The Tudor taint – an heir problem

LadyMargaretCliffordHistory tends to decree that the Tudors had problems with heirs.  In reality it must have felt to the heirs, on occasion, that they had problems with being Tudor.  Henry VIII decreed the order of inheritance beginning with his own children. Not only did he specify the order of inheritance in his will but he ensured that it was enshrined in law with the third Act of Succession of 1544.

In the event of Henry’s own children not having children or surviving to inherit, Henry being Henry  broke with the usual rules of inheritance by bypassing the children of his elder sister Margaret by nominating those of his younger sister Mary.  His will refers to her as the “French Queen,” a courtesy title that she kept after the death of King Louis XII of France and her subsequent second marriage to Charles Brandon who became Duke of Suffolk.  The crown was to go first to the heirs of Frances Brandon who became Lady Frances Grey the mother of Ladies Jane, Katherine and Mary Grey.  If that line failed the crown would pass, in theory, to the children of  Frances’ younger sister Eleanor  who had married Henry Clifford, the 2nd Earl of Cumberland.

There was undoubtedly a paucity of males at that point in proceedings.  Eleanor Clifford, born sometime between 1518 and 1521, had produced two sons: Charles and Henry as well as a daughter Margaret pictured at the start of this post.  Eleanor died in November 1547 having been married to Henry Clifford in 1535, so she never fully understood the poisoned chalice of her Tudor bloodline.  The pair lived in Brougham Castle although the 1st earl went on a bit of a building spree on the strength of having a royal daughter-in-law.  The year after her marriage Eleanor was the chief mourner at Katherine of Aragon’s funeral and found herself in the wrong part of the country during the Pilgrimage of Grace. A flight across the moors from Bolton Abbey to Skipton Castle saved her from  immediate capture but having arrived at Skipton she found herself besieged.  Her husband was in Carlisle dealing with the rebels in Cumberland.

Eleanor does not seem to have spent much time at court although Frances Grey is listed as being present at key occasions such as the baptism of Prince Edward and the arrival of Anne of Cleves.  It is perhaps not surprising both Charles and Henry died in their infancies and it would appear from surviving letters that Eleanor did not enjoy robust health.  In 1540 though she gave birth to Margaret.

After Eleanor’s death the 2nd Earl of Cumberland would eventually remarry and have sons but the Tudor inheritance would pass to Margaret Clifford.  This is evidenced by the fact that John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland initially suggested a marriage between his youngest son Guildford and Margaret.  Before contracts could be drawn up John Dudley arranged for his youngest son to marry Margaret’s cousin Lady Jane Grey and in order to ensure that the Tudor line and the Dudleys remained firmly intertwined Margaret was betrothed instead to Andrew Dudley, the duke’s younger brother, in June 1553.  Andrew would soon  find himself under arrest for his part in Dudley’s bid to bypass Henry VIII’s succession.

Fernando_StanleyMargaret was married instead to Lord Strange, the heir of the Earl of Derby – or in other words into the Stanley family.  She married Henry Stanley in 1555 under the watchful gaze of Queen Mary.  The pair had four sons but it wasn’t a particularly happy marriage and the pair eventually separated.  Of the four sons only two survived to adulthood. Ferdinando Stanley became the Earl of Derby followed by his brother  William in 1594.  Ferdinando (pictured left) had been earl for only a year and whilst William became the 6th earl as well as Baron Strange it was Ferdinando’s daughters who became co-heiresses to the estates.  Inevitably there was a messy court case.  I shall return to Ferdinando who may well have died because of his closeness to the throne and also the Stanley suspected adherence to Catholicism.

After the death of Mary Grey the last of her Grey cousins in 1578 Margaret  found herself as one of the potential heirs to the English throne.  In 1580 she wrote to Walsingham about the “heavy and long-continued displeasure” that she had found herself experiencing. When she died in 1596 she had spent several years under house arrest in Clerkenwell having been arrested on charges of using astrology to predict when Elizabeth I would die – a treasonous act (and one which got Eleanor Cobham into huge amounts of bother in the fifteenth century).  Even in death she was careful not to offend Elizabeth as her will testifies:

First, I bequeath my soul into the hands of Almighty God, my only Saviour and Redeemer, by whom I hope only to be saved and by no other ways nor means, and my body to be buried where it shall please the Queen’s Majesty to appoint, or otherwise at the discretion of mine executors.

