Monthly Archives: September 2016

Cardinal Wolsey and the king’s women

wolseyCardinal Wolsey suffers from being the image of the Catholic Church prior to Henry VIII’s break with Rome and consequentially a figure for anticlerical comment.  He was also not careful about being nice to folk on the way up the greasy pole of ambition forgetting that he might well meet them on the way back down.  There were plenty of members of the nobility who were more than happy to bring him down to earth with a bump most notably the duke of Norfolk.  Today’s post, however, is about Cardinal Wolsey’s role in Henry VIII’s somewhat tangled love life.

Portrait_of_Anne_StaffordWolsey appears in a legal capacity in relation to Anne Stafford, the wife of Lord Hastings.  Anne was the daughter of the duke of Buckingham.  Her older sister Elizabeth was the wife of the earl of Sussex.  Both sisters served Catherine of Aragon.  A scandal broke during May 1510. We know of it thanks to the gleeful writings of Spanish Ambassador Luis Caroz.  What appears to have happened is that Henry, now that Catherine was pregnant, looked elsewhere for diversion.  He looked in the direction of his cousin Anne Stafford.  She was eight years older than him, married for the second time but childless (she went on to have eight children with Lord Hastings).  Somehow or other Elizabeth got to hear about the dodgy goings on and spoke with her brother who in turn summoned Lord Hastings.  Sir William Compton, one of the king’s friends, was caught in Anne’s private chamber.  There was a lively discussion with the duke of Buckingham announcing that his sister wasn’t for the likes of Compton or for Tudors either (he probably came to regret that particular phrase).  The upshot of it was that Hastings took his wife away from court to a nunnery where neither Compton or Henry could dally with the lady in question.  Henry VIII was deeply unhappy and banished Elizabeth and her husband from court for being a pair of tattletales which meant that the scandal came to the attention of Catherine of Aragon resulting in a very unpleasant argument between the royal couple.

Three years later Henry gave Anne a very expensive New Year’s gift well beyond what protocol or courtesy dictated giving rise to speculation that the couple resumed their relationship.  Double click on Anne Stafford’s image to open a new page and an earlier post from the History Jar on the subject.

Where does Wolsey fit into this?  Well in 1527 he had Sir William Compton charged with adultery with Anne.  Compton swore an oath that he hadn’t been up to any such thing but his will written in 1522 suggests otherwise as not only did he ask for prayers to be said for Anne but he left money for her use as well.

 

Let us move to the next mistress – Bessie Blount (b 1499 ish).  It is speculated that Henry’s affair with Bessie began sometime after 1513 during one of Catherine of Aragon’s periods of ill health but no one is certain of this.  There is a letter in existence from Charles Brandon (Mary Tudor’s second husband) to the king giving his very best wishes via the king to Bessie Blount and to Elizabeth Carew (who may well have been yet another royal mistress).  The letter gives rise to speculation that Brandon may have had a fling with Bessie prior to Henry showing interest, equally it might all have been part of the ritual of courtly love and have meant nothing at all or, equally, Brandon knowing the king’s interest in the ladies doing a spot of creeping. What we can be certain of is that in 1518 Catherine of Aragon miscarried a girl and that a month later Bessie Blount produced a bouncing baby boy.

Evidence suggests that Wolsey was given the task of arranging for Bessie to have somewhere suitable for her laying-in at the Priory of St Lawrence near Chelmsford or Jericho as it was known.  The evidence is based on the fact that Wolsey was absent from London for much of June 1519 which coincides with Henry Fitzroy’s birth.  Thomas Wolsey also became the child’s godfather. Fitzroy remained under the care of the cardinal until he fell from favour in 1529 when he moved under the auspices of the Howard family.

