Tag Archives: Henry VI

Ralph Cromwell, Lord Treasurer…Mr Moneybags.

brass of cromwell.jpgRalph Cromwell, Lord Treasurer to Henry VI, built a castle from brick in Lincolnshire complete with turrets, winding stair cases and baronial fireplaces. So who was he and what was so special about his castle and his other estates?

He was born sometime in the region of 1394 in Nottinghamshire at Lambley. He went to France as part of the duke of Clarence’s retinue in 1412. He was knighted by Henry V after Agincourt which took place on the 25th October 1415 – St Crispin’s Day for fans of Shakespeare. By 1417 Cromwell was on the rise in English Normandy.  He was one of the men who helped King Henry V to agree the Treaty of Troyes in 1420 which married Henry V off to Katherine of Valois and which would have made Henry king of France as well as England had he survived the rigours of the campaign. Later Cromwell would be sent to France to witness the execution of Joan of Arc.

By 1422 Cromwell had become sufficiently influential to gain a place on Henry VI’s regency council.  He appears to have been part of Cardinal Beaufort’s faction.  This is best demonstrated by the fact that from 1431-32 he served as Henry VI’s chamberlain.  The duke of Gloucester (or Good Duke Humphrey who I have posted about before) was overseas at the time.  As soon as Gloucester returned, Cromwell was issued with the medieval equivalent of his P45.

Henry VI’s other uncle, the duke of Bedford, appointed him treasurer of England in 1433.  He would go on to be the longest serving treasurer for almost a century. Of course, nothing is straight forward and the political factions of the time made life interesting on occasion.  The first thing he did was to tell Parliament about the king’s finances. The Crown was in debt to a tune of £168,000 and there was an annual hole of  £22,000 to also take into consideration.  Essentially Cromwell knew that Parliament needed to vote the Crown taxes but the problem was that Parliament voted taxes in times of warfare.  At other times the monarch was supposed to “live of his own.” In 1443 he retired on health grounds – but continued behaving has Lord Treasurer.  As the 1440s drew on he was increasingly hostile to William de la Pole, the duke of Suffolk and royal favourite.

In 1449 one of the duke’s henchmen attempted to assassinate him at Westminster.  William Tailbois escaped justice because the duke protected him. Ultimately the duke of Suffolk fell from power, was incarcerated in the Tower before being banished and then murdered. Worcester claims that it was Cromwell who instigated the impeachment against De la Pole. Tailbois was then briefly imprisoned for his role in trying to kill Cromwell and also fined. Just as an aside for those of you who like to know these things Tailbois can be spelled Tailboys or Talboys. Tailbois was a loyal Lancastrian and he would end up fleeing to Scotland in 1461 with Margaret of Anjou in the aftermath of Towton.  He would be a thorn in the Yorkist side until 1464 when he fought at Hexham, survived the battle only to be found and taken to newcastle where he was executed.

But back to the main thread of this post. It should  be mentioned that by 1449 the Crown debt had risen to a whopping £372,000.  Cromwell resigned.  This did not stop him, according to William of Worcester, travelling with a retinue of a hundred men. He was also appointed to a new job – Constable of Nottingham Castle.

As the 1450s dawned, Cromwell found himself charged with causing the problems which led to the first Battle of St Albans in May 1455. To be fair, his accusers had a point. William of Worcester recounts the fact that Cromwell’s niece was married to Thomas Neville in 1453.  Thomas Neville was a younger son of Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury (Thomas, if you want further clarification was the Kingmaker’s little brother).  The bride was Maud Stanhope, Lady Willoughby. The incident appears in almost every publication about the events that led to the outbreak of fighting. Neville and Thomas Percy (Lord Egremont) were in mid feud at the time and it didn’t help that Cromwell had possession of rather a lot of Percy land.  The land had been forfeited because of the Percies involvement in rebellions against Henry IV – but they had long memories with regard to what they owned. The marriage between Maud and Thomas meant that the confiscated Percy land was ultimately going to end up in Neville hands. It went down like a lead balloon with Egremont who didn’t much like the groom in any event.  The wedding was set for the 24th August 1453.  The bridal party had to cross he worth Moor to reach Sherif Hutton.  Percy, his brother Richard and John Clifford (heir of Lord Clifford) made their plans.  In excess of a 1000 men attacked the wedding party on the moor. It wasn’t much more than a skirmish as no one was actually killed but it didn’t help relieve the tension.  It was, in fact, one of the sparks that led to war with the Duke of York taking sides with Neville, the Duke of Exeter with Percy.

Cromwell by this time had joined forces with the Duke of York although the Paston letters state that Cromwell did not arrive in time to take part in the first Battle of St. Albans.  As a result he was regarded with suspicion and even accused of treason by Warwick.

On a personal level the year was further clouded by the fact that Margaret died in the autumn of 1455 without any children.  There was no one other than his nieces, who now became co-heiresses, to leave his vast estates and wealth.

Tattershall CastleCromwell’s finances were in rather better shape than the monarch’s.  He made a good marriage (unlike Henry VI who married in return for peace but lost Maine and gained no dowry in the process much to the average Englishman’s disgust.  Henry VI even had to pawn the crown jewels to pay for the wedding.)  Cromwell’s wife was Margaret, Lady Deincourt – conveniently a wealthy co-heiress in her own right.  Tattershall Castle was his main residence which he inherited in 1419 but he owned the manor of South Wingfield in Derbyshire; Collyweston in Northamptonshire; Wymondham in Norfolk (hence the Paston interest) and had a quarrel with the duke of Exeter over the lordship of Ampthill in Bedfordshire and was involved as patron of the Foljambes of Walton near Chesterfield in a dispute about the Heriz inheritance that led to the murder of  Sir Henry Pierpoint’s brother-in-law in the church at Chesterfield. Cromwell, it should be noted, had a number of property disputes on the boil during his lengthy career.

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One of particular note is that between Cromwell and Sir John Gra of North Ingleby (Lincolnshire). Essentially Gra had borrowed money from a range of people and had difficulty paying them back.  As was standard practise in return for a loan Gra effectively mortgaged his land. If the money was not all paid back by a specified day the land became the property of the lender. Cromwell, it should be added had a bit of a reputation for taking property on mortgage, or buying out a mortgage so that the debtor owed him the money rather than the original lender. He also had a reputation  for  not returning land when the loan was repaid even if it was repaid on time.   Anyway, in 1430 Gra had mortgaged Multon Hall in Lincolnshire to Thomas Morstead for a period of ten years.  In 1434 Cromwell purchased the debt from Morstead and took possession of Multon Hall.  Basically, as Richmond comments the Lord Treasurer of England was a loan shark.  Somehow or other Sir John Gra paid the money back in 1347 at St Paul’s Cathedral – so there could be no doubting that the debt had been repaid but the terms had changed with the change of lender.  Cromwell did not return the hall.  He noted that other promises had been made and they had not been fulfilled. The case went to the courts and completely unsurprisingly the important Lord Cromwell received judgement in his favour.  As though that weren’t bad enough Gra’s wife Margaret was not only estranged from her husband but had over time turned into an heiress. If she had children her inheritance would pass to them, if not the inheritance would revert in part down the family line – to none other than Ralph Cromwell.

