Tag Archives: Battle of Blackheath

The Constable brothers and The Pilgrimage of Grace

pilgrimage-of-grace-banner2My last post on Katherine Parr got me thinking about the fate of the gentry involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace and the way in which events are often more complicated than we first suppose.  Take the Constable brothers, though some texts identify them as an assortment of brothers and cousins.  They weren’t young men.  Two of them were veterans of Flodden. Sir John Constable of Burton Constable and Sir William Constable of Great Hatfield, one of the brothers at Flodden, lived some of the time in the wapentake of Holderness. Both of them were in residence in October 1536.

That month Anthony Curtis arrived in the area with the news that had spread through Lincolnshire and was now making its way through Yorkshire. The King, it was said, was going to limit the number of churches to one every five, or seven miles depending on the source, and was about to raise fees for marriages, christenings and funerals.  Bad enough that the new articles of faith denied there was any such place as Purgatory. Soon the area was up in arms as the Commons answered the call to join the Pilgrimage of Grace. Those who were less than enthusiastic either fled or were ‘persuaded.’

John and William Constable took themselves off to Hull and remained behind the town’s walls. They, together with the two Sir Ralph Ellerkers (which must have been uncomfortable as there was something of a feud going on between the two families) were the leading gentry of the area and it wasn’t long before the pilgrims arrived at Hull’s gates demanding the town and the gentry to lead them. Burton reveals that their brother Sir Robert Constable who’d been knighted by Henry VII after the Battle of Blackheath in 1487 was already in Pontefract Castle and that their other brother Sir Marmaduke, another veteran of the Scottish wars, went into hiding where he remained a loyal man of the king…always easier to achieve when you haven’t got a mob threatening to do very nasty things to you or your family.

On the 19th of October Hull capitulated when it started to run out of food.  The rebels forced the men behind its walls to take their oath.  Sir John Constable after initially refusing to submit to the rebels found himself in charge of Hull whilst Sir William, together with the pilgrims, headed in the direction of Pontefract.

Pontefract Castle fell to the rebels on the 21st and the Constable family found another of their number sworn to the pilgrim oath. Sir Robert now began working with Aske to organise the host of men who’d answered the call to arms or had been forced into rebellion. Later Sir Robert would negotiate with the various captains and commons for negotiation with the Duke of Norfolk rather than battle although it is evident there was a time when he wanted to continue beyond Doncaster towards London.  This did not endear him to Henry VIII.  Moorhouse reveals that Henry had a little list of men he wished to make an example of including Robert Aske and Lord Darcy.  Sir Robert Constable’s name also featured on the list.

In the aftermath of the rebellion Sir John managed to talk his way out of the situation. In 1537 he oversaw the trials and executions of Hull’s pilgrims. Sir William also sat on the trial commission.

King Henry VIII did not forget his little list of men who did not deserve pardon in his opinion.  Sir Robert was at Templehurst (Temple Newsam) , home of Lord Darcy, when Robert Aske arrived there on January 10, 1537.  He’d been wined and dined over Christmas by the king so had no idea that Henry was after vengeance as he was now trying to damp down renewed calls for rebellion.  Notices had been stuck on church doors across the area demanding a return to the old format of service. The three men decided the best thing to do was to try and keep the north calm until the Duke of Norfolk arrived.  The problem was that all three of them would soon be summoned to London.  Sir Robert received his politely worded note on the 19th February.  By Easter  he was in the Tower. The men went voluntarily believing that the king would treat them fairly.    They didn’t understand that Sir Francis Bigod’s rebellion in January 1537 nullified the agreement that Henry had reached with them…in Henry’s mind.  It didn’t matter that Robert Aske even had a letter of recommendation from the Duke of Norfolk.

Due process of the law now kicked into play.  The Duke of Norfolk put together a jury to hear the accusations against the men.  This was held in York.  Moorhouse notes that the jury was composed of a large number of relatives of the three men.  This effectively ensured that there would be an indictment, or as Moorhouse observes, the three men would have been joined in the Tower by some of their nearest and dearest. There were three men prepared to turn evidence against Constable.  Moorhouse details it (p298-99) and the fact that it was undoubtedly a fix – not least because one of the prosecution witnesses was a certain Sir Ralph Ellerker (you’ll remember him from Hull where he also signed the pilgrim oath).  Ellerker was either buying his own safety or taking the opportunity to take out a member of the Constable family with whom the Ellerkers were feuding.

Lord Darcy was executed in London but Sir Robert Constable, Robert Aske and Lord Hussey, another leader of the pilgrimage, were sent back to the places where they’d rebelled against the king.  It must have been an unhappy convoy that set off from London.  Lord Hussey was dropped off at Lincoln where Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk awaited him with an executioner.  The convoy continued north.  Aske would die in chains in York but Sir Robert was destined for Hull.  When he arrived there was time to spare as his execution was set for market day (plenty of spectators).  He was executed on the 6th of July 1537 and his body was hung in chains.

As for Sir Marmaduke – he purchased Drax Priory from the Crown because of it’s links to his wife’s family.

To find out more about the history of the Pilgrimage of Grace double click on the image to open up a new webpage.  Rather alarmingly I have added to my list of posts for this week – there’re Sir Nicholas Tempest who was hanged at Tyburn for his part in the pilgrimage as well as Sir John Bulmer and his wife Margaret Stafford.  She was burned at Smithfield for her treason.  It’s not that I’m turning this blog into a series of posts about who Henry VIII executed – although there’s enough material for it- it’s more that I’ve become curious about who escaped and who paid the ultimate penalty and why.

