Tag Archives: Elizabeth I

Sir William Brooke, royal favourite and duelling victim

Lord Cobham.jpgSir William Brooke (1565-1597) was the son of William Brooke, 10th Lord Cobham Warden of the Kent Cinque Ports (1527 to 1597) pictured at the start of this post. He was of a similar vintage to Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex and Elizabeth’s replacement for Dudley in the royal favourite stakes after his death in 1588. Like other Elizabethan gentlemen he did a stint in the continental religious wars being knighted by Essex in 1591 at Dieppe.  He was, in short, one of the new breed of men in Elizabeth’s court.

Having done his time abroad he was then returned to Parliament as MP for Rochester at the behest of his father.  Lord Cobham was not terribly amused that of the two MPS for Kent it was Sir Robert Sidney (brother of Sir Philip Sidney, nephew of Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester) who was returned as the senior parliamentarian.  Elizabeth noted that it wasn’t very helpful that  both men were abroad at the time. The fact that Brooke was also outlawed was also an issue. Elizabeth had decreed that members could not take their place until they had settled with their creditors. The matter must ultimately have been settled to Elizabeth’s satisfaction because he is described by Margaret Cavendish as one of her favourites.  Certainly, in June 1597 William had been made Keeper of Eltham Great Park though whether it was because he was a royal favourite or because his family was an important one is something that probably bears further consideration.


The family links with Elizabeth are in themselves interesting. Clearly being a Kent family the Boleyn equation  and Kent gentry affinity comes into play. Anne Boleyn sent George Brooke 9th Lord Cobham (1497-1558) a letter telling him about the birth of Elizabeth in September 1533 but he was also one of the judges that tried the queen just three years later. The following year at the christening of young Prince Edward it was Lord Cobham – our William’s grandfather- who carried consecrated wafers for both the illegitimised Tudor princesses.


George’s story continued to be tied to that of Henry VIII’s children and it is evident that he was of the reforming persuasion in his beliefs and the way in which he had chosen to have his children educated. The reign of Mary Tudor was made difficult not only by his faith but by the fact that he was related to Sir Thomas Wyatt through marriage. Wyatt even wrote to him demonstrating the belief that Cobham would side with him against Mary to put Elizabeth on the throne. He and his sons were arrested and there can be no doubt that Thomas Brooke had sided with Wyatt until the end. After that Lord Cobham who spent some time in the Tower kept his head down. He entertained Cardinal Pole and he made enquiries about heritics.. He died just before Mary so never saw Elizabeth ascend to the throne but the new Lord Cobham, William who had also been imprisoned in the Tower for his suspected part in Wyatt’s rebellion was on hand to play his allotted part in Elizabeth’s court and the administration of Kent as well as the Cinque Ports.

Clearly our Brooke was a bit of an Elizabethan wild boy and this led to his untimely end when he insulted Elizabeth Leighton the slightly pregnant lover of Sir Thomas Lucas of Colchester. Lucas called him out and he was mortally wounded one cold December morning in Mile End at a rapier’s end.  He was carried home where friends and family visited him as he lay dying.

Brooke had made his will in June having gone on a sea voyage but on the morning of his death he had added an undated codicil to the will which left everything to his brother George:

‘Your jest and my haste would not suffer me to acquaint you with what I am gone about this morning, what hath called me out so early. I send you enclosed within these what I shall leave behind me. My will and meaning is you should have all lands, leases and prisoners which I desire you may as quietly enjoy as I sincerely mean…Wishing you the best fortune, your loving brother William Brooke

The will was proved on the 25 December 1597. For those of you who like to know these things, George Brooke was executed for plotting against James I in 1603.

One letter described William Brooke as “misfortunate.”  Two arrest warrants were issued for Lucas by the privy council – on on the 24th of December and a second on the 30th. This was was very unfortunate for Elizabeth Leighton who bore an illegitimate child also called Thomas who would not meet his father until he was six years old when James I pardoned Lucas and he was able to return home. He and Elizabeth went on to have seven more children of whom the youngest, Margaret would go on to serve Queen Henrietta Maria and marry the Marquis of Newcastle going down in history as Mad Madge.  She would also write her biography, just because she felt like it even though society disapproved of the idea of women writing books for publication and tell the story of her father’s duel.

Henry_Brooke,_11th_Baron_Cobham,_by_circle_of_Paul_van_Somer.jpgIt is perhaps not surprising that Lucas found himself at the wrong end of an arrest warrant, William Brooke’s father the 10th Lord Cobham (who had died on March 6 1597)  was a man with clout. Brooke’s sister Elizabeth was the wife of Sir Robert Cecil – the most important man in the kingdom. She had also died at the beginning of 1597 but there were still family and political ties that were wielded by the new Lord Cobham – Henry Brooke – pictured left. He had been invested as Warden of the Cinque Ports on the same month that his father died.

In addition to which Whitaker makes the salient point that Elizabeth was already tetchy with the Lucas family because Sir Thomas’s sister Anne had gone to court to serve as a lady in waiting but then married for love against the queen’s wishes.  Anne had defied the queen to marry Arthur Throckmorton who was the younger brother of Bess Throckmorton who, of course, irritated Elizabeth monumentally by marrying Sir Walter Raleigh demonstrating once again that everyone in the Tudor court is related somehow or another!


And who would have thought that in reading around the topic of Margaret Cavendish as part of the Stuarts in Derbyshire course I am currently delivering that I should encounter a tale of Tudor passion that correlates to Elizabeth I and her various favourites which happens to be  part of another course that I am currently teaching.

Whitaker, Katie. (2003) Mad Madge. London: Chatto and Windus







Filed under Sixteenth Century, surprising connections, The Tudors

Elizabeth I -Message in a ring?

elizabeth-1-rainbow-portraitAs those of you who know me may recall one of my most favourite historical figures is Robert Carey. He’s the chap who caught the ring his sister, Philadelphia Scrope, chucked it from the bedroom window having it plucked from Elizabeth I’s finger after her demise in 1603.   Robert rode for Edinburgh and did the journey in a very impressive three days.

It is now thought that the ring that Robert carried was not necessarily one given to the queen by James VI of Scotland but more probably the so-called Chequers Ring that ended up in Lord Lee’ hands in 1919 having travelled from Elizabeth to James and then to Lord Lee via the Home family. Alexander Home was the second Earl of Home. His father also called Alexander. It was on account of the favour that he found with James VI of Scotland that Alexander senior was raised to the Scottish peerage. Demonstrating the ties between England and Scotland it should also be noted that he was married to Mary the daughter of Edward Sutton the 5th Baron Dudley, Lord Lisle. The first earl died in 1619 and James, by now James I of England intervened in a dispute over property, took Alexander junior under his wing and negotiated a good match for him.   The second earl married Catherine Carey who was part of the extended Carey family and thus a cousin of some description to Robert Carey who started this post. The marriage took place in May 1622 in Whitehall. It had been arranged by James I. Catherine died in childbirth within five years. Alexander would marry again but did not have any children. The title, the property and presumably the ring passed by entail to the next eligible male in the Home family tree.


However, ownership aside, the Chequers Ring bears the letters E for Elizabeth and R for Regina in diamonds and blue enamel. The body of the ring is lined with rubies. The ring bezel is actually a locket hiding two portraits. But more on that anon. The problem is that the ring doesn’t turn up on Elizabeth’s jewellery inventory – and I’m sure that we all have one of those to keep tabs on our bling so that hinders its pedigree and even worse we can’t give a definite identity to one of the images in the portrait because there is no provenance or paperwork to accompany it.

