It’s been a while but I thought I’d have a quick look at Master Cromwell and his cronies. January 1536 was a busy month for Cromwell aside from the matter of someone being caught poaching on Crown land and various monastic types trying to offer him large annuities. The Abbot of Coggeshall in Essex took matters a stage further as a tersely worded note explains. Having already been visited by Thomas Legh the abbot now gave orders to lie about the plate within the abbey so that the “King shall not have it,” he let lands below their value, failed to say mass for Henry and Anne Boleyn and if that weren’t enough to get him into huge amounts of trouble practised divination and immorality (hopefully not at the same time.) The note was supported by the witness of Richard Braintree ( a monk aged thirty-one) and John Bocking ( also a monk) – Both men, given their surnames, were local and both had a grievance against William Love the abbot as both went into rather a lot of detail about the divination and prophecy that Love was supposed to have indulged in not to mention the immorality which turned out to be a rumour that was at least ten years old. Inevitably the subject of Love’s loyalty to the Pope arose as did the fact he was in communion with heretics and given to discussing the works of Luther – which would suggest that either the abbot was somewhat conflicted or else the good bretheren weren’t sure which side of the religious fence to dump their superior. The evidence was rounded off with the information that Love only got the job of abbot by paying three hundred marks for the privilege – and that came from the abbey’s own funds.
The fact that at the distance of five hundred-or-so-years even a casual glance at the charges should leave readers shaking their heads in disbelief didn’t stop Cromwell from launching a thorough investigation resulting in the abbot being relieved of his post but it should be noted that despite this he was still in receipt of a pension when the abbey was suppressed – let’s hope he foretold it accurately!
The monks, originally a Savignac foundation by King Stephen, were Cistercian. The fact that a king was their founder somehow made William Love’s missing of the prayers for the monarch even worse. The abbey finally surrendered in February 1538 and the following month it was handed lock, stock and everything else to Sir Thomas Seymour, brother of Jane Seymour.
More immediately, so far as Cromwell was concerned, there was Katherine of Aragon’s will to be dealt with; there were repairs that needed to be carried out in Kimbolton to be approved and there was also the matter of her dresses which by rights belonged to the king but which she’d given away. Richard Rich who would continue to climb the greasy Tudor administrative pole after Cromwell’s demise was on hand to report to his master about the problems he faced:
The gentlewomen claim divers apparel as given them by the lady Dowager, and the officers divers stuff as their fees. It would not be honorable to take the things given in her lifetime. Kimbolton, Saturday, 22 Jan.
The lady Dowager is, of course, the name given to Katherine by Henry based on the assumption that she was only ever properly married to Prince Arthur.
Property and belongings feature rather heavily in January because it was on the 22nd that the Earl of Northumberland wrote to Henry proposing that he would leave all his estates and money to the king in his will meaning that his younger brother would get the title and not much else – thus breaking the power of the earls of Northumberland once and for all.
Rather excitingly for me and for tomorrow’s post there was also the small matter, contained in two very irritable letters from the Earl of Cumberland, pertaining to border matters. He writes in particular about quelling the Debatable Lands, the Maxwells and English rebels. Time to get the MacDonald Fraser off the bookcase methinks.
‘Henry VIII: January 1536, 21-25’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10, January-June 1536, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1887), pp. 47-64. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol10/pp47-64 [accessed 22 January 2017].
“Houses of Cistercian monks: Abbey of Coggeshall.” A History of the County of Essex: Volume 2. Eds. William Page, and J Horace Round. London: Victoria County History, 1907. 125-129. British History Online. Web. 21 January 2017. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/essex/vol2/pp125-129.