Monthly Archives: November 2016

Edward III, Danny Dyer and the Emperor Charlemagne

220px-king_edward_iii_from_npgEdward III is sometimes described as “The Father of the Nation.” According to one of my old copies of Who Do You Think You Are magazine approximately four million people along with the likes of Danny Dyer are descended from King Edward III. Ian Mortimer’s book on Edward III suggests that the actual figure is somewhere between 80 and 95% of the population of England- perhaps ‘Father of Millions’ would have been a better name.

(And wasn’t it a brilliant opening episode of Who Do You Think You Are?– I hope there’re more episodes this series that go back up a family tree as far as possible but I doubt anyone will look quite as stunned as East Enders’ actor Danny when he found himself sitting in Westminster Abbey with a pedigree as long as your arm in his hand – and then there’s the Cromwell link!)

So, where to start if you want to know more about Edward III? Edward III was rather helpfully the son of Edward II. Edward II was married to Isabella of France – the warmly named “She-Wolf” who arrived in England aged twelve to discover that her spouse had a preference for his male companions, in particular Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despencer. Chroniclers of the period are disapproving of Edward’s friendships. To cut a long and complicated story down to size Edward II was deposed by Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer when young Prince Edward was just fourteen.   Edward II disappeared from the scene via Berkeley Castle and a helping hand; though there are some interesting theories that his death was somewhat exaggerated.

 

Young Prince Edward became King Edward III though the power behind the throne was in the hands of his mother and Roger Mortimer. Edward III became increasingly concerned about his perilous position vis a vis Mortimer who behaved as though he was king. Edward, aged just seventeen in 1330 seized his opportunity in Nottingham when his men were able to sneak into the castle through a network of tunnels, surprise Mortimer and take back power. Edward III went on to reign until his death in 1377; some fifty years plus a few months.

 

Edward married Philippa of Hainault in York Minster in 1328 and proved a most uxorious monarch though that didn’t stop him having several illegitimate children with his mistress, the avaricious Alice Perrers, after Philippa’s death. The royal pair had thirteen children of whom nine survived to adulthood – I’m not sure what the maths is but to expand from nine (plus a hand full of illegitimate children) to at least four million descendents is jaw dropping. If you want to understand the maths better double click on the picture at the start of this post to open up a new page and an article in the National Geographic which also explains how come you might be related to the Emperor Charlemagne even if you don’t have the family tree and paper trail to prove it.

 

What do we know of Edward’s children? Let’s deal with the boys first. Edward of Woodstock, the so-called Black Prince and the hero of Crecy was born in 1330. He made a love match with his cousin Joan of Kent (who had a dodgy marital past of her own). They had two sons but the eldest died when he was just six. The second boy, Richard of Bordeaux, became Richard II when his grandfather died – the Black Prince having pre-deceased his father. Richard II had no children. So far so straight forward and no sign of the four million.

Lionel of Antwerp was Edward’s third son but only the second to survive to adulthood. Lionel was married twice. His second bride was Violante Visconti of Piedmont. Lionel died shortly after arriving in Italy and definitely before he had the chance to go doing any begetting. The word ‘poison’ was bandied around at the time and it should be noted that Violante’s second husband was also murdered.  Lionel did have a child from his first marriage– a girl called Philippa who found herself married into the Mortimer family in the person of Edmund Mortimer (a difficult opening conversation might have been “your grandfather was my grandma’s lover and then my dad had him dragged off and executed!”) The House of York would one day base its claim to the English throne on its descent from Philippa. That line was also descended from Lionel’s younger brother Edmund of Langley hence the York bit. There are rather a lot of girls in Lionel’s strand of descent through the family tree.  Reason enough for bloodlines getting lost over time as younger daughters of younger daughters gradually tumbled down the social ladder and that’s before warfare, treachery, bad luck as well as just being plain unimportant get involved in the equation.

 

The next son to arrive in Edward III’s and Philippa of Hainhault’s nursery was John of Gaunt. John, the duke of Lancaster, through his first marriage to his distant cousin Blanche fathered the Lancastrian line of kings – Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI. He had two daughters with his second wife Constance of Castile but they married royalty on the Iberian Peninsula. It is through one of them that Katherine of Aragon is descended from Edward III.

 

John of Gaunt also had a third family with his mistress Katherine Swynford. This family was later legitimised by the pope and by parliament. This family were called Beaufort after one of John’s castles in France. It is through the Beaufort line that Henry Tudor would one day make his claim to the throne. Students of the Wars of the Roses know that the problem for the House of Lancaster was that there was a shortage of males by 1485, hence the rather dodgy claim of Henry Tudor. However, there were plenty of girls in the distant family tree when you look at it closely – all of them, well at least the ones who didn’t die in infancy or become nuns, contributing to the projected four million descendants of Edward III.

 

The next prince was Edmund of Langley who became the duke of York. He married the younger sister of John of Gaunt’s second wife Constance of Castile and there were offspring. Edward III had three more sons after that, Thomas and William who both died in infancy and then came Thomas of Woodstock who was created duke of Gloucester. He’s the one who ended up murdered in Calais on the orders of his nephew Richard II – a mattress was involved – but not before he’d fathered a number of children.

