Category Archives: The Tudors

Blickling Hall and the Boleyns

Queen Anne BoleynThere are rather a lot of halls in England and they aren’t all ancient seats – rather some of them seem to have been given the name hall to hint at an antiquity that didn’t exist. The Telegraph’s list of best stately homes has houses and palaces – the first hall is number ten on the list.  So that is my post for today.  Blickling Hall in Norfolk which definitely  has a pedigree.

Blickling was originally a medieval moated hall of the end described in earlier posts this month. It changed hands several times but this post is particularly interested in its purchase by Sir Geoffrey Bullen.  He was a successful merchant who would become Lord Mayor of London. Not only did he do well financially but he married up when he took the hand of Ann Hoo the daughter of the first Lord Hoo – not bad for the son of a yeoman farmer from Salle.   Geoffrey was knighted by Henry VI and was a friend of Sir John Falstaff of Caistor who was the inspiration for Shakespeare and who left his home to the Pistons causing a feud between the family and the duke of Norfolk.

Geoffrey’s son William did even better in the matrimonial stakes than his father.  He married Lady Margaret Butler, the daughter of the earl of Ormonde and one of his co-heirs.  It was form here that the Boleyn claim to the earldom of Ormonde stemmed – and which could have changed Anne Boleyn’s fate had she been married off to James Butler in order to resolve an inheritance dispute over the title and lands.   William was created a knight of the Bath by Richard III. He died in 1505.

Blickling was Thomas Boleyn’s residence from 1499 until 1505 when he inherited Hever from his father.  Thomas did even better in matrimonial terms than his father or grandfather in that he married the daughter of a duke – Lady Elizabeth Howard.    It’s thought that both Anne, Mary and their brother George were born there. If Anne was born after 1505 rather than in about 1501 then its more likely that she was born at Hever in Kent.

As with the medieval site there’s not a great deal of Tudor Blickling left as it was rebuilt during the Jacobean period by Sir Henry Hobart in about 1616. The house is worth visiting as one of the most beautiful Jacobean houses in the country but sadly I have no photographs of it as the last time I visited digital cameras were unheard of.

Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a good ghost story – so here it is.  Anne Boleyn is said to return to her place of birth on the anniversary of her execution (19th May 1536).  The former queen arrives in a coach,  driven by a headless horseman and pulled by four headless horses, at midnight.  Dressed in white, carrying her own head she descends from the coach to walk the corridors of her childhood home, undeterred by Sir Henry Hobart’s rebuilding of the hall, until the sun rises.

 

If that’s not your cup of tea, Blicking Hall is home to a portrait supposed to be a young Ann Boleyn. There’s also a portrait of her daughter Elizabeth I.

 

 

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Medieval Halls

DSC_0204Until about 1600 halls were large official rooms rather than private spaces.  Gainsborough Old Hall is the advent for December 2nd.  It’s a wonderful building constructed from timber frame and brick.  It was built by Thomas Burgh who inherited the manor of Gainsborough in 1455 – so just as the Wars of the Roses was kicking off.  Thomas’s father had done rather well from the Hundred Years War and had married into the Percy family to improve their social standing.  It was his marriage into the Party family that bought Gainsborough into the Burgh’s possession.

Historians believe that the hall and kitchen were built first from timber in the traditional manner with a cruck frame and wattle and daub. The brick was added later when the Burgh family wanted new ways of showing off their wealth.  The great hall is constructed from huge oak beams.  Originally there would have been a central fire.  The smoke escaped through a louvred frame in the roof – so more kippering.  The raised dais where the lord and his family sat was at the opposite end of the room from the cooking  and service areas which were accessed through three doors.  Evidence of the screen hiding these doors can still be seen in the wall above the door frames.

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Thomas was a Yorkist so found that his position in society was further established.  He became Sheriff of Lincoln as well as one of the Esquires to the Body of Edward IV.    He celebrated his new position by marrying a wealthy widow.

Thomas continued to be loyal to Edward in 1469 when the Earl of Warwick rebelled against Edward’s lordship and then during the so-called Re-Adaptation of Henry VI.  In fact it was Thomas who was one of the Yorkists who helped Edward escape his foes in 1471.

Richard III  visited the hall on the way from York to London on October 10th 1483.  The owner of the time Sir Thomas Burgh  was the same chap who’d commissioned the building in the first place and who had demonstrated his loyalty to the Yorkist cause throughout the period.  A week previously Henry Tudor had attempted to sail from Brittany with a fleet to invade at his mother’s behest.  He was forced to turn back leaving the duke of Buckingham to rise in rebellion agains this former friend Richard III.  Buckingham would be executed in Salisbury at the beginning of November and Edward V’s coronation postponed for the last time.

However, something went seriously awry between the House of York and the Burgh family because Thomas turned his coat and by 1485 was a supporter of Henry Tudor. As a result of his support of the Tudors, Thomas was elevated once again becoming Baron Gainsborough.

Sir Thomas’s heir, Edward was loyal to the Tudors as well but suffered from inherited mental health problems meaning that a younger son also called Thomas became the head of the family.  This particular Lord Burgh was Anne Boleyn’s chamberlain and sat as part of the jury at her trial. His son, another Edward, was Katherine Parr’s first husband. They married in 1529 but by 1533 he was dead.

Katherine Howard.jpg Henry VIII visited the hall with wife number five- the ill fated Katherine Howard.

It’s unusual to find an untampered medieval hall simply because later owners added extensions and made alterations to suit their own needs. I must admit that I rather liked the Henry VIII and his wife dolls scattered around the hall – a couple of whom are pictured here and its not often you can trot around corridors that cover such a fascinating period of history from start to finish.

Katherine Parr Henry VIII

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The Vernons of Haddon Hall – Sir Henry Vernon.

sir henry vernon.jpgI’ve posted before about Henry Vernon being a canny politician.  He was ordered to attend Richard III prior to the Battle of Bosworth but there is no evidence for him on the battlefield – on either side. Having been in good odour with Edward IV, the duke of Clarence and the earl of Warwick if the letters in the Rutland Archive are anything to go by it is a little surprising that Sir Henry did so well under the Tudors – In fact a study of a range of Vernon’s letters gives helpful insight into the changing politics of the period – which is exactly what I intend to do in a couple of weeks with my Wars of the Roses group, along with a peek at Sir Henry’s will.

Sir Henry was from a notable Derbyshire family. The Vernons had been part of the Lancaster Affinity in the fourteenth century. His grandfather, Sir Richard, had fought in the Hundred Years War and been made Treasurer of Calais.  He was also an MP for Derbyshire as was Henry’s father Sir William Vernon who died in 1467 when his son was about twenty-six.

