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John Dudley, Lord Lisle, earl of Warwick, duke of Northumberland…traitor. Part one: rise to power

John_Dudley_(Knole,_Kent).jpgJohn Dudley, son of an executed traitor suffered the same fate as his father in 1554 when he failed to place his daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey on the throne. He’d risen to the highest place in the country and become the first non-royal duke in the land.

John’s father Edmund was one of Henry VII’s key administrators and tax collectors.  So when John was born in 1504 it looked as thought the family was on the rise.  Five years later John’s world came crashing down when his father along with Richard Empson became Henry VIII’s sacrificial offerings to the people of England.  On the 17th August 1510 having been arrested and tried for treason the chief instruments of Henry VII’s hated financial policies were executed.

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The Duke of Rutland Collection- Empson and Dudley with King Henry VII

John’s mother Elizabeth, (nee Grey- the niece of Elizabeth Woodville through Woodville’s first marriage) remarried the following year.  Her new husband was Arthur Plantagenet who became Lord Lisle as a consequence.  Arthur has appeared on the History Jar before. He was an illegitimate son of Edward IV who lived in Elizabeth of York’s household and appears to have been raised as a companion to young Prince Henry. Edmund Dudley’s lands were handed over to Arthur. The year after that the taint of treason was removed from young John when Edmund’s attainder for treason was erased – so presumably some lands went back to John but history’s account books have been slightly blurred round the edges. This together with Dudley’s connections meant that he was all set for a career at court under the guardianship of Lord Guildford who promptly married John off to his own daughter Jane. John Dudley would not acquire the title of Lord Lisle until the death of his step-father who by that time would have been accused of treason and imprisoned himself.

Dudley surfaces on the margins of events though out the period and by 1532 had aligned himself with Thomas Cromwell. He was not terribly important but he was gaining land around the country and no one could dispute his loyalty to the king. He begins to come to the fore in 1541 when he worked with Archbishop Cranmer to find out exactly what Katherine Howard had been up to and with whom.

From this point onwards Lord Lisle can be seen rising in prominence.  He even became warden of the Scottish marches – an all encompassing appointment along the English side of the border.  It was Dudley who had to deal with the aftermath of the Battle of Solway Moss and the quarrelling Scottish council as well as having to communicate that his master wished for the baby queen of Scots to marry Prince Edward. By 1544 his job had changed and rather than being a politician in soldiers clothing he’d become an admiral, a post that he continued to hold until the ascent of King Edward VI.

He was actually the admiral in charge of Henry VIII’s navy when the flagship the Mary Rose somewhat embarrassingly sank. His role as politician, admiral and diplomat led to him rising in Henry’s estimation so that by the time Henry made his will it could be said of Dudley that he was in the right place at the right time. He also benefited from Henry’s will to the tune of £500.  He was also of the reforming religious persuasion.  It probably also helped that not only had he once leant Sir Edward Seymour, the oldest of the new king’s uncles, money but he was also very good friends with the man who now styled himself Lord Protector.

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John now found himself promoted to Lord Chamberlain and the Earl of Warwick whilst Sir Edward Seymour not content with being Lord Protector also became the Duke of Somerset. This obviously meant that he had to hand in his admiral’s hat which was, in turn, dished out to Edward VI’s other uncle Sir Thomas Seymour – who wasn’t particularly grateful for the role but seems to have got his own back by marrying the dowager queen Katherine Parr having asked first of all to marry Princess Mary and when that request was turned down the Princess Elizabeth.

At this stage in proceedings Edward Seymour and John Dudley were the best of friends. They even went on a jolly little outing to Scotland together, along with an army, when Somerset decided to try and force the Scots into accepting a marriage between Mary Queen of Scots and King Edward. The reality was that Seymour’s foreign policy in regards to the Scottish borders was untenable. Men and fortifications required money that England did not have.  Even worse the french who had been quiet at the on-set of Edward’s reign now acquired a young and belligerent king in the form of Henri II. Somerset became the bone between two dogs as he sought to control his extended northern borders and hang on to England’s continental lands in the form of Calais and Guines.

At home things weren’t too brilliant for Somerset either. His brother was found guilty of treason  and executed having spent more time canoodling with Princess Elizabeth than he ought and then hatching a plot to remove the king from his brother’s clutches which ended in him shooting the king’s favourite dog.   Currency values continued to plummet. Inflation rocketed and not everyone was terribly happy about Cranmer’s reforms to the Church which now became decidedly protestant in tone. In the months that followed his brother’s execution Somerset grew grumpy and autocratic.  He became suspicious of everyone and refused to listen to the council.   Dudley was conveniently on the margins of all of this having been given the Welsh marches to govern.

