Tag Archives: Duke of Suffolk
Henry Grey was the great grandson of Elizabeth Woodville by her first husband Sir John Grey of Goby – and incidentally it’s pronounced ‘Grooby’. He died at the second Battle of St Albans in February 1461 leaving Elizabeth a widow with two sons. The rest, as they say, is history.
Henry Grey’s father was the second marquis and on of Elizabeth of York’s closest relatives. He found that his credentials were suspect under the new Tudor regime not least because of his suspected conspiracy in the Lambert Simnel affair. What saved his bacon was his skill at jousting and his friendship with Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk. When he died in 1530 it is perhaps not surprising that young Henry found his wardship in the hands of Brandon. And with that knowledge it is unsurprising that he ended up married to Charles’ daughter Frances. His links to the crown mad whim a suitable match for a girl of royal blood – Frances’ mother was, after all, Princess Mary or the French Queen as she was known during her lifetime.
Henry did what nobles did – he jousted. He gambled. He wandered around looking magnificent whilst being short of cash. He took part in ceremonies such as Henry VIII’s funeral.
To all intents and purposes he does not appear desperately interesting, until that is he became embroiled involved with Sir Thomas Seymour at the beginning of Edward VI’s reign. Seymour convinced Henry and Frances that he could arrange a marriage between their oldest surviving child, Lady Jane Grey, and the new king, young Edward VI. With this in mind and perhaps on account of Henry’s rather sizeable gambling debts, Henry sold the wardship of his daughter to the king’s uncle and was drawn further and further into Seymour’s web. Whilst Jane was at Chelsea in Katherine Parr’s household all initially seemed to be well. Young Jane was in receipt of a first rate education and a step closer to the crown. All that can be said with the clarity of hindsight is that Grey was either extremely ambitious and took gambling to the extreme or that he was incredibly naive to believe that any of Seymour’s schemes would work. Not only that of course but it soon became clear that Seymour was behaving inappropriately by romping with Princess Elizabeth. For reasons best known to themselves, even after they’d heard the rumours Jane’s parent allowed her to remain in Seymour’s care. She did refer to him as a beloved father and there is no evidence of any untoward behaviour on Seymour’s part.
Grey was a man of the time. He had Protestant sympathies. He was father to three of the potential claimants to the throne and husband of the fourth. He was a man worth cultivating. Perhaps for this reason he was appointed to the privy council in 1549 after the fall of the duke of Somerset. He certainly started to extend his collection of lands at this time, he rounded up some of the property of the duke of Somerset when he was convicted of treason, and added to his offices. In 1551 he became a warden of the marches but didn’t really seem to know what to do. It was something of a relief to all concerned, apart possibly from the Scots, when he handed in his notice. Even if he was fairly nondescript as a politician or a military commander his role as head of the family of female Tudors made him important in the Tudor political world so it is fairly unsurprising that Dudley made him duke of Suffolk following the death of his father-in-law and two young half-brothers-in-law. There was also a handy little grant of £2000 a year.
Robert C. Braddock, ‘Grey, Henry, duke of Suffolk (1517–1554)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/11535, accessed 27 Feb 2017]
The picture behind today’s advent calendar is Henry VIII’s sister Princess Mary who was known for her beauty. Mary was betrothed to the future Charles V of Spain in December 1507 when she was thirteen prior to her marriage to the elderly King Louis of France in 1514. The marriage was delayed because of negotiations and diplomatic maneuverings and ultimately Henry saw an opportunity to ally himself with France. Mary had no say in who she would marry she was a princess after all.
Her spouse, King Louis XII, was fifty-two, feeble and “pocky” as compared to Mary’s eighteen years and acknowledged beauty. He died less than three months later and Mary was sent into isolation for six weeks to check that she wasn’t carrying a potential heir to the French throne. Mary took the opportunity to marry the man of her dreams Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk (and a man with a dodgy marital history of his own) with the connivance of the new young handsome French king Francois I who was probably delighted to scotch the potential diplomatic plans that Henry was no doubt plotting. And, as luck would have it, Henry’s allegiances had swung back to Spain so he was indeed beginning to put forward an Anglo-Spanish alliance cemented in the persons of Charles V and his newly widowed sister Mary.
Henry was furious having forgotten his promise that Mary could marry who she wished. The pair were ultimately forgiven but not before they’d written to the furious king through the good agency of Cardinal Wolsey begging for forgiveness. Mary was Henry’s favourite sister and they did promise to pay a very large fine so it wasn’t long before they were back at court.
