Margaret Beaufort

478px-Lady_Margaret_Beaufort_from_NPGI’ve blogged about Henry Tudor’s mother before and am always surprised at the reaction she seems to provoke including that it’s obvious that she was responsible for the murder of the princes – by which people do not mean that she was stalking the corridors of the Tower of London beating small boys to death with her psalter but that she “must” have reached an accommodation with the Duke of Buckingham who she was seen talking with during a “chance encounter” on the road prior to the rebellion which led to his execution (and he was family after all)  in 1483. I have also been accused of being biased against her as well as biased in her favour in the same post.  To which my response was – eh?

The main problem for Margaret would seem to be the question – Who gains?  And quite obviously, her son Henry Tudor became king of England.  Couple that with means, motive and opportunity and Margaret Beaufort has to be included on the suspect list -she was after all Lady Stanley by this point and had a prominent position at court until she blotted her copy books and found herself under house arrest.  Even if she didn’t have access to the Tower, the Duke of Buckingham did and Lord Stanley was part of Richard III’s circle of power (though not part of the inner circle.) Everyone in power or with money had access to the kind of men who would kill children – even women if they had trusted servants.  It was not until Josephine Tey’s wonderful book entitled The Daughter of Time which was published in 1951 that anyone pointed the finger at Margaret although there had been doubts about Richard III’s involvement for centuries.

Henry Tudor didn’t launch an inquiry to find out what had happened in 1485 – nor was there any religious rite for the pair of princes which seems odd given that he had to revoke their illegitimacy in order to marry their sister Elizabeth – so it would have been only polite to mark their demise.  But then who wants to draw attention to their presumed dead and now legitimate brothers-in-law and the fact that your own claim to the throne is a tad on the dodgy side?  Edward IV didn’t want Henry VI turning into a cult so why would Henry Tudor want Edward V turning into a cult? And there is also the fact that having a mass said for the souls of the dead is one thing but what if one or more of the boys was still alive – it would be a bit like praying for their immediate death.  Which brings us to Perkin Warbeck.  Or was he?  No wonder the story continues to fascinate people and excite so much comment.

However, back to Margaret Beaufort and the point of today’s post.  Strong women in history often get a bad press both during their life times and in the history books – assuming they manage to get out of the footnotes because until fairly recently history was written from a male perspective – and Victorian minded males at that – women were supposed to be domestic and pious, they were not supposed to step out from the hearth and engage in masculine activities nor were they supposed to be intellectually able (the notable exception to this rule being Elizabeth I.)

Margaret Beaufort began life as a typical heiress – tainted by the apparent suicide of her father the Duke of Somerset- Once her father died she was handed over to a guardian, in this case the Duke of Suffolk.  Suffolk effectively gained control of Margaret’s wealth and also had the power to arrange her marriage – which he duly did – to his own son John de la Pole.  This marriage would be dissolved before Margaret left childhood. Margaret never considered herself to have been married to John.  The fact that it was dissolved on the orders of no less a person than Henry VI demonstrates that she was a pawn on a chess board – just as most other heiresses were at this time.  There was also her links to the Lancastrian bloodline to be considered. Her great grandparents were John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford (and no I’m not exploring the legitimacy of the legitimisation of their family in this post) but at the time of her marriage to Tudor there were male Beauforts available who would have taken precedence in such matters.  Margaret was also descended from Edward I via her maternal grandmother Lady Margaret Holland but that’s neither here nor there for the purposes of this post other than to note it was another source of Margaret Beaufort’s wealth.

Her lot was to marry and produce children. To this end Henry VI arranged a marriage between Margaret and his own half-brother Edmund Tudor who he had created Earl of Richmond but who now needed the money to go with the title.  When the pair married on 1st November 1455, she was twelve.  Edmund was twenty-four.  By the following year Margaret was a widow and two  months after that a mother.  Let’s not put modern morality on Edmund’s actions.  Had Margaret died before she became a parent her estates and income would have reverted to her family rather than to her husband.  It was in Edmund’s financial interests to begin married life as soon as possible. It is probably for this reason that Edmund chose not to defer consummation until Margaret had matured somewhat.

Humphrey Stafford duke of buckingham.pngIn March 1457 Margaret married for a second time (or third if you’re being pedantic) to the Duke of Buckingham’s second son- Henry Stafford.  This was a marriage that had been negotiated by Margaret’s mother Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe.  Jasper Tudor may also have been involved as he escorted Margaret from Pembroke and had his own financial interests to consider.  The Duke of Buckingham (pictured left) was a powerful political ally in that he was as powerful as Richard of York (pictured right).richard-plantagenet-3rd-duke-of-york-2  It was a marriage that would protect Margaret’s interests but which would separate her from her son who was now in the guardianship of Jasper Tudor, the Earl of Pembroke.  After the Battle of Towton in 1461 young Henry would be placed in the care of the Yorkist Herbert family.  Margaret would never have another child – even if she could visit this one on occasion whilst he was resident with the Herberts before he and Uncle Jasper fled across The Channel in 1471 following the short-lived second reign of Henry VI.

It was during this marriage that Margaret Beaufort began to develop the skills that would help her son to the throne.  Sir Henry Stafford, was a third cousin and some eighteen years older than her.  Although he was a Lancastrian and fought on the loosing side at Towton he soon sued for pardon.   During the 1460s Sir Henry rose in the Yorkist court.  He demonstrated the necessity of being politically realistic.  In 1468 Margaret and her husband entertained Edward IV at their hunting lodge near Guildford.   For whatever reason Sir Henry fought against the Lancastrians at the Battle of Barnet and eventually died of the wounds he received there.  Pragmatism would see Margaret into another marriage and into a role at the courts of  Edward IV and Richard III.

Margaret, rather like the redoubtable Tudor Bess of Hardwick, had a very businesslike approach to marriage – as is demonstrated by her marriage to Thomas Stanley.  Bess married for money whilst Margaret married for security, access to a power base, and, it would appear, for the chance to bring her son safely home from exile.   Who can blame her?  She been married off twice in her childhood due to her wealth and family links.  The man she regarded as her first husband, Edmund Tudor, had died whilst in the custody of his enemies albeit from plague.  Her second husband had relinquished his Lancastrian loyalties demonstrating real-politic and then died of wounds sustained in one of the intermittent battles of the period.  Why would Margaret not marry someone close to the seat of power who could keep her, her inheritance and potentially her son safe?  The fact that she married only eight months after the death of Sir Henry Stafford is not suggestive of undue haste, rather a desire to ensure that she had a role in the decision making.

The other thing that Margaret learned during her time as Lady Stafford was the importance of loyal servants not to mention a network of contacts.  Reginald Bray began his career as Sir Henry’s man but would go on to become Margaret’s man of business, trusted messenger and ultimately adviser to Henry Tudor.  So far as the contacts are concerned she had an extended family through her mother’s various marriages and  her own marriages.  As a woman of power i.e. Lady Stanley she had influence at court.  She knew people and it would appear from Fisher’s biography had a capacity for getting on with them (not something that modern fictional presentations tend to linger on.)

