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Dr Richard Layton

Visitation_monasteries.jpgI’m still perusing Henry VIII’s letters and papers. One of today’s letters to Cromwell is an eyebrow raiser so I couldn’t resist it. The letter  containing scandalous information about a nun from Syon was written by Richard Layton who has been mentioned many times in this blog but has never had his own post – so I thought that today’s metaphorical advent could be Dr Richard Layton.  This image shows the monastic visitors arriving at a monastery with their cavalcade of out runners or “rufflers” and much fanfare.

Here’s the letter:

Bishop this day preached, and declared the King’s title, to a church full of people. One of the “focares” openly called him false knave: “it was that foolish fellow with the curled head that kneeled in your way when ye came forth of the confessor’s chamber.” Must set him in prison, to deter others. Learnt yesterday many enormous things against Bishop in examining the lay brethren, —that he had persuaded two of them to have gone away by night along with him, but that they lacked money to buy the secular apparel, —that he tried to induce one of them, a smith, to make a key for the door to receive wenches at night, especially a wife of Uxbridge, dwelling not far from the old lady Derby. He also persuaded a nun, to whom he was confessor, ad libidinem corporum perimplendam, and that she would be forgiven if she confessed immediately after each occasion, and was absolved by him. She wrote him many foolish letters, and would have got his brother, the smith, to have pulled a bar of iron out of that window where Cromwell examined the Lady Abbess, and at which they used to commune by night. He got the sexton also to assist him. Intends to make further search this afternoon both of the brethren and of the sisters, and will certify Cromwell tomorrow morning. Most of the brethren are weary of their habit. Such religion and feigned sanctity God save me from!

 

To all intents and purposes Layton presents himself as a loyal subject of the king and a religious reformer.The letter sums up his rather tabloid writing style; his approach to the visitation of the monasteries and his strategy of looking for gossip amongst the lay members of a community. The letter even contains an example of the rather delightful habit of referring to anything carnal in latin in order that messengers carrying his communications to Cromwell might not be tainted with the knowledge of a letter’s contents. In this case the literal translation is “the passion of their bodies fulfilment.”

So who was he? Layton was a Cumbrian descended from the Layton who owned Dalemain at that time.  Dalemain had been in the hands of the Layton family since 1272. It would leave the family in the seventeenth century due to the fact that there were six daughters and no sons.  If you go far enough back up the family tree its possible to find Nevilles  but the Laytons weren’t nobility they would be more correctly defined as gentry. Layton’s mother was a Tunstall – Cuthbert Tunstall, the Bishop of Durham, was his uncle.   He was  born somewhere near the turn of the century. Moorhouse notes that he was supposed to have thirty-two siblings (Moorhouse:27), another one of them became an MP.  It is clear however that with such a large extended family Layton had to look to his own skills for advance.  He was also, somewhat ironically, related to Robert Aske one of the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace who rebelled against the dissolution of the monasteries and I think that there’s a priest hole at Dalemain demonstrating that the family weren’t all as keen on reform as Richard.

It would appear that Layton, having finished his education and been received into the priesthood, entered Wolsey’s service.  This was a conventional enough progression in the   Tudor civil  service which still drew on the Church for its clerks at this time.  He appears to have had a number of livings in London including on at the Tower of London but as it required his presence he resigned from it fairly swiftly when better opportunities arose.

He came to the forefront of the changes that were occurring in the 1530s because of his acquaintance with Cromwell.   As the King’s Great Matter became ever more pressing he found himself interrogating the likes of Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher – his education and ordination giving his  questions legitimacy.  Cromwell must have found his old colleague efficient and effective because he sent him along with Thomas Ap Rice to the University of Oxford to undertake an investigation there as well.

The following year, August 1535, he found himself heading up the team of visitors rootling through the monastic houses of England and Wales with a list of pre-prepared questions in hand but always reporting back to Cromwell who arranged their findings into two groups: firstly, the Valor Ecclesiasticus which contained the accounts and lists of relics; secondly, the Comperta or ‘Black Book’ which contained all the monastic misdeeds. Layton had a hand in the construction of the questions and also in the injunctions which were issued at each visit.  An example of the latter would be the prohibition on leaving the monastic enclosure.  This prompted many letters to Cromwell complaining about the unreasonableness of the strictures involved.  It should be noted that  Layton was the only ordained cleric on the team of visitors.  Initially there seems from Cromwell’s letters to have been some jockeying for position between Layton and Legh, another visitor.  Both told tales and complained about one another but generally speaking Layton emerges in history as Cromwell’s chief visitor.

Layton gathered confidence with each foundation he visited.  His task was to inspect the accounts, uncover any poor practice from failure to obey the rule of St Benedict to encouraging superstitious practices as well as administering the oath of supremacy.  He seems particularly good at sniffing out scandal amongst the monks and nuns of the places he visited – much of it with a tabloid quality!  The letter above is a case in point – it reads like a particularly bad bodice ripper; although interestingly he did sometimes note a blameless monastic foundation.  Bristol and Durham received a clean bill of health from Layton. Having said that it is worth remembering  that Layton  was related to Cuthbert Tunstall who as bishop was also the titular abbot. Having finished visiting the southern monasteries, narrowly avoiding being burned in his bed whilst visiting Canterbury, he volunteered to visit the northern monasteries – it was after all a lucrative task. He set off just before Christmas 1535. As a consequence of his dependence on Cromwell for advancement his letters are often toadying and nearly always full of tales of naughty nuns and monks.