Our entry from Henry’s papers for December 3 1513 occurs before Mary’s engagement to Charles was broken off because Henry signed a warrant to the Great Wardrobe for a “gown of cloth of gold for the Princess of Castile.”
There may be some of you thinking, was that the same Charles V who was the nephew of Catherine of Aragon and fiancé of Henry’s daughter Princess Mary…er, well, yes – which just goes to show that Henry was nothing if not persistent.
Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 1, 1509-1514, ed. J S Brewer (London, 1920), British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol1 [accessed 2 December 2016].
December 2 1542
Cromwell, for the time being on this blog is no longer with us, and in Henry’s world had had an unfortunate experience with an axe on 28 July 1540. Henry’s letters and papers show how things changed after the demise of his second great administrator – the Privy Council became an important administrative machine once more. The minutes are terse to put it mildly.
“Meeting at Hampton Court, 2 Dec. Present : Canterbury, Russell, Winchester, Westminster, Gage, Browne, Wingfield, Wriothesley. Business :Letter written to Sir Thos. Wentworth and Sir Hen. Savell to receive Scottish prisoners from the lord President.” Canterbury is, of course, Thomas Cranmer and Winchester is Stephen Gardener.
Sir Thomas Wentworth, Sixth Lord Despenser (not sure how the family got that title – I’m adding it to my list of ‘need to find out’) and First Baron Wentworth of Wentworth West Bretton in Yorkshire (although he was originally from Suffolk – the Suffolk property having been acquired by the Yorkshire Wentworths as part of a marital transaction) is the chap behind today’s metaphorical advent door. He and Jane Seymour, Henry’s third queen, were cousins. Margery Wentworth, his aunt, was Jane’s mother. Thomas’s son, inventively also named Thomas, would thrive under the rule of Edward VI and his Seymour relations.
But back to Sir Thomas – his own mother Anne Tyrell was the daughter of Sir James. For fans of historical whodunits, yes, that is the Sir James Tyrell suspected of the murder of the princes in the Tower – demonstrating yet again that the Tudor world was a small world. One of Sir Thomas’s sons-in-law was Sir Martin Frobisher the famous Elizabethan explorer.
Wentworth’s climb up the career ladder began with service in the household of the duke of Suffolk, Charles Brandon – who was of course married to the king’s sister – Princess Mary. It would appear, according to Brandon’s biographer that Wentworth was first recruited to Suffolk’s service in 1513 – meaning that young Wentworth was only about twelve at the time but he grew to become one of Suffolk’s most senior officers having been knighted by Brandon along with his cousin Edward Seymour in 1523. He would go on to serve as Edward VI’s Lord Chancellor as denoted by the white staff of office in his hand. The National Portrait Gallery notes suggest that this was added to the portrait after it had originally been painted.
Wentworth also became associated with the duke of Norfolk- so not so much a new man even though he was only raised to the peerage in 1529 (he succeeded his father to the Despenser title and the manor of Nettlestead upon his death in 1528) so much as an old one drawing on powerful connections to improve his ranking in the Tudor world of ‘Top Trumps’.
Despite his northern affiliations he remained loyal to Henry VIII during the 1536 Pilgrimage of Grace turning up to support the king with one hundred men in tow. He had already nailed his colours to the mast when he became one of the signatories of a letter asking Pope Clement VII to permit a divorce between Henry and Katherine of Aragon. He went on to be a noted reformer although interestingly he does not appear to have benefitted from the sale of the monasteries. According to Franklin-Harkrider, Miles Coverdale praised Wentworth for his godliness. This hadn’t stopped him being part of the jury that had condemned Anne Boleyn.
His loyalty was rewarded. He was at Edward VI’s christening; was part of the party that welcomed Anne of Cleeves and Henry even deigned to visit him at his home at Nettlestead in Suffolk that same year – with Catherine Howard.
But back to letter dated 2nd December 1542. There were apparently two hundred noble Scottish prisoners and approximately eight hundred from the massed ranks of Scottish hoi polloi in English hands following the Battle of Solway Moss which took place on the 24 November 1542. The most important of the Scottish prisoners were escorted to London by Wentworth and Saville where they arrived on the 19th of December suitably adorned with the cross of St Andrew. They were committed to the Tower for safekeeping until the 21st of December when they were paraded before the Lord Chancellor who chastised them on behalf of the king for their naughtiness in arriving with an armed force on England’s borders. Having been duly slapped around the back of the legs they were not returned to the Tower’s naughty step but having given their parole sent off to spend the festive season with assorted members of the nobility including the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk.
