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Illustration by P Page after the Garter stall plate.


Arms: Vert an Escutcheon within an Orle of Martlets Argent

Crest: Rising from within a Coronet Gules a  Panache of Feathers Argent.








The Lancastrian John of Gaunt held lands extensively in north Norfolk, including the parish of Erpingham.  Thomas joined Gaunt's retinue in 1380 as an esquire, was knighted by him and accompanied Gaunt to Spain when he claimed the throne there. After ten years he joined Henry Bolinbroke, Gaunt's son, on his travels to Lithuania to fight with the Teutonic Knights in a 'crusade' to convert the Lithuanians to Christianity.  In 1392 he accompanied Henry on a journey from Prussia to Jerusalem, and probably purchased the Chasuble, now to be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum, while returning through Italy.


When Gaunt died in 1399, King Richard II seized his estates.  Henry landed at Ravenspur with a few hundred men, invited to lead a revolt.  Erpingham arrested  Bishop Despenser, then ambushed Richard, taking him to the Tower.  He was one of the commissioners who accepted Richard's resignation as king. Erpingham became Constable of Dover Castle and Warden of the Cinque Ports, effectively guardian of the Channel, which was threatened with invasion by the French king.   In 1401 he was made Knight of the Garter, and later a member of the Privy Council and Marshall of England.


 He served as an ambassador to France, negotiating armistices, and fought there with King Henry V, famously at Agincourt where he was in command of the king's deadly archers, giving the signal to fire with the mysterious command recorded by French heralds as "Nestroque!"  Historian Matthew Bennet, on a visit to Norfolk, recently recognised this as strong Norfolk dialect (still spoken in some parts) for "Now strike"!  Shakespeare makes him an older man at Agincourt with Henry, glad to rest his head on the ground to sleep like a king.


 Erpingham erected his gate at Norwich cathedral apparently as a personal memorial, with his own and his two wives' coats of arms upon it; the statue possibly came from his tomb.


 The memorial window he erected in St. Austin's Friary church to 82 lords and knights who had died without sons has been lost (it is reproduced in Dragon Hall nearby);  Erpingham himself figured upon it.  He is buried in Norwich cathedral, a benefactor of that and many other churches, a guardian of the peace in Norfolk and a statesman nationally, a warrior whose martial prowess and well-earned fame surely makes him the most eminent of Norfolk Knights.

 Ken Mourin