The Scrope-Grosvenor Trial (1385-1390)

This trial was held by the Court of Chivalry to determine which family, the Scropes or the Grosvenors, had the right to bear the arms – azure, a bend or (blue with a gold diagonal stripe) – to which both families laid claim. The court took depositions from every available armigerous ('arm-bearing') gentleman it could find, asking each to testify about when and where he had seen the arms displayed and who had borne them.

The resulting depositions provide a lively portrait of chivalric life in the late fourteenth century; many of the knights and squires (a squire being one who holds the first degree of knighthood – many squires who testified were of advanced ages) had served in the same campaigns as Chaucer's Knight, and their testimony shows that this portrait is more realistic than it may at first seem. The trial record is also important for our knowledge of Chaucer, for he was among the deponents, and his deposition provides us with our only autobiographical statement in a non-fictional context. Autobiographical statements in the verse (such as the passages on reading in The House of Fame) are always slightly suspect because of the fictional setting; here we glimpse, however briefly, Chaucer without any of the coloration of fiction.

For some of the depositions, see:

Geoffrey Chaucer, Esquire.

Sir Richard Waldegrave, who served at some of the same places as the Knight.

Nicholas Sabraham, Esquire, who served on almost all the campaigns mentioned by the Knight.

John de Rither, Esquire, who provides an unusually detailed account of a knightly career.

Sir William Aton, an admirer of tournaments, who apparently thinks them as important as war itself.

Sir John Sully, notable for his great age (he claims to be 105).

For the entire record of the trial, see The Controversy Between Sir Richard Scrope and Sir Robert Grosvenor ..., ed. Sir N. Harris Nichols. London.1832. 2 vols. [Widener Br 1530.6].