 

The line of the French Queen’s youngest daughter was now carried on by Ferdinando’s three daughters; Anne, Frances and Elizabeth.  William had no children.  In 1596 Anne was created the legal heir presumptive to Elizabeth I bypassing William who was also suspected on account of his closeness to the throne and catholicism.

william stanley.jpgWilliam (pictured right) was specifically forbidden from joining the Earl of Essex on his campaign in Ireland as it was felt that he might take advantage of the opportunity to do a spot of networking.  William, it would’ve to be said, appears to have done nothing to deserve royal suspicion  – he was very much a member of the gentry concerning himself with his northern estates and keeping his head down – presumably he didn’t want to end up like his mother or brother.  He appears to have been a scholarly type and if you like your conspiracy theories he is one of the contenders for the real Shakespeare based on the fact that George Fenner, a Jesuit, reported that William rather than being interested in politics and matters of religion spent his time “penning common plays” in his house near Chester.

Elizabeth did eventually make him a knight of the garter and King James I made his relation a privy councillor.

The mystery of the disappearance of Henry Pole…in the Tower

princes_in_the_tower_2When we think of children disappearing into the Tower and never being seen again we tend to think of Edward V and his brother Richard, Duke of York – a.k.a. The Princes in the Tower.  Henry Pole the Younger, the teenage son of Lord Montagu and grandson of Margaret of Salisbury was sent to the Tower in November 1538 – he was not charged, he was not executed…he simply failed to re-appear in public – and he doesn’t have the same cachet as the Princes in the Tower so tends to remain largely forgotten

margaret salisburyMargaret of Salisbury was the daughter of George Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville.  She had been orphaned at five years old when George had an unfortunate accident in the Tower with a large barrel of Malmsey wine.  She and her younger brother Edward grew up under the rule of their uncles Edward IV and Richard III.  In 1485 when the Plantagenets lost the Crown on the field of battle at Bosworth Margaret found herself being handed into the wardship of Lady Margaret Beaufort, who in all fairness seems to have had a protective instinct for young women (perhaps not surprising given her own history).  So, Margaret of Salisbury was about fourteen when she was married off to a loyal Tudor supporter – Sir Richard Pole and sent off to the Welsh marches where she could be safely ignored.

 

Unfortunately for the long term survival of the Pole family, despite the fact that Margaret had been deliberately married to a man whose loyalty was to the Tudors and who was far below Margaret in social status – though as the daughter of an attainted traitor this was not such an issue Margaret remained close to the court. When Henry VIII became king it was he who returned to Margaret the title of Countess of Salisbury whilst her eldest son, Henry, became Lord Montagu.  It was probably just as well that Henry VIII had taken a shine to the family when Sir Richard died in 1504 the family had been so impoverished that they had to borrow money to pay for the funeral. There were five little Poles bearing Plantagenet blood in their veins – Henry, Reginald, Geoffrey and Arthur (who died of sweating sickness) as well as a daughter named Ursula who had thirteen children of her own.

 

katherine of aragon sil meMargaret’s loyalty was to Katherine of Aragon and to her daughter Princess Mary to whom she was governess and godmother. (Along with Margaret her sister-in-law Eleanor Pole was also a lady-in-waiting to Katherine. Eleanor was related through marriage to Lady Margaret Beaufort’s extended family.) Despite this and their conservative adherence to Catholicism (something they had in common with much of the old aristocracy – the Courtenay family were caught up with Elizabeth Barton the so-called Nun of Kent) they managed to walk on the tightrope of faith that Henry VIII strung up when he divorced Katherine and married Anne Boleyn.

 

Matters were not helped between the Tudor and Plantagenet cousins when Margaret’s son Reginald Pole – Henry VIII’s “pet” learned academic who had been educated at Henry’s expense wrote a book snappily entitled Pro ecclesiasticae unitatis defensionein 1536. It denounced both his marriage to Anne Boleyn and his religious policies – in short it did not have the content that Henry wanted. The Pole family in England wrote letters castigating Reginald, sure that they would be read before reaching their intended recipient. Pole wrote back to his mother telling her not to interfere with his conscience. Despite his high moral tone Pole started to have to look over his shoulder.  Men were sent to assassinate him on Thomas Cromwell’s orders. Requests were sent to have him bundled up and sent home to face the music.  It probably didn’t help that the Pope made him a cardinal at more or less the same time.

 

The Poles retreated from court and very sensibly kept their heads down – presumably quite liking the idea of keeping them.  It wouldn’t be enough to save them.  In 1538 the so-called Exeter Conspiracy was revealed when in August Margaret Pole’s youngest son Geoffrey was arrested and taken to the Tower.

