Tag Archives: Charles I

Henry VIII clauses

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of 1992-93 defined a Henry VIII clause as,  “a provision in a Bill which enables primary legislation to be amended or repealed by subordinate legislation, with or without further Parliamentary scrutiny.”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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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Mary of Orange – first Princess Royal

mary stuart.jpgThe eldest daughter of Charles I and his queen, Henrietta Maria was born in 1631. In France it was the norm for the eldest daughter of the king to be called Madame Royale.  Charles gave his daughter the title Princess Royal starting a new English tradition in 1642 that the ruling monarch may give this title to his/her eldest daughter but the caveat is that the title remains with the holder for life and no one else can have it during that time.

Mary Henrietta was married off to William II of Orange in 1641 when she was nine and William was fifteen.  It wasn’t an auspicious event.  Charles I would have preferred her to marry in to the Spanish royal family whilst her mother regarded William as rather beneath the Stuarts and it didn’t help that her cousin, the eldest son of Elizabeth of Bohemia, thought that she was going to marry him. The celebrations were rather muted, as well, because the country was already sliding towards war.

The following year, in February 1642 a month after Charles I had made his botched attempt to arrest the speaker of the House of Commons,her mother took Mary to Holland. She was just ten and Mary was the excuse the queen needed to go abroad in order to raise loans, purchase armaments  and recruit mercenaries. Henrietta Maria would return to England in 1643 via Hull but by that time Charles had raised his standard in Nottingham and the king was at war with rather a lot of his subjects.

But in 1642  when mother and daughter sailed from Dover it is hard not to feel some sympathy for Charles as a parent if not a king.  He galloped along the white cliffs keeping the boat that carried his daughter in view for as long as he could.  It would be the last time he saw Mary but he kept her portrait, the one at the end of this post, with him even when he was in captivity.

By the time she was nineteen Mary was a widow and her family were in exile.  William II had been a pretty indifferent husband by all accounts. A week after William II died her son was born. Life was not easy for Mary because although she was named co-regent of her young son who now became William III her mother-in-law, Amelia von Solms-Branfels, with whom she did not get on held more power than her.  In part the dislike sprang from the fact that Amelia and Elizabeth of Bohemia were arch-rivals.  The Dutch weren’t terribly keen on Mary either because she refused to speak  Dutch, was a tad on the snooty side and also tried to help her brothers whilst they were in exile during the Commonwealth period which was not in accord with Dutch politics.

mary-stuart2She was in England in 1660 because she’d pawned her jewels and returned home.  Sadly she caught small pox and died on 24 December – I did try to find a cheerier metaphorical advent image but the pretty little girl that Van Dyck captured in oils didn’t really have a happy ever after. For more about the picture of Mary, aged five or six at the time, which can be viewed at Hampton Court, click here.

And that brings me to the end of the History Jar’s historical advent calendar.  All that remains is for me to wish you a Happy Christmas.  I shall be back before the New Year with the Wars of the Roses whilst 2017 will bring Edward IV; Jane Shore; the Princes in the Tower (I obviously like living dangerously); more on Margaret Beaufort and the rise of the Tudors; the skulduggery of the Seymour brothers; Lady Jane Grey and her sisters – and, of course, more from the files of Thomas Cromwell.

 

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The fate of kings – Edward VIII, Edward II, Richard II and Charles I

king_edward_viiiThree kings plus a spare – what could be more festive than that?

 

The first of today’s faces is outside my usual time period but it is a significant event so far as the British monarchy is concerned. On the 11 December 1936 King Edward VIII, uncrowned king of the United Kingdom, renounced the throne, not by proclamation but through the very modern medium of a radio broadcast. He then joined Wallis Simpson on a boat bound for France. He’d been king for less than a year. In his abdication speech Edward was eager to observe that as a constitutional monarch he’d never done anything in opposition to his parliament. Churchill made much the same comment in a speech given in the House of Commons on the subject. He also said, “ What is done is done. What has been done or left undone belongs to history, and to history, so far as I am concerned, it shall be left.”

 

Since then history, journalists, biographers and anyone with an interest have speculated as to the whys and wherefores of the case of the only king in English history to voluntarily renounce his throne.