A possible clue as to where the ring comes from is the fact that there’s an image of a phoenix painted in enamel on the underside of the bezel. It has been suggested that it was Edward Seymour who gave the queen the gift in a bid to soften her up after he ran off and married Katherine Grey in 1560. If only it was that simple. The portrait of  Elizabeth dates form the 1570s by which time Katherine was dead.  Not only that but Elizabeth used the image of the phoenix on more that one occasion to give the idea of herself as the phoenix rising from the ashes of her mother’s death.

interior of elizabeth 1 locket ringOne of the portraits is unquestionably Elizabeth in her middle years.  The other is a woman who looks remarkably like Anne Boleyn because of the french hood that she wears although it has been argued that it could be Katherine Parr- there are issues over hair colouring. It has even been suggested that it is the image of a more youthful Elizabeth – now Elizabeth was unquestionably vain but would she really cart around two secret images of herself? Not being an art historian I couldn’t comment.  Dr Starkey observed, at the time he curated the exhibition in the National Maritime Museum where the ring was first displayed, it is likely to be an image of Anne because despite the fact that Elizabeth knew her mother for only a very short time she was likely to be a huge influence on her daughter’s life. This view is supported by Tracey Borman in The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen. Elsewhere it is pointed out that Elizabeth is known to have spoken of her mother only twice in her lifetime but it would also have to be said that if as Alison Weir suggests a youthful Elizabeth can be seen wearing her mother’s famous pearls in the Whitehall family group portrait along with a pendant that looks suspiciously like the letter A then she did indeed feel a closeness to her mother which History can only speculate upon.

I will be posting more about Elizabeth I’s iconography as I shall be delivering a ten week course on Gloriana after Easter using a portrait, including the famous Rainbow Portrait, as my starting point each week.


Borman, Tracey. (2009) Elizabeth’s Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen.





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Filed under Queens of England, Sixteenth Century, The Tudors

Elizabeth I’s favourites – Sir Thomas Heneage

thomas-heneage-300x280.jpg1565 was a trying year for Elizabeth I.  She was all to aware of the dangers of having an heir to the throne waiting in the background – after all she had been in that position seven years previously.  Now as queen she was determined not to name her successor despite the fact that there had already been a succession crisis during the seven days when her privy councillors had feared for her life in 1561 when she had small pox.  At that time Cecil had favoured Henry VIII’s will which would have seen the crown handed to Lady Katherine Grey the sister of Lady Jane Grey.  There had been a couple of voices in favour of Margaret, Lady Lennox who was the grand-daughter of Henry VII by Margaret Tudor’s second marriage to Archibald Douglas, the earl of Angus. Other men mentioned Henry Hastings the Earl of Huntingdon.  He was descended from the Duke of Clarence – so Plantagenet but most important of all he was male! Elizabeth herself had unexpectedly regained consciousness and given the regency into the hands of Robert Dudley.

Now in 1565 Elizabeth was still fending prospective suitors off or dangling her kingdom and her royal personage like a carrot on the political stage but there was also the matter of her cousin Mary Queen of Scots who remained a potential threat to Elizabeth’s security if she married Don Carlos the mentally unstable son of Philip II.  There was also the underlying factor that whilst Elizabeth had no children her dynasty was insecure and that Mary was a potential claimant to the throne – albeit a Catholic one.

From 1563 onwards Elizabeth had sought to control Anglo-Scottish relations by offering Robert Dudley as a potential husband to Mary with the carefully worded caveat that if Mary took Dudley as her husband that she would be named as Elizabeth’s heir.  There was still the difficulty of the fact that Elizabeth was expected to marry and produce children at this time in her reign but it appears to have been a gamble that Mary was prepared to take so long as Elizabeth was prepared to put in writing without any equivocation that Mary was her heir.  On March 16th 1565 it finally became clear that Elizabeth would not do this.  Mary immediately abandoned Dudley’s proposal even though he’d been given a title, Kenilworth Castle and many lands.

Elizabeth, perhaps eager to remind Dudley that he wasn’t as important as all that started to pay a great deal of attention to  married courtier -Thomas Heneage – so no possible thoughts of matrimony there. In fact unlike Dudley or her next favourite Sir Christopher Hatton there were never any rumours of romance between the two of them.  At the same time as Thomas became a gentleman of the Privy Chamber Elizabeth began to flirt with him. Perhaps it helped that Thomas’s first wife had been a friend of Elizabeth’s. It had the effect of making Robert Dudley jealous.

Dudley challenged the queen and she was apparently “much annoyed.” Dudley took himself off in high dudgeon, locked himself in his room for four days and then quarrelled with the queen further who was “cold with him.”

Dudley retaliated by flirting with Elizabeth’s cousin Lettice Knollys who was pregnant with her son Robert at the time.  Cecil noted in his diary that the queen was “offended.”  Pregnant or not, Lettice was one of the most beautiful women in Elizabeth’s court and it was clear at this stage of the game of courtly love that whilst Elizabeth could have many favourites, they in their turn should look only to Elizabeth.

Philip II took it as evidence that the queen loved Robert Dudley. She had revealed as much when she thought she was dying of small pox.

By Christmas 1565 Dudley was back at court but he couldn’t resist sniping at Heneage or threatening to beat him with a stick.  Elizabeth was not amused and told Dudley that just as she had raised him, she could equally as well lower him.

But by 1571 the two men had set their differences aside.  They forwarded one another’s suits and somewhat bizarrely under the circumstances it was Thomas who acted as a go between with Elizabeth when Christopher Hatton and then later Sir Walter Raleigh fell out of favour with their demanding monarch.

As with her other favourites Heneage’s personal relationship with the queen led to his appointment to office.  In his case he was the queen’s treasurer for many years ands extended family benefited from his patronage.

Gender politics was well and truly on the map and would stay there through the rest of Elizabeth’s reign both at home and abroad.


Whitelock, Anna (2013) Elizabeth’s Bedfellows. London: Bloomsbury


Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Mary Queen of Scots, Sixteenth Century, The Tudors

Amy Robsart’s death

Amy Robsart exhibited 1877 by William Frederick Yeames 1835-1918

Amy Robsart exhibited 1877 William Frederick Yeames 1835-1918 Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1877 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N01609

On the afternoon of Sunday 8th December 1560 Amy Robsart, the wife of Robert Dudley was found dead at the bottom of a flight of stairs at Cumnor Place – the home of Sir Anthony Forster. It could, have course, been a tragic accident.  At the time there was some suggestion that Amy committed suicide; it has also been suggested that she was suffering from advanced breast cancer and the final and most appealing for lovers of the conspiracy theory is that she was murdered by one of the following – Robert Dudley Elizabeth I or William Cecil.

Mrs Picto, Amy’s maid, when questioned by Sir Thomas Blount said that she believed that Amy’s death was “chance.”  She went on to explain that Amy was a virtuous soul who prayed every day on her knees to be delivered from desperation but was adamant that her mistress would not have taken her own life.  Blount questioned the locals to find out what they thought and half of them thought it was an accident whilst the other half thought that something suspicious had happened. Blount himself noted that he thought that Amy “had a strange mind in her.”  His letter states that he will tell more when he next sees Dudley – rather frustratingly we don’t know what other information he had to tell his master. We know that Amy was unhappy, after all her husband was the subject of gossip in relation to the queen whilst she didn’t even have a home to call her own.  Yet, would a woman contemplating suicide order a new dress? She had ordered a new velvet dress and a collar for a rose coloured gown?

The problem is that people can act irrationally  when distressed or in pain and she had ordered her entire household to go to the fair in Abingdon that day.  She had become cross when Mrs Odingsells, one of her household, had sought to disagree with her.  Did she want to be alone simply because she was fed up of being surrounded by her household, was she feeling unwell, was she contemplating ending it all or – was she going to meet with someone who isn’t part of the historical record?  The answer is that we can’t know for sure. The inquest found that her death was accidental but Robert Dudley’s reputation was tarnished.  It was now impossible for him to marry Elizabeth, even if he did withdraw to Kew and hope that the rumours would go away.