Part of Margaret Gra’s inheritance was South Wingfield.  Gra was awarded a life interest in this property amongst others including the manors of nearby Tibshelf and Crich. He was also ordered to treat his wife with respect. Just before Gra’s wife died they appear to have been reconciled or at least to have reached an understanding. She made a will that left everything outright to her husband unfortunately for Gra it wasn’t legal.   The person he would have to contest ownership with was none other than Lord Ralph Cromwell.  The case went to court. The case is known as the Bellars Inheritance. Gra did not have the money for a protracted legal battle, nor was the law on his side, so settled out of court for forty marks a year.

Cromwell remodelled South Wingfield, turning it from a castle into a manor house surrounding a courtyard. There is an extensive account about its construction in the Archeological Journal (1985) by Emery. The rebuild was just a small part of an extensive building programme.  In 1439 Cromwell was given permission to create a collegiate church for the training of priests in Tattershall and to remodel the castle. The keep and moat of Tattershall is all that is left today along with a gatehouse and the footprint of a jousting ground. The fireplaces boast the Cromwell arms – of a well stuffed money bag.  His motto in French translates as “Have I not the right?” William of Worcester noted  “that the household consisted of a hundred persons.”  The cost of such a large household was about £5000 a year. The tower dominated the landscape and once inside the building petitioners would have to climb a winding stair case before walking the length of a corridor with an impressive vaulted ceiling before gaining admittance to the Great Hall.

 

He died on the 4th January 1456 probably at Collyweston, though South Wingfield  does get a mention but is buried at Tattershall in the collegiate church of Holy Trinity opposite the alms houses that he had built. He and his wife were childless so Cromwell’s estates ultimately reverted to the Crown.  Amongst his other works of family or piety depending upon your viewpoint was having the church at Lambley rebuilt along with a chantry chapel for his parents and grandparents.

Cromwell’s brass, pictured at the start of the post,  is difficult to see as it has to be  protected from the bats which in inhabit the church.

 

Hicks, Michael. (1991) Who’s Who in Late Medieval England. London: Shepherd-Walwyn.

Richmond, Colin. John Hopton: A Fifteenth Century Suffolk Gentleman

 

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Henry Stafford

478px-Lady_Margaret_Beaufort_from_NPGIn 1457 Margaret Beaufort, shown here in later life, along with her brother-in-law Jasper Tudor left Pembroke Castle.  They were on their way to arrange a marriage. The groom in question was Henry Stafford.  He was the second son of the Duke of Buckingham.

The pair married on the 3rd January 1458 at Maxstowe Castle. The marriage had been agreed by April at the latest the previous year but there was the inevitable dispensation to apply for and besides which Margaret possibly didn’t want to hurry the match because when she started married life as Mrs Stafford she relinquished the care of her infant son, Henry, into the care of Jasper Tudor.

Henry was twenty years or so older than Margaret who was nearly fifteen when she married for the third time. This means that Henry was born in 1425 (ish).  He was a second son of Ann Neville (daughter of Joan Beaufort- only daughter of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford for those of you who are interested in these things- and Ralph Neville- earl of Westmorland).  We don’t no the exact date or place of his birth, without much in the way of titles or estate but what he did have was a powerful father, the Duke of Buckingham.  Margaret’s wealth would keep the couple very comfortably- both of them seem to have liked expensive clothes if the household accounts are anything to go by but it was Stafford’s father who would keep Margaret safe.

Household accounts and personal letters show that the marriage was a happy one. The couple travelled together and appear to have always celebrated their wedding anniversary – which was not standard practise. Margaret began to fast on St Athony Abbott’s day.  He was the patron saint of people who suffered from skin complaints and it would seem that Henry Stafford suffered from St Anthony’s Fire. She continued to venerate the saint after Henry’s death, again suggesting that the couple had a loving relationship according to Elizabeth Norton.

 

Henry fought at the Battle of Towton on the Lancastrian side but was pardoned by Edward IV on 25 June 1461 and then demonstrated loyalty to the house of York. Five years later, although he never became more than a knight suggesting that Edward IV possibly didn’t totally trust the Staffords, given who Margaret Beaufort was this isn’t entirely surprising, gave the couple Woking Old Hall as a hunting lodge. It became one of the Staffords’ favourite homes.  In December 1468 Edward IV  visited Old Woking Hall to hunt and to dine with Henry and Margaret.

 

Meanwhile the household accounts reveal that Henry suffered from poor health through out the period.  He sent to London for medicines frequently.  “St Anthony’s Fire” or erysipelas was believed at the time to be a variety of leprosy but is now understood to be a form of alkaline poisoning sometimes caused by ergot (the stuff in bread that caused folk to hallucinate).  In addition to an unpleasant rash  Henry would also have suffered from a burning sensation in his hands and feet.

This didn’t stop him from fulfilling his role as a medieval noble. He took part in jousts and battles. In a rather tense family situation he was with Edward IV on 12 March 1470 at the Battle of Losecoat Field. The Lancastrian forces were led by Sir Robert, Lord Wells who just happened to be Margaret Beaufort’s stepbrother. The Lancastrians were defeated and it fell to Henry to break the news to his mother-in-law Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe by that time Lady Welles that her step-son had been executed (bet that was a cheery conversation).

During Henry VI’s re-adaption (1470-71) Margaret Beaufort was reunited with her brother-in-law Jasper Tudor and her son Henry Tudor. She travelled to London, met with Henry VI and forwarded her son’s cause. In order words she demonstrated that aside from being a devoted mother that she was Lancastrian to the core. This may have caused some disagreement with Henry Stafford who remained loyal to the Yorkist cause even when he was visited by the Duke of Somerset in a bid to win his cousin-in-law over to the Lancastrian cause.

On 12 April 1471 Henry Stafford was in London, where he’d previously attended parliament,  to welcome Edward IV back to his capital.  He joined Edward at the Battle of Barnet on the 18 April. The Earl of Warwick was killed but Stafford was so badly wounded that he was sent home. Henry never recovered from his injuries.  He lingered another six months before dying on 4 October 1471 having made his will two days earlier.

In his will he bequeathed thirty shillings to the Parish Church at Old Woking, a set of velvet horse trappings to his stepson, Henry Tudor suggesting a fondness for the young earl of Richmond.  Stafford had been with Margaret when they visited the Herbert family who held Henry Tudor’s wardship during the first years of Edward IV’s reign (bought for the whopping sum of £1000). The couple had travelled from Bristol where Henry Stafford held land.  There was a bay courser to his brother, the Earl of Wiltshire, another “grizzled” horse  to his receiver-general, Reginald Bray who would go on to become Margaret Beaufort’s “Mr Fix-it” and general man of business.  £160 for a chantry priest- a respectable one- to sing Masses for the repose of his soul.  His body was buried in Holy Trinity Church, Pleshey near Chelmsford. The rest of his estate went to “my beloved Margaret”.