 

Edward’s decision was the result of a constitutional crisis bought about by his love for Wallis Simpson, an almost twice divorced American. I say almost because her second divorce from Ernest Simpson was still pending at this time. If Edward had hoped that the political elite would be tolerant of his love for Wallis he was sadly mistaken even though there was probably a big clue in the fact that his own father, George V, had refused to meet her in 1934.

 

Edward even went so far to ask Stanley Baldwin, the then prime minister, if it would be possible for him to have a morganatic marriage. A morganatic marriage in this context is a marriage between a couple of unequal rank in society. Although the marriage is recognized any children resulting from the union would not be permitted to inherit the throne. Nor would Wallis have attained the rank and privileges of her husband. This was a reasonably common approach to marriage in European royal houses but would have been unique in British history – no one dared mention to Henry VIII, of instance, that his marriage to Anne Boleyn, even with her drip of Plantagenet blood, was not a marriage of equals.

 

Baldwin’s cabinet deemed that the British public would not take to a twice divorced American with a scandalous reputation so said no to a morganatic union. This left Edward with three choices: he could say goodbye to Wallis and marry a woman deemed appropriate; abdicate or ignore the prime minister and marry Wallis anyway. This would have led to a direct confrontation between king and his ministers as they would have resigned resulting in a constitutional crisis.

 

By the beginning of December the scandal was all over the papers.  Edward made his decision and ‘lay down the burden’ of kingship – which rather suggests he felt there was a choice in the matter. The pair got married on June 3 1937. Edward’s younger brother Albert, now King George VI, created him duke of Windsor.  Edward and Wallis spent the rest of their lives in exile.

 

edwardiiOf course, other kings have abdicated in English history – just they didn’t do it voluntarily and they certainly weren’t sent off  to be the governor of the Bahamas. The demise of deposed medieval kings reflects the way in which parliament gradually became more important as the centuries progressed and the kings themselves gradually found their power being eroded. Edward II was deposed in January 1327 when he was captured by his wife Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer. Parliament named his son Edward III as king. There wasn’t a great deal of debate about the matter but it is significant that parliament was called upon to recognise the transition. Edward II disappeared into Berkeley Castle where he was murdered – the medieval way of getting rid of a king who’d worn out his welcome.

 

tumblr_m94jocf45j1qeu6ilo1_500Two generations later Richard II renounced the throne in 1399. In reality, he too was deposed but his cousin Henry of Bolingbroke, who became Henry IV, recognized the importance of popular acclaim and legal justification for his actions- no need to discuss the fact that Richard II was being held captive at the time nor the fact that he didn’t have a great deal of choice in the matter. Like his great grandfather Richard found himself being escorted to a large castle (Pontefract) and quietly removed from the scene (starved).

During the Wars of the Roses, Lancastrians and Yorkists alike were careful to have parliament identify their reign as beginning prior to the key battle that saw them taking hold of power.  This ensured that the loosing side could all be attained for treason.

Charles_I_in_Three_Positions_1635-36By the reign of Charles I the law and parliament had evolved even further, though now is not the time to explore the reasons for that.  Charles found himself on trial for treason. The rationale for this came from the Roman idea that a military body could overthrow a tyrant and even then many people had doubts about the legitimacy of such an action. The Parliament of 1648 was notable for the way in which MPs were excluded from the House of Commons if they were not in support of Oliver Cromwell’s drastic actions. This parliament was known as the Rump Parliament.

 

The idea that there were fundamental laws and liberties which a monarch was required to uphold or to face penalties  imposed by parliament and the law would have come as a surprise to Charles I’s predecessors.  Having seen the power that they could wield parliament now invited Stuart monarchs to ascend to the throne, kicked them out if they didn’t like their religion and laid down statutes as to who could inherit the throne. This meant that with the advent of the protestant Hanoverian monarchs, the British monarchy was a constitutional monarchy.  Kings and queens are heads of state but within defined parameters – their role became increasingly ceremonial whilst the business of laws and governing rest in the hands of Parliament.

