John FitzGilbert

king-stephenJohn FitzGilbert is best known as the father of William Marshall. The fitz at this stage in proceedings simply means that John was the son of Gilbert Gifford.  Gifford can be translated as “chubby cheeks” – though I’m not terribly sure how terrifying the name Gilbert Chubby-cheeks actually might be.

The marshal element of the equation is the family job. Both John and Gilbert before him held the office of marshal in the royal household. This meant that they were responsible for horses, hawks, whores and anything else that the royal household might need – think of the role of marshal as being similar to that of quartermaster. It also entailed keeping order and making sure that all the members of the household (the important ones anyway) had somewhere to sleep as well as transport as the court journeyed on its many progresses.

Gilbert and John had duelled with William de Hastings and Robert de Voiz in a trial by combat for the right to hold the post of marshal in the household of King Henry I . In 1130, when his father died, John paid 40 marks for his job as marshal – indicating that the perks were worth considerably more than the fee. He was about twenty-five years old. He married the daughter of Walter Pipard at about the same time.  Pipard was a minor Wiltshire landowner. John was taking the first steps towards extending his landholding and extending his sphere of influence.

King Henry I died on 1st December 1135 from a surfeit of lamphreys – although of course this was accompanied at the time by the rumour of poisoning. John FitzGilbert continued in his role as marshal for Henry I’s successor King Stephen for the next seven years. This might have caused John some disquiet because, of course, Henry had forced his barons to swear an oath to put his only remaining legitimate child – the Empress Matilda- on the throne. We don’t know how John felt about that and initially his own oath of loyalty was given to Stephen (pictured at the start of the post) who arrived in England ahead of Matilda and took control of the treasury as well as the crown.

 

We know that John went with Stephen to Normandy in 1137 and that John was sufficiently trusted by Stephen to be rewarded with custodianship of Marlbourgh Castle and Ludgershall. John held lands in the Kennet Valley in Wiltshire given to the family after the Conquest  including Hamstead Marshal and Tidworth. For John it meant more power within Wiltshire but it also led to increasing hostility with the earls of Salisbury who felt that Ludgershall belonged to them.

As the civil war between Stephen and Matilda gained momentum John fortified his castles and began to attack those men in his locale who supported Matilda. The chronicle of the Gestia Stephanie describes him as “the root of all evil.” It certainly appears that John was rather good at skirmishing, raiding and generally making a nuisance of himself. As with other warlords he doesn’t always appear to have been too bothered by which side he was attacking. The chronicle notes that he “had no time for the idea of peace.”  He was also known as a cunning opponent as can be demonstrated in the tale of  Robert fitz Hulbert.

Robert fitz Hulbert was a mercenary in the pay of Robert of Gloucester on behalf of the Empress Matilda.  In 1140 fitz Hulbert seems to have decided that the route to fortune lay in supporting neither Stephen nor Matilda. He approached John who had a bit of a reputation for doing his own fair share of looting and suggested that between them they could control John’s area of Wiltshire.  John appears to have invited Robert around to one of his fortified gaffs for a goblet of wine and to discuss the venture.  Robert somehow ended up in one of John’s less comfy dungeons prior to being sold to the earl of Gloucester for five hundred marks…definately cunning.

By 1141 John seems to have felt that the tide had turned away from Stephen. This was probably to do with Stephen’s capture at Lincoln and imprisonment in Bristol but it may also have had to do with the fact that Robert, earl of Gloucester (illegitimate half brother of Matilda) held extensive lands that marched with John’s. John switched sides. It should be pointed out that some barons and knights changed sides more times than they changed their socks – at least John only did it the once!

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle summed up the problem of King Stephen rather neatly:

When King Stephen came to England he held his council at Oxford, and there he took Roger, bishop of Salisbury, and Alexander, bishop of Lincoln, and the chancellor Roger, his nephews, and put them all in prison till they surrendered their castles. When the traitors understood that he was a mild man, and gentle and good, and did not exact the full penalties of the law, they perpetrated every enormity. They had done him homage, and sworn oaths, but they kept no pledge; all of them were perjured and their pledges nullified, for every powerful man built his castles and held them against him and they filled the country full of castles. 

No wonder the nineteen years of civil war came to be known as The Anarchy when Christ and all his apostles slept.

By May 1141 John can be found with Matilda and according to William Marshall’s biography saved the empress from capture that August during the rout of Winchester when Matilda’s siege was lifted by men loyal to Stephen. In truth it was Robert of Gloucester who fought a rear guard action at Winchester but it is undoubtedly true that John was fighting on the empress’s behalf at Wherwell Abbey with William D’Ypres when it was fired and John left for dead in the smouldering rubble. John survived the blaze but lost an eye when melted lead fell from the roof into his face.

As the year drew on, and John survived his injuries, it became clear that the feud with the earl of Salisbury had to be ended. John’s marriage to his first wife, Aline Pipard, was annulled. It was done in such a way that the two sons of this first marriage remained legitimate and there was no stain on Aline’s honour. She went on to marry Stephen de Gai who was the earl of Salisbury’s uncle. John then married the earl of Salisbury’s sister Sibylla in 1144. Not only did this bring peace between the two families (if for no one else in the area) but it meant that John elevated his social status once more and as the Empress Matilda’s position strengthened John’s name can be found on assorted charters of the period.  John and Patrick of Salisbury seemed to have buried their differences given that the chroniclers of the period paint a picture of Wiltshire under the brother-in-laws’ heels.  John took land that didn’t belong to him, not only from the laity but also the clergy (which probably accounts for the tone of the chronicles which were written by ecclesiastical types.)  When King Stephen died on October 25 1154 Matilda’s eldest son Henry Fitzempress became king. John was rewarded well for his loyalty.

