Sir Henry Vernon – walking a thorny tightrope

HenryVernon.jpgSir Henry Vernon of Haddon Hall lived in a difficult times. His family had risen to prominence during the reign of King Henry VI but by 1451 feuding and factional in-fighting caused the Derbyshire family many problems – including the fact that Margaret of Anjou, Henry VI’s queen backed one of their enemies. Inevitably sides were taken and, ultimately, the Vernons because of their experiences of Yorkist justice turned to the Lancastrians. By 1461 it was clear that the Vernon family had backed the wrong horse whilst their opponents in the form of the Blounts were riding high – Walter Blount became Lord Mountjoy. It took many years for the Vernons to claw their way back into Edward IV’s good books. In the meantime, as things tend to do, one event led to another which in turn led to the murder of one Roger Vernon at the hands of the men of Lord Grey of Codnor, another land hungry Yorkist lord. In truth the whole episode reads like a mafia style feud- no one comes out of it particularly well. In medieval England the whole affair was so notorious that it led to a law against keeping armed retainers in 1468.


It probably didn’t help the Vernon family that they then forged links with George, Duke of Clarence in an attempt to improve their position although they weren’t foolish enough to ride out to battle on behalf of George or the Kingmaker when they returned to put Henry VI briefly back on the throne in 1471.


By 1474, Sir Henry Vernon was a member of Edward IV’s household and serving in parliament. In 1483 Vernon arrived in London for young Edward V’s coronation but found himself attending Richard III’s crowning instead. He became an Esquire of the Body, a kind of male equivalent of a lady-in-waiting: a trusted person and he was in receipt of a number of grants at this time. However, it should be noted that Richard III promised Sir Henry death, and even worse – confiscation of his lands, if he didn’t fight for him in 1485 after news of Henry Tudor’s landing in Wales arrived. Skidmore suggests many of the nobility and gentry fought on Richard’s side under duress. There is neither the time nor post space for a discussion about the accuracy of the statement. Suffice it to say Sir Henry Vernon filed his summons dated August 11 1485 from Richard and seems to have turned up in Leicestershire where he is named as one of Richard’s knights in the ballad entitled Bosworth Field although there is no other proof that he took part in the battle. In part this was because Henry VII didn’t follow the pattern of attainder and land confiscation that had gone before – he had other plans for keeping the nobility in check.


Vernon recognising which way the wind was blowing, made his peace with Henry Tudor and was at the Battle of Stoke in 1487 on the side of the Tudors. He doesn’t seem to have looked back. He was appointed governor to young Prince Arthur in Ludow and built a new home at Tong although tradition says that the young prince spent a lot of time at Haddon Hall in Derbyshire. Vernon witnessed the young prince’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

Sir Henry died 13 April 1515 before any difficulties as to the legality of Arthur’s younger brother Henry VIII’s marriage to Arthur’s widow could trouble him. His monument can be found in Tong Church along side his wife who died in 1494. She was Anne Talbot, a daughter of the earl of Shrewsbury.  Double click on the image to open a new window to find out more about Sir Henry Vernon’s tomb.

Skidmore, Chris. (2013) Bosworth – the Birth of the Tudors. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson


3 thoughts on “Sir Henry Vernon – walking a thorny tightrope

  1. As my ex dead wife was in fact a Vernon one knows a bit of their tricks for power. Changing the subject a bit I have just discovered that the Sainted Tomas More was related to me. Always thought him rather sad sort of fellow and he died as he wish but his poor wife as a result died in penury as Henry of England took Mores house. Too much pride in Tom really. Mind you he will be with God,one thinks? The Vernons also owned Appleby Castle for a few years had many a good time their when Old Vernon held court.He was head of Furgusen Overseas investments group and my little sister was pensions director.

  2. One thing that may interest you. My ancestor married Eliz Fitzhugh. She died as Lady Parr of Kendal but in six results it states she was buried in Saint Annes Blackfriars? now so is her son and daughter in law but her only husband is buried in his tomb in Kendal Parish Church? Something is wrong as why drag a body from Kendal to London in hot summer? I connect to King Edward 111 by this marriage to Sir William Parr Baron Kendal and I want all i can find on Elizabeth Fitzhugh. Please can you help? Hard for me here abroad to affect anything other that what is on line which is nearly always wrong? Many thanks for now.

    • I will have a look – it is curious. Most of the the time final resting places do work out logically through family connection or patronage as I’m sure you’re more than aware. Give me some time. As it happens I’m off to Kendal shortly so shall start there. Have you looked in the county history for any clues?

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