Layton managed to make himself so disliked that he together with Thomas Cromwell and  Legh are identified in the list of the pilgrims grievances in 1536 with a request that these “wicked” advisers be punished.  Not that this had any effect! As the monasteries closed it was Layton who journeyed around the country accepting the surrender of many of the monasteries that he’d inspected earlier.  It is impossible to know how many bribes he took for recommending former monks to new posts.

Layton became rector of Harrow-on-the-Hill and rather lucratively in the north he was appointed Dean in York on 23 July 1539.  He helped himself to rather a lot of York’s plate and pawned it for his own benefit. This only surfaced after his death when the deanery were forced to redeem the items in question.

By now he had a reputation as a ‘can do’ man so he found himself on the team  investigating the validity of Henry’s marriage to Anne of Cleves. He’d already had a role at Anne Boleyn’s trial.  In short his career follows the path of many Tudor administrators but it was through his work on the monasteries that he attained notoriety.

His career as a diplomat began to extend in the period that followed. He became English Ambassador in the Court of the Netherlands. He was with the Queen of Hungary in March 1544 dealing with safe conduct passes.   We know this because he receives a mention in one of her letters to Chapuys. It is from the Spanish archives that we can learn about his illness and his death. He died in June 1544 in Brussels.

For those of you who are a little Henried out I will try to find something less Tudor tomorrow.

‘Henry VIII: December 1535, 11-20’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 9, August-December 1535, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1886), pp. 318-340. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol9/pp318-340 [accessed 6 December 2016].

http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/member/layton-william-1514-5152

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Sir Edward Neville

640px-Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01I should really be exploring England’s only Pope.  Nicholas Breakspear was made pontiff on the 4th December 1154 becoming Pope Adrian IV.  However, I’ve got myself well and truly sidetracked flicking through Henry VIII’s letters and papers.

 

A quick perusal of Henry’s letters and papers yielded up today’s advent personality Sir Edward Neville who was tried and executed for treason along with Sir Geoffrey Pole in 1538. In this instance there isn’t a letter to read but there is an index of documents relating to the trial of the two gentlemen dating from the 4th of December – an insight into the process of bringing someone to trial and the administrative flair of Thomas Cromwell. The file, just an an aside, contains the signed copy of the reply sent by Sir William Kingston the Constable of the Tower confirming that he would have the parties in question in the dock on time.

 

Sir Edward Neville was a younger son of baron Bergevenny and it proprably won’t come as a great surprise to discover he was vaguely related to Henry VIII whom he resembled so greatly that there was a rumour that Edward was actually Henry’s son (this was an impossibility). In addition to having a drop of Plantagenet blood he was also related through the Beaufort line. His great grandfather was Ralph Neville, earl of Westmorland and his great grandmother was Joan Beaufort the daughter of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt. As well as the name Neville which certainly conjures up the old aristocracy, Edward could also, if he chose, boast names such as Despenser, Fitz-Alan and Beauchamp in his family tree (I told you they were all related one way or the other!)

 

Pedigree aside Edward did all the usual Tudor gentlemanly things (there should be a check list). He was a soldier as well as a courtier and he played the game of courtly love with aplomb. He went to France in 1514 with Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk and Arthur Plantagenet Lord Lisle to see Princess Mary married – they did this in disguise (ahh, I hear you cry how romantic.)

 

Cross-Channel lads’ weekends aside Edward rose in importance during the early period  of Henry’s reign when he was married to Katherine of Aragon and all, though not  always rosy, was relatively pleasant in the royal garden. He’d also been part of the 1512-1513 military expedition and he was at the Field of Cloth of Gold.  He even seems to have kept that favour as late as 1537 having sensibly played a role in 1533 for Anne Boleyn’s coronation. He was made Constable of Leeds Castle in Kent in 1535 and carried the canopy at Prince Edward’s christening in 1537.

 

The problem for Sir Edward was that in 1538 he fell foul of Thomas Cromwell over the small matter of Moatenden Priory. Edward wanted the lands but, unfortunately, so did Thomas.

 

From there it was a simple matter  for Cromwell to implicate Edward in the Pilgrimage of Grace along with the Pole family irrelevant if where his sympathies might have lain. His niece’s husband was Henry Pole, Lord Montagu. The Pole family found itself guilty of treachery largely because Reginald refused to agree with Henry’s divorce and had written a book on the subject which displeased his kingly cousin enormously and because Margaret Pole, countess of Salisbury was the daughter of the duke of Clarence (brother of Edward IV). The Poles were the personification of the Plantagenet white rose branch of the family tree. Put plainly, Edward Neville was related to the wrong people at the wrong time.

sir-georgeIt probably didn’t help that his brother, George Neville (pictured right in a sketch by Hans Holbein), had been married to Mary Stafford, the daughter of the duke of Buckingham and been arrested in 1521 along with his father-in-law. Edward’s brother was released without charge at that time but it may well have lingered in Henry’s mind and made it easier for Cromwell to present Sir Edward Neville as a traitor. And if Henry did count George as a traitor, he wasn’t alone. Eustace Chapuys the Imperial Ambassador identified George Neville as pro-Pole as a result of his arrest and the tarnishing of his reputation which never fully recovered.

 

As for Edward, he was arrested on the 3rd of December, notices for the trial were published on the 4th and from there it was a short step until his execution on the 8th December 1538.

 

‘Henry VIII: December 1538 1-5’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 13 Part 2, August-December 1538, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1893), pp. 409-426. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol13/no2/pp409-426 [accessed 17 November 2016].