 

Now – for the girls who, it would have to be said, are much more straightforward. Edward III’s eldest daughter was called Isabella. She had two daughters, one of whom married in to the de Vere family – meaning that the earls of Oxford can trace their ancestry back to Edward III as well as to other Plantagenets. The next girl was called Joan and she was one of the first victims of the Black Death that struck in 1349. Her sister Blanche died in infancy in 1342. The next two sisters weren’t particularly long lived either. Their names were Mary and Margaret. So far as history is currently aware none of the last four had offspring.

 

Edward III also had a number of known illegitimate children. Alison Weir lists them as John Surrey, Joan, Jane and possibly Nicholas Lytlington who became the Abbot of Westminster but there is uncertainty as to his paternity. He could also have been a Dispenser. I should like to say that as an abbot it isn’t really an issue, except of course being in clerical orders doesn’t seemed to have prevented rather a lot of the clergy from fathering children.

 

And those are the key names if you’re one of the four million. Of course, it turns out that if you’re from Western Europe and understand mathematics (its true apparently even if you don’t understand the maths) you’re also related to the Emperor Charlemagne – which is mildly disconcerting. If you just want to find out more about Britain’s royal genealogy then the most comprehensive place to look is at Alison Weir’s  Britain’s Royal Families published by Vintage Books.

I’m off to find my gateway ancestor… though I must admit to never having seen a genealogical expert just sitting around, waiting for me to turn up in order to point me in the right direction. Ho hum!

 

 

 

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Henry VIII’s middle way for the Church of England

henryharpHenry VIII was nothing if not even minded.  He executed fifty people for not renouncing the pope – thereby becoming traitors to the king and he executed another forty for their heretical leanings between 1533 when he assumed control of the Church in England and his death in 1547.

On the 30 July 1540, just two days after Thomas Cromwell was executed, Smithfield witnessed Henry’s bizarre not to mention gruesome relies tightrope act.  Six people were executed.  Three of them, Richard Fetherstone, Thomas Abel and Edward Powell, were condemned as papists. Their crime was their failure to deny the pope. They were hanged drawn and quartered as traitors whilst the other three to die that day were burned as heretics.

Robert Barnes, a Norfolk man, was educated at Cambridge and like Lambert began life as a Catholic.  But like Lambert he was drawn to protestantism very early in his career. He was imprisoned by Wolsey but undeterred he used his incarceration as an opportunity to give out Bibles written in English.  Very sensibly he decamped to Antwerp as soon as possible where he made the acquaintance of one of Cromwell’s agents.  Interestingly he returned to England in 1531 where he became an agent employed by the Crown liaising with Lutheran Germany.  He had, after all, met Luther during his travels.  He was part of the delegation which went to Germany in 1535 to find out how the Lutherans viewed Henry VIII’s intended divorce from Katherine of Aragon.  He returned as part of Cromwell’s team negotiating for the match between Henry and Anne of Cleves.

This disastrous union would hasten Thomas Cromwell’s demise but the lines were already drawn up for a contest between Cromwell who was seen as leaning towards reform and the old guard of catholicism in the persons of the duke of Norfolk and Bishop Gardiner. One of the early signs of this conflict was when Barnes preached against Gardiner from the cross at St Paul’s. He was made to apologise and briefly stopped being Lutheran but then Cromwell was made earl of Essex and it looked to Barnes to be service as usual so he reverted to beliefs that exceeded the dictates of the Ten Articles.

Except of course Cromwell was on his way out and without the Vicar General’s protection it wasn’t long before Barnes was turned into a rather dreadful example.

William Jerome and Thomas Gerrard were executed on the same heresy charges. Jerome, another one of Cromwell’s proteges, had also preached at St Paul’s but the subject of his sermon had been that magistrates had the power to make make what was indifferent not indifferent – make of that what you will!  Gardiner added it up to identify the fact that Jerome was advising people to adhere to the king through their outward behaviour only and think what they want in private – which probably didn’t go down terribly well with Henry.  Even worse Jerome preached justification through faith alone which essentially chopped out the need for the priesthood and the Church.  Bernard considers whether this was the sort of behaviour that hastened Cromwell’s end due to his men spouting heresy pointing towards dodgy radical leanings of the master who protected them.  Certainly it may have been one of the  threads which broke Cromwell’s increasingly tenuous hold on power.

Equally it should be pointed out that whilst this interpretation is fine if you subscribe to the theory that catholicism was on the rise thanks to the duke of Norfolk dangling his pretty little niece Katherine Howard under Henry’s nose. It fails to take account of the fact that while the protestants burned, three catholics were hanged.

 

Foxe noted that confused and ignorant people wouldn’t know what to make of the opposing sides suffering equally on the same day.  The french ambassador expressed similar bewilderment.  They have a point but Bernard states that academics have missed the key issue ever since – that Henry was doing what Henry wanted. After all, Henry saw himself as an Old Testament kind of king with a hotline to The Almighty. It was Henry’s Church and his was the only way…if you didn’t want to end up in Smithfield.