 

Henry Pole, Lord Montagu was familiar with the process of being arrested for treason, after all he had been arrested for in connection to the 3rdDuke of Buckingham’s plot against the king in 1520. Stafford had been found guilty of treason based on evidence given by his servants – the evidence was hearsay rather than concrete proof of plotting but it was enough to get him executed in 1521. Henry Pole had been released and had demonstrated loyalty to Henry VIII in a variety of capacities.

 

In August 1538 however, he was not in the Tower he was wondering what his little brother Geoffrey was saying and what charges that he might face.  Margaret Pole wrote for permission to visit Geoffrey and to ask what he had done.  In October 1538 Geoffrey was finally questioned – a couple of months in the Tower kept in isolation was enough to make him say what Thomas Cromwell wanted to hear. In November the treason net stretched around the Pole family.  Henry VIII would have vengeance against Reginald and also surety that those pesky Plantagenets wouldn’t regain the throne. Geoffrey devastated that he had destroyed his own family rather than face further rather more active torture made two attempts on his own life.

 

Lord Montagu, his teenage son Henry, Montagu’s brother Sir Geoffrey, Montagu’s father-in-law Sir Edward Neville and his cousin Henry Courtenay, and Courtenay’s son were arrested on charges of conspiring to depose Henry VIII and replace him with Courtenay. Henry VIII’s proclamation about the plot identified that the plotters also conspired to validate their actions by marrying Princess Mary off either to either young Henry Pole or Edward Courtenay. It would have to be said that their Plantagenet blood made the need to justify their attempt on the throne with marriage to a Tudor somewhat unnecessary but it certainly gave Thomas Cromwell the opportunity to arrest as many scions of the Plantagenet bloodline as possible.

 

Margaret Pole was taken along to the Tower with her grandson having been rigorously questioned by William FitzWilliam, First Earl of Southampton without any notable success.  Margaret would be attainted in 1539 but the only evidence was a coat bearing the insignia of a pilgrim of the Pilgrimage of Grace – there was no suggestion that it belonged to her personally.  She would be messily executed in 1541 without trial.  The attainder meant there was no need for one.  Up until that time her existence in the Tower – complete with a furred gown can be traced in Henry VIII’s accounts along with that of her grandson.  A novel entitled The Courier’s Tale, by Peter Walker, about Michael Throckmorton of Coughton Court, Reginald Pole’s messenger and agent includes an after note about the historic traces that remain of Henry Pole in Cromwell’s documents – there is a suggestion that Henry Pole was simply forgotten and allowed to die.

Letters written by Reginald Pole in Italy and also the testimony of Sir Geoffrey Pole sent Montagu and Courtenay senior to their deaths. Edward Courtenay remained in the Tower until Mary Tudor became queen in 1553 and then became caught up in Wyatt’s Rebellion the following – Mary politely suggested that he might like to travel more widely.

Henry Pole the younger simply disappeared without trace. It is of course possible that he died of natural causes but given the circumstances it is all to believable that he was simply bumped off in time-honoured fashion.

Bernard, G.W. The King’s Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church

Pierce, Hazel. Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury 1473-1541: Loyalty, Lineage and Leadership

 

Westminster Hall

Westminster-Hall-1764

It’s all looking very festive around here – and dangerous.  The road hasn’t been gritted so it currently looks and feels just like an ice rink.  On the plus side I have finished some writing today.  On the minus side not only am I not going out for a Christmas meal tonight but I shalln’t be following Buckingham’s rebellion tomorrow or killing off the Princes in the Tower – nor for that matter shall I be allowing either one of them to turn into a conspiracy theory.  All of which is very irritating and I can only extend my apologies to any of my students who may be reading this.

Halls – right at the start of December I mentioned the fact that halls were where their owners dispensed justice.  And of course, there’s a hall with a rather long pedigree that has done exactly that over the last nine hundred years or so.  Westminster Hall was built in 1097 by William Rufus – it was the largest hall in Europe at the time, or so Historians think.  Richard II had the hall rebuilt because it was looking somewhat battered by the time he came to the throne. The medieval hammer beam roof was one of his modifications. The hall gradually evolved into the administrative seat for the kingdom. It was here that Henry II crowned his eldest son Henry in Westminster Hall in June 1170.  There was a second coronation in Winchester.