If it wasn’t suicide – could it have been an accident.  This was what the coroner’s jury decided:

Inquisition as indenture held at Cumnor in the aforesaid county [Oxfordshire] on 9 September in the second year of the reign of the most dread Lady Elizabeth, by the grace of God queen of England, France, and Ireland, defend of the faith, etc., before John Pudsey, gent, a coroner of the said lady queen in the aforesaid county, on inspection of the body of Lady Amy Dudley, late wife of Robert Dudley, knight of the most noble order of the garter, there lying dead: by oath of Richard Smith, gent., Humphrey Lewis, gent., Thomas Moulder, gent., Richard Knight, Thomas Spyre, Edward Stevenson, John Stevenson, Richard Hughes, William Cantrell, William Noble, John Buck, John Keene, Henry Lanlgey, Stephen Ruffyn, and John Sire: which certain jurors, sworn to tell the truth at our request, were adjourned from the aforesaid ninth day onwards day by day very often; and finally various several days were given to them by the selfsame coroner to appear both before the justices of the aforesaid lady queen at the assizes assigned to be held in the aforesaid county and before the same coroner in order there to return their verdict truthfully and speedily, until 1 August in the third year of the reign of the said lady queen; on which day the same jurors say under oath that the aforesaid Lady Amy on 8 September in the aforesaid second year of the reign of the said lady queen, being alone in a certain chamber within the home of a certain Anthony Forster, esq., in the aforesaid Cumnor, and intending to descend the aforesaid chamber by way of certain steps (in English called ‘steyres’) of the aforesaid chamber there and then accidentally fell precipitously down the aforesaid steps to the very bottom of the same steps, through which the same Lady Amy there and then sustained not only two injuries to her head (in English called ‘dyntes’) – one of which was a quarter of an inch deep and the other two inches deep – but truly also, by reason of the accidental injury or of that fall and of Lady Amy’s own body weight falling down the aforesaid stairs, the same Lady Amy there and then broke her own neck, on account of which certain fracture of the neck the same Lady Amy there and then died instantly; and the aforesaid Lady Amy was found there and then without any other mark or wound on her body; and thus the jurors say on their oath that the aforesaid Lady Amy in the manner and form aforesaid by misfortune came to her death and not otherwise, as they are able to agree at present; in testimony of which fact for this inquest both the aforesaid coroner and also the aforesaid jurors have in turn affixed their seals on the day.


Questions  are often asked about the nature of the steps – which appear to have been shallow and few in number causing conspiracy theorists to raise their eyebrows. Another source mentions a pair of steps suggesting a turn – which might account for the head wounds.  Cumnor Place was demolished during the Victorian period so we cannot know for sure.  It has even been hypothesised that Amy had become disorientated about her location and taken a tumble not realising that there were steps.

It doesn’t help that Dudley anxious to quell rumour asked for “discreet men,” that one of his own men was on the jury and that in later years he paid the foreman of the jury in lengths of taffeta and velvet which smacks of nobbling the jury – which doesn’t look good, if we’re honest.   Weighed against that was the fact that Dudley insisted that the jury was composed of local men and that it didn’t matter if they were hostile to him or not.  He also wrote asking that Amy’s half brother go to Cumnor to oversee things – at most he could be accused of being guilty of trying to look after his reputation. Amy’s brother, Appleyard, came forward in 1567 saying that he knew who killed Amy and he didn’t blame Dudley – he also ended up retracting his statement when he found himself locked up in the Fleet Prison by William Cecil.

In 1956 Dr Ian Aird published a medical paper explaining how untreated breast cancer can cause skeletal collapse which would explain how an accidental tumble could have caused a broken neck.  As the previous post in this series noted assorted ambassadors commented on Amy’s poor health – in particular the malady of her breast.  The Venetian ambassador stated that she had been ailing for some time. Poor health or not, falling the wrong way can cause a broken neck.  Of course poor health or an accident is not nearly as marketable or dramatic as being murdered.

Amy did believe she was being poisoned – it was why she left Throcking in the spring of 1559.  It could have cause have been her illness which she mistook for poisoning or maybe she was being slowly poisoned by her husband’s retainers who thought they were doing Dudley a favour.  Chris Skidmore leans towards this explanation – think Thomas Becket and apply to an inconvenient wife. Skidmore isn’t convinced either that the two head wounds mentioned in the coroner’s report could have been caused by a tumble.

Elizabeth didn’t marry Robert, perhaps she never had any intention of marrying her favourite, having Henry VIII for a parent would put any sensible woman off matrimony and then there was the unfortunate episode with Admiral Seymour not to mention the experience of her half-sister’s unhappy marriage.  The scandal was a sufficient reason for her not to marry Robert. Her reputation as a virtuous monarch was damaged but it wouldn’t be long before in Scotland Mary Queen of Scots ended up with an all too obviously murdered spouse and then went on to marry the man implicated in Darnley’s untimely demise. Mary would lose her kingdom – Elizabeth raised in more dangerous circumstances was much too canny to make that sort of mistake despite what William Cecil and most of the Privy Council seemed to have feared as Elizabeth spent the first year of her reign hunting and hawking with her childhood friend. Yes, she was a Tudor and the Tudors like most medieval and early modern monarchs may have done the odd deeply unpleasant thing or two but let’s not go down the avenue of the Game of Thrones style killer queen – that’s not history that’s speculation.

The person who gained from Amy’s untimely demise was William Cecil who certainly spread rumours about his political opponent – but rumours are not the same as giving an order to topple a young woman down the stairs!  There is absolutely no evidence that he was involved. But there again he was good at what he did so would hardly have left a lengthy paper trail for hapless historians. He was also a man of strong religious leanings. Accusation and counter-claim turn into a metaphorical game of ping pong which all come back to the same thing – these is no evidence.

And there you have it – did Amy fall, was she pushed or was it an accident – the Historical truth is that no one knows and to say otherwise without further evidence is opinion not fact.




Filed under Sixteenth Century, The Tudors

An inconvenient almost royal romance – Elizabeth Cavendish and Charles Stuart, Earl of Lennox.

Arbella StuartElizabeth I is a monarch of notoriously dodgy temperament.  She was also prone to locking people up who got married without asking her permission first – Sir Walter Raleigh and Bess Throckmorton being a notable example as indeed were Ladies Katherine and Mary Grey when they married without their cousin’s approval.  It is perhaps not surprising then that when another scion of the Tudor family tree married on the quiet that there was repercussions.  Aside from Liz’s dodgy temper there was the fact that under the 1536 Act of Attainder it was necessary for people in line to the throne to acquire Royal Assent before marrying.  The fact that permission wasn’t usually given was, under the law, neither here nor there.

In the Autumn of 1574 Bess of Hardwick, wife of the earl of Shrewsbury, who was at that time entertaining Mary Queen of Scots as a long term “house guest” left Chatsworth where the Scottish queen was imprisoned and travelled to Rufford Abbey in Nottinghamshire.  Rufford had been acquired by Bess’s second husband, William Cavendish who had been rather heavily involved with the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536.


Rufford Abbey was a very convenient place.  It was getting on for thirty miles away from Chatsworth and it was handily close to the Great North Road. Bess was on her way to meet an important guest.

The guest was Margaret Stuart, Countess of Lennox.  Her parents were Margaret Tudor, the eldest daughter of Henry VII, and Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus.  She was Elizabeth’s cousin and in line to the English throne – apart from the fact that Henry VIII had excluded her because of her Catholicism.  There was also the small matter of Margaret Tudor’s complicated marital arrangements which had cast doubt upon Margaret Douglas’s legitimacy.  In any event Margaret having realised that her own claim to the throne was nothing but a dream had concentrated her ambition into her two sons by her husband Matthew Stewart, Earl of Lennox.  The older boy, Henry Stuart (don’t ask me about why Stewart/Stuart is spelled the way it is) had married Mary Queen of Scots and got himself murdered.  Given the link between Mary and Margaret as well as their shared Catholicism the English Privy Council had stipulated that Margaret should not come within thirty miles of either Chatsworth or Sheffield if Mary Queen of Scots was in residence.  They suspected plots. However, Margaret had been given permission to travel between her home in Hackney to her home in Yorkshire, Temple Newsam.  Permission had been granted for her to travel on 3 October 1574.

Mid October 1574 – Margaret began her journey north.  She broke her journey with a stay at the home of Katherine Bertie, Baroness Willoughby de Eresby.  Readers of the History Jar might recognise Katherine Bertie as Katherine Willoughby, the daughter of Catherine of Aragon’s loyal lady-in-waiting, Maria de Salinas.  She became the duchess of Suffolk when she married the widowed Charles Brandon, was a friend of Katherine Parr and has been identified by some historians as a perspective wife number seven for Henry VIII.  Margaret and Katherine Bertie had known each other since they were young women.  They had a friend in common – Bess of Hardwick had entertained Katherine when Katherine went to Buxton to take the waters in 1575 and she stayed at Chatsworth.  There had been some talk of Bess’s daughter Elizabeth Cavendish marrying Katherine’s son Peregrine Bertie.

charles stuart earl of lennox.jpgBess invited the Countess to stay at Rufford during her journey north. Travelling with Margaret was her other son  Charles Stuart.  He was nineteen at that time and already earl of Lennox – though not necessarily terribly wealthy.  For once this does not seem to have bothered Bess.