Queen Anne BoleynThe next mistress in our story proved to be Wolsey’s downfall.  Popular history has it that it was Wolsey who split the young lovers Henry Percy and Anne Boleyn from one another in 1523. Percy was the heir of the earl of Northumberland and was part of Wolsey’s household whilst Anne was nothing but a ‘foolish girl.’  George Cavendish, Wosley’s biographer, notes that the leading aristocratic families were happy to have sons in Wolsey’s household.  He was at the heart of power after all.  Cavendish says that Henry had already taken a shine to Anne Boleyn and wished to put a spoke in Percy’s plans to marry the girl. Wolsey sent Percy home with a flea in his ear to marry the girl his family had already selected for him; Mary Talbot, daughter of the earl of Shrewsbury.  In 1532 Mary Talbot claimed that Henry Percy had been pre-contracted to Anne Boleyn and thus her marriage was null and void.  Given that Henry was in hot pursuit of Anne Boleyn at that time it wasn’t the most politically astute thing to have been saying. Even though Henry no longer looked to Rome a dispensation from the Archbishop of Canterbury exists thawing that all impediments to marriage between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn were removed  including the unknown ones!

We cannot know whether Anne and Henry Percy really did love one another or the extent to which their relationship had developed.  We have circumstantial evidence in terms of Henry Percy weeping when Anne Boleyn was condemned and also the evidence of Cavendish as well as assorted hostile ambassadors.   To find out more about George Cavendish and his version of events double click on the image of Anne Boleyn to open a new page and an earlier post.

What we do know for certain is that Wolsey was unable to unravel Henry’s marriage from Catherine of Aragon and that this was what led to his fall from favour in 1529 even though Henry is said to have declared he couldn’t afford to lose the cardinal and sent him a ring as a token of his affections when Thomas became ill.  Come to think of it Wolsey didn’t get on very well with Catherine of Aragon either.  She regarded him as pro-french and thus anti-spanish as well as being the man who ensured that she was sidelined in politics by making himself indispensable to the king.

2 Comments

Filed under Queens of England, Sixteenth Century, The Tudors

Elizabeth Denton

Henry-VIII-enjoyed-gambli-008I have just been re-reading Philippa Jones book on Henry VIII’s wives and mistresses.  She suggests that Elizabeth Denton nee Jerningham was Henry VIII’s, or Prince Henry as he was then, first bit on the side.  Not only that but she was hand selected for the role by Lady Margaret Beaufort which rather knocks the idea of her saintly piety to one side; though it might give an insight into the prevailing views of the rights of kingship. Its a thought that certainly made me sit up and take notice!

The idea that Jones puts forward is that young men’s minds inevitably turn to the birds and the bees.  Lady Margaret Beaufort eager to avoid scandal and a mistress likely to make demands selected the lady mistress of the royal nursery for the role of…er…lady mistress on the grounds that she would know her place and not make any trouble.

For a man whose marital history has caused scandal for the last five hundred years relatively little is actually known about his mistresses and potential children but then the evidence against Denton seemed a little, well, vague.  As Licence observes the claim rests entirely on the evidence of grants given in 1509 and in 1515.

So, what have we got.  Well we know for sure that Lady Elizabeth Denton died in 1519 and that she was Henry VIII’s governess.  Already one of Elizabeth of York’s ladies, her wardrobe keeper, she was appointed in 1497 to the role looking after the royal children which would have been Henry, Margaret and Mary replacing Lady Elizabeth Darcy in the job.  The Princess Elizabeth was born in 1492 but died in 1495.  Prince Arthur had his own household.  We know that Lady Margaret Beaufort wrote the rules for the ordering of the royal nursery and that Elizabeth Denton received £20 per annum.  If nothing else we can always rely on the account books. Alison Weir speculates as to the role played by Elizabeth of York and the relationship she had with her younger children.

Its those same account books that give the ‘evidence’ of Elizabeth Denton’s having been the lady mistress of the nursery in more ways than one.  In 1509 she was awarded an annuity of £50 a year as well as the keepership during her lifetime of Coldharbour, Lady Margaret Beaufort’s former London residence.  In addition there was a tun of Gascon wine delivered each year throughout her life (Hutchinson).  It is based on this very generous remembrance that Jones bases her hypothesis.  She argues that royal servants might receive allowances but this was a very generous allowance indeed suggesting that Elizabeth Denton had done rather more than the known facts would account for.  This is the problem with many of Henry VIII’s women. Unless they end up married to him there’s very little concrete fact to go on.  It all comes down to looking at the evidence; adding up two and two to arrive at mistress or illegitimate offspring.  For a very public monarch much of Henry’s life is surprisingly private.