 

It is as a law court though that Westminster Hall echoes down the pages of history. William Wallace was tried here and by the time of the Tudors the hall is knee deep in well-known names from the duke of Buckingham tried for treason in 1522 based on his Plantagenet blood and probably having irritated Cardinal Wolsey. Sir Thomas More was tried here in 1535, so were Anne Boleyn and her alleged lovers the following year. Protector Somerset had judgement passed down here and so did the father of Lady Jane Grey for his part in Wyatt’s Rebellion. Jesuits faced english law here during the reign of Elizabeth I and the Earl of Essex was tried in Westminster Hall following his rebellion. A few years later Guy Fawkes stood in his place.  Later Charles I was tried for crimes against his own people and following the Restoration the regicides were also tried here.

The only man who successful escaped the headsman or the noose following a trial for treason during Henry VIII’s reign was also tried at Westminster Hall.  Lord Dacre of the North was found innocent in July 1535. His accusers were described as “mean and provoked Scottish men” – Sir Ralph Fiennes and his co-accuser a man named William Musgrave were not particularly Scottish but there’s nothing like being damned by association.  Dacre’s wife tried to intercede on her husband’s behalf but was told by the monarch to button it until after her husband’s trial.  Apparently Dacre refuted his accusers in a “manly”  and “witty” sort of way for seven hours before being declared innocent.

William Dacre (a.k.a. Baron Greystoke) was married to the earl of Shrewsbury’s daughter and held down a number of responsible border posts such as Deputy Warden of the West March.  This led to a falling out with the earl of Cumberland (Clifford family) who was given a role in 1525 that Dacre believed to be his by right of blood.  Unsurprisingly there was some border high jinks resulting in Cumberland only being able to rule with Dacre at his side. To make matters worse when Dacre did get his hands on the job his counterpart in the East March was given a pay rise whilst he was given the old rate. Its easy to see that hostilities and resentments were not particularly veiled.  Unfortunately for Dacre he did what Border Wardens do – i.e. talk to the Scots. This was in 1534.  He was accused of treason because this conversation took place during a time of hostility. He was hauled off to London where he was put on trial for treason. The chief witness against him was his former servant – William Musgrave.

Dacre was acquitted but as with all things Tudor there is a sting in the tale.  Henry VIII fined him none-the-less. It is perhaps surprising therefore that in 1536 Dacre demonstrated his loyalty to Henry VIII throughout the Pilgrimage of Grace.  His feud with the Musgrave family was not so easily settled and it is known to have continued into the 1550s.

 William Cobbett, David Jardine (1809) Cobbett’s complete collection of state trials and proceedings for high treason and other crimes and misdemeanors from the earliest period to the present time  accessed from https://archive.org/details/acompletecollec03cobbgoog

http://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/building/palace/westminsterhall/architecture/early-history/

Westminster Hall 1097

 

Eleanor Brandon, Countess of Cumberland…

eleanor brandon.jpgIt is sometimes easy to forget that Henry VIII had more than one English niece who featured in his will.  Henry’s sister, Mary Tudor, married Charles Brandon who was elevated to Duke of Suffolk.  They had two children who survived childhood, Frances and Eleanor. I’ve posted about Eleanor before.  Double click here to open the post in a new window. This post is by way of a precursor to a post about Lady Margaret Stanley (no, not Henry VII’s mother better known to history as Margaret Beaufort but her great-granddaughter born Lady Margaret Clifford.)

Frances Brandon, the elder of the two girls, married Henry Grey and bore three children who survived to adulthood: Lady Jane Grey, Lady Catherine Grey and Lady Mary Grey.  All three of her daughters were blighted by their Tudor blood and claim to the throne. Lady Jane Grey or Dudley as she was by then was executed by her cousin Queen Mary whilst Catherine and Mary became in turn “heir presumptive”; each married for love and each in turn was imprisoned by their other cousin Elizabeth I, one starved to death and neither was allowed to see her husband again.  The treatment of the Grey girls was not Elizabeth’s finest hour.  Lady Mary died on the 20 May 1578.

The role of heir presumptive was then passed to Lady Margaret Stanley, Countess of Derby.  Her claim came through her mother – Eleanor Brandon.  Needless to say Lady Margaret soon found herself under house arrest just as her two cousins had done.  She didn’t make the mistake of marrying for love – she and her husband were long married by then and estranged.  No, Lady Margaret was something of an alchemist and a follower of astrology – she had apparently wanted to know what the chances of Cousin Lizzie popping her clogs might have been.