John is probably most famous, or possibly infamous, for the way in which during the siege of Newbury, another of John’s castles, (Historians and archeologists argue that the besieged castle was more likely to be at Hamstead Marshal rather than Newbury) that he handed over hostages including his five year old son William in order to buy time. King Stephen thought it was so that the garrison could prepare to exit stage left. However, as soon as the Reading road was cleared of besieging forces John took the opportunity to resupply the castle. When Stephen’s men threatened young William Marshall with hanging in response to John’s perfidy he retorted that he had the hammers and anvils to make more sons. Young William was the fourth of his sons and there were two younger ones after him named Ancel and Henry. It was only through King Stephen’s kindness and the charming personality of young William that the child survived the experience.

 

John died sometime between 1164 and 1165. His eldest son from his first marriage, named Gilbert after his grandfather died soon afterwards both of them having outlived John’s second son Walter. Thus it was the eldest son of the second marriage named John after his father who inherited John’s  lands and job as marshal. When he died without legitimate male heirs the title and the lands passed to William Marshall who was by that time earl of Pembroke.

For those of you like a spot of historical fiction – Elizabeth Chadwick’s book published in 2007 entitled  A Place Beyond Courage is about John FitzGilbert’s life from the end of King Henry I’s reign until the end of The Anarchy.  Elizabeth Chadwick also has a blog, click on the link to find her non-fiction post about John http://livingthehistoryelizabethchadwick.blogspot.co.uk/2009/10/biography-of-john-marshal.html

Asbridge, Thomas. (2015) The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power Behind Five English Thrones. London: Simon and Schuster

Painter, Sidney. (1982) William Marshal, Knight-Errant, Baron, and Regent of England. Toronto: University of Toronto

 

2 Comments

Filed under Twelfth Century

Medieval mêlée or tournament

WilliamMarshalPopular imagination paints tournaments as knightly types in plate armour on horses galloping at one another armed with lances trying to unseat their opponent. Hollywood offers up a dish of  fluttering banners, pageantry, ladies wearing hennins (pointy princess hats) and much fanfare.

History, as you might well expect, is somewhat different. For a start tournaments were a continental activity.  They didn’t happen in England until the reign of Henry II and even then he banned them again as they encouraged unrest. For the Church tournaments were “detestable military sports.” And lets face it the Church had a point. Tournaments were battles without the casualties – or at least not so many casualties (Marshall’s own son Gilbert died during a tournament.) Under those circumstances it is perhaps telling that William Marshall’s biographer only mentions ladies “inspiring” the competitors on one occasion.  The image showing William Marshall also shows the fact that the knights of the twelfth century wore mail rather than plate.

 

Essentially knights such as William Marshall fought as though they were on the battle field.  The main difference was that they did not intend to kill one another, though obviously that happened on occasion.  What they wanted to do was capture as many of their opponents as possible so that they could claim their horse and armour not to mention ransoming the knight. A man could alter the state of his finances quite dramatically on the tournament field – William Marshall being a very good example.

 

Powerful barons and rulers such as Henry II’s eldest son, also called Henry, would send a team of knights to demonstrate their prowess on the tournament circuit. The tourneyers may have gained a place in a noble household based on their ability on the tournament field and young knights wishing to make a name for themselves would try to gain employment in such households as war horses were expensive items. William Marshall famously tagged along to a tournament once he had been dismissed from the household of his distant cousin William de Tancaville who allowed William to become part of his team but only on the proviso that William took the last available horse. Marshall went on to cement his reputation and to become Henry, the Young King’s “tournament manager.”  When the Young King fell out with Marshall (because trouble makers said that Marshall was getting too big for his boots and hinted rather heavily of an affair between Marshall and the Young King’s wife) Marshall was inundated by offers of employment from enthusiastic tournament “sponsors” who wanted a star on their team in much the same way that modern football owners want a big name either as a manager or a player.

 

Knights without a team to attach themselves to were called “bachelor” knights and in the days leading up to the tournament there would be a series of paired events so that individual knights could demonstrate their skills and talents. Knights belonging to a mesnie or household would also partake in these events, especially if they had not yet made their reputations.

 

The tournament field was set up with lists around its edges. Lists were where the audience stood as well as each knights squires. The rules of the mêlée allowed a knight up to three lances.

 

Essentially the knights formed teams. The first part of the tournament involved the teams of knights parading onto the field side by side. This might be followed by some of the pairs of knights jousting with one another – think of it as the “warm up.”

 

A herald would blow a bugle to indicate that round one of the mêlée was about to begin a cheval. This part of the mêlée involved mounted knights with lances charging at one another. Once the lances broke or knights were unhorsed the mêlée continued  a pied with round two of the tournament on foot with swords and maces. Obviously not all knights were unhorsed at the same time so the mêlée could be somewhat chaotic.