Margaret Beaufort must have been devastated. In addition to losing a husband that she appears to have loved, her son, now the only surviving Lancastrian claimant to the throne, had gone into precarious exile in France and Margaret was once again without a protector.

Norton, Elizabeth. (2011) Margaret Beaufort: Mother of the Tudor Dynasty Stroud:Amberley Press.

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John de la Pole, 2nd duke of Suffolk, the trimming duke and father of “white roses.”

john de la pole + elizabeth of york.jpgJohn de la Pole born in 1442 was the only son of William de la Pole, earl and then duke of Norfolk and Alice Chaucer, granddaughter of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer. William de la Pole was Henry VI’s key adviser during the 1440s. It was he who arranged the marriage between Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou in a bid to bring the Hundred Years War to an end, on Henry’s orders it should be added – it didn’t end the war with the French and it didn’t make William popular with the English who blamed him for a French bride who had no dowry but who had cost England large areas of France: Maine and Anjou. It probably didn’t help that he was descended from a Hull wool merchant rather than being tied by blood to the ruling families.

 

John de la Pole is technically Margaret Beaufort’s first husband, though it is doubtfully that she recognised that she’d ever been married to him. John’s part in Margaret Beaufort’s story starts with Margaret’s father John Beaufort duke of Somerset. In 1443 an army was sent to Gascony, at that time in English hands, to defend it against the French. The person in charge was John Beaufort. It was a bit of an odd choice given Beaufort’s lack of experience and certainly Richard of York who was a proven commander wasn’t best pleased. John was probably selected because he wasn’t Richard of York and because he was part of the Lancastrian royal family. There was also the fact that after seventeen years as a hostage in France following the disastrous Battle of Bauge that Beaufort, although not entirely at ease with the idea of being in charge of the whole affair, was quite keen on garnering some loot so that he could do something about his fortune which had suffered due to the ransom that had been paid for his release.

Suffice it to say things didn’t go very well. For a start Somerset ravaged parts of Brittany. This was not good. The Duke of Brittany was an ally of the English so didn’t appreciate having to pay a hefty tribute to Somerset. Ultimately Somerset was ordered home where he died less than a year after the birth of his only legitimate child Margaret Beaufort. The causes of his death on 27 May 1444 are a bit vague but popular history identifies him as a suicide.

Prior to going to France Somerset arranged with the king that should anything happen to him that his infant daughter should be given into the custody of his wife Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe. This had the two-fold advantage of keeping mother and child together and ensuring that Beaufort’s lands and revenue weren’t depleted during Margaret’s minority as was often the case when a child was handed over as a ward to another noble family. Unfortunately for John Beaufort, kings and politicians are prone to reneging on their word particularly when the chap they’ve made the agreement with in the first place has had a bit of a disastrous tenure of office.

 

Margaret, as a great heiress, automatically became a ward of the Crown upon her father’s death. She was also, whilst the king had no children of his own, a candidate for the throne. Whoever had possession of the child had possession of wealth which could be accrued permanently through marriage and of political power at a time when politics was essentially a family affair. Henry VI gave the matter some thought then promptly handed Margaret over to William de la Pole, earl then duke of Suffolk and Henry’s key adviser:

For asmoche as oure Cousin the Duc of Somerset is nowe late passed to Goddes mercy, the whiche hath a doughter and heir to succede after hym of ful tender age called Margarete, We, considering the notable services that oure Cousin therl of Suffolk hath doon unto us . . . have . . . graunted unto hym to have the warde and marriage of the said Margarete withouten enything therfore unto us or oure heires yelding.

 

It was normal for wards to be raised in the homes of their guardians but perhaps Henry VI didn’t entirely go back on his word in that Margaret was raised by her mother who remarried to Lionel, Lord Welles. Maraget’s childhood was spent in the company of her extended family of half-siblings the St Olivers.

 

Meanwhile, following the death of Cardinal Beaufort, Henry VI’s great uncle in 1447, Suffolk tightened his grip on the political affairs of the English court. The death of Cardinal Beaufort was followed by the arrest of Humphrey, duke of Gloucester (Good Duke Humphrey). Humphrey’s political ambitions had been firmly squashed when his wife Eleanor Cobham had been condemned as a witch but he remained popular with ordinary people and his death soon after his arrest was treated with suspicion – fingers pointing in the direction of Suffolk.

 

The wheel of fortune creaked on its circuit. Suffolk was incredibly powerful but heartily disliked not least by Richard, duke of York who believed that it should be he and not Suffolk who had the king’s ear. Matters didn’t improve as the conflict in France deteriorated still further. Edmund Beaufort (John Beaufort’s younger brother) managed to lose Normandy. Beaufort was one of Suffolk’s allies. Suffolk was once again tarred with the brush of English defeat in France.

 

Suffolk’s son John was eight by this time. Suffolk decided that the best thing that he could do to retrieve the situation would be to marry John to Margaret a.s.a.p. He would gain access to Beaufort support and shore up his position – so he thought. The marriage in itself wasn’t unusual, there are plenty of examples of babies, both royal and noble, being contracted in marriage during the medieval period and later. Because the two of them were related a papal dispensation was required. This arrived after the marriage had been celebrated. Unfortunately it was politically disastrous union for the duke.

 

Suffolk found himself under arrest on the 28 January 1450. Parliament attainted Suffolk of treason arguing that he’d only married his son to Margaret to steal the throne and that further more he was going to get the French to invade to make it happen all the sooner. Clearly this was nonsense but Henry VI was too weak to save his friend from the attainder of treason and its consequences. The best he could manage was to have the inevitable execution reduced to banishment.

 

Suffolk wrote a letter to John the night before he was due to be exiled, exhorting the boy to obey the king and his mother in all things:

 

My dear and only well-beloved son, I beseech our Lord in Heaven, the Maker of all the World, to bless you, and to send you ever grace to love him, and to dread him, to the which, as far as a father may charge his child, I both charge you, and pray you to set all your spirits and wits to do, and to know his holy laws and commandments, by the which ye shall, with his great mercy, pass all the great tempests and troubles of this wretched world.

And that also, weetingly, ye do nothing for love nor dread of any earthly creature that should displease him. And there as any frailty maketh you to fall, beseech his mercy soon to call you to him again with repentance, satisfaction, and contrition of your heart, never more in will to offend him.