So back to Eleanor Brandon – she was born some time between 1518 and 1521 meaning that when she died in 1547 she was at most twenty-eight.  Henry VIII was a guest when Eleanor married her husband in 1535.  Henry Clifford, the First Earl of Cumberland and Eleanor’s father-in-law  was determined to make his home fit for a princess and promptly extended Skipton Castle, adding an octagonal tower and long gallery to make it more pleasant. The Cliffords had sold off some of their estates to pay for the rebuilding work and also to pay for the wedding. It comes as something of a surprise to discover that the young couple spent much of their early married life at Brougham Castle.

Eleanor turns up the following year in the capacity of chief mourner at Katherine of Aragon’s funeral in Peterborough Cathedral. Interestingly Frances Brandon didn’t fill the roll – perhaps it was because Frances was pregnant at the time.That same year Eleanor was rescued from the Pilgrims of the Pilgrimage of Grace by Christopher Aske and taken to safety rather than being turned into a hostage for Lord Clifford’s co-operation. She ended up holed up in Skipton Castle. Eleanor appears to have suffered from ill health for quite some time after this but by 1546 she is listed in the household of Queen Katherine Parr – who had experienced her own difficulties at the time of the Pilgrimage of Grace as Lady Latimer.

Henry VIII died at the beginning of 1547, his niece died at the end of autumn the same year – in November (or possibly September depending on which source you read).  Henry Clifford, by now the second earl, went into a bit of a decline, burying his wife in Skipton Church where he’d buried his two infant sons. Ann Clifford, in her family history went on to explain:

…he fell into an extream sickness, of which he was at length laid out for a dead man, upon a table, & covered with a hearse of velvet; but some of his men that were then very carefull about him perceiveing some little signs of life in him, did apply hot cordials inwardly & outwardly unto him, which brought him to life again, & so, after he was laid into his bed again, he was fain for 4 or 5 weeks after to such the milk out of a woman’s breast and only to live on that food; and after to drink asses milk, and live on that 3 or 4 months longer.

Henry Clifford recovered and married for a second time.  He also had the common good sense not to get tangled up in the plots of the Duke of Northumberland who initially tried to arrange a marriage between his own son Guildford Dudley and Lady Margaret Clifford, Eleanor’s only surviving child.

Eleanor’s father, Charles, married three times.  Eleanor’s mother Mary Tudor was his second wife. He’d previously married secretly in 1508 and had two daughters. Eleanor mentions on of her elder half sisters in the only letter that survives from her:

“Dear heart,
After my most hearty commendations, this shall be to certify you that since your departure from me I have been very sick and at this present my water is very red, whereby I suppose I have the jaundice and the ague both, for I have none abide [no appetite for] meat and I have such pains in my side and towards my back as I had at Brougham, where it began with me first. Wherefore I desire you to help me to a physician and that this bearer my bring him with him, for now in the beginning I trust I may have good remedy, and the longer it is delayed, the worse it will be. Also my sister Powys is come to me and very desirous to see you, which I trust shall be the sooner at this time, and thus Jesus send us both health.

Certainly the letter confirms Eleanor’s ill health and the reference to sister Powys is to Anne Brandon who was married to Lord Grey of Powys.

Sir Thomas Wentworth

NPG 1851; Thomas Wentworth, 1st Baron Wentworth by Unknown Anglo-Netherlandish artistDecember 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].

 

Monastic fragments- the Jervaulx Screen

IMG_8232.jpgThe Cistercian monks at Jervaulx Abbey in Wensley Dale were renowned for their horse breeding. Their skill brought great wealth which was a tad tricky for a group of people who’d taken vows of poverty.

Jervaulx’s last abbot, Adam Sedbar, was a sensible man.  He did not wish to rebel against Henry VIII.  When news reached him that the so-called pilgrims of the Pilgrimage of Grace were heading in his direction in 1536 he fled the abbey and went into hiding on Witton Fell. He only came out of hiding when the pilgrims threatened to destroy the abbey – somewhat contrary to their avowed intention of restoring them. Sedbar eventually made his way to Castle Bolton and Lord Scrope where he took no further part in events.

Despite his best attempts to remain uninvolved it was too good an opportunity for Cromwell to miss. Sedbar was implicated in the Pilgrimage and found himself in the Tower of London on treason charges. His name can still be found carved into the masonry of his prison.  The main witness against him was Ninian Staveley, one of his own monks, who was up to his neck in rebellion.  He informed on his abbot in an attempt to save his own life. The abbey and the abbot were both erased in 1537; the abbey and its estates being passed to the crown through the attainder passed against Sedbar.

