Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Curles and Mary Queen of Scots

curlememorialGilbert Curle was one of Mary’s secretaries for more than twenty years. When the Babington Plot was exposed he, together with her French secretary Nau, was bundled off to the Tower to find out what incriminating light could be shed upon Mary’s correspondence.

He left behind a wife Barbara, formerly Mowbray.  Sir Amyas Paulet had already noted Babrara as a dangerous papist. He refused to allow the baptism of Barbara’s child in the Catholic faith, and proclaimed himself scandalised when Mary baptised the child herself according to Catholic rites naming the baby girl Mary.  Barbara’s sons James and Hippolytus both became Jesuit priests.  Little is known of James other than the fact that he died in Spain while still a student.

 

Gilbert’s sister along with her sister-in-law were loyal servants of Mary.  Elizabeth Curle had been at Mary’s side since 1579 when she followed Mary down to the Great Hall at Fotheringay on the first day of her trial and it was Elizabeth who together with Jane Kennedy who helped Mary to disrobe before her execution.Elizabeth’s memorial in Antwerp declares that it was Elizabeth who received Mary’s last kiss.  It was to Elizabeth that Mary bequeathed her enamel minatures of Mary, Francis II and James. Mary also wrote requesting that Elizabeth Curle should be paid a marriage portion.  She had made the request before.

 

The French king did not honour his sister-in-law’s last wishes.  It was Mendoza and Philip of Spain who arranged for pensions to be paid to Mary’s faithful servants. Gilbert received a pension of forty crowns when he was eventually released from the Tower. He died in 1609. He, together with his wife and sister, lived in Antwerp.  Elizabeth died in 1620 having commissioned a portrait of Mary based on the enamel which Mary had bequeathed to her.  The picture was passed to her nephew Hippolytus Curle, a Jesuit priest. The memorial portrait of Mary passed from Hippolytus into the hands of the Jesuits.  Antonia Fraser records that the image survived the French Revolution by being rolled up and hidden in a chimney.  In Antwerp itself, the tomb of Elizabeth and Barbara Curle is surmounted by an image of Mary.

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Robert Poley

marlowe

Christopher Marlowe

He appears to have studied at Cambridge but left without taking a degree.  This was not unusual especially for a Catholic and would have given him credence. By 1583 he was married with a child but was becoming drawn to  the Earl of Leicester’s and Sir Francis Walsingham’s murky world of conspiracy.  His credentials as an ex-Catholic would have made him ideal material but before beginning his career as a spy he was imprisoned in the Marshalsea for a year – perhaps an incentive to remain loyal to  his paymasters or a reminder of what might happen if he tried to double cross the State.  During this time he refused to see his wife but entertained other women.  His gaoler proclaimed that Poley could beguile you of your wife or your life.

 

Upon gaining his freedom he moved into the orbit of the Earl of Leicester and then was placed in household of Francis Walsingham’s daughter who was married to Sir Philip Sydney.  Anthony Babington asked him to obtain a passport from Walsingham to travel for between three to five years.  Babington trusted him implicitly but others were more suspicious.  Babington retained his faith in Poley even when he found him copying documents and later when he was  taken to the Tower.  Afterall, Poley was there as well as a conspirator rather than a loyal servant of the crown.

In fact Poley remained in the Tower until 1588.  An Irish Catholic Bishop called Richard Creagh died during this time. Robert Southwell, a Jesuit,  wrote that Poley had poisoned the unfortunate bishop with a piece of cheese.

Unable to resume his career undercover he became a more formal member of Walsingham’s staff and later Sir Robert Cecil’s going on official journeys overseas. He is recorded as having his own cyphers. It is somewhat surprising therefore that he was involved in the tavern brawl that saw Christopher Marlowe killed with a dagger.  Even more surprising that in the aftermath of Marlowe’s death Poley appears to disappear from the radar for a week or more before resurfacing with secret information of some description for the Privy Council.

There are many theories as to why and how Christopher Marlowe died or perhaps didn’t.  Poley’s involvement implies a cover up of some description.  One suggestion is that the men involved with the death of Marlowe were faking his demise in order to allow him to avoid charges relating to being an atheist.  It has also been suggested that Scotland was a safer place for Marlowe and who better to escort him there than a man who could get in and out of the country undetected.  Alternatively Marlowe who’d carried letters into Scotland himself may have become a dangerous inconvenience who needed to be removed from the scene before Poley’s network of agents working for Cecil to improve links with James VI of Scotland was exposed.  After all, Marlowe had been hauled up  in front of the Star Chamber and was in Deptford on bail pending further investigations.