Margaret became unwell whilst staying in Rufford.  Bess cared for her guest personally.  After all Margaret was a Tudor even if both host and guest were countesses.

Elizabeth who had accompanied her mother and young Charles were left to their own devices.  The pair fell in love and got themselves firmly engaged.  Neither mother raised any objections.  In fact it appears that Bess smoothed the way.  She leant Margaret a large some of money and the fact that Elizabeth Cavendish had a dowry of £3000 probably helped.

– The Earl of Shrewsbury, who must have been horrified when he discovered what had been going on, wrote to Lord Burghley to inform him of his step-daughter’s secret marriage to Charles Stuart, Earl of  Lennox  at Rufford Abbey in Nottinghamshire without royal permission.

– Lord Burghley replied that the marriage would be trouble. He was not wrong.

4 November – Shrewsbury replied to Burghley explaining how the young couple had fallen in love.  He stressed that the marriage was not a secret and that he was hiding nothing.  The reality was, of course, that royal permission had not been sought – Charles Stuart was a direct descendent of Henry VII and the son of an English subject so a possible claimant of the Crown.

Someone broke the news to Elizabeth I.  The queen was predictably and probably alarmingly annoyed.

2 December – Shrewsbury sent another letter to Burghley saying that he had heard that the news of the wedding hadn’t gone down particularly well and begged Burghley to intercede on his behalf.  He also wrote to the queen – making it clear that none of it had been his idea and that he and Bess were the queen’s very loyal servants  (You can almost hear the gulp).

17 November- Margaret Lennox was ordered to return to London.    Charles Stuart was to return to London with his bride (Elizabeth Cavendish).  The journey took the rest of the month and into the beginning of December.  Perhaps it was bad roads and lame beasts or perhaps Margaret wanted time for her cousin to calm down.

3 December – Countess of Lennox in Huntington.  She wrote to the earl of Leicester and Lord Burghley asking for help.  She sent a second letter to Burghley on the 10th December.

12 December Margaret Lennox arrived in King’s Place, Hackney.

13 December Margaret Lennox appeared before the Privy Council.  Henry Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon in charge of investigation.  No plot to involve Mary Queen of Scots was uncovered and there was no evidence that the marriage was anything other than a young couple falling in inconvenient love.

27 December.  Margaret was placed under arrest and carted off to The Tower. The version of events that the earl of Shrewsbury had recorded in his letters did not quite tally with the story that Margaret had told on her return to London.  Charles and Elizabeth were placed under house arrest.  It was the third time that Margaret had been incarcerated (the first was when she fell in love with Sir Thomas Howard in the reign of Henry VIII; the second when her eldest son married Mary Queen of Scots and now because Charles had married without permission to the daughter of the woman who was effectively Mary Queen of Scots’ gaoler.)

On the same day the Earl of Shrewsbury wrote yet another letter saying that no ill will had been intended.  Bess of Hardwick was now ordered to London as well.


January – some historians say that Bess of Hardwick was given the opportunity to contemplate the error of her ways in the Tower at this time but others disagree.

Bess was allowed to return home where the presence of Mary Queen of Scots continued to cause difficulties and where the marriage of Gilbert Talbot and Mary Cavendish now resulted in the birth of an heir – George and increased family friction.  The worry of his high status prisoner and the fact that he wasn’t being paid for maintaining her were having unfortunate effects on the earl of Shrewsbury’s personality.

Ultimately Margaret was released back to Hackney as there was no evidence of a master plot to free Mary or to kidnap James from London.

10 Nov (ish) – Birth of Arbella Stuart probably at King’s Place, Hackney. There is a letter from Mary Queen of Scots to her new niece and a reply from both Margaret and Elizabeth.

Christmas – Bess of Hardwick gave the queen a cloak of blue satin trimmed with velvet as a New Year’s gift.


April – Charles Stuart died.  Arbella was barely six months old.  Lovell suggests that Charles had always been delicate and perhaps this was another reason that Margaret had encouraged the match with Elizabeth Cavendish.  Arbella should now have become the Countess of Lennox in Scotland it was argued that it was King James VI of Scotland who should have title and rights to the estates because he was Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley’s son.  Mary Queen of Scots wrote in her will asking hr son James to grant her niece, his cousin, Arbella the earldom.  James never did.


Elizabeth Cavendish would die six years later in January 1582.  She was just twenty-six years old.  Arbella would be given into the wardship of Lord Cecil and her day to day care into the hands of her grandmother Bess of Hardwick.


Armitage, Jill. (2017) Arbella Stuart: The Uncrowned Queen.  Stroud: Amberley

Gristwood, Sarah. (2003) Arbella: England’s Lost Queen London: Bantam Press.

Lovell, Mary S. ( 2012)  Bess of Hardwick: First Lady of Chatsworth. London: Little Brown


Filed under Mary Queen of Scots, Sixteenth Century, The Tudors

Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox

margaret-douglas-countess-2Margaret Douglas is an important link in the Tudor family tree and its later prospective claimants to the English throne.  Unsurprisingly given that the Tudors are involved there are some dodgy family trees involved and not a little tragedy.


Margaret’s mother was the eldest daughter of Henry VII of England and Elizabeth of York.  She was born in November 1489 and at the time when she married James IV of Scotland she was just thirteen.  In 1512 she gave birth to a son James (other children died in infancy) but then the following year her husband died at the Battle of Flodden.

archiboldouglas.jpgJames V was king but an infant.  There followed the usual power struggle.  The key families were the Stewarts, Douglases and Hamiltons. on 6 August 1514 without consulting her council or her brother Margaret married the pro-English Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus.   This effectively caused the Douglas faction to advance up a large ladder in the courtly game of snakes and ladders.  A civil war resulted and Margaret was replaced as regent by John Stewart Earl of Albany – who was anti-English.  Margaret having been queen and regent now slid down several rungs of importance and life became very difficult not least when Margaret lost custody of the young king and of his brother called Alexander who had been born after the Battle of Flodden. Margaret, fearing for her safety and the safety of her unborn child by the earl of Angus made plans to escape Scotland.

Her first step was to go to Linlithgow from there she escaped into England and little Margaret Douglas made her way into the world on 8 October 1515 at Harbottle Castle in Northumberland by the end of January news arrived from Scotland that the infant Alexander was dead.  Margaret Douglas born of an English mother in an English castle was treated as English rather than Scottish throughout her life and in terms of the English succession. Margaret Tudor’s husband the earl of Angus now deserted his wife and made his peace with the earl of Albany…and his other wife.

Angus had been married to Mary Hepburn but he had been widowed.  What Margaret Tudor didn’t know was that he had entered into a relationship with Lady Janet Stewart of Traquair before marrying her. They were ether engaged or married.  In either event Angus was contracted to another woman making his marriage to Margaret Tudor effectively bigamous. Angus wanted the return of his family lands which Albany had confiscated and in the meantime he took up residence with Lady Janet in one of Margaret’s properties.  As with Mary and Elizabeth Tudor the small fact of her father’s complicated love life must bring into question the legitimacy of Margaret Douglas and therefore her claim to the English throne by right of descent from Margaret Tudor.

Henry VIII did not send for his sister until 1516 and ultimately Margaret Tudor did return to Scotland when Albany went to France in 1517.  This meant that Margaret Douglas also went to Scotland and became the centre of a struggle between her parents when he also returned.  The earl of Angus snatched the infant Margaret from her mother’s arms.  Her existence gave the earl of Angus power.  She was in line to the English throne after all.  Ultimately Margaret Douglas found some degree of sanctuary in the care of her godfather, Cardinal Wolsey who arranged for her to be housed in Berwick.

If that weren’t complicated enough Margaret Tudor divorced the earl of Angus and married Henry Stewart, Lord Methven.  It was a match that didn’t work particularly well.  Methven ultimately moved in with a mistress and Margaret Tudor tried to move back in with the earl of Angus.  James V regarded Methven as a trusted advisor and refused to permit the divorce. Margaret Tudor bowed to her son’s wishes but died in 1541.

