Sir Edmund Cockayne

The Cockayne family eventually established themselves as lords of the manor of Ashbourne (Derbyshire) for all practical purposes – in truth, it was a manor that belonged to the House of Lancaster, and they served in the roles of bailiff, steward, and so on. As time went by they took on wider responsibilities and became significant officials of the duchy. They held lands not only in Derbshire but also Warwickshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire.

Edmund (born about 1350) was the eldest son of Sir John Cockayne. He might have lived his life out in profitable obscurity as a duchy official and local big-wig had it not been for the decision of the Percy family to rise against Henry IV in the summer of 1403.

Henry was in the Midlands when the news reached him. Naturally, he had his household around him, but he needed more men urgently, so he rallied the lieges of the surrounding counties. Among these men was Edmund Cockayne, presumably with the support of his servants and the local tenantry.

Edmund (with others) was knighted on the field by Henry IV before the battle of Shrewsbury, no doubt as a morale-raising exercise. Unfortunately for Edmund, he was not to wear his honours long. Within an hour or so, he was dead. How exactly he died we do not know. Perhaps he was in the young Earl of Stafford’s right wing, routed in the early stages. Perhaps he fell victim to the deadly Cheshire archers. Perhaps he fell in the vicious hand-to-hand fighting around the King. All that is certain is that he died.

At least one source claims he was a Knight of the Garter. He may have been promised this honour by the King as was, for example, the Earl of Kent. However, Edmund could not, by the very nature of things, either be elected or installed, so it is perhaps a bit of a stretch to say he was a KG.

Unlike lesser men who were buried in pits on the battlefield, Edmund was carried back to Ashbourne (no doubt by his loyal servants) and buried in the parish church. There you may still see his effigy – or at least, you will be able to see it once Covid restrictions are lifted. He was succeded by his extremely unruly son, John, who was to serve as an MP and continued as a loyal supporter of the Lancastrians.

Some further reading:



  1. I know a gentleman who has the family name “Cocaigne”, pronounced just like the drug. Worst of it is, he is a minister!


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