The earliest references to a member of the Duke family in Bedfordshire occur in the Pipe Rolls for 1197 and 1198.
The first reference states that "Adam Duke debet dim. m. pro eodem [proprestura]." The second is to the same
effect. This apparently refers to Adam Duke's payment of one-half mark tax levied on his men-at-arms to ransom
Richard I, who had been captured in France on his return from the Crusades ("de scutagio militum ad redemptionem
regis"). It is not clear from the information given in the rolls where in Bedfordshire Adam Duke was located.
There is again no specific location given for the next two generations. In 1252 Ranulphus [Ralph] Duke and his son
William were held at the king's prison at Bedford for the murder of Hunith' la Walesch':
"De ponendo per Ballium. -- Ricardus Haring'. Ranulphus Duke et Willelmus filius ejus et Ricardus Grim, capti et
detenti in prisona regis de Bedeford pro morte Hunith' la Walesch', unde rettati sunt, habent litteras vicomiti Bed'
quod ponantur per ballium. Teste ut supra."
In the Hundred Rolls of 1278-9 we find a Thomas Duke:
Thomas le Duke, tenant in Suldrope, Bedfordshire, holding 2 parts of 1 virgate of land (2 virgates?) for 2 shillings
a year and works for 12 pence a year.
This is confirmed in the Feudal Aids:
Soldrope.--Willelmus de le Despense, Michael in le Lane, Warinus Duke, Willelmus Bacoun, Willelmus Faber et
Robertus Bacoun tenent quartam partem un. f. m. et tenent de priore Hospitales.
Thomas le Duke was a tenant of the Knights Hospitallers of Jerusalem, along with Roger de la Despense and his wife,
Joan, who held the advowson of the Suldrope Church. Members of the Despenser family, Hugh the older and younger,
were to play an important, if dark, part in English history of this period as favorites of King Edward. It is
unclear how the Suldrope branch of the family was related to these.
In 1283, Walter Duke was charged (in company with a variety of others, including Richard, Prior of Bissmede) with
the murder of William de Legh, by his mother, Agnes de Legh.
A later individual bearing the Duke name, the heir of Thomas le Duke, has been identified in Bedfordshire in 1302-3:
Warinus Duke [Warren Duke] tenent at Soldrope, Hundredum de Wylie
Suldrope was held by the Prior of Melchbourne, associated with the Knights Hospitallers, by service of one-fourth
of a knight's fee. In 1302 six of the tenants, William de la Despenser, Michael in Le Lane, Warin Duke, William
Bacon, William Faber and Robert Bacon, combined to render this service. However, in 1340 no member of the Duke
family is among those listed among the parties responsible for accounting for the taxes of the parish. This is
not conclusive evidence that no adult male member of the family continued to live there, but it is likely,
especially in the absence of any later references to the Duke family at Soldroup.
In 1341 the Calendar of Patent Rolls reviewed the amercements for the liberties allowed in the Exchequer to the
prior and convent of Dunstaple, Bedfordshire, by virtue of royal charters. This noted that in the great roll of
the thirteenth year of Edward III:
Idem vicecomes reddit compotum de xs. de Andrea et Willelmo Lestauurs quia non habent. Et dimidia marca de Herberto
le Tanour pro eodem. Et dimidia marca pro Martino le Duc pro transgressione. Et de iiijs. de Gregorio de Barton
pro falsa mensura. Et de xs. de Galfrido de Isileye pro panno vendito...
Martin le Duc was fined half a mark for a transgression of some sort.
The Duke family was also found in the adjacent county of Huntingdonshire. This is first indicated by an unfortunate
reference in 1310:
John Sweyn, of Newenton Blosmevill, and Jul[iana] his wife, and Richard son of John Douce, of Catteworth, in the
king's prison of Huntingdon for the death of an unknown man and woman, have letters to the sheriff of Huntingdon
to bail them until the first assize.
Quite a few of the Duke family appear in the 1327 lay subsidy rolls for that county, but not the Richard