In 1483 Margaret was heavily involved in the Duke of Buckingham’s rebellion against Richard III.  Her agent was Reginald Bray. Polydore Virgil – the Tudor historian- made much of Margaret’s role at this time. During the reign of Edward IV  she had petitioned for Henry’s return home as the Earl of Richmond now, in the reign of Richard III, she plotted to make her son king.  She arrived at an accommodation with Elizabeth Woodville so that Princess Elizabeth of York would become Henry’s wife – making it quite clear that by this point Elizabeth Woodville believed her sons to be dead.  Autumn storms caused Henry’s boats to turn back before the rebellion ended in disaster but he swore that he would marry Elizabeth of York.  Not only would such a marriage reunite the two houses of Lancaster and York but it would legitimise Henry as king – should the situation arise.  Pragmatic or what?

As a result of her involvement with the 1483 plot Margaret found herself under house arrest and all her property in the hands of her husband.  Her wealth wasn’t totally lost and Lord Stanley connived to allow her continued communication with her son.  Margaret was no longer a pawn on the chess board she had become an active player – and furthermore knew how to play the various pieces to best advantage and to hold her nerve.

There is popular acceptance of men such as Edward IV and the Earl of Warwick – politics and violence in the fifteenth century were suitably manly pastimes. It was an era when “good” men did “bad” things to maintain stability. We know that Edward must have ordered the murder of Henry VI following the Battle of Tewkesbury but he has not been vilified for it – you can’t really have two kings in one country without the constant fear of civil war.  He ordered his own brother’s execution – but again he is not vilified for it – after all George Duke of Clarence had changed sides more often than he’d changed his underwear by that point.

By contrast Margaret Beaufort, despite Fisher’s hagiography, has not always been kindly portrayed in recent years – words like “calculating” are hardly positive when it comes to considering the child bride who became a kingmaker thanks to her own marriages and her negotiations with Elizabeth Woodville.  Come to think of it Bess of Hardwick has had more than her share of bad press in the past as have women like Elizabeth Woodville and Henry VI’s queen Margaret of Anjou.  Ambitious women, whether for power or money, were not and are still not treated kindly by posterity – possibly because they stepped out of their allotted role and refused to behave as footnotes.

DO I think she did it?  In all honesty?  I don’t know but probably not. I don’t have any evidence that says she did and neither does anyone else. I would also politely point out that she did not have custody of the two princes nor was she responsible for their safety.  Did she benefit from their deaths – yes- but she would have been a fool not to and no one has ever accused Lady Margaret Beaufort of being one of those. There were plenty of other people who could have arranged their deaths and been on the scene to benefit much faster than Henry Tudor who was in Brittany at the time. But as I said at the start of the post people do feel strongly on the subject – here’s a picture to give you a flavour.

Picard-Beaufort-Princes-300x229.jpg

https://www.royalhistorygeeks.com/why-margaret-beaufort-could-not-have-killed-the-princes-in-the-tower/  It’s worth looking at the comments -for every argument made in the History Geek post there is a counter argument.  For those of you who want to see the argument that she could have had the princes killed go to: https://mattlewisauthor.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/margaret-beaufort-and-the-princes-in-the-tower/

I shall be talking to the U3A Burton-On-Trent, Rolleston Club on 27th February at 10.00 am on the topic of Lady Margaret Beaufort.  There’re bound to be questions!

Licence, Amy. 2016 Red Roses. Stroud: The History Press

Jones, Michael and Underwood, Malcom. (1992)  The King’s Mother. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Charles I and his parliament 1625

charles i full lengthMost of Charles I’s problems with Parliament during the first years of his reign stemmed from financial difficulties. Sir Thomas Crewe, the speaker at Charle’s first parliament, was delighted not only that Parliament had been summoned but that Charles expressed the desire to regain the Palatinate.

Charles soon found the whole process frustrating.  He understood Parliament to be for the provision of money.  He did not understand why Parliament which had agreed to England’s alliance with other Protestant countries against the Hapsburgs  refused to grant him the money to go to war against Spain. Parliament had been enthusiastic in its support of the Palatinate and Elizabeth of Bohemia, the so-called Winter Queen, but was critical of the Duke of Buckingham as a commander and felt that whilst war was desirable there should be a better plan than the vague proposals presented.  In addition to which taxes had been levied only shortly before and it seemed to many Parliamentarians that the money had not been used wisely.  There had been no account given Sir Robert Philipps stated  of money or men and there was already a heavy burden on people- “We no yet of no war nor of any enemy.”  Taking these three things into consideration Parliament did not vote Charles tonnage and poundage for life as had become normal with the ascent of a new monarch to the throne but for a year only.

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Sir Edward Coke (former Attorney General and Chief Justice) – whose daughter Frances had been married off to Viscount Purbeck – George Villiers brother John.  The marriage had lasted less than a year before Viscountess Purbeck ran away with Sir Robert Howard whose father was the Earl of Suffolk – it is hard to know which George was more offended about, the fact that Frances had run away from his brother or that she had run to the son of his political rival.

Sir Edward Coke, who had been James I’s Chief Justice had fallen from favour (thanks to Bacon and Buckingham) and now used his legal knowledge to advantage in Parliament.  He noted that tonnage – the tax levied on the tuns of wine imported into the country and poundage – the tax on imports and exports- equalled £160,000 annually and was within the gift of parliament rather than being a royal right. Parliament wanted to discuss the book of rates which needed reform. The question of monopolies needed addressing (Coke argued that only new processes/items should require licences and that the practise of introducing new license requirements for “old”  things was illegal).

There was also the question of Buckingham’s competence to consider. Buckingham had been the power behind the throne since 1618. Since 1621 his  impact on royal policy and his monopoly of offices meant that he was a de facto prime minister – even though the office hadn’t yet been invented.  This would end only with his assassination in 1628.

george villiers

George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham also known as “Steenie.”

 

Limited royal funds gave Parliament leverage over the king.  MPs felt that they held a financial carrot, or possibly stick, by which they could make Charles enforce the recusancy laws. Charles actually refused to sign the bill that granted him subsidies for a year.  He regarded them as his right and he maintained that he was entitled to them for his lifetime.  He claimed that it was his right to collect the customs dues until such time as Parliament passed the necessary bill. He did not regard himself as doing anything illegal.

Parliament was adjourned on account of an outbreak in Plague in London but reconvened in Oxford on 1st August 1625.  Charles once again insisted that Parliament was called to aid him in his war against Spain.  He estimated that the war would cost £700,000.  Parliament felt free to discuss where the king’s income was being wasted and mismanaged and the fact that Buckingham had so many different offices and monopolies.  Charles promptly dissolved parliament in order to avoid difficult questions about the Duke of Buckingham, it had sat for only two weeks.

Essentially Charles’ first parliament identified the difficulty which faced England during this period. Charles was applying the theory of absolute monarchy to his interactions whilst Parliament, with Common Law behind it, increasingly saw itself as a representative body – which is odd really as Charles did not have all the powers of an absolute monarch.  Nor could Parliament be described as representative of the whole population.  Charles clung to what he believed was his by right and royal prerogative  whilst Parliament clarified and expanded on what they believed to be their rights and privileges.