Secondly, next him above all earthly things, to be true liegeman in heart, in will, in thought, in deed, unto the king our aldermost high and dread sovereign lord, to whom both ye and I be so much bound to; charging you as father can and may, rather to die than to be the contrary, or to know anything that were against the welfare or prosperity of his most royal person, but that as far as your body and life may stretch ye live and die to defend it, and to let his highness have knowledge thereof in all the haste ye can.

Thirdly, in the same wise, I charge you, my dear son, alway as ye be bounden by the commandment of God to do, to love, to worship, your lady and mother; and also that ye obey alway her commandments, and to believe her counsels and advices in all your works, the which dread not but shall be best and truest to you. And if any other body would steer you to the contrary, to flee the counsel in any wise, for ye shall find it naught and evil.

Furthermore, as far as father may and can, I charge you in any wise to flee the company and counsel of proud men, of covetous men, and of flattering men, the more especially and mightily to withstand them, and not to draw nor to meddle with them, with all your might and power; and to draw to you and to your company good and virtuous men, and such as be of good conversation, and of truth, and by them shall ye never be deceived nor repent you of.

Moreover, never follow your own wit in nowise, but in all your works, of such folks as I write of above, ask your advice and counsel, and doing thus, with the mercy of God, ye shall do right well, and live in right much worship, and great heart’s rest and ease.

And I will be to you as good lord and father as my heart can think.

And last of all, as heartily and as lovingly as ever father blessed his child in earth, I give you the blessing of Our Lord and of me, which of his infinite mercy increase you in all virtue and good living; and that your blood may by his grace from kindred to kindred multiply in this earth to his service, in such wise as after the departing from this wretched world here, ye and they may glorify him eternally amongst his angels in heaven.

Written of mine hand,

The day of my departing fro this land.

Your true and loving father

 

Suffolk was duly placed on a ship and sent on his merry way. Unfortunately for him the Nicholas of the Tower halted his vessel mid-channel. The greeting Suffolk got when he was transferred boat was ominous – “Welcome traitor,” He was then beheaded with a rusty sword. It took six blows. His body was discovered, along with his head on a pole, on a Dover beach on the morning of 2nd May 1450.

 

John should now have become the second duke of Suffolk– except attainder specifically excluded the attainted man’s family from title or estate, the idea being that the traitor’s blood had corrupted his family, not to mention it being a huge disincentive for actually being treasonous.

 

John’s marriage to Margaret Beaufort was annulled in February 1453 so that Henry VI could marry Margaret off to his half brother Edmund Tudor who along with his brother had been drawn into the royal family and given a more prominent role. This was likely to have something to do with Henry’s lack of children- it could be interpreted as strengthening a Lancastrian claim- as well as a desire to ensure that his half brother’s had money to go alongside their status.

 

By 1458 John de la Pole was married to Elizabeth, the daughter of Richard of York – a fact that would plague the de la Pole family throughout the Tudor period. The marriage reflects John’s political affiliations. Although Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou continued to show favour to Suffolk’s family they were not in a position to establish his son as the second duke. It was Edward IV who re-established the title for the benefit of his brother-in-law through letters patent in 1463. Under the Yorkist dynasty John became Constable of Wallingford Castle and High Steward of Oxford University as well as a knight of the garter. John’s own eldest son, also John (first earl of Lincoln), was identified as Richard III’s heir.

 

In total John and Elizabeth had eleven children, several of whom died young.

 

John fought for his brother-in-law at Bosworth but in the aftermath of the battle submitted to Henry VII and continued to serve the Tudors loyally until his death in 1492 even though his son John rebelled against Henry and was killed at the Battle of Stoke in 1487 – John de la Pole, second duke of Suffolk had, after all, leant at a very early age that the consequences of irritating the people in power tends to be deeply unpleasant. As a consequence he is sometimes known as “The Trimming Duke.” The same can not be said of his own sons who would spend their lives as potential white rose heirs to the throne of England and die accordingly.

 

He and Elizabeth of York are buried at Wingfield Church in Suffolk. Wingfield Castle was one of the de la Pole possesisons.

Norton, Elizabeth. (2011) Margaret Beaufort. Stroud: Amberley Press

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Thomas, Lord Roos

lroosThe name of Lord Roos crops up with monotonous regularity during the Wars of the Roses between 1460 until 1464’s Battle of Hexham.  Unfortunately he was caught skulking in the aftermath of Lancastrian defeat and executed.

So, who exactly was he.  Thomas, Lord Roos or de Ros was the ninth baron of that particular title.  One of his ancestors was one of the signatories of the Magna Carta.  Our Thomas inherited the title from his father when he was just four years old. His mother, Eleanor,  was a daughter of the Earl of Warwick – the one who was responsible for educating the young king Henry VI. After Roos Senior’s demise Eleanor married Edmund Beaufort, the second Duke of  Somerset (he’s the younger Beaufort brother who wanted to marry the widowed Katherine of Valois but the Duke of Gloucester put a spanner in the works passing a law stating that Katherine would need her son’s permission when he came of age and if any marrying went on before then that all the new spouses lands and titles would be forfeit – which put Edmund off the idea somewhat).  Feeling light headed?  If nothing else, take away from this pedigree that Lord Roos was deeply Lancastrian through political affiliation, blood lines and loyalty not least because Henry VI favoured young Thomas with various tax reliefs and grants of land.

 

Lord Roos was in command of the Lancastrian left flank on the Wakefield side of the Lancastrian army with Lord Clifford holding the centre and the earl of Wiltshire holding the Lancastrian right flank.  Richard of York left Sandal Castle and came down onto open ground thinking that he outnumbered the Lancastrians who gave ground in the first instance which drew the Yorkists still further into the waiting trap.  Unfortunately the Lancastrian left and right flank were concealed and so Richard did not realise his error. They now emerged, cutting off his retreat and in Edward Hall’s words “catching him like a fish in a net.” Hall is not a reliable chronicler being heavy on Tudor spin but he does have an unexpected link to the events at Wakefield, his grandfather Sir Davy Hall was a loyal servant of York and he had advised caution during the Yorkist council of war – i.e. staying firmly behind Sandal’s wall and awaiting substantial reinforcements.  In the event Sir Davy Hall died at Wakefield along with approximately 3,000 other men – 2,600 ish Yorkists and 200 Lancastrians.

As for Lord Roos, well Fortune’s wheel turns, albeit slowly and one of his descendants became the Earl of Rutland during the reign of Henry VIII – which is rather ironic given that Richard of York’s son Edmund, who was killed during his flight from the battle by Lord Clifford, held the title Earl of Rutland.

 

The double banner at the top of this post depicts his arms.  The charge of which are apparently three water bougets on a red or “gules” background.  A bouget or budget for those of you who feel the need to know is a leather bag on a pole or yoke used to carry water (thank you my very old Oxford English Dictionary).  Double click on the image to open up a rather marvellous web page depicting if not all, most, banners that could be found on the various battle fields of the Wars of the Roses.