 

Bernard, G.W. (2007) The King’s Reformation. London and Harvard: Yale University Press

Wilson, Derek. (2012) The English Reformation. London: Running Press

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John Lambert – another of Henry VIII’s victims.

henryholbeinJohn Nicholson, or Lambert, was a Norfolk man who studied at Cambridge. He’d come to the attention of Katherine of Aragon and it was due to her nomination that he was elected fellow. However, he shifted away from the Catholicism of his birth and moved to Antwerp where he became acquainted with Tyndale.

 

He returned to London when it seemed that England was to have its own reformation when Anne Boleyn was in the ascendent. He taught Latin and Greek but unfortunately for him he got into a dispute  about a year after Anne’s execution when the official religious hue of the country was shifting back to its starting point. This argument was reported to the Duke of Norfolk. Norfolk accused Lambert of heresy and had him imprisoned.

During his imprisonment Lambert wrote a paper justifying his belief that Christ was not present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist which he presented to his accusers who promptly handed it over to Thomas Cranmer.

Lambert’s crime was to deny transubstantiation which at this point in the Church of England’s history made him a heretic. The Ten Articles left no room for manoeuvre in this matter. Cranmer tried him and found him guilty of heresy, which is ironic because Cranmer would himself deny transubstantiation as soon as he felt it safe to do so.

Lambert appealed his case directly to Henry VIII – perhaps he thought the monarch was a rational man with Protestant tendencies – after all he’d broken with Rome. Little did he realise that he was going to be at the heart of a show trial to demonstrate that having broken with Rome Henry intended to go no further down the road towards Protestantism. In fact even when the monasteries were being suppressed there were heresy trials and executions.  Henry didn’t have any truck with Lutherans or Zwinglians or any of the other protestant sects that were springing up across Europe. It wouldn’t be long in England and Wales before the Ten Articles shrunk into the Six Articles which were essentially catholic in view but with Henry in charge.

 

Henry summoned assorted bishops and theologians to Westminster rather fancying himself as a learned theologian himself – afterall he was the Defender of the Faith having launched his repost to Luther in 1521. He also arranged for an audience to gather on specially erected tiered seating.

 

Richard Sampson, Bishop of Chichester was the ringmaster for the day. He explained to the gathered courtiers and bishops that Lambert had appealed his case to Henry and that Henry was going to demonstrate that it was far from the case that he’d turned German in his religious sympathies. Sampson went on to say that whilst Henry had given the monks the big heave ho it was because they were an idle bunch who encouraged superstition. He also explained that in giving the Bible to the people in English it was to encourage them in their true understanding and away from the superstitious nonsense of the past – a humanist approach if you will.

 

Henry then exchanged words with the accused who had to explain about having two surnames which didn’t go down well with Hal but the king very graciously said that as Lambert was his subject he wanted him to have the opportunity of understanding the error of his ways and come back into the fold of the true faith even if he was an untrustworthy sort of bloke with two different names which was in Hal’s opinion just plain shifty.

 

Five hours later six  or so bishops including Cranmer and Gardiner  had disputed with Lambert who hadn’t budged an inch in his views during the entire time. Henry announced Lambert must die on account of the fact he didn’t patronise heretics. Cromwell recorded it as an occasion of Henry’s “inestimable majesty” when he wrote about the event  which suggests that the Vicar General might have thought that someone was reading his letters before they were delivered to their intended recipients.

 

As he burned on November 22 1538 at Smithfield, Lambert called out, “None but Christ.”

Those of you of a gentle disposition may wish to stop reading at this point.

 

Henry, allegedly, decreed that Lambert’s suffering should be extended as a warning to all other heretics so the poor man was lifted on pikestaffs from the flames as his legs burned.

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Christchurch Priory, Canterbury

640px-Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01The monks of the Cathedral Priory, Christchurch, Canterbury were uppermost in Cromwell’s thoughts this week in 1535. The monks wrote to Cromwell on the 25 November complaining about their prior, Thomas Goldwell, who had accused them of not living according to the rule of St Benedict. In addition “He retains six persons under 24 years of age in the monastery against their will, &c. He is avaricious, and pretends to be poor; but of late, as God would, his treasure was disclosed.” If that wasn’t bad enough the next letter contains accusations and counter accusations of murder and poisonings. This was swiftly followed up with accusations that prayers had been made on behalf of the pope rather than the Bishop of Rome – something contrary to the Act of Supremacy. Interestingly no further action seems to have been taken.

 

In all honesty Cromwell’s dealings with the priory weren’t without drama. Layton visited the priory in October 1535 and was nearly burned whilst he slept. The fire damaged the priory but the monks may well have wished that Layton had been a bit more singed on account of the injunctions which he issued in regard to food, prayer and wandering around outside the priory walls. He also banned the abbey fairs and keeping shops inside the monastery – which does seem a reasonable request.

 

Ultimately the priory would be suppressed in 1538 with the prior, still alive despite his concern, being awarded a pension of £80.00 p.a.  The number of monks had gradually dwindled but there were jobs for a dean and twelve canons in the newly constituted cathedral church. The newly organised cathedral wasn’t without its detractors.  There’s a letter from Cranmer to Cromwell expressing the view that things could have been done differently. Cromwell transferred much of the property from the priory into the hands of the new cathedral along with other monastic properties.

