The Vicar of Hell, his cousins and Henry VIII

1531_Henry_VIIISir Francis Bryan was nicknamed either by Henry VIII or Thomas Cromwell as the Vicar of Hell.  Henry allegedly asked what sort of sin it was to ruin a mother and then her child where upon Bryan commented that it was the same sort of sin as eating a hen  and then its chicken.  Alternatively online sources suggest that Cromwell gave Bryan the name on account of his role in bringing the Boleyn faction down.

sir nicholas carewThe dissolute vicar who managed to survive Henry’s reign without falling foul of the Tudor terror had one surviving sister.  Her name was Elizabeth and she became Lady Carew when she was about twelve.  By the time she was thirteen she was a mother, Henry VIII was purchasing mink coats for her and giving her husband Sir Nicholas Carew (pictured right) his very own tilt yard.  If that wasn’t sufficiently intriguing a look up the family tree reveals that Francis’ mother Margaret Bourchier was Anne and Mary Boleyn’s auntie.  Elizabeth Howard, their mother, was Margaret’s half sister.

Lady Margaret Bryan is best known in history as the Lady Governess of Mary Tudor and then Princess Elizabeth – it is Lady Bryan who writes to Cromwell in 1536 asking how the royal toddler should be treated. Lady Margaret didn’t have much longer to influence Elizabeth as she would become Prince Edward’s Lady Governess in turn.

wolseySir Francis became Henry VIII’s cup bearer in 1516 and two years later was admitted to the ranks of Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber. The following year Francis was one of the young men that Wolsey had removed from court as a bad influence on the king and overly familiar with the monarch- not least because he’d been on a mission to France and returned with an expensive taste in French tailoring and a habit of mocking those dressed in the English fashion- but it wasn’t long before he was back.  He turns up in 1520 with Henry at the Field of Cloth of Gold but it would be several more years before he was re-admitted to the privy chamber.

In 1522 and 23 he was fighting alongside his Howard kin in France and then Scotland. In between times he hunted, gambled, spent a lot of time at his tailors, womanised and jousted.  It was the latter that caused him to lose an eye in 1526 after which he sported a rather rakish eyepatch.

The king trusted him sufficiently to send him to Rome to discuss the annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon with the Pope.  Despite Bryan’s smooth talking he was unsuccessful.  There is a rather lively letter from the period that Byran writes to Lord Lisle requiring that the Captain of Calais should find him a soft bed and a young woman.

george boleyn.pngIn August 1533 it fell to Francis to tell his king that the Pope had excommunicated him.  By this time Francis’ cousin Anne was not only queen but heavily pregnant.  By the following year though things were turning sour.  Chapuys noted that the king was involved romantically with a young lady – another of Francis’ cousins but Francis was closely associated with the Boleyn’s.  So perhaps it is not surprising that it was in 1534 that Francis’ got into an argument with George Boleyn (pictured right)- after all Francis had a long experience of Henry’s pattern of womanising and knew when the king’s interest had moved on. Even so in 1536 when a list of all Anne Boleyn’s relations was drawn up Francis’ name was on it and he was questioned about his cousin but unlike George was not arrested.  In fact he was promoted to Chief Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and sent off to tell Jane Seymour the good news although he managed to plot his copybooks because he appears to have been sympathetic to Mary Tudor and queried whether or not she could be returned to the rank of princess.

This was an unusual slip on Byran’s part who was liked by Henry for his plain talking and honesty but most of the time Bryan was canny enough to know what sort of truths Henry wanted to hear. Part of the problem was that Francis’ mother had been a lady-in-waiting to Katherine of Aragon as well as Mary Tudor’s Lady Governess.  Another issue was the fact that despite his nickname “the vicar of hell” that he was Catholic.  Not that this seems to have been an issue in 1536 when he went off to do battle with the rebellious pilgrims in the Pilgrimage of Grace.

The following year Bryan arrived in France intending to have Reginald Pole kidnapped or possibly assassinated – though it would appear that he may have been the one to warn the cardinal of his own intentions giving Reginald the opportunity to escape Henry’s clutches.  Byran’s other unconventional methods of diplomacy included sleeping with a prostitute in Rome to find out what the pope’s views were. In 1538 he actually became the English ambassador at the french court but it wasn’t hugely successful because he spent much of the time drunk, gambling and generally misbehaving.  He was summoned home not that it should have been a total surprise that he wasn’t cut out to be an ambassador.  In 1519  he’d got himself into hot water for throwing eggs at the French while in Paris.