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Letters from monastic visitors

640px-Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01The first week of November 1535 brought a flurry of letters to Thomas Cromwell’s door. His monastic visitors were in East Anglia and the South of the country at the time. The letters he received from his visitors, local gentry and from the clerics themselves are typical of the correspondence he received during the collection of information for the Valor Ecclesiaticus and the Comperta in 1535 and 1536.  Visits would continue until 1540 when the last monastery was suppressed – Cromwell would himself be executed the very same year – who says Henry VIII didn’t have a sense of irony?

 

Thomas Legh (Leigh) wrote of the priory at Fordham near Norwich on November 1 1535. He painted a bleak picture of the aged Gilbertine prior and a monk “at death’s door,” who “begged to be released from a bondage they could no longer endure.” As chance would have it Thomas Cromwell’s own confessor was a Gilbertine monk called Roger Holgate. He was the master of Sempringham. Perhaps it was for this reason that the Gilbertines were excluded from the act that dissolved the lesser monastic houses in 1536. Fordham eventually surrendered in 1538. The surrender document reveals three canons and the prior suggesting that the priory wasn’t in such a grim state as Legh’s letter of November 1st 1535 suggests not least because someone else had written to Cromwell that very same week asking about the disposal of the ‘goodly’ farmhouse at Fordham.

 

The monks of Chertsey were clearly not at death’s door at the beginning of November 1535. They were busy complaining about their abbot who seemed to be selling off the plate and the abbey’s woods. They had much in common with the monks of Worcester who had already been visited. They sent several letters to Cromwell making accusations, justifying themselves and making counter accusations in a ‘it was his fault’ sort of way.

 

It must have come as a pleasant surprise, depending upon your point of view, at the end of the week when Cromwell received a letter from the Benedictine Abbot of Athelney, Robert Hamblyn, asking to be allowed to leave the precincts of the abbey in order to do the abbey’s business. He notes that the visitor there, one Tregonell, found the abbey in good order. Athelney’s clean bill of health would not save it from dissolution. It finally surrendered on Feb 8 1539 despite the pleas of the abbot.

 

Grist to Cromwell’s mill of anticlerical justification for the closure of monastic houses was provided when John Ap Rice wrote of another Benedictine establishment. The Abbot of Bury St Edmunds met with very little approval on account of his dodgy financial practices and gambling habits. Apparently “he lay much forth in his granges” and spent money at dice and cards and in building; also that he did not preach and had converted farms into copyholds. “He seems addict also to superstitious ceremonies.”

 

The superstitions were related to the abbey’s relics which included “the coals that Saint Lawrence was toasted withal, the paring of St. Edmund’s nails, S. Thomas of Canterbury penknife and his boots and divers skulls for the headache, pieces of the Holy Cross able to make a whole cross of, other relics for rain.” I must admit a degree of curiosity regarding the inventory.  Ultimately all the relics would be sent to Cromwell – let’s hope that the “divers skulls for the headache” helped him as he worked late into the night accounting for all that monastic wealth.  And further more – were the relics to cause rain or to prevent it? Occasionally it could be wished that Mr Ap Rice was slightly more detailed in his written accounts to Cromwell.

 

As with the monks of Athelney Ap Rice left an injunction that they were not to leave their precinct and as with Athelney the abbot immediately wrote to Cromwell asking permission to go out and about on abbey business. He also saw fit to give Cromwell an annual pension of ten pounds that was later increased – whilst it didn’t save the abbey it certainly made the abbot’s life much easier in the long term with regards to his pension and associated perks.

 

Ap Rice also noted in his letter that he’d dismissed a number of monks at Bury who hadn’t reached their twenty-fourth birthday.  This confirms the rumours contained in Chapuys’ (the Imperial Ambassador) letters of that week which talk of rumours of youthful monks being dismissed from their monastic houses.

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‘Houses of Gilbertine canons: Priory of Fordham’, in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 2, ed. L F Salzman (London, 1948), pp. 256-258. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/cambs/vol2/pp256-258 [accessed 30 October 2016].

‘Henry VIII: November 1535, 1-5’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 9, August-December 1535, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1886), pp. 248-262. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol9/pp248-262 [accessed 12 September 2016].

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Princess Mary’s opposition to the divorce

princess mary.jpgIf Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon was invalid it followed that eleven-year-old Princess Mary was illegitimate. This in turn would prohibit her from the crown and make her less valuable on the international marriage market. No doubt, this was one of the reasons that Catherine remained adamant about fighting to keep her position rather than taking herself off to a nunnery as Cardinals Wolsey and Campeggio helpfully suggested prior to the Blackfriars trial where Catherine challenged the court’s authority.

 

Later, after Parliament enacted the necessary laws that broke with Rome and Henry’s marriage to Catherine was annulled by Thomas Cranmer the Princess Mary was used as a weapon by Henry to ensure that Catherine was compliant, although Catherine’s letters to her daughter are suggestive of shared martyrdom. The girl, now seventeen and no longer a princess but a bastard was refused permission to see her ailing mother, she lost her household and her governess. In 1533 at the point when this occurred, Lady Salisbury (Margaret Pole)  offered to pay for Mary’s household out of her own purse but the king would have none of it, or perhaps Anne Boleyn would have none of it. Chapuys, the Imperial Ambassador, reported that Anne had said she would have Mary for her chambermaid.

 

Mary’s opposition to the king was seen in the fact that she continued to be called the Princess Mary rather than the Lady Mary even when her servants suffered the indignity of having Mary’s insignia removed and replaced with Henry’s own. She told anyone who would listen that if she disavowed her mother that she would ‘offend God.’ It was a very personal resistance that directed itself to the king from Beaulieu where Mary was staying at the time.