The Battle of Towton took place at Easter 1461.  This event saw  Yorkist Edward taking the throne.  The power behind the throne was Edward’s cousin, Richard Neville, the earl of Warwick – a.k.a -the Kingmaker. Unfortunately the two Yorkist cousins had a falling out when Edward IV married the widow of Sir John Grey of Groby in secret. Elizabeth Woodville was not who the earl of Warwick envisaged as queen of England.  He had been negotiating for the hand of a French princess so felt a bit foolish.  Nor did it help that Elizabeth Woodville had a large family all of whom had to be found excellent positions within the establishment not to mention wealthy and titled spouses: let’s just say noses were put out of joint. The political situation became more tense. Ultimately in 1470 Edward IV was forced to flee and his wife and their daughters seek sanctuary in Westminster Abbey. In March 1471 Edward returned via Ravenspur and marched on London where he was greeted with popular acclaim. There then followed the battle of Barnet and the demise of the earl of Warwick and his brother Lord Montagu.  Clearly this is a rather brief outline but you get the gist!

So where was Sir Henry Vernon in all of this? He was the recipient of rather a lot of letters from various people who want this support.  He on the other hand appears to have taken a rather measured approach to the royal cousins charging around the countryside trying to slaughter one another.

Duke of Clarence to Henry Vernon, squire. (This was written when Warwick was in charge of the kingdom and Clarence had deserted his brother Edward’s cause thinking that Warwick was a better proposition! He’d married Warwick’s eldest daughter only to have Warwick marry off his other daughter to the Lancastrian Prince Edward – meaning that Clarence was no better off than he had been before and was regarded as a bit of a swine for doing the dirty on his brother.)

1470, Oct. 4, Tewkesbury.

Trusti and welbeloved we grete you wele, lating you wite that wee bee fully purposed with the grace of our Lord to bee at Lichefield on Twysday now commyng, on Monday at our toun of Asthebourne and on Thursday next ensuying at our town oI Chestrefield. Wherefore we woll and desire you to mete with us at our commyng at the said parties, and to com- mande on our behelf our offrcers and tenanntes within your ofhces to doo in like wyse. Geven under our signet at Teukesbury the iiii day of October.

 

This letter is swiftly followed up by a second letter which asks Vernon to find out how the rest of the gentry in Derbyshire feel about Clarence.  It should be noted that Clarence did own some manors in Derbyshire and his cousin was married into the Talbot family. A third letter sounds a note of panic with the news that Edward is on his way back to England. By the time Vernon received it, Edward had already landed at Ravenspur and was making his way south.

Yet another letter, this time from the earl of Warwick describes Edward as a “gret enemy rebelle and traitour is now late arrived in the North partes of this land and commyng fast on Southward accompanyed with Flemminge, Esterlands and Danes.” The letter is a commission of array.  Essentially it orders Sir Henry to gather men and join Warwick’s army immediately in order to maintain the rule of Henry VI (or rather the earl of Warwick who preferred the idea of being a puppet master to that of loyal subject.)

Sir Henry is then in receipt of several more letters from the duke of Clarence.  Clarence is marching from Malmsbury, at the end of March ostensibly to intercept his brother Edward. By the 2nd of April he is in Burford and from there he went to Coventry and  instead of fighting his brother joined with him against the earl of Warwick.

Sir Henry’s next letter is from King Edward IV who wrote from Tewkesbury:

Margaret late called Queene is in our handes, her son Edward slayn Edmund called Duc of Somerset, John Erl of Devonshire with all the other lords knightes and noblemen that were in their company taken or slayn, yet we now understand that commones of divers partes of this our royaume make murmurs and commocions entending the distruccion of the churche, of us our lords and all noblemen, and to subvert the public of our said royome which we in our persone with Goddes helpe and assistance of you and other trewe subgettes shall mightly defend the same and we woll that ye be with us.

Clearly Sir Henry had avoided the various battlefields and kept his head down, though it would appear that he had made a list of his valuables which he pledged to Edward’s support.

Once Edward had won the Battle of Tewksbury and Prince Edward was killed the end of Henry VI, a prisoner in the Tower, was inevitable. Sir Henry Vernon along with the rest of the country would reasonably have expected Edward to reign for a good long while and then to have been succeeded by his sons – Elizabeth Woodville having produced the first male heir, another Prince Edward, whilst she was in sanctuary in Westminster. Vernon’s loyalty to the house of York is made apparent in a letter from Edward IV of 1481:

we bee enformed that ye have taken distresse for us and in oure name for thomage due unto us in that behalve for the which we thanke vou.

He was also appointed Bailiff of the High Peak by the York regime.

Then, in 1483, it was all change again.  Edward IV died unexpectedly whilst his eldest son Edward was still too young to inherit in his own right. Enter Richard III and yet another commission of array for Sir Henry Vernon to meet the king on the field against Henry Tudor.  Vernon appears to have avoided Bosworth.

It is thus somewhat surprising that Sir Henry thrived under the rule of Henry Tudor.  Having said that Vernon married Anne Talbot, daughter of the earl of Shrewsbury in 1466 so the Talbot Lancastrian links and the fact that the earl of Shrewsbury joined with Henry Tudor prior to the Battle of Bosworth may go rather a long way to explaining how Sir Henry Vernon survived the change from white rose to red. He became Governor and Treasurer to Prince Arthur and was also made a Knight of the Bath. He was in attendance when Arthur married Katherine of Aragon.  Local legend states that Arthur stayed at Vernon’s home in Derbyshire – Haddon Hall- on more than one occasion.

There is a letter from Henry VII dated 1485.  It describes Vernon as “trusty and well beloved” and it describes in some detail the problem of a Yorkist insurrection led by the anonymous Robin of Redesdale requesting that Vernon place himself at Henry’s disposal.  In fact the first attempt on Henry VII’s life was made in York when he first visited it. A later letter identifies the trust that Henry placed in Vernon in the care of his eldest son:

 

Henry VII to Sir Henry Vernon.
1492, Aug 31. Windsor. Trusti and welbeloved we grete you wele. And inasmoche as we have appointed you tobe Comptroller of household with our derrest son the Prince and that we depart in all hast on our voyage over the see, we therefor desire and praye you that ye will give your personell attendaunce upon our said derrest son for the tyme we shalbe out of this our realme, and that ye faile not hereof as we truste you’ Geven under our signet at our Castel of Windesor the last day of August viii of our reyne. Sign Manual

Later still Vernon would go with Margaret Tudor to Scotland and pay a forced loan of £100 to the notoriously parsimonious Tudor monarch.

Sir Henry survived into the reign of Henry VII which ended in 1509.  He would now serve the second Tudor monarch.  In 1512/13 Henry VIII wrote to Sir Henry Vernon ordering him to send “a hundred tal men hable for the warre sufficiently harnessed to Greenwich.” This must have been for Henry’s war against the french.  The letter also advises Vernon that money would be expected for the men’s upkeep.

Sir Henry Vernon, who had lived through so many tumultuous events died on April 15th 1515 and was buried in Tong Church where his wife Anne Talbot is also buried.  His effigy wears the double ss livery collar of the House of Lancaster and there is a Tudor rose to be seen – just so that everyone is quite clear about where his loyalties lay…

Kirke, H. (1920) ‘Sir Henry Vernon of Haddon.’ Derbyshire Archeological Journal:42. (pp. 001-017).