The best tournament knights didn’t necessarily dive straight in but held back and waited until the keener elements of the event had tired themselves out and then swept in and took plenty of prisoners. This technique was developed by Philip of Flanders.

The event was followed with wine, women and song – not to mention prizes.

In 1292 a Statute of Arms improved on the rules to allow a fallen knight to be assisted to his feet by his squire and to legislate for weapons with safety features e.g. no points.

The image at the start of this post depicts William Marshall and can by found in Matthew Paris’s History Major. Paris, a Benedictine monk, living in St Albans wrote a history of the world ending with his death in 1259.  Its chronicling of King John, the Barons’ War and the invasion of Prince Louis is of key importance to our understanding of the period – and its beautifully illustrated.

4 Comments

Filed under Twelfth Century

Jacquetta and Sir Richard Woodville – Yorkists

Plate 4--Garter Stall Plate earl riversSir Richard Woodville (Lord Rivers) and his eldest son Sir Anthony were men in trouble in the aftermath of the Battle of Towton fought at Eastertide 1461.  They were Lancastrians who within six weeks of the battle found themselves attainted of treason and their lands confiscated.

By July 12 1462 Lord Rivers was pardoned.  It would appear from the correspondence of the time that Jacquetta had a hand in the changing state of affairs.   By 1463 Lord Rivers had found a place in the Privy Council.

Even more unexpectedly perhaps the new king married the couple’s eldest daughter the recently widowed Elizabeth Grey – who history knows as Elizabeth Woodville in May 1464.  Presumably Edward knew that marrying a penniless Lancastrian widow wouldn’t go down well with Warwick, especially as Edward had been in Calais in 1460 when Lord Rivers had been paraded through the town and rated as a “knave.”  Perhaps this was why Edward failed to mention the fact of his marriage to his cousin.

Elizabeth was crowned on May 26 1465.  There was a lot of emphasis placed upon Elizabeth’s maternal pedigree. In February 1466 the couple’s first child was born.    Between 1463 and 1483 the Woodvilles would rise in power and political dominance.    The earl of Warwick realised this would be at the expense of the Nevilles within week’s of Elizabeth Woodville’s public acknowledgement as between 1464 and 1466 Elizabeth arranged the marriage of many of her siblings into the richest and most powerful families in the land starting with the marriage of Elizabeth’s sister to the heir of the earl of Arundel.  Personally Warwick would not have been amused when the match he arranged between his nephew George and Anne Holland, heiress to the earldom of Exeter was overturned so that Anne could marry Elizabeth’s oldest son Thomas Grey.  Warwick’s aunt the dowager duchess of Norfolk (Katherine Neville) found herself married to nineteen year old John Woodville.  The duchess would have qualified for her bus pass at the time.  I could go on but you get the gist – there were a certain number of heirs and heiresses available and the Woodvilles swamped the market.

It was undoubtedly the rise of the Woodvilles that contributed to Warwick’s decision to turn against Edward in 1469. Not only had the family married above themselves so far as he was concerned but Sir Richard had ousted Lord Mountjoy (who just so happened to be the earl of Warwick’s uncle by marriage) from the position of treasurer in 1466.  Matters probably weren’t helped when the following year he was elevated to being Constable of England.

Warwick broke away from Edward in 1469 giving his association with low born men like earl (yes that’s right there was a promotion as well) as one of his reasons.  The two had apparently reconciled their differences earlier but a northern rebellion led by Robin of Redesdale was actually the earl of Warwick’s doing.  In addition the earl was plotting with Edward’s brother George duke of  Clarence.  The whole thing only came into the open when George married Isobel Neville (Warwick’s oldest daughter) on 11 July in Calais.  Edward suddenly discovered that not only was he facing an army of rebels from the north but that Warwick and Clarence had arrived in Sandwich and were marching with a second army having been allowed into London and “borrowed” some money from the City.  Edward was caught between two armies and became reliant on the earls Pembroke and Devon to raise an army on his behalf.

It didn’t go well for Edward or his earls for that matter.  On 26th July 1469   The earl of Pembroke’s army was intercepted by Warwick at Edgecote near Banbury and bested at the river crossing there.   The army might have fought on but Pembroke’s men seeing more of Warwick’s forces arriving assumed that the earl’s army was much larger than it really was.   William Herbert, the earl of Pembroke was captured and executed the following day.  The earl of Devon was also executed as were a number of Edward IV’s other key supporters.

Edward was happily oblivious to all of this being ensconced in Nottingham at the time when he left the city on the 29th July he was captured by Bishop George Neville at Olney and now found himself in the situation of Henry VI – i.e. in need of protection from bad advisers – or more correctly a prisoner.  By August he was resident in Warwick’s castle at Middleham and Elizabeth Woodville was firmly situated in Westminster with her children in sanctuary.

Where were the Woodvilles in all of this?  Sir Richard and his second son John were in Edward IV’s army.  They fled the went into hiding.  They were found in August at Chepstow and executed on the 12th August 1469 at Kennilworth.

That same month one Richard Wake accused Woodville’s widow Jacquetta of being a witch.  The earl of Warwick had Jacquetta arrested and taken to Warwick Castle.  Jacquetta did not panic.  Instead she wrote a letter to the mayor and aldermen of London calling in a favour.  George duke of Clarence became involved and Warwick for whatever reason seemed to get cold feet about the whole business and released her.  She very sensibly joined Elizabeth claiming sanctuary in Westminster Abbey.