Taken together with the Thirty Years War, conflict over religion and the radical viewpoint of some of the members of Parliament it is not surprising that Charles’ determination upon personal rule was ultimately destined for disaster.

 

 

 

The battle for the bed chamber – Henrietta Maria

henrietta maria 2Henrietta Maria has undoubtedly had a bad press in English History – in the past she has either been fitted into the pattern of she-wolf or interfering wife. And yet prior to arrival in England in 1625 and in the weeks afterwards she was praised for her youth and her beauty.  Her arrival was, after all, the beginning of an Anglo-French partnership. Not that every was wildly happy about a French Catholic becoming queen.

The power of a consort was very indirect so far as most Stuart kings of England are concerned.  Henrietta is the best known of the Stuart wives and she undoubtedly arrived with an agenda.  Pope Urban VIII had made her a member of the order of the Golden Rose prior to her departure for England. She wrote to her brother, Louis XIII, saying that she would improve the lot of Catholics in England.  She made no secret of the fact that she was a good Catholic princess.  Her pilgrimage to Marble Arch and Tyburn where Catholics had been executed caused consternation amongst her Protestant subjects.  Yet, she was also supposed to engineer a firm Anglo-French alliance.  She was fifteen and it was a very tall order.

george villiersGriffey explains that her presence in England quickly became a political liability so far as Buckingham was concerned.  In the first instance she was French and Catholic so did nothing to enhance Buckingham’s popularity at home given that he brokered the match and secondly Charles was predisposed to love his bride. In terms of the first Buckingham broke the escrit secret that he had agreed promising to suspend the recusancy laws, declaring it was nothing but a trick to get the French to agree to the marriage and in the second he sought to impose his various female relations upon Henrietta not to mention the female relatives of men who owed their ascent at court to him so that he could control who had access to her. The effect of both was to leave her feeling embattled and isolated – which in turn made her more determinedly Catholic in her outlook.  She refused to be crowned because it was a Protestant ceremony.  The same applied to Garter events and other events. It did nothing for the royal marriage either as Charles became ever more resentful of her lack of obedience to his husbandly requests – though apparently the fact that her sixteenth birthday passed unremarked was neither here nor there as indeed was the fact that he was flagrantly breaking the promises that he made prior to their marriage.

charles i full lengthCharles came to believe that her household was keeping her too French and too intransigent. In part her relationship with her confessors did have that effect and whilst there were few English women in her household she had no need to speak the language – indeed I  imagine that girls around the country were being tutored in French in the hopes that they might get a place in her household.   Charles came most of all, it would appear, to blame Jeanne St George.  Madame St George or Mamie as she was known had been with Henrietta since the princess was a child. She had unintentionally caused a diplomatic incident when Charles and Buckingham insisted on travelling in Henrietta’s coach to Canterbury from Dover along with Buckingham’s mother and wife.  There had been no space for Mamie which was a serious breach of French etiquette. The whole affair was repeated when the royal couple fled the plague that summer. Buckingham was offended at the suggestion that his family should not travel with the queen.

Gradually the household of four hundred was eroded.  Henrietta took up the lute. Her lutist was arrested as a spy and packed off to the Tower, some other household members were arrested under the recusancy laws which were very much in force. Matters came to a head for Henrietta when her entire household was sent back to France in 1626 – Charles having forcibly separated his wife from their company.  It was a total breach of the marriage treaty. It left her hysterical and a virtual prisoner.  She was unable to write any letters unless an English lady-in-waiting supervised its content.

Henrietta who still did not speak English now found herself surrounded by the Duke of Buckingham’s female relatives including his niece Susan who slept in her bedchamber.  Lucy Hay, Countess of Carlisle was imposed on her.  Lucy was beautiful and witty and Buckingham’s sometime mistress. There is evidence to suggest that Buckingham was planning to set Lucy up as Charles I’s mistress but the king was a loyal husband – not that Henrietta would have initially known that.  Instead she might have thought of her own father with his more than forty mistresses as well as the court of her brother.  No wonder she was hostile to Lucy – and her rather colourful reputation.

Ultimately the two women became friends and allies whilst it suited them both. Lucy was older than Henrietta and she was able to fulfil a role as mentor – which was as alarming to most Puritans as the thought of Mamie St George. Their relationship sums up the informal nature of female Stuart politics.  It was based on personal relationships and favour.  Interestingly Lady Carlisle only fell from favour when her husband became Pro-Spanish in sympathy.

The reorganisation of Henrietta’s household structure in 1627 at Charles’ behest meant that access to the bedchamber and personal spaces of the queen were more limited than they had been under previous monarch and consorts. A distinction was drawn between the bedchamber and the privy chamber in a way that it hadn’t been before.  The extended hierarchy was Charles I’s preference.  He disliked the free and easy way that Henrietta associated with her French ladies and wanted to impose more regulation upon the whole proceeding so that it mirrored his own household.

She was angered that he had imposed his will on her independence.  She pointed out, quite reasonably, that his mother had ordered her own affairs but Charles said that was a different matter entirely. At which point Henrietta lost her temper and proclaimed that she was a daughter of France whilst Charles’ mother was only from Denmark.  It wasn’t tactful but it’s hard not to feel some sympathy for Henrietta  at this point.

 

The limiting of access with its heightened powers of influence initially  seemed to work to Buckingham’s advantage as the key jobs were given to his people but after his death in 1629 it meant that access to Henrietta was still limited.  The difference was that Henrietta who had rushed to console her husband on Buckingham’s death had much more influence than anyone could have anticipated. The lack of range of voices and opinions surrounding Henrietta and Charles would be one of the factors that led husband and wife down a dangerous path.

Men have always blamed evil councillors when they revolt against their monarchs.  The death of Buckingham removed a hated advisor so it was perhaps only to be expected that Parliament began blaming Henrietta Maria for Charles’ actions – she was after all a foreigner ( a French one at that), a Catholic…and a woman!

 

Erin Griffey (ed) Henrietta Maria: Piety, Politics and Patronage

Wolfson, Sara J. The Female Bedchamber of Queen Henrietta Maria: Politics, Familial Networks and Policy, 1626–40  in The Politics of Female Households: Ladies-in-waiting across Early Modern Europe

 

 

 

Queen Henry arrives in England

HenriettaMariaofFrance02.jpgHenrietta Maria was fifteen when she married King Charles I – she didn’t speak any English. When she set sail for her new home Marie de Medici, gave her a letter to keep with her. It was a manual for how a good queen and Catholic should behave. Essentially she was to ensure protocol was maintained, not displease her husband and labour ensure he became a good Catholic in order to care most effectively for her new subjects.

There was also the small matter of her retinue.  Her confessor was horrified that in order to please her husband she ate on a fast day.  Her ladies were horrified when she travelled to Canterbury from Dover in a carriage containing the king and some of the Duke of Buckingham’s female relations – thus flouting French etiquette.  Who would have thought the simple matter of a short journey through Kent could  cause a diplomatic incident?