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Henry VI – King of France and his bishop of Bath and Wells

images-9On this day, December 16th 1431 nine-year-old King Henry VI of England was crowned King of France in the Notre Dame de Paris succeeding his maternal grandfather, the English claimed, through right of his father’s (Henry V) victory at the Battle of Agincourt.  The Treaty  of Troyes- or ‘final peace’- that resulted from the victory saw Henry V married to Katherine of Valois, the daughter of King Charles VI, and nominated King of France once Charles VI died, a treaty that by-passed Charles’ son also called Charles and which left the french somewhat out of sorts with themselves.

However,  Henry V died in August 1422 from dysentry leaving his infant son to ascend to the English throne and Henry’s brother the duke of Bedford nominated as regent in France with the job of keeping the french in line which proved rather difficult once Joan of Arc offered her own inspiration to the campaign.

The party that arrived in France to crown Henry V’s son in 1430 – a whole year before the coronation- included three bishops, one of whom was John Stafford, Bishop of Bath and Wells. For a more detailed description of the coronation and the politics surrounding it click on the image at the start of the post to open a new page.

Stafford is a famous name in late medieval history and the Bishop of Bath and Wells was related to the duke of Buckingham – possibly on the wrong side of the blanket, though the evidence is flimsy.  His patron was Cardinal Beaufort the king’s great uncle.  He became Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1424.  By 1443 Stafford rose to the rank of Archbishop of Canterbury, in all probability a reward for his work as Lord Chancellor.  He held the post until 1452 when he died. He seems to have held fast to Beaufort’s policies which made him a figure of continuity in English politics at the time and thus of stability.

Stafford was a moderate man who helped maintain the balance of Henry VI’s court.  Although he supported the hugely unpopular William de la Pole, earl of Suffolk who managed to get himself banished and then murdered (1450), Stafford did not get tarred with the same brush. In the aftermath of Cade’s rebellion which stemmed partially from Kentish fears of being held responsible for de la Pole’s death the archbishop was found in Kent investigating the rebellion and trying the rebels. Stubbs in his Constitutional History said of the bishop Bishop Stubbs- ‘if he had done little good he had done no harm’ – hardly a ringing endorsement.

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Sir James Luttrell of Dunster

arms of luttrell.jpgFirst of all apologies to all those of you who spotted the typo yesterday and thank you for your patience.  I did, of course, mean that James II succeeded to the throne of his brother Charles II but rather unfortunately lost one of the ones in my text.

So, here we are – the 10th December. In 1520 Martin Luther was busy burning papal bulls.  Twenty one years later Frances Dereham would pay for his life for the crime of seducing a girl who would one day be queen of England.  His companion in death, Thomas Culpeper was paying for adultery with the queen – Katherine Howard.  More positively the first Nobel Prize was awarded on the 10th December 1901.

Which leaves us with today’s face – Sir James Luttrell of Dunster Castle, in Somerset though the action takes place in Yorkshire. Sir James was born in approximately 1427.  His father’s early death left James as a ward of the Crown.  In this instance rather than being handed over to the highest bidder who would then strip the assets and marry the child off to best advantage the king and his privy council committed the lands of Dunster into the care of the Bishop of Bath and Wells (John Stafford) who was a family friend along with the bishop’s brother (Humphrey Stafford – eventually the duke of Buckingham) and also James’ cousin Sir Philip Courtney.

elizabeth-luttrellInevitably marriage was on the mind of James’ guardians and it probably comes as no surprise that the family was careful to maximise its holdings over the lands that it held. James would marry Sir Philip’s daughter Elizabeth.  Land was so important to the Luttrells that James would be involved in a wrangle that allegedly resolved itself into murder  when he reached his majority though this was proved to be a device to bring the affair to the attention of the courts (I’ll post about this in the New Year).

On the national stage a larger wrangle for land and power was beginning to simmer.  Richard of York returned from Ireland in the autumn of 1460.  He thought that he would take the throne from his cousin Henry VI yet when he arrived in London and laid a hand upon the throne he was not met with popular acclaim but with silence. Negotiations followed. On the 24 october 1460 an agreement was reached. Henry VI effectively disinherited his own son allowing that following his death it would be Richard who was crowned rather than Prince Edward.  Unsurprisingly his wife, the mother of Prince Edward, Margaret of Anjou was not amused.  Richard had to settle for his role as protector but in Yorkshire the Yorkists began to harry the lands of York and the earl of Salisbury.

Richard of York went north with the earl of Salisbury on the 9th December.  Their plan was to sort out the pesky Lancastrians and then carry on to the borders where the Scots were also being a bit of a nuisance.

 

Luttrell, a loyal Lancastrian, marched after Richard on the 10th.  His forces skirmished with Richard of York prior to his arrival at Sandal.  Richard settled into Sandal Castle for the festive season as his enemies gathered on his doorstep on the 21st December.   On the 30th December in the aftermath of Wakefield James was knighted by the duke of Suffolk.  Seven weeks later Sir James was badly wounded at the Second Battle of St Albans, dying five days later.

Within a week of Edward IV winning the throne the widow and children of Sir James felt the wrath of the House of York for  Sir James’ involvement with the death of Richard of York. In simple terms, Edward had them kicked out of Dunster and seized all their possessions.  Sir James was named as a rebel by the Parliament of 1461:

with grete despite and 
cruell violence, horrible and unmanly tyrannye 
murdered the late Duke of York at Wakefield, and 
who were consequently to " stand and be convycted 
and attainted of high treason, and forfett to the King 
and his heires all the castles, maners " and other lands 
of which they were or had been possessed.

This seems rather unfair given that Luttrell had served the House of Lancaster loyally as his family had all done since the days of John of Gaunt. Edward’s commissioners even seized Elizabeth’s dower lands which were hers rather than her husbands. The Luttrells were being made an example of. In 1463 Dunster was granted to Sir William Herbert, the same Sir William who would replace Jasper Tudor as earl of Pembroke and hold the wardship of young Henry Tudor.

 

http://www.archive.org/stream/historyofdunster01lyte/historyofdunster01lyte_djvu.txt (accessed 10 December 2016)

 

 

 

 

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Eustace Chapuys – Imperial Ambassador

chapuys1533 was a momentus one for Henry. He married Anne Boleyn, Cranmer annulled his marriage to Katherine of Aragon and in September there was the birth of another princess– Elizabeth. Anne had promised Henry a boy which was a tad silly of her. History knows that she fell pregnant on three more occasions and miscarried at least one male sealing her own fate in 1536.

 

However that was all in the future on December 6th 1533 when Eustace Chapuys the Imperial Ambassador wrote a long letter to Charles V (Katherine’s nephew and at various times affianced to Princess Mary -Henry VIII’s sister- and also to Princess Mary- Henry VIII’s daughter). Chapuys’ letter from today remains in the archives of Vienna. Here is an extract that relates to the legitimacy of Princess Mary:

 

On St. Andrew’s eve, the King, who, for a month past, ought to have made or sent me an answer for what reason he claimed to deprive the Princess of her title, legitimacy, and primogeniture, sent to me by Norfolk and Cromwell to say that he would like to be informed by them of what I wished to say both on that matter and in what concerned the Queen ; and this he did, not to refuse or delay the audience, which he was very willing to give me, whenever I liked, but in order to take advice upon the subject.