If we apply the same rule regarding the giving of grants and annuities across the board we should also be looking askance at Anne Oxenbridge another nursery maid who received £20 a year for life in 1509. In fact Hutchinson reveals that a whole series of generous annuities and appointments that were made by Henry at this time celebrating the start of his reign and rewarding loyal service to his parents by many men and women but no one is accusing Henry’s male french tutor of being up to no good! Nor for that matter has anyone suggested that Elizabeth Saxby who was also in receipt of a grant at this time was being paid for any of ‘those kinds of service’ rendered. It is a known fact that Henry VIII wanted to appear much more generous than his legendarily parsimonious father- so perhaps its not unreasonable that he should have looked kindly upon the men and women who cared for him during his childhood.

We know that an Elizabeth Denton went with Princess Margaret to Scotland in 1503 and that she probably returned when King James ordered that the number of English women serving her was to be reduced.  We also know that she lived in the precinct of Blackfriars until her death and that she raised her own monument, her husband John  having predeceased her before the contentious grant was given.

Nothing is known about John Denton but Alison Weir mentions a William Denton who served as Elizabeth of York’s carver as well as the king’s in receipt of £26 per year.

Elizabeth went on to be appointed to the care of Princess Mary’s nursery in 1516 having been appointed to the same position for the short lived Prince Henry in 1511. This in itself would suggest that she was a woman thought to be of sound moral values rather than femme fatale. It is, perhaps, unlikely that Henry would have put a woman of dubious morals in charge of his children’s welfare.

In fact, as much as I would have liked to have posted a highly inflammatory article I can’t because there is no direct existing evidence, that I know of, that Henry VIII was permitted a mistress before his marriage and that both his father and grandmother kept a very close eye on him indeed. Ambassadors recorded that he was kept as closely as a maiden which might, perchance,  account for his delight in the romantic chase of his various wives’ ladies in waiting once he became king. Having said that it does make an excellent story and Henry was known to like a more mature lady during his early years… and no, last time I checked just because its a good story doesn’t make it good history.

The next post, reflecting the fact that I am somewhat  Tudor orientated at the moment, will be about Cardinal Wolsey – someone else known for their flamboyant dress sense.  Not only was he Henry FitzRoy’s (Henry VIII’s only openly acknowledged illegitimate child) godfather but he also had a ‘nephew’ of his own.  Just think what the Sunday papers would have made of it, had they existed!

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Kings of England, Sixteenth Century, The Tudors

Personal religion – A Tudor psalter and Book of Hours

H8P_4.jpgA psalter is a personal book of psalms. Henry VIII’s psalter was written in Latin and illuminated by Jean Mallard, a Frenchman who had worked for Francis I but moved to England.  He appears in Henry’s accounts from 1539-1541.   Henry then added his own notes in the margin in much the same way that other psalter owners contemplated the psalms and wrote down important information.

Henry VIII is shown as King David – his favourite biblical character.  The psalter is in the possession of the British Library.  It’s seven miniatures provide an interesting view of the Henry VIII.  This image shows Henry in his private chamber contemplating the word of God day and night – an idea that many of his subjects might have found somewhat ironic not to mention Henry’s idea that he was amongst the blessed – he was after all God’s representative on Earth and Defender of the Faith.  He even had a medal struck to that effect in 1545 some two decades after the Pope awarded him the title and before he’d broken with Rome.  Double click on the image to open a new window at the British Library’s website. Amongst the illustrations are  Henry taking on the French Goliath.