Franklin-Harkrider, Melissa. (2008) Women, Reform and Community in Early Modern England: Katherine Willoughby, duchess of Suffolk and Lincolnshire’s Godly Aristocracy, 1519-1580 (Studies in Modern British Religious History). Martlesham: Boydell Press
Gunn, Steven. (2015) Charles Brandon: Henry VIII’s Closest Friend . Stroud: Amberley Publishing
Keith, Robert (1735) History of the Affairs of Church and State in Scotland accessed from https://archive.org/details/historyofaffairs03keit (03 December 2016).
‘Henry VIII: December 1542, 1-10’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 17, 1542, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1900), pp. 643-655. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol17/pp643-655 [accessed 17 October 2016].
My last post on Katherine Parr got me thinking about the fate of the gentry involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace and the way in which events are often more complicated than we first suppose. Take the Constable brothers, though some texts identify them as an assortment of brothers and cousins. They weren’t young men. Two of them were veterans of Flodden. Sir John Constable of Burton Constable and Sir William Constable of Great Hatfield, one of the brothers at Flodden, lived some of the time in the wapentake of Holderness. Both of them were in residence in October 1536.
That month Anthony Curtis arrived in the area with the news that had spread through Lincolnshire and was now making its way through Yorkshire. The King, it was said, was going to limit the number of churches to one every five, or seven miles depending on the source, and was about to raise fees for marriages, christenings and funerals. Bad enough that the new articles of faith denied there was any such place as Purgatory. Soon the area was up in arms as the Commons answered the call to join the Pilgrimage of Grace. Those who were less than enthusiastic either fled or were ‘persuaded.’
John and William Constable took themselves off to Hull and remained behind the town’s walls. They, together with the two Sir Ralph Ellerkers (which must have been uncomfortable as there was something of a feud going on between the two families) were the leading gentry of the area and it wasn’t long before the pilgrims arrived at Hull’s gates demanding the town and the gentry to lead them. Burton reveals that their brother Sir Robert Constable who’d been knighted by Henry VII after the Battle of Blackheath in 1487 was already in Pontefract Castle and that their other brother Sir Marmaduke, another veteran of the Scottish wars, went into hiding where he remained a loyal man of the king…always easier to achieve when you haven’t got a mob threatening to do very nasty things to you or your family.
On the 19th of October Hull capitulated when it started to run out of food. The rebels forced the men behind its walls to take their oath. Sir John Constable after initially refusing to submit to the rebels found himself in charge of Hull whilst Sir William, together with the pilgrims, headed in the direction of Pontefract.
Pontefract Castle fell to the rebels on the 21st and the Constable family found another of their number sworn to the pilgrim oath. Sir Robert now began working with Aske to organise the host of men who’d answered the call to arms or had been forced into rebellion. Later Sir Robert would negotiate with the various captains and commons for negotiation with the Duke of Norfolk rather than battle although it is evident there was a time when he wanted to continue beyond Doncaster towards London. This did not endear him to Henry VIII. Moorhouse reveals that Henry had a little list of men he wished to make an example of including Robert Aske and Lord Darcy. Sir Robert Constable’s name also featured on the list.
In the aftermath of the rebellion Sir John managed to talk his way out of the situation. In 1537 he oversaw the trials and executions of Hull’s pilgrims. Sir William also sat on the trial commission.
King Henry VIII did not forget his little list of men who did not deserve pardon in his opinion. Sir Robert was at Templehurst (Temple Newsam) , home of Lord Darcy, when Robert Aske arrived there on January 10, 1537. He’d been wined and dined over Christmas by the king so had no idea that Henry was after vengeance as he was now trying to damp down renewed calls for rebellion. Notices had been stuck on church doors across the area demanding a return to the old format of service. The three men decided the best thing to do was to try and keep the north calm until the Duke of Norfolk arrived. The problem was that all three of them would soon be summoned to London. Sir Robert received his politely worded note on the 19th February. By Easter he was in the Tower. The men went voluntarily believing that the king would treat them fairly. They didn’t understand that Sir Francis Bigod’s rebellion in January 1537 nullified the agreement that Henry had reached with them…in Henry’s mind. It didn’t matter that Robert Aske even had a letter of recommendation from the Duke of Norfolk.