Poley wasn’t finished with playwrights.  He returned to the Marshalsea to spy in Ben Johnson who later wrote a poem entitled “Inviting a Friend to Dinner” Poley gets a mention.  It isn’t complimentary.

 

Stephen Alford records that Cecil kept Poley on the payroll until 1601.  Alford also records that Poley wasn’t entirely as secretive as he should have been.  He seduced his landlady with tales of spying and probably infuriated Walsingham by suggesting that his urinary infection was contracted from a French prostitute – so a man who didn’t always know how to win friends and influence people.

History doesn’t record what happened to him.  I wonder if it involved a dark night and a dark alley somewhere?

 

 

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A captain, a cupboard and a viking – a cupboard full of Hubbards

charlesCaptain John Hubbard served upon seven royal naval vessels during the reign of Charles II when the country was at war with the Dutch.  In 1665 he commanded the Happy Return at the Battle of Lowestoft which saw a great victory.  In 1666 he was made captain of the Royal Charles, previously known as the Naseby (and one of Cromwell’s most prized vessels).   The following year he  joined the Rupert; then the Plymouth, the Milford, and the Assistance.  It was while on the Assistance that Captain John Hubbard was killed in action against some Algerine corsairs.  Pepys talks about Hubbard being killed as a result of being overly brave.

The Royal Charles became one of the Royal Navy’s biggest shames.  The Dutch fleet sailed up the Thames to Chatham in 1667.  They cut the flagship from the fleet and carried it away.  The ship was the Royal Charles.

But on to Old Mother Hubbard who went to the cupboard.  According to the rhyme she was going to fetch her doggy a bone. Of course the cupboard was bare.   Apparently Old Mother Hubbard was, in fact, Cardinal Wolsey, making the cupboard in this instance the Catholic Church.  The doggy (a.k.a. King Henry VIII) wanted an annulment from his queen – Katherine of Aragon – which was not forthcoming because the Pope found himself under the watchful eye of Katherine’s nephew.

That just leaves the viking.  Hubba the Horrible or Ubba was a brother of Ivar the Boneless and Halfdan. There is another school of thought that says it is a name that made its appearance with the Normans.  Whatever the case Internet research suggests that anyone with the surname Hubbard, Hubbert or Hobart is descended from one John Hubba who is recorded as living in Suffolk in 1274.  His family possibly descended from “Euro, filius Huberti” who can be found in the Domesday Book and who appear to have some familial link to William the Conqueror but I need to do much more research as yet.

All exciting stuff – but made even more so by the fact that, in so far as I can rely on parish records,  Captain John Hubbard is my eight times great grandfather…

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Nobles, angels and sovereigns

gold angelI found a copy of Haydn’s Dictionary of Dates under the  bed in the spare room – no I’m not in the fortunate position where books appear as though by magic in my house- I’m doing the spring-cleaning and it was in a box belonging to my husband.  The book – not the husband- dates from 1906, is 4 inches thick and each page has a delicious crackle.  So, given that wielding a duster isn’t high on my list of favourite occupations I started reading…well what would you have done in similar circumstances?

My attention was caught by a description of an angel, “a gold coin, impressed with an angel weighing four pennyweights, valued at 6s, 8d. in the reign of Henry VI and  10s in the reign of Elizabeth I,1562,”  So, there’s inflation for a start and a reminder than once upon a time coins actually were worth their face value in gold or silver unless someone came along and clipped the edges.

The first English gold coins were gold pennies and florins.  They were superseded by the noble.  In 1465 King Edward IV came up with a new gold noble which came to be called an angel because it had an image of the Archangel Michael on it.  The Latin inscription (hmm don’t think that’s the right word to describe words on a coin) PER CRUCEM TUAM SALVA NOS CHRISTE REDEMPTOR means ‘Through thy cross save us, Christ Redeemer’.

The angel continued to be minted until the reign of Charles I and was then replaced by a Guinea in 1663 –under the auspices of Sir Isaac Newton who was trying to prevent coin clipping by introducing a milled edge.  I am reliably informed that the guinea, which still exists if you want to buy or race horses, for example, is worth £1.05.

Talking of pounds they didn’t exist until 1583 – although there were coins with that value….the spring cleaning is starting to feel appealing again –little wonder the whole pre-decimal currency issue has been a mine field that I’ve shuffled edged around cautiously until this afternoon.

Instead of a pound your average pre-Armada Tudor gentleman would have had a sovereign in his pocket.  It was worth 20 shillings so more valuable than an angel which was worth 10 shillings.

