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Edward Seymour, Lord Protector

Edward_SeymourEdward Seymour (born about 1500) the eldest surviving son of Sir John Seymour and Margery Wentworth of Wolf Hall in Wiltshire was following the court trajectory of many other Tudor men  in terms of patronage and a slow climb up the  social ladder until his sister, Jane Seymour, caught the eye of Henry VIII at which point Thomas Cromwell moved out of his accommodation to make way for Edward and his wife Ann Stanhope so that the king could speak privately to Jane whilst chaperoned by her family.  Once Jane became queen Edward swiftly acquired some nifty new titles.

The trajectory of his rise can be seen in the manner of his address in 1523 he became Sir Edward when he was knighted by the Duke of Suffolk when he went with him on campaign to France. In 1536 the king made him Viscount Beauchamp and then in 1537 the Earl of Hertford.  In 1542 he became the Lord High Admiral but really he was a soldier and he handed that position back when the Scots repudiated the Treaty of Greenwich which had been made in the aftermath of the Battle of Solway Moss.  In 1544 he headed north for a spot of Rough Wooing, sailed into Leith and burned Edinburgh.  He also won a victory against the French at Boulogne in 1546.  He gained a reputation for military efficiency.

On 27 January 1547 Henry VIII died leaving a regency council to care for is son, the new king Edward VI.  Sir Edward had no desire to share power with the rest of the Privy Council and promptly managed to wangle the post of Lord Protector based on the fact that he was the new king’s uncle and had a reputation as a soldier in both Scotland and France.  He also dished out a new title for himself becoming the Duke of Somerset on February 16 1547.  He then edged the Privy Council out even more into the cold by drawing up Letters Patent that his nine-year-old nephew signed decreeing that he only need call on the services of the Privy Council when he thought it was necessary.  Needless to say this resulted in resentment and would ultimately leave him isolated.  Thomas Wriothesley  the chancellor and newly minted Earl of Southampton protested.  He found himself being deprived of the chancellorship for his pains.

Essentially historians are torn about the Lord Protector. Many of them see him as highly principled and concerned for the care of the poor within England’s realm.  It was he who issued the proclamation saying that hedges and fences enclosing common land should be removed. Others see him as failing to take the necessary command and control of the situation – when Kett’s Rebellion erupted in 1549 it was because they believed they were following the Protector’s instructions in demolishing the new enclosures. It didn’t help that there were a series of bad harvests and that inflation was rampant.

There was also the tricky matter of his difficult relationship with his little brother Sir Thomas who was jealous of Edward and did everything he could to make life difficult for the Lord Protector.

Edward Seymour even managed to please no one in religious terms when he tried to steer a middle path between Catholics and Protestants and failed to please either group when as part of Cranmer’s reforms he instituted the Common Prayer Book in English resulting in the Prayer Book Rebellion in 1549 when the population of the west Country rose up in protest at the english content of church services.  Calvinists didn’t think he went far enough even though he banned the lighting of candles and got rid of a number of holidays and suppressed the chantries.

Meanwhile so far as foreign affairs were concerned Somerset had tried initially to suggest that the Scots should enter a union voluntarily with England and when that failed he headed north and induced in a bit of Scot bashing – the Battle of Pinkie occurred on September 10 1547 and was an English victory but resulted ultimately in the Scots sending their little queen to France for safety which was what Henri II wanted but which was not what the English wanted as the country once more became the bone between the two dogs.  The cost of the war was prohibitive as was the need for a standing army.  By the end of the period the borders between England and Scotland were back at their Henrican starting point.

Somerset’s rival on the council, John Dudley, the Earl of Warwick was able to bide his time and draw on the support of all the people that Somerset had managed to irritate including Edward VI.  Somerset realised what was happening and headed off to Windsor from Hampton Court with Edward VI on 1 October 1549 but when it became clear that if he stood his ground that it would result in faction, feud and blood shed he “came quietly” as the newspapers would say.  The people who supported I’m were the ones without power or influence.  Seymour was arrested on the 11th of October on charges that included ambition and followings own authority.

 

Somerset and his faction were toppled but after a time in prison Somerset was allowed to return to the Privy Council which he had managed to alienate by not conferring with them.  Unfortunately for him he tried to law back his position so found himself under arrest for treason along with the Earl of Arundel.  Dudley claimed that Somerset intended to capture the Tower of London and then raise rebellion around the country.  There was no evidence but it didn’t matter.

Somerset was found guilty and executed on 22 January 1552.  The people of London were ordered to stay indoors on the morning of Edward Seymour’s execution but a huge number of people turned out, many of them sobbing.  When some soldiers arrived late there was a cry that “the good Duke” was to be spared but it was Seymour who calmed the crowd and explained that there would be no reprieve. Certainly his nephew Edward VI does not spare his uncles blushes in his journal and is completely, apparently, unmoved by his execution in 1552 simply noting that he had had his head chopped off.