Who would have thought that this centuries long evolution would resolve itself in the first half of the twentieth century with the abdication of a monarch for the love of a woman?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sir John Gell – Parliamentarian

Sir_John_Gell_original.jpgOne of the things I like about the summer is the opportunity to get sidetracked, which is exactly what I’ve done in this post. I mentioned in my last post that Sir John Gell besieged Royalists holed up in Lichfield Cathedral in March 1643. John Gell was born at Hopton Hall, near Wirksworth in Derbyshire. Hopton Hall today is known for its snowdrops, its roses and its undulating crinklecrankle garden walls.

The Gells were a wealthy family with their flocks of sheep and lead mines. John was born in 1593. Shortly after John’s birth his father died and his mother Millicent, pregnant with John’s brother Thomas, married John Curzon of Kedleston Hall. In addition to John’s younger brother Millicent also provided a half-brother rather confusingly also called John. Gell raised at Kedleston followed the career path of a young gentleman of his era. He went to university but did not take a degree. He married into the local gentry and then proceeded to create a family and get a reputation for womanizing. He is recorded as saying that he never meddled with women unless they were handsome! No one thought to ask his wife her opinion on the subject nor did it seem to interfere with Gell’s Presbyterianism.

 

Our story really starts in 1635 when Gell was appointed sheriff of Derbyshire and given the unpleasant task of collecting Charles I’s ship money. This tax was usually raised in coastal locations to build, outfit and crew ships to fend off pirates….there isn’t much call for sea-going vessels in Derbyshire which rather explains why Charles I’s little wheeze to raise taxes without having to call a Parliament caused consternation across the country. Gell collected the money in Derbyshire rather enthusiastically. It caused huge resentment not least when Sir John Stanhope was charged twenty-four pounds ship money which he refused to pay. Stanhope happened to be the brother of the Earl of Chesterfield. This together with some earlier cause for dislike resulted in a long-standing feud between Gell with Sir John Stanhope and his brother the earl of Chesterfield.

 

Gell became a baronet in January 1642 presumably for his efficient way with the collection of taxes but supported Parliament on the outbreak of civil war when the king raised his standard in Nottingham that same year. It might be possible that it wasn’t religion that caused Gell to side with Parliament, or his connection with Parliamentarian inclined Derby (as a general rule of thumb, to which there are exceptions, towns tended to be more Parliamentarian in outlook whilst the countryside was more Royalist). What else could it be? Well, it could have been concern that Parliament might have wanted a word about those pesky ship taxes or it could have been the fact that the Stanhopes declared for the king – and Gell, if you recall, did not like the Stanhopes one little bit.

 

Gell threw himself into his new role when he was commissioned by the Earl of Essex to secure Derbyshire for Parliament. He went to Hull where he took charge of a company of London volunteers. They returned with Gell to Derby which became a center for infantry and cavalry regiments. Unfortunately, Derby had no castle or walls. It was Gell who ordered the construction of defensive earthworks.

 

One of the first things that Gell did was to order the siege of Bretbey House – it was owned by Philip Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield. More famously he also besieged Wingfield Manor but by then he had settled his squabble with Stanhope. Lord Chesterfield took Lichfield for the king in 1643. Gell and his men joined Lord Brooke there in March. Brooke was killed early in the siege so Gell took over command and when the Royalists surrendered a few days later, the rank and file were permitted to leave without their weapons but Philip Stanhope, Lord Chesterfield was dispatched to London in chains where he remained in captivity until his death in 1656.

 

Many of the Royalists who were allowed to march away from Lichfield sought a new army to join. They made for Stafford which was at that time in Royalist hands under the command of the earl of Northampton.  Gell joined forces with Sir William Bereton of Cheshire. The resulting battle at Hopton Heath near Stafford which has nothing to do with Hopton in Derbyshire was indecisive but the Earl of Northampton was killed.

 

Gell now did something that would earn him the lasting enmity of Charles I. Gell asked for the artillery that he had lost at Hopton Heath to be returned. He also asked the earl’s son for the money that Gell had laid out to have the earl embalmed. Both requests were declined. In response, Gell who had removed the earl’s body from the battlefield had Northampton’s body paraded through the streets of Derby before it was buried.

 

The following year, and after the death of his first wife in October 1644, he married Mary Stanhope, the widow Sir John Stanhope. The marriage was swiftly dissolved. Your guess is as good as mine as to whether that was a match made in Heaven.