 

The correspondence between Cranmer and Cromwell is an interesting aside. The former, Henry VIII’s married Archbishop of Canterbury, had links with Lutherans and reformers across Europe.  It is his wording that sees the Church of England developing with the foundation of the Ten Articles in 1536 and then the so-called Bishop’s Book which expands   on the theology contained in the articles.  Evangelical or not, the archbishop was doing the King’s bidding and the articles of 1539 written by three English reformers and three Lutherans didn’t meet with Henry’s approval so never saw the light of day. Post 1540 the religious climate would change once more so that by the time Henry died England’s beliefs were officially almost as catholic as they had been before the break with Rome – except of course Henry was still in charge and there were no monasteries.

 

‘Henry VIII: November 1535, 21-30’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 9, August-December 1535, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1886), pp. 288-310. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol9/pp288-310 [accessed 2 November 2016].

‘Houses of Benedictine monks: The cathedral priory of the Holy Trinity or Christ Church, Canterbury’, in A History of the County of Kent: Volume 2, ed. William Page (London, 1926), pp. 113-121. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/kent/vol2/pp113-121 [accessed 7 November 2016].

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Garendon Abbey, granges and a spot of drunkenness

lh_leicestershire_garendonhall_fs.jpgGarendon Abbey in Leicestershire near Loughborough was a Cistercian abbey founded in 1133 by Robert, Earl of Leicester. The first monks at Garendon probably came from Waverley Abbey which was the first Cistercian monastery in England. As it happens Garendon is the only Cistercian abbey in Leicestershire.

 

Don’t get carried away with the notion that the earl of Leicester was a particularly spiritual or generous man. Survey of his endowments and bequests to the Church by Postles reveals that he gave land which he regarded as of little value to him to a range of monastic orders. Postles describes his actions as “spiritual insurance.” Given he was also alive and kicking during the reign of King Stephen his actions undoubtedly held a political dimension.

 

images-101Over time the monastery at Garendon acquired more generous land bequests in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire making them agriculturally viable. The monks could do what the Cistercians were very good at, sheep farming, through the grange system. We know exactly what the monks of Garendon owned because of the existence of a cartulary in the British Library. A cartulary is a list, or file, of charters, privileges and legal rights which is how we know that the monks  at Garendon owned granges at Roystone near Ashbourne, Biggin and Heathcote – all in Derbyshire and described by Mick Aston in Monasteries in the Landscape.

 

Essentially a grange was a monastic farm, stud or industrial unit. It was a way of managing monastic landholdings effectively. The system was developed in the twelfth century by the Cistercians or white monks as they were known on account of their undyed woollen tunics. The system was then utilized by the other monastic orders. Each unit could be managed by a few lay brothers who reported directly to the cellerar of the abbey.   It all went swimmingly well until the Black Death of 1349 and then labour became something of an issue. Some granges effectively became monastic holiday homes or were required to take on labourers according to the seasons. Those granges that farmed sheep remained the most efficient ones because very few people were required to tend the flocks. At Roystone Grange the monks stopped farming and leased the grange to tenants reflecting the changing economy of the period.

 

In 1225, however, according to the Cistercian  History the abbey was exporting wool to Flanders and they had a chapel in Cripplegate, London. The problem for the Cistercians who were initially an austere order and who sought to live in isolation away from the temptations that had beset the Benedictines was that sheep farming made them wealthy which led to backsliding. In addition, it appears that the monks at Garendon weren’t without their personal foibles. One of their abbots is recorded as having been married, which rather goes against the vows of chastity whilst another of the brethren was purported to have converted to Judaism. There was also a small problem at the end of the twelfth century with drunkenness and brawling amongst the abbey’s inhabitants. They got themselves into debt and hid robbers. In short Garendon, if accounts are to be believed, was the kind of abbey that encouraged anti-clericalism and drove the demand for reform.

 

The Valor Ecclesiasticus reveals that in 1535 the abbey was worth £160 per annum so was defined as one of the lesser monasteries. Over the centuries, if Cromwell’s visitors are to be believed, the monks hadn’t really changed their unfortunate habits either. Five of them were guilty of “unnatural vices” whilst a further three were fed up with being monks. It was however found that five children were maintained by the monks’ charity along with five “impotent persons.” Twelve of the monks were described as being of good character.

 

Unsurprisingly the abbey was suppressed in 1536 with the abbot receiving £30 pension. The abbey and the land upon which it stood ended up in the paws of Thomas Manners, earl of Rutland.  He paid just over two thousand pounds for it. The abbey was partially demolished whilst the cellars and drains were incorporated into a manor house which remained in the Manners family until it passed into the ownership of the dukes of Buckingham when it formed part of a dowry.

Garendon House, as it was known, was in its own turn demolished in the middle of the twentieth century. The lost country houses website puts its disappearance down to general neglect and death duties in 1964.  According to Wikipeadia the rubble from the house is somewhere under the M1.

 

 

‘House of Cistercian monks: The abbey of Garendon’, in A History of the County of Leicestershire: Volume 2, ed. W G Hoskins and R A McKinley (London, 1954), pp. 5-7. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/leics/vol2/pp5-7 [accessed 8 November 2016].