Henry’s role model for his book of personal devotions may well have been his paternal grandmother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, who was well known for her own piety.  She had control of the school room and royal nursery during Henry’s childhood.  Amongst Lady Margaret’s prized possessions, apart from a piece of the True Cross, was her Book of Hours also known as The Beaufort Book of Hours.

A Book of Hours is a book of prayers that follows the canonical devotions – or the cycle of prayers said by monks and nuns.  At the heart of any book of hours for private use were the prayers for the Virgin Mary to be said eight times a day. Wealthy women often received richly decorated books of hours as part of their wedding present or dowry. They then recorded key family events in their prayer books.  Lady Margaret Beaufort was no exception to this.

Her Book of Hours also contained a calendar of saints days and she used this to mark in important events in her own family including the birth of Henry VIII although it is not as carefully recorded as the birth of Henry’s older doomed brother Arthur.  She also owned Richard III’s Book of Hours which he may have taken with him to Bosworth. She did not systematically remove his name from the text but did add her own at the back.

It is perhaps not surprising that I can think of two Books of Hours without very much effort.  Further study reveals that there are almost eight hundred of them in existence in various libraries as well as being depicted in various images. Owned by the very wealthy these books not only bespoke their piety but also their wealth as the miniatures and illuminated letters were expensive commodities. Duffy explains that several of the later Tudor Books of Hours were given by Elizabeth of York to members of the court but that these were not so richly illuminated and that there were increasing numbers of more cheaply printed Books of Hours which made the apparently generous habit of this gift giving a little more to Henry VII’s liking no doubt.

In fact the more closely you look the more that it is possible to find evidence of royal Tudor piety.  We even have Henry VIII’s rosary which is on loan from Chatsworth to the National Portrait Gallery.  He had many others which are listed in inventories of his possessions.  He used his rosary throughout his reign even though the growing tide of Protestantism would dismiss them as Popish by the time his daughter Elizabeth was on the throne. On a more anonymous but perhaps more moving note several rosaries were salvaged from Henry’s flagship the Mary Rose.

Duffy, Eamon. Marking the Hours: English People and their Prayers 1240-1570

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Kings of England, Sixteenth Century, The Tudors

The Northern borders during the Wars of the Roses-an overview of 1461-64

images-17images-9In March 1461 Edward of York won the Battle of Towton and became Edward IV of England and Wales. The great northern earls of Northumberland and Westmorland died during the battle as did many other men from the northern marches including Lord Dacre of Naworth Castle whose title and lands were inherited by his brother – though for limited time because he too had fought at Towton on the losing side.

Meanwhile Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou seeing which way the wind was blowing, fled into Scotland handing over Berwick-Upon-Tweed to the Scots on April 25 1461 which rather helped the Lancastrian cause in Scotland as did the fact that Margaret of Anjou got on famously well with the dowager Queen of Scotland, Mary of Guelders.  For a while a marriage was proposed between Prince Edward of England (Henry and Margaret’s son) and Mary, the eldest sister of young James III who was nay eight at the time that Margaret of Anjou first arrived in Scotland.

Meanwhile Edward IV marched as far as Newcastle, where the Earl of Wiltshire (Sir James Butler) was executed on May 1. H Edward’s journey back to the south left several large castles in Lancastrian hands.  He left the borders in the care of the earl of Warwick.  Warwick was also given the power to negotiate with the Scots who sent ambassadors to speak with the new English king, clearly being of the opinion that it was a good idea to hedge their bets.  Edward commissioned Sir Robert Ogle from the eastern marches to work on a truce with Scotland. Rather confusingly, and unsurprisingly, another branch of the family were firmly Lancastrian in their sympathy.   He also set about negotiating a treaty with the Lord of the Isles who became Edward’s liegeman with a pension, as did several of his cronies, and permission to  hold as much of the northern parts of Scotland as he could get his hands upon.  The earl of Douglas was also in receipt of a pension from Edward, suggesting that Edward felt that if the Scots were busy fighting one another they wouldn’t be fighting him.