Weir, Alison. (2009) Children of England: the Heirs of Henry VIIILondon: Jonathan Cape

 

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The Battle of Pinkie

infant-mary-queen-of-scotThe Treaty of Greenwich, of July 1543, was about the marriage between Henry VIII’s son Prince Edward and the infant Mary, Queen of Scots pictured left.  There was also a side venture to further tie the union between the two nations with a marriage between the Earl of Arran’s son and the Lady Elizabeth . Unfortunately the treaty was never ratified and by Christmas the treaty was like old newspaper – good for wrapping fish and chips but not much else.

1544 saw Henry VIII set about the “Rough Wooing.”  Spring brings birds, flowers and invading armies – and so it was in April 1544. An English fleet sailed into Leith where it unloaded an army led by Sir Edward Seymour, at that time Earl of Hertford.  They did what bad mannered invading armies tend to do with fire and sword.  There was a slight interruption in the attempt to win Mary’s hand with violence due to pressing matters in France followed by a resumption of hostilities in the autumn.

Across the borders, Scots and English, nobility and ordinary men took the opportunity to attack their neighbours, steal their herds and generally do a spot of wholesale reiving. There was tooing and froing and a Scottish victory at Ancrum Moor in 1545.

There was a lull in proceedings with the death of Henry VIII in January 1547 but by the summer the Duke of Somerset as the Earl of Hertford had become had resumed hostilities on account of the fact that England was threatened by the alliance between Scotland and France especially as Francis I died and was replaced by the far more aggressive Henry II.

Somerset decided on a project of fortification and garrisoning – in both Scotland and across the Channel at Calais and Boulogne.  This was an expensive option.  Somerset arrived in Berwick with his army that summer and marched into the East March of Scotland in August with his army and the border levies – men well used to the cut and thrust of border skirmishes.  There was the usual destruction, burning of homes and destruction of crops.  In response the Scots who had been brawling amongst themselves united, if only temporarily, crossed the Esk and tried to prevent the English army from reaching Edinburgh. The two forces met at Pinkie on September 10 1547.

The Scottish army was bigger than the English but they didn’t have as many cavalry and quite a few Scots panicked when they met with  artillery fire.  There was the usual confusion of the battle field.  The Scots retreated.  It became a rout. Five hours laters the Scots were routed and ten thousand or so of them lay dead on the battle field.

Somerset got as far as Leith then changed his mind and hurried home  on September 18- rather throwing the victory away.  In part this was because Somerset’s brother Thomas who hadn’t been invited to the party was causing trouble back in London and in part it was because Somerset knew how close the country was to bankruptcy – armies are expensive commodities. It wasn’t long before the little Queen of Scots was shipped to France for safekeeping.

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Sir Nicholas Throckmorton – ambassador

thoclkmortonInevitably whilst looking at Raleigh my attention has drifted to Bess Throckmorton; Raleigh’s wife and the love of his life. From there my mind has wondered to Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, Bess’s father. A man who seems to have been as outspoken as Raleigh himself and regarded by the Spanish as ‘dangerously clever’ – though that doesn’t seem to have stopped him from getting into some unpleasant scrapes which ultimately ended with his disgrace.

 

Sir Nicholas served four Tudor monarchs as well as the Duke of Richmond, Henry Fizroy. Nicholas was related to Sir William Parr and at the time he was Fitzroy’s chamberlain which explains Throckmorton’s entry into such a prestigious household. Throckmorton’s mother was Catherine Vaux of Harrowden and it was through her that the relationship to the Parr family came – meaning that Catherine Parr, Henry VIII’s last wife was Throckmorton’s cousin. Throckmorton was a younger son so he needed every family connection he could find if he was to make his way in the world.

 

Sir Nicholas’s fortunes remained linked to those of the Parr family. He turned up on the Scottish Borders in the service of the Parr family just in time for the so-called Rough Wooing. He turned up in Scotland again in 1547. It was Nicholas Throckmorton who was sent south with the news that Protector Somerset had won the Battle of Pinkie.

 

Despite having gained his foothold in the rungs of the Tudor social and political ladder through his links to the Parrs and to Somerset he seems to have been unaffected by Admiral Seymour’s goings on or indeed the fall of Somerset. In short Throckmorton was one of Edward VI’s men and a good protestant to boot.

 

His name appears on the device naming Lady Jane Grey queen but equally it is supposed to have been Throckmorton who sent word of Edward VI’s death to Mary – perhaps a case of having his cake and eating it. It was only when Throckmorton began agitating about the restoration of Catholicism that he got himself into trouble with Mary suggesting that she didn’t hold his affirmation of Lady Jane Grey against him. The trouble was he wasn’t that keen on Mary’s chosen husband, Philip of Spain and became involved with the Wyatt Plot.

 

In April 1555 he was charged with treason for his part in the plot. However, when he came to trial the jury acquitted him despite the judges hostility: a fact which didn’t go down well with Mary who promptly had the jury incarcerated for nine months and heavily fined when they were eventually released.