Personally the royal pair seemed well enough pleased with one another but the problems soon came crowding in and the honeymooners became distinctly disgruntled.  Charles had promised that Henrietta should be served only by Catholics.  He appointed some Protestants to her household – which did not please the French nor for that matter were there any Catholic chapels in any of her new homes.  Charles had promised her the right to worship as she chose in the privacy of whichever residence they happened to be in. The Escrit Secret which Charles had agreed along with the public marriage contract also promised a suspension of the recusancy laws.  It can’t have been very reassuring when some of Henrietta’s own servants were arrested under the laws which had most definitely not been suspended.

Meanwhile MPs were concerned that the king had married a Catholic princess which they felt was the thin end of the wedge.  It wouldn’t be long, they reasoned, before Protestantism would suffer.  The marriage treaty (not the secret one) had not been made fully public so they were suspicious about its contents. They wondered what Buckingham had agreed.  They were not happy about the presence of Catholic priests.

Unfortunately the name Henrietta Maria was too foreign sounding and so the queen was anglicised and prayed for every Sunday. At first there was an attempt to call her Queen Henry but ultimately Queen Mary was settled upon, reminding everyone of the previous Queen Mary and the fires at Smithfield where Protestant martyrs were killed.  Somewhat optimistically there was a hope that the queen would convert- but it rapidly became clear that she was staunch in her beliefs – in fact it wasn’t long before the rumour mill was talking about excess devotion, such as penitential bare feet, that was quite frankly not very queenly to a Protestant mindset.

In London the plague broke out and the Duke of Buckingham tried to have his mother and wife appointed to the Queen’s household. There were more complaints about who was travelling in the royal coach. The French, once the court had arrived at its chosen destination, objected to Buckingham’s wife because she was Protestant and somewhat bizarrely Charles objected to Buckingham’s mother because she was Catholic.  Buckingham became exasperated and insulted the French.  It was not a good sign that the King’s favourite and his wife were at odds with one another. The private matter might have been resolved had Parliament suspended the recusancy laws when it next sat but it didn’t.

It was very clear to Henrietta that Buckingham was a bit of a weasel. Buckingham had now managed to irritate everyone in this post apart from his mother and King Charles. The latter would dissolve parliament rather than risk his friend’s arrest. Meanwhile the French, as a whole, were disgruntled not only about the whole coach travel business but about the way that the marriage treaty had been metaphorically ridden over by a coach and horses.   Henrietta’s confessor, Father Bérule, had come to believe that he and Henrietta were surrounded by heretics – so he encouraged her to become ever more pious and austere in her faith.  She had after all been taught by Carmelite nuns.

Henrietta was fed up of trundling around the countryside to escape the plague and having arguments about who should travel with her. It probably didn’t help that assorted  Catholic priests and subjects approached her with tales of  unfair treatment.

She now gave Charles a very cold shoulder indeed or as Charles termed it “eschewing my company.”  Even in that instance things could perhaps have been resolved had the Duke of Buckingham not taken it upon himself to enter the queen’s bedchamber late at night to  berate her for her lack of wifely duty…on more than one occasion.

Marie de Medici sent a letter telling her daughter to behave a little more diplomatically. Father Bérule was sent back to France but in his stead Father Sancy was appointed.  On one rather epic occasion, whilst staying in Titchfield, Charles’ chaplain started to say grace but was interrupted by Sancy with his grace. Grace descended into a prayer and shoving contest which Charles eventually resolved by rising from the table, taking his wife by the hand and leaving the clerics to their squabble.

It did not bode well.

 

Whitaker, Katie. (2010) A Royal Passion. London: Orion

 

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Was James I murdered?

king-james1James I died in March 1625. It wasn’t long after that that Dr Eglesham suggested that James had been poisoned by his favourite – the Duke of Buckingham pictured at the start of this post.  Eglesham helpfully produced a pamphlet entitled The Forerunner of Revenge which helpfully outlined his claims. But could James’ favourite really have killed the man who raised him from comparative poverty to being one of the wealthiest men in the country – not to mention one of the most powerful.

 

James, who was not a healthy man, fell ill with tertian ague and took to his bed.  Tertian fever was a kind of malaria but it, mostly, wasn’t fatal. He was given a remedy by George Villiers that involved a drink with a restorative and a plaster.  James’ condition declined quickly after George’s remedies. The restorative was a white powder and James regretted having taken it.

george villiersIt has been suggested that Villiers (pictured right) may have had form – his wife’s brother died in suspicious circumstances making her an heiress. And apparently the Marquess of Hamilton’s corpse didn’t behave as it should have – it was described as having swelled suggesting that the marquess may have been poisoned.

2ndMarquessOfHamilton.jpgJames Hamilton, for those who are interested, came to England with James in 1603.  He was part of the anti-war faction at court.  Buckingham and Hamilton had also had a bit of a spat in 1620 when Buckingham took exception to a comment about the sale of titles and advancement of men who did not have the requisite blood lines.  Buckingham felt that the snub was aimed at him and his extended family.

 

The main problem  in terms of George’s defence was that he did not apply medicines that James’ own doctors sanctioned. He’d sought a diagnosis of his own and paid a different doctor for the cure which he administered.  Eglesham not only took umbrage from this but also from the fact that as masters of the Goldbeaters’ Company his fortune has suffered a severe setback in 1621 when the king revoked their patent under pressure from Parliament.  Parliament didn’t have a grudge against the Goldbeaters or Eglesham they were seeking to control the power that George Villers had gained from the monopolies that the king had given to him during his rise to favour.

 

Nor did it help that Eglesham, a Scot, had just lost his key patron – the Marquess of Hamilton – yes, the chap with the bloated corpse.  One of the rumours was that Hamilton had been killed as part of a Catholic conspiracy. It was even suggested that Eglesham had secretly helped to convert Hamilton to Catholicism on his deathbed. This wasn’t good news either as England was on an anti-Catholic high following the disasterous trip by Charles and Buckingham to Madrid in 1623.  Eglesham, in fear for his life, fled to Brussels – and wrote the Forerunner of Revenge which was published in English and Latin.  It was widely read.

The Spanish were delighted with the book because it gave them an opportunity to destabilise England now that Charles and Buckingham had gone to war with the Hapsburgs – think of it as an early application of fake news.

Eglesham blamed Buckingham for his misfortunes, had laid the evidence of Buckingham’s crimes out in his text and now declared that it was Charles’ job to punish crime and uphold justice because without justice the Crown would fall.

As it happened Eglesham’s work would resonate through the period.  Charles’ loyalty to Buckingham saw him trying to protect the Duke from Parliament by dissolving Parliament when it sought to impeach his friend in 1626.  He  then raised revenues by other avenues than Parliament.  These to things  led to a failure of justice in terms of the “crimes” which Buckingham had committed by his foreign policy and his continued power not to mention the failure in justice when Charles had members of the gentry imprisoned without trial for their failure to pay his forced loans.

Whether Buckingham actually did kill James is another matter entirely – but a grand read for fans of conspiracy theories. Certainly Parliament took the view that there was no smoke without fire when it came to their impeachment attempt in 1626.

Bellamy, Alastair and Cogswell, Thomas (2015) The Murder of James I  New Haven: Yale University Press

Ruigh, Robert, E.(1971)  The Parliament of 1624: Politics and Foreign Policy Harvard: Harvard University Press.