 

When Mary’s half-sister Elizabeth was born, Mary’s chamberlain Lord Hussey was told to change Mary’s name to lady rather than princess. He tried. Mary informed him that until the instruction was received in writing then she was a princess.

 

Henry reacted badly. He sent officials to browbeat and threaten his daughter. In December 1533 the duke of Norfolk was required to fetch Mary to serve in her half sister’s household. He told her that she was to go to the Princess of Wales. Mary told him that the title was hers by right. Norfolk gave her half and hour and two ladies in waiting to accompany her. He did not become involved in the argument. He followed orders.

 

Norfolk left Mary in  Hatfield in tears but Henry complained he had been too soft on the girl. The ladies-in-waiting were removed and Anne Boleyn’s aunt Lady Shelton was put in charge of the ex-princess having been given a list of instructions about her treatment.

 

Henry put Mary’s refusal to comply with the change in her status down to her bad blood. It would only be after the death of Anne Boleyn that Henry would begin to soften towards his eldest, formerly legitimate, daughter and even then she would be required to submit to the king’s will before a reunion could take place.  On the 15th June 1536 Mary signed the document which recognised her parents’ marriage as unlawful and recognised Henry as the head of the Church of England.

Poor Mary; she went from her father’s pampered darling to being ill treated, neglected and isolated.  She was forced to act in direct opposition to her religious beliefs and all this had happened as her character formed. Her only allies during this time seemed to be the Spanish.  No wonder she looked towards Spain when her turn to ascend the throne arrived.  She was undoubtedly scarred by the whole experience.

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Reginald Pole – White Rose and Cardinal

reginald pole.jpgThe Pole family descended from Margaret, Countess of Salisbury (the daughter of the duke of Clarence who was allegedly executed in a vat of malmsey and Isobel Neville – elder daughter of the earl of Warwick a.k.a. The Kingmaker). She had four sons; Henry (Lord Montagu), Arthur, Reginald and Geoffrey.    There was also a daughter called Ursula. Had Richard III won the Battle of Bosworth and remained childless and Margaret’s brother the young earl of Warwick been deemed unfit to rule then his heirs would have been the Poles.

 

Young Reginald was born in about 1500.  He was educated by the Carthusians in Sheen and from there studied at the universities of Oxford and Padua and from there to Paris; all at the expense of his royal cousin King Henry VIII.  There is a note in Henry’s accounts describing him as “Mr Pole, the king’s scholar.”

In the summer of 1530 he became caught up in the King’s Great Matter.  In addition to using the Leviticus 20:21 and checking with Jewish communities in Europe as to their interpretation of the Old Testament in order to undermine Catherine of Aragon’s countering Deuteronomy argument, Henry also sent messengers  to the great university to elicit their opinions on the matter.  On May 1 Henry asked the University of Paris for an opinion and made Reginald his “dearest relative” the chief correspondent on the matter.

Reginald seems initially to have backed his cousin.  His letters record that Paris found in Henry’s favour but that the other faction were looking for a counter-opinion. (Bernard: 214).  By the end of the year, however, Reginald appears to have been having second thoughts. It was perhaps his concern over the divorce that led him to turn down Henry’s offer of the archbishopric of York following Wolsey’s demise.  Henry must have thought that Reginald would be in favour of the divorce to offer him the post.  He needed as many bishops on his side as possible. Henry offered the post to Reginald for a second time and saw him in person to discuss the matter.  Apparently the sight of Henry was enough to convince Pole that he couldn’t go agains this own heart on the matter.  He even sent a lengthy apology on the subject which no longer exists.  In it he warned of the dispute that might arise if Princess Mary was disinherited and reminded Henry of the Wars of the Roses – which was perhaps not an entirely sensible thing to do as it reminded Henry about who had the Plantagenet blood flowing through their veins and who might have been monarchs in other circumstances.

 

In January 1532 Pole went off to Europe to continue with his academic studies and to keep a low profile which he did until 1535 when Henry demanded that he wanted Reginald’s opinion on the subject of Henry’s supremacy, the divorce and the break with Rome.  Henry  helpfully sent him some books on the subject. By the time Henry had his answer Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher were dead as were the Carthusian monks of the Charter House in Sheen who’d taught him as a boy.  Reginald described Henry as a ‘wild beast’; being like a dirty barrel and incestuous (perhaps a reaction to the fact that Henry had an affair with Anne Boleyn’s sister Mary).  It was perhaps not a response designed to win friends and influence people nor was it a very private response as it was soon published all over Europe; later Reginald would claim that it was without his consent.

Henry politely suggested that Reginald return home for a face to face discussion.

By now Pope Paul III was in charge and he suggested that perhaps Reginald’s welcome would be rather too warm if he set foot on English shores.  It can’t have helped that the Imperial Ambassador, Chapuys, had suggested that perhaps Reginald might be able to marry the Princess Mary and take the crown from Henry in 1534. The small matter of Pole’s religious orders seems not to have worried the ambassador unduly (though Pole didn’t celebrate his first mass until Queen Mary was on the throne). Chapuys had already told the Pole family to keep Reginald in Europe rather than at home where he’d most likely have ended up in the Tower at the very least.

On 22nd of December 1536 Reginald was made a cardinal having made a name for himself in Rome where his humanist education leant itself to the reform of the Catholic Church from within.  To add insult to Henry VIII’s injury Reginald was made papal legate of England in February 1537.

