Jenico d'Artois

Sir Jenico d'Artois, Dartas, Dartass or Dartasso (c.1350 – November 1426) was a Gascony-born soldier and statesman, much of whose career was spent in Ireland. He enjoyed the trust and confidence of three successive English monarchs, and became a wealthy landowner in Ireland.[1]

Early careerEdit

Although the best-known version of his surname suggests that Artois was his birthplace, historians agree that he was a native of Gascony. This province in France, which had been part of the dowry of Eleanor of Aquitaine on her marriage in 1152 to Henry II of England, was in the fourteenth century an English possession. Little is known of his parents, although he had at least one brother, Sampson, to whom he remained close throughout his life.

D'Artois served in the garrison of Cherbourg in 1367 and 1368, during the time when the town was a possession of Charles II of Navarre. In January 1379, he was involved in the capture and ransom of Olivier de Geusclin, a brother of Bertrand du Guesclin, the Constable of France. By that time, the garrison at Cherbourg was being shared with English soldiers. D'Artois switched his allegiance from Navarre to England, and by December 1380 had moved to the garrison at Guînes, within the Pale of Calais. He had acquired the patronage of Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland, by 1384, and subsequently entered the service of the earl's son, Henry "Hotspur" Percy. D'Artois commanded one of Hotspur's ships on his 1387 expedition to relieve Brest, and the following year was captured alongside him at the Battle of Otterburn.[2]

Servant of the English CrownEdit

In 1390, d'Artois joined the Barbary Crusade led by Louis II, Duke of Bourbon. He subsequently joined Henry of Bolingbroke (the future Henry IV of England) in Lithuania, fighting with the Teutonic Knights. His exploits there brought him to the attention of John Waltham (the Lord High Treasurer under Richard II), who recruited him as a household esquire. In September 1392, d'Artois entered the employ of Richard II,[2] and by 1394 he is known to have been high in the King's favour.[3]

He accompanied the King on his military expedition to Ireland in that year and distinguished himself as a soldier, fighting against the Irish clans in Counties Carlow and Kilkenny. He received a substantial grant of land in south County Dublin "for his good service against the Irish of Leinster and for his constant loyalty".[4] D'Artois was not especially grateful for this reward, and made the celebrated complaint about his new estate that: "it would be worth more than a thousand marks a year if it were near London, but I have such trouble keeping it that I would not wish to live here for long, for a quarter of the whole land of Ireland".[5] He laid claim the manor of Huntspill Marreys in Somerset, but the King upheld the rival claim of James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond.[5]

King Richard II of England, whom Jenico d"Artois served loyally to the end of his reign.

In 1398, when Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, was killed in a skirmish with the O'Brien clan at Kells, County Meath, d'Artois was put in charge of taking reprisals against the O'Briens. It was reported that he "slew, captured or brought into submission many of the Irish".

His service with the House of LancasterEdit

He accompanied Richard II on his ill-fated return to England in 1399, and as Richard's enemies moved to depose him, Jenico, who was known to be one of the King's staunchest supporters, was arrested at Chester.[5] After Richard's forced abdication, and his death early in 1400, in view of Jenico's record of loyalty to the late King the new regime might have been expected to deprive him of his liberty, or even of his life, which was the fate of several of Richard's closest advisers. D'Artois did not help his case by stubbornly continuing to wear Richard's livery. However, he had several influential friends in the new regime who pleaded for clemency on his behalf.[5] The new King Henry IV clearly valued Jenico for his military ability (they had of course served together with the Teutonic Knights in Lithuania). His loyalty to Richard was not held against him, and he received a royal pardon.[6]

He served in the large English army which invaded Scotland in August 1400. This army was led by the King in person: Henry IV hoped to take advantage of the serious political divisions in Scotland to persuade the aged and infirm King Robert III of Scotland to acknowledge the King of England as his feudal overlord, a claim which the English Crown had revived periodically over the centuries, but which the Scots had always rejected.[7] It is unlikely that Jenico's military skills were needed during the campaign, as the Scots army prudently refused to give battle, and Henry, who was anxious to maintain the image of a benevolent overlord, gave strict orders that there should be no looting or pillaging.[8] After a fortnight the English army withdrew from Scotland, having accomplished nothing.[9]

King Robert III of Scotland – d'Artois served in the English army which invaded his kingdom in 1400.

