December 2 1542
Cromwell, for the time being on this blog is no longer with us, and in Henry’s world had had an unfortunate experience with an axe on 28 July 1540. Henry’s letters and papers show how things changed after the demise of his second great administrator – the Privy Council became an important administrative machine once more. The minutes are terse to put it mildly.
“Meeting at Hampton Court, 2 Dec. Present : Canterbury, Russell, Winchester, Westminster, Gage, Browne, Wingfield, Wriothesley. Business :Letter written to Sir Thos. Wentworth and Sir Hen. Savell to receive Scottish prisoners from the lord President.” Canterbury is, of course, Thomas Cranmer and Winchester is Stephen Gardener.
Sir Thomas Wentworth, Sixth Lord Despenser (not sure how the family got that title – I’m adding it to my list of ‘need to find out’) and First Baron Wentworth of Wentworth West Bretton in Yorkshire (although he was originally from Suffolk – the Suffolk property having been acquired by the Yorkshire Wentworths as part of a marital transaction) is the chap behind today’s metaphorical advent door. He and Jane Seymour, Henry’s third queen, were cousins. Margery Wentworth, his aunt, was Jane’s mother. Thomas’s son, inventively also named Thomas, would thrive under the rule of Edward VI and his Seymour relations.
But back to Sir Thomas – his own mother Anne Tyrell was the daughter of Sir James. For fans of historical whodunits, yes, that is the Sir James Tyrell suspected of the murder of the princes in the Tower – demonstrating yet again that the Tudor world was a small world. One of Sir Thomas’s sons-in-law was Sir Martin Frobisher the famous Elizabethan explorer.
Wentworth’s climb up the career ladder began with service in the household of the duke of Suffolk, Charles Brandon – who was of course married to the king’s sister – Princess Mary. It would appear, according to Brandon’s biographer that Wentworth was first recruited to Suffolk’s service in 1513 – meaning that young Wentworth was only about twelve at the time but he grew to become one of Suffolk’s most senior officers having been knighted by Brandon along with his cousin Edward Seymour in 1523. He would go on to serve as Edward VI’s Lord Chancellor as denoted by the white staff of office in his hand. The National Portrait Gallery notes suggest that this was added to the portrait after it had originally been painted.
Wentworth also became associated with the duke of Norfolk- so not so much a new man even though he was only raised to the peerage in 1529 (he succeeded his father to the Despenser title and the manor of Nettlestead upon his death in 1528) so much as an old one drawing on powerful connections to improve his ranking in the Tudor world of ‘Top Trumps’.
Despite his northern affiliations he remained loyal to Henry VIII during the 1536 Pilgrimage of Grace turning up to support the king with one hundred men in tow. He had already nailed his colours to the mast when he became one of the signatories of a letter asking Pope Clement VII to permit a divorce between Henry and Katherine of Aragon. He went on to be a noted reformer although interestingly he does not appear to have benefitted from the sale of the monasteries. According to Franklin-Harkrider, Miles Coverdale praised Wentworth for his godliness. This hadn’t stopped him being part of the jury that had condemned Anne Boleyn.
His loyalty was rewarded. He was at Edward VI’s christening; was part of the party that welcomed Anne of Cleeves and Henry even deigned to visit him at his home at Nettlestead in Suffolk that same year – with Catherine Howard.
But back to letter dated 2nd December 1542. There were apparently two hundred noble Scottish prisoners and approximately eight hundred from the massed ranks of Scottish hoi polloi in English hands following the Battle of Solway Moss which took place on the 24 November 1542. The most important of the Scottish prisoners were escorted to London by Wentworth and Saville where they arrived on the 19th of December suitably adorned with the cross of St Andrew. They were committed to the Tower for safekeeping until the 21st of December when they were paraded before the Lord Chancellor who chastised them on behalf of the king for their naughtiness in arriving with an armed force on England’s borders. Having been duly slapped around the back of the legs they were not returned to the Tower’s naughty step but having given their parole sent off to spend the festive season with assorted members of the nobility including the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk.
Franklin-Harkrider, Melissa. (2008) Women, Reform and Community in Early Modern England: Katherine Willoughby, duchess of Suffolk and Lincolnshire’s Godly Aristocracy, 1519-1580 (Studies in Modern British Religious History). Martlesham: Boydell Press
Gunn, Steven. (2015) Charles Brandon: Henry VIII’s Closest Friend . Stroud: Amberley Publishing
Keith, Robert (1735) History of the Affairs of Church and State in Scotland accessed from https://archive.org/details/historyofaffairs03keit (03 December 2016).
‘Henry VIII: December 1542, 1-10’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 17, 1542, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1900), pp. 643-655. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol17/pp643-655 [accessed 17 October 2016].