Reginald’s actions reminded Henry that there was such a thing as a ‘white rose faction’.  The Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536 was ultimately used to round up Reginald’s mother and brothers following the Exeter Conspiracy.  It hadn’t helped Lord Montagu that he’d sent a letter to Reginald berating him for the contents of his book on the subject of Henry’s supremacy and the break from Rome. The poor man must have squirmed horribly when Thomas Cromwell turned up to visit him especially to read chunks of his brother’s rebuttal of Henry’s actions.  Even the Countess of Salisbury had written to Reginald demanding that he come home and face the music.  Both these letters had been seen by the King’s council before they were sent to Reginald (Seward: 295).  By 1539 Geoffrey was in the Tower and he in his turned implicated the rest of his family. He, his brother and his mother would be executed.

Reginald, in Europe, found himself facing assassination attempts that would continue throughout Henry’s life was increasingly disturbed by the extent to which the Church in England faced destruction.  Ultimately he sought the help of Francis I of France and also Catherine of Aragon’s nephew, Charles V, arguing that Henry was worse than the Turkish threat.  Charles chose not to invade England and Reginald’s name found its way onto a bill of attainder in 1539. Henry VIII had come to hate his Plantagenet cousin. For Englishmen who didn’t want to lose their catholicism he became an alternative to the Tudors.

 

It was only when Henry VIII’s daughter Mary took the throne after the brief reigns of her half brother Edward VI and the nine days queen Lady Jane Grey that Pole returned to England after a long career as a papal diplomat.  He’d even been suggested as pope.  Mary wrote to her cousin asking for spiritual guidance, his attainder was reversed and despite a lack of concord with Mary’s spouse Philip II of Spain he stepped foot on English soil once more at Dover in 1554.  The country was Catholic once more.  He sought now to heal the breach with Rome – notable amongst the victims of Mary’s determination to wipe Protestantism from English thoughts included the burning of Thomas Cranmer who Pole replaced as Archbishop of Canterbury.

Reginald Pole died on the 17th November 1558 on the same day as Queen Mary.  Their plan to return England and Wales to Catholicism bound to fail as Protestant Princess Elizabeth was now hailed Queen Elizabeth I.

The portrait of Pole pictured at the start of this post may be found at Hardwick Hall, a National Trust property, in Derbyshire.

Bernard, G.W. (2005) The King’s Reformation. New Haven and London: Yale University Press

Seward, Desmond. (2010)  The Last White Rose: The Secret Wars of the Tudors. London: Constable

 

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Cardinal Wolsey and the king’s women

wolseyCardinal Wolsey suffers from being the image of the Catholic Church prior to Henry VIII’s break with Rome and consequentially a figure for anticlerical comment.  He was also not careful about being nice to folk on the way up the greasy pole of ambition forgetting that he might well meet them on the way back down.  There were plenty of members of the nobility who were more than happy to bring him down to earth with a bump most notably the duke of Norfolk.  Today’s post, however, is about Cardinal Wolsey’s role in Henry VIII’s somewhat tangled love life.

Portrait_of_Anne_StaffordWolsey appears in a legal capacity in relation to Anne Stafford, the wife of Lord Hastings.  Anne was the daughter of the duke of Buckingham.  Her older sister Elizabeth was the wife of the earl of Sussex.  Both sisters served Catherine of Aragon.  A scandal broke during May 1510. We know of it thanks to the gleeful writings of Spanish Ambassador Luis Caroz.  What appears to have happened is that Henry, now that Catherine was pregnant, looked elsewhere for diversion.  He looked in the direction of his cousin Anne Stafford.  She was eight years older than him, married for the second time but childless (she went on to have eight children with Lord Hastings).  Somehow or other Elizabeth got to hear about the dodgy goings on and spoke with her brother who in turn summoned Lord Hastings.  Sir William Compton, one of the king’s friends, was caught in Anne’s private chamber.  There was a lively discussion with the duke of Buckingham announcing that his sister wasn’t for the likes of Compton or for Tudors either (he probably came to regret that particular phrase).  The upshot of it was that Hastings took his wife away from court to a nunnery where neither Compton or Henry could dally with the lady in question.  Henry VIII was deeply unhappy and banished Elizabeth and her husband from court for being a pair of tattletales which meant that the scandal came to the attention of Catherine of Aragon resulting in a very unpleasant argument between the royal couple.

Three years later Henry gave Anne a very expensive New Year’s gift well beyond what protocol or courtesy dictated giving rise to speculation that the couple resumed their relationship.  Double click on Anne Stafford’s image to open a new page and an earlier post from the History Jar on the subject.

Where does Wolsey fit into this?  Well in 1527 he had Sir William Compton charged with adultery with Anne.  Compton swore an oath that he hadn’t been up to any such thing but his will written in 1522 suggests otherwise as not only did he ask for prayers to be said for Anne but he left money for her use as well.

 

Let us move to the next mistress – Bessie Blount (b 1499 ish).  It is speculated that Henry’s affair with Bessie began sometime after 1513 during one of Catherine of Aragon’s periods of ill health but no one is certain of this.  There is a letter in existence from Charles Brandon (Mary Tudor’s second husband) to the king giving his very best wishes via the king to Bessie Blount and to Elizabeth Carew (who may well have been yet another royal mistress).  The letter gives rise to speculation that Brandon may have had a fling with Bessie prior to Henry showing interest, equally it might all have been part of the ritual of courtly love and have meant nothing at all or, equally, Brandon knowing the king’s interest in the ladies doing a spot of creeping. What we can be certain of is that in 1518 Catherine of Aragon miscarried a girl and that a month later Bessie Blount produced a bouncing baby boy.