By Robert E. Ruigh

Joan Beaufort’s family – Anne Neville, Countess of Stafford

Joan Beaufort neville family tree

 

Joan BeaufortAn earlier post looked at Katherine Neville’s four marriages.  Today I am looking at Anne Neville’s marriages.  Anne was born in about 1410 (depending on the source you read). By the time she was fourteen she was married to Humphrey Stafford, Earl of Stafford who would go on to become the First Duke of Buckingham.  The family was hugely wealthy.  Anne like many of the other women in her family became noted for her interest in books and spent money on lavishly illustrated prayer books and psalters. The Wingfield Book of Hours was hers for example.  In addition, as with others of her family History also has her book of accounts detailing her expenditure. She died in 1480 at the age of seventy (ish) after two marriages and many children – again figures vary depending upon the source but there were at least ten of them.  Sadly of their sons, only three survived to adulthood.

Anne’s eldest son with Humphrey Stafford – unsurprisingly another Humphrey died in 1458 of plague – a reminder of the fact that disease stalked the land culling various Beaufort descendants just as much as war. Anne’s son had been married to his cousin Margaret Beaufort – not to be confused with the Margaret Beaufort. This one was the daughter of  Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset (the one who had a thing with Katherine of Valois and managed to get himself killed at the first Battle of St Albans in May 1455) rather than her more famous cousin who was first married to Edmund Tudor.

The next son was Henry Stafford who married the widowed Margaret Tudor – nee Beaufort.  It must have been a bit confusing to have two Margaret Beauforts in the family.  This Margaret, other than being Henry VII’s mother, was the daughter of John Beaufort the older brother of Edmund who died in 1444 under suspicious circumstances having lost vast chunks of France due to ineptitude.  Henry seems to have had a skin condition called St Anthony’s Fire – the condition involving inflation of the skin as well as headaches and sickness which cannot have been ideal when you had to get togged up in armour and go and fight battles.  There were no grandchildren from this union but the pair seem to have genuinely loved one another celebrating their wedding anniversary each year and Margaret Beaufort celebrated St Anthony’s day throughout her life. Sir Henry also fell victim to the Wars of the Roses dying from injuries sustained at the Battle of Barnet in October 1470.  Although the family had started off loyal to Henry VI, Henry had made his peace with Edward IV and when he was injured was fighting on the side of the White Rose.

The third and final son to survive to adulthood was called John and he would become the Earl of Wilshire.  Like his brothers he fought in the Wars of the Roses.  History knows that he was at Hexham in 1464 fighting on the side of Edward IV.  He went on to become Chief Butler for England.  Like his brothers he married an heiress.   He and his wife, Constance, had one son, also called John, who inherited John’s title and estates when he was a child.  As his cousin Buckingham would do, John found himself under the care of his paternal grandmother – Anne Neville.

Several daughters from Anne’s marriage to Humphrey survived to marriageable age and this proved to be a bit of a headache for the Buckinghams despite the wealth I mentioned earlier.  Part of the problem was the Humphrey’s mother held extensive dower estates having not only been married to Humphrey’s father but to his older brother before that.  There was also the fact that Buckingham wished to make extremely good marriages for his daughters and that cost money.

The couple’s oldest daughter, another Anne, married the heir to the Earl of Oxford. Aubrey de Vere is best known to history for being executed for treason in 1462 along with his father the twelfth Earl of Oxford.  Edward IV had Aubrey and his father arrested for writing to Margaret of Anjou and planning to have a Lancastrian force land in England. This was rather unfortunate as up until that time the de Vere’s had done rather well at keeping themselves out of the fifteenth century fracas. It would also have to be said that the exact nature of the plot is rather blurred round the edges.  Anne de Vere nee Stafford went on to marry Thomas, Lord Cobham. Thomas died in 1471 without legitimate male issue so his title passed to Anne’s daughter also called Anne who was married to Edward Burgh of Gainsborough who was unfortunately declared insane.

Anne Cobham married Edward Burgh when he was thirteen.  Katherine Parr’s first spouse was a member of the Burgh family.  Anne Neville and Humphrey Stafford’s 2x-great grandson Thomas Burgh fought at Flodden in 1513 and sat on Anne Boleyn’s trial having been very forceful in her favour at the time of Henry VIII’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon – he is on record as ripping the royal coat of arms from her barge. His residence in Gainsborough was Gainsborough Old Hall which I have posted about before. Sir Thomas does not seem to have been a terribly pleasant man given his towering rages and having his own grandchildren declared illegitimate.

But back to the daughters of Anne Neville and Humphrey Stafford. Joan Stafford, was married aged ten to William, Viscount Beaumont who started out as a Lancastrian, became temporarily Yorkist after Towton when he was captured but wasn’t given back his lands- Edward chose to give them to his friend Lord Hastings- so remained Lancastrian at heart which meant that the next two decades were eventful for him until he returned with Henry Tudor and took part in the Battle of Bosworth. William was unusual in that his loyalty to the Lancastrians was pretty much unwavering. Unfortunately for Joan the marriage was set aside in 1477.  She went on to marry Sir William Knyvett of Buckenham in Norfolk.  The family was an important part of the Norfolk gentry and feature in the Paston Letters.  Like her mother, Joan commissioned many books which survive today.

A third daughter called Catherine married into the Talbot family.  John Talbot became the third Earl of Shrewsbury after his father’s death in 1460.The couple had two sons and a daughter.  It feels as though Neville strands of DNA link most of the important fifteenth century families and reflects the way in which a power base and affinity could be built.  Another daughter, Margaret married Robert Dunham of Devon.

Humphrey Stafford overstretched himself as he was still paying his daughters’ dowries when he died and accommodation had to be made for that in his will.  The Buckinghams were good Lancastrians.  Humphrey was killed in 1460 at the Battle of Northampton whilst guarding Henry VI’s tent.  If you recall this was the battle that Edmund Grey rather ruined for the Lancastrians by changing sides mid battle and allowing the Earl of Warwick through his lines. This event rather changed things within the wider Neville family dynamic.  In 1459 after the Battle of Ludford Bridge (which really wasn’t a battle – more of a stand-off followed by a tactical scarpering by Richard of York) Anne and Humphrey had accommodated Anne’s sister Cecily who was Richard of York’s wife along with her younger children.  Thanks to popular fiction if we think of Anne at all it is usually in her rather frosty welcome of disgraced Cecily. The wheel of Fortune turned in 1460 at the Battle of Northampton and by Easter 1461 the Lancastrians had been labelled traitors and the house of York was in the ascendant with Cecily lording it over widowed Anne.

 

The Second duke of Buckingham was Anne’s grandson.  He wasn’t even five years old when he acquired the title.  Wardship of the new duke passed into the hands of Anne but Edward IV – who was Anne’s nephew (Cecily Neville was his mother)- purchased the wardship from her and with it the right to organise the young duke’s marriage.  He’s the one who ended up married to Katherine Woodville, feeling resentful of his Yorkist cousin who didn’t allow him the freedoms and rights that he felt were his due. Ultimately he undertook a spot of light revolting against Richard III in October 1483 which ended in his execution at the beginning of November the same year in Salisbury.

