A letter from Cranmer

Thomas_Cranmer_by_Gerlach_Flicke.jpgFirst of all, for those of you who follow The History Jar by email, yesterday’s post requires an update.  Rosie Bevan contacted me with the following information – “The relationship between Richard and Reginald de Lucy was uncovered in 2016. They were actually father and son. See Reginald de Lucy, Son of Richard de Lucy, King’s Justiciar: New Perspectives
Foundations (2016) 8:53-72 By Rosie Bevan and Peter G M Dale.” It’s true, history is always changing because new information keeps surfacing facts to careful research.

Today’s main even is that on the 20th December 1192 Richard I (a.k.a. The Lionheart) was on his way back home from the Crusades when Leopold V of Austria imprisoned him resulting in some hefty taxation in England to raise the ransom, brotherly misdemeanour from Prince John and an outbreak of ballads resulting in the legends of Robin Hood (cue stirring music and sounds of twanging arrows) and also of Blondel the Minstrel wandering around Europe trying to track down his royal boss (cue sounds of stirring music and sounds of twanging lute strings).

Inevitably I have gone for something more prosaic. On the 20th December 1535 Thomas Cranmer wrote to Lord Lisle better known as Arthur Plantagenet, illegitimate son of Edward IV.

Cranmer to Lord Lisle.
I understand that one Thos. King, now abiding in Calais, has left his wife Eleanor Saygrave, and lives with another woman, denying his former marriage. I have therefore sent my commissary to see them both punished, in which I desire your assistance. I hear there is good provision of wines with you. If so, I beg you will help me therein when I send to you. I am much bound to my Lady for her goodness to my chaplains. Ford, 20 Dec. Signed.

‘Henry VIII: December 1535, 11-20’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 9, August-December 1535, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1886), pp. 318-340. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol9/pp318-340 [accessed 17 December 2016].

Given that the Pope was threatening to excommunicate Henry VIII at this time for leaving Katherine of Aragon it seems a bit rich that Cranmer was writing about Thomas King running off with another woman and deserting his wife.

At this stage in proceedings I couldn’t tell you the circumstances of the marriage between Eleanor and Thomas but in Tudor households marriages were not a matter of love but of parental negotiation. Young people were not left to their own devices.  It was their parents and guardians who played a leading part in arranging marriages to strengthen alliances whether between kingdoms, estates or mercantile endeavours.  For more about marriage read the History Extra article here.

Calais was the last remnant of England’s continental claim.  It had been in English hands since Edward III captured it in 1347.  The Pale of Calais was about one hundred and twenty miles square.  It was, obviously, heavily fortified with the fort at Guisnes being of key importance.

Lord Lisle was the Governor of Calais.  He lived there along with his wife Honour Grenville.  Lisle had a reputation for being somewhat henpecked, a gossip and a purveyor of quail.  I don’t know what happened to Thomas King or how he came to live in Calais with a lady who wasn’t his wife far less how Cranmer came to be involved in the tale but it does give us a brief glimpse of ordinary life in all its messiness. And if anyone happens to know more about the story – please tell.

1 Comment

Filed under December, On this day..., Sixteenth Century, The Tudors

One response to “A letter from Cranmer

  1. Sir Kevin Parr, Baronet

    Read the letters of lady Anne Herbert to her sister the Queen. When reading through a pile of Herbert papers in Cardiff museum years ago i recall a mention to Lord Lisle and the news he had left his wife was common knowledge and great gossip through the court. As the Lady Anne wrote from Wiltshire to London it was my thought as Kathryn the Queen had been in the spotlight over her writings with Henry the king unhappy then lady Anne must have already known the case. i think just two lines of the Lord in question but you see I was not researching anything else save why my ancestor gave his vast fortune to Black Will Herberts kids before his own death? All of it vanished in the castled home that young Herbert bought to repair to then be involved with treason fled to France loosing all and more. Worth a try. Happy Christmas to you and yours . Keep up the good work

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