Margery de Narford was a young heiress whose attempt to divorce her husband resulted in her abduction.
She was born in 1358 as the only child and heir of John de Narford (1295-1363) and his wife Agnes de Bereford (1300-60). Thomas was the son of Thomas de Narford (d.1344) and his wife Alice (d.1394), who married secondly John de Neville in June 1345. Thomas was the son of William de Narford and his wife Petronilla de Vaux, who was the daughter and co-heiress of her father John de Vaux (d.1288).
Narford Hall,, Norfolk
Margery de Narford was an incredibly wealthy woman; she had inherited through the descent of her great-grandmother Petronilla; Narford Manor, which had been in John de Vaux's holdings since at least 1275, as well as Shottesham in Henstead, the moieties of Holt and Cley, the whole advowson of Holt, with diverse knights fees in Thorpe, Winch, Beechamwell, Thurneton and Mourningthorpe. However in 1394 Narford Manor was given by Margery to the descendants of her sister and co-heir Maud, who had married Lord Roos. Margery also inherited the Narford family home of Panworth Hall.
John de Braose
Margery had been the ward of John de Braose's father Peter de Braose/de Brewes since 1363 when she was five years old as both of her parents had died, leaving her an orphaned heiress. As Peter's ward she was then betrothed to his son and heir John in 1364.
Margery was not pleased by this contract of marriage and wanted it broken off. Margery left de Braose family home of Wiston Manor in Sussex and went to the London home of her grandmother Alice, Lady Neville. In 1378 Margery de Narford made an appeal to the Papal courts to grant her a divorce from her husband, John de Braose.
John would not agree to the annulment; it would mean that he would lose the property and wealth that Margery brought to the marriage as well possibly some of his own inherited wealth.
John enlisted the help of his maternal cousins Sir Robert Howard and Thomas Howard to abduct the young Margery from her grandmother's house; in order to stop the appeal for divorce by objecting to the proceedings while his wife would be unable to make her case in person, and therefore the case would be dismissed.
Robert Howard took Margery firstly along the Thames to the Bishop of Norwich's house in Chelsea, where Howard hid with her, and later she was moved to several different houses in multiple counties to avoid capture.
Alice, Lady Neville was outraged at the kidnapping of her granddaughter and she petitioned the King and Parliament to find Margery and punish those who had had a hand in her abduction. Fortunately action was taken and warrants for the arrests of the participants in the crime were made. Parliament also recognised that John de Braose would probably continue to force Margery to remain as his wife and that her life was at possible risk; court protection orders were made for Margery throughout the following two years to protect her from her husband.
Robert Howard was arrested by Sir John Le Strange on his first royal commission after recently being knighted. Howard was sent to the Tower of London for several months. He was bound under recognizances to do no harm to Lady Neville of his captor Sir Le Strange. This case was brought to the attention of Parliament, however it does not seem that there was much punishment inflicted onto Howard as by the following year he is back integrated into court life. In fact, soon after Richard the Earl of Arundel has both Robert Howard and John Le Strange act as witnesses to a transaction of his.
Robert Howard became involved in this affair as it is possible he was the cousin or uncle of John de Braose through John's mother Joan Howard. Robert (1336-88) was the son of Sir John Howard, Admiral of the Navy, and his wife Alice De Bois and therefore was a direct descendant of King John of England. He married Margery Scales (1339-1416) and had five children.
Margery was successful in obtaining her divorce from John, as records show that by 1383 Margery was alone in dealing with her financial affairs.
John de Braose married a second time to Margaret Poyntz.
In 1394 when Alice, Lady Neville died she bequeathed to her granddaughter Margery; the furniture of her chapel, several silver utensils and all her goods and chattels living and dead in her manor of Panworth in Norfolk.
Perhaps due to this ordeal at such a young age, Margery took a vow of chastity and never married. She died in 1417 and her cousin Lord Cobham was her heir.