And having made several remonstrances to them that the King could not allege illegitimacy, or deprive the Princess of her title, they replied that my arguments might be true and well founded in civil law, which had no force here, but that the laws of this kingdom were quite otherwise. But on showing them that I rested my argument only upon the decision of the canon law, which in a spiritual matter no prince’s decree could prejudice, they knew not what to reply, except that they would report it to the King, and afterwards declare to me his intention. This they have not yet done, although he has held almost daily consultations, to which several learned canonists have been called. As regards the Queen, viz., the agreement proposed by the Pope, they said that formerly it had been under consideration, but that since sentence had been lawfully given by the archbishop of Canterbury, they thought the King would not expressly or tacitly do anything prejudicial to the said sentence, as it concerned his own honor and the interest of his new born daughter, especially as she was already declared Princess, and that if all the ambassadors in the world were to come, or even the Pope himself, they could not persuade the King otherwise.

 

And there it is neatly summed up by Eustace – it didn’t matter to Henry what anyone else might think, he had too much invested in his new marriage and family for any form of backtracking.

 

So, our face of today is Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial Ambassador whose words inform us about many of the events in Henry VIII’s world where he arrived in 1529 having had a career in the imperial diplomatic service following his education in law at Turin University and acceptance into holy orders.

 

He was sent to England by Charles V to replace the previous ambassador Mendoza with the specific aim of supporting Katherine of Aragon during her marital difficulties. The diplomatic relationship turned into one of genuine affection. It was Chapuys who made a last visit to her bedside as Katherine lay dying. Chapuys describes Katherine’s nemesis as “the Concubine” and “the whore.”  If he was required to be polite he referred to her as “the Lady.” It doesn’t take much imagination to identify the way he talked about the infant Princess Elizabeth.  Chapuys refused to meet Anne until Henry orchestrated a meeting  just before her fall in 1536.

Chapuys had reason to dislike Anne. He counted Sir Thomas More amongst his friends and he remained loyal to Princess Mary throughout his life.

 

Chapuys remained in England until 1545 where he didn’t always win friends and influence people. Lord Paget described him as a liar who would be able to hold his own in a court of vipers (he must have fitted right in).

When he retired from diplomatic life/spying he returned to Louvain where he originally came from and founded two centers of education.

 

He died in 1556 having done much to influence the way history would perceive Henry and his wives because of his lengthy correspondence with Charles V. It is from Chapuys that we get all the gossip, some of it without any foundation whatsoever beyond Chapuys dislike for Anne and an equal dislike for all things French. Reading his letters does give a fascinating insight but they need to be taken, on occasion, with a hefty pinch of salt.

 

images-9In other news for the 6th December.  It was on this day in 1421 that Henry VI was born at Windsor to Katherine of Valois.  A mere nine months later his father Henry V would be dead from dysentery and a babe in arms would wear the crown.  And, of course, from there it is a gentle downhill spiral towards the Wars of the Roses and ultimately the arrival of the Tudors with their dodgy claims to the throne.

 

 

‘Henry VIII: December 1533, 1-10’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 6, 1533, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1882), pp. 599-613. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol6/pp599-613 [accessed 19 November 2016].

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The Northern borders during the Wars of the Roses-an overview of 1461-64

images-17images-9In March 1461 Edward of York won the Battle of Towton and became Edward IV of England and Wales. The great northern earls of Northumberland and Westmorland died during the battle as did many other men from the northern marches including Lord Dacre of Naworth Castle whose title and lands were inherited by his brother – though for limited time because he too had fought at Towton on the losing side.

Meanwhile Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou seeing which way the wind was blowing, fled into Scotland handing over Berwick-Upon-Tweed to the Scots on April 25 1461 which rather helped the Lancastrian cause in Scotland as did the fact that Margaret of Anjou got on famously well with the dowager Queen of Scotland, Mary of Guelders.  For a while a marriage was proposed between Prince Edward of England (Henry and Margaret’s son) and Mary, the eldest sister of young James III who was nay eight at the time that Margaret of Anjou first arrived in Scotland.

Meanwhile Edward IV marched as far as Newcastle, where the Earl of Wiltshire (Sir James Butler) was executed on May 1. H Edward’s journey back to the south left several large castles in Lancastrian hands.  He left the borders in the care of the earl of Warwick.  Warwick was also given the power to negotiate with the Scots who sent ambassadors to speak with the new English king, clearly being of the opinion that it was a good idea to hedge their bets.  Edward commissioned Sir Robert Ogle from the eastern marches to work on a truce with Scotland. Rather confusingly, and unsurprisingly, another branch of the family were firmly Lancastrian in their sympathy.   He also set about negotiating a treaty with the Lord of the Isles who became Edward’s liegeman with a pension, as did several of his cronies, and permission to  hold as much of the northern parts of Scotland as he could get his hands upon.  The earl of Douglas was also in receipt of a pension from Edward, suggesting that Edward felt that if the Scots were busy fighting one another they wouldn’t be fighting him.

Meanwhile Margaret of Anjou went to France to raise support from Louis XI in order to regain her husband’s kingdom.  He wasn’t really that interested but gave her a small body of men and a noble called Breze to be her general. Breze who wasn’t terribly popular with the new french king.  In fact, he was let out of prison in order to command the little force that set off for Northumberland.  He took control of the castle at Alnwick where he and his five hundred men were besieged by Lord Hastings, Sir Ralph Gray and Sir John Howard.

They in their turn were troubled by George Douglas, earl of Angus who had received grants of land from Henry and Margaret during their time in the Scottish court.  Angus was a Scottish border warden so was able to gather a body of men to ride to Breze’s rescue in July. Breze and Angus returned to Scotland.  Ridpath makes the point that the reason Breze was able to exit from the postern gate of Alnwick without any trouble was that there was an agreement between the Scots and the Yorkist besiegers army.

Margaret of Anjou arrived in Northumberland in October.  The North did not rise but Alnwick became Lancastrian once more.  This was either because Sir Ralph Gray had a change of heart after time spent as Yorkist governor of the castle or because there was insufficient food to withstand siege.

Edward IV marched north with an army again.

Margaret fled into Scotland. This description is beginning to feel like a large scale game of game of snakes and ladders for poor Margaret.    She went north by sea, taking  Breze with her.  Luck was not on her side. A storm blew up dispersing the Lancastrian vessels.  Margaret finished up in Berwick whilst Breze foundered off Holy Island.  His boats were, quite literally, burned. Four to five hundred of his men were either killed or captured at the hands of John Manors or the rather descriptively named, Bastard Ogle; both of whom I need to find more about. Breze managed to hail a fishing boat and get away to Berwick where he joined Margaret.