Aston, Mick.(2012) Monasteries in the Landscape. Stroud: Amberley Publishing

Postles, David. The Garendon Cartularies in BL Lansdowne 415 (http://www.bl.uk/eblj/1996articles/pdf/article7.pdf) accessed 14 November 2016

http://www.lostheritage.org.uk/houses/lh_leicestershire_garendonhall_info_gallery.html (accessed 14 November 2016)

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Letters from Tudor England November 1535 – monasteries, marauding and a touch of treason

640px-Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01Its that time of week again when I delve through Henry VIII’s letter and papers looking for the thoughts of Thomas Cromwell.

Dr Legh continued his periguination of Norfolk writing to Cromwell on November 19 1535, “there are many pretty houses here in Norfolk, both of monks and canons, which have only a prior and one with him.” He goes on to ask Cromwell what he should do about them.

Elsewhere in the southeast the next stage of the suppression was well under way. The Close Roll of that time reveals the “Surrender to the King of the Premonstratensian Abbey of St. Mary and St. Thomas the Martyr, Langdon, Kent, by Will. Dayer, abbot and the convent” on the 13th November. It notes that the surrender took place in the abbey’s chapter house. That same week the priory of St Mary and St Eanswith in Folkestone closed its doors. The following day the prior of St Mary’s in Dover surrendered along with eight other of his brethren. By the 16th of November Cromwell’s men were in Canterbury writing up their accounts. They informed Cromwell that the majority of the brothers of the suppressed houses were still in situ whilst they awaited new situations, that they’d confiscated the abbey seals so that no further business could be done and that they had checked the inventories of the suppressed houses. They commented rather touchingly of Folkestone. “It is a little house, well repaired, and the prior a good husband and beloved by his neighbours.”

 

It is easy to imagine that Cromwell was completely consumed by his job as Vicar General but a letter on the 15th of November from Sir William Parr reminds readers of Henry VIII’s letters and papers that Cromwell had oversight of everything. From Sir William we discover that Sir Thomas Clifford the captain of Berwick was “sore sick.” We also discover that Sir William had his eye on Clifford’s job because he asks Cromwell that if Clifford dies could he have the post because his “whole comfort rests upon it.” I can only hope that Sir William enclosed a large gratuity to help Cromwell remember Parr’s name. He might have done well to take note of another correspondent who sent a letter to Cromwell accompanied by a brace of fowl to ensure that Cromwell gave his attention to the annuity which his wife hadn’t received.

 

Sir William Parr’s letter does demonstrate that it was quite hard for Cromwell to escape the topic of monasteries because he continues his letter with a plea for  Pipwell Abbey in Northamptonshire. Parr offers a heartfelt testimonial to the godliness and hospitality of its inhabitants and asks that Cromwell should show them understanding.  Pipwell was near to Kettering and it had an income of less than £200 a year. The abbey was earmarked for suppression. Interestingly Sir William Parr, who would end up as the King’s brother-in-law, wrote once more to Cromwell offering to give the Vicar General £200 when it became clear that the lesser monasteries, Pipwell included, were to be suppressed. Ultimately, of course, it made no difference and Parr wrote a third time in 1538 asking about pensions for the abbot and the brothers and also that he should have the building and estate – this was duly granted. There are more letters in the archives from Parr because it rather looks as though folk helped themselves to fixtures and fittings that they shouldn’t have touched.

 

In addition to a spot of bother with Scottish reivers raiding the west march of England there were business matters in Calais to deal with, the ramblings of Lord Lisle and just to finish the week off Cromwell was also required to deal with an outbreak of treason. The vicar of Rye apparently didn’t take well to all those changes that were afoot in the 1530s, in particular the king becoming the Head of the Church of England. He had in his possession a booked called “Eckyus Enchiridyon…against the King’s being head of the Church.” If that wasn’t enough “when he stopped at the Black Friars here of London, friar Dr. Maydland said he would like to see the head of every maintainer of the New Learning upon a stake,—that of his principal among them,—and to see the King die a “vyolent and a shamefull” death; also “to see that myschevous hore the quene to be brent.” He knew by his science of necromancy that the New Learning should be suppressed, and the Old restored by the King’s enemies from beyond sea…” It’s always good to get a charge of witchcraft in with the treason – it makes for a nicely rounded case!

 

William Inold, the vicar of Rye, had already got away with offending the king once. In 1533 he had likened Henry VIII’s actions to those of King John when the medieval monarch had managed to incur papal wrath and get himself and the whole country excommunicated. Cromwell had Inold arrested on account of his seditious sermonizing but he was eventually released. The new treason laws of 1534 ensured the vicar didn’t escape a second time and the letter in the archives suggests that the evidence collected by Cromwell for the vicar’s second trial was guaranteed to ensure an unhappy end for Inold.

 

Henry VIII: November 1535, 11-20′, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 9, August-December 1535, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1886), pp. 271-288. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol9/pp271-288 [accessed 5 November 2016].

House of Cistercian monks: The abbey of Pipewell’, in A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 2, ed. R M Serjeantson and W R D Adkins (London, 1906), pp. 116-121. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/northants/vol2/pp116-121 [accessed 11 November 2016].