 

Throckmorton took himself off to France rather than face the possibility of any more of Mary’s hospitality. He left his wife at home (she refused to live in France) but ultimately was allowed to return and take up government post. But by this point he was in correspondence with William Cecil and Princess Elizabeth, no doubt lining himself up to serve his fourth Tudor.  When Elizabeth came to the throne Throckmorton wrote suggesting who would be her best advisors and in 1560 when Cecil and Elizabeth were out of sorts with one another Cecil said he would depart from his role as Elizabeth’s minister if Throckmorton replaced him.

 

Nicholas returned to France as ambassador from 1559-1562. It was his job to try and dissuade Mary, Queen of Scots, from displaying the arms of England. Throckmorton was also in France when the scandal of Elizabeth I’s love for her Master of Horse Robert Dudley became laden with overtones of murder. Amy Robsart’s death at Cumnor near Abingdon caused tongues to wag (Throckmorton wrote of “her neck” being broken “with other appurtenances” and Throckmorton didn’t hesitate to describe what people were saying. He also announced that “Every hair of my head stareth!” His letters to Cecil at this time are so distinctly undiplomatic that his friends warned him to write no further on the subject. Ironically it was the same Robert Dudley now Earl of Leicester who offered a final home to Throckmorton when he was disgraced for his part in trying to marry Mary Queen of Scots to the Duke of Norfolk but more of that shortly.

 

Throckmorton was ultimately undone by his regard for Mary Queen of Scots who he’d known since she was a child in France. He was sent to Scotland to prevent Mary from marrying Lord Darnley – not one of his greatest successes, though at least Elizabeth didn’t have to send anyone to rescue him as had been the case when he was sent on a diplomatic mission to Catherine de Medici. He was also sent to negotiate for Mary’s release when she was deposed but the Scottish nobles knew he was sympathetic to Mary so weren’t terribly pleased to see him. Once Mary was imprisoned in England he plotted for her to marry the Duke of Norfolk. It appears that Throckmorton thought that if she was married and ‘respectable’ then she could be released from captivity. He regarded a marriage to Norfolk as a safe marriage. He also thought that the Duke of Norfolk’s proposal was in line with what the queen wished.

 

Unsurprisingly Throckmorton soon found himself incarcerated; this time in Windsor Castle. His actions were deemed foolish but not treasonous. He was released possibly because in the years since he’d objected to Elizabeth’s marriage to Robert Dudley he’d become one of Dudley’s political advisors. However, he’d also managed to remain on reasonably good terms with William Cecil because he wrote to Cecil begging for him to intercede with the queen.  It should be added that it is quite possible that Cecil who was fiercely anti-Mary may well have shown Elizabeth the inflammatory letters which Throckmorton wrote when he was the English Ambassador in France.

 

Throckmorton’s end was recorded by Robert Dudley;

We have lost on Monday our good friend Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, who died in my house, being there taken suddenly in great extremity on Tuesday before; his lungs were perished, but a sudden cold he had taken was the cause of his sudden death. God hath his soul, and we his friends great loss of his body.

He died in London on 12 Feb 1571 and was buried in the church of St. Catherine Cree, Aldgate. His daughter Elizabeth known as Bess was one of Elizabeth’s maids of honour and ultimately Bess would be banished from court having done her own stint in the Tower for daring to fall in love, something which her father had castigated the queen about many years earlier.

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La Belle Ecossaise

 lady_janet_stewart_mediumLady Janet Fleming was Mary Queen of Scots governess – and her half-aunt.  She began life as Janet or Jenny Stewart, an illegitimate daughter of King James IV.  When she was about fifteen she was married to Malcolm, the third Lord Fleming who was ten years older than her.  They had eight children before he died at the Battle of Pinkie.

Lady Janet now found herself employed as the infant Mary’s governess and went with her to France.  The journey was difficult and when they arrived the French court took one look Mary’s Scottish entourage and decided that they were barbaric and unwashed with the exception of ‘the beautiful Scot.” – Janet Fleming.  Her daughter Mary Fleming, to be known in history as one of Mary Queen of Scots’ four Marys was packed off to a convent for education and polish while Janet remained with her royal charge.  It may be that she had already caught King Henri II’s attention.  Certainly, she’d made an impression on the Venetian ambassador who described her as “a very pretty little woman.” (The Venetian Ambassador was clearly a contender for patronising ambassador or the year).

Janet spoke only in scots, she didn’t know any french when she arrived in France.  However, clearly there was some effective communication with Henri II because she became pregnant and bore a son Henri de Valois-Angouleme.  She is recorded as believing that her role as mother of the king’s child had secured her position.  She hadn’t bargained with Catherine de Medici or Diane of Poitiers who as wife and mistress respectively clearly felt that they didn’t need the competition.  Janet was despatched back to Scotland in disgrace- the reason being that Mary had just acquired her own household and it was important that the future queen of France should have no scandal attached to her name (a pity that Mary didn’t recall that later in her life).

Little Henri remained in France and was later legitimised.  Janet found herself trapped in Scotland.  She died in 1562.

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