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img_8224These days Jervaulx is a picturesque ruin but there is one other remarkable survival to see in St Andrew’s Church, Aysgarth.  The rood screen, so the handy guide in the church tells me, is from the Ripon School of Carving.  In fact when I looked closer I recognised the elephant on the Jervaulx screen as an old friend from Ripon Cathedral. The screen, renovated by those pesky Victorians, is beautiful but it does rather question the Cistercian rule of austerity.  The screen must have been even more spectacular when it was first installed. There’s a frieze of foliage and animals running the length of the screen – that’s where the elephant can be found- as well as a dragon, a fox, a boar, an antelope, an eagle and a lion.  The message is clear if you’re a medieval church goer.  You’re being reminded of all those sins out there waiting to trip you up.  Apparently the antelope is a warning against drink and lustfulness on account of the fact that his horns are entangled in the foliage around him. Oddly enough I wouldn’t have known that unless I’d read it in the handy guide – clearly the medieval mind was much more switched on to visual symbolism.

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IMG_8237.JPGSymbolism was the least of Aysgarth’s worries. As Tudor England became more Protestant it became more dangerous for the parishioners to keep the Jervaulx screen and the original loft and statues which accompanied it.  In 1567 several churchwardens were required to do penance  for having hidden old papist relics.  The screen inevitably was badly damaged in the ensuing centuries.  It was once part of a much larger edifice.  The statues that belonged with it were burned.

 

But how did the screen get to Aysgarth?  The right to present the living of the church and take an income or advowson to give it it’s correct name belonged to Jervaulx up until the suppression of the monasteries.  One theory is that the monks seeing which way the wind was blowing transported the choir screen to the church in an attempt to save something of their abbey.  Perhaps the screen was the most beautiful thing they had in their monastery and they wished to preserve it – but that is speculation.  In the second version of the story the parishioners of Aysgarth purchased the screen upon Jervaulx’s suppression.  Either way a thing of great beauty from the days of  England’s monasteries survives tucked away in the Yorkshire dales.

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As for the rest of the monks, well their reputations as breeders of horses saw them provided with employment in Middleham Castle as well as in receipt of their monastic pensions.

A Yorkshire tragedy – 1536 style.

pilgrimage-of-grace-banner2The Office for National Statistics estimates the UK population in 2014 to be something in the order of 64,000,000 – which is rather a lot of people! Consequentially I am always delighted by the way in which the same names pop up throughout history and even more delighted when they prove to be related to one another. Take Sir John Bulmer of Lastingham for instance. He appears to be related one way or another to most of the Yorkshire gentry. His mother was a Conyers and his first wife was Anne Bigod – another Yorkshire name.

However, it’s not his family tree that I’m interested in today. It’s what happened to him and his second wife. Margaret Cheyney had been Sir John’s mistress prior to the death of Anne but once Sir John was free to marry – not having the facility to chop off his wives’ heads in the same way as his monarch- he eventually married Margaret. In October 1536, after two years of marriage, Margaret was pregnant with their child.

 

Unfortunately the Pilgrimage of Grace destroyed their world. Sir John claimed that he’d only joined the rebels because they threatened to burn his home. It was a common assertion. Adam Sedbar, Abbot of Jervaulx only came out of hiding when rebels threatened to do the same to the abbey. As a member of the gentry Sir John was expected to take a lead and he is evident at the end of October as part of the group negotiating with the Duke of Norfolk. Along with the other rebels he was pardoned and duly hurried home for the festive season not realising that Thomas Cromwell had a little list of names for future reference.

 

In January 1537 Margaret gave birth to a boy and Sir Francis Bigod, not a close relation of Sir John’s first wife, alarmed at Henry VIII’s continued military build up in Hull became concerned that the Tudor monarch wasn’t going to keep his word or re-establish the monasteries. He, in his turn, instigated rebellion. It was all over by February 20th with Sir Francis in cold storage at Carlisle Castle.

 

Now Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell took their opportunity to cleanse the north of perceived enemies and break the power of the old nobility. First Robert Aske and the leading captains, including Sir Robert Constable, were invited to London and imprisoned. Then Cromwell began to fling his net more widely. Sir John Bulmer was caught in the wider circle but Sir John and his wife didn’t want to be separated from one another. Moorhouse records that Sir John is supposed to have said that he would rather be racked than separated from Margaret.  This meant that Sir John couldn’t flee and besides Sir John is supposed to have said that he was an Englishman and had no desire to leave his country.

