K. Wallis, The House of Lords in the Middle Ages, (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1968)
- Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)
- Stirnet Genealogy at
- The entries in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for; Bousser (Bourchier), Sir John (d. 1329/30); Bourchier (Bousser), Robert, first Lord Bourchier (d. 1349)