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Illustration by P Page based on the Garter Stall Plate.

Arms: Quarterly 1st and 4th Gules a Chevron between three Escallops Or a Label of three points Argent for difference; 2nd and 3rd Argent a Saltire engrailed Azure.

Crest: An Ass's head Argent.

Chamberlain originally came from Gedding in Suffolk, but settled in East Harling, Norfolk, with his wife. She was Anne, the daughter of Robert Harling, lord of the manor.

Sir William was a soldier under the duke of Bedford, and governor of Craill-sur-Oise in France (now Creil, about 30km north of Paris). In 1436 the French had retaken Paris They surged north and besieged the town. Chamberlain sallied forth with just 500 in his force. They took many prisoners, killed two hundred Frenchmen and raised the siege.

According to R.A. Griffiths, Sir William sailed for Honfleur at the end of July 1439 with Sir Richard Woodville and Sir William Peyto and 900 men, to support the leaderless Lancastrians. He was in charge of Meaux, and despite the town being one of the strongest places in France and being well-stocked with provisions, he surrendered it on 12 August 1439. It is hardly credible that such a doughty fighter would have given in so rapidly in such circumstances. This suggests that he must have been sent to Meaux with the express orders to cease fighting there. He was thrown into prison in Rouen castle, but he was later set at liberty.








Later, in 1446, Sir William was himself captured and had to pay ransom for his release. The king recognised the blow to his finances that paying the ransom caused, so allowed him to amortise a rent for Harling's chapel (endowed by Sir William, and which lies at the east end of the south aisle), without the customary fine or fee.

The licence to do so states specifically that this was in recognition of the great and eminent service Sir William rendered in France and Normandy, and also that of Sir Robert Harling who had died in the king's service in France in 1435. Such specific commendation hardly ties up with a craven surrender of Meaux.

Sir William was elected the 186th Knight of the Garter in about 1461; his stall in St George's Chapel, Windsor is No. 23 on the south side.



Above the arch of the canopy of his tomb at East Harling Church are carved and uncoloured, on the nave side, Sir William's arms, (illustrated above) which are repeated in a small shield in the vault above the tomb:

Quarterly, 1 and 4, Gules a Chevron between three Escallops Or with a label of three points in the first quarter. (Chamberlain) 2 and 3, Argent a Saltire engrailed Azure. (Tolthorpe or Legat) the whole encircled by the Garter.

On the north side of the tomb, in St. Anne's chapel, now the vestry, are Lady Anne's arms:

Quarterly. 1 and 4, Argent a Unicorn Sable crined unguled and armed Or. (Harling) 2 and 3, Or semy-de-lis Sable (Mortimer) and in pretence: Argent on a Chevron cotised dancetty Sable three Escallops Or (Gonville).

Ken Mourin.