In 1539 Sir Nicholas Carew, another of Henry VIII’s old friends, and Francis’ brother-in-law found himself on the wrong side of the king – or more likely the wrong side of Thomas Cromwell.  He had been teaching Jane Seymour how to best become queen rather than just another mistress – which was not what Cromwell wanted. Jane was favoured by the Howard faction who were traditional in their religious beliefs and thus not sympathetic to the reforms that were being instituted.  Carew was implicated in the Exeter Plot which aimed to remove Henry from the throne and replace him with Reginald Pole. Francis sat on the jury that convicted him. It was Lady Margaret Bryan who wrote to Cromwell on her daughter’s behalf asking that some finances be provided for her care.

Francis’ reward for his loyalty to the Crown was to be sent off to France to ask the french king to send prospective wives to Calais for Henry to inspect.  After that debacle Francis was probably grateful when Henry selected Anne of Cleves.

During all this time Francis was loyal to his mother’s Howard kin but by the end of Henry’s reign he had become more associated with the Seymour family – which was just as well as the duke of Norfolk was imprisoned for treason along with his son.

Bryan was married to Philippa Fortescue by 1522 but the pair had no children.  He married for a second time to Joan Butler who was the dowager countess of Ormond (Yes there are Boleyn links there) and was able to make the most of this marriage to become Lord Marshall and Lord Justice of Ireland.  He died at Clonmel on the 2nd February 1550.

There are no portraits of Francis.

http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/member/bryan-sir-francis-1492-1550

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

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

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

empson-and-dudley-with-king-henry-vii

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

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

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

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

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

edward-sm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

A letter from Cranmer

Thomas_Cranmer_by_Gerlach_Flicke.jpgFirst of all, for those of you who follow The History Jar by email, yesterday’s post requires an update.  Rosie Bevan contacted me with the following information – “The relationship between Richard and Reginald de Lucy was uncovered in 2016. They were actually father and son. See Reginald de Lucy, Son of Richard de Lucy, King’s Justiciar: New Perspectives
Foundations (2016) 8:53-72 By Rosie Bevan and Peter G M Dale.” It’s true, history is always changing because new information keeps surfacing facts to careful research.

Today’s main even is that on the 20th December 1192 Richard I (a.k.a. The Lionheart) was on his way back home from the Crusades when Leopold V of Austria imprisoned him resulting in some hefty taxation in England to raise the ransom, brotherly misdemeanour from Prince John and an outbreak of ballads resulting in the legends of Robin Hood (cue stirring music and sounds of twanging arrows) and also of Blondel the Minstrel wandering around Europe trying to track down his royal boss (cue sounds of stirring music and sounds of twanging lute strings).

Inevitably I have gone for something more prosaic. On the 20th December 1535 Thomas Cranmer wrote to Lord Lisle better known as Arthur Plantagenet, illegitimate son of Edward IV.

Cranmer to Lord Lisle.
I understand that one Thos. King, now abiding in Calais, has left his wife Eleanor Saygrave, and lives with another woman, denying his former marriage. I have therefore sent my commissary to see them both punished, in which I desire your assistance. I hear there is good provision of wines with you. If so, I beg you will help me therein when I send to you. I am much bound to my Lady for her goodness to my chaplains. Ford, 20 Dec. Signed.

‘Henry VIII: December 1535, 11-20’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 9, August-December 1535, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1886), pp. 318-340. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol9/pp318-340 [accessed 17 December 2016].

Given that the Pope was threatening to excommunicate Henry VIII at this time for leaving Katherine of Aragon it seems a bit rich that Cranmer was writing about Thomas King running off with another woman and deserting his wife.

At this stage in proceedings I couldn’t tell you the circumstances of the marriage between Eleanor and Thomas but in Tudor households marriages were not a matter of love but of parental negotiation. Young people were not left to their own devices.  It was their parents and guardians who played a leading part in arranging marriages to strengthen alliances whether between kingdoms, estates or mercantile endeavours.  For more about marriage read the History Extra article here.

Calais was the last remnant of England’s continental claim.  It had been in English hands since Edward III captured it in 1347.  The Pale of Calais was about one hundred and twenty miles square.  It was, obviously, heavily fortified with the fort at Guisnes being of key importance.

Lord Lisle was the Governor of Calais.  He lived there along with his wife Honour Grenville.  Lisle had a reputation for being somewhat henpecked, a gossip and a purveyor of quail.  I don’t know what happened to Thomas King or how he came to live in Calais with a lady who wasn’t his wife far less how Cranmer came to be involved in the tale but it does give us a brief glimpse of ordinary life in all its messiness. And if anyone happens to know more about the story – please tell.

Anne Bassett …king’s mistress and er, step-cousin.

lisle lettersArthur Plantagenet, Lord Lisle was the illegitimate son of Edward IV.  He turns up in the court of Elizabeth of York during the reign of Henry VII and as mentioned in another post had a kind heart, wrote many letters and ended up in the Tower where he died with the relief of being set free rather than having his head ceremoniously removed from his neck having been accused of treason.  Most of what we know about Anne Bassett comes from the letters she wrote or which were written about her and survived in the archive of Lisle letters.