Meanwhile Margaret of Anjou went to France to raise support from Louis XI in order to regain her husband’s kingdom.  He wasn’t really that interested but gave her a small body of men and a noble called Breze to be her general. Breze who wasn’t terribly popular with the new french king.  In fact, he was let out of prison in order to command the little force that set off for Northumberland.  He took control of the castle at Alnwick where he and his five hundred men were besieged by Lord Hastings, Sir Ralph Gray and Sir John Howard.

They in their turn were troubled by George Douglas, earl of Angus who had received grants of land from Henry and Margaret during their time in the Scottish court.  Angus was a Scottish border warden so was able to gather a body of men to ride to Breze’s rescue in July. Breze and Angus returned to Scotland.  Ridpath makes the point that the reason Breze was able to exit from the postern gate of Alnwick without any trouble was that there was an agreement between the Scots and the Yorkist besiegers army.

Margaret of Anjou arrived in Northumberland in October.  The North did not rise but Alnwick became Lancastrian once more.  This was either because Sir Ralph Gray had a change of heart after time spent as Yorkist governor of the castle or because there was insufficient food to withstand siege.

Edward IV marched north with an army again.

Margaret fled into Scotland. This description is beginning to feel like a large scale game of game of snakes and ladders for poor Margaret.    She went north by sea, taking  Breze with her.  Luck was not on her side. A storm blew up dispersing the Lancastrian vessels.  Margaret finished up in Berwick whilst Breze foundered off Holy Island.  His boats were, quite literally, burned. Four to five hundred of his men were either killed or captured at the hands of John Manors or the rather descriptively named, Bastard Ogle; both of whom I need to find more about. Breze managed to hail a fishing boat and get away to Berwick where he joined Margaret.

Edward and his army arrived in Durham where Edward promptly caught measles. Warwick took command of the army but since there was now no Lancastrian force  in the field he besieged Alnwick, Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh which were in the hands of Lancastrians and had been since 1461. Bamburgh surrendered on Christmas Eve 1462. The other two were in Yorkist hands by the new year.

It is worth noting that one of the Yorkists besieging the Lancastrians was a certain Sir Thomas Malory who had done considerable amounts of porridge during Henry VI’s reign for breaches of the peace. He would write the Morte d’Arthur during another stint in prison.

The duke of Somerset and Sir Ralph Percy were both pardoned by Edward IV in an attempt to bring old animosities to an end. Other Lancastrians were not afforded the same generosity.  The earl of Pembroke and Lord Roos escaped or were escorted back to Scotland depending on which account you read. The earl of Pembroke a.k.a Jasper Tudor was supposed to have gathered a force to land in Beaumaris, Anglesey in 1462 having tried to rally support in Ireland in the early part of the year but had failed to do this.  Instead ‘Plan B’ involved him joining with the conflict in the north of England  travelling via Brittany and Scotland whilst the three Lancastrian castles mentioned above were being besieged.  His job was a to lift the sieges. The Yorkists had more men than him so he’d been forced to take a place inside Bamburgh Castle.

Meanwhile earlier in the year, on the other side of the country, Margaret of Anjou, slightly foiled but not deterred, had turned her attention to the West March.  She, a group of Lancastrians and some over-optimistic Scots arrived in the outskirts of Carlisle in June 1462.  Margaret had told the Scots that if they could take Carlisle they could have it.  There was the inevitable siege and a fire that burned down the suburbs which did not win friends for the Lancastrian cause in the city. John Neville, Lord Montagu (Warwick’s kid brother) arrived later that same month and raised the siege by July.

Humphrey Dacre, whose elder brother had  been killed at Towton and  to whom Neville was related through Dacre’s mother, was now required to hand over Naworth Castle near Brampton to the Yorkists having been attainted for his own role fighting the Yorkists at Towton.

