The Knight’s Daughter: a newly discovered child of an old MP

Dr Hannes Kleineke of our House of Commons 1422-1504 project discusses the significance of a new archaeological discovery in Norfolk to medieval parliamentary history…

A comment with which the medieval historian is all too frequently confronted is ‘I thought it has all been done.’ This might indeed be so, were it not for the singular wealth of evidence, mainly in unpublished manuscripts, but also in physical remains that the student of medieval England has at their disposal. So it comes as no surprise, but rather as gratifying news, that researchers working on the Paston Footprints project have discovered the burial place of an otherwise unknown daughter of Sir John Paston, MP for Norwich in Henry VII’s first Parliament of 1485-6.

The Pastons, uncommonly well documented for a late medieval family on account of their extensive surviving correspondence, supplied a succession of MPs for East Anglian constituencies in the reigns of Henry VI, Edward IV and Henry VII. Sir John was a younger son of John Paston (d.1466) who represented Norfolk in the Parliament of 1460, and secured election in 1461, when his election was, however, set aside for irregularities. John’s eldest son of the same name, who took over his father’s parliamentary seat in 1467-8, was well connected at Edward IV’s court, but nevertheless fought against the King and was injured on the earl of Warwicks’s side at the battle of Barnet in 1471. He achieved some degree of rehabilitation and returned to the Commons as MP for Great Yarmouth in 1478, dying in the following year. The younger Sir John Paston (d.1503), the newly discovered Anne Paston’s probable father, found early service in the household of the Mowbray dukes of Norfolk, but alongside his elder brother took part in the battle of Barnet on the losing side. He was returned to Henry VII’s first Parliament by the citizens of Norwich, and subsequently distinguished himself fighting for Henry VII on the battlefield of Stoke where he was knighted. 

He married twice as is known to have had a son, William (d.1554), to whom may now also be added his daughter, Anne.


Further reading:

Colin Richmond, The Paston Family in the Fifteenth century (3 vols., 1990-2000)

Hannes Kleineke, ‘A medieval MP’s Valentine’s Day Letters’

Be sure to check out June’s medieval MP of the Month, along with the rest of the blog series, here. Blogs in this series are a taste of the biographies that will be published later this year in our forthcoming volumes, House of Commons 1422-1461.

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