Anne Bassett was Arthur’s step-daughter.  Her mother was Honor Grenville and her father was Sir John Bassett.  Arthur married Honor in 1529. They didn’t have any children together although both had children from their first marriages. Honor had gone to France with Anne Boleyn in 1532 when Henry VIII met with Francis I. Honor was undoubtedly ambitious.  She tried to get her daughters taken on as Anne Boleyn’s ladies in waiting but Anne wasn’t playing ball.  When Jane Seymour became queen Honor renewed her endeavours to get one or both her daughters placed at court.  Jane gave way having eaten a large dish of quail presented by Lady Lisle.  It would have to be said that Jane was about six months pregnant at the time so a dish of quail seems like rather a nifty idea.

Anne was hustled off to court to attend Jane Seymour just prior to her taking herself into seclusion in preparation for the birth of her child. There is a letter in Lord Lisle’s papers written to Lady Lisle saying that, “the Queen’s pleasure is that Mrs Anne wear no more of her French apparel. So that she must have provided a bonnet or ii, with frontlets and an edge of jane seymourpearl, and a gown of black satin, and another of velvet, and this must be done before the Queen’s grace’s churching.” (p211)  Or in other words Jane Seymour didn’t approve of girls dressing up like french floozies.  It’s also clear that there was a great deal of investment in sending one’s daughters off to the royal court.

We know that Anne attended Prince Edward’s baptism but, of course, there would be no churching for Jane Seymour because she died due to complications despite initially seeming to be in good health following the birth of Henry VIII’s much longed for son. Anne Bassett was part of Jane Seymour’s funeral cortege, a situation she would rehearse at Henry VIII’s own funeral in 1547.  She and her sister are in the accounts as being provided with appropriate clothes for the funeral. Anne Bassett had been a lady-in-waiting for a month and there was no longer a queen. The ladies-in-waiting were to be disbanded.  Henry VIII wore mourning for three months and didn’t marry again for two years when he did Anne Bassett’s name would be mentioned as a possible candidate.

Anne remained on the outskirts of the court. Henry VIII’s gift of a horse and a saddle for it caused some speculation.  Anne was seventeen at the time. Her name had been mentioned before the Cleves match  and it would resurface in 1542 following the departure of Katherine Howard from the scene but there is very little to build on in terms of specific evidence other than ambassadorial and court speculation.

anne of clevesWhen Anne of Cleves arrived on the scene our Anne reported for duty as one of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting but there were too many German ladies and Anne was told that her services were not required.  Anne Bassett wrote to her mother expressing her irritation. Lady Lisle used her connections to find out that Mother Lowe, Anne of Cleves’  german mother of the maids was the person to approach and before long Anne Bassett was serving queen number four.

We know that Anne Bassett was ill in 1539.  We have letters written from Anne to her mother during this time.  She stayed in the countryside to regain her health at the home of her cousin Sir Anthony Denny “at the King’s grace’s commandment.” Denny was so trusted by the king that he had possession of a dry stamp so that he could sign documents without having to bother the king.  Did Henry want to get his mistress off the scene with another queen on her way?  Was Henry looking for some privacy to carry out his courting? Was Anne pretending to be unwell to avoid having to dally with Henry or marry him ? The former seems unlikely as Anne of Cleves was in Germany at the time.  Whatever the illness was it appears to have caused Anne some indisposition for sometime before hand but not to have been too serious and her physician suggested walking as a cure.

Anne remained at court through out the rest of Henry VIII’s reign even when her step-father was under suspicion of treason in the Tower.  Robert Hutchinson describes Anne at a feast in 1543 using the words of the French ambassador Charles de Marillac who was not terribly impressed with Anne  – “a pretty creature with wit enough to do as badly as the other (Katherine Howard), if she were to try.” Hutchinson notes Anne’s reported limited intelligence – something which may or may not be true but you have to admire the girl if she managed to avoid marrying Henry given his track record …but there again Hutchinson has a point if Anne was Henry’s mistress and only managed to acquire a husband of dodgy repute after Henry’s death.  It was from Queen Mary that she received several land grants.

In 1553 Anne became Queen Mary’s lady-in-waiting and in 1554 she married Sir Walter Hungerford of Farleigh, a man troubled by the fact that his father had been executed under Thomas Cromwell’s 1533 sodomy law.  Sir Walter went on to marry Anne Dormer after Anne Bassett died.

 Hutchinson, Robert.(2005)  The Last days of Henry VIII: Conspiracy, Treason and Heresy at the Court of the Dying Tyrant. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson

St Clare Byrne, Muriel (ed) (1983) The Lisle Letters London: Secker and Warburg Ltd