Due process of the law now kicked into play. The Duke of Norfolk put together a jury to hear the accusations against the men. This was held in York. Moorhouse notes that the jury was composed of a large number of relatives of the three men. This effectively ensured that there would be an indictment, or as Moorhouse observes, the three men would have been joined in the Tower by some of their nearest and dearest. There were three men prepared to turn evidence against Constable. Moorhouse details it (p298-99) and the fact that it was undoubtedly a fix – not least because one of the prosecution witnesses was a certain Sir Ralph Ellerker (you’ll remember him from Hull where he also signed the pilgrim oath). Ellerker was either buying his own safety or taking the opportunity to take out a member of the Constable family with whom the Ellerkers were feuding.
Lord Darcy was executed in London but Sir Robert Constable, Robert Aske and Lord Hussey, another leader of the pilgrimage, were sent back to the places where they’d rebelled against the king. It must have been an unhappy convoy that set off from London. Lord Hussey was dropped off at Lincoln where Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk awaited him with an executioner. The convoy continued north. Aske would die in chains in York but Sir Robert was destined for Hull. When he arrived there was time to spare as his execution was set for market day (plenty of spectators). He was executed on the 6th of July 1537 and his body was hung in chains.
As for Sir Marmaduke – he purchased Drax Priory from the Crown because of it’s links to his wife’s family.
To find out more about the history of the Pilgrimage of Grace double click on the image to open up a new webpage. Rather alarmingly I have added to my list of posts for this week – there’re Sir Nicholas Tempest who was hanged at Tyburn for his part in the pilgrimage as well as Sir John Bulmer and his wife Margaret Stafford. She was burned at Smithfield for her treason. It’s not that I’m turning this blog into a series of posts about who Henry VIII executed – although there’s enough material for it- it’s more that I’ve become curious about who escaped and who paid the ultimate penalty and why.
Bush, M.L. (1996) The Pilgrimage of Grace: A Study of the Rebel Armies of October 1536 Manchester: Manchester University Press
Lipscomb, Suzannah. (2006) 1536: The Year That Changed Henry VIII Oxford: Lion Hudson
Moorhouse, Geoffrey. (2002). The Pilgrimage of Grace. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson
This is one of those surprising connection posts. It also reflects the way in which society changed as a consequence of the Black Death and the decline of feudalism. The descendent of an inn keeper became a Duke of Suffolk and was embroiled in the bloody aftermath of the Wars of the Roses.
The Chaucer family were upwardly mobile, of that there’s no doubt. Geoffrey’s great-grandfather was a inn in Ipswich, his grandfather was a shoemaker – not a humble cobbler- think wholesale shoe sales with entrepreneurial tendencies; he was also a vintner. In addition, he had the good sense to marry a pepperer’s widow called Mary Heron which added a further very lucrative string to his bow.
Their son, Geoffrey’s father, John Chaucer was an established merchant and freeman of the City of London. He was sufficiently wealthy for his aunt to attempt to kidnap him in order to marry his cousin when he arrived at a marriageable age. The plot was foiled but it demonstrates how much the Chaucer family circumstances had changed in four generations.
As the Chaucers climbed the social rungs they became soldiers and served in royal households. Geoffrey Chaucer was talented not only as a poet but also as a diplomat. It helped that he was married to the sister of John of Gaunt’s mistress – Katherine Swynford – which is in itself a fairly unexpected connection but one of history’s more well-known links.
However it is in Geoffrey’s descendants that the really unexpected connection begins to take shape. Geoffrey’s son Thomas- there are some suggestions that Thomas was in fact John of Gaunt’s son but there is no evidence to confirm this- had a daughter called Alice who married three times. Her final husband was William de la Pole – who became the Duke of Suffolk. They had one son – John who married Edward IV’s sister Elizabeth which turned the de la Poles into Plantagenets which was an excellent step up the social ladder in the world before the Wars of the Roses but was not so useful in the Tudor world.
Alice’s grandson John took part in the ill-fated uprising against Henry VII with Lambert Simnel. He was killed. His younger brother Edmund took on the family title but fled to Europe where he found protection at the court of the Hapsburgs. Unfortunately Philip the Handsome was shipwrecked on the English coast and Henry VII was able to have the troublesome Plantagenet returned to his care and a comfy room in the Tower of London. In 1513 Henry VIII had Edmund executed. The third de la Pole brother was called Richard who became a soldier of fortune and was killed at the Battle of Pavia – an event which Henry VIII celebrated.
But who would have thought that any of the three were related to Geoffrey Chaucer?