Brass of the Month

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Copyright: Jon Bayliss

Dame Millicent Meryng, 1419, East Markham, Nottinghamshire

The inscription to this month's brass reveals only sparse details of the life of its subject.

It is not clear of whom Millicent Bekering was the daughter. Thoroton, using evidence collected earlier in the seventeenth century by St Lo Kniveton, notes that her brass was on a fair marble tomb and that the arms showed Meryng impaling Bekering. Glass nearby showed Burdon impaling Bekering. Millicent's first husband was a Burdon. The History of Parliament and other sources give him as Sir Nicholas Burdon, killed fighting for Henry IV at the Battle of Shrewsbury on 21 July 1403. The Burdons were a Nottinghamshire family. It is clear that she then married John Markham, whose wife the heiress Elizabeth Cressy had died in 1408. John Markham was the jusge who drew up the legal intruments by which Richard II was deposed in 1399. Judge Markham's son Robert had previously married Millicent's daughter Elizabeth.  As was often the case the marriage of Robert Markham and Elizabeth Burdon was between children and not consummated at the time. Millicent was quickly widowed again when Judge Markham died in 1409. The marriage was to secure the whole of the Bekering estates for the Markham family on Millicent's death. Judge Markham was commemorated in the church at East Markham by an alabaster tomb with three shields of arms in roundels along the side and a top slab with a marginal inscription. The blank spaces on the slab have been filled with graffiti, much of it early and interesting.

    Following Judge Markham's death Millicent married again to another local man, William Meryng, who was in favour at court and was knighted by summer 1417. William was indicted for various illegalities during a protracted dispute (1411-1418) with John Tuxford and his wife over property at West (or Little) Markham but was granted a royal pardon along with most of the other protagonists. He was accused by Thomas Cressy (perhaps the same man once commemorated in glass at East Markham) in a Court of Chancery action of recruiting large parties of armed retainers in 1414 and 1416 during another property dispute. Sir William served in the campaigns in France in 1415, 1418 and 1419. Millicent died while her husband was at Gisors in France. He was back in Nottinghamshire by June 1420 at his family's manor of Meryng. He was chosen an MP for the county the following year, and also served in future parliaments. In the 1430s he became a JP and served as Sheriff of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, dying in 1449. He was succeeded by his son by Millicent, also named William.

Millicent's monument is an exception in being a brass in an area where commemoration in alabaster was more common. Recent photographs show that, like many others, it is now disfigured by bat urine. The marginal inscription is very spaced out compared to many and says little other than to identify her as the wife of Sir William Meryng, record her date of death and request God to have mercy on her soul. It reads:

Hic jacet Dna Millicensia /

Meryng quondam uxor Willim Meryng Militis que obijt /
xxviio Septembero  /
Anno dni mo cccco xixo cujus aie ppicietur deus. Ameno

(Here lies Dame Millicent Meryng sometime wife of William Meryng knight who died 17 September in the year of our Lord 1419 on whose soul God have mercy Amen)