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Henry VIII’s wives, mistresses and bastards – a summary.

katherine of aragon sil meKing Henry VIII died on 28 January 1547.  This post does not deal with women like Mistress Webbe who were regarded as so unimportant that they deserved absolutely no mention in court correspondence.

Henry VIII was married to Catherine of Aragon from 1509 -1533 (briefly married to both Catherine and Anne Boleyn before Cranmer dissolved the former’s marriage).  They married on 11 June 1509 and initially Henry and Catherine seemed very in love  He fought in armour engraved with their initials entwined with love knots.  When he went to France in 1513 he left his queen as regent.  However, by 1516 despite a number of pregnancies Catherine had only one living child – Princess Mary.  In 1518 she started to wear a hair shirt and by 1525 Henry had ceased to live with his wife.  He first proposed to Anne Boleyn in 1527 but Catherine refused to take herself off to a nunnery.

During these years Henry’s mistresses were the illusive “Madam the bastard” referenced in a letter during his stay in Lille at the court of Margaret of Savoy; Ettienette de la Baume who sent him a bird and some roots along with a reminder for the £10,000 he had promised her when she got married.  He is also known to have had a scandalous affair with his cousin Lady Anne Stafford.  If the mink coat, diamonds and private tilting yard are anything to go by he had an affair with his friend Sir Nicholas Carew’s wife Elizabeth.  He gave £100 to Jane Popincourt when she returned to France and most notably during the period so far as history is concerned he had affairs with Bessie Blount and Mary Boleyn.

Bessie Blount is the mother of his only acknowledged illegitimate child – Henry Fitzroy.  Henry was born in 1519.  Catherine of Aragon had to congratulate her on giving birth to a boy.  King Henry gave the Fitzroy name to his boy.  It was the first time the name had been used in four hundred years.  At the age of six young Fitzroy was given the dukedoms of Richmond and Somerset.  He married Lady Mary Howard the daughter of the duke of Norfolk but died, probably from tuberculosis in 1536.  Historians speculate whether his sister Elizabeth Tailboys was the king’s child or belonged to Bessie Blount’s husband – Gilbert Tailboys.  Historians generally agree that Catherine Carey who was the eldest child of Mary Boleyn is probably also King Henry’s child.  There is great speculation about whether Henry Carey was also the king’s.  It is usually felt that Henry had no need to acknowledge further illegitimate male children as he had demonstrated his abilities with young Henry FitzRoy; that Mary Boleyn was married to William Carey and that it would have been rude of Henry to have claimed either child as his given the existence of a husband (quite how that explains the expectation of sleeping with the man’s wife still eludes me!) There is also the added complication of Henry’s developing relationship with Anne Boleyn.  The hypocrisy of divorcing one wife on the grounds of consanguinity in order to marry the sister of the woman you’ve had an affair with (and children) should escape no one.

In addition to this happy little throng there is another claimant to being Henry’s child dating from this period – Thomas Stukeley was the son of Jane Pollard (wife of Sir Hugh Stukeley) from Afferton in Devon.  He was born between 1523 and 1530.   Thomas had a lively career spanning piracy, being a double agent and a forger.  He was also Henry VIII’s standard bearer in 1547.  There is not a great deal of evidence for him being Henry’s son other than him saying so and as well as his other exciting c.v. job titles he was also a fraudster.  Despite this Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth all seem to have let him get away with blue murder.  He was also said to look like Henry VIII – though this is no recommendation as followers of this blog will have worked out by now that the aristocracy were very inter-related so its perhaps not surprising that they looked like one another.

Still with me?  There’s one more from this period.  And again historians are divided in their opinions about this man as there is very little evidence to support his claim.  Mary Berekley lived in the Welsh Marches with her husband Sir Thomas Perrot.  Thomas was keen on hunting – as was Henry VIII.  It is just possible that the king enjoyed a spot of hunting with Sir Thomas Perrot and also enjoyed other recreational pursuits with his wife.  The result, according to John Perrot – was him.  John turned up at court, got into a fight with Henry’s men at arms but managed to keep his right hand because the king liked the look of the boy.  Edward VI seems to have liked him as well and he was one of the four gentlemen selected to carry Elizabeth’s canopy of state at her coronation.  This is, of course, all circumstantial – and yes, he is supposed to have looked like Henry VIII.

anne boleyn sil-mineWife number two laster for three years if we discount the seven year chase beforehand.  Anne Boleyn married Henry in 1533 because she was pregnant.  Elizabeth was born at the beginning of September 1533 and was motherless by mid-1536.  Henry still found time to be attracted to a lady at court who was sympathetic to Catherine and Mary’s plight; Anne’s own cousin Madge or Mary Shelton  as well as Joan Dingley who history names as a laundress but who was probably of a higher rank.   Joan gave birth to a child called Ethelreda or Audrey and there is sufficient evidence in the form of land grants and wills to read between the lines and recognise her as one of Henry’s children (if you feel that way inclined.)  This is also the time that sees a reference to a mysterious Mistress Parker.

jane seymour sil meJane Seymour started off as a mistress – and she was yet another Howard girl but like a predecessor advanced from bit of fluff to queen with the removal of Anne Boleyn.  Jane Seymour gave birth to Prince Edward on the 12th October 1537 and then promptly died on the 24th October 1537 assuring herself of the position of Henry’s “true wife” and the one who he had depicted in all of Holbein’s Tudor family portraits.  There wasn’t really time for much notable womanising given the shortness of her tenure and the fact that 1536 was a bit of a bad year for Henry on account of the Pilgrimage of Grace not to mention the bad jousting accident that caused Anne Boleyn to miscarry her child (so she claimed) and which left Henry with an infected and inflamed leg.  Even so it was noted that Henry did say he wished he hadn’t married so hastily when he saw two pretty new ladies-in-waiting.

One of the new ladies-in-waiting was his uncle’s step-daughter Anne Basset who was said to be a very pretty girl.  Her mother had managed to wangle her a place at court with the gift of quails which Jane Seymour craved during her pregnancy.  There were rumours.  Henry purchased her a horse and a rather fine saddle and bridle having sent her to the country to recover her health from a mysterious illness.  All this is pretty tenuous but by now Henry had “form” and sending girls to the country for their “health” fits the pattern. Margaret Skipwith is also mentioned as a potential mistress during this time before the duke of Norfolk dangled young Katherine Howard under the king’s nose.

Anne of Cleves was wife number four.  Her tenure lasted from January to July 1540.  There’s no fool like an old fool and Henry misliking Anne declared that she was no true virgin before chasing after poor little Katherine Howard who promptly became queen number five on 28 July 1540.