In 1549 the country exploded into civil unrest.  In Cornwall the so-called Prayer Book Rebellion kicked off whilst in East Anglia the locals led by Robert Kett became rather rowdy on the subject of enclosure. Whatever else might be said of Somerset he did listen to the Commons and he ordered that common land that had been fenced off should be removed.  Unfortunately this resulted in riots across the region as locals took the removal of hedges and fences in to their own hands.  Ultimately Norwich, the second city in England at the time, found itself under siege.  Somerset was unable to quell the trouble and this did not go down well with the nobility – who understandably felt a bit nervous about the hoi polloi running around with sharp implements.

Sir William Parr had been sent off with a very small army to see Kett and his happy band off but he didn’t have enough men to convince them to leave.  It was Dudley who put the East Anglians firmly in their place by killing some 2000 of them but the aftermath was far less bloodthirsty than might have been expected Would now be a good time to mention that Kett was John Dudley’s tenant? Not that it saved him from being found guilty and hanged from the castle walls in Norwich.  He had been offered clemency if only he would ask for a pardon but Kett insisted that he had nothing to ask pardon for.

The thing was that Dudley was fed up with Somerset. He didn’t disband his army and he found himself buddying up with the catholic Earls of Arundel and Southampton. There were many conversations in darkened corners.  The privy council who had been marginalised by Somerset came on board with the idea that Somerset’s day was done.

Somerset found out what was going on and issued a proclamation asking the ordinary people to defend the young king – and the Lord Protector- against a vile plot.  This wasn’t terribly clever as once again the “Good Duke” was seen to be favouring the unwashed masses rather than the great and the good. Then Somerset moved Edward from Hampton Court to Windsor.  It should also be added at this point that Uncle Edward Seymour wasn’t the king’s favourite uncle – Seymour kept his royal nephew short of cash, isolated an uninvolved in governing the realm despite the letters that Edward sent on various subjects.

In mid October 1549 Seymour gave up his protectorship, handed over the king and awaited arrest. At that time it was the Earl of Southampton, Thomas Wriothesley “call me Risley” who seemed to be in charge.  Wriothesley who’d learned politics from the masterly hands of Wolsey and Cromwell probably thought that his moment had come. It wasn’t.

By the end of November Somerset had been accused of treachery and in the old Catholic V Protestant scramble for power Dudley tarred with the same brush. Dudley, having been warned about what was on the cards, made an impassioned speech which probably saved Somerset’s life as well as his own political career. Historians still can’t work out whether there really was a plot by Southampton and other religious conservatives or whether Dudley simply made one appear in a clever ruse to strengthen his own position on the council because by February 1550 Dudley was in charge and his title was about to change…Machiavellian or what?

 

 

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Katherine Parr and the Pilgrimage of Grace

katherine parrIn 1534 after the death of her first husband and a stay with relations at Sizergh Castle Katherine Parr married John Neville. She was twenty-two.

 

Neville was the third Baron Latimer, of Snape, Richmondshire, North Yorkshire. He was twice Katherine’s age and had grown up children. Unlike her mother, Maud, Katherine could not afford to remain unmarried.  This was perceived as a marriage “up,” related as Neville was to the Earl of Salisbury and the Kingmaker. In more feudal times the Parrs had looked to the Nevilles although, unsurprisingly, they were related to them. Neville’d been married twice before and spent a lot of time in Yorkshire according to Porter. Like many other nobles wrote letters to Thomas Cromwell about the difficulties of paying debts. He also provided Katherine with two younger step-children: John and Margaret.

 

However, this post is not about family links. It is about the 1536 Pilgrimage of Grace and its aftermath. Katherine had, by that time, spent two years building relationships with her new family and managing Latimer’s household at Snape but changes were afoot. In 1534 when they married Anne Boleyn was queen. In the January of 1536 Catherine of Aragon died. In Spring, Anne Boleyn was accused and found guilty of adultery, incest and treason. She was dead by the end of May and Jane Seymour was queen.  The Seymours together with the Duke of Norfolk who’d conspired to topple his own niece represented a more conservative faction but Cromwell’s methodical dismemberment of the Catholic Church in England continued. In Yorkshire, his commissioners had made a valuation of the monasteries, smaller monasteries were being suppressed, abbots of foundations such as Fountains were forced to resign and more pliable men placed in their stead.