The witchcraft case only failed ultimately because Edward was able to escape his cousin’s clutches in 1470 and the family disagreement patched up (for the time being).  On the 10th February 1470 it was added to the record books that the dowager duchess of Bedford was not in fact a witch and that her accusers were malicious trouble makers.  The story came out of the woodwork again in 1484 when Richard III wanted to use the tale against the Woodvilles – it can be seen in the Titulus Regulus.

Since then much has been made by fiction writers of Jacquetta’s magical abilities from blowing up storms to arranging for a nasty fog.  However, in reality the lady’s biggest mistake was to be an educated woman at a time when being able to read was suspect and being the mother of the most hated family in England (by some powerful factions in any event) did not help.  In the previous generation Good Duke Humphrey’s wife, Eleanor Cobham, was accused of witchcraft as a ploy to bring down Humphrey whilst Henry IV’s second wife Joan of Navarre was also accused of witchcraft – by her step-son no less- as a method of controlling her dower lands.

England did not remain long at peace.  By September 1470 Warwick and Clarence were in Lancastrian colours and Margaret of Anjou had invaded.  Jacquetta returned to sanctuary with Elizabeth and her grandchildren whilst Edward IV and Jacquetta’s son Anthony fled abroad.

Jacquetta died on the 30 May 1472.  She was fifty-six and like Katherine Swynford – her descendents would be English monarchs to this day.

Gregory, Philippa, Baldwin, David and Jones, Michael. (2011) Women of the Cousins’ War.  London: Simon and Schuster

4 Comments

Filed under Fifteenth Century, The Plantagenets, Wars of the Roses

Jacquetta and Richard Woodville – Lancastrians.

Jacquetta of Luxembourg.jpgElizabeth Woodville was the oldest of fifteen children of whom thirteen survived to adulthood. Their father was Richard Woodville of Grafton in Northamptonshire.  The Woodvilles were gentry rather than aristocracy and served the house of Lancaster.  Richard Woodville and his father both served in the duke of Bedford’s household.

It was there that Richard met Elizabeth’s mother – Jacquetta of Luxembourg.  Her father was the Count of St Pol and the family were not only aristocratic but had been around long enough to claim to be descended from Melusine a serpent/witch.  A glance at the family tree reveals that the bloodlines of King John and King Henry III of England were in her ancestry. Jacquetta was the young bride of the duke of Bedford and as with is first marriage to Anne of Burgundy, Bedford’s marriage was a matter of international diplomacy.  When Bedford died in 1435 the pair had been married for two years.

Jacquetta was descended from an ancient line and the aunt of Henry VI by marriage.  She should not have remarried without royal permission and she certainly shouldn’t have married a household knight but that is exactly what the young widow did.

There was a price to be paid for the pair’s love match.  The fine was £1000.  The cash was provided by Cardinal Beaufort but it was not a generous gift.  Jacquetta had to part with lucrative dower lands- she had inherited one third of Bedford’s estates. More of the lands were confiscated by the Crown. The Woodvilles were noted afterwards for their swiftly growing family and for Richard Woodville’s links with the House of Lancaster – in particular the Beauforts.  Richard served in France under the dukes of Somerset in a variety of capacities.

It was not England’s finest hour so far as the Hundred Years War were concerned. It was a sensible decision to sue for peace.  In 1445 Henry VI married Margaret of Anjou.  It was not a decision that met with popular acclaim.  The bride came with no dowry and the English had to part with Anjou and Maine. Margaret, along with her personal symbol of the daisy, was met with hostility.  William de la Pole who had orchestrated the truce and the marriage was reviled.  Yet, a new faction formed in English politics.  De la Pole and the young french bride bonded on their journey to England,  Margaret was only sixteen and she must have welcomed  Jacquetta Woodville who joined the bridal party as a friendly face.  Margaret and Jacquetta became friends.  Margaret swiftly learned the ropes of English politics and set about neutralising the duke of York who she regarded as a threat.

Jacquetta’s position in society was an ambiguous one.  She might have been descended from royalty and as the dowager duchess of Bedfordshire she might have had no superior other than the new queen but she had relinquished that particular position by marrying down – a woman’s rank came from her father and when she married from her husband. This was complicated by the fact that having been married to a duke she kept the title duchess. It was perhaps in part to relieve this anomaly that plain Sir Richard became Baron Rivers in 1448.  The Woodvilles were on the rise at a time when English society and politics was undergoing a bit of a shakedown.

In 1447 Good Duke Humphrey, Henry VI’s remaining uncle found himself being toppled form power when his wife Eleanor Cobham was hauled before the courts on charges of witchcraft and plotting against the king’s life.  He died soon afterwards followed by Cardinal Beaufort the king’s great uncle.  William de la Pole appeared to be in the ascendant.  The king’s cousin, Richard of York, had been sidelined by a posting to Ireland.  The Peace Party, the duke of Suffolk and the Woodvilles were doing very nicely thank you. When Elizabeth Woodville was old enough she came to court as one of Margaret of Anjou’s maid’s of honour.