These days Katherine would be defined as a victim of neglect as well as child abuse following her experiences with Henry Mannox in the home of Katherine’s step-grandmother, Agnes Tilney, dowager duchess of Norolk. In any terms  Katherine was pre-contracted in marriage to Francis Dereham – making her marriage to Henry invalid. It could be argued that having declared their intention to marry and then had intercourse that they were in fact married to one another.  As a mark of this Dereham had given her money to look after whilst he was away from her.  Katherine undoubtedly had an affair with Thomas Culpepper, one of her distant cousins, whilst she was married to Henry VIII.  The woman who made it possible for the couple to meet was Lady Rochford.  Lady Rochford was George Boleyn’s widow and the woman who had testified to an incestuous relationship between George and Anne (who needs Game of Thrones)  and just for good measure if you recall the mysterious Mistress Parker – some historians think it might have been Jane before her marriage to George Boleyn. Both Jane and Katherine were executed on 13 February 1542.

 

Henry now married the twice widowed Catherine Parr on the 12 July 1543, though Anne of Cleves did write to the Privy Council saying she would be prepared to give the whole marriage thing another go. In 1545 there was a slight wobble when Henry gave the very Catholic Bishop Gardener permission to question the queen on her religious beliefs – she survived the threat thanks to the discovery by her physician of a document on the floor of the king’s chamber that gave Katherine time to plead her course with her grouchy spouse. Her explanation that she was merely being a good wife diverting Henry from his aches and pains as well as listening to his words of spiritual wisdom must have appealed to Henry’s ego.  During the danger period before Katherine talked her way out of an appointment with an axe, the widowed, young and very pretty, dowager duchess of Suffolk – Katherine Willoughby was mentioned as a potential seventh queen.  Lady Mary Howard (widow of Henry FitzRoy) was also identified by the catholic faction as a potential queen.

And that’s about it for now on the topic of Henry and his many wives and loves for the time being.  I’ve no doubt I shall return to them.  During the last few days I’ve seen books about them (fiction and non-fiction), a Russian doll set of Henry and his wives,  gold work ornaments, felt dolls and a clock.  I’m not beyond creating a few silhouettes of my own as this post demonstrates.  The fact is that there is something about the Tudors that fascinates – and sells! Meanwhile  I’m off to delve into the varying worlds of monumental effigies and brasses; livery collars; the Coterel Gang who created havoc in fourteenth century Derbyshire; Katherine Swynford; the Wars of the Roses; Chaucer; Lincoln Cathedral; Tattershall Castle, Ralph Cromwell and Henry VI not to mention anything else that might catch my attention.

 

 

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Henry VIII mistresses and queens

 

Henry-VIII-enjoyed-gambli-008After Jane Seymour’s death Henry consoled himself, possibly, with the attentions of his uncle’s step-niece Anne Bassett who was described as a very pretty girl. Rumour stated that Margaret Shelton was a possible contender for wife number four – or two if you were counting as Henry chose to count-It was also rumoured that a sixteen year old called Elizabeth Cobham was of some interest to the king but ultimately Henry opted for a continental match with Anne of Cleves. It was not a roaring success but it did mean that the court once again contained a household of ladies. One of the requirements, specified by King Henry, was that they be pretty.

Elizabeth Cobham married William Parr. At this stage in proceedings it’s easy to imagine that no aristocratic Tudor marriage was without its soap-opera moments. William Parr’s marriage was no exception to that. Parr had been married to the daughter of the then earl of Essex. Ann Bourchier his bride had taken matters in her own hands and gone to live “over the brush” with the man of her dreams, leaving Parr high and dry. William divorced Anne in 1547 and married Elizabeth Cobham – which seems simple enough except that someone failed to complete all the paperwork leaving Parr in a position where Parliament reversed the annulment to Anne making him bigamously married to Elizabeth. This in turn meant that an act had to be passed making the legitimacy of his children quite safe. Another act had to be passed properly completing the annulment from Ann in correct legal fashion and then he had to remarry Elizabeth…this receives a paragraph in Jones’ book about Henry’s ladies.

 

However, William Parr’s marital difficulties lay in the future. Henry, if you recall, was not keen on Anne of Cleves. The marriage was dissolved. As was often the case in Henry’s career of serial monogamy (turning a blind eye to mistresses) – the replacement was lined up before the current incumbent was dispatched. Enter Katherine Howard, Henry’s “rose without a thorn,” a young lady-in-waiting and so far as Henry was concerned the new and virtuous lady wife. Best to draw a veil over that one!

 

Historians speculate that had Catherine Parr, wife number six, fallen from grace that she would have been replaced by Katherine Willoughby the dowager duchess of Suffolk. There were also conversations about replacing Catherine with Lady Mary Howard – Henry’s own daughter-in-law, the widow of Henry FitzRoy.

 

In addition to the last two who were not the king’s mistresses, merely possible contenders for a very unlucky job, fourteen ladies are mentioned in various texts as possible mistresses of the king. Some of them progressed to becoming wives, others like Bessie Blunt were long term mistresses of the king. Still others are hazy echoes captured in phrases in letters sent by ambassadors reporting gossip, or a line in the account books. Women like Mary Berkeley who is supposed to have had a brief affair with the king whilst he was on a hunting trip are impossible to prove or disprove one way or the other. Her son Henry Perrot rose within the Tudor administrative system and found favour with Queen Elizabeth before becoming tangled in Irish politics. Most historians, it should be added, discount Mary Berkeley and Jane Pollard.

 

Another possible unacknowledged son Sir Thomas Stukeley (his mother was Jane Pollard) hailed from Devon and was, quite frankly, a bit of a rogue but was said to look like Henry VIII. Without DNA it is impossible to tell which of Henry’s potential children actually were his and the puzzle will no doubt result in the sale of many more books over the years.

 

Saddest of all though is the account to be found in the Privy Papers of 1537. William Webbe claimed Henry had stolen away his mistress and enjoyed her favours in “avowtry” or adultery.   This is a reminder that all the women mentioned in the previous few posts were of gentle birth – the game of courtly love was to be played. The king fancied himself in love with these women.  The same cannot be said to be true of common women. Put simply, they didn’t count.  Henry saw something he wanted and took it. This leaves a huge potential number of encounters that no one deemed necessary to document.  It is hinted at when it is suggested that Henry would be quite happy with an apple and a pretty wench to while away the hours! There was no pretence at romance in this last encounter. The only reason history knows about it is that William Webbe stood up to the king and demanded justice.  It says something that the record remains in the documents.

 

Mrs Webbe had no say in the matter and neither did William Webbe but so far as I’m aware he kept his head unlike Sir Nicholas Carew who lost it in 1539 or Thomas Cromwell who died in 1540 when the duke of Norfolk was able to use the Cleves fiasco alongside the blandishments of Katherine Howard to topple his rival.

Charles Dickens in his Child’s History of England describes Henry VIII as a “detestable villain.” His text was on the school curriculum for a good part of the twentieth century.  It is hard sometimes to disagree with his assessment of that particular monarch.