Edward and his army arrived in Durham where Edward promptly caught measles. Warwick took command of the army but since there was now no Lancastrian force  in the field he besieged Alnwick, Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh which were in the hands of Lancastrians and had been since 1461. Bamburgh surrendered on Christmas Eve 1462. The other two were in Yorkist hands by the new year.

It is worth noting that one of the Yorkists besieging the Lancastrians was a certain Sir Thomas Malory who had done considerable amounts of porridge during Henry VI’s reign for breaches of the peace. He would write the Morte d’Arthur during another stint in prison.

The duke of Somerset and Sir Ralph Percy were both pardoned by Edward IV in an attempt to bring old animosities to an end. Other Lancastrians were not afforded the same generosity.  The earl of Pembroke and Lord Roos escaped or were escorted back to Scotland depending on which account you read. The earl of Pembroke a.k.a Jasper Tudor was supposed to have gathered a force to land in Beaumaris, Anglesey in 1462 having tried to rally support in Ireland in the early part of the year but had failed to do this.  Instead ‘Plan B’ involved him joining with the conflict in the north of England  travelling via Brittany and Scotland whilst the three Lancastrian castles mentioned above were being besieged.  His job was a to lift the sieges. The Yorkists had more men than him so he’d been forced to take a place inside Bamburgh Castle.

Meanwhile earlier in the year, on the other side of the country, Margaret of Anjou, slightly foiled but not deterred, had turned her attention to the West March.  She, a group of Lancastrians and some over-optimistic Scots arrived in the outskirts of Carlisle in June 1462.  Margaret had told the Scots that if they could take Carlisle they could have it.  There was the inevitable siege and a fire that burned down the suburbs which did not win friends for the Lancastrian cause in the city. John Neville, Lord Montagu (Warwick’s kid brother) arrived later that same month and raised the siege by July.

Humphrey Dacre, whose elder brother had  been killed at Towton and  to whom Neville was related through Dacre’s mother, was now required to hand over Naworth Castle near Brampton to the Yorkists having been attainted for his own role fighting the Yorkists at Towton.

1463 saw Margaret experience another rear disaster when she encountered Neville’s Yorkist forces near Hexham.. She and Prince Edward “by the aid of a generous robber,” (Ridpath: 295) reached the coast and safety. It was said that Margaret fled with only her son and a single squire into Dipton Wood where the outlaw probably intent on mischief was duly inspired to provide assistance and hiding in a cave.  Sadler, who does not trust the story of the ‘Queen’s Cave’  and  notes that Margaret trusted this man so much that she left Prince Edward in the man’s care whilst she attempted to locate her husband. He quotes for Chastellain whose account came from Margaret herself. She was transferred to the coast and from there took ship to the Continent to plead for more cash to try again.

By the spring of 1464 it was all over for the Lancastrians so far as a Scottish alliance was concerned.  Margaret no longer had the ear of the dowager queen who had died in 1463.  The Scots preferred to make a truce with Edward IV. It is worth noting that Edward wasn’t ruling a peaceful kingdom counties across the country were up in arms.

Margaret of Anjou on the other hand didn’t take no for an answer and was able to do a spot of rabble rousing with the promise of loot.  She entered Northumberland along with her husband and son though the accounts do not always agree as to whether Henry was with her or was in Northumberland all along.  Once more Sir Ralph Gray, who seems to have changed sides more often than he changed his doublet and hose, was on hand to take Alnwick for Margaret and once more the duke of Somerset and Sir Ralph Percy who’d been pardoned by Edward IV upon receipt of sizeable amounts of dosh changed sides back to their original Lancastrian red. It didn’t look good for the Yorkists.

Sir John Neville (the earl of Warwick’s kid brother) stepped into the breach. He wasn’t terribly amused in any event.  He’d been sent north to escort James III of Scotland to York to sign a peace treaty with Edward.  En route he encountered the earl of Somerset near Alnwick at Hedgely Moor on April 21 1464.  Somerset’s forces blocked the road.  There was the usual fisticuffs. Sir Ralph Percy found himself encircled and was killed.  Three weeks later, on May 15, Sir John confronted Somerset at Hexham. Somerset ad Lord Roos were captured. Both men were taken to Newcastle where they were executed as were other Lancastrians.

Back at Bamburgh, Sir Ralph Gray perhaps realising that another change of side wasn’t really an option attempted to hold out until he realised it would avail him little and attempted to negotiate surrender.  He was executed at Doncaster.

Sir John Neville, Lord Montagu received his reward in York where the English and the Scots finally signed their peace treaty.  Montagu became the earl of Northumberland which perhaps did not take into account the loyalty of the men of the east marches to their ancestral overlord.

Meanwhile Henry VI who’d sought shelter at Bywell Castle escaped into the hills where he remained for a considerable time sheltered by loyal Lancastrians until he was captured and taken to London.

jaspertudor.jpgI must admit to being interested in Jasper Tudor’s peregrinations in the north of England. The details of his route to and from Scotland are sketchy other than for his presence in the East March. I am also intrigued by  the sides taken by the various border families, although I suspect as with the battles between England and Scotland, men such as the Grahams were Yorkist when they wished and Lancastrian at other times but on all occasions men who looked after their own cares first.

Breverton, Terry. (2014) Jasper Tudor: Dynasty Maker. Stroud: Amberley

Ridpath, George. (1970). Border History. Edinburgh: The Mercat Press

Royle, Trevor. (2009).  The Wars of the Roses. London:Abacus

Sadler, John. (2006). Border Fury. London: Pearson

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Medieval Tiles in Great Malvern Priory

IMG_7766The rounded apse at the east end of the church is covered in fifteenth century tiles.  The tiles were produced by master craftsmen in workshops and kilns set up on site between 1450 and 1500.  The guide book notes that originally there would have been approximately 50,000 tiles decorating the priory.  Only a fragment of them remain but, even so, Great Malvern’s collection can hardly be bettered by any other parish church. There are over one hundred different designs and each of them has a meaning.