 

Six years after the death of Humphrey Stafford, Anne married  again to Walter Blount who was the first Baron Mountjoy.  They had no children (and trust me when I say that since beginning to track the descendants of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford that I am grateful whenever I come across that fact.) Mountjoy died in 1474 mentioning his beloved wife in his will.

Anne died in 1480 and is buried in Pleshy, Essex next to Humphrey Stafford as her will requested. Only her daughter Joan Stafford survived her. Most famously she left books to her one time daughter-in-law Margaret Beaufort who was now married to Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby.

 

Baldwin, David. (2009).  The Kingmaker’s Sisters. Stroud: The History Press

The Encyclopaedia of the Wars of the Roses

1641 – religious ferment and Lady Carlisle

Lady Carlisle
August 1641- a step back from the Grand Remonstrance.

At this point where London was up in arms and Parliament demanding to see changes, Charles I took himself off to his other kingdom – I’m not quite sure how he marketed his visit to Scotland given that he had made war on his own Scottish subjects not once but twice and that they had ended up being paid a large amount of money each day whilst occupying Northumberland and Durham – but there you go, such was the way of the world in 1641.  On the 25th August 1641 Charles I was in Edinburgh signing over the the Covenanters virtually everything that they had demanded.  Perhaps as Leander de Lisle suggests Charles had awoken to the fact that the puritans in England’s parliament  were stirring up ferment and wanted to settle things down.

The religious situation across the country was deteriorating with different factions demanding that their voices be heard.   In Kidderminster it was the mob who saw the puritan faction off when they threatened the church’s ornaments.   But changes were afoot none the less.

Parliament ordered Catholic priests out of the country recognising that without a priesthood the mass could not be said.  William Ward, a Catholic priest was the first to suffer a traitor’s death that year – I’m not sure how much of a danger he was – he was eighty-one at the time.  By the time Charles returned to London seven more men awaited execution.

Henrietta Maria, Charles’ french Catholic queen, still in London whilst her husband visited his Scottish capital found herself the target of Puritan hostility.  Aside from her frenchness and Catholicism she was now accused of conducting an affair with  Henry Jermyn.  She was also ill in 1641 – in part it must have been the stress of the English political situation.  She asked to go to Holland to visit a spa for her health.  Parliament refused.  Maybe they realised she would use the opportunity to raise funds and soldiery for her husband.  Nor did it help, in all probability, that she was receiving letters from Charles three times a week.  He relied upon her utterly and she in her turn was telling him to be more forceful – in modern parlance to “man-up” and give the Puritans what for.

On the 23rd October the Irish revolted.  They wanted the same kind of rights as the Scottish Presbyterians had just acquired – but given the current situation with the Puritans headed up by John Pym  in the English Parliament that wasn’t going to happen any time soon – and we know the consequences of the Irish Rebellion- countless deaths and a faction in Parliament attempting to break Charles’ power by cataloguing all his abuses since he took the throne detailed in the Grand Remonstrance.  It was passed by a slim margin but Pym’s act of genius was to circulate the information and the arguments for change more widely through printed material.

Prior to the Grand Remonstrance whilst Charles was still in Scotland, Henrietta Maria was blamed for encouraging the Irish to revolt, her own priest was arrested and questioned with regard to his alleged involvement in the rebellion and attempting to convert young Prince Charles to catholicism.  The Irish uprising, in short, was an opportunity, to “have a go” at England’s most influential catholics.  Every other Catholic in the country  was required to lay their identity before Parliament.  It was 24th of November before the king arrived back in his English capital.  Parliament had passed the Grand Remonstrance two days previously.

It’s probably time to introduce another of the key players into this increasingly hostile morass – Lucy Hay, Lady Carlisle.  She was a daughter of the 9th Earl of Northumberland (a Percy) and  her mother was the daughter of the first Earl of Essex (Dorothy Devereux – meaning that her grand-mother was Lettice Knollys, her great-grandmother was Catherine Carey and her two times great-grandmother was Mary Boleyn).  In other words she was part of the establishment, knew all the key political players of the time and was related to most of them.  She married James Hay and became the Countess of Carlisle, although her father had offered her £20,000 not to marry him.  She became George Villiers’ mistress which meant that initially Henrietta Maria wanted nothing to do with her but by the time that George, the Duke of Buckingham, was assassinated, somehow or other all that had changed and she had become one of the Queen’s favourites.

Lord Carlisle clearly had nothing against his wife furthering his own ends by whatever means necessary because he sent her off to win  Thomas Wentworth, earl of Strafford over in 1635 when he became responsible for the running of Ireland.  Lucy became Wentworth’s mistress which probably wasn’t a bad thing in 1636 when Lord Carlisle died and left Lucy his Irish property.  Of course, at the start of 1641 Wentworth found himself in the position of official scapegoat for the Bishop’s War and was executed in May.

Lucy’s reaction after Wentworth’s death is somewhat unexpected.  She remained friends with Henrietta Maria but she now drew close to John Pym – yes, the Puritan.  She seems to have undergone a bit of a sea change when she became Pym’s mistress, even taking notes during church sermons.  It was Lucy who alerted Parliament via her cousin, the earl of Essex, to the king’s plans to arrest John Pym and four others in January 1642.    Her shifting allegiances are a microcosm of what was happening at court as men and women decided which side to support based on personal preference, political consideration and economic practicality.

The fact remains though that if Lady Carlisle loved Wentworth and wanted to punish the king for allowing him to be executed why was she sleeping with the man who forced Charles to have Wentworth executed in the first place?  What did she hope to gain?  Some men felt that they weren’t getting the kind of rewards that they deserved from the king – so switched to Parliament, others were anti-Catholic – so drew towards the anti-Catholic parliamentary faction. Some of Lucy’s actions are a matter for speculation.  Most historians regard her as an intriguer but most also admit that there is no clarity as to who exactly she was spying for.  Lucy became associated with a moderate Presbyterian faction but during the second civil war she raised money for the royalists as well as offering a conduit of information between royalists and the queen.  She even ended up in the Tower for her pains – demonstrating another about face.  May be she just liked being a conspirator or having an impact on the political situation.

Meanwhile to conclude with 1641 and lead into 1642  Pym was able to convince enough people through their own needs, through printed pamphlets and through the king’s own rather high-handed actions during the years of personal rule that England was facing its own Catholic threat and that the source of that threat lay close to the king.  This in its turn was regarded by Charles as a personal attack on the wife to whom he was devoted.

In the house of Lords where Charles could have relied on the Bishops for support there were also problems – not least the difficulty of getting through the London mob to actually take their seats on account of all the printed pamphlets and rioting – that looked remarkably like the start of sectarian violence when seen from a distance.  Elsewhere Pym and his associates were regarded as dangerous radicals – remember that the grand Remonstrance passed by very few votes.  London was a ferment of rumour and gossip.

Charles must have thought long and hard over the Christmas season.  He recognised John Pym as a threat to his power and the safety of Henrietta Maria.  He sought, in the New Year of 1642 to have Pym and leading members of his faction arrested but thanks to Lucy Hay, Countess of Carlisle-  who may or may not have been acting out of anger at the way in which Sir Thomas Wentworth, earl of Strafford had been treated by his monarch- his plans were known and Charles found himself in even more hot water than before because even though not everyone agreed with Pym for Charles to enter Parliament with an armed body of men ran contrary to parliamentary rights and privileges….who needs fiction when reality has so many twists and turns?