 

As a result, rather than fleeing, the pair rather unfortunately began, it was alleged, to plot another uprising. Sir John is supposed to have gone along to his neighbours and told them his plan.  They, in their turn, informed Cromwell. Interestingly even if they hadn’t done this Margaret’s council that her husband should flee the kingdom also constituted treason. Inevitably the pair were arrested.

 

Ultimately both husband and wife pleaded guilty but Sir John absolutely refused to implicate Margaret and although Margaret appears to have confessed there is no paper evidence of this confession. In reality, during the Pilgrimage of Grace she was heavily pregnant so the claim that she was an active leader of that particular rebellion is either fanciful or Margaret was a very determined woman. Sir John was executed on the 25 May 1537 at Tyburn for his part.  His lot it would have to be said is not a great deal different to the fate of Sir Nicholas Tempest.  That gentleman joined the rebels under duress but having taken the oath appears to have played his part to the full.  The argument that the gentry became part of the rebellion in order to help contain it cut little ice with Henry VIII.

 

Cromwell seems to have had a bit of an agenda when it came to Margaret. She was the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Buckingham (executed 1521) and had been Sir John’s mistress before she became his wife. In London, where they were tried, Cromwell was very keen to have it appear that no marriage had taken place despite the repeated insistence of Sir John and Margaret that they were lawfully wed. Cromwell’s need for Margaret to be ‘no better than she ought to be’ was because it really wasn’t the done thing to go around executing respectable women….unless they were ex-queens or Plantagenets. But, and there is a but, there needed to be a message to the aristocratic ladies of England that they couldn’t go around formenting rebellion. Lady Hussey, for example, had clearly encouraged her husband to rebel against his better judgment. He was executed in Lincoln but she was unharmed. Margaret, on the other hand had no title and no family to protect her.   She was convicted of encouraging Sir John to join in the Pilgrimage of Grace and that she had continued her treasonous activities in January 1537.

 

There’s a reason why you don’t hear of women being hanged, drawn and quartered. It’s not seemly apparently. Far better to burn them. This was the fate that befell Margaret Cheyney, sometimes called Stafford at Smithfield on the same day that her husband was executed.

 

History does not record what befell their infant son. The  Complete Peerage reveals that Sir John did have another son.  Sir Ralph Bulmer was the son of Anne Bigod.  Although his father had been convicted of treason he was restored to his position in society in 1548.

 

 

 

 

 

Sir Henry Savile V Sir Richard Tempest

halifax.jpgSir Henry Savile had a problem with his neighbours Thomas, Lord Darcy of Templehurst (Temple Newsam) and Sir Richard Tempest who was related to Lord Darcy.  There is a litany of court cases between the two parties.

One ongoing feud was about the vicar of Halifax.  A man who owed his position to Lewes Abbey which owned the Manor of Halifax and the incumbency.  The man in question was Robert Holdesworth who was an ally of Sir Henry Savile.  Because he was Savile’s man, Tempest seems to have worked against the vicar.  Tempest had been responsible for ordering the arrest of  Holdesworth and when he returned from London he even brought an injunction against Tempest not to burn his house.  The modern world seems a long way away in Tudor Halifax.  Tempest responded by saying that Holdesworth caused quarrels in the parish and, even worse, had falsified his tax returns (First Fruits and Tenths – the first year’s income from the position and a tenth thereafter).  Tempest also suggested that Holdesworth was about to sell his lands and scarper.  A petition was drawn up.  One hundred or so signature were added and off it was sent to Cromwell.  Tempest also accused Holdesworth of saying that if Henry reigned much longer then he would take everything that the Church owned….which smacked somewhat of treason.

Unsurprisingly Tempest had managed to land Holdesworth in rather a lot of bother.  It got worse.  Holdesworth had to go to York to answer the charges that had been levelled against him.  During that time Tempest’s son-in-law John Lacy stole all the poor man’s cattle and anything else he could carry off.  It’s ironic really that Holdesworth and Tempest should both, one way or another, have been against what Henry was doing to the church but the enmity between Tempest and Savile was so great that there was no meeting on the same ground for Savile’s supporter.

 

However, things were about to get even nastier.

