Sir James Berners

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Sir James Berners

Also Known As: "James Barnes"
Birthplace: Berners Hall, West Horsley, Surrey, England (United Kingdom)
Death: May 12, 1388 (23-31)
Tower Hill, London, Tower Liberty, England (United Kingdom) (Beheaded)
Place of Burial: Westminster Abbey, Westminster, London, Middlesex, England
Immediate Family:

Son of Sir John Berners and Katherine Berners (Saint Omer)
Husband of Alice Berners
Father of Juliana Berners, OSB; Sir Richard Berners, of West Horsley and William Berners
Brother of Thomas Barnes and John Berners

Occupation: Member of the British parliament; Justice of the Peace
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Sir James Berners

Sir James Berners

M, #22504, b. circa 1348, d. 1388

Father Sir John Berners d. 1362

Mother Katherine St. Omer

Sir James Berners married Anne Barew, daughter of John Barew. Sir James Berners was born circa 1348; Age 14 in 1362. He died in 1388.

Family Anne Barew d. bt 1402 - 1403

Child Richard Berners, Esq.+ b. c 1381, d. 6 Aug 1412

Our Royal, Titled, Noble, and Commoner Ancestors & Cousins

Sir James Berners, Knight of the Chamber to Richard II, was buried in St John the Baptist's chapel in Westminster Abbey. No inscription or monument for him is recorded in earlier guidebooks.

He was born at Berners Hall, West Horsley in Surrey on 8 March 1361, a son of John Berners and his wife Katherine St Omer. His uncle was Ralph Berners.The family traced descent from Hugo de Bernariis, a follower of William the Conqueror. After his father's death James and his brother John became wards of Humphrey, Earl of Hereford. John died and James eventually became a royal ward and friend of the young king Richard II. He served in campaigns in Brittany and became knight of the chamber, owning many estates in Essex and elsewhere, and Member of Parliament for Surrey. By October 1381 he was knighted. He married Anne daughter of John Barew. They had three sons including Richard. James and others were impeached by the House of Commons for allegedly exerting undue influence on the king and was arrested in 1388 and imprisoned in the Tower of London. He and Sir John Salisbury, who was also buried in the Abbey, were both executed on Tower Hill.

Sir James Berners, Westminster Abbey

Family and Education

b. West Horsley, 8 Mar. 1361, 2nd s. and h. of Sir John Berners (d.1361) of Berners Hall and West Horsley, by his w. Katherine St. Omer. m. Anne (d. Easter 1403), da. of John Barew, 3s. Kntd. by Oct. 1381.



The subject of this biography belonged to an old and distinguished family which traced its descent from Hugo de Bernariis, a follower of William the Conqueror. James was born at the ancestral manor house of West Horsley and baptized in the nearby parish church of Shere, with the prior of Newark by Guildford, Sir William Croyser, and Eleanor, countess of Omer (a kinswoman), as his godparents. He was barely five months old at the time of his father’s death in 1361, and since his elder brother, John, was also under age the two boys were taken into the wardship of Humphrey, earl of Hereford, of whom the Berners family held estates in Essex and Surrey. Both John and the earl died shortly afterwards, giving Edward, the Black Prince, an ideal opportunity to seize control of James, who was now the next heir, and his estates. The prince and his council claimed a right to wardship through the late Sir John Berners’s tenure of the manor of Iklingham in Suffolk, but after a lengthy examination of the evidence submitted by the earl’s executors they accepted the weakness of their own title and, in October 1363, they agreed to surrender the boy. Notwithstanding this decision, the dowager countess of Hereford was obliged to relinquish all her rights to wardship when, in November 1375, Edward III made a grant of the heir and his marriage to the Black Prince, together with the profits accruing from several concealments of revenue from the Berners estates. As a result of inquiries into the extent and value of these properties, part of James Berners’s inheritance in Essex and Middlesex was confiscated by the Crown in the following month. On the Black Prince’s death not long afterwards, James became a royal ward, and it was thus, during his years at Court, that his close friendship with the young Richard II began.

Even before his coming of age in March 1382, Berners had established himself as a figure of consequence at Court. He served on the expedition of July 1380 which the King’s uncle, Thomas of Woodstock, led to Brittany, and by October 1381 he had been rewarded with a knighthood. His appearance as a royal commissioner, and — far more notably — as a j.p. in Surrey while he was still under age is clear evidence of his growing success.

BERNERS, Sir James (1361-88), of Berners Hall, Essex and West Horsley, Surr., The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421

In 1332 John settled the manor on himself and his wife Elizabeth, probably on the occasion of their marriage. He died in 1361, and the manor passed to his grandson James, who was then a minor. James de Berners grew up to be a person of some influence in the government, but was accused of taking advantage of the youth of Richard II for his own purposes, and was beheaded in 1388. His lands were forfeited to the Crown, but his widow Anne secured West Horsley by a special grant from the king. Henry IV confirmed this grant, while deprecating the fact that his predecessor had alienated the manor without the consent of Parliament. Anne de Berners married a second husband, John Bryan, who seems to have held the manor jointly with her until her death in 1403, when her son Richard de Berners came into possession. Bryan released his right in the manor to Richard in 1406. Three years later Richard enfeoffed trustees of his estate to the use of himself and his wife Philippa, with remainder to their heirs. He died in 1417.

Parishes: West Horsley, A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.

The Lords Appellant were a group of nobles in the reign of King Richard II, who, in 1388, sought to impeach some five of the King's favourites in order to restrain what was seen as tyrannical and capricious rule


They achieved their goals, first establishing a Commission to govern England for one year from 19 November 1386. In 1387, the Lords Appellant launched an armed rebellion against King Richard and defeated an army under Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford at the skirmish of Radcot Bridge, outside Oxford. They maintained Richard as a figurehead with little real power.

They had their revenge on the king's favourites in the "Merciless Parliament" (1388). The nominal governor of Ireland, de Vere and Richard's Lord Chancellor, Michael de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, who had fled abroad, were sentenced to death in their absence. Alexander Neville, Archbishop of York, had all his worldly goods confiscated. The Lord Chief Justice, Sir Robert Tresilian, was executed, as were Sir Nicholas Brembre, Lord Mayor of London, John Beauchamp of Holt, Sir James Berners, and Sir John Salisbury.

Lords Appellant, Wikipedia

May 12th, 2012

On this date in 1388, James Berners, John Beauchamp, and John Salisbury were convicted by the “Merciless Parliament” of treason, and put to immediate death.


This date was the turn for Sir John Beauchamp of Holt and Sir James Berners (or Barnes), two guys noble enough to suffer “merely” beheading, plus Sir John Salisbury, who was far enough down England’s class hierarchy that he got to endure the full drawing and quartering treatment.

Berners may have been the father of a 15th century prioress and author, Juliana Berners.

Executed Today

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Sir James Berners's Timeline

March 8, 1361
West Horsley, Surrey, England
May 12, 1388
Age 27
London, Tower Liberty, England
June 1, 1388
Halstead, Essex, England
Age 26
London, Middlesex, England