Elizabeth Woodville was from a gentry family – that was her father’s rank irrespective of who her mother might have been before she married.  Her marriage to Sir John Grey, heir of Edward Grey of Groby was a good match.  Thomas Grey, Elizabeth’s first child, had arrived within two years of the first battle of St Albans. Unsurprisingly the Greys were a Lancastrian family in terms of their politics.

Fortune’s Wheel was about to make a turn.  The war in France continued to go badly. Parliament was called – the duke of Suffolk was blamed for the military disasters and banished.  He was murdered en route to his banishment.  His death was one of the triggers to Cade’s Rebellion of 1450.

Meanwhile the Woodville’s continued to rise – Richard became a member of the Order of the Garter as well as a privy councillor. He became Lieutenant of Calais. He was still in Calais in May 1455 when the red rose and the white rose took to the field against one another.  Woodville’s “sponsor”, Edmund Beaufort, duke of Somerset was killed – Richard Neville took charge of Calais and Richard Woodville returned home.

elizabeth woodvilleIn 1461 Elizabeth Woodville’s husband was killed at the second battle of St Albans fighting on the Lancastrian side – the wrong side as it happened.  Elizabeth was left  widowed with two young sons and at loggerheads with her husband’s family over her dower. She had no alternative other than to petition the Yorkist king Edward IV – the result would see the Woodville’s turn from Lancastrians into Yorkists.

 

 

7 Comments

Filed under Fifteenth Century, Wars of the Roses

The Vernons of Haddon Hall – “King of the Peak”

george vernon.jpgSir George Vernon was born around 1508 but his father, Richard, died in 1517 whilst he was still a child so the Vernon lands were subject to the rules about wardship- which always ran the risk of financial loss but in George’s case his guardians, who included Cardinal Wolsey, appear not to have drained his resources.  In fact by the time of his death in 1565 the peerage records the fact that he had possession of thirty manors.   Sir Henry Vernon, George’s grandfather pre-deceased his son by only two years.

George’s mother, Margaret,  was descended from the Dymoke family of Lincolnshire (hereditary champions of the monarch) married secondly Sir William Coffin (who died in 1538) and then for a third time into the Manners family – Sir Richard Manners.  As you know if you read the History Jar regularly I love the way that footnotes turn up in the strangest of places and in this particular instance it should be noted that Margaret’s claim to fame was that she was one of Anne Boleyn’s ladies whilst she awaited her trial and execution. At that time Margaret was still married to her second husband. Interestingly Ives notes that the Manners family were loyal to the Boleyn faction.  They gave Ann embroidered sleeves for her New Year’s Day gifts whilst Anne in her turn, as evidenced in the Rutland MSS, gave her ladies palfreys and saddles on her first Christmas as queen in 1533 (Ives: 258). Weir has more to say on the topic of Lady Margaret Coffin during Anne’s confinement in the Tower.  Margaret shared Anne’s bed chamber, sleeping on the pallet bed by her side – apparently Anne had never liked Margaret Coffin- so it probably wasn’t a comfortable experience, not least because Margaret and the other four women who served Anne were reporting to Sir William Kingston, Anne’s warder, who described Margaret as “good and honest.” Weir goes on to say that William Coffin was the queen’s Master of Horse being related to the Boleyns possibly resulted in the role but he was also a gentleman of the Privy Chamber and was one of the party who conspired against Anne at the beginning of May 1536. William would be knighted in 1537 and continue as Master of the Horse. His wife would go on to serve Jane Seymour – which just goes to show that even in Derbyshire the comings and goings of Henry’s queens were of political importance to leading families.

But back in April 1522 little George’s wardship was given jointly to Cardinal Wolsey and to Lady  Tailboys – which accounts for his marriage into the Tailboys family.  And as another aside it should be noted that Margaret Tailboys had a brother called Gilbert who married a woman in 1520 called Bessie Blount – meaning that George Vernon’s sister-in-law  was the woman who gave Henry VIII his only acknowledged illegitimate child. Margaret Tailboys died on March 25 1558 having produced two daughters; Margaret and Dorothy.  George would now marry Maud (or Matilda) Longford – the Longfords were a Derbyshire family.

Practically it was George’s uncle, John Vernon (who owned Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire), who ran the estate whilst George was a minor and it was John’s advice that saw George settled on a career path in the law after a stint at university.   By the time of the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 George had come into his own and was fulfilling the role of a member of the  gentry as JP and later as MP for Derbyshire in 1542 (he only served the once). By 1545 Sir George was extending and modernising Haddon Hall- not to mention ensuring that Henry VIII’s arms were on prominent display.  He was knighted at the coronation of Edward VI. The Parliamentary biography of George notes that he was on a list to be raised to the barony but it never happened nor did he become sheriff although he was nominated some nine times.  He appears to have blotted his copybooks with the powers that be! Certainly in 1557 he failed to yield £100 in a forced loan demanded by Queen Mary. His approach to law and order wasn’t necessarily terribly in keeping with the concept of innocent until proved guilty either – legend states that he hanged at least one man without trial.