Sir Richard, as the King’s steward of Wakefield, sent a message to Lord Darcy at the outbreak of the Pilgrimage of Grace that he would join him in Pontefract Castle but Darcy told him to remain in Wakefield. Initially it seemed that Sir Richard would take the Crown’s part in proceedings but the pilgrims were only ten miles from Wakefield and then Pontefract Castle fell. The Tempests swore to the pilgrim oath. Sir Richard is recorded in York as a pilgrim captain. His commitment to the whole proceeding was described by Cromwell as middling. His younger brother Sir Nicholas was much more involved and he was executed in May 1537 for his involvement with the rebellion.  This does seem rather unfair as he was told that unless he signed up to the rebellion his son would be executed on the spot.

 

Sir Richard was caught in the same net as John Neville, Lord Latimer (Katherine Parr’s husband). Both men were ordered to London. John Neville managed to bribe his way to freedom although many writers note that his health suffered as a consequence. Sir Richard on the other hand found himself confined to the Fleet. He too approached Cromwell. He asked to be released fearing the dirt and disease of the prison. He probably had a point. He died on 25th August 1537 in the Fleet along way from the West Riding.

 

Almost as a matter of course Sir Henry Savile discovering that the Tempests were for the pilgrimage declared himself for the king and fled to Rotherham. It was an old feud that had been simmering whilst the two men took part in the war against the Scots under the Earl of Surrey as he was then (he turned into the Duke of Norfolk). Even Wolsey had been unable to resolve the situation. A personal disagreement meant that the Pilgrimage of Grace turned into an opportunity for violence between the two sets of neighbours.

 

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the Pilgrimage of Grace, Sir Henry Savile was on the up. He became the steward of Pontefract and from there was elected onto the Council of the North.

Dodds Madeline and Dodds Ruth (1916) The Pilgrimage of Grace 1536-1537 and the Exeter Conspiracy

TEMPEST, Sir Richard (c.1480-1537), of Bracewell and Bowling, Yorks. Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982 http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/member/tempest-sir-richard-1480-1537

 

Katherine Parr and the Pilgrimage of Grace

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Jane Seymour – Plain Jane

jane seymour emblem.pngJane Seymour, perhaps the original Plain Jane if Chapuys comments are to be believed, became wife number three on 30th May 1536. She was another descendent of Edward III via Hotspur. She’d also been a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon and also to Anne Boleyn. One story said that Anne was deeply distressed to encounter Jane sitting on Henry’s lap. Her chosen motto was “Bound to serve and obey” – a wise choice given Henry’s complaints about wife number two and presumably wife number one’s implacable logic and argument. Her emblem is the phoenix rising from a tower  surrounded by those burgeoning roses reflecting both a Plantagenet and Lancastrian inheritance. The pheonix is a symbol of love and renewal. Jane is the renewed Tudor hope for an heir.

 

Jane would also be the queen who oversaw Henry’s return to a more traditional set of beliefs.  She tried to reconcile him to Princess Mary and also interceded on behalf of the catholic pilgrims who’d revolted during the Pilgrimage of Grace.  Her clemency wasn’t welcome so far as Henry was concerned and she swiftly retreated from the political field.

 

It was February 1536 when word of Henry’s interest in Jane Seymour was first mentioned in ambassadorial dispatches and it wasn’t long before her brothers found themselves being rewarded with important posts and preferments.

 

In 1537 Jane fell pregnant, a fact recorded by Edward Hall. The rejoicing must have been a little bit cautious given all the previous disappointments but on the 12 October she produced a boy, Edward, and then promptly died from complications on 24th October. Cromwell would later blame her attendants for giving her rich food and sweets but in reality it was likely to have been childbed fever that carried Jane off.

 

Panther-close-blog.jpgJane was very different from her predecessor, although Anne’s leopard was very swiftly adapted into Jane’s other symbol – the panther. The panther, heraldically speaking, is a more gentle animal than a leopard and can also represent Christ.  He was also white and covered in multicoloured spots rather than being black.  Examples can be found at Hampton Court looking rather splendid but it should also be remembered that Henry VI used a panther as a symbol as did the Beauforts.  Double click on the image of the panther to find out more about the garden at Hampton Court.  Jane wasn’t particularly well educated and reverted to older fashion styles when she became queen. Perhaps she thought that the higher neck lines would stop Henry being too attracted to her own ladies-in-waiting, she had after all had plenty of opportunity to watch what went on at court. Historians can’t agree as to whether she was an active player in inveigling Henry away from Anne or whether she was a pawn in the hands of her family. She kept her own counsel and did not live long enough to prove a disappointment to Henry.