 

 

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Three queens in one year – all quiet on the mistress front.

jane seymourBy January 1536 Henry  had developed an interest in Jane Seymour despite the Boleyn family’s best efforts to keep him distracted with their own young women. Famously Henry told Anne to mind her own business as her betters had done when she confronted him on the topic.

On the 7th January 1536 Catherine of Aragon died at Kimbolton Castle.  At the time poison was suspected, especially when it was revealed that her heart had blackened. At the end of the month Anne Boleyn mis-carrried the child who had he survived would have ensured her safety. Rather than being free of a woman many people regarded as Henry’s queen, Anne was now anxious that she was in a situation where Henry might feel able to rid himself of a woman who had not delivered a male heir. The seven year hunt had proved rather more exciting that married life. She was correct in her surmise.  It probably didn’t help that she and Thomas Cromwell had a bit of an argument that turned into a power struggle.

On 14 May 1536, having been arrested on charges of adultery, Anne’s marriage was declared invalid – meaning that Henry had his cake and ate it because he was free to marry again but technically Anne couldn’t have been guilty of adultery (even if she had been having a relationship which most historians think not) if she wasn’t married – so therefore she couldn’t have been executed for treason.  It may have been this logic that led Anne to think that Henry would commute her sentence to exile into a nunnery.  On May 17th her co-defendants were executed including her brother George.  Anne was executed on the 18th. The way was clear for Henry to take a new wife.

Jane was, of  Plantagenet descent, the polar opposite of Anne.  She was a traditional sort of girl with traditional religious leanings. And yes, she was one of Anne’s cousins as well as Henry’s.  Jane like Anne before her had shifted from lady-in-waiting to queen in waiting and like Anne before her Henry removed her from court so that no scandal should attach itself to her whilst he disposed of his unwanted spouse.  Jane was shipped off to Beddington near Croydon.  It was the family home of Sir Nicholas Carew – his young wife Elizabeth was another notch on  Henry’s bedpost and Carew had been providing locations for Henry to meet with women for a very long time at this point in proceedings (it didn’t help him very much in 1539 when he was executed for treason.)

By the 20th May Jane Seymour became wife number three or in Henry’s mind wife number one as the previous two had been demonstrated to be illegal.

1536, as well as being the year of three queens was also a horrible year for Henry in other respects. In July Henry FitzRoy died.  He was seventeen years old.  In October the Pilgrimage of Grace erupted in Lincolnshire, spreading to Yorkshire, Cumberland and Westmorland.  There was also a bit of a rumpus in the West Country.

So far as Henry was concerned the good news was that Jane  became pregnant and on the 16th September 1537 took to her chamber where she produced a boy on the 12th October.  He was baptised Edward on the 15th and by the 24th Jane was dead due to complications of childbirth.  Since the pair were still in the “honeymoon” phase of their relationship there is no evidence of a mistress although given Henry’s track record when his wives became pregnant it isn’t to say there weren’t any!

Thomas Cromwell took advantage in the hiatus to set up more tractional marriage negotiations with continental treaties in mind.  Henry may have consoled himself with one of Jane’s young ladies in waiting;  Anne Bassett, the young step-daughter of his uncle Arthur Plantagenet, Lord Lisle. I have posted about her previously.  Double click on her name to open a new window and read the earlier post.

 

 

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“Never the mother!” – The Boleyn Girls, their cousins, the king and a laundress.

Mary_Boleyn-248x300.jpgMary Boleyn took part in a court masque on March 4 1522 when she was about twenty-two.  The theme was love and the title “Chateau Vert.”  Anne Boleyn, newly arrived from France, played the part of Perseverance whilst Mary played kindness.  There were eight ladies in total dressed to the nines waiting in a castle for their lords to arrive.  There were also eight choristers dressed as unfeminine behaviours such as unkindness and rather alarmingly strangeness – demonstrating that being an oddity was not something that Henry found at all endearing.

Henry’s relationship with Mary is only written about by his cousin Cardinal Reginald Pole – he pointed out, rather unhelpfully from Henry’s point of view, that if you are trying to divorce your wife because she was married to your brother but denies the marriage was ever consummated, where does that leave the woman you want to marry if you’ve had an affair with her sister?  Henry wasn’t amused.  Other than Pole’s evidence there’s not a great deal of  concrete information – which is typical of Henry’s mistresses and encounters.

Mary does fit to the pattern that emerges in Henry’s earlier relationships – in that when she returned from the service of Queen Claude where she is alleged to have had a relationship with Francis I she was married off on February 4th 1520 to Sir William Carey – one of Henry’s gentlemen.  The usual 6 shillings and 8 pence is identified in the king’s accounts as a perfectly proper gift.  But by Easter 1522 Henry was riding into jousts with the motto  “she has wounded my heart” and then there was that masque – the ritual of courtly love was being played out.  It almost seems that King Henry was in love with the idea of being in love.

In 1523 Henry owned a boat called the Mary Boleyn.  The boat had been purchased from Thomas Boleyn so could have arrived already named.

Of course the Catholic and reforming factions got to grips with the Boleyn girls- one group tried to paint them as a pair of scheming femme fatals whilst the other faction were more keen on emphasising their learning and culture.  It wasn’t long before the rumour was circulating that when he first became king, Henry, who as we have seen in the case of Anne Stafford, liked the older lady had a fling with Elizabeth Howard – Mary and Anne’s mother.  This particular rumour survives curtesy of a letter from George Throckmorton who  said that Henry on being accused of “meddling” with Anne’s mother and sister blushed and said “never the mother” – demonstrating at least that Mary was his mistress.  Nicholas Sander, a Jesuit priest went one better and according to Licence announced that not only had Henry had an affair with Elizabeth but that Anne was the result of the liaison – Thomas Boleyn being abroad during some very key dates.  This is definitely a nasty smear and when looking at the broader picture it is possible that Mary got caught up in the campaign to blacken the Boleyn name.   There is very little evidence from the time to suggest that she had an affair with Francis.  Licence also points out that the french king had an unfortunate social disease which Mary ran a high risk of catching but appears not to have done so, nor do her children bear any signs of the disease.  Of course, as with all these things its a matter of speculation and what little evidence there is can be argued both ways.

 

In any event Sir Thomas Boleyn suddenly became the king’s treasurer – presumably because he was a talented book-keeper and manager as averse to Henry being naughty with his youngest surviving daughter – let us not forget that emerging pattern of behaviour whereby the family of the king’s new mistress suddenly become financially more stable, acquire lands and new positions.  Sir Nicholas Carew got his own tiltyard in Greenwich when Henry was interested in Nicholas’s young wife Elizabeth.

 

catherine careyKatherine Carey was born in 1524 or possibly 1523.  Whose child was she: William Carey’s or the King’s?  Henry granted Carey estates and titles in Essex (so that was all right then).   If the child was Henry’s it was considered somewhat poor manners to claim the child of another man’s wife as yours and beside which she was a girl.  She first appears in the court records as a maid of honour to Anne of Cleves in 1439- so early teens which is about right.  She went on to marry Sir Francis Knollys when she was sixteen and have sixteen children.