But back to Margaret Douglas’s story. After Wolsey’s fall from power and death in 1530 she found home in the household of Princess Mary at Beaulieu where she had been living since 1528.   When she reached adulthood she was appointed as Lady in Waiting to Anne Boleyn which must have been difficult as she was a lifelong friend of her cousin Princess Mary.  During Mary’s reign she was considered as a possible heir to the throne.  It helped not only that she was close to Mary but that she was Catholic in her sympathies.

Meanwhile, back in the early 1530s at court Margaret  had grown into a beautiful and creative woman who wrote poetry.  She met and fell in love with Lord Thomas Howard.  He was one of Anne Boleyn’s uncles (a young brother of the duke of Norfolk).  The pair became engaged.  They had not sought royal approval. In July 1536 Henry VIII discovered the engagement and was not a happy man.  By that time Anne Boleyn had fallen from favour and both Mary and Elizabeth Tudor had been declared illegitimate.  This meant that Margaret Douglas was quite high up on the list of possible heirs to the throne.  She was a very marriageable commodity. Margaret broke off the engagement but by then both she and Lord Thomas had been thrown into the Tower and charged with treason.  He died of natural causes on 31 October 1537. Margaret had been released from custody a few days previously.

Unsurprisingly given her mother’s complicated love life and Henry’s eye popping disapproval of his sister Margaret Douglas now found herself declared illegitimate by Act of Parliament.

In 1539 Margaret is on the list of Anne of Cleve’s ladies in waiting.

In 1540 she was back in hot water when she had an affair with Sir Charles Howard.  It probably didn’t help that he was closely related to Katherine Howard.  She was sent to Syon House but moved from there when Katherine Howard was also sent to Syon in disgrace.  She might have remained in obscurity if the earl of Angus hadn’t popped back up to cause trouble in Scotland.

In 1543 Margaret Douglas was one of Katherine Parr’s bridesmaids.

matthew stuart.jpgMargaret finally married in 1544. He was a Scottish exile and his name was Matthew Stewart, Earl of Lennox.  The pair lived at Temple Newsam near Leeds, a gift from Henry VIII to his niece upon her wedding.  They had two sons – Henry Stuart Lord Darnley who would marry Mary Queen of Scots and end up murdered in an orchard in Kirk o Fields in 1567 and Charles Stuart who would fall in love with and marry Elizabeth Cavendish – Margaret Douglas’s grand-daughter was Lady Arbella Stuart.  Neither Henry Stewart nor Charles nor even Arbella would have been considered a legitimate claimant to the throne by Henry VIII who excluded Margaret Lennox from the succession through his will because she made no secret of her Catholicism.




Margaret Douglas  even lost her claim to the earldom of Angus because of her husband’s part in the Rough Wooing. Margaret was Angus’s only legitimate child but he left everything to his nephew. Margaret never stopped contesting the fact that her father had broken the entail that should have seen her inherit an earldom.

Matthew Stewart, Lord Lennox  was shot in the back and died in 1571 whilst fighting in Stirling. The marriage between the pair had probably been political but if the Lennox Jewel is anything to go by Margaret and her husband had fallen in love with one another.

lennox jewel.jpg


Whilst Mary Tudor was on the throne Margaret Douglas was at the centre of the royal court but once Protestant Elizabeth ascended the throne Margaret’s life became difficult not only because she insisted that Mary Tudor had said she ought to be queen but because of her Catholicism. Mathew Stuart found himself in the Tower and Margaret spent time under house arrest at Sheen.

margaret douglas hilliardHaving lost her own claims to the English crown Margaret then worked on her eldest son’s claims.  Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, was she claimed a contender for both the English and the Scottish crowns. Margaret was careful to send Henry to visit Mary Queen of Scots in France on several occasions.  Her scheming would ultimately result in Darnley becoming Mary Queen of Scots’ second husband and effectively doubling their claim to the English throne.

Inevitably the match between Margaret’s second son (Charles) with his claim to the throne and Elizabeth Cavendish in November 1574 en route between London and Temple Newsam did not go down very well with Elizabeth I who suspected her cousin of Catholic plotting in Yorkshire.  Lady Arbella Stuart would pay a heavy price for her royal blood.

Arbella Stuart

Margaret was summoned back to London and sent to the Tower for her part in arranging the match between her son and Elizabeth Cavendish.  Elizabeth Cavendish’s mother escaped the Tower but Bess of Hardwick gave Elizabeth a blue satin cloak lined with velvet that Christmas suggesting that she knew that she was on a bit of a sticky wicket!

After the death of Margaret’s son Charles she concentrated her efforts on Arbella to whom she left her casket of jewellery when she died:

All the rest of my jewels goods chattels movable and unmovable, my funerals and legacies performed and my due debts paid I give and bequeath to the Lady Arbell Daughter of my son Charles deceased. Provided always and I will that where the one of my said Executors Thomas Fowler hath for sundry and divers bargains made for me and to my use by my appointment, authority and request entered into sundry bonds and covenants of warranties in sundry sorts and kinds that by law he may be challenged and constrained to answer and make good the same he the said Thomas Fowler my said executors shall out of my said goods, chattels movables plate and jewels whatsoever be answered allowed satisfied recompensed and kept harmless from any loss recovery forfeiture actions suits demands whatsoever may be and shall be of and from him my said executor lawfully recovered and obtained by any person or persons at any time or times after my decease. And provided also and I will that the rest and portion of my jewels, goods or movables whatsoever shall fall out to be shall remain in the hands, custody and keeping of my said executor Thomas Fowler until the said Lady Arbell be married or come to the age of fourteen years, to be then safely delivered to her if God shall send her then and so long to be living.

After her death on 9th March 1578 Elizabeth paid for her cousin to be buried in Westminster Abbey.  It is perhaps not surprising given the tumultuous life that she led that there is even a conspiracy theory around her death.  She dined with the earl of Leicester a few days before she died and that gave rise to the rumour that she was poisoned.


Weir, Alison.(2015) The Lost Tudor Princess. London:Vintage


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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Mary Queen of Scots, Sixteenth Century

The Stuarts – King James I of England- key events.

king-james1Elizabeth I died on 24 March 1603 in Richmond.  She had been on the throne for nearly forty-five years.  Whilst the queen had prevaricated about naming her heir,  Sir Robert Cecil could see that her health was deteriorating and began making the necessary arrangements with King James VI of Scotland the son of Mary Queen of Scots.  He was the great-grandson of Margaret Tudor.

When Elizabeth died Philadelphia, Lady Scrope took the sapphire ring given by King James from Elizabeth’s finger and threw it out of a window down to where her brother Sir Robert Carey sat waiting.  Sir Robert headed off up the Great North Road to Edinburgh.  The journey of some 330 miles was completed late on the 26th March (an impressive turn of speed).  The blue ring was James’ confirmation that he was now King of England as well of Scotland.

James saw himself as King by Divine Right.  He was also delighted to gain Elizabeth I’s wealth but he mishandled his finances because of his own extravagance. It is sometimes said that Elizabeth handled her finances better because she was single whereas James had a family – his wife Anne of Denmark  who was raised a Protestant but converted to Catholicism (possibly); their eldest son Prince Henry born in 1594, their daughter Elizabeth and their young son Charles.  In total the couple had nine children but only the three listed here survived to adulthood.  It may be surmised a growing family with sons was one of the attractions of James as king so far as the English were concerned. It should also be added that the finances weren’t entirely James’ fault  for another reason as this was a period of inflation and a time when subsidies returned lower yields.

Another of James’ difficulties was the balancing act between religious beliefs with in the country and on the wider European stage.

5 April 1603 – James left Edinburgh.

Mid-April – arrived in York and sent a letter asking for money from the Privy Council

When James arrived in Newark he attempted to have a cut purse hanged without realising that English common law did not permit the monarch to dish up summary justice. He also  knighted 906 men in the first four months of his reign – more than Elizabeth in her entire reign.  During this time James was also presented with the Millenary Petition.  The Puritan ministers who presented it claimed that there were more than 1000 signatories – hence its name. The petition requested that the king put a stop to some practices that Puritans found objectionable.  This included wearing surplices, confirmation, the necessity of a ring for marriage and the making of the sign of the cross during baptism.

11th May 1603   James entered London.

