It’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].
I find myself wondering just how many landowners benefited from Cromwell. Knowing that windows from Abbeys sold off appear in many older farmhouses in South England and Wales. The best is seen in a house near Tintern Abbey in the foot hills of the Forest of Dean. Cromwell made a fortune by this and other methods of robbery. His own house too did well. Henry thought himself clever but Cromwell was more on the ball than ever his master was in this swindle and sins against God. Funny how Oliver Cromwell was so much God loving but just as clever not as sinful and a far better man than his ancestor. He was however just as powerful in desire as he in the end as corrupt.
Enjoyable reading…more please