 

Gell seems to have become a steadily more  loose canon after 1644. He appointed his friends and family to important positions; allowed his troops to plunder and ignored Fairfax’s order that his troops should join with Fairfax at Naseby. His actions were so suspicious that Parliament believed that Gell was thinking of changing his allegiance. This thought was probably also voiced the following year at the siege of Tutbury Castle when Gell offered different, and rather more lenient, surrender terms than those offered by his fellow commander – Bereton who you will recall had been with Gell at the Battle of Hopton Heath.

 

Rather bizarrely Gell tried to gain a pardon for his role in the war from Charles I during his imprisonment at Carisbrooke Castle by offering to lend him £900 in gold.  In 1650, he was found guilty of plotting against the Commonwealth. Charles II planned to return to his kingdom via Scotland but wanted to be sure of having an army to command.  His council wanted to ensure that parliament didn’t know where the king was going to pop up.   Blank commissions were sent secretly to England with a view to raising divisions of men but the Commonwealth tracked many of these commissions and in so doing unearthed more than one royalist sympathiser. Gell was lucky not to be hanged like the unfortunate Dr Lewen who was found with several of these commissions. Instead, Gell was imprisoned in the Tower of London until 1652 when he was freed. He lived in London rather than returning to Derbyshire.

 

Charles II pardoned him for his role in the civil war and granted him a position at court, where he remained until his death in October 1671. His body was returned to Derbyshire. He is buried in Wirksworth.

 

 

Brighton, Trevor (2004) Sir John Gell. Oxford DNB.

Stone, Brian (1992) Derbyshire in the Civil War. Cromford: Scarthin Books

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Charles I in York

 

stwilliamscollegeyorkKing Charles I stayed in the King’s Manor, York in 1633 and again in 1639.  The building which had formerly been part of St Mary’s Abbey was in the aftermath of the Reformation turned into the residence of the President of the Council of the North. Charles’ father stayed there on his journey from Edinburgh to London.

The 1633 visit that Charles made followed his journey to Edinburgh to be crowned King Charles I of Scotland.  Six years later Charles arrived in York on his way to make war with the Scots because they refused to accept Archbishop Laud’s Prayer Book.  The resulting war, known as The Bishop’s War was ultimately a disaster for Charles.

The King’s Manor where he stayed on both these occasions  is now part of the University of York  but Charles’ coat of arms can still be seen above the door  near to the art gallery– but not seen in this blog because I focused on the bricks around it rather than the heraldry when I took my photograph (not once but thrice): don’t ask me why!

In any event York was to become the stage on which King Charles I played once more in March 1642.

Charles attempted to arrest five MPs  at the beginning of January 1642.  The unrest that followed disturbed him so much that the king fled with his family first to Hampton Court and from there to Windsor on the 10th January.

The Royal family split up soon afterwards.  Queen Henrietta Maria escorted her eldest daughter Princess Mary to Holland. Mary had married William of Orange the previous year. Charles accompanied his wife and daughter to Dover. It is said that the king was in tears when he said his farewells to Mary whom he never saw again. The queen, in addition to ensuring her daughter was settled into her new home also had other business in Holland.  She had a selection of the crown jewels in her luggage which she intended to sell in order to pay for men, munitions and weaponry as civil war looked inevitable.

 

Charles meanwhile travelled north to York with his court.  He remained there for the next six months.  What this effectively meant, given that Charles I governed by personal rule, was that if anyone wanted anything done that required the king’s attention then they had to travel to York.

York became England’s capital city if not in fact then in practice. A procession of officers of state, petitioners, foreign ambassadors and even a parliamentary committee arrived in the city to keep an eye on the king, although officially they were there to keep the channel of communications open. Unfortunately the king’s supporters were also gathering so occasionally the communications involved fisticuffs  as well as hard words.

 

A printing-press was set up in St. William’s College (more recently it featured in the recent adaptation of P.D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberly as the location for the trial scenes). The press enabled Charles to issue declarations and to send messages around the country in a bid to increase his support. The country was not at war yet but the war of words was well under way. Propaganda was an essential part of the war effort for both king and parliament.