Evidence suggests that Wolsey was given the task of arranging for Bessie to have somewhere suitable for her laying-in at the Priory of St Lawrence near Chelmsford or Jericho as it was known.  The evidence is based on the fact that Wolsey was absent from London for much of June 1519 which coincides with Henry Fitzroy’s birth.  Thomas Wolsey also became the child’s godfather. Fitzroy remained under the care of the cardinal until he fell from favour in 1529 when he moved under the auspices of the Howard family.

Queen Anne BoleynThe next mistress in our story proved to be Wolsey’s downfall.  Popular history has it that it was Wolsey who split the young lovers Henry Percy and Anne Boleyn from one another in 1523. Percy was the heir of the earl of Northumberland and was part of Wolsey’s household whilst Anne was nothing but a ‘foolish girl.’  George Cavendish, Wosley’s biographer, notes that the leading aristocratic families were happy to have sons in Wolsey’s household.  He was at the heart of power after all.  Cavendish says that Henry had already taken a shine to Anne Boleyn and wished to put a spoke in Percy’s plans to marry the girl. Wolsey sent Percy home with a flea in his ear to marry the girl his family had already selected for him; Mary Talbot, daughter of the earl of Shrewsbury.  In 1532 Mary Talbot claimed that Henry Percy had been pre-contracted to Anne Boleyn and thus her marriage was null and void.  Given that Henry was in hot pursuit of Anne Boleyn at that time it wasn’t the most politically astute thing to have been saying. Even though Henry no longer looked to Rome a dispensation from the Archbishop of Canterbury exists thawing that all impediments to marriage between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn were removed  including the unknown ones!

We cannot know whether Anne and Henry Percy really did love one another or the extent to which their relationship had developed.  We have circumstantial evidence in terms of Henry Percy weeping when Anne Boleyn was condemned and also the evidence of Cavendish as well as assorted hostile ambassadors.   To find out more about George Cavendish and his version of events double click on the image of Anne Boleyn to open a new page and an earlier post.

What we do know for certain is that Wolsey was unable to unravel Henry’s marriage from Catherine of Aragon and that this was what led to his fall from favour in 1529 even though Henry is said to have declared he couldn’t afford to lose the cardinal and sent him a ring as a token of his affections when Thomas became ill.  Come to think of it Wolsey didn’t get on very well with Catherine of Aragon either.  She regarded him as pro-french and thus anti-spanish as well as being the man who ensured that she was sidelined in politics by making himself indispensable to the king.

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1536- the year of three queens

catherineofaragon_1769901iCatherine of Aragon was ill as early as 1534.  In part it was her age, in part the stress of fighting for her husband, her crown and her daughter’s rights and in part it was a consequence of being ferried between a variety of damp dwellings where she lived, for the most part, in a few rooms with a few trusted servants regarding her ‘hosts’ as her jailers.  By 1535 she was increasingly sick but there is a letter written at the beginning of December suggesting that she appeared to be recovering.

On December 29 Chapuys, received a note from Catherine’s doctor saying that Catherine was ill and that he should come at once.  Catherine could not keep food or fluids down and had pain in her stomach. The Imperial Ambassador, asked Cromwell for a licence to go to Kimbolton to see Catherine.  Cromwell said that he would need Henry’s permission so the following day Chapuys went to Greenwich to see Henry VIII who was in excellent humour because his inconvenient Spanish princess was dying.

Meanwhile Catherine’s loyal ex-lady-in-waiting had also heard the news.  Maria de Salinas didn’t wait for a licence to see her mistress.  She’d travelled to England with Catherine in 1501.  She’d been there when Catherine married Arthur and she’d been there when Henry made Catherine his queen.  Now,  Maria tricked her way into Kimbolton and from there into Catherine’s private chambers on January 1 1536 without the prerequisite licence.

On January 2 1536 Chapuys arrived.  By the end of the week Catherine appeared to have rallied and he departed.  In the early hours of the 6th it became clear that she was dying and as dawn broke Catherine was given Holy Communion.  At 2pm Catherine of Aragon, queen of England and infanta of Spain died.

On January 3 1536, rather unbecomingly for one who considered herself a queen, Anne dressed in yellow  along with her spouse and Henry, equally unbecomingly, declared that festivities were in order, danced with the ladies in waiting and ordered a joust.  By mid January Princess Mary, who’d been denied the chance of seeing her mother for a final time in 1535 when she herself was ill and again as her mother lay dying, was told that Anne Boleyn was pregnant.  It looked as though Anne Boleyn had finally won.Queen Anne Boleyn

Cromwell arranged Catherine’s funeral, wrote of his admiration for the queen and Henry  prepared for his joust.  On the 24th January 1536 Henry VIII, aged forty-four, father of two daughters (one illegitimised) fell from his horse in full armour.  He was out for the count for the next two hours.  He’d had a near miss twelve years earlier.

Four days later on January 29 1536 Catherine of Aragon was buried in Peterborough Cathedral.  People still place pomegranates on her tomb. Catherine’s mourners included Lady Bedingfield (the wife of Sir Edmund Bedingfield – Catherine’s last ‘host’) and the Countess of Cumberland, Eleanor Brandon. The Bishop of Rochester took the sermon – Cromwell chose his man well.  Weir records that he preached, without any foundation whatsoever, that Catherine had admitted on her death bed that she’d never had any right to be the queen of England.  After so long claiming her rights she was buried as the Dowager Princess of Wales.

Meanwhile as the old queen was being laid to rest, Anne Boleyn miscarried of a baby that would have been a boy had it survived.  Anne claimed that it was the shock of Henry’s jousting accident.  Henry began to wonder if God wished to deny him male children and found solace in the company of one of Anne’s ladies-in-waiting.  Chapuys recorded that her name was Jane Seymour.