 

Now because I went to school just before the world turned decimal  I need to write the following information because it’s not lodged in my head: 12d = 1s and 20s = £1.  And for folks even younger than me or reading this from elsewhere in the world d = pence which Wikipedia informs me is because rather than common old English the d is an abbreviation of the Latin denarius  and s = shilling but the abbreviation s actually stands for the Latin sestertius; the initial letter is merely a happy co-incidence.

 

  • 1 Sovereign = 20 shillings = 1 pound (Remember that  a pound doesn’t exist except as a unit for calculation until the 1580s. Our modern £ sign comes from an L with a cross through it.  L is the abbreviation of Libra.)
  • 1 Mark =13s 4d – This is not an actual coin either.  It was used by accountants and lawyers for monetary transactions like land purchases and dowries.
  • 1 Angel = 10 shillings = ½ pound.
  • 1 Crown = 5 shillings (Apparently it had the same value as a Ducat – as in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice  “My ducats or my daughter.”)
  • Half-a-crown = 2 s 6d  (As in ‘2 and 6’  which could “Buy you a visit to the cinema, fish and chips and the bus home afterwards when I was a lad.”- this anecdote will be familiar to many people with more mature family members who also insist on translating modern metric values into their imperial equivalent and then telling you that you could feed a family of six  or buy a car on that kind of money in their youth which occurred at some point during the first half of the twentieth century… I’ve digressed.)  Just to be difficult you could also get a quarter angel which was worth 2s 6d.
  • 1 Shilling = 12 pence
  • 1 Sixpence = 6 pence
  • 1 Groat = 4 pence
  • 1 Tuppence= 2 pence (As in Mary Poppins, “Feed the birds -Tuppence a bag.”)
  • 1 Penny = 1 penny never pence (240 pennies = 1 pound)
  • 1 Half-penny = ½ penny
  • 1 Farthing = ¼ penny

But what was all that worth to the people who earned it and lived by it? A labourer would earn somewhere between £5 and £10 a year.  Skilled workmen could earn 6d a day. 1lb of cheese cost  1 1/2d.  It cost 12d to hire a horse for the day and 4d for a dozen eggs.

Back to the spring-cleaning….

 

 

 

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Thomas and Charles Paget

WilliamPagetSir William Paget (pictured here), Henry VIII’s advisor, had three sons – Henry, Thomas and Charles.  Both the older brothers succeeded Sir William as the second and third Baron Paget of Beaudesert respectively.  The Pagets were a Catholic family and did not initially become Protestants as so many of their contemporaries had done.

Once Elizabeth came to the throne in 1559 Henry found himself travelling around Europe.  History knows of his travels because he was a childhood friend of Lord Robert Dudley and wrote to him often.  It is from one of Paget’s letters that historians know that Mary was habitually called Queen of England following the quartering of her arms with those of England.  Henry eventually returned from his travels which included Venice and Turkey but died in December 1568.  He left a widow and a baby daughter called Elizabeth.

Thomas Paget now succeeded to the title.  He was married to Nazareth Newton and his life was troubled both by his wife and by his religious beliefs.  Thomas and his younger brother Charles had both studied at Cambridge.  They left without taking their degrees which was a normal element of noble education before being accepted into the Middle Temple where they practised law.  Both brothers were at Cambridge during Elizabeth I’s visit of 1559 and initially their catholicism did not seem to be  a bar to their careers; certainly they had supporters at court who pleaded their case.  However, Thomas became more devout.  He refused to take the Oath of Supremacy and found himself, on one occasion, under house arrest at Windsor where he was forced to undergo a course in the doctrine of the Church of England.  The archives contain letters from him to Walsingham pleading to be allowed not to attend church services in St Paul’s.  There are other letters directed to Cecil where he justifies his decision to separate from his wife who eventually turned state evidence against him.  It is perhaps telling that his son, the next Baron Paget, was a Protestant.  So far, so sad – religious belief seems to lie at the heart of Thomas Paget’s troubles.  After his wife died he fled to the continent where he eventually gained a pension from Philip II and it appears that he hoped to be restored to his title in the event of the Armada being a success.  Thomas’s story is complicated by his love-life and his beliefs but it is a fairly straightforward story.

 

By contrast his younger brother Charles Paget steered a far more difficult course which is fogged by conspiracy as well as the mists of time. Charles Paget scarpered to France in 1881 on account of his Catholicism.  One version of events sees him making contact with an agent of Mary Queen of Scots  called Thomas Morgan and entered the embassy of Archbishop Beaton in Paris – an out and out traitor to Elizabeth’s England in other words.  For the next seven years history records Charles as working for Mary and even receiving a pension from her.  This was not entirely surprising to his acquaintances at home in England.  After all, the Paget family seat was in Staffordshire not far from Tutbury Castle.  Charles had even spoken in Mary’s defence to Lord Howard.