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King’s Mead Priory, Derby

 

DSC_0491The Benedictine nunnery of King’s Mead in Derby dedicated to the Virgin Mary was the only Benedictine foundation in Derbyshire and its inhabitants were initially under the spiritual and temporal guidance of the abbot of Darley Abbey – an Augustinian foundation.  History reveals that in the twelfth century there was a warden who acted as chaplain to the nuns as well as looking after the nuns’ business affairs. The nunnery grew its land holdings over the next hundred or so years so that it included three mills at Oddebrook. One of the reasons that this may have occurs was because Henry III gave the nuns twelve acres of land. Because the king had shown an interest it is possible that more donors followed suit in an effort to win favour. Equally donors such as Lancelin Fitzlancelin and his wife Avice who gave land and animals to the nunnery in 1230 or Henry de Doniston and his wife Eleanor could expect a shorter term in Pergatory after their deaths because the nuns would be expected to hold them in their prayers as a result of the land transaction.

 

By 1250 the nuns of King’s Mead and the abbot of Darley Dale were out of sorts with one another. It was decided that the nuns should go their own way and that the abbot of Darley Dale would cease interfering with their business. The land holdings of both organisations were perused and a division occurred.  The nuns were required to give some land to Darley Abbey but it was at this time that the church and living of St Werburgh in Derby along with other agricultural land was signed over to the nuns.

The pattern is similar to countless other monastic foundations across the country, so too are the difficulties that befell the nuns. Sadly they ended up so deeply in debt due to cattle morrain that by 1327 that they had to ask the king for protection as they were not able to offer hospitality to visitors to Derby. This raises an interesting question. Who exactly were the nuns petitioning? Edward II reigned from 1284 until 1327 but he was forced by his wife Isabella of France and her lover Roger Mortimer to hand over his crown to his son, Edward, in January 1327 before being whisked off to Berkeley Castle where he died on the 21st September 1327 (if history is to be believed) due to an unfortunate accident with a hot poker. The petition must therefore have been addressed to King Edward III but realistically it was Mortimer who was in charge at this point in proceedings.

 

Things looked as though they were improving with the appointment of a new prioress, Joan Touchet, and custodians who could make the books balance. However the priory was still struggling seven years later. Joan was still in charge in 1349 but she died that year. It was the year of the Black Death.

 

After this time the nunnery seems to have ticked along without cause for concern. A possible reason for this could well have been the charter from Henry IV granting the nuns payment of one hundred shillings every year from the town of Nottingham. Another reason could well have been the fact that it was Derbyshire’s only nunnery so it had the monopoly on educating the daughters of Derbyshire’s leading lights.

 

Things start to look uncertain for King’s Mead with the reign of Henry VI. The County History reveals the tale of the abbot of Burton demanding the back payment of twenty-one years rent. The prioress, a lady called Isabel de Stanley wasn’t having any of it:

 

Wenes these churles to overlede me or sue the law agayne me ? They shall not be so hardy but they shall avye upon their bodies and be nailed with arrowes; for I am a gentlewoman comen of the greatest of Lancashire and Cheshire; and that they shall know right well.

 

With hind sight, it may have been a bit of a foolish thing for the abbot of Burton to do though he can’t have known that Henry VI would end up murdered in the Tower or that the only Lancastrian claimant left standing would be the  step son of one Thomas Stanley. The name Stanley should be ringing bells by now! The prioress was related to Thomas Stanley who just so happened to be Margaret Beaufort’s husband and she of course just so happened to be Henry Tudor’s mother…

 

Not that being cosy with the Tudors was something that would serve future prioresses of King’s Mead very well. The Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535, identifies Joan Curzon as prioress and gives the annual value of King’s Mead as £18 6s. 2d. and that the priory was in debt. The nuns of King’s Mead had already had a bit of a shock before the arrival of the visitors. The year before a fake visitor called James Billingford, who claimed to be the queen’s cousin arrived to inspect the barns. He was shown to be a fraud but it wasn’t long before Layton and Legh, Cromwell’s unfunny double act, arrived to poke into King’s Mead’s shady corners. They found nothing apart from a fragment of Thomas of Canterbury’s shirt which was venerated by the pregnant ladies of Derby. Interestingly, despite being the only nunnery in Derbyshire King’s Mead was not given a stay of execution. Perhaps the Prioress didn’t know that Cromwell was open to financial gifts or perhaps the sisters couldn’t afford to pay. In any event the nunnery was suppressed in 1536.

 

In 1541 the site fell into the ownership of the Fifth Earl of Shrewsbury and by the nineteenth century nothing remained apart from the name Nun Street.

 

 

 

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Delving into Cromwell’s correspondence …again

640px-Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01It’s that time of the week when I take the opportunity to ferret through Henry VIII’s 1535 papers in order to find out what Cromwell and his friends were up to during the coming week.  There’s no prizes for guessing that many of the notes were about monasteries and money.

It was becoming clear, thanks to the kinds of questions that Cromwell’s visitors had been asking across the south of England, that the king and Cromwell had plans for the Church’s belongings. As a consequence abbots and priors were beginning to dispose of their assets in an attempt to squirrel away a nest egg before the writing on the wall turned in to disconcerting fact.

Unfortunately for the brethren, and indeed sisters, they weren’t very good at fencing their goods or effecting swift or secret sales as is recorded on November 11 1535 by Thomas Legh and John Ap Rice in a letter to Cromwell. “At many places where we go they have sold lands and goods before we came, and prepared to go away and utterly relinquish their houses; as at a lewd nunnery hereby, called Crabhouse, where they sold lands to Mr. Conysbie, which we have sequestered and stayed the prioress from further alienation.”