It is clear that Katherine Carey was close to her cousin and possibly half-sister, Princess Elizabeth.  As she prepared to flee England for Protestant Germany on the accession of Queen Mary she received a letter from Elizabeth signed “cor rotto” meaning broken hearted.  Katherine did not return to England until Mary died. She was appointed Chief Lady of the Bedchamber making her one of Elizabeth’s most trusted women – nothing wrong with that they were cousins – but were they more?  When Katherine died in 1569 Elizabeth had her buried in Westminster Abbey.  The notoriously parsimonious queen paid £640 for the funeral – fit in fact for a princess.

Steven_van_Herwijck_Henry_Carey_1st_Baron_Hunsdon

Mary Boleyn’s son, Henry Carey was born in 1525 according to the date on his memorial in Westminster Abbey but evidence suggests he was actually born in 1526 (no wonder Thomas Cromwell invented parish registers!)  The question then arises did Henry continue his affair with Mary once she had returned to court after the birth of Katherine? He doesn’t appear to have resumed his liaison with Bessie Blount  after she had her child and more importantly why didn’t Henry acknowledge the boy if he was indeed the king’s?  The answer to that one is fairly straight forward – King Henry had already demonstrated that he could beget sons, Bessie Blount (unusually) wasn’t married at the time she gave birth and there was the small matter of a possible interest in Mary’s sister Anne.  All that can be said is that Henry Carey is said to have looked like Henry VIII and Carey believed himself to be the king’s son as did John Hale the Vicar of Isleworth – a declaration that got him into rather a lot of bother with the monarch. Once again the evidence when delved into can be read two different ways as it is all circumstantial and comprises of ifs, buts and wherefores.

On June 22nd 1528 when Mary’s husband William Carey died of the Sweating Sickness leaving Mary with little visible means of support.  The wardship of young Henry was given to Anne Boleyn and the king had to intercede on Mary’s behalf insisting that Thomas Boleyn house his daughter.

Queen Anne BoleynBy 1527 it was clear that Katherine of Aragon wasn’t going to have any more children and Henry wanted a male heir.  Anne Boleyn wasn’t content with the idea of being the king’s mistress.  There followed a seven year courtship written about at length elsewhere on the Internet, a protracted court case and seventeen love letters found stashed in the Vatican, probably stolen on the orders of Reginald Pole.  History does not have Anne’s letters.  It is possible to imagine Henry having a private bonfire when he tired of Anne.

 

Mary,_Lady_Heveningham_by_Hans_Holbein_the_YoungerAs with his first queen a pattern of pregnancy and miscarriage developed along with another princess with wife number two.  Henry was not best pleased.  Anne Boleyn recognised that Henry was at his most likely to stray during her pregnancies so it has often been suggested that the Boleyn/Howard family encouraged Mary or possibly her sister Madge Shelton to entertain the king in 1535 whilst Anne was pregnant. The Sheltons were Anne’s first cousins.  Their mother, Anne, was Sir Thomas Boleyn’s sister.   Rumour identified Mary Shelton as a potential fourth wife for Henry whilst Madge was linked with the unfortunate Henry Norris.

Unfortunately for Anne the pattern of pregnancies, miscarriages and mistresses continued.  The key mistress of Anne’s time as queen went on to become wife number three- Jane Seymour, yet another cousin of sorts.

It was during this period that Henry seems to have taken a fancy to one of his laundresses- a girl by the name of Joan Dingley.  She was married off to a man called Dobson whilst the resulting child called Etheldreda or even Audrey depending on the source you read was reared by the king’s taylor – a man called John Malte.  The king granted him ex monastic lands so that when he died it all passed to Ethelreda – the illegitimate daughter of the taylor at  face value was unexpectedly wealthy- especially as the lands went to Ethelreda rather than John’s other children and  she moved in esteemed circles. She married John Harrington who was in the king’s service and then Princess Elizabeth’s household  In 1554 she accompanied Princess Elizabeth to the Tower as one of her ladies and attended Elizabeth’s coronation in 1559 – she died the same year.

Mary Boleyn died in July 1543, seven years after her sister Anne died a traitor’s death, having married for a second time to William Stafford in 1534.  Stafford was a soldier and not a sufficiently grand match for the queen’s sister. Mary was banished from court by Henry and Anne because of the marriage.  Her family disowned her because she had dared to marry, for love, a younger son with few prospects.  She was forced to write to Thomas Cromwell asking for help.

 

Licence, Amy. (2014) The six wives and many mistresses of Henry VIII: the women’s stories. Stroud: Amberley Publishing.

 

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Henry VIII- Sir Loyal Heart?

1531_Henry_VIIIThis particular post and the next five which will follow all this week are by way of a reminder to me about Henry’s wives, mistresses and alleged children.  Although he only ever acknowledged Henry FitzRoy, the son of Bessie Blount who he created duke of Richmond and Somerset there is speculation about other children.

1509 – 1527 – Henry ascended the throne aged seventeen and promptly married his widowed sister-in-law Katherine of Aragon.  She was twenty-three and the archetypal princess in need of a heroic knight having been kept in limbo by the machinations of her father Ferdinand of Aragon and Henry VII who were as tight fisted as one another.

Henry saw himself as Catherine’s knight errant riding to her rescue.  Unfortunately things soon went badly wrong when Ferdinand manipulated his young son-in-law into going to war with France and then making a peace which served his purposes rather than Henry’s.  At home Cardinal Wolsey gained the king’s ear and Catherine failed to provide Henry with an heir to the throne.  It wasn’t long before mistresses abounded but Henry continued to wear love knots on his jousting armour with his initials inter-twined with those of Katherine.

The birth of Princess Mary in 1516 squashed rumours that Henry was looking to have his marriage annulled but matters can’t have been helped as Katherine became more and more pious, even wearing a hair shirt. In addition Katherine was troubled by an infection of the womb that may have caused an unpleasant smell.  In 1525 Henry stopped living with his wife.

Key facts:
1510 – Lady Anne Stafford – the sister of the duke of Buckingham and wife of Lord Hastings. She was also Henry VIII’s cousin and eight years older than him. The alarm was raised by Anne’s sister Elizabeth who spoke with her brother Edward. He caught Sir William Compton in her chamber.  Anne’s husband was summoned; Anne was packed off to a nunnery; there was a scandal; Katherine of Aragon was deeply upset; Edward informed Henry that a Tudor wasn’t good enough to carry on with his sister.  It is perhaps not terribly surprising that Buckingham ended up being charged with treason in 1521 and executed.  Henry appears to have continued his affair until about 1513.  Meanwhile, Sir William Compton was close to the king.  He was a gentleman of the privy chamber and appears to have arranged for the king to entertain ladies in William’s house on Thames Street as well as facilitating the discrete arrival of ladies in Henry’s bed chamber at court.