Paget  is first known to have plotted on Mary’s behalf in 1582.  Cardinal William Allen of the English College at Douai was also associated. The plan was for the Duke of Guise to invade England with the financial backing of Philip II of Spain. Prior to the invasion English Catholics  were rise up, depose Elizabeth and release Mary.

In 1583, the plot which came to be known as The Throckmorton Plot, was well underway. Paget went  on a secret visit from France to England under the pseudonym Mope where he met the Earl of Northumberland and  brother Thomas Paget who hadn’t yet fled from England. He is also known to have met with Lord Howard.  Was it a meeting to transact family business; was  Charles Paget warning his friends and family against involvement with the plot – he was known not to have approved of the whole plot – certainly that was what he wrote in a letter to Mary Queen of Scots- he objected to Spanish and Jesuit involvement.  Or was he a double agent working for Walsingham all along?

Paget met with Walsingham in Paris in 1581 where he offered the spymaster his services. The Watchers by Stephen Alford suggests that Paget wasn’t a double agent using the evidence of Walsingham’s letter to Stafford at that time the English Ambassador in France saying that Paget was a ‘most dangerous instrument’ and fearing for the Earl of Northumberland if he continued to associate with the man. Another of Walsingham’s letter’s makes it clear that he regarded Charles as completely untrustworthy.

Whatever the case, honest man or double agent, Paget remained on Mary’s staff and was involved in the Babbington Plot which cost the Queen of Scots her life. Paget, unlike his older brother, had no great love for the Spanish and by 1599 he was in contact with another generation of English diplomats.  He returned home on the accession of James I of England from whom he had a pension – for the support of his mother or the spying agains the Spanish he’d undertaken in Europe – history can’t be sure.  He died in 1612 at home at his manor of Weston-on-Trent which had been given to him by James I.

 

 

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Nazareth Paget

nazareth newtonNazareth Newton was the daughter of Sir John Newton and a cousin to Sir Robert Dudley.  Her first marriage was to Sir Thomas Southwell of Woodrising in Norfolk.  The family was noted for its catholicism but this didn’t prevent the widowed Nazareth from serving Elizabeth I.

The link to Robert Dudley is a reminder that much of the Tudor court were related to one another somewhere along the line.  Nazareth’s web of unexpected connections extends to another generation.  One of her daughters with Southwell was called Elizabeth.  She became the mistress of the Earl of Essex and gave birth to his illegitimate son Walter Devereux.

In 1570 Nazareth married Sir Thomas Paget, the Third Baron Paget.  His father was Sir William Paget – Henry VIII’s close adviser and it was perhaps because of the link with the Dudleys that Nazareth married Paget or perhaps they met at court.  In any event Nazareth’s second marriage was a disaster.  She was not permitted to keep any servants from her home in Woodrising and her new husband grew steadily more firm in his recusancy to the extent that he organised a sermon by the Jesuit Edmund Campion and was forced to take a course in the doctrine of the Church of England whilst under house arrest in Windsor.  It did no good.  Paget attempted to avoid Protestant Church services and his servants interrupted an easter service.  His career was ruined.  His home life was even worse.  In the end he wrote to Cecil explaining that he and his wife were parting because, in his words, of the ‘continual jars.’

David McKeen is less sympathetic to Nazareth as this quote shows:

Thomas Paget, son of the protector of Cobham’s youth, a cultivated nobleman in whose house William Byrd found employment and whose loss to England and “theCommonwealth of Learning” even that notable defender of the Elizabethan settlement William Camden deeply deplored, was informed against by his strident wife Nazareth Newton, whose perpetual demands had driven them to separate despite Burghley’s efforts
to reconcile them and Paget’s reluctance to leave the woman he so self-destructively loved. Paget felt that he had a reason to remain in England so long as there was hope of regaining his wife, but when she died in 1583 he too fled abroad.

From McKeen, David, A Memory of Honour; The Life of William Brooke,
Lord Cobham (Salzburg: Institut fur Anglistik und Amerikanistik, 1986), p. 380:

Thomas was stripped of his title and eventually gained a pension from Philip II of Spain.  The Duke of Parma consulted with him about the proposed Armada invasion of 1588.

Nazareth’s brother-in-law Charles was also a Catholic but his involvement with European intrigues was rather more complicated.

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