Jenico was made Constable of Dublin Castle in about 1401, and he subsequently became High Sheriff of Meath, Seneschal of Ulster, and Admiral of Ireland. He was appointed a member of the council which advised the King's son, Thomas of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Clarence, who was Chief Governor of Ireland from 1401 to 1413.[5] He was given charge of Trim Castle, and acquired substantial lands in Counties Meath, Louth, and Down; his principal seat was at Ardglass in County Down.[10] His marriage in about 1403 to the County Meath heiress Joan Taaffe, widow of Chief Justice Rowe, made him a prominent member of the Anglo-Irish gentry of the Pale. The Earl of Ormonde, who had once quarrelled with him over the right to hold lands in Somerset, was now anxious to be his friend, and made over to him the rents of another Ormonde property in Buckinghamshire.[5]

Henry V shared his two predecessors' trust in Jenico : in 1413 he was appointed joint Governor of Ireland in the absence of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland,[11] and he served with the King in France in 1418. He died in November 1426.[12]

Marriages and descendantsEdit

He married firstly, in 1403 or 1404, Joan Taaffe, daughter of Sir Nicholas Taaffe of Liscarton Castle, near Navan, and widow of Peter Rowe, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland.[5] His second wife Elizabeth outlived him, and was one of the executors of his will.[13] He had two children by his first marriage:

The younger Jenico married Jane Serjeant, daughter and co-heiress of Sir Robert Serjeant of Castleknock. Sir Robert's death led to a bitter dispute over the Serjeant inheritance between Jenico and Sir Nicholas Barnewall, the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, who had married Jane's sister and co-heiress Ismay.

Young Jenico and Jane had an only daughter and heiress Margaret, who married firstly Sir John Dowdall of Newtown, and secondly Rowland FitzEustace, 1st Baron Portlester.[15] Through Rowland's daughter Alison, Countess of Kildare, most of the d'Artois inheritance passed by descent to the Earl of Kildare.

Sampson d'Artois, Chancellor of the Exchequer of Ireland 1424–1431,[16] was a close relative, probably a brother, of Jenico. He was co-executor with Jenico's widow of his will.[13]

D'Artois' unusual first name was preserved by the Preston family; many of the Preston boys down the generations were named Jenico. A possible descendant is Irish politician John Dardis (born 1945).


Jenico has been described as one of the most flamboyant characters in the Europe of his era. He was a military adventurer who undoubtedly "feathered his own nest" during his years in Ireland, and yet he gave good and loyal service to three monarchs and earned their trust.[17] Curtis remarks that if there had been more men of his calibre in fifteenth-century Ireland, the English Crown's hold on the country would have been far more secure.[18]


  1. ^ Gilbert, John Thomas "Roland FitzEustace" Dictionary of National Biography 1885–1900 Vol. 18 p.53
  2. ^ a b "Dartasso, Janico". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/71411. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ Butler, Richard Some Notices of the Castle and of the Abbeys and other religious houses at Trim, County Meath Henry Griffith Trim 1835 pp.48–9
  4. ^ Crooks, Peter Factionalism and Noble Power in English Ireland c.1361–1423 Thesis submitted for the degree of PhD. University of Dublin 2007 p.261
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Crooks p.262
  6. ^ Butler pp.48–9
  7. ^ Boardman, Stephen The Early Stuart Kings- Robert II and Robert III 1371–1406 Tuckwell Press East Linton 1996 pp.227–232
  8. ^ Boardman p.227
  9. ^ Boardman p.232
  10. ^ Journal of the Co. Kildare Archaeological Society 1902 Reprinted 2013 pp.355–6
  11. ^ Otway-Ruthven, A.J. History of Medieval Ireland Barnes and Noble reissue 1993 p.348
  12. ^ Journal of the Co. Kildare Archaeological Society
  13. ^ a b Patent Roll 5 Henry VI
  14. ^ Journal of the Co. Kildare Archeological Society
  15. ^ Gilbert p.53
  16. ^ Hadyn, Joseph The Book of Dignities Reprinted W.H. Allen London 1890 p. 450
  17. ^ Curtis, Edmund History of Medieval Ireland Reprinted Routledge Revivals 2013 p.283
  18. ^ Curtis p.283