Thomas Cromwell was going to have a very busy year indeed. Anne survived Catherine by only a short season.  She was executed on May 19 1536.

On May 20 1536, Henry VIII married Jane Seymour.

jane seymour

Tremlett, G.  (2010) Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen

Weir, A. (2007)  The Six Wives of Henry VIII

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Sir Nicholas Carew and his wife

sir nicholas carew.jpgSir Nicholas Carew of Beddington near London was a childhood friend of Henry VIII – not that it stopped the Tudor tyrant from lopping off his friend’s head in 1539 of course.   He was a champion jouster, diplomat and a bit of a naughty lad.  He was one of the gentlemen of the bedchamber who was purged from court in 1518 for being a bad influence on Henry. Hart reports that he arranged private tete a tetes for Henry and his lady friends at his home.

He wasn’t away from court for long.  He and Henry probably had too much history.  Sir Nicholas was with Henry for the Siege of Tournai and he was at the Field of Cloth of Gold.  In 1537 he turns up as one of the nobles in charge of the font in which the infant Prince Edward was baptised.

There was also the small matter of his wife – Elizabeth Bryan.  Elizabeth and Anne Boleyn were cousins.  Their mothers were half-sisters.  So, yes, Henry was related to Elizabeth to some degree.  She was of an age with Bessie Blount who we know to have been the king’s mistress because of the arrival of Henry Fitzroy, the king’s illegitimate son in 1519.  Kelly Hart draws on a letter written by the duke of Suffolk referencing both Bessie and Lady Carew.  It could have been a courtly love kind of letter which meant absolutely nothing but Hart points out that Henry gave the Elizabeth Carew very expensive New Year gifts and a very nice present when her son was born.  For those of you who are noble minded readers this was no doubt because Sir Nicholas was such a good friend.  For the more tabloid amongst you, handing over diamonds and pearls which rightfully belonged to Catherine of Aragon not to mention a nice new mink coat might sound suspiciously like gifts for a mistress.  The problem is that no one knows for sure.  There is only circumstantial evidence.

What we do know is that Bessie Blount and Elizabeth Bryan were ladies-in-waiting at the same time.  Harris records their appearance in court masques and dances.  She also notes that Henry often let them keep the costumes and jewels that they wore during their performances (2002:236).  We also know that Elizabeth was very young at this time.  She wasn’t yet thirteen when she gave birth to her first child. The pair were married by December 1514.  Henry gave the happy couple 6s 8d according to his accounts of the period.  This was a standard gift.  The gift of £500 to Elizabeth’s mother is harder to explain.  It also ought to be pointed out that Lady Bryan was appointed to be Princess Mary’s governess two years later -so once again we are back to making of the evidence what we will. It was either a generous gesture or something more sordid.

Sir Nicholas’s wife might have been rather too friendly with Henry and Sir Nicholas might have offered his home as a Tudor love nest but he drew the line at royal mistresses becoming queen.  He wasn’t keen on Anne Boleyn at all.  In part this was because he was a staunch Catholic. It was also because he was loyal to Catherine of Aragon.  He wasn’t fool enough to cross Henry about Anne but he did tell the imperial ambassador Chapuys about his sympathy for both Catherine and Princess Mary. It led him to join forces with Cromwell, not known for his Catholic sympathies (it’s more the enemy of my enemy is my friend school of thought), in order to topple Anne Boleyn. Sir Nicholas was said to be behind some of the rather dodgy rumours about Anne’s love life.

Unfortunately for Sir Nicholas having sent Anne off to the block he and Cromwell parted company.  Carew continued to champion Princess Mary and it looks like Cromwell took the opportunity to stitch Carew into the Exeter Plot of 1538 which sought to get rid of Henry and replace him with Cardinal Reginald Pole.

Valentine’s Day 1539 Sir Nicholas was found guilty of treason and executed on March 3 1539.  Chapuys wrote of the event in a letter to Charles V dated 31 December 1539 :

The grand Escuyer Master Carew was taken prisoner to the Tower, and the moment his arrest was ordered, Commissioners went to seize all his goods and his houses.  It is presumed that the King will not have forgotten to charge them to take the most beautiful diamonds and pearls and innumerable jewels which he formerly gave to the said Escuyer’s wife, the greater part he had taken from the late good Queen.

It would also have to be said that Chapuys didn’t have a good word to say about Henry by this point in proceedings. What we do know for certain is that Sir Nicholas’s land was confiscated by Act of Attainder.  Henry’s papers for 1546 reveal that some of his lands were given to Anne of Cleves for her life time. Sir Francis Carew was ultimately able to retrieve much of his father’s estates including Beddington

Elizabeth died in 1546 but Sir Nicholas lives on in his portrait by Hans Holbein.  He’s wearing full jousting armour. Depending on your viewpoint you could argue that Sir Nicholas was framed by Thomas Cromwell and that Lady Elizabeth Carew had once been the king’s mistress.  Of course, you could also argue, equally effectively, that the virtuous  Lady Carew was at court in her youth and that Sir Nicholas, increasingly, dissatisfied with his master’s religious viewpoint turned to treachery.  No wonder there’s so much historical fiction out there!

 

Harris, Barbara J. (2002) English Aristocratic Women, 1450-1550: Marriage and Family, Property and Careers Oxford: Oxford University Press

Hart, Kelly. (2009) The Mistress of Henry VIII. Stroud: The History Press

Pemberton- Child (1013) Elizabeth Blount and Henry the Eighth, with some account of her surroundings. https://archive.org/details/elizabethblounth00chiluoft accessed 20/April/2016 at 17:03

 

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Anne, Lady Hastings – royal mistress?

