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Horncastle Worthies

Dymokes - Royal Champions

Fighting alongside William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings was his staunch defender, the Champion of the Dukes of Normandy, Sir Robert Marmion. Following the successful conquest, Sir Robert became the first King's Champion who would fight for the monarch's right to rule over England against any who dared to challenge. For his service as Champion at coronations, the Manor of Scrivelsby was assigned to Sir Robert, thus heralding the beginning of this hereditary title that continues to this day.
The Marmion family retained this title and duty until the death of Philip Marmion in 1292 who had four daughters but no male heirs. This left a void until 1350 when Philip's great grand daughter, Margaret, married Sir John Dymoke who then took up residence at Scrivelsby. Despite a challenge from another descendant Sir John successfully claimed the office of Champion and later performed his duty at the coronation of Richard II in 1377. The procedure and scene in the Great Hall of Westminster must have been splendid to witness.
Lion Gateway to the estates built about 1530 by Sir Robert Dymoke, still standing today
Lion Gateway to the estates built about 1530 by Sir Robert Dymoke, still standing today
The first to enter were two knights on horseback bearing the Champion's spear and shield followed by the Champion in a shining full suit of armour with a plume of feathers in his helmet. He was mounted on a richly decorated white horse that he had chosen from the King's Stables. At his side, also on horseback, were his escorts, the Earl Marshal and the Lord High Constable. Following a trumpet blast, the York Herald read out the proclamation of challenge to anyone who denied the sovereign his right to the throne. The Champion then threw down his gauntlet to challenge any dissenter to mortal combat. After the third time the proclamation was read, and the gauntlet thrown, with no challengers stepping forward, the King was presented with a gold cup full of wine. The King then drank to the Champion and passed the cup to him. The Champion finished the drink and shouted "Long Live your Majesties" before withdrawing backwards. The cup was kept by the Champion as a fee for his services.
Down the centuries the monarchy came under threat and the encumbent Dymoke Champion had to make a stance. During the War of the Roses, Thomas Dymoke supported the Lancastrians which led to his beheading by the order of Edward IV. When the Civil War erupted, Charles Dymoke naturally supported the monarchy, even leaving 2,000 on his death to the king. Regrettably, for the family, the Parliamentarians seized power resulting in Edward Dymoke being fined the vast sum of 7,000 for bearing the "lewd and malicious title of King's Champion". Although he was reinstated at the coronation of Charles II and knighted for "his loyalty and great sufferings both in person and estate", the family fortunes had been decimated. Despite this the Dymokes retained the Scrivelsby estates finally acheiving financial stability again in the 19th century thanks to the efforts of Sir Henry Dymoke.
The full ceremony, in all its glory, was last performed in 1821 when Sir Henry Dymoke acted as Champion at the coronation of George IV. Since Richard II, in 1377, there has been a Dymoke officiating at the coronations of 25 Kings and Queens of England. The present Honourable Queens Champion, Colonel John Marmion Dymoke MBE, was present in his office at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
Magnificent suits of armour from Scrivelsby Court can be seen at the Tower of London.
The information above was taken from articles written by H. D. Martineau and Peter Wilkes who we thank and give full credit to.
Scrivelsby Court in the early 20th Century, demolished in 1956
Scrivelsby Court in the early 20th Century, demolished in 1956

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The Horncastle Civic Society was formed with regard to the conservation and preservation of our local heritage, be they buildings, places, culture, or historic records. The Society tries to influence our local council to make better planning decisions. We work to raise awareness amongst the general public of issues relating to preservation, conservation and our legacy for the future of Horncastle.

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