William_Segar_Sir_Walter_Raleigh_1598.jpg19 July 1603 Sir Walter Raleigh arrested. The  key event of 1603 was the so-called the Main Plot which evolved into a secondary Bye Plot that came to light in 1604 (I’ve blogged about them before).  Essentially with the Main Plot there was some question as to whether James was the best person to be king  Henry VII had other descendants who were English.  The one we think of at this time is usually Arbella Stuart who was implicated in the Main Plot which saw Sir Walter Raleigh sent to the Tower.  The plan was to depose James and put Arbella in his place.  The Bye Plot was much more straight forward.  It simply involved kidnapping James and forcing him to suspend the laws against Catholics.

17 Nov 1603 Sir Walter Raleigh put on trial. Raleigh would be condemned on the evidence of Lord Cobham who was never called to testify despite Raleigh’s repeated demands that his should be examined.

14 Jan 1604  The Hampton Court Conference convened as a result, in part, of the Millenary Petition.  James ordered that everyone should adhere to the Book of Common Prayer.  This did not please the Puritans or the Catholics especially as recusancy fines were being levied with more rigour than previously.

19 March 1604  James’ first Parliament sat.  James admonished the Puritans but it was clear that religion was going to be a bone of contention.

5 April 1604 James demanded that as “an absolute king” he should have conference with the Commons and his judiciary.  It didn’t go down very well.

Mid April 1604  James demanded the Union of England with Scotland.  No one apart from James thought it was a good idea. He will try again in 1606 and 1607.

19 August 1604  War with Spain formally concludes.  England has been at war with the Spanish since 1585.  The Somerset House Conference draws up the  Treaty of London which is seen as favourable to Spain as it prevents continued English support of the Dutch.

Winter 1604 Thomas Percy sub-leased a house beside the Palace of Westminster. A certain Guy Fawkes and other members of a conspiracy began to dig a tunnel…

5th November 1605  The Gunpowder Plot foiled.

1606 The Bates Case . John Bates refused to pay the new duty that James levied on currants.  The Court of the Exchequer said that Bates had to pay the duty as the king was regulating imports rather than raising revenue for himself – they couldn’t prove any different.  This meant that the Crown suddenly found a way of raising taxes without having to call Parliament so long as it was in the name of regulating foreign trade.  The case is also called the Case of Impositions.  The imposition of these taxes would come back to haunt James when he called Parliament in 1614.

22 June 1606 Oath of Allegiance required of all subjects.  It was made up of seven parts. The first bit required loyalty to James.

June 1607  Founding of Jamestown in America by Captain Smith.

Sept 1607 Start of the Plantation of Ulster when leading Irish earls flee the country fearing arrest.  The event is sometimes called “The Flight of the Earls.”  The Crown confiscates their land and begins to hand it to Protestants including troublemakers from the Scottish/English Borders.

1608 – The Book of Bounty issued.  It was a device to reduce royal expenditure.  This should be viewed alongside Robert Cecil’s revision to the rate of taxation. He’s revised the rates once in 1604 and did so again in 1608.  The revisions of 1608 fetched an additional £70,000 into the royal coffers.

22 June 1610 Arbella Stuart enters into a secret marriage with William Seymour (2nd duke of Somerset) – who had his own claim to the throne due to the face that he is the grandson of Lady Katherine Grey. Elizabeth I had refused to recognise her cousin’s marriage to Edward Seymour but their son (another Edward) was recognised by the courtesy title Lord Beauchamp though none the less was permitted to succeed to his father’s title upon Edward Seymour senior’s death.  The marriage of Arbella and Seymour seemed to unite two possible claims to the throne. Not surprisingly all involved ended up in the Tower.  Arbella would escape her prison but recaptured on her way to the Continent and die in the Tower in 1615. There will be more about Arbella!

1610 – Parliament refuse to proceed with the Great Contract which James has proposed.  If they had agreed it would have resulted in a tax being levied to clear James’ debts. Parliament offered  James £200,000 per year. James demanded another £200,000.  In addition to the financial considerations there was a concern that James might not call Parliament again if he got all the money he wanted in one hit.  James was unwilling to sell off any of his prerogative rights so came no where close to meeting Parliament half-way.

14 May 1610 Henry IV of France assassinated

1611 King James Bible issued.

October 1612 Prince Henry, James’ eldest and most promising son, taken ill.

6 November 1612 Prince Henry dies.  He was eighteen.  It prompted a succession crisis that lasted until 1614. Prince Charles, a sickly child, now became heir apparent.  It became essential that Princess Elizabeth should marry. This resulted ultimately in a bill being laid before parliament to permit Elector Frederick and his wife Elizabeth to inherit in the event of Charles’ death.

14 Feb 1613 Princess Elizabeth married Frederick V of the Palatinate.

April 1613 Thomas Overbury sent to Tower but then released.  He would shortly be murdered.  Th king’s former favourite Robert Carr and his wife Frances Howard would be found guilty of his murder. The ensuing scandal would continue throughout the next two years.  Lady Anne Clifford writes about it her her diary.  There will definitely be more about the Overbury case in the coming year.

1614 The Earl of Suffolk appointed treasurer.

4 May 1614 James told Parliament that they had to vote him subsidies when they next sat. If they wouldn’t James would refuse to call Parliament into session.

December 1614 The Cockayne Project announced.  James allowed Alderman Sir William Cockayne to launch a project designed to boost the earnings of those involved in the manufacture of undyed cloth setting up a dyeing industry to do the job at home. The government was promised £40,000 p.a. from increased customs through the importing of dyestuffs. James gave control to Cockayne and the new company was given permission to export in 1615. It was clear by 1616 that Cockayne had not the resources to buy the cloth from the clothing districts and hold it until it could be marketed. Matters became worse when the Dutch banned the import of cloth. Merchants went bankrupt, weavers rioted, cloth exports slumped and the industry stagnated. By 1617 James abandoned Cockayne and the Merchant Adventurers regained control.

June 1614 The so-called Addled Parliament sat.  This was properly James’ second Parliament which had been called with the express purpose of raising funds for the king. Parliament didn’t politely offer the king taxes. They hadn’t been very impressed with the king’s courtiers undertaking to get their cronies elected to to the king’s bidding.  Instead, they told him that his policies were unacceptable and also said that he would receive no money from them whilst he was enforcing so-called “impositions” – these were taxes raised without the consent of Parliament.  Parliament believed that James had overstepped his legal rights and James believed that Parliament had no right to refuse his demands.  It didn’t pass any bills and was dissolved very quickly.

During this time there were two factions at court seeking the king’s ear following the death of Robert Cecil in 1612.  The most prominent was led by Henry Howard.  The Howard family held key posts. Thomas  Howard the Earl of Suffolk was the father of Francis Howard who married Robert Carr (the Earl of Essex).  It was during this time that his daughter and son-in-law found themselves on trial for the murder of Thomas Overbury through the medium of poisoned tarts. The Howard family wanted James to put Parliament in its place, peace with Spain and Recusancy fines reduced.  Their opposition was comprised of people who simply didn’t like the Howards and would have said that day was night if the Howards said otherwise. They were Protestant whilst the Howards were seen as Catholic in their sympathy.


1615 James I begins to sell peerages to make some money.

23 April 1616 – William Shakespeare dies.

1616 James sells the Dutch the towns of Brill and Flushing which had been given to Elizabeth to help finance the wars agains the Spanish and for support of the Dutch. Sir Walter Raleigh is released from the Tower and the following year goes in search of El Dorado, involving a voyage up the Orinoco.  No gold was forthcoming.  James returned Raleigh to prison and invoked the 1603 death sentence.

1617 James enters negotiations for the marriage of Prince Charles to the Spanish Infanta.  He demands a dowry of £600,000.

1618 – This was the year when the Thirty Years War started with the invasion of Bohemia and the Palatinate Crisis.  James’ daughter  Elizabeth would be involved in this as her husband had become the King of Bohemia when he had been offered the crown the year before.   They were driven out by Counter-reforming Catholics. History knows Elizabeth as The Winter Queen because she was Queen of Bohemia for only a year.

29 October 1618 Sir Walter Raleigh executed.


August 1620 – The Pilgrim Fathers set sail.

8 Nov 1620  The Battle of White Mountain fought near Prague. The battle was won by the Hapsburgs and meant that Catholicism gained an early upper hand in the Thirty Years War.

1621 James’ third Parliament called.

6 January 1621 Elizabeth, the Winter Queen, gives birth to a son Maurice near Berlin.  From there she would go into exile in The Hague.