 

Elsewhere there were all sorts of dodgy goings on in Llandaff which Adam Becansaw hints at but rather coyly doesn’t detail – perhaps Cromwell was of a gentle disposition after all and easily shocked. “We found the bishop and his archdeacon named Quarre guilty, not only of great ruin and decay in their mansions, but of other great faults.”

 

Meanwhile the Prior of Bokenham, who may or may not have been selling off the family silver, was attempting to bribe Cromwell to the tune of 26 shillings whilst trying to cosy up to the Vice Gerant with the news that some of the younger members of his priory were not ‘godly disposed,’ which, presumably, was music to Cromwell’s ears but not necessarily something which reflected terribly well upon the prior.

 

A rather predictable pattern is beginning to emerge – no doubt it will be continued over the next few weeks until the Pilgrimage of Grace flares up as the local populace of Lincolnshire fear that not only will their monastic houses be suppressed but that their local churches will be closed down. It will add a bit of variety into the equation when the Duke of Norfolk reaches for his quill and paper.

 
‘Henry VIII: November 1535, 6-10’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 9, August-December 1535, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1886), pp. 262-271. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol9/pp262-271 [accessed 17 October 2016].
‘Henry VIII: November 1535, 11-20’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 9, August-December 1535, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1886), pp. 271-288. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol9/pp271-288 [accessed 5 November 2016].

 

 

 

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Croxden Abbey- Dissolution, William Cavendish and King John…

croxden-abbey-hero.jpgThe Cistercian abbey of Croxden, in the care of English Heritage, is in Staffordshire, one of approximately thirty religious houses across the county. Its story is similar to many other monasteries. It built its wealth on sheep in the twelfth century and then ran into debt as the political landscape of the countryside changed. By the late thirteenth century it was considerably poorer as a consequence of Edward I’s wars with Scotland and the loans it was forced to make to the warrior monarch. Murrain, plague and poor harvests didn’t help. It never recovered. It’s income in 1535 was given as £103 6s. 7d. which was substantially less than its early income and provided Cromwell with evidence, if he needed it, of the decline of the monasteries.

The Valor Ecclesiasticus reveals that money was paid out to seven laymen who fulfilled essential roles including stewards and bailiffs including the steward of Croxden, Ashbourne, and Caldon, the bailiff of Ashbourne and Caldon. The document for its suppression identifies its full estates of which several were in Derbyshire. Not that the division of land was always simple. Take Trusley, near Derby, for instance. Some of the land around the village belonged to the monks of Croxden whilst other parts belonged to some of Derby’s community of nuns.

By rights Croxden should have been suppressed in 1536 along with the rest of the smaller monasteries but the abbot paid a £100 and received a licence to continue. Two years later on the 17 September 1538 Dr Legh – an infamous abbey visitor and William Cavendish, equally well known at the time but less mentioned in this blog until now, received the surrender of the abbey. Along with the abbot, Thomas Chawner, who received a pension of £26 per annum there were twelve other monks. As with the other abbeys the building was stripped of everything valuable whilst the abbey’s water-mill, its lands and the rectory at Croxden were rented to Francis Bassett who just happened to work for the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer. The archbishop wrote to Cromwell on December 14 1538 asking him to “accomplish his suit.”

250px-William_Cavendish_c1547.jpgWilliam Cavendish had been a servant of Cardinal Wolsey.  He also seems to have been very efficient at taking the surrenders of abbeys.  According to Bess of Hardwick’s biographer, Mary Lovell, there was a point in 1538 where he was overseeing ten surrenders a week. He’d begun by auditing the abbey at St Albans and gone on to gain a job with the Court of Augmentations when it was set up in 1536 by Cromwell specifically to oversee the transfer of Church land to the Crown. He earned twenty pounds a year in addition to the ‘profits of office.’ As Lovell observes, the Cavendishs were not alone in making their fortunes from the reformation but Cavendish seems to have been rather good at it. As for William, these days he is more famous for his third wife – Bess of Hardwick, the foundation of Chatsworth House and his role as Mary Queen of Scot’s jailer.

 

The monks received their pensions and were required to sign for them. There is a receipt dated May 28 1541 for one Robert Clarke. Another of the monks, a man called John Stanley, became Vicar of Alton in 1546 until his death in 1569. We know this because along with three other men we have the records of his pensions in 1557-58.

A swift search on the Internet revealed the interesting fact that King John’s heart is rumoured to be buried in the grounds of Croxden Abbey whilst the rest of him was buried in Worcester (http://www.farmonthehill.co.uk/local-history.html accessed 4 November 2016 19:45). This information completely sidetracked me from monks being kicked out of their home by Henry VIII, Cromwell and Cavendish.  It sent me off down the side alley of Croxden’s relationship with King John.