In 1564 Bishop Bentham, who perhaps hadn’t heard about the summary justice that Vernon meted out, said of him ‘a great justice [in] religion as in all other things’, renowned ‘for his magnificence … for his kind reception of all good men, and his hospitality’. And George was noted for his extreme hospitality – hence the by-name of “King of the Peak.” The household accounts of 1564 reveal a host sparing no expense on his guests.  The earl of Worcester’s minstrel was paid the princely sum of 13s. 4d. The is also mention of a tun of wine, malmsey, muscadel and every assortment of meat and fish that the reader could imagine – though the 18 blackbirds presumably won’t be high in the modern list of Christmas must haves!.   The title of King of the Peak was one that Alan Cunningham couldn’t resist when he told the story of Dorothy Vernon’s elopement in 1822. And yes, I shan’t be resisting the temptation to explore the story of Dorothy Vernon in another HistoryJar post.

Sir George died on the 31 August 1565. His daughters Margaret and Dorothy inherited his lands.  Their husbands were the earl of Derby and and the second son of the earl of Rutland respectively. Sir George left clear instructions in his will about which of his manors were to be used to pay off his debts and pay for his funeral.  He and his two wives are buried in All Saints Church, Bakewell.

Ives, E.W. (1986).  Anne Boleyn. Oxford: Blackwells

Weir, A. (2009) The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn. London: Jonathan Cape

http://www.cheshirenow.co.uk/vernon_family.html

Sir George "King of the Peak" Vernon & wives

http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/member/vernon-george-1518-65

Leave a comment

Filed under Sixteenth Century, Uncategorized

Ralph Cromwell, Lord Treasurer…Mr Moneybags.

brass of cromwell.jpgRalph Cromwell, Lord Treasurer to Henry VI, built a castle from brick in Lincolnshire complete with turrets, winding stair cases and baronial fireplaces. So who was he and what was so special about his castle and his other estates?

He was born sometime in the region of 1394 in Nottinghamshire at Lambley. He went to France as part of the duke of Clarence’s retinue in 1412. He was knighted by Henry V after Agincourt which took place on the 25th October 1415 – St Crispin’s Day for fans of Shakespeare. By 1417 Cromwell was on the rise in English Normandy.  He was one of the men who helped King Henry V to agree the Treaty of Troyes in 1420 which married Henry V off to Katherine of Valois and which would have made Henry king of France as well as England had he survived the rigours of the campaign. Later Cromwell would be sent to France to witness the execution of Joan of Arc.

By 1422 Cromwell had become sufficiently influential to gain a place on Henry VI’s regency council.  He appears to have been part of Cardinal Beaufort’s faction.  This is best demonstrated by the fact that from 1431-32 he served as Henry VI’s chamberlain.  The duke of Gloucester (or Good Duke Humphrey who I have posted about before) was overseas at the time.  As soon as Gloucester returned, Cromwell was issued with the medieval equivalent of his P45.

Henry VI’s other uncle, the duke of Bedford, appointed him treasurer of England in 1433.  He would go on to be the longest serving treasurer for almost a century. Of course, nothing is straight forward and the political factions of the time made life interesting on occasion.  The first thing he did was to tell Parliament about the king’s finances. The Crown was in debt to a tune of £168,000 and there was an annual hole of  £22,000 to also take into consideration.  Essentially Cromwell knew that Parliament needed to vote the Crown taxes but the problem was that Parliament voted taxes in times of warfare.  At other times the monarch was supposed to “live of his own.” In 1443 he retired on health grounds – but continued behaving has Lord Treasurer.  As the 1440s drew on he was increasingly hostile to William de la Pole, the duke of Suffolk and royal favourite.

In 1449 one of the duke’s henchmen attempted to assassinate him at Westminster.  William Tailbois escaped justice because the duke protected him. Ultimately the duke of Suffolk fell from power, was incarcerated in the Tower before being banished and then murdered. Worcester claims that it was Cromwell who instigated the impeachment against De la Pole. Tailbois was then briefly imprisoned for his role in trying to kill Cromwell and also fined. Just as an aside for those of you who like to know these things Tailbois can be spelled Tailboys or Talboys. Tailbois was a loyal Lancastrian and he would end up fleeing to Scotland in 1461 with Margaret of Anjou in the aftermath of Towton.  He would be a thorn in the Yorkist side until 1464 when he fought at Hexham, survived the battle only to be found and taken to newcastle where he was executed.

But back to the main thread of this post. It should  be mentioned that by 1449 the Crown debt had risen to a whopping £372,000.  Cromwell resigned.  This did not stop him, according to William of Worcester, travelling with a retinue of a hundred men. He was also appointed to a new job – Constable of Nottingham Castle.

As the 1450s dawned, Cromwell found himself charged with causing the problems which led to the first Battle of St Albans in May 1455. To be fair, his accusers had a point. William of Worcester recounts the fact that Cromwell’s niece was married to Thomas Neville in 1453.  Thomas Neville was a younger son of Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury (Thomas, if you want further clarification was the Kingmaker’s little brother).  The bride was Maud Stanhope, Lady Willoughby. The incident appears in almost every publication about the events that led to the outbreak of fighting. Neville and Thomas Percy (Lord Egremont) were in mid feud at the time and it didn’t help that Cromwell had possession of rather a lot of Percy land.  The land had been forfeited because of the Percies involvement in rebellions against Henry IV – but they had long memories with regard to what they owned. The marriage between Maud and Thomas meant that the confiscated Percy land was ultimately going to end up in Neville hands. It went down like a lead balloon with Egremont who didn’t much like the groom in any event.  The wedding was set for the 24th August 1453.  The bridal party had to cross he worth Moor to reach Sherif Hutton.  Percy, his brother Richard and John Clifford (heir of Lord Clifford) made their plans.  In excess of a 1000 men attacked the wedding party on the moor. It wasn’t much more than a skirmish as no one was actually killed but it didn’t help relieve the tension.  It was, in fact, one of the sparks that led to war with the Duke of York taking sides with Neville, the Duke of Exeter with Percy.