3 Dec 1621 Parliament petitions the King

1622 Directions to Preachers restrict the contents of sermons.

Forced Loan

1623 Forced Loan

March 1623 Prince Charles makes a trip incognito to Madrid complete with a large hat and false beard. It was a cause of some embarrassment in Madrid.

August 1623 The Spanish want Frederick to marry his eldest son, James’ grandson, to the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor.  The plan was that he would then convert to Catholicism and be raised in Vienna.  Charles realised that the Spanish Match wasn’t going to happen but James was reluctant to break off negotiations.

1624 The so-called Happy Parliament called.  James had previously sworn never to call another parliament.  However the course of the Thirty years War made him reconsider. The so-called Spanish match had become more important as it seemed that the Hapsburgs and Spain would dominate Europe and be victorious agains the Protestant countries but it became clear that the Spanish were not serious in their negotiations with the English or that they were demanding too much. Charles and his friend the duke of Buckingham persuaded James that what needed to happen was that the English should go to war on behalf of the Palatinate.  James refused to go to war without a huge subsidy being voted him.

Nov 1624  Marriage treaty signed between Prince Charles and Henrietta Maria of France.

27 March 1625 – King James I of England/ James VI of Scotland died.  King Charles I proclaimed king.


Ackroyd, Peter. (2014) The History of England Volume III: Civil War London:MacMillan


Filed under common law, Kings of England, Seventeenth Century, The Stuarts

Thomas Beccon – reformer, propagandist and barometer of England’s Reformation.

Thomas_Becon.jpgBeccon or Becon was born in Norfolk around 1510-12, so during the first eighteen months of Henry VIII ascending the throne. He was educated in Cambridge where he studied under the tutelage of Hugh Latimer. He was ordained in 1533 – just as Henry VIII’s marital disputes were hotting up in more ways than one.  Despite the fact that Henry VIII passed a series of laws that changed the management and government of the Church making Hal the Supreme Head of the Church of England, religion and belief itself didn’t change very much.  Essentially Henry VIII remained a Catholic throughout his life. This was rather unfortunate for Beccon who  travelled along the road towards Protestantism  preaching his views to anyone who might care to hear. He was arrested in 1540 for preaching Protestantism and was forced to recant his beliefs.  To avoid further problems he stopped preaching and took to writing tracts under the assumed name of Theodore Basille.  Between 1541-43 at least eight works were published.  Sadly for him the pseudonym ploy was not entirely successful as Bishop Gardiner wasn’t without employees who knew how to wheedle the truth out of people.  Beccon found himself recanting for a second time whilst chopping up three of his books in public to show how very sorry he was for having written them in the first place.  In 1546 thirteen of his books were on a list of prohibited texts that were burned as an example to the populace.

Beccon seems to have spent these difficult years until the death of Henry VIII wandering around the Midlands doing a spot of tutoring and generally trying to avoid having to recant for a third time as that presumably would have meant burning him as well as his books.

However, in 1547 when Edward VI ascended the throne he became the chaplain of the Lord Protector Edward Seymour where he could write openly about his beliefs, acquire a decent living and begin to aspire to making social as well as religious changes.  

In 1553 things took a turn for the worse for Beccon when Mary I ascended the throne and promptly tried to turn the clock back.  This was the third stage of the English Reformation (broadly speaking).  Aside from Beccon’s Protestant inclinations there was the small fact that as an ordained member of the clergy he really shouldn’t have had a wife according to Mary I’s beliefs. In August 1553 he found himself ensconced within the Tower of London and removed from his living.  In March 1554 he was released and promptly left the country going to Germany where he was certain of a more friendly welcome. He actually became a tutor in the household of the Landgrave of Hesse.

He returned to England from Marburg where he taught at the university when Elizabeth I ascended the throne ushering in the fourth phase of the English Reformation (broadly speaking). He became a canon of Canterbury Cathedral and secured a number of benefices in Kent including that of Sturry.  He wasn’t entirely popular with Elizabeth I as although he’d welcomed Elizabeth I as the “English Deborah” (i.e. the saviour of her nation) he’d also subscribed to John Knox’s view about the “monstrous regiment of women” – which didn’t necessarily go down terribly well with Elizabeth.  He died in June 1567.

Beccon is credited with writing more than sixty texts however the book I’m interested in today is entitled The Jewel of Joy which was aimed at ordinary people and their beliefs as I’m giving a talk on the Dissolution of the Monasteries in Derbyshire in July. It includes an insight into Derbyshire at the time of his wanderings in the 1540s – I might add that he saw the county as “barren” in a spiritual sense claiming that because of the ignorance of many of its inhabitants they found themselves clinging to catholicism and lacked the “spark of godliness.”  The text is partially autobiographical.  He explains that having recanted for the second time at the foot of St Paul’s Cross he decamped from London to “avoid the ravening paws of these greedy wolves.” First he went to Thetford to visit his family and from there he set off to the Peak District intent on earning his living as a tutor. He didn’t known anyone and he didn’t expect a welcome.  Apparently he didn’t get one either as he described the locals as “rude and uncivilised:”

But all the religion of the people consisted of ‘hearing matins and masses, in superstitious worshipping of saints, in hiring soul’s carriers to ring trintals, in pattering upon beads, and such other Popish pedlar’. Yet the people where I have travelled, for the most part, are reasonable and quiet enough, yea, and very conformable to God’s truth. If any be stubbornly obstinate, it is for want of knowledge and because they have been seduced by blind guides.

The only exception to this appears to have been  in Alsop-En-La-Dale because of  John Alsop (yes the name is a clue as to that particular gentleman’s authority within the place).  Alsop En La Dale is about five miles north of the market town of Ashbourne.  And it was here that Beccon discovered a kindred spirit. Not only did John Alsop show Beccon his prized Coverdale Bible, written by Miles Coverdale in 1535 being a translation of the Bible into English, but he also showed him his library which contained many reforming treatises including some of Beccon’ own works (obviously Beccon didn’t look like an arch-conservative in the pay of Gardiner):

In a little village called AIsop En Le Dale, I chanced upon a certain gentleman called Alsop, lord of that village, a man not only ancient in years, but also ripe in the knowledge of Christ’s doctrine. When we had saluted each other, and I had taken a sufficient repast, he showed me certain books, which he called his jewels and treasures. To repeat them all by name, I am not able, but of this I am sure, that there was the New Testament after the translation of that godly learned man. Miles Coverdale, which seemed to be as well worn by the diligent reading thereof as ever was any mass book among the Papists. In these godly books – I remember right well that he had many other godly books, as the Obedience of Christian Man, The Parable of the Wicked Mammon, The Revelation of Anti- Christ, The Sun of Holy Scripture, The Book of John Frith against Purgatory, &c. – this ancient gentleman, among the mountains and rocks, occupied himself both diligently and virtuously.

And on that cheerful note I’m off to occupy myself both diligently and virtuously cooking dinner!


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Filed under Sixteenth Century, The Tudors

Highead Castle and Thistlewood Tower

high head castlePele or peel towers are a peculiarity of the Anglo-Scottish borders. They came into existence in a medieval environment, largely during the Scottish Wars of Independence, when the population lived in fear of constant attack. Really and truly none should still be standing as when James VI of Scotland became James I of England he decreed that the borders should henceforth be known as the “Middle Shires” and that pele towers should be torn down. He also executed or deported men with the most notorious border surnames, both English and Scots, to drive his message home.


In essence a pele tower is a mini castle that is easily defendable. The large ones have a barmkin or yard enclosed by a wall or palisade of some description. In wealthier towers this would be stone in other locations it would be more of a thorny hedge like structure. The idea was that cattle could shelter in the barmkin whilst people sheltered in the tower that was usually several stories high and many feet thick. The basement room of a tower would be vaulted and used for storage. Often the original access to the living quarters of the tower would be through a hole in the vaulted ceiling via a ladder which could then be drawn up after the defenders.


I’ve long been familiar with the pele tower at Hutton-in-the Forest which is the home of Lord and Lady Inglewood. The original tower is now the joint of the two arms of the substantial manor house that grew in later centuries. However, it was during a walk near Ivegill that I encountered the remnants of two more pele towers.