Apparently John awarded the monks of Croxden an annuity of £5.00 each year from the Irish Exchequer in 1200. An English Heritage research report shed that much light on the assertion of John’s heart but what about something more academic than a legend? The Gentleman’s Magazine (volume 38) asserts that the descendants of Bertram de Verdun were buried there – so far so good, he was the founder after all and the same sentence references King John’s ticker. In fact Victorian tomes trip over themselves in their desire to identify Croxden as the last resting place of at least one bit of King John. The Antiquarian and Architectural Year Book for Staffordshire explains that John’s physician was also the abbot of Croxden – which would account for the grisly souvenir.  Another text dating from 1829 identifies the abbot as Ralph de Lincoln but misidentifies Croxden as being in Leicestershire. A book dating from 1844 references a British Museum text from the Cotton collection which looks at the Chronicle of William de Shepesheved who details the fact that John’s bowels were buried at Croxden. The whole thing is starting to sound decidedly offal.

 

Have I been there? No, not yet – but trust me when I say that I shall shortly be finding a reason for being in the vicinity and I shall be studying English Heritage’s interpretation boards with great interest.

 

Graham Brown, Barry Jones Croxden Abbey and Its Environs London: English Heritage

Lovell, Mary S. (2006) Bess of Hardwick:First Lady of Chatsw0rth. 

G C Baugh, W L Cowie, J C Dickinson, Duggan A P, A K B Evans, R H Evans, Una C Hannam, P Heath, D A Johnston, Hilda Johnstone, Ann J Kettle, J L Kirby, R Mansfield and A Saltman, ‘Houses of Cistercian monks: The abbey of Croxden’, in A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 3, ed. M W Greenslade and R B Pugh (London, 1970), pp. 226-230. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/staffs/vol3/pp226-230 [accessed 13 October 2016].

 

‘Henry VIII: December 1538 11-15’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 13 Part 2, August-December 1538, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1893), pp. 438-455. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol13/no2/pp438-455 [accessed 23 October 2016].

 

‘Henry VIII: May 1541, 26-31’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 16, 1540-1541, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1898), pp. 409-429. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol16/pp409-429 [accessed 18 October 2016].

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Monastic fragments- the Jervaulx Screen

IMG_8232.jpgThe Cistercian monks at Jervaulx Abbey in Wensley Dale were renowned for their horse breeding. Their skill brought great wealth which was a tad tricky for a group of people who’d taken vows of poverty.

Jervaulx’s last abbot, Adam Sedbar, was a sensible man.  He did not wish to rebel against Henry VIII.  When news reached him that the so-called pilgrims of the Pilgrimage of Grace were heading in his direction in 1536 he fled the abbey and went into hiding on Witton Fell. He only came out of hiding when the pilgrims threatened to destroy the abbey – somewhat contrary to their avowed intention of restoring them. Sedbar eventually made his way to Castle Bolton and Lord Scrope where he took no further part in events.

Despite his best attempts to remain uninvolved it was too good an opportunity for Cromwell to miss. Sedbar was implicated in the Pilgrimage and found himself in the Tower of London on treason charges. His name can still be found carved into the masonry of his prison.  The main witness against him was Ninian Staveley, one of his own monks, who was up to his neck in rebellion.  He informed on his abbot in an attempt to save his own life. The abbey and the abbot were both erased in 1537; the abbey and its estates being passed to the crown through the attainder passed against Sedbar.

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img_8224These days Jervaulx is a picturesque ruin but there is one other remarkable survival to see in St Andrew’s Church, Aysgarth.  The rood screen, so the handy guide in the church tells me, is from the Ripon School of Carving.  In fact when I looked closer I recognised the elephant on the Jervaulx screen as an old friend from Ripon Cathedral. The screen, renovated by those pesky Victorians, is beautiful but it does rather question the Cistercian rule of austerity.  The screen must have been even more spectacular when it was first installed. There’s a frieze of foliage and animals running the length of the screen – that’s where the elephant can be found- as well as a dragon, a fox, a boar, an antelope, an eagle and a lion.  The message is clear if you’re a medieval church goer.  You’re being reminded of all those sins out there waiting to trip you up.  Apparently the antelope is a warning against drink and lustfulness on account of the fact that his horns are entangled in the foliage around him. Oddly enough I wouldn’t have known that unless I’d read it in the handy guide – clearly the medieval mind was much more switched on to visual symbolism.

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IMG_8237.JPGSymbolism was the least of Aysgarth’s worries. As Tudor England became more Protestant it became more dangerous for the parishioners to keep the Jervaulx screen and the original loft and statues which accompanied it.  In 1567 several churchwardens were required to do penance  for having hidden old papist relics.  The screen inevitably was badly damaged in the ensuing centuries.  It was once part of a much larger edifice.  The statues that belonged with it were burned.

 

But how did the screen get to Aysgarth?  The right to present the living of the church and take an income or advowson to give it it’s correct name belonged to Jervaulx up until the suppression of the monasteries.  One theory is that the monks seeing which way the wind was blowing transported the choir screen to the church in an attempt to save something of their abbey.  Perhaps the screen was the most beautiful thing they had in their monastery and they wished to preserve it – but that is speculation.  In the second version of the story the parishioners of Aysgarth purchased the screen upon Jervaulx’s suppression.  Either way a thing of great beauty from the days of  England’s monasteries survives tucked away in the Yorkshire dales.

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As for the rest of the monks, well their reputations as breeders of horses saw them provided with employment in Middleham Castle as well as in receipt of their monastic pensions.

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