1513 Ettiennette de la Baume  After the Battle of the Spurs and the Siege of Tournai Henry went to Lille where he stayed with Margaret of Austria, the regent of the Netherlands as well as sister to Emperor Maximillian.  Henry was reported as dancing in his bare feet and shirt sleeves with “Madam the Bastard.”  History has no idea who the lady might be.  However, the following year Henry received a letter from Ettiennette who was one of Margaret’s ladies.  She sent a bird and medicinal roots as well as a reminder that Henry had spoken “pretty things” to her and promised her 10,000 crowns or angels when she was married- a generous gesture!

1514- in the same year as receiving the letter from Ettiennette Henry placed the whole court in mourning “for love of a lady.”

Elizabeth Carew- Elizabeth was just twelve when she gave birth to a son.  She was the wife of Henry’s bosom buddy Sir Nicholas Carew.  He was a champion jouster and friend of the king’s.  Like Compton he facilitated opportunities for Henry to be alone with the ladies.  It has been suggested that one of the ladies was his own wife.  Henry gave the happy couple the standard Tudor wedding present of 6 shillings but Elizabeth’s mother received £500 whilst Elizabeth was given presents of jewels and a mink coat.  Make of it what you will – he might have just been being generous to the wife of a very good friend.

bessieblount1Bessie Blount – Bessie was one of Catherine’s maids-of-hounour.  When she first arrived at court she is estimated to have been about eleven years old. We know that she was well educated and that she took part in the masque that occurred at court. In July 1514 her father received £146 in advance wages and there is also the evidence of a letter from Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk where he makes a courtly gesture to both Bessie Blount and Elizabeth Carew.   She was married off to Gilbert Tailboys, a gentleman in Wolsey’s household.

1514- Jane Popincourt – The frenchwoman began her career in 1498 in service of Elizabeth of York but transferred into the household of Mary Tudor and from there into Katherine of Aragon’s household.  She achieved notoriety in 1513 when  Louis d’Orleans, the Duc de Longueville was captured and sent to the Tower.  She visited him often and commenced an affair.  When Mary Tudor was sent off to France to marry King Louis XII Jane should have gone with her as a lady -in-waiting but Louis struck her name from the list because she was an immoral woman announcing,  “I would she were burned.” She did finally return to France in 1516 received a parting gift of £100 from Henry.  Their affair had begun in 1514 when Katherine of Aragon was heavily pregnant.

Mary Boleyn- famously Henry owned a boat called the Mary Boleyn but he may have purchased it from Mary’s father. Mary, somewhat notoriously, was mistress of Francis I, the King of France before catching Henry’s eye.  When she returned to England she was married, rather promptly, to Sir William Carey a Gentleman of the Chamber. The wedding gift from the king was the usual 6 shillings.  The only written evidence that Mary was Henry’s mistress comes from Cardinal Pole.

 

Children

1519- birth of Henry FitzRoy, son of Bessie Blount followed in 1521 by a daughter called Elizabeth who received the name Tailboys.  There are some doubts about the dates. Bessie’s third child, George, was definitely her husbands so far as historians can tell these things.

1524- birth of Catherine Carey, daughter of Mary Boleyn.  She went on to marry Sir Francis Knollys.  Henry Carey was born in 1526.  However, Mary would have been pregnant with him in 1525.  It has been suggested that Mary’s pregnancy with Henry causedKing Henry to look more closely at Mary’s sister Anne.  Henry Carey’s parentage has always been much speculated upon. Understandably King Henry did not acknowledge either of these children as his because it would have rather sunk his argument about cohabiting with an in-law at a point when he was trying to divorce Katherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn.
 

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Henry VIII clauses

Henry-VIII-enjoyed-gambli-008The so-called Henry VIII clause is topical at the moment so I thought I’d write a short post about what it is and where it originates. Essentially, according to the Parliamentary website,  “the Government of the day sometimes adds this provision to a Bill to enable a repeal or amend after the Bill has become an Act of Parliament.” That’s not what’s causing the current furore – the problem is that the resulting Act can be changed without further parliamentary scrutiny if the Government so wishes. The House of Lords Select Committee on the Scrutiny of Delegated Powers in its report of 1992-93 defined a Henry VIII clause as,  “a provision in a Bill which enables primary legislation to be amended or repealed by subordinate legislation, with or without further Parliamentary scrutiny.” [HL 57 1992-93, para 10].

 

640px-Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01And what you might wonder does the matrimonially challenged Henry VIII have to do with this? Well, these provisions are named after the 1539 Statute of Proclamations by the Crown which meant that Henry VIII could legislate simply by having a proclamation read out. That sounds suspiciously like kicking Parliament into touch and ruling as an absolute monarch.  However,  G.R. Elton didn’t believe that the act was meant to enable to the king to rule without Parliament or make his own laws rather it was an extraordinary power to be used when speed was of the essence.  The example that is generally used is that proclamations were used to prevent the export of English coinage abroad. Elton references price control – or in other words Henry’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, was merely underlining, with typical belt and brace thoroughness, by a Parliamentary Act the way in which proclamations had always worked in regards to enacting well rehearsed uses such as changes to coinage. Elton also notes that the law made it quite clear that this was not an excuse for Henry to go around arresting, imprisoning or executing anyone just because he didn’t like the cut of their jib.

 

It is unsurprising that the mastermind behind this nifty piece of maneuvering was none other than Thomas Cromwell. Essentially things were moving fast in terms of domestic and religious policy as well as foreign policy which was decidedly volatile at the beginning of 1539. Even Cromwell had to agree that the so-called Reformation Parliament was “tractable” – and given that a large number of MPs were on Cromwell’s list of friends, family and acquaintances it is perhaps not surprising. Even so, Cromwell did not always have time to draft a bill and then wait for the parliamentary process to be completed before a bill became law. The act makes it clear at the very beginning:

An act that proclamations made by the king shall be obeyed. Forasmuch as the king’s most royal majesty, for divers considerations, by the advice of his council hath heretofore set forth divers and sundry his grace’s proclamations, as well for and concerning divers and sundry articles of Christ’s religion as for an unity and concord to be had amongst the loving and obedient subjects of this his realm and other his dominions, and also concerning the advancement of his commonwealth and good quiet of his people (which nevertheless divers and many froward, wilful, and obstinate persons have wilfully contemned and broken, not considering what a king by his royal power may do, and for lack of a direct statute and law to coerce offenders to obey the said proclamations… at all times by authority of this act his proclamations, under such penalties and pains and of such sort as to his highness and his said honourable council or the more part of them shall see[m] necessary and requisite; and that those same shall be obeyed, observed, and kept as though they were made by act of parliament for the time in them limited, unless the king’s highness dispense with them or any of them under his great seal.