 

de Lisle, Leander (2018).  White King: Chalres I.  Traintor, Murderer, Martyr. London: Chatto and Windus

Purkiss. Diane. (2007). The English Civil War. London:Harper Essentials

Sir John Coke of Melbourne

220px-Johncoke.jpgJohn Coke was born in 1563.  He held office in the reign of James I and Charles I.  He is sometimes described as “the last Tudor.”  He was from a Derbyshire family.  His father Richard Coke of Trusley married a Sacheverel heiress.  He ensured that John was well educated first at Westminster and then at Cambridge. From there in 1593 he travelled in Europe – ostensibly on a sort of early Grand Tour, in practice it would appear that he had gained the patronage of Sir Fulke Greville who was in turn part of the 2nd earl of Essex’s affinity – demonstrating not only was it a question of what you knew but who you knew to make progress in Tudor and Stuart times – and was merrily admiring views and recruiting agents.

Obviously there could have been a rather tricky moment when the earl of Essex tumbled from power and Greville’s position and thus Coke’s weakened still further with the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603 but Coke knew the way that the navy operated.  Coke with his book keeping acumen had made himself indispensable  as a navy secretary (think of him as a fore-runner to Samuel Pepys without the wit), or so he thought!  The problem with having a patron though was that if they fell you fell as well – and this was what happened to Coke when Greville lost office at the start of James’ reign thanks to the machinations of the duke of Suffolk.

By 1614 Greville was back – this time as Chancellor of the Exchequer.  By this time Coke was married to the daughter of another member of the Greville affinity but he felt unable to trust the political shilly-shallying between Greville and Suffolk.  It was, therefore, only in 1618 that he returned to public life when another friend invited him to accept a job in the royal household – and that meant he came under the sway of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. Greville and Villiers were looking at strategies to save money and Coke was returned to the navy office. Finally he began to climb the administrative ladder.  He had the right education and the right social background.  It helped that he was appointed to a board of enquiry for the navy which became a board of governors – at its own recommendation- it helped also that Coke was so good with figures because like Greville before him Villiers came to rely on him for information.

 

In 1621 Coke was elected MP for Warwick. He had became associated with the duke of Buckingham who was also at the admiralty at that point in proceedings.  His career thus far matches to any other member of the gentry but by 1624 he had been knighted and in 1625 he had officiated as Master of Requests and from there became secretary of state – he held a number of other offices as well. He continued as an MP for various locations until Charles I decided that he did not require parliament any more.  In his role as secretary of State, he was the man responsible for trotting along to Parliament and asking them for the money that King Charles I wanted.  He was also responsible for defending Charles I’s and the duke of Buckingham’s disastrous foreign policy. It is perhaps not surprising that he wasn’t wildly popular with his colleagues in Parliament and his speeches did nothing to help the king’s position – he was an adamant royalist who believed in absolute monarchy and was fiercely anti-papist.  He appears to have been a capable administrator – certainly he left the administration of the navy in a better shape than he found it and he could also be described as loyal to his two royal masters even when he wrote about the fact that there were insufficient funds to pay the sailors that Charles’ wanted to wage war on the Spanish.  The volume of his correspondence also demonstrates how industrious he was.

Melbourne_Hall.jpgBy 1629 Sir John, industriousness and loyalty aside, had accrued sufficient funds to purchase Melbourne Hall in Derbyshire which had formerly, and somewhat bizarrely, been in the ownership of the Bishops of Carlisle according to Burke. Initially he leased the property but this expired during his tenure so was able to purchase Melbourne Hall through act of Parliament.  He set about renovating it at vast expense but rather than the more modern European style favoured by his royal master he adhered to a more Elizabethan looking interior. In order to ensure that he got exactly what he wanted he sent very detailed instructions to his builder – 32 pages of instructions.

By 1639 the country or rather countries were on the verge of war. Charles insisted on imposing the English Prayer Book on Scotland.  Suffice it to say the reforms imposed by Archbishop William Laud and the king did not go down well in either England or Scotland – for many of a more Puritan persuasion the changes looked remarkably like a return to Catholicism.

 

Coke retained his role as secretary of State during Charles I’s twelve years of personal rule without parliament.  It was only in 1640 that it was decided that he needed to leave. Some historians say that he was the scapegoat for Charles I’s rather unfortunate Scottish War  which resulted in Parliament being recalled but Coke himself always insisted that he had retired.  He was replaced by Sir Henry Vane.

Somewhat unexpectedly John’s eldest son also named John was a Parliamentarian whilst it was his younger son Thomas who was a royalist.

Aside from shouldering some of the burden of Charles I’s not inconsiderable unpopularity History knows rather a lot about Sir John Coke because he kept his correspondence.  He died in 1644 at his home in Tottenham.

Burke, John. (1838) A genealogical and heraldic history of the commoners of Great Britain and Ireland

Moody, T. (1939). The Last Elizabethan: Sir John Coke, 1563-1644. By Coke Dorothea . pp. xvi, 322. London: Murray. 1937. 15s. Irish Historical Studies, 1(4), 438-439. doi:10.1017/S002112140003193X

http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1604-1629/member/coke-john-1563-1644

 

 

 

Witchcraft, scandal and the Duke of Buckingham

george villiers.jpgGeorge Villiers, pictured left, was not the scion of a powerful family but he had received the kind of education, at his mother’s insistence, that a courtier required. His good looks had attracted James I’s attention. This was enough to ensure that the enemies of Robert Carr, the king’s then favourite, paid to raise George to the post of the King’s cup bearer. The rest as they say, is history.

 

By 1619 George was the Marquis of Buckingham and in search of a wife. Families looked at their unmarried daughters and wondered if the investment of a bride would improve their own fortunes. However, Buckingham and his mother Mary Beaumont already had a bride in mind.

Lady Katherine Manners was the daughter of the 6th Earl of Rutland. She was the earl’s sole heir. Her older brothers, Henry and Francis, had died in mysterious circumstances. The whole family fell ill in 1613 after dismissing a woman and her two daughters from their service.   Henry died. Three years later nine women were hanged in Leicestershire having been found guilty of bewitching a child. Then in 1618 Francis also died and the Manners family sought the arrest of the three women and the monument to the two boys makes it clear that the earl held witchcraft responsible for the death of the boys, “Two sons – both died in infancy by wicked practice and sorcery”.

 

The three women became known as the Belvoir Witches. Joan Flower, the mother protested her innocence from her arrest and during her imprisonment in Lincoln but her daughter Margaret confessed that Joan was a witch and her other daughter Philippa said that they were all witches. Joan died in prison and was buried at a crossroads, Margaret was hanged and in some versions of the story Philippa escaped from jail.

 

Tracey Borman offers a different theory. She records that the Flower women were employed as servants prior to a visit by King James I but that they were unpopular with Belvoir’s other servants and accused of pilfering. Borman goes on to note that the women had a reputation for herbal cures and late night entertaining – of males. They, she argues, were convenient scapegoats.  In fact the boys had been murdered on the orders of George Villiers.