Cromwell by this time had joined forces with the Duke of York although the Paston letters state that Cromwell did not arrive in time to take part in the first Battle of St. Albans.  As a result he was regarded with suspicion and even accused of treason by Warwick.

On a personal level the year was further clouded by the fact that Margaret died in the autumn of 1455 without any children.  There was no one other than his nieces, who now became co-heiresses, to leave his vast estates and wealth.

Tattershall CastleCromwell’s finances were in rather better shape than the monarch’s.  He made a good marriage (unlike Henry VI who married in return for peace but lost Maine and gained no dowry in the process much to the average Englishman’s disgust.  Henry VI even had to pawn the crown jewels to pay for the wedding.)  Cromwell’s wife was Margaret, Lady Deincourt – conveniently a wealthy co-heiress in her own right.  Tattershall Castle was his main residence which he inherited in 1419 but he owned the manor of South Wingfield in Derbyshire; Collyweston in Northamptonshire; Wymondham in Norfolk (hence the Paston interest) and had a quarrel with the duke of Exeter over the lordship of Ampthill in Bedfordshire and was involved as patron of the Foljambes of Walton near Chesterfield in a dispute about the Heriz inheritance that led to the murder of  Sir Henry Pierpoint’s brother-in-law in the church at Chesterfield. Cromwell, it should be noted, had a number of property disputes on the boil during his lengthy career.

IMG_9367.jpg

One of particular note is that between Cromwell and Sir John Gra of North Ingleby (Lincolnshire). Essentially Gra had borrowed money from a range of people and had difficulty paying them back.  As was standard practise in return for a loan Gra effectively mortgaged his land. If the money was not all paid back by a specified day the land became the property of the lender. Cromwell, it should be added had a bit of a reputation for taking property on mortgage, or buying out a mortgage so that the debtor owed him the money rather than the original lender. He also had a reputation  for  not returning land when the loan was repaid even if it was repaid on time.   Anyway, in 1430 Gra had mortgaged Multon Hall in Lincolnshire to Thomas Morstead for a period of ten years.  In 1434 Cromwell purchased the debt from Morstead and took possession of Multon Hall.  Basically, as Richmond comments the Lord Treasurer of England was a loan shark.  Somehow or other Sir John Gra paid the money back in 1347 at St Paul’s Cathedral – so there could be no doubting that the debt had been repaid but the terms had changed with the change of lender.  Cromwell did not return the hall.  He noted that other promises had been made and they had not been fulfilled. The case went to the courts and completely unsurprisingly the important Lord Cromwell received judgement in his favour.  As though that weren’t bad enough Gra’s wife Margaret was not only estranged from her husband but had over time turned into an heiress. If she had children her inheritance would pass to them, if not the inheritance would revert in part down the family line – to none other than Ralph Cromwell.

Part of Margaret Gra’s inheritance was South Wingfield.  Gra was awarded a life interest in this property amongst others including the manors of nearby Tibshelf and Crich. He was also ordered to treat his wife with respect. Just before Gra’s wife died they appear to have been reconciled or at least to have reached an understanding. She made a will that left everything outright to her husband unfortunately for Gra it wasn’t legal.   The person he would have to contest ownership with was none other than Lord Ralph Cromwell.  The case went to court. The case is known as the Bellars Inheritance. Gra did not have the money for a protracted legal battle, nor was the law on his side, so settled out of court for forty marks a year.

Cromwell remodelled South Wingfield, turning it from a castle into a manor house surrounding a courtyard. There is an extensive account about its construction in the Archeological Journal (1985) by Emery. The rebuild was just a small part of an extensive building programme.  In 1439 Cromwell was given permission to create a collegiate church for the training of priests in Tattershall and to remodel the castle. The keep and moat of Tattershall is all that is left today along with a gatehouse and the footprint of a jousting ground. The fireplaces boast the Cromwell arms – of a well stuffed money bag.  His motto in French translates as “Have I not the right?” William of Worcester noted  “that the household consisted of a hundred persons.”  The cost of such a large household was about £5000 a year. The tower dominated the landscape and once inside the building petitioners would have to climb a winding stair case before walking the length of a corridor with an impressive vaulted ceiling before gaining admittance to the Great Hall.

 

He died on the 4th January 1456 probably at Collyweston, though South Wingfield  does get a mention but is buried at Tattershall in the collegiate church of Holy Trinity opposite the alms houses that he had built. He and his wife were childless so Cromwell’s estates ultimately reverted to the Crown.  Amongst his other works of family or piety depending upon your viewpoint was having the church at Lambley rebuilt along with a chantry chapel for his parents and grandparents.

Cromwell’s brass, pictured at the start of the post,  is difficult to see as it has to be  protected from the bats which in inhabit the church.

 

Hicks, Michael. (1991) Who’s Who in Late Medieval England. London: Shepherd-Walwyn.