1463 saw Margaret experience another rear disaster when she encountered Neville’s Yorkist forces near Hexham.. She and Prince Edward “by the aid of a generous robber,” (Ridpath: 295) reached the coast and safety. It was said that Margaret fled with only her son and a single squire into Dipton Wood where the outlaw probably intent on mischief was duly inspired to provide assistance and hiding in a cave.  Sadler, who does not trust the story of the ‘Queen’s Cave’  and  notes that Margaret trusted this man so much that she left Prince Edward in the man’s care whilst she attempted to locate her husband. He quotes for Chastellain whose account came from Margaret herself. She was transferred to the coast and from there took ship to the Continent to plead for more cash to try again.

By the spring of 1464 it was all over for the Lancastrians so far as a Scottish alliance was concerned.  Margaret no longer had the ear of the dowager queen who had died in 1463.  The Scots preferred to make a truce with Edward IV. It is worth noting that Edward wasn’t ruling a peaceful kingdom counties across the country were up in arms.

Margaret of Anjou on the other hand didn’t take no for an answer and was able to do a spot of rabble rousing with the promise of loot.  She entered Northumberland along with her husband and son though the accounts do not always agree as to whether Henry was with her or was in Northumberland all along.  Once more Sir Ralph Gray, who seems to have changed sides more often than he changed his doublet and hose, was on hand to take Alnwick for Margaret and once more the duke of Somerset and Sir Ralph Percy who’d been pardoned by Edward IV upon receipt of sizeable amounts of dosh changed sides back to their original Lancastrian red. It didn’t look good for the Yorkists.

Sir John Neville (the earl of Warwick’s kid brother) stepped into the breach. He wasn’t terribly amused in any event.  He’d been sent north to escort James III of Scotland to York to sign a peace treaty with Edward.  En route he encountered the earl of Somerset near Alnwick at Hedgely Moor on April 21 1464.  Somerset’s forces blocked the road.  There was the usual fisticuffs. Sir Ralph Percy found himself encircled and was killed.  Three weeks later, on May 15, Sir John confronted Somerset at Hexham. Somerset ad Lord Roos were captured. Both men were taken to Newcastle where they were executed as were other Lancastrians.

Back at Bamburgh, Sir Ralph Gray perhaps realising that another change of side wasn’t really an option attempted to hold out until he realised it would avail him little and attempted to negotiate surrender.  He was executed at Doncaster.

Sir John Neville, Lord Montagu received his reward in York where the English and the Scots finally signed their peace treaty.  Montagu became the earl of Northumberland which perhaps did not take into account the loyalty of the men of the east marches to their ancestral overlord.

Meanwhile Henry VI who’d sought shelter at Bywell Castle escaped into the hills where he remained for a considerable time sheltered by loyal Lancastrians until he was captured and taken to London.

jaspertudor.jpgI must admit to being interested in Jasper Tudor’s peregrinations in the north of England. The details of his route to and from Scotland are sketchy other than for his presence in the East March. I am also intrigued by  the sides taken by the various border families, although I suspect as with the battles between England and Scotland, men such as the Grahams were Yorkist when they wished and Lancastrian at other times but on all occasions men who looked after their own cares first.

Breverton, Terry. (2014) Jasper Tudor: Dynasty Maker. Stroud: Amberley

Ridpath, George. (1970). Border History. Edinburgh: The Mercat Press

Royle, Trevor. (2009).  The Wars of the Roses. London:Abacus

Sadler, John. (2006). Border Fury. London: Pearson

3 Comments

Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Wars of the Roses

Rochester Cathedral

DSC_0466.jpgIts that time of year again when my mind turns to teaching.  This term I’m back with Henry VIII and his wives and mistresses; the Norman Conquest and the English Reformation so that should keep me out of mischief for a while, though thankfully Henry’s love life is rather closely bound to the progress of the English Reformation.  Today though I’m sticking with cathedrals: Rochester Cathedral to be specific – it has links with all the courses I have just mentioned one way or another.

In the aftermath of the conquest Rochester found itself in the hands of Bishop Odo, William the Conqueror’s half-brother. Once Lanfranc of Bec was created Archbishop of Canterbury the territory around Rochester was wrested from Odo’s control and given to the newly appointed Bishop of Rochester, who at this stage we could think of as a kind of deputy to the Archbishop of Canterbury, not that the influence or power lasted very long.