Portrait_of_Anne_Stafford.jpgAnne Stafford was Henry VIII’s cousin.  Her mother was Katherine Woodville and her father was the Duke of Buckingham who was executed in 1483 by Richard III. Incidentally Anne was born in 1483 so she was somewhat older than Henry VIII.  The Staffords were the premier noble family in the country.  There was  rather a lot of Plantagenet blood flowing through Anne’s veins and ultimately it would get her brother Edward executed in 1521 when he listened to prophecies that suggested that Henry VIII would fail to have sons and that Edward would himself be crowned.

We don’t know for sure that Henry had an affair with Anne Stafford or Anne, Lady Hastings as she was by that time but we do know that it caused a huge scandal and that Catherine of Aragon lost her temper with Henry as a consequence.

The story is as follows.  Catherine was pregnant with her first child.  Caring royal husbands did not, apparently, sleep with their wives.  They showed their love and consideration by getting themselves a mistress.  Both Anne Stafford and her sister Elizabeth were ladies-in-waiting which turned out to be Henry’s preferred hunting ground for mistresses. Elizabeth, who was one of Catherine’s favourite ladies, became suspicious and notified her brother, the duke of Buckingham, that Anne was involved with the king.

Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, tells the tale that the duke of Buckingham did not take kindly to the king pawing his sister even if he was the king, after all he was only a jumped up Tudor whilst Anne had good Plantagenet blood.   The duke of Buckingham arrived on the scene and took up his argument with Sir William Compton who is thought to have been acting as an intermediary for the king. At the very least there were harsh words.  There were certainly raised voices. Henry was not amused by the furore, especially when Buckingham took himself off in a huff and Lord George Hastings, Anne’s spouse, was summoned by his brother-in-law to deal with his errant wife.  Hastings’ response was to send Anne to a nunnery some sixty miles from court whilst Sir William Compton was forced to take the sacrament swearing that he hadn’t had his way with Anne. Clearly Hastings didn’t feel it appropriate to accuse his monarch of any underhand behaviour and let’s remember this Lord Hastings was the grandson of the man who Richard III had summarily executed.

Henry in the meantime seems to have had a bit of a major sulk as he reacted by  banishing Elizabeth Stafford from court.  It was this exile of her favourite snooping lady-in-waiting that caused Catherine of Aragon to become “vexed” with her husband.  According to Chapuys she “wept and ranted.” She might not have been terribly amused about his infidelity either but kings weren’t noted for their uxoriousness in those days.

Just to complicate things even further it would appear that Anne Stafford and Sir William Compton did have something of an understanding.  He left her land in his will and required that she be included in the prayers said for his family.

And yet, it would appear that whatever was going on behind the scenes that Anne and Lord George Hastings were happy enough in their union if their exchange of letters is anything to go by.  They also had seven children.

Hart, Kelly. (2009) The Mistress of Henry VIII. Stroud: The History Press

 

 

 

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Jane Seymour – Plain Jane

jane seymour emblem.pngJane Seymour, perhaps the original Plain Jane if Chapuys comments are to be believed, became wife number three on 30th May 1536. She was another descendent of Edward III via Hotspur. She’d also been a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon and also to Anne Boleyn. One story said that Anne was deeply distressed to encounter Jane sitting on Henry’s lap. Her chosen motto was “Bound to serve and obey” – a wise choice given Henry’s complaints about wife number two and presumably wife number one’s implacable logic and argument. Her emblem is the phoenix rising from a tower  surrounded by those burgeoning roses reflecting both a Plantagenet and Lancastrian inheritance. The pheonix is a symbol of love and renewal. Jane is the renewed Tudor hope for an heir.

 

Jane would also be the queen who oversaw Henry’s return to a more traditional set of beliefs.  She tried to reconcile him to Princess Mary and also interceded on behalf of the catholic pilgrims who’d revolted during the Pilgrimage of Grace.  Her clemency wasn’t welcome so far as Henry was concerned and she swiftly retreated from the political field.

 

It was February 1536 when word of Henry’s interest in Jane Seymour was first mentioned in ambassadorial dispatches and it wasn’t long before her brothers found themselves being rewarded with important posts and preferments.

 

In 1537 Jane fell pregnant, a fact recorded by Edward Hall. The rejoicing must have been a little bit cautious given all the previous disappointments but on the 12 October she produced a boy, Edward, and then promptly died from complications on 24th October. Cromwell would later blame her attendants for giving her rich food and sweets but in reality it was likely to have been childbed fever that carried Jane off.

 

Panther-close-blog.jpgJane was very different from her predecessor, although Anne’s leopard was very swiftly adapted into Jane’s other symbol – the panther. The panther, heraldically speaking, is a more gentle animal than a leopard and can also represent Christ.  He was also white and covered in multicoloured spots rather than being black.  Examples can be found at Hampton Court looking rather splendid but it should also be remembered that Henry VI used a panther as a symbol as did the Beauforts.  Double click on the image of the panther to find out more about the garden at Hampton Court.  Jane wasn’t particularly well educated and reverted to older fashion styles when she became queen. Perhaps she thought that the higher neck lines would stop Henry being too attracted to her own ladies-in-waiting, she had after all had plenty of opportunity to watch what went on at court. Historians can’t agree as to whether she was an active player in inveigling Henry away from Anne or whether she was a pawn in the hands of her family. She kept her own counsel and did not live long enough to prove a disappointment to Henry.

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