 

Bush, M.L. (1996) The Pilgrimage of Grace: A Study of the Rebel Armies of October 1536 Manchester: Manchester University Press

Lipscomb, Suzannah. (2006) 1536: The Year That Changed Henry VIII Oxford: Lion Hudson

Moorhouse, Geoffrey. (2002). The Pilgrimage of Grace. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Sixteenth Century, The Tudors, Uncategorized

Henry Tudor’s other son?

henryviiHenry VII was twenty-eight when he returned to England from Brittany in 1485 after an exile of fourteen years.   Griffiths makes the point that ‘Illicit relationships may have flourished,’ which is a very polite way of saying that penniless male Lancastrian exiles may have looked for a little local female company on occasion.

 

It turns out that Henry Tudor may have been one of the exiles who sought some company because he had, if we’re going to be accurate – may have had, an illegitimate son called Roland de Veleville.  Of course, being Henry Tudor he didn’t announce to the world at large ‘here is my son’ no title ‘Fitzroy’ was given the boy and there was certainly no flashing of the cash. So there is an academic argument about exactly who fathered Roland and sadly there isn’t a birth certificate stating the father or even a diary entry in Henry Tudor’s handwriting that would clear up the mystery. It’s a question of looking at the circumstantial evidence and deciding from there.  Alison Weir lists him as Henry VII’s natural son but other academics are less certain. De Lisle makes no mention of him, and neither does Penn, both these authors are telling the story of Tudor’s rise to power not what was happening on the sidelines.

 

Henry VII’s key twentieth century biographer Chrimes discounts the possibility that the boy was his as does Griffiths who wrote after Chrimes and was undoubtedly influenced by Chrimes’ writing. Chrimes, writing in 1967, stated that de Veleville was knighted following Bosworth and was just another of the Lancastrian victors who got his share of the spoils.  de Veleville definitely came to England with Henry Tudor, so was undoubtedly at Bosworth – it’s just that he was somewhere between eleven and fourteen years old  at the time which would have made him a very talented youth indeed if he was being rewarded with a knighthood and 40 marks per annum! He was actually knighted twelve years after Bosworth in 1497 following the Battle of Blackheath.

 

We know that Henry VII did have an illegitimate son. The Calendar of Salusbury Correspondence, 1553-c. 1700, ed. W. J. Smith (1954). p. 265,  mentions an ‘illeg. Son,’ though the letter is a secondary source written some hundred years after de Veleville’s death.  Nor do we know that the son is Roland – which is frustrating.

 

So what do we know? Henry VII kept the boy with him after he became king. He lived at the Palace of Westminster but doesn’t appear to have been a servant. He went hunting and hawking and spent time jousting.  He handled the royal falcons – these were expensive birds and were symbols of royalty…plebs were not permitted to handle them.  Whoever he was, Roland was favoured by Henry Tudor.

 

In 1509 following a role as mourner at Henry VII’s funeral de Veleville became Constable of Beaumaris Castle. Parliament tried to block the pension that went with it but failed. Henry VII had granted Roland lands in Penmynydd – which were part of the lands which had belonged to the Tudors prior to Owen Glyndower’s rebellion of 1400. When Roland died he was buried in Llanfaes Priory.

 

In between being sent to North Wales and dying in 1535 he turns up on more than one occasion at the court of Henry VIII including to mourn the death of Henry’s infant son. According to the antiwhitequeenblog https://antiwhitequeen.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/a-tudor-enigma-roland-de-veleville/

“De Veleville was imprisoned for several months in 1517 for “slandering the king’s Council.” He was released when he wrote an apology (though it seems to have taken him some time to agree to do so), but his release was contingent upon him “attending upon the king and not departing without license.” De Veleville having been ordered to stay in the household of the king until given permission to leave means that he had to stay with the king, at court, until the king released him so he could return home to Wales. It is a weird way to punish a criminal, but the crime itself is one that shows how close he was to the king. Keep in mind that he is not a peer of the realm, but his speaking out against the members of the king’s council was enough of a threat to their positions at court to warrant an arrest and imprisonment. This means that he had a close enough connection to the king to be able to influence him and damage other courtiers. This is not the kind of influence you would expect from a random knight in Wales, and shows that he had a connection to the king beyond his position as Constable.”

 

Roland was indeed imprisoned in The Fleet for slandering the King’s Council – something not to be done lightly.  However, whether Roland was Henry Tudor’s illegitimate son is not a certainty. He could, for example, just as easily have been the illegitimate son of Jasper Tudor who is known to have had an illegitimate daughter – more of her in another post; though why Jasper’s illegitimate son should have been shrouded in mystery by the Tudors is beyond me.  If Roland was Henry Tudor’s son then perhaps it was sensible for Henry not to advertise the fact given the unstable nature of the realm in 1485 when he had legitimate sons to beget with Elizabeth of York.   There is also a theory that Roland wasn’t illegitimate that Henry Tudor might have married whilst he was an exile, Roland’s mother wasn’t a serving wench- if this was the case it would have been difficult to broker a peace deal between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians with a legal son already on the scene – though you’d think Richard III would have been quick to advertise that fact unless the marriage was also shrouded in secrecy: which makes for rather a lot of skeletons rattling in various cupboards.  But it’s all speculation.   This last paragraph has moved away from history into supposition, as tends to happen with figures on the margins of history text books. Without dna testing there is no way of knowing who Roland was or, indeed, wasn’t.

 

Chrimes, S.B. (1973)  Henry VII  (Yale English Monarchs Seres)

Griffiths, R.A. (1985). The Making of a Tudor Dynasty

https://antiwhitequeen.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/a-tudor-enigma-roland-de-veleville/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under Fifteenth Century, Kings of England, Sixteenth Century, Uncategorized