Both the cathedral with its Benedictine abbey and the early castle at Rochester, an important crossing point for the Medway,  were the work of this bishop.  Bishop Gundulf was a Norman appointment well known to Archbishop Lanfranc.  Like Lanfranc, Gundulf was a monk at Bec before being summoned across the Channel to help reform the English Church along Norman lines.  Gundulf turned out to have been a bit of a builder having a hand in the building of the Tower of London as well as the castle and cathedral at Rochester. He began work on Rochester Cathedral in 1080 using imported stone from the quarries at Caen. By 1083 his workmen had started on the nave which still stands despite a fire in 1138 which saw the monks made homeless for a time. The crypt is also a good example of the Romanesque or Norman style of architecture.

DSC_0481

The problem for later Bishops was that the cathedral’s powerful neighbour in Canterbury owned more of the land around Rochester than Rochester did.   Not only was Rochester a cathedral being the seat of the bishop it was also an abbey.  Inevitably with the passage of time there were ructions between the needs of the more worldly bishops and the more inward looking monks and their prior especially when the bishop was not selected from one of their number.

The first instance of this occurred in 1124 when the monks, fearful of their position, did a spot of creative thinking and miraculously discovered some long lost saintly relics and Bishop Gundulf who was by then a saint was remembered in a new book, the contents of which did’t bother unduly with the actual facts. Whilst they were at it, the monks set about creating a dossier of charters and rights that resulted in the monks and the bishops barely being on speaking terms. Nor did it go down well in Canterbury.  Words like forgery were bandied around.

However, the death of Thomas Becket improved the relationship between the monks and the bishops of both Rochester and Canterbury primarily because the monks now discovered that they were on a booming pilgrim route – think of Rochester Abbey as offering a medieval ‘good night guarantee’.

Just when things couldn’t have been more eye-brow raising a pilgrim who’d managed to get all the way to Jerusalem and back without mishap was murdered in Rochester.  William of Perth arrived in 1201, got himself murdered by his servant and then performed a miracle by curing a woman who touched the body.  She was mad before but apparently became completely sane afterwards. William of Perth, a baker by trade, became an overnight success and a saint. The money that accrued from pilgrims flocking to William’s shrine paid for a new gothic east end to the cathedral.

DSC_0475

We’ll move on from King John who looted the cathedral in 1215.  Things went from bad to worse. In 1264 the cathedral and abbey fell victim to England’s civil war with soldiers stabling their horses in the cathedral.

The later monks didn’t seem to have the same inventive spirit of the earlier ones and by the end beginning of the thirteenth century the abbey was very badly in debt.  Fortunately Prior Hamo came along and gave the monks and the cathedral a badly needed injection of energy.  He launched a new period of building work in 1320.

There remains one more Bishop of Rochester who is impossible to ignore.  He was executed on Tower Hill in June 1535 for failing to accept the supremacy or the fact of his monarch’s new marriage.  His name was John Fisher. The monks at Rochester had all taken the oath of supremacy in 1534.

The following year Dr Layton arrived to visit the abbey as part of Thomas Cromwell’s Visitation of the Monasteries.  In 1539 the monks of Rochester Abbey were shown the door and then allowed to return as the dean and chapter of six canons of one of Henry VIII’s new cathedrals.

 

Cannon, Jon. (2007) Cathedral: The Greatest English Cathedrals. London: Constable

‘Houses of Benedictine monks: The cathedral priory of St Andrew, Rochester’, in A History of the County of Kent: Volume 2, ed. William Page (London, 1926), pp. 121-126. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/kent/vol2/pp121-126 [accessed 17 August 2016].

Edward Hasted, ‘The city and liberty of Rochester: The priory and cathedral church’, in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 4(Canterbury, 1798), pp. 86-110. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-kent/vol4/pp86-110 [accessed 16 August 2016].

6 Comments

Filed under Cathedrals, Church Architecture