Highead Castle can’t be seen from the road and I only glimpsed it through trees – a sort of red sandstone Cumbrian Sleeping Beauty affair. It began life as a pele tower and grew into something rather grander in 1550 when it was purchased by the Richmond family. This in its turn was remodeled during the Eighteenth Century to become a rather lovely Palladian house featuring eleven bays and a pediment not to mention rather a lot of carved ornamentation and Italianate balustrading. As is the way of these things the builders fell upon hard times and by the end of the nineteenth century the castle had changed hands yet again.


Unfortunately the castle caught fire in 1956 and was left a wreck. There was a plan to pull it down during the 1980s that came to nothing on account of local protest and since then renovation work has commenced. I hope that it will be a bit like a phoenix and eventually turn into a dwelling again as the ruins that I saw through the trees were rather beautiful.


The next pele tower on my walk rejoices in the rather lovely name of Thistlewood Tower. DSCF2764.jpgIt’s a two-storey tower with a vaulted undercroft and like some of the rather grander pele towers it was extended once England and Scotland ceased raiding one another and windows inserted – so technically it ceased being a fortification and turned into a rather grand farm house. In this instance the extension is a seventeenth century one.



The land around Thistlewood is first mention as being owned by John de Harcla, the brother of Sir Andrew de Harcla, who was executed for treason in Carlisle by Edward II. John suffered the same fate meaning that the land became Crown property by reason of the attainder against John.


In 1326 Ralph Dacre received tenure of the land and tower that stood on the site for a period of ten years but the following year it was granted to William L’Engles (there is a little bit of surname difficulty at this point as I think the name should be de Beaulieu) for life.   There then followed a legal wrangle between the new owner and the old tenant. In 1330 Dacre petitioned Parliament that he should be allowed to complete his tenure but clearly by 1358 Thomas de Beaulieu was extending the property to include a chapel and it is Thomas who is most often referenced in the Victorian secondary sources. The tower remained in de Beaulieu hands until the death of William de Beaulieu in 1434.


The tower passed once more into the hands of the Dacres where it remained until they finally blotted their copybooks once too often during the reign of Elizabeth I.


In 1568 Richard Dacre of Aikton and his family were accused of plotting at Thistlewood and Carlisle to aid Mary Queen of Scots. Richard was up to his neck in the middle of the Rising of the North along with his relation, a cousin of some kind, Leonard Dacre.


Leonard Dacre’s, the second son of the Fifth Lord Dacre, wrote a number of letters to Mary Queen of Scots who called him “Dacres with the croked back”. The Rising of the North is often seen as a catholic conspiracy but Leonard’s concerns were rather more prosaic. His nephew, the sixth lord though still a minor, had been killed in an accident in May 1569 with a vaulting horse in Norfolk where he was a ward of the Duke of Norfolk along with his three sisters. Unsurprisingly Thomas Howard, the fourth Duke of Norfolk, ensured that three of his sons married the three sisters and that the estates became part of the Howard empire. On 19th June that same year a court in Greenwich concluded that the title of the Baron Dacre of the North had ceased to exist and that, furthermore, the lands should be divided between the boy’s three sisters. Leonard believed that he should be the seventh Lord Dacre – and that meant getting the family loot as well as the title. Leonard was not amused. It should also be said that many of the border families allied themselves with Dacre because of the power of their name in a quasi-medieval society despite the fact that times were beginning to change – for a start many of them wrote to Cecil complaining about Thomas Howard’s management.

Essentially Leonard tried to play both sides of the game. He protested his loyalty to Elizabeth and in so doing settled old scores, was even commended in December 1569 for his actions against the rebels but he continued to play both sides of the field until he saw which way the wind was blowing. At the point where it became clear that Elizabeth’s forces would prevail he secured Naworth Castle as part of his estate, along with other Dacre strong holdings, and refused admittance to his fellow rebels who sought him out to provide a safe haven.


By this point everyone was suspicious of him including Lord Scrope who was the Warden of the West Marches based in Carlisle. On the 19th February 1570 Henry Carey Lord Hunsdon received a note from his cousin Queen Elizabeth I, who was nobody’s fool, ordering him to capture Dacre. On the following morning Hundson and Sir John Forster, the Warden of the Middle March rolled up with a large force of riders outside Naworth. Hunsdon realizing that he wasn’t prepared for a siege decided to press on to Carlisle to meet up with Lord Scope’s forces.

For reasons best known to himself Dacre followed along behind until the royal forces reached the banks of the River Gelt at which point he ordered his men to charge – the affair became known as the Battle of Gelt Bridge. According to sources Dacre had an army of 3000 borderers. He was defeated Hunsdon’s force which was approximately half the size of Dacre’s army.


Dacre fled into Scotland and from there to the Low Countries where he received a pension from Philip II of Spain and agitated for an invasion until he died in 1573.

Unsurprisingly the Dacre estates fell to the Crown by attainder, Thistlewood Tower tenanted by Richard Dacre of Aikton among them – meaning that it was once again Crown land.

These days it has been restored and is for sale once again.


In an aside it would appear that Richard’s son William who was married to the niece of the Bishop Edmund Grindal was also implicated in the rebellion. William was pardoned and settled in St Bees.

Rose Castle next I think.








Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Castles, Cumbria, Pele Towers, The Tudors

Mary Queen of Scots executes besotted suitor…

mary queen of scots aged 18Mary was widowed at just eighteen-years-old when her first husband, King Francois II of France died as the result of an abscess developing from an ear infection.  In order to continue the Stuart dynasty she needed to remarry.  Ultimately this led to arguments about the Crown Matrimonial – i.e. would her husband be allowed to rule if she died but in the short term there was the small matter of possible candidates for the job.

don carlosDon Carlos, son of Philip II of Spain had been mentioned whilst she was still in France. Aside from the fact that the young man was Philip’s heir there was also the issue of his mental health.  Ultimately he would be locked up by his father and die in 1568 after six months in a small room on his own. Mary Queen of Scots uncle, the Cardinal of Lorraine was less concerned about the sanity of Don Carlos than the power that the marriage would give to Philip II.

charles of austriaCharles, Archduke of Austria was identified as a suitable heir but Mary wasn’t keen. Charles would go on to negotiate for Elizabeth I’s hand.


Elizabeth I helpfully suggested a match that she felt might work – Sir Robert Dudley, her master of horse and alleged lover – not to mention participant in yet another conspiracy theory i.e. the deathRobert_Dudley_Leicester.jpg of his wife Amy Robsart in Abingdon in suspicious circumstances. Historians think that Amy had cancer but at the time her fall down some stairs looked rather a lot like the removal of one wife to make way for one with a crown. Elizabeth possibly thought that if Mary accepted Dudley that she could trust him to work in England’s interests or else she was being deliberately provocative. At any rate Dudley became the Earl of Leicester in a bid to be made to look more appealing.

And then there was Pierre de Chatelard or Chastelard.  He was a young french poet.  Essentially Pierre fell in love with the queen and she failed to spot that it wasn’t love of the courtly kind and consequentially encouraged him. This sounds slightly cruel but the concept of courtly love was that a man should express devotion to a woman beyond his reach – the whole thing reached new heights in the court of Elizabeth – think of Spencer’s Fairie Queen for example. In Scotland the misunderstanding between affectation of passion and passion itself went badly awry.  Pierre hid in Mary’s bedroom at Holyrood.  Fortunately he was discovered by Mary’s servants and booted out.  He was told to leave Scotland.

Pierre agreed that it was probably best if he returned to France – except he didn’t.  He followed Mary on a progress and at Rossend Castle, Pierre managed to get into her bedroom once more. On this occasion the queen was in situ and in a state of undress. Pierre accosted the queen and there was rather a lot of shouting and screaming, followed by the arrival of Lord Moray (James Stewart Mary’s illegitimate half-brother) who removed the offending frenchman, arresting him and locking him up in one of the castle’s dungeons.

Mary was so outraged by proceedings that she felt that de Chatelard should have been killed on the spot but Moray insisted that the poet be given a trial and executed in the market place at St Andrews which was where the court travelled from Rossend.

pierre de chastelard.jpg

The National Portrait Gallery collection contains the above image which dates from 1830 depicting the lovelorn de Chatelard playing the lute for Mary.


Filed under Mary Queen of Scots, Sixteenth Century