Richmond, Colin. John Hopton: A Fifteenth Century Suffolk Gentleman

 

2 Comments

Filed under Fifteenth Century, Wars of the Roses

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).

2 Comments

Filed under Fifteenth Century, The Tudors, Wars of the Roses

Murder in church – Derbyshire style.

It is starting to amaze me just how often Derbyshire is turning up in the footnotes of History in my reading at the moment.  Take the murder that occurred in St Mary’s Church, Chesterfield for example – and yes, that is the church with the twisted spire that legend blames on Old Nick but History blames on lack of skilled workmen following the Black Death.

Anyway, my story involves Ralph Cromwell, Henry VI’s Lord Treasurer (in a roundabout way), his henchman and his henchman’s enemies. Cromwell whose main residence was Tattershall castle in Lincolnshire expanded into Derbyshire via the manors of Tibshelf and South Wingfield (more commonly associated with Mary Queen of Scots these days).  His ownership of the aforementioned manors was contested by Sir Henry Pierrepoint (or Pierpoint) from Nottinghamshire. Castor explores the resulting factions in The King, The Crown and the Duchy of Lancaster and concludes that the Lancaster Affinity had split along geographical lines as well as personal ones.

Pierrepoint tried to build up his lands around Chesterfield which resulted in the enmity of Thomas Foljambe of Walton.  The Foljambes had been the leading family in Chesterfield for rather a long time and weren’t keen on yielding their position.  Consequentially when Pierrepoint leased the Manor of Chesterfield from the countess of Kent things were set to become grim.  Even worse the countess let Pierrepoint run the annual and no doubt very lucrative annual fair.

Foljambe sent in his thugs to disrupt the fair.  The countess prepared to take him to court. Foljambe blamed Pierrepoint to the extent that he took a bloody revenge on new Years Day 1434 – and remember New Year’s day was deemed to be in March.

First Foljambe nobbled the parish clerk – a man named Thomas Mogynton.  Mogynton’s jobs were two fold.  He was ordered to lock possible ways of escape from the church and secondly to ring the bells to summon Foljambe and his men.

The accounts vary as to the number of attackers – but let’s just say Foljambe arrived with sufficient men to kill all of Pierrepoint’s party – Henry Longford, William Bradshaw and Thomas Hasilby who were there to hear Mass.  Pierrepoint left half his men outside the church so that Pierrepoint’s men couldn’t escape and then when Moygnton rang the bell he entered with the other half of his men with their weapons drawn.

The vicar, Richard Dawson, tried to halt the bloodshed but he was ordered back to the altar.

Sir Henry lost the thumb and two fingers of his right hand making it impossible for him to fight. Meanwhile two of his companions were murdered.  Henry Longford was Pierrepoint’s  brother-in-law, as well as his squire. Only Hasilby escaped. Longford and Bradshaw died in the church. Pierrepoint was dragged from the church and was only spared when Richard Foljambe of Bonsall argued  for mercy.

Inevitably justice  for a double murder and a maiming was a protracted affair. There were two juries.  The second one, composed of Derbyshire gentry, was inclined to blame Pierrepoint for everything whilst the first one  composed of Pierrepoint’s friends and family tended to see things differently.

Somewhere along the way, before the first trial before a jury of Pierrepoint’s friends Foljambe had managed to acquire a dodgy lawyer who ensured that the indictment against Foljambe had the word “junior” after Foljambe’s name meaning that it was his ten-year-old son up on the charge: which even by the standards of the time was taking things a bit far. The same lawyer even presented the jury with a list of men who had taken part in the attack.  The only problem was that the jury noticed that the list was largely fictitious.

The matter was unresolved for twenty years – I bet there were some tense encounters during that time. In September 1454 – so at the time of Richard of York’s first protectorate, matters were finally dealt with. Foljambe and those of his men who were still alive found themselves incarcerated in the Marshalsea Prison to await trial. One of the men on the jury who put them there wasn’t entirely unbiased: Sir Henry Pierrepoint must have enjoyed himself enormously.

Unfortunately for my story the jigsaw piece of History that has disappeared down the back of the chronological sofa on this occasion is the trial and what happened next.  And there’s no picture because my pictures of Chesterfield Church are so old that the word digital wasn’t something that was associated with cameras!

Castor, Helen. (2000) The King, The Crown and the Duchy of Lancaster , 1399-1461 Oxford: Oxford Univeristy Press

http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1386-1421/member/pierrepont-sir-henry-1452

Leave a comment

Filed under Fifteenth Century, Wars of the Roses

Katherine Swynford locations

It’s inevitable that many of these locations feature as castles belonging to John of Gaunt: Tutbury, Leicester, Herefored and Hertford to name a few.  I’ve also included a few places associated with Mary de Bohun whose household Katherine is listed in during some of the period when she and Gaunt went their separate ways.

 

Double click on the pointer to open up a box with a snippet of information about each of these locations. If nothing else it is possible to see how widely travelled John of Gaunt was within England. It is possible to see the lines of Roman roads as well as the marches between England and Wales as you look at the locations, a reminder that in the past boundaries determine fortifications and that key transport networks made it possible for the great and the good to administer their estates.

6 Comments

Filed under Fourteenth Century, maps, medieval

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.

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Queens of England, Sixteenth Century, The Tudors