There is some evidence to suggest that by 1618 George Villiers, a Lincolnshire landowner, had his eyes set on a wealthy prize – which if she became a sole heiress would become even wealthy. Most historians consider that on the death of her brothers Katherine Manners became the wealthiest heiress in the country with estates in Yorkshire and Northamptonshire as well as her mother’s dower estates that came from the Knyvet family.

 

Katherine was considered a plain woman but more alarming so far as King James I was concerned, she was a Catholic. Both those factors aside Katherine’s father was against the proposed match. He knew about George Villiers. He had seen the king’s favourite at court and seen the way that the king and George fondled one another in public. Nor was Rutland terribly amused by the fact that George wanted a hefty dowry along with the plain heiress. For the time being the wedding was off.
But then in March 1620 Mary Beaumont, George’s mother visited the Countess of Rutland when the earl was away from home. She invited Katherine to dine with her, promising to bring her back home that evening. The countess of Rutland, Katherine’s step-mother, agreed.

 

Mary entertained Katherine in her lodgings in Whitehall but did not send the girl home. She claimed that Katherine was ill and could not return home. To make matters worse, George who had also been invited to dine, failed to return to his own lodgings which were within walking distance. Poor Katherine was ruined. She had stayed over night in the home of an unmarried man who had slept under the same roof. The earl of Rutland was furious. He refused to allow Katherine to return home and now found himself insisting that Villiers marry his daughter because her reputation was so badly tarnished. The scandal was so great that the lavish wedding that you might expect never happened. It was a private occasion witnessed only by the earl and the King on the 16 May 1620.

 

It is difficult to know whether Katherine connived with Villiers and his mother in her own ruin. She certainly appeared to dote on her husband even if he did not love her in return.  Nor did she lead a very happy life with George. She hated the way he lived his life at court, his relationship with the king and the fact that George didn’t stop having mistresses just because he was married. Come to think of it much of Europe was scandalised by George’s behaviour, especially when he travelled to France in 1625 and became besotted with the French queen Anne of Austria – as in Dumas’s story of The Three Musketeers.

 

Katherine had converted to Protestantism before the marriage but returned to Catholicism during the course of her married life and if her letters are anything to go by she did not simply accept George’s infidelities, sometimes using her health and emotions as a way of trying to control her husband’s behaviour.

george_villiers_duke_of_buckingham_and_family_1628-1-1024x702.jpg

Life cannot have become any easier for Katherine when George, a Duke since 1623, became the target of national hostility because of Charles I’s foreign policy. George was widely assumed to be responsible for the assorted disasters that beset the English. Parliament attempted to arrest him in 1626. It was only his friendship with the king that saved him. Two years later George was killed by John Felton in Portsmouth.

 

During the next seven years Katherine could only watch as her four children with George were adopted into the royal family to be raised with Charles I’s children. In 1635, much to the king’s fury she married the 2nd earl of Antrim, Randall McDonnell, a man six years her junior. Eventually Katherine convinced Charles that she had married for love and that Randall had no intention of disinheriting her children.

Katherine_Manners_Duchess_of_Buckingham_in_Mourning.jpg

She died in 1649.

 

 

 

 

 

Westminster Hall

Westminster-Hall-1764

It’s all looking very festive around here – and dangerous.  The road hasn’t been gritted so it currently looks and feels just like an ice rink.  On the plus side I have finished some writing today.  On the minus side not only am I not going out for a Christmas meal tonight but I shalln’t be following Buckingham’s rebellion tomorrow or killing off the Princes in the Tower – nor for that matter shall I be allowing either one of them to turn into a conspiracy theory.  All of which is very irritating and I can only extend my apologies to any of my students who may be reading this.

Halls – right at the start of December I mentioned the fact that halls were where their owners dispensed justice.  And of course, there’s a hall with a rather long pedigree that has done exactly that over the last nine hundred years or so.  Westminster Hall was built in 1097 by William Rufus – it was the largest hall in Europe at the time, or so Historians think.  Richard II had the hall rebuilt because it was looking somewhat battered by the time he came to the throne. The medieval hammer beam roof was one of his modifications. The hall gradually evolved into the administrative seat for the kingdom. It was here that Henry II crowned his eldest son Henry in Westminster Hall in June 1170.  There was a second coronation in Winchester.

 

It is as a law court though that Westminster Hall echoes down the pages of history. William Wallace was tried here and by the time of the Tudors the hall is knee deep in well-known names from the duke of Buckingham tried for treason in 1522 based on his Plantagenet blood and probably having irritated Cardinal Wolsey. Sir Thomas More was tried here in 1535, so were Anne Boleyn and her alleged lovers the following year. Protector Somerset had judgement passed down here and so did the father of Lady Jane Grey for his part in Wyatt’s Rebellion. Jesuits faced english law here during the reign of Elizabeth I and the Earl of Essex was tried in Westminster Hall following his rebellion. A few years later Guy Fawkes stood in his place.  Later Charles I was tried for crimes against his own people and following the Restoration the regicides were also tried here.

The only man who successful escaped the headsman or the noose following a trial for treason during Henry VIII’s reign was also tried at Westminster Hall.  Lord Dacre of the North was found innocent in July 1535. His accusers were described as “mean and provoked Scottish men” – Sir Ralph Fiennes and his co-accuser a man named William Musgrave were not particularly Scottish but there’s nothing like being damned by association.  Dacre’s wife tried to intercede on her husband’s behalf but was told by the monarch to button it until after her husband’s trial.  Apparently Dacre refuted his accusers in a “manly”  and “witty” sort of way for seven hours before being declared innocent.

William Dacre (a.k.a. Baron Greystoke) was married to the earl of Shrewsbury’s daughter and held down a number of responsible border posts such as Deputy Warden of the West March.  This led to a falling out with the earl of Cumberland (Clifford family) who was given a role in 1525 that Dacre believed to be his by right of blood.  Unsurprisingly there was some border high jinks resulting in Cumberland only being able to rule with Dacre at his side. To make matters worse when Dacre did get his hands on the job his counterpart in the East March was given a pay rise whilst he was given the old rate. Its easy to see that hostilities and resentments were not particularly veiled.  Unfortunately for Dacre he did what Border Wardens do – i.e. talk to the Scots. This was in 1534.  He was accused of treason because this conversation took place during a time of hostility. He was hauled off to London where he was put on trial for treason. The chief witness against him was his former servant – William Musgrave.

Dacre was acquitted but as with all things Tudor there is a sting in the tale.  Henry VIII fined him none-the-less. It is perhaps surprising therefore that in 1536 Dacre demonstrated his loyalty to Henry VIII throughout the Pilgrimage of Grace.  His feud with the Musgrave family was not so easily settled and it is known to have continued into the 1550s.

 William Cobbett, David Jardine (1809) Cobbett’s complete collection of state trials and proceedings for high treason and other crimes and misdemeanors from the earliest period to the present time  accessed from https://archive.org/details/acompletecollec03cobbgoog

http://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/building/palace/westminsterhall/architecture/early-history/

Westminster Hall 1097