Lord Latimer was more a catholic than a reformer even though, like countless other men, he’d taken the Oath of Supremacy and now in October 1536 found himself in a difficult position as across Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Westmorland and Cumberland mobs of men gathered to demand a return of the monasteries and the re-establishment of Princess Mary as Henry’s legitimate successor. The Pilgrimage of Grace was underway and it would soon arrive in Snape.

 

On 11 October rebels arrived at Jervaulx Abbey. The abbot, Adam Sedbar, tried to avoid being drawn into the conflict and hid for a while on the moors. The rebels who claimed they wanted to restore the abbeys threatened to burn Jervaulx if Sedbar didn’t return and take the oath. He claimed that he joined the pilgrims under duress. It would not save him from the Tower or execution.

 

Lower down the valley in Wensleydale, Katherine and her family at Snape must have been aware of the discontent seething around them. Porter describes events as does Moorhouse. For ten days history does not know where Lord Latimer might have been although a letter dated the 15th makes it apparent that the King knew he’d joined with the rebels. He appears in person on the 21st of October at Pontefract Castle marching under the banner of the Five Wounds.  What is rather murkier is whether he joined the rebels voluntarily or under duress. His role would become that of spokesman and negotiator when the rebels presented their articles and Henry was forced (presumably grinding his teeth) to negotiate.  The rebels were granted a pardon.

Even so, Latimer’s head must have felt somewhat loose about his shoulders when he returned home to Snape and his entire family must have feared that he would be attainted of treason. He was summoned to London to throw himself upon the King’s mercy. James suggests that the only reason that Latimer didn’t find himself in the Tower alongside other leaders of the rebellion was because of Katherine’s family who’d fought alongside the Duke of Norfolk to put the rebellion down put in a good word. It must have been a miserable Christmas despite Henry’s clemency.  Lord Latimer went to London as soon as the holiday was over to try and repair the damage with his monarch and to placate Cromwell.

 

However, in January 1537 the North rose again. Latimer was still in London. This time, the rebellion was led by Sir Francis Bigod, bizarrely a convinced reformer, who was the father of Margaret Neville’s intended husband. A new mob arrived at Snape Castle and ransacked it. Katherine and her step-children became hostages. History has Lord Latimer’s own words in a letter sent to William Fitzwilliam, the First Earl of Southampton (he’d one day have to interrogate the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, Agnes Tilney, about her knowledge of Catherine Howard’s liaison with Manox and Dereham). Latimer wrote:

 

If I do not please them I do not know what they will do with my body and goods, my wife and children. I beg to know the King’s pleasure…

 

The rebels demanded that Lord Latimer return to Yorkshire immediately. Somehow or other he negotiated for the release of his family.  History does not know what he said or promised.  Nor does history know any of Katherine’s views or feelings during this time as there are no letters or record of this time. If Katherine wasn’t a reformer before it is easy to imagine that she was committed to change after the Pilgrimage of Grace.

 

The rebellion was firmly squashed by the Duke of Norfolk. Men such as Robert Aske and Lord Darcy who’d led the 1536 rebellion were arrested as was Abbot Sedbar. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the axe hung over Lord Latimer not least because his brother Marmaduke who’d been a rather more enthusiastic pilgrim spent time in the Tower and wrote to Cromwell noting that Lord Latimer had been involved as well.

640px-Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01Cromwell didn’t need to have Latimer executed, he arrived at a sensible business arrangement instead. It is clear from Latimer’s accounts that Cromwell received an annual income from Latimer until 1540 when Cromwell suddenly discovered what happened to men who displeased the King and made his own appointment with the axe.

Latimer’s health began to fail after the Pilgrimage of Grace. He spent more time in London along with his family who rarely travelled North with him when he journeyed there to administer to his estates and buy new land (yes, it was ex monastery). It may also have been that the King and Cromwell wanted Latimer close at hand.

This post has more holes than a colander in terms of actual reliable facts about Lord Latimer and Katherine Neville, as she was then, and the extent of their involvement and thoughts on the subject but what it does do is give us a flavour of the difficulties of being a member of the Northern gentry and aristocracy during the Pilgrimage of Grace. It is also a reminder that Katherine Parr is much more than Henry’s sixth queen – she had rather a dangerous life beforehand.

 

James, Susan E. (2009) Catherine Parr: Henry VIII’s Last Love. Stroud: The History Press

Loades, David (2010) The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Stroud: The History Press

Moorhouse, G. (2002) The Pilgrimage of Grace. London:Weidenfeld and Nicolson

Porter, Linda. (2010) Katherine the Queen. London: Pan Books

 

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Filed under Queens of England, Sixteenth Century, The Tudors