 

Cromwell seems to have intended the proclamations to be administered by common law but as the quote from the act demonstrates, ultimately because of Parliamentary intractability on the part of the Lords, the proclamations were to be administered by a council: workable in theory but not in practice. The act was amended in 1543 to change the mechanism by which the council worked but finally repealed in 1547 after Henry’s death– not that it seems to have made a jot of difference as proclamations continued to be a perfectly legal way of doing things.

Proclamations would cause the Stuarts no end of problems – you could probably argue that Charles I lost his head over them given that he ruled and collected taxes without the aid of Parliament for more than a decade. Parliament was quite clear that the king didn’t have the right to go around demanding money – taxes had to be voted to him by Parliament and for him to suggest otherwise was illegal. He misused proclamation assuming that he could be behave as an absolute monarch.

And that is where I shall stop as I have no desire for this post to move from an interesting historical meander into political debate about the rights and wrongs of its use in the modern day. If nothing else it proves that Cromwell was a seriously wily political operator.

 

Bush L  “The Act of Proclamations: A Reinterpretation” The American Journal of Legal History. Vol. 27, No. 1 (Jan., 1983), pp. 33-53

Elton, G.R.Tudor Rule and Revolution: Essays for G R Elton from His American Friends

G. R. Elton, The Rule of Law in Renaissance England, in TUDOR MEN AND INSTITUTIONS 265-94 (A. J. Slavin ed., 1972), reprinted in 1 STUDIES IN TUDOR AND STUART POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT 260-84 (1974)

 

http://www.constitution.org/sech/sech_074.txt

 

 

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Thomas Beccon – reformer, propagandist and barometer of England’s Reformation.

Thomas_Becon.jpgBeccon or Becon was born in Norfolk around 1510-12, so during the first eighteen months of Henry VIII ascending the throne. He was educated in Cambridge where he studied under the tutelage of Hugh Latimer. He was ordained in 1533 – just as Henry VIII’s marital disputes were hotting up in more ways than one.  Despite the fact that Henry VIII passed a series of laws that changed the management and government of the Church making Hal the Supreme Head of the Church of England, religion and belief itself didn’t change very much.  Essentially Henry VIII remained a Catholic throughout his life. This was rather unfortunate for Beccon who  travelled along the road towards Protestantism  preaching his views to anyone who might care to hear. He was arrested in 1540 for preaching Protestantism and was forced to recant his beliefs.  To avoid further problems he stopped preaching and took to writing tracts under the assumed name of Theodore Basille.  Between 1541-43 at least eight works were published.  Sadly for him the pseudonym ploy was not entirely successful as Bishop Gardiner wasn’t without employees who knew how to wheedle the truth out of people.  Beccon found himself recanting for a second time whilst chopping up three of his books in public to show how very sorry he was for having written them in the first place.  In 1546 thirteen of his books were on a list of prohibited texts that were burned as an example to the populace.

Beccon seems to have spent these difficult years until the death of Henry VIII wandering around the Midlands doing a spot of tutoring and generally trying to avoid having to recant for a third time as that presumably would have meant burning him as well as his books.

However, in 1547 when Edward VI ascended the throne he became the chaplain of the Lord Protector Edward Seymour where he could write openly about his beliefs, acquire a decent living and begin to aspire to making social as well as religious changes.  

In 1553 things took a turn for the worse for Beccon when Mary I ascended the throne and promptly tried to turn the clock back.  This was the third stage of the English Reformation (broadly speaking).  Aside from Beccon’s Protestant inclinations there was the small fact that as an ordained member of the clergy he really shouldn’t have had a wife according to Mary I’s beliefs. In August 1553 he found himself ensconced within the Tower of London and removed from his living.  In March 1554 he was released and promptly left the country going to Germany where he was certain of a more friendly welcome. He actually became a tutor in the household of the Landgrave of Hesse.

He returned to England from Marburg where he taught at the university when Elizabeth I ascended the throne ushering in the fourth phase of the English Reformation (broadly speaking). He became a canon of Canterbury Cathedral and secured a number of benefices in Kent including that of Sturry.  He wasn’t entirely popular with Elizabeth I as although he’d welcomed Elizabeth I as the “English Deborah” (i.e. the saviour of her nation) he’d also subscribed to John Knox’s view about the “monstrous regiment of women” – which didn’t necessarily go down terribly well with Elizabeth.  He died in June 1567.

Beccon is credited with writing more than sixty texts however the book I’m interested in today is entitled The Jewel of Joy which was aimed at ordinary people and their beliefs as I’m giving a talk on the Dissolution of the Monasteries in Derbyshire in July. It includes an insight into Derbyshire at the time of his wanderings in the 1540s – I might add that he saw the county as “barren” in a spiritual sense claiming that because of the ignorance of many of its inhabitants they found themselves clinging to catholicism and lacked the “spark of godliness.”  The text is partially autobiographical.  He explains that having recanted for the second time at the foot of St Paul’s Cross he decamped from London to “avoid the ravening paws of these greedy wolves.” First he went to Thetford to visit his family and from there he set off to the Peak District intent on earning his living as a tutor. He didn’t known anyone and he didn’t expect a welcome.  Apparently he didn’t get one either as he described the locals as “rude and uncivilised:”

But all the religion of the people consisted of ‘hearing matins and masses, in superstitious worshipping of saints, in hiring soul’s carriers to ring trintals, in pattering upon beads, and such other Popish pedlar’. Yet the people where I have travelled, for the most part, are reasonable and quiet enough, yea, and very conformable to God’s truth. If any be stubbornly obstinate, it is for want of knowledge and because they have been seduced by blind guides.

The only exception to this appears to have been  in Alsop-En-La-Dale because of  John Alsop (yes the name is a clue as to that particular gentleman’s authority within the place).  Alsop En La Dale is about five miles north of the market town of Ashbourne.  And it was here that Beccon discovered a kindred spirit. Not only did John Alsop show Beccon his prized Coverdale Bible, written by Miles Coverdale in 1535 being a translation of the Bible into English, but he also showed him his library which contained many reforming treatises including some of Beccon’ own works (obviously Beccon didn’t look like an arch-conservative in the pay of Gardiner):

In a little village called AIsop En Le Dale, I chanced upon a certain gentleman called Alsop, lord of that village, a man not only ancient in years, but also ripe in the knowledge of Christ’s doctrine. When we had saluted each other, and I had taken a sufficient repast, he showed me certain books, which he called his jewels and treasures. To repeat them all by name, I am not able, but of this I am sure, that there was the New Testament after the translation of that godly learned man. Miles Coverdale, which seemed to be as well worn by the diligent reading thereof as ever was any mass book among the Papists. In these godly books – I remember right well that he had many other godly books, as the Obedience of Christian Man, The Parable of the Wicked Mammon, The Revelation of Anti- Christ, The Sun of Holy Scripture, The Book of John Frith against Purgatory, &c. – this ancient gentleman, among the mountains and rocks, occupied himself both diligently and virtuously.

And on that cheerful note I’m off to occupy myself both diligently and virtuously cooking dinner!

 

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