One tile carries a coat of arms and five birds.  These birds or martlets as they are known in heraldry represent Edward the Confessor.  It is a reminder that the land upon which the priory was built was given by the king to his abbey in Westminster. Amongst the heraldic tiles the badges of the Duke of Buckingham, Mortimer, Beauchamp (Richard Beauchamp was the earl of Warwick at the time of the rebuilding), Despenser (Richard’s wife was Isabel Despenser), Clare, Talbot and Bracy can be spotted along with the royal arms and the fleur-de-lys reflecting Henry VI’s patronage.  Tiles are dated to 1453 and 1456 – tiles being dated 36 H VI – meaning the thirty-sixth year of Henry VI’s reign i.e. 1456; the year after the First Battle of St Albans.  1453 was significant in that it was the year that Henry VI suffered his first break down setting in motion an escalating conflict between the House of York and that of Lancaster.  These tiles can be found on the apse which is known as the “Benefactors Wall” – think of these tiles as the sponsors’ logos. The tiles are not in their original position. The Victorians removed them from the floors and placed them here during their renovation work. They also commissioned replicas by Minton which now adorn the chancel floor.DSCF2427.jpg

As you might expect there are tiles that carry scriptural messages in symbolic form such as   a fish, the instruments of the passion,  Mary crowned represented by the letter M surmounted by a crown, pelicans which were the medieval symbol of self-sacrifice and also tiles with texts.  The most striking of the latter is the so called ‘leper’s tile’ or ‘Job Tile’ which quotes from Job -“have pity on me my friends for the hand of God has struck me.”

IMG_7767There are even tiles that bear the name of the tiler – WHILLAR- who made that particular batch.  There’s one with a Latin inscription which reads “Mentem sanctum, spontaneuni honorer Deo, et patrie liberacionem.” As well as honouring the Lord it is also, apparently, an early form of fire insurance as this was supposed to help prevent fire. Even more practically there is a tile (immediately above this paragraph)  with a message from the monks which tells pilgrims to give their money now rather than making a bequest in their wills on account of the fact that once you’re dead you don’t know what will happen.

DSCF2428.jpgIt is interesting to note that the monks or the tilers did a healthy business selling their wares to local churches and landowners in the vicinity or even further afield – there are Great Malvern tiles in St David’s in Pembrokeshire. And, of course, once their work was finished the tilers would take their wooden stamps and go in search of work elsewhere.

Double click on the image of the Benefactors’ Wall  (not taken by me although the rest of the photographs in this post are mine) to open a new web page to view more images of the tiles and further information about the priory and its publications.

benefactors wall.jpg

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Great Malvern Priory

IMG_7747.JPGWhat a gem!  Great Malvern Priory was founded in 1085 by a hermit, Aldwin, from Worcester Abbey on land belonging to Westminster Abbey.  This means that during the life of Great Malvern’s monastic establishment it looked to  Benedictine Westminster for direction which is why it’s a priory rather than an abbey in its own right.

Aldwin was supported and guided by Bishop Wulfstan of Worcester who went on to become one of King John’s favourite saints. The priory also received its charter and funding from  William the Conqueror who gave charters to many monasteries – a reminder that the conquest of England had the Pope’s blessing and that William was conscious of the need to give thanks for his victory. Henry I and Edward III confirmed and renewed the charter. The priory wasn’t without its problems though.  The fact that it was on Westminster Abbey land but founded by a monk from Worcester and looked to the Worcester for guidance led to friction at various times in the priory’s history.

DSC_0102The pillars in the nave of today’s building are Norman and there are odd clues to the Norman past scattered about the building but the priory as it stands today dates largely from the fifteenth century.  The Bishop of Worcester was called upon to consecrate the new build in 1460 – just as the Wars of the Roses really got started (Battle of Wakefield December 30 1460).  However, the new build ensured that assorted Lancaster and York monarchs added their ‘bit’ to the decor from Henry VI’s tiles via Richard III’s stained glass windows to Henry VII. At least those monarchs wanted to enhance the building, finished in 1502.

In 1535 Dr Legh, one of Cromwell’s commissioners and a bit of a thug by all accounts,  visited the priory.  Things can’t have been that bad as there is no report of his findings amongst Cromwell’s documents.  According to the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535, the income of the prior and convent amounted to £375 0s. 6½ d. It escaped the act suppressing the small monasteries, although a cell belonging to the priory wasn’t so fortunate.

DSC_0104.JPG

In 1539 the monastery was dissolved despite the please of Hugh Latimer the Bishop of Worcester (he would ultimately go to the flames in the reign of Mary Tudor for his Protestantism). He wrote to Cromwell on behalf of the prior; ‘at the request of an honest man, the prior of GreatMalvern, of my diocese,’ pleads for the ‘upstandynge’ of his house, and continuance of the same to many good purposes, ‘not in monkery . . . but to maintain teaching, preaching, study with praying, and (to the which he is much given) good “howsekepynge,” for to the “vertu” of hospitality he hath been greatly inclined from his beginning, and is very much commended in these parts for the same . . . The man is old, a good “howsekepere,” feeds many, and that daily, for the country is poor and full of penury. Alas, my good lord, shall not we see two or three in each shire changed to such remedy? . . Sir William Kingston can report of the man further.’ The letter dated 13 December 1538 finishes with flattery: “Blessed be God of England that worketh all, whose instrument you be! I heard you say once after you had seen that furious invective of cardinal Pole that you would make him to eat his own heart, which you have now, [I trow], brought to pass, for he must [needs] now eat his own heart, and be[as] heartless as he is graceless.”  Latimer went on to offer Cromwell 200 marks and the king 500 if they would spare the priory.

Not that it did any good. By January 1539 the priory had been suppressed and the lead stripped from its roof.  The prior, one Richard Whitborn, received h £66 13s. 4d. each year.  Ultimately, in 1541, the parishioners of Great Malvern purchased the priory for £20.00 as the original parish church was in a poor state.  They acquired the “stateliest parish church in England.” The parish church of St Mary and St Michael is without a shadow of a doubt a show stopper.

 

A second post will consider Great Malvern’s medieval tiles whilst a third post will explore the wonderful medieval windows and also a fourth post on the glass given by Richard III and by Henry VII.  As you might guess, I spent a very happy morning in Great Malvern Priory although I wasn’t able to study the misericords (the ledges on which the monks could rest during services) because of work being done in the choir of the church.  Great Malvern is unusual in that as well as depicting a mermaid on its misericords it also has a merman.

For fans of C.S. Lewis it is also worth noting that he went to school in Malvern College just before World War One and whilst he was there he may have been inspired by the enclosed east doors of the priory church which ultimately turned into the wardrobe by which the Pevensies entered Narnia.  A glimpse through the lock reveals a fir tree and a lamp post.

‘Houses of Benedictine monks: Priory of Great Malvern’, in A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 2, ed. J W Willis-Bund and William Page (London, 1971), pp. 136-143. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/worcs/vol2/pp136-143 [accessed 16 August 2016].

Cleop. E. iv.264. B. M.Wright’s Suppression of the Monasteries,148. ‘Henry VIII: December 1538 11-15’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 13 Part 2, August-December 1538, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1893), pp. 438-455. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol13/no2/pp438-455 [accessed 23 August 2016].

‘Parishes: Great Malvern with Newland’, in A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 4, ed. William Page and J W Willis-Bund (London, 1924), pp. 123-134. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/worcs/vol4/pp123-134 [accessed 16 August 2016].

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Filed under Churches and Chapels, Fifteenth Century, Kings of England, Literary connections, Norman Conquest, Sixteenth Century, The Tudors