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The Aristocratic Highwayman

Is the notorious 14th century Sir Gosselin Denville related to the Dumvilles? Maybe yes, maybe no -the spelling of surnames was extremely variable until as recently as the 19th century. In one source his surname is 'Denville'; in another it's 'De Eivill'!

Charles Johnson's 'lives of the English Highwaymen, etc', 3rd edition, published 1839, has a whole chapter on Sir Gosselin Denville (followed immediately by a chapter on Robin Hood). Johnson believes the 17th century dramatist, Thomas Shadwell, modelled the plot of the 'libertine' on Sir Gosselin's life. (It seems the only copy in print is a critical edition by Stephen Orgel, in the Satire and Sense series published by Garland, USA publishers.) Here's an extract from Johnson's chapter:

Sir Gosselin was descended of very honourable parents at Northallerton, in the North Riding of Yorkshire. His family came into England with William the Conqueror, who assigned them lands for their services, where they lived in great repute, until the days of Sir Gosselin. His father being of a pious turn, intended to send his son for the priesthood, and for this purpose sent him to college, where he prosecuted his studies with great assiduity and seeming warmth. As he was, however, the heir to a very handsome fortune, and being naturally of a vicious disposition, he merely dissembled to please his father, until he should get possession of his fortune.
'He could not long restrain his natural habits, and he soon displayed his propensity to a luxurious and profligate life. So vicious was his conduct, that he broke his father's heart ... With his brother Robert he soon dissipated in licentiousness and luxury all his father left him. They now had recourse to the highway for maintenance, and on this field they were no less conspicuous. By their audacity and cruelty they became the terror of the country, and the number of their associates was so great as even to alarm the state ...
(In one enterprise, Sir Gosselin was joined by several other robbers, to rob two cardinals, emissaries of the pope in the time of Edward II.)
'Not only travellers, but monasteries, churches, nunneries, and houses, were the objects of their attack, and they were not merely content with booty, but barbarously murdered whoever made the least opposition ... every day (they) became more formidable, and robbed with such, boldness, that country seats were forsaken, and safety sought in fortified cities. They defeated forces sent put to suppress them ... The king, on a tour through the north of England, was beset by the gang in priests' habits, and he and his nobles had to submit themselves to be rifled ...
'The last recorded exploit ... was an attack which he made upon the bishop of Durham. They rifled his palace of everything valuable, and maltreated not only himself, but his servants and family. But the fortune of our knight seemed now on the wane,
'His amours were many, and among them was one with the wife of a publican whose house he used to frequent, not so much for the goodness of the ale, as the beauty of the hostess. The husband, however, sought his revenge in due season, and betrayed the knight and his men one evening while they were carousing in his house. The sheriff and five hundred men surrounded the party, who fought with desperation. It was not before two hundred of the besiegers had fallen, and they were completely hemmed in, that they surrendered. They were escorted under a strong guard to York, where, without the privilege of a trial, they were immediately excuted, to the joy of thousands, the satisfaction of the great, and the desire of the commonalty, who waited upon them to the scaffold, triumphing in their ignominious exit.'

Sir Gosceline d'Eivill features in the 'Denauile' entry in Primrose, Duchess of Cleveland's book (1889) 'The Battle Abbey Roll; with some account of the Nornan lineages' . His 'honourable parents', she says, 'held Linton and Deighton in Howdenshire of the Bishop of Durham'. Sir Gosceline occurs as ‘valettum Thomae archiepiscopi Ebor’ in 1301.

'The evil fame of his subsequent career sorely belied this decorous commencement. In 1317 'Sir Gosceline D'Eivill and his brother Robert, with two hundred men in the habit of friars, did many notable robberies; they spoiled the Bishop of Durham's palaces, leaving nothing in them but bare walls, for the which they were hanged at York' (Stowe). Rymer further tells us that 'he was associated with a numerous band, who did not yield, without a desperate conflict, to the sheriff and five hundred men; after which the desperadoes, who had been the terror of the county, were led to the scaffold at York'. According to Sir Francis Palgrave, he was taken in arms against the King at the battle of Boroughbridge, and hanged and drawn as a traitor.'