 

As winter turned into spring  and then into summer more and more men arrived in York to offer their swords to their king. Other men came to the city in a bid to persuade Charles that negotiation with Parliament was the only way forward.

 

Charles held two important meetings in York; one in the castle on 12 May 1642 and the other on Heworth Moor on the 3rd June. Charles summoned over 70,000 lords and gentry of Yorkshire. Not everyone attending the meting was sympathetic to the Charles. Lord Ferdinando Fairfax petitioned the king to stop raising troops against Parliament and was virtually ridden over for his pains when the king refused to accept the petition.

Events took yet another turn for the worse when Hotham (who was Governor of Hull) refused Charles entry to the city.

Fortunately for York although Charles talked about raising his standard which would in effect be a declaration of war on his own parliament he didn’t do so until August by which time he was in Nottingham.

 

The image in this blog depicts the gateway to St William’s College.

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The Lion and the Unicorn

stcuthbert'scoatofarmsThe lion and the unicorn are the heraldic supporters of the royal coat of arms.  The lion represents England, while the unicorn stands for Scotland.  This current combination of supporters dates back to 1603 and the accession of James I of England or James VI of Scotland depending upon your viewpoint.  There is a fine example of James’ coat of arms in the church of St John the Evangelist, Leeds.

Earlier kings used different supporters.  Tudor kings used a Welsh dragon and sometimes a greyhound.  Richard II used a white hart.  In addition, the arms  have changed over the centuries as Ireland, Scotland and Wales were added.

The royal coat of arms in its various guises, usually supported by a lion and a unicorn, began to appear in English churches and cathedrals in the aftermath of the English Reformation – a reminder to congregations that the monarchy was in charge of matters spiritual as well as temporal. There was never a law, although the “great council” issued an “injunction” in 1660 (Records of Buckinghamshire, p386) to say that churches required coats of arms, they tended to be put on display during times when it was sensible to demonstrate loyalty to the crown– after the restoration of Charles II; in the aftermath of the Jacobite uprisings and upon the accession of a new monarch for example.

This means that the coats of arms on display are not always the same. The arms on display in Halifax date from the reign of Queen Ann, while in Woodkirk near Morley the arms are those of King George I.

Not every church and cathedral has a royal coat of arms. The Victorians got rid of many of them or consigned them to less prominent positions. Apparently there are even one or two arms where thrifty churchwardens turned the board around and painted ones on the back.

The Churches Conservation Trust provides an interesting summary of the way in which the royal arms changed over the centuries with examples. Double click on the image of the fairly rare King Charles I coat of arms that was added to St Cuthbert’s in Wells in 1631 to open the page.

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John Barwick of Witherslack

NPG D29584; John Barwick by George VertueJohn was born in 1612 so was in the prime of life just in time for the English Civil War. Cumberland was largely Royalist.  Perhaps its remoteness meant that being so far from London they weren’t as caught up in events as folk further south; or perhaps it was the fact that they were great traditionalists.  Whatever the reason the English Civil War saw many a Cumbrian Gentleman ruin himself financially in the king’s name as well as laying down their lives.  Carlisle was reduced to starvation during the siege that is amply documented by Isaac Tullie.

 

Elsewhere, John Barwick having made his way from the delightfully named Witherslack to Cambridge where he attained his degree and went on to become a Doctor of Divinity put down his books and pens when the king raise this standard.  He became a courier for Charles I bringing the money and silver plate of St John’s College to Nottingham rather than allowing it to fall into Parliamentary hands.  He then set about writing tracts promoting Charles’ cause.  It cost him his position in Cambridge but nothing daunted he moved his operation to London- into the Archbishop of London’s house in fact- where he continued to write for the king.

It was only after Charles’ execution that John was captured and confined in the Tower of London.  He was eventually released and John took up his pen once more on behalf of Charles II sending ciphered letters from London to Europe.  His reward was to be made Dean of Old St Paul’s.

He died in 1664 but he never forgot the village of his birth.  His will left a bequest enabling ground to be purchased for burials, a school to be built, dowries to be given to girls and the old and infirm to be provided with fuel.  His will also provided for a curate to tend to the flock where two of his brothers had lived their lives as farmers.

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