Sir Thomas Grey


Son of Sir Thomas Grey and Agnes de Beyle, father of Sir Thomas Grey and husband of Margaret de Pressene

Thomas Grey was born c. 1325 of Heton,


In 1338 Thomas the well known chronicler received letters of protection to go to Flanders in the retinue of William de Montagu Earl of Salisbury.  On the 10th April 1345 he did homage to the Bishop of Durham and Had livery of his family's manor of Heaton, while on the 8th January 1346 he was appointed Constable of Sheriff of Norham like his father.  The King thanked him for his part in the Battle of Nevilles Cross in 1346.  Two years later he was commissioned to guarantee the truce of Calais in the borders while in October 1353 he was directed to levy men from Northumberland.  In 1355, however, following a sally from Norham Castle, he was captured by the Scots and imprisoned by the Scots in Edinburgh Castle.  There, to while away his time he undertook the compilation of the Scalacronica in Anglo-Norman French.  His captivity ended in the second half of 1357 when he was appointed guardian to one of Kind David's hostages.  In 1359 he received letters of protection to go to France in the company of Edward the Black Prince.  In 1361 he was appointed warden of the Marches, and in 1367 he was granted the fourth part of the manor of Upsettlington West, on the Scottish side of the Tweed.  He died shortly before the 22nd October 1369, leaving his son Thomas age 10 years.


The prologue of Scalacronica related Grey's dream, in which a Franciscan master in divinity Thomas of Otterbourne, held a five-runged ladder; a sibyl explained this ladder and its' five stages, the first four of which were inhabited by ancient historians who would inspire his own work:  Walter of Oxford for the first book devoted to Britons; Bede for the second, Saxon, era; Ranulf Higden, author of the Polychronicon, for the third book and the unification of England; and John Tynmouth, author of the Historia Aurea, source of the fourth book which spreads from 1066-1362.  The fifth rung gave access to the future possibly a laicization of the mystic ladders evoked by Boneventure of Siena, by John Goby and Water Hilton, this ladder or, scala, gave the title to Greys Chronicle; as a family motif it is still part of the family crest of the Greys of Howick.  In spite of the plan set out in the prologue, the Scala Chronica is not merely a history of Britain but resembles more a universal chronicle and giving a summary of the histories of Israel, Troy and Rome.  Within each period, several countries are taken into account mostly England then Scotland but also Germany, France and Spain.


Grey's ideal of knighthood is embodied in his father, Thomas, who is one of the heroes of the Chronicle.  Left for dead in 1297 in Lanark and in 1304 at Stirling Castle, he survived.  He strongly despised unnecessary rashness motivated only by the code of courtesy.  Through he father's recollections, Grey was able to produce reliable reports of the wars preceding his own birth.  His account of the Battle of Bannockburn was written 20 years before that of John Barbour.  He is a valuable source for Edward III continental wars, especially after the victory at Poitiers; probably he gathered information from eye witnesses.  For the period from 1359-1360, when he was fighting in France, he used his own observation.  He is the main authority for the English expedition from Calais to Rheims in the winter of 1359.  He gives details of riots in Paris and on the rivalry between the provost of the merchants and the Dauphin.


Thomas married Margaret de Pressene, daughter of William de Pressene of Presson, near Warke in Northumberland.  They had two children


Sir Thomas Grey born c. 1359


Elizabeth Grey who married Phillip Darcy, 4th Lord of Knayth


Thomas died before October 1369


Scalacronica, by Sir Thomas Gray of Heton, knight: a chronical of England and Scotland from AD MLXVI to AD MCCCLXII, ed. J. Stevenson, Maitland Club, 40 (1836) · Scalacronica: the reigns of Edward I, Edward II and Edward III as recorded by Sir Thomas Gray, trans. H. Maxwell (1907) · A. Gransden, Historical writing in England, 2 (1982), 57, 59–60, 93–6, 196, 208, 459–60, 465, 478 · J. Taylor, English historical literature in the fourteenth century (1987), 5, 15, 21, 104, 163–4, 171–4 · J. C. Thiolier, ‘La Scalacronica: première approche (MS 133)’, Les manuscrits français de la Bibliothèque Parker, Actes du Colloque 24–27 mars 1993 (1993), 121–55 · Joannis Lelandi antiquarii de rebus Britannicis collectanea, ed. T. Hearne, [3rd edn], 6 vols. (1774), vol. 1, pp. 206–9; vol. 2, pp. 509–79 · N. Wilkins, Catalogue des manuscrits français de la Bibliothèque Parker (Cambridge, 1993), 52–3, 55–9 · GEC, Peerage, new edn, 6.119–23, 136–7 · C. Moor, ed., Knights of Edward I, 2, Harleian Society, 81 (1929), 155 · A catalogue of the Harleian manuscripts in the British Museum, 1 (1808), 470 · M. L. Meneghetti, I fatti de Bretagna. Cronache genealogiche anglo-normanne dal XII al XIV secolo (1979), lix–lxii, 49–51, 67–71 · Debrett's Peerage (1990), 542–4


BL, Harley MS 902 · BL, Cotton MS Faust. · CCC Cam., MSS 119, 133

Wealth at death  

Gray, Scalacronica, ed. Stevenson, lvii–lxiii · custody of manor of Middlemast-Middleton in 1344: Gray, Scalacronica, ed. Stevenson, xix · ‘ … a heavier ransom demanded from him than he was able to pay’ (1355): RotS, vol. 1, p. 798; Rymer, Foedera, vol. 3, p. 343 · moiety of Felkington and Allerdean in Norhamshire in 1359: R. Surtees, The history and antiquities of the county palatine of Durham · fourth part of the manor of Upsettlington-West, with the appurtenances (1366): Letterbook of the prior of Durham, BL, Cotton MS Faust. A. vi, fol. 45b


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